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Something is wrong. I can feel it, sense it or whatever you want to call it but there is a problem. A problem that could end my marriage, if I don't take action.
I'm Jerrod Wesley Jackson, JW to everyone but my mother and father. When either of them used my full name, I knew I had stepped over the line. I heard a lot of Jerrod Wesley Jackson in loud tones from my parents growing up. As a youngster I was very good at leaping over that imaginary line of what some called civil conduct. Nothing really bad just a boy and later a young man that pushed boundaries. At least it was never boring growing up for me or for those around me.
My wife, Cheryl, and met in a sort of strange way. She backed into my truck leaving a parking space in Home Depot's parking lot. She was very apologetic when she got out to survey the damage. I had planned to rip a new one for the jerk that hit my pride and joy but the words stuck in my throat when I saw Cheryl.
Neither Cheryl nor I are one of what you would call one of "the beautiful people." She's attractive with reddish blond hair, freckles across her nose and big green eyes. Cheryl was the stereotypical 'girl next door" wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Her hair was in a pony tail and hung down between her shoulders. That smile and those eyes are what pushed my angry words back down my throat.
When Cheryl looked at me and started to apologize, her eyes were like what some people call "puppy dog eyes". That stopped me right there. How can I terrorize someone with puppy dog eyes and a great smile, I thought?
"Are you okay? I'm so sorry. I don't know what I was thinking. Please let me..." Cheryl stammered and stuttered as I examined the damage to my truck.
"Take it easy Miss," I said interrupting her. "No one's hurt and no great damage, just a little paint knocked off."
In fact, other than a line of paint on my metal bumper, I couldn't see any damage. My truck is an older model Ford that I use for odd jobs around my house or to go hunting and fishing or just to knock around in. Most of the damage was to her molded plastic bumper. There was a long scrape along the passenger side with a strip of paint missing.
"Let me give you my name, phone number and insurance data," Cheryl offered and began writing on a business card. "That's my agent's card and I put my information, including my driver's license number, on the back. Is there anything else I can do?" She asked.
I'm not the smoothest with the ladies. I wasn't a monk but I wasn't a player either. At 5' 10 with dark hair and eyes I was about as average as you could get. Usually I dated two or three times a month but didn't have a steady girlfriend or anyone I wanted to upgrade to that position.
I may have not been a Romeo but I'm not totally dumb either. "Let me buy you a cup of coffee and we'll call it square," I answered.
Her great smile went right to those incredible eyes and they beamed at me. "Don't you think we should introduce ourselves before we start dating?"
Holding up the card she'd given me I said, "I already know your name. I'm J.W., J.W. Jackson."
That first date, if that's what you call it, led to many more. Our romance wasn't special to anyone but us. We did all the usual things but most importantly we got to know each other. Cheryl likes country music and classic rock and roll; me too. She liked sports but wasn't a fanatic about them; me too. We both like the outdoors; a great weekend was camping at a nearby stream.
When my folks met Cheryl, my Dad pulled me aside. "You always were a lucky son of a gun, don't screw this up. Ya hear?"
I didn't screw it up and we got married about a year after we met. By year seven we had two kids and the perfect marriage, at least in my mind. Just after our seventh anniversary the atmosphere around our house changed. As I mentioned earlier, something wasn't right.
Cheryl worked for an accounting firm. The owners, Bill and Mary Stanton, didn't sit back and wait for the business to come to them. They established a sales department and went looking for business. Because of Cheryl's knowledge and her easy way with people, Bill and Mary offered her the job of head of the sales department. That's when the "trouble" at home started.
I was working too and was putting in a lot of hours myself. We wanted a bigger house and put in all the overtime I could get. There was plenty of overtime available as the construction company I worked for was in the middle of three large projects. That put more of a strain on Cheryl. She had to be a wife, a mother, and the department head too.
At first I thought it was the stress of these duties she had that caused her to sometimes be distracted at home. I cut back on my hours a little and tried to be of more help around our house. Helping to take care of our two kids, like picking them up from day care and doing more of the normal stuff around home gave her a little down time.
I even made it a point to come home early once a week so Cheryl could do whatever she wanted for one night. About twice a month she would stop for a drink after work with her friends. Cheryl was always home by 8 so she could say good night to our children.
Cheryl began to smile a little more and her time with the kids wasn't so hurried and she could enjoy them. Her improved attitude didn't seem to extend to me. Our love life had wound down somewhat from our carefree childless days but that was to be expected. When we did find or make the time, it was still passionate and more than satisfying. We just didn't make love often enough in my mind.
John Wilkins, a friend of mine since the second grade, gave me a call on a Thursday. He wanted to get together for a beer or two on Friday about 3 after I got off work. My parents were picking up the kids and would take them for the weekend. Cheryl didn't get off until around 5, so after checking with her I called John back and agreed to meet him at a local watering hole.
He was sitting at the bar as I walked in. John smiled and nodded toward a booth against the back wall. We sat down and the waitress brought over two beers and two shots of bourbon to go with them.
"Hey, I don't want to get too heavy here," I said with a grin. "I need to be at least semi concisions when I go home."
"J. W. drink the shot," John ordered. "You're gonna need it."
I could see the serious look on his face. Knocking back the bourbon I took a big drink of the beer. "What the hell is going on John?"
"I met a gal couple of weeks ago and on our first date she mentioned that she works at Stanton's."
Not knowing where this was going I said, "Maybe she knows Cheryl."
John frowned and continued, "I told Sally that a friend of mine has a wife working there and asked if she knew Cheryl Jackson. She said she did but that she didn't know that they were married."
"What do you mean, they?"
"I knew you didn't know Sally and I asked her what she meant." John drank his shot, got the waitress's attention and ordered two more. "She told me that Cheryl and a guy named Gary Stewart spent a lot of time together. Sally said they go to lunch two or three times a week. She also told me that Gary was in the group that stopped after work for a drink but he only showed up when Cheryl did."
I knocked back the second bourbon and finished my beer. John started to order another round but I'd had enough. I needed a clear head.
John said, "Sally said she was surprised that Cheryl and Gary were married because he had a reputation around the company as a lady's man. A big time player is what she called him."
"Son of a bitch," I said. This is why Cheryl's so distant with me, I thought. This is why she seems distracted at home. I knew that if Cheryl was cheating our marriage was toast. I'm not the deepest thinker or most profound guy but I didn't care why only that she did. Only that she had.
"What's this Gary look like?" I asked barely containing my anger.
"Big guy, 6' 3 or 4. Sally says he's sorta good looking but kinda slick, if you know what I mean? You know him?"
"Yeah, or I should say I met him once. It was at a Christmas party at the Stanton's house." I had a grim smile on my face. "I knew I didn't like the asshole for some reason."
"Look JW, from what Sally told me, they haven't done anything besides having lunch and a couple of drinks together with the rest of the crowd," John added. "Sally said that they didn't take long extended lunches and didn't leave together when they met at the bar. She said they didn't even dance with each other. When Stewart asked Cheryl she always turned him down. Maybe Sally's misreading the situation. She's only been at Stanton's a couple of months."
"Maybe," I replied. "But if something isn't going on it will be if this keeps up. What's the name of the bar the group stops at?"
"Place called The Office just down the block from Cheryl's building. What are you going to do buddy?"
"I don't know just yet," I answered. "But I guarantee this little romance is going to stop or I'll be gone."
"You should talk to Cheryl before you make a hard core decision," John warned. "Don't do anything stupid JW.
"I won't promise anything right now. It depends on how serious Cheryl is about this guy." I stood up and said, "Thanks for the heads up buddy."
"Sorry as hell to be the one to tell you."
.... There is more of this story ...