Chapter 2: Sadie
Piles of laundry ominously surrounded Sadie as she scrolled through Instagram avoiding housework. Laundry, dishes, vacuuming, dog walking, gardening, it was exasperating trying to run a household. Sadie had Chip, her devoted and doting husband, to help but he always seemed to make more of a mess of things. He would put Sam’s shirts into Charlie’s dresser, and Tina’s underwear into her drawer. I mean, Sadie was ultimately flattered that Chip thought she could still wear a size 5 thong, but, really, it was just frustrating! Everything he did, she had to redo, so she just stopped asking for help. And he certainly didn’t seem to mind that the floors were covered in unmatched socks.
Sadie hit a hard stop on the Falmouth Art Center’s Instagram with a photo of Charlotte and Ben Smalls talking a little too close for comfort. Oh boy; this is not a good look for either of them, she thought. She would soon have to field phone calls from the other women, and she wasn’t so good at keeping a secret, even though she swore to Charlotte up and down that she wouldn’t talk. Just then, her phone rang. It was Carol, one of these women she was just thinking about. Her ears must have been ringing.
“Hi, Carol,” she answered.
“Ben Smalls and Charlotte?” Carol said.
“What about them?” Sadie pretended.
“Did you see them all over social media?”
“No. I’ve been inundated with laundry and have to get to Charlie’s baseball game in an hour,” Sadie said.
“Well, it looks a little shady is all. And I also heard from Scarlett Crane that they were talking the entire night together and then went missing,” Carol said.
“Missing? That seems a little extreme, Carol, even for Scarlett to say.” Scarlett Crane was a Falmouth socialite (if there even was such a thing—seemed kind of like an oxymoron, as the Falmouth social “ scene” wasn’t exactly something you’d read about on Page Six of the New York Post or in Town and Country. Best you’d get is a photo in The Enterprise newspaper or “Talk About Town” in Cape Cod magazine. Scarlett seemed to think differently though, as she sped around town in her yellow Range Rover, dressed in yoga pants, and talking about the various parties she’d attended. Sadie never left a conversation with Scarlett Crane feeling socially secure. There was always something she wasn’t invited to or some club that she should join.
“I’m just letting you know what others are saying, is all. I know you and Charlotte are close, so maybe you should give her a head’s up.”
“Okay, thanks,” Sadie said. “When are we getting dinner, by the way? It’s impossible to plan a girls’ night,” she said trying to change the subject.
“It’s ridiculous. I’ve given up trying. You know where I live; stop by whenever. That’s my new motto. I mean, listen, we are all busy, but I still manage to call and see people. For God’s sake, what is so damn important that people can’t make one night a month for their friends?” Carol chided.
Sadie knew Carol was referring to her, but she didn’t take the passive aggressive bait and engage. She was too tired. She had stayed up past eleven o’clock helping Tina with her science fair project and making Valentine’s for everyone and their mom, practically, in Charlie’s second grade class. At this point, she had about a millimeter of tolerance left. Chip called from downstairs.
“Hi, babe. I’m home,” he said.
“I got to run. Chip’s home,” Sadie said to Carol, grateful for the out. “I’ll look at my calendar and try to figure out a good night to get together.” Sadie knew that would never happen, but she figured it was easier to lie than to get into a conversation about how much she had to do between Chip, her kids, and her own self-care (not that there was much of that lately).
Once Sadie turned 45, she noticed her body had really changed in a way that she didn’t recognize herself anymore. The mere thought of wearing a bathing suit this summer was shuddering, and she knew she’d fallen off her diet and had too any empty calories with wine at night, but it was impossible to refrain. She had nothing for herself anymore, other than the wine and the snacks. Thankfully, Chip never body shamed her and still seemed interested in sex. She, however, was not. It wasn’t that she wasn’t attracted to Chip anymore, but more that she wasn’t attracted to herself. She didn’t feel good about herself. And unless they were going to do it with the lights out and him on top, forget it. The last thing Sadie wanted to see was her flabby stomach and floppy boobs.
Sadie walked downstairs to talk with Chip. He had a flexible job working for himself in sales out of the home, so he was around a lot. This had its plusses and minuses. The plus side was that they got to have lunch together and catch up, but the minus was that he was around all the time, so Sadie was held accountable for her time. Sometimes she just wanted to sit in the yard and get some sun, especially now, in the early summer, after months of snow and cold. There’s nothing worse than March on Cape Cod. It’s endless and often seeps well into April and sometimes May. Sadie couldn’t remember an Easter that she hadn’t worn a coat and taken a family photo in blustery cold. Her poor daffodils were crushed, emerging too early with hopes of spring. They were the most tragic of flowers, she thought.
“Was that Carol you were talking to?” Chip asked, grabbing a Salt n’ Vinegar Cape Cod Chip. He always seemed to know who was on the other end of the phone.
“Yeah. She called to talk about that Charlotte and Ben Smalls rumor.” Chip raised an eyebrow and gave a slight smirk.
“Is it a rumor?” he asked. She was so bad at lying, and she desperately wanted to tell the truth.
“I can’t believe she did it,” Sadie said. “She hooked up with him at the gala. In the clay studio downstairs!” She looked at Chip to see how that landed. She was sort of envious. Maybe it was like Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze making out over the pottery wheel in Ghost. She wished she and Chip had more excitement in their lives but she just didn’t know how to get it back, especially feeling the way she did about herself.
“ Wow. Poor John,” Chip said. Sadie knew that would be his response.
“I mean, yeah. I guess. But can you believe it?”
“Sure, I can. Charlotte throws it out there. Every guy knows they could bang her if they wanted to.” He took a bite of his sandwich, and the way he chewed bothered her.
“Chip, that’s just cruel. Don’t talk about her like that. She’s my – “
“BEST FRIEND!” Chip interrupted, mimicking Sadie’s voice. “I’ve heard.” Sadie’s friendship with Charlotte was a point of contention between them. Chip felt like Charlotte took priority over him, and he in turn wasn’t a fan of hers. He felt like he should be Sadie’s best friend, not Charlotte. And he didn’t like how Sadie would turn into Charlotte’s wingman when they went on girls’ trips and Charlotte proceeded to flirt with men and drag his wife down with her.
“Sorry,” Sadie said. It was just easier to apologize, even though Chip should be apologizing for disparaging Charlotte and sounding like a misogynist, she thought.
“So what’s she going to do?” Chip asked. “Is she going to tell John?”
“No, and you shouldn’t either—tell anyone for that matter. I mean it. Charlotte would kill me, and she doesn’t want anyone to know. It would seriously ruin the summer.” It would ruin the summer for Sadie if this news got out. All the families would get together on Chapaquoit beach on Friday nights with the kids, and she couldn’t imagine it without Charlotte there. John never really made it to the beach nights, because of work, or whatever his excuse was. However, if wind got out of this affair, no one would want Charlotte around, a man-stealer and home wrecker. It was one thing to talk about dreaming of hooking up with Ben Smalls (she herself did many times), but it’s another to actually do it. Plus, Ada had a pristine reputation and many alliances in town. It wouldn’t be good to get on her bad side.
Chapter 3: Ada
Ada pulled into Turning Point Dance studio on Saturday morning with a pit in her stomach. Things with Ben just didn’t feel right, and then she saw that Facebook post with him and Charlotte. Ada regretted her decision not to go to the gala and to instead stay late working at the Foundation. She thought Ben could handle himself, after all, as he had so many friends in town. She never thought one of those friends accompanying him would be Charlotte.
“Mom, I think I forgot my ballet slippers,” Lilly called from the back seat. She was pulling everything out of her backpack.
“I told you, Lilly, that you have to start being accountable for things. You can’t expect me to remember everything for you. I have my own stuff to worry about.”
“Like Charlotte and Dad?” Lilly said. Ada peered at her through the rearview mirror. The pit in her stomach grew to the size of a basketball.
“What are you talking about?” Ada feigned ignorance. She hated social media and realized allowing Lilly to have an account was a mistake. But it was social suicide in eighth grade to be disconnected, or so that was the argument she caved to.
“I saw that photo of Dad and Charlotte at the gala. You should have gone.” As if she hadn’t been telling herself that all morning. Now she had her daughter resonating it. She wondered if Lilly had sensed the growing distance between her and Ben. She couldn’t put her finger on when it started, but she knew they hadn’t had sex in ten months and six days, but who was counting anyway. Life just got hectic, and it wasn’t all her fault. Ben could chauffeur the kids around town. Between lacrosse practice and ballet, Ada basically lived out of her Volvo station wagon. And then there was work, because, well, someone had to make the money. Ben’s work as a general contractor wasn’t consistent. He had all of three jobs this winter, and he’d only lined up two big ones for the summer. Ada didn’t want to be resentful, but it just didn’t seem fair that she had to work and do all the driving. To be fair, Ben did offer, but she felt so guilty all the time about being a working mom that she took every opportunity to be with them outside of work. This was her controlling side. Ada wondered if she should start going back to therapy, or maybe they could do couples’ therapy. But once you start going to couples’ therapy, it’s only a matter of time till you get a divorce. It was like the last-ditch effort to say, “we tried” before moving onto what seemed like greener pastures. She definitely didn’t want to get a divorce, so she committed to being romantic with Ben tonight. Tonight, they would have sex, she thought. She’d go to KM Hudson in Mashpee Commons after ballet and buy some sort of saucy intimate. Gross, she thought. She hated that word “intimate,” but that was exactly the problem. She and Ben didn’t have intimacy anymore, physical or otherwise. It was like she had lost her best friend. Well, Lilly would be sleeping over Sadie’s house, and Sam was traveling with his lacrosse team to Canada. So it was the perfect time to reignite that spark they used to have at Wesleyan, when they met as seniors in college.
“Okay, Lil, I’ll see you in a bit. Have good practice,” Ada said as Lilly ran into Turning Point, joining her friends on the way in. She reversed quickly onto Thomas Landers Road and headed towards Mashpee, giving a few of the parents a coy wave on her way out. She didn’t want to engage in any conversations with other parents this morning, or field any more questions about Ben and Charlotte. She was deactivating from Facebook too, she thought. That’s it. Social media was done. She was going off the grid.
Just then Ada’s cell phone rang. It was Ben.
“Hey,” she answered. “I just left Lil. I’m heading to the Commons.”
“Oh, what are you doing there?” Ben asked.
“Just getting a birthday present. I forgot Lil has a birthday party to go to tomorrow. I’ll probably run into Marshall’s or something too. Do you need socks?” she asked. She hated that she was talking about socks with him.
“I’m good,” he said. Ada could sense the lingering air, heaving on the phone, and she knew he wanted to say something. She wanted to say something. But they had trouble talking about anything anymore. Maybe this is why he looked so happy with Charlotte in the photo. Maybe they talked for hours about life and dreams, like she used to do with Ben. Charlotte was so interesting after all. There was no way she could compete. Not only was she gorgeous, but she was also witty. Ada felt about as witty as a stick- or a sock- at the moment.
“I’ll see you later?” Ada asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be home,” Ben said. Home. That’s right. They had a home together, a life. And that’s how it was going to stay. Forget all the rumors and talk. By tomorrow, everyone in town would be onto the next story. Ben and Charlotte would be a thing of the past. She just wished she could believe that herself.