House of Cards Ch. 03byohio©
It was quite clear to me: I would have to go on pretending to Marianne that everything was fine, until I had absolute proof of her adultery. And her creative lie to me the day before about her panties indicated that she had no intention of ever confessing. I would have to throw the proof in her face.
One thing in my favor was my job. I had a lot of freedom within my company—I could come and go during the day, to see clients or visit job sites, and it would not seem unusual. On the other hand, the same was true for Marianne. She worked in client relations for a public relations firm, and was always going to lunch or to business meetings. It would be impossible to check her work schedule and find any suspicious pattern of absences from the office.
I had a college friend named Terry, who worked in Chicago in the security and surveillance business. It took no more than a friendly 20-minute conversation, with a bit of catching up on one another's lives, to get all the equipment advice I needed. I told him I was doing a project for a commercial client obsessed with security, and explained that I'd need the latest in miniaturized listening devices that would transmit wirelessly to recorders. He said, "I'll do you one better: everything is digital nowadays, you can record to digital audio tape or even directly to digitized audio files that you can upload to your computer and listen to."
No more than an hour after our conversation, Terry emailed me all the specs, prices, and model numbers for what we had discussed. I drove out to a large electronics warehouse in the suburbs and bought all of what I needed. Nearly $1400 on the credit card—but I figured that by the time Marianne saw the bill, that would be the least of my worries.
I went home to our house, empty in the middle of the day, and set up audio recorders in our bedroom, spare bedroom, guest room, my study, the living room, and the kitchen. Each of them was no bigger than a thimble, and easy to hide. They were all sound-activated, so that they would begin to record whenever someone spoke or made noise in any of the rooms. And each was set up to transmit wirelessly to tiny digital recorders I'd hidden in our attic. Whatever Marianne or I did in our house, I'd have a sound recording of.
Why didn't I use video? The answer may seem surprising. As I continued to torture myself with images of Marianne fucking and sucking someone else, I realized that I didn't want to see those images. Knowing about her adultery was painful enough—hearing it, or hearing her talk to her lover, was going to be even worse. I was afraid that if I actually SAW them together, I would never be able to erase those pictures from my mind. Better, I thought, to be tormented by my imaginings than to have to see the reality, over and over for years to come.
While I was at it, I checked through all our credit card bills and our phone records. I found nothing incriminating: no unexplained hotel stays, no charges at restaurants I hadn't been to, no pattern of frequent calls to any one number besides the familiar ones of our friends and family. Marianne had clearly been very very careful. I realized I would have to check her purse, and put a recorder in her car, in addition to what I had already done.
In the meantime, I went back to my office. Alternately heartsick and furious, I managed to get through my day without my colleagues noticing how I was feeling. That evening after dinner, Marianne and I made our weekly phone call to our kids at camp. This was a new torment, both of us being cheerful with them while I tried to give no hint of my despair.
After Marianne and I went to bed, I waited quietly until I was sure she was asleep. Then I went outside and carefully installed an audio recorder in her car, transmitting to a tiny receiver hidden under the spare tire in the trunk. Returning to the house I went through her purse. To my surprise I found two cell phones—the one she had always used, and a cheap throwaway model, the kind that's used with pre-paid minutes. This explained why there were no unexpected calls on our cell phone bills! I grimaced to myself, thinking again of how careful and systematic Marianne had been in her efforts to deceive me.
Each day that week was worse than the one before. I pretended to Marianne that everything was fine, smiled and nodded and tried to act natural, though I did manage to avoid sex with her by pleading lots of work one night, and a bad headache another. She could surely tell I was still upset about something, but she played the loving wife without questioning me about it. Each night after she was asleep, I listened to all the recorders I had set up in the house and her car, and until Friday night there was nothing interesting.
That night I finally got confirmation of what I was already sure of. It was a short phone call that Marianne received in her car that morning, undoubtedly on her throw-away cell phone. I heard only her side, but that was enough to make things perfectly clear.
"Hello? ... Hey, babe .... Yeah, I'll BET you have! (with a throaty laugh) .... No, I explained that last Monday ... Yes, Tom hasn't said anything else but I can tell it's still on his mind. I have to let a bit more time pass before I can see you again ... Of course I still want to! But you always knew that my marriage would come first —haven't I been clear about that? ... Yes ... Uh-huh ... Yes, I think next Tuesday will work. But let's not go back to the place we've been going, I want to be extra careful. ... Where? ... You mean that place out on Route 8, near the orchard? ... Yeah, we were there three times before, but not in a while. ... OK, babe, Tuesday at 11am. .... (laughs again), Yes, I'm sure you will be ready! ... Me too ... OK, bye."
I sat slumped in my chair in the study, where I had gone to my computer to check the recordings. It wasn't any surprise, I had known ever since finding the thong, but somehow this confirmation still shattered me. Marianne was cheating on me! And had been for some time, it seemed. She was regularly letting another man fuck her, kissing and stroking him, letting him between her thighs, on top of her, beneath her as she rode him, behind her as he plowed her doggy-style...
Judging from her words on the recording, she must have called him the previous Monday (after our conversation about her panties on Sunday) and warned him that I was suspicious, and that they'd have to cool it for a while. Obviously this was no one-time thing, no sudden slip into a single night of passionate adultery. It was an ongoing affair, one that had gone on for months—or years?
My agonized thoughts went on and on, as image after image played in my head like some kind of nightmarish slide show. One of the most special gestures Marianne sometimes made with me was a way of embracing me when we hugged and kissed. Instead of putting her arms tightly around me and pulling me to her with her hands on my back, she sometimes slid her arms up over my shoulders and kept them straight. In this way her arms hung out behind me, wrists dangling. Something about that position that was magical to me: it meant that she was embracing me with no restraint, no holding herself back. She was utterly open to me, completely mine. As I imagined her with her lover, the single worst image of all was of her embracing him in that way, kissing him with her arms flung over his shoulders, giving herself completely to him.
That weekend, the only particular horrible time (in a whole weekend of desperate sadness for me) was a Saturday night party with some of our friends—busy working parents like ourselves whom we don't get to see very often. As Marianne and I circulated, sometimes together and sometimes apart, we were greeted warmly by friends we liked, who were glad to see us and eager to hear how we'd been. Sharing the usual stories, about work and the kids, felt especially desolate to me. Part of me longed to say to someone, "Well, actually, I've not been doing so well. Marianne is fucking some other guy and won't tell me about it, and I'm pretty devastated. But what's new with you?"
On Monday I left work during the morning and drove out along Route 8 to the Sunflower Motel, which I recognized as the one Marianne had mentioned to her lover. It was a strip motel, a row of rooms side by side with parking places directly in front of each room. So I was confident that, if I put a listening device inside Marianne's purse, the recorder hidden in her car would be close enough to record what went on inside—the range of the devices was supposed to be 150 feet.
That night, I got up after Marianne was asleep—I seemed to be doing that every night—and took her purse into my study, where I carefully sewed one of the tiny wireless microphones into the bottom. She would never find it unless she happened to dump out the entire purse and look for it.
I also re-checked all the listening devices, the recorders in the house and in her car. But there was nothing incriminating or suspicious. Marianne had already set up her rendezvous in the Friday phone call, and didn't risk any further communication with her lover.
Marianne's date was for Tuesday at 11. So a little after 11, I left work and drove again down Route 8. Sure enough, there was her car, parked right in front of Room 19. Not at all surprised, yet still even sicker at heart, I took a minute and noted down the license plates of the cars on either side of hers—it never hurts to be prepared.
That evening I watched Marianne with extra attention. Could she really conceal from me all traces of her cheating that day? She came home looking relaxed and fresh—she must have showered at the motel, because she didn't go running upstairs for a shower. Her eyes sparkled, her face was full of life and color, and she seemed as happy as ever to see me. For the life of me I still couldn't believe that this beautiful, loving person I cared so much about was fucking around behind my back.
I barbecued that night, and we ate outside on the deck, enjoying the warm summer evening. I was certainly as preoccupied as I had been in any of the past few nights, and I wondered if Marianne would ask me about it. She didn't, and I assume she thought it best not to initiate a conversation that might lead back to the subject of adultery. I think she felt confident that she had headed off my suspicions, but she wasn't about to take any further chances.
While we were doing the dishes in the kitchen, she slid over and put her arm around my waist. "Tom, will you come up to bed early with me tonight? I love these days with the kids at camp, when we can make love any time we like. And you've turned me down twice lately!" She said this last sentence with a sexy smile. Under any other circumstances I would have been hard in five seconds. But I knew—or was virtually certain—that she'd been fucking her lover 10 hours earlier, and her invitation just enraged me. How could she jerk me around like this? Did she think I was a total idiot?
Trying to keep calm, and not let my own feelings show, I replied calmly, "I'm sorry, babe. There's a big presentation first thing in the morning for a new building downtown, and I have to get it finished tonight. How about tomorrow night for sure, OK?" I'm pretty sure she didn't believe my excuse. I could even see her on the point of protesting further, before she decided that it might not be a good idea. Again, the last thing she wanted was for me to bring up my suspicions about her adultery.
So all she said was, "OK, sweetheart. I'll go watch some TV before bed. If you get done and I'm still awake, you come running on up to me, promise?"
I stayed downstairs, more-or-less doing some work while waiting for Marianne to go to sleep without me. By midnight she was out; I could hear her regular breathing from the door to the bedroom. I headed out to her car, got the recording from that day, returned to my study, closed the door, slipped it into the computer and played it back.
Even at that moment, I still had a tiny shred of hope. Perhaps in some crazy way I was wrong about everything, and it was all some paranoid fantasy of mine. Marianne had been so loving, so warm—how could she be cheating on me?
From the first sounds on the tape, any remaining hopes disappeared.
First I heard Marianne on the cell phone in her car. There was a routine work call, perhaps on her regular cell, then a few minutes after that HE called, and I heard her side of the conversation.
"Hello ... hey baby .... yes, me too .... Are you there now? I can hardly wait! It feels like it's been forever ... You'll just have to wait to see what I'm wearing (with a giggle), I chose it for you to see it! .... Well, maybe for you to take it off me too .... OK, in a few minutes ... Bye."
This much was no surprise, as it merely confirmed the previous call in which they'd set up their date. What came next was worse—much worse.
I heard the noises of her parking, turning off her car, getting out, and locking it. Then a couple of soft knocks on a door, and the sounds of a long, deep kiss, as the door clicked shut. A man's voice said, "Wow, did I need that!" Then a couple more kisses, and then he said, "Come in here and let me look at you. You are SO gorgeous!"
Then Marianne, MY Marianne, speaking back to him, teasing him! In a sultry voice, "I'll bet you say that to all the girls, big fella. Can you back it up? Or are you all talk and no action?" Then she laughed aloud, and I heard more kissing and hugging, with the two of them cooing and moaning into one another's ears.
"Let me go, Eddie," Marianne said. "I'm so hot for it, let me just get my clothes off and you inside me!" I heard the sounds of clothes coming off, then the springs of the bed groaning as one or two bodies came down on it.
"God, it's so big, and so hard, and so beautiful!" Marianne said. "I guess you really DID miss me! Let me suck on it first."
"Only if I can lick you too," the man replied. In no time they were apparently in a 69 position. The talking stopped, replaced by the sounds of sucking, licking and moaning made by two horny people in a hurry.
I stopped the recording, sat back, and stared at the ceiling. For over a week I'd been hoping, praying, denying, suffering, wondering. I felt my life had been destroyed, yet I still had clung to the tiny possibility that I was wrong. Now that was over. The marriage in which I had taken such joy, felt such pride and happiness, was a lie. The woman to whom I had opened myself completely, whom I had given every bit of my love and my trust, had betrayed me in the most basic way there is—she had given herself to another man.
There didn't seem much point in listening to the rest, but I went on, doggedly. As I've said, I am not a man who fantasizes about his wife fucking someone else, or gets turned on by it. Every sound they made, every groan of her pleasure or of his, every squeak of the bed, every affectionate word, felt like a sharp needle plunged deep into me. There was no pleasure for me, no excitement, just an indescribably painful sensation of grief and loss.
They sucked and licked each other for a few minutes, until he said, "Hold on, Anni, I'm going to come!" Apparently she didn't stop, for a moment later he groaned. "Oh, oh, shit, that's incredible, oh, ohhh!" Then he sighed, and said, "Baby, you have incredible lips. That was unbelievable!"
She just giggled and said, "I loved it too, Eddie. Now maybe you could pick up where you left off?" As he proceeded to lick her pussy, I could hear all the little moans and sighs, the ohs and ahs, that until then had been part of my happy memories of our love-making. Within minutes she too was coming, saying, "that's it Eddie—oh, right there! right there! Yes, yes, I'm coming!!"
"Oh, Eddie, nobody does me like you do!" she said to him, a remark that stunned me with pain. "Give me a minute to relax and enjoy that wonderful feeling, then I want your beautiful dick inside me." Then she giggled again, as he growled like a dog and apparently began to sniff and lick all over her body. I couldn't believe how much fun they were having together. It wasn't just the sex—their relaxed enjoyment of each other, their intimacy, just tore me apart. It was obvious they'd been lovers for quite a while, and were very familiar and easy with one another. The fact that he called her "Anni", a pet name that only I used with her—above all in bed--just made it worse. Had SHE suggested that to him?
He must have had no trouble getting hard again, because within minutes they were fucking. From their words to each other, I could tell that he began on top, then she rode him until she came again, and then he rolled her over and fucked her for a long time from behind. By that time Marianne was relaxed and happy, on the far side of two great orgasms. She just lay there comfortably, sighed, and let him have his pleasure. When he began to accelerate towards his orgasm she encouraged him. "That's it, baby—come on, fill me up. Oh yes, I can feel you so deep in me! Cum in me, Eddie, now, that's it!"
He came with a loud, long groan, and then there were the sounds of them getting comfortable to rest in one another's arms on the bed. When they stopped making noise the tape must have stopped recording, perhaps for quite a while, but then came the sound of the shower. They must have been in it together, because I could hear their voices but couldn't catch any words.
But their voices were clearer as they came back into the room and dressed. Above all it was their easy affection and familiarity that broke my heart. This was no one-night stand; Eddie was my wife's lover, someone close to her, someone she'd opened her body to, someone with whom she had taken her pleasure repeatedly. They hadn't just fucked. They'd cuddled, they'd showered together. How else to say it? She'd been with him the way she was supposed to be only with me.
When Marianne headed to the door, they kissed goodbye almost routinely, as husband and wife do each morning. "Bye, baby," she said. "You sure made my day!"
"Anni, sweetheart, when can we get together again?"
"I don't know, Eddie. It all depends on when Tom calms down. He's been so moody, it's obvious he's still wondering about me. I need to be very careful for a while. Call me at the end of the week and I'll let you know how it looks."
"OK, babe," Eddie replied. "But once every ten days is not enough of you for me. I get lonely."
"And horny?" she answered with a laugh.
"Well, yes, that too," he confessed.
"Look, Eddie," Marianne said in a more serious tone. "You've known from the beginning how it had to be. Number one for me is my marriage. I won't do anything to hurt Tom, no matter how much I love being with you."
Again I stopped the tape, in bitter shock. "Won't do anything to hurt Tom?" Well I guess you've sort of fucked that one up, Marianne! How about the fact that you tried to pull me into bed with you tonight, just a few hours after you sucked and fucked that clown Eddie?
I went back to listening, and heard Eddie's voice. "OK, Marianne, I get it. Just do what you can to reassure him, OK? I want to see you more than just once a week."
Once more she returned to teasing him. "Sure you can get it up more often than that, lover?" asked Marianne.
"You know I can," Eddie replied, with a laugh. She gave him one more long kiss, and then she must have headed for her car. I heard the engine start up, and then there were just the sounds of driving. There was nothing else on the recording.
I sat in my dark, quiet study. It was 3:45am. I looked vaguely across the room at nothing, seeing only the wreck of my marriage. I must have sat for half an hour, unmoving, without much thought.
Finally I roused myself. I had to prepare for the inevitable confrontation. The marriage is dead, I thought—time to prepare to bury it. I went back to the computer, compiling a new recording of Marianne's first phone call from Eddie and some excerpts from their motel room exercises. I put that recording onto a tape cassette, hid it in a bottom drawer, and slowly went upstairs to bed.