Many men when faced with the alternatives of the wife at home who finds it hard to muster the same passion and emotion she once did, as she rounds 40, chases kids and deals with the realities of middle age; and the secretary at work who is paid full time to meet his every request and help support him 100%, finds himself more and more in love with the secretary.
Byron was no different, and the love he had for his assistant, Ms. Whitaker had been growing for a long time. And the feelings were very much mutual.
Ms. Whitaker had been with Byron since the first day he launched his own practice. Their love was as strong and perhaps stronger than most mothers have for their son. She was like a mother to him, a rebellious, nonconforming, but loving mother. She had been there when his mother died, and even attended the funeral.
Likewise, when Mrs. Whitaker had become Ms. Whitaker due to the untimely death of her husband, Byron became her closest confidant.
So, it was not surprising when she came into the office gushing over, wanting to talk.
“Byron, you’ll never guess what I did this weekend.”
“You are absolutely correct. I’ll never guess.”
“I was in San Diego to watch a Padres Game.”
“You drove 5 hours to watch a baseball game? I didn’t think you liked baseball.”
“I don’t. I hate it,” Ms. Whiticker said matter of factly.
“Yeah, sounds like it. I can tell by your tone that you had a horrible time,” Byron said.
“It wasn’t because of the game that I”m excited.”
“Ok, so what was it?”
“Well, do you remember the Morgans?”
“Oh, no! What happened?” Byron was always very careful about keeping relationships between doctor and patient very professional. Ms. Whitacker was careful with relationships, she just wasn’t so worried about the professional part.
“Why are you so negative. Nothing bad happened.”
“Ms. Whitacher, I love that you are the nicest person in the world to everyone who comes through that door. Sometimes, I think some keep coming back to see you, not me. But you really shouldn’t hang out with clients. It’s not proper.”
“Oh, please. I’m not their doctor. Anyways, you can scold me about that later. That’s not the point. The point is the Morgans are huge Padres fans.”
“So you’re willing to drive 5 hours to attend an event you hate just to disobey my advice about hanging out with clients?”
“Stop interrupting, well, they had two sets of tickets and had planned to go with the Cowden's.”
“The Mason’s know the Cowden’s?”
“I introduced them.”
“I know, not good protocol, blah, blah, blah. I would have told you earlier, but I knew you’d be all worried. We have great times together. You should see Mr. Cowden's impression of you.”
“I can’t believe this.”
“Now stop getting me off track. We haven’t even got to the point. See, the Cowden’s had to go out of town. Their daughter is going through a divorce in Ohio and they had to go to support her. They said they wished she lived here because they would have sent her and her deadbeat husband to you. But with the extra tickets they decided to invite myself and Daryl Goodman, their widower neighbor. And,” she paused for dramatic effect, “he’s awwwwesommmme.” She even added jazz hands for emphasis.
“Wow, you really like this guy. So, what makes him awwwwesommmmmme?” Bryon’s imitation was not nearly as energetic.
“Well, for one thing, he hates baseball.”
“So you spent 5 hours driving to a baseball game, about 4 hours watching a baseball game and 5 hours driving back from a baseball game and spent the time bonding with a guy over how much you both hate baseball.”
“Yeah. Isn’t it great?”
“Well, I am very excited for you.”
“I have another date with him on Thursday. Maybe, our date after that we could do a double with you and Julie.”
“Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself. You better have date #2 before planning date #3.”
“You are probably right. But I think he is really a good man. I’d love for you to meet him.”
“Yeah, we could go to a rock concert and bond over how much we all hate rock concerts.”
“What do you and Julie like to do for dates? I know your big proponent of dates in marriage.”
“Oh, you know the usual stuff?”
“What’s the usual stuff? The Morgans said, you told them that original dates are important.” Byron knew this idea of Ms. Whitaker hanging out with clients was a problem.
“We like the usual, but original, usual stuff.”
“Oh, original, usual stuff. And what would that be?”
“Well, like eating out is something we like but a little while back we decided to eat at the Eiffel tower downtown because it was somewhat different or original.”
“I get it. Well, if there is a date #3. I’ll have to think of a fun, usual, and original date that you and Julie can come along with.”
“That sounds fun, um...but Julie was thinking she might go visit her parents this weekend.”
“Well then maybe date #4.”
“She did say, she was going to stay for a week or so.”
“A week or so?”
“Here mom is going through some things, so it might be a little bit.” That should buy him some time.
“Well, okay date #5, or #6. But we will get it worked out. If it gets that far.”
Unfortunately for Byron, it did get that far. He could only extend Julies pretend visit to her parents for so long. So pretty soon, he invented clubs, yoga, charity events, and bird watching trips.
Even persistent Ms. Whitaker eventually gave up on the idea of a double date. And Byron was able to slow down on his made up wife excuses, which was refreshing. Byron hated lying but like most of us, did it when the discomfort of doing it was less that the discomfort caused by facing the truth.
Things moved fairly uneventfully for 6 months, until snow fell over the Las Vegas valley. A good snowfall happened every 10 years or so and for Byron that was far too often. Years of shoveling snow had made no town big enough for both Byron and any fluffy white stuff. As he walked into the office it was clear Ms. Whitaker did not share his disdain for snow. She was positively beaming, beyond even her usual brightness.
About half way through the Day when he was between clients. Ms. Whitaker came in and asked, “Did you notice anything different about me today?”
Byron, like most men, hated this game. If he said, “your hair’s different and it’s not, it becomes proof that he doesn’t notice her hair, which for some reason is important. Even the, “I’m not sure.” is admittance of failures to observe, which is so easily considered as failure to care. But despite hating the game he did his best.
“You do seem extra excited. I assumed it was all this horrid white stuff.”
“I do love the snow, but there may be another reason for my excitement,” and she held out her hand.
She had continued to wear her wedding ring following the death of her husband. It was a modest ring reflective of her and her husband's finances at the time. It was now dwarfed by a ring with a much larger diamond. “Daryl proposed, we are getting married in June.”
“Wow. that is great news. Congratulations. I am very excited for you.”
“I can hardly wait. I only wish it could be sooner. But so much to plan and get ready. And even though we haven’t worked out the exact date I still want you and Julie to meet him.”
“Yeah, hopefully that will work out.”
This was much like parents saying, “we’ll see” when their son asked if they are going to get a pet giraffe for Christmas.
“Byron.” Her tone implied both the seriousness and how much what she was about to say meant to her. “Promise me you’ll at least both make it to the wedding.”
As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t bring himself to disappoint her, not right now.
“I will be there.”
“You and Julie both right? I want you both to be at the wedding.”
“You bet, Let me know the day and I’ll make sure we can make it.”
“Thanks Byron, it means a lot to me.”
As Ms. Whitaker went back to her desk in the lobby. Byron began to sweat. Could he really ask Julie to come? It had been a year and a half since the wedding. They had agreed, no contact. What would she say if he called up?
Did he even have her number? He had gotten a new phone a few months back and not all his contacts had transferred, some had to be manually added. Sure enough, Julie Smith, was listed with a phone number. Under company was listed the letter B. He wasn't sure what that was, probably a mistake, when he had entered it. But should he call her? Well, the wedding was 6 months away. No reason to bother her now. He should at least wait until they had a date, and who knew, maybe it would get called off. He was a widower, people who were younger than him were dying all the time. He pushed the thought out of his head, but maybe he could come up with a great excuse before then.
Problems plus time, rarely led to success but that is exactly what he hoped for now.
“Julie we are really looking forward to coming. I only wish it could be more than a weekend but your Dad has to go to LA for his conference.”
“I’m excited too. It seems like its getting longer and longer since I get a chance to see you.”
“And we haven’t had a chance to really sit down and get to know Byron. We haven’t seen or even talked to him since the wedding.”
“Oh.. yea, about that.”
“Is there something wrong honey. Is something going on between you and Byron?”
“No, not that mom.”
“I mean, I realize that the first few years in marriage can be tough. I mean it was a real shock to me how often your father wanted to.”
“Mom, stop. Byron and I are doing fine. It’s just that he has to be out of town for work that weekend.”
“For Work? I thought he was a marriage counselor.”
“He is, but they travel.”
“For like couple...cruise therapy.”
“You mean he goes on a cruise with a couple and councils them, while on the cruise.”
“Yeah! He does it all the time.”
“Well, your dad will be very disappointed.”
“Why’s Dad going to be disappointed?”
“Don’t get me wrong. I'd like to see Byron too, but your Dad has been asking a lot about him. Yesterday he asked if we should get his number from you so we could at least talk to him. But I thought he might consider that weird.”
“Yes, he would. He will be here next time you come.”
“But everything is going good between you two, right?”
“Yes, why do you keep asking?”
“I just want to be sure. You two are… you know.”
“Mom, if you are asking about intimacy. It’s none of your business.”
“You’re right, I was just wondering if we might get a big announcement soon.”
“Mom. I’ve told you before. I’m not pregnant.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes mom, I’m very sure.”
“Are you on birth control? Do you not like kids?”
“Mom, I’m not on birth control. And I think kids are wonderful.
“Just not for you.”
“No. Just not right now.”
“Julie, you’re over 30 years old, you don’t have many right now’s left.”
“Mom, don’t make me feel old.”
“It’s just biology, times ticking for all of us. For me too and I don’t want to over pressure you but.”
“Sure you don’t” Julie thought.
“But I think grandkids would be really nice.”
Julie new grandkids was important to her mom and probably her dad, even though he never brought it up. But hearing her talk with so much emotion was hard on Julie and she was starting to feel bad for her mother and in her pity told her what she knew she wanted to hear.
“Mom, Truth is” she allowed her voice to get quiet and her mothers anticipation rose. “We are trying. It’s just getting pregnant isn’t as easy as we thought.”
She could sense her mother instant and total relief.
“Honey, I totally understand. Why do you think that you didn’t come along until we’d been married for three years? We tried, and tried, and tried.”
“All right, Mom.”
“No, the reason I am telling you is we found out we were trying too hard.”
“I'm not sure I want to hear this story.”
Her mother ignored her and continued, “We got so worried we finally. Went to see a fertility specialist. And he told us we were trying to hard. ‘Tiger needs his rest.’
“Okay, Mom. I think we can be done with this story.”
“I only bring it up because a month later you were on your way. Resting the tiger, works.”
“We can try that. I promise we will, ‘rest the tiger’ but only if we talk about something else.”
“I’m so happy you’re trying. I’ll let you know if I come up with any other pointers. We can’t wait to see you soon.”
Julie instantly felt guilty for misleading her mother. Not only because she lied but she did not look forward to any pointers her mother might bring to her. The only relief she had was that her mother was at least happy about her.
It was a really quick moment on her feet that had allowed her to come up with the happy couple cruise, as an excuse for Byron, but excuses were getting harder to come by. Becky, thought Byron was a vampire except unlike vampires he didn’t even come out at night.
Now almost 2 years into their marriage she wondered if marriage had simply changed the type of excuse she had to come up with. Before it was excuses to avoid blind dates and weird men. Now it was excuses for why her husband couldn’t come to parties and avoiding double dates. Before it was excuses to her Mom on why she wasn’t married and now it was excuses for why she wasn’t pregnant.
‘I guess nothing is perfect,’ Julie thought, as she turned her wedding band in her hand.
Here is a link to Chapter 14