Thanks to the Hip and Knee doctor for editing assistance.
My wife had been working on her special project for four months now. It wasn't only her specific project, but she was the lead person and was responsible for it's success. The project was designed to save her company, Bixler Enterprises, and I don't have the slightest idea what it entailed. The last four months had been difficult because of the hours she was forced to work. It was important to her and to the company. Chances were that Bixler Enterprises would go under if the project did not go through.
Sarah had a bachelor's degree from Albright and an MBA from Wharton. She was the smart one in the family. I started work as an auto body man right out of high school, and after twenty-one years, I was still an auto body man. I didn't mind, because I liked the work and the pay was good. It was good enough to pay for Sarah's college and to raise two kids. We didn't live the Life of Riley, but we made out okay. The kids were gone now, and with both our incomes, we were doing pretty well.
Sarah got pregnant within three months of our being married at age 18 for both of us. For the first few years that we were married, we lived with my parents. They had a big empty house, since my four brothers and sisters were gone. It meant that we had a built-in babysitter while Sarah got her first few years of college out of the way. Because of the two pregnancies, the four years degree took six years. It was rough, but she made it. I always had work and never lacked for overtime, if I needed it.
After Sarah finished at Wharton, we rented our own place. She had job offers with some large firms, but they all required us to relocate. I didn't mind, but Sarah wanted to stay close to home. That is why she chose to work for Bixler Enterprises. They paid her well, but most important to her, they gave her responsibility and the opportunity to advance. Sarah was a hard working, dedicated employee.
The presentation would be at the Radisson Hotel in Philadelphia, on Thursday. I took a few days off to help her, if it was necessary. As it ended up, all I really accomplished was having something ready for her to eat when she came home. I knew nothing about her work and didn't really want to. High-level corporate business was boring to me.
Business executives were coming in from Europe, Asia, and South America. The company was paying their airfares and providing rooms at the Radisson while they were here. It was expensive as hell, and from certain things that Sarah had said, the company was over extending themselves financially. Her presentation was important to her, to the company, and to over two hundred employees.
Things seemed to be going well until Tuesday evening. Sarah came home with a new outfit: a gray power suit with a white blouse. She arranged everything that she needed to take with her on the bed in the guest room. When it came to housekeeping she was normal, but when it came to work, she was meticulous. I didn't understand why she needed to take her fancy underwear, but I didn't say anything. In addition to her presentation attire, she had a few nice little cocktail dresses for social functions before and after the event. I always avoided functions like this, but I felt obligated to volunteer to go with her, if she wanted me to. She thanked me for the offer, but told me it wasn't necessary.
All of the handouts and equipment that she needed had been carefully packed in the trunk of her Volvo before she left work. She was driving herself to make sure that everything got there in perfect shape. She had all day Wednesday to prepare, and all night Wednesday to socialize with the guests. Sarah was so good at what she did that I felt it was better if I just stayed out of her way.
Finally she was done. She had checked and double-checked everything. All she needed now was a hot shower and a good nights sleep. I guess my mistake was checking things after Sarah started her shower. I thought I would be helping, but it didn't turn out that way.
I was rearranging things on the bed when a small white envelope fell out of the side pocket of her make-up case. The envelope came from a pharmacy, but not the one that we usually use. There were ten pills inside. I had no idea what Preven was and the instructions were confusing. "Take one pill as necessary and take a second pill twelve hours later." I thought that they might be something that she got for anxiety or nerves, but the instructions didn't make sense. The prescription was in her name and it was filled on Monday. I put the envelope back, as she was finishing her shower. I decided I wanted to find out more about Preven before I mentioned it to her. Of course if I did mention it, it would indicate that I was going through her stuff. I hate dilemmas.
While Sarah was getting ready for bed, I went to our home computer and punched up Preven. Ten minutes later, I joined my wife under the covers. I lay awake all night wondering why my wife had gotten a prescription for the morning after pill, especially, since I had gotten a vasectomy ten years ago.
I was up early the next morning, but not rested. I took a long walk hoping that it would clear my head. Reluctantly, I started back to the house, afraid of what I might do or say when I arrived. My son, Josh joined the Navy after high school and was in his first year stationed in San Diego. Our daughter, Gloria, married her childhood sweetheart last year and just moved to Dallas. It was just Sarah and I. I missed the kids, but I was looking forward to growing old with her. She was the only woman I was ever interested in and now it was all turning to crap. If Sarah was having an affair, she hid it well. Of course, I never checked up on her. I never looked through her E-mails or cell phone calls. I had no reason to. There was no way I could have known about what she did at work, or after work. I trusted her completely.
"John, where the hell were you? Do you want eggs or anything?"
"No, just coffee." I didn't feel very talkative."
"What is wrong, honey. It will only be for three days. You can come if you want to, but you will be bored to death."
"No. I don't really want to go, but I hate leaving you alone. I worry when you are gone."
"That's sweet dear, but everything will be fine. I am not planning on leaving the hotel the whole time. I'll spend most of today making sure the conference room is set up property, and this evening sweet talking our potential customers. Tomorrow, I will probably not even get a chance to pee. I'll get home as early as I can on Friday. I promise you a great weekend, if you know what I mean?"
"That all sounds good, but you can't blame me for being worried. I am an auto body man, and I have a beautiful, and successful wife. Sometimes I get the feeling that you might suddenly be interested in advancing your marriage situation as much as you are in advancing your career."
"Stop that, damn it, John. I have always respected what you do for a living and I have never indicated otherwise. You raised two great kids and put me through college. You are a great husband, a great father, and a good provider, and don't you ever forget that."
I finished my coffee as she cleared the table.
"Do you want me to call you?"
"No, that's not a good idea. I will have my cell phone off and I am going to turn off the room phone at night so I can get some sleep. I'll call you every chance I get."
I helped her load the car. She was as fussy about that as she was everything else that was work connected. It would take her three hours to get to the Radisson. At least she would miss the going-to-work traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway. I stood on the porch and watched as she left. I never asked her about the pills.
I spent the rest of the morning on the porch. I don't ever remember worrying about anything as much as I did this. I felt little and insignificant. I felt out of my league. I was a small-town guy with a mediocre job and a successful wife. It was a mismatch. I should have seen it earlier. I felt stupid.
The best suit that I had was a blue blazer and a pair of slacks. At least I had a few ties, even tough they were ten years out of date. I just finished dressing, when the landline phone rang.
"Hi Honey. I just wanted to let you know that I got here okay."
"You made good time. I assume the traffic wasn't too bad."
"Everything was good. I'll call you later tonight. I have to go now. They are unloading the car for me. I am in room 714."
"Sarah, I might be at my at my parent's or brother's place tonight. If you call, call me on the cell phone."
"Okay. Love you. Got to go."
I took my time driving into Philadelphia. I didn't go straight to the Radisson: I stopped and got a cheese steak first. It was going to be a long night. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I parked in the garage area of the hotel and just waited. Sooner or later, I had to go into the hotel, I just couldn't figure out when to do it. The cell phone call helped me make up my mind.
"John, I just wanted to let you know that I am all settled in. I am going downstairs now to meet some of the people and have supper."
"You didn't forget anything did you?"
"No. Everything is perfect. I have it all laid out in my room for tomorrow."
"Do you need anything?"
"No, John. Relax. I am going to turn off my phone. I'll call you tomorrow morning."
"Okay. Have fun."
"It's not fun, John. It's work."
I didn't look too out of place. There were plenty of people in the lobby, the restaurant, and the conference rooms, so that I could stay inconspicuous. There was a nice little pamphlet that showed the layout of all the hotel facilities. I wandered into the different rooms and stayed around the edges, looking over the crowd. I had no idea what I would do if Sarah saw me. I would figure that out if and when it happened. I found an events board that listed all the rooms that were being used by the different groups. Bixler Enterprises had no rooms reserved for Wednesday night. I thought that was interesting. Sarah said she wasn't going to be leaving the hotel, but now I wasn't sure about that.
There were three dining rooms: family, casual, and fine dining. Sarah wasn't a big fan of dining with children, so I went to the casual dining room first. It only took five minutes to verify that she wasn't there. I had better luck in fine dining.
It was a cozy, little booth tucked into a corner: the type of table that people reserve to have a private rendezvous. Sarah had on her black, low cut, cocktail dress with pearls. She looked elegant and her escort looked like he was appreciating it. I knew a few of the people that Sarah worked with and he was not one of them. He was familiar but I just couldn't place him. There were plenty of seats available, so I had no trouble getting one across the room. The tables had candles on them in the little glass holders. I blew my out and told the waiter that it bothered my glaucoma.
I ordered a generic, chicken entrée and got comfortable. The waiter was filling my coffee cup for the third time.
"Excuse me. The guy at that table across the room looks awfully familiar. Do you know who he is?"
"Of course. That is Malcolm Eugene Foote. He is a city assemblyman. They expect him to run for congress in the next few years."
"Is that his wife with him? She is very pretty."
"No. That is the first time that I've seen that one. He always uses that table for special ladies, if you know what I mean?"
I just smiled at him and asked for my check.
I have never seen Sarah so touchy-feely with a man before. She seemed to be hanging on his every word, as if he was a God or something. They weren't doing anything inappropriate, but it was not platonic or business-like. They were finishing up their second bottle of wine when I left. Now I knew why she brought the fancy underwear.
I got a comfortable seat in a corner of the lobby where I would be out of sight. Ten minutes later, they came out of the restaurant. She was holding his arm as they walked across the lobby to the elevator. I carefully watched the floor indicators. It was a good sign when it stopped on floor three: that meant she did not take him to her room. It was a bad sign when it did not go to floor seven: that meant that she went to his room. Just in case I was wrong about something, I sat in the lobby and watched the elevator for an hour. People came and went but Sarah was not one of them.
I got my empty suitcase out of the car and went to the check-in counter. Even though I could prove that I was her husband, I still had a difficult time getting a keycard. They relented after they called the room and nobody answered. Finally, I was on my way to room 714 with a key card. At first, I didn't even turn on the light: I just sat in the dark room for more than an hour. It wasn't hard to convince myself that she was not coming back to the room.
I packed all of her clothing and personal items first. I left nothing. I checked the packet of Preven and there were still ten pills in it. On the dresser, very carefully arranged, were all of the items that she needed for her presentation the next day. I started to fill my suitcase. There were twenty-four, specially bound, promotional folders and another twenty that were bound normally. They all went into the suitcase. The digital projector that she carefully loaded went in next, followed by her laptop computer. I took her purse and cell phone that she left in the room. All she had with her was a clutch bag and probably a tube of lipstick. I went over the room as carefully as she would have to make sure that I didn't miss anything. Once I was satisfied, I placed her car key and my wedding ring on the dresser. Other than those two items, the room was completely empty.
The elevator went straight to the parking garage. I had no trouble with the two bags, and twenty minutes later I was on the expressway going north. It was after three in the morning. I had no idea that so much time passed. About two hours later my cell phone rang. Caller Id showed that it was a Radisson phone number.
"Where are you?"
"I am about twenty minutes away from home."
That's all I said. The other end of the line was quiet. There is an old saying that salesmen have: the first person to speak loses. After what seemed like an eternity, she spoke.
'John, I am sorry."
She didn't ask about anything, and just hung up the phone. I turned mine off.
It was obvious that she was back in her room. Later that day, she would be expected to give a presentation that would save her company and win her a promotion. Later that day, I would be history.
I put the suitcases in the garage attic space. Sarah never went up there and wouldn't think of looking there for anything. Of course, at this point I am pretty sure that it didn't matter.
I collected all of my clothing and personal items first. Most auto body men have there own tools. It is usually a requirement for the job. I stopped by the shop and loaded mine in the Subaru and picked up my final paycheck. By that time, the banks were open. I didn't have to do any fancy money and asset manipulations: I just took all the money out of the accounts.
I had lunch in Hagerstown, Maryland. I had enough money to live on for several years, but knew that I would be looking for work very soon. Sarah and I were alike in that way: we both liked to work. I was going to miss her.
I killed a couple of hours at Luray Caverns and got a room near Wytheville. I had no idea what I was going to do.
It was Saturday and I found myself sitting inside the Chattanooga Aquarium while watching nature, as I have never seen it before. I spent several hours just relaxing and decided that this was a good place. I bought an annual pass to the aquarium and before suppertime; I had a place to live. It was a mobile home in a ratty park, but it was furnished and it was cheap. I didn't need much. First thing Monday morning, I was going to get a job. A good body man can always find work, especially, if he is willing to work under the table. I could stay low profile, until it came time to renew my driver's license or car tags. I would worry about them when the time comes.
I called Gloria on Sunday afternoon. I felt obligated to let her know what was going on, but Sarah had already told her. She was pretty straight with Gloria about what happened: she said that she cheated, I caught her, I left, and she lost her job. I felt bad about her losing her job, but that's the price she had to pay. I asked Gloria to tell Josh what was going on the next time she talked with him. I also told her that I would call about once a month to check up on things. I didn't tell her where I was.
I had a job by noon the next day. It was actually within walking distance of the trailer park, with a Waffle House about half way. What more could a man want? I don't know how they handled the paperwork, but I got twenty bucks an hour with no questions asked. I was happy and they were happy. I wouldn't even have to dip into my money stash that I had brought with me.