Prologue – from Always Faithful Chapter Six
The lady worked in her garden. Her head and face shielded from the spring sun by a straw hat. She wore a chambray work shirt, blue cotton wash pants and tennis shoes. A soft leather pouch that held simple gardening tools hung off her shoulder. She moved from shrub to shrub, inspecting, occasionally using her clippers to trim an errant branch. At flower beds, the woman looked for weeds and dug them out by their roots. The back yard garden she was inspecting and tending had become her pride and joy. It gave much pleasure and relaxation from work-world stress.
A noise close to the house drew her attention. Dan was setting the outdoor table for brunch. Laura straightened, removed her work gloves and headed toward her Baby. Whenever the weather cooperated, they liked have brunch outside on both weekend days. Her garden, it seemed to grow as a natural extension from Dan's art gallery, was a peaceful escape from their Monday through Friday office environment. She sat at her place with a glass of champagne waiting for her. "To another week completed on the road of life.” Glasses clicked as they touched. "I do enjoy a glass of good champagne out here with you."
"When do you have to leave for San Francisco?"
"They are sending a plane; I will leave about noon Monday. The board meeting begins Wednesday with lunch."
"The rest of the week?"
"Yes, I might stay the weekend; I'll be coming back commercial. Do you want to fly out and have a romantic getaway weekend with me?"
"Would be nice, wouldn't it? I better not; you know my conflict of issues now that you are on the board of directors."
"Did you ever dream you would be married to a woman on the board of directors of a major corporation?"
"Baby, as wonderful as you are, as smart and beautiful as you have been since I met you, I didn't quite see this. If someone told me when I was twenty-five, 'Marry her and you will be a vice-president by the time you are fifty and married to a beauty on the board of directors,' I would have said, 'Yeah sure, with fingers crossed behind my back.'"
Laura kissed her husband. "If I can't get you to come see me, spend some time with Mrs. Patron. She still needs you, as much as you benefit from knowing her."
Dan drank from his wine glass, "It doesn't bother you that I still see her?"
"Not one small bit. I told you from the start, baby, I want to be just like her when I grow up. You share more with her than mercy sex, and you know it. Take her and her friend to the country club for dinner and dancing. How many men do you know whose wife encourages them to take two women to bed while she is out of town?"
"You are one of a kind; board of directors, award winning garden queen, photos and stories in magazines to prove your talent."
Dan was about to go on when his wife interrupted. "I do love working, and creating beauty, in the garden. The creative part comes from our friend Interior Decorator and his friends. The publicity is an offshoot of your art gallery, especially since we have doubled its size."
"Speaking of our gallery, have you talked to LF lately? Maybe she has a trip to SF soon. Getting picked up by that gallery out there has really boosted her national reputation."
"She gives a lot of credit for her success to you; she told me that when she stayed with me last winter.” Dan pooh-poohed at Laura's remark about LF, although LF had told him precisely that several times.
Dan's attention returned to his brunch plate and then his champagne glass. When he looked again to his wife, he thought he saw moistness in her eyes. "Something?"
Laura almost shook her head no so she could keep the thoughts in her mind private. "Today is Greg's birthday. He is fifty."
Dan said nothing; he was fully aware of the significance of Greg's birthday, although it had never come up in the past six years. Laura hadn't once mentioned her affair with Greg. More than not mention, this was the first time Dan ever saw a hint of remembrance, possibly regret, that the affair had ended. "His birthday started things; they always were important to you. Fifty is one of those milestone years."
"Greg's birthday started and ended my affair. Greg and I had good times together, a lot of good times, but his birthdays were always very special. They were special to both of us."
Dan looked intently at his wife; the moisture in her eyes had grown to a single tear about to start a journey down her cheek. "Is Greg still in San Jose? Call him. Since I won't go to San Francisco with you, take him to dinner for his birthday.” No more words crossed the table until Laura finished her glass of champagne.
"Do you want more", Dan asked? And then softly he added, "Your other ring is in Artsy's box. Take it with you." The End of Always Faithful - A story of faithful infidelity by BobNbobbi.
> > > - - Blowing Embers to Flame
Laura rarely touched the small ornately decorated box. The box belonged to Dan even if its existence was Laura driven. It had always been Dan’s, given by Artsy to hold Laura’s half of their wedding rings when she was gone with Greg. The jewelry inside all had been given by her lover, Greg: two necklaces, several sets of ear rings, that special clip with ringing bells their personal jeweler made and fitted to wear ‘down there’ plus two other pieces - the rings Dan mentioned earlier. One, the ruby ring Greg gave their first Christmas together, lay on its side alone in a corner of the box. Laura wore it daily for four years as a proud symbol of her affair with the lawyer who had been her boss and ultimately became all but second husband. Artsy’s box also held a small blue velvet covered box. Laura knew exactly what was in the small box: the other ring Greg gave, the ring he placed on that left hand finger. The ring in the blue box Laura wore only the last three weeks of her affair with Greg.
Laura reached for the ruby ring and slipped it on her third finger, right hand. The fit was still exact, over the last knuckle with a minor twist and then seated cleanly at the base of her ring finger. Laura mused, 'Four years together, five birthdays together; our first birthday together was ten years ago. That was the first time we made love. We had wild sex too, but we did make love.'
Laura looked at the ruby on her finger. 'I wore this when I was with Greg from the first day he put it on my hand.'
Laura held the blue velvet box open in her left hand. The ring had a white gold band and a single diamond prominently displayed on high proud mount. 'Greg put that ring on my left hand the night of that last birthday together six years ago tonight. I wore it alone for three weeks. Dan gave me permission, grudgingly and only because he loved and trusted me, but he did give permission to wear Greg’s engagement ring. We were engaged three weeks for a marriage that could never happen.'
Laura repeated her last thought aloud to no one, to the gods above, “As though engaged three weeks for a marriage that could never happen.”
Laura turned her thoughts to her true husband. 'That first night ten years ago, I made love with Greg, I had wild sex with Greg, and I came home and made love with my husband. Those four years of my affair with Greg, I never lost my love for Dan. I treated him badly at times, but I always loved Dan, even if he couldn’t always see and feel my love. Dan loved me and trusted me enough to let me wear Greg’s rings. 'Is that what Dan is suggesting now? Did my husband say, "Take this ring to San Francisco and wear it when you take Greg out for a fiftieth birthday dinner?" Even if that’s what Dan said, the question is will I, should I, wear the ring in this blue velvet box? The question hangs in air, hangs over my head, my neck, my marriage; that will I, should I, question may well be a guillotine.'
Laura closed the small lid and then closed Artsy’s box. 'I love my husband, completely. Do I still have feeling for Greg? Yes, they are still there and I need to own up to those feelings I have buried within for six years.'
“I love you, Baby. I am packed and ready to go. Packing sure is easy with an apartment that holds my second wardrobe out there.” Laura finished her embrace with a kiss and then a second kiss. She held up her right hand to show Dan the ruby ring.
“I want to wear this one, my ruby, but I am not sure if I will call Greg. Wearing the ruby is as much for me, for my memories.” Laura moved her left hand that still held the blue velvet box to the forefront. “I am thinking about taking this with me, any thoughts?”
Dan knew what was in the box without looking. He had been asked about Laura wearing that ring once before. At issue then was trust. The issue was still trust, but also symbolism.
“So you are going to take that ring, to wear it for him?”
“I don’t know. Baby, I really do not know the answer to your question, to my own questions.” Laura moved closer to her husband to hold him and then kiss once again. “It has been a long time; I have barely thought of those times. I don’t think of Greg often, of Greg and me together; not often at all. His birthday awakened memories.”
Dan reached for his wife’s left hand and closed her fingers over the box. “I’ll trust that you make the best decision.”
> > > - -
Laura retreated to the bedroom, leaving Dan with his vodka tonic watching television and relaxing. If she was going to invite Greg for a birthday dinner, she wanted the restaurant to be perfect. Liaison would be a good starting point; she had lived in the Bay Area for years and knew it well. Upper Floor would know too, but asking him for recommendations would be a complication. Inevitably, the casual intimacy Laura and he once shared would resurface. It had taken almost two years to put that part of their relationship into storage. Laura placed her call.
“Hey, girlfriend, how are you doing on a Sunday afternoon?”
Laura and Liaison made inconsequential chit chat for a few minutes before Laura finally put her main purpose out for discussion. “I may want to call Greg, my old lover, and invite him out for dinner. He’s still in San Jose, I think. What is the most romantic place you can think of; we haven’t seen each other, I haven’t spoken to him, in six years.”
Liaison thought for a moment and then suggested a nice place in Palo Alto but hinted there might be a much younger crowd because of the university. “There are a couple of very nice spots out along the coast, too. Let me do some checking; now that we are married, Sig doesn’t take me to any really out of the way romantic spots like he did when I made him work harder to get my panties down.”
“You need to train him better, girl. Don’t let him develop bad habits early.”
Both laughed. The friends chatted for a few more minutes, agreed to do lunch one day during Laura’s stay on the coast, and try to get a nice evening meal together as well. Laura promised to call Monday while travelling. “The accountants don’t check up on phone calls board members make from airplanes the way they might if you
tried to make a call.”
Laura’s charter landed a little before three; with minimum wait time deplaning and a limo awaiting her arrival she was in her San Francisco home by three-thirty, giving the concierge a kiss on the cheek for helping with her luggage. En route, she talked with Liaison again and with her fellow executive sister over administration at the law firm. Laura now had the essential knowledge: a restaurant name and location plus Greg’s address and phone number, both office and home. 'What will Greg say when I call?'
Laura worked the possibilities through in her mind every moment she wasn’t on the phone during her flight.
Laura decided her first imperative before placing the call was comfort. In her bedroom, she undressed and hung her travel clothes. Underwear found its way to the dirty clothes hamper. She selected one of her Business Lady silk kimono robes that hung in her closet for lounge wear. Comfortably dressed, Laura returned to her living room, pouring a glass of red wine. The phone number she needed was in her briefcase; both rings Greg gave years ago were there also.
Laura squeezed the ruby ring in her right hand and then raised wine glass to drink. With a deep breath, almost a sigh, she closed her eyes and turned inside herself with memories of her past with Greg - together. 'This ring represents Greg and Laura together as lovers; we were more than lovers, he was my other husband, especially for those seven months we had together. Our personal jeweler made this ring. Greg had it made from his heart, his love, as his first declaration of the two of us together.'
Laura moved the ring close to her heart. On wings heading west, in the direction her one time lover resided, Laura raised questions that would have to be considered, answered. 'I wonder if Greg and Laura can capture some small part of the magic we once lived. Do we still have a way I can be close to Greg, to be lovers once again? Can I give myself as Greg’s lover once again without damaging what Dan and I have finally been able to rebuild? Am I remembering, trying, wanting to live in a past that is best left behind?'
Laura did not come to know the answers to those questions in one cross country plane ride.
Laura slipped the ruby ring onto her right hand, third finger. There was another question she never asked herself, never considered germane. 'What will I do if Greg has another lover? Could he have married someone else?'
Laura had no intention of ever not being married to Dan, so she could see no reason why having Greg as lover with he possibly married to another woman should be of concern at all.
Laura dialed. Her years as secretary in a law firm across the country simplified the path through the telephone maze of an unfamiliar law firm; soon she was talking with Greg’s current secretary. “Hi, my name is Laura, this is a social call. Can I have your name?”
“A social call? What is this? I am Mister Harrison’s secretary, umm . . . I guess I can give you my name, it’s Celeste. My name is Celeste.”
“Hi there, Celeste; as I said, my name is Laura. Maybe Greg has mentioned me; I was his secretary back east for several years.”
“Oh, you’re that Laura,” was the only comment of recognition Celeste gave the voice coming over the telephone line. The way Celeste drew out that Laura
with great emphasis
made it obvious that Celeste knew at least some of the story as to why Greg no longer worked at a law firm back east.
Laura quickly explained herself; she had been Greg’s secretary many years, and she recalled Saturday was his birthday; she had to be in San Francisco this week on business, so she decided to make a surprise Happy Birthday phone call. Laura asked Celeste to transfer the call to Greg without saying who was calling. After a few minutes of friendly conversation between two secretaries and assurance by Laura that her purpose calling was simple friendship, Celeste agreed to Laura’s request. Celeste felt pleasantly conspiratorial participating in Laura’s game.
“This is Greg Harrison, who is calling?”
With husky voice as diversion, Laura answered her lover’s inquiry, “I see you’re not so old that you can’t pick up a telephone.”
The voice sounded vaguely familiar to Greg, but he couldn’t quite identify it; was she a coworker, a client or a friend? She certainly knew him though. “Who is this? One of my so called friends playing birthday tricks, I’m sure.”
Laura decided to give herself away easily. In the natural voice she was sure Greg would recognize immediately, Laura responded, “Happy Birthday, darling; is there anyone under your desk right now?”
Greg paused just a moment, his eyelids raised almost to his brows. “Laura, Laura, is that you? Is it really you? I can’t believe!”
Overcome with emotion herself, Laura couldn’t speak. She simply absorbed, through her ears and into her being, that strong voice that had spoken so many words of love. Silence connected Laura and Greg for some instant seconds as memories awakened.
“After all these years you call, you call for my birthday.” Greg heard a soft sob; he sucked in a deep breath of matching emotion. Embers six years removed from flame still held enough heat to glow, fanned to life by sob, sigh and a deep breath.
“You will always have a place in my heart and under my desk.”
“What can’t you believe, Greg, that it is me, that I might call and wish you a happy birthday? Yes, my love, it is your Laura. I sweet talked Celeste into putting me straight through without telling you. You better not punish her; I know what sort of punishments you enjoy giving us secretaries.”
Their conversation went to catch-up mode for a few minutes with an occasional wistful sigh by Laura, until she finally blurted her feelings. “You’re still there, darling, deep inside me, in my heart. The love never died. I buried you inside because I had to bury our love, but it never died, our love could never die.” Laura began her song:
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday my Darling Greg
Happy Birthday to you
Greg heard her tears flowing stronger as Laura sang each line of her birthday greeting song. His eyes moistened too. “I love you too, Laura. I will always love you.” The phone line connecting them once again went silent. Finally, Greg asked a question. “Are you at home with Dan or out here?”
“I’m at my home here on the west coast. I bought my condominium. There is a lot of business news to catch up on as well as our personal news.” Laura paused again and simply whispered his name three times: Greg... Greg... Greg. Laura’s voice faded to another silence before she asked her first real question. “Did you have someone special with you Saturday night for a birthday dinner?”
“No, no, there is no one special, and no, I didn’t even go out Saturday evening.” Greg paused a moment before continuing his response. On the other end of the phone string, Laura’s smile began at her lover’s first No and widened further when Greg said he didn’t even go out.
“I stayed home with a bottle of Taittinger and reflected on the first fifty years of my life. You were with me this Saturday, Laura. You were with me for a goodly bit of the evening. You weren’t aware we were together in my living room, but I needed you with me on my birthday. You have been the one special lady in my life since our first date those years ago.”
“I was aware, my love; I was with you in your living room as you were with me in my garden. That’s where you came to me Saturday, in my garden.” Laura breathed an audible sigh into their phone conversation before she carried on in a new direction.
“Speaking of ten years ago and first dates, would you accept an invitation from this lady for dinner tomorrow night? As I recall, I drove on our first date; I can pick you up at your home at seven. We can share a kiss and a brandy and I will make a reservation for eight-thirty; how does that sound?”
“You don’t kn...”
“Of course I do, a good secretary knows all she needs to know. Wear your tuxedo; I’ll dress appropriately.”
> > > - -
Hanging up the phone, Laura let the moment’s emotions wash over her person; she could feel tears begin to stream down her cheek. 'Six years to hear his voice, to speak to my former lover. Six years without trace of the man who meant so much to my life for so long.'
Laura cried aloud and squeezed both hands together. 'Greg is still my lover; he never left me and I never left him. I buried him deep to protect Dan and I, because I knew I had no choice, but I never let Greg’s love die.'
With a deep breath, Laura rose and went off to the bathroom to wash the evidence of her tears away. I better call Dan and let him know I have arrived safely, she told herself. After pouring another wine, she checked her watch and did the time zone computation. Laura used the speed dial for home and heard two rings before Dan picked up.
“Hello, baby, I’m just calling to let you know I arrived okay.”
“Hi, baby, back at you. That’s the miracle of modern transportation for you, cross the country before waking from your nap.”
Laura laughed. The couple had inconsequential conversation for a few minutes before pauses for new topics dominated their speech. They had shared breakfast time together at their kitchen nook eight hours ago, so there wasn’t a lot of news to cover since coffee and a muffin.
“I’ll call toward the end of the week and let you know when I am coming home. I love you, baby. Take care of yourself and give my love to Mrs. Patron when you visit her.”
“I love you too, baby, I’ll tell Mrs. P when I see her tomorrow, bye-bye, baby.”
> > > - -
Laura was up and at work early the next morning. She was at her desk fifteen minutes before Heather, her secretary, arrived. Laura found the situation mildly amusing that one of her jobs required that she have a full time secretary acting as personal assistant, while her job title with her east coast employer was still executive secretary to the partnership committee of her law firm. She and Heather spent their first half hour together with coffee and catch up. That was a routine Laura insisted as number one priority for every trip to her Business Lady workplace. As far as she was concerned, her Board of Directors position was a sidelight. No matter what her title, Laura considered her key position with Business Lady was always as part of the marketing staff.
Preparation for tomorrow’s meeting kept Laura’s morning busy. When Liaison came by to greet her, they made a lunch time date for their favorite local spot. Liaison also talked more about the perfect romantic restaurant for two lovers to reconnect.
“It’s up on a bluff, overlooks the ocean at Monterrey Bay, and is surrounded by walking trails through garden settings. Their French chef is top rated; expensive but worth it is the word I got from a friend. It’s where her husband proposed.”
“That’s just what I am looking for; I can afford expensive after a six year hiatus. Oh god, how I miss him, girl; I didn’t realize how much until I allowed myself to bring us back to life.”
Liaison reached for her friend’s hand, “I hope this time your relationships both work out for you. Of all my friends, you are the only one I know who would dare to try. You really do deserve both of your men. You deserve to win, Laura, you really do. I’ll make the reservation for you now and come get you for lunch.”
Laura left work early on Tuesday; she wanted no part of rush and hurry for this very special date. She allowed time for a soaking fragrant bath before dressing. Choosing her dress required no great decision: the gold and black she bought last year to dazzle Dan when she insisted he join her in San Francisco for their anniversary. The bodice was of metallic gold fabric that cupped her breasts for modest support but was split to the waist front and back. The skirt of the dress was made of black silk cut short on the right side to reveal generous length of thigh but angled down to a point below the knee on her left. Dan picked out many of her evening dresses, and his taste in women’s clothing was unmatched by other men. She wanted to show him she could find a great fashion statement too. If it was perfect for an anniversary with her husband, it would be just as fitting to wear for a renewal of anniversaries for her lover.
Laura knew this dress drew male eyes top and bottom; heads had looked like twisting bobbing dolls the one time she wore it to dinner with her husband. Wearing it tonight for Greg was a way of including Dan on her date. He had given tacit permission for this date; he should be included. 'Greg’s love is important to me, but Dan’s love is vital.'
It had taken four years of turmoil and six years of unconscious contemplation to understand that simple relationship truth. Laura carefully applied makeup, what little lingerie she would wear, and finally her dress.
Laura called the concierge, asking that the Lincoln Town Car she rented be at the front door in fifteen minutes. She had time for one more phone call before leaving. Dan answered his cell phone at first sound of Laura’s special ring and heard, “Hi, baby, I just wanted to tell you how much I love you. I am dressed and about ready to pick up Greg for our date tonight. You mean so much to me as my one and only husband. I want you always to know that simple truth. I love you.” Laura hung up before Dan could respond. She didn’t want conversation; Laura simply needed to tell Dan how much she loved him.
Laura kissed the cheek of her concierge and gave him a soft hug as he handed over the car keys. “You do so much to take care of me, Francisco, I do appreciate everything.” Programming the GPS map to guide her on I-280 to San Jose and then to the coast and her restaurant was task one. Laura adjusted the seat and mirrors and pointed the vehicle south. Traffic was busy but tolerable. Concentration on traffic meant little time to dwell on tonight. The GPS instructions were precise: turn left, quarter mile, turn left, two blocks, turn right. Suddenly Laura was driving on Greg’s street, and then she recognized the house number.
Laura parked her car, took a deep breath and walked up the path beside the driveway. As she approached the entrance, Laura realized that, without consciously considering her situation, she had made a decision. 'I want this to be my home too. I want to be together with Greg again, always, somehow.'
The door had an old fashioned brass clapper - knock, knock, knock - she slapped clapper against brass plate. She could hear footsteps approach the door.
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/wife-lovers/still-faithful-always-chapter-1.aspx">Still Faithful, Always - Chapter 1</a>