Chapter 2: RANCHO BERNARDO, CALIFORNIA (Parts 10 and 11)
At home, I cross to Kathy’s. Briefly, I explain my situation—though I don’t mention divorce, simply that Richard and I need time for a private conversation—and ask if Samantha and Emily can spend the night. She agrees, touching my arm gently and looking deeply into my eyes. She suspects.
I don’t bother with dinner. I settle for a cup of tea in my Limoges and sit at the kitchen table waiting for Richard.
He phones at seven to tell me he will be very late, and may not even be home tonight. He’s been up north in Orange County making sales calls with his reps.
“Richard,” I say, anxious, “we have something important to discuss.”
“Not over the phone.” My tone strikes me as pleading.
“Look, Babe, I’m tied up. Like I said, I might be home tonight, but the way things are going, I doubt it. It’ll have to wait.”
I don’t want the girls around when I tell Richard I’ve done it; I’ve followed through on my threat. Now is the perfect time. But his impatience communicates clearly either I tell him over the phone or I wait until tomorrow. Divorce is not phone news.
“What time tomorrow?”
“When you’ll be home?”
“I don’t know. The regular time, I guess.”
I bite my lip and taste blood.
“Can you be home for breakfast?”
“I might have a business breakfast.”
“Lunch.” I hope my voice conveys the urgency I feel.
“Here, the house.”
“Well?” I push.
“Sure,” he says. “High noon. Got to go, Babe.”
Hanging up the phone, I laugh sadly. “High Noon” but Richard is no Will Kane.
I don’t know if Richard will be at his office, but I get in my car and drive to Scripps Ranch anyway. Richard, I’m beginning to believe, is capable of almost anything, and I have no doubt he would bed Connie in his office. I’ve never noticed the few times I’ve visited his office if his office door locks and note to check.
I pull into the lot and scan for his car. It isn’t there. I sit for a moment, asking myself where he takes Connie. The Sheraton in La Jolla. I remember Richard mentioning the hotel several times as the location for general staff meetings. I cross 15 and take Miramar Road to where it morphs into La Jolla Village Drive. The Sheraton is near La Jolla University Town Center, a fancy name for a mall. I troll the parking lot. It doesn’t take long to find his SUV. My heart skips a beat and then kicks up to rapid pounding. Companies do meet in hotels. But it’s pure rationalization. There’s no company function. It is just Richard and Connie.
I enter and ask the front desk clerk to direct me to the meeting rooms. I find them. A company, not Richard’s, is holding a meeting in one. The others are empty. I backtrack to the lobby. I ask about restaurants. The deskman tells me there are two. I go to them expecting to find Richard and Connie. They are in neither. That leaves just the rooms.
I’m back at the front desk.
“I’m Mrs. DeSantis. My husband checked in a while ago. I’m supposed to meet him in our room. He said you’d have a key for me.”
He taps, taps, taps on his computer keyboard.
“I’m sorry,” he says, “but Mr. DeSantis hasn’t checked in, and I don’t show a reservation for him.”
“Thank you,” I say.
“Perhaps he’s at the Hyatt,” he offers.
“Yes, maybe I misunderstood him. Thank you.”
Walking away, I suppose I didn’t expect him to register under his own name. I decide to sit in the lobby, in the corner out of sight, and wait. They might not leave whatever room they occupy. Then again, Richard’s skill at discretion has limits.
I’m sitting for a half-hour, when I have the urge to use the restroom. I ask at the desk, now manned by a young woman.
“Down the hall,” she directs, pointing the way, “just before the doors to the pool.”
I finish in the restroom. Before returning to my chair in the lobby, I decide to peek at the pool. It’s still early and I doubt I’ll miss Richard and Connie. Probably at this very moment up in a Sheraton room … I shudder at the image, and it seems as if an Arctic wind has reached down here to San Diego.
I hurry to the door and exit into the warmth of early evening. I stroll the path, bordered by the hotel’s rooms and gardens and a green commons, to the pool.
Several people lounge at the pool, a couple in the water, another couple in the Jacuzzi, and several on the chaises. Two of the chaise occupants are Richard and Connie. They are in bathing suits, like Bobbsey twins minus the innocence. I don’t recognize the suit Richard wears. It must be new, probably bought at a store in Village Square. Connie wears a string bikini and she has the body for it. Her face might be plain, but her figure more than compensates. Both are on one chaise. She reclines and Richard sits on the foot. His hand is on her leg and he is caressing her, rhythmically, up and down from ankle to mid thigh, repeatedly. As I watch, he leans to her and she arches, playfully resisting, and then rises to meet him. They kiss lightly. She falls back. They laugh. I am too distant to hear their conversation; their voices drift to me like the faint buzz of mosquitoes, and I am tempted to swat away the sound, swat the scene from my sight. I’m not crying; tears aren’t welling up either. I’ve known what Richard has been up to. I’ve encountered him compromised before, with Julie at Rider University, again at the Trentonian and the Howard Johnson’s. I am thinking of Korbrin, how pleased I am with myself for catching him, and for understanding what I have to do.
He doesn’t see me, though if he glanced my way he might recognize me. But he is too engrossed in Connie to focus anywhere but on her, her face, breasts, legs. I could continue strolling over to them and surprise them. Maybe I would embarrass them. But more likely, they—Richard, for certain—are immune to shame, and only I would breakdown. I shake my head. I can’t do it. I can’t even call out his name. All I am able to do is pivot and return to the lobby.
I’m a few steps along, hidden from the pool, when I stop. I remember Korbrin asking for my cell phone number; he said it was the best way to keep in touch privately. I said a modern mother couldn’t get through the day without one, and I showed him mine. “If you should have occasion to discover your husband somewhere, doing something he shouldn’t, click. Photographic evidence always helps.”
I dig my phone from my purse and by the time I have it in hand I am back at the pool. Richard and Connie are still on the chaise, still cooing, still tormenting me. I open the phone, switch to camera mode, and begin snapping. I walk around the pool and capture them from different angles, each distasteful. They are oblivious to everything and everyone save each other.
I walk down the path to the lobby, through it, and leave, feeling lighter and happier than I believe I should.
Instead of going home, I drive to Pacific Coast Highway and turn north into Del Mar. It’s late and I hope Korbrin hasn’t snatched his board to ride the sunset waves. I don’t know why I can’t erase this image I have of him, but I can’t. I suppose I like the idea of him as iconoclastic, a sort of white knight against Richard’s black knight, and me the wronged damsel, the modern California vintage.
He and his assistant are in and he sees me immediately. I tell him what I have. He takes my phone and views the photos. He grins and calls for his assistant. He asks my permission to download the photos. I agree. He asks when I would like Richard out of the house.
“Tonight,” I say.
“Best I can do is tomorrow, maybe the next day.”
I drive home and stop at Kathy’s. I ask if she would mind if the girls stayed the night. I tell the girls. Emily is delighted; she loves the adventure of it. Samantha is quiet. She suspects something is afoot and that it is not pleasant. I love her sensitivity, but not at the moment. I know she will take the separation hard and I dread tomorrow, even more than tonight.