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And so he suspected that, at least indirectly, his secret, however strangely or illogically, had come at an intellectual cost to his family. But, the family had not paid the emotional cost that they would have if they had known the truth. Everyone, every family, had secrets. He had protected his family from his and they were surely better off because of it. They were the living proof: Carol, happily married, a high school math teacher, mother of Amy, wife of Bill, a community bank President in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, their lovely home only fifteen minutes from Mark and Barb’s. Scott, a patent attorney, still living the single life in New York City. Amy’s graduation from the University of Kansas two months earlier had been the most emotional moment of his life. He had been unable to stop the tears. “Tears of joy,” he said later to Barbara and Scott. But they weren’t all tears of joy. How could he not grieve, for Barb, for the kids, for himself, for his life of deceit and deception? The worst years had been when he was in his thirties and forties. Once, he remembered, over a drink at a backyard cookout, he had stupidly said to a neighbor that he could imagine the pent up feeling of a suicide bomber waiting and wanting to explode. “Hey man, you need a different career path” the man said, shocked, but making a joke of it, not having any idea of his dual life, of what Mark had really meant. Mark kept watching the two women. Now, they were huddled together, still up front but off to the side of the entrance. As they surveyed the crowd they whispered to each other. Then, with a sudden confirming look at each other, they wordlessly turned to the door and left. Mark took a deep breath. He realized he had been holding his breath as if it had been Amy, until she had left, and had 110

not discovered him. He gulped down his drink and signaled for another to one of the half dozen stud bartenders, buffed and young, decked out in black tank tops and tight black jeans with slicked hair that jutted out and up as if they’d been electrocuted. Mark wanted to laugh at the obvious marketing lure, but he couldn’t deny their sex appeal. He chuckled. Some day they’d look just like him. Retirement terrified Mark. He could afford it but at this stage of life he didn’t want change. He needed his work and the space it created. Yes, he was grateful for the weekend arts and charitable fundraisers that got them both out of the house, filled up most of their weekends, when Carol, her husband and Amy weren’t around. But during the week, he wanted to keep busy, didn’t want to sit around the house like an old man. One or two nights of quiet reading at home was enough. Other than that, he wanted to be on the road, doing what he’d done for years, able to have a casual fling far from home when he wanted to. The job itself was easy. He could do it in his sleep, cultivating and harvesting his network of independent insurance brokers so they’d sell Old Reliable’s portfolio of products. Barb said she couldn’t understand why he didn’t slow down. So did their friends. It was an echo chamber, friends and family telling him to take it easy. “Take some time off, go to Europe,” they’d say, shaking their heads, calling him a workaholic. Mark shuddered at the thought. Two weeks in hotel rooms with Barb, just the two of them. What in the world would they talk about? Mark couldn’t conceive of it, yet he had been home most of the time when Carol and Scott were growing up. Of course, the kids had been a buffer of sorts; their marital focus had been on them.

Profile for Katya Cummins

Niche Magazine No. 1  

Niche is an online literary magazine that was designed to be limitless. It aims to provide a place where an array of voices, from experimen...

Niche Magazine No. 1  

Niche is an online literary magazine that was designed to be limitless. It aims to provide a place where an array of voices, from experimen...

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