Two over heard conversations led to both the best and worst times of my life. I know it sounds confusing, but then ain't that life?
I wasn't even supposed to be there. I had flown to Chicago to renegotiate a contract with a supplier who had missed several delivery dates. I got to the supplier only to be told that there would be no talks because they had just filed bankruptcy. I called the airport and found that if I hustled back to the airport I could get a flight back home at eleven that morning.
I left at seven and I was back home at two. I stopped at the office to let the boss know the situation with Argus. I entered the building, took the elevator to the third floor, but decided to hit the john before reporting in to Mike.
I was sitting in the end stall when someone else came in and took the stall on the other end. I heard a cell phone ring and the guy on the other end answered it and I recognized the voice of Dan Winters.
"No, I don't think so. Mike sent Henry out of town again so that means he will be with Claudine tonight and tomorrow night. Hell, he might even take the day off and spend it with her."
"No way. Not without Mike."
"Okay, I'll ask him and see when he is available again, but I know that it won't be as long as Henry is gone."
"Okay. I'll check with Mike and call you back."
I heard Dan flush, go wash his hands and then leave the room. I sat there and considered what I'd just heard. My boss Mike had sent me out of town and my boss Mike was going to be spending the time I was gone with my wife Claudine. Given the tone of the conversation on Dan's side it did not seem like it would be the first time that it had happened.
And there was one other thing to consider.
There was no way that Dan could have missed the fact that my stall was occupied, but he still held a normal conversation in a normal tone of voice that meant, to me anyway, that it didn't matter if the person in my stall heard what was said. To me that said that it also didn't matter to Dan because it was common knowledge anyway. Common knowledge that could be mentioned out loud because good old Henry was not around to hear it. Henry, the poor bastard, was in Chicago. I decided that I wasn't going to check in with Mike after all. I left the building and headed for the house without bothering to call Claudine.
As I drove home I thought about our marriage and our relationship. I'd met Claudine in my senior year at Eastern Michigan University. It had been love at first sight on my part, but not hers. In fact it took me a dozen tries before she would agree to go out with me.
Once we started dating Claudine still dated others and I only got to go out with her two or three times a month. She told me that she wasn't going to have a relationship with any one person until she was sure she was ready to settle down and then she would narrow the field down to the ones that really interested her. I got tired of being one of many and even though I wanted her I decided to give it up and I stopped calling her. She would take her place on that long list of things that I really wanted, but never got.
About a month before graduation I was sitting in one of the off campus coffee shops when Claudine came in, saw me and came over and asked if she could join me. I said yes and she sat down. She asked me how I'd been and I said that I was fine and then she asked why I had stopped calling her.
"I got tired of standing in line Claudine."
"That is no way to win a girls heart Henry."
"I don't see it that way Claudine. To me I was chasing after something that did not want to be caught."
"I told you that I would eventually narrow the field Henry."
"Yes you did, but you didn't say that it would be any time soon and there was a limit to how much time I was going to spend on what might be a losing proposition."
"That isn't a very romantic attitude for a man to have."
"I didn't get a whole lot of encouragement from you Claudine. I was just one of many and you didn't treat me any different than you did any of the others so why fight it?
"You were on my short list Henry,"
"But still on a list Claudine. I'm at the point in my life where I need something permanent. In just a little over three weeks I'll be out of here and I don't yet know where I'm going. I have offers from both coasts and I haven't yet made up my mind where I'm going, but I may not be around here much longer. Even if I had been on your short list at the time I gave up calling there wouldn't have been enough time left to develop the kind of relationship I want."
"Too bad Henry; it could have been" and she got up and left.
I too had a short list. It was of job offers I'd received after sending out resumes and going for interviews. I settled on the one in Atlanta and a week after graduation I started my new job. The first couple of weeks were spent learning my way around the job, meeting co-workers and settling into my apartment.
There were a half dozen single women where I worked and when they found out I was new to the area a couple of them offered to show me around. I took them up on the offer and dated three of them off and on. There was no spark between any of them and me and the relationships were more like good friends paling around. I did meet one woman who lived in my apartment complex and while there was no spark there either Carrie was open to a 'friends with benefits' relationship and that is what I settled for and stopped looking.
Eight months went by and then my company bought out another company. There was a lot of job duplication and a lot of the people in the purchased company were let go or offered a transfer and so it came to pass one day that I heard a familiar voice behind me say:
I turned around and there stood Claudine smiling down at me.
To shorten the tale some Claudine and I started dating and about six months later Claudine told me she was looking for another job and when I asked why she said:
"Read the company policies and procedures manual Henry. It clearly states that family members may not work in the same department."
That was my first indication that Claudine's short list was down to just one name. She was able to work out a lateral transfer to another department and three months later we were married.
The next five years were great. We had decided to hold off on having kids until we'd had some time to go places, do some things and in general enjoy life and we did.
When I got home I parked one block over from the house and walked home. My plan was to sneak into the house, find a good hiding place and then catch Mike and Claudine in the act. After kicking Mike's ass I would throw Claudine out and then find myself a damned good attorney.
But catching the cheaters wasn't to be, at least not then. Claudine must have left work early because her car was already in the garage. I walked in the back door of the garage and quietly opened the connecting door from the garage to the house. I was hoping that maybe Claudine would be in the shower getting all clean and sweet smelling for her lover and that would give me an opportunity to get in the house and hide, but Claudine was in the kitchen talking on the phone. Through the cracked open door I listened in on my second one sided phone conversation of the day.
"When will you get it through your head that when I say no I mean no."
"No Mike, I don't believe you. You will lie to me and then do what you did the first time. It is bad enough that you have me cheating on Henry, but I will not do it while talking to him on the phone."
"No, damn it no! You can come over after I've had his evening phone call and not one minute before."
"Okay. I call you as soon I've heard from him."
I quietly closed the door and went back to my car. Even though I'd heard what Dan had said there was still a small part of me that said, "No, there must be some mistake. She wouldn't do that to me." But after what I'd just heard from her own mouth there wasn't even a smidgen of denial left in my body. One thing I did know was that if Claudine wasn't going to call Mike until after she had talked to me she wouldn't be calling Mike that night.
I stopped at a gas station phone booth and looked in the Yellow Pages. It took me nine phone calls before I found a detective agency that still had someone in the office and who would agree to see me on such short notice. It cost me a premium to get them to do what I wanted, but ten minutes after Claudine left for work in the morning a man from the agency was busy wiring the house for audio and video.
An hour after he left I called Mike on my cell phone and told him that I might have to stay in Chicago a day longer than I'd planned. I told him it looked like Argus would be closing its doors for good and that I should know in a day or so. Next I called Claudine at work and asked who she was busy talking to last night.
"I called four times and got a busy signal every time. I finally gave up and went to bed."
"I don't know why you couldn't get me honey. I wasn't on the phone at all last night. I even waited up for your call."
"No matter. I just needed to hear your voice and tell you that I love you."
"I love you too baby. Hurry home okay?"
"It looks like I'll be here until the day after tomorrow. If you have to call me do it on my cell since I might be in late, late meetings trying to solve the problems with Argus. Since I'm talking to you now I won't call again tonight. I'll call you tomorrow when I know more about when I'll be able to leave."
.... There is more of this story ...