Thanks to my usual cast and crew of Editors, especially Dragonsweb, Homer Vargas and of course Sue, along with the contributions from several other Advance Readers!
This story was supposed to be a short Flash story, but this tale emerged instead ... probably for the better.
To say that Lynn and I hadn't been getting along lately would be a vast understatement. In fact, for at least the last six months we had been fighting at the drop of a hat with each other, and sometimes over not particularly much. Usually, it's our work schedules that mostly mess up our home life. We made most of the usual mistakes that doom marriages, but it was our inability to really sit down and talk with each other that really screwed things up royally.
Lynn is a junior attorney for the largest immigration law firm in the city and she recently brought in a new client that flooded her with over six hundred H1B Visa requests that all had to be completed in a mathematically impossible amount of time. Accordingly, she's been putting in sixteen hour days, including weekends lately trying to get all of this paperwork done. She's worse than bad about calling home to tell me when she'll be home most nights, so I fix dinner for us for about eight. Usually, it then sits on the stove or in the refrigerator until at least ten, and sometimes after midnight.
The concept of calling me to let me know when she'll be home is apparently alien to her. She's always 'too busy' just to pick up the phone for two minutes to let me know what her schedule is. She has a cell phone as well, but since she spends most of her day in meetings she keeps it turned off and rarely remembers to turn it back on again afterwards. This, more than anything else, is what drives me nuts and pushes my anger buttons with her.
She's still relatively new to the firm and thinks that this big deal, if completed successfully, will put her on the path for making Junior Partner early. I'd rather she pay just a little bit of attention, once in awhile to me. Our money situation is fine and we don't really need that big promotion to make ends meet.
On the other hand, she hates my blue collar job because it is so uncertain. Most weeks I don't get forty hours of work because management will run out of billable things for us to do and they'll send the shift home a few hours early a couple of days a week. Other times things will get busy at the plant and I'll put in sixty hour weeks myself with all of the work (and overtime) I could want. I used to call to say when I'd be home late but I stopped doing it awhile back. It always seemed to start another fight with her.
The joke is that I was sort of inline for a promotion into the bottom rung of management myself. The owner had bugging me about moving to a supervisory slot at one of our other local subsidiaries but I didn't really want the extra half-hour of commute time each way ... and I knew that the job change would trigger another bad fight. I told him 'no' and sort of meant it, so he gave the job to my main rival James Harper just to spite me. I just shrugged and kept doing my job. James is big and loud, all bluster and no backbone ... and even less brain, and he's already way over his head and starting to sink. Suited me fine.
In short, that promotion was still going to be mine anytime I wanted it and no amount of extra brown-nosing was going to improve that. If I thought that working no overtime at all would improve my marriage I'd just cut my hours and resign myself to remaining a Shift Leader indefinitely. It wasn't like we really needed the extra money anyway. There really are more important things in life than money, like having fun with my wife.
We had two good stable incomes, no kids and neither of us was quite thirty years old yet. We ought to have been living it up and enjoying ourselves, but it just wasn't happening for some reason.
One early September Friday at work, we finished up a big order we'd been struggling with for over a week and got it all completed and out the door and into the shipping warehouse before two o'clock. The big boss was a happy man and sent all of us home, signing our timecards as 'out' at 4:30 p.m., giving us a full days pay with two and half hours of free time.
Most of the guys drove off to get an early start on some serious weekend drinking and frankly I just should have done the same thing. It's good politics to stop off at the local ice house to hoist a few beers with my co-workers and maybe even a few of the bosses at least once a week, but I had a moment of inspiration instead. Since our wedding anniversary was this coming Sunday, I thought I'd make an early start to a romantic weekend by buying some nice t-bone steaks, some jumbo shrimp (isn't that an oxymoron?) and a nice pair of lobster tails, then make us a nice proper home-cooked surf-n-turf for an early anniversary dinner, with lots of candles and flowers for good measure.
Think of it as a sort of a peace offering. Yeah, we'd been fighting lately ... a lot really, but this was as good of an olive branch as I could think of. The trick was going to be getting Lynn home at any sort of decent enough hour to enjoy it.
I called up Ramona, Lynn's admin and asked to speak to Lynn. I was pretty sure I could hear my wife's voice fairly clearly in the background but Ramona told me (after a slight but noticeable delay) that Lynn wasn't in her office at the moment. Upon further questioning, she did (grudgingly) suggest that she thought Lynn's project was about done and thought that she might be leaving 'on time' tonight.
Hah! That would be a first! Ramona ignored my follow-up questions and pretty much hung up on me right afterwards. For a plain vanilla legal assistant and girl-Friday, Ramona puts on quite a few airs and doesn't seem to like me very much. I guess she takes Lynn's side on all things and hears a lot of daily complaints about her scruffy laid back husband who still gets his hands dirty to make a living.
Still, I this was encouragement enough that I went ahead and went to the store and bought everything that I thought I'd need for a proper celebratory feast, including a bottle of her favorite wine, which I had to get from a specialty wine store near downtown. Since I was now about five minutes away from her office, I made the fateful decision that I was going to drive over to her building and wait for her right in front of her office. Lynn normally took the Metro train in and out of downtown and then transferred over to a park & ride bus to the lot where she parked her car, which was quite near our house. Picking her up would save her nearly an hour off of her normal commute, especially since it was now pouring rain outside.
It was a good idea anyway, but it didn't quite work out that way.
The thunderstorm was coming down quite hard now and it was nearly as dark as night, but in front of her office building I patiently sat, waiting in the rain for Lynn to leave work for the evening.
I had only been waiting for about ten minutes when I caught a glimpse of Lynn walking out the main doors of the building, nearly arm in arm with an older gentleman, whom I think was her boss, one of the two top Managing Partners.
She didn't see me at all, probably due to the heavy rain. Even after I rolled down the windows and waved while yelling at her frantically. A moment later they had crossed the street and she got into his dark BMW sedan that was parked in the executive reserved parking lot.
Maybe they were off to a meeting or dropping off Visa paperwork at the Federal building, I thought. Lacking any better ideas I decided to follow them. I nearly lost them when I got caught by a traffic light, but caught up to within eyesight of them a few blocks later. They stayed downtown, but turned away from the Federal building and headed towards the ballpark.
A few minutes later, the dark BMW pulled into valet parking at the hotel across the street from the ballpark and the pair quickly got out and went inside. At this point I was frantically hoping that I'd 'lost' her bosses car in the rush hour traffic and was following someone else's car now by accident, but not so. Even through the rain, I could clearly see my wife Lynn going inside the hotel along with her boss, looking far too happy and pleased with herself for any respectable married woman.
I waited in the rain some more, across the street for about forty-five minutes in the hope that this was just 'business', picking up or dropping off some paperwork from a client, but soon gave this up as unlikely. Then I decided to go inside myself and take a look around. Maybe this was a dinner meeting? I checked the casual cafe downstairs and the ritzy restaurant upstairs at the top of the hotel and despite a careful search saw no trace of them. There were some private offices on several of the lower floors of the hotel, including some of the management offices for the professional baseball team, but no other legal offices that they could likely be visiting.
Nearly frantic, I made something of a pest of myself asking (well, closer to demanding) what room my wife and her boss where shacked up in. They didn't quite have to call security on me to escort me out, but it was soon clear that I wasn't going to get any answers from the desk clerk and I left on my own.
I went straight home ... really I did. The phone had been ringing when I walked in the front door but the caller had hung-up right before I answered it. It couldn't have been important or they would have left a phone message.
.... There is more of this story ...