Lilies and RosesbyTail End Pete©
Surprise, surprise, surprise
Ted looked up from his computer screen at the clock that said 6:15pm and slumped back in his chair. 'Ah crap,' he thought. 'Another evening out shot to hell. Well, might as well get it over with.' He picked up the phone to call home.
His wife Megan picked it up on the second ring. "Not going to make it again, are you?" she said without letting him say hello. "Let me guess. Didn't get your work done again and now another planned night out not going to happen?"
"Hey, well hello to you too," Ted replied. "That's right. Lost another person today and the deadline didn't change. I shouldn't be more than another hour or so and then when...". He didn't get to finish his sentence as she cut him off.
"No way in hell am I sitting around here waiting for you to wander home. These reservations were made 2 weeks ago and I am going, with or without you," she yelled at him. "This is the third time in a row we've had plans to go out with Greg and Gretel, and I'm getting tired of your excuses. It's almost as if you don't want any friends anymore, much less a wife or even a marriage. Get your own damn dinner when you get home, you incompetent asshole. I'm going out," she finished and hung up the phone.
'Damn,' he thought. 'This was really getting serious.' He leaned back in his chair again and thought about what she'd said. Greg and Gretel Howard were their best friends. Greg was a lawyer with his own legal firm and specialized in business law and real estate. Mary worked in the office as a paralegal. The couples had met years ago when Greg and Gretel moved to town. The company that Ted worked for built their house. He and Megan spent about as much time there as they did at home, and Greg and Gretel were over at their house almost as much. Now both couples were "empty nesters" since Greg's youngest had moved to Denver. It was rather ironic that Greg's kids were business gurus while Ted's were lawyers. Looking at the clock, he realized he'd been wool gathering for 5 minutes. 'Screw it,' he thought. 'I'll do this in the morning. I'd rather spend some time with them than do this all night.'
Picking up the phone, he called home. It rang until the answering machine picked up. 'She must be in the shower getting ready,' he mused.
"Megan, it's me. I'm leaving the office now so we can go together. I love you and will see you in a few minutes."
He tidied up his desk and locked the office. The parking lot was already empty, so he was able to get out onto the highway home in just a few minutes. When he got home, he parked next to Megan's car in the driveway. He smiled thinking about them going out together tonight. Inside the house, it was quiet and dark. He saw the red light on the answering machine flashing. It was his message. The bedroom was neat, no signs of putting on makeup or changing clothes. Hmmm. He checked the bathroom and it, too, was clean. The shower walls were dry, the clothes hamper was empty, and ... what? This was weird. The reservations weren't until 7:00, it was just now 6. Feeling strange about the situation, he decided to go to the restaurant and see if they just went early. They usually went dancing after dinner, so maybe they wanted to get started dancing early. He and Megan loved to dance. They'd been dining and dancing since their honeymoon and had been going every week they could get away since the kids were in high school. Greg and Gretel had learned to love it also, so it was the four of them on Friday nights, with Canasta or sometimes Bridge on Sunday afternoons. Now it had been months since they had gone out on a Friday and the card playing had almost disappeared during that same time. Well, she must have ridden over with Greg and Gretel since they only lived 3 blocks away. The Elite was the best restaurant in town and dining reservations had to be made 2 to 3 weeks ahead of time.
Striding back out to the car, he drove directly towards the restaurant. With rush hour finished, it was a quick trip. He spotted a florist shop in a strip mall a block from the Elite restaurant, so on impulse he pulled in to get some flowers.
The clerk looked up from her work bench as he came in and smiled.
"Do you have any lilies and roses that I could put into a bouquet?" he asked. "My wife loves that combination," he added.
"Certainly, sir. As a matter of fact, I made 2 bouquets this afternoon and you get the second one," she said. "They are $30 a bouquet, but since I am closing you can have it for half price."
"Great," Ted beamed. "Here is my credit card."
The clerk looked at the card and looked at him strangely. "May I have some ID, please?"
Ted pulled out his drivers license for the clerk to see. She rang up the purchase and he signed the slip. She checked the signature against the license, handed back the cards and smiled. "Thank you. It looks like you are still you." As she gave him the bouquet, it looked as though she wanted to say something else. Ted was in a hurry though and didn't give her a chance as he left for the restaurant.
Pulling into a parking space, Ted looked around the lot, but didn't see Greg and Gretel's car. He knew it was the right place, maybe they stopped somewhere else on the way here. 'I'll just wait inside until they arrive and surprise them,' he thought. He headed inside and joined the line waiting to be seated. He gave his name to the reservations clerk and waited while the list was checked. Frowning, the clerk motioned to a man who was standing in the corner. The man came over and introduced himself as Fernando the maitre 'd, and asked if there was a problem. Pointing at the list, the clerk said, "This party arrived 30 minutes ago, but this gentleman says he is with them. Four people arrived and the reservation was for four people."
Ted frowned and said, "Yes, I'm Ted Johnson. The group is my wife Megan and I, and our friends the Howards. The reservation was supposed to be at 7pm and it is just now 630pm."
Fernando coughed slightly and asked Ted to step to the side with him. They went to the corner of the small lobby where Fernando had been standing earlier. Ted could see that it was a small seating area waiting alcove and the entire dining room was visible. Ted didn't remember seeing it before on other nights out, but blamed that on the discreet manner that various plants and a privacy screen had been placed. Fernando used it to keep an eye on the wait staff and to help insure no problems arose.
Gesturing towards the rear of the room, Fernando said "That group sitting at that back table. Is that your wife and friends?"
Ted saw Greg and Gretel eating and said, "Yes, those are our friends Greg and Gretel Howard."
Just then he spotted Megan. She was coming back from what looked like the rest room area. Wow!! She was dressed to kill tonight. There was his wife of 23 years with beautifully coifed brown hair and interesting red highlights, 3 inch heels on her black shoes, and the hottest black strapless dress he had never seen her wear with black nylons. He couldn't remember the shoes nor understand why she had them. They were almost the same height and she had always been self-conscious of being taller than other people. No way she could dance in those shoes. She hadn't looked this good in public with him since ... well since he couldn't remember.
Then he lurched inside. He felt his face lose color and his legs turn to stone. As she arrived at the table, the person sitting with his back to them stood to help her with her chair. Ted thought he was going to puke. It was Ron Clark, his boss. Ron was 5 or 6 inches taller than he was. Wearing those shoes, Megan would be almost eye to eye with him. What the fuck was going on here? He noticed Megan leaning forward a little and saw her smelling the flowers in the centerpiece. Lilies and roses! She straightened and smiled at Ron. Damn! This was getting to be too much and he needed to sit down.
Fernando had been watching Ted carefully and nudged him through a side entrance into the kitchen area. He got him to a chair, gave him a glass of water, and watched as he tried to come to grips with what he'd seen. As he sat there, some color started coming back to his face.
Quietly Fernando said, "This group has been coming here for about three or four months now on Friday evenings. If I might ask, can you identify the people in that group?"
Ted realized he had been holding his breath and he shuddered as he let it out. "Greg Howard is on the left. His wife Gretel is to his left. Megan ... my wife, Megan ... was just seated. The weasel faced rat fucker is my work supervisor, Ron Clark," he answered.
Fernando said, "Would you give me your drivers license, please? I would like to help you clear this up."
Ted pulled out his license and handed it over. Then quietly, Fernando stepped out of the kitchen. A myriad swirl of thoughts and feelings flashed through Ted's mind. 'No! Stop it!' Ted thought. 'Get your act together here. This could be innocent enough or it could turn into an ugly situation.'
He thought, 'Megan was the only child from an upper middle class family and had aspired to be a gentleman's wife and live in a penthouse. She and Ted met, dated, fell in love and were married within 6 months. Their families had accepted them both and were ecstatic when first Timmy and then Joan had come along as the first grand children on either side. Could it be that she was now missing that rich man's life she had always wanted? Was this why she was here dressed like that? He didn't know fashion, but he did recognize expensive. And that hairdo must have taken an hour in the salon. But why was that bastard Clark here? Is this why he is getting all the overtime? Too bad that she hadn't talked to him earlier. Well, screw it. When he got his ID back, he would go and see what kind of story they would come up with. Or would he? He would have to start looking at his life without the tunnel vision he had developed, both at work and at home.'
Just then Fernando came back in and handed back his license. "Mr. Johnson," he said. "I apologize for this evening. I don't remember seeing you here before, but this reservation and for several weeks back have been made in your name. In addition, a reservation is in place for next Friday evening and the Friday after also. I have two requests of you, if it is ok?"
Ted nodded for him to go on as he finished the water and stood up.
"They will be here for about 45 minutes more as they have just been served their entrees. I would prefer to avoid the public spectacle if you confronted them now. Therefore, we are closed on Mondays, but I would like you to come here for a casual lunch about 2pm. We have a small work staff taking care of business and I would like to talk to you in private. Just come to the back door and knock. Would that be acceptable?"
"Yes, I understand. Your patrons might not like having dead rat with their dinner," answered Ted sourly, "and the other request you have?"
"My nephew Freddy is on duty at the Marriott hotel just up the street. He is the assistant manager there. I would like you to go and talk to him, please. I don't want to say anything else at this time."
Ted looked at Fernando and then slowly nodded. First dinner here and then going to the Marriott. Looks like they had changed their dancing style. Numbly shoving the empty feeling back down deep inside himself, he heard himself say, "Ok, I'll do that and I'll see you for lunch on Monday."
Fernando escorted him back through the lobby and watched him go to his car. After glancing around the packed dining area, he stepped back into the kitchen. He picked up his phone and speed dialed the Marriott. His conversation was brief, then he went back to work.
Ted drove to the Marriott and went inside. For some reason he was still carrying that damn bouquet of flowers. The desk clerk looked up as he came in and approached the desk.
"Uncle Fernando asked me to talk to you," he started. "But first I would like to ask you for your ID."
"What's the deal with my ID? I've been asked for it now at three different places. I know who I am. Why do I need to keep proving it?" he snapped back. Freddy just looked at him with his hand out, so he pulled it out and handed it over. Freddy disappeared into a back room, then returned and handed back the license. "Please come with me, sir," Freddy asked.
Taking a key card, they entered the elevator and went to the 6th floor. Freddy opened the door on room 613 and entered. Ted went in and looked around. It was a nice very nice suite. It had a living room with television, microwave, mini bar, and sofa. The bedroom had a door to the bathroom and was filled with 2 king sized beds and dressers. On the table was a magnum of champagne chilling in a bucket. Ted was getting nauseous at the reality of the situation and about puked looking at the wine. He looked over at Freddy who cleared his throat.
"Ted Johnson has reserved this room on Friday evenings for about three months," he started. "Before that time, he and his wife would come twice a week during the day. They said they liked to spice up their lives with an illicit rendezvous while the kids were in school. Then about two months ago, another couple joined him and his wife here on a Friday and now that group comes here every Friday. During the week, it is still just the couple. The group likes to use the Jacuzzi and the steam room down stairs. Only guests are allowed to use the facilities. I asked to see your ID because a person calling himself Ted Johnson puts the charges on a credit card in Ted Johnson's name. Fernando asked me to help you in any way that I could. We have surveillance cameras in all common areas and hallways. Please come back on Monday afternoon. That will give me a chance to go through our tapes. We try to keep them for 60 days and I will let you have as many tapes as I can find. That is, if you want them. We must leave now as they should be here soon. I'll make sure to put in new tapes when they arrive."
Ted had settled onto a chair next to the table as Freddy filled him in on the situation. Looking at the flowers in his hand, he rose and placed them on the pillow of one of the beds. Let that cheating slut try to figure out this one.
"Thank you," he said quietly. "Yes, I would like the tapes and if you could, I would also like copies of any credit card account numbers used along with the dates and amounts charged. Identity theft can be a real pain in the ass, but then again, so can real life."
They went back downstairs and after shaking hands with Freddy, Ted drove away. He went back home and went into the empty house.
The message light was still flashing on the answering machine, so after listening to ensure it wasn't somebody else, Ted cleared it out and thought about what he had learned. She must have been dressed and ready to go when he called. That hairdo must have taken an hour at the salon. She'd been counting on him working and she hadn't been worried about being caught. When they were going out together, they came home around 2am or so because of the dancing and socializing. Since he had been missing out and not going, she usually came home from these events around midnight or so. Well, so much for the dancing. She must have decided she preferred dancing the two backed beast or the spread leg limbo walk. He hadn't seen her dressed like that around here and they shared a closet. He would have seen the new clothes. Maybe she was keeping her new wardrobe at Gretel's house. Yeah, that would make sense. Well, if he threw her out, she wouldn't need anything and already had a place to live. Wait, if she was planning on throwing him out, she would have to move that stuff over here. Ted shook his head, trying to think straight.
So, now what to do? This marriage was over, no doubt about that. He needed to get some hard evidence before they cleaned him out. He wondered what she was getting out of this. Well, laid was obvious because they hadn't had sex more than once a month since the company Christmas party 7 or 8 months ago. Jesus! July already and sex only 8 times this year. He knew that Rosie Palm and her 5 ugly sisters had been helping him out a lot. He just hadn't realized how much. He must be getting really old and complacent if he hadn't noticed that she had cut him off. They had always had an active sex life, and yes they were getting older and slowing down. Was that what this was. Out scratching the old itch without him? Of course she had cut him off, he realized. She had Ron twice a week and the group on Fridays. But why were Greg and Gretel in on this? All of them must be calling Ron by Ted's name, at least when it was credit card time, otherwise, they would have to use cash.
When had this whole mess started. Was it the Christmas party? Before? Ron and Tabitha Clark had been introduced at that party as a new manager over the sales and marketing areas which included Ted's team. In his mind that was a really dumb move. They had just added a layer of management that wasn't needed and combined two areas that sounded alike but had different purposes. Ron and his wife Tabitha were a couple in their late 30s and had moved here from Dallas. Ron looked like a tall, brown-haired weasel with a long nose, beady eyes, and a weak chin. Ted had wondered how he had landed the beautiful Tabitha. She was gorgeous looked like a beauty pageant winner. Just by looking at her, you would never know they'd had the girls. The dress she'd worn had emphasized her flat stomach. He knew that 2 girls, Sara and Jennifer, were in high school. The oldest girl, Melissa, was in college. 'Ok,' he sadly thought. 'Looks like maybe 2 marriages are going to dissolve and the shit will hit the fan with my so called best friends.'
That was probably why Fernando wanted him in on Monday, to go over the credit card receipts. He thought about staying up to confront Megan when she got home. No, that wouldn't be a good idea. He needed evidence, he needed reasons, and he needed to know what kind of shit was headed his way. He was over his head and drowning and hadn't seen it coming. He couldn't tip her or them off that he knew until he found out what he needed to know. Well, tomorrow was another day. He went to bed with a sad, sick feeling that wouldn't leave him alone.
He looked at the clock and it said midnight when Megan slid into bed quietly, trying not to wake him. 'Screw you too,' he thought. 'She smelled fresh and damp. If they had gone dancing, she would have smelled of sweat and smoky bars. Yeah, weren't showers in hotels a good idea.' He went back to sleep.
The next morning he got up and did his morning routine. He went into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Megan had always been an early riser and was reading the paper at the table. "Good morning," she said without looking up. Ted drank his coffee while looking out the window into the back yard. 'Damn,' he thought. 'I won't get to use this pool anymore. Well, I'll get a gym membership and use their pool.'
Megan looked up and said louder, "Good morning, I said. You have no reason to be rude to me. I didn't do anything wrong."
Ted poured the rest of his coffee down the sink, then turned and stared at her. 'Yeah, right. Go on the offensive and deny, deny, deny,' he thought, 'I wonder how much advice Greg has been giving her?' He couldn't tell that she'd had her hair done up last night. Well of course she would. Can't chance giving me any clues. She was turning red in the face while he continued to stare at her.
Finally, he put the cup down on the counter and quietly said "Fuck you bitch. You want conversation? Go talk to your friends. I've got better things to do. Oh, and one more thing. Don't you ever call me incompetent again."
Her eyes widened in shock because he had never talked to her like that before. She started to sputter something as he walked past her, but she never got anything out as he walked out the front door to his car and drove away.