Thursday, August 21, 2014

Read Chapter One of Sex, Lies, & Family Vacations by Leslie Langtry

Sex, Lies, & Family Vacations by Leslie Langtry

Laura Smith is the mom of two adorable children, the wife of a successful businessman...and the unappreciated shadow of the woman she once was. Somehow, her family never seems to notice that the laundry gets done, the house is picked up, dinner mysteriously appears on the table, and then cleans up after itself. Instead of being her children's idol and her husband's lover, she's become a funny little footnote in her own life. That is until she takes her children on vacation to Disneyworld in sunny Florida, where she just happens to end up in a hotel room right next to her college flame, Alan James. Old passions ignite and new excitement sparks as Laura and Alan bring new meaning to "The Most Magical Place on Earth." But when Laura and Alan's spouses unexpectedly show up in Florida, a comedy of errors ensues, and only one thing is for certain: Laura's life will never be the same again.

Note: This book was formerly published under the title The Adulterer's Unofficial Guide to Family Vacations.

Chapter One

Luggage to the right of me. Luggage to the left of me. Luggage behind me. Packed and bursting.
Too much luggage, in fact. Way more than we needed. I sighed—something I did far too often anymore. So, I opened all four bags up and started over. This was my ritual. The thing that kept me sane while I got ready for the family trip. I couldn't wait. This vacation would be an antidote to my robotic life.
And it kept my mind off, well, the other thing. Mike had missed dinner yet again. In fact, it was more normal than not for him to spend less than ten minutes a day with us.
I packed the first bag, then stopped to listen. Clara and Rory were either asleep or plotting a military junta. But silence is a rare commodity and should never be questioned. So I kept working.
After two hours, I had it done. Down to three bags full of enough clothes for a family of four to have a wonderful vacation at the greatest theme park in the world. Unfortunately, I still had to put away laundry, grade more essays, unload the dishwasher, and so on. My list rarely changed from night to night.
Not that it mattered, but I was a pro by this time. And it was worth it. My twin kindergartners were wonderful. I had my big dream house, a good, part-time teaching gig, and a…well, a marriage to a…man.
You noticed a few adjectives missing, didn't you? After checking the driveway from my bedroom window for the twentieth time, I ran a hot bubble bath and slipped into it.
I suppose most women would consider me lucky. After all, I have the American dream, right? Hmmm. I don't feel so lucky. I soaked until my skin wrinkled, then got out, checked the driveway again, and climbed into bed with a novel. Somewhere along the line, I fell asleep. And I might note that it was the most exciting part of my day.
The alarm went off, and I found Mike, my husband, snoring beside me, reaffirming that I was actually married to a living, breathing human and not an imaginary friend. I sighed again and got up, dressed, and roused the kids.
Mike made a grand appearance at breakfast, and the kids fell upon him like he was a conquering hero. I had to give him credit—he looked great. It only took him half an hour to go from sleeping hulk to well-dressed czar of advertising and all-around bastard.
He tickled the kids, grabbed a banana, and winked good-bye to me. It was the only evidence of my existence. For one brief, shining moment, my husband remembered me.
I shouldn't complain. The kids need him more. And I'm grateful they don't feel sorry for the fact that they didn't see him much. That's the great thing about children—their total and complete self-absorption. In a few minutes, I'd drop them off at school, and they too would forget I existed. I was a ghost with my own mini-van.
Work was a little better. The students only singled me out if they had trouble with an assignment, and either I was such an amazing instructor that they didn't need help or such a boring one they didn't really care. I was only teaching one class this semester. Technically, I was on sabbatical to finish my doctoral thesis, but the administration asked me to teach one class, so like the doormat I'd become, I agreed to keep working.
Clara and Rory's mom-nesia ended every day at 3pm, when they came squealing out of Rutherford B. Hayes Elementary. The drive home consisted of mostly filling each other in on their day. I just got to listen in. Once again, I thought how smart I was to insist they be put in separate classes. Of course, I was the only one who congratulated me on this.
By four o'clock, I'd gone through their backpacks, emptied their lunchboxes, signed any permission slips, etc. The kids were outside on the swing set, laughing about our upcoming trip to Florida. They probably didn't realize how much it meant to me too.
I wasn't always like this. In fact, I'm kind of surprised I ended up this way. I used to think of myself as a live wire. My old friends used to say I was funny. Mike used to molest me every minute he was in my presence. I was into the arts and haute couture (well, at least as far as handbags and shoes are concerned). Isn't it weird how things change? Right now, I can relate to those Valium wives from the 1950's.
I roam my own hallways as a phantom. Somehow, my family never seems to notice that the laundry gets done, the house is picked up, dinner mysteriously appears on the table, and then cleans up after itself. Instead of being my children's idol and my husband's lover, I'm a funny little footnote in my own life.
Yeesh. That's terrible. How am I supposed to write my thesis with that kind of attitude? After another Mike-less dinner, I sat on my bed with my laptop, working on page forty-four. At least I loved the theme. Adultery in Literature. It was a naughty little secret I shared with myself. Oooh.
Two more days to go. Two more days until my family had to spend every minute with me. I can let loose. Be funny. Have fun. Was I in a rut or what? Maybe that was Anna Karenina's problem. She needed a little excitement. And with no theme parks (or any other fun aside from drinking in nineteenth century Russia), Anna vodka-goggled Count Vronsky.
Hester Prynne's husband wasn't around either. And Lord Chatterley wasn't much in the bedroom for Constance. I guess I have more in common with these women than I thought.
"My name is Laura Smith." See? Even my last name is boring. I typed this on my laptop—as if writing it down would make me real. After forty years, most women would think I've got it goin' on. But the truth? Well, I can't handle the truth.
My God. I'm not even funny anymore. I used to have a sense of humor, but it was replaced with a sense of responsibility. And don't even ask me about passion. That's something other people have.
Was that true? There must be something interesting about me. I flinched instantly recalling a repressed memory. Okay, I've had a recent, sordid past. But I can't think about that now. Maybe not ever.
I know what you're thinking. You think I'm feeling sorry for myself. Not true. That would be more emotion than I've allowed myself in the past few years. And emotion just ain't worth the trouble.
My life is safe. And that's something I'm qualified to deal with. Safe. Yep. Just what every girl wants.
So, what's up with the trip? It's kind of hard to explain without sounding stupid. You see, it's my first time to the greatest place on earth. It's also my husband's first time and the kids' first time. We're all taking this trip together, for the first time.
Does that make sense? Or does it just sound idiotic? It doesn't matter, because I'm so excited I can't sleep, and we don't leave for a couple more days. This Florida trip is kind of a rite of passage—one I never had. It just didn't rank as high with my parents as the damn Civil War battlefields they dragged us to summer after summer, squashed in the back of a station wagon.
The vacation would not only fill in the missing piece of the puzzle known as my childhood, but make me a legend in the minds and hearts of my family for suggesting it in the first place. Years from now, my kids would tell my grandchildren of this magical family vacation and sing odes in my honor on a Greek lyre.
And if you think planning this was easy, you'd be wrong. This particular vacation was ridiculously expensive. So, I spent a year researching and the last nine months scouring internet sites until I managed to save us about a thousand dollars on the whole schmeer. Impressive, isn't it? Sometimes, I amaze myself. And sadly, only myself.
In two days, I'd be at our hotel, sharing a room with my darling children and husband (whose cell phone would be locked up back at home, of course), and roaming the theme parks in a state of euphoria that has never before been seen in the Smith household. (My eyes well up a little bit just thinking about it.)
This is why I've packed our things three times, called the airlines twice a day to confirm our flight will be on time (like they could even tell me that days in advance), and created a paper file of all e-mail confirmations of the park tickets, hotel, and shuttle service. I don't think I've ever been more ready for anything in my life.
Which was probably why I was completely blindsided by Mike's announcement the next night (counting down twelve hours to launch Laura's perfect family vacation), telling me he was not joining me.
"You're WHAT?" I shrieked. "What do you mean you're not going with us?"
Mike gave me one of those tiresome, patronizing looks I'd seen a lot of over the last two years. "This is a big account, Laura. Possibly the biggest account in all of Ohio. It's an opportunity I can't miss."
Here's where I went into hysterical mode, shaking my head in disbelief, "No. No. This isn't happening. You are NOT abandoning us! You'll call Randy and tell him tonight that you have plans."
Mike sighed. And I totally hated him for that. "Laura, we couldn't even afford this trip if I didn't have this job."
"What? Are you serious? You're a partner! You don't have to handle every account that is thrown at the company! You have other guys for that!"
"Well," he said calmly, "this is a very important client."
I looked at him in shock. "And you want to do it. That's it, isn't it?"
Mike nodded, frowning at me as if I was being unreasonable. "Yes. This is a big deal, and I want to make my mark on it."
I wasn't sure if I could fling a hanger at him hard enough to kill him. I wanted to try. Hell, I figured I could at least cause a small bruise or scrape.
"I don't believe this," I said slowly. It felt like the wind was knocked out of me. I put all this work into the trip. I invested in it emotionally. But my husband (who will henceforth be known as The Bastard) could dismiss it all at the last minute as nothing important. Just like he dismissed his past affairs. They were nothing important either.
"Jesus, Laura." Mike ran his hands through his hair, and I realized he was angry with me. "This is the real world. Not some fucking fairytale. Just reschedule the trip."
I shook my head. The tears started to come, and I hated myself for that. "I can't! We lose our deposit on the room, and the park tickets aren't transferable! We're talking about two thousand dollars here!"
"Well, I guess you'll just have to take the kids without me." He didn't even look like he minded.
"It's not like they'll miss you anyway—you're barely here as it is." The words flew out of my mouth before I thought them over. For a second I wanted to take them back. But just for a second. He deserved it—even if it was harsh.
"That's not fair!" Mike snapped. "I try to go to everything! I don't have a part-time job like you." He spat the words at me.
"It's totally fair, and you know it." I was seething. "Your kids are going to have memories of family time meaning me and not you! Is that what you want?"
Mike gave up. I saw it in his eyes. "No, that's not what I want. But that's the reality. So you just take the kids and go."
I stared at him. I toyed with asking if the reason he wasn't going was another affair. But he'd just get angry and deny it. My head ached. It was time to end this argument.
"Well, I want you to sleep on the couch tonight." Queen of the spleen-crushing last word, I ain't. But Mike picked up his pillow and left the room. Slowly, I opened the three suitcases and began to take his stuff out. I dumped his clothes into a pile, and then tossed them onto the closet floor, running the sliding doors over his shirts a couple of times. Not very mature, but it made me feel just a tiny bit better.
I don't want you to think I was feeling sorry for myself over Mike missing this trip. Actually, I was feeling sorry for myself over a missed marriage. It's living day after day with that sick, hollow feeling you have in the pit of your stomach. And worse, knowing that you'll have it every day for the rest of your marriage.
There's the elephant in the room everyone ignores. But in our case, instead of an elephant, we had a pink, polka-dotted buffalo with a flatulence problem. He screams for attention. It's impossible to ignore.
The buffalo (who I call Bob), was a metaphor for the fact we couldn't talk about how his job affected us. I wasn't allowed to bring it up unless I wanted to endure hours or even days of being ignored. So there it was. The thing we must talk about or our marriage falls apart and the thing we cannot talk about or our marriage falls apart.
At first you think, okay, doesn't matter. We can get through our day without discussing the "subject." But it's so bone-numbingly awful to ignore Bob. I mean, he's not housetrained and smells horrible.
Maybe it wasn't that bleak, but that's how it felt. Day after day, I'm this invisible caretaker of two kids and a husband. I just move through my week like a robot, or single parent, knowing I must cover for Mike every time he fails to come home, every time he misses something, and I can't even bring it up.
I guess most people could justify it. Find a way to do without. But I'm not like that. I wanted more out of my life and marriage. I wanted the thrill back. I didn't want to spend all my time waiting around for my husband to come home and notice me…make love to me…be a father to our kids. Apparently, that's too much to ask.
I did't like what I'd become—a spectre—a kind of a shadow. Every night, I faithfully (and yet foolishly) prepared dinner for four, hoping this night would be different. And every night, just as faithfully, my husband let me and the kids down. I ended up stuffing his dinner into a plastic container and jamming it into the fridge. In the morning, the same dishes would be sitting, mostly empty in the sink, when I'd sigh and stick them into the dishwasher (He doesn't even put it in the goddamned dishwasher.), to do it all over again.
I don't know how many times I told myself I just needed a hobby, more friends, religion, whatever. Something to take the place of my spouse…the place of my marriage. But I was the poster girl for why you can't replace a man with a hobby. How many times did knitting, model trains or playing a bassoon, end in orgasm?
The day starts out okay, or so it seems. This is the beginning of my denial ritual (which is kind of like yoga—without the toning and feeling of personal fulfillment). I wake up, get ready, get the kids up and dressed, fix breakfast, all the while dodging Bob the buffalo. Mike joins us for about five minutes, during which he acts the model but overworked and apologetic husband and father while Bob has a flatulence attack.
I take the kids to school and then drive to work, but Bob follows me there. I leave the campus at two and run any errands (like picking up Mike's dry cleaning) before picking up the twins at school by three. The afternoons involve cleaning the house, grading papers, spraying air freshener to mask Bob's existence, and getting dinner ready.
Dinner is a great ritual of disappointment in my house. The twins and I sit at the table for about twenty minutes before eating, always (and I mean always) to begin without Mike. Here's where I get creative, asking the kids about their day and coming up with yet another excuse for why Daddy wasn't home. I'm up to original excuse number four hundred twenty-three right now. And it isn't easy to have a different one after ten, let alone past four hundred. This is then followed by bathing, story time, and bedtime, which is also filled with promises (known in other households as "lies") about Daddy being home the next night. I spend the next couple of hours cleaning up, setting out clothes for the next day, and reading in bed. Bob sits at my feet.
On a rare occasion, Mike gets home before I fall asleep. A-Ha, you say! So there is time for a little banging of the headboard. And you'd be wrong. Instead, I get a little apology, and even littler peck on the cheek, and ten minutes about how Phil in accounting or Ken in marketing screwed everything up.
So there you have it. The daily schedule of a totally meaningless marriage. Woo hoo. Alert the media.

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