Home>>read The Sidelined Wife free online

The Sidelined Wife

By:Jennifer Peel

The Sidelined Wife
Jennifer Peel

       More Than a Wife Series

Chapter One

He held an open box filled with odds and ends-his alarm clock, the paper  weights that used to sit on his desk. He shifted the box to one hand  while he reached into his pocket for our . . . I mean for my house key.  There was no ours anymore. Well, maybe one thing, but I was claiming  Cody mostly mine.

He barely met my eyes when he pressed the key into my hand and lingered.  I knew that hand better than my own-soft but firm, a comfort once. I  pulled away, but his grasp tightened.

"I'm sorry, Samantha."

My gray eyes bore into his tired brown eyes that now wore the mark of  his age. Lines crinkled where there was once smooth skin. I used to see  my future reflected in those brown pools; now all I saw was a fork in  the road. This was where we parted.

I used more force this time and took the key and my hand back, along with my life. "Does it really matter?"

He shuffled the box in his hands, using both now to hold it. "I didn't mean for us to turn out this way."

"I think you mean you never meant to get caught."

His ears turned crimson. "I never wanted to hurt you."

I wanted to laugh in his face-I was done with tears-but I was too tired. "Goodbye, Neil." I reached around him to open the door.

"That's it, after nineteen years together?" His audacity was astounding.

"You should have asked yourself that when you decided to forget you were  a married man." Some emotion crept in, but I held steady. I wasn't  going to give him the satisfaction of knowing he could still hurt me.

"Sam . . ."

I shook my head. "Don't. Don't give me another excuse that will never  explain or make up for the inexcusable." I'd heard them all already.

His head dropped and he muttered under his breath, "I'll always love you."

I mustered up some energy for that laugh when I opened the door and said  not another word. I slammed the door behind him and took a deep breath.  My eyes were begging for relief from the tears that stung them, but I  refused to let them fall. He wasn't worth the stain on my cheek.

I turned around and took a hard look at the house we had built together;  it already looked different. There were blank spaces on the mantle  where once stood pictures of a happy family. Only pictures of our  connecting link smiled back at me. The walls too bore empty spaces where  Neil's artwork once hung. I saw an empty canvas waiting for me to make  my own mark. I intended to.

The first things that were coming down were all the light-blocking  curtains Neil preferred. This house-Cody's and my house-was going to be  filled with light and laughter. Cody. I sighed. I missed that kid's  laughter. With the divorce finally settled, I hoped it would come back.  Now that he knew his home would continue to be with me, he wanted  nothing to do with his father. Someday I would have to help change that,  but not today.

I crept up the stairs to check on my progeny. He'd refused to come down  when Neil arrived to collect the last of his belongings and drop off his  key. I would have liked to have missed it too, but someone had to be  the adult. I guess that was me.

At the top of the landing I surveyed the loft that used to act as Neil's  office, and the bedroom and bathroom doors that outlined it. There were  still indents in the gray carpet where Neil's desk and bookcases used  to be. What was I going to do with all this space? Cody's vote was for  us to knock all the walls down except for his bedroom and bathroom and  make a massive theater room. Maybe if he wasn't leaving for college in  three years.

Three years. My heart constricted. It did that every time I thought  about my not so little boy leaving home. I'd bribed him to stay  local-free laundry and food on the weekends for the duration. I mean,  Northwestern was a good thirty minutes away, sometimes longer in Chicago  traffic. And it was my alma mater, after all. He'd said he'd think  about it. But he had his heart set on Notre Dame. Indiana wasn't  horribly far, but I knew it would feel like a million miles for me.

I knocked on the surly teenager's door.

"Yeah." He obviously didn't want to be disturbed.

Too bad. I walked right in. Maybe not such a good idea. Teenage boys had  this pungent smell to them no matter how much they bathed or how often I  sprayed air freshener in his room. It was especially ripe now that  football practice had started.

His room was covered in sports posters. I saw specks of carpet under the  mounds of clean and dirty clothes on the floor. His dresser, desk, and  bed were also covered in a collage of dirty dishes, wrappers, and empty  plastic water bottles.                       


Cody was lying on his bed in the semi dark, some evening light creeping  in from the closed blinds. He had grown four inches just this year and  his feet dangled off his full-size bed. When did he start looking like a  man? He was tossing a football in the air and catching it with ease  each time.

"It's time to head over to Grandma and Grandpa's for Sunday dinner." I took shallow breaths to avoid a full whiff of his room.

He kept tossing the football.

"I know life sucks right now, but Grandma's potato salad will almost make up for it."

His lip twitched, if only barely.

"You have to come with me to protect me from Mimsy. Your handsomeness is my only hope."

Mimsy, previously known as Miriam before she had grandchildren, was my  mom's mom, and divorce was a cardinal sin to her. Even knowing that my  husband-I mean ex-husband, I needed to remember that-was having a baby  with another woman. That was a fun piece of trivia to bring up at  parties. Neil left me for a twenty-five-year-old waitress and, not only  that, he believed her when she said she was on the pill. The man that  only wanted one child, whose mind I could never change on the subject,  would be a new father in several weeks.

Joke's on him, though. He was going to have fun getting up at all hours  of the night now that he was in his mid-forties. And the crime rate was  up, which meant he was busier than ever as a medical examiner. His  little side project had announced she certainly had no intention of  getting up. She needed her beauty rest, apparently.

Despite all this, Mimsy still felt the need to shout out whenever I was  around that everyone should pray to Saint Anthony or Saint Jude for lost  things or lost causes, as she now liked to call it. And then I always  got a kiss on the cheek because that made it all better. Hopefully she  wouldn't be sprinkling holy water on my head tonight to ward off evil  spirits. It's happened, and I don't even want to know how she got the  holy water.

But that wasn't as bad as when she called the priest over to bless my  home and check for evil spirits. She didn't tell the poor man why he was  coming before he made the house call with her and Ma. He thought he was  coming over to talk about a generous donation for the new high school  the church was building. He was disappointed on all fronts. No donation  and no evil spirits. So maybe he was happy about the last part, Mimsy  not so much. She was determined that Neil and I should work it out. She  told me to look at Roxie, the extra-curricular activity, like a  handmaiden for my husband. And that it would be okay for me to punish  Neil for the rest of our marriage for what he did, as long as there was a  marriage.

Maybe we shouldn't go to dinner.

That would only make it worse. The whole loud-mouthed Decker clan would  come here if we didn't. And, like I said, I would be using Cody as a  shield. Mimsy adored him and shoved cash at him whenever she saw him. I  would have his college paid for in the next couple of years if she kept  it up.

Cody decided to keep a hold of the football and look at me. "I call dibs on driving over."

"Deal." I cringed. I hated when he drove and he knew it. Another reason  to hate Neil. I agreed to birth Cody if he taught him how to drive. I  thought it was a fair trade. Who got stuck with both, though? Like I  needed more torture in my life.

He sat up and ran his fingers through his thick, brown hair with golden  highlights he inherited from me. Okay, so maybe my highlights were  grayish in nature now, but no one could actually prove that, except my  hair stylist. I begged her not to tell me the extent of it and just do  what she had to do to make it look like I was still twenty-nine and  holding steady. I was about ready to celebrate the eleventh anniversary  of my twenty-ninth birthday. You do the math.

Cody's eyes, which looked like Neil's, were killing me. Loss and pain  reflected in them. But despite all that, he was such a good-looking kid,  if I do say so myself. Thankfully, he got my nose.

"I love you."

He mumbled something.

"What's that?" I cupped my hand around my ear. "I didn't quite hear you."

He stared at those big, bare feet of his. "I love you, too."

That's all that mattered right there.