Sunday, August 29, 2010

On Being Proactive

On Being Proactive
By: KK (

On Being Proactive by KK

My name is Allen Harris and I am thirty-six years old. For the last ten years I have been working as a network manager for a large insurance company in Cincinnati, Ohio. In order to be successful at my job I have to act proactively and think logically to solve problems and keep our network up. This is extremely important because the company loses thousands of dollars for every minute the network is down. For the most part I have been able to apply the skills I have learned in my job to the rest of my life. I always try to head problems off before they happen and think carefully and rationally before reacting to the problems that I was not able to foresee or prevent. This way of dealing with life has worked well for me up until recently when I was faced with some challenges that tested my ability to think rationally and react logically.

Although I didn't know it at the time my problems started last June when I took the family to Paducah, Kentucky to attend a wedding. Paducah was my wife Tracy's home town and the bride was Tray's cousin.

At the wedding Tracy ran into Jill Tanner, an old friend of hers from high school, and she suggested that we meet her and her husband Frank that evening for a drink. That evening, after the reception Tracy and I left our nine year old son Matthew and our seven year old daughter Lisa with Tracy's parents and we went out to meet Tracy's friends. I had never spent much time in Paducah so Tracy had to give me directions to Brian's Barn where Jill and Frank, were waiting for us.

Brian's Barn was not only the name of the place but also an apt description. The bar was in a restored barn. When we entered we were in a large room with a circular bar in the middle. There were tables scattered around the outside walls and a dance floor at one end of the bar. Against the wall beyond the dance floor was a band stand but the band was not playing when we entered. Jill and Frank were sitting at a table at the opposite end of the room from the dance floor and Jill waived at us when we came in.

After the introductions were made we ordered drinks and began chatting. It turned out that Frank also worked with computer networks and we were soon swapping stories of the strange or unusual network problems we have encountered over the years. By the time the band started to play we were so deep into our discussion and sitting so close together to be able to hear each other over the load music that I hadn't noticed that Tracy and Jill had left the table. It wasn't until I realized that my beer was empty and looked up to see if anyone else needed a drink that I noticed the girls were missing.

"This is a hang out for a lot of the people our age," Frank shouted over the music. Jill and Tracy probably ran into some old friends."

Frank and I got up and walked over to the bar to get another round of beers and I spotted Tracy talking to a guy on the other side of the bar. He looked to be about my size and probably about the same age. By the expression on their faces I could tell that he and Tracy knew each other. As I picked my fresh beer up off the bar I looked over at Tracy again. I am not normally a jealous person and I have always trusted Tracy. She has never given me any reason to make trust an issue and from what I could see there was nothing about the conversation she was having with her friend that concerned me. Frank and I took our beers back over to the table and resumed our conversation about content delivery over a broad band network, not exactly a subject that Tracy and Jill would have found interesting.

It was about an hour later that Tracy and Jill returned to the table. I cold tell by the look on Tracy's face that it was time for me to stop talking shop and include them in our conversation. The rest of the evening was very pleasant. I had taken a liking to Frank and Jill and before we left that night we invited them to come visit us in Cincinnati to go to a Reds' baseball game.

During the ride back to Tracy's parents house I asked her about the guy I had seen her talking to.

"That was Barry Fox," she said. "He was a friend of mine in high school. I'm sorry I was gone so long but I was having fun talking to friends I haven't seen in several years. We were telling stories about our high school days and they were bringing me up to date on a lot of our other friends."

"I am glad you had fun. I was so tied up talking to Frank I never even saw you leave the table."

"Aren't Jill and Frank nice?" Tracy asked.

"Yes. I really liked them," I said.

"You know they got married right out of high school. Jill got pregnant just before graduation and they got married that July. Everybody was talking behind their backs saying that they would end up divorced. Nobody thought they would stay together but it's been eighteen years and Jill told me that they're still in love."

"We've been together for fourteen years," I said. "Do you still love me?"

"You know I do," Tracy said and then she leaned over and kissed me.

The next morning after thanking Tracy's parents for putting us up and for baby sitting for us the previous night we made the four hour drive back to Cincinnati.

Two weeks later on Saturday afternoon I was in my workshop sharpening my lawn mower blade and Tracy had just left to do the grocery shopping when the phone rang. Because of my need to be available in case there is a network problem on the weekend I had a telephone installed in my workshop so that I could be reached when I am working around the house. That is in addition to my pager and my cell phone. As I picked up the phone on the third ring my son Matthew said, "Hello."

"Hi, who is this?" The caller asked.

"I'm Matthew."

"Well hello Matthew, is your mother home?"

I was about to speak but decided to see how my nine year old would handle the call.

"No sir," he said. "My mom just went to the store. Can I take a message?"

I was proud of him. He had handled the call just the way I had taught him.

"Yes thank you," the caller said. "I am an old friend of your mothers. My name is Barry. Would you please tell her I called?"

"Yes sir, I'll tell her you called," Matthew said.

"Tell your mom I'll call her tonight at eight o'clock," the caller said.

"I will tell her."

"Thanks Matthew."

I was surprised by the call. Could this be the Barry that Tracy was talking to in Paducah? Why would he be calling Tracy? I don't know why but these questions made my stomach tighten up a bit. I guessed that I was just going to have to wait until he called back at eight o'clock to see what he wanted. I managed to put the questions out of my head and got back to what I was doing.

I finished up my outside chores about a half hour later and went in the house to shower. I had finished my shower and when I saw that Tracy wasn't home yet I let my curiosity about Barry Fox get the better of me and I did something I had never before done. I went into Tracy's closet and found the box where she keeps personal things that have special meaning to her. It wasn't my intent to invade her privacy. I only wanted to find her high school yearbook.

The first time I had ever seen her yearbook was when we first moved in together during graduate school. It was in this same box full of her personal items. She had told me then that the items in the box predated our relationship and were important to her and she would prefer that I didn't look at her stuff but if I insisted she would tell me what was in there. She said that she wasn't trying to keep any secrets from me; it was just that these things were personal and private. I told her that I would not need to see them.

Examining the contents of the box I found a bundle of letters I had sent Tracy the summer after we met. Our wedding invitation was in there along with every birthday, anniversary, valentine, and mother's day card I had ever given her. By the time I got to the bottom of the box I was feeling pretty good. The only thing in that box that didn't have anything to do with our relationship was Tracy's high school year book.

That afternoon was the first time in the fourteen years we had been together that I looked inside the box. It was very comforting to see that her year book was the only thing she kept from before we met. I would never expect her to get rid of her yearbook because I still had mine but it was sure nice to see that everything else that predated our life together was gone.

I opened the book and turned to Tracy's senior picture. At seventeen she was a very pretty girl and in her face I could see the woman I married. I flipped slowly through the pages looking at the notes written by her friends. They were the same kind of notes I would have found in my own year book. "I will always remember the fun we had in Mr. Sayer's class," or "I know we will always be friends." Then I turned the page to find the pictures of students whose last name began with an F and there I found Barry Fox.

Barry had written a long note next to his picture. Even thought it had been written eighteen years earlier, long before I knew Tracy, his note made me feel uneasy.

"My Dearest Tracy," the note began, "I can't begin to tell you how much you have meant to me these last six months. I am so in love with you that sometimes I feel like I might explode. Then last week when your parents were out of town you made me feel like a real man for the first time in my life. You are the only thing I think about anymore and I know that I will love you for the rest of my life. I can't wait till summer so that we can be together all of the time."

The note was signed, "Love always, Barry."

I didn't have to read the note twice to understand what Barry had said. He and Tracy had made love in her parents' house. I knew Tracy wasn't a virgin when we started dating in college but I had never thought about her previous lover or lovers. Reading Barry's note disturbed me but I knew that it shouldn't and I felt guilty for invading Tracy's privacy and I wished that I had not read Barry's note.

Just then I heard Tracy's car pulling into the garage so I quickly slipped her yearbook into the bottom of the box and put the box back where I found it. I made sure that I had left no evidence of my envasion of Tracy's privacy and then I went down to the garage to help her with the groceries.

As we were putting the groceries away Matthew came into the kitchen and I realized that he was going to tell Tracy about the phone call from Barry. I quickly left the room so that I would not be there when Matthew gave Tracy the message from Barry. It was an instantaneous decision. I had originally planned to be there when she got the message so that I could ask her why he would be calling. At the last second I decided that I was just going to wait until after he called her back and then ask her who called and what he wanted.

Tracy had not done anything sneaky or devious so I had a hard time understanding why I reacted the way I did. I didn't know what I was doing but decided to just let my instincts guide me.

When I returned to the kitchen Tracy was still putting the groceries away. She had a strange expression on her face when she looked at me.

"Where did you disappear to so suddenly?" she asked.

"I had to go to the bathroom."

"Matthew said that someone named Barry called me and said he would call back at eight o'clock," Tracy said. "Do you know anything about that?"

"No. When did he call?"

"Matthew said it was three o'clock."

"Matthew is getting pretty good at taking messages, isn't he?" I said to cover up my discomfort.

I wondered if Matthew had told his mother that Barry said he was an old friend of hers or did she think this might be some other person named Barry? I had a hard time believing that she wouldn't know that it was her friend Barry calling. It would be too much of a coincidence for it to be anyone else.

"What do you think he wants?" I said.

"Probably just someone collecting for charity or another of those credit card solicitation calls," Tracy said.

Tracy looked a little uncomfortable when she said this and I was getting tenser by the minute. Tracy was open with me about the phone message but not completely. She didn't bother to acknowledge that it was her friend Barry from Paducah that had called.

This called for a change of plans for me. Now I wanted to hear this phone call when it took place.

"You're probably right," I said. "We have been getting a lot of those credit card solicitations lately."

The rest of the afternoon Tracy was quiet and she looked a little uneasy. At dinner that evening she hardly looked at me and seemed to concentrate all her attention on Matthew and Lisa. I was beginning to feel as though I had done something wrong and Tracy was mad at me but I knew that wasn't the case.

At 7:30 PM I told Tracy that I had pulled the lawn mower apart and that I was going out to my workshop to put it back together so that I could mow the lawn on Sunday.

The look on Tracy's face was one of relief. I wasn't going to be in the house when Barry called back at eight o'clock. I guessed that Tracy was relieved that I would be out in the shop when he called, never dreaming that I planned to listen in on the call.

It was 8:10 when the phone finally rang. I waited till the light on the phone came on indicating that the line was active and then I picked up the phone and hit the mute button at the same time.




"Hi. It's Barry. How are you?"

"Hi, Barry. I'm fine. This is a surprise," Tracy said.

"I hope a pleasant one," Barry said.

Tracy didn't comment.

"I just wanted to call and tell you how much I enjoyed seeing you after all these years," Barry said.

"It was great seeing you, too."

"When I got home and told Karen that I saw you she was pissed that she missed you. She wanted me to tell you to make sure and call her the next time you're in Paducah."

"I wish Karen had been there. I would love to have seen her," Tracy said.

I was beginning to feel better. The call seemed innocent enough.

"I am glad that Karen wasn't there," Barry said. "I would not have been able to dance with you like that if my wife had been there."

Dance like what? Alarms started going off in my head.

"We should not have been dancing like that. My husband was on the other side of the room and could easily have seen us," Tracy said.

"You didn't seem to mind at the time."

"I had too much to drink," Tracy said.

I wondered what the hell they had done on the dance floor. Tracy had never even mentioned that she had been dancing that night.

After that, the call became just a conversation between friends. I didn't know what to think about what I had heard but decided that whatever happened that night I wouldn't let it become a problem.

I figured the call was almost over when I was hit with another surprise.

"Tracy, I have had a change in my sales territory and I will be coming to Cincinnati a few times a year now. I expect to be up there in about three weeks and I was wondering if I could take you out to dinner when I was in town," Barry said.

Tracy was silent for a moment and then said, "I am not sure that Allen would be comfortable going out to dinner with one of my old boyfriends."

"One of your old boyfriends? I hope I was more than just one of your old boyfriends," Barry said. "Anyway, I wasn't planning on inviting your husband to go with us."

"I can't go out to dinner with you," Tracy said.

"Why not?"

"Isn't it obvious? We are both married and I don't go out on dates with anyone other than my husband," Tracy said.

I was glad to hear her say that.

"It's just dinner between old friends. It's no big deal. When we were talking at the ?Barn' I had the feeling that you wanted more time to talk," Barry said.

"I did want to find out what happened to a few more of our old friends."

"Okay then, we'll have dinner and I will get you caught up on what's happening with all of your old friends in Paducah."

"Just dinner and conversation?" Tracy asked.

That question made me very uneasy. It sounded like Tracy was actually considering his invitation.

"Yes. Dinner and conversation... Then we'll see what else happens," Barry said.

At that point I wanted to scream into the phone but I didn't.

"I don't think that is a good idea," Tracy said.

"Listen Tracy, I wouldn't be asking you to meet me if your kiss hadn't told me that you shared my desire."

"Barry! Don't say that. That was just a kiss of friendship so don't read anything in to it."

The knots in my stomach were getting tighter. Tracy seemed to be resisting Barry but she wasn't firm enough to convince him, or me for that matter, that she wasn't interested in his invitation.

"I'll give you time to think about this and I'll call you again when I know exactly when I'll be in Cincinnati," Barry said.

"No. You can't call me."


"Allen will get suspicious of these phone calls and I don't know how I would explain them to him."

"Well then, what is your number at work?"

"I can't have you calling me at work either."

I felt that Tracy was finally shutting Barry down. She was basically telling him not to call her again.

"Can I send you an e-mail?" Barry asked.

"Yes. That would be best," Tracy said.

I listened as she gave him her e-mail address and I felt as though I was going to vomit.

"Okay then. Look for my e-mail next week. Tracy, you know I still love you."

"Don't say that, Barry."

That was the end of the call. I was so upset I had to take a walk around the block to get fresh air into my lungs and clear my head. I started reviewing what I had heard and tried to make sense of it. I had just heard my wife's former lover invite her to have an affair with him. Tracy may want to believe that it was just a dinner invitation but she has to know there was more to it than that. Barry had said that he would be in Cincinnati several times a year indicating, at least to me, that he was contemplating a long term affair with my wife. That meant that if he wasn't successful in getting Tracy into bed on his first visit he would try again on the next.

I tried to deal with all this information but I was too emotional to come to any conclusions. Every time I started to think about what might happen I got angry. I was starting to talk to myself saying things like, "if she fucks him I'll throw her ass out and I'll beat the fuck out of him." No rational thoughts, only emotion and that was mostly anger.

By the time I got back home I had calmed myself to the point that I felt I was under control enough to go in the house and face Tracy without blowing up. After all, she still hadn't done anything. I had decided that I would spy on her e-mail and wait to see if any real problem developed. It might just be that once Barry sent her an e-mail that she would have had time to think about what was happening and tell him that she would not see him.

When I went into the house Tracy looked at me funny for a minute and then asked, "Where were you. I went out to your workshop and you were not there."

"I was restless and it is a beautiful night so I took a walk around the block."

"Are you still restless?" Tracy asked.

"I don't know, why?"

"Do you want to go around the block again and this time I'll go with you," Tracy said.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in a situation where I would have to talk to Tracy.

"I don't think we should leave the kids home alone."

"I guess you're right."

Without saying another word I walked passed Tracy and into the living room. I sat down and turned on the television and for the next hour and a half I didn't say a word.

At eleven o'clock I turned the television off and went up to bed. Tracy had been watching television with me and followed me up to bed without speaking. I made a mental note of how we both seemed to be deep in our own thoughts. In our bedroom I stripped and put on a pair of boxer shorts and a tee shirt, which was my preferred bed wear in the summer, and slipped into bed. When Tracy got into bed I rolled onto my side facing away from her.

I must have stayed like that for fifteen minutes trying to go to sleep but I kept replaying parts of Tracy's conversation with Barry over in my head.

"I am glad that Karen wasn't there. I wouldn't have been able to dance with you like that if my wife had been there."

"I will be coming to Cincinnati a few times a year now."

"I wasn't planning on inviting your husband to go with us."

When Tracy asked "Just dinner and conversation?"

Barry said, "Dinner and conversation... Then we'll see what else happens

"Listen, Tracy, I wouldn't be asking you to meet me if your kiss hadn't told me that you shared my desire."

All of this was spinning around in my head when I suddenly felt Tracy snuggling up to my back. She reached her hand up and started playing with my hair.

"Are you awake?" She asked.

I almost didn't answer. "Yes."

"Do you know how much I love you?" Tracy asked.

That question made me so angry that I wanted to say, "As much as you love Barry?" I didn't say that.

"No. I really don't know, "I said.

I could tell by the way Tracy's body stiffened that she wasn't expecting that answer.

"How could you not know?" She asked. "Isn't it obvious to you that I love you more than anything, except maybe Matthew and Lisa?"

With that opening I almost jumped on her. I wanted to say, "If you love me so much, why did you kiss Barry the other night? If you love me so much, why are you considering having an affair with him when he comes to Cincinnati? " I didn't say anything.

Tracy was leaning on her elbow looking down at me. She didn't say anything, she just bent down and started kissing my ear. As she nibbled on my ear even my anger couldn't stop me from getting aroused.

I could feel her hot breath on my neck as she planted little kisses down the side of my face and when she reached my cheek I couldn't help myself. I turned my head and let her kiss me on the mouth.

I rolled onto my back and Tracy pushed her tongue into my mouth. Then she slid her hand down into my shorts and started stroking my already expanding cock. A part of my brain was screaming at me telling me not to let her seduce me. As much noise as the voice in my head was making it was no match for the power of persuasion that Tracy held in her hand.

Tracy pulled my cock out of my shorts and then stuck her tongue in my ear.

"I love you," she said.

Then she moved down my body and took my engorged shaft into her mouth. This was strange to me. It wasn't as if Tracy never initiated sex, because she often did, and it wasn't that she didn't often give me oral sex, because she did. What made it strange was the feeling I had that Tracy had initiated sex that night because she was feeling guilty about her phone call with Barry.

After several minutes of oral delight, Tracy pulled my shorts off me and then lifted her night gown and straddled my hips. She reached between her legs and guided my cock into her aroused love tunnel and lowered herself down until my cock was completely inside her. Tracy didn't move for a minute as she just flexed her vaginal muscles, which I always enjoyed. As she finally began to move on top of me Tracy leaned forward until she was lying on my chest and then she began kissing me. Between kisses she kept saying "I love you."

For the first time in my life, hearing Tracy say that she loved me was making me angry. That night I found that anger and arousal is an interesting combination. I let Tracy take the lead for a while and then I rolled us over so that I was on top and I started pumping into Tracy as hard as I could. Each time I pushed in, Tracy let out a small grunt as though I was knocking the wind out of her but she didn't complain or ask me to stop.

It surprised me when Tracy had an orgasm because I thought I had been causing her pain not pleasure. So I started pounding into her even harder and Tracy responded by having another orgasm just before I exploded inside her.

Neither of us said a word when it was done. We both just rolled over and went to sleep.

The next day at work I cracked Tracy's e-mail password, which wasn't very hard. She used Matthew's initials and Lisa's birth date as her password. It was just the third password I tried. Then I set up MSN instant message on my work computer using Tracy's e-mail address so that I would get a notification any time she received an e-mail. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to look at her e-mail until I was sure that she did not have her e-mail opened. Luckily, Tracy would only have access to her e-mail during the day using her computer at work. She didn't have a computer at home and never used mine. Tracy didn't really like computers that much and mostly only used e-mail to talk to friends around town. Even then she didn't send or receive many notes.

That first week Tracy received seven e-mail notes and four of them were from Sue Baxter. They used to work together and now they would talk via e-mail. They liked to share recipes, which is what they were doing this week. The other three notes were of no importance either.

It wasn't till Tuesday of the following week that Tracy received the first note from Barry. It was about two o'clock that afternoon and I was talking to Tracy on the phone about what she wanted me to pick up at the store on my way home. Suddenly I heard a ping and the small box rose up in the lower right hand corner of my screen with the note that said, "You have received mail from" It was difficult to keep the pain I was suddenly feeling in my chest from being reflected in my voice as I continued talking to Tracy.

I waited until a few minutes after five o'clock and then I called Tracy's office phone to make sure she had already left for the day. As soon as I confirmed that Tracy had gone home I opened her e-mail account and found Barry's note. I had been worried that she might read it then erase it but she didn't.

"Hi Tracy. I just wanted to let you know that I will be in Cincinnati next Monday. I'll be staying at the downtown Marriott and I would really love to have you come have dinner with me. Love, Barry."

I had to look in Tracy's ?Sent Mail' folder to find the answer she sent him. Before I could even open that note my heart started pounding in my chest. I was scared of what I was going to find in her note but I had to look.

"Barry, I would love to see you again but only for dinner. I don't want you to expect more than that. Tracy."

There was no comfort in that note for me. Although she told him that he should not expect more that just dinner with her she left the possibility of more open when she accepted his invitation. She also didn't tell Barry that there would absolutely be nothing more than dinner, she only told him not to expect anything more than dinner. I am sure Barry saw this note as a positive response as much as I found it to be negative.

Starting that evening things started go sour between Tracy and me. When I got home I was angry with Tracy but I couldn't tell her why so I tried to pretend that nothing was wrong. For Tracy's part it was obvious that she had something on her mind that she was not about to share with me so we were both very silent.

That night Tracy tried to initiate sex but I pretended to be asleep and didn't respond to her. The next morning at breakfast Tracy was quiet but I got the feeling that she wanted to say something to me but she didn't. I grabbed my briefcase and headed for the door as soon as I finished eating. Normally I wouldn't be headed to work for another hour but I just wanted to get out of the house that morning. I was surprised that Tracy didn't ask me why I was leaving so early. As I got to the door Tracy started to say, "I love you," but I closed the door behind me before she could say it.

"I love you," was something that Tracy had said to me as I left for work every morning since we had been married and that morning I just didn't want to hear it.

That day Tracy didn't call me at work like she did almost every day. That was a sign to me that Tracy wasn't thinking about me the way she used to. By the end of that day I had seen four notes come into Tracy's e-mail, all from Barry.

I again waited until after five o'clock to check Tracy's e-mail. The first note from Barry simply told Tracy that he had made dinner reservations for 7:30 Tuesday evening and told her he would meet her in the bar at the Marriott at seven o'clock.

Tracy's reply said that she was not sure if she would be able to make it, which gave me some hope.

"You have to come" Barry's next note read. "We have to find out if there is any magic between us. If there isn't anything there, at least we will both know. Isn't it better to know than to wonder and perhaps later regret that we never tried to find out? Please come."

Tracy's reply said, "I will come but you have to understand that this is just for dinner and nothing else. We are both married and we should not be looking for any magic."

Then Barry responded, "Great. I am really looking forward to seeing you. It will make my having to come to Cincinnati for business so much more worthwhile. I can't tell you how much this means to me."

Tracy wrote back, "I am looking forward to seeing you too but you have to remember what I said."

Barry final note read, "Don't worry. I won't put any pressure on you. I would never make you do anything you don't want to do."

That last note really pissed me off. Barry in essence said that he planned to seduce her but he would not rape her. Not in those words of course but that was the hidden meaning. I doubt that Tracy would get the same meaning out of it.

I sat at my desk for another hour trying to understand what Tracy was thinking. Was she just bored and wanted some excitement or was she really hung up on this guy. Was she going to have an affair with him? What was I going to do if she did have an affair?

I started thinking about what I would do if Tracy ended up in bed with this asshole. I had to calm myself down and think what would be the best thing that could happen? That was easy. Tracy would change her mind and tell Barry she would not see him now or ever. The absolute worst case scenario was that Tracy would have an affair with Barry and then tell me she was in love with him and wanted a divorce. I doubted that either of these would happen. What ever happened would be somewhere in the middle.

I tried to think of how I would handle each of the possibilities: a one time fling, a short affair lasting only a few months, or a long term affair lasting more than a year. I was such an emotional mess that I couldn't come to any rational decision about any of those possibilities.

On the way home that evening I decided to try being extra loving toward Tracy. Maybe I could guilt her into not meeting Barry at the Marriott on Tuesday.

When I got home I could hear Tracy in the kitchen fixing dinner. I went to the kitchen with the idea of kissing Tracy and telling her I loved her but when I walked into the kitchen she turned away from me and didn't even acknowledge my presence. I changed my tactic and just said hello to her and walked out of the kitchen as she responded with a weak hello in return.

At dinner Tracy had very little to say to me and would not look at me when she spoke. She did however talk to and smile at Matthew and Lisa so what ever her problem was it was directed at me.

Once again that night Tracy tried to initiate sex when we went to bed. She had waited till we were both in bed and the lights were off. I just rolled away from her and said I wasn't feeling well. I was just not in the mood to have sex with her knowing that she had made a date to see Barry.

Thursday morning as I left the house to go to work Tracy didn't even bother to say that she loved me. A couple of days earlier I hadn't wanted to hear it but now it really hurt to not hear it. That day there were no more notes from Barry. I waited till five o'clock to see if Tracy had sent any to Barry hopefully to cancel their date but she didn't send him any notes either.

Thursday night was more of the same. Tracy couldn't look at me when she talked to me and again she tried to initiate sex when we got into bed. I refused her again and she wanted to know what was wrong with me. She asked why I didn't want to have sex with her.

"For more than a week now I have been getting the distinct impression that you don't care for me as much as you used to," I said. "You seldom talk to me and when you do you can't seem to look at me but then as soon as we get in bed you want me to make love to you. Well, I haven't been feeling any love lately so I am not giving any. When you are ready to talk and tell me what is happening between us maybe then we can start having sex again."

I waited for a response from Tracy but she just rolled away from me and remained silent. I don't think Tracy slept very well that night because I didn't sleep much at all and I could feel how restless she was.

Friday morning Tracy stepped in front of me as I was heading out the door and she looked me in the eye and said, "I love you."

I stared into her eyes for a minute.

"I sure hope you do," I said and then I left.

I spent the first two hours of Friday morning sitting in my office still trying to decide how I would handle the possible outcomes of Tracy's date with Barry. My stomach was tied up in knots and my head was spinning. I was spending a lot of time thinking about the problem but I wasn't making any progress. I starting thinking about all of the cheating wife stories I had read on the Internet over the years. I remembered one theme that seemed to run through a lot of these stories. The husband would find out that his wife was either cheating or about to cheat on him and he would not do anything, opting instead to wait until he had proof of her infidelity that he could use against her to get revenge.

I didn't want to think about revenge. I just wanted my marriage back the way it was before Barry Fox entered the picture. Besides how was I going to get proof that Tracy was having sex with him?

I was kicking this around in my head when I was suddenly pulled out of my mind games by the ringing of my telephone. It was one of my coworkers with a question about a problem he was having with the network. He told me that we were going to have a problem with a segment of the network the following week because our marketing group was going to start running streaming videos across the network. He said that he thought the large volume of traffic would cause that network segment to crash and he wanted to know what he should do if that happened.

I told him that we needed to be proactive and prevent the problem from happening. I said, "Let's redistribute the traffic on the network so we don't have all of the streaming video on one network segment. That way we'll have enough band width to handle the increased traffic."

The answer had been fairly simple and when I put the phone down a plan for handling my personal problem came to me.

I started looking at my problem from a different perspective Instead of trying to figure out what I would do if and when Tracy had an affair with that piss ant Barry, I started working on how I would keep that from happening.

My first thought was to have a talk with Barry's wife. I thought I could have her call Tracy and maybe that would make Tracy feel guilty about what she was doing. Another possibility was that I could just tell Karen what her husband was up to and hope that she would be able to put a stop to Barry's plans. Rather than using directory assistance to try and find Karen and Barry's home number I decided to call someone who knew them.

"Hi, Frank, Allen Harris. How are you?"

"Hey, Allen, I'm fine. Good to hear from you. What's up?"

I didn't want to get into the real reason I called right away so I talked about our invitation for Jill and Frank to come see a ball game with us.

"I was just looking at the sports page in the paper," I said. "I was reading about last night's Reds' game and I thought of you and Jill. I decided to give you a call and see if you were still thinking of coming up some weekend to take in a game."

"Yes, we would really like that. We probably won't be able to get up there till sometime in August or September."

"I'll send you the schedule of the home games so that you'll know which weekends the Reds are in town," I said.

?That's great. Would it be all right if we bring our son? I know he would love to see a game."

"Of course. The invitation was for the whole family," I said. "While I have you on the phone, could I get you to do me a small favor?"

"Sure. What do you need?"

"Do you know Barry and Karen Fox?" I asked.

"Yea, I know Barry. He works for the same company I do," Frank said.

"Do you happen to know their phone number? Tracy would like to call Karen. I guess they were pretty good friends in high school and Tracy was disappointed that she didn't get to see her while we were in Paducah," I said.

"I can get you Barry's phone number but he and Karen got divorced about five years ago. Karen remarried and moved to St. Louis," Frank said.

"Do you know why they got divorced?" I asked. I'd like to be able to tell Tracy."

"Barry was messing around. He had two or three girlfriends at a time."

"How long did it take Karen to find out what he was up to?"

"It took her about six years. Barry had his girlfriends in other cities. He had a girl in Bowling Green, another in Louisville and one more in Evansville. He would tell Karen he had to go to one of his girlfriends' cities on business and he would stay for a day or two with his girlfriend," Frank said.

"How did Karen find out?"

"She ran into his boss one day and found out that his job didn't require any travel."

"He's not a salesman?" I asked.

"The only thing Barry Fox sells is bull shit. He works in the warehouse. He is the assistant manager and he puts in a lot of overtime but because he is in management he doesn't get paid for his overtime. The company gives him comp time instead. So if he works over a weekend he can take Monday and Tuesday off and that is when he travels."

"Did Barry ever remarry?"

"No, but he still has a few girlfriends scattered within a few hours driving distance of Paducah," Frank said.

"Tracy will get a kick out of this information," I said.

Frank and I chatted for a few more minutes and then we ended the call.

After the call I knew enough about Barry to make Tracy lose interest in him. I spent another hour just thinking about how to present this information to Tracy. I was sure that once Tracy learned the truth about Barry; that he lied about his wife Karen and that he was lying about his business trip to Cincinnati, and when she learned about his other girlfriends, I thought she would lose interest in him very quickly.

I was all set to go home and drop all this information on Tracy when another thought occurred to me. I was pretty sure this information would be the end of her interest in him. I would have my wife back but not because she chose me over Barry but because she found out Barry was not the person she thought he was. Thinking calmly and rationally I realized that I had to force Tracy to make a choice between our marriage and the Barry she thought she knew, not the philandering asshole he really was. This reasoning may sound foolish but that was what I was thinking at the time.

When I got home that evening I tried to be friendly and attentive to Tracy, letting her know in subtle ways that I loved her but when we went to bed I rolled onto my side and went to sleep.

Saturday and Sunday were very difficult for me. While I was trying to act as if nothing was wrong, Tracy still could not look at me when she spoke to me. That hurt me deeply. Could she dislike me so much that she couldn't even look at me?

Monday was a much better day. It was a very busy day at work, which made the time go by quickly and I was feeling relief from just knowing that I would have some form of resolution by the end of the next day.

When I got home from work on Monday night, I tried to act happy and I asked Tracy about her day. I also tried to throw her off balance a little.

"Lately, I feel as though we are drifting apart," I said. "Maybe a little romance is all we need. I was thinking that maybe would could go out for a romantic dinner tomorrow evening and then come home and make love. What do you think?"

"Tomorrow night is not good for me," she said. "I am going out for dinner and drinks with some of my girlfriends after work tomorrow. Maybe we can go out for dinner later in the week."

There it was. I was wondering when and how she was going to do it. What a cliché, "Going out with the girls." I suddenly felt like I was a character in a cheating wife story.

"I think our marriage is more important than going out with your friends, don't you?"

"Our marriage? Well, of course but we made these plans last week and it would be difficult for everyone to have to change their plans now."

"Not everyone has to change their plans. Only you need to change your plans," I said.

"Allen, please, can't we just go to dinner another time?" Tracy pleaded.

"Well, at least I tried," I said. "I guess if you are going out then I will work late tomorrow to get a few things caught up at the office. Can you get Sarah to come over and baby sit until you get home?"

"I guess I can call Sarah but I don't know what time I'll get home. We might do something after dinner," she said.

"What are you going to do after dinner, go out and pick up some men?" I asked sarcastically.

Tracy turned her back to me and didn't answer. She wasn't taking the bait. She didn't get defensive and she didn't back down. I was beginning to think our marriage was in bigger trouble than I had realized.

Later that evening we both sat watching television without once speaking to each other. At eleven o'clock Tracy got up to go to bed. When I didn't immediately follow her, she came back into the room.

"Are you coming up?" She asked.

"Not yet. I think I'll watch some of Letterman tonight."

"Can't you come up now? I don't like sleeping without you," she said.

"You might want to get used to it," I said.

"What does that mean?"

"Just that you can't always expect me to be in bed next to you," I said.

"Why did you say that?" She asked. "I don't understand you. Are you trying to tell me something?"

"No. Just giving you something to think about. Good night."

Tracy stood in the doorway for another minute staring at me. She appeared to be upset but she didn't say anything more. Finally she turned and went off to bed.

When I went to bed about an hour later Tracy was either asleep or doing a pretty good imitation of sleeping.

I changed for bed and slipped in next to Tracy and tried to get to sleep. I was laying on my side thinking about what might happen the following evening when Tracy stirred. I lay still and started breathing slow and deep so that if Tracy was awake she would think I was asleep.

"Allen," Tracy whispered and when I didn't respond she said my name again just slightly louder. "Allen."

I didn't move.

"I love you," she whispered and then she rolled away from me.

I wondered what the fuck that was about. She accepted Barry's invitation for "dinner and conversation... Then we'll see what happens." This was a date that could end our marriage and here she is whispering her love for me. I was so pissed at that moment I wanted to shake her and yell, what the fuck are you thinking? Instead, I continued to pretend that I was asleep.

Tuesday morning I was awake at five so I got up and showered and then went downstairs and made a pot of coffee. I was sitting at the kitchen counter drinking my coffee when I heard Tracy getting into the shower. At that moment I knew that I didn't want to see her that morning so I quickly finished my coffee and left the house. I stopped at a diner for breakfast and then went to work.

I tried to keep myself busy all day so I wouldn't keep thinking about what I had to do that night. At two o'clock that afternoon Tracy called me. When I heard her voice, I was praying that she called to tell me she changed her mind and decided to go out to dinner with me.

"Allen, I just wanted to let you know that I got Sarah to baby sit tonight," she said. "I told her that you would probably be the first to get home but I didn't know what time that would be. Sarah said that because it is a school night she would have to be home by ten o'clock. You'll be home by ten, won't you?"

"Yes, I'll be home before ten and you should be too."

When Tracy didn't comment on that I said, "I am busy now, I'll see you later," and then I hung up the phone without giving her a chance to say anything more.

At five o'clock I was starting to clear off my desk when my phone rang. I reached for the phone but didn't pick it up. I really wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone and phone calls at that time of day usually meant problems. The last thing I needed was another problem to deal with. A few minutes later my cell phone began to ring. I didn't even look at my phone as I turned it off. I knew that if I saw who was calling it would be harder to ignore the call.

I stayed in my office until 5:30 that evening and then walked the four blocks from my office over to the Marriott. I surprised myself with how calm I was as I entered the hotel. As I walked through the lobby I heard someone say, "Allen?"

I turned to see who had said it and to see if they were talking to me. It took me a moment to realize that the woman standing behind the hotel registration counter was waving at me. Then I recognized the face. As I walked to the counter I couldn't help but smile.

"Jackie Washington, how are you?" I said as I approached the counter.

Jackie had been a neighbor of ours when Tracy and I were first married and she was a student at the University of Cincinnati.

"I am great Allen but it's Jackie Winters now. How are you? I haven't seen you in what, eight years?"

I smiled and said, "I don't want to think of how long it's been other than to say it has been too long. I had no idea you worked here. I see you are the hotel manager. How long have you been working here?"

"I've been working in this hotel for two years. I started as a management trainee at the Marriott in Lexington five years ago. I was assistant manager there until they promoted me and moved me up here," Jackie said.

"I am impressed. You know I only work four blocks from here. Maybe we can have lunch sometime," I suggested.

"I'd like that but I am not sure my husband would appreciate it."

"Believe me. I can understand that," I said. "Why don't you give me your home number? I will give you a call and we can all go out to dinner sometime. I would like to meet the man who finally won your heart."

As soon as I said that I felt a pain in my chest as I wondered if Tracy and I would still be together the next time I talked to Jackie.

As she wrote her number on a slip of paper and handed it to me Jackie asked, "So how is Tracy?"

"I think she's fine but that remains to be seen," I said.

"What's wrong?"

"We are having a problem that I would rather not talk about it right now. I am here tonight to see if I can fix it."

"I hope it works out for you?"

"I know I shouldn't ask you this but could you check something for me?" I asked.

"What would you like me to check?"

"Can you check to see if a Barry Fox is registered here?"

"What are you going to do to Mr. Fox if he is here?" Jackie asked.

"Nothing, I just need to know if he has checked in yet."

Jackie pushed a few buttons on her computer and looked up at me.

"Mr. Fox checked in about an hour ago," she said.

"Thanks Jackie."

"I hope someday you will tell me what this was all about."

"It depends on how things turn out. If things go the way I hope, I will never talk about this to anyone. If things go badly, I may need someone to talk to," I said.

Someone came over to speak to Jackie so I said that I had to go and that I would call her about getting together for dinner and then I walked off toward the bar. I looked at my watch and it was 5:15 PM. I had an hour and forty-five minutes to kill before Tracy was supposed to meet Barry.

I explored the bar to find a place where I could watch for Tracy to come in without being noticed. I found what I was looking for on the far side of the bar near a doorway leading to the rest rooms. I could sit at the bar there and watch the rest of the room and if Tracy needed to go to the lady's room I would be able to move around the corner of the bar and stay out of sight until the right moment.

With that part of my plan decided I took a walk outside of the hotel to kill some more time and to think about what I was going to say to Tracy later. I knew that I would not be able to memorize a speech and a speech probably would not be appropriate. What I was trying to do was make sure I had all the points I wanted to make clear in my mind. That way I could let the conversation flow more naturally and not get myself tongue tied if something unexpected happened.

By six o'clock I was getting quite nervous and decided I needed a drink to calm my nerves but before I went back into the bar I used my cell phone to call home. Sarah answered the phone on the second ring.

"Hi Sarah. This is Mr. Harris. I just wanted to check and see if everything was okay."

"Everything is fine here," she said.

"Did my wife happen to say when she expected to get home tonight?" I asked.

"No, but she knows that I have to leave by ten o'clock. She looked great when she left. She was wearing a sexy little dress and her hair was nicely done. I hope I look like her when I get older."

That was not what I wanted to hear.

"You will, Sarah. I'll be home by ten."

So, if Tracy was wearing a sexy little dress, as Sarah had said, I guess she has made up her mind that this date is going to be more than just dinner and conversation."

At that point I became an emotional mess. I was depressed and angry. My depression made me want to go somewhere and lie down and I almost decided to just go home and go to bed but my anger would not let me do that. I paced around outside the hotel for a while until I got my emotions under control.

At 6:15 PM I sat down at the bar in the Marriott and ordered a bourbon and water and prepared myself for the wait.

I was about halfway through my first drink when a man stepped up to the bar next to me and ordered a draft beer. I didn't get a look at him until he picked up the beer and walked slowly around the bar. I watched him as he walked over to a table in a dark corner of the room and then he came back to the bar and had a short discussion with the bartender, which ended with him giving the bartender a ten dollar bill.

A few minutes after that conversation the bartender went over to the table and put a reserved sign on it. I didn't think much about that at first but as the man walked back around the bar toward me I recognized him. I had only seen him once but I knew it was Barry. So Barry was setting things up for the seduction of my wife.

What happened next would almost have been comical if I wasn't so upset. Barry came over and sat down next to me and ordered another beer. After he had the first sip of his fresh beer he turned to me.

"Beautiful day, isn't it?" he asked.

I wanted to punch him but I didn't. "Yes, it is a beautiful day and it makes me wonder what the hell I am doing in here instead of outside enjoying the day."

I could not believe it. Barry actually started making small talk with me. We talked about the Reds and their chances of winning a pennant. He told me that being from Paducah, Kentucky he was more of a St. Louis Cardinals fan, so we talked about the Cardinals chances for a while.

At 6:45 Barry said, "I have to run up to my room and get cleaned up for my date. I have a hot one meeting me here in fifteen minutes. I usually like to let them wait for a few minutes before I arrive, it tends to make them happier to see me when I do show up. Nice talking to you."

Barry got up and left without ever introducing himself to me.

At seven o'clock on the dot Tracy walked into the bar. It was bad enough that she showed up at all but then she looked so beautiful. Sarah had been right. Tracy was wearing a short black cocktail dress with black stockings that I suspected were thigh highs rather than pantyhose. The top of the dress showed just enough cleavage to be sexy without being slutty. The small lights in the room seemed to give highlights to her long dark hair and seemed to make her face even prettier than usual. Seeing her dressed like that for another man was extremely painful. I had to take several deep breaths to calm myself down.

Tracy looked around the room for a couple of minutes and walked to the other side of the bar and spoke to the bartender. I saw him point and Tracy went over to the reserved table and sat down.

I could tell that Tracy was nervous because over the next five minutes she pulled her compact out of her purse three times to check her face and every time she put it away she looked around the bar as if she was making sure there was no one there that might know her. Every time she looked in my direction I was able duck out of her line of sight.

It was 7:05 when Barry finally walked into the bar and joined Tracy at the table. Before he sat down, Barry leaned down to kiss Tracy. It looked like he wanted to kiss her on the mouth but she turned her head and he kissed her cheek instead.

I watched them as they talked and it was obvious that Tracy was still either very nervous or just uncomfortable. She kept fidgeting with her hands. She put them on the table and then under the table and one on top and one under and then she started the cycle all over again. She was still fidgeting when the waitress brought them their drinks. For my part I was getting more nervous by the minute. My stomach was spinning and my palms were sweaty.

I was trying to decide when I should make my move. I hadn't really made the decision as much as it was made for me. I saw Barry stand up and I thought that they were about to head over to the restaurant so I started to get up thinking that I wanted to get to Tracy before they went into the restaurant but Tracy didn't stand up. Barry left the table walking toward the bar and then came around to my side. I was beginning to wonder if he had recognized me after all or had Tracy spotted me? Was this going to be the confrontation between Barry and me?

When Barry got around to my side of the bar he looked at me and gave me a friendly nod of his head and headed out the doorway behind me. I turned to see where he was going and saw him go into the men's room.

I immediately got up and made my way around the bar and headed over to where Tracy was sitting. She was looking at herself in her compact mirror again and didn't see me coming.

"Hi Tracy."

Tracy almost jumped out of her seat as she looked up and saw me standing there.

"What are you doing here?" She asked.

"I just thought I would stop by and say hello to you and your girlfriends. I just figured that since you considered having dinner and drinks with them more important than going to dinner with me tonight that I wanted to meet these friends of yours," I said.

Tracy's face had gone completely white. I saw her eyes move toward the bar looking to see if Barry was on his way back from the rest room yet. Tracy was beginning to look quite sick.

"Why didn't you call...? " Tracy started to say but I cut her off.

"Call you and tell you I was going to stop by? Why would I have to do that?"

"Please leave before my friends come," she said. "Your being here is embarrassing me."

I could hear the panic in her voice as she spoke.

"What's the hurry? Can't I sit here and have a drink with you?" I asked.

I could see that she was trying to think of something to say that would make me leave before Barry returned. Suddenly Tracy's eyes widened and I knew that Barry must be on his way back to the table.

"Hey man, she's with me." Barry's voice came from behind me. "Is he bothering you, Tracy?"

When I turned to face him he gave me a smile, "Oh, it's you. Sorry but she is already taken. I told you I had a hot date tonight."

"That you did, Barry."

"How did you know my name?" He asked.

"Let me introduce myself," I said. "I am Allen Harris as in the Mr. Harris to her Mrs. Harris."

Barry stepped back a couple of steps.

"I am sorry, man. I didn't know," he said.

"Didn't know what? That she was married or that I was the wimp that was supposed to be at home talking care of our children while you were seducing my wife," I said.

I looked at Tracy but she looked almost catatonic so I looked back at Barry.

"Why don't we sit down and have a little conversation," I said in a voice so calm I even surprised myself.

"Listen, I don't want any trouble. I'll just leave and let you two work this out," he said.

"Barry, stop worrying so much. There isn't going to be any trouble tonight so just sit down."

Barry sat down and I grabbed a chair from an adjacent table, pulled it over and sat down.

Tracy finally tried to speak.

"Allen, this isn't what you think," she said.

I held one finger up to my lips to quiet her.

"Tracy, I don't know what to think this is," I said. "I only know that it is not proper for a married woman to be on a date with a former lover."

Tracy tried to speak again but I held my finger up again.

"I know what you want to say, that this was just going to be dinner between two old friends. I just can't accept that explanation. If that were true, I would have been invited to have dinner with the two of you and you would not have lied and told me you were going out with your girlfriends and if this was truly just dinner and conversation, you certainly would not have dressed like this. I have to say that you do look beautiful which is very upsetting for me to think that you would dress this way for another man.

Barry tried to speak in Tracy's defense. "That is all it was. I was just in town for the night and I didn't want to dine alone. There was nothing else to this," he said.

I laughed at him. "There is no way you drove all the way from Paducah to Cincinnati and paid two hundred dollars for a hotel room just to have dinner with my wife," I said.

"I had to be here on business anyway so I gave Tracy a call..."

"I cut him off before he could finish that lie. "Barry, we both know that isn't true. Assistant warehouse managers don't take business trips now do they?"

Barry sat back in his seat and didn't reply. Tracy hadn't looked at Barry since he arrived at the table. She was either looking at me or at her hands.

In a very low and calm voice, I began to say what I had come there to say to Tracy.

"Tracy, when I first became aware of this date of yours I was sure you would never go through with it. I was sure that you loved me and would never hurt me that way but over the last two weeks I began to doubt your feelings for me. You barely speak to me anymore and when you do you can't seem to look me in the eye. I didn't know if it was because you couldn't stand to look at me anymore or if you were worried that I would know from the look on your face that you no longer care about me."

Tracy grabbed my arm and started to open her mouth to speak but I stopped her again.

"Let me finish what I came here to say. What I couldn't understand was how you could all but ignore me during the day but as soon as the lights went out you were ready to make love to me. Then I wondered if you really wanted to make love to me or was I just supposed to provide the physical part of some sexual fantasy you were playing out in your head. Were you thinking of this piss ant?"

I pointed at Barry when I said that last part. He made an angry face but made no move to get out of his chair. Tracy's eyes had filled with tears but she wasn't crying yet. Her grip on my arm tightened.

"Please, Allen..." Was all she could manage to say.

"I guess I was foolish to believe that you would not throw away thirteen years of marriage for a little extramarital sex," I said. "I guess my biggest disappointment was that you didn't even care enough about our children to protect them from the potential consequences of your actions."

That did it. The dam burst and now Tracy was crying. I was beginning to feel her fingernails digging into my arm. I pulled my arm out of Tracy's grip and stood up.

"The next move is yours, Tracy. It is 7:30 now and I am going home. I will give you until 8:30 to get home. I think an hour should be long enough for you

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