At some level, the problem was probably brewing from the very beginning. We met in college. It was the summer before my junior year. I was at a house party thrown by a bunch of friends. I was buzzed, not drunk, when this group of girls and guys I didn't recognize showed up. I checked out the girls-all three were pretty, not totally hot or anything, but nice. My friend Jeff, one of the guys living at the house, greeted the group warmly. Turns out, he had gone to high school with a couple of the guys-I guess I had met them before, I just didn't remember. The three girls were friends of theirs from college (a different college than ours, in the same metropolitan area). They were all from the area, as well.
I noticed this one nice-looking brunette cast her gaze at me a few times. Figuring that was enough of a come-on for me to approach her, I did. I introduced myself, she did the same, and I offered to buy her a beer. Since it was a kegger and the beers were free, it was a somewhat lame, yet tried-and-true ice-breaker. It worked predictably, and so the slow dance of party seduction began. She was very cute of face (I've always been a sucker for a cute face), with nice, thick medium-length brown hair. Her body was a little squat for my taste. Not fat, not even chubby. Probably 5'2 and 120-125 lbs. Rather petite, in fact. It's just that her boobs were quite small, and her upper body was petite, so the weight was primarily in legs and ass that, while still acceptably proportional, were showing the thickening of four years or so of college food and beer consumption.
Anyway, we got to talking, and drinking, and I learned enough to know I was clear: she didn't have a boyfriend, wasn't seeing anyone seriously. One of the guys she came with gave me a few irritated glances, but I learned from Julie (that's her name) that while she had known her for a while, and they had dated a few times, it wasn't serious. If he thought they were dates for the party, she sure didn't. He came by a couple of times when I was away from Julie, and kind of lingered around for a while a couple of times, but her attention was fully on me, and he soon got the hint. No major drama.
Before the night was too far along, I was making out with her on the love-seat in the second-floor living room. I got to second base, over her thin shirt and thickly-padded bra, and had a handful of her still-just-firm-enough-to-call-tight ass. She didn't grab my package, but ran her hands all over my shoulders, chest and (at that time still flat) belly. She could really kiss! I got plenty hot. Her actions were totally receptive to what I was doing, but firm in limiting the encounter to that level of intimacy. I'm not a dick, so I didn't push it. Instead, I enjoyed the hell out of what was allowed. Too much, in fact. I had fucking chapped lips for days afterwards.
Before she left with her friends, she gave me her number. I promised I would call her. She told me she was really looking forward to seeing me again; jokingly adding that she hoped that I would shave my goatee before we went out again.
I continued partying, stumbling back to my apartment down the block sometime in the early morning hours to sleep it off. I woke in the afternoon the next day (a Sunday), and had to haul ass back to my parent's house for some family gathering or another. I had a couple of bloody mary's at my folk's house, along with a few aspirin, and that seemed to take the edge off the hangover. I got home that evening in time to watch the Simpson's and then pass out. I made it through work on Monday, and thought to give Julie a call.
I really hadn't been doing much dating that summer. I had broken up with my girlfriend of almost two years, Maria, in February of that year. Well, she dumped me, actually. I hooked up with her mid-way through my freshman year of college. She wasn't my first, but she might have well have been. I had dated several girls in high school, hooked up with even more at parties and whatnot. I had even gotten lucky with two girls (one girl-my first-only once; the other five times over the course of my senior year-a friend with benefits type of thing). I fucked a couple of girls at the beginning of my freshman year, and then met Maria.
Maria was a really pretty girl with an olive complexion and a petite, yet curvy body. She and I met at a holiday party. She was a senior in high school at the time, but had a maturity about her. The spark was instantaneous. However, she was very slow in terms of physical intimacy. I didn't mind. We went out several times with me getting kisses good night, before I finally got into the heavy make-out phase. Before we even got to that point, she made it clear that we had to be exclusive. I agreed readily.
Maria wasn't a virgin when we met. She had a boyfriend during her junior year of high school-a college guy. He made all sorts of promises of love and commitment, and took her out and impressed her with his car and expensive dinners and the like. It took him a couple of months to get her into bed, and then the dinners and expensive dates began to slack off. She didn't mind, she was in love. Then, he started being a little distant, except when he wanted sex, of course. She stuck it out for another several months, making excuses to herself and any of her friends who expressed concern because she had convinced herself that he was 'the one.' He still said all the loving things when he cared to spend time with her and get into her pants, but the flowers, cards, nightly phone calls and dates (other than picking her up to go to his apartment to screw) basically came to an end. It took a toll on Maria emotionally and damaged her self-esteem. He started avoiding her phone calls, breaking dates, and was unaccounted-for several times during weekends. Her friends told her he was running around on her. She wouldn't believe it. He never got physically abusive, but he would manipulate her emotionally, turning every concern she had back on her-bullying her into accepting an increasingly unacceptable situation. Somewhere along the line, a condom failed (she wasn't on the pill-she was too embarrassed to get a prescription), and she would up pregnant. She told her boyfriend, and he basically disappeared. Maria is a Catholic girl-maybe not a strict enough one to avoid pre-marital sex, but enough of one to have serious problems with abortion. She finally broke down and confessed to her mother that she was pregnant. Her mom took her to a doctor. Tests were done and it was discovered that it was an ectopic pregnancy-to carry the baby to term would kill mother and child. So, Maria had a medically-necessary abortion. The whole experience shook Maria. She didn't date for about nine months after that-when she met me.
I would say that I grew to love Maria. She was great-beautiful, fun, kind, loving, great family, smart, tough, and like I said, she had a maturity that exceeded my own-born out of some hard knocks. We were together for two years. I actually took her to her senior prom, and we made love for the first time that night, when we spent the night in a hotel. I used a condom, but she was also on the pill-we weren't taking any chances. The following fall, she moved into student housing at a nearby community college, and we started spending the night at each other's dorms semi-regularly. We were close, but didn't smother each other. We talked, at least briefly, nearly every evening or night. We got together at least one night every weekend; usually staying at one or the other's dorm for the night (thankfully, we both had private bedrooms at our dorms). Sometimes, we would go to a party together (we were too young for the bars-although I had a fake ID (she didn't)), other times we would go out together or just hand in and watch a movie or whatever. Sometimes, we would make a day out of it. More often than not, we would get together at some point during the week-a night at the movies, a lunch date, or just hang out and watch some TV or do homework together. Nothing stifling, but we made sure we spent plenty of time together. The sex was good, and only got better. We didn't do anything too crazy-missionary position was our preferred method-but we got good at getting each other off orally, and we made the most of our times together. So, after two years of increased emotional intimacy with a girl I loved, and two years of an average of two lengthy sex sessions a week, I went ahead and blew it. For fucking nothing.
I was at a campus party the week before Valentines, Maria wasn't there. The party was at a house out in the suburbs. I didn't know the hosts-a couple of girls who rented the house and were friends of friends. Anyway, this one girl was hot-blond, blue-eyed, tall, thin honey. For whatever reason, she took a liking to me. I don't know why. I wasn't that good looking of a guy-average face, I guess, 6'0 tall, 195 lbs., muscular but not huge and not ripped (I was pretty ripped out of high school as a 180 lbs. linebacker, but the extra 15 lbs settled mainly in my belly, and I didn't work out nearly as much). But, I was, and am, smart and funny. Sometimes, I can turn on the charm. Knowingly or not, I was that night, I guess. Blondie noticed, and liked what she saw. Maybe it had something to do with the confidence I had in not caring about hooking up with anyone. Girls do seem to get off on that sometimes-they see my lack of interest as a kind of challenge. Anyway, she obviously warmed up to me. As the night wore on, and as my drinking increased, my inhibitions lowered. Later, a few of us were outside on the deck smoking some grass. Blondie came into our closely-huddled circle (it was cold outside) and asked for a toke. I gave her the jay, and she hit it. Back inside, I noticed the party was breaking up, but there were still several people there, including the dudes I came with. We drank some more and played a stupid game of suck-and-blow, where you sit in a circle boy-girl-boy-girl style, and pass a playing card around using only the suction you create with your mouth. If the card falls-because you, as the passer, stop sucking and start blowing before the next person gets her mouth on the card to start sucking, you basically end up kissing each other. And you have to take a drink. That's the game. Anyway, Blondie took a seat and pulled me next to her. It seems like every time we tried to pass the card, we failed and we kissed. I pulled back; despite being drunk and high, I didn't want to cheat on Maria. Again, I think this only motivated Blondie more. A little later, I was out having some more pot, and Blondie followed me. The other guys in the circle went inside. I was going to follow them, but Blondie asked me to stay and keep her company while she had a toke or two. I did. On her second drag, she grabbed me behind the head and kissed me, exhaling the smoke into my lungs. That turned into an intense tongue-kiss. Next thing you know, we end up back in her bedroom. We fucked. It was fine. I was really high and drunk-which can be a fun state to fuck in. And, I think she was technically a good fuck. She sucked my prick in a really aggressive and sexy fashion-enough to get me stone-hard. And, after putting a condom on me, she hopped on top and gave me a ride. She was really good, shifting into three or four positions, all on top, a couple Maria and I had never done before. Like I said, she was good, and she was hot-in a different way than Maria. And, I came. Afterwards, she tried to cuddle with me, but I just wanted to get away. After a suitable amount of time, I got up, got dressed, and went to the bathroom. I stopped back into the room and said I had to go. I went out and found my friends with the other roommate at the kitchen table-everyone else was gone. Sly looks greeted me. I told them it was time to go. My buddy Doug was the driver and was mostly sober. He drove us home.
The next day, I felt like shit. I spoke with Maria, and I was paranoid that she would detect something in my voice-namely guilt. She didn't seem to act unusual, however. I thought that this might pass without my having to admit what I did. I prayed that it would. I promised God I would never do it again.
I spoke with Maria again the next day, and I confirmed that I had made plans for dinner on Valentine's Day. Everything seemed okay, and I began to relax.
The next day, I tried calling Maria, but she didn't answer. No big deal, sometimes we miss each other. I left a message to let her know that I had called and that I loved her.
I didn't get a return call the next day. I called again, left another message.
I didn't get a return call the next day. I called again, left another message, asking her to call and leave a message to at least let me know she was okay and getting my messages. Since we started going exclusive, we hadn't missed three straight days of calls unless one of us was out of town-even then, it was usually only a couple of days without a call.
The next day, I had a message from Maria. Her voice sounded hallow, kind of shaky. "William-its Maria. Call me tonight when you get this."
I called her immediately. She answered, and in response to my inquiries as to her well-being she simply said, "Is it true?"
"Is what true, babe?"
"Don't make me say it. Just tell me, is it true?"
"What are you talking about, Maria?" A cold chill ran up my spine.
"The party last weekend?..." Oh, shit.
"Yes, what about it?" My voice was trembling.
"Shelly knows Joanne-they went to high school together." Shelly was Maria's best friend in a dorm-a really nice girl who lived two doors down.
"The red-headed girl who lives at the house where your party was."
"Oh." The silence was deafening.
"So, it's true." Her voice cracked into a sob. My panic was giving way to an immense sadness for the pain that Maria was obviously experiencing.
"Yes. It is."
"How COULD YOU!?!?" I could hear the pain and anger over the phone.
"I don't know." I was crying now.
"I was drunk, and high." I continued, lamely.
"Not good enough." Between sobs.
"I'm sorry. I'm really truly sorry."
"Not good enough."
"What can I do?"
"I don't know."
"I love you."
"I love you, too. But I hate you right now, too."
"Please baby! Give me a chance." I pleaded.
"You already had one, William, and you just blew it."
"Please Maria. Please ... don't ... do ... this." I begged.
"I didn't do this. YOU did."
"It didn't mean anything. It never happened before, it will never happen again."
"I'm sorry William. I've thought about this for three days after hearing about this. I've already decided what to do. It's over. Don't ever call me again."
"PLEASE MARIA!" Click.
Cards, emails, phone calls, voice mails, flowers, all unreturned. After a month, I mostly gave up. She had made her choice. I put it all out there, as honestly as I could. If she bothered to listen or read my apologies, promises and explanations, it didn't make a difference to her. I had blown it. A few drunk-dials over the next couple of months didn't do much for my dignity, but then those stopped, too. I was depressed.
I told my family what happened, the short but truthful version. There was no way I could sweep the breakup under the rug. My parents didn't make it much easier on me-they loved Maria, but they saw I was suffering, and were as supportive as they could be while still reminding me that I had screwed up. My dad, a man of few words and strong convictions, said: "You screwed up big time, son. She was a great girl. Would have made a wonderful wife. I hope you learned your lesson." My mom cried. Then she hugged me. Then she went into guilt trip mode "I thought I had raised you better than to do something like that." Then she made me a pan of chocolate chip bars. And so on. My older sisters were actually more supportive. Anne, my oldest sister with whom I had always been close, took me out and got me drunk, listened to me spill my guts, and gave me a shoulder to cry on. When Mary, the sister closest to me in age, but with whom I had always had conflict, found out, she called me. "Well, Willie, you really fucked up, didn't you? What an idiot! When can I stop by and tell you just how stupid you are?" I told her I didn't need that, I already knew I fucked up. But, she insisted, and I made a lunch date with her for later in the week. She showed up, saw the despair in my face, and then threw her arms around me in a big hug. After that, we had lunch. She picked up the tab. She told me to call her if I needed anything. Except money. I laughed. That marked a turning point in our relationship-we became much closer. That was one of two positives that came out of my fuck-up. The other positive was that I had at least learned a lesson-a lesson learned only after inflicting too much pain, on me (deserved) and on Maria (completely undeserved) but a lesson I would not forget. I would never cheat again. I would prove that 'once a cheater, always a cheater' was pure bullshit. The guilt I would nevertheless carry for a long time.
I moved on with my life-focusing on school and work, but I wasn't ready to start dating again.
Until I met Julie. I was 8 months post-breakup with Maria, and Julie was coming at just the right time. In retrospect, I probably should have dated around more. That said, Julie and I didn't become exclusive right away. I called her that Monday after we met, and we set a date for that Friday.
I picked her up at her apartment, a really nice high-rise in downtown (Julie was a couple years older than me, with a good entry-level job in marketing). I had shaved my goatee. I sometimes wonder if that was a mistake. I didn't shave it because she had asked me to. Really. Well, maybe it was a spur for me, but I was planning on shaving it anyway. I never was really able to grow much in the way of facial hair. It has always been sparse and patchy. The moustache is an embarrassment, the sideburns feature a 1/4 inch gap from my hairline over the ear, and the cheeks are virtually hair-free. There is a 1/2 inch gap between the sad excuse for a moustache and my chin hair. I was always clean-shaven when I went out with Maria. After we broke up, I just sometimes let it grow, despite how gnarly it got. I don't know why-but not worrying about impressing some girl was certainly part of it. Anyway, I usually would let it grow for a week or two, then shave it. The idea of actually going out on a proper date was enough for me to shave it, anyway; despite what Julie had requested. Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder if I set a bad precedent by seemingly caving in to her first demand/request.
I took Julie to a nice little Chinese restaurant in the city that I knew of-it was kind of a hole-in-the-wall, but it was nicely appointed and had superior food at a reasonable price (important to a poor college kid). I remembered from our conversation at the party that she liked Chinese food. She was suitably impressed with my choice. We had fun. We had several things in common-both of us grew up in upper-middle/middle-income suburbs in the metro area (her's a little more upper-middle than mine), we both liked similar movies (a big plus for me-I love movies), we both enjoyed a wide variety of ethnic foods and eating out, and we both had a rather juvenile sense of humor. After dinner, at her suggestion, we went to a little wine-bar near her apartment. Not really my style-a lot of young professional types, and I was still a college kid, but it was fine. After a couple drinks, I walked her back to her apartment. She invited me in, and we had a great make-out session. No farther than that, though. I said goodnight, and went home.
I went out on a few more dates with Julie, and continued to have a good time. School started up a few weeks later, and I had a new outlook on life. I was done mourning Maria (well, mostly-I still thought about her sometimes, especially at night when I was trying to go to sleep; I'm not ashamed to say that I sometimes realized that I was crying into my pillow-much to my surprise), and was ready to move forward with my life.
As I've already made clear, I'm not, and have never been a heartthrob, but I've always been a descent looking guy, with a pretty nice physique, and I've tended to dress and groom myself in a reasonably stylish manner-at least I've never gone out smelling bad, with unwashed body or hair. Plus, my intelligence and humor have usually been something of an attraction for women (at least for women who aren't stupid). Nevertheless, it was something of a surprise to me when school started when I realized that I was attracting a fair amount of attention from girls at school. I suppose word was out that I was single (it was a small, private college), and I might have had newfound air of confidence about me (missing since Maria had dumped me), but whatever it was-it became clear to me that girls were interested. So, I started dating a few. I was still seeing Julie, but I had made no commitment to her-hell, we hadn't even slept together, yet. I even hooked up with a couple of girls at parties the first two weeks of school. I had a smart and pretty girl I had known since freshman year come right out and tell me that she had had a sex dream about me the night before one day after class. I took her out the next weekend, and she had me in her dorm and naked before I knew what was happening to me. I had another, kind of slutty girl ask ME out. I went out with her, thinking I was going to pop my cork for the second time in a week, but she turned out to be boyfriend hunting-something I wasn't ready for.
Anyway, Julie showed up at a college bar that I was at one night. I had previously declined an invite to her work party that night because I wanted to attend the big school year kick-off beer bust the bar was hosting that night with my friends. I invited her to attend with me, but she begged off, saying her work party was too important. She seemed a little put-off with my declining to attend her work party with her, but didn't say anything directly about it.
Anyway, she showed up around midnight, solo. She looked fantastic in her little black dress. I was at a table near the entrance when we saw each other. There were a few others at the table, but a girl was obviously flirting with me-and Julie saw it. She came right up to me. She didn't make a scene, but she shot daggers at the girl talking to me. The girl felt the heat, and thankfully, a friend of hers called out to her (something about doing a shot) and she beat a retreat.
"So, is that the girl you were blowing me off for?" She said, ending her sentence in a preposition.
"Really?" I said, tilting my head at her, stone-faced.
She met my gaze steadily. "Okay, well if that's how you want this, that's fine. I just thought ... I'm going to go, this was a mistake." She turned to leave.
I should have let her walk out. After all, I hadn't done anything wrong. We weren't exclusive. Nothing in what I had ever done or said would have led a reasonable person (even one who happens to be a woman) think otherwise. If anything, she was the one who acted unreasonably jealous and inappropriate. I think she even realized that, although she obviously didn't realize yet that she was acting immature to beat a hasty retreat like that. I should have let her go, and waited for her to call me later. If she apologized and wanted to talk like grown-ups, I would have been willing to keep seeing her. For sure I would have-I really liked her, actually.
But, instead I did a dumb thing. I chased after her. Why? I didn't really know at the time-I didn't think about it, I just reacted. With 20/20 hindsight, I guess it might have been because I knew that, right or wrong, she felt betrayed at some level. And, I was very sensitive to how she must have felt, given what I had done to Maria. In addition, I knew that Julie had been involved with a guy before me who was really controlling and who cheated on her, repeatedly. She had told me all of that, and maybe I wanted to show her that not all guys were like that. Maybe I was trying to prove to myself that I wasn't like that. But, whatever the case was, I went to her, grabbed her hand, and told her that I was sorry. For what? Who knows? But I said it. Then, I asked if she wanted to go somewhere with me.
So, I abandoned my plans with friends to make up for doing nothing wrong to a girl who I wasn't dating exclusively, who barged in on my plans and acted inappropriately. I didn't think of it in those terms at that time, in fact not for many years-and I doubt she did, either. But, I can't help but think that it set a pattern for our relationship for years to come.
Oh, yeah. That night ended up with us in bed and having sex with each other for the first time. And, that cemented us as exclusive.
No conversation led to that conclusion, it just sort of became a fact. And, I really had no complaints. We had a good, if at some fundamental level unfair, relationship. I wasn't a complete pushover, but somehow, when push came to shove, I seemed to be the one to cave. Her social calendar increasingly took precedence. One thing I controlled was sex. She was for it, of course, nearly all the time when we got together-which was awesome. She was more sexual than Maria was in that sense. She really liked to fuck. And, she was good at it. She had what Prince called 'pussy control.' Her body was fun-small up top, a little big on the bottom, but she could use it. The ass was off-limits, at first. But, at much urging, and after acquiescing to a few requests of her in re: going to some events or others and skipping my plans, she gave in. I took it slow-neither of us had ever done it before, but I had seen it in porno, and read up how to do it. In the end (pun intended), we both enjoyed it. It became an occasional, but not too infrequent, sexual practice for us.
She got on me to begin my job search for after college. I was an economics and marketing major, but had been giving serious thought to officer's training school. I had received an appointment to West Point in high school-but had turned it down after getting a full-ride scholarship to my college. I wanted the traditional college experience. But, I always had it in the back of my head that I wanted to be a United States Army officer. Julie urged me to give that up. We were getting serious, and she didn't want me to go off to officer's training and who-knows-where once I was a commissioned officer. I reluctantly agreed. Truth be told, I was really enjoying my time with Julie, and I was falling in love with her. I didn't want to be separated from her.
At her urging, I kept going to a number of her work parties, meeting her co-workers and bosses, and she would forever talk me up to them. I started dressing more "grown-up," especially when we went out with her work friends (with whom I was spending more and more time). Next thing I knew, I had an offer to start with her company when I graduated. I accepted.
My parents and sisters liked Julie, but I never got the sense that they really loved her. Nevertheless, they liked that she seemed to be helping me to 'grow up.' They were happy to learn that she had helped me get a good job once I graduated.
And so I began my new career upon graduation. Julie's present to me was a down payment (courtesy of her dad, who had more money than I had thought), on a small house in a hip neighborhood in the city. The house was in her name, but I was invited to move into it with her. I had had some idea of moving into my own cool pad after graduation, but like I was going to say 'no.'
So, Julie and I set up house. And, I began my career. I actually liked my job a lot. I worked in the financial services/corporate marketing department, a sibling department of Julie's vendor sales management department. We met each other at lunch when we could, and sometimes met in the hall, but we were on different floors, so didn't see each other all that much at work. Plus, Julie was actually on the road for a few days a couple of times a week. Anyway, we were always glad to see each other once we got home-we continued to fuck like minks.
After almost a year of cohabitating, I got a significant promotion-Julie's cultivation of my persona at the company and my hard work and talent led to that. Julie decided to have 'the talk' with me. She arranged for a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant. She dressed to impress. So did I, in one of the suits that Julie had selected for me. After our meal, we were enjoying a drink, when she said she wanted to talk about us. I had been anticipating this, and decided to beat her to the punch. I initially acted obtuse and taken aback by her wishes for a more serious commitment. I told her that I was surprised by her feeling this way, that I needed to think about this, that it all seemed very sudden, and then I excused myself to go to the bathroom. To her credit, she maintained her composure, but I could see the emotion in her watery eyes. It was when I was out of sight of her that I hailed our waiter, and gave him the box. When I came back to our table, avoided the line of conversation that we had just had, and told Julie that I had seen the soufflé being delivered to another table, and decided that I was hungry, so had ordered two for us. Julie was mystified. I made idle chatter for a few minutes, Julie remaining mute and barely restraining her frustration and percolating anger, when I nodded discretely to the waiter. He arrived at the table with two covered 'desserts.' I uncovered mine, to reveal a beautiful chocolate soufflé (I had actually made arrangements for it prior to dinner-if Julie had thought about it, she would have realized that we could not have had them so soon after I claimed to have ordered them). Julie didn't make a move to touch hers, sitting with her arms folded-searching for the words to my flippancy. I urged her to lift the lid and enjoy her dessert. She said she wasn't hungry. I urged her again. Finally, she said "Fine! I'll have a bite, and then we're going!" She lifted the lid, and saw the box. She stared at it confusedly. I could see the wheels turning. She looked at me, then at the box, then at me, questioningly. "Open it, Julie."
With shaking hands, she opened the box. Tears in her eyes, she looked at me. I got out of my seat, knelt before her, took the ring, took her hand, and asked, "Julie, will you marry me?"
The answer is obvious. After the teary acceptance, I paid the bill, and we went home. Julie proceeded to 'punish' me with her pussy for the little ordeal I put her through. I was very happy.
We were married in November-it was no easy feat to pull it off in five months-or so I was told. I just sort of went along with everything, and let Julie and her mother, with some input from my mom, running the show. Hell, that's the way it's supposed to be, isn't it? I only insisted on three things: 1) the wedding be in a Catholic church; 2) we have an open bar (which my dad happily paid for-it was a lot cheaper than the weddings and receptions he had to pony up for my sisters' weddings); and 3) that we have a DJ and not some fucking wedding band. Julie was totally on board with #2 and #3, and finally agreed on #1, but only if her uncle, a Lutheran pastor, was allowed to co-officiate; I was cool with that.
The wedding was great, as was our two-week honeymoon in Hawaii.
Fast-forward five years.
I was just turned 29 years old, Julie was not yet 31. We were still in our little house in the hip part of town. We were still married. We didn't have any kids, yet (Julie had decided to focus on our careers until we were in our 30's, then try and have the two kids Julie had planned for us-preferably a boy and a girl). I was doing well in my career-I had had several promotions, and was newly promoted to a senior marketing manager in my department-the youngest person at that level in the company. Julie had moved up, too; and although technically I had risen higher than her, I was not her boss. We had money, and friends, and nice cars and a nice lifestyle. But, for a while I had sensed that something was wrong. It all just kind of felt empty for me. I didn't even know how to talk about it to Julie. The fact was, we hadn't ever been big on talking about deeper feelings-I loved her, she loved me, and we exchanged words to that effect. When we talked, it was usually utilitarian (we need to have the gutters replaced, where are we going to dinner tonight), or casual chit-chat (office gossip, family news, a description about a particularly good meal one of us had while at a business dinner, etc.).
I thought maybe it was just a malaise that was settling over me as I neared my 30th birthday. But no, it wasn't that. Maybe a seven-year itch? Maybe. But, it didn't feel like a new feeling so much as a feeling which had been there all this time, but was just increasing in intensity. I loved Julie-I really did. I treated her with love and she did the same to me. I really wanted to have children with her and grow old with her. But, it just seemed that something was missing, or that a crack between us was growing into a chasm. It was hard to put a finger on it.
I had been spending more time out of town for business-probably three trips a month for 3-5 days each. Julie, on the other hand, was now spending less time on the road. That was the nature of our respective positions within the company. I thought maybe it was the time we spent apart that was doing it, but I dismissed that. Sure, the absences were a strain, but we had spent that much time apart earlier in our marriage, and I didn't sense this problem (or at least not much) then.
I was flying back home from Baltimore (fucking Baltimore!) on a red-eye, set to arrive Friday morning. I had been planning on flying out Sunday morning, anticipating finishing our meetings Friday, then having attending a client-company party on Saturday. I wasn't looking forward to the party, but it was expected. However, our meetings wrapped up successfully Thursday, rather than Friday. And, as it turned out, the company party had been rescheduled to the next month-I hadn't been informed until then (damn my new secretary-she should have been on top of that; oh well, these things happen). I called Julie to let her know, and to inform her that I was going to try and get a flight out Friday. She sounded less than thrilled at that, even irritated? I prompted her about that, and she recovered, explaining that she had plans with her girl friends for a 'girls' night out' Friday, and hated to cancel. I told her she didn't have to cancel on my account. She protested that she had to, so that she could welcome me back properly (I had been gone since Sunday). I told her not to worry, that she and I could spend Saturday in bed to make up for it. She laughed and said that it was a plan.
So, I went back to my hotel Thursday afternoon, changing into casual clothes for the customary night of dinner and drinks with the clients. I got a call shortly thereafter, my main client contact had a family emergency-he was very sorry, but he had to cancel out on our evening, but would make it up to me next time I was in town. I expressed my concern, and wished him well. Since his number two had already begged off earlier in the day-she was visibly ill, but still did her job remarkably (quite a trooper) -I decided that I could cut the evening short with a couple of the underlings and maybe get out even sooner. I called my secretary, held my tongue on the party gaffe (I'm not that big of an asshole), and asked if she could get me out as soon as possible Friday. I got myself showered, didn't bother to shave, and dressed, and ready to go, when I got the call from my secretary. She could get me a 12:10 a.m. flight out. A little earlier than I had anticipated, but I did ask for the first flight out Friday morning. I told her to book it. I had a nice dinner with the underlings, and made farewells.
I was boarded and in the air when I realized I hadn't called Julie to tell her I'd be back so early. It was a little late to call her once in the air, so I didn't bother calling. The flight was uneventful; I landed, and took a cab home. I was in the door sometime before 4:00 a.m. I didn't want to wake Julie, much less alarm her, so I dropped off my suitcase in the entry way, and went to the guest bedroom. I stripped down, got into bed, and was dead to the world.
I woke up around 9:30 a.m., still a little groggy. I am usually an early riser, but my late night had kept me in bed three and a half hours past my usual wake-up time. No worries, I wasn't expected in the office that day anyway. I was a little surprised that Julie's morning ritual hadn't woken me, I was usually a light sleeper, and I had left the guest bedroom door open-and it was right across the hall from the bathroom. I was also a little surprised that Julie hadn't woken me, even with a sleepy morning kiss. She couldn't have missed my presence in the house. Maybe she had, and I was too deeply asleep to notice it. Or, maybe she put two and two together and decided not to disturb me. At any rate, I decided to get up, have some breakfast, and check my emails.
I went into the bathroom, and noticed that there was no condensation or any signs of a shower having been taken. That was strange: Julie always took a shower in the mornings-it was one absolute in her routine. After a light breakfast, I went to the home office (the third of our three bedrooms), and checked my email. Nothing important. I checked my work voice mail. Ditto. I checked my personal email. A note from Julie-"Hey baby, don't know when you are expected to get back today. You weren't answering your phone this morning. Hope you didn't hit it too hard last night-you know how I feel about my husband getting drunk while out of town. Drop me a line and let me know." Hmmm ... that was left at 8:30 a.m. She should have known that I was back home this morning before she left for work at 7:30 or so. Unless she wasn't here? ... I listened to my cell phone voice mail. Sure enough, a chipper Julie left a message at 8:15 a.m.: "Hey baby! Rise and shine! I'm already at the office, the least you can do it get your lazy bones out of bed. Ha-ha. Let me know when you're flight is due back. Looking forward to Saturday! Call me."