Paul And PaulabyDanielQSteele1©
Paul was sitting in the den watching Regis Philbin doing something outragously out of character for a sexagenarian when Gil Tucker walked in without knocking. The 48-year-old tall, sandy haired, lanky individual who still looked ten years younger and who had been Paul's best friend for 20 years took one look and knelt down beside him.
"Oh, fuck, man" he said, looking like he was about to break into tears. "What the fuck did she do to you?"
"I know stuff I've never told you because you're my best friend. Besides that, there is nobody and nothing else that could tear the heart out of you this way, other than that miserable bitch."
He felt like he ought to defend Paula for a moment, then realized she was indeed a miserable bitch. He held the cellphone out to Gil and pushed the play button.
Four minutes later Gil reached out with one trembling finger and pushed the end signal button. There were tears in his eyes but Paul thought they were tears of rage and incoherent anger.
'It's a damn good thing she's not here, friend," Gil said. " I don't think I could stop myself from killing her. I've never heard or, or even imagined anything like that before."
"I – I – even now I can't really make myself believe it, Gil. It's like this is a bad dream I can't wake up from."
Gil put his hand on his friend's arm and said, "Paul, I don't think I would ever have said anything to you, but I've known about this for a long time."
"Let's just say this is not the first guy she's played with. Actually, she was fucking around on you before she ever got into this real estate game, but that just made it easier for her to play without worrying about getting caught."
Paul pulled himself away from his friend and glared at him.
'You've known about this for YEARS and you never said anything?
Gil bit his lip for a minute, then said, "Are you happier now that you know?"
"No, God no. I wish with everything in me that I'd never heard that message, that I was still ignorant and happy. Even though she's a cheating, lying bitch, I wish I didn't know."
He bent his head forward and laid it against his friend's shoulder. He felt like a little boy, a child as tears gushed forth and he sobbed. He was ashamed of himself for behaving like a girl, but Jesus Christ, how are you supposed to act the morning after your life ends.
Gil held him and said, "It's going to be okay Paul. I know you won't believe me now, but it will be okay someday."
Paul remembered in his agony 13 years ago when Gil's wife Lynn walked out on him aftter telling him one night she had fallen in love with a pre-med student at the University of Florida in Gainesville 10 years her junior. She left him and married her young stud and even had a little boy before showing up in Gil's front yard two years later begging him to take her back.
Then it had been Gil in agony and Paul and Paula who had held his head while he threw up after all-night benders spent trying to forget the woman he had loved. But, as Gil said, he got Okay eventually. Fucked Lynn for six months before kicking her out and refused to take her calls for a solid year. Eventually she had given up and disappeared.
Oh God, was that going to be the way it was with Paula and him, he wondered? All that pain and chaos and in his and Paula's case there were two grown kids. And in the end, he'd be alone, just another old bachelor like Gil cruising the bars and trolling the online dating sites to get some action, but never finding that special someone again.
Gil leaned back and suddenly pulled him to his feet.
"You need to get out of here, man. This place and all the memories must be killing you. Come to my place and sack out in the spare bedroom while you sort things out."
He knew it was the right thing to do. It felt like the entire house was closing in on him and choking him. It was all THEIR house, everything in it held memories of her. It felt like poison ivy over his entire body, burning and itching at the same time in places he couldn't scratch. He needed to get away.
But there was another reason to get away. On the ride to Gil's house after packing enough clothes and his blood pressure and a few other medications, he told Gil what he needed him to do and Gil agreed.
Once he'd settled in and Gil had called for a Pizza Hut pizza, Gil had used his bachelor's den equipped with electronic equipment you would be hard pressed to find outside of a University laboratory, to make copies of the inadvertent phone call. Then Gil fed the call into a computer and they watched the computer screen as Gil pushed buttons while two jagged lines ran along parallel to each other across the face of the screen.
The bottom line was a message he'd recorded from Paula two weeks before to him at work telling him to buy steaks on the way home for a cookout. The top line was of her sucking and fucking another man's cock. As Gil played with the computer, the two lines grew closer and eventually overlapped until there was only one pulsing line.
This is the moment, Paul told himself staring at the single line, when it all ends. Scientific proof that the voice of the fucking slut who had told another man she loved him more than dull old Paul was his wife. There was no mistake. He'd known it all along, but he told himself, "I had to be sure."
After awhile the pizza came and Paul managed to choke down a slice of Supreme with a beer to wash it down. Normally he loved pizza but it had as much taste as cardboard. They didn't talk until his cell phone suddenly rang at about 8:30 p.m. Paul actually jumped and then stared at it, while an increasingly familiar sense of dread filled him.
It could have been anybody, but he knew somehow who it was. He stared at it while it rang again and again.
Gil picked it up and hit the intercom button.
"Paul..Paul..are you there? Paul...."
"It's me, Paula, Gil."
"What are you doing answering Paul's phone? Is he there? Is he alright?"
"Yeah. He's over at my place. He called me this afternoon. He got the flu, running a fever and going at both ends. But he'll be alright."
"God, I was starting to get a little worried. I tried to call him at work and they said he hadn't showed and only called in once. You know that's –"
"Not Paul-like, I know. But everybody gets sick. He's only human."
"I know, I forget that sometime. He's a rock. He never gets sick. Hey, let me talk to him."
"I can't Paula. He crashed a little while ago. He needs to sleep."
"Oh, okay. I understand. I'm glad you're there for him, Gil. He doesn't have many friends, but you're a good one. Anyway, I called because I'm going out with a bunch of guys and some girlfriends for drinks. You know how it goes. I always lose my cell at these things so I'm leaving it in the room tonight. I didn't want him to try to call me and worry when he couldn't reach me."
Gil and Paul exchanged glances. Paul felt a shouted obscenity rising in this throat when Gil pantomimed a "shut it" motion and said, "That was thoughtful of you Paula. I know you hate it when Paul gets worried about you. But really, he knows you can take care of yourself. Anway, in the shape he's in, I think you're the last thing on his mind tonight."
There was a long silence on the other end of the line before Paula finally said, with what Paul thought was an odd tone in her voice, "Yeah...yes, I guess you're right. Just watch out for him, okay."
"He's my friend, Paula. I'm not going to turn my back on him."
There was another long silence and then a soft click at the other end of the line.
The two men started at each other, until Gil finally broke the silence.
"What a mother fucking bitch. What a mother fucking bitch. She's being so thoughtful calling you before she goes out to fuck some stud's brains out."
Paul shook his head, saying, "Let it go, Gil. I know it's true, but I don't want to hear it right now. A few hours ago I loved her beyond anything in the world. And now I know she's a piece of shit. I've kind of got psychological whiplash."
After another moment, he said, "God, I'm glad you answered the phone. But she's going to keep calling. What am I going to say to her?"
Gil gave an evil grin and said, "How about, don't bother coming back you miserable slut. Because you don't have a house or a family or a husband back here anymore."
Paul shook his head and tried to eat another bite of cooling pizza.
"How can I do that? I don't know what I'm going to do?"
"You're kidding me, right? You heard the same thing I heard, you heard me tell you she's been cheating on you for years, and you don't know what the hell you're going to do? Paul, I'm telling you, if you don't throw her ass out, she'll be fucking guys right in front of you and making you eat their cum out of her pussy. She'll turn you into a joke."
"You don't know that, Gil." The two friends glared at each other for a moment.
'I know you feel the way you do because of what Lynn did to you. But she walked out on you. You and I both know the call has to be a mistake. There's no way Paula could have planned to let me know what she's doing. It was an accident. She'll come back and she'll still be Paula."
Gil grabbed his friend's knee and pressed his fingers in hard.
"Listen to your fucking self, you idiot. I love you man, but you're a fucking idiot. She'll still be Paula? Of course she will. She'll still be cheating on you, fucking other men behind your back, laughing at you behind your back, loving another man more than she loves you. Jesus Christ, how can you be around her for more than a second and not try to strangle her. She cut your balls off, man. There is no marriage to save. At least Lynn was honest with me. She tried to do the right thing. She didn't make me a joke for ten years."
Paul couldn't let that stand.
"If I confront her it's over. But, she's gone to so much trouble for so long to keep this secret from me, there's got to be a part of her that still loves me. She could have divorced me anytime. Apparently she doesn't need me for money. Why else would she have stayed with me and gone to so much trouble to lead a double life?"
"Didn't you hear the same conversation I did? You're comfortable. You're a husband, someone to take out the trash and take her to restaurants and parties and talk to over breakfast. You notice she didn't say anything about a man to love and fuck and hold at night when she is feeling lonely? You used to be that man, the way I used to be that man for Lynn. But Lynn threw me away, just like Paula threw you away."
Paul stared numbly at the scraps of pizza on the old oak coffee table where he'd eaten pizza and drunk beer with Gil even back when Lynn and Paula were still there in the kitchen or watching something on TV. Back when the world made sense.
Gil tapped Paul on the knee as if to draw his mind out from the dark place it had been heading.
"You can live through losing your wife. You can live through losing Paula. You can live through losing the life you had. But you can't live without your pride, your pride as a man. You try to swallow the poison that Paula is to you now, and it will kill you. You'll hate yourself and you'll probably lose your job and your friends and any chance of a future beyond this. And if you can keep your lunch down day in and out, one night you'll either stick that Glock in your mouth and finish the job or drown in a bottle. That's why I finally had to throw Lynn out. I didn't want to, God I didn't want to, but I was drowning and I had to save myself."
"Maybe you're right, Gil. I don't know anything right now, but I know I'm not ready to make that decision right now."
The two men stared at each other. Finally, Gil said, "Alright. I know it's too soon. It took me months. You've had a day. Are you planning on going to work tomorrow? You can crash here and get yourself ready before you go in to face anybody."
Paul just shook his head. He wasn't sure, but he thought he wanted to hide out at least one more day.
"But whatever you do, I think you need to start protecting yourself for when this goes to a divorce and gets ugly."
"What? I don't know if this is headed to divorce and even if it does...the kids are grown. Even if she's not as independent as she indicated, money shouldn't be a problem. Why should things get ugly?"
"I don't know, but this is war, man. You're not a happy couple anymore. You need some ammunition in case shooting starts. Ammunition like pictures and video. The phone message is pretty damning, but I'll bet a good attorney could fill it full of holes."
"Pictures and video? How..."
"Leave it to me. I still know some people from my time with the lab."
Before patenting an electonic device that Paul still couldn't understand that had something to do with sending information more quickly and reliably between computers, Gil had been a scientist working with Bell Labs in New Jersey. He had been good enough that he'd had contacts up and down the chains that led from the CIA to NSA to Congress to Wall Street. He had been an important man before he became a multi-millionaire, his father and mother died in a stupid accident and he decided life was too short to spend it doing anything he didn't want to do.
He made one phone call and a few minutes later the phone rang again. He took it up and explained that he had a black ops job that needed doing quickly. Investigators' report, still photos, video and audio. He gave them Paula's name, the hotel where she was staying, the name of the event.
"Try to get us something solid by tomorrow, Thursday. Send it special courier and I'll pay for it. Oh, and continue the surveillance until she leaves. That should be on Sunday, right Paul? Yeah, through Sunday and then send everything to me at the Jacksonville address. I'm the only person that can sign for it, understood? Okay, thanks, man."
Then to Paul, "These guys are good. You'll have good solid proof of what she's up to by Thursday night, assuming she screws around like we both know she will tonight. These guys are black ops, but their cover is a legitimate private detective agency working out of Miami. They can testify in court, give us whatever we need. And by Sunday you'll have enough that the judge will probably order her to pay you alimony!"
"None of this gets out, understand, Gil? I mean, you understand? Your people can be trusted, and you can keep your mouth shut. If this goes south, yeah, I might need this. But there's still a chance I might decide to do nothing and if I do, Paula can't ever suspect that I know."
"Jesus Christ, man, didn't you listen to a word I said? You want to stick your head into a hole in the ground and pretend nothing's wrong? How can you?"
"Dammit, Gil, I love you like a brother. You're the best friend I ever had, but this is MY life we're talking about. I make the decisions. I can't help thinking, maybe, I don't know...People have affairs and sometimes they just stop. Sometimes they come to their senses and just go back to their husbands or wives. It's not impossible..."
"After nearly ten years of fucking other guys? Ten years of lying to you. Ten years of leading a secret life you know nothing about including, I'm sure from what we heard, salting money away in secret from you so she can do – what? I don't know but you don't hide income and a whole life away from your better half and then suddenly one day decide to go back to being Suzy Homemaker. You're living in a dream world."
Paul shook his head stubbornly.
"It's my dream world. If my whole life goes to shit, disappears, it will be MY decision. I appreciate everything you're doing, but remember, when it was you and Lynn, Paula and – I didn't try to force you to do anything. We – I - let you decide how it played out. Now give me that same respect, that's all I'm asking."
The rest of the night was spent between Paul refusing to hear what Gil knew about Paula's running around and finally giving in to the irresistible urge to know, like pulling off a scab even knowing the blood would flow. Even though it should have surprised him, it didn't that Gil had come by their house several times to find a strange Hummer in the driveway while Paul was working. After the first few times he got suspicious. This was only two years after his breakup with Lynn and it wasn't hard to suspect the worst of any woman. When he found out that the Hummer was registered to a Danny Ortiz he checked Ortiz out.
"He was 28 at the time, owned half of a landscaping company and best of all, I found out he and Paula were both members of the same gym. I later found out he actually was one of the partners who owned the place. I was very careful but I nosed around and made friends with a few people. Found out Ortiz, about 6'3 and according to a few guys who'd seen him in the showers hung like a bull, was a stud about town. They said he had woman all over him.
"I did a little more delicate checking and found a couple of guys who described your wife right down to those huge tits for a slender body, dark hair and looking a little like Demi Moore. They said Ortiz had been working on her for months and one day came back in after taking a break from the heavy weights and told some friends he'd just plugged the bitch in the back seat of her SUV. And it was off to the races from there."
Gil took another sip of the Tequila that he liked and rubbed his chin for a moment. He wasn't looking at his friend as he spoke.
"I didn't know what to do, man. Part of me wanted to tell you. It wasn't right what she was doing to you. But...I remembered what I went through when Lynn left me. God knows I didn't want that to happen to you. So, I decided to try some direct action. One day I cruised by there and saw her SUV and his Hummer. I couldn't help wondering how she could be so fucking stupid. Some of her neighbors must have noticed that Hummer. How was she going to explain that if anyone mentioned it to you?
"So I went up to the door and knocked. I figured if they were fucking even if they got it together and got their clothes back on, it might throw a little scare into her. I waited and knocked. Then I rang the doorbell. Nothing. I was about to try the spare key you'd given me a long time before when Paula opened the door. She was hot and sweaty and wearing shorts and an oversized t-shirt. God, her tits were bulging out even of that. Sorry man, but you know they're the 8th and 9th wonders of the modern world.
"She looked at me a little surprised but I couldn't' read anything else and asked me what I was doing there. I told her I'd been in the neighborhood and saw a Hummer that I'd spotted there a few times before. I apologized for being nosey but I told her I hadn't talked to you in a while and just wondered if you had succumbed to the urge to buy a really BIG car."
"A big dark haired Latin guy stepped up behind her and said that no, it was his. I looked at Paula and gave her a funny look. I couldn't believe it. She was cool as a cucumber. She introduced me to Ortiz and asked me to come in. She said he was a landscaper she'd met at the gym and they had got to talking. She walked me to the back yard and I saw where they had been pulling down some trees, putting in a flower bed and a few other things.
"In other words, Paul, I knew she'd been fucking his brains out but without taking a swab of her pussy for semen, there's no way I could ever have proven to you that she wasn't being a housewife trying to beautify her home. She and Ortiz were just good friends talking lawns and proud of what they'd been doing. She was so fucking good. She even said she hadn't told you about Ortiz coming by because she knew you were so absent minded you never noticed the back yard. She wanted it to be a surprise for you."
Gil shook his head.
"I swear to God, Paul, she gave me a look then. It was clearer than words. She knew I knew she was fucking Ortiz. And she was daring me to tell you. If I did, I knew she'd have an explanation for everything, even the guys who said Ortiz had bragged about fucking her in the back seat of the SUV. She still have you and I knew you'd never forgive me for lying about her. We'd be through. I'd have lost my best friend, and she'd still be screwing you over. She was just too damned smart.