Well here I am again lying on my back staring at the darkened ceiling. Eugenie is lying beside me ... again. This was how it started, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how it ended this way.
Let me back up a little. My wife and I met at one of my cousin’s weddings. I was twenty-four; two years into my career as a public school teacher. Since then I’ve been promoted twice; first from regular math teacher, and then to administrative assistant at one of the high schools in our county. Eugenie was, is, two years older than I am, and at the time we met she was a paralegal in one of the smaller firms in the old city about thirty miles from where I lived.
That afternoon I was sitting by myself at one of the peripheral tables set aside for family. I’d dated a girl all through college, but shortly after she and I graduated we realized things weren’t going to work out. Actually I realized things wouldn’t work out. I thought dating and almost being engaged meant being exclusive; my girlfriend had other ideas. We discussed our differences and parted ways. I have no idea whatever happened to her, but I knew then I wasn’t especially interested in any kind of serious relationship.
That was why I was at the wedding and reception as a solo; I felt this was an opportunity to pick up a little something. The little something I ended up with was Eugenie.
Eugenie was a little something too; she stood just 5’2” and maybe weighed 110lbs sopping wet. She had dark brown eyes and fluffy, but short, brown hair. Did I fall madly in love; not at first, but that afternoon she was exactly what I was looking for.
I think we hit it off pretty well. She started everything by wandering over to my table. She plopped, and I mean plopped, down on an adjacent seat and introduced herself.
I thought she was kind of pretty. For a wedding I thought she was a little underdressed wearing a white blouse, light brown pleated mini-skirt, and brown socks that matched her two inch heels. I could tell there was some kind of chemise or something under the blouse, but considering the way her tiny boobs flopped around I knew there couldn’t be a bra under there. And oh yeah, she was wearing glasses, not contacts.
We talked for a while about the wedding, how beautiful the bride was, how handsome the groom was, and what a beautiful day everything just generally was. It didn’t take me long to realize she was either high on weed or she’d had too much to drink.
The more we talked the more I realized I’d found someone who, like me, wasn’t interested in any kind of long term commitment. Two hours after we met I had her out in my car, a late model Malibu, and we were pounding away. While we were out there I not only found out she wasn’t only not wearing a bra; she didn’t have any panties on either. She’d come ready for bear! I was so excited, and I’ll admit a little drunk too, that I completely forgot about protection.
We exchanged phone numbers and emails, and a little later, after a little more talk, we ambled back in to the reception. Once inside we sort of drifted apart; she shuffled over to her table while I sauntered off to mine. The newlyweds traveled the tables. They wished everyone well, and were gone. I gathered up my things, and took off for home.
All in all it had been a pretty good day. I’d enjoyed a happy wedding, reconnected with a few relatives, and gotten more than I’d planned on in the sex department. The following Monday I went back to work, and completely forgot about Eugenie and our afternoon tryst.
Yeah, I’d forgotten, and so for a while had Eugenie. Then just a little over two months after the wedding I got an email followed by a phone message. Eugenie needed to see me. What for, I wondered?
We met on a Thursday evening after I left school. We got together at a tavern not far from my apartment. Remembering our last get together I was dressed casually. I expected a possible repeat of the reception afternoon. Eugenie showed up shortly after I did. She was still dressed for work in a smartly fitting dark blue dress and a long scarf wrap lung around her neck.
She somewhat casually walked over to the bar where I was sitting and asked if we could find a booth. She had something she needed to say. I ordered another Coors Lite and got her a glass of Pepsi. I should have known then this wasn’t just a social thing.
We found an empty booth and she unloaded on me right away. She said, “I recall your name is Chase, Chase McLendon.”
I replied, “That’s right, and you’re Eugenie Bonheur.”
She smiled, “Nice going. You remembered.”
“I haven’t seen you in a while Eugenie. How have you been?”
“I’m pregnant Chase, and the baby’s yours.”
Thank God I’d taken a dump before I left work. Otherwise I knew I would’ve shit my pants right there. I guess she could tell I was somewhat surprised, because she continued to talk, “I know whoever he or she is they’re yours. We didn’t use any protection. I can’t use the pill, and I was so high I completely forgot about using any spermicide or anything later.”
The last thing I wanted to do was get married, and I absolutely had no interest in marrying some woman who’d fuck a guy after just a two hour conversation at a wedding. I asked her, “You want me to help you get rid of it?”
She got up, “I can see this isn’t going to work,” she flipped her scarf around her neck, turned, and started out the door.
My first reaction was, thank God, but I immediately realized she might know some of my family. What if this got back to them? I got out of my side of the booth and hurried to catch her before she got out door. I got her by the arm, stopped her, and managed to pull her around, “Hey wait a minute.”
She glared at ne, “Wait for what? You made yourself pretty clear.”
I kept my hand on her arm, but with my other hand I tried to steer her back toward the booth, “Not so fast. Come on back. Let’s try to work something out.” With my arm as a rudder I was able to maneuver her back to the booth. We sat back down. I pursed my lips, steepled my fingers, crossed my arms on the table, nervously fidgeted, and finally blurted out, “You’re sure it’s mine?”
She stonily responded, “Positive.”
I asked again, “Abor... ,” I couldn’t say the word, “early removal isn’t an option?”
“You need help?”
“What do you think?”
“OK, what do you want me to do?”
“I still live at home. In a couple weeks I’m going to start to show. I’m going to need some cover.”
I knew what she meant, but I was getting pretty scared, “What do you mean?”
“I’m going to need someone who’ll stand up and say they’re the father.”
“Don’t you have a boyfriend?”
She grimaced, “Would I be here if I had a boyfriend,” she hesitated, “actually yes I do, but he’s black and my parents don’t know and they’d kill me if I brought a black man into their house.”
“So you want me to pretend to be your boyfriend and say the baby’s mine.”
“No, I want you to marry me, then tell my parents you’re my husband, and that the baby’s yours.”
I kept thinking, ‘shot at sunrise’, I’m being shot at sunrise. I replied, “I could tell you just to get up and leave.”
She started to get up again.
“No,” I said, “I don’t mean that.”
She sat back down.
My mind drifted all over the place. She was pregnant. She said it was my kid. She had a black boyfriend. He probably had a fifteen inch dick. We’d get married and he’d be in and out, I thought really in and out all the time. Hell, I didn’t even know her. She didn’t know me either. I told her, “You don’t even know me.”
Eugenie replied, “I asked around. Everyone says you’re OK.”
‘Fuck, ‘ I thought, ‘only OK.’ I told her, “Well what about you? You OK?”
She sighed, “Look I’m not looking for any kind of forever thing. We get married. We stay married until my baby comes. Then we have a fight. We split up, and my baby has a name. My reputation, such as it is, stays clean, and you get to go back to being whatever it is you are.”
I had to ask, “Well is it that you think I are?”
She leafed through this volumous purse she had with her, found a sheet of paper, opened it out and responded, “You’re a high school math teacher. You teach all levels from general math to Calculus. Your family’s well connected in the county, certainly better than mine. You’re on track to become your school’s math department head, and probably in ten or fifteen years you’ll be a principal someplace. You played soccer, volleyball, and lacrosse in college. You belong to the Sunnyvale Sport Club. You like to swim, but don’t golf. You got decent, not great, grades in college. You went to Runny Meade High School right here in this county. You graduated two years behind me. I went to Park Lawn. You’re 5’9”, weight approximately 165lbs., you have blue eyes and sandy colored hair. You have a younger sister and an older brother. You had your appendix out in your junior year of college. And you’re known around the county as something of a tom cat, but apparently none of the girls seem to mind. Tell me did I miss anything?”
“I like dogs.”
She glanced back down at her paper, “Yeah, your dog, a black lab retriever named Maggie, is at your parents.”
I sat back, “All right what about you?”
She leaned forward. I think she thought she had me, “I graduated salutatorian from my high school. Was on the dean’s list at college all four years. I graduated and took some classes and became a paralegal. There’s no market for students with a degree in Russian Literature even though I speak it fluently. I’ve been working downtown at Marcum, Baily, and Steinmetz for the past few years. Counting bonuses I make more money than you, and once I get my law degree I’ll a lot more than you’ll ever make. I’m something of a slut. I like sleeping and keeping company with black men; not because they’re necessarily bigger but because I’m white and French they’re flattered, and that makes them easier to control. If you married me I can’t promise you fidelity, but I’d give it serious thought.”
I had this figured out, “All right suppose I agreed to marry you; there’d have to be some stipulations.”
“I’d need a prenuptial. I mean when we divorced I wouldn’t care about visitation any of that shit, but I’d have to have an iron clad guarantee my money and all my property stayed mine. I’d also want a DNA comparison after the baby is born to guarantee it’s mine. I’ll have to see something from a doctor up front that you’re not carrying anything. You know any STDs. You’d have to move in with me. I’d expect you to take care of things. I’d want you to be available when I needed some relief. You couldn’t bring any of your fuck buddies home. You’d have to pay up. By that I mean we’d split the rent, the utility costs, and anything else that came along.”
She rubbed her chin and replied, “I could agree to all that, but I’d want some things too.”
“Yeah, like what?”
“I’m not into just ‘vanilla sex’. Just like my other guys I’d expect variety with you. At some point I’d have to stop working. I’d need your help for a few weeks. I’d expect you to come to Lamaze classes. I’d want you in the delivery room with me. I might need some help with like exercises or maybe sometimes I might need a massage. I’d reciprocate for the massages,” she put her fingers in her mouth to indicate what she meant, “I’d want your last name on my baby’s birth certificate. If something happened, heaven forbid, and we’d need something from you, say bone marrow or something, I’d expect you to deliver. After he or she arrived I’d expect you to back off. The baby would be mine, not yours. Don’t worry about the money; I’ll pay my share, and about the DNA we can get some amniotic fluid and find out almost right away.”
We shook hands and agreed to meet the next afternoon to start the necessary procedures; those included getting blood tests, planning on how we’d break the news to our parents, get a license, and of course see a lawyer.
I walked out of the tavern feeling a little bit overwhelmed. I guess I had every right to be, but then if things worked the way I figured I’d make out all right. I’d get help with finances, at least in the short term, I’d get a roommate, I’d have a maid, and for a while anyway, though it would be tricky at first, my parents would stop nagging me about a wife and children.
Things went fast after that. We did get the blood tests. She was clean. She never asked about me. We had our wedding at the courthouse, and only told our parents after the deed was done.
My dad was noncommittal. My sister and brother both knew Eugenie, and I’d sure they figured something. My mom was disappointed because she wanted me to have a real wedding, but she took to Eugenie from the first.
Her parents were somewhat less open minded. As it turned out Eugenie was an only child. Her parents were new to the county, at least by my family’s two hundred year standards; they were very wealthy and had high hopes their daughter would marry someone or something better than a public school arithmetic teacher.
Her mother, a German, and a graduate from Gottingen University even said as much, “So,” she said, you teach high school arithmetic.”
I saw Eugenie’s embarrassment and I understood the intended sarcasm perfectly. Though I taught advanced Calculus and Algebra III, I did have one class of general math so I replied, “Yep, teach general math mostly. You know the remedial stuff,” it was a pleasure to watch her gnash her teeth. I thought for a moment she was going to lose a filling.
Eugenie’s father was a little more philosophical, “Well I suppose love knows no societal bounds.”
Frankly, to me the whole thing was half assed a business arrangement, plus I was supposedly doing the many thing. I hardly knew Eugenie, and from what I saw from her parents I figured I probably wouldn’t like her let alone feel any companionship. I had to let these bastards know how I felt so I let it rip, “Hell man love’s got nothing to do with it. I knocked your daughter up so I’m manning up and taking my medicine.”
Eugenie gasped. Her mother took a seat, but her father ... he smiled, reached out his hand, and said, “I like you ... son. Put er there.”
I took his hand and shook. I wasn’t sure; maybe one of them wasn’t half bad. I retreated somewhat, “I didn’t mean it quite the way it sounded. Eugenie and I agreed no matter how we might feel about each other, or how long we might stay together, neither of us wanted to end this pregnancy. There’s a child inside your daughter, and I intend to at least help out at the start.”
Her mother looked at Eugenie, then at me, “Would you like something to drink?”
In deference to Eugenie I answered, “An iced tea would be nice.”
So neither set of parents was overly excited, but at least they agreed to accept the situation. Neither set of parents was in the least interested in meeting the other.
Eugenie was indeed just a little two months along. We back dated and sure enough the afternoon wedding reception was right on target.
The first three months we spent together was interesting to say the least. She had her ‘bloods’, and I had a couple little sweeties too. An informal arrangement was worked out. All calls from partners came only over our cell phones. My land line was reserved for telemarketers, official business, and for parents.
I’d been dating a tall blond named Melanie. She had no interest in marriage, and her discovery of my ‘arrangement’ didn’t bother her in the least. Better, since I went to her house Eugenie never had to meet her.
On the other hand Eugenie had been dating two black guys; one was a Kenyan named Ken, go figure, and the other was an African-American, a tall fellow, no I’ll say gigantic fellow named Muhammad El. Ken was a nice guy, and as soon as we started talking I knew I wouldn’t mind sharing my ‘business associate’ with him at all. Muhammad El was a different story. The first time he showed up at my, now our, apartment I made the mistake of just calling him Muhammad. He threw a fit; he went on and on about his stolen African identity and a lot of other shit I neither cared about nor understood. Hell, I was ethnically Scottish; what’d I do? My guess was he was trying to ‘put me in my place’. Well whatever.
Things were crusty around the apartment for a while. I was ceaselessly reprimanded about things like skid marks, leaving the toilet seat up, not putting my toothbrush away, leaving dishes around the place, and other senseless nonsense. I got on her a little about the constant morning puking, and the inconvenient medical and Lamaze appointments. I guess I was a little cruel. I did go with her when she needed to go to the doctors.
I couldn’t say exactly when things started to change, but change they did. Maybe it was the first time I heard the baby’s heartbeat? Damn, we’d done the amniotic fluid. That was my baby! We both saw the baby for the first time together when they did some kind of sonogram. I was beside her when they did it. Eugenie grabbed my hand.
Sleeping arrangements had been a little ponderous. I’d rented a two bedroom apartment so, though we shared a bathroom, we each had some privacy. Those first months were celibate. I mean I had Melanie, and Eugenie had Ken and Muhammad El, but we kept clear of each other. That changed.
The first evening after that sonogram and after dinner Eugenie started to behave differently. The ‘matter of fact’ tonality changed. She became sweeter, her voice softer. I noticed the flannel shirts disappeared, and different things, feminine things, started appearing later in the evenings. She was still working all day, but after the sonogram she started helping me grade papers. She did the general math class.
Then it happened. One night, I suppose it was about a week after the sonogram just before she retreated into her bedroom she stopped and, while I was watching something stupid on TV, she leaned over and kissed me.
I didn’t know what I was doing. She was leaning over me with this cute little baby doll nightie. I mean it was all ribbons and lace with these short sleeves, little capped shoulders, white buttons up the front, and made of this snow white translucent cotton. Her hair was pulled up and she had ribbons in it. She was so pretty. I’d been told pregnant women had a glow about them. She was glowing that night. She had a tummy, but she wasn’t fat. I did a stupid thing. I pulled her down on my lap. We kissed. It was the first real kiss we’d shared since that afternoon back in June at the reception. The next thing I knew I was carrying her into my bedroom. She had her hands around the back of my neck. She was looking all doe eyed, vulnerable, and just beautiful. It was a Wednesday night.
We lay in my bed, side by side. We kissed and touched, and well ... we both called in sick from work the next morning.
That next morning we stayed in bed until late. I plowed that field a half dozen times, and when I finished she slid down, rested her head on my thigh and started fiddling with me until she got me up again. That last time she made me lie still while she first kissed and then took me in her mouth. She had the softest lips. I watched her. She never looked up at me, but the expression on her face was like she’d found a pot of gold. She was like how I remembered my sister when she was a little girl with her teddy bear; my Johnson was Eugenie’s teddy bear. We spent the whole day just relaxing and kind of languidly lying around. Neither of us said much.
Friday we both went to work like normal, but Friday night I got some more surprises. Eugenie told me she’d turned in her notice. Starting Monday she’d be home all day. That wasn’t the big thing though.
After Eugenie told me she’d taken off till after the baby she added a little more, “Chase I called Ken and Muhammad El today.”
I was surprised since we seldom talked about our outside interests, “Really,” I said.
“Yes, I broke things off. I want to stay home and be with you.”
I was sort of stunned, “Gosh, OK.”
“You going to keep seeing that Melanie?”
I was done for. All my big plans. All the prenuptial stuff, the business deal, the imminent separation and divorce was about to go right out the window. I answered, “We have a date for tomorrow night. I’ll see her and break it off then.”
That’s when Eugenie finished me off, “Chase I’ve fallen in love with you.”
I sighed, “Yeah, I guess that goes both ways.”
The reception had been the first Saturday in June. Eugenie and I had worked out our arrangement and done the courthouse right after Labor Day. The night I carried her into my bedroom had been the Wednesday after Thanksgiving. We talked it over, and decided to bring our parents up to date on Christmas Eve. We set it up to have dinner at our apartment. They all came; my parents, her parents, my brother and sister. They’d all known this marriage wasn’t intended to last; we told them plans had changed. I don’t think anyone believed us. They should have.
We were going to make a go of it. Little Maia Aliya McLendon showed up in March. Eugenie and I agreed we’d use French names for any girls and Scottish names if we had any boys. Eugenie assured me we’d only have girls. When I asked her how she knew she explained that the more sex we had the fewer male sperm there were, and she intended to keep my male sperm count down. She must have known what she was talking about because Lea Marie appeared just two years later. After Sophie Capucine arrived the next year we agreed three misses was enough. Eugenie had her tubes tied. I told I’d get the snip, but she wouldn’t hear it. She was sacred; she said if she died I might need to remarry, and she didn’t want me shooting blanks for any future wives.
So we made three kids. We scrimped and saved. We cut coupons. We watched for all the sales, and we shopped Walmart. I got my department head’s promotion, and two years later I was promoted to administrative assistant. It took all we had, but we found a house with four bedrooms; it was a split foyer fixer upper surrounded by three acres of weeds. I bought a second hand rider, an inexpensive push mower, and a weed whacker. Eugenie bought landscaping ties, tulip, daffodil, crocus, hosta, phlox, fica, and a dozen other different kinds of flowers I’d never heard of. We went to auctions. We visited furniture warehouses and filled the house with the best we could afford. We traded in Eugenie’s Toyota and bought a mini-van. I bought a newer second hand Malibu. We were on our way.
I was the happiest I’d ever been in my whole life, and I knew Eugenie was too. There wasn’t any money, but believe me there was a hell of a lot of love.
Life went on. The kids got older. My brother and sister both got married. My dad died. Then Eugenie’s dad died. Our mom’s grew closer. Then when Sophie turned seven Eugenie aid it was time she went back to work.
We talked it over. She’s kept her credentials up to date, and thanks to the wonders of the Internet she’d even taken a few extra law courses. We agreed, though our girls were most likely the smartest kids in the county, it wouldn’t hurt to start packing some money away for college. We decided that whatever Eugenie made would be used to start three college funds, and then to set a little more aside for those long deferred trips to places like Disney World.
Look, we were happy! Eugenie and I had three beautiful little girls. I’d been brought up a Presbyterian, but Eugenie was a devout Catholic. I became a Catholic, a damn good one too. I took classes. I got reacquainted with God. Our girls all did all the things good Catholic girls were supposed to do. I was a public school teacher, but we sent our girls to the Catholic school. Eugenie and her mom wouldn’t take no for an answer on that, and by then whatever Eugenie wanted Eugenie got. Every morning before I left for work I kissed my three babies goodbye. I have to admit they looked terrific in their precious schoolgirl uniforms.
Eugenie scouted around. Returning to her old job down in the old city fifty miles away was out of the questions. Our county had a pretty populace county seat. There were law firms there. Eugenie found one. She went for an interview and came back with good news. She was able to set her own hours. She’d be able to get our kids off, and leave work early so she could be off in time to pick the girls up.
There was only one down side to the deal. Her new office had sort of an unwritten policy that everyone stop off at the local watering hole for a brief nightcap and get together Friday’s after work. According to Eugenie the whole thing wouldn’t keep her out much later than 6:00 or 6:30 at the latest. Since I got off work at 2:30 I said I could pick up the girls at 3:30 their normal dismissal time. It all made sense.
Eugenie got started in October, and all that fall right through the winter things went just as planned. Oh every now and then she’d get home of a Friday night close to 7:00, but there were some Fridays she got home before 5:00, and on some Fridays she missed the happy hour altogether. Every once in a while one of her bosses asked her to stay for a late settlement or something, but that happened rarely.
Our first real crisis occurred in April of that school year. Maia had just turned twelve and she started to act overtired all the time. We took her to the doctor, he said it was nothing, but she didn’t improve. We decided to by-pass our family doctor and went to a specialist.
What’s a parent’s worst nightmare? Yes. Maia had leukemia. Our whole world came crashing down around us. Our daughter, our oldest girl, the girl who’d brought us together could die. I vaguely remembered the agreement Eugenie and I had worked out what thirteen years before. Now it was my time. I stepped up. First they had to use all kinds of chemicals and shit I never heard of to clear out the cancerous material. Then I took over. They jammed in the needle and pulled out the marrow, the good marrow that would save my daughter’s life.
Guess what? It did. It was a long hard pull, but by the next Christmas it looked like our girl was going to be all right. Were we ever wrong? The God damned cancer came back. It was back to the chemicals, the treatments, the loss of hair, the suffering, the tears at night. The doctors explained it was always harder the second go round. What did we care? This was our girl! We battled through it a second time. This time it worked. Our Maia was really cured. The cancer was defeated!
There was only one small minor detail. Hospitals are rife with bacterial and viral materials. One them is something called MRSA. This MRSA is a bastard. Thank god it wasn’t Maia who got it; it was me! Man I was down for the count. The experts explained that since I’d given up my marrow my immune system was undermined, and that was what made me susceptible. As long as Maia was safe I didn’t care. They went to work on me. I’d never heard of so many different kinds of antibiotics. I had enough sick days to be able to miss a whole year’s work so that wasn’t a problem. I lost the sick time, but my salary kept coming in untouched. The problem was when I went back there was no guarantee I’d be back at my old school.
So I was out. Maia was out, and the other two were in shock. My mom, being a widow and living alone moved in with us. Eugenie was able to keep her job, and now with my mom home she was able to work full time. The school system’s health care was dynamite. We had some prescriptions costs, but the big bills flew right over our heads. We saw them of course. Talk about scary!
All told it took nearly two years to get back on track. I lost a lot of time, and ended up at a school close to thirty miles away. It was a good school, all our county schools are good, but it would put a crimp on other things. Maia missed a lot of time and ended up being held back one year. There wasn’t anything we could do about that. Hell we were all just glad we were all still together.
I’ll say one thing; it took a toll on Eugenie. She’d aged in those two years. How she did it I’ll never know, but she was always there for us. I mean always.
Well we were off again. Maia was thirteen, Lea ten, and Sophie was nine. I had my old job back, at a different place, but I could make new friends and build a new reputation. My mom was with us during the day to help out with the kids, and Eugenie had become an important fixture at her law firm. Things were good again. At least they were for a while.
They tell me a man can sense it; sense it when something’s not right with his wife. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but long about the end of fall, sometime after Thanksgiving of our fourteenth year of marriage I began to feel, feel in my bones, something just wasn’t quite right.
Eugenie was her old self in most ways, but there seemed to be other things. For one the Friday night good time hour at her work was running a little later than it used to. Now instead of the 6:00 6:30 get home it was closer to 7:00, 7:30 and sometimes even 8:00 get home. There were more late afternoon and evenings during the regular week. Wednesday’s seemed to be a biggie at her office. When I asked her about it she blew me off. She said the firm was growing with the county, and they needed her more and more for late afternoon and evening settlements.
I noticed a modest but real change in her wardrobe. The heels were a little higher, the hems a little shorter, the makeup a little heavier, and the blouses seemed just a tad more translucent. I especially noticed she spent more time getting ready for work on Wednesdays and Fridays.
I guess none of that seriously bothered me but sometime around Christmas her tone, her tone toward the children, but particularly toward me got a little rougher. Something was wrong.
Each of our work places had their Christmas parties. Ours, being a school, was usually right after work. They usually only lasted an hour or two since there were always several mothers who had to get home to their families. Eugenie’s office parties were always bigger affairs, and this year’s party was no exception. Her bosses had set it up at the country club.
Eugenie and I both belonged to a club, but it was mostly a sports club. They had a pool, a gym, tennis and squash courts, and a small dance area with a pay bar. The country club Eugenie’s bosses belonged to was a more exclusive affair. It had a full restaurant that was open to the public year round. They had a casual bistro, a large dance area, a huge what I’d call a settlement room with several dozen couches and easy chairs, and of course on certain nights there was an open bar.
They’d set it up for a Friday night two weeks before Christmas. Other club members would be there, but a large section of tables was set aside for her law firm. I always enjoyed her firm’s arties. I liked the people. Some of the older lawyers were there more in an advisory capacity, and their wives were some of the most interesting and entertaining people I’d ever met. I was looking forward to going.
The night of the big party came. I slipped into my dark grey pinstriped suit. Eugenie had bought a new black dress that to me was the cat’s meow. Her hair was up, her makeup was perfect, and she was terrific! We got there right on time and settled in. Eugenie and I got to sit near the Capezios; this was an older couple. I especially like Bernice Capezio. She was a regular at our church; just someone people liked to be around.
Between the food, the dancing, and the conviviality I had a terrific time. Well I had a terrific time for the most part. Like I said there were other club members there in addition to the law firm. I wouldn’t say the place was packed, but it was well attended. There was one man there I noticed. He was one of the town’s dentists, or dental surgeon as I heard he liked to be referred to.
I was thirty-nine. I guessed the dentist was a maybe seven or eight years older. I knew he had one of the big mansions north of town. I’d heard he’d been married a couple times but had no children. I had to admit he was an eye catching fellow. He was easily six maybe seven inches taller than me. He had a football players build, and that shock of blond hair and those icy blue eyes I’m sure had landed him more than his share of babes in his younger days.
My wife was something of an unofficial office hostess so it was partly her responsibility to circulate and make sure everybody was having a good time. As the night wore on I spent more time with Mrs. Capezio just talking about this and that. My wife was gone most of the time, but she’d stop back over every once in an awhile to check up on things.
I was really proud of her. I loved her so much, but I couldn’t help but notice that no matter where she was the dentist was always close by. I asked Mrs. Capezio if she knew the man.
Mrs. Capezio in a gravelly voice I didn’t know at the tame was an indication of cancer of larynx told me his name was Vincent Gilchrist that he’d gone through two wives, and had something of a reputation as what she called a lothario and he’d been at the core of more than one break up in the county. I listened to Mrs. Capezio, I watched my wife, and I watched Gilchrist. I couldn’t help I started to have this sinking feeling. My stomach started to know up.
I was careful, but I kept a watchful eye on things. My wife and this Gilchrist weren’t just acquaintances. The eye contact was too subtle, there were too many nonverbal messages. I wondered. I started to worry. I was sure of my wife; I just wasn’t sure of the old hound dog.
On the way home that night I asked a few what I considered pretty innocent questions. I started, “Wasn’t that one guy the dentist Vincent Gilchrist?”
Eugenie grunted, “He’s a dental surgeon.”
“Oh,” I said, do you see him much?”
She rolled her eyes at me, “Why do you ask that?”
I replied, “Oh I don’t know. He seemed to be hanging around you a lot, that’s all.”
“He stops in the office sometimes.”
“A dentist, I mean dental surgeon, hanging out at a lawyer’s. Does he have many, you know, lawsuits?”
My wife shifted her weight around, “He good friends with two of my bosses.”
That surprised me because I didn’t see him once, not once, come over and visit with any of the lawyers. I told her, “He never came over and saw any of the lawyers.”
She was quick and brusque, “He didn’t want to spoil our party.”
That didn’t make one iota of sense to me, and I told her, “That’s doesn’t make any sense. My guess is if they’re friends they’d want him to stop over.”
She looked out the window into the darkness, “That’s what you know.”
I knew I’d been dismissed. She’d been doing a lot that lately. We drove home the rest of the way in silence; something we seldom used to do.
When we got home my mom was asleep on the sofa in the living room. I went over and pushed the blanket up more tightly around her. She didn’t stir. I went back to Eugenie and went to put my arms around her. I knew neither of us had drunk very much so with the kids asleep, and just being the two of us on a Friday night this could be an opportunity for some affection.
As I put my arms around my wife she backed away, “Get your mother up and take her home.”
“Gee Eugenie,” I pleaded, “she’s sound asleep. This is a chance for...”
She cut me off, “I’m tired. I need to get some sleep. I have a busy day tomorrow.”
This was news to me. Ignored her, “Come on sweetie we haven’t been together in weeks,” and we hadn’t.
She started up the steps, “Get your mother home. I’m going to bed. I have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow.”
I was pissed, “I know I heard you the first time,” I followed her up the stairs, “I’m letting my mother sleep, and I want some nookie.”
Eugenie turned almost knocking me down the steps, “Use your hand,” then she spun back around and trounced on upstairs.
Well I wasn’t using my hand, but I thought about some things. For one she’d been a hell of a lot less affectionate lately, and every time I’d tried to get near her there’d been some excuse. I understood she was full time, I was traveling a much greater distance, and there’d been some money issues recently.
The house wasn’t new when we bought it. Lately we’d had to have new siding and a new roof put on. We were on a well and the drain field had clogged up to the tune of $5,000.00. We’d never had a lot of money, and these things, plus the heat pump, the new dishwasher, and the refrigerator we’d had to replace had all put a burden on our finances.
Hell, I’d signed up to teach a night course starting next semester at the community college. I knew that would help.
Still I couldn’t get Gilchrist out of my head. There was something going on. I was sure of it.
WE got through the holidays. Christmas was a blast. New Years was spent at my brothers. That wasn’t so good. Eugenie wanted to go to the lawyer’s country club. She said we’d been invited, but she never said who. School started back up, and, excepting for a couple snow days, things went back to normal, at least as normal as they’d been just before Christmas.
I knew something was wrong. Eugenie was different. She was away too much. She’d started disappearing some Saturday afternoons. I knew it was time to do something. I called my brother.
My brother was a mason. I don’t mean the kind that gets together and talks. No he’s a mason. He works in marble, and slate, and cement. January and February are always bad months for him. It’s too cold for a lot of what he does. He and I got together, and I told him what I was worried about. He told me he had some time. He said he’d keep an eye out.