Foreign Language Editions
Sharp's office was both cozy and professional in appearance. The walls were lined
with bookshelves and a desk was tucked discreetly behind an intimate arrangement
of a sofa and several chairs.
Kirk was sitting in one of
those chairs when Riva opened the door. Claire felt her heart thud at the sight
of him. He looked so handsome, so calm and assured. How was that possible?
was dressed in a navy four-button suit, with a pale blue shirt and one of his
jazzier ties. Somehow she knew he hadn't procrastinated in front of the mirror,
as she had, trying to decide what to wear.
fresh coat of lipstick, her lips felt dry and she smiled at him, before she turned
to the counselor. Riva seemed to be in her early forties. Black hair streaked
with silver, warm eyes like toasted pecans, and a wide smile. She was wearing
a full-skirted cotton dress that swished around her legs as she walked. On her
feet she had on Birkenstocks, her toenails unpainted.
in, Claire. How was the drive? Would you like a coffee?"
takes cream," Kirk said.
Amused, Claire sat on the sofa,
vaguely aware that Kirk had risen, then seated himself again. Two mugs already
sat on ceramic coasters on the low table in front of them, next to a glass bowl
of paper-wrapped candies. A moment later, a third mug was placed on a new coaster
in front of her.
"There you go, Claire. I'm so glad you
could make it."
How genial everyone was behaving, as if
this were a simple social gathering. Claire set her purse in her lap and folded
her arms over it. Riva took a chair on the other side of the sofa. If someone
had drawn lines connecting the three of them, the result would have been an equilateral
triangle. Perfectly balanced, Claire thought, with no biases. Another
"So how are you doing, Claire?" Riva leaned forward
over her thighs.
"I've been better." Now, there was an
"Yes. I'm sure you have. Kirk explained
your situation to me over the phone. And we had a few minutes to talk before you
arrived. Now it's your turn. Is there anything you'd like to ask me before we
"Does therapy really save marriages?" She
hadn't meant to be so blunt, but wasn't that what she needed to know? She didn't
want to go through weeks of meetings if there wasn't any hope.
can help. It usually does." Riva sat back in her chair, her expression suddenly
stern. "As for saving a marriage--well, that part's up to you. Up to both of you."
She glanced at Kirk, then turned to Claire again.
want to save your marriage, Claire?"
The abrupt question
caught her off guard. "I think Kirk should answer that first."
it self-evident? Surely Kirk had told her the fundamentals of their situation.
"He's the one who's fallen in love with someone else."
the first time since she'd walked in the room, Claire angled her body so she faced
her husband, and looked at him, really looked at him. He met her gaze with resignation.
Or was it sorrow?
"Isn't that right?" she demanded,
wanting him to say so out loud, in front of the therapist.
a long moment he didn't answer. Then his chest rose with a deep, indrawn breath,
and he nodded. "Janice and I had an emotional connection that Claire and I have
been missing for a long time. That's true."
potent than any venom, shot through Claire's bloodstream. Channeling the emotion
into anger, she retaliated quickly. "Well, it's pretty hard to have an emotional
connection with a man who's never home."
Kirk didn't defend
himself, and in the ensuing silence, Riva spoke cautiously. "I understand your
anger, Claire. But have you seen the positive aspect of this situation?"
aspect?" Up until this moment Claire had reserved judgment on the older woman.
Now she had to wonder at Riva's sanity.
"What I'm getting
at," the therapist continued, "is that Kirk told you about this woman before the
relationship progressed to a fully intimate stage. That has to tell you something,
What the counselor wanted her to say was obvious.
That Kirk's honesty was a sign he cared about the marriage. If they were talking
about one incident only, Claire might be more prepared to agree. But Kirk had
deceived her for months. He was an adult; he'd known what he was doing.
says he was feeling bloody guilty!"
She took a shallow
breath, then continued. "As he should have. The fact that he didn't sleep with
her doesn't make it any less wrong. He fell in love with her!"
expression was noncommittal. Didn't she get it?
he told me lies, neglected our kids, spent all his free time with her. So what
if they didn't actually have sex? And so what if guilt finally made him admit
the truth to me? He should never have let the relationship progress as far as
She was raving. Claire knew it, and she tried
to calm down, but damn it, she felt the counselor was making excuses for Kirk.
may not think my husband's had an affair, and maybe technically he hasn't. But
in his heart--" she glanced at Kirk, meeting his gaze "--he's as guilty as sin
and he knows it."
Kirk held her look; the only indications
that he'd taken in her words were the paling of his complexion and the tightening
of his lips.
After a few moments of silence, Riva finally
spoke. "Do you have anything to say, Kirk?"
his throat and shifted his gaze from Claire to Riva. "She's right. I let my relationship
with Janice stray out of bounds. And I knew what I was doing. I can't justify
it, beyond saying that it made me happy to be with her."
Did he have any idea how that hurt?
"I can see that upsets
you," Riva said quietly. "What's wrong, Claire?"
the one he's supposed to be happy with."
"But are you happy
with me?" Kirk countered. "It doesn't feel that way. When I come home, all I sense
from you is disappointment. I don't even have my foot in the door and I know you're
already angry at me."
"There's a difference between my
being angry when you come home late from work and your having an affair!"
expression was cold as he replied, "I suppose there is."
was unbelievable! Claire wanted to walk out of the room right then, but Riva leaned
over and placed a hand on hers. "An affair doesn't have to mean the end of a marriage."
thought about that for a minute. "You mean you get couples where one of the partners
was actually sleeping with someone else and they end up staying together?"
happens all the time. More often than you might think. There are reasons, good
reasons, for keeping a marriage together. At the same time, affairs do happen.
Sometimes, the partners can get past it. Sometimes, they can't. Often, it depends
on the basis for the marriage in the first place. Are the spouses well matched?
Do their share values and interests?"
Once, Claire would
have said yes to those questions. Now she thought about the hours Kirk put into
work. He was consumed by his need for success. Had he consciously placed his work
goals ahead of the needs of his wife and children?
job has come first for a long time now."
"That's not fair,"
he retaliated. "Just because I don't work nine to five doesn't mean I don't love
"Doesn't it? When was the last time you went
to one of the kids' soccer games? You couldn't make Daisy's dance recital in June."
couldn't help it that I had a meeting--"
"Had he? Or maybe
he'd just been spending more time with Janice. Claire wondered why she was sitting
here. Listening to him was just making her more angry. More resentful. "There's
always some excuse, isn't there?"
"You don't appreciate
the pressures of my job."
"And you don't appreciate the
pressures of mine." He thought staying home and taking care of three kids
was a picnic. She knew he did. "It would be nice to have a little assistance at
times. It would be nice to have a break, occasionally, at the end of a day."
told you I'd have no problem with you hiring a cleaning lady."
cleaning lady? The man just didn't get it. "God, Kirk, I'm three
months pregnant and you haven't been around enough to notice!"
* * *
"Pregnant?" Kirk fell back in his chair, the
world around him darkening so that there was only one focal point. His wife's
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