Everyone was in the sitting room when Katelyn and Olivia came down. Mike had already set up three Christmas trees and was working on the fourth. Carrying baskets of fresh garlands, tinsel,
chocolates and some gold-coloured ornaments, Natasha, David, and Carol decorated the trees.
Katelyn stopped in the doorway. Seeing all her children like this... Another reason not to divorce her scoundrel of a husband. It’d ruin them!
Layla was hanging lights. She glanced at her mother. “Hey mum, you and dad should—“ Then her head whipped back around. “Mum?”
Katelyn hurried from the room. Layla dropped the string of lights and followed. “Mum? What’s wrong?”
Though getting a divorce would guarantee her children’s financial support from Justin, she feared to raise them as a single mother. The consequences of a broken family were terrible. She’d better
swallow her pride than jeopardize their happiness. Instead of a divorce, better to live together without conjugal love.
But some inner voice told her something different. To be a good mother, she also needed to be happy and she couldn’t, living with someone who’d stopped loving her; someone who’d betrayed her love,
trust, intimacy… someone who was cheating.
Katelyn clasped hands behind her head and gritted her teeth. Why is this happening to me. She tottered but held onto the couch, then collapsed in it and folded her arms.
Layla crossed to the sofa and slid her arm around her mother’s shoulder. “Has something happened to Aunt Liz?” she asked, tears in her eyes.
“Don’t worry. She’s responding well to her meds,” said Katelyn, cuddling David and Carol between her lap. They’d started crying. “Don’t cry, mum’s doing fine… tomorrow all of us will go see her
okay? Now go play outside.”
Olivia handed Katelyn the handkerchief which had fallen on the floor. “Mum... what is it? We hate to see you like this.”
Katelyn bit her lip. “Mmm, it’s about… err… it’s about me and dad.” She blew her nose and her shaking voice prevented her from going on. After a few seconds, she continued. “I hope you’ll forgive…”
“Leave them out of this,” Justin shouted from the steps and rushed over. He rubbed his forehead and spoke between his teeth. “It’s just a small misunderstanding… but all shall be well. Please give
us a minute.”
Left by themselves, Justin pulled a stool closer. “Please… for heaven’s sake, let’s be decent in how we handle this.”
Just then, Katelyn caught a sound she knew: a familiar cough and the steps at the door. The doorbell rang. She wiped her eyes with the handkerchief and licked her lips, trying to relax.
“Coming…” she said and walked to the door. “Come on in.”
Moses, the salesman from the liquor store, walked in with a basket containing two bottles of whiskey. “We didn’t get the eighteen-year-old but…” He smiled and lifted one bottle. “This is even
better… twenty years. Your husband is sure to like it more…”
Katelyn lowered her eyes and swallowed hard. “Ah, thanks….”
“Oh no, I’ve spoilt the surprise.” Moses covered his mouth with his hands when he saw Justin.
“No worries, bro… it’s always good this way.” Justin came over and took the basket from Katelyn.
“Sorry about your sister,” said Moses, seeing tears in Katelyn’s eyes.
Katelyn tried to speak but her sobs got in the way. She went back to the sofa, leaving the two men at the door.
“Man, it’s not easy for her,” said Justin.
“It’ll be fine. Thanks.”
Moses left. Justin slouched on the couch next to Katelyn and propped his chin on his hand. “Oh, my God! Katie, I’m sorry. You know how much I love you. Please forgive me.”
“I’ve tried to be calm, hoping we’ll resolve this and go on with our lives as before. I can’t pretend everything is fine between us. Whenever I see you, I see her… I see the two of you in bed and
can’t drive the thought away… you’ve ruined me.”
“We can still be a happy family if we decide to.” He placed a hand on her lap and smiled sheepishly. “You’re so kind… Thanks for the gift… umm… Exactly my taste.” He lifted one bottle to his eyes.
Katelyn pushed his hand away. “We can never be a family again after what has happened. I want a divorce.”
“Katie, sweetheart… we’re Christians. Neither of us has the right to put asunder what God has joined.”
“If you still care a straw for us, this is the best you can do for us.”
“Katie, I thought you loved me. Was your love conditional? … Didn’t the thirty years of our marriage count for anything?” He grabbed her hand. “All these years I’ve never cheated on you, yet other
men do cheat.”
“Does that give you the right to cheat on me?”
“Of course not, but…” He knelt before her. “You promised not to allow anything to come between us.”
In a close-knit community like theirs, where everyone knew the other’s name, what had befallen them wouldn’t remain a secret for long. Already, the children knew something was amiss; soon the maids
would know—if they didn’t already. Martha, with her suspicious mind and a knack for gossip, would know the truth immediately she came for the Christmas barbeque the next day.
For the first time since morning, she looked him in the eye. “The only other way I see is… we live not as husband and wife.”
“Honey, how can this be?”
“There can be nothing between us… We can only be together to take care of the children.”
“Katie, sweetheart! Please… let not pride cloud your judgment.”
“It’s easier for you to pretend; to fake who you are. I cannot pretend that nothing happened between us… I cannot be your--” The doorbell rang.
“What now!” She scowled, clenched her jaw, then relaxed and went to the door.
Gisela stood at the bottom of the steps.
“Hey, happy to see you,” said Gisela, climbing the steps to hug her.
Katelyn gripped Gisela’s throat. “How dare you show up here pretending to be my friend! You’re immoral with no regard for the sanctity of marriage. Shame on you!”
“Kat— L—let me—“ Gisela struggled to break free of Katelyn’s grip. “I ain’t done nothing”
“Liar! I’m gonna kill you!”
Justin squeezed between them. With a hand still on Gisela’s neck and using Justin as support, Katelyn rose to her toes and grabbed Gisela’s braids.
“You’re hurting me.” Gisela shrieked and struggled to get away.
Katelyn lost her footing and tumbled to the floor, bringing Gisela and Justin with her.
“Stop it!” Justin rolled over, pulling Katelyn towards himself.
“Don’t touch me.” She slapped his hand and pulled away. “You wanna know how low I’ve stooped? I’ll teach this bitch a lesson.”
She clutched the sleeve of Gisela’s blouse and ripped it off. Buttons scattered across the floor. She kicked and made contact with Gisela’s stomach.
Gisela, who’d managed to get on her knees, fell head first with a thud.
“O—uh—“ Gisela groaned and stopped moving.
At the sight of blood gushing from Gisela’s scalp, Katelyn recoiled. A chill numbed her limbs. She rushed to her and cradled her head in her hands. But, oh, there was so much blood, dark crimson,
with a discreet, metallic scent. Katelyn pressed her palms against the open cut.
“Oh, my God! What have I done?” she screamed, warm blood cascading across her palms, right through to the fingertips.
“Good Lord! Katie, what have you done?” Justin slid a hand around Gisela. “Sunshine… sweetheart, can you hear me? Please open your eyes.”
Katelyn tensed. Sweetheart? Did he just call her *sweetheart*?
“Oh my God! That’s how you call her?”
“Just f**ck off, you want to kill her?” He focussed back on Gisela. “It’ll be okay baby… just hang in there.” He dialed his phone and balanced it between his ear and a shoulder, while his hands
worked on Gisela. “Damn it, please pick up…”
Katelyn flicked her eyes from Justin to Gisela. She hoped he would come to his senses and say something, but he didn’t. And she hated the way he looked at Gisela’s long, dark and curly eyelashes,
which sat perfectly in position as if cut out from the pages of a men’s magazine.
But she didn’t want Gisela’s blood on her hands. “Maybe we should take her to—“
“You know you could go to jail for what you’ve done. If anything happens to the baby...”
Katelyn lifted her eyes to the clock. “We don’t have time…” She looked at Gisela’s closed eyes. “Oh, my God… Is she still breathing? Please hurry.”
Justin pressed an ear on Gisela’s bare chest and Katelyn regretted why she’d torn her blouse open. Her stomach ached at how gentle Justin treated Gisela.
“Yes, she’s breathing.”
Katelyn sighed. “Thank God!”
“You may not be lucky next time… and pray hard she gets well. Otherwise…”
“You’d kill me?”
“Not everyone is a murderer…”
“Are you calling me a murderer?”
“Why are you suspicious of yourself?”
Katelyn widened her eyes. “Are you serious? Do you suppose I killed Leno?”
Justin dropped his gaze on the floor and offered no response.
“Are you accusing me of his death when it’s clear he choked on milk? It was my first time to breastfeed and things happened so fast… Oh my God! I can’t believe it.”
A sharp pain lanced through Katelyn and a cloud of darkness flashed in front of her eyes, snuffing out the few embers of love left for Justin.
“Why didn’t you just kill me… instead of humiliating me this way?” Katelyn screamed, her lips quivering.
Katelyn turned. Her children stood in the doorway, eyes wide, mouths agape. And she suddenly couldn’t move. “No, go back— Go back to—“
“Gisela!” Olivia rushed over.
“Dad, what happened?” asked Layla, squatting beside Gisela.
Justin looked up at Katelyn.
“Don’t look at me. You know it was an accident.”
“But you shouldn’t have kicked her,” said Justin.
“How about you tell them why you’ve been sleeping with her?”
“What?” Mike jerked back from his father. “Dad? Really?”
“Yes, your dad has been sleeping with Gisela and made her pregnant,” said Katelyn.
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