Chapter 19: More surprises
After tossing her handbag on the kitchen counter, Cassie pulled a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from the small wine rack. She missed the walk-in wine room with the wine fridge in her Baton Rouge home, as well as the extensive selections of expensive wines Phillip had always kept on hand. She was now forced to chill her wines in the small refrigerator in the equally tiny kitchen of her rental home. It worked for the white wines, but the reds were always too chilled, and she found herself compromising on her favorite variety of wine—either too cold or too warm for her drinking pleasure.
This Monday evening it didn’t matter. She was exhausted and was in need of a glass of the beverage regardless of the wine’s temperature. She poured a glass after opening the bottle, retrieved her cell phone from the handbag, and moved on to the living room, where she plopped down on the sofa, kicked off her heels, and propped her bare feet on the coffee table.
Checking her phone, she hoped to find either a text or missed call from Jacob and was disappointed at seeing neither. It had been exactly one week since they had spent the day together in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She had visited Tara every day since, except for the day before, but had changed her schedule, no longer going out in the early morning, choosing instead to visit in the early evening. That way, she could check on the progress of the renovation; spend private time with Jacob, who always hung around after the other workers had left for the day; and feed Prissy, who had also gotten in the habit of showing up shortly after Cassie. She and Jacob had even made unsuccessful attempts to trap the feral cat, having located a vet that would accept an untamed animal for spaying and vaccination purposes.
Cassie enjoyed watching Jacob work; she enjoyed their make-out sessions each evening even more. They’d had dinner—and dessert—together the Friday evening before at The Cozy Grape. Saturday evening they’d enjoyed an evening movie at the local theater in the small town of Gonzales across the river from Vacherie and east of Baton Rouge, followed by dinner at the local pizza parlor. Both evenings they had made out at her front door, but, as always, Jacob had been the perfect gentleman, pushing away when he found himself getting too carried away.
Sunday Jacob and Mark joined the MacFarlands as their guests at a pre-season Saints’ football game at the Superdome in New Orleans. Cassie found that strange until Jacob informed her it wasn’t unusual at all for potential clients to want to get to know their contractors on a personal level before hiring them. She, on the other hand, hadn’t wanted to get to know her contractor personally before hiring him. She had hired him merely based on his resume, his past renovation experience, his client reviews and recommendations, his willingness to take on her project promptly, and his estimate that fit well within her budget.
Taking advantage of the opportunity, Cassie invited Margo to join her for lunch in Baton Rouge. During their meal, Margo wanted to know everything happening between her and Jacob and chastised Cassie when she discovered she was still holding out on sex.
“I’m not ready to take that next step yet,” Cassie said in her defense. “And Jacob hasn’t complained.”
“Of course he hasn’t complained!” Margo replied as she sipped her wine. “The man is head over heels in love with you!”
“How would you know that?”
“Get real, Cassie? Who doesn’t know that?”
“Well, I don’t know that!”
“Well, if you don’t know that, it’s because you don’t want to know! Even his crew knows according to Mark.”
“And how would they know?”
“Because!” Margo exclaimed. “It’s written all over the man’s face every time you enter the room. Mark says the whole crew is afraid to even look at you the wrong way for fear of getting fired.”
“Well, that’s just because I’m the client.”
“No, it’s not just because of that. The guys know how their boss feels about you.”
“So do they talk about it, make fun of him behind his back?” The idea that they would do that troubled Cassie.
“No, I don’t think so. Mark says his crew highly respects Jacob. If anything, they’re rooting for the two of you. They all hated his first wife.”
Cassie knew nothing about Jacob’s first wife or his marriage to her. He never mentioned either, and she never asked for fear of him asking questions about her marriage.
“So, how long do you plan to keep the poor man dangling?” Margo asked.
“Let me put it another way. How long are you going to make the man say goodnight at the door, and have to go home and take a cold shower?”
“Don’t 'Margo' me. Come on, Cassie. Honestly. What’s the big deal? It’s just sex. It’s been months. Aren’t you horny? Don’t you want to have sex with Jacob? I mean, seriously, what’s the problem?”
“That’s the problem! I don’t want to have sex just for the sake of having sex. That’s not me. You and I have talked about this before, Margo. It has to mean something to me. I want to be sure of my feelings. I’m not interested in rebound sex. I don’t think that would be fair to either one of us. I don’t want to get hurt again, and I don’t want to hurt Jacob. I want to take the relationship slowly, and Jacob seems okay with that.”
“Hey, my dear friend, don’t knock rebound sex. Sex is sex. It’s all good.”
“And what would you know about rebound sex? When was the last time you got dumped or had your heart broken? You’re the one who always does the dumping, Blanche. So, how much longer before you tire of Mark and move on?”
“That is not going to happen!”
“Oh? So are you telling me you’re actually in love with Mark, that it’s not just great sex?”
“Oh, trust me, hon, it is great sex! Unbelievably great sex! But, yes, Cassie, I am in love with Mark Morgan. This time it’s the real thing. He’s the one.”
Cassie wanted to laugh at her friend, but the tone of Margo’s voice and the gleam in her eyes were something she had never witnessed before. She believed Margo was actually in love, for the first time.
“Wow!” was all she could manage to say.
“Yeah, wow is right. Trust me; I’m as shocked as you are. But enough of me; let’s get back to you and Jacob. Are you still having that sexy dream where he seduces you in your mansion?”
The answer was yes, she was still having that dream, regularly. What she didn’t want to admit to Margo was that she now looked forward to it, hoped for it each night she lay her head on her pillow. She wanted to be intimate with Jacob, thought about it often, but just wasn’t ready emotionally.
Thinking of Jacob now as she relaxed on her sofa and sipped her wine, she decided to call him.
“Hey, Cassie!” he said when he answered the phone. “How’d it go today?”
“It was good,” she replied.
She had spent the entire day with vendors Jacob had set her up with, making selections for Tara that included plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures to replace the existing ones that no longer worked and were unrepairable, appliances, washers, dryers, and many other things her mind was too exhausted to recall.
“So, where are you?” she asked Jacob.
“I’m still at Tara. I’ll be here for a while longer if you want to join me.”
“Jacob, you work too hard.”
“Hey, I thought you put in a rush order to get this job done!”
“Yeah, I guess I did, didn’t I? Doesn’t mean you have to work late every evening. Besides, you’re supposed to be the boss. You should be letting the crew do all the work.”
“As I said before, I consider it more hobby than labor. So, you coming out?”
“I’d love to, but I am way too exhausted. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow then, Cassie.”
After disconnecting the call, Cassie carried her empty wine glass to the kitchen, poured another, then returned to the living room sofa. She retrieved the newspaper from the day before, not having time to read it yet. Thumbing through it to the large Sunday Society section, she choked on the swallow of wine she’d just taken as she stared at the photo that seemed to reach out and grab her, much like an evil monster from a horror movie.
The same sick feeling—the same stabbing pain—she’d experienced the night of her 40th birthday party when Phillip informed her he was leaving her for her best friend suddenly overwhelmed her.
As her eyes filled with tears, she continued to stare at the now blurry photo and the caption under it.
Why hadn’t she been warned? Why hadn’t he at least had the decency to give her a head’s up? Did she mean nothing to him at all? Did the kids know? Why was she learning this by seeing the announcement in the Sunday Society section of The Baton Rouge Advocate? Did Margo know?
The caption blurred more as her head pounded, crowded with so many unanswered questions, but she didn’t need to reread it. It was as clear as it could be in her mind.
Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Monroe announce their marriage. The two were wed in a private ceremony Saturday evening. Only their closest friends and family were in attendance. The couple plan to spend their honeymoon in Paris, France.
Phillip and Melanie had married. It was official. Phillip was never coming back to her. He now belonged to Melanie in every way possible. It was right there in front of her, in black and white.
Resisting the urge to rush to the nearest bathroom, she grabbed up the newspaper, tore it into shreds, dropped the pieces on the floor. She was not going to spend this night in a bathroom hugging a toilet half the night, then curled up on the cold tile floor the rest of it.
Quickly downing the remainder of the wine in her glass, Cassie poured a third glass and carried it into her bedroom. There she removed all her clothing, changed into matching black lace strapless bra and bikini panties, and then opened the door to her tiny closet, pulled out the black, low cut dress she had nixed for her first date with Jacob, slipped it on, then slipped into her favorite Stiletto heels. Entering the small bathroom once dressed, she washed her face of all tears and smeared mascara, applied fresh makeup, heavier now than usual, and fluffed up her hair. She sprayed on the perfume she saved for special occasions, the one with the heavier, more seductive scent than her usual selection with the light, floral fragrance.
Once satisfied with her image in the mirror, she passed through the living room, grabbing her cell phone along the way, then the kitchen, gathering her handbag from the counter, and headed out to the garage. After backing her car out of the garage, she headed toward River Road, and the one place she most needed to be, and the one person she most needed to be with.