Read the opening thoughts of each of them: James, Elaine, Oliver and Genevieve. Then James again…
And Elaine continues:
Though the dark interior of the car provided cover, I concentrated on my phone to keep my hands from shaking. James was asking me if I’d enjoyed the trendy restaurant —it was the first time we’d been there— but it felt like the opening line of an interrogation. Maybe I was being paranoid and he hadn’t overheard my conversation with Oliver. I gave him a noncommittal answer and hoped that would be the end of it. Ollie had never been so reckless as he was tonight. And it was my fault. I had led him on, flirted shamelessly even though I hadn’t any intention of following through. I loved my husband. He’d just grown so distant lately… and now tonight seeing him talking with Genevieve, I wondered if I had pushed him even further away.
If I was to be honest with myself, I knew that James and Gen had way more in common than he and I did. Gen was all smart and well read like James was. She had some fancy PR job with a non-profit organization. One of those ‘end world hunger’ outfits or something like that. When we first met, I’d tried talking to her about it but I felt my eyes crossing every time she’d go off on one of her rants about the state of world affairs. There’s only so much doom and gloom I can stand over the course of the evening. And since she never really asked me about my work —rude, if you want to know what I think— I figured we just weren’t meant to be friends.
Anyway, whenever the four of us were together, I often felt like I needed to sneak off and Google the stuff the others were talking about. I could almost feel the disdain Genevieve had for me when I would try to join in the conversation. Inevitably, Oliver would notice and take pity on me. At least that’s what I thought it was. Him feeling sorry for me. But then he started arranging things so that we could talk just the two of us. I admit it, I enjoyed the attention and I was grateful to not have to talk about the plight of the world’s refugees over drinks and dinner.
I never imagined things would go this far.
Oliver had always been playful, never serious. But tonight as I stared at him across the table, I saw in his eyes the very depth of emotion I’d been hoping to provoke in my husband. Desire, longing, love… My heart raced and though I knew I should, I couldn’t look away.
“Lainey,” he said quietly. “We should talk. Soon. Tomorrow. Can you get away?”
Tomorrow was Sunday. James was golfing with some of the other lawyers from his firm. I had the entire afternoon free. It wouldn’t be the first time Oliver and I had done something on our own. I nodded. “What did you have in mind?”
With a sideways glance at Genevieve, he said, “The Park Hotel?” And as I felt the blood drain from my face, he quickly added, “For brunch? And then we can walk around town for a bit, if you want…”
We’d had coffee together before —our offices were near each other and we’d meet before work once in a while, Just last week, we’d met for lunch with James’ blessing. Why would this be any different? But I knew, I just knew something had changed tonight, some monumental shift in our personal paradigm had occurred. Events were spiraling out of control. Why couldn’t I bring myself to put a stop to it? I had gazed into those heated, desperate eyes and said yes.
And now James, ever calm, not taking his hands from the wheel nor his eyes from the road, had just asked me another question. “Sorry, what?” I asked, because I’d been so absorbed in my thoughts I hadn’t heard.
“I asked if you enjoyed your dinner,” he said. “I’m thinking it wasn’t worth the cost.”
“Yes, yes, you’re probably right,” I agreed, and wondered if he was really talking about the food.