I’ve had the idea for this one kicking around in my head since September 29. To avoid spoilers, the explanation is below.
“Yes. Um, who’s calling?”
“This is Ann. Tony’s wife?”
Long pause. “Oh. He really told you then? He said he did, but I didn’t believe it.”
“Yes. He did.”
“And… and you’re okay with this?”
“Not really. But if he takes care of my needs first, I suppose… anyway. Is he with you?”
“No! He said he needed to spend some time with you this week!”
“Really?” Ann’s voice softened. “He said he was going to see you this evening.”
“God. I hope he’s not hurt or something!”
“Or… you don’t suppose?”
Cathy sighed. “To be honest, when he’s been here lately, he’s been spending more time on his laptop than… you know.”
“Hmph. Cathy, I’m not comfortable discussing this over the phone. Could you meet me at Jolt Coffee? It’s in the strip, down from the Saver-Mart.”
“Um… sure. I guess.”
“Good. Park over at the insurance office, two doors down. There’s always a few spots open there. I’ll meet you there.”
After leaving a detailed note, just in case the wife had foul play in mind, Cathy left her apartment. She knew Jolt Coffee well — she and Tony found each other on Facebook, then met in person at Jolt the first couple times. He’d been upfront about things: he had no intention of leaving his wife, but needed to get away from her coldness and demands from time to time. She didn’t want a commitment, so the arrangement worked for her too.
Until now. All month he’d been distant and moody, making her wonder if he had S.A.D. issues. And now, she was meeting his wife. This was just weird.
She recognized Ann from a photo that Tony kept in his wallet: a statuesque woman, one who looked used to getting her way. Not for the first time, she felt like she understood Tony’s need to get away…
Ann smiled a thin smile as she closed her car door. “You must be Cathy,” she said. “Let’s get inside, this wind is cutting.” Indeed it was, as befit late November. “You seem like a nice young woman — oh my.” She looked into the coffee house window, then thrust out an arm and stepped back, pulling Cathy with her.
“What is it?”
Ann stole another glance. “I think we found him.” She gestured toward the window.
“It is him!” she whispered, peeking in. “But I don’t see anyone with him.”
Ann’s shoulders slumped as she looked skyward, lips pressed together tight. “That doesn’t mean anything,” she said, tugging at Cathy’s jacket. “Let’s go in.”
Cathy inhaled the heady smell of espresso and vanilla as they entered. The usual soundtrack, Italian folk music, played in the background. Tony sat at a table, back to the entrance, hunched over his laptop like they had both seen so often this month. Ann nudged her and pointed: you go left, I’ll go right.
They flanked Tony, but he paid them no mind, typing away. Suddenly, he slapped the table and leaned back. “Yes! Fifty thousand! I made it —” Then he looked up, his wife on one side and his mistress on the other. “Uh…” he looked back and forth between the two.
Ann and Cathy looked at each other above him. “Let’s get a coffee,” said Ann. “We know who — or what — Tony’s real love is.”
So… why September 29? That’s when Tony Noland posted his handy guide, 7 Easy Ways To Give You Time To Write™. The first way was (summarized): start an affair, tell your wife you’re visiting your mistress, tell your mistress you’re staying with your wife, go to a coffee house and write. Since Tony gave me the idea, I thought it was fitting that I name the hapless male character after him. (I just hope his wife isn’t named Ann!!!) Seeing as November just went past, I put a NaNoWriMo spin on it.