I had been dating Brittany for about a year, ever since her divorce had become final, and she had been living with me for about five months. It made sense, because I owned my own house already, and by that time Brit was spending most of her nights with me at my place anyway.
Oh, by the way, I'm Jim — I guess formally, my name is James Ericson. For a thirty-something guy, I guess I'm doing alright. With an engineering undergrad degree and an MBA, I am one of the many folks out there working on alternative energy sources, with my own R&D company. Its an exciting field, and now days there is plenty of funding from government and private sources so that we're doing well, and I have 15 employees working for me.
But I digress.
Brittany works as a bookkeeper at one of the local accounting firms, which I use for my business, and that is where I met her. She is about 5' 4", so I have about 13 inches on her. Just kidding — I'm six inches taller than she is; the other seven inches are someplace else.
Anyway, Brit is a charming and attractive gal, who just turned 27 six weeks ago. She isn't one of those models or movie stars who I read about in a lot of on-line stories. Just a good, solid woman with a nice trim figure, a pretty face, light brown hair and striking hazel eyes. Gives great head, too. In fact, sexually, she was willing to do just about anything I wanted to try, so long as it was just the two of us. I got no problem with that.
Even after she moved in with me, she kept her job, although her firm wouldn't allow her to work on my companies' books anymore.
She kept the job because she was still saddled with a lot of credit card debt, left over from her ex-husband, Donald, who she called 'Donny'. In fact, according to Brit, it was his complete inability to exercise any control over his compulsive buying, which led to their divorce. Brit told me he was a nice guy, charming, attentive, and lots of good qualities; but he could spend all that they earned together, and more. She saw herself being dug into a bottomless financial hole staying with him; his spending led them into daily fights, and she was always unhappy, so she finally gave up and dumped him.
Of course moving in with me saved her a bunch on rent, as well as food and a lot of other expenses, so she was paying down the cards, and getting out from under that 19%-30% APR debt that her ex ran up for her.
I have never been married, taken up first with getting my schooling over, then working for a few companies in the energy field, and ultimately starting my own business. Living with Brit was a revelation.
No, I don't mean coming home to my own domesticated piece-of-ass was a revelation— not to say that was bad — but just having someone there with you, a friend and companion, someone with whom you share your private thoughts and concerns. Brit was a much better cook than I, and the fact that she didn't mind doing washing and ironing was icing on the cake.
Brit said that I was pretty easy to live with as well, since I've always been reasonably neat and clean; I pick up after myself, I always rinse my dishes and put them in the dishwasher (god, I hate the sight of dishes sitting in a sink with dried-out food crusted on them, ) and I do my share around the house. She even had me trained to put the toilet seat down after I was finished.
The one other complaint that she had about her ex, other than his being a spendthrift, was he wouldn't lift a finger if he considered something to be 'woman's work.' And most work around the house, it seems, was 'women's work.'
In short, we were doing well, and I was starting to consider whether Brit was the woman for me.
I can't speak for you, but for me, the whole concept of being with one person for the rest of my life was scary. How do these couples that have been together for 50 or 60 years manage? How can they stay together without getting bored, or just wearing each other out. Little aggravations build up even between the best of friends. On the whole, though, Brit and I seemed to live together in some sort of harmony, not continually grating on each other, unlike other girlfriends I'd had in the past.
Until, that is, about six weeks ago. Yup, right around her birthday.
For her birthday we had a number of Brit's friends from work, her sister and her parents over for the party. I got her one of the new G3 PDAs, with all the works. Hey, I'm a geek and a techie, so I actually bought us a pair of them, his and hers models. Brit was delighted.
I was less delighted, though, when among the birthday cards Brit received was one from her ex.
She teased me a little about it. No hiding it — she passed it around like all of the other cards, and truthfully it wasn't provocative or anything, just a simple 'Happy Birthday', a line or two about 'hope you're doing well', signed 'love' and her ex's name.
I guess that I must have grimaced or something, because she noticed that I was unhappy about it. I'm not sure if she saw her father — Brad's — face when HE looked at it, but I suspect she heard the loud snort that he made. When he caught my eye, he had a frown on his face as he shook his head back and forth. No doubt about Brit's father's feelings about her ex.
We put that behind us, and had a great time the rest of the evening. Cake, ice cream, candles, the whole birthday thing.
Actually everyone there was having a grand time playing around with the new PDA that I bought Brit.
By the end of the evening Brit was using the PDA to take pictures, videos even, and sending them to my new PDA. She had already transferred her call list from the old phone, was using the calendar function, and all the rest. I managed to take a couple of photos and send them back to her, but my secretary had already moved my address book and the rest from my computer to the phone, so I didn't have to do it myself.
Later, alone and in our bedroom, Brit looked at me a lot more seriously than she had at the party.
"Jim, I'm sorry about the card from Donny," she said, "and I didn't mean to make light of it and hurt your feelings. But it's over between Donny and I, and I think he is just trying to be civil to an ex-wife who divorced him."
"I hope so," I told her rather firmly, "because I don't want used baggage coming between us and our relationship."
"Not a chance, you wonderful man. Just come her and let me show you how I feel," came her reply.
That evening we had some great sex. I felt so close to Brit that night; my ego was bolstered, my concerns about Donny-boy exiled to the back of my mind.
The new PDAs were a kick. Brit and I would take pictures and send them back and forth. Brit once texted me while she was in a continuing education class to tell me she was getting bored. It wasn't really that funny, but we laughed about it later, at home.
Now, don't think that I'm stupid, but I have to admit that I didn't really notice anything odd for a couple of weeks. I was in and out of town on business a couple of times during that period, each time for a day or two. But even when I was home, suddenly Brit was working overtime a couple times a week. She went out 'with the girls' a couple of evenings as well.
She explained that taking the overtime was really helping her pay down her credit card debt. Who can object to that?
Going out with the girls every now and then? Who could object to that?
I remain baffled how it was that Brit didn't understand that as the CEO of a client, I had contacts within her firm other than her. When I finally realized that Brit was spending a lot less time with me when I was around, and that since the night of her birthday party our sex had tapered off quite a bit, my suspicions were aroused again. When the sex just stopped two weeks ago, I decided to make a couple of calls.
While the managing partner of her firm wasn't what one would call a 'friend, ' we were on friendly terms, so when I called, he was pleased to talk to me. Her boss is always anxious to see if he could get more billable hours out of us.
Not being too obvious, I started talking about the difficult business environment, and got around to the specifics of our firms. Of course he knew that I had funding locked in for the next couple of years, but he was less sanguine about the prospects for his firm. He told me in confidence that he would very likely cut back on recruiting for new employees from the accounting students at the local university, at least for some time into the future.
"So no overtime for your folks, heh?" I suggested.
"I wish. We haven't been billing overtime hours this year. We might have some between the end of the fourth quarter and tax time, but that's normal," he responded.
"Meaning, I get Brit home on time, right?" I laughed a bit too, "She'll only have to put in her forty."
"Wait a second," he asked if he could consult his computer, and after a short silent time he was back on the phone.
"You don't have to worry about Brit, Jim. She's still on that 32-hour a week schedule that we put her on last month. Your dinner will be waiting for you when you step through the door!" he told me, sounding pleased.
I was less so. I laughed with him at his joke, and got off the phone.
Brit was not only staying out late several times a week, but was also off for one day a week that I didn't know about. So much for paying off her credit cards early.
As I sat back in my chair, I realized that I didn't really have evidence that Brit was cheating on my, just that she wasn't being honest with me. But while there might be more than one explanation, as an engineer, I tended towards Occam's razor, that the simplest explanation was the most likely.
A little research was possible, just from the computer at my desk.
It wasn't clear to me that Brit knew that I could go online and check her PDA-phone records, but I could, and I did. Most of the numbers I recognized as calls to work, to friends I knew, and even some calls to me. After a process of elimination there was only one number that I couldn't identify.
Being the curious sort that I am, I went to the online White Pages and typed in the name of Brit's ex. Need I tell you what my mystery phone number was? And when did the calls begin? How about the day after her birthday party. Over the last six weeks, the calls had increased both in frequency and duration.
It didn't look good for Brittany and me.
Even if it was just a case of Brittany getting back on friendly terms with her ex, the dishonesty hurt, and the burgeoning trust between us was aborted in a minute. It didn't matter to me that, for the most part, Brit's lies were those of omission, rather than of commission. There was no room for them.
Now, don't think that I'm some sort of cold fish, cooly taking all of this in, indifferent and callous. One of the things that has always helped me in life was my sang-froid when surrounded by chaos. Internally, I was raging. As much as I hate to admit it, I was popping a few pills during the days just to keep myself under control, and at night to get any sleep.
A thought struck me. Another feature of the new PDAs was GPS tracking, again accessible over the internet.
A quick check merely confirmed my worst fears, when it appeared that Brittany, or at least her PDA, was located at her ex-husband's current address.
Big time 'not good.'
When I got home that evening, Brit had dinner ready, nothing complicated, but delicious. A 'prime' grade rib eye steak, scalloped potatoes and a salad. Great food, but quick and easy to fix — the salad one of those prepackaged ones with all the fixings, and the potatoes picked up at the deli section of the grocery store. Quick was good for Brit, since she had been at numb-nuts apartment until 45 minutes ago.
Just pushing the envelope a little, after dinner I decided to talk to her. Maybe there was some innocent explanation that might allow the 'she' and 'I' to remain the 'us.'
We had turned the news on the TV, but I wasn't paying attention to the stories of murder and mayhem. I had my own worries.
"Hey, Brit," I asked, "How was your day?" Ah, the good boyfriend just showing an interest.
"Nothing special," she replied, without a moment's hesitation, "just worked all day. Oh, I guess I got my excitement for the day on the way home when I stopped at the market to pick up dinner." She laughed, "Not every day you find 'prime' beef at the supermarket!"
I didn't laugh at her joke, I just nodded. After a short pause, the voice on the TV droning on, I asked another question.
"Babe, I was wondering about something. Remember that birthday card from your ex?" I started.
"Ummm," was Brit's hummed affirmation. Her head turned enough that she could see my face.
"Did you hear anything more from him? Was he trying to connect with you again?" I queried, sounding as innocent as I could. You know, not suspicious — just idle curiosity.
There was just a moments hesitation, and Brit flushed ever so slightly. Who needed a lie detector when your lover's skin would tell you all you need to know.
"No, not a thing. Why do you ask?" she answered, not looking at me when she spoke, but then looking in my direction fairly intensely, as if she was trying to read my face.
Great thing, newspapers. I just put it up in front of my face, pretending to be interested in some article, and from behind the open page, casually spoke,
"No special reason. Just wondering."
The rest of the evening was fairly quiet; we spoke, but on pleasant, neutral subjects.
When I looked at her, sitting there, she seemed very comfortable. Brit had told me she liked my dark leather sofa/chair set, and the Craftsman style coffee and end tables. She had even helped me pick out the lamps with the Tiffany-style shades and the wool-and-silk oriental rugs. Brit liked being surrounded by nice things.
At this point the question in my mind was: did she really love me, or was I just some sort of 'life-style" enabler — a meal ticket, who didn't collect rent and was letting her recover financially, getting her services, sexual and otherwise, in exchange. Hell if I knew.
When Brit announced that she heading for bed, I followed.
Watching Brit get ready for bed that night was an odd juxtaposition for me: it gave me such pleasure watching her naked body — the curves, the hills and valleys that I found so esthetically pleasing — as she stood at 'her' sink in the bathroom, while saddened by the knowledge that it was likely to be the last time that I would have that pleasure.
In bed, knowing she had most likely already been with her ex just a couple of hours earlier, I started to play with her and tease her, as if I wanted to make love. I kept trying to get my hand into proximity with her vaginal area, just to threaten her with what she thought would be the inadvertent discovery of her afternoon delight with numb-nuts. She kept batting away my hand, to prevent any contact. She finally complained that she wasn't really feeling well, and since I knew it wasn't time for her period, she suggested that maybe she was coming down with a cold.
At that, I got out of bed.
"What are you doing, honey?" Brit's surprised voice came from her side of the bed. I could hear her getting up onto one elbow to look for me in the dark.
"I don't want to pick up any diseases from you," not being specific about just what kind of things I might be worried about, "I'm going to sleep in the guest room," I snapped back at her.
"Oh, Jim. Don't get all mad and huffy. Come back to bed, I'm sure its not something contagious," she pleaded.
"If having sex tonight is that important to you, then come back and we'll do it," continued my soon-to-be-ex girlfriend, with that slightly exasperated tone of voice that women get when they are dealing with men who are acting like selfish little boys.
"Oh no, " I replied, "I'm not making you into some sort of martyr about this." I walked towards the bedroom door.
Standing in the open doorway, I turned back and in a more conciliatory tone, I continued,
"I need to be out of town for a couple of nights, and I really need to be on my toes with these people. I would just rather not take a chance on coming down with some bug in a day or two," I concluded.
It was clear that my decision to sleep in the other room, for the first time since we had started being intimate, was bothering her. Too bad.
The good news? The bed in my guest room was a Queen size, and it had the same kind of comfortable mattress as on my King. I wasn't sacrificing my comfort on her behalf.
Sometimes it's a damn good thing to have employees who can get along without your advice, because the next few days I wasn't worth much to my business.
I won't go overboard claiming that she had ripped my heart out or something; after all, Brit and I hadn't been living together for even half-a-year. We didn't have kids, in fact we weren't even financially entangled with each other. We shared one credit card for household items to which I had added Brit, you know, for food and incidentals — and it had a relatively small limit, under $2000.
The big things were all mine: the house and its contents, purchased with my money, mostly before Brit had even moved in; the cars, since Brit's ex had taken their old piece of junk when she gave him the boot; and most important, Brit had no claim whatsoever on my business. The only thing that Brit would get out of our relationship would be a smaller amount of debt. I could live with that.
Pretty quickly I realized, however much the emotional toll Brit's demonstrated lack of a commitment to me was taking, I was probably lucky to find out now, rather than later.
The old ego was badly bruised as well. It doesn't bolster your self-image when your girlfriend goes running back to her ex, a proven flake and deadbeat.
At the same time, within a couple of days, I realized that could live without Brit in my life, and that I would get over her.
The ultimate nice thing about a girlfriend versus a wife: no divorce, just tell her to leave and say goodbye. Auf Wiedersehen. Adios, hasta luego. Au Revoir. Sayonara. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out. 50 ways, etc.
That didn't mean that I wouldn't have a certain measure of satisfaction in the way that I broke this off.
It had been three days, or more properly nights, since I started sleeping in the guest bed. I was getting up and out early, and leaving messages for Brit not to expect me for dinner. I managed to get in touch with a couple of old buddies from school who I hadn't seen for a long time, and had dinner with them, reminiscing about the good old days. I wasn't hiding, I wasn't even pretending to be out of town or working late. I gave no reason at all for why I wasn't there.
I guess that after a few days like that, even Brit was figuring out there was something wrong. She was calling during the day, leaving messages with my secretary. She was texting and leaving voicemail on my PDA. She even sent me a couple of photos that she took of herself intended to grab my attention with her complete lack of clothes when she took them. Those did get my attention, but unfortunately they didn't spur on my libido, they just made me sad.
I checked the GPS a lot.
Friday afternoon, she had left a voicemail that she would be out with 'the girls' for the evening, but not too late, and that she wanted to talk to me. She claimed that she was worried about 'us.' Well, duh. About time. Too late actually, but what did she know.
She left almost immediately after she left the voice mail, and I brought in the locksmith to rekey the doors, and a couple of people I had hired to pack Brit's things.
I wasn't doing the old 'throw it in a garbage bag' routine, because I wasn't punishing her, or getting revenge on her. I wasn't entitled to that, I had no claim on her. I was just moving her out. They came in with hangers and boxes and clothes bags, and did a very neat job of packing her things.
Using the GPS feature on the PDA, I could locate the bar where Brit had gone to meet her ex, and let a couple of the women who worked for me know where to go. I was really very touched when my employees, who had seen that I was feeling down-in-the-dumps, volunteered to help me apply the coup-de-grace on my relationship. I took two of the women up on their offer. They called me when they were in place and ready.
It only took about 30 minutes, and my helpers had gotten me the materials I needed, which they sent to my PDA. At that point, they left, and, using the spare key to my car that Brit had been driving, drove it to the office and parked it in one of the spaces. We would take it back to my place later.
The time had come.
I speed dialed Brit's PDA number.
"Hello Jim," she answered, seeing my number on the caller ID.
"Hey Brit. What ya doing?" I asked.
"I'm out with the girls for a couple of hours, But, Jim, I really want to talk to you. Are you going to be home tonight?" she said, with a tone of urgency to her voice.
"Absolutely, Brit. I'll be there," I replied, not mentioning to her that she wouldn't.
Suddenly, as if it was an idea that I had just had, I said,
"Brit — I'm sending you a picture to say hello to the girls!" I sent a picture of me, smiling and waving, that I took with my PDA, holding it out in one hand, and pointing at myself.
"Did you get it?" I asked.
I could hear laughter over the line.
"Yes! I showed the girls, they are all waving back!" she told me.
"Take a quick picture of them and send it to me," I requested.
That, of course, set the fox loose in the hen house. How could she possible take a photo of the girls when, in fact, she was with her ex? Her response was so predictable. A minute passed. I heard muted conversation in the background.
"Jim, I don't know, there is something wrong with my phone. I can't get it to take a picture," she temporized.
Being your typical helpful techie, I tried to walk her through the process to take a photo.
"It just isn't working, Jim. You can look at it when I get home, and figure out what I'm doing wrong," she said, I suspect relying on my masculine pride that I would 'fix' it for her and not question why her PDA was somehow, suddenly, not working properly.
"Tell you what, Brit," I interjected, "Let me try sending another photo, just to check the connection."
That was when I sent the photo of Brit and numb-nuts, Donny, exploring each others tonsils; a photo taken minutes before. It's amazing the great resolution that these PDA's can capture. Of course, the girls were able to get pretty close to the love birds to surreptitiously take the photo, since Brit didn't know either one of them from Adam, and the club was crowded and noisy.
I could hear the gasp at the other end of the connection.
Her voice was cracking when she finally spoke,
I cut her off before she could go on.
"Brit, I've had your stuff packed and it is being delivered to your parents house any minute now," I declared.
"Jim..." she tried again.
"No, Brit, let me finish, please," I said in as civil a voice as I could muster.
"I had my car picked up from the parking lot of the bar," another gasp in the background, "and your name was removed from the household credit card two hours ago. And in about ten minutes, your PDA will be shut off. Oh, yeah, don't bother coming back to my place tonight. I hope you and Donny-boy have a prosperous life together," I finished.
Even as I hit the 'Off' button, I could hear her,
"Jim, please let me talk to..."
About eight months later, on a Saturday morning, I was sitting in the local coffee shop having breakfast, when a hand was gently placed on my shoulder. I looked up and there was Brad, Brit's father, looking down at me, smiling. He was looking good for a guy his age. Fit, tan, healthy. Brit got her eyes from him.
"Hey Jim. Good to see you. Mind if I keep you company for a couple of minutes?" he asked.
I'd always liked Brad — and I was pretty sure he had liked me as well.
"Sure, Brad," I responded, with a grin, while I waved at my waitress across the room, pointed at Brad and mimicked someone pouring a cup of coffee. She smiled and nodded, and in 30-seconds, there was a fresh cup of steaming hot java waiting for Brad's ministrations. He put in some cream, sipped and put the cup back down.
"Ah," he stated with some authority, "Nothing like a good cup of coffee in the morning."
I could only agree.
We spoke in general about things for ten minutes or so, and then I brought Brad up-to-date on how my company was doing. He seemed genuinely pleased at my success. Lord knows, Brad would have been a great father-in-law.
I finally broke down and asked the question. Time heals all things, I guess, so I could hear Brittany's name again without feeling like someone had disemboweled me.
"How's Brit doing?" I gulped a little as it came out, since I was almost ashamed of myself for asking.
"Jim, first I want to tell you, that I was really sorry about what happened. I love my little girl, but sometimes she is her own worst enemy," he started, looking directly into my face as he spoke.
"That night, right after you lowered the boom on her, she called me and asked if I could come and pick her up. She didn't have the car anymore, and she told me that she only had about five more minutes before her PDA would be shut off, so she would tell me about it later," Brad said, his face with a look close to grief on it.
"Well, she did tell us, and didn't try to hide or justify anything. Didn't try to blame you. Said she'd screwed up the best thing in her life, being with a man who she could love and respect."
Brad's face formed a real frown then.
"You should understand, Jim, that Donny is a real slick talker. He is really convincing, a real flim-flam man. So after Brit had been with us for about two-weeks, he conned her into trying to reconcile with him. Since she wasn't with you anymore and it was unlikely you would be willing to take her back, she moved in with him," he said, shaking his head, just like he had the night of her birthday.
"That son-of-a-bitch! Within four months, he had loaded up her credit cards again, to the point where Brit had to declare bankruptcy, and he disappeared. Just ran away, leaving Brit to deal with the banks and the creditors. A damn coward as well," he exclaimed bitterly, "but what could you expect?"
I just sat there quietly taking it in, nodding my head in agreement.
"So now she's back living at home, working, trying just to get her head above water. Oh, yeah. She still loves that PDA you gave her. I bought her a new plan, since she couldn't afford one on her own," Brad explained.
"Brad, I have to tell you the truth, I miss Brit, but I couldn't put up with woman who I couldn't trust. I'm just not a user and a taker like Donny, and it really hurt me that she didn't appreciate the difference, and would go back to a jack-ass like him," I said, with a sad little smile on my face.
"Son, don't blame you one bit. And if there is anything good to come out of this, it is that I think Brit learned that lesson, albeit the hard way," he laughed a little as he said it, "I guess that's the way it is with most of us — we usually remember the painful things."
Brad mused for a minute before speaking,
"If it makes you feel any better, I know that Brit would be there in a minute if you snapped your fingers. I told her that men like you don't put up with any crap, they want their women loyal, not wandering off, catting around. She tells me that she's learned her lesson, but sometimes life doesn't give you second chances," Brad concluded, his eyes a bit shiny.
He got up to leave, we shook hands, said our goodbyes and he walked away. I looked after him. What a stand-up guy, I thought.
My G3 PDA was sitting there on the table. What a lot of useful technology in a tiny package. A tool for good, a tool for evil. If you had described a PDA to someone 25 years ago, they would have thought that you were reading too much science-fiction.
I remembered that I still had some of those pictures that Brit had sent to me. I don't erase photos of naked women casually. I looked them over, found myself getting a bit aroused, and thought about mistakes and second chances. About happiness, and hurting people you love. Getting into the philosophical 'deep shit' realm.
Oh, what the hell.
On the little keyboard, I typed in a message and sent it:
"Hey, What's up Brit."
After about a minute, there was a reply,
This little story came to me when I was reading an article about how cell phones had made it more difficult to know where the person on the other end of a phone call actually was. I thought about that, and decided that it was a two-edged sword: If someone claims that they are with a particular person or group, or that they are at a specific location, well, with the new phones and PDAs, you can demand they take a photo and show you, right then! I guess another cat that is out of the bag now is how many of the new phones and PDAs are GPS trackable. So there were a couple of twists that a PDA could bring to the story that I don't recall anyone using before — force the wandering spouse (or significant other) to incriminate themselves with their cells. HA!
As far as Brit and Jim — do they really get back together? Haven't a clue, but I suspect not. The ending just let me have my characters use their PDAs again!
For those folks who want lots and lots of details and motives and the like — I was trying to keep this as short as possible, and I am chagrined that even a simple little story like this took me 5000 words to write. I must be a long-winded git — just as my wife has been telling me all these years!