Thanks to the Hip and Knee doctor for editing assistance.
I am not going to bore you with the background of how I met and wooed my wife Marcie. Let us just say that we met in high school, fell madly in love, and married as soon as I got a job. We have been married for eighteen years and have a seventeen year old daughter, Jessica. You do the math. Two years later, we were blessed with twin sons: Brian and Baxter. Life was good and I had no complaints, but I was the only one. It appeared than Marcie had not been happy for some time now. Today, I was lucky enough to learn about it all.
I was employed for a small manufacturing company as their one and only Electronics Data Processing manager. I worked my way into that position over a ten year period. I had bigger plans, however, and every evening and most weekends I was struggling with my best friend, Elton, in developing a computer server system that would provide instant linking over long distances. Although the software development seemed to outstrip our hardware efforts, Elton and I were still able to come up with a tight little system that we were almost ready to bring forth. Unfortunately, we were not working fast enough to save my marriage.
Today was the day that Marcie decided to give me the bad news.
"John, it is pretty simple. The only thing I am asking for is five hundred dollars a month for child support. You get to keep the house, the furniture, and everything else."
She had been explaining things to me for the past fifteen minutes and I was, of course, not listening to most of it.
"I don't want to interrupt, but five hundred dollars seems a little low for three kids."
Marcie let out an exasperated sigh. "John, it is only for Jessica, and only until she is eighteen. I am trying my best to be fair, and I think five hundred dollars is reasonable."
"What about the boys? Aren't you taking them also?"
"Of course I am, but you don't have to pay child support for them because you are not their father. I am really surprised that you didn't figure that out years ago."
I guess that shows how really dense I was. No, I didn't figure it out. It never even crossed my mind that the boys might not be mine. Now she was telling me that she not only wanted a divorce, but that she had been cheating on me for at least sixteen years. What else was there that I did not know?
My mind started to wander again. She was still talking and I was trying to put all the pieces together in my head. I am sure that the things that she was saying were important, but I just could not bring myself to concentrate.
"Okay. Damn it, okay. I will go along with just about anything. The only thing that I insist on is that I get Jessica every weekend and on all school breaks, including summer."
Marcie actually stopped talking for a moment. "I can live with that. If it is okay with Jessica, I will have the papers drawn up tomorrow. Will you sign them then?" I could tell that she was getting ready to leave. I didn't realize it before, but she had actually been moving her things out gradually over the last few weeks.
"Just a couple of questions before you go, please. Who the hell is the father of the twins? Who are you going to be living with? Finally, why did you wait so long?"
"Langford King is the father of Brian and Baxter. We will all be moving into his house."
"What about his wife? Where are Joyce and the girls going to stay?"
"Joyce left and took the girls with her. After she caught me and Langford in bed, their marriage was over. I didn't ask for a divorce before, because Langford was still married, and I had no alternative. Now that he is getting a divorce, it only seems practical that I get one too."
"You have been screwing Langford for sixteen years?"
"That is right, and I have no intention of stopping. I am sorry, John. You are a great guy, but you are only mediocre in the sack, and I am afraid you are going to be working just to put bread on the table for the rest of your life. Langford is rich, successful, and a great sex partner. I only have one life and I want to enjoy it to the fullest. You couldn't give me that."
I had no response for that. I watched her walk out the door and then opened a cold beer. She was right. Here I was: sitting in a $300 dollar recliner drinking cheap beer. I had big plans and that was about it. I guess what really killed any feelings I still had for her was when she compared my sexual performance with Langford's. There is not much you can do about something like that. Either you got it or you don't. I was always satisfied, but apparently Marcie wasn't.
We knew Langford and Joyce since high school. Foster King, Langford's father, was the "King of Carpets" in our town for as long as I could remember. About ten years ago, he retired to Florida and his only son took over the business. A lot of us used to get together at regular intervals for Bar-B-Q's, picnics, and other gatherings. Marcie and Langford were always friendly with each other, but no more than any of the other people who attended. Langford started to drift away from our group as his bank account grew. In the last few years, we saw them only two or three times: at least I did.
They had two beautiful, teenaged daughters who were friends with Jessica.
Speaking of Jessica, she was the bright spot in my hectic life. She was small, funny, and cute. She always brought a smile to my face. Unlike her brothers, she studied hard and was an excellent student. All she wanted was good SAT scores and acceptance at a great school. I did everything I could to help her.
Brian and Baxter were just the opposite. Not only were they not interested in academics, but they had no desire to participate in sports either. I tried several times to get them involved in my computer projects with no success. Most of my contact with them was of a preventive or corrective nature. I would adjust situations and their mother would over-ride me. Now I understood why.
Marcie was always a good wife. She never denied me sex and quite often initiated it. She kept a clean house and was never demanding. She was a great mother and a wife that I felt I could be proud of. It appears that she was also a fabulous actress.
I was finishing my third longneck when Jessica got home from school. There was no telling when the boys would be getting home. Usually they missed supper several times a week, and Marcie said nothing. I gave up arguing about it a long time ago.
"Hi dad. What are you doing home? Where's mom?"
I struggled out of the recliner and gathered up my empties. "Your mother asked me to come home for lunch today so that she could tell me that she wanted a divorce." My words sounded a little slurred, even to myself. I am not a good drinker.
"I'll get them. Sit down. I guess that explains why you are drinking in the middle of the day." Jessica took the bottles from me and carried them into the kitchen.
"You didn't have a clue, did you dad?"
"Nope." I watched as she kicked off her shoes and plopped down on the floor.
"What is going to happen now?"
"You and the boys and going to go live with your mother at Langford King's house: the mansion on the hill. Your mother always wanted to be rich, apparently."
"It's not a mansion. It's just a big old house that his father built years ago."
We sat silently for a few moments.
"Did you know that I am not the father of your brothers?"
"Yeah. Brian and Baxter joke about it a lot. I guess mom told them years ago. Every time you chew them out for something, they take it and then go somewhere and laugh."
"Well I guess that explains a lot, doesn't it? How come you know all about this?"
"I have known for years, but didn't want to say anything. You seemed happy enough and I didn't want to rock the boat. A couple of weeks ago, Lisbeth and Carla told me that they were moving to Lancaster. Their mother caught mom and Mister King in bed together. I figured that something would happen soon."
"You could mentioned it."
"I don't think so."
There was another moment of quiet.
"I'd rather stay here with you. You'll need someone to help around the house."
"That would never fly. The court wouldn't allow it. I did work out a little compromise however."
"How is that going to work?"
"You get to stay here every weekend and every school break, including summer."
"I can make that work. Why don't you go take a shower and I will order in some pizza."
While we were eating, Jessica presented her plan for the separation. She would come to our house Friday after school and stay until she went back to school Monday morning. I thought it was better than anything I had imagined. We were still discussing the details when the phone rang.
"John. I just wanted to let you know that the boys are here and will being staying overnight. Tomorrow, while you are at work, the kids and I will move our things over here. They can afford to miss a day of school. Jessica can spend the evening deciding what she wants to bring with her and what she wants to keep there. I don't see any reason why we can't start the new arrangement right away, do you?"
"No. That sounds fine with me. I'll let Jessica know."
The re-allocation of bodies seemed to go smoothly. I found myself alone in the house, and, to tell you the truth a little relieved. I had a hard time concentrating at work because I kept trying to figure out where I went wrong. My constantly kicking myself for being completely in the dark about my wife's relationship with a close friend, did not improve things. Elton and his wife, Beth, offered a shoulder for me to cry on, and I readily accepted. The obvious answer was booze, but I decided against it. Instead, I started spending even more time on the server project. Beth wasn't too thrilled about Elton working more hours than he was, and I ended up having to send him home several times.
The divorce papers got filed and Jessica started spending her weekends with me. She was careful not to say anything derogatory about her mother, but she also never seemed to have anything good to say. She seemed a little annoyed at the amount of time I was spending on the server development, but didn't complain. She stayed busy doing the washing and housework that Marcie was no longer available to do. It was not my intent to use her that way, but she seemed glad to have something to keep her busy, other than studying for her SATs. I always made time to have meals with her.
It was late Spring when things started to get better. Jessica was accepted at the University of Oregon and also approved for a senior year abroad, in Spain. She was worried that Marcie would not let her go, for some reason, but she needed her permission. I didn't understand her concern until I found out that she had not told her mother about her college applications or about the exchange program request. At my suggestion, Jessica asked her mother to sign the permission slip to go overseas by presenting it as a class trip, without any further elaborations. Marcie signed the paper without even looking at it. The next week we applied for her passport.
My divorce was final. Langford was still fighting with Joyce about his. Joyce wanted blood. Marcie gave me all rights to the house, but I didn't know what I was going to do with it yet.
As Elton and I finished up the server project, Beth was using her computer skills to create a fancy presentation. We prepared a slide show and had the handouts professionally printed. A week later, we had a contract to provide a hardware system for the State Turnpike Commission and a hefty check to go with it. I was forced to quit work in order to get it done. Since I no longer had a family, a steady job was not that important. Elton, on the other hand, could not afford to give up his day job, but he was putting in long nights and every weekend to get things up and running. Beth seemed a little more supportive by this time. We had no trouble hiring several college students to help with the installation. Wireless technology seemed to make everything simpler, and the whole setup was put together from off-the-shelf components. In six weeks, we had a fully operational system. It had a few glitches, but the customer was elated. Two days later, the State Department of Corrections called to set up an appointment. Elton quit his job and Beth announced that she was pregnant.
The second contract went a lot smoother. A couple of the students had graduated and were happy to be hired on full-time. Elton struggled without me for a week as I escorted my daughter to Barcelona. I needed the vacation and Jessica felt better with me along. Marcie was furious when she found out about the trip and also when I stopped sending her the support checks. I could easily afford to pay them, but I felt like pissing her off. All I had to do was hold on for five more months until Jessica was eighteen.
We were getting inquiries faster than we could respond to them. I became the full-time contact man and was traveling constantly. Elton took care of things at home, for the most part. We had to rent a small office that Beth quickly took charge of. She was happy that I was doing most of the traveling. Beth was forced to hire some office help so that they would be trained by the time she had the baby, and we also put a lawyer on retainer. Things were going better than we ever had anticipated. We were encouraged to incorporate by our legal beagle, but he sub-contracted the job out to a professional firm in Philadelphia.
It was lonely in the house again. I could endure a few days without Jessica, because I always knew she would be there for the weekends. Now, I spent a lot of time sending e-mails and making overseas phones calls. I guess being busy kept me from dwelling on my loneliness. I never heard from Marcie or the boys.
I spent Christmas in Spain with my daughter. Everything was wonderful.
In four months, Jessica would be coming home and then on to Oregon for college.
It was easy to get a ritual going, when I wasn't traveling. Every morning I would have the same breakfast at the same seat in the same diner. It only took a few weeks until I became a fixture.
When I wasn't thinking about the project, I spent a lot of time dwelling on what went wrong with my marriage. The more I thought about it, the more bitter I became. I needed closure and I needed some sort of satisfaction. My wife had humiliated me for fifteen years. How could I possibly let that slide? A small item on the third page of the morning paper gave me some hope.
Phillip Hughes was suing King Carpets for improper termination. It seemed that Phillip had been the general manager at King Carpet for over ten years. He had worked for Foster King before he retired and stayed on. Apparently, Foster King was an honorable man and ran a straight business. Langford did things a little differently. Phillip refused to accept the shoddy workmanship and inferior products that Langford was leaning towards. When he complained, Langford fired him. It was a weak law suit and he had only a small chance of winning. I decided that I wanted to meet Mister Hughes.
My bank account was larger than it had ever been. Jessica was settled in at college and I had already paid for the first year. Things were starting to look good. I had not heard from Marcie in several months. She had no idea how well the new business was going, or even knew that it existed.
It only took me ten minutes to convince Phillip Hughes to drop the lawsuit against Langford King. He had wanted to open his own carpet business for several years, but he did not have the money or the backing. Elton was more than willing to put up half of the money. He and Beth both thought it would be a good investment. Other than King Carpets, the only competition would be the two big home improvement stores in the area. Phillip was confident that with the right customer service and prices he could hold his own against them. Elton and I both liked Hughes and allowed him to proceed on his own, with our financial blessings. In six months, Empire Carpet was fully operational and making money.
During the same time frame, Elton and I had expanded into our sixth state. Our server system proved to be a perfect fit for most government operations with numerous locations. We never had to advertise. The business grew by itself, and in a short period of time we were completely overwhelmed. It was hard to tell if we were extremely happy or extremely frustrated. The nicest aspect about the whole thing was the monthly checks that just kept coming and coming.
Brian and Baxter had been arrested for selling drugs. Most of the dealings were at their high school. It took our lawyer over a half a day to convince the authorities that I was no longer responsible for their actions. By the end of the day, papers were filed relieving me of all parental responsibilities for both of them. I got a call later that evening from Marcie reprimanding me for my actions. I hung up on her and turned off my cell phone. In a few months, they would be eighteen and responsible for their own lives. I raised them, but I never really liked the suckers.
After we got two inquiries from the great state of California, Serpentine Enterprises from Palo Alto, made a formal offer to buy out our small enterprise. We had been in business just slightly over two years and they offered us sixty million dollars in cash, plus some stock options for the business. We had no trouble at all accepting the deal. Elton agreed to stay with the company at a ridiculous salary, but would have to move to San Francisco. Beth said she would divorce him if he didn't take it. Three of our young engineers would become overnight millionaires before they were twenty five years old. I decided to retire.
The realtor was putting his "For Sale" sign on the front yard when a van pulled into the driveway. It was one of those custom-built jobs, with a special wheelchair ramp attached to the side. I watched from the porch as a good looking Latino woman came around from the driver's door and activated the ramp mechanism. It was evident that she had done this a hundred times before. In less than a minute, an older man, who I recognized immediately as Foster King, was driving a motorized cart up my sidewalk. The porch steps would keep him from going any further, so I walked over to greet him.
"Do you know who I am young man?" I was flattered at being referred to as a young man. Maybe that was his way of getting me off guard.
"Of course. I recognize you from your TV commercials. You sure did get old."
My sassiness got me a little grin. The grim expression that he approached me with, seemed to wilt away at my obviously childish comment about his age. He wiggled around in the cart a little before surprising me again. "I need a beer. Do you have any cold beer? In a bottle, not one of those damn cans."
"There are some Foster's in the fridge. Do you want to come in or shall I bring them out here?"
"Just relax. Maya can get them. Sit down. We have to talk."
Maya stepped around me as I sat on the porch steps. I have to admit, the old codger had my attention, but so did Maya. She had on a white blouse and black slacks. The slacks were not especially tight, but snug enough to show off a nice butt. It wasn't what I would call little, but it was well-shaped.
"Easy there boy. She will be right back." Foster King caught me looking at his lady friend and took the opportunity to get a zinger in.
"Sorry. No offense intended, but she is quite attractive."
"Why the hell do you think I hired her?"
"I hope it was to seduce me."
"In your dreams, young man. She is more woman that you could handle."
We were both laughing when Maya returned with the longnecks. She gave us both a funny look when we suddenly stopped.
"You didn't come here to drink my beer, Mister King. What can I do for you?"
Maya was half sitting and half standing with one leg on the porch railing. He caught me looking again and snickered.
"You are causing me many problems Mister Terrell. A good percentage of my retirement income comes from the profits that are generated by my business. That income has been steadily going down lately and I have discovered that you might just be the cause of it. I would like to give you a chance to explain yourself before I have you killed."
"Now Foster, please behave. You promised me that you wouldn't be pulling any of that crap. Apologize to Mister Terrell." It was the first that Maya had spoken since they arrived. I was expecting an accent of some sorts, but she spoke perfect English.
"Damn it. She won't let me have any fun." Foster finished what was left in the bottle with one final swig. "Sorry, John. I was just trying to get your attention. I promise not to have you wacked." He said that last part with a fake Italian accent and then gave me a small smile.
"Who did you talk to before coming to see me?"
"Last night, I had supper with my son, and that sleazy broad he is sleeping with. He claims that you caused all the problems. It was hard to get any facts out of him because he just kept running on about you trying to get revenge for something. I finally got fed up with him and left early. Never even got to see my granddaughters. I was hoping you could give me some facts instead of bullshit."
Before I could say anything, Maya got off the rail and whispered something into Foster's ear.
"Oh shit." He smacked his hand against the arm of the cart. "That explains everything. Why the hell didn't you tell me that last night, Maya? Sometimes I wonder what I pay you for."
"You pay me because I am the only one that will put up with you."
"Mister Terrell. I didn't realize that the woman staying with my son was your ex-wife. I apologize for referring to her as sleazy. To be honest, I don't understand why you would be upset at my son for taking her. Seems to me that you would be thanking him."