I woke up on Monday morning with a mild fever. With the swine flu making its rounds I knew that my boss would not want me to come to work so I emailed and said I had a fever. Her response was to STAY HOME! I did. Todd finally called me back later that morning and I asked him how things had gone the night before. He said that Stacey had told him that morning that it turned out to be some chain thing where they try to get email addresses. I was suspicious. Todd said that he had asked her why they used his name and she had told him that it was because the “hook” had something to do with finding out how your husband was spending money. I remember thinking if she is up to something she is smart because Todd isn’t very computer savvy and wouldn’t know to question that. I knew better and wasn’t quite buying it. I knew better than to tell Todd though. He was actually somewhat calm but he did say that he felt like she wasn’t telling him something. I reminded him that if he were to push it she would definitely become more suspicious. “Jason.. I’m still SO scared!” “I just don’t know what I’m going to do if she finds out!” I heard the fear in his voice but he was much calmer than he had been the day before. “Todd, it’s going to be fine.” I said. “Just go about your business and don’t give her reason to suspect anything.” I told him to hang in there and to call me if anything happened or if he just needed to talk to me.
Todd called that evening and told me that he and Stacey has been together for most of the day and she seemed okay but he could sense that something was off. I asked him if it might be possible that he’s so freaked out that maybe he’s reacting to his own anxiety. He wasn’t sure but he was much more relaxed. He told me that he’d spent the entire night before wide awake just holding on to Stacey. He was convinced that it would be the last night they spent together. I was heartbroken for him. I hated that he always went to those places of desperation whenever he was scared. There was something new in his voice that I hadn’t heard for a long time. I sensed that he was so freaked out that he was pulling away from me. I knew I was walking a thin line and had to be careful not to push him too far. All I could do was be his friend and support him. He was relieved but he was scared too. I was nervous myself.
Tuesday morning I got up and I still had a fever so I decided to drive in to work alone. I figured that it would be a good idea to have my car just in case I started to feel worse or my fever went back up. Just my luck, my car wouldn’t start so Chad had to help me jump it. That process took a little while and landed us both in a massive amount of traffic. I hate Bay Area traffic! The drive took forever but I finally arrived at work at around 9:30 that morning. I had no idea what the morning had in store for me.
I don’t remember the exact time but it was around 10:30 Tuesday morning when I heard someone say, “Are you Jason?” I looked up to see a very pretty, petite blond woman speaking to me. “Yes.” I said. “Do you know who I am?” she said. “I’m sorry, do we have an appointment?” I asked. “No, it’s personal.” “Can we speak somewhere in private?” She asked. My coworker was eyeing the situation carefully. “Of course.” I said and I guided her into our conference room, shutting the door behind me.
“Do you know who I am?” She asked softly – she was shaking but she spoke with clarity and determination.
“No, but you do look familiar.” I said.
“My name is Stacey Medina.” She said.
I immediately recognized the name and I think I must have realized who she was but it still wasn’t sinking in.
“I’m Todd Medina’s wife. I know everything Jason. Please don’t try to lie to me. I’m not here to ruin anyone’s life. I just want the truth and I know that Todd won’t give it to me.”
In that moment my worst fear for Todd became a reality and I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me. I could feel my knees start to buckle and I started to lean to one side. Thankfully I had been standing next to a wall and that wall caught my fall. I hit the wall with a thud.
I thought for a second about trying to deny everything but I was staring this poor woman in the face and she was effectively pleading with me to help her. What else could I do? I asked her to sit and I sat a few seats down from her.
“How did you find me?” I asked.
“That’s not really important right now.” She said.
She was right but still… I was in shock!
“I came to you because I knew that Todd would lie and I need to know the truth Jason. Please help me!” She pleaded.
I was in a complete panic as I thought of all of the times that Todd had told me that he would kill himself if his wife ever found out. “Oh Stacey!” I gasped. I was now shaking too.
“I’m so sorry!” I said.
“Todd on my God, Todd will die, he’ll kill himself if he thinks he’s going to lose you and the kids!” I said. “He’s told me over and over what he’d do!”
“I know.” She said.
As this devastated woman was sitting across the table from me I realized that we would have to work together to keep Todd safe. I remember thinking if she could find the strength to keep it together for Todd then so can I.
“Stacey, you’re Todd’s best friend. You’re his world!” I said. “You need to know that he fought this!” “He doesn’t want this!” “He wants you but he just can’t fight it anymore!” I said.
“I know.” She said. “I know.”
Tears were streaming down her face and her pain and grief were palpable as her shaking hand gently wiped the tears from her face.
“Stacey, I know he’ll try to hurt himself! I just know it!” I said, clearly panicked. “He can’t lose you!” “He just can’t!” “I’ll do anything! ANYTHING Stacey!”
“He’ll never lose me. I’ll always love him and he’ll always be my best friend.” She said.
I was deeply touched by her words and I realized that I had been right all along. Todd was certain that she would hate him but I knew that she wouldn’t. I had formed a connection with her well before ever meeting her. Todd had painted an accurate picture of their relationship but he didn’t have the faith that I had.
“Jason, I need your help.” She said. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do!” She cried.
“Stacey – I’ll do anything… anything at all… you just can’t let Todd hurt himself! PLEASE!” I pleaded.
My only thought was of Todd and I was willing to do whatever it took to keep him safe.
Stacey looked at me with her pleading blue eyes and softly asked, “Do you love him?” My heart sank and I thought for a second about lying but I knew that if she was asking the question then she probably already knew the answer. My head fell and I began to sob. I took a deep breath, looked up at her, and said, “I’m so sorry Stacey!” I was trying to stall so my head fell again and I continued to sob. I looked back up at her again and said, “I do.” “I really do.” I sensed that she was as prepared for my answer as anyone could be but it still stung. I felt terrible for her.
“Does he care about you,” She asked. I knew what she was really asking me but I knew she wasn’t ready to hear the actual words.
“Stacey I think Todd should tell you that, don’t you?” I answered.
“He won’t tell me the truth Jason. You know he won’t.” she said.
I knew she was right but it was almost more difficult to answer the question of how Todd felt about me than it was to tell her how I felt about him. I felt as if I was betraying Todd but I also felt that she deserved the truth. I answered her as best I could.
“Yes – I think he does.” I said softly through my tears. Of course I knew very well that we loved me but I also knew that there was a difference that simply could not be compared. He had built a life with Stacey. He loved her more than life and she loved him in the same way. I had only known Todd for five months. There was absolutely no way I had ever tried to fool myself into thinking that Todd would ever choose anyone other than Stacey if he were ever to be forced. As I saw it, the only option I had in this situation was to show Stacey the respect she deserved by being completely honest with her. But when it came to how Todd felt about me I just couldn’t bring myself to be totally honest. Not to mention that whatever Todd and I had paled in comparison to the life and love she had built with him. I would not disrespect that by trying to compare the love Todd had for me with the love he had for her.
“How long has this been going on?” She asked.
I hung my head as I said, “We met in the spring.”
It was about this time that I started to feel a little claustrophobic in the conference room at work. I suggested that we take a walk. I felt like moving around would be a better way of getting some of our energy out. We found a spot under a tree to sit on a bench and talk but there was too much construction going on around us and we had a hard time hearing each other. Stacey told me that her main concern was that Todd not do anything to hurt himself. She wanted to make sure that she let him know that she will always love him and there was nothing that would ever get in the way of that. I repeated my promise to do whatever she needed to ensure the same. Something in me knew that she couldn’t tell him. I think she sensed it as well. I knew that if she told him he would shut down and try to get out of it. There was simply no use in lying but I knew Todd would try and I also knew that would only make Stacey’s pain worse and potentially push her away from him. She clearly loved him as much as I had always suspected so my only option was to tell her the truth and do whatever needed to keep Todd safe. The construction noise had made it too difficult to continue our conversation so we started to walk. When we found a place to stand and talk and I mustered the courage to ask her if she was shocked when she found out. She told me that it was shocking, but she wasn’t really shocked. She’d always kind of known. She talked about some of the same things that Todd had been telling me for months. Her description of almost always having to initiate sex and other things that had aroused her suspicions over the years were perfectly in line with what Todd had told me.
In her grief and devastation Stacey managed to do something that I never saw coming. She reached out to me and I could feel a connection with her. We both loved Todd and we both wanted him to get through this no matter what it took. Stacey agreed that she couldn’t confront Todd because she saw the same scenario that I saw – he would shut down and lie and then most likely harm himself. She asked if I thought we should do it together. That felt like an ambush to me and I wasn’t sure about it. We discussed several different options but she was clear on one thing: I should be there. We both seemed to know that having me there would force Todd to be honest and face his worst fear. The hardest part for me was that I felt like I was betraying him. I knew deep down it was what was best for him and that it would save his future relationship with Stacey. Still – it was horrific for me. I was so scared for Todd and so was Stacey.
Stacey was supposed to meet Todd that afternoon for lunch. She asked me if I would be willing to go. “Of course.” I said. “Whatever you need.” I wasn’t about to take any chances and I recognized the amount of love and courage it had taken for her to come to my office. We decided that I would follow her to the mall where she had planned to meet Todd. I would park across the lot and she would tell him that she knew everything and that I was there, once he was safely out of his truck. Once the plan was made I looked at her and said, “I feel crazy for wanting to give you a hug.” She didn’t hesitate when I said that. Almost as if she was feeling the same thing she reached out for me and we embraced as we both quietly cried. I was nearly numb with awe as this beautiful, petite woman had reached out to me and allowed ME to offer her a tiny bit of comfort.
Of course the question of how she found out and how she found me came up. Stacey told me pretty much what Todd had told me over the weekend. She had been contacted by a friend that wanted to be anonymous. This friend had seen Todd and I together and had apparently been following us. That kind of creeped me out. Someone was following us? The friend had contacted Stacey and she took it from there. She had gone through Todd’s cell phone bill looking for repeat numbers. It was the numbers he’d called while they were in Hawaii that caught her eye. She did something called a reverse phone number search on the internet and that gave her my name. Once she had my name the rest was easy. I knew that because my name is all over the internet. Todd was right, if she has a suspicion about something she will follow it through until she finds what she’s looking for. I still found it creepy that someone had been following us but that was totally unimportant.
Stacey had parked quite a distance from where I was parked so I ended up giving her a ride to her car. As we left the elevator in the parking garage she said, “Gray SUV, right?” That was a little creepy but she was right and I figured that her anonymous friend had told her. As we pulled out of the parking garage I continue to tell her how sorry I was. And I told her that she was everything that Todd had told me she was and much more. During our conversation on the way to her car she told me that she was pleasantly surprised by how nice I was and that it helped. How could I not be nice to her? She’d already demonstrated more grace in this situation than anyone could ever expect from her.
On the drive across the Golden Gate Bridge I remember being racked with guilt and worry. Even with that, I knew that Todd was going to be okay because Stacey had made it very clear that there was nothing that he could say or do to make her love him any less. She had told me back at my office that if he’d been having an affair with a woman she could forgive him for that. But this, this was out of her control and had nothing to do with her. She couldn’t fight this. There was nothing to forgive and she seemed to understand that this truly wasn’t his fault either. She was most sad at the realization that he had been so tormented for so long and she never knew. I was amazed that she had enough love in her heart to see right to the source of the problem and not blame anyone or anything. The woman was truly a testament to the power of love. Even though she was devastated she was able to tap into the power of the bond she shared with Todd as a source of strength.
When we arrived at the parking lot she parked her car next to mine. Todd had called while we were on our way and I didn’t answer. I knew that I would tell him if I spoke to him and I worried that the shock would either cause him to do something stupid or to drive his truck off the road. Stacey got out of her car and I rolled down my window. She told me that Todd would be there in a few minutes and she’d meet him on the other side of the parking lot. I reached my hand across to her and she took it. “I’m so sorry Stacey.” I said. I felt her fear and her pain as she walked away to meet her husband.
I saw Todd’s truck at the stop light so I ducked down just in case he saw my car. After he was safely in the parking lot. I waited. It felt like an hour but it was more like 5 minutes. Then I saw Stacey and Todd walking hand in hand towards me. My heart sank as I began to see that their lives were going to be forever changed by this. As they got closer to me I could see how tightly they were holding on to one another. I fought as hard as I could to stay off tears. I needed to be strong for Todd and for Stacey. When they got to me Todd broke down and put his arms around Stacey as he said over and over how sorry he was. He spoke softly and told her how many times he had wanted to tell her but he was afraid that she’d leave him and he couldn’t live without her. Stacey was holding on to Todd and Todd was holding on to Stacey as she said, “I’ll never leave you Todd.” “I’ll always be here for you.” “I don’t know how but we’ll get through this.” It was about this time I started to feel a little like I was intruding but I also knew that the hard questions were still to come. Watching the two of them was gut-wrenching! At one point I doubled over as I sobbed. I looked at Todd and told him how sorry I was. “Did you have anything to do with this?” He said looking directly at me. I knew that he was grasping at straws and I knew that, deep down, he knew that I had nothing to do with it but it still felt like he had punched me in the stomach. I wasn’t even able to answer before Stacey came to my defense. “No Todd!” She said. “He had nothing to do with this.. Nothing!” “If you had seen the look on his face when I showed up at his office you would know.” “I asked him to be here to support you.”
Even in her grief Stacey had the clarity of mind to defend me. I was astonished. She could have thrown me under the bus and not given it a second thought. At that point she could have very easily said she didn’t know and didn’t care and pushed me aside and no one would have blamed her. She seemed to sense that my being there was a sign that I truly did love Todd and she was willing to do whatever it took to help him.
The conversation continued and Todd broke down at several points but Stacey never wavered. She was steadfast in one thing: She loved him and that was never going to change and she would do whatever she had to support him. As I stood there looking at the two of them I was consumed by a deep sadness for them both. They were clearly holding on to one another for dear life but I sensed that they both knew that things were never going to be the same. Although I was devastated for them, I felt honored to be witness to this beautiful love that I knew was unbreakable.
After about 45 minutes, when Stacey and I both started to feel like Todd wasn’t going to harm himself I was feeling like I might need to make a respectful exit. Just as I was about to say something Stacey asked Todd if he could pick up their daughter on his way home. She said she was going to go home. Todd was standing with his head hung low and she grabbed his face and TOLD him to drive carefully. I was so impressed with her strength. Before she left she asked Todd if he’d like to spend some time talking to me. I could see that Todd was torn but I knew that he wanted to spend some time with me. I said nothing. But I was relieved when he said yes. Stacey hugged him, gave him a kiss and peeled herself away from him. What she did next will stick with me for the rest of my life. She came to me; she reached out and hugged me tightly as she thanked me for being there for Todd. Stacey got in her car and left.
As Stacey was pulling away Todd broke down again and I had to fight my instinct to put my arms around him and hold him. “I want to hug you right now Todd but I don’t want Stacey to see that and feel disrespected so I have to wait until she’s out of the parking lot and out of sight.” I said. Todd just stood there looking helpless and scared and it was killing me not to put my arms around him! I watched Stacey pull out of the lot and once she was safely out of sight I went to Todd and put my arms around him. I had become very familiar with how it felt to have Todd sob in my arms but something was very different this time. As devastated as he was I sensed his relief. He had just stared down his deepest darkest fear and won. We got into the back of my car for some more privacy and Todd collapsed in my arms as he sobbed. When he had pulled himself together I looked at him and said, “You are one lucky guy Todd.” “I don’t know how I knew, but I knew that she would support you.” I said. “I know. I just can’t believe that you were right!” He said. “Listen,” I said. “You have just been handed a golden gift. Don’t fuck it up by lying to her. You tell her the truth! DO NOT lie to her about anything Todd! If you try to lie and convince her that you can be something that you’re not and you get caught in 5 or 10 years, THEN your family will be torn apart and you will lose her!” I knew that Todd knew that I was right but he was still trying to fight it. I felt it. I went on, “Don’t lie to her Todd – I mean it - because if she asks me something I WILL tell her the truth.”
Todd and I spent about half an hour in the back of my car and when I felt like he was going to be okay I told him that he needed to go home to be with Stacey. He agreed. As he was leaving I told him that I don’t know why but I didn’t feel like we had to say goodbye. He felt it too but we had no idea just how right we were.
I asked Todd if I could call Stacey to let her know that he was okay and on his way. He said that I could and he gave me her cell phone number. I waited for Todd to get to his truck before I called Stacey. When she answered she was pleasant and friendly. “Hi Stacey, It’s Jason.” I said sheepishly. “I know who it is, you’re in my contacts!” She said with a surprisingly friendly tone. I was taken aback by the friendliness of her tone. “I just wanted to let you know that Todd is on his way and I think he’ll be okay.” I said. Stacey thanked me for letting her know and thanked me again for coming with her. She told me that it was the best way to handle that situation. I couldn’t believe SHE was thanking ME!
“Stacey, I just want you to know that the grace and dignity you showed today has truly touched me!” I said. “I don’t know that I could have been as calm and respectful as you have been through this.” “Thank you,” I said.
I went on, “I have always understood that if this day ever came I would have to walk away from Todd and I want you to know that I will do whatever you want. If walking away is what you want then that is what I will do.” I said. It was killing me to say that but I knew that there was no way I could put this poor woman through anymore pain.
“No Jason! Todd needs you right now!” “I don’t want you to walk away.” “Losing you would be too hard for him and you can help him in ways that I never could.” She said.
I was in stunned!
“Stacey, are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes Jason.” “Todd needs your support right now and I love him enough to let him have it.” She replied.
This was something that I had not anticipated. How could I? I knew Stacey would always support Todd but I expected nothing less than her hatred with respect to me. I wasn’t even sure how to respond to her. Should I thank her? That didn’t seem appropriate because she wasn’t doing it for me, she was doing it for Todd. I responded by promising her that I would do whatever she wanted and I was more than happy to be there for her too. If she needed someone to lean on or just wanted someone to talk to I would be there. I also promised her that I would not go ‘there’ when I was with Todd. What Todd needed now was a friend and I would never do anything to dishonor what they were going through. I sensed that Stacey believed me. As I hung up with her I reminded her again that I was here for her too and if she needed honest answers I would not lie to her. Stacey thanked me and told me she’d talk to me soon.
As I pulled out of the mall parking lot I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that Stacey didn’t want me to completely disappear. As I drove home I began to cry. At one point I had to pull over because I was uncontrollably sobbing. In her grief and sorrow this amazing woman had managed to reach out to me. It was simply unbelievable. Once I pulled myself together I managed to get myself home. I called Todd later that evening to see how he was. He was still in shock but I could tell that he was relieved to finally have his secret out to the one person that he had feared the most. I told him what Stacey had told me earlier in the day about not wanting me to remove myself from the picture. He was as shocked as I was but he was also happy that I wasn’t going to have to walk away. I told Todd that until he and Stacey figure what was going on with them we could be nothing more than friends. He agreed. We both understood that what Todd needed most was a friend and I was determined to be the friend he needed. Stacey had given both Todd and I a huge gift and I was not about to disrespect her anymore than I already had. I told Todd that he was going to be okay and that he just had to hold on. Then we said our goodbye’s, agreeing to talk the following day.
I poured myself a strong drink after I got off the phone with Todd, closed the door to my room and cried for an hour. The strange thing about t it was that my tears were not for Todd. My tears were for Stacey. I knew Todd was going to be okay but Stacey’s entire life had altered course, dramatically, in the matter of a day. I wept for her loss, and for her pain. She was trying to be strong for Todd and her only concern was that he get through this. How she managed to understand that I was not the problem and see that if it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else was almost more than I could wrap my mind around. I felt an odd connection with her. A friendship or commonality with her was beginning to form.
As I was working on some work emails that evening Stacey sent me a text message. She wanted to know if I’d I could meet her the next day for coffee. I could hardly believe what I was reading! I’d certainly hoped that she would accept my offer of support but I didn’t think it would be that fast. My response was immediate: “OF COURSE! When/where?” We agreed to meet in the same parking lot where we had last been together and go to the Starbucks that was there.
I woke up Wednesday morning exhausted. I had barely spelt the night before. I tossed and turned most of the night. As much as I loved Todd, it was Stacey that consumed those sleepless hours. I thought of the grace, strength and compassion she had demonstrated and I found myself worrying about her. She had told Todd in the parking lot the he needed to see a councilor but when I mentioned to her that she needed to see someone too her only concern was of him. “I’ll worry about me when I know he’s okay.” She said. I still had a mild fever so I knew that going to work wasn’t an option, plus I just didn’t think I had the strength to go into the office. I knew that what I was going through was nothing compared to what Stacey and Todd were facing but it was still hard for me.
I called Todd early that morning and he called me back within a few minutes. I asked how he was and he told me that he was numb. “I just can’t believe this,” he said. “Me either.” I replied. “I know it’s far too early for you to see right now, but you’re going to be okay Todd.” “I can feel it.” I knew that it was going to be a hard sell for him but I also knew that he needed to hear it and trust me as he had always done. I asked him if Stacey had told him that we had planned to have coffee and when I said that and he sounded surprised. I told him not to worry about it. She probably didn’t want to freak him out but I had thought to ask her the night before what I should do if I spoke to him. As I was sending her a text that I didn’t really want to have anymore lies, she was sending a text that read, “Tell him. No more secrets!” Clearly she and I had similar ways of thinking. I sensed that Todd wanted, even needed, to see me so I asked him if he’d like to try to get together that afternoon when I was done with Stacey. I immediately sensed his hesitation when I asked the question. I reminded him of what Stacey had told me the day before about her not wanting me to go away and told him that I would ask her when we were done with coffee how she felt about Todd and I getting together to talk. I promised him that if I sensed ANY discomfort I would tell him. Todd told me that he would love to see me but only if Stacey was okay with it.
I met Stacey in the parking lot at exactly 12:10 that afternoon. I could see that she was nervous and so was I. I wasn’t sure what I would say to her but I was sure that whatever it was would be nothing but the truth. When she arrived she hugged me and we walked to Starbucks. She had a Kleenex in her hand as we ordered our drinks. We made small talk and waited for our drinks. Once they were in hand we found a table outside. As we sat and talked I reached for her hand and held it tightly. She tried hard to be strong and not break down but it was no use. There was just too much despair in her heart and she had to let it out in small spurts of tears. I told her how much I was in awe of her and how dedicated I was to being there in whatever capacity she wanted. One of the things I hate most about myself is that when I’m nervous or I feel insecure I tend to repeat myself over and over. I knew I was doing it with Stacey but I just couldn’t stop it. I promised her again that whenever I was with Todd I would ensure that I was nothing more than his friend. Stacey is a smart woman so I knew that she understood that there was nothing Todd and I could do about our feelings but we could control our actions and I knew that we could do that much for her. It was only fair.
Our first coffee meeting was a little awkward, at best, but it was nice. I felt that Stacey trusted me and that she believed that I would not dishonor her relationship with Todd any further. She was so devastated and I have always been a very compassionate person. I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility to her now. If she could find a place in her heart that was not full of hate for me then the least I could do was be there to support her. As we walked to her car I asked her how she felt about Todd and I spending some time together that afternoon to talk. I told her that if she was at all uncomfortable with it we wouldn’t do it. Stacey didn’t skip a beat as she said, “No, it’s fine, really. I’m fine with it.” She continued to amaze me and I thanked her as I hugged her goodbye.
I called Todd after Stacey had pulled away and told him that she was okay with us getting together. He was as surprised as I was. He had a fairly busy day planned and he needed to pick up their daughter from school that afternoon. Finding the time and place was a little difficult. I had thought in advance and mixed up some margaritas just in case Stacey was okay with Todd and I spending time together and we were able to find the time. Todd asked me if I was okay with driving all the way to Petaluma, the closest town to where they lived. Of course I was and asked him to tell me where he wanted me to meet him. He gave me very specific and very clear directions to a park that wasn’t too far from his house. I found the park easily and park my SUV under a shade tree with the back facing some trees. I opened the hatch and waited for Todd. He arrived about 20 minutes later. He was visibly exhausted and I hugged him the moment I saw him. We sat on the tailgate of my SUV and I poured him a margarita as we talked. It took all of about 5 minutes for Todd to breakdown. I took his drink from him and wrapped my arms around him as he sobbed deeply. I felt his fear, his relief, and his grief. As he sobbed he told me that he just didn’t know how he was going to let her go. How they would tell the family. He simply couldn’t bring himself to see a future without Stacey. I had only met Stacey the day before but one thing became crystal clear to me: Todd and Stacey would be forever bonded together. I looked down at Todd in his sorrow and despair and said, “Todd, Stacey isn’t going anywhere.” “She loves you.” “It will be different for sure, but there is no reason that you can’t still have the same hopes and dreams for your future.” He was simply inconsolable. There was nothing I could say to make it better but I saw it in his eyes that he knew I was right. I took some comfort in that. Not much, but some. I asked him again if he was still with me. And, of course he was. As we were talking I told him that there was something I needed to say to him about the previous day. It was important that he know that even though I completely understood why he had said it, the worst part of that entire day for me was when he asked me if I had anything to do it Stacey finding out. I told him that I felt like he had bunched me in the stomach. The look of remorse on his face was all I needed. Actually I really didn’t even need that. I knew the second he said it that he regretted it. I also knew that there were going to be many times when he struggled against feeling as if getting caught was somehow my fault. All I could do was trust that Stacey would guide him away from that. It was out of my control.
As we sat on the tailgate of my SUV that afternoon it was clear to me that Todd recognized that he was a very lucky man. But I also knew that we needed to address the white elephant sitting right in front of us. “Look,” I said. “It’s pretty obvious that there is still a major attraction between us.” Todd grinned his mischievous little grin. “Ya, I know,” he said. “Todd the only thing I can be right now is your friend. I will not disrespect what you and Stacey have to go through. I just can’ do it.” He knew I was right and he agreed but I felt that it was important that we recognize the situation for what it was. The attraction was there but it simply had to take a back seat to the healing process that he and Stacey were about to go through.
This was the first time Todd and I had been together without him having to fear being caught. I knew it felt good to him but he was still fighting how he felt. I knew he didn’t want it and I knew that his mind was still trying to figure out how he and Stacey could make things work and stay together. There wasn’t much I could say on that subject because whatever he and Stacey decided to do was between the two of them. I could play no part in that situation. My previous conversation that day with Stacey gave me a very clear sense of where her mind had been going. She hated the idea of dissolving her marriage to Todd but she also recognized the situation for what it was.
Stacey called Todd as she was on her way home from work. It was awkward for him to be sitting right next to me while speaking to her knowing that she knew where he was and who he was with. I knew he appreciated it and that he welcomed the honesty with relief. Still, the reality of it was difficult for him to come to terms with. She was kind enough to keep her conversation with Todd short, saying that she didn’t want to interrupt his time with me. Both Todd and I continued to be amazed by her. Our visit lasted another half an hour or so. We hugged and rubbed one another’s forearms throughout our visit. There was an occasional, gentle and tender kiss but nothing passionate or in anyway sexual. We were both determined to stay away from that.
I had told Stacey that I would call her when Todd and I were finished to let her know that he was okay. As Todd was pulling out of the parking lot he stopped in front of my car, rolled down his window as I was dialing Stacey he said, “Hey – ask her if I can have you both together, at the same time.” Of course he was kidding but I knew only half way. Part of him really wanted us both and he fantasized about the three of us being together. We’d had conversations about his fantasy of a three way and despite the fact that it had been many years since I had been anywhere near a woman in that way, I told Todd that I would do it for him. This was well before I had actually met Stacey but I knew that it was something that Todd had always wanted to experience.
I called Stacey to tell her that Todd was okay and he had opened up to me and let some of what he was feeling out. She was genuinely happy to hear this and I thanked her again for giving us the time we’d had. “Of course Jason. I know you’re important to Todd and it means a lot that you care so much. It really helps,” she said. Todd pulled out of the parking lot ahead of me. He turned right and I turned left.
As I was driving home from my visit with Todd that afternoon I was overcome with a profound sense of gratitude towards Stacey. Earlier in the day I had asked her if I could have her email address and she gave it to me. I had decided to send her an email that evening when I had relaxed from the stress of the day. Seeing both of them in the same day was an emotional roller coaster for sure but the way I saw it was that nothing I was dealing with could in any way compare to what either of them were facing. I really wanted to Stacey to get a sense of how I felt so I sent her the following email:
I have often been told that I write much better than I speak so I thought it worth the time to write you this letter.
I know I have said it many times since this all started, but I just can’t say it enough: The grace, compassion, and dignity you have shown through all of this have truly been awe inspiring. I can only imagine the pain this is causing you but your love for Todd (and his love for you) has proven to be a force of unimaginable strength and beauty. I honestly believe that when you come out the other side of this it will be stronger – different perhaps, but stronger for sure! I know that is hard for either of you to see right now so all I can say to you is what I have said to Todd: SO FAR I have been right about just about everything so trust me. The one thing I NEVER expected was your reaction to me and to be honest, I am still trying to wrap my mind around it. Never, in a million years, could I have imagined that you would be so gracious and (dare I say) accepting of me. It’s mind blowing and I am so thankful.
There is nothing I could possibly ever do or say that could take this pain away from either of you – but please know that I wish that I could. Truly! I told Todd today that wherever this journey takes you, one thing is very clear to me: If anyone new enters either of your lives they will have to accept the bond that you and Todd share. As far I see it you are part of Todd and Todd is part of you and that is just the way that it will always be.
I want you to know how deeply touched I am by you. I know that all of this is still sinking in and I fully expect that there will come a time when need to let it out. Your strength is admirable but your suffering is overwhelming and very clear. I could feel it today and my heart aches for you. As crazy and twisted as it sounds, I do feel a connection with you. Perhaps Todd has something to do with that connection but I’m not so sure. Todd has often said that I am the male version of you and now I see that there are most definitely striking similarities in our personalities. More importantly as a fellow human being, I feel that what you need right now is someone to lean on. The fact that you reached out to me today was truly an honor; one that I would never betray or disrespect. Please know that I will always be as honest with you as you want me to, but I will also respect whatever you decide you need. As much as I hate to think of it, I understand that may mean that you might need me to not be around for awhile. If that day ever comes, I will respect it.
Todd would never be able to make this journey without you to support him - just as you would not be able to make it without him to support you. If my support helps either of you that would be a wonderful thing and, as I have already said, an honor to give.
I so appreciate you being “ok” with Todd and I spending time together to talk today. Just as I felt from you, he did need to let go. I know it takes a great deal of trust for you to believe that we will not do anything to disrespect your relationship and I very much appreciate that!
There really isn’t much more for me to say other than thank you again. I will do whatever you need/want to help and or support you both.
I followed up my email with a text letting her know that I had sent the email and told her to try to get some sleep. She hadn’t slept well the night before, nor had Todd, and I was concerned that they would both crack if they didn’t take care of themselves. Stacey responded after she read my email with her sincere thanks and told me to try to get some sleep. She knew that I hadn’t slept very well the previous night. From the looks of it we were all worn out. Before I went to bed that night I sent Stacey a text asking her if it was crazy that I was beginning to feel a connection with her. She responded by say, “It’s not crazy at all. We both love Todd.” She continued to amaze me.
I didn’t sleep very well that night either. I was up and down and my thoughts were constantly of Stacey and the pain she was in. I worried for Todd as I knew that the journey he was beginning would be a difficult one but one that was long overdue. I had decided to take the following day off too. I didn’t tell Todd about it because I knew he’d be annoyed. He’d specifically told me at the end of our last visit to get my butt to work! As an employer a strong work ethic is important to him but I also knew that I was emotionally exhausted and I was still running a low fever so staying home was best. I woke up on Thursday morning and did what I always did. I checked my email on my Blackberry. There was an email from Stacey, written earlier in the morning. As my eyes read what she had written I was filled with emotion. Again, the devastated woman had managed to make me feel accepted and appreciated:
Todd slept better last night. I didn't.... I kind of have an issue with that anyway and with all that's going on my mind is racing.
I'm sure Todd will tell you, but last night Cindy (their daughter) got a-hold of my phone and read my texts! Oh gosh, it was horrible....she was crying.... My heart sank. I looked back at what she read and I'm sure she came to the conclusion that I was having an affair! Fortunately, the texts weren't that detailed and I told her that I was just having a hard time with Nathan leaving and I was seeing a therapist and I just didn't want to make a big deal about it and that's why I didn't tell her. The relief on her face was relieving for both of us, but on the other hand, she is just going to be devastated when we tell her the truth.
Todd and I are really going to take things slow. We really have to come to terms with everything before we tell anybody else. It's still very unclear how long it will take until we figure things out, but he knows I'll be here for him no matter how long it takes.
Thanks again for the letter Jason. I know you're sincere. It's so weird, but I told Todd that I'm not jealous of you at all. I really mean that. It's hard to explain. I guess there's no right or wrong way to feel when you get news like this. We all know that the cheating thing wasn't right, but at this point there's nothing we can do about it.
I do feel very comfortable talking with you and I understand why Todd cares about you.
For me the most striking part of Stacey’s email was her understanding of why Todd had grown to care so much for me. I was overcome with emotion as I lay in bed that morning. I called Todd and left him a message asking him to call when he could and then I sent Stacey and email thanking her for her beautiful email. I asked her if might like to have lunch that day be she’d already planned to meet Todd for lunch that day.
When Todd called me back that morning he sounded exhausted. Apparently he’d taken extra over the counter sleeping pill the night before and was now suffering through the hangover. At least he slept though! Todd and I talked for about half an hour and I asked him if he’d like to find some time to get together that afternoon after he was done with Stacey. The moment I asked the question I knew what his heart was tell him but we was still waging his valiant battle against himself. “It’s kind of up to Stacey,” he said. I already knew that and told him to run it by her after their lunch date and to call me when he knew. I had already planned to be in the area that afternoon so I could meet him anywhere. He had an appointment scheduled immediately after his lunch date with Stacey so I told him that I could meet him in Fairfax, where his appointment was. Todd called just after his lunch date with Stacey and told me that she was totally fine with us getting together. I agreed to meet him in Fairfax when he finished with his appointment and we’d drive down the road a few miles to spot he knew of to pull off the side.
When Todd met me that afternoon he still looked a little tired. I guess it was mostly sad. I followed him down the road and pulled off to the side in front of his truck. I poured us each a margarita and we climbed into the back seat of my SUV. I barely got the question of how he was out when his lip began to quiver a little and tears started to well up in his eyes. He wasn’t good. The night before Stacey had broached the subject of how he might deal with it when the time came for her to find someone new. It was too much for him to bear as he spoke of it and he broke down in my arms. I felt as if I was holding a little boy and his sobs were similar to a child that has lost control and gasps for air in between sobs. I leaned back again the door and Todd leaned his back into my chest and continued to sob. “I don’t want to let her go. I can’t let her go. I can’t be without her,” he sobbed. I felt his pain as I wrapped my arms around him and held him tightly. His suffering was torture for me but I promised him that I wouldn’t leave him and would always be his friend. He needed this outlet and in that moment I fully understood the true nature of the gift Stacey had given him – and me.
Todd continued to cry as he said over and over that he didn’t want to let her go. All I could was hold him and remind him, again, that she had it clear that he never had to let her go. She would always be there for him but it would be different. What Todd was really struggling with the most was the fact that things between he and Stacey would never be the same. What I was struggling with was the fear that he would somehow begin to project responsibility of the situation onto me. I could feel him go to that place and then come back. At one point he even told me that even though he knew it wasn’t true he found himself thinking that it was my fault that he got caught and maybe it would be easier if I just wasn’t around. In the same breath he told me that he knew that was true. I’d grown used to Todd’s emotional roller coaster so at this point it didn’t really phase me. His words concerned me but this was his fight, not mine, and I knew that I needed to let him express and explore all areas of what he was feeling. Even if the places he had to go were painful for me, I could deal with it because I loved him.
When Todd pulled himself together that afternoon we sat and talked for an hour and a half. I asked him if he still felt “it” and his response was the same as it had always been. “Yes, of course,” he said in a soft voice. “I know Todd, I said. “But you don’t want it. You want Stacey.” His voice cracked as he replied, “Yes.” For some people hearing that someone the loved wanted someone else more might be difficult. For me, with Todd, I knew that wasn’t that he didn’t want me. It was he didn’t want to want me. I was never hurt of threatened when he spoke like this because I understood that this was part of the journey he needed to go on. Somehow, and I was still not sure how, he had to learn to embrace who he was. He had to get to the know the Todd that he had spent a lifetime running from. I told him this as I looked at him and said, “No matter what you need or how long it takes, I’ll be here for you. I love you and I won’t leave you.”
As we sat in my SUV that Thursday afternoon we spoke again of our mutual attraction to one another. “You’re pretty damn adorable for a big mess,” I teased. Todd smiled as he said, “And you’re pretty damn cute yourself.” This made us both giggle a little. “It’s going to be a long time until we can go there again Todd – if we ever can.” I said. “I know Jason. I know,” he said with sadness in his voice. Our conversation drifted back and forth between his fears for the future and his astonishment at how amazing Stacey had been during all of this. We hugged a lot and we both cried a lot. When it was time for him to head off we said our good-byes and we agreed that we’d try to get together the following week. He wasn’t sure of his work schedule but he said we’d talk soon.
I sent Stacey a text message on my home that afternoon asking her she could spare 5 or 10 minutes right after work because there was something that I wanted to say to her but I felt it would be better in person. She responded by saying that she thought a phone call would be better. Shortly after she got out of work she sent a text saying that I could call her so I pulled over. I hadn’t realized that the text I has sent gave the impression that something was wrong. “Is everything okay?” She asked the moment she answered. I realized that I should have made it clear that everything was okay and apologized for having not made the clear. As I spoke with Stacey that afternoon I started to recognize that I was beginning to go the place of repetition that I’d go to when I was nervous. The only reason I wanted to talk to her was because I wanted to tell her again what I had said in my email. I was so overwhelmed by her love for Todd and acceptance of me that I was finding it difficult to process. We spoke of her fears for the future and her realization that the life she had dreamed of with Todd was not going to be. She knew that they would still be connected but it would never be the same between them. Stacey was just as afraid of telling their family as Todd was so I told her the same thing that I told Todd: They shouldn’t worry about that yet. Until they found a place of strength and decided what they wanted there was no reason to tell anyone else.
Stacey and I spoke for an hour that afternoon which turned out to be a good thing because she was stuck in traffic that long. That evening I spoke with Todd and told him how proud I was of him. He was really struggling and he had to cut our conversation short because he was expecting an electrician. Before I hung up I asked him if he would be okay with me inviting Stacey to lunch the following day. He said he was fine with it and then we said our goodbyes. As Todd said goodbye I picked up on something. I could tell that he was fighting what I had feared. I’d expected that he would go back and forth with feeling that somehow it was my fault that he got caught. I also knew that there was nothing I could do about that. He knew deep down what the truth was and the only thing I could do was allow him to go through whatever process he needed to go through.
I sent Stacey a text message after I got off the phone with Todd and asked if she’d like to have lunch the following day. I was planning to work from home day but Stacey was still new at her job so she could only take her one hour lunch. I suggested we meet at Starbucks again. To save a little time I would get here early and get her coffee for her. I asked her text me with what she wanted and the plan was set.
Friday morning I got up early so that I could get some work done. As far as work was concerned I hadn’t gotten much done all week so I had to get up very early. I sent Stacey a text message that morning and asked if she’d slept any better. She had, but not much. As I was driving to meet Stacey I thought about the impact the week had had on me. I had been trying so hard to be strong for Stacey and for Todd that I hadn’t really thought of how I was feeling. I reality of the situation began to sink in as I drove. I was scared. I was very scared. Not only did I love Todd but I was now growing to care for Stacey too. At any moment either one of them could switch gears and ask me to leave the picture. I wasn’t too worried about that from Todd but if Stacey decided she didn’t want me around anymore I knew that, no matter how hard it would be for him, Todd would respect her wishes. I’ve never been very good with anxiety but as I drove to meet Stacey I knew that my emotions and what I was feeling were not her responsibility. Our meetings were not for me, they were for her. Truth be told, I did get something out of them though. It brought me a little comfort to know that I could offer her some support.
As I was ordering our Starbucks drinks Todd called me. He was having a hard time and I still sensed that he was having a hard to dealing with all that had been going on. I knew that he loved me but admitting that to Stacey was another story. We talked for a little while and then I saw Stacey walking up. I told Todd I’d call him later and said goodbye. As Stacey got closer I could see that she was holding a Kleenex. I could also see that she’d been crying. I walked up to her and gave her a hug. I could feel her trembling as she held in her emotions. Todd had told me that he was worried because she wasn’t eating very much so I picked up some pastries at Starbucks. As she sat down I gave them to her and she smiled and thanked me.
As I sat and looked at Stacey it was clear that she had been crying. “Bad day?” I asked. “I was doing okay but then I had to make my doctor’s appointment and they asked me why I felt that I need and HIV test.” She was now softly crying so I reached out and took her hand. I had been concerned about this. Todd told me that she had planned to get tested and I suggested that she go to Planned Parenthood or someplace anonymous. When Todd told me of her plans I told him that he should go with her but Stacey had insisted that wanted to go alone and would be going to her gynecologist. This was only the second time she’d be seeing this particular doctor so she didn’t feel that it would be that big of a deal. As she sat in front of me crying I realized it was simply the act of having to explain her situation that brought the weight of her situation down on her. “I’m sorry Stacey.” I was worried about that,” I said. “This is so hard.” She said softly. “Today a 90 year old man came into the doctor’s office where I work. He’d just lost his wife and I realized that I won’t have that with Todd and I’d always known that I would.” She was now steadily crying so I scooted my chair closer to hers so that I could put my arms around her. As she laid her head on my chest I could feel bed tiny frame gently contract with each sob. “I’m so sorry Stacey.” I said. By now I had said this dozens of times but there really wasn’t much more that I could say but I felt honored that she allowed me to hold her as she let out some of her pain.
Once Stacey had gained her composure we both sat back in our chairs. I looked at her and said, “This is your time Stacey.” “Whatever you want to talk about is fine with me.” She sat straight in her chair and said, “I’ve been thinking about what I would like to ask you – what I want to know.” “I told you that I won’t lie to you so you can ask me anything you want,” I said. Without warning, Stacey reached across the table, grabbed my hand and pulled it to her lap and said, “I really like you Jason!” “It means a lot to me that you care so much and it really does make all of this easier but I need to know something.” “I just need to make sure that I say this right.” Her intensity made me a little nervous and I got the sense that whatever she was about to ask me was not easy for her. “Whatever it is, you know I’ll be honest with my answer,” I said. “When we get through this and it’s all said and done, I need to know, do you.. will you still be here? Will you leave Chad?” “I don’t want Todd to be alone and I don’t want to form a relationship with you if you aren’t going to stick around.” I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what she was asking me. She spoke with sincerity and equal clarity so there was no doubt in my mind that she was basically asking me what my intentions were. I could feel the tears begin to form in my eyes as I thought of just how committed I was to sticking though this – no matter where it took us. What I hadn’t told Stacey but felt that I should was just how much I loved Todd. I looked away from Stacey as I tried to find the courage to tell her what I felt. I tried not to cry but it was useless. “Stacey, I don’t know if I should tell you this…. I’m afraid it will be too hard for you to hear but I feel like it will give you the answer to your question,” I said. “It’s okay Jason you can tell me, it’s fine, really.” “Go ahead,” She encouraged. I stumbled to get the words out. “I didn’t….didn’t… Stacey until I met Todd, I didn’t know that I could love someone as much as I love him.” I was crying as I said it because I was sure that hearing me say that would be very hard for her. But once I had it out it became clear that Stacey already knew how I felt. She also clearly understood that there was a big difference between the love that Todd and I shared and the love that she and Todd had. “Will you leave Chad?” She pressed on. That was the hard part of her question because Todd and I had discussed this many times. “Actually Stacey, Todd and I spoke about that a lot.” “I told him that he were ever to leave you it could never be for me and I were to ever leave Chad, it could not be for Todd,” I said. I went on, “As much as I would like to think that my marriage is salvageable, I don’t think that it is.” “The situation with Todd has nothing to do with what is broken in my marriage.” The long and the short of it was that the answer to her question was, yes. Yes – I would stick it out and I would be there for Todd. What I didn’t tell her was that I was concerned that Todd would try to push me away because he saw me as the problem. I could already feel him struggling and I instinctively knew that he would have shut me out if it hadn’t been for Stacey. Not because he didn’t love me but because he still didn’t want to love me. In her grief and her torment this amazing woman had been able to recognize that Todd and I did share something and that I could offer him support that she couldn’t. Now she was going so far as to make sure that I was willing to stick around through what we both knew was going to be a rocky road for all of us. He head was spinning at what was happening. Still, that afternoon with Stacey I began to see that I might need to walk away from Todd for a little while in order to let him navigate through this without my help. The thought broke my heart and I wasn’t sure if I could do it but I knew I had to give it a great deal of consideration.
I walked Stacey back to her car that afternoon, hugged her and thanked her again. As I had promised I called Todd back but he didn’t answer so I left him a message. I made some calls on the drive home and then I realized that the card I had meant to give to Stacey (for she and Todd) was still sitting on my dashboard. I sent her a text and asked if I could mail it. She responded with their PO Box information.
Stacey’s niece and their daughter had driven up that Friday to pick up their son from his first week at college. They were all planning to attend a wedding that weekend. The wedding was out of town so they’d be gone until Sunday. I knew the wedding would be hard for both Stacey and for Todd but I also knew they were looking forward to seeing their son. As I drove home from my time with Stacey I made the decision to back away from the situation for the weekend. They needed a break and so did I! I was hoping they could find a way to have some fun and me texting or calling wouldn’t make that very easy. Todd and I had agreed that I would call him on Sunday but I decided that if he wanted to talk to me he could call me. I fully expected that he wouldn’t and he didn’t. He needed to be with Stacey and the kids and let some of this go. Even if just for a day or two – stepping back would do us all some good.
I did my best all weekend to keep my mind off of what was swirling around me. On Friday when Chad got home from work I told him about what had been going on but I wasn’t completely honest with him. I just couldn’t tell him everything. I decided to tell him that I had an affair with Todd years before. He’d know that Todd was an old friend of mine but I felt like I need to test the waters. I told him that I was sorry for not telling him sooner but I didn’t know what to say. As far I he knew over the last five months Todd had only been a friend. A friend that was struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. Then I told Chad that Todd’s wife had found some old emails between Todd and I and then found me and come to my office. Pretty much everything else was the same. I still needed some time to wrap my head around all of this. I knew that my marriage to Chad was effectively over but I still loved him and our daughter would be at home for another year. It was important to me that whatever Chad and I ended up doing wait so that our daughter had a stable home. Chad and I were not unhappy so there was no need to shake things up. I could wait. Plus I was still very unsure about what the future held for Todd and I and frankly it was the last thing I wanted Todd to have to deal with. I knew I wasn’t going to walk away from Todd or Stacey but as far as being with Todd, I just didn’t know. He had a long road ahead of him and I wasn’t going to push him into anything other than supporting his wife and his family. I was his friend – yes I loved him very much – but his family, and my family had to come first. There was no other way. If either of us tried to get around what our priorities were then there was no way we could ever be together.
I didn’t sleep well the Sunday night that Todd and Stacey were to return from the wedding. My mind raced as I thought of how difficult the previous week had actually been for me. It isn’t easy to watch someone that I love suffer and Todd’s suffering was all consuming for the three of us. As I lay in bed that night I began to wonder if I should sit Todd down and have a conversation with him. I had promised Stacey the Friday before that I would stick this thing out and I meant it. But it really didn’t matter what Stacey and I agreed to. If Todd tried to shut me out there wasn’t much that either of Stacey or I could do about it. I knew that Todd darted in and out of seeing me as the cause of all of this but I wasn’t sure how long I could realistically take it. When Todd and I were together on Thursday afternoon I told him that I couldn’t imagine him not being in my future and he told me the same thing. Todd doesn’t say things he doesn’t mean but still, I had some doubts.
On Monday I had some work to do up in Sacramento so I was up early and out the door. I called Todd and left him a message at around 9 that morning. I had decided to wait for Stacey to contact me. The last thing I wanted to do was force myself on her and I didn’t want her to feel as if she was in any way a source of support for me. She had enough on her plate and I didn’t want her to worry about me. By now I was fairly confident that Stacey and I were beginning to build a genuine, and mutual, affection for one another. Her love for Todd allowed her to see through her devastation and recognize that I was important for Todd. She also seemed to understand that I truly did love Todd and, although he had a hard time articulating it, Todd loved me too. Todd is a typical man – pigheaded and strong willed – and he thinks that downplaying things is somehow sparing Stacey’s feelings. I understand this way of thinking because, as a man myself, I find that I do that at time. I’ve never done this with Stacey and I think my honest is something that she really needs
As I was getting ready to leave Sacramento Todd called. He sounded very sad. I asked him how the wedding was and he replied by telling me that it was terrible. He told me that the wedding itself was very hard to get through and the rest of the day was emotionally difficult. “I just don’t think I’ll ever be happy again Jason.” Todd’s words stung. It is so hard to see someone I love suffering and the sorrow in his voice wrapped itself around my heart. We talked for a little while about the kids and Todd did manage to get out that he was happy to have spent some time with his son. “Todd I need to say something to you.” “It’s important,” I said. Since I rarely said anything like this when I spoke to Todd he knew that whatever it was had to be important. “I had a lot of time to think while you guys were gone.” “I thought a lot about what Stacey asked me on Friday and I realized that it doesn’t really matter what I promise her. At the end of the day, if you shut me out, there is nothing that Stacey or I can do about.” “Todd, I’ve always been able to read you very well and I can feel you doing it.” “I can feel you struggling with blaming me for getting caught and fighting the urge to shut me out because you somehow think that will save your marriage.” I spoke clearly but with respect and compassion.
“I do Jason.” “I’m sorry, I know it’s not your fault but it’s so hard because I feel like not giving you up means that I’m giving up on Stacey and me.” Whenever Todd spoke about things that were extremely difficult for him, his voice lowers to a soft whisper. “I know Todd, and I expected that this would happen. I’ve never asked you for anything Todd, have I?” I said. “No.. No Jason you really never have,” he replied. “Well I’m asking you for something now, I need you to promise me that you won’t shut me out Todd.” “I know the feelings are going to be there, that is nothing new, but you’ve always come back to me before and I don’t think that I can keep my promise to stick this out, if you can promise not to shut me out.” “Do you think that’s asking too much? Todd took a deep breath, as he often does when he’s struggling, and he softly said, “No, I don’t that’s asking too much. I promise I won’t shut you and I’ll talk to you about how I’m feeling when I go there.” I knew this wasn’t going to be easy for Todd but I also knew that he did still love me but he didn’t want to. “You need to promise me something else Todd.” “When you go see the therapist on Thursday, you have to promise to tell her the truth about your feelings for me. Don’t try to sugar coat it. Tell her that you love me but you don’t want to.” “It’s important Todd!” “It really is. Can you promise me that?” Todd knew that I was right but I also knew that saying those words would not be easy for him. “Yes – Yes I’ll tell her the truth about my feelings, I promise.” I believed him but I also sensed that he’d need a reminder.
Once I got the promise from Todd that he wouldn’t shut me out I felt much better. Our conversation drifted to the events of the weekend. Todd told me that Stacey had finally gotten angry about all of this and told him that if he really loved her as much as he said that he did then he would have been able to control his desires. The moment Todd told me this I knew that Stacey didn’t really believe that but it was good that she had let some of her anger you. “Ouch… that had to hurt! You know she doesn’t really believe Todd, right?” I said. “Yes I know she didn’t mean it but that is how I feel every day.” He replied. In her rage Stacey had also reminded Todd that ultimately he had put her life as risk and she’d expressed how angry that made her. I was actually very proud of her for having let some of that out. My impression of her to this point was that she would try to keep it all in and I worried that she would eventually crack. Still, I knew that those words hit Todd like a wrecking ball to his gut. Devastation doesn’t even begin to describe what I knew he must have felt in that moment. I asked Todd if he wanted to get together that afternoon and he said that he didn’t think he could deal with that. “That’s totally fine Todd. Was that so hard?” “As long as you’re honest, and it’s not shutting me out, I can deal with it.” I said. Todd hated to say anything to me (or anyone else for that matter) that he knew would hurt them. It didn’t feel good that Todd didn’t feel like he could ‘deal’ with seeing me but I knew why. He didn’t need to tell me. As hard as it was for Stacey to begin the process of letting go, she knew that one of them had to. She’d basically told Todd that there was nothing they could do to save their marriage but they would always be close. Todd had a very hard time with the reality of what he knew was coming. He tried and tried to think of ways they could “make it work” but he knew. Spending time with me was difficult for Todd because he saw it as taking away from time he could be spending with Stacey trying to figure out how to make it work. I told Todd that we could talk later and we started to say our goodbyes. “I just don’t think I’ll ever be happy again Jason.” “How can I be knowing what I did to her?” “Know you can’t see it Todd, but I can. You just have to keep trusting me. You will get through this and you will be happy. I promise.” I reminded him that if we were to keep score on who predictions came true, I’d win. Jason 2; Todd 0. I’d been right about how Stacey would respond if she ever found out and I’d been right about >>>>>>>>>. . “I know that you’ve always trusted me Todd and I KNOW that you REALLY trust Stacey, so you’re just going to have to trust us both.”I said.
Shortly after I got off the phone with Todd I got a text from Stacey. She was just saying hi. I asked how the wedding had been and she replied with a simple, “It was okay.” I asked her if she’d had a few minutes to talk that day. She said that she did and we agreed to talk later that day. I felt that it was important that I tell her that I had asked Todd to promise me not to shut me out. I wanted her to know that I had done a lot thinking over the weekend and that I was still as committed to stick this thing out with them but I needed a little something from Todd. When I called Stacey she sounded chipper. She was on her way to pick up her daughter from school so we only had about 20 minutes to chat. I told her about what Todd had promised and she seemed happy to hear it. I told her that I had thought a lot over the weekend about what she had asked me the previous Friday. I told her that I had spoken with Todd that morning and that he was really struggling with blaming me (because it was easier) and not shutting me out. She said that she knew that and had been talking him about it. Stacey told me the same thing Todd had. “Deep down he knows Jason. He knows that it’s not your fault and that you’re not the problem, but he does go there sometimes.” Stacey’s tone was sweet and sincere. “I know Stacey. The thing is, that I’ve been dealing with this in one form or another since the day I met Todd.” “He’s always struggled with something, so for me, this isn’t new. It is new for you though and I can’t tell you how impressed I am at how you’re dealing with it all.” I told Stacey that Todd had said he didn’t want to see me that afternoon and I could hear the concern in her voice. I explained to her that Todd really didn’t believe that she was totally okay with us spending time together. “I’ve told him so many times Jason!” She said with clear exasperation. “I know you have Stacey, but he might need some more convincing.” I said. I told Stacey that I’d planned to talk to him later that day and I’d let her know how it went. Before I hung up with Stacey to told her that I wanted her to know that I had starting writing a book about a month after I met Todd. I’d put it down awhile ago but started back up over the weekend. I explained that, for me, writing is a way to work through things in my head and I’d spent 16 hours over the weekend working on the book. She seemed genuinely surprised. “I want you to know that if and when you ever feel like you are ready to read it, you should be the first one.” I said. “Thank you Jason, I really appreciate that.” She replied. I could hear the shock and nervousness in her voice. It was clear that she wanted to read it but it was equally as clear that she as terrified to read it.
Todd called me back later that afternoon. He still sounded very sad but he did sound like he was doing better. We discussed possibly getting together on Tuesday and he said that he still wasn’t sure but wanted to know if Wednesday might work. I wasn’t sure because I still didn’t know what I was doing that week for work. During our conversation Todd told me that Stacey had asked him to get some more margarita from me. When he said that I saw an opportunity to make a suggestion. “If you help me make them, then I’d be happy to.” “Why don’t we get together, go to the store, get what I need and then we can go somewhere and make a batch for her?” Todd immediately liked the idea but he was still struggling. “I just can’t help but think that Stacey isn’t being totally honest about how she feels about us spending time together.” He said. “Todd, tell me if I’m wrong, but I think you feel like Stacey is only saying that she’s okay with it because she knows it’s what you need, but secretly she really has a hard time with it?” “Ya! That’s exactly how I feel.” He said. By now I had gotten very used to Todd only giving me half of his thought and I would finish it. “Todd, you’ve known her most of your life and I’ve known her a week. You know her – you know she’d tell you the truth but if you really feel that way about it then you NEED TO TALK TO HER ABOUT IT!” I was audibly but compassionately frustrated now. “I know Jason, it’s just so hard.” He replied. “Why don’t we talk in the morning and we can go from there. Talk to Stacey about this tonight, okay?” I said. I knew damn well that he wouldn’t. He was still trying to protect her and in a twisted way, forcing himself to suffer and be miserable made him feel better. I knew that he’d been saying things to me that he wasn’t saying to Stacey and it was during this conversation that it became clear.
Monday night I had decided to step back for all of this and watch some TV to relax. I was sending some work emails when I got an email from someone that I did not recognize. The email read:
I am the person that told Stacey about you and Todd. Stacey has told me that you have been trying to do the right thing. Thank you for that.
Stacey has told me that you are writing a book and you have told her that she could be the first to read it. She THINKS she might be ready to read it but I offered to read it first to see if I thought she could handle it.
I don't mean to be rude, and please don't be offended, but I'm not really interested in having a communication with you. I'm here for Stacey and I don't want to get in the middle.
I read and reread the email to make sure that I was reading it correctly. For a moment I thought of replying with a nasty gram. “Who the hell does this person this they are!?” I thought. But then I started to think that IF Stacey truly did want her “friend” to read the book before she did that might not be such a bad idea. After carefully weighing my options, I replied to “V’s” email with this:
Thank you for your note. I think that would be something that Stacey has to decide. If she says that it's ok with her then I will send it to you. I'm copying her on this email.
Stacey - If this is ok with you, just let me know..
Something didn’t feel quite right about this communication but I had also grown to care for Stacey a great deal in the previous week. I knew that reading what I had written would paint a clear picture for her and help to answer many of the questions I was sure that she would have.
I decided to take a shower before bed that night to relax. Just as I was stepping in, my Blackberry pinged. Stacey had responded to my email:
I'm a little nervous....but....I trust that you portrayed Todd for who he is......if it's not too x-rated....go ahead and send it :) Also...go ahead and send me a copy.....I'll read it when I'm strong enough.
Stacey’s email made me chuckle. I responded with an email telling her that there were some sex parts that were ‘descriptive’ but certainly not x-rated. She responded by saying I could send it to “V.” I did.
The following morning I had an email from Stacey. She said that her friend “V” had read the entire book and had sent her a few paragraphs and she wanted me to send her the full version because she was ready to read it all. I knew better so I responded by saying that I wanted to talk to her first. Stacey called later that morning and we talked about Todd, how he was doing, and the book. I told her that I really felt like it wouldn’t be fair for me to let her read it without Todd’s okay. She agreed. That’s when I realized that I really should have discussed it with him before I sent it to the mysterious “V” person. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.
As Stacey and I were talking that morning she peppered me with questions. She was asking a lot of questions about what Todd had done. Uncomfortable doesn’t even begin to describe how it made me feel but I also knew that she had the right to honest answers. Answers that she and I both knew that Todd would not be able to provide. As she was asking these uncomfortable questions and I was giving uncomfortable answers she altered course a little. “Jason, I was wondering, do you ever feel a little jealous of Todd and I? Sometimes I feel like you do,” she said. Her question caught me off guard. “Why would you ask me that Stacey?” “How could I ever possibly be jealous of you?” “What you and Todd have is very special and will never go away. Never.” “I understand and respect that.” I said. “Well Todd mentioned the other day that you’d asked him if we were still having sex. I thought that was kind of personal and wondered why you would ask.” She said. “Oh my gosh Stacey! Did Todd tell you what we were talking about? I asked. “No, not really.” she said. I went on to explain to her that the previous day Todd had mentioned that her friend “V” had told her that she didn’t think it was a good idea for she and Todd to have sex. Immediately I found that to be totally inappropriate and no one else’s business Todd agreed with me and had been annoyed that this “V” person had made such a big deal about it. But as I was leaving Todd that afternoon I started to think about it and felt like it kind of made sense. The next day when I saw Todd I brought up the conversation again and told him that I kind of thought that it did makes sense. I couldn’t remember if I had actually asked the question straight up, but even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t have a problem with it either way. “It doesn’t really matter what I think and it’s none of my business. What you and Todd decide to do is between the two of you and it’s no different than before you found out.” “It’s not like I didn’t know you two were having sex then.” I said. “Okay, I’m glad to hear that because I don’t want there to be any issues between us and we’ve totally honest about everything. I want to keep it that way.” She said. I completely agreed and thanked her for having asked the question.
As Stacey and I continued to talk that morning I told her that I sensed that Todd was still up and down and back and forth but he seemed better on that day. I told her that he and I had agreed to meet up the following day to make margaritas for her. Stacey thought that was a great idea. I told her that I had a meeting that afternoon but would call Todd again when I was done and talk to him about the book.
When I finished my meeting I called and left Todd a message. He called me back about half an hour later. When I told him about what had been going on with the book and that Stacey felt that she was ready to read it all, he became agitated. In that moment I realized that I had made a big mistake by sending what I had written to “V” without discussing with Todd first. My heart sank as I realized that Todd was upset with me and I could feel him pulling away from me. He’d always known of the book existence but he always felt that it would stay between us. As Todd and I talked that afternoon I realized that the contents of the book were much too truthful to compare with what he had been telling Stacey. “Todd, I need to ask you something.” I said. “I think the reason you don’t want Stacey to read it is because you haven’t been totally truthful with her. Am I right?” I asked. Todd hesitated for a moment before he answered. “Yes, I just… I’m just not ready for her to read about how intense it’s all been. The emotional stuff – it’s too much” My hunch was right. Todd hadn’t been being completely honest with Stacey and he knew that if she read the book that would mean that she knew EVERYTHING there was to know – and more. “Todd, you have to be honest with her. You know that she already knows and you’re not doing her any favors by not being totally honest with her.” I said. “I know Jason but I’m just not ready to let go yet. I can’t” Todd was now crying and he spoke with a whisper. “Okay.. listen, I’ll send this “V” person and email and I’ll ask her not to share it with Stacey until you’re ready.” “But Todd, you have got to stop trying to protect Stacey by not telling her the truth. PLEASE! I said. “What if she’s already sent it to her!?” Todd said in a panic. “Todd, I’ll talk to Stacey and tell her that you aren’t ready for that step yet but YOU have to talk to her to and ask to if she already has it. She won’t lie to you Todd and I’m certain that if you ask her not to read it yet, she won’t.” “Stacey is just as committed to truth in all of this as I am.” I said. I told Todd that I would send the email right away to “V” and I’d leave him a message if she responded. I asked him to call me back later that night. He said that he would.
“V” responded pretty quickly. She was surprisingly gracious and agreed that she would not send it to Stacey and even promised to delete it from her hard drive. I immediately called and left Todd a message.
Todd called me back later that evening and I could tell he was still upset with me. “There’s something I have to say to you Todd and I’ve been practicing so let me say it.” Todd chuckled a little at what I said but he knew that I was trying. “Look – I fucked up.” I said “I should have known better and I should have discussed it with you first. I’m sorry. I never should have sent the book to Stacey’s crazy, stalker, cyber friend.” I continued, “We’re all kind of flying solo here Todd and we’re going to have mishaps and screw up. We just are. You just have to trust that even when that happens we are just trying to do what is right and best for you.” I knew that Todd had appreciated and accepted my apology but I could still feel that he was far away from me. We talked a little longer and I asked him if were still on for the next day, “I don’t know Jason. Let’s see how I feel in the morning. Call me in the morning. Okay?” My heart sank as he spoke and feared that I had pushed him away for good. But then I realized that this was simply a set back and he needed some space.
After I got off the phone with Todd I sent Stacey a text message and told her that the next day was “iffy” at best. She responded almost immediately asking what was wrong. I gave her a quick breakdown via text and she responded by saying that she’d “fix it” and told me “not to worry, it’ll be okay.” I responded to her text by saying that I worried about them both and when they were both feeling better it was a good thing. Her response brought tears to my eyes, “I know. I’m looking forward to that day. I still see you there. I’m counting on it. Don’t give up on him. It’s just so hard.” Stacey was continuing to amaze me with the scope of her love for Todd. About an hour later Stacey sent another text, “Looking forward to my margaritas! Sleep well.” I actually slept well that night.
Wednesday morning I got up and waited until 10 to leave Todd a message. I asked him to call me when he could. Five minutes after I left Todd a message Stacey sent me a text message asking if I’d called Todd yet. I told her that I’d left him a message. She replied with, “Good. Talk soon.” Todd called me back at around 11 that morning. He sounded okay. Much stronger than I had heard him sound in a long time. I asked him how his night had been and he told me that he and Stacey had broken down in the bedroom again. He also told me that Stacey had told him that she was really okay with him spending time with me and this time he actually believed her. We talked a little about the book fiasco and I apologized to him again. He told me that he forgave me. “So – what are you thinking for today,” I asked nervously. He paused for a moment and then, in a soft, almost regretful voice said, “I’d really like to see you Jason.” Not wanted to belabor it and knowing that he meant what he had said I rolled right into making a plan. We decided that he’d stop at the store and pick up all of the ingredients for the margaritas and we’d meet at “the spot.” We both knew where it was and it was actually right in the middle of my house and his house. The plan was set and I quickly went about showering and getting ready to meet him.
I have a pair of jeans that Todd likes to see me in. Whenever I wear them he can’t keep his hands off my butt. I like it… a little too much, but I wanted to see if he’d still respond like he used to. As usual, I arrive at “the spot” before Todd. He’d been having a hard time finding everything on the list I gave him. At one point he called me to help him find some of the items. I backed my SUV up close to the rock and dirt wall, opened the hatch and cleaned out the back. I figured we could use that as place to mix up the margaritas. I plugged in my IPod and had my music going. This time, instead of our usual ‘emotional’ music I picked my 80’s play list. I climbed into the front seat to wait for Todd. Five minutes later a white Jeep pulled next to me and there was Todd smiling back at me. The Jeep was a much better fit for him than his giant truck and he looked very sexy in it! The Jeep was his son’s and he’d picked it up from the shop. “Look at you! Damn! You look good in that!” I said as I was getting out of my SUV. The second I got out of my SUV I could see that Todd was happy to see me. His eyes scanned me up and down and he was smiling. As soon as he hopped out he was in my arms and I was wrapping my arms around his as I kissed his head. I could feel him reconnect and it felt so good! I gave him a quick peck and said, “Okay let’s get on this!” “Did you get everything I told you to get?” “I did,” he said. “It was $90 though!” He said. “You can’t put a price on the perfect margarita Todd and this is for Stacey.” I said with a little sarcasm and a bit smile. Todd reached around from behind and squeezed me tightly. “Did you get the lime juice?” I asked. “I did. I left it in the car.” As Todd started walking towards the Jeep his right hand VERY slowly left my stomach, slid down my side and managed to land right on my butt. With a gentle squeeze he was headed to the Jeep. This subtle gesture made told me everything. Todd was with me and it felt great!
When Todd was on the phone and I was giving him the list of items he needed to get from the store I told him to be sure that he bring some paper and a pen so that I could tell him how to made my margaritas. As I started making the margaritas I asked Todd if he was writing it down. “Oh.. no… “ He said. I had to stop and go back a few times but eventually he got it all written down. Now it was time to sample the final product. As we sat on the tailgate of my SUV Todd started to speak, again, of his fears for the future. He was finally starting to get used to the idea that Stacey knew about his deepest, darkest secret, but he was terrified at the prospect of telling his kids. As he talked he I could see that he was trying, with all he had, not to break down. I could also see that he was fighting a losing battle so I took his margarita out of his hand, put it down, and wrapped my arms around him; he broke down and began to quietly sob. By this point I was used to his torment and fear but the impact it had on me was still the same. Feeling him in so much pain was excoriatingly painful for me but I also knew that this was just the beginning of a long journey for Todd, for Stacey, and for me. No matter how many times Todd broke down in my arms and no matter how difficult it was for me, it still felt like such an honor that he trusted me enough to open up and share his soul.
Once Todd had pulled himself together I leaned back on the wall of my SUV and Todd laid against me. As we talked Todd had brief moments of sadness and despair but I could feel that he was doing better. “Are you glad you came,” I asked. “I am Jason. I really am,” he replied. “Can I ask you something?” I said. “Of course.” He said. “Look at me Todd.” I said. Todd was now standing in front of me with his head hung as I sat on the tailgate. I could sense that even though Todd was glad that he was with me he still felt guilty. I needed to remind him that fighting his feelings would not help anyone – least of all him. I gently lifted his head so that his eyes were looking into mine. The instant out eyes met I felt it. I could feel it race though my body and touch my soul. “Say it.” I said softly. Todd looked down again. “Please look at me Todd. It’s okay. But if you can’t accept it then you will only keep fighting and trying to shut me out.” “I know that you still feel like you are betraying Stacey when you let yourself feel it but she already knows Todd and so do I.” “Please say it.” My tone was calm, loving and patient. “Jason, I….. I really do care about you.” He said. I knew exactly what he was really saying and his attempt at skirting around it was so feeble that it nearly made me laugh. “Do you really think that anyone is going to buy that Todd?” I asked? “I know you don’t to feel it sweetie but you have to be honest about it. If you can’t be honest with me about it, how can you be honest with your therapist or with Stacey?” Todd was looking down again but I could feel his connection with me. “Please look at me Todd.” I asked. Todd slowly started to raise his head and as we made eye contact he said, “I do Jason.. I really do.. I love you so much.” I knew how hard it was for him to say that out loud but I also knew that he had to start being honest about it. “Thank you sweetie.” I said. “I know that is hard for you and I also know that you’re still fighting it. But you need to figure out that just because you love me doesn’t mean that you love Stacey any less. There’s no comparison Todd. There never will be, okay? I get that and just like Stacey doesn’t feel threatened or jealous of me, I don’t feel that way towards her. Never will.” I could tell that my words made Todd feel better.
As the afternoon progressed. Todd and I shared our crazy thoughts of what could be, what might be, and what we both were too afraid to hope would be. Todd told me several times that afternoon that he could still see me in his future. Stacey had already told me this several times but to hear it from Todd again made my heart truly happy. As we were talking the mischievous grin I had so grown to love appeared on Todd’s face. “What?” I asked. “Ya know Jason.. I’ve started thinking a lot about what will happen when we all get to the other side of this.” Those words alone were enough to make me cry. He didn’t even realize that he was now speaking about ‘the other side’ of his worst fears. I maintained control as he continued. “When we’re on the other side of this I’ll get to have sex with any guy that I want.” He said. Earlier in my life I would have been offended by a statement like that but I knew that he was right but I also knew that he loved me. “Ya.. I know.” I said. “But ya know what Jason” He said with a very charming boyish grin. “I still see you right there with me.” I’d suspected that was where we was heading with that comment and he knew that I was more than fine with it. It was Todd’s heart that I wanted and I understood that when the time came he was going to be a kid in a candy store. I also knew that he was the type of guy that could easily get sucked in and taken advantage of by the gay world. There was no way I would let that happen. “Good, because we’re not getting any younger so we might was well have fun while we’re still youngish,” I said. “No matter where my mind takes me Jason, when I think about the future, you’re always there.” He said.
The flies were getting really annoying so I suggested that we get into the back seat. Todd agreed so we closed up the back and climbed into the back seat. We spent the next two hours talking about how lucky we were to have not had to say goodbye and how amazing Stacey was for being okay with it. We kissed tenderly a few times but our hands never went anywhere below the chest. Todd was with me and I could feel it. At one point Todd started to talk about our the reality that we wouldn’t be having sex with one another until Stacey could deal with letting that go. I had already fully committed myself to waiting for that to happen, no matter how long it took. As Todd was speaking I could feel where he was going. Todd couldn’t process that I would actually make a conscience choice to wait and he was going to try to tell me that if I felt like I needed “it” he didn’t want to hold me back. As he was beginning to say the words, I lifted my hand and covered his mouth as I said, “Todd, I don’t care how long it takes. I’ll wait.” “I don’t want to be with anyone else.” I could tell that Todd was touched by what I had said but he was equally as perplexed. “I just can’t believe that you’d do that for me!” He said. “Todd – you don’t even know how amazing you are and how easy you make it.” I do promise you though, that if that I ever feel differently I will talk to you about it, okay?” I said. “Okay.” He said with a smile on his face then he reached to me and pulled my face to his with both of his hands. Before I knew it we were passionately kissing. It wasn’t easy but we both managed to pull ourselves together. As much as we wanted to be together again, nothing was more important to either of us than respecting Stacey. Now she wasn’t just Todd’s angel but she had become mine too. With each passing day and each milestone, Stacey had been firmly entrenching herself in my heart. My respect for her was endless and I was committed to doing right by her. Todd told me several more times that afternoon how much he loved me. I loved lying against him as he rubbed my face and looked into my eyes. There were several times that afternoon when we’d look into one another’s eyes and know exactly what the other was thinking. By this time in our relationship Todd and I had learned how to tell each other how much we loved the other without saying a word. Although I loved hearing him say it, it was the times he said it with his eyes that took my breath away. For the rest of my life I will never accept anything less. Of course there is a part of me that hopes that I will never have to accept it from anyone other than Todd but I was still fighting seeing that far into the future. Our relationship had been so intense and taken so many turns that I never dared let myself hold too much hope. On this afternoon, for the very first time, I could see, actually see, that there might just be hope for us in the future. I didn’t know to what extent but it was beginning to become clear that I would be in Todd’s future and Todd would be in mine.
As we were preparing to say our goodbyes that afternoon, I didn’t even need to ask Todd if he was glad that he came. I knew. “I know you’re glad that you came today.” “I can feel it. I can see it in your eyes” I said. “I am Jason. I really am.” He replied. “Remember this. Remember how you feel right now when you’re fighting it or fighting wanting to see me.” “As hard as this is for her, Stacey wants this for you Todd.” “Don’t disrespect what she is going through by trying to fight it and don’t disrespect that we’ve been through either.” I spoke with sincerity and conviction. “I will Jason.. I promise.” He said softly.
Even though it was hard for us to say goodbye, this time it was a little easier. We’d been given a tremendous gift and we both knew it. Todd’s place was with Stacey and his family. There was much healing to be done and I knew that when the day came for me to enter the picture we would all know it. But after this particular afternoon I started to believe that somehow the three of us would figure how to “be.” It was crazy but I always understood that to love Todd meant that I would have to love Stacey too. I could see that happening. I really could.
I drove away that afternoon feeling rejuvenated – joyous and hopeful. It was the first time since I met Todd that I left him and felt like we actually had a future. The gifts Stacey had given me were simply indescribable. This soft spoken, gentle and loving soul who I had only met a week before, under horrific circumstances, had stolen a piece of my heart. As I began writing this book I said that giving Todd my phone number would ultimately change how I felt about love forever, I had no way of knowing that Stacey would be part of my equation. Simply put: Stacey defined the term ‘unconditional love.’ It had only been a week and day, but there was no doubt in my mind that I we beginning to love Stacey too. How could I not?
As Todd pulled away I sent Stacey a text message that said that he did great! Through a series of text I thanked her and told her that he was still struggling but he’d managed to let himself relax a little. Stacey’s responses told me that she was relieved and we both joked that we were looking forward to the following day’s event. Todd’s first appoint with his new therapist.
Thursday morning I sent Stacey a text and asked her if she’d like to get together for coffee. She replied that she’d love to but Friday would be better. We made the date. Shortly after I called Todd and he actually answered. I could tell that he was still having a hard time but I could also tell that he was doing better. Of all that we had talked about the previous day the one thing I that stuck with me the most was Todd’s comment about being able to have sex with any guy that he wanted. “Did you really mean it when you said that you saw me there?” I asked him. “I do Jason. I really do.” “I totally see you there. I don’t know what that means or how it will play out but I know you’re there.” He spoke with a clarity that I had rarely heard from him. “I was talking to Stacey this morning when she was driving to work and I asked her if she still sees you there and she said that she wasn’t quite ready for you to move in but yes, she totally sees you there too.” He chuckled as he spoke. “Todd, can I ask you something?” I said. “Could I stop you?” He’d really gotten to know. He knew I’d ask it no matter what he said. His response made me laugh and it made him laugh to. Since the previous day I had heard Todd laugh several times and it felt so good! I’d always loved to hear him laugh but now it meant so much more and made me incredibly happy. “Remember when we used to fantasize about a cabin in the woods with our Golden Retriever?” I asked. Even though both of us knew that it would never happen, Todd and I used allow ourselves to fantasize that we’d somehow be together. “I do.” He replied. “Do you still have that fantasy?” I asked. “I do Jason, but my fantasy is different now.” “In my fantasy you’re living here, in my house, with me.” I was fighting back tears but I didn’t want him to know it. “Well if I ever see your house then maybe I’ll be able to share that fantasy some day,” I quipped jokingly. “I’d settle for the pool house. I’ve seen pictures of that.” I said as I continued to tease him. “You’ll see my house. I know that now but Jason you have a family and you’ve been so involved with all of this that I worry that you are neglecting them.” Even with everything going on Todd was still trying to take care of me. “I know Todd, and things are going better with my daughter and I.” I said. “As for Chad and I, you don’t need to worry about that. I’ve begun to make some decisions but it has nothing to do with you so you’re just going to have to trust me, okay?” I said. “Okay Jason, I trust you I just don’t want all of this to take away from your family.” He said. “It won’t Todd. I won’t let it.” I said.
What I wasn’t telling Todd was that nothing had really changed between Chad and me since the week I had moved out. I had decided that I was tired of always being the one to bring up our problems. It was me that moved out and lived in our camper for a week. Chad barely spoke of it since my return and he did absolutely nothing differently. I was still sitting at home alone until 9 at night as he went to the gym. As far as I knew he had done no research on a marriage counselor or couple’s retreat. He hadn’t tried initiating or reaching out to me for sex and I was tired of trying. I had decided that our marriage was over. I loved Chad and I always would but we had a daughter living at home that needed a stable home for the remainder of the time she was there. Once she went off to college I planned to sit down with Chad and have a very difficult discussion. My hope was that we’d somehow figure out how to remain friends and if it was financially beneficial, stay married. It’s not like either one of us could be legally married anytime soon so there was no reason for divorce. I was hoping that we could remain friends and cohabitate in a respectful way. I was scared but I was also clear. I was in love with another man and even if I didn’t end up being with that man, Chad deserved to have the same for himself. What the future would bring I was completely unsure of but I knew that I had to prepare myself for what was right.
I called Todd later that afternoon while I was waiting for a new battery to be installed in my SUV. We chatted for awhile I reminded him how important it was for him to be totally honest with his therapist. His appointment was only a few hours away. He wasn’t looking very forward to it but he also knew that it was very important. I asked him if he would mind calling me back when he was done and he said that he would. As important as I knew a good therapist would be for him, I was secretly scared. It is hard for most people to believe that Stacey had grown to care for and accept my presence in Todd’s life. I secretly worried that a therapist might convince Todd that I shouldn’t be around. I knew that it would come down to Stacey’s comfort level but I hated the idea that Stacey would have to justify her position to anyone. I never told Todd, or Stacey, about my fears. I kept them to myself.
Todd called me as I was pulling into the Target parking lot. “Hi! I’m a new man!” He joked. “How was it?” I asked. “It was okay, I guess.” “We didn’t really get into anything.” “I pretty much just told her about the history.” “But it was okay.” “I’m not sure if she’s the right one for me. Stacey goes with me next week and if she feels the same way we’ll decide together.” Todd wasn’t big on the idea of therapy to begin with. I’d been trying to get him to see someone almost from the beginning of our relationship. I’d seen enough therapists in my life to know that building a relationship with one takes a little time. Unless a therapist offends or otherwise pisses you off, I told Todd that he should give it 4 or 5 sessions before trying to jump to another one. Todd said that I made sense and he’d give it some thought. We talked a little more. Todd shared a little of the conversation that he’d had with his new therapist. He had shared the tremendous sense of guilt he had and opened up about his belief that he didn’t think that he’d ever be able to forgive himself. His therapist told him that would be the first thing they needed to work on. She told him that before he and Stacey could make a decision on what they should do about their marriage he needed to find a way to forgive himself. The way Todd explained it concerned me. It sounded to me as if she had given him a sense that there might be a way for he and Stacey to save their marriage. He was still hanging on to hope but as he spoke more it became clear that she was asking him the right questions. The question that stood out the most was, “How do you see making your marriage work?” Todd told me that he had no answer. He was also in and out of being gay. He still felt like he wasn’t sure. This is very typical for people who are just starting to come out. Todd still didn’t want it but he knew deep down who he was. “There is no doubt in my mind that you could be with one woman for the rest of your life Todd. That’s the easy part - but what about the other part?” “You and I both know that you will not be able to go the rest of your life without being with a man.” I said. It broke my heart to say that to him but it was important that he not try to fool himself, his therapist, or (and most importantly) Stacey into thinking that he could. He told me I was right. We chatted for awhile and agreed to talk to following day. I was planning to meet Stacey for coffee on her lunch break and Todd and I were going to try getting together later in the afternoon. Before we said goodbye I asked Todd how he felt about dinner with me and Stacey and possibly by best friend Erica. I told him that we had all been though hell in the last week and half and a night out as nothing more than four friends having a good time was something that we had all earned! He agreed and said he’d talk to Stacey about it. I already knew her answer. Her exact response when I asked her if she was okay with it was, “TOTALLY!!!”
Things were finally starting to move forward. I was cautiously optimistic but those were the two days when I started to see a tiny speck of light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. As committed to sticking it out, my anxiety and fears were an ever present reality.
I was getting ready to leave to meet Stacey, Todd called. He sounded good – almost cheery. He told me that he was tired because Stacey had tossed and turned the night before. When she didn’t sleep well neither did Todd. As we talked I could feel that he wanted to see me but I wanted it to come from him. Stacey had sent me a text message an hour before Todd called telling me that all she wanted was some ice water because her stomach was a little upset. I figured that it was due to stress and Todd backed that up when I mentioned it to him. It still seemed a little unbelievable that Todd and I were talking about conversations that I’d had with his wife but was our new reality. Eventually Todd got around to asking me if I still wanted to get together when I was done meeting with Stacey. “What do you think?” I teased. Todd laughed and I could hear the smile in his voice. We made plans to meet in Fairfax, where he was working that day. We said out goodbyes and I headed off the meet Stacey for coffee.
As I did the last time I met with Stacey, I arrived before she did. I ordered my coffee and got her the ice water she’d asked for. Right on schedule I saw her walking my way. She was a considerable distance from me but I could see something was different about her. She seemed lighter – a little less sad. When she saw me a smile took over her face. It was the first time I had actually seen her smile a full and natural smile and it suited her. Seeing Stacey smile instantly put me as ease but there was still a nervousness inside me of that I couldn’t shake. We sat down and had our first tearless conversation since our initial meeting. In the 45 minutes that Stacey and I spent together that afternoon I saw her smile, really smile, several times. At one point I mentioned how beautiful her smile was and how wonderful it was to see it. She looked a little embarrassed but I could tell that she appreciated the compliment. We didn’t talk about any one thing that afternoon. Mostly we discussed Todd, and the craziness of the situation we had all landed in. There were a few times that as I was speaking with her that I found myself close to tears but I managed to stay them off. The way I saw it, if Stacey could be strong – so could I! Stacey told me that dinner on Saturday night was a go. I knew that Todd was nervous we I had invited Erica along. Erica had been wanting to meet Todd since I’d told her about him and I knew that having her there would help ease both mine and Todd’s tension. As we were finished Stacey asked me if I wanted to run into Nordstrom with her because she need to grab some eyeliner. As we were walking into Nordstrom I found myself thinking of the amazing journey we were all on and it made me smile.
I walked Stacey to her car and hugged her goodbye. Todd had already told her that we planned to meet when she and I were done. She said she’d see me the following evening, I hugged her again, and we went our separate ways.
Ever since Stacey told me that Todd wasn’t much of a margarita guy and preferred Corona Light with a lime I felt guilty for having forced my margarita cravings on him. I decided to surprise him and pick up a six pack of Corona Light. I called and left him a message and then went into the store to buy the Coronas. I grabbed some ice, a bottle opener, and some limes and headed to Fairfax to meet Todd.
Todd was a little ahead of schedule so I didn’t need to wait too long for him. He called at about 2 and told me that he was just finishing up and would only be about ten minutes. He asked where I was and when I told him he laughed as he told me that I should she his “guys” driving the company trucks by me any second. Right on a cure two red trucks emblazoned with his company logo drive by. I couldn’t see the “guys” but the sight of the trucks made me smile.
Almost exactly ten minutes after I hung up with Todd he was pulling into the parking lot. As he pulled up next to me I sensed the same change in him that I had sensed in Stacey. We decided to head up the road a little way. We found a place to pull off and I backed my SUV to the side of a cliff. Todd jumped out and hugged me and soon we were sitting on the tailgate of my SUV drinking Corona Light and talking. Todd had the look in his eyes that I had so missed. I’d seen in on and off the previous Wednesday but on this day there was an intensity that I had missed. Without warning he leaned into me and kissed me, passionately and longingly. He was with me. We were connected and it felt right.
That afternoon Todd and I spent two hours on the tailgate of my SUV. We kissed several times and talked about our fears and secret dreams for the future. I asked him again if he’d really meant it when he told me that he saw me in the future. “I did Jason. I really did,” he said. “Todd, until Wednesday I’d been afraid to really let myself see it. You and Stacey have said it several times but I was just too scared. I see it now. I don’t know what it means or where I’ll be, but I’ll be there,” I said.
As the days passed Todd continued to fight his desire to be with me. There were many times when Stacey had to get involved and remind him that I was the problem. Stacey and I continued to have coffee a couple of times a week and Todd and I continued to spend a few hours together at least once a week. Our visits weren’t exactly platonic but there was no sex.
Stacey and I decided that a group dinner might be a good idea. Todd was nervous, and I was a little too, but I knew that it was important. We arranged to have dinner at Chevy’s on a Saturday night. I brought Erica because I knew she’d like them and she’s always fun in group settings. The dinner went well and we all had a nice time. I could sense that Stacey had to mentally check out at times and there were a few times that I felt some awkwardness coming from Stacey. Given the situation I think we all did remarkably well and we genuinely enjoyed one another’s company.
Several times during dinner Todd reached across the table for Stacey and they held hands. I never felt jealous or intimidated by it. I could feel that they were still reaching to one another for support. Of course I longed to have Todd reach for me like that but I knew that there was no way that day would ever come if I didn’t let them both handle the situation in their own way. After dinner we went to Starbucks for a coffee. Erica sat next to Stacey and the two of them seemed to really connect. It was very heartwarming for both Todd and I. Erica is the most important woman in my life and Stacey is the most important woman in Todd’s life; there they were right in front of us having a great time. I knew it felt weird for Todd – and at times for Stacey – but it was good and we could all feel it.
The week after our group dinner I decided that I needed to see a therapist. It was something I’d been thinking about since before Stacey found out about Todd and I but my daily anxieties were now very high and I needed someone to help me sort things out in my head. I found a LGBT therapist in my area and called. I’d never had a male therapist but I’d also never had a gay one so I was willing to give it a shot. I didn’t tell Chad that I booked the appointment until the night of the appointment. His reaction wasn’t what one might expect from a spouse but it was indicative of where we were in our relationship. He just said, “Oh” and walked out of the room.
I met with my therapist twice that week and found myself becoming stronger and clearer headed. It was good to have someone to talk things through with. I had so many emotions running through my head that I hardly knew how I felt about anything. His name was Will. He stood a little over six feet with thinning reddish hair and goatee. I estimated his age at about 40. Remarkably he and his partner shared their home with his partners ex-wife. I remember thinking; “what are the odds!?” when he told me that. My first session with Will lasted about an hour and a half. I mostly cried and he listened but I was able to lay the ground work without feeling rushed.
Todd and Stacey had always been one another’s friends. They really had no other friends outside of their marriage. I’ve been blessed with many long time friends and several of them are going through a divorce. One in particular stood out to me. My friend Chadtine lives in the next town and I’ve known her since high school. She and her husband are at the beginning stages of divorce and I felt like she and Stacey would hit it off so I arranged to have dinner and drinks with Chadtine so I could fill her in on the situation.
One Saturday afternoon Stacey and I spent nearly four hours chatting on Yahoo Instant Messenger. We discovered that this was the best way for us to communicate. There was no awkwardness and it was much easier for us both to be totally honest. It was during this conversation that Stacey told me that she felt like Todd was still holding on. She said she felt like she was in limbo and stuck. She asked me what I thought she should do and I told her that I thought it might be time for her to sit Todd down and have a firm conversation about where she was. She agreed. As our conversation continued Stacey told me that she was considering telling Todd that he should take me up to their lake house to winterize it. She knew that he wanted to be with me sexually and told me that she really didn’t care at that point. Of course this shocked me but I was very happy that she was trying to get herself to a place where we could all move on.
The following week Todd invited me to their house to help him do some work on the pool house he’d been working on. He’d promised their daughter that it would be complete by her 16th birthday, in early December. Stacey had made plans to drive into San Francisco and spend the night alone in a hotel. She‘d never done this at any point in her life so this was a big step for her. Todd was nervous and so was I but we both knew that it was an important step in her attempt to move forward.
Once Stacey left Todd took me to the pool house and we worked for a few hours on hanging insulation. At about 11am we went into the main house to get a snack. We talked for awhile and Todd kissed me tenderly several times. About half an hour after we came in the house a contractor showed up to give Todd and estimate on installing a fireplace in the pool house. Todd asked me if was okay staying in the house alone and I said yes. As soon as Todd left with the contractor I found myself walking around the house. Every wall had pictures on it. Frame by frame, wall by wall, and picture by picture their entire life together was right in front my eyes. Without warning I dropped to my knees and began to sob. I could feel their sorrow and pain at what was now gone. I felt tremendous guilt at my involvement as my emotions overtook me. I knew Todd was going to be back from the pool house soon so I had to pull myself together. I didn’t want him to see me like that. I wanted to be strong for him. He needed strength now.
Todd came back in the house about 5 minutes after I managed to pull myself together but I couldn’t look at him. I could tell that he sensed something was going on but I tried to hide it. Trying to hide my emotions was useless. The moment he asked me what was wrong I lost it. “Noth…..” was as far as I got before I burst into tears. I was sitting on a stool in the kitchen and he was at the refrigerator. Part of the reason I had been afraid to let him see me feeling so broken was because I feared that he wouldn’t have the strength to support me. My fears were for nothing. Without missing a beat Todd came to me, wrapped his arms around me and held me tightly. At this point I was crying so hard that I couldn’t speak. The sadness of it all came crashing down on me. I hadn’t cried like that since I was a small child. Eventually I managed to get a word out at a time. “I’m……. So…….Sorry” “I……. feel……like……this…..is……all…….my…..fault.” It was in that moment that Todd realized that I truly understood what he was losing. In a strange way this breakdown brought us closer together. As I sobbed Todd continued to hold me tightly and comfort me as he stroked my head and told me how much he loved me.
It took me a little time to get my emotions under control. Knowing that Todd could support me gave strength. What I did not realize was that the breakdown I just had had actually brought both Todd’s and Stacey’s pain, remorse, and guilt on to me. This was the day that I began to lose myself. The guy that Todd had fallen in love with had begun to get buried in a situation that he had no control over and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
My breakdown had another effect on both Todd and I. It brought back our connection with so much force that we both lost control of ourselves and before we knew it we were making love in the kitchen of Todd’s house. It was intense. It was overwhelming and we both knew it was wrong. Stacey had never asked me or Todd not to have sex but I had promised her that we wouldn’t. I had told her over and over that respecting our respective homes was extremely important to me. We had never made love in her home or my home. She trusted me and I had just betrayed that trust. I knew that she deserved to know what Todd and I had just done but Todd made me promise that I wouldn’t tell her. We agreed it would never happen again and she would never know.
As the weeks passed things began to get more complicated between the three of us. Stacey was very supportive of Todd and did her best to form a relationship with me. One night I brought my best friend Erica and the four of us went to dinner. It was fun but there was some awkward moments. I could tell that there were times Stacey felt uncomfortable. Another night I invited some high school friends, one of whom Stacey had thought was attractive, to go out dancing. We actually had a really good time that night. Stacey and my friend hit it off and spent most of the night dancing while Todd and I talked. It was during this conversation that Todd asked me if I thought he was my soul-mate. I was so surprised by his question that I could barely speak so I simply nodded in the affirmative as tears rolled down my face.
The night we all went out dancing, Stacey turned to me and asked me if I would like to come their house the following night for dinner and to spend the night. I turned to Todd and he looked as shocked by her question as I was. I wasn’t quite sure what Stacey meant by her question so I responded by asking her if I could think about it. After a couple of beers I relaxed a little, turned to Stacey and told her that I would be happy to come to dinner but I wasn’t sure about spending the night. Stacey said that she figured that we’d be having a few drinks and she didn’t want me to worry about driving home. I agreed. The plan was set.