Sometimes, it feels as though no one has ever understood you.
Rex, who thought you wouldn’t have to change to be a good wife. The girl he met was so desperate to become anyone else that this was the woman you chose. You can’t apologise to him for making the wrong choice. This was what you were told he would want.
George, who thought that catering to your every whim would stop you needing a challenge. That in making you his queen, you would overlook his unworthiness as a partner. He didn’t want to be your equal, it doesn’t matter that his reason was thinking of you as being so far above himself.
Your children, who found fun in messing up your immaculate home and ridiculing your food, never knowing that this order, this regimented and necessary order, was the only way you could keep the chaos raging inside your head at bay. Crisply folded linen is not satisfaction in itself, but the never-ending train of tasks kept you busy enough to prevent you from screaming.
Those perfect wives with their perfect husbands, who admire your pearls and the cut of your new dress, never once thinking that you might be capable of more than colour coordination and accessorising well. You went to college, travelled in Europe and read everything suitable you could find time for. Little do they know these efforts were not just in aid of sparkling conversation over the aperitifs.
Then there are your friends. The closest you get to yourself is in their company. Gabby and the kind of selfish lifestyle you worried you were capable of, is the source of your vicarious thrills. You know she finds you disapproving, but that’s simply misreading on her part. Susan is the real source of your despair – but she gives you another project. With Julie being just younger than your own brood, she was the first mother you were able to pass on your mastery to. But her helplessness frustrates you, as does your own. The difference is, you know you are capable. It’s just a question of whether it’s appropriate.
Of all your friends there was Mary Alice at the centre. She was as seemingly perfect as you, but in an exceptionally warm way. Everyone loved her, and she seemed to love them in return. Nothing was an imposition, and until the day that her brains were spattered on the hardwood flooring, there was no inkling that anything had ever been wrong in her life. You feel betrayed; there have been times when you’ve hated her for leaving you, to fill her role along with your own. The others cannot step up, either because they’re prevented from trying, or because they wouldn’t want to in the first place. You thought she was exactly like you ought to be, and now she’s nothing more than a memory in your photo album.
Lynette, though, is the one person who keeps you sane. Her life is unapologetic in its chaos. You’ve never doubted that she loves Tom, that those incorrigible children are anything other than visible proof of how much he loves her in return. They’ve always seemed perfect, in the messiest possible way.
You hate yourself for the surge of joy you felt when she confided over coffee that things were not going well. The jealousy, her determination that he will leave her eventually; it made your joy give way to compassion. Those tears in her eyes as she confided that days of baby sick and unstyled hair make her undesirable could have been your own. You know the fear, the realisation of his rejection as you become exactly what you both were supposed to. It doesn’t take much for your compassion to spill over into a warm embrace, and it feels like the first real contact you’ve had with anyone in a terribly long time.
There will never be a valid explanation for why you sought out her lips and kissed her so fiercely. As for her reciprocation, you are equally stumped. All you can be certain of is that in the heat of a July afternoon, you are naked in bed beside one of your best friends and neither of you can remember feeling happier. The husbands, the children and the gossiping neighbours be damned. When someone understands at last, you know better than to risk losing it so soon.
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