Chapter 12: Martin
My first date with Melanie is everything I’d hoped for, except I can’t take her home with me.
We step out into the freezing night and go to our separate cars.
I sit in mine with the engine running and watch her drive away.
I imagine myself carrying her into the bedroom, putting her down on the bed, and taking off the red dress she wore tonight.
The material will be smooth, but not as smooth as her skin.
Susan doesn’t love me, if she ever did, but I think Melanie is starting to.
Well, Susan can have her rotten lover, and I’ll have the best woman who ever lived.
I won’t put my plan into action. I don’t really care who she’s seeing. Melanie is all I want and all I need.
Everything goes well until February.
I keep seeing the message light blinking on the phone, and figure I’ll check the messages and help Susan out a little. She’s been so good about making breakfast and dinner on time, so why not?
“Your dad’s decided to go ahead with the surgery.”
That one sentence shocks me, but the number of unanswered messages from Susan’s poor mom leaves me shaking with anger.
It can only mean one thing: he has cancer, and his own daughter is ignoring him.
I tell Susan to come here right now. As usual, she takes her time.
I tell her about the messages and give her a piece of my mind.
Her dad’s dying, and she finds it funny, which is far worse than ignoring him.
She’s heartless, that’s what she is.
She doesn’t want children and she doesn’t even care about her own dying father.
All she cares about is herself.
The next day at work, I can barely speak, and I haven’t slept well.
“You got bronchitis or something?” Rick asks.
“You should go home.”
“I feel fine. I just can’t talk.”
So shut up and stop making me answer you, I think.
And I’m not going home, either. There’s nothing to go home to.
Somehow, I get through that day, and then the next one, and then it’s Saturday night, and Melanie’s with me.
That’s the first time we kiss.
We’re in the parking lot, getting ready to leave, and I just need something to take home with me and get me through the next interminable work week and evenings at home with Susan, not to mention tomorrow and Thursday. Living with her is like being surrounded by poison. It gets into everything, on everything, and ruins everything. Melanie can make that bad stuff go away.
I stand close to her and lean toward her.
I touch my lips to hers. I look right into her eyes and want to stay there forever.
She doesn’t kiss back, but she doesn’t pull away, and she smiles at me after.
The kiss doesn’t last all week.
Susan is impossible. She’s late with dinner almost every night, and work is endless. I know what I need to do. It’s time for me to find out who her lover is, even though I still don’t really care. I just want to know so I can try and cause them some trouble.
On Monday, I let Frank know I’ll be taking the next week off.
“Are you going somewhere warm?”
“No, just planning to sit around and watch TV and such.”
“That’s what I used to do when I took a day off. Well, that and worry about all the work I wasn’t doing. That’s why my arteries got so bad.”
I’m sure all the stress Susan is causing me is going to affect my health if I don’t do something about it soon.
Frank is so lucky. Matilda is good to him. I’m sure he’s never once had to order his own dinner.
I spend the week arranging for my clients to work with either Karin, Luke, or Tim the next week, but one isn’t happy about it.
He starts swearing at me, and I tell him I won’t be spoken to like that. He keeps going, and I tell him he can find another trainer.
He storms off yelling about how he can’t stand this [blank]ing stupid place.
I end up with only two clients on Saturday, one at six, and one at nine.
At ten, I clean up some paperwork and am out of there by eleven.
Now I can put my plan in place.
After that, it’s dinner with Melanie.
I drive most of the way home, but stop in front of a vacant lot. I get out and walk a few blocks and find an office building. I call a taxi.
“Where to?” the driver asks.
I give him the address, and fifteen minutes later, we pull up outside a car rental agency.
I pay and thank him, go inside, and get in line behind a blonde woman.
She’s a lot older than Melanie, but not bad to look at, and I spend a pleasant few minutes waiting behind her.
She rents a pickup.
I picture Melanie in one and smile. We’ll drive down to Texas and—
“Can I help you?”
“Um, er, yes. I’d like to rent a car please.”
“When, and for how long?”
“Right now please, and for about ten days.”
“Let me see what we’ve got.”
What if they’re out of cars? I should have come here sooner and then I could have just come today to pick it up.
“We have a Toyota, a Ford, and even a Cadillac.”
My car’s a Ford, so I’d better get something different. A Toyota might be a little small for me, so . . .
“How much is the Cadillac?”
It’s not too bad, and besides, it’s only for ten days.
Maybe I’ll tell Melanie that my car’s in the shop and this was all they had, but no, I don’t want to lie to her.
Besides, this car’s for finding out what Susan’s doing, not for having a good time.
I drive back to the vacant lot.
It’s a shame to leave it there, but I can’t bring it home.
When I get into my old car, I notice how old it smells. Maybe I should buy a new car. We have the money, and if I ever take Melanie somewhere, it would be nice if my car smelled new. Maybe once I’ve figured out what Susan’s doing, I’ll buy a pickup and we can drive down to Texas with the windows wide open and the radio playing loud.
I have a few hours to kill before I meet her, so I surf the Internet on my phone.
At five, I drive my car to the restaurant.
Melanie is early, and we enjoy ourselves.
At 7:30, we leave the restaurant.
We’re outside in the cold night, and she steps up very close to me and wraps her arms around me. She leans her head on my shoulder and shivers.
“It’s cold tonight,” I say.
“Yes. Um, can we go somewhere, like, warm?”
“Texas is kind of a long drive.”
She bursts out laughing.
“Not that warm, you idiot! How about, um, maybe your house?”
My house. I try not to stiffen and give away how nervous her suggestion has made me feel. I haven’t thought of this. How could I not have thought of this?
“Um, like, hey, I know! My car.”
“Yeah. We can, um, pretend we’re making out in the back seat like college kids who aren’t allowed to have any fun in the dorm.”
She looks at me intently, sees I’m being serious, and says, “Yeah, um, just so you’re warned, I’ve never done this.” She lets go of me and heads for my car.
Getting through the next day at home with Susan is almost impossible.
I keep thinking about the evening before, but Susan manages to interrupt me, and I hate that I can’t even relax in my own home.
It doesn’t help that I realize I should have started this on a Saturday. She’s not too likely to meet somebody during the week. He probably works, and it can’t be Sunday, so I shouldn’t have planned to start this on a Monday.
After breakfast the next morning, I drive to the vacant lot and get into the Cadillac. Then I drive back toward my house, but I park around the corner. If Susan leaves the garage, I’ll hear her and follow. There’s a tiny chance she might go on foot, but I doubt it.
I spend my day surfing the Internet, reliving last Saturday with Melanie in the back of my car, and dreaming about what we’ll do this Saturday night.
Tuesday and Wednesday are the same, and by five on Wednesday, I long to go back to work.
Thursday is an interminable day at home.
I can’t fantasize about Melanie with Susan there, and I don’t want to surf the Internet, because I know I’ll spend tomorrow doing that.
On Friday, surfing the Internet keeps me busy until ten, and then I hear Susan’s car.
She’s meeting him on a Friday?
I hear her driving off in the opposite direction, and I turn and follow her.
She drives for a few blocks and parks in front of the supermarket. She gets out and goes into the store.
Weird place to meet somebody, unless he works there.
I sit back and wait.
An hour later, she comes out pushing a cart and loads a bunch of bags into her car.
Oh, right, she must have been shopping.
I don’t follow her home, but leave and drive back to where I can listen for her car.
She doesn’t go anywhere for the rest of the day.
On Saturday morning, I’m excited. Today, I’ll find out for sure who she’s meeting, and then it’s off to dinner with Melanie.
Tomrrow I’ll plan what I’ll do to make sure whoever she’s meeting knows how bad she is.
Heck, I almost feel sorry for him.
After breakfast, I say goodbye and drive to get my Cadillac.
The first thing I notice is that all the windows have been broken. The second thing I see is that all the tires have been slashed. I look into the car. It’s completely useless. The leather seats have been ripped to shreds, and it looks like somebody took a hammer, a screwdriver, and other tools to the control panel. This beautiful, expensive car is going no place.
I get back into my car.
Now what? I know Susan’s meeting him today, and I can’t stand another week of this. Maybe she won’t notice me. My car’s not all that noticeable, and besides, she’s not interested in cars. But what if she happens to look back and see me? Well, I’ll just have to hope she doesn’t.
At eight, I hear her car, and my heart starts to thump against my ribs.
She goes the opposite way again, and I turn around and follow.
I try to keep some distance and even a car between us as I drive.
A few minutes later, we pull up in front of a building that has some letters on the sign.
What is this place?
I Google the address.
It’s a radio station.
My wife is having an affair with a disc jockey. What poor taste she has.
Just for something to do besides surfing, I switch on my radio and tune it to the station.
I listen to a boring show for a while. Susan’s inside, probably waiting for her lover, and the voices are perfect background noise for me to think about Melanie.
At 9:00, things change.
“Good morning,” a woman’s voice says. “This is Tina.”
It’s Susan! My own wife is on the radio.
“I’m here with Jeff, and today, I’d like to talk about finding an editor for your work.”
Is she having an affair with this Jeff?
Probably, but she might also be doing this first, and then meeting somebody completely different later.
I listen to her talking about how important editing is, and then the calls start.
Teenagers tell her how much they love her and her books. Most of them ask her where she gets her ideas. A few of them tell her she’s inspired them to write.
Maybe I can use her books as a weapon.
This time, I have a pen and paper at hand.
I write it down, but I know I won’t forget it again.
At ten, the show ends, and a few minutes later, she comes out of the building, alone.
I sit in my car for the rest of the day, but she doesn’t go out again.
Well, it’s time to go and have dinner with Melanie.