The Fourth Man Ch. 03bylaptopwriter©
About the same time Ken and crew were getting ready for their second round of golf for the day, Jen's phone was ringing back in Chicago. She wiped her eyes with a tissue and tried to sound normal as she answered. "Hello."
"Hey, girlfriend," greeted a cheery Marge. "So, did you figure out what movie you want to see tonight?"
"Oh, Marge, I'm sorry, I haven't even looked."
It was soon obvious that the attempt to disguise her anguish was in vain. "Jen, are you crying?"
"Marge, I...I can't help it. Ken and I...he hasn't even called to tell me he got there safely," she sobbed. "I...I think I'm losing him, Marge. Oh God, what have I done..."
"Losing him...Jen, what the hell... what do you mean, what have you done? What's happened?"
"Marge, I've done something awful," she cried.
"Jen, put on a pot of coffee and try to pull yourself together, I'll be over in twenty minutes and you can tell me what this is all about."
"Okay," she sniffled before hanging up.
Tara and Laura sat on the balcony of their hotel room. It had been an action packed day with thirty-six holes of golf and dinner with Jack and Ken afterward. Now it was time to sit back, relax with glass of wine, and catch up on some sibling gossip, but what was even more important to Tara was finding out why Laura had been acting strange every time she was around Ken.
"Okay, sis, spill it. What's going on? I saw the way you looked at the picture of Ken's wife yesterday and you've been acting bizarre all day today, especially when Ken is around. Do you know his wife or something?"
"If I tell you, you have to promise you'll never breathe a word of what I say to another living soul...I mean it, Tara; you can't say anything to anyone...ever! Promise?"
"Yes, of course...I promise."
Laura looked down and stared into her glass of wine. Just as she started to speak the phone rang.
"SHIT! Hold that thought." Tara put her cell to her ear. "Hello."
"Hi, Tara, it's Ken."
As soon as Tara knew who was on the other end she turned on the speaker and set the phone down on the little table between her and her sister.
"Hey, Ken, what's up?"
"Hi Ken," interjected Laura with a slight hesitation in her voice.
"Ladies," he said addressing them both. "I was going over our schedule for tomorrow and we're all going to have some free time before we have to leave, so I was wondering if you ladies would like to have one last dinner before we all go home. I've been hearing about this little bistro that's not far from here and I thought we could stop there on the way to the airport...what do you say? From what I hear the place is usually packed and I'll have to make reservations now if you want to go."
Tara looked over at her sister. With a nod of her head Laura okay'd the future plans.
"Yeah, Ken, that's sounds like fun," Tara responded.
"Count me in," chimed in Laura.
"Okay, I'll call and make the reservations. We'll see you guys for breakfast tomorrow morning about eight-thirty, that'll give us plenty of time before we have to be on the first tee."
"Okay, Ken, we'll see you then."
They said goodbye and Tara reached over and disconnected the call.
"That Ken's a nice guy isn't he," commented Laura.
"Yeah, I'm really going to miss playing with those guys but at the same time I hope their friend will be able to make it next year. We were talking about him on the plane; they said he's getting stronger and they were pretty sure he'd be able to join them again this summer. But enough of that, you were about to tell me why you've been acting so weird lately."
"I slept with his wife," mumbled Laura in a voice indicative of her shame.
"Wha...what? What do mean you slept with...with whose wife?"
"With Ken's wife, Jennifer."
"Hold on, this makes no sense at all. How could you sleep with his wife...when?"
"Just before I left Chicago. Bill and the kids were already in Atlanta but I had to stay behind for a week while I finished training my replacement. The company put me up at Water Tower Place, remember?"
Tara nodded her head but still couldn't quite grasp what her sister was saying.
"Anyway, I was down stairs in one of the restaurants eating lunch one day when Jennifer came over to my table. She'd recognized me. I dated her brother in high school. I couldn't believe she remembered me. I recalled Jerry having a sister but I sure couldn't have told you what she looked like. I asked how Jerry was doing and we got talking so I asked her to have a seat. She told me how much she admired me back then. She said she thought I was the most beautiful girl she'd ever seen. Hell, imagine how flattered I was. I asked if she'd had lunch. When she said no I told her I had an expense account and lunch was on me. After she ordered we talked some more."
"Laura, that doesn't explain how you could..."
"Tara, remember how mixed up I was in high school? For a while I thought I was a lesbian, but I also liked boys, so then I thought I could go either way. I really liked Jerry. He was tall and good looking, he had an easy way about him, and a confidence you just didn't find in eighteen year old guys. We did everything together for about six months. Then someone told him I was a lesbian. He confronted me about it and when I admitted to sleeping with a couple girls at school he got pissed and dumped me saying he wasn't going to date a lesbo. It broke my heart at the time."
"You know, I think I remember that now, although I'm not sure I knew why he dumped you but I do remember how crushed you were."
"Yeah," she said with a trace of lingering emotion, "it made me drop boys altogether for a while. That didn't last long though, and after dating a couple more guys, I decided I liked them better than girls. By the time I met Bill I had no desire to ever sleep with another woman, and that's the way it's been until...well, until I ran in to Jennifer."
Laura took a sip of wine and paused for a moment, looking out into the darkness before continuing.
"She told me she was jealous of her brother the whole time we were dating. When Jerry told her why he dropped me she admitted to developing this fantasy about us being lovers. She told me she would lay in bed and dream of her and me kissing. She didn't come out and say it, but the way she was talking I know she masturbated at the thought of us together. Of course she had never actually slept with a woman and really had no desire to; it was just me, her fantasy was just about her and me."
Tara couldn't remember the last time she was so angry with her sister. "Laura, I can't tell you how disappointed I am. Not only did you take advantage of Ken's wife, but you cheated on Bill. Did you forget how devastated I was when I caught Tony...? Hell, Laura, you were the one that held my hand through it all. How could you...?"
"I know, I know, I'm not proud of it, believe me. It was...I don't know...I started to remember what it was like to make love to a woman and something inside me just snapped. I don't know what came over me but I got turned on something fierce while listening to her talk. I hadn't had a lesbian thought since high school but suddenly all I wanted to do was lick her pussy until she had this mind shattering orgasm."
Laura was getting emotional. Tears fell freely down her cheeks. "I thought, just one more time. What the hell, the situation was perfect. My family was seven hundred miles away. No one would ever know."
"Did you know she was married?"
Laura slowly nodded her head. "Yeah, I looked and saw her rings, but..."
"Damn, Laura, I...I can't believe this..."
"I know, I know," managed Laura between sobs.
"Hold on," Tara told her. She stood, opened the glass sliding door to their room, and reached in to grab her purse from the desk. "Here," she said handing Laura a tissue.
"Thanks." Laura wiped more tears from her face.
"So who actually initiated your little tryst, you or her?"
"I did. I think she was shocked by my proposal...at least at first. I told her I was only going to be in town until that Sunday; then I'd be gone and she'd never see or hear from me again. I told her it was her one and only chance to actually realize her fantasy. She was terrified her husband would find out but I told her that was impossible. All she had to do was come up with a good explanation, some reason for having to go away for a couple days, something he'd believe, a sick friend or something like that. If she could come up with a convincing excuse there was no way he'd ever find out. It'd be a onetime deal, no hang ups, no emotional ties, no nothing. I'd be gone and she would have lived her childhood fantasy. I could see she was actually considering it so I ask for her phone number and told her to go home and think about it. I said I'd call her the next day. I knew I had her as soon as she gave me the number."
Just then both women were taken by surprise...BITCH! At first neither knew from where the angry voice came.
"Oh my God," screamed Tara as she abruptly remembered that her phone didn't always disconnect when she hit the button. "Ken, is that you? Ken!"
She looked into the terrified face of her sister. "Ken? You mean he heard us; he heard everything I said?"
"I think so," Tara replied.
"Oh my God. Tara what'll I do? Oh God, I'm so sorry. I...I..."
Unknown to anyone at Hilton Head, a little earlier in the day Jen had confessed the entire story to, Marge. She had become so emotional while explaining everything that Marge didn't want to leave her home alone. Going to the movies as they had previously planned, was definitely out of the question so Marge convinced her friend to go home with her.
After dinner the kids migrated to the living room to watch TV which gave Marge and Jen a chance to sit in the kitchen with a cup of coffee and talk. Jen was still pouring her heart out when Marge's cell rang.
"Oh it's Jack, hold on a minute, Jen," she said, connecting the call. "Hi, honey."
Marge's face quickly contorted from a big smile to an expression of shock as her husband spoke on the other end. "What! Why? Oh my God...no?"
Seeing the stress in her friend's face Jen was going to excuse herself so as not to listen in on a private conversation but Marge motioned for her to sit back down. She wondered what was going on while Marge listened to her husband with a worried look.
"Well couldn't you calm him down? How did he...yes, I'm afraid it's true...No, I didn't know anything about it until this morning."
Suddenly it was Jen who had the worried look on her face. "What; what happened?" she blurted out.
Marge looked like she had just lost her best friend. She covered the phone for a second. "I'm afraid it's bad news, honey; hold on while I find out as much as I can."
She put the phone back to her ear and listened to her husband on the other end.
"Oh shit...no, I didn't just swear in front of the kids, they're in the living room. She's here...ah, well she was worried that Ken was going to cheat on her this weekend...Because...no, I think it was her own guilt talking. Ever since she got back from her mysterious weekend that time, she's been a little paranoid. You guys going on this trip kind of brought it to a head. When I asked her why she was so jealous of Tara, she admitted everything. She was so upset I had her come home with me."
Jen didn't need to hear what Jack was saying to know the unthinkable had happened...Somehow Ken knew, but that can't be right, how could he have found out?
"Well can't you stop him? Talk to him, get him to..." She looked over at Jen and slowly shook her head. "Alright, honey...Okay, if by any chance he comes back, please let me know...Okay...I love you too, honey, bye."
Marge looked at her friend sitting across the table. Jen looked terrified, like her whole world just ended. Tracks of tears were already staining her cheeks but she still held on to a sliver of hope; hope that somehow she misinterpreted the one sided conversation. After all, Ken was hundreds of miles away, how could he have possibly discovered her secret from there? Just as Jen had completed that final thought, her friend destroyed her last shred of optimism.
"I guess you figured out what that was all about, Ken knows," Marge said in a soft, pitying voice.
Jen broke down in tears. It was beyond comprehension, how could it be true?
"How, how did he find out?" she cried.
"I don't know, honey. Jack said he came bursting into their room ranting about you cheating on him. He said he never saw Ken so mad before. He tried to calm him down and find out what was going on but he said Ken was way beyond talking to. He threw his clothes in his bag, asked Jack to take care of his clubs, and took off."
"Took off: where?"
"I'm not sure, but I would guess he's coming home, at least that's what Jack thinks."
"Home: he's coming home...tonight?"
"I would imagine, if he can. His ticket was for tomorrow so Jack didn't know if he'd be able to get a return flight tonight or not. With any luck he'll have to go back to the hotel and Jack will have a chance to talk to him before you two see each other."
Jen was now visibly trembling. "This has to be a mistake," she sobbed. "How could he possibly know?"
"Honey, I don't know but I don't think it's a mistake. Jack told me Ken said he knew what you did on that weekend last year."
"No, no," she cried shaking her head in disbelief. "What...what'll I do, Marge? I...I...should I go home?"
"Honey, I wish I knew what to tell you. You don't think he'd physically hurt you, do you?"
"No, no; he wouldn't hurt me like that, no matter how angry he was, but...I...I don't think I can face him."
"Jen, you're going to have to sooner or later; it might as well be sooner."
With tears still dripping down her face, Jen just stared into space without saying a word. She was finding it hard to breathe and her heart felt like it would burst. In her mind she was already wondering how she would survive in the cold, dark world without Ken to love and protect her.
"Jen, listen, if he does make it back tonight maybe he'll at least cool off in the plane. Maybe he'll sit and listen to you. You can tell him what you told me. Tell him how sorry you are."
The initial shock was starting to wear off. Jen was thinking more clearly. "I don't think he's going to listen to me, Marge; not yet anyway. Even if he did, what would I say? Yes, I betrayed you, yes I cheated on you but it was only with a woman, not a man? What difference does it make...none, not as far as Ken is concerned, absolutely none. The fact is I asked for his trust...no, I demanded his trust...and then I broke it. Marge, I think I've lost him, the most important person in my life and I lost him."
Tears, once again, welled up in Jen's eyes.
Marge walked over and rubbed her friend's back, trying to sooth her emotions. "Honey, you don't know that. Ken's an intelligent, reasonable man, and he loves you dearly. Don't give up hope."
Jen silently sat, looking like a forlorn, lost soul.
"I'm going to call Mrs. Murphy from next door and see if she can baby sit tonight," Marge said, reaching for the phone.
A couple minutes later everything was all set. Mrs. Murphy, a woman in her early sixties, lived alone and was usually available to baby sit Marge's kids. She was coming over and would spend the night if necessary.
Neither Jen nor Marge spoke a word all the back to the house. Jen stared out her window and felt like she was being driven to her execution.
Ken was, indeed, able to exchange his ticket and was already on his way back to O'Hare. He sat in an aisle seat looking almost comatose as those surrounding him went about their business completely unaware of the tortured soul among them. He rested his elbow on the arm of his seat and lowered his forehead into his hand. There must have been over a hundred people sitting nearby, yet never could he remember feeling more alone. He was confused and hurt, angry and humiliated; he felt inadequate...like a loser. He closed his eyes and drifted back in time, remembering the encounter he had with his wife that past spring.
Trust her, he said silently to himself, huh, what a joke. I didn't sleep with another man, she said. Stupid, stupid, stupid; it never occurred to me to ask if she slept with a woman. She knew damn well I'd never think of her doing anything like that. Oh, yes, she's so damn clever.
Unconsciously he took a ragged, deep breath and let it out with a small sigh. How could she betray me like that, betray us like that. Cheating is cheating, fantasy or no fantasy, man or woman; she knew damn well what she was doing and did it anyway.
He felt a tear break free and start to trickle down his cheek. Quickly, he rubbed it away with his finger and looked around to see if anyone noticed. It was the first time since overhearing Laura and Tara, that he had felt anything but anger and rage.
Once he was aware of the pain and sadness, it quickly overtook him. He was starting to feel nauseous and he could feel his heart pounding. Suddenly he sprung from his seat and hurried to find an empty lavatory. Ken was no stranger to emotional pain. His mother died when he was just fifteen, but this was different. Not only had the woman he loved betrayed him, not only had she broken their wedding vows, but she mocked and undermined his trust, she belittled him with her shrewd little, "do you trust me," ploy. Were these the actions of someone who truly loved him or was his whole marriage nothing but a sham?
Ken splashed some water in his face and dried himself with a paper towel. Time had stood still and he had no idea how long he'd been in there. All he knew was that his marriage was most likely over. He loved Jennifer with all his heart but love was a two way street and he didn't see how she could love him and still do what she did.
Jennifer and Marge were sitting in the kitchen when they heard him at the front door. The look on Jen's face was one of total fear, like she had just seen the guns of a firing squad pointing directly at her.
"Let me talk to him," volunteered Marge. "He'll listen to me."
Jen slowly shook her head. "No, this is my mess, I have to face him." Her face scrunched up and tears streamed down her cheeks again. "Oh, God, Marge, what am I going to do?"
Marge ran to her, knelt down and put her arms around her. "Please, honey, let me talk to him. Maybe..."
When Marge stopped talking, Jen looked up and saw Ken standing in the doorway.
It was clear she knew that he had found out about her little affair. Jack, he thought, of course, I should have guessed.
Jack had stolen his thunder, but that was okay. Most of his anger had morphed into pain and he was in no mood for a confrontation just then anyway.
No one said a word, they just looked at each other for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was just a few seconds. Ken turned and left for his favorite easy chair. There he sat staring down at the floor. There was so much he was going say, so many accusations he was going to bombard her with, but now it all seemed so hopeless. What's the use, he told himself. It's over.
He caught a glimpse of his soon-to-be ex-wife out of the corner of his eye. She was standing there, just watching.
"I...I'm so sorry," she finally said, almost in a whisper. "I have no excuses; it was selfish, terribly selfish of me. Since then not a day has gone by that I haven't regretted what I did. I've regretted it because I love you, Ken, I love you so much and I knew how much you would be hurt if you ever found out. I am so very, very sorry."
Ken scoffed. "Yeah, sure; you love me 'sooo much,' so much that even though you knew how much it would hurt me you went ahead and did it anyway. Yeah, that's real love alright. And all that talk about Tara being my girlfriend, huh, nothing but a smokescreen, very clever, Jen, very clever."