A gift from hansbwl, who in turn was inspired by papatoad; permission was granted to evolve the original brief, pithy punch-line into a full-bodied story.
Not based on anyone I have ever known, but a nice tale of betrayal, revealed.
Katherine and I married right out of high school.
It was many years ago, as humans reckon such things, before the era when AIDS and nonstop news channels and email and instant exchange of generally all kinds of information.
We'd been sweethearts in junior high, and then high school, an All-American couple if ever there was one. We stayed polite and respectful of sexual boundaries, never strayed, never gave our elders reasons to worry or wonder or waggle their tongues.
I was a good student, and had an offer to join an accounting firm right out of high school; a gofer, for sure, but later a bookkeeper and still later a data-entry clerk, once these new PCs began filtering into the office.
I was able to attend the local college, a four-year state school, and earn a BA; Katherine attended the same school and became a pre-school specialist. Glorified babysitter? Yeah, well, it suited her, and so it suited me.
And life went on.
Year after year, we did all the obligatory things, attended family functions, hosted a few; but there were no children, no little feet running through our home. Katherine was barren, as the word goes. I didn't care; I wanted children, but I loved her more than I loved those precious phantoms, and adoption was way the hell out of her comfort zone.
I was unaware of a growing tension in our marriage. All seemed right, normal, and good, even with her periodic (sorry) mood swings.
Once in a very great while, I'd awake in the night and feel the bed shaking with her crying. I tried, a few times, to comfort her; there was nothing for it. I eventually learned to ignore it.
Four years ago, my marriage ended.
Oh, I didn't know it then. I had no idea. I was clueless, like the TSAH (Typically Stupid American Husband) from a thousand commercials for cereal and soap and flowers, and anything else Madison Avenue can loathe to the tune of a profit.
Katherine told me, one May morning, she wanted to go on a five-day cruise with Kelly, her friend from high school.
I knew Kelly. She and Katherine were tight way back when, and only drifted apart because of me, and college, and weddings and funerals, and births and deaths. I didn't like Kelly, never had, and the feeling was way more than mutual.
It's hard to say why, but we just never connected, Kelly and me.
Regardless, Katherine loved her, and so allowing her to go on a cruise with Kelly was a no-brainer.
Katherine was gone for the allotted time, and returned to me, renewed, re-energized, restored.
Besides, Katherine knew Kelly and I had no affinity, and so she never mentioned her, never invited her over; I never had to deal with her.
What was not to like?
Katherine went on vacation with Kelly every May, like clockwork, from that day forward.
I never complained, never whined, when my lovely wife went on her yearly sojourn to parts unknown.
It was that year, four years ago, when things became complicated.
Katherine was on her annual with Kelly -- she'd left the day before -- and I was congratulating myself for being man enough to grant his wife the freedom to do her own thing, and being able to batch it for a few days, living the life of a bachelor with no worries.
That evening the phone rang, and my world ended.
"Hello?" I answered.
"Uh, hello," said an unfamiliar male voice, "could I speak to Katherine?"
"She's not here," I replied, calmly.
"Uh..." the voice paused, "when could I speak to her?"
I was pissed.
"You may not, unless you tell me why you'd like to speak to my wife."
The voice was silent; then, "I'm very sorry. I wasn't aware Katherine was married."
I let the pause become pregnant, then said, "And your interest in Katherine?"
A sigh; then, "I was married to Kelly, a friend of Katherine's."
Alarm bells went off. "You were married to her?"
"Has Katherine not told you?" said the voice. "Kelly died three years ago."
My heart froze.
"No," I replied stonily.
There was a long pause. "I'm very sorry," repeated the man, "but Kelly was involved in a fatal automobile accident. Her will has finally finished the probate process, and I found a letter to Katherine..." another awkward pause; then, "Well, I'm sorry, it sounds like I've caused ... some commotion."
"No commotion," I said, soothingly. "I'm really very sorry to have been so brusque with you. It's just ... Well, my sincerest regrets over Kelly's untimely death."
The man thanked me and rang off.
So I sat there, and stewed, and made my plans.