The Second Wife

The title sounds like some sort of Lifetime movie involving a stunning, but emotionally wrecked, jilted ex-wife who plots against the innocent new bride of her former husband. The husband who works long hours at a non-descript white-collar job, and is complacently boring, not to mention daft; basically no man any woman would be dumb enough to go to prison over, and yet… Oops! Tangent – sorry.

I am my husband’s second wife. It sounds impossible when I say it, considering we’ve been together for nearly a decade making us mere children when we met (in my opinion, at least.) But it’s true. My husband married his college sweetheart shortly after graduation, and they divorced not too long after that.

In fact, when we met he still had the same bed and mattress they had shared. I changed that when he and I moved in together. It felt like the right thing to do, but we kept the dressers… and the dishes… and the pots and pans. After all, they were much nicer than my pieced together unmatched sets from my single life. His ex-wife had wonderful taste and had registered at Crate and Barrel – you would have kept them too.

The divorce was amicable, but that is not my story to tell at this time, so I won’t. I can say that they had no children and were young enough to want to maintain a cordial friendship following the break-up. With social media and the sharing of friendships, such as they are these days, how can one ever get rid of anyone in their life?

Well, let’s fast forward a little, shall we? When my (now) husband and I became engaged I received a surprising friendship request from his ex-wife. We knew of each other, but we had never met or spoken.

I was, of course, online when the request popped-up, but tried to play it cool and not accept it immediately, which I was actually dying to do. How many minutes should I wait? I thought, obnoxiously, really just wanting to say ‘fuck it’ and hit that accept button ASAP. Playing it cool has never been my strong suit. In fact, the first time I was introduced to my husband, he and I both recall my response as being something along the lines of, “hubba da hubba da, hi…” and the googley eyes I made at him said the rest.

After an incredibly long and draining two minutes had passed, I accepted, and then felt a little embarrassed when I realized she had left me no message or follow up to the request.

Oh no, I thought. She must have sent the request in error! Perhaps she had carelessly thumbed over the “add friend” button. She probably didn’t even know she had sent the request, and asshole I am, I had assumed it to be an authentic offer to be friends with my (then) fiancé’s ex-wife… AHHHHH! Why did I need everyone to like me? Why, oh why did I need to seek the approval of all people? Why did Facebook need to encourage this pathological response in me?

The ball was clearly in my court, and I had no room to groove. Hoping to retain some dignity by not responding immediately, I waited another two minutes on baited breath, and then finally sent a message:

Hi! Can’t believe we live in the same neighborhood and married the same guy – well, me almost –but we’ve never met. We should! Maybe coffee?

When I didn’t hear anything within thirty seconds, I followed up like the insecure teenager I had reverted to when she initially sent the friend request four minutes earlier. I felt like the girl hoping to win any role but Chorus in the school play, without having to embarrass myself by actually auditioning. Who was I becoming? Or who was I now discovering I had always been? How could one friend request make me question my entire existence in the span of four-fucking-minutes!?!

Surely this woman’s power didn’t include hacking into my laptop and viewing me through the camera like some computer hacker in a film, but just to be on the safe side, I quickly shut my laptop and gave it a minute. I walked around the house acting cool, just in case she was standing outside my window, stalking me, her prey, her nemesis in some covert ploy to see just how uncool her ex-husband’s new fiancé actually was.

I am not kidding you.

I stood in my kitchen and poured two glasses of wine, as though this were an ordinary evening event. I DON’T EVEN DRINK! The wine was a housewarming gift from a new neighbor. We hadn’t even had a friend over at this point.

No, the only creeper in the entire relationship was ME! I had already seen wedding photos and old albums from my husband’s past. I knew his ex-wife as well as I needed to from hearing stories from the family, as a new girlfriend/boyfriend/future spouse usually does from one’s new in-laws. I had heard from mutual friends what a lovely woman she was, and from the billboards and posters around town I knew how successful her business had become in the time they had separated.

*Ding-dong*

My phone chimed. It was the sound of a doorbell. The sound I had selected to alert me to new Facebook messages.

It was her:

Yes! Let’s do that. Coffee at your place?

 I nodded. She couldn’t see me – good. I typed a response:

Great!

Phew.

Uh-oh! I had just invited my husband’s ex-wife over for coffee, where I would be serving her this delicious treat in the gorgeous, pristine, white and oh-so-chic espresso mugs that she had shopped for and placed on her first wedding registry… the registry she had shared with her then husband and my (now) fiancé.

I would have to serve her cookies and cakes on the beautiful China pattern she picked out for her first adventure in married life, that ended before it really even started. And what would I be expertly making our espressos in? How about the unique and ornate, top of the line espresso machine from Italy that sat atop our counter, in plain sight fiancé from every room in the house that her parents had bought for them (my fiancé and his ex-wife) for their first wedding anniversary.

It was never going to work, this odd yet seemingly natural friendship. Not until I could change dishes, China patterns, and husbands. Nope, it couldn’t. I didn’t know how to act or be or what we’d talk about… how our shared experience – bed with the same man – could be so wildly different, or the same?

But before I could think through when I could send a cancellation due to a mysterious and sudden other mandatory engagement, I heard a *Ding-Dong*:

I’m so sorry I just realized I’m busy that day, rain check!

It wasn’t a question. We’ve still not met, but we are virtual friends and it’s lovely. She’s lovely. We’re lovely. And it’s comfortable.

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