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Samantha earns her stripes.
There were six more from her during the afternoon, and I deleted them all without listening. There was also a message from C.D. asking for an update.
I met him for a sandwich that evening and filled him in. He had known Beth nearly as long as I had-we were all friends from Wharton-and he was utterly stunned.
"This is SO not like her, man! I know we both saw her, so I can't tell you it didn't happen, but it makes no sense whatever!"
"That's the conclusion I reached too. Tell me: did you see any signs of trouble between us? Signs of boredom on Beth's part, or anger? Anything I unknowingly did that might have pissed her off?"
"Not a thing, I swear. You guys are so lovey-dovey it makes my skin crawl sometimes." He grinned, then suddenly stopped.
"I'm sorry, Jake," he said seriously. "Wrong time to joke."
"It's okay-you're my only good friend now, I've got to put up with you." I smiled at him. We were old friends, and I trusted him completely. Like I'd trusted Beth, until about 24 hours earlier. The thought made my face tighten into an angry grimace.
Sunday I spent walking, sitting in the park, and thinking. Getting nowhere. I hadn't any idea how my wonderful marriage could have gone to shit so fast, without me knowing anything about it.
Beth called 21 more times-she left eight messages, all of which I deleted. I just didn't want to hear it, whatever it was. Not yet.
When Monday came I knew she'd barrage Eileen, the receptionist at Chaney Magnuson, with calls. I got in extra-early and was hidden in my office behind a closed door before Eileen arrived.
At 9:15 I called her. "Eileen, listen, it's Jake, and I need to ask you a favor. I don't want to talk to Beth this week, and I'm pretty sure she's going to be calling.
"I'll be coming in early and leaving late, so you can honestly say you haven't seen me. If she calls for me you can put the calls through-I'll see on my phone that it's you and I'll just let it ring. If anyone else calls and I need to answer, just call me from your inside extension and I'll pick up, okay?"
"Sure, Jake, I can handle that." Eileen was a cheerful, competent woman in her 40s, divorced with two teenage sons. She'd seen it all. "Troubles at home? I'm sorry to hear it."
"Thanks, Eileen. I didn't see it coming, but...that's life, I guess."
"Hang in there, baby. Hope it gets better soon."
Beth must have called 50 times by Wednesday, either leaving messages on my direct line or using the main number to talk to Eileen. I deleted her messages, though I did listen to one from Tuesday afternoon out of idle curiosity. Her crying and panic were gone, but she sounded deeply frightened.
"Please, honey, call me back. It's not what you must think, and I'm going out of my mind. PLEASE let me talk to..." I deleted it-that was enough.
I just kept my head down, worked hard, talked to C.D. a couple of times, and stewed. One minute I was so angry I couldn't see straight, another moment hurt, later on just confused. But always I was determined. What Beth had done had killed our marriage, and I wasn't going to play games about it. Let her suffer for a week or so! Then I'd go back to the apartment and tell her it was over.
My plans changed when I got a call on Thursday afternoon from Madeline Rozycki. Along with C.D., Madeline was part of a big gang of Wharton grads who'd come up to New York for jobs. Beth and I had known her well during school-she was always a bit wilder than we were, quite the party-girl. But that hadn't prevented her from graduating in the top 2% of our class, and now she was on a straight line to a partnership at one of Wall Street's biggest firms.
"Jake, thank God I reached you-it's Madeline."
"Hi Mad, what's going on?"
"I need to see you tonight-it's urgent. Can we have a drink after work?"
"Good, I'll meet you at Sorrentino's at 6:30." And she hung up.
I figured it was probably about Beth-no doubt Madeline had been sent as an emissary to deliver some bullshit message of apology, since