Contest Nineteen Kathi's Entry


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Kathi   4th place]

The Cold, Hard Truth
By: Kathryn Smith

      I shuffled through the frozen turkeys, lifting each one, checking the
pounds and price listed on the stiff white tag tied where the neck should be.
Jean appeared at my elbow.
      "You look so much happier these days. I'm really glad to see that. I
know how hard it's been for you lately."
      I pushed aside a twenty-four pounder. It slid with a grating sound
across the pile of birds. "Yeah, things have been really good lately."
      I had a gift for understatement. I felt heat rise in my cheeks as I
remembered last night. Pete had wakened this morning still smiling. After the
long months of virtual imprisonment in my own heartache, I was finally starting
to have good days again. And the nights weren't bad either.
      "How's the therapy coming along?" Jean had always been blunt.
      I sighed. "It's been . . ." How to describe the long sessions where I
laid my soul bare, exposing my roller coaster of emotions to a virtual
stranger. ". . . hard. But we've worked through a lot."
      Jean's eyes were sympathetic. "Pete has always been like that. I
suppose we're all partly to blame. After Steve died, Pete was the only boy left.
Between the six of us girls and Mom, he really got spoiled. After all that, I
suppose it's no wonder he never learned to take responsibility for his
      I smiled faintly at the casual dismissal of Pete's 'screw-ups'. They
had cost me far more than he had ever had to pay. I shoved the bitterness
aside. I knew the truth now, even though it had come in dribs and drabs over a
period of months. All his lies had finally caught up with him. The final
confrontation had been two months ago. At first he had tried to shuffle the accusations
aside with his usual mumbo-jumbo, but this time I refused to be side tracked.
I had given him an ultimatum. I wanted the whole truth, right then, or I
would leave.
      Pete took it better than I imagined he would. He knew, more than
anyone, the toll his deceptions had taken on me. I was agoraphobic, afraid to leave
the confines of my narrow world. I had a terror of talking on the phone,
answering the door. My eyes seemed permanently rimmed in black from the lack of
sleep, but every time I managed to doze off, the nightmares would come, rousing
me with terrifying screams.
      He had confessed it all, finally. Most of it I already knew. I had
played detective for weeks, tracking his every movement, tracing his past. I had
found out about his other wife, his other child. He denied it all, of course,
insisting that it was just a mix-up. But I knew. I had tried to believe as
long as I could, but trust was no longer possible. So he told me the truth.
Finally. And I began to recover. I knew that despite all the lies, I still loved
him. I couldn't imagine a life that didn't include him. He had promised me,
sworn to me, that now I knew it all, there was nothing else to hide.
      It took time, months of work rebuilding our marriage. But it was
finally paying off. I smiled as I held the perfect turkey up triumphantly, my
fingers slipping and sliding across the frozen surface. I knew the whole story at
last, I had managed to forgive him and come away with my marriage and my sanity
      "You're an amazing woman," Jean said. "I don't know anyone else who
could have managed to forgive him for having two other families."
      The turkey slipped from my grasp, landing with a thud on the dirty
linoleum of the grocery store floor.
      "Belyn?" Jean was peering at me. "What's the matter? Belyn? Are you
all right?"
      I stared at the turkey lying at my feet. My throat was dry and my
heart seemed to pound with an extra beat between each normal one.
      I dragged my eyes to my sister-in-law's face. I opened my mouth, but
no sound emerged.
      "What's wrong, Belyn?"
      Finally, I found my voice, although it was a mere croak compared to my
normal tone.

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