by Adam Gunn
In an easy chair the author sat in a coffee shop sipping his tea, supposedly burying himself inside a thick book of fiction. In reality he was people watching. There were perhaps a dozen people in his view, teenagers having a coffee and talking with friends or studying their textbooks. A conclave of senior women milled, one knitting, all gossiping. And, directly in his field of vision, a woman perhaps of the age of forty-five or fifty at a table slightly detached from the rest of the restaurant, her tote bag and purse on the chair next to her. The author felt she had an expectant air, fiddling with her wedding ring, looking to the door. For five minutes she lingered, jotting in her datebook, expectantly glancing at her phone.
Suddenly her disposition heartened. The author looked to his right, a man in a suit was striding toward her. She rose and strolled to him, they met fifteen feet from the table. A kiss of recognition on the cheek, a small embrace, she led him to the corner. As they approached their table the author observed the man almost imperceptibly place his hand intimately on the small of her back.
The woman smiled brightly, laughed at the first words; the author couldn't hear them. In fact no one could, the author realized. Although the couple was situated in the center of a congregation, the twosome were virtually private. Oh, how the author wished he could have eavesdropped.
"Do you want to get a cup of coffee or anything?" Amy asked.
"No, I've been sitting in meetings all afternoon. I'm good . . . You're looking fantastic. You let your hair grow."
"Do you like it? A couple of years ago I needed a change. Jackson suggested I let it go long."
"It's wonderful," Hal admired. "How have you been?"
"Well, really well. How's Bev?"
She would have to get to the sore spot quickly, wouldn't she, thought Hal. "She's fine. Still as critical as ever. She's gained a few pounds."
Amy thought back to the time they'd been together, five and a half years before. Hal had always been charming to her but very demeaning of his wife. Amy had never met the woman of course, she had no idea if Hal's criticisms were valid. She changed the topic, "And work?"
"Not bad. Got promoted to Executive Manager earlier this year."
The conversation trundled along for a few minutes, mainly about families and trivia until Hal was able to shift it in the direction he wished. Amy understood the presumed purpose of the meet, was unsurprised.
"I've missed you," Hal said.
"I missed you for a very long time."
"I'm sorry I ever let you go."
"So you said at the time." Amy's tone was less than sympathetic. "You sent me into a depression, I had to find a therapist. I should charge you for the sessions."
"If you really want me to pay . . ."
"I'm kidding," Amy said. "But it was a tough time for me. I lost fifteen pounds, of course Jackson noticed it immediately. I had to confess, otherwise it would have just hung over us."
"You told him? How did he take it?"
"Oh, he knew all along. He can read me like a book. So when I finally told him I'd had an affair he was kind about it, very kind. Almost too kind, if you know what I mean. Back then there was a part of me that wanted him to yell at me, punish me."
"And he didn't?"
"No, not at all. In fact . . ." her voice trailed off. "Did Bev ever find out?"
"Not that I know of," Hal revealed. "Or maybe she suspected but didn't care. We had sex so rarely back then. In any case, I never had to face the music."
"Did it get any better with you two? You said you were ending it so you could get closer to her."
"For awhile. I romanced her, she responded, we even got some sex toys and tried a couple of things. But her mother passed, right after that it went back to where it was before." The conversation was becoming maudlin, Hal brought it back to square one. "Do you remember how we met?"
"How could I forget? We were at one of those business classes and you talked to me on a break. A few days later you called me, asked me out for coffee."
"I had to pay a guy from the company that put the class together $25 to get your number. And there were two girls in the class named 'Amy', the other one was really confused when I called her. And remember the first time we went to the hotel?"
"Oh, god, I was so nervous. If you hadn't been so sweet about it I think I would have just run out of there. I was a bad lay the first time, wasn't I?"
"No, no, of course not," Hal assured her. "And I probably wasn't very good myself, I had no game at all."
"Yeah, but we got it together, didn't we? It just got better and better, every time. It's hard to believe it only lasted eleven weeks."
"Is that all it was? It seemed like it went on forever. I couldn't wait until the next time I saw you."
Amy laughed, "And we would have gone broke. It's great you found the old hotel out by the airport that rented by the hour."
"Yeah, it was only $40, and the guy wanted it in cash. At least it was clean."
"More or less," Amy chuckled. "I saw a cockroach in the bathroom one time. Would have run screaming, but I was so damn horny!"
"Would you like to do it again?" Hal tempted.
Amy had been waiting for this question, she was positive this was the purpose Hal had when he invited her to the coffee shop. And she had her answer planned, even rehearsed. "Hal, let's suppose we do start up again. I admit the thought is tempting. But what would happen if your wife caught you?"
"I don't know. Why would she catch us? We learned to be careful."
"But just suppose she did. Would she divorce you?"
"Maybe . . . I don't think so. It'd be rough though."
"And you're willing to chance that?"
Amy's tone was a little severe, Hal thought. After all, he was trying to seduce this woman, why was she talking about consequences? "I suppose so."
"Well, I went through it. I'm lucky Jackson was so forgiving, he had every right to throw me out on my ass. Understand if we start up again you can't expect this to be as easy as it was. You're cool with it?"
"Sure. I guess so."
"You've got to do better than guess. You've got to be ready for this. And if you can't stand the flames, better not light the match." Amy shifted her test. "Tell me, I was your first affair, wasn't I?"
"I told you that."
"And since me? Any others?"
"No." An outright lie, of course, Hal met a woman once when he was traveling, a simple one night stand. And then there was Rachel, he'd come close but in the end she wasn't willing.
"Would it surprise you to find out I've had some affairs?" Amy was pleased to see the jolt on Hal's face. "Actually, I suppose they've not been 'affairs' so much as they've been hookups. Most of them have been one-and-done's, but there was this guy I really liked I saw once or twice a month for nearly two years. But it wasn't an affair, I didn't love him, it was just friends with benefits. You taught me that loving a man I'm not married to is really dangerous."
"You've been able to hide this from Jackson?"
Amy smiled. "I haven't had to. Jackson knows all about them. In fact, he actually sets most of them up. Jackson likes the idea of me being in bed with somebody. And the first time I do it with a guy, Jackson likes to be right there in the room with me, watching. Then we have a threesome. Are you shocked?"
Hal collected his breath, his thoughts. "I've heard of things like that. Who hasn't? I just didn't expect you to be one of those women."
Amy was still enjoying this turn of events, she placed her hand on Hal's, the first contact they'd had since they'd sat. "Well it was a surprise to me, too. I mean, you taught me an extra-marital affair can be a lot of fun. And I thought back then you were the best lover I ever had. I admit, I've compared every lover since then to you. Not one has come close." Again not the truth, not even close to it, but Amy was trying to reel him in. "Knowing that, are you still interested? Would you like to find yourself in bed with me?"
"Of course I would!" The answer came too quickly, much too eagerly. Amy knew he hadn't really considered it yet, he was just horny for her.
"Okay. But I want you to think about it over the weekend. If you're still interested in getting into a three-way with Jackson and me, call me after work sometime next week."
Amy stood, grabbed her tote and purse, leaned down and gave Hal a soft kiss on the lips. "I really do hope you'll call, we'll have fun."
The author watched the woman stand and briefly kiss the man, then race from the restaurant. The man watched her leave over his shoulder with a strange look on his face. Confusion? Anticipation? Consternation?
And then the author watched the man follow the woman.