Publish Novella 30 August 2023
EPISODE 5 – THE MISTAKE
Austin becomes embroiled in circumstances that have the potential to irrevocably alter his marriage and future plans.
During a business trip, Roxanna’s behavior becomes increasingly overt. Her attire is tight, short, and revealing. She even engineers a wardrobe malfunction in a calculated move. Over lunch in the hotel restaurant, she playfully directs Austin’s attention to her exposed décolletage.
“So, are there any notes you need me to take for upcoming meetings? Oh look Austin, a button landed in my iced tea. Should I go upstairs to my room and change clothes?”
Clearly viewing what is exposed, Austin responds, “There’s no rush to change your clothes. From where I’m seated, the situation is inconspicuous.”
Throughout the meal, Austin’s gaze remains focused below her neckline. Roxanna seizes this opportunity, employing animated gestures during their conversation.
Expressing gratitude for the business opportunity, Roxanna suggests synchronizing schedules in Austin’s hotel room after the meal. The implication is clear, and he agrees.
Later, in Austin’s hotel room, they sit next to each other, comparing phone calendars. As the evening progresses, Roxanna hints at retiring for the night, providing an open invitation for intimacy. Battling inner conflict, Austin remains immobile, simply wishing her a good night.
At 9 o’clock in the evening, a knock on his door reveals Roxanna clad in a bathrobe, clutching scented candles.
“The water is too cold in my bathroom. Do you have hot water in yours?”
“Yes, of course, and good water pressure too! Do you want to come in?” Austin offers.
“Thank you. I prefer soaking in a bubble bath with candles rather than showering, if it’s okay.”
“I’ve never had problems with water temperature at this hotel. I’ll complain to the manager—in the morning.”
Turning on the water with the door half closed, Roxanna shouts, “Don’t make a fuss. I’m certain the heat will rise by then.” Periodic splashes of water punctuate her melodic singing.
When she exits wearing pajamas, Roxanna begins a casual conversation while sitting on the bed. While Austin and Roxanna share this intimate space, the scene becomes increasingly charged. Roxanna’s choice of conversation topics and her actions reveal her intent. Eventually, her back massage accelerates the situation, culminating in a moment of physical intimacy between them.”
The weight of his mistake hangs heavy on Austin’s conscience. The following morning, Austin is consumed by regret and remorse. Wrestling with the gravity of his actions, he initiates a conversation with Roxanna to address the issue, seeking a way forward.
Acknowledging the predicament, Austin admits, “We need to think this through. My wife and her best friend recommended you, partly because Elenor suspected I might be tempted by my prior assistant.”
“This is the first mention of your wife since our trip began. It appears her suspicion wasn’t unfounded,” Roxanna responds.
“Before we decide on a course of action, I need to understand how this incident will impact our interactions moving forward. Is this a one-time occurrence that we should keep to ourselves?” Austin inquires.
Roxanna’s response is clear, “I think you already know the answer. Will you exercise more restraint in the future, or less?”
“Typically, Mrs. Rothschild accompanies me,” Austin offers.
“Roxanna proposes a solution, “That presents a minor challenge we can easily overcome. The longer we continue down this path, the greater the likelihood of arousing Elenor’s wrath once she discovers our affair.”
Austin’s anxiety is palpable as he queries, “But there’s no way she could find out if neither of us reveals the truth, right?”
“Don’t underestimate her intuition. She suspected potential indiscretion even before you recognized it. Also, I’d like to remind you that you permitted me to dress inappropriately,” Roxanna points out.
“You have a point. Let’s not shift the blame of this consensual act. How do we contain the situation?”
“If avoiding detection is the priority, the other alternative is for me to disappear. Given my recent arrival in the country, I could return home and tend to my family.”
“That’s thoughtful of you. I’ll make sure you’re financially secure, whether in Puerto Rico, Spain, or wherever you’re from. I’ll concoct a story about a family emergency and find a replacement for you as my personal assistant.”
“This is generous of you. Maybe you should consider hiring a male assistant next time, as a precaution.”
“Absolutely. So, you’re comfortable leaving the country on short notice?”
“I mean, of course I’ll miss you.”
“I suppose when you put it that way, I might need more time to review our errors—”
At home, no matter what Austin says, the guilt is visible on his face, even without Elenor’s inside knowledge. Several times he stops short of confession to clear his conscience. His unease is visible, and Elenor senses that something is amiss. She questions him about his trip and his interaction with Roxanna, leaving Austin on edge.
Elenor probes, “I apologize for not being able to accompany you. How did the trip go with just Roxanna and you?”
Hesitating and avoiding direct eye contact, Austin responds, “The business aspect went well. However, Roxanna had an unexpected family emergency, (uh’hum!) And had to leave suddenly.”
“Oh really? Where did she go?”
“I think, it was, (uh’hum!) Spain.”
“Spain? That’s strange because her family is in Puerto Rico.”
“Right, I meant Puerto Rico.”
“You return from a trip without your personal assistant, and you don’t even know where she is? Weren’t you the one who bought the plane ticket?”
“She made all the arrangements. I recall, (uh’hum!) Puerto Rico being part of the conversation.”
“I certainly hope you’re not attempting to hide something untoward. Remember, we’re having dinner with Deidra tonight.”
“Oh, right. Um. I love you. Thanks for the reminder.”
That evening, Austin’s demeanor remains peculiar, clearing his throat, arousing Deidra’s curiosity. She requests a private moment with him to discuss his behavior, suspecting something is amiss.
In their private conversation, she inquires, “What’s happening? Your actions are suspicious—fidgeting, darting eyes, and frequent throat clearing. If you’ve done something wrong, you’re not concealing it very effectively.”
“YConsidering your expertise in marriage counseling, I’ve made a grave error. You’re well-acquainted with Elenor’s personality. Do you believe she’ll forgive me?”
“Am I correct in assuming this mistake involves Roxanna?”
“Absolutely. What’s your advice?”
“As a proactive measure, it’s wise to confess to Elenor before she discovers the truth on her own. Her intuition as a matchmaker is quite strong when it comes to detecting indiscretions.”
“She already suspects something. Fine, I’ll admit my weakness to her and assure her it won’t recur. After that, should we schedule marriage counseling with you?”
“Given our interconnected relationships, offering counseling to both of you would be a conflict of interest. It would be unfortunate if Elenor decided to leave you, and our association ended as a result.”
“Slow down. All three of you can’t abandon me! I don’t want to make matters worse by saying what I’m thinking, but it should be clear that I want to keep you near.”