“A bad friend is is worse than an enemy, an enemy you can see and avoid, but to detect an insincere friend is hard” – Bangambiki Habyarimana
I sat there in disbelief, shaking my head as if to clear the image or thinking that I would rewind the last 30 seconds of my life. I kicked his other leg – hard. “What are you doing”, I asked him -there on the spot. “What?” he responds with attitude. There was surprise in his voice as if he was challenging me to go further. I didn’t. I sat there watching though. I replayed the evening over again in my mind.
I wound the clock back to when Dee and Tom arrived with the beer – that beer that had been requested so casually, so intimately. I recalled conversation that flowed so easily, so familiar, almost as if Tom wasn’t even there with us. I remembered – now suspect behavior – Dee getting up to use the bathroom; a second or two later Hubby got up to get more beer. They came back to the patio together. Again, Hubby goes inside to pee, Dee goes in to grab more snacks. Now that I was thinking about it, this pattern existed through the evening without regard for Tom or me and here he was playing ‘footsies’ under the table, right in front of me.
I know what I saw. I watched his foot intentionally move against her leg, not in an accidental manner, but with purpose, along her calf up to her knee and she was smiling. I looked up to see her glancing at him with recognition I didn’t know existed but only for a microsecond and then she looked at me with normalcy.
I felt sick. Terribly sick. I was questioning the exchange almost as quickly as I felt it. His questioning response, her normal gaze in my direction – was I imagining all of this? I kept watching but it didn’t happen again – that I saw. I didn’t know what to do – should I cause a scene and get mad? Did I really see that? Should I alert Tom to my fear? What about my friend? I couldn’t believe she would be a voluntary participant in this… she’s my friend, a good friend. Jesus, what was happening?
Everything was spinning in my mind, I had to go to bed. That was what I did – I went to bed to process, ignore, deny, file, shuffle, replay, and reject thoughts that didn’t fit the vision of my life. I just couldn’t fully accept the idea that a friend of mine and my husband would engage – literally, in front of me – an inappropriate series of gestures … it simply wouldn’t compute. I ignored the details and allowed myself to carry on as if everything was as it had been. I woke up, got the kids ready for school and went about my day. I didn’t talk to Dee for a couple of days but she eventually called, asking me if everything was ok. I said “yes” and we continued as we had been – spending time together with our children. I did defer on the ‘family time’ somewhat as a precaution but I didn’t find another reason to be concerned.
Michele came out to visit one afternoon and as usual, I shared some of my concerns with her. I explained that I had questions but that they were unfounded and I was being ‘careful’ and yet something felt unsettled. She was – as always – my friend and validated my feelings genuinely. An hour or so after she left, she called to tell me that she had seen Dee’s van parked in the lot at Hubby’s office that day on her drive home (it was normal to pass that way as the office was on a main thoroughfare). Of course, the nausea signal in my stomach returned with a desire for there to be some simple explanation.
Later that day Hubby was home and we were – as usual – sharing our day. I mentioned Michele was there most of the day and he proceeded to tell me that Dee had been at the office because she was thinking about leaving Tom and wanted some advice. While we weren’t attorneys, it wasn’t uncommon for people to ask our counsel about divorce and financial matters. That reason resonated with me. Dee had been really unhappy in recent months. Tom’s travel schedule had him out of town most of the week, most of the month, most of the year so far. It was lonely for her. She was raising three children predominately by herself and it was hard. When he was in town, he had little time for her frustrations. It made sense that she would ask Hubby his advice. I told him that her car had been spotted there and he got upset that someone had been looking – Why was I playing detective? He wanted to know. Clearly, that hadn’t been my intention but his defensiveness caught me off guard. All I could think was, ‘chill out’.
My radar was on full screen. A week or two later, I was at the office and found toys there that hadn’t been there before. Hubby claimed they were for Dee’s son when he was at the office last, but something about that statement didn’t calculate correctly… I had babysat for her recently – was it the day he was speaking of? It didn’t make sense. I attempted to address some of my concerns with Hubby but each time, I was rebuked. My “imagination was overactive” he would claim.
Mid-summer arrived and so did baby #4. Emily Lyn – named after my favorite Aunt, a woman who has more grace in her little finger than I do in my whole body – was born early July. In fact, we call her our boom-boom baby as I am sure after watching fireworks, she was just too curious about all the ‘fuss’ she heard on the outside and decided to make her entrance. I was overjoyed to be welcoming that little on into the world and knew in my heart that since God had made the ‘baby decision’ for us, she would be a special blessing. Not that the other three weren’t of course…
Ironically, I was in the same hospital room as Michele had been just two weeks before when she delivered her little girl…. Our lives paralleled so tightly.
Em was born at 3 am on a Saturday and by six, Hubby left to get some rest. Later, Grandmom brought the kids down to see their new sister and once again we felt like a big happy family. We have video of that day and it’s still as precious to me now as it was then; seeing the gentle embraces from one sister to another. By Sunday I was ready to go home; moms don’t get any rest in a hospital but the doctors wanted to keep us til Monday morning. Dee had called and wanted to come see the baby that afternoon. I was happy to have some company.
Hubby arrived early afternoon and within a few minutes Dee walked in. Coincidence? My thoughts were like a hurricane, reeling and robbing me from the joy of the moment. I felt paranoid and irrational. I recall a distinct sense that they had driven together and I may even have asked but of course, it was a silly question – even in my mind. No one would admit to that, right? Hubby picked up baby Emily in his arms and was cradling her softly – a very proud father. Dee walked up and stood shoulder to shoulder with him, oohh’ing and aahh’ing like anyone who loves babies would. Both of them had their backs to me and like a photograph that is snapped for a permanent record of a moment, my mind recalls that instant. I felt invisible sitting there in my hospital bed while by husband and my best friend were holding and googling over my baby.
*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy