I stumbled back out into the narrow hallway, fighting against the oddest sensation that I’d just entered the Twilight Zone.
Keith Nolan was having an affair.
How would I ever reconcile the built-up image in my mind of the award-winning writer, husband, and family man with the cheat currently receiving a blow job in a public restaurant? I knew his marriage was in trouble but . . . was the infidelity the cause or the result? Ah hell, it really was none of my business.
The sighs and moans on the other side of the door reached a crescendo and I turned to make my way back to the club’s interior. As I crossed the threshold of the dimly lit, smoke-filled interior, I couldn’t help but remember Vivien’s beautiful but deeply saddened face. Could I face her with this new truth of Keith Nolan floating around in my head?
“Keith’s pretty good, isn’t he?” The lawyer, I couldn’t remember his name, sent me a knowing grin. I stared for several long seconds I understood that the skills he referred to were my hero’s musical abilities.
“Yeah,” That’s me, Mr. Smooth Talker, but honestly, I couldn’t wrap my mind or my tongue around anything halfway more intelligent.
“Keith played with several well known groups before he became a famous novelist. He met Vivien during one of those tours. I can’t remember exactly where but next thing we knew, he was writing books.”
I wanted to hear more but the band returned to the stage for the second set. Keith settled behind the keyboards, relaxed and confident as usual. He smiled broadly for the audience, who greeted his appearance with screams and applause. The band was joined by a female singer who I recognized immediately as the giver of the blowjob. She was a small woman of mixed race heritage with black hair pulled back in a severe knot. She bore a striking resemblance to the jazz artist Sade; she sang like her too.
The set went on for what seemed like forever. The soulful jazz tunes went right over my head and I spent the time mentally adjusting the image of my hero. That is until, Keith and his Sade look-a-like took the mike and performed a sultry version of “My Funny Valentine”. The duet was emotional, powerful, intimate. As the last note died away, there was a moment of sweet silence before the room erupted in thunderous applause.
I stood with the rest of the room and greeted Keith as he returned to the table. I knew enough from watching my parent’s marriage that no relationship was perfect, there were highs and lows. Successful relationships flowed with both the good and the bad. For all I knew, Mrs. Nolan was having affairs too. They may have even agreed upon an open marriage. Was this what made their relationship work? It wouldn’t be the first.
But as I took in his sweaty but exultant face, I remembered the overwhelming sadness that rolled off Mrs. Nolan in waves and I knew that whatever choices Keith made, his wife was not party to them. The surge of protectiveness I felt towards her surprised me.
Keith’s gaze met mine over the crowd of well-wishers. He bestowed me another brilliant smile and then his expression froze. Something of my inner confusion must’ve reflected on my face for his mouth twisted and his eyes slid away from mine and focused somewhere over my shoulder. He lifted the highball to his lips, swallowed deeply and drained the glass. Someone handed him another shot. He tilted the glass towards me in an ironic salute.