I'm sorry, but I have always been a little cynical and recent developments have only strengthened my cynicism. I am having a hard time trusting people now. Let me explain.
We are the Kelly's, Raymond and Jackie. Our marriage was only six months old when we moved into our first home. A condo in a very nice area and it will do for a couple of years. We have plans for family but for now apartment type living will do.
Jackie is a tall girl at 5 feet 10. She goes well with my 6 foot 3 inch frame. Her hair is auburn and worn long, half way down her back. Green eyes and a slender build complete the Irish girl look that helped win my heart. Me? I'm tall as I said, with a dark complection and in good physical shape. I clean up pretty good. Jackie is 22 and I'm 26.
My wife is an intelligent girl, she married me didn't she. She is smart but very naive and trusts people much more than I do. I am always warning her about being too trusting and tell her it will cause problems in the future. I must be psychic.
The apartment across the hall was empty when we moved in. It was sold about six weeks after we set up our home. The new tenants were two guys, Josh Randle and Franklin Johnson. We met while they were moving personal items into their new place on a Friday. To be neighborly, I helped them move their things into the condo. Josh and I seemed to be carrying the bigger items, but Franklin seemed to limit himself to the small items and not many of them. Josh and I ended up doing most of the work.
Josh was the smaller of the two. He was about 5 feet 8 and weighed maybe 150 pounds. I would have guessed his age at around 40. He was pretty strong though and held up his end when carrying the items that needed two people to move.
Franklin was bigger. He stood 6 feet 4, and that was even taller than me. For a tall man he had a husky build. I think he was about 34 years old. He should have been the one helping me with the heavy items.
The next Thursday, Josh knocked on our door. He invited Jackie and me to dinner at his condo at 7:00 on Saturday. He said that dinner would be both a thank you for my help and a chance to get to know his new neighbors. Good idea, I thought as he seemed like a very nice guy. I checked with Jackie when she got home and she agreed that it was a good idea. I called Josh and accepted his invitation.
We crossed the hall and knocked on their door exactly at 7:00. Josh told us that it would only be the three of us as Franklin had an appointment. He could possibly join us later. I looked around their place and was amazed at how much had been done in just a few days. While at dinner I told Josh how great the place looked. He seemed to appreciate it.
"I decorated it myself," he told us. "Of course I'm an interior designer so it's my thing. What else would you expect a gay man to work at?" He laughed and searched my face for a reaction.
Josh informing us that he was gay surprised me a little. I had never had much contact with any gays. I'm not homophobic but I was surprised at his statement. "Really" I said.
"You didn't know I was gay did you?" Josh seemed to think my reaction was funny.
"Yes I knew, but I didn't know you were an interior designer," I shot back at him.
Josh threw back his head and laughed. "Good one Ray, I think I've under estimated you."
The next two hours were spent just talking and getting to know each other. As we were leaving, Franklin came home and I introduced Jackie to him ... His eyes opened wider and then narrowed as if he were a predator on the prowl. His reaction to Jackie bothered me and my instincts said something was wrong here. I have learned to trust my instincts about people. Jackie of course being naive never noticed the way Franklin looked at her. We thanked Josh and stepped across the hall to our place.
Jackie was very impressed with Josh and his talent. She jabbered on until we both went to bed. I was going to warn her about Franklin, but she began to kiss me and I lost my train of thought. Anyway Josh is gay, Franklin is his roommate, and therefore Franklin is gay. Isn't he? I must have read his expression wrong when he met Jackie.
Ten days after our dinner, Josh invited Jackie and me to attend a fund raiser dinner and dance. "It's not for gay pride or anything, Ray," he assured me. "The proceeds will help an abused women's shelter." He seemed concerned about my feelings about gays.
"Josh, you are more homophobic than I am and you keep making excuses to me. I have never said or thought anything about you except that you seem to be a good person and that you sure know how to cook. Give a rest will you?" I smiled at him because I wanted to put him at ease about my feelings.
I checked with Jackie and accepted his invite. That evening at home Jackie asked me, "Are you okay with going out with Josh."?
"You too? Look, I don't care if Josh is gay. He seems like a nice guy and a good neighbor. That's what I think of him. What he does in private is none of my business. But somewhere, sometime, Josh has been attacked or persecuted because he's gay."
"I think you're right, he has been hurt. What do you think about Franklin? You didn't mention him just now," Jackie said.
"I don't know him as well as Josh. I guess he is okay, we haven't spent as much time with him so I don't really have an opinion on him yet."
"Don't give me that. I saw your reaction that night after dinner at Josh's place. You didn't like the way he held my hand when we were introduced. I saw it in your face and your eyes. What's wrong with Franklin?" Jackie was more observant than I thought, or I was more transparent to her.
I hesitated before answering. Jackie motioned with her hands for me to say something. "Okay, you won't agree or like it but I'll tell you. It started when I helped them move in. Josh and I worked our butts off and Franklin did as little as possible. He would have sat down and watched us if Josh hadn't kept giving him looks. The other thing is the way he looked at you when you met. It was the look of a big cat stalking his prey."
"You're crazy, Ray. Franklin is gay, he isn't interested in me or in women," Jackie said.
"I told you that you wouldn't agree," I said. "Look, I haven't had much experience with gays, but I have been around players and Franklin has the look of a player. I'm not sure he is gay and I want you to watch out for him. You have a tendency to trust people too much."
Jackie was getting mad. "I'm ashamed of you Ray. First for you to think that I would cheat on you and second you are insulting a nice man. A nice man that you admit you don't know very well. Franklin and I had coffee the other day and talked for over two hours. He is charming, intelligent and interesting."
"What? Why did you feel a coffee date with another man was okay?" I was beginning to get angry myself.
"It wasn't a date, he just asked me to go for coffee with him. Anyway, it's not like he would make a play for me," Jackie was a little indignant with me. "And when did it become necessary for me to have to get permission from you to do anything. Am I your slave now?"
"Take it easy Jackie. I haven't accused you of anything, but you must have been uneasy about meeting Franklin or you would have told me about it. All I'm asking is that you keep your guard up around him. Okay?" I put my arms around her and held her to me. Things were still a little cool around our place for the next day or two.
By the night of the fund raiser everything had smoothed out between us and we were back to normal. Jackie looked stunning in a floor length lavender gown. It was low cut in the front and even lower cut in the back. plus she had her hair up off her neck. She looked so good that I had thoughts of staying home and making love. I had bought a new suit so I wouldn't look shabby next to her.
We had a good time at the gala. Jackie danced with Josh a few times but most of the time she was with me. She danced with Franklin once, although he did sit beside her at our table and they talked a lot that evening. I didn't like it but kept myself from saying anything.
Josh had ridden with us to and from the party. As we were saying good night in the hallway, I said something about it being strange that he and Franklin hadn't gone together. Josh laughed and then when he saw I was serious, gave me a funny look. Jackie and I went into our place before he could say anything more.
Getting ready for bed, I was wondering if I should say something about all the time Jackie had spent talking with Franklin. She had almost ignored everyone else at the table, including me. If I didn't say anything it would bother me for a long time, perhaps build into something more than it should. If I did say something to Jackie, it would probably cause another argument. I'm not real good at holding things in, sometimes to my detriment.
"What was the deal with you and Franklin tonight?" I sort of hunched my shoulders waiting for her response.
"We were just talking Ray. He works at a hospital and we know some of the same people. I know how you feel about him so I only danced with Frank one time," she answered.
"Now it's Frank? You ignored the other people at the table, including me. Every time I tried to talk to you, your back was turned to me as you talked to Franklin. It was like I wasn't there as far as you were concerned." I was starting to get mad.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ignore you," Jackie said. "But we were only talking.
"I warned you about him before but you just got mad at me. What is worse is that you defended that ass. I'll tell once more, he is a player and will try to seduce you. That's all I've got to say."
"That's enough Jackie. I so mad right now that I might say something I shouldn't. Leave me alone for now." Mad didn't begin to explain how I felt.
We tiptoed around each other for a couple of days. The third evening after the dance, Jackie snuggled up to me in bed and apologized in a way that I had to accept. For those of you that do not get it, we had a very busy sexy night.
Two weeks later Josh invited us to another gala fund raiser but my company was having a diner meeting on that night. What made it worse, it was employees only and Jackie couldn't go with me. I didn't feel right about her sitting at home and told her to go with Josh, if she wanted too. She kissed me, excited about getting all dressed up.
My meeting was over about 9:00 and I made it home about 10:00. Jackie wasn't home yet, but I really didn't expect her until midnight or so. The dinner started at 8:00 and with the speeches and awards the dancing wouldn't begin until ten or so. I was having a cup of coffee and reading reports when the door bell rang at 11:30. I opened the door and Josh and Jackie were standing there. They both looked like they had enjoyed the wine at the party. Maybe a little too much.
"I return your lady to your custody, my lord," Josh said with a bow and flourish. He was smiling.
"Thank you kind sir, I accept the lady." I took Jackie's hand and pulled her to me. "Thanks Josh, you're a good man. Talk to you soon."
Jackie was a little tipsy, not drunk, and just at the happy stage. I sat her on our couch and got her some coffee, laughing at her a little.
"How was the affair? Did you have a good time, honey?"
"Oh yes, it was fun. We had a very good dinner, the speeches didn't take too long, and the band was great. Did you know that Josh is a great dancer?"
"So you danced with Josh a lot did you? Maybe I should worry about him instead of Franklin," I said. I meant it as a joke, but as soon as I said it I knew I had put my foot in my mouth.
"Damn it, there is nothing going on with Frank, although I did dance with him a couple of times tonight. I didn't want you to think I was hiding anything. I told you before he is gay and isn't interested in me as a woman. I'm going to bed. Good night."
Well so much for any loving tonight I thought. Smooth move dummy. I'm not good at keeping things in but I needed to learn to keep my mouth shut sometimes.
Almost every month there was a fund raiser of some kind that Josh would invite us to. I tried to pay our way but he wouldn't hear of it. He said that by us going he had someone interesting to talk to. Josh also said he enjoyed dancing with Jackie. We didn't go to every party but we did go to the important ones.
My wife works in a medical lab doing tests for doctors and hospitals; you know blood tests, drug scans and such. As I said before she is very smart. I'm a medical supply salesman and that's how we met. I was at her lab getting an order and we ran into each other and talked about the supplies I furnished. I took her to lunch and then out to dinner a few days later. That one date led to another and another and soon we were a couple. We lived together for about eight months to test things out and then got married.
My job doesn't require very much travel out of town. Most of my customers are in our city or close enough to visit in one day. When I do have to travel, about five or six times a year, I have to be gone several days at a time. Anywhere from two nights to a week, just depends on the area I had to visit. I would call Jackie every night while I was gone. Usually we didn't have anything important to say, you know just I love you and good night.
On my second trip since moving into the new place, I got a call from Josh one evening. He said he knew it was my fifth day away and I had two more nights before I could get home on Sunday. He and Jackie had been spending most evenings talking, playing cards and watching T.V. together. Josh said that she was a little lonely without me.
"Ray there is a play opening Friday night and an opening night party after wards. I would like to ask Jackie to go but I wanted to check with you first. What do you think?"
"Sure Josh, if she wants to go. I don't have a problem with her going anywhere with you."
"Thanks Ray, Jackie is one of the few people that I can talk to. Her company is always a pleasure. Well, see you on Sunday. Bye."
Later when I call Jackie to say good night, she told me about Josh and the play. "Is it alright if I go with Josh, I told him I would have to talk to you first?"
"I don't mind of you want to go with Josh. I know you're lonely and you deserve to have some fun. You probably won't get home until late tomorrow night, so I will wait until Saturday to call you. Have a good time. I love you."
On Saturday, I called Jackie on the lunch break. "Did you have a good time at the play?"
"Yes I did. The play was very good and the after party was exciting. I met the Mayor and his wife and there were a couple of big time celebrities there. Josh knows everybody that is anybody. I'll tell you all about it on Sunday," Jackie said.
I got home on Sunday and Jackie tried to make up for the loving we had missed all week in one day. She wore me out. While resting Jackie thanked me for letting her go to the play with Josh.
"Josh is a good man and I trust him to look out for you." I couldn't stop my run away mouth and added, "Franklin is a different matter though."
"What is this animosity you have for Frank? He is just a nice guy too. So what are you worried about? Don't you trust me?
"I've told you before Franklin is not what you think. All I have is a gut feeling, but something isn't right about that guy. I think he will put a move on you." I was getting upset that Jackie wouldn't listen to my warning.
"Frank can sense how you feel about him, you know. At the after party on Friday, he mentioned that he didn't think you liked him. And..."
"HE WAS THERE? Why didn't you mention that little fact when we talked about the party?" I was past just being mad; I was on my way to being enraged. "You know how I feel about Franklin and yet you spent time with him and then you hide that fact from me. NOT A GOOD THING, JACKIE."
"I didn't tell you because I knew you would be mad. Franklin was at the party with someone else and we just ran into each other. I only danced with him twice and we had a drink together. That's all Ray, I swear."
"You deciding not to tell me about Franklin is the same as lying to me, Jackie. He has you lying to me and he will get you to do other things. Was he there with another man or with a woman?" She didn't have an answer to that question. "Jackie, I don't want you to see him anymore in any circumstances. If he comes up to you at a party or somewhere, you are to walk away from him. Do you understand?"
"I'm not a child Ray. You can't tell me who I can talk to or who I can have as friends," Jackie told me in an angrily. "I'm a married woman, all grown up mister and I can take care of myself."
"You may be grown Jackie, but if you continue to see Franklin you may not be a married woman for long." There I go sticking both feet in my mouth. When will I learn to think before I talk?
"What is that supposed to mean? Are you threatening to leave me?"
I couldn't tell if she was mad or frightened. Maybe I should defuse the situation but then again I wasn't the one hiding things. "Jackie I love you and I don't want to lose you. I trust you to do the right thing but if you have any more do with Franklin our marriage will be in big trouble. Please stay away from him; he isn't who or what you think he is. I'm asking you to do this as your husband and lover. It's you choice Jackie."
The next morning things were more than cool around the breakfast table. We left for our jobs without even a dutiful kiss on the cheek or a see you tonight. Not a good situation. I wanted to call Jackie at lunch and talk some more about the Franklin problem, but I decided I had made my point last night. It was up to her, whatever she wanted to do. It had to be her choice. My phone rang as I came into the office after lunch, it was Jackie.
"Hi honey," she greeted me. This was a good beginning. "We need to talk tonight; will you be home at the usual time?"
"Yeah, I'll be there about 5:00." The phrase "we need to talk" are four words no married man wants to hear. This could be bad, very bad. I tried to tell myself not to borrow trouble, but it didn't ease my mind much. I actually got home at 4:45 and when I walked into our condo, I could smell dinner cooking. Maybe this won't be all bad, I thought. It was the first time Jackie had made dinner in over a week.
Jackie met me at the door with large bourbon, a smile, and a kiss. Things were looking up. "Maybe we should talk before dinner," Jackie suggested.
"Okay," I agreed and we sat side by side on the couch in the living room. "What's up honey?" This was said with a hope and a prayer.
"First, I owe you an apology. I should have told you about meeting Franklin at the party. It was dishonest not to tell you about it. The reasons I didn't aren't really valid, I should have told you. I also realize that your objection to Frank is not jealousy but a concern for my welfare. Thank you for caring about me that much."
To tell the truth, I was flabbergasted. This was not what I expected when Jackie said we should talk. I leaned over and kissed her.
"I will do what you ask and not spend any more time with Frank," Jackie said to me. "If we meet I will say hello and walk away. Will that be okay? I don't want to be totally rude," Jackie was trying to find a medium we both could live with.
"Yeah, that will work. Thank you," I told her. I kissed her again and then she kissed me. The dinner was forgotten about and we never did eat that night. We were busy. The burned dinner left a hell of a mess in the kitchen though.
Six weeks passed and our life was good. We continued to have little talks and I really believe these talks strengthened our marriage. Jackie and I went out to two more galas with Josh. At both of them Franklin attended and asked Jackie to dance. She turned him down, nicely but turned him down. He tried to get her alone and into long discussions, but she would excuse herself to go to the ladies' room or join Josh and me.
Josh called us and asked us to go with him to the next fund raiser. This one was a benefit for some children's cause and sounded like a good one to support. As usual, Josh refused to let us pay for our tickets but said we could make a donation if that would make us feel better. The only problem was that the night of the party was our anniversary. Jackie and I talked about it and decided that as long as we were together, it didn't matter where we were. We agreed to go with Josh.
Two nights later I met Josh at our local pub. He had asked me to meet him after work. I entered the pub and joined Josh at a booth in the back. I guess maybe I am a little homophobic, I was afraid he was going to make a move on me.
"Relax Ray, I'm not after your body," Josh kidded me as he laughed. "I want to talk to you about something."
"Okay, I'm game. Fire away, Josh."
"I understand that there is some tension between you and Jackie because of your concerns about Franklin. Is that true? It's really none of my business but you and Jackie are like family to me. Tell me to mind my own business if you want to. I won't be offended if you do."
"Yeah, there have been some discussions about Franklin. I don't like the attention he has shown to Jackie and I told her how I felt. We had a little spat about it but everything is okay now. Why?"
"You made a comment after that first fund raiser the three of us went to that has me puzzled. Do you remember saying that you thought it strange that Franklin and I hadn't gone to the party together. Why did you say that?"
"Josh, I just meant you guys are life partners or whatever you call it and I thought it strange that you wouldn't go together." I was trying to be diplomatic.
"Franklin and I aren't life partners nor are we a couple. He isn't gay and we are just roommates sharing expenses. Did you think Franklin is gay?"
"God damn it, I knew there was something wrong with that guy. Yes I thought you and he were a couple. He told Jackie that he is gay and I think he has been using that to get close to her. I think he's trying to seduce her. THAT SON OF A BITCH. Josh you are going to lose a roommate when I get hold of him."
"Don't worry, he is already gone. I threw him out last night for not paying his share of the expenses. I just wanted to clear up any misconceptions. We good?" I nodded in answer and he said, "See you Saturday."
I couldn't wait to tell Jackie that, as usual, I had been right. I was ready to gloat and say I told you so; I was so immature sometimes. Jackie met me at the door dressed in my favorite outfit. She had on high heels, a bow in her hair, and thigh high stockings. Nothing else. I got so busy telling her how beautiful she was, that I forgot to tell her about Franklin.
The big party was on Saturday but on Wednesday afternoon my boss, John, hit me with a bomb shell. He wanted me to go see a big customer the next day and I would be gone until Sunday. The sale could be worth about two million dollars to my company. If I could close the deal, my commission would be about ten per cent and I would get a promotion to regional manager. My income would almost double as the regional manager and there would be no more traveling.
However my biggest sales job would be to get an okay from Jackie. After all it was our anniversary. I was really dreading telling Jackie about the trip. If things went south, I was prepared to tell my boss I couldn't go. I wanted the commission and the promotion, but not at the expense of my marriage. When I got home, Jackie was packing a bag for me.
My boss is a sly fox. He knew it was a special day for us and had called Jackie and explained how important this trip was. He told her it was important to the company but even more important to Jackie and me. John is the sales manager and now I know why. He sold Jackie on the idea of me going on this trip.
"You really okay with this, Jackie? I can tell John I can't go."
"Are you nuts? A huge commission check and a promotion, you have to go. Then when you get back we will have three things to celebrate."
"Three things to celebrate, what do you mean? She shook her head and continued to pack for me. "You can still go to the party with Josh if you want to honey."
She said she would like to go and would make arrangements with Josh the next day. That night you would have thought we were going to be separated for three months instead of three days. I was a little tired the next morning.
I called Jackie when I got to my hotel on Thursday and I called her again on Friday evening. Just the usual, I love you and good night. The negotiations went smoothly and the deal was finalized early Saturday morning. I had a signed contract and didn't see any reason for staying until Sunday.
It would be a great surprise to Jackie for me to get home early, so I didn't call her. I changed my flight and landed about 6:00. The party was going to start at 8:00 and if I hurried I could get home before Jackie and Josh left. If not, I wouldn't be far behind them and could catch up to them at the party.
Jackie wasn't home when I got there at 7:00. Assuming that Jackie and Josh had already left, I hurried to get cleaned up and dressed. I had just finished my shower and was almost dressed when the door bell rang. Hell not now I thought, I'm in a hurry. Josh was at the door when I opened it. He was surprised to see me.
"I thought you were going to be out of town," he said.
"Got things done this morning and came home early. Wait a second, what are you doing here? Where's Jackie? She's supposed to be with you." I was puzzled.
"I thought she was here, I came to pick her up for the party," he answered me.
"Damn it, come on." I grabbed my jacket and we ran to the limo Josh had waiting. I don't know why but I was sure Jackie would be at the fund raiser and told Josh my thoughts.
Josh talked to the driver through the divider, "its 25 minutes to the hotel, Sam. Get us there in 15 or less and it's worth a hundred dollars to you. I'll pay for any tickets." Josh knew how to get things done. I never knew that a limo could be driven like a race car.
That ride wasn't something I wanted to repeat, but I was grateful to our driver. Now I know what a NASCAR driver feels like. We got to the hotel in 12 minutes. I was out of the car and running before it power slid to a stop. Josh was about twenty steps behind me.
We rushed into the ballroom to look for Jackie. I had a suspicion that Franklin was involved in this. I didn't see Jackie right away so Josh and I separated to look for her. Finishing one circuit around the room I started another one when Josh whistled from across the room. Man, that guy could whistle loud, everyone in the ball room looked at him. He waved for me to join him and I sprinted to him.
"One of my friends told me that Franklin and a young lady just went down the hall toward the elevators. He said they passed him not more than a few minutes ago," Josh told me. "You go to the elevators and I will check with the front desk to see if Franklin is registered."
I nodded and raced down the hall. No one was there, but an elevator door was just closing. I couldn't get to it in time to stop it and I didn't see who was on it. The elevator was the only one moving and I watched the floor indicator to see where it would stop. I watched the elevator stop on the sixth floor and started for the stairs. Josh stopped me and push to button to call the elevator.
"Franklin has room #612. This will be faster than the stairs." Fortunately Josh had stopped my wild run to the stairs.
I must have worn a hole in the carpet with my pacing back and forth waiting for that damn slow elevator. No matter how many times I pushed the button, the elevator didn't move any faster. The same thing happened once we got into the elevator. Pushing the button for the sixth floor repeatedly didn't make it go any faster. It took its' own slow sweet time getting there. The doors had barely opened more than a crack and I was forcing them to open faster. Room 612 was to the left and I raced down the hall with Josh on my heels.
Josh stopped me from banging on the door and showed me a card key. "How did you get that?" I was surprised. Josh continues to amaze me.