It was an upscale bar, guess I should really call it a Cocktail Lounge. But it was a friendly place. When I got into a casual conversation in the john with a guy who came in with some fellow workers he invited me over to join their group. Nice bunch, too, four guys and a couple gals just leaving the office on Friday afternoon. From what they said this was a regular routine of theirs for Friday after work. The gals and three of the guys were married; the guy who invited me over was divorced. From what he said, I gathered he’d be staying a while longer than his fellow employees.
They gave me a warm welcome, and we had a great time until the marrieds got up to go, leaving me and Phil behind. I told him I was in town on business, and wouldn’t be going home until tomorrow afternoon. That’s what I told him, and in a way it was true.
I had needed to get away after Monday nights ‘event’ and was quietly celebrating. My wife had taken the kids yesterday morning, and taken a long overdue trip to see her parents. The kids had been ecstatic, even if they wondered why I wasn’t coming with them this time. They would be back home Monday.
After what had happened some would find it strange that Alice and I weren’t spending the weekend cuddled together. We had spent all day Tuesday snuggled and sniffling. Then the rest of the week we just kind of hung all over each other. Except for my meetings with the other members of the support-group-to-be and figured we needed a day or two apart to just think and get ourselves together.
Yeah, I was doing some of the sniffling, too. And if you think that makes me less than a man, go to hell. And I’ll be glad to make something of it, too.
Me, I decided I had to celebrate in a quiet way and figured the only safe way was to get away from the small city I lived in and into someplace big where I could work off steam. Don’t get me wrong, no women for this Daddy, but I did have to blow off some steam. Just get a new perspective, as they say.
Phil told me he wasn’t planning on heading to his apartment until after dinner and asked me to join him. It sounded like a good deal.
We ate in the restaurant connected to the lounge we were in, and a nice one it was, too. Then he showed me to a fine little jazz club where we had a few more, and I guess I got too mellow. No harm done, he didn’t know me, and had no idea where I was from.
“Hey, Phil! I’m celebrating tonight,” I told him. “If you’ll listen to my story, I’ll pick up the tab for the club.” Jeez! Sometimes I wish I could keep my mouth shut! That little bit cost me a couple hundred. Next time I’ll look and see what they’re charging for drinks and cover before I open my mouth.
He gave me a quizzical look, and nodded his OK. “Is this a single malt story, or Four Roses?” he asked.
“Well, order the scotch if that’s what you want to drink,” I told him. “It’s a pretty good story, and it’s just winding down. But it looks like a happy ending. You be the judge, OK?” With that I swung into my story. = = = = =
It started a few weeks ago, on a Tuesday. At breakfast I noticed that Alice was really down. She was moving stiffly and acted like she was pretty sore. I asked her what was wrong. She told me she must have slept funny, she’d be all right as the day went on.
I went on to work, not thinking anything more of it until I called her at lunch to find out how she was doing. She answered the phone kind of angry, something like, ‘What do you want NOW!’ Stopped me for a moment, and when I said hello, she gave a gasp of surprise and stumbled all over herself apologizing. She passed it off as thinking I was a telemarketer. She told me she was fine, and loved me. She was a lot more lovey-dovey than usual.
After I hung up the phone, I started thinking. Monday was her night out with the girls, they got together for cards and didn’t get home until late. They were real cutthroat players; several were into Tournament Bridge and the games meant a lot to them. She had been out until almost two that morning, much later than usual even for her Bridge night. Just a little more thought and I remembered the same thing had happened the week before.
It was about then that I realized she hadn’t bent my ear that morning talking about last night’s game. I usually listened with one ear, the same one she used when I talked about my golf game. But I was still interested because I was interested in her, but she hadn’t mentioned one thing about it this morning. Very unusual!
And last Tuesday she woke up grouchy and moving like she was sore then, too. I passed it off as coincidence, and got back to work.
That night I waited for her to tell me about the tricks she had finessed, the foolish bids her partner had made, who she had partnered with and so on. She never said a word. I asked her how the game had gone, and she just told me it was pretty good, like usual.
This wasn’t usual at all.
On the way home Wednesday I stopped for some groceries Alice had asked me to pick up. At the market I ran into Fay, a casual acquaintance to me but one of Alice’s favorite partners on Mondays. I was going in as she was leaving and we hardly slowed down as we passed one another. She said, “Hi, tell Alice I missed her Monday, and hope she can make it next week.”
I had taken a couple steps into the store before what she said registered, and when I turned around she was already in her car. That set me to thinking.
Something was going on, and it didn’t sound good. We had been married for a dozen years, and I had never doubted her in all that time. Suddenly I was seriously worried for my marriage and family. This wasn’t at all like my Alice.
The sudden doubts made me feel like a heel, too. All I had were a couple of coincidences and a casual comment. Maybe Fay had been the one missing Monday. Nevertheless I figured I’d better look into this. If I didn’t it would be bugging me and I would find myself looking jealously and doubting my best friend. I’d never been jealous before, and it would put a sour smell around our relationship.
At the same time, I couldn’t bring myself to tell my love that I doubted her. It was too preposterous to be true and she would either get mad or think it hilariously funny, or both.