It was strangely difficult for Heather, someone rarely at a loss for words, to deal with a man who wouldn’t respond. But, she was forced to realise, this was her confession and it seemed that no amount of throwing out questions, her tried and tested form of defence, was going to work this time. She’d now committed herself to a confession, and however uncomfortable that might be, she would have to continue, to try to explain.
John wasn’t going to make it easy for her. It seemed he wasn’t going to do anything but listen. Why isn’t he getting angry?
“Okay, okay, okay!“ Confession didn’t come easy to Heather; she wasn’t going down without a fight. Confess she might, but remorse wasn’t on the cards. “So you’ve been snooping! The spy who stood out in the cold. Did it make you feel good Sherlock? Another case cracked!”
John said nothing. She had little choice than continue her confession.
“So maybe I had a little fun... but have you thought why John? Why would I need to? Well John, this is not about me, it’s about you, isn’t it?”
But John wasn’t about to answer questions. He was waiting for answers.
Heather knew by what John had said that he’d been spying on her and had seen her disappear into the ladies toilet closely followed by the barman. He couldn’t have known for certain though that she had actually had sex with the man, but she did admit to herself that seemed quite a reasonable conclusion for John to have drawn.
She was now at a crossroads. She had three choices. Continue to deny that anything untoward had gone on with the man, admit and try to explain her actions or say nothing. She chose the second... but maintained her aggression.
Still she kept up the aggressive stance. “What on earth are you suggesting now John? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Really Heather? And I don’t know many bartenders who follow a lady to the ladies and emerge ten minutes later with a ‘cat that got the cream’ smile on his face closely followed by the said lady... for clarity, let’s say you... looking like you got the cream too! Was it good... really good Heather?”
“Don’t be ridiculous! You’re insane. You’re being unfair... and you expect me to believe you love me. Some bloody love, you jealous bastard!”
“Huh! Is that all it is John? Really? Just how insecure are you? I flirt with the barman. So what... we all do! It’s just a game... and a game you’re not meant to be a spectator at! It’s a girls’ night out... ‘girls’... got it?... not a peeping tom’s titivation!” She hoped that would be enough to get her off the hook, and she added. “If you flirt with him he overfills your glass, gives you a little bit extra, that’s all.” Sorted!
“And what extras does he give you in the ladies toilet?”
She immediately flushed.
“Disappoint you do I Heather? Well that disappointment pales into insignificance in comparison with how disappointed... and shocked... and deeply hurt I am!” Still this man of emotion appeared emotionless. And it was starting to rattle her.
“If you’ve been spying on me that’s completely unacceptable... and unwarranted.” she continued. “I don’t know what you think you saw. Come on Sherlock, out with it!” Her ability to keep up the attack strategy was remarkable.
But her husband wasn’t to be browbeaten tonight. He knew what he’d seen. His wife wasn’t sure how much.
“You seemed extremely cosy with that barman.”
“I see you’re not answering my question!” he said as cool as one of those TV interviewers. So cool that she knew she was in trouble. But she continued her defensive attack.
“Well it’s a stupid question! What sort of answer do you expect then?”
“An answer that isn’t itself a question, that’s what. And a truthful one at that!” The coolness of this man, her oh-so-loving husband, was alarming. “What’s going on between you and that barman, Heather? I saw you!”
What had he seen? Nonetheless, she mustn’t let up.
“You disappoint me John. How could you?”
“Do you love him Heather?”
“You what?” she replied in apparent disbelief at what he was saying. “Love who? You? You know I do; I just told you didn’t I? What are you suggesting?” Attack was her natural form of defence. But, now very alert, she knew instinctively she needed to defend herself.
“Well maybe the bartender you seemed quite cosy with tonight.” he suggested.
“Have you been spying on me, Frank?” She realised with alarm that he was onto something. Nevertheless, she continued her attack strategy.
“Well?” he insisted.
“Well I’m horrified that you don’t trust me John, horrified!”
“What’s this about, John?” She sat bolt upright in the bed, thinking she was going to take the fight to her husband. She wasn’t the kind of woman to back off from a situation. “Is it me going out? Is that what it is? Have I ever stopped you going out?”
The quick-fire triple question technique had served her well in the past. It demanded answers, it put the recipient firmly on the back foot, it was very effective. Usually.
“Come on John. Spit it out. Cat got your tongue then?”
But tonight, John wasn’t about to be rushed.
“Do you?” he demanded, said in a way that jolted her from the point of sleep. She took a moment to process what he was asking.
Then... “Do I what?” she asked, fighting the urge to sleep.
“Do you really love me?”
“Of course I do, you know it. I said so, didn’t I?”
“Really and truly? Like I love you?”
“Look John, I haven’t got time for all of this. I need sleep.” She was irritated. She needed to sleep.
“Oh, about ten minutes seems enough. I’m sure you can spare that!”
Something in his tone tripped her switch...
She’d had rather too much to drink to manage to get into bed without waking him, but, eyes closed, he was still awake anyway. How could he possibly sleep knowing what she’d been up to? Nonetheless, he said nothing. That was unusual.
“You awake?” she asked, slurring a little, expecting his regular articulation of love for her. “Love you too.” She managed her part of the normal exchange, assuming his.
With no reply, she assumed he must be sleeping, so turned away from him to let the wine whisk her away too.
Just as she was dropping off, he spoke.
Looking different in false beard and wig, he saw his wife flirting with one of the bar staff through the window of the bar. Her friends were chatting together at a table, casting glances at the two at the bar. His wife reached across the bar, squeezed the man’s hand and tripped off to the Ladies’ room. Moments later, the barman quickly followed, having been given the OK by his colleague.
There was no mistaking what they were up to. It must have been a quickie, as they emerged less than ten minutes later, separated by about a minute. Smiling!
The subject of her evenings out with the girls wasn’t raised again. He continued declaring his love for her and receiving in return the automatic “I love you too.” All seemed well.
All was not well. He might not be asking searching questions, but something didn’t smell quite right. He decided to do something about it rather than enquire further. He would tail her.
She’d been open about where she and her friends met. A town centre bar. As a dog owner, she knew her husband wouldn’t leave home without it.
Wrong! And it wasn’t the dog on the scent.
“I can’t help wondering what do you do when you go out with Maureen and the others,” he said, as she came into the bedroom a little unsteady on her stilettos.
“Wouldn’t you like to know!” she taunted, continuing, “What... don’t you trust me or something?”
“Of course I do; I love you.”
“Well isn’t that enough?”
But it wasn’t enough. But it was all that was said except her “I love you too” said automatically, through an alcoholic haze, and his confirmatory “That’s good.”
But it wasn’t good enough. Further questioning was abandoned though as sleep rapidly overtook her.
“Sometimes it’s so claustrophobic, if you know what I mean. He’s just so bloody clingy! We’ve been married now for over ten years and do you know he tells me he loves me every hour of the waking day! He even texts me!”
“Chance would be a fine thing!” Her best friend couldn’t understand the problem; her own marriage was very different. “You don’t know when you’re well off. But it might explain your behaviour at our girls’ nights!... I hope nothing’s going on with that chatty guy the other night...”
“Nothing went on... something came off though!”
He loved her so much. He loved her so much it almost hurt. He loved her so much he told her, every day, over and over. It was as if only by telling her again and again could he ensure that she loved him back.
But he needn’t have worried, need he? She’d always responded with a reassuring “I love you too” every time.
He considered himself quite the luckiest man in the world, to which he presented the happiest countenance. “I would become a marriage counsellor,” he confessed to a friend, “but for fear that it might tempt providence.”