I’ve mentioned Lydia before but not by name. During our weekend getaway, it was Lydia who had contacted Carol, in tears, over the state of her store and Rick’s lack of help. Speaking of the weekend getaway post, I can’t believe how detailed I got with my sexual adventures. How embarrassing!

Let me tell you a bit about Lydia.

Lydia has worked at Phil and Janice’s stores for nearly twice as long as Carol. She’s also a number of years younger than Carol so this job is her first and only job she has ever known. Phil and Janice were not even involved in the business when Lydia started working there. I believe they bought the stores around 10 years ago. Phil has told me all about his history with the business but it’s all fuzzy now as I didn’t find the information to be important at the time. Nowadays, I’m all about remembering everything, even details that don’t seem pertinent at first. Dates and history suddenly become incredibly important after you’ve been betrayed, it seems.

Let’s give Phil, Janice and Rick a last name. The Fuckheads? No, let’s not be too vulgar, after all Phil and Janice aren’t terribly bad people, they’re just people who make bad decisions because they are stuck with a dickhead of a son. Still, I have no sympathy for them anymore as they continue to make poor choices, enabling their son while alienating those who have tried to help them. Let’s call them the Dickheadson’s.

Living in the same town as them, Lydia has probably known the Dickheadson’s for most of her life. I don’t know how much she had to deal with Rick throughout her life, but she clearly does not like him (who does?) and he has referred to her as a “snob”. Carol actually didn’t like Lydia much in the beginning because she thought Lydia didn’t like her. It may have been a ‘resting bitch face’ situation. However, before long they began talking and became great friends in spite of the age gap. They’ve kept in touch almost daily over the past 8 years.

Lydia is quite beautiful. I’m sure she’s gotten unwanted attention due to that fact, sadly. She’s also quite friendly and talkative. I’ve come to realize however, that I have hardly talked with her or even seen her over the years. I imagine the tales she could tell about the Dickheadson’s. She’s probably got a lot more information.

Information is good. Feed me information about my enemies. It gives me power.

Anyway, I’ve seen Lydia at the store and exchanged pleasantries with her over the years but there are also a few instances where I saw her outside of her work, one being her wedding.

Lydia married Paul three or so years ago. I haven’t known Paul as long as Lydia but in recent years, I have spoken to him more, as it goes when two couples get together: the men chat together and the women chat together.

Paul is also a lifer from the small town where the Dickheadson’s live and run their businesses. Paul has known Rick his whole life. Paul is a very much a dude: he’s a guy that does guy things. He’s very blunt and to the point, open and honest. Rick is his polar opposite: a slimy weasel who lies and cons his way through life. Naturally, Paul hates Rick (who doesn’t?).

I must have met Paul at his wedding but I have no recollection of doing so. I do remember being sat with the Dickheadson’s at the reception. Though I’ve always hated Rick, I tried my best to keep it between Carol and I back then. The fact that I now know that Carol and that scum-fuck piece of trash were already sharing a secret of their own makes me want to go on a tirade, but I don’t want to get off topic here.

The next time I recall seeing both Lydia and Paul was at my house. Because I had no memory of Paul, even at his own wedding, Carol told me a bit about him.

“You’ll like him. He hates Rick as much as you, and will make fun of him to his face,” Carol told me.

Remember, this was my wife talking to me about her affair partner that she was actively involved with at the time. She never had a problem pointing out how stupid and incompetent of a person Rick was, and often cried about how much she hated him and how she either wanted to quit her job or get him pushed out of the business. This was all while fucking him, of course.

So, we had our party, which included Lydia, Paul, Jennifer, and Rick. I don’t recall much other than enjoying seeing Rick get way too drunk and his wife having to take his wobbly, stumbling ass home. I was sure his mask would slip and I’d catch a glimpse of his true self. Maybe he did slip up, but was too incoherent for me to catch anything incriminating.

The next time I was able to spend some time with Lydia and Paul was at the party we threw a few weeks ago.

It was a party for Carol to catch up with her old co-workers. It was basically four other couples including a few former employees and a few still working in that hellhole. Lydia was now one of the former employees. After working at the store ever since she was old enough to work, she left shortly after Carol did. It seems Carol’s leaving gave Lydia the strength to get away from a business that involves Rick and go out into the unknown.

Though Carol has hoped the party wouldn’t turn into a Dickheadson’s business bashing party, it soon became that anyway. I had hoped to get an opportunity to try to convince the other two workers to get off that sinking ship, but Carol and Lydia were doing plenty of that. All I had to do was agree with them.

Most people there had known Rick long enough to have seen plenty of the real person under the mask of friendliness and sociability. So, with the job bashing came the Rick and Jennifer bashing. A lot of jokes were made about Jennifer’s lack of intelligence. I defended her, politely, saying she impressed Carol with her learning abilities at the job but unfortunately she’s with Rick and therefore, without support.

“Jennifer has potential but she’s in a bad place. She’s got kids with Rick. She’s stuck with him. We all know what a shitbag he is,” I said.

“I don’t know why she puts up with the shit he says to her,” Paul replied. “You don’t let a guy who has to look up to see you, talk down to you.”

We all laughed.

I learned from Paul that Jennifer was quite cruel when she was younger and her personality changed into the fake smiles and desperation for companionship after dating Rick. Rick, on the other hand, had always been a shit, contrary to what his parents said about how nice he was until it seemed a switch flipped in his teen years. He had always been looking for trouble with other people and liked to start fights- as long as he had a weapon or more people on his side.

“Like a true coward,” I said.

Rick and Jennifer has dated years ago and broke up. Then Jennifer called him to notify him she was pregnant. They decided to get married. Chances are, a forced marriage isn’t going to be a happy one. Forced, like Jennifer’s bubbly personality now. Her smile is a mask, hiding hurt and loneliness.

I looked over at Carol, chatting with her former co-workers and laughing at Rick’s expense. If they knew what I knew, what would they think of you? I thought. You talk about how terrible he is and you laugh. You weren’t trapped. You weren’t stuck with him because of kids. Your loyalty wasn’t with him. You’ve got no excuse. Keep laughing. Keep pretending.

Keep wearing your mask.

Carol wasn’t forced to marry me. There was nothing to lose if we didn’t tie the knot. No kids’ futures at stake. Nothing. I asked her to marry me because I wanted to, not because I had to. And presumably, Carol said ‘yes’ because she wanted to, not because she had to.

The girls continued chatting about Rick’s incompetence.

“Motherfucker’s too sad to work. Give him a break. Call his wife. She’ll get it done,” I said, drunkenly.

The girls all laughed. Carol laughed too but saw the rage in my eyes.

I turned to Paul.

“As you may have noticed, I hate Rick with a passion,” I said to Paul.

“You, of all people, have every right to,” he responded.

What do you mean by that?

I made a note to try to follow up on that. Maybe after a few more drinks.

Conversation continued and I found myself discussing another passion of mine, combat sports, with another partygoer. The night went on late, really late. All the other couples were childless and probably didn’t understand how late it was for us parents. I drank, I yawned, I drank some more. Finally, people began to leave.

We all spoke about when we could meet again as our guests gathered up their things at the front door. I invited them all to my upcoming birthday party.

Then, when the house was empty, Carol and I stumbled upstairs and passed out in our bed, holding each other as we always do now.

The next day I replayed the events of the previous night in my mind. I was very drunk but I didn’t say anything I wouldn’t say sober. That was good. When I was younger, I was really out of control and would cringe as I remembered the previous night’s events. Nowadays, I rarely even say something I’d be embarrassed about the next day.

“You, of all people, have every right to.”

I didn’t follow up on that. I couldn’t find a way to come back to it organically then I became too tired. What did Paul know?

“Maybe they know the whole story,” HT suggested in a therapy session weeks later.

“No, there’s no way Carol would tell Lydia. Lydia hates Rick as much as everyone else in the world seems to and would not like Carol at all if she knew the truth about her,” I replied.

Last weekend, Carol and I were talking about the party.

“Hey, I meant it when I drunkenly invited them all to my birthday party,” I said. “They’re all good people.”

“I’m glad you like them. You and Paul were getting along well,” Carol said.

“That reminds me. I told Paul how much I seriously hate Rick and he said, ‘You, of all people, have every right to.’ Does he know more of the story?” I asked.

“He knows what everyone else knows. That Rick treated me like his slave at work. Paul hates him for the way he treated me but understands that you, as my husband, hate him more. That’s all. No one knows anything else.”

But they must suspect. My wife didn’t go and live with her parents, leaving me with the kids in our house for nothing. Anyone who sits and thinks about that one is going to figure out that Carol did not leave, she was kicked out. And why would Jack kick Carol out of their house? She’s openly stated that she left her job for the sake of her family. And I’m sure her and Rick’s relationship left some people scratching their heads. Hell, Rick’s parents have, on two occasions now, accused him of sleeping with her.

They may not know, but at least a handful of people must suspect.

Do they know how deep and consuming this rage is? That I’m a man with a freshly fractured soul? Or do I wear my mask well?

Lydia peeked at some documents before she left her job and saw Rick’s salary. Rick made about 25% more than Carol did last year while taking 8 months off work in total. Yes, eight. Carol took approximately 2 weeks off total. For every day Rick was off work, Carol did both their jobs. This is not including the days he was technically ‘at work’ while not doing his job anyway. Carol got a Christmas bonus which, although it was a large sum, did not close the gap between their salaries. The Dickheadson’s believe her leaving the company this year means she is undeserving of the bonus.

4 thoughts on “Masks

  1. For me, the mask is worn to hide my pain and fear of humiliation. But I also think we all have a Jekyll and Hyde living within us and don’t ever really show our true selves to everyone all of the time. I’ll put my mask on rarely with Mr. P and usually only to protect him from my pain (dumb right?), but nowadays my mask is on almost all the time with everyone else.

    I don’t think I could refrain from asking Paul what he meant. That was very brave and incredibly emotionally strong , good for you xo

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I felt I couldn’t find a way to ask him what he meant without being suspicious.

      I feel like I wear a mask all the time now, no matter who I’m with. I hope it’s just me being guarded due to the trauma, that I can care a little more and feel more empathy again as time goes on.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You will, I promise. We were laying in bed last night and I remembered watching him walk earlier in the day and how he looked. I don’t know why but for some reason as I was laying in bed recalling how he looked when walking, my heart felt warm for him again, and I was surprised! I guess maybe remembering him walking made me remember that he’s human just like me, and he’s an incredible person and so much more than what he did.

        Just like you’re so much more than what was unjustly done to you, and Carol is much more than what she horribly did. The word cheater is in one side of the column (along with liar and a few other choice and unflattering names), but the other column has words like incredible mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, cook, lover, person, and so much more.

        You will in time, I promise.

        Liked by 2 people

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