I was surprised. Rangers were supposed to be bullet proof; first sergeant had told me so in training camp. So there I was with a bullet lodged near my heart and a shard of shrapnel buried in my ass. What a wonderful way to get a ticket home—not.
That I'd made a herculean effort to fall on the nurse and shield her from the incoming even while she was prepping me to get the bullet removed from my chest didn't make me feel any better, her body did feel good under me. Laying there on top of her was how I got the shard of Taliban metal in my butt. At any rate, two purple hearts and a bronze star were not even close to fair recompense for having to leave my buddies to deal with the Taliban while I cut country. But, orders were orders; I was going home.
I'd spent six weeks in a veteran's hospice recuperating from the surgeries that I eventually needed. The good news was that except for some scaring, I was going to be fine. Hell, I'd even made corporal as soon as I got stateside; the pay was a little better and the perks a bit of an improvement too. I should mention that being a corporal in the Rangers was roughly the equivalent to being a brigadier general in any of the other services—no LOL.
Twenty-one, a corporal in the Rangers, some serious medals, and a whole lot of life experience: I was ready for the next big step, finding the right woman to share my life with. But, I was no fool. I knew I needed an education, and I needed a job too before I began the hunt for a mate. The GI Bill would pay for school, but, as for a job, I wasn't a lifer and I would be mustered out of the military in just another sixty days. I called my friend Drew Wilson.
Drew owned the Head Trip, a sawdust joint with pretensions to being a high class bistro where professionals hung out after work hours most days. Lawyers, doctors, a few cops, and some business types mixed and matched with the riff raff and got their tea leaves read by whatever bartender was on duty.
Most people don't understand the job description of a true professional bartender. A bartender is a friend, a psychologist, a philosopher, and sometimes even a bodyguard. Bartenders serve a vital function in the great cultural scheme of things. So, with the hand up from Drew, I became a full time, full-fledged barkeep.
Working and going to school became my modus operandi for the next three and a half years. I went to school online and got my B.A. in Philosophy and my M.S in General Psyche, all paid for by Uncle Sam. No, I had no intention of teaching school or becoming a Psychologist. I wanted the degrees to increase my value as a bartender, and eventually it did.
I was twenty-five. I was in great shape physically—once a Ranger always a Ranger. I was pulling down fifty-k annual, when tips were added in. And, I owned my own home. But, I was still missing the final piece in the fabric of my life, a woman. That final piece came at me at the end of a particularly grueling shift, that on one particular Friday evening.
"AJ?" said the voice to my left.
"Yes." Then I looked and a big smile creased my features. "Geezsus, Jasmine! How long has it been?" I asked. Well, I just needed to be saying something.
"Since high school big boy. And, you really are a big boy aren't you," she said. "I heard you joined the Navy or something after high school." At five-seven and 160, I wasn't actually all that big, but she could see that so I didn't mind the opening.
"Huh? Oh yes, the Army," she said. "But, you aren't with the Army now are you?"
"No, not for a few years now," I said. "Been working here for some four years plus."
"Well, you sure look good," she said. She was grinning from ear to ear.
"Uh—can I get you something," I said.
"White wine," she said.
I moved down the bar to get the wine, poured it and returned. I set it down in front of her, and wiped the bar to her left; well, it's a habit all we barkeeps have.
"So, you married?" she asked, smirking.
"No, haven't met the right girl, I guess," I said.
"Really, I would've thought that a handsome fellow like you would have been taken early on," she said, still smirking.
I appraised her. She was nice looking, not runway gorgeous but interesting. Maybe five-five, and one-ten. Her red hair flowed around her shoulders daring men not to stare. She had freckles that enhanced her pale complexion and a quick way of glancing around that was—disconcerting.
Jasmine and I had dated some in high school, and nights making out with her in the back seat of my Chevy would always be something I'd remember.
"How about you, you married," I asked, since she'd asked first.
"No, almost, a couple of times, but no," she said.
I smiled like the predator I was, "Wanna go out sometime?' I said.
"Sure, okay," she said. "I'm free Saturday. Oh, but that has to be a busy night for you," she said.
"No, as a matter of fact, I have my weekends off. I fill in once in a while if one or another of the crew gets sick, but basically my weekends are free," I said. "Just so you know, I'm on 3:00PM to 11:00PM week days."
"How about you," I said, "you working?"
"No, not at this time. I was, but not now. I'm thinking about getting a job though. But, still looking," she said.
We talked off and on for two hours; we filled in most of the gaps in our lives, and taken together there were a lot of gaps to fill in. Half a dozen guys hit on her while she was there, but she politely brushed them off. I had the feeling that she was a pro at handling the male element in most situations.
The date was made for 7:00PM Saturday. I would pick her up at her apartment.
"Well, girlfriend, tell me about this new guy in your life. Is it serious?" said Karen Olson.
"Yes, Karen, it's serious. I have some misgivings, but it is definitely serious," said Jasmine.
"Yes, one anyway," said Jasmine. "Karen, he's only a bartender. He has two degrees and he only wants to tend bar; go figure. I'm concerned that he hasn't any drive or ambition," said Jasmine.
"Jas, it's not a nothing job. Maybe he likes dealing with people. Is he a heavy drinker or anything?" said Karen.
"No, not especially. It's just—I don't know—I just want more for him, for us," said Jasmine.
"Well, I think you're being silly. But, if it bothers you maybe you should look elsewhere for a mate," said Karen. "I mean you're going to be married for a very long time if you're lucky."
"Maybe you're right. I do want a man who is up to my standards. Achilles is a good man. He was in the Army too you know, but—well—a bartender! It just isn't what I'd envisioned that I would be married to," said Jasmine.
They talked for some time and then called it a night. The waitress brought the check. Karen studied her friend for a moment. "Jas, you need to figure out what's important to you. Don't string this guy along; it wouldn't be good for you or him in the long run."
"I know," said Jasmine.
"A lot different than when we were in high school, huh?" I said.
"Yes, it certainly is, AJ," said Jasmine. We were driving toward Lookout Point. It had been our favorite rendezvous when we were in high school together. I pulled into a darkened copse with a view of the Valley and all its lights. Dinner at the Sportsman had been good, the wine excellent, and the conversation fluid if a bit tentative. I had an uncomfortable feeling that she wanted to tell me something, but was nervous about getting it out. But at the moment only the look and smell of her had any real meaning for me.
This was our fourth date. The first had been that Saturday night three weeks earlier. That had been a bit of an exercise in rediscovery. The next two had been marathon necking sessions. But, tonight, if I had my way, was going to be an epic sexcapade with damn little held back.
"You look very beautiful," I said leaning back against my door.
She was smiling; that was a good omen. She leaned in to kiss me. "Let's get in the back," she said. I immediately made a mental note to offer human sacrifice to the gods of Greece and Rome in thanks for the gift I was about to receive from their bounty.
One minute later, or less, we were in the back and hugging. Then kissing. Then touching and feeling each other up. Then kissing some more. She pushed me back and undid my belt and my pants. I started unbuttoning her blouse.
Her blouse and bra, the bra unhooked from the front, were open and hanging loose around her shoulders; her tits were exquisite. She pushed me back. "AJ, I want to talk to you for a moment," she said.
"Huh! Now?" I squeaked.
She giggled, "Yes, now." I sagged back against the door literally pouting. Worse my dick was wilting like a flower in a snow storm.
"AJ I think I'm falling in love with you. If that scares you maybe you should tell me now," she said. It was a helluva lead in.
"Scare me? Taliban bullets didn't scare me, the roller coaster at the mountain is hohum to me, and a little piece of fluff like you sure as hell doesn't scare me," I said, smiling broadly. "The fact is, Jas, I fell in love with you about five minutes after seeing you again a month ago."
She looked serious. Now, I was worried. "AJ, what do you intend to do to support us if we go the whole route?" she said. I could tell from the way she said it that my remaining a bartender was not high on her list of career moves. But here I was determined to be a man not a mouse.
"I've got a good job now, Jas. I know it's not high class; but it's what I love. And, frankly, I'm good at it. Office work and all of the phony bullshit that goes with it is not for me," I said. "You have to understand that if we have a chance." I could see she was wrestling with herself.
"Okay," she said, "if it's what you really want and need."
She moved to me and kissed me and soon we were naked. And it felt good.
She leaned forward and stroked my dick to diamond hardness. She licked it up and down and I wondered where she had become so expert in tongue-teasing a man. I was going insane from the tension she was building in me. I exploded into her mouth and she swallowed every drop. My dick shriveled like a Styrofoam cup in a barbecue pit.
"My, you shrank kinda fast, big boy. Let me see if I can resurrect the dead!"
I was more than confident of her ability to do just that. It took her some minutes, but I was soon reassured that my confidence in her skills had not been misplaced. My cock brought back to life and its manly five inches threatening her womanhood, I gently pushed her back onto the seat and loomed above her. She was soaking wet. I wanted to go down on her, but I just couldn't wait to take her, so I did.
She bucked like a bronco and rammed her pussy back at me with every stroke I pounded into her. I lasted a good seven or eight minutes and she got off at least twice in that span.
We rested for a while and she got me up yet again. Stroking me, she leaned in and kissed me. "Take me from the rear, okay, AJ," she said.
I positioned her over the back of the seat and she spread her knees wide to accommodate me. I slipped into her and took long slow thrusts into her until I could tell from her short breaths that she was nearing still another orgasmic event. That one shook her. I think she started to cry. But, soon she was making weird noises as yet more spasms shook her to the core.
"Fuck that was good," she said, as she sagged back down into the seat.
We lay beside each other hugging and making unintelligible noises that were clear to us, but would have sounded like whale soundings to submariners.
After that night, I heard no more about my career choices. We dated three and four times a week, and after some six months I formally proposed and we were married three months after that. The ceremony was muted but elegant: our families, a few friends, and a nice reception. I loved her; she loved me, and soon she was pregnant. Nine months later the twins arrived: Marie and Tina.
The girls were our pride and joy. Jasmine was a stay t home mom until the kids started school—that was five and half years into the marriage. That point in our married life was the demarcation line. It separated our happy uncomplicated early days from the strife ridden years to follow. I didn't realize it at the time, but our problems had begun the very night of our girls first day in first grade. I should have realized it. Half way through the semester, I heard Karen Olson giving Jasmine hell for something. When they saw me they clammed up; it bothered me, but since I had no idea what was what, I let it go.
That first day of school, at any rate, Marie and Tina were so excited telling mommy and daddy about all of the things that they did and a new friend that they had made and their teacher, Mrs. Hathaway, all of it. In bed by 8:00, the girls were asleep almost before I turned out the lights and headed downstairs.
"Girls sure are happy, AJ. I like that. It's good that they are so happy about school," she said.
I smiled and agreed. "You are so right. It's a good start," I said.
"They're happy, you're happy, I'm happy but ... AJ, I want to get a job. You know, one I can do in the daytime while the girls are in school," she said.
I looked over at her. "You've never said anything about working, honey. Why now?" I said.
"The obvious. The house is going to be awfully quiet during the day, and I don't want to just sit around and be bored," she said.
I couldn't think of a good reason to tell her that she shouldn't do it. So, I said the only thing I could say. "Okay, honey, if it's what you really want to do. But we don't need the money," I said.
She hugged me, and we made love and then we slept the sleep of the blessed. The era of good feeling was not destined to last.
Jasmine eventually settled on a job selling real estate. She had to attend classes for a while in order to get her license; but she was a sharp student, and soon she was making money. Boy did she ever make money. Inside of a year she was making double what I was making. That fact and the fact that she never really had cottoned to my being a bartender began to undermine our relationship. I would discover later that—well—she was less than proud to be my wife. When I did find out, it hurt; it hurt a lot. And I heard it from Karen Olson.
It was June and it was getting hot. Summer was always a test for man and beast in the Valley. The temperatures could reach 110 routinely during stretches in July and August, and even September; but this year the heat wave was coming early.
I had arrived home a little earlier than usual. I had transferred to days, 10:00 to 7:00, the year before in order to spend more time with my family, and especially Jasmine. And I did, with my girls. But it seemed that time with my wife had improved only slightly if at all. Jas was not happy with my late arrival this night. She was however dressed to kill! But, not for me; I had a bad feeling.
"Okay, AJ, why are you so late? I left you a message at your work that I had a dinner meeting tonight with the corporate bosses," she said. That explained the clothes—sort of.
"Jas, I have a job too. I took off earlier than I should have just so I could get here now; we were busy! Sheesh! It's only 6:00PM. It's like you were never late, or had to work, right," I said, firing back at her. "And what kind of meeting is it anyway? You're dressed like a street walker for gawd's sake. You dating one of those big shots you're always sucking up to?" I didn't really think she'd be dating anyone, but I knew it was one way to push her buttons. I was a little miffed by her attitude. It had been weeks since she and I had had a serious date, and she never dressed like this for me. Yeah, I was a little miffed.
"Achilles Jones, you've no business talking to me like that. If it weren't for my job we wouldn't be living in this semi-mansion of a house. I need to be able to count on you to be home when you're supposed to be," she said. "Anyway, I'm outta here. We'll talk later. Bye." And she was gone.
" ... if it weren't for her..."! Like I had nothing to do with our life together or hopes or dreams. Miffed didn't even begin to cover it, I decided. Something had to give.
The house had cost half a mil and it was paid for—with her money. I had kept my old place and rented it out. It was paid for too, but it was just a very small three bedroom in a very ordinary subdivision. The new place—hers, at least that was how I was beginning to think of it—was so fancy I was embarrassed to say I lived in it. But, she'd insisted we buy it. Said it would boost her chances of making partner in her firm. The real estate firm she worked for was the biggest in the state, and Jasmine was one of their best sales reps.
She'd been having these meetings once or twice every month for the past year. I wasn't thrilled with her being gone so much at night, but she really hadn't given me any choice. She had made it clear that I had no say in what she did on her job.
This night, I sent the girls to bed around nine. They were set to start their summer recess on Friday five days hence. There was to be an academic awards ceremony on Thursday night for their middle school at the Grissom, a five star hostel in the city. The twins were slated to get one award I knew about, but others were possible. Secrecy was the watchword. No one was to know who was to receive what award. Both Jasmine and I had made plans to attend.
It was 2:00AM when she got in. I was sleeping, but I awakened when she accidently stubbed her toe on the chair near the little antique writing table she'd bought some months before. She swore, I turned over and said, "Morning, late meeting, huh?"
"Yes, we socialized after dinner. But, I'm tired and my feet are killing me," she said. "All I want to do is go to bed and sleep." Code for there would be no sex—Like I would have been in the mood at 2:00AM. The really bad news was that we hadn't more than a quickie in months, and I had become more than a little disturbed by that reality.
Anyway, her "all" actually wasn't quite all. She evidently wanted to shower too. She was back in the room and toweling down her hair in the shadowy light from the bathroom in twenty minutes. "Had to get the cigarette smoke smell out of my hair," she said, when she noticed I was watching her.
I turned over and went to sleep as she slid in beside me. I hoped it was only cigarette smoke she was getting out.
Thursday came and I had the girls ready. We were waiting for Jasmine to arrive; we were already marginal time-wise. The phone rang. I picked it up.
"Hello ... Yes, we're ready ... how long ... what! ... another meeting? ... never again call me out for being late for anything... !" I railed at her. "It's your daughters' big night ... yeah yeah, I'll tell them; they're used it." I hung up.
"Was that mom," said Marie.
"Yes, honey, she's sorry; but she has a business meeting tonight. She promises to make it up to you both on the weekend," I lied saying that. She hadn't promised anything. In fact she was angry with me for challenging her. But hell, I was at the "fuck you" stage too. Things were coming to a head, and there did not appear to be anything I could do about it.
I had noticed the number on the caller ID readout on the phone. It was neither her cell nor her office number. I decided to ring her back and ask her to try and make it for the end of the awards if she could. I hit the redial.
"Century Motel..." I hung up. Now, I was pissed. I was pissed and hurt. I still wasn't sure anything untoward was going on, but I was pretty sure that her big bosses were not holding meetings in motels. I called the motel back one more time.
"Yes, how much are your rooms for one night?" I asked. "And, do you have any conference rooms?" I couldn't help but smile at the answers I got. Thirty-five a night motel rooms and no conference rooms. There was no meeting going on; she was fucking somebody else, and shining on her daughters' awards night in order to do it. I needed to get proof.
The girls we excited. I was looking around to see who I might know, and Karen Olson came up to me.
"Hi AJ, the girls are all excited, huh?" she said.
"You bet. They're over there talking to their friends," I said.
"Jasmine, busy tonight?" she said.
"I frowned. Yeah, said she has meeting. The girls are disappointed, but it's like that a lot lately," I said. I was jabbering on to someone who I had no business jabbering on to.
"AJ, you really need to put your foot down with that woman," said Karen. "You're letting her do things she shouldn't be doing. Like tonight," she said.
I looked at her. I wonder how much she knew. And if she knew anything, would she tell me. I doubted it, but—I'd never know if I didn't just flat out ask.
"Karen, can I ask you something?" I said.
"The answer is yes, AJ, she is." It was like she could read my mind. "Who?"
"Her boss, and he's an asshole," she said.
"AJ, if you ever want a revenge fuck, I'm available. I know a good man when I see one," she said.
I looked at her as if she were from outer space. "Huh—yeah," I said. Lame, but it was all I could come up with.
In the motel room she was already in her underwear tugging on his skivvies when he finally mentioned the call.
"Had to check in with hubby?" he said, disdain clearly evident in his tone.
"Yes, we had something going on tonight. I didn't want him wondering where I was," she said.
"When are you going to dump that bartender and tie your wagon to mine?" he said. "You are clearly way out of his league."
She looked at him. "He's no fool. Don't ever imagine that," she said. "He just loves his work. Money and things don't mean anything to him, or not much at any rate."
"But they do to you," he said, knowing the answer.
"They do to me," she echoed. She had his pants down and she reached for his cock and stroked it slowly and oh so lightly, just like he liked it.
He grabbed her by her hair and pulled her in tighter forcing her to take his entire seven inches in her mouth and down her throat. Two-point-three minutes later he spasmed and exploded in her throat filling it with his cum. She swallowed it all.
She rolled back on her heels and wiped the dribble from her mouth with the back of her hand. "Yummy," she said. he laughed.
He pulled her to the bed and turned her over on her stomach. He would take her from behind; their favorite position. It is how she surrendered to him; he was her man, her real man.
She spread her knees wide lowering herself for him. She felt the soft tip of his penis tease her. She giggled. She knew he couldn't deny her for long; he was hotter than she was, almost desperate in fact, and she reveled in her female power.
"Common now, be a good little boy and plow this woman," she teased.
He rammed his cock home and she let out a scream as he drilled her. "Oh my gawd!" she said. "Oh my gawd!." He began slowly screwing her. He took his time. He wanted to enjoy her as much as he could. She was a good piece, as good as he'd ever porked.
She rose up on her hands and thrust her buttocks back to meet his assault. He was banging her good now, and her titties rocked and swayed with each thrust. She shook as an intense orgasm possessed her.
He emptied into her and she smiled as his seed washed her insides. She could feel the heat of it, and it pleased her. She thought of her AJ and how seldom he had been able to make her feel this way. At least in recent years. It hadn't always been like that. No, there had been a time. She felt bad for him. She was treating him badly even if he didn't know it yet, and she didn't like it. Something had to give.
Finished they were dressing. "How often do you have to fuck him?" he asked.
"Not often. I let him get off maybe twice a month. But it's always a quickie, and then it's over. He never gets the real me anymore, only you get that," she said.
"Do you think he suspects anything?"
"No, he is very trusting." She frowned at her own words as soon as she'd uttered them. Yes, he was trusting, she thought, but she wasn't trustworthy. She felt uncomfortable admitting it even to herself, very uncomfortable. She suddenly realized that she couldn't do it to him anymore. She had to divorce him. The thought made her feel a certain sadness, but at the same time free. She determined to make it an easy divorce for him. Her AJ deserved at least that. Her AJ? Well, not for much longer; he'd be someone else's man soon enough she was sure of that. Rich he wasn't, but he had everything else going for him. Roger on the other hand...
Roger was her man now. It was time to give in to his wishes. No more sneaking around banging each other in cheap, sordid motel rooms.
He smiled his appreciation of her devotion to him. He thought about his previous wives, all three of them. None were Jasmine's equal. She'd be his sooner or later, and if things worked out the way he planned, it would definitely be sooner.
I heard her car pull in; it was after 11:00PM. Her heels clicked on the wooden stairs. She came in looked at him and begin taking off her earrings. "Hello honey, how did the girls do," she asked trying to placate him and anticipating his next remarks.
"Do you really care, Jasmine?"
"Honey, I'm sorry. I just couldn't get out of the meeting. It was too important," she said.
I eyed her. She looked at me, stopped fooling with her jewelry and just looked at me. "What?" she said. "I told you I had to be there. I would have come if I could," she said vehemently.
"Was Roger there," I asked, gambling that it was him she was cheating with.
"Yes, of course, he's my boss," she said.
"Was anyone else there?"
"What? What do you mean?" she said.
"I mean was it just you two or was it a gangbang," I said without undue emotion.
She stopped cold. She paled. Her look clearly stated that there was no way I could know. "You're not funny," she said, still holding to her line of bull.
"I wasn't trying to be. But, I know that the Century motel has no conference rooms; so I am pretty sure you all, all seven of you, wouldn't have been able to fit into one of those cheap little fuck-by-the-hour rooms they charge thirty-five dollars a night for," I said.
Her arms dropped to her sides. "You know don't you." It was not a question.
"I figured it out. So where do we go from here?" I said. I was not prepared for her response.
"I'm relieved," she said. "I was going to talk to you tomorrow. You deserve to know. AJ, I want a divorce. I have fallen in love with Roger. I never meant it to happen, but it has, and I need us to part. I'm sorry."
I was stunned. But, I kept my cool. "You sleep in one of the guest rooms. The girls and I will move out tomorrow," I said.
"What? The girls?"
"Yes, we talked earlier. They want to stay with me. You can have open visitation, but at least with me, the custodial parent won't be missing any of their functions. Oh, and to answer your earlier question; They both received subject area awards: Marie tops in English and Tina in Math. Those, in addition to perfect attendance and citizenship. I mean in case you really do care a whit. Now, get out and let me sleep."
She stared at me, went to the closet, retrieved a nightgown and a robe and retreated out into the hallway. I thought I heard her sob as she exited, but I could have been mistaken.
The sun rose at 6:03AM. I was already dressed and downstairs making coffee; it had always been my time of day. I was pouring myself my second cup when she pulled out a chair at the table. "Can I have a cup?" she said. I poured her one and leaned back against the sink eyeing her.
She stirred in a teaspoon of sugar and looked up at me. "Can we at least be civilized about this, AJ. I know you're hurt. And I am the guilty one. I recognize that. But the girls need their mom. I can do more for them..."
"No, you can't and you haven't. But, yes we can make this a civilized transition if you do not fight me over the girls. We don't care about your money. And we sure as hell don't give a damn about good 'ole Roger. I have no problem with the divorce. You haven't been a wife to me for a long time. But, you and the asshole are not coming between me and my girls. Okay, the ball's in your court," I said.
"I guess we have a fight on our hands then," she said. "I will not give up primary custody, AJ. I can't."
"Your choice. Consider the battle joined. You probably shouldn't be talking to me anymore, nor I you. We're quits as of now; it's just a matter of the legalities being finalized," I said. I headed up stairs.
I had made my plans the night before, at least the initial ones, after she had called and I had discovered the tryst at the Century. I figured worst case scenario, and that's what I discovered that was indeed the fact of the matter, that I'd be moving out the next day—today.
I got the girls up and packed some of their things while they were showering and getting dressed. I took their bags and one I had packed for myself, and headed back downstairs. Jasmine was on the phone, probably to Roger, but I wasn't sure.
I took the suitcases to my car and went back to get the girls.
"AJ, you can't do this! Please do not make me fight you. AJ, you can't win; I'm the mother," she all but screamed.
"Tell you what, Jasmine, ask the girls. Here they come now," I said. looking her straight in the eye. "Ask them who they'd like to stay with. I will stand by their decision." I was sure the girls would stay with me, and it showed in my demeanor.
"What? I can't put them on the spot like that, AJ. What kind..."
"Then I'll ask them, Jas. They're almost thirteen. They know what's what almost as well as you or I."
The girls had reached the bottom of the stairs. They were looking at us nervously. "Girls," I began. "There is no easy way to say this, but last night your mom told me that she wanted a divorce. I have agreed to it; I really have no choice; she has a boyfriend, her boss." I was being cruel, but I was hurt and angry and I didn't know what else to say or do.
"Now, I want to say that this is all about us, and it has nothing to do with you girls. Your mom and I both love you. And neither of us wants to keep the other from seeing you—I don't think. But the problem remains, who would you rather stay with for the immediate future? We've decided that you should be allowed to choose, and of course, you can change your mind whenever you want." I felt like shit loading this on the girls' shoulders. But, a little pain now might avoid a lot more later, or so I rationalized. I had no inkling of what I was about to learn.
They began to fidget and Marie was tearing up. They conferred. Jasmine was nervous, and clearly worried. I was confident, and I must have appeared so.
"Dad, Marie and I love you so much. You are always there for us. But, I guess we are going to stay here for a while, if it's okay with you. We think mom needs us more," said Tina. My mind went blank. I had hot flashes. I think I began to sway.
I was stunned. The blood was rushing to my head and I felt like I was going to blackout. I choked up. I finally managed to find my voice, "Okay—I—daddy loves you." I had to get out of there. I went back out to my car and pulled their suitcases from the back seat them on the porch and left.
Jasmine looked at me; she wasn't gloating. If anything I think she was feeling pity for me. Well hell, I was piteous. I swallowed choking back my tears. "I'll come back tomorrow morning after 10:00AM to get the rest of my things," I said. "Please don't be here. Please." I left.
At least I had a place to stay. I was in between renters. I had been planning to clean the house up and throw some paint on the walls on the weekend. Now, I would be doing it for myself instead of new renters.
I headed for the Head Trip. I had to talk to Drew. I got the day off, and made the necessary rounds. I had to get my credit line worked out separate form hers, and change my will and other things. Drew recommended his lawyer, I called and made an appointment; the secretary said she could get me in before noon.
At noon, I arrived at the office of one Tanya Baker, esq. a little before 11:00AM. I had to wait for a little while, I was early. At 11:15 I was ushered down a short hall to an office.
Being shown in, I walked toward the desk and saw a familiar face. I couldn't place it, but I knew this lady.
She stood and extended her hand for me to shake. "I thought it might be you. I recognized the unusual name," she said. "I have long wanted to thank you for saving my life."
"Huh?" was my brilliant comebacker. "Ma'am? I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage," I said. "Do I know you?"
"Well, Ranger, you should. Afghanistan, fourteen years ago. You fell on me and saved me from that incoming mortar round. The nurse?"
All of a sudden it came back to me. Yes—you—you were a nurse then—but now?"
"I was able to afford law school on the GI bill. So I went. Frankly, I can't believe our paths have crossed again. I mean—small world..." she managed.
"Do yuh think," I said, falling into the chair in front of her desk.
"I tried to find you to thank you after they rushed you the heck outta there. But you were long gone to Rhine Mein and then the states. I never knew where.
"So how have you been?" she said.
"Hummph," I managed. "Until last night okay."
"Oh, yes, I understand. I got a call from Drew. He said you had a problem with your wife."
"Yeah, you could say that. She's been cuckolding me with her boss and last night she laid it on me that she wanted a divorce. So, yeah, I have a problem with my wife," I said.
She nodded. "I see. No chance for a reconciliation?"
"Twin girls, age twelve, almost thirteen. They said they wanted to stay with their mom. I have to tell you; that one stopped me. I'm the one that is always there for them, at the games and events and happenings. Their mother never is. But when we asked them; they opted for her. I tell yuh, that one hurt—a lot," I said. I was starting cry; I got hold of myself.
She stared at me for the longest time. "It happens. If I had to guess, they did it to try and get their mom to start coming to their events and happenings as you call them. They doubtless figure that you will always be there, and if they were staying with you that their mom would withdraw even farther from them. I am pretty sure, going on experience, that their choice had nothing to do with you per se.
It made sense. For the first time in the last twenty-four hours I actually had something to hold on to. "Thanks," I said. "I hope you're right." I actually believed that she was.
We talked for some 45 minutes longer. The upshot was that she would defend my interests, and make sure that I got the best possible visitation rights with my children. There would be no money demands, although she said I could get alimony if I decided that I wanted to go for it. I told her no to that one, that I made enough. She said she wanted Jasmine to do the filing though; that way she, Jasmine, would be up against it for court costs, and for my lawyer costs too if things were to work out the way she thought that they would.
We were standing, shaking hands again as I prepared to leave. "Achilles, I owe you a dinner at the very least. How about it?" she said.
I was surprised, but pleasantly so. She was a very nice looking lady. "Okay," I said, kind of weakly.
"Good. Meet me tomorrow at the Cloister at seven?"
"Okay, sure," I said.
She picked up a card from the tray on her desk and wrote on the back of it. "Here's my cell in case. See yuh tomorrow," she said.
I knew I was early, well, I was anxious. I didn't see her come in. I guess she saw me sitting at the bar. She came up on my blind side. "Howdy, sailor," I heard from behind my shoulder.
"Huh!" She laughed at my obvious surprise; she'd startled me.
"Geezsus! Tanya, I almost had a heart attack. Oh, and I am definitely not a sailor. Try Airborne Ranger. It's a whole different kettle of fish," I said.
"Wow, I guess I need to brush up on the proper protocol don't I," she said.
I laughed, "Darn straight," I said. The game was afoot. We talked for some minutes before the food arrived and Tanya was nothing if not quick witted and very intelligent—a whole lot smarter than me, I figured.
About the time the food came, I had had a chance to look her over pretty good. I hadn't until then, and I was surprised with myself. She was pretty, kinda nurse pretty if you know what I mean. She was a little wider in the hips than your average model. Breasts were a little on the small side, probably A-cups. Her tawny hair was curly, and flowed around her shoulders and that very nicely thank you very much. But, what I noticed most about her, was the way she smelled. That smell damn near enslaved me—she reminded me of Jasmine in that—I did my best to put the comparison out of mind.
Dinner over, the band began playing softly and a few couples got up to dance. I offered her my hand, and she accepted it—tentatively.
"I'm not that bad, really," I said.
"Oh no, it's me," she said. "I am that bad."
"Wow, such candor and honesty. Well, let's dance anyway and humiliate ourselves as much as we can." At first, I damned near couldn't dance I was laughing so hard. For the next few hours we danced and talked and laughed and drank and generally avoided mentioning my impending divorce and my concern over the custody of my girls.
At 11:00PM I was beginning to think that it was time for a gentleman to take a lady home. "Hey girl, how are yuh doin'?" I asked. The evening had turned from tentative to fun to romantic. Her body had been melding with mine on the dance floor since after the first few dances. I hadn't at first thought too much about Tanya that way, though I am a man, and she was more than just an average female woman. But, now I was, thinking about her that way that is. I just wasn't sure if I wanted to get involved right at that moment considering my less than thrilling experience with womankind and intimacy recently.
"Good, how about you?" she said. I just smiled. Her expression turned serious.
"AJ, when are you planning to see you daughters next?" she said.
"Uh? Huh? Maybe next week. They have a summer softball league they're into. The game's on Saturday.
"Not before that?" she said. "I mean you're not goin to see them before that?"