April , 2005
Four words destroyed my marriage and my life. And they're not the four
words you're probably thinking about.
Not "we have to talk," or "baby, I've met somebody" or "our sex life
sucks" or even "You're not giving me enough." Actually that last is five
words, but hey, who's counting.
It was a lot stranger, and simpler than that. I had come into our
bedroom on a Tuesday night after finishing a "law and order" re-run on
cable and was getting ready to take a shower. I tend to watch a lot of
cop and lawyer shows. Coals to Newcastle, really.
I should have gotten enough of that stuff in my day job as an Assistant
State ;Attorney in the Duval County State Attorney's Office. To
northerners, that's the same as the District Attorney's Office.. We are
the people who prosecute bad guys and put them away when we can. Anyway,
I like those kinds of cop shows. Even after 10 years on the job, I still
like what I do.
Debbie was in bed, lying back on a scrunched up pillow, looking through
some travel magazine. She usually brings back a ton of student papers to
grade from UNF where she's an associate professor in the College of
Business. They generally take a couple to three hours to finish. But
she's conscientious and it was 11 p.m. and she was relaxing.
I enjoyed the view. Even though we had been married nearly 18 years, I
still enjoyed looking at her. A tall blonde, hair cut fashionably movie
star style with Jennifer Anniston bangs, she looked 10 years younger
than her true age of 39. The robe she wore was as sexy as a potato sack,
but I could still see the curve of her Double D-cup breasts underneath
it. I could also envision her long legs.
I thought about trying to get a real look between them, but stopped
myself. She insisted I take my evening shower and brush my teeth before
I even tried and she was usually too tired on weeknights to even
consider the idea. I looked down at myself. I was five foot eight,
Debbie five-ten, and where she was still fairly svelte from working out
at the gym, I'd already developed the classic middle aged paunch of a
guy whose only exercise was getting out on the links every few months.
And I only did that when office politics absolutely demanded it.
I walked into the bathroom and stripped off my tee shirt and shorts that
I generally wore around the house. We had a full-length mirror and I
took inspection. Hair thinning and a real bald spot was beginning to
develop where I could barely see it at the rear of my scalp.
Then I look at my midsection. Jesus, pasty white and flabby. No wonder
Debbie preferred on the increasingly infrequent times when we did have
sex to keep the lights off. I looked like an old lawyer. I looked like
those old guys my friends and I used to laugh at when I'd started
lawyering. I was only 41, not 61. I made up my mind at that point. I'd
always told myself that I didn't have the time to join a gym and I had
gently teased Debbie about being a little vain. To hell with that. If I
was a woman, I sure as hell wouldn't be too eager to have sex with me.
I took my shower and came out freshly scrubbed, but I didn't wear my
normal underwear and white tee shirt. I came out with a towel around my
middle and found a pajamas set in the drawer on my side of the bed. I
thought Debbie glanced over at me and there might have been a little
smile flickering on her face, but that might have been my imagination.
With my pot covered, I slid into bed next to her. I leaned over to kiss
her. I tried for the lips but she moved her head slightly so I planted a
kiss on the side of her face. She smiled absent mindedly at me.
"The kids asleep?"
Bill Jr. was 14 and Kelly was 17, going on 27. Bill I'd left trolling on
the computer for skateboarding or as he called it shredder sites, but I
was pretty sure he was looking for porn. What the hell, he was 14 and
had discovered that girls were delightfully different creatures. I had
the computers set up with tracking programs. I trusted the kids, but I'd
been prosecuting scum too long to be happy and ignorant about what they
were up to.
Kelly was, I'm pretty sure from the way she'd lowered her voice and
moved as far away from me as she could and still stay in the den,
talking to one of her boyfriends. I know she had more than one, because
she was a luscious junior edition of her mother.
"No, but they know the rules. I'm sure they'll be in bed in an hour or
so. Hey, those were great pictures. Where was that beach, the one with
the Tiki hut things near the water?"
She glanced over at me as if surprised that I'd noticed what she was
reading. She held the magazine out to me. It was "Travel" with the pages
turned to "The best beaches you've never heard of." The beach was on an
island I'd never heard of and I couldn't even pronounce the name.
"Man, that is beautiful. What about it, would you like to go there this
summer when the school is on break? I know you weren't planning on
teaching this summer."
She looked at me as if surprised.
"That's – sweet, Bill...but...I had meant to talk to you. I was
thinking about teaching this summer. Larry Carter usually teaches the
summer session but his wife talked him into taking her to Hawaii and
they need someone to fill in."
"When did this come up? I hadn't heard a word about it."
She looked into my eyes and then away with an expression I couldn't
"About a month ago. I'd meant to mention it, but I kept forgetting.
Sorry. I didn't think we had any firm plans. You're always working on
some case or other. And we haven't gone anywhere exotic in a long time."
"I know, but-"
She dropped the magazine to her hip, then rolled a little so one big
luscious breast bulged out against her robe and said, "I'm sorry Bill, I
pretty much already told them I'd take the summer session. But, look, we
went to some wonderful places when we were married and next summer I
promise I'll leave time so we can go somewhere nice."
No one at the office has ever accused me of being slow on the uptake,
but it took me a minute after she finished patting me on the hand and
then picked the magazine back up before it sunk in.
I said the words to myself silently and ran them over and over, jumbling
them up and trying to figure out how I had misunderstood my loving,
blonde and very sexy wife.
"...when we were married?"
She looked back at me from the magazine with a slightly puzzled
expression on her face as if she'd only heard part of what I said, and
asked, "What did you say?"
I didn't realize it then, but from the expression that slowly grew on
her face I realized a storm cloud must have appeared on mine as I
slowly, with great emphasis and the beginnings of real anger, said, "You
said we went some nice places WHEN WE WERE MARRIED. Is there something
going on I don't know about?"
An expression consisting of equal parts surprise, embarrassment and what
appeared to be shock appeared on her face.
"What are you talking about Bill? You must have misunderstood what I
"No. You said it very clearly and distinctly. WHEN WE WERE MARRIED! I
kind of thought we were married. That's why I asked if there was
something I wasn't aware of."
She shook her head and tried to look me in the eyes.
"I couldn't have said that, Bill. That's crazy. "
"No, just weird. I know we're married, babe, so where did that come
"I don't – oh, I must have meant we've been some nice places since
we've been married. That's what I meant to say."
I rolled it around inside my head and I knew she was lying.
'Since we were married,' and "when we were married" aren't close enough
to make that kind of mistake. And she hadn't been thinking when she said
it. It had popped out without her thinking about it or apparently even
realizing what she was saying.
In the office we call those Freudian give-aways. Most people call them
Freudian slips. When people's mouths outrun the control of their minds,
they can say things that wind up sending them to prison or the death
chamber at Raiford.
Any prosecutor or cop knows that no matter how tightly controlled a
person may be, the unconscious mind is always perking away down below.
And when you're guilty about something, what the unconscious mind is
doing is trying to confess something the conscious mind wants to keep
What was she thinking about, I thought, glancing at her beautiful face
and realizing she was still focused in with a laser-like stare on my
eyes. She was trying to read me the way I was reading her. Only I was
better at it because I'd done it for a living for a long time.
Excerpted from "When We Were Married #1" by Daniel Quentin Steele. Copyright © 2011 by Daniel Quentin Steele. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.