There’s a helplessness in watching your best friend and neighbor pack his belongings into a car and drive away. It’s one of those moments of profound loneliness as your life unravels around you, when your friends abandon you, not that I didn’t sympathize. What could I do? It’s a trial that a man must face alone.
Gabe and Martina had been together since college. Over twenty years, eighteen of which they had been husband and wife. Gabe was a workaholic, working over seventy hours a week. His dedication gave Martina the freedom to dabble in her pet projects which included a writing career which saw her self-publish a few romance novels, and a freelance design company which specialized in home makeovers.
Gabe gave that to her working as an Executive Communication Officer for a large international firm. He pulled in a healthy six-figure salary plus bonuses which shamed my measly teacher’s salary. In spite of his good fortune, he lived in a modest neighborhood, drove a nondescript car, and didn’t try to show off that he was reasonably well off. That was not the kind of guy Gabe was.
That all unraveled last week when he was fired from his job. He didn’t say much other than to say that there was a major shake up at the firm, and the old guard was being replaced. He tried to sound upbeat, but I could detect a note of worry in his voice. I mean, we’ve all heard the horror stories of once proud executives being forced to make ends meet by delivering pizzas, or other menial low paying jobs. There are no guarantees that he could find another job paying near what he had become used to making, in spite of his credentials.
At first, Martina stood with him, telling him that they would weather the storm. It would require a few sacrifices, but they had enough money saved up, and I recently found out that they owned several rent houses which netted them in a couple thousand dollars a month. They were building a nest egg for retirement, which Gabe joked had come a couple of decades sooner than expected.
It seemed to me and my wife that they were fine, but it fell apart rather suddenly. There was no warning that we could see, that their marriage was in trouble. Theirs was the most solid marriage I had ever known, but then one early evening he got into his car, his wife yelling at him, calling him a no-good son of a bitch, telling him to get out and never come back. He returned the next day, collected a few of his things as his wife glared, only to jump into his car and drive away again.
I wanted to go out and help, but my wife held me back. I saw the same look of concern mirrored on her face as she shook her head. “Let him be,” Nancy told me. “There’ll be time to check up on him later. Don’t get involved with their squabble.”
Reluctantly, I heeded her advice, though with a heavy heart. I watched as a quarter-century old relationship came unglued, and I never suspected Martina to be that kind of woman. She had been acting funny for several days, and I noticed a strange man visiting her when Gabe would leave to meet with his friends, looking for favors that would help land him a job.
Could she be having an affair? Maybe she only stayed with Gabe because he was her meal ticket. Now that he was unemployed, was she looking for someone else to take care of her? It didn’t make sense to me, but I had seen it happen a few times with guys I worked with. It wouldn’t be the first time I had been wrong about someone.
I wouldn’t have a chance to confront Martina until yesterday morning. Nancy ran off to meet a couple of friends for brunch, and finding myself with some free time, I headed into town to run a few errands. It was at the office supply store where I ran into Martina, looking forlorn, her eyes red from having recently cried. “Oh, hey Tom,” she greeted me sadly.
I glared for a second and I saw her retreat into herself again. “I’m sorry,” she said with a shaken tone. I didn’t mean to bother you, I just needed to talk. Maybe some other time.”
“Now is just fine,” I answered her icily. “I was wanting to talk to you too.”
“Oh? What about?”
“Gabe,” I stated baldly. “He was good to you, and you abandoned him when he needed you the most. Why? Did you already find someone to take care of you?” I asked accusingly. “Was that all he was to you, a paycheck?”
“You son of a bitch,” she hissed. “You have no idea, do you?”
“I think that I do,” I countered, unprepared for what she had to say.
“Let me tell you a little about this friend of yours, the one you apparently have on a pedestal.”
“Fine, amuse me.”
“He wasn’t fired because of some shake up at work. They discovered that he was harassing his interns.”
“Gabe? No way.”
“Yeah, he’s been sleeping with his interns for years, promising them he would give them a glowing report for their school credit, and recommendations for job placement, if they agreed to help him out, if you catch my meaning. Quid pro quo, only this time he harassed the wrong girl.”
“What do you mean?”
“The daughter of one of the major shareholders was there to do her own internship. Gabe had no idea who she was, but this girl reported the harassment, and after an investigation, one that he kept from me for several months, found dozens of other young women that he had harassed, many who he had intimidated into sleeping with him, and they fired him. There’s a chance that he may be indicted for rape as well.”
“I – I don’t know what to say,” I stammered. “I thought you were the one cheating on him. That guy that’s been coming to your house.”
“That guy is a friend of mine who also works at the company. He’s the one that told me everything. He’s the one who recommended I get a lawyer and start working to protect myself because if he gets sued…”
“I get it,” I sighed, still not wanting to believe what she was telling me. “I’m so sorry.”
“Oh,” she pressed on, “it gets worse.”
“At brunch with her friends,” I replied. “She goes out on most weekends to meet up with them.”
“Just like how Gabe would go out to golf with his buddies? Only thing, he doesn’t like golf. Turns out, he likes doing other things.”
“What are you insinuating?”
“I’m not insinuating anything. I’m straight up telling you that Gabe, your best friend, has been fucking your wife for the past several years. I just found out about that, too.”
“You’re crazy,” I spat as I turned to walk away.
“What?” She asked as she grabbed my arm. “You can’t believe that your wife could be unfaithful? She’s cheated on you with several of your neighbors. She’s the village slut, though you’ve been too blind to see it. You’re a joke in the community, the ignorant cuckold with the unfaithful wife. I didn’t want to be the one to burst your fantasy. Now, I just don’t give a shit. And you wanted to believe I was the one cheating. No, we were both cheated on. We’ve both been played for fools.”
“You have to be wrong,” I say desperately, clinging to some hope that she was wrong, but fearing in my heart that she was right. She was confirming a secret fear I’ve had for a long time.
“Do I?” She said coldly. “Fancy a short drive? Gabe moved into one of our rent houses. I bet we find Nancy there. Then what will you do?”
“I’ll go, but just to prove you wrong,” I answered her defiantly, though I wavered as she turned away. I didn’t want to believe her, but what if she was right? Having to see it through, I followed her out to her car, and she bade me to get into her car. We drove nearly half an hour to a house in decent neighborhood. Gabe’s car was in the driveway, and Nancy’s was parked in the street.
“Wanna go in?” Martina asked as she shook as set of keys. “Let’s catch the motherfuckers red-handed.
I swallowed, though my mouth was parched, and I nodded. We walked quietly to the door, and we could hear moaning through the door, moans that I recognized as coming from my wife. “You want to do this?” Martina whispered.
“Yes,” I answered simply.
As quietly as she could, she checked the door, and it was unlocked. We burst in and we found my wife astride Martina’s husband, both completely naked, lost in their moment of passion, momentarily stunned by our intrusion.
“Oh, shit!” Nancy yelled as she realized who had come busting in. She jumped off and tried to cover her shame, but it was too late. The truth had come out.
“I told you,” Martina said in my ear. “Believe me yet?”
I didn’t say anything as I turned and walked out the door. Nancy ran after me, pleading with me, saying that it was a mistake, that she really loved me. Martina hung back, giving me enough space to do what I needed to do. I looked at my wife, tears streaming down her face, and I laughed. I became hysterical, mad in my grief, having to come to terms almost immediately that my marriage had been a sham.
“I hope you two are happy together,” I said jovially, the mirth in my voice surprising even me. “You deserve each other.”
“Don’t say that,” Nancy cried. “I’m your wife! I’m your wife! Please don’t do this to me, please!”
“If you really cared about being my wife, you wouldn’t have been fucking my best friend, though if he was really my friend…. You know what? It doesn’t even matter. We’re done. Martina?” I yelled. “You ready to go?”
“I am. You want to grab a drink?”
I was awoken by a sound at the door. I looked up to see my wife standing at the doorway, a look of shock on her face. In my arms, on our bed, slept Martina. Nancy broke down, rousing Martina from her slumber. “Oh, hello precious,” my neighbor gloated. “Fair is fair, don’t you think? To think you let him go for that joke of a husband of mine. Keep him. Tom is a much bigger man, and a better lover.”
My wife didn’t utter a sound as she left. I never saw her alive again. The next morning, a couple of detectives woke us up to tell us that our spouses were dead, “a murder-suicide,” they informed us. We grieved after they left, devastated that our spouses were dead, heartbroken that we had been played for fools for so long.
After an hour, Martina stood up and started to get dressed. “You leaving?”
“We’re going to my house,” she smiled wanly. “Let’s make love on my husband’s bed. Let’s fuck on everything our others held so dear. You game?”
“I am. Then let’s bury them and fuck on their graves.”
“Sounds good to me.”