She couldn’t remember the last time either of us had taken a second of joy for ourselves.
Janet says that is when she realized that our broken marriage had hurt both of us. That I must be hurting, too.
She says she understood, in that moment, that what she wanted more than anything wasn’t a life with a new man but our life back.
As she said this to me, she said, “I could never get back what we had by marrying him. I can only get that back by staying with you.”
When your husband came to find her, she told him it was over.
Apparently, they fought pretty loudly in the parking lot. But there was no changing Janet’s mind. She says she drove home and never looked back.
As for Ken’s letters, this is where I find myself at a crossroads. Are you sure you want to know everything?
Janet did not want me to send these, but I told her that I have this last remaining loyalty to you, and she understands. And so, I have included them here. All I ask is this: please do not read them if you are happy, Carrie. I know that is quite a lot to ask of a person, but I know you have the strength to hold back and protect yourself. You have been doing that for all these months.
Protect your happiness at all costs.
If he is what you want, put these pages down and choose to be happy. And if he is not what you want, maybe you should leave him without even reading them.
I know that’s quite some advice coming from me, but I know you, Carrie Ann Allsop. I know your heart. You underestimate your strength. You always have.
You have changed me for the rest of my life, and if I had to go through all this, I’m lucky to have gone through it with you. You will be in my heart forever.
Take care of yourself.
You deserve only the best.
All my love,
July 6, 1977
Los Angeles, California
My Sweet Janet,
You cannot possibly mean the things that you say. We are not over! We could never be over. We are meant to be. You are just scared because this is all becoming so real, but it is real, my love.
I will leave Carrie in a heartbeat. She is not you, has not meant to me in ten years what you have come to mean to me in a matter of months.
Just write me back, answer my calls, and we can start our lives together.
July 13, 1977
I know you told me to go back to my wife, but all I can see when I look at her is my dissatisfaction.
You are the only one for me.
I can get away on August 8. I have a consult in Palm Springs. Meet me there, please. Tell me you will meet me there. Give us one last chance together.
August 10, 1977
Palm Springs, California
I brought Carrie with me here to Palm Springs after you spurned me. I think I was hoping we’d have a lovely time together and I’d send you a gloating postcard about how much better off I am without you. But . . . I cannot do it. Even now, when I am trying, Carrie is not half the woman you are.
Janet, you have destroyed me.
I wanted you to bear my children. I saw the family we could make. I believed I could have a life with you that I cannot have with Carrie.
Look, I know that there were some things I said that were inappropriate. I was upset when you broke things off. I said things I didn’t mean. I admit that it is true that there were women before you, and if you and I truly are over, then I have no reason to become monogamous. As I’ve told you, I find it incongruous with our innate human nature. But, Janet, don’t you understand? That just speaks to how much I love you, how serious I have been about you. I was willing to give that all up for you, for you and only you.
That is how much I love you, how rare of a woman I believe you to be.
It is not easy to let you go. But I understand that you have made your decision, and it is one I have to live with.
If ever you change your mind, my sweet Janet, please write to me.
I am forever yours.
September 16, 1977
Dear Mr. Rosenthal,
As discussed in our meeting last Tuesday, enclosed please find all the letters I have in my possession that were exchanged between my husband, Dr. Kenneth Allsop, and Mrs. Janet Mayer over the last year.
My hope is that this serves as sufficient evidence of the affair.
I think the plan should be just as you said. We should aim to take him for “all that he is worth.”
April 30, 1978
Thank you for sending me Ken’s letters last year. I am sorry that I never responded to you. I wasn’t ready until now.
I am writing to you from the apartment over the garage of my parents’ house.
I suppose I should start at the beginning. After reading your letter, as well as Ken’s letters, I spent two weeks going along with all his romantic overtures. I cannot say for certain why I did this. The truth was that I knew I had to leave him the moment I read his letters. But I suppose it has taken me too long in my life to find my courage. And apparently I needed an extra two weeks to summon its full passion.
We were out to dinner at an Italian restaurant when I suddenly couldn’t bear it any longer. He was in the middle of ordering minestrone soup, and I simply said, “I’m leaving you.” And then I threw my napkin onto the table, took the keys out of his jacket pocket, and walked out. I made him walk home.
I could no longer live in a marriage of such disrespect. That is what it had always been, I realized. Even when I thought he was faithful.
And I could not for one more second continue my life in such a manner. For many reasons. But the most pressing of which was that I found out I had someone else’s future to consider.
Early last September, I realized I was two months pregnant.
You can imagine my surprise. But you can probably also imagine my glee.
And so I contacted a divorce attorney, packed my things, and within a month, I had moved back in with my parents in Massachusetts.
It brings me pride to tell you that I left that asshole.
And it gives me sheer joy to tell you that, last month, I gave birth to a beautiful daughter I named Margaret.
I am a divorcée and a single mother, and I live with my parents at the age of thirty-one. All things I never imagined for myself. But I’m doing all right with all of it, I have to say.
I have my maiden name back, and I’m in a city I love, with my family I have missed and my old friends. I’m about to get my real estate license. I listen to Joni Mitchell whenever I want. Right now, the trees are starting to bloom again. Maggie just learned how to smile.
And she feels like a great victory. Frankly, the past year or so has felt like a number of victories, even though it started out feeling like such a loss. But getting to know you—being with you—was the beginning of me understanding just how lost I was in my own life.
I needed so badly to see that regardless of whether I could carry a child, I was still me, still worth something. And no matter what my husband thought of me, I was still important. And while my mother often reminds me that I should have been able to see that myself, I am so thankful that you helped me get there. You gave me hope and perspective and confidence.
Right before you gave me my baby.
We are safe and secure here. I have the money from the divorce, and my mother and father have taken to being grandparents like nothing ever before. We do not need anything from you. I want only for you to know that we are here in Boston, should you ever want to find us.
Margaret and I are two little peas in a pod. I will take care of her with all my heart until my dying breath. She is in the very best hands. She will be loved from here to eternity.
I love her simply for existing. And I love her because she has been my liberation.
My life may not be perfect, but at least I can finally say it belongs to me.
Thank you, David. For everything.
We love you.
Carrie and Margaret Leah Hennessey