“How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she bought all my excuses for working late, extended business trips, and being stuck in traffic. I was caught. She caught me. Not red-handed but caught in one too many lies.
“You butt dialed me and I heard everything,” Winifred responded with her arms folded across her chest. I knew I should’ve turned off my phone instead of putting it on silent. Rookie mistake. This was my first time cheating.. on.. anyone.
“Why?” Winifred asked, her voice shook, and tears swelled in her hazel eyes.
I shoved my fidgety hands into my pockets, shuffled my feet, and looked at anything but her. I thought about our wedding night and how madly in love we were. How hopeful. Then it all changed. The sudden shrill of screams from down the hall interrupted my thoughts. I closed my eyes and sighed. Winifred turned around, mumbled something, wiped her face, and disappeared down the hall into our toddler’s bedroom. I could hear faint whispers that turned into a soft lullaby song.
I plopped myself down into a brown leather armchair and buried my face into my shaking hands. My swimming thoughts escaped me as I felt something rub against my leg. I cautiously peered through my fingers and saw our Italian Greyhound. She was giving me the puppy dog eyes. I sighed again. “You’re not helping, Freckles,” I whispered playfully as I patted her head.
“Leon, why?” Winifred had swiftly returned, which startled Freckles and I.
“Winnie, I- -I,” I stammered, unsure how to put my feelings and motives into words.
“You’re unhappy,” Winifred simply stated.
I nodded and dropped my head.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Winifred continued.
“I- -I didn’t know where to start. I- -I couldn’t find the right time.. or place.. I- -I,” I trailed off.
“You’re a coward,” Winifred shot back.
I deserved that because it was true.
“Do you want a divorce, Leon? Do you want to be with her?”
My silence amplified the tension between us. Winifred impatiently tapped her foot on the hardwood floor. Freckles scurried over to her because she thought this was an invitation to play. Winifred bent down and rubbed behind Freckles’ ear; she itched at her ear with her hind leg, and tumbled over. I smiled faintly. I thought about how innocently easy a dog’s life is compared to the complicated human’s life. This was a prime example. I shook my head and forced myself to remember the seriousness of the situation I was in. I finally managed to look at Winifred. “I- -I don’t know. I- -I don’t know what I want.”
Winifred stood with a sigh. “Well, you better figure it out, Leon,” she sniffled, and tossed a throw pillow at me. “It’s late. You can sleep in here. We’ll continue this in the morning.” She tippy toed down the hall and softly closed the master bedroom door behind her. The loud turning of the door lock made me jump. Freckles came over and nuzzled up against me.
“What am I gonna do, girl?” I breathed to Freckles. She curled up into a ball at my feet, she looked up at me, again, with her puppy dog eyes and whined. I couldn’t help myself. I stifled a laugh and covered my mouth. “You’re so lucky you’re cute!” I reclined the brown leather armchair and stretched out my feet. I patted my leg and Freckles jumped up to join me. “Will you get settled already!” I playfully ordered Freckles. She circled my lap three times, sniffed my crotch twice, licked my face once, and finally settled down.
I checked the time on my Seiko wristwatch. It wasn’t that late. Just past midnight. “Wanna go for a walk, girl?” Freckles’ ears perked up, she leaped down and ran for the front door. “I’ll take that as a yes. C’mon then.. Let’s go!” I wasn’t tired yet. I thought, maybe some fresh air will do us some good. I put on our matching ponchos and headed out into the brisk night. We made a couple pit stops before reaching our destination, Cock ‘n Tails, a corner bar around the block that I knew was dog friendly.
“What’ll it be?” a heavyset, hairy, rugged masculine bartender politely asked while drying a beer mug with a towel and then throwing the towel over his shoulder. Stereotypical bartender move.
“An Old Fashioned, please,” I automatically answered while I removed my soaking poncho and set it beside me. Freckles licked the water drops off the poncho.
“You got it,” he poured the whiskey in slow motion. Or so it seemed. I was mesmerized by the smooth transitions in his preparation process. He twirled a shiny tool from his black leather pants pocket and began peeling the orange into my glass. He topped it off with a cherry and slid the glass toward me.
“What’ll the pooch have? An Evian?”
I chuckled lightly, “In a dirty martini glass.”
“Sure thing,” he even garnished it with a toothpick of olives! “Here ya go,” he handed me the drink with a wink.
“That’s very kind of you,” I laughed in between words. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“Hey, even a dog’s gotta hydrate!”
“You got me there,” I carefully set down the full martini glass between my bar stool and Freckles. She was lapping up the water and splashing it onto the sticky hardwood floor. I discreetly removed the olives from the toothpick and put the toothpick in my mouth. She’s still a pup and doesn’t know the difference between edible and inedible things yet. Better safe than sorry. I sure as hell didn’t want to be spending the rest of the night at an emergency vet clinic.
I sipped my Old Fashioned and exclaimed, “Aaahhh.. this has to be the best Old Fashioned I’ve ever had! You’re a master at your craft, sir.”
“Thank you, I appreciate that,” the bartender replied. “I didn’t go to Bartending School. I’m self-taught.”
“Really? That’s impressive.”
“Really. I had to teach myself,” he admitted. “Nobody will teach a fag how to make cocktails.”
“Oh.. th- -that’s a sh- -shame,” I paused. “Hey! Bet you could teach your own Mixology class!”
“That’s a hell of an idea,” he pondered aloud.
“Hell to the yes, Nico!” a patron shouted from a nearby booth with his buddies. He was dressed in only suspenders, Daisy Dukes, and knee high boots. “You would totally rock it!” They all raised their glasses to toast, with their pinkies up, and clinked their glasses together in unison. “To Nico!”
I raised my glass as well and turned back around to face the bar. “Well, sounds like you have the support of the community,” I extended my hand. “I’m Leon.”
“As you heard, my name’s Nico.. it’s short for.. Nicodemus,” he shook my hand firmly and then rolled his eyes. “My parents named m- -.”
“Hey, Nico! The usual,” a feminine voice interrupted from behind me.
“Hey, Reggie, how’s it?” Nico asked as they did an elaborate handshake that included finger guns and pounding the rock. I half expected paper and scissors to be involved.
“Same old, same old. Ya know.. In between clients,” Reggie flailed his French manicured hand about and held his wrist limply. He redirected his gaze towards me as he settled into the swiveling bar stool. “Do I know you?” He looked me up and down. He rested his head in his hand and squinted.
“Mmm- -I- -I,” I was choking on my cocktail. “d- -don’t think s- -so.”
“Yeah, you’re one of my regulars,” Reggie started snapping his fingers. “Levi, Leo, Liam..”
I shook my head after each name, “N- -no, y- -you must have me confused with s- -someone else.”
“Luke, Lewis, Leon! It’s Leon, right? How ya doing?”
“That’s me,” Reggie exclaimed as he flipped his non-existent long hair over his shoulder. He batted his eyelashes at me. He was sporting bedazzled false eyelashes.
“Wow! You sure look different outside of your royal garb, scepter and crown.”
“Well, I only wear that getup for my role-play clients,” Reggie winked and caressed my forearm. He leaned closer, snatched the cherry out of my glass, seductively bit it off the stem, chewed and swallowed the cherry while maintaining eye contact the entire time. “Wanna see a party trick?” He waved the cherry stem around my face like he was trying to hypnotize me.
I gulped. “Y- -yes, Y- -Your Majesty.” I bowed my head toward him.
Sir Reginald put the entire cherry stem in his mouth. Half a minute later, he pulled it out of his mouth slowly and placed it on a white cocktail napkin between us. It was tied in a knot!
I gulped again. I was transfixed with his charisma and exuding confidence. Borderline cocky.
“You wanna get outta here? I can show you more of my tricks.”
I nodded with my jaw on the floor.
“I’m in room 813 at the Sparkling Swan downtown,” Reggie warmly purred into my ear as he rubbed my inner thigh. “See ya there, peasant.” He patted Freckles head as he twirled out of his bar stool. I followed his gaze as he elegantly floated out the door into the drizzling moonlight.
“Check please, Nico,” I downed the rest of my Old Fashioned.
“It was nice meeting you Leon. Have a good one.”
“You too. Good luck with your Mixology school,” I left him a big tip and scribbled my signature. “C’mon Freckles.”
I hurried home. No pit stops this time. Freckles shook the rain droplets off, stretched, yawned and got comfortable on the denim love seat. I rummaged through the infamous junk drawer in the kitchen. All I could find was a pad of pink post-its and a purple metallic pen. I wrote a Dear John letter to Winnie, which included my cheating secret.
I knocked three times on the hotel room door, number 813. I anticipated Reggie to open the door, but ’twas Sir Reginald standing there in all his Royal Glory. He took my breath away.
“Please join me in my Royal bed chamber,” Sir Reginald gestured toward the king size bed with one hand and with the other gave me a drink.
“Fit for a king,” I declared as I took a sip.
“I order you to disrobe, peasant.”
“Anything for you, Your Royal Highness,” I downed the entire drink and dropped to my knees in front of the bed.
“You shall be Knighted,” Sir Reginald announced while straightening his jeweled crown. I bowed my head. I felt being tapped on my shoulder and then on the other by his gold scepter.
The next morning, I woke up alone, naked, and confused in the cheap pastel hotel room. Ow, my head was pounding! I felt wet. Was I sweating? Nope. Blood was streaming down my face. “Son of a bitch,” I screeched because my mouth was parched. Knighted and knocked out. I looked around through a crimson blur. I couldn’t see my wallet, keys, watch, or clothes anywhere; but it seems that Sir Reginald was kind enough to leave me my grass stained tennis shoes. Thanks asshole.
There was a soft knock at the door. “Housekeeping!”
Winifred was carrying her tot on her hip into the kitchen and notices a pink note on the counter. It was in Leon’s handwriting. What she read was shocking. “Son of a bitch,” she scoffed. The toddler wiggled in her arms to be let down and burst into tears. Freckles decided to go into a barking fit. The phone rang and rang and rang.. Winifred blinked, sighed and forced herself to snap out of it. She picked up the receiver and almost dropped it because her hands were sweating with great fervor.
“Hello?” Winifred answered.
“Good morning, this is Officer Winslow from Seattle Police Department. Are you Winifred Linkovich?”
“Okay, we have been notified by the Sparkling Swan Hotel manager that your husband, Leon Linkovich, was found by housekeeping.. tied up to a bed. Can you come downtown to collect him?”
“Oh, no, that’s my ex-husband, sorry,” Winifred hung up and cackled like a villain. “Karma’s a bitch, Leon.” She dialed her attorney’s number.