The Result

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Was Keith really working late at the warehouse? Was there more to it? When Jan saw an advert for a lie detector test, she hoped it was the answer to their problems.

Keith Shelton went through the front door and kicked it shut behind him, before shrugging out of his coat. He flopped onto the sofa next to Jan, his wife. She glanced away from the television set.

‘Hi love.’ Keith said.

‘You’re late.’

Keith nodded. It was such a busy time in the shipping office. There were so many deadlines to meet. He mumbled that it was just work. His wife shot him a look. There was something accusatory in her glare. He held her gaze for a moment before going to bung his dinner in the microwave. Jan had recently got into the habit of preparing their meal when she got home and keeping his in the fridge for when he got home.

As he munched on his chili and rice at the kitchen table, Jan appeared in the doorway. She hovered there, watching him eat, her arms folded across her chest.

‘What kept you this time?’ she asked.

‘We had problems clearing an import container. Absolute nightmare.’

He shoved a forkful of chili in his mouth.

‘This seems to be happening a lot, Keith.’

‘I’m not doing it for the fun of it, love. I get paid overtime, so I can’t complain too much.’

Jan retreated to the living room without another word.

 

Neither Keith nor Jan raised the subject of his working late for the rest of the evening, but it lingered there between them. Keith had always worked the occasional late night, but these days he was getting home late practically every night.

Over the next few weeks, with Keith arriving home hours late most evenings, tensions increased. The couple were barely speaking. When they left for their jobs in the morning, Keith would peck her on the cheek and tell Jan to have a nice day. She would reply, I will, before climbing in her car.

One Friday night it was almost ten o’clock when Keith got home. By the time he reached the living room, Jan was on her feet. She paced the living room, aggressively, like a prize fight in the ring.

‘So, you have finally decided to come home then?’

‘Jan, don’t. My head is banging.’

‘You poor thing.’ She chided.

She fixed him with a hard stare.

‘Go on,’ he said. ‘say it. You’ve been thinking it for long enough.’

‘It’s all lies, isn’t it? You are having an affair.’

‘And there we have it. Come on then, Poirot, where’s your evidence?’

‘I can smell booze on you, every night. Explain that? Are you having drinks with your fancy piece?’

‘My fancy piece? Have you heard yourself?’ he sighed. ‘I have a beer with the lads while the last container is leaving. No big deal. It means nothing.’

Tears filled Jan’s eyes.

‘I don’t know what to think.’ She said. ‘These late nights all of a sudden.’

‘It’s the new shipping regulations. Work is crazy. Mark through his hand in last week.’

‘Mark’s gone? You never said.’

‘We’ve not really been talking, have we?’

‘And the beer I can smell on you every night, that’s the beers with the lads at clocking off time?’

‘Jan, I’m not cheating on you, okay?’

Jan said nothing.

‘Us lads have a beer as we’re finishing up, that’s all. Don’t worry, I’m not meeting Mad Moira for romantic drinks.’ He laughed.

‘You can see why I start thinking all sorts, can’t you? All these late nights suddenly. No wonder I start thinking all sorts. Imagine if it was the other way round? You would be grilling me.’

Keith smiled and put his arm around Jan.

‘I know, love,’ he said. ‘but there is nothing going on, I promise.’

Jan nodded.

‘I’ll put the kettle on.’ he said.

 

When Keith arrived home just after eight o’clock, Jan was at the front door to meet him. She gave him a hug and ushered him into the house. When he was settled on the sofa with a cold beer, Jan snuggled up beside him. Keith sighed and hoped that they had turned a corner.

A week later Keith was later than usual. It was almost eleven o’clock by the time he got home. As he leaned in to kiss her, Jan slapped a hand on his chest. She grabbed a fistful of his shirt.

‘Is that perfume?’

‘Possibly. A few of the sales guys hung around tonight while the containers got loaded.’

‘Really? And who are these guys from sales? Just exactly whose scent is that on your shirt?’

‘Tina does get a bit touchy-feely, granted. It’s just the way she is.’

‘Touchy feely?’ Jan spat.

‘It doesn’t mean anything.’

‘So says every man who’s ever cheated on his wife. Is it just sex, Keith?’

‘You are being ridiculous.’

‘Am I really? Am I being paranoid?’

‘Jan, I’m not having an affair. Can we just drop this, please?’

 

Keith and Jan kind of muddled on for the next couple of weeks. Keith made it home for around eight o’clock most evenings. They had reached an odd stalemate. Jan was convinced Keith was having an affair, and Keith was adamant he was innocent.

One evening Jan flopped down next to him on the sofa.

‘I don’t want to argue with you, Keith.’

Keith said nothing, sensing something was coming.

‘I saw an advert the other day. It gets good reviews. Lots of people are using it. I think it could help us out with this situation.’

‘What situation?’

‘About the affair.’

‘I am not having an affair.’

‘Alright then, about the affair you’re not having then.’

‘And what is this thing?’ he asked.

Jan showed him the image on her mobile phone. Keith couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

‘A lie detector test? Are you for real?’

‘It will help sort this mess out.’

‘This is real life, this is us. It’s not some trashy daytime TV show.’

‘This thing is aimed at people like us. If we thought I was pregnant, we’d do a test. I think we need to do a test for this.’

‘That is not the same thing.’ he insisted.

‘If you’ve got nothing to hide then you’ll take the test.’

‘That’s what the Government say when they bring in more measures to snoop and spy on us. It’s all a bit Nineteen Eighty-Four, isn’t it?’

‘It’s not the Eighties, it’s a new thing.’ Jan said.

‘This test, it proves one thing, and one thing only, that you don’t trust me.’

‘I have this idea in my head. I need you to do this to help me get this out of my mind.’

‘It’s a crazy idea, love. I am not cheating on you.’

‘Humour me, love, please?’ she asked.

‘Alright, fine, I’ll take the test.

Jan nodded, grinning, tears of relief in her eyes.

 

On a rainy grey Saturday afternoon, Keith and Jan huddled around the laptop on the kitchen table. The lie detector lead was connected to the computer through the USB and clipped on to Keith’s fingertip. Jan logged onto the website and punched in her details.

‘I can’t believe we’re doing this.’ Keith said.

‘Once it’s done, we can crack open a couple of beers and get a curry sent in.’

Jan typed in the six questions the test allowed her. Then she hit submit.

And then it began.

The questions were the same he’d been facing when he arrived home every evening. Was he really working late? Was he cheating on Jan? Has he been sleeping around? Was he in love with someone else?

Once Keith had answered each question, all in the negative, he denied all the accusations, then the screen paused. The word calculating rotated in large blue letters.

The letters disappeared to reveal each question and the response given. Next to each answer was a large red X, and the word Failed.

Keith and Jan stared at the screen in shock and disbelief.

‘So, it’s true.’ she said at last.

‘That’s rubbish. That thing,’ he jabbed a finger at the screen. ‘has got it wrong.’

‘You would say that, wouldn’t you?’

Keith turned to see the look of disgust on his wife’s face.

‘You can’t believe an app over your husband.’

‘I trust a lie detector over the husband I suspect is cheating on me. What have you got to say for yourself?’

‘It got it wrong, all wrong. I am not having an affair.’

‘Why don’t you just admit it? You have been found out. It’s time to come clean.’

‘This is crazy.’

‘Who is it? Moira?’

‘Mad Moira? She looks like my mam.’

‘Tina? Touchy-feely Tina?’

‘I will say this one last time, I am not having an affair.’

Jan stared at the results on the computer for a long moment.

‘Tell me what you have been up to.’

‘Nothing at all.’ Keith growled.

‘I think you should leave.’

‘Yes, Jan, I think I should.’

Jan reeled in shock at Keith’s reply. She had clearly been expecting an argument, a protest. Instead, Keith charged up the creaking stairs and into their bedroom. Still in disbelief that this was actually happening, Keith began packing his clothing and toiletries into a suitcase.

Jan met him at the bottom of the stairs. Keith put his coat on.

‘I’ll be going, then.’

‘If you would just admit to what you’ve done then we can talk things through. In time we might even get over this and put it behind us.’

‘As long as I admit what I’ve done?’ replied Keith.

He shook his head and picked up his case. He paused, giving his wife one last chance to stop him. When she simply stared at him, tears in her eyes, he left without another word.

 

Over the next few weeks things between Keith and Jan were very cool, very matter of fact. Keith was staying in a friend’s spare room. When Jan raised an eyebrow that suggested he was living with his new lover, Keith replied that she could call Ian and ask him. One evening Keith called round to collect his record player, and a selection of his records.

‘Won’t Ian mind you playing your records?’ Jan asked.

‘Headphones.’ was all the explanation Keith gave.

 

One morning, just over a month later, Jan was having a brew before leaving for work. She had the breakfast news on television, but was daydreaming, lost in thought. The news headline snapped her out of her dreaming. The news bulletin had her full attention.

‘A well-known, over the counter, lie detector test has today admitted a recent system error. Some recent results were found to be incorrect due to a computer glitch. The firm are in the process of contacting those concerned.’

The smarmy newsreader chuckled at the end of the segment.

‘Crikey,’ he said. ‘That could be awkward.’

Feeling sick, Jan poured her tea down the sink and left for work.

 

The next day Jan received an email. She chewed nervously on a thumbnail as she read the message from the lie detector firm.

Unfortunately, the recent lie detector results we supplied have been found to be incorrect. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused. If you would like to apply for a refund, please click and complete the attached form.

Jan burst into tears, the sobs shaking her shoulders. She grabbed her mobile phone and tapped Keith’s number. When he answered he sounded bored and disinterested.

‘Hello?’

‘Keith, it’s me.’

‘What can I do for you?’

‘Have you seen the news? There’s been a mistake with the test results. I’ve had an email.’

‘Right.’

‘They got it wrong. You were telling the truth.’

‘Yes, Jan, I know.’

‘They made a mistake. I made a mistake.’

‘I did try to tell you.’

‘We need to meet up, to talk everything through.’

‘How’d you mean?’

‘Let’s have a coffee and a chat, let’s go over how we get back to normal.’

‘I don’t think we can. I have to go.’

As Jan was asking again if they could meet, Keith hung up.

 

Two months later, Jan was out with friends in Manchester city centre. As they headed down Deansgate, to the next bar, she spotted her husband outside a pub. He was sitting on a metal chair in the smoking area out front. He was smoking a cigarette and watching the people passing by. Jan told her friends she’d catch them up.

She smiled as she approached him.

‘Hiya.’ she called.

‘Oh, hello you.’

‘So, you’re back on the ciggies?’

Keith glanced at the cigarette in his fingers.

‘Yeah, back on them. Started smoking again, after everything that happened, y’know?’

‘Can I join you?’ she asked.

‘It’s not a good time, Jan.’

He leaned to one side, in his chair, craning his neck to see around her. A woman in a long trench coat, walking quickly, nervously towards the pub. She looked up at the signage over the entrance. She had clearly never been there before.

Keith tossed his cigarette to the pavement.

‘See you, Jan.’ he called, dashing over to the woman.

As Jan looked on, Keith awkwardly approached the new arrival.

‘Excuse me, is it Lisa?’

‘Yes, Keith? Sorry, I’m a bit nervous. I’ve never been on a blind-date before.’

‘Me neither. Come on, the first round is on me.’

 


Submitted: February 02, 2021

© Copyright 2021 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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