Everyone knows how the story goes.
Boy meets Girl. Boy makes fun of Girl. Girl calls Boy a jerk.
They get older.
Boy falls in love with Girl. Girl falls in love with Boy. They don't tell each other because they're terrified of the other laughing in their face.
They get older.
Boy asks out other girls. Sometimes they say yes, sometimes no. Mostly he's more relieved when they say no.
Girl dates another boy, discovers he's a giant douchebag.
Boy wonders if his future is going to be a life of watching late-night porn with only cold pizza and a box of tissues for company.
Girl wonders if she might be better off asking out other girls.
Then it happens. God, Cupid, the noodly appendage of the Great Invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster, or even just plain chance intervenes and pushes them together long enough for them to realize the truth: They're high-school sweethearts--two souls destined to come together and be joined for all eternity. It's fated in the stars.
Boy kisses Girl. Girl kisses Boy.
They live happily ever after.
Only it never is...
Eight years later...
"I wish she was dead," Court McCann muttered morosely into his beer.
"Come on, you don't really mean that," Jimmy Morrison, his best bud, said.
"Yes I do," McCann grumbled. "I wish the frozen shit from an airplane toilet would fall out of the sky and land right on her head. I wish it would smash her so far into the ground I wouldn't even need to pay for a funeral."
He didn't, not really. He just wished his life had walked down a different path. One less ... bland.
It was past ten. He was sitting at a corner table with Jimmy down at the Cat's Eye Bar. His wife was over at Lucinda's for one of their social gatherings.
"I never would have believed it," Jimmy said. "Everyone back at high school thought you two were the item. Christ, we all thought the pair of you would still be staring lovingly into each other's eyes right into your nineties. True love ... just like the movies."
"Hollywood is full of shit," McCann said.
"What happened? You caught her playing Hide the Hot Dog with the gardener?" Jimmy, being a best bud, tried to inject some levity.
Jimmy was his best bud, his little buddy. That's what he'd been to McCann all through high school--little buddy. Jimmy had always been a little shorter than McCann, a little less athletic, a little less good-lucking--a natural sidekick, McCann's wing man.
"It would have been better if she had fucked the gardener," McCann said. "Then I wouldn't have to feel so guilty about not loving her anymore."
"It sparked out, huh," Jimmy said.
"Yeah, that's about right," McCann said. "You know how it was. Back then me and Sharon sparked so bright it was like we had our own personal sun to keep us warm. Then it fades, until one morning you wake up and realize it's not there anymore. Worse, you can't even remember if it was ever there in the first place."
"I hear ya," Jimmy said. "Only took four years for mine to fizzle out. Although it was none too bright to begin with, if you wanna know the truth."
"I thought having Alvin would help ... rekindle it, you know. Now it's worse. Now I'm trapped. What kind of asshole runs out on his wife and young son. He's a great kid too. I love him but I'm scared I'll end up blaming him and resenting him for making me feel like I'm caged. I don't want to be one of those asshole dads that knocks their kids around because life didn't turn out the way they hoped."
Both men supped their beer in melancholy silence. McCann lowered his voice and leaned forwards. He didn't want any of the old coots eavesdropping on this little nugget of shit.
"We haven't had sex since last November," he whispered. "I haven't asked for it and she hasn't seemed too bothered about it going away. I feel like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty--whacking off in the shower is the fucking high point of the day."
Jimmy shook his head in sympathetic disgust.
"You can't go on like that. It ain't natural. Tell her how you feel. File for divorce."
"I can't do that," McCann said. "I'll lose everything ... Alvin, and I'll still have to stump up alimony. You know how it is: It's a man's world ... until he dumps his wife."
"Too right, bro," Jimmy said. "Unless you know the right people." This was added as an afterthought and Jimmy stared down into his beer as if he hoped McCann hadn't heard it.
McCann had. He thought about his little buddy. Except now, eight years later, Jimmy was the one with the fast car, the nice house, the blingy outfits, the better-paid job. Jimmy was the one everyone saw about town with a different hot babe on his arm every night. He wasn't the sidekick anymore; he was the main man.
"How did you get rid of Cindy?" McCann asked him. "You hooked up with her about the same time as me."
Jimmy became strangely evasive. He looked at the TV, sideways to another group sitting at the next table, down at his beer. Anywhere but at McCann."
"What's the secret?" McCann asked.
Jimmy looked like a hunted thing. As if he saw watching eyes everywhere.
"You've had too much," he said. "You'll think differently in the morning."
"Like fuck will I," McCann said. "It's dead and ashes. See that badass motherfucker over there in the cowboy boots and leather jacket? If that badass motherfucker was a hitman I'd walk over there, right now, and offer him twenty thou to put a bullet in her head."
Jimmy looked uncomfortable. He kept looking around the bar. Finally, one side won out in whatever internal conflict had afflicted him and he took out his wallet. Behind his last credit card was a business card. It was rumpled and dog-eared, as if it had been buried in the back of his wallet and left there for some time. He passed it to McCann.
The design on the front was of a broken heart, but with ropes tied around one half as if it was being hauled away. Written on the back in an elegant font was the legend, The High-School Sweetheart Removal Agency.
"I used them when things between Cindy and me weren't going so well," Jimmy said. "No accusations, no messy divorce, no lawyers ... just a clean break and a fresh start."
There was a number on the back of the card. McCann was tapping it into his mobile phone when Jimmy reached over to put his hand over McCann's.
"Wait until the morning," Jimmy said. "Give yourself a chance to think things over."
Gone was the easygoing playboy buddy. Jimmy looked like a man trying to sell state secrets and terrified government agents would pounce on him at any moment.
"If you feel anything, anything, for Sharon and Alvin you'll put that card at the back of a drawer and never look at it again."
McCann waited until the next day. He waited long enough for her to tell him that same stupid anecdote about the minister that hadn't been funny the first ten times he'd heard it. He waited until she left the house to go to her church social and then pulled the card out of his pocket and rang the number on the back.
The woman on the other end had the sexiest voice McCann had ever heard. Like black chocolate dipped in honey and lying in a cradle of crushed velvet.
"This is the High-School Sweetheart Removal Agency, how may we be of service."
Her tongue rolled around the words as though she was pleasuring them and McCann felt a surge of blood rush down to his crotch. He was uncomfortably aware of how long it had been since he'd last had sex.
She was probably just a little old spinster with knitting needles in her hair, but what a voice.
"I have a problem. A friend said you might be able to help out."
"It's a surprise, for Valentine's Day," McCann said.
He pulled up and parked outside a nondescript building in an equally nondescript business park. McCann saw a shoe store, an IT store and a Hooters restaurant. None of them appeared to be doing great business. McCann's car was the only one around.
"What sort of surprise?" Sharon asked.
She stared suspiciously at the building in front of them. It looked like a fake Greek temple. Thick white columns supported a wide porch and formed a colonnade facing out onto the lot. There was no branding anywhere to indicate the function of the building or the nature of the business inside.
"If I told you that it wouldn't be a surprise," McCann said.
"It's unlike you to be mysterious," Sharon said.
That would be because you insist on everything being planned right down to the last detail, he thought, planned until every last morsel of interest was squeezed right out. McCann bit his tongue. Had he noticed how unimaginative and unadventurous she was back at high school, or had he been too busy looking at her tits and legs?
"You know how things have got a little ... predictable lately."
"They have?" his wife asked.
We haven't fucked in over two months! Do you think that's normal?
Again McCann swallowed the words back down.
"A little," McCann said. "So I thought we'd do something special this year, for Valentine's Day."
"That's so sweet," Sharon said. She moved her hand across and rested it on his thigh. "Do you remember the time you proposed to me?"
.... There is more of this story ...