You wouldn't think that something as small and inexpensive as a postage stamp could fuck up a marriage, but one of them, or rather the lack of one of them, did just that.
I wasn't supposed to be there. There had been an accident at work. Joe Bivens hadn't been paying attention and as a result the turret lathe he had been operating took the little finger off of his left hand and I was elected to take him to the hospital emergency rooms. Once they had Joe in one of the treatment rooms I gave them my cell phone number so they could call me when he was ready to leave and I left. I decided to go home and have lunch while I waited for the call.
My wife Wendy was at work so I was home alone when the mail came. There were a couple of flyers, the water bill and an envelope with the stamped message from the Post Office on it saying that it could not be delivered without a postage stamp. I didn't recognize the addressee, but it did have our mailing label on the upper left hand corner of the envelope. Wondering just who Brandon Winters was made me just curious enough to open the envelope.
There have been times since then that I've wished that I hadn't, but then I'd tell myself it was better to find out sooner rather than later. What I read stunned me.
"My dearest Bran,
We have only been seeing each other for a month now and so far it has been the best thirty days of my life. You make me so fucking happy. Whenever I see your face my heart lights up and my tummy gets not just butterflies, but it feels like planes, birds and shooting stars are flying around inside me as well. Every time I look into your eyes I lose myself completely.
I'm always thinking about you 24/7. I swear that I've never been this happy with anyone else in my lift. You tore all my pain away and you get my mind off things when I am at my lowest. I've told you all my flaws and yet you still see me as perfect. You make me feel as if I'm actually worth something.
You are the light of my life, the other half of my heart and the peace in my mind. I love your eyes and I could just stare into them for days. I can't wait until we have our three day weekend together. I'll be a basket case until it gets here.
I want to spend the rest of my life with you and never let you go. You can't even comprehend how much I care for you. Our daily phone conversations and our weekly long lunches at the motel (tee hee) are barely enough to keep me going.
I love you so much.
Your baby girl
I sat there holding that letter in my hand stunned beyond belief. At first there was confusion at some of her words. "You tore my pain away." What pain? The last thirty days the best of her life? She was either lying through her teeth to this Brandon guy or she was more accomplished at acting than anyone in Hollywood or on the New York stage. I couldn't believe that the last seven years were all an act on Wendy's part. They had been the happiest of my life. The two of us had been happier than two pigs in a large mud puddle.
It couldn't have been an act on her part. It just couldn't have been. And yet her own words kept leaping up at me from the page. She had been meeting him at motels for long lunches? Why? I'd seen no signs that she was unhappy or dissatisfied with me. No lack of affection at all.
As I stared at the pages in my hand I did know one thing however. The three day weekend she couldn't wait for? She was not going to enjoy it at all. At least not if I could help it. Supposedly her best friend Joyce had won a three day spa visit for two and she and Wendy were going to go and be pampered. Three days of beauty treatments, massages, mud packs, mud baths or the like. I wondered if Joyce had a lover on the side also or if she was just going to cover for Wendy. No matter. I would probably be having a talk with Harry before that weekend occurred.
The hardest part for me would be behaving normally around Wendy. I couldn't let her know I had the letter because she would without a doubt call Winters and let him know I was onto them and I couldn't have that. I didn't want Winters to know I'd be coming for him. First order of business was for me to get more information and I knew just who to go to for it.
I showed up at Carl's Chop House ten minutes before Joyce got off work at four and took a seat in her section. When she showed up with her pad and pen and asked what I'd be having I said:
"Coffee and a few minutes of your time when you get off work. I have some information that could have an impact on your marriage to Harry and I would like to discuss it with you before talking to Harry."
She left without a word and then came back with my coffee. She set it down in front of me without a word and left. As I sipped my coffee I wondered what Joyce was going to do. Would she join me once she was off the clock or would she skate out the back door and call Wendy to ask her what was up? It was a gamble on my part, but I was betting that she would be more worried about her own marriage than about what Wendy might know.
I think I won that bet. I had no way of knowing if she had gotten in touch with Wendy between the time I ordered my coffee and she sat down with me at one minute after four, but I'm pretty sure that she didn't. She would be afraid to do anything before knowing what I was going to talk about. At least that was my expectation.
Joyce sat down across from me and said, "Okay Frank; what's going on here?"
"A question for you Joyce and an honest answer would be in your best interest. Are you cheating on Harry?"
"Hell no I'm not cheating on Harry. Why would you even think such a thing?"
"I just wondered if you would also be spending time with a lover on your spa weekend."
She sat there silent for a few seconds and then said, "I told her she was fucking up and warned her that she would get caught sooner or later. How did you find out?"
"She told me."
"She told you? She confessed?"
"No. What she did was forget to put a stamp on a letter."
I handed Joyce the letter with the envelope inside and waited while she read it. When she was done she handed it back to me and as I took it from her I said:
"My first inclination was to go to Harry and tell him that we were both married to cheating whores, but then I decided to keep my mouth shut and talk to you instead. You tell me everything you know and I keep Harry out of it."
"I'm not cheating on Harry."
"Maybe not, but after he reads this letter and knows what Wendy is doing and that you are covering for her you think he won't start wondering about you and what you might be doing on those three days? You want him to start being suspicious of what you might be doing when he isn't around?"
"Why would you do that to me Frank? I've never done anything to you."
"Sure you have Joyce. You are helping my wife fuck over me. You are giving her cover. You know what she is doing. You just said it yourself. You told her she was fucking up so you know what she is doing and you are helping her and if that isn't doing something to me I don't know what is. What you need to do right now is figure out what is most important to you. Your friendship with Wendy or a trouble free marriage."
"I want both Frank. How about a deal? I'll tell you all you want to know, but you never let Wendy know that it came from me. That way we can stay friends regardless of what happens with the two of you. And no, I'm not stabbing her in the back. You already know so all I'm doing is giving you background. There is one thing that needs to be straight between us Frank. Wendy is my best friend and I've known her since the second grade. I've only known you since you met her in college so expecting me to come to you and let you know she is being bad is totally unrealistic on your part.
"Besides, she wasn't hurting you. She loves you and you know she does. This thing with Brandon is a fling; a silly infatuation that is bound to die in a short time. Brandon isn't half the man you are and Wendy knows it."
"If she knows it then why in the hell this" I asked as I held up the letter.
"It goes back to the ninth grade. Brandon Winters was everybody's everything. All State as a wide receiver on the football team. All City and All State as a forward on the basketball team. Star shortstop on the baseball team and a straight A student. Great looking and his daddy owned four car dealerships and so the family was wealthy as all get out. Wendy was infatuated with Brandon. She wanted to be his girl n the worst way, but he never seemed to notice her.
"She made sure to go to places where she knew he would be just to put herself in front of him so he would have to notice her. It didn't matter what she did Brandon never gave her a tumble. In the eleventh grade she even asked him to the annual Sadie Hawkin's Day dance. He blew her off telling her he would be out of town. The night of the dance he showed up with Cindy Reynolds, but that still didn't stop her from trying to get his attention.
"All through high school she tried and tried and kept trying to no avail. Then graduation came and he went back east to some big school and life moved on. Wendy eventually met you. She loves you Frank. Don't ever doubt that. I can't even remember how many times she has told me how happy she ha been since she met you."
"How can I believe that Joyce? How can I possibly believe that after reading this letter? How can she possibly care for me as much as you say she does when she is stabbing me in the back with this Brandon guy?"
.... There is more of this story ...