Please read Secrets Held IN first if you wish to follow along, otherwise, I'm not sure this will make too much sense!
"It's Doris," Charlie my brother said as he held out the phone to me. It had been two days since I had left her sitting in her misery on the hallway floor. Two days since our blow out. Two days since she found out I knew all about her affair those eight years ago.
"I'm not talking to her!" I snapped at Charlie. He looked at me with a neutral expression on his face. He waited a moment, and seeing that I was not budging he spoke back into the phone.
"Doris, he doesn't want to speak with you just now ... I will ... yes ... you take care."
Charlie hung up the phone and sighed. He was my older brother, the golden boy, my parent's favorite. I had always looked up to him growing up. He taught me a lot about life. My parents, well, not so much. Clearly they were disappointed with me, especially when I dropped out of college and landed a journeyman electrician position. I had become blue collar to them.
"You wanna talk about it?" he asked. I thought about it and shrugged. Maybe it would help if I spoke to him. I'm not sure I was feeling anger and pain, I really didn't know how I felt, only that my stomach no longer caused me problems and I was surprisingly hungry.
I told Charlie everything, opened up to him just like always and watched his face for signs of approval and disapproval. He wasn't too surprised when I told him about Doris' affair.
"I figured it was something bad for you to leave her," Charlie said. "You've always been so smitten by her that I knew it would take something really bad for you to leave."
His face turned to concern when I told him about the anxiety attacks and the weight loss. He had been really concerned and tried to get me to open up to him during the time I was loosing all my weight. I couldn't at that time. Charlie even enlisted my parents to try to talk to me and show concern. Even they, although I was surprised by their attention, couldn't get me to reveal my problems.
"Jeez, Frank. What are you going to do?" he asked after I had finished the story.
"I don't know, Charlie. That's why I'm here now. I need to figure out what I'm going to do."
Charlie didn't drink, he had had problems before and so we wound up splitting some gourmet root beers that evening. Root beer that costs more than beer, ain't that a kick?
We talked about our child years, growing up, dating, girls, and other things. Charlie turned to me and looked me straight into my eyes.
"Frank, I gotta be honest here. You have to cowboy up and be a man. You can't go through life undecided. That's all you've done your entire life. You've let others make the decisions for you, and have coasted through life just falling into things."
"What the fuck, Charlie? Since when have I done that?"
"Look, don't get all defensive on me, stop being a little boy and listen to me, not just hear me. I'm your brother man, and I've always tried to do right by you."
"Sometimes you've been the only one," I groused.
He nodded. "I heard a lot of stories, and seen a lot of people during times like this that turn away from the people they've always loved and trusted, ignore and distrust the advice that in any other circumstance, they would follow, all because they were confused and emotional."
He finished his root beer.
"Frank, I'm telling you something that you have to trust me on. I'm your brother, I love you and I've never steered you wrong. Don't doubt me now during this most important time in your life."
"Charlie, jeez, just tell me okay?"
"You fell into your electrician job and dropped out of college because you took what was given to you. You didn't want to chance it and go through school to find out that you made a mistake not taking that position. You're still in that position even though your buddy wanted you to partner up with him and open your own business. There was a chance of failure and you refused to take it. There's been other times as well. You're entire life has all been laid out for you. Hell man, you followed in my footsteps until your job fell into your lap. Everything you did growing up was because you saw me do it first."
"Charlie, not everything..."
"The big stuff, Frank. The bicycle jump, the way you asked that first girl out on a date, you even got my old first car."
I had to admit that Charlie was right here. I felt meek now and small, but Charlie was right.
"Charlie, what the fuck are getting at? I'm too wasted on gourmet root beer here, get to the point!"
Charlie laughed then turned serious.
"Don't you see the pattern in your marriage? You found a catch, actually from the way you told it, she found you and made the first moves. She was the one who suggested marriage. You fell into that relationship, into that marriage, Frank. Deep down, you settled, not in a bad way, don't get all uptight here..."
"You better not be saying Doris is beneath me, Charlie!"
"Hold on, Frank. What I'm saying is that you repeated the same routine here. What chances did you take in your relationship with Doris? Where was the risk? She made the first move, she even proposed marriage? She was a sure thing for you and you went for it."
I was quiet now, thinking it over, quickly scanning my entire life history. What chances did I take? They must have been very few, because at the moment with the sugar high, I could not remember any.
"I think," Charlie continued. "That Mom and Dad had a lot to do with how you are today. It hurt me to see them treat you differently from me. I tried to protect you, but I know that I couldn't always be there for you. Hell deep down inside, maybe you think you don't deserve to be happy, just drifting through life, settling for what's given to you, but Frank, you don't have to settle. You deserve to be happy. Take a chance on yourself. If you fail, well then try again, but there's a line from an old poem by Whittier that I always remember, maybe it would have some meaning to you: "of all the sad words both tongue and pen, the saddest are those: what might have been.""
We were silent then. It was late. Time for bed. Charlie got up and headed back to his bedroom, leaving me free to sleep on the couch.
"Frank, maybe you tried your hardest to save the marriage, but acting the martyr all these years, did that make you happy? Was that a marriage?"
That night I replayed my life over in my head. I got little sleep.
I called Doris the next morning and arranged a time to meet her at home that evening after work.
I entered my house without knocking or ringing the bell, I never understood those men who refused to enter the house they had been paying for after they left. Doris looked haggard, her eyes were puffy and it looked like she finally had gone through some of the hell I had been living over the last eight years.
"Hi Doris," I said calmly.
Doris ran to me and wrapped her arms around me sobbing.
"Frank! I'm sooooo sorry! I ... I'm sorry. Oh god all this time you knew!"
We settled onto the couch and after some time, she calmed down. She had told me how devastated she was when she heard the news of my knowledge. She hadn't been able to eat or sleep and she had lost the project because she couldn't go on with it after our fight. I fought back the temptation to ask about dreamy Kevin Fricks. She was adamant that there was nothing going on with him.
'Please Frank, you have to believe me, that after that affair with Gerald, I felt so much shame and anger about what I had done, that I vowed to never do that again. I tried to make it up to you, didn't I?"
.... There is more of this story ...