Authors: Lauren Weisberger
“It's settled,” she said, rising. “Run along, darling. Go with Emily.”
“Maisie, say goodbye and thank you to Ms. Priestly,” Emily stage-whispered, but Miranda ignored them, picking up the phone.
Emily shut the double doors behind her and Maisie.
“Thank you for being such a good girl,” she said to Maisie once they were safely inside the elevator. “You were very well behaved in there. Sweetheart, can you please do me a favor and not tell your mother that we came here today? How about it be our little secret?”
Maisie placed her pointer finger to her bottom lip exactly the way Miriam did.
“Thanks, sweetie. That means a lot to me.”
“Emily?” Maisie's voice was childlike, but her poseânow with one hand on her hip and the other extended in front of her, palm outâwas anything but.
Maisie looked her straight in the eye.
hen Miriam opened her eyes, she noticed two things immediately: first, her husband was on top of her, naked. And second, the room was still pitch-black, so it must have been the very middle of the night. Was she dreaming? Was he? No, he seemed very much awake as he kissed her neck and tried to shimmy her nightshirt over her head.
“What are you doing?” she asked dumbly. It was obvious, of course, but so damn foreign! Hot, spontaneous middle-of-the-night sex?
“What does it look like I'm doing?” Paul murmured, working his way down her stomach.
“Um, I'm not sure you want to do that,” she said, yanking on Paul's head with both hands.
He brushed her aside. “I know what I want.”
So she let him. Gladly. She let him do everything else he wanted to
also, the darkness of the room and the drama of the late hour making her feel freer. Afterward, when they lay in a sweaty embrace, both breathing heavily, she couldn't help but smile.
“That was really nice,” she said.
Paul laughed. “ââNice'? I was hoping for something more like âmind-blowing' or âlife-changing.'â”
Miriam rolled over and kissed him. “By ânice,' I actually meant âThat rocked my whole world.'â”
“Paul?” She could tell he was starting to drift off, but this was the closest she'd felt to him in months.
“What brought that on?”
“What brought what on?”
“That. Lovemaking. What we just did.”
“What do you mean?” His eyes were closed and his breathing was slowing.
“I mean why now? After it'sÂ .Â .Â . been so long. I'm not trying to ruin anything. It's just thatÂ .Â .Â . I don't know. It feels like that kind of came out of left field, things have beenÂ .Â .Â . different between us lately. Not different, I shouldn't have said that, but maybe distant. Like we haven't been entirely on the same page. Take work, for instanceâ” She was interrupted by a snore so loud she thought he must be faking it in a jokey way of shutting her up, but as she listened for another minute, he continued snoring steadily.
An hour later Miriam was still awake. None of the usual things workedâreading the free version of
on her Kindle, surfing only sports websites, not even listening to NPR on her phoneâso she climbed out of bed and headed to the kitchen for a snack. She didn't know how she ended up in Paul's office, exactly, but it was as if a magnetic force pulled her from her perch in the pantry, where she had inhaled two fistfuls of potato chips, and directly into Paul's sleek rolling Aeron chair.
Miriam expected he had changed the password to his computer, so she was surprised that their shared password logged her right in. She nosed around a little, scanning his inbox, outbox, and trash for anything unusual, but nothing stood out. She hit up his iPhoto. Nothing. There was a folder ominously named
in his Dropbox, but inside were only copies of the family's passports, Social Security cards, credit cards, and driver's licenses. Twenty minutes into her little search, and Miriam was feeling guiltier by the minute for invading his privacy like this, but the palpable relief she felt was worth it. She jumped a little when the computer dinged and a new email came in. It was from American Express, and it included his June credit card statement, along with a confirmation that he'd chosen to go paperless.
she wondered, clicking on it. If anything, she and Paul were both extraordinarily anal. They went over their statements with color-coordinated highlighters each month to catch any fraudulent charges before paying them in full and scanning them into both cloud-based and hard-drive filing systems. She couldn't imagine why he would go paperless if he would end up printing out the statements to review every month anyway. Another click revealed the statement from Paul's individual card. Each of them maintained a personal credit card and a checking account, since they agreed on the importance of financial freedom and privacyâplus, how would they ever buy each other a gift or a surprise if everything was shared?âbut most everything was charged to their shared card and paid for out of joint checking. Aware that she was violating everything they'd agreed on, Miriam clicked open Paul's statement.
The first dozen charges were typical. Two restaurants they'd visited together. A charge for strawberry picking that weekend they'd taken the kids to a nearby farm. Sunoco, Foot Locker, Jamba Juice, the fish place in town. A charge for having his racket restrung. Thirty dollars at Barnes & Noble when she'd sent him to pick up a last-minute kid-birthday present. The recurring monthly charge for his fancy new gym. The largest single charge, nearly three thousand
dollars, was for Delta, and she remembered that it was the plane tickets to Florida they'd bought for the coming Christmas. It was number thirteen that caught her attention, a charge from Lofted, a small, insanely expensive design store on Main Street that Miriam was too intimidated to enter. She'd ogled the gorgeous area rugs and the dramatic lighting fixtures from the street, but each time the imperious owner met her gaze and didn't offer a smile, Miriam scuttled along. The charge was for eleven hundred dollars, and the only description of the purchase was
. What the hell was Paul doing buying eleven-hundred-dollar throw blankets at Lofted? As far as she knew, he wasn't aware the store existed. Was it an impulse purchase, something he'd bought because he could, like the Maserati? She wouldn't have thought so before, but apparently that was a yes. A super-fancy gym? Again a yes. But still, it seemed impossible that he'd spend over a thousand dollars on a
, when Paul was neither remotely interested in home design nor particularly cold. Which meant it was probably a gift.
Her birthday wasn't anytime soon. Paul didn't usually buy ahead like that, and it wasn't as though she'd asked for a criminally expensive blanket as her present. Or anything, for that matter. He hadn't bought his mother a birthday gift since his wedding day, when all gift-buying and thank-you-note-sending responsibilities had instantly become Miriam's. Gun to her head, she couldn't think of one person on earth Paul would buy it for. Except the obvious. She'd have to be an absolute moron not to see it. Not to accept it.
She went back to the statement. There were a handful of more ordinary charges, a couple of questionable ones (a hefty charge from Benjamin Moore for primer and paint; an even bigger one for an online framing company), but the very last item took her breath away. Right there, the final charge of the month, on June 30 to Coastal Realty, and again only two menacing words for the description:
. $3,300. The address listed was for a management company located in town.
A collage of images flashed through her mind: a love nest, painstakingly painted in Benjamin Moore's Burnt Ember and Smoked Truffle, adorned with various pillows and blankets and floor cushions to ensure every possible surface was soft enough for the constant, unrelenting sex it hosted. And although she wasn't a pukerânever had been, not through two pregnancies and plenty of questionable street food abroadâwithout a moment's warning, Miriam leaned over and vomited directly into Paul's pristine walnut trash can. She must have passed out right in the chair, because when she next opened her eyes, Paul was staring down at her with a worried expression, his eyes darting between the computer, the barf-filled trash can, and Miriam.
“Miriam, what's going on? Why are you sleeping in here? Are you sick?”
The taste in her mouth was so repugnant and her tongue so dry that she could only glare at him.
Paul helped her over to his leather man-couch as though she were an elderly patient. The feeling of his warm, capable hand wrapped around her upper arm made her stomach roil again.
“Here, rest,” he said. “I'm going to give the kids some cereal and get them on the bus. I'll be back in a few minutes, okay?”
Miriam slung her arm over her eyes to block out the light, as though she were suffering from an ordinary hangover instead of realizing that life as she knew it was over. Even this felt strange, the level of drama. Miriam didn't do drama. She did capable and dependable. She gave the kids well-balanced meals of fruit and yogurt and protein-rich eggs each morning, even when she herself ate donuts. She put on brave fronts when she was tired or upset, firmly convinced that her children didn't need or deserve to shoulder any of her own adult burdens, and she stuck to a well-worn routine that gave her and her family the kind of predictability and stability they all required in today's crazy, frenetic world. But collapsed in a heap on her husband's couch after having great sex with him only to discover that he'd been cheating on her, as she'd suspected? And not just cheating but preparing to
by renting and decorating his own apartment? No. This was not her scene. And the longer she lay there, listening to the familiar sounds of her house as Paul scrambled to get all three children dressed, packed, fed, and off to school, the angrier she became.
had done this to her.
Thirty minutes later, when he finally returned from the bus stop, she spat, “How
you?” The nausea faded. The weak, jittery feeling that had kept her from standing or talking had disappeared. And in its place was cold, hard anger. “How dare you do this to all of us? Because you know what, Paul? That's the true tragedy here. It's not just me who has to deal with the fallout of your cheating. Because let me assure you, I
get over it. I will
be a victim. But our children? That's a different story entirely.”
Paul stared at her, astonished. What? Was he surprised to see the fire in her? Had he started to think of her as a suburban mom who lunches, like all the rest of them? Did he not recall that she had outearned and outperformed him with her superior education and better job right up until he happened to get lucky and win the jackpot?
“Stop looking at me like that and say something,” she said, her tone venomous. “Actually, on second thought, don't. You know what we're
going to do right now? We're
going to sit here for the next two hours with me begging you for every last detailâwho is she, how did you meet, how does she like it in bed, is she prettier than me?âand you pleading for my forgiveness. We're better than that, Paul. Or at least I am. Let's save ourselves even more heartache and not go there. Go pack a bag and get the hell out of this house, and after we've both had some time to think things over, we can have a conversation like rational people.”
“Are you finished?” he asked, his voice quavering.
“Yes.” Although she desperately wanted him to leave so he wouldn't see her cry, she also secretly hoped he'd do what she had ordered him not to: namely, throw himself at her feet and beg for forgiveness. Announce that he was willing to do anything to save their marriage and
piece back together their family. She was giving an Oscar-level performance, but underneath the brave exterior, she was terrified.
“I can't believe what I'm hearing right now,” he said, raking his hair.
Paul said firmly, “It took me a minute to figure out what the hell is going on hereâor really, what
think is going on hereâbut I've got it now.” He pointed to the computer screen, where his Amex statement was still up. “You see charges you don't recognize. A rented property you can't explain. And it's curious, I get it.”
“Curious? I'm not sure that would be my first choice in words.”
He glared at her with such distaste that it almost took Miriam's breath away. “Get in the car. Right now.” Paul strode over to the couch and grabbed her wrist. He pulled her up to stand so roughly she yelped. “I mean it, you crazy person. The car. Now.”
Miriam looked down at her vomit-spattered nightshirt. “I'm not even wearing underwear,” she said, motioning to herself.
“You have two minutes. Go throw something on, it doesn't matter what. I'll meet you in the garage.”
Her mind was surprisingly blank as she grabbed a pair of ripped jean shorts from the floor and a clean T-shirt. The kitchen looked like a hurricane had blown through it, but Paul was standing in the connecting mudroom, holding open the door to the garage, challenging her to even think of mentioning the mess.
Although she would've thought it impossible in light of what had gone down, they rode in absolute silence for ten minutes before Paul pulled into a parking lot. Surrounding it was a two-story building, horseshoe-shaped, with a gray-washed exterior and white wood-framed doors and a shingled roof. It looked like it belonged more in Nantucket than in a suburb of New York. Miriam had driven by it a hundred times but hadn't really noticed how charming it was.