"Lunch was delicious, Wanda." Clarissa said.
"Yes it was. What was the dressing in the honeydew and grape salad?" Sherri asked.
"Well it was wonderful." Several ladies exclaimed.
During the afternoon games, the ladies talked and shared the events of their lives as well as the happenings in other people's lives. They didn't consider it gossiping. It was just sharing the information in order to glean the wisdom of trusted friends. The group liked to claim that they knew everything about each other. Yet in their heart of hearts, each knew she hadn't shared everything. Secretly each worried that one day the group would discover her secret. Some wondered if the group actually did know and talked about it, only changing the names to protect the group member.
When a story was reported about a woman choosing to remain childless, Clarissa listened with interest. She always wondered if they really believed her story about not wanting children. She couldn't tell them the truth. She had told no one, yet there were times when she thought she could read her secret in the eyes of her friends. It had happened during the fall of their junior year in college. She and Tom had been dating for two years and had gotten closer than they planned. Two weeks before Christmas break, she discovered she was pregnant. When she told Tom, he was less than thrilled and refused to help in any way. Over the holidays, she scheduled an appointment with an abortion clinic and without telling anyone, ended the pregnancy. She rationalized the decision with the thought that one day she would be able to care for a baby properly. However, things didn't go as planned during the procedure. The technician was inexperienced and the procedure left her unable to conceive again. The guilt of the abortion was a constant reminder of her sin and in an effort to conceal the truth, she concocted the story of not wanting children.
"My sweet husband surprised me by planning a trip for the two of us to celebrate our anniversary." Martha announced.
"Oh, he is so sweet. You are so lucky to have him." Arlene said as the others nodded in agreement.
Sherri didn't respond to the announcement. Instead she thought of her own marriage. Her husband was a wonderful man. He was a good provider and a great father to their children. Other women commented on how lucky she was to have him. They didn't know her secret. She had been madly in love with another man in college. They planned to be married but suddenly, due to family problems he called off the engagement. Sherri's heart was broken. She thought she was incapable of love again, so she found a good man and married him. At the beginning of the marriage, she tried hard to play loving games with him. However, he suffered from some emotional problems which left him far too serious. Within a month after the wedding, she realized that he was innately negative and critical. Her attempts at newlywed games and play were met with rebukes and lectures of appropriate behavior. In public he was loving, kind and respectful. No one else ever saw the real man she married. Sherri knew she loved him, but she wasn't in love with him. She wished she had waited for the man God had prepared for her. Now she put on a smile and pretended everything was wonderful.
"Well my sister is getting a divorce." Amy announced during a break in the card game.
"Oh, I hate that. What happened?" Wanda asked.
"Her husband is addicted to pornography. She has put up with it as long as possible, but she's had enough."
Do they know? Martha thought as she listened to the ongoing conversation. She watched carefully to see if anyone looked her way. Martha had been introduced to pornography as a teenager. It was idle curiosity then, but soon completely consumed her waking moments. Most days she rushed her kids off to school, cleaning the house behind them. By the time they were sitting down for their first class, she had checked into at least one porn site aimed at women. She was careful to erase the history on the computer so the kids or her husband didn't stumble onto one of her sites. She hated herself for being unable to control her habit but rationalized it by assuring herself that she wasn't hurting anyone.
As the card game began again, Wanda excused herself to the master bathroom. She had worked hard to get everything ready for the gathering and now she needed something to boost her energy and calm her nerves. In the back of her closet, she kept a personal refrigerator with a bottle of vodka and small bottles of juice. No one knew it was there. She had it installed without her husband's knowledge and since they had separate closets, it wasn't likely he would ever see it. Now she mixed the vodka with a bottle of orange juice. As the first swallow flowed down her throat, she felt the soothing effects spread throughout her body. After drinking her drug of choice, Wanda freshened her breath and applied more perfume to her neck. Then she calmly returned to her guests, less confident than she would have preferred.
When Wanda returned to the party, Martha was telling them of her good fortune. "I was in the convenient store and the customer in front of me bought a lottery ticket. I never buy a ticket, but I thought what the heck, just for kicks. I paid $2 for a scratch off and won $50. Isn't that hilarious? The first time I buy a ticket, I win."
Amy didn't laugh. Her credit cards were maxed out and five finance companies held unsecured loans in her name. She regularly hid her debts from her husband and borrowed from friends to cover her notes when the money wasn't in the family till. When she was in college a date had taken her to a casino, handed her a twenty dollar bill and said, "Have a good time." She did. By the end of the evening she had won $100. She tried to return it to her date, but he insisted she keep it. The next week she went to the casino alone. She told her friends she was going home for the weekend, but drove a few miles out of town to the casino strip. Rooms and food were cheap, making it possible to spend the weekend for very little money. By the end of that first weekend, she was hooked. She rarely lost money on her adventures. She didn't always win, but she did break even. By her first wedding anniversary, Amy's gambling had spiraled out of control.
"Well I'm so bad in math, I wouldn't know whether I was winning or losing." Sherri announced.
Immediately Clarissa became alert. She had struggled all the way through school and always felt like they were putting her down. The others in the group were all gifted students. Clarissa was talented in many areas, but not academically. The last semester of school, she had become engaged to Steve and they had agreed she would be a stay-at-home mom. Knowing her degree was needed only for status, she decided to take the easy way out. She obtained her degree by cheating on her final exams.
The afternoon ended with lots of hugs and kisses as well as an agreement on next month's hostess. Then each lady took her secret home with her. Some to share with their husbands. Others to share in their prayer closet as they asked for strength, guidance, and deliverance.