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."
.... There is more of this story ...