I sat in my easy chair and watched my wife of six years walk out the door. She was soon to be my ex-wife. I didn't know how I felt about this yet. Not enough time had passed since she informed me of her intention to divorce me. This morning she said she wanted me home by six so we could have a little talk.
I had come in, looked into the kitchen and saw there wasn't any dinner prepared. That gave me an uneasy feeling. What I had now was much worse. At the time--time?--forty-five minutes ago actually, Katy was upstairs and came down when she heard me shut the door.
"Hi, sit in the living room. I have a few things to say. Here's the deal. When we were married, I thought we would have a good life together. The last four years haven't shown me enough to continue being married to you. You're never home and when you are, you're usually too tired to take care of me."
I interrupted. "That's true, but someone has to pay the bills. You work, but I don't get any help from you. My money comes from working long hours and most of that is because I'm willing to go out of town for days on end fixing the company's equipment. If you would be willing to contribute, I'll ask my boss to keep me in town. You don't help around the place either. You could at least do the flower beds you demanded to be planted in our backyard. You bitch to me that they need digging in when I have been gone for a week."
"You could hire that done and then we could go dancing once in awhile."
"And what would I be paying them with if I did that? Katy, it will get better. I'm due for a raise in a couple of months and then I can cut back on the out-of-town work."
"I'm not waiting two more months. Jack, I think we had better call it quits. I'm sick of being alone. I want a little excitement in my life. You aren't giving it to me. I'm sorry, but I'm bailing out."
"Are you talking divorce?"
"Yes. Six months from now we will both be free."
"Who is paying for this?"
"I'll pay the court costs. That's fair."
"Okay, do it then."
Katy Driscoll put on her coat and walked toward the door. She paused as if to say something, but didn't. I sat there in the chair and watched her walk away. She was pretty and she knew it. Self-centered--absolutely. Demanding--that too. Would I miss her--sure, for awhile. She was something to come home to and someone I thought I loved. Now, I don't know. Guess I would go out to eat. I didn't even look in the refrigerator. As I was getting into my car, I thought back over our conversation. Not once had the word "love" ever crossed our lips--hers or mine. That was sad!
I walked into Henry's. It had been a couple of weeks since I had crossed this threshold. In a way what Katy had proposed hurt, but I knew I would get over it. As I sat at the bar, I remembered I hadn't bought my weekly scratch ticket. I walked down to where Henry cashed out his customers. "Gimme a five dollar one tonight. I'm going to bet it all."
I usually bought five separate one dollar ones. Tonight I was brave. I slipped it into my shirt pocket and watched the television over the bar. An advertisement came on for the state-run lottery and it was up to $79,000. "Hey Henry, give me a ticket for the state lottery. I'll cut down to four dollars next week. Hell, give me one for powerball, too. When's the drawing for that one?"
"Saturday, you cheap bastard. You could afford a ticket each week. You and your scratch tickets. You'll never get rich buying them. You gotta go for the big money. You got numbers you want to play on the lottery or go for the random pick?"
"Let the machine do it. Hell, machines are getting smarter than me anyway. I bet they get as much loving as I do too." I grabbed a handful of peanuts and asked the waitress to move my beer to a booth for me. Stupid rule. A patron couldn't carry a beer across the room.
Larry and Mary Clark came in and came over to sit with me. I drank another beer and was hungry by this time. I had purposely kept my mind off of Katy. I hit a Big Beef house and ordered the smallest steak on the menu. Beer with that as well. Finishing the meal, I decided I didn't need dessert, so had one more beer. This was decidedly over my limit, and I knew I had to be careful on the way home.
Home? That's a hoot! It's only an empty house unless Katy had changed her mind. Umm, she hadn't said when she was leaving. Maybe she had already left. She certainly had walked out the door as if she wasn't returning. Probably over to her sister's, Patty was all right. She never would have treated me as Katy had. Oh well, screw the whole family. I was getting maudlin. Guess I had better head for home and bed.
I didn't stop except to pee and went in and started undressing. I had put the two lottery tickets into my wallet. I shucked my shirt and felt the scratch ticket. I sat on the edge of the bed and scratched the emblems. I matched three of the cows, no pigs nor hens. Wow $10,000. I scratched one more and another cow appeared. I was up to $15,000. I was getting excited now. Hell, with shaking fingers I did the last one. Twenty-five thousand freakin' dollars, and I had a year to turn the ticket in and collect.
I started laughing. There Katy Driscoll, pay for a divorce you stupid bitch. I'd be a free man by the time I had to collect on this. Smiling still, I locked the bedroom door and went to bed. If Katy came home, she could sleep in the spare room. That ticket would keep me warm tonight.
No Katy when I got up in the morning. It depressed me some until I remembered the ticket. Maybe I had better make sure it was safe if I wasn't going to cash it in right away. I was due at work by eight, but had been known to be late. I waited for the bank to open and hired a safe-deposit box. I put the ticket in and decided I'd put both lottery tickets in with it. I did write the numbers down and put the scrap of paper in my wallet. Who knows?
Was my life going to change? I didn't think it would that much. Not in the short term it wouldn't. I was due to fly out at two in the afternoon. I worked in the office getting ready and went home at noon to shower and shave. Still no Katy. I called Patty Burbank, my sister-in-law. "Seen Katy? She didn't come home last night."
"She's here. Talk to her and tell her how stupid she is."
"What do you want, Jack? I told you we were done."
"You didn't say you were leaving this soon."
"Well I am. In fact I have already left."
"When are you coming to get your things?"
"Tomorrow or this weekend."
"Are you asking for the house in the divorce? There is still a big mortgage on it."
"No, you can have title if you want to pay the mortgage. I will need a list of your assets, just to take to the attorney. I know most of what you have so I know I won't get much. I don't care. I just want away from you and to get on with my life."
"Fix it up and I'll sign the papers. Katy, I think you are making a mistake. We could have worked this out. As I said, I'll be home more in a short while."
"No, I want out. I just fell out of love with you. I want to start over with someone else."
"Have you anyone waiting in the wings?"
"No Jack, I wouldn't do that to you. I can't say there might not be before the divorce is final. Would you at least let me have that and not cause any trouble?"
"Sure Katy, whatever. I can see there is no more life together for us. I guess this is the best way for us to split. Have a good life." I gathered my bag and headed for the airport. This was Friday and I would be gone until next Wednesday. Katy would be in to clean her stuff out of the house. Odd, but I trusted her to take only what she was entitled to. Maybe we couldn't love each other, but we still had a little respect for each other.
I was half-way across the country Saturday morning repairing a commercial copier when I remembered that my state lottery drawing was the night before. Geez, $79,000 would look pretty good in my bank account. I logged in at lunch on my laptop to the state website. Nada, no winners. Maybe Tuesday, but I wasn't where I could buy a ticket. Oh well, it was just a buck.
It took me until six that evening to finish the service on the copier to my satisfaction. I went out to eat and then stopped for a beer in a bar I had been in before when in this town. I was too sleepy to wait for the powerball drawing, so I packed it in and went to bed. Back to the same company in the morning for another machine service. I checked the powerball numbers in the newspaper during lunch. Nothing.
I arrived back home Wednesday morning and checked into the office. I was home for the rest of the week. I wouldn't even have to come into the office tomorrow and Friday either. When I walked into the house, I could see that Katy had taken several things out of the kitchen. The table was gone, but she had left the high stools for the breakfast counter. I'd make out. It just gave me more room to move around in.
There were a couple of envelopes propped on the counter and I sat down to read what was in them.
One contained the divorce papers. The other was a list of everything she had taken from the house. I was surprised and just a little angry when I saw she had taken everything from our bedroom. The king-sized bed, both bureaus and the night stands. She even took the two bedside lights.
I went up and the room was bare. I went down the hall to the guest bedroom and I could see where she had everything organized for me. My clothes were installed in the dresser and my suits were hanging in the closet. There was a note on the night stand.
"Jack, hope this is okay. I have an apartment and didn't want to buy too much for furnishings. You probably will want a smaller bed now that you are alone. To be honest, someday soon I hope to find someone to occupy the bed with me. Someone who will be with me every night. For the last several months, I was getting more lonely every time you went away. I suppose I cheated you in not helping with expenses, but I knew this was coming and I needed the money to start over.
"You could sue me for it, but would it be worth the trouble? You can see that I stopped adding or subtracting to our accounts three days before I talked about leaving. I think this is only fair. If you don't find it so, call and we can discuss it. Patty thinks I'm so stupid to do this, but she is able to crawl into bed with Jim every night and she wakes up with him by her side every morning. We never had that. I'm sure having two kids keeps her settled down as well. I could say I still love you, but I don't know as I do. I'm still fond of you anyway. Katy."
I went back downstairs and looked in the refrigerator. It was devoid of all food and had been cleaned thoroughly. I looked around, and found the house spotless. I read over the divorce papers and they seemed just as she had stated. The suite was in place and to go forward it only needed my signature. I signed and slid it into the stamped envelope she had so thoughtfully provided.
I looked out on the grounds surrounding the house. The lawn needed mowing and clipping. The flower beds needed weeding and the sprinkler needed turning on. Katy had so wanted home to be a showplace, but it always seemed that it was up to me to make it so. Well someday I would rip the beds up and make a lawn out of the space again. I'd get a bigger mower and be done in a half hour. Not today though, maybe tomorrow I'd give it some attention.
I headed out for dinner, lingering over it, just watching the other diners as they talked and ate. I saw one couple arguing and I saw a young man and woman come in who were so in love. There were two sets of parents with kids eating. One of them had brats for kids and the other you could see the kids respected and loved their mother and father. I wondered to myself if Katy and I had started a family what category our kids would fall into.
I headed over to Henry's to have a beer. It was quiet when I arrived. I bought three one dollar scratch tickets and gave him the numbers for the state lottery I had copied from the ticket in the safe-deposit box. I did the same for the powerball ticket. Henry laughed at me. "Suckers born every minute."
"Yes, maybe, but you still sell the tickets." We got to talking and I broke down and shared the new developments in my life. Henry and I went way back to when I was a teenager and he lived next door to my parents. Katy had been in here a few times, but she hadn't warmed to Henry and I stopped asking her to come with me.
"So what are your plans now?"
"I haven't made any. I looked out the window and saw all the work I have to do now to keep the place up. There is the inside housework as well. I may chuck it all and buy me a condo. Of course I owe a lot on the house, so if I sell I won't get much for it. I'd be trading one mortgage for another."
"What you need to do is get someone in to share expenses and help with the housework. Kind of like a roommate or something."
"I don't know. Could I trust a person? Katy wasn't the best sometimes, but I trusted her and knew where I stood with her." I chuckled. "Or did until she threw divorce papers at me. Even now though, I've let her call the shots, knowing she wasn't out to do me any harm."
"You still love her?"
"I guess not. This is pretty inconvenient, that's all." Customers came in and I didn't have a chance to talk to Henry again that evening. I went home and went to bed early. Thursday I did get the lawn mowed, but didn't touch the flower beds. I don't think my neighbors knew Katy had moved out as I talked to several as they walked by and none of us said anything.
Henry laughed at me when I came in, saying, "I suppose you want another powerball ticket. No winners again. The prize is crawling up to where it is some serious money."
"This poor sucker is still with you. Give me the same numbers. Only one scratch ticket, though." I scratched it and it was a winner. Ten dollars and Henry paid me from the till.
"Honestly Jack, are you ahead on your winnings? Knowing you, you have kept track."
"I have Henry, and I am ahead. I'm waiting until Katy and my divorce is settled before I let anyone know how far ahead I am. I think she wouldn't cause any trouble if she found out I was a winner, but I'm not taking a chance." No winners on the state lottery or the powerball Friday and Saturday. I stopped in on Sunday to replace the old with new for Tuesday and Wednesday's drawings. I had to be out of town until Thursday this week, but I was prepared.
Dust was collecting in the house and it was beginning to smell closed up. Could I stand it? I guess I could. I had to do extra planning about food, making sure I didn't leave anything to spoil while I was out of town.
Patty called about eight Sunday evening. "How's it going, Jack?"
"Not bad, really. A little more work around the place, but overall, I'm getting along okay. How is Katy and her new lifestyle?"
"Good. She goes out a lot with her co-workers. She has a nice place to live. Expenses are more than she expected, and I had warned her about that. I think she went out on one date, but he didn't sleep over. She still wakes up alone, which seems to be the biggest problem she had when she was living with you."
"That will change. I just hope she doesn't get anxious and settle for less than she deserves."
"I knew you would say that, because you're that kind of person. You're too damned sweet for your own good."
"Thanks Patty, I love you too. Hey, I'm traveling in the morning. Thank you for calling. You're special in my book. Say hi to Jim for me. Maybe you'll let him out so we can have a beer together sometime."
"Take me with you. I still think of you as family. Come by and see the kids. They wonder why you don't come around."
"I will. Count on it. Invite me over for chop suey on Thursday. I'll be back in town sometime that day."
"Okay, it's a date. Bring the bread and the beer." She didn't have to tell me this as it was a given. I flew out in the morning. Different company, different direction. Katy had claimed she was lonely all of these years. What about me? Didn't she think I felt the same way?"
The state lottery was won on Tuesday. Needless to say I wasn't a winner. How Henry would laugh at me. Yes, and he would sell me another ticket. I looked at the amount in the powerball lottery. It was now over $150,000,000 and climbing. I couldn't visualize that amount of money, but Henry would sell me tickets for it as long as I kept buying.
Patty had invited Katy for dinner Thursday evening. I didn't mind. She and I still had enough feelings for each other to be curious about how the other was handling the change in our life styles. Patty's kids were all over me and it made me plan to come around more often.
Patty made the comment that I should go to see Katy's condo. Katy frowned about it, but offered to show it to me. I put her off, saying maybe I would someday. She seemed a little disappointed when I declined, but maybe I was mistaken. When I got ready to leave, the kids came and gave their uncle a kiss. Patty did as well. Katy said, "I'll walk you to your car."
"How are you doing, Jack? What I did must have been a shock."
"It was, but I can see your point. If what you felt for me wasn't strong enough to survive until I could stay home, I think you have made the right decision. Truthfully, I miss you, but more for the services, like doing the dishes and stuff like that. The occasional intimacies we had and the lack of, I miss. But I know all of these can be replaced and will someday in one form or another.
"Happiness in life comes and goes and then comes again. I'll wait around and see what happens before I get too concerned over my plight."
"Thanks Jack. I was terribly afraid I had hurt you irreparably. I was even going to invite you over to spend the night if I had. I can see that isn't necessary."
"Katy, I don't think I would go even if I was hurting bad. I'm not, so I guess there is no need to even consider such a thing."
"There isn't is there? Goodnight Jack. I'm glad we had a chance to talk a minute. I think I can be not only comfortable about my decision and also comfortable when you and I meet, as we undoubtedly will, time to time."
I kissed my ex-wife on the cheek and slid into my car, not even looking back. Henry sold me two tickets that night, one for the new state drawing on Friday and one for the powerball on Saturday. I still stuck with the same numbers as the first ones I had purchased weeks ago. I went home early. Tomorrow it would be yard work again.
"Jack, you said you could use a housekeeper. I've found one for you. She'll be here tomorrow night to meet you if you say okay."
"Whatever Henry. I'm making out fine as I am. House is empty, though. I'll give you that."
"Jack, please meet her. She has had a bit of bad luck and you would be the answer to her prayers."
"I'll think about it. Give me a scratch ticket. I'm superstitious. If it is a winner, I'll definitely consider her."
Henry hovered over me as I scratched off the covers. I handed it back to him with a grin. "Pay up old man. Tell you what, that housekeeper is now employed."
"Son-of-a-bitch. You lucky bastard. $1,000. I'll call her in the morning. Uh Jack, maybe I better tell you a little more about her before I do though."
"What's her problem?"
"She is a war widow with two small kids. She is being evicted the last of next week because she can't pay her rent. She can't find a job that pays enough to support her family and pay rent too. I know her mother and father and they have been helping out as much as they can, but they need every penny to support themselves. You have that three bedroom house and could put them up easily."
"Jesus Henry, I like my privacy, and the woman I would hope, would as well. Pull on my heartstrings all you want, but I can't imagine this working. How old is she, anyway?"
"Twenty-five. She used to be cute as a button until her cares caught up with her. Think man, her childhood sweetheart killed in defense of his country, leaving a young wife and two young kids. It can't get any worse than that."
"You're right, but why put this on me?"
"Because it would be a good deal for both of you. You'll see." I nursed my beer until I was ready to leave, and then signaled to Henry.
"Okay, I'll talk to the woman. What is her name?"
"Jane Kristol. She'll be here at six. You might even plan on taking her out to dinner."
"Don't push it Henry." I went home to the house that was so-o-o-o empty. I was very busy at work and didn't have a spare minute to wonder what the woman I was to meet would be like. I had the image in my mind of a cute, chunky girl about five-foot-three.
I was early in Henry's Bar. He didn't come on until six and that was when I was to meet the woman. A quarter of, two women came in and passed by me, sitting at the far end of the bar. They couldn't be who I was meeting. A couple came in that I knew slightly and they stopped to talk a minute. I didn't see another woman come in until one walked by us.
I glanced at her as she went by. Not her either. This one was tall--my height at five-eleven at least. I only had a quick glimpse of her profile. No breasts at all and there were hardly any buns to take notice of either. I will say, she didn't lope, but kind of glided to a seat halfway down the bar. The people I had been talking to turned and went to a booth.
For some reason I watched the woman. Her voice was well modulated and pleasant as the bartender squirted some gingerale into a glass. I guess she was checking me out, for twice I caught her looking away. The third time our eyes held, and she smiled just a little, acknowledging that we were in the same place.
She asked the bartender when Henry was getting here. "He is supposed to introduce me to someone. I only have a half hour as I have to get home and feed my children."
"Henry is going to be late. Do you know the name of the person?"
"Jack Driscoll." By this time I was out of my seat and striding toward her.
"Jane Kristol? I was supposed to meet you here. I'm Jack. Come sit in a booth. Would you like a beer or a glass of wine?"
"Nothing thanks, I have all I need." I turned to the bartender.
"Bring my beer over and fill the lady's glass." I laid a bill on the bar and he nodded. I took Jane by the arm and guided her to the nearest booth. I sat across from her. "Okay, knowing Henry for years, how did he describe me? He doesn't ever get near the truth if he can help it."
Jane giggled. "I know. He said you were the most handsome man I would ever meet. He also said your wife had left you and you were devastated and heartbroken. I was supposed to keep you from leaving this world that had treated you with such harshness. If I couldn't do it, maybe my kids being around you would keep away the darkness you had fallen into and keep you among the living. Does that sound like something he would say? How much of it is true?"
"Not much. My wife did leave me. That part is true. The rest is mostly BS. I'm not too much devastated over my wife leaving. In fact I had dinner at her sister's house last night. What I'm looking for, I guess, is to have someone in to do housekeeping. At first I thought to hire someone hourly, but if you are in such dire straits, I guess you could be a live-in. True part, I couldn't pay much so living in would be most of your pay."
"What did Henry tell you about me? Be truthful now, I was."
"Well he said you were cute, had lost your husband who was your childhood sweetheart. Lost him in the war and couldn't support your family enough to keep a roof over their heads. Also you were going to be evicted and out on the streets by next week."
"Hell, I haven't been cute since I was three. I did lose my husband, but I met him while I was waiting table at the PX. I do have some insurance so I'm not destitute. Where I'm living, the city is tearing down that section to build some upscale apartments so I do need a place to live.
"I have two kids and they are well behaved and intelligent. I'm proud of them. Their dad has been gone two years, so they don't remember him much. My son is six and my daughter is seven. It would be convenient to have a place to live, but I'm not begging, as I know the city will find me a place. That's a promise they made to all of us who have to move."
"I heard you tell the bartender you couldn't stay long because of your kids."
"That's right. I promised them McDonalds tonight. That is a treat they don't get very often. I prefer cooking at home and I'm an accomplished culinary expert." My eyes dropped to her breasts. There was some indication she was female.
I looked up to see her smiling. "I don't have much of a figure, I know. Actually, I have high metabolism and eat like a horse. Culinary expert is just another way of saying I'm a good cook and I like to feed my voracious appetite."
"Let's go to McDonalds then. I haven't eaten yet myself. Time to meet the kids."
I took the Kristol family by my house when we left McDonalds. Jane was enraptured with the flower beds and stopped to pull a weed as we walked around. I explained that I was often away two and sometimes three days a week, but usually knew my schedule ahead of time, so she would know when I was to be at home.
I showed her the bedrooms. Her statement, "If I should move in here, I would need two beds in the master bedroom. A full and a twin. I don't intend to have my daughter sleep in bed with me even though we have to be in the same room. Brian can have what you call the spare room."
Jane was contemplating saying something. I tried to make it easy for her. "You want to know if I'm going to expect you to have sex with me?"
She nodded before saying, "Yes."
"I don't want a physical relationship at this time with anyone. I have always stopped when a woman says no. Most usually I stop before a woman has had to say no. When you move in, I will respect you in all things and not intrude on you in any way."
"Sounds boring and no fun at all when put into words, doesn't it? If this is going to work where we are comfortable around each other, there has to be boundaries so we know where we stand with each other. Okay, I think we have covered everything. I'm to do everything except sleep with you."
"That's it. In return I'm paying for everything just as I was when I was married to Katy. I'll leave you $500 in cash for incidentals. I'll get a credit card in your name on Thursday when I return. You said you had some money of your own. If you have to use any of it here, I will reimburse you."
"Somehow it seems as if I'm getting the best of this deal. One thing, I will be paying half the food bill. You aren't here some of the time and the kids do eat. Other than that, you're paying and not even getting any loving."
"All I need at this time is some respect. I'm sure the lack of loving won't be a hardship. I didn't get any when I was on the road and when I was home Katy would be pissed at me, so loving was a rare event at best. It is probably best we terminate this conversation. I'm not in my comfort zone at present."
"Okay, I understand. Take me and the kids home. Would you look at my bed and Tinkerbell's to see if you think them suitable to bring into your home or if I should get new ones."
"That's Theresa's nickname." I smiled thinking that the name fit the little girl perfectly. Her mother might not be cute, but the daughter was.
I made it to the bar at ten-thirty. Henry was there. "Give me a scratch ticket. I want to see what kind of luck Jane Kristol has." When he came back with the ticket, I handed it to him. "You scratch it. Bet you another ticket this one is a winner." It was, a $50 one. Henry bought one more ticket to satisfy the bet. Nada!
"Jack, you're a prick." He was grinning as he said this. Then he got curious. "Is Jane going to be working for you?"
I put him off. "Henry, you told an awful lot of lies about me. About her as well. We compared notes and found out all of them."
"Well did you or didn't you?"
"Henry, you have a customer waiting to be served." While he was drawing a Budweiser, I waved and walked out of the bar, not waiting for the state lottery drawing that was coming in a few minutes.