"Jill, you can't be serious. Donald Long is nowhere near being in your league. He's short, and nerdy, and a truly terrible dancer; and he's a pussy compared to the men that you could have. Now, Kyle Woodrow, he is in your league; you snap your fingers and he will be on his knees begging you to marry him when we graduate," said Penny. "And, you can add to that that there is no doubt that Kyle is going places."
"So would Donald, Penny, get on his knees and propose, that is, if I snap my fingers. And, I don't care if my husband goes places, as you put it. I'll be the one doing the going places. I'm determined to be somebody, Pen; and you can take that to the bank. No, I'm looking for a man who will be there for me when I need him: the wind beneath my wings as the song goes.
"Kyle's tall, dark, and handsome; and, absolutely stuck on himself. His ego will all but force him to keep me on the backburner. I am not into being on the backburner for any man, Penny. Plus, Kyle would be cheating on me in a year tops. I will be able to dictate to Donald and make him think he's won the fucking lottery in getting me for his wife," I said. "No, no Kyle Woodrows for me."
"Oh I see, you want to be the knightess in shining armor and have your husband be your loyal squire: a Sancho Panza to your Don Quixote. Is that it?" she laughed. "You want a man who is so pussywhipped that you can do whatever you want, is that it Jill?" said Penny, now positively breaking up laughing.
"No, I just want to have clear sailing to the top in my profession. I want a man who will have my back, that's all.
The dance was the swan song of our college sorority's seniors. A bunch of us would be graduating in a week's time. Then, we would be off to our niches in the real world. Penny and I had been close since our freshman year, and we were discussing who we were going to choose to be our significant others.
"Don't look now, girlfriend," said Penny. Here comes your pirate—uh—I mean your loyal squire in waiting." I gave her a sarcastic look that told her to cool it.
"May I have this dance?" said Donald Long. I rose as he took my hand. I had a good six inches on him with my heels, but he did not seem to feel intimidated by that little reality. Yes, Donald would do. A ne'er do well in the offing for sure, but a gentle man who would be more than tractable; I was certain of it.
The gavel sounded and that was it; we were divorced.
The light went out of my life that day: three months gone now. The most beautiful woman in the world, the sexiest woman in the world, the sweetest girl in the world and I were no longer an item; we were now a statistic.
I'd met Jill Rodgers thirteen years earlier at a costume ball. She was Tinker Bell and I was Blackbeard the pirate. Her costume left zero to the imagination. Mine, on the other hand, suited me. I was tough, and gruff, and rough around the edges. She was smart and pretty and quick witted. She was going places; one could just sense it.
The ball was sponsored by one or another of the sororities, and I'd been invited by Pauline Carter an old high school flame to attend. I'd been two years ahead of Pauline at Central High. She'd been one of those quiet, pretty, fragile kind of girls that every guy feels duty bound to protect, and my last two years in high school were spent protecting her, and that for purely selfish reasons.
Pauline was a senior at State, a Business Administration major, the night of the aforementioned soiree, and I'd just been discharged from the Army. If it matters, I'd been a supply sergeant. I was there, at the dance, as Pauline informed me up front, to escort her and to make her current boyfriend, Dennis Rodman, jealous. Dennis, it seems, had not been as attentive as he might have been toward our girl. Anyway, I was game, and we'd succeeded: we'd made him jealous. And, predictably, Pauline ended up leaving with him. Which was okay with me, it left me free to cruise the party. And cruise I did.
Anyway as my pirate ship cruised lazily around the premises, I fell in to the rear of the line of guys trying to get on Tinker Bell's dance card. I knew miss 'Bell'—well, from afar—from our high school days; she'd never given me a tumble then, and I'd never expected her to. Though I'd never dated her, I had socialized with a few who had. But now, ex-army and all...
I did manage to get two or three dances with her, and, surprise-surprise, a date for the following weekend. And I was surprised. I'd asked her to dance that first time thinking I had but little chance of getting anywhere with anyone in her league. But, to prove the adage that nothing ventured would result in nothing whatsoever gained, I'd managed to get up enough courage to ask, and had gotten my reward.
To make a complicated and longish story a trifle less complicated and a deal shorter, let me say that our date the following Saturday night was spectacular. The woman was a thrill a minute, and the sex was outrageous. And, no, I did not even begin to question the fact that she'd given it up kinda easily; and that, even though, as I think I mentioned, we had never mixed socially before that fateful night at the party the week before. And, allowing myself the latitude to jump ahead a little here; everything I had imagined about her that first evening at the party, ended up being true. She was smart, she would indeed become very successful—I mean very—and she was way out of my league. This last was not really brought home to me until, well, until earlier today.
"Hi Helen, the boss in?" I said. "I'm supposed to have an appointment."
"Yes, Mr. Long. She said to send you right in when you got here. But, she does have Mr. Loring in there at the moment. Could you hold on for just a sec while I check?" she said.
"My boss? My boss is in with her?" I said.
"Yes sir. But, I'm pretty sure that they are about done," she said. I nodded my understanding. I watched as she buzzed the boss' line.
"Ms. Rodgers, Mr. Long is here," said Helen.
"Thank you Helen. I'll be right out." Helen turned to me and tendered me a half smile. For some reason her smile unsettled me. It was almost like—something. Just then the door opened and my boss exited.
"Good morning, Mr. Loring," I said. I smiled, but he didn't return it.
"Good morning, Mr. Long.
"Helen, I'll be out in the field today. I have some mending to do with some of our customers. I'll be on the cell if anyone needs me," he said. And then he was gone without again even looking in my direction.
"Yes, Mr. Loring," said Helen, to his retreating form.
Helen seemed about to say something to me, but just then my wife came out and motioned me in: and yes, my wife is the CEO of Castor and Weintraub Consulting, a company dealing mainly in public relations and personnel arbitration. I'd been hired as a field representative for the firm a dozen years earlier, and, I was still a field rep; well, whaddya gonna do; it was my niche. At any rate, my job was to see to it that our clients were satisfied with C&W services, and when such was not the case, to fix it so that they were satisfied. Without so much as a half-smile, my wife turned on her heels and headed inside. I had a bad feeling, but I followed her.
She sashayed her way behind her desk and seemed to fall into her throne. I followed her example and took a seat across from her without being invited to do so. She eyed me—what—coldly.
"Good morning, dear," I said. We'd not seen each other since early the day before. She'd come home and to bed after I was asleep, and she'd left before I was up; well, she was the CEO.
"Donald, Brad Loring has had some not too complimentary things to say about your work. Know anything about that?" she said.
"Huh? What? I'm doing good," I said, with confidence. "I just saw him a minute ago. He came here to complain about me?"
"He says the Montrose account is about to split from us and a couple of others are thinking about it. All three are yours, Donald," she said.
"Montrose! No way. I was there this week doing the tour. They were happy. They said so, Jill. They said so!" She gazed, no stared at me—hard.
"Donald, Mr. Loring wanted to fire you. I told him I had to talk to you first.
"Donald, you're my husband. We've been together a lot of years. When we both signed on with C&W those many years ago, I thought, well, I thought that it was a nice idea, a good thing. Now, well now I'm not so sure. I never thought that someday I would be your boss. But, I am, and that's the long and the short of it," she said. "I have to think of the company first: and that for the good of the both of us, you and me," she said.
"Huh? Yeah, the company first, for the good of us," I wasn't quite being sarcastic. "Jill, I think it's great you've done as well as you have. I've got no ego problems when it comes to that. I think I've done pretty good too, no matter what Loring says. And I do not believe that Montrose torpedoed me like that; I can't believe it."
I smiled, "But you can't fix the Fawcett at home and I can," I said, smiling and trying to lighten the mood. She still didn't smile.
"Donald, you're fired," she said. "You'll get the usual severance package." What she said took a moment to register.
"What? What! I'm fired. But—but—but you're my wife. I mean don't I even get a second chance. Maybe see if I can find out what's the matter with the Montrose account? Fix things up with them, if there is something wrong? And those other companies too? I said.
"Donald, you're fired. You need to clean out your desk, and turn in your keys and passwords. I need you out by day's end, Donald. I'm sorry. I hate to have to do this, but I'd rather it come from me than from Brad Loring. You will get a decent letter of recommendation; I can do that much for you at least," she said. I could feel my face flush. The embarrassment was almost beyond enduring.
"Jesus, Jill, Don't I even rate a second chance? Oh, fuck it, what the hell!" I rose and turned to go. I stopped at the door and looked back at her. Nothing, not even a hint of regret. "Helluva note, my own wife doing this to me. Good thing we don't have children you and I. Damn good thing," I said. I opened the door and stormed out.
I decided to go home and try to calm down. I needed to calm down. I mean my own wife. What would this do to our marriage? Where was the love and support? I had to think. I had to figure out where it all went wrong. We were still man and wife. Was she thinking of dumping me too, kicking me out? I had to believe that that was a possibility. I waited, and drank. Actually, I drank quite a lot. I looked up at the wall clock; it read 5:43. She'd likely be home soon, and then what?
I heard the garage door opener engage. She was home. I remained seated on the divan in front of the TV. It wasn't on. But I was on; well, I was high. She came in and looked at me. She turned and went upstairs. I guess she didn't have anything to say—hell—I knew that that wasn't true; she'd be sayin' somethin'. I was right in the second place.
Less than five minutes after going upstairs, she came back down and stood in front of me: between me and the not-turned-on TV. She looked good; well, she always did. The TV might not be turned on, but in spite of everything I was beginning to be. The bad news was that I didn't figure to be getting' any.
"I'm sorry, Donald, and know you're maybe not in the mood to talk to me; and well, frankly, the feeling's mutual: I'm not anxious to be getting into a—discussion. Again, I do want to say how sorry I am for what I had to do this morning, but, well, Donald, I did have to do it. You just haven't been doing the job like I feel, and Mr. Loring feels, you are capable of.
"I don't know. Maybe it's because you felt you could take it easy being the boss' husband. If you did, you were wrong, Donald; there is no taking it easy in this business. Or, maybe this business just isn't your cup of tea. But, whatever the reason, while I am sorry I had to do it; I am not apologizing for doing it. Can you understand that?" she said.
I just took another sip of my drink. "For someone who didn't want to talk you sure seem to be doing a lot of it," I said. "Had to do it, huh? Well, like I said this morning, fuck it, and fuck the job!" She looked down.
"Okay," she said. "Like I said, I know you aren't in the mood to talk right now, at least not civilly. We will have to talk at some point, my husband; and we both know it. Figure out where we are going to be going from here. I love you, Donald. This doesn't have to affect us as a couple. I hope it won't, but I guess that part is up to you." She sighed. "Anyway, business is business; you have to understand that."
The truth was that I did understand it, but that said, we were still family: she still shoulda stood by me, stood up for me, at least that. Plus, I just did not believe that Montrose did to me what she'd said, what Loring'd said.
I looked up at her. Jesus! She sure did look good. "Yeah, maybe we'll talk, and maybe not. But for sure not right now, as you say. My feelings are just a little raw right now as you might well imagine."
She nodded, "I can understand that." I was getting sick to my stomach, but I had to ask her one more thing.
"But, I do have just one question for you. Would that be all right?" I said. She tilted her head, always a sign that she was surprised at something.
"Yes, of course," she said.
"What you did this morning, to me, it was only business? It wasn't the first salvo in wanting to get rid of me?" I said. She looked down, then up. She met my gaze.
"Get rid of you? No. I assure you it was strictly business," she said. Maybe it was my imagination, but though the words were the ones I'd hoped to hear, the tone was unconvincing. I just nodded and looked into the dregs of my drink; they kinda reminded me of my situation, the dregs.
"Well, you seem to have survived the night," said Brad Loring.
"Yes, he took things better than I thought he would. I just wish the little shit was capable of doing the job. I could have shipped him off on trips or something to keep him occupied," said Jill.
"You know, I gotta ask. I mean why did you marry the guy I mean you are so far out of his league that it isn't even funny," he said. "I mean you must have had that figured out at the gitgo; I mean you even kept your maiden name for chryssakes!" he said. "If that doesn't say something about you and him, I don't know what does.
"Jill, you have to divorce the guy. I want you to be my wife, not his," said Brad. "You and I belong together."
"I can't, dummy, he'd rape me in the divorce—economically. I make five times what he does. Donald might not be worth a damn at arbitration, but he's no dum-dum; trust me on that. If he knew I was screwing around on him, there would be hell to pay; and I don't wanna pay it," said Jill. "No, no divorce yet. I need to get him to want to leave on his own and blame himself when he does. I'm pretty smart too. I'll figure something out sooner or later. I promise." She sidled up to him and spread her legs a little to allow his thigh to rub up against her still clothed pussy.
The big man sighed, "Okay for now, I guess. Right now I gotta have me some relief. Think you can help me out?" he said.
"I think I might?" she teased.
"Oh yeah, well I hope so."
They were standing in the den of his oversized condominium. It was a three bedroom affair with a patio facing out on the four star golf course that was part of the package that his administrator's salary allowed him to afford. The golf course, too, was part of a country club membership that included a gym, a bar with a small dance floor, a twenty-four hour restaurant, two saunas, two Jacuzzis, and a convenience store.
He pulled her to him and kissed her gently. She slid her tongue between his slightly parted lips and he sucked on it.
His hand slipped to her ass and traced the crease of it through her dress. He pushed her back a little and looked at her. Leaning in he kissed the exposed tops of her breasts.
"Nice," he said.
"Of course," she said, smiling broadly.
"Get on your knees," he said. She mimicked a frown.
"Kinda demanding are we tonight?" she said.
Without answering her, he gently, but firmly, pushed her down to a kneeling position. Her hands dangled at her sides. She looked up into his expectant eyes. "Do it," he commanded her.
Slowly she reached up and got hold of his belt buckle and undid it. Unbuttoning his pants, she pulled them down around his ankles and left them there. He didn't bother to kick them off.
She touched the bulge in his shorts and smiled again. "Looks like you're interested," she giggled.
He grabbed a fist full of her blond hair and pulled her to him. She resisted.
"Ow!" she howled. He released her and she pulled his shorts down and his cock slapped her in the side of the face as she did so.
She stroked him a few times and then let her lips slide over his glans. He moaned. She sucked for some minutes. She felt him begin his eruption and pulled back from him aiming his spray onto the polished wooden floor. He leaned back against the arm of the couch and gasped.
He helped her up and turned her to face him. He kicked of his pants and underwear. He kissed her soft and long, just like he knew she liked it. No fish pucker for her; she would only tolerate soft, delicate, slightly open mouthed kissing. He'd learned that early on, and he was okay with it.
He helped her undress and then finished doing the same for himself. They sank down on the couch and explored each other more than enthusiastically.
She slipped to her knees and began bringing the dead to life. She smiled at her success and stood, then knelt on the couch beside him assuming the ass-pushed-back position of an about to be fucked female. He rose to the invitation. Standing behind her, he pressed home his cock easily spreading the folds of her labia as he entered her. She mooed.
They were silent for next several minutes. The only sounds was the faint squishing noise he made as he pushed and pulled himself in and out of her.
He felt her stiffen; it pleased him. He began pounding her relentlessly looking to come at the same time she did; it was always best that way, at least for him.
They lay sprawled on the couch, him on top, kissing her face and shoulders in the afterglow. "Your husband ever get you off like that?" he said.
"Hardly. Donald is good at some things but not included on the list is sex or business. Proof of that is that you're here fucking me and he isn't," she said. He snickered.
"Yeah, well, you really do have to figure a way to divorce the clod and marry me, Jill. I love you too, probably more than he does," said Brad.
"I told you, I will try to work it out. It's just a matter of time," said Jill.
The days following my humiliation were tense at our house. The more so, since I was having trouble finding another job. The economy being in the shitter as it was, was not helping. At thirty-six years old, I wasn't exactly unemployable, but jobs were just not there for me.
Jill made no comment as to my failure to become reemployed. I presumed she was feeling a little sorry for me, but, I could have been wrong about that. The fact is we just didn't talk much, at least not about that. And, something else we weren't doing was having sex. Not since the day she'd fired me. She didn't turn me down; I just didn't ask. It just seemed so—weird—to think of her that way given the circumstances. I assumed, too, that she was feeling the same.
At any rate, my mornings, the last three months of them, were invariably spent job hunting and my afternoons at the Wild Goose, my favorite watering hole.
Sitting at the bar, I wasn't in too good a mood. The barkeep, Joey Luca, had just delivered my second Jack on the rocks. I was thinking about my situation. Jill made a ton of money as CEO of C&W, so we weren't hurting financially. Hell, if it weren't for my damn male mind set, read ego, I could've just let things remain as they were and become a househusband; Jill would've been okay with it. She had actually sort of suggested it once or twice—obliquely—but she had hinted at it: "The house looks great, honey, couldn't have done better myself," or something of the like. We'd never had a maid; neither of us believed in them. We'd always shared the household and yards before, but now it was just me.
Joey came back my way and checked my glass to see how I was doing. I looked up at him, and he smiled at me. I'd been comin' in regular for the past few months and we'd kinda gotten to know each other. I hadn't shared anything very personal with him, not the stuff that had gotten me to comin' in regular, but other stuff, mundane stuff. I knew he was single, had a sister somewhere, and had a little condo, as he said, across town.
"Whatsamatter, cowboy," he said, wife trouble?"
"You could say that, Joey. And job trouble: havin' trouble gettin' one," I said.
"I see. Wife's on your case for bein' unemployed, huh?" he said.
"No, no. She's okay with it. She makes enough for the both of us. It's just—it's just—complicated," I said. He nodded, but his look told me he didn't really understand.
"I could use a little help around here if you think you'd like workin' in a bar," said Joey. "It'd just be part time at first until you got the feel of the business. And actually, it would be at one of my other places."
"Other places, your other places?" I said.
"Yeah I own four of these," he said. He gestured with his hand indicating our surroundings. "The Wild Goose here, the Hungry Bear across town, the Outlaw, and the Lawmen; they're kinda like theme places if you know what I mean.
"Huh," I said. "I knew you were part owner here, but I didn't know you had any other places. Yours huh?"
"Yeah, and I'm not part owner; I'm sole owner. Don't know where you got the idea I was only part owner," he said.
"Me neither, somethin' I heard and got wrong, I guess. But, I mean you're tending—So you're doin' good then," I said.
"I do okay. And, yes, I keep my hand in the day-to-day and do some tending, as you note. It suits me. And I'm a little shorthanded right now. Hard to keep good help.
"I don't know, Joey. I've never worked in a bar before. I Mean don't you gotta have experience or such?" I said.
"You said you used to be in public relations, right?" he said.
"Well, yeah, public relations and industrial arbitration," I smiled.
"Sometimes, I had to negotiate peace between buyers and sellers and the like. But it's not the same thing as working in a place like this," I said. My wife and I got into the business the same day, same company, believe it or not. Jill, she's a college grad, me four years on Uncle Sam's payroll. I did manage to get myself an A.A. degree in night school after I hired on at C&W; it was kinda a requirement for the job I eventually got."
"Interesting. Actually, this here job is all about public relations. And, well, there will be times when you might have to do some arbitratin' too," he said. We hashed things out for the next hour or so, well, in between him serving the customers. I took the job: ten bucks an hour and tips; I did get to keep all of my tips.
Financially, the job was one big-ass comedown from what I was used to, paid maybe half as much as I was getting' at C&W, but it was better than nothing. Oh, and Joey was not into being patient. I started two minutes after we got done shaking hands: I did get to pee first.
"So you got a job," she said. She was actually smiling.
"Yeah, it doesn't pay a lot, but I'm tired of living off of you, Jill. I need to do my fair share," I said. She flashed me an indulgent smile.
"Well, what is the job if I may be so bold?" She said.
"I'm the new bartender at the Wild Goose," I said. The look on her face showed just how much respect she actually had for the working man.
"A what!" she said, finally.
"A bartender. I worked four hours tonight. That's why I'm so late," I said. She just shook her head.
"What are they payin' you, minimum wage?" she said. She was clearly not impressed with my job hunting success. But then, all of a sudden, her expression changed. It was so sudden, that I think she had to catch herself. I had that real bad feeling again. The same one, or akin to the one, I'd had three months earlier when my world crashed.
"No, ten bucks per hour and tips," I said. "And, I am a public relations man. I'm hoping to do good. I was, well, kinda hoping you'd be a little more supportive." She sighed and smiled at the same time. Nobody does that.
"I am going to be supportive of you, Donald. If you think it will be a good fit for you, then I say go for it.
"Can I ask, will you be working evenings much?" she said. The way she said that last really set off alarm bells. It was like she was glad that I might be working nights. No wife wants her husband working nights.
"Yeah, it's when the place gets busy. Not much action during the day, I guess. The Wild Goose doesn't open until three in the afternoon," I said. She nodded her—joy—or so it seemed to me.
It was still a little early at the Hungry Bear, the third busiest of Joey's four night spots. The band was still an hour from set up, but the dinner crowd was beginning to trickle in. I'd gotten myself pretty much stationed at the HB the past few months, and though it was a kinda far from the house, I liked the gig. I did do some covering at The Lawmen, which was located, coincidentally, two blocks from the police station and whose clientele was largely the men and women in blue and their support staffs. Similarly, I did an occasional shift at The Outlaw, located about a half mile from the county lockup, and whose clientele did include any number of parolees and recently released from captivity sinners. I guess one could say that Joey was nothing if not imaginative.
I liked the job and never missed a shift, never called in sick, and never complained. As a result Joey began to look upon me as his unofficial field manager. Well, he trusted me to be straight with him; and, his trust was not misplaced.
I had just finished stocking the bar frig when they came in. Helen did not look like the Helen who rode the receptionist's desk in my wife's outer office eight hours a day. But, there was no doubt that it was her. The lucky man whose arm she was holding onto seemed more than a little possessive of his date. Hell, I would have been too.
They took a table near the far wall a little ways away from the bandstand. A good idea, I thought; well, it was if they wanted to be able to talk in between dances: the music could get a little loud sometimes. I saw Janie, the waitress, take their order, and as she came up to me on the way to the kitchen to place it, I waved her over.
"Yeah Donnie, they want a couple red wines, she said. "Want some snacks too."
"That couple you just took the order from," I said.
"Yeah? Good. Their first drink's on me." I pulled my wallet, opened the till, and dropped a ten in it. She smiled.
"Know 'em?" she said.
"Yeah, the woman is good people," I said. Janie nodded and continued her journey to the kitchen to get the snacks.
Minutes later, I saw Janie deliver the couple their food and drinks and nod in my direction. The couple looked up, and the woman smiled and waved at me. I smiled and waved back.
The place got busy, and I didn't pay a lot of attention to Helen and her beau. That is I didn't until the dinner hour was over, the band had begun to play and the dancers had begun to dance. I heard a sharp squeal from the dance floor.
Helen was shaking her head no, but the man had her in his grip and was insisting; on what, who knew. I was mixing a drink for one of the bar patrons, but slowed my progress as I continued to eyeball the action on the floor.
Helen got loose from the man's hold on her, turned, and headed back toward their table. She grabbed her purse, started to turn around, apparently about to leave, when the man who was all but standing in her armpit, tried to manhandle her back into her seat. She dropped her purse and slapped him—hard! I heard a couple of very definite no's as the man continued his demands. Finished making the drink I had been building, I set it down in front of the customer, who had also been observing the action on the floor, and headed out to see if I could calm things down. One of Joey's ironclad rules was to be sure and not allow trouble in his place, and to be damn sure that his employees didn't add to any trouble that did occur.
"Problem folks?" I asked as I came up to them.
"Get lost—Donald," he sneered, reading my name badge.
"Sir, I'm afraid I am going to have to insist on a little more in the way of good manners if you know what I mean," I said.
"And, I said to fuck off," he said. The guy was easily six-three and two-twenty to my five-eight and one-sixty. But, I was in shape and my army training was something I had kept up ever since being discharged. I wasn't going to push it, but I was ready to react if I had to.
"Mister, I don't want to call the police, but I will if I have to. "Ma'am, do you wish to leave or..." I started.
"No, it's okay, Mr. Long. I don't want any trouble," she said. The man glowered at her, and then me. All of a sudden his face got a concerned look on it. He was looking past me. Rocko, the bouncer, had just come on duty and had seen the action. He'd come up to us and was standing behind me.
"Tell you what, sir" I said, "if you would just come over to the bar, I'll buy you a drink."
"To hell with it," he said, and he strode off and out.
I looked up at Rocko, all six-eight and three-hundred-and-five pounds of him. "Thanks, Rock, I think you saved a situation," I said. He nodded and headed for the door: his usual station.
"You okay, Helen," I said. She smiled—sort of.
"I'm okay, Mr. Long. But, you? You work here?" she said.
"Yeah, for a while now. I like it. It's a fun job, at least to me?" She nodded her understanding.
"Anyway," she said, "thanks for coming to my rescue. Daryl, Daryl Johnson, that's the man's name, wanted more from me than I was ready or willing to let him have. Guess he figured I owed him." She smiled again, but not enthusiastically.
"Owed him?" I said.
"Yeah, he's helped with some of my bills. Times have been hard since my husband left for parts unknown with his little ball of fluff, that a few months ago," she said. "You know, house payments and such. I'm going to pay him back, I told him that. I just needed a little time. But, he decided that I owed him right now; and well, I don't have the money quite yet. A few more days and I get paid. You know how it is."
"I see," I said. "Helen the guy's a loan shark isn't he?" She looked down.
"Girl, If it's not a secret, how much do you owe the guy and when's the actual deadline?"
"Maybe thirteen hundred dollars," she said. "And, the day after tomorrow."
"A chunk of change for sure, but not all that much, girl. If you'd like, I can loan it to you, so you can get the guy off your back—no strings," I said, hurriedly. "I mean really no strings—really." She smiled.
"Thank you very much, Mr. Long. But, I couldn't do that to you." She was looking around the room. I read her mind. She was clearly appraising my ability to come up with the cash. She knew of course that my wife was into the big bucks, but for some reason I knew she wasn't going to count that.
"Helen, first off, this isn't C&W. I'm a bartender now, and a pretty good one, but just a bartender. To you my name is Don or Donald, not Mr. Long. Second, it'll be a loan and I do have the money. Besides, the pay ain't that bad here. So, I insist. Wait here for me," I said. I stood and turned on my heels, not waiting for her to say okay. She did wait. And, I returned in less than three minutes and handed her a check. She looked at it.
"Mister—I mean, Don, this is for fourteen hundred; I only need thirteen hundred."
"Yes, and you need a ride home tonight, and—and the taxis around this place ain't cheap," I said. She came to me and planted a scorcher on my embarrassed lips. That one shocked me.
She said her goodbye and started to go, but as she got to the door, she turned back and came to me. I had already made it back to the bar and had started doing some glass washing. She came up to the bar and took a stool. I went to her.
"Mr. Long, I mean Donald, I have to tell you something, and I need to have you hear me. Okay?" She said. I nodded. She was—what—determined.
"Can we go somewhere private?" she said. I nodded and pointed to a door at the end of the counter.
"Follow me," I said. I signaled Janie, to cover and led my wife's secretary into the inner sanctum.
"This is the break room," I said. Have a seat. She looked around the room but made no comment.
"Don, you're a good man. I've known you for a long time. I don't want to see you hurt. What your wife did to you—well—well, we, all of the rest of us in the office know the score. We're all just too scared of losing our jobs to say anything. But..."
"Score? But what?" I said.
"Don, your wife and Mr. Loring—they're—they—they're cheating on you, sir. I mean..." she looked away.
"Everybody knows," she said, I could feel my face flush.
"Huh?" I said. "Everybody knows?" She started to get up.
"I just—well—I don't know what..." she started. She was standing and fidgeting.
I had begun to gather my wits about me. "You know this for sure, Helen?"
"Yes sir. I pay the motel and hotel bills. Sometimes they do it in her office. I've seen her when she comes out—after. A woman knows..." I nodded.
"Thanks Helen. I appreciate your concern. Oh, and that loan I just made to you: it just became an outright gift."
"Mister Long, I couldn't..."
"Yes, you can. A whole bunch of things just became clear to me," I said. "Oh yeah, a whole bunch of things. "But, you need to be getting home now, Helen. I have some thinking to do. And, don't worry, I won't involve you in anything I decide. I promise."
"Thank you sir. I do appreciate that, but I don't care. Right is right. If you need a witness, I will be there for you, and I know a couple of others who will stand by you too. I mean if need be," she said.
All of a sudden, my wife's late night meetings, extended business trips, her joy at my work schedule, all of it, came into focus. I'd sort of suspected, but not really suspected, if that makes any sense whatever. Now, I had to figure out what I needed to do. Confront her? Let it slide and just go on bein' the uninspired ne'er-do-well that I apparently always had been? I had to think and to plan. At least I wasn't still unemployed. At least I had gotten over—to some extent anyway—the humiliation of her and that asshole ex-boss of mine firing me. Now if I could only get over the heartache of her cheating on me, with him. That was going to be a biggee, a really-really big biggee.
It didn't even cross my mind that Helen didn't know what she was talking about. I absolutely knew that she did know what she was talking about; and it was killing me.
My wife had sworn that she'd fired me for non-production, and not for any other reason. Now, I had to believe that there might have been other reasons, personal reasons, for doing to me what she'd done to me.
I also had to ask myself, why she had not just divorced me, if I wasn't her first choice anymore. Call me cynical, but, thinking about it, I had to believe that hers must have been economic reasons. That conclusion was pretty easily come by: she'd lose big time in a divorce. Our state was one of the twenty where an offended could file either fault or no fault. If I could prove adultery, I'd file fault, and she'd likely end up paying me big bucks and that for a long time.
Mister Conroy assured me that he could do the job. An ex-cop, he had turned private-eye after a bullet had torn up his left leg pretty good. I'd been turned on to him by Joey. He wouldn't tell me, but it was clear that the two of them had a history. At any rate, the price was right, and the service was guaranteed—by Joey. Yeah, I know; it seemed peculiar to me too.
It was some three weeks before I got the call. Ironically, during that interlude, Jill and I got along okay, and had even reached the point where she initiated sex on four occasions. To say that I was a willing participant would have been an understatement of heroic proportions, that in spite of my desire to also see her in traction for what she'd done to me. My woman, if indeed it turned out that she still was my woman, was the best piece of ass on the planet as far as I was concerned. I looked over at her now and as she lay fairly well exhausted. We were both naked and smelly and sweat drenched.
"Good for you?" she said.
"Oh yeah," I said. And, I mean oh yeah." She smiled. Tomorrow, I thought, there might be a different song to sing, but tonight that was not the case.
He'd come into the Hungry Bear, had Mr. Conroy, carrying two manila envelopes: one a copy of the other: standard operating procedure, he'd said. He'd left without them. We'd talked a little, he'd outlined the happenings that he'd recorded and left.
I sat in the break room staring at the envelope. I knew what they contained, and I couldn't bring myself to open them and look. The idea of my Jill and that asshole ex-boss of mine fucking up a storm and in living color was too much for me. I took the envelopes out to my car and hid one set the under the seat; the other I would take in with me under my coat. I'd never look at them if I didn't have to, but Jill would if it became necessary.
I pulled into the driveway of our place and sat in the car for some little time. Getting out, I felt like a man walking the last mile. She'd be asleep. I couldn't bring myself to be beside her. I sacked out on the couch. The morning would spell the end of my marriage to the love of my life.
I woke to a stirring upstairs. I sat upright and waited as I heard her come downstairs.
"Donald? Why didn't you come to bed last night," she said. I looked at her. I know my look had to have been ultimately sad.
"Because I didn't want to be sleeping next to Loring's whore," I said. Her face went almost immediately white.
"What are you talking about?" For a long moment I just stood and stared at her. It seemed to unnerve her.