An Excerpt from: Weirdly: A Collection of Strange Tales, vol. 3
Best Laid Schemes

Copyright © 2009 CJ Elliott

All rights reserved, Wild Child Publishing.

The scent of perfume had attached itself to Ronald Pickington’s clothes. Not so much that his colleagues at work or buddies at the tavern would notice. But his wife, Adeline, did indeed take note.

The housekeeper did most of the chores, but her husband’s personal errands, Addie took on herself. The woman who allowed someone else to care for her husband’s dry cleaning could be blindsided. Though every different shade of lipstick that appeared on Ron’s collar put a knife in her heart, she’d rather brace herself for a fight than wind up replaced by a younger model before she knew what hit her.

This wasn’t the first time he’d smelled of another woman’s fragrance. Five years into their twenty-seven year marriage, she’d picked up on a change in his behavior and the tang of cologne far too floral to be hers. Within a few weeks of it appearing, it had promptly disappeared. Addie thought she’d weathered the storm with the grace and humility befitting a society wife.

“Men are weak,” Perdita, her best friend from the club, had told her. “Give him space to be weak or you’ll lose him. Mark my words.”

Addie had given him space. Plenty of it. But instead of dissipating when his indiscretions ended, the chasm between them grew wider with each affair.

The instances were few in the beginning, separated by years, giving her time to heal. About six years ago, the frequency jumped to once a year. Last year, he started dallying with a new mistress at the change of each season. Addie’s heart— and liver—had no time to recover at all.

She poured her usual breakfast—two fingers of whisky—and paced around the bedroom. This torment had to end. Staring at herself in the mirror, Addie wondered why Ron didn’t desire her anymore. Perdita always said it was a wife’s responsibility to maintain an attractive appearance. The task took considerably longer now than in Addie’s youth, but she visited the spa twice a week. Chemical peels, seaweed wraps, sheep’s placenta, Botox, laser lipo. She’d had it all done and at great cost.

That the couple remained childless helped keep her figure trim. She’d begged Ron for years to see a fertility specialist with her, but he’d refused. Just as he’d refused to consider private adoption. Addie thought perhaps he wanted her bound to him, and only him, in this pathetic state of devotion. Whatever cancer grew inside her soul, he’d planted, and then declined the responsibility to tend it.

Opening her laptop, Addie entertained the tickle of an idea just starting to form.

* * * *

Addie shook the file at Barry L. Mencken, Esquire. “What do you mean I don’t have proof?”

“Information that leads you to a logical conclusion and evidence to prove adultery are two very different things. Yes, with the receipts for expensive perfume, lingerie, and women’s clothing, anyone with half a brain would come to the conclusion that Ron is having an affair, but this file isn’t a smoking gun.”

“And the rental of a lakeside cabin?”

“He can argue he goes up there for some good bass fishing.”

“You know as well as I do that Ron does not fish.”

“I’m trying to show you that he can explain away everything you dug up. And it wouldn’t matter if he had sex with another woman in open court.” He flipped through the papers on his desk. “The prenup doesn’t allow you a settlement unless you can prove a pattern of physical abuse or Ron initiates a divorce after seven years of marriage, through no fault of your own.”

The lawyer passed her the contract, but Addie knew exactly what the document stated. She’d read it often enough over the past two decades.

Barry took off his reading glasses. “I’m no marriage counselor, but have you tried talking to him, Mrs. Pickington?”

Perdita’s voice echoed in her mind, Never confront him about his private business—Ever. “No, I haven’t. And I don’t intend to.” She gathered her things. “I’m sorry I wasted your time.”

Rising to show her out, he offered her his hand to help her to her feet. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”

“It’s not your fault. I’m the jackass who signed away my life when I was too young to know better.”

“If I find a loophole, I’ll give you a call.”

“I won’t hold my breath.”

Clutching onto her self-control, Addie walked through the law office to the parking garage without dissolving into tears. Once she’d slammed the door on her Jag, a dam inside her burst. Hot, saline rivers spilled down her cheeks, taking her Lancome mascara with them. Fucking bastards, the lot of them. Men covered each other’s asses—bros before hoes, or some such nonsense she’d seen on MTV on a sleepless night. Oh no, Barry wouldn’t look for a loophole, much less call her if he found one.

Driving home, her car pulled into the liquor store lot as if on autopilot. A quarter bottle of Remy Martin later, she had no idea how she’d gotten home at all. Hair frazzled and face still tearstained, she flopped onto the bed to watch a little television. Once her inebriation mellowed and the room stopped spinning, she’d take a nap.

Daytime programming left Addie with few choices she could stomach. The decline of talk shows into three ring circuses reminded her all too painfully of her own white trash upbringing. Soap operas, with their never-ending penchant for adulterous tales, poured salt on her wounds. Syndicated crime dramas would have to do.

“That’s right, Jessica Fletcher,” she slurred at the sixty-inch plasma screen. “Stick it to the man.”

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