Michelle Part 1

I often eat lunch at Stanford’s in Lake Oswego. I always order the same thing: grilled salmon, well done, no sauce. Everyone at the restaurant knows my order. You know you’re predictable when even the other regulars know your order.

The other day, I inadvertently overheard the conversation of a couple sitting at the table next to me. They seemed to be in their early forties; they wore stylish clothes and sad faces. She was lovely: shoulder-length reddish-brown hair, long lashes, and nails done to perfection, all offsetting brilliant blue eyes that wanted desperately to sparkle. He was handsome: full head of hair, strong chin, intense brown eyes, and long slender fingers.

“Then you’re saying it’s over,” she softly said. She stared directly at him.

He, on the other hand, couldn’t make eye contact, examining his hands, picking at his meal with his fork. “I suppose.” He hesitated for a moment as she sniffled, quietly, once only. He looked at her, pain in his expression. “It isn’t what I want. But you have to understand—I can’t leave her. It wouldn’t be right.”

I could tell by her reaction, a hardening of her lips and a steeling of her eyes, that he had stepped even deeper into it. “Really, Sam, you can’t leave her? Six months ago, you met with your attorney. Two months ago, you told me papers were being drafted. And now you can’t leave her? Were you ever going to leave her? Have you ever told the truth?”

He turned away from her withering glare. “That’s not fair. You know I love you and want to be with you. But…”

“But nothing. You’ve led me on. Admit it, you’re a user. Even now you’re manipulating me. If you were a man, a man of honor, you’d just say it. Say it now, Sam. Say it’s over.”

He paused before he spoke, choosing now to consider his next step, perhaps finally realizing his path couldn’t be retraced. “Honor? You want to talk about honor? You’ve known all along that I’m married. Didn’t stop you, though, did it. You’re right. I don’t have any honor. But don’t sit there wrapped in a coat of righteous indignation. You’re a cheat just as much as me.” He looked around the room, stopping to examine me for a moment. He knew I’d heard all of their conversation. I couldn’t not hear it. He looked back at her and said, “Fair enough, you want me to do the honorable thing. It’s over, Michelle. Over.” He reached into his back pocket for his wallet, pulled money out, and tossed several bills onto the table. He stood and looked at her. She couldn’t look back at him. Her head was bowed, with one hand covering her eyes. “Keep the change,” he said, and he walked out of the restaurant.

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