As those who have written me recently know, I have been working on longer projects. But since so many asked for something in the interim, I went through my incomplete folder and pulled out an unfinished story. I hope you like the ending. I think it fits.
My daughter Annabelle has reached what are sometimes referred to as the terrible twos. If you are a parent or have been a parent, you know how demanding if wonderful a time this is. Annabelle had discovered speech and was walking. You find yourself chasing after a wobbling little person who seems able to traverse ground at the speed of light. A person who has an amazing vocabulary, but uses the word "NO" to the exclusion of all the rest.
It was Saturday evening, and I was bathing my daughter with the help of Mr. Bubbles. It had been a long day. Weekends were very much Dad's time in our house. As the Dad, I had risen early with Annabelle.
"Swings," she had said to begin the day.
It had been a day that included the park with its swings, the little merry-go-round, and the assorted trips through the slides. By bath time, I was near exhausted. Kate, my wife of five years, had used the day to clean the house. It seemed a fair trade. Kate is an attorney in a big firm. She practices criminal law. She makes a six figure income, and we have a cleaning service, but she is a fastidious person who needs everything just so and in its proper place.
Two-year-olds are messy individuals. The division of labor in our house has definitely changed to reflect that fact. Kate was a mother with her infant constantly on her hip, but when the child began to pull away, the chasing was done by the Dad. This evening, Kate was having a girl's night out. There had been more than a few of these lately. I put it down to the need to catch up with friends after being tied down with an infant.
"I'm going out front to wait for the car service," Kate said bending to kiss my cheek as I bathed Annabelle.
Kate then stretched forward to kiss our daughter. As she did, she pressed close to me. I caught the scent of her perfume. It was such a little thing. She had a dozen perfumes. I never take notice, but this was different. She had never worn this scent before. I knew because I instantly recognized it. My mother had died when I was five. A car accident took her life on a cold winter's night. As she'd kissed me goodbye that night, she had been wearing Chanel No .5.
It was a scent memory. A powerful and unmistakable recognition. I did not know Kate owned that perfume, and I knew she had never worn it before. I froze and at the same instant took a good look at her. She was in what I believe women refer to as a car coat. It's a light coat rather like a trench coat. It came to her knees, but it opened above her waist, showing the black dress beneath. The coat hid what she was wearing, but not quite. I thought I recognized the dress, and certainly the four-inch stiletto pumps she also wore.
"Where are you going tonight?" I asked, keeping my voice very casual.
"Mario's," she said.
I knew Mario's had Ben Walker playing there. Ben was a bit of a local celebrity. He had concert piano ambitions but played any gig he could get. I knew Ben. He would be playing sad love songs by the time the evening was over. The women who crowded Mario's loved Ben and his playing. A good friend never missed a night that Ben played at Mario's.
Mario's was a mid-priced restaurant and bar with a little dance floor. Ben knew how to play a dreamy dance ballad, but he always ended with those slow love songs women like to dance to. I like them myself, with my lady in my arms.
Mario's was the kind of place you would expect to find a group of women spending a night out. I trusted Kate. The explanation was reasonable. She was a handsome woman, more woman than you would expect an average looking man like me to attract. But she was no movie star, and we had been happy together for five years. Opposites maybe, in many ways, but we fit together.
"I'll be home around 11:00 O'clock," she said.
I had my hands full with Annabelle and pushed any bad thoughts to the back of my mind.
A half hour later, Annabelle and I were seated in front of the TV in the family room, watching Cinderella. I don't know how much of the story she was getting, but she was all attention. We watched it over and over, until she fell fast asleep. I shut the TV off and just sit there with my sleeping princess wrapped in my arms. I know, I am a lucky man. I have more happiness than I deserve. Guys like me don't end up with a nice home, a pretty wife, and a daughter like Annabelle.
I was seventeen when I joined the Army to be: "All you can be."
However, I was not what the Army wanted. I had done well in their tests. I had a high school diploma, and acceptable if not impressive grades. It was just that something did not fit. I had no discipline problems. Physically, I was well above average. Yet, the Army had no place for me. After basic, they found me one pointless position after another.
I suppose I expected to be a soldier and carry a gun. The Army instead thought 'clerk.' But I was hopeless in an office. I could not file anything to save my life. They tried me in the mess, but I could not cook — I lasted a day and a half. They sat me down and explained that I had no aptitude, I wasn't actually good for anything. So it was obvious that I would make an excellent military policeman.
They were right. I excelled in that job. It was, in fact, an impossible task to perform by the book. The Army had determined correctly that I was one of those unique individuals who could handle the position. You needed a total lack of scruples and very high moral standards. You needed to focus on always achieving the right result without worrying how you got there.
I received my first promotion in Iraq for killing a woman and her children. The car had tried to crash a road block. It was driven by a woman, and I could see there were children in the vehicle. The fact that a woman was driving was just the last clue — I knew it was wrong the moment I first saw it. I watched her get in line, and waited. When the driver made her move, I made mine. Sixty armor piercing rounds do a number, but nowhere near what her ten pounds of TATP might have achieved.
My career took off, but I do not believe those in command approved of me. I know that the general in command did not. He let me know it when he called me one day with a problem.
"Listen you motherless SOB. I know all about the shit you pull. But I got a problem here so fix it," he said.
He sure did have a problem. A young enlisted woman had been raped. The three rapists were officers, all graduates of West Point. The good General had himself a right big scandal — people can lose their commands over such situations. Not actually the commander's fault, but that doesn't seem to matter. A good commander knows you use the resources you have at your disposal.
Three crippled West Point assholes later, along with a well-satisfied enlisted person, I had reached the peak of my Army career. I phoned the general to report.
"What are we calling this?" he asked.
"We were debating whether it was friendly fire or accidental discharge."
"You don't know?"
"Well, my clerk is leaning towards accidental discharge caused by combat stress."
"The woman is satisfied?" he asked.
"Exceptionally so," I said.
"So what do I owe you?" the General inquired.
"Well, I need an honorable discharge for my man."
"Are you fucking me? You want an HD for a pothead who shot three officers?"
"Combat stress. I have the medical certification in front of me," I said.
I didn't say that I had quashed this particular doctor's personal DUI charge, the week before. Nor that it was heroin my man was using, not MJ.
"Ok, send it over, but you are sure about the girl?" he asked.
"The young lady can finish her tour. She is getting help. Army strong as they say."
That seemed to piss the General off. "You may be useful, but you're still a son of a bitch," he said.
"I never said otherwise, but by all means feel free to call again. My door is always open," I said as he hung-up.
I spent ten years doing security details before I called it a day. I then took my veteran's benefits and got a two-year public safety certification. I went to work for the railroad as a security officer supervisor. One night we detained some fellows trying to boost Plasma TVs from container cars in the rail yard. I was called to testify at their trial. That is how I met Kate. Back then, she was an assistant DA. Two years later we were married. A few years after that we were parents.
I put Annabelle to bed, and then went to our bedroom. Ours was a modest three-bedroom house we had bought when we first married. Money had been a problem for us in those early years — Kate had a ton of student loans to pay back.
I began looking for the perfume and there it was, front and center on her dresser. There were a dozen perfume bottles, but this one was new. The closet in the master bedroom is large, but even so it can barely contain all Kate's wardrobe. It was well-organized, and I began looking through it. I knew the black dress I was looking for. She never threw anything still wearable away. She hadn't worn a certain black dress since we'd dated. It was very chic, expensive, and short. It was her come fuck me black dress, that went with the heels she had on tonight. The dress wasn't in her closet.
.... There is more of this story ...