Thanks to the knee doctor for editing help.
It was unusual for me to be working on a Saturday. The only reason I was in Lancaster today was to placate a special customer. I work for a manufacturing company called Paitone. We make telephones. Not your usual phones, but industrial phones that will work in abnormal or dangerous surroundings. They are sturdy and explosion proof. Our biggest customers are refineries, factories, oil platforms, and similar harsh environmental operations. Today, I had to solve a small problem at a large grain elevator and I was already done.
I was topping off the gas tank before starting back to Reading when I had a pleasant surprise.
"Terry Harrison, what are you doing down here today?"
It was Monica Whitmer, an old family friend. Monica and her husband, Brian, used to live just outside of Reading and we had socialized on several occasions. It had been a while and it was good to see her.
"Hi Monica, just here for half a day doing at little work in Manheim. How have you guys been?"
We made small talk for about ten minutes and I ended up following her to their house for a family barbecue. Monica was from the coal regions and Brian and his family was from Lancaster. Most of the people at the gathering were Brian's relatives.
I called my wife, Darcy, to tell her some old friends waylaid me. She and Monica then spent ten minutes chatting. I felt better letting my wife know I was delayed.
It was a non-eventful gathering except for one small thing. I was introduced to Brian's father and two brothers as well as a half dozen off-spring. Each one of them had the same smile. The canine tooth on the right side of their mouth protruded outward and when any of the men or children smiled their lip would curl up around the tooth in a pixy-like grin. My curiosity got the better of me.
"Monica, I need a little help here."
"Do you need more beef or more ribs?"
"No. No. I'm fine. I was just wondering about the unique smile that all the kids have and also Brian and his brothers."
"Oh you noticed. It's hard not to, especially, when you have a whole group of them together. It is a gene thing. Brian, his brothers, and their father all have the funny little tooth in the front. They pass it on to their kids and their kids will pass it on to their kids. It is sort of cute, don't you think?"
I smiled and let her get back to her hosting duties.
I had a lot of time to think on the drive back to Reading. Darcy and I had been married twenty years. I met her in college and we seemed to click. A few years later I started work with Paitone and have been with them almost nineteen years. We have two eighteen years old twin sons, Ron and Rob, who start Penn State in the fall and a cute little daughter named Jenny who was fourteen. We were counting on the boys getting student loans and grants to pay for their college and hoped Jenny would do the same. Darcy and I had a good life, a comfortable house and two nice cars. I would have vested rights in the company pension plan in two years and we had a nice retirement account set up. The company had asked me to relocate several times over the years but Darcy was dead set against it. Other than that we got along fine. Our sex life was good if not exciting and there seemed to be no problems in our marriage or relationship, until now.
Darcy had a light supper ready because she knew I would not be able to eat much after the barbecue. She asked how every one was and expressed her regrets for not being there. Jenny sat across the table eating quietly. The boys were off somewhere doing what ever it is that boys their age did. Everything was OK until Jenny looked up and smiled. Her right lip curled over her protruding tooth and she looked like a little pixy. I lost my appetite completely and excused myself from the table.
There was no doubt in my mind that Jenny was Brian's daughter. It was about the time that Darcy got pregnant with Jenny that our sex life and our relationship in general started to cool down. Darcy never denied me sex, but the spark and the passion was missing. I assumed it was a natural thing and didn't dwell on it too much. I had gotten used to the mediocre lovemaking and expected it would stay that way for the rest of our lives. I wanted more and would have enjoyed more but did not want to become a nag about it. Now it all became clear on a different level. From her frequent trips to Lancaster over the past fifteen years I could only conclude that the affair was on going. I do not have a confrontational nature but I felt I would have to mention it to Darcy and I was hoping I could do it in a civilized manner. Hundreds of other questions started to form in my mind and by bedtime I was a complete wreck. I told Darcy I wasn't feeling well from all the greasy food and slept on the sofa that night.
I spent the whole next day in the garage working on unnecessary projects that I had let go for too long. I was trying to kill time and think. The possibilities were endless. I had to take some action and it had to result in some sort of satisfaction. I wasn't prone to revenge but I did want to limit any chance that my actions would somehow benefit Darcy and her lover.
My first consideration was taking care of the boys. Even though Jenny was not mine, I still loved her and didn't want to do anything to hurt her. While I didn't want to hurt Darcy I also wanted to make sure I didn't end up supporting her and Brian for the rest of my life. I knew for a fact that I didn't want to spend any more time with Darcy than I had to. Her reaction at the time of confrontation would probably determine what I would be doing in the next few days. I decided the best time would be after Sunday supper.
Darcy was a pretty good cook and supper that night was great as usual. Ron and Rod excused themselves before dessert to go see some friends. Jenny finished her dessert and after she went to the living room, it was just Darcy and I sitting with coffee.
"Something has been on your mind all day Terry. Want to tell me what it is?"
I guess I was being a little obvious with my brooding. "I was just wondering how long we were going to wait before we told Jenny who her real father was." I didn't know how else to bring it up.
There was a long pause at the other end of the table followed by a deep sigh. "It is amazing how long it took you to figure it out." She remained stoic as her eyes went from the middle of the table up to mine. "I don't think she has to know until she is at least eighteen or she has some sort of medical problem where it becomes necessary. Everything is fine just as it is. We can't accomplish anything by telling her now."
"Is that fair?"
"Fair to who? A stable family life is important to a girl her age. She doesn't need to know. I'll tell her when the time comes. For now just keep your mouth shut."
I was amazed. I had just told my wife that I was aware of her infidelity and she ends up dominating the conversation and making demands on me. In my mind she was supposed to be apologetic and sorry for what she had done but that is not how it was going. She was acting as if she did nothing wrong and everything was going to continue as it was, if I liked it or not. My first reaction was to jump down her throat but it was about that time that I saw a slight movement in the hallway by the dining room. Jenny had been listening to our conversation. As I paused I could hear her scurrying away. I decided to lay back and take the calm approach.
"Should we consider a divorce?"
"I just said it was important to maintain a stable family environment for a few more years. A divorce is out of the question. What would Jenny and I do if we separated? I think it would be better to wait a while until she is older and everything is stable financially."
Things suddenly became clearer. In two years I would have vested rights in the company retirement fund. In addition to part of my salary, Darcy would also be entitled to part of my retirement plan when she turned sixty-five. The bitch was planning ahead, way ahead. I had a lot of thinking to do now. I sat still, saying nothing.
"At least we don't have to endure the pity sex anymore. That is a relief."
"What are you talking about?"
"For the last fifteen years I have been having sex with you whenever you wanted it, so that you would not become suspicious. It went on a lot longer than I thought it would because you were so damn slow in figuring it out. At least that is all over now. We don't have to pretend anymore. I will probably be taking more trips to Lancaster from now on also."
I sat for a few more minutes and neither of us said anything. "I'll move my stuff in the guest room while you and Jenny do the dishes. I don't want to impose on you anymore than I have to."
"Your acting like a spoiled brat, Terry. We can share the same bedroom without having sex. It is better for the kids."
I didn't reply. The guest room had a sofa bed that was uncomfortable as hell but I didn't have to sleep with the bitch any more.
I was up and out of the house before anybody else had even stirred. I didn't want to have to answer any questions about the sleeping arrangements with the kids. After grabbing a quick, diner breakfast, I headed for work. I was laying awake most of the night making plans. It would be a busy day.
My bosses at Paitone were more than happy to talk to me. I spent the entire morning adjusting and readjusting arrangements before cleaning out my desk and leaving for lunch. As I was finishing off a large steak sandwich I realized that I was smiling to myself like an idiot. Things were off to a good start. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the bank, my insurance agents office, and job hunting. I got home about three, which was unusual for me.
"What the hell are you doing home so early?"
"I quit my job."
"What? You loved that job. Why in the world would you quit?" She paused for a second waiting for a reply that didn't come. "Are you still upset about last night?"
"No, I just decided I was working too hard and wanted a change. I got a new job at D.S. Brown's starting tomorrow."
"The feed mill? What the hell are you going to be doing working at a feed mill?"
"Loading and loading trucks and freight cars. No hassles and no responsibilities. I am hoping to lose a little weight also."
"That's the stupidest thing I ever heard of. How are we going to pay for the boy's college? That job can't pay more than minimum wage. I don't understand what got into your head. What happened to your pension?"
"Gone. I needed twenty years to lock it in and didn't have it."
"Did you get severance pay? How about your vacation pay and sick leave?"
"No, no and no. In order to get accrued sick leave or vacation pay you have to give sixty days notice. You only get severance pay when they lay you off. I didn't give notice, just quit and walked out."
"What about the boys college?"
"No problem. The bank will give us a second mortgage and we can get enough to prepay four years for both of them. They can still apply for some grants or loans if they have to."
"And just how do we make the two house payments?"
"I figure with the boys gone, the house will be too big for us anyhow, so we will probably end up selling it."
"You have lost your mind." Darcy shook her head in disbelief at what I had done and walked away. A sense of pride and accomplishment overwhelmed me. My plan was under way.
For the next two months things got worse between Darcy and I. My relationship with Jenny, however, improved. Jenny had become a perfect little daughter, even though she wasn't mine. I wasn't really sure how much she overheard of the conversation Darcy and I had. The second mortgage on the house went through with no problem, mainly because I had it all prearranged. Every dollar went straight to Penn State to prepay tuition for Ron and Rob. We could no longer afford the mortgage payments so the house went on the market. I quietly sold off my gun and coin collection and stashed the money away in a safe place. I traded in my BMW for a used Ford pick-up so I would have no payments. Darcy and Jenny kept their cell phones but I got rid of mine and told the boys to get their own if they wanted them. I was barely making enough to pay the utilities and buy food. We had to let the house payments slide until it sold. The bank understood. After the house sold, we still cleared about thirty thousand dollars. I took the entire check and bought Darcy a new Lincoln sedan. I had checked the Blue Book carefully and that car had the highest depreciation rate possible. In five years it would be worth next to nothing. I hope she enjoyed it. We rented a small house in a modest section of town. Darcy was making a lot more trips down to Lancaster. We never talked about it. I was trying to save a little off my salary but it didn't amount to much. Darcy didn't know it, but all the life insurance policies had been cancelled or cashed in. That money went into my secret account also. Jenny and I became very close. She was pulling away from Darcy and becoming more attached to me. I didn't mind but it seemed to annoy Darcy. The boy's were doing great in college. When Jenny's sixteenth birthday was coming up, I ask her if there was anything special she wanted. She whispered what she wanted in my ear and asked me not to tell mom.
Darcy was absolutely furious when she saw that Jenny had had her right canine pulled. Because of the way it was growing, the dentist was able to remove it without leaving a space where it should have been. There was a small sore spot on her gum where the tooth came out of but he said it would disappear with no scar. Jenny was thrilled. Darcy didn't talk to me for a week. I thought it was a great present.
I lost almost thirty pounds at my feed mill job. If the light was just right it looked like I actually had abs. I think I was fooling myself but it felt good to dream. The first few weeks I was sore but as time went on it felt good to get some exercise. Jenny was in her last year of high school now and we became best friends. It was her choice, not mine, but I was flattered.
Like a bolt out of the blue, Darcy changed from sullen to happy. She was perky and bouncing around like a little girl. I put up with it for a few days and then cornered Jenny. "What the hell is going on with your mom?" "I'd rather not talk about it. She is being disgusting." "What does that mean?" "She found out three days ago that Monica Whitmer has cervical cancer. The doctors say she has less than three months to live. Ever since mom found out she has been giddy. I think it is horrible that she is getting so much pleasure out of somebody else's grief. Monica never did anything to her and she is being a real bitch about it." "It's not nice to call your mother a bitch." "I don't know what other name would be more appropriate right now." Unfortunately I had to agree with Jenny. Now that I knew the source of her elation I felt the same way Jenny did. It was a struggle to put up with her and keep my mouth shut at the same time. I worked a lot of overtime and spent much time away from the house. Sometimes Jenny would go with me and we would just wander around the mall for hours. We didn't want to go home. Three weeks later I was served with divorce papers. Since Jenny was going to be eighteen before it was final, child custody was not an issue. We no longer owned a home and had no money in the bank. Darcy did not ask for alimony or support. It was just a straightforward incompatibility divorce. I signed the papers as they were and quit my job at the feed mill. I stopped by the Paitone offices and then made a quick detour by the bank before going home. Darcy was not at home. Jenny said she went to Lancaster to console Monica for a few days. We both snickered a little at that. I gave Jenny an envelope with ten thousand dollars in it. I apologized that it wasn't more but promised to send some at a later date. I explained that I had to leave and that she would be fine with her mother. She was not happy but helped me pack the truck anyway. Darcy could take care of what ever had to be done about the house after I was gone. I had no idea what Jenny's plans were after high school. Jenny volunteered to tell the twins about the separation but she said she could not be unbiased. Six weeks after I left Monica Whitmer died.