Benedict, Ben or Benny, Horton, Veronica, or Ronnie, Horton nee Parker: that's us. Both aged forty. Married going on fourteen years I guess. Happy? She is, I'm not, and for damn good reason: she's been cheating on me. And, not just cheating on me, but serial cheating on me, with at least four different men including my boss, and that for at least the last thirteen years; she admits to that long. And, I just found out about it today. Fuck! How did I find out? Well, that's the story, at least the biggest part of the story.
But, to really understand the situation the way it needs to be understood, you have to understand our history: Veronica's and mine. To do that we've gotta go back to the beginning. We have to go back to our last days in high school.
"Veronica Parker, you are not just pretty tonight. You are flat gorgeous," I said. "I mean flat gorgeous!" There had never been an example of sincerity to equal my current one.
Oh yeah, me? Eighteen years old, about to grad high school, an intellectual giant, and a social pariah. Five-six, a bit on the chubby side, singularly plain looking if not actually ugly: not much for the girls to love, I guess. But, at least no acne thank god! Anyway, now, at the end of my high school career, I would be graduating with honors, with a scholarship and—and it's a big and—my date for tonight's prom is the most beautiful seventeen year-old girl in the world: Veronica Parker.
"Of course," she said pirouetting in front of me. "You think I might get a few offers to dance from other boys tonight?" I was already thinking bad thoughts, but I had a plan—didn't I?
"A few offers? It's gonna be all I can do to defend your honor. Heck, I might have to fight Gilford over you. You know how he is," I said. I was smiling, but I was not kidding. Roger Gilford was my worst enemy; he was also her longtime boyfriend, or, had been. He was my worst enemy because he was jealous that I had won the bet and that figured to be a small problem. The bet was that I wouldn't be able to get Ronnie to go out with me. Of course I had cheated a little: I'd blackmailed Ronnie into it.
Veronica was not a military genius, and, more specifically, she wasn't a genius at writing term papers: especially term papers in Physics, and well, I was. She'd begged me for weeks to help her, and, to prep her for the final; and I'd finally said okay, but there'd be a price. She had to go to the prom with me.
She'd balked at first, but then she'd had a thought, and I knew it. Her idea was that she could get a little revenge on good 'ole Roger for having cheated on her with Pamela Mason. And, she figured, and probably rightly, that Roger would see it as her trading up, i.e., the school brainiac over the school jock. Well, I could dream, right? At any rate Veronica was going with me, and I was never more thrilled. The best looking girl in the school, and maybe even the state, was going with me. And, I had plans: spare no expense, make my case for a second date, and prove my worth to her as a potential significant other—long term potential significant other. Well, those were my plans, and I'd prepped them.
Arriving at the country club, The La Dolce Vita, where the prom was to be held; we were greeted by all of the A-listers that a girl like Veronica had in her train. Most of them had never spoken to me, or, if they had, whatever they'd said had arrogance and sarcasm mixed in with the message. I did get a bit of respect on this night, however, I'd been selected as class valedictorian, and that did carry some weight with the student body even among the mostly intellectually bereft of the social set; hey, maybe especially with them. They may have been collectively dumb, but they all knew that adulthood waited menacingly just around the corner, and most of them feared it—I didn't because I knew beyond the vaguest shadow of a doubt that I was going to succeed. Add to that that I was sure damn few of them would. Oh yes, it was my turn to be confident if not actually arrogant, and I had plans for the night.
I was at the punch bowl, getting my date and I some of the not yet tampered with elixir when I sensed a presence looming over my shoulder. "Hey, shorty, you need to rethink whatever you have planned for after the prom. I'll be taking Ronnie to the parties, not you," said Roger. I turned: Jesus! he was big.
"Hmm, well, we'll just let Ronnie make that decision. Uh—not you," I said, very casually. "You lost the bet, Roger, try and live with your grief."
"The bet was for the prom, but not the parties, and I am claiming my girl back by night's end. Actually, I may do it even before then," he said.
"We'll see," I said. I was acting far more confident than I felt.
Ronnie and I were sitting with a group of her friends and one or two of mine. We'd danced three times: two slow and one fast. She was the same height as me, at five-six, but with her heels on, she did seem to tower over me. It bothered me a little, but I was dealing with it.
I had just turned to speak with Jill Capshaw, one of Ronnie's friends, who'd asked me a question, when he came up to us.
"Have this dance, Ron?" said Roger. It was a slow dance. She looked at me, smiled, and let him lead her out onto the floor. For the next two hours I got in exactly one more dance with her as Roger and his entourage of jocks and hangers-on dominated her dance card. In between dances, I saw her and spoke with her for maybe a total of five or ten minutes worth. Then it was time for the last dance of the evening. She danced it with him.
I tried to catch up with her at the end of the dance, but I was blocked in that attempt by several very large bozos no doubt on orders from their master. I heard later that she did indeed go to the all-nighters with Roger. And, she did it without so much as a word to me. I wonder if she even gave a flying fuck about my feelings on the matter. I decided that she didn't. Well, as Robert burns once said, "so much for the well laid plans of mice and men," or something like that.
I couldn't really complain. I knew she was his girl, had been since the ninth grade. And, I knew she was only out with me because she wanted revenge, and I guess I seemed a useful tool to that end. But all of that said, I still felt sick to my stomach about not even getting a polite goodbye-if-I-never-see-you-again-hello from her. Beautiful she was, but clearly a decent person she was not.
Graduation was three weeks later, and I did my turn at the lectern and did it well. Oh, I saw her in the audience, grad cap on, and looking ever so much like one of the masses condemned forever to a life of quiet desperation. She waved to me and blew me a kiss when I came off the stage after having gotten my diploma. I made a point of scowling and turning away from her. Jill Capshaw stopped me as I headed for my mom and the small group of friends that had come to cheer me on.
"Hi Ben. You okay?" said Jill. I looked her askance.
"Yes. Of course. Why wouldn't I be?" I said. I wasn't being nasty or sarcastic, but maybe my look said more than my tone or my words. Apparently that was the case.
"You actually look angry," she said.
"What?" I said.
"When your girlfriend blew you a kiss, you sent her a look that would kill small game," she said.
"Girlfriend? What girlfriend?" I said. Okay, like I said, I'd seen Veronica throw me a kiss, but I read nothing into it. Certainly not that she was interested in being my girlfriend.
"You know very well what girlfriend—Veronica. She asked me to ask you if you would talk to her," said Jill.
"Tell her not a chance. I haven't forgotten what she did to me on prom night, probably never will," I said. And I stalked off and away from her.
That was the end of my in-my-dreams romance with Veronica Parker; or, so I thought. I was to be proved more than wrong. Oh, if I'd only known then what I knew now.
I felt fortunate, so did my mom, who'd been single since my dad had died on the job at the Cheese processing plant when I was ten. She'd been hard pressed to pay the bills, but somehow she'd managed until now. My graduation as valedictorian and my scholarship were as much for her as they were for me, at least on some level.
The Badgers of the University of Wisconsin had selected me as a recipient of a full ride scholarship. And, being a member of Mensa, as I was, I had accepted their selection and had begun the journey that would eventually end in an MBA in Business Administration, specializing in employee and customer relations. I had dreams of being the best in my field at some very big store—say Boeing or maybe Atlantic Richfield. Yes indeed, fortunate was the word.
My not so secret love, and not a member of Mensa, Veronica, was also accepted to UW. But, alas, her high school two-point-five GPA, and her marginal SAT scores did not support a scholarship bid. But, she was there, and also in the Business school. What luck right? Not.
The Milton F. Hauser building housed, among others, the Personnel Development classes of the school of Business Administration. The basement of the building is home to Badger Sett, a smallish café, seating for maybe fifty. The BS was the primary, "during the day," hangout for students like me. The loose meat sandwiches were pretty good, and the background elevator music was more to my taste than was the modern stuff in some of the other campus fooderies. I was listening to a piece by Pierre Bachelet: Emmanuelle. Knew it well; I was more than certain no one else in the school of Biz did.
I was buried in my text when I heard laughing and general verbal bedlam in the booth behind me.
.... There is more of this story ...