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The Betrayal, by Gaye Sutton

It was a long cold winter, oh there have been longer, colder winters since, but this one was miserable. An old friend and important teacher had died and I had not been able to let her go, I'd changed my job and lost many other important relationships; I felt lost. And to add to my misery, girlhood seemed to be going from our house, too.

A certain young man had knocked on the consciousness of my teenage daughter, and she was responding more readily than I was ready for. Change was definitely in the air. There was too much change, and I wasn't ready for it. There was too much work and too little time; it seemed always cold, always wet, always dark, and in our house, what with the kids and the dog, mud seemed to have the upper hand. I had taken to coming home from work and blobbing in front of the television to take my mind off myself.

One particular night I hadn't even had the grace to turn the TV on. I had just blobbed on the couch with my eyes shut, waiting for bedtime to rescue me from myself. Someone came into the room, and my husband's voice spoke, "What do you think about this?"

Silence, by Jaime Altrei
"Silence", by Jaime Altrei

Well, when I opened my eyes, I didn't want to think. Standing there in my husband's clothes, speaking in my husband's voice, was a pink-cheeked, clean-shaven stranger. I was horrified. But then a voice in the back of my mind chided me ... "If Mike needs to shave off his beard to truly express himself--who are you to complain?"

So I smiled, all that week. I smiled and smiled and smiled. But, you know, this man was not my husband. He was not all bad, but he was not my husband.

The following weekend, we were going away for the weekend--to a lake resort. It was going to be a lifeline for us, but it was another change. You see, I had never left my children alone before, and this man (the one without the beard that I was living with) seemed to understand how hard that was. Even as we drove away from home and I burst into tears, he patted me (just as Mike would have done), but he was not my husband. Even in the dark this man was not the same. My Mike's face was soft and furry; this man's face was harsh and bristly.

He was a lot of fun though. We laughed and talked as we drove into the sunset, and we ate dinner out, drank red wine by the fire went for walks...but he was not my husband. On the Sunday morning before we left to come home, we went for a final walk along the banks of the river. In that place the earth's crust is very thin, and the hot air rises from under the ground and makes steam, and this morning it had turned the frost into spirals of ice that crunched under our feet as we walked.

We found a bay where, we knew, no one had ever been before. Where the hot water came up under the cold water of the river. We took our shoes and socks off and stood in it with the soles of our feet warm while the cold water ran over the tops. The river was rushing hard after its tumble down the falls; it was green and transparent, like cracked ice, only moving. There were thousands of insects and dozens of fan-tailed birds skimming them off the surface of the water. The sun was hot on our shoulders, the noise of the falls so loud, we could feel it in our chests. It was magic, standing there with that man.

I don't know if my hand turned towards his or his hand turned towards mine, but our hands turned and joined ... and Mike was back! My Mike! I met him there beside the river.

BIO:Gaye Sutton was born in Wellington the capital city of New Zealand and lived around there most of her life. She graduated from Victoria University with a Masters in Social Work and is currently writing a book that tells the stories of women who escaped from violent relationships and their relationships with counsellors and therapists. She is a Senior Lecturer at CIT, Wellington on a Counselling undergraduate programme. When her children left home (5 years ago), she and her husband sold their house and went to live in the country. They built their new house and now live on a 27 acres land. They are gradually moving towards organic farming. Gayle commutes to the city every day.
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