This can't be considered a feel-good story although it has some romance. It is a story of a selfish, evil woman who is brought to justice by the one person that really knows her.
I had just stepped in out of the light rain and was unlocking my front door when a voice came out of the darkness that shrouded the far end of the porch. "I don't want to startle you. My name is Annie Dopkins."
The voice had a lilting quality about it that sent delicious shivers through me. "You have startled me, but just for a second. Let me get the door unlocked and get some lights turned on."
I finally got the door open and lights on in the entryway. I turned to face the woman that stood there waiting for me to bid her entry. She was tall, about five-foot-ten, I would judge. Her hair was a dark auburn. She was wearing a sort of iridescent raincoat and even in that I could see she was shapely. Her footwear consisted of a pair of suede halfboots. Her clothes exuded quality. "Come in Annie Dopkins. There are hangers for your coat and shawl there on the hall tree. I'll put some more lights on and I need coffee, so will start a pot. Would you have some?"
"That would be welcome."
I heard the front door open and close once while I was measuring the coffee. While I was waiting for her to appear, I pulled a cold roast of beef from the fridge and started to slice it. I looked up and she was standing there watching me. "There is bread in the box over there on the counter. Utensils in that drawer. Do you prefer mustard or mayonnaise? I'll have this done in a minute, and we'll have a sandwich."
A half hour later we sat finishing up our sandwiches. "Now Miss Annie, what can I do for you?"
"It is Mrs. Annie for awhile yet. I was in town and I saw your ad in the classifieds that you were looking for someone to rent a room and share the cost of the utilities. Is the room still available?"
"Yes, the room is still empty. Actually, I have two rooms to rent. I need to rent them both if I'm going to survive here. There is a three-quarter bath that goes with the two rooms, so you would have to share the bath with another tenant when I find one. As long as you are the first to answer the ad, I will let you interview the other person when he or she appears. If you object too strongly to whoever it is, I'll turn the person away and wait for someone that you think we can live with."
"How much is the rent?"
"Three hundred-fifty a month. Twenty bucks for the phone and you pay your own long distance calls. Electricity--you pay one quarter of the total. In the winter if you are still here, same percentage on the heating. You have full kitchen privileges if you wash your own dishes. I have enough dishes so they are yours to use. Where is your car? I didn't see it when I drove up."
"No car, I came by taxi. I brought my bags in off the porch and they are in the hall. You say the other room is still available. I think I will take the other room too. In fact why don't I pay you a thousand a month and my own phone bill. If I'm still here this winter, the difference should pay my share of the heat. I will not be having too much to do so I'd just as soon keep the kitchen clean and do some of the cooking. Would that meet with your approval?"
"It looks as if this is my lucky day. You are the answer to all of my prayers. If you don't have a car you can use mine for errands, etc."
"Good, I think I'm going to like living here. Let's see, you will want the first month's rent. I'll give you that and a month for a security deposit." She lifted her shoulder bag off the floor and opened her wallet. She took exactly two thousand out of one of the compartments and handed it to me. "I think that is correct for the first and last month's rent. She then took a receipt out of another compartment and had me sign it and put it back in her wallet. I was puzzled as the receipt had already been made out. Somehow she came to my door knowing not only what she was going to do, but what I was going to do as well.
I led Mrs. Annie up the stairs to show her the two rooms she had rented. I swung the door open to the room I imagined she would like to sleep in. I had slept in this one for years. I didn't go in, just standing by the door. "There are linens and blankets in the chest over there by the south wall. Do you need help making up the bed?" Annie shook her head no. "Okay, I'll bring your bags up. You must be tired. I don't usually stay out this late at night, so you had a long wait on the porch."
"Thank you Abie, I would appreciate that."
I lay in bed that night thinking about the person I was sharing my house with. The last thing she had said to me really shook me up. She called me "Abie." How in hell did she know people called me Abie? My name was Arnold Ben Brown. She knew I was going to share my house with her, even before we had come to terms. She was very liberal with her money as well, and hadn't even asked to see the rooms before we reached an agreement. That voice that gave me the shivers when she first spoke--why did that happen?
She was damned easy on the eyes though. I had noted how tall she was and when she had come into the kitchen minus her outer wrap--God what a figure! Another thing odd, we had been together talking and having our lunch and never once had she smiled. She said she was married, but I had caught that she hadn't expected to be much longer. Either she was being divorced or her husband was going to die. I drifted off to sleep.
The nightmare that came every night was with me again and I awoke at the usual time. I glanced at the clock to make sure. Yes, it was three o'clock and right on time. I pulled my robe on and sat as usual in the easy chair I had moved into this room when the nightmares first took over. I heard my housemate move around in the room directly over my head. She was up to go across the hall to the bathroom, or she couldn't sleep either.
She couldn't know what had transpired in that room four years ago, could she? Maybe the hate and rage had seeped into the walls and come out to bother the one that now occupied it. I know it bothered me when I came home after being locked up for causing great bodily harm to my wife's lover. I had found my wife Lisa in bed with a person I had counted as my best friend. I had battered him all over the room while Lisa was screaming at me to stop. I ended it when I threw him down the stairs. My former friend, Pete Patterson, never walked again.
When I came home from prison three months ago, I tried to sleep in my old bedroom. The nightmares started that night and I never stayed in the room again. In fact I hadn't even stayed the rest of that night. Did Lisa sleep in that room while I was in prison? She had stayed here in this house during the time I was sitting in jail waiting for my trial.
I shouldn't have been in jail, but I had made threats often and vocal against Pete and Lisa. The state thought I was a risk to Pete, so they put my bail so high I couldn't raise it and I stayed confined until the trial that sent me away. I divorced Lisa as soon as possible, but it took many months, and I had no actual contact with her since it had become final.
I did know that Pete's health had deteriorated and Lisa had gone to care for him and moved in with him. One of the few friends I had left in town relayed this to me when I came home. I will say Lisa had kept the house up so I had something to come back to. I don't know if she would have been awarded this place in the divorce settlement if she had asked for it. It was mine long before I met Lisa, and my lawyer said it would stay with me under those circumstances. She hadn't tried for it, but she had taken the value of it and I was almost penniless when released.
That was the reason I had to take in boarders. I had been a reporter for a newspaper and now I was trying to reestablish myself by writing articles and essays for different publications. I also had the manuscript for a book I was working on. I had planned in my mind exactly what I was going to write about over the many months I had been incarcerated, and the book was flowing right along. I could only give it so much time, though, as I needed to work at those assignments that paid.
Now I had this woman living upstairs and she seemed to be somewhat of a mystery. I needed her though. I couldn't look too hard at my new housemate, for I needed every penny to keep my home and right now she was my salvation. I dozed and I finally slept again sitting right there in my chair.
I awoke to the smell of coffee. I quickly showered and shaved and made my way to the kitchen. "Good morning Mrs. Dopkins. I smelled the coffee, and thought I'd better get out here to see if I could bum a cup while I was making my own."
"It's Annie. I'll be able to drop the Mrs. shortly anyway, as my divorce is just waiting on the final decree. If there is only the two of us living here, why don't we just split the grocery bill? I like to cook and if I make something you don't like, say so, and I'll cook something else."
"I feel as if I am taking advantage of you. I think I better return some of your money, or at least cut what we agreed on last night in half."
"Why don't we proceed like we agreed and we can talk about it sometime down the road. I get the feeling that you need what I'm paying you to get back on your feet. Money isn't that tight with me. Now, you like poached eggs I'm sure, and they are almost ready. Would you butter the toast please?"
I thanked Annie for the breakfast and she again called me Abie, as if she knew that was my name. It was a puzzle. I told her I would be in my office working, but I wanted to go into town to the bank. If she would make out a grocery list I would pick up what she listed. She could go in with me or I could get whatever she indicated we would need. She said she would have the list ready and she would not go to town this time.
My bank was glad to see the money. The loan officer had been pressuring me for payment. He hoped that my house occupant would stay with me when I explained where the money had come from. I bought a single rose that was in a hard plastic sleeve and put it with the groceries. I unloaded the car into the kitchen and went right back to writing on my manuscript. At lunch time the rose was setting on the table in a bud vase.
We settled in together fairly well. Annie only went into town when she had letters to post. She absolutely would not use the mailbox or let me mail any letters for her. I assumed she didn't want me to know any of her business. I did see her going to a post office box she had rented, so I knew she received mail from someone. Occasionally I would hear her on the phone. It was after one of these calls that she dropped the Abie and referred to me as "Abe."
My house was filled with books and I had a card at the library, so evenings we sat in the living room and read. Television was just used for news. I had enough trouble in my life so sitcoms turned me off and I guess Annie felt she did too. I continued to buy a single rose on occasion. I always received a thank you when she found it while putting the groceries away. Over time I managed to see a wistful half smile when it was discovered. If I thought she would have laughed out loud I would have bought a whole spray of roses for her.
"You know I'm a felon, don't you?" I decided that after six months in the house together, I would pry a little if I could. We were sitting in the living room at the time.
"Yes I know. Someone in town told me."
"That doesn't bother you? Some people think I'm a pretty violent person. I was sent to prison for almost killing someone."
"The person that told me said that you had committed an act of violence, but you had just cause. Therefore I am thinking it was a one time thing and you are not a person to be afraid of. The more I am around you, I'm thinking you regret what you did and not just because you were sent to prison for it either."
"I guess that about sums it up. It took about five minutes to destroy three people's lives."
"Have you told your ex-wife this? She might be interested."
"No, absolutely not! I haven't seen her, or wanted to, since I heard her screaming for me not to hurt her lover. She tried to talk to me, both while I was in jail awaiting trial and while I was in prison. I wasn't having any of her then and I wouldn't talk to her now."
"Did you ever think she might have wanted to stop you from killing the man for your own sake? You spent almost four years in prison because you didn't kill him. How long would you have been there if you had succeeded?"
"We'll never know, will we? I'm sorry I started this conversation, and I don't want to talk about it anymore. I'm going to work on my book. Goodnight." So much for me trying to find out anything about Annie.
That question was added to my nightmare before morning. Was Annie right? Was Lisa trying to prevent me from harming Pete to save me and not him? Annie and I never discussed the subject again and I didn't approach her to find out about her past, either.
I have no idea how long it was before I fell in love with Annie. She was there in the house with me and over time we became comfortable with each other. I couldn't say anything to her about how I felt because of the baggage I was carrying. I was a jailbird. What did I have to offer this woman? It was better to say nothing and not make a move. Sometimes I would catch her looking at me though, and acting as if she wanted to say something. But then the moment would pass.
A year and four months into our living in the same house together, Annie knocked on my office door. "Abe, I just received a call from a friend of mine and I need a ride to the bus station. The bus leaves in a half hour so I need you to take me immediately."
"Certainly. Are you taking a suitcase?"
"Just a couple of dresses and some underthings. I don't know when I will be back, so don't worry about me. I'll call when I am able."
The bus driver was stowing her case and she was standing in line to board the bus. It was now or never for me. "Annie." She turned to me to see what I was going to say. "Annie, come back. My life would be empty if you weren't here." I didn't try to kiss her. She saw how intense I was.
"Abe, I'll be back. I promise you that." Wonders! Annie stepped towards me and gave me a hug and held on just a little longer than necessary. It was as if she hated to let go.
I watched her find a seat on my side of the bus where I could see her. As the bus pulled away she gave me a little wave and that little smile I always got when I put a rose in with the groceries. Someday I wanted to make her laugh. If that half smile was any indication, a laugh would make the sun come out and shine.
Nearly a month went by before I heard from Annie. I had no correspondence from her at all and I began to wonder if I had imagined she had feelings for me. I didn't even know where she had gone, so I just had to wait. A call finally came in after ten o'clock one evening. Being this late, I felt it had to be her before I picked it up. "Hello Annie. I've been waiting for your call."
"I'm sure you have and I'm sorry not to keep in touch. Abe, I know there are things you want to talk about, and I want to say some things to you as well. How I feel about you for one thing, but I have a favor to ask. My half sister is being operated on tomorrow morning. Would you drive up here and be beside me while she is in the operating room? It is very important to me."
"Of course. Give me the address and where I will find you. How long will I be staying?"
"I don't know. It might be overnight and it might be much longer. You better pack your best suit just in case we want to go somewhere. Start as soon as you can so I can talk to you before the surgery."
Annie gave me the address of a motel that was about eighty miles away. She said it was near the hospital where the operation was to be performed. I packed my suit. It was unspoken, but pretty certain that I might need it to attend a funeral. At least Annie had turned to me when she needed someone. I could hope she felt some love for me. The past month without her had been nearly impossible.
I arrived at the motel just about three a.m. There were lights on in only one unit, and I could see Annie standing in the doorway waiting for me. She hugged and kissed me as I came up to her. She clung to me, and I could feel how tense she was. Finally she pulled away from the most intimate moment we had ever shared.
"We have a lot of items to cover and we don't have very much time. You are going to have many questions and I will answer them the best I can. Let me talk and please, if you have any feelings for me, listen and don't get mad. Will you do that?
"First of all, look at these two photos. This first one is a photo I took out of your album at home. That is you when you were six years old. Now look closely at this one that was taken this past month." Annie handed them both to me and watched as I looked first at one and then the other.
"The boy looks just like I did. Who is he?"
"First a little background on me and my half sister. My father was killed while working on the railroad in a roadbed accident. My mother was pregnant with me. Before I was born my mother married my father's friend and she became pregnant with another girl child as soon as it was possible. That child was named Lisa."
Annie watched me as I assimilated what she told me. I sat very still as I looked at her. "So my ex-wife is your half sister, Lisa. You are also telling me I have a son by her. Is that it?"
"That's it. There is much more, but of course we don't need to go into that at this time. I will say that Lisa may be one of those people who can love two men deeply--or at least acts like she does. You are one and Pete is the other. If you can understand that, then I will tell you that she says she has never blamed you for what you did and neither does Pete. She has taken all the blame on herself." I sat through this, realizing that my only happiness in the future with Annie was to do as she asked.
"Lisa has a brain tumor and she doesn't have much chance of surviving the surgery this morning. One, she may come through all right, two, she may be not much more than a vegetable, and three, she may die. She keeps telling her doctor that if it looks like option two, to make sure it becomes option three for her. He might just do that as he seems wonderfully attuned to his patients.
"Now I will explain about your son. Lisa was pregnant when you caught her with Pete, although she wasn't aware she was with child. She was still married to you at the time and not divorced until after the baby came. With mixed feelings--some of hate for you and some of love--she named him Junior.
"She assumed fate being what it is, it would be Pete that was the father. That is until the boy was about four and Pete demanded she have a paternity test. As little Abie got older, it became more and more obvious he was in fact yours, and this was confirmed by the paternity test. Now, if anything happens to Lisa, I am Abie's guardian for the time being. You are listed as biological father and he bears the same name as you. If the operation doesn't go right this morning, I will be bringing little Abie home with me. Will you have a problem with that?"
I shook my head no. I couldn't speak. There were so many facts that I had thrown at me in the last half hour, I didn't know what to say.
"Lisa would like to see you before surgery. She wants to apologize to you for the mess she has made of everyone's lives. Could you listen to her?" Annie wasn't begging, but she wanted me to at least speak with Lisa.
"Yes I will. I would like to ask for her forgiveness for being such a hardass all these years. Thank God I will have the chance. Maybe I can get rid of some of the nightmares I am having. Lisa will be going into surgery with my blessing." I paused. "Will I be seeing Pete?"
"He will be with her this morning, so I expect so. Can you handle that without losing your cool?"
"Yes, I can for Lisa, and especially, I can for you."
"Good, let's get a little rest. It is going to be a long day. I have asked for a seven-thirty wake up call so we do have time to lay down for a couple of hours."
We lay on the bed, both of us on our backs, the only parts touching were our hands which were firmly clasped together.
I was stopped by a nurse to identify myself at the door of Lisa's room. Given the okay, I took a deep breath and pushed the door open. It was a single bed room and Lisa lay there with a little smile on her face with her eyes closed. She heard me come in. "Come closer Abie, so when I open my eyes I can see all of you at once." Tears were trickling from under her eyelids.
I bent down and brushed her lips with a little kiss and stepped back. Her eyes opened and I was seeing and being seen for the first time in over five years. "Abie, before you say anything, I knew I was playing with fire when I married you and continued to love Pete at the same time. For some reason I am one of those people with a fatal attraction I guess. I loved you and I loved Pete. I knew your work would take you out of town often, so it was you I married, which gave me the chance to still carry on with Pete.
"Also I knew that if I married Pete, you would never consider me cheating on him. It was a case of thinking I could have my cake and eat it too. We don't have time this morning, but every letter I sent you in prison has been duplicated. Annie has them and someday when you have time would you read them? The originals I knew you tore up without reading. Would you do that for me?"
"Yes I will. Lisa, Annie tells me that you have given me a son. Do you really want me to be a father to him?"
"Yes. If I come out of this operation today okay, I still want him to live with you and Annie. I would like to see him sometimes, of course, but I want you to have the raising of him. I will be marrying Pete if and when I walk out of here. Pete knows this and agrees, although he loves little Abie as much as you will come to love him. Could you kiss me and tell me you don't hate me anymore?"
"Lisa, I don't hate you. I haven't understood you, but hate is the furthest thing from my mind. I forgive you everything and between your letters and Annie I will come to understand you someday. No, I don't hate you. I would like to have your forgiveness for the pain I have brought both you and Pete. I was in prison and I got out. When I put Pete into his wheelchair, I put him into a prison worse than any I have been in. For a long time I thought he deserved it, but I don't anymore. I am the one that needs forgiveness."
"For whatever it is worth Abie, you have it. Now kiss me again. Annie, Pete and little Abie will be here in a minute."
I was sitting by the bed holding Lisa's hand when the door banged open and a little boy came in. "Hi Mom, they haven't taken you away yet. I was hoping to see you one more time. Aunt Annie said God may take you away and look at you. If he doesn't want you yet he will send you back. I hope he doesn't want you 'cause I love you." He crawled onto the bed and kissed his mother. I could hardly see him, because the tears were streaming down my face.
Annie came in pushing Pete in his wheelchair. He looked much the same as I remembered, but he had aged more than I had. He had a robe over his legs and even with that I could see they had wasted away. "Hi Pete, it's been a long time." I stood and walked around the bed and shook his hand. "Pete I'm sorry for what I did to you. It took me awhile, but I've come to regret what happened that day."
"Abie, I hated you too for a long while. I know now that I brought it on myself. Lisa tries to take the blame, but I should have known better than to mess with her with you being my best friend. You did the same thing I would have done if I was married and you did that to me. Let's put it behind us. We'll get together sometime and talk about the good old days. We made quite a pair at one time."
He wheeled his chair over to the bed where he could hold Lisa's hand, much like I had been doing before he came in. There was the same light in her eyes for him as there had been for me when I was there next to her. I guess that made me realize that Lisa really did love both Pete and me, equally. I stepped out and Annie followed me.
"Abe, would you consider marrying me? This month away from you and seeing you this morning makes me certain I love you. If anything happens to Lisa we are going to have little Abie with us. That's my excuse for asking, but I love you with all my heart. I know we can have a good life together."
"Is this a proposal? I was about to ask you the same thing, but you beat me to it. I've missed you so in the last month. There was something about your voice that made me quiver that first night you startled me at my door. I felt I was going to fall in love with you when you first spoke to me and this was before I even knew what you looked like."
"This is so wonderful. Before she goes into surgery, may I tell Lisa we will be getting married? I think it would ease her mind."
"Maybe we can tell her together if there is time. I think she should have as much time as possible with Pete and little Abie. I take it he has been primed for the worst if this doesn't go right."
"That is what kept me so busy this past month. It is sad really and she has only an outside chance according to the doctors."
"I think we have given her all the support we can from this side. The big guy up there will have to do his part from now on. I have a feeling it is in his hands."
All of us went with Lisa as her bed was wheeled into pre-op. Little Abie rode on the bed with his mother. Pete and I were holding her hands and Annie was silently crying as she had her hand on Lisa's leg rubbing it so she knew her sister was there supporting her.
We all kissed Lisa before the doors opened and she passed from view. Now it was all waiting. Annie started talking to little Abie, telling him that he never had anyone to call Daddy before. I had arrived to be that person for him. Quick, inquisitive and trusting, I soon had him holding my hand as we went looking for the candy machine. Questions were coming at me a mile a minute. Some I couldn't answer. I could have lied or fudged the answers, but I just said, "I don't know the answer to that."
When we came back to where Pete and Annie were waiting, little Abie said, "My new Daddy doesn't know the answers to many of my questions. He said though, that we would find the answers together and then we'd both know them. I think that is pretty nice of him, don't you Aunt Annie?"
Annie flashed me a smile. That shocked me. The first full-blown, down-to-earth, I love you smile. I must be doing something right. If the way to her heart was through this son of mine, I could live with that.
One of the team of doctors spoke to us at 1 p.m., saying that Lisa was holding up well and so far the team had not found any insurmountable problems. It was going to be another hour and a half before they closed her skull up. The lead surgeon would be out and give us his prognosis at that time.
It was a long two hours before he appeared. He looked very tired. "Basically the operation went well. We did find one problem. There is a small portion that we deemed too dangerous to go after. It was too close to a major blood vessel and is wrapped around a nerve bundle. We have done what we could to make sure the tumor will not regenerate itself and grow again. We just never know. We can predict what will happen, but sometimes our predictions are wrong.
"For the present we are keeping Lisa in a light coma so she doesn't have a seizure. That could happen because working inside the skull can cause swelling, which is what happened when the tumor got so big and brought her here in the first place. She will be in this state four to seven days. When we are ready to wake her up, you can come in and be here at that time. Until then there is no use waiting around and you would be best served to go on with your lives. Right now I would say her prognosis for a full recovery is excellent."
Pete called his nurse, George--the one that transported him and saw to his needs at home. He asked if I wanted to stay at his house until Lisa was awake. I declined. I said I was just finishing up a book I was working on and needed to be available for my editor to reach me. He was interested and asked what it was about. I said it had to do with my life while I was in prison. Nothing more was said. We collected some clothes of little Abie's and the letters Lisa had claimed were duplicates to the ones I tore up while in prison and were soon on our way.
Little Abie was anxious to see where he was going to live. I took it that in the last month, Annie and he had bonded and he felt almost as much love for her as he had for his mother. Annie told me that Lisa was sometimes very sharp with her son and often she berated his actions when he didn't know why. She seemed unpredictable in her administering both discipline and love. Whether this was due to the tumor that had been growing in her head or whether that was her nature, Annie didn't know.
Little Abie had always found Annie pleasant and knew where he stood with her all the time, so naturally he was drawn to her. On the way home until he fell asleep, he related what he did in kindergarten and the friends he made. He was looking forward to starting first grade at the end of the summer. He seemed pretty bright to me, but maybe that was because I wanted him to be. Just think, I had a son. Unbelievable!
It was late in the evening when we reached home. Annie thought it best for Abie to sleep in her bed for tonight. If he woke in a strange bed and in a strange house without his mother nearby, he would need at least one thing familiar for him to cling to. That would be Annie. I carried little Abie upstairs and woke him enough to go to the bathroom and then took him into Annie's room where she was already under the covers. I got him undressed and into his pajamas, and led him around to where he could crawl in beside his aunt. I leaned down to where he was looking up at me. I kissed him on the forehead. "Goodnight, son. I'll see you in the morning."
"Goodnight." He paused, searching for the word that was unfamiliar, "Daddy." My heart just about burst with happiness.
I was sitting in my office an hour later when there was a soft knock on my door. "Hi, may I come in? I've been laying upstairs wondering if you meant it when you said you loved me. I came down to check for sure."
"I do love you and want to marry you. Will you?"
Instead of answering me, she came into my arms. Annie is a big woman and when she molded her body into mine, there was no doubt we were going to fit together perfectly. There was some passion in the kiss, but not as much as anyone could have imagined. We had lived in the same house for over a year. It was like side by side and never meeting. I didn't know anymore about Annie than I did when she announced who she was. That wasn't true really, for I had found out she was half sister to my ex-wife.
Yes, I did know that she had a pleasant demeanor and she was reserved in her emotions. Look how long it took me to see her smile.
"This is the first time I have been in your office, you know. I know you are a writer. You must be a good one and make money at it. Lately when I give you my house share money, sometimes it is days before you go to the bank to deposit it."
"It is beginning to pay very well. I was successful before I went to prison and it took awhile when I got out to reestablish my credibility. Right now I have plenty of work ahead of me. More than I want until I get my book finished. That will be soon, I hope."
"What is the book about?"
"Prison life, or more specifically, what put inmates there in the first place. I've used my own case, and I try to show what can happen in five minutes to change the course of one's life. All the crimes I have related happened in five minutes. I'm the second case study in the book. The first one is of a prisoner that was sentenced to one year in prison. There are seven cases in all, although, I could have added more.
"The last case is of a man that has been in the same prison for over forty years and will never come out. He was given two life sentences plus ninety-nine years. His was a horrific crime, but it still took only five minutes or less to commit. He went early to pick up his daughter at school and saw his wife waiting for her in another man's car. She and the man were making out. When she saw the daughter she got out of the car. He went into a rage and used his car as a weapon. His wife and daughter were killed along with four other school kids."
Annie looked at me and then down at the floor. "I can understand what you are talking about. When we get to know each other just a little better, I will tell you all about my life. All of it isn't pretty and I'm sorry to say, I have had my own five minutes. I have never been to prison, but what I did could have sent me there, except for a sympathetic jury."
"We have a lot to talk about and discover about each other. For now, may I have one more kiss. The last one has left me wanting another."
I was so new to my son in the morning, he had to reacquaint himself with me. I soon had him laughing when I used the pancakes I was making and tried to hit his plate with them like I was tossing a frisbee. No sober sides for Annie this morning either. She was relishing in the fooling around I was doing, acting as if I was the same age as little Abie. God was life good!
I left it to Annie to give little Abie a tour of the inside of the house. I did the outside later. There was an old barn that had stood on the property since the seventeen hundreds. I told him I used to climb way up to the top with my father watching. Wow, way up there? I told him at that time there were animals kept here. We had a horse and three cows and several chickens. I had a dog, too. Was I ever going to get another dog? Umm--now that I think of it, I just might. Would Abie like to have a dog around? A very serious reply. Yes he thought he would.
I had to get my manuscript in the mail today. I left Annie to entertain little Abie. I could hear them chattering away and occasionally I would hear her humming. What a change. Annie called the hospital to see how Lisa was. Things were just as they should be so nothing to report. I suggested she call Pete, just to touch base. Questions went back and forth. Thank you so much for calling! How is little Abie? Good, Abe and Annie's home was a better place for him than with his mother. What did that mean?
Annie and I puzzled over that remark, but we didn't have enough information to figure out just what Pete meant by it. The next three days the report from the doctors was the same. On day six, it was decided that Lisa could safely be brought up out of her coma. We were there waiting the event.
The doctors cautioned us that Lisa wouldn't be saying anything to us and she might not even recognize us. It certainly would be days before she would be getting up and walking. Pete and Annie were the first to go in when the doctor said they could--two minutes only. They came out and whispered that she smiled. I went in holding little Abie's hand. I think the bandages scared him because he took one look and turned his face into my thigh.
I said softly, "Abie misses you very much. I am so glad you are going to get well. We all love you and are praying for you." Lisa smiled and I led Abie back out. He started crying and went to Annie. She picked him up and said Mommy would be fine in a little while.
It took months to rehabilitate Lisa so she could walk, talk, and go on with a normal life. Therapy was long and painful for her. We knew about it, for when we went to visit, which was often, she complained bitterly about what she was going through. Pete did marry Lisa. He said he didn't expect to live many years and didn't want Lisa tied to him, but she prevailed. He was thankful for Lisa staying with him, but she was difficult to live with sometimes.
The sun seemed to be shining on me finally. Annie was a joy to live with and Abie was more so. I was never called Abie anymore. Little Abie had that distinction all to his own. I was Abe. Annie and I wanted Lisa to be at our wedding, so we waited through the long therapy she was undergoing. The wait was all for naught, for when Pete and his nurse arrived, she wasn't with him. He said she was sick and refused to make the trip. We were married anyway.
Almost from the time I started writing my manuscript, I felt good about it. My book was finally printed and distributed to the book stores. Unbelievable. It started climbing the charts and within six weeks it was on some of the bestsellers' lists. Every prison in the country added it to their library. Apparently there was something about how I had presented my material, it was touted as a "read." Everyone that was connected to psychiatry and the criminal mind was advised to read it. Also criminologists were interested from the angle I presented. I had traveled from small-town newspaper reporter to prison felon to book author and finally a person that spoke with various state legislators on the subject.
I had the full support of Annie. One night she gave me the story of her life. This was before the book came out and she had not read the manuscript. As she talked, there were similarities in the instances in our lives. I could see the parallels and shuddered as they were related.
Annie had married a well-to-do executive and had a happy few years. Coming home early one day she caught her husband and a woman having sex. She had screamed profanities at him until he finally told her to shut up and he had reinforced it with a blow to her face. He hit her again and then the woman came for her and scratched her arms and face. Retreating, Annie picked up a letter opener and stabbed her husband twice, once in the arm and once in the side. He tripped, trying to get away from the weapon and opened his eyes to see her on top with the weapon at his throat.
It was the pause she took to save her from being a killer. She said she wanted to plunge the opener into him again and again, but paused. Her tribulation wasn't over, for her husband charged her with his stabbing. It wasn't until the final cross-examination of the woman with him that day that made the trial swing in Annie's favor. The woman had to admit that Annie had been hit twice and scratched before she went for the letter opener. She also admitted that Annie was poised to plunge the weapon into her husband's throat. Instead she had dropped the weapon and got up and dialed 911. She then sat in a chair across the room waiting for help to arrive.