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New Horizons

I thought I knew her... I was wrong.

 

 

I parked across the street from the house I formally called home. The exterior appeared unchanged after eleven months away. There was a time when I would pull up in this driveway and be filled with joy at the prospect of just being home with my family. Sometimes happiness is but an illusion, as I so painfully discovered.

As I sat there staring at 2200 Sycamore Drive, memories flooded my mind; memories I’d tried so hard to block out for nearly a year. When I had left, I was resolute that I would never return. However, I couldn't miss my son's college graduation. The old axiom “out of sight, out of mind” didn't come close to being true for me. All this time away did little to heal the pain in my heart.

At present, when I remember how it all started, it was almost a year ago on a Friday when it all began… the destruction of my marriage… all those lies and betrayals. Paula truly pulled the wool over my eyes. Thankfully, I was no longer blind.

 

 

-oOo-

One year ago…

Paula and I were about to celebrate our twenty-first wedding anniversary, and as usual I was perplexed as what to buy her. In the past, I would consider a trip, but she wasn’t keen on trips any more. The vacations we’d taken didn't exactly work out for her. I wouldn’t call her picky, just somewhat selective. The Alaska cruise had been crowded and too cold. The Yosemite trip was too hot and uncomfortable. Once, I rented a camper to see Yellowstone, but driving that monstrous vehicle had made Paula so nervous that she practically needed therapy by the time we returned home. Needless to say, a trip was out of the question. As far as gifts go, she didn’t want me to buy jewelry without her choosing it. I learned early on in our marriage to never attempt to buy her clothing—or shoes; that's a story in its self.

Maybe it was because I was frugal, but I always made my own greeting cards, which I did on that occasion. I couldn't see paying five bucks for a nickel card. I had booked reservations for four at the Olive Garden, and I knew without asking that Scott and Susan would be joining us. They were more like family than friends. Paula and I had known them since college. In fact, Scott was best man at our wedding, as I was at theirs.

After all those years together, there wasn’t much about any of us that was fresh or new. We were at a point in our friendship where we’d heard all the stories and jokes so many times that we knew them by heart. I can't say our life had become boring, just somewhat… familiar.

In my experience, I didn’t believe people accidentally fell into a routine lifestyle, but constructed it one blasé block at a time, opting for the security of the familiar versus the chaos of the unknown. Quite honestly, over the years I had lost the imagination to think outside the box like I did when I was young. When I first met Paula in college, she was a spontaneous wild and crazy girl that surprised me constantly.

But I digress… I opted to take the safe route and bought Paula a gift certificate.

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

Scott and Susan had arrived on time with a card and bottle of wine. Scott was wearing a hound’s tooth sport jacket with tie and charcoal slacks. Susan was adorned in a stunning new outfit that flattered her curvy frame. At the time, I couldn't remember her ever showing that much cleavage. I tried my hardest not to stare, but… I failed.

I shook Scott's hand and kissed Susan with a peck on the lips and said, “You look enchanting.” As I held her hand high, she giggled and took a spin.

“Hey, what about me?” Scott said with a smirk.

“Well, you look mighty handsome, stud.” I took his hand and raised it up. He also twirled around. We all laughed.

“So, Tony, where is your lovely bride?” Scott asked.

“Paula said she'd be right down. She bought a new outfit and wouldn't let me see it until she was ready. You guys want a drink? I seem to have a bottle of… Chardonnay,” I offered, after reading the label.

“I’d be delighted!” Susan beamed. “But Mr. Handsome here needs to drive. Why not save it for after dinner?”

I was about to say something when Scott whistled. I turned in his direction and saw Paula coming down the stairs. She left me… speechless. I could not believe she was the same conservative woman I lived with all these years.

She wore a stunning lavender dress that enhanced her curvaceous body. It hung just above the knee and was cut low enough to display her bountiful assets to their fullest. I was a bit overwhelmed. I knew she was depressed about turning forty last month, but tonight she looked ten years younger. In all our time together, she had never appeared bolder or sexier. From the look on Scott’s face, he wholeheartedly agreed.

“Oh my God!” I blurted out. “You're gorgeous!”

She smiled broadly, then proudly posed on the steps with a hand on her hip. I hadn't ever seen her sexier.

It suddenly occurred to me that they were all overdressed for the Olive Garden. Before I could say anything, Paula said, “I know what you’re thinking. I canceled your reservations and made some at Conroy’s for dining and dancing. When's the last time we all danced? At Josh's wedding?”

“How did you know I made reservations at the Olive Garden?” I asked. “It was supposed to be a secret.”

“Because, my dear, you did that last year… and the year before.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “You all knew about this change in venue? Why didn't you tell me earlier?”

Susan answered, “Paula and I went shopping last week for these dresses and planned out this whole evening in advance. It was supposed to be a surprise for you, Tony. Surprise! Happy anniversary!”

“Thanks... I guess. Let me go swap out this sweater for a jacket and tie.” I stopped on the stairs to kiss my beautiful wife, but she playfully pushed me away, saying I'd mess up her makeup.

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

We took separate cars because neither of our hybrid vehicles had adequate leg room in the back seat. During the drive over, I continued to gush over how gorgeous Paula looked. She seemed pleased by the attention. I knew she had put a lot of time into her appearance. However, I couldn't resist asking her, “Are you going without a bra tonight?” I tried to sneak a feel, but she knocked my hand away.

“What do you think?”

“I think you’re all natural this evening. Am I right?”

“Well, that's for me to know and for you to find out,” she responded with a giggle. “Just try to be the first.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” I raised an eyebrow.

She gave me a coy look and grinned. Her whole change in demeanor had all taken me by surprise. I was seeing a playful side of my wife I hadn't seen for many years. Suddenly, I felt off balance and didn’t know what to expect. But for some unexplained reason… I liked this bold side of her.

After we parked, I rushed around the car to help Paula out. Her shapely leg emerged first and the hem of her dress rode up to the top edge of her stockings. She seldom wore garters, though whenever she did, it was always incredibly sexy—especially when she’d do it just for me.

That night Paula seemed so much more self-assured. When she stood in heels, her five-seven height seemed closer to my six-foot frame. She looked like a tall leggy model as she strode confidently toward the entrance.

We met Scott and Susan at the host desk. Our table was ready with no waiting. The dining room was elegant with white table cloths and real China and silver service. Scott seated Paula while I seated Susan. I couldn't resist peeking down at Susan’s ample bosom as she sat. I had seen her in a bikini dozens of times, but somehow, she seemed sexier. Both Susan and Paula never looked more alluring.

The menu was extensive. At least it was in English, unlike that French restaurant we’d tried a few months ago. After studying our options, we all ended up ordering the special, which was a prime rib dinner with all the fixings.

The girls were busy chatting away when Scott asked me, “So, what do you think?”

“About what?”

“About our ladies—about this evening.”

“Well, our wives have never looked better, though I'm a bit nervous about what the plans are for the rest of the evening. Especially after what Paula told me in the car.”

“What did she say?” Scott said, moving closer to hear my reply.

Before I could respond, the waiter brought a large Magnum bottle of champagne and popped the cork with a bang. Two other waiters joined him as they sang an off-key version of “happy birthday,” inserting the word “anniversary” in place of “birthday.” The restaurant patrons joined in by clapping. I felt flushed with embarrassment.

During dinner, I could have sworn Susan had deliberately rubbed her ankle on mine. When I looked at her she gave no reaction other than a subtle smile. No matter how attractive I found Susan, she was off limits. For God’s sake, she was my best friend’s wife! I figured this was just some harmless flirting.

The conversation was light and the dinner was delicious. We talked about old times and we all laughed at our stupid jokes. I think that was because of the champagne, rather than our great sense of humor. I handed Paula the Hallmark card I made and she used a table knife to open it. After reading the sentiment, she saw the gift card.

“How sweet… a day at the spa for two. I didn't even know you went to spas, Tony.” She giggled.

“Don't be silly. I knew you wouldn’t want to go alone, so I bought a spa day for two for you and Susan.”

Paula stood and leaned across the table to kiss me. Her plunging neckline was open enough for anyone to view her full cleavage. Her kiss was lingering and fiercely provocative with a promise of more to come. I smiled and sat down, thinking about how I was going to have a great anniversary night ahead of me when we got home.

“I believe I need to thank you, also,” Susan said as she surprised me with an unexpected kiss. It was certainly more than a friendly peck.

“Holy shit! What would you have given me if I’d bought something really expensive?” I exclaimed, trying to keep it light. Everyone laughed. I thought the champagne was indeed starting to have an effect.

After some more light conversation, Paula abruptly stood and said, “Come on, let's move this party to the lounge! Tony, you take care of the bill.”

“Geez, what ever happened to the tradition of fighting over the check?” I asked as they turned to leave.

“What's the point?” Scott replied. “You always win.” He ismiled as he led the girls away with one on each arm.

I gave my credit card to the waiter and told him to add thirty percent for himself and ten dollars for the maître d'. As I sat there and waited, I poured the last glass of bubbly and thought about how strange this night seemed. I felt like the clueless guy at a party that didn’t understand the joke everyone else was laughing at. There was something about this evening that I just couldn’t put my finger on.

Oh, well. It's probably just the wine and my imagination, I thought.

 

 

-oOo-

 

When I finally entered the lounge, I saw Scott as he waved me over. The place was packed. He was standing in a booth at the far end of the dance floor. I maneuvered my way through the crowd toward him. Suddenly, I felt a pinch on my butt and jerked around to find my wife dancing very close with a young stranger who had his hand resting below her waist.

She smiled and said, “Tony, I would like you to meet my good friend… um…”

“Jason,” the young man said.

I reached out and gave him a firm hand shake. “Glad to meet you, son. I’m her husband!” Then in an act of possession, I took Paula’s hand and led her toward our table. She resisted a bit as I tugged her along.

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked. “What's gotten into you? That kid—Jason—had his hands all over you. He's young enough to be your son.”

“It's called dancing, dear,” she casually sighed. “You should try it sometime. You're no fun.” Clearly she was unfazed by my reaction.

As we headed toward the booth, the music changed to a Billy Joel song. I stopped and spun Paula around as we started to dance. Dancing was one of the things I did well, and there was something to prove. My wife and I were practiced partners. We moved in unison around the floor, swaying to the music. The lyrics to the song were perfect for the moment. I whispered in her ear, “Don't go changing. I love you just the way you are.”

“You're in rare form tonight, hun,” Paula replied.

I dipped her and said, “I was showing that kid there was more to dancing than shuffling around and grabbing at your ass.”

“You say that like it's a bad thing.” She giggled.

“You're incorrigible.”

She paused, held my face in her hands and said, “Tony, I love you completely. You know that?”

As we continued to dance, she laid her head on my shoulder and sighed. I took the opportunity to slide my hand under her breast. “Yep. Just as I thought. No bra… and I was first to find out.” I chuckled.

Second, actually. Jason already beat you to it.” She looked up into my shocked face and laughed. “Just joking, dear. I love making you jealous.”

I wasn't sure if she was joking.

After the music changed to an up-tempo song, I decided we'd sit a few out and headed back to the booth where Scott had bought us drinks. It looked like he ordered four strawberry margaritas. Those tasty little treats can really kick your butt, especially if you've already polished off a magnum bottle of champagne.

“Where's Susan?” I asked.

“She went to the ladies’ room. She’ll be right back.”

Paula reached out and pulled Scott to his feet. “Come on, Scotty, lets boogie! Ol’ stick in the mud wants to sit.”

They went out on the crowded floor and Paula seemed to be having the time of her life. I enjoyed seeing her have fun, even though she was being seductively flirtatious, swinging her hips and bumping with strangers. I couldn’t help but smile at her enjoying herself.

Shortly after, I noticed Susan returning from the ladies’ room and could tell by the jiggle of her bosom that she was now without a bra, also.

“Welcome back.” I stood up and took her hand.

“Thank you.” She smiled. “I was feeling confined. You don't mind me shedding some hardware, do you?”

“Of course not. I've always been a huge proponent of freedom.” I laughed.

“Talking about freedom… it looks like your wife is having a blast with my husband.”

I looked at the crowded dance floor and found them. I couldn't believe Paula was suggestively wiggling her butt against Scott’s crotch . I started to get up and intercede, but Susan grabbed my wrist and said, “Let them be. They’re just having some fun.”

“Doesn't this bother you?” I asked, looking for a reaction.

“Not at all. Since I don't dance, how about you and I go for a walk in the courtyard gardens? I really could use some air. We can take our drinks with us.”

Reluctantly, I followed Susan while still straining to watch Paula and Scott.

“Let it go, Tony. It will be fine,” she reassured me.

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

The evening was a typical warm California night, and the gardens were beautifully lighted with colored flood-lights. There was a three-tiered fountain in the center of a pond filled with Lily pads.

Susan took my hand and we walked down the garden path, passing under a rose trellis arch. She stumbled a couple times when her heels caught in the irregular flagstone walkway.

“Why don't we sit while we finish our drinks?” I suggested.

She sat on the slatted bench and replied, “Great idea. Let's sit before I break my damn neck. I'm not used to these heels.” She put her drink down and took off her shoes, placing her feet in my lap. “Would you rub my feet? Paula says you have amazing hands.”

“Oh, Paula talks about my hands, does she? What else does she tell you?” I dug my thumbs into the ball of her foot and ran them down the arch. I squeezed her toes as she moaned in pleasure.

“Pretty much everything,” Susan answered. “We've been best friends for twenty-two years, Tony. Girls talk... Oh my God, that feels so good! She's right. Your hands are magic.”

I separated her toes as best I could through her nylons and squeezed them. She continued to purr her approval of the foot massage.

“When you say you discuss everything, exactly what does that entail? Intimate stuff?”

“Mostly the intimate stuff, silly. The other things are not worth talking about.”

“Scott and I never talk about private things like that,” I said.

“Of course not, you’re guys. Guys talk sports and politics. Girls talk relationships.” She laughed.

“Well, thanks for the education—I think.”

“You know I love you and Paula, don't you?”

“Of course. And I love you, too—and Scott.”

“Tell me honestly, Tony. Do you think I'm pretty?”

It wasn't like Susan to fish for compliments.

“Susie, you are my best friend’s wife. I won't go there.”

“Forget all that. Speak as a man, not as a friend. Do you think I'm sexy?”

“Speaking as a man, I think you're pretty… and… sexy, too. That must mean you're pretty sexy.” I laughed at the cleverness of my statement.

“What if I wanted you to kiss me again like you did at dinner?”

“You mean like you kissed me? As much as I would love to… I can't. You know that.”

“Because we’re friends?”

“Yeah. That’s part of it.”

“After all these years, don't you ever think about me?”

“Of course I think about you. You're a beautiful woman. But I know nothing can ever come of it. I think we should discuss something else.”

“I sense that you want to caress more than my feet.”

“We can't go there.”

I was taken back by her bold statement. The more we talked, the more attractive she became. There was an epic battle going on within me. I couldn't put my marriage and friendship in jeopardy. I was paralyzed— unable to move because I knew if I let myself, I'd regret it.

For God’s sake, I'm a man not a saint.

“Okay, Tony.” Susan sighed. “I accept why we shouldn't, and I apologize for making you uncomfortable. I was just curious about how you felt about me.”

“It's complicated. I love Paula,” I replied, trying to gain control over myself.

“Thanks for your honesty. Let's go back inside.” Susan stood with her shoes in hand and hugged me.

She caught me off guard when she raised herself on her toes and tilted her chin up. I could feel her hot breath on mine. My will power fell away like autumn leaves. Her scent was intoxicating and my mind was spinning. A switch was flipped in a second as our lips met spontaneously. My pent-up desires gushed forth while my hands found a life of their own and roamed freely over her succulent body. Our passion seemed out of control.

 

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

We sat in the booth, waiting for Paula and Scott to return from the dance floor. I tried to maintain a minimum respectable distance but Susan scooted closer. Paula and Scott were both laughing as they walked back to our booth. When they sat down, Scott put his arm around my wife and gave her a squeeze.

She casually gave him a quick peck on the lips and said, “Thank you, Scotty for some great dancing. I had fun.”

A knot formed in my stomach while watching the casual intimacy between them.

Paula sensed my discomfort and asked me, “Come on, my handsome husband! It's your turn to dance.”

I took her hand and we danced a rumba to a Latin tune. Much to my luck, a slow song gave us an opportunity to talk.

“Paula, I know you love dancing, but could you tone it down a notch or two?”

“Why?” She frowned. “I'm not doing anything different than anyone else. Please control your jealousy, Tony. It really doesn’t suit you.”

Here we go again…

“You know I love dancing,” she added. “And we hardly ever do it anymore. When we were first married, we went to clubs almost every week. But after Bradly was born, I became nothing more than a maid and a soccer mom. You're aware I love to flirt after a few drinks. It's harmless.”

“You’re right. I'll try to take you more often. It used to be fun and I don't know why we ever stopped. I guess our lives just got too busy. By the way, you look ravishing tonight. Let’s go sit and have another drink.”

I didn’t want to argue with her, so I put on a smile and tried to prioritize my wife’s happiness in the moment.

After Paula and I finished dancing, we all sat and talked, then drank some more. When the crowd started to thin, I suggested we go back to our place for a nightcap. Scott said he wanted to stay and dance some more, and Paula wholeheartedly agreed with him. Then she suggested I go ahead and take Susan home and that they would join us later.

After my make-out session in the garden with Susan, I wasn't sure how I felt about being alone with her. However, Paula and Scott insisted we go. I had forgotten that Susan didn't dance. She must have been bored out of her mind. So, I agreed.

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

The car ride home was quiet and almost somber because my thoughts were elsewhere. I couldn't take my mind off Paula and her bizarre behavior—that and the garden kiss were foremost on my mind. Susan slid over next to me.

What have I done? Have I jeopardized my marriage on our twenty-first anniversary?

She noticed my angst and said, “What's the matter?”

“Nothing. I'm sorry. My mind was a million miles away. I was thinking how strange tonight has been.”

“If you're thinking about what happened between us, you know that kiss was nothing more than two old friends having a little too much to drink.”

“Maybe. But it seemed pretty authentic to me. Susan, I've never told you this before, but I had a terrible crush on you when we were in college. If you remember, I was extremely shy back then. The first time we met was at a frat party where we briefly chatted. I couldn't take my eyes off you.”

“I vaguely remember that.”

“Anyway, by the time I’d mustered up the courage to ask you out, Scotty beat me to it. Then… I met Paula. She was flamboyant and bigger than life. She was tired of waiting for me to make the move, so she did. The rest is history and we married a year later. This is like déjà vu for me. That kiss brought back a flood of memories.”

“That's sweet, Tony but that was eons ago. Tonight was just a kiss, so don't make too much out of it.”

As we approached the house, it was completely dark and I chastised myself for not leaving at least a porch light on. I opened the garage door and drove inside. When I entered my home, I turned on the lights and sound system. It just happened to be on a soft rock station.

I offered Susan a drink.

“I'll have whatever you’re having,” she replied.

“Okay. Beer it is.”

“That's fine.” She smiled.

I handed her a Sam Adams and we discussed her daughter Gina and my son Brad. We both only had one child and they had been dating since high school. Gina was every bit as pretty as her mom. Brad seemed to favor Paula more than me… with his thick dark hair and olive skin. At least he inherited my pragmatic nature.

After talking a while I asked Susan, “Would you like to dance?”

“You know I don't dance. I never learned. My folks sent me to a private religious high school that forbade dancing. I was embarrassed in college because I couldn't dance… so I avoided it.”

“How would you like to learn? Anyone can learn to dance.”

“Right now?”

“Of course. We’ll start with the basics.” I changed my sound system to softer dance music and then walked up to her, held out my hand, and asked, “May I have this dance?”

“I would be delighted, kind sir.” She giggled.

“Put your hand on my waist and follow me. This is a simple box step. We'll take it slow. Watch my feet and follow me. One, two, three, four, one, two, three four. That's it! Good job! It's the same going the other way back or forward. One, two, three four… See? Who said you couldn't dance?”

“Oh, Tony, you're a wonderful teacher! I can't believe I’m actually doing it!”

“You're a natural. Now try and feel the music in your movement. Relax your frame and sway to the beat… that's it. Perfect.”

We continued that for a while until I thought she had the basics. Then, I changed the music to a country western station and taught her the Texas two-step. It was a bit more complicated for her and some toes got stepped on, but Susan was giggling with delight. I held up her hand and she spun, then I dipped her and spontaneously gave her a kiss.

“I don't know why I've never tried this before,” she murmured. “Thank you, my dearest friend.” She returned my kiss.

“Susan, can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Does this evening seem a bit off to you?”

“I don't know what you mean,” she answered softly.

I stopped dancing and held her at arm’s length with my hands on her shoulders. She looked nervous as I looked intently in her face and studied her reaction. The mood was broken.

“You know exactly what I'm saying, don't you?”

Suddenly, I heard someone clear their throat. I looked around and found Scott and Paula smiling at us.

“Tony was giving me dance lessons,” Susan explained. “He taught me the box-step and Texas two-step!”

“If we hadn't shown up, Tony might have shown you how to dance the horizontal mambo,” Paula sarcastically expressed.

“Don't be ridiculous,” I said. “We were just dancing—nothing that came close to how you two were dancing at the club earlier… Practically having sex on the dance floor.”

“Touché, dear.” Paula grinned. “How about we open that bottle of wine?”

“I suggest we have some coffee instead. I think we've all had enough to drink.” I walked into the kitchen. “Paula, I could use your help.”

“I think you can handle a pot of coffee. It's not exactly rocket science, dear. Besides, I need to keep our guests entertained.”

“I'll help you.” Susan volunteered, following me.

I put five scoops in the filter, poured the water in the reservoir, and turned it on. It immediately started making that gurgling sound.

“Remind me to buy one of those quiet espresso machines.”

“Tony, I've had a wonderful evening. I just wanted to thank you.” Susan kissed me on the cheek.

I looked in her bright brown eyes and replied, “The pleasure was truly mine. Could you take out the mugs while I get the condiments?”

“I don't use condiments, I'm on the pill.” She chuckled

“Very funny.”

We walked back to the living room, carrying the service tray and noticed Paula and Scott move away from each other like a couple of teenagers that got caught making out. My wife looked flushed in the face, including her chest. Scott looked away and avoided eye contact with me.

“Time out,” I said. “I think you both need to drink some coffee and sober up.”

“What are you saying, Tony?” Paula stated defensively. “Nothing is going on.” She always took the offense when she was guilty of something.

“What I'm saying is that if our coffee pot was any slower I'd probably be serving you coffee in bed.” I laughed.

“Excuse me?” Paula raised her voice. “Be direct. What exactly are you implying?”

“I'm implying you sit over here with me, sweetie. What do you want with your coffee?”

After she seemed to calm down, everyone prepared their coffee as I announced, “There’s some important business that we all need to discuss.”

“Care to elaborate?” Scott asked.

“I'll start by saying that your daughter and my son came to my office today with a business proposal.”

“What kind of proposal are we talking about?” Susan inquired.

“It was a real estate proposal put together by Gina. She’s learning her stuff at college very well. Paula, could you take the manila folder out from under the magazines on the coffee table?”

She retrieved it and handed it to me.

“First of all, it’s no secret that they are in love, but they want to take their relationship to the next level and move in together.”

“How is that possible since they both live in non-communal dorms?” Paula said.

“That's where the real estate proposal comes in. Gina drafted up a proposal that we purchase a condominium close to the college. The money we save in double dorm fees will pay the mortgage payment easily, plus since it's a two-place condo we can rent the top unit out. Gina has also figured out the equity gain over three years. Her figures show that over the term of their education we come out way ahead.”

I opened the envelope and handed each person a copy of the proposal.

“However, I have another proposal,” I added.

“Well, let’s hear it,” Scott said.

“As you know, my business is doing quite well. I propose the corporation buy the condo outright and we use the upper room to house business associates from out of town. That way a portion of the rental is tax deductible. Gina’s proposal is solid, but this will deflect some of the taxes. What say you?”

Paula’s eyes lit up. “Our kids are moving in together?”

Just like my wife. She skipped over the business proposal and went straight to the relational.

“What about the real estate deal?” I said. “I need to give them an answer soon.”

After some more discussion, we all agreed it was a wise move. It seemed like yesterday we were changing diapers, and now we were faced with a pending marriage and probably becoming grandparents. We talked some more and I noticed it was after one in the morning.

“I think we need to call it a night, folks.” I yawned. “At least we can sleep well knowing our kids have taken their relationship to the next level.”

“What about us?” Scott asked.

“What do you mean?” I replied.

“I’m talking about all of us... Are we ever going to take our friendship to another level? We've known each other for what… twenty-two years?” Scott looked serious.

“Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?”

“Yes, I am, Tony. Susan and I have discussed this from time to time for years. Have you ever discussed it with Paula?”

Swinging? Not that I remember. However, from your actions tonight I'm fairly certain you discussed it with my wife. Am I right?”

“Yes, we did,” Paula interjected. “We were just talking, exploring possibilities—that's all.”

“Yeah, I could see his exploring hands.”

“Tony, I know you’ve had a crush on Susan for years, maybe since you first met her. Think of this as… letting you act out your fantasy,” Scott argued while Susan remained quiet.

“You mean acting out your fantasy,” I said. “My fantasy right now is to get some sleep. I am dog tired and want to go to bed. I think you’ll have to wait to get in my wife's panties another time.”

“You ass!” Paula shouted. “I don't like you accusing me of being unfaithful!” She angrily stormed off before I could stop her.

“I think this is probably the right time to call it a night. We'll discuss this another time while we’re all sober,” I said, holding the front door open.

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

Paula rejected my advances that night and gave me the cold shoulder for the entire week. She rebuffed every attempt I made to discuss that whole situation. I was still miffed by Scott’s bold offer to swap partners, and even more so when Paula enthusiastically agreed. I was starting to suspect something.

I received a text the following Monday from Susan:

We need to talk. Meet me at Starbucks now.

I replied: I'm working. How about after work?

No! Now! Very important! She seemed very adamant.

 

 

-oOo-

 

When I walked into café, I found Susan sitting in a booth with her laptop opened. Her knee was nervously bouncing and tears were streaming down her face. I knew whatever it was, it wasn't good.

I sat across from her and took her hands, patiently waiting for her to speak. She spent a minute just sobbing and shaking her head when I kept asking her what happened.

“Oh, Tony… this is bad. I don't know what to do!She sniveled.

“Take your time. I’m here for you.”

Still half crying, she blurted out, “Scott is cheating on me!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! Look at this.” She turned her laptop toward me.

I was shocked when I saw the picture of Scott in the act of sex with a woman who was obviously not his wife. Then I clicked the next picture and my heart dropped. The other woman was… Paula.

“Oh my God!” I gasped as I clicked one graphic picture after another. “I guess they made good on the swinging proposal,” I said in an angry but controlled tone.

“Tony, this was not swinging. Look at the date.”

I looked at the time stamp and it said: Nov. 8, 2009.

“Where did you find these?” I asked.

“They were on Scott’s laptop.

I can't believe he could be so stupid.”

“They were in a secretly encrypted file. Normally I would never pry into his personal files, but curiosity got the best of me. I asked Janice—you know how she works at an IT company—anyway, she helped me. It took her but a few minutes to remotely break the code.”

We both gasped as the files came into view.

“So, your friend saw these pictures?” I asked, feeling sick to my stomach.

“Yes, but she promised to say nothing. There’s so much more than these photos. There are love letters, emails, and videos going back years! How could I not have known? How could we not have known?”

“Susan, I'm in shock. Like you, I had no clue any of this was going on. But what I do know is that my marriage is over. There is no way to forgive this blatant betrayal by both my wife and supposed best friend. I'm shaken to the core.”

"This must be why Scott has been pushing swapping with me for months now. I couldn't understand why. I guess he thought if he could convince us to swap, they could come out of the shadows and we would suspect nothing. I don't know what to do. What we are going to do?” Susan broke down in tears.

I went to her side of the table and wrapped my arms around her, saying nothing. We were two wounded souls, sharing a common purpose. I kissed the tears from her eyes.

“This has taken me by surprise,” I said. “I don't know about you, but I'm going to contact my attorney. This is gonna be one hell of a mess. Paula is incredibly vindictive when confronted. For now, I'm gonna have to act like nothing happened until I figure this out. I suggest you do the same. Those pictures make me want to puke. I know my marriage is over.”

“Tony, I know nothing except being a wife and mother. I don't have an attorney, nor do I have a clue where to find one. How can I afford a lawyer? How will I live? I've never worked.”

I convinced Susan to copy all the files and not say anything to Scott while I got things started on my end. She was somewhat relieved when I told her that I would take care of her attorney and the cost. The first thing was to contact a divorce lawyer. After speaking to my corporate attorney, she referred me to an associate.

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

Mark Beguiler was a gregarious man at first impression. He was rather short and overweight but had an inviting smile. We shook hands and he invited me to sit.

“I guess I don't need to ask why you are here,” he said. “After listening to your voice mail, I'll be right up front and say there is nothing called an amicable divorce. I’m sorry for your situation, but this is a no fault state, which means you need not produce evidence of infidelity except when young children are involved. I see you filled out the questionnaire. Let's start with what you hope to gain from this.”

“What I hope is to rid myself of that lying cheating slut and never see nor speak to that cunt again!”

“Well, Mr. Stewart, that is easier said than done. From your questionnaire, you have considerable assets and your spouse doesn't have any form of support other than you. Along with your considerable investment portfolio and retirement, this is going to be a very costly settlement.”

“I thought this was a 50/50 state.”

“Tony—may I call you Tony?”

I nodded.

“Using simple math, even at an equal split, this is going to cost you millions. Then there is the issue of alimony. You’ll be lucky to settle for two hundred thousand a year.”

“So, I'm going to have pay the cheating cunt to dump her? I built this business on my own. She did nothing but spread her legs for whoever!”

“I might suggest an alternative strategy.”

“Like what?”

“I suggest either reconciliation or to just do nothing and figure out how to live with her. If she divorces you, then you will pay far less.”

The term “cheaper to keep her” was probably coined by a divorce attorney.

“Work out the numbers and I will decide,” I said. “Plus, I want to pay for the other aggrieved party in this. I included her information.”

We stood and shook hands.

“I’ll have the proposal ready for review by Friday,” Mark said. “Make an appointment with my secretary. I suggest that you bring Mrs. Morrison with you, also.”

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

I managed to hold it together around Paula, even though I despised the very site of her. Trying to act normal required a performance worthy of an Oscar. I was able to talk with Susan several times and encourage her to do as I had done and raise no suspicion from Scott.

On Friday we sat in Mark’s office and waited for him to retrieve his proposal. Susan was shaking with nervousness but managed to act calm.

“First of all, I'd like to point out how very different your circumstances are. Mrs. Morrison, your assets are minimal and except for sentimental items, there is very little to split. The second mortgage and credit card debt means it is likely you will be just splitting debt. I suggest if you move forward with the divorce you will need to find employment as soon as possible. Any alimony collected will be nominal.”

Susan couldn't speak. The tears started to run down her face. Mark handed her a box of tissues.

“Mr. Stewart,” he continued, “as we already discussed, your situation is from an economic perspective, precarious at best. Look at page four; this summarizes a best-case scenario for you. You can see the only one benefiting from a divorce is your wife.”

I looked at the summation and my mouth dropped open. She would get enough from me to buy a small island. Until this moment, I hadn't really considered my net worth. He pointed out that by changing my business from a sole proprietorship to an S corporation I’d made things worse for a divorce settlement. I had made Paula a corporate officer by title only. It was at that moment I started formulating my strategy. I thanked Mark for his advice and said I would let him know what to do within a weeks’ time. He suggested we shred our paper work or risk tipping off our spouses.

 

 

-oOo-

After dropping Susan off at her house, I immediately started executing my partially formed plan. I knew divorce was not an option and realized that simply played into Paula’s hands. Remaining married meant that I had control over the situation. A divorce would mean the court system would dictate how much financial compensation Paula received. While married I was in charge.

I talked to my accountant and gave him a list of changes to be executed on a given date. Among those changes was removing Paula as a signer on all my accounts. She was to be given five hundred a week cash and a twelve-hundred-dollar limit on her Visa card. All other cards were to be cancelled. She would be removed as a corporate officer and have no legal input into the business.

During the following month, Susan and I met several more times, avoiding phone calls or text messages so we would not tip off our spouses. The deception was getting easier, but I was running out of excuses to not have sex with Paula. Just the thought of it made me ill. She would parade around in revealing lingerie or nude, trying to entice me. I knew I couldn't delay my final phase of the plan much longer.

My plan was three-fold. First, was to execute the financial plan. Second, was to purchase the condo for the kids and set them up with a trust fund. No reason why their education should suffer because of stupid mistakes their parents had made. The final step was to confront Scott and Paula with our knowledge of their cheating ways and to spell out the consequences.

 

 

-oOo-

 

The restaurant was too busy with the lunch crowd to talk, so I suggested Susan follow me in her car to a parking lot overlooking the ocean on the PCH.

I opened her door and offered my hand to help her out.

“Come on, let's take a short walk. We have a lot to discuss.” I couldn't help but notice she had done her hair and makeup for our meeting.

“Lead the way,” she said, holding my hand as we strolled along the sidewalk by the lifeguard station.

“Susan, I want you and Scott to join us at my place after dinner. Tonight’s the night we unveil our plan.”

“I'm scared, Tony. Can't we wait a bit longer?”

“We can't wait. Paula is already suspicious—and this morning I told my accountant Alex to execute the financial plan. As soon as Paula tries to use any of her credit cards or access the ATM, she’ll be declined and will know something’s up.”

“So, this is really happening? Twenty years of marriage gone in an instant. I don't know what I’ll do. I've never worked. Scott's a cheating bastard, but he's always provided.” I could hear the sadness in her words.

“Susan, you'll do fine. Mark said the paperwork is ready. All you have to do is give him the word and Scott will be served. Plus, I have a proposition for you.”

“What kind of proposition?”

“My firm is offering you employment.”

“Your firm?” she asked with a smile.

“Well, actually… me. You have an undergraduate degree in business management. I'm offering you a job as my sales consultant.”

“Oh, is that so? And just what does this job entail?”

“How should I know? I just now made it up.” We both laughed.

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

Scott and Susan arrived at just after seven thirty. I put on a show of normalcy that could win an Academy award. I even gave Paula a quick hug and kiss, knowing it would be the last.

As soon as we were alone, Scott said, “Hey, buddy, I apologize for my behavior the last time we were together. We had too much to drink that night.”

“If I couldn't trust my best friend with my wife, who else could I trust, right? You would never do anything to jeopardize our friendship.”

“Right! Nothing more important than that,” Scott replied, avoiding eye contact.

“In fact, I've been giving a lot of thought to your proposal lately,” I whispered.

Scott's face lit up with a smile. “You mean about… you know what?”

I slowly nodded. “It’s been on my mind constantly. I even have some private pics and videos to show tonight.” I held up a DVD.

“I would never have guessed you would go for this. I can't wait!”

We chatted like old times while I acted as normal as possible.

Around nine, I ushered everyone into the entertainment room and suggested Scott and Paula sit together.

“Everyone comfy? Anyone need another drink?”

Scott looked impatient and said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we are good. Put on the video!”

I opened the tray and inserted the disk, then went behind the couch and aimed the controller at my eighty inch 4K screen. I pushed play and the big screen flickered as photos started showing in progression. First were some photos added from our home collection showing the girls in bikinis.

“I remember that!” Paula exclaimed. “Our trip to Hawaii! That was ten years ago.” She giggled.

A few more group photos went by before Scott and Paula gasped in unison as the picture on the screen clearly showed my wife sucking Scott’s cock.

“This is one of my favorites,” I sardonically expressed. “This or the one of you fucking my faithful wife's ass. Funny that she never let me touch her there.”

Scott leapt up trying to grab the controller, screaming, “You fucking asshole!”

I held up the controller and easily pushed him back on the sofa. “Actually, you are the fucking asshole. I've got video evidence of it.” I chuckled.

The pictures continued to roll by. Paula sat silent with tears flowing down her cheeks as a video started to display Scott ejaculating in my wife's face. Susan walked over to Scott and stood in front of him. Then without warning, she slapped him in the face with a loud smack.

“I'm divorcing you,” she said. “I'm sending copies of this video to your parents and employer.”

“You wouldn't dare, bitch! It's not my fault that you're a boring fuck!”

Paula finally spoke up. “Shut up, Scott! I don't know what I ever saw in you…”

She looked at me with sad eyes while the video continued to broadcast her infidelity. I am so very sorry, Tony. I didn't know these pictures were being taken. I really do love you.”

“Take a look at the time stamp on these pictures. Some go back to ten years or more. You've been cheating and lying so long you have no clue what love is! Do you live in some alternate reality where you profess your love for me and then fuck someone else?”

“Tony… please let me explain. It–it was a mistake. With Scott it wasn't love. It was just… sex.”

“Bull shit! I've had dozens of opportunities through the years to cheat. Guess what? Unlike my supposed friend here I kept my dick zipped in my pants. Whatever marriage we had was over long ago when you spread your legs for dick-wad!.”

“You can't talk about me like that, asshole! If you were a real man, she wouldn't have come to me!” Scott shouted and tried to stand with clenched fists but I put my palm on his forehead and easily pushed him down on the sofa.

“Are you serious?” I scoffed. “You're going to give me a reason to beat you senseless? Just sit there and say nothing.”

“What are you going to do, Tony?” Paula asked through teary eyes.

“That is a good question. I need time to think. I never make good decisions while I'm angry, and trust me… I'm as angry as they come right now. I contacted my financial manager and have instituted some changes to my accounts. I'm going to take a sabbatical and carefully consider my options. Paula, you will receive a list of financial parameters that I consider generous under the circumstances. I've already talked to Brad and Gina and bought the condo for them. I shared nothing with them about this unsavory drama, but they are both smart kids and will figure out that something is amiss.”

“You're leaving?” Paula asked in puzzlement.

“Yes. Don't ask where I'm going and don't try to call. I purchased a new phone and the only one that has my number is my chief executive.”

“Just like you to run away,” Scott stated.

I walked over and stood motionless in front of him before my knuckles found his nose with a splat. Blood gushed forth. Scott cradled his face in his hands and screamed, “You fucking bastard! You broke my nose!”

“Sorry, fuckface. I told myself I wasn't going to do that. I think your new nose might give you some character, and God knows you are sorely lacking that.” I chuckled as I walked toward the front door. “I’d love to stay, but my cab is waiting and I have a flight to catch.” I walked out the door with no intention of returning.

 

 

-oOo-

One year later…

 

I tapped on the door rather than attempt to use my key. I didn't consider this my home anymore and no one had a clue I was coming. The door swung open and Paula stood there staring, not recognizing me with a full beard and uncut hair.

“Can I help y—Tony! Oh my God! You're home!”

She threw herself at me as I stood motionless. She hugged me tight and attempted to kiss me, but I turned my face.

“Brad and Gina are here along with your mom and dad. Where have you been? I haven’t heard from you in a year! I tried to call you but they wouldn’t give me your number.”

“That was the idea,” I replied.

I stepped in the house and it was almost overwhelming. Nothing had changed… from the furniture to the pictures on the wall. The scent of the place made me feel as if I was home.

“Dad!” Brad came running and almost knocked me over. Gina followed closely behind him, kissing my cheeks. I hugged them both.

“I love the look,” Brad said, pulling on my beard.

I held him at arm’s length and evaluated him. “You've filled out, son.”

“It's her fault”—he glanced at Gina—“She drags me to the gym every day.”

I gave her a thumbs up and asked, “Where's your mom?”

“She'll be here after she gets off work. Her boss is a real slave driver.”

“I need to go clean up for your ceremony,” I said. “I've been on the road for a few days.”

I walked into the master bedroom, followed by Paula. As I opened my closet, I found my suits, shirts, and underwear exactly as I’d left them, and my toiletries were still in place.

“If you want to take a nap after you clean up, go ahead,” Paula said. “And if you want me to join you… I will.” She simpered.

“I resisted sleeping with whores for a year. Why would I start now?”

“Tony, that is uncalled for! I'm still your wife. I haven't seen Scott since you left.”

“Well, kudos to you for that, but what about Bob Sanders, Matt Dickerson, and Carl Bukowski?” I asked smugly.

Her face went pale as she said, “You've had me followed?”

“Of course! I needed to see whom I was married to. I have a feeling that your affair with Scott was more you than him. You fooled me once, but never again. By the way, I had DNA tests done to assure Brad was my son.”

She gasped.

“He is. Now leave me in peace while I clean up.”

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

The graduation was wonderful, watching Brad and Gina receive their degrees: Brad in Science and Gina in Business management. They decided on an August wedding. I don't know how much they knew about what happened between me and Paula, but they were smart and were sure to figure it out. Their graduation gift from me was for me to pay for their graduate school. Plus, they had open job offers.

 

 

-oOo-

Three weeks later…

 

I sat back and watched Susan sunbathing in the nude on the fantail, as I trimmed the sails on our new yacht. During my time away in Florida, I learned to sail and scuba dive. When I purchased the boat, they asked for a name. After thinking about it for a while, I called it New Horizons. That is my life now: a new life with new horizons. We spent the first week doing nothing but making love. It turned out we both went a year without sex and had a lot to make up for.

The day of Brad’s graduation, I told Susan she had two weeks’ vacation coming, and I had an idea how she might spend it. Plus, I changed her job title to executive sales manager. If she accepted it would entail some travel.

I weighed anchor on the Florida barrier reef and went over to Susan. It was eighty degrees and the water was crystal clear. I knelt beside my sleeping beauty and whispered in her ear, “We're here, love. Why don't you roll over and I’ll rub some sunblock on you.”

She yawed and said, “Hmm, I think you just want to take advantage of me.”

“Absolutely! You're a smart lady. That's why I pay you the big bucks,” I replied with a chuckle and slapped her firm rounded butt cheeks.

We kissed and rolled around groping each other in the freedom of the seas. I could never get used to her overwhelming beauty. Susan’s tanned bronze skin and large supple breasts still showed the bikini line after a week in the sun. Her ability to resurrect my forty-two-year-old manhood was remarkable; she made it seem effortless. The combination of carefree living, saltwater, and this incredible woman made me feel like a teenager again.

I was behind her, driving home yet another orgasm when we heard the air horn blast of a large cabin cruiser passing us. Their decks were lined with people cheering. Susan surprised me by lifting her torso and squeezing her boobs for the admirers. She showed me new sides of her every day. We did everything sexually imaginable. I think we rewrote the Kamasutra. We also discussed our past and how to ensure it doesn't happen again by making our relationship the priority.

We both knew where our lives were headed. However, there was one big stumbling block: Paula. Susan suggested we offer her a settlement that was good for all parties. While running my corporation from a distance, it almost doubled in a year. I never considered being worth billions when I took out my business license fifteen years ago but I knew now that wealth could never buy happiness.

 

Epilogue

 

 

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do the right thing. It was costly, but the divorce went through without the fight I’d expected. Paula retained the house and was set for life. She asked for far less than what she could have gotten from me.

Susan and I were married a month before the kids were. The business was truly a family one, with my wife retaining her position. We still hadn’t heard from Scott. It was almost as if he had dropped off the face of the earth. He missed his daughter’s wedding and it appeared he was going to miss the birth of his granddaughter. I guess that was his karma. He cheated on a good woman, and now he’d cheated himself out of a good life. If you ask me… good riddance.

 

*****

 

Edited by SweetestSins

 

 

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