The Unwanted Wife

By: Natasha Anders

“I eat enough,” she responded halfheartedly. Normally she would have let it go, but she wanted to see if she could goad him into meeting her eyes again. No such luck; he merely shrugged, neatly folded his newspaper, and dropped it onto the table beside his empty plate. He gulped down the last sip of his coffee before getting up from the table.

She watched as he stretched, his black T-shirt lifting to reveal the toned and tanned band of flesh at his abdomen. Her mouth went dry at the sight of that dark flesh, and once again she was disgusted by her reaction to his physical presence. She had spent the first year of her marriage believing that Sandro would come to love her. She had valiantly believed that if she loved him enough, he would go back to being the laughing, affectionate man she had known in the first few months after they had met. She still wasn’t completely sure what had caused the change, but from the snide things he sometimes said in passing, she suspected it was her father’s influence. After nearly a year of marriage she had been forced to face reality; he truly hated her. He hated her so much so that he couldn’t bring himself to speak to her, kiss her, touch her outside of bed, or even look at her.

Theresa had finally realized that there would be no thaw; their marriage was a perpetual winter wasteland, and if she ever wanted to feel the warmth of the sun on her face again, she had to get out of it. Unfortunately, escaping would be trickier than she had thought. She would have to find a way out that did not include hurting her cousin. Lisa and Rick Palmer were expecting their first baby, and while Lisa was having a fairly easy time of it, Theresa was concerned that anything that would upset her could be potentially harmful to her or the baby. Also, while Rick’s advertising agency was fairly successful, Lisa had always prided herself on the fact that she held her own financially in their relationship. Taking her bookshop away could put too much strain on their relationship, and Theresa didn’t want that on her conscience.

She sighed heavily and started to do the dishes. She liked to do little household tasks despite the fact that her thirty-one-year-old husband, who had worked his way up from mailroom clerk to the president of the bank his father owned, “had more money than God,” as her father had once put it. Theresa had even enthusiastically insisted on doing some of the cooking herself. They employed a housecleaning staff, as was practical when one lived in a ten-bedroom, five-bathroom monster of a house.

Because their marriage united two prominent families, the press avidly followed the intimate details of their marriage, yet Theresa tried to cling to what she believed was a semblance of normalcy. On Saturdays the staff had the day off and Theresa liked to pick up after herself and Sandro rather than wait for the maids to get to it later. She had never had a “normal” life, and she fondly imagined that these tasks kept her grounded in reality. Sandro didn’t pretend to understand her need to have a hand in the everyday running of the house and had mockingly accused her of playing house once, shortly after their wedding. He had never seemed to notice it again after that. She stared down at the dishes she had ready to be placed in the dishwasher and quite abruptly abandoned the task halfway through before heading upstairs and leaving Sandro still in the kitchen.

She changed her clothes from sweat suit to jeans and T-shirt, dragging her vibrant, waist-length Titian hair into a ponytail and tugging on a denim jacket to ward off the early autumn chill. On her way to the front door, she passed by the den where Sandro had retreated with his laptop.

“I’m going out,” she casually called through the open door, and his head jerked up while his eyes flared with some indefinable emotion.

“Where…?” he began.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.” She dashed out before he could utter another syllable, grabbing her shoulder bag and car keys on the way out. She had her reliable silver Mini Cooper fired up by the time he eventually made it down to the front door. With a cheery little wave that she knew had to grate, she reversed out of the driveway and headed out. She had no clue where she was going and knew that there would be hell to pay when she got back—Sandro liked to keep her in a little box labeled “wife,” to be brought out only for social occasions when he needed someone to act as his perfect hostess. Any sign of mutiny from her was bound to have unpleasant and unforeseen consequences. Still, it felt good just to do something so defiantly out of character. Her cellular phone started ringing seconds later and when she stopped at a red light she switched it off and tossed it aside.

It was still early, barely nine, and because it was Saturday, the roads were a bit congested. Still, she felt free and she headed from the relative tranquility of Clifton, one of the wealthiest and most beautiful suburbs in Cape Town, toward the city. Usually she would go to Newlands and spend the day with Rick and Lisa…but she knew that it was the first place Sandro would look. He knew how limited her social life was. She had never made friends easily; her father had kept her isolated throughout her childhood, and her only real friend growing up had been her cousin Lisa.

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