Brett looked at the window. A large crow was there eyeing him, cocking its head before flying off.
Hmph, he must not like my guitar playing. Brett restarted the song. He was half way through the first stanza when the phone rang.
“Hi Brett, It’s Deirdra.”
“Hi sweetie, what’s up?”
“The kids and I are moving in with Steve.”
What the FUCK?
“Are you sure that’s what you want?”
I must be some type of fucking loser. She won’t marry me, but, she’ll move in with that sleazy grease monkey two weeks after we break up.
“Yes, I thought you needed to hear it from me.”
What did I do to deserve this? “Will I be able to see the kids?”
“Yes, I’ll make sure of it. It may be a few weeks. I’ve got to go. Steve will be here soon.”
“OK, Thanks for telling me. I’ll talk to you later.” Brett missed the phone cradle three times.
I didn’t do anything wrong.
A few minutes later, the phone rang. “Hello?”
“Hi Brett, This is Freya. Deirdra asked me to check on you. She said you didn’t sound right when you talked.”
“No, you’re not. I hear it in your voice. We want you to come to dinner.”
“I’d rather be alone.”
“Yep, which is exactly why you shouldn’t be. Now, get your butt over here. Understand?”
“I ... uh...”
“I don’t want to hear it. Dinner is in forty-five minutes. The only thing you need to bring is yourself. See ya.”
Damn, I guess I’m going to dinner.
When Brett arrived thirty minutes later Freya hugged him.
Wait, did her hand graze my ass?
Jay waved, “C’mon in. Dinner’s ready.” He led them to a breakfast nook.
Freya said. “I hope you like lasagna. We have ice cream with strawberries for dessert.”
“That sounds wonderful.” She must have asked Deirdra. He looked at her.
“Yes, I asked. Now, dig in.”
During dinner, Freya and Jay kept the conversation light and Brett laughing.
As they ate dessert, Jay turned to him. “How are you holding up?”
“Let’s see, In one three day period Deirdra left me. My pastor kicked me out and I’ve lost ninety percent of my friends. Now, not two weeks later, Deirdra’s moving in with that asshole! How do you think I’m doing?”
Freya clasped his forearm. “Brett look at me. I know you’re hurt. Anybody would be. You haven’t done anything wrong. You love Deirdra. She knows that and she cares about you, that’s why she called us.
“It’s going to hurt for a while. It’ll get better. I promise.”
Jay stood. “Brett let’s take a walk. A few minutes down a wood path will clear your head.”
Five minutes into their walk, Jay pulled a bottle out of a stump and chugged it.
“Jay, that’s Everclear!”
Jay held a finger up as he drained the bottle. After the last swallow, he chunked it. “Let’s go back.”
Freya looked at Jay when they walked in. “Oh, hell no! I told you, you’re not going to be in my house smashed out of your mind.” She yanked a blanket and pillow from the closet and shoved them at Jay. “Get your ass outside.”
Freya pointed. “GO!”
“Maybe, I should leave.” Brett said.
“No, it’s OK. He’s a grown man. He has to make his own decisions. Want to watch a movie?”
“Sure, why not.”
Over the next few weeks, Brett spent a lot of time with them. Some nights, Jay slept inside and on other nights, he didn’t.
Brett had sat unmoving the entire night. His fingers stroked Deirdra’s sweater, the one she had left in his car on their second date two years ago.
This spot by the river had been his oasis and the night his friend but, that was before. Now, his oasis was barren and the night had cast him out.
The light of false dawn reflected on his Bowie knife laid on its sheath on the ground before him. Brett lifted it and sighted along the cutting edge checking for nicks. He turned the knife so the point faced inward and gripped it with white knuckled hands. His eyes closed, he filled his lungs with air to steady himself.
Brett jerked and dropped the knife.
Beside him was a thin cat. It’s red fur matted and the outline of its ribs poking out. It bumped its head against Brett’s thigh and looked at him. “Meow?”
Brett stroked the cat. It preened under the attention and pushed it bony spine against his hand.
“What are you doing out here, little one? I bet, I know what you want.” Brett reached over to his tote bag and pulled out a half-eaten stick of beef jerky. He broke it into small chunks and piled it in front of the tabby. After eating, it climbed into Brett’s lap and burrowed into Deirdra’s sweater. It lay there and looked at him buzzing with contentment.
The cat’s simple acceptance of its situation shattered Brett. Deep convulsive sobs racked him. He picked the cat out of his lap and held it close. Hot tears poured down his face as he vented the poisons of anger and bitterness from his heart. The cat’s purring soaked into him and scrubbed the ichor from his soul.
As the storm within eased, the cat wriggled out of his arms. It gave one look back before disappearing into the brush. Brett was too exhausted to follow. His throat dry and raw, he tried to stand. His muscles stiff from sitting in the same position all night rebelled. Brett crawled to the river’s edge and drank. Satiated, He rolled over and slept.
The heat of the midday sun woke him. He took another drink from the river, stood and stretched. He groaned as tight muscles threatened to cramp. He put on his shirt and gathered his things. He took care in shaking out and folding Deirdra’s sweater. He put his bag on his shoulder and took one quick look around to make sure nothing was forgotten.
In an hour Brett was back on the public trails. As he started up the last hill, four crows took off from a tree and cawed. He gave them a disinterested glance and moved on. The parking lot was in sight when Brett heard a voice from the picnic table area.
“Hey, What are you doing here?
Deirdra? He touched his tongue to dry lips and turned. Deirdra sat at a picnic table with her back to the concrete table top. Warmth flooded his heart as he went to her.
“I had the day off and decided to hike. What about you?”
“The kids are with mom and dad. So, I figured I’d come out here and relax while I’m waiting for Steve to get off work. What have you been up to?”
“Not much other than work, I’ve been hanging out with Freya and Jay a lot.”
“They’re good people.” Deirdra nodded. Who are you seeing?”
“N ... no one. I don’t want to.”
Deirdra shook her head. “Brett, that’s not good for you. It’s been almost three months, you need to be seeing people.”
Brett bit back a retort. Instead, he changed tacks. “How are the kids doing?”
“They’re OK, They’re still getting used to Steve but, he treats them well.”
“That’s good. When can I see them?”
Deirdra bit her lip and looked away, her voice a whisper when she spoke.”I ... I don’t think that’s a good idea. Steve and I are getting married.”
He clutched the bench to keep his hands from shaking. The burning in his lungs reminded him to breathe. “Really?”
“I told him I was going to let them see you and he went ape shit.” She glanced at him. “I’m sorry.”
“So that’s it huh? You’re throwing everything about our relationship out the window. Am I supposed to forget about them? I love them and they love me!”
“I know they do and you were good to them, but Steve is their new father and he doesn’t want them seeing you. He says it’ll confuse them. Maybe, in a year or two he’ll be OK with it.” She made a show of checking her watch.”I’ve got to go. He’ll be done soon.” She gave Brett a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek.”It’ll be OK.” She got up.
Brett made a decision. “Deirdra, hold up, I’ve got something of yours.” He pulled out her sweater.
“I’ve been looking for that! I thought I lost it.”
“I found it in my car.”
Once she was gone, Brett glared into the sky. “I hope you’re fucking satisfied.”
He went home and took a shower, letting the hot water drive the knots out of his body. Afterward, he decided to go to Jay’s and Freya’s.
When he walked through their door Freya wrapped him in a tight hug. His cock jerked as her large breasts pushed into him. He jumped when she goosed him.
“God, you smell good!”
His eyes traced her ample cleavage. Even with her top unzipped, the tightness of the dark green velour shirt proved she wasn’t wearing a bra. He blushed when he saw her smirk.
“I’m making some green tea would you like some?”
“Sure.” Brett sat in the nook. It had become “their” spot for conversation.
Freya brought their cups. “What’s that?”
“It’s The Masks of God by Joseph Campbell. My buddy Brian asked me to read it. He thought it might help me.”
Freya sat at the table. The touch of her leg to his sucked his attention to her.
Her green eyes twinkled as she sat up straight and pushed her breasts toward him. “What?”
.... There is more of this story ...