Aaron Howell placed his ball on the tee, stood back into position with his legs spread, rolled his shoulders to ease the tension he was carrying, and swung.
He felt it before he even was even halfway through the swing -- he didn’t connect at all well -- and rather than a nice, clean shot down the fairway, his little white ball of frustration sliced at an angle and straight into the rough. Gotta concentrate better
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” He’d progressed past polite outrage and into irate name calling a few holes back. It was obviously not his day to be out on the golf course.
“Damn, Aaron. Could your game get any worse?” Silas Worth sat on the edge of the seat of the golf cart, his legs firmly planted on the ground in front of him and his elbows on his knees. His gloved hands hung limply between his knees as he shook his head in amazement. “What the hell’s wrong, man? Emma not put out last night or something?”
Aaron turned and stared daggers at his good friend and barely held back a snarl. “Nothing’s wrong.” He fingered the scorecard in his pocket that noted his many well-over-par scores for the day. “Abso-fucking-lutely nothing.” He swore again under his breath, but said louder to Silas, “Just off my game today.”
“Off it? You’ve downright slaughtered the last eight holes -- and not in a good way.” Silas sounded closer now, and as Aaron leaned on his club and pivoted down to collect his tee, he felt Silas’s shadow fall over him and saw the tips of Silas’s shoes as he stepped into view. “I’m here if you want to talk about it.”
Aaron’s leg swung down as he came back upright, and he glanced at Silas for a moment, taking in his loose, crossed arm stance as he offered a shoulder to offload onto.
“Nothing to talk about.”
Silas raised one eyebrow and replied skeptically, “Yeah, sure.”
Aaron strode back to the golf cart and watched Silas tee off. Only Silas’s swing hit true and his ball flew cleanly down the fairway into a perfect position to chip up onto the green. Fuck
It took five more shots -- one out of the rough and straight into the branches of an overhanging tree, another into the sand bunker, then three tries out of the bunker for the green -- for Aaron to give up on the game with a roar of disgust, throwing his sand wedge after his ball, which meant nowhere near the groomed and fragile green. Another nine holes to make up a full round would have him enraged and no doubt snapping every club he owned over his knee.
Silas stood to the side, out of the way of the flying sand, balls, and club, and watched him with a look that said “nothing to talk about, huh?” which infuriated Aaron even more. Silas wasn’t who he was angry at, but he made a convenient target to vent his frustration.
Aaron stomped his way out of the bunker, snatched up his club, and slammed it into his golf bag as he snarled at Silas, “I think Emma’s having an affair.”
He was quite pleased to see the shock on Silas’s face as his mouth dropped wide open. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Do I look like I’m fucking kidding?”
Silas stared at him a moment, and then, looking confused, shook his head. “No. No, you don’t.”
Aaron, not daring to drive while he was this mad, threw himself down into the passenger seat of the golf cart. As he sat, his anger collapsed in on itself, leaving him feeling hollow and lost, and wondering if his great life wasn’t really as great as he’d thought.
“Why do you think she’s having an affair?” Silas’s tall, lanky form slid into the golf cart and he turned the key. The cart hummed as he pressed on the pedal, but rather than taking the shorter route back to the clubhouse, he turned south and down the longer, winding path. Looked like he was going to get that shoulder to cry on, after all
“Nothing specific really. Lots of things, all piling up one on top of the other.” Aaron slumped, and his head lolled slightly before he pulled himself straight. You’ve never been one to sulk; no point starting now
“The way she looks at other men -- Joel Markim for one -- she’s always looking his way. We hardly see one another lately; you’d think with the kids finally gone we’d have more time together.” Silas tilted his head in a slight acknowledgement of Aaron’s point. “Of course, then there’s the kicker. Sex.”
Silas only raised both his brows in question.
“The last time we had sex was three months ago, and before that, maybe once a month.”
“Why would that make you different than half the other forty-something men on this golf course?”
“We used to have sex two, maybe three times a week.”
“Yeah.” Aaron fell silent and mentally poked and prodded at his problem.
His eyes had never strayed to another woman, and after marrying Emma he’d never once looked back at the dating game with anything but happiness that he was well out of it. He worked hard to provide for his family and didn’t begrudge the long hours it took to make his business successful enough so Emma didn’t need to work and the kids had university educations. Yet here he was, considering the fact that the one woman he loved beyond all else might be having an affair.
Underneath all the anger and bewilderment, Aaron felt the foundation of his life -- his heart -- begin to crack.
Aaron wasn’t usually a man to lash out; he was more the get-in-and-get-it-done type, a problem solver. So watching him progressively lose his cool over the course of their aborted round of golf was interesting to say the least. Unnerving, too, even if he’d laughed a little at the spectacle.
Then for Aaron to finally break down and tell Silas he thought Emma -- the kindest, most sweet-hearted, and, to his jaundiced eye at least, pretty damn sexy woman with her short ruffled hair, twinkling eyes and ultracurvy body -- was cheating on him was enough to knock him on his rear.
Aaron and Emma had been his close friends for a long time. Both of them had stood tall and strong through Joan’s illness, and had been the ones holding him up when he’d broken down at her funeral. They’d lent him their strength to get through that horrible day. He couldn’t -- wouldn’t -- believe that Emma was seeing another man. Aaron had to be wrong.
He could be kind of right though.
“Being married…staying married
is tough. Joan and I went through something like this in our late thirties, before the cancer.” Aaron turned toward him, still silent, but listening. “It wasn’t easy, but we fixed it.”
“Well…” Here’s where it got difficult. Though he and Joan had been best friends with Emma and Aaron for a long time, there had been something they’d kept from them. “We started swinging.”
“What, from a vine?” Aaron almost cracked a smile despite his obvious unhappiness.
“No. Partner swapping.” Silas concentrated on the pathway, keeping the golf cart out of the slightly rutted areas that had yet to be groomed after the rainstorms of the last week -- anything to avoid the scandalous look he was sure Aaron was flinging his way. After all, they’d shared a lot while Joan had fought the disease, the four…the three of them knew one another like family, but sex? Well, that was another thing entirely -- even friends as close as them discussed sex little more than as comic innuendo.
“What? You mean…?”
Silas’s cheeks flushed as Aaron stuttered. He and Joan had always figured Aaron and Emma were pretty straitlaced -- not that they didn’t enjoy themselves when it came to sex, but that they weren’t all that adventurous. Although, who could really tell what went on behind closed doors?
“Yeah, we had sex with other couples.”
From the corner of his eye, Silas caught Aaron rubbing his palm over his face before he swore. “Jesus, Silas.”
Aaron stared out ahead of them, turning back after a minute or two to ask, “What was it like?”
“Fun and scary and exhilarating and nerve-racking all at the same time. But it worked; it got us over our hump and showed us that what we had together was perfect as it was.” Silas paused and wondered how much to tell Aaron. “We did it for about two years. There was this…err…club we’d found -- but we didn’t attend all that often. We ended up getting to know one couple a little more, and we decided that we’d prefer to get together with them occasionally rather than with strangers at the club. It might sound odd, but the whole experience made us appreciate what we meant to one another -- so much so, that we stopped.” Silas shrugged. A small wave of sorrow passed through him as he remembered his wife. “Maybe we might have done it again -- though more as something special than a regular thing -- but it wasn’t long after we decided to stop that Joan was diagnosed.”
He didn’t need to say any more than that; Aaron knew just how hard they’d fought to beat the disease that had taken Joan’s life fourteen months before.
It’d been a pretty dark and dim time for him since then, although the last six months had found him starting to move on. He’d not coped at all well with losing Joan, and even now he still felt like he was flapping in the wind a little. Some days he really wished they’d been able to have kids. He’d have found his feet a lot faster then, but their plans to adopt instead had been put on indefinite hold after the diagnosis. Even though he was well into the journey of healing after his loss, a new partner was the last thing on his mind…but sex? His libido had definitely begun to make itself known again.
“I don’t know if I could even think
about having sex with another man’s wife, let alone do it.” Aaron sounded perplexed.
Silas understood all too well what Aaron meant. He and Joan had thought long and hard before they’d gone to the club the first time. In the end, for them it came down to one thing: it wasn’t so much a last ditch, extreme effort to save their marriage, but a way of kick-starting their stale sex life so there was no last ditch effort needed. Had it been the former, swinging would have only exacerbated their problems until they’d shattered the relationship entirely. “We took the view that we were cheating on the other with each other. We had our own rules -- we never separated or went into different rooms with another partner. If either one of us was uncomfortable with a person, we left. In fact, what we did with another person wasn’t so much about finding our own release, as exciting each other. I’d never dreamed that watching Joan scream as she came with another man’s mouth on her sex would be so damn arousing.”
He took his eyes off the path a moment and looked directly at Aaron, whose wide, shocked eyes looked both horrified and fascinated.
“Didn’t you get jealous?”
“Hell, yes! That was the whole point of it. We both got so damn jealous, aroused, pleased even at how satisfied the other one was we screwed like bunnies for weeks after. But it was a good jealous, not the eat-you-up-inside-and-turn-nasty type.” He shrugged awkwardly again, trying to figure out how to explain how it had made him feel. “There was something kind of primitive about knowing that no matter how many times that other man made her come, at the end of the night, it was me who took Joan home and made love to her.”
Aaron shook his head with a certain amount of distraction. “I don’t know if I could do it. I think watching some stranger with Emma would kill me.”
Swinging wasn’t for everyone, and even though it’d worked for him and Joan, they’d not stuck with it for long. There was something to be said for knowing your partner well and being able to read what worked, and most importantly, what didn’t. There was no learning curve for sex with strangers; it was either good, or so bad you couldn’t wait for it to be over.
“Well, it’s not a solution for everyone…hell
, most people.”
A sardonic laugh, bitten off before it could gain momentum, came from the other side of the golf cart, and a hand reached out no doubt to cuff him on the shoulder. “You and Joan never did things the way most people would -- most normal
people would have gone to marriage counseling, not a sex club.”
As the hit landed, he looked back at Aaron and saw the man was holding back a proper laugh. Silas felt his mouth twitch, and no matter how he tried not to, his smile broke free, and then he laughed. Aaron joined him, and Silas was glad that finally he was able to remember the good times with Joan with laughter not tears.