Photo by Verzerk at freeimages.com
George was certain his wife was having an affair. She glowed in a way which spoke of only one thing: sex. And it certainly wasn’t sex with him. After fourteen years, their romantic life consisted of a quick kiss in the morning, another right before bed, and dutiful intercourse the last Friday of every month.
She’d grown slowly more radiant ever since she’d taken that writing workshop in the summer, or had it been painting? No, maybe it was quilting. She was always going to something; he couldn’t keep track. She must have hooked up with another creative sort, but he hadn’t asked her about it, of course he hadn’t. What if she told the truth? Would that end their marriage?
And what if she lied? He didn’t want to see the quick shift of her eyes to the right the way they always did when she tried to pretend she hadn’t cheated on her diet, or spent too much money on shoes.
Instead, he peeked at her cell phone every time she left it lying around. Once he even called a number that appeared frequently, but, when her best friend answered, he hung up. And, darn it, his wife never said anything suspicious when he eavesdropped. He even cracked her email password, although he was too timid to actually read her email.
All of his spying turned up nothing. He’d never before realized what a master of deceit he’d married.
Finally, he could stand the upwelling of jealousy no longer. He took a vacation day without telling her. Instead of going to work, he sat in a coffee shop and waited, watching the first snow of the winter dust the trees, until he knew she would have left for her job at the bank, then he returned home and began searching the house. If she was cheating on him, he would surely find some trace of it.
He examined everything in her purses and coat pockets, being careful to leave the contents exactly as he found them. Nothing.
Sweat beaded his face. His shirt was dark around the armpits. Shame made him slow his search. Perhaps his wife was innocent, and he was the guilty one for doubting her. But then he remembered the song she’d been singing under her breath last night and forced himself to continue. She never used to sing unless the radio was playing.
Her dresser drawers and closet didn’t yield anything suspicious. Perhaps she kept new clothes at her lover’s place. He turned green at the thought of her in a sexy negligee, a gift from this unknown quilter/painter/writer.
It was only noon, but his stomach threatened to rebel and he felt like he’d been at his spying for weeks. Still, her project room was the most likely place for evidence, so he entered it and looked around.
Her easel sat in the corner, covered with dust. There was nothing in the sewing box, or hidden under her stash of old buttons. Perhaps, he considered, she hid love notes inside a book. He started to pull out one whose worn cover seemed suspicious, but then he saw a shoe box on the top of the bookshelf.
Inside, packed tightly together, index cards and miscellaneous bits of paper mocked him. His feeling of triumph was accompanied by a sinking sensation in his stomach. He hauled his find to his office.
For over an hour, he sat at his desk, unsure whether he dared read the love notes. But he had to, didn’t he? He owed himself that much. Finally, he poured himself a drink from the bottle of scotch he hid in his safe and took the glass to his desk. He sipped, then read the first card.
Emily is thirteen, with black eyes and long straight black hair. She’s vivacious, loves horses and has two younger sisters.
“Huh?” he said, out loud.
The next card was even more puzzling. It described Emily’s mother and their cat.
More cards described people, then there were a few colored cards devoted to what Emily wanted and what stood in her way.
He flipped through the box. Everything was in his wife’s handwriting. No love notes.
Carefully returning the contents to the box it to its place on the bookshelf, he saw a notebook, right next to it. He sat at her desk, reading bits here and there, about Emily, a teenaged detective, on the trail of a robber. How odd that his wife hadn’t said a word to him about this project, but, then again, he usually dismissed her creative pursuits.
He felt the bile rising again. Searching her things was fruitless. He had to do the unthinkable and read her emails. He started towards her computer, but the fading light caused him to glance at his watch. Three-thirty. He didn’t know what time she got off work. She was always home when he arrived a little after six. He’d better get out of here.
Back at the café, with his laptop open and her email in front of him, he didn’t hesitate to open one from her sister. So glad you’ve found your passion. I can’t wait to read it. Give George my love.
Wait, ‘passion’ and ‘read it’ didn’t fit together. This must be some kind of code. He dug deeper. More emails talked about her novel, and how deeply satisfied she felt when she was inventing her story. I feel ten years younger, she wrote. I wish George would notice.
He blushed deeply, shame washing over him. Of course he’d noticed, but he’d been a scared, jealous fool, acting like a teenager. That evening, he would ask her why she was so happy. Perhaps she would confess to the novel and his agony could end. And from now on, he swore, he would take more interest in her life.