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Contemporary Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

This story mentions sex.

The city Nathan and Heather lived and worked in had an international airport a mere 5 miles from where they lived. After a careful discussion, it was decided an airport only 5 miles from the office was not a good bet. There was instead an airport approximately 50 miles away - surely no one from the office would go there!

Heather’s sister knew she was having an affair, and Nathan had recently moved in with her. The elder sister Bonnie had been having a sneaky affair for the last eighteen years and was frankly jealous that Nathan had left his wife and moved in with Heather.

Over dinner with Bonnie that evening, as they discussed their clandestine week in Tunisia, she offered to run them to the airport.

‘No, we can get a train’, Heather protested.

‘You might be seen getting on a train together’, said Bonnie loving every minute of these two furtively ‘eloping’ for a week in the sun.

‘Oh true’, said Heather, ‘imagine if we were seen on the train together’. 

How addictive their secret life had become. In truth, the excitement she was experiencing had little to do with Tunisia. The sheer joy was predominantly driven by cheating on everyone they worked with, although Heather completely denied how much this influenced things.

Bonnie determined to join in the adventure of lying and cheating with their friends and work colleagues, said:

‘What time is the flight?’

‘2.oo p.m.’

‘Great, we’ll leave at 9.00 a.m. It’ll give us plenty of time to have coffee together at the airport. We’ll be 50 miles away, and no one will see you.’

‘Are you sure about the lift?’ said Heather, double checking.

‘Yep, no problem. I’ll happily take you.’

The next day packed and ready, they excitedly left their little hideaway flat and got a taxi to the sister. The car was easily packed, despite the suitcases being far heavier than required for such a brief holiday in the hot sun.  

‘This is such a nippy little car; we’ll be there in no time at all’, said Bonnie, stepping back to look at how the suitcases had fitted in so neatly.

The three of them set off, and even Bonnie, who wasn’t going on holiday, was excited - she was on a secret assignment and for Bonnie, this was exciting enough. In Bonnie’s imagination, this is how things could be done if she could persuade her lover Paul to leave his wife and come away with her. In the eighteen years that Bonnie and Paul had been having an illicit affair, Paul had never taken her out for a meal or a drink, terrified they would be seen together. The thought of a joint holiday was Bonnie’s fantasy, so taking Heather to the airport was the nearest she could experience a ‘forbidden’ trip.

They covered the first twenty-five miles or so in high spirits. Bonnie was right; it was a lovely nippy little car. As they hit the last twenty or so miles, they began to climb, with Bonnie saying excitedly: 

‘Look over there. I’m sure I can see the airport. Yea, look, a plane is taking off.  We’re almost there, and such good timing.’

Just as she said it, the car began to go slower and slower. Heather, in the back seat, watched Bonnie slam through all the gears, and then having reached the lowest gear, she put her foot flat on the accelerator, and the car sounded as if it were about to take off. The car screamed indignantly at the rough treatment being dealt.  

Nathan shouted: ‘Take your foot off the pedal. You’ll burn your engine out.’

Panicking, she lifted her foot off the accelerator…. the engine spluttered and then just died. All was quiet as three people in the car almost stopped breathing. All three looked at each other, assuming someone would have a bright idea. High-speed cars buzzed past them on their left and right as they sat in the middle of the highway.  

‘Try and start the engine again’, said Nathan.

She turned the key, and a dead sound greeted them. Bonnie seemed to be experiencing a full-blown panic attack as they sat dangerously in the middle of the fast highway.

‘This has never happened before; what do I do?’ panic taking her voice to a high, screaming pitch.

‘Quick, put your hazard lights on while we try and fix things. We need to get off this highway, or we’ll cause an accident,’ said Nathan's calm voice.

All thoughts of a plane were no longer in their heads. As the hazard lights started flashing, the cars behind them began splitting into different lanes. Approaching cars began to slow down dramatically, and it no longer looked like they were about to be shunted in the back at a very high speed.

The road users began to acknowledge that there was a breakdown ahead and the inside lane was slowly emptying until, at last, one car approached them very slowly and, as it pulled onto the hard shoulder directly adjacent to Bonnie’s car, the driver put his hazard lights on too and turned the engine off. Nathan checking that the road was clear, began to clamber out of the car just as the other driver disembarked.

‘Can I help and push you off the highway?’ shouted the man with a strangely familiar voice. ‘Good God, it's you, Nathan. Fancy meeting you on the highway!’  Looking at the sister, he called: ‘Hello’. 

‘Bonnie, this is Roddy, my boss’, said Nathan, still sounding relatively calm.

Bonnie’s head whirled around to stare into the back seat where Heather had been sitting. She had mysteriously disappeared.

Roddy said: ‘Come on, we’d better hurry and get your car off the highway before an accident happens.’

Nathan, Bonnie and Roddy positioned themselves in different areas of the car. Bonnie steering, and the men on either side of the vehicle huffed and puffed as they pushed and pushed.  

Heather hiding on the car’s floor, was experiencing a mixture of shame and fear. She knew her weight was adding to the heaviness of the vehicle, and she could hear her out-of-condition boss gasping as he pushed. They finally got the car onto the hard shoulder, and Roddy recovering his breath, offered to ring a garage for them. He had soon contacted the emergency services, and now they had to wait on the hard shoulder for the mechanic's arrival.

Now safely off the highway, Nathan and Bonnie were desperate to get rid of Roddy, locate Heather, and decide on the onward journey to the airport.

‘Anything else I can do for you?’ asked Roddy.

‘No’, said Bonnie. ‘This has been so good of you.  We’ll wait for the garage. You must have somewhere you need to get to.’

‘No, ' said Roddy, 'I can wait with you. Are you going to the airport, Nathan? Those suitcases must be heavy. How much have you packed?’ He sounded amused.

Bonnie and Nathan just swiftly looked at each other and said nothing. Heather lying on the car floor, just began praying, ‘Please go, go’.  

The garage pick-up truck and the mechanic soon arrived, and whilst Bonnie was speaking to the mechanic, Roddy asked Nathan what time his plane was’?  

‘We’ve at least another 4 hours. We’ll be fine or book a different plane if we miss it. It looks like the car is getting sorted, so we’ll be on our way soon.’  

Silence fell between the two men.

‘What happened to Heather? When I first stopped for you, a blond woman was sitting in the back but mysteriously disappeared, and then I recognised you, and it didn’t take long to guess who the blond woman was,’ said Roddy.

‘You know, Nathan, if you’d just told everyone about you and Heather, it would have made life much easier. Your secretary and Heather’s best friend have been the most hurt. I advise you both to buy Kathy a great present from your holiday and profusely apologise for all the lying you two have indulged in. She may not accept your apology, but you can at least try.’

‘How long have you known?’, asked Nathan.

All of us have known for months. We’ve all laughed at you two, thinking we were all too stupid not to know.’

‘So we were seen together?

Yes, but nothing romantic, I assure you. The two of you were seen in deep conversation in Tesco’s supermarket, talking about your toilet roll choice - a surprisingly intimate conversation for two colleagues who never seemed to speak at work. It had been such an animated conversation that it was obvious you two were close. After that, everyone began noticing how you left work simultaneously, never spoke to each other during working hours, and tried to pretend you lived entirely separate lives. You weren’t fooling anyone.’

Roddy walked to Bonnie’s car and banged on the rear window. ‘Hoy Heather, you must be uncomfortable on the floor. Nathan says you don’t want a lift to the airport as it looks like your sister’s car is OK. Get off the floor.’

Turning to Nathan, he said: ’I will share this little encounter with the Department. Particularly the look on your face when you saw me coming to your rescue and Heather diving to the floor of a broken-down car in the middle of a highway. You two are not very bright.’ 

‘If you want to continue working in the Department, you need to do the right thing by telling all your colleagues that you two are an item and please stop treating your friends as idiots.

‘Enjoy your holiday’, said Roddy.

Heather looked at Roddy’s angry, stony face as he pulled away and felt the magic of the affair disappear like a puff of smoke.

*******

It was a large department, and they all felt they worked very hard, but a hardcore rushed to the local pub at noon on Fridays. At the centre of the group was Roddy, the boss. He was considered an essential member of this group. If he continued sitting in the pub, the others could too. Often they would buy bottles to bring back to the office and continue carousing late into the night. Was it surprising that affairs started? Everyone was so drunk that all morals and reticence disappeared as yet another glass of red wine was glugged down.

By the time she was in the middle of a secret affair with married Nathan - Heather had found it too difficult to tell her work colleagues what was happening.  

A few months earlier, it had become evident that Nathan would make his move on her, but Heather didn’t like it. ’Do you see how that man hangs around me?’ she complained loudly to Kathy, her best friend and drinking buddy in the office.

‘Oh, don’t ruin the Friday drinks’, said Kathy, believing nothing else mattered above the pub get-together on a Friday. It effectively meant they only had to work a four-and-a-half-day week. It was surely the best job in the world. What the hell if a married man was trying to overstep the mark?

Nathan wasn’t Heather’s type, but he was senior to her and earned far more than she did - two irresistible attractions to a woman of 30 who was still ambitious and desperate to succeed at everything. Heather found that secretly having an affair was exciting and helped make her mundane job far more thrilling.  

However, Heather was shocked when Nathan left his wife and moved in with her without discussion. Not what she had planned at all. So now they were still carrying on a secret tryst but further complicated by now living together. 

Before this time, she’d spent months telling Kathy how much she disliked him. When finally, Heather succumbed to a drunken ‘roll in the hay’, it changed everything. Too embarrassed about the sexual encounter, she decided not to tell Kathy and tried to pretend it hadn’t happened. However, Heather had been oblivious that Nathan’s feelings for her were far more profound than she had realised. How could she explain to her work colleagues that a drunken Friday had developed into Nathan dumping his wife and moving in with her? This was a mess.

Heather and Nathan went to great lengths to ensure no one knew what was happening. Heather felt certain she would lose her job as Roddy, the boss, despite his drinking, actually had very high morals. If the affair caused a problem in the Department, perhaps Nathan’s wife kicking up a storm, it would be obvious who would be asked to leave. Heather had worked hard to mould the job precisely as she wanted. The thought of losing her job through Nathan didn’t please her.

Heather told Nathan he could no longer communicate with her at work in case they looked too close. He would have to ring her if he wanted to talk to her. The calls were short and terse but frequent.

’I’ll drive the car round the corner at 5 pm, and you come and find me so I can drive us home’, whispered Nathan.

‘Yes’, Heather replied and immediately replaced the phone.

‘Who keeps ringing you?’ Kathy asked, intrigued.

Heather had never had such a complicated life before. In her head, she would practice how she would finally break the news to Kathy, but her courage disappeared every time she went to tell her. She knew how hurt Kathy would be.

The affair trundled on, and it got so the only time they could truly be themselves was on holiday. Planning a trip abroad might give their love life the needed boost. No more lying and pretending; they could just be themselves. Nathan and Heather planned their little break in Tunisia, chosen because they had never heard anyone in the department talking about going to Tunisia.  

‘Oh, it’ll be great. Just think hot sun, the swimming pool, the booze is cheap, and knowing that we don’t have to worry about being ‘caught’,’ she said.

‘What would you do if we were caught?’ he asked.

‘Deny it, just deny it.’ she said vehemently.

‘Why?’ He seemed to want the Department to know. He was proud of his pretty 30-year-old. She, conversely, was not keen for the department to know. She couldn’t admit that his primary attraction was his salary and job status. She felt sure the Department colleagues would see her for exactly who she was. Heather wanted to be genuinely liked and admired by the people she worked with. She hadn’t worked it out that sleeping with a married man, who had subsequently left his wife, lying to everyone she worked alongside, was not the way to be popular in the Department. She knew in her head that Roddy would likely get rid of her once her lack of integrity had been exposed.  

Heather had been Roddy’s private ‘sounding board’ for all his secret plans for the Department and its staff. Finding out she might be potentially sharing everything with Nathan when she popped into bed each night would seriously jeopardise her chosen career plans.

On Monday, Heather told Roddy she would like a week off to go to Tunisia.  

‘Oh, how lovely. Going with girlfriends?’ he said innocently. She was surprised as he had never asked her about her private life.

‘er Yes’, more lies, thought Heather.

‘I’m going to go to Edinburgh to stay with my family for a week. Just tell anyone who needs to speak to me that I’ll be back the following week’, Nathan said to Kathy.

‘Have you noticed Nathan doesn't come in whenever you are out of the office? It’s as if he can’t bear to be in the office when you’re not here,’ said Kathy to Heather.

Heather’s face turned thunderously black: ‘That’s how rumours start. Please stop saying things like that.’

Kathy looked hurt, and inwardly Heather groaned. In the past, she had shared everything with Kathy. Why on earth hadn’t she told her about the affair? 

‘Tell her, tell her. Just say Nathan’s coming to Tunisia with you …. and then laugh in a devil-may-care way.’ But she couldn’t and said goodnight to Kathy and went home to prepare for the holiday.

*******

By the time they returned, the affair was over. 

Kathy kept her distance from Heather and was not interested in how the holiday went. 

Heather’s career was slowly side-tracked, and her glorious ambitions crashed and died.

But hell, she was still only 30 and had her good looks.  She thought, ‘Plenty of time to look around for another advantageous affair’.

April 14, 2023 16:29

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14 comments

Michał Przywara
02:49 Apr 18, 2023

That's the problem with a secret double life, isn't it? People get sloppy over time, especially if their heart isn't in it, and then everything falls apart. Though in this case, we might say that's karma :) But it doesn't look like Heather's learned anything :) A twisted web, as others have said. Though maybe Roddy was setting them up, with the weekly bender :) Critique-wise, I thought the car scene, with Heather hiding - or failing to - was a great kind of uncomfortable, tense funny. I wonder if the middle section, with Heather's recolle...

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Stevie Burges
03:22 Apr 18, 2023

Thanks so much for your critique. In particular for making a suggestion on the editing. On a couple of my stories, I've had my editing questioned. The great thing about putting stories on Readsy is that you get a chance to learn and improve - and my editing needs to be worked on. So grateful for your comments.

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Viga Boland
23:49 Apr 17, 2023

Oh that Heather! Certainly not a one-man woman is she LOL. Funny how affairs always seem to become front page news in offices and only the couple thinks they’ve been discreet and won’t get found out. Enjoyed the read Stevie. Way to go! Nicely balanced blend of humour, description and dialogue.

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Stevie Burges
01:39 Apr 18, 2023

Thanks Viga. I'm sure there must have been others in the office up to no good! But until their cars break down how will we know?

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Marty B
23:28 Apr 17, 2023

There was a lot going on, a tangled web of affairs, allegiances, and then recriminations!

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Stevie Burges
01:37 Apr 18, 2023

True - life in an office!

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Michelle Oliver
10:55 Apr 17, 2023

Well that was interesting! Lots of affairs. I’m afraid Heather is going to have a reputation as a gold digger. Poor love, needs to really get her priorities straight. The sheer comedy of her hunched on the floor of the car, I can see it, and the fact that all the subterfuge proved unnecessary, was priceless. Just shows, honesty is the best policy. Lies will catch you up every time. Thanks for sharing.

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Stevie Burges
01:37 Apr 18, 2023

Heather was clearly a bit of a blonde dummy! Aided and abetted by her equally dumb sister! At 30 you have the world wonder how life is at 60? Perhaps the alcoholism got to them all!

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Delbert Griffith
22:41 Apr 15, 2023

Wow! Lots of affairs going on at the Department. And even the boss wants to have an affair! Well, well, well. Madcap adventures follow, and all is resolved - sort of. Heather has to start all over, with impure motives, but hey, she still has her youth and good looks. I fear that Heather may be heading down a road she doesn't want to travel. The intertwined loves and lives of the employees at the Department make for a wild mix, right? One never knows what will happen next, but it's never boring. LOl Cheers, my friend.

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Stevie Burges
02:06 Apr 16, 2023

Thanks Del. I almost set Heather up with Roddy the boss after she’d dumped Nathan - but as there was already too much going on (I must learn to edit more) I decided to let Roddy off the hook. Thanks so much for reading.

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MJ Simons
22:14 Apr 14, 2023

Wow, Stevie, what a well-written story! You did a great job with the prompt. I thought Nathan was going to die when confronted by Roddy! I enjoyed it very much. Heather still didn't learn her lesson by the end of the story, and I'm sure Nathan was heartbroken. Nicely done!

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Stevie Burges
00:53 Apr 15, 2023

yep Heather was a bit of an idiot I'm afraid. Thanks so much for your comments.

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MJ Simons
04:09 May 07, 2023

Hi Stevie! Are you in the UK now? I remember you saying you would visit England in April, but I don't know if your visit was at the beginning or the end of the month. I've taken a little hiatus from the site as I'm working on other projects and can't dedicate enough time to both. I plan to read everyone's stories during my short break. I hope you're well. :)

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Stevie Burges
04:14 May 15, 2023

Hi MJ, yep am freezing in the UK. I arrived at the end of April, and despite bringing lots of warm clothes, I find it really cold! I am permanently surrounded by people, so no time to write. Am off to Portugal for a week on Wednesday and hope to thaw out! Hope to get back to writing soon. Hope your projects are going OK.

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