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Her husband surprised her with a weekend trip to Venice. Sound like the most romantic thing in the world? For Lisa Wolfe it was torture—until she ran into an old flame: her husband.
Most of the time my husband comes home from work after the children have gone to bed. But on this cold evening in March he comes home early, when I am stirring noodles for dinner, our 2-year-old is zooming cars around the kitchen floor, and our 1-year-old is sitting on the dishwasher door, flicking the soap dish open and shut. (I know I shouldn't let him sit on the open dishwasher door—it has already broken twice—but this is the only activity that will keep him sitting still for more than five minutes at a time.) I notice that Joe looks happy.

It's not that Joe's been looking unhappy lately. Just tired. And stressed. And distracted. Like me.

"This is for you," he says, handing me a big white envelope.

I put down my spoon. I open the envelope. I pull out two plane tickets. "We're going to Venice," he says.

"Venice, Italy?" I ask. I can't quite grasp the concept. When we first moved to London we traveled a lot, but we haven't been anywhere in a very long time. Since our first child was born, to be precise.

"Venice, Italy," Joe answers. "For your birthday. I thought it would be nice to do something romantic."

He's not wrong. It would be nice to do something romantic. If I had the energy. Or the inclination. If I weren't feeling so romantically preoccupied.

"But who's going to stay with the kids?" I ask.

"Alexandra," Joe says, referring to our babysitter. "I asked her whether she would do a weekend and she said yes."

I know I am lucky to have a husband who both wants and can afford to take me to Venice. But I really don't want to go. Just because I've been getting tired of staying home with the boys doesn't mean I want to leave them. Not even for a weekend. Not even to go to Venice. And especially not to get on an airplane. If I'm going to go anywhere, I would like it to be to sleep.

But I know better than to put up a fuss. My husband is young and virile, and if I don't want him embarking on the path that you hear the husbands of distracted new mothers embark on, I'd better get with the plan: not simply agree to go to Venice but even show enthusiasm for the idea; not only have sex when I am there but even—if I can remember how—be sexy.

"Thank you very much," I say, making a point to kiss Joe directly on the lips. "That's a really sweet thing to do."

The big Friday morning arrives, so does our taxi to the airport. The children lunge at my shins, begging me please not to go. I drop to my knees, pull them into my chest, and learn the origins of the cliché "Bite your tongue." I literally have to sink my top teeth into my tongue to prevent myself from uttering the words "Talk to Daddy. If it were up to me I would never leave you."

I continue biting my tongue as Joe and I walk out of the house and into the taxi. The taxi pulls away. Joe puts his hand on my thigh.

I bite my tongue so hard I think it will bleed.

"Okay," Joe says, removing his hand. "Why are you being like this?"

"Because you're pigs!" I want to shout. "Because you're all pigs! Because even the most enlightened of you is only after one thing and that's sex, sex, sex, sex, sex. Yes, I have agreed to come on this weekend, and yes, I have agreed to appear enthusiastic. But can't you nonetheless intuit that this might be a little bit hard for me? That I might need some time to transition? That my hormones have me wanting to stay home with my young, not flying off on a dirty weekend with you?"

But to answer this truthfully would clearly defeat the purpose of going away in the first place. And so I move down to the next item on the list of things that are tormenting me: fear that our plane might crash.

"Because we haven't figured out who should take care of the children if anything happens to us!" I wail.

"We can take care of that on Monday," Joe says, looking out the window, narrowing his eyes, and running his hand through his hair, which I notice is going gray at the temples. I feel instantly, terribly guilty. He was very kind to go ahead and plan this weekend. I must be nice to him even if it kills me.

"I can see at once why Venice has inspired so many writers"

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