We all have family secrets, but most of them glue relatives (and spouses) together, insulated from the judgement of the outside world. My family (or should I say, my husband’s family) is different: Our secrets are kept from one another — intrafamily — and when exposed, on a day like today, the repercussions of those unexpected truths tear us further apart.
My husband reached for the mic, but he was too late. The fourth glass of whiskey had stolen his brother’s remaining inhibitions, and we would all fall victim to his unfiltered revenge.
Kate’s (his wife’s) jaw dropped first. Then Cruella’s (my mother-in-law). Then, my own husband’s. Our kids followed suit, fifteen years late to the three-way betrayal echoing from the backyard through the open kitchen, shattering decades of deception.
The domino effect was instant:
- Kate’s marriage crumbled in seconds
- Her husband seethed with hatred towards his mother (“Cruella”) for her role in the (now futile) coverup
- My husband — for the first time — cowered before Cruella, whose disgust and disappointment reverberated off the skylight glass, warning us of the rapidly changing tides
It’s amazing how one isolated transgression is enough for Kate’s husband to throw it all away — and to throw my own husband under the bus with it. After 16 years of a marriage rife with countless transgressions, “hush money”, and secrets I’ll take to my grave, I’ve endured far more — but maybe this is the cue I’ve been waiting for, with the perfect distraction to let me go quietly…
There’s a new woman screwing my husband
My wheels rolled under the green bridge that sent Laguna in my rearview and Dana Point’s less-trafficked beaches to my right. I followed the explosion of cliffside waves along the string of ritzy hotels — the Montage, the Waldorf, then the Ritz, and finally to my destination — or should I say, that of the new “other woman” in my life.
Law is a lucrative profession, but usually not $23M oceanfront estate lucrative. I’d already googled the Ritz Cove property, so I knew its owner wasn’t just your average divorce lawyer; what I didn’t know, was exactly what she (and her husband) had up their sleeves — and why they may be my own Hubby’s perfect match.
Two German Shepherds greeted me with teeth-baring growls, but the woman waved me in and silenced them with no more than a stare. I followed her into the cascade of beige against glass, every room of her ultra-modern estate drenched in floor-to-ceiling ocean views. Two shirtless teen boys splashed along the ledge of the infinity pool with (I assume non-alcoholic?) beers in hand. Her sons? It is a Wednesday at 3…
She offered me a leather loveseat and lowered the cream-colored shades with the press of a button (for privacy from any binocular-clad surfers, I guess?).
“You have something for me?”
I handed over the binder of “evidence”. The same inches-thick folder that nearly got me committed to a psych ward when I showed a therapist. But this woman felt safer — perhaps because of how she’d so delicately handled Catlady’s similarly precarious (and high asset) situation.
She flipped through the images stoically.
“I have more. Thumb drives. On clouds. I hired a PI — a good six months’ worth…”
She didn’t flinch.
“Here’s the deal: I’m not practicing anymore. Officially stepped down in May.”
She definitely could have told me that over the phone, before I spent 40 minutes driving down here…
“2020 was a big year — pandemic brought tons of lawsuits, divorces, just a lot. And I’d been planning to transition to some personal projects for a while. But your case intrigues me. Do you know anything about my husband or our firm?”
I didn’t — but I would soon.
Her husband — the co-founder of the law firm funding this $23M ode to beige — isn’t a divorce lawyer. He’s a corporate lawyer focused on major business scandals — with settlements in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Workers’ safety issues. Ponzi schemes. Sexual harassment — but think Harvey Weinstein level. Class actions. Accidental deaths. A far cry from divorce law.
However, his wife’s specialty is a little different. She’s focused specifically on ultra-high-asset divorce law, dealing with equity co-ownership for business-owning spouses. That’s where her husband comes in. His corporate takedown expertise merged with her high-asset divorce is the perfect storm for spouses entangled in messy marriages with conflated assets strewn across multiple companies, public investments, private investments, and “commercial” real estate. In other words, just what I need…
“It won’t be fast, and it won’t be cheap — but you will get what’s owed. And then some. But you may not want to put this on your husband’s credit card.”
She was right. There are some things I can explain away, but these legal fees wouldn’t be one of them.
Ringing emanated through my car’s Bluetooth speakers while the Ritz Cove gates closed behind me. Flavia’s name danced across the screen, taunting me to change my mind, hang up, and back out.
Then she picked up, and it was too late. I just hoped she was alone, because I was dialing in the favor of the century…
An evening to remember
I slowly reached for the half-empty glass of whiskey, skirting around the figure slumped beside it. The remaining ice clinked just loud enough to restore his consciousness. His fingers crawled towards mine, and I released the glass back to him, scurrying away and mouthing “Sorry?” to my husband.
He wasn’t used to seeing his brother like that, but Kate (Hubby’s brother’s wife, my sister-in-law) was. Kate had been quieter — and tenser — than usual, especially without her kids here to distract from her husband’s behavior.
This wasn’t exactly how I’d envisioned Hubby’s birthday dinner, but at least I wouldn’t announce my plans to get rid of him like he had at mine. That doesn’t mean another marriage wouldn’t detonate before our eyes…
Cruella played her usual part, ignoring the problematic son and doting over the golden birthday boy (Hubby). Until the toast…
There wasn’t actually supposed to be a toast, but with a built-in poolside karaoke set (our kids used to use it) unclaimed, my brother-in-law decided the microphone was up for grabs.
At first, it was fine — aside from the slurring and swaying. I telepathically signaled “Do not throw up in the pool.”
In retrospect, his throwing up in the pool would have been the least of my problems.
“…raising such a beautiful family. Perfect mom, perfect son, so good of a brother. So close, you two. So many…secrets.”
His speech swiftly shifted from drunken maternal praising to what edged along sarcastic, threatening, soon-to-be-accusatory territory. That’s when my husband leapt forward towards the mic — but his brother grabbed an empty wine bottle and prodded him back.
“…but I have to apologize. Kate — I’m sorry. ’Snot your fault. ’S hers. And his.”
He pointed the bottle at Cruella and Hubby as he blamed them for his forthcoming admission.
Cruella whispered a terse “Get him” to me, with a sharp nod to the bottle-swinger. He’s not my husband, brother, or son, so I’m not sure why I’m the one tasked with diffusing the situation — though I guess it is my house. Or Cruella just ran out of sober minions to instruct.
It was too late — his word vomit was spouting over all of us, my daughter and our twins included.
“Secrets, secrets are no fun — unless you tell everyone…”
And he did:
- The surprise letter that led him to drink months ago also led him to meet up with its sender — his ex-fiancé and supposedly the mother of an illegitimate child he’d never known about.
- She told him everything, including the fact that Hubby (my husband) had paid her 15 years’ of hush money (which she’d recently returned) after an unsuccessful bribe to abort the child.
- Cruella had lied when she forced them to break off their engagement: This woman wasn’t actually his half-sister; a DNA test had proven it. She was, though, my husband’s, which makes his brother his half-brother, instead.
- Oh, and there’s the fact that he’s leaving Kate to be the husband and father he should have been — despite over a decade of her unwavering familial devotion and financial support. No good deed, huh?
Cruella didn’t waste a moment defending herself against his claims; instead, she shot back with claims of her own.
“You’re sick. You sound crazy, and you need help.”
She took both Kate’s shoulder’s in her arms, comforting a now frozen Kate with whispers loud enough for all to hear:
“We’ll get him into rehab — this has gotten out of hand. That’s not my son, not your husband, that’s his sickness. He’s…he needs help, but it will be fine. And I’ll pay — don’t you worry about this.”
A waterfall of expressions clued my kids into the web of commotion:
Hubby’s face morphed from panicked to embarrassed to panicked again. Cruella’s vacillated between sharp glares towards Hubby, then towards his brother, then a forced smile at Kate, thankfully dodging me entirely. Hubby’s brother’s alternated between relieved, ecstatic, and defiant.
The triangle of betrayals exposed tonight were definitely more of a birthday surprise than any of us bargained for. However, with so much chaos underway, this may be my rare opportunity for the biggest surprise of all — if I have the balls to take it.
And then I confronted my husband
“Are you sleeping with Star?”
I don’t know if it was Flavia’s encouragement, the lawyer’s confidence, or Mrs. Right’s suggestion that Star’s been screwing half of Newport’s 1%-ers, but the question shot out of my mouth like a dagger, aiming for Hubby’s head.
His eyes darted towards mine like a deer in the headlights, momentarily shocked, then quickly composed once again. In fact, he laughed.
“What kind of question is that?”
I just stared back, offering him no escape.
“It’s that time of month?”
Either he was genuinely blaming my period for this “hormone-fueled” accusation, or he was mocking me altogether. Neither one answered my question, so I decided to spell it out.
“I heard you on the phone — I know you’re fronting the cash.”
My husband returned a blank stare, unwilling to budge without further context. Or astutely avoiding self-incrimination by keeping his lips sealed. Maybe we wouldn’t be here if he’d kept them sealed — and to himself — all along.
“The architect? Star’s referral? Why else would you pay cash? Plus, he’s got an expired license, he’s shirking permits, and compromising Craig’s investment. And the sunroom, that’s apparently your $20k gift to Star, who doesn’t even rent?! If she’s not screwing you into a corner, then what exactly are you thinking?”
I said it. In my entire 16-year marriage, I think I’ve only come close to fully blowing up at my husband once before — but never like this. For the first time, though, it isn’t just me on the line.
- It’s my dad, who believes Star is his unspoken, but monogamous girlfriend.
- It’s Craig, who committed to investing in the duplex’s garage conversion in a revenue-split rental opportunity that a shirked permit could implode.
- It’s all of us even tangentially connected to whatever money-laundering operation requires untraceable cash for a 6-figure project like this…
Hubby may screw other women behind my back, but I can’t watch him screw my own friends and family in plain sight.
His face contorted from a blank stare clinging to plausible deniability to a more genuine half-smile, as if preparing to unveil a secret or confession. That doesn’t make it genuine — just good salesmanship (per usual).
“You’re right. Cash sucks. And the guy’s pretty unorthodox, maybe just old school. Maybe we can fire him and get someone better. But not yet.”
That’s the problem with men like my husband. Just when you’re ready to sack them, they pull a new rabbit — or peace offering — out of their hat.
“Star’s my in with this Hawaii deal, and we’re this close. But she had conditions: Her architect, sunroom…Cash is temporary, just ’til we get this thing signed.”
Really? My husband expects me to believe Star’s blackmailing him into using a fugitive architect with a suspended business, in exchange for an upcoming Hawaii deal with her current employer (and ex-husband)? It seems like he has an excuse for everything, but this one might actually be true…
Once again, I feel like the unhinged idiot jumping to jealous conclusions, and Hubby remains the clear-headed businessman, juggling morally conflicting decisions for the greater (financial) good of our family. I’m stumped. Maybe he was right — maybe it is hormonal…
The new man in my life
A security guard escorted me down the hill, towards possibly the largest glass compound I’ve ever seen. It spanned three lots (at least) and dwarfed the palatial estates beside it, all boasting panoramic white water views at the elite Strand at Headlands. Typically, homes like these belong to my husband’s investors or board members, and it’s rare I enter them alone.
However, if my new divorce lawyer insisted…
Wally opened the door and the body guards dispersed. This was not your average “businessman” — and he definitely makes my husband look like a tiny minnow in comparison. But maybe that’s what I need: A bigger fish.
I swallowed the guilt in my throat, inhaled the salt air, and stepped inside.
I shouldn’t feel guilty. My husband erred first. But still, I do. Or maybe I’m just scared to rock the boat he’s kept artificially afloat for all these years. But a boat full of lies is bound to capsize one day; maybe this is it. It just feels scary because I have so much to lose; but then again, maybe it was never mine to lose at all. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
Previously Published on medium
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The post I Found the Perfect Woman to Blow My Husband’s Mind, and He’ll Pay appeared first on The Good Men Project.