Carol had no idea why her husband, Jerry, was so furious when he walked in the door that evening. “Carol, what in the world did you say to people? Dave called me this afternoon to tell me he’s sorry to hear we’re getting a divorce. What’s going on?”
Carol’s eyes widened. “What? Now why would anyone say that? The only person I talked to is Liz this morning over coffee. Everyone knows I adore you, Jerry. Thirty years and raising four kids, and now grandchildren, people know we couldn’t be happier.” Rolling her eyes, Carol assured Jerry nothing was amiss.
Over dinner, she replayed the morning in her mind. Nothing unusual happened except for her sneezing fit. It started with a slight tickling in her nose, followed by a delicate sneeze.
“Bless you,” Liz said, sipping her coffee.
It didn’t stop with a delicate sneeze, though. It progressed to loud, body-shaking sneezes that resulted in Carol wrenching her back.
“Allergies?” Liz asked, concern in her eyes. “With all the rain, everything’s blossoming at the same time, not to mention weeds, so it must be allergies!”
“Maybe,” Carol moaned, massaging her left shoulder and down her lower back, “but I don’t think so. It started when Jerry got this new cologne from his mother for his birthday. I swear this morning he took a bath in, that’s how strong it was. What a knucklehead! I’ve been sneezing ever since. I don’t think I can make it to the Neighborhood Meeting at Lucy’s, though. I better just lay on the heating pad instead. Say hello, and give them my regrets, okay?”
There was a collective sigh when the group heard Carol wouldn’t be there. Liz, who loved to exaggerate, embellished just a tad on Carol’s condition. “Sneezing like crazy, and pulled her back out. She’s in extreme pain. I helped her into bed. It’s some new cologne Jerry’s wearing. She’s allergic, you know. She should lock him out of the house if he keeps wearing it.”
There was a tittering of laughter as everyone voiced sympathy for Carol. The only explanation for how Carol’s condition took on momentum had to be Laura’s fault. Laura’s mind was occupied during the meeting with concerns about lay-offs at her husband’s job. All she heard was something about Carol locking Jerry out.
Later that day Laura’s mother-in-law called to inquire about the lay-offs. Laura sighed, and said, “At least our marriage is strong. I’m not trying to gossip, but poor Carol and Jerry are having problems. Apparently she locked him out of the house.”
The mother-in-law gasped. “Fighting? How sad!”
The story made its way to another friend. “Yes, lay-offs, but they’re better off than Carol and Jerry. Poor Carol had to lock Jerry out of the house to protect herself. I guess it turned violent.”
The story made its way to another friend, all in the guise of genuine concern. “I think he gave her a black eye. She had to take to her bed, poor dear!”
It would’ve been bad enough had it stopped there, but like proverbial wildfire, it spread.
“They really need an intervention. And that Jerry seems such a nice man, too. He hit her with his fists. Several times, in fact. Bless Carol’s heart.”
“You know what they say about those quiet types! It’s so bad, she’s in the hospital. He needs to be in jail.”
“The police had to be called. Yes, that’s right, he’s in jail. Thank goodness their kids are grown.”
“Who knew? It’s been going on for years. She kept it hidden for the sake of the children. What? Well, of course I’m sure.”
“Carol’s in the hospital. She had to get a restraining order to keep him away. Pitiful, huh? Divorce is the only answer.”
“Some of us are taking food over. Such a shame, isn’t it? If Jerry’s car is in the driveway, don’t knock. I heard anything sets him off.”
“A restraining order? No, I didn’t know. Well, of course I’ll call the police if I see his car.”
Amidst her sneezes and aching back, Carol tried to explain again to Jerry that she had no idea why anyone would say they’re divorcing. Sneezing again, she said, “Honey, that cologne! You have to stop wearing it. I think I’m allergic to it, or something.”
At that very moment, their doorbell rang. Glancing out their front window, they were both surprised to see a police car parked at the curb.
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