I squeezed my Harley between two parked cars, rumbled across the sidewalk, and stopped near an old oak tree. Every eye was on me as I dropped the kickstand and stepped away from the bike. It gave me more than a small amount of pleasure to see the confusion on all the faces.
I removed my leather jacket and unstrapped my helmet. I could see Steve getting up from the picnic table and start my way as I pulled the helmet from my head. I carefully placed it on my handlebars and turned to face him.
"Holy shit! Eric! I sure as hell never thought you'd be pulling up on a sweet ride like this," he exclaimed. "I'd expect you in something like a Honda Civic!"
We shook hands and then he hugged me. He made no effort to conceal his pleasure that I had made the trip to attend his daughter's wedding. He positively beamed as he turned to his gathered neighbors, friends, and relatives.
"Hey, everybody! It's the guy that stood up for me all those years ago," laughed Steve. "I don't know whether to thank him or deck him. If he had talked me out of it, I'd still be a free man, riding a Harley, drinking beer, and breaking hearts!"
"The only heart that would be breaking would be yours, Steve, every time you saw me with Wilbur Reynolds," challenged a feminine voice.
Steve's wife, Grace, came sauntering up to me and wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a not-so-quick kiss on the lips. She was a little heavier than she had been on her wedding day, but still looked great. Giving birth to three kids and gaining fifteen pounds did little to suppress her smoldering sexuality. I calculated that she had to be about forty-two since she had been two years behind me in high school.
"Eric, you've changed! You look great and feel like a chunk of steel. I can't wait to see how Eve reacts when she sees you. She should be kicking her own ass the rest of her life," added Grace. "What have you been doing to get so damn buff? I thought accountants were soft, pasty white, and pudgy."
"You mean exactly like I was when I left town fourteen months ago, Grace?" I retorted, but with a smile so Grace would know I was not upset. "I like to think the soft, fat Eric Walters is gone forever. I came to realize I didn't like him much more than my loving wife did, so I made some changes. I hope I buried that fat bastard so deep he'll never resurface."
"Eric, I didn't realize you felt that way. I thought you were a content, if somewhat soft, husband and father. I never guessed you disliked your body image so much at the time," revealed Grace.
"Well, Grace, the truth is that I actually was pretty damn content at the time, and blind as a bat. At least until Eve turned it all upside down," I added.
By this time we had reached the party and Grace began introducing me to any guests I did not already know. I remembered most of them, as I had been born and raised in the town. I had lived there until April of the previous year. I received a lot of comments about my hair cut, my tan, and my new build. I lost count of how many times I was asked where I was living and what I was doing. I tried to respond patiently each time. I pretty much expected that would be the case when I decided to accept the invitation to the wedding of Steve's daughter, Ann. She had just graduated from Penn State and would be teaching third grade at the local elementary school in the fall. Her soon-to-be husband had just been honorably discharged from the Marines after two tours in the Mideast. Eve and I were Ann's godparents.
Becky had insisted I return to the home town for my goddaughter's wedding. Becky was my brother's wife and she had taken me under her wing when Eve had shattered my life.
"Eric, you can't ignore your friends and family any longer. You were Steve's best man and you're Ann's godfather. You should be there to share in the celebration. You have to reclaim your life and show everyone that you've moved on. It'll be the final step in your healing," she assured me. "You'll come back a much happier man. You'll see how lucky you really are that Eve was an unfaithful slut and that you're way better off without that cheating bitch!"
I wanted to believe Becky, but I was filled with doubts. Eve had pretty much told me that I was a lousy lover and a pathetic excuse for a man. She had found a real man that knew how to treat and take care of a woman and she wanted me the hell out of her life. I had never even suspected anything was wrong. When she told me about wanting to move in with her lover, I had been stunned. The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that Eve had been right. I was a pathetic bastard.
The same day Eve informed me that she was moving in with her lover, I signed a listing agreement on our house and quit my job. That probably seemed pretty childish, as well as quite rash to most of our friends and relatives, but I had to get out. I was ashamed to look anyone in the eye, knowing they would be thinking what a needle-dicked wimp I had to be. Besides that, I hated my job.
I had been an accountant in a firm with offices all over the eastern half of the country. I had advanced about as far as I was likely to go. The work was tedious and boring as hell. An exciting week was one where I had to spend a few extra minutes on an account to find a bookkeeping error. I had become a soft, middle aged man with an expanding waistline and receding hairline.
My brother, Frank, and Becky lived north of Pittsburgh. They owned several gyms and had recently expanded their services. They had added a large room on each of their three gyms and began offering martial arts classes as well as ballroom and line dancing lessons. They took me in without any prior notice when I showed up on their doorstep at five AM.
"Eric, we do need someone to keep all the financials for our company, but it isn't enough for a full time job," added Frank. "If you were interested in some other duties, we could take you on full time. We're always looking for dependable people."
"What other duties, Frank?" I asked suspiciously. "Are you going to have me mopping the floors and cleaning the bathrooms?"
"We already have a firm contracted for that," laughed Becky. "Our gyms are open 24 hours, seven days a week. We need trainers. We've also started offering line dancing and ball room dancing lessons, as well as martial arts. You'd be expected to help with all of it."
"In case you've failed to notice, Becky, and that seems very unlikely, I'm not the right stuff for weight training, or dancing for that matter, and I couldn't fight my way out of a wet paper bag," I responded somewhat despondently. "I can't do any of that. I'll just look for a job in accounting someplace."
"I thought you said that you hated that shit, Bro! Why spend your life doing something you dislike so badly?" asked Frank.
"Because it's something I know I can do, Frank. Look at me! I can't help you in the gym. Hell, I've never even been inside one. I'm just a pudgy, slightly balding putz," I admitted. "No one has ever mistaken me for The Terminator."
"Not yet," replied Becky with a big grin. "You've got the same genes as Frank and look how I've whipped his ass into shape. I'll have you buffed up in no time. The real challenge will be the ballroom dancing. Frank can lift a ton, but he isn't the most graceful guy I've ever seen. He does do a little better with the line dancing."
"Frank teaches dancing?" I asked incredulously. "This is hard to believe, no offense Frank."
"None taken," chuckled Frank. "I don't teach it, Eric. I'm just a warm body the ladies use and toss away when they're done with me."
"What the hell? Are you some kind of male escort or gigolo?" I asked doubtfully.
"He is, in a manner of speaking," laughed Becky. "There are a lot of single people, men and especially women that want to take the lessons and don't have a partner. Frank and I, as well as some of our staff, fill those needs. We make sure that our clients have a pleasant experience as well have some one to pair up with. Not to toot my own horn, but I've become quite good at the tango and fox trot."
"You'd expect me to be able and willing to assist ladies dancing? Me? The guy with two left feet? I can tell you right now, I can't dance. Like you just said, Frank and I are from the same spastic gene pool."
"Maybe you can't dance yet," laughed Becky, "but you'll learn. The most important think is to make your partner feel special. Show her that you enjoy her company, her smile, her effort, and when acceptable, her body. This is as much about gracious social interaction as it is moving your feet correctly. That's why our business is booming. We don't allow or encourage any of our employees to become too sexual in dance class, or the gym. Not that it can't happen, but we won't stand for our employees being directly involved in any broken marriages. We also want as few broken hearts as possible. Our gyms have the reputation as a safe atmosphere for couples, singles, and even families."
I sat there thinking as I listened to Frank and Becky. I had to admit to myself that whatever they were doing was a hell of a lot better than what I had been doing. They were both strong and healthy and looked great. Frank was obviously well muscled without being one of those guys that looked freakish. Becky was in fantastic shape. No one would ever know she was pushing forty and had two teenage boys. I decided that no matter how badly I embarrassed myself in the gym or on the dance floor, it could never be as bad as having your wife of over twenty years tell you that you that you're not worth a shit in bed, and she has a lover that is much better.
.... There is more of this story ...