A Sign of the Times
Part 1: Suspicion, Discovery, Distress!

Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Heterosexual, Fiction, Cheating, Cuckold,

Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Part 1: Suspicion, Discovery, Distress! - Infidelity, an unfaithful wife. What does the husband do?

We were at a dinner party at my house. It was late winter, early spring, call it whatever you want. Snow was still on the ground, it was still too cold to be outside, so my wife decided to get our friends together for some kind of feast inside. I had no problem with that; whatever Daphne wanted she got.

All our age appropriate relatives and friends were there. I say age appropriate; we didn’t invite any moms or dads. Oh they were all still alive. Daphne, my wife’s name is Daphne, just didn’t want any ‘older people’ on hand who might ‘dampen’ the fun. Dampen was her word for wet blanket.

We’d already eaten. My wife had mixed up a big seafood salad, plus there was pizza, and some fixings for subs. For sure, anyone who’s ever been around my wife knows when she plans something she goes all out. I had my portions already ladled out; I have a few stomach problems and Daphne always made sure I didn’t get sick.

Anyway we were all sitting around the family room when my sister started asking one of her usual asshole questions. Hillary, Hillary’s my sister, she’s a year older than me, and she’s married to a real stand-up guy named Wallace, Wallace Ford.

Well Hillary looked at Ralph, that’s Ralph Stevens and she asked this really stupid question. Ralph’s an old friend, actually these days he’s more acquaintance than friend. He’d been away almost all winter down in the Cayman Islands doing God knows what.

Hillary looked at Ralph, Ralph’s married, and she asked, “I know Ginger hasn’t, Ginger’s Ralph’s wife, but suppose you caught your wife cheating on you. What would you do?”

Old Ralph listened, smirked a little; then he looked around the room. He looked at me, at my Daphne, then at Hillary, at Ciara who was another married woman in the group, and then he looked at his wife. Remember Ralph’s wife’s name is Ginger. With that kind of half smile that’d made Dick Cheney famous Ralph replied, “Oh, I don’t know. I guess I’d have to hear her story.”

Hillary didn’t let up, “Yeah, but would you forgive her?”

Ralph grinned and answered, “Yeah I guess so why?”

Then Hillary turned to Ciara’s husband, “What about you?”

Ciara’s husband crossed his arms over his chest and grunted, “I’d have to kill the bitch,” he laughed and then added, “yeah, I’d drown her in the bathtub.”

Hillary went round and round asking the same question over and over. Then she got to me, “Tell me Cale. What would you do if you caught Daphne with another man? Would you forgive her?”

I’d already mentally rehearsed my answer. I smiled over at my lovely 5’4”, brown haired, brown eyed little girl and answered, “My Daphne would never cheat. She loves me” I watched as Daphne blessed me with one of her winsome smiles.

Then Hillary turned the tables; she looked at Daphne and asked, “Have you ever cheated on Cale?”

Daphne blushed bright red, “Why no Hillary. I could never do that.”

I looked from my Daphne to my sister. My sister Hillary had a kind of odd look on her face; a look that kind of said she knew something, like maybe there was more to the story. Anyway Hillary went on to the next wife and asked the same question.

By the time she got back to Ciara I think everybody was a little bit fed up. I put a stop to it. I told my sister, “Come on Hillary, what’s the point?”

She just shrugged and grinned, “No point; just thought I’d ask around.”

Everybody laughed. I laughed too. I thought Ralph laughed a little louder than most. His wife didn’t laugh at all. My sister was trying to make a point; just what it was I didn’t know, didn’t care either. I mean really, to think my Daphne would even consider cheating; I mean I know she was just like me and I never did and never would. For sure I looked at other women, but it was mostly just to see what they had on. If I liked the clothes they had on I’d try to find where it was sold it so I could buy it for my girl.

The party ended about an hour later, and Daphne and I sort of just piled the dirty dishes in the sink. We’d used mostly paper plates anyway. We’d farmed our three kids out to Daphne’s mom and dad so it was just us for the night. I’d been real careful; I’d only had one drink, a Jim Beam and Coke, heavy on the Coke.

With everything stacked and the furniture put back my gal and I went off to bed. We had a nice time. Daphne and I have been married fourteen years, and we’d dated pretty much exclusively for several months before that. About our sex life; I guessed just regular old fashioned sex was what we had.

I thought about sex and our sex life. I wondered if many people cheated because of sex. I wondered why married people even did cheat. To me if a person loved someone enough to marry them, why would they break that person’s heart by being unfaithful? I supposed me and Daphne’s sex life was what it was supposed to be; we cuddled and snuggled and kissed, and then when the time was right I crawled on top and we made love.

Look I’m not saying we’re a couple of Puritans, but we were kind of laid back, and to be honest, all that wild and exotic stuff just never was us. I mean of course I liked to go down on her. I liked it when I got to nibble on her little knob. I enjoyed licking and nudging up and down her inner and outer labia. I liked kissing that sweet crinkly little outlet where her brown stuff came out, but I never forced myself on her in that way. I always thought all that anal stuff was sort of degrading, and I knew she never especially liked doing me, she didn’t like getting her face all gooey and sticky, and I’d never ask her to swallow.

Hey, I’m not bragging. I guess every guy thinks he’s got something special. Well I really do. I’ve never measured, but I mean I’m a pretty big guy. If I’m not careful I could hit Daphne’s cervix and hurt her.

I can say there’ve been a few times I’ve gotten so excited that I didn’t hold back. I just let go. I mean I pushed all the way in; she didn’t like it, it hurt her. Let me tell anyone listening; I’d never ever, I mean never, not ever, do anything to hurt my girl. She made my babies. She’s my girl; she’s the main reason why I get up in the morning, her and my kids.

Daphne’s a little older than I am. I’m thirty-five and in the prime of life. Daphne’s thirty-six; she’ll be thirty-seven soon so there’s maybe five months when she’s two years older. Like I said she’s 5’4”. I’m 5’11”. She weighs, I think about 120lbs. I come in at 180lbs. She has brown hair. She keeps it mostly in pigtails, but sometimes she makes one long ponytail. I have brown hair. She has brown eyes. I have brown eyes. All our kids have brown hair and brown eyes. I know this is all extraneous bullshit, but it’s like we’re all a boxed set.

The party happened last Saturday night. Sunday we went to church. OK, we’re Presbyterians. Then Monday it was back to work. I’m an investment analyst for a brokerage firm whose home office is in New York. I got my MBA at the local prestige state university and went right to work. My wife is a loan officer at a bank near where we live; she started out as a teller right out of high school, took some college classes, and worked her way up.

In the job department Daphne actually got a little head start on me; she was the one who put me through graduate school. We were already married and had our first kid. Our oldest is Geena; she’s thirteen. We have two more; Brandy’s eleven, and Michael’s only six. We love kids, and we’ve talked about making one or two more, but with our careers and the costs of raising the little buggers that’s been kind of on hold. Daphne’s getting a little long in the tooth for that now anyway.

I was back at work Monday morning. One of the first things I do on Monday’s; that is after my coffee, is a last minute check on the markets from Friday, then a quick look at my favorite funds, and last I check my emails. I got a funny one this morning.

I read this one email; it said, “You were at the party. You heard the questions. You don’t know it, but your wife is a round heeled slut. Don’t believe me? Check around.”

Well I deleted that sucker right away. Nobody calls my wife a slut. Hell, the damned message was anonymous. Actually it wasn’t; they really aren’t. I just didn’t care about the message, and I didn’t care to find out who sent the slanderous piece of trash. It was probably a joke anyway. I shunted the comment aside and went on about my work. Come on, Daphne a slut? My Daphne? Not a chance. Never!

All the rest of the week went just about the way it was supposed to. Oh there were some problems with the market, but it was the usual stuff. We were near the end of the month, and that meant the usual profit taking, a few corporations had made some bonehead decisions, there was always something with Syria and Iran, someone seemed to be dickering with the gold market again, and the crap with the Crimea could impact activity with the EU. I packed up Friday afternoon, skipped the occasional drop off at the tavern, and went on home.

Saturday was the beginning of spring so I started to pull out the lawn equipment. Yeah I’d left some gas-oil mix in the weed whacker, but I’d drained both lawnmowers. I got the rider up, unbolted the two blades and took then inside the shed for a sharpening. I was just about to rip into the first blade with one of my granddad’s old files when I got a visitor.

The kids were out; Geena was at a friend’s, Brandy and Michael were at my mom’s, and Daphne was out shopping when Hillary, remember my sister, walked in on me.

Hillary eyed me up and down, “Didn’t you get my email?”

I was sort of surprised, “What email?”

“About your wife. You know.”

I replied, “No I don’t know.”

“She’s cheating on you.”

I put the file down, “Come on Hillary. I don’t need this.”

She got up real close. I could smell the mint on her breath, “You don’t think so? Grab your coat and I’ll show you.”

I was a little pissed. This was kind of a surprise. Hillary and Daphne were really close, “Damn it Hillary. What’s into you? First it was that crap at the party. Then I guess it was you with that stupid email, and now today. What’s up?”

“Grab your coat. I’ll drive.”

I threw the file on the workbench and reached for my coat, “This better be good,” she didn’t say anything. I followed her out the back door and to her car.

Hillary drives a Durango; she and her husband are into Chrysler products. I’m a Chevy man myself, I drive a Chevy pick-up; regular bed, extended cab. Our older brother, his name is Chris, he’s a Ford man, or at least he used to be. We hardly ever see him anymore. Honestly he’s been gone for years, and I miss him. Chris; he’s the man!

I got in Hillary’s Durango and she drove us down to the Holiday Inn. There are two Holiday Inns in our immediate area. She went to the smaller one; it was back behind an old factory that’d been converted to a bunch of small businesses, mostly software operations.

We pulled up and parked in the back lot. This was a two story facility. There was curbside parking in front of the first floor rooms, and parking for second floor visitors across the drive. Hillary looked at me and said, “Watch room 241.”

I was really dubious. I thought this was a total waste of time, “You know all this?”

She pointed at the door, then she checked her wristwatch, “I figure she told you she went shopping. What time should Daphne be getting home?”

I looked at my watch, “I don’t know I guess maybe an hour or so.”

Hillary just watched the door, “I followed her when she left your house. Her car is right over there.”

I looked; damned if it wasn’t!

Hillary didn’t look at me. She just watched the door. I was into it now too. We waited in silence for maybe twenty minutes before the door opened. Out came my wife! I started to feel sick.

Hillary whispered. I couldn’t imagine why she decided to whisper, I mean why now, she said, “Watch who else comes out.”

I watched as my wife, my wonderful wife walked across the parking lot, unlocked, and got in her car. Just as she began to pull away a second person emerged from 241. Son-of-a-bitch! It was Ralph Stevens! At that moment Daphne’s car sped by. I know she hadn’t seen us. By the look on her face she was intent on something else. I wondered what it could be. Then we watched Stevens sidle down the steps and over to his car, a fucking Camaro. I opened my sister’s side door and tossed my lunch. Baloney has never been my favorite lunchmeat anyway; it was even less flavorful coming back up.

I watched Stevens as he pulled away. That smarmy bastard had a silly assed smile on his face. I had my hands on my sister’s dashboard. I couldn’t think. I just felt all quivery. I was like real weak all over. I mean I’d read and heard crap where guys caught their wives and how they’d jump up and down and cuss, or how they ran up and beat the shit out of the guy. I swear I never felt so feeble. I couldn’t have beaten up a girl scout.

I looked over at my sister. I wanted to cry, but I held it in. At that moment I couldn’t think of anyone I hated more than Hillary. She’d done this to me. She’d shown me something I never believed could have ever happened. I couldn’t think of a way to express myself.

I looked at my sister. Didn’t I just say that? I remembered back when I was a teenager and one of my best friends had a bad heart. We’d never known it at the time. Well one day he up and died. He just dropped dead. I remember how angry I got at the doctor who told us what had happened and then what had been wrong with my friend. That was how I felt right then. Something had died, something I knew had died and like my friend it could never be replaced.

I shook my head and looked down, “Take me home.”

Hillary said, “I’m sorry Cale. I just wish...”

“Just take me home Hillary.”

The drive back home only took about twenty minutes, but it seemed like forever. I’d seen movies where the condemned man had to walk the distance from his jail cell to the place where they’d finish him. In the movies they call it ‘the longest mile’. The drive from that Holiday Inn to my house was like that. Twice we had to stop so I could lean out the side. Nothing came up, but it sure felt like something might. I knew I’d never stay at another Holiday Inn again, not ever.

Hillary dropped me on the street in front of my house. Daphne’s car was parked in the driveway. We live in a ranch type house. The original structure had three bedrooms and two bathrooms. One of the first things we’d done was to add on a two car garage with a big room over top. It was like a big playroom. We had a ping pong table and a couple silly games like a hockey game in there. With three kids currently in the house and the real possibility of adding at least one more Daphne and I had agreed we’d build on again soon.

Daphne liked having babies; I think she liked to nurse. I know she was sure a good mother – the best if you ask me.

We lived in a good neighborhood. There was almost no crime, the streets were quiet and clean, we had good neighbors, and the schools were good. We picked the neighborhood and the county mostly because of the schools. Of course the other biggest reason we chose the area was because both sets of parents lived here.

The house had a cellar too; it was pretty nice. The front of the cellar was only partly finished. There was a laundry and a storage room in the back. Behind the main house I’d had a heated shed built. That’s where I’d been when Hillary showed up earlier.

I walked up the driveway and in the front door. I walked into the foyer and passed by the living room which was on the right. The dining room was on the left. Immediately to the left partially separating the dining room and hallway was the stairway that led upstairs. The hallway led down to a first floor bathroom just on the right; then there was an eat-in kitchen off to the left at the far end of the hallway. That’s where I went.

As I passed by the living room down the hall I paid a little closer attention to the pictures. There were pictures from our wedding; there were the kid’s pictures from some of the things we’d done over the years. There were a couple really nice family portraits. There was one picture of Daphne holding our oldest girl right about the time she was a year old. While I walked along and looked at this stuff I thought all this was just so much garbage. A couple hours ago it meant something; it was the legacy of a happy family; now it was like it was nothing, it meant nothing. I wanted to cry, but didn’t. I kept shaking. I felt so nervous.

I’m not the kind of guy who can hold things in; that includes food and feelings. I mean I’ve read where men catch their wives cheating and they can keep a straight face. They can hide their emotions. I read where they hire detectives to get pictures. They go to the bank and divide the money. I’m not like that. I’m just not built that way. I wasn’t thinking about some settlement, or how to protect my assets. I had no assets. All I had was dead. I mean, were they even my children? Jesus, if I ever found out they weren’t I know what I’d do. I’d buy a pistol and kill myself. There wouldn’t be anything to live for then anyway.

I went into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and got out a Pepsi. I heard my wife upstairs. It sounded like she was separating laundry. She was singing and humming a Miranda Lambert tune; the one where the girl cuts her hair with rusty kitchen scissors. We’re country music people. For the girls it’s Taylor Swift, Martina McBride, and Miranda. Me I’m more the down home type; for me it’s George Strait, Alan Jackson, and of course the ‘Old Possum’. He died not too long ago.

I sat down at the kitchen table and waited. I thought about Tammy Wynette; that was George’s old wife, she’s dead too. Damn, whatever happened to ‘Stand by your Man’? I felt so sad.

After about ten minutes Daphne came down with a basket full of dirty laundry. She’d changed her tune; instead of ‘My Momma’s Broken Heart’ she was singing ‘Fastest Girl in Town’.

I thought, ‘How appropriate.’

Like I said I’m not a wait and see kind of guy. I was a nervous wreck. My hands were shaking like I had Parkinson’s or something. My mouth was dryer than the Sahara Desert.

Daphne walked in the kitchen; the cellar door was at the far end of the kitchen. She had to go through the cellar to get to the laundry room. As she passed by me she smiled but didn’t say anything. I did. I said something.

I leaned around slightly. I had to get this off my chest, “I saw you at the Holiday Inn today.”

She kept walking, but then she stopped. She had her back to me so I couldn’t see her face. She put the basket down, turned around and said, “What does that mean?”

I felt like I was a dead man, I rasped out, “I saw you with Ralph Stevens at the Holiday Inn.”

She looked surprised, or at least acted like it. I couldn’t read anything in it. She put her left hand on the oven. She looked kind of down and away. I thought she looked older, “You didn’t see me. I was at the mall.”

I wasn’t angry or anything. I think I was just a little numb, kind of like a zombie. I know what I saw. I fingered the Pepsi in my right hand, “I saw your car. I saw you come out of room 242 at the Holiday Inn. I watched Ralph Stevens follow you out,” I realized I got the room wrong.

Daphne got like real diffident, “You didn’t see me!”

I couldn’t talk about it. Everything, our marriage, our life, all of it, all of it was gone, kaput! I felt like I should be mad or something. I just felt dead, I answered, “Yeah sure. Well I guess I’ll be leaving in a few minutes. I’ll pack everything I can now. You can explain things to the kids when they get home,” I got up and started for the stairs. I felt like an old man.

I guess that got her. She must have realized she’d been caught. She called out, “No! Wait! Cale it was just a thing. It doesn’t mean anything. It was nothing. It was just ... just kind of a stupid meaningless thing. It doesn’t mean anything ... I mean ... not to us.”

I tossed the Pepsi toward the sink. I was careful not let it hit her or let anything spill out anywhere. I answered, “Yeah I agree. I guess it was a whole lot of nothing about nothing. Just nothing,” I looked at her, “Match, set, point. Game over,” I think I got that wrong. I didn’t care I turned around and started back up the hall to the stairway that led upstairs to what had once been our bedroom. She didn’t follow.

I got upstairs, pulled out my ‘two-suitor’ and my ditty bag. It took me less than ten minutes to pack just about everything I’d need. I figured I got everything that was necessary. I guessed she’d be changing the locks once I left. If she did I’d just buy new stuff to replace what I couldn’t take now. I was certain I’d never set foot back in this house ever again.

I stopped at the bathroom that adjoined the bedroom for just a second. I leaned over. I had to puke up the Pepsi. I just couldn’t keep it down. My head felt fuzzy. I had a really bad headache. I saw those bright sparky things a person sees just before they pass out. I was all woozy and dizzy. I grabbed the bathroom door and knelt down on the floor until the spell had passed. For a second I thought maybe I’d have a massive heart attack. I thought that would be OK; that would fix the problem. It didn’t happen. I didn’t die.

I carried my suitcase and ditty bag downstairs. I looked neither to the right nor to left. I went straight for the front door. I didn’t hurry, but I didn’t tarry either. She was the murderess not me. I got to the front door, opened it, took the house key off my chain and tossed it on the chair nearest the door. I walked out, closed the door, walked to my pick-up, got in, started it up and drove away.

Daphne didn’t call out after me or anything. I did see her standing at the front as I pulled off.

I thought maybe I should get out on one of the highways; one of those high speed two lane highways where cars meet each other. I could pick up speed, get up to about seventy miles an hour and just cross over into oncoming traffic. I’d end it all right now, today! I gave this idea some very serious thought. I even thought of a place where I could be the most certain I’d be killed, but I changed my mind. I wasn’t chickening out or anything; I just thought why would I want to I kill somebody else too?

I kept driving. There were places where I could just drive off the road real fast. I’d crash into a tree or fly into a ditch, or fly into some really deep hole. I could do that, and then I wouldn’t have to worry about anything anymore. I’d be dead. I didn’t do that either. I thought about my kids. I knew they were my kids. I mean Daphne could be fucking every guy in the county, but I knew who my kids were, and the last thing I’d ever want to do was to leave that kind of example behind for them. They say a child of a suicide is sixty times more likely to commit suicide themselves than a child without that example. I read that someplace. Durkheim I think.

There was only one place I could think of to go. I could go home; not my home where Daphne was, but back home to my parent’s house. I knew them. I’d known them all my life. That was smart! I knew I could count on them. I pulled my truck around and started for home. I could talk to them, maybe I could get my head together, and then I’d get my life back on track. I’d do a reset. I’d start over.

I got to my parents. I told them everything I knew. At first they refused to believe me so I got Hillary on the phone. They couldn’t deny what she said. She also said she’d be over to fill us in on all the rest of the grisly details.

My mom and dad said I could have my old room back for as long as I needed it. They made me promise not to do anything crazy; they wanted me to cool down. I told them cool was one thing I was; cool as a corpse, like dead.

One thing I did do was to call Ralph Stevens. Old Ralphie boy was in the middle of some marital problems of his own. The scuttlebutt was he’d gotten caught with his hands in another man’s wife’s panties so I had nothing on him. Hell, I sort of figured who the other wife was. He was some kind of hot shot ATF agent or something; he could probably kill me using one hand!

Look, no one should get stupid and ask if like I know any Martial Arts. I knew a guy named Art once, and every now and then I see a county car with ‘Marshall’s Office’ painted on the side.

I got Ralph on the phone, “Hey Ralph this is Cale. You know your old buddy Cale McCallister,” I could kind of sense he knew what the phone call was about.

He replied, “How about it Cale; great party the other night, had a good time.”

I replied, “That’s not why I called Ralph old buddy old pal.”

“Oh yeah? What’s up?”

“I just wanted you to know I saw you and my wife at the Holiday Inn today.”

His voice got kind of tremulous, “Hey listen Cale; it’s not what you think.”

I was pissed now, “Oh really? Tell me Ralph; what was it? What do I think”

I could tell he was nervous. I couldn’t imagine why he’d be nervous about me. I’ was 5’11”. He was 6’4”. I was an office guy who’d never set foot in a gym. He worked out. He’d been taking martial arts since he was maybe three weeks old. Oh I was a jogger. I ran constantly; that’s what kept my weight down. But me a fighter? Never happen. If he and I got in a tussle he’d break me like a pretzel.

He replied, “Well yeah I guess it was, but it wasn’t at all how you think,” then he asked me, “What did Daphne say?”

I gulped back a tear, “She said it wasn’t anything. She said it was like nothing.”

Ralph sighed, I heard him sigh over the phone, “Yeah that’s about it; no big deal, a big nothing.”

I hung up. My life, my marriage was a big nothing. I burst into tears. That’s when Hillary showed up.

Hillary walked in and went straight to mom and dad. I heard her say, “How’s he taking it?”

My mom said, “Not good. Listen.”

I tried to stop crying; I kept hiccoughing and coughing back the tears. It just wasn’t working.

Hillary came in. I was in the living room. She sat down beside me, “I think this has been going on for about three weeks. They’ve been meeting at different places, but today was the first time they actually ... well ... you saw.”

I took in a deep breath, “Yeah, I saw.”

Dad and mom and came in. Dad sat across from me. There were only two men in the world who I had undying respect for; one was that old man across from me, the other was my older brother Chris. Right then I wished Chris was here with us too.

Dad’s an old retired steel worker. He was dying; he’d gotten emphysema from all the dust and crap in the mill. He relied on oxygen to breathe. He carried it with him everywhere. I wondered if he was one of Mitt Romney’s forty-seven percent. I put that out of my mind. I’m not a political guy except when it comes to what government does regarding money. I liked Romney. I guess I would have voted for him if I’d bothered to vote. That doesn’t mean I definitely would. Hell I don’t know. My dad always looked grey; he looked extra grey today.

They’d screwed him over on his retirement. He’d put in nearly forty years at the mill; never missed a day’s work that I could remember. He had that ‘work ethic’ everybody talks about. We all got it from him. Near the end of his career the mill was having financial difficulties. I can say unequivocally my dad didn’t cause it. A group of financial analysts took over the business. I suppose they were men like me. They took the company apart, sold off the assets, gutted the pension fund, put it all back together and said they’d fixed everything. They blamed the union for everything. The analysts made a fortune, my dad and his coworkers got the shaft. That’s capitalism; always all about the money. I ought to know. That’s what I do.

I’m sorry I said all that. I’m just feeling sorry for myself.

Dad looked at me, “Son that girl loves you. There’s got to be some explanation. I wouldn’t jump the gun. Give it some time.”

I whipped out a rueful grin, “Dad there’s only one way to spell divorce.”

Mom stepped to the plate, “Oh no honey; there’s always another way.”

I interrupted, “I’m not going back there.”

Hillary took over, “No I think she means you do something else. You could go for a trial separation or something. It’s legal. You could stay apart for like four to six months. Look you and I, we’ll find a good divorce lawyer Monday. I feel responsible for some of this. We’ll find someone who’ll give us the right dope.”

“I’m no wimp Hillary. She cheated. Ralph even admitted it. Hell Daphne did too!”

My dad took up the tune, “Cale you’re no fool. You never ever jumped into a bucket of shit without first checking how deep or how fresh it might be. Listen to your mother. Follow your sister. Get a lawyer. Check out all your options. Divorce is like the death penalty. You don’t know; there might be a way out of this.”

I crossed my arms in front of my chest, “I’m no wimp. I won’t go crawling back.”

Mom added her own perspective, “You know you can even find grains of corn in fresh shit,” we all had a laugh at that.

Hillary interjected, “You’re no wimp Cale, but you’ve been hurt. Let’s stop the bleeding first,” then she turned to dad, “Where’s Chris?”

Nobody’s seen Chris in years. Dad heard from him now and then. Dad said Chris was a big shot on the oil rigs or something. He was always away some place, Alaska, Indonesia, Nigeria, just name it. It was all kind of hush hush.

Dad looked from Hillary, to mom, to me, then he looked back at mom, “I’ve got his cell number. I’ll get a message to him tonight.”

‘Yes, ‘ I thought, ‘Chris was the idea guy. He always knew what to do. He could fix anything; if I only had Chris.’

Mom looked at me, “I know you’re no kid. You’re almost middle aged, but at least go along with Hillary. See a lawyer, get all your options.”

I nodded, then I looked at dad, “I need a drink, got any beer?”

Dad shook his head, “Christ Cale you want to really get sick. You drink two beers and you’ll be throwing up all night.”

He was right, “OK, how about a Coke or Pepsi?”

Mom jumped up, “I’ll go get you one. You want ice in a glass?”

I replied, “Yes mom, ice please,” if nothing else I knew I was on safe turf, no enemies here.

First thing Monday I called in to work and took Monday and Tuesday off. My supervisor threw a fit. He explained how we were on the cusp of some really nasty stuff, and they needed me in the office to manage things. Like I was fucking indispensable? That really pissed me off. I thought I’d been putting in too many hours already, and though they didn’t know it I’d planned on seriously cutting back.

It bothered me. Geena was a dance fanatic, and I’d already missed two recitals because of crap at work that in the end didn’t amount to a hill of beans. Michael was a needy little boy. What with three older female figures around the house he needed a male role model. How could I be a role model if I was gone all the time? And poor Brandy; well Brandy took horseback riding lessons, and there were occasions when she missed her time slots because either me or Daphne weren’t available to take her. I was going to bring this up with Daphne before this current shit storm hit. Hell, we’d bought her a pony, and now she never had a chance to learn to ride! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Now I was getting a divorce I’d miss all that. That fucking woman!

I finally told my boss I didn’t give a shit if the whole God damned country went south; I was taking off. I got so pissed I told him I was taking the week. By the time I was finished he’d completely changed his tune. He was all apologetic. He promised he’d handle everything while I was out. He said something about me needing an assistant. He didn’t even ask why I needed the time. He told me to say hello to Daphne. That was another thing that really pissed me off; all my colleagues at work loved my wife. They kept telling me how we were like two peas in a pod; little did they know. Strange, no disheartening, that was something I was proud of just a few days ago

Hillary and I found a lawyer; it was someone Hillary knew from school. By the way Hillary is lawyer; her main specialty is real estate. We got an appointment for 2:00 p.m. The woman, a person named, Vanessa Blackthorn, told us what we needed to bring. I got all the paperwork ready. Hillary stopped by mom and dads and we were on our way.

Now all this time something else had really started to piss me off. This was Monday. I’d cracked the whip with Daphne on Saturday. I hadn’t received one call, not a single call from her or anybody. From what I’d read the guilty spouse usually called and called begging for forgiveness and for a chance at reconciliation. So far I’d gotten nothing, nada, not a squeak. I’d even left my cell phone on so I could turn it off if she did call.

One thing, I thought for sure at least Geena would call. Geena’s our oldest child, one remarkable kid. I’m a little prejudiced sure, but we’d had her tested. She’s only thirteen, but colleges had already been sending literature. It seemed colleges in states like ours got extra money if they found and enrolled prodigies. Geena was just that, a real prodigy. Why hadn’t she called? Crap I knew three languages, English, about six words in Spanish, and bad grammar. Geena was already fluent in all the Romance languages, and she was deep into German, some Belgian language I’d never heard of, and Russian. And I mean she probably knew more damn math than Steven fucking Hawking! Why hadn’t she called?

Geena got her brains from her mom. Her mom was a classic underachiever; it really aggravated her parents when she blew off a free ride to Brown just so she could marry me. I never figured that one out. Why me? I mean she could have gone to Brown and really have stepped up. It’s about the gene pool isn’t it? I told her marrying me was like marrying a carp when Brown was loaded with small mouthed bass. She only laughed and said people in China thought carp was a delicacy.

Brandy’s also a smarty pants, and little Mikey’s probably got the good momma genes too. Why the fuck is this happening to me. What was Daphne thinking?

We got to the lawyer’s, and after about a twenty minute wait we were shown in. Hillary insisted she go in with me. She said she didn’t trust me to pay attention and make the good decisions. After ten minutes of discussion I was glad she was there.

I’ll try to remember the whole interview. Hell why try to remember, I taped the damn thing. Shit that’s when I figured out why no one called. I’d left my cell charger back at the house; the damn phone was dead. Oh well, we used Hillary’s phone to record. That’s another thing that pissed me off about Daphne; charging stuff like cell phones and the tooth machine, what is it, the damn thing we use to clean around the teeth. I must be getting Alzheimer’s. Daphne handled all that shit. I never had to worry about any of it.

Ms. Blackthorn was a nice looking woman. She had on a classy looking two piece suit with a crisply starched white blouse. For a moment I thought I’d find one for Daphne. Oh shit!

Well we sat down and started. Hillary went first.

Hillary told Ms. Blackthorn, “We’re here because my brother caught his wife coming out of a Holiday Inn with another man. When he confronted her she admitted she been having an adulterous relationship.”

Ms. Blackthorn asked Hillary, “Did he get anything on tape, any comments, any pictures?’

I started to say something but Hillary shushed me, “No, in fact Cale here couldn’t wait. He went right after her as soon as he got home.”

Ms. Blackthorn sort of shook her head. She looked at me and said, “You say you caught your wife cheating, and she admitted it, but in fact you don’t have a single shred of proof. Mr. McCallister if you tried for a divorce on the basis of adultery with the proof you’ve got she could clean your clock and when she finished you’d be expected to thank her for it.”

I tried to reassure Ms. Blackthorn, “Oh no Daphne wouldn’t do anything like that she’s...”

Ms. Blackthorn cut me off, “You know what you need?”

I asked, “No what?”

She smiled at my sister, “He needs a box of clues, because he doesn’t have any, not one.”

I asked, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

She smiled, “We’re talking divorce. In this state when it’s an amicable settlement the husband usually gets pulled through a ringer. You’re talking unproved adultery. Man she could burn you alive. In fact we have an acronym for it.”

Hillary smiled like she already knew, “What’s that?”

Ms. Blackthorn grinned, “B.T.B.B.G.; Burn the Bastard But Good.”

I tried to interrupt, “But.”

Hillary saved the day, “We were thinking about some kind of legal separation first.”

Ms. Blackthorn leaned back, “That would be better,” she’d been skimming through some of the stuff I’d handed her, “says here you’ve got three kids. Your wife put you through graduate school. She handles the bills, she uses her paycheck to pay the mortgage,” she leaned forward and looked at me, “Mr. McCallister, Cale, what do you do anyway? What do you bring to the marriage?”

I was nonplussed by that, “Why I’m the husband. I’m the man. I make most of the money. I mean, with my wife’s help I’m raising three kids. I’m...”

Ms. Blackthorn held up her hand, “You ever studied ants Mr. McCallister?”

“No I...”

She pushed on, “With ants it’s the females who make the babies, they raise them, care for them. It’s the female that does all the work. They call the male ant the drone. You’re familiar with the word drone aren’t you?”

I didn’t like where this was going, “Yeah a drone is like some worthless animal that sort of just hangs around and...”

I suddenly realized I was like one those butterflies zoologists pin to pieces of paper. Ms. Blackthorn just pinned me to the wall. As far as my family was concerned I was essentially a worthless piece of shit. Daphne was the one who’d been carrying the water all these years.

So I commented, “You’re saying if I go for a divorce on grounds of infidelity I don’t have a chance, but if I go for a divorce on any other grounds I don’t have a chance.”

She smiled, “Well you could go deep. You could fight it out. I’ll make a lot of money. Your wife will hire a lawyer and they’ll make a lot of money. It’s a win win for me. But you ... well...”

Hillary stepped in again, “What if Cale went for something else, like I’d said the legal separation.”

Ms. Blackthorn was still skimming through the stuff I’d brought, “Let me ask you a couple questions.”

I grinned. What else did I have to lose, “Sure, ask away.”

“Do you know what a ‘separation agreement’ is?”

I replied, “No not really.”

“Well,” she said, “it’s not just a separation it’s a legal understanding. You and your wife have to agree on such things as child custody, child support, spousal support, I mean any alimony, property division, debt division and legal fees. If the two of you can’t agree then you go deep, then you go for divorce.”

I responded, “I don’t get it,” I really didn’t.

Ms. Blackthorn went on, “A separation agreement would legally define each spouse’s rights and responsibilities, what you and your wife can and cannot do regarding money, property, and the children. It is not a trial separation; it’ more an alternative to divorce. You would stay married but live apart. In some instances the two of you might engage in counseling. In most cases a separation agreement is an understanding that the people would really perhaps prefer to try to work things out. Sometimes the two separated spouses even stay in the same house. That’s rare though.”

I listened and then replied, “I don’t know if I can do that.”

She asked, “Why not. You might save a lot of money. You could provide the second best possible environment for your children, and there’s always the possibility of reconciliation; plus, what if one of you has the better health insurance plan. You’ve got to think of the children in that case.”

I knew my insurance was what we used; it was hands and feet ahead of Daphne’s. I said so, “Well my insurance is what we use; hers would be almost prohibitively expensive.”

My lawyer went on, “I’d like to ask you a couple additional questions. Hillary you can chime in when you think you can help.”

My sister and I both nodded.

Ms. Blackthorn started in, “OK, let’s try and rule out infidelity as the reason for divorce. Let’s look at some alternatives. Does your wife have any irritating habits you could identify as a cause for divorce, say alcoholism, mental abuse, poor health concerns? Is she dirty? Is the house dirty? Think for a second. Does she physically abuse you? Do you eat off dirt dirty dishes? Can you think of anything like that?”

I piped right up, “Oh no, I can’t think of a single thing about Daphne I’d call an irritating habit. In fact, sometimes she’s too solicitous, maybe protective. Sometimes I feel like one of the kids; she like takes care of everything. No I can’t think of any irritating habits.”

“What about family, your in-laws. Are there any relatives you can’t stand, maybe a meddlesome mother-in-law? Does your father-in-law embarrass or humiliate you in the presence of others?”

I replied, “Oh God no. Her mom and dad are the best! I mean I feel like sometimes they love me more than Daphne.”

The lawyer went on, “All right; think about this. We all go into marriage with certain expectations. Most of the time marriages turn out to be the opposite of what we expect. We romanticize marriage and become disillusioned once those romantic expectations aren’t met. Unmet expectations can be a source of conflict. Is there something about Daphne’s personality, or her expectations about you or the marriage that might be a cause for the ruination of your marriage?”

I shook my head no, “No Ms. Blackthorn; everything’s been fine. I mean more than just fine, they’ve been wonderful.”

Ms. Blackthorn rubbed a pencil against the side of her head, “OK, let’ see. Does Daphne pick fights? Does she ignore you? Does she, let’s say, avoid problems or issues you think are important. Does she pay enough attention to you? Does she do things like hide unpaid bills? Does she waste money? Does she run up large bills for frivolous or unnecessary things?”

I was dumbstruck, “No none of those things make any sense. Until Saturday I thought we had a perfect marriage. I mean I thought everything was terrific. Daphne takes care of all the bills. Our credit is great. If anything, I’m the one who spends money wastefully. Daphne has been wonderful, like the perfect wife.”

Ms. Blackthorn looked at my sister, “I want honesty here. You’ve been around them since they first got married. How would Daphne have answered these questions?”

Hillary hesitated and responded, “I think Daphne would’ve said the same thing, but ... and this is a big but. Daphne gives in too easily. Cale always gets his way. I can’t say it any other way. Cale is spoiled rotten. I’d say if Daphne isn’t working with the kids; she’s figuring out ways to make her husband happy. Until this I thought she was my best friend. I mean she waits on Cale hand and foot.”

Ms. Blackthorn looked at me, “Would you agree with your sister’s assessment?”

I nodded and answered, “Yes, that about right.”

Ms. Blackthorn pushed her chair away from her desk, “So you have a doting wife who spoils you rotten. She has no irritating habits. Her family loves you like you were one of their own. Your wife hasn’t just met your expectations of what you think a good wife should be like; she’s exceeded them, and your only serious concern is, except for what you saw on Saturday, something she readily admitted to, your only concern is that she’s too solicitous, too concerned about your happiness. Is that right?”

I shrugged, “Yes I guess that’s about it.”

The lawyer frowned at me, “Mr. McCallister I don’t think divorce is ever in anyone’s best interest, and quite honestly especially not here. In fact what you’ve described is essentially what all marriages could be like. You might be one of the luckiest men I’ve met. I’m not trying to soft sell what your wife did, and I’m certainly not trying to blame you for anything, but Mr. McCallister, Cale, you have, except for this one thing, a very happy home.”

I squirmed in my chair, “Yes but she cheated on me. She broke our wedding vows. She ruined my life.”

The lawyer stared at me like she was trying to frame the words for her next sentence, then she said, “Cale you saw your wife and another man leave the same motel room. Is that right?”

I nodded affirmatively.

She went on, “They didn’t leave at the same time.”

I replied, “No. He came out later.”

“You saw no signs of affection, no hugging, no kissing, not even an affable wave good bye.”

I shook my head no.

Ms. Blackthorn said me, “Cale no one is perfect, and she certainly might have done a terrible thing. If you really want a divorce I’ll take you on, but for your sake, for the happiness of your children, all three of whom seem to be described here as intelligent, happy, but sensitive young people. And last I’d like to add possibly for the sake of a woman I think you still desperately love and who just might deserve a little more consideration if not a second chance you ought to very seriously consider some form of legal separation and counseling in preference to outright divorce.”

I sort of fumbled around, “You think so?”

She injected, “Cale you can’t prove she did anything wrong. In court it would be your word against hers. A legal separation would give you a chance to breathe. You could weigh all the ramifications. Mr. McCallister going through a divorce can be very painful. You’ll suffer. Your wife will suffer, all your family will pay a terrible price, and most importantly you have three children. They’ll experience a trauma that will follow them all their lives. Do you want to do that to your kids?”

“So you think I should go the legal separation route.”

She sat back and put her hands behind her head. I got a good glimpse of a pretty nice rack, “She replied, “I’d like a new Lexus. I could see myself driving a new corvette. You could do that for me. Think it over, you can buy me a nice car, or you if you went the separation route you just might be able to avert ruining a lot of innocent lives.”

I looked at Hillary, “What do you think?”

She didn’t hesitate, “Do the legal separation. If it doesn’t work or hurts too much you can always drop back and punt.”

I stood up and held out my hand to Ms. Blackthorn, “Can you draw up the paperwork?”

She stood also, “Consider it done. Stop by tomorrow morning. This isn’t nearly as harsh as divorce. You can take them to your wife personally.”

I knew I couldn’t do that, but then I had Hillary. I shook the lawyer’s hand, “See you tomorrow then.”

We all smiled and parted company. I still felt terrible. I still felt like my world had come to an end, but this might be cheaper, and who knows, it might work out better.

When Hillary and I got outside I dumped my plan on her, “Hillary I want to disappear. I’m going to the beach. You have my cell phone number. I want you to take the separation agreement to Daphne.”

She looked at me scornfully, “You really are a pussy.”

I asked, “You’ll do it?”

She said, “I’ll do it.”

After that we drove back to mom and dads. We explained what the plan was while I packed a smaller suitcase with the few casual clothes I had with me. I figured I’d stop on the way and buy some more stuff. I’d stay away for the rest of the week. When I got back Hillary and I could talk over what I might do next. ‘Gee, ‘ I thought, ‘it’s great to have family.’

Back home, that is back at my parents, like I said, we talked some more. By then I couldn’t think of what I had with Daphne as home anymore. Why didn’t she try to call? She could’ve called. I wanted her to call so I could hang up on her.

It was only Monday, I’d been away from my kids just two days and already I missed them terribly. In the past, in fact just a few weeks earlier I’d been away at seminars for up to four days. Sure I missed them then too, but it was different now. I hated to admit it; I missed Daphne even more.

Since the lawyer’s my cellular phone was up and running; but no calls had been put through. I guessed my wife really didn’t care. Was what I saw at the Holiday Inn more than a dalliance? God, to lose my wife, my family, all I’d so foolishly thought was important over a selfish affair was bad, but to think I was losing everything to the likes of Ralph Stevens, that was beyond comprehension.

Before Saturday I would never have thought of Stevens as a threat to my marriage. I hadn’t been able to sleep Sunday night so I’d spent most of that time wandering over the Internet investigating the reasons for divorce and why women, and men, had affairs. The things I found out were interesting; in my case maybe more than interesting, maybe appalling was a better word.

What I found out was there looked like three main reason why women had affairs. For men the reasons were a little different, but they didn’t matter since I wasn’t the one having an affair. The biggest reason was money. Second was intimacy; women often sought a man outside marriage because they weren’t getting enough attention, by that the research seemed to indicate affection. The last thing was sex.

I thought about my life with Daphne. I didn’t think money was the reason. That couldn’t have been the cause for what I saw happen with Daphne; we had money, I mean we weren’t flush, but we were doing all right. Sure there were reasons why Daphne could throw money in as a problem. She’d put me through graduate school. She worked tirelessly for the ‘us’ part of our marriage, but I’d never denied it, and I’d tried like crazy to make up for it. I’d put in my hours on the job. D

Daphne still worked; she worked right through the first two trimesters with both Brandy and Michael. She’d always carried her weight, more than her weight in fact, but the last few years I’d been working really hard trying to catch up.

Could it have been the sex thing? Maybe. I know Daphne wasn’t a virgin when we got married, but she was awful tiny down there, I mean down between her legs. I remember our first few times. She was so small; I hadn’t meant to but I’d hurt her when we had sex. I’d been careful. I thought I’d been the loving husband.

I remember when we were dating, or just before I started dating her. She’d been something of a coquette. She dated a lot of guys. In fact she went through almost all my friends. I thought of Ralph as a friend back then, not anymore. She even dated my brother Chris. It was like she’d made a list, and then she went through it. At the time I thought it was kind of strange; she seemed to be running down this list of names just dating one after the other. All of us, except for Chris were younger than her. I guess I ended up the last man on her list; yeah, last and least.

Yeah she’d date some guy; often as not one of my friends. They’d come around and talk about her. They’d talk about how hot she was, how great she kissed, what a terrific body she had, what a great ass, nice tits. How interesting she was to talk to. I wondered before I married her if she hadn’t screwed every friend I had. That’s one reason why I know I’ve got a really big Johnson. If she’d gone through all those guys, then why was she so small? It had to be me; I was just that big.

It bothered me a little that she’d hit, or should I say tapped, all my friends, but that was before she got to me. I couldn’t very well hold her accountable for the before; it was only the after that I thought mattered, and after me until Saturday I thought I was it. Well I guess I’m not it. Ralph Stevens is ‘it’.

Frequency might have been a problem. At first I guess Daphne and me were like all newlyweds; we went at it every chance we got. Just before and shortly after each baby there were times when we’d abstained. The medical books we’d read for one reason or another sort of warned against doing it too much at those times, but at all other times I thought we’d been pretty active. I don’t mean we’d been what, profligate, but I thought I’d kept her happy. I know I’d been happy, I’d been incredibly happy.

About the sex; I already recalled we’d kept on the tamer side of sex. I liked the missionary position the best and I always thought she did too. I know some books call it ‘vanilla sex’, but I didn’t and don’t think so. I’d read up; humans are the only creatures who are capable of missionary sex. We are the only one of God’s creations who can look at their partners while they do it. I thought that meant something. I got see her while we were busy. I got to kiss her pretty face. I got to nuzzle and caress her cheeks and her neck and her breasts while we were doing it. I mean I could see what I thought was the joy we shared while it was happening.

Oh sure we did other positions. I sometimes sneaked up on her during the day, like when she was in the kitchen at the sink. I’d sneak up behind, pull up her dress, then pull down her panties and do her right then and there. A couple times I’d caught her that way while the kids were like just ten feet away on the back porch.

Geena or Brandy would be looking through the window and asking their mom what was wrong; she’d be squealing with delight and they didn’t know why. I got a real kick out of that. I thought Daphne did too.

Mostly though I keep thinking about when the kids were in bed; how we’d be on the sofa. First we’d just hold hands, then our heads would touch, we’d hug and kiss and I would slowly unbutton her top, reach in, touch her wonderful warm soft boobs, lean down and kiss those precious dark orbs that were her aureole and her nipples. She’d pull down her pants or pull up her dress. I’d undo my pants and pull them off. She’d slide over on my lap. Mostly we’d be facing each other, but sometimes she’d be on my lap facing away. I’d slowly slide inside her. God it was so romantic.

No I thought the sex was pretty good. The frequency wasn’t always the greatest, but when we did it, I believed it was the best. I mean I was never, not once, not ever, a wham bam thank you ma’am kind of guy. I always, I mean I always made sure she got her pleasure. I wouldn’t quit until she did. Sometimes I thought she faked it, but those times seemed to be for a reason, like the kids were just outside, or someone was at the door. If I thought she was faking it and I saw no reason for it I’d ask her. Hell, I’d interrogate her. Mostly she came clean, but like I thought already, those times weren’t that often.

Did I go down on her? I liked that, shit I loved it. I knew how that worked. I read up on the G-spot thing. Yeah I found that sucker, and I worked it. I already knew all about a woman’s clitoris, and I knew how that worked. I worked that too. Sometimes in the winter, even when the kids were up I’d lay my head in her lap. I’d get a blanket, we’d call it a blankie, and I’d reach under with my right, or my left, take my fingers and get her all wet. It was really kind of exciting. I’d feel her start to squirm and all. She’d jump up and say something like, “All right kids time for bed!” We’d get the kids settled and then go to town. I had so much fun!

I remember we went to see that Sandra Bullock movie ‘Crash’. There was a scene where a married couple had sex while the husband was driving. Yeah the wife got down, she leaned down, and did her man right there in the car, right while he was driving! That night on the way to pick up the kids Daphne did me! I liked it, but I was really crazily embarrassed. I thought it felt good, but I felt maybe it was a little selfish too, well just a little bit.

I remember how she did it. She knelt down and unzipped my pants. Then she reached in and found me. She fiddled with it till I got hard, she pulled it out and kissed me on the top, right where the pee comes out. I’m circumcised so she didn’t have to worry about any schmuck. Oh she closed her lips around me. She lowered her mouth down as far as she could go. It was so great!

I got this great orgasm; all she got was a lot of stuff in her hair. I never asked her for a repeat performance; well not that way, not in the car.

Was sex the reason? I didn’t think so.

Well if it wasn’t sex, and it wasn’t money then it had to be about affection. That didn’t seem fair somehow. I’ve never been a cold person, and especially not with Daphne.

I’ve never been violent either. I never ever hit her or hurt her physically in any way. Jesus, hitting a woman? Like what kind of creep does that? I yelled sometimes. OK, maybe I yelled too much. I wish I hadn’t. But I never broke anything. I never threw anything. I might have had a tantrum to two, or maybe ten, but I never broke anything, and I sure never broke anything I thought she thought was important.

Well OK, I broke a big green vase, but that was an accident. I was hollering and yelling about something. I don’t remember what it was, but my leg accidentally, I mean it really was an accident, it hit the coffee table. I broke this big tall green vase she’d bought at Pier One Imports.

I can still see it now; spinning round and round before it fell off the table and broke on the rug. Like it was an accident! I didn’t mean for it to happen. She just stood there and looked at me. She never said anything. She liked that vase. She really liked that vase, and she just stood there. Right away I shut up. I apologized. I told her it was an accident. She didn’t say anything. Well she said one thing. She looked at the vase on the rug all in pieces and she said, “I’ll clean it up.” That was all she said.

I felt like crap. I bought her another vase. She never put it out. It’s still in the garage, in the box it came in. Christ it was a fucking accident! I didn’t mean it!

I suppose one partner is always a little more mature than the other. Until Saturday I would have given the maturity ticket to Daphne. I remember we’d argue; sometimes we really hollered and yelled. Of course I’m a man. I have a deeper and louder voice. I could always out yell her. She’d stop and just wait for me to run out of gas. The she’d say something like, “Are you through now?” I’d answer, “Yeah. I guess so.” Then we’d sit down and work on the problem. I guess sometimes she made me feel like I was one of the kids. It never bothered me, and here’s why.

If we had a real problem, I mean like a crisis, if something really big had happened, then she’d turn to me and I got to be the man of the house. I remember one time I got to be the ‘Super Dad’!

Brandy had a problem once at school. There was this older girl who started bullying her. Daphne and I talked to Brandy about it. We tried to get her to think up ways to short circuit the bully, but nothing worked.

I went to school, but when I talked to the teacher I felt like I was being blown off. I went to the teacher’s vice-principal, and then I went to the principal but got no results. Daphne was completely nonplussed, not me though. I took off from work, got a lawyer, I got my sister, and I went straight to the superintendent of schools. It turned out the bully was age inappropriate; she was too old for that class. I also found out the teacher was something of a bully too. She liked to try to intimidate her colleagues and her supervisors. She’d been getting away with it for years.

When I got finished I had the bully in a different class, and I got apologies from everybody. I got apologies from the principal, the vice-principal, and the teacher. That’s when it occurred to me bullies are kind of like members of a club; they like to hang together. So the bully teacher stood up for the bully kid; sounds stupid but maybe it was a little bit true.

Yeah, talk about a cover up! Oh yeah I was Woodward and Bernstein. I was Ken Starr. And the teacher; well her ass was grass, and I was the lawnmower! I always wanted to say that.

I was so proud of myself for all that I did for my kid. I thought Daphne was proud of me too. I know Brandy and the kids were proud of me. I mean I really came through that time!

So if it wasn’t money, and it wasn’t sex, and it might not have been affection then what was it? There’s only one answer; it’s me. She doesn’t love me, not any more. I read up; some women have what the experts call ‘exit affairs’. A woman realizes she doesn’t love her husband anymore so she shops around until she finds someone new, she finds a replacement. Jesus God almighty; Daphne shopped around and picked Ralph Stevens? That’s really fucked up! Ralph Stevens was my replacement! I wanted to die all over again when I realized that!

Damn it! Here I am cussing like a sailor in my head. I never cuss. I’ve got kids! I’ve got a wife and two girls; a father doesn’t use profanity in front of their kids, especially not girls. I’ve been a good dad too. At least I think I have. I’ve tried to be like my dad. He’s a man; he’s a real man. I mean he did all right by us. He did all right by me, Hillary, and my older brother Chris. I need to see Chris.

Chris is my hero. He’s my big brother. He was my star when I was growing up. I tried to be like him. I never quite measured up, but I tried. Heck, when he started dating Daphne I sort of knew I needed to check her out. I mean all my friends had been with her, then my brother. If my brother liked her there had to be something there.

I can’t exactly explain how I wangled my way between Chris and Daphne, but somehow I did. I never quite figured that out, but I ended up with the girl who turned out to be the girl of my dreams. Girl of my dreams; now she was my nightmare!

I remember back in high school. Daphne’s like almost two years older, but she was only one year ahead of me grade-wise so I saw her almost every day. She was pretty. I mean really pretty. She took all the ‘A’ courses. She wore these pleated miniskirts and crisp white and colored blouses. I can see her now leaning up to kiss Brian Ahearn. Back then Brian was one of my friends. God she looked so hot. I remember how she kissed him and looked all around. She saw me and sort of kind of smiled. Jesus was that a great smile or what?

We got back to mom and dads, parked the car and went in. Dad didn’t look so good. I was afraid maybe what was happening to me was getting to him. We all pulled up some chairs at the kitchen table and talked some more. I’ve often noticed, no matter who it was, no matter the family, the kitchen is like the ‘war room’. That’s where all the arguments and all the decisions are made. Well there we were in the war room.

Mom told us right away, “Daphne’s been calling. Cale did you know your cell phone’s been turned off? Daphne’s been trying to reach you. Geena and Brandy have been calling too. Cale you’ve got to do something; your girls are a wreck, especially your daughters. They think it’s their fault. Daphne told us she told them what you saw, but they don’t want to believe her. Cale I don’t care if Daphne’s been sleeping with the whole state National Guard, you’ve got to work this out. Your kids are a mess.”

Dad piped in, “Chris can’t make it home right now. He’s isn’t available, but he’ll be home in a few months. I can’t tell you why he can’t get home except to say he’s really totally occupied. It’s kind of ‘top secret’. He gave me the full dope, but he made me promise. He said he’d get home as soon as he could and do what he could. Cale he’s worried sick about you. He doesn’t believe Daphne’s having an affair. He says there has to be a mistake somewhere.”

Then Hillary filled them in. Mom and dad wanted me to go over to my house and talk to Daphne, but I told them I wouldn’t do it. I was afraid to tell them the real reason. I knew how it would end up. I’d be on the floor begging her not to leave me. I’d break down. I’d be crying like a baby. I’d lose all my self-respect. I knew I was a total waste as a man, a real wimp. I just didn’t have any pride. I was too scared to face my wife.

It bothered me about the kids, but they were like this Trojan Horse. If I went to see them; even if I just talked to them all my protective walls would come tumbling down. I needed to hide. I needed to crawl in a hole somewhere and just pull the dirt in over me. The beach would be my grave. She was leaving me for another man. I just knew it, and it tore me up inside. I was inadequate. I wished I was dead.

So I loaded my pick-up. I got in and took off. On the way I stopped at a Walmart and bought some more stuff. I started for the beach.

I cried all the way down. I was alone in the truck. No one saw me so I figured it was all right.

I got to the beach. As it was still officially winter, weather wise anyway, I had no difficulty finding a place. I did not go to any of the three Holiday Inns. I found the newest Marriott; it had an indoor pool, a clean restaurant that served good local seafood, and my room had a brand new hot tub. I picked up some Pepsis and a couple bags of French Onion potato chips, turned on the television, plopped down to watch some old Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie, and I started to have myself another really good cry.

They say crying is a kind of cathartic. Well I don’t believe it. The more I cried the worse I felt. Hillary called Tuesday evening, and we had another unhappy conversation.

I answered the phone and Hillary started right in, “Cale I delivered the separation agreement. It was a pretty short document. It detailed what we talked about with the lawyer. Daphne asked me to stay a few minutes so I did.”

I asked, “Did she understand it? How did she handle it?”

“Oh she understood it all aright. I thought she was going to get mad, but she surprised me she just sort of read it and didn’t say anything. It was kind of eerie. Daphne’s a talker. You know that. She just read the thing, stared at it, and put it down. She just kept staring off into space; it was like she was in another world. It was as though she had something on her mind that had nothing to do with anything. She asked me how you were doing. I told her you were devastated. She asked me if she thought you’d talk to her. I told her probably not, at least not for a while. She said a couple things I didn’t understand after that but then...”

I interrupted, “Did she cry or anything?”

“No she didn’t cry, but I could tell she’d been crying. I don’t think she’s been to work yet this week. She looks really depressed. I didn’t see the kids. They’d left for school when I got there.”

“What else did she say?”

“Well Cale she said she goofed up right after you confronted her. She said some things she wished she could take back. She told me what she said about how what we saw wasn’t anything and that it didn’t mean anything. She said she didn’t mean for it come out the way it did. She tried to tell me what was going on with Ralph Stevens wasn’t an affair. She said it wasn’t anything like that at all.”

I was curious, “What did she mean by that?”

“Cale it’s hard to say. She wasn’t very coherent. She kept skipping around. First she talked about the kids, then about you, then Chris, and then she was talking about your old friends like Brian and Ellis Goodwood, and then even Ralph. She kept going back to Chris. She wasn’t making any sense.

She kept saying how sorry she was. She kept apologizing, but she wasn’t apologizing to me, and it didn’t sound like she was trying to apologize to you either. She sounded all confused. She asked about your mom and dad. She’s worried about our dad; you know his heart and the emphysema.”

“Tell me Hillary what did you tell her about our parents and about Chris?”

“She forgot she mentioned Chris when I brought him up again. I told her mom and dad were taking this pretty hard. Cale that really cracked her shell. I mean up to then it was like she was adrift, like in some dream world. The mention of your dad not doing well made her burst into tears. She said she’d made a mistake, but that no one would understand. Cale you know she sounded real far-off; it didn’t sound like she was talking about Stevens or the Holiday Inn.”

I started to sniff. I was angry with Daphne, but it tore my ass to hear that she was crying about my dad. I asked Hillary, “Didn’t she understand that it’s her fault my dad is reacting the way he is?”

Hillary tried to explain something to me, but I’m not sure I understood, “Cale Daphne thinks if she could just talk to you that you’d understand. She told me you forgot your medicine. But she said she couldn’t say what you needed to hear. Then she went off again about how sorry she was. She started talking about the way things used to be. She was talking like everything was in the past tense. By past tense it sounded like she was referring to herself in the past tense. Cale she didn’t sound like herself. I’m worried Cale. Maybe you should come home. I think she needs you.”

‘Needs me, ‘ I thought, ‘now there’s a good one, ‘ I told Hillary I wasn’t coming home, not yet anyway, but she should keep me informed about the children. I worried about them especially. After Hillary hung up I went to the bathroom. All the Sour Cream and Onion chips made a return performance. Yeah I’d forgotten my stomach medicine.

I have a hiatal hernia. The doctor told me and Daphne that hernia was a misnomer people used for what I had. All it meant was I had a nervous condition and my stomach pushed up against my esophagus and larynx, and that caused acid reflux.

Daphne put one of my pills out beside my breakfast meal every morning. Yeah, Daphne made me eat something every day before I went to work. I always had whatever the kids had. If they had oatmeal, I had oatmeal. If she fixed them a poached egg, I got a poached egg.

She had a routine, oatmeal on Mondays, poached eggs were Tuesday, French toast Wednesday, pancakes were Thursday, and scrambled eggs came Friday. I fixed breakfast on the weekends. I took Prevacid, and since she always remembered my pills for me I’d forgotten to get them when I left Saturday.

Crap Daphne even fixed me a lunch pail when we were first married. I made her stop because everybody teased me at work. What they really teased me about was the way she’d cut up my apples; she put lime juice or something on the exposed parts so it wouldn’t turn brown.

She’s amazing; she’d get me and the kids off to school and work, and then she’d get ready for work herself. When the girls were babies she’d hang around till either her mother or mine came to babysit while she went to work.

Lately since the girls and Michael are now in school one of our mom’s doesn’t have to get to our house until the afternoon just before the school busses dropped them off. Daphne coordinates who babysits what afternoons with our moms. If neither mom can get over Daphne comes home from work early. I don’t have to do anything.

Lately Geena’s been helping with things like emptying the dishwasher and the dusting, but she’s not allowed to help is she hasn’t gotten her homework done. Daphne makes me check the kid’s homework. I know she’s already checked it, but it’s her way to make sure I’m still involved.

I have my chores too. I’m supposed to take out the trash, see to it our vehicles are safe and inspected, and lately I’ve been told I have to run the vacuum.

Daphne says with the new carpet it hurts her back to push the vacuum. I don’t mind. I like to vacuum. I like the way I can make real straight lines across the carpet using the tumbler at the bottom of the vacuum. I pretend like I’m a farmer plowing really straight rows in the soil although it’s only just the carpet.

I did all the snow blowing this winter. Daphne and the kids watched from inside while I cleared the sidewalk and the drive. I felt good about that. I felt kind of proud.

One time this past winter we all made a snowman. Gee that was fun; cold but fun. When we finished we all went inside. Daphne made us all cacao, and while we drank the cacao Daphne put all our wet clothes in the dryer and hung up our heavy coats. Then while we all took a nap Daphne made a big bowl of vegetable soup.

In the summer I do the lawn, but Daphne has her flower beds. The girls try to help with the flowers, but they get tired pretty fast. The kids wanted a pool in the backyard, but we poo pooed that idea. Too many kids drown in backyard pools. Daphne and I set up some horseshoe pits and a place to play croquette instead. We use rubber rings in place of metal horseshoes.

I won’t have to worry about any chores any more. Daphne drives a minivan. I’ll certainly keep up with that. I’m going to miss the breakfasts. I’m going to miss a lot of things. Daphne’s a great cook. I’ll miss her homemade lasagna, and her crab cakes are to die for.

Sometimes we used have formal dinners at home; that was usually a Friday night thing. Daphne would get out the wine glasses, fill them with grape juice, and then serve up a special meal; we’d have salads, sometimes homemade soup, a special entree, and then maybe a Mrs. Smith’s pie. Daphne did this so the kids would learn proper etiquette.

These things didn’t happen on Sundays. Sunday dinners we alternated between her mom and mine. Sometimes both sets of parents would meet and we all eat together. Daphne’s an only child.

I can’t help it. I know I’m going to be doing a lot of crying this week. I used to love the beach; I guess not so much anymore.

It’s funny how we always remember the exact time and place when something really important happens. I mean what American doesn’t remember where they were and what they were doing on 9-11-01?

Well I guess things came crashing down for me the first time at 1:15 p.m. Saturday, when I saw Daphne come out of room 241 at the Holiday Inn. But then it was like a second building came tumbling down at 1:10 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. I was sitting in the hot tub drinking an Orange juice when my cell phone rang. ‘Aha’, I thought, ‘the evil one has finally condescended to make the call.’ I picked up and opened the phone, no such luck; it was Hillary, I opened it up, “OK, Hillary what’s up?”

She didn’t mince any words, “Come home right away now!”

‘Christ, ‘ I thought, ‘one of the kids is hurt!’ I asked, “What is it?”

“Daphne’s in the hospital. She’s at Good Christian. Get here, and like right away!”

To say the least I was stricken; had she been in an accident? What, had she fallen down the steps? I knew we should have carpeted the damn stairs, “Tell me Hillary what is it?”

“Daphne’s taken something. She may die.”

Oh Jesus Christ! Holy shit! I answered, “I’m on my way!” All thoughts of infidelity, pay back, divorce flew right out the window! Daphne was in trouble! I had to get home right away!

I leaped out of the tub. I dried off as quickly as I could, slipped on a pair of jeans, a Tee shirt, and my moccasins. I rode the elevator down, threw the key card at the girl at the desk, “You can pack up my stuff. I’ll pick it up later. I was in the parking garage, in my pick-up, and gone in twenty minutes. I never did go back for my stuff.

I didn’t speed. I didn’t want to get pulled over, but I knew the routine; stay just about ten miles over the limit and they won’t bother you. I had better than a half a tank of gas. I could get there without having to stop.

Traffic was a little rough through some of the towns, but it was only real bad when I got to the I95 and I695 cut offs. I was careful; I followed the traffic, and got through it pretty good. I was finally at the hospital by 6:45 p.m. I ran in the emergency room and shouted out my wife’s name. My dad and Daphne’s dad intercepted me. Hillary and her husband were there too.

My dad got to me, “Son she’s stable now, but it was kind of a close call.”

“Where’s mom,” I asked?

Dad replied. Boy was he calm, “Your mom’s with her now. They had to pump her stomach...”

I jumped at that, “What?”

Hillary was beside me, “Cale it looks like she might have tried to do something really foolish.”

“Oh God no,” was my response.

“She got somebody’s pills. It looks like she took a whole bottle of some kind of medication. The doctor says it looks like Xanax, maybe Valium, but most likely Xanax.”

I remembered back a couple years earlier there’d been a rumor our business was coming under scrutiny, possibly for fraud. Well I’d panicked. Our family doctor prescribed Xanax to help me get to sleep and calm my nerves. He’d given me several refills; three I think. Daphne, in her usual organized way refilled the pills when she thought the pharmacist would allow it whether I’d used all the pills or not. I’d completely forgotten about them, but Daphne must have stowed them away someplace safe. She hadn’t forgotten.

I rushed up to the nurse’s desk, “My name is Cale McCallister. My wife is Daphne McCallister. When can I see her?”

The nurse politely smiled. She handed me one of those guest cards and said, “Go right in. She’s in room thirty-one. Here I’ll open the door for you,” with that I watched her push a button and the automated door slowly opened.

I was down the hall and into room thirty-one in a split second. Mom was there. Daphne was in bed; she looked like she was asleep. I went up close. God she looked awful! I crept up next to her, leaned down and whispered, “Daphne, it’s me.”

She slowly opened her eyes, she graced me with one of those soft languid smiles I’d learned to love so much, then the smile disappeared and her face metamorphosed into a look of bitter sadness, I mean abject misery. She whispered, “I read your proposals. I saw a lawyer late Tuesday evening. We worked up a counter set,” she started to say more, but stopped. She turned and looked away like she was staring way off in the distance.

I thought I should say something. I wanted to tell her I forgave her. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t have a clue. I whispered back, “OK.”

I heard my mother sigh. I turned around; I saw what had to be a grimace, and then a look of almost devastating disgust. I didn’t quite know what to do so I turned back around to Daphne. I took her right hand in my two hands. I gently squeezed. She opened her eyes again, but didn’t reply.

All of a sudden all the hospital machinery connected to her started to buzz and make noises. Pretty quick a nurse followed by a doctor slipped in the room. I thought, ‘Wow that was quick, getting a doctor that fast.’

The nurse smoothly shunted me aside and started tending to my wife. The doctor approached me, “Are you the husband?”

I responded, “Yes.”

He said, “Maybe we could step outside a moment.”

Together he and I stepped into the corridor. My mom tugged my sleeve and said she’d be outside and down the hall with dad and Hillary. I nodded and turned back to the doctor.

The doctor, his name was Poniatowski, it said so on his name tag. He spoke to me, “She’s had a tough time of it. For a while we weren’t sure. She took a mean overdose of Xanax,” he seemed to shrug, “We’re still a little concerned. We’ll certainly be keeping her here for a day or two, but before we release her to go home we’d like to make as certain as we can she won’t be back again. It’s none of our business, but do you have any idea why she’d consider doing what she seems to have tried?”

I replied, “I’m sorry I was out of town. Yes, I caught her Saturday with another man. I’ve since moved out and seen a lawyer. I guess well...”

“Oh I see. Well sir,” he looked down at the clipboard he’d carried out, he seemed to fidget, “It’s not likely she’ll try something again right away, but we’d like to be as sure as possible. With your approval we could have her committed for a short time. It would only be temporary of course.”

I wondered what he was doing with the clipboard. Shouldn’t that be in the room with the nurse? I sighed and gulped, “That won’t be necessary. My mom and her mother will be with her when she gets out.”

The doctor gave me a dubious look, “It’s your call.”

I bristled, “Yeah it’s my call,” I think he could have overridden me if he wanted to, but he didn’t. We shook hands, and I went back in to see Daphne again. She was awake again. I got up real close, “Daphne I’m going back to the house and check on the kids. They’re going to keep you here for a day or two. I’ll be back tomorrow. I promise,” I took her hand again and held it. This time all the bells and whistles didn’t go off. She wasn’t very responsive though.

I stepped back outside and saw mom and dad and Hillary, “I’m going back to the house to check on the girls. I’m taking a few more days off. I’ll stay with them until Daphne comes home.”

My mom glared at me, “What will we do then?”

I answered, “I don’t know mom.’ We’ll see what she and her lawyer have come up with first.”

My mom just turned and walked away. Hillary followed her. My dad put his hand on my shoulder. I could see he was having real trouble breathing, “Cale it’s about the kids; the kids always come first.”

I nodded, “I know dad,” I turned and left the hospital. Now I had to see my kids. I wasn’t excited about it. Man was I a nervous Nellie. I know I was a real pussy. No real man would behave like this. I bet a real man would be disappointed his wife hadn’t died. I guess I just wasn’t a real man.

I remember I met a guy once; his name I can’t remember. I do recall he and his wife split. After that he was like some shit nosed shark. I bet if he were me he would have cussed Daphne out for not taking even more of the damn Xanax and doing the job right. I was mad at Daphne, but I could never be like that. Jesus I sure didn’t want her to die!

I finally got home close to 10:00 p.m. Daphne’s mom had the kids in bed when I walked in. I realized I hadn’t pissed since before leaving the Marriott. I pardoned myself and made for the toilet. When I came out I saw my other mom and I started to get all juicy eyed.

Her mom came over and held me in her arms, “Cale Daphne told us about the man at the Holiday Inn. We’re ashamed of her.”

I broke down. I just couldn’t help it. While I was crying I heard Geena at the top of the stairs, “Dad, is mom all right?”

I wiped my eyes and went up the steps. By the time I got to Geena Brandy and Michael were in the hall too. I said, “Come on you guys you’ve got school tomorrow. You’ve got to get back to bed.”

Michael asked, “Is mommy all right.”

I told him, “Mommy’s getting better. She’ll be home this weekend.”

Brandy asked, “When can we see her?”

“I’m not sure, maybe tomorrow, probably Friday. Now will you guys please get to bed? Your mom would skin me if she thought I’d let you stay up this late,” Brandy and Michael stumbled off to bed. Geena didn’t move.

I said, “You too Geena.”

She still didn’t move, “Dad we have to talk, and I’m staying home tomorrow.”

I started, “No you’re... ,” then I stopped, “OK, let’s go downstairs.”

Once we got downstairs we said goodnight to Daphne’s mom; then Geena and I went into the living room. I took a seat on the sofa. She curled up beside me and took one of my hands, “Dad mom told me.”

“She did?”

“Yes, so what are you going to do?”

“I guess we’re going to separate, at least for a while.”

Geena squeezed my hand. I couldn’t see her face, “You can’t Dad, not now.”

I didn’t say anything. Geena went on, “I know she did a bad thing. She’s sorry Dad. I know what she tried to do with the pills. I was the one who found her. I was the one who called 911. Dad I know you love mom. She loves you too. If you left us it would kill her.”

‘Left us, ‘ she said. That ... well. I lifted her up and turned her around and hugged her close, “You remember how scared you were when we visited those colleges,” she nodded, “You trusted me then,” she nodded again, “OK, trust me now. I’ll figure this out.”

Geena kissed me on my cheek, “I trust you dad.”

I got up and smacked her butt, “OK, then off to bed. You can stay home tomorrow. I’ll probably need you to help me out anyway.”

She smiled, and hugged me real tight, “I love you daddy.”

I hugged her back, “Get up to bed.”

She ran upstairs. I sat back down and started to get all nervous again. My stomach started to churn. I sat there on the sofa, put my head in my hands and started to cry again. OK, so I’m a crybaby, but at least I was still doing it when I was alone.

The next morning was Thursday so that meant scrambled eggs. I had a bunch of eggs all broken and in a bowl when Geena came in. She asked, “What are you doing?”

I said, “Fixing breakfast.”

She took the egg bowl, walked over to the trash can and dumped them in. She turned around and withered me with a condescending smile, “Its pancake day.”

I Thought, ‘Damn, damn it, Daphne would’ve... ‘

Geena went to the frig, “Mom’s got the batter already made up. She always gets it ready on Sunday after church.”

Yeah now I remembered ... Geena and I fixed them up.

Brandy got mad that Geena got to stay home but she and Michael had to go to school. I told her I needed Geena to help with getting mom some things. I also told her and Michael their mother would be really mad if I let them stay home. That seemed to work.

With the younger kids gone Geena and I put together two outfits for Daphne to wear. We got her toiletries together, and around 10:00 a.m. we took off for the hospital.

When we got there I got two big surprises. First Daphne looked a whole lot better; well a little better anyway. I was glad of that. If Geena saw her the way she looked the night before I don’t think that would have worked out too well. Geena and her mom and I talked for a few minutes.

We mostly talked about a whole bunch of nothing. I remember Daphne asked Geena if breakfast went OK. Geena said yes; she didn’t rat me out. Then around 11:00 Daphne asked Geena to leave the room. That’s when I got my second big surprise.

Daphne told me she figured I’d be here this morning. She’d called her lawyer, and he’d be with us before lunch to go over their counter proposals. I was stunned. This was the old Daphne; all about control again. I guess I bristled a little because she got gloomy. I told her I was going downstairs with Geena to get something to eat.

Hell, I hadn’t eaten since I’d tossed the potato chips. I just wasn’t hungry. Some people are nervous eaters; I guess I’m a nervous starver. I got Geena some hospital spaghetti and a big glass of milk. I got a small serving of tuna fish on lettuce.

After we ate I took Geena upstairs, but made her sit in the waiting room while her mom, her lawyer, and I had our talk. I promised the kid I wouldn’t be long. I don’t care if it was a hospital; the idea of leaving one of my kids alone someplace, any place, scared me.

I drifted back into Daphne’s room. Her lawyer was already there. I pulled up a chair. Daphne had gotten dressed in one of the outfits Geena had picked out for her. It was a pretty cotton dress, some pantyhose, and a pair of penny loafers. I thought she looked nice; it made my stomach start to roil up again as I thought about her and Ralph Stevens. I wondered where the tuna I’d just eaten was going to end up. I looked around the room. There was a trash can next to the lawyer. I asked him, “Hand me that trash can will you please?”

I guessed I must have started to turn a little green because Daphne asked, “What’d you have to eat?”

I answered, “The hospital cafeteria had some tuna.”

Almost in disgust I watched her shrug, “Canned tuna and mayonnaise ... Cale?”

I didn’t say anything, but I kept the trash can close by.

The three of us sat there in her room. The lawyer in a chair, Daphne in a chair, and me I ended up on the bed.

The lawyer didn’t look very happy. He told me, “I don’t support your wife’s proposals, but it’s what she insists on,” he handed me a thin envelope, he gave me this kind of unfriendly stare and said, “That’s all I have to do. I’m finished here. You’ll be billed,” he looked at Daphne even less amicably, “if you want to change your proposals you have my phone number,” he got up and left.

‘Jesus, ‘ I thought, ‘that guy’s really mad. How unlawyerly!’ I looked at the envelope and wondered, ‘what’s in here?’

Daphne looked at me like she was daring me to say anything, and I hadn’t even opened the damn envelope yet. She said pointing to the manila package, “This is how it’s going to be. You can read it now or take it home.”

I replied, “Do you mind if I read right here?”

“Your choice,” she said. She turned her head and looked really tearful.

I opened the God damned thing up. It was barely two pages long. I started to read. The further into the document the more incredulous I became. When I finally got to the end I scowled at her and said, “I can’t agree to this.”

She paled visibly. It was the worse she looked since I’d come in. She refused to look at me. She looked down at the floor, “That’s the way I want it. I refuse to change a thing.”

“Look Daphne,” I started, “I’m taking this home. I’ve got to show this to my lawyer and our parents. Christ Daphne nobody’s going to believe this.”

She just stuck her jaw out and kept quiet.

I added, “You know it was Geena who found you?”


“Yeah, you scared the shit out of her.”

“Is she outside?”

“She sure is; you want to see her?”

“Yes, but without you here.”

I got up, “OK, I’ll send her in.”

I stepped in the hall; waved at Geena through the glass that separated her from all the activity in the corridor. She came out and I told her, “Mom wants to see you,” she sort of smiled and went inside.

I sat down on a chair in the corridor and looked at her proposals again. Daphne must have lost her mind. I packed the thing back up and waited for Geena to come back out. When she came out I saw she’d been crying. She told me, “Mom wants to see you again.”

I went in. Daphne asked me, “So what are you going to do?”

I told her, “Well first I’m showing this piece of crap to Hillary and our parents. Then I’m taking it to my lawyer. Daphne, God damn it; I can’t allow this.”

She just sat back on the bed, “They’re going to release me tomorrow.”

“What time?”

She got all nasty, “What do you care.”

I ignored her, “What time?”

“Some time in the morning”

I had to know, “What did you say to Geena?”

“First I apologized, then I told her what was in the document.”

I got up, was I ever pissed off, “OK. I guess I’ll be by in the morning.”

“Why,” she asked.

I lost my cool, “Oh shut the fuck up!”

She really recoiled at that. She swiveled around and buried her head in one of those tiny hospital pillows. I involuntarily stepped toward her but stopped. I’d had enough. I left the room. I got Geena, and together we went home. Neither of us said much.

Once Geena looked over and asked, “What’re you going to do dad?”

I answered, “I haven’t figured it out yet, but you’ll be the first to know,” that seemed to satisfy her.

When we got home I took some time for a quick gut check. It hadn’t even been a week since Daphne had done me wrong, and already I’d lost most of my resolve. I loved her. I loved her so much, but she’d done something terrible. From what Hillary had said it looked like just the one time; that is the one time in a motel. Who could tell really? Was it her one and only? Was it the first in a motel that Hillary knew about? Was it the first of what would have become several? Was it her first step away from me, away from her kids? And what did her list of proposals really mean? And what about me; wasn’t this supposed to be where I stood up for myself? Wasn’t I supposed to burn the bitch to the ground? What was I supposed to do? Shit what did I want to do? That last one; I had the answer to that. It might not exactly be what I wanted to do, but I think it was the best fit for the time being.

I picked up the phone and called Hillary. She answered on the first ring, “Cale, what do you need?”

“I need you tonight, and I’ll need you tomorrow morning early.”

Half an hour later Hillary was at my front door. I let her in, “Hillary I got a list of proposals today that countered what we devised. Want to see them?”

Hillary said, “Sure,” I handed her Daphne’s list.

She read the paper and handed it back, “Let’s see,” she started, “Daphne’s giving you the house free and clear. She wants you to have all your joint savings. She has a small private account, and wants to turn that over to you. She says she’ll keep the van only long enough for her to get something smaller for herself. She’s willing to give up custody, and she says she’ll let you set her visitation schedule. She doesn’t want any alimony. You get all the furniture. She wants to turn her 401K over to you in case you need extra money for the children’s college. She’ll agree to our separation agreement on these terms, or if you want a real divorce she wants them to be on these terms. She does want pictures of the children, and she wants to go through your wedding album and pick out a few pictures she especially likes. Jesus Cale she doesn’t want anything.”

“What do you think? Should I call Ralph Stevens? I mean have they decided to play house now that he’s divorced?”

“No Cale, I’ll call him. Who do we know who has his phone number?”

“We know his estranged wife Ginger.”

“Get me her number.”

I went to the dining room drawer where Daphne kept our personal phone directory. I looked it up, and found it. I handed it to Hillary. I made a note of it to myself, and punched it in my cell phone.

Hillary called Ginger. She was lucky Ginger picked up on the third ring, “Hello Ginger this is Hillary. I need to find something out, there was a brief pause. Hillary looked at me and said, “She’s got someone there,” Ginger must have come back on because Hillary asked, “Do you know if your ex-husband is seeing anyone,” there was another pause. Hillary turned to me, “Ralph’s there with Ginger.”

I sort of grinned, “Well that’s interesting.”

Hillary apparently had Ralph on the phone, “Ralph what’s up with you and Daphne? I mean are you two up to something,” Hillary held her hand over the mouthpiece, “He’s talking now,” Hillary started responding to whatever he was saying, “Yeah, I know, I heard, yeah, she’s in the hospital, you are, you’re sure, OK, I’ll tell him.”

I asked, “So what gives?”

Hillary shrugged, “I can’t believe it. Since Sunday Ralph’s spent every night at his old house. He’s trying to make up. He’s sorry about Daphne. He wished it never happened. He’s really sorry if he fucked up your life. He said he’ll talk to you if you promise not to say anything to anybody else. I guess Ginger was standing right beside him because he started to explain to her what he meant by that remark.”

I reached up and scratched my head, “Well what do you know?”

“What do you mean Cale?”

“I mean Daphne apparently hasn’t got anybody on the line, but she wants to give me everything we’ve worked for. You know Hillary I sort of figured that was where this was heading.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I’ll tell you about it, but first let’s go downstairs,” and so Hillary and I went downstairs to the cellar.

The next morning I was at the hospital bright and early. I was so early Daphne hadn’t even awakened yet. I’d had my special talk with Geena so she was the only other person, besides Hillary, who knew what my plan was. She was going to fill in Brandy and Michael a little later. Geena and I agreed they all could stay home from school today. It was Friday anyway. And yes, we had scrambled eggs.

Before I left for the hospital I called my mom and dad, and let them know what was what. They said they’d come over and watch the kids. Then I called Daphne’s mom and dad, told them the plan, and I gave them a little job to do.

Daphne woke up shortly after 8:00 a.m. She looked at me, “What are you doing here?”

I told her, “I’m here to take you home.”

She was a lot better this morning, more like her old self, “I’m not changing anything,” while she spoke the house doctor came in and said some stuff in some foreign language I don’t think even Geena would have understood, but the gist of it was Daphne was free to leave once an orderly brought around some papers for her to sign. I think they were anxious to get Daphne out of their hair before she pulled another stunt; only I knew what she’d done wasn’t some stunt.

Ignoring the doctor I said to Daphne, “I agree I don’t think you should try to change anything. In fact I believe in about an hour you won’t be able to.”

“What? Why not?”

“In about an hour my lawyer’s secretary will be visiting your lawyer’s secretary. Your lawyer will initial everything he missed, and then my lawyer’s secretary will be on her way to the courthouse. By 10:00 a.m. this morning you will be completely impecunious.”

“You are a smart one,” she said.

I honestly wasn’t sure how binding an agreement like the one we had was, but I played it straight on. I gave her the old stone face, “I’m just getting started. In a few minutes I’m taking you to my house. Right now my sister is preparing a small place in the cellar in my house where I’m going to allow you to stay.”

She got all upscale and in my face, “You can’t make me I’ll go...”

I stopped her, and handed her my cell phone, “I know what you’re about to say. If you want to call your parents do it now, because in a few minutes they’ll be out, and if you think they’ll take you in, well think again. They don’t want you.”

She blanched, “There’s...”

I was having so much fun, “My parents don’t want you either. You’ve been very bad.”

She threw my phone on the bed, “What do you want from me?”

I had her, “Aha, well I have three children who need a nanny. Right now I’m short a housekeeper; a domestic worker if you will. You have no place to go. I have an empty room in my cellar. I need a maid. The pay will be minimum wage, but you’ll get full medical coverage. Want it say so and it’s yours.”

I watched her facial expressions shift from delight, to a moment’s offense, to one of quiet consideration, and dare I say strategizing, or more likely scheming. Yeah I had her. I had her big time.

She asked, “Will I get any time off?”

An orderly equipped with Daphne’s departure papers arrived. I stood up and handed her the light weight jacket Geena had brought in the day before.

I told her, “Free time? Absolutely not! In fact you’ll have to put in for a leave of absence at the bank where you work. It’ll probably be unpaid, and you’ll most likely lose a lot of seniority, you might even get fired, but I guess that’s the price some of us have to pay,” I smiled, “I’ll most likely have you fitted for a uniform, maybe a black and white thing with a stiff and starched peter pan collar and white cuffs,” this was fun, “I might even see that you get one of those cute little French maid outfits.”

She was a little stunned, but smiled at that. Her eyes looked off into the distance, and I knew we were both on the same frequency. She already had a cute little French maid thingy that we played around with from time to time. She’d bought it to wear for me on one of my birthdays. I remember how scrumptious she looked in it; the short flippant little skirt with the frilly petticoats, the translucent lacy capped shoulders, and her pretty pert ribbon cap. The first time she’d worn it she’d trimmed her little puss ... and ... oh that had been such a wondrous ... My mind bounced back to the present ... I had to stop this.

Daphne saw my expression change and she waxed serious, “Will we ... I mean will you have enough money?”

This was good. I planned on cutting back at work. I had shares of stock in my company up the ass, but I told her, “Probably not. We could lose the house, maybe everything.”

She sat there on the bed and I could see she was thinking the whole thing over. Like me I don’t think she thought the house was as important as ... then she remarked, “We’d still have each other.”

I had to rub it in a little, “I’ll keep paying you as long as you earn your keep.” I felt guilty and softened up a little, “Don’t worry I’ll see to it you get a long term no cut contract.”

I guess it was probably a mistake to say that, but it was out there now. OK, I know she betrayed me. I should hate her, but she looked so frail and vulnerable ... I mean love, real love, doesn’t just die.

She got up, “Help me with my coat?”

I stood beside her, “I’d be delighted,” I said.

I held her coat while she slipped into it. Her hair brushed my shoulder; it breezed by my neck and onto my hand. I felt the heat radiate from her body. I smelled her soft fragrance. I saw the back of her neck; I got a glimpse of shoulder. I was a boxer man and I felt myself push through the pee slit and up against the zipper of my pants. I had on a dark pair of jeans so what was happening, thankfully, would probably be a little less noticeable. It felt devastatingly sensitive; I only hoped I didn’t have an involuntary launching. I mean somewhere back there, maybe my pineal gland, I don’t know, my organic Houston was screaming, ‘all systems are go’!

We left the room, dropped off the papers, and we drove home. The kids were all there waiting for us. It looked like the start of something new; a whole different paradigm.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Heterosexual / Fiction / Cheating / Cuckold /