Having her ex-husband Max cheat on her, not once but several times, damaged Brenda’s attraction towards hot men. In short, she didn’t trust them. She figured she’d have better luck with a man who was not so sexy.
“The picking’s going to be plenty,” Campbell had told her.
She met Jonathan while having lunch at the bar where her son Randy worked as a waiter.
Ever since Randy had decided that he wanted to live with his father Brenda made it a point to go to the bar at least once a week. There she met men, some of them already taken but who had no moral code as to asking her if she was willing to have diner with them some evening when they were in town again.
“You don’t think your wife would mind?” she’d ask them.
Some laughed nervously; others told her, “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
Was it better not to know? She missed being with Max and Randy. Sure, it was a small family but it was a family and that’s what was most important to her. But once she knew about Max’s entanglements with other women she wasn’t able to put them out of her mind. Sex between them was never the same again.
When she first set eyes on Jonathan she thought he was perfect in that he fulfilled her non-handsome criteria. He took her out to fancy restaurants and the ballet. He drove a Mercedes and had a good job and dressed well.
They’d been dating twice a week for over a month and Jonathan had been pressing her to have sex. She’d read how a man falls in love with a woman’s virtue and not with her body. But having Jonathan fall in love with her was not Brenda’s motivation. She just wasn’t attracted to him.
“Is there something wrong with me?” she texted her girlfriend, Campbell who was in India. “Sexual attraction shouldn’t come into my decision since I’ve been sexually attracted to many men and that’s never led anywhere.”
“Oh, just go to bed with him,” Campbell texted back. “You know what they say, women attach to a man after they’ve had sex. You’ll probably even start to find him cute.”
Brenda doubted that. After her tenth date with Jonathan she said, “what the heck,” and went to bed with him. It was terrible. She felt nothing. As she lay next to him, she found herself shallow. Why can’t I see beyond the physical, she wondered. She needed to sort all this out and so after twenty minutes she said, “You have to leave. I need to be alone.”
“But I’d like to sleep next to you. Spend the entire night with you.”
“No,” she insisted and got up and put on her jogging pants and t-shirt.
The next day Jonathan called and said, “I’m going to visit my daughter in the country. She got this important job at the immigration office and is leaving for Hong Kong tomorrow and I want to see her before she leaves. I’d like you to come with me.”
It touched her that he cared for his daughter. She liked a man with family values. Perhaps she’d been too harsh with him last night and so as a way of making it up to him and a hope that she would develop strong emotions towards him she said yes.
On the way up north he told her that his other daughter would also be there with her new baby.
Brenda smiled. “I love babies,” she said.
It was lunch time when they reached the country house and Brenda was surprised to see that his ex-wife was also at the house. Even more surprised to learn that the house belonged to the ex-wife. She thought how hurt she would have felt had Max brought any of his girlfriends to her home.
“Did you tell her I was coming?” she asked when they were taking their rain coats off.
“Don’t worry about it. Everything’s cool.”
But Brenda could see on the expression of the ex-wife’s face and on the daughters’ that everything wasn’t cool.
His daughter handed him the baby and he quickly passed it to Brenda and said, “Here, you hold it.”
She looked at the ex-wife who had tears in her eyes. One of her daughter’s – the one who was going to Hong Kong – placed her arm around her mother’s shoulders. Brenda handed the baby to the ex-wife and said, “You have a beautiful grandson.”
She then went up to Jonathan who was filling himself a plateful of cold cuts and whispered to him, “I think we should go.”
“We just got here,” he said. “I’m having a good time.”
Finally Brenda insisted because she couldn’t bear to see such sadness in his ex-wife’s eyes.
On the way home she asked him,”Why did you and your wife break up?”
“Oh, that,” he said. “I had an affair.”
“Don’t you think it hurt her to see you with another woman at a family function?”
“Why should it? It’s not as if I came with the woman I cheated with.”
Brenda knew that she couldn’t see him again. And it had nothing to do with his looks. It was his spirit she found unattractive. He was too insensitive a man to not even notice how his selfish behavior hurt people.
When she got home she got out her list of the suitable partner she was looking for and added to it: a man who is aware of the hurt he can cause.