Every week, a chapter of my book, “Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned” (available via Amazon.com, just click on the title or book cover) will be published here on Lovefraud. To read prior chapters, please see the links at the bottom of the post.
Chapter 31: Not Your Everyday Walk In The Park
Soon after the cookie incident, I was in a park near Paul’s office when I noticed two people who worked for Paul eating a bag lunch while sitting on the park swings. Neither of them recognized me. The only time I had met them was at a holiday party, and I had been dressed up with makeup, contacts, and my hair down. With blue jeans and a sweatshirt, no makeup, glasses, and my hair pulled back in a ponytail, even casual friends often told me I did not seem like the same person. No wonder it did not register with these two virtual strangers that I was Paul’s wife. No wonder they continued their conversation at normal volume, easily overheard.
“What does he see in her? She’s a witch.”
“Yeah, like the Wicked Witch of the West.”
“She even looks like a witch—beady eyes, pointy nose. Just hand her a broom.”
“She’s awful. Paul says she’s brilliant. Is he blind? Deaf? She’s the meanest person I’ve ever met. Anne-Marie even made Sally cry yesterday when she called her ‘stupid and lazy’ in front of everyone. Paul lets her treat everyone like shit. He must be screwing her. What else explains it? The thought makes me sick.”
“I know. Have you heard how he talks to her? Like she’s a goddess. ‘Yes, Anne-Marie. Whatever you want, Anne-Marie. He gets all glassy eyed, like a puppy. Gross!”
“I used to have so much respect for him. It’s pathetic. She’s disgusting. He’s disgusting.”
“And the pay cut thing. We all took pay cuts to keep the company going, and Paul gave her a promotion, a fancier title, a bigger office, and—someone said—a huge pay increase. And that apartment for only Anne-Marie to use when she’s working late, but no one else can ever use it! I can’t believe it. Anne-Marie just got a fancy new car. The investing partners must be going nuts.”
“Poor Sally. She’s worked with Paul since she started as an analyst in Minnesota. She told me that she went to Paul when Anne-Marie started treating everyone like shit. Sally was sure Paul didn’t know and would do something. Like, what else could explain it? But I saw her in tears this morning. Paul fired her for not being loyal to Anne-Marie. Sally’s in shock. She said she has no idea who Paul is anymore.”
“I’m updating my resume.”
“Me too. I can’t take this anymore. Who knows if this startup’s even going to make it another month? Before, I thought the world of Paul, was sure anything he touched turned to gold. Now? What an ass! He’s making horrible decisions, probably so he can keep screwing that bitch.”
The two got off the swings and headed back in the direction of Paul’s office. My heart pounded. Blood coursed through my veins with such violence I thought my head would burst.
I called Sally. She and I had been friendly since our days in Minneapolis together. She had always admired Paul and been one of his most loyal supporters. When she answered the phone and realized it was me, she burst into tears.
“Paul fired me,” she sobbed. “He said I wasn’t loyal to him, because I don’t respect Anne-Marie enough. Onna, she’s horrible! Paul lets her run everything, and all she does is stomp around, scream at people, and humiliate them. She has no idea what she’s doing. Paul tells everyone to do everything Anne-Marie says, but she doesn’t know what to do half the time. And if something goes wrong, she rips into people. Everyone’s miserable. Stupid me, I thought Paul didn’t know. So I talked to him. Everyone hates Anne-Marie. People are losing respect for Paul. He backs her up on everything, even when she’s totally out of control! Even when other people know much more than she does, he ignores them. When she makes a mistake, she blames someone else, and Paul defends her. It’s like he gets off on it in some twisted way.”
“I’m so sorry,” I replied. “I don’t know what to say. I know the company’s having cash flow issues and that Paul’s under tremendous pressure.”
“I used to admire him. He was my mentor. I almost worshiped him. I worked around the clock for him, to help him succeed, to help him get promoted and make partner. He’s a monster. When he called me into his office, he looked hateful.” Sally paused before continuing. “Onna, I’ve never seen someone look like that. It was almost … almost evil. It scared me. I can’t believe I’ve been so devoted to him. I don’t know who he is. How can anyone be like that?”
“Do you think they’re having an affair?” I asked.
“Everyone does. She’s often in his office with the door closed. They leave for lunch together all the time. They’re gone for a long time. There’s something sexual there, but who knows if they are actually ‘doing it.’ Does it matter? It’s sick. She’s ugly inside and out. No one gets it.”
“How can I help?” I asked.
“There’s nothing you can do,” Sally said. “He’s not who I thought he was. He said I’m never to contact him or anyone from the office ever again. I’ve worked for him since I got out of college. I helped him make partner after only five years. So many of us did. Now I don’t even have a recommendation if I apply to business school or law school or … What about you?”
“I don’t know, this is all so fast, and with the kids … I just don’t know.” Sweat beaded on my forehead. My body felt alarmingly hot. My heart pounded. What was I going to do?
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Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.