My name is Jim, and I began my story in "A Joke," which was posted by Agena.
If you haven't read that yet, please hunt it down and read it. It'll help you understand this story.
In "A Joke," I was torn over what to believe about Flo, my wife of 23 years, and my jokester next-door neighbor, Roger Kubiak.
Roger and his pretty, buxom wife Alice had moved into the big house next door about five years ago. In many ways we'd become pretty good friends.
We were of comparable ages and interests, and it was natural for us to visit back and forth and socialize. Alice was a real sweetheart. She worked as an emergency room nurse down in Endicott City General Hospital, and was often called in on her off time when there was a surge in emergency cases.
Yet despite the sometimes grim nature of her work, she had a naturally cheerful personality, and a good sense of humor. She needed it, to have stayed married to Roger.
Roger was another story. He worked downtown for some law enforcement agency; I never was quite clear which one, and he worked regular hours, like me. In some ways he was a decent enough guy. He was normally generous and outgoing; the life of the party. That balanced out pretty well with me. I tend to be kind of straightforward and sober. My son says I'm a stick-in-the-mud.
My Flo was outgoing, like Roger, and like him, had a sense of humor that bordered on the bawdy. Mine is more subtle and verbal. Non existent some might say, but they're just not paying attention, I say.
Unfortunately, that similarity drew her pretty close to Roger, because he was such an inveterate practical joker. Like that time when we were all off together at a beach and he dropped trou and mooned a passing boat, and then Flo did the same. Alice and I were scandalized and upset at that. I mean, the whole idea of dropping your pants in a moon is the moonee isn't anywhere close enough to do anything but gape. But she and Roger were practically side-by-side. I didn't like the idea of her getting bare-assed right next to another man. And he got an eyeful, I could see that, although he always denied it.
Now, up to the time of what I call The Fucking Joke, I never was worried about Flo having any feelings other than friendship toward Roger. But I had picked up that Roger was attracted to Flo, and I think he entertained some thoughts about getting into her panties.
Normally that didn't bother me. I trusted Flo. That was one thing we were clear on, she and I; she knew how I felt about unfaithfulness.
Nonetheless, Flo's natural bent was toward the bawdy and Roger fed off of that, so there was an element of raunch in their humor. They laughed hysterically at some pretty raw jokes. I told Flo that I didn't appreciate that, but she just laughed and told me not to be such a stick-in-the-mud.
The first real problem came with The Necking Joke, the one where they disappeared off together to get drinks and were gone a long time. When Alice and I went looking for them, Roger had Flo's lipstick all over him. Flo's lipstick was smeared and her hair was mussed up. He said he'd been showing Flo his etchings.
Alice and were stunned. Then they laughed at the looks on our faces. They just made it look like they had been necking to get a rise out of us, they said. Nothing happened, they said. It was all a joke, they said.
When I described it before, I said that Roger had the smirk on his face he develops when he pulls one of his pranks and Flo was looking away so I couldn't see how hard she was trying to keep from laughing. In hindsight, I realized that Roger might have been smirking like that because he might have gotten away with something. And Flo? Well, maybe she was looking away because she didn't want me to see something else in her expression.
Of course, Roger was all smiles and chuckles and expansive and really did get us all drinks so "we" could laugh about it together. But it wasn't like that. He and Flo did all the laughing.
Is it really funny when only the pranksters are laughing?
Alice and I didn't think it was funny at all. I didn't like it, and I knew that Alice didn't like it, either
When Flo and I got home after The Necking Joke, I was still hot over it. I had not at all been mollified by the drinks and all that coaxing and teasing that was supposed to get us to all laugh together at their unfunny joke. Flo knew my expressions well, and she read me right. She said repeatedly that she was sorry; that she had just gotten carried away.
I told her she had to stop getting involved in Roger's pranks, especially when they joked about being unfaithful.
She knew how I felt about that, and she said she felt the same way.
Then she said she'd never do anything to hurt me.
But then came The Fucking Joke.
Roger got Alice sent off on a wild goose chase. Then he and Flo tricked me and handcuffed me to a pipe in his basement, and they joked around about Flo wanting to see his etchings again. Then they went up to the master bedroom right over my head and made all the noises of people getting ready to fuck and then fucking.
This is what I heard as I pulled and twisted and rubbed the skin off my wrists, trying futilely to get out of the handcuffs:
I heard Flo's excited giggles. Shoes dropped to the carpet above me and I heard Flo exclaim, "Oh, that's a nice big one. Bigger than Jim's."
"Hurry and get those panties and bra off Flo. I want you bad."
My rage was mounting by the minute as I continued to struggle mindlessly against the handcuffs.
"C'mon, put that big thing in me. I want to be stretched out for a change."
"Damn Flo, you're one sexy piece. Let me slide it in you."
"Oh god, that feels good. Push it in further and fuck me hard, Roger. That's it, that's it. It feels so good."
I heard the bed beginning to creak above me and I could picture them fucking. I was cursing and swearing at the cuffs and at my adulterous spouse up in that room over my head. My wrists were scraped raw and bleeding as I continued to jerk and twist against the cuffs. My mind was a maelstrom of emotion as I heard Roger grunting and Flo moaning in rhythm.
Suddenly, Roger cried out, "I'm cumming!! I'm cumming!!" Then I heard Flo start to keen just like she did when I got her off.
Then all was quiet above for a few minutes. I had ceased struggling and was just lying on the hard cement floor with my arms around the pipe. I felt a terrible sadness in my heart as I heard Flo exclaim finally.
"Oh, that was really good Roger. I'm going to have to see your etchings again some time. I suppose we should get dressed and go down and see how Jim is doing."
"OK Flo, I need to rest a minute but Alice should be getting back soon from that false call I sent her on and I don't want her to see me in bed with you."
A few minutes later I heard footsteps on the basement stairs but didn't look up as they came over to me.
Then it was "Oh shit, look at his wrists. They're all bloody."
And "Honey, it was just a joke. Nothing happened. Oh god, I'm so sorry. Hurry up Roger, unlock the cuffs so we can get his wrists bandaged. Oh god, oh god. I never thought he'd take it this hard."
That was The Fucking Joke. Only I didn't think it was any joke. I was certain they had been fucking.
Roger took off when he realized how deadly mad I was. Once I got free, I told Flo to find someplace else to sleep. I told her that we were through and she would hear from my lawyer.
And she kept saying, "Oh honey, I'm so sorry. It was just a joke. We didn't do anything." But I kept saying that my perception was that she did commit adultery and did cuckold me.
She went to stay with her sister, Mary.
The next few days I heard from everyone else, wanting to know what happened and what I was going to do.
Alice came by. I told her I was going to divorce Flo. That as far as I knew, they had cuckolded me, and that I was finished with Flo for it.
I did finally say that if she could prove that she didn't have sex with Roger, I would consider forgiving her. But I needed proof; I wasn't going to take their word for it. They were lying adulterers, as far as I was concerned.
Then Mary, Flo's sister showed up. Flo was staying with her. She passed on Flo's apologies and protestations of love, etc., blah, blah, blah. Privately, I thought that talk was cheap once the shit had hit the fan. Then she said that Flo was willing to take a lie detector test to prove she'd never been unfaithful with Roger or anyone else. I thought about that. I decided to set conditions.
One, results proving she didn't have sex with Roger doesn't mean I will take her back.
Two, Roger will have to take the same test and the results of his test will have to agree with hers.
Three, I wanted approval on who administers the tests and the questions.
Four, I will not pay for the tests.
That first condition may have sounded harsh, but I insisted on it. Even if it had been a joke, it was so hurtful that I didn't know that I could ever forgive her. I kept remembering Flo solemnly assuring me that she'd never do anything to hurt me.
And then she did this?
So I was dead set on going with my gut reaction.
Then I had to explain it all to our daughter Patty, who drove down 150 miles from college because Flo had called her and sobbed out a cleaned up version of what had happened and I wasn't taking calls.
She said that Flo had told her that it was just a joke. What could be so bad about a little practical joke, she wanted to know. Where was my sense of humor?
So first, I had to tell her about The Necking Joke, and the discussions we had had after that.
Then I told her the whole story about The Fucking Joke and showed her my bandaged wrists from the handcuffs.
"They were up there cuckolding me," I said. "I heard your mother, my supposedly loving wife, mocking me! Mocking my manhood! Saying so I could hear that Roger had a big one, bigger than mine; and that she wanted him to put it in. She wanted to be stretched out for a change, she said."
"Then they were grunting and moaning in rhythm for what seemed like forever. And then I heard Roger crowing. 'I'm cumming!! I'm cumming!!
"And I heard the sound that Flo makes when she gets off.
"And then Flo complimented him and said she wanted to do it again some time."
I told Patty that I was convinced that they had intercourse, and that Flo had mocked me while cuckolding me. That's what I'd heard.
I told her that when it first was happening, I was furious, but a little part of me still kept saying: it can't be. They can't be doing this.
But now, I have no doubts. Not in the slightest. They did it. And now, because of all that I heard, if they really didn't do it, it was up to Flo and Roger to find some way to convince me.
Their word meant nothing. If you can trick a man into being handcuffed so you can cuckold him while he can hear you doing it, you can lie to him about it.
I told her about Flo's suggestion about the lie detector test, but said that even if by some miracle it proved that "nothing had happened," I would have a very hard time forgiving her. Did she really think that I would have a big laugh and accept being a pseudo wimp cuckold during their so-called joke. The way they insulted my manhood while doing their joke? That was beyond disrespectful. How could she do that to me? How can I forgive that?
Well, Patty left, and that's about where the story left off, too.
And now, as Paul Harvey would say:
The Rest of the Story.
Mary called me a few days later and said that Flo had agreed to my conditions, and that Roger had agreed, too, and would pay for both tests.
Then she gave me the name and phone number of the guy Flo proposed to administer the lie detector test: Jack Harlan. She said they wouldn't do anything until I approved him. I thanked her. Then I wondered how I could check on this guy, to make sure he was legit.
For a few days after that, Flo tried to call me, but I just hung up when I heard her voice and she soon got the message. After that, all her communication with me was through her sister, and I received daily calls from Mary, stuck as the go-between. They were mostly about how sorry Flo was and how she wanted to come home.
But I kept telling her to tell them I wouldn't make a decision until after the lie detector tests.
After the next few days, I also had to deal with our son, Eric, who finally got back down from his upstate job. I told him the whole story, just like I had Patty.
Unlike Patty, he just never would accept how strongly I felt about the deception and the disrespect. To him it was no big deal. It was just me being stiff-necked again. He was on Flo's side and almost dismissive of mine.
There was nothing much new in that; he had grown up in constant rebellion against me and my ultra-square ways. The reason he went to vocational school was that I wanted him to go to college, like Flo and I had. Since I was the bad guy in his surly world, Flo was the good guy. So that was just a continuation of our battle, I guess.
Funny, when I had a son, I didn't expect him to be my enemy.
I kept wondering how Flo came up with the name of a lie detector test administrator. Were they listed in the Yellow pages? Did they advertise on the Internet?
And I still wondered how could I know if this Jack Harlan guy is competent?
In any event, I called the number Mary had given me and made an appointment to go down and see Jack Harlan. I got the OK from my boss to take the afternoon off and went into the city. Turns out, Jack Harlan was in the big municipal building complex in downtown Endicott City. When I called him, he said his office was being refurbished and painted, and had asked me to met him in a first floor snack bar.
He said he'd already made appointments to test Roger and Flo. They would be in tomorrow, as Roger had stressed the importance of getting this done as fast as possible. Harlan said he knew the issues, and we went over a list of questions, while he explained which were the control questions, and what they were designed to do; and the relevant questions, the ones that should show when there's a lie. It was all Greek to me.
I had him put in a question about whether the two had ever had sex at any time, since I was inclined to be suspicious. He said that would be no problem. Then something struck me and I asked if his office would be ready by tomorrow. For a moment, he looked blankly at me.
"Why wouldn't it?
"Well, the painting and repairs.
"Oh? Oh, the painting and... ? Oh, yeah, that'll be wrapped up today."
I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but he seemed a tad bit nervous during our brief conversation. He took my name and address and said he'd have the test results mailed to me.
After I got home, I thought about my impressions of Harlan. And then it struck me that Mary had said that they wouldn't do anything until I had approved Harlan for the job. But they had already made appointments? I decided I needed a little expert advice.
I had been friends with Terry Glennville since we went to college together. He dropped out after a couple of years and joined the Army. That was just before I met Flo and we started dating. He couldn't come to the wedding and our paths hadn't crossed very much over the years. But we kept in touch.
Terry did a hitch as a military policeman, and then in criminal investigations before he got out and went into law enforcement. Now, after a few stop in other cities, he was a Deputy Division Commander down on the Endicott City Police Department. I did have his office and home numbers, but I didn't like to intrude on him. We had gone in separate ways. Maybe once a month or so we might get together for beer and pretzels at a sports pub.
During one period when Flo was away taking care of her sick Mom, Terry took me to a police gym and taught me something about self-defense, or as he liked to call it: fighting dirty. I'm a pretty decent-sized guy, and always felt I could handle myself after that.
"Damn!" I thought, "I should have thought of Terry sooner. I could have gone to see him after I had my meet with Harlan. He'd be somewhere there in the same building complex." All the law enforcement agencies were located together there.
So instead I called him at home. We shot the breeze for a few minutes, and then I asked if I could pick his brains about some cop-type stuff. He said shoot. I started to ask him a few things about lie detection. I told him about the lie detector test administrator and asked if he knew how to check the guy out for competency. Terry said that the real name was Polygraph Examiner, and that nobody called it a lie detector, any more. As for competency, he said there was a professional association that would have records of any complaints. He asked the guy's name and I told him: Jack Harlan.
He pondered, "Jack Harlan? Sounds familiar."
I asked him if a test result could be faked. He hesitated, then said yes, if you knew what you were doing. There were certain medications that could be used to affect the setting of a physiological baseline. I vaguely remembered Harlan saying something about that with the control questions business.
Terry said there were ways to create discomfort or minor pain, and that could also affect the physiological factors the machine was measuring. But to use those things to set up false positives and negatives took a lot of training. It wasn't something an amateur could learn in a few days.
Then he said, "Jim, It's great to talk to you, but I get the impression that you aren't researching a term paper. You want to tell me what's going on?"
So I took a deep breath and told him the whole story. The two "Jokes." All the facts, what everyone had said, how I felt about everything, all of it. When I was done, he let out a deep breath and said he was sorry that I was in such a mess. But he also said that every cop worth a damn had a built-in radar that went off when something didn't add up. And his cop radar was beeping! He'd already said that he thought he knew the name Jack Harlan, but was positive he didn't know the man himself.
He said he'd nose around and check out a few things, and then get back to me. I thanked him, and he said that's what friend were for.
A day or so later, I got a call from the Kubiak's home phone number. I picked it up, thinking it was Alice.
It was Roger. He said he wanted to apologize for his lousy joke. He said that he hated having brought all this grief on Flo and me. He said it was all his fault and to please not to be so hard on Flo. I listened to his blathering without comment. When he finally ran down, I told him that I was going to be looking for him one of these days, and he could count on experiencing a lot of lasting pain when I found him. I told him that I was beginning to lose faith in Alice's good sense if she was still living with him.
He whined that she had kicked him out. He said she had let him come to the house to make this call because they both knew I would never accept a call from his cell or any other new phone that would identify him.
He wanted a chance to get together with me to explain himself.
I told him to go stretch himself out with what I'd heard was his amazingly big one. Then I said I was on the way over. I heard the phone drop, and then I heard a door slam.
Then Alice came on the line.
"Hi, Jim. I'm sorry that he bothered you. He just kept pestering me and pestering me and I finally decided to give him his shot at calling you this way.
"Yes, you heard right. I have kicked him out. I've thought about all that you said about that day, and I've come to the same conclusion as you. I think they just wanted to set up a fool-proof way to get together for a one-shot fuck.
"Jim, this isn't the first time that Roger cheated on me. I took him back before, but this was just too much.
"Anyway, I just wanted you to know that Roger doesn't live here any more ... What did you say to him at the end? He practically turned white and hauled his ass out of here."
"Oh, I basically told him to go fuck himself and told him I was on the way over to help him do it."
She giggled. "And I can just see you doing it. He's scared shitless of you.
There was a pause. "Jim? I wish you really were coming over. I'd really like to be able to see you once in a while.
"I miss our friendship."
"Me too, Alice," I said. "But I'm not much company right now; too many bad things going around in my head. Let's see what Harlan says. One way or another the polygraph results should help us move on.
"Wherever that leads us."
On Thursday I received a call from Jack Harlan that he was putting the results of the testing in the mail that morning and I should probably have it in a day or so. He didn't tell me the results, just that I should be pleased.
On Saturday I got Harlan's envelope and sat down at the kitchen table to open it. I had mixed feelings. The envelope contained summary reports of the tests. According to Harlan, they were in agreement regarding the episode with the handcuffs, in that no sex had occurred. Additionally, my question whether they had ever had any sex also had negative results. That's all that was in the envelope.
But Terry had told me that the result of a polygraph test should include a copy of the strip-chart itself, with the examiner's marks indicating which questions had been asked, and when. That way it could be reevaluated by another qualified examiner as a backup to any conclusions.
So on Monday I called Harlan up and asked him why he didn't include the charts. He seemed surprised that I knew about that. Then he was pretty brusque, saying that he had sent the charts to the person who paid for the tests. That's when I got all hostile and told him I was the person who was supposed to get the results, all of them. I told him I was coming over to get the original charts.
The bastard had the balls to tell me he had sent Roger the originals. He said that he didn't want to be cluttering up his files with excess paper.
Lovely! What a bunch of bullshit!
Finally, Terry called up a few hours later. I wasn't getting much done at my office that day anyway, so I said we could talk. He'd done some checking. He told me what he'd found. I listened.
That night I decided to bring this whole thing to a climax. I used a conference call feature and called the kids to find a day and time when they could both be in town. As it was, even Eric allowed that he could be here next Saturday evening. That was five days off.
I held them on the conference call while I cell phoned Alice and asked her for a favor.
When I got back on, I told them we would all meet at 7:30 PM next Saturday at Alice's house.
I then called Mary and asked her to bring Flo over for that meeting. I knew Alice would pass the word to Roger. I'd told her to tell him that there would be a truce in effect for the meeting. In other words, I wouldn't kick his ass, at least at the meeting.
I invited one other person.
Saturday evening, 7:30 came, and they were all there, all quiet. I began by saying we were back at the scene of the crime, only this time I wasn't handcuffed and I now was in possession of some facts; not just my perceptions and fears.
I introduced the last guest after the others were seated. As I introduced Terry, I thought that Roger was getting a little pale. The Deputy Division Commander of the ECPD was well known in law enforcement circles.
"I have some questions, first." I said.
"Ok, Mary. Who came up with the idea for the polygraph test? Was it Flo?"
"Well," Mary answered, "she was the one who mentioned it to me, but I assumed that she might have gotten it from Roger. I would not let him come over, but they talked on the phone twice."
"That true, Flo? Was it Roger's idea?"
"Now, who came up with the name Jack Harlan?"
Mary looked at Flo, who looked at me and said, "I had no idea how to find someone like that. Roger said he googled him up in the online Yellow pages."
"Ok, so it was Roger's idea for the test, and Roger who found Jack Harlan.
"Roger, did you know Jack Harlan before this?
"No" he quickly said. "Like Flo said, I found him online."
"Ok, now Roger, where are the polygraph stripcharts that Harlan sent you."
Roger looked surprised. He said that he's never gotten anything like that; just a copy of the letter that exonerated him and Flo.
I nodded to Terry.
He got up and opened a notebook. "Jack Harlan is a certified polygraph examiner for Endicott City PD. In other words, he works for my boss. As an employee, he couldn't be listed in the yellow pages on or off the Internet, because we have an anti-moonlighting clause in every ECPD contract.
"If he did take a private client who wanted a polygraph exam, he'd be violating his contract. I went and had a little chat with him about that yesterday, and he swore that he'd never given either Mrs. Barnes or Mr. Kubiak a polygraph exam. So he's not guilty of moonlighting. With a little added persuasion on my part, he finally did admit to taking some money to do an old college buddy a favor. He wrote a bogus report of two nonexistent exams. There will be some disciplinary action for that.
"I checked our personnel database and pulled up Mr. Harlan's resume. A colleague over at DEA where Roger works sent me his."
I looked at Flo, who was staring at the carpet, and Roger, who looked like he wished he were someplace else. His eyes kept darting toward the sliding glass door.
Terry continued. "Roger Kubiak and Jack Harlan both got AS's in forensic technology from Ingraham CC in 1985. So they were classmates."
He sat down. I looked at them all: Terry, Flo, Alice, Roger, Mary, Patty and Eric. All the women were crying.
I said, "Ok, so there never was any testing. Roger and his buddy cooked up a scam for me. That's why Harlan said he couldn't meet me up in his office. There was no way he could explain having me go up there. You need a visitor's badge and a valid reason to visit.
"So there's no objective evidence to prove that Roger and Flo didn't do the nasty deed together while I was handcuffed down here, to that pipe, and had to listen to them enjoying each other. We're back to their word versus my perception.
"But I'm in a charitable mood. And frankly, in the past days I've missed Flo terribly."
At that my lovely wife looked up with a wistful look.
"So I've been trying to think of any other way to maybe get at the truth."
First I asked Flo and Roger to tell how they set up the joke.
He said he'd been thinking about it for a while, after The Necking Joke. He said he knew he had to restrain me, so he borrowed the handcuffs from a guy down at work, and figured out the trick to use to get me caught. Then he wrote out a little script and put down all the sound effects noises they would use to simulate the sounds of the action. The shoes dropping, the bed springs squeaking, and the fake orgasms, and such.
But it was all faked, he swore. He said that he'd never cheat on Alice, I looked over at her and saw her expression at THAT.
He apologized for putting in that mean little dig where Flo would say that his cock was bigger than mine. "That was just me being an asshole," he said.
Throughout all this, with only a dirty look at her co-prankster, Flo sat silently.
"Ok," I said. "Now I've heard almost everything, I think. I'm calm now and I'm open-minded. I'm ready to be convinced. It all depends on you, Flo."
"How? Just tell me and I'll do anything to convince you."
"Keen for me."
I looked around at the others. "This may be too much information for some of you, but let me explain. When Flo climaxes with me, she makes a loud keening cry of pleasure. She does it at the moment of orgasm. It was always a sign for me that I'd been able to give her pleasure.
"There've been many times when I never got off myself, but I went to sleep content that I'd been able to satisfy her. Did you know that, Flo?"
"Ok. That keening noise. Do it for us now."
"But I can't," Flo protested. "I know you've told me that I do it, but I'm just not aware of it. When we ... when I'm cumming, I'm all caught up in the passion. I guess it just comes naturally when I orgasm.
"So you can't do it for me now?" I asked. ""You can't fake it?"
"No, I guess not. Like I said, I've never been aware of doing it, and I've never heard it."
Then she looked at me, pleading. "Please Jim. I'm sorry. I'm begging you. Please forgive me for, ... for everything. Please, can't we try to put our marriage back together?"
"No," I said. "I'm afraid we can't. Because that keening? That involuntary sound that you make when you come? What you can't even attempt to duplicate now when it's so important?
"Well, I heard you make it that day, just after Roger said that he was cumming. You came, too. You really came. I heard you keen.
"You both set it up as if it were a big nasty degrading joke, but it was really a cover so that you could fuck each other. I don't care if it was just that one time or that and 99 times before. You were unfaithful, Flo. And that proves it."
Patty and Eric were stunned. Especially Eric, who had been so sure I was just being a butt-head over a joke. He made a halfhearted attempt at an apology, and I took it as being well intended. He left with Mary and Flo, who was crying so hard she had to be helped out to the car. Terry followed them out, offering his support. Alice went upstairs and made herself scarce. Roger had been out the door as soon as I'd said my last.
Was I happy in the slightest way? I had found proof. The mystery was solved.
No. I felt like half of my heart had just walked out the door, supported by Eric and Terry. I think the term is a Pyrrhic victory.
Patty hung back. When the others were gone, she made a last plea. "Dad, what Mom did was unforgivable. But you had all those years together and most of them were good years. She's your wife. Can't you find it in your heart to see some way to forgive her despite everything? She made a terrible choice. And then every choice she made after that was worse.
"Look at the way she was when she left. She's devastated."
"You think I can't see that Patty? You think my heart isn't bleeding with her? But all those lies. Going along with the lies about the script and the sound effects and all that. And the scam with Harlan? God, why didn't she just tell me the truth?"
"I don't know Dad. Maybe she's like Eric and thinks you are just too rigid to yield. What you did tonight looked like that inflexible man.
"And the lies and all that? Can't you see? She was trapped in her self-made disaster and was desperate. Hell, I think I'd lie too if I was her and thought there was the faintest hope to make it come out OK.
"Dad, please. Think about it. I know that she loves you, despite the affair. I think that you still love her too, deep down. Just think about it, OK?"
I clammed up. I was the hard-ass, right? Right now I was a hard-ass with a hole in my chest.
Patty kissed me and went out to her car. I locked up behind me and walked over to my house.
She called me late the next day. She said that last night Flo simply could not stop crying. They got so concerned that Patty called our family doctor, who drove over and gave her a sedative. Mary knew that her pills weren't up to the task any more.
She said Flo woke up the next morning and wandered around. Eventually she asked them to sit down with her.
Flo confessed that she done it. She had let herself be seduced. Roger's sense of humor and kindred spirit had always drawn them close, and he worked on her. She said she'd let herself be led on, until she reached some kind of tipping point. Flo said that she hadn't ever stopped loving me; she just put it aside someplace for later and let herself be drawn along. For no reason that she could understand herself, much less explain.
She said that she had never had strong feelings for Roger, just maybe a bit of sexual curiosity and a sense of wanting a wicked adventure to jazz her life up. They had both agreed that it would be a one-time thing only. And she had meant it.
She had never dreamed that it would all blow up like this. She made two tremendous mistakes, she told them. The first was letting herself be seduced and going along with the plan. She let it happen for reasons that sounded pitiful to herself when she considered them.
The second was agreeing to go along with the further deception with the phony polygraph tests. Flo said that she knew, she absolutely KNEW that it would never work. That her best chance with me would been to confess and then do everything in her power to make it up to me. But once again, she had listened to Roger. I was a hard-ass. I would never forgive her. He had a fool-proof way to convince me with the phony polygraph tests, and so on, until she had again been persuaded.
I guess I'm a slow learner, she told them.
They asked her if she thought I might ever change my mind and she said she didn't think so. That I would never be able to trust her again. Two big deceptions were too much to be forgiven. And I had warned her about infidelity.
Eric came to visit me and told me much the same as Patty had. I thanked him.
He looked me squarely in the eye, something that hadn't happened between us in years, and said, "Dad, I'm sorry I took it so lightly. I just wasn't into how destroyed you must have felt. Nothing like that has ever happened to me."
I said it was OK. I said I appreciated him saying so. He asked me if there was even the slightest possibility of me forgiving Mom.
I had to search my feelings. I said that I still loved her. That I still thought about her and the good times in the life we'd shared. Part of me wished it had all never happened. I missed her presence in my life. But another part of me was consumed by so many vivid memories of that awful day, and listening to them up in the master bedroom. When that took over all my loneliness would be swept away by a resurgence of anger and betrayal.
I left it at that. Was that an answer? It was all I had at that point.
I heard that Roger went to live with another DEA guy who had also been thrown out on his ear by his wife.
He'd tried to call Flo a few times, apparently thinking that they might get together for consolation. She told him to stop calling; she had no interest. She said that she had to bear her own responsibility for falling into the affair, but that she looked on him as the cause for losing her marriage and the only man that she had ever loved.
When I heard about that, I thought about going to deal with him, but I figured there would be too many people who would know it was me if something happened to him.
And I wasn't sure I could stop short of killing him.
Mary was surprised when Terry came to visit her and Flo. He told Flo that she should plan on moving on with her life. He said that she should work on mending her relationships with Mary and her kids. He also told her that I didn't hate her, despite everything, and that someday she and I might work up to becoming friends. I'd told him that. But that it would take time, and that it would likely never be more than that. The trust issue seemed like too great an obstacle. I WAS inflexible, and as long as it was just between Flo and me, it seemed set in stone.
Flo threw herself into her real estate business and began making real money. She'd once told me that she got hit on often as she worked with clients ... I couldn't help but wonder if she might find somebody else some day. Would I be happy about that, I thought? Didn't she deserve another shot at finding happiness?
Terry continued to drop in on me from time to time. Our friendship seemed to be strengthening. What intrigued me was that he dropped by at that house across town at times, too. Then he started asking Mary to go out for dinner and movies. He was a lonely widower, she a lonely widow, and he told me there was something about her that had captured his interest from that night when we all got together. She was the first woman he'd ever seriously taken to in ten years.
At that point I was rooting for anyone to get some good out of this.
Not likely me. I was the resident hard-ass. The inflexible stick-in-the-mud. Not a very good person to be, I thought. What had it gotten me?
Now, anyone reading all this should have picked up that I had some feelings for Alice. When we were just friends and neighbors, I stifled them. Unlike Roger, I believed in that Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife commandment. Instead, I Jimmy Cartered it and kept it to mself.
Now things had changed, and we were leading lonely lives, but I had no confidence. I cannot begin to say how ego-shattering and belittling all this had been to me. I felt pretty worthless and rejected. I was scared. I was gunshy. I hadn't even had a hint of an erection since that fucking Fucking Joke. Sometimes I thought I was feeling horny, but I showed no signs of life.
When I was way down in my dark, depressed place, which was fairly often, I wondered if it was over for me. I doubted I had any chance at ever being loved again. I had once, and even that love hadn't been enough. Not enough that the love of my life hadn't wavered in her love for me that fatal one time.
And the sad fact was, I didn't have all that many good friends, and I counted Alice as one of them. By now I thought I would never be able to read women.
So, did Alice like me? Sure ... as a friend. Anything more than that? No clue. Might I blow our friendship if I started showing her my feelings? Oh yes. I wasn't optimistic.
Nor did I know exactly how I felt about her. Was it suppressed love? Was it rebound loneliness? God know I was lonely, wandering around in that house where every square inch reminded me of Flo. Was I just getting horny? I already told you about that!
Alice and I had been talking on the phone at nights and weekends. To hide, I took the pose that we were old friends who had had some hard times together. We were very comfortable as disembodied voices. The truth was that I simply didn't dare try to go further. I had no idea how she was reacting to the death of her own marriage. Maybe she was gunshy and bitter, too. Her voice was friendly but neutral when we talked.