Devotion by Mario V. Farina

They were just finishing their Macaroni and Cheese. It was delicious, as usual, the way Adele had prepared it. She and Michael, her husband, ate in silence.
Devotion
Devotion by Mario V. Farina
"Why have you been coming home late?" Adele asked the question in a quiet voice. "No special reason." "Are you seeing someone?" "I don't know. Maybe a little." "Please answer the question!" "Well, yes, I suppose it could be called that." "Who is she?" Her lower lip quivered. She had gotten the answer she feared. "Just a woman." "Just a woman? How could anyone, besides me, be the woman in your life?" "I mean, she's not important to me." "What's her name?" "You don't really want to know." "What do you have in mind with this person, who is just a woman to you?" "Nothing special." "Do you intend to marry her, this woman who is not important to you?" "No, I don't think so." "Have you made love with this woman?" Michael was silent. "Have you made love with this woman?" "Yes." He mumbled the answer, barely audibly. "How long has been this going on?" Tears began to form in her eyes. "Not long." "How long?" "I don't know, a month, maybe more." "And you expect me to accept this?" "I don't know what I expect from you." "You don't know what to expect? After almost five years of marriage? What's the matter with me? Aren't I good enough for you?" She began crying softly. "There's nothing wrong with you. It's me. I'm the problem. Maybe I'm hypnotized. I don't know." "Don't come to bed tonight." Adele went up the stairs to the bedroom. Michael sat in the living room watching TV. His eyes were on the screen but seeing nothing. On an impulse, he walked up the stairs and into the bedroom. Adele was sobbing bitterly. He watched silently for several minutes without her knowing. He turned and went back to the living room. He sat on the couch in his usual place, turned down the sound on the set, and picked up the phone. He dialed a number that he had memorized several weeks earlier. "Irene, I need to tell you something. I just had a talk with Adele. We can't go on." He listened for a long time. "I know all that. I'm very sorry. It was mostly my fault. It was wrong." He listened again. "All I can say is . . ." He didn't finish the sentence; the other person had hung up. He placed the receiver back on its cradle. He lay on the couch. Sleep did not come easily. The next day he left for work without showering or shaving, wearing the same clothing he had worn the day before. Almost immediately, Adele entered the room and sat in the same place that Michael had occupied the night before. Using the same phone he had used, she dialed a number. "Wilma," she said, "what's the number of that psychologist you used when you and Fred were having trouble?" Listening, she made a note, on a slip of paper pulled from the drawer of the end table nearby. "I'll get back to you," she said hurriedly and hung up. Staring at the paper, she dialed the number she had written. That afternoon, she met with Janet Hilbert, the psychologist whose name Wilma had given her. Janet was middle-aged, gray-haired, slightly overweight, wearing simple clothing, scholarly looking. She greeted Adele warmly, and invited her to sit in the overstuffed couch near the wall. Janet sat in a simple wooden chair facing her. "Tell me why you have come to see me," she asked. "My husband, Mike, told me last night that he had been unfaithful to me. This is all new to me. I need help in deciding what to do." "There is no one thing that is the right thing to do," responded Janet. "Some women will feel that no amount of unfaithfulness can be tolerated. They will demand a divorce immediately. It will not matter what their financial circumstances, whether children are involved, what others may think. A single instance means the marriage is ended. I term these women as being, One Strike and Out. Others, rightly or wrongly, will attempt to save the marriage. It will never be the same; it will never even be approximately the same. But they will feel that a marriage is forever. I term these women, Devotedly Yours. I cannot tell you which type you are because every case is different and must be decided by the woman herself." "Is that all you're going to tell me?" "Yes." "You haven't helped me very much!" "I believe I have. I've told you what you must do in order to decide what you should do!" At home, Adele dialed Wilma. "I talked to Janet Hilbert," she said. "What did she tell you." "She told me I needed to decide whether to trash the marriage or fight to save it." "I hope you've decided to end it!" "No, I haven't decided yet. I wondered what you would advise." "I've already told you! Kick the maggot out! I did, with that rat of mine." "Thank you, Wilma. You've told me what I wanted to know." She hung up. The front door opened and Michael, disheveled and haggard looking, walked in. He didn't speak. "You're home early," said Adele. "I was sent home. To clean up," Ed said. "You look terrible, Mike." "That talk we had last night. It bothered me." He sank into the couch. She sat beside him. Glaring at him, she said, "It bothered me too." "I've stopped seeing her." "Oh?" "I called her last night, and told her it was over." "That was very brave of you," she declared sarcastically. "You're not making this very easy for me!" "I don't know why I should!" "I want to get back to you, the way it was." "That impossible. It can't ever go back to the way it was!" "Adele, I don't want to lose you!" "Mike, it isn't that easy! I need to do some thinking. I need to decide what kind of person I am." "I don't understand." "I have to decide whether I'm of the type termed One Strike and Out or Devotedly Yours." "I still don't understand." "Never mind, you don't need to. Give me a moment." She was silent for a few seconds, then said, "I've decided what type I am. Go upstairs, clean up, and take a shower. When you're done, come back. I'm devoted to you and to this marriage. We need to have a long talk about the future."

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