He saw them, and his heart started hammering in his chest. They had been married for 65 years, and he couldn’t understand why she could do that to him and sit with another man.
His wife had given him an excuse this morning, and it hurt to find out it was a lie. He had followed her and realized she saw this man every day. But things got worse when he got a better look at the man and realized that it was someone he recognized.
To everyone who knew them, Sam and Amelia, from Florence, South Carolina, were the very image of an enduring, tender, and deep love. They married when he was 24 and she was 22, 65 years ago.
Since then, their relationship had been a haven of harmony and love. They never had a major fight, they solved their disagreements peacefully, and they seemed to be able to read each other’s minds to perfection. But what was their secret?
“We just don’t sweat the petty stuff,” they used to say to their two kids, Brenda and Mark, who had families of their own.
Sam and Amelia just had such a deep trust in each other that they didn’t interpret anything the other did in a bad light. They were assured of their mutual love and always did their best to understand and support each other through thick and thin. However, this would soon change.
One day, Sam arranged an evening out at the bar with some friends. They were men he had known since he was a youngster; despite their age, they still enjoyed hanging out around some beers to talk shop and reminisce about the good old days.
What Sam didn’t know was that this day would carry a revelation that would turn his whole world upside down.
As he put his jacket on and grabbed his wallet and keys, Sam kissed his wife goodbye and asked her for her plans for the evening. “I guess I’ll just stay home reading my book. Maybe I’ll call Brenda,” she said.
Sam walked out the door and headed to his car. But right before he opened the door and jumped in the front seat, certain thoughts popped into his mind.
He decided there was no need for him to take the car. After all, the bar where he was meeting his friends was in the neighborhood, and he could go there walking, even though it would take him a little longer.
So he got on his way, enjoying the evening breeze and the pinkish tone of the sunset. But 15 minutes into his walk, he saw something that made his stomach drop to his knees.
As he turned a corner, he spotted something going down the street: it was his car. And it was Amelia driving it! Where was she going?
From a distance, he saw the car parking on one of the streets nearby. Amelia got out and started walking. Clearly, she didn’t know Sam was watching her. The bewildered husband started following her, wondering what she could be up to.
After walking for a few minutes, Amelia entered a cafe. Sam hid behind a car, trying to peek through the window to see what his wife was doing. His heart started galloping when she saw her sitting at a table with another man.
What the heck was that? Was Amelia having an affair? Sam’s mind went blank. He could have never suspected something like that of his wife, who he thought he knew better than anyone else. Quickly, he took his phone out of his pocket and dialed a number.
He called his friends and told them he was feeling sick, so he wouldn’t go to the bar with them that night. Then, he headed home, ready to ask his wife what she had been up to.
Shortly after, Amelia came back from whatever she had been doing with that stranger. Sam didn’t think twice: he asked her what she had been up to. His wife’s response made him see red.
“Oh, I just took a drive to the park. It’s so nice outside. How about you? You came back really early,” she said, visibly nervous. It broke Sam’s heart to hear this. Why was she lying? Surely, she couldn’t be up to anything good.
“I just felt tired. I’ll go to bed now, goodnight,” he said, turning his back on her and walking up the stairs to his bedroom. When she arrived after having dinner, he pretended to be asleep. But he stayed awake the entire night, thinking about what was happening.
The morning after, Sam couldn’t look Amelia in the eye. He ate his breakfast in front of her in complete silence, without lifting his eyes from the newspaper.
But still, he didn’t say anything. He was still processing what he had seen the evening before. How could she be doing that to him? But suddenly, another possibility crossed his mind. Maybe she was…?
Sam suddenly remembered something. His birthday was right around the corner. He had stopped celebrating his birthdays years ago; he didn’t like being aware of how old he was growing.
Sometimes, he didn’t even remember his age, and he had to think for a minute whenever someone asked him when his birthday was. So maybe…?
Sam suddenly realized that he was about to turn 80. That was a special occasion, for sure. Could Amelia be preparing something for his birthday?
Maybe she was planning to throw a surprise party for him and that man was involved somehow. Maybe he was a merchant of some sort, and Amelia was buying a gift for Sam from him. Or…
Or maybe he was an event promoter, the owner of a restaurant or a pub, or whatever, and Amelia was setting up the celebration. But could that really be the case?
Sam kept racking his brains, thinking of possible options for why Amelia would be meeting with stranger men in cafes behind his back. And right then, Amelia said something.
“Are you alright, honey? You seem a bit dizzy,” she asked him, taking a sip of coffee and going back to her scrambled eggs immediately afterward.
This made Sam’s blood boil. Where did she get the guts to keep acting like there was nothing wrong? Should he say something? Should he let her know what he had seen the previous day?
But he didn’t. Partly, it was because he was too afraid to find out the truth. He could picture his wife blushing, stuttering while trying to come up with an excuse, trying to lie to him once again.
He wouldn’t be able to stand it. So finally, partly because of that cowardice, Sam replied this to his wife:
“Hmmm, no. I just didn’t sleep too well last night,” Sam muttered, going back to his newspaper. He still didn’t know how to approach the issue. But he swore himself something.
The next time Amelia left the house by herself, he would follow her. Sam was determined to get to the bottom of the issue, no matter how much it hurt to find out the truth.
He never thought he would ever find himself in a situation like that. It all felt nightmarish. But deep down, and despite all their years together, Sam knew the truth.
Nothing would ever be the same after that. He would be unable to keep living with Amelia pretending that he hadn’t seen what he saw. Now he had to uncover the truth, even if the consequences were heartbreaking.
The following days felt like a hellish poker game to Sam. Amelia kept acting like nothing happened, concealing the truth from him; and he had to act like he didn’t know what Amelia had done that evening.
It felt like torture having to endure the uncertainty, Amelia’s blatant hypocrisy, the mutual secrecy, and the terrible truth underneath. Until one morning, something happened.
One day, Amelia left the house again to get some groceries. And once again, Sam followed her. After she left the grocery store, he saw her walking to the same cafe as the other day.
Sam walked slowly towards the cafe’s window, praying not to encounter the same thing that, deep in his heart, he knew he would see. His heart was galloping as he scrutinized the other side of the glass.
There they were again, sitting and chatting cheerfully, with big smiles on their faces and mugs of coffee in their hands. Sam didn’t get to see the man’s face, but he didn’t know if he wanted to. It would have made everything so much more painful.
He didn’t have the heart to keep witnessing the scene, and he just stormed back to the house. How could she do that to him? Who was that man?
The same routine continued for days; every day, Amelia would give some excuse to leave the house, get followed by Sam, and meet with that stranger again.
Usually, Sam was just unable to keep looking. He didn’t know what to say to his wife either. He was just consumed by disappointment and sadness. But one day, he decided that it couldn’t go on like that. He had to do something.
One day, Sam gathered the courage to get closer and examine that man’s face. Shaking and trembling as he positioned himself behind the glass to get a glimpse of the other man, he squinted his eyes to see the scene.
And when he realized who he was, he saw red. He became more enraged than ever before in his life.
His blood boiled in his veins as he stared at the man’s factions. Time hadn’t been good to him, and it took him a few seconds to recognize who he was.
But when he finally saw it, it hurt more than a thousand knives. He would have never expected to see that man again; yet there he was, having coffee and laughing with his wife behind his back.
That man was his brother Michael. Sam hadn’t seen him in more than 40 years. After he returned from his service in Vietnam, he became a loose cannon.
Some said it was because of the horror he saw in the conflict, some said it was because of some substances he tried during his service. Whatever the case, he wasn’t able to lead a normal life as a civilian; he got involved with the city’s underworld. And that wasn’t all.
He even did some time in prison for his alleged involvement in a crime that he always swore he didn’t commit.
For some time, Sam tried to do what he felt a good brother should: he tried to be there for Michael, help him out every time he had it rough, try to guide him, support him, and get him out of the gutter. Until one day.
Michael had taken his brother’s kindness for weakness. He ripped him off on more than one occasion, and one day, Sam decided that enough was enough. He cut all contact with his brother.
Sam never expected to see him again, let alone in those circumstances. What was he doing there now? Why were his wife and him meeting behind Sam’s back? He decided that this was enough.
Blind with fury, he entered the cafe and stormed towards Amelia and Michael’s table. Michael saw him first. His face went pale as he stood there, petrified. Then, Amelia turned back with her mouth open, speechless.
“Is anyone going to tell me what the heck is going on here?” Sam yelled. And that’s when he felt something.
Tears were running down his face for the first time in dozens of years. A moment of silence followed. Then, Michael and Amelia got up and hugged Sam. Sam pushed them away and just stared at them, his face contorted by disappointment.
“I’m so sorry, Sam. I’ll explain it to you. Please, don’t cry,” Amelia said as tears started flooding her eyes as well. “I’ve been trying to reach Michael for some months. I found a way to contact him a few weeks ago, and I decided to reach out and talk to him.”
“I know you two had your disagreements many years ago and stopped talking. But that was so long ago. You’re family at the end of the day. Life is too short to stay angry at each other after so many years, and I thought it would be nice for you and your brother to reconcile while you still have the chance.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about it, but I was afraid you may still be angry at him. Please forgive me,” she sobbed. Sam was left speechless, and tears started to subside. The three of them joined in a tight hug and headed home. They had a lot to talk about. In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead are entirely coincidental.