dontravis.com blog post #605
Let’s see how life in the Bellweather household is going this week.
Was Francine going through the change of life? Was that what was going on? Was I? Both of us? Whatever, the momentum of our marriage carried us into the not-so-merry Christmas season. The kids had begged off of coming for a visit again, so we’d have no support from them. After sending our progeny and their kids way too expensive presents, we sat and stared at one another. That was it for the Yule season… except for the bank obligations, of course.
I halfway looked forward to the bank’s shindig. I tended to ease up on the obligatory circulating at our own party and let people come to me. Not Francine, she was in her full-flitting attitude, abandoning me to my coworkers. That was okay with me.
James left the stunning brunette he’d brought to sit with me on the couch and sip drinks. I enjoyed his company but was leery because of my wife’s baseless accusations.
But soon enough, he popped up to reclaim his young lady for the evening and rejoin the younger members of the staff. I watched from afar as he and his date regaled their peers with lively conversation and what I took to be ribald jokes, given the occasional bursts of laughter.
“May I join you?”
The voice startled me out of my semi-eavesdropping. Helen Dillingham stood with a martini in hand. A few years younger than I, Helen looked stunning in a white and black party dress. She was the universally liked and respected executive secretary of our bank chairman.
I struggled to my feet. “Please do. James Mentholzen was sitting there until a few minutes ago, and I was trying to recover from his staccato conversation.”
She sat. “Well, I promise not to talk you ear off. Nice social conversation, that’s all.”
I dropped down beside her. “I’ll hold you to that. How are you doing, Helen?”
The question was more than casual. She’d lost her husband last year to cancer, and her social life—or lack of it—was a subject of conjecture around the bank.
“I still miss him,” she said, staring into her glass.
“I suspect you always will. It’ll just become easier as time goes by.”
She mustered a smile. “Hard to imagine that at the moment, but I suspect you’re right. You’re such a rock of support, Chuck. Not just to me but to so many others, as well. You’re one of the good guys, you know. I’m glad you and Francine are so happy, you deserve one another.”
An icy chill prickled my back. So the fiction was still holding. I grappled for something to say. “Thanks. If you ever need to talk, just let me know.”
She laid a hand on my arm. “I may take you up on that one of these days.”
Someone blundered into the back of the couch and muttered a heartfelt “Oops, sorry.” I looked back at Helen to discover her gasping over a spilled drink.
“Oh!” I exclaimed, grabbing the handkerchief from my coat pocket and going to her assistance. Deciding that looked awkward, I took her glass from her and gave her my handkerchief to repair the damage herself.
Then I glanced up to see Francine standing in front of me with a saccharine look in her eyes. She turned to Helen and went sugary.
“Let’s get you to the ladies’ room and see if we can’t save that stunning dress.”
With that, she swept Helen away, leaving me with a glass in each hand.
The rest of the evening was uneventful… and enjoyable, I must say. Certainly more so than the obligatory parties I’d attended.
After we got in the car. Francine went silent, responding to my few casual observations about the party with hardly a grunt. That usually meant she was working herself into a rage.
That didn’t show up until we changed into casual clothes upstairs in the bedroom.
“Well, that was certainly a shameless scene!”
I blinked. “What was a shameless scene?”
“You and Helen. She’s had her cap set for you ever since her husband died… probably from boredom.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Ridiculous? I saw her touch you. And I saw you pawing her like an animal. She probably spilled her drink to spur you to gallant action.” Her voice ended in a sneer.
“Francine, grow up. In the normal course of affairs, people touch one another. It doesn’t mean a thing. I have no romantic interest in Helen Dillingham, and she certainly has none in me.”
The sneer was now ascendent. “Of course, not. Well, let me tell you, I know that woman takes long lunches every Wednesday afternoon. And where are you? Oh, yes, you play golf on Wednesday afternoon, don’t you.”
“I give up,” I said.
This time, I took the guest bedroom. “Ho, ho, ho, Santa baby,” I grumbled as I snapped out the light.
Things were frosty—even for the Bellweather residence well into the new year. Was our momentum stalling out?
Downhill… definitely downhill. Poor old Chuck. He’s on that well-known professional escalator and needs a loving, supporting wife at his side. How many of us have been there? Will things get better? Let’s see next week.
Stay safe and stay strong.
Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!
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See you next Thursday.