Last night, there was a storm.
This morning, it was very quiet and still.
Which could only mean that another storm was approaching.
She knew this part of the story well.
It was well before sunrise, and she was alone now at her lake house.
This was her sanctuary, she rarely brought anyone here.
She sat quietly by the lake, squinting in the dark, trying to make out the furls of mist rolling over the lake.
It seemed very calm.
“Don’t be fooled,” she reminded herself. “It’s just the eye of the storm.”
Something rustled nearby. A protective hand instinctively shielded her coffee mug. Kind of silly of her, she thought. Whatever it was, wasn’t going to steal her coffee, was it?
A throaty chirp. It was a little frog.
She and the frog made a silent agreement — a peace treaty, to do no harm to one another. He would not disrupt her coffee, and she would be mindful throughout the morning to not squish him or any of his friends.
It was an honourable pact, one she took seriously. The sanctity of the early morning, of the calm before the storm, must be protected at all costs. After all, this is where everything happens.
A low mist swirled over the secretive lake. It would lift soon enough, and then all will be revealed.
The storm started brewing just last night. It was LOUD at the bistro. They were two old friends, catching up after years apart. They couldn’t talk fast enough. They couldn’t touch fingers often enough. They couldn’t sit close enough.
Whatever had pulled him into town after so many years had indeed shifted the weather. There would be no storm like this in recorded history.
And then, amidst a definite spiral of atmospheric electricity, she suddenly realized she had to ask about that girl he was supposed to marry before his surprise disappearance so many years ago.
What compelled her to ask this?
Was it wisdom or was it trauma?
As he presented his case as to how perfectly alright it was for them to be drinking and touching and remembering everything about each other, she noticed he had a hard time saying his wife’s name, almost as if he’d forgotten how to pronounce it, or what it was entirely.
She wanted to listen, but held her glass up to her face, shielding herself from his cloudy words. It was one of those ridiculously large wine glasses they have at chic restaurants, so you can feel extra fancy while getting hammered.
She noticed her dark drink swirling into a stormy ocean in her glass, and she sadly remembered what it was like to be the oblivious Other Woman.
She had played this part before, it was familiar ground.
Only this time, she wasn’t oblivious. In fact, she was the least oblivious player in this scene.
At least last time, she was could claim innocence — the other guy forgot to tell her he was married.
This one wasn’t telling either, but she could tell a lie when he saw it.
How she envied her younger self, when she was so stupid and trusting and everyone wanted her. It was so much easier to be happy back then.
Being clever was exhausting. Being older and wiser was over-rated. What did it get you? Being the smartest, loneliest person in the room?
Where was the fun?
Could it be fun?
After all, she wasn’t breaking any vows. What if the Wife already knew and was okay with it?What if they were in one of those modern situations. What were they called? Ethical non-monogamy? Open unicorns? She couldn’t remember.
Well, if the Wife knew, then why would he lie about it? To spare the spare woman the baggage of having to make the big decision to cheat with him? How thoughtful.
The word “Mistress” sounded so medieval and horrible though. And “Other Woman” just sounded like she was a side character in her own life. She didn’t get this far just to be comedy relief, did she?
“Unattached” had a nice ring to it.
She rehearsed it. Are you single?
“I’m monogamously uncommitted.”
“I’m an ethical unicorn.”
Was it settling? Was it crazy?
Or was it brilliant?
A new way to feel less obsolete in a world where your post-40 choices were “ball-and-chain” or “side-chick”.
He gently detangled the glass away from her fingers and set it on the far end of the table for two.
He convinced her everything was alright.
She let him convince her.
She convinced him that he had convinced her.
And then the storm finally hit.
The same mist from the lake rolled across the Italian ceramic tiles in the bistro, but only she noticed.
And suddenly, she was back at the lake.
The sun was out.
The last lingering wisps of fog over the lake had cleared.
Her coffee had gone cold.
The frog had departed to conduct his daily frog business without saying goodbye, their contract to do no harm to each other was still intact.
She checked her phone.
He won’t call back this morning. He’ll make her wait. Then she’ll be so happy when he finally does, and she won’t question his absence or suspicious behaviour… then it will be all on her, why did she let it happen. Because she was so grateful he boomeranged back.
She knew this script.
She had played this part before.
It used to be exhilarating.
But now it was exhausting, being so clever, knowing exactly how this would play out, like she’d written the play herself.
You can’t fool a woman who’s been through the storm. She can only fool herself.
It was morning by the lake.
A storm was approaching.
“It’s exhausting being so clever,” she sighed.
She dumped out the cold coffee and headed towards the lake house.
She thought about returning to bed where the sheets still smelled like him.