Keep You Home (by Cortney Joseph)

-Charmaine-

 

Not exactly thrilled to be in Dutch Town, I continued down Mill Gate Avenue before turning right on Old Millstone Drive, passing four house before parking directly in between the fifth and sixth and turning all of my lights off.

 

My best friends Deena and Marilyn sat quietly in the passenger and back seats, probably finding it hard to believe that I actually went through with my ‘stakeout’ idea. I know that they think I’m crazy, foolish for wasting my time when I could just confront the problem face to face, but they honestly don’t know the way things go in my house.

I suspect, I accuse, he sweet talks and guilt trips, I forgive and forget until the next time I get suspicious again. At one point, it only happened once every few years. And then, every few months. Every month, and now it’s a weekly thing. I don’t have to wonder, I know my husband is cheating on me, over and over again.

What’s worse? I feel he has another family aside from me and our kids together.

 

I know what you’re thinking. Why stay if I know? Honestly, when you get caught up in trying to keep appearances, trying to show everybody that you have a happy home, trying to prove to doubters that you can make it, you kind of turn a blind eye to the obvious.

“Charmaine, don’t you think this is a bit drastic?”

I looked at Deena. I won’t say that she’s a woman that’s scary, or wouldn’t do this type of thing herself if her husband cheated, but she’s not the type to go ‘Jessica’ Bond and start following or spying on him. I already know, and no one has to tell me that I’m the type of woman that needs to see it happening for me to believe it.

“You didn’t have to ride with me if you think I’m doing too much.”

“I’m just offering you some support, like Marilyn and I have always done. I’m not judging you Charmaine, but it’s not like you’ll be seeing anything that people haven’t already told you about.”

I looked between the both of them and took one deep breath. “Yeah, I know. But I need confirmation, I need to see it.” I looked forward, watching the house where his BMW was parked. And we waited.

 

After an hour that seemed like an eternity, he came strolling out. Walking hand in hand with a much younger woman, at least in her early twenties. Even with nothing but a streetlight offering a little light, I could see that she was skinner than me, and prettier, with cocoa brown skin. Her long, black hair flowed down her back in loose curls, and she was dressed a lot less conservative than I would dress.

I watched in sheer horror, my body trembling as his hand moved up to her shoulder and down her backside before it found a place beneath the short skirt she wore. Tears ran down my face as I felt Marilyn’s hands on my shoulders, trying her best to comfort me. “Let’s just go and pick up the kids and we can have one big party at my place.”

I just shook my head, watching as he drove past my SUV. Starting my ignition, I waited a few seconds before I turned and began tailing him. “Oh shit.”

I ignored Deena’s short remark, making every turn and stop that Paul made. “I’m sitting at home with three kids, two toddlers and his ass is running around town like he doesn’t have responsibilities.”

“Charmaine…”

Deena and Marilyn tried their best to talk me out of following my husband. It didn’t work. From Dutch Town to Prairieville to Baton Rouge and all the back to our hometown of New Orleans. He took her out on Bourbon Street, took her for drinks, dancing, dinner, and of course it wouldn’t have been complete without getting a hotel.

Did that make me go home right away? Nope. I left my best friends in the car and I walked into the hotel. I walked up to the front desk and I asked if Paul Boudreaux checked in. Yes. Was it for one night or more? The whole weekend. Was he alone, or with a guest, even though I knew the answer to that. He had a guest, a female. Who are you Ma’am?

I couldn’t even answer, I just walked out.

 

It was so damn hard walking back to my SUV, so hard keeping my tears in, holding myself together. It was so hard to stare my girls in their faces because I should have listened to them from the very beginning.

I closed my door and buckled my seatbelt, tapping my steering wheel with my fingertips. “Charmaine, please say something Hunny. Your silence scares me.” Deena said ‘yeah’ in agreement with Marilyn.

What do I say? My heart is broken, my mind is going over a million different scenarios and each and every one of them could end with me in jail or in a mental institution.

“I do everything right Marilyn. I cook, I clean, and I give that man any and everything that he wants! I take care of his kids, I would kiss the damn ground he walks on and he’d just do this to me. He cheated once, I forgave. He did it again, and I stayed and I’m ashamed of myself. This is what I deserve!”

Deena wrapped her arms around me as best as she could and cried with me. “It hurts so bad, it’s not fair. It’s not fair!”

“It never is Charmaine, but it will be okay. It will be okay. We’ll stay with you all weekend. Come on, switch spots with me, you’re in no shape to drive right now.”

 

I shook my head, assuring her that I was fine. I pulled myself together, turning up the volume on the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack, that we’d been listening to for most of the night, and I made my way across New Orleans. Stopped quickly at my mom’s to get my kids and then I dropped Deena and Marilyn off. I just wanted to be alone with my kids.

The three of my babies were the only ones I knew would stop me from doing what was truly on my heart at the moment. Kill my husband.

Crawling into my bed after stripping down and putting on an old gown, with the three of them lying under me, I took one deep breath and replayed everything I saw in my mind. Realizing that I’d never be able to keep him satisfied, I’d never be enough for him and I damn sure can’t compete with a younger woman.

I cried myself to sleep.

 

******************************

 

-Paul-

 

Before opening the door, I pulled a small bottle of cologne out of my work satchel and sprayed it on.

The alarm went off and I quickly reset it after closing the door, sidestepping my wife’s dogs as soon as they ran towards me.

For once I couldn’t hear the kids, didn’t even hear Charmaine yelling or talking on the phone. I won’t complain though. With the weekend I’ve had, I just want to relax in peace and quiet.

It’s hard being a man as great as I am, with so much responsibility and weight on my shoulders.

 

Walking towards my bedroom, I finally heard noise. Music. Despite the fact that she knows I hate Xscape, Charmaine is playing their music.

I took one deep breath and walked in, startled to find the condition in which my wife sat.

On the floor in nothing but some shorts and a bra, with a bottle of alcohol next to her, eyes bloodshot red, and her hair all over her place. She knows that anything less than perfect is unacceptable in our home.

“What the fuck is this? What are you doing?”

She looked up at me. Her eyes, swollen and red, makeup streaked all over her face. If I had to guess, I’d say she hasn’t moved from that spot in at least two days. The fuck is wrong with her, acting like she don’t have kids to take care of.

Psh, this is exactly why I hate coming home. It’s always some new shit with her. One minute she’s crying, the next she’s extra needy, the next she’s angry. She knows I hate this emotional shit.

 

“I said what are you doing?”

“Waiting for you, Paul. I was waiting for you.”

“I didn’t ask you too…”

“But then I remembered that every time I wait for you, it’s a complete waste of time. I end up sending the kids away, crying to myself, smoking and drinking. Trying so damn hard to convince myself that you actually love me. Trying to convince myself that you’re actually working or on real business trips and not cheating on me.”

“Watch your mouth.”

“Or what?” She looked at me, so much anger in her eyes. I would lie, but I can tell that she won’t fall for it this time.

 

She stood up slowly, looking me in the eye as she drank straight from the bottle. “It’s a shame all that I do for a man like you Paul.”

“A man like me?”

“An asshole. Ungrateful. Don’t even know when you’ve got the best thing in the world right in front of you. What used to be a beautiful wife, amazing kids… yet you were so willing to lose it all for a couple of hoes who only see dollar signs when they look at you.”

“Oh, shut that shit up. You know damn well I’m not cheating on you and this is the last time we’re ever going to have this discussion!”

Charmaine chuckled and smiled, taking another swig before throwing the bottle my way. “The fuck is wrong with you!?”

“I’m stuck in this house all day long; caring for your babies, washing your dirty ass boxers, cooking your dinner, keeping your money and business in order. Going crazy trying to figure out why you’re not here, driving myself to the brink of madness, following you around when I could be living happily.”

“Charmaine…”

She pulled a cigarette pack from her pocket, Kool short, and lit one, tossing the rest on the bed. “Sneaking in and out of this house late at night, two cell phones, and new passwords. You don’t eat here. Must be with that bitch, or those bitches. How many? Two, five, ten?”

 

Charmaine threw the cigarette down, hitting the curtain and walked away. I immediately ran and picked it up before a fire could start.

“Bitch, have you lost your mind!?”

“Yes Paul, I have. I try.” She started crying, but there was still so much anger in her eyes. I have to admit, it scares me.

“Listen Charmaine, I know that you’re upset.”

“You don’t know! You don’t know shit Paul! I love you so much Paul, so much. I love you more than life, more than I love myself and I would do anything in this world for you! I’m stressing, killing myself trying to figure out what is so fucking wrong with me that I can’t keep my husband home where he belongs! I’m killing myself trying to change to keep you happy, to keep you away from other women. Babies hanging off my titties, attached to my leg, and you’re running around with other bitches as if you don’t have a care in the fucking world!!”

There was so much hurt in her voice, and it hit me just how much I’ve damaged this woman. It’s true; I’ve cheated on her, for just about our entire relationship, dating and marriage.

“Everybody’s always telling me smile Charmaine, smile. How can I smile when my heart hurts so much? And you don’t care, you hear me and you see the tears but you ignore me. Walk right out my door and into these other bitches’ arms. You don’t understand. You don’t know, you don’t know a fucking thing about how I feel!”

“I-I’m sorry, Charmaine.”

“So am I Paul. Better leave this house or lock this bedroom door tonight. I’m not feeling suicidal anymore, but I damn sure want to kill you.”

 

My wife walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her. For the first time ever, I realized that I truly fucked up.

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