This is the story of a Washington Affair.
The Powerful Man. The Put Upon Mistress. The Long Suffering Wife.,
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, involved in these complicated situations in this city.
This is a true story. The woman, the places and other identifying characteristics of the people involved have been changed.
If it sounds like a soap opera, that's because it is a soap opera. It begins with a brief encounter, a few small lies, a clandestine trip and click -- everyone is suddenly locked in.
In Washington, an affair is complicated because of the power of one of the participants, generally the man, and the secrecy to protect that power. In the power game as it is played in the nation's capitol, there is no place for scandal.
These are normal, functioning people, not necessarily evil nor morally corrupt. There are no villains in this story: The man could not function without the agreement of both the wife and the mistress.
For the mistress there is the pleasure of having and exerting power over a man who is powerful himself.
For the wife there is the title, the social status and the money.
And for the man himself, there is the satisfaction of having his needs met by two women.
In the Washington Affair, there is something for everyone.
Her first pregnancy had not been easy. Still, it was his child and he was the man she loved. Even though he was married to someone else.
He was so pleased.So proud that she would be having his baby. She knew at the time that it had a lot to do with his ego. Yet she couldn't really swear that there hadn't been some unconscious desire on her part to have his child. Why else did she miss a day or two of the Pill?
At first, she considered having an abortion. He refused even to talk about it. Secretly, she was pleased. He must love her if he wanted her to have his baby. Certainly the baby would tie her to him in a permanent way. And why else would he want her to have it if he didn't plan to leave his wife?
When she got pregnant the second time, their child was four.
This pregnancy was really taumatic for her. All she could think about was the last time. All those lonely hours at night, when he would go home to his wife and family. All those times when she really needed him to tell her he loved her, he wanted her, that she was beautiful when she knew she wasn't. She had had the baby six weeks early. She never wanted to go through anything like that again.
This time, she just told him she was going to have the abortion. He was upset. Really upset. But he didn't fight it the way he might have. He seemed to understand it had to be this way.
But he was visibly angry with her. He wouldn't speak to her all the way to the hospital. And he left her there alone, saying he would come back to pick her up later.
He was over two hours late.
She sat alone in the waiting room.
"Honey, are you sure somebody's coming?" asked the nurse.
Finally he came. He was hostile even on the drive home.
After the abortion he took her to London for a week. He was very romantic on the trip. She knew she brought out the best side of him. She knew how to make him relax.
He told her it was the best time he had ever had in his life.
Then he brought her back to Washington. And went home to his wife.
Theirs is a classic Washington story. Small-town girl comes to Washington looking for a bright future -- meets high-powered lobbyist, married with two children.
Seven years and one child later he is still promising to leave his wife and marry her.
Seven years and one child later she has just about had it. She's had nobody to talk to, no friends for all these years.
"When you live in the kind of relationship I have," she says matter of factly, "you don't have friends.
She is the Washington Mistress.
And she wants to tell her story.
Cindy is a stylish young woman in her 30s, though if you look closely you can trace the downward lines around her mouth and at the corners of her eyes. They are not crinkles from laughter or joy, these lines, nor are they tentative, the way lines on the face of someone her age should be.
Long, bright-red hair is her distinguishing feature, visible across the restaurant as she approaches the table.
She knows how pretty her hair is, how her deep green eyes complement the red. There is just a touch of eye shadow, a soft lipstick. No makeup to hide the freckles. A thin nose, high cheekbones, a silm delicate figure. There is no apology in her walk, her handshake. Only a slight uncertainty in her gaze as she orders a Bloody Mary and begins to speak.
"There was an article recently in The Post," she says, "about a smalltown girl coming to Washington and getting swallowed up . . ." She begins to chuckle mirthlessly. She takes a small sip of her drink, pauses, then takes a deep breath to go on.
Cindy comes from a small town in Kentucky. She grew up in a very religious, strict, conservative family, the oldest daughter.
"I was always considered to be fairly intelligent, and attractive, the controlled one," she says. Again there is that ironic laught. "The one who always knew what she wanted. And always got what she wanted."
She went to a small local college, dropped out to marry Greg, a successful young businessman in her home town. A wonderful man, she says, a popular person in the community.
Her marriage was stable but not exciting. When she married Greg he was five years older than she was and she thought she loved him.
They were both interested in politics, but they were poles apart in their politicals views. He was conservative.
She turned liberal, much to the dismay of her husband, her family, her friends. She supported Eugene McCarthy, went to peace rallies, was active in the antiwar movement. She even got a job lobbing for a civil rights group.
"I've always stood up for what believe in," she said. "I sound a lot stronger than I am sometimes. I will always stand up and get things done.
"We had a traditional marriage. There wasn't as much love as there should have been on my side. His love became a burden. I felt stifled. So just packed up and came here. I haven't the vaguest idea why I chose Washington. But I will say this. No matter how badly I've felt here or how depressed I've been, I've never wanted to go back to Kentucky."
She moved here, found a small one-bedroom apartment close to the river in Arlington, and began to job-hunt.
She was 25, optimistic and ambitious.
Her husband Greg came up most weekends to see her. At first he didn't really believe the marriage was over, and she had never said it was. She had just told him she needed to get away for a while. This went on for about six months. Then he gave her an unltimatum. He asked her if she was coming back. She told him no.He said he would get a divorce. He did.
When Cindy left Kentucky, she had been working in labor relations in a small coal-mining town, so she naturally went looking for a job in her field.
It was that job which brought her to the downtown office of Michael, a Washington labor lobbyist.
His job had gotten too big for one person to handle. Michael needed an assistant and Cindy was perfectly qualified. He hired her on the spot.
"I didn't realize it at the time," she says, "but he told me later that he fell madly, passionately, head-over-heels in love with me right there. The funny thing is that he didn't even appeal to me." The Power of Power
Cindy describes Michael as of medium height, with a good built, brownish hair with red sideburns and yellow-brown eyes. He has a ruddy complexion that gets ruddier when he's had a few drinks. He looks like a short, not very handsome Kennedy, and he has a distinct Boston accent when he talks.
"He's not the sort I would think would turn me on from his looks," she says.
What turns her on about him is no mystery. It is his power, his success, his money and his energy.
She started to work right away. She loved her job, and had an active social life.
"Every so often," she says, "he would say "What are you doing for lunch?" At first I didn't take him up on it. He was a married man. He was off-limits I led my own life. I was quite happy."
She always made sure, too, to leave the office at 5:30. Alone.
One evening there was a dinner for a man working on a deal that Cindy and Michael were involved in. Milchael asked her to drive him to his house in Georgetown so he could pick up his car. It was there that Cindy met his wife, Angela, and his children for the first time.
Michael's wife, Cindy remembers, was openly hostile to her and she couldn't understand why. At that point there was nothing romantic between them. Cindy, trying to make conversation, told her that she wasn't particularly crazy about living in Arlington.
Even though her apartment did overlook Washington she hoped one day to be able to move to either Cleveland Park or Georgetown.Michael's wife announced rather gratuitously that she doubted whether Cindy would ever be able to afford either of those locations.
Later at the dinner, Cindy sat next to another man who had come for the party, through Michael had asked her to sit with him. Afterwards, he invited her into the bar for a drink to meet another client of his.
"Michael kept trying to get chummy," says Cindy. "I didn't think anything of it. I spent most of the evening trying to locate Greg, my former husband, who was coming into town that night and wanted to see me. I left the bar early. Michael was undone. He kept saying to me that he thought I was out of my marriage."
Cindy went home to Kentucky for the Christmas holidays and when she came back Michael announced to her that they would have to fly to Chicago to meet with some clients.
"I said fine. I was still not thinking there was anything to it. We hadn't even had lunch."
The waitress brings her eggs Benedict. Cindy still has not even finished half of her Bloody Mary. She keeps playing with the swizzle stick. Her hands are rough looking, with short, unmanicured nails.
She talks in clear, direct staccato bursts of conversation, emotionless, as if the only way she can tell the story is to put it out of her mind, to concentrate only on her words, not her feelings. The Seduction
When she got to the airport for the trip to Chicago, she recalls, the plane was late, and she and Michael ended up in the bar for two hours. They did lots of talking. They had a few drinks. By the time they got on the plane they were both in a good mood. He told her he was planning a trip to Nassau a few weeks later. He asked her to go with him. She thought he was kidding. She joked, and said sure she would go.
"I wasn't even thinking he was attractive," she says, "although sometime that month he struck me as being a strong, decisive, controlled person, a person who knew where he was going. I like that. I like power. He was very intelligent. I like that, too. He was more intelligent than I was . . . but I still wasn't thinking in terms of any romatic involvement."
When they arrived in Chicago, they checked into their rooms and met several other labor types for dinner.
"It was an exciting evening for me," Cindy says. "They seemed to be in control, to know what they were doing. This was the crowd, the emviroment that I was getting into, that I had aspired to and I liked it."
But, she didn't feel well. She was coming down with a cold and began to get a stomach ache. She finally excused herself from the table and went to her room. She settled into a hot tub, soaked for about an hour, then got into bed.
She was almost asleep when the phone rang at about 12:30. It was Michael.
He had been trying to call her for the past hour but she had not answered the phone. She hadn't heard it in the tub. He asked her if he could come to her room. He had something urgent he needed to discuss with her.
"I told him I was tired, that I didn't feel well. I still didn't catch on. . .I know it sounds stupid. But he was my boss. I did have that in my mind. And he kept insisting. Finally I just said yes."
She hadn't brought any nightclothes, since it was just a one-day trip, so she quickely wrapped herself up in a sheet, toga-style, before he could get down the hall to her room.
When he walked into the room, he seemed agitated. He sat down opposite her. He took her hands in his and looked at her.
He told her he wanted her.
She felt sick.
"I said, 'Oh, Michael, we've had such a good working relationship. Please don't spoil it.'"
But he kept saying it over and over how much he wanted her, how he had longed for her how he needed her.
I responded finally. I was touched. He took me in his arms. He kissed me. And we made love."
"It was a really wrenching thing. It was so touching. He was the first man I had made love to since I left my husband."
The next day she took off her wedding ring. Greg's Observation
The trip back to Washington was hectic and uncomfortable. She has a high fever. He seemed distracted. Cindy just assumed because Michael was married he didn't feel as strongly about the night before as she did.
Michael left town immediately on another business trip for a few days, and when he returned she too had left on a trip. She thought about calling, him but she didn't want to seem grasping. And besides, he hadn't called her.
When she returned, he was waiting for her and asked her to have lunch.
"He went crazy," she says. "He told me he couldn't believe I hadn't called him. He was mortified that I had just walked away."
Though Cindy had been very moved by her experience with Michael, she tried to dismiss it, feeling sure that it would go nowhere. She thought she had been successful.
Two weeks later, she went to New York to spend the weekend with her ex-husband, Greg, who had started divorce proceedings.
The two were still very close friends despite the breakup of their marriage, and Cindy told him all about Michael.
After listening to her talk about him all weekend, Greg finally told her that he suspected she was falling in love with Michael.
"I said to him, 'That's crazy. That's absurd.'"
She couldn't accept it. She wouldn't. Doubts and Discoveries
The next weekend Cindy and Michael went to Atlanta together on business. They planned to stay over for the weekend after they finished their work. Michael had some close friends in Atlanta he wanted her to meet. It was the first time they had been together since the first night in Chicago.
"It was all very strange. He wanted to stay with these friends of his," says Cindy.That didn't strike her as very romantic and she vetoed the idea. sThey ended up staying in a hotel but spending every minute with the other couple. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. She felt he was trying to use the other couple as a barrier. On the way back to Washington, Michael asked her if she'd had a good time.
"I told him it was the worst trip I had ever had in my entire life. The problem was that neither of us was comfortable with thinking that this is what is going to happen. . . that we were going to have an affair. A serious affair, I didn't want to deal with it."
For the next few months, Cindy and Michael were on the road almost constantly. He had to visit and talk to labor leaders all around the country. cThey were together all the time, and the affair bloomed. Cindy found it impossible to separate her personal life from her professional life. Michael was, after all, her boss.
"I've wondered a lot what would have happened if I hadn't taken him up on it that night in Chicago," she says. "I don't think I would have been able to stay on in my job. I don't think it would have worked, knowing his ego. . . ."
Other problems arose at that time, too. Although Cindy and Michael were a team and worked together in the office there were clients and coleagues they had to deal with, both on the Hill and from out of town. These people says Cindy, were all male and they were very chauvinistic.
"I had more experience in the field of labor relations," she says, "but they had trouble seeing me as a person in charge."
Michael, of course, had the same attitudes toward women. But then he was the boss and Cindy was always in a subservient position.
"I didn't take it serously at first," she says. I didn't see it as a battle I wanted to wage. But it really became a problem after about six months. I guess I was responsible for some of the problems because of the way I reacted."
Cindy's affair with Michael in this all-male enviroment slowly began to erode her self-confidence. The change in her was so gradual that she didn't realize what was happening until it was too late.
At first during the beginning of their relationship, Cindy didn't talk to Michael about his family, his wife or his children. For one thing, she wouldn't let herself admit that this might be a long-term thing. But as the affair continued and it became clear to her that she really was falling in love with him, her interest in his family increased.
"He didn't seem to be that close to his family," she says. "He really didn't mind being away that much."
His two children, a daughter and a son, were in private schools in Washington and would soon be of age to go away to boarding school. Michael talked about that in a way that made Cindy believe he had set the time when he could leave his wife in good conscience without the guilt of breaking up his family. Michael, for all his wordliness and sophistication, was a Catholic from Boston, the apple of his doting mother's eye.
He had been married just out of college.His wife, also a Catholic, from a large Italian family, was a traditional wife. "She does nothing," says Cindy, just an edge of bitterness creeping into her voice. "She lives in this huge house in Georgetown with a housekeeper and all the clothes she could want. Michael even makes the doctor's appointments for the children. I could never decide whether he was being generous or whether he was totally henpecked. But he's not the type."
The marriage was typical, too, of the kind of religious man who violates the sanctity of the marriage vows but who cannot bring himself to divorce.
"He had had affairs," she says. "When he started with me he was having affairs with a couple of other women. I know I'm not the first. . .and I'm sure I won't be the last."
Again, a flash of anger wells up, then subsides. She does not want emotions to invade her. The Habit of Lying
Cindy says she began to be troubled by the relationship when she started catching Michael in lies. At first she had thought, as the mistress, she knew all the secrets. The truth was power, and she had the traditional power that mistresses have over wives: She knew and the wife didn't. there was nothing for him to hide from her. Or so she thought.
At first she didn't want to think about his lying. She tried to dismiss it. If she admitted it to herself, then she would have to deal with the fact that she had lost her power, or some of her power, over him. But it didn't stop.
"He still lies," she says. "He lies about the most trivial things, too. It's just a habit.
"He never told his mother the truth about anything," she says. "His father always told him never tell women the truth. You had to protect women from the truth. They just got upset. They couldn't handle it. They were too fragile. He started dealing with women that way at an early age."
She remembers a time, their first summer together, when they were already very involved, when she and Michalel had been away from Washington for nearly a week on business. She drove him home from the airport. It was evening when they arrived at his house and his wife and children weren't home. He suggested they go get a bite to eat, and when they returned, his wife was pulling up to the house.
He got out of the car and walked over to where Angela was. Cindy could hear their conversation. "We're going away together alone next weekend." she told him without looking at Cindy. "Ant that's it."
He walked back to Cindy's car and leaned in to say good night. "Don't worry," he assured her.
Michael said his father was very sick, and several days after the incident at his house he told Cindy he would have to go up to Boston to see him.
"I remember saying to him," says Cindy, "that the one thing that will really distrub this relationship is if you lie to me. He left Friday and said, [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] came and went and he didn't call me. I called his father Saturday evening. His father told me that he hadn't seen Michael, that he was in Washington. So I knew that he was with her."
Somehow, the way Cindy says her sounds as if she is talking about the other woman rather than the wife . She sounds outraged, too, betrayed, that her lover would talke his wife away for the weekend.
Sunday evening he called. He said he was in Boston with his father.
"Oh? Really?" said Cindy. He sensed trouble and asked her what was wrong. She told him she knew he was lying, that she had called his father in Boston."I told him I was really upset. He said he'd call later."
He called at about 10:30. He tried to tell her that he would explain everything.
Unfortunately, Angela walked into the room while he was calling and began screaming profanity at him, says Cindy. And he had to hang up. "Now she had just spent the weekend with him, she did not know about our affair, and I worked for him. It was perfectly natural for him to be calling me. I couldn't understand her profanity and his putting up with it."
The next morning, in the office, Cindy confronted him. "I told him it was all over. He begged me not to leave him. He had talked about leaving [Angela] before, before, but the time he said he really was going to leave her." He told Cindy he had rented a house in Hyannis Port for two weeks in August and he wanted her to come with him. She believed him. She decided to stay.
Her decision to stay was reinforced by the fact that he told her her would like to take her to Boston to meet his parents. "That," she says, "sounded serious to me."
They went to Boston for the weekend, and he took one of his children with him.Cindy stayed in a hotel. Michael and his son stayed with his parents. No explanations were made to his son.
It was a successful trip. Cindy got along well with his father. She found him warm and delightful.
His mother was not unfriendly, though she seemed to Cindy a bit overprotective of her son. But what heartened Cindy was the fact that she was not fond of Michael's wife and made on attempts to hide it.
"My conclusion, after the weekend," says Cindy, "was that he was going to get divorced."
Expectably, Angela found out that Cindy had been along. Angela and Michael had a big fight. Michael was even more resolved to leave.
The following week Cindy and Michael went to Hyannis Port. It was a wonderful two weeks and Cindy was sure that Michael and she could work things out. He promised her he would leave Angela and, indeed, when they returned to Washington, he told Anglea that it was all over. He left her and moved in with Cindy. The R Street Hideway
For the next month they traveled most of the time on business, and what should have been bliss turned into tension and anxiety for both of them. They were exhausted and confused. They fought a lot.
"Now that I look back on it," Cindy says, "his leaving Angela than was premature and I was not supportive."
"He needed lots of help and I couldn't provide it. I still had lots of anger. We were having real problems between the two of us and he wouldn't talk about anything. That just made me more angry and less supportive. For one thing, even though he told me he had left her, I just knew it wasn't true. I caught him making phone calls secretly that month while we were on the road. And Angela was even writing him letters at the office and he didn't tell me. Later I found out that he had told her he needed a month alone to find himself. He hadn't really left her for good after all."
Meanwhile, believing he had left Angela for good, Cindy had found a house for the two of them in the Dupont Circle area. He had told her he wanted to marry her. "He bought the house on R Street for us. At that point I was more concerned with his getting divorced, through, than our getting married."
At the end of the month Cindy and Michael had to go to California. It was on the plane back to Washington that he told her he was not going to move into the R Street house with her. Losing Control
Now, as she tells the story, she begins to get agitated again, begins to sip at the Bloody Mary which she has forgotten for awhile.
There is no sign of tears, but the talking begins to come faster, the breathing heavier. This is a hard part for her.
"It happened so fast," she say, "all of those things. . .he had told me. . .but because there was no honesty there. . .he had never planned on moving into R Street. . . It was very traumatic. . .we went back to my apartment in Arlington together. . . We did a lot of talking. . .I was so upset. . .I had gotten a prescription for Valium. . .couldn't sleep. . .I was really distraught. . . . He was saying it wasn't working out. . .that we had been fighting a lot. . . . As far as I was concerned, it wasn't clear. . .it was very vague. . . If he had said he didn't want out of the marriage. . .I could deal with it. . . But he didn't. . .I was so distraught. . .I took the whole thing of Valium. . . ."
She stops talking. She is silent for a very long while. The piano player in the restaurant is playing "The Way We Were." There is the gentle sound of forks tinkling on plates, of ice in glasses, of subdued chatter.
"It was a silly, dramatic gesture on my part," she says softly, "that I'm ashamed of now." Her voice is leaden. "He took me to the hospital. I threw everything up. He wasn't there when I awakened. I woke up to find IVs in my arm. I called Michael at home. His wife answered the phone. She hung up on me. He said he had told her. She answered the phone and she hung up. While I was in the hospital, he went to my apartment and moved all his clothes out. He moved home."
When she was released several days later, Michael picked Cindy up at the hospital. He took her back to her apartment.
"He professed enternal love. We made love."
That night she sat down and wrote a long letter to Angela. "I know it was naive," she says now. "I told her how it happened and how I hadn't intended to fall in love with him."
She gave the letter to Michael to give to Angela.
"I don't think he ever did."
She managed to pull herself together after that weekend and went back to work. "It was a momentary loss of control," she says fiercely.
But for Michael, things changed drastically.
Michael's wife monitored his every move. She took him to work, she picked him up. She began to have lunch with him.
Sometimes she sent the kids up to his office after school to check up on him.
"He was like a prisoner," says Cindy.
Yet all this time he was telling Cindy that everything would work out all right.
"At this point I was becoming terminal. Diseased. I had given up my Arlington apartment and moved into the R Street house. I had become so involved with him that I was listening to him. I wasn't making rational decisons about him any more. I believed him."