At What Cost Friendship

by woodmanone

Caution: This Drama Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Romantic, .

Desc: Drama Story: A man helps an old friend and loses his fiancee

There is no sex in this story. Suggest you look somewhere else if that is what you want.

As always constructive comments, good or bad, are appreciated. Thanks and enjoy.

I watched the bartender and caught his eye. Holding up my empty glass, I gestured for a refill. This will only be my second bourbon in about two hours. I'm not a light weight when it comes to drinking; but up until one month ago I had way too many mornings wondering what I did the previous night.

My problem had been that lately the more I drink, the more I drink. So I restrict myself to just two drinks now. Anyway, I am sitting here waiting for a friend to come through the door and rescue me.

This is the story that will bring you back to me here on my bar stool.

My name is John Henry Kelly. I am named after two of my great grandfathers. Not really important to some maybe, but I'm proud of my heritage. At 6 feet 2 and around 210, I'm just a little bigger than average. I guess the story really starts as a senior in high school.

By my senior year, I had a reputation as being a little bit fast where the young ladies were concerned. In fact my nickname was Slick. The reputation was justified I might add and I did date, love, and leave a lot of the young females in and around our school.

In today's words, I was a player. Normally most of the young ladies I ran with were players also. There was no harm done to the general population. The one exception to that is the whole reason I'm telling this story.

The county fair opened on the same day as my graduation from high school and a bunch of the graduating seniors went to the fair to celebrate. Lesley Ann Bennett was at the fair too. She was the daughter of Thomas Bennett the minister of the largest Baptist church in own town and I met her coincidentally at the fair. She was and is a very attractive young woman in a wholesome kind of way.

Wholesome until you saw the gleam in her eye and you just knew there was a devil in her waiting to get out. I thought I was just the one to release that devil.

We spent most of the evening together at the fair, but she had to go home with her cousin Jenny. I made plans to meet her again the next evening at the fair. When we met the next night, we just walked past the fair on down to the river. We had already seen the attractions of the fair and I wanted to see the attractions that Lesley had to offer.

Walking together, holding hands, we found a very quiet little beach. It was very secluded and well off the path. We stopped to talk and get to know each other better. Certainly did that, get to know each other I mean. We spent better than two hours hugging, kissing, stroking, and caressing each other. Somehow during those hours, I managed to release the devil residing in Lesley Ann Bennett.

When we left the river bank, Lesley was no longer a virgin. I had lived up to my bad boy reputation and seduced the young lady. Now this part is important; I DID NOT FORCE HER.

I actually tried to slow things down at least three times. I really did try to behave myself. I know it's hard to believe but it's true. Lesley was not one of the typical girls that I ran with. She was a nice young lady and a preacher's daughter. However, the devil had been released and neither of us could resist the temptations he offered.

As usual, by the next day I had pretty much forgotten the words of love I had whispered to Lesley. That was my normal modus operandi. I would say things the girls wanted to hear but I didn't necessarily mean them.

Oh, at the time I might, but it was usually just a way to get closer to certain young ladies. Most of the girls I ran with knew that I was a player and didn't believe all the bullshit I would spout. That was not the case with Lesley Ann Bennett.

Lesley believed my lines and thought she had found the love of her life. She called me the next day and started to babble about when we would see each other again. Lesley also mentioned something about meeting her family, an engagement, and some other very scary ideas. At least they were scary to me.

I tried to be gentle with her. I really didn't want to hurt her and neither did I want or plan to get married right then. Finally she got the message that I wasn't her knight in shining armor and we were not going to ride off into the sunset together.

The next day, the excrement hit the revolving cooling device (or Thethe shit hit the fan). Mr. Bennett came to see me at the garage where I worked part time. He wanted to know if my intentions were honorable concerning his daughter, in other words was I going to make an honest woman of her.

I told him I had no intentions honorable or otherwise concerning Lesley. Mr. Bennett informed me that financial arrangements would be made if I were to marry Lesley. He said a house, car, and good paying job could be provided.

"Mr. Bennett, Lesley is a very nice young lady and we had fun together but that's all it was, a little fun time," I told him.

"You took advantage of a young, impressionable, and innocent girl, John. I intend to see that you live up to your responsibilities young man." Things went downhill from there. He left mumbling something about vengeance, thou shall not fornicate and some other wonderful things.

One week later my boss called me into his office. He told me he was letting me go. I asked why and he said he couldn't afford to keep me. I told him I would take fewer hours or a smaller hourly wage if he wanted.

I wanted to work on cars and this was good experience. Finally he broke down and told me that Mr. Bennett was putting pressure on him. Bennett was on the board at the bank. The bank held the mortgage on the garage, ergo the pressure.

I sat in the office for a minute digesting that information. "Don't worry about it boss, it's time I moved on anyway. You have been good to me and I have learned a lot. Thanks."

The next morning, I packed my few belongings into my truck and headed west. I thought I can always get a job fixing cars and support myself. That's exactly what I did. I found a job in Arizona at a used car lot. Cars would come in needing some work and I would fix them so they could be sold. I was able to fix most of them cheaply, increasing the profit to the car lot.

About eight months after starting at the car lot, one of the owners and I opened our own car repair place. He provided the money and I did everything else. The split was 60-40, the 40 being me. Becoming a partner in this business was quite an accomplishment for a 20 year old boy. Our garage was a big success.

Things went great for about a year and a half; then my share of the profits began to shrink. I talked to my partner about the reduction in profits. He said cost had gone way up and business was down. It didn't ring true. We had so much work that we were booking three weeks in advance.

I ran the garage and knew some things now cost more, but we just passed the increase on to the customer. The increased cost did not justify the shortages my partner claimed. I did some snooping around and I found out that my good old partner had a gambling problem. That's where the money was going.

I showed him the results of my snooping and he confessed. He offered to buy me out when I threatened to get an attorney to get my money. The business was worth more than the 100 thousand he offered, but I just wanted out. I have no idea where he got that money and didn't care. I took the money in cash and ran back to my home town.

It was discovered a couple of years later that my partner borrowed the buyout money from a loan shark. My old partner ended up with broken legs and no business at all when he didn't repay the loan on time.

There hadn't been much change in the old home town. A few businesses gone, a few new ones had opened up. One of the new ones was ice cream parlor and it was the favorite place for the non drinking set and the kids. I don't know why but I stopped by the place because I didn't really care for ice cream that much.

I liked bourbon, but alcohol had been a small problem for me so when I started the car repair business, I had quit drinking and didn't think an ice cream soda would push me off the wagon. The first person I saw as I came through the door was Lesley Ann Bennett. She was sitting on a stool at the counter and had her back to me.

Lesley was with her cousin Jenny. Jenny was the first to spot me and must have said something to Lesley. Lesley turned around and saw me. Her face went red, I thought she was blushing. Wrong again, as usual.

I walked over and said, "Hello Lesley, Jenny. How are you guys?"

The next thing I knew my face was burning and I had a ringing in my ears. Lesley had smacked me so hard; I think my dad got a head ache. Wow, that girl packed a punch. I raised my hand and Lesley sort of flinched. I guess she thought I was going to hit her. I just rubbed my face and looked at her.

"Well there is nothing wrong with your arm anyway," I said. "That's good; see you around ladies." I left the store without getting that ice cream soda. It was an embarrassing situation and that was the only way I knew to handle it. Actually thinking back on it I probably got what I deserved.

The first thing to do was to find somewhere to live. I found a small two bedroom condo to rent. I needed a base of operations until I could figure out what I was going to do. On my third night in my new place my door bell rang. I was just finishing my second and last beer of the day and was talking on my cell.

Who could that be at my door? I opened the door and was shocked; Lesley was standing there. I ended the call and looked at her for a few seconds.

"Can I come in?" Lesley asked.

"Let me get my football helmet on first, then come on in," I answered jokingly. I saw her flinch. "Just kidding, come on in. What can I do for you? By the way how did you know where I live?"

"The company I work for owns the building. The office manager told me about you moving in. There are two reasons I came by."

"And they are?" I questioned.

"First, I want to apologize for the slap. You didn't deserve that and I am sorry," Lesley said sadly.

"Its okay, no apology needed or expected and I probably did deserve it. You said two things, what is the other?"

Lesley hesitated a second and then asked, "Why?"

"Why what," I asked. I was pretty sure I knew what she meant.

"Why did you leave town. I know I spooked you a little, but I thought we could have talked. You dropped me like I had rabies or something. Then you left town. Why?"

"Truth time," I asked? She nodded and I went on. "Your father came to see me. First he tried to pay me to marry you. He offered me a house, car and a job. When that didn't work he pressured my boss to fire me. I had no job and a powerful man after my hide, so I left town."

"My father huh, I might have known. I didn't like you right then, but I thought it was funny that you would leave town. You didn't seem like someone who would run away because of me. I'm sorry; my father had no right to confront you."

"Its okay things worked out, maybe for the best."

"About that night at the river John, I need..."

"Hold on girl, it's my turn now. I have a couple of things I want to say about that very subject. If your dad had not interfered I would have called or met with you to discuss 'things' with you."

"You were going to call me?" Lesley seemed surprised.

"Yeah, I was. Look Lesley we had a good time that night, but I felt bad about it afterwards. You are not one of the bimbos I usually hooked up with. You were special.

If you remember I tried to slow things down a couple of times. You being a virgin, I should not have been surprised at your reaction after wards. I would have liked to talk to you and explain myself but I never got the chance."

"I'm sorry John. I seem to keep saying that, don't I? Well, I am sorry for all the trouble."

"How sorry? Have dinner with me tomorrow night." I said.

"What?"

"Just dinner. Nothing else. I would like to do the explaining I should have done back then. Besides, you're a pretty girl and I'm lonely. What do you say?"

"I don't know. You hurt me."

"I know I did Lesley. I was that guy then and I'm sorry but I'm not that guy anymore. Have dinner with me, please."

She looked at me with a small smile and said, "Okay, but just dinner, nothing else."

The next evening I took Lesley to a nearby town, about 20 miles away to a nice steak house. We spent the whole evening catching up, talking and actually becoming friends. It was the first of many dates. We started off once a week for dinner or a movie. Then it was twice a week, then three times, and finally you couldn't separate us with a crow bar. We spent 4 or 5 evenings a week together.

The relationship turned from just friends to much more; at least on my part. This happened over a period of two and a half months. We were exclusive to each other; in the old days we would have been going steady. Nothing was said about being exclusive. It was just the way things were.

I had no problem dating only Leslie and in fact I was falling in love with this 'nice' girl. We hadn't slept together yet as I was trying to be a good boy. I had gotten a job at a repair shop and was doing fairly well. Between my job and my bank account I was okay for money.

Friday was usually our movie night because they changed the movies every Friday. Lesley said she had to do some things with her mother this Friday and couldn't go. I was beginning to wonder, this was the fourth date she had broken in the last two weeks. Was she getting tired of me or was I just being paranoid?

Just because your paranoid, doesn't mean they're not after you. Remember that.

I decided to go into my snooping mode again. After I was burned in business, I developed a philosophy of "Trust but verify" at times. This was one of those times. Maybe things were fine and the broken dates were just unavoidable. Then again maybe they weren't. I would find out what was what.

There are only three or four places that people can go to in our small town on date night. You could go to the movies, the ice cream parlor, to dinner at one of three places in town, or go to "The Crystal Palace". The Crystal Palace was a bar and grill that had dancing every night and a live band on the weekends.

If Lesley were going out I didn't think she would go to the movies or the ice cream place. The people there knew both of us and would probably say something to me about us not being together. The Crystal Palace was where I would start. There were a couple of other bars in town, but they were small neighborhood type places. No real excitement for daters.

Our date had been for 7:00, so I waited until 9:00 and then pulled into the parking lot at the Palace. There in the front row was Lesley's car. I guess her mother wanted to party. I mean, Lesley was helping her mother tonight, at least according to Lesley. Lesley and I had been to the Palace a few times, but not enough to be regulars. It was unlikely that anyone there would rat her out.

I went around to the back door and entered the building. There is a corner at the end of the bar where I could see most of the place and not be seen unless someone was really looking. I didn't think Lesley would be really looking for me. I sat at the last bar stool in that corner and looked out over the dance floor.

Lesley and Jenny were sitting at a table on the far side of the dance floor. Lesley was wearing a short skirt and a low cut top which showed some cleavage. I would have been upset if Lesley had broken our date just to go with Jenny. It wasn't the broken date, it was the lie she told. As I said, I was upset that Lesley lied to me. What made me want to kick some one's ass were the two guys sitting with them.

It looked like Lesley and the guy she was obviously with were very comfortable together. He had his arm around her chair and his hand on her knee. They were talking and laughing together and my heart was breaking. I watched them for about 30 minutes, how I don't know. They danced 3 or 4 times and the slow ones were the hardest for me to watch.

It wasn't that they were making out, but Lesley wasn't even supposed to be there. Plus it didn't look like this was the first time for them to be together and then I recognized him. It was Bill, the guy she had been dating before I came back to town. I hadn't known why they broke up and I really didn't care. I had Lesley; well at least I thought I did. Apparently I was wrong.

Okay, what should I do, I asked myself. If I go over to their table and confront Lesley there would be trouble. I was so mad that I don't think I would be able to control myself. I could see it in my mind. If I walked over and asked Lesley what she was doing, her 'date' would sure say something. I would bust his head and then his wing man would jump in. His head would get busted too or maybe mine.

I didn't know if I could handle the two of them. I wasn't afraid but I didn't want to get my ass kicked or go to jail if there was a better way. The old me said go kick ass or get your ass kicked, be a man. The new me said okay, but if possible let's find a better way. We can always fall back on ass kicking.

Then I had another thought. Lesley and I were not engaged nor were we married. We were dating, exclusively I thought, but only dating. If we were married, I would kick his ass for messing with a married woman.

I had another thought; the guy wouldn't be there if Lesley didn't want him to be there. So this is all on her. The guy probably didn't know about Lesley and me and if he did he was just responding to Lesley's signals. It wasn't really his fault at all. That doesn't mean he gets a free ride though. I had a plan and if he stayed out of my way good. If not, one of us was going to get a beating.

I waited for the band to take a break, downed the large bourbon I had been sipping, and walked across the dance floor. I stopped about ten feet from their table and just stood there, waiting. Lesley and the guy were laughing at something together and only had eyes for each other.

She finally looked up and saw me there. Lesley did a double take and her eyes got real big. Her hands went to her face and she started to shake her head as if to say no, no. Jenny turned to see what Lesley was looking at and I heard her say, Oh shit.

Lesley stood up and started to walk around the table to me. I just held up my hand to stop her and she sat back down. Walking up close to the table I asked, "Lesley where is your mom? I didn't know she liked this type of place. We could have brought her with us the last time we came here." Lesley didn't know what to say.

I took Lesley's picture out of my wallet and laid it on the table in front of her. I took off and added the St. Christopher's medal she had given me. The belt buckle she had bought for me at the rodeo joined the small pile in front of her. When I leaned over the table to say my piece her 'date' put his hand on my shoulder to stop me. His friend stood up too.

"Stay out of this Bill, it doesn't concern you," I told him. "You really don't want any of this."

"You are upsetting the lady boy, you better leave," he said.

Lesley motioned for him to sit back down and said, "Don't get involved Bill, this is between John and me."

"So this is the guy that tried to steal my girl while I was gone," Bill said. He stood there trying to decide what to do.

"Buddy, you are about to make a very bad mistake. I don't know if I can take you both but I promise you Bill you're going to the hospital if we tangle, no matter what."

He sat down at Lesley's urging then so did his wing man.

"Good move guys. That's it Les. I'm done and gone and so are we. See you," I said. I turned my back and left the bar. I needed to get away while I could still control myself. I had almost lost it when the guy touched my shoulder.

My truck took me back to my condo; it had to be the truck because I don't remember any of the drive. My cell phone had started ringing before I got home, I just turned it off. I knew who it was and I didn't want to talk to her.

When I got home, I took a bottle of Jack Daniels out to my patio and sat down. I decided that I would see who could last longer, the bottle or me. After taking a couple of drinks, I changed my mind. I didn't want to go back to drinking to the point of passing out. Been there, done that, got the damned Tee shirt.

I stepped back into the condo and put the bottle away, two drinks were enough. About an hour after I got home, the door bell rang, surprise, surprise, surprise. I could guess who it was. Looking through the spy hole, I was surprised. It was Jenny and it looked like she was alone.

I was curious why Jenny? Lesley I could understand and almost expected. One way to find out so I opened the door.

"I need to talk to you John ... can I come in?"

"What could we possibly have to talk about Jenny? You got what you wanted. Les and I are done. It's what you wanted, isn't it?"

"Your right, I haven't liked you since you dumped Lesley after that night at the county fair, but this is more important than my feelings about you. Lesley is a mess; she is sitting outside in the car crying. She wants to come in and talk to you, but she is afraid to."

"Why should she be crying? She got what she wanted. A few months of me squiring her around until her boyfriend showed back up. Yeah, I know she and Bill were dating before he went to Mexico for a job. I came back home right after he left and Les and I started dating. He was gone about three months and we have been dating about two and a half months. I was a substitute until he could come back. I'm not a total mushroom yet."

"Mushroom?"

"Yeah, you know keep it in the dark and feed it shit. I don't need to talk to her. Tell her we're good. It was fun and now can both go on with our lives. She can be with Bill and not worry about me."

"That's not what she wants, she wants you," Jenny said.

"Ain't gonna happen. I hesitated a minute then said, "Go get her, Jenny, let's get this over with. I've got things to do tomorrow and I need to get some sleep."

Jenny went out to the car and brought Lesley back into the condo. I was sitting in my chair when they came into the living room. Pointing to the couch, I suggested they sit there. Lesley still had tears running down her cheeks.

I sat and waited for Lesley to start. She was the guilty party here and I wasn't going to make it any easier on her. Lesley continued to look down; she wouldn't look at me eye to eye. Finally I had enough.

"Let's get this show on the road Lesley. I've got to get some sleep because I have lots of things to do tomorrow. You wanted to talk to me so talk or leave. I don't care much either way."

"John it's not what it looked like," Lesley said.

"Let me tell you what it looked like to me Lesley. I could be wrong, but it looked like you broke our date to meet this guy. It looked like you lied to me, telling me you were going to help your mother.

It looked like you went to dance and party with Bill. It looked like you let him touch you, hug you and kiss you. All of this done in public and in front of people we both know.

If I hadn't showed up, would you have gone home with him? What should I think, watching you treat him like you used to treat me?"

"It looked like I was a convenient diversion while you were waiting for Bill to get back from his job in Mexico. Does that about cover what it looked like? Is there something I don't understand about you lying to me?

I bet the other broken dates were for the same reason. That would be called lying in my book and dating him is cheating. So tell me Lesley, what part of this do I have wrong?"

"I wasn't going home with Bill. He and I have never been intimate. You are the only one I have ever made love with."

"Tell me why, Les. Why the lying? Why date another man when we were supposed to be exclusive? Tell me why Les."

"Bill and I broke it off when he went to Mexico. You came back to town and were so nice, I started seeing you. I believed I was falling in love with you. Then Bill came back and called me. The feelings I had for him sort of resurfaced. I was going out with him to see if my feelings for you were the real thing. I didn't want any unresolved issues to get in our way John."

"Anything else Les?"

"Tonight was the last time I was going to see Bill. Please John, try to understand. You hurt me once and I felt I had to be sure of my feelings for you," she replied.

I had to stop and get control of myself. I didn't want to scream and shout. I just wanted to express my disappointment and how hurt I was.

Jenny said, "Come on John, it's no big deal. She didn't sleep with the guy. Les was just dancing and having a good time."

"Stay out of this Jenny, or I swear I will toss you out the door. It's none of your business. Just sit there and shut up." I had to take a minute and put my thoughts together. I didn't want to attack Lesley. I just wanted to tell her how I felt.

"Les, I really believe that if you had come to me and explained your feelings I would have allowed you to go out with Bill. It's easy to say that now, but I believe I would have understood. I wouldn't have liked it, but I think I could have lived with it. After what happened between us in high school, I can understand you being a little concerned about me.

"I told you before I'm not that guy that hurt you anymore. I've changed and for the better I think. The thing that bothers me is your lying to my face. Helping your mother my ass! You were out having a party with your old boy friend.

From the way you two were hanging all over each other I don't believe this was the first or the last time you planned to see him either. That's cheating in my book and I won't accept it. I said it earlier tonight Les, I'm done and gone. It's over, so go running back to Bill if you want. You don't have to lie anymore."

Lesley was crying again. She said, "Please John, I love you. I was wrong to lie to you, I'm sorry. Let's go back to the way it was. I know you love me."

"Lesley, I do love you and maybe always will. But your lying has destroyed the trust between us. I love you but I can't forget the lying and cheating. I would always wonder who you were with, if you were late getting home or if you didn't answer your cell. The suspicions would eat us up. Let it go Lesley, it's the best thing for both of us."

Lesley and Jenny left my place and I went to bed but I didn't get very much sleep. Lesley tried to get me to change my mind over the next few days. I refused to even consider reconciliation. My lack of trust would destroy us before long and I finally got Lesley to understand. She wasn't happy about it, but she understood. I think we parted as friends.

The next day I took a big step and went into business for myself. I took the money from the partnership and opened my own repair shop in the next town. I moved there to open the shop because the town was almost twice the size of my home town. I was only about thirty minutes from my home town, so I was still close.

It was a great accomplishment for a young man my age. It was a little tough at first, but soon I had two guys working for me and we were booked at least two weeks in advance. The reason my shop is successful is we get it fix right the first time and we stand behind our service. That was two years ago.

Unfortunately I don't get to work on cars as much as I would like. Now paper work, management, and customer service take up a lot of my time. The downturn in the economy hasn't hurt my business, if anything it has caused an increase in my work.

People weren't buying new cars as much and have to keep the old ones running. Ergo, increased business for me. I had decided to hire another mechanic and an office manager. That will allow me to get back to working on cars.

The shop was closed and I was at my desk trying to get the expenses lined out. I heard someone knocking on the shop's front door. Looking out the office door I could see a woman at the door. I got up and went to the front and yelled through the glass that we were closed.

"Can you just take a quick look at my car? The lights are getting dimmer and I need to get home. Please, I'll make it worth your while." I'm a sucker for a pretty woman. She was tall, slender, had auburn hair, and freckles. The perfect Irish lass. I was lost. I opened the door and told her to come in.

"Thank you, I need to get home as soon as possible. I'm Julie O'Riley," she said shaking hands with me. Her grip was firm, not like a normal woman's hand shake.

"John Henry Kelly," I answered. She is Irish I thought. "Pull it in and let's see what the problem is".

The car was a vintage Mustang convertible. She gave me more information on how the car was acting up. I opened the hood and did my magic, finding the problem in about five minutes. I explained that her alternator was shot and the car was running off the battery. That's what caused the dimming of the lights. I explained that the car would die very soon and not restart.

"Can you fix it, I really have to get home ASAP," she asked.

"Can't fix it tonight since we don't have the parts but I can have it ready by the end of the day tomorrow. You can use the phone in the shop to call your husband to come get you here. I'll stay open until he gets here."

"I'm not married, but I can call a taxi. Will you stay until it arrives?"

I nodded yes and she made the call. She was upset when she got off the phone. It seemed that it was a forty minute wait for the cab.

"Tell you what, Julie, I'll close up and give you a ride home if the wait is a problem for you."

"Normally, I wouldn't let you go to all that trouble, but I do need to get home. My father is at home alone. He will get up and move around if someone isn't there to stop him. He broke his leg in a motorcycle accident and is supposed to stay off his feet so I accept your kind offer. Thank you."

I relocked the shop, got Julie into my truck and took her home. During the thirty minute trip we talked a lot and became friendly. She was an office manager for a realty company. Her mother is had passed awaygone and her father stays with her when he's not traveling. Julie heard my story, at her insistence I might add. All in all the time seemed to go by quickly.

Nice house I thought as I pulled into her drive way. Julie invited me for dinner as a thank you for the ride and she wouldn't take no for an answer. I met her father and we seemed to strike a chord with each other and we became immediate friends. I was sorry I had to leave but I had enjoyed a very good dinner and great company.

The next day Julie caught a ride to my shop to pick up her car. She wanted to pay extra for the ride home but I turned it down. We debated it for a minute and I thought of a compromise.

"Buy me a cup coffee at the diner next door and we'll call it even. After all, I did get a great meal last night as a thank you."

She agreed to the coffee. That was the start of our romance. We found we shared common interests like music (country, classic rock, r&b); the same taste in movies, and had the same ideas about politics. It was amazing, she was the female me and better looking of course.

We had several dates and I was beginning to fall for her ... hard. I had been burned before so I made it plain that I wanted an exclusive relationship. She just smiled and said of course. Our time together intensified. We shared camping trips, fishing, movie nights, and just sitting at home talking. It was perfect.

About eight months into our relationship, (7 months 2 weeks & 4 days to be exact, but who was counting) I asked Julie to marry me. She laughed and cried at the same time. And she said yes. We were to be married in six months.

There was 3 months until our wedding, when a bump in the road came along. Bump hell, it turned out to be a mountain in the road.

It was Thursday and I was at the shop closing up, when I had a visitor. Jenny came into my office and asked to talk to me. I was very surprised as I had not seen her since the night Lesley and I broke up over two years ago.

"What are you doing here Jenny?"

"I need your help. Actually Lesley needs your help John. I didn't know who else to ask."

"Lesley and I have been over for over two years. Why call on me now Jenny?"

Jenny asked me to just listen to her. She explained that about a year and a half after Les and I split, both her parents died in an auto crash. Lesley had no money other than her part time job. The house her family was living in belonged to the parish so she had to move. Lesley moved in with Jenny for a while, but Jenny was leaving for a job in another state in six weeks. Two weeks after Les moved in, she and Jenny were at the ice cream parlor and ran into Bill. Lesley had not seen him since the night at the Palace. Bill and Lesley began to date again. Then Lesley moved in with Bill the same week Jenny left town.

Last month Jenny came back to the home town. Her out of state job had closed down due to the economy. She ran into Lesley at the gas station and Jenny couldn't believe the change in her. She had lost weight, had bags under her eyes like she hadn't been sleeping well, and had a big bruise on the side of her face. Jenny asked her what was going on but Lesley didn't want to talk about it and left.

Jenny was watching and saw Lesley around town. Lesley always looked like hell with a new set of bruises, cut lip, or black eye almost every time Jenny saw her. She finally cornered Lesley in the ladies room at the gas station and demanded to know what was happening to her.

Bill had turned into a jealous, abusive asshole. He smacked Lesley around almost every day. If she took too long shopping, didn't get his dinner on time, or just for fun he would slap her around. Lesley had tried twice to leave, but she really had nowhere to go and Bill always found her. She was afraid to go to the police. She is afraid of what Bill would do to her.

Lesley had left Bill again and was hiding out in a deserted cabin outside of town. The cabin had been part of a church camp, years ago and it hadn't been in use for ten years. Jenny wanted me to go get Lesley and help her get away from Bill. Jenny said, "Lesley doesn't know I'm here. I know you don't owe me anything, but you said Lesley was still your friend. She really needs some help. Please John, I don't know who else to turn to."

"I have to think about this Jenny. Don't know if I want to get involved in this, but I will think about it. Give me until tomorrow about this time and call me. I'll have an answer for you then." I was thinking I had to talk to Julie about this before I committed myself to anything.

I knew what I wanted to do, but Julie was part of my life now and she had a right to at least know what was going on. If I did what I was thinking about I could go to jail if things went south or maybe even lose my shop.

That night Julie and I were supposed to make the final decision on flowers and some other stuff. She was going on about flowers and arrangements and whatever. I wasn't paying attention. "Okay John, what is on your mind? You haven't heard a word about the flowers or anything else. Where is your head tonight?" She was smiling when she said this.

"There is a decision I have to make and can't figure out what I should do, Julie. I need your input, but you need to hear the whole story before you say anything. Okay?"

"Sure John, what's wrong? How can I help?"

I began at the beginning all those years ago, starting with the county fair, the time after I returned to town, and the break up with Lesley. Julie wasn't real happy hearing about my old girl friend, but she listened without interrupting. When I finished, I ask her what she thought.

"Let's see, you want to run off and play hero with your old girl friend. In the process of 'saving' her you might go to jail or lose your business. Is that about it, John?" Julie seemed to be angry.

"You forgot about helping out a woman in real trouble. She has no one to turn to and maybe I can help."

"I can't make your decision for you John. You have to do that. Just remember if you decide to help her you are jeopardizing our upcoming marriage and our future together."

"Are you saying that if I help Les that you and I are over? Is that what you're saying Julie?" Now I was a little pissed off.

Julie looked at me for a moment and then sort of hung her head. She was upset and trying to gather herself.

"It's a simple question Julie. A yes or no is all that is required."

"Why do you have to help her," Julie asked in a quiet voice.

"If this was an old buddy from school or work, would you react this way," I countered.

"No, but you weren't in love with an old buddy. You were in love with Lesley. That's the difference," Julie answered.

"The key word in that statement is were; it was a long time ago. You still haven't answered the question Julie. If I help Les are you and I done?"

"I don't know," she said.

I was stunned. I never thought there would be any resistance to my helping a friend in trouble. I thought we would barnstorm on the best way for me to help. The way that I could stay out of jail. I had no idea that Julie would be dead set against me helping Lesley. The old girl friend point had never entered my thinking. I got up to leave and go home. Usually we stayed together, either at my place or hers.

"I told Jenny I would give her an answer at closing time tomorrow. When I have made up my mind, I will call you before I meet with Jenny."

Julie just nodded and turned her head when I tried to kiss her goodnight.

"Really?" I said. I left and tried to slam the door, but it had one of those door closes on it. It was an empty gesture.

The next day I spent most of the morning thinking about the problem. I couldn't decide. The situation with Lesley and with Julie kept going round and round in my head. I decided to work on a car to keep my mind from spinning.

In the middle of a tough engine repair, my mind cleared. I guess letting my mind work on the problem in the background gave me the push I needed to make a decision. I called Julie to tell her my decision and to discuss our situation.

When Julie answered I said, "I'm going to try and help Lesley." She hung up without saying anything. Guess that was a big 10-4 on Julie breaking up with me if I helped Lesley.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic /