I was attending a soiree with my wife, Clare (soiree: a fancy term for a late happy hour amongst the intelligentsia and I was happy because I had a very nice scotch, neat, in my hand). Anyway, I was sitting quietly in a corner watching my wife and others in the room. She was talking animatedly with her mentor and friend, Professor Randy Holcomb. Her hand motions were subdued by the fact she had a martini in one hand but I could tell she was trying to get some point across to the professor. To me he was a smarmy type and a womanizer but I'd never mentioned my personal dislike of the man to her because I knew I'd just get a lot of flack back in return. She thought the professor could do no wrong.
Clare was a wanna-be best selling author. She had written a couple of short romance stories, that had been published, and she's received good reviews on them. For the last two years she had been concentrating on a historical romance novel and had been doing extensive research into the time period for the setting of her story line including political, social, economic and geographical facts and issues. She had commenced the actual writing of her book about three months ago as a full time author and I'd been supportive of her efforts, both financially and emotionally. She thought she'd have enough done of her book to submit to a publisher for review in the next month or so.
She still did some research on the book; going to the library a couple of days a week and meeting weekly with the professor. I wasn't happy with the time she was away, especially with him, but I felt I had to trust her without confrontation.
My name is Jim Mitchell, I'm 36 and work for a consulting engineering firm in the area. I'm not the greatest looking guy; slightly balding but I work out and run so I'm in pretty good shape physically. I was reasonably well paid and had my professional engineers ticket so I had no job security issues.
Clare is 34, fairly tall, slim and reasonably attractive, certainly not voluptuous. I thought her picture on the fly leaf of the book dust cover would certainly aid its sale, but I could be prejudiced. She had all the attributes I'd always wanted in a wife: nice to look at smart, confident and loving. Although the loving had fallen off a bit of late and I attributed it to the long hours she put in on her novel. She had never offered it to me to read, she'd been giving it to her 'mentor' to read instead. As a professor of English Literature I figured he was a better judge of its worthiness than me but it still rankled nevertheless.
Clare and I had discussed having children and she had agreed that she wanted them some day but she wanted to be established as an author first so I was patiently waiting for the novel to be finished but I was beginning to have misgivings about time marching on and no end in sight. I hoped that when this novel was done she'd be ready to start as, obviously, her biological clock was ticking down. We were both only children and our parents were getting anxious because there were no grandchildren in sight yet. If it took another two or three years before she's ready to have children they may never be grand parents I thought.
The event this evening was being hosted by the dean of the school of arts and I was here strictly for Clare. I didn't mind these things but they weren't my favorite events. I'd had to take English Lit. as an elective in freshman college, but pre-engineering subjects had taken priority over that subject and I'm afraid I hadn't absorbed much; just enough to get a C. The talk here, as usual, centered around the latest book and the hottest new author which weren't high on my list for personal entertainment. I knew enough from listening to Clare but I was way out of my depth in these surroundings.
When we'd first arrived I'd made the rounds with Clare and shaken hands with most of the twenty or so people here. As I said before, I was now sitting quietly in a corner with my scotch watching the activity in the room and enjoying the sight of my wife amongst her peers and thinking, what a glorious thing it would be if her novel became a best seller. Whereas, she had two small books to her credit she could meet and converse with the people here as an almost equal, but a best seller would put her far above them and she could revel in their envy and jealousy. She was not normally a very forward person but she was human and admiration from her peers would go a long way to give her confidence in herself and her abilities. I grinned to myself as I thought of all the work she'd put into it and all the possibilities and scenarios that could arise if her novel went all the way.
Just then I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye and saw Mrs. Holcomb, the professor's wife bearing down on me. I inwardly groaned as I'd hoped I could sit quietly without interacting with anyone but it appeared that was not to be. Mrs. Holcomb was a matronly type whom I'd talked to briefly a few times but I didn't know her well.
"Jim, I noticed you sitting here by yourself and I told myself that this would never do to have a man enjoy himself at one of these get-togethers. It would give these affairs a bad name." she joked as she sat down in a chair next to mine.
"You caught me Mrs. Holcomb. Can I get you a drink?"
"Call me Jean and I can't take alcohol but I see you're enjoying yours."
"A little scotch keeps the flies away Jean, I always say."
"So what do you think about your wife's book. Randy says he thinks its going to be a best seller for sure. I think he's a little jealous."
"It hasn't been offered to me for reading so I guess I can't comment on quality of the writing or its content."
"Well, I haven't read it either but Randy is impressed." Doesn't your wife even discuss the book with you?"
"Nary a word. I'm beginning to think she doesn't think I'd have anything to say about it that she wants to hear about. However, I'm very proud of her for tackling a novel and by what you tell me doing very well at it."
All this time I'd been watching Clare and the professor still talking on the other side of the room. They'd been talking together for some time now. As I continued to watch; they seemed to reach an agreement and Clare looked around the room; I assumed looking for me, and when she spotted me she started to wave and then she must have spotted Jean next to me. With what I could interpret as an alarmed look she turned back to the professor and said something to him. He looked in our direction and he too looked strangely at us then they both hurried our way without a word between them. As they neared us I was wondering what they might be alarmed about.
Jean must have been watching them too because she commented on their actions.
"It seems we must have done something our spouses are concerned about."
"It appears that way. Jokingly I added, "Maybe they think we're planning an affair."
Jean smiled weakly at my inept comment.
Reaching us our spouses immediately began a nervous dialog with us.
"Hey you two, what are you planning?"
"See, I told you." I laughed at Jean.
"Told her what?" Clare asked.
"I told her that I bet you two thought we were planning an affair." I grinned at them.
Both Randy and my wife seemed to turn a little pale but Randy recovered first.
"Well, it did look a little suspicious over here and we wanted to make sure you two behaved yourselves." he chuckled with a grimace.
Jean asked, "Have you solved all the problems with Clare's book? It looked like you must have talked it to death over there."
"Oh yes." Randy responded. "However, Clare's book doesn't have too many problems. She's on the right tract with it and should get a good response when its published. We're done talking about it now." We chatted together nervously for a few more minutes and then the professor said to Jean "I suggest we circulate for a little while dear and leave these two to themselves. I have a busy day tomorrow."
As she rose, Jean turned to me and said, "Thanks for the conversation, Jim, we'll do it again sometime."
"Fine Jean, it was a pleasure." I responded as I turned to Clare who was still standing quietly.
"Would you like to circulate too or are you ready to go?" I asked.
"I guess we can go now. Its been a long day and I'm tired."
I got up and after saying goodbye to the host and hostess, we headed home.
On the way home Clare was quiet as I drove and it gave me time to reflect on the reaction she and the professor had shown when they saw Jean and I talking together. Normally, it would never have crossed my mind that I couldn't trust Clare but something didn't seem right and I wondered if further conversation with Jean might turn up something. I decided to follow up on it the following week.
It was Wednesday morning before I was able to get through a bunch of problems at work and call Jean to make an appointment for lunch. She seemed to feel that there was something that was odd about our spouses reaction to our encounter the other evening and readily agreed to meet me for lunch the next day to talk about it.
We met at O'Charlie's out by the interstate as a place we would less likely run into our spouses or anyone knowing us. We had lunch first and then began talking:
"You must have some concerns to have called for this meeting." she told me.
"I guess I do, but I'm not sure how to proceed."
"Well, I have some concerns also and they are stronger than yours. That's why I agreed to this meeting."
She went on to explain, "I caught my husband in an affair with a graduate student a couple of years ago and he swore that he would never do it again. I think he'd been involved with other students before that but I had no proof. This time I will get proof if he's involved with your wife and I'll take him to the cleaners. What I'd like to suggest is that we hire a private investigator and share the cost. I've checked and it can be terribly expensive and by sharing we can find out whether anything is going on. I further suggest that we have the investigator monitor my husband only. If he's not having an affair with your wife but someone else or not at all I will pay the cost myself. If your wife is involved we share the cost. Does that sound fair?"
I thought for a moment.
"Yes, I can go along with that. When do you want to do it?"
"Right away. Do you have time this afternoon at three? I have an appointment with an investigator who was recommended by a friend who had a similar problem."
"OK, give me the address and I'll meet you. I need to get back to work now."
That afternoon at three we met at the investigators office, explained to him what we wanted, gave him the necessary details on our spouses and Jean left him a deposit to start. He told us he would report to Jean on a weekly basis unless he needed to contact her sooner. As we left his office we both took a deep breathe sighed. We were committed and now we had to sit back and wait. That was going to be the second hardest thing we would be doing. The hardest would be acting normal around our spouses.
The week dragged on and I waited to hear from Jean, knowing that it would most likely take the full week before we heard anything as I tried to keep from confronting Clare with my suspicions. She acted her as normal, loving wife except our sex life continued at a low frequency. As before, when she appeared to be ready for sex, I had a hard time building up the passion and libido that was required to perform.
Finally, Jean called on the following Wednesday and invited me to go down to the investigators office for his first report. On entering his office he waved us to a seat and pulled a report from a stack of others on his desk.
"I know you're anxious to hear what we've been able to determine about Professor Holcomb's activities and I'm sorry to report that your suspicions are correct. Professor Holcomb is having an affair with another woman. We followed him to the Best Western motel in Ginsberg on Thursday and again yesterday and met a young woman there. They entered a different room each time but it was the same woman both times. I have pictures here of them going into and out of the rooms."
He slid the photos across his desk to us and I picked up one with a shaking hand. Looking at it I saw the professor coming out of a motel room behind a woman who was turned looking back at him. I couldn't make out her face but her height and hair color and styling were similar to Clare's. Grabbing another photo the woman was looking in the direction of the camera and I realized it wasn't Clare but looked like a younger woman. With a sigh of relief I leaned back in my chair. I must have been extremely tense because my body just seem to sag in repose and my head hung down momentarily in release from the anxiety I'd been carrying for over a week.
Lifting my head I looked at Jean as she was going through the photos one at a time in a determined, grim silence. When she had finished perusing them all she turned to the investigator.
"Can you get proof that they're actually fornicating in that room?"
"Well, we could probably get pictures but you couldn't use them as proof of adultery in a court of law since it would be violating their privacy. If they did it in your home you could use pictures taken there. You husband may realize that and avoid taking her there. Why don't you talk to a lawyer who specializes in divorce and get his recommendations."
"I think I'll do that. Please keep up the surveillance until I ask you to stop." Jean said as she gathered up the pictures and stood up to leave.
We exited the investigators office and headed toward our cars without talking for a few minutes. "I'm going to send you a check for half this weeks surveillance." I told her.
"You don't have to do that."
"I'm so very sorry for what you found that your husband was probably being unfaithful but I discovered that he wasn't doing it with my wife. That is worth a lot to me and helping pay for it is cheap at any price. So, I'll cut a check and mail it to you."
"Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it."
We parted then and I headed home. It was only after I'd been driving for a few minutes that it came to me: Why did the professor and Clare find it so disconcerting at the soiree that Jean and I were talking together? We still haven't solved that puzzle and there must still be something that we don't know about. Maybe Clare could be having an affair with the professor but a weeks surveillance hadn't caught them yet. I was suddenly glad Jean had instructed the investigator to continue his surveillance. I'd better give her a call and let her know what I was thinking so she doesn't terminate the effort without telling me. It was strange that in all my conversations with Jean we had never stumbled on anything that would remotely indicate a common factor that would show any indiscretions on the part of Clare.
Another week went by and we were meeting with the investigator again. This time there there were essentially the same pictures again with the same girl. The investigator had found out she was another graduate student and Jean decided to go ahead and pursue a divorce based on irreconcilable difference as her lawyer told her we lived in a no-fault state so finding proof of adultery wouldn't influence the outcome of the court action. There would be a 50/50 split of marital assets, he would pay alimony since Jean didn't work but no child support since their children we adults. I wrote her a check for half the cost of the surveillance and we parted.
I still hadn't determined why our spouses had acted so upset at the soiree but I was satisfied now that Clare wasn't having an affair with the professor, but what was going on. I had tio find out and hiring investigators to monitor a spouse was expensive. So, maybe I should do some surveillance of my own. I'd have to think about it.
Our sex life had slowed down considerably of late and I thought if things were normal and I didn't suspect she was playing around I'd have commented on it to her. I decided to say something that would not get her suspicious that I was having trust issues with her but may expand a guilty conscience, if she had one. That evening after dinner I brought up my concerns.
"Honey, are you having a problem? Are you feeling alright?" I asked her.
"I feel fine. Why do you ask." she responded with a frown of mild annoyance.
"Since you have been giving me a lot of excuses for not wanting to make love for the last while and I was thinking you might not be feeling well. Should you be seeing a doctor?" She turned a little pale for a second and I felt a little elation that I was getting to her conscience.
"No, I feel fine I told you. I hadn't noticed that I was avoiding you. I'll try to do better about being there for you but I put so much effort into the book to get something ready to send to the publisher that I just can't concentrate on anything else lately."
"I understand honey, you know how much I love you and am so proud of you that I worry about you. Love making is supposed to be good for relaxation and I'm always ready to help you relax." I grinned at her.
She smiled slightly back at me as she responded, "We'll see." and then came over and kissed me lightly on the lips. Taking my hand she led me into our bedroom and proceeded to get undressed.
I watched her for a minute and began to get undressed also. It was surreal in that my libido was certainly aroused but I didn't get the feeling that her heart was in it as we made love. She just seemed to be doing this to please me or more precisely to keep me quiet and to assuage her conscience. I may have given her an orgasm but I wasn't sure. She made all the correct responses as though I had but when we were through I didn't get the feeling that she had been satisfied. It left a hollow feeling in my chest. After I got off her she went into the bathroom to clean herself and then she came back, said, "Good night honey." and laid down with her back to me. There was no cuddling like we used to do after sex and I knew that things had changed.
The next morning I left the house for work at the normal time with Clare still in bed. Once away from the house I stopped the car and called my office on my cell to let them know I wouldn't be in that day and then headed to a rental car agency nearby. This was the day that Clare usually went to the library to continue her research. Picking up a rental I went back to our street and parked where I could watch our house from a distance. About 9 o'clock I saw Clare back out of the garage and head away from me in the direction of the university library. I fell in at a discrete distance behind her.
She drove straight to the library and as I was parking she'd left her car and entered the building. I was a few minutes behind her but I knew where she did most of her research and I found her there setting up for a review of some microfiche material. Staying hidden behind a nearby stack I could keep an eye on her as I pretended to be interested in a large reference book. It was half an hour later that Clare was joined by another woman and when Clare saw her she stood up and they embraced. What surprised me; they kissed lightly on the lips in greeting. I was now totally confused but I continued watching. As Clare resumed her seat at the microfiche machine and the other woman got a book out of her carry-all bag and began reading as though she were just biding her time.
Clare kept working for another hour before she started to make signs she was finished for the day and began gathering up het notes and personal items. I'd had to go to the toilet once, fearful they'd leave while I was gone, but the timing was right and I didn't miss anything. As she got up in preparation to leave the other woman was getting ready to go too. Before leaving they kissed again and holding hands they left the building. When they reached the parking lot they split up and went to their respective cars. I lingered at the back of the lot until they began to move and then I slipped in behind them as they both headed in the same direction which was opposite to heading for our home. They didn't seem to notice me as I followed them since I kept a respectful distance behind them. Traffic was light and there were few stop lights but we were not going in the direction of our home. It was about twenty minutes later that they pulled into an apartment complex and parked. After exiting their cars they headed into one of the buildings and I settled down to wait.
It was about two hours later that I saw Clare come out of the apartment, get back into her car and leave the parking lot. I followed her again until I was sure she was headed home then I went to get something to eat and think about what I'd seen.
What was going on? Who was that woman? Was Clare having a lesbian affair with her? Finally, how do I get the answers to my questions? My thinking was a little confused as I ate but it came down to, should I hire the investigator to get the answers or do it myself? Finally, I decided I would try and get some information myself so after finishing my lunch I went to a nearby Radio Shack and bought three battery operated, sound activated micro audio recorders. They were fairly expensive but I figured cheaper then an investigator. By the time I had my purchases it was close to my normal time to get home from work so I headed for the rental car lot and retrieved my own car.
Getting home Clare was there to greet me with a seeming loving kiss and a hug.
"Honey, get cleaned up and make your drink. Dinner will be ready in about half an hour." she told me as she headed back into the kitchen.
After making my drink I went into the kitchen.
"How was your day?" I asked.
"It was fine. I got quite a bit of work done at the library this morning and I worked on the book this afternoon. Just the usual I guess."
"Hear from anyone? Did you hear from your mother about them coming down for a visit?"
"No, it was a quiet day. Didn't talk with anyone."
If I didn't know better I would have accepted what she told me without question. She never blinked when talking and telling me the lies. I thought how I would trust her with my life in the past but now that trust may be gone. Our whole marriage now seemed to be built on lies and possible adultery, even if it was with a woman. I went back out into the living room before I said something. When I confronted her I wanted all my facts in place.
"How was your day?" She asked coming into the living room.
"Just the usual. I was out of the office most of the day working on a project."
I mentioned that in case she'd called the office looking for me.
"Dinner is ready now if you care to sit down."
While we were eating she informed me she would be meeting with Professor Holcomb in his office the next day to discuss the latest chapter in her book. She was almost ready to send off the package to the publisher and she was getting excited. I just nodded and mentioned that I was keeping my fingers crossed for her.
After dinner I cleared up the dishes and the kitchen while she went into her den to work on her book. When I finished I took one of the mini audio recorders out to the garage and installed it under the drivers seat of her car. I made sure it was hidden but easy to get at. Then I took another recorder and installed it in the lining of her purse. The held back the third recorder to install it in her den in case she made calls from there. I watched TV after that until about ten and knocked on hthe door of her den.
"Honey, I'm going to bed to read awhile. Are you coming soon?"
"I'd like to finish this chapter so I have it to take to Professor Holcomb tomorrow so I may be awhile. I'll join you as soon as I can."
"OK." I responded and went to bed. I read for awhile but couldn't stay awake as I drifted off into dreamland. I don't know what time she got in the bed as I was sound asleep.
The next morning when I left the house for work she was still sleeping soundly. I was going to let the recorders do the surveillance for me now so I didn't have to take time away from my job for awhile.
When I got home that evening I waited until after dinner and she had gone into her den before I went out to the garage and checked the recorder in her car. I wasn't surprised that it was essentially blank as far as conversation was concerned. Next, I found her purse and checked the recorder I'd hidden inside with the help of some earphones. Again, nothing of any consequence as I listened to her conversation with Professor Holcomb about her book. There didn't seem to be any interest of anything else between them. So I reset it and replaced it. I would have to wait to check the recorder in her den. That evening was a repeat of the previous evening and I ended it by going to bed by myself again.
The following morning I was awake early and slipped into her den to retrieve the last recorder in her den. This one did have an interesting but brief one-sided conversation to listen to:
First, I heard dialing, which meant Clare was calling out.
"Hi, its me." I heard my wife say. "Are we still go for tomorrow"
I couldn't hear the voice on the other end very well but it sounded like a woman. "Yes, I'm looking forward to it also. I'm getting a little worried though. Jim is acting a little funny. I'm wondering if he suspects something."
"No. I'm not going to leave him yet, thanks for the offer though. I need to get this part of the book into a publisher and get a commitment from them before I do anything about leaving him. I need his support a little while longer. I'll be glad when we can be together full time. These twice a week trysts are barely adequate to hold me. I'm glad I'll be able to see you tomorrow for a few hours. Its been hard trying to be intimate with Jim just to keep him satisfied a little longer. I really don't enjoy it as much as being with you.
"Ok, I love you too. See you tomorrow at the library."
I was stunned. Here it was all laid out for me what she was doing and what her plans were. I thought I'd loved this woman and she loved me in return. Now it appears she's just using me to feed, clothe and house her while she writes her book and indulges in a lesbian affair. How little I knew this woman after all the years we'd been married. I hurriedly reset the recorder and hid it again then left for work quite shaken with the revelations of her treachery.
At work I was in a fog for about an hour and then decided I needed to seek some unbiased advice on how to proceed with my marriage. Obviously, it was doomed to the divorce court but I needed to protect myself financially before it occurred. I got the name of a divorce lawyer from a friend who'd just been through a hard fought divorce and called and made an appointment for the next morning. I wanted to listen to the recorders again and see if I could pick up more data to give to the lawyer.
That evening I found out that the recorder from her purse provided the ultimate reason for divorce. The tape started briefly at the library it seemed.