Dirty Laundry
Paula Sophia Schonauer
Break

It wasn't the lipstick on the collar that made her suspicious; it was the foundation, beige chamois. It smelled like Cover Girl. Cheap stuff. She hadn't used drug store makeup in at least a decade. She preferred Lancome.

She imagined some young tart snuggled up to her husband at the movie theater, rubbing against him, cheek to cheek. They didn't kiss, and that's because whores don't kiss, right? They do other things, things the wives won't do: oral sex, doggy style, bondage and domination.

Then, as she sorted through the laundry, she found a pair of underwear, lacy and pink, bikini style, the kind of underwear she never wore, not any more. She hated the way they climbed up her ass, the way they rubbed against her clitoris. They made her feel uncomfortable.

What was she going to do? How was she going to compete against some young vixen with a penchant for adventurous sex? It's not that she hated sex. She wasn't frigid or anything, just traditional. She liked the weight of a man on top of her, the feel of coarse hairs rubbing against her breasts, the thrust of a penis, in and out, his hot breath in her ear. It made her feel secure.

She thought he'd been satisfied with their sex life—at least he never complained about it. But now she realized why he'd never complained. He'd been having secret affairs all these years, rendezvous with lovers, liaisons with prostitutes.

It's a wonder she'd never been diagnosed with a social disease. She'd seen an episode about such things on the Oprah show, about men on the "down-low" infecting their wives with sexually transmitted diseases. And that got her to wondering, was he a homosexual? No way. He loved women, raved about the way they looked, the way they walked and talked, the way they dressed and wore their hair, and he never had trouble getting aroused in her presence.

She went to their bedroom, looked at the bed and thought about all the times they'd lain together, sweating and panting, staring up at the ceiling fan. She'd been happy, had thought he was too, but now she knew it was all a lie.

It wasn't quite five o'clock, and that meant he'd be home soon, that is, unless he had to work "overtime" again. The kids were at summer camp, so she had some time, time to find her little black dress, a replica of Audrey Hepburn's dress in Breakfast at Tiffany's—except that she was bustier and had wider hips than Audrey, and the left leg slit didn't run so high, stopped at the knee instead of curling around her thigh.

Even so, it was sexy, and she was still pretty, pretty enough to turn heads at the grocery store, pretty enough to get hit on by her boss. She found her lacy, black bra, her black panties and opaque hose. She pulled up her hair, leaving a few strategic strands dangling down toward her cheeks like a halo. She fashioned a pair of smoky, mysterious eyes with eyeliner and shadow, and she applied a deep, dark shade of red lipstick, the same shade of red on the abdomen of a black widow spider.

She was going to show him what he'd be missing. She was going to wait for him in the living room, present the makeup-stained white shirt, the gaudy pair of thong panties. She couldn't wait to see the look on his face even though she could hardly imagine what might happen next: confession, divorce, reconciliation?

By six-thirty she started to worry. He was late. No characteristic phone call, no excuses. She listened to the traffic outside the house which was sealed tight against the hot summer afternoon. She listened to the lonely hum of passing cars, of people going to and fro, places to go. She heard the long exhale of the air conditioner and felt suddenly exhausted, wary of the future. She didn't want to face this, not now. Life had been so good, so stable.

She returned to the bedroom, drug out a suitcase that had been nestled behind her wedding dress at the back of their walk-in closet. She was going to pack some things, take a trip, visit her sister in Minnesota, do some thinking, make some decisions. Hopefully, by the time he returned home she'd be gone, and then he could listen to the maddening silence and wonder about the future.

She sat down on the bed and saw a note card leaning against the clock radio. On the cover she saw her name scrawled in her husband's handwriting: Felicity. She didn't know why she'd missed it before. It was like it had suddenly, mysteriously appeared. She knew before she opened it there was going to be some ominous message. He hadn't written her a love letter in years.

Hon,

I've wanted to tell you about this for a long time, but I haven't been able to say it face to face. There's so much to explain.

I know what you must be thinking, but before you jump to conclusions I need to you understand something.

I am the other woman.

Sincerely,

Ronald

The note shook loose an avalanche of memories, most of them about sorting through laundry: finding fully extended bra straps, runs in her pantyhose she didn't remember making, rips in her nightgowns, buttons missing from her blouses, slits in the hems of her skirts.

When she heard the automatic garage door opener activate, she knew her husband had finally come home. A car door slammed shut, footsteps on concrete louder than she'd ever heard before. The doorknob to the kitchen door jiggled and turned.

She stood in the bedroom, frozen, wondering what Ronald might be wearing.

Paula Sophia Schonauer is an eighteen year veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department, and after a lifelong desire to write professionally, she has embarked on the arduous journey toward publication. In between writing and submitting her work she likes to ride her motorcycle. Last year she rode over three hundred miles to do a poetry reading in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a sort of On The Road meets Easy Rider kind of quest.