This is the twelfth and final part of a fiction serial, in 1310 words.
When he finally regained his composure, Steve got into the car and remembered the message beep. He checked his phone, and saw it was a text from Sophie.
‘Did you like the video?’ He needed to know why she had done that, and pressed ‘Call’. There was no ringtone, just a recorded message saying that the number was no longer in use. All that was left to do was to drive home, and think up an explanation for Ellie. He would say it was about losing the bid, and not mention Sophie at all. Perhaps she might believe that a few of them had been laid off, given how important that contract had been.
Outside the house was a small rental van, parked with two of its wheels on the kerb. He drove his car into the space in front of the living room window, presuming that a neighbour must be using the van for something. Climbing wearily out of driver’s seat, he left the envelope inside, and fished the door key out of his pocket. As he walked through into the hallway, he heard voices from the living room, and one of them was Ellie’s.
They were sitting together on the sofa, and both smiled coldly as Steve walked in. He stood open-mouthed as he surveyed the scene. Sophie looked very different. Her hair was drawn up on her head, and she had almost no make-up on. The rather severe trouser suit she was wearing looked very masculine, nothing at all like her style. But it was definitely her, and she was sitting next to Ellie, holding her hand. In the middle of the room, three suitcases in assorted sizes looked packed and ready to go, and there were four or five large boxes too, all sealed down with brown parcel tape. It was Sophie who spoke first, that unmistakable voice still making him tremble, even after what had happened this morning.
“Close your mouth and sit down, Steve. You look rather foolish standing there, and we all need to have a little chat. Ellie has a story to tell you, don’t you love?”. She turned to Ellie and smiled, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. Steve dropped back into the armchair, more as if he was falling into it, than sitting down. He had a terrible taste in his mouth, and absolutely no idea what his wife was going to say. Ellie sat up straight. Without looking directly at him, she began to talk.
“Over a year ago, when you were away at that concrete seminar, or whatever it was, we had a parcel delivered here. It was for a Mr Ali, and had come to the wrong address. I think it was a toaster or something. I rang the company, and was put through to Sophie. She sorted it all out for me, and we started to chat. By the end of the call, she knew I was here alone, and that you were away with work, so suggested it might be nice to meet for a drink that evening. I said ‘Why not?’ I don’t have that many friends here, outside of work, so thought it might be nice. We hit it off straight away, and ended up going for an Italian meal”. She stopped to catch her breath, and turned to smile at Sophie. The older woman nodded encouragement, and patted her hand.
“I was left in no doubt that Sophie was very interested in me. You know, in that way. As we were walking to the taxi rank, she suggested I might like to go back to her flat, and it was obvious what she was talking about. I said I was flattered, but happily married, though it would be nice to meet up again, just as friends. She took that well, and kept in touch with me on and off. Sometimes I would meet her at the shops in town, and we would go for coffee. She carried on telling me she was interested, and I kept thanking her, and declining her offer of being a lot more than friends. Then just recently, she let me know that she had spoken to you, about another parcel. You had been nice to her, and sent a nice email. Then you started to reply to the personal emails she sent you too”. Sophie leaned forward, and took over the story.
“I told Ellie that you were flirting with me, and responding to my obvious advances. After all that time of her telling me what a faithful and loyal husband you were, I thought she should know what you were really like. I suggested that I continue, and we would see how far you were prepared to take it. If you went along with it to the inevitable conclusion, then she would know that you were no longer worth bothering about, and see sense”. Steve felt as if he should say something. But he had no idea what. Ellie reached into a bag at her side, and threw a large stack of papers onto the coffee table.
Then she started speaking again.
“Those are printouts of all the emails, Steve. And I have heard the recorded phone call, and watched most of the video that Sophie filmed all weekend, with the concealed camera in her bedroom. That was why you two never left that room, do you get it now? I had refused to believe it at first, but I couldn’t argue with the proof. You see there was no Lee, no gay bloke at work. It was always Sophie that I was going to see. She kept me updated on what you were up to, and sometimes I was in her flat as you exchanged emails. Right up to the end, I kept telling her that you would never go through with it, never betray me. But what you did last weekend was so shocking, I decided to get my own back, and ruin your career”. She finally smiled. A rather self-satisfied smile that wasn’t at all like Ellie. Then she sat back, looking relaxed now, and continued.
“So I am moving out, and going to live with Sophie. I have her to thank for showing me what my husband is really like, and I finally realise that I have wanted to be with her since that night in the restaurant. But I was loyal to you, and faithful too. Something you couldn’t manage. You can stay here for as long as you can afford to, but it will have to be sold. There isn’t much equity, given what we paid for it, and the slump in the housing market. And with no job, I doubt you will be able to afford much around here. Maybe you should move back in with your parents? I don’t really care, to be honest. I have transferred half of our joint savings into another account. There wasn’t much to start with, but you still have your half. My mail will be redirected, and I would appreciate it if you only contacted me regarding any legal matters over the house. Have you got anything to say, before we leave?”
Steve wanted to say lots of things, but they all sounded pointless, in his mind. He looked up at her, then across to Sophie, who was grinning. He said nothing, so Sophie spoke instead.
“Perhaps you would be kind enough to go upstairs and keep out of the way while we load up the van, Steve?” That voice again. Still amazing, despite what she had done.
As he walked past her to the hallway, Sophie suddenly reached out and took his hand. He looked back at her and she was shaking her head slowly. Her last words to him were softly spoken, and as seductive as ever.