I'd just said goodbye to Ben when I got the call from my wife. She sounded odd, distant. It, the call, had short shanked my usual Friday afternoon beer fest at the Hop and Grape, my favorite hangout. I was home twenty minutes later: the clock read 5:27. I would remember the time; it spelled the end of my sixteen year marriage to Zoe Conyers. I'm Bill Conyers, 37, and in every way your average Joe. I'm an ex-army electrician. I'm currently working for the city: I'm a garbage collector, go figure. It's a pretty good living; but, I'm hoping to someday own my own electronics business.
"Thanks for coming home early, Bill," said Zoe. "I—we—Caroline and I, need to talk to you." My gaze floated over toward my teenaged daughter; her face was impassive." I sent her a half smile; she's always been the light of my life.
"Okay," I said. "I'm here. What's going on?"
"Bill, there's no easy way to say this, but Caroline and I are leaving," said Zoe.
"Leaving? For where?" I said, not getting it.
"Bill, I'm divorcing you. You will be served with the papers today. I didn't want to just have some stranger dumping them on you—well—anyway that's why I asked you to come home early. I mean so I could tell you, be up front with you. I glanced back and forth between then two of them. Fear was beginning to register in my gut.
"I know this is going to be hard for you to understand, Bill. It just happened. I'm sorry," she said.
"Caroline?" I said, looking over toward my daughter. She looked away. I was beginning to hurt—real bad!
"Who is he?" I said. I could feel my face getting hot, my stomach start to roil, I felt tingly—and none of it was good. I was stunned, right enough, but not totally dead in the head. If she—they—were leaving there had to be a man. I was undoubtedly already a cuckold, but if so, I had been an unknowing one.
"I suppose you'll find out sooner or later anyway. It's John Kurst, Bill. He's a real estate developer. He's a nice man, Bill. He can do more for Caroline—well—than..."
"Than me," I said, finishing up her line. It is amazing how quickly mild interest, even concern, can morph into the purest of hatreds.
"You're dumping me—the both of you—for money? I haven't been up to your standards is that it?" I said. "I maybe don't smell too good at the end of work day, Zoe, but, at least I don't have the stench of betrayal on me.
"Caroline? Nothing? You've got nothing to say? I'm your daddy for chryssakes! You've got nothing to say to me?" I was pissed and hurt and at a loss.
"I guess all it takes is some rich guy to buy you two off. Is that it? His money? Well, money ain't the only thing, and it don't guarantee happiness, not by a long shot," I said. Bitter didn't even begin to describe my feelings at that moment.
"There's no need to be sarcastic, Bill. I'm trying to make this as easy as I can for you," she said.
"Yeah, right," I said. "You been fucking him? This Kurst fuckwad!"
"Bill, Caroline is right over there," said Zoe. I looked over to Caroline.
"Okay. Well then, Caroline, has she?" I said. I was bitter and angry, and about to lose control.
"Huh?" said my fifteen year old daughter.
"Has your mother been fucking this asshole?" I said.
"William Conyers! Caroline is your daughter!" screamed Zoe.
"And she's choosing to live with the asshole who cuckolded me, and who has, by definition, been fucking you?" I said.
The battle was on; it lasted some minutes. I was at least not wimping out. I was mad and hurting big time, but not wimping out. Caroline ran out of the room; I guess the yelling was too much for her.
"All right, Bill, if that's your attitude, I guess we'll just have to accept it," said Zoe, finally giving up any hope of pacifying me. And, as bad as this was, worse was in the offing.
She stood and took one last look at me: her look was nothing if not one of pity. I stood too, then, sat heavily back down in my chair. I heard the front door slam. They were gone. I was alone. My life sucked.
After a minute or two I got up and strode into the living room. I noticed things right away. They'd already moved everything they were going to take out of the house. Almost nothing, that would remind me that just hours before I'd been a family man remained. Now, I was alone and sick at heart.
It was bad enough that Zoe was fucking someone else, but that Caroline was evidently okay with it killed me inside. That one I would one day exact revenge for; I promised myself that much; I just wasn't exactly sure of who on. No one had the right to come between a man and his children, and children didn't have the right to dump on a loving parent.
She'd planned well had Zoe. I was served not five minutes after the two of them left. The server must have been waiting nearby for them to leave. Her lawyer had evidently advised her, at least so it appeared, to sell the house and divide the assets. Apart from the house we didn't have much, so in practical terms there was not much to divide. Anything that did have a little value in it, she had already taken. As a backstabbing, betraying whore, I had to admit that my soon to be ex-wife was pretty high up the food chain.
I signed the papers and sent them to her lawyer. At least I was spared the indignity of having to pay for my own screwing; she paid him, or her lover did. Well, I guess there's upside to almost anything.
After the house sale, which I did my best to help expedite—hey, it was in my best interest—I moved out and into a very small studio apartment a bit nearer to work. When all was said and done, I had eleven thousand dollars in my account and not a damn thing else. But, I didn't have any bills, not even car payments; both cars were free and clear. I did have a job, even if it was one that my two ex-family members were apparently ashamed of. Still, I was thinking, that since I no longer had to provide for anyone but me, that I might make a change in that department; the little money I had could go for that. There was no alimony requirement. She evidently planned to marry his fuckwadship as soon as the ink was dry on the final decree. That figured to be about four more months from now, the way I figured it.
We were headin' in one day after a fairly grueling day on the job. Ben was on my elbow, "Wanna get a couple of cool ones?" he said.
"Yeah, sure, what the hell," I said.
The Hop and Grape was busy for a Friday afternoon and Ben and I added to the commotion.
I'd done more mopin' than funnin' in recent times. It occurred to me that I had to get on with things and stop feeling sorry for myself—easier said than done.
As the afternoon turned to early evening, Ben and I were feeling pretty good. Marian Kelly, a clerk among the twenty or so at the lot, where we parked our trucks, was there. She looked good. Short gray skirt, dark blouse, high heels: she looked great.
"Hear you're single again," said Marian. I looked her up and down trying to be as obvious as I could; well, she did look good. Ben smiled at me. I had the feeling he knew something I didn't.
"Will be soon, a couple of months I guess. But, you're married," I said. I was actually fishing. I had never even talked to Marian more than to say good morning or the equivalent; I had no idea if she were married or not. Ben laughed.
"I'm headin' out. You two have a nice," he said. Marian winked at him and I caught it. He was gone without another word.
She laughed. "Ben's a nice guy," she said. I nodded.
"I'm not married, Bill. I'm divorced for two years now. I thought you knew. I thought everybody knew," she said. "Ha! That's probably why no one has asked me out." She laughed.
Are you saying you haven't gone out at all in the past two years!" I said, hardly believing her.
"That's right. I mean except to hang out here with the other girls and all you married guys," she said.
"You wanna drink?" I said. "I wanna be your first date. I mean right now. We'll have a drink and get out of here. Okay?"
"Whoa, soldier. You're not thinking of a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am kind of thing are you?" she said. She looked seriously concerned.
"No, no, I just don't want some other cowboy coming on to you before I can get my name on your dance card," I said. Now she smiled.
"Okay then, it's a date. Oh, and I'll have a white wine," she said.
We sat at the bar, sipped our drinks, and after about half an hour, we made to go out.
"We gotta go to my apartment first, if that's okay, Marian. I do need to shower and change. I want to take you somewhere a little more upscale than Mac's," I said.
"Sure bet, sailor." She said. She followed me home. I sat her down in my little front area, handed her an MGD from the fridge, and disappeared into the back to get cleaned up and dressed acceptably.
We took her car; my truck wasn't all that sweet smelling; I'd have to rectify that at some point if I was going to be dating again.
It was the first time in months that I had talked to a woman about anything but necessary job related stuff. Until this moment, I had thought of no other woman, in a social sense, but my wife, and those thoughts had all been bad thoughts: death by fuel injection, burial alive in the county landfill, crucifixion on a fiery cross, things like that. But, now I had a chance to redeem at least a part of my life.
The Blue Bayou served real Cajun food and I was in the mood. Marian at first looked askance at all of the greasy calories, but got into it after a while.
"I don't eat this way every day," I said, laughing. I just wanted to do something crazy; I hope it's okay. I've been in a blue funk ever since they left me. But, you, coming over to—well—saved me."
"Glad to be of service," she said. "And yes, the food is fine. I like the atmosphere too."
"Huh?" she said.
"I really needed to have a woman to talk to—be with. It was like I was afraid that no woman would want me. I mean even my own kid..." I started to breakup. She put her hand gently on my arm. Oh my, a woman's touch is among the most wonderful of things, just her touch alone, I thought.
"Bill, it's okay. And, for your information, the girls at the lot are talking about you behind your back. They're of two minds in case you care. One group wonders what you did to sour your marriage. The others are looking to see if they can score with you. You have nothing to worry about in the woman department. You will have to quit all the mopey stuff though. A woman doesn't want to be dealing with all of the neediness; you need to be the man you were before the breakup," she said.
"Hmm," I said. "And just in case you care, girl, the reason for the breakup; well, it was evidently purely a money thing. He's rich and I'm just an average Joe. So, she traded up. My daughter though—that one hurts real bad."
"I can imagine," she said.
We talked for some time, danced a little to the muted Dixieland band, and had a few too many martinis. She took me home at around 11:00PM. She kissed me, but did not accept my invite in.
"Maybe another time," she said, "but, not this time."
"You busy tomorrow night?" I said. She looked at me.
"Wanna go out? I'll clean up my car," I said. She smiled.
"Okay," she said. "Since you're willing to clean up your car for me how can I refuse?"
Marian and I dated after that most weekends. I was like a high school kid, even to the point of making out with her in the theater. I'd almost forgotten what it was like, dating a woman, but I was able to get back on track pretty quickly—call me a quick re-learner.
We were sitting at Bob's Big Boy, chewing on the best hamburgers on the planet, when I made the decision.
"Marian, I'm gonna be quitting tomorrow," I said. I think I even surprised myself. It's not like I hadn't been thinking about it. But, I had, until that moment, made no decision. Now, I had.
"Quit? Why? Whatever for?" she said.
"Well, I have a little money, and I have decided to go into business for myself," I said.
"What business?" she said.
"An electronics repair and installation service," I said. "I don't even need a shop, just a twenty-four hour hotline and my tools. I've got most of what I'll need right now; it's been my hobby since I was in the army. I can be up and operational in a week's time most."
She sat back in her seat and eyed me. "How will this impact us?" she said.
"Shouldn't at all," I said. "As we've talked about before, my divorce will be final by the end of the week. After that, my ex won't have any claim on anything I do, I mean after the final decree.
"Marian, I'm no fortuneteller, but I might be able to make a real go of this if I can just get things to break right for me, and with a little luck I think I can.
"When I was married, my wife wouldn't even consider letting me quit my steady job with the city. The irony in that is that she eventually dumped me mainly because of my 'nothing, ' as she saw it, job. But, I no longer have that constraint. I'm gonna go for it. I have to," I said. "I don't wanna be ninety and talkin' about what might have been. The time is now."
"Wow!" she said. "Well, good. You should go for it.
"I imagine you've looked into the market for this kind of thing," she said.
"Yes, I have. I have to do more, but there is a market, especially with the computer thing going so crazy. I can do hardware and software, so that's a plus too," I said.
I gave two weeks' notice to the city. I knew it wouldn't be hard to replace me, but it made it easier for Clyde, our boss, to get someone else without having to hurry up. It was my last day when the boss approached me.
"Well, Bill, looks like your single again now and going into business for yourself. A complete new start for you, huh," he said.
"Yeah, Clyde, and I guess I'm looking forward to it to. It would have been nice to have my family in on it, but..."
Bill, there's someone waiting for you on the dock outback," he said. He looked kinda sheepish.
"Who?" I said.
"Your daughter," he said. My look must have cued him. "Yeah, I know you had your problems with her and your wife, but for the record, she seems anxious to talk to you."
"Okay, thanks, boss. I'll see her. It's been seven months since the last time. I have to admit that I'm curious as to what she wants," I said.
She looked pretty in her little red sundress. I had to admit to a little bit of pride there even if she had helped her mother stomp my ego along with my heart into the ground.
"Daddy!" she cried coming up to me and hugging me. Her enthusiasm surprised me.
"Yeah, I'm still that, I guess," I said.
"Daddy, you will always be that to me," she said. "I've been mad at myself since that day we left. I mean the way we treated you, me and mom."
"Okay?" I said. I didn't trust myself to respond. I still harbored a whole lot of anger; yes, even toward my daughter. And, yes, I know how bad that sounds.
"I miss you, dad," she said. "Do you have time to go eat?"
"Now?" I said. She nodded. I had a date with Marian in half an hour. I made the call.
"Hi ... yeah ... I'm going to be late ... Caroline is here ... yeah ... wants to talk ... okay, an hour and half is good." I hung up. Caroline gave me a look.
"A friend?" she said.
"Let's go," I said, ignoring her fishing expedition.
Denny's wasn't crowded. We took a booth in the back. The waitress came; the food as ordered arrived; we ate mostly in silence and then settled in to talk.
"You look nice, Caroline," I said. I knew I sounded formal, but it was how I was feeling. She noticed.
"Dad, I'm you daughter, not some stranger's kid," she said, reacting to my tone. I nodded.
"Yeah, but you're living with some stranger as his kid," I retorted. "And, this old daddy of yours, as you call me, hasn't seen or heard from you—or my ex-wife—in many months. How am I supposed to deal with that?"
"I know. That's mainly why I came today. I wanted to make sure you knew that I still consider you my dad. My only dad!" she said, emphatically.
"Really," I said.
"Yes, really," she said. What I said and did next might be considered cold by some, but I counted it as necessary.
"Thank God," I said enthusiastically. "Call your mom, and tell her we will be picking up your stuff tomorrow morning."
"Picking up my stuff?" she said looking me askance.
"Yes, I mean if you're still my baby, then you'll be staying with me, right?" I said, still acting the joyous dad part. Her face fell as I knew it would.
"But, dad, I can't just..." she started.
"Yeah, I figured," I said, dropping all pretense of joy. "So why did you bother coming here, really? If you have another dad that has that kind of hold on you, how can you say that I'm still your only dad? Tell me, I'd really like to know."
"Daddy, that's not what I meant—I mean—I mean..." she got up and ran out. The hurt I'd felt months before came back to me. Oh, I knew she had feelings for me, but I couldn't get by the reality that shear economics had made me a second class daddy; I blamed her momma for that.
I headed home to get ready for my delayed date with Marian.
I refused to let my upset with my daughter to interfere with my date with Marian. I had a right to be happy too, damn it, and Intended to be. My wife had dumped on me, cheated on me, cuckolded me; it was time for me to get a little back.
I was not intending to mess with Marian out of revenge only. Oh no, I was doing it for me, and, I hoped, for her too. She seemed to want me even if my cheating whore of a wife did not, and I for damn sure wanted Marian. Tonight was the night.
I looked at my watch the movie started in about three hours. That allowed us enough time to eat first and have a couple of drinks. I was early. I looked at her door from behind the wheel of my car. I was half an hour early; she was going to think I was anxious. Well hell, I was. I got out and headed up the walkway. Mounting the three steps I knocked. No answer. I knocked louder. I heard a rustling inside. The door opened a crack. "Bill! You're early," she said. "Count to ten and then come in." She clearly wasn't ready.
I counted and went in. She'd evidently headed toward the back of the house, to her room. "Get yourself a beer from the fridge," she called out from the back.
"Okay, thanks," I said, "sorry for being so early. Guess I was anxious."
"Never mind, I'll be out in a few minutes. Just relax and have a beer." She went silent, and I got me the beer. I took a seat by the big bay window and looked out on the view of the street and neighborhood in and around the front of her house. It was a nice place, the house; I knew she was renting and paying a pretty penny for the privilege too. A waste? I guess it was a matter of what one valued.
"Hi," she said.
"Hi back atcha," I said. "Hope I didn't upset you too much. I was just nervous and all, and well anxious. Sorry."
She smiled, "Never mind, just give me a call next time if you're in that much of a hurry we'll make adjustments, okay?"
"Sure bet. Uh—I figured we'd go out to eat have a couple of drinks, and then catch a movie. That okay?" I said.
"Sounds good," she said. We headed out.
The food was good; the port wine after dinner was very nice. We pulled up to the entrance to the theater. The Garden was a holdover from the fifties, a drive-in movie theater. Marian looked askance at me as we pulled up to the booth and paid.
"The passion pits?" she said, but she was smiling still. "I feel like a teenager on my first date."
"I just laughed. Yeah, well, that's kind of the idea," I said. "I just wanted to do something different with you; something that both of us would like; well, I hoped we'd both like it."
"We'll see about that," she said. We drove around to the back and parked. I mounted the sound device and turned it down low."
My truck was spick-n-span, but that was not the biggee: I had gotten rid of the bucket seats, and put in a new, specially made for me, door-to-door bench seat. Now, my girl and I could cuddle like in the old days before all of the governmental baloney changed the way trucks, and cars to for that matter, were furnished.
I leaned back against the door on my driver's side. I was looking across the seat at her and she looked at me like a cat that was about to dine on the canary—me. Oddly I was thinking of something else...
"Do you—uh—feel comfortable with me?" I said. "I mean—oh heck, I don't know what I mean. I mean, well, I just want you to feel comfortable is all."
She didn't respond, not with words anyway. She slid over to me and cupped my face in her hands. She leaned in and kissed me; it was a gentle, sensual kiss. She lifted my hand to her breast; she wore no bra. I explored her through the softness of the cotton material. My hand slipped over and down to the buttons of her blouse and undid them one by one. The car windows were already steaming up, a useful quirk of nature.
I peeled her blouse from her shoulders. Her aureoles were broad and dark and oh so very feminine.
"You are so beautiful, Marian," I said. She wasn't smiling now it wasn't a smiling moment; her eyes were closed. I reached for her tits once more and very gently massaged them. I leaned in and kissed each mound. I began suckling on first one then the other. I stopped. She had leaned back against the seat and spread her knees apart; her dress had ridden up to mid-thigh. My hand slowly slid up her leg stopping just short of her most secret place. She opened her eyes and looked at me no doubt wondering why I'd stopped.
"Having second thoughts?" she teased.
"No, but I am having thoughts about having seconds," I said. I was amazed at my own cleverness. Brilliant, I thought, in the midst of my self-congratulations.
She kissed me just as my finger invaded her panties violating her vagina. "Ummph!" she said, as I began finger-fucking her. "Gently, boy, a little less enthusiasm until you get me wet, okay."
I drew back appalled at my bad behavior. "Marian—I'm—sorr..." She cut my words off with the sweetest kiss I'd ever experienced. We continued making out for some little time before I felt her hands on the front of my pants. She unhooked my belt and worked my zipper down. She reached into my briefs for my now steel hard engine of lust; it pulsed in her hand.
I pulled her down to the surface of my new leatherette seat and worked her panties down and off of her. Her bush was plush and almost animalistic in its smell as her juices now began to soak it. I kissed her nether lips and began lapping her clit. She shuddered and made little noises that had meaning only for us.
I pushed my pants, that she'd already loosened, down and off and mounted her from the top. I speared at her several times and failed to gain entrance; she was tight. She took matters into her own hands and guided me inside of her. Lodgment gained, I began a slow push pull motion finally burying myself deep inside of her. I was still for a moment letting her get used to me.
"Do me," she said, "now." I began screwing her slowly then faster then at breakneck speed. I needed this woman—bad!
I kept at her for some minutes. She shuddered just as I blew my load into her.
The night after my liaison with Marian, I was awakened by an energetic rapping on my apartment's door. It was Saturday and just a little past 8:00AM. I had fallen asleep on the couch, and except for my shoes, I was still dressed as I had been the night before.
I staggered up and made my way to answering the infernal racket. "Zoe!"
"You bastard!" she greeted me. "You sonovabitch!"
"Excuse me?" I said.
"Did you have to destroy her?"
"Who? What?" Then it dawned on me; she was talking about Caroline. Zoe blew by me and into my apartment. She headed through the glass door and onto my mini-patio. I knew I must've looked and smelled awful; she doubtless wanted cleaner smelling air. "You should've called. I'm not ready to receive visitors, and my mother always taught me to not allow strangers into the house when she wasn't around," I said.
"Strangers! What strangers; we were married for sixteen years," she said.
"Yeah, but in the final analysis it turned out that I didn't really know you, now did I," I said. She actually looked surprised by my remark. She gathered herself and laid it on me.
"She came to you yesterday trying to repair your relationship with her. Why did you have to blow her off like that," she said.
"No she didn't, and I didn't. She came to make herself feel less guilty about dumping on me, abandoning me; you know, like you did. But, when I told her I was thrilled that she thought of me as her only father and that I was happy that she was coming home. She ran out. That's what happened, exactly what happened.
"I guess she wanted me to okay what she did to me. I will never be okay with it, not ever. Nor for what you did to me either. Now, are we done here?" I said.
"No, we're not done! I have some things to say to you, and you need to listen," she said. I slipped resignedly down onto the couch awaiting what I was sure would be a verbal assault. I'd listen—well, I was curious—then I'd throw her cheating ass out.
"Bill, I know I hurt you those months ago," she said. She stopped to see if I was going to say anything; I didn't. "I just didn't know how to make it easier on you than I did," I still remained silent. "Bill, please forgive me for what I did, okay? It was cruel. I know that, and I really am sorry. And—Caroline—well, she needs you."
I still just sat there. "Well, aren't you going to say anything?" she said. She was becoming frustrated.
"No," I said. Then, "Hmm, yes. Caroline can come back and be with me if she wants. But, I will not willingly tolerate playing second fiddle to your asshole partner in crime. I hope I'm not being too vague here."
"You're not playing second fiddle. She loves you. And John is not an asshole, okay," she said.
"Yeah, she loves me but not more than his money, right?" I said. "And, yes, John is an asshole and so are you."
"Oh! You are so stubborn," she said.
"Absofuckinglutely!" I said. "I am not going to stroke her conscience or yours just to get the occasional mercy visit from her—or you. Got it. I'm either her dad or he is; looks to me like she's made her choice. Now, the two of you have a good life. Hear?"
"Just get the fuck out, Zoe. I think we're done here. Your mission failed," I said. I got up and headed for the loft of my studio digs. I needed to get cleaned up and get something in my belly. She just stared after me. I was almost to the bathroom when I heard the front door open and close; she was gone—again.
I didn't feel good about my performance with Zoe, but I was not under any circumstances going to let them make me the bad guy. The three of them were going to carry that burden, and it was just too damn bad if it made them uncomfortable; I'd been uncomfortable for months.
I planned to spend the rest of the day lounging on the patio, by the little rock fountain I'd put in near the balcony's far end; it added a kind of poor man's ambiance to the place, I thought. Well, that had been my plan for the day. That is, it was before I had yet another visitor—John Kurst.
"You know who I am right?" he said, as he passed me and headed thru my living room and out onto my patio—just like his whore had, I thought. I followed him out. I wondered if Grand Central Station had more traffic than I did today.
"Yeah, you're the asshole. I saw you at the court two months ago, the day the divorce was final. What the fuck do you want?" I said.
"Got a beer?" he said. I stared at him. "For you? Fuck no! And fuck you if you think you can waltz into my home and say or do whatever you want, let alone expect me to be your goddamned host!"
He ignored my words. "Look, we fell in love, okay? It happens. It's not the end of the world for you. Why are you making it so hard on the girls? You that selfish?" he said.
"Selfish? Because I wanted to keep my family together? Let me say it again. Fuck you! Now, do you have anything else you want to say before I kick your pimply ass outta here?"
"Just this, Caroline needs you. She likes me, but she loves you. You need to cut her some slack. Please." He said.
"All she has to do is move back with me where she belongs," I said.
"Bill, Mr. Conyers, you know Zoe and I are getting married, right?" he said.
"Didn't get the invitation," I said. "But, I figured you would be sooner or later."
"It's in a couple of weeks. And, in case you were wondering, I will not be seeking to adopt Caroline. Just wanted you to know. She's your daughter not mine; I know that. She just wants to be with her mother.
"You know, you keep saying that she belongs with you, but how about her mother? Doesn't she belong with her too?" he said, feeling proud of his logic.
"No, her mother's an unfaithful whore. She should not be with her, since you ask," I said.
"You really are a stubborn sonovabitch, aren't you," he said.
"That's the rumor," I said. "Not get out before I throw you out." He left shaking his head. I had a feeling all was not right in Kurst country. That was oh so fucking too damn bad.
I called Marian. I needed company.
They were seated under the patio awning beside the large swimming poll in back of his house. The sun glinted off of the coping around the pool. Their feet grew warm just looking at it. She looked over at him
"Okay, so what did he say?" said Zoe.
"You don't want to know," said John. "But, for the record, he considers you an unfit mother."
"I do want to know. If we are going to be able to get him and Caroline back at least on speaking terms..." said Zoe.
"He's not budging. You were right. He is too hurt to compromise. He's not getting over it any time soon either. He's on the verge of hating us all—including Caroline—for what he sees as—well—your betrayal of his love. Actually, he hates me and probably you already. Caroline, for her part, is fast running out of time and chances too, if it comes to that," said John. "As far as he's concerned, nobody cares about him and he's obviously bitter about it.
"We're getting married in two week's time. And that's just going to be something else for him to focus on, another reason to hate us. You know the worst of it? Caroline is going to be your maid of honor. He's gonna see that as another slap in the face," said John.
"Yes, I think you're right. But, I can't just tell her to not be. She's my daughter. I want her to be there for me. And, she wants to be. Oh, John, I just don't know what to do. I mean it's his life and his to understand about us or not, but, I guess it's going to be a case of or not. I just don't know what to do.
"Jesus!" she stomped her feet on the ground without getting up. "I've got to do something. Anything. I never meant to hurt him. I really did not. Falling in love with you was accidental and not to be denied. I just couldn't help myself," she said.
"Me either," he said. "I tried to reason with him about that. Told him it was not the end of the world for him. But, he wasn't hearing anything. Actually, it's hard for me to blame him. I mean I wouldn't know what to do if I lost you either. He has my sympathy for what it's worth."
She came to him and hugged him. Both had tears in their eyes. "We'll figure something out," she said. "You know, what he needs is a woman. Another woman. If he had..."
"Stay the hell outta there, Zoe. That is one place neither of us wants to go. He has to find his own way.
"You know—how about," he started.
"How about what?" she said.
"How about if Caroline stayed with him part of the time—you know, kind of shared custody?" he said.
"I don't know. Caroline likes it here. She misses her dad, but would rather live here; it's as simple as that," she said. "It was her choice from the beginning, I mean after I told her I was divorcing her dad.
"I think it's partly the glitz. And, partly that she wants to be with me, I mean as well s her dad. In her teenage mind, she figured that she could be here and visit her dad often and things would be, if not exactly rosy, at least tolerable. But, neither she nor any of us figured on the bitterness that has possessed Bill," she said.
"Yeah, I guess," he said.
"I will ask her about the shared time idea. Of course, no matter what she might decide, Bill will have to be sold on it, and he isn't exactly communicating with us too well right now," said Zoe.
"No, mom, that won't work. For dad it's all or nothing. Maybe if we had tried that in the beginning it might have been possible. But, you didn't see and hear him, what he said to me. He hates John. I just don't know how I am ever going to make things right with him. He's—so—one way," said Caroline. Her mother nodded.
"I suppose you're right," she said. "You know, I am very proud of you, Caroline. You're a lot smarter than I am. I didn't do right by your dad. And—and—cheating on him was the worst. It just happened; I didn't mean for it to end this way. I know he'll never forgive me for what I did. And, for what it's worth, I don't deserve to be forgiven. But, I do hope that you and your dad can mend fences at some point. I really do. He's a good man, just stubborn—and—a little hurt."
I'd put the word out through several old army buddies that I was in business. I had appointments by the end of week one. They weren't big money jobs, but I could hold out for a while as I got my feet set firmly on the ground. Quality work, quality materials, and short turn-around times were the main features of my modus operandi. I figured to make them work for me.
I got a bonus when Marian volunteered to handle appointments for me: I'd set up two phones in my apartment with some forward looking software for my computer to handle the business that I hoped I'd soon be getting; she was good at that stuff.
Business was slow for the first couple of months, slow that is, but steady. It was a beginning. Then, I caught a break.
The man was tall, very tall, and slender; and his name was Lionel Tandy; he was a PI. He was a private investigator with a need for someone to handle his very delicate spying machinery. He'd been recommended to me by a mutual old friend from army days. Jerry, Jerry Whitfield. My buddy and his, had employed him to catch his cheating wife and to protect himself from being raped in the divorce that he knew was coming.
Mister Tandy had a lot of machinery because he had a lot of business; and, he almost immediately had steered a lot more business my way. My income doubled by the end of the first year, and more than quadrupled by the end of the second year. I was making four times what I did as a trashman. Life was good and getting better. Well, better if you discount I hadn't heard from any of my former family in all that time.
I'd asked Marian to move in with me. She'd initially refused. She was concerned that I had not been able to come to grips with my wife and daughter's betrayal, as I saw it. But now she'd reconsidered. I guess I didn't seem to be so down all of the time as I had been. Maybe it was the result of being so damn busy which I freakin' was! Another plus for her, and ultimately us was the fact that she no longer had the worry of making the rent on her old place.
We were doing well as a team, and now we were sharing a bed. I knew the asshole and my ex had married soon after my last talk with any of them. I also knew my daughter had been the maid of honor at the little do. She certainly had made her choice with that one. I had been bitter about Caroline being her maid of honor, but thinking about it, I guess it figured. But, marriage for me and Marian? No, not yet at any rate. I was still a little skittish, even after two years, no doubt another reason that she'd held off moving in with me.
Again apart from hearing about the wedding from some common friends of Zoe's and mine, I hadn't seen nor heard from my ex-familia in more than two years. I didn't even know if they knew that I had switched careers; I'd doubted it. I was wrong.
Marian and I had finally had to rent a small office and workroom a mile and half from the little studio apartment I'd originally rented after the breakup and which we, the both of us now, still lived in. The office was nothing fancy, purely utilitarian. We didn't even have a sign in the window of the place. But, as fate would have it, such humble digs did not stop my now seventeen year-old daughter from finding me and stopping by.
I didn't recognize her at first. She'd filled out a lot in the time since she'd run out of that restaurant. She was not only older, she was more mature too—they're not the same thing.
"Hello, dad," she said, just as I realized who she was. Her tone, if I was reading it right, was condescending, and it bothered me.
"Caroline, nice to see you. You've grown up, I see," I said. "Like to have been there." I smiled.
"You could have been," she said.
"No, no, I don't share my children. They are either my children or they aren't," I said.
"And I wasn't then," she said.
"It was your choice," I said. I was being catty, but I had not, and never would, get over the way I had been treated. There would be no letting them off easy. "What are you doing here, if might ask?"
"Heard you had this shop, and that you'd quit being a garbage man," she said. There was that condescending tone again. "It's kinda small isn't it?" she said. "No customers?"
"A few," I said. "I eat regular. I'll ask again. Why are you here? You just come to insult me? Haven't you and your mother done enough of that?" She winced. I'd finally made an impact.
"No, no, sorry. I didn't mean it to sound that way. Did I make it sound that way?" she said.
"Well, I didn't mean to. I'm sorry, really.
"I came by to see you. See how you were doing. Hope you're doing okay—really, she said. I think I believed her, but it didn't change much.
"Well, thanks, I guess. And, how are you doing? You're what, seventeen now?" I said. "Did asshole buy you a new car yet?"
"Dad, please stop calling him an asshole, okay? He's an okay guy. And yes, that's my Vet out front," she said.