I think that my marriage is over. I can't be absolutely certain until I talk with my wife, but I think that when I saw her get in that Cadillac and drive away she was telling me goodbye. There is a saying that you hear from time to time, "No good deed goes unpunished" and it would certainly seem to be the case where I'm concerned.
Janice and I have been married just over eight years. Most of that eight years Janice was a stay at home mom. When the two kids started school it left her with a lot of free time on her hands. I make excellent money so Janice didn't need to go to work, but she did want something to do so she volunteered to work for several charities. I got used to her being gone one or two nights a week as she became more and more involved with her volunteer work. A year went by and Janice was appointed to various committees and the committees claimed more and more of her time. I found myself being dragged from one charitable function after another and it got to the point where I finally had to buy a tux rather than keep on renting them. There were endless fifty and one hundred-dollar a plate dinners to benefit this worthy cause and that worthwhile charity and I came to hate the taste of chicken. Then came the day that Janice was made the chairwoman of a committee (which shall remain nameless to protect the identities of the guilty parties) and things got even more hectic.
Another year went by and along the way Janice picked up a Woman of the Year award and several other awards for her civic accomplishments and our picture became an almost weekly occurrence on the society pages of the local newspapers. All of that exposure made other charities and fund raising groups seek out Janice to get her help and soon Janice was spending almost every night of the week working for one group or another. Saturday night usually meant that the two of us would be at some affair or other to support some worthy cause. I was getting pretty tired of it and I finally told her that she needed to cut back on what she was doing so that the two of us could spend some time together alone. I pointed out that our sex life had become almost non-existent and that I was unhappy about it. Janice promised me that she would eliminate some of her activities, but before she could do it she was tapped to be the chairwoman of the committee that put on the local charities biggest money raising event of the year. The event had been put on every year for the past fifteen years and had never failed to raise tons of money. It was a date auction. Every year one of the city's largest and most popular restaurants donated ten dinners, complete with all drinks for the auction. Then ten lovely young women volunteers were auctioned off with the dinners. The winning bidder got a dinner date with the woman he had bid on and a local limo service donated a limo to pick the couple up and take them to dinner and then take them back home. Several of those dates had ended in marriage for the two people involved. It was the social event of the year and it was up to Janice and her committee to see that it went off without a hitch.
It came apart on the night of the event. Janice and I had already arrived and I was sitting and sipping a vodka martini as Janice ran around attending to last minute details. She finally managed to find time to sit down with me and have a drink and as we were sitting there Toni came up and sat down with us.
"We have a problem Janice."
"Four of the girls who volunteered for the auction have called and cancelled."
"Sue Wilson is stuck in Kansas City. The airport is weathered in and she can't get a flight out. Mary Miller is in the hospital with a burst appendix and two others are down with the flu that has been going around."
"Oh shit! It's too late to find replacements. Why the hell does this have to happen the year I'm involved with this?"
"Well, a couple of us have come up with a fix for the problem. It's drastic, but we can make it work if we can get some cooperation."
Tina looked over at me and said, "From you and your husband."
"What do you mean?" Janice asked.
"Liz got her fiancée to agree to let her be one of the replacements and I talked my boyfriend into letting me be on. Helen's husband is willing to let her do it, but only on one condition."
"And that condition?"
"That you take the fourth spot."
"A married woman has never been auctioned off before and he doesn't want Helen to be the first, and more specifically, the only one. He says people might take it wrong if it were only Helen, but he thinks that if there are two of you things will be okay."
I knew that Janice would be in a panic to save her event so I wasn't surprised when both women turned to me. "Oh no" I said, "I don't think so."
"Why not?" Tina wanted to know. "It's only a dinner date. The limo picks her up, takes her to the restaurant, she has drinks, dinner, dances a little and the limo brings her home and drops her at your door."
"I'm sorry girls, but I can't see letting my wife go out on a date with another man. Get someone else on the committee to do it."
"Like who, Angela Parker? Who in their right mind would pay a dime to take her out? Betty Pierpoint? Sixty years old, blue hair and a face like a dried raisin? Boy wouldn't she bring in the big bucks."
The two of them spent the next ten minutes hammering at me. What the hell, it was for a good cause, right? So I did my good deed for the charity and said okay.
After the cocktail hour dinner was served and during the entire meal not a word was said between Janice and me. In fact Janice couldn't even bring herself to look at me. I'm pretty sure that she was having second thoughts about things, but was afraid to let me know it. I figured that she was between a rock and a hard place - she knew I didn't want her to do it, she was thinking she shouldn't do it, but she couldn't bear the thought that the night would be less than successful under her management. After dinner the auction started and things seemed to be going smoothly. The first eight young ladies were auctioned off for some pretty hefty amounts; the lowest went at eighteen hundred and the highest for twenty-three. Then the auctioneer called for the next volunteer to come up to the auction stand. There was a gasp from the crowd as Helen stood up and went to the auction block. At least half the crowd there that night knew that Helen was married and her appearance on the stand caused quite a stir. I was somewhat surprised when Helen only brought in eleven hundred. I wondered if it was because she was married, was five years older than the previous eight young ladies or both. Then it was Janice's turn. Her appearance on the stand caused just as big a stir as Helen's did. The bidding got off to a good start, but bogged down at a thousand dollars. Then from the back of the room came a booming "Eleven hundred." When no one topped that offer I saw Janice look beseechingly at me and I knew what she was thinking - "Save me!" - was written all over her face. The bidder in the back of the room was Jason North.
Some explanation here. Janise is Southern born and bred. Her family back home in South Carolina is a bit on the racist side and Janice went off to college with all the baggage that a family full of racists could give her. Her four years in college went a long way toward modifying her attitudes toward minorities, but Janice still was never comfortable around them in a social context. Jason was black. Not only that, but Janice and Jason had a history. Not much of one, but more than enough to make Janice nervous. Jason and I used to work for the same company and at one company Christmas party Jason had asked Janice to dance and Janice had said no. Janice had already danced with half of the men I work with and her refusal to dance with Jason was taken by him as a racial gesture. Later that night there was another incident that cemented in Jason's mind that Janice was a bigot. Jason caught Janice underneath the mistletoe and kissed her. Janice had been kissed under that piece of greenery by at least a dozen other men that night, but when Jason kissed her she shoved him away and ran to the ladies room. Janice said that she suddenly had to pee, but Jason just knew that it was so she could wash the touch of him off of her. Shortly after that Jason left the company to go into business for himself and now here he was trying to buy a date with a white woman he considered a closet racist. And there was my wife, eyes pleading with me to do something to stop it.
I bid twelve hundred and then Jason and I swapped bids until Jason followed my bid of two thousand with a bid of twenty-five hundred and at that point I decided to bail out. It was obvious to me that Jason was going to go as high as necessary to win and I couldn't see spending a fortune just to take my own wife to dinner. Besides, Janice needed to get over being nervous about being around minorities. Maybe an evening of dinner and dancing with a black man would help her see that blacks were not the savages and barbarians that her parents had made them out to be.
"Twenty-five once, twenty-five twice, going, going and gone for twenty-five hundred dollars" and the gavel fell.
The ride home was quiet and Janice didn't say a word to me until we got into the house and then she let me have it.
"How could you let that asshole win? How could you let that arrogant bastard have a date with me?"
"Whoa up there lady. You seem to forget that we are not the Rockefellers or the Vanderbilt's. We may be well off, but we are by no means rich and it was obvious that Jason was going to keep on bidding until he won. Not only that, but think of the possible scandal. The most anyone has ever bid during one of those auctions was twenty-seven hundred. What if Jason, and I'm sure he would have, had gone to three or even four thousand. For a married woman? How do you think that would have played around town? Besides, you are the one who talked me into letting you do this. Remember what you said? "It's only dinner, a few drinks and some dancing. It isn't like I'm going to have an affair or anything like that." You wanted your night to be a success and it was. All you have to do now is have dinner with Jason and think about how his bid was the highest of the night and that your fund drive was a huge success."
That wasn't the end of it of course and things were pretty cool around our house for the next couple of days.
I couldn't believe it. I'd almost passed up on coming to this five hundred dollar a plate dinner. Randy had worked on me for the better part of two weeks trying to talk me into attending the event. And it wasn't his, "Hey, you can get a date with a beautiful white chick" that finally convinced me. No, it was the fact that it was the so-called "Social Event" of the year that brought me. Meeting some of the people who attended the event might help me in my business. That and the slim chance that I might get my picture in the society pages of the morning papers which would also help me out. I was surprised to see Barry and his wife Janice sitting at the head table. God, but she was one gorgeous woman. Too bad she was a fucking bigot. I was also surprised that dinner wasn't another rubber chicken affair. They actually served a pretty good prime rib and the drinks weren't watered down either. A couple of Rum and Cokes had me in a pretty mellow mood by the time the auction started. I watched as one sexy looking white girl after another walked up front and was auctioned off for over a grand. I shook my head and wondered what kind of fool would shell out that much money just to be able to take her out to dinner. And dinner and a few dances were all he was going to get. If one of those girls ever gave it up the resultant scandal would put and end to the charity affair. Then came my biggest surprise of the evening. Janise got up and moved to the auction block. I sat there stunned as the bidding started. Why was she doing this? Why was Barry letting her do it? I watched in fascination as men bid for the pleasure of just having dinner with this beautiful woman. The bidding started to slow down and it looked like Janice was going to go for a measly thousand dollars. This magnificent woman for only a grand? Without even thinking about it I heard myself call out eleven hundred. Janice looked my way and when she saw who it was who had bid on her I saw the fright come over her face. I saw her look to Barry and I could read the look she gave him, "Don't let the nigger get me Barry." That look did it. I said to myself, "All right you bigoted bitch; I don't care what it costs me you WILL be sitting across from me in that restaurant. Then Barry and I started bidding against each other until he realized that I had no intention of quitting until I won. After it was over I walked up to the head table and in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear I said, "I'm so glad that I won the pleasure of your company. I'm free tomorrow, will that work for you?"
I got a look that would crumble a stone statue, but everyone had heard me and so she had to answer, "No, tomorrow is not a good time for me. Why don't you give me a call and we will see what we can work out."
And give you time to find a way out? Not on your life honey.
"Well if tomorrow is out we can make it Friday. That is the last day I will have available for the next couple of months. If you can't make it on Friday I'll make it easy on you and withdraw my bid."