A short story entry for "What a Character!".
|The deed had been done, and Everett knew that his wife would find out someday. As he drove home that night, his buttoned grey jacket a size too big and tall showed only a bit of the top of his snow-white shirt. His dark navy pants were formal. There was a serious look on his face and business-like demeanor of this oriental man with a well-shaved facial hair and a tidy haircut.
As he parked his car in the driveway by his house, Everett turned it off and leaned back, speaking softly to himself, “What did I just do?” The images of the woman’s face flickered through his mind, images filled with pleasure that gave Everett pain, and burnt his stomach with guilt. He hadn’t had a choice in the matter, but still, it was not a thing to be proud of.
He looked around as he got out of the car, and smiled softly, if with a hollow quality. His wife, Sierra, couldn’t know- not yet, least. When he came into his house, that same smile was on his face. Sierra ran into him, almost plowing him over with her hug. Kissing his cheek softly, she withdrew and looked at his face.
“What’s wrong, babe?”
Everett sighed and shook his head slowly, sadly. “You remember Elise, yes?”
“Elise- the lady who got you the job with that other company, right? Didn’t she make some inappropriate advances on you at party we hosted once your company was awarded the bid?”
Everett nodded slowly, hesitantly, stepping past Sierra. He looked down at the floor right in front of him. Turning around again, back towards Sierra, he brought his hands up and began to twist his wedding band. Looking down and away, he sighed.
“You didn’t, Everett… You couldn’t have- could you?” Sierra asked him, her voice starting to break up a bit. All Everett could do was nod. “Why?” Sierra asked in a voice demanding an honest answer. Her voice carried an air that suggested that his answer had to be very compelling, if their relationship was to be saved.
“I had to.” Everett said simply. Looking down and away from Sierra, who responded by simply saying that there’s always a choice, he shook his head sadly. “That is your opinion, my dear. But for me: there was no choice. I had to, or my company would be shut down.”
Sierra’s fierce looks relented a little, but she shook her head and asked, “What makes you so sure that she won’t go back on her word and shut you down anyway?”
Everett frowned an ugly, mean frown and spat out in an odd mixture of a scream and a rasp as he stood up in rage, “THE CONTRACT! She changed the contract right after the… Affair.” Everett paused, gagging a bit on the word affair. “This company is something I’ve built from nothing. And I will admit, that this one mistake that could cost me the company was not one that I made. But I was given a chance to fix it, in return for one favor: my body. This affair gave my company the time it needed to finish this job in a safe, up to code manner!”
Everett sat there then unable to continue to speak. Sierra too was unable to speak, for a few moments at least. But then, she asked, “What about us? Our sacred and holy matrimony?” Everett choked up at that.
“Don’t you think I hated it? I didn’t enjoy one second of this sacrilegious act. I despise the woman for it. But she put me in a position where I had to…” Everett hesitated then, looking away again, prompting Sierra to ask him why. “The Hand that Feeds is an organization whose sole purpose is to teach people trades so that they can feed themselves. You don’t know why I chose that for my company, though… My older brother was the equivalent of an American Master Electrician. He fed my whole family- my mother and my little sister, as my father had died- with what little earnings he made. He could have kept some to himself, but no- he saved up to send us here.”
Everett paused then before he continued: “We got here, and started our lives here. Just as he had saved enough to come he, one of his wirings were found faulty after causing a fire in his client’s building. Though no one was hurt, he was murdered by that client’s men as an example. I chose to build this company to enable more people to feed their own families so that they may have better lives. And then – this woman, Elise, asks me to make a whole building’s wiring not to par with regards to the applicable codes, in order to save her money. Do you see now why I had to do it? It’s not just a personal issue- it would be a dishonor to my brother’s memory to follow Elise’s wishes, and it would be a dishonor to everything I’ve done to just let it fall apart because Elise wouldn’t give me time to fix my one screw-up.”
Sierra looked to Everett then with a confused look. “What do you mean, Everett?”
Everett looked straight to Sierra then, into her eyes. “Sierra… Elise is the CFO of the company that awarded us their bid. When I went in to examine my crew’s workmanship this week- the week before it was to be finished- I found out that there was a mix up. One team thought that we were wiring for one purpose, and another team thought for another, and the end result was not only not what was wanted, but was not safe and not up to code.”
Shaking his head, then, Everett continued: “I immediately went to Elise and begged her for one extra week. She told me no. So I asked her, point blank, ‘Can one week not be spared for safety’s sake’? She told me that maybe it could, and she started to feel at her upper body…” Everett closed his eyes then, and hung his head.
He shuddered then as Sierra started to shout in anger, wincing at her words, “So, you just had sex with her after she...” Then, she stopped, and put her hand to her mouth as she looked at Everett in realization. “After she made you…”
Everett simply nodded and said, “Yes. I am sorry.”
Sierra hugged him softly, with genuine care. “I understand, Everett... Everything will be alright.” Then, she smiled softly and squeezed. “At least we know you probably won’t get prosecuted for this crime!” They both laugh softly, and Everett’s laugh is strained, but he hugged her back.
“I need some sleep,” said Everett. Sierra nodded and, as he went out of the room and up the stairs to bed, she called out to him, “I love you, babe.” Everett nodded and stopping, called back weakly but with much appreciation, “I love you too.”
Word Count: 1167