Silence; or, The Betbyohio©
On Tuesday Marc Zoumakis was doing what he usually did, pushing proposals and amendments and prospectuses around on his desk, checking figures on his computer, making calculations. It seemed boring to other people--and occasionally to him--but there was a side of the insurance business that meant dealing with people, sometimes helping them, and that appealed to Marc.
But when the phone rang at 11:10 and it was his daughter Allison on the other end, his face lit up in a big smile.
"Allie! This is a surprise--aren't you supposed to be in school?
She sounded upset. "Dad, it's--it's the car. Bren and Shelly and I were running an errand for the Athletics Council and it just died on us."
"You're okay, nobody hurt?"
"No no, nothing like that. The motor just quit, so I pulled off into a parking lot. We're on 561, like a couple of miles from the mall."
Marc was relieved. "Okay, as long as you're all right. Give me oh, 20 minutes and I'll be there. What on earth made you take 561?" It was a road filled with shoe outlets, strip malls full of dollar stores, car muffler places, and so on. And it wasn't the direct route to the mall, certainly not from the high school.
"Shelly said there was a new shoe place, we figured we could take a few minutes to check it out--but then the engine quit. Can you come right now?"
Allison sounded stressed but not too shaken. "Sure, honey, be right there," he said. "What's the address?"
Marc had worked in an auto repair shop for his last two years of high school and most of the way through college, and it never even occurred to him to have Allison call AAA. He kept a close eye on all the family's cars, including Allie's 06 Corolla, and he was pretty sure it was nothing he couldn't take care of.
When he got out there, the car was in the parking lot of the Paloma Diner, and Allie and her friends were having hot chocolate inside. Marc went in, gave Allie a kiss and got the keys. Within about five minutes he had located and taken care of the problem--one of the battery cables had corrosion on it and was slipping off the battery post.
"Thanks a million, Daddy!" Allie beamed at her dad and gave him a big hug, while Brenda and Shelly said, "way to go, Mr. Z.!"
"Drive safely back to school, okay Al? I'll see you tonight."
Looking at his watch after the girls drove away, Marc figured he might as well have some lunch. He went back outside to get a copy of the Enquirer out of a coin-operated box; and as he stood back up he glanced across the street. There in the parking lot of the Hi-Ho Motel was Sheryl's black Nissan Altima.
It couldn't be, but it was. The plate read KOA-5682; it was hers. The car was parked right in front of one of the rooms, and next to it was a red Corvette with a plate that said "PRINS".
Marc felt sick. He stood frozen in place for what felt like hours, though it was probably no more than a minute. Then he went back into the diner with his paper, sat in a booth where he could watch his wife's car, and had a muffin and a cup of coffee. His mind was a whirling blizzard of thoughts, none of them pleasant.
Ignoring the waitress's polite attempts at chitchat, he focused grimly on the scene across the street, as though his uninterrupted vigilance could prevent the worst from coming true.
Just after 12:35 the door to the motel room in front of the Corvette opened and Sheryl stepped out, smiling and looking back. She was followed by a tall, open-faced guy who was just finishing tucking his shirt back into his pants, his coat held over one arm. They talked and laughed together for a minute; then he bent down in an attempt to kiss her and she laughingly pushed him away. Then they each climbed into their cars; Sheryl drove off immediately and the Corvette followed a moment later.
Marc sat, gazing out the window, seeing nothing. He suddenly stood up, pulled some bills out of his wallet and left them on the table, and headed back to his car. He drove south along the river, crossed it on I-275, and got off at the exit for Northern Kentucky University, where he'd been a student. There was a wooded area at the south end of campus that he'd always loved to walk in, and he parked in a nearby lot.
It was well below 20 degrees, but Marc barely noticed it as he walked. "Nineteen years!" was his only conscious thought. "Nineteen years I've been married to Sheryl--nineteen years I've loved and cherished her, raised our kids with her, been faithful and devoted to her.
"Nineteen fucking years!"
Sheryl didn't know what she felt--embarrassed, a little, but satisfied and excited too. Anthony's cum oozed into her panties, despite the tissues she'd stuffed into them, and she was eager to get home and have a quick shower. Both kids would be at school, Marc was at the office, and the house would be empty.
She giggled to herself. A 42-year old woman, sneaking off to a sleazy motel for a tryst with a co-worker! And not just any co-worker, but a hot 31-year old co-worker; a handsome, single, younger guy who'd pursued her relentlessly for months, flirting and teasing, making easily-repelled but nonetheless flattering passes.
And then, finally, the bet. The silly, foolish, crazy bet she'd accepted, and lost. And there she was, on her back on a bed in the Hi-Ho Motel, taking a delicious pounding from the first and only man besides her husband she'd fucked in 20 years. (And not only on her back, she reflected; that had just been the first time. On top of him too, and then on her knees, with that hard cock driving remorselessly into her from behind.)
Sheryl liked sex. She always liked it with Marc, and not surprisingly she'd liked the hell out of it with Anthony, who was strong and forceful with her. Not too rough, but intense, very excited and eager, and that made it exciting for her too.
It took nearly 45 minutes to get home to their house in West Price Hill, on the far side of Cincinnati; and by the time she pulled into the driveway Sheryl was feeling far less good about herself. The tingling feeling, the afterglow from some lovely sex, was fading.
And growing in its place was a sense of regret and shame. What the HELL had she been doing? Sure, it was flattering to have Anthony Prins as an admirer, pursuing, flattering, teasing, telling her she was sexier than any of the women his own age she told him he ought to be chasing.
But she'd only accepted that bet to shut him down. She knew there was no way he could win--and when he lost she knew he would pay up, and she would have the great pleasure of taking his $1000 and treating herself and Marc to a romantic weekend in a fancy hotel.
That had been the best part, as Sheryl had thought about it. The idea that his money, the money of the guy who was so horny for her that he'd risk $1000, would pay for her to have a hot night of sex with her husband was simply too delicious to resist.
When she'd lost the bet Sheryl had been shocked, disbelieving. And for a few days she'd simply avoided Anthony, kept away from him. She couldn't sleep with another man, break her marriage vows, over a stupid BET!
But it had eaten away at her, the idea of it. No matter how silly it was, they'd both made the bet in good faith--how could she back out? And the fact that Anthony was tall and broad-shouldered and a full decade younger--Sheryl was too honest with herself to deny that the thought of sex with him was kind of exciting.
Anthony had been smart enough not to hound her, not to remind her that she owed him something. He just smiled whenever he saw her, and said "Good morning" or "can I get you some coffee?", and gave her a big grin that was full of unspoken meanings.
And finally, after nearly three weeks of thinking about it, she'd gone right up to him, when he was alone in the break room for a minute, and just stood there gazing at him, saying nothing.
Anthony's face had broken out into such a delighted smile that her nipples hardened; and he said, "how about Tuesday morning? There's a place called the Hi-Ho Motel on Route 561, way over on the other side of Cincinnati. I'll take the morning off and get a room; meet me there at 10."
He watched her, waiting. She couldn't even breathe. Finally she just nodded, once. And he'd leaned forward, very carefully, and given her a gentle kiss on the lips. It was electric--it terrified Sheryl how exciting it was--and then he was gone, leaving her alone there in the break room to wonder what on earth she had just agreed to. Or, rather, why on earth she had agreed to it.
The hot shower felt good, but that afterglow was long gone. Sheryl felt stupid--stupid and guilty. She couldn't help wondering what would happen to her marriage--and then she stamped her foot.
"Get ahold of yourself!" she thought. This was ridiculous! She'd done something awful, made a horrendous mistake. It had felt great at the time, true, but it was an idiotic, selfish thing--fucking around behind Marc's back.
But he'd never know, no one would ever know, unless Sheryl lost her mind and told him. All she had to do was be herself, her normal self. Not guilty, not scared, not clingy--just a loving wife of 19 years, glad to see her man when he walked in the door.
And maybe a little amorous that night, surprise him by reaching for him in bed, offering a little Tuesday-night fun. The idea made her pussy tingle--before she could stop herself she was thinking "two men in one day!" She'd never done anything like that in her life, not even in college. She couldn't help it--it made her smile.
Sheryl heard Marc's car pull into the garage and she felt a sudden quiver of nervousness. She listened for the door, making sure that she was busy with pots on the stove as Marc stepped into the room.
"Hi, honey," she called out brightly, her back to him momentarily, feeling a slight blush on her cheeks and cursing herself. "Calm down!" she said inside her head.
Then she turned to give him the usual kiss; but to her surprise Marc was already past her, on his way into the hallway to hang up his coat. He hadn't said a word.
"Honey?" she called out. She heard the closet door open, then close; and then the sound of Marc's feet on the stairs.
Sheryl's nervousness returned. Marc never failed to say hello, never skipped a kiss when he came in at dinner time. What could be wrong? He couldn't possibly know ... anything. Could he? No, it was ridiculous! It was just that once, just that day--and way the hell on the other side of Cincinnati, on 561.
At dinner the kids chattered away, Alison about the upcoming junior prom and her worries about who would ask her, Jeff--when he could get a word in edgewise--about baseball tryouts and his hopes of making the team as a sophomore. Sheryl smiled and nodded, passed the food around, and watched Marc with feverish attention. She was absolutely terrified.
Marc seemed almost normal--almost. He was his usual self with the kids, teasing them affectionately, listening to their stories, asking questions, being the involved father that she was so used to. But Sheryl noticed--couldn't help but notice--that he wouldn't look at her, and didn't send a single word in her direction.
When dinner was over and the kids had dashed off to do their homework, Sheryl began carrying the serving dishes back into the kitchen. She expected Marc to follow her with the plates--they always cleaned up together after dinner--but when she returned to the dining room he was gone, and the dishes were scattered around the table where the family had left them.
Even more concerned, she hastily did the clean-up herself and then went in search of her husband. After she'd tried their bedroom, the living room, and his study, it occurred to her to look into the garage. His car was gone.
Sheryl slumped down into a kitchen chair. Marc had never gone out without telling her in all the years of her marriage. It could only mean the one awful, unthinkable thing she didn't have the courage to contemplate. But how? How could he possibly know?
The Celtics were pounding the Bulls by nearly 30 in the third quarter, not that Marc gave a shit. He drank some more of his beer, then put his elbows back on the bar and watched the game. Jesus, half the players were guys he'd never heard of. He realized how long it had been since had had the time to focus on the NBA, though he used to love it. As the busy father of two teenagers, and the husband of a woman with her own career, watching sports had slid down to the bottom of the priority list.
He idly chatted with the guys on either side of him--yeah the Bulls had really gone to hell--no, it would never again be like in the old Michael Jordan days--yeah, I suppose that kid Rose is pretty good--without paying much attention.
Marc was not a drinker, and he left the second beer unfinished and headed home. He had no idea what his plans were, beyond knowing that Sheryl was going to get the silent treatment for a while. He didn't want to speak to her--shit, he didn't even want to have to look at her face, and see her inside his head smiling up at that asshole as they came out of the motel room.
It bothered him that the kids would inevitably notice, but he didn't see any way around that. "Spread the unhappiness," he thought, and laughed to himself. Sheryl would find that she hadn't just shat on her husband, she'd dropped a load on her children as well.
How long had she been fucking that guy? Who else had gotten into her pants in the two decades of their marriage? What else didn't he know about, and how long had he been a clueless cuckold? He clenched his hands tight around the steering wheel.
Marc considered sleeping in the guest room with the door locked, but he knew he'd toss and turn for hours, raging and wondering about his life. So instead he went straight into the master bathroom and took a sleeping pill; then he undressed, brushed his teeth and climbed into bed. It was only 10:15, but the pills were strong--Marc had a prescription for his occasional insomnia--and he knew he'd be asleep in minutes.
"Marc? Honey?" Sheryl spoke timidly from the door of the bedroom. She'd been talking to Allie when she thought she heard the garage door, and came to find Marc as soon as she and her daughter had finished their conversation. But there he was in bed, the lights out, turned away from her.
Marc stiffened but didn't answer. "Marc--is everything all right?" She didn't know which would be worse: silence or an angry outburst. What she got was silence.
She walked around to the bed and sat on the other side, facing him. "Honey? Can we talk about what's bothering you? Can I help?"
Marc opened his eyes and looked at her, keeping his face totally blank. Then he rolled over and faced the other way, putting his back to her. Sheryl's heart froze in her chest. She gazed at him for a long time, and then quietly left the room.
Who had the worse day Wednesday? It would be hard to say. Marc was angry and distracted, though thanks to the pill he'd at least had a decent night's sleep. Good thing it was a day of paperwork rather than seeing clients, because he would've had a tough time being cordial and patient.
He tried to bury himself in his work, but every few minutes he found himself gazing out the window, thinking about what he'd seen; wondering what his life would become now. Divorce? How could he live with her, after... But how could he move out and not see the kids every day?
His thoughts went nowhere, or at least nowhere constructive, so he gritted his teeth and went back to actuarial tables and liability waivers.
Sheryl was fortunate not to have an accident on the way to work. She was so distracted that she nearly ran a red light; and she paused at a stop sign so long the cars behind her honked impatiently. Marc had gotten up early and left the house without breakfast, without even waiting to see the kids. And without a word to her.
When she got to her office she closed her door and just sat at her desk for a while, her head in her hands. Thinking, wondering, fearing. What did Marc know? HOW could he possibly know? What would he do? Had her stupidity ended her marriage? Or was it possible that somehow, someway, it was something else that was bothering him? She had no idea what it might be, but that's what she was hoping for.
Thank God she didn't see Anthony until later that day--he was making a sales call down in Louisville or Lexington or somewhere. When he poked his head in around 3:30, a big smile on his face, the look she gave him froze him in his tracks.
"Hey Sheryl, I'm---what's the matter?"
"Something's wrong at home--something bad." Her voice was quiet. "I think maybe Marc knows what ... what happened yesterday."
He looked utterly shocked. "But how--"
"I haven't any idea. But he's furious about something--furious at me."
She waved her hand at Anthony. "Just go back to work, okay? I don't really feel much like talking."
Shaken, Anthony retreated back down the hall. He liked Sheryl, and he certainly didn't want anything to happen to her marriage. And, he admitted to himself, he wasn't very happy about the idea of having to watch over his shoulder for a seriously pissed-off husband.
She turned back to her work, dimly aware of the fear that pressed down on her. She did her work, went and bought groceries, drove home, and started on dinner.
The evening was a repeat of the one before: the kids chattered, she and Marc responded to them, but he steadfastly refused to speak to her. He barely even looked at her. When he needed the salt that was at her end of the table, he got up and retrieved it rather than ask her to pass it. In despair, Sheryl was also amazed that Allie and Jeff still didn't seem to have noticed.
After dinner he disappeared, leaving Sheryl with the dishes. He spent the evening in his study; and when she came in around 10:30 he made no move to turn around and look at her.
Sheryl said quietly, "Honey? Are you coming to bed soon?"
Then he did respond, spinning slowly in his desk chair. He gazed at her coldly, silently, his face a complete blank. She could feel his distance from her--it was as though an icy wind was blowing across the room towards her. After a minute he turned back to his desk, without a word.
By Friday it was obvious even to the kids that something was wrong. Marc made no effort to conceal from Allie and Jeff that he wasn't speaking to Sheryl, and they looked at their parents uncomfortably, not quite ready to ask what the hell was going on. Both had evening plans with friends, and they fled the dinner table as quickly as they could.
Not a minute after they'd gone, Marc stood up, got his coat and headed out the door himself. Sheryl spent a miserable night in front of the TV, worrying and occasionally crying. When Marc came into the bedroom around 11:30, smelling faintly of beer and cigarette smoke, she was wide awake, lying in the dark on her side of the bed, but she didn't try to touch him or speak to him.
"So what's going on, Mom?" Sheryl and Allie were making banana muffins and a fruit salad in the kitchen, as they often did on weekends. It was Saturday morning around 10--Jeff was still fast asleep, and Marc had already left the house without a word.
"What do you mean, honey?" Sheryl replied, though she knew. She was not looking forward to this conversation.
"You and Dad. I mean, something's up--he hasn't talked to you for like, five days? He gets up from the dinner table without a word? I can tell it's not about me or Jeff, 'cause he's fine with us. Did you guys have a major fight about something?"
Sheryl sighed. "To be honest, honey" (well, not totally honest, she thought) I'm not sure what's bothering your father. I can't get him to talk to me about it, which is certainly not like him--we're usually really good about talking things through together."