I Divorced My Husband While He Was in a Coma after Finding a Letter with My Name under Our Bathtub

I stood against the wall while the ER doctors moved around James, strapped to the gurney. “Sarah,” a doctor called out. “Your husband is in a coma. I’ll give you a full report once all the results come in.” nodded, trying to process the entire situation. James had been fine. He had eaten dinner, and cleared the table with me. Then he went to shower. Could he have slipped and hit his head? I thought to myself. “Go home, Sarah,” the doctor said.

“Get some rest, and maybe some of James’ personal belongings. Like pajamas and toiletries. I can’t tell you how long he’s going to be in a coma.” So, I went back home — re-energized by the fact that I had a purpose. I needed to get James’ belongings together, and then get back to the hospital. The first thing I did was go to the bathroom and look for any evidence. I searched for a puddle of water, something that James might have slipped on. I went on my hands and knees, dropping my handbag onto the bathroom mat. But there was nothing. In the chaos of gathering James’ essentials — I remembered that I needed to phone my mother-in-law and let her know about the situation. Hurrying back to the bathroom, I went to get my phone from my handbag. But as I bent to retrieve it, a peculiar detail caught my eye, something that I had missed in my first search of the bathroom.

Tucked under the bathtub was an envelope, sealed, with my name written across it in the unmistakable handwriting of my sister, Amelia, who had inexplicably cut ties and moved to another city a year ago.With my hands shaking, I opened the letter. With each word, the foundation of my marriage crumbled. Amelia confessed to having an affair with James.

She wrote of her unbearable guilt. I cannot look myself in the mirror, Sarah. I am wrecked with the guilt of what we’ve done. I read on, feeling my dinner churn in my stomach. May, your niece… She’s actually James’ daughter. She was the only good thing that came from the affair. Amelia went on to say that Hugh, her husband, had accepted May as his own — not questioning her paternity at all. My sister’s letter laid bare the weight of her conscience, the torment of her silence.

And then it got worse. Included in the envelope was a photograph of my niece, who I had known to be Hugh’s daughter since my sister announced that she was pregnant. But knowing what I knew now — I could see James’ eyes in May. Attached was a medical report detailing a rare genetic condition — undeniably, a condition that ran in James’ family. Amelia’s plea for forgiveness pierced through the haze of my shock. She explained that Hugh getting let-off his job had rendered her desperate in facing her daughter’s medical challenges. I sat there, on the cold bathroom floor, surrounded by the fragments of my marriage and a broken relationship with my sister. I called Amelia, and the dam of our shared silence broke.

“I’m so, so sorry, Sarah!” she sobbed through the phone, after I revealed that I knew everything. “I thought I could keep this from you forever, to protect you, but I couldn’t do it anymore. May’s getting sicker and I needed my sister.” I didn’t want to deal with Amelia — I just needed to know that there was truth to the story. And there was. I cut the call without saying anything else. But how could I confront James while he was in a coma, with his condition still uncertain? But from the way that the doctor had spoken to me — something just wasn’t right. A few days later, while James was still in the coma — I filed for divorce, unable to bear the thought of facing him.

I just can’t do it,” I said to James’ mother when I told her everything. “I can’t sit here and wait for him to be okay, and know that the moment he opens his eyes, my entire world will change. I’d rather make the change now.” Two weeks later, James woke up to his mother sitting by his bedside, telling him about our divorce. I moved James’ things out of our house and into his mother’s place. And I decided that instead of being a wife — I could be a good big sister. Amelia and I reconciled, and I became a part of May’s life. At the end of the day, she was just an innocent little girl tangled into the mess of humans. Humans were supposed to protect and cherish her. Despite the betrayal, my heart couldn’t turn away from her.

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