Dan Bednarick came back to his office from lunch one Tuesday around 12:20, and dictated a few notes on two projects; things that had occurred to him while he ate. He opened his door to tell Zeena, his secretary that he wanted them transcribed. As usual, she was on the phone. She looked up and said "Just a second, Dan's here," into the mouthpiece. He told her about the notes.
"In the Common folder? I'll have them done in half an hour, Dan," she said. "By the way, I have Reese on the line, anything you want to say to her?"
Reese was his lovely wife ... and Zeena's daughter. Reese was off from her part-time library job on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and he'd noticed that she and her mother often chatted after he came back from lunch. It didn't bother him. He judged people by results and Zeena was a great secretary.
"Nope," he said, "Except to tell her how much I love her." With a grin, he waved and went back in his office
Zeena brought the phone back up. "Did you hear him?" Her daughter's voice said "yes."
"But you're still..."
"Mother, let's not go there again. It'll all be over soon."
"You should end it today, Reese. Right now," Zeena urged.
"No. I'm not quite ready for that. It'll probably be after Thursday."
Zeena nearly slammed the phone down, wondering when her daughter had lost all of her common sense. She cast a sad look at Dan's door and went to work transcribing the notes.
Meanwhile, Dan had settled himself for his afternoon's work. He'd used the morning to review the status of all the projects that Bednarick Security Consultants had going. On the whole he'd been satisfied. On the whole. But there were the usual few laggards, and that was beginning to drive him toward some decisions. There were two account reps who were simply not working up to his standards. They were disorganized and careless at times, and full of excuses that were often little more than self-serving lies.
That was the worst of it. If they were just in over their heads and honest about it, he could move them back into production and give some other people a chance at the account rep jobs. But he could not stand lying. He always tried to keep tight control over his emotions, but those two were provoking his anger.
You make a mistake, you screw up; you admit it and take the consequences. He had never fired a person for simply not being up to the demands of a hard job. In a case like that, it was also partly the fault of the person who promoted the man or woman, which sometimes meant him.
Dan found some more email in his email inbox, and had to spend an hour responding to it. Nothing critical, but necessary to retain good customer relations.
That done, he finally got to his real afternoon's work: preliminary design for a complete security upgrade of a downtown hospital. It had been built in the 1930's and the last time the security was overhauled was in the '70's.
He had done a little bit of one-man brainstorming at home and had his notes and the original specs and drawings digitized on his thumb drive. But when he went to get it out of his briefcase, it wasn't in the small pocket. Nor was it anywhere else in the case. He emptied out his pockets, but with small hope.
He mentally ran through his morning routine and realized that he must have forgotten it on his dresser that morning. Hell, he thought, more wasted time. Be a miracle if he got much worthwhile work done today at all. He'd have to make a quick run home.
He grabbed his coat and went out to Zeena's alcove. He breezed by her, telling her where he was going. He was vaguely aware that she called something after him, but he just kept moving. Out in the parking lot, he patted his pockets and realized that his run of absentmindedness was still going. He'd dumped out his car keys while searching. So he turned around and went back inside.
As he neared Zeena's alcove, he heard her on the phone. He heard, "Hurry, Dammit. He's on his way NOW!" Then she hung up the phone as he came around the corner and went into his office. He reappeared holding up his keys and joked about his crappy memory. When he was in the car, he recalled the terse statement and wondered. Who was the "He" if not him?
When he walked into his house, Reese ran up from the utility room when she heard him come in, saying that he had startled her. She said she was doing a big load of wash. Her face was flushed and she seemed a bit flustered.
"Just came home for my thumb drive," he said as he bounded up the stairs. In the master bedroom he saw that the bed had been stripped. He looked around on his dresser until he found the missing thumb drive and decided to take a leak before he headed out.
In the bathroom he noticed two things. One was that the toilet seat was up. If there was anything that Reese had fussed over since they had come together six years before, it was the old canard about men being inconsiderate and leaving the seat up.
After he peed, he flushed and put the seat down. Then his eyes fell on their clothes hamper. It was an open weavework, and he could see that it was half full.
Guess she was just doing bedding, he thought. On his way out, he gave Reese a soft peck on the cheek and said, "My apologies, Sweetheart."
"Apologies? For what?"
"For leaving the toilet seat up. I'm surprised you didn't give me The Lecture when I came in."
"The toilet seat?" Then she looked startled. "Uh, no, I didn't notice. Lucky for you, buster," she recovered.
As he went out to the garage to get in his car, he caught a whiff of some out-of-place odor. He glanced over at the workbench, thinking that something might have spilled. He saw nothing. He got in his car and went back to work.
Was it just his imagination, or did Zeena look at him closely when he returned?
He got very busy, as his email inbox had refilled in his absence. Some junk, quickly consigned to the trash. The rest were mini fire drills, all important, but all readily fixable once he got cracking. So much for his planned afternoon work! He noticed that 80 percent of them were due to sloppy work by a few of his account reps. It was always the same ones, he noted. The ones who had to be counseled and mentored constantly to avoid careless errors. Once more he told himself that he was going to have to do something about them. They were bad for his business. And they lied to try to cover themselves. He hated liars.
Later, Zeena came in with a list of things that Reese needed picked up on the way home, and reminded him that they had a homeowner's meeting that evening.
He groaned at that. At least two hours of wasted time in the evening after a so-so day at work.
He got home with just enough time to grab a quick bite that Reese had ready, change clothes, and go to the meeting. After two and a half hours of bickering, the meeting was finally over, with nothing settled. He and Reese went home and made sweet, leisurely love until they both fell asleep, sated.
Wednesday was unexceptional. He got a little work done on the hospital project. There were only two major problems that popped up, and one of them required a trip out to the suburbs to mollify a client. There was a glitch in their newly installed TV surveillance system, and the account rep who had sold it and overseen its installation and system testing had forgotten to remove a blank plug and attach the live plug in its place. Dan knew the equipment intimately and immediately knew what was wrong.
He fumed at that as he drove home. There was no way she could have missed that if she had actually run through the mandatory system test checklist.
On Wednesdays, Reese worked at the library from noon til closing, so he took his time driving home. His mind went back to the previous day when some few little nagging things had caught the edges of his attention both at work and at home. The work thing was simply that he was going to have to crack down on the poor performers. He hated to think of it, but by right, he should let the worst of them go.
Once home, he wandered around, thinking. When he had come in from the garage he had recalled that odor. Nothing remained of it now, but the memory was tantalizingly familiar. He changed into his usual jeans and plaid shirt and moofed around. Reese would bring home Chinese around nine or so, so he just nibbled on some pretzels and sipped from a big bottle of Arizona tea.
He decided to be useful, so he went downstairs to fold and bring up all the bed linens.
There was only one set in the dryer, the ones that had been stripped off the big bed the day before. That was odd, he thought. Reese always gathered up the biggest load possible to run laundry. Had to save energy, she always said. Why on earth would she have done just the one set?
He folded the sheets and brought them up to put away in the linen closet.
That brought him the master bedroom. He looked in at the toilet and noted that the seat was safely down. Then he stopped and looked at it again.
He NEVER left it up. And he had a clear recollection of not doing that Tuesday morning. He remembered sitting on it to tie his shoelaces when Reese had bustled in and pushed him off the edge of the bed so she could make it up.
She had made the bed. The question was, why? When she was going to strip the beds, she left them as they were until wash time. Why make a bed you were going to strip off its sheets later? He knew there might be housewives who were anal enough to do it, but Reese was more easygoing than that.
There seemed to be a number of little anomalies. To someone who lived by Quality Assurance, anomalies were warning signs. He felt a slight shiver pass through his body as he went downstairs. He shook it off. The toiler seat, the made bed, the small load wash? They were all seemingly insignificant little things, but they were out of kilter.
And what was that damned odor? He sat down on the couch with a beer and found himself getting drowsy. He was asleep when Reese came dragging in. They ate in relative silence. He had meant to ask Reese about his little niggling things, his anomalies, but he felt unusually dull and tired and forgot to bring them up.
They cleaned up after their meal and kissed and cuddled. Then they fell asleep, she tired from dragging and shelving books, and he from his worries at work and those annoying anomalies and this unusual logginess that was upon him.
He felt lousy the next morning. He kept it to himself because Reese got freaked out whenever he got sick. He was basically a healthy man, so he got sick only rarely, and when he did, she overreacted. Rather than get her all upset, he schlumped through his morning get-up routine and left at his usual time.
He'd taken a couple of aspirins with his morning vitamins and had perked up a little by the time he got to the office. Zeena didn't seem to notice anything wrong with him, and she usually watched over her son-in-law like a mother hen.
He got some routine work that morning, but just didn't feel up to tackling the hospital project. As the morning wore on, he began to feel worse. He was feverish and shaky as the clock neared noon. Zeena asked him if he was all right several times as she came in and out with paperwork. He said he was fine. Just a little bit tired.
He had some noodles and broth from the vending machine for lunch, thinking he couldn't take anything heavy. Zeena saw what he was having and again asked him if he was feeling well. He said he was OK. The soup revived him for a while, but then it was all downhill after that. Sometime after 2 PM he went to the door of his office and looked out at Zeena. When she looked up and saw him, she blanched and jumped up.
"Dan, what on earth? You look terrible. Let me feel your forehead.
"You are burning up. We'd better get you home," she said, and then suddenly stiffened and looked at the clock.
It said 2:22.
"Oh my Lord," she muttered. "Dan why don't you go out front and wait with Marcie. I'll be right along."
"I can drive..." he tried to say.
"No you will not! You can hardly stand. Stan! Stanley? Could you give Dan a hand out to reception? He's got a fever and can hardly stand. I'll be right along. I'm taking him home."
With Stanley's help Dan started toward the reception area. He barely got five feet down the corridor, when Stanley suddenly remembered he'd left some sensitive documents out on his desk and wasn't supposed to leave his office unlocked.
As he went back to lock up, Dan leaned against the wall. He could distinctly hear Zeena on the phone again. "Reese? Listen Reese, never mind that. Dan is sick as a dog. Really sick, and I'm bringing him home.
"Now don't freak out on me, girl. What? Who cares! Tell him tough shit and to get his ass out of there!" Dan heard the phone slam down as he began to slide down the wall.
Next thing Dan knew, Stanley and Roy the security man were settling him in the front seat of an unfamiliar car. Then he passed out again.
The next he knew after that, Stanley and Zeena were walking him into the house. He heard Reese wailing, "We should get him to the hospital. He's burning up. Oh Dan! Oh please don't die!"
"Nonsense, Reese," Zeena said. "He has a bad dose of the flu bug, but it's not gonna kill him. Let's get him onto the couch. I don't think even the three of us could get him up the stairs, and he needs to lie down."
Then he remembered Zeena giving him something to drink and telling Reese she'd be back after work to check in. He fell asleep again.
As he slept, his energetic unconscious mind solved a little puzzle and presented him with the answer. "Aramis," he mumbled "The odor. Men's cologne." No one heard him.
Then he was semi-awake and could hear Reese' voice from the kitchen.
"No. No, Keith. He's lying on the couch not 25 feet from me.
"What? Tough shit! You're just fun and games, Keith. Dan is my husband. I'm worried sick about him. I haven't even had a chance to get up stairs to change the sheets.
"He's too weak to climb the stairs right now, but he recovers fast. What could I tell him if he walked into the bedroom the way we left it"
"What? WHAT? You selfish pig! I can't believe you. I am not going to sneak off and meet you at a motel. Dan needs me here and I'll be here for him as long as it takes.
"So what? God, you don't have a shred of decency, do you? Oh don't flatter yourself, Keith. Yours is no bigger than Dan's on your best day. It was just the novelty of it and the memories that got us together, not your fatal charm.
"Look, Keith, this whole thing today with Dan has made me think. We've had our fun. Three months is long enough. After listening to you just now, I wish I'd done it a month ago. It's over!
"We're through. Today was your last.
"Oh really? You think you can blackmail me? If you ever told Dan, he wouldn't hurt me, and eventually I would win him back. But you? I guarantee he'll rip you apart. No. He's not the tall skinny geek you jocks used to beat up in high school. You've never seen him since he came back.
"Keith, he's about your size, but he's rock hard. I saw him take on two knife-weilding toughs, once. They were attacking a young woman at a bus stop. Dan stopped the car, got out, beat them into a pulp, and got back in the car. He had a little slash on his arm from their knives.
"I'd hate to see poor little Elaine a widow with children at such an early age. No, I'm not kidding. Goodbye, Keith, you selfish prick!"
He heard the phone slam down."
That was way too much information to deal with all at once, so he did the sensible thing and passed out.
Sometime later he vaguely recalled hearing Zeena say, "Good riddance. Should have done it three months ago."
"Oh Mom. Let's not get into that again. It's over and no harm done.
"Now I can just feel guilty. I just pray that Keith's smart and doesn't try anything. He really has no idea how Dan can get."
They were in the kitchen, talking quietly, but he could still understand them. Dan waited for the talking to stop and then croaked out something, and they came running in. Reese asked him if their talking had awakened him. Dan lied and said that his ears were so stopped up he couldn't hear much of anything. He said that he'd started coughing and the soreness in his throat had awakened him.
He didn't want them to think he had overheard them.
They both babbled that he was looking much better and did he want anything to drink. Dan did, and they gave him something cold and sweet. His sense of taste was dull and he couldn't tell any more than that. Some kind of juice, he supposed. It felt great going down.
Not so great coming back up. He hadn't eaten anything except the ramen noodles in over 24 hours, but whatever he had inside was soon coming out, and then its brother and its uncle, and the horse it rode in on.
Then there was nothing left to bring up, but he tried to bring it up anyway.
He spent a lot of Friday in the downstairs john. He was alone after noon, when Reese was off to the library to work. Zeena was back at the office holding down the fort, he supposed. The retching surges came just close enough that he felt there wasn't much point in wiping his mouth, rinsing, and going out to sit down. Last night he'd told the women to leave him alone, partly because he wanted to be alone in his misery, and partly because, well, he didn't want them near him.
You can actually get some thinking done between spasms of retching. What else do you have to do? He had a lot to think about.
That lasted about five hours. Then the bug progressed and proceeded to clean him out at the other end. Same deal. He stayed in the john and participated in the Great Circle of Life. Funny, Dan didn't remember anything about this in "The Lion King."
At least he could take clear fluids in and keep them down. That gave him something to spew out.
Dan continued to think over all that he had learned about Reese. And Zeena. And Keith. Oh yes, he thought a lot about Keith.
When he got tired of thinking about them, Dan made a run to grab something to read between surges. Bruce Catton's "A Stillness at Appomatox." Great book!
He got to the part about the Crater at Petersburg when he realized that he had read a whole chapter without spewing. He waited another twenty minutes and risked getting up, pulling up his shorts, and going out to sit down.
That brought Reese in and she was visibly relieved. She had gotten off work early and had directions from the doctor on how to wean him back to food. There was no point in bringing Dan into the office, he'd said. The virus wasn't something you could fight with antibiotics, and as long as Dan could move enough to deal with his problems, there was no need for him to go to the hospital.
Reese talked at him for hours, but he had few responses for her. He was still weak, but his mind was clear and unfevered, and he had put it all together. Now it seemed so obvious. Even without hearing her phone conversation with Keith, he could have figured it out.
Dan didn't leave the toilet seat up, Keith did. Dan doesn't use Aramis, Keith does. Dan wasn't the one staining the sheets so the bed has to be stripped every Tuesday and Thursday, Keith was.
Dan might have caught them Tuesday, but his faithful, loyal secretary Zeena tipped them off he was coming.
He'd broken up their tryst Thursday by getting sick and being brought home, but good old Zeena had tipped them off again.
Dan was feeling sick again, but not from the bug. That was the least of his problems. This was a sickness in his soul.
He knew he was too weak to deal with anything right now. He needed another day.
Reese tried to persuade him to move upstairs to the master bedroom to be more comfortable. Dan was not about to get into that bed again, so he insisted he was fine on the couch. Later on, he asked her if Zeena was coming over tomorrow.
"Well, Saturday she goes on her nature rambles with her club, and then she goes to the buffet Saturday night with her beau Vaughn. So I doubt it. Why?"
"Call her and tell her I need her here to talk around noon tomorrow," he said.
"But she hates to miss her outings..."
Dan interrupted her. "Just do it!"
No "Please," no "Honey," no "would you mind," simply "Just do it!" and then he rolled away from her to face the back of the couch.
She stood there for some time, apparently looking at him. Dan wondered what she was thinking. Was she afraid he was on to her? She tentatively called his name, but he lay unmoving. And unmoved.
Then she went into the kitchen and called Zeena. She spoke as low as she could and be heard over the phone, but his hearing was very good.
She told her what he'd said. "No, just that. Very cold. No. God no. How could he? We've been so careful. Mom, you'd better come."
Dan slept, or pretended to sleep, for the rest of that day into the night. Later, he was reading the Catton book to free his mind from the endless cycling of his thoughts when Reese came again and asked if he wanted to move upstairs.
Dan said, "No, this is fine."
Later, he heard the phone ring. He was about to go to the kitchen to try to listen in on the line, but didn't have to. He heard Reese shout from upstairs. "No, you moron. Never again! Fuck you!" Then the sound of the phone slamming down.
Dan felt pretty well rested early next morning, so made his way upstairs and went into the hall bathroom for a shower. It felt good and he began to feel more like his old self. Still weak, but some food and more rest would fix that. He was pleased to have something that he could easily fix.
Dan went into the bedroom and studied Reese's sleeping form. It could still stir him, but that was pretty much habit and biology.
He vaguely remembered Keith from high school. One of the Jocks who had beaten on him at one time or another. Now as he looked at the swell of Reese's hips, he pictured a vague image of a male ass pounding down between her slim legs and a generic other man's cock plunging into that sweet, hot pussy.
He felt a hot surge of hate for that man. This one, he couldn't suppress, nor did he want to. He hadn't felt like that in over seven years. Back then he had dealt with the objects of his hatred with weapons. Now?
He tucked that thought away.
Like Longstreet at Appomatox: "Not yet."
He dug out jeans and other weekend wear, and took them downstairs to get dressed. It was only around ten.
He looked at the doctor's feeding schedule and settled for toast with a smear of jelly. Dan would have preferred coffee, but made a pot of tea instead. Soothing, so they say. Now it was 10:35.
He didn't want to sit around and have to endure Reese's questions when she came down. He wanted to talk to her and Zeena together so he could get it all over with.
Ever considerate, Dan left a note saying "I'll be back at noon." He got in his Subaru and drove around for awhile, just killing time.
Ultimately, this was just like at work, he thought. You screw up, you take responsibility. You don't lie to cover it up, and you take the consequences. Reese had broken her vows and cheated on him and their marriage. And she had lied in so many ways to cover it up. And Zeena had done that too.
Could he get over it? Could it happen again? Could he ever trust either of them? Dan had no idea. The main thing was: would they take responsibility and tell the truth?
Just at noon, Dan pulled in behind Zeena's Accord and went in. They were sitting at the kitchen table talking quietly, but they stopped when he came in. Someone had made a pot of coffee and he felt bold enough about the condition of his stomach to draw a cup.
Dan sat down. "OK," he said. "I feel much better now, thanks to both of you and your fine care.
Zeena smiled, but Reese was sitting very straight, waiting for him to go on.
"So here's the situation," he began. "I have some suspicions that my faithful, loving wife Reese was fucking somebody here in my bed on this past Tuesday and Thursday, namely Keith Davis. Correct?"
Reese was staring at him, aghast, with her face turned pale. Zeena had jerked up and knocked her cup to the floor. They both leaped to pick up the pieces, sweep up the fragments, and mop up the spillage, seizing o the tasks that would postpone whatever cam next. Dan just sat, waiting for all the busy work to be done.
When they sat back down, Reese started to say something but Dan held up his hand.
"My turn. You will have yours.
"My faithful, loyal secretary Zeena acted as a lookout both days, so she could warn the adulterers that the Cuckold was heading for the place of the assignation.
"Zeena has a dual role here, since she's both the Cuckold's faithful, loyal secretary and the adulteress' mother.
"Ok, tell me where I'm wrong," he said.
Reese said, "Dan, I don't know how you came up with all this, ... this craziness, but it's just not true, none of it. I would never cheat on you!"
Dan ticked up the points on his fingers. "One, after I left Tuesday, somebody who pees standing up took a whiz in the master bathroom commode and left the seat up.
"Two, Reese made the bed up that morning. The same bed that she then later stripped. When Reese is going to strip the linens, she always leaves the bed as is.
"Three, whoever it was who left the seat up splashed on some men's cologne when he got out of his car in the garage. I smelled the Aramis when I was in there Tuesday.
"Four, when I came in Tuesday, Reese was just coming up from running a big load of wash, she said. That night there was only the sheets from the big bed in the dryer. No other clothes from our hamper, or towels, or any other bedding. The only things she washed were those bedsheets. Now why would she have to wash them and them alone? To wash away the evidence. Cum stains."
Reese rallied. "Dan, there is an explanation for every one of those things. I have not been unfaithful. I swear it!"
Dan raised his thumb. "Five. When I left Tuesday, I heard Zeena on the phone to you, saying 'Hurry, Dammit. He's on his way NOW!' Then on Thursday while I was hanging on the wall waiting for Stanley to come back, I heard her say, 'Reese? Listen Reese, never mind that. Dan is sick as a dog. Really sick, and I'm bringing him home. Now don't freak out on me, girl. What? Who cares! Tell him tough shit and to get his ass out of there!' Keith's ass, I suppose."
They were looking at each other wildly now, trying to comprehend how he'd gotten all of this put together.
"Now, Reese. You have lied several times in the past ten minutes. I'm going to ask you questions, and I want the absolute truth. If we are ever going to get past this and have a future beyond this minute, you have to tell the truth. No lies. No half-truths. Understand?"
She nodded, but Dan could see from the furrows in her brow that she was trying to think how much of it he could possibly know. He'd seen that look on the face of some of his account reps. Trying to get their lies straight.
Like Pharaoh, he hardened his heart.
"Why, Reese? Why did you do this? What did you do for him? Did you fuck him? Did you suck his cock? Did you swallow? Did you give him your ass? Did he use protection or was it bareback?"
Reese was fighting back tears. Zeena was already crying.
Dan watched Reese carefully. He had stressed those two days, Tuesday and Thursday, giving them no idea that he knew it had gone on much longer.
Finally, Reese told her version of the story.
"Dan, you knew that Keith had been my boyfriend off and on during high school and for a time while we went to college. I knew that Keith was not a truly loving person, but the sex was good and he was good at coaxing me back into the relationship.
"I know you hate to think of that, but that was before we got together. I made the final break with him after college and had been dating other people. He dropped back to another girlfriend and married her: Elaine Glennie, another high school classmate, and they had two children.
"When you came back into my life over six years ago, I was amazed by the changes that time and the service life had done for you.
"You were so strong and in command of yourself. I fell in love with you and was thrilled when you asked me to marry you. And I meant every word of our wedding vows, Dan. I swear it!
"A couple of months ago when the tenth HS reunion came up, I wanted you to go with me but you were dead against it. Remember?"
Sure. Dan remembered. He had no taste for the kind of phony posturing that goes on at those things. He'd seen it at friends' reunions and wanted no part of it.
Reese said, "Well, I thought if you really loved me and respected my wishes you would have gone with me. Maybe that was childish, but that's how I felt."
Bingo, Dan thought. So this is really his fault.
"And I enjoyed myself, ' she went on. I wasn't on the outside in school the way you were Dan. I ran with the inside crowd. We had a lot of fun and danced and drank a lot. Keith was there. He came alone. I didn't know he was married. He didn't wear a ring."
"But you did?" he interrupted.
"Yes, of course. But that didn't seem to bother Keith. He made a long hard play for me, although I just laughed it off, at first. I did remember a lot of history with him and it wasn't all bad. But like I said, I laughed him off then.
"But he kept after me over the next three months, calling me. Finally, last week I agreed to go out to lunch with him. We had a nice time. Then it was dinner at the Sheraton Lounge.
"Oh, Dan, I knew it was wrong, because I hid it from you. We danced and drank, and, well, I did let him touch me. On the outside of my top. But that's all, up to that point."
As she spoke, Dan kept glancing at Zeena, who struggled to keep quiet as she listened to her daughter lie to minimize the affair. And she never said a word.
"Dan, I cannot tell you why I went up to a room with him. I don't really know even now. I loved you, but it just wasn't in my mind right then. I somehow put it aside. It didn't stop me from going off with him. We necked and petted, and finally I gave him a hand job. Then he frigged me to a climax with his fingers. That was as far as we went, honest.
"I was drunk, but I knew what I was doing. I was reluctant at first, but he wooed me. It felt exciting, and a little bit wicked, and ... I did it. But just that much.
"And it was done, and I came home, and luckily you were asleep so I didn't have to face you right then. I avoided you the next day; I said I was off with Zeena doing something or other and you never suspected a thing. I had a good grip on myself by the time I got home. I thought I could keep this thing hidden.
"And of course you're so loving and faithful yourself that you would never think of suspecting anything. So if I did slip up, I thought I could get away with it. I'm not proud of myself for thinking like that, Dan. I did feel guilty.
"After that first time with him, when you and I made love the next night, I tried very hard to give you the most pleasure I could. To make up for it.
"Then he called me and asked if he could talk to me again. I didn't want to but he said it was important, so I let him come over Tuesday.
"Well, I'm afraid I got back all that excitement just seeing him again and we started in again. We messed around and I gave him a hand job again and he got me off again. He wanted to see me again. I told him he could come over again on Thursday, but I said that what I had done was all that he would get.
"I knew I was sort of cheating on you, but as long as we didn't have actual sex, I felt I wasn't really betraying you. I would never cuckold you, Dan, so you're wrong about that.
"I told Mom about the dinner and the aftermath, and asked her help cover for me for the two dates. She was appalled, but she went along with keeping it a secret. I had to make sure that you wouldn't come home and find us."
Then Zeena jumped in. "I only agreed to do it to protect you, Dan. I hated to do it, but I was afraid of what you might do if you found out. If you caught them I thought you might kill Keith, and then you'd go to jail. I was caught in the middle, trying to protect my stupid daughter and my wonderful son-in law and boss.
Reese said, "I don't know if it makes any difference to you, Dan, but I did break it off Thursday. It's over! Do you believe that asshole wanted me to leave you lying sick on the couch to come meet him at a motel?
"Dan I have no excuses that mean anything. I was just weak and I went on being weak for a little while for some cheap forbidden pleasure and a wicked sense of getting away with something.
"But I know it all came from my long time relationship in the past with Keith. I don't think there is another man on earth who could have tempted me to stray even by the little bit I did.
"Now, all I can say is that I just so, so sorry. I never meant to do it. I never meant to cause you pain. I never did really have sex with that man. I do love you and want to get past this and spend the rest of our lives together. I'll do anything to make it up to you. I'll go to counseling. Anything!"
I guess that's supposed to be my cue to profess forgiveness, Dan thought. Cue the violins.
Zeena said, "Dan, please forgive me. You must see I was in an impossible situation, caught between two people I love."
They both stared at him. His moment to make some kind of grand decision, he supposed.
He had valued and trusted Zeena and she had spied on him to let her daughter continue her adulterous affair. And she stood silent when Reese created that fabric of self-serving lies he'd just endured. What a pair!
Dan felt a coldness enveloping his heart as he saw his life falling apart, but it was time to do the hard thing and end this.
"Reese, you cheated on me and then lied to me. I know that this started back at the reunion and has gone on for three months. I know that you have done it all with Keith. And you just lied again by denying that. Hand jobs? Hand jobs don't stain the sheets so much they have to be washed each time! Hand jobs don't keep an affair going for three months! Give me credit for common sense!
"Your mother lied and betrayed me to protect you.
"I am a cuckold.
"And you are both cheats and liars."
Reese couldn't even look at him. She buried her face in her hands.
Zeena was made of sterner stuff.
"What are you going to do, Dan. Please don't make a hasty decision that you might regret."
He said, "I won't be hasty, but I won't take three months to make my decision either. I haven't decided yet what all I'm going to do. Not completely. The infidelity is hard enough, but the easy lying to minimize and hide it? I don't think that is forgivable. I know I can't ever trust either one of you again.
"I know I'm going to see a divorce attorney next week. I don't have courtroom evidence of adultery, so I'll have to find some other grounds. If you fight me on this, Reese, I'll try to make adultery stick and will sue Keith for alienation of affection. I'll have detectives going over this block asking the neighbors if they ever saw Keith's car here on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I'll sue his company to release his schedules and pay records to see if he was over here screwing you on company time. I'll depose Elaine Davis about his schedule.
"I'll fight as dirty as I have to.
"But if you go along with some kind of neutral grounds, I'll pay you a reasonable alimony. There were six years when you were faithful and loving; that means something.
"I guess you were right about it not being the right time for us to start a family, Reese. Though not for the reasons you had.
"I'll give you a month to move out. I figure she can stay with you, right Zeena?"
My mother-in-law nodded. "Yes. But Dan, can't you give it some time? Time for us to all think about what's best? You and Reese were together and loving for six years. She fell once, and that's terrible, but she's learned her lesson. I'm sure she would never do anything like that again."
"Never!" Reese said.
Dan looked at them incredulously. They still didn't get it.
"Reese, Zeena, there is no way back from here for us. No matter what you say, I will never be able to trust you. I gave you a chance to tell the truth; I warned you, and you still lied. I can never believe that either of you are telling me the truth."
And that was that. The beginning of the end. Dan moved back upstairs, but into the guest room.
Monday morning, Dan went to get tested for STDs, since Keith and he had been sharing Reese' pussy for three months. He was pretty sure the man was a pussy hound and had more things going than just with Reese. Who knew where that cock had been?
He'd told Reese to do the same and get tested. He didn't know whether she did or not. Not his business any more.
He came up clean, although here would have to be follow-up tests at intervals for HIV.
But Dan felt duty bound to inform someone else.
Monday, he called Elaine, Keith's wife. She was suspicious of the call and of him, since he said he had to talk to her but would not say why. She was not inclined to meet him to talk. So he took the direct approach and told her that he had proof that Keith had been having an affair with his wife the past three months.
There was a long pause. Then she told him she'd meet him at an IHOP near the interstate around 2PM. She said she needed to be done by 3 because she had two children in daycare.
When she pulled up and got out of her car, Dan saw that she was very attractive, and vaguely familiar. Nothing like blonde, lovely faithless Reese, but more toward the dark Irish colleen look. Very long jet-black hair and the milkiest white skin he'd ever seen. Up close, Dan could see delicate blue veins beneath the skin of her upper chest. Keith had good taste in women, he thought.
But something she said had bothered him. After they were seated, since he wasn't there trying to score brownie points, he decided to be blunt. "You were at home when I called.
"If you're at home, why do you have your kids in child care? Big social life?
He knew it was none of his business, but Dan was resentful. He hated to think of people neglecting their children.
He missed having kids of his own. Everything else in his life was going to shit and his prospect for fatherhood seemed pretty dim, so he resented the idea of this woman parking her children, as if they were an inconvenience
Instead of being pissed, Elaine laughed at his bluntness.