Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 10 - Clair Dickson

by Clair Dickson

The women were ecstatic to see each other again after nearly fifteen years apart. They had lost touch when Bev's husband accepted a transfer to the far side of the state. Eventually, the logistics of hauling increasing numbers of small children across the distance resulted in both women seeing each other less and less, until it was never.

The years passed, phone numbers and addresses changed. It was not that they had forgotten about each other, only that their lives no longer allowed them time, they thought, to continue that friendship. Until one day, when Bev answered the door to find a flower-delivery man on the doorstep with a large, basket of varicolored flowers.

Tucked in between the petals was a little card that ultimately raised more questions than it could answer in the 2 inch by 4 inch space inside. The card claimed the flowers were from Bev's long-misplaced friend, Carrie Lusson. And it included Carrie's phone number.

When Bev called Carrie, both women wept at the mere idea of meeting up again. They lived closer now, and their children older. In fact, Bev's kids were all in high school. Carrie's youngest was eleven. The two women met for lunch, happy and anxious. But they were as they remembered each other.

Then the question was asked. A question that was pushed by curiosity-- innocent enough. Except, the most innocent questions tend to lead to the ugliest answers.

Bev, wiping her mouth with a napkin, leaned in and asked how Carrie managed to find her. She went on to explain how she had looked for Carrie, but been unsuccessful at it.

Carrie was flabbergasted. After all, it was Bev who had called her first, seemingly out of the blue. As Carrie tried to stammer out her astonished questions, Bev fumbled in her purse for the card. She handed Carrie the flower-basket card. And Carrie quietly explained that it wasn't her handwriting and that she never sent any flowers.

Curiosity got the better of the women, and they decided to investigate the origins of the flowers. It was easy enough to wade into, like a gradually sloping shoreline. They called the flower shop and were told that Gerry Lusson had purchased the flowers.

Carrie was pleased that her husband would do such a thing. In fact, as Bev was putting her cell phone back into her crowded purse, Carrie explained how Gerry had been doing lots of nice things for her like that. It was to make up for having to work long hours lately.

Bev, an embittered divorcee who looks upon all men with hardened eyes, was skeptical of those long hours. She suggested that while Gerry was away for many hours of the day, it was not necessarily because he was working.

The enjoyment Carrie felt about the flowers, candy, and reunion her husband had given her wilted faster than a week-old bouquet. She hadn't seen much of Gerry, but she had seen the increase in money they'd gotten from his recent raise. Or recent alleged raise. But Carrie, oddly, wanted to trust her husband.

So, with that damning evidence, Bev offered to pay the tab of a private investigator. It was her opinion that Carrie know for certain. Even after learning that her own husband had been involved in three affairs besides the one Bev caught him in the middle of, Bev thought it better to know than to wonder. Carrie wasn't gung-ho on the idea; however, she was more of an "any way the wind blows" sort of person. And Bev was blowing.

Obviously, the investigation started with surveillance of Gerry Lusson. For several weeks, Gerry was tailed in one of several cars by a PI with a collection of library books and nearly endless patience. So long as someone was paying the tab, the surveillance could continue indefinitely. However, Carrie became increasingly upset and finally called of the investigation. She had enough. She had a large collection of photographs and written reports that were conclusive.

The investigation had revealed that his day at the office began just before nine. He left for lunch with a few pals from the office: three men and one woman. All returned from lunch just a few minutes short of an hour. Most of the office folks left after five, with the cars clearing from the lot like a horde of ants after picking the picnic blanket clean. The remaining dozen cars left an hour or so later, leaving two for security. Gerry's only deviations were the times and the ties. He had a collection of ties that suggested he was considered difficult to buy gifts for.

His day ended between six and seven. On his way home, he usually stopped at the same place for a coffee and a fruity-flavored pastry. He lingered for a few minutes over the drink and Danish before heading home. To his wife. Where things started to get heated. Then he lingered a little longer over his coffee and crumpet. And she just knew he was actually spending a little longer with the other woman whom the PI wasn't smart enough to catch.

The only person at the divorce proceedings several weeks later who was not hurt and resentful was the PI, there to testify on the evidence provided. Evidence that showed, conclusively, that Gerry Lusson did not have any affair. He had been honest and faithful. For whatever it was worth at that point, with the trust broken like a drop-kicked egg carton.

The Lusson marriage was probably broken with the first accusation of wrong doing, planted by Bev when they discussed the origins of an otherwise benign bouquet. From there, the cracks spread until the whole relationship was nothing but painful shards, and Gerry and Carrie Lusson stood before a divorce lawyer with lists of demands.

At least Gerry learned he should never do anything as nice as buy gifts or flowers or, worse, help his wife reunite with an old friend.


BIO: Clair has had a dozen stories accepted for publication in the past year. She writes in the vast amounts of free time she has as an alternative/ adult high school teacher, or when she puts a movie on in class. She's been accused of being the meanest, hardest teacher and she's okay with that.

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