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Husband decided to abandon his wife and two young children in order to take a vacation with his younger mistress.

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Brittany arrived at her neighbor’s door and was greeted by Brooke, who looked surprised to see her. Brittany asked if there was any food available, and Brooke invited her in. They sat at the table, which served as both a writing and lunch table. Brittany ate pasta and shared with Brooke her unsuccessful date.

Brittany was a beautiful girl, and although there were always guys who wanted to spend time with her, she dreamed of fancy restaurants, expensive cars, and a romantic marriage proposal. Lately, she had been meeting men online and going on dates almost every evening, but none of them were suitable for her. Even that day, she had gone on a date with a miser who took her to a cheap diner, from which she fled as soon as she realized there was nothing more to expect.

On the contrary, the day before yesterday, a rich and generous man had come to the date, but by the end of the evening, he concluded that he and Brittany were not suitable for each other. “Imagine, he dragged me to a Chinese porcelain exhibition. We walked and looked at vases and plates. He told me something about Emperors of the dinosaur era and other nonsense, boring. Then he took me to the cinema to some Art House.

Am I so unlucky with men, huh?” Brittany said with a sigh. “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone else,” Brooke said, sounding uncertain. Brittany went to sleep in her room, as she had to go to college the next day.

The professor looked at Brittany hostilely, as if she were to blame for his own unattractiveness, weight, and probable loneliness. “You have serious problems with your academic performance, very serious,” he said. “I’m trying my best,” Brittany replied honestly, nodding frequently in confirmation of her words. “I personally don’t see that you’re trying. You’re skipping lectures. You probably have more important things to do than studying,” he said.”He got up with difficulty and approached the girl, almost closely. His eyes slid over her face and settled lower on the neckline of her blouse.

“Maybe we can come up with something,” Brittany exhaled feverishly, thinking about what to do. “Prospect of being expelled did not please her. Studying seemed to be the only way to catch on in the city and somehow arrange her life, especially since she did not know what to tell her parents, and soon it would be summer. She was supposed to go home to the village and talk about her academic achievements, but she had none. You could, for example, start attending lectures,” the professor suggested, shrugging, “but I’m afraid in your case it’s already pointless. I’ll have to bring up the issue of your expulsion. Can’t we come to some kind of agreement?” Brittany asked flirtatiously, leaning forward slightly and showing off her cleavage to the professor. She knew her worth, beautiful, tall, modern, and moderately uninhibited. She had long suspected that the old Professor had his eye on her, and judging by his reaction, she was right.

“May I invite you somewhere?” the professor asked, blushing.

“I agree and completely trust your taste,” Brittany breathed out, smiling encouragingly. That was enough to make the man bloom. He bowed his head, revealing his shiny bald head surrounded by rare hair, and kissed her hand.

Neither Brittany nor the professor suspected that two students were standing outside the door, greedily eavesdropping on their conversation. When Brittany left the classroom, they quickly moved away from the door and went straight to the rector’s office. There, they spoke with the vice rector, who happened to be the wife of the amorous professor.

In the evening, Brittany and the professor went to a restaurant and then to his house. The man was sure that his wife wouldn’t be home for at least another three hours, but unexpectedly, the door to the bedroom opened, and his wife appeared in the doorway. There was a scandal, shouting, and tears. The professor, looking confused, ran around the room, picking up his clothes. Brittany sat on the big bed and watched this scene in horror. The wife looked at her husband with hatred and pity.

“We’ve been together for 30 years, our children have grown up, you already have two grandchildren, and you still continue to cheat on me,” she said bitterly. “Do I need to remind you who you owe everything you have now to?” She waved her hand in despair and looked at Brittany angrily.

“And you’re expelled,” the verdict was announced.

Two weeks passed. Brittany had been shaking on an old bus for two hours now. Her neighbor, a perky elderly woman, had been telling the village news the whole time. Brittany looked out the window. She already regretted accepting her friend’s offer to spend the summer at her country house, but it was impossible to go home. She couldn’t imagine how she would face her parents, so she called and lied, saying that she had passed her exams successfully and decided to stay in the city for the holidays. And now, on the bus, she was wondering if she had done the right thing. But what other options did she have? Renting an apartment in the city was expensive, while the house in the village was free.

The bus turned off the road and stopped. An elderly lady pulled some baskets into the aisle, then turned to Brittany and said, “My relative, Anthony, should be here to meet you. You’re new here, so we can give you a ride.”

Brittany got off the bus, took out her fashionable suitcase, and looked around. People were dispersing in different directions, and the elderly woman was already hurrying towards an old pickup truck.

Anthony seemed very attractive to Brittany. He was around 40 years old, tall, with neatly combed light hair and gray eyes.

“So, Auntie, did you visit your grandchildren?” he asked, opening the trunk.

“Of course,” the elderly woman replied playfully. “I saw my grandchildren and the city.”

“That’s good,” the man nodded approvingly and looked at the pretty stranger with chestnut curls and green eyes. “Hello, who are you going to visit in that backwards?”

“I came to your area to rest,” Brittany replied.

Certainly, here is the passage you provided arranged for better readability:

“Thoughtfully, well, there’s nothing to see here,” Anthony laughed. His laughter was infectious. Britney smiled, “I am quite satisfied with the river, fresh air. The nature here is beautiful.”

The man agreed when he learned that Brittany was going to live in the Blake’s old house. He was very surprised; the house had long been uninhabitable. Britney shrugged helplessly, “Well, I’ll manage somehow,” she said uncertainly. “I was told there are tools in the barn.”

Anthony shook his head, loaded her suitcase into the trunk, then opened the back door, “Get in, we’ll figure out the house somehow.”

Chloe needed dough with a smile, stealing glances at her quiet children who were building something with Legos on the floor, frowning in concentration. Although Chloe couldn’t give birth, she loved her children like they were her own. She and her husband had adopted the boy and the girl from an orphanage when they were five and three years old respectively. Before that, they had tried everything to have their own child, from seeing doctors to visiting shamans and psychics, but to no avail. They gave up hope and even considered divorce, with Chloe suggesting that her husband leave her so as not to ruin the life of a healthy man who wanted a family. But he stayed, reasoning that if it wasn’t meant to be, they would live together no matter what, and then the idea of adoption was born.

Chloe baked a pie and meticulously cleaned the house. Despite being a city girl and the daughter of wealthy parents, she was very house-proud. They had moved to the countryside three years ago, and in that time, Chloe fully adapted to rural life. She learned to bake pies, milk goats, feed chickens, and more, without which one simply cannot survive in the village.

Suddenly, the dog barked happily. Anthony had finally arrived. A minute later, her husband appeared in the house. He hung up his jacket, walked up to the mirror, and scrutinized his reflection. Chloe was surprised; Anthony had never paid much attention to his appearance before.

“You’re a bit late,” she said, looking at the clock. “It’s already half-past seven.”

“Well, a girl from the city came here,” Anthony shrugged, “Henry Blake’s granddaughter. She rented out the house for the summer. I gave her and my auntie a lift from the bus stop and helped a little,” he replied without looking at his wife.

“No one’s lived in the house for a while; even the windows were boarded up,” she asked.

“Yes, she’s a student,” Anthony answered indifferently.

“Not strange,” Chloe shrugged, “Well, let’s eat. Sit down.”

Anthony quickly washed his hands and sat down at the table. He threw the towel aside and breathed in the aroma of freshly baked cabbage pie. “You’re so skilled a hostess,” he said, hugging his wife with pleasure.

The next day, Anthony came to help Brittany again. He fixed the table and stall and hung a hammock in the yard. “I don’t know how to thank you,” Brittany said playfully.

“We, the villagers, are simple; thanks is enough,” said Anthony.

“You don’t seem like a villager,” replied Brittany.

Anthony laughed and sat on a repaired stool. “You’re right. I moved here from the city with my wife and children.”

Brittany tried her best to hide her disappointment at the news that her interlocutor was married. “It would be interesting to hear how you ended up here,” she said.

Anthony shrugged, “I used to come here every summer to my grandmother. Once, an expensive car drove up to our neighbor’s house, and a woman, a man, and a little girl got out. They went inside the house. Then, the local boys approached me and said, ‘Hey, this is our street; get out of here.’ I grabbed a stone and said, ‘If you don’t leave me alone, you’ll get it,’ and I threw the stone at them. I wanted only to scare them, but I hit the car; the glass shattered, and the boys ran away immediately, and I stood there in shock like a statue.

Then, the door of the house opened, and the same girl came out. She looked at the car and asked, ‘Did you break it?’ I nodded. Then, her father came out of the house, looked at me, looked at the car, and started yelling. But the girl turned to him and calmly said that she accidentally broke it. She said a big dog was running around; she got scared and threw a stone. Her father looked at her affectionately, patted her on the head, apologized to me, and went back into the house.

I started courting that girl. I left wildflowers under her gate every day. One day, I even caught fish in the river and left it on their threshold. Her father, I remember, threw away the fish and scolded, ‘What kind of joke is that in the village?’ And then I decided to write her a love letter. I put it in the mailbox; her mother took the letter out but didn’t tear it up and gave it to her daughter.”

Brittany clapped her hands. “And did she?”

Brittany gasped. “Yes.”

“I finished my service; we got married. And then we adopted children and moved here.”

“Oh really, you adopted kids? You’re a saint,” exclaimed Brittany.

Anthony smiled, “Ah, come on, I just always wanted children.”

Brittany nodded understandingly, “That’s personal; I understand everything.”

Anthony left with a strange feeling of shame and awkwardness. He was ashamed that he unintentionally compared this charming guest to his wife and awkward because the comparison was not in his wife’s favor.

Brittany was lost in thought, sitting in her bedroom in the evening. The fact that the handsome Anthony was married and had two children was somewhat upsetting. As she was putting on her pajamas, she caught some movement out of the corner of her eye.

“Who’s there? Come out and show yourself.”

There were sounds of rustling, then silence.

Brittany felt uneasy. Ten minutes later, Brittany was trying to fix a hole in the fence when Anthony caught her at this activity. “What are you doing?” he asked in surprise. “I’m repairing the fence,” Brittany answered a little irritably. “Can you help?”

Anthony walked into the yard and agreed to help with fixing the fence. Brittany briefly recounted what had happened, and Anthony laughed good-naturedly. “Your neighbor, old Tom, hasn’t been interested in anything like that for a long time. He’s beyond suspicion,” Brittany protested, insisting that she had heard someone rustling around.

Anthony walked up to the fence and leaned into the gap, beckoning Brittany over with his hand. “Do you see him? That’s who was rustling,” he said, pointing to a dog. Brittany laughed, realizing her mistake. Anthony decided to nail up the gaps anyway for Brittany’s peace of mind. She was grateful, and five minutes later, Anthony was already hammering away, attaching pine slats to the largest gaps. He felt Brittany’s gaze on his back and compared her to his wife once again, and once again, not in his wife’s favor.

Meanwhile, his friend Jack was looking for him. “Where is Anthony?” Jack asked as he entered the house. “At work, where else would he be?” Chloe replied, surprised, as she set aside her knitting needles and yarn. “Don’t you work together? Why all the questions?”

Jack scratched his balding head, looking puzzled. “He’s not there. I’ve been looking for him all day. I need permission to get the parts, but I can’t reach him,” Jack said. He said his goodbyes, hopped on his motorcycle, and leisurely drove down the street, turning his head, searching for the familiar blue pickup. Soon he spotted the car parked at the gate of an old, uninhabited house.

But the house no longer looked abandoned. The windows were open, women’s clothes hung on a line in the yard, and the door was ajar. Jack got off his motorcycle and knocked on the door. Voices and hurried footsteps could be heard inside the house. Anthony opened the door, looking peculiar—disheveled, shirtless, and with his belt undone. In general, everything became clear without words.

Jack was Anthony’s friend, but as an exemplary family man, he did not welcome such frivolity. “I need to sign some papers,” Jack said flustered. “I’m going to get the parts. I’ve been looking for you all over the workshop and I couldn’t reach you.” Jack handed Anthony a folder from his backpack, and Anthony signed the papers with a flourish.

“What are you doing here?” Jack asked. “None of your business,” Anthony sternly looked at his friend. “You didn’t see anything, got it?” Jack nodded uncertainly. Anthony reached out his hand and squeezed it tightly, looking meaningfully into his eyes. “Just don’t ask about anything, okay?”

“I haven’t figured out how it happened yet,” Jack had no intention of asking about anything. He felt sorry for Chloe and her two young children. He also felt disappointed in his friend, and that hurt the most.

Days went by, and Anthony’s behavior became increasingly strange. With each passing day, he came home late, ate quickly and silently, answered all questions monosyllabically or with standard phrases. Chloe couldn’t shake a nasty, unexplained feeling and imagined the worst scenarios. She wanted to believe Anthony, but it only got worse.

Chloe didn’t even notice when Susan, Jack’s wife and her friend, came into the house. Susan was working at the library. She was very well read and proudly considered herself part of the village’s intellectual elite. “Hi, Chloe,” Susan greeted. “You look like you’re going to the conference. What are you thinking about?”

“About trust,” Chloe answered a question with a question. “Love is often elevated to some absurd level in books, but even love is not a panacea for deceit. It’s a well-known fact that people lie. Those who are honest towards some people can be very calculating and cunning towards others. Such is the paradox, my friend. Someone deceives under pressure of circumstances, someone for a mere ego boost, and someone simply cannot imagine their existence without lies.”

“But not trusting anyone means being in constant stress, looking for hidden meanings everywhere, exhausting oneself and others with doubts. You cannot love, but if you don’t trust, why bother starting a relationship at all?” Susan expounded. Chloe sighed. Susan’s musings added to her confusion. Perhaps she needed to act, simply talk to her husband heart to heart and then see what would happen.

However, the conversation did not take place. It so happened that Chloe found out about her husband’s infidelity, seeing everything with her own eyes. After talking a little more with her friend, Chloe saw her off and, looking at the clock again, dialed her husband’s number. He was unavailable again. Without thinking for long, she left the house and walked down the street.

People were walking towards her—some from the farm, some from the sawmill, and some from the machine shop. Chloe saw Jack. “Hi, do you know where Anthony is?” she asked him. “How would I know?” Jack became nervous and looked away. “Am I his supervisor?” “Don’t be so foggy,” Chloe questioned. “I can see that you’re hiding something.”

“I’m tired. I’m going home,” Jack turned away quickly and hurried down the street. Chloe watched him for a long time and went towards the river, where the Blake’s house was located. Approaching, she saw her husband’s car at the beginning of the twilight, and the light in the house. No longer hoping to see anything good, she looked into the windows.

Her husband was embracing and kissing a young stranger who was practically without clothes. Chloe felt as if someone was choking her, but she managed to control herself. Open the door and entered the house. Seeing her, Anthony froze, and Chloe looked at him disdainfully and left the house. The woman practically ran down the street, trying with all her might not to cry.

The sound of an engine was heard behind her. “Chloe, wait, listen!” Anthony leaned out of the car window. He looked pitiful—his hair was disheveled, and his eyes were frightened. “Wait, let me explain.” Chloe stopped, turned to him, and crossed her arms over her chest. “Explain?” she squinted. “Well, try to explain.”

“I don’t even know how it happened,” he mumbled. “I lost my mind, made a mistake, it happens. Please forgive me.” Chloe really wanted to hit him. She probably would have done it if there weren’t people on the road who threw curious glances at them. “Let’s talk at home,” she said shortly and walked down the road. Anthony slowly followed.

“Get in the car,” he asked. “It looks strange, I’m driving, you’re walking. Think about what people will say.” “Is that all you care about?” Chloe replied bitterly. “They covered the entire path

home the same way—she was on foot, he was driving. At home, Chloe sat on the sofa and then quietly cried. She didn’t throw stools at him or smash plates, but these quiet tears of his wife were more frightening to him than any screams and scandals.

“Let’s forget about this,” he asked again. “Do you want me to go to her right now and tell her that there’s nothing between us? Do you want that?” “I love only you,” she said firmly. “I want you to pack your things and leave. I’m not interested in where you go—to her or anyone else.”

“I won’t pack anything,” he frowned. “Then I’ll help you,” Chloe shrugged, opened the closet door, and within five minutes, Anthony’s suitcase was filled with his clothes. “Take your things and leave,” she said firmly. Anthony walked out of the house with his head down. He drove to the end of the street, stopped at Jack’s house, and honked. His friend came out immediately, as if waiting. He looked at the suitcase on the back seat and sighed sympathetically.

“She kicked you out?” Anthony nodded and pulled out cigarettes, handing one to his friend. They smoked in silence. “Well, I was thinking,” Anthony finally said. “Starting tomorrow, I’m going on vacation. You stay for me. I’ll go to the sea with Brittany. She’s never been there before, and I need to rest. Get a grip.” Jack protested, “Your family is falling apart, and you’re going to resorts with your mistress. What’s wrong with you?”

“It’s none of your business. You better keep an eye on things here while I’m gone,” Anthony threw away the cigarette, started the car, and drove to Brittany. Jack shook his head and walked home, inwardly shuddering at his friend’s actions. The next day, Anthony grabbed his mistress and took her to the sea to relax and get revenge while his faithful wife was left alone with the two children.

Ten days later, in the village, Jack enthusiastically hugged his brother. “Hey, bro!” he slapped Charles on the shoulders. “How long has it been since we’ve seen each other?” “A couple of years, probably,” Charles smiled. Jack looked at his cousin’s shiny car, “R,” he said admiringly, touching the shiny wing of the black BMW. “Thanks,” Charles replied modestly. “Business is going well. I can afford it.”

“Good for you,” Jack said and pointed to his Ford, which had seen better days. “And I’m still on the same old horse. Not bad either.” Charles touched the worn handles. Susan clapped her hands, “Oh, men will be always men, ready to talk about cars only.” Charles came in, “We don’t promise museums and restaurants here, of course, but we guarantee good fishing and a warm welcome.”

The men obediently entered the house. While Susan set the table out of courtesy, she sat with the men for half an hour before heading to her friend’s house to discuss her husband’s brother, whom she believed to be a very worthy man. At Chloe’s, Susan sat in the kitchen and vividly described the guest, sharing everything she had learned from him and from her husband.

“He’s a good person but unlucky in his personal life,” she said in the end. “Unlucky?” Chloe asked indifferently. Despite Susan’s efforts, the suitor’s candidacy failed to impress Chloe. She listened half-heartedly; her thoughts were elsewhere. When he shared his last love, “I felt so sorry for him, although with his money he could buy anyone. You can’t buy love,” Chloe sighed.

“That’s true too,” Susan agreed with a sigh. “Do you want to meet him?” Chloe laughed, “What’s so funny?” Susan didn’t understand. “Even if I wanted to, how can I compete with the city beauties? Besides, I have two children.” “But he said he always dreamed of a normal family but fell in love with this Helen, who turned out to be a cuckoo. She left her own child with her mother and went to the Capitol to build her own personal life.”

“Yes, it’s a pity, of course,” Chloe sincerely sympathized. Chloe had changed a lot over the last few days. As if years had passed. Outwardly, she remained just as attractive, but the spark of someone interested in life had disappeared from her eyes. She kept the house clean, the children were well-groomed and fed, and she didn’t forget about herself either. She didn’t get ungroomed and didn’t gain extra pounds. She didn’t eat sweets. To her resentment, she understood she was responsible for her two young children, who were certainly not to blame that their foster father had betrayed them.

And she decided to go out on the side. Initially, she waited for Anthony to return and was even ready to forgive him on the condition that the mistress would leave and he would forget her forever. But Anthony didn’t come back, and it turned out that he was now at the seaside with his mistress. So Chloe waved off persistent invitations from her friend, saying, “I’m not up for new acquaintances right now.”

Meanwhile, Charles and Jack were riding a motorcycle through the streets, laughing. The villagers looked at them with either a smile or disapproval. “Charles, where are you going?” Jack yelled, pointing forward. Charles turned the handlebars, but it was too late. The front wheels sank into the brownish-green slush. The motorcycle tipped over, and both of them fell into the puddle.

“Where did you learn to drive?” Jack shouted. “It was my first time on a motorcycle,” Charles excused himself. “What’s going on here?” a stern female voice asked. The men turned and saw Susan standing with her hands on her hips, glaring at them. “Darling, don’t be mad. We were just taking a little ride,” Charles tried to explain.

“I see, you’re drunk,” his wife retorted. “Just a little bit,” replied Jack. Charles remained silent. He wasn’t looking at Susan but rather the woman standing behind her. Graceful and thin, with a tired look in her brown eyes. Susan turned to her and said reproachfully, “Meet Chloe, this is Charles, the brother of my alcoholic. And apparently, he’s an alcoholic too.”

“Hello,” Charles stood up and shook off his expensive jeans. “You’ll excuse us; we’ve been making some noise. Haven’t seen my brother for a long time?” Chloe smiled sadly and pulled out a handkerchief, applying it to his forehead. “You’re hurt.” “Come inside; I’ll treat your wound,” Chloe suggested. Charles smiled and showed his scraped elbow. “I’m hurt too. I need treatment too.”

“I’ll treat you,” Chloe said playfully, “at home, in such a way that you’ll remember it for life.” “Come on, get your bike, and let’s get home,” Susan promised her husband, pretending to be angry. Charles and Chloe watched as the roaring motorcycle carried the couple up the street. “Come on,” Chloe opened the gate to the house. She took out gauze and peroxide, quickly treating the scrape. The whole time, Charles watched her silently, seeming to admire her.

“You have such soft hands

,” he said, looking into her eyes. “You must have been a nurse in a past life.” Chloe smiled wistfully. “Not a nurse, but it’s true, I’ve been through a lot. Life throws surprises at us.” “Does it now?” Charles replied. “Some surprises are good, some are bad. I guess I got caught in one of those bad ones.”

Chloe finished treating his wound and looked at him thoughtfully. “You know,” she said, “sometimes we can’t control what life throws at us, but we can control how we react to it. We can either let it break us or use it to become stronger.” Charles nodded, “You’re right.” Chloe hesitated for a moment before speaking again, “You seem like a good person, Charles. But I’m not ready for anything right now.”

Charles looked at her with understanding. “I’m not trying to push anything, Chloe. I just wanted to talk, to have a moment of genuine human connection.” Chloe smiled softly, “I appreciate that. It’s been a while since I’ve had a real conversation with someone who wasn’t just offering pity or advice.” They sat there in silence for a moment, just looking at each other, and then Charles stood up.

“Well, I better get going,” he said. “I hope we’ll have a chance to talk again sometime.” Chloe nodded, “I hope so too, Charles.” He smiled and walked towards his motorcycle, but before he started the engine, he turned back to her. “Chloe,” he said, “remember what you said about using life’s surprises to become stronger? I think you’re stronger than you realize.”

With that, he started the motorcycle and drove away, leaving Chloe sitting there, lost in thought. As she watched him disappear down the street, a small smile tugged at the corners of her lips. Maybe, just maybe, she thought, life had something unexpected and good in store for her after all.

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