A short story about a wife that loses her way as her husband travels a path they both agreed to. She forgot what it can cost and she loses sight of what is important. Will she remember in time?
"Jeff! Your cab's here. You'd better hurry!" hollered Marie up to her husband who was just finishing his packing. He was running late. She knew it was because he didn't really want to go and he was doing everything he could to delay his departure. But it was time and this trip was too important.
He stepped to the top of the stairs and yelled back, "I'll be right there. Tell him to start the meter and I'll hurry." Marie signaled the cabby, shut the door and leaned back against it, waiting for Jeff, her husband of 23 years to come down. She didn't want him to go either, but she knew he had no choice. The merger was just about finalized and once completed, Jeff would become the newest vice president of the combined company. It meant money, position, and more time for them, something they both wanted. But it had been hard and a long time coming. And the price was one that could be too high for their marriage.
Jeff came rushing down the stairs, his long salt and pepper hair falling down over his face and his green eyes flashing with anger at this imposition. He was a tall, lean, well built man of 48, still handsome and virile. He worked hard at his job as chief financial officer for Baldwin Enterprises, an international financial institution that had a hand in several large international corporations. He was an expert in money conversions and with just a single phone call at the right minute could make his company millions. He was very good at his job and that required him now to be in Brussels within the next 24 hours. A corporate jet was waiting for him at Teterboro airport, just north in Bergen County, NJ.
He dropped his overnight, pulled on his wool topcoat, grabbed his briefcase from the table where Marie had placed it in anticipation. He cupped her chin with his free hand and tilted her face up to his. "I'll call you as soon as I check in and let you know the number there. I hate this, but if it goes well, it'll be the last for a while. I still wish you were coming with me."
Marie looked into his clear green eyes, the eyes she knew so well. "It'll be fine. Just hurry back and then we can make our plans. I'll miss you. I love you."
Jeff bent down to place his lips on hers and gave her a light, sweet kiss before pulling back. "I love you too. Be good while I'm gone. I'll call you at work."
With that he was out the door, the briefcase swinging as he ran to the waiting cab. He pulled the nearest door open, put his briefcase and overnight inside and walked around to the other side to wave once more before sliding in. The cab pulled away immediately, already having the destination. As it disappeared down the street of their subdivision, Marie shivered once, watching the cab vanish. She felt a small shiver of fear, added to the normal sadness she experienced every time he left. She wished with all her heart that he wasn't going this time.
Marie and Jeff Sullivan lived and worked in urban New Jersey, in close proximity to New York City and all of the benefits of the financial world that was Jeff's strength. They had been married for over 23 years and had raised two sons, both gone from the home now. Bill, the oldest was married and living in New Brunswick while Johnny was still in college, pursuing his master's degree in finance, like his dad. Jeff made a good living and they had successfully paid off the college loans they took for the boys and were financially secure again. They both continued to work, Jeff for their future and she for something to do.
She moved back inside and went up to get ready for work. She worked as assistant to the senior manager of Garden State Realtors, a firm that handled industrial real estate. She had been there just over seven years now and her boss, Janet Billings, was also a good friend. They had been together as the firm grew and expanded and now she was in a good position with a nice salary. While Jeff made more money than they would ever need, she enjoyed the freedom of having her own money for gifts, special purchases, and other things that she felt were personal rather than joint. Silly, but it gave her pleasure and Jeff didn't seem to mind as long as she enjoyed it.
She took more care today with her choice of what to wear. She decided on the white silk blouse with the scalloped neckline, the black skirt with the slit up the side and the gold chain belt. A thin, gold chain with a small, diamond crusted circle around her neck and a matching set of earrings. She carefully did her eyes and her lips and stepped back to evaluate the effort. Perfect! She was pleased that she had kept herself in shape over the years and her figure was still slim and firm. She used a small splash of perfume to finish the effort. Nothing more was needed. As she gave a last look, she saw the lines of worry before turning to go.
Back downstairs, she got herself a cup of coffee from the coffeemaker and sat down at the table to consider her day. She wondered idly where Jeff was at that very moment but knew that he was probably somewhere in the air on his way. She shivered again when she thought of him and what she planned while he was gone. She let her mind wander to Dan Plummer, the newest member of the Garden State team , and to the conversation she had with him yesterday.
Dan was younger than she by almost a dozen years. He was very good looking and he obviously worked out frequently. The girls in the office were all abuzz about him and had been since he arrived on scene six weeks ago. Several were single or separated and they all wished that he would make some move on them, but so far, nothing.
He was a very good salesman and Janet had asked her to lend him a hand on the proper procedures and paperwork necessary to meet local requirements. She had worked on several deals with him and she had noticed him looking closely at her on several occasions. She found the attention flattering at first, and found herself wondering about more. She felt warm and fluttery when he was next to her and on occasion when he touched her hand casually, there was a warmth where his touch met her skin. He also had a habit of reaching out to brush her hair back from her face which caused her temperature to climb. His eyes were a vivid shade of blue but when he looked at her, they seemed to darken with what she knew was passion. It was pure lust, and it flattered her more than it should. She was uncomfortable with the feelings Dan caused in her. She had no business thinking of any man other than her husband the way he made her think. It made her nervous but she couldn't stop those feeling and thoughts.
As the weeks passed, the feelings when Dan was nearby increased and became almost unbearable. She had almost decided to speak to Janet and ask that someone else be assigned to him when Jeff announced that he had to make a trip to Brussels, Belgium in a few days. It was at that time she wondered what it would be like to spend the time when Jeff was gone with Dan. The thought caused a flush to spread up her neck to her face and she felt her heart begin to pound. They was crazy! This was not right! She loved Jeff more than life itself and had never considered anything like this. What was wrong with her? Stupid teenaged infatuation, brought on by the all too frequent travel Jeff was doing with this crazy merger. She missed her husband, that's all it was. It would soon be over and they would get back to normal.
She had kept it all in control until yesterday afternoon. While she was talking on the phone to Jeff, asking him about his schedule once he was in Brussels, she noticed Dan listening to her. When she looked his way, he pretended to be interested in one of the listing brochures but she knew he was aware of her conversation with Jeff. She hung up and started to finish the letter she was working on when he sat down next to her desk and began to talk to her. She stopped, wondering what he was up to when he finally asked her a question that was to change her world.
"I couldn't help overhearing your conversation. That was Jeff , your husband?" Marie nodded and he continued. "I know that you'll be alone tomorrow evening and I wondered if you would like to have dinner with me. Just a quiet dinner? Just to get to know each other better." He reached over to brush her hair back as he did so often. She felt again that flush and that warmth where he touched her. She looked at the darkening of his eyes and felt herself nod.
"That would be very nice Dan. We could leave from here I guess. You could either bring me back after dinner to pick up my car, or I could follow you. Either way is fine with me." Just like that. Dinner with another man while her husband was out of town. No one would know and she could find out what it was like to be with him, even if just for a few hours over dinner. No harm, no foul. Isn't that what they say?
"Good. It's a date. I'll drive and we can come back for your car later. I know a great place just off the main highway leading out of town. It's got good food and a nice lounge. We can have a few drinks afterward and maybe do a little dancing. Would you like that?"
"Of course, yes, but this is just a friendly dinner. Nothing more, you understand. Just because I'll be alone for the evening. That's all. Just as friends."
"Of course. Just friends." Dan smiled, put one hand over hers and squeezed. The touch was intimate and her heart fluttered in her chest. What am I doing, she thought. This could be very dangerous. She had to reconsider. This was not right! She was about to say something when Dan withdrew his hand, stood up and walked away. As she was about to call out to him, Janet came out of her office, asking about the letter. She promised her she would finish it right away and forgot about Dan. When she left for the day, he was already gone. She was now committed to meet him for dinner the following night.
At home that evening, Marie felt different. She knew that part of it was what she planned on doing when Jeff left for Brussels, but another part was causing her to question her priorities. She knew what Jeff was doing was something they had discussed. She knew that he had to do this to get the VP position in the new company and that once he did, their lives would change for the better. More money, more position, more freedom to travel and do the things they had always dreamed of doing. So, Jeff was doing this as much for her as he was for himself. She would benefit and their marriage would benefit. So why was she even thinking of what she intended to do? She had no answer other than the feeling of danger and excitement she felt whenever she thought of Dan Plummer. Even now, the heat in her belly as she thought of him was uncomfortable.
She and Jeff talked of the trip, he asking her what she planned to do while he was gone. She mentioned that she owed her sister a visit and probably would spend the evening with her. Sheryl lived not too far from them but she did not spend much time with them. Marie knew that Jeff and Sheryl didn't care much for each other and Jeff was not likely to call or check in with Sheryl at any time. Jeff accepted that and went on to other things. Marie was able to put the whole idea of dinner out of her mind with details about Jeff's trip, the weekend coming up and their plans to spend the next two or three weeks on vacation, visiting their cabin in the Catskills. It was one of her favorite places and they had been going there for the past ten years, with the boys until they started college and then just the two of them.
Bedtime came early since Jeff had to be up and on his way by 6:30. It was rare lately that they had sex during the week and tonight was no exception. Marie thought that it was one area of their marriage they had to discuss and work on. They had lost the desire lately and that was too bad. She loved making love with Jeff. He was a wonderful lover, considerate and skillful. She always came to orgasm with him and he often gave her several before climaxing himself. She loved oral sex with him and he was very skillful with both hands and mouth. He always told her she was perfect when she performed oral on him. At the thought, Dan came into her mind unbidden. She tried to banish thoughts of him from her mind but to no avail. She decided to get up and go into the bathroom until she could gain control. It was an hour later that she came to bed, having finally masturbated herself to completion. She felt foolish and embarrassed but Jeff was sound asleep and not aware. She finally fell asleep, but slept poorly.
The following morning, she rose at 5:30 while Jeff was in the shower. She donned her robe and went downstairs to start the coffee for Jeff. He would take only coffee, no breakfast as usual. He would probably eat on the flight over. It was a corporate jet and had a full kitchen and an attendant. Not a bad way to travel as she knew from the trips she had taken with him. She had the coffee ready when he came down and they talked for a few minutes before he had to leave. She kissed him goodbye and promised to worry about him until he came home. He laughed, said it was just a brief trip and he would be home before she knew it. Jeff had asked her to come with him on this trip but she really had too much to do for Janet. That was before Dan had suggested dinner. Maybe if she had anticipated that offer, she would have found some way to go with Jeff, removing herself from temptation. Too late now.
She rose from the kitchen table, noting that her rambling mind had kept her busy until it was time to leave for work. She straightened up the kitchen, put on her coat and made the thirty minute drive. She sat down at her desk right at 8:45, her normal starting time and set up for the day ahead. One of the first things was to make coffee and check the night mail for Janet. She took care of both chores and was back at her desk by 9:00, just in time to see Dan walking toward her. She felt a minute's panic, but quickly arranged her features into the professional she was.
"Are we still on for tonight? I've made reservations at Michael's, over on the bypass. It's great, good food and very private. You look wonderful, by the way. Absolutely wonderful." He smiled and looked into her eyes. Again, she felt the shiver of pleasure when he looked at her and she felt a tingling between her legs. All her reservations vanished as she swallowed and replied very softly.
"It sounds perfect. I'll be ready by 5:30 or so. Janet is leaving at 5:00 today for a closing so I can leave shortly after. Should I meet you at your car?"
"Perfect. I'll be ready and I'm looking forward to it. I know we'll have a great time." He smiled, touched her cheek with his fingers and slid them down to gently trail across her lips. She trembled at his touch and he grinned even wider.
He looked up and saw Janet on her way in. He rose, pulled a file from his briefcase and as Janet came up to the desk, he was describing the changes in the file he wanted her to make. Perfectly legitimate and Janet nodded in approval as she stopped to listen. He was awfully cool and collected. She briefly wondered if he had a lot of practice at this sort of thing. She put that thought back out of her mind. It was too painful to think about. Janet went on into her office and Marie rose, readying the mail for her. Dan gave her a last smile and left.
The day passed normally. She got a call at just after 1:30 that afternoon from Jeff. He was in Brussels and was about to get a car to the hotel. He just wanted to talk, he said: he missed her already. She was pleased to hear from him and they talked for ten minutes while he made arrangements for a car and a driver. They both laughed when he described the trouble he had with the man at the counter. His English was terrible and Jeff had trouble making himself understood. But it was arranged and Jeff said he would call with the number later. She hung up, his last words to her being, "I love you." She responded in kind and sat, staring at the phone. Once again, she was considering calling Dan to cancel when he stopped at the desk.
"Was that Jeff you were talking to? Your face lit up while you were talking. You must love him very much. It shows." He again reached over to stroke her cheek, looking around to be sure they were not being watched. "I understand that. It makes you that much more appealing."
He rose and walked away, leaving her confused and excited. Even though she loved Jeff so much, she couldn't explain the hold Dan had over her. It was as if he had only to touch her and she was powerless to resist him. She knew this evening was a mistake but couldn't wait for it to begin. She was confused, but also eager to be with Dan, alone for the evening. She knew where this could end up, but chose not to think about it. Just go to dinner! Nothing more! She plunged into her work and put all thoughts of anything else on hold.
It was just before 4:00 that Jeff called back. He gave her a phone number and his itinerary for the evening and the next day. He would be leaving for the States by 3:00 afternoon local time and arriving home well after 4:00 in the morning. It was the best he could do but he didn't want to spend another night there. He would rather sleep on the plane coming back. Marie agreed. They talked for a while and she suggested he not call that evening unless it was important. She told him she would be with Sheryl but if he needed to talk to her, to call her cell. He agreed, said that he probably wouldn't call with the time difference so they said their goodnights then. It was almost 10 pm there and time for him to call it a night. Traveling was hard and he hated it so it was likely he would just relax and get some sleep. As she hung up, she realized that she had just told her husband not to call and interrupt her planned assignation with Dan. The thought made her shiver, not with anticipation but with guilt. How could she do this? What was wrong with her? She had to rush to the bathroom to collect herself. She was a wreck.
As she examined her reflection in the mirror, she wondered why she was doing this. She knew it was partly due to her loneliness, Jeff being gone so much the past several months. Even though she knew the reasons he had to be gone, she was still lonely and frustrated most of the time. Also, the hold Dan had on her was frightening. All he had to do was look her way and her heart started to pound and she became flushed. It was all she could do not to jump him on sight. She had to get him out of her system and if it took one night with him to do that, she felt she had little choice! Finally, Jeff would never know and when he returned, they would find their way back to the closeness they shared as husband and wife. He wouldn't know and wouldn't be hurt. She could close the door on her irrational lust for Dan.
She returned to her desk, feeling slightly more calm but still excited. This evening would end this itch, this need. Jeff would be asleep in another country and she would have this night for herself. With that rationalization, she finished her work, straightened her desk, said goodnight to Janet when she left and then went into the bathroom one more time to prepare herself for her 'date' with Dan. At 5:30 exactly, she closed down her computer and walked out to meet Dan by his car. They were the only two left in the lot. Dan was waiting, a smile on his handsome face, and the keys twirling in his hand. As she approached, he walked around to the passenger side and held the door open for her. She stopped before entering and he leaned down to kiss her gently on the lips. She returned the kiss, and slid into the passenger seat. Dan got in and they were off.