Steve Jackson's annual Labor Day party was something that many of the employees of our city's civil engineering department looked forward to each September. Jackson, a senior engineer who had been with the department many years, was at the top of the pay scale and owned a large house in one of the nicer parts of town. Steve spared no expense when planning his parties and they were always quite lavish, with catered food, several kegs of beer, and an open bar that he himself tended with a loose hand. Steve's plan of action at his Labor Day extravaganza was to encourage intoxication and the errant behavior that went along with it.
My wife Maureen and I were faithful attendees of Jackson's end of the summer bash. I had been working for the department for nine years and we had been to every one during my tenure there. It was one of those few occasions during the year that we were able to let our hair down a little and step out of the grind of working couple and devoted parents. Maureen especially needed such occasions. A computer programmer who worked primarily from home, she had developed into something of a homebody, leaving the house only to go shopping or take the kids to school.
This year's party started off as they usually did. We dropped our two children off at Maureen's parent's house where they would stay the night. 5:00 PM found us in the master bedroom of our house getting ready to go. I was already dressed, having donned a pair of khaki shorts and a blue polo shirt. Maureen, as usual, was still fussing over what she should wear.
Her upper body was bare except for a white underwire bra that restrained her moderately large breasts in place. She had put on a pair of loose-fitting Levi's and was evaluating how they looked on her. "Do these jeans make me look fat?" she asked, turning and spinning so that I could check out her form. Maureen, like many women, was unjustifiably obsessed with her weight. True, she had put on a few pounds since our marriage and the two children she had pumped out, but what woman hasn't? She was certainly not what anyone would consider fat. Her hips were just a little wider than they once had been, but all and all she remained a very attractive, pleasantly proportioned woman.
"They look fine on you babe," I told her automatically, actually paying more attention to her breasts jiggling beneath the bra than I was her butt.
"Are you sure?" she asked uncertainly. "Maybe I should go with the blue slacks instead."
"The jeans are fine," I assured her. "Really."
She frowned a few more times and then reluctantly put on a patterned white blouse. "How about my hair?" she asked as she buttoned up.
Her dark brunette hair was as it always was: hanging over her shoulders and curled slightly with a curling iron. "It looks good hon," I told her. "Let's go."
We went, driving to the adjacent suburb where Steve's house was located. On the way Maureen reminded me of my unpleasant obligations for the night. "Remember," she told me firmly. "It's my turn to drink tonight."
"Yes dear," I said, frowning a little. We were in the habit of trading off on who would drink and who would drive when we attended functions where alcohol was being served. As she had pointed out, it was my turn in the barrel. The last function had been a 4th of July party and I had gotten sloshed. "I'll just have a few beers when we get there and then I'll lay off," I promised. I was of course a little perturbed by this. Half the fun of Jackson's parties was getting drunk and doing stupid things. Staying sober and watching everyone else get blitzed was a bummer. Little did I know how much fun I was going to have that night because I didn't get drunk.
We arrived about thirty minutes after the time specified on the invitation. Cars lined every available spot on both sides of Steve's street for more than a block in both directions, forcing us to leave our Camry on a side street more than ten houses away. We walked slowly through the fading daylight towards his tri-level custom built home.
Steve himself opened the door for us and greeted us when we entered. He shared a hug with Maureen and then introduced us to a few people that we didn't know. He shoved drinks into our hands - a gin and tonic for me, a margarita for Maureen - and then disappeared back to his bar.
There were upwards of a hundred people present throughout his property. Many of them were in the sunken family room just off the entryway. It was here where the bar was located and it was also where a pool table had been set up. Eighties music pounded from the surround sound speakers high on the wall. A game of team eight ball was in progress while twenty or so spectators watched and drank. We made our way into this room and greeted a few of my coworkers, shaking hands with them and exchanging hugs with their wives. We then made a trip through the rest of the party for form's sake, stopping in the kitchen where food was being readied, in the backyard where the smokers hung out, and in the living room, where dancing would later occur. Once all of the niceties were taken care of we returned to the family room, putting ourselves into the running for a game of eight ball.
As we waited, we found ourselves talking to Jack Noland and his wife Samantha. Jack and I had been hired together and were fairly good friends. We had been assigned together on various projects throughout our careers and we sometimes played some golf on our off time. Jack's wife was a nice person but she really had plumped up since her marriage, putting on more than eighty pounds...
"Is that what's-her-name?" Maureen asked at one point, her gaze settling upon Julie Pendelton, a female engineer who worked for our department. As one of the only women in a male dominated profession, Julie had understandably created quite an uproar amongst the wives when she'd been hired two years before. This uproar increased considerably ten months ago when she'd abruptly divorced her lawyer husband for no apparent reason. Julie, despite claims that she'd been hired for affirmative action reasons, was actually a very methodical and effective engineer and, in my opinion, was much better at her job than many of my male counterparts. I however, like most of my co-workers, was wise enough to not let my wife know when I'd been paired with her. There was no sense inviting interrogations and suspicion.
"Yes," Samantha said, her own icy gaze falling upon "that woman" as many of the wives referred to her. "She's lost an awful lot of weight since her divorce, hasn't she?"
Her observation was indeed correct. Once a plump 180 pounds or so on a 5 foot 6 inch frame, Julie had shed more than fifty pounds since telling the lawyer to take a hike. She was now quite slim and attractive, a condition which had both increased the suspicion of the wives and prompted many of the men themselves to ask her out. So far she had taken none of them up on the offer, not even the unattached ones.
"She's actually looking pretty good," Maureen said, a hint of dejection in her voice. "I wonder how she did it."
"I'll just bet she's taking pills," Samantha said assuredly. "How else could someone lose so much weight so fast?"
Jack and I both knew that Julie's secret was not pills but obsessive exercise and a radical change in diet. I had worked with her numerous times and I could testify that these days she spent her lunch hours jogging and eating rabbit food. But of course neither one of us was about to mention this to our wives. That would imply that we had noticed her.
In truth, I had noticed Julie plenty, even before her radical, post-divorce weight loss. She was a very pleasant person, easy to get along with and fun to talk to. And of course, being a healthy American male, I had also noticed her in a physical way as well. Her face was pretty with full, sensuous lips. Her hair was a shade of light blonde that could only be natural. Her breasts were well-rounded globes that did justice to the shirts she wore in the field. It was particularly enjoyable to be partnered with her during the summer months when she wore shorts to work. Her legs were smooth and tight, toned by the exercise that she did.
I had never acted upon this attraction to her or to any other woman. I loved Maureen and, though our sex life had stagnated a bit over the years - as any married couple's tends to do - it had never gotten quite stagnant enough for me to risk an extra-marital affair or a fling. But this certainly did not stop me from fantasizing on occasion and I must admit that Julie had played a part in more than one of these fantasies.
"She seems awfully interested in Bill over there," Maureen said. "Isn't he married?"
It was actually the opposite that was occurring. Bill - who was indeed married - was interested in Julie. She was sitting in one of the barstools, sipping out of a glass of white wine. Her light yellow sundress, which came to just above her knees when standing, had pulled up a little, exposing about half of her left thigh. Bill was continually finding an excuse to touch her knee with his hand. He would laugh and slap it down seemingly unintentionally. He had not quite worked up the courage to try his luck a little higher on the leg but I was sure that he soon would. Julie seemed uncomfortable with the contact even from my vantage point across the room. She kept her body as twisted away from him as she could get away with. She was not quite offended enough to say something or create a scene but she was getting there.
"He's married all right," Samantha told Maureen. "I wonder where his wife is? I'll just bet she'd be real interested to see this."
.... There is more of this story ...