Chapter 1

You've all heard the song "I Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep" sung by Charlie Louvin. No? Well listen to it sometime. It's a great song to hear when there is a sadness in your life. A few bottles of beer will bring you down into the mood. That's the blue mood I'm talking about. I have had a lot of sadness in my life, most of it brought on by myself--I just didn't know it at the time.

There was a builder in the nineteen fifties by the name of Heartwell who bought some land and constructed several houses just outside the central area in the town of Brattleboro, a place with a little over ten thousand inhabitants. The houses were pretty much all the same and eventually the street was named Heartwell Avenue.

The houses changed hands over time of course, and one was purchased by a family, Richard and Lulu Hart. They had one daughter named Cindy, who was eight years old.

A couple of months later the house two doors down was vacated due to the death of an elderly lady and it was bought by a family named Wells. Tom and Mary Wells had a son, Tom Jr., age nine.

The two families became friends and Mary and Lulu concentrated on making warm and welcome homes for their families. They compared parenting duties and household cleaning chores, doing the cooking and everything about running the home the best way possible.

Richard Hart was an insurance salesman, selling both accident and homeowners policies. Tom Sr. was employed at one of the banks in town as a teller and had been for many years. Richard, to all appearances, was more of a go-getter, but he liked to gamble on tips in the stock market. Tom Wells just kept plugging away at making his family comfortable and increasing his assets the good old way by saving. He was pretty astute at it too, as his monthly statements gave testimony.

Cindy and Tom Jr. were friends and did all the things that neighborhood kids were bound to do. Their mothers baby-sat for each other as the need warranted, so Cindy and Tom were often together. As they grew older they experienced a bunch of firsts.

There was the first "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours" and the first kiss and the first grope and finally on the night of her Senior Prom, their loss of virginity to each other. Cindy was the instigator in all of these firsts with Tom following her lead. Tom was a little more shy and serious about life, but enjoyed these forays into the progression of his sexual knowledge immensely.

Tom was home from UVM for her prom, and from then on there was no turning back. When he went back to school after the summer vacation he was a confirmed cock's-man. Tom Sr., who had secured him a job in the bank for the summer, warned him that some day all this would catch up with him. Youth seems to be insulated from many of life's problems and Tom Sr. demanded of Tom that he marry any girl if he got her in trouble. Not to worry, Tom was wise in the ways of protection.

At about the time of Cindy's graduation, her father had been buying like crazy on margin in the market. "The only way to get rich," he was often heard to brag. And he did have some excellent years. Good enough so that he had moved from the Heartwell subdivision and purchased a new house up above the Country Club in a new section called Hillwinds. The market always has its ups and downs and it just happened that when it came time for Cindy to further her education, the funds were not there for her.

Not only that, Richard was about to become homeless, the mortgage payments on his recently acquired house were relentless in coming due before the 10th of each month. Mary and Lulu, ever friends, eventually talked Tom Sr. into taking over the payments of the Richard Hart dwelling. Richard and Lulu moved back to the Heartwell subdivision and into Tom Sr.'s smaller house.

It was an even swap and a good deal, especially for the Wells' family, as Tom Sr. received all of the equity that Richard had in the larger home. This was mostly because Richard was such a poor risk no one would lend him money and it was a good deal for him too, because there was some built-in equity in the smaller Wells' house. This equity could be tapped to finance another go at the market. Tom Sr. shook his head at what Richard planned. It seemed that his friend never learned.

Cindy, subdued because of the loss of status including losing the exclusive Hillwinds address, approached Tom Sr. to help her secure a job in his bank. Cindy was almost as close to him as she was to her own father, and he gladly made sure that she was soon employed in a junior position with him as her boss.

Tom Jr., wise in the ways of banking from his first full-time summer job, convinced his father to co-sign for the down payment on a fixer-upper near the university in Burlington. He remodeled it into a bunkhouse where he rented rooms to fellow students during the school year. In the summer he let students stay rent free if they would continue the rehab work needed.

By the time Tom graduated, he was able to sell the house and declare that his college education only cost 25% of what it would have. Tom was into banking all the way. It had to be in his blood. On his first interview he took a model of what he had done while going to school with him--buying and rehabbing his own quarters to defray his school costs. The bank where his father and Cindy worked was impressed and made him an offer. However, Tom Jr. ended up across town in a different bank.

Cindy, denied school access because of her father's lack of funds, took several job-related courses at the local community college and was able to advance along up the ladder in the bank as openings occurred. Her lifestyle showed her pretty much living for the moment, though, and she was a great party animal, especially on weekends.

The University of Vermont (UVM) was well-known as a party school and Tom kept up his end by adding to its reputation. However, he was never wild and had the responsibility of ownership so he never went overboard. Tom had his pick of students, numerous and varied, to keep his bed warm throughout the school year.

Cindy, working steady and with classes twice a week, reserved Sunday afternoon for reviewing her courses and studying. Friday and Saturday nights filled her need to party and she often ended up in someone's bed on those occasions. Did she ever think about the boy next door she grew up with? Probably about as much as he thought of her, which was not often and never in the context of a lifelong mate.

Tom Jr.'s first job was to be a trainee for the chief Mortgage Loan Officer who would be retiring the first of the year. Young looking and barely twenty-three, some of the older department heads doubted anyone so young could handle the job without losing the bank's money on some poor loans. Instead, Tom sniffed out a scam that a construction company was trying to pull and had their application turned down. Picked up by another bank, it became obvious how smart Tom was when the loan at the other bank went into default.

In another instance, an approval was made on the strength of his previous track record to let Tom go ahead and approve a loan for a start-up company. It proved to be one of the wisest loans made that year.

Tom and Cindy were dating others, but often ran into each other somewhere almost every weekend. It was like meeting your brother or sister and waving "Hi." One night Cindy stopped by Tom's table at a club and said, "You know we ought to get together and date. After all we kind of have dibs on each other since prom night. How about picking me up next Friday and we'll go out?"

"Sure, it'll be fun. I'd like to hear what's going on in your life. Dad tells me about how good you are at your job. He really likes you."

"Well I like him too. He has made my job a lot easier by mentoring me so I didn't make too many mistakes when I first started. God, I've been doing the same thing for four years now. Hard to believe. So I'll see you Friday night?"

"I'll pick you up about seven and we'll get something to eat."

Cindy looked like a million bucks when she came out of her parents' house on Heartwell Avenue. For a minute the thought crossed my mind that here Cindy and I were at the age of twenty-three or four and were both still living with our folks.

Cindy slid into the car and reached over and gave me a peck on the cheek. I had heard that the food and service were excellent at The New England House so we were soon seated in the lounge with a drink in front of us, waiting for a table to become available.

Cindy was nervous, in fact more nervous and jumpy than I had ever seen her. Once I thought I even saw tears in her eyes. However she tried to be animated and interested in what my job entailed. She left most of the conversation in my hands and only asked a question when our talking thinned out. It was almost an hour before we were ushered to our seats, and I had the feeling that I had just been interviewed or evaluated--or both.

When we finished the bottle of wine, completed our dinner and came out to the car, I asked, "What would you like to do now? I have nothing planned so it is your call."

"Can we go up to the Kiwanis shelter at the Living Memorial Park and continue talking? I have something I want to ask you."

After we parked, we got out and Cindy led me to the little chapel just beyond the picnic shelter. Turning and facing me she took both of my hands in hers and said, "Tom, we've known each other since we were kids. You even took my cherry. We have always got along very well." She paused, "Would you marry me?"

Thinking this must be a joke, I gave her a flip answer. "But Cindy, this is so sudden?" I made a question out of my statement, because there must be a reason behind what she had just asked me.

"I am serious! Come sit on the bench with me and I will tell you why I asked."

I eventually got the whole story concerning the marriage proposal. "Tom, I like sex. I like a lot of sex and I think I am pretty good at giving and receiving. Lord knows I have had a lot of practice. I always knew there was a risk of getting pregnant. I can't be on birth control pills because I can't tolerate them. I am the one to always roll the condom on my date, drunk or sober. About a month ago this guy and I hooked up. I protected myself the same as always. In the morning the guy was gone, leaving me a note and a broken rubber. The note just said 'oops.'

"I rushed home and took what measures I could to clean up and out. I checked the calendar and figured I was safe, being what day it was in my cycle."

Cindy sat there with tears running down her face. "I didn't know I was pregnant when I asked you for a date. I confirmed it this morning. What am I going to do?

"I don't really mean you have to marry me and I guess I was looking for an easy solution to my problem. It just came out."

"There is abortion you know. Have you thought about that? What about the man that made the baby? Why are you talking to me and not him?"

"Oh I can't have an abortion. What if this little thing growing in me is like my cousin's kids? They are adorable and I just love them. I couldn't destroy them and I can't destroy this fetus. The man that got me pregnant isn't father material in any way, shape or form. I'd be in court looking for support until the baby was eighteen and with little chance of collecting."

"So what do you want from me? I can't believe you really thought I would marry you." I stared at her. "So tell me what were you thinking? And another thing, what's in it for me if I should? This is all supposition, of course."

Cindy took a deep breath. "It was a shock to me when that test kit indicated I was pregnant, so I took today off from work just to think about what I was going to do.

"I still have to think about abortion. There is no good solution to my problem unless I just go ahead and be a single mother and that is going to hurt a lot of people. My folks, and your father who has put a lot of trust in me at work, and most of all the little one who doesn't need to be born under the stigma of never having its father.

"I suppose I am selfish and scrambling to find a way to pass my mistake on to someone else. Then late this afternoon I remembered hearing your father say that if you ever got a girl knocked up that he would insist that you marry her. That made me think maybe I could trap you by having sex with you tonight."

I couldn't believe Cindy would do this to me or even consider it. I waited for her to continue.

"You've been my friend ever since we were kids and I couldn't be that dishonest so I just decided to ask you to marry me. I thought of the night you took my cherry and how we dodged the bullet in not using any protection. If I had become pregnant we would have been married six years now. And I thought how nice it would be married to you."

She knew I was going to argue against her. How could I help but shoot her down? "Cindy, people marry for love and I plan on doing that. I just haven't found anyone yet. Sure I love you as a sister or as a friend, but as a wife--I don't think so. Uh-huh, I can't do it. What happens if I see someone tomorrow that is the love I have been searching for? Here I am trapped in a loveless marriage because I was too weak to resist your arguments."

"Tom, I've thought of that and we could work out the details."

God, she had an answer for everything. "Like how?"

"Well I haven't got it all straight yet in my mind, but after or even before the wedding vows I thought that maybe just you and I could have a marriage contract that would spell out all the details. People do it for financial reasons before marriage. Couldn't we make a contract to do the same with the baby as the prime consideration?"

"I still don't know what is in this for me."

"Two years is all that I ask you to stay with me. After that you can go your own way. I know that child support can be a problem, but I will promise you that I will never sue you for anything. If you are directed to pay in the divorce settlement, just don't do it, and I won't take you into court."

"What happens Cindy, if you want out and I want you to stay with me? Maybe I will fall in love with you or more importantly the child. Will I have any rights? How am I going to feel if you are stepping out on me? I would want a sworn promise that for a period of time you would be true and faithful as any wife should. During that time you could never bring any humiliation down on me."

"Oh Tom, you mean you might consider marrying me? Oh, God in heaven, thank you!"

"Whoa Cindy, we have a lot of details and 'what ifs' to work out. Let's not get too far ahead with this. I've got an awful sinking feeling that one of us is going to get hurt if we go through with this. Why don't I take you home and you work on what you think is fair and I'll do the same. I'll call you in the morning, okay?"

When Cindy offered up her lips to be kissed, I turned away. I didn't want to be swayed by anything remotely sexual and Cindy was definitely a sexual person.

I didn't get much sleep that night as you can imagine. Christ, why was I even considering this? I had to talk to someone. I came downstairs and found my dad drinking coffee while reading the paper. "Where's Mom? I need to talk to you and I don't want her to hear."

"She's out doing yard sales and won't be back until she has the car full of junk."

"That's Mom. Good, she'll be gone awhile and I need to talk to someone. I've got a problem Pop. Well actually Cindy Hart has a problem and she has asked me to help her. I need some advice on what to do."

I told my father everything that Cindy and I had talked about. He was shaking his head in disbelief when I finished, saying how stupid all of this was. Then he cut right into the heart of the problem by asking me, "What do you want to do son?"

"Pop, I'd love to help her out, but I don't think I love her more than I would a sister. I don't want to screw my whole life up either, by tying myself down with a kid and a woman that is just grateful for something I did for her."

"Son, I will say this. If you decide to go through with this, whatever Cindy agrees to, she will honor that agreement to the letter. I've known her better than you for I've worked with her for five years. If she says she will do something, you can count on it being done. Ultimately, though, it will be your decision."

I left home that morning and went to the Days Inn and rented a room. I called Cindy and told her where I was and if she was still of a mind to continue to discuss this, I would be in room thirty-seven. Twenty minutes later she knocked on the door and we proceeded to hammer out an agreement that would tie up my future life for at least two years and her's for five.

If I wanted to continue past that time, I was to give Cindy six months notice at any time of my intent to divorce her.

Cindy on her part would bind herself to me for five years, remaining true and faithful unless I had opted to divorce her under the agreed conditions before then.

My dad was the only one aware that there was anything strange about our marriage. He stood by me as a witness along with Cindy's mom when we said our vows before the town clerk. As we left the office Cindy announced that a baby was on the way and it might be just a bit early.

The honeymoon consisted of a three-day trip up through the White Mountains and another three days along the coast of Maine. Mom wanted us to move in with them, but Cindy and I wanted to be by ourselves and Dad sided with us. We rented a small apartment off Western Avenue at Brookside, and set up housekeeping.

Our love life was something! We were both experienced lovers and we found many ways to please and surprise each other. Cindy returned to work, and as I was well able to support us on my salary, I suggested that Cindy put her wages aside in case this marriage was terminated. Cindy worked well beyond her eighth month before staying home to wait for the little girl to make her appearance.

Dad retired from his job at the bank after twenty-five years. He and Mom wanted to travel so they bought a small motor home and took off across country. Dad said his plans for the future were to find a retirement community and leave Vermont and probably he would be settling in Arizona. He suggested Cindy and I move into my old home while they were scouting a place to live, with the idea of buying it, if and when he and Mom found a place. That suited us just fine.

I guess Cindy and I were as happy as most couples. There wasn't much passion to our life, but we certainly had a comfortable existence. Sex was good, and Cindy was grateful for my relieving her of the trauma that would have befallen her if I hadn't stepped forward.

I was there by Cindy's side when needed which included being there at the birth of our daughter, Aileen Ellen. When I first saw the little thing nursing at her mother's breast, I knew that whatever sacrifice I had made was well worth it.

I often caught Cindy watching me as I held Aileen and willingly took on some of the chores that a new baby demands. Eventually Cindy made the comment, "Tom, you care more for Aileen than you do me, don't you?"

I thought about what she had said, "I don't know how I feel. I am so glad we have this baby. When I think that we even mentioned the word abortion in our first conversation, I shudder. This little thing could have been thrown away. I love Aileen and I love you for bringing her into my life."

Unconsciously, I suppose I didn't say that I loved Cindy for herself, but that I did love her for what she had done.

Shortly before the two years that I had promised to stay married to Cindy were up, she asked me what my plans were. "Tom, time is up next week. I need to know if the plans need to be changed. Are you satisfied with the way things are? Do you want to continue being married to me? I just want to say I think I am fulfilling all of your needs and I am pretty happy the way things seem to be. I'd like to continue."

God, I felt like I had just been kicked in the stomach when she brought this up. I couldn't give up Aileen. It was unthinkable! I was actually physically sick, and excused myself to go to the bathroom. When I had composed myself, I returned saying, "I'm happy the way things are. Why don't we go along like this for now? It is going to be three more years until you have to make the same determination. I'd like to definitely commit to you until that time, and then we will decide if we should continue for the rest of our lives. At this point, I'm betting on a life commitment."

We resumed our sex life that night, with the mutual agreement that we would not have any children together unless we committed to a lifetime partnership. Lying next to Cindy in the after-glow of a very satisfying love session, I felt my life couldn't be better. I drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face.

At four in the morning, I awoke with a heavy feeling in my chest. It was so bad I thought I was having a heart attack. When I decided it wasn't anything physical, I lay there thinking of what had caused it. I came to the conclusion that at some time in the future I was going to experience a situation in my life that was going to be extremely painful. Premonition? It had to be.

Cindy returned to work. My mother-in-law, Lulu, came everyday to baby-sit Aileen. I worked only a couple of miles from home so almost every day I was at the house during my lunch hour to see and play with the baby. For all intents and purposes my life should have been perfect and from the outside it looked like it. I had an attractive wife, a beautiful new child and a well paying job that I enjoyed.

I still had these heavy feelings in the dead of night. I finally started going up to the attic where I had my tape player set up. I had a library of a couple of thousand songs on tape. All of my life I had loved country songs, especially the sad, cheating, lost love ones. I would sit there and put together a play-list of about ten songs and listen to the words of pain. Often tears would just pour down my face as the feelings spilled from the speakers. I guess it was the thought that somewhere, someone else had these sad, lonely feelings and had put them to song and it made me feel as if I had a friend out there.

Our neighborhood was changing. I came home to see Aileen one noon and Lulu said that I had some new neighbors moving in next door. She said she had seen a young couple, but no children. She said she had put together a cake for Cindy and I to take over that night to welcome them. Cindy did go, balancing the cake and Aileen, but I was unable to as I had a meeting that evening.

It was the next night that I got to hear all about our new neighbors. They were Gail and Steve Simpson--brother and sister. Steve had just come in to take over management of a department at the food warehouse on Putney Road. Gail was a first-year student at St. Michael's College. Their mother and father had been killed in an auto accident when Gail was only fifteen and Steve had been her parent, so-to-speak, since that time.

I was informed that Friday night I was going to fire up the grill and we were going to have a cookout as Cindy was anxious for me to get acquainted with Steve and Gail. One thing the Simpsons had that the Wells family didn't was a swimming pool. The previous owners had never been friendly so Cindy and I had never been asked to enjoy it.

It was a fun evening. I took to Steve right off as he was gregarious and articulate on any subject that was brought up. Sunday I made sure he was with me when I went for my morning golf game just down the road at the Country Club.

Gail was the typical college kid and I checked out her form as every man is bound to do. I decided that she still had about twenty pounds of baby fat and when she lost that she was really going to be something to look at.

We became fast friends, going out together, all of us when Gail was home from school and with just Steve when she was away. For a long while, more than a year actually, I never went up to the attic to listen to my sad songs. About six months before Cindy's five years were up and it would be decision time--hers to decide to split and me to let her go, or me to propose and make Cindy my wife for real. My demons were back with a vengeance. Night after night I played those songs.

Six weeks before that date came up, I was transferred to a bank branch up in the western part of the state. It was only temporary as the previous manager had been fired. I would be staying there during the week as it was a long way to travel--not impossible but still a long commute.

Cindy never gave me any indication that we weren't as close as ever. While away in Brandon, I picked out a beautiful diamond ring to give to Cindy when I proposed. If there hadn't been an Aileen, I probably would not have even thought of marrying Cindy. We would have moved on, but I loved that baby so I couldn't consider not being her father.

Unthinkingly, I left the ring in my bag which Cindy unpacked usually as soon as I went to clean up from my commute home. I was in the shower when I heard Cindy scream. I quickly stepped out and wrapped my robe around me. I met Cindy at the door. She was sobbing and shaking, holding the ring box in her hand.

"Oh God Tom, is this for me?" I thought these were tears of happiness on Cindy's face.

"Yes, of course. Next week is the time we cement the rest of our life together. The three of us. You, me, and Aileen. Happy?"

Sobbing harder than ever, Cindy staggered and I thought she was going to faint. I half carried her and guiding her to the couch we sat down together. "Isn't this what you wanted?"

"Tom, no, I can't. There is someone else. When we had our talk, I was going to explain. I've loved this man for more than six months. He knows about our arrangement and promised to wait until I was free. That is next week. I have the divorce papers all made out and you will receive them when our agreement is up. I love this man, I mean I really love him."

"I thought you agreed that you wouldn't cheat? What happened to that little item? Did you forget that?"

"I haven't cheated! How can you think that? The most we have ever done is hold hands and talk. The only way I have cheated was when I was with you. Everytime you and I had sex lately I felt I was cheating on him, not you. I have never denied you and I have been as sexual as ever, you have to admit that."

I knew Cindy told me the truth and I did believe her. I went on to what really concerned me. "What about Aileen? I'm her father."

"You are not the father. She was fathered by somebody you never met."

"Maybe I didn't conceive her, but I saved her from being flushed down the drain somewhere. I married you to save her, not because I loved you. I think that makes her mine, doesn't it?"

"In a way, I suppose. When we put together that agreement five years ago, you said you wouldn't go into court for any reason. I think you should live up to your side of the bargain, just as I have lived up to mine."

"Well, what about her then? Don't you think she loves me? How is she going to feel? She must have some rights."

"She is only four and a half. Even if you never see her again she will soon forget you. Her new father is a nice man and will love her as much as you do. Besides I'm not going to deny you parental rights to see her."

"Who is this wonderful man you love so much that you are willing to take my child away from me?"

Cindy looked at me. I could tell she didn't want to answer. Finally, "Steve Simpson. He is your friend and you know he will be good to Aileen."

Christ! This woman not only took my daughter from me, but she was taking my best friend too. The friend I taught to hunt and the one I went to ball games with in Boston and the one I ate and drank with and the one I laughed and joked with. I thought as much of him as I did Cindy. Now I hated them both!

I went to my bag that Cindy was unpacking and picked it up and started to repack it. When I came to the ring I threw it at her. "Here you might as well have this. I did you a favor and you stole five years of my life. You stole the one precious thing I valued above all else. You took my best friend and he gets to keep my little girl. What more can you do to me?" I guess by this time Cindy realized how much she had hurt me, but didn't know what to say in her own defense.

I returned to Brandon that night and spent the weekend listening to some of the loneliest music I had with me on tape. I just about wore the one that seemed the most apropos out, "I Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep."

Monday I called the Brattleboro Post Office and asked that any mail that was addressed to me, personally, be held in General Delivery and I would pick it up. I sent Cindy a letter telling her to address her mail to me at General Delivery. I enclosed a check that would cover what I expected the household expenses to be until the divorce was final. I also asked her to be out of the house the day the divorce became final as I would have the repairs done that needed to upgrade the house so it was suitable to market. I just signed the letter, "Tom."

Not once did I receive a return letter saying anything about being sorry! It seemed as if I was owed that much. And what about Steve? There was nothing from him either. Well screw them, I'd make my own way, but God how I missed my little girl. I wonder how she felt without her daddy anymore?

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic /