Their affection and regard for one another remained as strong as ever, they had always enjoyed each other as friends as well as lovers.
Nowadays John took care of all the repairs around the house. He didn't mind doing them, but he reserved the right to cuss and yell while he did it. When his crabbing was the loudest Melora just shrugged to herself and smiled. It was the only time her tightly controlled, laconic man let go. Practically. They still loved gaming, sometimes abandoning their regular TV shows at night to play video games or play Don't Wake the Llama.
Now they had grandchildren; Graylan and Valrae, and this was something they had wanted for a long time. Already they were redesigning their backyard to once again suit children. It seemed their happiness and contentment was complete.
Melora had tested the waters of pet ownership by purchasing a little hamster she called Spanky. She delighted in watching him play and lavished attention and love on him. John didn't pay much attention to the little creature, but was happy if Melora was happy. He was attached to his garden in almost the same way, he admitted it.
Then, sometime in the late spring, John seemed to have become bored with his old hobbies and routines. He was cheerful enough, though, even going about the repair jobs whistling now, but Melora sensed something different. There was a remoteness to him lately, and he sometimes seemed distracted and restless. His neighbors and business associates and even his publisher would have said that was just "John being John". But the face that John had always shown the world, a dispassionate though compelling one, was not the one Melora knew. She was the only person he was truly open with, the only one he fully trusted to know his real feelings and fears. Even with his closest friends Glenn Caswell and Jim Candeloro, he still held his feelings a little close to the vest. Now, however; it seemed to Melora that he was holding back even with her.
Before he met Melora, John had once been a real heart-breaker back in the day. He was old money, born into an upper class family from the south, and his upstart father had gone on to make a fortune to add to his wife's inheritance. In addition he was handsome, educated, and quietly forceful. Considered by many women at the time a top prize to be won, he was used to having their attention and his choice of the cream of Atlanta society.
A true democrat when it came to women, John was happy to go out with working class women, and college coeds as well as socialites. No one had stolen his heart, though; until one night he went with friends to The Jazz Club in Charlotte. There he saw a curvy redhead dancing the jive in a Swing Music show put on by the club and learned her name was Melora Statler. She was with someone else and momentarily disappeared from his life that night. John spent months trying to locate her and then bumped into her again by chance, again at a club, this time one where she was singing with the house band, one member of which was Royal Brecht. As Glenn had said, "She totally rocked his stodgy, society world!" John himself admitted she opened up a whole new life for him. He was hooked; nothing would do but for him to marry her as soon as possible. He'd never regretted it and he'd always been true to her. Along the way they'd had four children, several careers, the usual amount of problems and many good times.
But the male ego, for all its fragility, is a driving force that controls many men. Women, when they are feeling a little blue, insecure or discontent, will change their hairstyle, or begin a diet or start aerobics classes, maybe they take up a new hobby or define a goal to make themselves feel their worth again. Sometimes it's as simple as a new pair of shoes. Many men, though, only seem to be able to satisfactorily feed their ego by proving their virility with someone different, someone not their wife. Even a man not prone to womanizing can fall into this trap.
Last Christmas John had been suffering an intense desire for a certain young woman he'd seen one night at Club Dante; one Lalique Flynn. The fact that he'd even been at the club indicated his growing dissatisfaction with his life. She'd been openly flirting with every man there and he was just one of them. But he had not been able to get her out of his mind since then.
Then when he ran into her at Goth's Apparel and they seemed to click right away, it only got worse. Eventually, because he was a careful man used to getting his own way in most things and, controlled and controlling; he hired someone to check her out. He'd been a methodical businessman nearly all his life and he always studied all the angles before moving ahead. Actually, he had done the same thing with Melora years ago, too. He wanted to know all about Lalique that he could. When he had the information; about her life, her loves, and her possible future desires he thought about it a while. He felt fairly sure she would respond well to him being direct; she was very direct herself from all accounts. Calling her and simply inviting her to somewhere public might be the best. All she could say was no and people did not often say that to John.
Once he had this objective in mind John never let himself think about the severity of his actions. Men have a capacity to compartmentalize much more easily than women and it is quite useful when it comes to problem solving...and adultery. He told himself he wanted to see Lalique again just to enjoy her company, but he knew in his heart he wanted more so calling her was just the first step on the road to perdition. He wanted to experience that heady feeling of new attraction again. Just once more. Even though he was feeling older; he knew he could still attract a few women. Whether or not Lalique was one of them he had to find out.
I would never hurt Melora, he told himself, it's not like this is anything more than a physical attraction. It doesn't mean I don't love my wife.
His self-justification served him well. Always confident, and suavely charming when he wished to be, John was not glib or insincere, but definitely knew how to get his way. His friend Glenn frequently teased him saying he was a conceited, controlling unmentionable. "I'm not conceited," he would grin, "Just convinced."
He made the call. Lalique agreed to meet him at a park out of town called The Lost Treasure Maze and they talked for quite a while over a game of chess. She was more intelligent than he'd hoped and even more beautiful up close. Then they moved on to the Lucky Cuss Tavern where he absolutely astounded himself by kissing her while they were dancing. In public. Twice.
He was so shook up at his own indiscretion that when the dance ended and he seated her back at the table he retired momentarily to the men's room. There he splashed cold water on his face and muttered,
"You dope! What are you doing, Lassiter? You idiot."
When he went back out and she greeted him with a full-lipped smile and unleashed a smoky look from her lustrous brown eyes John immediately forgot about his idiocy. At the moment she was the most exciting woman he'd met since he first spied Melora dancing on stage all those years ago. So he asked her to join him for dinner at the Botanical Gardens Restaurant.
She seemed to hang on his every word like he was a prophet and it had been a while since anyone but his family did that. Afterwards he took her back to her car which was still parked at Lost Treasure Maze. He hated that; it wasn't classy at all and definitely not the way he operated. Or at least back when he used to operate. But in those days he'd not been married and hadn't had to worry about who saw him where or with whom. At the time he'd had a beautifully restored vintage white 1969 Cadillac Coupe DeVille that he'd squired women around in and when he brought a woman home he'd follow her to her door even if he wasn't staying. That was long ago in another place and time, though. Back in the time when a man always opened the door for a woman, helped her into her coat when they were going out, and seated her at her chair before he sat down. He was brought up to stand when a woman entered the room and remain standing until she sat down. Forty years ago now. Women didn't always expect or even want that kind of gallantry these days, at least not from what he saw on the news, but he didn't know any other way to treat a woman. He still did those things for his wife when they were in public. As it turned out it was his courtly, if old-fashioned way with Lalique that had first attracted her and would continue to intrigue her.
As he watched her drive away John knew he wanted to see her again...and again.
To be continued...
Next blog update: The Lassiters Ch. 11 Bothered and Bewitched