Author's Note: This story is quite difficult to write, as it is more personal than any I've committed to paper before.
First, some backstory: I first met Karl about a decade ago when he was just a friend of Daniel P. Small, quiet, soft-spoken ... he seemed cool and we got along alright - even though he talked alot. He was a D&D and EQ fan and that was the basis for our relationship. He was just a 'dude' to me, nothing special. After Daniel got his own place, I lost contact with Karl - until I found out that he'd married Teresa, Daniel's sister. Mandy and I visited them at their home in Essex a couple times but again, he was nice enough but never rated very highly on the friendship scale back then.
Years passed until Teresa needed a place to stay because they'd separated and sold their house. We let her move into the spare bedroom. Teresa was a tolerable roommate, but always spoke of Karl with venom and bile - never a kind word in any way - and I'd often tried to get her to be civil when it came to him because I'd hear of him through her brother still. She said she was so upset because she'd gotten pregnant, miscarried - then he would not try to get her pregnant again, stating he feared for her safety. I thought that reason valid, but she would not be swayed. After the divorce, Karl moved out of state and was doing alright - and again, we lost touch.
A few years later I get an IM from him saying "Hey guy...". He was telling me how happy he was because he met this woman named Kelly. He talked about how nice and sweet she was all the time, and the times he called, the happiness was evident in his voice. I got to meet her during a video chat once and she was sweet; I told them how happy she was making him and she smiled at the compliment. They then told me she was moving from Las Vegas to Michigan where he was. I was so pleased for them, because at this point, in my mind, he'd been raised to 'friend'.
They kept me updated on the move - she drove the entire way - but shortly after getting there, Kelly felt nervous. She said that his quiet demeanor was unnerving her because in all her other relationships, the man was only nice and quiet before he turned into an asshole. She also mentioned worrying about her mother, who still lived in Vegas and had a gambling addiction. I tried to counsel her into staying a bit longer and understand that being quiet is his way, but it was obvious she wanted to get out of there immediately. She packed up again and moved back in with her mother. Karl was understandably upset and I spent a lot of time consoling him and trying to get them to work things out. He figured that if things were too different for her - cold, snow, etc. - then he'd go there to be with her. He quit his job and drove across the country to a nearby friend's place before letting her know that he was coming to be with her. During that same time, she'd gotten into a relationship with a guy that was the social opposite of Karl - outspoken, forceful ... who in less than 2 months had not only moved in with her, but became verbally abusive, stole from her and to top it off she wound up getting arrested because she tried to defend herself when he jumped in her face.
Once Karl found she was with someone, he blamed himself for not letting her know he was coming - true - but that he needed a place to stay because his stay with those friends was temporary. His options were to go back to Michigan and see if he could get back with his old roommates or come back to Baltimore, where Daniel P still had a house. His MI friends wouldn't give him an definitive answer and so he drove back to Charm City. Daniel's house was overrun with crackheads - he wasn't one, but his girlfriend and her brother were. His TV was stolen in the first couple days, so I offered to let him store things at my place while I gave him advice on getting them out of the house. It took calls to the police and other steps, but my guidance helped him scare them all away.
Since his return, he was over my place a lot. We talked about religion - he was going through a crisis of faith and was leaving his Greek Orthodox religion for Wicca, which seemed to resonate more strongly with him. I'd studied before and my girlfriend Amanda is currently an avid practitioner, so we were having some pretty deep conversations on many levels. He was having a big problem with looking for work as well; he thought he was just drop into one in a few days. I'd been looking a lot longer so I knew that wasn't going to work. A position opened up at Amanda's store for someone to fill in the opposite hours and I suggested it to him. He applied and got it, to which he was pleased and appreciative. A bit TOO appreciative, it seems...
Here we come to the present: Amanda and I have been together for over 11 years. I've never met a woman that was so cool, pretty, funny and best of all - she chose me to be with. I like to joke with her that she had to have lost a bet to wind up with me because she's so awesome. She laughs and hits me softly, calling me silly. I could stare into her blue eyes all day long, simply amazed that she was looking back into my brown ones. I'd been married before - a mistake of epic proportions - and I'd never felt for her in the way I feel for Amanda on every level. She's a quiet woman, but will speak up with a joke or something poignant. I like the fact that we can spend time in a room together without filling it with unnecessary talk; many times we'd just caress or kiss each other as we'd walk by, bring a smile from each other.
I'd been out of work awhile and trying to make up my part by doing computer repair, website work and other small jobs, but not a lot was coming in. I was getting further depressed and upset that I've had to rely on her help for so long - even though I've done the same for her and would happily do so again. In every situation, things happen to fall into a pattern. Because of her schedule, Amanda goes to bed early and I'm much more of a night owl, often coming to bed just a couple hours before she awakens. Between being on the computer, not travelling much and poor circulation, I'd put on some weight and was embarassed by my looks so going to bed after her was my only way to save my ego, as there was no way I wanted her to see me as I saw myself. Making love with her is pleasure beyond compare and we always bring each other to explosive heights. I admit that my depression lowered the number of times that I'd initiate it but my own pride stopped me from talking it out with anyone.
During this time, Karl was still coming by often - sometimes daily - and he'd talk to me about what I'm working on [I started writing gaming articles so was always researching different games], then would talk with Amanda about what I assumed were religious matters in the other room. One day she walked by and I saw his head turn and I said "Isn't she great?" He said, "Yea, she's awesome - if she wasn't attached I'd snatch her up quick!" I warned, "That may be, but remember she is MINE." We laughed it off and went back to whatever we were doing. When he finally made his break with the church, he asked me to go with him to the big church downtown. I do not go to churches, but as this was such a big deal for him, I swallowed my pride and went in. He told me where he was baptised and other things he remembered as a child, then stood by as he made a silent vigil at the candles during his final departure. He thanked me profusely, telling me how much it meant to him and that he'd pay me back someday.
He started coming up on his days off and offering to take us to movies. I'd decline because I don't like people trying to pay for us all the time and felt that she could use a friend that had the same religious interests as she. After a few weeks, my friends told me that Karl was making a play for my girl and I just brushed them off, saying they're thinking too much about going to catch a flick. I could not tell them that it was beginning to disturb me as well. Another week goes by and she's getting ready to go out on her day off. I asked her where she was headed and she said she and Karl were going to the museum. I said something at that point because I was a little upset with it, because this time I was not even asked about going. She then offered but I declined because I didn't think it right to interject myself into something in which I was not invited. I told her to have fun and in my mind planned to do something with her when she got home. She kissed me and left, but didn't return until dark. As it was getting late, something inside me twisted and I knew something was wrong, so I worried on the inside but didn't let anyone else see it. I checked the hours at the museum and saw it closed around 3. I didn't mention this when I asked what happened. I was told that they walked around the museum, then to the Harbor, up to Federal Hill and talked while overlooking the water. I told her, "Sweetheart, that's not a trip to the museum ... that's a DATE." Her blue eyes flashed up at me but she denied that. I told her that if I said that to anyone else, they'd consider it a date as well. I then said I was not comfortable with them going out together all the time. She acquiesced and they didn't go out on any more Tuesdays.
I did notice that right after, Karl talked to me much less and would usually ask for Amanda directly after a quick "Hey guy..." He called a lot from work and said he was having issues with a price or one of the machines was acting up. She'd talk to him for a bit then go about whatever she was doing. I noticed a few other times she came home at odd times and when I asked why, she said her schedule had changed at work.
Over the last few months I'd been wearing my iPod to bed with me, letting the music flood my ears so I did not dream. Whenever I'd fall asleep without something distracting me, I'd have the same nightmare over and over: I'd be putting bugs or surveillance equipment around and found out that Amanda had been cheating on me with Karl ... sometimes Dan, but I know they're not attracted to each other so I'd brush it off. Every night would be the same thing and I was getting freaked out. I'd began wondering why she had to leave so early for work - but rationalized that with the bus schedules being as they are she's either early or way late.
During this time, sometimes she'd try to get me to come upstairs with her to bed and I'd tell her that I'd be up 'in a few... ' which was usually at least an hour or so. It's not that I didn't want to at that moment but my size embarrassed me and that I'd become a creature of habit too. Testing video games became a bit too much fun and it didn't take long for 'a few minutes' turn into 'oh shit, it's 3am'. Bit by bit my insecurities were distancing us and I though it something that would work itself out. I started cutting back on games and TV and talking more, but things seemed the same, even though my paranoia persisted but I just blamed it on the depression.
Karl would still come by from time to time and was always jovial, holding onto my shoulder while I showed him a new game or political website. At one point he was leaning on my shoulder and said, "Am I getting too close?" I just cocked my head to the side and said, "I'll let you know." He chuckled and left. I thought he was talking about his physical proximity to me, as he tends to hug and touch while he's talking - he blames that on his Greek heritage. How wrong I was...
Thanksgiving was approaching and both she and my best friend/roommate Dan had to work, which sucked. We weren't cooking and my sister was going to come pick Amanda and I up right before dinner was ready at our mother's. For whatever reason, I told her that I dreamt she was cheating with Karl. She stood looking at me strangely, then laid back down with me and hugged me. She told me that Karl impressed her when he took the first job that was offered. My mind screamed at me, "IMPRESSED?" I instead told her that I've been looking for work but was looking for better than what I had, and had been showing her what I'd been doing rather than keeping silent. She nodded, then kissed me and said I today I have nothing to worry about. In my head, "TODAY??" She got up and left and of course I could not sleep so I got up and just sat downstairs all day alone, in a daze.
She was supposed to be off at 3 and after 5 I started to worry. Holiday schedules suck but even then I couldn't get through to her cellphone. At 6, I contacted my mother and sister to cancel my visit. My stomach was torn up, as though pain had torn a hole out of the bottom. I had no appetite, could not drink and could not focus on a single thing other than Amanda. Dan got home and asked where Amanda was. When I said she'd not returned even he got really concerned because it was darkening outside when he got in and he'd have driven to pick her up if she was stranded somewhere. I called her job and was told she left earlier. I thought she may have gone to her sister's for the holiday - but she'd usually tell me in advance so we'd go together like we usually do. The nightmare that I've had for months was pounding at the back of my head incessantly, but I kept trying to blot it out because I did NOT want to be right about that. Almost anything but that. Other friends came over and started asking where she was as well and that didn't help either. My pain and uneasiness grew to nearly unbearable levels.