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When you’re “The Other Woman,” you tell yourself a lot of things. You start by telling yourself that he loves you. Then, as things progress, you also tell yourself that because you love him, everything is just about you and him. The girlfriend, the wife, even the boyfriend in some cases, just fade into the distance. They may even be a topic of conversation, casually mentioned.

In some cases, you may even believe that you are the only one that matters to them.

While all of this is going on, he tells you that he likes that you wear skirts and his other girl only wears jeans. He chuckles because he made you laugh. He tells you about the time he made his girlfriend smile to cheer her up.

When you’re with them, the world falls away. The only thing that matters is you and him, together for the moment.

And that’s what you tell yourself that you want.

But the reality is that it’s really not just you and him. It’s a whole other person involved—their heart, their mind, their emotions are all attached to that relationship. And being the one—even having been pursued in the interim of a break, or while fully committed even—is a guilt so crushing that the weight goes on for ages.

Any initial rush is tempered by the quiet thought, the whispering doubt. “Is this the day? Is this the day she finds me in his arms? Or finds my car outside? Or that we just meet and I have to play it cool?”

I was working overnights at the time, so instead of sleepless nights, I got sleepless days.

Days questioning myself, or when I would see him next, or even just being unable to sleep at his house, heart pounding so fast it could explode, just from the electricity of being in his arms.

The dream I had, though, was enough to tip the bucket of doubt that had been building in me for months. It’s when I knew, unquestionably, that I just… couldn’t.

It started with me at his house. Just like any other night, he was sleeping in the basement, and inside the dream I was sitting on his bed, waiting for him to wake up, like so many of our dates where I couldn’t quite keep my vampire schedule under control. I got up to go to my car, but suddenly felt woozy. Unable to help myself, I retched and ran towards the sink in the bathroom, barely making it.

I scooped handfuls of the water and tried to clear the taste of my favorite soup, its second serving, from my tongue. The sounds woke my boyfriend, stumbling in from the next room.

“I need to go,” I told him. Making smaller and then larger protests about how I could safely drive, he finally released my wrist and let me leave through the side door, like always. The colors that had been inside his basement had gone to a cold black and white.

While there was a soft crunch of gravel beneath my feet, I could barely hear it above my thoughts. My car had been scratched to hell. Like a furious hyena had attacked it, there were open gaping places where the key had dug in and pulled away paint. In shock, I opened the passenger door, got in, saw that the inside had not escaped the wrath.

In giant capital letters, the word “BITCH” was emblazoned across the steering wheel.

“Adulturer, Skank, How could you?” in other parts of the car. And a presence so familiar it could have only been that of my mother. My mother, telling me to get free. My mother telling me that he wasn’t worth it. My mother, telling me to quit being stupid. My mother, who had been dead for over five years, sending me a message that it wasn’t about the other woman, and wasn’t even really about him. It was about me.

I broke it off a few months later. He didn’t even really complain about it. Said he thought I was “growing distant.” He’d had enough relationships to give him perspective like that.

I gave him a kiss on the cheek and left. Sometimes that’s the only way to go.

V. Buritsch-Tompkins

A freelancer, fiction writer, podcast listener, fantasy reader who sometimes remembers to write for herself on occasion. She has a BA in English and Management, and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

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