I've told you already what Eve had told me, of course, which was that she'd only had sex with one man during her entire life, and that was Russ. I strongly suspected that he didn't receive such a unique place in her life until after the wedding night, but Eve had refused to confirm that during our previous discussions. I also knew that the early years of their marriage had been what she herself described as "deliriously happy."
But now, I only wanted to hear that things sucked so badly that she'd never go back to him. Just in case there was some -- *ahem* -- other guy around willing to take Russ' place, don'tcha know.
Nevertheless, I did my best to keep any and all smartass comments in check as Eve started spinning her tale. (Not an easy task for me, as you may have guessed.)
The early part of the story was admittedly very "white-picket-fency." Eve had never dated much, primarily due to shyness, and was "well on [her] way to spinsterhood by [her] mid-twenties." (Well, that's the way she looked at it.) Russ, eight years older than Eve, owned a construction business there in Oregon (along with his sister's husband) when he and Eve had met. He'd swept her off her feet with romantic promises that he was able to back up financially, and talked her into leaving a boring secretarial post to be his stay-at-home wifey-poo.
As it turned out, about seven years ago -- two years into Eve's marriage -- Russ and his brother-in-law sold their company to an even larger concern and got high places in its chain of command to boot. Shortly thereafter, Russ and his brother-in-law received transfer orders from the company, which is how both families wound up in Iowa!
Cut to a few months before tonight. Computer-savvy Russ was spending more and more time with various "bulletin boards," chat rooms, and the like, which is how all the computer geeks liked to "talk" to one another. At the same time, Eve noticed that he was becoming less and less involved with her, and their mutual interests.
Surprisingly, I found myself interrupting her to defend this guy I couldn't help seeing as my "rival."
"I wouldn't take that too personally, Eve. It's only natural that when someone finds a new interest, he -- or she -- immerses himself in it..."
"Oh, really, Dan! Do you think I didn't take that into account?"
"Sorry, I just..."
"I only felt a bit neglected at first, but there were... other things... that followed shortly thereafter."
"One day, when Russ had left late for work, he left his hairbrush in the bathroom instead of putting it away in the top drawer of his nightstand. When I went to the bedroom to put it away, I noticed eight or ten magazines... under his Bible, ironically. I made the mistake of glancing at them, and was quite shocked."
"Well, I didn't open them, so I have no idea exactly how graphic their contents were, but they were digest-sized magazines with scantily-clad models on the cover." She paused. "Needless to say, they weren't quite the type of thing I ever expected to see in our home." Yeah, needless to say, I thought, seeing how Eve was so refreshingly proper.
"And when you confronted him?"
"Well, I didn't confront him... not right away. It wasn't until a few days later that I started wondering if his computer time was at all connected with his new... interests. I realized that he'd been acting strangely, almost secretively, whenever I checked in on him while he was 'working' at the computer. I started wondering what sort of people Russ might be in touch with, and if any of them were women, and how close they lived to us..."
"In other words, if he was cheating on you, or even planning to?" She nodded. "May I ask you something personal?
She forced a slight smile. "Could I stop you even by saying no?" she teased.
I grinned back at her. "Probably not. But seriously... without asking for explicit details... had you given him any reason to... look elsewhere?"
She looked offended. "Reason?"
"Well, don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that anything justifies actual infidelity. I just meant... well... after nine years of marriage, sometimes things... slow down, if you know what I mean."
She nodded. "Okay, no offense taken." She paused. "Let's just say that, without giving you 'explicit details,' as you put it, he shouldn't have had any complaints. I think our... love life... was pretty satisfying, for both of us, in terms of frequency as well as quality. And neither Russ nor myself ever wanted to indulge in anything... anything..." She struggled for a word.
"I think 'out of the ordinary' might be a better term..."
"Well 'kinky' is less judgmental." We both smiled. Still playing the word games, both of us. "So, neither of you ever wanted anything... unusual. Until, perhaps, he started getting ideas from elsewhere?" I suggested. "Like, maybe from magazines, and who knows what -- or who -- else?"
She closed her eyes and nodded. "Yes. I did think of that. Finally, I did feel the need to confront him, but only after..." I noticed tears had formed beneath her still-closed eyelids. She seemed to be waging some inner battle as she said "This is rather embarrassing..."
"Eve, you don't have to tell me any more than you really want to."
"I know. I know." Another pause, this time a long one, as she opened her eyes. "I went out with some friends yesterday afternoon, expecting a rather late night, but came back unexpectedly early. When I got home, Russ was at the computer, wearing nothing but his bathrobe. He was very surprised to see me. He had an extremely guilty look on his face, and I got the definite impression that... I mean, that he..."
I held up my hand. "Say no more, doll," I said softly.
"Well, it was then that I blurted out my suspicions about all his time away from me, and his new magazines, and even the way that he'd seemed much less gentle than usual whenever we'd made love lately." I saw by the look on her face that the last part of the sentence had just slipped out. "Oh, dear! I'm sorry!"
"It's okay, Eve."
"He denied everything, of course, except for having those magazines, but... he denied it in a way that made me pretty sure that I was right, and that something between us was... different." Her wording was strange, and it was obvious that she was having a hard time telling this part of the story. I could tell she was reliving their argument in her mind, and I could also tell that remembering it was making her angry. "He was yelling at me, which he rarely does, and he even started swearing at me and became insulting, both of which he's almost never done!"
I couldn't help asking, "And all this time, what were you doing?"
She smiled in spite of herself. "Oh, me? I did everything possible to keep my voice controlled, and my own arguments logical. No swearing, either. Well, maybe a 'hell' or two slipped in there..."
"Your self-control is admirable, doll."
"Oh, please! Don't give me so much credit. I was doing it so he'd look like that much more of a jerk for being so loud and obnoxious." We both laughed. "Finally, when his b.s. was getting too deep, I lost patience with him and walked out of the house! Pretty easy, since I hadn't even gotten my coat off, and my car keys were still in my hand. And since he was naked except for his robe, I knew he couldn't come after me without getting dressed first. So I had time to get away."
I didn't dare ask if she planned on going back. She probably was. Let's face it, it was only one argument, despite being an ugly one. She probably couldn't have given me an answer at that point anyway, even if I had asked.
What I did say was "And that's when you went to the truck stop?"
"No, not right away. I must have driven around, lost in my thoughts, for almost two hours!" She paused, and shook her head. "Long enough to drain my gas tank, as I'm sure you'll recall."
"Russ must be worried sick about you." I said. And I suddenly asked myself, Why am I defending him, even this much? "I know I would be."
"Ha. He's probably been on the computer for the last twenty-four hours. And he's probably forgotten all about me."
"Cute. But I seriously doubt that!"
"Well, okay, but... I doubt he's really worried!"
"So you don't think it's a good idea to call him, just to let him know you're okay?"
"No, but... I should make a phone call, and soon." That was rather enigmatic, I thought.
"Hope you can. Earlier tonight, I heard Millie say that a lot of the phone lines in the area were down."
"I was afraid of that."
"They'll probably be fixed by tomorrow, though."
The unexpected knock on the door startled both of us. I got off the bed and walked toward the door, looking back at Eve while I said "Who the hell can that be?" and added meaningfully, "Everyone I really care about is already here."