Something To Believe In


I was such a good Christian girl when this whole thing started. The one man I had ever been with was my husband and then only after our wedding day. Honestly, I thought sex was overrated. I submitted to it twice a week, or as Jimmy needed it. I never wanted it for myself. It all started when I asked my husband if I could get a job. We didn’t need the income, but he worked such long hours, sometimes fourteen or more, in his law office that I was restive. After five years with no children, and nothing to do but keep house and read my Bible and volunteer at church, I needed more. I tried to tell him so. “You have a job,” he replied. “You’re my wife.” “I’m lonely, Jimmy, and I’m bored,” I said. Then, because of the disapproving look, I added, “I know you work hard for us. I’m not ungrateful, just restless.” It took me weeks to convince him. In the end, though, Jimmy reluctantly let me sign up with a temp agency at the local University. They assigned me to an elderly Vice-Chancellor who was retiring in three months and needed help organizing his documents for his replacement. I just loved the work. The temp service called me a day before the retirement party and asked me if I would be willing to stay one more week because the new Vice-Chancellor didn’t have an assistant yet. Of course, I said yes. On the very next day, I met Daniel Preston. “Mr. Preston, this is Becky Tuft,” the office administrator said. “She’s been working with your predecessor and we secured her for another week so that she can help you get settled.” I looked up and I had to just keep looking, he was so big. I stood, feeling even smaller than I usually did; he must have been more than a foot taller than me. He was muscular, too; you could see that even with his suit jacket on. I offered my hand and it disappeared past the wrist between two of his. “Tuft?” he asked, his voice like thunder in his chest. “I know a James Tuft. Is he your father?” I flushed. “Jimmy’s my husband,” I said. We got that a lot and it really upset him. He was seventeen years older than me and going a little bald, so he looked every minute of his forty-four years. I was twenty seven and had always been assumed younger than my age. “Your husband, huh?” There was a hint of something unkind in his voice. “Yes,” I said earnestly. “We’ve been married five years.” His eyes lingered on the delicate cross that was just below the hollow of my throat and then strayed to the thin, gold band on my left hand and the tiny diamond that sat next to it. All of it were gifts from my Jimmy. My hand went over my cross, protectively. “It’s a very small world,” he commented. I didn’t have a lot of experience with people who talked in double-meanings, but his words didn’t sound as warm as they should have. I glanced at the office administrator. “Anyway,” the administrator said, “Becky will be helping you get settled until you hire an assistant.” “I’ll look very forward to working with you,” he said. I looked away. “Thank you.” # Daniel Preston made me so nervous, I nearly quit that first day. He didn’t even really do anything. His voice was loud and booming, which startled me. His eyes were bold and always seemed to be looking at me. Sermons had warned me of this. Sermons, but not life. I went to a private Christian high school. I graduated to a private Christian college and Jimmy married me right after. I didn’t quit, though. It was only one week, I reasoned. Mr. Preston kept up a blistering pace at work and I felt woefully slow. There was a stack of things in my inbox all the time. It didn’t seem to get shorter all week, no matter how I plugged at it. When he called me to his office Thursday afternoon, I thought it was to reprimand my inefficiency. “Come in, Becky. Sit.” I did, without looking at him. “Let me get straight to the point,” he said. “I’m in need of an assistant and I don’t really have time to do interviews right now. I’m pleased with your work this week. Would you like to come on board permanently?” I did look at him, then. “Really?” He looked amused. “Why do you sound shocked?” “I’m slow. I’m not keeping up.” “Yes, you are. You’re organized, communicate well, and anticipate me.” His complement gave me a warm sense of satisfaction. I liked that he was happy with me. He already had the respect of much of the office, and after only one week. He was charismatic and likable and handsome…. As soon as I realized where my mind was going, I tried to stop it. It wasn’t right to admire another man this much. I repeated my favorite verse from Proverbs in my head over and over. Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. It didn’t help. The idea of him as handsome was stuck in my head. I knew right then that I shouldn’t take this job. “You may do better with someone more experienced,” I finally told him. It was a weak objection. “I’m enjoying your lack of experience, actually,” he said, letting the words hang in the air, a little smile on his lips. I didn’t get the joke. He shook his head a little, still looking at me. Then, he added, “No bad habits to correct, you see. So, what do you say?” I ought to have said no. What I actually said was, “I don’t know. I should discuss this with my husband.” “I don’t see why. It’s the same job you’ve been doing.” He was right, of course, and it made me hesitate. “He thought temp work would be sporadic and I’d be home more,” I finally said. And then, without any idea why, I added, “I don’t imagine he’d mind, though. He works long hours most of the week.” “He does?” “Oh yes. Until eleven some nights.” He gave me an appraising look and I felt like maybe I’d told him something I shouldn’t, though I couldn’t imagine what. Jimmy was always telling me that I talked too much. I just didn’t know why some things were supposed to be secret. “That’s very late,” he said. “He works hard.” “Hard work is one thing, but he shouldn’t neglect a young, pretty wife like you.” I must have gone red in no seconds at all, and I didn’t understand why. The minister called me ‘Jimmy Tuft’s pretty wife’ almost every week when we shook his hand leaving church. But this felt so different from that. “He provides bahis siteleri for us,” I managed. “Everything you need?” He gave me a direct look that seemed to go right through me. Again, I honestly didn’t knowing what he was insinuating. He must have seen my confusion because he said, “Forgive me. Long day. Can you give me an answer tomorrow?” “I will,” I said. I fiddled with my cross again. “I’ll see you then.” # That evening, I searched the Bible for any reasons that I needed to bring decisions concerning my job to Jimmy. Ephesians says that wives should submit to their husbands in everything, but hadn’t I? I’d asked if I could work. Did I need to bring every work-related decision to him as well? It seemed unprofessional, which was probably why Mr. Preston sounded disapproving at the idea. I went to the internet and did a search, which took me to the book of Ruth. Women worked in this story and their productivity was called a blessing. Surely, they didn’t seek their fathers and husbands to tell them how to be productive. Certainly it wouldn’t be unwomanly to accept this position on my own, if I wanted to. But I was torn. What I wanted might not be the best thing for me. I knelt by my chair and said a quick prayer, asking for God to make the answer clear to me. I asked him to help me find how to be both a good wife and a happy woman. I asked him to save me from temptation, but I don’t think I asked for that earnestly enough. I heard Jimmy’s car door and stood. I went into the kitchen. There was still fifteen minutes before the roast in the oven was ready. It would give him enough time to get comfortable. I got him a glass of the mint iced tea that he liked and met him in the living room. “Hi,” I said to him, smiling and handing him the glass. “How was your day? “Long,” he answered, handing me his coat to hang. “It will be longer tomorrow, though.” He didn’t look tired, but I knew better than to ask him about specifics about his job. He made it clear early on that I didn’t understand what he did and it wouldn’t help his stress to revisit his day’s tension with me in the evening. And, truly, I wasn’t a lawyer, so how could I understand? “You poor thing,” I said. “Dinner is nearly ready. Get into something comfortable?” “Thank you, Sweetheart,” he said, kissing me on the cheek. I giggled. “Someone hit you with air freshener. You smell like flowers.” He sniffed his sleeve and frowned. “You’re right. You’ll have to drop this suit off at the cleaners for me tomorrow.” That meant I would have to leave early. I already left earlier than he did. The flash of irritation was new to me. I repressed it, but I couldn’t deny it. I had to remind myself to be gentle. “Leave it out for me,” I said but he had already left the room, assuming my assent. With the assumption, a deeper cut of resentment slashed. It was a new feeling, but it felt righteous. I had the thought that Mr. Preston appreciated me more than my husband did. And suddenly, without a single sign from God, I decided to accept that job offer. # I told Mr. Preston first thing in the morning and felt guilty all day. I knew I should have asked Jimmy. At the very least, I should have trusted God to give me guidance. But, no. I had rushed in and made this decision all by myself. I didn’t have much time to brood. Mr. Preston kept me busy straight until noon. Then he gave me big, white smile and said, “Excellent work, Becky. Take a long lunch.” I couldn’t hold back my delight. His praise lifted me like I was a helium balloon. I got my purse and decided to treat myself with lunch out. After I finished my salad, I got two cookies and made the impulsive decision to bring one to my husband. I worked in one of the University’s urban buildings; he only worked a couple of blocks away. I thought he would be so surprised. But, when I got to his offices, it was like a ghost town. I looked around for a minute, remembering how Jimmy had said it was going to be a late night. “Can I help you?” I turned and the receptionist was poking her head out of a conference room. I didn’t recognize her, but I really only met Jimmy’s co-workers at the office Christmas party once a year. “I was looking for James Tuft,” I said. “You’re in luck. Most of the staff is at a retreat but Mr. Tuft opted out. Do you know where his office is?” I was fairly sure she was supposed to escort me back but she was eating lunch. “I do.” So, I went down a long hallway with closed office doors on either side and headed for the one that was ajar. It was only when I was about ten paces away that I stopped. There were noises inside and it sounded like a struggle. I don’t know what made me creep to the door and peek through the crack. I should have knocked or just gone in. What I saw made me freeze and then it made me sick. My Jimmy–no, not my Jimmy; it could never be my Jimmy doing this–had a woman bent over his desk and was having sex with her. Not just sex–vicious, violent, fierce sex. The way he, well, did what he did to her scooted a heavy desk by centimeters across a carpeted floor. I wanted to look away, run away, even. But I couldn’t. She wasn’t even undressed, unless you counted the scrap of lacy panties that still circled one of her ankles. Her tight skirt was pushed up to her hips and Jimmy’s slacks weren’t even down to his knees. It’s like they couldn’t wait to be nude to do this sinful thing. And, oh, how they seemed to love it. He had a handful of her hair and held her head down on the desk facing away as he used her. I couldn’t even see her face–only that her hair was unnaturally blonde. He made grunts and moans and other sounds that I’d never heard him make before. “Jimmy, yes. Oh, God, like that. Harder, Baby.” Her voice was hushed. “Harder?” He asked. He moved with even more force. “Careful what you ask for. I’ll fuck you until you’re bruised.” My jaw dropped. He hadn’t ever used that word around me. “Do it, Baby. I’ll be your personal whore. Make me feel it.” He let go of her hair and used her shoulders as leverage. Her moans got a little louder and I had to turn away. Before I knew it, I was halfway down the hall, walking with a quick pace past reception, canlı bahis siteleri and exiting his building. I left the two cookies, now crumbs in a package thanks to my grip, in the trashcan on the sidewalk. Then, I walked without even knowing where I was going. # “When I said take a long lunch, I was thinking along the lines of an hour and a half,” Mr. Preston said, sounding something between annoyed and amused. I checked my watch. I was gone for over two hours. “I’m so sorry. I–” I cut myself off. What could I tell him without lying? “I…got some bad news over lunch and then I lost track of time. I’ll stay late.” He gave me another of those piercing looks. I struggled not to cry, both from what I had seen and his disapproval. I couldn’t take both. His expression softened. “That sounds fair.” Work got me through that afternoon. Anger and grief made me efficient; I tore through my tasks. Anything to forget the images and the sounds. Anything to take my mind off of what I was going to do when I went home. I didn’t even look at the clock, so it was a bit of a shock when Mr. Preston came out of his office and closed the door. “It’s six-thirty, Becky. You’ve more than made up your time.” I looked up. “I’ll just finish this–” “Leave it. It will be here.” I hesitated. “Do you mind if I stay a little longer?” “You don’t want to go home?” I shook my head. “Because of your bad news at lunch?” I nodded. He looked at me a long moment. “Would you like to go for a drink with me, then?” “I don’t drink alcohol,” I told him. “Maybe today is a good day to start.” The Bible didn’t prohibit drinking, just drunkenness. I always thought taking even one drink was part of the wide road leading to destruction, like it says in Matthew. Looking back, maybe that was true. Right then, though, I wasn’t thinking about where this road was headed. And I didn’t consider that it might be inappropriate to have a drink with my boss. In my mind, if he asked, it must be okay. “What will alcohol do to me?” He looked very amused. “It will make you warm, then happy, and eventually tired, depending on how much you drink.” Happy sounded good, even if it wasn’t real. Like my marriage wasn’t real. “All right,” I said. I straightened up my desk and shut down my computer while he waited. Then, we walked a couple of blocks over to a clean little bar full of business people. We got a table. When the waiter came by, Mr. Preston ordered a Scotch and soda. “Should I get a scotch and soda, too?” I asked him. Again, I got the sense he was laughing at me, though there really wasn’t any indication besides a little sparkle in his eye. “Scotch is an acquired taste. I wouldn’t recommend it for you,” he said. “Do you like milk?” I nodded and he turned to the waiter. “Scotch and soda and a White Russian.” While we waited for the drinks to come, he talked to me in a way that required very little response from me. He liked playing sports: ice hockey, baseball, and rugby in overlapping seasons. He had a way of telling stories about his teammates that made me able to see them in my mind. He had me laughing before the drinks came, even if some of his language was coarse. When my drink came, I sipped at it, expecting the alcohol to burn and taste like poison. It didn’t. It was more like a melted milkshake. I took a long swallow and Mr. Preston actually did grin at me this time. It was a big grin–big like he was. “Go slow,” he said. “It’s hard to taste the alcohol, but it’s there.” I sipped while he talked. I was almost halfway through the drink when I really could tell that something was different. He was right: there was a happy, floaty feeling. When I thought about Jimmy, the pain was detached. “Something just bothered you,” Mr. Preston said, cutting off his own story, that sharp, direct look probing me. “What were you thinking of?” Mr. Preston had failed to mention that alcohol would also act like a truth serum on me. “My husband,” I said. His voice took on a hard edge that I couldn’t interpret. “Are you feeling guilty for being out with me?” “No.” Although, now that he said it, I probably should have been. “I’m thinking about Jimmy because he’s having an affair.” Mr. Preston’s drew back, looking surprised. “Was that your bad news at lunch?” I nodded. “You didn’t know before?” I shook my head. “How do you know for certain?” “I stopped by his office at lunch. I saw him with… with…” I took a shuddery breath and another sip of my drink. “I saw him.” He looked at the trace of drink left in my glass. Then he gave me another of those direct looks that felt like an x-ray. “Would you like another?” I did, but I knew liquor made you want more liquor. “Maybe I shouldn’t.” “What if I promise to get you home safely? If anyone ever needed a second drink, it’s you. Unless you need to be somewhere…” “No. Jimmy said he had to work late.” I gave a laugh that sounded like a sob. “That usually means around midnight. I always thought he just worked so hard.” The waiter came by and Mr. Preston ordered me another drink without me ever really saying yes to it. I was glad to have the decision taken out of my hands. I started sipping at it right away. We sat without talking for a few minutes. He seemed to be lost in thought. “You know what the worst part is?” I finally asked. Mr. Preston lifted his eyebrows. “What he was doing to that woman, he’s never done to me. He’s never even asked if we could… I mean, she seemed to really like it.” He seemed mildly amused. “What exactly was he doing?” My flush must have been purple. “He had her bent over a desk. He was really rough with her.” “Was he now?” “It was like he was someone else.” “Did you like it?” I blinked at him. “I mean, if it hadn’t been your husband and another woman. The act. Did you like the look of it?” “I don’t know,” I said very honestly. “Isn’t sex supposed to be loving?” “I suppose that depends on your point of view.” I hesitated but curiosity got the better of me. “What’s your point of view?” I knew full well I should be asking him this. I shouldn’t even be talking about sex with him; his opinion of it wasn’t going to be Biblical. But I was curious and the canlı bahis alcohol made it seem okay. He gave me a long look and his eyes played on the cross around my neck. “I think sex is supposed to feel good. I think it’s supposed to leave both people satisfied and happy. I think it’s a form of expression and sometimes that expression is love; sometimes it isn’t.” I tilted my empty glass, wishing that there was more. I was starting to understand how people got drunk. “I should go home,” I said. I knew my voice sounded sad. He gave me a long look, like he was considering me. Then, he said, “Take me to your car and I’ll drive you.” I did as he said. We were silent in the car together. It was so strange, being driven home by someone who wasn’t my husband. When he pulled into the driveway, there was a cab waiting for him at the curb. I didn’t even know when he had called for it. “Thank you,” I told him, already feeling the promised tiredness. He cocked his head at me. “Good luck this weekend. I hope you give him hell.” He reached over and brushed a strand of hair out of my face. It was the only time he touched me all night but it still managed to leave me confused. It still managed to make me wish for something I couldn’t name. It made me feel like I was the unfaithful one, instead of Jimmy. I went inside to the empty house. I didn’t bother to leave Jimmy anything out for dinner. He could make a sandwich. I went to bed. The alcohol made it so I didn’t even have to pretend to be asleep. # I was so spineless, that I didn’t talk to Jimmy about his infidelity all weekend long. I hardly talked to him at all. He mentioned how quiet I was, but his mind seemed to be elsewhere, too. I was pretty sure I knew where it was. That weekend was the first time I ever denied him sex. I was facing away from him in bed on Saturday night when I felt his hand on my arm, pulling on me to lay on my back. It literally made me nauseous. “I don’t feel well,” I said. It hadn’t ever mattered before. I had let him when I was sick and even when I was crampy, if he wanted to. “No?” he asked, sounding surprised. “I just want to sleep,” I told him. On Sunday morning, he wasn’t pleased at all. He had a hard, disapproving way about him. That managed to hurt me, too. We went to church cold and came back cold. I watched my husband, the adulterer, passing the communion plates and tried not to cry. When we got home from church, while I was laying out lunch, he crossed his arms and took a very paternal tone with me. “I’m not so sure that working outside of the home is good for you,” he told me. “You forgot dinner on Friday. Last night… well, you know what happened last night. If you can’t be both a wife and a secretary, your first duty is to be a wife.” My head snapped in his direction so fast, he took a step back. “Are you telling me to quit my job?” “Your last assignment was complete Friday, right? Maybe you should take a break from temping until you can find your balance again.” “I’m not a temp anymore.” “What do you mean?” “I was hired by the company.” His coldness became glacial. “When did this happen?” “Friday. I was asked to stay on because my work was good.” “And you accepted without talking to me?” “You already said I might work.” “I said you could work as a temp.” It occurred to me that this conversation would have made me feel very guilty just a couple of days ago. Now, it just made me mad. “I didn’t see the difference,” I told him. And it was a lie. Not my first, but the first that I didn’t care about. “Next week, you’ll hand in your resignation,” he told me. “A full-time, permanent job takes you from your marital duties too much.” “I won’t.” He narrowed his eyes at me. “Excuse me.” “I’m not resigning.” He was very angry with me. I could tell from his tense neck and pursed lips. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Becky, but I think you need to take some time to pray and get your head on straight. I’m going out of town on Tuesday until Thursday. By the time I get back, I’ll expect you to have sorted out your employment.” “You’re going out of town?” “Did I not just say that?” “It’s Sunday afternoon. When did you think I was going to get your clothes done?” He gave me the coldest look of our married life. “I am not having this conversation with you. In fact, I’m finished talking about this. I’m going out and I’ll be back this evening. I hope by then you will have considered your attitude.” He walked out of the house, slamming the door. Angry as I was, I still didn’t have the courage to tell him about what I saw. I hated myself almost as much as I hated him, which was twice the sin. Jesus said to love your enemy; I couldn’t even love my unfaithful husband. However, I did do his stupid laundry. # Sunday night Jimmy came home after eleven and I pretended to be asleep. At work on Monday, Mr. Preston was in meetings all day. I hardly saw him. I worked as hard as I could so I didn’t have to think about going home and seeing my husband. I didn’t need to worry, though. That night, it was closer to midnight when Jimmy came home. I was seething but I still couldn’t find my voice. It was a relief when he left town. On Tuesday morning, almost first thing, Mr. Preston called me into his office. I had whittled down my inbox but he handed me a stack of documents that would fill it again. “I’ll start on this right away,” I said, turning to leave. “I’ve been meaning to check on you,” he said. I stopped and faced him. “How was your weekend?” I bit my lip. “I didn’t tell him.” I waited for the disappointment and condemnation but it didn’t come. If anything, he looked sympathetic. “You don’t confront people very often, do you?” “No, I don’t. I really haven’t had to, much.” His phone started to ring. I turned to leave but he held up a finger. “This is Daniel Preston,” he answered. “Thanks, Judy. Yep. I’ll call you back in ten minutes. I have something I need to finish here.” He hung up the phone and turned back to me. I know it was a little thing, but I could hardly believe he had put off a business call for me. Jimmy wouldn’t put off watching the evening news for me. “Is your husband working late tonight?” he asked with a hint of grim humor. Even I knew what he was insinuating, this time. “He’s out of town until Thursday.” He gave me another of those very direct looks. “Then, would you like to join me for another drink after work?” I flushed.

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