Once Upon a Fantasy
Chapter 1: Getting Fit and Getting Fitted
Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Cheating,
Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1: Getting Fit and Getting Fitted - Just when things were looking blackest for Norm Tyler, along came a fantasy
"Damn, Andrea, I'm not losing any more weight lately," I said, preparing for bed one evening.
"Oh, that's too bad," she said, not looking up from her book. My wife reads in bed before turning the lights out.
"I'm working just as hard and paying attention to my diet. I sure hope this isn't as far as I can go."
"You'll be fine, dear," she said, as if it was nothing at all. "You told me your knee was much better."
"Yeah. That's the main thing," I agreed sullenly.
I should introduce myself. I'm Norm Tyler and I'm a forty-three year old businessman. I stand six foot one and now weight 219 lbs. Somehow I want to get my weight down to below 200. I own an appliance store that also has a variety of other items for sale. It's a solidly established business and I'm happy with it as it provides me and my family with a good living in our town.
My frustration comes from the last month or so that I've been at 219 and don't seem to be making up any more ground on my target. I'm working hard at rehabilitating my left knee after an accident. The only thing that keeps me from quitting this whole process is the fact that my clothes are getting baggy. My waist size is down from nearly 40 to a snug 36. My shirts all seem a bit loose on me but I don't mind that. And above all else, I'm a lot more fit than I used to be.
My wife, Andrea, hasn't seemed to have noticed. It's not like I made a big deal of it but when I look in the mirror I can see a difference. Mostly, I've gotten rid of my pot. My shirts go straight down to my belt and I can see my feet without leaning over. So aside from not being able to lose that last chunk that I want to lose, I'm satisfied so far that the effort is worth it.
I'm sure my stamina in the bedroom would be better too, but I haven't had the opportunity to find out. At first it was because I had to be careful not to twist or extend my leg after the operation. But with the healing of the surgery and the therapy sessions, I was almost capable of returning to normal activities. In fact, I'd been pretty much okay for the last six weeks. But that didn't include making love to my wife.
Andrea is four years younger than me. I was just finishing college when I met her. She had graduated from high school and had found a job in, guess what, an appliance store, Highland Home Center. She was a counter clerk and I was applying for a job as a salesman.
"You've got a degree in business, I see," owner, Walter Cromwell said, looking over my résumé.
"Yes, Mr. Cromwell. I thought it was the most versatile degree I could earn to get started."
"It probably is," he smiled. "However, you're applying for a sales job, not an accounting position. Sell me on why I should hire you, Norman."
"Sir ... I'm a proven hard worker. Those references you see will tell you that. They will also tell you I'm a quick learner. And ... I think the most important thing is that I get along with people. I like people and they generally like me."
He was nodding. "Yes, those are all important things. However, selling is about convincing others to believe in you and want to do business with you. How do you think you would go about that?"
"Be honest with them," I said. "Don't try and sell them something they don't need. Be a good listener, too. No tricks are necessary if you really believe in your product."
"Well, I have to say that's a pretty mature attitude for someone as young as you. I have three or four more interviews to go before I decide, but I am impressed, Norman. I'll call you and let you know what I've decided ... either way."
"Thank you, sir. I'll keep my fingers crossed."
He looked at me carefully once more. "You really want this job?"
"Yes, sir, I really want the job."
"You'll hear from me," he smiled.
I got the job and thus began my career in the home consumer business. That's what we call it now. It's not just stoves and refrigerators and washing machines any more. It's microwaves, TVs, home theatre systems, sewing machines and vacuums, among other things.
Back in the late 1980s, however, it was pretty much just the basics. I guess I took to it better than I expected. I liked it, to tell the truth. I was selling something that people really needed. Anyway, as I gained experience and confidence in myself, my sales numbers climbed and the next thing I knew I was making a pretty damn good living, what with the commissions.
I've been told I've got a friendly face and my sales method gives people a feeling that I was telling them the truth ... which I was. I was selling products I really believed in. I got along well with everyone in the store and I suppose that attracted the attention of Andrea Johnson. I was interested in her too, but it took me a while to work up the nerve to ask her for a date. When I did, she accepted quite quickly.
I started dating Andrea but it didn't seem like we were going anywhere with our relationship so I looked around and found a couple of other women to date. Apparently this pissed Andrea off ... big time. She cornered me one day and started to work on me.
"What's the matter with me? You think I'm not good enough for you? You think you can do better?"
"Whoa, whoa there, girl. I didn't think you were that interested in me so I moved on. What's your problem?"
"My problem is you! You make your moves on me and then you walk away. Is it because I don't go to bed with you? You think I should just roll over and give it up?"
"Andrea, I'm not some rookie that hasn't been out with a woman before. I can read the go-no-go signals as well as the next guy. I didn't get any message from you that you wanted to take this relationship any further. I respect that. So I moved on."
"What was I supposed to do? Strip naked in front of you and fall on my back?"
"That might have helped," I said, instantly realizing it was absolutely the stupidest thing I could say.
Smack! She had a good, solid, hard right hand and I caught it flush on my left cheek. Thank God it was open handed. I saw stars, as they say, and it stung like hell, but no real damage was done.
"Look, I apologize," I said when I was sure my jaw was working again. "But you don't send out very clear messages. If you were really interested in me then I'm pretty sure I would have picked up on that."
"I doubt it," she spat. "You don't know squat about women, Norman Tyler. Why do you think I agreed to go out with you for the last month or more?"
I was about to say something equally stupid like "You couldn't get anyone else" before my common sense took over and I just shrugged.
"Let's talk about it some other time when you've cooled off," I suggested, walking away.
And that's what we did. A week later we had lunch together and we declared a truce. See, Andrea was a good looking woman. She was about five-eight, I guessed, with long legs, a great ass, nice rack and curly chestnut brown hair that came down past her shoulders. But it was her dark brown eyes that got my attention. Without their penetrating intensity she might have had an average face, but they made her extraordinary. They matched the passion that was part of her personality. That smack on the cheek I got from her was the first sign that she wasn't an ordinary woman and wouldn't stand for being treated like one.
We began dating again and I quickly discovered that my original judgment of her was all wrong. I'm not sure what caused her to change her opinion of me or change her behavior toward me, but she did. I'd never been with a girl or a woman with the fervor that she displayed. She was no virgin when we first had sex. She made no excuses and offered no explanation either. I could hardly complain since I wasn't a virgin either and hadn't been for several years. My college education wasn't entirely gathered from books and lectures.
If she was intense in her everyday life, she was even more so in bed. She liked her sex rough and ready. She made no bones about my responsibilities to get her off and I tried manfully to satisfy her. I must have had a decent batting average because we ended up getting married a year later. I'd like to think I proposed, but the truth is I'm not sure she didn't lead me along until she got the right answer. Anyway, a ring and a promise later and we were married.
Andrea continued to work at the store for the next two years until she became pregnant with our first child. It was planned, as were most things with Andrea. Brandon was born on May 11th, one day before our wedding anniversary. I thought that was kind of cool. He was a healthy seven pounds-thirteen ounces and had a full head of dark brown hair, just like his mother. My blond hair was already receding just as I knew it would. It ran in the family.
Her pregnancy prompted us to take the plunge and buy a house. It wasn't anything special, a twelve-hundred square-foot three bedroom bungalow with a half basement and a carport. But it was on a nice lot and in a nice neighborhood and we were happy with it. Baby Brandon came home to his own bedroom and loving parents. We were fortunate that when Andrea decided she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, we could afford it.
Two plus years later, Candice Tyler came home to that same house. She was blonde like me, but I suspected she wouldn't have to worry about a receding hair line the way I did. Andrea was a very good mother and I had no worries about her keeping herself busy. She was forever making things for the babies or redecorating one or the other of their rooms.
I was doing exceptionally well at the store when I got an unexpected surprise. I was called into the boss's office and he closed the door behind me. Walter Cromwell had a serious look about him that I didn't often see. This didn't look good, I thought. What had I done wrong? I was consistently the top producer in the store. I had customers who would deal only with me.
"Norman," he began. He always called me Norman. "I'm about ready to retire. You've proven in the last ten years that you are especially suited for this business. You're a hell of a salesman. You're honest and you follow up. You're smart, too. You've got a good education and I think you're a natural to run this business. I want to make you a proposition."
For the next hour I listened as Walter laid out his plan for me. He had no sons to take over the business and his two daughters were married and living far away. He wanted me to buy the business from him on what he called the "never-never plan." I would pay for it out of the profits and gradually it would become totally mine. He owned the property outright and it was almost as valuable as the business.
I didn't think there was a hope in hell that I could pay it off, but Walter opened his books and showed me just how profitable the business was. I could do it if I was able to maintain the current level of business. It would take twenty years but I would be in my mid fifties when I owned it and my family would be set for life. I wanted to talk it over with Andrea but I was sure she would agree with me that it was a "can't miss" proposition.
To say I was excited would be a gross understatement. This opportunity would secure the future of our family and make me a prominent business owner in our community. As I expected, Andrea was just as enthusiastic about this opportunity as I was.
"It's wonderful, Norm. I can't believe it's happening. When can you take over?"
"I haven't got those details worked out yet. I've got to talk to a lawyer to make sure the agreement is all properly documented and on the up and up. Walter wants me to take over as soon as possible so it won't be long before it's all in place."
"Oh Norm," she said throwing her arms around my neck and planting a characteristically powerful kiss on my lips. "I'm so proud of you. This is such a wonderful opportunity for us."
A month later the deal was done. I was now the de facto owner of Highland Home Center.
We had begun to add microwave ovens to our inventory. They were already very popular and the price was dropping almost monthly. I decided to carry only a few until the market stabilized and I wasn't trapped with units that I would have to sell below cost to move. I bought one for Andrea and while it took her some time to get accustomed to it, within a few months she said she didn't know how she got along without one.
About the same time, a store in the same block that sold sewing machines was going out of business. The owner was old and didn't have the energy to continue with the store. Like us, he only handled good quality merchandise. I looked it over and talked to my sales people. They thought it would be a logical addition to our lineup and so I negotiated with the old man to buy his inventory. I had consulted Andrea and she agreed it was a good product and expected to have one herself.
I was always following Walter Cromwell's policy of only selling quality products and nothing had happened to change my mind. True, there were cheaper products available but my customers kept coming back because they knew they were going to get fair value for money. I saw no reason to abandon that policy.
I was always looking for other products that would make sense for our business and the next item that fell into our hands was vacuum cleaners. I was given the opportunity for a dealership for a very high quality German machine. It was a hundred or so dollars more expensive than the standard ones in the stores, but I liked the engineering and some of the features that domestic vacuums didn't have. It had so many attachments that I wondered how they could all be used. Again, Andrea tested the unit and declared it perfect for her needs. I had another product line to sell.
"You know I'll try any machine you want me to," she said with a smile, "as long as I get to keep the ones I like."
"Well, you'll have the latest of everything then," I said. "I'm hoping that you'll keep some of them longer than a couple of years. There is little or no market for used appliances and TV's."
"You wouldn't want me to be seen using obsolete machines, would you? It wouldn't be good for your image."
"I don't know about that," I grumbled. "Perhaps if our appliances were older our customers and friends would see that they are durable and trustworthy. They won't wear out in a couple of years."
"Well, I for one want to be seen with the latest and greatest that our store has to offer," she said flatly. I didn't get the feeling it was up for further debate.
Not long after I took on the German vacuum cleaner line, I was approached by the distributor for a well-known brand of Japanese vacuum cleaner and, after doing some research, I decided I would add this line as well. Neither machine was cheap but both were fine products. Both turned out to be good decisions. Andrea stuck with the German machine, but declared the Japanese unit "quite good." Andrea continued as my in-house tester and evaluator. In truth, she was good at it.
As the business grew, so did our profits and I was able to pay down the debt to Walter Cromwell more quickly than planned. It was a big relief to me that I would be debt free sooner than I expected. By my calculations, I should have the debt retired by the time I was in my late forties rather than my mid-fifties. That wasn't very far away.
Our son, Brandon, was a good student and a fair athlete. He played football during the fall and baseball in the spring. He would never be the star player but he enjoyed the games and got along exceedingly well with his teammates. He was seventeen and a senior. I tried to attend every one of his games, although sometimes arriving a little late. Andrea wasn't a sports fan and didn't attend his games, but she did participate in other parent events at the school.
His sister, Candice, was fifteen and going through the usual teen problems that young girls had. I was grateful to Andrea for coping with our daughter. She could be trying at times. I wasn't close enough to my older sister for her to help me understand what went on in a teenage girl's mind. She didn't participate in any of the usual sports, but like most attractive teenage girls, wanted to be a cheerleader.
The kids and I got along great. Andrea always complained that it was because she had to be the disciplinarian while I was conveniently away at the store. That was probably true but I loved my family completely even with all the usual trials and tribulations that every family goes through.
I'm pretty much a hands-on kind of guy, especially at work. I like to interact with the customers and our suppliers. I'm usually on the move checking the products we were offering and watching our competitor's ads to see what they were up to. I had a pretty good volume going through the store and I was confident that I was reasonably competitive with the big boys. True, they could buy in volumes I couldn't touch, but that was about the only disadvantage that I suffered.
When one of our usual delivery men was off on vacation and another was off sick, I volunteered to help out Rob Stallings with a "must do" delivery one afternoon. I should have known better. I wasn't some twenty-five-year-old guy any more. I was also in less than prime condition, packing forty pounds I didn't need.
We were hauling a new front-load washing machine into an older home with narrow doors and hallways. Rob had gone ahead to de-clutter the place and lay down the paper used to protect the floor. He assured me we would have a minimum of obstacles to overcome. The last thing we needed was to trip on a loose rug or bang into a side table along the way.
The washer was strapped to a hand truck and I was the pusher while Rob was the puller as we worked it slowly up the steep steps one at a time toward the front porch of the house. It had been raining and the wooden treads were wet and somewhat slippery. Just as we reached the top step, my foot slipped. It was one of those slow-motion things as I saw both the hand truck and the washer tip toward me. I couldn't avoid it. I was frozen in place and could only watch in dread as it landed on my left leg, twisting in outward and causing me to fall with it.
I'd felt pain before, but I don't remember anything like that moment when a hundred and fifty pounds of weight fell on the top of my knee and bent it sideways in a fashion no human body was designed to tolerate. I don't recall hearing anything other than my scream. My leg was trapped between the machine and the tread and that was the only thing keeping both it and me from falling backward down the stairs. Thank God Rob was strong enough to pull it up that last step and onto the porch.
In the meantime, I had curled up on my left side into a fetal position on the top step, my hands holding my left leg as still as I could, trying to will an end to the agony.
"Rob, I'm really hurt," I gasped. "I'm going to need help."
I was gritting my teeth trying to deal with the intense pain while Rob, bless him, was on his cell phone instantly calling 911 and getting an ambulance. He did a good job of dramatizing my injury into something approaching life-threatening. I don't know how long it was before the ambulance arrived but they took over in a hurry and gave me a shot of something to kill the pain, put me on a back board to get me down the stairs, then got me onto a gurney and into the ambulance. It seemed like it had been hours since the accident, but it was probably only a few minutes.
In the hospital they gave me something to put me under before I was wheeled into surgery and several hours later I awoke to find my leg wrapped up like a tan colored mummy and suffering a terrible thirst. I found the call button and pushed it, bringing a nurse within minute.
"Hello, Mr. Tyler, how are you feeling?"
"Okay," I croaked. "Thirsty."
"No nausea?" she asked as she reached for a foam cup with a bendable straw on my table.
"Not so far," I said, happy to feel the cooling lubrication of the water as I slowly sucked it in.
"That's good. I'll let your doctor know you're awake."
"Does my wife know I'm here?"
"Yes," she smiled. "I'm sure she'll be visiting as soon as it's permitted."
"What's this?" I asked, pointing to a monitor and a bag of clear fluid, both of them attached to me.
"The monitor reads your heart and respiration rates. The drip is saline and some pain killer. You're going to want that," she smiled.
I put my head back and closed my eyes. I was tired and I hoped I could get a few minutes rest before the doctor arrived. No such luck.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Tyler. I'm Doctor Wyche. I was your surgeon last night."
"Last night? How long have I been here?" I asked, now completely confused.
"You were brought in just before three o'clock and we operated at eight last night. Once we had the x-rays, we knew what had to be done."
"What did you have to do?" I asked, almost frightened of what he would tell me.
"Well, your patella, that is your kneecap, was shattered and had to be removed. In addition, there was a major tear in the anterior cruciate ligament as well as a complete rupture of the lateral collateral ligament. In other words, you couldn't have done much more damage to your knee it you had tried. We spent three-and-a-half hours putting your left knee back together again. I think we've done all we could possibly do under the circumstances."
"What's that all mean ... I mean ... for the future. I'll still be able to walk?"
"Walk, yes, but running is out, so is kneeling or squatting, along with things like tennis. I suspect you will need to have total knee replacement surgery later on in your life."
It didn't sound so bad at first. I suppose I'd find out some other things that I couldn't do over time.
After the doctor left I closed my eyes again and tried to get some sleep. Once again, it didn't last very long. I was awakened by the somewhat noisy entrance of Andrea, Brandon and Candice.
"Oh good, you're awake," Andrea said, leaning down to give me a peck on my cheek.
"I am now. Hi kids, how is everybody."
"We're better now that we know you're going to recover," Andrea answered for them.
I could see some tears in Candice's eyes and Brandon looked very uncomfortable.
"I'll be okay soon," I said, not knowing when soon would be. "They're going to start my physical therapy almost right away. I'll be on crutches or a walker for a time, but that won't last forever."
I saw the beginning of a smile with Candice and I reached out to her. She took my hand and came close.
"I was so scared, Daddy. I thought you might die."
"Nah ... not me. It was just an accident. It wasn't going to kill me."
"Will they make you wear a brace, like in football?" Brandon asked.
"I don't think so. I'll just have to wait and find out."
"I'm glad you're going to be okay, Dad," Brandon said with the first smile I'd seen from him. "We were really scared when they said they had to operate on you."
"Alright kids, that's enough for now," Andrea said. "Let your father get some rest."
They nodded and withdrew as my wife leaned over and kissed my cheek again.
"I'll see you tomorrow," she said, then turned and left with the children.
I couldn't tell whether she was holding back her emotions or not, but it seemed a pretty short and unemotional visit from her. Maybe it was just me imagining it. Maybe I looked worse than I felt. On the other hand, our relationship had been cooling over the past year or so. That fiery woman I had married had evolved into a quieter, less enthusiastic person. I suppose that might be natural after almost twenty years, but I missed the "old Andrea."
My wife came to visit each day, but didn't stay long. I wasn't too surprised I guess. She didn't bring the kids because they were in school and she had things to do herself. She did get on my case for being careless and was quick to tell me I had no business being on a delivery crew at my age when I owned the business. She was probably right but I didn't enjoy the lecture. I was well aware of the consequences of my "good deed" in attempting to satisfy a customer.
I wasn't released until five days later when it was deemed I was fit to get around. I had a session scheduled at the hospital physical therapy ward each morning at ten o'clock. I was prohibited from driving since I was on a fairly strong narcotic pain medicine. I was also warned against drinking alcohol until I was weaned off the pain pills. Life was going to be quite awkward for a while. Getting around would be up to Andrea and already she was showing signs it was an inconvenience to her. Even though she had been a stay-at-home mother since Candy was born, she had things to do and places to go. I got the sense she really depended on the freedom of not being tied down.
Frankly, I'm not a very good patient. I don't like being sick or injured and I don't like being unable to look after myself. My one ambition was to get this rehab over with as soon as possible. All I had to work with at home was my cell phone and my laptop. I used crutches when I was out of the house and a walker in the house.
Before I was discharged I asked how I would go about having a shower or bath with the bulky elastic wrap I was wearing. I was told that it would be removed and waterproof clear plastic bandages would replace the conventional dressings. They would also give me some spare plastic ones to use if the ones on my knee worked loose. That was a relief since I would be able to get my leg into my pants. I had my doubts with the original wrap.
I had a checkup with my surgeon at two and four weeks and he was satisfied with my progress. I would see him again at the three and six month mark just to make sure everything was progressing as it should. After four weeks, I was discharged from the hospital physical therapy schedule and immediately took out a temporary membership in our local community exercise facility. I was doing well with my prescribed exercises and with the weight loss. I was using the facilities every weekday morning and I really felt good about my progress.
When Andrea made it known my dependence on her for transportation was becoming an annoyance, I took steps to rectify that. At first I used a taxi service which my health insurance covered provided it was for prescribed therapy. When I began to use the community exercise room, I arranged for Barry LeDane, our assistant manager, to pick me up on his way to work, then caught a ride home with one of the several club members who lived in my area. They were all quite willing to help me and I was grateful for their assistance.
Three times a week, I would catch a ride to the office to see how things were going in my absence. Barry was nominally in charge while I was out of the store but I also placed great reliance on Len Murchison, my chief accountant. He was the guardian of our funds and was an invaluable aid to me in understanding the arcane values of cash flow and inventory management. Despite his age, now over 60, he was sharp, possessed a fine sense of humor and subscribed to my mantra of giving the customer the best possible product they could afford.
Andrea seemed grateful that my demands on her time had been reduced to almost nothing. Before my accident, my regular schedule at the store was a five day work week. I would be there from Tuesday though Saturday. Sunday we were only open from noon though five pm. Although we were open seven days a week, no one worked more than forty-four hours. That meant some complicated scheduling of staff but we managed fairly well I thought.
Barry LeDane worked Monday to Friday and Sunday afternoon which gave us full coverage in my absence. Len worked a normal Monday to Friday schedule. I trusted my staff and to this point I had no reason not to. Almost all of them were long-service people, some of whom were working at Highland before I bought the store from Walter. When I looked at it critically, I thought we were a pretty happy family as small businesses go. I certainly didn't have any big worries that I carted home with me each night.
By the end of two months, I was walking without the aid of crutches or a cane. The muscles and ligaments were sore, but getting better. I had weaned myself off the pain medicine and was happy I did. I could now drive my car and have a glass of wine or a beer when I wanted one. Naturally, I was back at work full time. I was just about getting my life back to normal.
I never spent a lot of time thinking about our marriage. It seemed to go along in a straight line with few interruptions. Naturally, after nearly twenty years there was a cooling from the early passions that we both expressed. That was to be expected. I was thinking that the cooling had been a little greater in the last year or so. On the other hand, there was no sign that anything fundamental had changed in our relationship. Andrea had worked hard to preserve her looks and had succeeded magnificently. I was proud of her and proud to be her husband. Her regular exercise and attention to a healthy diet had paid dividends and her appearance belied her age.
I, on the other hand, was overweight and semi-sedentary. I tried to excuse it as a consequence of my job, but the truth was I hadn't paid attention to my fitness and it was coming back to bite me. The loss of weight while I was in hospital was the catalyst to do something and I intended to stick with it until I was back somewhere close to my proper weight and fitness.
As I mentioned, I got the feeling that we had drifted a bit from our earlier days. I didn't get the sense that she was unhappy, but neither did I get the sense that this was the life she was hoping for. I tried to talk to her about it a number of times and got nowhere. I even asked her if there was something we could do to rekindle the spark we once had. A vacation? Counseling? Each suggestion brought about either an outright rejection or even scorn.
I didn't like the way our marriage was going and I said so. That brought about a rather quick and volatile reaction.
"What do you mean you're not happy with our relationship?" she spat.
"We're not as close as we used to be. You don't seem to be very happy with me. I keep wondering what I've done to make you feel that way."
"You're imagining things, Norman. Nothing has changed except you've gained weight and lost some hair. We aren't kids any more. I don't know what you expect from me, but there's nothing wrong with our marriage. Now get that out of your head."
"Do you remember the last time we made love?" I asked carefully.
"Is that what this is about? You were in no condition to have sex after your operation. Are you sure you're fit enough now? Did your doctor give you the okay?"
"The only thing I have to be careful about is not twisting the knee when I roll over. Other than that I'm fine. In fact, I've been fine for over a month."
"Well I'm certainly not in the mood after this third degree, so you can forget about it tonight," she said, stomping off to our bedroom.
Great! I should have just kept my mouth shut and hoped for the best I suppose. Then again, keeping my mouth shut hadn't got me anything lately, so what did I have to lose? Six of one, a half-dozen of the other.
It was almost a week later before Andrea condescended to let me make love to her. It wasn't the great experience I was hoping for. I hadn't been with her since before I was injured and that was months ago. Oh, she made all the right noises and gestures but I got the feeling her heart really wasn't in it. I don't know why, it was just a feeling I had. Surely at age thirty-eight she wasn't entering menopause. I didn't know what to do about it. Any attempt at conversation would probably end up just like our last one.
It was coming around to Thanksgiving and then Christmas on the calendar. Typically this was the big season for us. We sold more TVs and home stereo and theatre systems in the three months before than we did for the six months following. I'd made sure our inventory was ready to handle the new business and worked with the local newspaper to publish a special holiday sales flyer. Our suppliers had come through as they always did with promotional discounts and feature items to put on sale.
It wasn't particularly busy one Saturday when a middle-aged couple came in to ask about a home theatre. They already had a forty-two-inch LCD flat screen TV, but they wanted to add the surround-sound. I knew from talking to them that it would be something we would have to install but, from their description, I wasn't sure what was right for their home. They needed enough room to make it effective and then there were the wiring issues.
They lived in a suburb forty minutes drive from the store. I didn't want to put them off to next week and risk losing the sale so I agreed I would come out to their house that afternoon and look it over to make sure we could match a system to their needs. They happily agreed and gave me their address. I would meet them just after one o'clock. I could afford to miss a lunch that day.
It turned out that a compact system would be more suited to their older house with smaller rooms. It wouldn't take up as much space and wouldn't overpower them either. It was also less expensive. I gave them three different suggestions and said we could give them a demonstration of each of them at the store. Again, they were happy with the service and that we weren't trying to sell them a more costly setup. I was sure we had made the sale.
It was almost three o'clock when I finished up and realized I was hungry and needed something to last me until supper time. There was a strip mall with a deli not far from the couple's home and I stopped in for a snack. I picked out a pre-made sandwich from the counter display as well as a single serving container of tomato juice and headed for a small table along the wall of the narrow shop. This would hold me for a few hours.
I had just finished the sandwich when I saw a familiar face at the counter. I hadn't seen Janice LeDane since before her divorce from Barry. That was over a year ago. I never did know the reason for the divorce and Barry was not forthcoming about it so I didn't pry. He was a valuable employee and the breakup with Janice didn't seem to have a big effect on his work.
"Hello, Janice. Nice to see you again," I said as she passed me heading for the back of the room.
"Norm ... what a surprise. It's been a long time, hasn't it? How's Andrea?"
"Fine thanks. The kids are fine too. And you? We were very sorry to hear about you and Barry."
"May I sit?" she asked. I immediately stood and held a chair for her. She had a mug of herbal tea and placed it on the table waiting for it to steep.
"We miss you guys," I continued.
She nodded. "Me too. But, it had to happen. I couldn't go on the way things were. I tried, but I couldn't handle it."
I gave her a questioning look but said nothing. If she wanted me to know more she'd tell me.
"The cheating. At first, I thought he was just going through a phase. The first time I caught him he begged me not to leave him. He promised he would never do it again. That lasted about three years. Then he fell off the wagon again. I did leave him that time. I was gone for two weeks before I let him convince me that once again he would never again cheat on me. I wanted to believe him, Norm, I really did. But ... he just couldn't keep his dick in his pants. Pardon my language. I caught him red-handed with one of our neighbors. This time there was no going back."
"I'm so sorry, Janice. I ... we ... had no idea. Barry's never said a word about it to me. I just thought it must have been some kind of amicable split. I know Andrea didn't know anything about it."
"I'm not surprised. Barry probably wasn't about to go around bragging about cheating on a wife of twelve years. I wonder now if he wasn't cheating right from the start and I just didn't catch on. That's what it does to you, Norm. You lose trust and it brings everything about your relationship into doubt."
"Yeah. I can understand that. You're living around here now?"
"Yes. I have a small apartment and my company gave me a transfer to a local branch, so that worked out well. At least Barry is on time with his alimony payments. But ... they're going to come to an end soon. I'm getting married again," she smiled, showing me a very nice ring.
"Congratulations. I hope you and your new husband will be very happy."
"I'm sure we will. He's a widower with two grown sons. I'm going to be a step-grandmother soon. How about that for an old broad who didn't have any kids?"
"He's a good guy, then?" I asked.
"Yeah. He's a great guy. I'm lucky as hell he wants me, Norm," she said, shaking her head in amazement.
We exchanged small talk for a while longer before it was time for Janice to go. We promised to stay in touch and we exchanged e-mail addresses with her promise that we would be invited to the wedding. I felt good about that.