Helen surprised me when she suggested we stop at a strip club. But she was the boss, so I quickly agreed. It was a pretty classy place for a strip joint, or at least it seemed that way to me. My somewhat sheltered life afforded me little knowledge of places deemed offensive by the general public. I noticed that Helen seemed completely at ease. For some reason, that surprised me.
"Jim, don't look so shocked," she laughed. "I do run an escort service, after all. This is a great place to meet potential clients, as well as potential employees. I hope this doesn't embarrass you too much. It never occurred to me that you might be uncomfortable here."
"Is my face that red?" I asked as I looked around at the partially clad women. "I don't come to places like this very much. The truth is, Helen, this is my first time inside a strip club. Now I wish I had stopped at these places more often!"
As I spoke, a very attractive redhead approached us. She was obviously the hostess, and she showed us to a surprisingly nice table. I had some difficulty looking her in the eyes as she only wore what appeared to be some sort of thong. Her breasts jiggled wonderfully as she walked, although I was careful to avoid looking directly at them. I didn't want to embarrass her or Helen. The redhead told us our server would be there soon and left.
"I'm thankful you don't have x-ray vision, Jim," remarked Helen. "That poor girl's nipples would have been in flames."
Once again I felt my face heat up. Apparently my cool demeanor wasn't quite as cool as I had hoped! I decided to ignore Helen's comment and change the subject.
"What would you like to drink, Helen? I suavely asked. "The girl will be here to take our orders soon."
"I'll have a Manhattan, Jim," responded Helen. "I asked you to escort me here tonight so I could spend a little time with my new best male escort. Without exception, each of the five ladies you were assigned to escort, has given me rave reviews about you. I wanted to see it for myself, and I am."
"You have a wonderful combination of worldliness, mixed with boyish charm," she continued. "You are polite, but sincere. You have a wonderful sense of humor and are extremely attractive. Add the fact that you make it known before the assignment that you absolutely will not have sex with the ladies you escort, and you become the perfect male companion. Well, that isn't completely accurate. Two of the ladies did complain a little that you wouldn't accept their offer to spend the night, even though they had been told from the beginning that you would not."
"Helen, I wasn't rude to those women. I was just firm."
"Yes, but it wasn't the sort of "firm" the ladies desired," chuckled Helen. "You were so charming that they changed their minds about having an escort that would not bed them. I don't think they ever expected you to be able to resist them if when they decided to allow you the opportunity to screw their brains out. I guess my curiosity has gotten the best of me, Jim. Why are you so insistent to not sleep with any clients? You could make a lot more in tips."
"Helen, when I took this job, I told you that it was temporary, would have to fit my schedule, and that I would not have sex with any clients," I reminded her. "The reasons didn't seem to matter too much to you at the time. Are you unhappy with our agreement?" I asked.
"Calm down, Jim. I wasn't complaining and you really don't have to answer my question. I was just curious. You're very good at showing ladies a great time, socially. Most men try to take it farther, given the slightest opportunity. You aren't gay, are you?" Helen blurted, and then quickly added, "Not that there's anything wrong with that!"
"Helen!" I laughed. "No, I'm very much hetero. I'll tell you the truth, but I want you to promise to keep it to yourself."
"Great! I can hardly wait, but I'll have to do just that. Our girl is finally coming to get our drink order. I hate to think how you'll react to this one after seeing what the redhead did to you. This girl is even prettier. And her tits are incredible!" added Helen.
I forced myself to not turn to look over my shoulder as the girl approached. I had acted like a schoolboy with the redhead and I was determined to play this encounter a bit less embarrassingly. The first thing, or things, that came into my peripheral view were two firm tits. They weren't overly large, but they were everything a man could want. Then the woman attached to the breasts asked what we wanted to drink.
I jumped to my feet and swung around to face the woman. I felt my face become extremely hot and I had difficulty breathing.
"Della?" was all I could manage as I gulped to send oxygen to my burning lungs.
"Jim!" she gasped as she brought her hands up to shield her breasts.
After what seemed like hours, but could only have been seconds, I found my voice again.
"It seems odd that you're comfortable showing everyone else your tits, but you try to cover them up from me! This is how you've been spending those nights you told me you were working late? You lied to me? You're some kind of slut now? Life with me was getting too dull?" I demanded.
"Jim! It isn't what it looks like. I swear it!" cried Della.
"Well, it looks like you're standing in a room with about fifty to a hundred people with your tits exposed, and that you're getting money to do it?" I shot back. "Which part of that assessment is wrong? Are you doing it for free, maybe for the pleasure of letting men see your tits, and who knows what else?"
"No, Jim, it's totally for the money. You're the only man I ever cared about," responded Della as she turned her face toward Helen. "Maybe you have a good reason for being in a strip club with a beautiful blonde woman when you should be home with the kids? Is this part of the job description for your night work at the community college?"
"Damn it, Della. I can explain everything I've been doing. Don't try to switch the blame here, and put me on the defensive. I still have my clothes on!" I snarled as I grabbed Della's arm and pulled her with me as I took a step toward the door.
"Buddy, you've just bought a ticket out the door, the hard way!" grinned a huge brute of a man that suddenly appeared in my face.
I was so angry I just pushed him out of my path. At least, that's what I attempted. It was like pushing a tree. Nothing happened, at first. Then lights exploded in my head. Sounds suddenly seemed very far away.
I opened my eyes, or more precisely, one eye, to find I was looking farther up at the guy than I had been just a few seconds previously. He wasn't easy to see with just one of my eyes working, and part of the table obstructing my limited view.
"Ben! Get the hell out of my sight!" yelled Helen at the bruiser as she knelt beside me. "That was uncalled for!"
"I was just doing my job, Mrs. Magi, but I'll leave if you insist. Come on, Della. This jerk has you all upset," replied the thug with surprising gentleness as he led my nearly naked wife away.
"Jim, please believe me when I say I had no idea that your wife worked here. I would never deliberately create a situation like this," sobbed Helen lightly as she tried to help me to my feet.
Then a gray haired man took my other arm and helped Helen raise my ass off the floor. He was dressed well and had the attitude of a man used to being in charge.
"What the hell happened? Was this jerk bothering one of the girls? Why are you helping the prick, Helen?" demanded the fellow as he sat me back down in my recently vacated chair.
"He isn't a prick, as you so elegantly put it, Frank! He's the new guy I've been telling you about. Apparently he's married to the girl called Della. He didn't know she was working here and he reacted like most husbands would when they find something like this out," filled in Helen quickly. "Unfortunately, Ben was reacting like most bouncers would and decked Jim when he tried to push him out of the way so he could take Della out of here."
"Wow!" sighed the guy called Frank. "Della's married? Some of the regulars won't like that."
"Damn it, Frank! It doesn't matter what those perverts like! Jim's hurt and he's sure going to have a big shiner tomorrow. We need to help him."
"Those "perverts", as you call them, are my business, Helen. You don't complain about them when you look at our bank accounts," groused the gray-haired man. "This guy'll live."
"Jim, this is Frank Magi," said Helen as she threw a withering glance at him. "He's the owner of this establishment, and my husband."
My head was throbbing and my stomach was rebelling. I felt sick. I felt like dying. Della had played me for the fool. At that very moment, she was running around naked someplace with a gorilla the size of an oak tree. I lurched to my feet and headed for the door, even as Helen pleaded with me to sit and rest.
I don't know how I got back home to Vero Beach from the club in West Palm. Driving on Interstate 95 the weekend before Christmas is dangerous enough without adding partial blindness and a broken heart to the mix. Della's car was already in the garage when I pulled in. I walked slowly into the kitchen to find her sobbing at the kitchen table.
I ignored her as I dug some ice from the freezer, placed it in a towel and held the towel against my face. Then I went to our screened-in room by the pool and flopped down in a chair.
If the ice helped, I hate to think how I would have looked if I hadn't used it. After a sleepless night, I left early the next morning and drove to my sister's house in Sebastian. She was sitting in the kitchen, when I lightly knocked on her back door.
"It's good to see you're enjoying the holidays, Jim," she sarcastically offered as I sat in a chair across from her steaming coffee mug. "Was it a bus or a cement truck? Since you're here and not home, I suspect there's a real interesting story to go with the black eye."
"I caught my loving wife working topless in a strip joint last night," I groaned.
"She sure has the figure for it, Jim. Every time I see her in a swimsuit, I feel like committing suicide, and she's five years older than I am. I feel like an old cow next to her," admitted my sister, Sue. "Did you get smacked in the eye with an unfettered tit?"
"I got mad and yelled at her and tried to take her home when some huge bouncer hit me. It was a sucker punch!" I added.
"Were you following Della, or have you started frequenting the seedier pleasures of South Florida?" asked Sue. "Did you just bump into her as you were admiring the seasonal decorations?"
"Now you sound like Della!" I answered angrily. "She tried to turn everything around and ask about the blonde with me while she was standing topless in a public place!"
"No shit! That bitch has some nerve, Jim. It seems like after almost twenty years of marriage, she'd allow you a little strange now and then. I still can't get over her working topless after having two kids and pushing forty! How does she do it?" marveled my sister"
"Are you being deliberately obtuse?" I demanded angrily. "This isn't about how Della looks good enough to be topless in public! It's about lies, deceptions, and betrayal. We have a seventeen-year old daughter and a fourteen year-old son! What kind of role model is she?"
"So you're worried that she'll have Sarah working topless when she turns eighteen? She sure has her mother's figure and would do great!" exclaimed my sister stupidly.
"Damn it! Why are you acting so freaking dumb?" I nearly yelled.
"Maybe because you're treating me like a fucking idiot, Jim!" Sue snarled back. "I know damn well that you're not telling me half the story! Why in hell were you in a strip club, and with a blonde? Let's solve that riddle first."
I realized it might look bad to Sue without all the information. I had done nothing wrong and needed to explain my situation better.
"I have been working a few evenings as a male escort the past few weeks. I never had sex with the women. I was foolishly thinking I would earn enough money to get Della the rest of her grandmother's antique furniture. All we could afford at the estate sale was one end table and it broke my heart to watch Della as some bastard bought the rest of the pieces. I wanted to get enough money together to buy them all for Della for Christmas. I heard some guys at work talking about a woman that paid big bucks to men in her escort service, so I tried it. I was doing okay, too," I bragged.
"This is incredible, Jim! Della told me that her grandmother's collection sold for thousands. Do you expect me to believe that my big brother, hunk though he may be, has earned the kind of money needed to buy that stuff by being a male escort?" asked my skeptical sister. "I'm sorry, but that dog won't hunt."
"No, Sue, I didn't. I raised most of the money by selling that old car I kept in the barn at Mom's place. I did get enough with everything added together. I have an offer in, and accepted, at the antique shop that bought the stuff at the auction. All I have to do is get a few guys to help deliver it, but I'll probably put it all on Ebay or something, now," I added.
"That old car, as you called it, is your pride and joy, Jim! Dad gave you that Road Runner before he died. You promised him you were going to fix up the body and get a Hemi for it! You sold it to buy Della her grandmother's furniture?" asked a stunned Sue.
"Sue, let's face it. It took me seven years to get the body fixed up. Every time I'd check prices on an engine, they were higher. I was losing ground. The price was going up faster than I could save the money to buy it. It was never going to happen. I decided to run a few ads. A guy paid me my price, in cash! He's going to pick it up next week."
"Give him his money back, then! You know you don't want to sell that car, Jim. It was your and Dad's dream to get it running and take it to shows. You spent so much time on the bodywork that it looks cherry, for God's sake!" exclaimed Sue.
" Looks won't run a car, Sue. I'd just have to sell it in the divorce anyway. Maybe I'll be able to hide the cash and Della won't get it away from me," I allowed.
"You jackass! You won't hide anything from Della. You love her, Jim. Even if you did get divorced, you'd let her take everything, just so she and the kids wouldn't suffer," asserted Sue.
The conversation died out after that comment. Here I sat at my sister's kitchen table a few days before Christmas, feeling like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. Sue did finally agree to let me use her guest room until I could find a more permanent place to stay. It irked the hell out of me that Sue didn't seem to understand how much I had been wronged. I was the fucking victim in this mess! Della knew me well enough to know that I would be at Sue's house if I weren't at home, but the phone never rang.
It was the next day that Helen called me. She apologized again for the situation at her husband's club. Then she asked me the question; why would a man with a wife like Della even think about working as a male escort? Once again, I felt compelled to explain myself, thus showing why I wasn't the bad guy in our marriage. Helen listened politely, suggested I was a dumb-ass, and then hung up.
It was only a couple hours later that Helen called me again.
"Why are you bothering this dumb-ass?" I demanded.
"Because you haven't picked up your last pay check, dumb-ass," she replied. "You're going to need the money for rent and child support ... things like that. Meet me at the Tiki Hut in Ft. Pierce. We'll have an early dinner and I'll catch up on the money I owe you."
I didn't want to have anything more to do with the wife of the prick that somehow convinced Della to work in a topless joint, but I realized I really would need the money, so I agreed, reluctantly.
Helen met me in the parking lot and we went into the restaurant together. She moved past the hostess and led me to a table by the water. That was when I saw Della and Frank already seated! I stopped but Helen had anticipated my mood and held my hand tightly. She literally dragged me the rest of the way to the table.
"Jim, sit down! We are going to have an adult discussion right now!" insisted Helen.