tagLoving WivesLitter Bug Boogie

Litter Bug Boogie

byFredoberto©

My wife Mandy drove just over eight thousand miles a year, mostly on short business trips to visit clients. Our detached villa in Surrey was not too far from the infernal M25 motorway that casts its noose around London. It was a nice place to live, but even a short car journey can take a long time on the M25.

Mandy's coping mechanism for dealing with traffic jams on the M25 was to have snacks and soft drinks while she listened to 'bubblegum' radio. It helped that she loved her bright orange VW Beetle cabriolet. It was Volkswagen's brand new version, with a powerful two litre engine, state of the art sound system, a black soft top and black leather seats. Most folk agree it's a great little car, but that didn't stop her littering the inside of it with chocolate bar wrappers, empty drink cartons and all sorts of other crap. I found it amusing that she drove a car with a top speed of over 120mph, but most of the time it was either stationary or crawling along on some of the UK's most congested roads.

Mandy's first car had been an old VW Beetle, back when she was a student at Uni and she told me she had fond memories of that car. It was before she met me and she had been living at home with her parents in those days. I didn't ask her, but her fond memories most likely involved shagging young men in the tight confines of the bug. When VW reinvented the Beetle a few years ago, she went on and on about how she would really love to have one. I took the hint and bought the top of the range convertible she wanted for her fiftieth birthday. I also bought the personalised registration she had to have. It was an absurd amount of money for a number plate with her initials and the letters "BUG".

The car became known as Wee Bug, but despite her attachment to the car Mandy couldn't be bothered checking Wee Bug's tyre pressures and fluid levels, so I did that on a regular basis. Some people don't mind driving around in a car full of crap, but I can't stand a messy car, so I also cleared out the empty cartons, paper cups, food wrappings and all the other litter. It was no big deal and I never mentioned it. Mandy never thanked me, probably because she didn't even notice, but I didn't mind, because I always found enough loose change amongst the litter to buy a couple of beers at our local pub at the end of the day.

It wasn't surprising Mandy was a bit careless with her loose change, given that we were both earning good money and enjoyed a comfortable standard of living. Mandy is a business consultant and she helps all sorts of companies with strategies to develop and grow their business. I'm a freelance project manager, specialising in change management projects. Everyone calls me Terry. My real name is Dave, not Terence, but even my wife calls me Terry. Why? It's short for Terminator. Change projects almost always result in some poor bastards getting terminated and it's my job to do the dirty work.

Mandy and I got together at University, when we were both studying Business Admin. We hit it off so well that even before we got married we set up our own limited company, Alpha Business Consultants Ltd. Although we were young and comparatively naive, we got some helpful advice and financial support from my father, a highly regarded commercial lawyer.

Sadly, dad's no longer with us, having succumbed to the big 'C' a couple of years back. When we started the company he agreed to be a director and it was his active involvement that gave us the gravitas necessary to get to the table with potential clients. In return we gave dad a couple of shares in the company and he was always ready and willing to give us the benefit of his skills, expertise and experience.

In the early years Mandy and I worked hard to build business for ABC by establishing a client base that needed consultancy support for strategic business planning. However we realised after a while that our skill sets are quite different. Mandy is good at helping companies plan for the future, while my strength is operational problem-solving in the here and now. Her speciality is all about planning what people want to happen and my speciality is solving problems when the shit hits the plan.

Both Mandy and dad suggested that ABC needed to be clearly identifiable as having a focus on strategy rather than implementation, so we agreed I would trade separately as an independent consultant, specialising in managing organisational change projects. Mandy continued to work for ABC as its sole employee.

Our twin daughters, Linda and Lucy, left home a couple of years ago and they are both at University now, but when they were young children I fitted out a ground floor room of our house as ABC's office and put a sign on the door that said "Office". Mandy or I could go in there and work without being disturbed. Gradually it became Mandy's office, because my work is mostly on site at the client's location, whereas her work is mostly off site, working from home. She has around fifty key accounts and she charges fees for her consultancy services as and when those clients need her advice.

Unlike Mandy, I rarely had repeat business, although I did get referrals and I regularly worked as an associate for a big name management consultancy. I usually only had one client at any given time and I worked with the client for weeks or months, managing a major change project, such as an office relocation or organisational restructuring. When I finished a project I usually had a break for days or even weeks before another assignment came up.

Not knowing what's coming next can be unsettling for many people, but I was used to that and I enjoyed my occasional breaks by catching up on my reading and improving my culinary skills. It also gave me time to take on most routine maintenance tasks around the house that didn't require a professional to do the work.

I also regularly cleaned the aquarium in Mandy's office. She had read somewhere that a big aquarium with lots of brightly coloured tropical fish helped the thinking process, so she just had to have it. She liked the aquarium, but she couldn't be bothered with the maintenance and upkeep of it. She probably thought pH was just two random letters, so I ended up looking after the welfare of the fish.

I never complained about being left on my own when Mandy was away on short business trips and she never complained if I was gone for a week at a time, working on site elsewhere in the country. In fact I think our love life benefited from those occasional absences, especially after our two daughters left home and we had the house to ourselves.

As empty nesters I was hoping we could revitalise our social life by getting out and about a bit more, maybe even getting away for the occasional romantic weekend in Paris or Rome. Men plan and the gods laugh, as the saying goes. Things changed when Mandy came home one day with Wee Doug.

Wee Doug is a Shih Tzu, also known as a Chinese lion dog. Every time I see him I can't help thinking of the joke about the guy who went to a zoo where there was only one animal, a dog. It was a Shih Tzu.

I was a bit annoyed that Mandy got a dog without consulting me. Wee Doug was friendly enough, but I knew immediately that I would end up having to take him for walks and look after him when Mandy wasn't around and possibly even when she was around. He was just a puppy when she got him and he had to be house trained, so guess who had that pleasure? We didn't start calling him Wee Doug just because he was small. He peed anywhere and everywhere for a while.

Mandy loved Wee Doug. He was literally her lapdog, sitting on her lap whenever he got the chance. She would fondle him as he lay next to her on the sofa while she was watching TV. He would sit on a chair next to her when we were at the dining table and he could invariably be found lying on top of our bed in the morning. I tried my level best to discourage Mandy from allowing Wee Doug complete freedom to roam throughout the house, but my pleas fell on deaf ears.

To keep our love life from coming completely off the rails I had to lock the bedroom door if I wanted my wife to myself in the bedroom. Even then I had to remember to unlock the door and open it afterwards, otherwise Wee Doug would whine at me from outside the door and Mandy would whine at me inside the bedroom.

By now you're probably thinking I'm an irritable bastard and most likely have some form of OCD, sifting through the litter in my wife's car, but that's not the way it was. I'm not too bothered about small matters, so when it came to tidying up Wee Bug my standard operating procedure was to open the car door, scoop all the litter out and dump it in a plastic bag at the edge of the doorframe. Any small change would be on the floor under the litter, so no sorting was required.

*

That Sunday afternoon was no different, until a scrap of paper fell on the ground next to the plastic bag. I noticed it was a credit card receipt from the Ainsley House Hotel, a sprawling country house hotel around twenty miles from where we live. Like many of those big rural hotels, it has a restaurant with a solid reputation, but most of its income comes from the hotel spa and conference centre that hosts seminars, wedding receptions, business dinners and other events.

There were no details of the purchase, but the amount charged was what you might expect to pay for lunch or dinner for two or three people. I assumed Mandy had been wining and dining some clients, so I decided I better not throw the receipt away in case she needed it and I stuck it in my wallet to give to her later. I put all the snack wrappers and other litter into the plastic bag, tied it off and tossed it in the bin, then drove Wee Bug down to the local garage to fuel her up and check the tyres and fluid levels.

Mandy was leaving the next day on a business trip up north and she wouldn't be back for a few days. I was between assignments and had plenty of spare time. I had hoped to take her out for a pub lunch at the Fox and Hounds, but she told me she was too busy preparing for her trip. I was disappointed about that, because Sunday has always been a family day for us. Our daughters continued the tradition by calling up for a chat most Sundays, so I wasn't surprised when I got back from the garage to find Mandy with her feet up in the lounge, clearly in the middle of a lengthy phone call with Lucy.

Listening to Mandy's end of the conversation I gathered that Lucy was having another crisis in her love life. Linda is the calm and mellow daughter, whereas Lucy is the drama queen. When their sleepovers with boyfriends got serious I tried to stay cool, but still show them that I cared about what was happening in their lives. They know we are both there for them if they need help or advice, but their mother is usually first on the list if they want to gossip or have a moan.

From what I recollect, Mandy was telling Lucy to "get over it", "get back in the water", there were "plenty more fish in the sea" and that she should "taste and try before you buy". I didn't know what had happened, so I didn't know what advice I would have given Lucy. I find the Latin motto of "festina lente" is generally a good approach to problem solving. Hurry slowly. Take time to reflect and then decide what you want to do.

Whatever was going on, it was up to Lucy to decide what she wanted to do next. I wasn't going to chip in my tuppence worth and make her any more confused, so I simply asked Mandy to say hello from me and went into the kitchen to prepare the Sunday dinner. Roast beef and Yorkshire puddings with roast potatoes was standard fare for us on a Sunday and I found it therapeutic to put it all together, especially when I had a decent bottle of claret to go with it.

Mandy wasn't in much of a mood for conversation over dinner, although she did bring me up to speed on her telephone conversations with Linda and Lucy. Linda was in a steady relationship with a nice guy and she was going through a purple patch in her studies, with good marks for her recent assignments. Lucy wasn't doing as well academically and her boyfriend had dumped her after he spotted her kissing another guy.

I expressed the opinion that Lucy's boyfriend might get over her kissing someone else if he was given some time to change his mind, but I doubted there would be any way back if Lucy decided to try out possible replacements in the meantime. Mandy took quite a different view and seemed to think that Lucy should just write off the relationship and look elsewhere for some fun times.

After dinner I took Wee Doug for his evening promenade, making sure the little black plastic bag with his doings was sealed tightly and disposed of in the bin outside. I just don't understand the idiots that hang those little bags on bushes and trees. Do they seriously think the dog-shit fairies are going to come along in the middle of the night and take away their leavings?

Later I sat in the lounge watching television for a while and Mandy went into her office with Wee Doug to finish off preparing a presentation for her client. I loaded the dishwasher and went to bed, where I tossed and turned for a while before falling into a restless sleep.

I was vaguely aware of Mandy getting into bed much later, but she was already up and about when I woke in the morning. Instead of my lovely wife, I found myself face-to-face with Wee Doug, who was exhaling his stinking dog's breath directly into my face. There's nothing like morning breath from a Shih Tzu to get you out of bed in double quick time.

*

I dressed quickly and took Wee Doug for his morning constitutional before joining Mandy in the kitchen. Neither of us is much of a morning person and Mandy always needed a couple of cups of espresso before she could make a start to the day. We chatted briefly about the weather while waiting for the rush hour traffic to finish its stop-start conga on the M25. Then she kissed me on the cheek, patted Wee Doug affectionately, got in Wee Bug and set off on her travels.

It was only after she had gone that I remembered the receipt in my wallet, so I decided to leave it on the desk in her office. That was when I noticed the payment on the receipt was timed at 10.18am. It looked more likely to be payment for an overnight stay, but that didn't make sense to me. Maybe there was a business function she had to attend and she didn't want to drive home.

I could ask her later and there was probably some sort of simple explanation, but I had time on my hands and decided to check my diary to see where I had been that day. It turned out I hadn't been away from home that week, but I had noted in my diary that Mandy was to be up north for three nights. The receipt was from the morning after she left, so it looked like she only managed to drive twenty miles before spending the night at the Ainsley House Hotel. If she had been attending a business function I could easily have dropped her off and picked her up and she wouldn't have had to pay for an overnight stay.

I sat there in her office, staring at that receipt. I had seen no signs of anything unusual in her behaviour and we were still making love on a regular basis, but I couldn't help thinking this looked like it might be evidence that she was having an affair.

I was shocked by the possibility, but more than anything else I was puzzled. I had absolutely no idea that she might be intimately involved with anyone else and I didn't have any suspects. I also found it difficult to understand why she would go to the trouble of booking into a hotel when she could simply take advantage of my regular absences and have her fun at home. Of course maybe she did both, or maybe there was some completely innocent reason why she had stayed at the Ainsley House Hotel that night.

While I sat there, trying to come to terms with what might be going on, it dawned on me that she could be up to the same thing on her current business trip. I grabbed my mobile phone and punched in the telephone number on the receipt, all the while hoping my suspicion was ill-founded.

I asked the nice lady who answered the phone if she could put me through to their guest, Mrs Amanda Carmichael. She told me she was sorry she was unable to do so. For a brief moment I felt a sense of relief, but instead of telling me there was no reservation in that name she explained that Mrs Carmichael hadn't checked in yet. Check in was from twelve noon and it was only half past eleven. Did I want to leave a message, she asked me. Of course I could have left a message, along the lines of, "Your husband called. He wants to know what the fuck you're up to." That would have been gratifying, but unlikely to get me the answers I needed, so I politely declined her offer.

I made myself another cup of coffee and thought about my next move. Unlike the numpties in charge of our country I wasn't going to spend time humming and hawing, avoiding the issue or inventing my own version of reality. Driving to the hotel and confronting Mandy might not solve our problems, but at least I could take immediate action, whatever the consequences. Maybe there was a plausible and entirely innocent explanation. On the other hand, maybe she had a bull and was hanging the horns on me. I decided I would have to take the bull by the horns.

I put Wee Doug in the garden, figuring I could clean up after him when I got back, then I got in my car and headed for the Ainsley House Hotel. It was past noon by the time I got there and I immediately spotted Wee Bug in the car park, so Mandy had probably checked in. I parked four rows back and called Mandy on her mobile. She answered almost immediately.

"Hi Terry, what's up?"

"I just heard there was a serious crash on the motorway and wanted to check you're okay."

"Er... the traffic is a bit heavy, but I didn't know there was a crash."

"It's on the M25, so maybe you got past there before it happened."

"Oh yes, I'm just passing Watford. Thanks for checking, though."

"Okay, let me know when you've arrived safely."

"Okay, bye."

After listening to that load of bullshit I decided to have a stroll around the hotel and see if I could surprise her. Maybe she would be lunching with a lover before they went for some afternoon delight. If there was no sign of her in the public areas of the hotel then I would call her room and ask her if I could come up for a chat.

I walked into the hotel and headed for the brasserie restaurant. It wasn't busy and there was no sign of Mandy. I decided the lobby bar would provide a good vantage point and I'd sit for a while and see if she and whoever she was meeting put in an appearance before I called her room. I still wondered if there might be a slim chance she was there for some other reason and just didn't bother telling me what she was up to.

Crossing the lobby, I spotted a large notice board that listed the various function rooms and events taking place that day. It looked like Monday was a quiet day. The only event that drew my eye was a "Private Party" in the spa and fitness centre from 7pm that evening. I wondered what sort of private party would be held in a health spa or fitness centre. Maybe it was people who wanted to use the facilities unencumbered by clothing. Had my wife become a member of a naturist fitness group?

I asked at reception about the private party. The receptionist looked a bit flustered at my enquiry and then politely told me she couldn't provide any information about a private function. In other words, it was none of my business. I took a seat in the lobby bar and ordered a coffee. The waiter who served me was much more forthcoming when I asked him what the story was with the nudists in the spa.

"Yeah, I suppose you could call them nudists, but there's more to it than that," he told me. "It's probably one of the worst kept secrets around here, but that private party is a regular event hosted by the local swingers' club."

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byFredoberto© 73 comments/ 28914 views/ 25 favorites

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