I think it’s time for a short – but not too short – story. We’ve had enough of the BJ Vinson books for a while. Let me know what you think of the following tale.
Meeting Valdy, my future wife, during intermission at the Metropolitan Opera was a fantastic, unexplainable, gold-plated stroke of luck. Actually, I had been wandering the fringes of the crowd keeping an eye on a handsome young stud who caught my attention. I was at a loss to adequately explain why I was occasionally attracted to some hunk – inevitably an overt heterosexual. I merely speculated but never acted on such impulses. As I stood pondering my confusion in the foyer of the Metropolitan between acts of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman, a stunning vision in a simple, elegant gown of dazzling white Egyptian linen floated up and handed me a drink.
“You look like a bourbon man. I’m Valdessa Bannerman. Valdy for short.”
“Love it!” I lied. A single malt Scotch was my drink. “Joseph Hunter.”
To make a long story short, five months later, Valdy and I were married in the Fort Dix base chapel where I had traded my banker’s three-piece suit for captain’s bars when called to temporary duty. A dreamy second lieutenant was my best man.
Valdy fit seamlessly into my life when we came home to Albuquerque a deliriously happy golden couple. Me … tall, blond, and slender with manly lumps. And Valdy? Lord the curves she packed into that svelte form! Her eyes were a pale blue that darkened when she was excited. Mine were as green as the patina of a weathered cathedral dome.
I took immense pride in the adoration Valdy inspired among my social set, yet was feral enough to recognize danger when it surfaced. And Rick Ailman was dangerous. That said, the good-looking, personable builder of luxury homes was also of interest to me as a banker. Five minutes after they were introduced at the Mayor’s Charity Ball, he had Valdy on the dance floor turning heads. Thereafter, it seemed that everywhere we went, Ailman showed up solo to sweep Valdy into his hard-muscled arms on some dance floor or the other. I held a tight rein on my temper, but did a lot less kibitzing and a lot more dancing with my wife at public functions.
“I do believe you’re jealous,” Valdy cooed once, a soft smile stretching those luscious lips.
I think I colored a bit. “Nonsense!”
Despite my denials, as I lay panting and exhausted later, I realized the truth of it. At the very moment of climax, I held an unwelcome image in my mind of a naked, dark-haired Adonis getting it on with my wife … Rick Fucking Ailman!
Vice Presidents are trumped by Executive Vice Presidents, and that’s who assigned me the Ailman account. Under such conditions, social encounters are impossible to avoid even though I put things off as long as possible. Eventually, Rick took the initiative and not only invited me to a working lunch but also a round of golf afterwards. Albuquerque’s persistent spring winds had abandoned us until next year, the true heat of the season had not yet arrived, and the blue sky was blotted with towering, snowy thunderheads far to the west, a perfect day for golf at a mile above sea level.
As we waited for the green ahead of us to clear, Rick parked the cart we shared in the shade of a cottonwood and stretched one foot out on the grass. I dug dirt from my cleats with a tee.
“Glad to see you’re relaxing a little,” he said out of the blue.
I looked at him with my mouth gaping. “I thought I was a laid-back sort of guy.”
“You are. Except around me. Your defenses always go up when I’m around.”
Since there was no denying it, I might as well get it out in the open. “Gotta admit that’s true. You set off my alarm bells.”
I shrugged and equivocated. “I don’t know. It’s just a personal reaction, I guess.”
I endured the study of his sable-fringed brown eyes for a long moment before he gave a low chuckle. “It’s your wife, isn’t it? You come on like gangbusters when I dance with her.”
“Look, drop it. I’m capable of separating my personal and professional lives.”
His silence lasted thirty seconds; his gaze made me uncomfortable. “You don’t get it, do you?” He snorted. “Talk about babes in wonderland. It’s not your wife I’m interested in. It’s you.”
I don’t know why I laughed aloud, probably because I didn’t believe him. After a moment, he joined in. Then some invisible power flipped a cosmic switch, and we sobered.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Dead serious. Look, I like women. Hell, I love women, but occasionally I swing from the other branch of the tree.”
“Not with me, you won’t!” I blurted.
“Joseph, modesty aside, I’m something of a cocksman, but occasionally I’ll spot a certain guy and my interest kicks in. Right now, you’re that guy.”
“Get over it.”
“Come on, are you telling me you’ve never made it with another guy?”
“That’s none of your business, Ailman, but I’ll answer you anyway. No, I haven’t. I’m happily married and in love with my wife.”
“What’s that got to do with it? I’m not suggesting we fall in love. But I want you, and just thought you ought to know.” He eased the cart down the fairway as the last putter strolled off the green, “If you’re going to tense up around me, then do it for the right reason.”
Rick had been two holes down on our side bet, but after that bombshell, I literally felt his eyes on my butt whenever I addressed the ball. I never slice but did an excellent imitation on four of the last six holes. After we settled up on eighteen, I grabbed a quick beer in the clubhouse -- it would have been unseemly to refuse -- but begged off the customary gin rummy game in the card room and raced home, awash in a sea of confusion. The guy who’d been courting my wife on dance floors all over Albuquerque had confessed I was the real object of his intentions. Okay, I could sort of understood that.
The confusion? I liked the idea.
Life isn’t always simple, is it? A guy thinks he’s got everything figured out and put in its proper slot. This his own inner nature rears its head and screws everything up. And you never know what the fellow next to you is thinking or planning.
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