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Drama Fiction

John just would not fall asleep. Maggie had worn a path between the laundry room and their bedroom, up and down the stairs, carrying the same bundle of clothes back and forth, talking quietly to herself, silently cursing every time she found him awake as she passed. 

She’d planned the morning so carefully. She’d placed the digital recorder in his truck at four, before he’d woken up. She’d been careful to turn the beeping feature off, made sure it was fully charged, and hidden it in the back of the center console. She’d tested it to be sure it would record his voice, which was deep and loud. It had plenty of recording life. It would last well past noon, which was all she needed.

She wanted him tired, so he’d take a nap. She’d coerced him to go to the gym with her at six, wearing her sexiest outfit, stroking his ego, saying they’d be the hottest couple there. His vanity was his Achilles heel. He was so into his body and his image. She laughed at that. He looked good naked, but wasn’t even the hottest guy on the block. She’d made sure to work out with him this time, pushing him hard, critiquing his techniques to spark his competitiveness, goading him into a post-workout set of sprints on the treadmill. He’d tired out first, of course. He was a big talker.

After the gym, they’d done yard work together. She’d promised that if they got it done, the rest of the weekend was his. She’d even cook chili and cornbread for him. Everyone loved her chili. 

She knew he’d volunteer to go shopping for the chili ingredients and beer. He loved to get away on his own, and he knew she hated shopping. But he’d want to get back before the USC football game, which started at 10:00 am today. And that was the whole point of all of this. Give him some time in his truck alone. He’d definitely use that time to call her. And then she’d have him. And her, whoever she was. 

She had to admit. Unlike her previous exes, John was really good at keeping his cheating quiet. He covered his tracks well. None of their gym friends knew anything. Maggie had poked around. And she had spent a considerable amount of time and money putting a key logger on his phone and computer, tracking his internet. Reading his texts. So far all she had figured out was the fact that he definitely had a second phone, somewhere. Because his primary phone was squeaky clean. There wasn’t even any porn. 

Sure, John was a good guy. He’d been faithful in his first marriage, according to his ex-wife. John came across as perfect. But nobody is perfect. As hot as they both were, they were not having sex anymore. And that was weird because amazing sex is what had fueled the first two years of their relationship. 

At fifty-three, John could have any woman in the neighborhood. All her girlfriends gave her constant signals, talking about how lucky she was. And Maggie, twelve years younger than him, was in fitness model condition. So if he wasn’t screwing her, he had to be screwing somebody. But who?

He’d made his little trip to the store after the yard work was done. He’d been gone for over an hour. He’d even missed the start of the game. And when he came home, he was in a great mood. He’d kissed her on the forehead and patted her ass. She was sure he’d made his phone call.

She cooked chili and brought him beers during the game. At halftime, he’d called his daughter, who was studying film at USC, and they’d discussed the game. In the third quarter, she’d fed him a huge bowl of chili and kept the Heinekens flowing. The game must’ve been close. He refused to nap. She’d felt like she was running out of time. He had online coaching clients this afternoon starting at 4:30 at his office. If she didn’t retrieve the recorder before he left, he might discover it.

Mercifully, the game ended, and after spending a few minutes scrolling on his phone, he passed out to the sounds of the post-game show. 

Maggie grabbed the truck key fob off the hook by the front door. She was worried about the truck’s beep-beep when she unlocked it so, as a diversion, she had a trash can in her hand. If he woke up and asked what she was doing, she could say she was just cleaning out their cars. She did that sometimes. He hated it - asked her to stay out of his truck. But she still did it. She liked knowing what he had in there.

She set the waste basket on the driveway and, her pulse pounding in her ears, hit the unlock button.

Beep-beep. She also heard the click of the door locks opening. 

She couldn’t help pausing, waiting to hear the front door to the house open. But nothing happened, so, without looking backwards, she opened the truck door, grabbed the waste basket, and proceeded to pretend to pickup trash from the truck. But it was spotless, as usual. So, she quickly opened the center console to retrieve the recorder. Her heart stopped and she stopped breathing. It wasn’t where she had stashed it. 

Her mind instantly filled with all the consequences of getting busted in this, his anger at being recorded, his loss of trust in her. But she realized, almost at once, he would’ve said something when he came back from the store. Instead, he was happy. So, taking a deep breath, she calmly climbed into the front seat and searched the console with care. In less than four seconds, she found the device, still recording, under his sunglasses case and workout notebook. They must’ve been on the passenger seat before, and he’d tidied up his truck and tossed them in after the trip to the store.

She grabbed the recorder, turned it off, and placed it in her shorts pocket. As the lid of the console clicked shut, someone grabbed her shoulder and she jumped, hitting her head on the hard plastic hand grip above the door opening.

“Ooooooh,” John groaned for her, his hand moving to her head, “that must’ve hurt,” he was laughing, but not unkindly.

“You scared me!” She protested, pushing his hand away and rubbing the point of impact.

“Sorry,” he said, backing away a bit, giving her room to climb out of the truck. “What’re you looking for?” 

“Nothing,” she said, unable to keep the edge from her voice. “I’m just cleaning out the cars.” Then she realized the waste basket was in the truck. She opened the door to retrieve it off the passenger seat.

“My truck is clean, Maggie,” he said, his tone light and questioning.

“Well,” she said reaching in to grab the bin, “I know that now.” 

John patted her on the ass as she reached, “You’re just nosy.”

That gave her pause. Did he suspect she was on to him? Or was he just being playful?

“Yep,” she said, sarcasm beneath her smile, “I’m obsessed with what you have in your truck.” She gave that last word her very best Texas drawl, which she thought was pretty damned good.

He waited for her to close the truck door again, then kissed her on the top of her head, where she had bonked the hand grip. “I’m gonna shower and get ready to head to the office.” 

She was relieved. He seemed to be just playing with her. “OK, babe.” She said, and started to lead him inside.

“Hey, Sherlock” he called, still standing next to his truck, a confused look on his face. 

Her heart sank again as she turned to face him, trying to keep her expression smily and playful.

“Forgetting something?” He said, leaning against his truck, legs crossed, hat backwards, head tilted to the side. She realized in that moment that he actually was the hottest man on the block.

“What are you talking about,” she said, grinning.

“Your Audi. Aren’t you gonna clean out all those Starbucks cups?”

“Oh, yeah!,” she laughed, rubbing the spot on her head dramatically. She headed over to her car, which in fact was littered with empty Starbucks cups.

“Seriously, Maggie,” he said. “Are you OK?”

“Of course!,” she said, more confident than she felt. “Just knocked off my game there for a minute.”

———

John gave Maggie a hug and a kiss and left for the office. He said he had three clients back-to-back, which meant she had about four hours to herself.

She downloaded the file from the recorder to her MacBook and used her GarageBand software to cut out all the quiet periods where there wasn’t any voice audio. She was left with three conversations. The first two were their banter on the way to the gym and back. She skipped to the third conversation, which had to be the one with his girlfriend. Busted, she thought.

Her face felt flush and warm. She felt like this was it. Everything was about to change. She stood up from the kitchen island and paced a little. She went to the bathroom, but didn’t need to go and came back. She went to the fridge, grabbed a protein shake, then thought better of it and put it back. She settled for a water, stepped back over to the laptop and, without sitting, pressed play.

John’s voice was muffled by the lid of the center console, and there was the rattle of the items in the box to contend with when the truck was moving, but she could make out every word. The problem was, he used his AirPods instead of the phone speaker or the truck’s Apple CarPlay. So she only heard one side of the conversation. She was disappointed, but it could still work.

“Hey. Yeah, I was able to break free for a bit. I have about forty minutes.

“No, I just did some quick shopping. Maggie’s making chili. No, I have time. She knows I like to shop, so taking my time won’t matter.

“I’m gonna park. I just want to get somewhere out of sight. Hang on.”

Maggie nodded. This was it. She knew it. He’s such an idiot. Fuck him.

“No, I haven’t talked to her yet. I know, I know. You’re right. I’m being a coward. But I don’t want to bring it up until I know exactly what I’m going to say.”

Maggie grabbed a pen and started taking notes, writing ‘Coward - doesn’t know how to tell me.’ 

John continued, “It hasn’t been a problem because she hasn’t initiated. She doesn’t talk about it. She tried to give me a blow job on Tuesday, but I told her I was sweaty and dirty. Then I just avoided her. 

“Yeah, you’re right,” and he laughed. “Me too. Me too.”

Maggie wrote, ‘He’s avoiding me and fucking her instead.’

“I’m excited, too. I think it’s gonna be really good. I can’t wait. Yes, definitely. No, I made myself available. I can’t wait.”

Maggie wrote, ‘Something going down after clients.’

“No, I have one client but I told her I have three. That gives me the time. Well, I don’t like lying, but—. I know, it has to be like this. I will make it happen. For now, this is how it has to be. Yeah, well what we’re doing here is outside my comfort zone, so I’m a bit intimidated. But I’ve been wanting to do this for too long.”

Maggie wrote, ‘Liar!’

“Ok. Yeah, me too. But I gotta get going. Yeah, me too. OK. I will call you later. Yeah. Me, too.”

And that was the end of the conversation. Maggie listened to it three times, getting angrier each time. She checked his location on her phone. He was at his office. She grabbed her purse and sunglasses, slammed the front door, and jumped into her car.

If he was going to cheat on her this afternoon, she wasn’t going to just sit by.

———

She saw John’s truck and parked around the side of his building, opposite the direction he would leave. She didn’t have to wait for long. John exited, locked the building, and jumped into his truck. Once he’d pulled out into traffic, she followed as far back as she could without losing him. Just in case they got separated, she pulled up his location again on her phone. But either he had turned his location off, or turned his phone off. The location was gone.

Fucker, she thought. Sneaky, lying fucker. 

She drove closer, to make sure she didn’t lose him. 

He pulled into a strip mall parking lot and headed towards CVS. Oh, perfect, she thought. Need some rubbers and lube? Maybe some champagne?

She stayed well away, hiding the Audi behind a panel van, then got out of her car and walked around the van so that she could watch him. He came out of CVS with a small bag, a bottle, and some flowers. 

You son of a bitch! She could barely stop herself from screaming and pounding on the panel van. She wanted to ram his truck with her car. Fuck him. But if she did that, she would lose the chance to find out who the girl was. And she needed to know. So she took a deep breath and got back into her car.

John’s truck did not leave the parking lot, however. He just sat there. For twenty minutes, then thirty minutes, then forty minutes. She had gotten out of her car three times, just to check to make sure he hadn’t left. The last time she checked, his reverse lights came on and she hustled back to her car.

He turned right out of the parking lot, towards home. Shit. Why’s he going home? He’s seen me. So now he’s going to make up some story about how the flowers are for me.

There was no way to beat him home. So she just steeled herself for the confrontation and pulled into the driveway behind him.

He got out of the truck without the flowers or the bottle, and waited for her to pull in. She sat in the car for a second, and thought, let him lie. Just be quiet and let it all come flying out. Then confront him with what you know.

“Hey,” he said, smiling at her as she got out of her car. “Where’d you go?”

“You know where I went,” she said, not making eye contact, arms folded, looking at her feet.

“Why did you follow me to CVS?”

Just let him tell it.

“Maggie, what’s going on?”

She looked him in the eye, arms still crossed, and stared him down.

He sighed. Looked away from her, across the street, just avoiding her. Then he sighed again. Here it comes, she thought.

“Look, I’ve got something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about. But it’s not easy.”

“I bet,” she said in a half-laugh.

He looked at her, kind of wounded.

“I’ve been seeing someone.”

“Finally, the truth,” she said, and wondered at her lack of tears.

“I’ve been seeing a counselor. A therapist.”

“What do you mean,” she said, starting to feel a little cold.

“Can we go inside?”

“Sure,” she said, and walked into the kitchen through the open garage door. He followed her.

She leaned on the kitchen island, arms crossed. “What do you mean you’ve been seeing a therapist?”

“I know our sex life has been pretty much non-existent, and I’ve been seeing someone because I think it’s all on me.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because it’s embarrassing. And I wanted to be sure.”

“And?”

“It’s me. Part of it is physiological and part of it is psychological.”

“How long have you been seeing him?”

“Just three months.”

“Is it working?”

“A little. But I’m still having trouble with libido and erections.”

“Are you on medications?”

“I just picked up Cialis. That’s what I was doing at CVS.”

“And the flowers and the bottle?”

He lowered his head. “I wanted to surprise you. I’m excited that this might turn things around for us. I took a Cialis and waited in the lot for it to kick in. I watched a little porn and was able to get hard. The flowers and champagne are for you. Today is the anniversary of our first date.”

Maggie hung her head. She’d forgotten. And the phone conversation was with his therapist. Sneaking out to CVS was for her. Was she being paranoid? Or was she being played like all the times before? 

John walked over. He kissed the sore bump on top of her head and rubbed the sides of her boobs. Then he took her hand and put it on his erection. She looked up at him and he kissed her deeply, aggressively, his hands roaming over her. After a moment, he lifted her playfully over his shoulder and hauled her upstairs to their bedroom.

——

She had to admit. It was a lot like the old days. They were all over the bedroom, the bathroom, the floor. It was better than their first time. 

He put on shorts and and said he was going to the truck to get the flowers and the champagne. 

After he left, something buzzed in the room. It wasn’t his phone. That was on the dresser, with his keys. Something buzzed again. Then again. She hunted it down. It was coming from his gym bag. Goddammit.

With a heartbeat pounding in her neck and blood rushing in her ears, she opened the gym bag just as he walked in the bedroom door, shirtless, smiling, flowers, champagne, and two flutes in his hands.

She held up the buzzing second phone. “What’s this?”

The champagne flutes shattered on the hardwood floor.

May 14, 2024 17:25

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