The Fall and Rise of David Beckman Ch. 04byK.K.©
I was feeling pretty good when I left Augusta at six o'clock for the drive back home. I was excited about being part of this new venture and was pleased that I was able to bring Clinton Products to the table. I guess that I had gotten so wrapped up in what I was doing with Jeff and Don that I had temporarily forgotten about my other problems. My real world came back to me in the form of a tingling sensation on my upper thigh. It startled me at first. I thought something was crawling up my leg and then I realized it was my cell phone vibrating in my pocket.
I didn't answer the call. I didn't even try to get the phone out of my pocket. I just let it go until it stopped by itself. The whole tone of my mood changed after that. I tried not to think about Erica but I couldn't stop. When you love someone as much as I loved Erica, you can't just put them out of your mind. Especially when you are dealing with betrayal. Anything that reminds you of that person brings back the pain.
I decided that because I couldn't put it out of my mind I would deal it directly and I started planning my future. Since I didn't know if or when Erica might decide to come back from LA, I would proceed without her. I would call a lawyer Wednesday morning and start preparing for a divorce. I would need advice about handling our financial situation. Erica and I both had good jobs before I lost mine. I figured that since Erica conspired against me and helped Bill get me fired that I could probably be safe from having to pay her any alimony. Besides, I didn't know how much income I would get from my new partnership. It would take a while for that to get sorted out and it would depend on how successful we were in getting the business going.
I began to wonder if Erica had been planning to divorce me so she could be with Bill. Was everything that Bill had done to me over the last several months designed to create problems in my marriage so that Erica would have an excuse to leave me? What about Diane? Was Bill just going to dump her? How could Erica possibly be in love with that slimy asshole?
That was the tenor of my thinking as I pulled in my garage at eight o'clock that evening. As I shut the engine off, I thought to myself, "Well, I'm home." Then it occurred to me that this wasn't a home anymore. Having Erica with me made it a home. Now that she was gone, it was just a house with a lot of memories that would cause me pain. Another decision made. After I talked to a lawyer, I would talk to a real estate agent. I would sell the house and maybe move to Augusta to be near my new partners.
When I walked into the house, I had only one goal in mind. That was to pour myself a large bourbon and let its penetrating warmth help relax my muscles that had stiffened during the drive home from Augusta. I went to the kitchen and poured myself a drink and headed into the family room to unwind.
When I walked into the family room, I was shocked to find Erica asleep on the sofa. I was sure that I wouldn't see her again at least until Friday and maybe not even then.
"What the hell is she doing here?" I didn't even realize that I was saying it out loud until Erica sat up and stared at me. It seemed to take her a minute to get her mind alert before she spoke.
"Thank God your home," she said. "Where have you been? I have been going crazy trying to find you ..."
She was still talking when I gave the only response I could come up with.
"What are you doing here?"
Erica stopped talking for a moment and stared at me like I was crazy. "I live here," she said.
I knew it was time for me to say something important. Something of substance, something that would have the impact called for by the situation. The problem was that I was unprepared for this confrontation.
I said, "Oh."
"What were you thinking?" Erica said, the anger in her voice evident. "You call me and tell me that you are in the hotel lobby and are on your way up to my room and then you never show up."
Erica was quiet for a minute, waiting for me to respond. Rather than trying to respond I found myself trying to stifle a smile. I don't know why but I was finding Erica's righteous indignation funny. I wondered if she was angry because I never showed up or was it because my phone call made her chase her lover from the room.
"Aren't you going to say anything?" she said.
"What are you doing here?" I really did try to come up with something better than that but I had nothing.
"Why do you keep asking me that? I came home to find you?" she said.
"What made you think I would be here?" For some reason, I wanted to play games with Erica; I decided not to answer her questions, at least not right away. I didn't really even have a plan. I was just going to be uncooperative.
"After you called me, I waited fifteen minutes and, when you didn't show up, I looked out in the hallway to see if you were out there. When I didn't see you there, I thought maybe you didn't get the room number right and were on the wrong floor and trying to get into the wrong room. I called your cell phone but you didn't answer. I waited for a while and called you again and this time I got a message that your cell phone was turned off."
The emotion in Erica's voice made me take a close look at her. Her hair was a mess and her eyes were puffy and red. She looked exhausted. When she continued, the stress in her voice was obvious.
"When I couldn't get you to answer your phone, I went down to the front desk and asked the two people working if either of them had spoken to you when you came in. They both said that they were the only two working the front desk for the last hour and that no one had asked either of them for my room number. I told them that you called my room from the courtesy phone. One of the clerks called the hotel operator who told her that no one had called my room from the courtesy phone. The hotel operator said that the only call to my room came from an outside line," Erica said.
Erica looked at me as if she expected me to say something so I did.
"I tried to call you on your cell phone several times and then I called the house but got no answer. At eight o'clock, I knew it was getting late back home so I called Mrs. Campbell next door and asked her if she had seen you. She told me that she saw you drive into the garage yesterday afternoon and when I was talking to her on the phone she said that she could see lights on in the house."
Again Erica stopped and looked at me. I again felt pressured to say something so I said, "I didn't think about you calling a neighbor. I guess I shouldn't have turned any lights on."
Erica looked exasperated as she took a deep breath. "When I found out for sure that you were at home, I booked the first flight I could get and came home. I got here at eight o'clock this morning. Now I think you own me an explanation," Erica said. I smiled at Erica - I am not sure why, perhaps just to piss her off. "No, Erica, I think that it is you that owes me an explanation," I said.
Erica looked surprised by my last statement.
"What explanation do I owe you?" Erica asked.
"I need you to explain all of the lies and deceptions," I said.
"Lies? What Lies?"
"Why don't you start with the bullshit about this class you had to take? I have a hard time believing that your boss dropped that on you the Wednesday before the class was to start," I said.
"I wasn't lying about that class ... well, I guess I wasn't completely truthful," she said. I was surprised that she was already breaking down. I thought that she would have stuck to her lie a little longer.
"So you admit you lied about the class?"
"What I told you about the class was true. My boss wanted me to take this class. The part that wasn't true was that he told me about it last Wednesday. The truth is he told me about it two weeks ago. That's when I made my reservations. I was going to tell you about it right away but you were so depressed that I put off telling you as long as I could."
I didn't expect that. "Is that the truth?"
"Of course it is. You can call and ask my boss if you want. If you would have looked at my itinerary you would have seen the date I made my reservations was more than two weeks ago. That's why I didn't give you my itinerary until Monday morning," Erica said.
I believed her. She wouldn't tell me a lie that would be so easy to check out but I intended to take a closer look at the itinerary she gave me anyway.
"I can't believe that you are accusing me of lying to you. I have never told you anything that wasn't true," Erica said.
My first thought was, "I wonder if her last statement covered when she told me that she loved me," but I decided to save that for a later discussion. It was time to break her down and get her to tell me the truth about her relationship with Bill. Erica's next comment set things up perfectly for me.
"You're the liar here. Why do you keep trying to change the subject on me? I want to know why you called and said you were in LA and were on your way up to my room when you were actually at home. You had me so worried I didn't know what to do. I thought you might have finally gone off the deep end," Erica said.
I sat down on the sofa next to Erica and got close to her and stared into her eyes.
"Okay, I'll tell you. I wanted you to think I was on my way up to your room so that you would have to chase your lover out of your room before I got there and caught the two of you together," I said.
Erica's face began to pale. She pulled back from me and I could see her lips quiver. I waited for her response, expecting her words to give away her guilt but what I got was an angry response.
"Lover? What lover?" Erica said.
"Oh, God, David, he is not my lover," Erica said.
"Are you denying that he was in your room when I called?" I asked.
Erica looked surprised by my question. "No, but how did you know?"
"When you answered the phone, I heard him ask you who was on the phone," I said.
"How did you know it was him?" Erica asked.
If the conversation weren't so serious, I would have laughed at Erica. She was now doing what I had done earlier. Deflecting my questions by asking me questions. I just played along. I knew the truth would come out eventually and I wasn't in a hurry. "I called his house to talk to him and Diane told me he had to go to a conference. I didn't think it was just a coincidence that you both had to be in LA at the same time and were staying at the same hotel. So when I heard a man's voice in your room, I knew who it was," I said.
"Bill is not my lover."
"So he was in your room but you didn't make love to him? Was it my phone call that kept you two lovers out of bed?"
"No. I didn't have sex with him and I was not going to have sex with him. We were just talking."
"Are you saying that you never had sex with him?"
"I have never cheated of you," Erica said.
"Another lie," I said.
"That is not a lie," Erica said.
"Okay, maybe not a lie but a deception. I can't judge the truth of what you tell me but I know about your deceptions. The dishonesty caused by things you didn't tell me."
Erica didn't say anything. I could see that her eyes were filling up with tears but she was trying to stay strong.
"Shall I list all of your deceptions? I am talking about the truths that you didn't tell me that became lies by their omission? Let's see, where shall I start? How about the day we ran into Bill and Diane at the Mall. The truth was that you already knew Bill but by not saying anything you let me believe that you had never met him before. Then there were the phone calls. You told me that Bill called you and talked about me. This led me to believe that his calls were because he was concerned about me and about my job performance. What you failed to mention was that the real reason he called was so the two of you could talk about yourselves. Then you forgot to tell me that you told Bill about the deal I was working on with Clinton Products. That omission cost me my job. Let's see what else was there. Oh yeah. You failed to mention that Bill Nelson was going to be in LA at the same hotel you were staying at followed by your not telling me he had been in your room when I called. Then the final deception. When I asked you if you had ever had sex with Bill you said you never cheated on me but you neglected to say that Bill was your lover for more than two years when you were in college. Have I got anything wrong so far?"
Erica bent her head and stared down at her hands but said nothing.
"I'll take your silence as confirmation," I said. "Given all of the truths you didn't tell me I am having a hard time believing what you have told me."
"I had a good reasons for not telling you those things. You have to let me explain," Erica said and then fell silent.
I got up and started to leave the room.
"David, please don't leave. Let me explain," Erica said.
"I am just going to pour myself a drink while you make up more lies," I said. "Would you like something?"
Erica gave me an angry look. "I haven't lied to you and I am not going to lie to you," Erica said. "I would like a glass of wine?"
I went into the kitchen and refreshed my drink and then poured a glass of Shiraz for Erica. I didn't return to the family room immediately, giving her more time to think about what she was going to tell me. I felt pretty sure I would be able to separate the truth from the bullshit so I wasn't worried that she was using the time to make up a bunch of lies. I was desperately hoping that she would tell me the truth. The truth was the only hope of saving our marriage.
When I finally returned, Erica thanked me for the wine and then sat silently as she sipped a small amount if the dark red liquid. Erica put her glass down on the coffee table and looked at me.
"You have to know two things that I have told you that are true," Erica started. "I love you and I have never cheated on you. A lot of what you said is true but I did not know that Bill was going to be in LA. He never told me he was going to be there. My reasons for not telling you about those other things are not what you think.
"It's true that Bill was my boyfriend in college. I told you about that when we first started dating," she said.
"You told me that you had a long relationship in college but you never mentioned his name," I said.
"His name wasn't important then. I heard from a friend that shortly after going to New York, Bill had started dating someone else. I think it may have been Diane but I don't know for sure. Bill and I had stopped talking before he found a job so I never even knew he worked at IBM.
"When we ran into Bill and Diane at the mall, it was the first time I had seen him since college. I had never had any desire to see him again and I felt very uncomfortable running into him that way. I didn't have time to think about whether to acknowledge that I knew Bill or not. He seemed to make that decision for us. I thought about it afterward and I decided it might be best if you didn't know. I thought it might be uncomfortable for you at work if you knew that Bill and I had been lovers in college."
Erica took a sip of her wine before she continued.
"When you suggested that we should ask them over for dinner, I nearly panicked. That would have been too uncomfortable for me. I felt that the farther I stayed away from Bill Nelson the better," she said.
"Why? Were you worried that you might be attracted to him again?" I asked.
"No. It was nothing like that. I just thought it would be uncomfortable being with them knowing that we were keeping a secret from you and Diane. Anyway, one evening about two weeks later, Bill called the house before you got home from work. He thanked me for not saying anything at the mall and said that he didn't want to make you or Diane uncomfortable. Then he said that there was something that he wanted to talk to me about but he didn't think the time was right. He just said that it was about you. Bill asked me if I could meet him somewhere and I told him that I thought that would be very inappropriate. So he asked if he could call me so I gave him my work number.
"The next day Bill called me at work. He said that he was worried about you. He told me that you were making mistakes at work that as far as he could tell you had never made before. Bill told me he liked you and he didn't want Mike to find out that you had screwed up a couple of important contracts. Bill then asked me if you were having any problems that might explain what was going on at work."
I was beginning to get angry. Was Erica just trying to cover up what the two of them did to me or did she really not know what Bill was up to. I decided to let Erica finished her story before I went on the attack.
"I told Bill that I didn't think you were having any problems. I told him you hadn't mentioned any problems at work either. Then you told me that Mike had called you in to tell you that two of your customers had complained about the contracts you sent them. From that point on, you seemed to be angry all of the time and you started drinking more than usual. After that first call, Bill called me every few days and told me what was going on with you at work and how concerned he was for you. At home, your behavior began to worry me. After a while, Bill's calls started to become more personal. He started talking about the fun we used to have in college and he asked about different people we had known. I don't know exactly when it happened but suddenly I realized that Bill was calling me every day. By then, the stress you were under was obvious and you had started to claim that someone was sabotaging your work.
"I told Bill what you were saying and he said that he was beginning to worry that you might be having a breakdown. He said that you had complained around the office that the problems with your contracts weren't your fault but that someone was messing with them. Bill said that you seemed to be suffering from some sort of paranoia. I was seeing the same thing at home and it worried me a great deal.
"The problem was that anytime I mentioned that I had talked to Bill you got angry and said that you didn't need help. Your behavior became so erratic that I was afraid of what you might do. When Bill first started calling me everyday I was uncomfortable and I was going to tell him to stop calling but then, when your behavior became so unsettling to me, I found it comforting to have a friend I could talk to about what was going on."
Erica took another break for a sip of wine. I had been watching her very carefully and had the feeling that she was being honest. I couldn't be sure if that feeling was because I wanted to believe what she was saying or if it was because she was telling me the truth.
Erica put the glass down and started talking again.
"When things were at their worst at home, Bill began to suggest that we meet for a drink so we could talk face to face. I told him I wouldn't do that but he suggested it again the next time we talked.
"I felt that I had made it clear that I would not see him but he persisted. I was trying to deal with a husband that seemed to have lost his grip on reality and I needed Bill's advice to help me cope but I knew that meeting him for a drink would be inappropriate. That's when I started to crack under the pressure. I was trying to get you to seek help while at the same time deal with Bill pressuring me to go out for a drink with him. I have to admit that at the time Bill's phone calls were something I had begun to look forward to and going home at night to deal with your paranoia was something I had come to dread.
"Then one night you came home happy. Your change in mood made me think that maybe you had broken out of whatever funk you had been in and that everything was going to be better. When I asked you why you were in such a good mood you told me about the deal you were working on with Clinton Products. I could see this was an important opportunity for you so I asked if you were going to get Bill to help you with it. You got upset and said that you didn't want anyone else at BDS involved in your deal. You didn't trust anyone. That really scared me. I just thought that if you did that deal on your own and there was a problem with it that you might come unglued. I knew you didn't want Bill involved but I was afraid of what would happen if he didn't get involved, so I told him about Clinton Products.