Always Faithful

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Someone pays the price for infidelity.
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30-year-old Janice Knox looked good in her pale blue skirt with the matching jacket. It looked professional, but still allowed her trim figure to show itself. The fact that it went well with her blonde hair, and that the color of the outfit matched the blue of her eyes didn't hurt at all either. She had been standing in line waiting for her table at Chez Arthur for almost 10 minutes, and was beginning to worry that she wouldn't have much time for lunch if the line didn't move a little faster.

She was lost in thought, alternating between concerns about the delay getting a table for lunch, and how she would apply the teaching techniques she had seen described and demonstrated in the morning seminar she had just attended.

In the beginning she was not sure that the week spent at the Minnesota Elementary School Teachers Convention would be time well spent, but already, halfway through the second day, she could see the value in the exercise. She was glad that her husband, Arthur, had insisted she take the opportunity when it was presented.

Arthur had repeatedly assured her that she would not regret it. Already last night, snug in her bed at the Minneapolis hotel that was hosting most of the seminars, she had told him when she called home to Duluth how right he had been.

"Excuse me, ma'am."

Somewhere the short phrase had registered with her, but aware that she didn't know anyone in this city, she assumed the words weren't intended for her. There were three other teachers from her school district who were also attending the convention, but they hadn't accompanied her for lunch.

"Excuse me, ma'am." This time the words were accompanied by a gentle touch on her elbow, and she turned quickly to see who was trying to get her attention. A rather good looking dark-haired man of about her age, dressed in a conservative dark suit, was smiling at her.

Initially she was a bit flustered by his tap on her elbow, and her momentary discomfort resulted in a slight bit of color appearing in her cheeks. "Yes, what is it?" Realizing that she was in front of several dozen other people, her discomfort eased very quickly, and he could see her visibly relax a bit.

"I couldn't help but notice that you're alone in the line, just as I am. Perhaps we could both get faster service if we took a table for two."

Her initial reaction was negative, and she said, "I don't.... think we should. We don't know each other." As she said it she realized how foolish that sounded.

The man laughed and said, "It's just for a meal. This place is very popular and very busy, and I just think we might get a table a bit more quickly if they know they can put the two of us into one slot, so to speak." He held up his left hand and pointed to the wedding ring on his finger and continued, "I'm married, and I have nothing but the most innocent of intentions, but if it makes you uncomfortable please excuse my suggestion."

His words made her realize just how insecure and excessively cautious her words must have sounded to anyone else in the line who might have listened to her initial reaction. She gave a quick laugh and said, "Sure, why not. Perhaps you're right, and we'll get seated and served a little more quickly." She stepped to the side to make room for him, and motioned him discreetly to join her.

He was at her side almost immediately, and while extending his hand said, "My name is Brent Buckley, and I appreciate your acceptance of my suggestion."

They briefly shook hands and she completed her half of the introductions. "I'm Janice Knox. I'm sorry if I seemed to not be with it when you first meet your suggestion. I guess you caught me by surprise."

Their agreement to share a table was passed on to the maître d', and it seemed to work as they were seated at a table for two very soon thereafter.

A waiter was at their table almost immediately with menus, so it wasn't until after they had each ordered, with Janice quick to mention that separate checks would be required, that they had an opportunity to talk.

Brent was the first to get started, by saying, "I really appreciate your decision to share a table with me. I have a sales meeting to get to for 1:30, and I could see my opportunity to have lunch disappearing while I stood in that line."

Janice replied with, "I know what you mean. I'm here for a teacher's convention and my next seminar is at 1:30. The other teachers I was with decided to do some shopping and then grab a hotdog from a street vendor. I just couldn't see missing the chance to eat here. I've heard it's one of the best restaurants in town."

They continued with small talk for the next couple of minutes until Brent said, "I wouldn't mind a glass of wine with my lunch. Can I interest you in one?"

Janice became a bit flustered again and said, "Oh no, I couldn't. Wine goes to my head, and I need all my faculties for this afternoon's seminars. Thank you for the offer, though."

"I'll tell you what, Janice. How about I give you a rain check for some day in the future, in case we should happen to run into each other for lunch again." He laughed slightly, showing that he realized the improbability of that occurring.

Janice chuckled as well, and said, "I might take you up on it, but not when I've got to have all of my faculties about me."

They continued a leisurely conversation as they ate the delicious light lunches they had ordered. One of the first bits of information they exchanged was information on their families: Brent had a wife and a year-old son, while Janice said that there was only her and her husband for the time being, although they planned on having a family.

"Have you been married long, Janice?"

"About a year and a half." Janice hesitated before continuing, "This is my second marriage. My first husband was in the Marines and was killed in action in Afghanistan."

Just after suitable condolences were given the waiter appeared and asked if they were interested in dessert. When the answers were in the negative, he quickly brought their bills, with the implicit expectation that they would leave the table in short order to allow two more diners to be seated.

"I'm glad to have met you, Brent. We've had a very pleasant conversation after our slightly unorthodox meeting. However, I have to get moving if I hope to be at the next seminar on time." Janice reached over and shook Brent's hand before standing.

"The pleasure has all been mine, Janice. I wish I had had a teacher in elementary school that was as attractive as you are. I might have done better work." He gave a slight laugh after saying this, and it was returned by Janice who gave him a little wave before turning to leave. Brent watched her closely as she left the restaurant, his dark eyes almost unblinking in the effort. Once she was on the sidewalk he took out his cell phone and made a brief call while watching her through the window as she walked away. After hanging up he quickly left the restaurant.

++++++++++++

It was just after 8 p.m. the following evening, and Janice Knox was sitting at a table in the hotel bar with the three other teachers from Duluth. Two of them were single, both with a couple of years of experience. The third was about 10 years older than Janice, and like her she was married. They had decided to spend the evening in the bar to unwind after their third day of attending the seminars they each thought would be the most helpful to them. One of their intentions was to compare notes on the various topics they had covered and how they rated them for their value.

The two single women, Dana and Arlene, were keeping a close eye on the younger men in the crowd, and made no secret of the fact that they were open to the thoughts of a quick hookup if the right man came along. Janice's married coworker, Gloria, made no such statements, but seemed to have a wandering eye as she spent almost as much time as the single women in checking out the men in the bar. Janice had just entered into an intense discussion of the seminar she and Gloria had both selected to attend that afternoon when a man seemed to suddenly materialize at their table.

"Well, hello Janice. I guess the chance of us running into each other again wasn't as remote as we thought." Brent Buckley was standing there smiling at her, and once the surprised look on her face eased she replied, "Brent! How nice to see you again." She turned to her three friends, who by this time were all looking at them and said, "This is the gentleman I told you about. We shared a table at Chez Arthur for lunch yesterday."

She turned back to Brent and said, "How do you happen to be here in this particular bar? I really didn't think we'd ever see each other again."

"I'm staying in this hotel, and thought I'd come down for a quiet drink or two. I've had a successful day with my sales calls, and I thought a change of pace was in order."

Janice chuckled and said, "What a coincidence. We are all staying here too. This is the main venue for the convention we're all attending."

The other three women seemed to lose a bit of the interest they had shown in Brent as he and Janice continued their conversation. After a couple of mutual comments on how coincidental their meeting again had been, Brent said, "I guess my offer of a rain check for a glass of wine could be cashed in now, if you wish. I won't hold you to wine if you would like something else, instead"

Janice hesitated only a few seconds before replying, "Sure, why not. I ordered an Irish coffee when I came in here, and it's pretty well empty now. A glass of white wine would be nice, I guess."

"Would it be alright if I join you ladies at your table? I don't want to impose, if you'd rather I didn't do that, Janice." Brent stood expectantly beside Janice as she quickly glanced at her three friends.

Not having seen any discouraging signals, she quickly replied, "I think that would be fine, Brent." She laughed nervously before continuing, "Just don't get the wrong idea."

"Well, thank you for your invitation. I promise to be on my best behavior." He looked around the table at the other three ladies and asked, "Would any of you care for a drink as well? I've had a good day with my sales calls, and would be happy to include the three of you in my offer."

Only Gloria took him up on his offer, ordering a glass of wine as well, but preferring a sparkling variety. After calling over a waitress and giving her the order, he moved an empty chair from an adjoining table and sat down beside Janice.

Their order was quickly brought to the table, and Brent charged it to his room. He and Janice soon entered into a conversation about the seminars she had been attending. Gloria would sometimes join into their conversation, but the two single women were primarily occupied by flirting with the wide variety of apparently single men who occasionally succeeded in getting one or both of them onto the dance floor. A band was setting up, but a steady stream of bills fed into a sophisticated jukebox system was sufficient to satisfy the audience in the meantime.

At precisely 9 p.m. the band commenced playing, and it was soon obvious that their repertoire consisted primarily of ballads. The two younger women bounced back and forth between the dance floor and the table with several different partners each before they both seemed to settle on a suitable companion for the evening. By 9:45 their two chosen dance partners joined the rest of the party at the table, pulling empty chairs over and fitting them in where possible.

Gloria wasn't quite so obvious, but she did accept several requests to visit the dance floor, and it wasn't too long before it was obvious to those who paid attention that she had chosen to favor one particular young man over the others. Brent couldn't help but notice this, and the term cougar came to his mind, although for a second he wondered to himself if the term actually included married women as well as the single and divorced.

It seemed as if the volume in the room was slowly increasing, and Brent leaned over to Janice had asked, "Would it be alright if I asked you to dance? It seems that we're on the only ones at the table who haven't been up there yet."

It was obvious that Janice had noticed her friends making their way to and from the dance floor and she quickly replied, "I guess that would be okay. Everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves, so I guess it's okay if we do as well."

They were soon on the dance floor, but maintaining several chaste inches between each other. They stayed there for two songs before returning to their seats. They had tried conversation, but it was too difficult particularly with the distance they were maintaining between each other.

"Thank you very much, Brent. I very much enjoyed that. My husband isn't much into dancing; he's more of an outdoorsman. You know, fishing and boating and that sort of thing."

"You couldn't have enjoyed it more than I did. Now that we have a child it's much harder for my wife and me to get out dancing. My job doesn't help matters either. I'm usually out of town every second week, and we tend to spend my time at home together as a family."

"I can't wait until Arthur and I are able to start our family. Right now he's just got his dream job, head of the science department at the largest local high school. Once he gets that running the way he wants he hopes to have more time for the responsibilities of starting a family. I really can hardly wait!" Janice was obviously quite pleased by what she had said, as she was smiling broadly.

The band announced that they were going to do a selection of Frank Sinatra songs, and as soon as they did Janice said, "I just love Frank Sinatra's music I know it's from way before my time, but my parents always played it as I grew up, and I guess it stuck on me."

"It's funny you should say that, Janice. He's always been one of my favorites as well; how about we dance to a few of them."

They got up and moved back to the dance floor. Gloria was there with her dance partner, and they appeared to be pasted together. Brent noticed them, and tried to mention it to Janice. She couldn't seem to hear him, and shrugged her shoulders while giving him a curious look. He took the opportunity to lean in closer to her and whispered into her ear, "I think your friend Gloria has found a new close friend. I'll turn around and you can see them over towards the corner."

His move to better talk to Janice, combined with his turn to let her see what her friend was up to, resulted in the two of them coming together quite closely. They continued to dance closely together while Janice watched her friend's antics on the dance floor.

After about half a minute she moved her head closer to be better able to speak to Brent and said, "I've met her husband. I don't think he would be too happy with what she's doing over there. If I didn't know better I'd think they were having sex on the dance floor." Her tone of voice had been a bit harsh, conveying her obvious unhappiness with what she was seeing.

"I very much doubt that she would behave that way in your home town. She seems to be a bit of a cougar, if you know what I mean. I'm willing to bet that by the time you leave here she'll be asking you to refrain from mentioning whatever might have happened on this trip to anyone back home. I suspect that your two single friends will soon be leaving with their new friends for some place that caters more to their age group, which will mean they'll be less likely to notice what's going on."

They continued to dance to the Sinatra songs, but the space that had been originally kept between them soon evaporated. They weren't dancing as close together as Gloria and her partner, but Brent soon noticed that Janice no longer moved back slightly when her breasts contacted him, or his erection slid against her thigh as they moved. The first couple of times that had happened she had quickly broken their contact. It now seemed she was more comfortable with him.

When the last of Frank's ballads was over they returned to their seats. The band started a couple of faster numbers, and the two single teachers passed them with their partners, on their way to the dance floor. Gloria also returned to the table, and the three of them made small talk about the quality of the band. Her dance partner didn't join them at their table, but Brent noticed him standing at the bar, his attention obviously focused on Gloria.

After a set of three songs, the tempo once again slowed down, and Brent quickly took Janice back to the dance floor. Gloria and her partner soon joined them. Before they had completed the first song, Brent moved his lips closer to Janice's ear and said, "It's difficult to really hold a conversation with you here, between the crowd noise and the way the band seems to be getting louder. I don't want you to get the wrong idea, but how would you like to come up to my room so we could talk more easily. I really find your company very enjoyable, but this is a terrible place to get to know each other."

Janice immediately leaned back and gave him a shocked look. "I don't think so! I don't know you that well, and could you imagine what do the others would say if I left with you? My reputation and probably my marriage would be in shreds, even if all we wanted to do was talk."

Brent didn't reply immediately, but eventually said, "I realize we've only just met, but I think you should realize I'm not the type of guy to take a girl to my room under false pretenses, and then transform myself into some sort of predator."

They continued dancing for another minute before he continued, "As far as keeping the others from knowing about it, I've got an idea that should work. If you'd like, I can explain it to you."

Janice gave a short laugh before saying, "I really can't imagine what you could suggest that could let us pull that off. Me leaving with you to go to your room isn't something they'd be likely to miss. Even though it was only to make it easier to talk, you know what they would think."

Brent replied, "As long as you are satisfied that you could trust me, there is something we could do to keep it our little secret. I'll take you back to your table, and say that I'm going to have to call an end to our evening, as I need to get a good night's sleep for a meeting tomorrow. I'll say my goodbyes, and leave. You can hang around with your friends for 10 or 15 minutes before you decide to leave as well, and then you can come by my room. I'll leave the door open for you."

Janice was quiet for a short while before saying, "You really think that would work, do you? What if one of the others decided to leave as well?"

Brent laughed before saying, "I really don't think that's very likely. Your two young friends are going to be sticking around for a good time, whether it's here or at another bar, and I bet you wouldn't be gone two minutes before Gloria and her young guy are seated together. I bet the only thing that couple hasn't decided is whose room to spend the night in."

"You don't really think she's going to spend the night with him, do you?" There was disbelief in Janice's voice as she said that.

Brent glanced around the dance floor until he spotted Gloria and her partner back in the quiet corner they had shared earlier. After watching them for a couple of seconds the said, "Take a look at them now. Pay close attention to where their hands are."

Brent turned slightly so that Janice could look over his shoulder at the couple in question. As she glanced at them he said, "His left hand is on her breast, and it looks like her right hand is between them, somewhere below his belt." A few seconds later he added, "Don't you think that answers your question?"

"I see what you mean, Brent. I'm surprised. She's always seemed so much of a homebody." She giggled before continuing, "I'm sure she'll be saying something to me about 'what happens in Minneapolis, stays in Minneapolis' before we get home to Duluth."