"Did you really mean it?"
I looked over the table at her. I was having lunch with my wife's best friend. And a good friend to me, when it comes down to it.
"Mean what, honey?"
"That night, when you said next to Janie, if you ever fell in love with anyone else, it would be me?"
I remembered the conversation. Lori was married to an asshole, a serial cheater that would rather spend money on his girlfriends than pay the bills.
She had just found out he was cheating on her yet again, and had called Janie for comfort. Janie was out of town, visiting her grandmother, something she did about four times a year.
My shoulder became the substitute for her to cry on. She came over to the house, at my insistence, and stayed the night. I had called Janie while she was on the way over and asked for advice.
"Oh, honey, I'm sorry you have to deal with this. I'll be home tomorrow and take over. In the meantime, just let her talk. If she asks your opinion, tell her, but don't volunteer any advice, she won't really be listening and most likely wouldn't take it anyway. She just needs to vent. And if she's drinking or starts drinking, don't let her leave. You know she has a low threshold for alcohol. I love you, and I'll be home by ten. I'll take it from there."
She was indeed a mess when she arrived, parking sideways in the drive, narrowly missing the mailbox. Half a bottle of wine down and at least two sheets to the wind. I wouldn't let her have anymore alcohol.
"Lori, honey, no more tonight. You're gonna wake up miserable anyway tomorrow, a hangover won't help you any. Talk to me.
It came out in fits and starts, between sobs. They had been married for four years, a year behind us, and she was sure he was cheating before they were six months in to the marriage.
She had actually caught him twice, he sweet talked her into giving him another chance. I was pretty sure this one was the last straw. His lover had called her earlier at her job, telling her she was pregnant and wanting the money for an abortion. Told her she confronted him and he laughed, saying with a whore like her it could be anybody's, and he wasn't paying her shit. Lori told me the little speech she gave her.
"If I don't get the money for that abortion and have to go full term, I'll get a DNA test and sue your husband for the medical expenses. Plus, he'll be on the hook for child support unless I give it up for adoption. He makes pretty good money, I may just keep it to get the child support. I talked to a lawyer, he says besides child support I can make him carry medical insurance and start a college fund. So, it would be in all our interests to help me out now, and avoid ugly situations and publicity. Think about it and get back to me quick. I'm kind of have a limited window, here. If it means anything, I didn't mean to hurt you. He told me you were separated and he was just waiting for the divorce to be finalized."
"What are you going to do?" I asked her as I fed her coffee."
"I don't know. We're behind on our bills and I can't depend on him. If she has the baby It'll ruin us."
I couldn't believe she was talking like she was going to stay with him. I decided to be blunt.
"You could just dump his cheating ass and let him deal with it."
"I thought about it, but it gets more complicated. I just found out I'm two months along. I can't deny my baby his father, I just can't. What am I gonna do?"
She collapsed into tears again.
I was so angry with her husband Ron I wanted to kill him. I thought about it as she cried.
I had her wipe her face with a cool cloth.
"Listen to me. Then promise that what I say never leaves this room. I have a little money. I'll pay for her abortion. I don't want you to pay me back, and I want your promise never to speak of it again. That will solve the problem short term."
My voice got harder.
"My price is you have to listen to me without interruption. Next to Janie, you're the finest woman I know. Kind, loving, beautiful. Any man would be proud to walk beside you. If I wasn't married to Janie and you were single, I would pursue you relentlessly. I could see myself easily falling in love with you. You wouldn't have a chance. In another universe we would be soul mates and lovers."
"I never liked Ron. I only went to the wedding because Janie made me. I knew he would end up breaking your heart, I could see it in his eyes as he checked out Janie and every other woman in the room during your wedding reception. That leopard is never gonna change his spots. He'll end up cheating on you again and again, especially if he knows you won't leave him. You're in for a world of heartbreak, girl."
"That being said, if you ever need us, we'll be there for you."
She cried herself to sleep in my arms. I carried her into the spare bedroom and put a light blanket over her. I went back into the living room and poured myself a drink. Straight rye whiskey, my favorite. I only drank it when I was very happy or had something to think about.
She was still asleep when Janie got back. I put my hands to my lips and showed her Lori sleeping.
We kissed quietly and made coffee, whispering in the kitchen.
"How is she?"
"She's a mess. How can she let that asshole keep doing it to her?" I hissed quietly.
"I don't know honey. I'll talk to her when she gets up, but we both know it won't do any good."
Lori came in to the kitchen. Janie folded into her arms and the tears came again. I had already made my contribution, so I slipped out of the room. She stayed with us two days before going back to the asshole.
I paid for the abortion, saying nothing to Janie about it. Ironically, Lori lost her child four months in, spontaneous abortion. Lori confessed to me she though it was because she had helped end a life, karmic revenge. It must be awful to bear that much guilt.
They lasted almost two more years before she finally had enough and filed for divorce.
It shocked him so bad he came apart. She had to change her phone number and get a restraining order. He swore he was a changed man. I kind of believed him, but it was too little, too late.
She stayed with us for three months before she got back on her feet. She moped for the first three weeks, before life came back into her. I knew she was healing when I came home from work to find her in the kitchen, stirring pots.
"Welcome home dear. Your other wife will be a little late, so number two is taking care of dinner. Would you like some ... wine?"
She giggled and kissed my cheek.
Janie came in a little later and we dined, joking and laughing like we did in the old days.
"She'll be leaving soon." I said as we slipped into bed.
Janie reached for me and snuggled in.
"You're right. I'll be sad, but I'll be glad when she goes. I'm tired of chewing up pillows."
Janie was a vocal lover, not above screaming during her climax. She wouldn't vocalize while Lori was in the house, biting down on pillows to muffle her sounds.
Over the next six weeks, Lori found a better job with more chances for advancement, and a nice one bedroom apartment close by. It was a sad day when she left, but she wasn't out of the driveway before we were scrambling towards the bedroom. Janie was hoarse the next morning.
Janie and I had reached our seventh year. She was twenty nine, I was thirty. I started hinting about kids but she wouldn't discuss it. She didn't want to give up her job.
"It won't be giving up a job, it'll be a promotion. Motherhood can be a very satisfying career. Besides, we don't need the money."
I wasn't rich. But, I had a very good job as plant manager at the the plastic injection plant my family owned. I was an only child so I would end up with controlling ownership eventually, but I hoped it was a long way down the road. My grandfather owned it originally, but divided it between his two sons. Dad married early and was pretty stable, but Uncle Jack enjoyed a batchelor lifestyle. He always had a plastic beauty on his arm, the older he got the younger and more fake they got. My cousin, Jack Jr. did his best to emulate his dad.
Because of the business, prenupts were required for both me and my cousin, not negotiable.
There was a little tension when my grandfather named me plant manager and Dad to the board. Uncle Jack demanded to know why.
"To start with, he has a degree in business management. What degree does junior hold? That's right, in spite of spending five years in college, he never graduated, did he? Know how many days Dan has missed, going all the way back to high school and college breaks? Three, when he broke his arm. How many has junior missed? Oh, that's right, he's been fired from here four times, for attendance every time. I gave him the job because I want this place to grow and prosper, not collapse due to bad management. This discussion is over."
I'm sure junior would have quit in protest if he still actually worked there, but it became a moot point when Uncle Jack's high flying lifestyle came back to bite him in the ass. Pretty soon me had the IRS and a couple of Vegas casinos after him, and grandpa bought his share of the business back, paying off his debts and giving him enough to live on the rest of his life if he was sensible. He set up trust funds for both me and junior, to be released when we were forty. He put a neat little flyer in, saying that we could actually draw off the fund starting at twenty seven, in the amount equal to the amount we made that year. He did that to keep junior working. Junior hated it.
.... There is more of this story ...