“These are the latest”, she said as she flicked the envelope toward Josie. Angie’s cheeks were tear-stained and her fingers shook as she lit another cigarette. The packet had arrived in the mail today, another set of photographs that Mr Desoto, her private investigator had sent.. It was Joe assisting a long haired blonde woman out of the limousine. The picture was grainy but not unclear. There were other pictures of Joe holding the door open for the same woman or enjoying a meal at a sidewalk café. She had yelled at Mr Desoto for never being able to capture a clear view of the woman on film.
She had spent hours poring over all the photographs she had collected. She had scanned them in her computer and had invested hundreds of dollars in imaging software. It had become an obsession. She had suspected Joe of cheating on her ever since he had become more attentive in bed and had taken to having flowers delivered at the office every other day. Her coworkers were going gaga over the long stemmed roses, orchids and other floral arrangements that had made her cubicle resemble a florist’s. But this was highly unusual behavior. They had been married fifteen years and Joe had rarely showered her with cards, candy, flowers or jewelry in all their years together. She didn’t mind, she saw herself as a practical woman who only yearned for these things when she saw other well-loved women exclaiming with glee all around her.
“You have no need for artifice”, he liked telling her and she had laughed such comments away. So this was puzzling, to say the least.
She had also been noting his late work hours and the sudden proliferation of work assignments that required frequent travel. She has deliberated long and hard and then, on a whim, picked out Desoto Investigations from the yellow pages. Mr Desoto had been tailing Joe for two months now. She was convinced Joe was having an affair. She wasn’t sure who the object of his affection was, but she felt she was close and that the answer was there, staring her in the face, she just needed to concentrate.
Josie scanned each picture again. She felt the color drain from her face. She looked up at Angie and said, “I don’t know what to say Ange. These pictures are not very clear. You can hardly make out anything. Besides, I could never imagine Joe being unfaithful, especially after all these years!”
“Get a hold of yourself Ange, I can’t see you doing this to yourself!”
“I don’t know, Josie, I just don’t know! I really trusted him….never thought for a moment that he would do this to me! The saddest part is that our married life has really perked up! He has been so attentive, so sensitive. I am convinced now it’s guilt!”
Josie saw the tears brimming again and rested her hand on Angie’s, “Maybe she is just an acquaintance Ange! You are letting your imagination run away with you. And this Desoto guy is just making it worse. I think he is a charlatan, a bottom feeder. You have to cut him loose Ange! He is messing you up!”
“I don’t think so. I have really studied these pictures. The woman looks so familiar to me, yet I can’t place her. That hair, her style. I wish these pictures were clearer!”
Josie felt nauseous. She had an insane desire to leave the table at the restaurant where they had met for lunch. She wanted to bolt and was just about to excuse herself for the powder room when the waiter arrived. He smiled at her and said, “Ms Greene! So nice to see you again! Two days in a row. How fortunate we are!”
Angie looked at her as Josie flashed an icy smile back at the waiter, “Why John, you must be confused! I haven’t been here in awhile! Excuse me!” She got up and walked to the powder room while Angie stared after her, with a perplexed John looking on. She ordered herself a martini and told John that she needed a few more minutes.
But instead of reading the menu she pulled out the pictures from the packet again and flicked through them until she came upon the one where the restaurant awning read – Café Un Deux Trois.
That’s where they were today. The blonde hairstyle, the clothes, the shoes, were all pieces of a puzzle that suddenly fell neatly into place. She had been confiding in Josie for many months now, sharing her deepest, darkest secrets and more recently her suspicions about Joe’s infidelity.
She saw things with crystal clarity now. The music changed to a familiar old tune, “When you left me all alone/At the record shop/ Told me you were going out/For a soda pop…” A favorite oldie. She saw Josie walking back from the restroom, steps resolute, a decision reached.
“Angie, I don’t know how to tell you this. Actually I have told you about it, many times. I am hopelessly in love. It started that day at your fifteenth anniversary party. Remember when you had retired early, with a headache? Joe had spent a lot of time organizing the party. He was heartbroken when you left. I found him standing alone on your porch, drinking. He talked about that spark that was missing and one thing led to another….this is it for me Ange, I have found love. I am glad it’s out in the open. We should all try to move on with our lives now.”
The wrought iron chair scraped the floor and fell backward as Angie got up with a start, she walked out of the restaurant with whatever dignity she could muster as Josie picked an olive out of her hair and wiping the martini from her face looked on at Angie’s retreating figure. John was standing nearby, napkin in hand….