The End Of The Road Has Come For Two Marriages…
Autumn, Year 5
Ethan is 25, Hollie is 25, Gerald is 26, Daisy is 22, Jenna is 3 and Jareth is 9 months
The autumn arrived with some lovely summery weather and it was an excellent time for Hollie and Ethan to take Jenna down to the beach. Against her better judgement, she invited Daisy and Gerald to join them. While she’d been struggling a lot with the knowledge that something had definitely been going on with Ethan and Daisy, she was hoping desperately that things had ended between them.
Unbeknown to Hollie, Daisy was gladly making eyes at Ethan. Her relationship with Gerald wasn’t exactly wonderful by anybody’s standards and she really enjoyed Ethan’s company. She was beginning to find it difficult, sitting next to him at the beach and not touching him.
The temptation was becoming too much.
Ethan felt slightly torn. He felt a sense of loyalty to Hollie, his loving wife but at the same time there was something amazing about Daisy. Something intoxicating which he couldn’t fully explain, even if he’d wanted to.
Hollie tried hard not to worry when she saw her husband and her sister sitting by the fire, engaged in conversation. Was it her imagination or were they really into each other? She mentally shook herself; she was being paranoid.
A little time passed. Daisy went for a swim in the sea with Hollie and Ethan watched the two most beautiful women he’d ever seen flexing their bodies as they moved swiftly through the water.
Daisy sidled over to him later, when Hollie went to check on Jenna. The temptation was driving them both crazy and she knew he’d been watching her in the water.
Throwing caution to the wind, Daisy wordlessly reached over and kissed Ethan.
“Oh my Watcher!” Hollie felt the tears beginning to sting her eyes as she gaped at her sister and husband in a passionate clinch. “What are you doing?”
Jenna stared in confusion at her mother, her father and her aunt. Something was wrong but she didn’t understand it.
“You bastard!” Hollie shrieked, enough to draw attention from the other beachgoers. “You swore there was nothing in it. You told me you hadn’t seen her any more!”
Furious and heartbroken, Hollie reached over and slapped Ethan, hard, around the face.
Daisy immediately shoved her sister aside to pull Ethan into a hug. “Hollie, just listen. I know this is hurting you right now but-“
“Save it.” Hollie shook her head, the tears flowing freely. “I could have stood for anything else, Daisy. But to have an affair with MY husband?” Hollie sobbed helplessly. “You’ve gone too far. Both of you.”
Gerald looked up suddenly to see Daisy and Ethan in an embrace. His eyes widened.
“What the bloody hell are you two playing at?” He demanded. “He’s your brother-in-law; what’s going on?”
“Look, let’s try and be reasonable about this,” Daisy began but Gerald cut her off.
“REASONABLE? You’re having an affair with another man and you want ME to be REASONABLE?” Gerald could hardly believe what he was hearing.
“Gerald, please would you stop yelling. You’re drawing attention to yourself; people are looking.” Daisy begged.
“I’m drawing attention to us? What about you, openly playing tonsil tennis with another man, RIGHT UNDER MY NOSE?”
Listening to the row, Hollie felt the pain and the tears welling up again. She needed to get away from her sister before she slapped her, too.
Gerald had the same idea and stormed away, leaving Daisy stranded at the beach. All the way back to the city, he consoled himself with the knowledge that he couldn’t have done anything wrong. He knew it wasn’t his fault; it was Daisy and that lazy good-for-nothing her sister was married to.
Later that evening, when the children were in bed, Hollie was ready to talk to Ethan. She’d been thinking all afternoon and she felt she was left with no alternative.
“Look Hollie, I’m sorry.” Ethan started. “I know you’re hurt and you have every right to be but-“
“But what?” Hollie interrupted. “Ethan, you’ve been having an affair! With my sister, of all the people. You’re not going to actually try and excuse that, are you?”
Ethan bit his lip. He could feel the anger radiating from his wife. They glared at each other in stony silence.
“How long has this been going on?” Hollie asked finally. “Since Christmas? When I caught you both flirting?” She struggled to keep the pain from her voice but she was fighting a losing battle.
“Not quite.” Ethan sighed awkwardly. “We started seeing each other a bit more just after Christmas.” Deciding it was better to get everything out in the open now, he sighed again before continuing. “When you thought I was studying at the library, I was meeting Daisy in Windenburg for coffee. When you had Jareth…”
Hollie gasped suddenly. “She was downstairs, wasn’t she?” Tears pricked her eyes again and she quickly blinked them back.
Ethan nodded and bit his lip. “She was. We didn’t see each other much after that but around Easter time, we sort of started seeing each other more.
“Are you sleeping with her?” Hollie’s eyes widened. “Oh my Watcher! She’s carrying your baby, isn’t she?”
“Hollie, that’s enough.” Ethan suddenly said. “Look I’m sorry I hurt you but that’s my business!”
“I beg your pardon? You don’t think it might be mine too? We’re MARRIED, Ethan! You’re not supposed to be sleeping with my sister!”
He winced. This wasn’t going well. “I don’t know if the baby’s mine,” he admitted after a while. “We’re not sure.”
Hollie closed her eyes and prayed the nauseous feeling she had would subside.
“I’m sorry Ethan but I can’t do this any more.” She said finally. “You’re obviously in love with Daisy and there’s nothing I can do about that. But this has to stop. It’s either me or her.”
“Hollie, don’t-” Ethan’s voice wobbled. “You don’t mean-?”
She nodded. “I do. I’m sorry but I can’t live with the knowledge that you’ve been sleeping with my sister and pretending to me that you’re not. You promised me last Christmas that this wouldn’t happen again and then you go straight to her again. You’re not capable of choosing, are you Ethan?”
“Hollie, please-” he began but she cut him off.
“Not this time. This is it, Ethan.”
“Hollie, I-” he tried again but this time he faltered. The words weren’t coming any more.
“I think you’d better leave.”
Ethan shook his head. “You don’t mean that.”
“Yes, I do. I’ve had enough, Ethan.”
“Where the hell am I supposed to go?” Ethan demanded. “On the street? You can’t chuck me out, Hollie! We both own this place.”
“Ethan, it’s easier for you to find somewhere on your own than it is for me, two children and three cats to find somewhere. You’ll manage.”
This time, neither of them could hold back the tears. Eventually, Ethan nodded and stepped slowly back into the house to collect his belongings.
Then, without a backward glance, he left.
As luck would have it, there was a small, cheap apartment available and Ethan was able to move straight in. The furnishings were basic but he couldn’t really expect anything else.
Furthermore, he realised that without Hollie’s income, he wouldn’t be able to afford to carry on with University. He tapped out an email, dropping out of the course shortly before the new term was due to start. It was heartbreaking but he already had amounted a lot of debt in student loans. He simply couldn’t afford it any longer.
Gerald and Daisy’s discussion didn’t go any better. Gerald also felt he couldn’t cope with the thought of Daisy having an affair and they divorced fairly amicably.
“There is one thing I think you ought to know,” Gerald remarked casually as Daisy began to gather up hers and Cherie’s belongings.
“What’s that?” Daisy asked. She’d been relieved that their conversation had been quite civil; Gerald hadn’t seemed as angry now as he had at the beach and she was grateful for that much.
“This seems as good a time as any. You’re probably wondering why I’m not more upset about this.” Gerald remarked. “There’s a good reason for that. I didn’t marry you for the reasons you thought I did.” A smirk came over his lips. “I married you to get hold of an inheritance.”
Suddenly Daisy broke down.
Having contacted him in a panic when she realised Gerald was throwing her out, Daisy gratefully made her way over to Ethan’s new apartment in the Fashion district of the city.
“Are you okay?” Ethan asked, relieved to see her again.
Daisy nodded. “I am, yeah. A bit shaken but otherwise fine.”
“I know it’s not much,” Ethan said as they sat down to eat together. “But I can’t really afford much right now…”
Daisy smiled. “It’s fine. Look Ethan, this is our first proper meal together. I know things are tough right now and I know Hollie’s hurting but you do know we’ve done the right thing, don’t you?” She swallowed. “I love you, Ethan. We had to do what was right for us. There’s no point living a lie, is there?”
Ethan shook his head. “No. No, you’re right. We have to focus on us.
Daisy smiled. They were going to be all right.
Daisy later went for a walk with Cherie to clear her head. She’d had a small brainwave when she was packing her things up to leave Gerald’s flat. If he’d been so obsessed with money that he had married her for an inheritance, she fully intended to get her share. She’d applied instantly for alimony payments and thankfully, her application had been approved.
She doubted Gerald would be smirking after that email arrived!
A few days passed and Hollie was struggling. She was due back at the University next week and the panic was setting in. She had no childcare lined up and with a baby and toddler in the house, she wondered how she was going to cope.
Everything felt like an enormous effort; from doing the laundry to climbing the stairs. Her whole body ached and she wanted to cry all the time.
Jenna was taking it better than Hollie expected. She’d asked a few times where Daddy was but Hollie had explained, to the best of her ability, that Daddy was away. She didn’t know what she’d say later when it was obvious Daddy wasn’t coming back but she decided she’d cross that bridge when she came to it.
In the meantime, Jenna played happily in her bedroom.
Hollie had explained her situation to the University and she was sifted over to working with the online courses; at least she could mostly work from home for that. So she could settle during the day at her laptop while Jareth napped and Jenna played. Something was finally going her way.
Getting back into a work routine on her own was a lot more exhausting and by the early evening, Hollie was slumping. Once the children were asleep, she had to fight the urge to collapse into bed herself. Every day was equally draining and so far, there was no respite.
She missed Ethan more than she had previously thought possible.
The late nights and early mornings were the worst. She woke up, looked at the walls and the dresser; saw all the photographs of the two of them. Their anniversary photos, where they’d messed around in their bedroom. They were taken not long after they’d moved to Ivy Cottage, a year after they’d got married. Jenna as a younger toddler; more coupley photos. They were painful reminders of the excitement and hope she’d been feeling.
Four-and-a-half years of marriage had crumbled into nothing but painful memories and reminders of the life she wasn’t going to have.
She cradled baby Jareth close as she fed him very early one morning, before the sun was even in the sky. It had only been a few days since Ethan had moved out – but it felt like a lifetime.