Saying goodbye was not an option. Tom Fuller had no intention of losing his wife of 15 years. He loved her with all of his heart and soul.
As he usually did, when things were bothering him, Tom found himself scaling a small local mountain. The physicality of the climb, combined with the need to clear his mind of all troubling thoughts was exactly what he needed.
It was unusual for Tom to slip but on this day, he’d managed to do it twice. Still, he regained his footing and finally made it to the top. Standing there, he never failed to be awed by the beauty and majesty of his surroundings.
The air felt cleaner, colors seemed brighter, and the sun’s warmth seemed like a caress. Tom sat down to think about his options. He had to find a solution to the problem before Shelly tried to leave. Although he wasn’t sure that was her plan, he feared the thought. It was like poison to him. He knew it would kill him.
Tom tried to remember Shelly’s exact words the night before. He knew something was wrong when he came home and found her sitting in the living room all alone.
“Where are the kids, babe?” It was a valid question. Tom could not remember a time when they had not greeted him at the door.
“There are mothers,” she said softly. “I need to talk to you.”
Afraid something was wrong with her health or that of one his children, Tom rushed forward. “Just spit it out, Shelly. Are you sick? Is there something wrong with Danny or Michelle?”
Shaking her head, Shelly lowered her eyes with shame. “No, it isn’t that. I have something to tell you that you aren’t going to like. Frankly, I can’t believe I did it. I’m so ashamed.”
“Did what, Shell? Tell me. I’m sure we can work it out.”
“I cheated on you, Tom, with Dustin Jeevers.”
Tom knew he’d turned white as a sheet. He felt the color rush from his face. His body began to shake.
“I see,” he mumbled quietly. “Do you love him?”
“No,” Shelly rushed to say. “It was just sexual attraction. I was drawn to him. He’s not the kind of man, a woman like me loves.”
“For a woman who cheats, I should think he would be exactly that kind of man.” Tom spit out the words and immediately regretted it. He really didn’t want to hurt her.
“I wish I could take it back but obviously I can’t. Now you have to decide what you think we should do about it.”
“Do you still love me?” Tom was almost afraid to ask the question.
“Yes, but there’s been something missing in our marriage for some time. I think that’s why this happened. However, it isn’t an excuse I know. I just needed to try and give an explanation. I’m spending the weekend at Mom’s to give you time to think.”
With that, his beautiful fair-haired wife got up and walked out the door. He was left to stew in the juices of her betrayal. That had eventually led him to the mountain where he now sat.
Tom wondered what Shelly meant when she said something was missing from their marriage. He was still attentive to her. He still made love with her. He spent most of his free time with her and the children. What was missing?
“You know,” a voice inside of his head spoke quietly. “You know what she means. You just have to decide if you love her enough to fight for her.”
Did he love her? The answer was undoubtedly yes. He loved everything about her save for her latest venture. She was sweet, kind, compassionate, intelligent, creative and the best mother any child could ask for. She was a good wife too. She catered to his every need.
A thought struck him. “Did he cater to all of her needs?” Tom couldn’t remember the last time the two of them sat down and talked about their life together. Unlike when they first married, where everything was decided together, now they often bowed to the other on certain decisions. Maybe that wasn’t a good thing.
“Communication is key,” the voice continued.
Tom nodded to himself. He knew exactly what the voice meant. He talked to his wife but he didn’t always ‘communicate’ with her. That was definitely a problem.
“Forgive,” the voice demanded.
Tom rolled the word over and over in his mind. He wondered if he could do that. “Can I forgive Shelly?” He asked the question out loud almost as if he expected the Almighty to answer back.
“Forgive,” the voice repeated.
Bowing his head, Tom began to pray. “Lord, I’ve failed my wife and because of that, she made a mistake. I know she will never ask for your forgiveness. She takes adultery seriously in her heart of hearts. She made a mistake, Lord. All humans make them. I am asking you to forgive her. Don’t hold one moment of weakness against her. If you won’t, I won’t either.”
Speaking the words, Tom knew they were true. He wasn’t happy that Shelly had strayed. In fact, he was disappointed and angry. However, in truth, it did not erase all the years of her devotion, her caring and her love. He didn’t need to forgive her. He already had.
Suddenly excited with the realization, Tom was eager to get back down the mountain. Still, he was careful and made the descent slowly. Once he touched bottom and packed up his gear, he threw it in the trunk of his car. Then he hopped inside and began driving. He didn’t stop until he reached the home of his in-laws.
Bounding up the steps, Tom rang the doorbell. Shelly answered almost immediately.
Tom threw his arms around his wife and hugged her. Then he drew back just enough to give her a long, passionate kiss.
“I love you, Shell. We can work through this; that is if you want to.”
“I do,” Shelly cried with a quiver in her voice. “I was so afraid I’d lost your forever. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you never wanted to see me again.”
“You aren’t going to get rid of me that easily,” Tom whispered. “But we will need to seek counseling so something like this won’t happen again.”
“Agreed,” Shelly smiled. She reached in to kiss her husband again.
“Ew,” Danny uttered as he noted his parent’s embrace. “Aren’t you two too old for that?”
“You are never too old to love someone,” Tom said as he ruffled his son’s hair. Then he reached to pick him up and sling him over his shoulder. “It’s time to go home, champ.”
Danny laughed and called for his sister. Michelle came running down the stairs.
“Daddy’s here. Daddy’s here,” she squealed with delight.
Tom looked at his family and smiled. He was a very lucky man.