This is the second in a series of stories about the consequences people suffer when they make a choice. There is no sex in this story.
Thanks to Angel Love for her editing.
Erin and I had been married for just over 12 years last month. We had no children and we both were content in our careers. We first met at a seminar on business accounting and we found we had a lot in common. She was then an engineer, working for a medical device manufacturer and I, Paul Warner, was a Senior Manager for a company that made hospital equipment. We had dinner and made plans to see each other after the meetings were concluded. We lived only a few miles apart and both worked in Newark, NJ.
We continued to see each other after the conference and we became a couple soon after. Both of us were very dedicated to our careers and we shared a love of good food, good wines, good music, good restaurants and travel. We were able to take advantage of all of these during our dates and we finally knew that we were a perfect match in so many ways. I finally asked her to marry me on one of our evenings out to a very fancy restaurant we both enjoyed. I had help from the staff and the ring was placed very prominently on the top of a slice of chocolate cake. It had white icing and the ring was standing upright, clearly visible when the plate was placed in front of her. When she saw the ring, her face glowed and as she looked up at me, I took her hand in mine and proposed. She accepted and we were married 3 months later.
Erin was a process engineer which meant she spent a lot to time traveling to different sites to help install and debug new manufacturing equipment. I know this was a strange career for a woman but she had worked her way into the job early on when she graduated with a degree in chemical engineering. She liked the mechanical part of her job and took every chance to work on equipment design and installation. Over the years, she had gained a reputation in her field and she was now highly regarded and well paid.
I was more of an executive type. I had started in business with an oil company as an accountant and worked my way up the ladder until I was finally able to enter the job market with a good job history and lots of experience. I was offered a job as the VP of Finance for a small packaging machinery operation and I gained even more experience. After 10 years in the field, I took the job as CFO for a major manufacturing company.
We lived in a nice home, not very large but just right for the two of us. Since Erin traveled quite a bit, we had a housekeeper who maintained the place. She had been with us for almost 5 years. She was an older woman who had three children that she was helping through school so she was dedicated to her job as a source of much needed money. She was honest and hard working and we both adored her.
All of this is just to let you know who we are and what we are about. Nothing much our of the ordinary and our life was almost as typical. One would think that we were bored much of the time but that simply wasn't true. Erin and I would try almost anything at least once. We had done a wide range of things. We had tried sky diving, bungee jumping, scuba diving, golf, hiking and camping. One time we rented a couple of motorcycles and we spent a week, just riding around the countryside. We traveled extensively when the time allowed, vacationing or on business. We accompanied each other sometimes when Erin was in the field or when I traveled. We enjoyed all of them but none were obsessive. We just had time to enjoy ourselves and we made enough money to indulge in most of them as often as we liked.
We had discussed the idea of children shortly after we were married but jointly decided not to have any. It was a mutual decision and neither of us were the least bit sorry about it. After 12 years, we still were content with each other. That was until just about 6 months ago.
I noticed little things. Those things that you take for granted and never think twice about. Like our Saturdays. We liked to sleep in late on Saturday and then get up just long enough to fix a couple of sandwiches and some soft drinks and then we would run back to bed and just lay around until late afternoon, reading, maybe watch a little TV and fool around with each other. We had sex most times if we were in the mood or we would just get each other off if we weren't. Erin liked oral, both giving and getting and so did I. So we would either have a good hard sexual workout or we would give each other oral. One or the other. But the last five Saturdays she expressed disinterest except on two occasions and then it was just oral. Erin initiated it so that I knew she didn't want sex.
Then there was our usual pattern of having sex once or twice a week, usually going to bed early so that we could get in a good workout and still get a good night's sleep. We had a solid sex life and it had settled down to a routine over the years. Again, that was how it had been but not for the past several months. We started to have sex less and less and then it was down to only on Saturdays. It happened so slowly that I didn't notice it but it began with the 'I'm awfully tired' or 'I have to be up early tomorrow' from Erin. I never mentioned it because I didn't even notice at first.
I had never had occasion to doubt Erin or her fidelity. Even though she traveled a lot in her job, and usually with other men from the company, I had never once doubted her. She would do the little things: she would call at odd times, always called in the evening just before bedtime to talk or to tell me about her day and never failed to answer her cell if I called. If she said she would be home at a certain time, she was always on time or she would call to explain why she was late. Her secretary always knew where she was at any time and would contact her for me if she was in a remote plant. She always called me back right away. No doubts.
But recently I noticed that the phone calls became less and less and she seemed to be having to travel more than before. They were short trips and she excused the lack of calls by telling me the time was tight and she didn't have much spare time to chat or make unnecessary calls. Suddenly I was an unnecessary nuisance?
Now, things were becoming strained between us. I finally decided to have a talk with her that night at dinner. I had to know what was wrong and what I could do to make it right. I left work right on time and drove home, filled with anxiety. I was worried that something might be seriously wrong and Erin was afraid to tell me, but I had to know. I made it home just as she arrived. We went in together.
It was my turn to fix dinner so I had ordered Chinese takeout which I put on the table with some soy sauce and salad fixings. It was one of her favorites so she was pleased. We ate in silence and enjoyed the food. We finished early and cleaned the dishes together. As usual. I enjoyed the closeness and the companionship and the sharing of chores that had come to symbolize our relationship. I had forgotten how much we shared. That thought caused a small kernel of pain to form in my gut and it wouldn't relax.
We took our coffee into the den and sat down, her on the couch with her legs tucked under her and the cup sitting on the coffee table, me in my recliner with the side table holding my cup. Again, our usual. I looked over at her and noticed for the first time some wrinkles around her mouth and eyes, sure signs of tension. I decided it was time.
"Erin, I wanted to talk to you about some things. Is it OK to do it now?"
Erin looked over at me with some surprise but no anxiety or concern.
"Of course. You can talk to me anytime. What's up? You look so serious."
"I'm worried and a little afraid. I don't know what's wrong and I have tried to think of anything that could be bothering you but nothing comes to mind."
Erin now showed a little anxiety demonstrated by a frown, a tightening of her mouth and a narrowing of her eyes. I watched the anxiety quickly disappear and her face take on a quizzical look.
"I don't know what you're talking about. What in the world makes you think that something is wrong or bothering me? I'm just fine. There is nothing wrong that I know of."
"Then why has our lovemaking suddenly gone from several times a week to hardly ever? Why do you no longer want to make love on our Saturdays? Why are you always so quiet now? You never want to just sit and talk and you are in bed and asleep long before I get there. Everything is different now and I don't know why!"
I hadn't intended to get so emotional but once I started, it all came out. It had been building inside me for months and now it overflowed. The pain that had begun with dinner, now was a full fledged fire burning in my belly. I poured it all out and finished with a tear falling down my cheek.
I watched Erin's face, waiting and hoping for some rational explanation of what was wrong but all I saw was a slow flush of red that started in her cheeks and spread down her neck and across her face. She suddenly couldn't maintain eye contact with me and looked down and away. It was at that moment that I first began to suspect that my wonderful world was about to collapse into smoking ruins. I waited for the end.
But instead of answering me, Erin suddenly jumped up and ran out of the room and to our bedroom. I heard the door shut and then nothing more. I sat there, stunned and alone. What the hell just happened? Was that my answer? She was afraid to tell me the truth because it was so terrible? I believed then that something was seriously wrong and she was afraid to tell me. I didn't know what to do so I just sat there, too afraid to move.
I sat there for over an hour, trying to get the nerve to go up and force her to tell me the truth when I heard the door open and Erin coming back down the stairs. I held my breath while she came back into the room and sat down on the couch as before. I watched her and waited for her to speak.
"Paul, I'm so sorry. There's nothing going on that you need to worry about. I've been very upset lately over some things going on in the company. I'm afraid that I might be out of a job very soon if things don't change. I guess the worry and the uncertainty has made me a wreck. I wasn't aware that you even noticed and I apologize for making you worry so. Can you forgive me?"
I considered what she said with some skepticism but I had no reason to doubt her. I looked inside to see if what she said fit with what I had seen and experienced and found her explanation to be far short of the likely truth. But, I had no proof of anything else so I decided to let her go for a while longer and see what she would do now.
"Of course I forgive you. I'm so glad that's all it was. I was afraid there was something wrong with your health and I was so worried. I even thought that you might be having an affair and that accounted for your lack of interest in sex. I guess I imagined all sorts of things. I'm sorry about the job but you are good enough to get another job probably with a better pay level somewhere else. As a matter of fact, I think you should either stay home or look elsewhere for a job with less stress."
At the mention of an affair, I saw her eyes widen and her color pale just for an instant and I guess I knew then. But I didn't let on and I let her talk some more about the job and listened as though I believed her. I knew in my heart that she was lying through her teeth but I let her go on. When she finished, I decided to make an attempt to give her a chance to save what I still believed was a good marriage.
"Erin, there is something I want to say. I need you to listen to me. If there is something wrong with our marriage or our sex life, I need you to tell me. If you are unhappy with me, tell me. But don't cheat on me or our marriage. I could never accept that. There is no way we could survive that. I will do whatever you want me to do to make things better but I will never forgive an affair."
This time she didn't react to the term affair but she did listen to me. I could tell almost the exact moment when she decided not to tell me the truth. I saw her face tighten and I saw her eyes narrow, just before she put a smile on her face.
"You're being silly now. I would never cheat on you and there is nothing wrong with any part of our life together. You are just tired and depressed and you are thinking bad thoughts. Just let them go. You know how much I love you. There is no one else for me."
I listened with a smile on my face but I was planning on finding the truth. Let her believe she had me fooled.
That night, Erin wanted to go to bed early and have sex and I was more than willing. If she was having an affair, I decided I might as well get some too. Erin was a very experienced lover and she demonstrated it to me that night. We had oral and then we had sex, something we rarely did. Erin was trying as hard as she could to convince me. I let her try.
Things went pretty much back to normal for the next two weeks as Erin remained committed to convincing me that things were alright. I watched and waited, knowing I would see some sign when she was ready to stray again. That sign came a week later when she told me she had to go to the Toledo plant for a two day run. She said she would go by herself but only have to stay two nights and she would be back on the third day. Since this was nothing out of the usual, I made no mention of it. She was all over me that night and the next two nights before she was to leave.