Lessons Learned

Submitted into Contest #119 in response to: Write a story that involves eavesdropping.... view prompt

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Fiction Speculative

                               Lessons Learned

A sunny November afternoon found me sitting on a brick bench that encircled a fountain on university grounds; I was starving and realized I couldn’t have concentrated on the psychology lecture I was meant to be in, there was too much running through my mind as it was. I was looking through my insulated bag for something edible when I overheard the life changing conversation.

He was handsome, there was no doubt on that score, tall and fit with wavy auburn hair and beard. I snuck a quick look while returning my bag to the backpack next to me. I noted that he was wearing black dress pants and a red shirt that stretched over great pecs and biceps, he was especially well put together, especially for a professor. She was an unknown entity, well to me she was, based on her perch on his lap, this was not their first meeting. I was quite sure I had never seen her before, she looked at least a decade his junior. I knew his wife Angela casually from a Pilates class and this was not she, and what they were doing did not bear a resemblance to the usual prof and student conference.

 I started to peel the orange I’d dug out while they spoke. They didn’t appear to note my presence, so I coughed discreetly hoping that they would heed the noise and move away, anywhere that I didn’t have to acknowledge a clear example of marital deceit. It was no good the discussion continued.

He began with a plea to her, “Kathleen, you have no idea how I feel, how can you say that I’m cold to you, I love you can’t you see that?”

“Damien, I know you say you love me, but how can anyone, who stays in a marriage, say that they love someone else? It’s not true, and I can’t continue to believe it.”

“You have no idea how I feel honey, I entered into that relationship to appease her grandmother, she and I don’t even like each other, really. We haven’t been in love or even had sex for ages.”

I wondered to myself why he felt the need to mention the two as separate entities.

 “I can’t do it anymore, if you won’t leave her, I have to leave you.” She tried to stand at this point, but he wrapped his arms around her and held her in place. She placed her head on his shoulder which was no doubt comforting for her but frustrating for any eavesdropper, willing or not.

“Kat, how can you think of going when you’re carrying my baby?”

Whoa, I thought, a baby, how messy is that? I carried on eating my orange, slowly enjoying the juicy sections one at a time. After a minute I stood up to ease my skirt away from damp thighs. When I returned to sitting, I had shifted centimeters towards them, they didn’t stir except that his hand drifted to her belly in a protective but somewhat dubious manner.

“Damien, please don’t mention the baby, I haven’t decided whether I’m going to keep it or not”

“What!? How can you say that? It is mine, isn’t it? I want to have a family with you, a baby with my baby. Don’t make up your mind yet, this life is innocent, let’s at least talk about it. Please?”

“Innocence made from all the non-innocent things we did, I can barely look at you in the afternoon light, our darkened hours have become something wicked, you know that.”

It occurred to me that this was much more than a casual affair. I was feeling just as entrapped as they were and was definitely as powerless as that bump under her sweatshirt.

“I have no dark thoughts about you, the baby or our relationship. Now don’t be silly. Besides if you really wanted to get rid of it why didn’t you just arrange it and not tell me? Hm? I don’t think you’re strong enough without me. I know I’m not strong enough without you. Look Angela said she’s staying with her mother for a few days, why don’t we go away this weekend together and really talk?”

“What excuse are you going to give the poor woman this time? I’m really starting to wonder how obtuse she is. How many conferences can you get away with Damien?”

“As many as I need to, I just can’t keep my hands off you, and I’ll do whatever it takes, even lying to my wife. I need to know that you’re still in this as tight as I am.”

He shifted her gently off him at this point and stood up. I snuck a peak at the two of them. She appeared bereft, knowing he was winning a recurring argument. He, on the other hand looked full of himself. As he stretched, I blushingly noted that he sported an impressive erection from her recent position on his lap. I looked away, the last thing I needed was proof of duplicity in his dockers.

“Will you come away with me Kat? I need to know this isn’t over.” He took her hand and rubbed it between his two. He gazed at her and smiled when she nodded slowly.

“I will come, I know, let’s go to the Seashore B&B in Gibson’s, on the Sunshine Coast remember? I’ll bring the food, you call and arrange it, and I will meet you there on Saturday afternoon”

“Great. I’m looking forward to it. We really need some alone time.” 

They walked away from each other and from me in different directions as though no one would have seen them sitting there in full view. I snickered when I recalled his parting line. ‘Some alone time.’ I would have thought they’d had plenty of that already! I searched for my mints in my purse and while looking I found a notice; I just needed the paper to wrap my peels in. I didn’t want to leave them on the fountain edge after all. I read the leaflet and realized it was a unique offer for the Christmas season sessions for my exercise classes at the local gym. Scanning the list of email addresses at the top gave me a chill.

 When I heard about the violent death of the professor the following week, it was from a fellow student, I was struck cold, was this my responsibility? My acquaintance Shirley spilled the story she’d heard in the student pub, apparently the whole class was upset that they had a substitute professor for the remainder of the term. I drifted off until she revealed he hadn’t been alone and that there was going to be an investigation into the whereabouts of his wife that weekend.

However, I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere, this ‘investigation’ because I knew where his wife had been that weekend. She’d had an invite to coffee on the Wednesday night with a friend from Pilates. There were only some vague references over a glass of wine, but a clear location should she be so inclined to ‘visit some craft shows’ on the Sechelt Peninsula. There was also an invite to spend that Saturday night with her new friend when she returned to town. Angela called her mom to postpone their get together, then she and I ordered pizza, drank wine, and toasted new beginnings.

Angela had admitted to me after a couple months that she’d suspected Damien had been cheating and that Kathleen was just another in a line of ‘smitten students.’ She hadn’t known about the baby though; it was something she would have to come to grips with in terms of how far along Kathleen was.

 At first the media revealed and revelled in all the salacious details; they’d been at that same B&B before, but who knew they were there this time? It was an unsolved mystery that like many became aged and was eventually forgotten even by cold case squads. We were stressed at first of course, what if she’d been picked up on any cameras? No one came forward though and after a year we relaxed.

For myself, I vowed not to eavesdrop on anyone again, ever. It was just too stressful for me. Don’t people realize what could happen if someone hears something they’re not supposed to? All kinds of chaos gentle readers, all kinds of chaos. 

November 08, 2021 17:35

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5 comments

Mariah Cheng
02:03 Nov 19, 2021

Whoa! That was a crazy twist! Eavesdropping at its best. Keep the secret you learned? Spill it? Nice work Maureen!

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17:04 Nov 20, 2021

Thank you Mariah! I appreciate your comment :) The cool thing was this was a slice and dice from a prompt I wrote on about 10 years ago, so it just took a reworking, ok, it was a lot of reworking. Many thanks for your review.

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Mariah Cheng
17:12 Nov 20, 2021

My pleasure! I enjoyed it :D

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Amanda Lieser
20:07 Nov 18, 2021

Hi Maureen, I liked this story because I enjoyed the twist at the end. This feels like a very classic story and I loved that you changed the perspective to fit the prompt. I also enjoyed the way you formatted the story because it was very clear which part was the narrator and which part was the interaction she was listening to. You did a great job and I look forward to reading your comment on my piece.

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17:06 Nov 20, 2021

Thank you Amanda, I really appreciate and honour your review! I enjoyed writing it and working out the ending. I look forward to reading your piece, right after breakfast :)

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