Thanks to BigGuy33 for allowing me to play with his toys again. Thanks to Crkcppr for Beta-reading and blackrandl1958 for her Sweet Inspiration, her editing, and for simply being my friend.
Could we go back?
I had reluctantly given in to Tom’s pressure to attend the party. He and his wife, Mary, had been relentless in insisting that I start living life again. I tried to insist that I wasn’t ready to socialize yet, and certainly not amongst the throngs of happy couples sure to be in attendance at this particular party. They seemed unimpressed with my arguments and finally persuaded me to go by threatening to stay with me the entire night until I agreed.
There I was, sitting alone on a recliner in the corner watching, as I feared would be the case, various happily married (and unmarried) couples making the rounds of conversation.
I wasn’t the only third wheel at the party, but probably the only one not trying to hook up with one of the others, or even with one of the married couples in attendance who were into that sort of thing. I’m not judging ... I’m just saying.
I had been handed a beer shortly after we arrived, and I was still nursing that same drink nearly an hour later. It was quite warm by this point, and I probably hadn’t taken as much as a single sip in the last 30 minutes.
I would periodically have someone pop over to say hello and ask how I was doing. I did my best to engage in conversation as long as we talked mostly about them, and not me. I had never been my favorite topic and was even less so now. Those mostly benign chats eventually ended, my counterparts would leave to find someone else to catch up with and I would again lean back in my chair.
It was at this time, about an hour after our arrival, that she walked in. I spotted her immediately and hoped she didn’t see me. I quickly escaped my chair and, after some searching, found Tom in the kitchen talking to some other people whose names I knew, but not much else.
“Finally making the rounds, Henry?”
“No. She just walked in. We need to go.”
He knew precisely whom I was talking about.
“Why do we need to go, Henry? We’ve only been here for an hour.”
“You know damn well why we need to go.”
“Sorry, pal, but I’m not leaving, and I’m sure as hell not going to try and convince Mary to leave.”
“You don’t have to leave for good. Just take me home and then come back.”
“We’re not leaving, Henry. You’re just going to have to find a way to deal with her being here.”
“You know I can’t do that, Tom. I thought you were my friend.”
“I am your friend; I have been since ninth grade, and as your friend, I’m telling you it’s time to face up to your fears. You both still live in the same area so you’re going to see her from time to time. You need to find a way to handle it, and tonight is as good a time as any to start.”
Damn it, I simply wasn’t ready for this. It’s not as if I had been having such a great time, anyway. I had lost the desire to do much socializing since the divorce, and my heart wasn’t in it tonight.
“Fine, I’ll walk home. Please don’t call me for a while. I’ll call you when I feel like speaking to you again, and give Mary the same message.”
“You can’t mean that. It must be five miles!”
He laughed, but stopped quickly when I answered him.
“That will give me plenty of time to get the bad taste out of my mouth. I thought that you and Mary were my friends.”
Tom just shook his head as I turned to leave
I hadn’t even reached the corner before Tom pulled over and rolled down his window.
“Come on, Henry, I’ll take you home. I still think you’re wrong, though.”
“Well, it’s my life and my prerogative,” I said, when I got in the car. “I never asked you to take sides in the divorce, or to drop Connie as a friend, but I didn’t expect you to take her side either...”
“Wait a minute, Henry,” he said, “We never took her side. We both chewed her a new asshole for what she did.”
“Yes, but despite my making it abundantly clear that I wanted NOTHING to do with Connie, you and Mary conspired with her to throw us back together.”
“Henry, I think calling it a ‘conspiracy’ is a little strong. We just felt that you and Connie had been apart long enough, that it was time to put everything behind you and get back together.”
“You decided this, how?” I asked, “What gives you any right to do something like this because of the way you ‘felt’? How you feel doesn’t mean dick. This is about how I feel. You certainly didn’t decide this by talking to me; I believe that I made it very clear that we were through and I wanted nothing more to do with her. You made this decision because that’s what CONNIE wanted ... what I wanted didn’t matter. In other words, you took sides ... her side. You decided that your friendship with Connie was more important, more valuable to you, than your friendship with me. So, I will make things easy for you. I am no longer your friend; you and Mary are no longer my friends. Please help your friend to forget about me and find someone else. Maybe, at some point, we can make our acquaintance again, maybe even become friends again, though I doubt that we will ever again be best friends
We pulled into my driveway, and Tom shifted into Park.
“Give my regards to Mary, and tell Connie, ‘Nice try!’.”
Tom just sat there with his mouth open as I got out of the car, and he was still sitting there as I closed my front door. A couple of minutes later I heard his car drive off. I treated myself to a cold beer and went to bed.
Of course, it couldn’t be that easy.
Fortunately, I had turned off my ringer, but my phone had at least a dozen missed calls, messages and texts, and my email was just as bad. I simply deleted everything; I didn’t want to hear their excuses, or even worse, more attempts to get me to reconsider taking Connie back.
One “good” thing that came out of this was I decided that I had cut myself off from other people too long. It was time to put myself out there.
Some folks at work were going out the following Friday, and I shocked them by saying that I would join them.
I surprised myself by actually having a good time. I didn’t do anything special, no dirty dancing with any hot babes, just hanging out with my co-workers and being sociable. A few knew my story and were bold enough to ask why I suddenly came out of my shell.
I took a moment to gather my thoughts.
“Last weekend, a couple of my now ex-friends dragged me to a party, planning on throwing me together with my ex-wife, hoping that I would take her back. It backfired on them when I walked out and told them that I was through with their meddling.
“It did make me realize that 16 months was way too long to moon over a dead marriage. So, here I am.”
“Does that mean you’ll be dating?” Bill asked, “Because I know there are lot of the women in the office who will be licking their chops now that you’re on the market.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” I said, laughing. “This is my first night out in almost a year-and-a-half.”
That began an extended period of Friday nights out with the gang. It took only until the next Friday for Gail, one of the office staff, to ask me to dance. I was hesitant, but some good-natured pushing from the other guys got me out on the floor. The first dance was a fast dance, and when the next song was a slow one, I tried to go back to my table, but Gail wouldn’t let me go. I have to admit that it felt good to have a warm body in my arms, and it didn’t hurt my ego, either.
I danced several more dances that night, mostly with Gail. I really enjoyed myself, but I drew the line when Gail tried to talk me into a real date.
“Gail, don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed dancing with you, but I really don’t feel ready to date yet. This is only my second time going out since my divorce, 16 months ago. I feel like it’s coming soon and you’re certainly at the top of my list.”
She touched my cheek gently. “I’m going to hold you to that, Henry,” she said, and gave me a chaste kiss on my other cheek, to the hoots and jeers from the guys at my table.
“Looks like someone got lucky.”
“When’s the wedding?”
“Where’s the Bachelor Party?”
I just gave them all the finger and sat down laughing with the rest of them. It felt good to laugh ... it had been far too long.
I was soon dating Gail, as well as some of the other women at work. I was also dating some other women I’d meet when out with the guys. I was careful not to get too serious with anyone; I didn’t want to lead anyone on until I was satisfied that I was out of rebound mode.
I have to admit to some grim satisfaction when I was out dancing with Gail, and Tom, Mary and Connie came in. I stumbled for a moment, and Gail asked me what was wrong.
I swung her around so that she was looking at their table.
“Do you see those three people?”
“Yes, who are they?”
“The obvious couple is Tom and Mary, the ex-friends I told you about who tried to trick me into seeing my ex-wife.”
“And the other woman, the one with the flat chest?”
“That’s Connie, my ex-wife.”
Gail had an evil glint in her eyes.
“Don’t say anything, Henry, just follow my lead.”
.... There is more of this story ...