The Long Fall
Chapter 1: Falling Apart
Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Heterosexual, Cheating, InLaws, Oral Sex, Masturbation, Slow,
Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1: Falling Apart - In some families there is commitment between spouses. Some couples practice absolute fidelity. There are husbands who never have to worry about their wives. So what happens, in such a family, when the husband sees his wife suck his brother?
In the den is a group photo from the last family reunion we held before Dad passed away. You can tell in the photo that he's in decline. He's sitting in a lawn chair and smiling with the rest of us, but no one who was there could understand how he made it through the day. If you look closely, it's clear that he's straining to hold himself up and the hands that grasp the chair are far too big for his body. We'd planned this vacation at almost the last minute, to have one last time with Dad at his favorite campsite in the Smokies, and we almost didn't make it.
The photo isn't some sepia-colored print from a long-ago time. It has all the colors and sharpness of a high-quality digital shot, filled with beautiful details of trees and mountains and faces. Our little family group is on one side. I'm kneeling. Kaetlyn is riding on my shoulders, and I'm pointing to the camera so she'll look at it. Ruth is half kneeling beside us. She rests a hand on my arm. Bill is standing behind Ruth, holding William, who was just a baby then, moving Will's hand to make it look like he's waving. I don't know how Bill came to be holding Will, or why he's standing apart from Jolene, but he's our children's favorite uncle.
That evening, once the kids were asleep, Ruth let her feelings out. "It's so sad, John. It's just so sad." I thought she might cry, but Ruth doesn't cry easily. She put her face to my chest and hugged me, and of course I hugged her back. God I loved her. I love that memory of her. We held each other for the longest time in the dark cabin, her face to my chest, my face to her hair. I wanted to take her clothes off her and hold her every way there is. My Ruth. After awhile, without lifting her face, she said, "Don't ever leave me. I couldn't stand it."
"You know I'd never leave my girl."
"I couldn't stand it, John. Really. You have to promise."
"I'll be here forever."
We did make love that night. It was sweet and warm and sad. While I petted Ruth, I had floating above me thoughts of all the drugs Dad needed in order to sleep. I stroked her breasts and her belly with the backs of my fingers, then moved my fingernails along that skin, to her mound, the insides of her thighs, her puss, and I wondered how long it had been since Dad and Mom had made love. It seemed important. When would our last time be? When I entered Ruth I held myself still, so we could kiss and keep it going, to maintain as much contact as possible, as long as I could. When would the last time be? We probably did it to comfort each other as much as for the pleasure, to hold the emptiness of everything at bay. Then, sometime during the night, Kaetlyn crawled into bed between us. She was there when I awoke the next morning. She made it easy to believe everything would turn out okay.
I look at that photo, sometimes, and think about the reunion. As bad as the day was, we maintained a kind of unity in the face of it. Together we would see things through. Family. Partners. Lovers. I wish we could go back. What I've found is that family can be as fragile as Dad was. It doesn't die exactly like people do, but it can fall apart, which amounts to the same thing.
I found it out tonight.
In our case the cause was Bill. And Ruth. My Ruth. It wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't my brother. It would have been awful no matter what, but he's my brother, so break out the multiplication tables. The destructive energy is equal to the masses of their two bodies together, times the square of the speed of the light that brings their images to the husband.
I know. I'm trying too hard. I just wish the light had never reached me.
I don't want there to be any surprises.
There's been the one, big surprise. I don't know what will happen now. I guess there won't be any particular hurry to how things unfold, because that would be too easy. I've imagined several possibilities, but none seems to lead the pack, so even though things might not progress just so, you can probably predict the options as well as I can. They will be as bland and unimaginative and tawdry as the unfoldings in any other crippled lives. How else could it be?
But: the surprise. How did it happen? We've seen Bill a few times a year. Were there chances before? When would they have been? Of course there were the reunions, though Jolene would have been there and I just can't see Ruth and Bill having had any real time together. Then there were business trips when he'd stop by. It had to be the business trips. Had they done things before? Is there a history?
It doesn't all make sense to me. Ruth didn't seem particularly pleased that Bill was going to visit. She was too tired to play hostess, she said, though it wasn't much of a complaint. When he arrived, the three of us had beers and sat around until it was time for me to grill some burgers, then, when the meat was about half charred, Bill came rushing out, carrying Will on his shoulders, growling and laughing back at Kaetlyn, who was chasing them close behind with a wiffle-ball bat.
Ruth joined in and it was a good evening. "Hah!" you say. But it was. I thought it was wonderful. We got the kids settled and had some adult conversation. Ruth poured cordials. Eventually I had to go to bed, but Bill was on West Coast time. "I'll be a while," said Ruth, warming to the hostess role. Everything was as it should be.
What time did I wake? I remember there was a dream, and I was disoriented and at first thought it must be morning. I'm not used to an empty bed, but I must have crashed. And Ruth wasn't there. 12:34 a.m. Where was she? Not a creature was stirring. Everyone should be asleep.
I thought I should find her. She would in bed with one of the kids. I've done that. One of them wakes and is fussing, so you lie down to give comfort, but you forget to stay awake. I lay there and thought about it for a few minutes. Up you go, John! I staggered down the hall and almost hit a wall because I was still zonked. Watch it. Get your bearings. There's some illumination out there, from the night-light in the bathroom, enough so that when I passed the kids' rooms I could peek in to see who Ruth was sleeping with, but the answer was 'neither.' Kaetlyn and Will were alone except for dolls and stuffed animals.
Ideas can steal over you sometimes, especially at night. Is that when I started going so quietly? Yes, but right away I discovered why I hadn't heard anything. The sliding door to the den was closed. Mystery solved — except that it wasn't. I stopped short. There was a problem.
The problem was that I heard murmurings, but they were far too quiet. They were barely more than whispers, the mutterings of people who were working hard not to be overheard. I couldn't make out what they were actually saying, but their tones were all wrong, and there was no stream of conversation. There were gaps, periods with no voices at all, then a few words in Bill's voice, or in Ruth's.
Ruth said something a little louder, something that stood out only because everything else had been so soft. It was a single word, followed by a sentence. I could tell the word was "no."
Then Bill. His voice was deeper than usual. Huskier. That's how I heard it. Then, still
another silence, and by that time I was first beginning to think something I didn't want to believe. Ruth murmured again. This time she didn't use the word "no."
It couldn't be that. It wasn't possible. I can almost laugh at myself, at the myself in my memory. How naïve! Not possible? Improbable. Likely. Done! I'd laugh if there was anything at all worth laughing about. I thought the nighttime was affecting my judgment. So why didn't I just slide the door open and say "hi, guys" and maybe remind Ruth what time she had to get up? I'll tell you why: because of the possibility.
I crept away from the door, to my right, through the living and dining rooms, to the kitchen. Be careful of the furniture, John. Fourteen steps, then left, into the kitchen. Fourteen steps! How do I remember that when, the entire time, this is what was going through my mind: Don't be stupid! This is ridiculous! It didn't seem so ridiculous when I found the sliding door between the kitchen and den was closed, too. Why would it be closed? Think, John, think. For silence. I slid past it, past the oven, to the pass-through, took another breath so I could be still for a moment, then peeked carefully.
What I saw didn't make any sense. Though I had just heard Ruth, she wasn't in the den. It couldn't have been more than a minute, could it? Where was she? The only light was a single torchiere lamp in a corner, so there were shadows, and with the dark paneling the light was rusty and dim, but the shadows couldn't hide a person. Bill was alone on the couch, his back to the kitchen, facing a TV that wasn't on, and he was looking downward. Could Ruth have left while I was sneaking into the kitchen? Was he contemplating something? His shoulders were moving. What was he looking at? He inhaled loudly, and I thought for a minute, only a moment, that he was jerking himself off, but he wasn't moving anything fast enough.
Then Ruth appeared. Her hand rose from somewhere down below, moving up above the top of the couch, to Bill's shoulder, and her head followed, first the back of it, then her face.
It was pretty obvious where she'd been. My Ruth, rising from the depths. She was smiling at Bill, looking into his face, into his eyes. She breathed a sentence, "Did you like that?" As quiet as she said it, I could make out every word.
That's when I began to shiver.
Ruth was facing the back of the couch, which means she was facing me, and when she suddenly twisted away I thought she had seen me, so I'd have to do something right away. I wasn't ready to do anything. And what in the world should I have done? Oh, I know the options. Scream at them. Pull out a knife. I opted for curtain number three. In any case I was wrong. Ruth turned her face around toward the hall door and stared at it, motionlessly, until she was apparently satisfied no one was coming. He's already here, Ruth. When she turned back the two of them looked into each others' faces again, and they pressed their mouths together. One of Ruth's arms went around Bill's neck. My arms were shaking against the counter. I was willing myself to be still, but I wasn't sure I could. Something surely would start rattling, maybe something inside me. I was breathing quick, shallow, rattley breaths.
My brother! How? My wife, sucking my brother's penis, and smiling at him, being oh-so-wicked with him. Not just 'my wife' but my Ruth, who would never do something like that. Did the chance of being caught make it especially exciting?
Bill pulled Ruth around so she was leaning against the back of the couch, with her head on his arm. He looked down at her while they kissed, and he moved his free arm down between them. For her part, Ruth grunted out a little puff of air. I thought, he's finger-fucking her. It was like finger-fucking at the drive-in movies, working your hand inside your girl's panties but leaving her clothes on so you can break apart fast if you have to. Ruth grunted again. It could have been a lovely sound. When Bill lifted off from her face, he kept working his arm, and after a moment Ruth began to roll her head from side to side. Resting right beside her head, on its back, was one of her hands. The hand clenched and unclenched rhythmically.
As I remember it, everyone in the scene seemed lost in the moment, in the thrill of the pleasuring, everyone that is except the husband out in the kitchen. He was busy thinking of his history with Ruth. We made love yesterday. Last night! Do you remember, Ruth? Do you care?
I wasn't so lost in them that I missed Ruth's panties, which were lying out in the open, on the carpet, in a shadow right beside the couch. Are you upping the ante, Ruthiekin? If John comes you can't possibly cover up. Let's be brazen and ballsy about the whole thing.
"Okay." Bill pulled further away and watched as her panting subsided. I couldn't see much of her face, but she seemed to be looking toward him again. Had she just re-opened her eyes? Bill's voice became harsher. "Do me some more."
"You bastard." She didn't mean it. When she turned her head I could see she looked pleased, and she breathed the words out again. You're so happy to be cheating with him.
"Yeah. Do the dirty deed to me."
Ruth touched a palm to Bill's face, gave his cheek a caress, then disappeared again, but her palm touching his face told me plenty.
Now Bill was the only one on stage. At first he looked down in his lap, but then he tilted his head back, just like she did. He grunted differently than she had, but really not so different. She was doing it all right. I knew exactly what he felt. I know how she does it. She'd used her mouth on me just last night. Ruth! She had knelt over me, using her lips and tongue to play with me, turning her body around so I could play with her ass. I caressed it and ran my fingers from her anus to her button, back and forth. That sweet ass. Sometimes I can almost lose my concentration on what she's doing to me, because her ass feels so good under my hand, but now the exact sensations of her mouth flooded back to me.
Bill's arms had gone out of sight again, down somewhere below his shoulders, making me certain he was holding Ruth's head down. His breathing was faster, and louder, and I thought it's going to happen now. There was Ruth, up again. She's got him high, so now they'll fuck. I couldn't stand anymore of it. I didn't move a finger.
Bill panted, "Finish me!"
"What about me?"
"We have to hurry. Someone might wake up." She looked at the hall door again. Which 'someone' did she mean?
Bill stopped for a minute as though he were thinking, then he pushed Ruth around so she leaned back on the couch again, and this time I could see from his shoulder how much he moved his arm. It didn't take long. Ruth began to utter those lovely, high-pitched, almost breathless little sounds, such quiet little things that when the door is closed I never really worry the kids will hear them, but loud enough for Bill that he put his mouth on hers to swallow them whole. Then she was over the top, saying something that I heard as a muffled "O" over and over and over, into his mouth.
How could you do that, Ruth? How could you come for him? How could you kiss him like that? How could you do any of it?
There were enough reminders in the room to help her reconsider what she was doing — the photo from the reunion, and the holiday portrait of Kaetlyn and Will and us, the one that came out so well we decided to frame and hang it. It's right there, damn it! And there are other pictures of each of us in the den. We chose them carefully, selecting our favorites and spending days finding just the right frames. Ruth wasn't seeing those. She wasn't actually looking at anything at all while she came and moaned into Bill's mouth.
We could stop the tape at this point. Everything that happens, whatever it is, will happen because of this event. Effects of causes play out over time. Everything that will be will be, but not because of what I saw. Not just because of that. Yes, because of that, but not because of the actions themselves. It's because of what they told me. Once I accepted that this was real, I knew Ruth wasn't who, or what, I had thought she was, and everything she had ever said or done, and how she had said it or done it, was transformed. It wasn't just that I'd lost my wife, but that the person I thought was my wife, the personality I loved, didn't exist. She'd vanished, leaving this stranger in her place.
What did I think Ruth was? Exactly what? Let me tell you an incident. We once fought over a woman. Call her Gina. It isn't what you're thinking, though. Gina was just someone I worked with, who had a crush on me and didn't hide it very well. I could have had her anytime I wanted, and she was a luscious thing, but I tried to ignore it. Oh, of course I didn't just ignore it. I imagined her naked. I fantasized until I got hard, then I'd play with Ruth to see if I could get her in the mood. I'd think of her while I was sexing Ruth. I'm not perfect, but I wasn't going to do anything.
Ruth had suspicions. I brushed them off. Then almost the worst thing happened. One day Gina was talking about pretty intimate things, skirting the edge of what was appropriate. She'd push the conversation and I'd pull back. Yes. It's true. I tried to be obtuse, to respond to the most innocent meaning of a comment. I could see where Gina was heading, and I didn't want her to be in a spot where she'd lose deniability, where I'd have to turn her down, but I failed.
"John, I have these feelings."
"Gina..." Don't say it! Back off!
I didn't say anything at all.
She continued. "I was wondering if you had any feelings like that? For me?" She put it all right out there for me. Poor Gina. Now I had to try to reject her gently. I wish I were better at it. Before she left, she asked, "You won't tell anyone, will you?" I promised.
The next week Ruth and I organized a party. You've planned them. You list potential guests, maybe write them down, adding and subtracting names. Your wife mentions a name, say it's Gina's, and she makes one of those snide little side comments a wife might make if she thinks another woman likes her husband too much: "... unless you'd like to party with her alone."
Ha-ha! Except the husband goes mute.
"What is it?"
"I'm not sure we should invite her."
Everything slowed down from there. Ruth gave me a slow, searching look before she said anything, and then she said it slowly, enunciating her words to make sure I got their full import, the way you'd talk to someone who was both slow and guilty.
"What happened between you and Gina?"
"Damn it! Nothing happened! But she does like me, the way you think she does. So I'm thinking we shouldn't invite her."
"How do you know?"
"She told me."
"She told you she wants you?"
"She told me. In so many words. Yes."
"Friday? John! My God! How could you know that and not tell me?" I'm writing a question mark, but there should be another exclamation point.
"She asked me to keep a confidence!"
"John! How could you?"
"How could you do that? I'm your wife! We don't have any secrets! You can't keep something like that from me! It's like before! How can I trust you?"
Trust me? I had slipped once, long ago, early in our marriage, stupidly, idiotically, and almost as stupidly had immediately confessed everything to Ruth. It hadn't been as bad as it could be. Within two nights we were making love again. But Ruth never let me forget it, or that I didn't quite meet her standards.
"What could I do? She asked me."
"What you do is you tell me! John, we're not two people. We're a marriage. Don't you understand? You have to tell her we don't have any secrets!"
It wasn't a big fight. If it hadn't been immediately before the reunion, I might not have brought it up at all, but you can see the point. Ruth made union a requirement. My own Lincoln. Mother Abraham. I had cut off the possibility of doing anything with Gina. I was so proper -- upright, gentle, a family man, a friend to the poor dear -- then Ruth upped the ante. I had to be even better. I had to be like Ruth.
So much for union. Where is the Ruth who demanded it? Now she was busy melding with Bill, who had waited long enough for his pleasure. He pulled off her and gazed down at her as she melted into the port wine couch cover. We bought that cover together. In fact we got everything in the den together, almost everything in the house. Almost anything she'd see besides Bill would tell her she had to stop this. Instead she sank languidly into the couch while he looked down with fornicating eyes.
"Now do me all the way." And she did. Not right at that moment. For someone who'd said they had to hurry she was remarkably patient. She was all tranquil except for her breathing, and she stayed like that a few moments, but once her breathing settled down she sat up. She raised her hand to Bill's face again, and gave him that look again, as intimate as anything I've ever seen from a woman, then gave him another sweet kiss on his lips before going back down. She just disappeared, as though submerging in a pool.
This began the final stage, with Bill grunting and twitching, not stopping this time, moving his shoulders and staring down at this woman who used to be my wife, who was surely sucking and slurping on him while her husband, and something else, died in the kitchen. It was about then that I realize they weren't going to finish by screwing. I'm so slow. It wasn't like the other Ruth and me. It was dirtier and more charged. It was hotter. It was crackling.
Bill grunted, "Yeah. Yeah. Yeah," and he got breathless just like Ruth did, and when his breath exploded from him it was like a whale sounding, like a whole pod of whales sounding, one after the other.
I'm sure Ruth has done other men. We weren't innocents when we met. Neither of us ever asked — or told — what we had done with other people. I've never been jealous of them, or even very curious. Why should I be? After all, she chose me. I knew after our second date that she was the one, a fact I kept secret for three whole months because it freaked me and I didn't want to scare her away, and when I proposed I found she'd been waiting for me to get around to it.
I've told you how we were. Ruth and John, the entity, the team, not just the beast with two backs. She was my best friend, so I thought. How could I have been that wrong? How good an actress is she? And she bore my children, Kaetlyn and Will, either of whom could have toddled into the den at any minute, yawning and rubbing her eyes, rubbing his eyes, staring with a child's simple amazement at the sight on the couch. What would they think? Neither could understand it, not at their ages. I can't understand it at mine. That's not true. I understand it so very well. I just don't know how it happened, or what to do about it.
So Ruth rose for the last time, about done with her tasteless little cuckolding. I wish I could have become aroused from watching it, fully erect and ready to fuck, the way it is in all those tasteless little stories about tasteless little cuckoldings. Well it was over. She worked her lips a little and held her right hand up in what might almost be a Vulcan sign of greeting, her fingers splayed open over her mouth in a way that let her push her index and long fingers over a lip, to her mouth, where she sucked something off them. She gave Bill a look that was almost a smirk and knelt all the way up, until she was higher up than him. "I need to get to bed before he wakes up."
There wasn't any guilt in the words. She was happy, smiling, fulfilled.
When Ruth stood I could see for the first time that she really was naked below the waist. Her shirttail hung to the top of her mound, hiding a little of that dark brown bush that contrasts strikingly with her flesh. Her thighs are trim. She had worked so hard to lose weight after Will was born, dieting crazily and joining a local gym, where she worked out four evenings a week. When she reached her goal she showed herself off to me, and I celebrated by giving her a full-body massage with baby powder, full-body but with special attention to her thighs, ending with a heavy massage of her vulva that brought her off before I ever got to the cunnilingus, long before I got to the coitus. But I did get to everything. Could Bill appreciate her body like I did? He reached out to grab her vagina, and she let him hold it for a few seconds before she pulled his hand away. I don't know if she gave the hand several short kisses or one long one.
"I have to go."
She bent way over and came back up with her shorts in her hand, and swung them overhead as though in triumph before leaning over to kiss Bill still again. He turned his head a fraction to one side, to dodge her mouth, and she laughed at him and asked: "Oh, are we getting finicky all of a sudden?" That's when I realized she would find her panties and be out in the hall before I could get back to the bedroom. I was frozen, but when she stepped past Bill, he stood and grabbed her from behind, around the waist. She laughed again, trying to be quiet while she did it. He kissed her neck. I began hurrying out to the living room. In my last image of them, his pants and underwear are bunched down around his knees. His butt is bare, and before he pulls Ruth back against him I can tell his penis is almost flaccid.
This is just one of those things. Cole Porter. Just one of those crazy flings. I had to let it go, I thought. There was too much at stake to push the matter. What would happen to our kids if I lost control? Did I want to break up their home? What would happen to Ruth and me? Ruth and me. Well, something had already happened there. But what of the rest of the family? I had to be a man of the world. Forget the bourgeois conventions. It's only sex. Keep it light. Keep it simple. Vogue, vogue, move to the music. Wouldn't we always be there for each other when it counted? My partner and my brother. I'd loved them both for so long. Could it be that bad for them to love on each other a little?
Ruth slipped into the room. I'd beaten her by maybe a minute. Bill must have held onto her a little longer. Maybe she finally gave him that sticky kiss, or they took the time to arrange another session. Tomorrow. The house would be empty.
I can be cool. I can do it. I'll be a sophisticated man of the world. Dress up like a million dollar trouper. Try my best to look like Gary Cooper. Super duper!
Items of clothing dropped to the carpet. Those would be Ruth's blouse and shorts. Next her hand slid under her pillows while I pretended to sleep, and there were the sounds of cloth brushing and catching as she pulled on her nightgown. The sheet was pulled back and she began to ease, ever so gently, into bed.
This was where everything changed again. I became terrified she'd touch me, lay a hand on my arm as she likes to do, the hand that had just been playing with Bill's dick, that she hadn't even washed. I was terrified of everything. She might try to kiss me. That polluted mouth, the new home for millions of Bill's squigglers. My little game with song lyrics failed me.
It's important not to show anything. No weakness. It's not allowed, and it would give everything away, so I'd have to do something. Please don't make me have to confront them, either of them. You can tell by now that I'm not so sophisticated. I'm not very cool. That was all bluster and hope.
I needn't have worried about Ruth touching me, though. She stayed as far on her side of the bed as she could get, turned so she faced away from me. Well, that followed the rest, didn't it? I was an inconvenience. She didn't want to leave Bill to come to me, did she? She'd rather have had the whole night with him, unless the shortness of the time ratcheted up the thrill, but at least tonight she didn't have to playact her life partner role. Now I knew where we really stood with each other. I'd known it since I saw her hand touch his cheek, but I hadn't wanted to understand. In bed, though, everything was different. It forced itself on me like a lightening flash, more than a flash. It was far brighter and grander than a lightening bolt, so brilliant that I half expected to feel thunder shake the house. Before it faded I took a huge breath, rolled over toward Ruth, held myself up on my arms and barked down at her:
"You could at least have washed your mouth out before you came to bed!"
Ruth jerked and cried out — one brief cry. Then she was completely still. I had thought she'd say something, try to deny it, but nothing. I couldn't even sense her breathing. I rolled back to my side and pulled the covers up. The room had turned deadly quiet.
I couldn't wait her out. Now that she knew I knew, I couldn't do nothing. I turned on my bed light and sat up. Ruth was still lying motionlessly, but her eyes were wide, staring at me. It came in another flash that she didn't know what to do. She might have lain there all night trying to think, terrified because she'd been caught, trying not to move until she could decide how in the world to respond, realizing at the same time that it was now too late to respond. You'd think anyone putting herself in a position to be caught would have contingency plans.
She sat up but she didn't otherwise move. She held her hands close against her breasts, hunched over, twisting the end of the sheet with tight fists.
"What are you going to do?" She tried to control her voice, to make it neutral, but it quavered.
"We're going to the den."
She got up, but she wouldn't get close to me. I hurried down the hall. She shuffled about ten feet behind.
Bill was sitting on the couch, absolutely nonchalant, pretending to look at some book. He must have heard, the bastard, but he's cooler than Ruth.
"I know what you two did. You can't..." There was this catch in my throat. Take a breath. Finish up. "You son of a bitch! You aren't welcome in my house anymore. Pack your things and get out."
"What are you talking about, John?" Bill knew the drill. God, he's cool. Never admit anything. Always stonewall. Don't tell them anything they don't already know.
"Don't try that, Bill. You're going." I was out in the room. Ruth had drifted into the doorway.
"John, nothing's happened." He looked innocent, and hurt. I wouldn't believe he could have done anything, if I hadn't seen it. If Ruth hadn't caved so quickly, I might have begun to doubt my eyes.
"Drop it!" I wanted to be civil, to hold onto a little bit of Cole Porter wisdom. I didn't want to blow up, but my voice was getting tighter and louder. "This is just among us. No one else needs to know about it. Just get the hell out."
"This is crazy talk, John."
That's when I cracked. I used that voice, the one that's thin and sharp, that cuts.
"You son of a bitch! She blew you! You masturbated her! Do you want me to describe the sequence? Get out of my goddamned house now!"
This time he didn't answer. Finally he stopped trying to deny. It got completely quiet in the den, almost completely. Ruth made a little whimpering sound in the doorway, which she tried to stifle by holding a hand over her mouth. I intended to stand there until they were gone. I guess I expected Ruth to go, too. I don't know, because my thinking wasn't clear. It seemed to make sense. But here came the first complication.
"Mommy!" It was Kaetlyn.
Ruth tottered in the doorway. She began walking toward Kaetlyn's room. No! I rushed past her and hissed: "Don't you dare go near my children!"
"Hi, Katie-Kat. Did you wake up?"
"I want Mommy!"
"What's the matter, sweetie?"
Ruth was right behind me, in the doorway, looking bewildered. She held her hands as though she didn't know what to do with them. She didn't leave, but she didn't come close either.
"I'm sorry, Princess. I saw your mother giving Uncle Bill a blow job and I got upset."
"What's a blow job, Daddy?"
No, of course that isn't how it went.
"I'm sorry, Princess. Mommy and Uncle Bill were playing a game, and I got excited."
"I want Mommy."
Ruth stepped forward and I turned all the way around to give her a look. "Mommy has to help Uncle Bill pack." Pause. "Then she has to go brush her teeth." Ruth didn't move. Her mouth was open. That mouth. She still didn't know what to do with her hands, and she didn't come any closer.
"Does Uncle Bill have to go?"
"Yes, he does. And Mommy's going to help him pack." When I glanced back again, Ruth was gone. "I tell you what, Katie-Kat. You get an extra special bedtime story. Which one would you like?"
From the den there were quiet voices, voices trying not to catch the attention of a child, quiet but filled with tension. They had a sharp, brittle quality, not at all like the rich breathiness a half hour ago. There were footsteps. Someone came out to the hall bathroom and I could hear items being moved on the countertop. I closed Kaetlyn's door all but a crack, and I tried not to look back at it. There were more footsteps. Far away, the kitchen door opened and slammed. It did it again. I waited for the last slam, and while I did that I sat beside my daughter and kissed her nose and told her the story of the little girl named Kaetlyn and her magical pony.
Kaetlyn was asleep. Bill was gone. Ruth was standing in the den.
There was still the single torchiere lamp. The room was still dim, deep reddish-brown with charcoal shadows. Ruth was the main difference. She was almost as far from the light as you could get and be in the room, at the dinette table, almost to the case with the family picture. Her hand rested on the table, though you couldn't tell if she'd been leaning. She wouldn't look directly at me. She didn't say anything. She was just there. The den was a shambles, but there was nothing left of Bill's, except maybe Ruth.
"I see he left you holding the bag." I had wondered if she'd be here. "That's the way these things go. They never stand by you."
"John, it wasn't..."
"I don't want to hear it. You should have gone with him. I don't want anything to do with you."
I couldn't let her get started, because of what she might say, and how I would react. At that moment, I couldn't face how terribly complicated, and exhausting, and sad this whole thing would be, so I walked back to the bedroom. It can all can wait for morning, when I'll have to face it. I guess you know everything. Oh, there's one more thing. Behind me Ruth said, "I'm sorry."
How do you answer that? I lie here in bed and the time passes, all those events playing out in my mind, over and over. I keep coming up with different responses to her "sorry." If she had finally followed me, to talk, I could have used one of them. Sure I could.