Saturday, 29 August 2009
WAS SHE WORTH IT? - by Ron Adams (PART 1)
WAS SHE WORTH IT?
“Was she worth it?”
The words hung on the Blackberry screen as Bill Franklin groped in the dark for the bedside lamp. He clicked on the light, still annoyed at being awakened by the vibrating phone on the nightstand. He stared unblinking at the miniature screen, the accusing question burning a hole through his eyes. He flipped through the call log to see who sent the text, and on his directory it read unknown name, unknown number. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going to be. The night was supposed to be all his. Now this.
Franklin swallowed hard, wondering who left the message. He lay on his side, his face and bare shoulders bathed in the harsh blue light from his screen. He stared at the message until startled by his lover’s touch.
“Who called, baby?” she asked, nuzzling the back of his neck softly.
He meant it. Whoever it was, they were trying to hide their identity. After a while he shrugged it off, probably not even meant for him. It was just a weird coincidence. There was no way anybody could know about his affair. His wife was convinced he was working on the Okijima Industries account, the time difference between New York and Tokyo accounting for his odd hours as of late. This gave him ample opportunity to make new friends, like the one in his hotel bed now.
It started innocently enough, with Nancy actually picking him up at the hotel bar. She was a simple flirtation, a middle aged dalliance at the most. He was flattered by her attention, and made him feel like more than a cubicle slave to a nameless corporation. With her, he was a hero, not a suburban commuter in a dead end job. Like him, she said she was locked in a loveless marriage with a careless spouse. And like him, she enjoyed the attention they paid each other. They met for lunch when he was downtown, and soon he was finding any excuse to tell his wife he would be working late.
He checked the time on his phone. It was one thirty, and he had to get home. He stood, went into the bathroom to clean up, and then dressed in a hurry. Nancy watched him, like many times before, knowing full well this was the extent of their relationship. She was resigned to being the other woman, and knew he would be back.
“When will I see you again, Bill?” she asked.
“I’ll call you this afternoon,” was his reply.
The drive home passed in a blur, his mind still wondering about the freaky coincidence of the call. It wasn’t meant for me, it couldn’t have been. Maybe it was a sign from somewhere. I shouldn’t be doing this to Liz and the kids. It can only end badly, so maybe I should just talk to Nancy and end it now, before it’s too late. That’s it. He dialed Nancy’s number, but there was no reply. He left her a voice mail, telling her they needed to talk about something very important.
He slipped into the house as quietly as he could, undressing in the dark. He left his suit in a pile at the foot of the bed, his shoes underneath, and slid under the covers. His wife stirred a bit, her eyes opened to slits.
“Another late one? How much longer will you have to work this project?”
“This was the last night, I think.”
She smiled. “Good. You work too hard sometimes.”
“Sorry I woke you honey. Get back to sleep.”
He kissed her forehead, rolled over and closed his eyes. He slept fitfully, for the few hours he did sleep.
The next morning at breakfast, he resolved to call Nancy from the office. He swallowed his coffee without tasting it, anxious to get on the road and be done with the whole thing. It may have been a wrong number, but it put the fear of God in him. Nancy was fun, and a sweet kid, but she wasn’t going to be his undoing. She was not someone he would risk his family for.
The commute proceeded in an unconscious blur, until he realized he was in the underground parking lot of his building. He grabbed his briefcase from the front seat, checked his cell for voicemail messages, and walked briskly to the elevators. The footfalls from his shoes echoed off the concrete structure. He reached without thinking for the up button, and was thrust back into reality by the ringtone on his phone.
The display screen read ‘Unknown Name, Unknown Number’, and Franklin decided to let it go to voice mail. Whoever it was, it would keep. He rushed into his office, skipping the usual friendly greetings from his co-workers. He was a man on a mission, and focused on breaking things off with Nancy. He brushed off an offer from Fred, the guy in the next cubicle, for coffee and a donut from the office cart before they started. He couldn’t call from the company phone, security kept too close a tab on its use. He used his own phone instead, her number still on the recently dialed list.
The number rang four times before going to voicemail again. Franklin again left a pleading message, all but begging her to call him. When he finished, he opened the message from the previous caller. This time the screen displayed a photo of him and Nancy taken from somewhere outside the hotel, the two of them locked in passion in the room. There was a caption under the photo, and reading it caused Franklin to shake.
“WAS SHE WORTH IT?”
A wave of nausea washed over him, followed by rage. He rushed from his office, the Blackberry still clenched in his right hand. Vaughn’s door exploded as Franklin burst into the room...