Husband and wife slipped into a comfortable routine. Peter spent his free time trawling for men at his favourite haunts; Victoire spent considerable time at her ocean front house overseeing its refurbishment. But that was not all that was getting fixed up. In between decorators, shopping expeditions and social engagements with her husband, Victoire’s long term goals and priorities were undergoing a serious facelift.
Three options danced in her one-track mind like witches before a bubbling caldron: to either continue as if nothing happened and hope Peter died soon of AIDS; to take him to the cleaners armed with irrefutable evidence; or, finally, resort to good old-fashion blackmail. But that morning, the hammering and non-stop chatter of the fastidious decorators interfered with her thinking. She needed to get out.
The half-empty Silver Dollar in Tomales Bay smelled of fried food, and the television over the bar blared. A Grace Slick lookalike waitress well past her sell-by-date shuffled about braless in a tight fitting T-shirt and Birkenstocks.
Victoire sat tucked away in a booth toying with her shrimp salad. Her intellect reawakened after the purchase of the glasshouse, and the vapid lifestyle of shopping, pampering and partying held less and less interest. With her energy levels coursing at full speed, the idea of blackmail gained momentum.
A frown marred her face. In order to blackmail her husband, she needed an accomplice. But not just any accomplice; Victoire required unconditional allegiance and unquestioning loyalty.
“Care for some more ice tea, sweetie?” asked the waitress before popping a loud bubble with her gum.
Victoire looked up and nodded. She was about to ask for the bill when her ears tuned into the newscast.
“Word from in Sunnyvale is that Theo Thompson and co-founder Willy Waites are unveiling a new peripheral compatible with the Sinclair 7 unit that will send tremors through the Valley…”
Victoire jumped up to get a better look at the screen, knocking her newly filled glass onto the table and her lap. She gasped, reached for a paper napkin and wiped her jeans.
The waitress looked startled. “Are you alright?” She pulled a handful of napkins from the metal holder to contain the damage. “Hang on. Let me get you something to clean yourself up with.”
An idea came to Victoire at lightening speed. She pulled out a ten-dollar bill, shoved into the astonished waitress’ hand and bolted for the door.
# # # #
Friday nights at the El Toro were sacrosanct to Willy. The popular Tex-Mex cantina renown for its guacamole and buxomly servers sat in Silicon Valley next to a three-star hotel that included hot tubs.
Willy shuffled in with a group of four others and quickly ordered a round of drinks. His mind slowly disengaged from office matters letting the weekend mode slip under his skin. Aside from going over a new modem design eating away at his brain, he only planned to buy groceries and get a haircut. He had toyed with the idea of asking Julie out on a date, but by the time he seriously considered the matter it was already Friday morning.
Victoire sat in a dark corner and kept to herself during Happy Hour, her eyes darting between her watch and the door. When Willy eventually turned up, she watched where he and his nerd posse seated themselves and slipped out of the cantina to set the wheels of her plan in motion. She retrieved a nail gun and shot several nails into the front right tire before returning to El Toro.
She waved and slowly weaved through the crowd. Willy looked stunned and missed the punch line of his friend’s joke. His body relived the same rush he’d experienced when he first laid eyes on her. The admiring glances from the men around were not lost on Victoire. She wore a short skirt that showed off her tan legs at their best. A floral scent snaked up his nose seconds before she spoke. To the group’s surprise, the predatory blonde bent down and planted a kiss on Willy’s flushed cheek.
Transfixed, words failed to come forth. The group went silent and stared. “Would you mind if I joined you?” Willy cleared his throat and nodded.
A chubby fellow in a short sleeve shirt with pens gapping from his shirt pocket recognized her from his days at Bassadai. He nudged his nearest companions and said, “We were just leaving.” He looked at the third fellow whose eyes doubled since Victoire’s appeared on the scene. “Catch you later, man,” he said, steering the geeks to the bar.
“Wha-what are you doing in this neck of the woods?” Willy asked in a croaky voice.
“I’m waiting for AAA to sort out my car.” She pushed her hair back; he noticed she wasn’t wearing a wedding band. “I was driving back from Carmel when I got a flat tyre.” She sighed. “I’m told it’ll be an hour’s wait before they can get to me they’re so busy. I was lucky it didn’t happen in the middle of nowhere, can you imagine?” She absentmindedly ran the tip on her middle finger around the rim of his empty Margarita and slowly licked off the salt. “Yum…”
“That tastes so good,” she said enticingly.
“Can I get you one?” he blurted.
She placed her hand on his thigh and looked grateful. “Oh Willy, I’d love one. I’ve had a long, hectic day, I could use something to relax me.” She slowly took off her cropped jacket. Her nipples strained against the thin white T-shirt. Willy’s reason teetered like a seesaw on speed.
Victoire led the conversation, pulling every emotional string she could think of between rounds of Margaritas. “I miss working with you guys.” He looked up at her quizzically. “Honest. There was a buzz, a sense of accomplishment.”
“You lead a very busy life,” he said, remembering the articles he recently read about her. “It’s not like you just sit around, Victoire.” A flicker of resentment crossed his eyes.
“Of course I don’t just sit around! But Peter’s so much older and expects so much of me.” Her tone sounded hurt. She took another sip before continuing in a calmer tone. “I miss being with people my age, Willy. Hell, I still miss our Friday nights hanging out at TGIF!” She shrugged prettily and added shyly, “You were the only person who could make me laugh.” She briefly touched his cheek. “I don’t do a lot of that these days.” She took a deep breath and reached for her jacket.
Willy’s heart skipped a beat. “Wait, what are you talking about, Victoire?”
She looked down and shook her head. “Nothing, Willy. Forget I said that.” Then she got up to call the recovery service about her car. Dumbfounded and mellowed by alcohol, Willy watched her disappear in the crowd. He settled the bill and went out to look for Victoire.
She cut a melancholic figure, leaning on her car in the semi-darkness waiting for his preordained move on the board of her narcissistic chess game of greed.
“Victoire?” She turned to look at him. “Why did you leave? You can’t go anywhere.”
She pretended to be startled. “Oh Willy, she cried, turning to face him. “You frightened me!” A teardrop glistened as it made its way down her cheek.
“You’re crying?” he asked softly.
Feigning embarrassment, she delicately wiped her alligator tears. “I’m okay, I’ll be alright.” She sniffled and placed her forearms against his chest.
Without thinking, he put his arms around her. To his amazement, Victoire lifted her face and looked into his longing eyes. A raw moan escaped his lips before they clumsily locked onto hers.
When Willy woke up the next morning, Victoire had already left. He reached for her pillow and pressed it against his face inhaling every last inch of her scent. He looked up at the innocuous hotel ceiling feeling the happiest he ever felt.