top of page

Privilege- Chapter Three: The Shelved Items

Addy would have loved to say that her honeymoon was the opportunity to get to know her now-husband on a much more personal and intimate level. Sadly long nights of in-depth conversation and romantic embraces were not included at their resort. It seemed that Emmet was making a point of being indifferent at every turn. He did consummate the marriage on the first night but was hardly available thereafter outside of short tourist activities with Addy that ended with them cooly parting. Addy being an easily distracted young woman hardly noticed initially. She was dazzled by the thought of being a rich man's wife, in the beginning. With his money in her hand, she went shopping, occupying her time with frivolous pursuits, until she could no longer ignore her couples activities being scheduled for one too many times. It didn't occur to her until the last night there that Emmet hadn't slept in their bed throughout the night once. It started to concern her when she considered that she had no clue as to where he was during the majority of his absences. She couldn't bring herself to talk about it though it bothered her deeply on the last night of the trip. She felt that a routine had already been established. She watched Emmet go through the motions of finishing his dinner by making more excuses to be unavailable until the morning, that was when she realized this would be her marriage. It was then that Addy saw how unbalanced and inequal their relationship was, which was why she didn't dare to open her mouth to object or even so much as question him. She could almost tangibly grasp that she was less his wife and more of an employee with petty cash incentives. This sudden understanding of their dynamic hit her akin to an impact from a fall causing her body to nearly jolt in her chair. Emmet aloof to her in general merely kissed her forehead when he walked away, having paid the check.

All the flight home Addy pondered her situation with Emmet. There was so much that she wished she had been able to cover with him. Where was his ex-wife? Why was she kept at such a distance? Would he ever show her any respect like he seemed to have with his ex-wife, instead of treating her like an owned object? No sooner had they arrived at the airport, than Emmet had Addy taken to the new house, which she had visited at most a handful of times when it was under construction. Emmet went to his practice to check on some "legal documents" for a "board meeting in the morning."

The loneliness of the echoing minimalistic house had Addy combing the place for the items that were shipped directly there by herself. She had lovingly packaged these items with her mother when she was a little more naive. They had put in things from her childhood, like her favorite Christmas decorations in one box, a box of family albums in another, and her beloved stuffed animals too. These were meant to give her marriage a touch of warmth in her new household. Yet, what she could find was a single box marked "Sorority." Addy had no idea who had labeled it because the boxes she had sent over were cardboard, whereas this was a plastic bin she had almost overlooked because it was placed in a wall locker in their garage. She opened it expecting to find at least her old dorm bedroom set. Instead, Addy discovered college merchandise i.e., sweaters and such, all of which were still in their original packaging, and that were things that she had never purchased.

The only clothing items she could find for herself were the things that Emmet had picked out for her in the master bedroom's closet, matched to make-up on the vanity. Addy winced at the tacky tightly fitted dresses, dark red lipstick, and high-heeled platforms that looked like they were inspired by a gothic pole dancer's stage performance. These were the things she had for herself now and nothing else. Addy teared up when she realized that the objects she had intended to be a part of the background of her marriage, the personal artifacts she had cherished most were likely thrown away by order of her new husband who had no patience for her sentiments. The clothing may have been designer labels, but it was in a style that was overtly sexualized, bordering sleazy. Addy whimpered to herself when she realized she did not even have pajamas to put on, or a warm blanket to curl up under, just skimpy lingerie. The thermostat had a code that she did not know and with Emmet becoming irritated at her every attempt to speak, she dared not call him about it. Addy's impulse was to throw those awful things Emmet had given her into the fireplace to use as tinder, not that it was possible. The fireplace like everything else there was: for decorative purposes only. Seeking to be consoled she called her mother who let the call go to voicemail probably due to the late hour. The only action Addy could do to alleviate her seething anger was to fall to the floor where she accidentally banged her head on the tile. Too upset to function she then stayed in that spot, cold and bitter not moving until she heard the staff letting themselves in for their morning shift.

Resenting that she was never in the company of friends. Addy pulled herself up, knowing she would have to put herself together for the day before she was chided by Emmet or a nosy maid who could barge in on her at any time. Addy went to the shower first, where she took as long as possible to drag out her routine. She had given herself a bruise on her forehead in her fit of frustration. This caused Addy to have to plaster her face with makeup, something that was encouraged by Emmet relentlessly. When she dragged herself back to her closet, she thought to herself that a man would pick these things out for a woman, but a decent woman would never want to wear those things in public. In an attempt to self-comfort, Addy tried to view Emmet's ownership of her wardrobe with some hope that maybe although others had spoken highly of his ex-wife, that maybe Emmet himself found her to be lacking something he was looking for in their marriage: sexual stimulation. Addy had always known Emmet to send her gifts of jewelry to wear to the events he brought her to. Now she reasoned that this same attempt to indirectly have an input with her was being carried over. Addy decided to look at this as a positive trait and not as Jen had once labeled Emmet's behavior as "controlling."

Right or wrong as infuriated as Addy was, she chose to ignore Emmet's possessive acts to be able to carry on for herself. She knew Emmet would be cross until he belittled her into submission. It would surely be an argument that would only hurt her if she brought it up, while her family would minimize her concerns or rationalize it into something different altogether. Worst of all she loathed the "leave him" and the "I told you so." It was alienating to her because it meant the conversation was over and that their ruling on the relationship was something that couldn't be worked on was final. Addy didn't want to leave Emmet, she wanted him to respect her. This was something she assumed would come in time. This assumption made Addy resolve to tell her mother who called her back as she slipped on a bodycon dress that she was happily settling in.

Addy returned calls to well-wishers and sent handwritten thank you cards to her wedding guests by herself all day. When she finished it was night time and she realized that Emmet had not come home since their trip according to the maid, who was leaving when Addy walked down the stairs. Seeing Addy's expression of concern, the maid explained that "the Doctor" was likely at his condo in the city where he slept often. Addy fiddled about as she wanted to look busy in front of the staff until they had left. The night was restless for her as she solemnly thought about what life would be like for her there.

The next day shaped up to be the same. Addy waited in the house for Emmet to return from work, half expecting him to have a very reasonable excuse for ghosting her. Addy's optimism eventually faded like the sunset in the sky. She swallowed hard every time the staff uncomfortably avoided her. Addy had become a pretty princess in her ivory tower, waiting for someone who would never arrive. Emmet had not come home or called and they were well aware each time Addy appeared to check the front if he had.

Trying to play the situation as coy and not the off-putting freeze-out that it was, Addy called Emmet on his cell phone. He answered in a flat tone as if he were intensely annoyed with her. She had to remind herself that he knew it was her who was calling because she had seen him save her number himself. "What?" Emmet coldly said. Addy instantly regretting having called him responded, "I was just calling to say 'hello' and ask you if we had any plans together this weekend?" She felt so awkward saying that, it was as if she were asking out a stranger who didn't like her. She had never felt like she was groveling as much as she did just then. Emmet told her with an attitude in his voice that could almost be equated to contempt that he would not be home until he "was finished working" and that he was on call with the hospital all week. Addy feeling like she had been reprimanded, flinched as he ended the call by warning her not to be so "needy" and then hanging up. Addy felt so unwanted at that. She wanted to call Jen to vent, but she stopped herself remembering that Jen would likely gloat at her marital problems. Instead, Addy called Frances to try to reconnect with the part of her life before she became a wife. Frances did answer but was so difficult to have a conversation with because she was always ambiguous no matter the topic. Addy had always found Frances to be a letdown of a person, even now with her reaching out to treat Frances like a true sibling, she found Frances to be a waste of energy and thus gave up on her in total.

The doctor was apparently on call a lot at the hospital. Emmet swore it was a necessary evil to keep up his skills and maintain his admitting privileges. The obvious truth was that their marriage was a mirror of their dating life, seeing one another once every week or so. Never spending the entire night together. Him very much involved in his career, her filling her days with small insignificant things based on maintaining her beauty. Always waiting on Emmet to call her again. The only difference was that now Addy had his last name and the money he let her use to entertain herself. Emmet started to cut back on her unbridled spending though after he saw that she had bought a slouchy wool sweater for a late lunch with him. It was a very fashionable look, that was age-appropriate, still, Emmet looked at her as if she were wearing fetid roadkill with an upside-down cross painted on her face. He was so dissatisfied with her when they met, that he turned away from her when she leaned in to kiss him. "Throw away that ugly thing, you look like a homeless person," Emmet said to her when he pulled back. "Sorry, I thought you'd like it. The stylist at the store told me this look was very popular," Addy said apologetically to Emmet who replied by saying, "I bought you nice clothes to wear, so wear them. Jesus Addy, I have a reputation to protect. Do you ever think of anyone but yourself? If you keep buying garbage like that I'm cutting off the credit card." Emmet finished by straightening his posture and signaling for the valet to pull up his car. Addy stood there as he sped off, feeling like she had been picked apart. She threw her new Brunello Cucinelli sweater on the sidewalk, wearing nothing but a silk camisole underneath it in the cold weather. All she had wanted was to have a nice meal with her husband, who was now the only person she had any close contact with. Addy couldn't help but feel like a failure in his eyes.

As the weeks passed, at an introspective moment Addy figured out that two types of people live in upscale gated communities. The first is the career-focused family types who come and go from their home constantly. These people have little room in their schedules to take up company with a twenty-something abandoned housewife. The second type was those who were never at their home at all because they owned more than one property and rarely dropped by any of them. It took trial and error to learn this, along with a hefty dose of humiliation as Addy tried to get herself invited to other people's family gatherings. Jen's prediction of doom for Addy's marriage was starting to seem very real for the young woman who was now developing the aura of a butterfly pinned to a reference page in a scientist's study. Addy's world had shrunk significantly after marrying Emmet. The wedding had put a bitter rift between her and her sorority sisters. They saw her as sad and pathetic. Addy had become the cautionary tale of what not to do. The consensus of the rumors that did make their way back to Addy blamed her for not being self-sufficient for her trouble. Addy would have loved to follow her interests but any hint at doing so was met with great hostility and cruel ridicule from Emmet. In the few instances where Addy pushed ahead in her pursuits regardless of Emmet's initial efforts to divert her from her task, Addy found Emmet to be the most crafty of saboteurs. When Addy did try to connect with someone from her past and explain her situation the conversation always ended with a suggestion that she should start anti-depressants.

Possibly the most painful of changes in Addy's life was that despite Emmet never specifically saying that he did not want Addy's mother around, his verbiage and demeanor gave away his distaste for her presence. Whenever Addy spoke of talking to her mother, Emmet would become standoffish and imply that her mother was beneath their dignity. Addy thought that maybe he was right after her mother was found to have returned some gifts Addy had purchased for her birthday for cash, something Emmet predicted a "cheap woman" would do. By then Addy felt like all of her efforts to be held in society's good graces were failures from the start. The charities were staffed, the committees filled, and even her attempt to spend more time with her spouse caused her to be disheartened after a brutal dinner party let her know that Emmet's colleagues did not respect her either. She was publicly viewed as Emmet's toy that had no business being seen without him, and who was never meant to be heard. Her most innocent of comments were callously met with disapproving glances if listened to at all.

The single person who was happy at Addy's downturn in life was Alice Madison who was pleased with her, for "marrying up." Alice was Emmet's most supportive excuse maker, regardless of knowing that Emmet could hardly stomach the sight of his wife's mother. When Addy would complain that her husband was screening her calls and not responding for days on end, Alice was there to tell Addy it was not the doctor's job to entertain her. When Addy spoke of how her new husband refused to engage with her outside of any cordial conversation, Mrs. Madison would explain to Addy that she was now the wife of a high-profile man and had to be understanding of his demanding schedule and pressing social obligations. She encouraged Addy to be a polished version of herself when she was in public, as she now was a representation of Emmet. "Get a trainer, go to the spa, do anything but hang around here, and be a house frump." That was what her mother told her when they parted after she spent the week at their guest house.

The item of business that Mrs. Madison did not bring up fearing it would get back to Emmet was that an anonymous bidder had bought their family home and that due to their financial troubles, the Madisons would have to retire elsewhere. Addy's marriage had had the opposite effect on Mr. Madison's plans to reenter the business world. It was as if when the wedding ring was slipped onto Addy's finger Tom had been muted to all who once feigned interest in his latest schemes. They were done for in the entrepreneur circles and they knew it. This essentially killed Tom's will to go on. As for Mrs. Madison, it was a relief when a lawyer reached out to them with the offer, which struck her as odd considering the house was not even on the market.

By the end of the first year, Addy knew there were only two occasions when she could count on her husband to be with her. The first being when he expected her to attend a formal event with him, like a public relations or political dinner. The second was when Emmet was meeting a friend or colleague at the house for a family-friendly event. Addy had become a prop to a man who saw her as a thing to trot out at his convenience. She was to only say pleasant pleasing things and only when asked. At first, buying expensive things and having unlimited beauty treatments felt luxurious, but that was before Emmet was micromanaging her styling choices or before she had to stay on even when she was sick, tired, or increasingly often too melancholy to function. Her jewelry started to feel like chains and her clothes were a uniform for a company she was no longer inclined to represent. When she went to her mother about it her mother scolded her for signing a very restrictive prenuptial agreement. Addy though knew Emmet would have never invested time in her at all had she not. Secretly the prideful Addy wanted to prove to the world that she was not the golddigger everyone seemed to view her as, despite their relationship being purely superficial. Addy had to face the cold hard truth that she was too old to model, too uneducated to maintain her quality of life on her own, and under-prepared to try to fight the prenup she had signed.

To lighten her spirits and to try to manage her growing depression, that spring, Addy went to visit her parents in their exiled state of Baja after they were settled in. Emmet had encouraged her to go, while he "handled some projects," there. She agreed to leave as soon as it occurred to her that the beaches were beautiful, the food was robust, and not having to have her wardrobe preapproved by Emmet would be freeing yet came with a tug of guilt if she knowingly didn't follow his strictly laid out protocols.

Upon arriving, Addy could see that Mrs. Madison was tanned for the first time in her life as a beachside laze-about. Mr. Madison was sullen as he sat on his veranda, not even bothering to stand up to greet his daughter. He thawed out over the next few days though, once he could see that Addy understood his malice toward Emmet in kind. Night after night Alice drank herself unconscious, and Tom would reminisce about the good ole days of closed deals between over-eager bites of deep-fried food that was making his once lean frame appear heavily cushioned.

On the final night of Addy's stay, over a late dinner, Tom informed Addy that Emmet never paid him back for the deposits he put down for the wedding, even though he found out that Emmet had planned for weeks in advance that he was going to go behind all of their backs to change everything to his liking as he had done. In response, Addy confessed to her father that Alice during a shopping trip in the city informed her that Emmet had told each person Tom was trying to make business deals with to not engage with him. Tom blinked hard as if it would undo the effects of the tequila he had been drinking all day, "I got a whiff that we were being blackballed at the wedding, but it was the debts being called in right when the house got the offer that told me that your guy was behind it." Addy thought this was odd because she was aware that Emmet had begun the process to follow through on his promise to give Frances pro-bono cosmetic surgery. "Maybe he isn't so bad, maybe he could send Frances back to school," Addy questioned out loud, this statement had Tom astonished. Trying to be as sober as he could now that all of the playfulness had been drained from the room due to the realization that the Madison family had been taken off guard by an insidious man said in all sincerity, "Frances has been in school under a scholarship since your wedding and we haven't seen or heard from her since." This was in direct contrast to what Frances and Emmet had been telling Addy, but she knew it was true all the same. There was nothing else to say, Tom and Addy hadn't the words to piece together the whole story other than knowing that the strings were being pulled in their lives by a malicious puppeteer.


bottom of page