AMP. Always Electric.

Volume 4, No. 1

The Other Woman

You wondered how your dad could run off with another woman.
You blamed your mother.
When you grew older, you thumbed through tattered magazines in the beauty 
salon and read the anonymous columns written by the Other Woman.  
So yes, you knew before you even became an Other Woman yourself, that 
sleeping with a married man would cost you big time.  You were prepared for heartache, 
longing, anxious nights waiting by the phone.  
But you still weren't ready for how blue you'd get, or how deep in debt, or how 
divorced you'd feel from your own self.

* * *

Brief summary of the affair:
He's an older man.  You're a younger woman.  
He's a supervisor.  You're a new hire.
He's married.  You're not.
He's a father.  Your father left you.
He's a cliché and so are you.

* * *

It begins with a smile in the hallway.  A few pleasant remarks in the break room.  
A knowing smile across the conference room table.  An invitation to lunch.  An invitation 
for drinks.  An invitation to co-present at a workshop in the next town over. 
You're a young woman just starting out in a business dominated by—who else?—
men.  You need guidance.  You need a mentor.  
He will show you the ropes.  Give you the lay of the land.  Drive you out of town, 
making no mention of how you're supposed to find your way back. 
 
* * *

You know what you're about to do is wrong, but you've always been the good girl 
and wrong has always intrigued you. 
You want to rebel.  Become the other woman you're not.
   
* * *

Your transformation begins with the hair.  You dig deep into your paycheck and 
invest in golden highlights, but tell the stylist not to lop too much off.  
You know he wants a girl with long hair.  A girl that reminds him of his wife 
before he married her.  A girl that now could be his daughter.
But isn't.

* * *
Shoes next. The new heels leave you taller but topple you even deeper into debt.
Then out comes the credit card for form-fitting sheaths, jackets that pull at the 
bust, leggings with hidden tummy control, patterned hosiery.  
There are predictable visits to Victoria's Secret for thongs and push-up bras. 
You wonder what colors he likes—probably tomato red or Barbie pink, whereas 
you lean toward the jewel tones—emerald, ruby, sapphire.  
You want to feel expensive, so you spend that way too.
Your most daring indulgence:  a turquoise silk slip that reminds you of the color 
of the spelling book you were studying the afternoon your mother told you your father 
had gone for good.  
You decide this is what you will wear when you. . . 
Yes, this will be the last item this man will take off your body.

* * *

Skin must be smooth.  But drugstore brands won't do.  You visit boutiques where 
each product costs a minor fortune and the saleswoman convinces you to buy the 
handcrafted soap, bath bombs, and hand cream to match the body lotions.  
At home you slather on lotion both a.m. and p.m.  You smell, alternately, like a 
cucumber, a hot cup of ginger tea, and a mango smoothie. 
You want him to eat and drink you, until there is nothing left.

* * *

You buy a foot file, pumice stone, gold toenail clippers, and turquoise polish that costs 18 dollars a bottle.
You coat your feet in petroleum jelly and wear thick white 
cotton socks to bed.  
Even overnight, you're working hard to seduce him.

* * *

The only thing you scrimp on is food. You pass up the doughnut holes at the 
weekly staff meeting. You toss every half-eaten half-pint of ice cream in your freezer 
labeled "rocky" and "chunky."
You eat out only when he asks you to.  But you draw the line at kale salad.  You 
will not turn into a woman who orders kale salad.  You'll stick to the Cobb or the Caesar, 
while he chows down on pulled pork and New York strip and blue cheese burgers.
 
* * *

In the end, he doesn't care what you smell like.  How your skin feels.  How good 
your haircut is or what you wear or how thin your hips.  He's got you naked in less than a 
minute.  He's in and out in another five.  
You're like a piece of pie.  A second drink.  The bacon his cardiologist has 
warned him not to eat.  
You're not someone to love and cherish and to have and to hold.  You are to not-
hold, as he turns over in the hotel bed, picks up his vibrating phone, then shushes you to 
take a call from his wife.

* * *

You want to follow him into the bathroom.  You want to grab his phone and flush 
it down the toilet when you overhear him tell his wife, Love you too, honey.   
You pull your slip over your head.  As he pulls on his pants, you look at the thick
wallet in his back pocket and wish he would leave you five hundred bucks on the nightstand.  
Better yet, a thousand. Why not?  You know you've sold yourself.
 
* * * 

He has no idea.  No idea how much this brief encounter has driven you into debt 
and left your body intact, but your self in fragments.  
Can you Uber home? he asks.  I promised to pick up my daughter.
  
* * *

A father should never keep his daughter waiting, you want to tell him.  
But don't.

* * *

He paid for the room.  So maybe you should get his money's worth and stay overnight.  
But no:  look at you.  Look at you, looking at your other self in the hotel mirror,
slumped in the side chair, your turquoise slip in disarray, your legs splayed, your soft, 
pampered feet already hardening themselves for the long journey home.  
 

Rita Ciresi

Rita Ciresi is author of the novels Bring Back My Body to MePink Slip, Blue Italian, and Remind Me Again Why I Married You, and three award-winning story collections, Second WifeSometimes I Dream in Italian, and Mother Rocket. She is professor of English at the University of South Florida and fiction editor of 2 Bridges Review. Visit her website at www.ritaciresi.com.