"A working class hero is something to be...
... If you want to be a hero, well just follow me."
Johnny McMullen stared at the piece of paper in his hands, and felt a cold sweat break out all over his body, despite the unseasonably warm late-winter day.
It had come out of a sealed envelope with his name on it that had been placed under the windshield wiper of his pickup truck, which had been parked in the lot at the foundry where he worked as a master machinist.
As he read it, he could feel his whole world spinning out of control, and he had to squeeze his eyes shut for a moment to gain some equilibrium.
The message had consisted of two sentences, set in fairly large type in some commonly-used font. It read:
"Your wife is getting awfully chummy with one of the attorneys at her work. Don't think anything has happened yet, but it's headed that way fast unless you act NOW."
That was it. No salutation nor end line, and nothing on the envelope, either, except his name. Just the damning message, toxic as it was.
Johnny's first inclination was to wad the message up and forget it. The thought that Patricia would cheat on him was preposterous — or it would have been up until a few weeks earlier.
But the message crystallized some niggling little things that had — up to that point — been bubbling under the surface of his consciousness, nothing he could really point to that would indicate his wife was considering stepping out on their marriage, but there nonetheless.
Now, suddenly, everything had been brought into focus, and he had to consider, for the first time, the possibility of a life without Patricia.
As much as it would hurt — and it would hurt a lot — he knew that if Patricia had an adulterous affair, it would mean the end of their marriage.
Johnny was certain he could forgive her if she cheated on him. After all, forgiveness was the Christian thing to do, and he had always tried to live his live as closely as he could to Christian values.
But he would never be able to forget it, and the level of disrespect and disloyalty such an act would show wasn't something he could live with. He knew it would eat him up from the inside out and poison everything in his life. Respect and loyalty were two of the most important things in Johnny's life, and he simply couldn't stay married to someone who wasn't loyal or respectful to him.
In spite of that, he could feel his eyes misting because the thought of losing Patricia was almost more than he could bear.
He'd first met Patricia Simmons in high school, and they'd been attracted to each other from the first. But it wasn't until a year or so after they'd met that they finally started dating, and they had quickly become an item.
They were actually a fairly mismatched couple, but that just proves that opposites attract. Patricia was a tall girl, almost 5-foot-10, and well-built, while Johnny was a shade under 5-foot-9. He had sandy blond hair with brown eyes; she had dark hair with blue eyes and a dazzling smile.
She was the oldest of three daughters born to a banker, and had grown up in fairly affluent surroundings, while he was the son of a machinist and a stay-at-home mom who earned extra income for the family as a professional seamstress.
The difference between Johnny's upbringing and Patricia's background would provide the only real conflict in what everyone said was a love that was meant to be.
He could still remember their first sexual encounter, and he smiled even in his pain. It had been a Saturday in early spring, after they had been dating about a year, the first really nice day of the year.
His baseball team had played a scrimmage game that afternoon, since the start of the season was just a week or so away, and they were driving home, sitting close. Real close.
Johnny was driving the old Ford pickup his dad had helped him buy. He'd put a good cassette tape player and a couple of fine speakers in it, kept the engine in tip-top condition and — voila! — he had a ride that he could take Patricia out in.
They'd ended up at the Little League park just as dusk was descending. They parked in a fairly secluded corner of the park and started necking furiously.
Johnny and Patricia had been exploring each other's lush bodies with their hands for a couple of months now, as their relationship had deepened.
Johnny's hands cupped Patricia's plump breasts, and her hands had found the throbbing lump in the shorts he'd put on after getting out of his uniform pants. Their lips were in hyperdrive and their tongues were slashing at each other like swordsmen as their passion climbed ever higher.
Suddenly, Patricia's hand slid under the waistband of Johnny's shorts and came into direct contact with his hard meat.
"Oh my," Patricia said, with mock alarm. "What have we here?"
"Don't start something there you can't finish," Johnny said with a husky voice.
"Do I turn you on?" Patricia whispered as she began to jack his cock softly in his pants. "Why don't you show me?"
"Only if you show me yours," Johnny said with a grin.
Patricia gave it a moment's thought, then quickly shimmied her tight shorts off her legs, followed by her cotton panties. Seconds later, Patricia had Johnny's shorts pooled around his ankles, his hard cock waving in the air.
Johnny's hands gravitated immediately to the junction of Patricia's legs to the wet valley of her hot pussy. He'd had a couple of girlfriends before Patricia, so he wasn't unacquainted with the female anatomy, and he began to roll her hard little clit, then slid two fingers in her juicy pie.
Patricia, on the other hand, had never seen a live cock before, but she'd talked with her girlfriends and read enough to know a little about them. Johnny's cock was a little larger than average, though nothing unusual, and she quickly got into a rhythm.
She quickly figured out that the clear fluid bubbling out of the tip of his dick was natural lubricant, and she deftly smeared the stuff all over the head of his cock. She loved the way it twitched in her hand, and she really loved the way Johnny's fingers were delving into her increasingly-horny pussy.
"Oh God, baby, I want you so bad," Johnny said as he built up a froth between his girl's legs.
"I want you too, my love," Patricia said. "But we'd better not. I don't want to get pregnant — at least not right now. Soon. I promise."
"You need to finish this," Johnny said with a gasp. "Do you have any hand lotion?"
Patricia quickly fished in her purse and found a tube of lotion. She squeezed out a generous dollop onto Johnny's dick and began to massage the cream up and down the shaft. Meanwhile, Johnny returned his attention to Patricia' puss, working his hand in a frenzy as the urge to come built rapidly to a head.
"Look out, here ... it comes!" he shouted seconds before spewing a fountain of cum into the air that splattered on his abdomen and all over Patricia's hands.
Her eyes were wide in surprise, and no small amount of delight, at the display of orgasm her boyfriend had put on, and that — along with the work of Johnny's fingers in her cunt — gave her the first climax she'd ever had that she hadn't given herself.
She shuddered as the intense feelings washed through her body, and she felt almost giddy at what they'd just experienced.
Johnny just slumped back in the seat, sated and satisfied. He respected Patricia's desire not to get pregnant, and if she'd do what she'd just done on a regular basis, she wouldn't have to worry so much about a baby.
"We'd better get dressed, before the cops show up," Johnny said, and his timing was impeccable, because they had no more gotten cleaned up and put their pants back on when a police cruiser rolled into the park
The cop had stopped them just to check them out, but let them off with a warning to be careful.
It didn't take Johnny long after that to start stocking up on condoms, nor did it take Patricia any time to find a discrete family friend who helped her get on contraceptives.
Johnny was not the least bit apologetic about growing up in a working-class environment. He was proud of his father and had eagerly followed him into the foundry after he'd graduated from junior college.
John and Eva — Johnny's parents — had raised three kids in a small but lively home in a working-class neighborhood of small houses. Johnny had an older sister and a younger brother.
The couple actually had had four children, but a daughter they'd had 18 months after Johnny's birth had been born with underdeveloped lungs and had only lived two days.
John and Eva never forgot their little girl and made sure their other kids didn't either. It made them appreciate what they had, and how quickly it can be taken away, and that's a lesson Johnny and his siblings learned and took to heart.
Johnny's little brother had been the golden boy of the family. Danny was off-the-charts intelligent, graduated with highest honors in high school, had gone to college and become the first of the family to earn a degree from a four-year university, then had gone to work for a chemical company for which he was now head of research.
Although he envied his brother to a degree, Johnny had never begrudged Danny's success. He was proud of his brother, and Danny always said he looked up to Johnny.
Johnny, in fact, was no dummy, but he'd never really liked school work, preferring to work with his hands. His passion as a kid was baseball, and he'd been good enough to start at shortstop for his high school as a junior and senior, and then went on to play two years of junior college ball.
He knew that was as far as he would go in baseball and in college. He was a very good fielder and not a bad hitter, but he was realistic enough to know he didn't quite have what it took to make it at a four-year college, on the field or in the classroom.
Besides, he'd always known what he wanted to do with his life, and that was to follow his father and fix machines. So he'd focused on tech courses — plus a few academic subjects that interested him — during his two years of college.
By the time he finished junior college, he was 20-years-old, ready to marry the love of his life and go to work.
In the years since, Johnny had moved up to become one of the foundry's master machinists, and he'd also gotten deeply involved in the union. Just a few months earlier, he'd enjoyed one of the proudest moments of his life when he was elected president of the local, after serving in several official capacities over the years.
That was one reason he'd never taken the company up on its offers to move into a management position. He believed in the union and felt like moving into management would be a sign of disloyalty to the guys in the ranks.
And, too, he still loved getting his hands dirty on a piece of machinery, taking it apart and figuring out what was wrong with it, or just doing the routine work that kept things running.
Patricia hadn't been entirely pleased that he'd turned down efforts to move up in the company, but she understood that was what made him happy. Or at least she'd always said that.
After marrying at age 21, they had waited five years before having their daughter, Brittany, then three years later their son Daniel had come along.
Fairly early in their marriage they had found a house in one of the outlying areas of the city and they had bought it. It was small, probably no more than 1,000 square feet, but it sat on a lot that was slightly over an acre and backed onto some woods. Johnny loved traipsing through those woods when he needed some solitude.
Johnny was a frugal man who believed in staying out of debt as much as possible, and they were getting closer and closer to paying off the mortgage, although they still had a couple of years left on the note.
He and Patricia had passed age 40 the previous year and were approaching their 20th anniversary. At the time, they'd seemed more in love that ever, but now it appeared that dark clouds were building that could threaten their happiness.
It was with all of this in mind that Johnny folded the letter, replaced it in the envelope and headed for home. Later that night, he'd have a couple of phone calls to make, but for the time being he had to act normally — if that was possible.
Patricia McMullen sat at the table that took up half of the den area of their small house and stared out the window. She knew she should be getting dinner together, but she couldn't motivate herself to get it going, and she'd about decided they'd just go out for pizza.
She knew at a subconscious level that the thoughts and fantasies she'd been harboring lately were wrong, but she couldn't help herself.
She looked around the house at the way everything was stacked up all over the place, and she dreamed of a bigger house. Her home was neat and well-kept, but it was small, and with two adults, a 14-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, the family was all but on top of each other.
Johnny had promised her that they might consider looking at something new, when the weather turned warmer, but thus far nothing had been said or done.
Patricia longed for the kind of house she'd grown up in, a nice big two-story house with lots of room. She'd adapted to living in a small house, but she'd never quite gotten used to it.
Moreover, she missed having the ability to buy whatever she wanted when she wanted. She knew it was selfish to think that way, but again she couldn't help it. Although they each made decent money at their jobs, it was still a battle every month to stay ahead of the bills and sock money back for savings.
Her folks had warned her when she agreed to marry Johnny what she could expect, but she'd been crazy in love and didn't listen. And, as time passed, the Simmons had warmed to Johnny, to the point where they now considered him the son they'd never had, more so than their other two sons-in-law, both of whom were rather humorless businessmen.
Johnny, on the other hand, was always full of stories, full of laughter, and he was always stopping by his in-laws to fix this or repair that. He knew they hadn't entirely approved of their daughter's marriage to him, so he'd always gone out of his way to ingratiate himself to them.
Patricia worked as a legal secretary for the law firm of Bradberry, Bradberry and Wilson, which had been founded by Richard Bradberry many years ago. Mr. Bradberry had died suddenly just a few months before, and the firm had passed to the control of his son, Randall.
Randall was well-liked around the office, as his father had been, but it had still been a difficult adjustment without Richard Bradberry's firm hand. Randall was still feeling his way around the power that came with control of the firm, and that had been a boon to the newest member of the firm, William Broadacres.
William had come to the firm about a year earlier after several years as a legal sharpie in Washington, D.C. He'd come highly recommended, and he'd already made something of a splash in local circles. He was rich — both on his own accord and from family money — tall and handsome. And aggressive.
He had immediately cast covetous eyes on the pretty brunette secretary, and had made a decision to take her for himself. It was something he'd done wherever he went. He had a way of finding a woman's vulnerabilities and taking advantage of them.
He'd sized up Patricia McMullen as someone who was dissatisfied with the life she'd fallen into as a working-class wife and mother, and used that to drive a small wedge between her and her husband.
And what of the husband? He'd met Johnny McMullen once, at Richard Bradberry's wake, and while he admitted that the man was good-looking, he didn't think a mere factory worker could stand up to him, his money, his position and his charms.
Patricia mentally castigated herself as a warm flash rushed through her at the thought of William. She was a happily-married woman, she told herself, with a man most women would kill for. Johnny was handsome, strong, pleasant to be around, a hard worker and she had never loved anyone else, never come close.
But curiosity is a funny thing, and she'd never had sex with any other man besides her husband — never come close.
And William was definitely easy on the eyes, and he was definitely interested in her. She felt a connection with him she'd never had with another man besides Johnny, and it had her utterly confused.
He'd taken her to lunch a few times, and when he looked at her and listened to her, she felt like she was in confession, with a priest who looked like some movie star.
She had admitted her dissatisfaction with her life, something she'd never done with anyone before, and William had been sympathetic, telling her she deserved the kind of life she'd enjoyed in her youth, one of privilege, and hinting that he could provide her that kind of life.
Just the previous week, things had taken a decided turn.
She had surprised her co-workers be agreeing to go with them on their weekly Friday night girls' night out, and they had gone to a dance club, and who should be there, alone, but William Broadacres.
The girls had invited him to their table, where he turned on his charm for all of them, but especially for Patricia. She was the one he danced all the slow dances with, and a lot of the faster ones as well.
There had definitely been some underlying sexual tension between them, and a couple of the other secretaries exchanged knowing looks as they watched the two of them together.
And now he had invited her to dinner, just the two of them. Patricia hadn't said yes, but she hadn't said no, either.
Johnny would be working the swing shift the next week as the foundry went through a turnaround, so she'd have the opportunity. But could she go through with it? If she did, she'd have to do it behind his back, and that was wrong, she knew it.
However, it would only be dinner and conversation between friends, right? Nothing was going to happen, right?
It was in that state of mental and emotional turmoil that she heard Johnny's truck pull in, and she banished all the bad thoughts she'd been having. She plastered a smile on her face and stood up to greet her husband at the kitchen door.
Dinner at the pizza place had been unusually subdued. Patricia had been detached and Johnny had been distracted, and even the kids noticed that their parents weren't as demonstrative as they usually were.
Johnny was trying to put his thoughts in order, to line up the clues that told him Patricia might be on the verge of a very bad decision.
For one, Patricia was moody. He could have attributed that to the onset of menopause, but he thought she was still a little young for that.
But there was no denying that she was occasionally bitchy about things she'd accepted in years past. She was complaining more and more often about the house, how they didn't have any room, how they never went anywhere (which wasn't true, and she knew it).
For another, their sex life had become a little erratic. Until a few months earlier, they had kept to a pretty regular schedule, making love three or four times a week, with a special date once a month on a Saturday night.
Now, they might have sex five or six times a week, then go a week or more without. And during the times when they made love a lot, Patricia was frantic, almost desperate, like she was trying to use sex to shore up her feelings for Johnny.
Finally, there was the night out she'd had, "with the girls from the office," just the week before. Johnny wasn't much of a barfly, and certainly not to the kinds of dance clubs these girls frequented.
He might have a couple of beers at the tavern down the block from the union hall every so often, usually after a meeting, but that was all the social life Johnny wanted or needed. And Patricia had come home excited that night, almost giddy, and she had dragged him to bed and jumped his bones in a way she hadn't done in a long time.
That wasn't a lot of evidence that an affair was going on, or even imminent, but those were signs of discontent that anyone could pick up, if they knew what to look for.
Johnny walked out into the yard with his cell phone when the family returned home. The moon was already up, nearly full, as he made two important phone calls. He was still on the phone for the second call when Patricia came out to see what he was up to.
"Johnny, are you out here?" Patricia called, as she saw his shadowy figure in the drive.
"Yeah, I'll be inside in a minute," Johnny said to his wife, then returned his attention to the call. "Look, I gotta go. Thanks for the info. I'll let you know how it goes."
"Who were you talking to?" Patricia asked as she watched Johnny put away his phone.
"Union business," he replied, without elaborating. He cursed under his breath at having to lie to Patricia, but it couldn't be helped.
"Oh," she said without conviction. "Johnny, is something bothering you? You were awfully quiet tonight. Even the kids noticed."
"Yeah, I'm all right," he said, as he gathered his wife in his arms., but looked over her shoulder at nothing in particular. "Just a tough day getting ready for turnaround."
Patricia let the emotions wash over her as she stood in the slight chill of early evening in the arms of her husband. There was confusion, concern, a bit of guilt and a pinch of frustration running through her heart. Suddenly, Johnny brought her back to reality with a piercing question.
"Patricia, do you still love me?" Johnny asked.
"Of course I do," she said, a little nervously. "What kind of question is that?"
"Are you happy with me, with our marriage?" Johnny asked again.
"I ... am," she said slowly, a little suspicious. "Johnny what's this all about?"
"Oh, nothing," he said. "I just get the feeling sometimes that you're not satisfied, that we've gotten into a little rut. It's nothing I can put my finger on, but something's not right."
Johnny didn't want to reveal everything he knew about what was going on in Patricia's private life. He didn't want to put her on alert too much, but he did want to get some of his feelings and thoughts into the open, for her to consider.
He'd made up his mind that he wasn't going to resort to trickery or following his wife around to see if she stayed faithful. He didn't have the time, the money or the inclination for that. Either she was with him or she wasn't, and it would be up to her to make that call.
If she stepped out on him, he'd know pretty quickly, and he would take the appropriate action if it became necessary.
"Maybe we have gotten into a bit of a rut," Patricia whispered. "Come on, let's go inside. It's a bit chilly out here, and maybe I can warm you up the right way."
"That sounds good," Johnny said, trying to sound enthusiastic.
With a sigh, he turned them toward the carport and the side door to the house.
Johnny lay on his back listening to Patricia's soft snoring, the sweat of their earlier lovemaking still drying on his skin.
As sex went, it had only been OK. It was sort of like they were just going through the motions that night, like each of their minds were off some place else.
He smiled, but it was a slightly sad smile, as he recalled their wedding night. Even after almost 20 years it was still the highlight of their sexual history.
They had driven his pickup truck six hours to the beachfront condo in Panama City, where they were going to spend a week on their honeymoon.
The trip had been a gift from Johnny's father, with help from the old man's buddies in the union. It had been their way of welcoming the kid into the fold. Of course, when he got back to work, Johnny had to endure the bawdy gibes from the guys about what had gone on in Florida, but Johnny would always smile and think to himself, "if only they knew."
They had been tired after the long day, but they were still keyed up in anticipation of the night to come.
It had been a typical Catholic wedding — a long ceremony, with a lot of standing and kneeling, up and down, up and down — then the reception had been a bit taxing. Mr. Simmons had spared no expense in putting on the finest reception he could for his daughter.
It was dark by the time they arrived at the condo, and Johnny could feel the butterflies in his stomach as they rode the elevator to their floor and walked arm-in-arm down the breezeway.
It had been a month since they'd made love, abstaining for several reasons, and they were hot to go. Johnny sort of picked up his bride at the threshold of the doorway, and they kissed deeply.
They didn't even bother to unpack. Still kissing wildly, Johnny maneuvered Patricia backward into the bedroom. As they duck-walked toward the bed, Johnny found the zipper to Patricia's dress and by the time they reached the bed, the dress had fallen to the floor.
Patricia's eyes were on fire as she unbuttoned her husband's shirt and threw it aside. Her hands fumbled for the belt to his pants, to the hard cock she was desperate for. She was panting already, her whole being tight as a bowstring, sitting on the edge of climax, and she hadn't even been touched yet.
Johnny saw the wild look in his wife's eyes, and that just inflamed his lust. He didn't think he would ever get tired of this woman — indeed, 20 years later, he still wanted her — and he left little kisses down Patricia's neck as he unfastened her bra.
Patricia didn't even wait for Johnny; she pulled the covers back, flopped onto the bed, slid her panties off and opened her legs in wanton invitation.
"Please, Johnny, please, fuck me," she wailed as she reached down and spread open the dripping gates to her sex. "I need it now. You can love me later. Right now, I need you and I need you to fuck ... me ... hard!"
Johnny's cock was a throbbing piece of iron-hard meat as he crawled into the bed and knelt between his wife's open legs. He marveled at the intense look of lust on her face as she strummed her clit while she waited for him to fuck her.
He didn't mess around. He placed the head of his cock to Patricia's opening and thrust forward with all the power his muscular hips could produce.
Johnny hadn't even gotten all the way in before Patricia completely lost it. She'd been sitting on a tinderbox of pent-up passion for days, and when she finally got what she'd been craving, that passion went up in white-hot flames.
Her moans and keens were other-worldly as her whole body shook with the explosive climax, the likes of which she'd never experienced before, nor ever would again. Her body was taking Johnny's frenzied thrusts and then some. In fact, he said later that he now knew what bull-riders felt. All he could do was hang on and ride it out.
Johnny did his best to hold back the raging tide of his own climax, but Patricia was having none of it. She wanted his cum, and she wanted it NOW!
And she got what she wanted. With a growl, Johnny hit a blistering pace for maybe a dozen extraordinarily deep thrusts then spewed jet after jet of molten-hot cum.
Johnny and Patricia just clutched at each other as the orgasm rippled from one to the other, as Johnny kept churning his cock back and forth in her soupy cunt.
The deep kisses, the electric feeling of their sweat-covered bodies and the feeling of his semen sloshing around his cock had the effect of reigniting their lust, as they segued right into another passionate session.
Patricia could feel another one of "those" climaxes building, one where she seemed to be having an out-of-body experience, and Johnny just kept working, plowing his cock relentlessly as the fuck frenzy nearly overwhelmed them both.
As Patricia went rigid with her second powerful climax, Johnny felt another orgasm coming from the tips of his toes to the top of his head, and he sent another hard load of cum into his wife's flooded canal. This one wasn't quite as powerful as the first, but it felt just as good.
Afterward, they had laid together in the sweaty afterglow of their first fuck as a married couple and pledged their undying love for each other.
Where had that gone? Johnny could only wonder. Was their love really dying, or was this just one of those phases that all married couples go through? Was Patricia really set on cheating or was he reading too much into the situation?
It was in that troubled state of mind that Johnny rolled over, snuggled up to his wife — who spooned back into him, he noted gratefully — and drifted off to sleep
Things went downhill quickly that week. On Friday, the girls had again invited Patricia to accompany them to the club where they went every Friday, and she'd gone with them again. As was the case the week before, William had been there, almost like he knew in advance what was up.
Once again, they adjourned to a dance club and once again, William had monopolized Patricia's time.
This time, he'd taken a few liberties, squeezing her butt a few times and grinding into her pelvic area with his groin. Each time, Patricia pushed him away, but she was giggly about it, and took it as just a joke.
When Johnny got home from work, he had been met with a message on the answering machine that Patricia was going out straight from work, and his blood began to boil. Later, he got a quick phone call, and his lips had a grim set to them when he was finished.
Patricia got home about 10:30 that night to find Johnny with an angry look on his face.
"Where in the hell have you been?" he snarled.
"I left you a message," she answered. "I went out with the girls from the office. They were nice enough to invite me and I decided I wanted to have a little fun. Is that a crime?"
"What the fuck has gotten into you?" he said. "All of a sudden you've become some barfly, some party girl? And did it ever occur to you that I might want to enjoy a night out too? Or was that the whole idea? To go out alone without your husband, with a bunch of single women?"
"What is this? Do you suddenly not trust me?" she answered. Patricia had had just enough to drink to be bold, even slightly belligerent, which was not her nature. "You think I'm screwing around on you?"
"Are you?" Johnny spat back.
"Fuck you! I don't have to listen to this," Patricia said as she turned on her heel and stalked off to the bedroom.
She failed to notice that the door to Brittany's bedroom was cracked and that their daughter was hearing everything that was going on.
Daniel was on a sleepover with a friend, but Brittany had come home an hour or so earlier after hanging out at the mall with her friends. She and her father had sat together and talked a little about some thing that were on their minds.
Patricia slammed the door to their bedroom and locked it, but that didn't last long.
"Patricia, unlock this door now, because if you don't I'll break it down, and you don't want me to do that," he said in a low, deceptively calm voice. "Trust me."
Patricia may have been angry — as much with herself as she was with her husband — but she knew the tone in Johnny's voice. It was one she'd only heard a few times, and each time somebody got their butt kicked. Or came perilously close to it.
Johnny had a pretty even disposition, and was considered one of the nicest guys around. But he was of Irish descent, and he did have a temper that he took great pains to suppress. Patricia had seen him when he'd been provoked to real anger, and it was something she wanted no part of, especially when it was directed at her.
She knew she'd pushed him too far, so she quickly walked over, unlocked the door then retreated to the bathroom, where she dissolved in bitter tears. She couldn't understand what was happening to her, to her life. They'd had it so good, and now, suddenly, it was falling apart.
Eventually, they had kissed and made up, each apologizing for getting angry, but there was still a sense of foreboding around the McMullen house that weekend, like there was an uneasy truce.
Part of what was fueling Patricia's feelings was the fact that William had once again invited her to have dinner with him at one of the city's finest restaurants, and this time she'd said yes.
Why was she tempting fate like that? She'd asked herself that question over and over, and the answers she found sounded hollow.
She told herself that William understood her, where she'd come from and what she wanted out of life. She told herself that she missed the finer things in life she'd had growing up as a banker's daughter that she didn't have as a workingman's wife. She told herself that William cut a more dashing figure, a more suave look than her more compact, more average-looking husband. She told herself that she was physically drawn to William, like a moth to a flame.
She told herself all of these things, but did she really believe them? In her heart, if she was honest with herself, she knew she was rationalizing, inventing excuses for a possible affair, an affair she knew could only end in nothing but heartbreak for everyone.
She told herself, finally, that nothing would happen. Again. She wouldn't let anything happen. Would she?
Turnaround at the foundry was the annual week-long period the company used to overhaul and make needed repairs and upkeep on the equipment. Production was halted for the duration while the maintenance crew did its work.
For several weeks, company engineers had inspected every inch of the plant, taking note of such things as metal fatigue, cracks or flaws in pipes and buckets, worn parts in machinery. Anything that could fail and jeopardize the production process or put workers in harm's way was noted and placed on the turnaround schedule.
In addition to the regular maintenance crews, the company typically hired temporary workers, journeymen provided by the various unions that the company used — machinists, pipe fitters, boilermakers, teamsters and laborers — plus other professionals who had more specialized skills.
It was a 24-hour-a-day effort for about a week, give or take a day or two, depending on how quickly the work was finished. The schedule required some of the regulars to work abnormal shifts to get the repairs done in a timely manner so production could resume as soon as possible.
Johnny had been assigned the swing shift, requiring him to work from 2:30 until 11 at night, with a half-hour dinner break.
He usually didn't mind the swing shift, but this time it was a real inconvenience, because it wouldn't allow him to be home in the evenings to confront this crisis that was brewing in his marriage.
Even though he told himself he wasn't going to shadow his wife or try to coerce her into some sort of admission of guilt, he had no plans to stand idly by while Patricia cheated on him. He'd already taken some steps to insure that he was as informed as he could possibly be of what she was doing, where she was going and who she was with.
It was on Wednesday night, around dinner, when he got a text message on his cell phone. It consisted of three words that were like daggers to his heart: "tonight's the night."
The rest of the night, he had trouble concentrating on his work for worrying about what Patricia was doing and who she was doing it with.
Would he still have a viable marriage when he got home that night? It almost broke his heart to realize that he might not...
Patricia had a vague feeling of dread as she applied her make-up. She was wearing a cocktail dress she had only worn once or twice for special outings. Why she'd picked it out of her closet mystified her, but she had to admit, it looked good on her. It was snug, but not tight, emphasizing her lush curves, the plump breasts and the succulent butt.
Her emotions were all over the map over her pending dinner date with William. One minute she was telling herself she shouldn't be doing this, going out to dinner with some man not her husband. The next minute she was defiantly arguing that she was a big girl and she could do whatever she wanted, and that she was entitled to have a little fun.
She was concentrating so furiously on the argument going on in her head that she didn't hear Brittany come in the room until her daughter suddenly spoke up.
"Where are you going decked out like that, Mom?" Brittany asked.
"I'm meeting a friend for dinner." Patricia said, a little nervously.
"Is this friend male or female?" Brittany said.
"That's none of your business, young lady," Patricia bristled.
"That's what I thought," Brittany said. "I just hope you realize that when you and Daddy get divorced, I'm staying with him."
"We're not getting a divorce," Patricia said. "What makes you think we are?"
"You will be if you keep doing what you're doing ... Mom," Brittany said. "And it will all be your fault. Look at you. Daddy's working his ass off to provide for us, and you're getting dressed up to go out and cheat on him."
"I am not going to cheat on your father!" Patricia said.
"Yeah, right," Brittany said as she spun around and stalked out of her parents' bedroom.
William Broadacres was at his most charming as he regaled Patricia with stories of his exploits in court, the settlements he'd won, the vacations to exotic climes he'd taken, the big house he'd bought in the city's most exclusive neighborhood, the possessions he owned.
He'd been mildly disappointed when she showed up for their date in a long peasant-style skirt with a long-sleeved blouse and a buttoned-down vest. He'd hoped for something a little more revealing. But it was no matter, he'd have it off of her by the end of the night, regardless of what she wore.
Patricia was only half-listening. She was replaying the conversation with her daughter in her mind. If Brittany had figured out what was going on, then she must not have been as circumspect as she thought she'd been.
Moreover, the talk of divorce and the prospect of losing her family had forced her to shed the scales from her eyes, the ones that had been blinding her to what she was doing.
Suddenly, she knew what she had to do. She just hoped it wasn't too late.
"William, I'm sorry, but I can't do this," she said as she stood up and reached for her purse, "Thanks for the drink, but I really have to go home. This was a big mistake. I'm sorry."