I've been married to Ben for seven years and sometimes I wonder how I've managed to stay with him and not go crazy. He's a good man and he takes very good care of me. You might even say that he puts me up on a pedestal, but he has what is, to me anyway, a major flaw - he is cheap!
Well, maybe frugal is a better way of saying it. We never lacked for the necessities of life, but Ben was obsessed with putting away money for a rainy day and if the rainy day never came all the better, we would have plenty in the bank for retirement. But I wasn't interested in something that was thirty-five years away; I lived in the here and now and I wanted to enjoy things while I was still young. I was tired of vacations consisting of throwing a tent in the trunk of the car and then driving to the nearest State Park for a week. I wanted to travel and see other places, but Ben always said no, that it would cost too much, "Better to stay close to home and put the money in the bank where it might do us some good one day."
After seven years of Ben's frugality I was at my wits end. We had a vacation coming up and I already knew what it was going to be because Ben had already set up the tent in the backyard to air it out. I did not want to spend another goddamned week in a tent, in a state park and communing with nature. And then the Devil called with an offer he didn't think I could refuse.
Matt had been my steady boyfriend all the way through high school and I had always assumed that we would be married when we graduated. I had assumed that because that is what Matt had led me to believe right up to the week of graduation and the day he joined the Navy and went off to see the world. I quickly figured out that all Matt had been after was a steady supply of pussy until he graduated and could get out of town. Four years later Matt had come home and he had wanted to pick up where we left off when he skipped out on me. By then I was married to Ben and even if I hadn't been I would not have been interested in Matt - not after what he had done to me.
The fact that I was married didn't mean a thing to Matt. There wasn't a week went by that he didn't call me to see if I'd go out with him and have a drink and talk about 'old times'. I knew what he wanted and talking about 'old times' had nothing to do with it. He figured he would get a few drinks in me and maneuver me into a motel room or a back seat and it just wasn't going to happen. I was perfectly happy with Ben even if his cheap ways did occasionally piss me off.
Then Matt called me and asked me to go on a trip with him. Not just any old trip, but a seven-day trip on a cruise ship. Talk about mixed emotions. I was facing a week in a tent fifty miles from home and Matt offers me a seven-day cruise. I could actually go some place that wasn't within spitting distance of the house. Matt knew from my hesitation that I was thinking about it, but that my answer was going to be no and he hurriedly went on, "It's a no strings attached offer babe. There are three other couples going and the way it is set up is that all the girls will share two cabins and the guys will share the other two. The girl who was supposed to go with me cancelled and I can't get a refund on her ticket. Come on babe, you owe it to yourself. You have never been more than two hundred miles from the city limits and this might be your only chance."
God I wanted to say yes, but every instinct that I had said to say no even as some inner voice was screaming, "Do it, do it, do it." I told Matt I would think about it and I hung up.
Did I think about it? I didn't think about anything else for days. I shouldn't do it, I knew I shouldn't do it, but I couldn't bring myself to pick up the phone and call Matt and tell him that I couldn't do it. Then Ben hit me with his big surprise. "Guess what honey? I talked the boss into letting me take my comp time in conjunction with my vacation. We will be able to relax under the stars for eleven whole days. Won't that be great?"
"Yeah sweetie, just marvelous."
The next day I picked up the phone and called Matt, "Is the offer still open?"
"You bet babe."
"The girls in their own cabins - alone?"
"That's what I said."
"No hanky panky, right?"
"Honest babe, I'll keep my hands to myself the whole trip."
"Give me a day and I'll get back to you."
I called my sister who lives a hundred and fifty miles away and asked her if she could cover for me for a week. "Sure I can do that, what's up?"
"Ben has it all set up so we can spend eleven glorious days in his fucking tent. I'm not going. I don't know what I am going to do, but I'm not going to spend another day in that tent."
We talked some more, worked out a plan and then I went to give Ben the bad news. "Honey, I've just had a call from Elise. She fell down some stairs and hurt herself. I'm going to have to go and spend a week helping her."
"But what about our vacation?"
"Honey, you know you will have more fun without me being there. You know that three days is all I can take in that tent before I get cranky and irritable."
Ben wasn't happy, but what the heck, family is family, right? The fact that he and my sister didn't get along was just added insurance against him calling her to ask to speak to me. With my alibi in place I called Matt and told him I would go and then I set about packing a bag.
I knew the other three couples so there wasn't any awkwardness as we piled into Bob's Suburban. I did get a couple of "You're a married woman, what are you doing here with Matt" looks, but nothing was going to happen between Matt and me so what did I care. Just the eight hour ride alone was further than I had ever traveled in my life and I spent most of the trip looking out the window. When we got to the port I stood there on the pier staring at the ship. It was bigger than any building that we had in our town and I was going to spend seven days - seven glorious days - on her.
I was sitting at a table with Sarah, the others were off shopping or something, and she asked me why I was there. I explained to her about Ben and the tent and how I couldn't spend another day in it, "And so when Matt called me about this trip I jumped at the chance."
"But I thought you were happy with Ben."
"Then why are you willing to risk your marriage just for a weeks fling with Matt?"
I explained the no hanky panky, hands off, girls in separate cabins thing and she shook her head and said, "Baby, I never thought of you as being that naïve."
Before I could ask her what she meant by that the others came trooping up to the table and then it was time to board the ship. The first sign that something was wrong was when Matt carried my bags and his into the same cabin. "What are you doing?"
"Relax. This is just until we get things sorted out. We want to check out the cabins so we can give you girls the biggest two."
"But there is only one bed in the cabin."
"Well yes, you will be sharing a bed with one of the other girls" and then he laughed, "Unless you want to stay here with me."
Before I could say anything else there was a knock on the door and Sarah stuck her head in and said, "Come on. We have to go and learn about lifeboats and stuff like that."
While I was learning how to put on a life jacket I felt the floor under my feet tremble (later I learned to call it a deck) and Harry said, "All right! We are underway for seven days of sheer bliss." What that also meant was that it was too late to get off the boat.
Next I found out what I should have expected all along - it was too good to be true! Back in the cabin I asked Matt when we girls were going to move into our cabins. "Well babe, there has been a change in plans. The others decided that they wanted the more typical boy/girl arrangement after all so I guess you are stuck here with me."
I called him every foul name I could think of and when I had finally exhausted my store of profanity he said, "You are looking at this the wrong way babe. This is your chance to find out if you made a mistake in not waiting for me. I know you would be better off with me than Ben and now I have a whole week to prove it to you."
"Over my dead body!"
"Well, you don't have too many choices. You can leap over the rail and try to swim ashore; you can try and talk one of the other couples into letting you stay with them, or you can go on deck and sleep on one of the deck chairs for a week."
I knew that we were too far from shore for me to swim for it and I knew that none of the others was going to ruin their trip by taking me in. I also knew that there was no way I was going to be able to sleep on a deck chair for a week - the nights were just too cool and damp. It looked like Matt was going to get his wish, sort of. I'd be in bed with him, but I wasn't going to take off my clothes except to shower and only then when Matt wasn't in the cabin.
.... There is more of this story ...