Unlikely Friendship

I have never been the type of wife who snoops on her husband. I don’t search his pants pockets before tossing them into the wash or inspect shirt collars for lipstick stains. I have never sat in the dark scouring over text messages or scrutinizing credit card statements in search of hotel charges.

Today that changed.

It was purely accidental. I wasn’t trying to find anything; I wasn’t even looking. I was simply cleaning the kitchen counter when a loose string from my washrag got tangled on one of the brass latches on the front of his briefcase. I didn’t realize it until the briefcase went sliding off the counter and smashing onto the floor. The top flew open and loose papers scattered about. I knelt beside the mess and began gathering the papers and placing them back inside. That’s when I noticed it, poking out from behind a yellow legal pad, a photograph.

I tugged at its corner and my husband’s smiling face emerged. Even after nineteen years of marriage the sight of him still made my stomach flip with excitement. As I kept pulling, the other half of the photo appeared and that’s when everything changed. That is when I found out about my husband’s affair.

Rick was in the shower washing away gym sweat which meant I had at least twenty-minutes to analyze the body language between my husband and this woman.

They were standing on a beach with the sun setting behind them, or rising, I couldn’t tell. The woman was in the forefront of the photo, her arms stretched out in front of her taking the photo. He was standing behind her, his arms wrapped around her waist, his chin resting on her shoulder. He looked happy. The way he was holding her with such tenderness. He cares for her. There was an easiness about them, the kind that builds over time. I realized then that their relationship didn’t consist of this one photograph.

The back of my throat burned, my eyes filled. The woman appeared ten if not fifteen-years- younger than Rick. The texture of his skin appeared rough and damaged next to hers. The wavy strands of grey running along his hairline were accentuated against her auburn locks; the wrinkles around his eyes deepened in contrast to her seamless skin. His midlife crisis so obvious. For a moment I felt sorry for the man in the photo, but then reality reminded me that man was my husband.

I placed the picture into my purse and continued with my cleaning.

9 thoughts on “Unlikely Friendship

  1. Tayo says:

    Is it possible that the first two paragraphs “I have never been the type of wife who snoops on her husband. I don’t search his pants pockets before tossing them into the wash or inspect shirt collars for lipstick stains. I have never sat in the dark scouring over text messages or scrutinizing credit card statements in search of hotel charges.

    Today that changed.” could be just one? Perhaps: “I’m not one to snoop on my husband, until now.” It feels punchier that way. I’m sure you could think of an even better way to shorten that first paragraph because I think it spends a lot of time communicating the same thing.

    The hook itself: Wife finds out husband is cheating. Is there any way in which you could demonstrate why this is particularly compelling? I feel like there are a lot of stories with that kind of hook. What makes your story special? I’m sure you know already but I think you should try and at least hint at why this cheating husband or his affair are different from the numerous other stories with a similar hook.

    This is just my opinion of course, writing is a terribly challenging art form so I wish you good luck in addressing those challenges.

  2. archie (@causticanatomy) says:

    I liked it. The fact that you’re starting right at the point where she discovers her husband’s infidelity means there’s more to the plot than just the heartbreak, which most cheating stories tend to focus on. I think you’re good at supplying information just at the right rate to keep things interesting, so I’d probably turn at least a few more pages 🙂

    In terms of style, there’s only a few minor issues. I don’t think the present tense works in the first paragraph; you say “That changed today” in the past tense, so what you describe in present tense doesn’t apply any more. Also, I think the sentence “That is when I found out about my husband’s affair” is just unnecessary. We all know what’s coming from the word go, so it just kinda feels like a “Dun-dun-DUNNNN!” moment, if you get what I mean 😀 I think you can just leave it out.

  3. Kieron OConnell says:

    I’ve got nothing to add, I agree with what Archie said. I’m only commenting to say “I like it” and want to offer encouragement. Keep going.

  4. Diane Black says:

    Overall, I thought it was good. It held my interest and that’s a big deal!
    I didn’t critique all of it..
    I think the first paragraph has too many examples of what you don’t do. It might be a good idea to combine the last two sentences and shortening it by leaving out some of the examples.

    I personally prefer: Until now… instead of: That changed today. Preference only! 🙂

    I wasn’t trying to find anything; I wasn’t even looking. Redundant. One or the other is good.

    It sounds like you have something to say! I would love to read it… just needs to be polished! So much easier to critique others work… my own needs a lot of work! All the best!

  5. David Lodes says:

    All my opinions of course.
    I don’t search his pants pockets
    to make it fit better I would suggest I haven’t searched his pants pockets.
    Not sure if you should use I’ve for I have here. I have just sounds to formal.

    I like the way she discovers it. Interesting.

    The back of my throat burned, my eyes filled Not sure what my eyes filled means.

    The last sentence seems weird. Would she not be more distraught?

    I also agree with some comments above about a cheating husband being a well used premise. What will set this apart?

    Keep writing and good luck.

  6. Cherie says:

    Nice hook at the end. I expected her to barge into the shower. The first two paragraphs though gave too much away which diminished the impact of her discovery. You might consider starting your story at the third paragraph.

    It’s a matter of style but I think you can strengthen your narrative by reducing unnecessary words like ‘That’s when I noticed it’, ‘I realized then that’. Omitting these adds power to your statements/her realisations.

    In the second last paragraph you describe the age gap very well from the third sentence on. Readers are smart; I think you can delete the second sentence. You did such a good job describing it to us, let us figure it out.
    Good start.

  7. petebudic says:

    If I seem a little nitpicky below, it’s only because I really liked this piece.

    I would say that I would *probably* turn the page, but there might just be a little something missing that could guarantee that page flip. I’ll get to that in a second.

    I liked the opening paragraph. While the “snoops” in the first paragraph seems technically correct, I’d recommend changing to “snooped”. Otherwise it “feels” like there is a tense problem, even if there technically isn’t.

    The first two paragraphs have many sentences that start with “I”. Now, I may have only noticed this because I’m writing in first-person as well, and I’ve tried to reduce this in my writing. Actually, the repetition works well in the first paragraph (as long as you keep the “Today that changed.” as it’s own paragraph. But once we get into the 2nd paragraph it was a little too noticeable. Nothing that can’t be cleaned up with a little word choice.

    At some point, it might make the picture more clear in the reader’s mind if you just call it a “selfie”. It seemed like you worked hard to try not to use this word, but after reading the line a few times a said to myself “oh, a selfie”. And I’m in my mid-40s, so it’s not just a young thing if that was your worry.

    Now, as for what’s missing (for me anyway) was the real anger or strong emotion. There was the one line, which didn’t quite click. The throat burning was okay, but the “eyes filled” felt unfinished. Back to my point, I’d rather see you shorten the whole briefcase crashing and opening, and give more time to the woman to do a little grieving or soul searching. There seemed to be some “I’ve stood by him for so many years”, or “I gave the best of my life for him”. This might be coming later in your writing, but in this scene, she’s looking at the picture and reading into the body language, but then she just simply goes back to her cleaning. Either she needs to show a little more emotion, or have some thought or action that tells us why she isn’t. Maybe she just had a little switch click in the back of her mind that said “I’m going to kill him for this”, and that was all she needed. But I think the reader needs something. Some idea of what her next step is going to be.

    Anyway, like I said, I liked this very much. If you can find that one little “thing” that makes me understand her, or at least think she has a plan and I need to figure out what it is, then I’d turn the page for sure.

    Nice job.

    • writer33! says:

      Thank you so much for your Critique. I appreciate your thoughts. I agree with so much. I was worried to say to much as to what my character was feeling because she too is conflicted. These things come later on in the story but I do think I need to add some of her own thoughts. And Yes, I was trying to avoid selfie. lol

  8. Jen (Full of Love) (@gluedwithgold) says:

    The way this starts with the narrator giving a kind of editorial comment gives me a sense of distance right off the bat. Once it gets into the real action – her finding the photo – I have a distinct feeling that I’m being told a story. I think it would draw the reader in more fully to start with describing the briefcase falling, and leaving the commentary out completely, or possibly adding that in after the initial shock of seeing the photo.

    One other thing that struck me was the question: why does a man who is cheating on his wife have a printed selfie in his briefcase? It feels illogical to me. I may be wrong, but it seems like most people don’t print photos anymore – at least not very often. And for a man who has something to hide, going to the trouble of printing a photo and carrying it around seems far too risky or just not very smart. Now, if it were a strip of photo-booth photos, that would make more sense – but I’d still want some explanation (at least later on) of why he had that plainly in his briefcase. (I just ran into a similar logic problem in one of my stories, and it really drove home the point that each character’s motivations need to be considered, no matter how small the action – for me it was something that could have negated the whole premise of the story that followed. Fortunately it was an easy fix, and yours can be solved fairly simply, too!)

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