I never thought I would be the kind of person to have an affair. I’ve always been the sappy romantic. The kind who spent her entire adolescence looking for true love and saving herself for “the one”. The kind who always cries at rom-coms and weddings. The kind who believes in fairytales and soulmates and happily-ever-afters. I always believed at my core that there was one great love out there for all of us, and some of us are lucky enough to find ours. I found mine in college, and for a long time, I believed he was my soulmate. In some ways, I still do. He’s my rock, my safe place, the one person who knows all my demons and doesn’t run from them. Well, all but one.
I found my second great love ten years later, while I was—I thought—happily married with 2 children, and my entire world got turned upside down. I didn’t ask for it. I wasn’t looking for it. And I fought it so hard, over and over again. But love is a force. Just as real and more powerful than gravity. It’s not a choice we make, but a trajectory we can’t break free from.
Maybe I’m the villain in this story. Maybe I’m just as much of a piece of shit as the douchebags in movies and TV shows and real life that sneak around behind their unsuspecting lovers’ backs. Or maybe I’m just a victim of circumstance. You decide. I bet you’d have made the same choices and mistakes that I did.
My name is Veronica Briggs, and I am a cheater.
* * *
“Are you all packed up?”
Henry leaned against the kitchen counter, eyeing my suitcase that stood next to the back door.
“I think so,” I said, running through the list of essentials in my mind for the umpteenth time.
“Got your laptop?” he asked.
I pursed my lips and raised my left brow at him. “Obviously.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, didn’t think you’d forget that. How about a jacket?”
“I’m going to Illinois in the summer,” I said with a hint of sass. “I don’t think I’ll be needing a jacket.”
“You’re a California girl. Trust me, take a jacket.”
“Yes, dad,” I teased, rolling my eyes and going to the bedroom closet to grab a light jacket that I then shoved into my laptop bag.
“Okay, last one,” he said, wearing a satisfied smile that he’d talked me into bringing a jacket I was sure I wouldn’t need. “Please tell me you packed your taser.”
I put my hand on my hip and frowned at him. “Babe, I’m going to an old plantation house in the middle of the woods for three days. I’m sure I won’t need it.” And too late, I realized I’d invited a lecture.
“Have you not been listening to my millions of stories of the murder cases I’ve worked on in supposedly safe places?” he asked. “Bad things can happen anywhere, and bad people can sneak up on unsuspecting beautiful women such as yourself. You’re going to be hundreds of miles away from me, where I can’t protect you. The least you can do is be prepared, for my sake.” He closed the distance between us and put his hands on my hips, his forest green eyes locking mine into a trance. “You’re my world, and you know I’d fall apart if anything ever happened to you.” Then he leaned down to peck my lips.
I savored his brief kiss, the fact that I was going to have be to apart from him for half a week causing tears to well up on my eyelids. Suck it up, Vee. Don’t be such a baby.
“As a matter of fact, I did pack it,” I said, blinking away the silly tears and hoping he couldn’t see them glossing my lake blue eyes. “I still don’t think I’ll need it, but it’s small enough that it doesn’t take up a ton of room in my suitcase.”
“Thank you,” he said in a sweet tone I didn’t get to hear very often. Then he looked at his wristwatch. “Alright, we’d better head to the airport.”
“Kids, come say goodbye to Mommy,” he called into the livingroom.
Their telltale little thumps sounded behind me. I turned around to see my two beautiful little terrors scampering toward me.
“Bye Mommy,” said Jodie, my five-year-old mini-me, as she threw her little arms around my knees.
“Where you goin, Mommy?” asked three-year-old Sam with a pout as he tried to squeeze in beside his big sister.
“Mommy’s going with Aunt Stacy for a few days,” Henry explained. “She’ll be back soon.”
I knelt down to give them both a proper hug and to receive their sweet and very sloppy kisses. My heart squeezed at how much I knew I was going to miss them. “You guys be good for Gramma, okay?”
“Yes, Mommy,” they both chimed.
They scampered back to my mom, who was sitting on the couch with their favorite animal crackers with Toy Story playing—their favorite cartoon, which they still loved no matter how times they watched it.
“Let’s go while they’re distracted,” Henry whispered.
We quickly and quietly grabbed my luggage and snuck out the back door. The drive to the airport was shorter than I’d expected, probably because I debated telling Henry to just turn back. As much as I felt I needed this little break away from him and the kids, it was hard to leave them. Sure, we had our problems, and his job as an L.A. detective kept him away from me too much, but I still didn’t love the idea of being so far away from him for even a day. What if he got hurt on the job? That was always my fear, but it was so much stronger knowing I’d be hundreds of miles away and unable to do anything about it, even though I couldn’t do anything about it if I stayed.
No, this was going to be good for me. I’d get a nice sanity break from being a fulltime stay-at-home mom and get some time to work on my commissioned book covers. I was a cover artist for indie authors, and while it didn’t always put food on the table, it was my passion, and I often got to read the books I covered for free. Books, my one true addiction.
“Is Stacy already here?” he asked as we pulled up at the departures section of the airport.
“Are you kidding?” I chuckled. “She’s been here for an hour already.” Stacy was a high-maintenance Virgo, and was always over prepared for everything.
Stacy worked as an accountant for one of the largest tech companies in the country, Platonics. When the company told her she had to go to a conference in Illinois to learn how to use their new accounting program, she freaked out and begged me to come with her, as she was quite a sheltered woman and the thought of traveling by herself scared the hell out of her. We hadn’t been able to spend much time together lately, and even though this would be a work trip for her, the chance to get away for some girl time sounded fantastic, and Henry agreed that she and I both needed it.
“I figured as much,” he said, getting out of the car to get my luggage from the trunk.
I got out and walked to the back of the car, and he handed me my suitcase and laptop bag. This was the part I’d been dreading. The part where I had to say goodbye, and try like hell to keep from crying.
He pulled me in for a tight, lingering hug. And dammit, I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore.
“Why are you crying, baby?” he asked, feeling the wetness on his t-shirt.
I sniffled, unwilling to meet his concerned gaze. “I’m just going to miss you guys so much.”
He laughed and rubbed my back. “It’s only for a few days. We’re going to be just fine while you’re gone, and all you have to do is worry about enjoying yourself. Just not too much.”
I giggle-sniffed and pulled back. “Yes, sir,” I said, wiping my eyes.
“Alright, now get in there before I throw you over my shoulder and put you back in the car,” he said.
I hopped up on my toes to give him one last kiss, and surprising me, his tongue came out to say goodbye. Bastard. He would reserve that kind of kiss for when I was about to leave him for several days. Why couldn’t he kiss me like that when I could enjoy it, like on date nights, or any time really?
I pulled back before I lost my courage and took a step back.
“Call me when you land, okay?” he said.
“I will.” Then I turned around and walked through the sliding doors of the airport to find my best friend.
* * *
“Whew, I am beat,” Stacy groaned as she staggered into our room and collapsed face first into her queen sized bed to the left of mine.
She lay like that for about a solid minute, exhaled deeply into the sheets, then rolled over onto her back and painstakingly pulled herself into a sitting position to look at me with dead eyes.
“Eight straight hours of sitting through a lecture on new accounting programs is pure torture!” she whined dramatically, hanging her ponytailed head over her lap in exasperation.
“I’m sorry,” I said with an indulgent smile.
“Ooo, whatcha workin on?” she suddenly asked, eyes widening as they took in the colorful sight on my laptop. She hopped off her bed and scurried close to hunch over my screen.
“It’s a cover for my author bestie, Tawny Shaw,” I said, turning my laptop so she could see better. “Her next book is about sexy vampire lawyers.”
The cover I had been working on all day portrayed a very attractive male vampire in a suit standing in front of Roman style courthouse, with a bright red glow at the bottom that melded into a luminescent blue. I was supremely proud of it. In my opinion, it was worth the four hundred dollars I was paid to create it.
“That is one sexy vampire lawyer,” Stacy said, practically drooling over my keyboard. “Glad to see you had more fun today than I did.”
In fact, I certainly did. The plantation house we were at was gorgeous, and each of the guest rooms that housed the many accountants across the country who came to learn the same program was fully stocked with a large HD TV that had every channel in the nation. I’d enjoyed a very nice day that consisted half of watching shows I hadn’t watched since I had kids, and half of working on this gorgeous cover. And the kitchen downstairs prepared the most delicious food—for free! It was like being a teenager again.
“What do you wanna do with our night?” I asked her, saving my work before closing my laptop.
“Well, my classmates were talking about this old pub that’s not too far from here,” she said. “Pfh, classmates. I sound like I’m in high school again.” She rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I think that would be fun.”
“A pub? Really? Sounds so old-timey,” I said with a giggle. “Sure, let’s check it out.”
“Okay, just let me get ready first,” she said, rushing to the bathroom.
I sighed heavily; Stacy was an artist with her makeup and hair, and I knew it would still be at least an hour before we were ready to leave.
But I got off the bed anyway and got myself ready, in a fraction of the time. I wouldn’t say I’m a beauty. Maybe it’s just that I’m too lazy for all that nonsense. But I wasn’t the type to put on makeup, except for the occasional mascara. And my hair? Well, when half of your heritage is pure Mayan Indian, you get the kind of hair that doesn’t need much special treatment—thanks, Mom! Most days I just rolled out of bed and threw it up in a bun. And when the only eyes that will look at you all day belong to your two very young children, your appearance hardly matters.
Since I was actually going to be seen by fully grown adults, I figured I’d at least brush my long wavy brown hair, and maybe wear something other than sweatpants.
After I was ready, I spent the next forty-five minutes playing Candy Crush on my phone.
“Okay, let’s go!” Stacy said with excitement.
She grabbed her purse and headed for the door. Before following her out, I quickly stow the taser in my purse. Henry would never let me live it down if something actually did happen to me in this middle-of-nowhere town and I hadn’t been carrying it. Hell, I’d probably die of embarrassment before the actual murder came to an end.
As we were walking out of the manner, a group of people were waiting on the steps outside.
“Hey Stace, we almost didn’t think you’d show,” a small Native American girl said.
“As tired as you looked at the end of class, I figured you’d have just passed out in your room,” said the chubby Latino guy next to her.
“Come on, I didn’t take that long,” Stacy said defensively.
Everyone, including me, gave her a deadpan glance.
“Ugh, whatever. To the pub!” she declared.
We started to walk down the empty tree-lined road that was bathed in the orange glow from the setting sun.
“Aren’t you going to introduce us to your friend?” Chubby Guy asked.
“Oh right, sorry,” she said. “This is my BFF, Veronica. Vee, this is Anya”—she gestured to the Native American girl—“Hector”—the chubby Latino—“and Norma’’—the frizzy-haired redhead. “They’re all in the same class as me. Where’s Justin?”
“He got tired of waiting,” Hector said with a shrug. “He’s probably two beers ahead of us.”
She frowned, and I could almost hear her thoughts by the look on her face: I really don’t take that long. And I just smiled and shook my head.
“What class are you in?” Norma asked, looking at me.
“Oh, I’m not in a class,” I said.
“She doesn’t work for the company,” Stacy explained. “She’s just my best friend and was gracious enough to come with me because, well, I’ve never travelled before and really didn’t wanna fly alone.”
“Ah okay, for a moment there, I thought you two were a thing,” Hector said. “I was kinda disappointed.” He winked at me.
Stacy defensively put herself between us. “Alright, for one, just because two girls are close does not mean we’re lesbians. And two, she’s still off-limits.” She grabbed my left hand and flashed him my wedding ring.
“Damn,” he said, completely unphased by the fact that he’d been mildly offensive.
“Don’t mind him,” Anya said as the plantation disappeared into the trees behind us. “Hector is obnoxiously single. He hit on all of us already.”
Hector shrugged. “Playas gotta play.”
We all laughed.
The pub came into view as the road rounded through the woods. It looked like a log cabin, with the exception of the flashing neon signs that read OPEN and BUD LIGHT. There were only two cars parked in the small parking lot, but the chatter that could be heard from yards away suggested the place was packed.
When we entered, it was indeed filled with people. I recognized a few faces I had seen in the kitchen last night when we arrived and throughout the day today. And from the string of slurred greetings that assaulted us as we walked in, it was obvious that just about everyone here was from the conference.
“Hey Barbie, took you long enough,” called a smooth male voice with what I thought was a Canadian accent.
We all turned to the pool table where a tall, attractive man leaned on a pool cue. He had a stocky build and broad shoulders that were covered in a rock band t-shirt, and long muscular legs comfortably wrapped in a perfectly snug pair of nice jeans. Despite his rather handsome face that was shadowed with salt-and-pepper stubble, I wouldn’t have paid him any mind. If it weren’t for that warm, sweet smile, and those kind, dark blue eyes.
“Hey, I am not a Barbie,” Stacy rebuked, her high-pitched voice still barely audible over the raucous.
He set aside his pool cue and put his hands up defensively. “Okay, okay, don’t get your panties in a twist, I’d hate for you to sick Ken on me.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, especially because his accent really tickled me.
“Anyone up for a game?” he asked as our ragtag group gathered closer to the pool table.
“Sure. Vee and I against you and Hector?” Stacy asked, looking at the three of us.
“Sounds good to me,” I said.
“Hell yeah,” said Hector, grabbing a pool cue.
“Sweet! I’ll get us some beer,” she said to me before pushing her way toward the bar.
Hector tossed me the pool cue as Justin reset the balls. It had been so long since I actually talked to anyone other than toddlers or mothers of toddlers that I felt super awkward and out of place in this bar full of strangers as I waited for Stacy to return. And pool, well, again, something I hadn’t played since before Jodie was born. Was I really such a mom that I couldn’t enjoy going to a bar?
“So Justin, if Stace is Barbie, what we call this one?” Hector asked, nodding his chin at me like I was a piece of meat.
Justin looked up from the balls he was meticulously setting to scan me up and down. It wasn’t the hungry, judgmental kind of look that Hector gave to every woman he laid eyes on, but an honest, appraising look that I almost appreciated.
Until he said, “I’m gonna go with Princess.”
I crossed my arms under my chest and jutted my hip to one side. “Princess?” I asked with all the cattiness I could muster.
“Yeah, because you’re pretty and graceful,” he said, which made me blush. “And you look like a millennial who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty.” And the blushing completely extinguished.
My eyes widened, and the look of outrage on my face made Hector howl, “Oh, dog, you better watch out!”
“Well this Princess is about to annihilate you at this game, Mounty,” I said, gripping my pool cue, my war face on in full bloom.
He threw his head back in exuberant laughter. “Mounty? What the fuck?”
I shrugged. “Because you’re Canadian accent is hilarious to listen to.”
“Oh, wait a minute, I am so not Canadian,” he said, his expression a mixture of amusement and insult. “I’m from Minnesota.”
“Whatever you say, Mounty,” I teased.
“And what accent?” he asked. “People on TV sound like me. You’re the one with an accent.”
At that, Hector and I both started laughing at his expense. “Whatever, you damn millennials.”
Stacy and her new gal pals returned with beers for all of us.
“And I am not a millennial,” I said, taking a big swig of my ice cold beer.
“If you say so, Princess.”
I stalked toward him, surprised by how much fun I was already having arguing with this guy. “How old do you think I am?”
He looked at the group of young people I’d come with, especially Stacy, who actually did look really young for her age. Then he looked back at me. “Well, you look like you’re sixteen, but you’re drinking a beer, so that makes me think you’re at least twenty-one, but then again, your friend got it for you, so who knows.”
I was both flattered and insulted. “Um, no. Stacy looks like she’s sixteen.”
“Thank you,” Stacy chimed in.
“And for your information, I’m thirty,” I added.
“Hmm, yeah, I don’t buy it,” he said. “So who’s gonna break? Princess or Barbie?”
Stacy headed for the other end of the table, but I stopped her and said, “Uh-uh, this one’s mine.”
And after a heated game…we lost, miserably. I mean, really, what did I expect after not playing for five years? But I wanted so much to wipe the smug look off his face.
“No hard feelings, Princess,” Justin said, patting my shoulder, his hand lingering for half a second too long. “Come on, I’ll buy you a drink.”
Steaming, I followed him to the bar. We leaned up against it, only then noticing that the bartender was nowhere in sight. He looked up and down the room, then let himself behind the bar.
“What’s your poison?” he asked.
“What are you doing? You’re going to get in trouble?” I said with a slightly intoxicated laugh.
“Nah, I’ve been here so many times for these conferences, I practically own this place,” he said, grabbing an empty glass and filling it with Dos Equis from the tap. He handed it to me, then filled another for himself.
“How did you know I liked Dos Equis?” I asked.
“Because you seem like a cool chick who doesn’t always drink beer, but when she does, she drinks Dos Equis,” he responded like he thought he was being cool.
I burst out laughing. “You’re such a dork! And I’ll have you know, I do drink beer, all the time. Kinda have to as a mom to two crazy toddlers.”
“You have kids?” he asked. “Yeah, five and two. You?”
“Yep. Mine are ten and eight.” He got back out from behind the bar, then pulled out his phone to show me a picture of two adorable boys.
“Aww, they’re so cute!” I squealed. Then I took out my phone and found the cutest picture of my little terrors that I could find—the two of them with watermelon juice all over their faces and shirts.
“Aww, I miss mine being that young,” he said.
“I won’t,” I said, sucking down my beer.
“You think that now, but trust me, you’ll miss it.”
“Are you saying it only gets worse from here?” I asked jokingly.
“No!” I said overly dramatically, and we both laughed.
“Okay, so maybe you are a little bit older than sixteen, unless you had kids when you were ten,” he teased, taking a cigarette out of a pack and lighting it.
I rolled my eyes.
“How old do you think I am?” he asked after a puff.
I looked at him standing only inches from me, and maybe it was the beer tinting my vision, but he looked very handsome. I almost forgot why I was looking at him. I blinked and looked back at my beer, then said, “Maybe thirty-five,” before taking another drink.
“Aww, aren’t you sweet,” he said. “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m actually forty-two.”
“Ah, so you’re an old Canadian?”
“Ouch! I guess I kinda deserve that after wiping the pool table with ya. But seriously, I am not Canadian. We Minnesotans take offense to that kind of stereotyping.”
I laughed, then dug into my purse for my e-cig to take a puff myself. When in Rome, right?
He looked at it and said, “Oh God, you really are a millennial.”
“What?” I asked in mock offense. “I hate cigarettes, but I do like to add a nicotine buzz to my beer buzz. And it’s sweet.”
He frowned at the metal contraption in my hand, then set down his cigarette in the closest ash tray. “Let me try that thing, see what all the fuss is about.”
I handed it to him and he took a deep breath, then looked confused when nothing happened.
“You have to press the button while you inhale,” I said, pointing to the button on the side. “Nice to know you need help finding the button.”
“Not usually,” he replied in the same flirtatious manner as me. Then he pushed the button and took another deep inhale. Then exhaled a thick cloud of smoke. “Woah. That is nice.”
The rest of the gang joined us, and we all drank and laughed until the bartender finally came back from wherever he’d disappeared to and sent everyone home.
I didn’t know it then, but I’d just met the second great love of my life.
The next morning, I decided to skip breakfast and sleep in, another thing I hadn’t done in half a decade. And it was wonderful. When I finally decided to open my eyes and look at the clock on the bedside dresser, it was half past ten. Ah, this is what freedom feels like.
I lazily sat up in bed and, as part of my normal morning ritual, checked the notifications on my phone. The first thing I saw was a text from Henry. Expecting a sweet I-miss-you text, I opened it.
It was a picture of me leaning forward over the pool table to make a shot at the pub last night, and below that, it said: WHAT THE HELL BABE?
I immediately called him.
“So, you went to a bar last night, huh?” was the angry sentence that greeted me as soon as he picked up.
“Yeah, Stacy’s friends all wanted us to go to this pub down the road,” I said, instantly defensive. “Why are you mad?”
“I agreed to this trip because you were supposed to be staying at a quiet little plantation manner in the woods, not out drinking with guys at bars.” His tone was all accusation, and it made my insides twist in fear. “And how could you wear that shirt? You’re showing everyone your tits. My tits!”
I was still wearing the same t-shirt from last night. Henry had been overly possessive from the very beginning of our relationship, so I’d gotten in the habit early on of not wearing clothes that were too revealing. The t-shirt I wore had a slight V-neck, not a plunging neckline, but just enough so I didn’t feel suffocated because I hate shirts that are too close to my neck. It was a completely innocent shirt, and let’s face it, it’s not like my boobs are huge and pop out of everything I wear. He was being ridiculous, but like I always I did when he was angry at me, I turtled up inside.
“I’m sorry I went to a bar, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that,” I said. “It’s not like I was there dancing on a table and letting guys take shots off my belly button. I just had a few beers with Stacy and her new friends.”
“Well I’m not happy about it. And to top it all off, last night Sam wet the bed, and there were no wipes in his room and no extra bedsheets. You’re so unorganized—” and he spent the next ten or so minutes tearing me down about what a horrible housekeeper and mother I was.
He always did this, every time I went out anywhere without him and the kids and he had to stay home with them. And it’s not like I went out to do fun stuff all the time. Most of the time that I had to go somewhere without them was for doctor’s appointments or therapy. But whatever the reason, I always came home to a pissed off husband.
And, let me make something clear right now: Our house is not a mess. Our kids are well taken care of. I do all the cooking, all the cleaning, pretty much all the parenting, because he’s never home. And I don’t complain about any of it because he really can’t do those things. But it’s the lack of appreciation for all the work and effort I put in to our life and our family that chips away at my soul over and over again.
By the time his rant was over and he hung up, I just wanted to curl up into a ball and cry. And I almost did. But instead, I went out onto the balcony of my room and smoked my e-cig.
It really was beautiful here. So much green. Even in my little L.A. suburb, greenery wasn’t really a thing I got to see much. The songs of birds and buzzing locusts filled the air around me. I was going to be damned if he ruined this little escape for me. I had 2 days left before I had to return to face his wrath, and, dammit, I was going to enjoy it.
So I went inside and watched TV until lunch time, when I went to the kitchen to eat with everyone else. Stacy was already there with her classmates, and when she saw me, she waved towards the empty seat beside her that she had saved for me. I filled a tray with food from the buffet and joined them.
“You look well-rested,” she said to me with a mouthful.
“Yep, I slept in,” I said.
“Jealous,” she said, shoveling another bite into her mouth.
“Hey, did you send Henry a picture of me playing pool last night?” I asked, trying not to give anything away or sound accusing.
“Yeah, I wanted him to know you were actually having fun,” she said. “He told me to make sure you had a good time, and that you were being safe.”
“Ah,” I said with a nod.
I could feel her eyes on me, and suddenly we both understood each other.
“Oh no.” She dropped her fork. “I shouldn’t have done that, should I?”
I sighed, the sorrow and fear twisting in my gut again. “He got upset that we went to a bar. He gave me shit about it for ten minutes this morning.”
“Oh God, I’m so sorry.” She put her arms around me and squeezed. “I should have known he’d have an issue with that. I wasn’t thinking. You were just having so much fun last night and I thought he’d like seeing you happy for once.”
“Yeah, well, we were both wrong,” I said, stabbing at my food with my fork.
“What did he expect you to do? Stay in the room by yourself all night while I went out?”
“That’s not fair,” she said. “Well, as long as you know that you didn’t do anything wrong, that’s all that matters. This is your vacation. And we’re not done having fun, I promise you. I just won’t send him anymore pictures.” She laughed.
“Okay,” I said, not quite sure I agreed with her. Part of me did just want to stay in the room like a sad hermit. Either way, I wasn’t going back to that pub tonight, even if everyone else did.
I started eating, and I found myself looking all around the dining area. What was I looking for?
I didn’t realize it until I saw him walk through the door. Justin. And suddenly I was a little less sad.
“You know, Justin’s kinda cute,” I said to her as I watched him get food.
She looked up at me, then at him. “Ew, gross.”
I burst out laughing. Justin was so not her type. She was a few years younger than me, and she liked her men young and Hispanic, and usually very skinny. Justin was bulky, much older than her, and very not Hispanic. He had this Gerard Butler look to him, and let’s face it, that dude is pretty hot.
Wait, what the hell am I thinking? Why was I still looking at him? I’m a happily married woman. Well, okay, maybe not super happily, especially after this morning. But then again, I was still human. I was allowed to be attracted to other people, right? I was married, not dead. And just because I was looking didn’t mean anything. I looked at celebrities all the time, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes pretend that Henry was Ryan Reynolds or one of the Hemsworth brothers in bed. Or both of the Hemsworth brothers at the same time! Yes, that would be amazing!
“Vee?” I heard Stacy say.
“Huh?” I snapped back to reality and turned to look at her.
“Did you hear what I just said?” she asked.
“Sorry, I was off in la-la land for a minute,” I confessed. “What’s up?”
“I was saying that Old Man Justin was talking about throwing a little farewell party outside his room tonight,” she explained. “He’s got a room on the ground floor that opens to the grass. And apparently, he’s got a bunch of booze stocked up for the occasion.”
“Of course, he does,” Anya said, laughing.
On cue, Justin took the last empty set at the other end of the table diagonal to me. I couldn’t help but notice the way his eyes lit up when he saw me, and the genuine smile he gave to me as he sat down.
Like a schoolgirl, I blushed and looked away, tucking my hair behind my ear. Was this actually butterflies I was feeling.
“Still on for a party tonight, bro?” Hector asked Justin, thankfully pulling his eyes off me.
“Bro?” Justin asked. “Dude, I’m old enough to be your dad.” It was true, Hector was twenty-two at best.
“Whatever,” Hector said, licking ketchup off his sausage fingers. “Party, yes, no?”
“Yeah, I’d love nothing more than to party with a bunch of millennials,” Justin joked.
“We’re not millennials,” all the girls at the table, including me, chorused.
“Well, if we are going to have a party, someone needs to get some beer, cuz Hector drank all my liquor last night,” he said, digging into his plate.
“You guys kept going after we left the bar?” Norma asked.
“You know it!” Hector said, nodding his head to the beat of some music apparently only he could hear.
“This guy didn’t leave my room til three o’clock this morning,” Justin complained, pointing his thumb at Hector.
“And we’re gonna do it again tonight,” Hector said.
Anya and Norma rolled their eyes.
Justin looked at me. “You gonna come over tonight too?”
Stacy looked at me, too, her eyes practically popping out of her head as they urged me to say yes.
I shrugged. “Yeah, sure, I’ll swing by for a bit.”
His smile returned, saturating my previously twisting insides with a calm warmth. “Cool.”
* * *
I purposefully dressed down after dinner before heading over to Justin’s room. I wore simple blue jeans, a t-shirt that covered absolutely everything, even though the humidity here made my neck ache for fresh air, and I rolled my hair up into a messy bun. I wouldn’t put it past Henry to Facetime me tonight so that he could see for himself if I was at the pub again or to scrutinize my clothing. And if he did call and I didn’t answer, oh, there’d be hell to pay. So I figured I might as well be prepared.
As soon as Stacy and I arrived on the patio outside Justin’s room where dozens of people were gathered, Hector handed us each a bottle of beer. I’ll be honest. I don’t remember much of that night. I accepted every beer that was handed to me. And after a few beers, I started telling everyone around about what I did and showing off my beautiful covers that had been published, and soon everyone was praising me for my talent and saying that they knew some of my more popular covers and how cool it was to meet the artist.
I had my e-cig out the whole time, and Justin, who never wandered more than a couple feet away from me, kept asking for it.
“You can have it any time you want, you don’t even have to ask,” I kept saying. I was being overly flirtatious at this point, but I didn’t care. It felt good to flirt. It was fun and flattering, and I really needed the confidence boost.
At some point, I realized that I was uncomfortably cold. I considered going up to my room to get my jacket, but I really didn’t wanna walk that far.
“Hey Justin, do you have a jacket I could borrow?” I asked, bold as ever. “It’s getting kinda chilly.”
“Of course, hold on a sec.” He eagerly disappeared into his room and returned with a sweatshirt.
I pulled it on over my head and snuggled into it. Ah, warm. And it smelled nice. Spicy and musky and sweet.
More bottles were emptied, more puffs were taken, and eventually Stacy went up to the room to go to bed. But I wasn’t ready to end my night yet. I was having a blast! Best time in years, in fact.
I stayed until someone announced it was two in the morning. The next day, everyone was scheduled to take a tour of the original plant down the road before being taken to the airport—even me—so I knew I needed to get some sleep.
I waited until I saw Justin go into his room to use the bathroom, then I went in after him. I took off his sweatshirt and sat on his bed waiting for him to come out. When he saw me, he stopped and his face blossomed into that handsome smile.
I stood up and handed him his sweatshirt. “Thanks, for everything. I just wanted to let you know I’m heading up to bed.”
“Aww, so soon?” he asked with a mock pout.
“Uh, it’s two A.M.” I said.
“Yeah, I know.”
Then as one mind, we came close and hugged. I was surprised when the hug lingered, but happy to feel his big arms around me for as long as he was willing.
“I’m so glad I met you,” he whispered into my ear.
“Me, too,” I said, finally, reluctantly, pulling away.
I handed him back his sweatshirt and he walked me to his door. And stood there as I walked away. I looked back, and he was still looking and smiling, this time with a burning gaze. And my insides fluttered like an electric currant had been shot through me. I kept looking back all the way to the stairwell, and when I finally closed the door, I pressed back against the door, took a deep breath and started fanning myself.
“Oh my God,” I whispered, then bit my painfully smiling lip all the way up the stairs and to my room.
When I got in, Stacy was fast asleep and snoring softly. I took off my clothes and got straight into bed, exhaustion catching up to me quickly.
No sooner had I closed my eyes than my phone buzzed on the bedside dresser. I knew who it must be, so I immediately opened my eyes and grabbed my phone.
JUSTIN: YOU MAKE IT HOME SAFE?
I smiled and replied, YEP, SAFE AND SOUND.
JUSTIN: EVERYONE LEFT AS SOON AS YOU DID. WANNA HANG OUT?
I knew what that meant, and my heart was racing like a freshly branded bronco. I admit, I considered it. I hadn’t felt this way in so long, maybe ever! And my pussy was throbbing between my legs. My entire insides were. Fuck, I hadn’t been this horny in years either!
If I hadn’t been so tired, and already dressed down to my bra and underwear, I probably would have gone. Saved by my laziness. I knew that attribute would come in handy one day.
After hugging my phone to my chest for several torturous minutes, I texted back.
VEE: YOU ARE WONDERFUL AND CUTE AND FUNNY, BUT I’M TOO HAPPILY MARRIED TO GO THERE. THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS TRIP ONE I’LL NEVER FORGET.
His response didn’t come for a very long minute.
JUSTIN: OK, GOODNIGHT BEAUTIFUL.
I put the pillow over my head and squealed into it. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have given in to my extreme lust and touched myself thinking about him, indulging the fantasy even if I couldn’t indulge in real life. But I knew I had to sleep, or I’d be miserable the next day. So I did the responsible thing and closed my eyes.
Dammit if I didn’t get a second of sleep all night, or a single solitary break from the intense desire that I didn’t know was just beginning.
I was still pretty much wide awake by the time Stacy’s alarm went off at six o’clock. And even despite the heavy hangover that had built up over the last four hours, I was still so horny I could hardly stand it. Luckily, I was a virgin for twenty-two years, so I was at least accustomed to wanting and not getting, and marriage didn’t really change that.
As soon as we got to the kitchen, my eyes were out for Justin. No matter what I told myself, I couldn’t stop thinking about him, couldn’t stop wanting to see him and talk to him even though I knew it wouldn’t—couldn’t—lead to anything.
But he never showed up to breakfast. Was he avoiding me? Or was he just so hungover that he couldn’t pull himself out of bed to eat?
We went back to our room and got all our luggage, then went to the parking lot where the buses were waiting to take everyone to the original factory for the grand tour.
There, smoking a cigarette on the curb, practically glowing in the early morning sunshine, stood Justin, and my heart stopped. Stacy flocked to her new gal pals, and I was grateful for that, because it meant I could sneak away to talk to Justin.
He shuffled his feet in obvious discomfort as I approached.
“Hey, how you feeling after last night?” I asked. “I’m hella hungover.”
“Yeah, me too,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand. “Hey, um, did you and your little friends have a good laugh about my text last night?”
I jerked my head back defensively. “No, not at all, I didn’t tell anyone about that.”
“Oh. Okay. Good. Listen, I’m sorry about that, I didn’t mean to cross any lines…”
“No, don’t be sorry.” I couldn’t help but step closer as I tried to comfort him. “It wasn’t just you. I was flirting right back.”
“Alright, everybody get on the bus!” called the bus driver, rudely ending our conversation.
We both looked at each other, lingering for a few seconds with everything that was unspoken. Finally, we couldn’t stand by anymore, we had to follow everyone else onto the bus. I sat on a bench catty corner behind Stacy, and to my happy surprise, Justin took the bench directly across from me. I so badly wanted to hop across the aisle and sit next to him, but there were so many empty seats on this bus that such closeness would have raised some eyebrows, especially Stacy’s.
The short bus ride to the factory was quiet, and the tension in the air between those four close seats was so thick and sizzling. I kept catching him looking at me, and when I would he’d look away. I was so confused. Why couldn’t I stop thinking about him? Looking at him? Wanting to hop on his lap and kiss him like there was no one else on this bus?!?
You’re married, Vee. You love your husband. He’s your soulmate. This doesn’t make any sense…
With each passing mile, that little voice got less and less audible, until we arrived at our destination and it totally vanished.
Justin followed close behind me as we disembarked. I’m sure the factory tour was very interesting, but I didn’t see an inch of it. Every room and hallway we were led through, all I saw was Justin. I knew that I was following him like a puppy. Everywhere he went, I had to stand no more than a foot away. When we got into an elevator, I inched closer and closer, staring at our hands and wanting nothing more than to reach out and touch, and just claim it was an accident. And then more people got onto the elevator and pushed us closer together, and I swear I actually sighed in relief.
For the next few hours, everywhere we went in that large building, I wanted to pull him into a corner and kiss him. Fantasies of him tortured me. Him pressing me up against a wall, spreading my legs around his waist to pin me against him. His mouth hungrily devouring mine, his tongue penetrating my aching lips. I had never ever, in my entire life, wanted someone so badly.
And I had also never been so completely magnetized to someone. It really wasn’t physically possible for me to keep my distance. There was this invisible force, like a tether, tugging me after him. I thought it was just me, until we came to the lunch hall and both completely paused and looked at each other when we realized there were no two empty seats side by side left, that we’d have to separate.
I hated it. The distance was too much. But if I did anything weird, everyone would know, and I especially didn’t want Stacy to be aware of any of it. Because it wasn’t real, right? We were all going home in a few hours and this would be behind us. And yet…I just couldn’t stand being this far away from him.
When we had finished eating lunch, everyone loaded back onto the bus that would take us on a two hour long ride to the airport. Justin and I reclaimed our original seats across from each other, the tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.
The bus engine mozied to life and we began to slowly move forward, away from this fantasy.
I couldn’t leave things unspoken anymore. I couldn’t go home with this just hanging over my head, over my heart. So I pulled out my phone and texted him.
VEE: HAVE YOU EVER HOOKED UP WITH GIRLS ON TRIPS LIKE THESE BEFORE? JUST WONDERING IF SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED LAST NIGHT, IF IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A FIRST FOR YOU…
I watched from the corner of my eye as he pulled out his phone and read the text, then his eyes looked up at me, and my pulse mimicked the sound of a pre-gallows drumroll. He looked back down at the bright screen in his hands and his fingers began to tap a reply.
JUSTIN: YEAH, NEVER DONE ANYTHING LIKE THAT BEFORE. PROBABLY WOULD HAVE BEEN TOO SCARED TO OPEN THE DOOR IF YOU CAME BACK.
I giggled and smiled up at him, then texted back.
VEE: HAHA, THAT’S FUNNY! I DON’T THINK I COULD EVER CROSS THAT LINE…BUT I HAVEN’T QUITE BEEN ABLE TO STOP THINKING ABOUT IT.
JUSTIN: I KNOW, ME TOO. I KEEP PLAYING IT OUT IN MY HEAD, THEN THINK, WHAT AM I THINKING?
VEE: ME TOO. BUT IT’S JUST SO HOT BECAUSE IT’S SO FORBIDDEN, AND WE HAVE THIS LITTLE SECRET FROM THOSE AROUND US. I WAS FINDING IT HARD NOT TO LINGER AROUND YOU ON THE TOUR.
JUSTIN: I FELT THE SAME WAY. I TRIED NOT TO MAKE IT TOO OBVIOUS.
I bit my lip as I typed the next text, my blood boiling, heating me all over.
VEE: I WANTED SO MANY TIMES TO FIND AN EXCUSE TO TOUCH YOU. BUT DAMN I FEEL GUILTY EVEN TEXTING THIS STUFF TO YOU LOL.
JUSTIN: I FELT THE SAME WAY STANDING NEXT TO YOU IN THE ELEVATOR. I WAS SO GLAD WHEN THOSE PEOPLE CAME IN AND PUSHED US CLOSER.
OMFG! Heat fanned up my neck, and my pussy ached so deliciously. To know that he’d been thinking about me just as much as I’d been thinking about him, that he felt the exact same way throughout the tour, that it wasn’t just in my head! Fuck, I was in trouble.
JUSTIN: I KEEP LOOKING OVER, THEN LOOK AWAY AS SOON AS YOU LOOK UP. THIS FEELS LIKE HIGH SCHOOL OR SOMETHING.
I looked up at him, and he very obviously looked away, his lips spread wide in a coy smile meant just for me. Oh how my heart ached!
VEE: GLAD IT’S NOT JUST ME. I KEEP TELLING MYSELF “JUST PUT A PIN IN IT, STOP TEXTING!” BUT I ALMOST CAN’T HELP IT.
I snuck a glance at him, and this time he didn’t look away. Our eyes held for a long moment, and I couldn’t help but spread my legs in invitation. God, I was losing my mind with desire!
JUSTIN: YOU’RE JUST SO INTERESTING AND MYSTERIOUS. GLAD WE MET. IT WILL BE A LONG TIME BEFORE I STOP THINKING ABOUT YOU. OKAY I’LL STOP. UNLESS YOU TEXT BACK…
I wanted to. Hell, I wanted to do more than that! I wanted to cross the aisle, climb onto his lap and kiss him like we were the only two people on this bus.
But to what end? In just about an hour, we were going to go off in separate directions, and likely never see each other again. I was married with kids, he was married with kids, and we lived thousands of miles apart. What was the point of continuing this conversation?
I didn’t pick up my phone again. I thought I was making the smart choice. But there was no cooling down. The longer I sat there, the more I wanted him. My legs remained spread apart for his enjoyment, and though our texting had stopped, our silent conversation continued, with lingering glances, bitten lips, heat that wafted between us like a furnace. And the few times I failed to avoid hungrily glancing at the bulge in his jeans, lust spiked through me like a bolt of electricity.
Too soon it seemed, the bus arrived at the airport, and anxiety had taken over. The anxiety of knowing that this was almost over, and I so badly didn’t want it to be.
Stacy and those ahead of us got off the bus. I reluctantly, slowly, stood up and walked up the aisle. And Justin was right behind me, so close I could feel his erection brushing against the back of my thigh. Dammit, why were there so many people around?!?
I got to the steps of the bus and let my hand linger on the rail as I climbed down. He got the message and put his hand on mine, and just that little touch made me swoon, raising goosebumps across every inch of my skin.
Off the bus, everyone got their luggage, and together, Stacy, her new gal pals, Justin and I walked inside the sliding glass doors that would be our demise.
Justin and I looked longingly at each other, and a very sad smile graced his handsome face before he waved and headed in the direction of his flight carrier. I stood there like a statue, watching him walk away, my heart breaking so loudly that I couldn’t believe no one else could hear it.
I turned to see Stacy and the other two girls heading for the kiosk that would render their tickets. She was distracted. This was my last chance! I had to take it.
“Justin!” I called out, abandoning my luggage and sprinting across the lobby like my life depended on it.
He turned around, the look of relief on his face so powerful it made my heart squeeze. He caught me as I threw my arms around him, holding me against him so tightly, and yet not close enough. Our embrace lasted an eternity, a frozen moment in time that, for the rest of my life, I’ll never forget.
“I’m so glad I met you,” he whispered in my ear before planting a soft kiss on my neck.
When he pulled away, I swore I could hear his heart breaking just as loudly as mine.
“Goodbye,” he said, slowly backing away.
As we parted, our hands slowly trailed down each other’s arms, savoring every last inch, until we were down to only our fingertips, which curled at the ends as if such a small gesture could keep the touch from ending.
“Goodbye,” I whispered back, holding back tears as he walked toward the United security dock and out of my life forever.
I’ll never forget you, Justin…
With a heavy heart, I tread sluggishly back to where Stacy, Norma and Anya were accepting their freshly printed tickets. Luckily, no one bothered the luggage I had left sitting in the middle of the lobby. Not that I would have cared at this point if they had. Possessions seemed worthless in the light of the true prize I’d just lost.
“I got your ticket, too, Vee,” Stacy said, smiling at me, none the wiser that I had just broken my own heart.
“Oh, uh, thanks,” I said.
“I’ll miss you guys,” she said to the other girls, hugging each of them.
We all said our goodbyes, then Stacy and I took our place at the end of the very long security line for Delta Airlines.
I was in so much turmoil as the line slowly moved. Stacy talked on and on about something, but all I could do was hum in reply as I wrestled my emotions. I shouldn’t be feeling this sad. I was about to go home to the man I’d loved for ten years, and to our beautiful kids. I should be happy. I’d only known this other guy for the lesser part of three days. He was a stranger to me. Then why did this hurt so much?
My phone vibrated in my pocket, and I couldn’t get it out fast enough.
JUSTIN: YOU MAKE IT THROUGH SECURITY YET?
VEE: NO NOT YET. I’LL LET YOU KNOW WHEN.
For a brief moment, I had the hope that I’d find him on the other side. Our flight wasn’t scheduled to start boarding for another two hours. There might still be time! For what, I didn’t know, I just knew it couldn’t end here. I couldn’t bear for it to end!
JUSTIN: WEIRD TO THINK I’LL PROBABLY NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN. MY GATE IS ON THE OTHER SIDE, SO WE WON’T SEE EACH OTHER INSIDE. ☹
And just like that, the little balloon of hope that had begun to inflate exploded with a tangible pop.
VEE: AWW THAT DOES BREAK MY HEART A LITTLE BIT. NOW I WISH I HAD KISSED YOU. MY HEART IS STILL RACING THINKING ABOUT YOU.
I loaded my luggage onto the security scanner and took off my shoes to go through the metal detector, and all I wanted to do was get through this so I could go into a bathroom and cry my eyes out.
Once through the detector, I saw my phone light up with a text from him, and I snatched it out of the bin like a frog’s tongue with a fly.
JUSTIN: I REALLY WANTED YOU TO. THAT’S ONE OF THOSE ONCE IN A LIFETIME THINGS.
Oh, my heart hurt so much! How could something that was so sexy and fun only an hour ago now make me feel like I wanted to drop dead?
JUSTIN: I’M UP IN THE OBSERVATION GALLERY, LOOKING AT ALL THE PLANES AND WONDERING WHICH ONE YOU’LL BE ON.
“Geeze, did that take long enough?” I heard Stacy say as she came up behind me with her luggage. “Ok let’s find our gate. And wait for two hours.” She laughed and looked at her ticket. “Gate D26.” We both looked up at the overhead signs for the D with a directing arrow, then followed in that direction.
VEE: MY GATE IS D26, WHAT’S YOURS?
JUSTIN: D15 😉
Holy Fuck! I could feel my cheeks burning with what must have been beet red blush. Could this actually be happening? Fate was giving me a second chance. Did I dare take it?
VEE: DO YOU STILL WANT TO?
My heart fluttered like a nervous hummingbird as I waited the five seconds for his reply.
JUSTIN: I THINK SO. I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS ABOUT YOU.
I followed Stacy as she led the way to our gate, staring blankly forward in deep debate with myself. If I did this, there was no turning back. I’d have cheated on Henry. I’d go home knowing I cheated. And for what? A kiss with a stranger? Albeit a stranger I had unbelievable chemistry with. But I’d have to live with that for the rest of my marriage. Did I want that on my conscience? Forever!?
Stacy took a seat at our gate and plugged her phone in to charge as she texted her boyfriend back home.
I needed a sounding board. I couldn’t keep this to myself any longer. Stacy was my best friend, and even though I knew it was a mistake to tell her, I needed her advice right now.
“Um, Stace?” I began, my voice cracking with my anxiety. “I’m really struggling with a decision right now, and I need your honest advice.”
Hearing the serious note in my voice, she put down her phone and gave me her full attention. “Sure, what is it?”
“Well, you know Henry and I have been having problems?” I couldn’t look at her as I spoke. I knew the judgment was coming, and I wouldn’t be able to get this out if I saw it on her face. “I didn’t tell you before, but something sparked with Justin the last few days. We’ve been texting all day, and I’ve never felt chemistry like this before.” I told her everything, about our attraction at the party last night and our epically romantic goodbye in the lobby, and now this question: to kiss or not to kiss. “What should I do? I’ve never felt this way before. I love Henry, I really do, but what if I’m missing out on something important here? What would you do?”
I so badly wanted her to tell me to seize life and go for it. I finally sheepishly met her scrutinizing gaze.
“Woah,” was all she said for a long while, then her eyes darted back and forth as she gathered her thoughts to form her reply. “Yes, I know you and Henry have had problems. Maybe this is a wake up call, you know. Maybe this is the universe telling you to fix what you already have with him, not go looking for something else. And, come on, if you kiss this guy, you’ll have to live with that. You’ll have to go home to Henry tonight knowing you cheated on him. Is that what you really want?”
Dammit, Stacy. I sighed heavily and looked down the wide endless hallway at all the people going about their travels in blissful ignorance to my indecision.
I knew she was right. I didn’t want to have any kind of guilt darkening mine and Henry’s already strained marriage. I did love Henry, despite his many flaws, and the cold, calculating way he handled my flaws. I didn’t want to ever hurt him.
I sighed again. “You’re right. Thank you for this. I’ll text Justin and tell him no.”
VEE: I REALLY WANT TO (HELL, I WANT TO DO MORE!), BUT I THINK WE SHOULD KEEP THIS AS A SWEET FLEETING MEMORY, RATHER THAN SOMETHING WE’LL REGRET WHEN WE GET BACK TO OUR SPOUSES.
“Okay,” I said, exhaling heavily and hoping to breath out all the weight that had accumulated on my shoulders. “I’m sorry about this, Stace, I know these things make you uncomfortable.” Stacy had been cheated on by several boyfriends in the past, so if there was one person who would not be in favor of any kind of infidelity, it was her. “I hope this doesn’t strain our relationship at all.”
She hugged me. “No, of course not. Relationships are never easy. Trust me, I’ve had enough of them.” She was on relationship number five, and I was still only on relationship number two, if you could even call the first one a relationship—it lasted only a month, but it was a whirlwind. “I just really wanna see your marriage with Henry work out. You guys are good together, when he’s not being an ass.”
“Which is his default setting,” I said with a sardonic laugh.
She laughed too.
My phone buzzed in my hands, and I was hesitant to check it, but ultimately couldn’t resist.
JUSTIN: I UNDERSTAND. I’D STILL REALLY LIKE TO SEE YOU AND TALK FOR A BIT. I PROMISE I WON’T LET YOU KISS ME LOL. I’M SITTING BY THE HUDSON NEWS NEAR D4 IF YOU’RE INTERESTED. IF NOT, I UNDERSTAND.
And just like that, I knew I had to talk to him. Maybe if we could talk this out, we’d both get this out of our system, or figure out why we both felt this way. Honestly, I would have made any excuse to take this opportunity.
“He said he wants to talk, and I do really want to,” I admitted. “He’s waiting by the Hudson News store just a bit ahead. Can we go?” I gave her the most pleading, puppy dog eyes I could manage.
Now it was her turn to sigh. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, but okay.”
She picked up her luggage and unplugged her phone.
“Thank you,” I said, unfathomably grateful for her support in this.
I grabbed my luggage and couldn’t walk down the hall quickly enough. I scanned every store front for the Hudson News sign. It wasn’t far from our gate. And then I saw him, sitting on a chair against the wall of windows that overlooked the planes, and again my heart skipped a beat.
He was looking down at his phone, his leg bouncing in anticipation. And like he sensed my approach, he looked up, and the most handsome relieved smile graced his face. Until he saw Stacy picking up the pace behind me, and his smile fell ever so slightly.
I hugged him as we came together, chastely for Stacy’s sake, then sat in the empty seat next to him. Stacy didn’t sit.
“I’m gonna go shop, see if I can find something for Robert,” she said awkwardly, then toted her suitcase down the hall to give us some privacy.
“Thank you,” I mouthed the words to her as she left, and all she did was nod and turn away.
We both waited until she was out of sight to start talking.
“I’m glad you came,” he said. “I was almost afraid to check my phone in case you said no.”
God, could he really be this sweet?
“I had to come,” I confessed. “I feel like fate is giving us a second chance, even if it is just to talk and figure out why we feel this way about each other.”
I took in all of him beside me, appreciating the stubble on his face, his dark blue eyes, his broad shoulders, then looked down at his lap and loved the way his expensive jeans hugged all the appropriate parts of him. I put my hand on his thigh, my cheeks burning once more.
“Is this okay?” I asked, feeling like a school girl touching a boy for the first time.
He slowly closed his eyes, enjoying the sensation of my touch. “Yes, it’s just fine.”
I gently traced a circle on his thigh with my fingertips, and he closed his eyes again. Was he actually blushing?
“I actually have butterflies right now,” he said, his breathing heavy and fast.
Butterflies? This guy was really something special.
“This whole thing is just so weird,” he said. “I mean, for us to feel this way, this intensely, and to have it be mutual?”
“I know, it’s kinda blowing my mind,” I said. “I’ve been married for almost seven years now, and Henry is the only man I’ve ever been with. I never thought I’d ever have feelings for someone other than him. This is, like, surreal, like a dream.”
“That’s kinda how I feel too. You know, a little over a year ago, my wife cheated on me with my best friend. She said they only kissed, but I don’t know if I ever quite believed that. And to this day, I still don’t feel angry at her for it. Just at him. He had just gone through a nasty divorce, and she was always there to comfort him, and I guess one thing lead to another and they made out one night.”
“Omigod, I’m so sorry,” I said sincerely, still caressing his thigh. “What happened after that?”
“Well, I punched him,” he said with a laugh. “Then we moved out of the city, away from those toxic friends, and we’ve been working on the marriage ever since. But it’s hard, you know. It’s like we’re roommates. I go to work early in the morning before the kids wake up, come home early afternoon, and she doesn’t get off work until evening and even then still goes out to drink with friends most nights. And by the time she does come home, I’m already in bed. So we rarely ever get to actually see each other. And it feels like when we do get time, she’d rather be spending it with other people.”
I shook my head, truly feeling empathy for him. Because I knew, in part, what he was going through.
“I know how you feel,” I said. “My husband is the same way. I stay at home with the kids all day, and he’s a detective in L.A. so he works late hours. From his job alone, the kids and I hardly get to see him. But then after work, since it’s already late, he often goes out drinking with his work buddies. So yeah, I’ve felt like he’s just a roommate for a long time too. And I do try. I set up date nights for us once a month, and he always acts like it’s just a chore. We usually just go out to a movie, where we’re not talking anyway.”
“No one ever tells you how hard marriage is before you get married, because if they did, no one would do it,” he joked. “I can’t believe I told you about my wife cheating. I didn’t mean to. It just came out. It’s like I know you.”
He couldn’t have known how those words touched me. Because I felt like I knew him too. I’m a naturally socially awkward person. Whenever I’m around people, even close friends or family that I’ve known for years, I always feel tense, feel the need to smile the whole time we’re talking to placate them. But I’ve never felt that way around Henry. And amazingly enough, I didn’t feel that way around Justin. I wasn’t smiling right now, and there was no tension—well, other than the obvious sexual tension, but that was acceptable, and pleasant.
“Actually, my husband and I had a big fight just a few months ago,” I began, wanting to share my own hardships with him. “Our dishwasher crapped out on us last year, ruined the floor and caused a big mess. We had do scramble to clean it up before any further damage was done. And for whatever reason, he took it out on me. He said I should have caught the leak months ago, that I should be keeping the house better because that was my job. Then he went on to point out all the things around the house that I’d been failing on, and pushed it further to say how I was failing with the kids. After tearing me down for hours that night, he didn’t talk to me for days. I’d never seen him that angry, and I just couldn’t handle it. I didn’t want to be around that kind of toxic negativity, and I really thought we were at the end of our marriage. So one day, I packed an overnight bag for the kids and asked my friend Tawny if we could stay with her just for the night. I guess I hoped maybe it would make him miss me and he’d apologize.
“Well, he came home, saw the overnight bag in my car before I could leave, and exploded. He yelled at me, saying there was no way I was taking the kids anywhere, and started tearing me down again, saying that I did nothing for our family or for our life. I broke down crying, begging for him to stop, to open his eyes and see how hard I work every day, and that I never ask him for help.
“We did eventually smooth things over, once he calmed down enough to talk. But things have never quite been the same since then. I have to wonder if that whole thing is why I feel this way for you.”
I turned from the Hudson News window that I’d been staring at through my narrative to look at him.
He nodded. “And my wife’s infidelity is probably why I feel this way for you.”
“And yet…” I squeezed his thigh, and he practically moaned in pleasure. “It does seem strange that, if I was going to feel this for someone, why couldn’t it have been someone local, and not someone who lives across the country.”
“Yep,” he said with a sigh.
We sat in silence for a moment, savoring each other.
“You know, maybe we were meant to meet this way so that we could help each other with our marriages,” I suggested, an invisible light bulb flashing over my head. “When we go back home, you can use me to get a woman’s perspective to help with your wife, and you can hopefully help me figure out my husband.”
He smiled. “I like the sound of that.” He put out his hand. “I think we have a deal.”
I removed my hand from his thigh and shook his hand, feeling like we accomplished something. We figured out where these powerful feelings came from, and we had a plan to essentially make them go away. I felt good. I felt optimistic. Maybe with his help, I could rekindle the passion with Henry. I’d so much rather feel this kind of desire for my husband than a stranger who was also married and completely unavailable.
Like clockwork, Stacy returned, and I was relieved she hadn’t come a minute sooner when my hand was still on Justin’s thigh.
“Our flight is going to be boarding soon,” she said, holding a shopping bag from a store on top of her suitcase.
“Okay,” I said, standing up.
Justin stood up too. “Thanks for talking to me.”
We hugged one last time, both of us wanting to hold on tighter, longer, but not wanting to do so in front of Stacy.
“Goodbye,” I said, pulling away for the last time.
“Bye,” he said, his lips closing into a telltale pucker that said he wished he could kiss me farewell.
As I walked away with Stacy, Justin and I stared at each other until we were both out of sight. It hurt to walk away from him again, but at least I had hope now, and some understanding of why any of this had happened at all. I was actually looking forward to going home to Henry, to fixing our marriage.
Everything was going to be great!
During our connecting flight to Atlanta, I really did feel good. Justin had sent me a cute text asking me to let him know when we landed right before the plane took off, and I was looking forward to getting home to start fixing the problems in my marriage.
When we landed, we had a two hour layover. We found something quick to eat, and then just had to sit for the rest of the time. Stacy plugged in her phone and seemed like her old self, so I didn’t feel bad about checking my phone when I knew it was Justin buzzing me with another text.
JUSTIN: IS IT WEIRD THAT I MISS YOU ALREADY?
I smiled. The fact that he missed me made my loins ache all over again. Dammit, I thought we fixed this!
VEE: HEY, I’M THE GIRL HERE, AREN’T I THE ONE WHO’S SUPPOSED TO SAY THAT LOL 😉 ACTUALLY, I REALLY WANNA SEXT YOU, BUT I’M TRYING MY BEST NOT TO GO THERE.
JUSTIN: AWW, NOW YOU GOT ME CURIOUS LOL, BUT THAT’S PROBABLY A GOOD CALL.
I snuck a peak over at Stacy, who was totally enwrapped in whatever she was doing on her phone. Good.
VEE: WHERE ARE YOU NOW?
JUSTIN: JUST ABOUT TO TAKE OFF, FINALLY. I’LL PROBABLY BE HOME IN ABOUT THREE HOURS.
VEE: ME TOO.
JUSTIN: I WAS LOOKING AT PICTURES OF YOU ON YOUR FACEBOOK. THOSE ARE SOME HOT BIKINI SHOTS. YOU REALLY ARE BEAUTIFUL.
Oh, come on, why did he have to say stuff like that? As if this wasn’t hard enough already! As if he wasn’t difficult enough to resist!
All the desire that had built up on that long torturous bus ride came back full force, and now it seemed safe to indulge it. After all, he was hundreds of miles away. Then I figured, what the hell. Give in to the dark side.
VEE: FEEL FREE TO ADD THEM TO YOUR SPANK BANK. I WANT YOU TO CUM THINKING ABOUT ME…
I was actually quite terrified as soon as I hit send. Would he be angry? After all, we did have an agreement. But I wanted him so bad I almost didn’t care. And somehow, I knew he was feeling the same way. Guys don’t scroll through a girl’s pictures on Facebook for nothing, especially not as far back as those bikini pictures he mentioned.
JUSTIN: WOAH, YOU WENT THERE AND PAST! OMG!!! THAT IS SO FUCKING HOT!!!
My desire spiked through the roof, and suddenly I couldn’t wait to get home for a completely new reason—to touch myself while thinking about him.
JUSTIN: AS SOON AS I GET HOME, I’M GETTING IN THE SHOWER TO DO JUST THAT. GREAT, NOW THE GUY SITTING NEXT TO ME IS GONNA THINK I’M A FREAK FOR HAVING A VERY OBVIOUS HARD ON FOR THE REST OF THE FLIGHT. THANKS A LOT 😉
I smiled so wide it hurt my face. I loved that I had this effect on him. My husband hardly ever looked at me, let alone wanted me. It felt beyond amazing to actually be wanted, and to this degree? Fuck!
VEE: KEEP THINKING ABOUT ME. I WANT YOU TO STAY HARD ALL THE WAY HOME, UNTIL YOU CAN FINALLY SATISFY YOURSELF.
JUSTIN: LIKE I CAN POSSIBLY THINK ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE. I’M GONNA HAVE TO GET OFF AT LEAST THREE TIMES JUST TO GO TO SLEEP!
I bit my lower lip and closed my eyes, imagining him stroking his cock in the shower as he thought about fucking me against the shower tiles. I don’t know why it was such an incredible turn on, the idea of someone wanting me so badly that he couldn’t help but masturbate to satisfy the need. If I thought we had time before boarding began, I’d have gone to the nearest bathroom and done the same thing.
“Now boarding group 1,” called the flight attendant at our gate.
“Of course,” I muttered, rolling my eyes in near agony.
“I guess that’s us,” Stacy said, unplugging and heading for the line.
We settled into our seats on the plane, and it was already night outside our windows. In just over two hours, I’d be home. And I felt nothing, nothing but the urgency to indulge in this fantasy that was driving me insane!
I only had moments before the plane was going to take off and I’d lose service.
VEE: TEXT ME WHEN YOU GET HOME. I NEED TO KNOW WHEN YOU’VE HAD ME IN THE SHOWER. THAT WAY I CAN IMAGINE I’M THERE WITH YOU.
JUSTIN: OH I WILL! I HAVE A FEELING WE’RE GOING TO TAKE A LOT OF SHOWERS TOGETHER 😉
The smile on my face was so bright, it just about outshined the glare from the small in-flight movie screen in front of me.
I stowed my soon-to-be useless phone and turned my attention to Stacy. “What do you want to watch?” I asked, flipping through the options on the menu.
“Oh, uh, whatever,” she said, staring out the window. “I’m actually kinda tired. Think I’ll take a nap.”
Did I detect some tension here? Or was I just being paranoid? She couldn’t have known I’d been texting Justin, especially not what I’d been texting him. Right? It had been a very long day. She had every reason to be tired.
“Okay,” I said, pursing my lips in curiosity.
She leaned back into her seat and closed her eyes as the plane began to ascend, so I found a movie that sounded interesting and put in my earbuds.
And dammit if I paid a single second of attention to the movie. I couldn’t stop thinking about Justin. About being in that shower with him when he got home. I played out so many different scenarios. Him bending me over the bathtub rail, making me scream in ecstasy. Me wrapped around him for dear life as he fucked me like a recently released ex-con. Me down on my knees to suck his cock, savoring his moans as he came in my mouth.
I was so wet by the end of the flight, I was amazed it didn’t look like I’d had an accident. I actually checked! Which should have been embarrassing, but I was too lost in lust to care. All I knew was I wanted him.
And he was now across the country.
Fuck me. Literally and figuratively.
Stacy “woke up” as soon as the plane landed, and seemed quite eager to get off the plane. She didn’t talk to me much as we headed through the airport departure section to the luggage pick up zone.
I’d texted Henry as soon as we landed so he’d have time to drive here as we went through the disembarking process, and he texted me that he was outside waiting as soon as we got to the luggage retrieval area.
I waited for the bags to start filling up the assembly, waited for Stacy to find hers.
“Hey, Henry is already waiting outside,” I said. “Are you good from here?”
She nodded. “Yeah, Robert should be here soon.”
“Okay, good.” I hugged her goodbye. “Text me tomorrow, okay?”
“Yep,” was all she said. Okay, there was definitely some weirdness here. I wasn’t wrong in wanting to get to Henry without her.
I scurried out of the sliding glass doors and immediately spotted Henry’s off-duty SUV.
When he saw me coming, he came out and hugged me. I’d almost forgotten how tense our last conversation had been, how angry he’d been over something so miniscule. How upset I should be about it but wasn’t.
“Have a good flight?” he asked.
For half a second, the fear crept into my mind that Stacy had mentioned something to him.
It quickly dissipated. If she had, there’s no way he’d be this calm.
“Yeah, it was alright,” I replied as he helped me put my suitcase and laptop bag in the trunk. “Stacy got pretty jet-lagged, though. She passed out on the last flight.”
“Will she be okay to wait by herself?” he asked, instantly going into dad mode and looking over my head for her.
I put my hands on his chest to gently nudge him toward the driver’s seat. “Oh yeah, she’ll be fine. Robert is just around the corner.” Yes, I was in full-on paranoia, but as weird as she was acting, I just couldn’t risk the two of them being around each other, not right now. It was all too fresh. And I was still too mentally fogged by lust to come up with any kind of rational argument.
We got in the car and began the drive home.
Not that I’d had the room in my sex-riddled brain to build expectations of my real life, but I was surprised that I didn’t feel guilty. I felt weird, that was for sure. Sitting next to Henry as he drove us back to our house of the last seven years, my panties soaked from thinking about another man. I should have felt bad, right? Then again, I hadn’t actually done anything wrong. I’d resisted temptation time and time again. I had the chance to kiss Justin and I didn’t. I’d had the chance to sleep with him the night before, but I didn’t. All I did was send a few mildly explicit text messages. Perfectly innocent. I had no reason to feel guilty, so why question why I didn’t?
I still fully intended to work on our marriage. And that meant, at least for now, I had to push the idea of naked and moaning Justin out of my head. That way when we got home, I’d have a clear head.
By the time we got to the house, it was eleven-thirty. Without the adrenaline from Justin’s temptations pumping through my veins and keeping me wired, the desire to sleep caught up to me faster than I anticipated. And Henry seemed of the same mind, because as soon as we walked through the door, he took my hand and led me to our bedroom.
We stripped down, climbed into our bed, and he pulled me into his arms to snuggle before we passed out.
As tired as I suddenly was, I needed to get at least some of what I’d been pondering out into the open.
“Henry?” I asked softly, making sure he was still awake.
“Hmm?” he asked.
“I had some time to think about things while I was away, and I’d like to talk a bit about it, if that’s okay.”
He shifted in bed and rubbed my shoulder. “Sure, baby. What it is?”
I ran my fingertips across his chest where my hand was resting. “We need to spend more time together. I feel like we’re drifting apart, and I don’t want that. I know work keeps you away a lot, but do you think you could try to be home more at night? At least for the girls? And maybe…we could try to have date nights more often. Even have a game night once a week?”
“You must be a mind-reader, cuz I was thinking about those same things while you were gone,” he said sleepily. “I miss you, and the kids. I promise to be home more. And we’ll see about game nights.” He chuckled teasingly, then kissed my forehead.
“Good, that would make me happy,” I said, snuggling into his smooth chest.
It wasn’t long after that he began to snore. I lay on him for a while, enjoying the feel of his strong body under mine, his arms wrapped around me. Yes, this was where I belonged.
My phone buzzed on the bedside table, and I knew who it must be—it damn sure wasn’t Stacy.
As gently as I could, I slipped out of Henry’s arms and opened the text.
JUSTIN: GETTING INTO THE SHOWER, WISH YOU WERE IN HERE WITH ME. I’LL TEXT YOU IN THE MORNING, BEAUTIFUL.
And just like that, my night was ruined, in the most delicious way.
“Good morning, Princess.”
Even though I’d only heard that voice a few times in the last three days, I’d know it anywhere. I never thought a Minnesota accent could sound so sexy.
I opened my eyes and rolled over in bed to see Justin lying beside me. Those dark blue eyes were staring into mine like I was the only woman in the world. And his lips, perfectly placed in the center of all that handsome stubble, were too pink and soft to resist.
Mine pressed over the top of them. They were just as soft and sweet as they appeared. And when they parted and his tongue licked at my mouth, what started out as a sweet peck turned into a full-on makeout session. In an instant he was on top of me, and I eagerly opened my legs to let him plunge his hungry cock into me.
“Yes, yes, yes!” I screamed.
I snapped awake, for real this time, the weight of my two toddlers suddenly crushing me. It took me a moment to orient myself, to realize that this was my reality and not the wonderful dream I’d been so rudely ripped away from.
I sat up in bed, careful not to let Sam and Jodie fall off of me, and rubbed my eyes, trying to wake up.
“Good morning, kiddos,” I sluggishly greeted. “Where’s Daddy?”
Hearing his name, Henry popped into the bedroom, fastening the top button on his suit.
“Hey babe,” he said, looking and sounding rushed. “Enjoy sleeping in?”
“Where are you going? It’s Sunday?” I asked.
“I know, I’m sorry. I got called in, but I’ll be home before lunch so we can spend the day together.” He came around to my side of the bed and bent down to kiss me goodbye. “Love you.”
“Love you, too,” I sighed as he rushed out.
I really had been looking forward to getting some good quality time with him today. And of course, he had to leave. How was I supposed to get my mind off Justin? At this point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. That dream had been bittersweet. It surprised me how much I wanted it to be real.
I got out of bed, made the kids breakfast, and tried to enjoy our morning together. Maybe it was because they missed me for the three days I’d been away and were punishing me for leaving, but the kids were nightmares. They wouldn’t eat their breakfast, wouldn’t let me dress them, wouldn’t listen to a single damn word I said.
This day was so not turning out the way I’d wanted it to. Henry was supposed to be home. We were supposed to wrangle the kids together, and hopefully talk more about our relationship. As tempting as Justin was, I really didn’t want to feel this way about him. I wanted to feel this way about Henry. I wanted us to have this same passion. And he needed to know that.
There was no way in Hell I was going to tell him about Justin. His jealousy meter would go through the roof, and he’d probably leave me right then and there. Or worse, kill me. He did tell me when we first started dating that if I ever cheated, he’d kill me. I’d taken it as a joke at the time, but after knowing him all this time, especially now, I believed he would do it. And with all his connections from work, I had no doubt he could get away with it.
I pushed that thought out of my mind, and did my best to handle the kids. But nothing worked, and by eleven o’clock, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I locked myself in the bathroom and just started crying. So many thoughts were rushing through my mind. I was a crappy mom. My marriage was clearly falling apart.
And when it hit me that I’d never have the passion with Henry that I wanted, that’s when I really broke down. We never made out. Not since we first started dating. That was the whole reason I decided to start dating him was because he was such a good kisser! And as soon as we moved in together, it never happened again. And the only times we ever had sex were when I initiated. He was always too worn down from work to want sex, let alone start it. I’d give anything for him to start petting me as soon as the kids went to bed, and just act like he wanted me, rather than making me beg for it.
I guess I never realized before how much I wanted that, how much I needed to feel wanted. And now that I did, by someone other than my husband, it just made me feel incredibly depressed.
After blowing my nose and wiping my tear soaked face, I called Henry.
“Yeah, babe?” he answered.
“When are you coming home?” I asked. “I really wanted to talk more about stuff today. And it’s almost lunch time, and the kids are just driving me insane.”
“I know, honey, I’m sorry,” he said. I could hear voices in the background. He must be in the middle of some meeting. “This is taking longer than I thought. I’ll be home as soon as I can. Why don’t you take the kids to McDonalds for lunch. They love that, and it might give you a bit of a break.”
That meant he didn’t plan on being home any time soon. Great.
“Okay, I’ll do that then. Please come home soon. This is important.”
“Ok—are you crying?” he asked.
Dammit, I must not have been hiding it as well as I thought.
“Why are you crying?” he pressed.
And the tears completely broke free and took over. “Because we need to spend more time together. We really need to talk about things, and I just wanted you home today. I didn’t want to be stuck at home alone with the kids like I always am. I’m just—” I sniffled loudly “—I’m just feeling very overwhelmed right now.”
Silence on his end for a moment.
Then he sighed. “I’ll be home this afternoon, then we can talk about whatever’s bothering you. I promise.”
When I hung up the call, I saw a text from Justin that had just come through.
JUSTIN: GOOD MORNING, PRINCESS. HAD ANOTHER SEXY SHOWER THIS MORNING. I HAVE A FEELING I’M GOING TO BE VERY CLEAN FROM NOW ON LOL
For the first time that day, I smiled, tear-streaked face and all.
VEE: YOU GONNA KEEP CALLING ME PRINCESS?
JUSTIN: YES, I THINK IT SUITS YOU.
VEE: WHY IS THAT?
JUSTIN: BECAUSE YOU DESERVE TO BE TREATED LIKE ONE.
And I burst out crying again. How was it that this wonderful new guy could feel that way when my own husband didn’t?
VEE: I WISH MY HUSBAND COULD SEE IT THAT WAY. HE LEFT ME ALONE WITH THE KIDS ON HIS DAY OFF, AND THEY’RE BEING HORRIBLE, SO I’M HOLED UP IN THE BATHROOM CRYING.
Why did I tell him that? I didn’t want him to know what a mess I was. And yet, I felt safe with him. I felt like I could tell him anything.
JUSTIN: I’M SO SORRY. DO YOU WANT TO TALK? YOU CAN CALL ME ANY TIME. MY WIFE IS HOME, BUT I CAN SAY IT’S A WORK CALL.
VEE: NO IT’S OKAY, I DON’T WANNA CRY YOUR EAR OFF LOL
JUSTIN: WELL, MAYBE I CAN MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER IN ANOTHER WAY. I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT YOU.
Maybe it was just because I didn’t wanna keep feeling so shitty, but I wanted that. I wanted him to pull me back into our web of lust and passion, just so I could climb out of this pit of despair.
VEE: I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT YOU EITHER. I HARDLY SLEPT ALL NIGHT FROM WANTING YOU SO BAD, AND WHEN I DID SLEEP, I DREAMT ABOUT YOU.
JUSTIN: I CAN’T STOP WONDERING WHAT YOUR SWEET PUSSY TASTES LIKE…
I closed my eyes, my hand automatically going between my legs to rub the ache away. I imagined his head there, what his stubble would feel like on that sensitive flesh. His tongue parting my folds and flicking at my clit.
VEE: GOD I WOULD LOVE THAT! MY HUSBAND HASN’T DONE THAT IN YEARS.
JUSTIN: I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL, I PRETTY MUCH HAVE TO BEG MY WIFE FOR ANY KIND OF SEX. FORGET ABOUT BLOW JOBS!
VEE: I’M ACTUALLY QUITE GOOD AT SUCKING COCK. I DO THAT FOR MY HUSBAND AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK. I’D SO LOVE TO SUCK YOUR COCK.
JUSTIN: OK, THAT’S IT, I’M GETTING ON A PLANE TO L.A. RIGHT NOW!
Instantly, fear shot through me. Yes, I wanted him more than anything I’d ever wanted, but could I really go there? Right now, we were just texting, just talking about naughty things—and it was insanely fun! But would I actually take action if he was right in front of me?
For how much I regretted not kissing him at the airport, not sleeping with him the night before that, not doing any of the things I wanted to when he was right in front of me, yeah, I probably would, and I didn’t think I’d regret it either.
JUSTIN: I’M JUST KIDDING LOL NOT THAT I DON’T WANNA SEE YOU AGAIN, BUT I’M STUCK AT A BLOCK PARTY RIGHT NOW. I KEEP LOOKING AT ALL THE GIRLS, AND MY HEART STOPS EVERY TIME I SEE ONE WHO LOOKS LIKE YOU, EVEN THOUGH I KNOW IT COULDN’T BE YOU.
VEE: YOU’D REALLY WANT TO SEE ME AGAIN? CUZ YEAH, THE THOUGHT OF NOT EVER SEEING YOU AGAIN BREAKS MY HEART.
JUSTIN: I’M SURE WE’LL SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN SOME DAY. I DO FEEL KINDA GUILTY FOR FEELING THIS WAY ABOUT YOU, FOR TEXTING YOU LIKE THIS. BUT I CAN’T STOP.
It was still so unbelievable that he felt exactly the same way I did. Was this fate? Were we supposed to find each other like this?
I didn’t want to think about that.
VEE: I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. ONE MINUTE, I’M THINKING, THIS IS WRONG. THE NEXT, I’M SCREAMING IN MY HEAD “FUCK ME, JUSTIN!”
JUSTIN: GOD I’D LOVE TO HEAR YOU SAY THOSE WORDS!
“Mommy, I’m hungry,” Sam called outside the door.
Ugh. Right. I’m a mom. Okay.
I composed myself, got out of the bathroom and took the kids to McDonalds. And the whole time they were playing in the play place, I was playing on my phone with Justin, soaking in a pool of lust and moisture. If I was going to keep doing this, I’d have to start wearing panty liners or something, seriously! And I kinda intended to keep doing this.
VEE: ARE YOU OKAY WITH THIS? DO YOU THINK WE CAN TEXT LIKE THIS AND STILL FIX OUR MARRIAGES?
JUSTIN: HONESTLY, I DON’T KNOW. I’VE NEVER FELT LIKE THIS BEFORE. AND I DON’T WANNA STOP!
VEE: NEITHER DO I.
JUSTIN: I’VE BEEN WALKING AROUND THIS PARTY WITH A HARD ON FOR THE LAST TWO HOURS. FINALLY STEALING AWAY TO THE BATHROOM.
VEE: WISH I WAS THERE WITH YOU. IMAGINE ME GETTING DOWN ON MY KNEES RIGHT NOW. CUM IN MY MOUTH, BABY.
His response didn’t come until a few minutes later, and I knew that must have meant he was enjoying himself. And I fucking loved it!
JUSTIN: FUCK, I DON’T WANNA GIVE THIS UP!!!
VEE: THEN DON’T. I LOVE MAKING YOU FEEL GOOD.
JUSTIN: WHEN DO I GET TO MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD?
VEE: IF MY HUSBAND DOESN’T COME HOME TONIGHT, AS SOON AS MY KIDS GO TO BED 😉
JUSTIN: I’LL BE WAITING VERY ANXIOUSLY.
Now I was almost hoping Henry wouldn’t come home. I hadn’t gotten to sate this desire since it began, and if I went much longer, I was going to get the female equivalent of blue balls. Blue lips? Oh great, now I was fucking fish!
When the kids were done playing, we went home, and I was on the fence about wanting Henry to be home or not. I did wanna talk to him. If there was any chance of bringing this passion into our marriage, I wanted that. Maybe if I could reignite any kind of spark, I wouldn’t feel so drawn to Justin. But at the same time, I wanted Justin to myself tonight. I wanted to orgasm thinking about him, and if I could do that interactively, all the better.
Justin stopped texting, and I assumed he’d gotten busy with his family at whatever party he was at. I was home with the kids, going out of my mind with boredom and near-teen angst. I hadn’t talked to Stacy since we got back. It might be a good idea to check in with her.
VEE: HEY STACE. ARE WE OK? I FEEL LIKE THINGS WERE WEIRD YESTERDAY, AND IT’S ODD THAT I HAVEN’T HEARD FROM YOU TODAY…
Stacy was a high energy person. She usually replied immediately to my texts, with about a dozen one-sentence texts. So it didn’t help ease my suspicions when I’d waited ten minutes with still no response.
It was about five o’clock, and Henry finally came home.
“The good news is,” he said as soon as he came in the garage door, “the case I was working on has been solved! The murder weapon was found in the guy’s lint trap of his dryer. Classic.”
“Okay, what’s the bad news?” I asked, unable to help but notice the rapid butterfly way he buzzed about the house, changing from his suit to street clothes in seconds.
“The bad news is that my dad broke down on his way to the mountains, so I have to drive three hours to get him, stay at least an hour to fix his truck, and then drive three hours back here. I’ll be gone all night.”
The anchor of hope I’d been leaning on all day sunk with a vengeance.
As if that weren’t enough, Stacy finally texted me back.
STACY: I’M YOUR BESTFRIEND, SO I HAVE TO BE HONEST. I’M NOT OKAY WITH CHEATING, IN ANY FORM, AND SENDING FLIRTY TEXTS, WHICH I KNOW YOU WERE DOING WITH JUSTIN ON THE PLANE, IS SO NOT OKAY! HENRY IS A GOOD GUY, AND HE DOESN’T DESERVE THIS. IF YOU’RE OVER HIM, THEN BREAK IT OFF. UNTIL THEN, IT’S JUST FLAT OUT WRONG TO FLIRT WITH ANOTHER GUY.
My face—hell my whole body—was burning with terror! Stacy was a very mild-mannered person. She never said anything to anyone that wasn’t meant to make them feel good. So for her to scold me like this meant that I’d screwed up big time in her eyes. And I was petrified by that fact.
Henry popped back into the kitchen from the bedroom, tying his sneakers as he hopped on one leg. “I know you wanted to talk, and I’ve epically failed with this day. Can we just raincheck for tomorrow?”
For the umpteenth time that day, I burst into tears. I’d just gotten told off by my best friend for the first time ever, and the most important talk I’d have with my husband got postponed again, plus I still had another three hours that I had to spend with the kids alone. I was in no mental state to handle any of this. So I cried. Like a fucking baby.
Henry dropped what he was doing—literally, he dropped his foot before he was done tying his other shoe—and rushed over to me.
“Vee, what’s going on?” he asked, putting his arms around me. “You’ve been acting strangely ever since you came home. If I didn’t know any better…I’d think something happened on your trip…”
Panic replaced the bottomless pit of despair I’d been wallowing in, pushing me up to defend my very raw self.
“What do you mean?” I asked, my eyes suddenly dry, all blood drained from my face.
He pulled a baseball cap over his short brown hair, his green eyes dead serious as they locked on mine. “What do you think I mean?”
I HATED when he answered my questions with another question! It always made me feel stupid, and I was far from stupid—IQ of one hundred and eighty, holder of a bachelor’s degree, fluent in four languages, two of them dead languages, could solve a sudoku puzzle in under a minute and a half. Yet still, Henry had street smarts, practical skills. If you were ever caught in a zombie apocalypse, he’s the one you’d want to be stuck in a warehouse with. And he never let me forget how inept at life I truly was compared to him.
I ignored the question, because I was both too angry and too vulnerable to answer it.
“Nothing happened, Henry,” I lied. “It just finally gave me time to think. And I really wanna talk about the things I realized.”
He looked into my eyes for a long moment. He may have been a detective, but my poker face was unbeatable, even for him. In the past, I’d only ever lied to Henry about small things: how much money a certain item of clothing cost, even if I paid for it with my own money, or how Jodie got that bump on her head a few weeks ago—I was talking to a mom friend at the park and didn’t see her about to fall off the monkey bars, but come on, no mom can have their eyes on their child twenty-four seven and remain sane! I know moms like that, moms who never let their kids out of their sight, and believe you me, those moms have WAY more issues than I do, and I’m on heavy antidepressants; but really, what mom isn’t?
Anyway, this was the biggest and most important lie I’d ever told Henry, and I pulled it off with flying colors.
Finally, he ended his death stare and pulled me against his chest. “Okay, I’m sorry. And I’m worried about you. I don’t know what’s going on, but I promise we’ll talk about it soon. Tomorrow night, okay?”
I nodded against his chest. As he pulled away and began to walk towards the door, he gave me a concerned look, and I couldn’t be sure what direction that concern was going. “I’ll call you when I get to my dad. It might be late.”
“Yes, call me. I’m sure I’ll still be up.”
“’Kay, bye babe.” Then he was gone.
FUCK! He was obviously suspicious that something intimate happened on the trip. If he got suspicious enough to call Stacy while he drove to get his dad, she’d tell him! And as each second passed, my fear that he’d kill me for such a betrayal doubled.
I panicked. It was not a proud moment. And I still regret it to this day. But I pulled up Justin’s text string.
VEE: I’M MAKING THE DECISION FOR US. IT HAS TO BE OVER. STACY JUST GAVE ME THE WORST LECTURE, AND I FEEL AWFUL. AS MUCH AS I LOVE WHAT WE HAVE, I CAN’T RISK LOSING MY HUSBAND AND KIDS OVER IT. I’M SORRY.
Then I texted Stacy, with speedy fingers.
VEE: I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU’RE UPSET AT ME, AND I REALLY HOPE THIS DOESN’T RUIN OUR FRIENDSHIP. I ENDED THINGS WITH JUSTIN. I REALLY DO LOVE HENRY. PLEASE DON’T TELL HIM. HE ALWAYS SAID IF I EVER CHEATED, HE’D KILL ME, AND RIGHT NOW, I REALLY DON’T WANT TO TEST THAT. PLEASE DON’T TELL HIM!!!
She didn’t respond. I spent the entire night freaking out that she’d tell him about my little indiscretion, and that he’d come home furious and kill me in my sleep. Not kidding. I really believed that.
JUSTIN: MAN THAT SUCKS. I UNDERSTAND. I NEED SOME TIME… ☹
VEE: I’M SO SORRY. I REALLY AM! PLEASE DON’T BE SAD! CAN I CALL YOU?
I hated the idea of breaking his heart, of making him feel bad in any way, especially after the hot, passionate day of sexting we’d had. I could only imagine how he felt right now. And I’ll tell you, I regretted it instantly. I think that was the first time I felt a twinge of love for him. I didn’t know it was only the beginning, and I unfortunately had much bigger things to worry about.
JUSTIN: NO, I CAN’T TALK NOW. IT’S OK. WE’RE STILL FRIENDS
His text ended with a crying emoji, and that just made me start bawling.
I was a mess! I’d screwed things up with Stacy by telling her about Justin, I’d screwed things up with Justin by over-reacting to Stacy’s shit, and my whole marriage with Henry was a shit-show! Everything was fucked! But why worry, cuz I probably wouldn’t live to see tomorrow anyway. Henry would call Stacy, she’d tell him what happened, and he’d kill me when he got home. He had at least six guns stashed around the house, but that’s not how he’d do it. Too easily traced. He’d probably stick me with some untraceable poison, or smother me with my pillow and bury me somewhere that he knew police would never look. Yep, why bother worrying about tomorrow. Tomorrow didn’t exist for me.
I was so beyond rationality at this point. I started drinking pretty much after Henry left, put the kids to bed at seven-thirty, and texted my author best friend, Tawny.
VEE: I’M FREAKIN OUT AND I NEED YOU. CAN YOU COME OVER?
TAWNY: SADLY, I CAN’T. I HAVE MY KID TONIGHT.
Dammit, dammit, dammit!
TAWNY: WHAT’S UP?
I briefly feared that Tawny may have the same response that Stacy did. After all, she was recently divorced, from a man that not only scared the crap out of her, but also cheated on her. But she was much more…real than Stacy was. She was a defense lawyer to high class criminals for years before she became an established author. She understood human pathology. And I didn’t have many other options for people to talk to.
I decided to tell her the whole story. The message took up three whole text messages, but Tawny waited for each installment, and longer, to send her response.
TAWNY: COULD THIS BE A SYMPTOM OF A MARRIAGE THAT’S HIGHLY LACKING IN SOMETHING FUNDAMENTAL?
I took another swig of my crappy canned beer and considered.
TAWNY: I WAS TEMPTED ONCE IN MY MARRIAGE WITH FRED, AND IT WAS AN EYE OPENER. WE’D HAD OUR PROBLEMS, BUT BEING SO POTENTLY ATTRACTED TO ANOTHER MAN MADE ME SCARED. SO I TOLD HIM ABOUT IT. TOLD HIM I FOUND MYSELF TEMPTED AND THAT I DIDN’T PLAN TO ACT ON IT, BUT COULD WE WORK TO GET CLOSER? ALL HE DID WAS ACCUSE ME AND SLANDER ME. THAT WAS ULTIMATELY THE BEGINNING OF THE END…
I gulped and nearly choked.
VEE: I DON’T WANT THIS TO BE THE END. I DO REALLY LOVE HENRY. AND HE’S NOWHERE NEAR AS BAD AS FRED. RIGHT?...
TAWNY: CAN YOU POSSIBLY TALK TO HIM ABOUT THIS?
VEE: OH NO WAY! HE TOLD ME WHEN WE FIRST STARTED DATING THAT HE’D KILL ME IF I EVER CHEATED. AND I FEAR STACY MAY HAVE TOLD HIM, CUZ SHE SCOLDED ME THEN NEVER RESPONDED. SO YEAH, IF YOU DON’T HEAR FROM ME TOMORROW, IT’S PROBABLY CUZ I’M ALREADY SIX FEET UNDER IN SOME WHOLE SOMEWHERE.
I snickered at the dark humor of it all, mostly because I was very drunk at this point.
TAWNY: WHAT?! BUT I HAVE A 12-BOOK SERIES I NEED YOU TO COVER!!!
In a drunken stupor, I burst out laughing at the top of my lungs. I laughed so hard, I practically fell off the couch onto the floor, gleeful, oblivious tears rolling down my cheeks.
TAWNY: I CAN’T TELL IF THIS IS DRUNK TALKING OR SERIOUS. DO YOU REALLY THINK HE’D KILL YOU IF HE FOUND OUT?
I picked myself up off the floor and wiped my face. I didn’t want to scare her unnecessarily, but the truth was, I really was bone-deep petrified that Henry would come home in the middle of the night and I’d never see daylight again. And if that was going to happen, I needed to make certain plans.
VEE: YES, I TRULY DO. HE HAS THE MEANS TO DO IT. AND HE’S A DETECTIVE FOR GOD’S SAKE.
TAWNY: MAYBE I SHOULD COME OVER…
VEE: IF SOMETHING DOES HAPPEN TO ME, DO ME A FAVOR—PLEASE USE WHATEVER LAWYER STRINGS YOU HAVE TO MAKE SURE HENRY DOESN’T GET PENALIZED FOR IT. IF HE KILLS ME, I DESERVE IT, AND HE’S THE BEST THING FOR MY CHILDREN.
TAWNY: FIRST OFF, NO, YOU DON’T DESERVE IT, AND SECONDLY, THE BEST THING FOR YOUR KIDS IS YOU!
I knew she was right. But still, confronted with the very real possibility of getting caught, I finally did feel guilty, and I was beating myself up for it. Henry wasn’t always around for our kids, but when he was, he was a great dad. If I didn’t make it through the night, I couldn’t stand the thought of our beautiful little ones ending up being raised by anyone other than him. Man, I really was fucked up!
TAWNY: CAN YOU CALL HIM AND SEE IF HE’S HEARD FROM STACY?
I wiped my nose messily on my shirt sleeve.
VEE: I’M TOO TERRIFIED TO FIND OUT.
TAWNY: BUT AT LEAST THEN YOU COULD MAKE A RUN FOR IT. TAKE THE GIRLS TO MY HOUSE FOR A SLEEPOVER. PLEASE DON’T PUT YOURSELF IN A SITUATION TO GET HURT.
I pondered for a moment, trying to think through the inebriated haze in my head. I glanced at the time on the top right of my phone screen. It was ten-fifteen.
VEE: I’LL JUST TEXT HIM. HE SHOULD MAKE IT TO HIS DAD PRETTY SOON, IF HE HASN’T ALREADY. I’LL JUST ASK HIM TO CALL ME WHEN HE’S HEADED HOME.
TAWNY: OK, BUT SERIOUSLY, IF YOU HEAR ANYTHING SUSPICIOUS, GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE!
VEE: I PROMISE I WILL.
I pulled up Henry’s text string.
VEE: HEY BABE, LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU’RE HEADING HOME SO I CAN FINALLY STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOU AND GO TO SLEEP LOL
I waited on the couch for thirty minutes or so, trying to focus on re-runs of How I Met Your Mother. But I couldn’t focus, and despite the buzz of fear sizzling through me, the copious amount of alcohol I’d downed was making me very tired. I turned off the TV and settled into bed, keeping my phone next to me so I could hear the minute he called.
I tossed and turned in bed for what seemed like hours. Every time I started to fall asleep, I’d hear a sound outside the room that made me startle awake, fearing it was Henry, or I’d had a nightmare that he was on top of me with his hands around my neck, cursing my name.
It was horrible.
Henry’s ringtone made me shoot up in bed. With fumbling fingers, I answered it.
“Hey babe,” I said in a dramatized sleepy voice.
“Hey honey, just letting you know we got the truck fixed and are finally heading home,” he said, his voice betraying no signs of suspicious or anger. He just sounded very tired. “I probably won’t be home for another three hours, so don’t wait up anymore, okay?”
“Okay, baby, I love you. Drive safe.”
I set the phone aside with the heaviest sigh I’d ever given, then lay back in bed. If he had called Stacy, I would have been able to hear it in his voice. There’s no way he could remain calm. So I was safe, for now.
The fear was gone, for the most part, but my heart was still racing. I sent a quick text to Tawny that things seemed ok and that I’d text her in the morning to let her know I was still alive, then closed my eyes and prayed for the nightmares to stay at bay.