The Hamilton High late December homecoming game and dance, and the related after event parties, was always the big event of the upcoming 1new year, every year, kind of a pre-prom I guess one might say. I was taking Stephanie Ward, my girlfriend of the past year. We were both seniors and were even talking about getting engaged and hitched after high school. The plan was for us to get engaged, me join the army and learn a trade, and for her to go to nursing school. And, upon my return, we'd get married. That was the plan; it was the plan no longer.
"Yes, Darla, he's taking me. It'll be boring, but it's better than nothing; not much better, but better," I heard her say. Darla Willis was Steph's best friend.
"Question Steph, if you think he's such a loser why do you stay with him. You could find a better class of guy if you wanted to?" said Darla. I heard my soon to be ex-girlfriend snicker.
"Take a closer look girlfriend, I'm overweight, My brown hair is always frowsy looking, I'm too damn tall, and my personality isn't the most engaging if you get my drift. What decent looking guy is going to want to have me around? I might be able to snare one of the nerds are us crowd; they're desperate to a man, but even Willard is better than them. No, I'm stuck with the guy, no doubt about it.," she said.
"All of the things you just downed yourself for are fixable—all of them—Steph, except being tall; and I see that as an advantage not a drawback. Willard on the other hand is not fixable. He's short, at best a C student, utterly without talent as a boy animal, and possessed of personality roughly analogous to watching the fishing channel. You really need to boost your standards, girl, really," said Darla. Stephanie did not catch the slight and very strange look in her girlfriend's eyes.
I heard my soon to be ex sigh. "Yeah, I guess," she said. "But it's too late to start the campaign now. Homecoming is this weekend."
I was stunned. Now I wondered why she'd agreed to be my woman, why she was making plans to marry me. Of course, having heard what I'd just heard, the answer was simple enough I supposed: she was of the opinion that she had to settle for me. Clearly her friend Darla was getting her to rethink her decision. I planned to second Darla.
I coughed to gain their attention. "Hi Darla, how's it going? Never mind Homecoming, Steph, I wouldn't want you to be seen with a short, romantically untalented, less than interesting, C student. You need to do what Darla is suggesting and raise your standards. Have a nice day, both of you," I said. Now it was the two of them that were stunned. I turned and walked off.
"Shit!" I heard her say to my back. "Will, stop. We need to talk. You can't just dump me four days before Homecoming." She was saying all of this as she tried to keep up with me. I wasn't running, but I was walking fast. I stopped and turned to her.
"After what you just said about me to Darla! A girl by the way who will spread it all over the school before lunch is over? I mean you expect me to take you to Homecoming after all of that!" I said. She sighed; she seemed to be doing a lot of that.
"Yes. You have to. I've spent; well, my dad's spent, a ton of money on my dress, I've got appointments at the hairdressers and the manicurist; you can't just dump on me and run off with your tail between your legs because I hurt your feelings! You have an obligation," she said. I couldn't believe her gall or her reasoning. But, at the same time I was intrigued.
I noticed we were standing in front of the girls' bathroom: how fucking appropriate, I thought. "An obligation? When you clearly hold me in contempt? How do you figure I have an obligation?" I said.
"Okay, I was out of line, saying those things to Darla. I apologize, okay. And, I will make sure she doesn't repeat what all I said. Yes, I know I dented your ego, and I'm sorry for that. But, frankly Willard, you are too short and you are boring and you are not all that bright; but, all that said, I'm no prize either. We need each other. You have to take me to Homecoming. I'd just die if you humiliated me like that, Will. Please, dump me afterwards if you still want to, but you have to take me," she said. I stared at her. I stood there switching my weight from one foot to the other. I stopped.
"Okay, I'll take you. But don't expect a lot of enthusiasm on my part. You hurt me pretty good with all you said. As for after Saturday, you can consider us history. You can start hunting for my replacement after that. Got it?" I said. She nodded.
"I'll make it worth your while," she said. "No more put downs, I promise. Just take me and be polite. Okay?"
"Yeah right," I said. I had acquiesced at least partly because my dad had also spent a ton of money. I had a new suit, a forty dollar corsage already paid for, and a limo also already paid for. By honoring my "obligation" I'd at least get the use out of them, and who knew, maybe I'd find me a new woman; I'd sure as hell be scouting the floor for one. I was not the loser she and her friend Darla apparently thought me.
Yes, I was short at five-five. Yes, I was an inexperienced lover, but I'd could learn. And, I was most definitely not a fucking C student, not really; I got C's and B's that was true, but I could have gotten A's, just not while working the thirty hours plus a week, every week, all nights and weekends, that I did. Why work so hard? I had been saving up for our wedding, mine and Stephanie's. My family was not actually rot gut poor, but rich we definitely were not: lower middle class pretty much described us.
Homecoming was being held in our school gym. It wasn't crowded yet. Steph and I were not the first ones there but we were early. We meandered our way over to the already set up refreshment table. I ladled out a plastic glass of punch for her. She took a sip as I was ladling out one for myself.
"Jesus, Will, somebody's already spiked this stuff," she said. "Rum, I think."
"I tried it. You're right," I said. "And it is Rum. I'm bettin' one-fifty-one."
"This is going to be one hell of a party, boyfriend," she said.
"Boyfriend?" I repeated.
"Your ego still in the shitter from what I said the other day?" she said.
"Yeah, right along with my heart, girlfriend," I said.
"Will, I am really sorry for my stupid remarks. My head had to be a yard up my ass for sure. Forgive me?" she said. I stared at her for a long moment.
"What the hell. Okay, but no more of that stuff. Okay?" I said. Okay, I was hard up; so shoot me.
"You got it," she said.
People began arriving. The professional DJ hired for the evening got things started. Soon the gym was filled with laughing and clowning students doin' the boogie and generally getting down.
Steph and I danced the first three numbers, one of which was slow. She gave me the high sign and I headed for refills at the punch bowl. Yeah we knew what was what, and we figured so what.
Then something happened that surprised me, and I think Stephanie more than me: different boys began asking her to dance. She did look good from my perspective; she'd outdone herself at the beauty parlor. But, nobody had ever cut my time with her before, but now they were—they meaning plural. Before the night was over I'd gotten but one more dance with her; and, spent less than twenty minutes with her total socializing when we—she—wasn't dancing.
I should note that I did get two dances myself apart from my four with Steph. Both of those were with Darla Willis, go figure. It might be useful to note something about Darla here. Darla was a cheerleader with a cheerleader's body and ponytail and C-cup breasts and bubble butt and bubbly personality and parents with money; put another way, utterly out of my league. So why did 'she' ask me to dance? I had my suspicions, but she did, and I did—dance with her that is.
Then the night was over, and something happened that frosted me pretty good. Stephanie came up to me, looking kinda sheepish, and asked if it would be all right for Sammy Gilchrist, El Jocko Mangusto Supremo, to take her home. "I know you're probably disappointed, Will, if you say no I'll just tell him I'm going home with you. But..."
It was surreal. After all her efforts to make up with me. After my reprogramming my head to forget about all she'd said about me to Darla that day. After all of my planning to get with her after the dance and surrender my cherry to her; she wanted to go home with Sammy Gilchrist. Well fuck! I gave her my you've got to be shittin' me look.
"Whatever, Stephanie, go ahead. Go, make his day, I mean night," I said. She gave me a look, touched my cheek, and strode off to join her new boyfriend.
The following Monday she plopped down across from me in the cafeteria. "Hi Will, we got a party to go to Saturday night at Andrea's; I just got the word. It's her birthday," she said. I looked at her, stood, picked up my platter, and walked off. I think she was actually surprised. I was dumping my trash when she caught up behind me.
"Will? Is something wrong?" she said. I couldn't believe her. I actually thought it was funny. I laughed, causing any number of other folks to stare at us. I didn't answer her; I just walked off leaving her there. But that wasn't the end of it, oh no, that would have been too much to ask.
I was in the caf early the following morning when she plopped down across from me much as Stephanie had the day before. She looked good; well, she always did.
"Good morning, Darla. You're up early too, I see."
"Yes, I need to do a little prepping for a quiz in Michelson's class," she said. I nodded and went back to nibbling on my bran muffin.
"You not talking to Steph?" she said. I gave her a look that was meant to say what-business-is-it-of yours. She ignored it.
"Willard?" she said.
"Why do you care, if I may ask?" I said.
"She's my friend and she's hurt because of your apparent attitude," said Darla.
"Hmm, My attitude? You do know she dumped me at Homecoming, right?" I said. "Doesn't leave me much room to maneuver does it?"
"She didn't dump you. She just..."
"Yeah just went home with another guy. She fucking dumped me, Darla, and this time there is no forgiveness for what she did!
"Let me lay it out for you, Darla. My dad spent $300 bucks for my night with Stephanie—three hundred we could barely afford by the way. And, I'd made plans for after the dance too. Plans that included making out with Stephanie and saying numerous sweet nothings in her ear in hopes of getting into her pants. But, then, she comes up to me, all sweet and everything, and tells me she wants to dump me to go out with Sammy. That after ignoring me on the dance floor half the night—also mostly with him by the way. And now, you show up here telling me she's upset with me!"
"You danced with other people too," said Darla.
"No, Darla, I danced with you, twice, probably at her request so she could say that I danced with others too. I'm not an idiot, Darla. And, I am no longer associated in any fashion whatsoever with her. Tell her that, so I can get on with my life. Okay?"
"Okay, if that's the way you want it," she said. "But, I think you are making a big mistake."
"I'll tell you what, Darla. Answer me one question honestly. If the answer is the right one, I'll make one more try with my likely soon to be ex-girlfriend Stephanie Ward," I said.
"Okay?" she said.
"Did she or did she not ask you to dance with me to keep me happy?" I said. She looked away. I smiled, but mine was a sardonic smile.
"Like I said, Darla. Oh, and do give my ex-girlfriend my best. Okay?" I walked off. Nor in the long run was that the end of things.
I got looks from Stephanie, and from Darla too for that matter, during those final months of our common high school experience, but neither tried to actually engage me in conversation. I wasn't sure how I felt about that. But, on graduation day that changed. Stephanie approached me.
We were still in our grad suits, but getting ready to head out to the inevitable after-grad parties planned for that night and then to the college or workplace that beckoned our young an optimistic persons.
I was just coming out of the bathroom and heading for my dad's car—I'd borrowed it—with the intention of going to Carla Kidd's house for the party she was having. Carla was a nerd and a friend of mine, and I'd gotten her invite first and committed myself to going.
"Congratulations Willard. I guess you'll be heading off to state now," she said. I looked her up and down. The intensity of my ire had faded to some extent over the past five months. I decided to be pleasant.
"Hello, Stephanie. Congratulations to you too," I said.
"Got a minute?' she said.
"I really don't Stephanie. I have a party to go to," I said. "I still have to go home and get ready."
"Just a minute or two, Will, for old time's sake," she said. I shrugged.
"Okay. Whatcha got?" I said.
"Well, I've got a proposition for you," she said. I could feel my eyes narrowing.
"I'd like to invite myself to be your date at the party," she said. I actually snickered.
"After what you did to me at Homecoming!" I said. "I don't think so. I'm not into compounding my humiliation."
"That was rotten of me wasn't it. But, if you'd have a little mercy on this girl, I'd guarantee that it would not happen again—ever—and I promise to more than make it up to you," she said.
"Yes it was rotten of you," I said. "I'm still trying to get over it if you wanna know." She looked down.
"Will, I am very ashamed for doing that to you. Maybe it was the punch. I don't know. Or, Sam was a jock—one who'd never given me so much as a sidelong glance before—and he was offering me a ride in his Corvette and to be his date for the parties. I was overwhelmed. I was a stinker, Will; I know it; and I want to make it up to you," she said.
Well, I didn't have a date for the party, and I would feel a lot better having one, so you guessed it; I buckled, knuckled under, gave in, surrendered to my hormones. "Okay, I guess. I'll run you home to get ready, and then I'll pick you up at 6:30. Okay?"
"Sure bet, Will. Let's go," she said.
I was very leery about dating this particular girl, but then, what could be the harm, or the worst she could do to me? Run off again? Hell, I half expected her too. But, I reasoned, maybe it would be all right.
I did pick her up and we did make it to the party. After the party we did really good, at two lover's point. She pulled my pants down and did an oral number on my dick that on a scale of one to ten was definitely an eleven. I did wonder where, and who with, that she'd picked up that particular skill.
She didn't let me fuck her, claimed it was her time of month. But, I did get to taste her nipples for the first time, and I became an instant titty man. We made out for three hours. It was the best love making ever! Well it was for me.
I dropped her at her parent's door. It was 3:00AM. We kissed goodnight.
"We good again, Will?" she said, just as she was about to step inside her house.
"Yeah, I guess," I said. "Yes." She smiled, touched my cheek, and went inside.
I guess I had a girlfriend again.
I still had a month to go before I headed off to college. I called her on the Monday after our makeup date, as I now thought of it. We made dates for the following Friday and Saturday nights. I was looking forward to hitting a homerun on both of them. Now, that I gotten to third base, I figured it was a done deal. Well, hope springs eternal.
Friday came slow, but it did come, and I picked her up at her parent's house and we went to the movies. We got a bite to eat at Johnny's Eatery afterwards, and I started to drive us out to the point.
"Where are you taking us, Will?" she said.
"To our secret place," I said, grinning from ear to ear. She was silent for a moment.
"Will, would you mind if I begged off tonight. I am so tired, and there's always tomorrow," she said. The disappointment I felt must have been obvious even in the darkness. Or, maybe it was my silence that clued her.
"I'm sorry," she said. "But, I promise. I will make it up to you. Okay?" she said.
What could I say. "Sure, okay. Tomorrow then, okay?" I said. She smiled, but it was not an engaging smile. It was more like a not-engaging smile. But, what could I do. Well, it turned out that there would be nothing that I could do.
I went to pick her up the next evening at 6:30, the agreed upon time. Her mom met me at the door.
"Will?" said Mrs. Ward.
"Here to pick her up," I said.
"Will, she left with Sammy not half an hour ago. Did she know you'd be coming by?"
"I guess not," I said. I turned and walked off and out of her life, Stephanie's.
The next morning I got a call; mom answered it. It was Stephanie. "Honey, it's Stephanie," said my mom.
"I took the call on the line in the hall. I didn't say hello and I didn't wait for her to say anything. "Don't call here anymore Stephanie. We're done," and I hung up." I waited by the phone to see if she'd ignore my dictum. She didn't. I went back to my room and finished an email I was writing to state, where I'd be taking my first classes in three weeks.
I was sitting in a booth at our local IHOP two days later when Tanto showed up. "Hello, Darla, You here again for the same reason as last time? If so take a hike," I said.
"No, she didn't ask me to talk to you. She did mention that you were probably pissed," she said.
"No, I'm just putting her behind me and moving on. She's just too hard on the old psyche. I don't need the aggravation. Give her my best when you see her, and please assure her that I do not want to communicate with her—ever again! Okay?" I said.
"Okay, okay," said Darla. "What about me?"
"What about you?" I said.
"Wanna date me. I mean I am way out of your league, but, I see you as someone who will be going somewhere, a winner; and, I want a winner to be my significant other. How about it," she said. I stared at her like she was from the Red Planet Mars. After all I'd heard her say those months before, all of a sudden I was a winner? Suspicious didn't even come close to covering it; still, I was intrigued.
"You putting me on, Darla? Because, if you are, I don't appreciate it," I said.
"No, just giving you the straight up truth," she said. I looked her up and down: gorgeous, personality plus, and, shorter than me. Damn few downsides for sure. I rubbed my chin, and gave her my hardest stare.
"Okay," I said. "I could get my head around that. Tomorrow's Saturday. Wanna go out to eat and maybe see a show or something?"
"Absolutely," she said.
"Okay then. One thing though, a question." She nodded for me to ask it.
"Won't this put a crimp in your relationship with Stephanie?"
"Don't know, don't care. She's got her jock, I guess. I've got you. He'll be pumping gas in a couple of years. You'll be wearing thousand dollar suits. I guess you'd say I'm gonna be a material girl," said Darla. I really wanted to know why she'd changed her mind so radically about my prospects. I decided to ask her.
"You know Darla, you have really surprised me here. I recall you didn't think so much of me as little as a few months ago. Why—how... ?"
I talked to my dad, who knows your dad. I knew you had a part time job, but I didn't know how hard you were working to make ends meet and to get yourself in a place where you could marry Stephanie. I knew right then, after my talk with my dad, that you were a winner. Hence, this come on," she said.
"A lot can happen in four years, four collegiate years. But, date you. Oh yeah," I said. "But, anymore than that—well—we'll just have to see."
"Fair enough," said Darla.
Darla and I were a mismatch from the gitgo. I knew it. She for sure knew it. And yet, that said, the long and the short of it was, at first, it worked out pretty much as she said it would, sort of.
I was a major success in school finishing my B.A. in three years and my doctorate in Math in two more. I'd been wooed and signed in my junior year by Tech-Tonics Labs, and went to work for them, at age twenty-three, as a systems analyst. Oh, and they paid for my schooling. So much for my being the loser C-student that Stephanie and Darla had once branded me.
Sammy on the other hand, mister handsome, mister rich parents, and mister he for whom my girlfriend had decided to trade me in for, came to state too, on a football scholarship; and, he quickly blew out a knee and went to work for his dad selling rugs. Well, his dad did own the store; actually, he owned three of them.
But I'm getting too far afield. Getting back to me and Darla. I got my homerun, finally, on our third date, and hit several more with her thereafter. The sex was good, at least for me, and I was in hog heaven. And shock of shocks, at least to me, we got engaged; and, we began making plans. Our marriage was slated to happen in two more months. But then, the inevitable happened.
"Hi, honey. Can I have a word with you," said Darla.
"Sure baby," I said. She looked down and handed me back her engagement ring.
"Honey, I've met someone else. I don't want to hurt you, but, well..." she started. My face dropped, my heart turned cold, and I was momentarily lost.
"Oh, okay. I guess I should be glad it didn't happen after we were married, huh?" I said. I wasn't smiling.
"Honey, I'm sorry. But, you're a first rate guy. You'll meet someone else." And then she was gone.
Did I say something about things being surreal? Well, I should have. But, at least Darla didn't pretend to be something she wasn't. I wished her well. And, and in some vague way, I felt relieved. She and I should never even have dated, so I guess I came out ahead in the long run anyway.
I'd only been on the job for eight months; but now it, the job, became my surrogate woman. It wasn't that I was down on myself when it came to my lack of success with women. Hell, I was smart enough to know that I hadn't had enough experience with the fluffy gender to make an evaluation like that. No, my problem was that I just didn't care to go through another emotional situation like the one I'd had with Stephanie. Add to that my unrealistic hope for a long term relationship with a woman way out of my league, Darla; well, and I needed a break from womankind. And I got it—for about a month.
"Mister Browne, call on line one," said Melanie Stafford, my Tech-Tonics supplied secretary.
"Thank you, Melanie," I said.
"Hello, SA division, Browne" I said.
"Hello, Will," said a very familiar voice. "Got time for lunch? My treat?"
"Stephanie? Lunch? Now?" I said. I had been caught completely off guard.
"Well, yes, I mean if you can spare the time," she said. I went silent for a long moment.
"Willard? Are you still there?" she said.
"Uh—yes. Uh—okay. I guess I have time," I said.
"Denny's in ten?"
"Yes, okay. In ten minutes," I said.
She actually beat me there, and Denny's was immediately next to our building. She'd likely called from there, I thought.
I spotted her immediately, and she did look good. She was at least thirty pounds lighter than my memory of her. Hair, makeup, clothes: all different than she'd ever shown in the past. I said so. "Hello, Steph, you look very good today," I said. She smiled.
"Thanks, big guy. You look good too, very professional," she said.
"Thank you for that. So—what's the occasion," I said.
"Kinda depends," she said.
"Depends?" I said.
"Yes, on what you want to do about what I'm going to be saying here," she said.
"Depends on me? On what you're going to be saying?" I said.
"Yes, exactly," she said. ""I want you to take me to dinner this Friday night. After that I want you to take me to two Lover's Point and make out with me. I've missed you, Will."
"Huh? Uh—I seem to recall having this conversation, or one like it, more than once in times gone by, Steph, and it didn't end well," I said.
"My bad. I thought I needed something else, and I too late discovered that what I really wanted I already had; but, I'd run him off." I nodded.
Too make a short story even shorter. I picked her up at 7:00PM. We dined. We went to two lovers point. She let me pull her panties off. She turned around and leaned over the back of the back seat and waited for me to poke her. And poke her I did. God she was an easy fuck. Real loose, but fresh. Not a tight pussy like Darla's by any means. But, I did manage to get us off. Me for sure, and I thought probably her too, but I didn't have the brass to ask.
After fucking her, we made out for a good hour: me finger fucking her most of the time. I loved having my finger up a woman's twat. It was a hell of a turn on. I'd wanted to bang her one more time, but she demurred. Told me I had to save some for the next time. I smiled and gave in to her wishes.
And then we were an item once more, one more time, I told myself. What could it hurt?
We became a serious item after our go 'round at two lover's point. After some six months I proposed—and yes I was a little nervous about doing so. But, a number of other guys were paying attention to her—and no, not her to them—and I didn't want to risk missing out on my life with her. At any rate she said yes. No that's not right. She squealed her yes! She was happy. I was happy. Christmas was three months off and we decided to get married on Christmas Day. And we did. And then I caught a break.
Getting married was kind of a shoestring thing economically at first, but like I said I caught a break. TechTonics promoted me. I went from thirty-five grand annual to fifty. I was now supervisor of analytics and records. Lots of responsibility, lots of hours, and lots of opportunities if I could just manage to not fuck up on the job. And, anyone, who knows anything about keeping records and monitoring company spending, will tell you it's real easy to fuck up. But, the good news was that I didn't, not on the job at any rate.
The problem I had was keeping Stephanie happy sexually. And that had not been a problem until I was promoted. Then it was: the very much longer hours and the pressures of the job made it so.
"Will, you've got to do something," she said." I hardly see you anymore. Yes it's a good job and all, but Jesus don't they know you have a wife. A wife by the way that wants to have a baby at some point. You know like normal people."
"I know honey, but if we can just make through the next year or two, I have a shot at a junior VP slot. My job description is tough to find bodies for and then, after I make VP, there will be fewer hours, though it would involve travel from time to time," I said, in my most begging tone.
"Yeah, like they're going to make a man with three or four years' experience a VP of any kind junior or not," she snorted.
"The fact is they will. I have what they need. Marlon Costley all but guaranteed it, just this week," I said.
"Costley? That blowhard? He's feeding you a line of shit, Willard Browne. And, I'll tell him so if I ever get the chance," she said. I just shook my head.
Still, my long hours didn't really get in the way as much as they might have. We still made love once or twice a week. And, each time we did, I made it my business to make the experience epochal. She reciprocated.
"Jesus, that was good, Will. Now, if we could do that three or four days in a row, I'd actually be satisfied,"
"Honey girl, the time will come. I promise you. We're still young. We are in the building phase of this little marriage we've got ourselves involved with."
"Yeah, okay, stud. Just make sure you're right," she said.
Things rolled along okay for another year plus, and I did get promoted to junior VP in charge of monitoring all divisions spending and records. And, yes, Stephanie was appropriately impressed.
The job turned out to be a busy one. That was something that I had misjudged big time. And as thrilled as Stephanie had seemed to be with the extra numbers in my paycheck, she let me know that I was an idiot for not recognizing that my hours in the new position would be even worse than before.
As VP, significant purchases or expenditures of any kind landed on my desk for analysis and signature. The overall responsibility for such things was actually my boss', Marlon Costley's, not mine; but he had delegated me to handle all but a few of the largest payouts.
At any rate the pay and benefit package was excellent. I went from fifty to seventy-five annual with a bevy of improved benefits along with the raise. The biggest benefit was the profit sharing. In good years the bonuses would be really outstanding. And then there was the downside.
I went from no travel to spending two days a week on the road. It was never long travel, and was usually just overnight. But with TechTonics having thirteen branches statewide I was putting a lot of miles on my company supplied car. And, on a further downside, sex between me and Stephanie went for once or twice a week to never more than once a week. Mainly because I was draggin' virtually every day when I got home. Talk about a catch-22. Still...
I had a new job with lots of money and perks and a wife who loved me and made me feel good. And things were good, and then they were fantastic.
"Sit down, Honey," she said. I sat.
"Whatcha got, Steph?" I said.
"Honey, we're pregnant!" she screamed. Then I screamed. Then we hugged. Then we fucked. And, then we slept. I did not deserve so much good in my life, but I had it.
That day was some fourteen years ago. That day was roughly nine months before Amy Lee Browne was born—six pound three ounces and healthy if anyone wants to know.
At the time I was a junior VP, now I was a senior VP. And, now I have a problem. My fantastic life may be a gnat's eyelash from ruination. You had to know it right? Stephanie Browne, nee Ward is cheating on me—with my boss.
"A lot of years, huh Steph," I said. I was sitting on the piano bench across from her. She was leaning back against the door jamb looking down. She looked up.
"And a lot more to come, Will. We're only forty. We've got a lot of years ahead of us still," she said.
"Yeah, maybe, just not together," I said. I had a lot more to say to my wife, my cheating wife. But, for some damn reason I just didn't have the energy. I should've been angry, crazy with rage actually. But, I was just tired. The events of the past twenty-four hours had left me frazzled.
"Nonsense. Yes, my big secret is out. I'm humiliated and sorry and guilty and filled with remorse for what I've done to us. But, none of it, Willard, rises to the level of having to get a divorce. You love her. She loves you. He was just the sperm donor. And frankly, I'm surprised you never caught on to it before this," she said.
"You don't see it as a problem for us, especially me?" I said. "Really?"
"Of course it's a problem. But that said, not an insoluble one. And yes, really," she said.
"My source tells me that now that the genie is out of the bottle, that the asshole sperm donor wants to be more in her life than has been the case up till now," I said.
"That true?" She looked nervous now.
"He may have said something like that," she said.
"No," I said. "Not ever. And no more uncle Marlon either. He's to be cut off completely."
"Will, it's true you're her real dad, and it's also true that he was only the sperm donor. But, he's been there, around, proud of her too. Just like us," she said. "I mean all of these years."
"It's not enough that you've cheated on me and humiliated me for the past fifteen years! You're going to take his side now too?" I said. "Well, this is the way it's going to be, Stephanie. Amy gets to choose: him or me. That's it. No negotiation."
"What! She's a child. You can't make her choose," said Stephanie.
"No negotiation. None!" I said.
"Wait a minute, Will. Look, how about a compromise. How about we just leave things as they are. Amy doesn't know about any of this and she doesn't ever have to know. He'll still just be an occasional visitor, still just good 'ole uncle Marlon," prayed Stephanie.
"If that's what she wants. But, if so I will be gone. And, I don't just mean from you. I'm divorcing you anyway. I mean from here, from this town, state—forever. It's either him or me, again, no negotiation."
"Willard Browne, you can't..."
"I'm going out. I'll be back tonight. We're going to tell her then," I said. I picked up my stuff and headed out.
A bar is a wonderful place for one who needs to calm down and get a grip on reality. Five hours at the Roundup had pretty much brought me as close to getting a grip as could be. I went home.
I knocked. Yes, it was my house, and it felt a little strange the knocking, but this was a statement that I wanted to make. So, I made it.
"Will, why did you knock? This is your house," said Stephanie, as she answered the door.
"Is it? Was maybe," I said. "But, no more," Her look said it all—pure terror.
But then my look, seconds later, was something else: maybe extreme anger—no—hatred. "What's fuckwad doing here," I said.
"Will, we need to talk," said Marlon Costley.
"No we don't," I said. "Oh, and for the record my hatred for you will never die.
"Where's Amy, Stephanie?" I said.
"I sent her to grandma's, Will. Before we tell her, if we do; you need to talk to Marlon and me. I insist," she said.
"You fucking insist? You fucking insist! Whatever gave you the idea, that under the circumstances, that I'd give a rats ass about what you insist Stephanie my dear, faithful, loving, angelic wife. Who the fuck?" I said. I leapt for the big guy who was now standing beside her and landed three punches squarely on his face. Then he landed two on mine. That was the end of the conversation—well—with them.
The two of them sat in the waiting room waiting for word from the doctor.
"You hit him too hard, Marlon. Way too hard. You outweigh the guy by a hundred pounds; he had no chance," said Stephanie.
"Steph hit me half a dozen times before I retaliated," said Marlon.
"Three times, Marlon, not a half dozen; I was there. And yes he hit you with everything he had. I saw that too. But you could have held back a little something. He's hurt bad, Marlon, " said Stephanie. "What did the cops say to you just now?"
"Not much. Your statement pretty much put an end to their questions," he said.
"Missus Browne?" said the man in white with the stethoscope around his neck.
"Yes," she said, standing and going to the man.
"Your husband will be okay. He does have a concussion. Gonna keep him here for a day or so, just to be safe. You can go in and see him now if you wish," he said.
"Marlon, I'll be back in a few minutes. Maybe sooner if he has me thrown out," she said, half smiling.
"Mom! Uncle Marlon?" said the teenager striding in.
"Grandma Browne drove me. She'll be up in a minute; she's parking. Missus Williams next door saw the ambulance and called me on my cell," said Amy. Her mother nodded.
"Well, wait here. I'm going in to see your dad. I'll be back as soon as I can. Okay?" her daughter nodded.
Jesus my head hurt. I mean it really hurt. I thought that they gave pain meds to sufferers like me.
I saw her walk in and my mood darkened.
"You going to throw me out?" she said.
"What are you here for? You gonna finish what your boyfriend started?" I said. She ignored me.
"Whatever you think, Will, I love you. I would never do anything to hurt you. And, for what it's worth, Marlon got both barrels from me for what he did to you," she said.
"Which begs the question, what are you here for?" I repeated.
"To see that you're okay, of course.
"Look, Will, you've got to calm down and talk to me if not Marlon. And, you really need to talk to him too. Yes, he's an asshole, and so am I. Granted. Now, talk to us, the assholes. We all need to get on with things—with our lives—and yes Amy will figure in the mix with all of us. For God's sake, Will, lighten up so we can get some things understood if not actually all problems solved," she said.
"Against my better judgment, Stephanie Ward, or should I say Costley, I will talk to the man, and to you. But it's a done deal that I will never forgive you. Fucking never!" I all but screamed.
"Costley! He's not my husband you are. Get that. He will never be my husband. Never. Why? Because I don't love him. His cock, yes, but his cock has no personality. It's just a very nice dildo. I wish I could get you to understand that. We women always have a lot of trouble making you men understand where we're coming from. Cocks are important to us—for two hours a week, mister Browne! The other hundred and sixty-six hours they aren't."
I could see she was frustrated. Problem was the hurt, the unimaginable hurt she'd put on me was not even vaguely understood by her. I decided to say so now.
"So, what if I did make an effort to understand where you, and women generally, are coming from. What if I did? When will it be, do you think, that you will begin to understand the depth of hurt that you've done to me!" I said.
"As to that, Will, I'm already beginning to, and it scares me," she said. "Changing the subject. Amy's here, and your mom. I know they're wanting to see you. I'll send them in. You and I will talk some more tomorrow, or whenever they release you. Your choice. Okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, okay," I said. "Wait." She stopped and turned toward me. "Send Costley in if they'll let him. I wanna talk to him." She looked dubious.
"Don't worry, I'm in no condition to attack him." I wasn't smiling. She nodded, but it was a tentative nod.
It was no more than two minutes later when his hulking form darkened my door. I looked at him: six-foot-six, two-hundred and sixty pounds: he filled the damn door. He came a few feet closer to me, but not too close. I smiled at that.
"What? Afraid of me, asshole?" I said. I actually did smile then.
"Look, Will, if you have something to say, I'll listen; but, if all you're going to do is call me names, I'm going to be leaving. Which is it?"
"Have a seat," I said, nodding toward the chair a couple of feet from my bed.