Copyright© 2006 by Wine Maker
Author's note: This is a short story of only one chapter. I wondered to myself, as an author, if I could write a story that made the title "Honorable Infidelity" work. I also wanted to see if I could write a sex scene between two people that don't like one another. This is that story.
The doorbell chimed cheerily. I frowned at the front door. It was after 10 PM - a bit late for company.
I clicked off the TV and dropped the remote onto the couch. When I took peek through the peep-hole I cursed under my breath. Standing in the hall outside my apartment was my sister-in-law, Grace. What the hell did she want? The two of us could barely tolerate one another with my twin brother, Tom, playing referee. I couldn't imagine why she'd think I'd want to see her.
She knocked on the door insistently. "I can see you, Steve. Don't try and pretend you're not home. This is important. Open up."
I sighed and unlocked the door. Without a "by your leave" she breezed in like she owned the place.
"Come on in," I said to her back as she marched into the living room. "Make yourself at home, why don't you?"
She proceeded to do just that, sitting down on the love seat and crossing her legs. Her eyes shot a disapproving look at me that I shrugged off.
I smiled wryly at my own wit and sat back down on the couch. I could see what attracted Tom's interest in her. She was a beautiful woman. What I couldn't fathom was why he actually loved this shrew. Not that it mattered. After all, you can't choose your in-laws. And the law frowns if you kill them.
Grace saw my smile, closed her eyes for a moment and shook her head. She opened them and stared at me. "Look," she started. "You don't like me. That's fine. I don't like you, either. But for once in your tedious life I need you to try to be serious, if you can," she said. "If I'd had any other options I would never have come here to talk with you."
I had no idea what she was talking about, but her words stung. "You without a plan of action?" I was able to keep the sarcasm out of my voice, but it was only a near miss. "I find that hard to believe. You always know what to do when it comes to looking out for yourself." From experience, I knew that anger and sarcasm didn't faze Grace a whit. Being calm and sounding objective was the quickest way to cut her.
"This is about Tom," she said, ignoring my jab.
Grace never let me have the uncontested last word, and my snippy comment should have made her go off like a rocket. That she ignored it sobered me a little. That she was bothered about something concerning Tom flat out scared me. I loved my brother and, as much as I detested his wife, I knew she loved him without reservation.
"What about Tom?" I asked warily.
"I'm worried about him," she admitted her tone almost daring me to deny her words. "Something happened, and I'm willing to bet money he hasn't told you about it." There was a definite challenge in her voice. This was one of the things I hated most about Grace. Every interaction with her was a contest to prove who was superior.
I couldn't really condemn her for it, since I went out of my way to push her right back. Tom said the problem was that we were too much alike. He wouldn't take it back even after I tossed his ass into the pool behind his house.
I thought about the last few times I'd spoken to him. He hadn't mentioned anything earthshaking. He certainly hadn't mentioned anything serious enough to cause Grace to come here without him. Unwillingly, I nodded. "He hasn't mentioned any bad news, unless you count your wedding anniversary next month. He thinks we should celebrate. Whoop-ti-do." I swirled my finger in the air.
She rolled her eyes. "Jesus! What's with you? Grow up, for Christ's sake. No, it's not our anniversary. He's depressed over something serious."
Now that she mentioned it, he had sounded down the last time I'd talked with him. I concentrated and tried to recall the phone call without much luck. It had been a couple of weeks since I'd seen him in person. That wasn't normal, either.
"Okay," I said. "For Tom I'll call a truce. Tell me."
What she did next stunned me and ratcheted my anxiety to new heights. Grace opened her purse and pulled out a tissue to wipe her suddenly watering eyes. Her crying in front of me was inconceivable. She'd never done that in the five years that I'd known her. Some women used tears as a weapon, but I was convinced Grace thought they made her look weak.
With any other woman I would have tried to comfort her. However, while Grace might stop crying if I touched her, it wouldn't help her. Well, maybe it would, after she slapped the shit out of me - that might cheer her right up.
Her self-control was too good to let more than a few tears through at a time. She held the tissue in her lap and her expression defied me to make something of them. Wisely, I thought, I chose to decline the offer.
Then she collapsed back into her chair. "I'm afraid. I'm afraid he's thinking about suicide," she almost whispered.
At first, her words made no sense to me. "What?" I could hear my voice rising. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!" I snapped.
She shook her head. "No, I'm serious." Her voice strengthened. "You know we've been trying to have a baby for the last year. What you don't know is that we finally went to a fertility specialist."
I sat up abruptly. That was news. Tom hadn't mentioned a thing about it.
"After he tested us both, he said Tom had an abnormally low sperm count, with low mobility," she said flatly. "Not zero, but low enough to make having children naturally a long shot."
"How can that be?" I objected. "I've donated sperm and my count is just fine. We're twins. He should be the same."
Grace rubbed her face tiredly. "Do you remember when he had that bad fever when you were kids? The doctor said that probably did it."
That was depressing, as badly as Tom wanted children. But to consider killing himself? I still didn't believe it.
"That's bad news," I agreed, "but it's not the end of the world. There's always artificial insemination or adoption."
"I tried telling him that," she growled in frustration. "He wants to have a child 'of his own blood.' Adoption's out. The doctor told us that because of the low sperm count we might want to consider in vitro fertilization. He said artificial insemination was not an option because of the sperm count. The thought of in vitro sent Tom into a tailspin. I don't understand why, either, dammit. He thinks this makes him less of a man or some stupid thing."
I nodded my head slowly. "Yeah, I can see where that came from. Dad was always bragging to us that having twins proved he was a real man. He said that no real man needed anything other than what God gave him. Tom and I really ate that up when we were kids. If the situation was reversed, I don't know if I could go through with something like artificial insemination either. Not and keep my self-esteem. But that doesn't mean he's suicidal. Maybe depressed, but never suicidal."
She tensed up, and I got ready for her to tear a strip off me for daring to contradict her. Then she slumped again, a bleak look crossing her face. "He bought a gun."
I blinked in incomprehension. Tom hated guns. "I find that... hard to believe."
She nodded in agreement. "So do I. I'd never have found out about it at all if the guy he bought it from hadn't called and asked how Tom liked it. I tore the house apart while Tom was at work and found it stashed in the garage."
"Maybe he got it for protection," I said uncertainly.
Grace raised an eyebrow. "And buried it under a box of computer magazines in the garage?" she asked sardonically. "I don't think so. I moved it, of course. Then I started going back over his behavior since the last doctor's visit. I asked him about seeing someone about feeling depressed and that ticked him off. He said he didn't need a shrink. He said we just needed to keep trying and God would provide."
"Maybe that's what he's thinking," I said with my best reassuring voice.
"I might've let it go before today," she said with a tone closer to despair than I'd ever heard from her before. "I went grocery shopping and tried to call my friend Lucy when I got home. I hit redial and instead of Lucy I got the suicide hot-line."
I stood up in alarm. "Shit! We need to get over there right now!"
She shook her head. "He's not home. When I pulled myself together enough to think, I called David. You know how close those two are. I told him how worried I was without telling him all the details. He came over and dragged Tom off for an impromptu fishing trip. He promised he won't let Tom out of his sight."
I sat down reluctantly. "That just puts the problem off. The trouble's still there. We need to come up with a plan and get him help fast."
This whole thing had me turned upside-down. I couldn't imagine life without my brother and I'd do whatever it took to help him, even if it meant moving in with them and watching him every second of the day. Even Grace in my face all that time was better than losing Tom.
Grace took a deep breath. "I've thought of a plan. One that will get him out of this corner he's worked himself into. I need to get pregnant with his baby."
I tried to follow the thought but I couldn't figure out where she was going. "I thought that was the problem, not the solution."
"I knew this wasn't going to be easy," she muttered, more to herself than me. "Steve, how much do you love Tom?"
.... There is more of this story ...