An ending to Patricia51's classic story of a strong woman who found herself weak at a crucial time.
Please read Patricia's story before reading this. And Patricia, forgive me if I have diluted the impact of your story.
Donna stopped just inside the door to her husband's office. Ignoring the light tan walls and the masculine leather and teak with which she had decorated it. His eyes had turned to her as she opened the door, his smile for her automatic and warm. As he watched his wife carefully close and lock the door behind her, something in her eyes caught his attention.
They had been married fifteen years, through troubles and trials, and he knew her as well as she knew herself. His wife was deeply troubled. Without taking his eyes off Donna's he keyed the intercom to his secretary's desk. "If anyone needs me, Darlene, take a message. I'll get back to them later. In the meantime my door is shut. Unless the Governor calls, I am not to be disturbed."
"Sure thing, boss," she chirped back at him. After a short pause she added, "If there is anything I can do, anything at all, just tell me. I saw something in her eyes, too."
Donna hadn't moved from the door as she listened to Steve's conversation with Darlene. She was fighting hard to keep her composure. She wasn't sure it was possible but she had to try.
Jerkily she walked over to one of the dark red, leather easy chairs arranged around a low table in a corner of her husband's office. After setting her large handbag on the table she tried to sit gracefully. To Steve's eyes it looked like she fell, her legs unable to continue holding her.
With a low curse, Steve was up from behind his desk, his long strides carrying him to his wife's side. Kneeling beside her chair, he pulled her hands into his. After a pause he said in his low, gruff voice, "I've never seen you so upset, love. Whatever it is, we can work it out. Remember we are a partnership. Can I get you a drink from the bar, coffee, soda, is there anything you need."
"Oh God, Steve. A drink is the last thing I need. It's part of why I'm in this mess," she whispered.
"Donna, take your time. As ominous as this may be, I love you... And you love me. Just tell me, please."
"I don't know where to start, Steve. Monday at the party, today when Gil insisted I have lunch with him or even months or years ago. I guess I'll just ramble. This is something I never, ever expected to have to face. It is something I never HAD to face until Monday." Pausing a moment, Steve's wife looked timidly at her husband.
Seeing something in Steve's eyes renewed her courage and she continued. "At the party, a lot of our friends were there, like we expected. I had a wonderful time, and I had one or two too many gin and tonics. That isn't an excuse; it is just a fact. About 11 or 11:30 I had too much partying and stepped outside to get out of the smoke. I needed to get my feet under me, too. I knew if I had another drink I would probably need someone to drive me home. It had been great fun, and I was feeling blue because you had missed it.
"It was cool outside and I was starting to shiver just a bit when Gil scared me to death. I hadn't seen him at the party, though I'm sure he must have been there. Thinking about it now, I think he may have followed me outside...
"Anyway," Donna continued, "he saw I was cold and slipped his jacket around me. You know Gil and I flirt a little, all innocent and it's been going on for years. Well, we teased one another a little and then he asked me to come see his new office. Did you know he just made First Vice President? But anyway he took me to see his office. It was really nice. Not as nice as yours honey, but I helped decorate yours."
Steve nodded, beginning to guess where this was going. Gil had a reputation with the ladies but he never suspected he would make a try for Donna.
Donna took a big breath, leaned her head on the back of the chair, looked up at the ceiling and continued. "I took his jacket off, hanging it on a chair. You remember I was wearing that black sleeveless dress you like so well. You know the one, with the short, tight skirt and no sleeves. The one that ties behind my neck and my shoulders and back are bare. We were talking about his office and Gil casually put his hands on my bare shoulders. It felt really nice, and I was wishing you were there so I didn't say anything. Besides it just felt like the flirting we had been doing for so long."
Donna took a big breath, letting it all out at once. Then she shut her eyes and continued, "Things got crazy then, and I don't know exactly what happened but Gil was suddenly holding me and kissing me and his hands were all over my bare skin. I swear, Steve, I tried to push him away. But he didn't pay any attention to me. I guess I wasn't pushing too hard, I really didn't think I needed to. Then suddenly it began feeling good. I can't explain how it happened, it just did.
"We were kissing and everything and I was trying to tell him to stop. Then he was peeling my dress off. Somehow I wasn't able to stop him, couldn't even stop myself. I swear Steve; it just came out of the blue. I never thought I had to worry about Gil, he was our friend: Your friend! When he picked me up and lay me back on his big desk. It was like a dream, a bad dream... Oh shit, Steve! Then he... I let him... I can't say it! I'm so ashamed! I understand if you throw me out! It was nothing I ever expected to happen! Oh God, Steve!" Donna sobbed as she buried her face in her hands. "If someone had told me anyone could do that to me; and I'd just let them! I wouldn't... couldn't have believed it!"
"And my god Steve but I even enjoyed it Not like with you, but I enjoyed it. I let him and I liked it and I hated it even when I was pushing back at him but I didn't fight him and I'm so ashamed so sorry... I love you honey, but I let it happen! I know you will never forgive me! Please forgive me!"
For a moment nothing was heard in the room but the ticking of the Regulator clock on the wall and Donna's sobs. Steve was stunned, hurt deeply; but his mind had already gone to Gil's reputation. He wasn't shy in telling everyone how he could get "the girls" on their backs anytime he wanted to. Someway the bastard had gotten through Donna's guard. But he didn't think he knew the whole story. She hadn't told him everything, why was she confessing now?
"Donna," Steve started, "why are you telling me this today? Why not Tuesday or any other day this week? Why didn't you wait until we were home and alone tomorrow?"
Taking a long, mystified look at his wife, "Why are you telling me this anyway, Donna? You have lived with this for almost a week. From what I hear you say it isn't something you are proud of. Why didn't you swallow it and keep it a secret? Tell me, Donna. It's important."
Steve pulled his wife up out of the chair and helped her over to the couch where he sat beside her, pulling her against him, an arm around her shoulders. "I've seen you cry before, Donna. I've seen tears of joy, tears of anger. I've seen you cry from frustration, and I've seen you cry when you are filled with devastating sorrow. Remember when your sister's baby died? You were sobbing like this, and your eyes got all bloodshot like they are now. That only happens when you feel a big hole in your heart and aren't sure it will ever get filled up. So tell me, wife. What caused you to march into my office this afternoon and lay this on me?"
In a little voice Donna said, while looking at her lap, "I've been trying to decide whether I could just live with this, Steve. I didn't want to hurt you. For Christ's sake, I don't want to lose you! I could get along with nothing as long as I had you and the kids. I was, I am scared you will throw me out. I don't know how I could live with that."
After a pause, she went on, "Gil called me today and insisted I have lunch with him. I met him at Sanderson's at 1:00 PM. Thank God I had him meet me there! I didn't want to go but when I thought about it, it made sense. I could tell him that what we did was a one-time thing, like it had never happened. I could tell him how bad I felt about what we did. I was going to make him understand that there was nothing between us. I was going to tell him he wasn't even my friend any more if I had to."
She looked fiercely into Steve's eyes, "But he wasn't going to allow that to happen!"
Despite her earlier claim that she didn't need anything, Donna got up and got herself a bottle of water out of Steve's hidden bar. Sitting back down, she looked into Steve's eyes as she went on, "He has his office bugged, Steve. He took pictures of us, what we did, and he was going to show them to you and anyone else he thought of unless I did what he said. Steve, he told me he OWNED me! Oh, God..." and she broke down again but not for long. "I was really glad I had him meet me at Sanderson's. He gave me an envelope with pictures in it!"
"I told him never in a hundred years would I do what he said! Steve, he was trying to grab me and take the envelope away from me! Then David walked up to the table... He's such a pussycat, but when Gil looked so far up to see his eyes he sure didn't know that. He was so afraid of him it wasn't funny! Gil just turned white! David walked me to my car and made sure Gil didn't bother me again."
Mad as hell, Steve asked, "What pictures, Donna? Where are they?"
"They are in my bag, Steve, but I don't want you to see them! Please, don't ask me to show them to you! I am so ashamed... But what he was doing was blackmail! And I remembered other women and some nasty divorces. Maybe they couldn't do what he wanted either! I think he's been doing this for a while." After a long pause, she added, "The photos are in my bag, Steve. You can see them if you insist, but I am really ashamed of them and don't want you to see them."
Steve looked at her a long time. She could see the questions in his eyes, the doubt, and the shaken trust.