Adelaide Literary Magazine


ADELAIDE Independent Bimonthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Bimensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  








by Brett Kaplan




Late Thursday morning, Lee and Melinda were coming out of an art gallery in Chelsea when they saw their friend Hal embrace a woman who wasn’t his wife. They came to a standstill on the steps in front of the gallery while they watched Hal kiss the strange woman before helping her into a cab. Lee and Melinda were both shocked at what they’d seen, but for very different reasons. Lee was shocked because he’d never known Hal to be a cheater, and Melinda was shocked because she believed that Hal’s adulterous lifestyle was a thing of the past. The incident came at a time of particular interest as Melinda and Lee had plans to spend the weekend celebrating their recent engagement with Hal and his wife Jane at their home in the Hamptons.

To remain unseen, they decided to sneak into the coffee shop next door. They scrambled inside and took a seat at the first table by the door.

“I can’t believe it,” Lee said. “Hal?”

“I know,” Melinda said. “He’s the last guy I’d suspect of having an affair.”

“And, poor Jane,” Lee said. “She’ll be devastated.”

“What do you mean she’ll be devastated.”

“Well, we’re obviously going to have to tell her.”

“But why? I mean, isn’t that something we should think about first? After all this is a long-term, committed relationship we’re talking about here.”


“I don’t know. They seem so happy together.”

“Sure they seem happy—that doesn’t mean they are.”

“I just think we need to think about the implications of doing something before we start making a mess of things.”

“They already are a mess. It’s just, Jane doesn’t know it yet.”

Melinda was about to tell Lee that he shouldn’t be making this about one of his moral issues, but stopped herself when she looked up and saw Hal walk into the coffee shop.

“Hey!” he said, coming right to them. “Didn’t expect to see you guys till later.”

Lee said, “Neither did we.”

Melinda said, “We were just next door looking at some paintings.”

“Anything good?”

“Oh, there’s always something good,” she said, “just nothing we could buy without having to speak with the accountant first.”

Hal said, “I stopped in here to grab something before I head out east. Gonna get some work done on the boat. Was thinking we could take a little sunset cruise tomorrow.”

Lee said, “Jane going along, too?”

“Oh, she’s already out there. I think she has a tennis lesson, and then she wanted to get a head start on getting things organized. You know how she is.”

Lee said, “The things she doesn’t know…”

“Come again?”

“Nothing,” Melinda said. “Is she playing a lot of tennis now? I haven’t spoken to her in a while.”

“Of course, she is. Every minute with lessons and instructors—think I’m gonna need a second job … anyway, Lee, I’ve been meaning to ask. If you wanna bring your clubs, maybe we can sneak out on the course if the girls let us.”

Lee nodded.

“You need us to bring anything?” Melinda said. “Maybe a bottle of wine?”

“Oh, no,” Hal said. “You know Jane. The woman has more wine than Dionysus.”

“All right then. We don’t want to hold you up.”

“See you guys out there,” Hal said, turning towards the counter.

Shortly before she met Lee, Melinda had had an affair with Hal. It only lasted a few weeks, and wasn’t anything more than weekday mornings at The Carlyle Hotel. Nonetheless it was an affair, and Melinda wasn’t in the business of being a paramour—at least so she thought. While this was going on, Jane, who happened to be an old friend of Lee’s, introduced him to Melinda as someone she thought he’d like to date. And it turned out that she was right because not long after that, Lee and Melinda had moved in together, and Melinda’s affair with Hal came to an end. She and Hal came to the agreement that they would never, under any circumstance, tell anyone what happened between the two of them for as long as they lived.

Ten minutes later, Lee and Melinda walked down 9th Avenue with their coffee in hand.

Lee said, “We have to tell her. It’s wrong of us not to.”

“Do you have to turn this into one of your Kantian issues?”

“Look, it’s the right thing to do, and anyone in our position would do so.”

“But how do we know what we saw is really as bad as it looks?”

“Are you saying what we saw was a mirage?”

“Don’t patronize me.”

“What’s in it for you anyway. I mean, why are you defending him like this?”

“I’m not. I just want to make sure we don’t start going around ruining marriages because of something we happen to see.”

“Let me just ask you something, because I need to understand where you’re coming from. If it was the other way around, you’d expect Jane to say something to you, right?”

“Well, of course I would.”

“So, then what’s the difference?”

“I don’t know what to tell you, Lee. If you want to tell her, go right ahead.”

“Now you’re getting upset.”

“Well this is a bit upsetting, don’t you think?”

“Sure it is. And that’s why we have to say something.”

“Look, let’s just give it the weekend, okay? If on Sunday we still think it’s the right thing to do, then okay, maybe we’ll decide to do it.”

Lee took her gently by the shoulders, and said, “I love you, you know that? And I can’t wait to make you my wife.”

“And I love you, too,” she said. “But let’s just hang back on this a bit. All right?”

Lee said, “You’re right.”

They kissed each other and walked back home together hand-in-hand.

They arrived at Hal and Jane’s place in Southampton on Friday just before noon. When they got inside, Hal said, “Look who’s here!” and then, “Who’s ready for a drink?”

Melinda said, “It’s a bit early, but what the hell. I’ll take something light.”

Lee said, “And I’ll have a double anything.”

Hal went off to prepare their drinks.

The foyer of the Long Island beach home was big and open and had a neutral décor. They admired an impressionist landscape painting by an artist they didn’t know. While Melinda had the ability to appreciate the abstract, Lee always expressed the need for something to be figurative if was going to get any meaning out of it.

A few minutes later, Jane came down the winding staircase and said, “Hey there, friends.”

They said hello, got their drinks from Hal, and then went upstairs to the guest room. Jane said that lunch was being prepared, and told them they had plenty of time to settle in.

Lee put his bag down and said, “I can’t even look at her without feeling guilty.”

“Then don’t.”

“This is a joke to you, isn’t it?”

“It’s not a joke, Lee. I just don’t think it’s any of our business, and I want to relax. I don’t want to get into this again.”

“I don’t understand how you can say that? I mean, these are our friends.”

“You’re right. They’re our friends, and they’re happy. And you know what’ll happen if we say something? Not only will they stop being happy, but they’ll probably get divorced. Now, is that what you want? You want our friends to get a divorce?”

“I want to do the right thing.”

Melinda sipped her drink. She said, “How ’bout we unpack.”

The four friends sat down at a table by the pool and enjoyed the oceanfront view while they ate salmon and mixed salad. It was a cool, overcast day in late September. Rain clouds loomed in the distance.

“We got some sad news this morning,” Jane said. “Hal’s barber—who he’d been going to for the longest time—killed himself last weekend.”

“Oh, that’s terrible,” Melinda said.

Hal said, “He was a great guy, too. And it’s tragic because he always seemed so happy, you know. Not the kind anyone would ever suspect was capable of doing something like that.”

Lee said, “Sometimes you never really know what anyone’s capable of, no matter who they are.”

Hal said, “It’s a choice he made, and I guess we just have to accept the fact that he saw no other way of reasoning with his pain.”

Jane said, “I have to admit. There’ve been times when I’ve asked myself whether or not life is worth living, but then all I have to do is look over at Hal and I’m reassured that it certainly is.”

Melinda said, “I think it’s only human to ask yourself that question. That is, if you can keep your head out of your phone every minute.”

Lee said, “Can there really be any meaning? When you consider all the lies and deceptions.”

Hal said, “In the end, any deception on Earth is just dwarfed by the vast indifference of the universe. In the grand scheme, what we do here is really inconsequential.”

Jane said, “Well, that certainly doesn’t mean we should start killing ourselves.”

“Oh, of course not. In no way am I suggesting that.”

“What about the barber,” Melinda said. “How did he do it?”

“They found him in a car inside his garage.”

Lee said, “If you’re gonna do it, that’s a good way to go.”

Jane said, “Is there really a good way to go?”

“Please,” Hal said. “Why don’t we talk about something more pleasant. We’re here to celebrate the engagement of our two beloved friends. To Lee and Melinda.”

“Cheers,” Jane said, lifting a glass.

“Cheers,” they said as a collective.

They spent the early part of the afternoon lounging by the pool. It was too cold to swim, but they found pleasure relaxing in pants and long sleeves. At around four, Hal asked Lee to come down to the dock to help him check on something with the boat. Although Lee hesitated at first, given the prospects of spending time with Hal alone, he decided to go ahead anyway.

Hal led the way down the dock, carrying a red gas can in one hand and a mixed drink in the other.

Hal’s boat was a vintage, eighteen-foot powerboat from the 1950s. It had a wooden finish and the inside resembled a car. It had a prominent dashboard, with its various gauges and large, white steering wheel. There was an American flag displayed at the stern, right behind an open, leather seated area.   

“Was having a bit of trouble with the engine last night,” he said. “We haven’t been out here for a while, and I think I just need to swap out the fuel.”

He stepped onboard and left the gas can on the dock with Lee. The engine, which Hal said was a Chevy, was situated in the middle of the boat, splitting the cockpit from the seated area in back. Hal unveiled the motor from its wooden covering and moved up by the wheel to try and get it started. He turned the ignition once, then twice, and once again, but to no avail.

“I expected that,” he said, as he maneuvered himself around the motor, making his way towards the stern. He opened the gas cap and had Lee hand him the tank.

Lee gave it to him and watched as he fueled the engine. “So, you guys haven’t been able to get out here much?”

“Not since summer.”

“Oh, yeah? Why not?”

“Well, to be honest, Jane and I have been having trouble ever since what went on with her mother.”

“How so?”

“She’s just been—I don’t know. I’m not sure I should get into it.”

“She’s just been what?”

He looked away. “She’s been distant,” he said. “Every time I try and get close to her she seems so far away. And I’m not just talking about sex. I’m having trouble connecting with her on an emotional level.”

“Have you spoken to her about it?”

“I try, but she tells me she’s still getting over the death of her mom, which of course is understandable.”

“Have you given her a chance?”

“I certainly think so. I’ve been very accommodating. Last week she says she needs to go spend the week with her father in Florida, I say, ‘Fine, no problem. Go right ahead.’ And then when she comes back, I try to initiate, you know, try and get something going, and she wants no part of me. I don’t know, Lee. I just don’t know what to do anymore.”

“Well, try to hang in there. I’m sure things’ll turn around eventually.”

“Yeah, we’ll see.”

“Just don’t do anything crazy.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know.”

“Forget it.”

“Why would you say something, if you didn’t know what you were saying.”

“I said, forget it.”

“All right, Lee. Whatever.”

“Hey, pay attention. You’re spilling gas.”

Hal said, “Hand me that towel. Over there, by the bucket.”

Lee tossed him the towel and looked across the water. “You think we’ll be able to get out there? Looks pretty rough.”

The wind had increased and the rain clouds moved closer to shore.

Hal didn’t respond. He closed the gas cap on the tank and went back to the wheel. He turned the ignition, and once again, got nothing. He paused, did it once more, and after another moment there it was, coming on loud, giving a roar just like it was greased lightning. He pushed down the shift, revved it up, and smoke started pummeling out of the exhaust. He ran it for a few moments more before he killed it and allowed it to become quiet again. He put the cover back on the engine and said, “Let’s go see what the girls want to do.”

And after an exhausting debate about whether it was too rough or not to go out, the four friends came to the conclusion that they’d stay in and then tomorrow, if the weather called for it, they’d go out for that sunset cruise they spoke about. They decided to stay in and watch a movie tonight.
Afterwards, Lee and Melinda went up to their room to get some rest before it was time to go for dinner. Of course, that didn’t end up happening, as naturally, under the circumstances, they ended up in argument.

Lee said, “If you don’t tell Jane, then I will. I can’t stand seeing them on the couch cuddling, like there isn’t anything going on.”

“If we’re gonna tell, don’t you think we should let Hal know, and then have him be the one to tell her? He should have to own up to it.”

Lee looked away, quiet. “Okay,” he said. “I guess you’re right. But please. I can’t keep it on my conscience anymore. The right thing to do is to tell, and I couldn’t look at myself without doing it. If you don’t do it by tomorrow, then I will.”

“Now you’re threatening me? What the hell’s the matter with you?”

“I’m sorry, this whole thing’s just got me worked up.”

“Yeah, I can see that.”

            Not much happened during dinner aside from a lot of drinking and double-talk. Melinda spent most of the evening worrying about the pressure she’d put on herself to reveal what she knew to Hal.

But, lucky for her, the pressure to make the first move was relieved by the text that was waiting for her when she got back to the room. It was from Hal. He said he wanted her to meet him on the deck by the pool at 1 A.M. to discuss something in private.

Good, she thought. He was going to confide in her and admit what he did so she wouldn’t have to be the one to tell her. However, she didn’t want Lee to know that Hal was the one who took the initiative, so she decided that she would keep this little occasion a secret. But with that, the problem of staying up until one arose. She couldn’t set herself an alarm because she’d wake Lee. And then, when the time came, she’d have to be careful about maneuvering out of bed without making any unnecessary movements. Oh, this was ridiculous. Why couldn’t she just tell him? After all, this whole thing was about being truthful.

When the time came, it turned out that she was right to be concerned, because she did end up waking Lee. As she got out from under the sheets, he turned over and asked her where she was going, and like a jazz musician, she played it cool, and told him she was just going downstairs to get herself a glass of water, which, for her, happened to be some serious improvisation.

Hal was already by the pool when she arrived. The Long Island night sky was clear, making room for an overwhelming number of stars visible to the naked eye.

“Hal, what are we doing here?”

He came in close, took her by the shoulders, and said, “If there’s any meaning in the universe, I’m looking right at it.”

She immediately backed away. “What are you talking about?”

“Leave Lee. Come away with me. We’ll go to Paris, Barcelona.”

“Hal, get a grip. I’m engaged to be married.”

“I still have feelings for you. I can’t sleep.”

“What happened between us is over. It’s been over.”

“Not for me it isn’t,” he said before he reached in and tried to kiss her.

Melinda pushed him away, disgusted. She should’ve known better than to come down here in the first place.

“Oh, what have I done,” he said, breaking down in front of her. “I sit around and blame Jane and her mother for our problems, but really it’s me.”

Melinda said, “You should know that Lee and I saw you with another woman.”

“What. When?”

“Yesterday, in Chelsea. Before the coffee shop.”

He paused, looked away, and said, “Oh, her? That was nothing.”

“You said you were done with that. When we ended things we agreed it was a mistake and you said you would never cheat on Jane again. And now, there’s another woman. Who else is there?”

“She’s the only one. And it was nothing. Really, just a one-time thing.”

“That’s not what it looked like.”

“You haven’t said anything to Jane, have you?”

“No. Lee wants to, and now I’m beginning to think it’s the right thing to do.”

“But, please—it’ll break up my marriage.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, Hal. Maybe it’s time to be a little introspective. It doesn’t take Freud to know that things between you and Jane aren’t exactly working out.”

“This all will pass in due time. I’m just going through something right now is all.”

“You just asked me to go away to Europe with you.”

He put his head in his hands and began to cry.

“I’m just here to tell you what I saw, and if I were you, I’d consider myself to be pretty goddamn lucky you found out from me and not from anybody else.”

“What’s become of me,” he said, turning away. “I don’t even know who I am anymore.”

Melinda was in no position to do any consoling. She told him to go back to bed and get some rest. She said if he was still upset in the morning she’d be there to speak to him, which was a bit disingenuous as what she meant was she’d in fact still be there and if he wanted to communicate with her, it would be something hard to avoid.

They said goodnight and went back to their respective bedrooms.

When Melinda got to hers, Lee was awake waiting for her.

“So, did you tell him?”

She stared at him with a glazed look in her eye.

“I saw you downstairs with Hal. Looked like he was pretty upset.”

“I did,” she said, and wondered just how much he’d seen.

“I’m glad. But why’d you have to wait until one in the morning to do it?”

“I didn’t want to embarrass him.”

“Well, good. That’s fine. At least he knows. But Jane still doesn’t.”

“He told me he was going to tell her.”


“In the morning.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. Why would I lie?”

“I never said anything about anyone lying.”

“Okay, because it kind of sounded like it.”

“I’ve seen the looks you’ve given him, the way you laugh at his stupid jokes.”

“Lee, you’re being ridiculous.”

“You’ve certainly been very protective of him throughout this whole ordeal.”

“Well now he knows and he told me he’s going to tell Jane. Okay? In the morning, it’ll be done.”

“Fine. But if he doesn’t do it, then I will.”

She got under the covers, turned out the light, and said, “Go back to sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.”

Melinda spent the night tossing and turning and couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d done, and how much of a mistake it was to say something when she was the one who told Lee it was better just to leave things the way they were. But it didn’t matter now. The damage was done, and the information was out there, and there was nothing she could do to take it back.

She woke up in the morning sometime after Lee got up because he wasn’t there. She stayed in bed and looked at her phone for about half-an-hour before she went downstairs and saw Jane in the kitchen gathering ingredients for breakfast.

Jane said, “Someone’s up early.”

“What are we making over there?”

“Was thinking pancakes. You okay with banana?”

“S­­­­­­­­­ounds delicious.”

Melinda walked around, looked out the window, and saw Lee by the pool.

Jane said, “Can you believe we finished three bottles last night?”

“You’re kidding.”

“It’s not much of a surprise, with how much Hal’s been drinking these days.”

“Oh yeah?”

“He’s never been a big drinker, but I spent a lot of time with my mother in Florida over the summer—I wanted to be there to take her to the different treatments—and when I got back I noticed he’d be having more than usual. I think in a way I’ve given him reason to. I’ve just been very emotional.”

“Well that’s certainly understandable.”

“But now I think I’m getting to the point where I’m over it. It’s just life. Things are messy and complicated, and you just have to deal with it.”

Hal came downstairs and walked into the kitchen.

Jane said, “Hey there, honey. I was just telling Melinda how we finished all those bottles last night.”
“With that wine, how couldn’t we?”

Melinda made eye contact with him for a moment and then turned away.

He moved towards the sliding glass door and said, “I’m gonna go check on the boat for a bit.”

“All right, but don’t be long, I’m making pancakes.”

Hal had managed to make his way down to his boat without noticing that Lee was already outside, sitting under the cabana at the table where they had lunch the day before. Lee waited a few moments and then walked to the dock where he caught Hal by surprise.

Lee said, “Thought everything was fixed?”

“Me too,” Hal said, looking up and then turning back to the engine.

Lee put his foot on the edge of the boat and said, “Melinda told me about what happened last night.”

Hal stopped doing what he was doing.

“How could you do such a thing?”

“Look, Lee. It was a mistake. I didn’t mean to—”

“You didn’t mean to what? I mean, what kind of person does that kind of thing to their wife?”

Hal was stupefied, puzzled. “Oh, to my wife?”

“Yeah, your wife, what the hell do you think we’re talking about here?”

Hal looked and stared.

“I mean, she’s gone through a time of such sadness. How could you do that to her? It’s wrong, immoral.”

“Look it was a mistake. I should never have done it in the first place.”

“Is there anybody else?”

“Of course not.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah, I’m sure about it.”

“Did you tell her yet?”

“I can’t bring myself to do it.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’ll crush her. I don’t want to hurt her.”

“Do you even hear what you’re saying? You’ve lost all sense of reason.”

Hal looked away.

“Listen. You’re both my friends, and I feel bad about this. But you’ve got to tell her, it’s the right thing to do.”

“All right. As soon as you guys leave—I swear. I’ll do it.”

“Oh, no,” Lee said. “She’s the only one in this house who doesn’t know what’s going on, and that’s gonna change now.”

“Jesus, can’t I have some privacy? This is between me and my wife.”

“Hal, it’s between everyone but you and your wife.”

He looked defeated. “So, what now?”

“We’ll give you privacy. But you need to come with me, and, like a man, you’re gonna tell your wife what you’ve done. All right?”

“Fine. I’ll do it. But you better give us privacy. For God’s sake, this is my house.”

Hal looked out over the water, tossed his gloves off, and then got out of the boat and walked up to the house with Lee trailing behind.

            When they got inside Lee looked at Melinda, and then to Hal, and gave him a nod encouraging him to get on with it. Hal mouthed to Lee, asking for the privacy he said he could have, but Lee made it clear that he wasn’t leaving because he was going to make sure this was going to happen now.

Jane said, “Hal, before you freak out, I’m putting bananas in the pancakes, but I’ve set aside some plain batter for you. Okay?”

Lee looked to Hal and told him to get on with it.

Hal thanked his wife for being so accommodating, but couldn’t go on with what he agreed to, which gave Lee no choice but to take matters into his own hands. It was time to do what was right.

He said, “Jane, there’s something I need to tell you.”

“Sure, Lee. What is it?”

“I think you should know that Melinda and I saw Hal with another woman yesterday.”

Jane looked to Hal. “Is this true?”

“Honey, I can explain. It was just a misunderstanding is all.”

“There’s no need to lie, Hal, because I actually have something I wanted to tell you—I’ve been sleeping with Carlos, the tennis instructor.”

“You’re kidding. Carlos?”

“I’ve spent a lot of time with the guy, and what can I say. He seduced me.”

“He did what?”

“Look, we never meant for it to happen, Hal, but it did.”

“How long has it been going on? I mean, here I am, trying to sleep with you, and you tell me the reason you can’t be intimate is because all you can think about is your mother. And now I find out it’s because you’ve been with your tennis coach—”

“I didn’t know how to handle the guilt—I felt bad about being with Carlos, so we ended things last week.”

“But you said you were with your dad in Palm Beach.”

“I was for Monday and Tuesday, yes. But Carlos had a tennis exhibition in Orlando, and he told me to meet him, and I couldn’t resist. So, we were together for a couple of days, but I realized that I wanted to be with you. And I told him we needed to stop.”

Hal was left speechless as he watched Jane sip her juice.

“Well,” Melinda said, “isn’t this comfortable.”

Hal looked to her, and then to Lee, and said, “Now that we’re getting everything out in the open, I think you might like to know that Melinda and I also had an affair.”

Jane put her hand on her hip and said, “Really.”

Lee said, “You can’t be serious.”

Melinda said, “It was so long ago—before we even met.”

“Tell me this is a joke.”

Hal said, “It’s no joke, pal.”

Lee said to Melinda, “How could you be so dishonest?”

Melinda said, “I wasn’t. I mean, I’ve never cheated on you.”

“You had an affair with a married man—Hal, of all people. How am I supposed to trust you?”

“Lee, I’m sorry. I was a different person then.”

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing.”

Hal said, “What goes around…”

Lee said, “Hal, I swear to God—”

“What,” Hal said, “you’re gonna hit me?”

Lee backed away.

He watched Hal and Jane embrace each other. They apologized, kissed, and stood next to each other as one.

Which left Lee alone, with his head in his hands saying, “I just never thought this was the way it would end.”   



About the Author:

Brett Kaplan

Brett Kaplan lives and writes in South Florida. He received his MFA from Florida International University where he recently completed his thesis, a collection of short stories entitled, Existential Bebop. His work can be found or is forthcoming in Boned, Subtle Fiction, and The Mystic Blue Review.











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