Chapter 1

My forty-sixth birthday party was just about over. The last guests were just getting into their cars that were parked at the curb. Elaine was bustling around picking up as only she could. Brian was helping her and Kitty, their daughter, was taking a last dip in the pool with Randy, her cousin. I looked fondly on my daughter. She was a younger version of my wife, Olivia. Tim, my son, was out in the pool area picking up beer bottles and Betty, his wife, was urging Randy to hurry up as they had to go home. No Daddy wasn't leaving yet. Grampa wanted to talk business.

Believe it or not, I was cold sober. I hadn't been earlier, but I had seen Olivia with one of our guests when I went upstairs to the guest bathroom. She and Jim Pike were just going through the door on the left. They must have heard someone coming up the stairs, for they had hurriedly shut the door as I came around the corner. I had recognized Olivia by the little flash of the distinctive dress she was wearing for my party today.

I continued down past the room and into the bathroom. As I passed the door that had just closed, I bent over and picked up a pair of my wife's panties. They were damp and I knew they had just been removed. I went into the bathroom, did my business, and went back down where I could watch the stairs. What was Olivia thinking? It was as if she was flaunting her lover in my face. They couldn't have had time to do anything, for almost immediately Pike came down and went by me to the outside and the patio. Fifteen minutes later, Olivia came down. I'm sure she wasn't pleased to see me sitting there.

She put on a good face. I think she suspected who they heard in the hall might have been me, but couldn't know for sure. "Having a good time on your birthday, dear? The kids and I worked so hard to surprise you."

"It has been great. The surprises keep coming. Are there anymore in store for me?"

"No, the party is it. Go out and join the last of your well-wishers. You shouldn't be sitting in here by yourself."

"Whatever you say dear." Pike kept as far away from me as he could the rest of the evening and was the first guest to leave. I saw Olivia on her cell phone about ten minutes later. The rest of the evening she stayed by my side. Tim and Elaine were taking down the banner that wished John Ryan a happy 46th birthday.

"I think I'll have a drink now. Anything for you dear? Tim, you and Elaine join me if you would. Brian and Betty have left with the grandkids." Olivia was across the table from me and shook her head no. I addressed the kids. (Kids? Tim was twenty-six and Elaine was twenty-five.) "It is time for me to conduct a little business. You know I started the company when I was barely twenty. At that time your mother was right in there helping every bit of the way. But that changed. For twenty-six years I have been at the helm. I think it is time I started taking it easy. As you know, your mother has thirty percent of the shares. I have thirty-five percent and you kids each have fifteen percent.

"The other five shares can't be voted. Two and half shares to the company attorney and two and a half to the accountant. My plan, as of right now, is to step down totally. This is what I'm going to do, immediately, as of now.

"I'm signing my shares over to you, Tim. There are a couple of restrictions. One, you must split what those shares earn every year equally with your sister. You vote them, and they in essence belong to both of you. The other restriction is that you are never to sell, give, or let your mother profit in anyway from the thirty-five shares I am talking about."

I had retrieved the shares from the lock box that was in the safe just before I sat down. I opened the envelope that held ten certificates. All were in denomination of 15,000. I started signing and transferred the ownership to Tim before anyone could say anything. All three present started clamoring, and asking why.

I held up my hand, "Wait, let me finish this." When the chore was done, I reached into my pocket and pulled out Olivia's still damp panties. I tossed them to my wife. I knew this was gross, but I did it for the shock effect. "I believe you dropped these in the hall when you were hurrying into the bedroom with Jim Pike. Did you remove them or did he?"

Sex was rarely discussed in this house and even off-color remarks were never indulged in. Elaine and Tim couldn't imagine their father accusing their mother of an indescretion, much less handle her used underwear.

"Mom, what's with Dad? He is acting crazy."

I didn't let Olivia speak. "I know the answer and I was only making a point. Now, as to my future and what it holds; yesterday, I took half of all of the money from your mother's and my joint accounts. I did not touch the corporation in any way. You three own it irrespective of the five shares. I also had my name taken off the deed to the house and your mother's car is paid for. She has title to that anyway. What I'm saying is, I'm making a clean break and leaving your mother. As to the why, your mother can answer that question."

I finally turned my attention to my wife. "Olivia, I thought we would grow old together. I admit I don't have enough evidence of adultery to divorce you in court on that charge. I have observed you in at least one compromising situation when you weren't aware I was anywhere near. My eyes don't lie to me. I'm being more than fair in leaving you well fixed financially. I just won't be here."

"You're leaving me?"

"That's correct. I'll let you sue for the divorce, unless you want to publicize your adultery. Contact Pete Gamble, my personal attorney, and start proceedings anytime. I will be in touch with him occasionally." Olivia sat looking at me. I think I wanted her to beg or plead, if only a little, to have me stay. She didn't. I guess that hurt more than what she had been doing to me. In a way, though, this set me free so I could get on with my life without regrets.

"Dad, you can't do this. You just can't walk out. Mom wouldn't cheat on you."

"Elaine, go get your Mom's cell phone. If the last call she made isn't to Jim Pike than I've been sadly misinformed. Olivia?"

My wife didn't say anything until Elaine came back with her phone. "Don't bother looking Elaine. I did make the call. Your father evidently has been sneaking around spying on me. Everyone detests a spy. Twenty-seven years we have been married. It was good for the first few years, but it has sure sucked the last few. We should have split ten years ago. I guess I should thank you for finally getting wise and doing something about it."

Olivia got up and went up the stairs to the bedroom. "Dad, tell us about you and Mom."

"To be honest, most of what I know are just rumors and some gossip I have overheard. When Jim Pike showed up tonight and I saw your mother go upstairs with him, I knew then it was time to finalize my plans. Six weeks ago I heard that Jim was involved with a married woman and had been for several years. The day I heard this, I headed home to ask your mother if she knew who Jim was involved with.

"I had no idea it was her until I came down the street and she was getting into a strange car. I followed it to a motel and watched her and Jim, whom I identified at that time, go into a room. They were there in the motel almost two hours. Tonight she couldn't be faithful right here in our home with the family in attendance. She was in such a rush she must have taken off her panties before she went into the bedroom upstairs."

I shrugged off thoughts of my unfaithful wife, and turned to Tim about the corporation. "You take title as president. Move Elaine into the office as vice-president. You both are smart and know the business inside out. Elaine handles the finances for all of my holdings and endeavors. That is what she is good at. It is time I stepped aside anyway. With you knowing all of these new and modern systems I can't keep up with, it will be a piece of cake for you."

"What are you going to do?"

"I don't know yet, coast for awhile, probably. I'll keep in touch. I've got fifteen and a half million dollars in the bank that I have removed from your mom's and my joint accounts. The properties that are held in the holding company I still own. Technically she could sue for a share of that and might win a judgment. I just split the liquid accounts as evenly as I could. I might start a little business or buy one. Something I can do and not work too hard at while catching up on some of the good life like your mother has been living. I would ask that you not discuss my doings with her. She lost the right to be kept in the loop as far as I'm concerned."

I sat still without saying anything for a few minutes. "You know, most men in my position would really land on their wife if they found out what she did. I just want away from her. I have come to the conclusion that she is not worth troubling myself over. I have contained my hate and kept the thoughts of revenge to a minimum the best that I can.

"Being as generous as I have, your mother will think she at first has won what she wanted without having to fight for it. I have the feeling though, her guilt will grow. It may take a long while if the way she has acted toward me tonight is any indication. Oh well, I guess I will go to bed. I'm sleeping in the guest room. I suppose I don't even have that right as your mother owns the house now." I grinned.

I knew there were a million questions my son and daughter wanted to ask, and over time they would be answered. "Elaine, I told Brian and Kitty that I was going to be talking to you and Tim. That is why they went home earlier. Tim, the same with Betty and Randy. They probably are wondering what this talk was all about. You can tell them when the little ones aren't around. Kitty and Randy just don't need to know."

Tim spoke, "Sure Pop. You go to bed. I want a few words with Mother before I leave."

Apparently Elaine did too, because I heard them go upstairs together and into the bedroom where Olivia was sleeping. I went up behind them and past them down the hall and made ready for bed in the spare room. I went to sleep with crying and screaming going on between Elaine and Olivia, with the occasional rumble of Tim's voice. Then there would be raised voices again. I put the pillow over my head and went to sleep.

I awoke, knowing it was much later. The house was quiet and I wondered how long the kids had berated their mother. I heard the door to Olivia's room open. She came down the hall to my room. I pretended to be asleep. She turned the light on, leaned over and shook me.

"John, wake up. I have some things to say. Don't think this is an apology, because it isn't. First I will divorce you as soon as possible. I'll get the papers ready and you can sign them. I don't love you. Maybe I never have. Who's to know? You have turned Tim and Elaine against me. I could hate you for that. That is the meanest thing you could have done to get even. Now I just want you out of my life.

"The corporation and the property in the holding company, I don't need them. Those damned things are what has come between us. I'm signing my shares over to you. I am my father's only heir. He'll take care of me, so with what accounts you didn't take, I'll be fine. You could have taken everything and it wouldn't bother me at all.

"I do want to know how you found out I was cheating on you. I've been so damned careful."

"Look to one of your friends. I think one of them wanted this Pike guy you have been sleeping with for herself. She gave me just enough information for me to start looking into our marriage. I was shocked at what I found."

"Yes, well it had to come sometime. Jim is just the last one of many men over the years. It probably is Maryanne who wants him. She cheats on her husband and she can have him. There is always someone better and he isn't that great, just exciting. So, what are you going to do with your life now that you don't have a business and don't have a woman?"

"I have no idea. I'm going to take a tour of the country. I'll keep in touch with Elaine, Tim and the grandkids, but I can settle down anywhere."

"Sounds like fun. You wouldn't want to take me with you, would you?"

"No."

"I was joking. You're too serious and I can't imagine you having any fun anyway. Look, stick around for a week until I can get the paperwork done for the divorce and anything else that comes up. You can even stay here if you want. Keep your door closed at night, though, because I may have a guest in. It would be disrespectful if you heard me. Take care, John. I'm sure you would be right for some woman, somewhere, but it certainly isn't going to me you are going to grow old with."

I sat up. "Did you ever have any love for me?"

"I'm positive I did when we were first married and the kids were small. But then you wanted to build an empire with those patents you developed. When I suggested that you find something for me to do with you, you said I wasn't needed. You said you were working to give me a good life so I didn't have to work.

"I started partying when I was lonely. One night when you called and said you couldn't make it to the country club dance, and for me to go alone, I said what-the-hell and let myself be talked into someone's bed. It was exciting and I liked it. I just promised myself I wouldn't go overboard and would be as discreet as possible. It has taken you ten years to discover I was unfaithful.

"You know something? Everytime I was with another man, I would think my poor dumb bastard of a husband was working his ass off for something that would never be. How's that for respect?"

That hurt. "So you are saying this is all my fault and I'm just a poor dumb bastard for believing in you. Is that it?"

"That's about it. Even now when you found out I was cheating, you planned on being generous. It hasn't worked, and that is why I'm giving you back my shares to the corporation. I almost think if I offered myself to you right this minute, you would take me up on it. How about it?"

"No. I may be a poor dumb bastard as you say, but on that I'll pass. Olivia, you've turned yourself into a slut so get out of this room. This will be the last time I sleep in the same house with you. Somehow I think you are going to regret how you have treated me.

"I will take the shares to the corporation though, and I will sign the divorce papers. Just get them ready as soon as possible." My wife turned and left, leaving me with the feeling that one of us was crazy. I just hoped it wasn't me.

When I got up, I made myself breakfast and packed two suitcases. I called Elaine and said I'd have lunch with her and would stay the night if it was okay. I made a list of things that needed doing. This was the way I had always worked out a problem and as of yet, I couldn't change.

Tim came over to Elaine's in the afternoon and I sat down with the new corporate president and vice-president. Both had been fully involved for years, so the transition would be a short one, only needing a couple of days.

I called my lawyer late Monday morning, and made him aware of what was going on. Olivia's attorney had got in touch with him, informing him that the shares were signed already, and in hand to turn over. He thought he would have everything concerning the divorce ready for my signature by Friday. I called Olivia and left her a message that Tim and Elaine's husband would be coming after all of my things and putting them in storage for me.

In a way I was being chicken, but who wants to be called a dumb bastard as many times as she had called me that. I didn't doubt that I had been referred to in the same way other times out of my hearing. The way Olivia was thinking, she would call me the same every time she saw me.

There was a surprise waiting for me when I went into the attorney's office to sign the papers. My father-in-law, who was also my godfather, was there. We had never bonded that much, but he shook my hand. "John, we have never been close. Olivia has told me all about why she is divorcing you. I think you are wise to get a divorce as soon as you found out about her being unfaithful.

"She is my daughter and I have to love her, but God she has treated you rotten. Understand, I think you have been very successful in your life with everything except Olivia. Would you always consider me as your father-in-law even though I won't be much longer?"

"Thanks Perry. I appreciate your saying that. I will and you can count on it." Olivia was standing beside her father and this didn't set well at all with her. It was a short meeting and it soon broke up. I had no words for my wife. It would be six months before the divorce was final, but that didn't bother me at all.

Saturday morning, I took delivery of a three-year-old Buick four door sedan. This car was low mileage and the maintenance records showed it had been well maintained. It was a nice roomy vehicle and it just floated along the highway. I didn't want to be driving a car that was apt to be stolen. I gave Elaine the keys to my Mercedes, saying the car was hers as a going away present. Tim and Elaine had a small gathering at her house to say good-bye. I looked fondly on Kitty and Randy, with regret. They would miss me and I knew their love would be with me always.

Sunday morning I pulled out of my daughter's driveway and headed out to Lord only knows where. I had never had time to travel anywhere except on business. I hit Route 6 and drove west. The plan was to hit 66 and follow that until it met Interstate 80. The whole west was open to me now. These routes were dubbed scenic and I wanted to see if they lived up to their billing. I drove leisurely, taking my time. In the middle of the afternoon I pulled off and went toward a small town. I might even hole up in a motel if I found one, even though it was early.

I guess I had been on a lonely stretch of road for about three miles when I approached a car pulled to the side of the road. A woman was waving her arms frantically for me to stop. I slowed and pulled in front of her car. She came up to me before I was able to get out. She was quite agitated.

"Thanks for stopping. Would you give me and my daughter a ride somewhere? The car broke down. It belongs to my abusive boyfriend. I was running away and I expect he is looking for me. Please help me."

I looked the woman over. She was pleasant to look at. Momentarily she reminded me of my wife. She did have a bruise on the left side of her face. "I could give you a ride to the next town, I guess. I don't usually give strangers a lift."

"Oh thank you. I'll get my daughter." I watched as she trundled a little girl of about six out of her car and pushed her toward mine. She ran back and got a battered suitcase and a cardboard box. She opened my rear door and pushed the child in, tossing the suitcase and box in after her. She ran around and got into the passenger seat.

"Go. Tell me if you see a maroon pickup come up behind us so we can duck."

I looked over and could see how anxious the woman was. She was wearing a flannel shirt and dungarees. Flannel in June? The woman wasn't more than five feet, five inches tall, and had thick dark brown hair. She was attractive and this was something I had never paid attention to noticing before. I mean I was married until now, and other women and how they looked weren't ever on my mind. She was pleasant and even though worried, she smiled when I looked at her. "My name is Shari and my daughter's name is Cindy."

She looked at me, waiting for me to tell my name. She paused. "Cindy, say hi to Mr.--?"

I grinned. "It's Ryan, John Ryan. I'm forty-six and I signed my divorce papers last week." I interjected this bit of personal information, not thinking and added more. "I won't be free to marry you or anyone else for six months. No one ever calls me Johnny, but you can."

She giggled and grinned back at me. "Got caught cheating, did you Johnny? Well I have come to expect it of most men."

"With that attitude you probably won't believe me, but it was my wife who was cheating. I found out six weeks ago, and I confronted her with it, treated her fair, and bugged out. She called me a dumb bastard for not getting onto the affairs that have been going on for ten years. I figured she wasn't worth fighting for--or with. So here I am. Now all I'm waiting for is your story."

"Shari Metzger, married once, widowed by Uncle Sam. Had several boyfriends, but can't seem to catch a good one. I'm thirty-six and Cindy is five, almost six. She never knew her father. She was just a baby when my husband went overseas for the last time. That was supposed to be his last tour. It was."

"I'm sorry for your loss."

"Thanks. Shit happens. It is hell when it happens to you, though."

"Do you have any money?"

"Not much. Why, were you planning on robbing me?"

"No. Just a little concerned, you with the child and all."

Shari was silent for half a mile. "I honestly don't know what I'm going to do. Find a church and see if they will spring for a meal and a place to sleep." She did look worried again.

"So where were you headed when your car broke down?"

"Any where away. I only got fifteen miles from where I was living when the piece of junk quit on me. That sure isn't far enough. He'll find me for sure. He beats on me and the sheriff ignores my complaints. So I just cut out and ran when it happened this last time."

"I'm kind of running myself."

"Umm, what would you need to take me with you?"

I glanced in the rearview mirror. Cindy was sitting there on the back seat straight up and very tense. The unknown was fearful for a young child. I had raised two of my own and now I had two grandchildren, so I recognized how she must be feeling.

"Shari, I'm a pretty decent guy and I didn't ever think I would meet a damsel in distress. You seem to be that. Why don't we travel down the road together for just a little while as friends and companions? I want your little girl to get that worried look off of her face. When you have gone as far as you want to with me, just tell me and we'll say so long. If you think your ex-boyfriend will find you on this road, we'll change direction so he won't."

"Okay, fair enough. There is a right turn a mile up ahead, leading into a small town ten miles from the turnoff. He would never think of me stopping there, especially after he finds his piece of junk by the road. I think there is a motel there as well. Maybe when you sign the register, you could be traveling with your wife and child."

"You got it." It sounded as if she would be staying in the same room as me. Some people are just so trusting. If she was willing to take a chance on me, I could do no more than take a chance on her. I thought, only gone from home less than a day, and I had a lot more baggage already than when I started.

There was a small diner next to the motel and my (family) traveling companions were starved. The motel did have cable and Cindy went to sleep watching a kids channel. We had a double bed, and a single. Most of the clothes that Shari had in her suitcase were clothes for Cindy.

I lent Shari an extra pair of pajamas. She swam in them and thought the whole situation hilarious. When Cindy saw her mother happy again, she laughed and giggled occasionally as well. When Shari was ready to take her shower, I went over to the diner and hung out. She was in bed facing the wall when I came back. I took my shower and slid in next to her. Olivia and I had twin beds at home and this was an experience for me to be sleeping in bed with a woman.

I awoke once during the night and I had an arm hung over me. It was nice. I went back to sleep. The sun was up when we came awake. Cindy was all ready awake and sitting up just waiting for us. Shari got up and she and Cindy went into the bathroom together. They came out dressed. "I want to shave. Would you go over and order me eggs and bacon at the diner? Make it a cheese and spinach omelet. I love those things. You should try them. I won't be long."

When the waitress came to our table to refill our coffee cups, I asked, "Where is the nearest Walmart or discount store? I forgot and left one of my suitcases in the motel three hundred miles from here. My wife's clothes were in it and she thinks flannel isn't appropriate." I was given directions.

We spent time in the discount store. I urged Shari to purchase whatever she thought she needed for both her and Cindy. I went down into the auto section and bought a set of reflective flares in case we had a flat and also laid in a few tools. I didn't anticipate any problems, but a screwdriver might come in handy. Shari was ready to checkout. There was precious little in the cart.

I pulled her from the line. "Follow me. Remember you are my wife and I want you to have things to replace what you lost when I left your suitcase behind." Shari giggled, because there had been no suitcase. The cart was overflowing and I purchased two suitcases to put the clothes in. The doll for Cindy wasn't packed, and she soon cuddled up crooning to it. We traveled on down the road.

I called home and talked to Elaine and Tim at least once a week. I just said I was wandering all over the country seeing the sights. I hadn't told my kids that I was traveling with a woman and child. They found out. It was a month later when Tim rang my cell about something he thought I should know. I was in the bathroom. Shari was out. "Cindy, answer the phone. Tell whoever it is I'll be with them in a few minutes."

"This is Johnny Ryan's cell phone. May I take a message?" It must have blown Tim's mind to have a child answer my phone. I listened to a one-sided conversation and the obvious answers to questions she was being asked. "No, he is busy right now. I'm supposed to talk to you until he gets out of the bathroom.--My name is Cindy Ryan and I'm six years old.--My Mom's name is Shari. Here comes Dad now. Bye."

"What in hell is going on? Elaine said there have been charges on your credit card bill for purchases of women and children's clothes. She has been fighting with the credit card company about the charges. And then a little girl who calls you Daddy answers when I call. Come on Pop, tell me about it."

"I'm not married, Tim. You know I can't for awhile. I picked up a woman and a child in Pennsylvania the first day I left home. Their car broke down and I gave them a ride. They are nice people and so we are traveling together making a vacation of everything. Remember I have always been too busy to take one. In another month Cindy is going to have to go to school somewhere, so I'm thinking of finding a place to rent and settle down."

"Pop you're crazy. How close are you to them?"

"Close, but not that close, if you understand my meaning. Shari was escaping from an abusive relationship and until we got out of Pennsylvania she used my name. We are traveling as a family so they still call themselves Ryan. Kind of like nomads of old. Don't worry about me. We'll probably swing back your way when school lets out in the spring."

I paused and then asked, "How is your mother?"

"Funny you should ask. Mom dumped Pike--or tried to. She took up with someone different and Pike was jealous. Pike got the shit kicked out of him when he confronted the new guy. Mom tried to interfere or stop the fight and she got knocked around some. Someone took pictures of the whole thing and she made the papers. Gramp is some disgusted and I think he misses you as much as we do."

"You called. Did you need something?"

"Not really. That last patent you were working on was approved. The government is interested. I'm setting up a production line to build a prototype to submit to the military. This could be a real money maker for the corporation." He laughed. "With your new family, you may need some extra income. Aren't you glad Mom signed her shares over to you?"

"I'd sign them back if she needs them."

"I figured you would. You dumb bastard." He paused. "Those are Mom's words for you. She said that in front of Elaine and got slapped for it. No one else in the family thinks you are. Remember that Pop. Say hi to your new family for me."

I was saying good-bye when he asked one more question. "Is she pretty?"

"Very much like your mother and attractive. Sometimes I call her Olivia by mistake and I don't know why. She is ten years younger than I am, so I don't guess she will ever be your stepmom because of the age difference. Take care Tim. I'll be in touch."

It was afternoon when the phone rang again. By this time we had packed the car and had been on the road for several hours. "Hello."

"Dad, where are you?"

"Hi Elaine. Where am I? I'm in the car looking for Colorado. We last came from South Dakota and Mount Rushmore. I'm having a ball. We stopped in Medina, Minnesota and went to a polka festival run by someone called Big Joe. We plan on seeing his broadcast on RFD-TV every Wednesday night too. I want to see the Grand Canyon so that's where we are headed. I may get there today or tomorrow or maybe never. Why?"

"Tim tells me you are traveling with a woman and a kid and you have been ever since you left here. What gives?"

"I did mention that to Tim." I laughed out loud. "I suppose you want to know all about my traveling companions. Shari is asleep next to me and Cindy is stretched out on the back seat. I'm glad I bought this bigger car."

"What's the woman's name?"

"Shari Metzger. She is a war widow and has had a tough time of it for the last few years. She was caught up in an abusive relationship. I came along just as she was trying to escape."

"Are you sleeping with her? She should be that grateful."

"Sometimes we have to sleep in the same bed because of the scarcity of the accommodations we find when we stop for the night. As far as being intimate, we haven't. She is just too vulnerable at this time. A couple of times all three of us have had to pile into the same bed. Some different than your mother and me in twin beds. All of us wear pajamas. It is like camping out every night, only in a motel instead of a tent."

"So what are your plans? When are you coming home? Kitty and Randy want to know."

"No plans. Shari is looking for a place where Cindy can go to school. She was a convenience store manager before she lost her husband and works in one wherever she lights. After we see the Grand Canyon, she is going to be looking for a store to work in.

"When am I coming home? I can't answer that. I'd have to face your mother and that I'm not ready for yet. I don't know as I ever will be either. Different subject. How's the business? Tim said thing are looking up."

"They are. I think we will being paying $1.01 for a dividend this quarter. What do you want to do with yours? Send it to you or bank it?"

"I don't know. How's my bank account? Any money left in it?"

"Hell you aren't even spending the interest. I've moved most of it into some accounts that pay better than where you put them."

"Good, maybe I'll find a piece of property. The wisest thing I ever did was name you as my banker. What did you think when some women's clothes showed up on my credit card bill?"

"At first I couldn't figure out what you were buying at Walmart. I fought paying it and made Walmart produce a copy of the slip. I thought someone had stolen your card, but you didn't call so I guessed the charge was legitimate."

"Hey, traffic is getting heavy. I'm going to hang up now. Say hi to Kitty. I miss her and I'm happy I have a grandchild like her. I knew how to act around a little girl the same age when I found Cindy. Babe, I love and miss you. Bye."

This conversation made me a little homesick and there were enough tears in my eyes to overflow and roll down my cheeks. I glanced at Shari and she was awake and staring straight ahead. I guess maybe she saw one of the tears, because there were a couple that had fallen from her eyes as well.

I drove another hour and then I said, "You know, my son called this morning and my daughter called this afternoon. They both are busy and yet they take time to worry about me. They want to know what I'm going to do. I realize I can't just drive around the country the rest of my life. It is okay for the summer, but I need someplace more permanent. Tell me where you want to settle when Cindy goes to school?"

"I think I would like to go back east. I've always lived in Pennsylvania, but I don't need to. I don't like it at all out here in the west. It is too far between towns and not enough civilization. You don't have to be concerned about me and Cindy, though. I can stop anywhere, even out here. What I'm trying to say is that you have given me a nice break from the cares that were wearing me down. I have a new outlook on life. You have been so good to both of us. Not only that, you haven't demanded anything in return. You are a good man Johnny. I just haven't got you figured out."

I hadn't demanded anything, but I was having trouble hiding the fact that I wanted to get closer to this woman. I changed the subject. "Okay, let's plan on seeing the Grand Canyon and then we'll turn around and go east. When we get back to Iowa we'll start looking for a place to stay for the winter. You said you wanted to find a job. It wouldn't hurt me to be productive doing something again."

"What did you do before you took off from your home?"

"I had a little business. I built it up from scratch and invented a couple of things. I paid too much attention to doing that and that's when my wife found other interests. My son and daughter both worked with me in the business I started. When they got old enough I transferred much of the administration to them. When I decided to leave, I gave them my shares to add to what they have already. I do have thirty percent of what was left. Those were my wife's. She felt guilty and transferred them to me at the time I signed the divorce papers, so I'm still involved.

"I'm getting a dividend check about the first of October. It should see us through the winter if we don't get a job and have some money coming in."

"Isn't all of this traveling making you short? Cindy and I have tripled what you would spend on yourself."

"Elaine is keeping my bills paid and she isn't complaining. She did fight the Walmart charge, but that is all straightened out now."

"How much are you getting for a dividend, if I'm not prying?"

"It will be $1.01 a share and I have enough shares to see us through."

"Okay, but we have to find a job in two weeks. We need the money and I need to get Cindy into school."

I wondered if I would be welcomed to stay with Shari and Cindy Metzger. I hoped so. Sometimes when we were early and had a motel room for the night, I would lay down until time to eat. I would fall asleep and when I awoke Shari or Cindy would be lying there with me. Shari never did, but Cindy would lean over and kiss me. Shari sometimes looked as if she wanted to.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic / Heterosexual /