By Charmaine Elizabeth Merchant
“Who were you talking to?” Laura demanded as soon as Kevin put the phone down. “Geez Laura, it’s been over a year and you still don’t trust me. That was my brother Val.”
Laura couldn’t help it. How could she trust him ever again? He’d been seeing Rose Radcliffe, his office cleaning lady. How long would he have kept it going if she hadn’t discovered the email? Leaving him was out of the question. No way was she about to give up her cushy lifestyle. So, she did the only thing she could do. She forgave him – at least she tried convincing herself that she did.
“He’d finally like to come for a visit next Friday,” Kevin said.
“Next Friday?” Laura echoed shocked. Then with added sarcasm, “It’s only been about ten years since we’ve seen him.”
Val. Laura heard his name over the years, but he had yet to materialize. He made promises to visit, but it was never the right time. He and Kevin had opted instead for correspondence by phone or email. Laura figured he probably ran out of excuses.
When Friday arrived, nothing prepared her for the sight she was about to see.
To say he was stunning was putting it mildly. The pictures that he sent Kevin by email were at odds with the 6”2’ midnight-haired beauty standing in front of her. Val now sported a goatee and styled his once long hair in a more suitable blunt-cut. His clothes were impeccable too. Time halted for a moment when he held her gaze with his intense green eyes, and she almost risked sounding like a love-sick schoolgirl when she said hello. Did something click for him too? Judging from his longer-than-necessary handshake, Laura was sure it did. If Kevin noticed he gave no indication, instead he offered Val a beer.
“Just some water, thanks,” Val said, “I’ve been paying more attention to my health.”
“It shows,” Kevin commented, as he handed him a glass. “You’re looking well.”
What an understatement, Laura thought. She held no guilty feelings either about her attraction to Val. She figured that as long as she didn’t act on those feelings, then she wasn’t doing anything wrong. His visit, which was to last a week, got them out and about to show Val what their city had to offer. It was during one of these outings that Val’s intentions were revealed. While the three of them were lunching at a restaurant, Laura felt something caress her foot and up her leg. She and Kevin long ago stopped playing foolish lovers games, so that foot obviously belonged to someone else. Even when she met Val’s eyes, he didn’t stop and she didn’t pull away.
“So, what’s on the agenda for tomorrow?” Val asked, still discreetly teasing Laura.
“I thought we could eat out for breakfast,” Kevin suggested. “I know a great little café.”
The next morning as the three of them got ready, Kevin’s cell went off.
“Sorry, I’m going to have to bail out,” Kevin said five minutes later. “I have to take care of something back at the office that can’t wait.”
“How long will you be gone for?” Laura asked flatly. She’d long ago gotten used to his sudden disappearances. They used to fight about it all the time, until she figured he was just a work-a-holic. Never did she guess it was because of that trashy whore Rose. “It’ll just be for a few hours,” he promised. “Don’t wait.”
I wasn’t going to, Laura thought to herself.
“I can at least drop you guys off.”
As it turned out, for the next couple of days, Kevin got called away to the office which Laura and Val used to their advantage. They even took in a movie where they graduated from hand holding to deeply kissing.
“There’s somewhere I want to take you,” Val said mysteriously as they left the movie theatre. Intrigued, Laura followed his lead until they stopped in front of a Hotel.
“We just shared a tub of popcorn. I’m stuffed.” She said, thinking they were going to eat.
He only answered her with a smile. When they got to the room door, Laura paused. “Val, what is this?”
“I thought we could spend a little more time together before I leave tomorrow.”
Looking from his expectant face to the door he now held open for her, she ignored the inner voice telling her no.
That night Laura lay awake thinking about the past few days. The realization had dawned on her that she was no longer innocent. The next morning claiming illness, she opted not to go to the airport to see Val off.
“I’m glad you enjoyed spending so much time with my brother,” Kevin said when he returned.
“Kevin, there’s something I have to tell you,” Laura said quietly. “It’s about Val – and me.”
“What about you and Val?”
“We did everything I said we did, but…”
“Go on,” Kevin urged, already knowing what was coming.
“There’s more. After lunch we went to a hotel, but I- “
Kevin stopped her. “It was the Princess Hotel.”
Laura gasped. “How did you know?”
“Who do you think paid for it?”
“I don’t get it.”
“It was a test and you failed. What did you think? You’d get back at me by hitting on my own
“He came on to me first,” Laura protested.
“But you didn’t try to stop him. I know all about it. Val and I planned everything to see what you would do, and you did exactly what I thought you would. Even after you got to the hotel room and Val changed his mind, you urged him to follow through.”
He’s lying!” Laura insisted.
. “I’m more inclined to believe my own brother,” Kevin stated.
. “I’m more inclined to believe my own brother,” Kevin stated.
“You’re lower than I thought,” Laura retorted, her tone hard.
“You never really forgave me,” Kevin shot back. “Those were just words. I made one mistake and you kept throwing it back at me with those little hints.”
“Sleeping with another woman is not a mistake,” Laura lashed out.
“What did you expect? Even before her, you already changed.” Kevin shouted now. “Your paranoia was driving me crazy. She was just another excuse for you drifting further away.”
Laura’s pain came rushing back. “You drove me away. Always working late, and then I find out work wasn’t the only thing keeping you.” She knew it bothered him to keep harking back to the past, but she didn’t care. “You didn’t even have the decency to break it off with me first before giving yourself to that whore!”
“You like to throw that word around,” Kevin said as he put on his jacket, “but you were willing to go to bed with my own brother. Now, you tell me who the real whore is.” He slammed the door on his way out leaving a shattered Laura behind. This time she didn’t ask him where he was going.