“I’m Not The Other Woman”—A Short Story
What was she thinking?
Was she hoping to plead with me, beg me to give him up so she could take him back, even though he rejected her?
I’m much older than you. You still have a full pick of men. I only have him left, and I love him.
I don’t know why she came up to me in the place she “caught us together” days before. But she did. She came up to me at my regular spot at the coffee bar. She sat right in front of my friend’s belongings—without hesitation.
Me, a large and substantially stronger woman than she, was, for the first time, afraid of another female person.
Because I know love makes people crazy. I’m crazy in love. And I’m sure this woman carries a gun. That’s how she met him.
I’ve rarely been afraid for my life. Outside of a family, I don’t have a high-quality of life (at the moment) either.
Maybe I should’ve let her kill me and just said what I really wanted to say.
Although, I don’t think being gunned down in a Starbucks and risking all those other lives is how I should go. I’ve got too much left to offer before the time comes to pay my dues to the dirt.
But there she was, soft-spoken and nervous. I couldn’t really tell that I was afraid. I’m sure no one could from the outside. Maybe it wasn’t fear at all. It was probably the barium in my gut causing my insides to tighten and writhe. Maybe it was the contrast dye still in my veins from this morning’s CT scan that made me think this nauseated, heart palpitating feeling was fear instead of an adverse reaction to the chemicals flowing inside my body.
But there she was — meek, sad.
I gave up my time set for my friend for this woman, and I’m hopeful I won’t regret that decision for the allotment of our friendship.
Being nice is exhausting. I am a nice person, I’m just so tired of being nice.
I should’ve said, “What are you doing here? Why are you here? He told you he didn’t want you anymore.” But I didn’t. Instead I talked to her with respect as she disrespected both my friend and me.
I’ve met this woman twice before — both times with him.
The first time was when I was just getting to know him. Maybe a month or so ago.
We worked from the same place. Free Wi-Fi, you know.
I noticed him the first time when he sat at the small round tables across from the Starbucks kiosk in the mall. He sat with his seventeen-inch MacBook Pro, deep in his work. Clearly ex-military — they have that tough-guy look, you know.
I could see he was damaged, as am I. He carried a deep chip on his shoulder, one he looked over often.
He wasn’t so deep in work that I didn’t feel him looking up at me often as I sat at the long hightop table equipped with three-prong outlets and powered USB ports.
A few more times, this non-communicative, one-sided weaving of two strangers occurred before one day he finally came up to the hightop and plugged in across from me.
I lifted my eyes and acknowledged his presence kindly, but that was all.
A few more of these across-from-each-other workspace exchanges took place until, finally, words were spoken.
As I was packing up to leave, he plucked his headphones from his ears.
“Have a good day,” I said.
He nodded, smiling his half-cocked little grin. “You too.”
And that was the start to an interesting friendship I’m not quite sure what to make of as I sit here across from the woman who so clearly loves the man who is not my boyfriend, not my husband, and not the father of my children.
I sat there waiting for her to get to the point.
Her eyes were tired and lined with grief. It was easy to tell that she wasn’t sleeping well, but that didn’t stop her from making herself up in the morning and fixing her ‘Mary Kay’ pin to her billowy blouse.
Her eyes dropped to my ring and widened.
“Are you married?” she asked, eyes still tight on the ring on my left hand.
“Happily. Married with three children,” I added.
She laughed, high-pitched and awkward. “Married! Wow, I didn’t expect you to be married with kids.”
I studied her eyes as they welled at the corners.
“You know, he and I are just friends, right?”
This uncomfortable exchange which might’ve costed me now two friendships started to shift as I studied her softening expression. This woman I saw as weak and deranged suddenly started to congeal into another living, breathing being.
Past the sadness and pain and desperation, it’s like something was lifted from her body — she sat taller and peered at me, smiling, quivering slightly at the corners of her thin mouth.
“I care about him—so much,” she said.
“I know, I can tell. Have you done anything about that?”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you told him how you feel? Not your daughter confronting him on your behalf, but you—you telling him what you want and how you feel about him?”
She shook her head subtly, almost unnoticeable. She went into her story of him. Her version, her side.
It’s interesting to hear two sides of a story. So different, you’d think they were two completely unrelated stories. Only minor consistencies, details that coincidentally happened to align. All leading back to the moment she met me and her relationship with the man she loved—unrequited—dissolved.
“I’m sorry that happened to you, but it has nothing to do with me. You know that, right?” I stared at her, my expression as kind and thoughtful as I could muster.
Her version warranted, you’re a weak woman and he wants someone strong. Someone who doesn’t sway to his inconsiderate tendencies. He wants someone to tell him to his face that he pulled a ‘dick move’. Someone that will call him out on his…
Oh shit, I thought. That’s me…
She received a call and started fumbling with her purse she’d sat, open, between us.
As she was talking, I tried to peek into her bag to see if she, in fact, was carrying a small pistol. I played it cool the whole time, but this interruption could’ve put her back on her initial direction, her intention with me from the onset.
I no longer felt fear as her bag — the place she might’ve stored the gun — was sitting directly between us, open and within my reach to remove from hers. Without a weapon, I could over-power her with no problem. Sure, I’d likely tear apart my insides, but that’s a pain I’m used to now. A gunshot wound, however, would be new territory.
She put her phone upside down on the bar and sighed, grinning softly.
“Everything okay?” I asked, hesitant.
“Yes, my car is done next door. I was getting it cleaned. I should probably go.” She grabbed the upright handles of her bag and shifted on the stool. “Thank you for talking with me, Sara.”
I nodded, swallowing hard. “You’re welcome.”
She slid off the stool and brought the bag to her shoulder. “Please,” she paused, “Please don’t say anything to him. I don’t want him to know I was here.”
“You know, he’d appreciate it more if you just told him the truth,” I said.
Dammit, Sara! Why do you have to do this? You don’t have to be nice. She was on her way out! Don’t help her. There’s nothing more you can do for her.
“Thank you,” she said, turning from me and heading to the furthest door. Disoriented? I’m not sure.
I kept my eyes glued to her back. I didn’t trust her.
She left the building, but I kept her in my sight until she cleared the windows stretched across two sides of the building completely.
All I wanted to do was call him and tell him to get this woman off me — handle this situation like you know you should. Tell her you’re done or take her back. There’s no ignoring an unstable woman, obsessed with her prize.
But you can’t reason with unreasonable people.
Outside of her feebleness and his bravado, they are perfect for each other.
He, deep down, wants someone to care for him. He just wants that someone to be a strong woman—one who won’t do the things he wants her to do.
She wants to be the one to care for him. That’s why she told a strong woman stories of his defects to try to weaken his virility.
What I should’ve told her was that the moment I saw her for the third time, this time, that he was done. I was done. But if she wants him, she needs to step it up and go get him the way he wants to be gotten.
Because I’m not the woman.
I’m married. I have three children. There is nothing worth this sort of drama with this much to lose.
I’m Sara Eatherton-Goff, a non-fiction and fiction writer, visual artist, and entrepreneur mom-person currently writing on Medium and other publications. Check out some of my collective works on my website, and join my Creative Community for a weekly update, story share, and more.