Pictures Never Lie: A Love Story
Chapter 1: Tom's Story
I attend a conference every year. It’s a week of catching up with new stuff. It was in San Diego this year. The City itself is okay, if you like health nuts. But it’s a five-hour flight from the East Coast. And I have spent so much time packed into an aluminum tube with 250 total strangers that I have developed a severe allergy to air travel.
The first day was registration and the inevitable “Welcome” cocktail party. I disposed of the schmoozing by 8PM and called Janet from the room. She was her usual chipper, sarcastic self. She is a lot better looking woman than I deserve and I have loved her since the day I met her. But her jaded take on the world is what I really adore.
She told me that it was beautiful and sunny on Long Island and she had spent the day in the garden. I told her that it is always beautiful and sunny in San Diego and I had spent the day in the clutches of the travel industry. I told her I was going to go down to the hotel bar to have a nightcap and try to hit the hay before 10:00. We closed with the lovey-dovey endearments that all traveling couples sign off with.
I walked into the bar which was just a patio overlooking Mission Bay. Janet usually accompanies me on long trips but she had to close out her school year. So, I was a bachelor for the next four and a half days. I fortify myself before I turn in. I don’t sleep well without her next to me in bed. I ordered a brandy as a pseudo-sleeping pill.
A couple of my San Francisco colleagues joined me while I was sitting there. Bill is a network geek and frankly boring. Jane is a geek too but she is well known in the trade. The standard joke is that her boobs will take twenty IQ points off any man; simply by the distraction. That isn’t fair, because she is first and foremost a smart and effective woman. She just happens to be wrapped in a Double-D package. Naturally, the joke ALSO holds true. I was mesmerized by the jiggle.
She and Bill were obviously hammered. People get that way on “welcome” day. The newfound freedom from daily routine tends to express itself in too may “first” drinks. And network wonks are not big drinkers anyway.
Bill sat down six inches above the wicker chair and almost crushed it falling backwards. Jane lowered herself carefully into her seat; looking for all-the-world like she was docking the space shuttle. I said with cheerful irony, it looks like you have been here a lot longer than I have.”
Bill volunteered, “They have wonderful Margaritas.”
I said just to make conversation, “How many have you had?”
He looked at Jane and they both shrugged.
There was part of me who wanted to get away from them. I didn’t not want to wrangle two drunks. But I have an unfortunate tendency toward rescuing. I know that it’s a personality flaw and it frequently gets me in trouble. I said, “This place is big and confusing. Let me help you two to your rooms.”
Bill demurred but Jane said, “Would you please? I’m not sure I could find it.”
I knew what she was talking about. Destination hotels are like a village. And unless you were born there it is hard to decipher the various “Casa” this’s and “Villa” that’s.
She gave me her key card and we walked for what seemed like a quarter mile through the resort vegetation to her room. All the time she was chastely holding my one arm with both of her hands to keep her balance. Her ankles were occasionally turning on her four inch FMPs. But nothing catastrophic happened.
When we got to her place she spun toward me in a familiar fashion and said, “Thank you for walking me home, would you like to come in for a drink.”
I am not exactly worldly-wise but I knew what THAT meant. Every conference I’ve ever attended turns into a fuck-fest. That usually goes on in various combinations and permutations throughout the week for both the unmarried and the married participants. I was sure that Jane, who is a stunner anyway, was just kicking off the ball.
But I was not, and never have been interested in any aspect of fucking around on my wife. Besides totally complicating your life, any form of casual sex is always the first nail in any marriage’s coffin. That truism applies whether it is no-strings-never-see-you-again sex, or if you fall in love for a week and nobody finds out. Once you open the door to infidelity it’s impossible to close it again.
I said, trying to be tactful, “It was my pleasure escorting you back fair lady but I’m exhausted.” She looked disappointed.
When I ran into her the next day she was particularly friendly, almost dewy eyed sentimental. She said, “Thank you for just bringing me back. I was very drunk.” I got the message and it made me feel good to know that I was one of the few who had not taken advantage of the free pass.
The conference ground on in a boring haze.
Janet was different when I called her the second evening of the conference. In fact, she was SO different that I checked to see if I had dialed the right number. Instead of being her usual brisk and good humored self she was distant, almost cold, talking to me in monosyllables. I thought, “What the fuck?”
But then again, I have days like that, when the troubles of the world carry over into our relationship.
Janet’s heritage is mostly Italian. So, her temper is like a tropical storm. Something will set her off and there will be violent thunder and driving rain. Then the sun will come out and it will be like it never happened, no repercussions, or grudges.
She was obviously in the middle of one of those occasional monsoons. She wouldn’t be reasonable until she had calmed down and so it was pointless to ask her what the problem was. Instead, I said as cheerfully as possible, “You are going to owe me some serious makeup sex for the way you are treating me tonight, I’ll see you at JFK day after tomorrow at 6:45, I miss you.”
She bulldozed right past my attempt at humor and said with heat in her voice, “You are going to have to take a cab home. I’ll be at Sarah’s.” Sarah is her older sister.
I was baffled and disappointed. I said mournfully, “What! I haven’t seen you in five days and you’re going to be visiting your sister?”
She said with no emotion whatsoever, “I am going to be there for the rest of next week. I will see you next weekend” and then terminated the connection without a by-your-leave.
I was crushed and frankly confused. We had never been apart for two weeks in our entire 17 years together. It was obvious that something serious was going on. It must involve Sarah and it had put Janet in a funk. Maybe Sarah was dying?
I couldn’t imagine that it would involve me in any respect. Since all I had been doing this past week was sitting through droning lectures and having the occasional drink with my colleagues. I knew that Jim Murphy, who was an employee of mine, could vouch for me.
He had come in on the same flight and had been with me all the time at the conference, except for today, when he had unexpectedly flown home. However, I was certain that his early departure wouldn’t affect his ability to vouch for me, since Janet had already gotten strange.
Murph was ten years younger than me and something of a protégé. He was good looking and smart, and that made him a bit too full of himself. But he was young and basically a good kid, full of Irish charisma. He was at our house a lot and Janet, who is closer to his age, knew him well and liked him. I hated to admit it but I was sure he could charm her out of whatever was wrong with her faster than I could.
My guess was that Janet had gone feral because Sarah was having one of her interminable marital problems. And Janet was pissed about it. Sarah’s husband fucks around on her and every time she catches him there is this extended period of family turmoil, followed by a tearful reconciliation. In fact, marital strife almost seems like a hobby for those two. And Janet gets pulled into the argument because she has always been the “responsible” sister.
The problem is that Janet absolutely hates being put in the middle. And since she can’t take it out on her “victim” of a sister, I am the designated scapegoat. This had happened several times in the past. But I was always physically present when it did, so I was able to talk some sense into Janet before she left to deal with whatever Sarah’s latest trauma was.
Janet is passionate in everything she does. I mostly benefit from that passion through a superlative sex life. So, I decided a long time ago that the best thing I could do was to roll with the punches; in the occasional times that I was the target of her ire. So, as I flew back home I reconciled myself to being all alone for a bloody week.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have things to keep me occupied. We were in the middle of a major overhaul of the security at one of the larger defense installations on the island. The problem with DoD contracts is that you are frequently accountable to people who know a lot about securing physical things but don’t really understand the special circumstances of securing something in the virtual one.
They need to be led through all the intricacies of that kind of operation, while telling you that they “know best.” So, I had five consecutive 10 hour days explaining to an Air Force, Major General that “defense in depth” was not just a simple matter of assigning a user ID and a password to the help. It was an excruciating process but I liked the money.
I had been expecting Janet, when Friday evening rolled around. But she was nowhere to be seen. Her cell was off. I had called her a couple of times during the week just to check in and chat but I got the same monosyllables and curt treatment, so I backed off. I knew she would get over it.
I was lonely and I might add that her brutal treatment hurt a lot. So, I called up Murph to see if he wanted to grab a beer and discuss ways of talking my wife down from her current snit. But he was not answering either. It looked like it was going to be another night of watching baseball by myself.
Janet finally appeared in the middle of the morning on Saturday. She looked grim. I tried to hug her hello but she brushed right past me and on into our bedroom where she dropped her travel bag and came out with a memory stick in her hand, very distant and unfriendly.
I had never been in this situation before. Even the first time I had met her she had been a lot more welcoming. She stomped by me, still not saying a word, went into the den, did ten minutes of printing and came out with a manila folder. She poured a cup of coffee for me and one for herself and sat down at the kitchen table looking direly at me. To I was anxious, to say the least.
Then she used those four little words that no husband wants to hear, “We need to talk.” I sat down opposite her weak kneed. I don’t know if my anxiety was as obvious to her as it was to me, but my heart was beating so hard I felt like it was going to attack me.
I must have looked as concerned as I felt, because she smiled with grim satisfaction. It was, like I had just confirmed something for her. She took a deep breath, reached into the folder and pushed nine 8 by 10 pictures across to me. She had obviously just printed them off on our printer.
The first print was of me and Bill and Jane sitting around the table at the resort. We were clearly drinking and chatting. The next three were a sequence of me helping Jane to her feet, walking through the resort shrubbery and in the last we were standing at her door with her facing me in a friendly fashion. These were all taken with a medium grade cell-phone camera. I thought Okaaaaaay?
In the next five I was vigorously banging a woman in various positions, missionary, doggy, reverse cowgirl, cunnilingus and for the grand finale she was blowing me. You could build a bridge out of the tension in the air between us.
I studied those five very carefully. Time ticked by. I could feel the hate radiating from the other side of the table. I finally sat back and said, “Where did you get these.”
She said emphatically, “A friend gave them to me. He couldn’t stand the sight of you fucking around on me anymore.” She added grimly, “I needed all of this time at Sarah’s to decide what I was going to do about you.”
That broke my heart because I had a feeling that I knew what she had decided to do. She said, “Do you have anything to say for yourself you bastard!”
I said, well, the first four pictures were taken on the opening night of the conference. They are of me helping Jane Longworth back to her room. She was drunk and I didn’t even get a peck on the cheek for my gallantry. But she DID thank me the next day for not taking advantage of her.
Janet said with venom, “I don’t care about those first four and your stupid story; Prince Charming!!! What I care about is what you did with her in that room.”
I said, trying to keep my voice as even and unemotional as possible, “I went back to my room after that and went to sleep. The next five pictures are frame grabs off some porn site with my head not very capably photoshopped onto the stud’s body.”
She slammed her hand down on the table, “You mean to tell me that these pictures are not clear evidence of YOU fucking some slut at the conference. My lawyer thinks that they are. And they are all I will need to take you to the cleaners.”
I continued, keeping my voice as mild as possible. I said, “I’m in this business. I can recognize bad photoshopping when I see it. These pictures are a total fabrication. Why somebody would try to convince you I was fucking around is a mystery. But you would think they would do a better job of editing.”
I said, “Look! The woman I am walking with in the first four pictures is a brunette with her hair down to her shoulders. The woman in the next four is a long-haired blond. Do you think that she took the time to grow her hair out and dye it before we began to wallow in mud, or do you think she just put on a wig for the benefit of the photographer?”
Janet grabbed the pictures and began to examine them intently. I added, “And then if you will notice in the last picture; she must have stepped back into the bathroom to turn herself into a short haired redhead for the blowjob. I like variety but this is ludicrous.” She looked a little worried. I said, “Now, look at my face. My expression never changes. I am holding my head in precisely the same way and I am looking in the exact same direction in all those pictures. You’d think that I might have at least moved my eyes a little bit during the mind-blowing sex.”
I pointed to the last two pictures and said, “Finally, I am either suffering from some dread disease of the cranium or my head has temporarily grown to ET proportions on my body.”
I finished with, “Somebody just took a picture of me off Facebook, or Instagram or somewhere, and photoshopped my face onto a porn star body.”
I added, “Any high school kid can do it. They have sites all over the internet with stuff like Nancy Pelosi doing Paul Ryan, or Barak Obama banging Sarah Palin, nobody believes the ridiculous things that are on those sites, but at least the editing is better than it is here.”
I said as a final offering, “But, let’s take these pictures to the lab and put them under the scope. You will see beyond a doubt that this is somebody trying to set me up.” She was turning paler and paler as I explained it to her. I didn’t understand her reaction. But I got the impression that her level of distress meant that she was not entirely convinced.
I said with some anger, “Get in the car, we are going to the lab.” She arose from the chair like she was in a bad dream and walked behind me out to the car. We drove the 8 miles to my lab in total silence. She did not look at all well.
I should have put my arm around her and said “there-there” but I was angry at her now. She had treated me like shit for something I could easily disprove. I was particularly pissed that she had fallen hook-line-and-sinker for such a ludicrous, and I might add badly executed, stunt.
She hesitated when we got to the parking lot of the lab, like it was time for her to walk the last mile. Janet is very competitive and perhaps a little over-sure of herself, particularly when she gets an idea into her head. So, I knew that she didn’t want to be proven so totally incorrect.
I suppose that nobody wants to find out that they treated their spouse like she’d treated me for a week and then see the undeniable proof of how wrong they’d just been. But her reaction to all this was kind of extreme, even for her. I chalked it up to her being embarrassed about how she had behaved.
We have always had an extremely close and loving relationship. So, she must have felt like it was a serious betrayal, for her to just fly off the handle without even talking to me. I felt sorry for her. I knew that she was ashamed and that she didn’t know how to begin to apologize. But my taking her to the lab wasn’t just me rubbing her nose in it. I wanted to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that I had been faithful to her.
I mounted picture six on the scope. That was the view of me doing the blond with the big tits in the missionary position. I was smirking directly at the camera. I moved the picture around on the table until it was centered on the monitor under the scope. I said, in an attempt to lighten the moment, “WOW! You WISH I had a cock like that!”
There were clearly two different pictures, my cutout face and the stud’s body. The edge where my face had been digitally joined to the stud’s shoulders was an obvious shadow. But the pictures themselves were also in two different pixel formats, so the cropping and the overlay were starkly obvious. That was true with the other four pictures as well.
I turned to Janet and said, “Satisfied?” She looked horror stricken. Then she put her hands over her mouth and began to cry. I know she is emotional but I was totally bewildered. She sank to the floor with her hands over her face repeating over and over, “He told me that he took them himself. He said they were his!!!”
I had expected her to apologize but I didn’t expect her to totally break down. I said, “WHO told you WHAT? What the fuck’s going on here?” She sat there crying miserably. I went over and picked her up and hugged her. I said, “I love you, and I don’t care that somebody caused you to question my devotion. You were set-up as much as I was. It’s over now and I forgive you so let’s move on.”
She stood there with her head buried in my shoulder and continued to wail. She said miserably, “We can’t move on from this.” I thought what the fuck does that mean?
All the way home she sobbed inconsolably and would not talk to me. I was absolutely distraught. What had happened to my happy life? The answer was waiting in the driveway. He got out of his car as we got out of ours and. He came over with concern written on his face, focused on Janet.
I said amiably, “Hey there Murph, something’s wrong with Janet so give us some space to sort this out would you.” Janet wailed and then did a very strange thing. She broke from where she was standing, ran toward Murphy and started flailing at him. Murphy backed off looking stricken.
I was beginning to get a sinking feeling as I grabbed her. She was calling him every name she could think of and a few things I didn’t catch. Her claws were out and she was completely out of control. I looked at him directly. His face was as guilty as a post office wanted poster. I said, “Wait a minute. Are you the one who did this? WHY??!!” The look on his face told me everything I needed to know.
I was at a total loss over the sheer stupidity of his betrayal. I was the owner of the company and his boss and he was enough of a moron to think he could set me up with my own wife. What unbelievable arrogance!
I said, “Get out of here and if I ever see you again I can’t guarantee what I will do; but it is going to involve hired goons with baseball bats. Needless to say you’re fired and don’t bother to use me as a reference because you are absolutely dead in this business.”
As I said that, I was holding onto Janet with both arms. She continued to struggle to get at him. He was backing away with a look of anger on his face. Then he turned and bolted back to his car, hastily backed it out and drove away.
Janet was just standing there now inside my arms with her head hanging down. I said gently, “Let’s talk” and led her inside. I had a feeling that this was going to be very, very bad.