I’m lucky I still have a job after the stunt my wife pulled, and she still has the nerve to blame it all on me.
I guess I should have known it would never work out the first time we met, but Susan was so pretty and bubbly, and I was so shy. She talked to me on my first day at a new high school and I fell in love.
Back then, Susan’s parents were quite well off. Her father was junior vice-president of a billion-dollar hedge fund, so they were rolling in money and socialite friends. Then 2008 brought the house of cards crashing down.
Most of the other kids at the private school we attended had parents who had lost a lot of their money after investing in Susan’s dad’s fund, and she was a virtual outcast. Which was probably why she befriended me.
My dad hadn’t lost any money in the crisis because he didn’t have any to lose. The only reason I attended the exclusive and expensive school was that my mother’s wealthy new husband — he was in oil — paid for it.
It made sense, you know? I was the odd boy out, the son of an airforce career officer who’d spent all my life hopping from place to place, and the daughter of a once-wealthy man who was still in the school because the director of the board was her uncle.
We became best friends. Then the day came when she held my hand at the movies and gave me my first kiss. Susan always made the first moves — I was much too insecure and in awe of her beauty.
After graduation, I headed for junior college and a middle management course, but Susan didn’t have the SATs for a scholarship, and there wasn’t enough money for college.
I knew she was humiliated. She had expected to go to Sarah Lawrence, like her cousins, to have a glorious dizzy college experience, and afterward, she would have met and married exactly the right kind of man.
I guess I was what was left on her menu. Not bad looking, not too dull, and bright enough to make it with a push. That’s what Susan always said: “Phillip, you need a PUSH!”
And so Susan pushed. The first thing she pushed me into was marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I love her, but I think we could have waited until our lives were more settled and I had a better job.
So we married and settled into a tiny apartment, upstairs from a Chinese restaurant and our home smelled of soy sauce and dim sum 24 hours a day. After a year, Susan “pushed” again.
We were having Sunday lunch with my mother and my stepfather, George — he’s not a bad guy as far as stepfather’s go — when Susan dropped the bombshell
She leaned over and said to my mom, tears in her eyes: “I’m just so nervous about having the baby in that tiny apartment, in that neighborhood!”
I nearly choked and my mother dropped her fork on top of her Main lobster, spattering butter sauce everywhere. “The baby? Oh my God! Phillip! How could you not tell me!”
I was staring at my wife open-mouthed. My mother was hugging Susan and even George was looking emotional and teary-eyed. My mother turned to him appealingly: “George, please, can’t we do something?”
So George did. We moved into a condo he owned and which we could never have afforded. And no, Susan wasn’t pregnant. After two months she “lost” the baby, and I was horrified by my mother’s very real grief over the fake loss.
I was angry with Susan, furious to be honest. But I couldn’t tell the truth. That would expose her as the worse kind of manipulator — which I was beginning to realize was exactly what she was.
Before long our luxurious new apartment was being visited by her friends. Of course, Susan didn’t tell them it belongs to my stepfather, it is “our” apartment. Nor did she tell them the artwork and few antiques we own were bullied out of her parents.
Susan worked as a receptionist at an art gallery, which allowed her to mix with the right kind of people, rich people. She would tell her friends that she worked to “keep busy,” but it was a lie.
We needed the money, we needed every cent. I worked as an assistant manager at a small Italian family restaurant, and I loved it. Susan didn’t think it was grand enough, so once again she “pushed.”
Somehow she discovered that one of my dad’s old buddies owned an exclusive, two Michelin star restaurant, “The Kettle of Fish,” and she didn’t stop until she maneuvered my father into asking the man to interview me for a job.
Toby Ultrecht hired me. He is a hard man, but fair, and he runs his restaurant like a regiment. I fit in just fine, after all, I’d lived with a military man all my life, and order and discipline are second nature to me.
Toby put me in charge of the floor, and things went well. The money was great, and to be honest, for once I was grateful for Susan’s “push.” A year later. Toby started absenting himself from the restaurant for days at the time.
He was setting up a new restaurant in Atlantic City, and he pretty much left me in charge. As far as the staff goes, I’m the manager — but I don’t ever make any major decisions without consulting Toby.
That was when I made my biggest mistake. I told Susan that I was practically running the restaurant. She was over the moon. She started telling me she was sure that Toby was grooming me to take over.
Susan cried: “Phil, he’s going to make you manager and move to Atlantic City! He’ll retire and you’ll be running the city’s finest restaurant. And since he has no kids and no family, maybe he’ll leave it to you…”
“No, Susan! Enough! No more flights of fancy, OK? I’m an assistant manager, and that’s what I am.”
Well!” Susan huffed, “That’s because you are not ambitious Phil! We’d still be living over the dim sum place if…”
If you hadn’t conned my mother and George into giving us a luxury condo?”
“I resent that!”
“You lied to my mother, took advantage of George, and then broke their hearts so you could have a luxury apartment and made me your accomplice.”
“Phil! You’ve never talked to me like this!”
“Maybe I should have! Stop interfering in my life, Susan! I’m warning you!”
“Interfering? I’m trying to get you the life I deserve!”
The life YOU deserve?” I was staring at Susan in astonishment. “You DESERVE?”
She was flushed scarlet with rage. “Yes! The life I want, the life I should have had, and you should be glad to help me, Phil! You should be grateful.”
“Grateful? Grateful for what?”
“FOR ME! Everyone knows I’m well over your pay grade, Phil, all your friends know it!”
I walked out. I admit it. Maybe I should have stayed and hashed it out with her, but I couldn’t listen to her hacking my life apart any longer. But Susan had one last surprise in store for me.
That evening, the hostess escorted in a party of five, all women, and among them was Susan, looking around as if she were a queen surveying her kingdom. She loudly demanded the best table, and the hostess had to move them twice before she was satisfied
She and her friends proceeded to order the most expensive wines and food on the menu, all accompanied by lots of recommendations to the chef as to how they wanted their meals prepared.
The worse moment was when the waitress brought them the bill. Susan took the bill, signed it and handed it back with a superior smile. The woman stared at her in confusion: “Ma’m will you be paying with cash or credit card?”
“Neither. I’m the manager’s wife, I don’t pay.”
The waitress, Nadine, was embarrassed. “Ma’m. I’ve had no authorization from Mr.Ultrecht for free meals for anyone.”
“You have it from me, and if you have any doubts, ask my husband, Phillip Sauders.”
The harried Nadine came to me, a bill in hand. “Phil, what do I do?”
For a second I was tempted to pay for the extravagant dinner out of my own pocket, but then I decided that enough was enough. “Tell Mrs.Sauders that she and her party pay, or you call the police.”
I watched from a distance as the women reluctantly handed over their credit cards and paid the hefty price for what they thought was a free meal, and I saw Susan’s thunderous expression
That night, when I came home after closing up the restaurant, Susan was fast asleep. I undressed, left my clothes and phone on the end of the bed, and jumped into the shower.
When I woke up the next morning, Susan had gone to work. She’d left me no note, so I presumed I’d be in for a scene when I got home that night. It was worse, much worse than that.
Three hours later I got a phone call from Nadine asking me why I had fired her. “Fired you? What on earth are you talking about?”
“I’ll be honest with you, Phil, I called Mr. Ultrecht, and he’s coming up to talk to you about this.”
I scrolled through my messages, and there it was:
Consider yourself dismissed. Your treatment of the restaurant’s valued customers last night was unprofessional. Don’t expect a recommendation from us.”
I couldn’t believe it! Susan had used my telephone to send off a message firing the waitress who had upset her the night before. She had finally done something that put my job at risk.
That afternoon I had a chat with Toby, I opened up to him, explained what I’d been going through with Susan throughout our entire marriage, how her ambition and her desperate need to have the “good life” she felt cheated of had become an obsession.
Toby was beyond kind and understanding. He told me my job was secure, but that he would not tolerate any more interferences from Susan, and that she was barred from setting foot on the premises ever again.
When I arrived home after work that night, Susan was waiting up for me, a gloating look on her face. “So?” She asked eagerly, “Has Toby finally made you the official manager?”
I stared at her in disbelief. “Is that what this was all about, Susan? Because you nearly cost me my job today.”
“ME? You have that job thanks to me, you have this house thanks to me! Everything you are is thanks to ME! Without me, you’d be just a sorry loser!”
I looked into the eyes of the woman I thought I loved. “Well Susan, you don’t have to put up with me any longer. It’s over.”
She was gaping at me. “Over? What do you mean “over”? It’s not over until I tell you it’s over, Phillip!”.
I walked into the bedroom and started throwing her clothes into a suitcase. She followed me in, screaming, but I no longer heard the words pouring out of her, only an endless screech.
Susan left that night. I heard her call her parents telling them she was leaving me, that she’d had enough, managing her reality once again, rewriting history. I haven’t seen her since.
I’m in Atlantic City now, managing Toby’s new restaurant, and all our communication has been through our lawyers, which is fine by me. I told my mother and George the truth, and hopefully, they will forgive me.