Anne Landers, basically, advised me to tell Susan about the infidelity at my own risk. She agreed that someone should tell Susan; but, on the other hand, it didn’t sound to her like Susan would be willing to believe anything negative about her fiancé anyway. Perhaps, she suggested, Susan even knew about the hair dresser as, in her experience, the woman usually did but ignored the signs. Anne Landers said if I thought the only right thing to do was to tell her, I should be prepared for her to reject me. Kind of a “kill the messenger” when the news they bring is not good. Oh, boy, what do I do now? Could she really know about the older woman? Could I just ignore what I saw and hope someone else told her before they got married? She might marry him anyway and Anne Landers would be right; my friend would be angry with me, instead of David.
I was just sick and my anguish made me one crabby camper. Of course, those adolescent hormones made it hard to know when there really was something wrong with her daughters but the envelope in the washing machine sent up red flags for my mother. There she was, standing in front of me with a soggy envelope in her hands. There was an equally soggy paper inside the envelope but all ink had been washed away in the cycling of the machine.
“What is this? I was moving your laundry from the washing machine into the dryer and this was left when the clothing was removed? What’s it about?” I didn’t have to look at the return address, obviously printed with seriously indelible ink; I knew it was the letter from Anne Landers.
“It’s nothing, Mom, really. It’s just the reply to a letter I wrote a couple of weeks ago.” I reached for the wet envelope, while we both looked at it. “It’s not about you, Mom, if that’s what you’re thinkin’.”
“No, then who? Why would you ever write to Anne Landers?” Clearly, she did not believe me. She was sure I had written to the columnist about my parents deficiencies and soon the entire reading circulation would be learning about what I thought my parents were doing wrong. Was she kidding? I knew full well I would never survive the rest of my years at home should I ever be so stupid as to do my teen complaining in print of any kind, let alone a newspaper with such a wide circulation! It’s not just the elephant that never forgets, believe me!
“Honestly, Mom, I would never write to Anne Landers about you or Daddy. Never. There was a problem with one of my friends at school. I wrote to her and she wrote back that I should do what I thought was the right thing to do.” Turning, I tossed the water-logged envelope and letter in the trash.
“Well, I’m sure had you come to me, I would have given you the same advice so you could have saved your stamp.”
“You’re no doubt right about that, Mom. Anyway, that was all there was to it.” I just wanted to get away before she squeezed more details out of me so started up the basement stairs.
“So, did you take her advice? Did you do the right thing?” She was calling after me. I called over my shoulder when I reached the top of the stairs and moved into the kitchen.
“Not yet, but I’m gonna do it.”
“Well, you’d better do it right away so you don’t forget. You don’t want to waste her time with advice that you don’t take, do you? She’s a busy lady and she took the time to write to you.” Yeah, yeah, Mom, I know but it’s not that easy. I need to work up my courage first. Which is what I was thinking but what I said was what Mom’s everywhere want to hear.
“Okay, you’re right, Mom. I’ll do it this afternoon.” I couldn’t imagine how I would tell Susan, but I would. I needed to get it over with in any case as it was bugging me enough to interfere with my sleep.
Late that same afternoon I arrived at Susan’s parents’ home. It was weird to think that it might not be Susan’s home soon. I just hoped that she would listen to me; I could see trouble ahead if she married David.
“Susan, I need to tell you something that I saw a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I have seen the same thing twice since and you need to know before it’s too late.” Both of us tensed as I swallowed hard and struggled to continue. “I saw David in his car with another girl. Well, not really a girl, actually, It was a woman who does my mother’s hair every week.”
“Well, David was probably giving her a ride somewhere. What’s the big deal; he’s a nice guy.” Her jaw was set and her eyes bore into mine. Oh my, but this was not going well. Hmmpf! I started it now so I’d better finish.
“Susan, she was nearly sitting on top of him. Her arm was around his shoulders and she was speaking in his ear. They were both laughing at whatever it was she said. He was not just giving someone a ride somewhere.” I had tears dripping down my cheeks, but Susan’s face was beet-red with anger… at me, not David.
“How dare you spread these lies about David! How dare you! Just to keep me in school so I can be your biology partner, or play tennis, you would lie to me… trying to ruin my life.” Okay, now my tears were shifting from compassion over her pitiable situation to anger. I returned “fire.”
“You’ve got to be kidding, Susan! I haven’t said this to a single other person, including my mother. I’m probably the only person in this town who cares enough about you to tell you what everyone else knows. He is driving down the main streets in town with her nestled right next to him. Wake up before it is too late. He is not ready to be married to you or anyone. Don’t ruin your life for someone like that.” Susan stood, turned away from me and walked through the front door of her home. Before shutting the inside door, she locked sad eyes at me.
“You’re wrong.” I cried all the way home, but I knew I had done the right thing. Perhaps she had suspected; but, perhaps, hearing someone else say it, had made it real. I’d never know. We never, again, spoke of this time on her front porch.
The next time Susan spoke to me was to ask me to attend her wedding in the small chapel of the Methodist Church, where the two of us had spent many early childhood summers laughing and playing during Vacation Bible School.
*Teen names have been changed
****Teen Stresses: Marriage, Scene 3… Coming Tomorrow