I glanced across the room, they were standing in the entrance… smiling across at me; a bottle of red in Tom’s hand.

“Happy birthday Alan”

Tom said…Holding out the bottle as I reached them.

“Thanks for that old man” I replied, laughing.

“Happy birthday Alan”.

Anna reached for me, kissing me on both cheeks. The smell of her perfume as intoxicating as any drug.

“How old is it now?”

As if she didn’t know.

“How does twice twenty one sound?”

I had known Anna for the last three years and loved her since the day I met her.

“Let’s get you something to drink”.

I was moving towards the kitchen, trying to break the spell Anna wove around me.

“So how’s the new job going Alan?”

Tom’s words brought me to my senses.

“Oh… not as bad as I expected, it’s the travelling that’s killing me. The trouble with Exeter is even with the M5 and the improvements to the 303 London are still a long way… and let’s not mention the trains”.

“Have you thought of moving up there?”

“I have to admit, I’m considering it”.

“What do you think Julia would say about moving?”

“Why don’t you ask her yourself?” I replied, as my wife arrived.

He turned and Julia smiled that radiant smile of hers… the one that used to melt my heart in an instant… why not now I thought.

“Hello Tom” she said.

“Julia, you look as lovely as ever”.

He leaned forwards kissing her on the cheek.

“I wish” she sighed, “The kids are turning me into an old bag before my time”.

“I was just asking Alan if you had considered moving with his new job… to save on all this commuting”.

“I would move tomorrow, it’s just the kids and school… Anna would know what I mean. You men don’t take things like that into account”.

“That’s a tad condescending… I think” said Tom half laughing.

Anna joined us and stared right into my soul…

“What’s all this about you moving?”

I felt my heart slipping…

“It’s only an idea at this stage; we need to think about it more”.

“A lot more” said Julia sharply.

“Oh dear, I’ve said the wrong thing”.

“Not at all” I tidied up, “as I said, it’s just an idea at this stage”.

We moved back into the lounge to pay our respects and mingle with other friends. God, I thought, all I want to do is kiss her; but that would have to wait.

Anna and I met at an office party. It was the usual thing, too much to drink, twenty years married and bored… along with a big ego. I have no idea what Anna saw in me, she was beautiful, talented and way out of my league; but she seemed to want to talk to me. I spent the evening staring down her cleavage and the night fucking our brains out in a room upstairs in the Hotel.

She was incredible, all the things that had been missing in my life for years. Left behind with the coming of children; the pressure of normal married life. We couldn’t get out of our clothes fast enough. She had a body to die for and knew it, she sat astride me and I look up at her, with her head thrown back… I was in heaven.

It may have started as a casual fling but it soon developed into a full blown affair; by now I was in too deep and sinking fast, if you’ll excuse the pun. We talked about leaving our partners… but each of us must be wondering how it would work? With the job move a possibility, we needed to talk.

The ‘new Job’ had been a bit of a surprise. I was approached by Croziers, a big London outfit to head up a new division to take their company out from London; and open offices in other major cities. First I had to spend time in the London Office, to plan, recruit and learn more about the company. I was currently spending most of the week in London and home only at weekends. This couldn’t go on for ever for ‘oh so many reasons’.

The party was in full swing now and Julia was being the perfect hostess… mingling and sorting all the drinks out.

“Alan” she shouted to be heard over the music, “Tell everyone that the foods out in the Kitchen.”

They must have heard her… but I did the rounds; it gave me an excuse to talk to Anna again.

“Foods up” I said, leading her by the hand into the Kitchen.

“Are we still on for next Monday?” she whispered.

“So far so good”.

I was thinking ‘to hell with the food all I want to do is eat you!’

“I will text if there’s a problem”.

Anna and I would meet as often as we could. After the first year I had rented a studio flat; we didn’t want it to become public knowledge yet… there was so much to think about. The kids and what they would think being the main one. I couldn’t help wondering from time to time ‘how did I let this happen?’ It was all too easy when I was still working here, but now it was getting increasingly difficult.

“Are we going to dance darling?”

It was Julia, looking a little the worse for wear.

I caught hold of her hand and made our way back into the lounge that was doubling up as a disco by now.

The night progressed as these things always do with sufficient booze to free up the inhibitions, soon I was in the arms of Anna; and dancing far to close for comfort.

“We have to talk” I said whispering in her ear.

“Anything in particular on your mind” she said mischievously.

“I can’t go on like this for much longer, and anyway, I may move to London… what will we do then? Meet me tomorrow” I said, more in hope than expectation.

“How on earth can I Alan, It’s the weekend and the kids and Tom are home, I just can’t do it, we’ve been over this before”.

Her voice was causing others to notice…I wished I hadn’t started this conversation.

I could see Tom and Julia dancing together and talking on the other side of the room, but they seemed oblivious to us…I heaved a sigh of relief. The music finished and we parted. I went looking for yet another drink and bumped into Tom on the same mission.

“Great party Alan” he said handing me a large glass of red wine.

Was he aware of anything? I suppose I should have been ashamed of myself, how could I do this? Tom had become a friend, albeit a recent one. The truth is I was ashamed, but not enough to give up my own happiness. I’d only met Tom because of my affair with Anna; I selfishly told myself that this made it all right.

I’d told no one about Anna. None of my old friends were aware as far as I knew; as I’m sure we would be friends no longer. This was something else we would have to face… if we saw our relationship through.

Would she, could she, or indeed could I? The questions hung over our lives like a dark cloud. There was only one way to find the answers.

The party was over and I was drunk as usual and a little morose due to my conversation with Anna.

“Help me with the clearing up, Alan”.

Julia had noticed I was staring into space.

“Leave it until the morning”.

“No way…! It shouldn’t take long with two of us, and you need to sober up a bit before bed… I don’t want you being sick again”.

I looked around the room… it looked like a bomb had hit the place, she was right; I began stacking the dishes. I could sense through my wine sodden brain she was building up for something, the talk of moving must have set her off…shit! I didn’t want to get into this now.

“What the hell is wrong with you” I asked.

Julia was almost pacing around the room; she stopped….

“Alan…I want you to tell me what is going on between you and Anna?”

The words took an age to sink in to my wine befuddled brain, but when they did it was like a bolt of lightning arriving. I turned away to gather myself.

“What do you mean?”

Hoping I’d misheard her.

“I think you know what I mean. I was going to wait until the later in the weekend to discuss this… but with your behavior tonight you have forced my hand”.

I stood frozen in the moment. The world started spinning, had we really been that obvious?

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

It sounded weak… but it was all I could come back with.

“Well let me show you… you bastard” she said scattering an envelope of photographs on the table beside me.

I looked, and it was all there, the meetings we had thought were so well planned, even a photo of the flat with us kissing outside.

“I’ve made a decision… I want you to leave right now… tonight. I have already contacted a solicitor; as the evidence is damming I expect no challenge from you in your defence”.

My senses were in complete disarray, there was nothing I could say.

“I am going to take you for as much as I can. You’re a complete and utter fool… what’s happened to you? You have ruined all our lives, all our hopes and dreams flushed down the toilet…for what? A bit on the side with that slut who said she was my friend”.

The venom in her voice said more than her words. She turned and stormed out.

I stood in the centre of the room my senses reeling. I can remember shouting at the top of my voice… four letter words one after the other. I was seeing my world crashing down to nothing but a pile of shit.

If I hadn’t followed her things may have ended differently, but I did. As she started to run up the stairs I grabbed her by the hair trying to stop her. In my anger I pulled her back… she crashed to the floor lying there screaming at me. I grabbed her around the throat, it was only to try and stop her screaming… and I did. She will never scream again.

Within a heart beat I had sobered up and was trying to think of an answer that would justify my actions… there was none. I went upstairs and grabbed a few things and without further thought I left

I should never have been driving, I was also past caring. Thank God it was late and there was a hotel not that far; I made it without incident. Had I been stopped I don’t know what I might have done.

I can remember thinking clear as a bell… ‘It was as well the kids were at her mothers or god knows what would have happened’.

The morning came with a bang. I must have passed out not long after I got to the room. My hangover kicked in… I needed coffee to give me time to think. Thank God it was Saturday and I was not expected in the office. I headed for a café I knew just outside of town, ordered and went in search of a quite seat to gather my scattered senses. I reasoned that if Julia knew about the affair then Tom must as well. I dialed Anna’s number on my mobile and waited for her voice, it was the answer phone that took the call telling me to leave a message.

“Hello Anna, it’s me Alan, ring me back please”.

I waited there for an hour… but the reply never came. I wanted to speak to her before I gave myself up.

This was all of two years ago. The memory remains on permanent rewind, ready to play back at any moment I request it. I never heard from Anna again. I understand that Tom took her back and that they moved away. My kids were taken in by Julia’s parents. I pleaded guilty of course, and was sentenced to fifteen years; with time off I could be out in twelve to face an uncertain future. But at least I could have a future… that’s something Julia lost the day I killed her.

I’ve never spoken of this before, I wanted there to be an explanation…. for the others involved. I’m not looking for forgiveness, there can be none. I needed to get it out so as to understand it myself; tell my children I have always loved them and……

I’m so sorry.

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