tagLoving WivesSailing to The Bottom

Sailing to The Bottom

byRichardGerald©

Copyright ©Richard Gerald 2018

What follows is the first part of my submission on the July Fourth nautical themed set of stories. The second part is written, but badly in need of a rewrite and a good edit. I will post it on the Fourth. There are no doubt typo's and misspelling in this first part. Feel free to send me your corrections.

As some of you may already have guessed the title is a kind of joke. There is another snide thing about the story that goes to what a female writing instructor once said. "Men never get female characters right because they always describe them as either a Madonna or a whore." I think I'm doing both here, but we will see.


*

Thirty feet, ten yards, the distance to a first down, all that separated me from the nightmare haunting my sleep these last five-plus years. The Annabelle was a forty-foot Morgan Sloop, what they call a Morgan 41. She's a fair-weather sailor and takes at least two to handle her but sitting in Marigot Bay just thirty feet off the dock; she was safe and needed no crew.

I'd been living aboard Annabelle for the last five years almost from the time I left New York. I'd bought her for a mere fifty-two thousand from a Baltimore marina. She was in pretty good condition for a boat with four-plus decades under her keel. We came a long way from Baltimore together. We wandered at first till we found Marigot Bay in St. Lucia. The place is as near heaven as you will find on this earth and far too expensive for my pocket. Fortunately, my law school buddy, Bobby Benson of Benson, Sharpes & Keller, inherited the dock and the fifteen-room "cottage" that went with it from his aunt Christabel.

Bobby was far too busy making money on Wall Street to spend much time in beautiful St. Lucia. When we met in the Snail bar, he invited me to anchor off his place. Probably felt sorry for me, his knowing my sad story.

"I'll tell my caretaker Orian to expect you," Bobby said. Orian proved to be a six-foot-four black man originally from Cuba, who conned his way to Venezuela. He didn't like the new brand of socialism in Venezuela any more than its progenitor in Cuba. How he got to St. Lucia, he never said, but he fit in like a native.

Orian and I didn't get along until he hit on the idea of renting the Annabelle out to rich tourists for a day of sailing. He was a capitalist at heart and knew how to make a buck. The two of us did pretty well in the dry season taking the tourists for a ride. The partnership was good even though Orian was convinced I was some kind of criminal running from the law if it were only that simple.

"Captain Mike," Orian called to me, "This here woman claims to be your wife."

So, there my nightmare stood, next to the tall befuddled Orian and far too close to me. The sundress suited Leslie with its short skirt and tight waist it emphasized the attractive body beneath. She hadn't always had that killer figure. Like her straight teeth, the curvy body appeared in her twenties. She was a junior in University before the guys took notice of the auburn-haired beauty. Her hair had that deep gold to it that flashes into blazing glory in the sun. She was a stunner.

We met, as fate would have it, the first day of freshman year. We were two shy lonely kids from Eastern Pennsylvania out of place in the big school, scholarship students with no friends but each other. Back then she was a nearsighted, overweight girl with crooked teeth, and I was the over large unlimited weight wrestler on the freshman team. Neither of us was attracting any attention, but I always thought she was pretty and told her so. Unfortunately, we didn't progress beyond the friend category.

What can you do? I loved her, but I needed a friend. We needed each other, and we were inseparable companions, but not lovers. When she blossomed into a beauty, I was not shocked. I told myself that it was just her inner goodness coming out. When she returned to university to start her Junior year, she had completely changed. Her weight was down to one hundred eighteen pounds. Lasik had corrected her eyesight, and her teeth were those straight even kind that you see in all the movies. Where the money for these changes came from she never said.

Leslie went a little crazy then. Perhaps she was making up for lost time. She picked up male companions indiscriminately and discarded guys faster than a used condom. I sometimes wonder why I stuck by her in those wild days but "let he who is without sin cast the first stone," or more accurately don't judge what those who are suddenly popular do. It is very hard to be always on the outside looking in, and maybe you lose sensitivity for the in people on the inside when you've been standing outside in the cold so long.

I began to notice something else about Leslie as we began our senior year. She had an uncanny ability to turn men on; myself included. It wasn't just her looks. I realized she always had it even when she was the ugly duckling, but now it was on full display and a thousand watts brighter. The odd thing was that she was still the most pleasant woman I knew to be with. The guys might be enticed by her looks and sex appeal, but they wanted to stay just to be with her. She didn't let them. It was use and loose on her side, unless they had something to offer.

Rich boys or the key professor she kept until she had what she wanted, and then they were history. As I said, don't judge until you have been there. However, it did bother me because I could see the pleasure she took from playing the whore.

None of this affected my relationship with Leslie. She had kept me in the friend category, and that meant I got to enjoy her company without worrying what she was after or the conflict that my jealousy would have caused. You see I was jealous of every guy she ever was with. I secretly was madly in love with Leslie from the moment we met.

Things came to a head before undergrad graduation. It was the end of school for neither of us. I was on my way to law school, and she had an MBA slot at Wharton lined up. Mostly, we were both short of money. Student loans only go so far. Our poverty actually helped with grants and scholarships, but we would struggle to live. It was natural that we should make plans to room together, but what she blurted out over bad coffee in the Student Union floored me.

"Let's get married," she said.

"What? We've not even dating."

"Whose fault is that?"

"Yours, remember I'm just a friend?"

"Why are you such a blockhead. Can't you see that I love you and have loved you since the first day we met."

"You have an odd way of showing it," I said, "slutting around campus."

"Is that how you see me, 'A cheap slut'?"

I could see she was hurt, but the words had just popped out of me. I realized she hadn't seen how she hurt me in these years being there while she was intimate with others. So, I told her, "Look. How do you think I felt seeing you with other guys? Knowing I loved you, but you didn't want me."

"Is that what you thought," she said moving to sit on my lap and embrace me, "I'm so sorry. It's just that we were in college and free for the first time in our lives. I wanted to enjoy my freedom. Men are easy to use, but I couldn't use you. I love you, but you endangered my freedom. I fell under your spell first thing, but I needed time to explore to be young. Now it's time to settle down, to make a life. Is there anyone else you would rather be with? For you are the only one for me, and I know that if we don't make a commitment soon— life will get in the way, and we will lose each other. I can't think of a fate worse than losing you. Yes, I know I'm not worthy of you. I've done thing, but I will do everything I can to ensure your happiness. That's my promise."

An odd person Leslie, she was a strange mixture of cool logic and deep emotion. Spiritually stronger and way smarter than any man I knew. In other words, she was pure unadulterated woman. The dangerous kind that you can't help loving when you know that you shouldn't.

Marriage suited Leslie, and so did Wharton. She graduated third in her class with no other woman ahead of her. She went straight to Goldman and Wall Street. I managed to finish in the top ten percent and secured a place at Cotter, Goodman & Crane(CGC). We were a golden couple, except we saw very little of each other.

I spent ninety hours a week working as an associate when I wasn't working one hundred. Leslie's hours were if anything worse than mine. I thought we knew what we were working for, but now gifted with hindsight, I see how naïve we were. It all came apart three years after our arrival in the megalopolis on the Hudson.

Leslie was firmly on the partnership track at Goldman when the opportunity of a lifetime opened for her. Standard Bank and Trust had a private banking division in need of a pretty young executive vice president with a Goldman pedigree. They hired Leslie on the second interview and gave her a seven-figure salary working half the hours she did at Goldman. On the other hand, I was struggling at CGC. The firm had five associates for every partnership opening, and it was up or out. I needed to prove myself, but no opportunity was on the horizon.

Then miraculously the golden opportunity presented itself. Roger Crane, the grandson of the last "C" in the firm name, was the senior partner in charge of mass torts. A building wall collapsed in Chicago. It killed more than thirty and injured hundreds. Two hundred individual lawsuits were merged into one big case. The defendants were the owner, the builder and the architect. The defendants as luck would have it were all corporations headquartered in New York.

The case was in the Federal court because the plaintiffs were out of state. The case would be heard in Manhattan, but the witnesses were all in Chicago. CGC represented the builder at whom the other defendants were pointing the finger. I was working estates at the time, but Roger Crane reached out and selected me to do the witness examinations in Chicago. I would be away a lot, but as Leslie said, "This is your big chance."

"I'm very proud of you," she said.

"Well that's very ego building coming from an executive vice president," I said trying to return the compliment.

"No, don't go there. I would trade every success I've had to see you happy. Besides baring the children is still on my side of the equation."

We discussed children. We had been discussing them from the day we married, after sex on our wedding night. The topics were always the same, how many and when. She had the names of the first five picked out. I knew it was one of the reasons she left Goldman. The money with the bank was great, but it was the possibility that once she settled in, we could start to have children that caused the move.

At that point, most very successful women would be looking to their man to pick up the greater portion of the child-rearing burden, but I knew that was not Leslie's view. In some ways, she was the very opposite of the modern woman. She was not one to live her life barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, but she saw our relationship as her supporting my career not the other way around.

"You need to be happy Mike or how can I be?" she would say, "I only wish I could make you truly happy."

I had early on learned that happiness was something that normally eluded me, but Leslie made me as happy as I believe it was possible for me to be."

The problem probably started at the CGC end of the year party. The sophisticated wives and women lawyers showed up in their little black dresses. Leslie was in red for the holiday season. The dress was beautiful; she was beautiful, and every eye in the ballroom of the Waldorf was on her. It was a big party filled with everyone who had any connection to the firm, or who the firm wanted to be connected to. The room was filled with the great, near great, and all of us wannabes. The third-year associates who hadn't made partner were all looking around sizing each other up. We knew that come next year we would be newly minted partners or gone.

Leslie knew the score. Perhaps her assessment of the situation was better than mine. She never left my side her arm firmly entwined with mine. As the partners made their rounds, she greeted each with a smile and a bit of flattery as if they were just the person she was hoping to talk to. I noticed that the partners male and female lingered longer with us than the other associates. There was no denying that the men lingered the longest with far too many ogling my wife. She met each lusting glance with a tighter squeeze of my arm and a more open display of affection for me.

Late in the party, Roger Crane appeared. He made no attempt to hide his glances at my wife. He was a handsome man in his early forties with a bad reputation. Leslie flattered him as she had done the rest, but nothing more. She had an ability to size people up quickly, and I meant to ask her opinion of Roger when we got home, but by then Leslie was in the mood for passionate sex. In those days, we often made love four or five days a week, but without fail once a week Leslie would fuck me senseless. When it was done, we were both raw and spent.

"You're the only man I ever found who can keep up with me, but I love you best when you're soft and slow," she said.

"You don't need to say that."

"Why not? It's true. The fact that I love you only makes life beautiful."

"But not perfect?" I said knowing what she needed to make life perfect.

"I need my babies to make life perfect, my husband and my babies. Everything else is fungible, but you my love are irreplaceable. No money, success, or thing can ever replace you."

Three weeks later, Roger Crane called me into his corner office and explained that he was looking for an associate to sit second chair with him of the Marquee Hotel case.

"It's a big job on a big case. It may end up being the most billable hours the firm has this year. I need only the best. Do you think you can handle it?"

"Yes, I won't let you down, Mr. Crane," I replied.

He smiled, "Good that's what I needed to hear, and by all means call me Roger."

The Court was in New York, but the discovery was in Chicago. We headed out the first week in February, Roger, two paralegals, two investigators and myself. This was the team for the Marquee Hotel Litigation. The case was actually known as Anderson et al. vs. Marquee Transatlantic Corp. et al., but everyone just called it the Marquee case.

The initial discovery and its depositions were set for the first three weeks in February. Roger stayed five days and did the meet and greets between all the attorneys involved. With all the plaintiffs and defendants, it was quite the assemblage. Roger was good at handling people and getting the necessary agreements that would expedite the process. When the initial phase was complete, he bowed out and left me to do the actual discovery. The other senior attorneys did the same, and we associates and junior partners began the real work.

It was the second week in February, Thursday to be precise. The lead plaintiff's attorney was having lunch with me when she became visibly ill, nausea and vomiting. It was a bad case of the flu, and they would need to replace her short term, but as fate would have it, in Chicago in the winter, a light snow had started, and the weatherman had predicted a real blizzard would hit the following day.

I knew that this meant we would be canceled until Monday. It was the perfect opportunity to slip home and see the wife that I had been missing so badly. Between the bad weather, the airport, and the distance involved I didn't manage to reach the row house we now owned in Carroll Gardens Brooklyn until near 11 p.m. There was only a dim light coming through a second-floor window. I assumed that Leslie had gone out with friends for the evening. She wouldn't be in bed this early, I thought.

They overbuilt these Brooklyn row houses, thick brick walls, and horsehair plaster. There was no wallboard here. Thus, it wasn't until I was almost to the master bedroom door before I heard anything, and they sure didn't hear me although I had done nothing to conceal myself. If they only had closed the door, things might have ended differently, but as it was, I saw and heard them long before they could see me.

The building is only eighteen and a half feet wide. The master bedroom is a long el at the back of the house. As I entered the bedroom, a man's pinstriped charcoal grey suit was draped over Leslie's expensive rocking chair. She spent days picking the chair out, i to rock her babies to sleep in it. She was a planner everything towards the goals she had established. Where did infidelity fit in?

The mirror over Leslie's bureau was visible from my end of the bedroom. They were on the master bed. I could see them, but they couldn't see me. My wife was moaning, and the man was grunting as if he was running a race. Leslie doesn't talk much during sex, but between moans, she was telling him how good he was and giving him encouragement. If I didn't see that beyond a doubt it was her, I would have thought there was some other woman in our bed, a professional prostitute perhaps. She might have been two persons, this whore I was watching, and my loving wife. In my heart, I knew and had always known that they were the two halves of her soul.

I couldn't see the man's face. He was facing away from the mirror. You think you will know what to do in this situation, but nothing prepares you for the shock of it. Perhaps, if I had walked in with a suspicion of what was going on. However, Leslie had given me no sign, no cause for distrust. So, I stood there rooted to the floor until with one great grunt the man finished. As he came up for air, I could clearly see his toned but forty plus body and his face. Roger Crane, my boss, was in bed with my wife as she whispered how good he was in his ear and gave an exaggerated sigh of satisfaction that seemed unlike the woman I knew.

In that instant, I was freed from my paralysis. I could have rushed in on them, but that would have gained me nothing. In one instant, my emotions went from numb to a fiery hate that burned with a hellish heat. However, I knew the facts of life. Wall Street firms are replete with the stories of partners who have seduced the wives of their juniors. CGC has its own dark rumors as to what has happened to associates, who raised objection about being made a cuckold. Firing was the least I could expect from any outcry. I would, most likely, be made the victim of baseless charges, and blackballed from my profession.

Crane was free of any shame in the seduction of my wife. He had done it before. I knew of a paralegal and a secretary he had seduced. Both were married. The secretary was now divorced. The firm had actually represented her against the husband she had betrayed and boasted of how well she had faired in the settlement. Crane was now single after his second divorce. He had himself fared poorly in both divorce proceedings allegedly not because of his extramarital affairs, but the children he had fathered with his wives.

Crane's first wife came from a prominent Westchester family of old money. She had her own wealth but had soaked him good for the care and education of their son. His second wife was a former Broadway performer, who he forced into a pre-nuptial. The lady perhaps looking to the experience of her predecessor had three children in the marriage. The support order was reportedly enormous. In addition, two young women brought paternity suits.

Perhaps his experience was why Crane now seemed to be concentrating on women already married. My wife was but the last in an extensive line if the rumor mill was to be believed. Still, I never would have expected such betrayal from Leslie. Perhaps it showed how little I understood women.

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