It would soon be our eleventh anniversary and my wife, Jenny, and I were looking forward to celebrating it on that upcoming Saturday. Being partners in business and being constantly on the road together can really put a strain on a relationship and I could feel us drifting apart lately. It was my idea to come back Chicago for our anniversary; I prayed it would put some spark back into our marriage.
The plan was to return to the same club where I had proposed to her. I had checked first to make sure it was still there and was thrilled to find out it was not only still there, but it was still owned by the same people and hadn't changed much at all.
I told Jenny I wanted to take her back there for an evening of dining and dancing. She readily accepted my invitation with the enthusiasm of a small girl at Christmas. It was as if we would be reliving that very special night from over a decade ago.
It sure didn't seem like that many years had passed. In those days I was struggling in a dead-end job and had to save up for three months for that night. My dad gave me the money for the ring but I didn't have the nerve to ask him for more, so I scrimped and saved; I wanted everything to be perfect.
After dinner and several romantic dances I walked Jenny out to the back terrace that overlooked the Chicago River. The bright lights of the city flickered and danced on top of the water, stubbornly refusing to be taken as the current tried forcing them into Lake Michigan. I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful night as I lowered myself to one knee and asked her to spend the rest of her life with me.
Since then not a day has gone by that ever made me regret that night.
While Jenny was still getting ready, I snuck out and ran to the local florist for a bouquet of flowers. When I returned I went up to the door and knocked just as I had so many years prior. She was pleasantly surprised and invited me in with a big smile. Of course, being a woman she still had some primping to do but in fifteen minutes we were off, just like in the old days.
My source was correct, the place hadn't changed, it was almost like going back in time as the maitre d' showed us to our table. As we ate we talked about how good it was to be back in Chicago. We'd both grown up here, went to school here, dated here, and were married here, but our business had us traveling a lot and this was the first we'd been back in many years.
After dinner we moved into the lounge and sat at a table near the dance floor. They used to have live bands but now had a DJ playing a variety of tunes from big band to the latest rock and roll. I waited until he played something slow and romantic then asked Jenny to dance. I held her in my arms as we glided across the floor with her head comfortably resting on my shoulder.
For the next hour we never left the dance floor but eventually we both needed a break. We were only back at the table a couple minutes when a man approached. He had those rugged, good looks that women like and his well-built physique was obvious even through his clothes.
"Jenny; Jenny Johnson?" he asked obviously knowing her from before she was married.
Jenny looked up at him. "Dennis, Dennis Blake; yes, it's Jenny but it's not Johnson anymore. My God," she said standing up and giving him a big hug; "It's been so many years, how have you been?" she blurted out loud enough for some of the people at other tables around us to hear. I noticed a woman one table over straining her ear drums in hopes of gathering some gossip for her treasure chest.
"Well, I think the last time I saw you was about a year after we graduated high school," he replied as they hugged yet again.
For a moment it almost seemed like she forgot I was there. "Oh I'm sorry," Jenny said looking at me and still talking excitedly. "This is my husband, Walt.
I started to rise from my chair and was extending my hand but all he did was glance in my direction with a slight nod of his head before returning his eyes to my lovely wife.
"Do you mind if I join you," he asked Jenny while already starting to sit.
"No, not at all, we have so much to talk about," she told him without so much as looking in my direction.
To say I was looking a little miffed is an understatement, especially when they both monopolized the conversation. He told her he moved out of state shortly after they had seen one another that last time and only came back occasionally on business. He said, since he was leaving in the morning, it must have been fate that beckoned him to stop in for a beer before going back to his motel. He saw her on the dance floor but in the dim light, wasn't positive it was her, so he waited until we sat down and he was sure before coming over.
I was trying to appear understanding and acted content as I quietly sat back and listened to them both talk about old times. He told Jenny how great she looked and that she hadn't changed a bit in twelve years. My beautiful wife was eating it up.
Along with everyone else' my ears perked up when the conversation turned to sex. It seemed they were each other's first and they were now laughing at their naiveté and inexperience. I could feel cold stares on the back of my neck as, right in front of me, he told her he should have never left without taking her with him. He said he married but that only made him realize that he had left the woman he really loved back in Chicago.
I'm sure some of the people around us saw the anger in my face as I thought about ending the conversation and leaving with my wife, but just then, without so much as looking at me for approval, he asked her to dance. She acted as if I wasn't even there when she held her hand out for him to take and accepted. I'm sure it wasn't difficult to see I was fuming as they both walked out to the floor. A couple from the table next to us made a comment about their behavior; with all the reminiscing and laughing they did, neither Dennis nor my wife were very quiet with their conversation.
I watched as he took her in his arms and started to guide her in a slow dance; at first the gap between their bodies was very respectable but as time went on it got smaller and smaller. I sat sipping my beer and twiddling my thumbs as they continued to dance from one slow song to another. I could hear more whispers from the surrounding tables.
I felt it was time. I marched out to where they were and tapped dear Dennis boy on the shoulder.
"May I cut in and dance with my wife," I said rather sarcastically.
Neither he nor my wife looked very pleased as I took his place.
"Hi, remember me, your husband?" I asked curtly. "What's going on? Why are you letting this guy monopolize our time together on our anniversary?" I wasn't speaking particularly loud but I didn't whisper either. I knew some of the people dancing around us could hear me.
"Oh, honey, I'm sorry," she apologized. "It's just so good to see Dennis again. I'm sure you heard ... he was the guy that got my cherry," she said with a smile and a giggle.
"Yes, I heard; I think the whole place knows by now. If they didn't hear the conversation they can tell by the way you two are acting. I think he's trying to relive that night. His intentions are not honorable, Jenny. I want you to put a stop to it."
"Walt, come on; don't be like that. He's just an old friend who I haven't seen in many years. Please don't spoil this evening for me," she pled.
"Well he's sure spoiling it for me," I told her.
"Oh, honey, I'm sorry but I'll make it up to you, I promise," she said.
Just then the song ended and I felt a tap on my own shoulder. The son of a bitch was back already.
"Come on, pal, we haven't seen each other for twelve years; be a good guy and give us a little time to catch up," he said in a voice loud enough for others around us to hear. I saw a woman with her mouth open in disbelief at the asshole's brazen conduct.
My wife looked into my eyes. "Please, honey, it's been so long since we've seen each other and he'll be gone in the morning."
I could see the look of disgust on one guy's face and knew he regarded me as a wimp as I relented and handed Jenny back to her former lover. I could feel the eyes of others in the room watching me as I slinked back to our table and ordered another beer.
You'd think they'd surely come back to the table when the DJ started a set of fast songs but no, they continued to laugh it up and flirt with each other while Jenny shook her ass, seemingly not concerned at all with the growing number of people who were becoming aware of my increasingly distressed situation.
When the next slow song started Jenny put both arms around Dennis's neck and closed her eyes as she leaned her head against his chest. His hands went right down to her butt. Some of the couples dancing near them were looking at me, probably wondering why I let it continue.
That was it, no more I muttered to myself but just as I started to get out of my seat the song ended and Dennis took off in the direction of the men's room. Jenny returned to the table.
"Whew," she said acting a little embarrassed. "Those fast songs wore me out."
"Yeah, I could tell. You were hanging all over your hero; it was embarrassing. Are you ready to home?" I asked snidely.
She had a strange look in her eye as she sat down. "Honey, you know I love you, right?"
Everyone around us could see I didn't like the way the conversation was starting out. "I hope so because I love you," I assured her.
"I know you do, honey, and I'm praying you'll love me enough to understand what I'm going to say; honey, when Dennis comes out of the men's room he and I are leaving together. He'll drop me off tomorrow morning on his way to the airport."
No one could believe what they were hearing. She wasn't even discrete; I looked around at some of the surrounding tables and knew everyone was now tuned into our marital problems.
"Like hell you are!" I bellowed. Hell, everyone knew everything anyway, I didn't care, I wanted them all to hear me. "We're leaving now!"
"No, Walt, we're not. Please, honey, I need to do this. It's just for one night, please try and understand."
"Understand? You mean understand that you want to break our wedding vows, and of all the nights, on our anniversary. Understand that you've humiliated me in front of everyone in this place and now want to top it off by fucking another man? This is ridiculous, no!"
Just then big old Dennis returned, stood behind Jenny and put his hands on her shoulders. "Are you ready, honey?" he said looking at me with the smirk of a conquering hero about to enjoy the spoils of his victory.
Jenny reached up and took his hand. "I'm sorry, Walt, please try to understand," she said as she arose.
Tears welled up in my eyes. "Please, Jenny, I'm begging you, please don't do this," I said sounding like a whipped puppy.
"I'm sorry," she said. I heard some of the people around us gasp in shock as Jenny turned to leave with her high school heart throb.
"Fine," I shouted knocking the chair over as I abruptly stood up. "Then give me your rings!"
"What?" she asked looking back at me.