1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code: a leader of great integrity.
2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness: The building's integrity remained intact following the mild earthquake.
3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness: replaced a lost book to restore the integrity of his collection.
And there was the problem. Right there. I thought he was a man of integrity. Don't you like how that sounds? I was working three extra shifts a week to make sure my kids could eat when he sashayed into the diner - all golden in his wealth and good taste. He was slumming for sure and I was just like the perfect meat loaf, the onion strings, the coffee served in thick white mugs - I was 'the real thing'. I didn't listen to his sweet talk - just let him rhyme off his nonsense about how a working gal like me was a real find in this world of pretenders. He worked his way with me. I let him compliment me, give me huge tips and slowly slowly convince me to give him a chance. In a year I was set up in our sugar shack - ha! It was a lovely home and he made sure the kids were happy too. We had a swimming pool and a full fridge and he was a man of integrity. He told his friends that he'd found a heart of gold in me and dropped them if they didn't treat me with respect. But something was wrong.
He stopped paying attention to me. He started shushing me at parties - ever so nicely you know but still. The kids had been going back and forth between me and their daddy but they told me one day they didn't want to live with us anymore. When I begged them for a reason they told me they just didn't like him. No, they assured me, he hadn't hit them or said anything to them. My littlest, who was twelve at the time, said that he just looked right through him. "He's cold, Mum. He says everything right but you'll see. He doesn't want us here." I had to let them go - I'd go have dinner with them once a week but it was so hard.
It took me another year to figure it all out. I was looking in the attic for a box of dolls I'd stashed up there when we first moved in. I found a box with photo albums in it. There was a photo of him with a woman who looked just like me in a house that looked almost exactly like the one I was in. I knew it then - I completed a set - he'd lost a piece of it - the wife piece - and once he'd replaced it he didn't care anymore. He'd restored the integrity of his set.
I left that afternoon and now I'm back with my kids. I start work at the old diner next week.