Tobi tried his best to stifle a yawn as he headed up the porch steps in the darkness. He couldn’t wait to climb into bed and fall asleep. The game had been a complete disaster – a crushing defeat worse than they’d had all season. It had certainly taken a heavy toll on both his body and mind. I could sleep for a week. He thought to himself as he opened the heavy front door.
His eyes widened at the sight of his wife standing in the entryway, waiting for him. It was nearly eleven o’clock at night. On the days they did not accompany him to his games, Tobi was used to returning home to find his family already asleep, or at least locked away in their bedrooms settling in for the night.
Tobi couldn’t help the crushing feeling of guilt that seemed to suddenly crash down upon him at the sight of Colette’s face. It had been a few days since he’d ended things with Anna, but he was still struggling. He was just so horrified and ashamed of himself… and still so lost about how to fix things with his wife. He’d tried talking to her so many times, but he always ended up failing… miserably. Where could he even begin? What could he possibly say to her? Tobi still wasn’t sure.
“Hey, honey.” He said at last, smiling gently. “What’s –”
“Tobi, look at this.” Colette held out her palm. In it, she held a small cylindrical object. “Look at what I found.”
For a moment, Tobi’s eyes narrowed in confusion. It almost looked like… “A pregnancy test?” He muttered.
Colette nodded gravely. “A negative one, thank God. But still… We both know there’s only two people this could have come from.” His wife sighed. She didn’t even have to say their names. “They were both acting so weird all morning… And this explains it. How did I not notice before?” She shook her head as she crossed to the opposite side of the hall and placed the test on the small table. “It just doesn’t make sense… They don’t even have boyfriends! Who could they possibly be having sex with? Are they being safe?” Colette was panicking now, her words spilling out faster and faster as she continued. “Obviously not, if it had to come to this… I’m so scared, Tobi. What if it’s Jocelyne? Didn’t we teach her better than that?! And if it’s Clara we have to tell your parents. I mean, we shouldn’t freak out or anything. We have to be calm about it. But if they’re having sex, they need to be safe. I mean, you and I know that better than anyone. We learned that the hard way, didn’t we?”
Tobi said nothing as Colette’s nervous rambling filled the air. He felt shocked. Numb, almost. And so sad. I tried to warn her. I tried so hard. What was it Clara had told him? “He’s not like that.” He recalled. Had she been lying to him about having sex? Had she changed her mind? Or worse… Had this Julian guy done the unthinkable?
The thought made him sick to his stomach. If I’d told Mama and Papa, maybe this never would have happened. He realized, his nausea intensifying. Oh my God…
“It’s Clara.” Tobi spoke at last, stepping closer to her.
Colette looked at him curiously. “How can you be so sure?”
He hesitated for just a moment. “Because she does have a boyfriend. She just never told anyone…” He closed his eyes, cursing himself. “God damn it, I should have known something like this would happen…”
“What?! What are you talking about?”
Tobi took a deep breath, then told Colette in hushed tones everything he knew about Clara’s boyfriend.
Colette stared at him, wide-eyed, as he finished. “What the hell, Tobi?! You knew about this? And you didn’t tell anyone?!”
Her husband shook his head.
“But why?! Why would you keep that a secret? Especially from your parents?!”
Because she blackmailed me into keeping my mouth shut. Tobi thought bitterly. How on Earth could he even begin to explain himself? “Look, I… I dunno, okay? I…” He sputtered awkwardly as he fought to find a good answer. “I just… I didn’t…”
“What IS IT with you?!” Colette burst angrily. “It’s like you never give me a straight answer any more about ANYTHING! You’ve been staying out late doing God knows what with those ‘friends’ of yours from work, making up the shittiest excuses for everything… And now you’re keeping secrets from me too?! Secrets that could put your own Schwester in danger?! What else have you been hiding?!” Her mouth contorted into a scowl as she spoke.
Tobi couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “What the hell?! Where is this coming from?!”
“You’ve changed. You’re not the man I married, Tobi. You haven’t been for a hell of a long time.”
Wow, she really wants to do this right now?! Okay…“Oh, and who are YOU to talk?!” Tobi shot back, the words spilling from his mouth before he even realized what he was saying. “What happened to the woman I married, huh? You’ve been so goddamn moody and distant for so fucking long… You let our sex life waste away into NOTHING… It’s like you don’t even give a shit about me anymore. So don’t you lecture ME about changing.”
“Excuse me?! You’re saying that I don’t give a shit about you?! How many YEARS have you been married to that fucking football team of yours? Your career’s important. I get it. But guess who else is important? Your WIFE! The one you treat like she’s invisible until she spreads her legs…”
“YOU HEARD ME! You want sex, Tobi. I get that. So do I! But you don’t want ME.” She shrieked. “Do you know why I stopped it? Because you didn’t FEEL anything for me anymore! There was no passion, no feeling… Nothing!” Twin trails of tears were now creeping their way down her flushed cheeks. “I’m your WIFE, Tobi. I’m not a goddamn sex toy!” She spat. “Do you even love me anymore?!”
Her words were like slap across the face. “H-how can you say that?!” Tobi stammered. “Of course I love you!”
“Then why don’t you start acting like it?!”
Tobi said nothing for a few moments. Colette was absolutely right. He knew she was. And though he knew that his wife was not entirely blameless, he also knew that his own behavior had been the catalyst for so many of their problems…
And that his fling with Anna had done nothing but make things worse.
“Look, I’m sorry you feel this way, okay? But… why didn’t you tell me all this sooner?” He asked at last.
“I wanted to.” Colette sighed in exasperation. “But it’s not like this is easy to talk about!” She admitted. “And even if I wanted to, you’re never around anymore.” There was a sudden bitter edge to her voice as she spoke. “You’re always so busy with work, and then you’re always going out with the guys after practice…”
Tobi bit his lip, then took a very deep breath. “I wasn’t out with the guys.” He said softly.
“I was going out with someone… But it wasn’t them.”
Colette said nothing.
“I, um… She….” He paused. Why is this so damn hard? “Well…Her… Her name is Anna.”
Tobi had never seen his wife’s eyes go so wide in his entire life. “YOU’RE CHEATING ON ME?!”
“NO! NO!” He put his hands up almost defensively. “I swear to God, I’m not! Please, just – just listen, okay?” Colette said nothing, so he went on. “All we ever did was hang out. Grab a few drinks. I NEVER had sex with her, Lettie. I just… liked having fun with her. I liked the attention she gave me.” He hung his head in shame for a moment. “But that was all. I promise.” Tobi’s voice was almost pleading.
Colette raised an eyebrow. It was clear she was still fuming. “That was all?”
“I… I kissed her.” He admitted, his voice very small. “M-made out with her, I guess? And I felt so horrible. I was so disgusted with myself.”
“Good! You should be!” The young woman balled her hands into fists at her sides. “You bastard!”
“Colette, I’m sorry. I love you. I swear, that has never changed since the moment I met you. I was just… lost, I guess. But I never meant to hurt you. And I ended things with Anna before they went anywhere. I promise.” Tobi suddenly felt like he was going to cry. “It made me realize how much I miss you. And how much I want to fix this. Fix us.”
To his surprise, Colette looked no happier than she had been a few moments before. “You think it’s that easy?! Jesus Christ, Tobi! You cheated on me!”
“No! Didn’t you hear a word I said?! I never –”
“I know you didn’t have sex with her! I believe you. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t cheating!” She narrowed her eyes at her husband. “How many weeks had you been seeing this bitch behind my back, huh? Is she younger than me? Prettier? Were you trying to… to trade me in or something?!”
“Colette, listen to yourself! You know that’s not true! I just…” Tobi sighed. “I fucked up SO bad. I know I did. And I am more sorry than I have ever felt in my entire life.” This time, he could actually feel tears beginning to well up in his eyes. “I… I was just bored, okay? I mean… aren’t you?”
His wife said nothing. Neither of them did.
“Colette, please.” Tobi broke the silence at last. “I am so sorr—”
“I’m going to bed.” Colette cut him off abruptly. “We can deal with Clara in the morning, I guess.”