Chapter 4: Hanging Around
I had my shower, shaved, and dressed in some clean clothes from my bag. I found I was in a great mood. Great sex first thing in the morning will do that to you, although I didn't have a lot of experience fall back on. I looked out the bedroom window and saw sunlight just now peeking from behind a nearby hill. The rain had gone. I didn't doubt it would be cool, but the sun matched my mood.
I wandered into the kitchen to find my three children at the kitchen table, each with a bowl of cereal in front of them.
"Hi Daddy," little Sandy said with her usual brilliant smile. I gave her a good morning kiss.
I got "Hi" from the other two as well.
Sandy was having Cheerios. Nothing unusual there. She'd been snacking on them since she was two. Billy had some version of little shredded wheat things that looked like they had sugar on them. Not the best start for the day, but I wasn't about to comment. Debbie had good old fashioned corn flakes. Good for you, girl.
I began to make some coffee, assuming that Diane still drank a cup in the morning. There was a coffee maker on the counter and it didn't take me long to find the ceramic jar where she kept the coffee. I set about making a pot. As I went to the cupboard to find the mugs, I felt two arms wrap around me and give me a nice, warm hug.
I turned in Diane's arms and hugged her back, kissing her briefly on the lips. The look in her eyes was one that said this morning meant as much to her as it did to me.
"Dad, are you going to stay now?" Debbie asked, obviously reading the body language of her parents.
"That depends on your mother," I answered. "I have to start looking for a job and finding a place where I can do my physical therapy."
"Your father is welcome to stay here as long as he wants," Diane said to the children.
"Yeah!" was Sandy's response. I saw Billy's head nodding as he had a mouthful of cereal at the time. I was sure that Debbie was in agreement, so I felt I could answer the question.
"I'll be here for a bit, I guess. I can't say what might happen in the future. But it will be good to be with you all for a while."
"Why can't you stay forever, Daddy?" Sandy asked, looking to be on the verge of tears.
"Your mommy and I don't live together any more, Sandy. But I'm going to try and find a job not so far away and then I can see you more often."
"But I want you to live here, Daddy!" she said, banging her spoon on the table.
I was about to answer when Diane intervened.
"It's all right, Sandy. Your daddy is going to be seeing you tomorrow and the next day too. He won't be far away. I promise."
That seemed to settle her and I felt grateful to Diane for handling the situation. But it wasn't settled, really. How long I would stay wasn't certain and Diane wasn't suggesting it was reconciliation as much as I might wish she were. We were just forestalling the ultimate day of departure.
I got a hug and kiss from Debbie and a hug from Billy and they were off to school. Sandy was pulling on her winter coat and getting ready to go to playschool with her mother. I kissed the little cutie bye-bye and told her I'd be here when she got home. That got me a big smile. It also got me a kindly look from Diane.
While she was gone, I pulled out the phone book and looked up community recreation centers. I had no intention of joining some fitness outfit that would want a year's membership in advance. The community run ones usually had a day-to-day charge for visitors and that's what I was looking for. My map and the phone book located one not far from Diane's house and I called them. Sure enough, they would be happy to have me as a day member, a ten-day member, a monthly, quarterly or yearly member. That's what I was looking for.
Diane's house was located in an area south of the city near a little town called Taylorsville. Now that it was daylight, I could see that there was quite a bit of open land between the houses and it indicated the lot sizes were generous. Her house was fairly new and appeared to be in very good condition. I wondered if she was renting or had purchased it.
Diane had completely surprised me with her comment about my staying for a while. What brought that on? Was it just the great sex this morning? Okay, I could live with that. But what if it was something else? What if she was wondering if we might get back together now that I was no longer the big man I used to be? I wasn't so sure about that. Our split hadn't been acrimonious, but I was very upset when it happened and I didn't have good memories of leaving my home and family. That would be harder to put into the past.
I was having my second and final cup of coffee in the living room while I thought about the situation. Diane arrived home before I could really come to any conclusion.
"Let me get my coffee and we can have a talk," she said as she put her coat into the closet and breezed into the kitchen. She seemed to have quite a bit of spring in her step this morning.
Normally the "have a talk" opening usually brings shivers of fear to men. For whatever reason, it didn't provoke that response in me.
She was back in less than two minutes and sat beside me on the sofa.
"I guess I should apologize to you, Doug. I didn't mean to blindside you like that this morning. If you aren't comfortable with staying, then now's the time to say so."
"I'm fine with it," I answered truthfully. "But ... I guess I'm wondering what I should read into it?"
"You mean ... like us getting back together again?"
"I can't answer the question because I don't know. I do know you're a different man than you were a couple of years ago. Not just the weight loss, but your attitude, your dress, your voice. I heard you whistling in the shower this morning. Do you know how long it's been since I've heard you whistle? As bad as that accident was, it has changed you for the better. I think I like who you are now. But ... and it's a big but ... we're going to have to discover each other all over again. I'm a different woman than the person you married. I have a business and a career."
"So, are you saying you'd like me to stay ... at least for a little while?"
"Yes. I'd like you to stay and I'd like you in my bed ... our bed ... each night you are here."
"Then I'll stay. I'd be a fool not to. I want to rebuild what we had in the beginning. Not what it turned out to be, but what it might have been. I think we have a chance if we both want that to happen."
"I hope you're right, Doug. I really do. But ... I'll be the first to tell you if I don't think it's going to work. Is that clear?"
"Yes," I smiled. "So now, I've got to get to work and find a job. In the meantime, I want to share the costs here. What do you pay in rent or mortgage?"
"It's rented, but I'd like to buy this house if possible. It's perfect for us and if I finished the basement, there'd be room for another bedroom, bathroom and a playroom for the children."
"How much do they want for it?"
"One-forty-two was the asking when I moved in. But houses aren't selling these days, so I'm sure I could get it for less."
"I could help if you like."
"What do you mean?"
"I have some money from my share of the sale of our house in Minneapolis. It should be enough for a down payment. Interest rates are low and I'm sure we could easily finance the balance without dragging it out over twenty-five years."
"You'd do that?"
"Yes. The market's at a low ebb right now. Investment in property, especially one as nice as this is, is always a good deal. In the end, it won't disturb your monthly payments from me and so it wouldn't be an extra expense. Why don't we spend a few minutes on the internet and see the price range in this area?"
"Okay. I'm not interested in moving, but it would give us an idea of what houses are selling for."
"Who owns the home today?"
"Uhhm ... the bank, I guess."
"Ahhhh. So if we were to make a proposal to the bank, it would be a short sale. We might be able to really save some money if we were lucky. Why don't you make an appointment with the bank and we'll see just what the situation is."
"You're moving awfully quickly, aren't you?" Diane said, looking a bit worried.
"Here's the thing. I'm contributing to the upkeep of this house now. If you owned it, I would be contributing to its potential improvement. When the market turns around, and sooner or later it will turn, you will get the benefit of that increase, whether I'm involved or not. Nothing would change for me, but it certainly would for you."
She still looked a little dubious, but a meeting with the banker would help confirm my comments.
"Okay, then. I'll see if I can get an appointment."
"Make sure you tell them you might be interested in buying the property. That will help pave the way."
"Okay, I'll call them this morning. In the meantime, I've got a couple of things to attend to for my business. What are you going to do?"
"I'm heading for the Mt. Washington Community Center and their exercise facility. I'm going to see if it meets my needs and maybe work out there for an hour if it does."
"You're not kidding around about this fitness thing, are you?"
"Nope. I've missed three days as it is, so I need to get back into the routine."
"What about your meals?"
"Not a problem. I've had some cereal already and I'll get a bagel after I've exercised, then lunch or something early afternoon, then supper and a late snack. Is that going to be a problem for you?"
"No, not by the sound of it. I'll just have to remember to make your portions the right size, that's all. I hate to waste food."
"I'm with you on that, but the miracle of the modern age, the microwave stands ready to save us all," I chuckled.
As we rose, she came to me, wrapping her arms around me.
"You are so pleasantly different, Doug. I'm looking forward to seeing just how we make out dating."
"Dating? I guess that's what it is, but with some big differences. I don't recall us sleeping in the same bed when we were dating."