I’m not a stalker — I swear. When I need someone followed, I hire a private investigator for that. However, as a wife — and one who’s recently uncovered a web of marital transgressions that spans dozens of mistresses and millions of dollars — I occasionally let my curiosity take me places I probably shouldn’t go. Like back to the $1.5 million brothel full of my husband’s cam girl squatters.
While I’d like to credit myself with the wisdom to start taking my husband’s face-saving explanations with a few grains of salt and another cup of pepper, I failed to consider one very real possibility: Maybe I was better off not knowing the truth at all.
Unfortunately, there are some things in life you simply can’t un-see. The boobs on his phone? Thing #1. The Instamodel mistresses squatting in his beachfront brothel? Thing #2. You’d think I’d have had my fill of betrayal for the next decade or so, but curiosity got the best of me. Thing #3 was just around the corner, down the street, and closer than I’d ever expect.
Laguna bushes can’t obstruct every transgression
If you’ve ever spent more than five minutes driving through Laguna Beach, one thing would become incredibly evident: Lots for sale aren’t the scarcest asset; available parking spots are. I maneuvered up the hill, exiting the Pacific Coast Highway and entering a neighborhood of worn-down shacks which boasted panoramic ocean views to contrast with their 1950’s sunken roofs and faded paint. The bungalow brothel sat like a dirty little secret on its corner, unapologetically tarnishing the wholesome vibe of the aging neighborhood.
Most of the nearby homeowners were the last of the “accidental” millionaires in Laguna Beach. These were the people who’d lived in these once-humble homes for decades, as the new money millionaires and billionaires elbowed their way into every surrounding oceanfront crevice and increased local property values by tenfold at least with their $14M+ mansions and private beach access. The cars parked in this crowded nook — just minutes from Thousand Steps Beach — further highlighted the stark financial contrast between the “haves” and “have-a-sh*t-tons”…(I wouldn’t exactly call anyone living in this coastal lap of luxury a part of the “have nots”…).
I somehow found a small, precariously sloped parking spot next to a guardrail with an overgrown bush as my shield, camouflaging my parked car while allowing me an unobstructed view of the bungalow brothel through the wild vine’s leaves. For some inexplicable reason, I haven’t been able to shake my relentless fascination — almost obsession — with my husband’s little whore house. Well, to be exact, it isn’t the house I’m so interested in; it’s more the women inside.
Despite the stigma surrounding trophy wives — or anyone heartless enough to make marriage a financial decision, rather than an emotional one — I’ve adopted somewhat of a hierarchical view of my role. I know society sees women like me as takers, opportunists, and materialistic users undeserving of the lives we’ve weaseled our way into. I can’t entirely disagree; I’ll never claim I deserve my husband’s hard-earned money, nor that I’m entitled to an authentic romantic relationship centered around love and respect.
However, while I may be viewed as “below” the wives who married for love or attained independent success through their own career accomplishments, there’s another group below us trophy wives entirely: The other women.
A financial calculation may have pushed me into an impulsive “I do”, but at least I had the decency to uphold those marital vows. The other women, however — the ones who’ve accepted Hubby’s advances, gifts, housing, and cash outflows — didn’t seem to flinch at the idea of the one losing party in all this: me, his wife.
Call it curiosity, a thirst for revenge, or just plain stalker tendencies, but I had to go back. Paralyzed by a combination of anger, jealousy, and a tinge of fear, I still couldn’t muster the courage to step out of my car and go knock on their door. Instead, I peered through my windshield, between the leaves, through the screen of my phone with the camera zoomed in. Not too conspicuous — thank goodness for unruly Laguna Beach hedges…
From my perch, I had a clear view both of and into the home. For a clandestine beachfront brothel, they didn’t do much to secure their privacy. One giant rectangular window allowed light in through the back, and an even larger window in the front offered panoramic ocean views worth at least $1.5M, only discounted for the dilapidated state of the shack.
I stared mesmerized, gazing down at the silhouettes adorning the bungalow’s couch, until an unexpected disruption jolted me out of my trance. There was movement: The front door opened, and a man walked out and directly into a Porsche parked in the cramped driveway.
My body immediately sprung into action, as his exit from the whore house shot adrenaline through my veins from 100 yards away. Just as I was about to rev up my own engine and follow him, the shack’s front door opened once more. This time, it was a woman. She was tall, thin, blonde, and resembled a less bougie version of the model agents from Selling Sunset — though I’m sure they’d never be caught dead in some Laguna Beach fixer-upper, much less one full of cam girls, strippers, and sex workers galore. Then again, if the price is right…
Hooker chasing up the PCH
Before I knew it, I was tailing her red Mercedes SLC convertible. I don’t know why. It was almost an involuntary reaction, as if my brain willed my body to drive, against my better judgment. We drove north, up the PCH, with the ocean on our left and the wild Laguna greenery peppering the hills on our right. We drove past north Laguna, beyond Crystal Cove, edging closer to my and my husband’s neck of the woods. Too close for comfort, in fact.
We drove right next to Scrooge’s vet, the gas station we frequent, and the gardens where my daughter’s school held their Christmas dance. Maybe she was just stopping for gas. Or getting a bite to eat. Or dashing into a shop. If only.
Within a whirlwind of seconds, her car had turned right off the PCH, into a small section of one of the most exclusive and expensive pockets of our city, and parked in a back alley carport. And my car, like the creepy stalker I’d seemingly become, pulled up to the spot right next to hers.
Sh*t. This was not the plan. I swear I started sweating, envisioning the strange encounter that was moments from taking place. I prepared for her to address my window, tap the glass, motion for me to roll it down. I played out the entire scene in my head, her reasonably asking why I’d followed her and parked in her very own two-car garage, under the house she obviously owned. I clenched my fists, furrowed my brow, and grinded my teeth, bracing myself for the uncomfortable confrontation.
Nothing. Instead, she ignored my car altogether, opened one garage, and entered the elegant Italian masterpiece. The garage door closed behind her, and I sat there in the adjacent carport, disappointed and confused. Why in the world would a woman who could afford a Corona del Mar McMansion step foot in the Laguna whore house? And also, did she look a tad bit familiar?
The problem with a small town is that, like Miranda Lambert says (along with every other country artist), everybody knows everybody. While I wouldn’t go that far, I would say everybody knows somebody who knows everybody else. And make no mistake: Coastal cities of Orange County are smaller than you might think.
I reversed out of the back alley, turned onto the palm tree-laden street sporting the house’s front entrance, and saw the first floor light flicker on. I took down the address, which was neatly scribbled in cursive above the front door, just like so many other of the quaint, yet multi-million dollar homes in the flower streets of Corona del Mar.
The address sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place why. My husband has always eyed available coastal properties as investment opportunities, so perhaps we’d considered this one years ago? Then again, all the streets here sound the same, so it very well could have been another house, another street, or just my imagination toying with me further. It’s amazing how infidelity can shake the trust you grant yourself more than that you afford your cheating, lying partner…
As I lingered in the street, taking in the beautiful home — a more high-end ode to the Painted Ladies in San Francisco — I noticed something strange: There was a second gate, next to the first, and a “for sale” sign on the strip of grass dividing the two gates.
“Rear Unit for Sale”
Weird. Rear unit? My eyes undressed the Italian-style three-story home with its front yard, spacious balconies, clay tile roof, and rooftop sitting area, attempting to find the optical illusion that would reveal a “rear unit”. No such luck. It simply didn’t compute. That’s why they invented Zillow, I suppose…
I buried my head in my phone, parked directly outside the front of the house — a luxury owed to the abundance of street parking in Newport, as compared to my cramped Laguna hiding spot. However, at the Laguna bungalow, at least I was smart enough — or perhaps scared enough — to conceal myself. Now, back in my own city, I abandoned all the guilt that comes with stalking random women with no explanation, and I brazenly sat inches from her mailbox, in plain sight.
Zillow to my rescue, corroborated by Redfin, Compass, and every other sign of the “rear unit” listing revealed that in fact, this deceptive McMansion was a duplex. And the rear unit was very much available. A twenty foot stroll through the smaller front gate — the one adjacent to tall blondie’s main entrance — would deposit you directly at the rear unit’s front door, on the right side of the main house. The rear unit for sale? It was listed just under $2M. Two million bucks for a back unit condo…
The front unit? I couldn’t find this one’s particular listing, but a few minutes of comps revealed the front units on that street go for $3M+. How in the world could that blonde hooker afford a $3M front unit all on her own? I know OnlyFans pays well, but that well? Maybe the $460k my husband threw his virtual mistresses was just the tip of the iceberg, after all…
I emerged from my phone, shocked to come face-to-hip with her hot pink Lululemon leggings right beside my window. I nearly jumped, ready to confess my sins and empty my guilty conscience for my Zillow sleuthing — not that there’s anything wrong with a little Zillow browsing — but there was no need. As quickly as her pink spandex-wrapped body appeared, it disappeared behind me, towards the ocean, dashing off on a coastal jog.
The address still looked familiar.
The wheels of revenge go round and round
This is when I should have left…I don’t know if it’s considered trespassing when a house is officially for sale, but I did what any serious buyer would do: I got out of my car, walked through the front gate, and traipsed the twenty-foot stretch to the rear unit’s front door — or the main house’s side door. I peered in through the glass, but I couldn’t see a thing except for stairs. They were nice, new, modern stairs.
As I turned around to resume the walk of shame back to my stalker-mobile, a brilliant idea nearly stopped me in my tracks: They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. These days, it’s hard to say who’s a friend, enemy, frenemy, or downright slime-ball of a human being too offensive for any of the above categories. Regardless, I wouldn’t mind getting a little closer to the beach — and to this high class escort who probably knows more about my husband’s dealings than I do.
I wouldn’t dare ask Hubby to buy me a duplex on a whim, just to spy on another of his mistresses. But, what about my heartbroken mother on the verge of divorce from my unstable dad and his defamatory abuse accusations? A $2M coastal duplex would be quite the upgrade for her lifestyle…and with my husband’s sexual services dealings in my back pocket, I’m not sure he’s in a position to say “no”.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Owned and created by the author, yours truly, in Canva.