It started with a simple, refutable lie. Mary asked a harmless question.
“I was at the office all day,” he said. He patted her head. “Why do you ask?”
“I was driving to a client’s house this afternoon and saw you, in your car.”
“You must be mistaken.”
“I saw your licence plate, for crying out loud!” she twisted the ends of her blouse.
One of his eyelids shuttered; he laughed and said, “Oh. That wasn’t me. The boss’s car was in repair. He took mine to pick up supplies.”
Mary shook her head. It was him; she knew it.
They fought that night, brought up untended wounds.
The next time it happened, she wondered if she was imagining things.
After months of second-guessing herself, Mary didn’t have the energy to fight or even ask anymore.
When Brad sat and watched TV with her, his phone vibrated at least twenty times. The smirk on his face, when he read the messages, was a giveaway, but when he looked at her, daring her to say something, she turned back at the screen and ignored it. It was only a friend, one of his many guy friends. Their relationship was solid. They didn’t fight anymore, and he was home every night, except those few when he had a big deadline.
It was her boss, Dana, that pointed him out during their unscheduled fortnightly cafe meetings. Brad sat behind the wheel at a traffic light, his face aglow as he pinched the soft, perfect cheek of an auburn twenty-something.
“Oh, Mary,” Dana said, with an extended sigh, “I’m so sorry.”
Mary stared at her boss, but no tears came. “I knew it,” she half-whispered to herself.
“Oh, hunny, how long have you suspected?”
“I dunno. Maybe a year,” Mary admitted.
“Lemme guess. He convinced you it was all in your head?”
“Uh… yeah. How did you know?”
“Men like Brad do that. My second husband gas-lighted me too,” she said with an uncomfortable snicker.
Mary watched the car drive down the road.
Dana put her hand on top of Mary’s and patted, “Tell you what you do. Tonight, act like nothing happened. Go to bed early and wait for him to go to sleep. Then take his cell phone and get all the evidence you need.”
Dana slid a card across the table. “Here’s my divorce attorney. You call her tomorrow with everything you’ve got. She’ll make sure he suffers.”
Mary took the card, the advice, everything, in a daze. As the day crept by, the numbness she had allowed herself to have over all these months hardened.
With stony determination, she took Dana’s advice. She laid in bed and listened for the sound of Brad’s snoring.
Then she slid his cell phone off charge, slipped out of the room, crept to the furthest end of the house, and unlocked it.