Chance: A Day in May Ch. 07bythe Troubador©
Chapter 07 The Separation
The soup looked good when Duncan took it off the stove but when he sat down to eat, there was no taste. He tried a few spoonfuls then disgustedly dropped the spoon. Pushing back the chair he got up to bus his lunch dishes, rinsed them then popped them in the dishwasher. Since his return to Seattle nothing tasted good.
Restlessly prowling his living room Duncan stopped before the big picture window to watch the happy crowd promenading around Green Lake. A light wind rippled the lake surface, sending sparkles across the surface. Yet even the placid, happy view from his living room couldn't soothe him this afternoon. Nothing he did snapped him out of the blue funk he'd fallen into since returning from Spokane and his brief adventure with Helen in Ritzville a week ago.
Duncan snorted. "Be honest with yourself at least," he thought. The blues hit when you watched her drive away: Watched her going to meet her husband, leaving your sad ass behind.
Standing at the window his mind shifted once again to those few days in Ritzville. In his mind the moon was full again, bathing a woman who was naked perfection in its soft magic. She came to him, pressing herself against him, giving herself to him. As the picture played in his mind he again held her hand, leading her off their mountain.
As his mind wandered the picture shifted, the ambient light changed from silver and gold to blue and he was again standing beside the road, watching his perfect woman drive away. Tears streaked his face, not for the first time, as he remembered her car disappearing down the road.
He'd not heard from her since she phoned that afternoon to tell him she made it safely. But then he hadn't expected to hear from her.
"She must be appalled at the enchantment we'd fallen under in Ritzville." He hoped she didn't hate him for seducing her. Lord knows it wasn't something he planned. Not that it wasn't something he didn't want but he just didn't mess with marriages and married women. How could something like that just happen? But it had.
For a moment he fell into the now familiar daydream remembering those few days he'd spent as Helen's Lochinvar. Since returning to Seattle he'd just wandered restlessly from one thing to another. He did manage a few productive hours on his consulting business, but it didn't seem fair to charge the clients for more than half the time he spent trying to concentrate on their problems.
He had walked miles around Green Lake every day since his return.
The comfortable, cheerful old mansion he and his wife had moved into early in their marriage overlooked Seattle's own back yard. The three-mile walk around the urban park that was Green Lake was the most popular exercise in the city. Almost any time, day or night, crowds of a few dozen to several hundred walkers, runners, bikers and inline skaters could be seen strolling, biking, and skating around the charming natural park.
One of Duncan's favorite jaunts was walking around the lake on a warm sunny day. The crowd of sunbathers always made wonderful eye-candy. With his house lying just across the road from the park grass, he wryly considered the scantily clad sunbathers to be his own personal lawn ornaments. Kicking off his loafers he had barely sat down to tie on his running shoes when the telephone rang.
"This is Duncan. What can I do for you?"
"Duncan, glad I caught you in," came Colin's familiar voice. Colin was head of the investigating agency Duncan had asked to check on Helen's husband, Gerald. "We have the report you asked for on Gerald Conningham. Do you want me to mail it to you or do you want to stop by the office to pick it up?"
"I'll swing over and pick it up this afternoon. Can you give me a run down on what you found over the phone?"
"Sure, already told you the man met a woman named Myra Jenkins at SeaTac Airport. She is, or was, his Executive Assistant. They cashed in tickets to Manila, then we were able to verify they took a JAL plane to Singapore, First Class. The next four days they spent in Singapore living the high life."
"They were scheduled to take an inland tour of one of the classic ruins, Ankwar Wat. Gerald left their hotel early to do some shopping and was supposed to meet Myra where the tour started. She never showed and the guy has been tearing the place apart ever since looking for her. She's a pretty little piece; late 20's, blond, and built very nicely. Our informant at their hotel told us she slipped off fifteen minutes after Gerald left that morning. It looked like she was heading to the airport alone with her luggage. Gerald has no idea what happened to her and it's driven him crazy."
"I'm sorry we didn't keep track of her but my man in Singapore had instructions to keep tabs on the guy. He had no more idea she was planning a skip than Conningham. We'll get on her trail if you want but Conningham looks about through with his trip. He tossed a real bundle on the broad and he's been bitching under his breath. Guess she took most of the rest of the money with her. It's handy to have a hotel room bugged."
Duncan thanked him for the summary, promising to pick up the written report at his office later. After hanging up he glanced at his watch before trotting out the door to make the run around the lake. Despite his hopes those few miles were not enough to clear his troubled mind.
On the drive back from picking up the report Duncan tried making sense out of what he knew. The drive only took half an hour and he ended up with more questions than he started with and no answers. Gerald had to have been an unusual man one time for a woman like Helen to have married him much less stayed with him for twenty years. What had happened? When did the change start? How was Helen going to face this?
That one had an answer. She would face it quietly and courageously. She would face it with compassion and she would come out of this stronger than she went in.
Not that she would believe it right away but he knew it was true.
Duncan faced the truth himself since that second day in Ritzville. Helen was one of the most remarkable and resilient women he had ever met.
The rest of that truth was uncertainty. He knew how he felt. That didn't help when she was honorably married to Gerald. Could he somehow reach out and try to win her? He promised not to interfere in her life, certainly not her marriage as long as she was committed to her husband. Despite what Gerald was doing she was committed.
For that matter, she had no idea what Gerald was doing.
He could not even try to influence her decision about this mess. If she felt he was selfishly trying to break up her marriage he would be gone so fast he'd cause a sonic boom. The fact he would agree with that decision didn't make things any easier.
All he could do was the honorable thing; support her, answer any questions she had truthfully and hope like hell whatever she decided would be something he could work himself into. Finding a woman like his wife was more than a man could expect. Finding and keeping a second one like her, a woman like Helen, was a minor miracle. Still, he could place himself in position to help her and hope.
As he locked the car he vowed to spend every waking moment hoping for that miracle.
He had no choice but to tell Helen what her husband had been doing. But how was he going to explain he had sicced a detective agency on her husband? How in the world was she going to respond to that?
He knew the answer to that. Not good!
He had to go to her. He had to be there to comfort her when she heard of her husband's perfidy, had to make her understand this didn't end her world.
He had no choice but to go because in just three days she had become his dearest friend. How could he bring her to see her first assumption was wrong? It would be natural for Helen to assume he was there to take advantage of her distress. He knew outsiders would not believe anything else.
Did Helen understand him enough to understand, to know why he was really there? For that matter, did he understand himself enough or was he only fooling himself into thinking he wasn't there to make a play for her?
Leaving Colin's office he knew he was heading home to pack for an indefinite trip to Lake Chelan in his motor home. While assembling the needed items he began trying to call Helen at the Chelan number she gave him.
The packing was completed and he had just hung up the telephone after reserving a space in an RV Park in Chelan when the phone rang. It was Helen replying to the messages he had been leaving on her answering machine.
"Helen, I was calling to tell you I'll be in Chelan tomorrow. I'd like to say hello while I'm there, is that OK?"
After a pause, Helen replied, "I guess so, Duncan. I'm hoping Gerry will be back tomorrow, and I'm sure he would be glad to see you." After another pause, "Call me when you get in. Maybe we can have dinner."
Duncan agreed then hung up, feeling like a complete fool. Helen was trying to keep distance between them. Yet he respected her for it. More troubling but not unexpected was her attempt to keep the fiction alive of rebuilding their marriage. She had been in Chelan a week now and hadn't accepted Gerald's disrespect and desertion. It was a blow to her self-esteem and hard to accept. Even more critical and difficult to accept was the signal his desertion sent. It was the end of her marriage. How would she respond when he told her about the detective report and she understood its implications?
- - - - -
Duncan pulled into the RV Park in Chelan at noon the next day. He was delighted to be assigned a spot atop the hill where the park was built. The site was well shaded with a superb view of the lake. After connecting the utilities he unhooked the small car he had towed behind the RV. It gave him transportation other than the ungainly RV.
Duncan settled into one of his lawn chairs with a beer while admiring the view. Since watching Helen drive away, anytime he had a leisure moment his mind drifted back to Ritzville. His heart bounced every time he thought of calling her. Intensifying that fear was the way his stomach clenched remembering he not only had to provide her the confirmation of Gerald's deceit, it was up to him to explain how and why that information was gathered.
He could only hope she understood why he put the detective firm on Gerald's trail. His gut feeling about the man and his behavior had been correct. He doubted Helen would accept that as exoneration for what he did.
Finally with a shrug of his shoulders he accepted the inevitable. The quicker he called, the sooner his fears would be resolved. This dithering only made him feel worse.
Duncan dialed Helen's number on his cell phone. When she answered she was very reserved. She told him she was busy for the rest of the afternoon but agreed to have dinner with him. She gave him directions to the condo after they agreed on the time he should pick her up. She was ready to hang up before she informed him Gerry hadn't made it back yet.
*** It had been a long weekend preceded by a really bad week. "Well," Helen temporized, not wanting to feel overly dramatic, "it was unsettling."
After Gerry left her with a broken car, in a strange town, among total strangers Duncan had come to the rescue like a knight of old.
"Maybe I should say," she temporized, "sort of rescued." They'd enjoyed a wonderful time that afternoon, followed by a real life adventure in that little tavern where they ate dinner. How odd that the dragon he slew morphed into a good friend the next morning.
How could she explain the night together under the moon? She'd never allowed herself even to even acknowledge to herself she was attracted to another man. Not once since being betrothed to Gerry.
"I never even thought of cheating in all the years we were married!" she thought, "Oh sure. I've seen good looking handsome men, virile and confident. I've even enjoyed it when one or two of them flirted. I am a woman, after all, but it never went further than that. A quiet word about my kids or how proud I was of Gerry was always enough if they got too persistent. In the few instances the would be lothario wasn't willing to stop it never required more than quietly telling the man he wasn't the man her Gerry was."
A tiny frown creased her brow as she remembered. "Except for the time that logger caught me in the hall at the Harvest Ball so many years ago. That was embarrassing. If Gerry hadn't found and rescued me, I don't know what would have happened."
"There I go again," she fussed at herself. "I know what would have happened. That's why I never felt badly about what Gerry did to that poor man."
How different Gerry was now! She asked herself, "What would he do today if that happened?" She simply didn't know, he had changed so much.
"Then Duncan came along. What kind of spell did he put me under?"
His phone call letting her know he would be visiting Chelan had started all those feelings again! After waiting for Gerry to come to her as she watched families frolicking in the first real summer weekend she was depressed and feeling adrift.
Now she was having dinner with him in just over an hour!
Where was that husband of hers? Why, no how could he have left her alone when they were supposed to be reconnecting their marriage? How could he have abandoned her like this? What was going on?
She couldn't believe he was cheating on her! Could she?
Helen paced the patio in front of the condo, absentmindedly watching water skiers on the deep blue of the lake. She had been so excited! Anticipating a romantic tryst with the man she loved, something they planned for weeks. Helen had believed Gerry when he told her he felt the same. Now she didn't know.
Their first week at Lake Chelan was almost over and she was still alone. Her mind churned, veering from one problem to another, one question to another, trying to keep from thinking of Duncan's impending arrival.
But it did no good, she was afraid all she was doing was burying her head in the sand. In any event Duncan was here and she had agreed to have dinner with him.
What was between Duncan and her? Was he playing her for a new toy? All her instincts told her he was not that kind of man. But what in the world was going on? She couldn't allow herself to become infatuated with the man!
That was all it was, infatuation! Even so she had to keep her mind on a very short tether or it returned to Duncan and those few days they'd spent together.
Sipping from an ice cold glass of lemonade Helen wondered how she had allowed herself to be seduced like that. She blushed admitting she'd been as responsible as Duncan for that night on the hill.
What an impossible moon that had been. Being honest it had been Duncan, not she, who pulled them back from continuing the affair the next night. She had marveled at how difficult it must have been for Duncan not to take her in his arms and carry her off to bed. Heaven knew it was what she wanted! She had done everything except beg him to do it!
No! She was hiding again. Even that wasn't true! She HAD begged him to make love to her that night.
Helen resolved she would be strong and drive these seditious thoughts from her mind.
How difficult it must have been for him not to carry her to bed!
Heaven knew it was what she had wanted! Her cheeks burned remembering how she had fingered the skirt of her gown, wanting to slip it off over her shoulders and let it pool at her feet. She had even imagined herself stepping clear of the silk then swaying her way to his bed. She had been longing to slip between the clean, crisp sheets to wait for him. Her body burned even now thinking about it, heat pooling in her belly at just the thought.
Dammit! Only one explanation made sense. Duncan had caught her at a really bad time. Gerry had acted like an ass, the car died, she was alone in a strange town, a strange state without a friend in sight and she faced the ruins of the second honeymoon she had planned to bring their marriage back to life.
She couldn't blame it on Duncan. She'd been incredibly vulnerable, not a defense in sight. She'd thrown herself into his arms. In the end, she actually tried throwing herself into his bed.
How could she have done that!
And Duncan turned her down! He had done so wanting her as much as she wanted him. No woman could miss the sign of a man aroused, not as aroused as Duncan had been. And she had studied that arousal the night before on their mountain.
Damn it to hell anyway! She had to quit thinking like that!
Helen vowed once again to be strong, to not let this thing get out of hand, again. She had humiliated herself enough with the man.
But, Oh Lordy! His very presence did things to her! Just thinking about him had her temperature rising.
It had to have been the circumstances. It couldn't have been anything more! She would keep herself under control this time.
It really wouldn't be that difficult, not now. She was a woman grown. She was back on her feet after being knocked askew by what happened in Ritzville.
Understanding the circumstances, being prepared would make it easy to keep her poise. After all, she was a strong woman. Nothing like that had happened before and wouldn't again.
The situation had simply knocked her off her feet. It was frightening to think it, but any strong man could have taken advantage of her. She was lucky it had been a man like Duncan. He was such a good man.
Remembering the anger that had filled her when she realized Gerry's betrayal. His decamping unnerved her still. All that had been amplified with the circumstances. It was understandable why she had been devastated. Circumstances had filled her with passions higher than she remembered ever knowing before. It was those passions that transmuted themselves to making her behave so out of character.
It was just the circumstances! That was all it had been!
It was the awful situation she had been in. It certainly wasn't, could not have been because of Duncan! He just happened to be there and willing to spend time with her. That was all. He was an unusual man, but not irresistible.
She would be careful, very careful. If she expected the same kind of connection they had known in Ritzville she was going to be sadly disappointed. Whether she wanted it or not, it wasn't going to be there.
She would be friendly; after all he had been a life saver in Ritzville.
She just didn't need that kind of help again, thank God. The passions those circumstances brought had been higher than those she felt while Gerry was courting her.
Oh no, look at the time!
He was going to be here and she barely had time to dress for dinner!
Resolving to be strong, promising herself to drive the seditious thoughts out of her mind, Helen whirled into the bedroom to shower, dress and put on her face. She couldn't have him see her as unkempt this!