The Honey TrapbyFrancisMacomber©
You can learn a lot about someone by playing tennis with them. Generally I've found that guys who are gentlemen on the tennis court are also gentlemen in their off-court lives. Conversely, I watched a guy display the worst sportsmanship I'd ever seen while playing his best friend. It was no surprise to me later on when the guy abandoned his family and ran off with another man's wife.
And then there's Frank Calhoun. Frank is a big guy; in fact, he played football at Georgia Tech until he blew out his knee. Once the orthopedic surgeon had repaired it, Frank switched to tennis. But he plays tennis like a football player, hitting booming serves and blasting away at the net man from the baseline.
But I can beat him. I like to come to the net and put pressure on him to hit it by me. As often as not, he'll overhit and bounce the ball off the back fence. And don't get me started on his line calls. Let's just say that the benefit of the doubt always goes his way when he's making the call.
As a result, Frank always wants to play me. He just can't stand losing to "a little guy." Now I'm not little, I'm actually six feet tall. But I'm pretty lean and wiry, which makes me little compared to Frank, who's three inches taller and seventy-five pounds heavier than me.
Not surprisingly, I don't really care to play with Frank, but he's hard to avoid because we both live in the Eden Pointe subdivision north of Atlanta. Since Atlanta is such a big tennis town, our subdivision was built around a clubhouse with a pool and lots of tennis courts. With so many people playing on teams in the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association league, it's pretty hard to avoid someone like Frank.
But the good news is that I also get to play with a lot of really nice people -- like my mixed doubles partner, Penny Pennington. I met Penny through my wife, Melanie. Melanie is a Pilates instructor, and a lot of people who live in Eden Pointe take classes at her studio, including Penny. Unfortunately for me, Melanie doesn't care for tennis, but when she learned that Penny was looking for a partner, she introduced me, and Penny and I have been playing together for about a year now.
The club we were playing in today's match was all the way over in Stone Mountain, so I had offered to drive Penny to save gas. Given the way traffic builds up on a Saturday afternoon, we gave ourselves forty-five minutes to get there.
As she emerged from her front door, I wondered yet again why Penny was still single. Part of it was that she'd lost her husband in an automobile accident three years ago. After lengthy mourning period, one of the ways she'd coped with her grief was to join Melanie's Pilates class. Another way was to get back into tennis, which she'd played in high school. The result of all that physical activity was a fit, trim dark-haired woman in her early thirties. I would have expected a woman as pretty as Penny to draw suitors like flies to honey. But she kept telling Melanie that she just hadn't found the right man.
"Hey, Penny," I greeted her when she opened my car door, "are you ready to get 'em today?"
She grinned at me. "You bet, Michael. I've been looking forward to a rematch with these guys for a long time."
We were talking about our strategy for the match as I pulled out onto I285, but I was interrupted by the ringing of my cellphone. "Hi, Robert. You're kidding! No, it's perfect here. Damn. OK, we'll reschedule."
Penny looked at me quizzically as I took the next exit and began heading back home. "That was our opponent," I told her. "He told me that a rainstorm just passed through and the courts are unplayable." Atlanta is notorious for isolated showers that can drench one area of the city while the sun is shining brightly only a few miles away.
Penny was clearly disappointed. "Darn it, I was really looking forward to playing today."
"Listen," I said, "why don't we go back to the club? We can get in some practice, and maybe there'll be somebody there willing to play."
When I pulled into the main entrance to Eden Pointe, I turned off on the road to my home. "I just want to stop and pick up my check for this quarter's club dues," I told Penny. "I won't be but a minute."
I parked at the curb and dashed to the front door. I'd made out the check last night and left it on my dresser, so I knew just where to find it. But as I walked down the hall, I heard noises coming from the master bedroom, sounds that I shouldn't have heard.
"Oh, please, do that some more. Yes, just like that. Ohhh!"
That was Melanie's voice! What in the hell?
I tiptoed down the hall and peeked in the door. Melanie was lying naked on the bed, her legs draped over the side and spread wide. Between them, a man was crouching, using his mouth and hands on her as she moaned and gasped.
I felt as though I'd been in an auto accident. I was stunned, unable to move, unable to think. Everything had suddenly changed, and I couldn't comprehend what was happening.
Then the man stood up and lifted Melanie's legs high to facilitate his penetration. "No, this can't be happening," I thought as I recognized the figure of Frank Calhoun. I heard her moan as he slid into her. Then she was chanting, "Oh god, oh yes, oh god!"
I staggered back from the door as though I'd been hit by a fist. It was just too much to bear. My first impulse was to charge into the room and attack him. "But what good would that do?" I asked myself despairingly. "They've already cheated on me; fighting him won't change that. Besides, even if I got in the first blow, he's so much bigger than me that he'd still be able to beat me to a pulp. But I don't want him to get away it."
As I stood there, I suddenly remembered Penny waiting in the car. "Oh, shit, I've got to get her home first, then I can come back here to face them," I thought.
I found myself walking back down the hall and out the front door in a daze. I felt like I might vomit at any second. I glanced up and saw Penny peering at me through the car window. A moment later I climbed into the driver's seat and started the engine.
I don't know what I looked like, but it can't have been good. "Are you all right, Michael?" Penny asked anxiously as she stared at me. I couldn't speak. I gripped the wheel as tightly as I could while steering the car toward Penny's home. When I pulled up out front, I put the car in Park and spoke without looking at her, "I'm sorry, Penny, but I'm not going to be able to hit with you today."
"What is it, Michael, what's happened?" she asked with growing concern.
When I didn't respond, she reached over and turned off the ignition; then she took the keys with her as she got out and came around to my door. I turned toward her. "I have to go, Penny. Please let me have the keys back."
"No," she said firmly, "not until you tell me what happened."
When I didn't say anything, she opened the car door and tugged on my arm. "You're not going anywhere until you come inside and tell me what's going on."
Robotically I got out of the car and let her lead me into her home. She disappeared for a second and returned with a glass of ice water. I sipped on it automatically as she watched. When I set the glass down, she took my hand and pressed it in hers. "Tell me, Michael. What happened in there?"
Suddenly, all my resistance collapsed and I sagged back against the back of her sofa. I tried to speak but my throat suddenly tightened up again, so I took another sip of water.
"It was Melanie and Frank," I said in a strained tone.
She looked at me uncomprehendingly. "Go on," she said.
"They were there together, in our bedroom. They were . . ." my voice tailed off.
She gasped. "No! That can't be right. Melanie would never do that!"
The image of the two of them came back to me with full force, and I felt a tear streak down my face. "I never thought she would either," I croaked as the pain in my throat increased.
"Could it have been something else, Michael? Could you have been mistaken?" she asked.
I knew she was trying to help, but that didn't keep my anger from rising. "When I looked in, she was lying on her back with Frank licking her pussy. When I left, he had her heels over his shoulders and was pumping his cock into her. So you tell me, Penny, was I mistaken?"
She flinched at my angry sarcasm. "I'm so sorry, Michael. I wasn't doubting you, I was just hoping there could be some other explanation."
More pain shot through me. "And with Frank Calhoun of all people!" I said angrily. "How could she let that big baboon near her?"
"I guess that explains why Frank started taking Melanie's Pilates class," Penny mused.
"He was taking her class?" I yelled. "She never mentioned that to me."
My anger was still flowing. "Thanks a lot for warning me," I said bitterly.
Penny was hurt now. "That's not fair, Michael. I had no idea there was anything going on between the two of them."
"I'm sorry, Penny," I said, "I didn't mean to lash out at you. It's just that I'm pretty raw right now."
She squeezed my hand. "That's okay, Michael. I can only imagine how you must be feeling."
I stood up. "I have to go," I told her. "I have to go back there and find out what's really happening."
"You're not going to do anything violent, Michael?"
"No, I just need to get some answers."
She squeezed my hand. "Please let me know what happens, Michael. And let me know if there's anything I can do to help."
I thanked her and went back to my car. Driving back to my home I dreaded what was coming. I thought about all the questions I wanted to ask her and I tried to anticipate her probable reaction. I expected tears, denials, and angry words. How should I respond to them? And what about Frank? What if he's still there? I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my system.
When I walked in through the kitchen door, Melanie must have heard me because she came out to meet me. She was wearing her robe; her hair was wrapped up in a towel. "You're back early," she said brightly. "How was the match?"
"We were rained out," I said in a clipped voice.
"Oh, I'm sorry you didn't get to play," she said. "I'll bet Penny was disappointed."
I just looked at her. I didn't want to make small talk.
"They called about the rain just after we left," I said quietly.
She blinked, but there was no change in her facial expression.
"I came back to the house," I told her. My heartbeat accelerated. "I saw you and Frank together."
Of the many scenarios I had envisioned, Melanie's response was not one I had anticipated. "I'm sorry you had to see that," she said evenly.
"That's all you have to say?" I asked incredulously. "You're cheating on me and you're sorry I witnessed it? Aren't you even going to say you're sorry for fucking him? How long has this been going on? Don't you have any kind of explanation?"
She crossed her arms and heaved a sigh. "Sit down, Michael," she said, gesturing toward the breakfast room table.
"I prefer to stand," I said angrily.
"Suit yourself," she said, and took a chair. I stood there dumbfounded at her total lack of reaction.
"Listen, Michael, we were going to tell you soon anyway, but I guess this just steps up the timetable a little. I'm leaving you. Frank and I are in love, and I'm going to move in with him. We'll get married as soon as the divorce is final."
I decided to sit down; I didn't want to risk falling.
Before I could think of anything to say, she jumped up and said, "Wait here," before disappearing back toward our bedroom. A few moments later she came back, clutching a sheaf of papers. She slid them across the table at me.
"This doesn't have to be acrimonious," she said. "I don't even want any alimony from you. I've taken all the money from our savings account, but that's only fair since I'm leaving you the house. This is a much better deal than you'll get if we go to court, but I'm good with that if you'll sign the papers and let us all get on with our lives."
I looked at the sheaf of papers: it was a petition for a divorce.
"You've already been to a lawyer?" I asked in astonishment. "What about our marriage? What happened to the last ten years we spent together?"
"I'm sorry, Michael. This wasn't something that I planned; it just happened. Just accept it: it is what it is."
"Accept it?" I shouted. "Accept that my loving wife is fucking that asshole Frank Calhoun in our own bed? Accept that our marriage is over just like that?"
She stood up. "I'm disappointed, Michael. I had hoped for a more mature reaction from you." She turned and walked back to the bedroom.
I sat there at the table, staring at the divorce petition in front of me and trying to make sense of what was happening. If someone had asked me that morning, I'd have told them that I loved my wife and that we had a good marriage. This afternoon I learn that she's leaving me for another man. Talk about cognitive dissonance!
In the quiet I could hear the beep of a cellphone, and then snatches of conversation.
"He saw us. . . About like you'd expect. . . That would be good."
When she came back out she was fully dressed and carrying an overnight bag and make-up kit. "Now that you've forced the issue, I don't intend to stay here tonight. Frank's coming over to get me. We'll come back on Monday while you're at work and get the rest of my things."
"So you're going, just like that?"
"It has to be that way," she said.
"Fine," I said bitterly. "What do you want me to tell our friends?"
She sighed. "Listen, Michael, Frank and I haven't done anything wrong and we don't intend to hide away like criminals. We're going to continue to be active socially. In fact, we'll probably go to the Eden Pointe reception tomorrow evening. You won't have to tell anyone anything because they're all going to know about it anyway."
Just then there was the beep of a horn outside. Melanie looked out the window. "Frank's here," she said. "I'm going now."
As she was closing the door, she leaned back in to look at me. "Just sign the papers, Michael. The sooner you do, the better it will be for all of us." Then she was gone.
I don't know how long I sat there. Emotions flickered through me like the cars of a train rushing through an intersection. One minute I'd be boiling with anger; the next I'd remember happier times and be filled with sorrow. I told myself I'd treated her like a queen; then I wondered what I'd done to drive her away. "I'm better off without her," I repeated; until I was filled with loneliness.
The tone from my cellphone startled me, and I quickly answered. Subconsciously I think I was hoping to hear Melanie's voice, but it was Penny. "How are you doing, Michael?" she asked.
"Not so good," I replied. "She's left me."
"I heard," she said.
"You heard?" I said in astonishment. "Where? How?"
"I'm sorry, Michael," she said sadly. "Frank's been up at the clubhouse boasting about it."
"Oh, shit," I thought. "It's already started."
On Sunday I called the captain of our men's team. There was no way I was going to go up there. "I'm sorry, Joe," I told him, "you're going to have to scratch me from the line-up today. I've got some personal issues to deal with."
"Yeah, I heard," he said sympathetically. "Sorry about that. Good luck, man."
I thanked him, but I knew all I had to look forward to was more bad luck.
I spent the whole day inside. I guess I was hiding, though it pained me to admit it. The TV had sports on, but I wasn't paying attention. My thoughts kept drifting back to my marriage with Melanie. Where did it all go wrong? When did she stop loving me?
I felt certain that she'd loved me when got married right out of college. We'd gone steady throughout our senior year; I'd asked her to marry me over Christmas break. She'd majored in Health and Physical Education, and whenever my fraternity brothers would catch sight of her in workout clothes, they'd give me a hard time. She had that combination of cute, fit and sexy that's almost irresistible; I gave up trying the minute I met her.
We settled easily into married life. I landed a great job in Atlanta, and she found a job as an instructor at an aerobics class. After a few years, we'd saved enough money for a down payment on a house, and we found just what we were looking for in a brand new development called Eden Pointe.
I thought that we'd been really happy here at Eden Pointe. I got several promotions with my company, and Melanie decided to strike out on her own. We had enough money by that time to lease space for her studio in one of the small strip shopping centers in the area, and her business did very well. Our savings account was growing, we had a host of friends and acquaintances, especially at Eden Pointe, and we had even started talking about starting a family in a year or two.
Our sex lives had quieted down some, but that hadn't surprised me. My job kept me busy, and teaching Pilates every day will tire out anyone. As I thought back about it, I began to realize that things had really slowed down in the last six months, though I hadn't noticed it at the time. I also remembered that Melanie had seemed a bit distracted at times, as though she was off in another world. But when we had made love, it was as good for me as ever, and I had thought Melanie felt the same way. Obviously, I was wrong.
I kicked myself mentally. How could I have been so blind that I didn't realize she had gotten involved with someone else? How could I not have been aware that she was falling out of love with me and in love with Frank Calhoun? The only thing I could figure was that when you love and trust someone else, you don't go looking for signs of treachery and deceit. "No," I thought sardonically, "you just have to wait until they dope-slap you in the back of the head."
I went into work early on Monday to try to get ahead of the game. Around nine o'clock I called the office of my attorney to try to make an appointment. When the secretary asked about the purpose of the meeting, I didn't want to get into the subject of Melanie and me so I told her I needed to make some changes in my will. When she came back on the line, she told me he could see me right after lunch.
When I got to his law office, Jonathan met me in the lobby. He had been a classmate of ours back in our undergraduate days, and I had gone to him when Melanie and I decided to have wills drawn up.
After we were seated in his office, he looked at me with concern. "Is everything OK, Michael? I understand you need to make a change in your will. You or Melanie aren't ill, are you?"
"Thanks for your concern, Jonathan, but it's not quite that bad," I told him. Then I handed him the papers that Melanie had given me on Saturday. As he read them, he "tsk-tskd" to himself. When he had finished, he looked up at me.
"I'm really sorry to learn of this, Michael. Do you think there's any chance of reconciliation?"
"I don't think so. She's already moved out of our house and moved in with her boyfriend. She told me that they plan to get married as soon as our divorce is final."
He shook his head. "I would never have expected this. You two seemed like the perfect couple."
Then his expression changed and his voice took on a professional tone. "Given those circumstances, as your legal advisor my advice to you is to sign this agreement immediately."
"So, just like that, ten years of marriage wiped away?" I said bitterly.
He shook his head patiently. "In matters like this, Michael, you have to stop thinking with your heart and start thinking with your head. My read on this is that Melanie has made you a very generous offer, much better than you'd get if you decide to fight over it. Part of her motivation may be guilt, but I'd be willing to bet that the main reason is to give you an incentive to agree quickly so she can marry her new man. While it may feel like you're giving in to her now, the truth is that if your marriage is over, this is the best deal you can hope to get."