BY JEN MCCONNELL
I want her to be happy. And I know she isn’t happy. Not since the second one. She loves the children–of course she does–but she wants her body back.
You don’t know how it feels, she says. You loved my pregnant body–I loved my pregnant body. But now. It’s all so deflated.
We are in the bedroom. I am naked in bed, waiting–hoping for her. She is just out of the shower, turning this way and that in front of the mirror. She cups her breasts and lifts them. She moves her hands and they fall back to place. They are perfect – different, sure, but still perfect. I tell her how beautiful she is, but my voice is crowded out by the one in her head.
She wants a boob job. Not to make them bigger, she says. Just to put them back where they belong. This was a conversation we’ve had before.
We don’t have the money for something like that, I remind her.
But I found a way, she tells me.
I’m smart. I went to college. I could sniff out a bad deal and no matter how I sliced it, I couldn’t see how this could wrong.
I’d start at entry level. It would time to get enough credits for the surgery, but the one thing I have is time, especially if Harold helps out more with the kids.
During the day, my mommy-at-home routine stays the same. When Harold comes home from work, we eat dinner, have family time, put the kids to bed, and Harold settles in front of the TV. The usual. Now, though, instead of joining Harold, I go into the bedroom, lock the door and put on my headset. Then I answer the calls.
It’s easy, if boring, work. And every hour of calls I log, I earn three credits to my account. It’s perfect really. No money changes hands. I’m not an employee. No taxes to worry about. And I can work as many or as few hours as I want.
Most nights, I am up until 2 a.m. Harold begins sleeping in the guest room.
After a few weeks it starts to take a toll.
I don’t know how she functions with so little sleep. It’s like we have a newborn again. She is in this haze all the time.
But she’s determined and who am I to stop her? If I could, I’d buy her the surgery for Christmas.
I try not to listen to the calls. I get sick if I overhear anything. Disgusted by what she is saying to these anonymous callers and a little jealous that she’s never said such things to me.
I never knew she had this side. Maybe they give her a script. I don’t know. I don’t want to know.
She is too tired now to have sex with me. Even the weekends, when the kids are at my parents and we have time alone. She just wants to sleep or catch up on housework.
I try to take the laundry basket from her hands. Laundry can wait, I say, I want to be with you.
Soon, she says, her grip firm on the basket. In fact, she says, there is a way to earn credits even faster.
For each set of photos, I earn five credits. A set could be one photo or six. The difference really is the pose and the outfits. I can do five sets in an hour. Much faster than the calls and less exhausting. And I can do them while Bella’s at preschool and Tucker is with my mother-in-law.
They promise never to show my face.
Harold wasn’t too keen on the photos, which I understand.
I feel sexy in the photos, which makes me wonder if I really need the surgery after all.
I admit it. The photos bother me. But she does have more time for me now–I mean for the family–and isn’t so tired all the time.
I ask her to calculate how much longer until she has enough credits.
She laughs. “I have a long way to go. But there are more ways to go faster.”
We talked about it early in our relationship. The idea of another woman in bed. Titillating but it was never more than pillow talk. And after the kids came, we were both so tired and Evie was too distracted being a mommy for any more wild thoughts.
When we did have sex, we now “made love”–sweet, gentle, intimate love, which was great. Don’t get me wrong. I was happy to have sex at all but sometimes I wanted what we had before. Sloppy, loud, dirty, fun.
And now she talks about having sex with women for payment and I’m not included at all.
I knew he wouldn’t like it, but he agreed or at least didn’t disagree. Not like he would forbid me.
It’s not about the credit anymore or the surgery but I can’t tell Harold that. I finally feel more than just a wife, just a mother. It’s just another woman, how could he object? We used to talk about it all the time. Has he become a prude? We have sex less and less while I feel now like I’m on fire for it all the time.
This must be what it feels like for a guy–to want it all the time. And by “it” I mean orgasms. Let me be clear. I don’t mean I want a penis inside me all the time. That’s just one part of sex and not really the most important one, at least for me.
I see now for a man that’s the crucial point–to put it somewhere. But with another woman, especially the photos, everything is slowed down. Hands, fingers, tongues everywhere until we decide to stop.
She invites me to be part of a video. I’m the only man she wants to have sex with, she told me.
My younger self screams inside as I say no as gently as I can. It is beyond exciting to think about my wife with another woman but the reality - I can’t handle that. I can’t even look at the photos, which I know disappoints her. No way I could be part of it.
I know she doesn’t want the boob job anymore. We don’t even talk about it.
I only hope that whatever she is looking for, she finds it soon. I want her to find herself but I want her to find her way back to me, too.
Jen McConnell's debut collection of stories, "Welcome, Anybody," was published in 2012 by Press 53. She has published fiction and poetry with Blue Lotus Review, Mused, The Oddville Press, Welter and more. She also received her MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College.