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The prompt was “Your character suspects his/her husband is having an affair and decides to spy on him. What she/he discovers is not what he/she was expecting…” (I completely forgot about the “spying part” in this prompt, but the rest is there!).
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The nightmare of the past seventy-two hours began when I received a phone call from San José, Costa Rica. The man speaking English with a Spanish accent asked for Mrs. Collins, and I knew something had happened to Mike. All I heard was: accident; hospital; and please come as soon as possible.
I had not heard from Mike in almost two weeks. He had been in Cahuita, a small city on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. He’d been living there for the past eight months, supervising the building of a bed and breakfast —a new venture and our second chance.
We had been married ten years, were childless, and life in the big city of Chicago had become stale. Mike and I had honeymooned in Costa Rica, and he had fallen in love with it. An indiscretion with his assistant had created a rift in our marriage about two years ago. In an effort to recapture the romance, he begged my forgiveness and convinced me to return to Costa Rica. It seemed to work. That’s when he got the idea to move there permanently. It was a tough sell initially, but I had to ask myself what was I afraid of?
Aside from my mother, a small network of close friends, and a teaching job that was no longer fulfilling, I really didn’t have much to tie me to the city anymore. At thirty-eight, it was time to take a leap of faith.
When the phone rang, I was in the middle of packing. The house had been sold, and the plan was to stay with my mother until the guesthouse in Cahuita was ready. It was left to me to settle everything in the city—not an easy task, but in the end, I had to believe my marriage was worth it.
* * * *
Now, I was on a plane to San José with a hospital address scribbled on a post-it note, a suitcase of clothes hastily thrown together, and a host of unanswered questions regarding Mike’s condition. Were it not for the sweet old lady beside me whose head kept hitting my shoulder as she nodded off, I probably would have burst into tears.
What could have happened to Mike? Was it an accident at the construction site? How badly hurt was he?
* * * *
I threw a twenty dollar bill at the cabbie and his eyes lit up.
“Senora, no tengo cambio,” he said, looking like he had just won the lottery.
“Keep the change,” I told him in Spanish. Three months of conversational Spanish was proving handy, but when I entered the hospital and was bombarded by all the signage, I didn’t know which way to turn.
A young woman approached me in a white dress with a silver nametag over her heart. It read “Maria” and her position was “Customer Service.” She directed me to the elevators and even pushed the button to the third floor where Mike was located.
Following a brief conversation with the lady at the information desk, I took a seat in the waiting room. The modern look of the hospital gave me hope that Mike was receiving good care. From what I had read about the facility, it was one of the best in Central America.
No more than five minutes later, a thirty-something man came up to me and introduced himself as Dr. Filip Ramirez.
“Mrs. Collins, thank you for coming so quickly. I know it could not have been easy.”
His English was surprisingly good. “Doctor, what can you tell me? Is Mike all right?”
“He’s suffered a…devastating injury. We had to operate to stop the bleeding.”
“What happened? Is he going to be okay?”
“Mrs. Collins. This is an unusual case. Your husband is going to need your support over the next few months.”
“Doctor, for god’s sake. What happened to him?” My anxiety must’ve been palpable.
“Mrs. Collins,” he said, “I promised your husband that I’d let him tell you the story. You may go see him.”
I followed the doctor through several corridors before entering a large room. As I walked in, I saw Mike sitting up in bed. A sheet covered the lower half of his body, and he appeared deeply tanned. I ran over and wrapped my arms around him, tears streaming down my face with relief.
“Mike, I’m so glad you’re okay.”
I nodded my thanks to the doctor as he quietly left the room.
“Abby, Abby…” Mike cried. “Oh my god Abby, I’m so sorry.”
I slowly pulled away from his embrace. “What are you sorry about, what happened? Was there an accident at the site?”
“Abby, promise you’ll forgive me. I’ve been such a fool, I never meant to hurt you. I…”
Mike had an expression of terror, which I’d never seen before. It both scared and confused me. I held his face in my hands and kissed him gently on the lips to calm him down. “Forgive you for what? Mike, you’re not making any sense. Where did they operate on you?”
I followed his gaze as he looked toward his legs. Gently, I pulled down the sheet and saw he was heavily bandaged around his groin.
“Mike?” I turned to see him welling up with tears. “How did this happen?” Was it a shark attack, some freak industrial accident, or…?
The realization slowly began to sink in, but I refused to believe it.
“Abby—” Mike pleaded.
“How bad is it?”
“It’s gone, Abby … It’s gone.”
“How the fuck did this happen?” I didn’t want to hear the answer, but I couldn’t contain the rage that now threatened to overwhelm me. “Tell me right now or I’m walking out of here.”
“Abby, she meant nothing to me. I swear it.”
The color drained from his face as the blood rushed to mine. Taking a deep breath, I released all the tension I’d been holding in. The past seventy-two hours had come down to this – my husband had been having an affair—again, and now, he no longer had a dick.
“How long, Mike?”
“Abby, does it matter?”
“How long has this been going on?”
“Six months.” He wiped his face with the back of his hand.
I cringed. “Six months meant a lot for her to do this to you.”
“She was a psycho, she—”
“Enough!” I said. “How dare you try to blame her for what you’ve done.”
“Abby, Abby, I’ll make it up to you, I swear. I love you.”
I never expected to feel so much anger, yet, in my mind, there was a quiet resolve, a detachment that gave me strength.
“Just answer me one question, Mike.”
“Anything, babe, anything.”
“Where’s your penis now?”
He hesitated before responding, “In the ocean, she threw it in the ocean.”
I bit my lower lip, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. In the end, all I could say was, “Better her, than me.”
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This story is included in a collection called HOT FLASH, now available