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“How can divorce be more sinful than this?” Yusuf asked me.

We were lying on the bed I normally shared with my husband, who was presently working his shift at the General Hospital. Because of a fire outbreak, our office had been evacuated for the remainder of the week. We were taking advantage of the unexpected holiday.

The small cluttered bedroom was redolent with the steamy essence of sex. Sweat was drying on our skin, assisted by the ceiling fan that slowly circled overhead. The sheets were damp and tangled. The window shades were drawn against the afternoon sun. Scented candles burned on the nightstand, casting flickering light over the crucifix hanging against faded blue paint.

The somnolent atmosphere was deceiving. We were on a deadline; our time was limited, and we were frantic to wring from it every ounce of pleasure. My two daughters would be returning from school shortly. I hated to waste the precious moments we had on this recurring and painful disagreement.

This wasn’t the first time he had implored me to divorce my husband, and marry him. But I am catholic. Divorce is not an option.

“I’m committing adultery, yes,” I said softly. “But my sin affects the two of us. We’re the only ones who know about it, besides my priest.”

“You’ve confessed our affair to your priest?”

“Until my confessions became repetitious, Yusuf. I no longer go to confession. I’m too ashamed.”

I sat up and moved to the edge of the bed, facing away from him. My heavy thick hair clung damply to my neck. The glass in the corner mirrored his view of me. I knew what he could see. My unblemished back tapered at my waistline before gracefully flaring into my hips. I had twin dimples in the small of my back.

I was critical of my body, believing that my hips were too wide, thighs too heavy. But he seemed to like the lushness of my form and the feel of my skin. He always told me that. Pillow talk whispered in the heat of passion meant nothing, of course. Nevertheless I cherished his praise.

He stretched out his hand and stroked my back. “Don’t be ashamed of what we do. It destroys me when you say you’re ashamed of our love.”

The actual affair had begun four months ago. Prior to that, we had spent several agonizing months wrestling with our consciences. We worked on separate floors but had seen each other in the elevator of the office skyscraper. We had first met on the ground floor when he accidentally backed into me, causing me to spill my coke. We’d smiled at each other with chagrin while exchanging apologies and names.

Soon, we coordinated our lunch hours. Meeting at the office restaurant became a habit, which then evolved into a necessity. Our well-being depended on seeing each other. Weekends seemed tortuously long, eternities to be endured until Monday, when we could meet once more.

One evening as we were leaving together, it began to rain. He offered to drive me home.

I shook my head. “I’ll take a cab like always. But thank you anyway.”

Gazing at each other with longing and regret, we said goodbye and parted. I dashed through the downpour to the corner bus-stop.

I was still huddled there when his car pulled to a stop at the curb. He rolled down the passenger window. “Get in. Please.”

He was pleading for more than a privilege of driving me home, and we both knew that. Unable to resist the temptation, I slipped inside when he pushed the car door open for me. Without another word, he drove to a remote spot a short distance from my house. With the first touch of his lips, I mentally abandoned my husband, my children and my religious convictions. I was now governed by carnal demands. When he entered me, my conscience couldn’t be heard above his ardent professions of love.

The initial passion hadn’t abated. If anything, it had escalated during our stolen hours together. Now, I turned my head and looked at him over my shoulder. My full lips fashioned a small smile.  “I’m not ashamed enough to end our affair. Even though I know it’s a sin, I’d die if I thought I’d never make love to you again.”

With a groan of renewed desire, he pulled me back against him. I twisted my body around until I lay on top of him, my open thighs straddling his hips.

That’s the way my husband found us a few minutes later.

I was the first to notice him standing in the doorway of the bedroom, quivering with righteous indignation. I sprang up and groped for the sheet to cover myself. I tried to speak his name, but my mouth was arid with fear and shame.

Muttering vicious deprecations, he lurched across the room toward the bed, raised the bedside lamp above his head, and swung it down in a deadly arc.

Later, even the paramedics who were accustomed to seeing gory crime scenes, had difficulty keeping down their lunches. There was an unspeakable mess splattered on the blue walls behind the bed.

Meaning no disrespect to the blood-spattered crucifix on the wall, I heard one of them whisper, “Jesus Christ.”

Then someone knelt down beside me. “I’ll be damned. I feel a pulse!”

And I passed out again.