Your cart is currently empty!
I held up the box of condoms that promised warm sensations and sensual pleasure and rolled my eyes.
Elijah was at it again.
I frowned in disgust at how out of place the box was here, inside my carefully decorated and supposedly peaceful home.
Lowering it, my eyes immediately locked on the family portrait of myself, my husband Elijah and our three kids, Zoey, Grayson and Ariel, that hung on the wall.
We all looked so happy, even though we are not…or at least I am not. It’s kind of hard to be happy and make beautiful memories when your husband’s dick was roaming the streets like a dog without a leash.
I took a long pull on the cigarette I was holding and blew the smoke out of the open kitchen window, where I was currently tightly huddled.
It was truly a disgusting habit, one that I had kicked many times and typically didn’t do indoors, but with how anarchic my life had become, I needed something with the effects of a tranquilizer to calm my nerves.
I only had fifteen days left.
Fifteen days to stop my husband in his tracks and rip his fucking world to shreds.
That possibility brought a smile to my face. Or maybe it was the cigarette working its magic.
Regardless, I quickly put it out before one of the kids spotted me and I’d never hear the end of it.
Opening the box, I dumped the remaining contents out onto the kitchen table. Five shiny gold packets with pink bunnies printed on them beamed up at me.
Hmm. I’d never seen this kind before.
The new girl he was banging must have picked out these and from how many were left, I’d say getting hot and heavy with my husband was her favorite hobby. I hope that this time she was at least over the age of twenty-one.
The last girl he cheated on me with was Leslie, a nineteen-year-old waitress that made playing my role of the naïve wife extremely difficult. Leslie called at all hours of the night, disturbing the small window of sleep I got before my then 1-year-old Ariel woke up.
Every time the phone vibrated its way across his nightstand, Elijah would quietly (or so he thought) rush into the bathroom and later tell me it was an emergency from work.
It was bullshit, and I knew it, but Elijah really thought I believed him and that was my fault.
For years I’d dedicated myself to his causes, took his words at face value and turned a blind eye toward every deceitful thing he did. I assumed he cared about me. If he didn’t, why else would he could continue to come home to me night after night?
Well, I now had the answer.
Because I was a damn moron, and if a person will allow themselves to be your doormat, may as wipe off your shoes on them.
I shook my head and sighed, kicking myself for how idiotic I was, but thankfully I put that version of me to rest.
Payback for all he’d done was just the beginning. Therefore, he could keep all of his secrets, because now I had a few of my own.
My attention drew back to the condoms. I’d found them inside his briefcase, where he always kept them. I wasn’t worried that he would get suspicious once he saw the box was missing.
Knowing Elijah, he would simply assume that he used them all and buy more. When they mysteriously reappeared, he would think he must have overlooked them the first time.
A quick glance at the box revealed that it originally held twenty condoms. Since there were only five left, it seemed, my husband had been a busy man.
And what type of wife would I be if I didn’t match his energy?
I grabbed a straight pin from my sewing kit and picked up one of the condoms.
Earlier, I was attaching numbers to the Jerseys for Grayson’s soccer team and now that my volunteer assignment was complete; I was free to do something more self-fulfilling.
Prick! I poked the first hole through the condom and utter satisfaction flooded me as the tiny needle slid through the packet, soundless and precise.
A devious smile spread across my face and if anyone saw me right now, I’d bet I looked like a lunatic admiring a precious jewel, but I couldn’t help it. Elijah deserved to suffer.
After taking a moment to admire my handy work, I repositioned the needle to pierce through again.
Avoid the center, I mentally reminded myself. Always avoid the center.
Holes in the middle of the package were too obvious and raised suspicions. The holes I made had to be strategically placed, and I could insert no more than five per condom.
I knew it was unlikely that semen or any STDs could make their way through these tiny holes, it was more so busy work to keep me from strangling him.
You see, Elijah doesn’t want anymore kids. Honestly, he may not even want the ones we already have.
Just two months ago, I took the kids on a weeklong vacation to California with my parents and Elijah made up some excuse and skipped it. It didn’t surprise me. Anything that involves too much time around us, he avoids.
The sex I agree to because it keeps his guard down and the dinners I sometimes use for acts of revenge.
For instance, last night’s dinner was grilled chicken sandwiches and soup, which Elijah took to his office.
No worries though, I included a special ingredient in his “#1 Dad” soup bowl that kept him hugging the toilet all night.
Prick! Prick! I should backtrack to explain why I am suddenly so angry.
First things first, it’s not the cheating. I’ve dealt with that for so long, I’m actually numb to it.
Nonetheless, what I eventually discovered was a man that cheats is a man who lies, and a man who lies, will secretly plan to divorce you, under false pretenses, after stealing your idea!
Prick! Prick! Prick! Prick! Prick! Prick!
Shit, I ruined this one.
Dropping the hole-filled condom onto the table, I tried to find my center by practicing the in-and-out breathing a friend suggested. It wasn’t working.
My eyes locked on a particular loose floorboard in the corner of the kitchen, where I’d hidden a pack of cigarettes. A quick smoke would be preferable to this useless breathing exercise, but I wouldn’t risk it.
A breeze came in through the open window and I focused on two birds outside, that were fighting over something in the grass.
I guess even the birds were at odds.
Sweeping my bangs off my forehead, I relaxed my shoulders and allowed the cheery sounds of my kids playing upstairs to steady me.
Now much calmer, I picked up a new condom and started again.
Before I wiped asses, dried tears, negotiated bed times and defused tantrums for a living, I was a technology geek in college on a path to having a very successful career as a software developer.
Fast forward twelve years later and I’d traded my dream career for being a stay at home mom. I didn’t have any regrets, but I’d be lying if I said it was the life I planned for myself.
I always thought I’d be the successful career mom that had it all, but in the end I couldn’t keep up with the demands of a stressful full-time job and motherhood. Therefore, being a wife to Elijah and a mom to my kids makes up my entire identity.
That’s why when Elijah came to me asking for my help to create a software that would reduce the legal headache he experienced as a Sports Agent, I was happy to do it.
Not only could I dive deep back into the technology world, this would be my chance at reclaiming my husband’s love and respect.
I knew about all the women he’d cheated with, but we’d been together for so long. Surely we could find our way back to one another.
Prick! I was a damn idiot.
The software I created was ingenious.
It worked as a one stop shop that allowed athletes to access all of their past, present and pending contracts with ease. From there, the program broke down the complicated legal jargon into layman’s terms so simple, even my seven-year-old could understand.
Last but not least, it included a feature that allowed athletes to evaluate the impact various sports-related injuries had on their contracts..
Not to toot my own horn, but it was a brilliant creation, easily worth millions of dollars, and Elijah loved it.
His original plan was to hand it over to his boss, Victor, to solidify a higher position within the company. However, after seeing the software in action, Elijah thought it much too good to hand over to his boss.
Therefore, instead of pitching it to management, he decided to open up his own sports agency, using the software as a major draw for clients, and we would run it together.
The only problem was that making a move that significant required investors, and unfortunately, as brilliant as the idea was, after a year of rejections, Elijah abandoned the idea.
I was heartbroken, of course. I’d worked so hard, and I thought securing this deal could somehow mend the tears in my marriage. There were so many secrets and lies pushing us further apart that I saw this as a major win for us.
In the end, I understood and accepted his decision to not pursue any further.
Imagine my surprise, six months ago, when I learned Elijah had secured an investor.
I’ll never forget it. I was carrying a load of clothes to the laundry room when I overheard him in his office.
“So you locked in the investor for the software?” I heard Elijah say through the closed door. There was a pause and then he added. “That’s very good news. And he is going to invest the entire five million to partner with us?”
Us? I thought to myself, still remembering the spark of excitement that filled me.
It looked like Elijah had found someone after all and was going to surprise me with the news.
I stepped closer to the door, tightening my grip on the laundry basket.
Elijah’s voice became stern and dismissive.
“I told you, Bree will not be a problem. She has no idea that we were still looking for investors or that I have finally found one.”
My heart somehow raced and stopped at the same time as my body was assaulted with an indescribable pain that shattered me from the inside out.
I stared at the door, my thoughts absorbed by disbelief and shock while the basket trembled in my hands.
But if I thought that was the worst thing I would hear. I obviously didn’t know my husband at all.
“I have the original software in a safe place and have already hired someone to rebuild it through their system so that Bree can’t prove she created it. Plus, I plan to leave her before the deal is final.”
It was hard to stay upright and tears burned my eyes. He didn’t have to do this. Yet he was.
I heard Elijah laugh. He may as well have been laughing directly in my face because I could see him in my mind’s eye, clear as day.
The person on the phone must have asked why he wanted to divorce me before and not after, because Elijah said, “I don’t want the money from the deal to be considered in the divorce. And any retaliation from her will look like lies from a pathetic woman grasping at straws and in denial that her husband no longer wants her.”
I gasped, and the basket fell from my hands.
“Hold on a second.” I heard Elijah say.
Quickly, I gathered the fallen clothes and rushed down the hall, turning the corner just as I heard his office door opening.
I blinked a few times, coming back to the present, staring at the condom in my hand. The pain of betrayal was still fresh and at the time I couldn’t elucidate my feelings, but now I can.
I am done being his step stool, his constant support, and his naïve wife. The only thing I feel towards Elijah is anger and an incessant need to beat him at his own game before the clock runs out.
Prick! Prick! I withdrew the needle and checked over my work, mentally patting myself on the back for a job well done.
After placing the newly redesigned condom back into the box, I was reaching for another when my cell phone chimed, indicating a text message.
Nicole: Elijah is here again 🤮… with her. That man is fucking scum!!!!
I watched the three gray dots bounce steadily on the screen. Clearly Nicole needed a few minutes to get her temper under control. Finally, her next message sprung in.
Nicole: Either way, I have already taken a picture. Do you need me to do anything else?
I sighed and rolled my eyes. Elijah had been spotted with his latest conquest.
Me: No. The picture is good enough. Please document the time they leave.
Thank God for Nicole. She was one of the many moms around the neighborhood that helped keep an eye on my bastard of a husband. I swear, with all the documenting I did, I was practically performing my divorce lawyer’s job for him.
A wave of footsteps could be heard rushing downstairs, forcing me to hide my revenge activity. The footsteps carried a level of excitement and joy, suggesting that they were on a mission. That meant it was Grayson, the seven-year-old.
If it were Zoey, the thirteen-year-old, the footsteps would be loud and moody, like the world owed her something and she was coming downstairs to collect.
And if it were my two-year-old Ariel, I wouldn’t hear anything at all, because she liked to slide down the stairs. It wasn’t because she couldn’t walk, but sliding was easier and a whole lot sneakier.
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Grayson shouted, with way too much enthusiasm for my dismal mood.
Despite that, his deep dimples and bright eyes made not smiling back impossible. He was the sweetest of all my kids.
“What’s eight plus two?” he asked.
“Umm, is it ten?” I said, pretending not to be sure.
Grayson gave me two thumbs up. “Right! And what is ten plus seven?”
I placed a finger on my chin and thought about it. “Fifteen, maybe?”
“Mom!” he pouted. “We go over this every day. It’s seventeen.”
“Oh, that’s right,” I replied, tapping myself upside the head.
“Okay, and what’s seventeen plus twenty-two?” Grayson asked, getting back down to business.
This time, my response carried much more confidence. I even puffed up my chest and placed my hands on my hips.
“Correct!” Grayson said. “And you know what that means?”
“We’re the best super spies ever!” We shouted in unison, and Grayson ran off.
Grayson’s favorite TV show was about a spy that solved crimes by doing math equations. Every Saturday he watched it on TV and once the show ended, he came to me with math problems to solve. The exact same math problems might I add.
Every. Single. Time.
It would be nice if he would at least give me some new equations, but he was always so adamant about it and proud of himself that I couldn’t complain.
I watched Grayson half gallop, half karate kicked away, ensuring that he was fully in the living room before reaching for the condoms. However, I was once again cut short by a light knocking on my kitchen window.
I looked up to see my neighbor and close friend Gianna Bianchi.
“Hey,” Gianna whispered through the open window. “Open the door.”
Her messy bun flopped from side to side as she frantically pointed to the backdoor.
After I unlocked it, Gianna rushed inside, almost knocking me over with both her erratic movement and an overwhelming scent of perfume. She was dressed in a yellow tennis skirt, an orange tank top and a blue jean jacket.
I took a step back, watching her push the door closed and lock it.
“Are you being chased?” I asked, amused.
“May as well be, I turned on a TV show to keep the handcuffs busy and had to haul ass over here before they noticed.”
“The Handcuffs” were the nicknames Gianna had given to her seven-year-old twins, Alexis and Alena. They were super cute but also super clingy.
Gianna scrunched up her nose and placed a hand on my shoulder, finally catching her breath.
“Excuse the smell, they had me playing dress up and, as usual, I was the dummy in both senses of the word. One for letting them use me like a mannequin, and two for being a klutz and spilling the entire bottle of perfume on myself.”
“Yikes.” I shook my head and laughed.
Gianna looked over my shoulder towards the living room. “Where’s Pam?”
Pam was my cousin and, like Gianna, she was helping me get through the load of shit I’d found myself in with Elijah.
“She will be here in thirty minutes. There were some last minute patients to take care of.”
“God bless her,” Gianna said. “I could never be a nurse. It’s too much give and not enough take. I get enough of that at home.”
“I wholeheartedly agree.”
Gianna took a seat at the kitchen table, and her lips immediately curled into a mischievous smile.
“What were you doing? She asked nosily glancing around. “Please tell me it’s something to make Elijah’s life a living hell?”
Taking a seat at the furthest end of the table to escape the overpowering rosy scent she was emitting, I lifted the small towel on the table to reveal the condoms.
If possible, Gianna’s grin got wider. She was the epitome of one of those women from the drama-filled TV shows about out-of-control housewives. Deceitful setups and revenge were her middle name.
“Ooh, can I help!?” she said, clapping her hands together and bouncing around. The act definitely made her look like the teenager her kids had dressed her up to be.
I stared at her in disbelief. “No, you may not! The last time you helped me, you ruined too many.”
“I can’t help it, I’m Italian. I’m passionate about everything I do.” She held up a finger as she listed them. “Fucking, cooking, loving and hating.”
I waved a finger at her. “You’re not going to use that Italian excuse on me this time.”
Gianna crossed her arms. “You’re no fun. At least give me some good news. Did you find it yet?”
The “it” she was referring to was my software. Or at least, paperwork pertaining to the deal Elijah had with the investor or new programmer.
I needed it, not just to undo all he had built, but as evidence to prove to my lawyer just how surreptitious and vile Elijah was.
I tossed the towel back over the condoms and gave her a slight shake of the head. “Nope.”
“None of it?”
I shook my head again.
“Dammit,” Gianna said, a little too loud.
She instantly covered her mouth. Remembering that young, impressionable ears were around.
I waved a hand. I’d said worse.
Gianna covered her face with her hand, and then immediately backed up and gagged. Apparently, she’d accidentally taken another deep whiff of perfume. She yanked off her jacket and tossed it on the floor by the back door.
Breathing easier, she faced me and said, “Bree, we are running out of time and places to look.”
“I know, but it’s here somewhere,” I muttered, looking around. “I’m just missing it.”
Already I had searched his office, the kitchen, all the bedrooms and bathrooms. The only places left were the living room, the outdoor shed, and the attic.
“Maybe it was here, but it isn’t anymore. Did you hear him say it on the recording that it’s still here?”
I mentally groaned.
That damn recorder.
I’d learned a lot of disgusting and unbelievable things through the small device I had managed to sneak into Elijah’s office, and it all destroyed me every time.
It was hard to fathom the lengths he had gone to, the deceitful things he was currently doing, and the inconceivable things he was planning.
However, as informative as my spying was, it was also draining and time consuming.
Between picking the lock, finding a good place to hide it, getting back out without the kids seeing me, and then repeating the process all over again to retrieve the tape every few days, I had almost abandoned the entire idea several times.
It would have been nice if I were able to get an actual camera set up in there, but I couldn’t figure out a place that would be appropriately inconspicuous.
We sat in a sullen silence before I finally confessed. “I haven’t snuck the recorder back in his office.”
“What?!” Gianna exclaimed. “It’s been almost a week. You could be missing valuable information.”
“I know but, it’s not exactly easy.”
Gianna cooled her spicy Italian heels a little and placed a hand with colorful fingernails on the table.
“Alright, I get it, but that means that he may have already signed with the investor and destroyed the original.”
She had a good point, but it had to be here. I was sure of it.
“If Elijah is nothing else, he is predictable.”
The look Gianna gave me had me backtracking to explain my response.
“The irony of what I just said isn’t lost on me, okay? But just because I wasn’t able to predict that he was going to double cross me, doesn’t mean he isn’t predictable. Actually,” I said, my voice lowering. “I just didn’t consider he would sink this low.”
Gianna gave me a pitying look and tried to touch my hand, but I moved out of her grasp at the last second. I didn’t need consoling. Maybe a cigarette, but not consoling.
“The point is,” I said. “In some twisted way, this level of deception is the exact predictability I am talking about. Elijah has always looked out for himself.”
“I hear you, but how does that prove it’s in the house?”
“Throughout our entire marriage, if Elijah cared about something, usually business related, he kept it close. It was like he believed if he didn’t have access to it at all hours of the day, it would get destroyed or someone would take it from him.”
Gianna still wasn’t convinced.
I threw up my hands. “His paranoia is the entire reason we built his home office. The man didn’t even trust his contracts to be at work. So he brought the originals home and took copies to work.”
“Isn’t that against company policy?” Gianna asked.
I shrugged. “Who the hell knows, but he did it anyway. All the while mumbling something about the agency could accidentally catch fire, or worse. The man is obsessed with the belief that he will get screwed if he isn’t careful.”
“Hmm, well, in this case, that dumbass is right. He should have extended that paranoia to things outside of business.”
“When you are as money hungry as he is, there is no room to consider anything or anyone else.”
Gianna nodded before releasing a long breath.
Oh no, here it comes.
“Everything you said makes sense, Bree, and maybe you’re right, it is here somewhere, but maybe you should just let it all go. Let Elijah have the money and the company. I’m sure he will have to pay something in the divorce even if it’s only child support. Just cut your losses and move on.”
Yup. The handcuffs had tied her hair too tight again.
Ever since the count down reach day thirty, Gianna has been getting more and more nervous for me. She didn’t want time to run out and Elijah get to file the papers and walk out on me.
“At least have your dignity and leave first,” she had said.
But If I told her once, I would tell her a million times. I would even the score with Elijah or die trying.
“Gianna, this is not about money. This is about making that bastard pay for what he has done. I am not turning the other cheek anymore. I have done it my entire marriage. He will suffer.”
Gianna’s concerned face transformed as her inner chaos lover jumped back to the forefront. She lived for this shit. The drama, the secrets, the spying.
“You’re so badass these days,” she complimented. “Very different from the woman you were when you moved in ten years ago.”
I nodded in agreement, then glanced toward the living room. Ariel was walking by wearing a pink swimsuit and a sparkly tutu, dragging her brother’s yellow plastic bat.
Narrowing my eyes, I contemplated going to stop her. It was always hard to tell if Ariel was coming from, or on her way to get into trouble.
Come to think of it, Ariel would make a better ninja than Grayson. Then again, he had more honor and dedication to it because while Grayson’s mission was to save the world; I think Ariel’s goal was to destroy it.
I decided to let Ariel be.
“Elijah is out with a new woman,” I said, turning to Gianna.
“A new one! Seriously?! Wow, if my husband was parking his cazzo in all these different women. I don’t think I’d be so calm. Have you found out who she is this time?”
Now that was a lie. I was rarely truthful these days, even with my closest friend. I’d like to say it’s all Elijah’s fault, but at this point, it takes two to tango.
My phone chimed again, and I braced myself, assuming it was more info from Nicole, but it wasn’t. This messaged I welcomed, in fact, I needed it.
R: Hey Love, I’m missing you.
Me. Not nearly as much as I’m missing you.
R: Is everything okay?
Me: Yes. Still looking for it. No luck. I really need you right now.
R: Do not stress yourself. If plan A doesn’t work, then Plan B will. Can you sneak away tomorrow?
Tomorrow wasn’t good because I needed to go by Pam’s and email some stuff to my attorney. I hated doing too much at home where Elijah may discover it.
This whole situation was so stressful. Sneaking around meant I had to double and triple check every step I made.
I’d even stored his name under the first letter only, just in case someone saw my screen during an incoming call. I couldn’t wait for all of this to be over so that I could rest in the arms of the man I loved.
The phone dinged in my hand again.
R: Bree, all of this sneaking around, will be over soon. Do not worry. If tomorrow doesn’t work. I know I will see you on Monday. I love you more than anything. You know that right?
I smiled. I couldn’t help it. He knew me so well. Time and time again, he had proven how much he cared about and wanted to protect me.
Me: Yes, I know and I love you, too.
R: Good. Call me when you can.
I put the phone down and looked up at Gianna. Her eyes were glued to me and she was grinning from ear to ear.
“Was that lover boy?” she asked.
“Maybe,” I replied.
“Are you going to tell me who he is?”
I gave her a look.
Respect and gratitude were an understatement for how I felt about Gianna, but I’d been burned enough, and sharing too much could be dangerous for both of us.
“I’ll take that as a no, but you’re happy, right? Who ever this guy is. Whatever the two of you have going on, he makes you happy?”
I touched my hand to my heart. “More than you know.”
“Alright,” Gianna said, getting to her feet. “I’m going to grab a snack and some uninterrupted TV time while we wait for Pam. I need some more happiness in my life.”
Gianna left, and I decided to also use this time to do something that made me happy. Call Ryan.
Picking up my phone, I tucked myself between a tall storage unit and the wall, a common place where my kids hide.
This call had to be done in private because not only was Ryan the man I was having an affair with, he was my husband’s best friend.