Author’s Note: Short story of looking at the past and wishing things had been different. There’s no sex in this story, so if that’s what you’re looking for I’d skip this one. This one is a little different than most of my other stories since I tried telling the story primarily through dialog. It was an experiment to help me get stronger as a writer. Hopefully it won’t come across as just a series of monologs.
My thanks to findingmyvoice, Mostera1 and outofshadows for making this a better read, findingmyvoice for her editing and Mostera1 and outofshadows for their story input and beta reads. Any errors you find are mine ... hell you know why.
The early morning light filled the hospital room, gently enveloping the three women standing guard over the man in the bed. He laid silently, his once muscular body now withered in pain, eaten from the inside out by cancer.
A late-fortyish, petite brunette cradled the man’s hand next to her cheek. Her curly, shoulder length hair hid her pretty, tearstained face. Sitting beside her was a late-twenties version of the woman.
On the other side of the bed was a thirtyish, tall attractive blonde, who bore many of the same facial features as the man lying in the bed. Lovingly she carefully wiped her father’s now bald head.
Their silent vigil was interrupted by a soft knock on the door. A tall, blonde man stuck his head in.
“Sis, is he awake?” he whispered to the blonde.
“Not right now, Tim,” replied Angie. “He’s only awake for short amounts of time. The morphine keeps putting him to sleep.”
“Molly?” he said gently, turning to the older brunette. “May we come in?”
She looked up at him, smiled weakly and nodded.
He stepped back and opened the door. A very attractive woman in her early fifties sheepishly entered the room. Her long hair was a heavy mixture of blonde and silver streaks that flowed loosely about her shoulders. Even at her age she still had a body women twenty years younger envied.
“Molly,” she softly greeted.
“Gwen, please come in.”
Angie stood up and looked over at Molly. Molly smiled reassuringly and nodded. The young blonde turned back to the guest.
“I guess you can sit here, Mom.”
“Thank you, Angie.”
What ensued was a human chess match. Each move by one of the human chess pieces caused a move by another piece. Each advancement toward the king resulted in a defensive counter move to protect him.
Finally the room settled. Gwen now sat on the other side of the bed from Molly and her daughter, Jessica. Angie had moved to a chair in one corner while Tim sat in the other corner chair.
“Thank you for allowing me to come today,” Gwen said softly. “When the kids told me Joe was going to spend whatever time was left at home, I had to ask to see him.”
“It was the right thing to do,” Molly replied wearily. “I talked it over with Joe and he agreed. He doesn’t want any visitors once we get him home later today, so I’m glad you were able to make it here before he’s released.”
He softly groaned as his eyes slowly opened. Eyes that hadn’t looked into each other for over a decade now became locked.
“Gwen?” he croaked softly.
“I’m here, Joe,” she whispered.
“I’m right here, honey,” his wife said gently, patting his hand.
He smiled weakly gazing into his wife’s soft brown eyes. Looking around the room he took note of everyone there.
“We are gathered here today...” he said, smirking as he heard several chuckles.
Closing his eyes he sighed deeply. He cleared his throat and stared at his ex-wife.
“Okay Gwen,” he said weakly. “Say ... what you need to say. I’m sorry if I doze. I can’t seem ... to stay awake.”
“I understand, Joe,” Gwen said. “I’ll keep it brief but if you fall asleep please don’t worry. Most of what I need to say is for our kids anyway.”
He nodded and she took a deep breath.
“Joe, I just wanted to tell you goodbye.”
“Already said that ... ten years ago.”
“Yes,” she said with a slight tremor in her voice. “I remember. But when I heard you were dying, I knew I still had some things I needed to say to you.”
“Forgive me,” she intensely whispered. “Please Joe, tell me you forgive me.”
They stared at each other silently for a minute before Joe sighed.
“You’re forgiven,” he said softly.
Gwen sat back obviously surprised by his response.
“Just like that?” she questioned.
“No ... not just like that. Took years ... to say that and mean it. Molly was ... key.”
He winced in pain and let out a muffled groan. Reaching over he pushed the button on his morphine drip. Within seconds, his breathing deepened and his face visibly relaxed. Minutes later he was asleep.
“I’m sorry, Gwen,” Molly said gently “he’ll be out for a while. I know it probably wasn’t what you hoped it would be.”
Gwen shook her head.
“Actually it was more than I’d dared hoped for. I could only dream of him saying he forgave me. I know I have you to thank for that.”
“No,” Molly said gently, shaking her head. “I could never talk Joe into doing something he truly doesn’t want to do. Oh, I know he’ll do things for me he prefers not to, but never something he didn’t feel was right.”
“Well I’m still thankful he found someone like you after I lost his love.”
“You didn’t lose his love, Mother,” Angie spat, “you threw it away.”
“I know, Angie,” Gwen replied sadly, “and that’s something I’ll regret for the rest of my life. You have regrets too, don’t you?”
Angie snorted and then sat quietly, lips pursed tightly, looking as if she’d sucked on a lemon.
“Sweetheart we all have regrets, things we wished we hadn’t done or things we’d hoped would’ve turned out differently. Some of those things we had no control over while others ... we brought upon ourselves. My greatest regret is that I allowed myself to go insane during those months.”
“Don’t try to excuse—” Angie snapped.
“No, I didn’t say I wasn’t responsible for my actions. Only that my thinking was severely messed-up during that time. There were a lot of things happening back then. Things I doubt either you or Tim were aware of. I know neither your father nor I ever told you details of everything that happened. Joe chose not to do that because he felt I’d betrayed him and not you two since you were both already out of the house. I never told you about it because ... well because it would’ve made you hate me even more than you already do.”
“I don’t hate you mother,” Angie said coldly. “I hate what you did, not you. However I’ll never sit quietly and listen to anyone downplay the magnitude of destruction and pain your cheating caused.”
“Angie, Tim, please believe me when I say I never considered the amount of pain my actions would cause.”
“How could you not, Mom?” Tim said calmly from his chair. “You had to know that cheating on Dad would hurt him. You and our family were the world to him.”
“You’re right I did know what I was doing was wrong but I ignored the possible consequences. When I did let myself think, I immediately knew the danger I’d put my marriage in. Unfortunately that realization didn’t come until I was already in the affair. By then, it was far too late.
“During the divorce everyone asked me why I’d done such a horrible thing. I wish I would’ve had a better explanation other than the pathetic excuses I came up with back then. I’ve had ten years to dissect my actions and I believe I now have a better idea of what happened.
“This isn’t an excuse,” she said staring coldly at her daughter, “just an explanation of how it happened. Up until now I’ve never wanted to admit the reasons because they make me look as selfish and shallow as I was. Simply stated, several things happened at the same time that presented me the opportunity to cheat on Joe and I arrogantly and foolishly walked right into it.”
“Gwen,” Molly said gently, “you’re a very beautiful woman. I’m sure you had many opportunities to break your marriage vows over all the years you two were married.”
Gwen smiled weakly at her ex-husband’s wife.
“Thank you and you’re right I had lots of opportunities but not like this. Joe had started traveling again after he’d accepted a large contract. I knew he took it to help pay for Angie and Tim’s college and we’d discussed it and were in agreement. It was only for six months but it affected me worse than I’d ever dreamed it would. When he’d traveled earlier in our marriage, I’d had the kids there to help me deal with it. With both of them in college, I was by myself. I felt so old and alone.
“Then at work a handsome younger man began pursuing me. I knew Douglas was just in it for the sex but having a good-looking, rising corporate star giving you attention is flattering.”
Angie snorted as Tim’s pained look of disappointment was written plainly on his face. Gwen quickly continued.
.... There is more of this story ...