Byron landed in Las Vegas with almost no plan of action, except that he was going to take some. A four hour flight is a long time to be alone with your thoughts and he spent the whole time debating what to say if he actually got a hold of Julie. Bare his heart out and hope for the best, was his first idea. He went over and over again what he would say, but no matter how many different things he tried, he envisioned her saying, “That’s nice, I still want Charles.”
The next thought was to figure out what she saw in this Charles. Was it as simple as Charles being willing to take a little action? He was convinced he was ripe for improvement in this area. On the other hand, if it had more to do with the shape of Charles's nose or left bicep when compared to his, he doubted he could do much. But again the more he analyzed this method the more he thought that asking Julie, “what does Charles got that I don’t got?” might only lead to a very depressing conversation.
The next plan was to simply roll the dice on things not working out with Charles. Couldn’t he give her the latitude to date and hope that it didn’t work out? After all, once she dated Charles for a while she may find she didn’t like Charles anymore than she liked him. And since she was already married to Byron she could just save on lawyer fees and the cost of a new wedding and keep things as they were. But this too was found wanting. For some reason telling Julie they should stay married but date other people seemed icky. Logical as the idea seemed he doubted that he could suggest it and doubted even more that Julie would go for it. Even suggesting it would only lead Julie to think less of him.
But even without a specific plan of action he was very motivated to do something and something today. It had cost him almost a thousand dollars to get a flight from Green Bay to Las Vegas and he was determined to get his money’s worth. Step one, he figured, was locating Julie. As he walked off the plane, he sat down and dialed Julie. His goal was getting a face to face meeting but he knew his best chance in determining where she was, began with the phone. Julie’s schedule was fairly predictable on a Saturday afternoon. It was usually that she was at home, with Becky or with him. But these were pre-Charles days. The phone rang and rang. In some ways this was good. Byron really didn’t know what he would say except, “we need to talk.” Something he could just as easily deliver to an answering machine, which he did. But he had not paid almost a grand to get back home simply to leave a message, something he could have done from a distance.
So, onto step 2. He called her again. Same outcome. Step 3, one more time, but this time there wasn’t even a ring, as it went straight to voicemail. Before he proved the definition of insanity he decided to try something different and sent her a text, saying the same thing. While staring at his phone it rang, but it wasn’t Julie’s number.
“Yes, this is he. Who is this.”
“Byron, son, this is your Father-in-law, Pelham.”
“Hi. I have to admit that I’m surprised to hear from you.”
“Well, truth is, I should have called you a few days ago, but it took me a while to find your number, and Julie wasn’t in the mood to give it to me.”
“How did you get my number?” Byron asked.
“You know your secretary is really nice. She gave it to me yesterday. I tried to call you then but it went straight to voicemail.”
Byron had told her about giving people his personal cell phone, but he had said patients so he guessed this case was a fair loophole. “I was on a plane to Minnesota.”
“Well I am glad I got a hold of you. The reason I called Byron is, remember how I said to you that you shouldn’t tell her I was involved in you two going out?” Pelham asked.
“Yes, and I didn’t tell her.”
“I know. The point is, I knew it would be really bad, well she found out and it’s really bad.”
“She told me,” Byron said
“Were you able to smooth it out?”
“She wants a divorce.”
“I guess that is a no. She can be very stubborn at times. Gets that from her Mother. So, how do you feel about this divorce?”
“Truth is sir, I love that stubborn woman and don’t want a divorce,” Byron said.
“I knew I liked you. So, what’s the game plan? For one you should probably get back from Minnesota.”
“I am back.”
“That was quick. I thought you flew there yesterday.”
“I flew yesterday to help get over Julie, woke up at 4 AM to go fishing, realized I needed to try to get back and save my marriage, so flew right back,” Byron explained.
“Sounds like a productive trip. So, what is your gameplan?”
“I thought I’d try to start by finding Julie, she’s not answering her phone.”
“She wouldn’t pick up for me right now anyways, so don’t ask me to call. But are you sure finding Julie is the best choice right now?” Pelham asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Go ahead, what would you tell her if you walked up to her right now?”
“I...would...um...say...Julie, why can’t we… go ahead...and...this time…”
“My point exactly. You need to wow her, have an impactful romantic moment, not dribble over your tongue.”
“I figured it would come to me, what to say,” Byron tried justifying his lack of eloquence.
“All men think that. And centuries of experience has taught us that it doesn’t work. You need a romantic planned moment.”
“I tried romantic moment. I took her to a fancy restaurant and got her a necklace and earrings. That was the night she said she wanted a divorce.”
“She didn’t like the jewelry, huh?” Pelham asked.
“I never got to the jewelry. Not to be rude, but I mentioned that I wanted our marriage to be like yours and things really derailed from there.”
“I see. So, did this restaurant mean anything to you and her?”
“We had gone there after we decided to get married to tell another girl who had replied to the ad that I wasn’t going to marry her,” Byron said.
“Wait. You took her back to a place you two went to dump another one of your mail order brides?”
“I wouldn’t phrase it like that.”
“Byron, we need a gameplan, and some local help. I think I know what to do.”
Julie couldn’t have been more excited for today. Charles had decided to take her back to the cabin site and have a picnic. She hadn’t had a picnic since she was a teenager, when she and her friends had taken a group of guys on one as part of a sadie hawkins date. The fact that Charles was being so creative for their date really added to the excitement. Byron never thought of anything but watching something and going to dinner. Which technically is what Julie and Charles were going to do tonight, watch the sunset while they had dinner. But a picnic was different and somehow more romantic. Julie has asked what they were going to have but Charles said it would be a surprise. Not only that, she couldn’t help but be excited about a date with the prospect of more than just talking.
Pre-kiss with Charles she had to go back three years to her wedding night to find any time she had, really had, any affection, and that was only a kiss on the cheek. And now she had cleared away that pesky problem of guilt. True, she was still married, but having asked Byron for a divorce and gotten his permission, she felt like she could reasonably say she was on the market. She was as free as a bird. Tonight she couldn’t guarantee anything, but at least for the first time in a long time, there was a chance. She was reflecting on how she had taken this chance so much for granted back when she was single, as she tried on her second outfit when the phone rang.
“So, did you work out the details with Smooth Charlie?”
“Are you ever going to drop that name?”
“No, I like it,” Becky said.
“Well, the answer is yes, Charles is going to pick me up at about 4.”
“What’s the plan?”
“Picnic under the sunset at his cabin site.”
“Romantic. It’s going to be fairly chilly up there, you better bring a jacket. Actually maybe you shouldn’t.”
“Good idea,” Julie said.
“So Julie, not to change the subject, but I was wondering after your talk with Byron.”
“Does he want another wife?” Becky asked.
“It’s just that having a husband that is willing to simply send you money is a pretty good deal. I mean, I thought it was crazy to answer him in the first place but now that we know he is actually a decent guy, seems like a pretty good arrangement.”
“Do you want me to put in a good word for you?” Julie joked.
“Hey now, I am very happily, alright mostly, maybe I should say sometimes, happily married to Mark. But that is not the point. It’s not for me. But you know Sandra, she could use a good man and a little extra money.”
“Are you serious? You want to set Byron up with Sandra Hilterford. They would never get along.”
“I didn’t realize getting along was a prerequisite. And what about Nellie?” Becky suggested.
“Nellie? Your old neighbor with the 12 cats?”
“It might work out.”
“What has gotten into you? Why would you want to set up Byron?” Julie really didn’t feel comfortable about this. Byron was a good guy but he was meant to be single, she thought it was best that way.
“You know me, I love matchmaking,” Becky said.
“Isn’t it a little weird to be setting up my ex?”
“Don’t take any offense to this but the more I thought about Byron’s idea, the more I liked it. I mean, sure it didn’t work out for you two, but I think there are lots of people that it would be great for.”
“We are not even really divorced yet.”
“That isn’t stopping smooth Charlie,” Becky said.
“Oh, okay.That’s a low blow. Things are a little different for Charles and I.”
“And how is that?”
“Because, I asked for the divorce. I don’t even know if he wants to get married again. In fact, I don’t think he does,” Julie said.
“You know it sounds like you might be a little jealous.”
“That is crazy. I am anything but jealous of some imaginary future Byron bride. I wish him the best. But I am not going to call him up and ask him if my friend can set him up.”
“Of course not, that would be crazy.” Julie was glad to see Becky was a little reasonable. “Give me his number. I will call him.”
“No.” She realized the quick rejection of the idea was too fast, too harsh. “I’ll think about it. But I need to go. I want to try on a few more options to get the perfect outfit. And your conversation is not helping me get in the right mood.”
“Okay. You have fun with smooth Charlie. I want the details when you get home tonight,” Becky said.
“I’ll think about that too. See ya.”
She hung up and tried to focus on her outfit, but she kept thinking about Byron. Was she jealous? She didn’t think so, but she really didn’t like the thought of him with anyone else. “No more thoughts about Byron!” She stated out loud to herself, hoping that would help her mind actually listen. “Tonight is about Charles and me.” She looked at the next outfit when the phone rang. It was Byron. She did not need this and sent the call to voicemail. Soon a notification on her phone told her that he had left a voicemail and the phone began to ring again. She wanted to be left alone to focus on Charles and so after sending the phone to voicemail again she shut the phone off. With the distractions gone, she got ready to focus on today. Three outfits later, she was ready to go.
Shortly after 4 o’ clock that beautiful Porsche pulled up and Charles honked. She figured he would come to the door, but that was fine. “You ready for this?” Charles asked as she hopped in. She instantly smelt the aroma of fried food.
“What did you get for the picnic?” Julie asked.
“Hot wings.” Charles said with excitement.
“That’s great.” Julie said as honestly as one who hated hot wings could muster. But then again she hadn’t said she had come for the food. Hopefully the rest of the night would be better.
“Is that the door?” Becky asked her husband. They hadn’t invited anyone and it was too late for a package. She went to the door. “Byron, what are you doing here?”
“Sorry to bother you, but I need to talk to you and I didn’t know your phone number, but I remembered where you lived from the book club. I hope this isn’t a bad time.”
“No, come on in. Did Julie change her mind about letting me talk to you?”
“Julie wanted me to talk to you?” Byron asked.
“No, I told Julie that I wanted to talk to you and for her to give me your phone number. But I guess sending you over is just as good.”
“Julie didn’t send me. Why did you want to talk to me?”
“Well....” Setting him up with her friends had seemed like a good idea but she wasn’t sure how to bring it up. “I was thinking with you and Julie ending, maybe you would be interested to be set up with a few of my friends.”
“Really?” Byron collected his thoughts, “Actually, I was hoping you would help with my marriage to one of your friends.”
“Great,” That was easy. “Who did you have in mind?”
“Before I answer that, where is Julie?”
“Why do you care? Are you not copeach with this divorce idea?” Becky asked.
“I would like to speak to her.”
“Before I agree to help you, I need to ask you something.”
“You want me to go on a date with one of your friends first?” Byron asked.
“No that is not it.” She paused, “Actually, yes it is.”
“Really?” Byron asked.
“For me to help, you have to agree to go on one date with a friend.”
“I’m not doing that,” stated Byron
“Well goodbye then.”
“I really need your help.”
“Then, one date.” Becky countered.
“I can’t believe I am agreeing to this.”
“Excellent, I almost wish I could make it two because then there would be room for Nellie, the cat lady, she’d leave you with an interesting story. I heard she has a couple cats as sympathy animals, I’d love to hear how dinner goes with those things crawling around. But she isn’t who I had in mind.
“But with that settled,” she continued, “I have another question. Are you gay?”
“No, why would you think I was gay?” Byron asked.
“All this time dating Julie and she said you two never...you know.”
“Wow, you two are close. No I am not gay, just gutless I guess.”
“But with you here on my front door, I’m guessing you grew some guts,” Becky said.
“That is where I need your help. But before I ask you about that, I have a question for you. You two being so close, do you know how serious she is with this Charles guy?”
“You mean smooth Charlie. I shouldn’t tell you this, after all you two are competing for Julie, I probably shouldn’t give any insider information. I don’t want it to be an unfair fight. But two things you should know, she is with him now and I don’t trust him.”
“Why not?” Byron asked.
“She went to dinner with him once, supposedly to talk ‘work’ or something and they ended up kissing. Anyone that smooth has had a bit too much practice, you know what I mean.”
“I guess. But this guy is pretty good at this, ‘being smooth’ thing huh?”
“Not only that he is really good looking, you should hear Julie talk about him, perfect hair, face, tall, muscular, and he drives this really nice Porsche.”
“All right,” Byron’s stomach was beginning to feel like it did at the wedding. “I think we better change the topic,” he said.
“You do have one thing on him.”
“And that is?” Byron lit up.
“Your last name is normal. He is named after a department store.”
“Wait, his name is Charles Nordstrom?”
“Yup, that is it. You know him?” Becky asked.
“No, but I know his wife.”
Julie was surprised to find that she didn’t hate the chicken wings, luckily not all of them were hot and he had brought celery, carrots with bleu cheese dressing. She also wondered if the atmosphere was adding to the taste. The mountain was, as expected. the perfect relief from the city heat. The air was beginning to chill as the sun began to fall down behind the peak. Charles’s company, as usual, was as thrilling as ever and he was telling about an archaeological dig he had been on in Africa.
“At first, I was nervous about the lion’s wandering the site, but I got used to them. One day I turned a corner and ran smack into one of the larger males. You should have seen him run, he must have been related to the lion from Alice in Wonderland, just a big scaredy cat.”
As he told the story he moved in closer to where Julie was sitting. She was hanging onto his every word and didn’t even mind that he didn’t know one children's story from another. “Are you getting chilly?” Charles asked as he got next to her.
“It is getting a little cold.” She said, even though it wasn’t yet. She knew why he had asked, and didn’t want to discourage him. As planned he took his jacket and wrapped it and his large arms around her. She leaned into his chest and they nuzzled against one another. With each breath he took in she could feel his muscular chest push against her face. This was nice, this is what she had wanted. She decided to move things along even more. “Charles, I asked Byron for a divorce.”
He was taken slightly aback as he looked down at her. “Why would you do that?”
“What do you mean, why would I do that?” Julie asked.
“Because of you.”
“I’m not sure I follow,” Charles said.
“You kissed me earlier this week and then brought me on a picnic to watch the sunset.” She said as she sat up off his chest.
“Yeah, so why divorce your husband.”
“I can’t believe this. You did all that and expected me to just stay married.”
“Hey, when you told me about your marriage it seemed like it was more than a convenience thing, not about love.”
“But you were fine with me just keeping it going?” When Julie thought that her heart might be racing tonight, this was not what she had in mind.
“Sure, it was kind of perfect. You were married for convenience but that wouldn’t stop you and me from having a thing. And it wouldn’t tie me down. I mean technically, I’m married too.”
“You’re married.” Julie yelled as she stood up.
“Whoa, I don’t think you have any moral high ground here, you are married too, remember.”
“Does she know you are out schmoozing with, I’d say a hussy if I wasn’t talking about myself?”
“We are more on and off. I’m sure she would understand. Don’t look at me like that, my marriage is less of a sham than yours is.”
“My marriage to Byron is not a sham. I may have been a little confused, something you didn’t help with. But I will have you know that my marriage may have been weird, or unconventional but we were friends. And that is a lot more than many people get in marriage,” as soon as she said the words she knew they were true. She wasn’t sure if she was more mad at Charles or herself. She instantly was beginning to realize that while what she had with Byron wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t worth throwing away. And she was willing to throw it aside for what? A smooth, married, player who went around willing to prey on married women. Why had she fallen so fast, she had barely known him. Her anger was turning to tears and she wondered what she could possibly do at this point. She was determined not to get back in the car with this smooth Charlie, but saw little option. She was over an hour drive from her home and if she walked off, it would soon be dark and cold. She was desperate and in her desperation she began to pray in her mind, “please don’t make me have to spend anymore time with this guy.”
She was half way through this thought when a red SUV pulled up far faster than it should. It stopped almost in time to avoid any damage to Charles’s Porsche, but almost, unfortunately does not save bumpers of small sports cars when they meet their much larger friends.
“My car,” Charles yelled out.
Becky jumped out. “Julie you are coming with me,” she demanded, in as commanding a voice as she could muster.
“Gladly,” Julie said as she ran towards the passenger seat.
“Well, that was a lot easier than I thought it would be,” Becky said. “Smooth Charlie, it was good to meet you.”
“What are you going to do about my car?” He whined. But it was too late, Becky was pulling away.
Next Chapter 24