The biggest wonder was how calm I felt. After the myriad of emotions that had washed through me over the past twenty four hours, the icy calm was soothing to the point of being hypnotic.
My reverie was broken by "Hey buddy, you want another beer?" the bartender here was nothing if not attentive. I had sat here on this same stool for the past hour and a half and was still on my first drink. The bar wasn't making a lot of profit on me tonight.
"Not right now thanks, maybe in a bit." I answered casually as I continued to watch the mirrored reflection of the couple in the back booth of this smoky establishment. It was a bit strange to smell cigarette smoke; apparently the Midwest hadn't as yet been caught up in the frenzy of health concerns that had swept the west coast states. The place was old with a warm homey feel to it and had that lingering smell of smoke, old wood, and stale booze. I guess it would best be described as a neighborhood tavern. A long counter with high stools facing an old ornate back bar lined its entire length with a mirror. And lots of bottles of booze, at least eight or nine different brands for every type of liquor imaginable. An alcoholic's visual delight.
Along the wall opposite the bar were deep booths running from the front to the very back of the place where you could sit if you didn't want to "belly up to the bar" so to speak. The bartender paused in front of me for a moment as if he were about to say something. Catching the hint I continued our stilted conversation "I don't need another drink right now but you can pass me a basket of that popcorn" as I laid another five doller tip down for his troubles. It was very important that he not hassle me about my light drinking habits or suggest I move on. I had the one stool that let me have a clear view in the mirror of the couple now occupying the last booth. That last booth was hard to see into from any other spot in the room and I wasn't about to give up my spot.
All I knew about the male half of the couple was that his name was Will Hart, one year younger than me, and had graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1985. I also knew he was a slick talking asshole and he had a good eye for the ladies. One thing that I knew that he didn't was that his immediate future was about to develop a real dark spot.
Although the lady setting in the booth with him was his age she was still attractive enough to get second and third looks from males 15 to 65 when she passed by. At five feet three inches and one hundred and twenty five pounds she had a better than average shape that hinted at once being spectacular when she was twenty. Now she was showing that somewhat fuller figure that gave "more mature" ladies those rounded out set of curves that made men want to fall face first between inviting soft pillows of flesh and kiss their way to breathable air. Not what you would call beautiful but cute as hell. Dark hair, blue eyes, a small birthmark inside of her left thigh just short of where the soft curly pussy hair started. I knew a great deal about her, I mean after all, we've been married for fifteen years.
She was supposed to be out with girlfriends at her twenty year high school reunion. I was supposed to be fifteen hundred miles away at home. Looks like we both weren't doing what we were supposed to be. When the class reunion thing first came up I had agreed to go with her and she just buzzed with making plans for a "triumphant" return to the old stomping grounds. It wasn't like we didn't return occasionally but since her father had passed on and her mother moved to where we were to be closer to the family, she hadn't had an occasion to return. Consequently she hadn't seen her old friends for six or seven years.
The problem started when I had to tell her that the company I worked for had merged with our main competitor and the uniting process wouldn't be complete by the time of the reunion. This in turn meant that I wouldn't be going with her to the reunion. She went ballistic, and when she finally settled down she became what would best be described as "coolly neutral". Our sex life and everything else of a personal nature definitely went on the back burner. For the next ten days it seemed she was on the phone half the time talking to her old friends back home, planning what they were going to do, what they would wear, who was coming and who wasn't. One thing that seemed odd was when the name "Will" was mentioned she would talk in a much quieter voice and go into another room to finish her conversation. One evening I answered the phone and a man asked for Lyn. When I asked who was calling he replied that his name was Will and that he was an old classmate that would be at the reunion and just wanted to touch bases with her. When I mouthed the name "Will" to her while covering the mouthpiece with my hand she snatched the phone away and moved out of the room and hearing range. There followed a fairly protracted conversation, at the end of which produced a very mellow Lyn. When I had inquired as to whom "Will" was she got defensive and refused to talk about him at all. We wound up in a fight that was to set the mood until she left for the reunion.
I am not by nature the mildest of people so by the time Lyn left for the reunion I was in a really foul mood and beginning to have just the slightest niggles of suspicions. The first night after she left I noticed that she had forgotten to take her yearbook after using it for reference for the past month, reminiscing and trying to remember who was who. I thumbed through it until I found old "Will". He was kind of a pretty boy with dark curly hair. Written over and under his picture was the inscription "Lyn, to the cutest, perkiest girl in the senior class. Remember the Senior FFA hay ride? You still owe me a TROPHY! Best of luck at university; let's see if we can find another hay stack when you come home at Christmas. Always remember your thrill with WILL!" Jesus, were we all so corny when we were that age?
What the fuck was that all about? Owe a trophy? What kind of trophy? What kind of history did Lyn have with this dork?
As I sat thumbing through the rest of the yearbook I felt my apprehension and anger level creep up although I didn't have any particular reason for it except for the insinuating note on Wills picture. Still my "alpha dog" personae continued to grow. Further perusal revealed that he had been a very popular guy, a better than average student and a running back on the varsity football team. All I could think to myself was "Fuck this guy, I was a linebacker in high school and collage and I would rip him a new asshole if I ever saw him". Obviously, continued reading about "Will" didn't improve my mood any.
During this time my work wasn't improving my mood any either, merging two companies into one was a lot easier to do on paper than it was in the real here and now world. Each had its own way of doing everything from timekeeping to processing orders and each side was more than reluctant to give up that which was familiar and comfortable. It was my job to see to it that we became an integrated single company, doing business as one company; all the while carrying on business as usual. My boss had given me only one cryptic instruction when we had begun the process "make this merger appear seamless and invisible to our clients". Easy to say, hard to do, so consequently, thirteen and fourteen hour workdays wheedling and cajoling reluctant employees were the norm. By the end of the day I was frustrated and as pissed off as a man could get.
To add fuel to the fire I called Lyn every night after she left and the one time I had been able to catch her at her girlfriends house where she was staying she had been very abrupt and evasive when I had tried to make conversation about how things were going and how she was doing. The other two nights she was "out with friends" according to the baby sitter taking care of her friends kids and requests to have her call me when she returned produced zero results.
On night four after her departure I received a call at 11:00 in the evening just after I had gotten out of the shower and was sucking down a cold beer, my only source of pleasure for days now. When the phone rang I assumed it was Lyn finally returning my calls
"Hey babe, how's it going?"
A startled sounding male voice on the other end stammered for a moment before answering back "Excuse me, is this Jim Thornton?"
Embarrassed I managed a sheepish reply "I'm sorry, yes it is, can I help you"
"Jim, this is Bob Sims in Riverdale, I'm the husband of Maggie Sims. We met some years back when Lyn and you were visiting."
"Oh yea Bob, sorry I didn't recognize you, how are things going, I hope Lyn staying with you and your wife isn't too big an inconvenience. Has something happened?" I added with the sudden realization that Bob wouldn't be making a social call at this time of night.
"Not exactly, this call is kind of a husband to husband thing. I don't want to pry into you and Lyn's private business but I think you should reconsider coming to Riverdale."
A cold chill ran up my back and a knot formed in my stomach at Bob's words "Why is there something wrong?"
"Not exactly at the moment but I think there is the potential for a problem. Do you know a guy Lyn and Maggie went to school with named Will Hart?"
Our conversation didn't last a whole lot longer but at the end I thanked Bob for his concern and call. Within thirty minute I had booked a flight to Riverdale on the computer and had packed a bag. Unfortunately I wouldn't arrive there until seven thirty tomorrow evening, but hey, sometimes the cover of darkness is a big advantage. When I had finished all the preparations that could be made in the middle of the night I went to bed and tried to sleep. My imagination ran wild through my mind, was Lyn cranking up an aborted romance from twenty years ago? Was I being a jealous ass for not having more trust in her? I had been smitten with Lyn from the very first time we had met and by the second date I knew this was the woman I wanted to share the rest of my life with. Since that time she had been the center of my universe even if I didn't always show it. She had always been loving and caring and I was as wild about her today as I had been at the beginning. I had always thought she felt the same way, in fact, I had never considered that she might feel differently. True over the past few years I had shifted into the "career pursuit" mode and our personal relationship including sex, nights out on the town and just plain being together on a Saturday afternoon had been pushed into the background on autopilot. I had accepted this as the norm for our time and place in life. Maybe she had decided it wasn't for her and had she opted for something more exciting than PTA meetings, soccer games and an occasional movie when I wasn't too tired after work. Initially it made me physically sick to even consider the possibility of her having an affair. Then I got angry that she didn't appreciate the effort I was making to get us all the things we wanted and planned for. When I thought about her being with another man my anger went off the scale, I had always had a bit of a possessive streak but nothing of consequence had ever come from it. Now it had bloomed to full power.
My anger finally settled down to a burning sun-like flame dancing just under the surface of my conscience thought but it still precluded me getting a restful nights sleep. Bad deal, when I don't get good nights sleep I get really grumpy. When I get grumpy I am not a pleasant person to deal with. The only good thing was that Lyn's Mom had come over to take care of the kids while she was gone and so I would just leave early in the morning as if I were going to work. If Lyn should call (unlikely) she wouldn't know I was on my way to Riverdale. I would leave her a note that I had to work a 24 hour shift and would call her later to make sure everything was OK with her and the kids.
I went by work the next morning and told a very unhappy boss that I would be gone for a few days and that if need be he could replace me and I would find a new job when I got back. He wasn't pleased but he didn't fire me either so I guess that was a small victory, I needed all I could get as I had mentally begun to swing back and forth between soul shredding depression and absolute killing rage.
Airplane rides are mostly terminally boring but they do have an upside. They give you a measured period of time in relative isolation to think things through without interruption, allowing you the time and peace to form plans and most importantly, gain control over yourself. By the time I landed in Riverdale I had decided on a specific plan of action, which in turn produced a calmness that I would have thought impossible earlier this morning.