The meeting ran overtime as Nancy tried to get everyone on the same page about the entertainment for the upcoming Midsummer Ball. That was the keystone event of the summer social calendar in our town and this one would be the most memorable one ever.
I would see to that as head of the decorations committee. I wanted to supervise the entire project, I deserved to hold that position but Lydia's husband was the town planner and the other women thought it made sense to have her lead the project. She had the ear of her husband who oversaw the permitting process which would make the implementation go more smoothly.
"The band's been hired," Melanie spoke up, "They can play everything from golden oldies to new wave."
Yawn, I thought. I'd read their material and they weren't impressive. I wanted something more traditional to be reminiscent of the first Midsummer Balls that were held just before the First World War. But I was alone on that one.
Nancy nodded having taken over the active leadership role from Lydia who was on the phone with her husband's office on one of the more troublesome permits. The caterers had to have their facilities inspected where they'd cook the food, buffet style for all those who attended.
Everything had gone so smoothly but…there was always one area that lagged on every event planning. Still we had enough time to pull it off. If Lydia ever got off the god damn phone.
She and I had gone to high school together way back and we had gone out for the same cheerleading spot on the squad, the same leading roles in the school musicals and we were split down the middle in terms of who got what. She kept track more than I did while I played disinterested.
Then when I got together with my husband Devlin, she'd wanted to get her hooks into him too for a while. But I proved too smart for her libido and yes, her schemes to get into my husband's bed. She had been married to Stan the planner in one of the most decadent weddings in the town's history and yet she'd been on the prowl.
After she started having children she'd lain off a while but she still tried to make trouble for me. But like I said, too smart for her until…but no point to get into ancient history…the meeting was just about over.
My husband would be finishing the deck up for me at home having it on his list when he returned from his latest job at some CEO's estate. I'd unpacked his bag after he returned and hit the shower. I didn't know what I was looking for…I just felt drawn to it.
I chuckled to myself afterwards. Just clothes that had been worn….laundered before he returned and his toiletries…just the usual stuff…nothing else. I didn't suspect him of anything, after all I barely saw my husband anymore. I told myself that it was being so busy with my civic involvement and that I did all that because I loved my town and I loved volunteering to make it better. But there were other reasons.
I don't remember when we stopped having sex, I just know I got tired of making the effort and he didn't seem interested in it. So I just avoided it, keeping myself busier and to be honest, doing it with Devlin wasn't anything to write about really. He seemed more into getting what he wanted than in what I might want.
Then it was over and we rolled over and went to sleep on opposite sides of the bed.
We had our two kids and occasionally we hit the sheets but I don't know…maybe I just don't like it much. But then that isn't the truth either…no not really.
Afterward, Nancy and I left the meeting to go out and eat at the Thai place which we both loved. I ordered the curry rice dish and left instructions with the waiter to prepare some takeout to be ready when we left.
"I don't know what's going on with Gary," Nancy lamented, "He's got this crisis thing all of a sudden."
I spooned more curry over the rice. Nancy had talked about it all the way over in the car. Her husband had dropped her off at the meeting and then went to the sports bar to watch the baseball game as he often did.
"Did he put in for a fancy sports car?"
"I wish…I think he's looking."
"Looking for what?"
"For you know…action with a younger perkier model."
I took a bite of my food considering that.
"Oh…how can you be sure?"
"He had these scratches on his back when I was giving him a massage," she said, "He said he got them on when he was golfing last week…had to get a ball when it went in some brush."
"That could happen," I said, "Nothing to worry about. He loves you."
Nancy played with her glass.
"I don't know…I thought so but he's acting so restless and well…you're probably right. I'm probably worrying about nothing."
Nancy paused and then she looked up at me.
"You ever suspect your own husband of cheating on you?"
A loaded question and I didn't know how to respond or if I wanted to answer it. But the way she looked at me, I knew I should say something.
"Sometimes…when there's tension between us," I said, "Mostly when I need to blame it on someone besides myself but Devlin does love me I know it and he loves our family."
"But surely you must worry…"
I thought about it.
"Yes but I know my husband and he's too much of a workaholic to have time for an affair."
"Even when people talk…"
I frowned, what did she mean by that?
She looked uneasy at that moment like she'd said more than she'd like.
"Oh it's nothing really…Lydia and a couple of her friends have been telling people that the guy at the motel outside of town…you know the one?"
Oh yes I knew it but I just nodded slightly like I'd heard of it. I had my own secrets in a town where learning someone else's gave someone power.
Someone like Lydia…
"Doesn't everyone," I said, "It's an eyesore…it should be torn down and replaced with something new."
"I'd doubt that with all the action going on there."
"So what about it…?"
She looked uncomfortable.
"Sally's daughter who works there as a maid," she said, "Three times a week during afternoons and evenings. She's seen your husband coming and going a couple times."
I felt like my body wanted to freeze but I don't give my feelings away. So I picked up my tea to drink it like I hadn't even heard her.
So my husband was having an affair? Maybe Sally's daughter had been mistaken in who she saw.
"Oh…sometimes he checks into a room there to do work when it gets too hectic at our house."
I lied, it came easily to me. My heart thudded in my chest and I felt sick but in this town, you betrayed nothing. You didn't feed the relentless gossip mill because if you did, the rumor would flesh out even further and spread like a wildfire out of control.
I couldn't let that happen so I came up with a story but I had to will my hands to stop shaking, so they wouldn't give me away.
"Who told you this?"
I kept my tone casual.
"Was it Lydia?"
She shook her head.
"Nah it was Sally," she said, "but you could be right. She didn't report seeing a woman with him."
I considered that but I knew how this worked. The man and woman never left the motel together. They'd stagger their departures; park their cars some distance away in opposite directions. Come up with a back story in case they ran into anyone they knew.
I knew the routine all too well.
The door opened and I blinked my eyes amazed as I saw him walk into the restaurant dressed in jeans and a blousy shirt. I never failed to react when I saw him, no matter how hard I tried not to show it. I remember today what it was like to feel his mouth on my lips, my breasts and…other places. My body tingled now with the memories. I reached for my glass of water while Nancy checked him out.
"Brock's looking fine…"
"Since when has he been seeing Ruby?"
"Since she's been back…"
Meaning Caroline his girlfriend back in London working while her boyfriend played…but then I knew that drill too. Only her name had been Madeline and she left him for a modeling contract and not because he'd cheated on her.
Brock saw us and smiled as he walked over to our table. Ruby smiled too and I saw him squeeze her waist. I don't know if he knew he did that but the two of them looked happy enough. My stomach tightened as she leaned towards him a bit in front of us.
"Hi Gloria…what a nice surprise…"
"Hi Brock…how's it going?"
He smiled more widely.
"Work's been great but I'm planning to cut back for a while."
Oh, I wonder what that meant but I knew better than to ask. He looked ruggedly handsome as he did years ago. I knew every plane of him, every muscular part and the different textures of his skin underneath my fingertips.
As he knew mine….but years later we stood apart making polite talk. We were both very good at it as needed.
"Busy…very busy…I don't think he's planning on cutting back."
Brock shook his head.
"He's ruthless in his commitment to his career. I envy him that but I'm ready for a change in my life."
He grew quiet then and I knew he'd been thinking about it. With Caroline, somehow I never pictured them sharing a household and kids.
"No, just exploring my options…I might hire people to do more of the legwork and the traveling."
I smiled back.
"Doesn't sound like a bad idea," I said, "Does that mean we'll be seeing more of you?"
He nodded and looked at Ruby.
"Guess we'd better get going," he said, "I need to get this woman fed."
Ruby looked lovely in her jeans that molded to her body and her short sleeved top, her curly hair a halo around her face.
"Good to see you…"
They walked away and I couldn't take my eyes off of him. Sometimes never faded completely and my memories of him…lingered.
"He's one hot looking guy," Nancy sighed, "If I were to cheat on Gary, he'd be at the top of my list."
I couldn't blame her for that but it hadn't been about cheating on my husband, not really. I'd just been in a place where I felt so isolated, so alone. I'd struggled to get pregnant with my son and after giving Devlin the son he always wanted, I struggled to get my figure back. Had I been that worried back in those days that my husband's eyes wandered, that he did more than that on his business trips? After all, there'd been my son's first nanny. A sweet young girl who he often followed with his eyes but that had been harmless hadn't it?
But then Brock had made me feel like a woman again in ways my husband didn't know. Ways he could never find about because if he had his secrets, I had mine too.
Including the biggest secret of all.