A Study in Scarlet
Copyright© 2007 by Blue88
Drama Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Is perception stronger than reality?
It was a late fall day, the trees still ablaze with color, but the rain and overcast skies made everything appear dull and drab. Dull and drab perfectly suited John Watson's mood. He extracted his tall, lanky frame from behind the wheel of his car and quickly sought the shelter of the saloon door. Entering, he settled himself at the end of the bar. His somber mood was reflected in his face, which was drawn and lined.
His whole week had been especially shitty. An instructor in his department had handed in a sudden resignation and Jon knew that he would have to scramble for a replacement. Three interviews that week were totally unproductive, he wouldn't have hired those candidates to sweep the classrooms. To add injury upon insult, the books that had been ordered were not yet delivered to the student store and were probably going to be late. To top that off, students were getting pissed as they recognized the magnitude of the reading load for which they were responsible and were starting to complain to the administration. He also realized that what was really worrying him was his marriage.
"Hi, professor. Welcome, haven't seen you in awhile," Chester said quietly as he carefully wiped down the bar not far from him.
"Hi Chester. Thanks... how about a scotch and water... on ice" replied Dr. Watson, noting that it was just after 4 p.m.
"Comin' right up, Doc," said the bartender as he left to prepare the drink.
The drink arrived in short order and John looked about him. His eyes wandered to the dark, walnut stained, wooden walls, the old light fixtures hanging almost haphazardly about, the cracked leather of the upholstery in the booths which lined the side of the saloon. The old place felt comfortable, a haven to which he had retreated many times since he was a graduate student so many years ago.
His mind drifted back over the decades. He saw himself as a young man, finally finishing up his doctorate in American History. His manuscript on the life of Henry Clay had been accepted by a scholastic publisher and would soon be in print. To top all of that off he had been offered an teaching position by the university and he had accepted. The salary was poor, of course, but he couldn't have been happier at the time. All of his hopes and dreams were coming to fruition.
Esther had already graduated from law school the semester before and had secured a position with a prestigious law firm in the city. They had been living together for the last year and John felt that now was the time to formalize their relationship. He had scraped together as much money as he was able and had purchased an engagement ring. The stone was pathetically small, but it was the thought that counted, he rationalized.
Esther had squealed with happiness when he presented it to her and his heart had swelled with pride. Everything was coming together. Between their two paychecks they would be able to do relatively well. They planned the wedding in the spring.
John smiled a bit sardonically as his thoughts dwelled on a young and effervescent Esther Prynne. His smile turned wistful as he remembered her smile, her enthusiasm, her slender, lithe body. She wasn't a tall girl, about 5'4", but seemed so much taller due to her zest for life. She wore her blond hair longer then, almost reaching her shoulders. Her blue eyes would always sparkle with joy whenever he would appear. Damn, he thought to himself, they had loved each other so much.
The somber mood returned when his mind traveled again, back to that New Year's Eve party thrown by her law firm just weeks after he had presented her with the engagement ring. He had never really felt comfortable with her colleagues; he had always felt that little kernel of contempt from them as if his chosen occupation was a poor choice for a man. Perhaps his contempt for them wasn't hidden as well, which would always anger Esther. She kept reminding him that this was HER chosen profession and he had better learn to accept that. He knew that she was right so he did his best to get along with them... until that damn party.
By about 11 that night everyone was pretty well soused. Esther's company had rented a bunch of rooms in the hotel where everyone had gathered, so there were no worries about driving home. Spouses were there and most singles had brought dates. People were staggering about and drinks were sloshing over rims, spilling on the floor. It appeared an almost Bacchanalian scene, a party that the ancient gods would have relished.
The only sober group there was a few of the senior partners who were obviously a bit upset at the degree of drunkenness exhibited. They sat at a far table with their wives and tried to ignore the antics of the partygoers. John glanced again at A. C. Doyle, the senior and founding partner. Ironically, Art Doyle was one of the few at the firm that John liked and admired. Art had always showed respect for John's chosen profession and always made time at company functions to take him aside and chat. John noticed that Art was decidedly upset. He saw the short, white haired lawyer glance about with a grim expression on his face and he knew that there would be a bit of ass chewing later in the week, a scenario which made John smile a bit.
John though felt uneasy. He had always tried to avoid any gathering where there was the potential for drunkenness. He always made it a point to drink in moderation and when he did drink he made sure that it never reached a level where he lost control. He vowed that he would never turn into his father who had been a drunk and died a drunk when his car had slammed into a tree. His mother had had to provide for them both as his father had left nothing. John had grown up on the mean streets of the city and he had seen first hand the loss of dignity caused by poverty and an education system that failed so many. Deep down he knew that it really wasn't entirely the fault of the schools, education was not nearly valued as much as it should have been by the parents of the hoodlums cutting school day after day.
John smiled a bit wryly as he remembered that he had been one of those hoodlums. His grades were poor, primarily because he just didn't care. His mother never really had the time to devote to his upbringing and so he roamed free with the gang... until his mom married Tim Murphy, and horror upon horrors, Tim was a cop. His free, roaming days came swiftly to an end and he was shown that the road he was on led to nothing but misery. John was not stupid and his conversion from a gang member to honor student didn't take an inordinate amount of time. In just a few short months he found himself buckling down to his studies and actually enjoying school for the first time. It was also the time that he vowed that he would never let alcohol rule his life - he would never turn into his father.
So there was a very good reason why John was uncomfortable at that damn party. It didn't seem like there was anyone sober there, including Esther who almost never drank. This time she chided him that he was being a party pooper and to relax and enjoy. Esther was definitely woozy and John had tried to convince her that it was time to leave. She snapped at him... told him that it wasn't even midnight and she wanted to welcome in the New Year. John shrugged and bided his time, trying to keep away from the roisterers.
Finally the countdown to the New Year had begun and John looked about for his fiancee. On the stroke of midnight he finally located her. She was in the embrace of a James Moriarty, another young lawyer at the firm. The kiss that they were sharing was no little peck. It seemed that they were devouring each other, mouths open, tongues dueling and it was all so damn obvious. Moriarty had his hands on Esther's ass, pulling her hips tightly to him. Her fingers were in his hair, grinding his face against hers.
John, pale and trembling, strode over to the couple and yanked her away from this "hunk" as she had referred to him previously in the evening.
John's face was inches from hers as he hissed, "What the hell do you think you're doing - have you conveniently forgotten that you're engaged, you slut?"
It was then that Moriarty made a mistake. He put his hand on John's chest and shoved him. Seconds later the "hunk" was on the floor, John standing over him. Esther, red faced, eyes blazing, slapped John - a crack that was heard around the room. This little exchange had now caught the attention of the crowd and the silence was deafening.
John stood still for a moment, shocked, then calmly but forcibly took Esther's left hand and pulled the engagement ring from her finger. Never taking his eyes from hers he dropped it to the floor and ground it under his heel, into the tile, until there was nothing left but a tiny, misshapen lump of metal. Without another word, he turned and left.
He strode across the parking lot, hyperventilating until he forced himself to breathe more slowly. He recognized that he was shaking with anger and humiliation and he stopped at his car, taking long, slow breaths. He forced the rage from his mind, trying to think rationally. His thoughts were far from rational though - all he now wanted was to get back to their apartment, pack his things and get out... get out as quickly as possible. That little scene left him little choice, Esther had gone too far. John didn't give a rat's ass that she was drunk and perhaps not fully responsible for her actions. His anger left little room for forgiveness at that point.
Moments later John arrived home and hurried to pack his personal effects. He filled two suitcases and then stopped to look around him. "Shit, is this what I have to show for our life together?" he thought to himself. Two suitcases and a duffle filled with his papers and personal effects - it seemed almost pathetic.
John was a bit calmer now - more deliberate. He knew that this wasn't just a bit of a tiff. This went to the very foundation of their relationship - a relationship that he knew had probably come to an end. He suspected that he now could no longer trust Esther - trust her fidelity nor trust her ability or willingness to safeguard his honor and dignity. If she wanted to fuck around, she would do it without the crutch or impediment of a husband.
It didn't take long for John to get a room at a Holiday Inn not far from the campus. His mind was already thinking ahead. He knew that there were quarters available for unmarried faculty and visiting lecturers at the university. He would take steps to lease a small suite in a faculty residence the next day. He realized also that he had a lot of thinking to do about Esther, but he strongly suspected that they were through. He was also smart enough to recognize that he was, at the present, angry and embarrassed and in no state of mind to think this situation through with any rationality. Being away from her, for at least awhile, would give him the necessary "room" to allow him to come to some conclusions.
The next few days seemed to fly by as John was swamped with the minutia of the new term. He consistently tore up messages to call Esther and he refused to take her calls. He was in no mood to confront her nor was he in any mood to get involved in another altercation with her. His face still stung, at least in his imagination, from her slap. He also knew that he missed her terribly and he wondered if perhaps he was making too much of what probably was just a drunken incident, although deep down he had doubts about that explanation. It was in that frame of mind that he drove to the Fairmont Country Club for lunch with A.C.Doyle.
It was now over two weeks since the party and that long since he had moved out of the apartment. Yesterday John had received a call from Art Doyle asking him to be his guest for lunch at his club. John had attempted to beg off, but Mr. Doyle wouldn't seem to take no for an answer, so John had reluctantly agreed. He suspected the reason for the meeting, but tried to keep an open mind.
Entering the sunlit dining room, John saw Doyle seated in a small alcove by the windows. He strode to the table and Doyle arose, smiling in greeting. "Hello, John. Thank you for coming," and extended his hand.
John smiled in return, shaking his hand. "Thanks, Mr. Doyle. Nice to see you again," he rejoined although without too much enthusiasm.
Doyle smiled softly. "John, please call me Art. I've asked you to do that before - I hope that you can consider me a friend."
"Of course... Art. You know that I have a lot of respect for you. I've always appreciated the courtesy you've shown me," John replied as they took their seats.
They made small chitchat as they lingered over a small lunch. Art sat back as their table was cleared and final cups of coffee were brought. He looked at John with affection for he truly did like this earnest young man.
"John, I'm sure that you know why I have invited you to have lunch with me. In addition to the enjoyment I had spending time with you, the "official" reason is Esther. Wait, wait, please... just sit and listen for a few moments, ok?"
John sighed and nodded. He knew that this was coming and in truth, he rather welcomed it. Perhaps there was a way back for the two of them, and Art certainly could be the person that could help heal this rift.
Art smiled as he got the go -ahead. "John, first of all I have to tell you that the entire firm owes you an apology. We let things get out of hand, the party wasn't supposed to degenerate into a drunken free for all. The entire staff was reprimanded when they returned to work. I also want to tell you that Moriarty was transferred to a branch office in another city. It came to my attention that his plan of seduction was no big secret and it all came out that week. He's no longer around. I would like to have fired him, but this was easier."
John raised his eyebrows. "Plan of seduction? So this wasn't just an isolated incident?" he speculated silently. He wondered what else might have occurred - what else had Esther not told him?
Art frowned a bit, suspecting what John was thinking. "John, I know what's running through your mind - please rest assured that I investigated and came to the conclusion that you have nothing to worry about. His plan for Esther never went beyond what happened New Year's Eve. I have little doubt about that.
"I have spoken to Esther a few times this week and she really is a mess. She is of no use to the firm in her state of mind, and beside that, you know that I'm genuinely fond of her, as I am of you, and do not want this "slip" to ruin a perfectly good relationship. Look, John, you know that you love her and her love for you is so obvious that it's almost embarrassing. It's time for you to sit down and talk to her and get this straightened out. Why on earth end something that you both, I'm sure, desperately want?"
John sighed. He knew that Art was right. "I know, I know. I think I've calmed down enough so that I can have a rational discussion with Esther. I guess I'll call her and set up a meeting - it's time."
Art had a broad grin on his face. "No need, John. Esther will be expecting you at the apartment this evening for dinner. Now, now, don't get pissy, I know you, John. You're an intelligent, rational person. I knew that you would see my point."
John smiled wryly. "Okay, Art. Tell her that I'll be there, but not for dinner. I'll get there around 8 and we can sit down over some coffee and talk... and Art, thanks, you are a friend. I guess I needed someone to get my ass moving."
John and Esther did talk that evening - in fact their "talk" lasted for almost 2 hours. At first Esther was obviously nervous and agitated and made a few false starts, clearing her throat and then looking down at the cup of coffee between her palms.
John purposefully didn't help, sitting calmly awaiting Esther's first words. He knew that if they worked things out that evening, if they were both frank and honest about what had happened and discussed what their expectations were of each other, perhaps they could put this behind them and get on with their lives together. But John wasn't going to make this easy. He was convinced - Esther precipitated this mini-crisis and it was up to her to begin fixing it.
Esther finally looked up at John, unshed tears glistening in her eyes. "John, I do owe you an apology. I truthfully don't know why I kissed Jim as I did, in fact I don't know why I even kissed him at all. I can only put it down to the number of drinks I had. I do feel ashamed of myself and I pray that you can forgive me." She had rushed the last sentence and it appears to John as if it were something she had prepared beforehand.
John sat placidly, gazing at a obviously distraught woman. He sighed. "Okay, Essie - I understand, but understanding doesn't make the hurt any less. But you have to understand that a battle had begun and you made the decision to side with the enemy rather than with your mate. Do you know how that made me feel? Do you recognize the humiliation that caused me? If this is what I have to look forward to then I'm truly not certain that we should continue our relationship."
Esther paled at those words and shook her head. "No, John. Please. I do love you. Don't let a moment of stupidity ruin what we have."
"Look, Esther," Jon replied, his voice still soft and calm. "I don't want to be a prig about this, I don't mean to sound pedantic nor do I want to talk this to death, but we have to be clear about what we expect of each other. If we are going to be married, we have to understand what our commitments mean. We have to agree on what the words honor, love and fidelity mean."
In the end Esther apologized for her behavior again that evening and vowed to never again drink to "excess" while John did wonder what she meant by "excess". John also apologized for losing his temper although he secretly didn't think his reaction was all that "over the top". Their discussion ranged from what fidelity meant to both of them as well as loyalty and trust.
John moved back to the apartment the next day and, while it took more than a few days, things seemed to return to normal. Interestingly enough though, John never again purchased an engagement ring, and Esther never asked for one. They married in the spring as planned and their union was a good one. They truly did love one another and that love was tested when they discovered a few years into the marriage that he was sterile.
John had himself tested and had discovered that the few sperm he was able to produce were mostly feeble and ill-formed. They discussed alternate ways of enlarging the family, but in the end decided to accept the fact that it would be just the two of them. In truth, it didn't really seem to devastate Esther as deeply as John had feared. He knew that she had shed some silent tears a few nights before falling asleep, and he had held her close in his arms, but she had accepted this reality remarkable well. She seemed to find solace in her work and in her relationship with her husband.
John blinked, looking around him in some embarrassment, realizing that he had been daydreaming for quite some time. He felt some relief when he looked at the clock above the bar and saw that not too many minutes had elapsed while revisiting the past. He also noticed that his drink was now consumed and he deliberated a few seconds about ordering another. Making up his mind he motioned to Chester and it wasn't long before another was in front of him.
John recalled Art Doyle with deep affection and he still felt a deep sadness at Art's death not long ago, a sadness that lingered at the edge of his consciousness. A.C.Doyle and Lee LeStrade, one of the younger partners, were really the only two at the law firm with whom Jon had established friendships. Lee had joined the firm about ten years ago and quickly established a good relationship with John beginning at one of the company get-togethers. He knew that John was a professor at the university and was deeply impressed. In fact, Lee LeStrade had long held a secret desire to go into teaching. Thank goodness he was still hale and hardy.
Thoughts of his wife again entered his mind, causing a slight frown, a deepening of the lines in his face. Their 20th anniversary was fast approaching and the uneasiness he felt about their relationship marred the thought of what should be a happy event. He couldn't fathom what was happening to them. After almost two decades of marital love and affection, things had deteriorated.
It was so slow, so gradual, that he hadn't really even noticed it until recently, but the lack of affection, the indifference, even perhaps a smidgeon of disrespect, were becoming all too apparent. The little spats, the avoidance of physical affection were now all too common, and now, looking back over the past few months or so, John was finally aware that real problems had crept into their marriage. To compound the problem even further, John was uncertain as to exactly how to confront Esther and what steps to take to improve their relationship. John recognized why he was reluctant to bring up the deterioration of their relationship with his wife. He knew first hand how sharp her tongue had become and just didn't want to get into another bitter argument with her.
"Shit," he thought to himself. "Has it really gotten so bad that I can't bring myself to even talk to her?" he wondered.
John was startled by a soft voice at his ear. "Hey, buddy, buy a girl a drink?"
He turned a bit and saw Irene at his side which provoked a small smile. "Renee," he blurted out. "What on earth are you doing here? You're the last person I would have expected to see."
"I stop by every few weeks, John - for old times sake. Order a gin and tonic for me. I'll be right back, I have to pee." Those words were flung over her shoulder as she hurried to the rest rooms. John looked after her with a small smile of affection on his face, admiring the way her hips swivelled under her tight skirt.
Dr. Irene Adler, a striking beauty in her late thirties, was a more than attractive woman. Tall and well built with bosoms thrusting out aggressively, as if daring any mere male to encroach. Her dark, shoulder length hair and flashing dark brown eyes made her stand out in any gathering. She was now the assistant chair of the Drama and Performing Arts department, no small feat for the first of her family to attend and graduate university. She and John had been friends since their graduate days and he and Esther had suffered with her through two divorces and countless abortive relationships. John considered Irene his closest friend and he truly valued that relationship.
It wasn't long before she returned and slid onto a stool next to his. Picking up her drink, she turned and said, "Okay, Johnny. What's the problem?"
"Why do you think there's a problem, and what's all that bull about you stopping here? I'm sure that you rarely stop here," John retorted, but without a bite to his words.
Irene laughed and took a small sip. "Okay, Sherlock. I saw that heap you call a car outside as I was driving by and wondered why the hell you were here. So I decided to stop and see if it was really you in here. Happy now?"
John gazed at her with real affection. There was no lasciviousness in that look, he truly valued Irene as a close friend and trusted her totally, one reason perhaps why he unburdened himself to her so easily. She sat there and listened as John confessed his frustration and puzzlement as to what had happened to his marriage. She sensed the anger underlying the torrent of words pouring from him and put her hand on his arm, trying to, at least in small part, allay his torment.
John finally paused, he seemed to be wrung out, empty, yet he felt a bit of relief. He realized that he needed this catharsis, this sharing, this purging of what had been agonizing him for so long, and who better than with his closest friend.
Irene had sat listening with a sense of deep sorrow at her friend's grief. She had never realized how much he had been hurting and for so long. John had always had the ability to sublimate his emotions, so it was with a bit of a shock that she discovered this rift between her good friends. She truly had no answer for him, but she couldn't make herself believe that the love that John and Esther shared was so fragile. Something was going on.
"John," Irene interrupted. "John, look at this objectively, as difficult as that may be now. What you're describing is an accumulation of many small and isolated events and incidents. There's got to be a reason why things have gotten so bad, but you're describing the symptoms not the cause. Something must have happened to create the present situation. You've got to look for the cause. Have you done anything that really and truly angered Esther? Has she done anything to anger you? I can't believe that you two just drifted into apathy and indifference - there has to be a reason," concluded Irene.
John sat there, shaking his head. "I don't know, Renee. I just don't know. I can't put my finger on anything particular thing that has happened over the past few months. It's true, it seems as if we just drifted into this morass and I don't know what to do about it."
"How about talking to her, John. Why not just sit down and talk to her. It could be as simple as that," Irene said gently.
"We've tried, we've tried. A rational conversation then turns into a spat, she accusing me of being paranoid and me losing patience with her. It just isn't working, damn it. It just isn't working," John replied his voice fading.
That same afternoon, in another part of town, Dr. John Watson's wife, Esther Watson, was leaning back in her office chair, staring steadily at the tall, blond man seated opposite her. Her frank appraisal was not covert, she made no attempt to hide her obvious evaluation. Esther had a slight smile on her face - she was quite aware of Jim Moriarty's intent. He had been trying for months to seduce her, but she had been able to laugh him off.
"Damn," her thoughts ran. "He's still hot. He almost makes me wet just looking at him, but that's all that I'm going to do - just look. He certainly isn't worth my marriage, not that I seem to have much of a marriage now." That thought turned her smile bitter.
"Jim," she said. "It's been now over half a year since you've been transferred back and it's obvious that you haven't changed one bit. You're still a relentless womanizer. Why not get married again, then you won't have to hunt so relentlessly?"
"Jeez, Essie," chuckled Moriarty. "I'm just trying to be friendly, why get so defensive. You're a gorgeous woman and any real man would love to get into your panties. Do I have to say it again? - your husband is an idiot. He's more interested in his books than he is in you and you know that I'm right."
"You want me, I know you want me," he said to himself. "I see it in your eyes, and it will happen, Esther. It will happen."
Esther bit her lip and looked away. Moriarty's remarks hit closer to home than he realized. She was not unaware of the coolness that had developed between herself and John. They seemed to be drifting apart and his occasional snide remarks about lawyers and sharks did nothing to close the rift. She also had to admit that she was goaded to reply in kind, denigrating his profession. Years ago little remarks like these were meant to be funny without any bite, but now... well, now it was different. They just seemed to antagonize each other.
"Maybe I should have told John about Jim being transferred back here?" she wondered again silently. "I was just afraid at how he'd react. I just didn't want to open that can of worms again. I just pray that not telling him wasn't a mistake."
Esther's attention returned to Moriarty. "Look, Jim, let's not go there. My home life is off limits, leave it alone."
Moriarty just smiled. "Okay, Es. Just remember, I'm always here for you. You know you have a friend here."
"Yeah, a real friend," replied Esther with a grimace. "I'm not brain dead, Jim. I know what you want - your tongue's hanging out of your mouth. Go chase after some of the young stuff, but keep it out of the office. Now get back to work, we have to finalize the Simmons contract."
Moriarty laughed as he stood, then leaned over the desk and gently brushed her lips with his before she could react. He then turned and strolled out, humming to himself.
Esther sat still for a moment, breathing heavily, ashamed to admit even to herself that that small gesture had affected her so much. She put her fingers to her lips and felt a frisson of excitement, aware of how long it had been since her husband had even attempted to touch her with any degree of affection. "Is this where all of the flirting with Jim will lead? Would she really give in and have an affair?" she wondered silently to herself. Shaking her head, she dismissed those thoughts quickly.
Esther's phone rang and she turned to it with a gesture of impatience. She recognized Stan Hopkin's voice, one of the senior partners.
"Es, you're finishing up on that Simmons contract, right?", he asked.
"Sure, Stan," she replied. "It's been taking up our time for months now - as you know. Why? Is there a problem?"
"Nah, I don't think so, but it looks like you guys are going to have to fly up to see him on Monday, he's decided that he can't make it down here as scheduled and he wants the thing finished and done with then."
"Damn it, Stan," Esther protested. "It's Friday now and we'll have to come in tomorrow to get the thing finished. We're going to be cutting it really close. Don't forget, I've only had Jim working with me on this."
Stan sighed, "I know, I know, Essie. I'll get you some help tomorrow, but we'll probably have to work late. I can't make it tonight and I want you to get some rest also. Let's come in early tomorrow and you and Jim should be able to finish the damn thing by the end of the day. I'll inform him as soon as I hang up."
Esther ended the conversation with a half-hearted okay. She sat for a moment, agitated, knowing that this would probably cause another spat with John. He had been complaining about her work load and she recognized that she had been putting her career ahead of her marriage. Esther had a feeling of foreboding and she prayed that this wouldn't be the "straw" that precipitated a battle royal... She would have a conversation with John, he would understand. Once this project was finished they would devote more time to themselves, perhaps go on a long delayed vacation. She knew that over the past few months she had been short and impatient with John, snapping at him for little reason. She vowed to herself that things would change as soon as this project was finished.
In his office, leaning back in his chair with his feet on his desk, James Moriarty, Esq. smiled grimly. He knew that Esther was vulnerable, that she would eventually be on her back for him. He had never forgotten that New Year's Eve and the confrontation with her prick of a husband. He had been humiliated, transferred, and his career short changed, but he was back now, back and with a burning desire for revenge. He knew that the best way to pay back Dr. John (fucking) Watson was to make Esther his slut and he was confident that he could accomplish that task.
The weather had grown cooler and there was now a bite in the air, but, thank goodness, the rain had stopped and John was anxious to get home. He was disappointed to discover that the house was dark as he drove onto the driveway.
"Shit," he muttered to himself. It looked like another late night for Esther and his lips tightened into a bitter grimace. He was startled when a pair of headlights pulled up beside him and he saw Esther's car nestled next to his. Hiding his surprise he exited his car and awaited her by the door.
"Hi, sweetie," she chirped. "Great, we made it home at the same time. How about we freshen up and I'll treat you to dinner. Let's go someplace really nice tonight, ok, honey?"
"Sweetie? Honey?" John said to himself wonderingly. He had a bad feeling. Esther was acting much too girlish, almost giddy. Something rotten is coming. One didn't go from indifference to an almost fawning affection overnight. John figured that he would play along and see what she really had in mind for him. He just knew that something was coming.
Despite John's misgivings, he and Esther had a lovely dinner and were able to converse with what almost seemed like real warmth. John felt encouraged, perhaps they could turn the corner and rediscover the reasons why they had fallen in love and married. During the evening John had, for the first time in ages, really looked at his wife. He saw, with perhaps a smidgeon of guilt, that Esther was truly a lovely, mature woman and despite her 40 odd years she still exuded a sensuality that aroused him.
Perhaps he was equally at fault in the problems they were having. Perhaps he had not paid her the attention she deserved; perhaps he was too involved in his career, robbing him of the time to nurture his marriage. John vowed that he would make more of an effort to strengthen the marriage,... as long as Esther did also, he temporized. He wasn't a total fool - he recognized that the blame could be ladled out equally, but he would make the effort. It would be stupidity itself to allow the marriage to continue to deteriorate through something as silly as inactivity.
Esther was encouraged. She saw John relax and start to open up a bit. She also noticed him looking at her with some real desire in his gaze. She felt a surge of affection for her husband and again considered herself a lucky girl to have found someone like John. She again vowed that she would work to strengthen their relationship. Please, God - just let her get through this damn Simmons thing. Once that was over she could devote her full attention to her marriage.
Esther cuddled into John's arm on the drive home. It didn't take long before they had the car parked in the garage and were enveloped in the warmth of the living room where John had started a fire. Glasses of wine were poured and a soft melody was coming from the stereo. Irene knew that she would have to tell her husband that she would have to go into work tomorrow and then the trip out of town on Monday.
She knew that wouldn't go over too well and she bit her lip as she tried to frame that information in a way that wouldn't precipitate another argument. She wondered if she should wait until tomorrow to tell him about having to work tomorrow and the out of town trip, but decided that he would become even angrier if she told him at the last minute. She braced herself - she knew that this wasn't going to be easy.
"Honey, I have good news. This whole Simmons thing is almost finished and then we both can go back to having a normal life. I know that it's been difficult for you and for me also, but it'll be done in just a few more days. I have to go into work tomorrow to finish the final draft and then we'll be flying out on Monday to meet with him and his staff. It'll then be..."
"I don't need to know anything more, Esther," John snapped, interrupting her. "It's very obvious how important your career is to you. It's also obvious that it's a hell of a lot more important than your marriage - at least your marriage to me. You don't have to explain - it's the same old bullshit. I've heard it all before - I've been hearing it for years."
John turned to leave the room, but before climbing the stairs he turned back and stood looking at her. She sat there, unshed tears glistening in her eyes.
"Think, Essie. Think about what you really want. Think about that during the weekend and the following days. I'll do the same." With that he again turned, climbed the stairs and entered the guest room where he undressed and climbed into bed. It was awhile before he was able to fall asleep, most of the night was spent gazing up at the ceiling.
Esther was up early. She took a quick shower and dressed casually in skirt and sweater. She took little time with her hair this time, pulling it into a pony tail. Not stopping for breakfast she grabbed her briefcase and was out the door quickly. She had no desire to even see her husband. Her anger at his biting words the evening before still smoldered and she wondered how long he would be her husband if they continued as they had been, but brushed those thoughts aside for now. She had to concentrate on getting this work project finished and over with. The problems with her marriage would just have to wait until a more appropriate time.
John awoke late that morning, well after Esther had left. He felt haggard and fatigued; what little sleep he did manage was filled with anxiety and anger. He went through the motions after getting out of bed: shower, shave, etc - managing to finally get downstairs where he made himself a pot of coffee. He did notice that the kitchen was unused - Esther had not even paused to make coffee and he felt a stab of remorse for a moment.
John sat at the table, his head in his hand, the steaming cup of coffee sitting untouched before him. His head was throbbing, the aspirin consumed upon rising not yet working. His anger had cooled and he was now berating himself for over reacting. John knew that he shouldn't have snapped at his wife as he did. He also knew that he had been short tempered and abrupt with Esther for months now and he truly didn't know why he had become such a bully. Then again, he also knew that she often seemed impatient with him and would have a tendency to reply in kind, precipitating another row.
John was anything if not analytic. His mind roamed over the past months, searching for reasons for the conflict that had permeated their relationship. He couldn't put his finger on any single event or occurrence; it almost seemed to come out of nowhere. It was almost as if they went from a loving and devoted couple to warring nations.
"What the hell has happened?", he asked himself. "Why have we become so antagonistic, so uncaring? It's almost as if the love we have for each other has just quietly dissipated over the last few months."
John shook his head impatiently and vowed that he would fight for his marriage. He knew that he loved Esther and whatever the problems were, he would fight to conquer them. He also vowed to control his temper and not surrender to churlishness. His thoughts returned to the dinner the evening before and a reluctant smile came to his lips. He knew that he loved his wife and last evening was proof that the spark was still there. He grimaced as he realized that he had really behaved badly in reaction to Esther's news about working today and then the trip out of town. He should have lost his temper, he knew that now.
John looked at his watch and saw that it was well after 11:00 a.m. He suddenly grinned at a thought. He would surprise Esther at work and see if she could come out for lunch with him. He had to come up with a plan to rekindle their love and the first thing would be for him to become more understanding and considerate. He knew that Esther had a demanding and stressful job and he just had to make up his mind to be more supportive, something he should have been doing all along. He nodded to himself - now that's a plan. He knew that if he vowed to become a better husband Esther would see the change and react in kind.
Driving to his wife's law office, John was humming to himself when suddenly he felt the familiar thunk-thunk of a flat tire. Cursing to himself, he pulled into the parking lot of the diner a few blocks from his destination. Standing next to his car he resigned himself to a forced delay and called the road service people on his cell phone. When he was informed that they would be 30 minutes to an hour, he shrugged and decided to have a quick bite in the diner. Lunch with Esther would have to be postponed. It's a good thing that he hadn't called first, he thought.
Entering the diner, Jon was moving to a booth when he heard his name called. Glancing about he saw Lee LeStrade, a senior partner in Esther's law firm sitting alone in a booth. Lee waved him over, "John, what a nice surprise. Please, join me. I haven't even ordered yet."
John smiled as he slid in across from Lee. "Nice to see you, Lee. What on earth are you doing here, especially on a Saturday. Isn't Emily upset, you work hard enough during the week."
"My lovely wife is out of town, John. She's visiting a girl friend for the weekend and I'm batching it. I just had to run to the office for a file I needed. I then decided to stop here for a bite before heading home. I'm just lousy in the kitchen, I hate even making myself a sandwich. Emily laughs at my kitchen skills. But what about you, John. Is this a hangout of yours?"
"Nope. I was headed over to the office to see if Esther wanted to grab a bite for lunch, but I had a flat tire and the service people won't be here for about an hour. There go my good intentions," he chuckled.
"Buck up, John. The project that Esther and Jim are working on should be all wrapped up in a few days. After they get back to town we can all celebrate."
"Jim?" asked Jon, a question in his voice. "I don't remember Esther mentioning anyone by that name."
"Jim Moriarty, he was transferred to the main office when the branch where he was working closed. He's been here around 6 months or so. I'm surprised that Esther hadn't mentioned him to you, they've been working on this project for a few months now,"
Lee paused and turned his head, seeking a server, thus he didn't notice the color drain from John's face. "Miss, Miss, can we have some more coffee here? Yes, regular, not decaf. Thanks."
John felt his throat tighten and his stomach clench and turn sour. A red haze filled his vision and It was with a mighty effort that he controlled himself and was able to continue. "I guess that I haven't been paying attention, Lee. It almost seems that Esther and I live in two different worlds at times." He forced a smile to his lips. Fortunately, Lee didn't notice that the smile never reached his eyes.
"Yeah, I guess we're all a little guilty of that. Sometimes I have to force myself to pay attention to what Emily tells me, " Lee laughed.
It took every ounce of John's self control to stay in that booth, mechanically consume his tuna salad sandwich, sip his iced tea and continue the innocuous conversation with Lee LeStrade. His mind was screaming for his attention, but he tamped down his agitation and fury and did his damned best to maintain a cool facade. He felt his heart beating in his ears and felt the sweat running down from his armpits. He finally saw the auto service truck pull into the parking lot and he quickly excused himself and departed.