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My MIL Asked Me to Help Cover Her Debt – I Was Horrified When I Found Out What She Was Hiding

Natasha knew she got lucky in the mother-in-law department, with Marlene cherishing her like her own daughter. But when Natasha starts to see a change in Marlene’s behavior, she begins to get worried about the old woman. Eventually, when the truth is revealed, Natasha doesn’t know what to believe.

It was just another weekend with my in-laws over for tea and cake. This wasn’t unusual for us. Ever since I had married Jake, his mother, Marlene, had taken me under her wing.

A wedding reception | Source: Pexels

A wedding reception | Source: Pexels

She had always said I was the daughter she never had and had reduced us all to tears when she gave her speech during our wedding reception.

Having a mother-in-law who loved you was rare, I knew that much. In fact, my sister didn’t get along with her mother-in-law at all.

The two were constantly bickering, leaving my brother-in-law to play peacemaker in their home.

2 women in an argument | Source: Freepik

2 women in an argument | Source: Freepik

But I had gotten lucky. I had Marlene, who doted on me and taught me how to cook Jake’s favorite meals while sharing secret recipes that had been passed down from her grandmother.

We were fine.

Two women cooking together | Source: Pexels

Two women cooking together | Source: Pexels

But then, Marlene’s behavior started to change. She went from being the woman who cherished family time to being a recluse.

“I just want to be at home, Natasha,” she told me one day when I picked her up for us to get our nails done.

“I understand that,” I said. “But are you okay?”

Marlene smiled at me, her eyes were downcast, and she was more reserved than normal. She watched me pick my nail color.

A woman getting her nails done | Source: Pexels

A woman getting her nails done | Source: Pexels

Usually, she would ask me all about the office gossip and what I had cooked recently. She would ask about my sister and whether she was pregnant yet, especially because Marlene would give my sister every old wives’ tale about what to eat to help with her fertility.

But she was different today; there was something off about her.

“I’m fine, sweetheart,” she said.

“Your health?” I asked, genuinely concerned about her wellbeing.

Two women chatting | Source: Freepik

Two women chatting | Source: Freepik

“Is perfectly fine,” she replied, digging into her handbag.

But something just wasn’t right with her.

At our next family dinner, which Marlene and my father-in-law, Frank, hosted, she was barely present.

“I’ve cooked everything,” she said when I walked in. “But I’m feeling really tired. You can reheat all the dishes just before dinner.”

Pots of food on a stove | Source: Pexels

Pots of food on a stove | Source: Pexels

“Where are you going?” I asked, watching her make a cup of tea.

“I’m going to lie down,” she said. “But I do have to send my write-up for the book club in. I’m going to do that first. We read Jane Eyre this month. It took me back to high school.”

A cup of tea | Source: Pexels

A cup of tea | Source: Pexels

With that, she turned on her heel and left.

When the rest of us were seated and ready for dinner, I asked my father-in-law if I should take a plate of food up for Marlene.

“No, don’t bother, darling,” he said. “She’ll eat later. She’s been eating later these days, so I’m sure she’ll come down after her nap.”

A plate of food | Source: Pexels

A plate of food | Source: Pexels

That didn’t make sense to me because Marlene always ate early. It was one of those things I needed to get used to when I married into the family.

“I’ll go check on mom after dinner,” Jake said, handing me a glass of wine. “You eat now.”

Even as we left that evening, my mother-in-law was still upstairs by herself. When I went to say goodbye to her, she was wrapped up in bed.

Which brings us to this afternoon.

An elderly woman in bed | Source: Freepik

An elderly woman in bed | Source: Freepik

I was in the kitchen icing a cake for tea when Marlene came in. She sniffed deeply at the scent of the blooming azaleas that we had planted in the garden.

“Oh, I love that smell,” she said, sitting down at the table. But as she sat down, she released a heavy sigh, her hands clasped tightly, trembling slightly.

A white iced cake | Source: Pexels

A white iced cake | Source: Pexels

“Would you like a cup of tea?” I asked her, as I put the kettle on.

Marlene smiled and nodded.

“Natasha,” she said, surprising me by using my full name, which she never did.

I tried not to show my surprise and went about picking a tea flavor for her, hoping that she would continue and let me into her mind.

Which is exactly what she did, and it shocked me.

Different types of teabags | Source: Pexels

Different types of teabags | Source: Pexels

“I need to talk to you about something important,” she began, her voice quivering. “It’s about Frank. He’s gotten himself into a terrible mess. He’s been gambling, and now he owes a large sum of money. I’m so embarrassed, and it would absolutely crush him if he found out that I told you.”

Marlene’s eyes, usually warm and inviting, were now filled with a desperation I had never seen before.

“But Frank doesn’t go out to the casino?” I asked, knowing that my father-in-law’s version of gambling was usually a sporting bet every few months.

Slot machines at a casino | Source: Pexels

Slot machines at a casino | Source: Pexels

“Online gambling,” she said quickly. “He spends all his time sitting in front of our computer.”

Marlene sat with her hands wrapped around the cup of tea I had given her. She spoke about how, irrespective of how thrifty she had been, their debts just kept piling up, a looming shadow threatening to engulf their lives.

“I’m too old for this,” she said, sighing with everything she had.

A person using a laptop | Source: Pexels

A person using a laptop | Source: Pexels

As she spoke, my heart ached for her. I went to stand by the window, looking out at the garden.

There was no way that I could let her leave our home without any help. I had to. Even if she hadn’t gone to Jake and told him about this, he could understand why I needed to do it.

A woman looking out the window | Source: Pexels

A woman looking out the window | Source: Pexels

Jake and I had been saving for a new car. Every week, we put money into an envelope just so that we knew that when the time came, we had the deposit all ready to go.

It had been taking a lot longer than we had anticipated, but we knew it was going to be worth it.

I took the envelope out from the dish towel drawer where we stashed it. But as I was about to offer it to Marlene, my husband stormed in.

Money in an envelope | Source: Pexels

Money in an envelope | Source: Pexels

He took one look at the envelope, and his expression turned dark.

“Really?” he said to Marlene. “You went to Tash about this?”

“Don’t give her anything!” my husband shouted, taking the envelope from my hand.

Marlene looked up at him, her face crumpling.

“Jake, how could you do that?” she asked.

“Tell Tash the truth,” he said.

A man holding his head | Source: Pexels

A man holding his head | Source: Pexels

Marlene’s eyes filled with tears, and she shook her head.

“I’m sorry, honey,” Jake said. “But you don’t know the truth here. There’s no gambling debt. She’s been scammed by someone she met online. I found out when we had our last family dinner, and I went to check on Mom.”

Jake paused and turned to look at his mother.

“She made me promise not to tell you or Dad. Which is fair because it would destroy him.”

A crying old woman | Source: Pexels

A crying old woman | Source: Pexels

Marlene broke down then, sobbing uncontrollably.

“I’ve been so alone,” she explained, gasping between sobs. “Frank is around, but he’s not quite present. He doesn’t care about keeping our romance alive. This man, he… he made me feel like I was being loved again. I thought he needed my help with money. Debt is a very real thing. But I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.”

“But why, Mom? Why didn’t you come to us first? Or Tash, even? You’re so close to her,” Jake said, his voice softening as he looked at her.

A laptop opened to Facebook | Source: Pexels

A laptop opened to Facebook | Source: Pexels

“I was ashamed, Jake,” she said. “I didn’t want you to think less of me.”

My husband sighed and held his head. He was at a loss for words. I knew he was torn between wanting to save his father from the truth and still being there for his mother.

Jake went on to say that while he was talking to his mom during that family dinner, she was using her laptop in bed. And a message popped up from the unknown man, thanking Marlene for the money and asking for more.

An open laptop | Source: Pexels

An open laptop | Source: Pexels

“That’s when I told Mom that it was just a cover. That despite everything he said, he was just using her for an easy paycheck.”

Finally, we decided it was time to bring Frank into the conversation. As unpleasant as it was going to be, he needed to know what was going on, especially if their finances were at risk.

My father-in-law listened in stunned silence, his face etched with pain.

“Marlene,” he said softly. “How could this happen? Have I been so bad to you?”

An old man covering his mouth | Source: Pexels

An old man covering his mouth | Source: Pexels

Marlene shook her head, her eyes welling up again.

“I’m sorry, Frank,” she said. “I never wanted to hurt you.”

She reached for his hand, but he pulled away, needing space to process the betrayal.

As a family, we decided we needed to get Marlene into therapy. She needed help to address her loneliness and the reasons behind her susceptibility to being scammed.

A close-up of a crying woman |  Source: Pexels

A close-up of a crying woman | Source: Pexels

It took a long time, but eventually, Frank gave in and started going to therapy with her, both of them determined to fix their marriage.

Jake, on the other hand, is still torn between his own feelings of betrayal and embarrassment.

I don’t know when he’ll start to forgive Marlene, but I hope it’s soon.

A man looking out the window | Source: Pexels

A man looking out the window | Source: Pexels

What would you do?

If you enjoyed this story, here’s another one for you |

When Emilia’s daughter, Ruby, is three weeks old, she and her husband decide to introduce her to the family with a party. But when Ruth, Emilia’s mother-in-law, shows up uninvited—the couple just wants her out, revealing how she took advantage of the couple when the baby was born by legally changing the baby’s name without consent.

Read the full story here.

This work is inspired by real events and people, but it has been fictionalized for creative purposes. Names, characters, and details have been changed to protect privacy and enhance the narrative. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

The author and publisher make no claims to the accuracy of events or the portrayal of characters and are not liable for any misinterpretation. This story is provided “as is,” and any opinions expressed are those of the characters and do not reflect the views of the author or publisher.

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