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Beginning of the End-Part II

On Saturday morning, I spent the day lounging and entertaining the notion of possibly selling our house. I knew I didn’t need all the room, but selling meant I would have to communicate with Clay, and I was avoiding that at all costs. Logically, it made sense to sell. I didn’t need 3,000 square feet and five bedrooms. I hopped on Zillow, checking out smaller homes, my search then becoming townhouses, then condos and studios. I couldn’t say definitively what the future held but two bedrooms would be more than enough for me and my sons when they came to visit. It was April and Ty would be graduating in May, heading to college in August. If I was going to make a move, it needed to be soon.

I added contacting a real estate agent to the growing list of things I needed to do.

Even with no real concrete plans, I felt productive. I was moving out of contemplation and into action. It felt good to not have to run on empty and start to move with a purpose.

To reward myself, I lounged at the pool, eating chicken wings, and a two-drink max. The temperature had dropped, but the water felt good. Unable to swim and only being 5’3, I sat on the stairs. I would not be embarrassed at this pool for a second time. It was close to nine when Jeremiah sauntered out the door. I peered around him, waiting to see Syn, David, and Olivia. But he was alone. He glanced in my direction but even with the lights around the pool, he took note of a person but didn’t seem to realize it was me.

He put his towel in the cabana and got in the pool on the opposite side. Immediately, he went underwater, even though the temperature of the water was great, and it wouldn’t have taken long for him to get used to it.

I tried not to watch him, didn’t want to stare, but it was kind of hard not to. The other night I was intoxicated, at lunch, he was fully clothed. Right now, even with the lighting, I could make out tattoos on his chest and arms. He didn’t have the physique of a bodybuilder or even a gym rat, but I could see some definition and I could tell he did frequent the gym a few times a week. At lunch, he opted for grilled salmon and now I realized he watched what he ate.

Which only made me more self-conscious.

He was swimming laps between the short edges of the pool, and I tried to make a run for it.

“Angela, right?”

I was drying off and putting on my cover-up and he was now at my end of the pool. “Yes.”

“Calling it a night?”

I looked at my wrist, but I took my watch off to get in the water. “I think so.”

“Did I run you off? I didn’t mean to. I was just trying to…tire myself out so I can go to bed.”

“Oh no, you didn’t. I was just…I’ve been out here for a little while.” I didn’t initially detect hurt in his voice, but I could imagine today could have been difficult for him. “And condolences for the loss of your grandmother.”

“Yeah, today was a tough one. We always come down here for family reunion in June so I would have seen her in a couple of months. But…”

His voice trailed off and it reminded me of when my grandmother passed about ten years ago. It hit me hard because I believed I was her favorite grandchild, if for no other reason than I was the one who lived closest to her, so I saw her frequently. I tried to check on her weekly even if it was just a phone call.

“I understand. Death is never easy.”

“It’s not. I mean, she lived a full, happy life but she was my last living grandparent. A generation has been removed from my life…just kind of put things into perspective, you know?”

I never really considered the death of grandparents as the ending of a generation. Logically, no one can live forever, but death can mean losing connections. “Yes, I get what you are saying. Makes you want to be more grateful, more present, make memories, cherish what you can.”

“Exactly. Is that why you came to Miami after things didn’t work out with your husband?”

“I guess you could say that.” Jeremiah was now out of the pool, and we stood by my cabana. He was closer to me now and I was surprised by how much his attractiveness was invading my thought process. I was too old to feel…whatever it was I was feeling.

“Maybe if I had taken some time after my divorce, I wouldn’t have been so jaded about relationships. Maybe I wouldn’t be in the state I’m in.”

I raised my eyes, not expecting that he too experienced divorce and that he could admit he was jaded. “How long have you been divorced?”

“Almost five years.”

“How’d you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Get over the hurt, the devastation, the ending of a union that was supposed to last forever?” I asked without thinking. I didn’t even know why he got divorced; he might have been the cause.

He gestured towards the stairs and even though I’d already dried off and put on my cover-up, I took it off and joined him on the edge of the pool which had a wide lip ideal for sitting.

“Honestly, it was time. And accountability. Not wanting to just blame her, but knowing I had a hand in it ending. But at the end of the day, I was just really, really tired of being stuck in that cycle. I wanted to get back to being who I was.”

I nodded, noting his advice was good, but it was too new for me. I hadn’t even really processed what went wrong, how I didn’t notice, or why he decided I wasn’t worth fighting for.

“But yours is still new. You have to just feel what you need to feel. At least that’s what a co-worker told me. Don’t suppress what you’re feeling. You gotta let it move through you.”

“I’ve done nothing but suppress for months,” I admitted. “This is the first time I’ve spoken about it out loud. To anyone.”

“Huh? What do you mean? You haven’t…talked to anyone about it? In months?"

I shook my head. Hearing his reaction let me know that I’d been carrying the weight of divorce by myself and how much it drained me. It was unhealthy. “I didn’t want to talk about it. Because…”

“You are embarrassed.”

I nodded, tears coming to my eyes. “I just wonder how I missed how unhappy he was.”

“Believe me, when someone doesn’t want you to find out something, they can do a lot to hide it from you.”

“He was having an affair for a year. But things were fizzling long before then. And I did nothing.”

“Even if you did see he was unhappy, it sounded like he checked out. Nothing you said or did was going to make a difference,” Jeremiah offered. His voice was low and sincere and as much as I wanted to believe him, I couldn’t. I believe had I known, acknowledged my own feelings, I could have tried to save us. “It takes two people to save a marriage. Two willing people.”

I inhaled sharply, my belief wavering. He truly didn’t want me anymore, long before he began the affair. Much like I was at home, I felt constricted, even in the open space of an outdoor pool. I needed to get away, I needed space, and despite being outside, I needed air. I tried to stand, but Jeremiah stopped me.

“Hey, hold on. I didn’t mean to upset you,” he said gently. His hand was on my arm, firm, but gentle. I sat still, forcing myself to listen, to stay seated. “I just thought…I wanted to tell you something I wished I realized earlier. But I get your divorce is new. That was too much, too fast. I apologize.”

I nodded, accepting his apology. I heard his words and appreciated them. But it was his hand on my arm that had the greatest impact. It had been so long since Clay touched me, intimately or even on accident. I didn’t realize how touch-deprived I’d been.

We sat quietly for a few moments. When he moved his arm, I exhaled. I didn’t know I was holding my breath.

“I want to do something for you,” Jeremiah said, breaking the silence. I cut my eyes at him, unprepared for his boldness. “Whoa, whoa whoa! Not that.”

He laughed, putting my mind at ease for a second. “You are welcome to say no because you don’t know me but…I want to give you a massage.”

Once again, I looked at him, confused. “A massage? Why?”

“For one, they are relaxing. Great for a momentary escape. And two, I think you need one.”

This time, I turned my head to look him directly in his eyes. “Is it that obvious?”

He didn’t answer immediately, also didn’t avert his eyes from mine. The uncomfortableness I felt was fleeting and I couldn’t explain why. My decision-making was vacillating between moments of clarity and flying by the seat of my pants. I’d made some headway while I was here but as Jeremiah and I headed up to my room, I battled with myself, chastising how irresponsible I was being.

But his hand on my arm did something to me. It made me grasp just how much I needed physical, human contact. Because isolating myself was not the answer. Besides, I reasoned, I just refused to believe he was going to harm me. I was working overtime to justify my decision.

In my room, he gave me directions, asking me to wash the chlorine off and then to come out as naked as I felt comfortable. I took a quick shower, emerging from the bathroom wrapped in a towel.

Jeremiah removed the comforter and the flat sheet from the bed. “Get under the covers and get comfortable."

He turned around while I slid under the flat sheet, wrapping it around me.

“We’re going to have to improvise a little,” Jeremiah informed me. “A bed is a lot different than a massage table.”

“You do this…professionally?” I quizzed. I didn’t expect a professional-level massage; I thought he was just going to rub my back.

“Ehhh somewhat. I went through the classes, but life prevented me from finishing and becoming licensed.”

I wanted to ask what happened, but I didn’t. Mostly because I was lying naked in a hotel room under a flat sheet with a man, I met a few days ago who offered to give me a massage. The other part was the anticipation of his hands on me again.

“You have lotion? Oil would be better.”

“I have some vitamin E oil in the bathroom.”


He retrieved the oil and pulled the desk chair to the side of the bed. He pulled out his phone, clicked a few buttons, and the sounds of rain filled my room. The curtains were open, letting in enough light for him to see.

I waited very impatiently for him to begin. He reached for my arm, placing it on his lap. I heard the oil being opened and finally, the massage began.

His hand on my arm at the pool was tender, calming. Right now, his touch was deliberate, almost sensual. Jeremiah massaged my arm, light but firm, moving to my neck and my other arm. Then he went back the other way, doing this back and forth a few times.

He then focused on my neck and shoulders, applying pressure to relieve the tension I was carrying. Jeremiah pulled the sheet down, tucking it under me, just above my waist. With long, substantial strokes, he went the length of my back. A moan escaped my lips.

“Does that hurt?”

“Nooooooo!” I whispered.

Jeremiah continued, spending time on my back, alternating between light movements to strong and deep. He pulled the covers over my back, pulling my leg and tucking the sheet to expose my leg from my thigh down. He mimicked the movement he made on my back, firm and gentle, deep and light, strong and powerful. When he made it to my foot, I was decidedly in bliss.

The way he touched me was therapeutic. It was almost like he was searching for my hurt, for the way I blamed myself for my marriage ending and pushing out of my body. I was lost in the way his hands glided across my body, how expertly he attended to my need to be touched. There was nothing on my mind except the sensation of his hands. By the time he moved to my other leg, I drifted off to sleep.

“Turn over for me.”

Groggily, I turned over, making sure the flat sheet covered me.

Jeremiah resumed the massage, starting with my arms again. The sounds of the rain and his hands were a dangerous combination lulling me to sleep, but I needed to stay awake to be aware of his hands on me. I almost whimpered when he had to put oil on his hands.

Elementary-aged kids loved hugs. Ty was a mama’s boy and a hugger. Clay didn’t prefer physical touch, giving or receiving. I have never, in 45 years, experienced this level of sensuality from being touched. Jeremiah wasn’t touching me between my legs or on my nipples, yet, I felt so alive, so beautiful, so sexy, so wanted.

When he announced he was done, I wanted to cry. I didn’t want this moment to end.

He turned so that I could get off the bed. I shuffled to the bathroom, wrapped in the sheet to put on my pajamas. When I emerged, he was sitting on the side of the bed.

“You good?”

I nodded, trying my best to hide my emotions, but I failed in grand fashion. Tears spilled from my eyes, and I covered my face, embarrassed.

“Hey, come here,” Jeremiah coaxed. He opened his arms, his sincerity propelling me to him. He wrapped me, held me, enveloped me in calm. He whispered that I would be ok, that it would take time, but one day, my heart would feel like my own again.

My heart would be my own…again?

I wondered when it was ever mine.

All of my life, I have moved to the tune of other people’s drums, never my own. I never had any independence. I left my parent's house and went straight into marriage, kids, and career. I enjoyed what I did, even excelled at it, but education was not my first choice; my mama steered me into it.

Thinking about it, a lot of my decisions were based on safety and people-pleasing. Even my marriage.

If I were being honest with myself, I was envious of Clay. He was unhappy and he did something about it. Granted an affair was extreme, but he wasn’t going to stay miserable while I would have stayed in that gloomy façade of a marriage forever because…it was expected.

As unhappy as he was, I could say the same.

The fire died, through both of our faults. Because like Jeremiah said, if Clay wanted the marriage to work, he would have tried to make it work. And so would I.

I let my identity as a wife and mother consume me, it was all I knew, it was who I thought I had to be. I didn’t know who I was outside of being the wife of Clayton Maurice Hudson, Senior, and the mother of Clayton Maurice Hudson, Junior, and Tylen Markell Hudson. I was the daughter of Thomas and Sylvia. I was an educator. I had an identity surrounding titles, but nothing beyond that.

That’s the reason for my discontent with my marriage and my marriage ending…I was losing part of who I was. I never truly gave thought to who Angela was or could be. It was also the reason I wouldn’t tell anyone what I was going through…they would think I was a failure. Further still, it was also the reason that Jeremiah’s touch was so gratifying. It made me feel like a woman, something I hadn’t felt…well…it seemed like ever.

The realization was an epiphany and it made me tired. My tears subsided, but my thoughts were more rampant than ever. I pulled away from Jeremiah, still embarrassed.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized.

“No need. You needed to get that out.”

We lingered quietly for a few moments, no words necessary. I sensed he wanted to leave, and I didn’t want him to. “Can you stay with me? Just until I fall asleep?"

I waited for his reply, fearful he would say no.

“Of course.”

We transformed the bed from a makeshift massage table to a bed again and I climbed under the covers with Jeremiah lying beside me on top of the covers. We adjusted until we found a comfortable position, his arm resting on my hip. The rain sounds were still playing on his phone. The peace of his presence, my emotional release, and my epiphany all descended on me.

The next morning, I woke up alone.

I wasn’t sure when Jeremiah slipped out, but I only asked him to stay until I fell asleep. Last night came back to me and I felt a mix of emotions. In 25 years of being with Clay, one night with Jeremiah, even with no sex involved, was more intimate than anything I ever experienced. I was also grappling with my identity, who I was, who I wanted to be. And even though my marriage was over, and it needed to be, I was still sad about it. And I had the right to grieve that loss.

I went to the bathroom and as I was washing my hands when I noticed the note on the counter.


Last night was something different for me, different in a way I’ll always remember. I know that

you are going through a lot right now, but if ever you need an ear or anything more, I’ll try to

make something happen.

As much as you needed it, I also didn’t want to be alone so thank you for your presence.

I’m giving you my number but no pressure, no expectations. Just if you want to use it.


I smiled at this thoughtfulness, tucking the note in my purse for safekeeping. I added keeping in contact with Jeremiah to the list of things I needed to figure out.

I spent my last day in Miami looking for ways to find me. I downloaded a mindfulness app. Joined some groups on social media, surprised at the number of groups that were dedicated to supporting divorcees. I searched Amazon for guided journals. I even started looking into therapy, but that would be more time-consuming.

On the Uber ride home, armed with memories of the intimacy I shared with Jeremiah, I was ready to embark on this new journey to finding me.

My entire mood changed when I saw Clay’s car in my driveway. Ty was at school, and I wondered why he was here.

“How’d you get in here?” I asked when I found him sitting at my island.


“Ok. Do you need something?”

“Just these.” He held up the divorce papers, the papers that I left in the kitchen in plain sight of our son. I didn’t even tell Clay I signed, and I didn’t try to make arrangements to get them to him.


He lingered, not leaving the island even though he had what he said he needed.

“Anything else?”

“You signed them.”

“Yes.” My confusion was apparent on my face and in my voice. He said it as a statement, but it seemed like it was supposed to be a question. “Isn’t that why you left them for me?”

Again, he was quiet, and I was growing impatient. “Clay…what do you-“

“I’m not going to file them,” he said so low I had to ask him to repeat himself.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean…I don’t know if I want to go through with this.”

The shock of his words rendered me weak. I held onto the island for balance. “I don’t understand.”

Clay took a step in my direction, my breath catching in my throat at the nearness of him. It wasn’t welcoming or magnetic, it felt like he was choking the life from me. His eyes were sad, remorseful, almost like the night he told me he was unhappy, and he’d been having an affair.

“The time away from you and Ty…it made me realize I didn’t want to go through with it. We have been together too long, we have too much history…it didn’t feel right.”

I listened but I was right back to where I was a few months ago, speechless.

“I ended things with her. I…I want to come back home.”

I had a lot of questions, so many questions. But unlike that night months ago, I didn’t need the details, I didn’t want to know exactly what transpired in his life to make him feel our marriage needed to be saved, now. After he shattered my heart, broke my trust, uprooted my soul from his.

Had he said this before I went to Miami, I would have fallen into his arms, taken him back, and resumed the life I had. Discontented or not.

He was close to me, too close and I could smell his cologne. His hand reached for mine and I wasn’t quick enough to draw my hand back.

His biggest mistake was touching me.

After 25 years together, 20 years of marriage, and two kids, I’d grown accustomed to the way Clay touched me. After one night with Jeremiah, touch meant something more. The way Jeremiah touched me physically, emotionally, mentally opened me up to a world beyond what I knew.

And I was inclined to move forward, not backward.

I slid my hands into my back pocket, making sure he couldn’t reach for me again. He was confused, maybe even hurt. He was not expecting me to recoil from the sensation of his touch, something he’d done for years. But now, my eyes have been opened. And I didn’t want to be tied down to someone who discarded me so easily, someone that I was just as unhappy with.

He had the right idea by admitting he wasn’t content with our marriage. He took a big leap in starting an affair and leaving me while I only took baby steps in becoming a better version of me. Yet, I felt closer to where I wanted to be. And I had my soon-to-be ex-husband to thank for starting an affair, dropping off divorce papers, and sending me to Miami where I got to experience Jeremiah.

Maybe my women’s intuition wasn’t broken at all, maybe it was just buried under duty, under obligation, under expectations. I knew in my gut that taking Clay back would be a mistake, a huge, unnecessary mistake. One that I was not going to make.

I was going to trust that I deserved more, even if it meant I was not sure what would be on the other side.

“You don’t have to file them. But I will.”


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