Hi folks. Those of you who really don't like long stories should probably pass on this one. Remember when we were younger and all of the comicbooks did those double or triple suzed Christmas specials? Well that's what this is. My long corny and sometimes whimsical Christmas special. There are times when it will be very serious and other times when it will be very uhm ... Christmassy. Once again it is very long so be warned. And from The incredible Mikothebaby who edited this story while juggling her move and all of her Christmas shopping, but also from Kat and me, Merry Christmas to all of you.
Christmas has always been special to me. It's the one time of year where we can all just come together and celebrate something that's bigger than all of us. It's a time for getting together with old friends and new ones to lift a glass or just feel good about being alive. Families come together and exchange gifts and charities and the less fortunate make a large part of their yearly donations in one fell swoop.
People who would never ordinarily bother to look at that homeless man with the, "Will work for food," sign near the freeway off ramp actually roll down their windows and give him a few dollars instead of the finger.
This year, Christmas was especially great for me because of the weather. Normally here in Michigan, we start getting snow by the end of October or the middle of November at the latest. But things have changed some and for the past couple of years; Nada. If this is global warming, I'll take it.
Of course, I did have that pesky Mayan calendar thing looming over my head but shit, if the world ended, we'd all have a bad day.
Anyway, the coolest thing about the temperature shift was that I was able to drive my Mustang well into December, when normally I'd have put her up by the beginning of October. Not that I had anything against my Jeep, but my Mustang is, was and always will be my baby.
My name is Alan Taylor and I'm an investment broker. My wife, Elizabeth, is an office manager for a marketing firm. We're both twenty seven and have been married for five years. We have our lives planned out and are well on track to our goals. We both make very good money and live in a nice luxury condo.
Our life plan started out when we were in college. The plan called for me to get a job with a bank or an investment firm and for her to get a job where she could utilize her clerical and administrative skills. We'd both work until we hit our early thirties and then hopefully we'd be secure enough that we could make it on one income. Then we'd start issuing perfect children until we thought we had enough of them. After the perfect children were in college, I'd retire and we'd travel the world and see all kinds of exciting places for a few years and then come home to aid in the rearing of our nearly God-like grandchildren.
That was the way my parents did it, or at least they thought they did. And if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me. Currently, my parents were living in their winter home in Florida. Yes, my parents, who'd always claimed that they loved Michigan because of its seasons, are among those most dreaded of creatures. My parents are snow birds.
My dad decided a few years ago that he'd seen enough Michigan winters. He was tired of ass deep snow and below zero temperatures. He no longer gave a flying fuck about the crunch of fresh snow or icicles glistening on the roof and trees. He and my mom decided to say goodbye to remote car starters and snow blowers, to say nothing of the possible heart attacks that stemmed from older people shoveling heavy, wet snow on a sometimes daily basis.
They bought a second home in inland Florida away from the hurricane belt that circled the coast but still warm enough that my dad could play golf in his shirt sleeves or a light jacket at the very worst.
We were all invited down every year for Christmas, but they never intended to spend another winter in the, "God forsaken," Midwest. My mom and dad spent roughly five months each year in sunny Florida and the rest of the year here in Michigan.
So Liz and I alternated our holidays. This year it was Christmas with Elizabeth's parents and family. Liz was decked out for the holidays in a tight red sweater that made even her moderate bust look good. She had on a matching tight red skirt that came just above her knees. Her stockings and belt were elf green and she had a Santa hat perched jauntily on top of her head. Her bright red lipstick set off her green eyes and she kept blowing me kisses all the way there.
Even among family, Liz attracted a lot of attention but she stayed firmly riveted to my side. I'd brought a few of our lesser Christmas gifts to open with her parents and siblings but most of our really nice gifts were still at home under our tree.
Besides the ones that we gave each other, we both had presents from our parents and families and a smattering of smaller and sometimes joke presents from friends and co-workers.
My biggie for Liz this year was going to knock her socks off. Her parents already knew about it. I had gotten Liz another wedding ring. The one I'd bought her when we first got married means a lot to her. But back then we were struggling college students and I'd wanted to buy her a ring without parental guidance or help. I'd done the best I could, but it wasn't the ring I thought she deserved.
So my intention this Christmas was to propose to her all over again in front of her parents and our families. We were going to renew our vows and take another honeymoon cruise. I'd bagged a few of the presents from non-family members that were under our tree and brought them with me. The last one I'd give her was the new ring and I'd kept that one in my pocket.
Right after the very early Christmas dinner, which was a tradition in Elizabeth's family, we started to open the presents. The kids got to open their presents first thing in the morning. We watched them rip through their presents and run around the house screaming at each new toy they unveiled. After Christmas dinner, with the kids tired out by all of the excitement and watching a movie, the adults opened their presents.
Elizabeth's mom got a seat on the couch right in front of the tree. I could tell she was excited, especially since she'd helped me pick out the ring. Elizabeth's dad had helped me to book the cruise and we made sure that all of our accommodations were first class. Their smiles were huge and everyone was buzzing with excitement.
Elizabeth's younger sister, Sarah, opened a couple of her presents first to start things out and then her brother took over opening his. To speed things along, Elizabeth's dad started opening presents for everyone. He'd pick a person and open one of their presents and read the cards telling them who the present was from.
I could tell he wanted to speed things up so he could get to Elizabeth. He'd go through a couple of her presents and then turn things over to me.
He finally went through everyone and got to Elizabeth. He started with one of the medium sized presents that she'd gotten. It was one of those, "not available in stores," items that were only sold on TV. The, "New Wave Oven," it was called. It was some kind of induction heating system that was used for quickly cooking food without needing to heat up your entire stove.
We all laughed because I think everyone there knew that Liz couldn't cook to save her ass. She was beautiful and brilliant, but domestic skills were simply not her strong point. Liz and I always said that she couldn't make a decent meal in the kitchen but she cooked in the bedroom.
After everyone had a laugh at the present, my father in law picked up another of Elizabeth's gifts. It was a very small box that had been delivered to the condo only yesterday. It had been delivered by Fed-Ex and I'd just thrown it under the tree. Several of Elizabeth's colleagues hadn't attended their Holiday party and had shipped her presents. Liz often said that they'd waited until the last minute and bought presents after seeing what everyone else gave.
I smiled expecting to see another ill-suited present but my smile turned to horror as my father in law opened the box and pulled out a lingerie set that had only a very tiny set of thong panties and a see through bra. Everyone looked at me and started oohing and aahing. That is until my father in law read the card.
"Can't wait to see you in this and out of it while we celebrate Christmas together," it was signed John. John was Elizabeth's boss. The asshole even had the gall to write. P.S. make sure you're alone when you open this one.
Elizabeth's dad's voice trailed off as he read the card. Her mother's mouth dropped open in surprise. Her sister wondered if it was some kind of joke. Her brother put his hands over the eyes of his kids. He looked at his sister with his mouth drawn and tight.
Liz started crying and everyone looked at me. After a pregnant pause, I stood up and excused myself. I told them that I needed to take a walk and that I'd be back in a few moments. I picked up my keys on the way out and got into my car and drove away.
I didn't know how long it would take them to realize that I wouldn't be back, but I was sure that they'd all understand.
I figured that I'd need about two hours to accomplish everything I needed to do in the short run. Knowing someone makes predicting their actions easy. I knew that Liz would be very embarrassed and not want to talk to anyone for a while. Her parents, while shocked, were still her parents. So it would take them the amount of time that Liz was too embarrassed to be around people, to decide that she needed their help to get through whatever she was going through.
At the same time, they'd be worried about me, so they'd want us to all sit down and talk about it. Two years ago at Thanksgiving, Liz and I watched as her brother's marriage melted down over the dinner table. Her brother didn't have a very good job and his wife had to stay at home to take care of their kids. They weren't making enough to save anything and they needed money to put down on a house. The money problems almost ruined their marriage.
The solution had been for Elizabeth's parents to co-sign for a mortgage for Don and his wife Sally. Once the initial purchase had been made, the monthly mortgage payments were actually cheaper than what they'd been paying in rent which took away a lot of their financial stress. Don had also changed jobs since then and was making a bit more money. I somehow doubted that Elizabeth's parents would be able to come up with a solution for this one.
Somehow, in all of the chaos and shock that had ensued after the present was opened, I'd grabbed the card and the panties. I was still clutching them in my fist as I drove away. I got on the freeway and headed west. As I'd gotten on the freeway, I'd intended to go home but realized that there was someplace I needed to go first.
Elizabeth's parents lived in Grosse Pointe, which was a very well to do suburb on the east side of Detroit's suburbs. Liz and I lived in Farmington Hills, which was on the west side. My goal was an adjacent suburb, West Bloomfield. I knew the area well since my parents lived there. But I wasn't going to my parents' home.
I left the freeway at North Western Highway and took that to fourteen mile road. I made the turn off into the first subdivision and pulled up to a house in the middle of the block. There were several cars in the long circular driveway. Some were pretty expensive cars and others looked like they'd barely survived the trip.
I walked up to the doorway and knocked. I'd been here two or three times over the past few years. An older, but still beautiful woman opened the door with a dazzling smile and a hearty, "Merry Christmas."
"Oh, Hi Alan, Merry Christmas," she smiled. She reached out and gave me a hug. "Let me guess you're here to ask John if there's any way they can cancel their trip until after the holidays, right?"
"Something like that Paula," I said.
"Well good luck," she said. "He claims that it's really important and I haven't been able to budge him on it. But they'll only be gone for two days and they'll be back before New Year's Eve."
Just as she got done speaking, the form of her husband loomed. He was bigger than me but at least thirty years older. He was balding and had a gut. He greeted me with a fake smile and I wondered at that moment why I hadn't always known that it was faked. For all of the years that I' known him, I really thought that John liked me. But now I could see that it was only my wife that he liked. And he liked her a bit too much for my taste.
"Alan," he said, making the smile a bit broader and even less genuine. He extended his hand for me to shake the way he always did and I think he noticed something in my eyes.
As he reached out to take my hand, I reached out too. Only my reach was with a closed fist and it was aimed at his face. My fist barreled into John's eye and sent him sprawling on the floor. He tried to get up and I punched him again. I hit him again and again until he stopped trying to get up and then I started kicking him.
The noise brought several of his guests and surprisingly, as one of the male guests, who must have been John's son, got ready to help him, Paula pulled her son back.
John kept moaning, "I'm sorry," over and over again as I pummeled him.
When I finally stopped and looked up there were about ten people just watching me, including three children and I realized then that my anger had been far greater than I'd thought.
I also then realized that I still had the panties clutched in my hand as I'd beaten John.
"Paula, I'm sorry to ruin your Christmas," I said. I had tears running down my face and could barely talk. She didn't look confused at all, although the people behind her were.
"He gave this to Liz for Christmas," I said. I reached into my jacket and found the card.
"Well, his taste in lingerie is improving," she deadpanned. "Don't blame Elizabeth," she said. "He can be pretty persuasive. She isn't the first woman to fall for his bullshit and she probably won't be the last. She will, however, be the last to fall for it while he's married to me. I'm done. Can I keep these? And may I have the card too? I'll use them as some kind of evidence in my divorce." I nodded and handed her the card.
"Wow," she said as she read it. "He should have written the part about making sure she was alone when she opened it on the outside of the box."
"Paula, I might need to borrow them," I said. " ... Unless we use the same lawyer."
"How many times has she cheated on you?" she asked.
"This is the first time as far as I know," I said. "And I don't even know if they ever consummated their relationship, but it's enough for me. I'm done."
"You're smarter than I am," she said. "I'll give you a call and we can synchronize lawyers."
As I turned to go, I heard her talking to him. "After the last time, I made sure your suitcases were packed. I have several of your outfits and duplicates of your toiletries packed in the garage. Take a few moments to get yourself together. Stay here and I'll bring you a wet towel to wipe the blood off of your face. There's no need for you to bother coming back inside the house and ruining everyone's Christmas."
A few seconds after that, I was back in my car and heading home. I'd been expecting it since I'd left Elizabeth's parents' house. My phone rang. It wasn't Elizabeth's phone. I figured that she was too embarrassed to call or too afraid. I answered it.
"Alan, I thought you were going to take a walk," said my mother in law.
"Driving relaxes me," I said.
"Alan, Liz hasn't stopped crying since you left," she said. "She's just beside herself with worry. She went up to her old room and she hasn't come out since. She won't even open the door to let anyone in to talk to her."
"Yeah, I'm feeling pretty bad myself," I said. I was driving up the ramp to exit the freeway in my neighborhood. I hoped that she couldn't hear the changes in my engine sound over the phone. Because the speeds on the freeway were supposed to be seventy mph and I'd been doing about 90. But once I got back on the side streets, I cut it down to forty. As I pulled into the parking lot that surrounded our condo, I stopped but let the engine run. I also didn't get out of the car because I was sure that she'd be able to pick up on that.
"I sent her sister up to talk to her but to tell you the truth, Sarah isn't trying to understand Liz's feelings about this. I think that our best chance to fix this would be for you to come back and talk to her. We all want the same things for you two. And what she did was very bad, but we don't even know what she did yet."
"I know that she planned to go off and spend two days in a motel screwing her boss," I said. "And if things have gotten to the point where they're going on little vacations together then they've already probably had sex and we all know that. Have you even once heard her say that nothing happened? If they hadn't done anything yet she'd be busting her ass trying to convince me that she hadn't," I said.
"Alan, lots of couples have survived this and even worse than this," she said.
"Mom, I love you and I don't hold you responsible for Elizabeth's actions, but I just need to think for a while," I said. "I'll call you in a little bit. I promise."
"Alan, you're not driving to quickly, are you?" she asked. The tone of concern in her voice made me love her even more.
"No ma'am," I laughed. "I never drive any faster than I can see." Then I hung up and went into the condo. I started out with electronics. I moved my iPad, IPod and all of their accessories to the Mustang. I moved my laptop and packed up my desktop computer from our office. Then I moved my game system and games. I moved my blu ray player and all of my movies. I moved my toiletries and personal grooming stuff. Then I went to the covered parking area and moved my Jeep out of my slot. I pulled it over next to my Mustang. I loaded as many items of clothing as I could get into the cargo area and backseat of my Jeep. I didn't need all of those clothes but the more I took, the less chance I'd have to come back. If I could get another trip in I'd probably get all of my camping gear since I was supposed to be heading up to our cabin for a couple of days of ice fishing with my Uncle Jeff the day after tomorrow. In the worst possible scenario, I'd ask Uncle Jeff to come and get my gear.
Once I finished packing, I went two units over and knocked on the door. My neighbor Melissa answered it.
"Hi Liss," I said sadly. "I need a really big favor."
"Spill it cowboy," she said. "We just got done with dinner. Do you want to come in for a while?"
"I wanted to borrow your husband for maybe an hour," I said.
"If you can get him off of the fucking couch, he's all yours," she smiled. "Alan, you don't seem happy. You seem out of it. You're not going to do anything illegal are you? Robbie doesn't need to go to jail."
"Liss, I promise you it's not illegal," I said. She tilted her head to the side. "Look Liss, Liz and I are breaking up. I'm just packing my stuff and moving out. I need someone to drive one of my cars because I can't drive them both at the same time."
"Does Liz know that you're moving out?" she asked.
"She probably has a good idea of it," I said.
"Is this about Christmas?" she asked. "Are you guys arguing about presents?"
"Nope, this isn't about Christmas," I said. "But in a way, I guess the presents; one in particular had something to do with it."
"So this will probably blow over in a couple of days and you'll just have to move back," she said. "I don't know how you could be heartless enough to move out on the poor girl on Christmas day anyway. That's just not like you Alan."
"Liss, I found out in front of her parents that Liz is doing something that I just don't agree with. This won't blow over and we're probably going to get a divorce. Now is that enough gossip or do I have to tell you all of the details?" I asked.
"I'm really sorry Alan," she said. "It's just that I thought that maybe I could help. Shit, you and Liz are the only couple, besides us, who live around here that are under a hundred. You guys are our only friends."
"And we're still friends," I said. "You'll just have to drive a little further to come and visit me."
Robbie drove my jeep and followed me. During the trip to my parents', house my phone rang again. This time it was my father in law.
"Alan, do you know what time you'll be coming back?" he asked.
"Uhm, let me check," I said. "Holy Shit, I'm almost to Lansing. It's going to take me about an hour to seventy five minutes to make it back if I turned around now."
"Well, turn around now," he said. "I had to take Elizabeth's door off of the hinges to get to her. She's talking with her mother now. They're drinking some of that shitty stuff that passes for tea. Her mom is trying to calm her down. Having you come back here and talk to her before you guys go home would do wonders for her."
"What's going to do wonders for me?" I asked.
"Don't you start too Alan," he said. "You're the man here. We men are supposed to be tough and make sacrifices for our families. So you just shake it off and get back here. Seriously Alan, we all know how much you love her. You two can work this out. And the first step in that process is that you come back here and talk to her."
"What are we going to talk about?" I asked.
"Whatever it take to fix this, son," he said.
"So it's going to be a sci-fi talk, huh?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"The only thing that could fix this is a time machine," I said. Then I hung up the phone. I realized thought that we did need to talk. So I kept driving towards my parents' house. Once we got there, we unloaded everything and I put my Mustang in the garage next to my mom's car. They'd driven my dad's Cadillac down to Florida.
I thanked Robbie for the help and then we drove back to the condo. I packed all of my camping gear that I'd need for the ice fishing trip and then loaded the Jeep with everything else that I could find that I wanted. I drove back to my parents' house alone this time and unloaded it. Then I got back on the freeway and headed back to talk to Elizabeth.
I could hear the sound of my mom and dad trying to convince my sister to be more supportive through the open doorway. It made me wish that I'd opened the door in the first place so my dad didn't take it off of the hinges.
"Jeezus Sarah, the least you to do would be to offer a kind word or two," said my dad. "She is your sister after all."
"Dad, you must have rocks in your head," spat Sarah. "Do you know how bad it is to be a young single woman out there now? I meet nothing but assholes and broken toys. They all act like there's something wrong with ME. And when you do meet a nice guy, most of them don't want a relationship with you because they're afraid of exactly what happened to Alan. They all have commitment issues because some slut did them wrong. That's how most of them got damaged in the first place."
"But that didn't happen to Elizabeth; nope ... not our Liz. She's special. She goes to college and comes home after a couple of weeks with the sweetest kindest man I've ever met; except for you, Daddy. Look at what he was trying to do for her for Christmas? Look at how much money he spent on the ring. And the cruise. It's the most romantic thing I've ever heard of and he was going to waste it all on a whore."
"Sarah, I will not have you talk about your sister like that," snapped my father.
"Daddy, I applied for a job at Elizabeth's firm," said Sarah. "Have you ever seen her boss? He's almost as old as you are, and he's fat and losing his hair. The only thing he has to offer her is money. And woman who screw for money are..."
I wondered what they were talking about. What ring, what cruise, I had no idea about any of this. I pushed myself off of my bed and walked down the stairs and back into the living room. I felt my brother's gaze on me. His mouth was drawn and tight and from the way he looked at me and shook his head, I knew that he wasn't on my side.
"What ring?" I asked. Sarah rolled her eyes at me and before my dad could stop her she grabbed her purse and headed for the door. My brother decided that was a great time to leave too. He grabbed his wife and their kids and hugged my mom goodbye before bundling up their kids and making their escape.
At that moment, I was the world's best magician. I'd discovered my ability to make others disappear. If only I could do that to myself. Growing up, my siblings and I had our ups and downs but since we'd all grown up and were out of the house, we'd become closer. Today's incident seemed to have set us back years.
"What ring?" I asked again.
"Alan got you another wedding ring," said my mom. "He was going to ask you to marry him all over again. Then you guys were going on a cruise as a second honeymoon."
Even as my mom looked away from me, I started to cry all over again. My mother took me in her arms and rocked me until the tears stopped.
"He really loves you Lizzie," she said. "You'll get through this."
"He's on his way back now," said my dad. "Elizabeth, I really need to know the answer to one thing though."
I sat up and let go of my mother and looked at my dad.
"How bad is this? What exactly did you do and more to the point..." he looked at me as if he was still a news man and he was interviewing a witness for an article. " ... Why?" he asked. "You have the perfect marriage to a really great guy. Why would you fuck that up and how far has this gone?"
I was saved from having to answer by the sound of my cell phone ringing. I looked at the screen and breathed out as I noticed that it wasn't Alan. In fact, I realized with dread that it was the only person I could think of other than my husband that I didn't want to speak to.
"Liz," said John's voice out of my phone. He sounded strange. He sounded as if he was having trouble talking.
"Hello," I said tentatively.
"He knows, Liz," he said. "He's already been here."
"What do you mean he's been there?" I asked. "Were you alone?"
"No such luck," said John. "My entire family was here. He beat me to a pulp in front of my wife, my kids, my grandkids and a few friends."
"He ruined your Christmas?" I asked.
"Fuck Christmas," he said. "He ruined my life. Paula wants a divorce. She kicked me out of the house and I'm sure that by now my kids know what a jackass she thinks I am. He and Paula stood over me, while I lay there bruised, bloodied and beaten and actually compared notes and talked about the possibility of sharing a divorce lawyer."
"Did you say divorce lawyer?" I asked.
"That's what they were talking about," he said. At that point, my dad snatched the phone out of my hands and started cursing at John and threatening him. I guess John hung up because my dad handed me the phone back and the line had been cut off.
Things were far worse than I'd ever expected. There was no way I was going to be able to face Alan now. Paula was a pussycat. The woman believed in family first and foremost. On the other hand, my husband was famous for telling his clients that when things weren't working for them, it was time to cut them loose. He often told them that it was stupid to fall in love with any investment or any company. They should only fall in love with the money that company made for them. When the profits dropped, they should likewise drop the company from their portfolio.
I wondered if Alan would be able to drop me like a non performing investment. God knows I've given him no reason not to.
As I waited for Alan to come back, my parents nervously flitted around the house. It was strangely uncomfortable for them to be in the same room with me. But at the same time, they didn't want to be seen as being unsupportive, so they continued to come in and out of the room.
I tried to think about what I was going to say to him. What exactly do you say to your spouse when you've been caught cheating on them. I guess denial came to mind first, but that was already impossible. I didn't even know what my next step should be. How much should I tell him? The problem there was, that just from listening in on his conversations with my mom and dad and my brief conversation with John, hadn't yielded a lot of information either. All he'd said was that Alan knew. He wasn't specific. Did Alan know how long things with John had gone on? Did Alan know whether or not we'd had sex? Or did he only know that we'd been about to go away for two days?
Should I be totally honest with him and tell him everything, or should I just confirm the things he already knew in the hope of not hurting him further? It just seemed to me like everything in my life was falling apart and for no reason. I'd been having some issues with my life, but my marriage was the one bright spot in my existence. Why should I have to risk losing that?
"Have you figured out what you're going to say to him yet?" asked my dad.
"No Daddy, I have no idea," I said.
"I don't think he's coming honey," he said. "I hate to think about him out there driving around alone in that car in the mood he's in. He loves you a lot you know. I hope he doesn't do something stupid."
"You mean like showing up at John's house and beating the hell out of him in front of his family on Christmas?" I asked.
"Well, that was understandable," said my dad smiling. "I'm glad he did it so I don't have to." I looked at my dad curiously.
"Why does it seem like you think Alan acting like a cave man is a good thing?" I asked.
"Elizabeth, if Alan didn't still care about you, he wouldn't have been so upset. If he'd just let the whole thing slide it would have meant that you and your marriage weren't that important to him. The way that he reacted said that someone, namely that asshole boss of yours, did something to threaten something he cherished. And he made John pay for that. Maybe after he cools down, you guys can talk about it. I need you to know that this is not going to go away overnight. Alan will probably never forget what happened. It's going to take a long time for you to regain his trust if you ever can."
"Elizabeth, there's something else that you should know," he said slowly. "You're my daughter and I love you. I will stand beside you on this or anything else that happens to you because of that, but you're wrong as hell on this. You may have ruined your life and for no good reason that I can see."
Anger flooded me and I lashed out. "Daddy, do you know what my life is like?" I snapped. "Do you even begin to know what I go through on a daily basis? Don't judge me until you walk a mile in my shoes."
He just looked at me. I think that was one of those moments when he realized that I was a grown woman and not just his little girl.
"I've been to your office," he said. "I've seen what you do on a daily basis. They call you an office manager and you have a college degree. What you really are is a glorified secretary. In my day, most women could do that job with just a high school diploma. Unlike the good secretaries though, you don't have to prepare documents or write papers. You don't have to schedule calls or appointments. Shit, all you do is order supplies and give out schedules to make sure that the people who do the real work keep to a schedule. They have a manager for everything these days, don't they?"
"They actually have more managers than they have departments in some places. When you come home, what do you do Liz? You and Alan have one of those modern marriages where you share the house keeping. You have a cleaning lady who comes in a couple of times a week and from what I've seen she does most of your home cooking. She cooks a couple of meals and puts them in your refrigerator. You and Alan warm them up at dinner time. On the weekends you eat out or you grill."
"By your rules, your cleaning lady should be called your household manager, right? She should have a college degree and probably make three or four times what you pay her. You make pretty decent money for what you do, Liz. Alan gets paid pretty well too though. The two of you have never had to struggle during your lifetime. You're both from very good, relatively well-off families. You've never had to wonder where your next meal was coming from."
"The majority of the people you work with are women, Elizabeth. I do know that the creative people at your agency and the sales people and the account reps, all use the secretaries and stenos that you manage, but you don't have very much interaction with them. So you don't have a lot of temptation on the job. In fact, when I look at you young lady, your biggest problem seems to be that you don't have any fucking problems."
"Your husband on the other hand, I got to see him on the job a lot recently. I had to visit his office several times while we arranged this cruise. Elizabeth, has Alan ever talked to you about the pressure he's under at work?"
"Dad, he doesn't have any more on the job pressure than I do," I spat. "And he makes a lot more than I do."
He shook his head. "He just doesn't let you see it," he said. "That place is always busy. Their executives are constantly under pressure to bring in more accounts and to manage the ones they have more efficiently. If the market reacts in a certain way and a client loses money, he can simply ask for another account manager. Alan has to be able to balance entire portfolios for an untold amount of people. He has to make each and every one of those people feel like they're his most important client. Every day, billions of dollars go across his desk and he doesn't make anywhere near what a lot of those people have."
"There are literally hundreds of attractive young women running around that place all day long. I kind of wondered about it once or twice, so I asked. While I was waiting to be shown to Alan's office once, I asked one of the girls who brings coffee to people in the waiting room if there was a lot of flirting going in in that place. She just grinned at me and I could tell that meant there was."
"I saw Alan coming across the floor and asked the girl, "What about him?" She took one look at Alan and laughed at me. She told me that he was probably the least likely guy in the whole place to mess around. She even told me a few things to look out for. She told me that most of the girls there knew that Alan loved you and would probably never do anything like that. She told me that a good way to tell was the office. Men who were likely to cheat all had pictures of their wives in the office. A good way to tell if they were possible cheaters was where those pictures of their wife were placed in the office."
"By her theory, men who were less likely to cheat had the picture of their wife on their desk where they saw it often. If the pictures were on a shelf that was further away from the desk, they were more likely to cheat. If the picture was mounted on a wall; especially if it was mounted in a way that it could quickly be turned around, they were probably already cheating. She also told me that the size of the pictures factored in. The bigger the picture the less likely a man was to cheat."
"I kept all of that in mind when I went to Alan's office," he said. "Do you know that beside the fact that most of the women there know that your husband isn't likely to cheat on you, it's pretty obvious when you walk into his office."
I dropped my head then and started crying all over again. I'd been to Alan's office more times than I could even think about.
"Yeah," my dad said. "Alan has four pictures of you in his office at least. He has three of them on his desk and they're all big pictures. Elizabeth, did you ever notice that he has a picture of you on the door in his bathroom. I couldn't figure that one out at first. I just imagined him sitting there taking a dump with you looking at him and it grossed me out. Then I realized something."
"All of that pressure that he's under. All of that Sell, Sell, Sell, stuff. He needs the pictures of you to remind him of why he does it in the first place. So when all of those other guys, including your boss, might seek a distraction by screwing some bimbo at the office, your husband had his priorities straight."
We just stared at each other as the tears fell down my face. My dad looked at his watch.
"Elizabeth, it's after eight o clock. We've been expecting Alan since six. Do you want me to take you home?" he asked.
"I'll stay here," I said. "This is where he's going to come anyway, right?"
"Liz, Honey, I don't think he's coming," he said. "And let's look at this using the worst case scenario. You not going home could be considered as you leaving the marital home. That would give Alan the condo until the court could reach a decision on who got it."
"Daddy, what are you talking about?" I asked.
"I've seen a lot of divorces, Honey," he said. "Even in the easy ones, there are problems and conflicts. I've seen too many reasonable people get caught up and end up spending thousands of dollars in legal fees to settle who gets a really ugly coffee table that neither of them really wants. You just get pushed to the point where you dig in and argue over everything. And in a lot of those cases, you're not really arguing over the item. You're really arguing over your self-respect. You just feel like if you give in even one more time, you're giving up your soul."
"How exactly do you think Alan is going to feel about all of this? The woman he planned on living the rest of his God damned life with is going away on vacations with her boss. How much pride do you think he has right now? I mean, you're sitting here crying and wishing he'd never found out, but you did it. You caused all of this Elizabeth. You made a decision to do something, for whatever reasons they were, that affected not only your life and future but his as well. For the life of me, I just don't see it. Alan is younger and in better shape than your boss. He looks better, I guess. He clearly loves only you and your boss is some kind of horn dog. Alan makes more money than your boss does too. I just can't figure out why this even happened. All I can do is help you get ready for the fallout. So if you don't want to get kicked out of your condo, you need to go home. If Alan does end up here, we'll tell him that you went home."
I went and said goodbye to my mom. My dad and I got into his Lincoln MKZ and he drove me home.