"The Stain"

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Just a little misunderstanding.
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Some introductory remarks.

Generally speaking I've been grappling with several long stories that I just can't seem to finish. Meanwhile I've had a ton of these little guys languishing around so I thought I'd knock a few of them out. So fair warning, no Dostoevsky, and certainly no Chekhov.

Now about this story: First, all the active characters are over eighteen. Second, if you want sex go someplace else, or if you're a skimmer, move on. But third, if you're looking for a little break from what you're doing and don't want to get angry or frustrated this just might be the place. Fourth, no religion and no politics. Fifth, if you've read any of my other stuff you'll find the pretty little red haired girl stayed home for this one, sort of anyway. And last, though there might be a moral in there someplace, don't look too hard. Today we're happily at the shallow end of the pool.

Jedd Clampett

*****

Prologue

It was an after-hours office party for Hilda Guthrie. Hilda was a sixty something book keeper who'd been at Comstock & Bannister for nearly fifty years. Hired right out of high school by Reason Comstock's recently deceased father she'd never had another job. It was a small get together, just the office staff and a few guests. Chase, our protagonist, had been invited because his wife Angela was office manager and 'go to' person at the firm. And yes, it was a law firm.

The Story

I normally didn't go to these things, but I liked Hilda; she'd been a big help to my wife when she first started there, but I had another reason too. By law firm standards, or by anybody's standards my Angela, at twenty-four, was pretty young to have advanced as far as she had. I suppose it wouldn't have mattered if her success had been just a little less precipitous. She'd been hired at nineteen, just after two years of college, mostly computer stuff. She'd gone basically from the clerical end to accounts assistant, to personal secretary, to Miss do it all manage it all.

There's been a concomitant to Angela's upward track. Her promotions started just shortly after Philip Bannister took an office at the firm. Philip is a younger grandson of one of the original, also deceased, founders. Philip appeared and four weeks into his new job Angela got her first promotion. Shortly after she got a second promotion, plus a hefty pay increase. Right now she's considered heiress apparent to the retiring Hilda. And how many colleagues has she leapt over, more than one or two.

I suppose this shouldn't be troublesome, but there's been more. Of course all law firms and smallish white collar businesses have their Friday Happy Hours, and Comstock & Bannister is no exception. So every Friday like clockwork Angela would call and remind me she'd be a little late. For sure the latenesses haven't changed, and the calls have been just as reliable, but twice lately I've had to call back and they said she wasn't in the office. Then when I called on her cell phone it went to voice mail. I asked her about it both times, and both times she said she was out with one of the lawyers getting a will signed or changed.

Now I guess is the time someone might wonder well what the hell I do for a living. I'm a farmer, or I pretend to be. There aren't many real farmers around anymore. Most of us try to hang on by doing something else too. So let's say I'm a farmer who works at the local high school as a math teacher and sometime coach. The teaching job provides a steady income and terrific health benefits. The farming, well let's just say it's in the blood.

Angela's sort of a farmer too; her dad manages the local Food Lion, and her mom sells 'home grown' fruits and vegetables. See, most people don't think about it. Farming is mining the soil to produce mostly food, but wood, tobacco, and other things like guinea pig hay too. So think about it, the guy at the grocery store; he's part of the agricultural chain.

OK, off the subject a little, blame the writer, not me. Do I wear a suit and tie? Do I even own a suit and tie? Get real! I'm a teacher and a hayseed. I wear Tee-shirts and jeans to school and overalls in the field. Nobody complains. Why would they complain? The kids I teach all murder the S.A.T.s, and the kids I coach all have a good time. On the other hand, ever seen a lawyer? Ever notice the tasseled shoes, the eighty dollar ties, the leather windbreakers, the fine weave of their expensive shirts and sport coats. I have and thought, well that's them, but I'm afraid Angela been thinking too.

I have my hobbies; don't we all? Well golf isn't one them, waste of good farmland. Do I ski? I can. I like to dance, two step mostly. What do those guys where Angela works call what they do? I've seen them at her Christmas parties, that's another 'new' problem, but I won't get into that.

So what are my hobbies; well I fish, I like to ride, and I enjoy boating, canoeing that is. That worries me too. Angela and I literally hooked up over a fishing rod, not really but it sounds good. In her younger days she had her own pony, and we've hit most of the easier northeastern rapids as well as having done a fair amount of fishing in places only a canoe can reach. So when did these things start to become so 'proletarian' to her? My word not hers.

They say life's complicated, and I believe them. I mean when can one thing become another? Or how shall I say it, something scary becomes something wonderful. Angela was pregnant when we got married. The kid's mine, little girl, she's three now. Angela was twenty-one, and I was in my second year teaching. I was twenty three. So for the mathematically acute that makes me twenty-six and Angela twenty-four.

~~V~~

I pulled on the street near the firm's office, a big old house in town converted for business. I parked my late model, scratched up grey pick-up truck and lurched my way up the steps and into the firm's offices. There were about thirty people on hand; mostly office staff, but quite a few of Hilda's friends. I counted as a friend of Hilda's.

I looked all around for Angela but couldn't spot her. I asked around but couldn't find anyone who knew where she might be. Then Rita Cameron saw me. Rita's Angela's best friend at work. She came over, "If you're looking for Angela she's at the courthouse with Mr. Bannister. They had some paperwork to finish up."

I asked, "Really, takes two for that?"

Rita replied, "I only work here."

I left Rita and wandered around, saw and congratulated Hilda, and spent a couple minutes with one of the other young lawyers. I found one of the more mature secretaries and together we absconded to a corner where we blabbed about the usual inanities. I was pretty comfortable with the whole thing. I had on a clean pair of jeans and a clean black Tee-shirt. I'd wiped the mud off my tennis shoes before I left school. I mean it was the spring time, the athletic fields were a little sloppy, and we'd been putting the J.V. boys through an abbreviated practice. We're talking baseball.

It was getting kind of late. Some of the people had already left. Some of the women had kids and family to go home to. We were OK since Angela's mom handled the domestic duties while she and I were at work. I usually got off first and picked up the munchkin. Angela would get home a little after me and start dinner.

Finally I looked up and saw my wife had arrived. Philip Bannister was right behind her. Angela had on a tan sport's jacket covering a dark blue button up blouse. The blouse's collar was out over the jacket's lapels; looked like three buttons were undone so the blouse was pretty loose. She looked sexy. She had on a dark blue A-line skirt; all very professional, brown hair up in a bun, dark brown glasses, makeup perfect, looking great like in that naughty librarian commercial.

Before she saw me one of the women near her must have said something because Angela looked down at her blouse and then looked all around. I watched as she tucked back the coat to inspect something. Then the woman who'd accosted her got between Angela and everybody else, thus blocking everyone's view. It didn't matter, even from where I was standing I knew what I saw. I put my glass down, red solo cup, and started for the door.

What had I seen? Well I'm not a fool.

As I stepped around Rita saw me. She had that look in her eye. I knew she'd seen what I'd seen. I had to get out there. I moved quickly, and I hoped nonchalantly toward and out the door. I did look back. Rita was still watching me. So was Philip Bannister.

I got out, skipped down to my truck, got in, started it up, and drove about a block down the street. I had to catch my breath. What was I going to do? I could have been wrong? No I wasn't wrong. Things all started to add up. I had to get somewhere and fast. First I called Mrs. Simmons, Angela's mom and told her I had a problem and that she should call Angela to pick up our baby. She said she would, then I hightailed it down the road like a deer back home. High tail, deer, get it? I figured I'd go home and park my truck in the barn. Angela seldom went there anymore. That wasn't true; she used to go to the barn all the time, said she liked the ambiance, the quiet. Quiet yeah, two horses, chickens, two dogs, and I have to add a nasty little rooster who liked to fight. Go to the barn first thing you tell yourself, 'Oh no, don't sit down, and don't go barefoot; he'd peck your toes right off.'

I got home, pulled the truck in the barn, slipped into an empty stall, and sat down on a cracker box. I thought about it. Here's the way it was. I'd known Angela from high school, but never dated her, I thought she was too immature, too stupid I guess. I'd certainly been aware of her, watched her from time to time; a real cock tease, pretty, popular, always on some guy's arm. She was the girl who was always with the hottest guy in the sportiest car. She was, how do I say it, absolutely irrepressible!

Why'd she ever go out with me? That was easy. I got hard up, needed a date, saw her, and I asked her. The date was hardly earth shaking, just a party, and I needed a date to show up a girl I'd just broken up with. It was late summer, September. I pulled up her parent's drive, went in and sat down. Her dad and mom were gracious, like they went out of their way to be nice. They were the nicest parents I'd ever met, it was a little creepy. They explained they knew who I was, and they knew who my parents were. Gee, I'd only just asked their daughter out a couple days before. Had they hired someone? Were they that worried?

Angela came out from their living room. We'd been sitting in the breakfast room. We heard her clitter-clattering down the stairs and through their house. She stepped into the breakfast room, and I swear to God the earth stopped moving, the sun stood still in the sky, I was speechless. She was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen; hair pulled back just so, gemstone earrings, thin gold necklace with some kind of ornament that drip-dropped down between two god awful perfect breasts that were highlighted by a snow white blouse with the top buttons unbuttoned. The pleated mini-skirt did nothing to hide two magnificent legs. Low cut high heels, maybe two inchers pushed her calves up just enough. I was smitten. This girl was a walking wet dream!

We went to the party, and I couldn't get near her all night. I mean she was the absolute center of attention. I don't think she looked at me one time. I knew where she was though. It seemed every time I got involved in something or with someone I'd hear the sweetest giggle. Of course I'd have to look up, and there she'd surrounded by a crowd of admirers. Someone would say something and she'd roll her pretty eyes and laugh; I admit it, it made me jealous.

Around 11:30 p.m. she found me and told me she had to be home by midnight, and that we should go. I was surprised she even remembered who brought her.

Now it just so happened that I was driving an old S-10 pick-up in those days. It was clean all right, but it had old fashioned bench seats, thank my lucky stars. I started to drive her home when she slid over next to me. She turned up her head, she's only about 5'2", light as a feather, and back then after a summer in the sun brown as a berry with bright flashing blue eyes. I'm 5'11", not that anyone cares. Well she whispered, "Did you see me tonight?"

I smiled, "Yeah, I saw you."

She rolled down on her back, pert little breasts undulating under crisp blouse, and put her head on my lap, face up. She giggled, "I could get any boy I wanted tonight."

I kept smiling, "I don't doubt that."

Then after batting her long lashed eyes at me about a hundred times she said, "You saw that?"

"Yeah, I saw," I said.

Then she drilled me; lifting a tiny hand up and wafting it across my cheek, right out of left field she asked, "Why'd you take so long to ask me out?"

Damn! Stunned! K.O.'d, I replied, "I don't know. Never thought about it. You're kind of immature you know."

"Chase," through puckered ready to be kissed lips she whispered, "I've been waiting. I've done everything I could to get you to pay attention me. You must know how I feel."

I didn't know about that, but I knew what I was feeling, and I knew my rapidly hardening 'John Boy' was certainly in for a dishonorable discharge later when I got home. Just the same, I knew a line when I heard it. I said, "Now that's some horse shit," I knew about horse shit. I'd mucked a few stalls.

She abruptly sat up, "Look I'm a virgin." She grabbed her breasts and gave them a squeeze, "a lot of guys have played around up here." Another button popped open!

Then she reached down and, Jesus she put her hands down in camel toe country. Oh was I squirming! Then she said, "But this is virgin territory. It's waiting for just one man."

Suddenly she climbed back over and wrapped her arms around me. Things had gotten so bad I had to pull over. She finished, "Just you Chase, just you."

I was incredulous. I was squeezing my legs together! I exclaimed, "Who are you bull shitting. Not me, that's for sure."

She abruptly retreated back to her side of the seat. Crap; she felt warm, her hair smelt of fresh hay, and her breath, oh my God! I wanted her to stay where she was. She looked out the window and muttered, "OK, take me home."

Oh shit! Thank God I was wearing loose fitting black jeans. Anyway, just what I figured, a cock tease. I drove her home. We got in front of her house. She didn't wait for me to help her out. Out of the truck, door still open she announced, "Unless it's with you, this is my last date-ever. Ever! If you don't take me out I won't go out! You just watch!"

I said, "OK."

She closed the door and ran up the steps to her parent's front porch, she turned and yelled, "You're the last one!" She whipped around and ran inside, slamming her parent's front door.

Did I believe that shit? Hell no, but within a few days I started to get calls and visits, mostly from a girl I knew named Ariel Frazier. Ariel was Angela's best friend, had been off and on all their lives. Ariel would call like on a Friday night, "Why don't you call and see if Angela's home?" or I'd get a visit while I was in town, that's Waynesboro, "Have you seen Angela out anywhere. You know she's waiting for you."

So I waited. It took me almost a month, but curiosity finally got the better of me, besides some the guys I knew had a case for Angela and had started talking to me, or more often glaring at me.

OK, I had her home number, Ariel had given it to me. I started calling. I'd call on a Friday or a Saturday night. I called on a Sunday afternoon. I found out she really liked to talk. She was pretty interesting. Sometimes we ended up talking for a couple hours.

I knew about her school activities too; by then everybody seemed to be in on what was going on. I started spying on her at school. I was in college, Wilson University, so I could get away with it. Of course I got caught. Next thing I knew I was driving her home.

Oh what the hell, at last I got around to asking for a date. We went out again, second date was a movie. We ate popcorn, and she snuggled. When I took her home I asked her, "So what happens if I never ask you out again?"

Her reply, "You wouldn't like it."

Here's where I figured I'd hear some stupid threat. I said, "OK, what won't I like?"

First she squinted her eyes close together to get a couple phony tears to ooze out, then she bristled and spat out, "I'll never date again. I'll just become an old maid."

Talk about high drama, "Yeah I believe that. Why me Angela. Why all this? You could have any guy you wanted."

She gleamed, "It was because of school. I was in middle school and we were brought up to visit the high school, and you were our guide. You were so handsome, and you were so kind. I knew. I just knew right then and there. I've known ever since," and then she put her hand on mine, "you're my 'Prince Charming'."

I looked down. Her hand was so tiny, clear nail polish, no rings or stupid jewelry, nothing like what most other girls wore. I looked at her. I guess it was the first time I ever really looked at her, such sincerity. She was so pretty, a perfect little angel. I believed her. That's when it all began.

~~V~~

So here I am waiting for my wife to get home. I know she's been unfaithful. We have a three year old child. We'd talked about adding another, but the last month or so she'd put that on hold. Now I knew why. The whole thing with babies has been like a tragedy. Sure our girl was conceived out of wedlock, but we made good and got married as soon as we found out. Sometimes I wonder about that. I mean she jumped right in the sack with me, like she couldn't wait; but damn, she must have known something about birth control.

Angela's pregnancy wasn't an easy one; she's a tiny woman. Her last weeks she was confined in bed, blood spots and all. She was really scared. With me it was almost like when a dog gets separation anxiety. She had to know where I was every minute day and night. What was she scared of?

Labor? Talk about labor. Seventeen hours! I guess I'd be scared of having another one too. But she said yes, then she said wait. What am I supposed to believe?

Now how about the sex. Sex? Once upon a time I was in the 'Garden of Allah', happy as a pig in mud. The last couple months? Ever heard of Death Valley? Why? I guess I know why...now. I'm fucked. No I'm not fucked, our marriage is fucked. I'd like to talk about how much she used to like making love, but that's nobody's business but hers and mine. I will say this; she's so small and light I can lie on my back, hold her hips and lift her up while she stretches out her arms and makes like she's doing a swan dive. It's really cool! We used to laugh about it...and snuggle.

This guy Bannister isn't married, didn't even have a steady girl. I taught math. I could put two and two together. I figured Angela's love, or was it childish fascination, had died. I was yesterday's news, last week's football scores, last year's election returns, a pair of worn out old shoes. I am so sad.

Am I heartbroken? Damn right I'm heartbroken. I thought we had something, must have been the tasseled shoes, the Mercedes, the diamond pinky ring. Well we'd find out, and find out tonight. No fucking private investigators, no secret wire taps, and no high assed smart shit electronic surveillance. No sir, we'd have at it, and have at it tonight! Believe you me infidelity is a marriage killer, no second chances, no apologies, no forgiveness, no do overs, no fresh starts. Not me buddy.

~~V~~

I heard the sound of her Nissan pull up the drive, a car door opened, closed, a second door, a baby's delighted squeal, she was home. Home, what a joke. I feel so depressed.

Time to face the music. Reality is at the doorstep. I got up off my cracker box ass, kicked at the rooster, he was hers anyway, and started for the front door. Angela hadn't gotten in the house yet. She was fumbling around with her keys. I coughed to announce my presence.

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