There is a pitiful soul who lives downstairs. She is not me, nor I her; she simply resides in that dark, damp, and pungent little hole between my legs, which would otherwise lie vacant.
We rarely speak, she and I. We pass and nod cordially as neighbors do, but things are awkward between us. She is, after all, a “special friend” to my husband.
When I see her in the bathroom or perhaps in the changing room, I divert my eyes. And I know that she also avoids my glance.
We are each the other woman, though I feel I have the better claim as his wife. I cannot deny that she gives him something that I cannot.
There is not jealously between us, only envy and pity. I feel that she must envy me. After all, I am the queen of his castle. I receive his laughter, his love, and his companionship. He takes me to dine and buys me gifts. And he holds me close and is gentle, loving, and kind to me.
I am decorated and adorned and parade through his social calendar. While she is hidden away, as a shameful thing that none of us dare to speak of. We dare not even say her name!
And he regards me as the mother of his children. He leaves them daily in my charge. He trusts me with their well-being, their nurturing, and their education.
What must she think? After all, she both conceived and birthed them. Although I was there and suffered alongside her, she bore the scars, yet, I was given all the glory. They were all taken from her and given to me.
What must it be like to be her? She, whose labors were rewarded by the bereavement of her children? She gave birth to them and after that day, never has she laid eyes on them again.
Her children credit me for their birth, and she is a forgotten component.
Yes, I pity her. Her life is a life of servitude, abuse, and neglect.
But it is what she is meant for, is it not? Some of us are born to be served, and some are born into service. It is not my mandate. I am as much a slave to this fact as Mrs. V; she and I are both bound by it.
I’ll admit that her talents are weighty, but she has such a narrow repertoire. She can bring pleasure, and she can bring forth life, and that’s it!
But I do cringe when I see how roughly she is treated and by my own husband! The man who is the epitome of all things good and happy for my children! What would they think of him if they knew?
I know what I think of him.
But, to be fair, I cannot deny that he loves her. Perhaps, if I were to be honest with myself, I might have to admit that I have often worried that his love for her was greater than his love for me. And many times, I have struggled with the clear evidence that points to the fact that he would much rather visit her than sit on the couch and watch a movie with me.
What would his answer be to an ultimatum? My mind refuses to answer that question, though I believe that my heart knows. Maybe Mrs. V knows too. Perhaps, for this reason, she might also pity me.
Alas, I am guilty of my petty thoughts. He beats her, and she cries out; there is no hiding this fact. We are a trio in our guilt over his abuse of her. We all know of it, but we do nothing about it. We all just accept it as our arrangement.
Though I do sometimes find myself staring across the breakfast table at him, lost in the memory of it all, unable to reconcile the beast that he is to poor Mrs. V, and the gentle husband he is to me.
How can he transform so easily between his Dr. Jekyll and his Mr. Hyde?
Should I be frightened of him? I sometimes see that same change in his eyes when he goes to visit her and realizes that she is not available to him and has locked her door.
I find at these times, he wears a scowl for me, as though I am somehow responsible for his disappointment. He won't admit it, but I can see the monster, thinly veiled in those moments.
Perhaps I will visit her myself when he is out of town. Maybe I will have tea with her and become her friend. Or maybe, one day, as we all grow very old, I will have her evicted and removed forcibly from the premises.
Yes, that will show him, perhaps one day, I will just set her free.