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The Funeral

A mistress attends the funeral of her lover has an encounter with his widow she didn't expect.
She stood outside the funeral home and told herself this was a mistake. She had been having this dialogue with herself since the day she saw the obituary in the paper. It was not like she read those on a regular basis. In fact, she avoided this section of the paper like the plague because she found it morbid and creepy, but she was reading an article that had “continued on page” with her morning coffee and she turned to the wrong page by accident. That was when she saw it, the picture of the man she had been having an affair with for the last ten years. It stopped her in her tracks. She read that he had died from “natural causes” on the last day she had seen him.

She was wearing a simple black dress, stockings, heels, and the necklace he gave her for her birthday. People quietly shuffled in. Many were crying. Everyone was wearing black or dark colors. She slipped in with a large group and worked her way into the building. When she reached the sign-in book, she decided to use the pseudonym he had given her so many years before, Polly Adler.

She had never understood why he liked this name but figured he had a reason, so she never questioned it. Polly moved around the room quietly, when she saw the widow. She was easily recognizable, not by the crowd of mourners surrounding her, but by the detailed description he had given her so many times before. Afraid she might offend or upset her, Polly slipped into what she thought was a restroom, and closed the door behind her.

To her shock, it was not the restroom, but the viewing room. Polly thought it was odd that the door had been closed, but assumed it was to not upset the widow. She walked up and saw the open casket, and her former lover lying there. She checked to make sure she was alone, then reached down and touched his hair the way she would when they made love. When she touched his cheek, she pulled her hand away from the cold body.

“Wow,” she whispered to herself. “You really are dead now, aren’t you?”

She remembered how they met, and how silly she would have thought it sounded if anyone else would have told her the same story. She had just gotten out of a verbally abusive relationship that all but destroyed her self-esteem, and went into, of all places, an adult-only chat room that was mostly people looking for cyber sex and hoping for real life hook-ups.

She created the screen name “SexyNymph” even though she never felt sexy, or saw herself as a nymph. She did this so she could explore her darker side, and maybe exorcize some of her demons. The problem was, most of the men on there (if they were men) were rather mean and abusive. Then he sent her a private message under the screen name “Seasoned_Lover”.

He liked her name, and started some online play where he would call her “Polly.” They would type out some really erotic and kinky scenes. Soon, their chats evolved from just sex to other topics, and they discovered they lived in the same city. After several months of chatting, they agreed to meet in a local Starbucks for coffee. Each figured it would be safer, and if they discovered they did not like the real person behind the keyboard, then they would go their separate ways.

He was easily thirty years her senior, with salt and pepper hair, soft brown eyes, and a gentle smile. She was a petite blond with blue eyes and a curvy figure. They sat and drank coffee for several hours, and ended their day with them in a no-tell motel, making love. Over the next ten years, they would meet here and there, different no-tell motels, and eventually she took him to her home.

They never had a set schedule for when they would meet up to reduce the chance they would be caught by his wife. Toward the end of their run, their encounters would involve less sex, and more conversation. He shared with her how his wife had been ill, and after a nasty bout with cancer, she was no longer able to engage in any sexual activity with him. He made it clear that he would not leave her, but, after five years, he gave in to his desires. He took Polly on as his lover and mistress. She had no desire to get married. This relationship more than met her needs sexually, and also helped to rebuild her self-esteem.

She leaned over, gently kissed his cold forehead and whispered, “Farewell my love. Thank you for everything.”

As she stood up she heard, “How did you know my husband?”

Polly spun around and there, standing before her, was his widow. She wanted to cry and confess her sins, but instead she stood tall and said, “We used to work together.”

“You know he retired ten years ago.”

“Yeah, he retired after my first year, but he was my mentor.”

“Oh, I see. I’m sorry; I didn’t catch your name.”

“Polly. Polly Adler.”

“I’m Kathy,” she said extending her hand and smiling.

Polly shook her hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you. He talked about you all the time.”

Polly’s statement was true. He did talk about Kathy all the time. Often, he would vent his frustrations, but Polly remembered that when Kathy got sick, he nearly ended their affair. He would e-mail her updates of Kathy’s progress. She even remembered the day the doctor announced she had fully recovered, as he was at her home that night and they had made love for hours.

“So, Polly, I’m really glad you were able to come by. I wish we were meeting under better circumstances.”

“Me, too,” she said, wondering what she knew.

“Polly, can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Sure.”

“Sit down, please.”

Polly sat in an empty chair and Kathy sat next to her. “Is something wrong?”

“Polly, I want to tell you a story, a love story that I think you’ll enjoy hearing. I met my husband when we were children. We grew up together just a few doors down from each other, went to school together, and fell in love. Back then, when you said, ‘I do,’ you meant it. Divorce wasn’t a word you heard ever, unless the wife had to run from a physically abusive man. I was lucky, as he was gentle and loving. We had four beautiful children and until about fifteen years ago, we were passionate lovers. Then, I was diagnosed with cancer, and before it was over, I had lost my uterus and had a full-blown hysterectomy that left me unable to engage in any sexual activity without extreme pain. I begged him to find a lover outside of the marriage but he refused. Slowly, over about five years, he began to pull away from me.”

“Weren’t you afraid he’d leave you?” asked Polly.

“No, child,” she said with a slight laugh. “I knew he meant it when he said ‘till death do us part’ and he was just angry and hurt. Then, about ten years ago, give or take a year, he started to change. He started to smile again and started to act like my husband again. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out he’d found a lover.”

“Weren’t you angry?”

“No,” she said smiling and shook her head. “I had told him to find one, and he had finally done it. She must have been good for him to because suddenly, he started doing things he’d never done before.”

“Like what?”

“One day he came home with a dozen roses for me.”

Polly remembered the day they passed a flower shop on their way to the no-tell motel. They had been together for about two years and she said, “You should buy your wife some flowers.”

“Why?” he asked. “It’s not her birthday or our anniversary.”

“I know,” Polly said, “but it would make her smile. Women like it when men do little things for them for no reason, other than they love them.”

“Maybe,” he said. Polly was happy to learn he did.

“Then he made me dinner,” said Kathy. “Nearly burned the house down, but the effort was there.”

Polly bit her lip. They had been watching the Cooking channel after they had made love and she had said she would love it if a man made her dinner. Now she knew he tried, and failed miserably. “How bad was the damage?”

“Not bad,” she said. “I was so taken by his effort that I couldn’t be angry with him. We ended up having pizza that night, and he helped me clean the kitchen and the rest of the house. Now, where I was going with this? Oh yes, it was this woman, at least I hope it was a woman, saved my marriage.”

“Excuse me?” Polly asked confused.

“He was so angry for so long after my cancer. Not at me, mind you, but at the situation. I loved making love with him, and how we’d lay in bed and talk for hours after. Then all that stopped. No more lovemaking, no more talks, nothing. I could feel him pulling away. He was putting distance between us because he was so angry and didn’t want to take it out on me. Then, slowly, he started to come back. Sure, we weren’t making love any more, but we were talking again. Suddenly we had conversations in our bed that would last so long we’d see the sunrise again. We laughed, we cried, we were newlyweds without the sex. He wasn’t cheating on me as much as he was taking care of himself.”

“Did he tell you about this mistress?”

“No, he never did. But I knew. A wife always knows. That’s why I put his picture in the paper with the obituary, so if by chance she saw it, she might come. I mean, for all I knew, he had lied to her about his name.”

“Wait,” said Polly, “you wanted his mistress to come today?”

“Yes,” said Kathy. “I wanted to thank her for giving me the best ten years of my life. For making my husband smile again, and making him happy again. I wanted to tell her that I don’t think she’s a whore, but a lifesaver.”

“So why are you telling me this?” asked Polly.

“I thought maybe you might be her, as you were the only person I didn’t recognize. I saw you come in and slip in here as if you were avoiding me. If you are, don’t tell me, but you look like the type of woman he’d be attracted to. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have other guests I must tend to. You’re welcome to stay Polly, if that’s your name, but you must know, Polly Adler was a famous prostitute and madam from New York. You don’t spend your life with a history buff and not learn a thing or two.”

Kathy rose and stepped out of the room. A few minutes later, the doors opened and people shuffled in. Polly just sat for several minutes processing what she had just heard, then stood up, walked to the casket one last time, kissed her fingers, pressed them to his lips, and quietly left. She stopped by the sign-in book, and turned it to the page she had signed in on to change her entry to her real name. To her surprise, she found an envelope with the name “Polly Adler” written on it. She grabbed the envelope, changed the entry, and left.

Another woman walked up to Kathy and asked, “Who was that woman?”

Kathy smiled and said, “She was my husband’s best friend and mistress.”

“What kind of whore comes to his funeral?” said the woman shocked.

“No,” said Kathy. “She’s anything but a whore. Her heart is as broken as mine is. She loved him enough to make him happy, even though she knew he’d never leave me. Besides, she gave me the greatest gift of all.”

“What was that?”

“My husband. She gave me back the man I fell in love with.”

Polly drove home and stared at the mysterious envelope for over an hour. She had changed into sweats and a t-shirt and debated if she should read the letter. Finally, she gave in to her curiosity, opened it, and read:

My Dearest “Polly”

If you are reading this, then I have died. I’m sure you’re sad but please don’t be. I wanted to thank you for reminding me to live. I didn’t realize how angry I was at my wife, at the world, but mostly at myself until I met you. You helped me live again and you reminded me that just because we couldn’t have “physical” sex, didn’t mean I couldn’t make my wife feel loved. You helped me realize that I was being a selfish jerk and blaming her for things that were anything but her fault. Promise me you’ll move forward with your life and find a good man to love you as I did. Please also accept the enclosed gift, not as payment for your services, but as an old man’s appreciation for giving me the best years of my life.

All my love,

Frank

Polly looked into the envelope and found a check, made out to her for one million dollars. This in itself was shocking, but what shocked her more, was the check was signed by his wife. She put the letter into the envelope, and stared at the check for an unknown amount of time. Her phone rang, startling her.

“Hello?”

“Did you read the letter?” It was Kathy, his wife.

“Yes.”

“He asked me to give that to you the night he died. The original check was only for ten thousand, but I felt you more than earned the bonus. Please don’t tear it up. Use it to live your life. Just promise me one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Don’t sleep with anyone else’s husband.”

She heard a click, and the line went dead. Suddenly it hit her, the only man she had ever truly loved was dead, she was alone and rich; she needed to start over, but right now, all she could do, was cry.

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