Rosemary had packed and unpacked her suitcase three times. Now it lay full, near to bursting, on the bed. All her winter clothes were inside, plus the contents of the bathroom cabinet, and an envelope containing enough cash to last a year.
The flight to Aspen would take off in four hours. She’d called a car service to take her to Logan, arranging to meet the driver in front of a laundromat on Joy Street.
Suddenly, the plan seemed absurd. Could she really leave her children to face this mess without her? Then she remembered: they were in her husband’s thrall, just like everyone else.
Rosemary lugged the suitcase downstairs, lingering in the doorways of each of the rooms she’d spent decades decorating. In the formal living room, the grand piano was crowded with photographs in silver frames. There were Katie and Tom on their wedding day, beaming on the church steps. Here were her four children on an Easter Sunday when they were small. Her eyes landed on a photo of Jim, arms raised in victory on the night he was elected mayor.
She considered leaving him a note. Three months ago, he’d booked the biggest of the Copley Plaza ballrooms for their 45th anniversary. In front of 300 people, he’d given a speech about her loyalty, how she’d stayed by his side, even when he’d acted like a fool. He could have said anything, and he chose that.
His affairs were mortifying, his sloppiness enraging. She’d never forget the photo on the front page of the Herald — of Jim and that model locked in an embrace on the deck of his precious schooner. The headline screamed MAHONEY’S LOVE BOAT. A swarm followed, reporters stooping so low as to involve her children. It turned out that Jim had the model on the payroll, listed as a senior economic consultant.
Not long after Jim resigned, George, his beloved father, died of a heart attack. This sent Jim into a depression: six months of padding around in his boxer shorts, adding whiskey to his coffee. Then one day, he emerged newly energized, determined to make his father’s company a success at any cost. For two decades, that occupied his time. That, and chasing girls half his age.
Beyond the embarrassment, Rosemary didn’t care about the affairs, which at least gave her many pleasant evenings alone. Sometimes she spent two hours in front of the bathroom mirror, applying face masks and eye creams, the efficacy of which she could never be certain, but that La Mer serum cost over $300, so she reasoned that it must be doing something. The freedom also gave her time to have dinner with her oldest friend, Virginia, the one person who knew Rosemary’s deepest fantasy: to escape to an abbey full of nuns, to wear a long black habit and never again feel a hand snake into her underpants while she was trying to sleep.
She hadn’t always been like this. When she met her husband, she was intoxicated by the abundance of him — not just his size, but his confidence. He walked into any room certain that everyone in it was now better off being in his presence. From the start, she noticed how he lied, but she somehow overlooked it. Their differences thrilled her.
But six years into their marriage, she picked up the phone in the kitchen and heard Jim say, “Sherry, you know I’ve always loved you.”