Chapter 1

I was sitting in my office when I saw her standing in my doorway.

There had been a long trip through time and life to be able to say that one short sentence. In fact, I had come to believe that I would never see my wife again.

I guess I need to explain. I'll start at the beginning and try to keep it short.

My name is Francis (Monte) Moody. Where and how I got my nickname is another story, but I can truthfully say that alcohol was definitely involved.

I met my wife, Leanne, early in college. Naturally, we attended several classes together and my heart was hers from almost the first time I laid eyes on her. Most men would have said that she was a typical young college woman. She was not pretty but she most definitely was good looking, with beautiful full black hair worn long and a very nice face. Her figure was trim and athletic although her breasts were on the small side. She was not the smartest girl in the class nor was she the dumbest. However, I didn't care what anyone else thought about her because for me, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen and she was smart, sexy and fun to be around.

We didn't make any connection at first. I'll admit that I went out of my way to be at places and parties when I knew she would be there. She never seemed to notice me though. Finally, I screwed up my courage and asked her for a date. Up to that point, she had always been friendly but distant. I really didn't expect a yes and when she accepted, I was surprised and thrilled.

I took her to dinner and then we went dancing at one of the nice clubs that a lot of college kids frequented. We had a blast. She was a terrific dancer and she made me look like a much more talented dancer that I was. Afterwards I took her home and she gave me a very tender kiss and whispered, "Call me" in my ear.

That was all she wrote folks. From that wonderful evening on, we were a couple. We became exclusive and eventually became intimate. I was not her first and she was not my first. We didn't care. What was in the past didn't seem important to either of us.

Finally, we both graduated and then married. We have a marvelous daughter named Samantha. She is the light in both our eyes. We had what I thought was a solid marriage with both of us contributing to the union. We both enjoyed an active sex life with the expected tapering off over the years as we became older and more comfortable in our lives together.

The years seemed to fly by and it seemed in too short a time that Samantha was off to college leaving us alone. We had now been together for twenty-one years and married for eighteen. We both missed our daughter immensely.

I missed Sam but Leanne actually seemed to pine for her. I realized that she became depressed by her absence. It was a classic case of the empty nest syndrome.

After a few months where Leanne was moping around the house and was becoming withdrawn and argumentative, I made my fatal mistake. I suggested that maybe she could find a job to help fill her time and to give her some social life with people other than myself.

I pointed out to her that, without our realization, most of our friends seemed to have either moved away or had become involved with other friends. She had only one friend that she was able to socialize with, but even that friendship seemed doomed as they slowly drifted apart over a period of several months.

Leanne jumped on the idea of getting into the workforce. She was suddenly animated and bubbly. I would come home from work and find her with want ads strewn about the kitchen table. She was making lists and working on her resume at the same time.

Leanne had never worked after leaving college and getting married and although she had a degree in marketing, I cautioned her that she was probably looking at an entry level position where ever she went. That didn't seem to faze her and it was two weeks later when I came home to a sumptuous meal with candles and wine. Leanne was literally bouncing around the room and giggling like a school girl. "Guess what!" she trilled. "I got a job, I got a job, I got a job!"

With that excited statement, Leanne embarked on her new life. However, it was not in marketing but in the fast-paced real estate industry. She had been hired to be the office agent for a large real estate office here in our city.

Life definitely improved rapidly and dramatically. Leanne was once again the lively and exciting woman I had married all those years ago. She made friends at work and soon we were socializing with them regularly.

Two of her closest friends were two ladies named respectively Carol and June. They both had been married and now were divorced. Sometimes they could be a little too much. They occasionally drank a little more than was called for and when they drank, they seemed to stretch the boundaries of common sense and good taste.

Actually, they were huge flirts and didn't seem to care if the person they were flirting with was married or not or whether the guy's wife was present or not. There were a few times that they carried their actions so far that the wife of their intended target got really pissed off.

Their flirting caused a really bad scene once that made everyone very uncomfortable and caused a husband to spend a significant period in the old doghouse. That incident caused a slowdown in the number of parties that had been occurring regularly.

Initially I thought that Carol and June were okay gals, even if they pushed the limits occasionally. But, as time passed, their actions began to grate on my nerves and I began to complain to Leanne about her association with them.

More than once I would caution her saying, "People see you as the same as those women that you call friends. Just remember, because if you hang out with sluts then people will paint you with the same brush."

At first, Leanne agreed with me but I quickly noticed that it didn't change the amount of time that the three of them hung out together. Then came the time when I again told Leanne that her reputation was beginning to suffer due to her friendship with the "dreadful duo." Her reaction shocked and surprised me. "God damn it, Monte you need to get the fuck off of that crap. They are my friends and I don't give a rat's ass what you or anyone else has to say about it."

She glared at me and turning, she stomped off; going to our bedroom where she slammed and locked the door. That had never happened before in our entire marriage. I was stunned and for several moments just stood there with my mouth hanging open.

Gradually my shock began to turn to anger. What the fuck was that all about? I knew I had been playing that old song for a few weeks but I could not believe that it called for her scorched earth response.

I spent the rest of the weekend alternating between anger, irritation, confusion and bewilderment. Leanne became the new ice age and refused to speak with me. Getting her to even grunt in response to me became the norm in our relationship.

Monday morning, Leanne was dressed and out of the house before I could even finish my shower. This was another first for us. Never had one of us ever left home without a hug, kiss or a murmured term of endearment.

Eventually she thawed out some even though she seemed to be more reserved and withdrawn. She continued to hang out with her buddies. She was now stopping with them for drinks a couple of times a week. When she would come home, I could see that she was just primed and waiting for me to make some comment.

I thought that I would just chill and try to wait her out. I figured that sooner or later she would work this attitude out of her system. Well hind sight is 20/20 for sure. About three months later I realized that I had fucked up royally.

That evening, Leanne was once again late coming home after work. It was almost ten p.m. when she came through the door. I got my no-longer-unexpected cold glance and without a word she walked past me to the bedroom.

After a moment, I followed her and sat on the bed while she changed clothes. This was the latest she had ever stayed out and I was curious. I had started to become suspicious about her girls' night out evenings. Frankly I wanted to see what she was wearing under her dress. Thankfully, she wasn't wearing anything out of the norm.

I know what you may think, but I instinctively knew that the woman that I had been living with for the past three or four months was not the woman that I had married and had lived with for all these years.

I was beginning to smell a rat and I was not happy at all. "Leanne, when are you going to stop being mad at me? I'm beginning to wonder what this is all about. Is this how you want to live our lives together?"

Leanne paused, turned half way towards me and cocked her head. "Don't you put your sanctimonious crap on me asshole. I don't have to take any of your shit so just back off or just pound sand. I'm not the problem here in this joke of a marriage."

She just stood there with an uncaring face. She didn't even appear to be angry. This just tore it for me. It took me a solid minute but I finally got control of my emotions enough to say those four words that have spelled the end so often between a husband and wife.

"We need to talk. "After you finish here, I'll be waiting in the kitchen. I can't take this any more, so if you care at all what happens to us, you will meet me there."

I was sitting at the table when she walked in and took a chair across from me. We sat for several moments and finally she sighed. "You wanted to talk, so talk. I'm not going to sit here all night. I'm tired and I have to work tomorrow."

I took a deep breath and I started. "Please let me just get this out. I don't want to argue anymore and I would appreciate you not interrupting me until I've finished."

"I just don't seem to know you anymore. You're only with me every now and then. You don't kiss me like you did before. Is there a broken heart waiting for me somewhere out there? The few times I've held you lately, you seem distant. It makes me wonder, do you pretend that I'm someone else you're longing for?

"There's a far-away look in your eye. My heart cries that I'm losing you. All I want is for you to hold me close and put my heart at ease. Whisper I love you once again. Just three words can make my heart believe. I just need to know if this is the beginning of the end for us."

With those words, I had poured out my heart. I just stopped talking as I had nothing left to say and nothing left to give. As I was talking, I could see her beginning to listen to me but as the look on her face changed, I could see that I wasn't getting the result I had hoped and prayed for.

Sadness. There was no anger. There was no look of love or compassion. She pushed back her chair, stood there momentarily and then she took her purse, grabbed her car keys and walked out the door. She had never uttered a single syllable.

I sat there for over an hour. "Was this it? Is this all that's left?" I just couldn't keep a coherent train of thought. Finally, I locked up the house and went to bed. I was so emotionally drained that surprisingly I had no problem sleeping until my alarm sounded the next morning.

There was no sign that Leanne had ever returned during the night. Running on automatic, I showered, dressed and went to work. Leanne never called me that day and both calls I made to her cell phone went directly to voice mail. I wanted to talk with her and not leave a damn message so I just disconnected instead.

Somehow I managed to get through the day at work. My personal trip to hell began that evening, as I sat on our bed and stared blankly at the open doors of the empty closet where my wife's clothes used to hang. Occasionally my gaze would drift to the open and empty drawers of her dresser.

I intuitively knew that I would find our bathroom empty of all her things that she had kept there. "She's gone!" There was no doubt in my mind. My wife had bailed and I knew that this wasn't some kind of stunt to fuck with my mind.

Somehow over the next three weeks, I stumbled through work. I'm sure that my boss was aware that I was struggling. I eventually informed him that my wife had left me. He didn't seem surprised. I guess over the years he had seen it before.

Finally I decided to take a week off from work. That Monday found me outside the office where Leanne worked. I was determined to confront her and I was not afraid to make a scene if necessary.

As I walked through the door, I could tell that everyone there recognized me immediately. Looking around at their faces, I realized that they were all friends of Leanne. To me they were just acquaintances.

I looked towards Leanne's desk and there was a woman sitting there that I had never seen before. Puzzled, I then looked around for Carol and June. They were not anywhere to be seen. I just stood there with my arms hanging loosely by my side. Everyone could see the lost look on my face.

Finally a woman whom I remembered as Evelyn approached me. "Monte can I help you?"

"I'm looking for Leanne!" As I said this I kept glancing wildly around the room looking for my wife.

"Oh my, you don't know!" With those words, Evelyn took my hand and led me into a small office off to the side. I quietly followed her and I'm sure that I looked completely lost and confused.

She sat me down and had someone run for a glass of water. Then Evelyn shut the door and sat across from me. "Monte, Leanne is not here. She doesn't work here anymore. We are not sure what happened, but she just stopped coming to work about three weeks ago."

I realized that was the day after she walked out on me. I never expected this. I was sure that she was still here. That heavy feeling in my heart just doubled in weight. She was not just gone from our home; she was gone from my life.

"Maybe Carol or June can tell me where she is." I was desperate and grasping at straws. My life was crumbling and I couldn't seem to do a thing to stop it from happening.

"They are gone also." She grimaced and continued, "Let me tell you what I have heard. Every since Leanne came to work here, she has been close friends with those two. I can tell you that on more than one occasion, I overheard them bashing you."

"They would tell Leanne that you were a controlling bastard who really didn't want her to have any fun. After a while I could hear Leanne agreeing with all the things that they told her. Leanne began to change after that. She began to associate only with Carol and June."

As Evelyn talked, I began to get a picture of the train wreck of my life. It seems that the deadly duo had both come from marriages where their husbands had dumped them for a younger woman. Once you got to know them, anyone could see that they were very bitter and had become very distrusting of any man.

It seems that they had become jealous of Leanne and over time had done their best to destroy our relationship. They poisoned her with their own bitterness and she just sucked it up as gospel.

The only good news was that even though the two she-devils tried to get Leanne to cheat on me, as far as anyone knew, they had not succeeded. The bad news was that she was gone and no one had a clue where.

That afternoon, I got a letter of notification from my bank. It seems that there had been an electronic withdrawal from our account. That's right, exactly one half of all our monies were gone. She didn't even have to come into the bank. It was all done over the internet.

All this time I had been putting off calling and talking to our daughter. Finally I placed the call. I started to try to tell Sam that her mom had left me, but she interrupted before I could really say much.

"Dad, Mom already called me. How could you do that to my mother?" Her voice was angry and shrill. "I can't believe that my own father could be so cruel. I am really angry and disappointed in you. Maybe someday I can get over your despicable actions, but right now I can't even stand to hear your voice."

With those words ringing in my ears, she slammed down the receiver and hung up on me. This was just too much. Now both the women in my life had shit on me. I would have laid down my life in their defense. I loved them both with my entire heart and soul. I didn't deserve any of that shit. I was not the bad guy here. I was the victim!

I waited a minute to calm down some and then dialed Sam's number again. When she answered the phone, I immediately cut her off and really laid into her.

"This is how you treat me? I'm your father and I've never done anything ever to be treated this way by you. I didn't leave your mother. She left me and she did it without a word. I had just finished begging her for her love. You know what she did? She never uttered a single syllable. She simply got up from the kitchen table and walked out of my life forever. I don't even know where she is or how to contact her."

I paused for a breath and then continued. "I will continue to pay for your college education because I gave my word. But from this point on, I don't want to talk to you, see you, or hear from you. You and your mother have finally and irrevocably done too much for me to ever forgive!"

I didn't bother to say goodbye. I simply hung up the phone. Then I broke down. While all that had been going on, I had managed to hold up more or less, but that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I sobbed and cried until my tear ducts went dry and then as crazy as it sounds, I cried some more.

My phone had kept ringing but I completely ignored it. I no longer cared to answer it. My life as I had known it was over. I had no wife and no daughter. I had no friends. All I had was an empty house and a job.

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