Here's Looking at YoubyLeeScarlet©
Twice, Jocelyn searched Fry's Electronics Warehouse from one end of the store to the other before she finally spied Nate. She would have stormed up to him and demanded to know why he had abandoned her in the major appliance department but something in his expression held her back. He had a faraway look that she had never seen before. He looked like he had fallen into a hypnotic trance.
She waited at the end of the aisle for the longest time, watching him stare at racks of blister-packed gadgets. She craned her neck but, from where she stood, she was unable to see what was inside the rows of plastic bubbles. Not wanting to disturb him, she backed partway around the corner and watched him through the space between boxes of disk drives stacked on the end of the shelves.
She felt like James Bond trying to catch Dr. No in the act of hatching some evil plan.
Eventually he plucked a package from the rack and read the back, studying every word as though he wanted to memorize it. Then he turned the package over and stared through the plastic at the gadget inside, tilting it this way and that to see it from different angles.
He looked like he was caught in the throes of a religious epiphany. Saul struck blind on the road to Damascus. Except that he was staring as no blind man ever would.
She glanced down and was shocked to see a bulge at his crotch.
Something seriously weird was happening here.
Looking at electronics was giving her husband an erection.
When he replaced the package, he glanced furtively around, but he must not have noticed her peeking between the shelves, twenty feet away, because he picked up a different package and began reading that one.
She wondered how long it would take him to read every package on the display. Her feet were growing tired and her patience wearing thin.
It must have been twenty minutes before he finally wandered off, fortunately in the other direction, presumably to find her and tell her that he was ready to go home.
Before she revealed herself, she had to find out what had held her husband's attention for so long. And, more significantly, what had given him that hard-on.
When she was standing on the spot recently ceded by Nate and looking at the gadgets that had been so attractive to him, she was astounded.
He had been looking at racks of miniature video cameras. Tiny cameras with lenses the size of nail heads. Battery operated cameras. Cameras that could be mounted anywhere and send videos wirelessly to be recorded on nearby computers.
James Bond indeed. This was Q's treasure trove.
What would her Nate want to record with these tiny spy cameras? They didn't have children so they didn't have a babysitter to watch. They lived in a low crime cul-de-sac with no vandalism to speak of. He was an accountant with an office in a small building that he shared with several other accountants, all men, so he had no female colleagues to spy on.
She was certain that he was faithful to her, so he had no mistress to drool over.
That left only one significant person in his life for him to spy on.
She thought about his erection. She had never seen him sexually aroused in a public place before. He was not only dedicated to maintaining a flawless conservative image; he was an actual, dyed-in-the-wool conservative from his premature baldpate to the soles of his orthopedic shoes. She would not have believed that he could get an erection in a public place if she had not seen it with her own eyes.
A man like him didn't get a stiffie like that in a place like this unless he was gripped by a sexual fantasy that thrilled him to his very core. And, if he was that enthralled by his fantasy, he was going to do something about it.
When she caught up to him, she said nothing about the cameras, only suggested that it was time to go home. But she could not stop thinking about what she had seen.
She mulled it over all night. This was her husband. She had lived with the man for more than five years. She knew everything about him. She knew that he liked ketchup on his eggs but never used it when other people were around because he was afraid that it looked low class. She knew that he played video games with the sound off when he woke up in the middle of the night. She knew that he liked to look at her when she was getting ready for bed, even on the nights when they weren't going to make love.
How could she not know that he was a pervert? A would-be voyeur.
* * *
On Saturday afternoon, Nate told her that he had some errands to run and went out for more than two hours. He didn't say where he was going nor did he invite her along.
She was sure that he was going back to Fry's to buy a miniature camera. Or maybe a bunch of them. They didn't cost that much.
She sat in the rocking chair by the picture window with a bestseller in her hands and watched for him to return. When he did, he didn't park in the driveway but drove the car into the garage, out of sight, as though winter had arrived in September. Was he pulling a bag of goodies out of the trunk and stashing them somewhere out there? Or had he left them in the car, intending to retrieve them tonight after she went to bed?
"Where've you been?" she asked when he came into the house. She tried to make it sound like casual question, his answer of no special import to her.
"Oh. Looking for a new winter coat," he said. To her ear, he sounded like he was forcing himself to sound as casual as her, but less successfully.
"No. It's too early in the season. I'll look again when it gets closer to Christmas. Maybe there'll be some sales."
* * *
On Sunday, she had to get groceries. She invited him along, as always. Often he came with her -- he was a prince -- but this time he said that he was too tired and wanted to stay home.
She didn't know why he would be tired. He'd slept in and had done nothing but read the paper since getting dressed at ten.
As she was squeezing tomatoes and hefting potatoes, she imagined Nate at home, crawling around the bedroom and the bathroom, drilling tiny holes in the walls, putting miniature cameras in secret places, their lenses glittering darkly as they began waiting to catch a glimpse of her unawares.
Her heart felt cold and she felt sick in her gut when she thought about it.
But that cold heart pounded hard and hot in her chest.
* * *
Jocelyn was a freelance graphic designer. She spent most of her days at home, sitting in front of her computer, standing at her easel, or hunched over her drafting table, working with mouse, pencils, and brushes. On Monday, she acted the same as on any other day. But, beneath her calm outward appearance, her mind was seething in turmoil.
She usually awoke after Nate was dressed and never got out of bed until she heard him start his car. Their house was small and there was no reason for her to get up and get in his way while he was trying to shower and shave and grab a cup of coffee.
Monday morning when she woke up, her first impulse was to try to guess where the cameras might be hidden. She didn't want to be seen searching, so she looked around casually as she swung her feet to the floor. Was that a glint of glass in the cold air register? Had the books on the bookshelf been re-arranged? Did the pupil of the woman in the Lempicka print look a little too realistic today? Was there a fresh shadow against the shade of the light fixture?
She wanted desperately to rush about the room and tear it to pieces, looking for the damned cameras. But she dared not do it. If she were right about the cameras, then Nate would have videos of her ripping her house apart like a madwoman. To what end? So that she could hold the thing up in his face and tell him that he was a despicable sneak. If he didn't divorce her then, to preserve her self-respect, she would have to divorce him. She didn't want to have to start looking for a new husband all over again. Divorce would mean throwing away all the years that she had been with Nate. A year and a half of dating and more than five years of marriage. She had no desire to begin from scratch. Not at the age of twenty-seven.
And if she searched the house for hidden cameras and didn't find them? What would that tell her? Either that they were hidden too cleverly for her not-mechanically-oriented mind or that she had falsely suspected her husband of being a despicable sneak.
That would tell her more about herself that she wanted to know.
Instead, she told herself that she was being silly. She had been mistaken about what she thought she saw in Fry's. Nate had been curious about a technological toy but had no interest in spying on her. He could see her naked for the asking. Why would he care to look at glimpses of her on a grainy, ill-focused video screen?
She chided herself, laughed at herself, told herself to get a grip.
But on Monday morning, she took her clothes into the bathroom, showered as quickly as possible, then got dressed before coming back into the bedroom -- hoping that the cameras were installed only in the bedroom and not in the bathroom. The bathroom would be too intimate to contemplate.
She spent all day trying to draw an illustration of a cute puppy sniffing a sausage that had fallen on the ground but she failed. She should have been able to whip up a trite illustration like that in an hour at the most but she simply couldn't get it right. Every time she tried to fix the puppy image in her mind, it was crowded out by images of herself being recorded on a computer hidden in some dark closet.
Did the computer have to be nearby? She remembered some of the packages in the store saying that their cameras were "internet ready". They did not have to be connected to a computer at all. They could be directly attached to the Internet.
She wasted two hours on the web, researching such cameras and studying the technical descriptions.
From what she could understand, Nate could be sitting in his office right now, watching every move she made.
She ruined yet another illustration, drawing a puppy that looked a lot like a slobbering wolf about to devour a severed human appendage. There was nothing cute about that.
When Nate came home, expecting dinner, he found take-out pizza on the table.
Jocelyn had not been able to bring herself to cook, fearing that there might be cameras installed in the kitchen, recording every potato she peeled, waiting in hope that she would be the tomato that got peeled next.
* * *
On Tuesday she decided to do a little housework. While she was tidying up and dusting, she kept looking for the glitter of little lenses but found nothing.
When she vacuumed, she examined the floor for sawdust or plaster dust -- evidence that holes had been drilled in walls. She found nothing.
The floor was suspiciously clean. It had been a while since she had vacuumed. Shouldn't there be more dust in the corners?
Nate must have cleaned up after himself when he installed the cameras.
He was clever.
* * *
By the end of the week, she was at her wit's end. She tried to ignore the possibility that there were video cameras hidden in her house. She told herself that Nate had no interest in spying on her. She told herself that if he did want to spy on someone, he would choose someone else, not his own wife. She told herself that it didn't matter if he was watching her because she wasn't doing anything interesting.
But none of that solved her problem. The mere suggestion that there might be cameras made her conscious of every move she made. Every time she felt warm and loosened a button on her blouse she wondered if Nate were recording that act. Every time she bent over to pick a piece of charcoal that she dropped on the floor, she wondered if her butt looked too big on the screen. She had never been so conscious of her breasts as when she stretched the kinks out of her back after leaning over her drafting table for a couple of hours.
She couldn't live like this.
She began thinking seriously about a divorce. That dreadful possibility creeps into every married person's mind on occasion and is usually banished with a little common sense. Not this time. This time Jocelyn could not stop thinking that telling Nate to leave, talking to a lawyer, splitting their meager assets, and living on her own again would be less painful than spending every minute of every day thinking about Nate's betrayal of the sanctity of their home.
Every minute of the day? Yes. Every minute. Some of the cameras advertised on Fry's web site worked in the dark, using infrared light. Even in the middle of the night when she was fast asleep, her snores might be recorded by some evil electronic eye.
* * *
On the following Sunday, she went out on her weekly grocery run, as was her habit. Once again she asked Nate if he cared to come along. For the second week in a row, he declined.
She drove down the block, parked around the nearest corner, and then walked back to the house.
She turned the key slowly and silently in the lock and let herself back in.
She caught Nate lying on the couch, reading a Scott Turow novel.
"Oh," he said, arching an eyebrow. "That was quick."
"Yeah. I... I forgot some coupons. They were in the paper this morning."
"I didn't know that you saved coupons."
"I don't. I... I thought I'd try them out for once. You know. We're saving for a bigger house and every little bit counts."
"Okay. Well, let me know if they work out for you. I can keep my eye open for good ones, too, if you think it's a good idea."
"I'll let you know." As she walked back to her car, she wondered if he had a video on his computer that showed her not clipping coupons as she read the morning paper.
She didn't give a damn if he did.
* * *
As the beginning of the second week after the Fry's Revelation, she started rehearsing the speech that she would give Nate when she told him that she wanted a divorce.
Not out loud, of course. If he had cameras with microphones hidden in the house, she didn't want him to hear her speech before she had a chance to ambush him with it.
In her first draft, she was going to say that she loved him but couldn't live with the uncertainty about being watched all the time.
Then she realized that, if she couldn't point out the cameras, he would simply deny watching her.
In her second draft, she was going to say that she loved him but felt betrayed by him. He wanted to spy on her. It didn't matter whether the cameras were real or figments of her imagination. His interest in them was real, his erection in Fry's had been real, and he had never spoken to her about it.
That was closer to the truth. But he would simply say that he had never mentioned it because she had never asked him about it. He would have told her whatever she wanted to hear if only she had asked.
Finally, she admitted to herself that the real problem was that she did not know if she loved him at all. He might have betrayed her and she could not love a man who would be capable of betraying her. They were supposed to be exclusive partners for life, especially in matters sexual. Yet here was a big chunk of his life that he had withheld from her.
When she had composed the right speech in her mind, she began to cry. She didn't want to do this. She didn't want to kick Nate to the curb and bring a divorce lawyer into her life.
No matter what she told herself, she still loved him.
But she had no alternative. She couldn't live like this.
Live like what? Being watched? Or being afraid of being watched? Or hating that her husband might be watching her against her will?
She gave Nate sex. That was what made her a wife and not merely a roommate. If, to Nate, spying on a woman was part of sex then what was her obligation?
She took pen and paper in hand and began writing.
I, Jocelyn Svenson, hereby give Nate Svenson unlimited permission to make audio and video recordings of me, at any time using any equipment that he may choose, with or without my knowledge, for as long as we are married to each other.
Furthermore, I give Nate Svenson permission to store, use, or publish such recordings in any way that he desires; this permission to be withdrawn and any such publication cease upon termination of our marriage.
She signed it with her full name and date. Then she put the document in a sealed envelope and wrote Nate's name and business address on the outside.
She had grave reservations about the second paragraph of her release. She did not want to be an Internet porn star. But she couldn't say why not. No one who mattered to her looked at porn on the Internet. Certainly not her mother or sisters. And if someone that she knew did look at porn, what would he do if he saw her? Admit that he cruised Internet porn sites? Maybe in some social circles, a man could admit that. Maybe members of outlaw motorcycle gangs or Hollywood movie producers could brag about their porn habit, but no friend or relative of hers would dare make such a confession.
If someone did make some sly comment, she would deny knowing what he was talking about. It was obvious that she would never appear in a porn video. She couldn't imagine doing a thing like that. He must have seen someone who looked like her.
So she left the second paragraph intact, telling herself that if she were going to do this thing, she was going to do it all the way.
Her heart was pounding as she slid the envelope into the corner mailbox. As soon as it disappeared into the maw of the postal service, she began to regret her decision.
But done was done and there was no undoing it now. She couldn't tell Nate that she'd changed her mind. To have acknowledged that she knew he wanted to spy on her was hard enough. To revoke her permission and tell him that he couldn't do spy on her after all would be worse than having done nothing.
By giving Nate freedom to do what he wished, she had given him the full responsibility for what happened. He was a responsible person in all other matters. She had to trust that he would act reasonably about this one as well.
* * *
Nothing changed for the next ten days. She and Nate went on with their lives. Neither mentioned the written release that she had sent to him. He did not start carrying cameras around. No lights and photographic equipment magically appeared, pointing at their bed.
She began to wonder if he had received her mail at all. She had put no return address on it. Maybe it was sitting in the dead letter office somewhere in the bowels of the postal service.
She struggled to remember if she had written his full office address on it. Had she left off the zip code? Had she forgotten the street name? Had she transposed some critical numbers or misspelled some critical word? Maybe her subconscious mind had intervened and rescued her by forcing her to write something different than she had thought.
That changed two weeks after she sent the letter. She got out of bed when she heard Nate's car drive away and, as was her habit, went to her vanity to get her clothes for the day. Every evening, she laid out her clothes because she didn't want to have to make any decisions in the morning before she got her first cup of coffee; and because she knew that if she didn't lay out her clothes, she might not get dressed before she started work. Then she was likely to spend the whole day in her cozy flannel pajamas and that would make her feel slovenly. She would hate to feel slovenly.
Today, though, she had a shock.
While she was asleep, Nate had been an evil little elf. He had put her blue jeans and green sweatshirt back in her closet. He had replaced them with a bustier, thong, garter belt, and stockings -- all black -- and, to top it off, so to speak, her black leather pumps with a medium heel.
She blushed scarlet. Now there was no doubt in her mind that her house was infested with video bugs. The only reason for Nate to care what she wore while he was at work was if he was watching her on his computer.