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Chapter no 50

The Teacher

EVE

BY THE TIME Nate gets home, I am more than a bit drunk.

He doesn’t arrive until nearly three hours after school ended, which begs the question of what he has been doing all that time. I don’t know if he has been with her or doing actual school-related duties. If he’s not an idiot, he knows he should be staying away from Addie Severson in the wake of her being found outside our house. Although he must not be thinking entirely clearly if he kissed her right inside his own classroom.

As for me, after Jay brought me back to the McDonald’s to retrieve my car, I drove around for a while but eventually ended up back home.

I tried to grade some papers, but that was an exercise in futility. Soon after that, I went for my bottle of wine. Unfortunately, all we had was about a quarter of a bottle left of cabernet. But I did find half a bottle of vodka.

When I hear the front door opening, I’ve been in the process of trying on all my shoes. Yes, all of them. I don’t know why, but there’s something comforting about a fashion show for my feet. Whenever I’m feeling bad about something, I go straight to my shoes. That’s something Nate could never understand, but Jay gets it.

Nate doesn’t call out my name when he walks inside. He never does. Maybe he’s hoping I’m not home so he can jerk off thinking about her. I don’t want to know what thoughts are going through his head. I just want him out of my life.

I toss all my shoes back in the closet, except for the Louis Vuitton pumps that I wore on my birthday. I slide them onto my feet, then I head downstairs.

Nate is in the living room, peeling off his black coat. He plucks the beanie off his hair and runs a hand through his thick locks quickly to smooth them down. As I descend the stairs, I can’t help but think back to the first time I laid eyes on my husband and how handsome I thought he was. It was love at first sight—or so I thought. I always believed we would be together forever.

I was so stupid.

“Hello.” It’s only after the word comes out that I realize my speech is slurring slightly. I should not have had that last shot of vodka. I need to be clearheaded for this. “You’re home.”

“Uh, yeah.” He hangs up his coat in the hall closet. “Did you get dinner started?”

“No.” I grab on to the banister to keep from swaying. “I need to talk to you.”

“Okay.” He loosens his tie around his neck and squints at me. “Have you been drinking?”

This is not exactly how I wanted the conversation to go, but it doesn’t matter. I’m not waiting one more minute to discuss this with him. It needs to end tonight. I step toward him, grabbing on to the sofa this time for balance. I don’t know how to begin this conversation, but I plow forward anyway.

“I know about you and Addie Severson,” I blurt out. Nate’s hands freeze on the loop of his tie. “Excuse me?”

“I know,” I repeat. I have to focus to keep my words from slurring, but he needs to know how serious I am. “I know what you’re doing with her. I know that’s why she was outside our house the other night.”

“That’s…that’s crazy!” He laughs. “Come on, Eve. You really think I would do something like that? With Addie?” He shakes his head. “Where would you get such a silly idea? I think you’ve had a bit too much to drink. Do you want me to make you a cup of coffee?”

Oh, he is good. My husband is smooth. If it were simply a rumor I heard, I would probably be dismissing it right now. Then again, I always knew he was a liar.

“I saw you,” I spit at him. “I saw you kissing her. In your classroom during fifth period.”

“Oh.” The easy smile drops off his face. “I see.” “What do you have to say for yourself?”

Nate tugs at his tie until it comes loose, then he drops it on the floor. He hangs his head. “I don’t know what I can say. I made a massive mistake. Addie had a crush on me, and I thought I could handle it, then today she kissed me. I let it go on a second too long—I know I did. It was stupid, and I’ll never let it happen again. I’ll make it very clear to her how inappropriate it was.”

I clench my fists—I want to pound them against his chest until he’s bruised and bleeding. “No, I saw it. You kissed her.”

“You weren’t there. You don’t know what happened.” “I saw it!”

A vein pulses in my temple. It feels like there’s a very real possibility that it will burst and kill me before we complete this conversation. Before my husband admits to me that he did the thing I watched him do. Part of me wishes it would happen.

But another part of me wants him to suffer. “Did you tell Higgins?” Nate finally says. “Not yet.”

“Have you told anyone else?”

“No.” I did tell Jay, but I’m not going to mention that to my husband. “I see.” He frowns, his entire forehead crumbling. “Will you?”

“I’m not sure yet.” I rest back against the arm of the sofa, because my legs feel wobbly. “I haven’t decided.”

“Is there…” He takes a step toward me, one arm partially outstretched. “Is there anything I can do to convince you not to?”

I look down at his arm like he’s offering me poison. “If you touch me ever again, I am going to scratch your eyes out.”

“Right, sorry.” He steps back again. “Okay, fine. So let’s talk about this.

What do you want from me?” “I want a divorce.”

He doesn’t even hesitate. “Done.”

Wow, that was a blow. As much as I want him gone and out of my life, somehow I thought or maybe even hoped he might fight for our marriage a little more.

“Also,” I say, “the house is mine.” “But this house—”

The house is mine.”

Nate grits his teeth. “Fine. Take the house.”

“Also,” I add, “you need to end your relationship with Addie immediately. Like, tonight or tomorrow. You need to let her down easy, but make it very clear that you will never see her again. It needs to happen now. Don’t wait for school on Monday.”

He had to see that one coming. “Fine,” he says. “Is that all?”

I have one final demand that I came up with after talking to Jay. This is going to be the hardest one for him, but it’s not negotiable.

“You need to resign from Caseham High,” I say. “You can’t ever work as a teacher for children again.”

Nate sucks in a breath. “What? You can’t be serious. This is my livelihood, Eve.”

“You can still teach. You can teach adult education. But no children.

Never again.”

“Eve, come on,” he chokes out. “I can’t possibly agree to that. All the other stuff—fine. But I’m not going to give up teaching high school.”

“Fine. Then we can go to the principal and let her decide.”

Nate pushes past me and walks over to the sofa, where he sinks into the cushions. He leans forward and presses his fingertips into his temples. “Please don’t do this. Be reasonable. You have to be reasonable.”

“This is as reasonable as it gets. Really, you ought to be in jail.” “She’s sixteen. That’s an adult in Massachusetts.”

“Yes, I’m sure that’s how you think of her. Like an adult.” I shake my head in disgust. “You need to decide. If you don’t resign, I am going to go to the principal about it.”

He lifts his face to stare up at me. “And you’re sure she would believe you?”

“Why wouldn’t she?”

He rises from the sofa and lets out a snort. “Everyone at the school knows you’re a complete mess, Eve. You’re not exactly trustworthy.”

Excuse me? What does that mean?”

“For starters, you’re drunk at six in the evening.” He ticks it off on his fingers. “Also, you hoard shoes. It’s really nuts. If anyone got a look at our closet, they would lock you up.”

My face burns. He’s decided to play dirty, as it turns out. I shouldn’t have expected less. “I only have, like, a dozen pairs in my closet. Plenty of women have that many shoes.”

“Um, you think I don’t know about all the shoes you keep in that giant luggage?”

I did not think he knew about those shoes. But it makes sense he would. I imagine he was in the closet one day, looking for a suitcase for a trip, and he discovered my stash. The thought of him knowing my secret makes me burn with humiliation, but it doesn’t change anything.

“Really,” he says, “it’s your word against mine. Well, mine and Addie’s.

She’ll never admit to anything.”

“Right, well…” I lift a shoulder. “Good thing I snapped a photo of the two of you kissing.”

What I’d really love to have is a photo of Nate’s face when I drop that little nugget. All the color drains out of him, and his whole body seems to sag. Yes, I have a photo of him kissing his sixteen-year-old student. He has no power over me.

“Fine,” he growls under his breath. “You win, Eve. I’ll resign.”

With those satisfying words, he turns away from me and stomps up the stairs. I have no idea where he’s going, so I follow him, taking the steps two at a time. I find him in our bedroom. He has hauled a duffel bag out of our closet, and he’s throwing clothing into it haphazardly.

“What are you doing?” I say.

“Packing.” He looks at me like I’m completely stupid. “You’re kicking me out, aren’t you? Am I allowed to bring some clothes with me, or do I only get to keep the shirt on my back?”

“You can pack.”

“Very generous of you.” Nate rifles through a dresser drawer and grabs his favorite hooded sweatshirt—the one with a hole in the pocket—and tosses it into his bag. “You know, I was always good to you. I never lost my temper. I never complained when you bought five billion pairs of shoes.” He kicks the luggage containing all my hidden shoes. “I came home every single night. What more did you want from me?”

He looks up at me, and I realize this isn’t a rhetorical question. He truly believes all those things were enough to make him a good husband. That you can check all the right boxes, and it’s okay, even if you don’t love your wife. Even if you cheat on her with a little girl.

There’s no point in trying to explain to him why what he’s done is so wrong. Instead, I go back downstairs and let him pack in peace. After today, he won’t be my problem ever again.

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