She was the last person I should have been speaking to, given the situation. But I could think of no-one else. I pulled on the handbrake and sat for a moment in silence before opening the door, climbing out and flinging it closed behind me. What was I really there for? Sympathy or revenge? It did occur to me that this was going to hurt Fiona at least as much as I had been hurt, but this thought was almost lost in a scrambled flood of chaotic thought.
Fiona was my third best friend, though I had known her longer than the other two had. She would understand how I felt, and would help me to withstand the pain that was afflicting me at that very moment, searing red slashing through my brain, to say nothing of my heart.
I ran up the three steps and rang the front door bell, which I could hear quite clearly in the silence of the road and the house. I waited a short while, too short really to have become so impatient, then rang the bell again, holding my finger on the button so that it rang out continuously.
From the hallway I could hear her now. ‘Hang on,’ she shouted, and then I could see her in white through the obscured glass in the door, and the lock clicked open and she was there, drying her hair with a towel and looking oddly at me, immediate concern on her face. ‘David,’ she said. ‘What on Earth…’
‘Oh Fi,’ I almost sobbed, ‘can I come in?’
She pulled the door wider and beckoned me in, still rubbing her hair on the towel.
Fiona and Albert had moved into the house not long after our first successful app, when money had suddenly become no object, and it seemed certain we had hit the big-time. It was a big house, too big for just the two of them, but they were obviously planning a family.
I stood in the hallway and I looked at her and felt as though I was crumpling, and began to cry, just sobbing noises that I couldn’t stop and tears splashing down on my shirt front, and Fiona stopped rubbing her hair and turned to me with anguish on her face. ‘What the hell’s happened? Are you okay?’
I couldn’t answer her at first, my sobbing making it impossible. She dropped the towel and put her arms around me.
She’s a tall woman, and I put my head on her shoulder and sobbed into her neck, aware that she was wearing a white towelling dressing gown, so my tears would be absorbed. Yes, I know that was a strange thought, but I was very conscious of it. I held her loosely around her waist and tried to control myself. It seemed a very long time before I could reduce the sobbing. Fiona leaned back a little, staring at my face. ‘Okay now?’
I rubbed my shirt-sleeve across my face, tears and snot mixing as I did so. I shook my head, but I was, actually, slowly getting a grip on myself. Fiona let me take my time, and when I was calmer she led me into their kitchen and sat me down. ‘What’s happened?’
I honestly didn’t know where to start. ‘Just take it from the beginning,’ she said, her eyes boring into mine as though she was trying to read my mind.
I took a deep breath. ‘I went home to take her to a surprise lunch,’ I started, then I choked up and couldn’t go on.
‘Dee?’ she said. ‘You went home to take Dee for lunch somewhere?’
‘They were in the living room.’
She waited. ‘Yes, Dee and who else?’
I could hardly say it. ‘Albert,’ I finally managed. ‘Dee and Albert. And they were…’ I couldn’t go on.
‘They were what? …Kissing?’
‘No. Much more than that.’
There was silence. ‘Oh,’ Fiona said. ‘How much more than that?’
‘They were naked.’ And I was sobbing again, and shaking. My life was falling apart and all I could do about it was to cry.
Fiona put her hand to her mouth, apparently in surprise. But behind the hand I could tell she was almost smiling.
‘You know, he’s done it before.’ We had moved to the living room, sitting side by side on a settee.
‘Oh no. No, I don’t think I can stand it.’
‘Not with Dee. Not as far as I know, anyway.’
I stared at her. ‘You mean… you’ve known about this?’
‘No.’ She was calm and unruffled. I couldn’t understand it. ‘No, not about Dee. I’m surprised, in a way. I wouldn’t have thought he’d have done it with the wife of his best friend. Or his partner’s wife, come to that.’
‘But why aren’t you furious?’
Fiona sighed, dropped her hand to her lap in a gesture of acceptance. She stood and went to the sideboard, where there were bottles of alcohol. She turned and looked at me, a glass in her hand. ‘Look, I’m going to have a Scotch. Want anything?’
I nodded. She turned and poured, then came towards me offering a glass. She stood very close to me, and sipped her Scotch.
‘So okay, you feel like killing him. Or her, I suppose.’
The Scotch stung as I took too large a gulp. ‘Too right, I do,’ I nodded. ‘Too bloody right. Both of them.’
‘But you won’t, let’s face it. Because it’s not in your nature. Is it? That’s how I felt when I found about it the first time. But in the end I did nothing.’
I looked at her. She was turned half away from me, and she seemed to have the slightest smile on her face.
‘What did he say?’
‘Oh, I never told him I knew. Just carried on as though nothing at all had happened.’
I was astonished. ‘How could you… you know, how could you carry it off.’
‘You mean carry on sleeping with him?’
‘Well, I didn’t for a while. Until I realised that I was cutting off my nose to spite my face.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Think about it, David. You just found out about Dee and Albert. Do you love Dee?’
‘Of course I do,’ I said, astonished that she could ask such a thing. ‘I could give her a bloody good spanking at the moment, but I still love her.’
‘Yes, and I still love Albert. I can’t say I’m not cross with him, but on the other hand I don’t want to lose him, either.’
‘Can I have another Scotch?’ I asked, and she took my glass and went to the sideboard. I sat on the settee with my head in my hands. What the hell was I going to do about this? I hadn’t a clue.
Fiona sat next to me, very close, shoulders rubbing, handed me my drink and put her arm around my shoulders. ‘Poor David,’ she said. ‘Poor me as well, I suppose, though it’s not much of a shock to me.’
‘It’s… it’s crazy. Why would she do this. I would have thought she’d look at our life together and be as happy as possible.’
Fiona put her head back and guffawed. ‘Oh David,’ she laughed. ‘People aren’t like that. Not in the least. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and if both you and Albert weren’t such nerds, you’d have recognised it when you were children.’
‘What makes you say that?’
‘What, about being nerds? Well, you are, aren’t you. Both of you. It’s no wonder you got together, and it’s certainly no wonder that you specialise in computer apps. What I find amazing, every day, really, is that you both got married, or even that you noticed Dee and me at all in the first place.’
I blinked. This was all new to me.
‘You’re so far up the spectrum,’ Fiona continued, ‘that you
don’t even recognise that there is a spectrum.’
‘But what does that have to do with anything?’ I asked her.
‘Albert’s not fucking Dee because he’s on the spectrum. If he is on it, which I doubt. He’s fucking her because he’s an absolute turd and doesn’t care that she’s married to me that used to be his lifelong best friend.’
‘And Dee? Why’s she doing it?’
I turned to face her and thought about it. ‘I don’t have a clue,’ I told her hesitantly. And miserably, too.
Fiona leaned towards me and kissed me full on the lips for quite a long time, then leaned back and smiled at me, her eyes sparkling. ‘Cat amongst the pigeons?’ she asked.
I turned, swallowed the remainder of my drink in one go, and put the glass down. Then I stood up, petrified by how I felt.
She put her glass down too, then stood really close to me and put both arms around me and stood on tip-toes and kissed me again, open-mouthed this time, and held the back of my head and moaned very slightly, and rocked very slightly, too, from side to side.
My arms were around her as well, but I put one hand to my glasses and took them off, throwing them to the settee behind us.
We were locked together like that for quite a long time, and I didn’t have a coherent thought in my head the whole time. Except, of course, that this was wrong, so wrong.
When we stopped, Fiona smiled again. ‘Feel any better?’ she asked.
And I did. I should have felt rotten. I should have felt disgusted at myself, disgusted and revolted that I could have done this with my best friend’s wife. Well, my ex-best friend’s wife. ‘Actually,’ I told her, ‘I do. It’s amazing, but I feel nineteen years old and very excited.’
‘Mmmm,’ Fiona said. ‘Don’t get carried away. We’d better talk this out.’
So we sat and we talked and I held her hand and kissed her lightly every now and again and then we went upstairs to bed. ‘Time to get even,’ Fiona said.
Afterwards… and boy, what an afterwards that was!… afterwards we sat up in bed together and smoked, something I had never done. I was feeling, what, elated? Masterful? In love?
‘No,’ Fiona said, ‘this isn’t love. I told you earlier, I love Albert and probably always will. This is getting even, and it was great. You’re quite a lover, you know.’
Well no, I hadn’t known. Dee wasn’t all that demonstrative. At least, not with me. How was she with Albert, I wondered? But it was pleasing to be told that by Fiona, easing my hurt pride somewhat.
‘Now what we have to decide is our best tactic. Do we ring Albert and Dee and invite them over so that they can see that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander? Or do we keep it to ourselves?’
I was impressed. I had never seen this side of Fiona before, though I had gone out with her for a year or so before we split up and I eventually married Dee. Now she was like an army general sorting through possible alternatives before drawing up her final attack plan. ‘Wouldn’t it just encourage them to continue, if they didn’t know we knew?’
‘There is that, of course,’ she said. ‘But telling them that we know, and what we’ve just done to get even would be like giving them permission to carry on as they are.’
I eyed Fiona, and ran my hand over her knee, and smiled. ‘And that wouldn’t be an absolutely horrible thing, would it?’
‘David,’ she said in a horrified voice, but with a huge smile on her face, ‘I never knew you could be so… naughty,’ and she gave me a playful cuff on the shoulder, and I grabbed her and it was some time before we settled back with my second-ever cigarette.
‘I think,’ I started, ‘that we might just leave things to chance, and see what happens.’
The door flew open, and there stood Dee with her hand over her mouth and her eyes wide. ‘David!’ she cried. ‘Fiona! What the hell is going on?’ I could see Albert in the corridor behind her.
I turned to Fiona and smiled. ‘Well, we didn’t have to wait long, did we?’
‘But…’ Dee, for once, seemed lost for words.
Albert interrupted. ‘Caught in the act, I’d say!’
‘Yes,’ Dee chimed in. ‘How dare you?’
I turned to Fiona, and I couldn’t help smiling a little. ‘Do you want to tell them, or shall I?’
‘I think I’d better do that, David. I reckon I’m a little better prepared.’ She took my hand in hers, and looked back at Dee and Albert. ‘Well, let’s take it from the beginning, shall we? That, if I’m not mistaken, was with Christine. Remember her?’
Albert blushed. ‘What on Earth do you...’
Fiona pressed on. ‘Christine, then Margery, and after her a very short dalliance with Vanessa.’
Albert looked at the ground. ‘You missed Annie,’ he said quietly. Then he seemed to rally. ‘But look at you, in bed with my best friend and partner. That’s atrocious.’
I couldn’t help laughing a little. ‘That’s a bit rich,’ I said. ‘I saw you fucking Dee only a couple of hours ago.’
Dee put her hand to her mouth. ‘Oh my God,’ she said. 'I thought he was working.’
‘The funniest part is that I came home to surprise you and take you out to lunch. Turns out it was me that was surprised.’
Dee started to cry. Albert looked guilty.
‘Oh, stop it, you two,’ Fiona told them. ‘Why don’t you both just get into bed with us, and we’ll sort something out. Okay?’
Dee looked at Albert, but said nothing.
Albert breathed deeply for a while, glaring at the two of us as though he’d like to throttle us, me particularly; then he seemed to change his mind. ‘Shall we?’ he asked Dee.
‘This is ridiculous,’ Dee said, but she took off her jacket and draped it over the back of an armchair.
Albert watched her sit down and remove her shoes, then took off his sweater and knelt to take off his shoes too. His shirt came off in seconds, and then jeans and his socks. He stood there in his underpants, hesitating. ‘Which side?’ he asked.
Dee by this time was down to bra and knickers, and looking undecided.
‘Look,’ I said, ‘why don’t you come next to me, Dee, and Albert can go on the outside.’
Dee hopped in immediately, and rested her head on my shoulder. ‘I’m sorry you caught us,’ she said, and I patted her hand.
Albert didn’t seem to be able to make up his mind. Should he lie next to his wife or his lover? He chose to stay with Dee for the moment. He didn’t say anything.
It was awkward, I admit. Having got this far, nobody knew what to say next. After a long silence, Fiona spoke up at last. ‘I love Albert, and always will. But I’ve just had a marvellous time with David. He’s very good, you know.’
I couldn’t leave it like that. ‘I love Dee, and always will, but I really enjoyed the last couple of hours with Fiona.’
Dee started snivelling. ‘Oh, stop it, Dee,’ Albert said. ‘It was just a bit of slap and tickle. But as you say, I love Fiona, and always will.’
Dee howled, ‘David, I’m yours for ever.’ She had the grace to look me in the eyes, defiant. ‘But I had a hell of a good time with Albert.’
As always, Fiona had the last word. ‘Alright then, let’s all kiss and make up.’
And we did, which was a bit of a tangle, and very nice.