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Randall sat at the bar of an upscale steak house in downtown Boston. He stared at the amber, rye whiskey in his Manhattan, and sadly jiggled the cocktail pick laden with three cherries.

He’d made a hasty exit from the firm holiday party. Tom sat next to him nursing a gin and tonic, after Randall had sent him an urgent text message to meet at the bar. An old law school friend, he owed Randall many times over.

"I am really glad that you came out," said Randall, taking a sip of his cocktail.

"Wish it was under better circumstances."

Randall nodded. "You should have seen her, sidling up to Owen."

"You sure have your head all mixed up around this gal." Tom shook his drink, swirling the lime around the edge of his glass. He took a sip, and bubbles rose to the surface. dancing around the green wedge.

Looking around the bar, Randall noticed couples meeting up for drinks, enjoying themselves, huddled near the paneled walls. Groups of professionals gathered to imbibe after a long week. Everyone was jovial and carrying on, uplifting conversations, making light of work shenanigans. "Not sure how I even got caught up in this mess." Randall shook his head.

"She was a temptress. That's what I can gather from what you've told me."

"Well, she started with Dwyer, a fairly junior partner, when she first got to the firm. Then, she moved on to me, a senior partner. And now... Now, she's moved on to a named partner."

"You sure that she got it on with this Dwyer?"

"Not sure about anything. He's quite a square, if you know what I mean. He might not have taken her up on it. Protect the career, family, and spare himself the headache."

Tom looked at him dubiously. "So, you might have been the only one..."

Randall shrugged. "You might be right—"

"Your damn right, I'm right. She’s just trying to make you jealous, nudging up to a named partner to get your goat. But you've got a family to think about and should just let this go."

"Let it go," Randall repeated, nodding. And he knew that Tom was right.

"Sure, you need to let it go. Right now."

A tinge of panic coursed through Randall's veins. He could see her, seated close to Owen, with her arm around him, batting her eyes at his most banal comments. Randall shook his head again. He exhaled and took a deep breath. Nothing calmed his nerves, not even the whiskey.

Tom shrugged. "You really need to let this go—"

"I wish I could."


Reaching for his gin and tonic, Tom raised an eyebrow and took a long swig from his drink. "Lots of people wish they had your problem. You’re middle-aged, a partner in a downtown law firm. You've got a nice house in an affluent coastal town, and a beautiful family. Piles of people would kill to be where you are."

"So, I should just let it go. Call it a fling and be done with it."

"Yeah, that's what most guys would do." Tom took a guzzle from his drink, nearly polishing it off. "Get a grip, Randy. We go way back. Geeze, look at it for what it's worth. Just sex, plain and simple. A role in the hay. Don't get so emotional. Obsession… ruins careers."

Randall took a sip of his Manhattan. Then, he removed the pick and took a bite of a maraschino cherry. He smiled at Tom. "I suppose you’re right."

"Glad to see that you've come around." Tom winked and gave him a pat on the back, and then polished off his drink. He placed a fifty note on the bar, and grinned. "That should cover the tab."

Then, he slid off his stool, and headed for the door without looking back; he just stepped through the double doors, and made his way into the foyer, then out into the cool night.

Randall sat alone, sipping his cocktail, wondering if he could let go.

Considering his wife and the kids, and then her with him. He cringed and reached for his phone to text her.




John W. Dennehy is an American novelist and short story writer. His novels include Clockwork Universe (Severed Press 2016) and Pacific Rising (Severed Press 2017). His short stories have appeared in Crimson Streets, Dual Coast Magazine, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Fiction on the Web, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, The Literary Hatchet, Shotgun Honey, and anthologies SNAFU: Wolves at the Door, Dark Monsters, Winter Shivers, The Haunted Traveler, and many more.


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