Justin stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom, where he leaned against the sink. The image of Gisela storming into his office had made his entire sleep restless. He bent to brush his teeth, but
before he could start, his reflection stilled his arm. Just recently he'd come to terms with his cheating on Katelyn. How cool things had been going between them and to be honest, he’d not
experienced such joy in his marriage for quite a long time. Then boom! Gisela shows up with such crap. Holy shit!
Finished in the bathroom, he returned to the bedroom to lean his forehead against a window. Outside, the tree branches swayed in the breeze. He exhaled and his breath fogged the glass.
Katelyn had long woken up and gone downstairs. The guests celebrating Olivia's birthday would soon arrive. Birthday! Birthday! Birthday! Was it actually a birthday celebration? Not really.
It was just an excuse for the crème de la crème of his circles to booze, show off, and for old maids to try their luck. The list of invited guests included Fred and Annie. Martha was sure to make
the most of the occasion. Hell, Gisela would also be coming. Maybe he should have said no when she asked if it was okay.
Up till now, the swaying trees had always awoken in him the joy of a new day. But today, each movement only reminded him that he, like those branches, could be so easily pushed around.
The nightingales, as if noticing his grief, took their turn, hoping to outdo the birch trees in charming him. They chirped, starting with light pecks on the windowpane, then a crescendo of
high-pitched choruses. But, looking at the trees, he saw Gisela’s face and listening to the birds; he heard her words. Trust me. It’s yours.
In one minute, he’d think, Ah, I’ll not be the first one to keep a mistress or to sire a kid out of wedlock. Then doubts stormed across his mind. What if Katelyn discovered and decided to divorce
him? Gracious! Cold chills ran down his spine.
He slumped on the edge of the bed. This was unfair! Ambrose got away with cheating on Elizabeth yet he cheats once and it turns fucking fatal? His conscience wouldn't let him mope, though. What if
it was Katie pregnant with another man's baby? Or, hell, just slept with another man? What Ambrose got away with didn't matter.
Hell no, she wouldn’t. In the first place, she didn’t love sex that much. There was no counting the number of times she’d denied him sex, for no reason other than she didn't want to. Perhaps age
was kicking in on her part when he still felt younger. He smiled. He'd felt like the stud with Gisela. Oh god! Yes, it was awesome. For fairness’ sake, Katelyn ought to take an indulgent view on
him given she was the one who had been depriving him of his conjugal rights.
But there was no explaining his recklessness. Why didn’t he use protection? He punched the wall and clenched his knuckles from the pain. Damn it! He dressed and went downstairs.
"Daddy!” Natasha met him at the foot of the stairs. “Good morning.”
“Good morning, sweetheart.” He picked her up and pecked her cheek. “Had a good night?”
“Yes, Papa.” She circled her hands around his neck. “Can I sing for you?”
He lowered her onto the chair and sat next to her. “Oh, yes, I’m all ears.”
She stood on the chair and, hand on hip as she rocked back and forth, sang. "I don't care what they say, I’mma come back like a boomerang… won’t let the haters…err--”
“Get their way.” Layla finished for her amidst a mouthful of an omelet.
Cheers and laughter echoed across the dining table, typical of the joy that characterized his family gatherings. The aroma of the coffee and omelettes lingered in the air. Natasha finally sat and
snuggled close to her dad’s arm as Katelyn poured him his coffee. Mademoiselle Rosa came with a tray of still sizzling, crispy bacon and placed it in front of him. Oh, my word! He salivated.
“Bon appetite,” she said.
“Merci,” said Justin, forking at the charred tip of the bacon.
About thirty minutes later, as breakfast wound down, the doorbell rang. Mademoiselle Rosa walked past towards the main door, but Katelyn waved her down. “It’s ok, I’ll get it, carry on with your
Justin heard Ambrose’s familiar deep voice, then Elizabeth’s croaky soprano, which had become kind of wheezy of late. Was she really okay? Then came the child-like giggles, obviously from her kids.
Natasha cheered. "Yay! Carol's here!" She ran off.
Escorted by Katelyn, the guests came to the dinner table. Mademoiselle Rosa and another maidservant made sure the children washed up as they set new places and produced more bacon, eggs, and
After breakfast, the children went to play outside. Katelyn and her sister remained to assist in the kitchen. Justin and Ambrose settled to a game of chess in the sitting room.
A minute passed, yet neither party moved a piece. Justin nudged Ambrose’s knee. “It’s your turn.”
“Oh!” Ambrose advanced a pawn two steps. “I wanna beat you all the games straight-up--” He stopped, startled by Justin’s blank gaze. “What’s up, man? You look worried.”
Justin looked over his shoulder. “Man, that chick showed up in my office.”
Ambrose took off his red cap and hung it on his folded knee. “Which one?”
“Who else? The one I met at the Mavericks. You remember?”
“Ah, I’d forgotten, y’know it’s been quite a while. C’mon, you gave a hooker your address?”
“No, it wasn’t a hooker.”
"Oh? Who, then?" Ambrose moved to the edge of the seat, eyes wide. “Do I know her?”
"Shh! Jeez! Our women can hear through the walls.”
The doorbell rang. Justin stood to answer it, glad for the distraction. But before he could, Martha and Ken walked in.
“Hey, good to see you.” Justin offered her his hand. “Thanks for coming.”
Ken looked at the hand Justin had stretched out to him, snorted, and walked out. Justin lowered his hand. What a punk! No wonder Gisela left him.
Martha couldn’t hide her anger. He followed her son to the door. “Kenny, please stop it. Why don’t you settle this with Gisela?”
Ken just walked off. She turned to Justin. “Sorry. I know it’s stupid, but Ken’s angry with you. He... ah, he says you were with Gisela at Mavericks.”
He smiled. “It’s okay Martha, I understand. Katie mentioned this to me but I didn’t take it seriously.” He took a deep breath to ease his stomach which had tied into knots. “Actually, I bumped into
them. I... uh, I think they were quarreling. Ken just walked away even without saying hello.”
“I know, I know, you don’t have to explain anything. I dunno how to help him. He’s so jealous, just like his father. I’m so sorry.”
Smiling, Ambrose approached. “Don’t be hard on the young man. He’s just a smitten adolescent. Most of us men… We’re usually jealous.”
Justin stepped back. "Well, anyway, come in, come in."
"Wait." Martha put a hand on Ambrose to steady herself as she slipped off her high heels. "Ugh. Should've worn something easier or my poor foots." She followed the two men into the living room.
Katelyn and Elizabeth joined them as they all took seat. They started showering Martha with compliments.
“Hey, you look gorgeous.”
“I love your gold necklace and the summer dress.”
“You make some of us look like a bad excuse.”
Justin calmed as the topic turned away from Ken and Mavericks. Then Ambrose tapped him on the shoulder and bent close after the ladies had left. “What the fuck, you screwed Gisela?”
“Man, I just dunno what got into me. I’m so embarrassed.”
"Are you kidding? She's so bangable."
He glanced towards the kitchen, lest Katelyn showed up. "Nobody can know about it."
"Well no shit."
“Wait.” He leaned close to the window, then peered out. To Ambrose, he said, “I thought that retard had left.”
They resumed their positions around the chessboard.
Ambrose moved a bishop. “So, she came to your office for what?”
“It’s kinda complicated.” Justin glanced at the wall clock. “Time’s moving so fast. I need a change of clothing.” He stood. “I’ll be right back.”
Ambrose interlocked his fingers over the chessboard. “Susie was right, you’re the worst storyteller.”
Justin's neck muscles bunched. “Ambrose, this is not a story, it’s about my marriage.” He leaned over. “Eavesdrop on these fuckers for me, eh? I'm not sure what Ken’s telling Mike.”
"Easy, man. Relax. We got this."
Justin hid in the bedroom for about an hour. More guests arrived. He peeked through the window. Oh, shit! Gisela was coming through the gate with two other girls. She wore a tight, low-necked
bodice revealing ample cleavage, and snug black pants. His blood boiled. Oh... shit. He’d regretted sleeping with Gisela, repented several times and wished it had never happened. But seeing her
now, a sense of pride replaced his shame and regret.
He snapped out of his fantasy and started coming down.
God have mercy!
After greeting and saying a few words to everyone, he sat between Katelyn and Elizabeth. Then Dan, the city's former mayor, entered. Justin rose to greet him. Afterward, the big-bellied man went to
Martha's side--seemed the rumor they were a thing might have legs.
She hugged him. "Ah, my dear. Come, sit."
Before she sat, Martha motioned Annie to sit in an empty seat next to Fred. Justin's eyebrows rose. Really? Father and son dating mother and daughter?
He noticed others giving them sidelong glances. "So!" He clapped his hands. "Oh, hey, did anyone see that documentary on the famine that aired on BBC last night?”
A flurry of responses rattled in the air.
“Good lord, instead of saving that poor kid, the journalist watched him on camera in the name of making news.”
“Poor child, the vultures were hovering around waiting for him to die.”
“And the journalist was watching as all this was happening?”
“Oh, yes, it’s so bad, all in the name of making money?”
“Did the kid die?”
“Yes, he died, as the journalist captured everything on camera.”
“Everyone for himself, God for us all, in the same country, some are starving to death while others are dying of obesity.”
Speaking of food, eating, starving... Mademoiselle Rosa came and stooped over Katelyn. After she’d left, Katelyn tapped her empty glass of wine with her fingers. “Hey, the food's ready. Come with
me to the dining room.”
How was one supposed to enjoy a meal after such a story? To hell with it. Nothing would come in between this crème de la crème and merrymaking.
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