How High a Price: Long EndingbyBDad©
This is my vision of the ending to Troubador's story "How High a Price." If you haven't already read that interesting work it would help greatly to do so before reading this one. I have attempted to stay true to the character personalities as Troubador originally described them. I HAVE added events and actions that suited me and my vision of what the story should say.
Yes, it is quite long, it just came out that way by the time I painted the picture I wanted to see.
No, it is not a "Stroke" story. The sex in this particular tale is secondary to the emotions and struggles of the characters. There is some violence, it happens in real life sometimes when emotions run high and oft times rightly so.
The husband here is not a voyeuristic wimp, a trait that I have come to highly dislike in most of the stories concerning wife and husband relationships in the majority of stories that I have read to date.
I submit this with Troubador's consent; I hope I have added something new to the mix. I congratulate the other authors that have submitted other endings to this tale; each have their own visions and experiences to express. We are not all the same.
Chapter 1 - Saturday
The closing of the sliding glass door was like a switch shutting off the last of the inner strength that had helped Early keep his emotions under control. As his protective shield collapsed he finally gave in to the dark despair that he had fought so hard to keep at bay and wept uncontrollably.
Blinking back the tears he began to walk, thinking, "What am I going to do?" "Why did this happen?" Deep in thought Early wandered aimlessly until he chanced upon a small park overlooking Lake Washington. The sound of waves breaking against the shore had always been soothing to Early so when he found a secluded bench where he could sit and watch the waves he stopped to gather his thoughts. He loved Susan more than his own life and the thought of being without her was unbearable. But he also couldn't live the life of a cuckold, what was he to do?
Early had always been a problem solver; after all he was chief negotiator and troubleshooter for his company. On many occasions he had resolved issues others had quit on. Early almost smiled at remembering the ease with which he had suggested a compromise in his last negotiation that had concluded with all parties being happy and in a profitable position. He clinched his teeth when he thought of the irony that solving that problem was what let him come home two days early. There had even been a comment from the President/CEO of his company that there was probably a Vice-Presidents position waiting for him when he returned to the office on Monday. Surely if he could negotiate with other people to such satisfactory conclusions he could find a solution to his own problems that would make everyone happy.
He pondered his dilemma until finally the overwhelming despair began giving way to other emotions. Determination, loss, and even a hint of curiosity began forming from the morass of jumbled feelings that had tumbled through his mental being since discovering Susan's infidelity. Emerging the strongest and most insistent however were anger and rage. The anger had started out unnoticed as a tiny point of white-hot light in the dark gloom of his despair but the longer Early contemplated his situation the greater it expanded. Early was roused from his stupor by the aching in his jaw muscles from clenching them so tightly in his anger. It was time to quit retreating and form a plan.
The afternoon was spent mulling over remembrances of his life with Susan and how to deal with the current situation. Time passed unnoticed until daytime had faded into dusk.
"Early! Early, I have been hunting all over for you!" Susan's frantic voice penetrated his concentration and he became aware of his wife standing in front of him in the near dark.
"When I finally gathered my wits enough to talk, you were gone. I've been frantic thinking something had happened to you or worse, that you had done something foolish. My God Early, I would die if something happened to you!"
Her eyes were swollen and red from crying and even now had tears running down her cheeks. She still wore the skirt and blouse she had been wearing when she had come home this morning.
"Susan, what are you doing here?" he answered in a dead voice. "How did you find me?"
"I got in the car and started driving around, trying to think of where you might go. When I could finally think straight I knew you would be somewhere near the water. I nearly called the police I was so worried!"
"I'm sure," Early grunted in reply.
"Please don't hate me," Susan wailed as tears once again begin to flow.
"I don't hate you, quite the contrary, I love you beyond understanding. If I didn't love you I wouldn't be in so much pain"
His comment cut into Susan like a knife and she began sobbing nearly out of control. "Please Early, lets go home and talk, I need to explain what happened. It doesn't have to be like this, what I did with John had nothing to do with you, with us!"
"Susan, until you understand how absolutely wrong that statement is, it will always be like this! But you're right; we need to go home although I don't want to talk right now."
At Early's last statement Susan sank to the ground almost in hysterics.
Going to her he helped her to stand not by putting his arms around her as he so desperately wanted but holding her arm as they walked to the car. "Give me the keys, I'll drive."
The only sound in the car as they drove home was Susan's subdued sobbing. Her attempts at further communication were pointedly ignored. Pulling the car into the garage Early got out and went directly into the house without waiting for her.
Entering the house he went to the small bar in the family room and poured himself a tall Scotch. "Would you like a drink?"
Without acknowledging her presence any further Early went into the kitchen. It had been many hours since he had last eaten and now that the uncertainty he had lived with for the past few days had become tangible fact he found he was hungry. Making a sandwich in silence he sat down at the breakfast counter to eat it.
Trailing along behind Early, Susan tried to get his attention but he ignored her as if she wasn't there. "Early, you can't keep avoiding me, we have to talk" Susan sat on the padded bench of the window box facing him, looking anxiously across the table at him.
Turning to her without speaking he marveled at how attractive she was even with bloodshot swollen eyes and no makeup, god he loved this woman. Why had she done this thing that shattered him so completely?
Straining barely above a whisper she pleaded, "Early, speak to me, please."
"Would you like something to drink?"
"No I don't want anything to drink! I want you to talk to me!"
"I don't think this is a good time to talk. I might say things I don't mean and would regret later."
"I don't care, I can't stand this. We need to talk now"
"No, now isn't the time to talk, I've spent all day considering if I want to continue our marriage and our relationship. You need to take some time to think about it also. I will however leave you with something you can consider tonight and we can discuss tomorrow."
"First, I do want to stay married if possible. You need to decide if you want to. Before you answer you need to know that there are conditions that will have to be met for it to continue. It's obvious to me we can't continue on like we have in the past so you can imagine what those conditions might be. We can discuss them in detail tomorrow."
"Second, you need to explain to me your vision of being married. What are the obligations and associated duties each of us has within that framework."
"Third, what did your affair entail? I am not sure I want to hear the sordid details but at least I need to know if it was just physical or is there an emotional attachment between you and John."
"Fourth, how did it come about, what led you into it?"
"Susan, you have hurt me worse than you can ever imagine, I would rather you had run over me with the car and killed me. Here we are physically whole but for me at least, the fabric of my life now has this ugly black hole burned through the center. But life goes on and we need to begin the healing process and get on with our lives, either together or separately."
Lapsing into silence he watched Susan through tear blurred eyes as her mouth opened and closed as she tried to say something but couldn't find words. As she looked at Early her eyes widened as if there was suddenly a beginning of comprehension of what he had said and then turned away crying softly, drawing into herself.
"My God! What have I done?"
For a few long minutes more he just sat looking at this woman that was the focus of his life. He desperately wanted to go to her and hold her to him until all of her pain went away, but he remained anchored to his stool as if restrained by an invisible hand.
"I'm going to bed," Early announced suddenly and without looking back made his way to the guest bedroom.
Unable to say anything or make a sound as she silently watched Early's retreating figure, "What must I do to fix this?" she thought to herself. "How can things ever be back to where they were?"
Laying in the darkness with open eyes he listened to the silence of the house. Never had he felt so alone. Staring into the dark, he dreading what tomorrow might bring but also looked forward to actively starting seeking a solution to their problems.
After a while the door opened and Susan whispered his name, softly calling out to him but Early pretended to be asleep, making no response to her calling. Staring at him for a long time finally her shoulders slumped and she quietly closed the door.
Sleep did not come to Early that night, the traits that made him a skillful negotiator and troubleshooter wouldn't let his mind shut down for sleep. He replayed each event, each word and gesture of the last three days over and over again as if he were preparing for a face-off with a tough, difficult opponent. He examined his own emotions, motives, reactions and where his absolute positions were. Most importantly he examined Susan's personality, habits, qualities and all the other things that made her the person she was. He also thought of John Stickner. Although he had met the man on occasion he knew nothing about him. That would soon change. Come Monday morning his staff at work would find out what there was to know about Mr. Stickner. One thing about him Early did know, he had no qualms about going to bed with another man's wife. As his personal deliberations continued and his plan of action continued evolving, he was surprised to find that while his feeling of hurt and pain remained, his anger was increasing and a cold determination to deal with this crises begin forming.
When morning finally came Early had completed outlining a plan.
Chapter 2 – Sunday
In the early morning Early got out of bed and went through his routine of showering, shaving and getting dressed. It was Sunday but the thought of going to Church struck him as being incongruous given the current situation so he dressed in old Levis and pullover shirt. Following his set routine, he made the bed and straightened up the room before going downstairs. It being the guest room was not lost on Early. "I feel like a stranger in my own home" he thought sadly. "I might have to get used to it."
Early was preparing breakfast and halfway through his first morning cup of coffee when Susan came in. She looked fresh scrubbed with little make up and wearing jeans and an old blouse. "God how gorgeous she is" Early thought sadly to himself.
"Would you like a cup of coffee?" he asked.
Pouring the coffee, he added sugar and just enough cream to make it change color. As he handed it to her their eyes made contact for a brief moment but Susan looked away and started to get misty. Early too felt uncomfortable and needing to change the suddenly emotional atmosphere he returned his thoughts to his cooking.
"How many pancakes would you like?"
"I'm really not very hungry, I'm not sure I could keep food down if I ate it."
"I think it would be better if you ate something, but do whatever you want."
"Early, I can't stand it any longer, we have to talk now! I didn't sleep all night, I kept thinking about what you said, about us, about what happened and we need to fix this now before it eats us up." Susan was again in tears and Early could see that breakfast was only a way for him to avoid the inevitable. He turned the stove off, moved the pan to the side and taking his cup he turned and faced her. "Would you like to sit here or move to somewhere more comfortable?"
"We can stay here"
Sitting down at the breakfast table and facing Susan he spoke in a quiet but level tone, "Susan, from my point of view something has gone terribly wrong here. Last Wednesday I would have said "our" point of view but now suddenly you're a stranger to me. If we're to continue as a couple we need to re-evaluate our beliefs and feelings and come to a mutual understanding of what being married means to each of us as individuals. Obviously we do not share the same beliefs."
"Early, that isn't true!" Susan said in a voice barely a step away from hysteria.
"Based on what I know today I can reach no other conclusion. But this isn't starting out well; I've done almost all of the talking yesterday and today and for that I apologize. I have one more thing to say and then the floor is yours. After having a night to think about what I said yesterday do you still want to stay married?"
"Early, that is the dumbest thing I've ever heard you say! Of course I want to be married to you! I love you more than anything on this earth! I want to be yours forever!"
"Are you absolutely sure? I'm having a hard time squaring what you're saying with your actions of the past few days!"
"God please don't say that! I love you and only you! You have to believe me!"
"OK then, let's talk about what happened. You haven't given me a straight answer to any of my questions since you walked into the house yesterday morning. You have only answered with this strange notion that you "owed" Stickner for helping you. Now I need straight yes or no answer, did you break our wedding vows, did you have sex with him?"
"Yes," she answered in a whisper he could barely hear.
Although Early had anticipated that this would be Susan's answer, the actually hearing it from her was like a physical blow. A huge pain coursed through Early and he couldn't help but let out a strangled sob. Regaining his composure he steeled himself to continue.
"I need to know what you did and to understand why you did it. Start from the very beginning and tell me how the hell this happened. I promise I will try to not interrupt or comment until you are through."
Not looking at Early, Susan took a sip of her coffee and then stared into the cup for a while before setting it down. Finally looking up at him with teary eyes she cleared her throat softly and begin speaking in a low but clear voice.
"I had not worked much with John before the Melrose account. I knew him of course as we work on the same floor but at opposite ends of the building. Also we do different things; he is very good at courtroom presentation while I as you know have specialized in corporate law."
"Until I was assigned to salvage the Melrose mess I had only casual contact with him during the odd meeting or at one of the rare functions we were both in attendance. He is a very senior staff attorney while I am a struggling mid-level member fighting my way up the ladder. He was designated as my senior contact on the account so he was the one I went to when I found a problem and needed advice."
"Mr. Anderson himself had called me into his office and asked if I would take over the Melrose account as there were problems that fell into my field of expertise. If we didn't get it straightened out we would loose them as a client. I was eager to take this assignment on, even though it meant a lot of hard work and frustration. It was my chance to show the partners what I was capable of and maybe a promotion if I did well"
"I assumed the account lead about two months ago and as you will recall, I worked a lot of long hours and late nights. At first I concentrated on becoming familiar with the account and the work that had been accomplished to that point so I didn't ask John for much help. After a week or so things started to become less straight forward and I needed to ask for his input more and more often."
"On those nights we had to work late together we ordered in Chinese take-out or Pizza, and when we relaxed during these times I found him to be an pleasant and charming person to be around. He told me that he had been following my career at the firm and was impressed with my work and dedication. He indicated that he had been the one that recommended that this account be turned over to me. I was very flattered that he was familiar with my work and thought enough of my abilities to warrant this assignment."
"One evening, about four weeks ago, he said he was tired of Chinese and Pizza and asked if I would like to go out to dinner instead, that he had something he wanted to discuss . We wound up at a pub not far from the office that has decent food and on that night had a blues band playing in the background. We ordered dinner and a drink to relax. He said he had a surprise for me. He had discussed my handling of the Melrose account with Mr. Anderson and how impressed he was with my work. He told me he suggested to Mr. Anderson that someone of my talent and ambition should be given an incentive to grow with the firm and that a partnership offer would be an appropriate reward if I pulled the account together and got the firm out of its mess."
"That revelation made me euphoric! My god how I wanted to succeed, to get the recognition, at last all of my hard work was beginning to pay off!"
"John then took my hand in his and told me I deserved it, that not only was I a talented attorney but a beautiful one as well."
"I was embarrassed at his comment but also flattered, and it made me feel really good about myself. I felt tingly where he touched me but I put it off as the thrill of the moment. Looking back I guess this was the first time that I had a reaction to John as a man instead of just a professional coworker and superior. It was also the first time that I acknowledged to myself how really charming and witty he was, and handsome in a glossy sort of way."
"After that night we seemed to work more as a team and he often commented on the clothes I wore or the perfume I was wearing. He also kept giving me little updates on the reception of the Senior Partners to his petition for my being offered a partnership in the firm. The more we discussed this the more excited I became until it was all I could think about. Besides the increase in position and personal prestige there is also a substantial increase in the financial rewards, and I found myself daydreaming about all the things we could do with the additional income."
"On Monday, the day you left, we traveled to the Melrose office for a presentation of our report, and to pitch our case for them continuing retaining us as legal council. It went very well and in the end they signed a retainer for another two years at a very healthy fee. To celebrate we went out to dinner at Francos. The mood was celebratory to say the least and we celebrated with Champaign and a fine dinner. All seemed right with the world at last after working so hard for so long."
"During dinner John and I talked about the events of the day and just business chit chat but during dessert he suddenly changed from being in a festive light mood to a somber quiet one. When I asked him what was wrong he denied any change or problems but his denials were obviously hollow and he knew it. After a bit of goading he finally loosened up a little and told me that it had been a long time since he had enjoyed the company of a beautiful woman and felt so at ease with someone. I was so flattered, all women like to hear nice things about themselves, I guess we really have egos bigger than men."