On Friday night, just three days ago, I pulled into Toby’s Bar and Grill at around 7:30pm. I was dead tired after spending the previous two days in The Big Apple, finalizing the negotiations with a large international bank.
When the day had started, I was pessimistic that we would ever reach a deal, but it seemed that the outstanding obstacles started falling like dominoes, shortly after our Friday meeting started.
By noon, there were only two sticking points left. We decided to take a break and go out to lunch alone. I found a nearby Jewish deli and ordered a sinfully large pastrami and swiss on rye and enjoyed every bite.
When we reconvened at 1:30, George Willis, the lead negotiator from the bank said, “We’ve made a ton of progress. I propose we split the difference on the last two points.”
George passed a paper across the conference table and I read what he was proposing. It most definitely wasn’t splitting the difference, but was easily within the bounds of what my partners and I would accept to win this large contract. I scratched my initials on the page and George said that he’d email a formal contract to me on Monday. After shaking hands, we all went in different directions.
I went back to my hotel, packed and checked out. I considered staying in the city for the night, because my fiancée Trish was away for the weekend with her two older sisters. They were staying at one of Connecticut’s giant Indian casinos. They planned to spend their days at the pool and spa and their evenings in the finer bars and restaurants.
Instead of another night away from home, I headed to Grand Central Station and caught the Metro North train to New Haven. By 7:30 I had driven up I-91 toward Hartford and exited the highway. I was heading through the always popular downtown West Hartford. I decided to stop for dinner.
I was sitting in Toby’s bar area, when I spotted my two future sisters-in-law, through the bar mirror, sliding into a horseshoe shaped table. Their husband’s slid in next to them.
The immediate knot in my stomach and pain that seemed to spread over every inch of my body, told me that my wedding plans, exactly eight weeks away, were in trouble. My sisters-in-laws should have been at the casino with Trish.
After catching the bartender’s eye, I said to Michael, “I need to go outside for a while. I promise I’ll be back.”
“No problem Chris. Do you mind if I put your drink on the shelf and open up this spot?” Michael asked, as he reached for my glass.
I nodded in agreement and left Toby’s. I sat in my car, in the back of the parking lot and I sketched out in my head, what I needed to do.
I called Trish and she answered, “Hey Love. How is the Big City?”
“It’s the same as always. We finished up a successful negotiation and I’m heading out for dinner. I wish you were with me!”
“You’re so sweet Chris. I miss you too. We’ve had a ball all day. We lounged at the pool and sipped drinks. I have a nice head start on my wedding tan. I’m meeting my sisters in a few minutes for dinner.”
Trish and I talked for a bit more, before exchanging “I love you” and ending the call.
I checked the “find my phone” app and punched in Trish’s information. I’m not sure where Trish was, but her phone was in Falmouth, MA on the western end of Cape Cod. “Fuck”, I thought. Trish’s long time neighbor and friend, Nick Flaherty, had a family home in Falmouth. We’d been invited there a number of times.
Looking through my contact information, I found Sue Flaherty’s cell phone number.
I called and after Sue answered, I said, “Hi Sue. It’s Chris Harrington.”
“Chris? Chris Harrington! What a nice surprise! How are the wedding plans, coming along? Nick and I can’t wait to be there!”
I responded, “To be honest, I’m not sure how the plans are coming.”
Sue laughed and said, “That’s a typical male response!”
“Hey Sue,” I asked. “What are the chances that Nick is traveling this weekend?”
“What an odd question. Nick hardly ever has to travel over a weekend, but he is away this weekend. What’s this about?” Sue asked with a little concern in her voice.
“Before I answer, let me ask you, do you have a ‘find your phone’ app on your phone?”
Sue let out an involuntary sob and in a near whisper she said, “Not again.”
A minute later, she continued, “He’s supposed to be in Philadelphia. But the tracker shows that he’s at his family’s cottage.”
With a sad sigh, I said, “I’m sorry Sue. Nick and Trish are together.”
Sue quietly cried for a number of minutes. “This isn’t the first time,” she admitted. “I’m going to call the son of a bitch and tell him not to come home.”
“Can I ask you a favor, Sue?” When she didn’t answer, I continued, “Trish isn’t due home until Sunday afternoon.”
“It’s the same with Nick.”
I asked, “Let’s put off our confrontation until tomorrow night. In the meantime, I’m going to change the locks on my condominium door and take half the wedding money from a shared joint account. I’ll be able to pack all her clothes and other personal items and put the bags in the driveway.”
“You’re right Chris. I’ll do the same thing.”
“Please text or call, if you need someone to talk to. I’m sorry I had to call you.”
Sue was crying again and between sobs said, “It’s not your fault, Chris.”
My last call was to Billy Jones, a friend and neighbor. He answered, “What’s up, Topher?”
“I need some help, Billy. Are you around tomorrow morning?”
“My only plans are to sleep until noon, but Sally will have me up at 7:00. What can I do for you?”
“Is there a chance that you can change the lock on my front door and the door coming in from the garage? And if you could change the code on the garage door opener, I’d appreciate it.”
There was a moment of silence, before Billy said, “Mother fucker! Is the wedding off?”
“Unless I’m missing something big, Trish and I are dead and buried.”
“You got it Topher. I’ll head to Lowes, first thing in the morning and have everything changed by late morning. Does that work?”
“You bet it does Billy. Thanks.”
Feeling twenty years older, I trudged back into Toby’s and walked to the bar. I was looking through the mirror at a reflection of my sisters-in law and their husbands, as Michael handed me back my bourbon. Their appetizers were being cleared by the server.
I grabbed a bar stool and with my drink, I headed to my ex future family’s table.
Michael called out, “Hey Chris. You can’t take the stool from the …”
My furious stare cut Michael short.
When I plopped the stool at the end of the table, climbed into the seat and angrily looked back and forth between Julie and Karen, the atmosphere got chilly, very quickly.
“Chris! Buddy! Slide into the booth. We’ll get you a menu,” said Karen’s husband Steve.
Without taking my eyes off the women, I responded, “No thanks Steve. I won’t be staying long.”
I continued to silently glare at Julie and Karen, until Julie’s husband Roy asked, “what’s going on Chris?’
“Ask your wife, Roy.”
Roy and Steve turned toward their wives. It was easy to see that both women were scared to death. “What’s going on?” Steve asked the sisters.
Karen was the first to speak, when she said, “It’s not what you think, Chris!”
The thick tension grew, as I looked across the table toward Karen. “I’m guessing it’s exactly what I think!” I told the group.
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