I can’t be with you tonight

This is a rather sad, but lovely song, and the next in my series of short stories inspired by song titles. I hope you are enjoying them. It was released by Judy Boucher in 1986.

wedding-rings-21.5.19

The text message came through as I was driving home from a shopping trip which had left my credit card glowing at the edges. Once I had pulled into our four-car garage, I checked my phone before going through to the house, a second sense warning me who had sent it.

‘Darling. I know I said I wouldn’t, but I miss you so much. Can you get away the weekend after next? I’ve a business trip to Brighton on the 15th and will have a double room booked. Please say yes. Love you. X’

‘Is that you, Judy?’ my husband’s voice drifted down the stairs.

‘Yes. Be up in a minute,’ I called back as I hastily deleted the message from my phone.

‘From the number of carrier bags, I’d say you had a successful day,’ George said. ‘Did you buy anything special?’

‘Not really, but I did go a bit mad spending. I’m not safe to be left alone, sometimes.’

‘As long as it makes you happy, Judy, you know I can afford it. Let me have the receipts tomorrow, and I’ll get the accountant to clear them. Can’t have you being stuck with no leeway on your card. Do you want me to increase the credit limit?’

‘No, it’s fine. You’re too good to me as it is.’

‘Darling. You know you’re everything to me. By the way, did I tell you we’ve been invited to the Sanderson-Smythes for the weekend? I know you don’t enjoy the shooting, but they do throw good parties, and they’ll be several influential business prospects there, so I said we’d go.’

My heart sank but how could I refuse? Since the day we first met George had been wonderful to me. My history with other men had been a total disaster. Somehow I had always attracted scumbags and lowlifes, and had been at my wit’s end when he had come to my rescue like a knight in shining armour. Although he was thirty years my senior, he was a sweet, gentle man and I loved him like a favourite uncle. I knew he loved me in a similar way, and when he asked me to marry him it wasn’t a great hardship to say yes. He needed a trophy wife, and I valued him as a friend and companion.

When we made love for the first time on our honeymoon, I realised how much of a struggle it was for him, and it suited us both to have a platonic relationship. I was still comparatively young and missed sex, but in many ways the affection made up for it, and having separate rooms gave me privacy when the needs became overwhelming. I intended to stay true to my vows, then I met Mike and everything changed. George had always been good to his employees but I knew he was considering Mike as a successor when he eventually retired.

‘Darling, you were the perfect hostess last night. Everyone in the office was talking about the party, and singing your praises. It really helps staff morale but I couldn’t do it without you. Did you have a good time?’

‘It was fun, George, but it was you they wanted to get to know. They would love it if you joined in, rather than sit alone and pay the bill at the end of the night. You’re a good dancer. Why didn’t you ask some of the ladies who were on their own?’

‘You’re the only one I want to dance with, sweetheart; I’m too old for small talk. Thank you for keeping the side up, I love watching you dance and enjoy yourself. Goodnight, my love. I’m off to bed.’

As he hugged me and gave me a chaste goodnight kiss, my mind turned to the handsome stranger who had recently joined his team. Mike was aware I was the boss’s wife and had acted with decorum, but that hadn’t stopped the sparks flying between us. It would be an impossible situation but our paths continued to cross as he became George’s right hand man. It was natural we spent a lot of time together, and I enjoyed having the company of someone my own age. For the first time in my life I knew the meaning of real love. I thought of Mike constantly, we shared secrets, and the occasions when we met up changed from open and public meetings to clandestine. Did George suspect? I don’t know. A part of me thought he would understand as long as we were discreet. Another part thought it could destroy Mike’s career and my marriage, which was why the text message had me in a dilemma.

‘George, you remember Jane,’ I said at breakfast the next morning. ‘She’s getting married soon and the girls are having a hen party next weekend but I told them I couldn’t make it. You’d think they’d go somewhere more exciting than down by the coast. Most brides these days elect to go abroad to keep the scandal to a minimum.’

‘Why can’t you go?’ George replied as he buttered his toast. ‘I’ll miss you but I could pay the expenses as a wedding present. Is it too late to change your mind? You deserve a break with the girls.’

Sometimes I wished the man I had married was a total shit. He was so understanding it made me feel even more guilty at deceiving him. In the end I told him her parents were paying for the hen night but if he was sure, I’d like to go. I sent a text to Mike and tried to calm my nerves as the day approached. It was a wonderful weekend, and the start of many more covert meetings. If George was suspicious he never showed it, although he was quieter than usual, and didn’t look very well. Perhaps he was working too hard?

What began as a fling turned into a love affair, and Mike asked me to get a divorce so we could have a proper relationship. I’d always wanted children and with time slipping away, I knew this would be my last chance. He had found a new job abroad and given in his notice, and I decided to leave George and go with him. We arranged I would tell George face to face when he returned from work Friday evening, then I would join Mike at the hotel near the airport, before we flew out together early the following morning. It didn’t work out like that.

Thursday evening George complained of chest pains but told me he was just overtired, and would be fine after a good night’s sleep. He insisted on going to work Friday morning although he looked very ill. My bags were packed and ready, and I was waiting for him to come home when his secretary phoned. He had been taken to the hospital with a suspected heart attack, and it was 50/50 whether he would pull through. Had he known all along? Had the thought of my leaving brought on the attack? Riddled with guilt I knew what I had to do. The text I sent to Mike later that night was the hardest thing I had ever done.

‘Please understand my situation. I love you, but I can’t be with you tonight.’

George recovered but became an invalid. Mike had told me if I didn’t turn up it would be finished between us, and true to his word I never heard from him again.

© Voinks May 2019

If you enjoyed this story please check out my published books. Thank you. 

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