My thanks to Jayt444 for his editing skills. It's the first time I've had someone's expertise and he really has been a big help. Any errors or omissions are entirely my own.
I lasted about two minutes at the most before I had to get out of there. I was at a table with at least a dozen of my friends in a popular North End restaurant, "celebrating" what was supposed to be my liberation and reconstruction as an eligible bachelor. I hadn't even taken off my parka yet before I got up, gestured in the general direction of the washrooms, and then promptly headed out the door. I slid slowly into my car and closed the door before sticking the key into the ignition, but not turning it. My hands were on the top of thesteering wheel and my forehead was pressed against my hands. There was nothing to celebrate whatsoever.
I sat there for a while trying to decide what to do next when a tapping on the window beside me jolted me out of my thoughts... I looked out into the darkness and saw the white face of an attractive woman with a concerned look. Stunned, I just sat there and did nothing until she motioned for me to lower the window. I pushed the button and then realized nothing would happen until I turned the ignition on. Eventually, I managed enough co-ordination to lower the window and gave the woman a questioning look before I spoke.
"Can I help you?" I asked with little interest in her answer.
"Are you all right?" She seemed seriously interested in my state.
"Yah... Yah... I'm OK."
"You don't sound OK. You sound like you'd rather be just about anywhere else."
I thought about her comment and nodded my head. "Yah... I suppose." I looked at her more carefully and surveyed what I saw. Appearing about thirty, she had an attractive face with long dark hair and she was wearing a coat which appeared to almost reach her ankles. If I had been able to see any further down, I would have noticed the stiletto heels she was wearing in the middle of the plowed parking lot.
"It's freezing out here." she said simply. "Are you going back in?"
"No... I don't think so. I'm really not in the mood for a celebration."
"Do you mind if I sit with you... my feet are freezing?"
I looked at her again and made a decision. "No... I don't mind."
She walked around the front of the car and got in the passenger side. It was then I noticed her shoes. "No wonder your feet are cold."
"Yes. I just came from the office and I didn't expect to be standing out in the snow."
"Are you with our group?"
"No... I just happened to overhear your friends talk about your party. Your name is Kurt?"
"Kirk. Like the Star Trek guy."
"I'm Laura Klaus... nice to meet you Kirk..." she held out her hand and for a moment. I looked at it.
"Kirk Melrose." I shook her hand gently. Despite the cold she had been standing in, her hand was warm as was her smile.
"So what makes the celebration so hard to handle?"
"Oh... it just doesn't seem like something I want to celebrate."
"Oh... jilted by a girlfriend?"
"No... not quite."
"Yah... my divorce was final today."
"Oh... sorry... I gather it wasn't your idea... the party I mean."
"No... they thought I needed cheering up. I'm just not in the mood."
She looked at me carefully and I looked back at her. She had an interesting face. She was pretty, but not remarkable. The nose was thin; aquiline I think they call it, while the lips were small and slim. Her ears were hidden under her hair and her jaw was nicely rounded at the bottom to give her an almost regal look.
"You're staring at me." she noted.
"Sorry... I didn't mean to be rude."
"That's OK... I was staring at you too. I was trying to figure out what would make you this unhappy when your friends are so obviously happy for you."
"I married for life... you know? Love, honor and obey... till death do us part... forsaking all others... all that stuff."
"My wife didn't see it the same way. She found someone better, she thinks."
"It hurts, doesn't it?"
"Yah... shot down and we didn't even get five years. I haven't even turned thirty yet."
"So... now you're wondering what comes next."
"Yah... I guess so. I guess I'll be more careful in the future."
"Do you think you were careless when you married her?"
"I guess I must have been. You know... they say love is blind. I didn't see anything that would have warned me. I just fell and that was that."
"What about your friends? What do they think?"
I paused and looked at her again... searching for some explanation from her. "Who are you? Why do you care?"
"I... I'm just nosey I guess. I was listening to your friends before you arrived. They were very worried about you. They wanted to try and make you feel better. They obviously think a lot of you. You should be happy to have them as friends."
"I am... I mean... I appreciate them, but they don't understand this. They can't understand how I feel."
"How do you feel?"
"Cheated! I wanted to be with her forever and I was cheated out of that dream. She didn't just cheat on me, she cheated me."
"Do you know why?"
"No... that's what makes it worse. I don't know why."
"Can you start the car? It's getting cold in here."
I turned the key in the ignition and the car started immediately. I fiddled with the climate control and wewaited in silencefor the car to warm.
She was looking at me as she talked. She had been really grilling meand I still didn't know who she was, why she was asking me all these questions, and, more importantly, why I was answering them. Perhaps it was because she really seemed to care. She really wanted to know and she wasn't judging me. She was just listening.
"You're a woman, what could I have done to make her stop loving me?"
"I don't know... maybe nothing. Your friends don't think she had a good reason. They said you were the perfect husband. Were you?"
"I wanted to be. I tried to be there for her... to give her my time and my love and the things that would make her happy. I didn't forget her birthday or our anniversary. Maybe I don't understand. Maybe I didn't do everything I could have... but I don't know what I did or didn't do that would make her unhappy."
"That's what makes it worse... when you don't know why." she said almost absently. There was a pause for a few moments and then she turned to me again.
"Would it be different if she had died in a car accident or some other tragic event?"
I thought about it for a minute. "Yes. It wouldn't be the same. I wouldn't see her again and I wouldn't have been able to stop it from happening."
"So this is really about your feeling guilty then?"
"Why do you say that?"
"What else is it? You're upset because you're convinced that you didn't do something that would have prevented the divorce. You blame yourself."
"What's the alternative?"