Authors: Bridget Asher
BRIDGET ASHER lives on the Florida panhandle with her
husband, who is lovable, sweet, and true of heart—and
who has given her no reason to inquire about his former
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My Husband's Sweethearts
ePub ISBN 9781864715590
Kindle ISBN 9781864717501
A Bantam book
Published by Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney NSW 2060
First published in the United States by Delacorte Press in 2008
First published in Australia by Bantam in 2009
Copyright © Bridget Asher 2008
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by
any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying (except
under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system
without the prior written permission of Random House Australia.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are
the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely
Addresses for companies within the Random House Group can be found at
Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry available through the National Library
ISBN 978 1 74166 873 5
Cover images by iStockphoto
Cover design by Christabella Designs
Author photograph by David G. W. Scott
For Davi, my sweetheart
Oh, I want to thank so many people who helped me
through the muddy waters. Justin Manask, thank you for
coming in with the defibrillator paddles, bringing it all
back to life. Frank Giampietro—a thank-you that's long
overdue. I love your deep understanding of the female
psyche. I owe you (and owe and owe). Nat Sobel—you are
such a genius! Thanks for the boosting and the sound
advice, as always. Swanna, thanks for your steadfast championing
of this book. Thank you, Caitlin Alexander, for
your brilliant eye and gentle care of these characters.
Thank you, Florida State University. Go 'Noles! As always,
I thank me mum and me pops, and the broodlings—
my sweet and clever crew. And, Dave, my Starsky. I thank
you for all I've got with all I've got.
Careening past airline counters toward the security
check-in, I'm explaining love and its
various forms of failure to Lindsay, my assistant.
Amid the hive of travelers—retirees in Bermuda
shorts, cats in carry-on boxes perforated with air holes,
hassled corporate stiffs—I find myself in the middle of a
grand oration on love with a liberal dose of rationalizations.
I've fallen in love with lovable cheats. I've adored
the wrong men for the wrong reasons. I'm culpable. I've
suffered an unruly heart and more than my share of prolonged
bouts of poor judgment. I have lacked some basics
in the area of control. For example: I had no control over
the fact that I fell in love with Artie Shoreman—a man
eighteen years my senior. I had no control over the fact
that I am still in love with him even after I found out, in
one fell swoop, that he had three affairs during our four-year
marriage. Two were lovers he'd had before we
got married, but had kept in touch with—held on to,
really, like parting gifts from his bachelorhood, living
memorabilia. Artie didn't want to call these
they were spur-of-the-moment. They weren't
He trotted out terminology like
The third affair he called
And I have no control over the fact that I am angry
that Artie's gotten so sick—so deathbedish—in the midst
of this and that I blame him for his dramatic flair. I have
no control over the compulsion I feel to go back home to
him right now, bailing out of a speech on convoluted SEC
regulations—because my mother has told me in a middle-of-the-night,
bad-news phone call that his health is grave.
I have no control over the fact that I'm still furious at
Artie for being a cheat just when one might, possibly, expect
me to soften, at least a little.
I'm telling Lindsay how I left Artie shortly after I
found out about the affairs and how that was the right
thing to do six months ago. I tell her how all three affairs
were revealed at once—like some awful game show.
Lindsay is petite. Her jacket sleeves are always a bit
too long for her, as if she's wearing an older sister's hand-me-downs
that she hasn't quite grown into. She has silky
blond hair that swings around like she's trapped in a
shampoo commercial, and she wears small glasses that
slip down the bridge of a nose so perfect and narrow I'm
not sure how she breathes through it. It's as if her nose
were designed as an accent piece without regard to function.
She knows this whole story, of course. She's nodding
along in full agreement. I forge on.
I tell her that this hasn't been so bad, opting for business
trip after business trip, a few months hunkered down
with one client and then another, every convention opportunity—
a life of short-term corporate rentals and hotel
rooms. It was supposed to allow me some time and space
to get my heart together. The plan was that when I saw
Artie again, I'd be ready, but I'm not.
"Love can't be ordered around or even run by a nice-enough
democracy," I tell Lindsay. My definition of a
democracy consists of polling the only two people I've
chosen to confide in—my anxiety-prone office assistant,
Lindsay, who at this very moment is clipping along next to
me through JFK airport's terminal, and my overwrought
mother, who's got me on speed dial.
"Love refuses to barter," I say. "It won't haggle with
you like that Turkish man with the fake Gucci bags." My
mother insists I get her a fake Gucci bag each time I'm in
New York on business; my carry-on is bulging with fake
Gucci at this very moment.
"Love isn't logical," I insist. "It's immune to logic." In
my case: my husband is a cheater and a liar, therefore I
should move on or decide to forgive him, which is an option
that I've heard some women actually choose in situations
Lindsay says, "Of course, Lucy. No doubt about it!"
There's something about Lindsay's confident tone that
rattles me. She's often overly positive, and sometimes her
high-salaried agreement makes me double-think. I try to
carry on with the speech. I say, "I have to stick by my mistakes,
though, including the ones that I came by naturally
through my mother." My mother—the Queen of Poor
Judgment in Men. I flash on an image of her in a velour
sweat suit, smiling at me with a mix of hopeful pride and
pity. "I have to stick by my mistakes because they've made
me who I am. And I'm someone that I've come to like—
except when I get flustered ordering elaborate side dishes
in sushi restaurants, in which case I'm completely overbearing,
"No kidding," Lindsay agrees, a little too quickly.
And now I stop in the middle of the airport—my laptop
swinging forward, my little carry-on suitcase wheels
coming to a quick halt (I've only packed necessities—
Lindsay will ship the rest of my things later). "I'm not
ready to see him," I say.
"Artie needs you," my mother had told me during last
night's phone call. "He is your husband still, after all. And
it's very bad form to leave a dying husband, Lucy."
This was the first time that anyone had said that Artie
was going to die—aloud, matter-of-factly. Until that moment
it had been serious, surely, but he's still young—only
fifty. He comes from a long line of men who died young,
but that shouldn't mean anything—not with today's advances
in medicine. "He's just being dramatic," I told my
mother, trying to return to the old script, the one where
we joke about Artie's dire attempts to get me back.
"But what if he isn't just being dramatic?" she said.
"You need to be here. Your being away now, well, it's bad
karma. You'll come back in your next life as a beetle."
"Since when do you talk about karma?" I asked.
"I'm dating a Buddhist now," my mother said. "Didn't
I tell you that?"
Lindsay has grabbed my elbow. "Are you okay?"
"My mother is dating a Buddhist," I tell her, as if explaining
how terribly wrong everything is. My eyes have
filled with tears. The airport signs overhead go blurry.
"Here." I hand her my pocketbook. "I won't be able to
find my ID."
She leads me to a set of phones near an elevator and
starts digging through my purse. I can't root through it
right now. I can't because I know what's stuffed inside—
all the little cards that I've pulled from little envelopes
stuck in small plastic green forks accompanying the daily
deliveries of flowers that Artie's ordered long distance.
He's found me no matter what hotel room I'm in or apartment
I'm put up in anywhere I happen to be in the continental
U.S. (How does he know where I am? Who gives
him my itinerary—my mother? I've always suspected her,
but have never told her to stop. Secretly, I like Artie to
know where I am. Secretly, I need the flowers, even
though part of me hates them—and him.)
"I'm glad you kept all of these," Lindsay says. She's
been in my hotel rooms. She's seen the flowers that collect
until they're all in various stages of wilt. She hands me my
"I wish I hadn't kept them. I'm pretty sure it's a sign of
weakness," I tell her.
She pulls one out. "I've always wondered," she says,
"you know, what he has to say in all of those cards."
Suddenly I don't want to find my way into the line at
security with a herd of strangers. The line is long, but still
I have plenty of time—too much. In fact, I know I'll be
restless on the other side, feel a little caged myself—like
one of those cats in the carry-ons. I don't want to be alone.
"Are you sure?" She raises her thin eyebrows.
I think about it a moment longer. I don't really want to
hear Artie's love notes. Part of me is desperate to grab the
pocketbook out of her hands, tell her
sorry, changed my
and get in line with everyone else. But another part
of me wants her to read these cards, to see if they are as
manipulative as I think they are. In fact, I think I need that
right now. A little sisterly validation. "Yes," I tell her.
She plucks the note and reads aloud, "Number forty-seven:
the way you think every dining room should have a
sofa in it for people who want to lie down to digest, but
still be part of the witty conversation." She glances at me.
"I like to lie down after I eat—like the Egyptians or
something. The dining room sofa just makes good sense."
"Do you have one?"
"Artie bought me one for our first anniversary." I
don't want to think of it now, but it's there in my mind—a
long antique sofa reupholstered with a fabric of red poppies
on a white background and dark wood trim that
matches the dining room furniture. We made love on it
that first night in the house, the boxy pillows sliding out
from under us onto the floor, the aged springs creaking.
She pulls out another one and reads, "Number fifty-two:
how the freckles on your chest can be connected to
make an approximate constellation of Elvis."
A crew of flight attendants glides by in what seems to
be the V formation of migrating geese. A few of Artie's old
girlfriends were flight attendants. He made his money
opening an Italian restaurant during his late twenties (despite
a lack of any real Italian blood in him) and then
launching a national chain. He traveled a lot. Flight attendants
were plentiful. I watch them swish by in their nylons,
the wheels on their suitcases rumbling. My stomach
cinches up for a moment. "He actually did that once, connected
the freckles, and documented it. We have the photos."
I'm waiting for Lindsay's righteous anger to become
apparent, but this doesn't seem to be the case. In fact, I
notice that she's smiling a little.
She pulls out a third. "Number fifty-five: the way
you're afraid that if you forgive your father—once and for
all—he might really disappear in some way, even though
he's been dead for years."
Lindsay raises her eyebrows at me again.
"Artie's a great listener. He remembers everything.
What can I say? It doesn't mean that I should forgive his
betrayal and go home to him." Here's one of the reasons I
hate Artie. He is so fully and completely himself, his own
person, but when I asked him why he cheated on me, he
came up with a tired, worn-out response. He constantly
falls in love. He thought he could stop when we got married,
but he couldn't. He confessed that he fell in love
with women all the time, all day, every day, that he adores
everything about women—the way they sway when they
walk, their fine necks—he even loves their imperfections.
And he would get caught up. They confided in him,
women did. Suddenly it seemed that a woman was telling
him everything and then the next minute she was unbuttoning
her blouse. He told me that he hated himself—of
course—and that he didn't want to hurt me. At the same
time, he loved the women he'd had affairs with—all in different
ways for different reasons. But he didn't want to
spend his life with them. He wanted to spend his life with
me. I hate Artie for betraying me, yes, but I might hate
him more for getting me caught up in such an embarrassing
I was too heartbroken to respond, too angry to do anything
"Do you think he'll be okay?" Lindsay asks, meaning
"I know," I tell her. "I know. A good person would go
home and forgive him because he's so sick. A good person
probably would have stayed put and tried to sort it all out,
in person, one way or the other and not just run around
the country like I did. I know." I'm getting emotional. I
take a moment to press the tears from my eyes. I wipe
away some mascara. Why did I put on makeup at all? I
realize that I'm dressed all wrong. I'm wearing a professional
outfit—tan slacks, expensive shoes, a blazer. What
was I thinking? I remember getting dressed while packing
quickly. I was on autopilot—bumping around my hotel
room amid the dying flowers. I'm an auditor—a partner
in a firm, in fact—and I look like one—even now when I
shouldn't. Trust me, I'm aware of the irony that it's my job
to know when someone is cheating and that I was blind to
Artie's infidelity for so long. "I'm supposed to know
fraud, intimately. It's what I do for a living, Lindsay. How
could I have not seen it?"
"Well, he wasn't really handling his risk of detection
very well." Lindsay smiles, trying to cheer me. She's recently
gone to a lecture on the risk of detection and is
proud of herself in this moment. "You'll sort it out, Lucy. You sort everything out. It's what you do best!"
"At work," I tell her. "But my personal history doesn't
bear that out exactly. Two different worlds."
Lindsay looks around the airport like she's a little confused—she's
wearing her confusion on her face,
her confusion, as if she's just for the first time heard
that there are actually two different worlds—a twilight
zone moment. I've been grooming her for upward mobility.
She's going to be taking over while I'm on leave and
she'll have to work on her toughness if she's going to make
it through. I've talked to her about trying not to display
her emotions so readily. I'd give her a little lecture on that
right now—but I'm no model of emotional discipline at
"You think I should forgive him, don't you? You think
I should go home and that we should try to figure it out,
She's not sure what to say. She looks side to side and
then she gives in and nods.
"Because he deserves it or because he's sick?"
She shifts. "I'm not sure that this is the right reason or
not, but, well, because I've never had a boyfriend who
could get past three or, maybe, four reasons why he loved
me. Not that I've asked for a list or anything, but, you
know what I mean. Because Artie loves you like that."