Old Fashioned

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I once worked for a guy who, whenever miscommunication led to a business misunderstanding, always used to remark: “This is how wars get started.”

The miscommunication between my wife and me that Friday did not lead to war, but it did have a radical and lasting effect on the lives, and in particular the sex lives, of three people: myself, my wife Cheri and our friend John. Who famously went by the name Jack.

It was mid-afternoon when Cheri called me on my cell. I was at work. The nearby cell tower had recently been damaged in a terrorist attack and reception had turned spotty. It was as if, mobile phone-wise, we were back in the stone ages. What I heard Cheri say to me was this:

“Don’t forget to bring Jack home with you.”

Jack? I wondered.

“Tonight?”

“Sure. Why not? It’s Friday,” Cheri said. “Party time!”

“Yeah I know but…”

“What’s the big deal?”

“I’m a little surprised, that’s all.”

“What’s surprising about it? I’m going through an Old Fashioned phase, you know that.”

“A what?”

“What? You’re breaking up on me. I’m heading into a meeting, gotta run. Don’t forget [static] Jack.”

“OK. If you say so…,” I said not into my phone, to Cheri, but aloud in my office, perhaps to the decorative rubber plant by the lone window.

I’d known my work colleague and putative boss John—Jack—longer than I’d known Cheri. Jack had attended our wedding years ago and had been over to our house for parties numerous times subsequent to that. Then Jack went through a nasty, a really nasty divorce and Cheri and I reached the mutual decision that we should invite him over. Not for the occasional party at our house but in a more personal, intimate setting: the three of us having drinks after work or sitting down to dinner together. It made good business sense too: I was a direct report to Jack at the firm, and any pay increase or bonuses I received had to be authorized and approved by him.

Pretty quickly it became apparent that Jack, wifeless now and lonely and horny and on the make, was attracted to Cheri. What started out as innocent flirting on his part became increasingly aggressive. At times it was almost as if, to Jack anyway, I wasn’t even in the room with them. The first overt thing he did by way of showing his affections was to give me a small wrapped box at Christmastime. At first I thought it was for me (in addition to the generous bonus Jack had authorized). Then I opened the little sparky gold bifold attached to the center bow: the gift was for Cheri.

“I’ll give it to her,” I said, after my realization, as mild shock set in. “When we open our presents in the morning.”

“Good. Thanks. Merry Christmas, dude!”

It turned out to be a very delicate, almost subliminally thin gold anklet. Cheri was ecstatic. It was obviously her favorite gift that Christmas, topping even all the Elizabeth’s Secret lingerie I’d bought her. She immediately put it on and, as we sat facing each other on the living room rug in front of the tree, our elderly dog snoozing between us, stuck her pedicured bare foot out at me.

“Look!” she said, modeling the bracelet. “From my boyfriend Jack!”

It was, as I recall, the first time she ever referred to Jack as “my boyfriend.” I kissed her curled toes.

On Valentine’s Jack sent a dozen red roses to the house. I’d brought home a dozen yellow. An ebullient Cheri put them in competing vases on our bar just off the kitchen, proclaiming: “Look! Now I have a husband AND a boyfriend!”

I still wasn’t sure if my wife was being serious when she said these ostensibly outrageous things, or if she was merely showing off for me. I felt like a highschool kid who was dating a pretty girl and she gets asked out by someone bigger, stronger, better looking and more successful…the captain of the football team, for instance. And she starts bragging about it in her bubbly way as you drive her to the school dance and you’re not sure if she’s just showing off—See how popular I am!—or if she really, truly likes the guy and intends to start dating him. Instead of you.

Something else rather startling happened about this time. In our bedtalk, during foreplay, Cheri began pretending I was Jack. She warned me she was going to, the first time, and I didn’t protest. She would say things like, “Oh, Jack!…You’re so hard tonight!…You’re so…big! Fuck me, darling. Fuck me!” And so on. Cheri said to me on one subsequent occasion, “If I’d known calling you Jack would make you THIS hard, I would’ve done it months ago.”

Of course, predictably, I always ruined the mood by cumming too soon. And on one memorable occasion, right after typically orgasmless sex, Cheri stormed out of the bedroom complaining, “Maybe I SHOULD start sleeping with your boss! He can’t be any worse…”

The next day, after she’d calmed down, I asked Cheri if she really meant it. Sleeping with Jack, that is. She shrugged.

“No. I wouldn’t do that to you. I was frustrated, that’s all. It’s all just fantasy talk.” Cheri looked up at me—standing in front of her slump-shouldered wearing nothing but pee-stained briefs, while she sat on bed’s edge: “Like you telling istanbul escort me how you want to have anal sex with other guys. Right?”

On the Friday of the aforementioned, ill-fated phone call from my wife, and after finishing the conversation with my office plant, I took the elevator up to the seventh floor. Jack’s office used to be near mine, on the lowly fourth floor, but after his promotion he was rewarded with a far more spacious abode on the executive level. I found him in his office, door open, talking to someone, and when he saw me he raised a delaying finger. After his visitor left Jack motioned me in and turned friendly, informal:

“Hey buddy how are you? What’s going on? How’s Cheri?”

“She’s great,” I replied, shaking his hand across the desk. Jack remained seated, glanced at his Rolex.

“What can I do you for on this beautiful Friday afternoon?”

“Well actually, we were wondering, Cheri and me, if you had plans for tonight.”

Jack looked down at his calendar desk blotter as if it might hold the answer. The large squares were all empty, however. He shrugged. “The usual, I guess. Wander over to Florio’s for a few cocktails…See if I get lucky. Then head home.”

Florio’s was an Italian restaurant and watering hole preferred by some of my work colleagues—especially those residing on the seventh floor. Those with generous expense accounts that is to say. You could always claim you took a client there for drinks and dinner as opposed to a secretary or intern. Who would know? Who would tell?

“Because Cheri wanted me to ask you,” choosing my words carefully, “if you’d like to come over and hang with us tonight?”

Jack finally rose. He smiled. “I’d love to come over and hang with you guys. Thanks. I haven’t seen Cheri…,” eyes darting down and to his left, “…in weeks. I—”

Jack snapped his fingers, frowned. “Damn!”

“What?”

“My Bimmer’s in the shop. Some kind of sensor problem. I got a courtesy ride in this morning from the dealership. I was gonna Uber home…”

“You could go with me,” I offered. “Then you could Uber home from our place.”

Jack’s face brightened. I was getting hard. I wondered if he was too. “You sure that’s Kosher?”

“I gotta drive home anyway, right? You can ride shotgun.”

“That would be fucking awesome, dude!” Jack was younger than me—younger than Cheri too—and sometimes his enthusiasm, whether in friendship or at the corporate level, turned him into a college sophomore again. A cheerleader. No wonder he’d been promoted. All that rah-rah stuff. “What time you heading out?”

My turn to shrug. “Been a long week, Jack.”

“But a great one.”

I rolled my eyes. But only in my imagination. “Anyway I was gonna try to get out of here a little early.”

“Go for it, bro! You deserve it.”

“So…four-thirty?”

“Four-thirty it is. Your lovely wife’s expecting us?”

“It was her idea.” Adding, latently, “Hers and mine.”

“I’ll be down on the fourth floor in a few, dude. Be there or be square! I’m setting my iPhone timer, like, NOW! Would you mind closing the door behind you? I got some last-minute shit I got to take care of first.”

As I rode the elevator back down I reflected that not only had my boss/friend dismissed me from his office; he’d gone to pains to remind me how much lower my status within the company was than his. See you down on the fourth floor!

I still had the makings of a hard-on, however. Oh well. Fuck Jack!

We were barely out of the office parking garage, onto the boulevard in my five-year-old Lexus (at least it was paid off), when Jack looked over at me and said, bluntly:

“You know I got the hots for your wife. You know that don’t you?”

I stared straight ahead, out through the windshield at early rush-hour traffic. “I noticed.”

“She’s older and all but…”

“Not that much.”

“True.” Jack laughed: “She’s not quite a MILF yet.”

“She’s not a mother,” I pointed out.

“That’s right. You guys ever thought about that?”

“What?” guiding us into the left lane.

“Having kids?”

I sighed. “Cheri has her career. She’s very successful. It’s a demanding job.”

“She should come to work for us.”

I looked over at Jack, who was smiling confidently. He was a salesman. He was always confident, or pretended to be. “You couldn’t afford her,” I said.

Jack jabbed back: “Tell me. What’s it like working for a woman who makes more money than you? Just curious.”

I frowned. Was this a Freudian slip on Jack’s part? Did he know about me and the housework? My househusband role in our relationship? “Work for?”

Jack shook his head, to clear it. “Be married to, I mean.”

“It’s fine. No problems…”

“But Cheri doesn’t mind?”

“Mind what?”

“You being, kind of, lesser than her? In terms of income and all?”

“We do OK,” I said, obliquely. OK how? Financially? As a married couple? I left it unstated. We drove in silence for a blissful minute or two. Then we hit another stoplight and Jack started up again:

“What would you do, how would you avcılar escort respond…if I said to Cheri some day, ‘Hey, babe, I’d really like to be with you?”

I looked over at Jack again. “Be with you?”

“Fuck her,” he said bluntly.

“I…That would be up to her, wouldn’t it?”

“Would it? If your wife said ‘OK, let’s do it’ you’d be OK with that?”

“I guess I’d have to be.”

“You’d be OK with ME?”

“I’d have to be OK with both of you, right? You’re my boss.”

“This is off-duty, though.”

“Jack, we’re not in the military?”

“Sort of we are. We’re contractors. Look!” pointing up through the curved windshield. “What those motherfuckers did to our cell tower. They should hang ’em!”

“Gotta catch ’em first.”

“Oh, we will. Believe me.”

“We?”

“Shit goes on on the seventh floor you don’t even know about, dude. Take my word. But getting back to Alexa…”

“Who the fuck’s Alexa?”

“Oh!” giving his head another shake. The first hint of grey at his temples, a military cut. “We were talking about your gorgeous wife…”

“Yeah, Cheri.” Apparently he’d forgotten.

“So if I came on to her…”

“You already have. Do.”

“And I said I’m dying for you, want to fuck you when your husband…”

“What about me?” We were in the lefthand lane, turning.

“…isn’t around. And she said yeah? Think she would?”

“Ask her.”

“You’re OK if I ask?”

“Why not? She might kick your ass or she might tell you she’s dying for it too.”

“I think she’s dying for it, friend. Too be honest?”

“Then go for it.” We turned left. A short winding road awaited. A gated community.

“So if it’s OK with you I’ll ask her tonight. When you aren’t around. In the bathroom or something. What do you think she’ll say?”

“Ask her,” I repeated, my hidden hard-on revived.

“I will. Thanks,” reaching over to pat my right shoulder. We were at the gate, I was entering the four-digit code. My wife’s month and day of birth.

“You know what?”

“What?”

“You’re a true friend. Thanks, buddy. I won’t forget this.”

The double wrought-iron gates creaked open. Then creaked closed behind my five year-old Lexus.

We were in, safe.

When we arrived at the house I expected to find Cheri hard at work at the stove, throwing together some sort of ad hoc gourmet feast. Although a highly successful six-figure executive, Cheri was half-Italian and loved to cook. Especially for crowds of people. Three’s a crowd, right?

The only time I cooked was when Cheri got held up at the bank (figuratively speaking) and my repertoire was pretty much limited to hamburgers, basic French sautes and grilling on the barbecue. The agreement was, if Cheri cooked I cleaned up afterwards, and vice versa. And now that my lawn mowing et al. had been replaced by a biweekly “landscaping” service, Cheri and I split the housecleaning duties as well. Despite the disparity in incomes we had a thoroughly modern, equitable marriage. Although…

…I couldn’t help but feel Cheri was sloughing off on me more and more of the traditional “women’s” work. Her rationalizations went like this: “Well you’re a man and you don’t have to go to the hair salon or the nail shop every Saturday.” Or go shopping at the mall, I might add. I’d grown not to mind it. Much. I put an EPL soccer match on, muted the sound, cracked open a morning beer and proceeded to work through the tasks on the “honey-do” list Cheri had left behind. “Oh and make sure you hand-wash my delicates,” Cheri might remind me as she headed out the door. “Machine washing them is verboten, OK?” Half-Italian, half-German, Cheri was.

Although my wife’s lease Mercedes was in the driveway that Friday our two-story house seemed bereft of her. Maybe something was baking in the oven (half-German)? No. “Where’s Cheri at, bro?” Jack asked, impatiently. I shrugged. “Beats me.”

Finally we found her sunning her mostly naked self in a flowery bikini out by the pool. Jack burst through the French doors ahead of me. “Well if you aren’t the hottest looking thing I’ve ever seen…!”

Thing? Cheri was as susceptible to flattery as the next person…But at the expense of being objectified?

The cushioned chaise back was tilted up about thirty degrees and Cheri was lying on her back, arms on the rails, dark lollipop sunglasses hiding her brown eyes. She didn’t seem startled, particularly. In fact her reaction, head rolling to her left, was slow motion. Her painted lips parted. She gripped the rail ends and pulled herself forward a few more degrees. Finally, a smile.

“Jack?” Then, still in moon’s gravity: “What a surprise.”

Surprise? Jack, reading my mind, sharing its content I should say, glanced back at me. “No. I thought…”

Cheri, smileless now, looked at me through her shades, then back at Jack. She drew breath. Swung around counterclockwise, from our point of view, into the sitting position, on chaise’s edge, baring the full of her cleavage to our greedy eyes. She stood up, as Jack moved forward to assist her. Then, no help needed, to give her a hug. Cheri recoiled.

“I’m şirinevler escort all sweaty.”

“A little sweat never hurt nobody,” throwing his white-sleeved arms around my wife after the double negative. “Never seen you in a bathing suit before. GodDAMN, honey, you look good!”

Cheri, still warmly damp in his embrace, looked around the taller man’s shoulder at me. She mouthed something unintelligible. Then, audibly: “Honey? Why don’t you get Jack a cold beer? Jack?” Having extricated herself, Cheri held up an index finger. “One minute. Wait here.”

“Sure, my love.”

Jack turned his horny gaze on Cheri’s backside as she entered the house behind me, tugging her scant bikini bottom up from her crack the whole while. I couldn’t see him licking his lips, still salty from the kiss he’d planted first on Cheri’s cheek, then on her sun-moist shoulder, but I could imagine it. I hadn’t made it to the fridge yet when Cheri said, shouted in whisper:

“What’s Jack doing here?”

I turned around. “What?”

“Jack! What’s he doing here?”

“What do you mean what’s he doing here? You told me to bring him home tonight!”

Cheri had whipped off her circular shades. Her brow was heavily furrowed and at this moment, in the mix of artificial and natural light, her body may’ve looked toned and relatively youthful, but from the chin up she looked her age: early forties. “I did no such thing!” she hissed, in whisper.

“Yes you did!”

Cheri threw a glance off to her left—at nothing. Her hands had risen to her bare waist. “I told you…How stupid can you get? I told you…TOLD you to pick up a bottle of Jack. Jack Daniels. At the liquor store on your way home!”

“You didn’t say anything about a liquor store!”

“Well where else are you going to get a bottle of Jack?”

“All I heard was Jack! Bring Jack home with you!”

Cheri stamped a bare foot. “Christ…!” Looked up from the floor, frown subsiding, but only a little: “He’s here for dinner?”

“I thought…”

“You realize there’s nothing in the fridge…”

“There’s beer,” I said, door open, trying to lighten the mood. I closed it. “Fuck it. We’ll go out…”

“No, no…,” Cheri disagreed, shaking her bowed head. She sighed. I’ll make you up a list of things…Hand me the notepad. And a pen…”

Cheri started to scribble. Stopped. Looked up at me, narrowing eyes boring in. “Did I not say on the phone today the Jack was for my Old Fashioneds? Whiskey? How do you get from that to this gropey sonofabitch on our lanai?”

“I thought you liked Jack.”

“I do! In small doses. But I’m talking about making cocktails. The phase I’m going through. You know me. I have my…phases: Thai food, Indian food, Mexican, margaritas…Here!” snapping off the pad’s top sheet. “And don’t go to the grocery store either, their asparagus SUCKS! Go to Whole Paycheck and get the primo stuff. Understand?”

I looked up from the list I’d been handed. “Christ, Cheri, that’s like twenty minutes away at rush hour.”

“So? It’s early yet. I’ll stay here and…,” giving her head a shake, “entertain your stupid boss. And do you think you can remember to stop at a liquor store on the way back? For my Jack? Jack Daniels?”

“It was a misunderstanding, Cheri. A fucked-up signal. Is it my fault terrorists knocked out the cell tower.”

“That’s right…,” hands back on her thickish hips, “blame it on the terrorists.”

“Well who else? Cheri, that’s not fair. I heard what I heard.”

“Well get your hearing checked then. I…”

Despite Cheri’s request, of him, to stay put, Jack had entered through the French doors. Looking surprisingly sheepish I might add. “Guys, is this a bad time? I mean if it is I can catch an Uber home and…”

Cheri’s smile at last revived as she turned and moved toward her soon-to-be lover. “No, no,” she said. “We had a little misunderstanding is all. He’s gonna run up to the store and pick up a few things and I’m gonna make us the most fabulous dinner you’ve ever had.”

“That’s saying something, darling,” sliding an arm around my wife’s now-dry waist. “You’re one hell of a cook.”

“Well I took those classes at culinary school…”

“I bet you did.”

“I’ve often thought that if I ever get out of the investment banking business, you know, cash in my chips…I’d like to open a restaurant. A little place, maybe upstate. Everything farm-fresh and locally sourced.”

“You’d be great at it, darling, I’m sure.”

“An exotic wine list—but affordable. Menu changes every month…”

And so on…

And before I headed out the front door, list in hand, I looked back. At the two still-virginal bodies, formerly side-by-side, now revolving toward each other, front to front. They were not yet kissing, necking. But I wondered, as I looked back, if Jack, like me, had a hard-on in his pants? And if my wife, now that their bodies were together, in hug, could feel it against her flat belly?

My first stop was an Italian restaurant in a strip center up the road. Cheri and I had only ever eaten there once. Cheri turned her pretty nose up at most restaurant food, especially the Italian kind, claiming, rightfully I guess, that her culinary concoctions were better, superior. More authentic. I wasn’t there for the food, however. I sidled up to the bar, ordered a drink. I was a beer and wine kind of guy but, in this instance, perversely perhaps, I ordered a Jack. On the rocks. Then another.

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