The sound of the dirt hitting the coffin was dull, which matched the dreary day. I was standing there, watching as the minister said some words meant to ease the suffering of those left behind. I held my daughter's hand, her husband standing just behind us. His hand was on my shoulder, offering comfort. My son was standing next to me, his girlfriend beside him.
At forty-nine years old, I never expected to be standing at graveside, burying my wife. I always believed deep down I would be the first to go. I thought that due to my work and the way I had lived my life, I would surely die before my wife, and that when I did, I'd be an old, old man. Now I felt old. Ancient.
After the funeral there was the reception. Everyone coming up to me, telling me how sorry they were, how great she was, how wonderful we were, how young she was, everything but what I needed to hear. We had been married over twenty years, two kids, both now off on their own. The youngest, our, I mean, my daughter, is married and about to have my first grandchild. The oldest, my son is working in New York City in the financial district. Both are doing well.
With all the people at our house ... I guess it's my house, now ... See? I'm having a hard time adjusting to this being single. Everything for the last twenty years has been ours, not mine. Anyway, there were about forty people around talking and offering their support. I just wanted to be alone at the moment.
Feeling quite fed up, I finally slipped out into the back yard, and worked my way out the back gate, intending to take a short walk. As I closed the gate, someone drove up the alley, and parked their car right next to where I was standing.
"Jeff ... How are you holding up?"
It was Marie, my wife's younger sister. The one person in the world I didn't want to see at the moment. You see it was partially Marie's fault that my loving wife was dead. Okay, maybe that isn't really fair to Marie or my wife, but in my heart I knew that if Marie had kept her damn interests to herself, Brenda would still be here with me.
"I'm just going for a walk Marie. Everyone is inside. You've been mentioned."
I didn't smile nor did I invite her openly. I just stated the facts as I saw them. I now wanted to be away from here for certain, and I was sure Marie would try to invite herself on my walk. I should have known better, as she just brushed past me and went into the back yard. She had always been all about Marie. That's why when Marie had taken a sudden interest in Brenda's personal life that I became suspicious. That was out of character for her younger sister in many ways.
I sighed; glad to be free of her for the moment. There was a cloud hanging between us, and a chasm that to me seemed insurmountable now. Family or no, Marie was persona-non-gratis around me. It's a long story about what happened and how it all mushroomed into the funeral today, and to be quite honest I'm not really up to telling it here and now. Life goes on, just like water in a river or air across a mountaintop. Always moving relentlessly onward. For most people anyway. Then again, maybe telling it will help me to move on.
Okay ... fine. Here is my story. Take it as I lay it out, or not ... it is what has happened in my life.
Brenda and I met after college, at her job. I had been into the insurance company she worked at to renew my policies on the house and car, and she had been the agent assigned to me. I found myself making excuses to go back after our initial meeting, and somewhere along the way finally got the nerve to ask her out.
After several months of dating, we had seen that we were deeply in love with each other, so we got married. Two children and a full and wonderful marriage, right up until two years ago anyway, I had never questioned getting married to Brenda. We were like two peas in a pod, and very compatible. Then Marie had gotten interested in Brenda's life.
I'm sure she was well meaning. I'm sure that Marie thought that Brenda needed to reach out and grow. Everything one could see in a person who was trying to be better and more loving of those around her, you could have seen in Marie. She had been trying hard to help Brenda with what Marie saw as shortcomings.
It started with Wednesday night 'girl's night out'. Soon it grew to Wednesday and Fridays. Then Saturday was added. It seemed that, after a while, Marie was spending more time with Brenda than I was. Of course, that was true only because Marie was capitalizing on Brenda's time when normally I would have been.
At home it soon became 'Marie this' or 'Marie that'. When it got to be a daily thing, I started to withdraw from Brenda. Every time I would try to get some quality time with my wife, Marie seemed to be there. Any time I wanted Brenda to be with me, Marie seemed to be more important. Every time I wanted to take Brenda out for dinner it seemed that it was one of 'those' nights for the girls.
Pretty soon what had been a very communicative and open relationship became closed off and non-talkative. I couldn't say anything about how I felt without Brenda flaring up and getting mad at me, telling me I was being hard and unfair to her younger sister. If all I was going to do was piss off my wife by just trying to be with her, then why would I bother?
A few months after the growing 'girls night out' invaded my life, I could see that my marriage was in serious trouble. Yet, I couldn't talk to my wife about it without her getting mad and defensive. So I did the worst thing I could have done. I gave up. I spent my time doing what I wanted to do, and Brenda began to do her own thing as well. On our rare nights at home together we were like two strangers living in the same house.
Then, one night ... well rather it was morning, but it started the night before, all hell broke loose. I was at home, working in the garage on a project I had going. It was a Friday night, and Brenda and Marie had gone out on their regular Friday night thing. They left the house about six-thirty, and I found myself making my own supper. Something else I had been doing more and more it seemed.
Eating in the garage seemed to be the simple thing to do, so I got dinner ready and took it out there. Listening to my boom box as I worked and ate soothed me. I worked until eleven and then went in. I half expected Brenda to be in bed already, but I was a bit surprised that she wasn't even home yet. I saw the light flashing on the phone, a message left waiting.
"Jeff, I'm staying at Marie's tonight. We've been out a bit longer and it's too late for me to drive home in the condition I'm in. I'll see you in the morning."
"Why bother" I thought to myself, "I never see you anymore anyway. Just move in with your bitch sister and be happy."
Yeah, I'll admit, I was mad and jealous. I had lost something when Marie took such a special interest in her sister, and now I didn't seem to be able to find a way to get my wife back. I missed being with Brenda; I missed the talks, the laughing, the gentle chatter of a couple who knew each other very well, and most of all, lately it seemed I missed the sex we had once shared with each other.
I replayed the message before deleting it, and that's when I heard men's voices in the background. There were men at Marie's house with my wife. It sounded like a party going on too. I picked up the phone and dialed.
After nine rings, someone picked up. A man's voice.
"Yeah ... it's your dime don't waste it."
"Yeah, let me speak to Brenda please?"
"Is she the one with long hair? She's a bit tied up at the moment. Maybe call back tomorrow like around ... say ... noon?"
"This is her husband; I need to speak to her. Put her on the phone..."
The bastard had hung up on me. Getting mad I redialed the phone. Nobody picked up. I tried three times over the next half-hour, getting madder and madder. Finally I had enough. Grabbing my car keys off the counter I left the house and drove over to Marie's.
There was nobody home at her place. That's when I remembered I had dialed Brenda's cell phone. I had no idea where she was, or who she was with. I didn't know if she was there on her own, or if she had been kidnapped. I knew nothing.
I drove home madder than I'd ever been; mad and scared. I went in and made myself a drink. Making myself a drink I started on the rocks, but finished the bottle neat. Matter of fact, I finished the bottle by chugging right out of it.
At some point I decided that Brenda was doing this of her own free will and that the cops couldn't or wouldn't do anything about it for twenty-four hours anyway. I had gone so far as to even think that Brenda had invited the men to be with them. My mind was playing tricks on me now, and the alcohol wasn't helping me to see things better.
In the morning I woke to a hell of a headache, and dry cottonmouth. I rummaged around and took a shower, then got dressed. Taking a bottle of aspirin in hand I took some and then after a thought, took a few more. It was an eight aspirin headache today. In the mirror I saw a man with that haunted lost look.
I sat around after eating a light breakfast, and waited for either a phone call or Brenda to come home. Around two o'clock she pulled up in the driveway. Walking in, she looked great. Freshly showered and wearing one of my favorite dresses. It was a slinky and tight fitting number that left lots of leg and a bit of chest exposed. In the past Brenda had only worn it when out with me, and even then, only if she wanted to get laid that night.
.... There is more of this story ...