After the Affair – The End

Everything REALLY Does Always Happen in the Damn Bathroom 

Important Notice: This novel includes content unsuitable for individuals under the age of 16.  The material encompasses, but is not limited to, strong language, drug use, sexually explicit content, suicidal attempts, and violent themes. Reader discretion is strongly advised.

Legal Disclaimer: The events and particulars depicted herein are drawn from the recollection, imagination, and personal diaries of Sarah Markham-Hall. Certain scenes are fictionalized and dramatized for content and may not accurately reflect the true sequence or occurrence of events. Names and locations have been modified to safeguard the privacy of individuals involved. No harm or injury was inflicted upon anyone during the writing of this novel.

Please Note: This is a writing in progress – the following may or may not be in the final product of this novel as written. 


“You can drive,” I said, tossing him the keys to the Prius. “I hate driving in unfamiliar cities.”

He claimed it was just a coincidence that we both ended up in Flagstaff on the same weekend, but I knew that was nonsense. He had known about my Arizona Board of Schools Conference for months. I’m certain he orchestrated our encounter long ago.  Besides, it was highly suspicious that Elliot had dropped him off at the exact same hotel where I was staying two nights earlier. It was also suspicious that Elliot planned to return with the kids when little Jenny got out of school. If he hadn’t organized his week around my conference, I highly doubt he’d be staying in the same hotel, just two doors down from my room. The whole situation was too suspicious if you ask me.

However, it wasn’t surprising. Ever since Kristopher and I broke up, I think they both felt a bit sorry for me. Justin would randomly show up at my apartment to check on me, and Elliot would call unexpectedly on a random Wednesday evening to make me laugh. To be honest, I needed it. Initially, the breakup was easy, but as time passed and the early thrill of freedom faded, I slipped into a lonely, dark place. In their own way, they both saved me from spiraling into a place I couldn’t escape.

I settled into the passenger seat as he climbed into the driver’s side. We were on our way to downtown Flagstaff to meet Elliot and the kids so I could finally try Crumbl Cookie. I’d seen several influencers on TikTok rave about these large, probably overpriced sweets, and I couldn’t call myself an aspiring TikTok influencer without trying them at least once.

“Do you ever think about what our lives would be like if things had turned out differently?” Justin asked out of the blue.

“Yeah, sometimes. We could have taken so many different paths, but here we are in 2024, heading to meet your husband and two kids for cookies,” I laughed. “I never thought I’d say that.”

“See, I’m not the evil villain you wrote about in your first set of books,” he said.

“Oh yes, you are!” I laughed. “You’re still the villain in my story. You’re just not the main villain anymore.”

“Whoa! Why am I still a villain in your story? I’ve completely changed since our high school and college days,” he said, clearly annoyed.

“In some ways, you have changed, but in others, you haven’t. So yes, Mr. Lenox, I’m sorry. You are still a villain in my story.”

“And what makes me still a villain?” he asked, annoyed.

“Do you really want me to list the reasons?” I laughed. “Well, for starters, the whole reason you and Elliot are in Flagstaff is to finalize the purchase of land for a new marijuana dispensary.”

“You do know pot is legal in Arizona, right?” he chuckled.

“Oh, come on, Lenox! I’m not naive! I know you’re selling more than just pot out of there.  Like I said, you may have changed in some respects, but you’re still the money-hungry drug dealer you always were. And your tactics haven’t changed either.  You might disguise it behind the legality of marijuana, but if what you did out of that place was truly legal, you wouldn’t have blood stains on your hands.”

“Mmm…” he grunted under his breath.

“And then there’s Mayor Stevens,” I said with a deep sigh.

“Hey, I gave him an out. I handed it to him on a silver platter, just like you asked, and he turned it down. I can’t help that. I tried,” he replied.

“Yes, I know. Stevens made his bed, and now he gets to lie in it. But you lied to me for over a decade about it, and I had to find out from my boss of all people!” I exclaimed, still angry over the situation.

“I didn’t lie, I just left out a few details. When you left Tucson, you said you wanted nothing to do with the business. So, I just never told you.”

“Right, you led me to believe for ten years that you were getting free nights at Lakeworth Resort because you were sleeping with the general manager, when the reality was far worse than that,” I sighed, rolling my eyes. “And instead of hearing it from my best friend, I have to hear it from my boss. How did he know about it before me? I guess it’s my fault for being so damn gullible.”

“Okay, fine. But even beyond that, I still don’t think it warrants me being labeled as the villain,” he argued.

“Really?” I said, turning towards him with my arms crossed. “Shall we discuss the 2020 Election?”

“Oh, come on! That was before any signatures were even turned in!” he exclaimed defensively.

“I don’t care!” I yelled, emphasizing each word. “That wasn’t your decision to make! It was the voters of Lakeworth County’s decision to make, and you took that from them!”

“He took the money! He didn’t have to!”

“After you blackmailed him! Hell, if I were in his shoes, I probably would have too!” I exclaimed. “You interfered in the election of a town you don’t even live in!”

“I own a home there,” he said calmly.

“That’s not my point! My point is, you went behind my back, paid George off, and rigged the election. And it’s not the first election you’ve interfered with either! Mayor Stevens is only mayor so you two can keep your little charade going after Judge Williams retired. So, yes, Justin! You are still a villain in my story! In fact, if COVID hadn’t happened, I don’t know if I would have forgiven you for what you did.”

“I did it for you,” he said under his breath.

“I didn’t ask you to!” I exclaimed. “And I swear to God if you interfere in this next election…”

“I know, you’ll bulldoze the airport for evidence, throw me in prison, and take the kids. Yes, I know. You’ve told me a million times in the last six months. Look, Ann, it’s a month before the election. Does it look like I’ve interfered?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t think you messed with Steven’s election either two years ago, but here we are,” I said nonchalantly. “This is why you are and always will be the villain!”

“Fine! I see your point,” he said with an eyeroll as he parked the car in front of the Butler Shopping Center.

From a distance, I spotted Elliot and the kids making their way towards us. True to Elliot’s style, he bypassed his husband and enveloped me in the tightest bear hug ever. “My Ann!” he exclaimed, lifting me off the ground and spinning me around. “Beautiful as always,” he added, giving me the once-over with his typical flirty grin.

“Sexy as always!” I responded, wrapping my arms around him.

After exchanging greetings, we strolled towards the outdoor shopping center. A smile spread across my face as I watched the four of them walk ahead. While certain aspects of Justin Lenox’s character remained unchanged, it was clear he was no longer the cold-hearted figure depicted in the initial novels. Family had softened him. Now, he had a beautiful seven-year-old daughter and an almost three-year-old son to consider.

As we made our way towards the cookie shop, I observed Jenny skipping over the cracks in the sidewalk ahead of us. I couldn’t help but notice how much she resembled me. She had my eyes and the thin, dark hair I had always disliked, yet it looked beautiful on her. While I will always be content with being Auntie Ann, I am grateful that a part of my legacy will endure long after I am gone. I am not her mother, nor do I wish to be. Justin and Elliot are incredible parents, and I know they will always prioritize her and provide her with the wonderful childhood she deserves.

“Crummbbll!” little Jenny yelled excitedly as she skipped into the cookie store.

Justin and I secured a table outside while Elliot brought out two huge boxes. “Here,” he said, handing me one. “That one is for later so you can make your little TikTok video,” he chuckled.

“Awe, thank you,” I smiled.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes I entertained the idea of walking away from my current life and joining them. We could form the perfect little trio, the ideal family. But then I look at Jenny and I’m reminded why that could never be. Like I said, perhaps in another universe, things worked out differently.

“So, do you like it?” Elliot asked, watching me take a few bites into the cinnamon crumbl cookie.

“Mmmm… it’s okay. I mean, it’s good. Not sure it’s worth $7 a cookie though,” I laughed.

“Come with me, Ann Mathews!” Elliot exclaimed, rising from the table.

“Where are we going?” I chuckled, taking his hand as he reached out for mine.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” he replied, remarkably nonchalant.

“And you need my help with that!” I burst into laughter.

“I do,” he said, pulling me along as we made our way toward the family bathroom up ahead.

“What are you up to, mister?” I laughed as we entered the spacious family-style bathroom located in the heart of the shopping complex.

“Well, I really do have to go to the bathroom,” he said, locking the door behind us and walking over to the toilet.

I couldn’t help but stare at him from across the small room. To be perfectly honest, I felt a pang of jealousy toward Justin sometimes. Elliot was the most handsome man I had ever met. He had that perfectly slender body, perfectly slicked-back black hair, and could rock eyeliner better than any woman I knew. He was the only 40-year-old I knew who could still pull off the emo look and look damn good doing it. But why he dragged me across the shopping center to a family-sized bathroom, bypassing the closer men’s and women’s separate bathrooms, just to watch him take a piss was beyond me. There had to be more to this, right?

“You remember Jim, right?” Elliot asked, zipping up his pants and turning towards me.

“Yes, I remember him,” I replied. Jim was the person Elliot was engaged to before choosing Justin over him. In fact, Justin and Elliot had a secret affair for roughly six months, and I was the only one who knew about it.

“I could have chosen him over Justin, you know,” Elliot said, washing his hands and then walking towards me.

“But you didn’t,” I said, confused about where he was going with this.

“You’re right. Jim would have been the easy choice though. We were good together. He treated me right. I mean, all around, he was kind of perfect.”

“I don’t understand why you’re telling me this,” I said, puzzled.

“I could have chosen him and lived a dull, mediocre life. We probably would have gotten married, had a few kids, and both still be working at Oro Valley P.D. A mundane, ordinary life. But I chose Justin. You want to know why I chose him?” he asked, walking closer to me until my back pressed against the closed door.

“Why?” I asked, with his face and body mere inches from mine. 

“I didn’t want mediocrity. When I was with Justin, there was this rush and excitement. When I kissed him, I felt an intensity I had never experienced before in my life, and I still feel it over 15 years later. You must find that. Don’t ever settle for mediocrity,” he said, clasping my hands in his.

“You deserve to find someone who ignites that same intensity while also providing you with the safety and security that Justin gives me. You deserve the world, Ann Mathews, and I never want to see you settle for anything less. You’re family to me, and not just in a sisterly way either. You are the mother of my child, whether you choose to call yourself that or not. I love you, and I want you to find what Justin and I have. Don’t ever fucking settle. Life is too short for that,” he said, wiping away the tears that were now streaming down my cheeks.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

“Next time, call me. I’ll always talk you off that cliff just like you did for me,” he said, running his hand down my side and onto my inner thigh as he moved closer to me. “I’m always here for you, you know. Whatever you need.”

“Whatever I need, huh?” I chuckled, wrapping my hand around his lower waist.

“It’s up to you, Ann. Would you like to go back out and eat some more cookies, or do you just want to fuck in this bathroom?” – The End

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