That Look of Love
I sat there at the desk in my home office downloading the photos I took at Karen's office picnic yesterday. I was feeling particularly mellow, because she had taken me home from the Yacht Club and fucked my brains out.
"That should hold you until I get back Friday night..." she laughed after the third time sometime during the night.
I didn't know what had gotten into her — except me of course! I tried to remember the last time we had sex like that. For the last few months it had almost been perfunctory. Not that we both didn't get off, it was just almost mechanical. Karen seemed to be going through the motions. This bright early autumn Sunday morning, I drove her to the Venice airport and she caught the commuter jet to Atlanta, where she was going to be for the rest of the week, at some legal conference.
Karen was a successful lawyer in town and a partner in a firm of twenty. We had been married twenty three years and she had gone back to school after our daughters started first grade and got her law degree. She was very good at it and had specialized in real estate law and we had ridden the boom in property on the west coast of Florida. Even in down times she flourished because she also knew about foreclosures and the like.
Our daughters, Lisa and Kim were both in college now so we were empty nesters. Foolishly I thought we would have more time together and would be able to do things spontaneously like make love. That didn't happen. I missed the closeness. Somehow it seemed my best friend had abandoned me. I knew that she had taken her forty-fifth birthday pretty hard a few months ago. She absolutely refused to acknowledge it.
So while she was working the long hours I spent more time on my forty-three foot sailboat, Lady Ester. After being turned down so many times over the months I just stopped asking Karen to go along. After awhile I found I enjoyed the solitude.
I was lucky I owned my own security business and I had two hundred sixty loyal employees who for the most part had been with me for years. The last ten years had been particularly good and we really didn't need Karen's salary, but she refused my requests that she slow down a bit so we could spend more time together. A few times I wondered if she had found someone to replace me, but I always dismissed the thought. I couldn't imagine such a thing. Lately I had toyed with the idea of putting some of my own assets to work monitoring her movements — yes checking up on her. But I just couldn't. I was like lots of others - afraid to know the answer.
It would have been easy, since I had access to all the latest electronics. I also had a staff that would do anything for me. The problem was I was ashamed to let anyone know my suspicions even if they turned out to be unfounded. Ashamed I even had these thoughts.
Maybe I was just crazy and as Karen said, she was just working hard for our future. I wondered how much money she thought we needed. We had a house that was paid for and now too big for us near the beach, two luxury cars, a pickup and an SUV. Plus I had my Harley which Karen absolutely hated. I rode it every chance I got. Mid-life crises? Maybe. But I loved the feel of that big bike. A maid cleaned the house and a gardener kept up the outside and the pool maintenance people took care of that. So with all this free time she worked longer hours and I seemed to work less and spend more time on the boat.
So there I was on that bright Sunday morning downloading photos and I stopped and looked at one which was particularly good. It was a portrait close up of Karen smiling. I had seen that look before — that loving look as she turned that smile on me over the years.
This is where in the movies the sound guy would cue the car wreck sound.
I got out of my chair and slowly walked to the liquor cabinet and poured myself a large measure of Jack Daniels to quell the feelings of nausea and sadness that swept over me as I realized what the picture meant.
I sat down and stared at her smiling loving face on the screen and I knew I had not taken that photo. Yes it was my camera and I had left it on the table where we were seated while I went to get drinks or something, but I knew I had not taken it, but I suspected who did. One of the new associates, Alex Smith had been hanging around Karen all afternoon. It seemed every time I left her side he was there when I got back. Now that I thought about it, I seemed to remember he had been leaning over Karen as I came back with drinks one time. I just knew he had picked up the small digital camera from the table and snapped a few of Karen. He probably thought it was her camera and was being cute. Maybe he wanted one for himself. Karen probably thought it was harmless, but she didn't understand. I knew that look. Karen had reserved that look for me during our marriage, and now she was having an affair with that piece of shit.
Yes, piece of shit. Mr. Alex Smith was as smarmy as they come, mister thirty year-old beach boy look with his blond hair and blue eyes and constant fake sincerity, always sucking up to the bosses. Now I knew he was doing more than sucking up and I understood the patronizing looks he gave me every time I was around him. Damn!
I wondered if everyone in the firm knew it. Had I been the laughing stock of the party yesterday?
On reflection I doubted it. Dave Brewster the senior partner would not have put up with it. I considered him a friend and we golfed regularly. No, somehow they had managed to keep it quiet. But I wondered how much longer.
Now there was nothing to do but go ahead and catch them in the act. I knew in my gut that they were both at the conference in Atlanta.
Was last night a mercy fuck? A farewell fuck? She was going to Atlanta for a week and be with her lover. I wondered how many times over the months she had done exactly that.
My firm, Total Security Services, or TSS was more than met the eye. I had government contracts and provided private security for diplomats and visiting dignitaries and some of the consulates and embassies in Miami. We had branches in Europe and the Caribbean now and I had a staff of twenty in Iraq and was about to send a team to assess the security situation for some clients who were contractors in Afghanistan. I also had the most sophisticated electronic devices ever made. Some were from my in-house techies who could and would modify stuff from the outside and make it better, smaller, stronger and giver it more range.
I didn't think Karen had a clue about all that TSS encompassed and the worth of the company. Of course I drew a salary, but the rest went back into the company and that meant paying top dollar for good people, and making sure we were always the leaders in technology.
At forty-five I was at the top of my game and my senior staff probably ran the company better when I was out on the boat. Dave Rawlins my number two was a brilliant engineer and also a damn good manager.
I knew I could count on him for discretion and he would have things wrapped up quickly. But I didn't want to put Dave in that spot. He and his wife Nancy were good friends of ours.
I picked up one of my scramble phones. It used a modified military hardware and software that encrypted everything.
"Tio, I need a favor."
"Anything, mi amigo."
Tio wasn't his name. It simply meant "Uncle", but we had been doing business for about a dozen years. Tio was the head of a large organization that was involved in lots of "businesses" around the world. I was a consultant for him, but never in public or on anyone's books. I would get him devices and data and he would pay me cash. The cash never went into any accounts. It went into Tio's bank. I knew a lot about his business, probably enough to get me killed, but he did trust me even though I was a "Gringo" and not family. I trusted him and I believed him when he said his businesses never involved drugs or prostitution.
Regardless, I knew I had plenty of money in the "Tio" bank and I was also in the position to ask for a favor because it was my intelligence gathering that uncovered a plot by a rival group from Columbia to assassinate his family.
I also knew Tio would help me and I would never hear anything about it from others. Not that I couldn't trust my team but when a marriage goes south the opportunities for leaks rise dramatically.
No I had decided I would ask Tio for help.
Out of necessity, our phone conversations were always short. I told him she was staying at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. He already knew what she looked like, but his people would need a photo. It seemed appropriate to transmit one of the photos Alex had taken.
If she was with Alex, she'd certainly be looking like she did in that photo. It sickened me to look at her face, the woman I had loved all my adult life. How many times had I imagined the two of us setting sail across the Gulf without any cares, for a voyage without time limits. That was over, destroyed by Karen's infidelity.
Could I be wrong?
I knew in my soul that the way she looked at Alex doomed our marriage. The camera image was not wrong. Karen had her own agenda now — her own future, which did not include me. She badly underestimated me if she thought I would accept her infidelity.
Tio said he'd be back to me soon, and I knew he would.
"I'm very sorry amigo." Then he disconnected.
Could I have them killed. Yes. Tio would do that for me, but this was not a death offense, it was a grievous wound to my pride and the hurt would take a long time to heal. I also realized that I couldn't ask Tio to do that because somehow he would lose respect for me. He always thought of me as a cool-headed guy who could solve the thorniest problems. Of course this was more than a thorny problem, but I would keep my cool.
I did know I never wanted to see Karen again. If Tio's people came up with the evidence I figured they would find, then I needed to plan for the rest of my life — a life without my wife, friend and lover.
The sadness and nausea I felt was replaced by quiet rage. Short of killing them, how could I make them pay?
My phone rang. I looked at the caller ID; relieved it wasn't Karen otherwise I would have let it go to voice mail. I knew it was unlikely I would ever talk to her again.
Venice Florida wasn't a big town and unless one of us left we would be always bumping into each other. Maybe it was time for my boat trip.
"Hi honey ... how ya doing?" It was my daughter Kimberly.
"Doing great dad. It's so much easier the second year isn't it?
I smiled thinking about last year when we delivered her to Emory University in Atlanta. Then I winced with the memory of how Karen and I drove up with her to get her situated in the dorm, and how Karen had cried on the way home about her baby leaving.
I wondered if that was what set off the affair. Did she feel lonely or old or unwanted? She didn't look anywhere near forty-five. She hardly looked forty, with her Auburn hair and green eyes and her perfectly toned body. She swam and worked out about five days a week and there had never been an ounce of fat on her five foot nine inch frame. She was beautiful, looked like a model, and I always took the time to tell her and show her how much I appreciated her. Ruefully I thought, fat lot of good that did.
"So what's up?"
"I was wondering when mom was coming this way. I haven't gotten an email, but I thought she mentioned a conference in Atlanta..."
I wondered if I should tell her adulterous mother was already in Atlanta and might not be interested in spending time with her daughter particularly this week.
If they did meet, would Kim be able to detect that her mother was fucking another man in the Hyatt?
I decided that I needed to act ignorant of the affair and encourage Kim to visit with Karen. Might actually be fun to cause Karen some discomfort.
"Kim, she's already in Atlanta, left this morning. When you called I thought it might be her..."
"Guess you could try her on her cell..."
"Wonder why she didn't call or email?"
"Oh you know your mother these days ... always busy..."
There was a pause.
"Sure ... but don't you get tired of it?"
Alarm bells started going off. What did my youngest daughter know? She had been home off and on most of the summer. What did she suspect? Did she know something?
"She's just really involved in her career right now..." I knew it was lame as soon as I said it.
"Dad ... are you all right?"
"Sure honey ... I'm fine ... business is going great ... and I'm thinking about taking the Lady Ester out for a few days this coming week. Can't let your mother have all the fun."
Now why did I say that?
"Dad ... I love you."
"I love you too Kim. I really miss you around here ... although I won't miss all those guys who are always hanging around," I chuckled.
"But I bet you'll miss Jamie, Carolyn and Tracey and their tiny suits!"
"Kim ... I never even noticed!"
She laughed. It was nice to hear her laugh. I really did miss her.
"Well they certainly looked at you! Those three have the serious hots for you!"
"Come on ... they all too young and beautiful to be thinking about an old guy like me. I'm just a dad."
"Right ... then don't encourage any of them ... they want to jump your bones!"
"Well it's true ... besides being a hunk; you know how to treat a woman ... I expect they'd trade those "pretty boys" for you in a heart beat ... so watch out!"
"Enough! But thanks ... Makes an old man feel good!" I laughed.
"You're far from old, and lots of my friends would be happy to be hanging on your arm!"
Why was my daughter boosting my ego like this? I did work out and I was always fit and I had the girls out on the boat a few times, and I had to admit I still looked pretty good in a swim suit, but damn I had to work on it harder than when I was younger.
Suddenly serious she said.
"Dad take good care of yourself. I hear there's a storm in the Caribbean that's heading your way. So be careful out in the Gulf."
"You know me ... always the fair-weather sailor."
She knew I was an experienced sailor and bad weather hardly fazed me.
"Guess I'll try mom on her cell."
"And if you get hold of her tell her to give me a call." I just said that to make it sound like I cared.
"Maybe I'll just go over to the Hyatt and surprise her..."
"That might be fun..." I know my voice sounded hollow, although it would be interesting if Kim caught her mother with Alex. But the question was did she already know or suspect? Had she spotted that freshly fucked glow times when I was gone?
"I wish I wasn't so far away."
"Oh, you're just a short flight away and you'll be home for Thanksgiving..."
Maybe I'll come down sooner ... Would you mind?"
I'd love it."
"Okay ... I'll see how my classes go ... And let you know. Maybe in about a month?"
"Okay, dad ... see you then ... and dad..."
"Just don't ever forget I love you."
"I never could honey. I love you very much."
"And dad, be careful out there on the boat. I'm much to young to be an orphan."
I sat there and thought about our conversation. Kim was strangely subdued at the end and then it occurred to me what she said about being an "orphan".
How could that be? If something happened to me she'd still have her mother ... or would she? Was it a slip of the tongue? No ... she knew ... Or suspected what her mother was doing, and decided that she would already take sides. I was saddened by that thought, but proud my baby was protective of me and would not accept her mother's infidelity. Did her friends really think I was a hunk?
I went to the garage and fired up my Harley and rode to the harbor. For the next few hours I sat on board the Lady Ester, drank beer and thought things over. Occasionally, I would jot a note on a yellow pad and get out a nautical chart.
What if I was wrong about Karen?
I didn't think I was, but for the sake of argument what if?
I decided that regardless I would take Lady Ester and six months — kind of a sabbatical and vacation rolled into one. Maybe even make it a part business trip to scout for new business in South and Central America. Dave could run things without me and with all the sophisticated com gear on board he could reach me anywhere.
And what about Karen?
Well if she wasn't unfaithful then being apart might be a good thing to remind us both what we saw in each other in the first place. If after a six month separation we couldn't find our way back then I'd propose an amicable divorce and we could get on with our lives.
If she was unfaithful, it would be just the right thing to get out of town. As I said, Venice is not a big town. It has maybe twenty-thousand people, and there are maybe ninety thousand in the whole Five-City area, so I would find somewhere else to live. I enjoyed Florida, grew up there, but maybe someplace like San Diego. Kim and Lisa would love it there — sort of like Florida, without the humidity, hurricanes and large bugs!
With a plan taking shape I started making a list of the things I'd need, and to do before setting off on my adventure. A trip like this would normally take a couple of weeks to prepare for. I had four days. Fortunately Ester had just come out of a refit that had her sleek and polished. Whatever Karen was up to, I decided I'd be well out into the Gulf before she got home on Friday.
I started making calls.
At eleven on Monday morning I got the call from Tio that set my new plans in motion.
"I'm sorry Tomas..." He almost never called me by my name. I knew the news was bad.
"The maid said she didn't spend last night in her room ... then room service delivered to Mr. Smith's room dinner for two last night and breakfast for two this morning. They were wearing hotel robes when he delivered. When the maid changed the sheets in Mr. Smith's room this morning ... there was ... evidence of sex..."
I didn't say anything. It was what I expected but even so it was like a punch to the gut.
"I'm sorry amigo ... what can I do?"
"Thank you Tio ... I won't forget your kindness. I owe you a debt."
"No ... I owe you more than I can ever repay."
"I'm taking the boat and going on a trip for a few months. I'll stay in touch."
"Be well my friend." For once he said "friend" instead of "amigo". That meant a lot.
My next call was to Dave Rawlins, asking him to meet me in my office at noon.
"What's up boss?"
I pushed my letter of resignation across the desk at him. He looked at the letter and then at me.
"What's going on?"
"Dave I've decided its time to take my boat on that trip around the world I've always put off to "some day".
"Kinda sudden isn't it? Is Karen going along?"
I think he knew the answer before he even asked.
I shook my head and the realities dawned on him.
He spent the next half hour trying to talk me out of it but I was determined. He was shocked when I offered him the business, but finally accepted. I knew he'd have no trouble getting the money especially since I insisted the value be discounted heavily since I would no longer be CEO. He argued about that but it was useless. We called our lawyers and bankers and a business appraiser who was well known and could work on short notice.
After our late afternoon meeting with the lawyers and bankers adjourned I went back to my office and found a very apologetic message from Karen. Actually I hadn't even noticed that she hadn't called last night, something she always did when she got settled in a hotel.
"Tom ... I'm so sorry ... I didn't call you ... I ran into some colleagues and we went out to dinner ... and it was late when I got back to the hotel, so I thought I'd try to catch you this morning. I hope you're having a great day. Got to run. Call me later ... Bye."
I was glad she hadn't said the customary "I love you and miss you". I expected she was in Smith's room when she made the call. I could see his smirking face, as I deleted the message. I wondered how many more I'd have to deal with.
I spent Monday evening on the boat making sure everything was topped off and stowing provisions. Then I went home and packed a few bags. I really didn't need much. It was after eleven when I went to bed. It would be the last night in this house. Karen hadn't called again. I wondered what excuse she'd use when or if she called. Actually I didn't care. I would delete any future messages. I also wondered when she'd realize I hadn't tried to call her. Probably Friday afternoon about the time she got on the plane for home. If she came home. There was a thought. Maybe she was so enamored with her fuck toy she'd just stay in Atlanta for awhile. I hoped he was worth it — actually I didn't. Smith didn't deserve Karen, even if she was an unfaithful bitch.
I was loading the SUV Tuesday morning about ten when my phone rang. I saw it was Karen and let it go to voice mail. I didn't want to hear any more lies.
I finished clearing the junk from my laptop in preparation for travel. I really wouldn't need spreadsheets and marketing and income projections. I put several garbage bags in the car to drop off at the local charity. The bags contained all my business suits, a tux I hated wearing, numerous ties and belts and pairs of dress shoes, and various other things that didn't fit in my vision of my new life. I figured it'd save Karen the trouble of throwing them out — plus more room for Smiths' stuff if he moved in. No I didn't expect that to happen. Unless she was a different Karen, I expected she would tire of his bullshit in a hurry, plus the girls wouldn't stand for another man moving into their home.
Of course, once the divorce was final then she could do what she wanted.
I owned the business and we never made Karen an officer of the corporation or anything else. I set it up that Dave would make payments into a trust for the girls. The trustee was an attorney who was a golfing buddy of mine at Bateman and Thomas. They would also handle the divorce for me. There was no love lost between Bateman and Karen's firm. I thought that was appropriate. Karen would be served on Monday morning. By then I figured she'd have some inkling I was gone and was not coming back.
She might fight the terms of the sale of the business but I hoped not, since I wasn't getting any of the proceeds. Also if necessary, Tio would provide statements from witnesses regarding Karen's stay at the Hyatt that she probably didn't want out there. He'd also mentioned he had photos of them together in various places including a secluded corner of the hotel bar and an elevator. Nothing sexual but certainly what a judge might consider more than friendly coworkers. People seem to forget how ubiquitous security cameras are. Disclosure of an affair with Alex Smith would certainly jeopardize her career. I hoped we wouldn't need to resort to that.
I couldn't imagine she'd contest the divorce itself though. It seemed obvious she was trading me in for a new model. If it wasn't Smith, it would be someone else. I really didn't want much except Lady Ester, and I was leaving on her anyway.
I walked through the house for the last time, thinking about how much we loved this place. There were lots of photos of Karen and me, and of the girls. I only took the one where I was on the deck of Lady Ester, arms around my girls. Karen was welcome to the rest.
As I pulled away, the garden guy was just pulling up. We waved to each other.
Tuesday and Wednesday were a blur of meetings with the lawyers and bankers and with the transition team. For the sake of the firm I allowed them to hire me as a consultant for a dollar a year. I knew these people around the table and had faith they would take good care of things. I had tried to train them well. Curiously no one asked about Karen.
Interestingly Karen did call Tuesday night. Was she getting tired of Smith already? It went to voice mail and I erased it without listening to it.
Wednesday noon, Jen, my assistant of six years, put three messages from Karen on my desk when I came in after being tied up with transition meetings all morning.
"Tom ... she's sounding frantic. What's going on?"
I sat at my large polished wooden desk and then swiveled my chair to look at the marina near by.
"We're divorcing..." That was all I could choke out.
She came around and hugged me from behind leaning over the back of my office chair.
"I'm so sorry Tom..."
She came around and sat in my lap and put her arms around my neck. I was astonished.
"Always wanted to do this ... you have a nice lap."
She pulled me to her and kissed me on the lips. Damn she could kiss!
She felt my reaction.
"I really like this lap!"
Her eyes sparkled. Jen was blonde and very pretty, thirty and a divorced mother of an angel named Tami. She had never done anything like this before and she had always dressed appropriately. Karen was nice to her — no she was civil. I realized right then that Karen could see Jen as a rival. There were times I spent more time with Jen then I did with Karen. Maybe Karen's woman's "spidy sense" saw something I didn't.
"I'm going to miss you Tom."
"You'll love working for Dave ... he's the best."
"I know ... but..." she looked up at me with tears in her eyes.
"I feel like I'm losing my best friend."
She put her head on my chest, hot tears dripping onto my Polo shirt.
For a second I pictured her in a very small bikini helping to crew the Lady Ester. No, I was still married and she had Tami to care for ... plus it was too soon. Maybe when I got back.
I hugged her and it was my turn to kiss her this time. Maybe there was going to be life after Karen. A ray of sunshine briefly broke through the storm clouds that buffeted my soul.
She pulled back.
"Thanks Tom ... thanks for that ... and for everything you've done for me and Tami. Then she smiled and for this..."
She wiggled her firm bottom on my swollen cock, at the same time showing a great deal of thigh.
I was disappointed when she got off.
"She walked to the door, with an exaggerated sway to her hips under a very nice cream silk skirt. Her high heels made the effect even better.
At the door she turned and said in a very good Lauren Bacall voice,
"Anything you need, Mr. Wallace ... just whistle ... you do know how to whistle don't you? Just pucker up and blow."
I smiled at her and she giggled as she disappeared into the outer office.
It felt like the first smile I'd worn in days.
The storm in the Caribbean had stalled over Cuba but was still threatening. The weather along my route was predicted to be a bit gusty with high seas but little else. I knew I'd been in worse. I just wanted to be gone.