My friends, this is not my usual story, which is a somewhat neat capsule of an incident in the life of a couple. This is about couples, choices, emotions. It has no sex, but is about sex. Be forewarned, there is no real ending in this story.
There are precious few descriptions of the two characters. Gentle Readers, how you picture them is up to you. They are attractive people, keep that in mind. They are highly intelligent, caring and feeling individuals. Keep that in mind also.
It will be intriguing to see how it is rated. But don't blame me if you read it hoping for a sexual thrill. Do what I do, if it isn't my kind of story, I don't vote. Let others who are entertained (and there will be a few) decide the value of the story without your bogus marks. But I hope most of you will vote, positively I hope, but what ever you honestly believe.
One last thing, this is not autobiographical. I sometimes characterize myself as an old codger, but my wife of many years is still young, still beautiful, and ever faithful.
It was only a hint, seemed innocuous, and he almost ignored it.
Business had called him out of town, and as usual he left a detailed itinerary with Susan, his wife. Also as usual, she had kept him informed in detail of her schedule. It was automatic after all these years together. Then Thursday morning the deal suddenly came together, the people he was negotiating with signed the contract by 11:00 AM and took off to deal with a crisis in one of their East Coast operations.
Early, a friendly, sunny natured man with a constant smile on his face, was a trouble shooter/negotiator for his company. Business trips such as this one, while not common, did come up several times a year. This week long trip away from home was scheduled to last through Saturday. He had planned on catching the plane out of Los Angeles at 9:15 Saturday evening. As he would be arriving in Seattle after midnight he had insisted Susan not meet him at SeaTac Airport. He planned to catch the Airport Shuttle home. It would drop him at his door in Bellevue by 1:30 AM.
Early hustled to LAX and had his tickets changed. He was on the plane by 1:45 PM. In the air he used the in flight phone to call home to let Susan know he would be home that afternoon, but of course she was at work. So he dug in his briefcase, pulled out her office number and tried to call her at work.
"Jenson, Sharone and Anderson, how may I help you?" the receptionist greeted him.
"Oh, where's Jennifer?" Early asked. Jennifer was Susan's personal secretary. His calls usually went directly to her desk.
"Mrs. Conroy's secretary is out of the office today and tomorrow. May I help you?" came the perky response from the office receptionist.
"Uh, well, can I speak to Mrs. Conroy then?" he asked.
"Mrs. Conroy? She's... um, who can I tell her called?" was the reply from a suddenly mildly flustered receptionist.
"This is her husband, please patch me through," he requested.
After a noticeable short pause, then, "Oh, uh, Mrs. Conroy is tied up at the moment, and I'm not sure when she will be available. May I leave her a message?"
Early thought for a moment, "No, I'll talk to her at home tonight. Just tell her I called," and he hung up.
Something about the call didn't fit, but it took him another half hour to put his finger on it. Susan told him on the phone last night that she would be in the office all day today. Still, it was possible she was working on a legal file or with a client and couldn't be pulled away. The real stickler was Jennifer's absence. Susan made it a point to have Jennifer working the same hours she did. The only times Early remembered Jennifer out of the office when Susan was working were when she had a nasty flu bug, and the few times Jennifer herself was out of the office; out of the office on personal business.
The plane landed on time in Seattle, and he was dropped home by 6:35 PM. Susan wasn't home and the house was dark, which was surprising. His wife was almost always home by 6 PM.
Early unpacked, tossing his dirty linen in the hamper before changing clothes. When Susan wasn't home by 8 o'clock he made himself a toasted cheese sandwich for dinner. Then he settled down in front of the TV to wait for Susan.
With Susan still not home from work, he began worrying. Had she had an accident? But if something like that had happened someone would have called the house, and if he wasn't there at least a message would have been left.
He was too restless worrying about Susan to sit still and he found himself pacing the floor. He dialed her cell phone, but received the message that her number was not available. "Probably," he thought, "because the phone was turned off. I wonder why she would have turned it off."
The hint that something was terribly askew had grown to a hot ember by 9:20 when his own cell phone rang. Picking it up, he found Susan on the other end.
"Early, I was beginning to wonder if something had gone wrong!" were the first words rushing out of her mouth. She sounded worried. "I called your hotel as usual after eating dinner, and they told me you had checked out. Are you alright?"
"Yeah, just a minor change of plans," he replied. "Where are you?"
"I'm home, just finished cleaning up the kitchen. It's been lonely around here tonight. Will you be home Sunday as scheduled, and where are you staying?"
"Well, I'll be home all day Sunday, no problem. We moved our negotiations to their company headquarters this morning. You can reach me on my cell," he answered, his eyes fixed on the darkened, deserted kitchen. No wife there, and the dishes from his make shift meal were piled in the sink. "Anything unusual come up today? I tried to get you at the office this afternoon."
"Oh! Well... no, nothing special. I must have been tied up with John Stickner at the time. He got me through that mess with the Melrose account this week. I owe him big time for that," she said with a voice that seemed to have a hidden meaning in it, one which Early couldn't fathom. "Honey, after I was able to turn that disaster around, it looks like I'm going to get that partnership! Mr. Jenson practically promised it to me!" Susan crowed. "Isn't that grand?"
"Sure is honey, we will have to celebrate! I'm sorry I wasn't there tonight to get the celebration off the ground."
"Don't worry about that, love. We can start our fiesta Sunday when you come home. Don't be late, I really miss you. It's going to be lonely in that big bed without you tonight."
After chatting about domestic issues for a few minutes, the connection was broken. Early sat thinking of the many lies Susan had thrown at him tonight, his stomach twisting, churning, a sour taste in his mouth. Until tonight he believed his marriage and their love was solid and strong. It had been something he never questioned. Now he wasn't sure.
Early went to bed late, tossing and turning for hours before finally getting to sleep, alone in the big bed Susan had complained about. He was awake by 7 o'clock, eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling as he tried to plan his day.
By 9:00 he knew Susan wasn't coming home. He called her office. When the receptionist answered instead of Jennifer, he just asked if he could speak with Mrs. Conroy. When she told him Mrs. Conroy wasn't available he thanked her, told her it wasn't a pressing problem and that he would call again Monday morning.
"Oh, that should be fine. We expect Mrs. Conroy in the office by 9:00 Monday. You can call her then," was the friendly response.
After pulling information from his wife's office rolodex, Early climbed in their SUV. They had purchased the dark green Explorer to tow their camping trailer and seldom drove it other than on trips into the Cascade Mountains or on trips with the trailer. It was an unknown vehicle to those they knew.
Leaving the Mercedes in the garage he drove to Susan's Bellevue office. Driving slowly through the parking lot he made sure Susan's gray BMW wasn't there. With a sinking heart, he went looking for the address he found on her rolodex; John Stickner's home.
He found it in a wooded area in the exclusive Medina area. The grounds were surrounded with an eight foot red brick fence and heavily shadowed with towering fir trees. As he drove slowly by he saw Susan's BMW parked beside the garage where it didn't block the circular driveway. His vision suddenly blurry, he pulled to the side of the road until he could calm himself and dry his eyes.
Early drove into Bellevue, stopping for a breakfast so belated he had to call it brunch. It was 11:30 when he sat down and ordered a Belgian waffle, and tea. His stomach was too upset to take coffee and he wasn't sure if he could even eat the waffle.
Eating slowly, having to force each bite to stay down, he finally finished the meal, paid for it and, left the restaurant an hour later. Driving slowly he returned to the road past Stickner's place. Susan's car was still there. After driving aimlessly for over an hour he again drove by Stickner's. His wife's car was still there.
He drove home, his mind seething, wondering what was left of his marriage and the life he had enjoyed. He wondered if he would ever smile again.
.... There is more of this story ...