A Little Interlude

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She was thinking about things she shouldn't.
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*****

Sometimes you have these interludes in life. It's like being in a nightmare. All you want to do is wake up. Sometimes you wake up and the nightmare is real.

"Dexter, there's something I need to talk to you about," I looked over at my wife of twelve years. The wind had a strand of her hair, pulling it out of the open T-top and the rest was moving in waves. She was heart-stopping, pulse pounding beautiful. Her hair was so much flame, moving around her face in waves of heat; a major portion falling down over the pale green sundress she filled to perfection. It framed a face that women would die for and men would fight for. Her skin was creamy white; a few freckles dusted her nose. More would appear later when she had been in the sun longer, fading in a few hours until they disappeared completely, unless she was under a black light. Her huge hazel eyes were clouded with concern and her red lips were pursed.

"Can it wait five minutes?" I asked. "It's kind of hard to carry on much of a conversation with all the wind and exhaust noise."

She nodded. We have a 1978 Trans Am we like to cruise in, and the exhaust is pretty loud, especially with the T-tops open.

I thought I knew what was coming, what she wanted to talk to me about, and I really wasn't much interested. I guess I had it to do, so I would just grit my teeth. We pulled up at the cabin. We bought a place on the lake two years ago, and we were spending the weekend there. Kia and Mia, our twin eight year olds, were spending the weekend with my parents and this was a chance for some alone time. I thought we needed it.

We got out, carried groceries and our bags inside, and put them away. I opened two beers and went out on the back porch. It's screened in, and goes all the way along the back of the house. There's a big hammock out there and I stretched out, just relaxing and listening to the sound of the boat traffic on the lake. Katlyn came out after a minute, took her beer and snuggled in with me. I petted her hair and she purred, her cheek resting on my chest. Those impossibly huge eyes flashed up at me.

"Dex, Derrick Harper is back in town," she said. "He's working in sales at my company."

"Yes, I know," I said.

Her eyes flew to my face. "You did? You didn't say anything."

"What did you want me to say?" I asked.

"I don't know." She was still a little shocked that I knew. "Stay away from him? I expected you would say something if you knew!"

"Your ex-fiancé shows up after 12 years and you expect me to say something?" I mused. "Okay, stay away from him, Kat."

"Are you upset?" she asked.

"Do I have a reason to be upset?" I asked.

"I had lunch with him," she said.

"I know," I told her.

She stiffened again. "You knew and you didn't say anything?"

"What's the point?" I asked her. "You knew I wouldn't like it. I don't own you, Kat. You can have lunch with whoever you like." I don't think that was the answer she was looking for.

"What do you mean, what's the point?" she was agitated now. "He asked me to meet him at the Rhino after work Friday."

"Yes, I know," I said.

"What the hell is wrong with you, Dex?" she was visibly upset now, her amazing chest beginning to rise and fall rapidly. "How do you know this stuff?"

"Penny was sitting behind you in the next booth at the restaurant," I said. Penny is my Personal Assistant.

Now a flush spread across Katlyn's features. "What did she tell you?"

"Do you think she lied?" I asked.

"No, I don't think she'd do that." She calmed down a little.

"You didn't say no as firmly as I would have liked," I said. "Are you going to go the next time he asks, Katlyn?"

"No, of course not," she said.

I put my fingers under her pointed little chin and tilted her head up so I could look into her eyes. "Kat, don't lie to me," I said. "We've never lied to each other about important things."

She glanced away and dragged her eyes back to mine. "I don't think so, Dex. I'm tempted. I need you to help me. Fight for me, Dex."

"I'll help you," I said. "I won't fight for you, Kat. I'm not going to compete with anyone for your affection. I think you might like that drama, but it's not going to happen. We're married, that means the competition is over. Fighting? That's on you. You're the one that needs to be fighting. Look at me, Kat. See what you have. Think about what you have back at home. Think about who's waiting for you at Mom and Dad's house. That's what you're fighting for."

She sniffled and I could see tears rolling down her cheeks. "That's what makes it so hard," she said. "I know what I have and I know I shouldn't even be tempted."

"But you are," I said.

"Yes, I know I shouldn't be. I love you, Dex. I love our life; I love my kids and everything about my life. You're an amazing lover and the most romantic man I've ever met. You're thoughtful, kind, considerate; everything I ever wanted, you're that."

"So tell me why, Kat?" I asked.

"I don't know," she whispered. "I just thought about what my life would have been like if I'd married him."

"You were engaged to him and you caught him in bed with the girl that was going to be your maid of honor," I reminded her. "That's what you told me. He's a player, Kat. You'd likely have been divorced, gone through a lot of pain and be an emotional wreck. What is it about him that draws you to him?"

"We never had sex," she said. "You know I was a virgin when we met. I gave that to you. I wonder what would have happened if... if I'd have been sleeping with him. I wonder what it would have been like. Do you know what I'm talking about?"

"Well, yes, I kind of know," I said. "I wonder what it would be like to fuck Jennifer Thomas."

"That slut!" Katlyn was indignant. "Why are you looking at her? Oh..."

"Yeah, oh," I said. "You obviously don't have much of an issue about fucking sluts, Kat."

"He isn't... I guess he is, isn't he?" she said.

"Well, he's trying to get in your pants," I said. "He knows you're married. He knows you have two little girls. He knows you have a husband. Yeah, I kind of think that makes him a man slut. What does it say about you, Katlyn, that you don't seem to care?"

"I do care," she protested. "What are you saying, Dexter?"

"I'm saying, I don't think I know my wife very well," I told her. "I thought you loved me. I'd have bet my bottom dollar on that. I thought you had integrity. I was sure about that. I thought you'd never, in a million years, risk hurting me, your girls, your parents, my parents and our family. Now, I find out that everything I was so sure about is all up in the air. Now, I'm supposed to fight for you? Who are you, Kat?"

She burst into tears for real, now. She sobbed brokenly and I just held her and let her cry it out. She looked up at me with red, puffy eyes. "What are we going to do?" she sniffed.

"I don't know what you're going to do," I said. "I'm not sure there is a 'we.' I know what I'm going to do."

"What?" she asked.

"I'm going to protect myself," I said. "I'm going to protect the girls and our family."

"What do you mean?" her voice was trembling and fearful now.

"I mean that in the event you decide to meet that asshat for dinner or drinks, I've got things I need to do," I said. "I've pretty much got it worked out."

"Are you threatening me?" she asked, stiffening in my arms.

"Not at all," I said. "I'm making a statement of intent. You made the first mistake when you didn't tell me he was back in town. You made another mistake when you talked to him the first time and didn't tell me about it. The third was when you met him for lunch and hid that from me. You get a little credit for telling me about it now. I no longer trust you very much, Kat. How am I supposed to stay married to you? You tell me."

"You're going to divorce me?" she was aghast. "How do you think that's going to work, Dexter? I haven't done anything wrong."

"Yes, you have," I said. "You are in the process of destroying my ability to trust you."

"Do you imagine that you'll come off well in a divorce?" she asked.

"Probably not," I said. "I know the 'justice' system acts like betraying everyone that loves you is just fine, but somehow, I don't think you'll get any satisfaction out of that. If you don't wake up, the rest of your life, you're going to be just another cheating wife. Everyone you respect and care about is going to know that. I think you're a good person, Kat and I don't think you'll be able to live with yourself. Every time you look in the mirror, every time you look in the girls' eyes, your parents, or your sister, you're going to see the reflection of what you are and what they think about you. I don't think you can do that. You're going to hurt me badly, hell, you already have, but I'll get over you eventually. Other people have lived through this and gone on to be happy. I'll find a way."

She gave a little wail of dismay. "I don't want a divorce, Dex. Can't you just let me do this one thing? Can't you just let me work it out, get it out of my system and forgive me?"

"I have no idea," I said. "I don't think so, but I might surprise myself. I don't think I have that in me. I could forgive the Katlyn I married and fell in love with for almost anything. I could forgive some compromised situation, maybe you were drunk and there was a party and everyone was fucking and you just got caught up on the moment. It would be hard, but I might be able to forgive something like that. People make mistakes. I make mistakes and you forgive me. You make mistakes and I forgive you. This is something else. This is a deliberate, calculating plan of betrayal and adultery. I could have forgiven that Kat, the one that loved me but made a mistake. You know, the Kat from six months ago. I'm so desperately in love with her that it makes me shake inside. You, I doubt I'll be able to forgive what you've already done. It seems unlikely at the moment. You're someone I barely know."

She struggled to get up and ran crying into the cabin. I felt pretty comfortable, and I just closed my eyes and relaxed. I eventually fell asleep and when I woke up, it was dark. I could see lights off across the lake and there was a boat fishing along the shore 200 feet away and below the cabin. I looked around, and Kat was sitting in a chair about five feet away. She was covered with a throw and she was crying as she watched me. She noticed I was awake.

"Dexter, I'm still the same person I was six months ago," she said. "How can you say that I've changed and you don't love me?"

"I never said that," I told her. "If you're the same person you were six months ago, I never knew you, Katlyn. You tell me, six months ago were you thinking about fucking someone besides me?"

"No, of course not," she said. "I love you with all my heart, Dex."

"There you go," I said. "You've changed."

"Dex, if you would just listen to me, we can get through this," she said.

"Okay, you tell me and I'll listen," I said.

"I've never had sex with anyone but you," she said. "I've never even wanted to do that. You've always been everything I've ever wanted or needed. I love being your wife. I love being the girls' mother. I love everything about our life. I just can't help wondering what it would have been like. I wonder what it would be like to make love to someone else. If you let me, it would just be over. My questions would be answered, I wouldn't have this thing that keeps eating at me, it would all be over. Do you believe I love you, Dex?"

"No, I don't think I do," I said. That brought on a fresh bout of sobs and tears.

"How can you say that?" she wailed. "I do, Dexter. I love you more than anything in the world. I thought I could talk about this with you and we could work through it together. Would you rather I had just hid it from you? I was honest with you and I came clean. Doesn't that matter to you?"

I didn't say anything. The silence stretched out interminably, broken only by her sniffles. I was thinking. Finally, I was ready. "Okay," I said. "Yes, it does matter that you came to me with this. If you had hidden it, there wouldn't have been a glimmer of a chance for us. You should have been honest with me from the beginning. You did talk to me and I'm giving you credit for that. I'm going to give you an example. Let me ask you something. Suppose I tell you that I love Mia and Kia with all my heart. There's our little neighbor, Melinda, across the street. You believe I love our girls and then you discover after ten years that I have a secret room in the basement. You discover that I've been letting Melinda come over and we've been torturing Mia and Kia in the basement room. I tell you that I love them and the torture is only going to last two weeks. After that, Melinda is going to move away and the torture will end. Would you think I loved them?"

"That's ridiculous," she spat. "You don't torture people you love."

"You're torturing me," I told her. "There's no waterboard, no rack, no thumbscrews, but that's what you're doing. You can paint it up all pretty if you like, but you're mentally torturing someone you say you love. If that's your idea of love, I never want you to hate me."

"I'm not trying to torture you," she practically yelled. "Do you think this isn't torture for me? I thought I could talk to you about this. I thought you would help me, not try to make me feel all guilty! Don't you think I feel bad enough without all this?"

"What, exactly, did you expect me to do or say, Kat?" I asked. "You tell me what you want from me. Then I'll tell you if I can do it."

"I expected you to understand and support me," she said. "Dex, if you loved me like I love you, you would be patient and loving, not all harsh and condemning. Don't you understand? I need to explore my feelings. If you really loved me, you'd support me while I sorted everything out, knowing that my love for you would bring me back to you. If I really love you, don't you think I'll come back to you? Why can't you just support me and let me work my way through my feelings?"

"What are you even saying?" I asked. "You're asking me to sit around and wait for you while you go out and fuck some douche bag? I'm supposed to support you in that? I'm supposed to understand that? Where did you get this idea? This sounds like some kind of pop psychology from the 1960s. Are you some kind of hipster psychologist now?"

"Sandra and I have been going to a class," she said defensively. "The instructor has some very insightful things to say."

"Sandra," I nearly exploded. "This is the Sandra that's been married four times? Is this the Sandra that lives in some dumpy apartment and never sees or speaks to any of her family because they disowned her for being a slut? She's your hero now, Kat? No wonder you're so fucked up."

"I'm fucked up because my husband is being an asshole," she shot back.

I took a deep breath and got myself under control before I said something I'd regret. "Here's what's going to happen, Kat. I'm giving you this weekend to get yourself together. As far as I know, you haven't done anything irreversible yet. When we go home, the countdown begins. You have one week to decide whether you want to be married to me. If you speak to Derrick Harper, it had better be to tell him to go fuck himself. If you meet him for lunch, we're done. If you meet him for drinks, we're done. If you see him outside work, we're done. You're going to activate your GPS in your phone. If I see you anywhere you aren't supposed to be, we're done. If you're going to be working late, you better call me and tell me why and with whom you're working. If Derrick Harper is going to be there, you aren't. You're going to tell your boss that you won't be working anywhere near Derrick Harper because he's been making sexual advances toward you. The last thing you're going to do is you're going to call Sandra, you're going to do it in front of me, and you're going to tell her you don't ever want to see her or talk to her again. You're going to do that before we leave here this weekend. When we get home, you're going to find a marriage counselor and a personal counselor and we're going to see the marriage counselor together. You're going to see the personal counselor on your own. Any failure one any of these points and we're done. I'll help you and support you in all of those things you're going to do to try to save our marriage. I won't help or support one single thing you do to destroy it. You should go and think about all this. If you don't want to do it, any of it, you just have to say one word. The word is 'no'."

She looked at me as if I'd grown another head. I didn't give her a chance to speak; I just stood up and walked inside, leaving her there on the porch. When I got out of the shower, she was still out there. I got in bed and, surprisingly, fell asleep quickly.

I don't know when she came to bed, but I woke up with her spooned up against my back. She was obviously naked. "Yes, Dexter," she whispered in my ear. "Yes, I want to stay married to you. I'm so sorry I put you through all this. I'll do whatever you ask. I've been thinking for hours. I've been up all night. I'll do whatever it takes to stay married to you. I won't do anything else to risk losing you or our family. I don't even want to anymore. I don't know what got into me. I'll go see the counselor. I'll do whatever you ask me to do. You just tell me what you want. I told you I love you and I meant it. I'll never speak to him again."

I turned to face her. "That's good, Kat. I'm happy you feel that way. That's the first step. I'm not happy that this happened to begin with. I think there's something wrong with you that you would even consider something like this. I don't know why you would and I don't understand it. I think you should find out and attempt to fix it."

"Why do you think something's wrong with me, Dexter?" she asked. "I'm not trying to argue or make you mad. Don't you know that lots of people have open marriages and they do just fine?"

"I don't know where you got that information," I told her. "It's a lie. I did some research when I first found out about your little... inclination. It just isn't true. No one really knows. I have no idea how many are out there. Some people may be happy like that; I know I won't be one of them. We all make choices. I know what I can live with and what I can't live with. It may work just fine for some people. It won't for me. I'm just telling you; I won't live like that. I believe number of people who do is really very small."

"Are you sure?" she asked. "Sarah and our instructor said lots of people are in open relationships."

"Sarah and your instructor are full of shit," I told her. "I don't really give a damn if everyone in the world has an open marriage. They are divorces that haven't happened yet. What are the chances that our marriage would be one of the ones that work?"

"Not very good?" she said in a subdued voice.

"I'm not that kind of guy," I told her. "I don't like humiliation, I don't like feeling jealous, I hate the thought of my wife being with another man. It hasn't the slightest appeal to me. I don't get erections thinking about you being with other men, I get nauseous. From what I read, the only way any of those marriages survive, for even a short time, is if both partners are cool with it. I'm not."

"I guess I never really thought it through," she was crying now.

"Were you going to hook me up with some smoking hot woman, or was this going to be all you?" I asked her.

"I get it, Dex," she said. "Please don't keep beating me up. I'm a stupid bitch. It was a stupid idea and I'm sorry. I didn't think it through. I didn't have a plan and just thinking about you with someone else kills me. I didn't think about that. I was just... just... I don't know what the hell was wrong with me. It hurts so bad, Dexter, but thank you for doing what you needed to do. If you had let me do this, it would have destroyed us. It would have destroyed me. I know that now. I could never have looked at myself in the mirror again, like you said. If you had just caved, it would have been a disaster. I'm not even sure I would have respected you. I'm going to have a lot of work to do, aren't I? That's okay, I was stupid enough to have made the mess, I'll have to be smart enough to fix it."

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