Red Orchids Ch. 04bybluefox07©
"Many people have asked about a secondary character in this story, Sheila Crane-Messing from "The Finer Points of Sheila." This story takes place in the time frame of chapters 4 and 5 during her pregnancy. Thanks!"
It had been three weeks since Ellen Gordian returned to her job at Clarkson Real Estate. As Sheila had predicted, Mr. Clarkson was only too happy to get Ellen back on the payroll. She quietly assumed her old role and even got her old desk back. It felt good to be wearing her business suits again. She felt like she was in control, like she had finally found a foothold against the craziness of her life. A lot of old feelings came back for her with her new employment, but absent from this reunion with purpose was guilt.
Her daughter, Maddie, was in the care of one of the most professional and down to earth women she had ever met. The day Shannon Merele (pronounced Mer-ul-lee) showed up at the Gordian house was the day Ellen knew she had made the right choice. Shannon was forty-five with the deepest auburn colored hair Ellen had ever seen. Her eyes were a brilliant shade of emerald clover and her skin was alabaster. Ellen was impressed by her professional appearance and clean-cut attire of slacks and white blouses. But it was her easy going charm and relaxed confidence that allowed Maddie to fall in love with her.
But Ellen had been acutely aware of her husband's roaming eyes. Mark had spent the entire interview looking her over in his pathetically subtle way. Ellen had to admit she was an attractive woman. Her figure was full and her breasts seemed to be a little too large for her smaller frame. The woman stood about five-seven with breasts ballooned out subtly enough to lead Ellen to believe they were real. When she played with Maddie on the floor, they jiggled and teased under her shirt. Mark was only too happy to watch.
Aside from her husbands blatant gawking, she had no reserves about Shannon. The agency she came from highly recommended her and her list of references was impressive, reading like a who's who list of local movers and shakers. Her price had been right for them and aside from Mark's indiscretion, she was perfect. So Shannon Merele became the new addition to the Gordian household, working from five in the morning until either she or Mark got home.
On the morning of June 30th, Ellen woke up to find the temperature already soaring past seventy-five degrees at just a little after eight. It had been just over a month since she slapped Mark across the face. If his attitude towards her had been cold before, it was positively frigid now. In fact, his regard for her was the only cold thing in the entire house for the most part. The rising temperatures and humidity had only served to further irritate their festering marriage.
Many things had changed since that night, and she was beginning to realize that her marriage was going to end. The fact that Henry hadn't called her back after he had checked up on Mark was puzzling, but even more so in that her friend didn't make an effort to even contact her at all. Semester had ended, and Henry was on vacation as was most of the faculty at the college.
Well, everyone except Mark.
He had been working late hours and was constantly holed up in his office "preparing the syllabus for next semester." A month ago, Ellen might have believed that. His infidelity was all but a spoken fact between them now. Their sex life had been dead prior to her suspicions, but when she had found the lavender scented perfume on his shirt that night (the "Night of the Slap" as she had come to think of it), it had been buried. Considering his appetite for sex and his consistently good mood to the contrary, to think he wasn't getting laid was the height of ignorance.
Ellen showered and dressed in typical business attire, a smart looking suit-and-skirt with a wide lapelled blouse. Once downstairs, she found Shannon cooking breakfast for her family. The smell of bacon and eggs was thick and appetizing, making her stomach growl. Mark was sitting at the bar and chatting with Shannon, his charm as thick and obvious as the butter spread. Maddie was happily humming to herself as she scooped up a handful of scrambled eggs and shoved them into her mouth. The small child was thankfully oblivious to the turmoil in the house.
"Good morning everyone," Ellen walked into the kitchen.
"Good morning," Shannon greeted her with one of her trademark smiles. She was dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt that hugged her figure in a flattering form. Sometimes, Ellen felt jealous of her. The way her husband ogled the woman was blatant and rude, but Ellen couldn't say that she blamed him. On the other side of it, Shannon seemed oblivious to his leering. And that was fine with her.
"Morning," Mark said indifferently. If Shannon had noticed his attitude, she did not let on. Ellen thought maybe she chose to ignore it. Better not to become involved in family politics. And, again, this was fine with Ellen.
"You have to work again today?" Shannon asked her, "It's Sunday."
"Yeah," she nodded and filled her mug with hot coffee, "Sheila and I are going to be viewing a few houses today that another firm is letting go."
"And when will you be home?" the nanny asked.
"Most likely around eight," she replied and noticed Mark's gaze resting casually on Shannon's jiggling breasts as she stirred the frying bacon, "But it could be later than that. One of the houses is on the southern end of the city."
"Well, I'll keep a plate warm for you," Shannon told her and pulled the pan full of crispy bacon off the burner.
"What about you Mark?" Ellen asked, already knowing his answer, "You working today?"
"Yes," he said, "I'll be late as well."
"Implying something, Ellen?" he asked as he flipped through the morning paper. The search was still on for the killer of Alicia Keel. She had been murdered the morning he phone fucked her with Marlene in his office. His heart had almost stopped when he found out she was dead. Much to his chagrin, the cops had checked her phone records and found the call placed from his office to her on the morning in question. He had lied through his teeth, telling them that she had been interested in attending the college. As he was a regular at the café where she worked they had a "mild friendship" and she had turned to him for more information. His calling her was purely professional.
Since they had no other reason to suspect otherwise, they had left it at that. But Mark had been badly shaken by the experience. Even now, he worried that they might implicate him and expose him. The truth about his multiple affairs was enough to destroy his plans for the future, but he had also been planning to murder Ellen. He had even made a few phone calls (numbers for which he had paid a small fortune) to get some quotes from the bookies that represented professional killers.
The situation was hot, as hot as the weather outside. He wasn't so much concerned with Alicia dying as he was with his own ass. He was the one who had everything to lose. As a result, he had become much more cautious in his double life. He had wanted to fuck Shannon badly, so badly that his want for her was worse than his lust for Marlene. And while he maintained his relationship with Emily and Marlene, he kept as much distance between he and Shannon as he could, which really wasn't much.
"Excuse me," Mark folded up the paper, "Bathroom break."
Ellen looked to Shannon as Mark left the kitchen and hurried upstairs, "Will you be fine working today?"
"Mrs. Gordian," she smiled and scraped the bacon on a plate, "It's why I get paid the big bucks."
Ellen grinned and gave Shannon a side hug, "Thanks."
"Ellen," she corrected her, "Please call me Ellen."
"Ellen," Shannon said, her eyes hesitantly looking away, "Can I ask you something?"
Shannon glanced up at the ceiling and then to Ellen, "Why does Mr. Gordian treat you so badly?"
Ellen swallowed her coffee and leaned against the counter top. She looked at the nanny and tried to decide how to respond. It was a bold question to be sure. After a long pause, Ellen said, "I don't know."
"I don't like how he talks to you," she whispered as put the hot pan in the sink, "I know I'm out of line here, but he's so mean."
"Don't worry about it, Shannon," Ellen said quietly, "I don't anymore."
"Of course," Shannon said, recognizing her employers silent wish to drop the subject.
Ellen left shortly after their conversation. Once she had pulled out of the driveway, Shannon slipped out of the kitchen (making sure that Maddie had only her tippy-cup to prevent a choking accident) and walked up the stairs to the second floor. Mark had been gone for a half hour up there, and she wondered what he was up to. She quietly walked down the hall, peeking into the bedroom. There was no sign of him.
Then there was a low noise from the bathroom on the other side of the bedroom. She tiptoed past the master bed (which only Ellen slept in now as Mark had opted for the couch) and saw the bathroom door was open slightly. Through that sliver of space she saw Mark standing in front of the bathroom mirror. He had unbuttoned his shirt, revealing his stunning figure. His pants and shorts were around his ankles and gave her a generous view of his ass. In his hand he stroked one of the thickest cocks she had ever seen.
A blush heated in her face as she watched him masturbate, entranced by his rhythms and moans. The rod in his hand was long and powerful, and she felt a stirring in her sex that was both forbidden and maddening. She had noticed his stares and not so casual glances at her. The man's bold attitude and disrespect for his wife was not something that surprised Shannon. She was used to that kind of thing. It was his reserve in not doing anything about his attraction to her that impressed her.
"Shannon," Mark whispered as he tensed up and semen spurted out into the sink basin and across the counter top, "Fuck."
Shannon smiled and quietly went back downstairs.
"Ellen," Henry smiled and stood up from the booth in the corner of the Starlight Café.
Ellen noticed that Henry had picked the exact same booth she and Sheila had been sitting at when she decided to go back to work a month ago. She smiled and ignored Henry's outstretched hand, instead hugging him. Henry tensed for a moment, uncertain of how to respond. After a moment, he returned the embrace. They sat down and Henry said, "You look great, Ellen."
"I feel great," Ellen smiled warmly. She looked very smart in her dark business suit, the bright white lapels of her blouse not only making her face brighter but also making a sharp "V" of cloth to her cleavage. Henry did his best to maintain some manners and not look. He may have been over fifty, but he wasn't dead.
"So you're looking to buy my boat?" he asked and straightened out his tie.
"Well, Henry," Ellen folded her hands on the table, "To be honest, I didn't have you meet me here to talk about your boat."
"Oh?" Henry said. He smiled amiably but inside he feared she was going to bring up the night he went to check on Mark for her. He prayed he wouldn't start sweating.
"Henry, how long have we known each other?"
"Ten years now?" he said thoughtfully.
"That's a long time," she said, "And in that time I've gotten to know you pretty well."
"And I you," Henry smiled. 'Oh God I knew it... she's gonna force it out of me..." he thought dismally.
"What happened that night?"
Ellen raised a brow. "The night you checked on Mark... during finals week?"
"Oh," Henry laughed nervously and tried to maintain his poker face. But he realized he couldn't maintain something he never had. He sighed and looked at her, the humor draining from his face. He was silent for a few minutes. He did not want to get involved.
"Henry..." she lowered her head and met his eyes, "Come on."
"Look," Henry raised his hand up inoffensively, "I don't know anything for sure, okay?"
"I went to his office," Henry recalled that humid May evening, "I was about to knock on his door when I heard him in there with... well, with a student."
"Oh?" Ellen asked, her stomach sinking.
"Yeah," Henry said, his eyes pleading with her not to make him say it, "They were discussing things that a student and teacher probably shouldn't discuss."
"Ellen, don't make me repeat it."
"Henry, we're grown ups for Christ's sake," she grabbed his hand and held it, "Now what did you hear?"
"I think they had just finished their 'business'," Henry said, uncomfortable with the memory, the fact that he was ratting Mark out, the fact he hadn't told her sooner and the fact that Ellen was holding his hand now. He continued, "She was talking about what a big...cock... he had and how much she appreciated him letting her earn her grade... he said... well, you get the idea."
Ellen bit her lip as a rush of hot embarrassment and anger flooded her cheeks. She shook her head, "What else?"
Henry sighed, "The girl was saying how she didn't want you to find out, and Mark said you weren't the quickest draw in the west..."
"Did he say that?" she asked sadly. Tears were stinging her eyes as she listened.
"I'm sorry, Ellen."
"So am I," Ellen looked down at the table, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I couldn't," Henry said, his face filled with shame, "I couldn't tell you because I didn't want to see you cry or be hurt. I got... oh fuck it, I got scared."
Ellen forced the tears back down. She imagined herself grabbing those slippery little fucks and forcing them back into their ducts. She wouldn't cry over Mark. She had suspected it, and now she knew it. She was angry at Henry for his silence, but the haunted look in his beautiful blue eyes sucked the fire from her anger. She squeezed his hand and tried to smile. She said, "It's not your fault."
"Ellen," he hesitated, "It's not just one woman."
"He told me that he has been fooling around on you now for awhile," he confessed and recalled the incident in office the day after he had heard Mark fucking a student, "He's been seeing as many as three women on the side. But fifteen affairs all together in the last few years."
"Oh my God," Ellen's face went limp with shock, her jaw open and eyes wide. The blood drained from her face as she processed his words. She could only say, "Oh my God."
"I'm so sorry," Henry offered. He was sorry. He was a sorry excuse for a friend.
"What will I do?" she whispered. The perfume, the late nights, the golfing trips and all the fucking staff meetings. Mark had been playing her from the beginning. And maybe she had let it happen. She looked to Henry.
"Oh Jesus I am sorry," Henry said again, "I should have told you sooner."
"Henry," Ellen shook her head as a single tear rolled down her cheek, "I've had my suspicions. It's not your fault. I've been living a lie."
Henry didn't know what to say.
"Did he say who?"
"Not specifically," Henry replied, "But he mentioned a waitress from this restaurant, and he mentioned a chef and he mentioned the student I told you about earlier."
Ellen thought about Shannon Merele and the way Mark always looked at her. She asked, "What about the nanny we hired for Maddie?"
"Not that I know of."
"Hmm," she said to herself.
Ellen thought of her conversation with Sheila weeks ago and began to understand something about herself. She wasn't so upset over his betrayal of her in the sense that her heart was broken. Indeed, she seemed to be feeling a wounded ego more than anything else. It dawned on her like a newborn sun in the dark sky. She thought back and realized that Mark's infidelity had only wounded her pride, not her heart. And if her heart wasn't bleeding from a cheating husband, then what did that say about her? What did that say about her feelings for him?
"You know the funny thing here?" she looked at her friend and glanced to the ceiling, "My heart isn't broken."
"Really?" Henry looked surprised.
"Really," she said, "I guess I've known for awhile now he was stepping out."
"Ellen," Henry looked down at his hands as his cheeks turned red, "There's more."
"More?" she leaned back against the back of the booth, "Henry, good Lord."
"No," he said, "You see... there's a reason why I couldn't tell you what happened. A lot of it was fear, but there was more."
"What is it, Henry?" she asked and touched her fingers to his hand. She had never seen him so guilt ridden. Oddly enough, he pulled his hands back from her.
"Mark has been holding something over my head for awhile now," Henry explained, "And I suppose you'll hear about it anyway when he finds out I told you all this."
Ellen wasn't sure she wanted to hear it, but listened anyway.
"Awhile back, " he began, "I committed an indiscretion that Mark knew would ruin me."
"What?" she coaxed.
"One night, shortly after we first met, I was over at your place for dinner when Mark went stepped out to go to the store," Henry closed his eyes, unable to believe he was confessing this to her, "I was walking though your garden and was behind some of the bigger bushes when you went for a swim..."
"What's so bad about that?"
"You were naked at the time," Henry breathed, his face flushed red, "And I was watching you from the bushes."
"Oh." She said, feeling both shocked and flattered at the same time. She said, "Henry, I don't know what to say."
"Please don't say anything yet," he put his hand up, driving the last nail into his coffin, "You see, I wasn't just watching."
"What else were you doing?"
Henry sighed. "I was, well... I was doing something a gentleman shouldn't do in public, let alone while peeping on his colleagues wife."
It was Ellen's turn to blush. "Oh Henry," she whispered.
"I understand if you don't want to ever talk to me again," he said, "I'm so embarrassed over this. I don't know what came over me."
Ellen felt so many different things in that moment that she was flabbergasted. She had always thought that if faced with this kind of situation, she would be indignant and filled with a righteous anger. Instead, after a month of enduring Mark's cold attitude and rude disposition, she found herself warm and receptive to the idea. The thought of Henry masturbating while watching her swimming naked was both erotic and tempting. She felt as though she had been expecting it but never knew it.
"Henry," she smiled and grabbed his hand, "Is that why you left so quickly that night?"
"Yes," he looked away.
"Hey," she said, "Don't feel bad okay? You're human. You can make mistakes."
Henry felt like a load of lead weights had been lifted from his shoulders, "You're not angry?"
Ellen shook her head, "No. No I'm not. If anything, I'm very flattered."
Henry smiled. For the first time in a long stretch of living, he smiled and actually felt good enough to sustain it. He took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes with his free hand, "You don't know what it has been like, living with this."
"Well now you can relax a little Henry."
"Thanks," he smiled.
"Mark," she told him, "Is not the man I married anymore."
"No he's not," Henry agreed.
Mark returned home around ten that night.
As he pulled in, he realized that Ellen's Honda was not parked in the side driveway. He shut the ignition off and walked up the path slowly. When he grasped the doorknob, it opened easily. He frowned and looked around. If Shannon were still here, why wouldn't she have locked the door? It was too late in the evening for it to be anything but secure, especially if she and Maddie were the only ones home.