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by Arnica Butler

Meri is Joel's young, husky-voiced, somewhat naive wife, who has a tendency to crack up laughing in tense situations. She doesn't exactly have "experimental" written all over her, so Joel has never even considered broaching the subject of his fantasies about sharing her - and sharing her with a specific kind of man.
That is, until a series of events take place and he finds himself staring at his wife's Fevr profile:
Happily married. Looking for spice. Probably just browsing.
Maybe it's too much to hope for. Maybe all Meri will ever do is "browse." And maybe, it's more than Joel bargained for.

Chapter 1

Meri dug her fingers into Joel’s arm suddenly and ferociously, emitting a theatrical gasp at the same time and bringing her free hand to her chest.
It gave Joel a jolt of adrenaline, even though he was used to his wife being... well, a little theatrical. But for a moment, he was sure she was choking, and someone else at their table did as well. Some dreg from accounting, who had been eyeing Meri all night long and would probably have loved to give her mouth-to-mouth.
Meri’s fingers dug in deeper, but by the time Joel turned his head in concern, she was turning hers, her large mouth smiling, her eyes full of mischief. She brought her chest-clutching hand to her mouth to block the rest of the table from lip-reading what she was saying next, an action that was rendered necessary by the fact that Meri had a sexy, gravelly voice that she could not seem to excise completely from her whispers.
“Oh my God,” she purred. “I just remembered I have something crazy to tell you. About Lena. Don’t let me forget.”
Applause had erupted as the president of Joel’s company wrapped up a long speech, drowning out Meri’s confession, which was a relief to Joel, who didn’t need Lena’s attention drawn to them. Lena, Joel noted, had drawn Meri’s attention (and probably everyone’s else’s) by rising from her chair before the speech was over and writhing through the tables to reach the bar.
It was doubtful that anyone was troubled by the distraction provided by Lena’s voluptuous body, wrapped this evening in a white, gauzy fabric that should have, but somehow did not, reveal whether she was wearing underwear or not. It was a long-standing “mission” among some of the more frat-boyish types at work to settle once and for all the grand question of whether Lena’s carpet matched the drapes.
Joel put his hand on Meri’s fingers, which she had relaxed. Reddened half-moons pockmarked his forearm. “You want something to drink?” he asked her.
Meri shot a glance at the bar, where Lena was leaning provocatively, her round ass framed nicely in the gauzy fabric, her tanned legs exposed from the very top of her thigh down, silver heels propping the whole business up like a sculpture.
Joel picked up on a certain amount of distrust from Meri toward Lena, but not the usual catty resentment that most of the other wives felt toward her. The clichés manifested themselves every year at the Christmas party and a company barbecue held in July. Most of the staff at TopperRep was male, and spent long hours at work, and some of them had apartments in the city, and then there was Lena: huge tits, nice figure, red hair, and... well, not exactly a passive personality when it came to men. Like all good clichés, Lena was the main secretary. She’d slit your throat if you called her that, though. And then you’d also find out just how bad your life could get if the office manager didn’t like you for a few days.
The references to Mad Men had been made time and again, except they didn’t exactly fit, because Lena was married, and as far as Joel knew, she hadn’t slept with anyone in the office.
Hence the eternal carpet and drapes question.
But Lena’s apparent virtues and commitment to her marriage vows did not endear her to any of the wives, whose sharp glares at Lena’s back could have been used in industrial applications normally reserved for diamonds and lasers.
Meri, however, was not a glarer. She actually seemed to admire Lena. Joel thought it was probably because Meri knew who held all the cards in her and Joel’s relationship. It was slightly infuriating to him, if he somehow could have been cornered into thinking about it. Meri felt so secure in their marriage – because Meri was young, and beautiful, and Joel was so obviously smitten with her – that she didn’t perceive the dual spherical bounties of Lena’s chest to be a threat. “Get me a white wine. No, a beer. Oh I don’t know... something fun, surprise me. You meant that kind of drink, right?” Meri bubbled, her eyes following Lena as Lena returned to her table. Meri’s mouth was upturned slightly, her brow somewhat furrowed, and her attention so obviously not on her drink order that she barely took notice of Joel leaving.
He considered ordering her a Shirley Temple, because that was the sort of joke that Meri would laugh at 95% of the time. Her very large features, a hair short of being cartoonish, would burst open: teeth, red lips, crinkled nose, watering eyes, and she would slap him playfully. She would admit to spacing out, drink her Shirley Temple without complaint, her lips on a straw in a vaguely sexual way. She’d bite into the cherry and enclose it sensually in her mouth. “Sorry,” she would half-honk, as an apology for not paying attention.
It was a joke, because twelve years ago, when they had met, Meri had been trapped in a section of a party where no alcohol was being served, and Joel had rescued her, and her Shirley Temple. They hadn’t started dating for years – a long story, almost too rom-commy to be believed – largely because Joel was so much older than her that he didn’t ask her out at the time. Now that he was 45, graying, feeling neck pain in the morning from his pillow, his twelve years on Meri seemed like a lifetime, or a generation (technically, they fell in different generations, which made for different jokes that Meri absolutely despised).
But Joel was worried about the 5% of the time that Meri didn’t like Shirley Temple jokes, which only meant that she wouldn’t laugh. Meri not laughing at a joke like that would devastate him more than if she slapped him in the face, because Meri no longer finding him funny was the first step toward Meri realizing that she could do better, the first step on a hypothetical path that could lead, eventually, to her packing up her things to go and find something - or someone - better.
This was, as Meri would often declare imperiously, utter nonsense. Which Joel agreed to for the purposes of ending arguments and saving face. But privately, he let the idea fester.
He sort of enjoyed thinking of Meri leaving him for a younger, hotter, more virile man, although in a very perverse way.