Is it best to be tough or smart, which has the best traction with Carol? The story almost stands on it’s own, but it’s better to read the earlier chapters.
“What now?” Carol said again. The hug and the beginning of an explanation meant a lot; it meant the difference between divorce and rebuilding. Mao once said a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Had we just taken that first step? I felt euphoric and fragile at the same time.
“We take it easy,” I said, “we enjoy your days off and we talk; talk a lot I think.” I kissed her again. “Is that okay with you? We can take as long as it takes but don’t answer your phone.”
“Dean or Jay may try to ring.”
“But they know you’re home.”
“Sure but they may be desperate. Right now they’re getting fired for debauchery on work time.”
“What I said.” I led her back to the table and moved to sit where she could see me. “Your notes made it obvious that you’d all be in trouble if your big boss found out, so I did the obvious thing, I went to see him— barged in and insisted on talking. If those guys had shown me any respect I might have played it different.”
Her face was a picture; every kind of doubt running around all over her. I prayed I wasn’t taking us back a step but by now the clock on the wall told me the damage was probably already done.
“I guess you weren’t listening. I can play you Dean drinking my best whisky and slagging me off, not once but at least a dozen times. He thinks I’m a complete bozo.”
She started to speak but I held up a hand. “You defended me, at least some of the time, I know that, but look at those pictures in the other room or I can play you the clips. Both of them thought it was fun to take advantage of me because I wasn’t there. They were laughing at me because they were doing whatever they fancied to you in my house. I bet they’re not laughing now.”
It took a moment for her to catch her breath.
“Yeah. I told your boss that Dean was exploiting his relationship with you to wreck our marriage and doing it on company time. Jay was using company equipment to record pornographic videos of you and some of that was on company time too.”
She took a deep breath. “Am I fired too?”
“No, I convinced him that you were the victim…”
“Can we talk about that later.”
“You mean there is a but?”
“There may be. We need to get clear about you and me first.”
“Meaning what? You seem to have all the cards right now.”
“Do you…” I had to stop. My whole life was on the line. I was starting to regret hitting her so hard, but I knew I had to keep going, to hold it together. I dare not stop until I was sure we’d moved on enough.
“Take this man to be your lawful wedded husband?” she said, the first hint of a twinkle coming back to her eyes. That was such a relief; familiar and reassuring, she always could tell what I was thinking.
“Yes… Do you? Sorry,” I said. “I’m scared shitless. I’m mad as hell at those guys, but I’m not mad at you. I don’t know how to be mad at you. I… I’m… I’m struggling to say this. I don’t want you to leave, but…Oh God.” I took a deep breath. “I want you to stay, but it’s up to you. I think, maybe I could have coped if you’d talked to me… if I knew why… if I had some say.” I stopped for another breath. “But if you can bear to stay… to work with me on this… I think we could make our marriage more exciting, if that’s what you need… if that’s what it takes.”
“Well done,” she said, brightening up a little more. “That looked like it was hard work.”
That actually made me feel better. The shake had gone out of her voice— not totally cool and business like the way she could be, but calmer.
By then I’d sat down. I was shaky and needed the stability. I had both elbows on the counter and was holding my chin in my hands. I forced myself to raise my head and look at her.
“I feel bad about Dean and Jay,” she said.
“Does that mean you care about them? Love them?”
“No, no, no, it’s not like that but… well you know… I’ve worked with them… I know them.”
“They must have known the risk.”
“Yeah, but knowing and having it happen…”
“Sorry,” I said. “If you’d talked to me, if I’d known—”
“You’d have gone along with it?”
“I might have come at it a different way, talked to them or something, but if you’re not staying it doesn’t matter.”
“I want to stay,” she said. “I do, I really do and I’m so so sorry. I was so bothered about hurting you it never crossed my mind to simply trust you. I so underestimated the man I’m married to. I’m such a fool.”
I tried to hold my nerve, keep a straight face, she was telling me what I wanted to hear, but could I trust her? Try as I might I knew it would take more than a few words to seal the deal. For now I lost nothing by listening and being supportive.
She smiled weakly at me for a moment. “I was cheating; cheating you, cheating work, cheating myself really, making it taboo, risky— it made it more exciting. I never thought anyone would find out. I didn’t want you to find out. I should have been more careful.”
“It may be for the best. Did you enjoy it?”
“I did.” She sighed and glanced around the room and catching her breath again. “Oh God,” she said and gave me a rueful look, pointing at the pictures. “I can’t exactly deny it can I? That doesn’t look like someone who is saying no.”
I kept quiet, waiting. I’m not sure what I was waiting for. It sounds crazy but that was as far as the script in my head ran. From here on we were into unknown territory.
“I never imagined this conversation,” she said, pausing again, running her fingers through her hair and looking up to make eye contact again. “Even more foolish of me wasn’t it. Any competent cheater would have thought about it, had excuses ready… It was illicit fun, I wasn’t going to get caught because it was always while I was miles away or you were miles away.” She stopped for a second.
“This was somewhat closer to home,” I said pointing at our walls.
She nodded and cried some more. “I got carried away, it was too easy. I never imagined… Honestly, if I’d wanted to leave I could have used the job as an excuse. Gone to work, gone away, not come back…”
“Did that cross your mind?”
“Yes…Yes of course it did. Thinking about it, imagining talking to you about it was hell. I couldn’t get you out of my head— out of my heart. I couldn’t imagine not having you to talk to, to come home to. I couldn’t walk out and leave you.”
I nodded. It did make some kind of sense. Who knows what temptation can do and although she couldn’t see it, I was becoming surer by the minute that a lot of this was Dean’s doing, she was a willing partner, but he broke the ice and kept pulling her in.
“What happens now?” she asked.
That must have been the third or fourth time she’d said that… it started to dawn on me that she had no plan… why would she— she didn’t expect to be found out.
That put the onus back on me, I had to find a way out of this. I tried to get my head in gear. Two things dawned on me; number one, I was never going to be as good a lover as she could find elsewhere, unless I could raise my game in ways I’d never imagined.
Dean and Jay had to be out of it— no way it was ever going to be them, but she must know now that she could get better than me, so staying with me meant settling for some sort of second best unless I could find a way forward.
That was bad enough but number two was that I’d outmanoeuvred her, run rings around her so she wouldn’t risk trying to deceive me again. If she was to have a better life and stay with me then I had to figure out how, and I had to be part of it. Somehow I had to do whatever it took to make her want to stay without making her feel trapped.
“Does Dean know it was you?” she asked.
“He’ll be able to guess soon enough.”
“He’ll come for you.”
“Come for you, you mean,”
“That too,” she said, but he’ll be mad at you.”
“I did think of that. A courier will be delivering some documents and a dvd to him any moment now, plus a version of what you see here. With luck, he’ll enjoy the movie but there is a very legal sounding letter with it that says that if he comes near either of us then his wife, a few friends and anyone he works for again will get the whole package.”
“So she doesn’t know?”
“I don’t think so, at least judging by her body language at the barbecue. Did Dean ever say she knew?”
“No… No, I did ask him when he invited us to the barbecue. I needed to know before I met her. He told me to keep quiet.”
“Yeah, that makes sense,” I said. “I think he enjoyed the feeling of power, having you on a string and his wife there and me too. He must have been gloating inwardly the whole time. Maybe I should have told her anyway.”
I looked at Carol to see if I was making things worse, but right then she seemed no different.
“As far as Dean goes,” I said, “if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there’s no point in backing someone into a corner he can’t get out of. He has to have a place he can stand and defend. I told him I was sorry he got fired and sent him a cheque; told him to tell his wife the company had been restructured and he’d been let go. I gave him four months pay.”
“Four months pay? Where did you get the money?”
“I made a settlement with your boss.”
“Did you do the same for Jay?”
“Roughly, yes. I paid him the same and said he wouldn’t like where I sent the videos.”
For a minute she sat taking this in, looking at the table, shaking her head. “Bloody hell,” she said eventually. “The more you tell me the dumber I look and the smarter you turn out to be.”
“Whatever…” I said. “I had to do something, I was fighting for my life. I’m sorry I spoiled your fun. If I’d known you wanted to stay, if you’d told me…”
“I didn’t want to hurt you. I know I was cheating, but I couldn’t imagine how to tell you.”
That was my turn to lapse into silence. What could she have told me?
“Yeah, I get it,” I said eventually. “You didn’t want to say I was no good in bed, that you could get better. It would have knocked me sideways…”
I actually laughed then.
“I know exactly how I would have reacted because I’ve been there when I read your laptop. If you’d been telling me face to face you would have seen the hurt but it might have helped me…” I breathed out slowly, at least I’d managed to say that, to get it out in the open. “What’s done is done but there’s no getting away from Dean being better in bed. Is that so hard to say?”
“Even if it’s true?” I glanced at her and she managed to force a grin.
“If you were a cruel person I guess it would be easier, huh?”
She picked up the cue. “So I’m not a cruel person?”
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s why I love you.”
“A cheating not cruel person,” she said.
“A nice person, but even being nice isn’t easy…” I said. I knew I had to get this going forward again, recriminations, even with a few laughs didn’t amount to progress. “Where did you see it going? I mean, if I hadn’t found out?”
“Does that matter now?”
“I think it does,” I said. “Partly I’m curious, but I need to figure out where we’re going. Did you plan to keep on with Dean and Jay forever? Sooner or later something would have blown up, either I’d have found out or his wife would have, or maybe he’d have wanted more. Or Dean and Jay would have fallen out. How did you see it going?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t think. It was easy, because my job changed, the travelling, being away, it was easy. I thought it was safe, you were miles away. It was new, it was a kind of freedom, part of being promoted, a step up into the high life. I just didn’t think.”
“You’re pretty good a thinking most of the time.”
“Cheating takes up so much energy, it’s like living two lives at once, even if they are mostly separated— you might phone any moment, or at home I might let something slip, there’s no energy left for thinking ahead.”
“I never thought of it like that,” I said, “but it makes sense. The thing is when I watched those tapes I can see he was getting possessive as well as arrogant. What would you have done if he wanted you to stop having sex with me? What if he wanted to get you pregnant?”
“Sorry love. That’s what happens with guys like him. I’ve read stuff on the internet. Those kinds of bullies get off on that. Steal a man’s wife, fuck him over without him knowing. Knocking up the wife is the ultimate triumph.”
“I could show you.”
“Did you really read stuff like that?”
“Seriously. After what I found on your laptop, doing research seemed essential. I can show you. You want to see?”
Her eyes filled with tears and for a second all she could manage were a few shuddering sobs. “That must have been awful for you,” she said, “picturing that happening to you.” She stopped for a second, closing her eyes a again. “I would have said no, believe me, I would have said no, I could never do that to you.”
“If you did try to say no that might not have stopped him. He could threaten to tell me. He doesn’t care if I chuck you out, it gives him more power. He is, or rather I think by now, he was your superior, one of your bosses. You’d end up… well… not in a good place.”
“I felt powerful,” she said. “That’s the crazy thing, I felt as if I had power over him.”
“Think back over all the things he pushed you into doing. Watch the videos. He was loving every minute and leading you on. In my house, drinking my whisky, doing whatever he liked with you.”
“I’ve been an idiot,” she said.
“So, what now?”
“What do I do if Dean makes contact?”
“Make a decision.”
“You’ll have a choice to make. You could tell me and I’ll send the package to his wife. That puts you on the spot because my guess is that she’ll be hurt— maybe not, but once it’s done there’s no way back. You could block his number, ignore emails and hope he gets the message. Or,” I took a deep breath, “if you miss him so much, you could keep his contact secret, not tell me and hope I don’t find out.”
I tried to make eye contact but she was still staring at the table. “I know he was better in bed than me, better on the kitchen counter too—“
“We never tried that did we.”
This time she tried to look at me.
I reached out to hold her hands. “I did try once, like I tried to get you to pay for pizza…”
“Oh God, and I did it for him.”
“Pretty much everything you wouldn’t do for me, you did as soon as he asked.”
“You’re right love,” she said. “Suddenly I’m seeing myself through different eyes.”
My watch pinged for a text message and then a second and a third.
“What’s that?” Carol said.
I picked up the phone, there was a message from her boss saying Dean and Jay were fired and one from each of my couriers saying my packages had been delivered to Dean and Jay.
“Sorry,” I said as I looked at the screen, but I couldn’t help smiling a little.
“They are both fired, and the packages have been delivered. There’s no way back now. Sorry.”
“Don’t be love,” she said, squeezing my hand. “You did what you had to do.”
Some of the edge dropped out of me. I guess any other day I’d have whooped for joy or said something daft like ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’ It didn’t feel like the time for anything like that.
“You know I’m never going to be arrogant and dominating like Dean or as big as Jay.”
“So?” she said.
“Now you know what’s possible I’ll never be good enough.”
“Don’t think that.”
“It’s true. Cocks don’t grow at my age.”
“Oh fuck,” Her voice was flat, unemotional, I couldn’t tell for sure what it meant but I had one more trick to play and now seemed like a good time.
“Those two aren’t the only cocks in the world,” I said, “there may be even better ones.”
Her eyes opened a little wider.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I can cope with you having fun so long as we’re okay, as long as I’m involved, as long as there’s no secrets.”
“How would that work, I mean…” she struggled for a moment, ”would you—“
“Would I want to play away too? No love, who would want me? and anyway where would I find better than you? You’ve got the anklet, you’re all set.”
She giggled again. “Seriously? You knew what that meant?”
“Research,” I said. “I’m a fast reader. Once I’d seen your laptop I needed to catch up quick.”
“I don’t know love. I can’t be trusted, maybe a quiet life would be a good idea.”
“Maybe for a while but in the long run… I think we have to do better than that. You fucking around isn’t the best plan in the world and I might find it hard… the point is whatever it takes we have to do together and I’d like to suggest some rules. No humiliating me, no diseases, no bulls taking over our lives. No lies, no babies. Entertainment or business only.”
“Your boss knows you flirt to get sales. He wouldn’t mind you going further, but only if your agent approves.”
“Who’s my agent?” For a second she looked puzzled “Oh,” she said, “of course— the only man I can really trust.”
She held my hands and studied my face for a minute, or maybe it was ten.
“You are serious.”
“I think so… No guarantees, I may not be as strong as I think. ”
“Can I make some rules too?” she said.
“One, anything I do with anyone else, I do with you too. Two, you bug me, or I bring them here. I have to prove myself to you.”
“Fair enough…” I took another deep breath. “How are you feeling now?”
“A little better… actually still guilty as hell and walking on eggshells, but better.”
“One more thing, if you can stand it.”
“Go on, I’m in your hands.”
“It’s two things really but aimed at one problem. You’ve obviously read some of this hotwife stuff, right?”
“In some of the material I researched the husbands end up wearing chastity cages while the wife is out to play, and they only get let out when the wife feels like it.”
“I don’t want to do that.”
“Sure, that wasn’t what I had in mind. They make things for women too. I think you should be locked in one until we can get you tested for anything you might have caught. Neither of us know what else Dean or Jay have been up to. If we’re starting over then it makes sense to start clean.”
“Why the chastity?”
“I figured if it works for guys then maybe it works the other way.”
“Sorry love, I get the testing but why the chastity. You can monitor me. I’m sure you’re up to that; you’ve been so clever so far.”
“Bear with me. When we start again I want you to be as frustrated and horny as hell, that’ll give me the best chance to be impressive. I may not be up to Jay’s standard but I want to have the best chance. Chastity is supposed to make guys randy and focussed on their partner, I’m hoping it has that effect on women too.”
Carol burst out laughing. “God you’re brilliant. Does it work? Have you researched it?”
“No, but there are lots of stories saying it works on guys. I thought it might be interesting.”
“You’ll be just as frustrated as me.”
She laughed. This time it was a slow amiable chuckle. “Are you going to get a cage as well?”
“Would you like that?”
You might think I’d be annoyed at having it thrown back at me but it felt okay and it was so good to be playing a game with her. “Yeah, why not,” I said, “and we can go to the clinic together. Chastity until the appointment comes through and then both go together.”
“And if I have caught something?”
“We get cured together.”
On that somber note we had breakfast— okay it was mid-morning by then and it was probably the strangest breakfast either of us had ever had, individually or together. Nothing odd about the food but Carol kept looking at me as if I was a stranger. We ate, I cleared up, we made coffee and settled in the living room. The pictures were still all over the walls. I was waiting for her to ask me to take them down but she didn’t.
“You went to a lot of trouble,” she said, glancing around the room for the fiftieth time. “How come you didn’t just change the locks and boot me out. I thought that was how these things are supposed to go down.”
“I thought seriously about that. I actually asked a lawyer as well as the private eyes who helped me set up. You know me, no stone unturned. When I had all the facts I thought what would be the point? I don’t own you; I love you. They’re not the same thing.”
“But I was unfaithful.”
“It depends on how you define that. There’s enough in your diaries to tell me that you didn’t want to hurt me. You cared about me, that felt like a kind of faithful.”
“Did you think about me when you were fucking Dean?”
For a second she looked like a frightened rabbit, or at least what I think a rabbit might look like. Her body froze.
I suppose I should have cried but in my head, I’d already been through that. “Not a fair question,” I said. “I can guess the answer.”
“I wish it wasn’t true,” she said.
“Did you think about Dean when you were fucking Jay?”
This time she laughed instantly. “No,” she said. “No I didn’t”
“Dean hasn’t taken over your life… Sorry,” I said. “Cheap shot. The thing is… actually I’m not sure how to put this, but I’ll have a go. If you were heavily into some other activity, it could be stand up comedy or amateur dramatics, something that got your endorphins going but for whatever reason I couldn’t do it with you. I could still enjoy you doing it. Enjoy you getting ready to go do it, talking about it afterwards. No one would think you were being unfaithful.”
“And you think sex could be like that?”
“Why not? It is for some people. What if you were an actress making porn movies? Would that be being unfaithful?”
“But you bugged this place…”
“When I read what you and Dean planned, I thought I had to know everything because you weren’t going to tell me.”
“When did you talk to head office.”
When I read your laptop. I thought you might be going to leave me, I felt threatened.”
“Threatened not hurt?”
“Hurt and desperate and definitely but threatened as well— if you left I couldn’t afford the house. I needed to cover myself while I got everything figured out.”
“This money, where is it?”
“I set up a separate account. I had to, I didn’t want a load of money complicating things.”
“I’m not getting any of it am I?”
“I needed to keep it secret until I knew you weren’t leaving; convince me of that and who knows. In a weird way you’ve earned it for me. If you hadn’t been screwing those guys I wouldn’t have the money.”
She sat looking at me for a long moment.
“So if you’d pimped me out to Dean and Jay, you’d have taken a big percentage.” She giggled, “Yeah, that’s only fair. You’ve outsmarted me every step of the way.”
“Don’t think of it like that, you were having fun, I was in survival mode. We weren’t competing.”
“I’m in love with a genius and married to him too,” she said. I started to react but before I could say I wasn’t that clever she stopped me. “I love it. It’s so sexy but in a different way. I need to keep you, not the other way around.”
I’m not sure what I said, so much relief was going through me I think I was incoherent. I found myself looking at her and smiling, a smile that included my head and shoulders and most of my chest.
“You should keep the money,” she said. “I didn’t earn it— earning is when you know you’re doing it for money. You did the earning, you keep it.”
She stopped for a moment and grinned so I knew I had a surprise coming. “Can we watch the movies? I want to talk you through them. Now I’ve gotten over the shock a little, I want to see them.”
“I have to be naked?”
“Got it in one.”
“And at some stage we order pizza?”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“And fucking on the countertop.”
“Not yet… not until we get tested, but you’re onto something there.”
Right then I knew how to lay the ghosts. Every place that Jay and Dean had sex with her, and in every position, we were going to do it, every word they spoke I’d say to her the way they said it. I’d remake the whole thing, move by move, frame by frame, lead actor in my own nightmare. I had the script. It would take energy and dedication but I could imagine it working, and it had to be more fun than scrapping all the furniture and redecorating or moving house.
She smiled. “You want to do what they did?”
“Totally, unless it was something you hated.”
“That’s the difference between you and them. They did what they wanted to do, whether I hated it or not.”
“It’s hard for me to do that.”
“That’s why I’m married to you not them.”
“But it’s why you’ve been screwing them?”
“Yeah,” she said, sighing. “Dumb isn’t it.”
“No,” I said. “I get that if we always only do what we both feel comfortable with, then we end up in a rut. Everything becomes predictable. We have to be able to surprise each other.”
“So you think those guys were my way out of the rut?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Mmmm, It took me places I’ve never been.”
“Right,” I said. “Places like the STD clinic.” I risked a quick look at her face. “Sorry,” I said. ” That was a cheap shot. I think I understand. I can work on that… I will work on that, but there may be times when I have to push you.”
“Scout’s honour,” I said. “But you may regret saying that.”
“Mmmm,” she said. “I guess that’s the point, but whatever you work out, don’t forget I don’t regret marrying you.”
There was something else in her voice, a hesitation. I had to know.
“There was something else in the back of your mind there? A but…?”
“No, well more another question, how much of your films has my boss seen?”
“I had to show him enough to prove—”
“That I was a cheating slut.”
“To prove some of it happened in work time.”
“But if he was that way inclined he’s getting a cheap thrill.”
“It’s okay love. I deserve it. It should make my next performance review interesting.”
“Be grown up about it,” I said. “He can’t make a move on you if he’s just fired two guys for doing exactly that. Stick with the idea that you were coerced and make sure he knows you and me are sticking together.”
“I’ll tell him I hope he enjoyed the pictures and ask him not to show his friends.”
“Joking, just joking. I’ll be a good girl.” She paused for a second. “Actually I need to be a grown-up don’t I.”
That made me feel a lot better. The text from her boss already told me that my money was in the bank and he’d destroyed the film. I had to give him credit.
“He’s a better man than that,” I said. “He’s already destroyed the films.”
I showed her the text. “But you do still need to be a grown-up.”
<a href=”https://www.lushstories.com/stories/novels/-getting-out-of-the-rut-chapter-5-.aspx”> Getting out of the Rut Chapter 5 </a>