Colette Freedman is an internationally produced playwright and novelist. With over 25 produced plays, Colette was voted "One of 50 to Watch" by The Dramatist's Guild. Her play Sister Cities alone has been produced fourteen times, including in Paris (Une Ville, Une Soeur) and in Rome (Le Quattro Sorelle). Colette has also collaborated with International bestselling novelist Jackie Collins and with New York Times bestselling author Michael Scott.
But it's her debut novel The Affair, released earlier this week, that we're really here to discuss. In The Affair, Colette examines infidelity from every angle -- that is, from the perspective of the wife, the husband and the alleged mistress. This is not only an interesting literary device for this type of he-said/she-said story, it actually allows the reader to get a deeper understanding of what really happened. Because, in the end, we discover that they're not telling the exact same story after all, as the misunderstandings, miscommunication, the self-delusions and the outright lies become more and more clear to us.
Take a few minutes to read this exclusive excerpt of The Affair, which Colette Freedman has generously shared with the LA Books Examiner. I think you're really going to enjoy it.
From THE AFFAIR by Colette Freedman © 2013 All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by arrangement with Kensington Publishing Corp. www.kensingtonbooks.com
Thursday, 19th December
Kathy Walker nibbled on a chocolate-glazed Dunkin’ Donut as she signed the Christmas card with a flourish.
Love from Robert, Kathy, Brendan, and Theresa.
She turned the card over, pushed it into the red envelope, licked the flap with two quick movements, making a face at the taste of the gum, then picked up her pen.
What was the address? She looked up from the pile of envelopes and frowned; 21 something—Hammond, or was it something—Hawley Street?
Kathy stepped away from the kitchen table and pressed her hands into the small of her back, working her neck from side to side, hearing muscles pop alarmingly. She had been writing cards for nearly two hours and was exhausted. These were her “Perfunctory” cards, polite-and-expected-and-completely-meaningless cards. It was a chore she hated, one she always left until the last minute— and she was now stiff and sore and just a little irritated. She looked at the doughnut in her hand; the sugar high wasn’t helping. Kathy took another bite and sighed. It was the same every year; she wrote all of the cards, and she signed for both of them, naturally putting his name first—Love from Robert, Kathy . . . Why was she conditioned to put his name first? Probably because the majority of the cards were going out to Robert’s business associates.
Next year would be different, she promised grimly, hunting for her address book. Then she smiled, and for an instant looked younger—much younger than her forty-three years—remembering that she’d made the same vow last year. And probably the year before that too.
Kathy found her address book under a pile of last year’s unused cards. For the last couple of years, she’d ordered Christmas cards from one of the online card shops in boxes of forty—cheesy pictures of her family dressed in Santa hats posing awkwardly around the trimmed tree—and each year she left three or four unused cards in the bottom of the box, promising to eventually send them. She never did.
Leaning over the table, she flipped open the tattered black book, hunting for the address of Robert’s cousin. She’d met the dour man at their wedding eighteen years ago and doubted if she’d recognize him today if he stood in front of her. Also, Mr. Personality never sent a Christmas card. This was the last year she was sending him one, she decided. She was going to make a list of those who sent cards and cross-reference it with the list of what she sent out. Perhaps she was being petty, but life was too short. Next year she’d only send cards to those people who had sent one to them. That was fair. She smiled again. She was also sure she’d made the same promise last year. And yet, this year she seemed to be sending out twice as many cards.
Kathy looked up at the clock: just after five. The mailman usually came at five thirty. She’d have just enough time to stuff the letters in the mailbox. Robert hated when she did that; he felt it was unfair on the mailman. However, she believed it was his job and had no issues with leaving the letters in the mailbox for him to take away. It was a lot easier than driving or, God forbid, walking eight blocks in the freezing temperatures to the closest post office. Besides, it was snowing. No need for her to go out unnecessarily. Then, as a treat for doing all the cards, she was going to order in rather than cook: Indian from The Curry House for Robert and herself, Chinese from Lucky Wah for Brendan and Theresa. If she timed it right, the kids would get home right about the same time the food arrived.
Only four cards left, all of them to Robert's business colleagues. She sat down at the table again and turned the cards over in her hands. These needed a personal touch; he should really write them himself, she decided. She pushed them into their envelopes, but left the flaps open. She'd address them, so he'd have no excuse. The first was to the head of the little multimedia company he used in East Cambridge. The second to the talent agency near Copley Square that supplied extras for crowd scenes. She smiled as she scribbled the address. It didn’t seem that long ago that she’d delivered these cards by hand, trudging across Boston to put them into the mailboxes because they couldn't afford the stamps.
How quickly things had changed.
Robert and Kathy's struggling independent television-production company had landed one small job, an insert for a documentary on racism. It was a small, self-contained interview segment with an African American hip-hop artist. They’d recorded it over a weekend and thought nothing more about it. Then the artist had won an award, made the cover of Esquire, and the documentary had won a Palme d’Or award. Robert had ridden the coattails of that success. He had new corporate brochures printed up that managed to give the impression that R&K Productions had won the award themselves. As usual, no one bothered to check, and the little lie became self-perpetuating. Kathy remembered a dinner where she was introduced as “one half of the company that won the Palme d’Or for that marvelous documentary . . .” She'd been so embarrassed, she hadn't had the nerve to contradict the speaker.
The company flourished and in doing so had taken its toll on them both over the years. Building a business meant that certain things—family, friendships, personal time, vacations—went by the wayside. R&K Productions still made documentaries, but nowadays principally concentrated on advertising: corporate training videos and commercials; they also shot local-color pieces— inserts—for foreign videos. She knew Robert finally accepted—and regretted—that he’d never now make huge, landmark documentaries for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, or HBO. Kathy didn’t share those regrets; the money was regular and, with two teens and a mortgage, she’d take financial security over artistic integrity any day. It had always been one of the fundamental differences between them.
She looked at the envelope in her hand. Burst Postproduction House. She said the words aloud, surprising herself, her voice sounding unusually loud in the silence of the kitchen. Post-Production— a new business in itself, where computers cleaned up the errors humans made.
Kathy rifled through the address book looking for Burst, though she doubted she would find it. This was one of the new companies Robert had only started working with this year. He never wrote the most recent addresses in the old address book. He preferred to store them in his iPhone.
Kathy wandered out into the hallway. Although this would be their sixth Christmas in this home, she'd never quite gotten used to the sense of space, particularly in the hallway. Their first house had had a short, dark, narrow hallway that led straight into the kitchen; this one boasted a large, circular foyer that, to be truthful, she thought just a bit wasteful. She would much rather have had bigger rooms. It was also cold; the ornate marble floor was lovely to look at, but it radiated the chill like a fridge.
"Robert!" She leaned on the blond wood railing and looked upstairs. “Robert!” Tilting her head to one side, she could faintly hear the thrum of the shower in the bedroom.
She tapped the cards in her hand against the banister; then, sighing, she started up the stairs. On the landing her feet sank into the deep pile of the impossible-to-keep-clean cream-colored carpet. Their bedroom was at one end of the house; the kids’ rooms were at the other. It afforded all of them a measure of privacy. She pushed into the bedroom, blinking in surprise at the image of the petite woman with the heart-shaped face reflected in the mirrored doors of the closets. She paused for a single moment, assessing herself: She needed to lose at least four inches around her waist, and gray roots were showing through her chestnut-brown hair. She was already depressed at being on the wrong side of forty—she certainly didn’t want to look fifty! Right after Christmas she was going to stop eating carbs, join Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or both, and go back to the gym. She'd go in the afternoon when all the trim, Pilates-obsessed, young yuppie mothers who filled the morning classes were picking up their equally perfect kids from school. Real women, with real figures, worked out in the afternoons, she decided.
The shower was louder now, and she could see tendrils of steam creeping from beneath the en suite door. The water would be scalding; she didn't know how he could stand it so hot. Robert was humming something vaguely Christmassy—“Do They Know It's Christmas?” she thought, but it would be impossible to tell, because, even though she loved him dearly, she would be the first to admit that he was tone deaf.
Robert's clothes were scattered across the bed. Automatically, she stooped and lifted a crumpled purple silk tie off the floor. She'd given it to him as part of his Christmas present last year. She felt a guilty twinge: She'd gotten him another tie this year. Red paisley. He was impossible to buy for; anything he wanted, he simply bought. Shirts and ties were always a safe bet.
Kathy sat on the edge of the bed and looked around the too-white bedroom. She'd change it this year. White was too cold, too hard, and the mirrored doors bounced the light back, making her squint, deepening the lines on her forehead and around her mouth. Even the peach-colored duvet looked pale and washed-out. She'd go to Benjamin Moore and get some color charts after Christmas, adding it to the growing list of things she was going to do “after Christmas.” She also knew that the list would probably not survive into the second week of the New Year.
Kathy spread out the cards on the bedspread and reached into the pocket of Robert's jacket, which was thrown across the end of the bed, and pulled out his cell. Thin and sleek, it was a combination phone and pocket computer, with a large rectangular color screen. When he had first gotten it, he'd sat up in bed beside her one night and demonstrated several applications that he had eagerly downloaded, only giving up when she finally fell asleep.
Kathy turned it on. The Apple icon lit up on the screen, then gave way to his screen saver: a picture of their dead cocker spaniel Rufus. She shuddered. It was morbid to keep the picture; why would he want to relive the loss, everyday? Her lips twisted in a wry smile. Robert always had trouble letting things go.
Kathy unlocked the screen, revealing brightly lit rows of colorful icons. She touched the little brown Contacts icon at the top of the screen, and a listing of names and addresses appeared. She started to scroll down the names to the B's, looking for Burst Post-production.
Bryant, Edward. Burford, Kenneth. Burroughs, Stephanie.
The name stopped her cold. Burroughs, Stephanie.
For an instant, a single moment of time, the room shifted, all the colors becoming brighter, sharper, though the sounds were muted. For the space of a single heartbeat her entire concentration was on that name glowing black on pale blue on the screen.
Burroughs, Stephanie. Stephanie Burroughs.
There was a name she hadn't come across in a long time, a name she had never thought she'd see again.
There was a tiny red flag on the screen beside the entry.
The shower changed tempo and then died, Robert's off-key singing becoming louder.
Moving quickly now, fingers fumbling, she turned off the phone. Shoving it back into Robert's jacket pocket, she darted from the room.
“Kathy? Were you looking for me?”
Robert’'s voice trailed her down the stairs. But all she could hear was the thundering of her blood in her ears, thumping in time to the name echoing inside her head: Stephanie Burroughs.
From THE AFFAIR by Colette Freedman © 2013 All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by arrangement with Kensington Publishing Corp. www.kensingtonbooks.com. Learn more about Colette Freedman and her work at her website colettefreedman.com.
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