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Trade In

Disillusioned ex-married used-car salesman requires desperate female for meaningful biological interface. No dogs or children. Box D5167

Sue put the newspaper down on the coffee table with a superior smile.

"Did Des really put that in?" Kathy asked.

"I’m not even sure that it is Des," Sue said. "But the timing’s right." She paused. "Maybe one of you should answer it. Under a false name, of course."

"But what’s happened?" Petra asked.

"You know we broke up?" Sue said.

"We ought to," Kathy said.

"And you know that he thought his wife didn’t know about us?"

"Did she?"

Sue nodded. "From the start, apparently."

"How did she find out?" Petra asked.

"She says she just noticed," Sue said.

"You’ve talked to her, then," Kathy said.

"What’s she like?" Petra asked.

"Tall, slim, blonde, totally together, impeccably dressed, ..."

"No offence, but it sounds like you," Emma said.

Sue nodded. "Erica’s a couple of years older, I think. The way Des talked, you’d think he was shackled to some lumpen hausfrau. Though I knew she worked. When I first met her, I didn’t even realise it was her. But she’d picked me."

"How did you meet her?" Kathy asked.

"On a computer course. She was teaching it. She runs a training business."

"So that’s how Des makes his dole stretch to expensive suits," Kathy said.

"Did she give you a hard time?" Petra asked.

Sue shook her head. "I didn’t realise she’d spotted me till right at the end. As we were leaving, I said something polite like ‘Thanks, I enjoyed it’, and she said ‘If you see Des before I do, tell him Samantha’s sick and can’t go to school tomorrow’, then smiled and turned to the next person. So of course I passed the message on, and Des panicked, and tried to pretend even harder that nothing was happening.

"It’d always been a bit of a disaster. I couldn’t ring him at home. Half the time he’d stand me up, and then claim Erica made him babysit, but he couldn’t ring because someone would hear ..."

"So I told him where he can go," she said. "I told him I’m sick of being a convenience bonk — quick service, no waiting, any time he asks, would you like an extra cuddle sir, have a nice day."

"So Des is kaput," Petra said.

"Kaput. Dead. Gone. No more married men. Ever."

Petra nodded agreement. "There’s far too many of them," she said.

"That doesn’t explain the ad," Kathy said.

"Des started spending more time at home, didn’t he? All the time, because he’d got nothing to do. And he got pretty lonely, because there wasn’t much Erica. Distinctly not much Erica. Off early, back late. Some nights, when the kids are at friends’ places, not back at all. No explanations, not even pressure of work. No prior warning, either. She’s there when she’s there, when she’s not, she’s not."

"Sounds like the way Des treated you," Kathy said.

"So he came round," Sue said, "and asked me, ‘Sue, do you think she’s having an affair’, and I said ‘Why not? You’ve had one’ and he started spluttering, and when he said ‘But it’s different for a woman’ I threw him out."

"Do you know what happened then?" Petra asked.

Sue nodded. "I had to go on the advanced course last week, and Erica told me the story at lunchtime.

"She says that Des decided to do a bit of private detecting — following her round, lurking on street corners, dodging back into doorways, pretending he didn’t see her when she waved. So she decided she’d better deliver the goods.

"So she organised lunch with this really spunky guy from the next office, and met him at a posh pavement cafe in full view of the world. She’d worded him up first of course, so she got the full spontaneous hug and the right gooey looks.

"And Des, being Des, promptly thundered up purple in the face, accusatory finger pointing, the model of the outraged husband, and Erica smiled sweetly, said ‘I’d like you to meet Stefan’, and then added ‘If you hadn’t realised, darling, I’ve traded you in on a younger item’.

"And that night, of course, she brought him home. Erica says that the poor guy was embarrassed as all hell, and if she hadn’t kept a firm hold on him he would have been out the door at the speed of light. She says the kids took a bit of dim view of him, too, because the only football he knows how to play has got a round ball, and he dribbled all the time. But Des got the hint and packed his bags."

"Sounds a bit pat to me," Petra said. "I smell a cover-up."

Sue looked at her. "You mean, she has got a lover?"

"And it’s not this Stefan guy. It’s someone she doesn’t want you or Des to know about."

"But who?"

Emma stirred on the sofa in the corner. "I think I know," she said. "I saw them last week, coming out of her office." She looked at Sue. "It’s Alan. Your ex."


Copyright © D.W. Walker, 1993

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