Note: I've reworked this and resubmitted it. I felt (and still feel) that intent to cheat is the same as cheating. It is disrespect for a spouse as much as having intercourse is. Obviously, a lot of readers disagree with this view so I will graciously agree to disagree with them and try to make the intent of the story clearer.
I have heard back from a number of people about finishing "Ruby," so I will do it over the next couple of weeks. Note that it will be a sad story — it's a sad song. You will definitely get more out of it if you know the song, and especially if you or a loved one served in Viet Nam.
Kenny Rogers has a number of sad songs and "Lucille" is one of the saddest. While I was writing El Paso I had a Kenny Rogers album on and when this came on I had to stop and listen to it. This story is for me.
I've been working on another one based on his song "Ruby," but that's almost too sad: "Ruby, don't take your love to town." Hey, let me know if I should finish it.
I mention the Bickersons in the story — if you aren't familiar with them do an Internet search - quite funny!
Thanks to RoustWriter for his editing help.
"You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.
With four hungry children,
And a crop in the field.
I've had some bad times,
Lived through some sad times,
But this time your hurtin' won't heal.
You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille."
"Honey, we need to have a long talk when I get home. We have to work out our problems."
"Jed... oh, yes, I've been crying every day since you left. I'm sorry, oh, so sorry for the fight and what led up to it."
"Mary, I think I understand better how hard it is to be perfect. I've tried to do everything right and I've expected the same of you. All we can do is the best we can... and to remember the things that brought us together in the first place."
We said some teary goodbyes and I turned my cell phone off as they closed the door on the plane and we started backing away from the gate.
The plane arrived at the terminal at the airport in Rockford. I thought how close I had come to doing something I would never be able to forgive myself for while on my trip to Toledo to install some software for a customer. I hadn't gone through with it but I felt as guilty as though I actually had.
What Mary had done had upset me enough to cause the worst fight of our marriage but what I'd almost done was as bad or even more so.
We had been at a pool party at a neighbor's house down the street. The parties were fun with tons of food and lot's of teenagers to keep track of the kids. The Townsend's had a huge game room in their basement. It was big enough for younger kids at one end and older kids at the pool table and entertainment center at the other end. We passed the hat each time to hugely overpay a couple of the older girls to watch the few babies — including our six-month-old darling Diana.
The house was in a mixed area of older houses and infill new development. It was an old mansion and had been in the Townsend family for over a hundred years. The current owners were in their sixties, but loved to entertain and to have a lot of young people around.
The neat thing about the place was the back yard. There was a large mix of decks, tiled sitting areas, terraced flowerbeds and all in all, an almost bewildering array of trees and plants. The one thing that made it special though, was the pool. The upper area was semi-dark with romantic, hidden reflecting lights. The lighting built in the pool walls was more subdued than you normally found. Next to the upper pool was a large hot tub — generally understood to be off limits to kids.
The lower pool was just the opposite: brightly lit and next to the grill area. During parties the older kids were allowed to use it as long as they "more or less" behaved. Linking the two pools was a built in slide flowing down the slope about in a long s-curve thirty feet to the lower pool.
A certain amount of grab-ass generally took place at these events and it really was mostly innocent. That is, nothing more ever happened as a result of the touching/kissing etc. that took place at the parties.
I'd gone up to check on Diana, then Peter Rowland asked me to take a look at a problem he was having with a new computer he'd brought a few weeks ago. All told, I'd left Mary alone for about thirty minutes.
When I'd last saw her she was talking to Janet Rowland near where the grill was set up. When I got back to that area I saw Janet was still there but Mary wasn't around.
"Did you see which way she went?"
Yeah, Jed, I think she went up to the other pool. I think that guy she works with; you know the one that lives a few blocks on the other side of us from where you guys live.
"You mean, Cal Fischer? Tall, with long black hair? Actually he's hairy all over."
"Sure, Jed, that's him. I like his wife Sue, but I've never cared for him."
Yeah, I knew what she meant. We had words before about Cal — he was what we called in high school a foreigner: Roman hands and Russian fingers. Except in his case it wasn't funny. Mary always laughed it off, "But Jed, everyone does a little of that at the parties we go to. It doesn't mean anything."
But I always thought Cal was trying to take it to the next level... to entice Mary into something she would later regret.
I walked slowly up the long stairs to the upper pool. Just before I got to the top the path split: one way to the pool and the other looped around to a large rock that was used as a diving board for the upper pool. I circled to the top of the rock, which was about ten feet above the pool.
After I got there it took me a minute for my eyes to adjust to the lower level of light. When it did I was immediately pissed off. Mary's top was floating about five feet from her and Cal was sucking away at one of her breasts like he had a nursing fetish. His hand held her other breast and was squeezing like it was going out of style.
Without even considering what I should do I just jumped off and did a cannonball right next to them where they were standing in the shallower end, in maybe four feet of water. That should get their attention! Just in case, while they were still stunned I grabbed that asshole's shoulders and raised my knee into his crotch as hard as I could while being in the water. It seemed hard enough. I left Mary there to let him drown... or not. I didn't give a shit and walked home.
We fought about it for a week, gradually escalating everything until I felt like we were charter members of the "Bickersons" club. It wasn't ended, only temporarily avoided when I went to Toledo. Now I was back and we had to talk about it.
Mary was waiting at the baggage claim area. She threw her arms around me, holding me tight. I stood there stiffly and then remembered what had almost happened at the hotel in Toledo and relaxed and put my arms around her and squeezed back.
"Jed, are we going to be okay? Are we going to be able to get past my stupidity? Oh, God! I'm so sorry honey. I wouldn't have done anything but I know what I did was wrong, really wrong!"
I was a bit uncomfortable with what she was saying after my own actions.
"Let's talk about it later, Honey. After we have dinner and put Diana down for the night, we can sit down and talk and have a glass of one of the wines I've been saving."
My bag came fairly quick, so we walked out to where her car was parked and drove home. The drive was mostly quiet with Mary looking over at me with a fearful look on her face. I felt kind of bad because if that guy had not have came into the bar in Toledo where I was trying to pick up his wife, I would be worrying about confessing much more than what Mary was feeling bad about.
Mary's mom was there and gave us a worried look as we came in. I guess Mary had confided with her mom on what she had done. I gave Diana her bath and got her ready for bed then Mary tucked her in. I had two glasses of a nice syrah from the Paso Robles area I'd been saving for something special. I figured that if we couldn't get our problems straightened out there wouldn't be any "special occasions" anymore.
"Look, Mary. We've talked about what happened at the pool to death, and unless you have some new information, let me just talk, okay?"
"I just, well... I'm sorry, Jed."
I nodded an acknowledgement to her and started telling her what happened in Toledo. This is the story I told.
The business stuff went fine. I installed the software and ran my tests and everything looked great. Barney, my contact, was going to take me to dinner but his wife had to work late so he had to go home to take care of the kids. I went to the restaurant anyway — Barney said it was great and I already had the reservation.
It was as good as I expected, and I finished about nine. I drove back to the hotel and called you. It was still early after we finished and I wasn't sleepy so I went down to the bar off the lobby. I was sitting there at a table nursing a gin and tonic, when this tall, good-looking brunette came in and sat down at the bar. She was dressed in simple but nice clothes, a white blouse and black skirt.
I was watching her, just out of idle curiosity, when I saw her take her rings and put them in her purse. On an impulse I got up and took the seat next to her.
Mary gasped when I said this, but I just gave her an annoyed look and continued.
She looked over at me with a knowing look and I offered her a beer.
She smiled at me, and answered, "Sure, Honey." She looked around and didn't see anyone else looking to give her a good time, so she continued, "Sure, I'll have a tall, cold one."
"I saw you taking yours rings off... are you sure you want to be here? My name is Jed, by the way."