Labeled the Other Woman
Helen considered taking a full page ad in the newspaper to announce:
That she met Maxwell for the "First Time" (underline, boldface, quotes) Ten Years (italics) AFTER (boldface, underline All Caps) his divorce from Venice.
Not that anyone would believe her.
Everyone who knew Venice, knew of Venice, or knew someone who knew someone who knew Venice, had she, Helen Patterson, as the Other Woman.
The Dirty Other Woman, who had Broken Up the marriage of Max and Venice Stanbury.
She'd met Max socially, hadn't known a thing about him. Didn't need to.
They were not that kind of friend. At least not for the first two months.
Then, feelings began.
He told Helen about his divorce, she told him she'd been a widow for years.
They were both of wholly marriageable aspect.
She learned he had two children, both over eighteen, the elder lived abroad
the younger with his ex-wife.
When one is over forty there is the expectation that any man one meets has
been married, and probably has children. All one can hope is that the children
are not intrusive.
For the first months of their love affair this was true.
Max went to visit his daughter on specific days and times and there was no interference.
Helen had a son from her first marriage who was a voice on a phone, an occasional
visit. After all, children in their twenties don't need Mommy holding their hand.d
Further, children in their twenties don't want Mommy too much in the picture, especially when there is a social life involved.
Helen had thought Max was in a similar situation.
It wasn't until they moved in together, and were planning their wedding, that things changed.
Suddenly, she learned that Max's second daughter was mentally handicapped.
Unlike her son who, with all his faults eventually left home and began his life, Martha would never grow up. Martha would always need her Daddy.
Martha must have needed her Daddy before he met Helen. Martha must have needed her Daddy all those weeks when they first began to see each other. She must have needed her Daddy just as much when they moved in together.
So how was it that all of this 'Need' manifested after the Engagement?
Venice began callingl Max all through the day and night, ostensibly about Martha.
Martha can't eat.
Martha isn't sleeping.
Martha is crying for her father.
When Helen had begun dating Max she hadn't a care in the world. There were no holdovers from his past.
There had never been calls from the ex or mentions of Martha.
Everything had been so perfect...
Until they announced their engagement and were selecting venues for their wedding.
Helen tried to alert Max to the peculiar timing of Martha's 'needs' but he was too
concerned with his daughter's 'needs' to listen.
The last straw was the night he left Helen alone to go to Venice's flat. Left her, his fiancé, alone, because Martha could not sleep if he wasn't in the house.
It was bad enough for people to consider her the dirty mistress who broke up
Max and Ven, especially considering the condition of Martha.
Helen could imagine what they'd say about her if she stopped Max from running to succor his handicapped daughter....
did he put her, his intended bride and life mate above Martha?
No, he didn't put her first.
Helen would always be a distant second.
That Max and Venice had been divorced for over ten years and distant, didn't matter. That he'd wanted to divorce Venice before she became pregnant with Martha, didn't count.
That when he knew Ven was pregnant he had advocated abortion. This was used to make Max feel guilty. As if his advocacy of abortion caused Martha's handicap. Not that it was because of her handicap he wanted the Abortion.
He seemed to believe it.
Max seemed to believe it was his fault this poor child was born imperfect. Seemed to accept he owed an 'obligation' to Venice, and a special duty to Martha, which must override any chance of happiness he might gain with Helen.
When Max left her that night, she lay in the empty bed and cried a little.
But just a little.
Love affairs always deserve to end in tears.
Sometime in the morning Max returned. Helen told him the engagement was off.
Either he left the flat or she would.
He, having slept badly, needing to get to work, told Helen they'd discuss it when he got home that evening.
Helen had no intention of discussing anything. But agreed for peace sake.
After Max showered and departed, Helen called her office. She said she wouldn't be in for the next few days.
Then she rang up a friend who owned a guest house.
Helen packed her clothes, a few other items, got into her car, drove the few miles.
She was too upset to sleep, but her friend forced her to shut off her cell phone
and take a sleeping pill.
She kept her phone off, (having recorded a voice message), just in case a real friend might become worried.
She got through the next days fairly well.
Somehow Max and his family and the love affair and engagement drifted into a fantasy of long ago.
Remarkably, it didn't take two weeks for her life to return to where it had been
before she met Max.
Plus, she was no longer the Other Woman