Bradley, bulging with biceps, worked at the gym as a physical therapist. After work, he often bench-pressed his cares away. Then he’d shower before returning home in time for a quiet dinner with his college sweetheart and wife, Ginger.
She used to be a knockout, but the third miscarriage had left her broken and bleak. Most days she wore drab yoga pants with an oversized shirt and her hair twisted high in a knot. Still, each night, she did her best to cook Bradley the kind of high protein meal he enjoyed, overrun with beef and minimal ounces of carbs.
Bradley missed the wife he married ten years ago, her prayers and kisses on his way to work, and the sugary smell of her skin that welcomed him home. He told her so.
Ginger missed her period. Again. This time she held her concerns close, not ready to reveal the news to anyone except the doctor.
A subsequent visit to her gynecologist confirmed the matter. Ginger was in her first trimester.
“I don’t want Bradley to know,” said Ginger to her physician, who squeezed her hand gently and told her, “I understand, but you will have to tell him eventually.”
“Perhaps,” Ginger said, leaving the office with a dread greater than the divide growing between her and Bradley. Baby or not, she knew she needed to make a change. She’d learned that much in grief counseling.
Ginger stopped at the mall. She thought a new dress and dinner reservations at that fancy hotel might begin to mend their brokenness.
Behind the curtains, she admired her size six figure in the mirror. Everything the sales attendants handed her to try suited her 5’9” frame. The attention Ginger received as she twirled in the mirror reminded her of happier times.
“I’ll take them all,” she said and left the store with six brightly colored dresses. Then she headed to the hair salon on the whim that Felipe, her favorite stylist might have an opening. He did.
Ginger relaxed into the chair. “Do whatever you want to make me look dazzling,” she said. To her delight, he created an asymmetrical bob similar to one of the popular actresses. The other stylists cheered when Felipe gave Ginger a final spin in the chair.
All she needed next was a new pair of heels and a makeover. Ginger chose the makeup artist with the prettiest smile to bring out her bronze undertones, shade her lips with matte salmon pink, and color her eyelids with neutral colors.
Ginger looked like her old self. Vibrant. With her shoes and dresses in tow, she headed for home, but not before one last stop.
In a couple of hours, Bradley’s workday would end. Instead of waiting for him to arrive, she decided to drop by the gym. That way, he could see what he had been missing and hurry home.
She stepped inside the two-story gymnasium, filled with plasma screens, loud music, and scores of relentless bodies in competition with machines. Ginger felt admiring eyes watching her. It had been a long time since she had visited Bradley at work. His peers had probably forgotten what she looked like. Ginger knew she had forgotten their names.
“I’m here to see Bradley Edwards,” she told the teenage attendant.
“Is he expecting you?”
“No. But I’m his wife.”
“Oh,” said the girl. “You’re his wife. Bradley Edwards’ wife?”
“Yes,” answered Ginger. Sensing some resistance, she asked, “Is there a problem?”
“Oh, no. I’ll call him right now.”
In the old days, Ginger would have gone straight to Bradley’s office, but she did not remember where his office was. The remodeling made the gym look larger. It had been so long.
“I can’t get him on the phone,” the girl said. “He’s probably with a client. Should I tell him you dropped by?”
“No. I think I’ll wait.”
“Okay,” said the girl, who shrugged and then walked away to the end of the busy counter to assist a customer.
Ginger felt flushed. She looked at the seats and then into the crowd for Bradley. She wished she could recognize at least one of the faces milling around who might remember her well enough to take her to her husband.
Then, she pounded her fists on the counter, interrupting the girl, “tell me where his office is. I’ll wait there.”
“I don’t know if I am supposed to do that.”
Ginger pulled her wallet out and flashed her driver’s license at the girl. “See Edwards. My last name.” Then she unlocked her phone and showed anyone nearby the pictures of her and Bradley. She scrolled to their wedding photo, their honeymoon in Maui, their college graduation, the day she funeralized their first baby. Ginger’s eyes filled with tears. She hated feeling vulnerable.
As quickly as she had flashed her life before the crowd, Ginger gathered her things and turned to leave. That’s when she spotted Bradley coming out of a side door behind rows of treadmills near the back of the gym. The average person might have missed him in the crowd. But Ginger had known Bradley for most of their adult lives.
She longed to tell him how she was treated, to catch him before he disappeared.
“I see him,” she voiced into the air.
“Ma’am. Wait,” called the girl.
Ginger picked up speed. Bradley’s back was to her now. He had not moved far.
The music blared above her head. She wanted to yell, but he would not hear her. She saw him open a door and walk into a private room. The kind designed to moderately respect the privacy of patients. The type of doors with a thin rectangle of glass to see in and out.
The door closed before she could reach him. She peered inside. Bradley was not alone. His hands were already manipulating the neck of someone seated in front of him. Not odd. This was his line of work.
She considered knocking on the door, but she watched instead. The massage seemed to last a lifetime. Then Bradley bent down and pressed his lips into this person’s ear as if to whisper a secret.
Ginger noticed the long blond strands of hair. The woman’s reaction reminded her of how her cat stretched when she rubbed its fur.
Ginger’s heart skipped a million beats, and she nearly collapsed to the floor.
“Can I help you,” she heard a man’s voice from behind her.
“I was here to see my husband,” her answer, breathy and disturbed, “Bradley Edwards.”
Ginger did not remember the order in which events happened next. She only recalled three details: the shock on Bradley’s face before he began to explain his guilt away, the sight of a younger version of herself, crying, a contrite “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” and the way that same woman protected her noticeable baby bump in her hands.
The First Wife
I hope you enjoyed Love Letter #5. Now for a Word of Wisdom from Proverbs 30:21-23 TPT to explain the genesis of this particular short story.
“There are four intolerable events that are simply unbearable to observe: when an unfaithful servant becomes a ruler, when a scoundrel comes into great wealth, when an unfaithful woman marries a good man, and when a mistress replaces a faithful wife.”