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The Business Trip

(all names in this story are edited to protect the privacy of personal data)


It started as a playful idea, almost a joke. Tom had been racking up airline miles for years with his constant business trips, and half-jokingly, I’d threaten to use them to join him unannounced. This time, I decided to actually do it.

He was off to Paris for a week—a big conference he’d been preparing for months. The night before he left, while packing, he joked again, "You should use my miles sometime, join me on one of these boring trips." So when he forgot his iPad at home, the plan took a real shape in my mind. I’d bring it to him, surprise him. A spontaneous trip to Paris sounded perfect—the romance of the city surely would add a spark to our lately routine marriage.

I booked the flight the next day, excited and nervous. What would he say? Would he laugh, be happy, or feel intruded upon? Either way, Paris awaited.

Landing in Paris, I felt like a character in a rom-com, about to surprise her love with a grand, romantic gesture. I imagined us walking along the Seine, dining by candlelight with the Eiffel Tower in the background, stealing kisses in the Louvre.

But reality had a different script.

I took a taxi to his hotel and asked the concierge to help with the surprise. Smiling conspiratorially, he agreed to not call Tom but just hand him the iPad when he returned. "He will be so surprised, Madame," the concierge winked.

Waiting in the lobby was excruciating; every minute dragged. Finally, Tom walked in, laughing, his arm around a woman. They stopped by the concierge, still laughing, leaning into each other comfortably. My heart thudded painfully as the scene unfolded like a silent movie.

I stayed hidden behind a pillar, watching as the concierge handed Tom the iPad. He looked confused for a moment, then his face paled as he read the note I’d attached: "Surprise! Waited in the lobby to give you this. Let’s explore Paris together! x"

The woman glanced at the note over his shoulder, her playful smile fading into a tight line. There was a hurried, tense conversation—Tom glancing around nervously, the woman speaking in sharp, hushed tones.

I couldn’t stand there anymore. I stepped out from behind the pillar, my legs shaky, my heart in my throat. “Tom,” I called out, my voice echoing slightly in the lavish hotel lobby.

He turned, and for a second, his face was a mask of shock, then resignation. The woman looked from Tom to me, an understanding dawning on her face, then she walked away without a word.

“Sarah, I—” Tom started, but what was there to say that I hadn’t already guessed?

The next hours were a blur of tears, apologies, and painful admissions. Tom had been seeing her for months. Paris wasn’t just a business trip; it was a getaway for them. Sitting in a small café, away from the prying eyes of the hotel staff, we talked more honestly than we had in years.

Paris, the city of love, didn’t weave its magic for us. Instead, it stripped away the façade of our marriage, revealing the fractures we’d both ignored. By the time I flew back, the decision was made. We needed space, maybe a lot of it. Maybe permanently.

The surprise visit hadn’t gone as planned, but perhaps it was necessary. It forced us both to confront the reality of our relationship, not as it had been in our memories, but as it truly was.

Was my surprise a mistake, or did it reveal a truth I needed to face? What would you have done in my place? How do you cope when the life you thought you were living turns out to be an illusion?



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