Drink from the burning well

coffeemug“There are two types of adultery.” Jillian poured the coffee and added a generous amount of cream to her own. She brought the cups to the table.

Sarah looked up for the first time to take hers. “You’re justifying.” She reached for the artificial sweetener.

“No. It’s got to do with intentions. Are you dabbling? Or is this the final act of an already broken union?”

“There’s no difference.” Sarah sipped, but flinched against the heat and spit back into the mug.

Jillian added two spoons of sugar. “Consider me. Blaine was trapped in a toxic marriage when we met. Our relationship motivated him to end it.”

“Until he did, you only knew you were screwing around with a married man.”  Sarah, allowed the steam to rise to her face.

“It’s time that shows the difference.”

“How does that help me?” Sarah set down her mug and met her friend’s eyes.

Slowly, Jillian answered. “How long have you been seeing Oscar now? A couple of months?”

Sarah nodded, lifted the cup again.

“What have you learned about your marriage? Do you want out? Do you want to try to fix it?”

“I’ve learned Matt’s fucked. When I tell him, I don’t even know if he’ll want to leave me. I still love him.” Sarah didn’t drink.

“And do you love Oscar?” Jillian asked.

“So much it hurts. But he knows. Matt? He’s got no idea.”

“So which one do you want?”

“What if what I really want is myself?” Sarah unfolded her fingers to put the cup back down.

“Then it isn’t time yet. You don’t know enough to take action.”

“Yes, I do.”

“It’s not fair, the way you’re beating yourself up.”

“It is fair. It’s the first fair thing that’s happened since that conference. I’m being honest for the first time in ages.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Sarah pushed her coffee away and began to weep.


This is my link for Trifecta this week, where our intentions are always good.

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Drink from the burning well — 28 Comments

  1. I loved this. LOVED it.
    it is time that tells the difference, and many times I believe that when you reach out to someone else, when you fall, it is hardly ever dabbling (esp on the woman’s side), it is a place you want to be.

    My husband was married when I met him..and now he is married to me. So take from that what you will, but know that the way you wrote this is SPOT on and exactly the way I felt for a long time (from BOTH POINTS of view)

    the conversational tone, the way that one friend is not trying to justify, but tell her own story to make the other comfortable wtih her own..was so realistic, I could have been reading my own best and I. That’s the sign of a brilliant writer..which you are.
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  2. So sad. ): She needs to figure things out or she’ll only hurt more than herself!

    • I think that ‘hurt’ is inevitable at this point. There are at least three injured parties, but it’s how she moves forward that will determine all of their recovery.

  3. Jessie you know I love your writing. This is a difficult topic for me.

    There is never a perfect time to destroy a family or desecrate the sanctity of marriage.
    I believe that deception can be a noncurable personality trait.

    How sad that someone would dishonor their vows or encourage another to do the same.
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    • Here’s the fun of this post for me. Scott and I, for various and sundry reasons, both know that adultery would be a deal breaker. A period, end of it all. And neither of us would do it. In our house, there could be no possible justification for the act.

      But we have watched two friends now go through divorces where the vows were really broken before the affair. Does it justify the affair? Fuck no. See the word ‘divorce’. Honesty dictates that you break one commitment before you make another. But it lends perspective to the thing, and life is so hard to put into neat boxes.

  4. I loved the title, because that really sums it up, if one chooses to drink from that well (cheating/adultery) everyone gets burned, no matter what the intentions or even if the story has a ‘happy’ ending. And burning always leaves scars. Great piece.
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  5. Putting aside the content – your writing is superb! The movements of the characters, the detail, the dialog – seamless – wonderful! The content is exquisitely personal. As you say life doesn’t fit into neat little boxes. Sometimes an ‘affair’ is brave, sometimes it’s cowardly.
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    • Poor Scott- he’s always my sounding board for these. One of these days, I’m going to ask him one of my bizarre-o questions and he’s just going to have a heart attack and fall over dead.

  6. Love your title. What a touching, wrenching piece of writing. The setting,
    the dialogue, the visual and sensual details were superb. Damn, you’re good!
    It’s a hard subject to read about and even more so to live. Excellent.

    • The really funny thing is that, much like the suicide post, I had to do research to achieve anything like this perspective. I’ve only dated one guy in my adult life, and I married him. I only dated one guy when I was a preteen, and that didn’t count because we were largely the bi-products of his brother seeing my friend and didn’t really have any interest in each other.

  7. Of the many talented writers who frequent Trifecta, you and Draug are two I admire most because of the consistently excellent body of work you both produce. But this week, the two of you have both produced provocative pieces that have elicited strong reactions. Thankfully, being the terrific writers of dialogue that you both are, you have managed to take abhorent topics and turn them into masterful works. If it makes sense at all, I will close by saying that I didn’t enjoy what your story was about but, I loved your story, just the same.

    • Thank you so much. I adore Draug, too. She’s one of the few writers who just plain leaves me speechless. I know exactly what you mean. When this one showed up in my head, my response to the muse was, “I’ll get back with you after I Google that and talk to my husband”.

  8. I don’t give much of a fuck about adultery, or marriage for that matter, but I do care deeply about this:
    “What if what I really want is myself?”
    Love that you took her there. And grateful. Excellent dialogue, too.
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  9. A spark to tinder, this one, but so real, so overheard.. if that makes sense?

    I think there’s always gray area where emotion and human frailty meet, and that’s where you’re writing in this one.
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  10. You’ve tackled a tough subject here, though of course your writing is delicately perfect about the whole thing. What I like about it is that Sarah is coming to terms with it in her own way and wants to make a decision based on her own emotion, whatever that decision may be, and not based on something forced from either man. I also like that you have two women, two friends, who seem to have done a similar thing yet their moral judgment on adultery still seems different.
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