I just knew he was going to love this. Amazon.com had it and it had just arrived in the mail, a genuine Swiss Army knife.
While we were having dinner with my parents and my sister the week before, Rob had been talking to Dad about hunting and camping and mentioned that when he used to camp out with his dad, he used his for everything. He lost it when he was twelve or thirteen and never got around to replacing it. My dad recollected that when he was a kid, owning a genuine Swiss Army knife was about the coolest thing in the world. I love buying really fun gifts for people because I get as much of a kick out of it as they do. I figured Rob would flip over it.
He was supposed to be out of town on business for a couple of days so I let myself into his apartment, planning to leave the box prominently displayed on his coffee table. The moment I was in the door, I heard the unmistakable sounds of people in the throes of passionate sex. I suppose I should have done the decent thing and just left but my curiosity was rising as fast as my anger and I had to see for myself who was replacing me. I strode down the hallway to his bedroom and stood in the doorway. Rob and I had made love often enough that the grunts and cliché terms of endearment coming out of his mouth were all too familiar to me. There he was on his knees behind this woman's ass, plowing her like a cornfield. They hadn't heard me come in.
"You make sure you get your money's worth, cowboy!"
When they turned their shocked faces to me, I saw the object of his lust was my sister. I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised since she'd started coming on to him the minute we walked into my parent's house. It had always been the case that if I had it, she wanted it. Well, as far as I was concerned, he was now hers to keep.
"Oh, fuck!" was all Rob could manage to get out of his mouth. How articulate. My sister just looked away, in shame I hoped.
"So appropriate!" I spat out. "Oh, and I guess I won't be needing this any more." I threw his apartment key at him, bouncing it off the back of his head as he ducked.
I turned to leave but stopped and turned back, "As for you, dear sister, I guess my suspicions are confirmed; you really are a slut." Half way down the hall I could hear Rob coming after me.
"Janet, wait! Let me explain!"
"Explain this!" I hissed, giving him a one-finger salute. "Fuck you and the horse you just rode in on!"
I tossed the giftwrapped box into the glove compartment to get it out of my sight. All I could think of as I drove away was that I was so glad we'd decided to postpone announcing our engagement. How embarrassing would that have been?
Back in my apartment, I poured myself a glass of wine and leaned back on the couch trying to calm down. What was it about me that invited this kind of abuse? I'm a well-educated, reasonably attractive twenty-nine year old woman with a lot to offer to the right guy. Twice now I'd been in relationships that progressed far enough that we were seriously considering marriage and twice my husband-to-be had decided that some recreational 'strange' seemed like a good idea at the time; like what I didn't know wouldn't hurt me. How long was I going to continue playing these silly games?
My cell phone rang and the screen showed it was Rob calling. I turned off the phone. I was done with him and, who knows, maybe I was done with men. Too bad I'm not a lesbian; I'd probably have a much better shot at an honest relationship.
The only thing that worked for me when I got so bent out of shape was meditation. I stripped down to my underwear, brought up some Coyote Oldman on the sound system and assumed the position on my yoga mat. By the time I was through the breathing exercises to focus my mind, I could feel the tension melting away.
When I felt I had affected some distance and perspective, I began examining just where my life seemed to be going. I made darned good money in my job but it was beginning to look like a dead end. My relationships with men obviously left a lot to be desired and Rob was just the latest in a series of disappointments. The city, the apartment, so much about my life left me feeling empty. I needed to find a new direction, a new start.
I know that no matter how far you run, when you look into the mirror, there you are, but it didn't feel like running away; it felt like I just needed space to grow. The rest of the day was spent puttering around the place and pondering my options. The plan that began to take shape in my mind would no doubt be considered outrageously irresponsible by anyone with a lick of sense but the more I considered it the more it felt like the right thing. I owned some fairly lucrative stocks left to me by my late grandmother as well as healthy savings and checking accounts. I didn't carry any credit card debt. In fact everything I had was paid for including my car. The lease on my apartment would be up for renewal in a couple of weeks so I wouldn't loose my butt on that.
I pulled my old U.S. atlas out of a drawer, set the spine on the kitchen table and let go, allowing it to flop open randomly. Montana. OK, where in Montana? Raising my hand above the page with my finger pointing down, I closed my eyes and moved my hand in little circles as it descended to make contact. Freemont. It looked to be a tiny town on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. My new home!
"Get ready, Freemont, Montana, here I come!"
The next day I gave notice at the office. As I made arrangements to sell my furniture, donated bundles of clothing and other items to Goodwill and notified my landlady that I wouldn't be renewing my lease, my sense of excitement and adventure grew until I could hardly wait to get on the road. I told my mom and dad that I would be in touch after I got settled but I didn't say where I was going.
I refused to answer any of Rob's calls and consigned at least a dozen of his unread e-mails to the trash. He even showed up personally begging to talk but I told him through the door that he was no longer a part of my life and to get lost before I called the cops and reported him as a stalker.
Moving day arrived. I buckled my seatbelt, took a deep breath and headed west. Freemont, Montana was a long way from Bangor, Maine in more ways than one.
The drive alone was therapeutic. I stayed off the interstates, opting for secondary roads running through who knows how many towns and cities, stretching the drive from three or four days to ten. I took little side trips along the way to see points of interest. The weather was warm for May and there was no place I had to be so what was the hurry. Every new day I felt like a little more weight had been lifted off my shoulders and the world looked a little rosier.
When I finally drove into Freemont, population eleven hundred and change, I liked what I saw. I'm not sure what I expected but I wasn't disappointed. There were the ever-present grain elevators, a two-block long downtown business district and a highway truck stop complete with an honest-to-god, art-deco stainless steel-clad diner.
That looked like a good place to ask where I might find temporary quarters. Besides, I was hungry and I had a craving for a greasy cheeseburger and fries, a food genre in which I rarely indulged. The woman behind the counter was fiftyish and looked like she had a lot of miles on her. She had a nice smile and a friendly voice.
When I gave her my order, she asked, "Where you from, Honey? Can't place the accent."
"I'm from Maine. I didn't think I had an accent."
"Well, it's for sure you ain't from around here."
"Yeah, I'm just moving to town. In fact, I was wondering if you knew where I might stay while I looked for an apartment."
She seemed a little surprised. "I can't imagine what there is in Freemont that would attract a pretty young thing like you but welcome anyway. I can tell you there ain't any apartments in this town but there's a few houses for sale or rent. If you need a place for a few days, there's a B&B at the other end of town that has clean rooms and good food. If you want, I can give her a call and make sure she's got room for you."
Glancing at the nametag pinned to her apron, I said, "Thanks, Joy. I'd appreciate that. My name's Janet Whitman, by the way."
"Nice to meetcha, Janet. I'll give her a holler. Her name's Loretta. Your cheeseburger and fries will be ready in a few minutes. You want lemon with your iced tea?"
The burger and fries smelled heavenly and put to shame anything I'd ever eaten at a fast food joint. If there's such a thing as a gourmet cheeseburger, this was it. The only problem was I'd spent so many years dieting to keep my girlish figure that I couldn't eat more than half of it. Joy looked a little disappointed when I pushed the basket away.
"Didn't you like it, Honey?"
"I loved it, Joy. It's just a lot more than I can eat at one sitting."
She chuckled, "You better warn Loretta about that. She's used to feeding people who'd think this was just the appetizer. Say, Janet, since you're moving to town, I don't suppose you'd be lookin' for a job."
"Eventually, but it isn't high on my list of things to do. Why, do you need someone?"
"I surely do. I'm gettin' old and this place just runs me ragged. The last girl I hired wasn't here two weeks before she run off with a trucker."
"Well, I worked as a waitress at Chili's all through college. I could probably help you out but I don't think I'd want anything full-time. How many hours are you talking about?
"If I could get some help for breakfast it'd be a big help. I got a girl comes in for lunch and dinner. I can't afford to pay but five an hour plus tips."
.... There is more of this story ...