"Can I ask you a question?"
I was sitting in my favorite breakfast restaurant when Allison asked me that question as she refilled my coffee cup.
"Of course you may, but I don't promise to answer it and depending on the question even if I do answer it I reserve the right to lie."
"You have been coming in here almost four years now and not once in all that time have you made a pass at me or even flirted with me and I'm just curious as to why."
"Why would you be curious about that?"
"Because you flirt with all the other girls and you have made passes at a couple of them, but never me and I just wondered why."
"Two very good reasons sweetie. Your husband and my wife."
"That doesn't make sense to me. You flirt with Annie and Christy and they are married and you made a pass at Julie last Friday even though she's married and you didn't worry about their husbands or your wife."
"Why doesn't Roger allow your husband in here?"
"Because he ... oh."
"Right. He is jealous as hell and he has a reputation of getting physical with any one he thinks is getting too familiar with you. The husbands of the other girls know that is just a game. I flirt, they flirt back and hope it helps make the tip bigger. The second reason, my wife, is just a tad harder to explain. She doesn't care if I flirt with the others because she knows they aren't my type and that nothing will come of it. You are a completely different story."
"You could almost be my first wife's twin. Same build, same hair and eye color and even your face is a little like Helen's and that scares Betty to death. She is so afraid of you that it translates into a bad time for me."
"Why is she afraid of me?"
"Because she knows how much I loved my first wife and since you are so much like her Betty is afraid that you could steal me away from her. She is so concerned with what might happen that I am constantly getting a ration of shit from her over you."
"I don't believe that."
"Just watch her watch you the next time we come in here for breakfast."
Allison gave me a look that said, "I bet you believe in the tooth fairy too."
That had been on a Wednesday. On Saturday Betty and I came in for breakfast and as usual we sat in the non-smoking section which was Allison's assigned area. Allison came up to the table and said good morning and told us the daily special and as she took our order I wondered if she remembered our conversation and if she did had she noticed the sour look that Betty gave her.
As Allison walked away Betty said:
"Why do you do that to me?"
"The way you look at that girl. I mean honestly Bob, everyone in this place can see the look on your face. Like all it would take is for her to crook her finger and you would leave here with her in a flash."
"You have an over-active imagination Betty. For one thing she is married and for another so am I."
"Like that would matter to her. She might be married, but she is a tramp and I wouldn't put anything past her."
"How do you know she is a tramp?"
"I just know."
"That's it? You just know? No proof, not even rumors, just that you know?"
"Yes, I know."
"You will have to forgive me, but I need more than an "I just know" before I'm going to believe Allison is a tramp."
"See what I mean? You claim you don't have any interest in her, but there you sit defending her while doubting me."
"Be reasonable Betty. If I said the moon was a big ball of cheese and you asked me how I could say that by just looking at it and I were to say, "I just know" would you just say okay and believe it? No you wouldn't and you know you wouldn't."
Before she could answer Allison came back with coffee and glasses of water and got another nasty look from Betty when she set them down on the table. After Allison had walked away Betty said:
"Don't think I didn't notice the way she looked at you just now."
"Betty, will you please stop it? It is just your imagination and quite frankly I'm getting just a little tired of it. I'm a customer. Allison smiles at customers. Allison is pleasant to customers. These are things that Allison does to hopefully increase the size of her tip."
"Why don't you..." and she broke off what she was going to say as Allison came up to the table with our food. Betty gave her another sour look and when Allison had walked away Betty said:
"Why don't you just accept the fact that I don't like her and take me somewhere else when we go out for breakfast?"
"Because I'm set in my ways Betty and this is the place that I like."
"Even though it makes me uncomfortable for you to be around her?"
"Don't start on that Betty. You should know by now where that will lead."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Oh yes you do. You are uncomfortable with me being around Allison? Just how comfortable do you think I am with all the time you spend with your boss? How comfortable do you think I am with your having long lunches with him two and three times a week? Stopping for drinks with him after work? Going in on Saturday to work with him on projects you say you are behind on? Best you just leave it alone Betty."
The rest of breakfast was silent and I had a feeling that the rest of the day was going to suck. I did get an answer to my earlier question — at least I think I did — Allison had noticed the looks she had gotten from Betty. At least that is the conclusion I drew from Allison's repeated trips to our table to refill our coffee cups and water glasses. That chore was usually handled by the girl that acted as hostess, but for some reason Allison had decided to do it herself and I believe it was just so she could tweak Betty's nose.
It was the following Tuesday before I stopped in at the restaurant. Julie was my waitress that day, but midway through breakfast Allison slid into the booth across from me.
"I didn't believe you, about your wife I mean, but from the way she looked at me I could tell she didn't like me and it doesn't make any sense. I don't even know her all that well and I've never done anything to her so I guess it must be what you said, but I do have a question."
"Go ahead and ask it."
"If you loved your first wife so much why aren't you still with her?"
"Because she didn't love me back."
"Oh. Sorry, I didn't mean to poke at a sore spot."
"Doesn't matter, I'm long over it."
She started to get up and I said, "Hey! Was I to make a pass at you what's my chances?"
She smiled at me, "You'll never know until you try."
Why the sudden turn around on my part? Well first off I wasn't afraid of Allison's husband and secondly I was tired of Betty's bullshit. If she wanted to get stupid over some harmless flirting then she could have at it.
I started flirting with Allison just like I flirted with the other girls. Several weeks went by and then one morning I was kidding Allison about her jeans being so tight that they looked like they had been painted on:
"I can't make up my mind what would be more fun; trying to help you get in to them or trying to help you get out of them."
"Is that the pass I've been waiting on?"
That caught me by surprise and I looked at her for a couple of moments and then I told her to sit with me for a minute. She sat down and I said:
"What is all this about Allison? After waiting on me for over four years you suddenly want to know why I didn't flirt with you or make passes at you and just now you as good as gave me an open invitation. How about you telling me just what is going on here?"
She looked at me hesitantly and then said, "I can't talk about it here. I get off at four. Can you met me at Doyle's Bar?"
"I don't get off work until four-thirty, but yeah, I can stop by."
I spent most of the day wondering what Allison could possibly have to talk about that couldn't have been discussed at the restaurant. When I got to Doyle's Allison was sitting in a booth at the back of the building and I joined her. The waitress was there almost immediately and I ordered a beer and another one of whatever Allison was having. I looked over at Allison:
"Okay kid, what's this all about?"
She looked at me and I could see that she was trying to get her courage up. She took a big gulp of her drink, set the glass down and then said:
"I want to cheat on my husband."
Of all the things I'd thought about during the day that was not one of them.
"Are you serious?"
"Yes I am."
"So what does it have to do with me?"
"I want you to be the man I cheat with."
"Why in the hell do you want to cheat on Royce? He worships the ground you walk on."
"No he doesn't. What he is is a possessive asshole. What I am to him is his. Just like his pick up is his, his boat is his and his motorcycle is his. When you see him get belligerent with guys who he thinks are paying too much attention to me what you are seeing isn't jealousy, it is him getting pissed because somebody is messing with something that is his."
"That may be Allison, but not reason enough to cheat on him."
"Okay, maybe cheat was the wrong word to use. Maybe what I should have said was that I wanted revenge or that I wanted to get even."
"Get even for what?"
"Get even for him screwing around on me with other women."
"Royce? No way! Good grief Allison, he has you. What man in his right mind would run around on you?"
"Royce. This isn't speculation, or a suspicion or a feeling. I've seen it with my own eyes."
"So why me?"
"I just thought that you might feel the way I do."
"Getting even, getting revenge."
"What the hell are you talking about Allison?"
I saw confusion come over her face and then I saw that confusion replace by an awareness of something and then the look changed to one of understanding. Allison grabbed her purse and started to get up:
"This was a mistake Dave. I shouldn't have done this," she said as she slid across the seat to get up. I grabbed her arm to stop her and she tried to pull away so I got up and moved to her side of the booth and slid in next to her so she couldn't get out.
"Not so fast Allison. You got this started and you can't just drag me into it and then say "Oops, forget about it." What the hell is going on here Allison?"
"Nothing Dave, I just thought I could get you to be the one, that's all."
"There has to be more to it than that Allison. Why me?"
"Because of what you told me about your first wife — that I looked so much like her."
She was lying of course, but I could see that whatever it was that she had come into the bar thinking she had changed her mind and I wasn't going to get it out of her.
Driving home I tried to make some sense of what Allison had been expecting of me. The reason she gave made no sense at all, but clearly she had expected me to be willing to help her hang horns on her husband. Betty's car wasn't in the garage when I got home and as soon as I saw the blinking light on the answering machine I knew why. I hit the play button:
"Sweetie, I'll be working late tonight. We have one job we are way behind on and we are trying to play catch-up. Hopefully I won't be too late. Love you baby and I'll see you when I get home."
Damn it, I thought, Betty's job paid well, but I was slowly learning to hate it. Late nights and weekends. They always seemed to be behind on this job or that project. I opened the fridge door to get me a beer and as I reached for one it hit me. Allison had said:
"I just thought you might feel the way I do. About getting revenge, about getting even."
She obviously knew something and thought that I knew it too. She saw that I didn't and she backed off. Why would I want to get even with Royce? What had he done to me that I needed to get revenge on? Nothing that I could think of so it had to be something else. Something bad enough to make me want to get even, to take revenge, if not on Royce then who?