Ahhh I sighed as I sank into my patio chair. I dearly loved this time of day-especially here at home. It was so quiet and peaceful sitting here on my patio drinking coffee. I could hear the birds chirping and see them flitting about as they lived their lives to the fullest. It was Indian summer, my favorite time of the year. I was still able to wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts. I relaxed in bliss as I watched the sun come from behind the large hill east of my house and silhouette the 70 plus year old trees in my yard and along the stream that chuckled merrily on its way past my home and yard. It was so peaceful looking out across the stream.
My mind drifted back to better days as I recalled my childhood living, working and playing around this place. The land was so much a part of me. This farm had been in my family for well over 100 years and I hoped it would be in the family long after my death.
I remembered the hours I spent in the old swimming hole just down from the corner of the yard. So many of my friends came to swim and play that at times my mother thought she had a day care rather than a family. How many meals had we cooked on the built in grill beside the ole swimmin' hole, then eaten at the nearby table? How many kisses I had stolen while sitting or lying on blankets alongside the stream?
My mind drifted on to Susan, my first female friend and years later my wife. I felt a tear course down my cheek at the memory. My teeth grated and my stomach clenched in anger once more when my thoughts moved from her to my Best Friend Timothy. The three of us were inseparable back then. He and I vied for Susan's attention for years until I won out and we became a solid couple.
I cried silently at the memories as I felt the emptiness inside, the overpowering lonesomeness of having the large house and 600-acre farm to myself now. My farming, investments and other interests could not fill the void left when my family was torn from me. I asked myself once again what I had done to cause this?
As I remembered the pain a cloud obscured the sun streaming through the trees and I felt the first chill of fall-a chill as deep and soul destroying as the one I now carried inside.
Here I was, alone, age 35 and newly divorced, my children Jessica, age 11 and Alexander, age 10 wrenched from me by an unfeeling court and my ex-wife and ex-friend. Would this have happened if I hadn't remained in the Reserves and been called up for the last Iraqi war? Was that the cause of my losing my family or would Tim have won out in the end anyway? I knew over the years Susan was becoming more and more unhappy with her status in life but to do this? I knew she wanted to be the wife of a more prominent man but that just wasn't who I was or could be. I thought surely our love would carry through.
I sighed and got up for another cup of my morning elixir, my special mix of coffee I brewed daily, rain or shine. I knew dwelling on my problems didn't solve them but what was a man to do? I came back to my sanctuary and sat once again to look across the creek and over the south field. I loved to watch my cattle feeding on the lush grass as the fog rose off the creek and hung in the morning sun partially obscuring my view.
The gentle lowing of my animals and the sounds of neighbor's tractors were relaxing to me. I thrived on the happy sound of the water rushing over the rocks in the rapids just before entering the deep hole we swam in. I was as at peace as I could be considering my recent divorce.
I sighed and settled back to once again remember happier times. My parents and their loving rambunctious ways, the laughs and parties we had here in this back yard. Ahhh, times had been so good, so carefree as relatives and friends laughed and played, swimming in hot weather. I could almost feel Susan behind me, then realized never again would I feel her walk up behind me on this patio and place her hand on my shoulder as she bent to kiss me. Never again would I feel her slender body shuddering in orgasm as we made love in this yard or our king sized bed. Shit! Another tear slid down my cheeks. I have to get a handle on myself.
The happier times were so intertwined with this yard and home. I remembered the summer Susan first refused to skinny dip with Tim and me. The summer we realized she was a really different and, perhaps, exciting creature. We tormented her unmercifully that year and the next. At the time romance wasn't in the cards and as we each grew up some we began dating others. Susan would sometimes run around with me, sometimes with Tim but I didn't think any of us considered that dating her. Finally the summer after graduating high school, I began dating my friend Susan.
At first, it was just taking my friend someplace for fun and companionship because we both were between significant others. One day my parents were gone and Susan came over to swim. We played and dunked each other like we had when we were younger, then, while wrestling in the creek her top came off. She gasped and I just stared. I finally tore my eyes from her beautiful breasts and looked her in the eyes. Her face was crimson but there was a strange look on her face. We slowly leaned toward each other and I delivered a gentle kiss.
I don't know how long we held each other and kissed but by mutual consent, and without a word, I led her from the swimming hole and into the house. We stopped several times on the way for more kisses and touches. Susan would let loose with that special giggle of hers when I would touch her on one of her "secret" places. Finally, we were standing and kissing in the entrance to the hallway when Susan giggled once again and pushed me back from her. She ran down the hallway and into my bedroom with me right behind her.
When I got to the bedroom Susan was standing by my bed and facing the door. Her perfect breasts standing proud and capped by the most beautiful hard nipples I had ever seen. Her chest was heaving slightly from her short sprint and, I suspect, her arousal. I walked toward Susan while staring at her delectable breasts and the deep crimson hue above them. She smiled at me and pushed her bottoms down.
I stopped as I saw my first pussy. It was so exciting, so mesmerizing, and so beautiful. I was panting and my young cock was so hard! My heart was beating rapidly and I was scared. What do I do now? What if we get caught? I walked to her and we drew each other into another tight embrace as we kissed again. I felt her pushing my swim trunks down and helped her free my cock.
Susan kneeled down and took me into her mouth. Her small hands looked perfect and felt so good on my boner. She was good; so very good. I felt myself nearing orgasm and I guess she felt it too because she stood, then climbed onto my bed and lay on her back, knees up and spread as she looked me in the eyes and licked her lips.
The excitement and fear I would do something wrong or hurt her were almost overpowering. Susan led me through the most exciting and heavenly afternoon. I can still almost feel her clasping cunt and it's silky smoothness. The smooth comfort and heat of her lubricious cunt still call out to me. I was a typical kid. I didn't think about birth control until well after the act but when I groaned and said, "Oh, shit. I forgot the rubber!" Susan smiled and caressed my face.
"Don't worry John. I'm on the pill." She said. I didn't even think until a day or two later that that obviously hadn't been her first time.
I was so hurt when I next saw her and she admitted Good old Timothy had copped her cherry almost a year before. She looked at me in surprise when I got upset and said, "John, I'm not a slut or an easy piece but so what if that wasn't my first time. So what if there were two before you. Does that matter?" I decided it didn't matter to me then but now I wonder if it should have.
At the end of that summer, we went to the local Junior college and were an item for the first year. In the summer I felt the pull of the world and gave in to my secret fantasy. I had always dreamed of the military so I enlisted. I did my time and came back home a Sergeant.
Susan remained in college while I was gone. I had tried to get her to promise to wait for me but she had only smiled and caressed my face as she said, "Oh, John. You know how much I love you. How could you think I would ever forget you?"
I had written to Susan for almost a year before she wrote and told me she had met someone and wanted to date him. After my 'dear John' letter I never heard from her again and I lost contact with her. I heard she had dated the guy she dumped me for and several others but I had not bothered to keep track of her otherwise. After all, we were through.
I was walking down the street the second day I was home and saw Susan. I remember how my heart fluttered when I recognized her. When I called her name her face lit up with that wonderful smile I remembered. The whole day seemed brighter as I watched her smile and chatter at me. I felt myself weaken, as she would touch my arm to emphasize some point she was making. As I had walked up to her I checked out her left hand. Oh, God I remember thinking. No rings!
I asked her into the local café for coffee and was so thrilled when she said yes. We spent the entire afternoon visiting. I found the man she dumped me for had only lasted three months. She said she was so embarrassed by what she had done she never managed to get the courage to write me again. Susan said he had been an older man in graduate school and she had been so excited by his manners and knowledge, his worldliness that she just had to date him. He was from one of the better families in the next large town and drove a nice car but she found he was all flash. He had a wandering eye and couldn't keep his dick in his pants. I still remember consoling her as she cried and said, "Oh, John. I was so stupid. I dumped the most wonderful and considerate man in the world for such a jerk!"
She had dated Tim a while but he and she just didn't click she said. She was now in her last year of college and living at home. When she said she wasn't dating anyone at the time I was so happy. I talked, heck, I begged until I convinced her to go out to supper with me that night.
Over the next few months, I was relentless in my pursuit of Susan. The first time I asked her to marry me she said no and I was crushed. I redoubled my efforts and relentlessly continued my pursuit. Finally, the second time I asked her to marry me Susan sighed and said "Yes". We were married on Christmas Eve and never looked back. Well, I never looked back until this spring any way. Now, how I wish I had taken her "No" to my first proposal for her final answer; but then if I had I wouldn't have my two wonderful children.
I had returned to college and majored in Agribusiness, minor in Math. Along the way I was in Army ROTC and obtained my commission. I opted for an appointment in the Reserves and life was so good. We were so in love. I still loved the military but it now vied with Susan for my time. She complained about the time I spent on Reserve duty and I complained about the time I had to be away from her but I couldn't give it up. It was in my blood singing in duet along with my love for Susan.
After college and my initial Officers training, Susan wasn't too pleased when I returned home and began running the farm. She wanted me to stay on Active Duty or get a job in town. I thought I had convinced her what I had done was right for me, for us. Shortly after we came back home Susan got pregnant with Jessica. Then a year later, Alex came along. We were living the American Dream I thought.
Then along came the second Iraq war. My unit was called up. By now I was a Captain and company commander of a combat engineer company. I loved my job and my men and was proud to go. Susan tore at my heart though as she begged me to try and get out of going. I remember the last night home as she clung to me and cried herself to sleep. She just couldn't understand this was the price of freedom and that this was part of what I was, as much my job as Farming or anything else I might have chosen to do. I was a citizen soldier and a farmer. All she saw was how my going would impact her and the children. She complained I was abandoning them. I was in anguish but I had no choice.
I knew Susan was hurt and sad but I just couldn't believe how she acted. When I called she was curt and didn't talk long. I got very little e-mail and no "snail mail" and only a few "care packages" from the children. I had leased the land to Timothy while I was gone so she wouldn't have to do the farm work. The next year shouldn't have been too hard for her but I sure got the guilt trip laid on me about how hard it was without me at home.
About 3 months after I arrived in country I got an e-mail from Susan. She said she had gotten a job at the grain elevator as a clerk. Susan said I shouldn't try to call her at home during the day and to please not bother her at work, as she was so busy. She was so pleased and proud. She said Tim had felt sorry for her being at home alone all day and found a place for her. I found out later he had really found a place for her.
A couple months later Jessica mentioned in one of her e-mails that Tim and Susan had been out on the town and her mother came in drunk and crying. I tried to call Susan but couldn't get her so wrote her an e-mail asking for her side of the story. I never got a reply but when Jessica wrote me again she said she had been in trouble for "worrying me" with her mother's activities and she said Susan had told her to never mention things like that again because she didn't want me to worry.
I was worried but I trusted Susan so I finally decided she was just so embarrassed about getting drunk she wanted to keep it from me. Then came "THE DAY".
We had to move our base of operations and were in a motor convoy when my luck ran out. My vehicle was hit with an IED. My driver was killed and I was injured badly. I had a broken left leg, some broken ribs and a "penetrating wound" of the Right thigh and chest. I had been in Iraq 10 months and did not manage to get home until I had been gone 17 months. My wife and children had never visited me in the hospital and I got very few letters and cards. I had no other family because my parents had died about 6 years before within a few months of each other.
I would phone home occasionally but the children were withdrawn and I never got to talk to Susan. She was either at work or at a meeting. From time to time one of the children would mention she and Mr. Geitner (her boss Timothy) had been out to supper or to some social function. I never got any response to my questions and was beginning to worry. Finally I was released from active duty and allowed to return home. I was so happy and excited. I phoned the children and told them to have their mother pick me up at the airport and to be safe I e-mailed my flight number and arrival time.
I remembered how choked up I felt and how my eyes misted as I looked down on my home area when the plane was landing. I could hardly wait to see my wife and family and hold them once again. I looked and looked but couldn't see them in the arrival concourse. Finally, as I was leaving the baggage claim area I saw a man in a good suit holding a sign with my name on it.
"I'm Captain John Stevens. What can I do for you?" I asked. He looked at me and took a picture from his pocket and nodded. He held the sign out toward me and I saw it was really a fully stuffed legal envelope with my name written on the outside in magic marker.
"Sir. You have been served. This envelope contains the petition for divorce between your wife Susan and yourself. There is also a restraining order preventing you from coming any closer to your home or wife and children than 1000 feet. You are also restrained from having any contact of any type with them including phone calls and/or mail. Have a good day sir." He then looked at me a moment, shook his head and walked off.
I walked to the nearest chair and sat down, panting in shock and hurt as I tried to decide what to do. I felt a sob explode from my throat as my eyes teared. My anger surged. I decided to call Tim and get him to come get me. He didn't answer the phone at home and when I called his store I was informed he was busy and couldn't be disturbed.
I remembered sitting, staring into space, tears trickling down my cheeks. I was silently crying. People stared at me as they walked past. Finally a security guard came up to me and asked, "Sir are you alright? Do you need a doctor or a priest?"
I looked up at the guard and shook my head. "No. I just got away from a herd of doctors and another one can't cure what's hurting me now. I am on my way home from Iraq and instead of meeting me to take me home my wife sent a process server with divorce papers. What the damn hell good do you think a doctor or priest can do me?"
By now we were surrounded by a small group of people and when they heard that there was enough gasps you would think the airport sprung a leak. The guard looked so uncomfortable I actually felt sorry for him! As I was sitting there, arms on my legs and head hanging a distinguished gentleman in his mid 50's pushed through the crowd.
This gentleman sat beside me and said, "Excuse me Captain. I think you should come with me while you decide what you need to do next. I can't welcome you home like a loving family could, or like you expected or even deserve, but at least come and let me buy you a drink while you come to terms with this situation."
This kind gentleman gently helped me from my seat and guided me toward the airport lounge. As we walked he introduced himself. He said he was an attorney and a reserve Colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. "If you don't have a personal attorney to help you with this mess, I would be honored to represent you. This is one of the most despicable things I have ever seen and I want to help you settle this matter as rapidly and painlessly as possible."
Since I had no attorney I saw no reason not to let him handle the matter. He bought me drinks while I let him read over the petition. He wrote out a statement for me to sign allowing him to act for me and told me to expect more papers by mail in the next day or two.
After all the legal business was taken care of Josh (Mr. Joshua Rountree, my attorney) waited until I found a way home before he shook my hand and left. I had to make several calls before I finally found one of my other friends home. When he found out who was calling and what I needed he said, "Oh, shit John. You're kidding. She actually left you stranded at the airport and didn't even let your kids meet you? God, I'm sorry boy. You stay in the bar and have a couple more cool ones until I get there. You know it'll take me about an hour and a half to get there but I'll be there for you."
I remembered sitting alone for what seemed much longer than it actually was waiting on Sam to pick me up. When I saw him standing in the door to the bar I stood and walked unsteadily toward him. It was all I could do to carry my bag and navigate. Sam looked at me and shook his head. "I'm sure sorry John. Now come on and we'll get you back home."
On the drive back to our hometown Sam filled me in on Susan. He said she was really pissed when I left and accused me of deserting her and the children. She would complain about me to anyone in town that would listen until most of the people would just walk away when they saw her coming. The only one of our old friends that didn't get upset with her was Tim. They began going places together more and more. Finally she started working in the business office, then a little later they were seen eating out, dancing and generally acting like a couple.
Those in the area that could afford to took their business elsewhere when it got around that Susan was spending time in Tim's bed. I was offered the opportunity to stay with Sam and his wife Joan in town. Friends and neighbors kept the door warm the next couple of days dropping in to see me and fill me in on the goings on while I was gone. The one thing most of them wouldn't talk about was Susan. At most I would get a sentence or two then they would either change the subject or remember they needed to be going.
Finally, one day I was in the bank and turned to see Susan walking through the door. I stopped in shock as I looked at her face then my gaze dropped to her belly. She was VERY pregnant. When she saw me her face turned white, then dark red and she ran from the building.
I stood staring and feeling like a fool, and then I noticed the quiet in the building and saw almost everyone staring at me. I too turned and walked outside. I was standing beside my truck when I felt a hand on my back. I heard a female voice saying, "John. Are you OK?"
I looked toward the voice and saw one of my favorite teachers from high school. She had instilled my love for Mathematics in me and spent hours taking me to even higher levels of knowledge than was offered at the school. I smiled and said, "Yeah, I guess Miss Maude. How you doin'?"
Miss Maude gave me a little smile and said with some asperity, "Well boy, probably a little better than you are right now. You know the whole town is sure proud of you and most of us are sure sorry for what you're going through. If you need to talk, you know where I live son." She gave me a little hug and walked back into the bank.
I couldn't believe no one had told me Susan was pregnant! I know I had only been home three days but damn. Well, now I knew there was no way we would ever get back together. I was mostly sure before but now. NO WAY.
Well, the divorce was long and bitter. A time or two during hearings, Susan and I were both warned about contempt of court when we got into shouting matches. During one of her diatribes she told me one of the reasons she was divorcing me was that I would never amount to anything and she needed more for her and the children. She told me Tim was going places and he could provide more for her and the kids.
I just stared at her in shock. Tim only had 140 acres and while he managed the Farm store he only owned 25% of it. He did like to cut a big swath through town though and there was talk about him running for the State House of Representatives. He had always been flashy and I guess that and his smooth line is what got her in the end. Now I wished I had paid more attention back when we were younger and she was always running around with Tim. It seemed like even when we were together she spent a lot of time with Tim but I just put it down to friendship.
It seemed like we fought over everything. I didn't think I was being unreasonable but she sure said I was. She wanted the house and half of the farm, 3/4 of the bank accounts and full custody of the children.
I did manage to keep the entire farm for myself but it was hard. I had to give her all but $10000 of our savings and a promissory note for almost $200000 to keep the land. I was sure glad the two real estate agents we got to appraise the place were unhappy with the way she did me too. They appraised it at $1500 per acre instead of the $2250 it would probably have sold for. I was scared the Judge wouldn't accept that when she and Tim complained but we had an ace in the hole. One of our neighbors had some financial difficulty about a year before and sold out fast for $1250 per acre so the Judge allowed the $1500 per acre as a reasonable valuation. Tim got so mad he was ushered from the hearing cursing and screaming.
Finally, yesterday, it was all over. I was single and alone again at age 35 except for a town full of friends. Susan got custody of the children but I had unrestricted visitation and was guaranteed at least one weekend a month and two months in the summer.
With another heavy sigh I got up to face the day. The first day of the rest of my life-a life without the woman I had loved so dearly. Times would be rough for a while but I was sure I could get through this like I did Iraq and my injury. I wondered though if it would be as painful as that had been?
Susan and Tim married two weeks after the divorce was final and moved into his house on his 140 acres. I got to keep the kids during the week they took for their honeymoon. At least the children were close enough I could see them daily if we wanted to. In fact a lot of time they got off the school bus at my home and stayed until Tim and Susan got home from work.
Well, the last 6 years have seemed to fly by. I was still alone but I had a semblance of a good life. I had my children and their love. I had good friends both male and female but no girlfriend. I didn't date for almost a year and a half but I did go to some of the local functions, dances pie suppers etc. Finally I began dating occasionally but just couldn't find anyone that struck that special spark. I went out with a lot of really nice ladies but no one special.
I did have one new interest though. I only lived about two miles from town and I had a large nearly new pole barn on my place that I only partially used to park my machinery in. About 5 years back I had listened in town and watched the neighbors. There sure seemed to be a lot of people doing their farm shopping out of town instead of with Tim's supply store.
I began asking questions and most of the answers I got involved two reasons for people taking their business out of town. One was the cost and quality of Tim's goods and the other was their disgust at how he and Susan had treated me. I decided to set myself up in competition with Tim and opened my own Farm Supply and Feed store. I hired a young married couple that lived about a quarter mile away to help. Sean worked with the feed and supplies while Sally worked the cash register and helped with the books. I did a little of everything including run my farm. I also stayed in the Army Reserve and took several short Active Duty tours.
Whooo Boy. My new store had only been opened three days when all hell broke loose. Tim and Susan arrived in a cloud of dust and you could hear them cursing and screaming as they got out of the car. My customers stood and watched as they berated me. Tim was carrying a tire iron and I was worried he might try and use it. I suppose Sally was worried too because she had called the Sheriff. We were lucky a car was near and he arrived before we came to blows.
The next few weeks after my confrontation with Tim and Susan were tough. We got several nasty phone calls we thought were probably from Tim and Susan. Tim was very loudly complaining about my new venture around town. By the end of my first summer of business I was making a nice profit and had a pretty large customer base. If I were guessing I would say I have taken about half the business away from Tim. Whenever I saw Tim or Susan in town, if looks could kill I would definitely be dead.
One other drawback to the store was its effect on my children or rather my ability to be with them. Susan refused to let them visit for a month after I first opened the store. I finally had to contact my divorce attorney and he threatened to file with the court if they didn't let me see the children again. They grudgingly let me see the children but held to the exact letter of the original custody agreement for some time.
Things finally changed after Jessica got into high school. She needed help with her math or she was going to fail the subject. Her mother and Tim could just barely balance their checkbooks even though they both had college degrees. A bookkeeper and accountant kept all the business records.
My college minor in and love of Math made me an excellent source of help with the homework. I helped Jessica whenever I had visitation but it wasn't enough. Finally, Susan grudgingly allowed Jessica and later Alex to spend a lot of evenings and even nights with me getting help with their schoolwork. Susan made it very plain though that my keeping the children so many nights had NO effect on the amount of HER child support. As time passed, Jessica and Alex began to bring friends over for help and tutoring. I really enjoyed having the kids around the house and really loved to see the light in their eyes when they grasped a concept.
I was so proud when the children I had helped would rush into the store or my house after receiving their report card and show me their grades. Most of the kids I helped made A's or B's in the subjects we discussed. Everyone made A's in Math. I found more and more that I would be stopped in town by the parents of one of "my kids". They all told me how much they appreciated my help and friendship. Life was fun again.
The fall Jessica turned 17, she was a junior in HS, and Alex was 16 and a sophomore. Both children seemed more and more unhappy. They were spending more and more time at my house, asking for help on schoolwork. I could tell they really understood the subject matter many times they came for 'help'. Finally In February I put my foot down and demanded to know what the deal was.
Jessica sat looking down at her hands in her lap, then sighed and looked at Alex. Jessica took a deep breath and began to talk through her sniffles. "Daddy. If we are at Tim's place we have to be quiet. We have to keep the whole house clean and do most of the cooking. Momma says we owe it to them because they both work so hard at the store to furnish such a nice place for us to live. If we are home and Tim and Mom want to go out they just tell us to watch George (Tim and Susan's son) and leave. We never know when they will get back. We have to stay in our rooms when Tim and Mother's big city friends come over. It's almost like they were ashamed of us."
"They always go out to eat or parties and we almost never get to go. When we stay here you don't make us do anything you don't help us with. We laugh and tell jokes. We watch TV and sometimes you take us places to eat or just to go. You let us have our friends over and we can laugh as loudly as we want and listen to our music. Oh, Daddy I wish we had never had to leave our home. I, no, we so want to come back here and live. We miss it and you so much."
After I calmed the children I helped them finish their homework and reluctantly sent them back to their mother. After they left, I sat and thought about them and their problem. How I hated what had happened to my children and to my life.
The next morning I called the attorney that had handled the divorce. He said the children were old enough to decide where they wanted to live and if the court agrees then they could move back "home". One upside to this would be an early end to the child support. I told him to begin working on the problem and filings.
The next time the children came to see me, I told them what the attorney said. They looked so happy when I told them that and I got teary hugs when I told them I instructed the attorney to file custody papers on them. Jessica and Alex both looked like the weight of the world had lifted from their shoulders. Jessica began crying and turned to Alex. She said, "See Alex. I told you Mother and Tim were wrong. I told you Daddy loved us and would let us live with him again."
They both came to me and we had a group hug. Then, Jessica told me she and Alex had asked Susan if they could come live with me a few months before and she had told them No. She had said I didn't want them underfoot all the time and besides, she and Tim needed the child support money. She had said, "Besides children should be with their mother not some man that is happy living like your father does."
Needless to say, the custody hearing was nasty. The lawyer did his homework well though. He had a Private Detective watch Tim and Susan and document the times they were away leaving all three children to fend for themselves. Jessica was old enough to stay alone but it was a little iffy to put her in charge of the two boys for such long periods of time as she was left with them. In addition, the judge listened to the children's desires. He ruled they would be allowed to return to my home.
I think we were all shocked when the Judge ordered Child Support services to monitor the home life for Susan and Tim's son George. Susan was furious. She was screaming and yelling in court then Tim stepped up to me and said, "You just couldn't leave it alone could you Asshole? You just had to shaft Susan and cause trouble for us again didn't you? Wasn't ruining my business and chances for the House enough?" then walked away.
The children settled in and it was such a pleasure during the summer to hear children swimming and playing in the old swimming hole day after day. I think we had half the kids in town down at one time or another. I did notice the same three boys in attendance frequently when Jessica was home and a core group of 16 year olds for Alex also.
The Saturday before thanksgiving I was sitting on the front porch in mid afternoon and heard, then saw an older car coming down the dead end road toward my home. They had passed the store so I knew it wasn't business. I wondered who it was and was a little angry because from time to time people try to drive across my field to get to the road on the other side. The road has been closed for over 30 years because the creek changed course and washed it out. People still want to go through though and try to drive in my field to do so.
I sat and watched as the car stopped in front of the house and a very pretty woman about mid 30's got out. I realized I had never seen her or the car before. When she had walked up to the porch, she looked at me and asked in the sweetest voice, "Are you Mr. John Stevens?"
I nodded, and then said, "Yes. What can I do for you?" I was sure hoping this wasn't some salesperson or bible beater.
The woman gave me a beautiful smile and said, "I am Melody Harris, the Math teacher at the school. I have been having a group of students the last three years doing much better than their peers. From time to time a student that has been having trouble making a C grade begins to make A's or B's. I have discovered these students are all friends of your children. I talked to them and your daughter and found out the better performance on my tests is your fault and I decided I needed to meet my assistant."
"I think your daughter and her friends were afraid you would get in trouble for helping them. They were very reluctant to tell me who was doing my job for me."
I sat in shock for a spell, then jumped as I heard Jessica exclaim, "Ms. Harris! What are you doing here?"
"Relax Jessica. I was grading papers this afternoon and once again you and your friends were doing much better than the other members of your class. I decided I needed to finally meet your father. Since I needed a break, I decided to see if I could see him today."
I regained my senses and stammered, "Ms. Harris. I'm sorry for my Daughters and my poor manners. Would you like to have a seat? We can sit out here or go inside. Jessica. Would you get me a glass of tea please and whatever Ms. Harris wants for her?"
Melody said, "Thank you Mr. Stevens. I just love the view from your porch. Could we just sit here while we visit?"
"Oh, sorry Jessica. Tea will be fine for me also." She said.
I said, "Ms. Harris I"
Ms. Harris cut into my sentence and said, "Melody please Mr. Stevens."
I smiled and said, "OK, Melody. Thank you. I agree. The view from the porch and my patio is worth every cent it cost to build them. And my name is John."
After Jessica delivered the tea Melody and I began to talk about the kids and the help I had been giving them. She was impressed with my minor in math and willingness to help the children. "But what about the rest of your life. From what the children tell me you have homework sessions two or three days a week and Saturday evenings. You operate a Farm Store and a large farm. Doesn't your wife" then she blushed.
"Oh, I'm sorry. How rude of me. I forgot. I mean I heard what happened. OH." Then she jumped up and started toward her car.
I jumped up and grabbed her as she was starting to get into the car. "Melody. Please wait. It's OK. I know what you mean and I'm not upset. Now please come back and finish your tea. I might get upset if you leave before then!"
She looked at me a minute, still flushing, then let me lead her back to the porch. "John. I am so sorry. I know how you must feel. I lost my husband in the war and I have poured all my care and life into these kids just like you have. I keep hoping to get a real life and find someone but there just isn't anyone here that is that interesting. Is that your problem too?"
I started to get upset at her prying but then I thought was she really? After all, she hadn't said anything I hadn't thought about the "mate pool" of my beloved hometown.
I looked back at Melody and saw tears running down her cheeks. I walked to her chair and kneeled beside her then said, "Shh. Melody. It's long past. If you want to tell me about it I will be glad to listen but you really need to get past it."
She looked at me and said, "We had only been married 18 months when Jason died. He was a Navy helicopter pilot and never came back from his first combat mission. We had wanted to have children but hadn't had time to start our family. I just threw myself into my school work and when I found this job opening here, so far from the coast and bad memories I took it."
I have dated some but other than meet a few nice men; I haven't found anyone to share my future with. I know how you must feel. I'm just thankful for the children I get to nurture at the school."
I think we knew all the same people. I knew the problems and idiosyncrasies of the men she dated and she laughed and told me about the morals and problems with the women I had mentioned dating. We had a good laugh or two reminiscing about dates. We found we neither one liked the bar scene in the nearest large town (45 miles) and none of our friends had anyone acceptable to set us up with.
Melody was impressed I was still in the Reserves, was now a Major, and was eligible for promotion to Lt Col soon. I have 22 years total time in now and am trying to decide whether to retire or not.
I explained that Sean and Sally had long since taken over 98% of the work at the store. They and the other hired help made me redundant so since I had nothing much to hold me at home I had taken a lot of short active duty tours in the Reserves. I also explained those short tours had stopped when the children came to live with me again. I was thinking about retirement solely so I could be home with the children and not have to worry about being deployed again if the Army needed me.
Dusk settled in and we were still talking. My stomach growled, then Melody's. She blushed and apologized. She said she needed to go. "I didn't have lunch and really need to get supper."