"George." My own loudness startled me -- and everyone else for that matter. Unexpectedly, I became the center of the group's attention. Make that the overt center of the group's attention. I'd been their covert focus since they'd figured out that I was visiting the Parsonage bed-and-breakfast alone. Apparently couples secluded for a romantic week in Cape May, New Jersey, welcome single women with the same warmth drug lords secluded for a summit reserve for DEA agents.
George, the co-owner of the B&B, responded to my outcry with a raised eyebrow and a concerned tone. "Meg, dear, whatever is wrong?"
"I . . . I forgot something." I rose with no idea where I was headed. "In the kitchen." I required privacy; the kitchen was the closest place to find it.
"You . . ." George accented the word with doubt, "left something in the kitchen?" As the proprietor of the bed-and-breakfast, he realized I had never been in the kitchen to leave any item behind.
"Yes. Yes, I did." I smiled at the assembled guests. They stared at me as if I'd just revealed my Ebola diagnosis. "Sorry. It just hit me. Silly, really. Come, George. Help me." I grabbed the man's hand and pulled him towards the door.
"Be right back," George called to his guests as I dragged him out of the room.
Inside an elaborate pantry area with floor-to-ceiling cabinets that I did not have time to admire, I came to an abrupt halt. The swinging door pushed George into me. He didn't apologize; neither did I. "Meg. what is the problem?"
I whispered my reply. "George, ix-nay on the talk about last night."
"What talk about last night?"
"You were teasing the Gimbels about their amorous adventures last night."
"So." He shrugged. "They're married. No scandal there."
"If those two are husband and wife, then Mr. Gimbel was not married to the woman he made love to last night." I ruled out bigamy.
"You're not making sense, Meg."
"This is a different Mrs. Gimbel than the one Wallace Gimbel checked in wit."
"Meg, Ms. Daniels -- sweetie, did you sneak out to a twenty-four hour liquor store?"
"Trust me on this, George. I'm sure about it. Don't you agree that Mrs. Gimbel got a little bent out of shape when you joked about last night's noisy lovemaking?"
"Claude tells me I overstep sometimes. I hate to admit it, but he could be right. She did seem a bit miffed."
"No, George, she was confused. She didn't know that Mr. Gimbel made love last night. Trust me and be a little careful." I paused only briefly. "Are you sure she is
"She always has been." He sighed. "Meg, are you trying to give me a headache?" He massaged his temples with exaggerated motions. "Let me see if I get this. Mr. Gimbel checked in with a woman who is supposed to be his wife. He made love to her . . . "
"Although she was supposed to be deathly ill," I interjected.
"Okay. Love works miracles. She is suddenly healthy." He stared at me hard. "So?"
"The woman at the breakfast table is a different person." My face contorted. "What I don't understand is: if Mr. Gimbel sneaked another woman in here, and I know he did, why does his wife recite the details of her illness?"
"Meg, you keep saying that this is a different woman. You don't know that."
"Yes,. I do."
"You do?" His question challenged me.
"Yes, I do."
"And how do you know this?"
"Her ankles?" Under his breath he added, "This oughtta be good."
"Last night, all I could see of the woman was her ankles. I saw them two times." I didn't elaborate on how I happened to see the woman twice. "They were attractive, slim ankles. Go in the other room and sneak a peek at Mrs. Gimbel's legs."
George rolled his eyes.
"Now. Go." I gave him a gentle push towards the breakfast room.
I watched the swinging door make a smaller and smaller arc until it came to a complete stop only to be pushed back into a wide arc by George.
"Okay, Meg, you win." He released a deep sigh. "Where's the other woman?"
Guilt stabbed me in the stomach. Maybe I shouldn't have told George that I'd overheard the couple making love the night before. If I hadn't, George wouldn't have made teasing remarks at breakfast. If George hadn't made those comments, Mrs. Gimbel wouldn't have grown disgruntled. But I did and he did and, because we did, Wallace and Marvella Gimbel were going to have a rotten weekend. And, it would be all my fault. But then why should I care? I wasn't having a great weekend myself. The trip had skidded into a downhill slide as soon as it started -- on Friday night.