Peter, Prue
Chapter 1

Caution: This Drama Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Drunk/Drugged, Reluctant, Romantic, Heterosexual, Fiction, Cheating, Anal Sex, Masturbation, Oral Sex,

Desc: Drama Sex Story: Chapter 1 - A comical tragedy of misunderstandings, involving young and stupid lovers, a spiteful friend, an old goat and a womanizing boss.

She didn’t move.

She was the quiet eye of a swirling storm. The low afternoon sun diffused her slim silhouette, creating a halo around her hair. She wore a dark business jacket over a tight skirt that left her knees and calves free to run all the way down to her heeled pumps. The sun made elongated shadows run away from her feet; they seemed to extend her legs, making them look endless. One knee was locked, pushing her calf out; the other bent slightly forward.

Standing at the corner of two intersecting streets, she was like a statue. Traffic roared by, but it didn’t affect her. She stood motionless, holding a cell phone, staring at its display while the world passed her by.

He didn’t move either.

He stood at the center of a hallway, oblivious to the multitude of people streaming past and around him. Colleagues hurried by to get home, tugging at their coats, swinging their briefcases. They wished each other great weekends – and tried to avoid the frozen figure obstructing their way out.

The low afternoon sun slanted through floor-to-ceiling windows. The hallway was deserted now, but he still stood there in his dark blue suit. A raincoat hung over his arm – his hand held a phone. One last girl hurried past, wishing him nice days.

He didn’t respond; he just stared at the display.

Prue Gascoyne Hawkins was 24 years old. Her skin still had the glow of youth, like the fresh, blushing tan of a day at the beach. It was two years now since Prudence Felicity Gascoyne added the name Hawkins to her own. It happened in a small chapel. Family and friends watched her do it, a priest too, but most of all Peter Hawkins, 24 then.

He’d been her fiancé since college.

His vows happened to mirror hers. They were about ‘forever’ and ‘death do us part.’ But death was still too far away to have meaning for them. And forever was vague enough to live with. ‘Forsaking others’ seemed ridiculous: they were still so besotted with their new love that there wasn’t even a concept of ‘others’ in their minds.

That was two years ago.

Now there were these few hastily typed words on her cellphone. “He cheats,” they read. And they made her world come to a screeching halt.

Peter Hawkins was 25, almost 26. He had the dark, unruly hair women love to touch. He also had clear blue eyes under thick eyebrows, an eternal tan and the stubble of fashionable rebellion. Peter knew he was on his way to become a great architect; it was just a matter of time for the rest of the world to agree, he was sure – even his father in law.

Peter loved his wife Prue.

Most of all: he knew she loved him. She’d been The Prize at university – cute, clever and popular. Falling in love with her had been a thrilling rollercoaster of feelings he’d been too pre-occupied to analyze. Peter wasn’t a great analyzer of feelings anyway, like most men. Assured of her love, he basked in a sense of certainty, a warm bath of comfort.

Peter never knew that love is the eternal antagonist of comfort.

And now there were these two little words on his cell phone’s screen, clawing at the foundations of his cozy life: “She cheats.”

Reality kicked in and Prue Gascoyne Hawkins returned to life.

First thing she moved was her head, shaking it left and right – like waking up. Her hand rose as she dropped the phone in her purse. Finally taking a step, she scattered the halo of diffuse sunlight around her.

She wasn’t aware of anything, seeing nothing, hearing nothing.

“He cheats,” her brain said, copying the message. “He” was who – Peter? Who else? And about what did he cheat? What secret could he hide? Who sent the message anyway? And why?

Peter Hawkins started moving too.

He closed his phone and put it away. Looking around he noticed the empty hall. He walked to the exit, nodding at the security guard without really seeing him.

Stepping into the slanting sunlight he blinked his eyes.

“She cheats?” he thought. About what? What secret could she have? He had none, did she? He planned on surprising her on their anniversary; that was a secret of sorts, maybe. But it was still months away – he didn’t even know yet what the surprise would be.

He shook his head and walked to the subway.

“Hi darling, how was your day?”

She hugged him as always – no, not like always. There was a hesitation, ever so tiny, he thought. She was an all-out hugger, always had been – arms and breasts and belly; warm, soft and intense. He loved her for that.

But now there was tension; not much, not obvious, but there was.

“Same old,” he said. “Glad it’s Friday.”

The words sounded like always, didn’t they? But it had taken him a conscious effort to make them sound that way. Why was that? And did she notice? Was that why she blinked and looked away? Her smile was there – her usual smile, causing dimples and showing off her white teeth.

And yet...

“What about yours?” he asked as he let go of her.

“Nothing special,” she said, already turning away.

He wanted to reach out and stop her, but he didn’t.

The hot water fell like a curtain.

He put his head under it, feeling the stream hit his brow and run over his closed eyes. “She cheats.” What the fuck did it mean? Did it mean anything? There was no name, no number, just the two words. Should he ask her? Yes, he should. But why had she been so nervous? Had she been nervous? Or had he?


Prue heard the shower go.

She might be naïve, spoilt or even shallow. But she wasn’t stupid. She knew the cheating wouldn’t be about mere little secrets from the past. Not things like old lovers, or a lie about his education or his career.

“He cheats,” the message said and she knew it was cheating now and on her.

But Prue was brought up in a home where bad news wasn’t welcome. Pretending everything was fine was the rule until reality left no way out anymore.

So she shook her curls and went looking for a smile.

He dried his hair and body.

Then he put on shorts and a t-shirt. Walking from their bedroom he saw her sit at the kitchen bar, sipping white wine. She still wore her blouse and skirt, but had kicked off her heels. Stocking-clad toes curled around the metal bar between the legs of her stool. There was a second glass on the counter, red wine – as usual. He approached her from behind, wrapping his arms around her.

She stiffened, if only for a second – a fraction of a second.

He smelled the scent of her hair. Then he let go of her and lifted his glass, standing at the corner of the console. As he sipped he saw her watch him. When he looked back, her eyes escaped. He should ask. He should, but could he? “She cheats.” What does it mean?

Ask her.

Seconds passed and she beat him to it.

“Kuric wants to have a talk with me, Monday,” she said, finding safety in the banality of work. He tried to hold her fleeting eyes. Kuric? Her boss, almost forty, tall, dark, very successful – hero of quite a few of her stories.

“Oh, does he? What about?”

“Don’t know. Maybe the new project. Maybe they want me to coordinate it?”

Look at me! he screamed in the privacy of his mind.

“Wow,” he said instead. “That would be something.”

“Nothing special,” she’d said when he’d asked about her day. Wasn’t this special? Peter’s mind ran down the stairs of his memory, stopping at each moment he’d seen the two of them together, Kuric and she; their looks, their interaction – each word he recalled her saying about him. She admired the man, she laughed at his jokes.

He remembered her touching the man’s forearm, once.

Stop this!

Prue let her slim finger run around the rim of her glass, finding another excuse to not look at her husband. The growing awkwardness seemed to strangle her throat, making her words sound forced.

“Yes, wouldn’t it?” she said. “Just two years and already doing a project. Scary!”

She laughed – or tried to. Looking up she saw a smile touch his lips but it never reached his eyes – the clear blue eyes were dark now. “He cheats on me,” she thought. He doesn’t care. He stopped caring. He doesn’t love me anymore.

Did he ever?

Stop this!

“Did you see Karen today?” she asked.

Karen Samuelson was tall, blond with blue eyes. She had great taste, great tits too. She was an award winning architect, and Pete’s boss. Did his eyes shift at her question? Did hers?

“No, why?” he asked, and she knew her question had been silly – and obvious. Damn.

“Oh, nothing,” she said, sliding off the stool. “Let’s start dinner.”

They ate.

Peter remembered the lasagna Prue made was special. It wasn’t lasagna really, but a dish made of layered vegetables, sliced very, very thin, almost translucent – zucchini and tomatoes, onions, garlic and crumbled goat cheese, grilled in the oven. Lots of virgin oil. What did they call it again in Italy?

It tasted like cardboard.

“Mmmm,” he said. “Delicious. What’s it called again?”

She looked up, smiling.

Tian,” she said.

“Damn, those Italians know their food,” he said.

“It’s French, remember?” she corrected. “Provence.”

He shrugged, taking another bite and chewing. The food had no taste to him; so did the wine.

Prue watched him eat while she sent her fork aimlessly through the delicious ingredients on her plate. Pete shoved it into his mouth by the forkful, she saw, but did he really even chew before swallowing?

Tian had been their fond discovery, like so many other exotic little dishes. Good food was important to them, just like traveling, finding new places together, exploring exotic things.

He is lying, she thought, finishing her third glass of wine. She never drank more than two. He lies about finding it delicious. Has he always been lying?

About everything?

Stop this!

She reached for the bottle. His hand checked hers. She felt a sting of irritation.

“What’s wrong, Prue?” he asked.

Of course that was the question. It had been simmering inside him all evening. It had blocked his throat, obsessing his mind. Not necessarily in these exact words _– there had been terms like damn and fuck in earlier versions – but watching her reach for a fourth drink had pushed it out.

What was wrong with her, with them?

She cheats.

Her eyes blinked. She blushed. Then she pushed away his hand and got hold of the bottle.

“Nothing,” she said, spilling wine as she poured.

He left the table, his plate half-empty.

Their apartment wasn’t big, but he did have his own room. It held his computer, his books and some knick-knacks – photographs, souvenirs, trophies. And his collection of car-models. They were all of British cars and none older than 1970. It was his dream to have one for real – a convertible Austin Healy.

But right now he didn’t dream. Or did he? It was a nightmare, more likely – a daymare.

He sat down, rubbing his temples.

Prue had not tried to stop him when he left the table. Why did she drink so much? She’s nervous. Of course she is; she cheats on you. But why nervous now – all of a sudden? She sure must have been cheating for a while. Of course she must have. So why act different now? Or didn’t he look – didn’t he notice before?

He shook his head to clear it.

Think! So she cheats. Who says so? The phone says so. Who’s the phone? Damn phone. Could be anyone – any crazy asshole. The name Kuric crept in. Fuck off, Kuric.

Why can’t she just say what’s wrong?

He rose and took a narrow carton box from a shelf. “Laphroaig” it said. There was an oval, etch-like picture on it and the number 10. The bottle he pulled from it was half empty – half full? He found a glass and blew the dust out off it before pouring a finger width of the amber fluid.

The whisky smelled of burning peat. It tasted like medicine.

Prue pressed her empty glass against her brow.

Through the buzz of four glasses of wine she tried to think. What was happening to them? What happened anyway? Three hours ago everything was fine; and all that happened in between was this one silly anonymous message.

He cheats.

No name, no proof, no specification, and yet: everything seemed different. Peter acted weird, didn’t he? Shushpicioush – not a word to say out loud after four wines.

He‘d asked her what was wrong, goddammit. He cheated and then he asked her?

What was wrong with him?

She put down the glass and rose, grabbing the edge of the table – their lovely, lovely blond oak table, handmade by this sweet, sweet old man. “A table to last a lifetime,” he’d said. “And of your children and grandchildren.”

Ah, well.

Her legs felt weak as she rose. She stumbled. Then her head cleared. Walking over to the closed door of his room she felt her bare feet sink in the thick Berber rug that covered part of their shining parquet floor. Grey oak planks; God had they been expensive.

She rested her hot face against the door’s panel, her hand in a fist, ready to knock.

“Peter,” she said. “Pete, please.”

The whisky wasn’t medicine.

It burned his throat, but it was as tasteless as the food and the wine. It didn’t clear his mind or cloud it, it did nothing; not even make his knotted muscles relax.


He heard her voice, her cheating voice. Please, it said.

Was he a fool? He must be, either way. It was a lose-lose situation, wasn’t it? Either he was a clueless cuckold, or he was played like a puppet by an anonymous liar.

Point was: how could he be sure?

Then it dawned on Peter Hawkins. He had to choose and the choice was easy, really, wasn’t it? The choice was either to believe a total and anonymous stranger, or the love of his life – the woman he’d shared the last four years with, made plans with, slept with, laughed and cried with. The woman he loved more than himself.

Even acting like she did: strangely – suspiciously.

He rose and walked to the door. Opening it he caught the body that leaned into it, falling into his arms when the door gave in – the soft familiar body that fit so well in his embrace. He kissed her crying face, tasting the salty tears.

“Ssssh,” he said. “Shhhhhh,” as much to himself as to her.

“I’m drunk,” she said.

“So am I,” he admitted.

They swayed in each other’s embrace, not quite knowing what to do after her flood of tears stopped.

“You asked what was wrong with me,” she went on.

“Yes, I did,” he agreed.

Her eyes were on him now – steady but bloodshot. Her nose looked pink, as did the rims of her eyes. It made her seem very young.

“I wonder what’s wrong with you,” she said. Her lips closed into a thin line after she delivered the words.

“Nothing,” he said, not realizing it was what she’d said to him after exactly the same question.

The tears obviously hadn’t washed away the checkmate – nor had the embrace helped much. She stepped back.

“Look at us, Peter,” she then said. “Is this nothing? What’s happening to us?”

“Let’s go to bed,” he offered. “Or I’ll say stupid things, do stupid things. I’m upset and drunk; so are you.”

“Where are you going?”

Peter had taken his pillow and a blanket.

“I’ll sleep on the couch,” he said. He stood in the doorway of their bedroom.


Prue took three steps forward, her hand reaching out for the pillow. Her eyes were wide with panic.

“Don’t,” she went on, almost whispering. Her fingers touched his hand that held the blanket. “We vowed we would never do this. Never sleep apart!”

He shrugged. She pulled at his shoulders.

They lay in the dark. A faint light seeped past the curtains, washing the ceiling with a ghostly gray.

Prue’s thoughts ran in perfect circles.

He cheats – I should tell him I know, but I can’t – he acts weird, but I have no proof – should I confront him? – no, I can’t, he’ll deny it – he’ll laugh and make me feel silly – what can I say if he denies?

I should tell him, but I can’t...

Peter’s thoughts were an equal mess.

There was no sequence to them, no logic. They just ran around and around, making him dizzy. He stared at the ceiling, feeling the mattress press against his back. Should he accuse her? Throw it all into the open? Would she admit? What if she denied? What if she was innocent? She’d be hurt. Could he hurt her? She might throw him out.

Everything would be lost – for nothing.

Prue’s fingers crawled over the cool, empty space between them. They found his arm. He didn’t withdraw.


He gave no response. She rose to rest on her elbow, peering into the darkness.


He groaned as if half asleep.

“This afternoon I had this, this text message,” she said. “On my cellphone.”

More silence, a distant dog barked.

“It said that you are cheating.”

“Me?” he exclaimed, sliding away from her as he sat up. “Me cheating? But this is...”

An entirely new set of thoughts invaded his brain, deepening his confusion even more. Then a pinpoint of light plowed its way through the murky mess. A rusty camera seemed to slowly pan from a claustrophobic certainty to a new, panoramic view of kaleidoscopic possibilities. He’d thought she cheated on him and all the while she supposed...

It might explain her weird actions. But was it true?

The Peter Hawkins of old would not have doubted the truth of what his wife said. Now he did, and it didn’t even startle him that he did. If she cheated on him and suspected he knew, wouldn’t it be very effective to turn things around and accuse him, confusing the issue?

But how would she know about the message he got?

And anyway, could she be doing a sly thing like that? His Prue?

He looked down on her gray silhouette, trying to discern the expression on her face. Grabbing behind him, he lit the small bed lamp. The pupils of her eyes retracted with the light.

She looked pale.

“And you believe it,” he said. “You believe that message.” There was no question mark. She winced.

“I don’t know what to think,” she whispered.

“I am Peter you know,” he said. “Your husband, remember?” She just blinked. A quiet fury started to build at the back of his mind.

“This hurts me,” he went on, hating the whine in his voice. “Someone, anyone texts you, and you believe it.” He turned away from her. “Who sent the text?” he asked.

She kept silent until he looked at her again.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It was anonymous.” Her hand was on his knee. “And I didn’t believe it.”

Didn’t, she said, he thought. Didn’t, not don’t.

So Prue got the same message – a text about him cheating, while he got a message about her cheating. Only half a day ago he might have seen the oddity of it, and suspected the whole thing to be some sort of manipulation, a sick joke or whatever. Right now he still saw the manipulation, but too many weird things had happened for him to not suspect Prue’s hand in it – or at least her knowledge.

She was trying to turn the tables.

The fingers on his bare skin brought him back to reality. He pushed them away, ignoring her gasp. He slid off the bed, grabbing his pillow.

“Please, Pete, don’t.”

He walked to the door, opened and closed it. The couch was cold and narrow.

Lying alone on a dark, abandoned bed is a guaranteed shortcut to troubled thoughts – especially when you have no idea what’s happening, and haven’t had for the last five hours.

Prue stared into the murky grayness that returned to the room after Peter turned off the light before leaving. The click of the bedroom door seemed to have a self-sustaining echo; it kept punctuating her jumbled thoughts.

Why did he leave?

Why now after she told him about the message? She did tell him she didn’t believe it, didn’t she? She’d been clear about it. So why run? Did he doubt her?


Prue pondered what happened since they came home. His half-hearted embrace, his looking away, the forced conversation and his lack of appetite. His leaving the table, drinking whisky and getting the sudden idea of sleeping on the couch. Her eyes burned with tears.

The ceiling gave no answers.

Lying on cold leather cushions and under an inadequate blanket is no way to find peace of mind, let alone sleep.

Peter hardly understood what happened or why.

Prue had told him about her message; why hadn’t he told her about his? He wondered at his suspicious thoughts – how deep they ran and where they came from.

Prue had acted odd all evening, right from her reserved welcome through their forced conversation and her four damn glasses of wine. She never looked him in the eyes, did she? Why? And why not say ‘I don’t believe it?’ Was he seeing ghosts?

Why had things become so damn complicated?

He must have fallen asleep.

Looking up from the sticky leather he saw Prue walk into the living room. She carried two mugs, one in each hand. She was completely dressed, but looking a mess – eyes bleary, hair in a sloppy bun, no make up.

“Coffee,” she said forcing her lips into a smile.

Peter sat up, knowing he looked even worse – sure feeling awful. His skull seemed stuffed with cotton, his eyes burned. He accepted the mug, mumbling thanks. Prue sat down in the club chair across from the couch.

“What are we doing, Pete?” she asked. “What’s going on?”

He sipped the scalding liquid, black with a pinch of sugar. It tightened his throat on its way down. He felt an urge to tell her about his text message, but he didn’t. If his suspicions were right, she already knew, didn’t she? It might help to keep her in the dark. He sure needed every advantage he could grasp, didn’t he?

Yesterday Peter would have been appalled at his sneakiness.

But, well, today was today. Ah, damn it all – yesterday’s Peter was a naïve sucker anyway. Sipping his coffee, supposing it cleared his thoughts, Peter Hawkins told himself that at last he saw through it all – the phony messages, the justified suspicions, the first outlines of truth.

“I guess you know what’s going on, Prue,” he said, amazed at his deep, gravely voice.

Prue’s eyes widened. Cold fingers touched her heart. Was he going to confess?

“What do you mean?” she asked. “I know nothing. I don’t even know why we are sitting here like we do; like strangers.”

She put down her mug and leant forward. Her robe opened, showing the white t-shirt she’d slept in.

“I told you,” she went on, agitated. “I told you how I got this damn anonymous slander message that I never believed anyway. It is silly: I know you’d never cheat on me. I told you. And when I did, you got up and left me alone? You’ve never ever done that before. What should I think? I didn’t sleep a wink from worrying. I worry, Pete, about us, you and me. Something’s changed. I’m scared!”

She grabbed the lapels of her robe, closing it tight around her chest.

Her eyes shone with tears.

Peter sat up straight.

His head felt as if caught in a cloud of steam. Seeing her cry hurt him; hearing her despair cut into him. Every fiber in her body screamed to be held. And yet he just sat and didn’t move.

Prue was desperate.

She’d never felt more alone – abandoned, betrayed. How could he just sit there and not hug her, comfort her, cry with her? He really must have stopped caring for her. Who was that man sitting there, where had her Peter gone?

“Hold me,” she whispered. “Please hold me and tell me everything is right.”

Peter stared.

He knew he should rise, take the two small steps and hold her. Why couldn’t he? He felt tears run down his glowing face, his hands clawed into the seat he sat on and he was sure it was his throat that produced the low moaning sound.

His body wanted to be with her, hug her and comfort her, but his mind was a convolution of conflicting thoughts, rolling and roiling. There was the cell phone text, there were the images of her with Kuric, there was the hesitation of her embrace, and there was a sickening pageant of Prue flirting, Prue dressing sexy, Prue being drunk and silly – Prue coming hard and loud.

Everything that had been dear to him up till now seemed tainted. And the horrifying thing was, he knew it was all about him: his unfounded thoughts, his silly suspicions. They were all based on nothing, weren’t they? Almost nothing, and yet, they turned him into a statue.

“I ... I can’t,” he said at last, turning away from her. “Give me time, leave me alone.”

Peter Hawkins sat on the windy terrace of a seaside bar.

All chairs were empty, quite a few blown over by the gushing winds. He knew his coffee on the table would be cold by now. But he wasn’t here for coffee.

Staring out over the gray sea with its long, lazy rollers running out onto the empty beach, he murmured wordless curses. Why, he thought, why had everything he held dear turned to shit in only one day? How could it? Was his love for Prue so shallow or his confidence in her so weak that just one anonymous message could make him doubt her in a matter of hours?


When she told him about her message he should have told her about his. But he hadn’t. Why was that? It might have cleared the air between them. Maybe he didn’t want the air cleared? He shook inside his raincoat. Crazy thought; of course he wanted the air cleared.

But he knew that wasn’t true.

He’d held his information back because he didn’t trust her. How could he suddenly not trust her anymore? Because of one crazy anonymous message? The mere thought flushed his mind with guilt.

What was wrong with him?

Prue stared at her phone – damn phone.

She’d wanted to call her best friend Julia to share her desperation with when she saw she had a new text message. Seeing the announcement filled her with fear. Maybe it was nothing – something totally unrelated. Spam, even. Or maybe, maybe it was from Peter, telling her he changed his mind and please, please...

But she knew it wasn’t. There was no name.

It would be from the anonymous freak, and she should ignore it. Her thumb hovered and she knew she would press the button even if her mind was adamantly against it.

“He is seeing her right now.”

No. Nooooo.

Prue dropped the cell phone as if it were a hot piece of iron. It bounced off the couch where she’d stayed to after Peter left. She wrapped her arms around her legs and rocked slowly back and forth.

It was all a lie, of course it was.

Just someone playing a cruel game. Someone hating her. Who hated her enough to do this? No one, for sure. She’d been everybody’s darling all of her life. No one hated Prue. No one. So why?

And why was he succeeding? Or she?

The cell phone lay on the carpet, the message still there. “Right now,” it said. Peter hadn’t showered before he left. He’d just put on his used clothes and a raincoat. No bag, no extra clothes.

Where did he go?

She’d begged him not to leave, of course. But she’d never left her seat. The last thing she heard was his car, roaring into the quiet Saturday morning. Then there was nothing but the ticking of the big station hall clock they’d found on this little market two towns over.

She crawled into the corner of the couch that was still warm from his body, wrapping herself into his blanket – staring, thinking.

She’d stopped crying.

Julia Connors was her best friend since college. She’d shared all her highs and lows with her, and her calamities – all just minor things of course, in the sheltered cocoon of her privileged life. Nothing like this, Prue thought.

Nothing as hurtful and confusing like this ever happened.

She reached down for the phone, clicking the message away to speed dial her friend. The signal kept buzzing. Julia’s familiar voice asked her to speak a voice mail message. She didn’t.

She sighed. It turned into a dry sob.

After a few minutes the phone rang. Dear God, no new texts. Julia’s name popped up; Prue pressed the button.

“Hi Pruts,” a tinny voice said. Pruts was a nickname only Julia used. “You called me.”

Hearing the voice caused Prue’s throat to clog with new tears.

“Jules,” she said. “Oh God, Jules, everything is so awful!”

“Damn, man, too cold out here. Let’s get inside.”

Gus Rennick had the kind of big frame that easily attracts fat after you turn 30 and don’t work out enough to keep it away. Gus didn’t work out a lot and he liked beer.

His hair got thinner too.

He’d been friends with Peter ever since they’d been selected for their high school football team. They stayed friends after Peter hurt his knee and Gus lost interest, which was the next year.

They didn’t lose touch when Peter went away to become an architect and Gus got to work for his father’s construction business.

Inside they found a table in a warm corner. Peter kept his coat on, however.

“You look like shit,” Gus said after sitting down with a sigh that was echoed by his chair. Peter didn’t answer.

“What’s going on, man?”

“Prue,” Peter said. “I think she’s cheating on me.”

Gus stretched his body, making the chair protest louder.

“You’re kidding,” he said.

It’s what you say when you don’t know what to say, which was often the case with Gus – especially around the slippery slopes of relational trouble.

Gus was an honest man, as honest as they come.

His mind was honest, and so were his morals and his imagination. Like many men he believed that keeping things simple was a virtue in itself. And like just as many men he was convinced that life got unnecessarily complicated once women started to meddle with it.

Duplicity was an alien concept to Gus.

That didn’t mean he was easily fooled. He developed what honest men do when they are betrayed once too often: he distrusted anyone he didn’t consider as honest as himself.

Most of those were women.

The problem with Gus, as he got older, was that he started to trust his distrust. So, although he said Peter must be kidding, he was inclined to believe him.

Gus was a divorced father, seeing his little boy every second weekend. He never understood why his wife wanted out. He was convinced he’d never marry again, ever.

“What happened?” he asked, not sure things would improve by him knowing.

Peter shrugged. “Someone told me.”

Gus kept staring at him, obviously waiting for more.

“And?” he asked, eyebrows rising.

Right then the waitress brought two more cups of poor coffee.

Julia Connors arrived within half an hour.

She sat in the overstuffed club chair Peter had found in a little shop downtown. Her pale blue skinny jeans had fashionable holes at the knees; her sweater was beige and baggy. She looked good in a tired way, blond hair in a tail, no make up.

“So tell me,” she said. “Where’s the fire?”

Her smile was as tired as her eyes.

Prue was still in her robe and on the couch, legs folded under her. She’d made tea while Julia was on her way. It was still too hot to drink.

“Pete cheats on me,” she said.

Noooooooo,” Julia exclaimed, her red fingernails finding the circle of her mouth.


The word ended with a dry sob.

Julia rose from her chair and sat next to Prue, holding her.

“Oh my, poor girl,” she cooed. “Pete? Your Pete? Are you sure? With whom?”

Prue crouched into the hug, letting the warmth of her friend’s body seep into hers. God, she needed this.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Did you see them together? How did you find out?”

Maybe for the first time since yesterday Prue realized how little she actually knew.

“I got a text,” she said, shrugging. It sounded rather lame now, even to her. “It said: he cheats.”

“Who sent it?”

“No name, no number.”

“That’s all? An anonymous text?”

“I got another one this morning, after Pete left. It said “he is seeing her right now.”

“Anonymous again,” Julia said; it wasn’t a question. She let go of the hug. Prue nodded. Julia sat back, looking around the room.

“It could be nothing, you know?” she said. “A prank, a bad joke?”

“I know,” Prue sighed. “But he acted weird, Pete did, when he came home yesterday – he hugged weird, kissed weird, and he sounded weird. Everything was ... odd, forced. I had made tian, you know? He loves it, but he hardly tasted it. Then he left the table halfway through dinner; he went into his room and started drinking.”

Julia picked up her mug and sipped some tea.

“Did you tell him about the text message?” she asked.

“Only later, when we were in bed. You know, first he wanted to go and sleep on the couch. We never ever did that. We vowed we’d never ever sleep apart; you know that.”

Julia produced some reassuring sounds.

“Now why would he suddenly do that?” Prue went on, her voice rising to a whine. “It was weird, don’t you agree?”

“But you slept together,” Julia said. Prue nodded.

“Yes. Until I told him about getting the message. He at once picked up his pillow and left. God, what an awful night!”

They sat in silence.

Julia was good at playing best friend to Prue. She’d had the opportunity to hone that talent from the beginning, when Prue had asked her to share rooms at the apartment her parents had bought for her.

Julia knew Prue didn’t need her for splitting the rent, as she didn’t pay any herself to begin with. She did it for company. Prue’d be lonely otherwise, and she couldn’t stand being lonely.

Julia studied on a meager scholarship, having to take jobs to get by. She knew that her newfound comfort depended on Prue’s friendship and generosity. She hated knowing that.

Julia, however, couldn’t afford to hate. But she would never forgive Prue for the bitter taste of charity it left behind.

She remembered how naïve Prue had been those first months. The girl must have been brought up crazily sheltered. She gave momentous meaning to every simple date she had, reporting every kiss and every grab. Prue seemed prepared to give boys whatever they wanted. Julia remembered wondering how the girl had ever gotten through high school without getting pregnant. She’d saved her from quite a few awkward situations.

Then Peter Hawkins happened.

From day one Prue dropped everything for her newfound love, including Julia. Two weeks after her first date with the boy she spent hardly a night in her apartment anymore.

Six weeks later they were engaged.

Julia recalled feeling betrayed.

Prue carelessly discarded their girl-friendship and replaced it from day one with the cruel egoism of new boyfriend love. But Julia’d been patient. She’d also been practical. Breaking up with Prue might cost her the apartment, and she’d never find one as good again for the rent she paid.

Emotionally Prue had always been a magnifying glass – after meeting Peter Hawkins maybe even more than before. Every real or imagined bump in her road to marital bliss made her run to Julia and soak her shoulder in a cascade of tears – only to deny anything happened a week later; even accusing Julia of being jealous and nosey.

Still, Julia had always been there for her – weary and tired after yet another theatrically blown up drama – but always there.

Just like now.

She tried to ignore the flood of tears pressing behind moist eyes. Up until now the story had been vintage Prue: layers of emotion wrapped around zero content.

“But he did leave,” she said. “I mean: the house.”

And yes, new tears cascaded down Prue’s cheeks.

“I... , “ she tried after a minute. “I brought him coffee, this morning. I wanted to talk. You know: leave all the shit behind and talk.”

“He didn’t want to,” Julia offered. Prue nodded, shedding new tears.

“I cried,” she sobbed. “And he wouldn’t even hold me.”

Julia stared. Then she rose.

“Get dressed,” she said. “We need some fresh air.”

“A text message?” Gus Rennick asked, emphasizing the word. “That’s all? And anonymous?”

Peter waved his hand.

“I know,” he said. “But it was the way she reacted when I came home.” And he expanded on the stiff embraces and the evading eyes, all the little alien things.

“As if she was hiding something, you know?”

Gus knew everything about women hiding things; or at least he thought so. But there was one slight problem: Prue had always been the one exception in his thick book of distrust. Okay, she was a woman – very pretty woman too – but she’d always been sweet with him, and open, hadn’t she?

But then again, you know, she was a woman.

“Drink your coffee,” he said, rising. “Let’s go see her and talk.”

Peter followed his friend’s battered truck.

Gus had been driving it almost as long as he knew him. One taillight was broken and taped back into shape. Without thinking he’d given his friend the lead; the way his mind worked, he might get lost on the way to his own place.

The house was empty. Prue’s car was there, though.

Gus hollered her name when he entered. Peter followed him reluctantly, walking into the sitting room right when his phone beeped. He had a message, the little screen said.

“She’s with him right now.” It was anonymous.

Peter stood and stared, just like he’d done the first time. He didn’t hear Gus; he didn’t even see the big fleshy hand taking the phone, or notice the man’s low whistle.

At last he looked up, eyes wide, shoulders hoisted up in silent despair.

“Anonymous,” Gus said, growling. “The damn coward.”

Peter walked to the kitchen, picked up a glass and filled it with water. His Adam’s apple bobbed when he emptied it. He put it down and turned around.

“Her car is still there,” he said. “The bastard must have picked her up.”

Gus didn’t answer. He still held the phone, shrugging as he looked up at Peter.

“It might all be a sick joke,” he said tonelessly.

“Yeah,” Peter answered.

He walked into the back of the apartment, where the bedroom was. There he pulled a suitcase from a closet and started filling it with clothes.

“You know, Peter...”

Gus had followed him, standing in the doorway, watching him pack. Peter looked up. Then he got his shaving things.

Gus shrugged once more.

Prue shivered as they walked along the beach, right into the wind.

Its cold breath cleaned her head, but could only pluck and tear at the big, solid lump that lay at its center – the thought that refused to budge; the thought of Peter being with another woman right now _– kissing her, fucking her.

“I feel he’s with her, you know?” she said. “I feel it.”

Julia pushed the stray hair from her eyes and watched her friend. Relying on feelings is dangerous, she thought, especially when you’re Prue Hawkins. She quickened her steps, then turned and walked backwards, leaning into the wind, facing Prue.

“You feel, but you don’t know,” she said, raising her voice to be heard over the seagulls and the rolling waves.

She stopped, so Prue walked into her. Taking both her shoulders, Julia held her eyes.

“Before you destroy everything,” she said. “Think. You know nothing. It might just be some bastard sending you messages. Think, Pruts. Who do you know? Who hates you enough? Who’s jealous enough?”

How young she looks, Julia thought.

She studied her friend’s face through the windblown strands of hair. She’s the perfect victim; a toy to be played with. Look at her: what was there not to hate? Her very innocence. The way she took her privileges for granted. Her lack of understanding other people’s misery.

Her gratuitous moralizing.

Julia sighed. It would be enough for some people to hate the brat. Quite enough. Even the mere fact that Prue couldn’t imagine people to possibly hate her was enough reason, wasn’t it?

“I don’t know,” Prue answered, predictably, putting a pinch of despair in the last word. Of course she didn’t know, Julia thought. Wasn’t that just her problem?

She put her arm around Prue’s shoulders and together they once more braved the gushing wind – one good friend comforting the other.

Motel rooms love to add despair to the misery of people who have no place else to go – lonely people, desperate people.

Like Peter Hawkins.

Every worn down item in the room seemed to mock him. ‘Loser, ‘ the threadbare carpet said. ‘Worthless little cuckold, ‘ teased the dusty bedspread. And the rusty shower gave a playful ‘ping’ when it withdrew its promise of hot water after only a minute.

As he fell down on the lumpy mattress, Peter felt perfectly sorry for himself. It was how he should feel, wasn’t it, punished for being a loser? A small-dicked travesty of a man he was, no doubt, compared to the stud who’d taken away his woman.

Who did he ever think he was?

“She’s with him right now,” the message said. Yes, of course. He is fucking her right now and she squeals with delight. His fat, big cock slides into her pussy. She arches her body and encourages him to fuck her harder, deeper – to tear at her nipples and bite her sweet little tits. And then she comes like she never did with him – screaming, sobbing. Never like this with him, ever.

And then she sucks him hard again and begs him to take her ass.

Prue begged Julia to stay the night with her.

She made pasta, using yesterday’s leftovers. She even cleaned most of her plate, drinking half a bottle of wine with it; white wine of course, to save her sparkling teeth.

The buzz of the booze had been welcome, if only to drown the reasonable arguments Julia offered. Of course her brain told her she knew nothing, really, but Prue’s mind always had a way of working through her feelings. And those feelings didn’t doubt: Peter found one of those women she’d feared all her life – big, blond, busty and intimidating.

Prue Gascoyne had grown up in utter security.

There never was a reason to doubt she was the center of her world. Bad things never happened in little Prue’s life, and as a consequence she had no idea there might be quite a different world out there. A chilly world where people didn’t care about her thoughts or wishes, her fears or her feelings.

When Prue went to college, she discovered that real world, and it shook her to the core. She was lonely for the first time in her life, and she might have gone crazy if she hadn’t met Julia Connors. The girl was a buoy on a black, bottomless sea. She grabbed it and never let go.

Julia restored Prue’s sense of security.

It took only weeks for her to forget how desperately helpless she’d been. It took even less time for her to don her suit of self-sufficient arrogance again, although she would never see it like that. She went out playing again, secure in the knowledge that Julia would be there to catch her when she fell, to kiss her bruises better and to make all the bad things go away.

Then she met Peter Hawkins and everything else vanished.

Prue had no idea how much she hurt Julia by dumping her for her new lover. How it must have felt, coldly dropping their friendship. Peter was her new buoy and she’d let him take her with him, drifting along on his amazingly vast ocean.

Until yesterday.

She felt like this fast-running cartoon animal, amazed by the abyss below. He’d run off a cliff – and only started falling after he looked down.

Was it because he looked down?

She asked Julia to share her bed, but she’d taken the couch. So now she lay alone, once more staring at the ceiling.

“He is with her right now,” the anonymous bastard had written. Images flooded her mind, of Peter holding this woman, hugging and kissing her, fondling her breasts. They were much bigger than hers. The woman was taller too, like a model. Peter stripped her and his eyes feasted on her.

Then she took off his shirt and kissed his chest.

Her fingers opened his belt and his fly, pulling down his pants and boxers. His cock was hard and it seemed bigger. The woman knelt and took it in her mouth, looking up.

She had the face of Julia.

Panting, Prue sat up in her bed.

It was just a silly dream. Julia was next door, sleeping, wasn’t she? Why did she see her face? She slid off the bed, donning her robe and tiptoeing to the door of the living room. Opening it, she looked inside, where Julia’s silhouette on the couch was a darker gray against the darkness of the room.

Prue held her own breath to hear Julia’s slow and regular breathing.

Sunny Sunday mornings have this talent to erase the dark thoughts of a restless night.

Even through a dusty motel window the sun beamed optimism as it touched Peter’s closed eyes. He opened them, and rubbed them with his knuckles the way he did as a child.

Then his misery returned.

Groaning, he slid off the bed and found out that there was enough hot water if you woke early enough. Standing under the showerhead he let it splash and run down his skull and shoulders, turning to make it reach every inch of his body.

He loved hot showers.

Even now the water relaxed his tired, knotted muscles. He cupped the slippery package of his penis and balls, squeezing it. The soft skin of his scrotum slipped and slid through his fingers like pinkish putty.

He felt the balls roll within.

He wasn’t that small, really, was he? Maybe not overly long, but he remembered Prue once saying how she liked its thickness. Imagining her small hand holding it, he felt the flesh filling out. A familiar urge spread from deep within, and soon he looked down on his erection.

The exposed head shone with the water that splashed down on it.

He started to slowly jerk off the hard stem, touching the head’s rim with every upward move. Recalling the precious few times when Prue’s tongue had circled it, he moaned.

“Prue,” he whispered, and when he heard the name he felt all firmness leave his penis. Desperately he increased the jerking, squeezing the softening stem harder – to no avail.

He let the shrunken flesh fall from his fist and hugged himself with both arms around his chest and shoulders.

Showers are the right place to cry, aren’t they?

Eating biscuits and drinking juice, Prue and Julia sat at the kitchen table. Prue still wore her robe; Julia was already dressed, her hair damp from showering.

“Please, just a bit longer?” Prue pleaded, but Julia shook her head.

“Can’t,” she said, dipping the last crumbs from her plate with a wet fingertip. “Have to be at my aunt’s by ten.”

“Can’t I come with you?” Prue tried with the little girl’s voice she always used to get what she wanted. “I haven’t seen her for quite a while.”

Quite in contrast to Julia’s mother, her aunt had pushed her to stay in high school and go on to college. She’d been more of a mother to her than her real mom. Then again, anyone would have been more of a mother, wouldn’t they?

Julia looked up.

“Yes,” she said. “You haven’t cared to see her for two years now; since she was at your wedding, remember? I doubt she’ll miss you. But you can’t come anyway; it’s a family thing.”

Prue sighed. She stared at her juice glass.

“What am I to do?” she asked, still with the same baby voice. It irritated Julia – always had. She rose.

“Call him,” she said. “Talk to him.”

Julia shrugged.

“I already tried,” she said.

“Try again.”

“Stay with me, Jules, please.”

“Can’t. Sorry.”

He tried to taste the bacon.

The Denny’s was filled with families – parents, grandparents, and children. Peter’s table was a quiet little island in a maelstrom of uproar.

Did he like children?

To be honest, not really – not now anyway. He guessed that wasn’t unusual for a man his age, still coping with work and career and things like that. Besides, didn’t the desire for kids often start with the woman? Prue never talked about children. Their days and nights were full enough as they were.

Not anymore, he mused, trying a tasteless bite of scrambled eggs.


He looked up. A blond woman in a khaki raincoat stood at his table. Trenchcoat, he thought. Bacall, Casablanca. Or was it Bergman?

“Jules!” he said.

Julia Connors was his wife’s best friend, though she hadn’t been around much lately. He liked her. She was totally different from his wife. Prue seemed like a child compared to Julia. To be honest, the woman intimidated him a bit – strong she was, self-sufficient.

Sometimes he thought she mocked him – like now. There was a smile at the corner of her mouth that seemed more than just happiness to see him. There was mischief, he thought. Her eyes sparkled.

“How are you, Peter? Long time no see.”

He rose, making his chair squeak. They kissed, a peck on each cheek. Should he tell her how things were? Or just say all was fine? Maybe she knew already. But if so, why the question?

“Not at all good, Jules,” he said. “But maybe you already know. Please sit down. Coffee?”

Yes, she wanted coffee. And no, she didn’t know. She got out of her coat, folding it over an empty chair. Then she sat down, her smile gone.

Physically Julia Connors was the perfect opposite of his petite brunette wife too. She was tall and blond and had a strong, Nordic face, blue eyes. Wide mouth, red lips, lots of teeth. And a much bigger chest. Right now it pushed out a tight, fifty-ish jersey sweater – generously.

Intimidating was the word indeed.

“Sorry to hear that,” she said when he returned with her coffee. “What happened?”

“I left Prue,” he said. “Didn’t she call you?”

Julia blinked.

“No,” she said. “Not a word. Oh my. Why did you leave her?”

He looked away; then he returned his gaze.

“She cheated on me,” he said, keeping his voice down.

Julia’s hand went to her mouth.

“Nooooo,” she sighed. “Pruts, really? The little tramp.”

There was something odd about her surprise, Peter thought. He wasn’t an overly sensitive observer, but her gestures seemed unnatural, as if rehearsed. So did her voice.

Besides, wasn’t it strange Prue hadn’t called her? He’d suppose it would be the first thing she’d do.

He nodded.

“She did. I found out yesterday.”

Again there was something unnatural in the way her eyes widened. A bit too much, maybe.

“The bitch,” he heard her whisper.

Then he knew what was wrong. She didn’t deny it, after her first play-acted “nooooo.” She should have, shouldn’t she? Gus had not believed him – not for quite a while. And Julia started calling Prue names at once – tramp, she said, bitch.

He realized she wasn’t surprised – not really.

“Did you know about it, Jules?” he asked. “Do you know?”

He thought he saw a blush crawling up from her throat. Two little boys in pursuit of a third hit their table, making their cups rattle. When he looked up again, the blush was gone.

“I’m so sorry, Pete,” she said, looking away.

His heart missed a beat.

Was it proof at last? Did Julia know all along? She didn’t deny it, and she was sorry, she said. He waited for her to go on. But she didn’t. Her hand crawled up to his forearm, touching it as her eyes met his. The combination of the touch and the blue flash sent a rush up his chest.

“I must say: she took her time,” she then said.

His phone rang.

After Julia left, Prue kept sitting at her table.

“Call him,” Julia ‘d said. Easy for her to say. Prue had never felt afraid of Peter, and God knows there often had been moments to fear his reactions when she’d done something stupid – like melting her credit card or flirting just a minute too long with the wrong guy.

But now she didn’t dare call him.

Her parents gave her a small trust fund, so in fact she had her own money apart from her salary. But she vowed never to touch it for whims, and never ever without consulting him. Ah well, sometimes there was this cute dress or these heels she must have. She knew he would be pissed off, but it never stopped her confessing it.

And Peter never carried a grudge for long.

Same with her flirting and dancing at parties. It wasn’t for sex; he knew that. She just needed the attention, she always had. And she always made sure it was just that: a bit of flirting. Not every man understood, though. Two or three times now it had caused ugly rows at public places, but she always apologized and they always made up wonderfully.

No, she’d never felt awkward with Peter. This time, however, things were different. They were about cheating, about betrayal. And it wasn’t about her this time, was it?

It was about him.

In the past, when she felt insulted or offended, Prue lashed out. But this was more than that. Of course she felt offended: her man had betrayed her. She felt insulted because he preferred someone else. But most of all she felt neglected.

She wasn’t his center of the world anymore.

How could she just call him now? How could she be the one to give in? He cheated on her, and then he left her. The one single unthinkable thing had happened: Peter Hawkins had turned his back on her.

She saw that the polish of her thumbnail was chipped as it hovered over the speed button.

“Call him,” Jules had said. “Talk to him. Try again.”

She hit the button.

His phone rang twice and then a third time. ‘Prue’ the screen said. His hand trembled. Peter watched Julia.

“Sorry,” he said, showing his phone with an apologizing grimace.

She nodded, smiling. He was so damn well behaved.

“Yes?” he said in the phone. There was silence for a second.

“Pete.” Her voice was small. “Please come home.”

Prue hadn’t meant to say that – not planned on asking him to come home at all. But it had been the first thing she said. Did that make it true? Did she want him back?

Obviously, she thought.

The silence after her question seemed to last forever. She’d said what she didn’t want to say. And now she feared his answer. Maybe his “no” would be worse than a yes. Or was it the other way around?

“No,” he said. “You come to Baily’s, five o’clock.”

Beeps followed a click.

Peter sat in a corner of the bar called Baily’s.

They often went there, Prue and he. He liked to meet friends and taste the ales they had on draft. Prue loved Baily’s for the Baily’s on ice. Plus the entourage, he thought – the music, the little dance floor.

And the men, his brain added bitterly.

Was it true? Ah well, he’d never objected, had he? Not really. And most of the time it had been perfectly innocent – most of the time. To be honest, she danced as often with women as with men.

She just loved to dance more than he did.

He sipped his perfect glass of Indian Pale Ale and thought back to this morning, at the breakfast place. After he’d hung up on Prue, Julia’s hand had returned to his arm. Squeezing it, she’d said:

“So you really want to go and talk to her?”

Her voice had been rather flat; or, well: maybe the right word was reserved, cautious.

“No,” he’d said. “Not really, I guess.”

She’d smiled with raised eyebrows.

“Then why do it?”

He’d shrugged.

“I guess I want her to admit.”

Her sudden peal of laughter startled him.

“She won’t, you know,” she said, chortling. “She won’t admit. Pruts never admits anything. She’ll accuse you.”


“Of course,” Julia said, spreading her hands. “You know her. And if not: I do. It’s who she is: attack when cornered. Put the blame elsewhere. She’s brought up that way. Remember the flirting? She always accuses the men when things get out of hand. Remember her missing her period, before you got married? It was your fault that she forgot her pill, remember?”

Peter stared at her.

He recalled the panic. It proved to be a false alarm, but yes, she accused him. He also remembered what Prue said last night. That she’d had a message too, and it was about him cheating on her. She accused him to diffuse the issue. He had wondered about it, and now Julia confirmed it.

He remembered her hand returning over the breakfast table, squeezing his.

“I guess I know her as well as you do, Pete,” she’d said, closing her eyes and reopening them, making the blue sparkle. “For a while I thought you changed her, but what you tell me now is really vintage Pruts, just as I know her from before.”

“What do you mean, from before?”

She smiled; then looked away.

“From before you met her, of course,” she said. “I never saw so many guys fight over a girl. And it was always their fault when things got complicated, you know. And my duty to support her.”

She chuckled. Then she rose, picking up her raincoat.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, tightening its belt. Even under the wide coat he could see the shape of her breasts. “You’re a good guy, Pete. I thought you’d tamed the shrew.” She sighed. “Anyway, don’t give in if she doesn’t. There’s much more to her than you know.”

He had risen too. Her hand touched his face as she gave him a peck on his cheek before leaving. He smelled her perfume.

And now at Bailey’s, waiting for Prue, he picked up his phone, as the thing signaled the arrival of a new message. There was no name, no number. He opened it.

“She just left him,” it said.

He dropped the little machine. It bumped on the tablecloth until it slid against his glass. So she’d been with him all day? Goddamn, he should leave. Why even stay and see the slut?

His hands trembled.

“Hi Pete.”

She looked pale, almost translucent. Tired no doubt, he thought, feeling a knot in his stomach. She’d used more make up than usual, he saw. More than she did for him, he thought. Her hair was spotless, so was the dress under her coat.

Prue kept standing, as he didn’t rise.

“Pete?” she repeated.

“He can’t live far from here,” he said.

Confusion clouded her eyes.

“Eh... ,” she said. “I don’t know...”

Goddammit, Prue!” he cried out, jumping up. “His spunk must still be running down your legs.”

Faces turned. A deep blush darkened Prue’s face. Her mouth opened and closed.

“I... ,” she said. “I, I...”

Then she turned and ran to the exit. The light of his cellphone died, erasing the short message.

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