by Johnathan Marasigan
Doug woke up in an unfamiliar apartment, he had a sharp headache and his eyes were sensitive to the morning light that gave off a red tint from the curtains. Doug clenched his eyes shut and shoved his face into a pillow, the bed was warm and soft, in the other room he heard the light footsteps of his growing guilt sinking to the bottom of his stomach. As quickly and silently as he could Doug got up searched the room for his clothing, tiptoeing to each article and sliding them on with ninja like skill. It was an art that was not unfamiliar to Doug as he remembered the one night hookup phase of his college life, his muscle memory served him well; he slid his last shoe on and threw his shirt on his shoulders as he moved for the door; he did not have the nerve to face the woman in that room, or the woman at home for that matter.
Doug looked down the hall and decided that the coast was clear, he made his way through the hall when he heard a soft voice behind him.
“Would you like some coffee before you leave?”
Embarrassed Doug turned around and attempted to politely decline her offer but as he caught a glimpse of this beautiful woman his mind went black as he shockingly admired the stunning woman that stood before him, she had short blonde hair and long slender legs which ran into a tight sleeveless top she was wearing. As he starred he was only able to mumble a few inaudible noises.
Doug stood motionless for a second like a child who had been caught sneaking dessert before dinner till the woman finally spoke.
“You look really tired, here I made you a cup already, drink it we were really drunk last night… it will make you feel better,” she said.
“I highly doubt that that cup of coffee will make me feel better right now, besides I have to be going; I have plans.”
Doug turned to the door to leave as the woman quickly blurted out “Look you don’t have to feel guilty, just have some coffee you might be pleasantly surprised.”
Doug slowly turned and reluctantly grabbed the coffee from her outstretched hand, the two stood in silence for a minute and sipped their coffee awkwardly. As they sipped Doug did feel surprised how much the coffee did help, his situation was still dire and he did know that but for the moment his guilt that was slowly eating away at him was numbed.
“I noticed your phone this morning, it rang a couple times…it was your fiancé,” she said cautiously.
With great fear Doug trembled “Oh my god, you didn’t talk to her did you? Look I’ve never done this before, I’d never knowingly do this I don’t know what I’m doing here I’m sorry if I lead you on… what have I done.”
“Slow down,” she said. “I didn’t speak to her I just saw the picture of you proposing on the phone when it rang.”
Doug looked a little relived as she continued, “Look its really my fault, you were really, really, drunk and I was angry with some things I got going on, I remember coming on to you quite strongly and if I would have known I swear I wouldn’t have… I’m so sorry.”
They each basked in the awkward silence once more till she broke the silence once again. “She’s pretty.”
Irritated Doug replied. “Look I’m sorry but I can’t do this, I can’t even think about talking to her now and some stranger who I don’t even know, who I just woke up with is talking about her. I just don’t know what to do.”
“Look don’t worry about it,” she said. “I totally understand, I’m not going to bother you and you can just pretend this didn’t happen, and if you do feel like being honest my name is Ashley.”
“Why would I need to know your name?” Doug asked.
“Well this is fifty-fifty but if you were to tell her it’s better to have a name than just some random bimbo, it’s a trust thing trust me.”
Doug gave Ashley a funny expression as if to say I’m speechless, he then put his coffee down and headed for the door, as he opened the door Doug turned around and looked at Ashley and said “I wish I could say it was a pleasure Ashley, but no offense to you it wasn’t; thanks for the coffee.”
As he left into the hallway he thought he heard her say bye Doug but he paid it no mind and headed to the elevator. While on the elevator he found himself worried that he didn’t know exactly where he was at, wondering if he would have to call someone to pick him up, and worried that he would have to explain his situation.
By the time he found himself on the street he felt relieved that he was right by the bar on Prospect Street where he had been the night before, he thought to himself; thank god I’m still in Cleveland. Before he headed to his car he decided that he needed to get some more information on what actually occurred the night before, in order to do so he went to the casino down the street where his friend Jimmy was working, Jimmy was with him last night he’d have to know what happened.
As he walked to the casino he checked his phone, he felt unnerved when he seen that Jenifer had only called him a couple of times this morning; usually his phone would be ringing off the hook, this change in behavior was unsettling. Did she know, was she angry? The guilt grew as the questions arose and by the time he got to the casino his body was trembling with fear.
He walked straight to the Blackjack table where Jimmy was working, it was slow so he could get some good answers in privacy as there were no others playing.
“Doug that was a wild night last night!” Jimmy said with excitement as Doug sat down at his table.
“I don’t remember any of it.” Doug said as he cashed in for one hundred and fifty dollars in chips. He laid down his bet and asked “what do you remember Jim?”
Jim dealt the cards, Doug showed fifteen and the dealer showed a three so Doug stood at fifteen. “You were the life of the party Doug, it was crazy” Jim turned his card and showed a thirteen and his hit card was a four. “Bad luck Doug dealer takes with seventeen.”
“How long did you stay Jim?” as Doug anted up another bet.
“I was there all night I even saw you leave with that hot chick, she was real cool what was her name, oh that’s right Ashley.” Jim said as he dealt the cards.
Doug began to get aggravated “You let me leave with her, you know I have a fiancé. What were you thinking?”
“Don’t worry about it just think of it like one last thing before you get married, I talked to Jen this morning and told her you were hung over at my apartment and needed rest she doesn’t know any better just pretend it never happened you have nothing to worry about. I got your back bro, besides she was too hot for me not to let you leave with her.” Jimmy motioned to one of the waitresses to grab a drink for Doug all the while taking Doug’s next bet as he lost his third consecutive hand.
“Jim what don’t you understand about faithfulness, I’m going to be entering my marriage on a lie, I can’t even imagine looking her in her face right now, I don’t know what to do.” Doug explained.
“Calm down Doug these things happen, like I said you’re covered by the time that girl even got there it was just you and me, everyone else had left no one knows but you, Ashley, and myself. And I’m sure you got out of the girls house like old times right?” Jimmy said.
“No she caught me on the way out, but she said she understood, she seen my phone this morning,” Jim said.
“Perfect!” Jimmy exclaimed. “Now there are no loose ends, you are free and clear with nothing to worry about.” Doug anted up the rest of his chips and Jimmy dealt the hand, Doug showed two queens for twenty and the Dealer showed an ace. “Would you like insurance?” Jim asked and Doug shook his head no. Jimmy then turned over his card to show blackjack. “I guess it’s not your lucky day Doug.”
“I guess not Jim,” replied Doug.
On Doug’s drive home he thought about this situation that he got himself into, he still was unsure of what he was going to do; on one hand he could tell her and they would fight the marriage would be in jeopardy and they could break up, or they might stay together and after regaining some trust she might forgive him a little bit, but no matter what she would never forget what happened. On the other hand he could spare her feelings and pretend like nothing happened, would he be able to move past the guilt, now that it happened once would it happen again; what if someday she did happen to find out would she be able to forgive him? All the while the questions continued to arise and Doug couldn’t come up with any answers.
As he drove he seen his exit and was unable to get off, he decided to take the long way home still unable to face Jenifer. His thoughts swirled through his head, he wanted to blame Jimmy, to blame Ashley, but he knew deep down that it was his fault. He then began to think of Jennifer, he had met her in college at the University of Akron; it was one of those mornings he was going to try to sneak out but something made him stay. After she woke up they spent the day together, went to the art museum, ice skated in the park, went back to the dorm and watched the Cavaliers play. Over the next couple years they had been inseparable, once he had the money he bought the engagement ring and proposed. He couldn’t explain it but there was some kind of magnetism between them, he loved her and he never wanted to hurt her. He then realized that in order to keep everything the way it was he couldn’t tell her. He made his decision and headed home.
Doug pulled in the driveway and headed into the house, he wasn’t quite sure how to handle the situation yet but he knew what he had to do. He entered his house and immediately heard Jenifer’s voice greeting him.
“Doug is that you? Can you come help me out in the kitchen?” She asked.
“Y-Yeah.” Doug stammered as he headed through the living room. He still felt petrified and hoped that she would not notice.
“You must have had quite a night, I talked to Jimmy this morning he told me a little about it so I decided to let you rest,” she said making Doug’s guilt grow three times as large when he notices how well she treats him.
“Wow Doug you don’t look so well, go get cleaned up and take a shower I’m having a client over for dinner tonight, an artist I think you’ll like.”
Doug stared still unsure how to handle himself and said. “It was a rough night I’ll just go get cleaned up.”
Doug knew he had not started off so well and if it kept going this way he would have spilled the beans before the night is through. He needed to get focused to have a plan and hoped getting cleaned up would help him out.
Downstairs in the kitchen Jenifer worked tirelessly on a gourmet meal to impress her client. The table was set with candles ready to be lit, the dinner she had prepared was chicken breasts covered in a spinach sauce some vegetables and mashed potatoes. Jenifer always had a way with food and the plates looked so good it was almost a shame to eat them; of course it would be a shame not to because as delicious as it looked it tasted better.
Doug walked downstairs refreshed from his shower, smelling the delicious food was like catching his second wind; it was then that he thought maybe I can get past this. He then saw his fiancé got lost in her big beautiful brown eyes and realized how great she was and how lucky he was to be with her. He gave her a kiss and began to weave a web of lies that a politician would be proud of, telling her wild stories of a night that he couldn’t remember, a night that he’d be glad to forget.
The doorbell then rang and the walked together to greet Jenifer’s client at the door. As the door opened Doug was hit with an overwhelming sense of guilt once more.
“This is Ashley my new client” Jenifer said.
Doug and Ashley locked eyes with each other in disbelief. Doug, beginning to feel sick to his stomach knew at that moment everything had changed; including him. Doug wouldn’t be able to keep this going, he would need to tell her before it was too late.