Being Inspired, maybe – 129

 A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

I don't remember 40th birthday parties being all that interesting.

It was going to be a momentous year as each of our friends celebrated theirs.  We were of a group that had formed strong friendships at school, and they had lasted over the next 25 years, even when some had ventured further afield, and others had stayed at home.

I was one of those who had remained in place, as had my wife, and several of the neighbors.  I never had dreams of venturing any further than the next state, and except for a couple of years on transfer for the company I worked for, I had lived all my life in the city I was born.

The same could not be said for Janine, my wife, who once had a vision for herself, a career in law in either New York or Washington, and had ventured there after graduating law school, stayed a for a few years, and then returned in circumstances that she had never talked about.  She had accepted my proposal, we had married, and that was that. 

Twenty years on, there had always been that gap, that part of the story I'd never asked about and one I felt she would never talk about, and it was a small chink in what I wanted to believe was an almost perfect marriage.

But there was one small caveat she had requested, and that she had no desire to have children, or to be a mother, something she said she would be terrible at.  It didn't bother me, one way or another, though as each of the others had children, there was a small part of me that was, for a while, envious.

Michael Urston was one of my close friends, lived across town, was also a lawyer, and a man of ambition.  He's taken his law degree to Washington and converted it into a path to public office, ran for Congress, and having failed, returned home and had attained the lofty position of Mayor for a number of years of our fair city, and then paradoxically didn't run for re-election for reasons I never thought stood up.  

But it had been his decision, part of the plan to retire at forty, and he'd achieved it.  But the rumor mill was in overdrive, that Michael was running for, and had a good chance of getting into Congress.  I guess my knowledge came from Janine who once worked very closely with him.

Ursula, his wife, was prickly at the best of times and had always considered herself above all of us.  I guess being a prom queen had that effect on some people.  She liked to be the center of attention, and for some reason, she and Janine always managed to rub up against their respective wrong sides.

Something else I knew; he had a thing for Janine, as had several others in our group, and I could see, sometimes the looks that passed between them, and I was not sure how I felt about it.  There was never any indication of either talking it further, but there was a bond between them that sometimes I envied, especially lately when it seemed, to me, that we were drifting apart.

But tonight, it was going to be Janine's fortieth birthday party, and there was going to be a dozen friends coming.  At the last minute, Janine had changed the venue to a restaurant rather than at our home, and that I suspected was because we lived in a magnificent house that all the others envied, and I was sure it was out of deference to them.  Buying the house had been her idea, and down through the years, as we moved into larger residences, she had been trying to shed the memories of where she had come from.

Neither of us had been from wealthy families, and I had no wealthy family connections.  I was from generations of motor mechanics, which was my first occupation in the family business, and Janine's family were farmers, something she had no intention of becoming, hence the desire to become a lawyer.  And I didn't think either of us had airs and graces despite what we owned or how we fitted into the local society.

Fred DeVilliers and Susan, his girlfriend of many years, they didn't believe they needed a piece of paper to sanctify their relationship, were best friends also, though I knew Janine and Susan were not quite as friendly as it appeared.  That I noticed some years ago when both were having a heated discussion, one they thought no one was around to hear.  Their bone of contention had something to do with Michael, and I didn't get to discover what it was.

As for the others, they joined in the conversation, ate the food, drank the wine, and then went home again.  Like me, they were not interested in politics, religion, or miscreant children's stories.  Our get together was children free, and often about reminiscences of older and more carefree times.

Oh, and just to stir the pot a little, this day, I had tendered my resignation as CEO of the company.  It was a matter of principle, the board had decided to downsize, and shift a proportion of manufacturing offshore, a decision I knew I would have to implement if I stayed there.  When I vehemently disagreed, I was given the option to leave on mutually agreeable terms.  It was not something I could spring on Janine, but, equally, it was not something I was going to be able to hide from her.  Not for very long anyway.

She was running late at her office, and I agreed to meet her at the restaurant a half-hour before the other guests were due to arrive.  It was nothing unusual for one or other of us to be running late.

As it happened, I left the office, and the building, an hour after tendering my resignation.  The company didn't want me hanging around and granted me the two weeks I'd normally have to work off before leaving, for security reasons.  I quit, therefore I had to leave, in case I had some desire to sabotage the company in some way.  I wouldn't but it was standard practice, and it didn't go unnoticed that I was escorted by security to my office to clear the desk, and then to my car.  They also gave me the car as a parting gesture.

After leaving the office I went home.

I took what amounted to over twenty years’ service in a cardboard box to my home office and dropped it in the corner.  Not much to show for it, other than a decent salary, annual bonuses when we made a profit, and quite a few shares, not that they were worth much now because of the board's hesitation to embrace new technologies.

About two hours later I heard a car pull up out the front on the driveway, and two doors close.  A look out the window that overlooked the driveway showed it was Janine and Michael, who as they approached the door were in animated conversation.

I thought about letting them know I was home, but then a voice inside my head said how many men have come home during the day to surprise their wife and found her in bed with another man, or, in these rather liberated days, in bed with another woman?

And that thing between them, would it be now I would discover what it was?

It made me feel rather horrible to think I could suspect her of cheating, but it momentarily took away the sting of the resignation.

The door opened and they came inside.  I could just see them from where I was standing, a spot where they would not see me, not unless they were looking.  And my heart missed a beat, they were embraced very passionately, leaving me with no other conclusion than this was a middle of the day tryst.

"Come," she said, taking him by the hand.  "I only have a couple of hours before I have to get to the party, and you, my darling, must not give me those doe eyes in front of any of them."

With that, they went up the stairs and disappeared into the bedroom, our room.  

I sat down before I fell down, then having regained some composure, went over to the bar and poured myself a drink.  OK, I had a feeling something was going on with Janine and took the abhorrent step of hiring a PI.  But as they say, don't do something if you don't want to know.

Until now it had only been words on a piece of paper.

Two losses in one day.  A job, and a wife.  I guess it wasn't exactly a revelation.  I knew something was amiss, and I conveniently ignored all the signs.  I thought about going up and walking in on them, but that, to me, seemed like a childish act.  After a few more drinks, I decided to wait, see if they both left, and then decide what to do.

© Charles Heath 2020


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