To any outside observer I might have seemed to be mumbling. But I never mumbled. I was reciting, as I had every day since I was six years old, the Code, the code my uncle had taught me, the chivalric code. A good man's duty was as follows: to protect the weak and defenseless; to despise monetary rewards; to avoid unfairness, meanness, and deceit; to speak the truth at all times; to honor one's vows; and to respect the honour of women.
The Code, the Chivalric Code, oh yes, I knew it by heart. I lived it by heart; it was the code, the order of life. I was David Hart. Placing the carnation inside the open coffin of my uncle, my heart was heavy.
"I will never disrespect the Code, my uncle, never!" I said aloud. The funeral over, I headed back into town. I would miss my mentor and surrogate father. My own biological dad had died, and my mother too when so very young, as I saw it. But, Melvin Hart, my father's younger brother, had done me right.
Melvin Hart, had died but two weeks gone, but not of natural causes. He had given his life to save a defenseless and homeless girl in an alley next to the apartment building that the two of us lived in.
The three thugs, all in their early twenties, that had assaulted the helpless fifteen year old runaway, were still in the prison hospital ward; they'd been there since the set-to with my uncle, again but two weeks gone now. They'd all soon be tried for rape, second degree murder, and a host of lesser charges. Uncle Mel would be satisfied I knew.
"Sorry to hear about your uncle Davie. Bad shit," said Carlos. Carlos was my favorite bartender at the Hammer. Mexican, honest, and good at his job: there wasn't anything else. I nodded.
"Yeah, the baddest," I said. "But, yuh know, I think he was glad to go out the way he did. He was an ex-marine you know. I think he knew he won the fight even though he was dying. He was gone when I got there, but those other guys; they didn't look too good. And, they're still in the hospital, and one of them may yet die from the beating he took. If he doesn't he'll be joining his friends in prison for a very long stretch."
"Well, good," said Carlos. "At least there's that."
"Yeah for sure," I said. "Going to a graduation the day after tomorrow at the university. A friend of mine is getting out. Gonna do the walk across the stage," I said. "He's a lot smarter than me; kinda envy him if the truth were to become known."
"You talkin' about Victor?" said Carlos.
"Yeah that's a true thing," I said.
"Yeah, well have fun," he said. "And come visit us tomorrow night, you and him, the drinks will be free." I smiled, threw a twenty down on the bar and went out.
"Congratulations, Vick," I said.
"Thanks bud," said Victor.
"Will you be staying in town again tonight?" I said. We'd gone out partying and dancing the night before at the Hammer. Frankly that he was able to negotiate the stage on more or less steady legs was something of a minor surprise.
"No, I'm already packed and on my way to California. Be well, David. I appreciate you being here today," he said, and then he was gone. Gone to a job in aerospace: Boeing as he'd told me.
Victor Grantham and I had been friends since we were six years old. Lived next door to each other. His parents, like my own were now gone. Father abandoned them when he was two. His mother was gone to cancer but a few months before his walk across the stage. I was his only close friend and the nearest thing to a relative he still had.
I was two hours from home. I decided to eat before rolling out. Pete's Pizza fit the bill. It was crowded, but the line was moving okay. I got my pizza and hot wings and chowed down. The table next to mine was occupied by a family of four: a mom, a dad, a young girl, and young lady who was obviously a graduate. She still wore the grad hat thing.
I watched them leave. She was pretty, the graduate. I had me a beer, finished up, paid, and headed out for home a hundred miles distant.
The rain was coming down in sheets; I reduced speed to a highway crawl. I made the turn around a risky curve: the drop-off was scary. The man was waving desperately. I slowed and pulled over ahead of them. The rain was really pounding down.
"God bless you, sir, for stopping. The car just crapped out on us I Barely made it to the side of the road," he said. He nodded toward the three women inside of the car. I recognized the one immediately; it was the grad from the pizzeria.
I smiled inwardly. Helping ladies in distress was my middle name. Oh yeah, I thought; uncle Mel would be proud.
I had him pop the hood. I saw it almost immediately: the alternator fan belt was just hanging there. Their battery was dead.
"You need a fan belt and a jump," I said. The nearest shop—and one I knew about—was back in town. This was going to be three hour job counting travel back and forth.
"But how can I..." he started.
The rain had slowed. I hadn't noticed that miss college grad had joined us by the open hood.
"If you guys want to pile into my ride, I'll take you back to town. We can get the belt, and I can install it and jump you," I said. "I mean unless you just want to stay here with the car. I can go and come back, but it'll be a couple of hours."
"You'd be willing to do that for us, for strangers?" he said.
"No problems. I ain't got no place to go," I said.
"Dad," she said. "I'll go back with our knight in shining armor. The rest of you can stay with the car for security." Her dad looked at her.
"Okay, I guess," he said. "I mean..." She was already walking over to my car and getting in.
"Okay," I said. "By the way, my name's David Hart."
"Randy Cross," he said. "Your passenger there is Jennifer Cross." She was already fastening her seat belt in the car. That's my wife Judy there and Jennifer's little sister Blanche, she's just ten years old.
"Very nice of you to help us," said Jennifer, as I got situated in my seat. "We all appreciate it very much."
"You're quite welcome," I said. "No problem really."
I did not burn up the road on the way back to town. But, I didn't waste any time either. I went immediately to the parts shop and got the needed belt. We were back on the road in less than ten minutes.
Our conversation was pretty much as one might expect after the initial hussahs and hosannas relating to how wonderful a guy I was for saving them.
I found out she was a just graduated Business major. She was going to be working for some real estate firm. She was twenty-two years old. And, she told me something that made me hope for an opportunity to see her again. She told me she had no boyfriend. No girl says something like that without a reason. I just hoped it was the right reason; well, right as far as I was concerned.
Back at the car, I installed the fan belt and gave them a jump. Told mister Cross to have his battery checked when he got back to town. He tried to pay me, but I just waved him off. No, didn't need the money, and what I really wanted was a chance to see Jennifer again. The good news? There was the fact that they lived in New Town, as did I. Sometimes things did work out the way one hoped.
I'd given mister Cross my card. Well, even though I was only twenty-one, I did have an A.S. degree in auto-mech from Alfred J. Steele CC, and I was a licensed welder and aircon man working for Allied Motors, a used car dealership and importer. I hoped that the next time they needed a car tended to that they'd call me. I just couldn't get Jennifer out of my mind.
That lucky happenstance occurred but two weeks after my debut as a knight in shining armor. I was just finishing up a brake job when I heard the familiar voice.
"How yuh doin' David," said Jennifer Cross.
"Miss Cross, Jennifer. Good. Yourself?" I said. So far I hadn't embarrassed myself.
"Fine. Got a couple of things you might could help me with," she said. I nodded my willingness to be her slave—well, to help her.
She led me over to where she'd parked her canary yellow Corvette. "Wow!" I said. "That your ride?" She smiled.
"Yes, yes it is," she said. "Need an oil change and maybe a tune up. My dad said I needed a tune up too."
"Okay, no problem," I said. "If you can come back at closing, I'll have it ready for you."
"Great. But—uh—David, there is one more thing," she said.
"Yes?" I said.
"I'm not going to be available Friday evening until after 6:00PM. Can you pick me up then?" she said.
"No, no," I said. "I mean I will have the car done tonight, not next Friday." It was Wednesday. Friday was still two days away.
"No, no," she said. "I understood that the car would be ready today. I'm referring to our first date," she said.
"Huh? Uh? I mean?" I was fast losing control of my thought process.
"You do want to date me don't you?' she said. I got control of my conscious mind, took a deep breath, and replied.
"Damn straight," I said.
"Good. So Friday evening then?" she said. She handed me a slip of paper with her particulars on it. And, when I say particulars, I mean her particulars. Address, cell phone, measurements, and a small picture of her face: all of it on a facsimile of a business card. I'd never seen anything like it. Never heard of anything like it. Jesus, this woman was very likely way-way out of my league! Oh, and did I say measurements. Try 34-22-36, 5'8", 130, oh yes and C-cups. Me on the other hand: 5"6" and 150; very well-muscled, my uncle's fault; but only so-so looking. And definitely A-cups—pretty much flat chested actually.
I picked her up in a very upscale neighborhood. The house? Early American on maybe three quarters of an acre: Two-story, wood frame, separate three car garage; it was a very nice place. Friday evening had been slow in coming, but it did finally come.
Dinner at the Foghorn, dancing at Juliana's, and coffee at a purveyor of fine Scottish cuisine—McDonald's.
The night had been a roaring success. She was indeed clearly out of my league, but was at pains not to rub my nose in it. A half dozen other guys asked her to dance at Juliana's she turned them all down.
We were parked out in front of her house; it was a little past 2:00AM.
"I'd ask you in, but my mom might look askance at that," she said. "And, my dad definitely would. And, yes, I know I'm a college graduate and over twenty-one, but I will not disrespect them; they've been the best."
"I can dig it," I said. "But, so, how about next Friday night?"
"Of course. And tomorrow night too?" she said. I nodded, stunned at the fact that she'd even given me a chance to date her at all let alone taken the lead in our—what—relationship if that's what it was, or, was becoming. I had questions, and I would have the answers.
Our first date was very good and very platonic. Our second date, Saturday night, was also very good but not platonic. We parked near a cliff just outside of town overlooking the valley and its lights below. We'd moved to the back seat and had been kissing and doing some light touching; well, I was touching; she was letting me touch—her breasts—through her clothes when she decided to take things to the next level.
"Would you like to see my breasts, David?" she said. Her smirk was a challenge.
"Oh my yes," I said.
"Then unbutton my blouse, unhook my bra and look at them," she said. I didn't quite faint from nervousness and anticipation. I did as she commanded and her breasts fell free. I didn't dare touch without her telling me to do so; then, she did.
"You can feel me up, David. I want you to," she said. "Just be considerate and gentle with them. They're kinda sensitive." I swallowed and almost choked on my own spit. She could see my distress and laughed at me. Of course I didn't know it at the time, but Jennifer Cross—soon to be Jennifer Hart—would be laughing at or feeling sorry for me a lot in the future. Had I considered such possibilities at the time, it is doubtful that I would have cared in any event. But later much later I would care.
On our third date a week later she undressed me. She played with my cock while remaining dressed the whole time. Claimed it was her turn and refused to let me have any say in the matter. She jacked me off and seemed surprised when my cum actually hit the back window of the car; well, I didn't jackoff all that much, and I was loaded with sauce and that because of her.
"My oh my, for such a small cock you sure carry a load, don't you," she said. I swallowed; I seemed to be doing a lot of that when I was with her. Her remark about the size of my penis stung a little, but she more or less just took it in stride: she was commenting on the fact of it but making no judgments.
It was some two months into our dating that I finally got into her pants. I licked and sucked at both her pussy and her anus on her orders. She came and came and came when I was ministering to her pussy. Then, I fucked her. I fucked her three times. I fucked her missionary, doggy, and missionary again. She didn't cum from me fucking her, but did seem to like me doing her regardless.
In our fifth month together I proposed. She accepted and three months after that, in an elaborate ceremony, we were married; and the family Hart was born.
Almost immediately after she'd graduated Jen had been hired by a well-known real estate company, Whitcomb and Hardy real estate brokers. She was on flat commission, but she did well and was pulling down $40k by the end of her first two years on staff. Me?
I had a better deal. I was hourly with certain incentives and perks that came with a job that required the multiple skills and licenses that I possessed. Since I had been essentially home schooled by my uncle after the third grade, I had skills damn few of which anyone anywhere near my age commanded. I had not only been schooled in selected classics, I was an expert welder—and it is a major skill—and I could also work metal and literally create parts for most cars when the occasion warranted such—the company had a fairly well-appointed machine shop. Similarly, I was licensed to fix, install, and service automotive aircon units. And of course I could rebuild virtually any internal combustion engine ever made. The result? I was making almost $80k annual by my age twenty-three. Not unheard of, I was sure, but rare.
By end of year two, we were doing quite well, and thinking about having children when we got the bad news. Jennifer could not bear children; it would be too dangerous for her to do so.
At the end of year two of our marriage, something happened that set us back plenty. Jen's older sister Lana and her husband Joe Martin were killed in an auto accident. The horror of such an evil happening was compounded: The dead parents left two little girls. They were Maribel age 7 and Clarissa age 8. We made a decision. We would adopt the two little girls and raise them as our own. We were pretty much all they had.
Almost from day one I bonded with the babies. Jennifer too although maybe not to the same degree as did I. She, Jennifer, was loving make no mistake, but she was so committed to her job that sometimes the kids could be a nuisance I supposed. My case was a little different. I never brought work home with me: at 5:00PM Monday through Friday I was off and the ultimate homebody, husband, and father. Jen on the other hand almost always brought work home, or so it seemed. This last fact did cause some minor friction between us on occasion. Nothing major, just some spirited discussion about me and the children being neglected. I needed my woman; but, she was the boss—always had been, and I mean from the beginning.
Regardless of the little bumps in our marital road, the future was bright for us. Although Jen daren't conceive, we did have two children who were blood related, well, to her. Additionally, my best friend, after his initial foray into the California job market returned.
"So, you say things are going well for you two," said Emily Rhodes, Jennifer's best friend from their college days.
"Yes, he does what I say, and never questions me. He's pussywhipped, and it works for us," said Jennifer. "He's happy. I'm happy. It's good." Her friend snickered.
"You shoulda gotten yourself a professional. Blue collar and you don't exactly match all that well," said Emily.
"Maybe not, but he's a hard worker, and he makes pretty good bucks. True he's a bit of a cipher at parties, but I can work around that: he's my gofer if you get my drift," said Jennifer.
"And while he's goffering, you're fucking; that about it?" Jennifer all but snarled at her friend, ignoring her remarks.
"Anyway, by gofer you mean slave, right? How's he in bed? Still the same old same old?" said Emily.
"Like I've to you a zillion times before, he's not that bad. I've been able to train him to the point that he gets me off once in a while. Not like Pike does, but he's okay actually," said Jennifer.
"I don't get it, girl. If he's so less than wonderful, why don't you just dump him and pick up with Pike?" said Emily.
"And, like I've also told you a zillion times, because Pike earns half of what my David earns. Culturally and sexually David has issues, but economically he does it for me. I'm not giving that up for a longer dick, not even," said Jennifer. The two of them laughed.
"So, it wasn't all sunshine and roses out there?" I said.
"No. Sunshine yes, but the pace and the pressure were not to my liking, so no roses one might be tempted to declare," said Victor.
"Setting up your own company then?" I said.
"Yes, consulting. I know the game, and I can analyze most any engineering project related to production efficiency, and that without getting the unions all riled up. Well, it is what I do," said Victor Grantham. We talked for a while, waiting on the girls to call us in for dinner.
Just then, Jennifer and her best friend from her college days, Emily Rhodes, came in. Victor and Emily would become fixtures at our place over time, really almost members of the family.
The years passed and we prospered. And, then we didn't. And then I was lost and sick at heart—and—divorced and alone. She'd had me served at work. Kind of cold, cruel I thought.
Fifteen years we'd been married. They'd been good years, or so I'd believed. But, evidently they hadn't been for her. Somewhere along the line she'd decided she wanted something else, and I was no longer part of what she wanted.
Holding the papers the stranger had handed me in my office, at first I couldn't believe it. Why would she do such a thing to me? I'd be talking to her, hopefully, to find out what I'd done to make her want to do this this thing.
Of course I'd tried to call her, but I'd gotten no answer. Well, clearly she didn't want to talk to me, maybe even so much as to let me know the reason she didn't want me anymore. I would have thought that she'd have been a little more considerate. Over the many years we'd been together, I'd done everything I could to make her happy, but, I guess not enough.
The locks on the doors had been changed and three suitcases full of my stuff had been delivered to me at work, so at least I had my clothes. I appreciated that. I knew the locks had been changed because I'd gone home right after work to try and talk to her. There'd been a note attached to the door, in an envelope actually; she'd not been there. The note just informed me that I could only talk to her through her lawyer whose card had also been in the envelope.
I went to an ATM nearby the house and had gotten the max: $500. The savings had been cleaned out but not the checking; I'd gotten that information from the ATM too. At least she was leaving me a few bucks to get started in a new place. Again, and oddly, in spite of it all, I appreciated her thoughtfulness there too. She had destroyed my heart, but apparently she was trying to make the sting a little less problematical for me.
I had to wonder if it was another man. I'd find that out soon enough I guessed, but for the moment it just didn't matter.
I found a motel not far from work and set up camp. I figured to be staying maybe a week maybe two. But, after that I'd have to be finding me a more permanent place to hang my hat. And, no I wasn't going to fight for the house; I didn't want it.
"I feel bad about it, Emily. The guy's been my rock all of these years and to do him like I have; well, I just don't feel too good."
"Pike'll make you forget all of that," said Emily. "And, David will be fine. He'll find himself another honey and get on with his life."
"But will he?" I said. The thought of my husband getting it on with another woman caused me pause. Could he? Would he? Well, of course he could, would. But, then I wondered. He lived by that code of his, of his uncle's. He might not accept that I was divorcing him: for him a vow could never be broken for any reason. If that were the case, if I knew my David, he'd consider having another woman cheating and would stay celibate—forever! Jesus if he did that!
Okay, I was feeling guilty. And guilt was what it was. I'd had a good man, hoped to be getting a better man, and now I was actually concerned that the first man was going to hurting real bad and that was my doing. Of course I was guilty. Now, the question was, could I live with the guilt?" I had to break the rules. I had to go see him. I had to do that. Oh yes, that was a no brainer. I had to.
I got the call at work, on my cell. She wanted to meet with me after all, at the Foghorn. The Foghorn was where we'd had our first date together. It looked like it would be the place where we'd have our last. The sadness of it was almost beyond telling.
I was early, an hour early. Well, I needed a couple of drinks before she destroyed me, as though she already hadn't.
She dropped down in the seat across from me. Jeans, T-shirt, and flats, no makeup: she wasn't there to tease me for sure. "I left you all of the money in the checking account," she announced without ceremony. "Is it enough for you to get situated? Thinking about it—well—I can spare you some more if..."
"No, no, it's all right and thank you. But—can I ask why, Jennifer? Why are you doing this?" She deflated.
"Davie, I am so sorry for this. I wanted to tell you, end us face to face, but I didn't have the guts. Well, until now. It's not you, Dave, it's me. I guess if I'm honest with myself, I'd have to say I'm selfish. Can't help it, just am," she said.
"Selfish for what? If you're selfish, it has to mean that you want something that you were not getting from your—our—current situation. So what?" I said. She nodded.
"Honestly?" she said.
"Yes, I guess," I said. I wasn't sure I wanted honesty, but I was sure that I would always be wondering if I didn't hear it. So, I'd listen and bemoan my mistakes and bad fortune later.
"Davie, you and I were never a good fit. You're a kind and beautiful man, and you are by far the gentlest soul I ever knew. But..."
"So why aren't we a good fit?" I said.
"A lot of things, Davie. I'm a college grad and you're not. I'm taller than you. You drink cheap beer; I like twenty year old scotch. The sex is well ... Like I said, a lot of things," she said.
"And your new man?" I said. Yeah, I was taking a flyer. Her eyes flashed open.
"I don..." she stopped. "Davie, I'm sorry. I was about to lie to you, but I won't. You deserve better. Yes, I have a man. He works where I do. It's mister Pike. You've met him a few times over the years. Like I say he works where I do."
I remembered the guy. We'd never said more than hello, nice to meet yuh, good to see yuh, but I did remember him. Tall, good looking, and kinda arrogant. He'd never actually insulted me, but I'd had the feeling that he thought I'd married above my station. Now, he'd taken her away from me. I felt myself smile. Yes smile.
"You're smiling," she said. "Does that mean we're okay, you and I?"
"Jen, you are the love of my life; I will never abandon you. We will always be okay. I want you to be happy; it's what I live for," I said. She gave me a look that spelled confused.
I was indeed smiling, but not for the reason she likely thought. I was smiling because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the man she was trading me in for was a loser. He was going to suffer greatly by comparison when she had to wake up beside him for years on end. I knew it as a great truth. But, she didn't want to hear that from me at this point; I needed to change the subject.
"Jen, can I ask you? I mean would it be all right if I got some of our family photos? Would that be all right?"
"Of course. I will send you the albums and you can choose or copy whatever you want. Would that be good?" she said.
"Yes, that would be fine," I said. I had another question. I almost hated to ask it. For sure I was worried about the possible answer.
"Can I ask you, do Maribel and Clarissa know?" I said.
"Yes, and as if I even had to say it, they will always be yours and mine. We will always have them between us. Nothing can change that. And, in case you needed to hear it, they agree that that should be the case," she said.
Her words made me feel a little better. Not good, but better. "Thank you for that," I said, she nodded.
We talked a little longer. And yes, I know I didn't press her about the sex thing. I was sure anyway that that had to have been part of it. And, I had not asked her how long they'd been cuckolding me. But they'd been working together forever, so likely a long time, but who knew. Not me. Not yet. Those things, and a few others, I would sort out at a later date.
One thing I was sure of. I made a lot more money than did Jennifer, and though I didn't know how much mister Pike made, I was pretty sure it wasn't near what I did. In our little meeting, she hadn't mentioned alimony, nor had it been part of the papers she'd had me served with. The savings account, that she had commandeered, was for sure community property. I knew it, and I'm sure she knew I knew it. It had had somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty thousand in it as far as I knew: Jen kept the records for us. Twenty grand was not chump change for sure, but not all that much either in the final analysis. I didn't care about the money. I needed enough, but not more than enough, and that was it. Jen had in fact just offered me more—presumably from the savings account—to get me started in a new place if I needed it; I appreciated that, and I didn't need it. So, maybe I was wrong about mister Pike's income; maybe he did make more than I thought. I guessed we'd be seeing.
The divorce was final in seven months. We eyed each other as the gavel sounded. She tendered me a smile; I shot one, a small one, back to her; well, I still loved her. She would be mine to love and protect forevermore regardless of what any court, or even she, said. I'd married her. I'd vowed to be her anchor and to make sure she was loved and safe and protected to the best of my ability for the rest of our lives. I would never try to gainsay those responsibilities as I saw them to be.
There was to be no alimony. She refused to even consider it, and I heard that mister Pike tried to force the issue, but she wouldn't hear of it. She did get the house, and it was paid for; I didn't want it. The kids were grown, so there was no issue there. I did get the pictures and that but two days after our meet up. The only thing I wasn't going to be getting was her. The hurt from that was incalculable; but, I would not let her see that.
I was emotionally crushed. I found it difficult to work and the guys at the shop were so supportive that I could barely stand all of the sympathy. I sat 'em down asked them to cool it. They understood and things normalized.
Two weeks later I was still a highly paid mechanic—but lonely and alone.
I had forgiven, in my mind, Jennifer for dumping me. It was a hard thing for me, but I understood the weaknesses of people and, as she indicated, their selfishness. Still, seeing her, up close and personal with her new man; well, that was something that I just couldn't bring myself to do. So, we split the holidays and the like with the children. Maribel and Clarissa didn't much like it, but they did understand, and honored my request.
It was three years after the fact. The holiday split had been inconvenient. I'd get holiday or special event number one, and Jen would get number two in any given year. But, then, Jen decided she didn't like the arrangement much: too much criticism from the children for one thing. So, she made an effort to change things.
I don't know for sure who it was that suggested the method to their madness, but I suspect the girls were in concert with Jen on the matter.
It was Thanksgiving and it was my turn at the holiday; Jen and her new husband, Aaron Pike would be getting Christmas.
I arrived at the appointed time: 1:00PM. As I hung my coat on the foyer hook, I turned and was met with a flurry of welcoming hugs, kisses, and well wishes. The kids were there. Randy and Judy Cross were there. And, so was Judy's sister Chloe who I had only met once before some years past. And, so were Aaron and Jennifer Pike. I was stunned. Jennifer for her part was stunning. I could feel my cock rise to the challenge. I think she noticed too; she didn't smile or giggle but she may as well have.
Seeing her there, again, like that, was what I had feared most in the world. Suddenly I wanted her, and I wanted her bad. And if I stayed, I would have to be dealing with that need for the whole time. Dealing with it and knowing that I couldn't have her couldn't fulfill my need, my desperate need. Three years and there had been no sex for me; I would not cheat on her. Being here with her so near was going to be hard. I had to get out of there.
"I see there is some mistake. I'm sorry. I thought that this was my day. I will be going. Sorry! Sorry!" I repeated. I started to leave, but Maribel grabbed me by the arm and led me out on the porch. We were soon joined by Clarissa.
"Dad, you can't leave said Maribel. Clarissa and I set you up. We need you to get by the divorce and not be such a stick in the mud when it comes to mom."
"Girls, you see the way your mom looks today! She's beautiful. Not just pretty but beautiful. I can't be around her for hours knowing that that other guy is going to have her tonight and I won't be. I mean knowing that she doesn't want me. You have to understand," I said.
"Dad on some level Maribel and I do understand. You love her and always will. Okay. But, you have to be the man we know you to be and deal with your loss, which is our loss too if it matters. Aaron Pike's not our dad, you are. We need you here. Please, dad. Stay. Okay? We love you." I was fighting back tears of loss, loss of the love of my life, but I nodded my okay to their request. A man's daughters—well...
Everybody did the eggnog thing; I added just a little more hooch to mine; well, I needed it; nobody seemed to notice, or, noticing said anything.
A couple of times Jennifer came up to me to say things; I can't remember what. Or, she would repeat her joy at the fact that I had decided to stay, hoped I'd be at all of the future do's. Even good 'ole Aaron made an attempt at conversing with me, but he soon realized that that was pushing it and backed off. Randy, my ex father-in-law was the one I talked to the most.
"She still loves you, you know," he said. She just doesn't realize how much yet, but she will."
"We were married a long time, mister Cross. I would think that she'd have realized it already if she was ever going to," I said. I wasn't being sarcastic, just factual.
"Hmm, but before now she had nothing to compare you with. Now she does. Aaron's not a bad guy. But, he is a trifle arrogant and a bit of a snob generally. She's complained to me about him once or twice. Nothing earth shattering, but he definitely does have some issues that I don't think she'd anticipated before the fact," he said. I nodded. Maybe my original analysis of their chances of making it was a correct one, I thought.
We ate. The food was good; well, it always was. Dessert served there was some animated conversation around the table mostly relating to the girls and their new boyfriends—read soon to be fiancés. Yes, they had 'em. I hadn't met 'em. Jennifer and Pike had obviously. It did bother me that Pike'd met their significant others and I hadn't. Wasn't dad supposed to meet the boys who were sniffing around his daughters? Was Pike taking my place? I didn't think so, but so far neither girl had mentioned their men friends to me, and they didn't now, like it was not important for me to know about them. Yes, indeed, it did bother me and I mean a lot. Judy noticed me flinch when Pike talked about how much he enjoyed meeting the young men. I was silent, not smiling, but not making any waves.
Dessert over, Judy came to me. "I don't think they realized just how important it was for you to meet them first instead of Aaron," said Judy. She was clearly seeing right through me.
"It is what it is," I said. I was near the door at the time. I looked over there, saw my coat, and waved toward everyone, forced a smile, grabbed my coat, and hurried out.
I heard a slight rise in the buzz of the conversations as the door closed behind me, but I was moving fast. I needed to get out of there.
"Why did he run out like that?" said Jennifer to her mother. "Did somebody say something to him? Aaron?"
"He felt a little funny, I think, because Aaron was being so effusive about the girls' men friends, and he, David, hadn't even known they existed let alone met them," said Judy.
"What? Huh?" said Jennifer. "Oh my God. I can just imagine..."
"Yes, indeed," said Judy. "He's thinking that Aaron is in the process of taking his place with the girls. He didn't actually say that to me, but it is what he's thinking. I'm sure of it. He knows the girls aren't his blood relatives. So, I don't know, maybe he feels vulnerable," said Judy.
"Oh my God! Nothing could be further from the truth. Aaron is trying his best to be accepted by the girls, but take David's place! Never! One, they'd never allow it. Two, Aaron knows better than to even try something like that because I'd never allow it," said Jennifer.
"It's not a matter of what's true or untrue; it's how your previous man perceives the truth," said Judy. "I mean I could be wrong about things, but I think you need to consider the possibility." Jennifer nodded.
"Yes. I will. And, I don't think you're wrong. And things were going so well today too," said Jennifer.
"Hmm? Well? Maybe it would be more accurate to say that you had taken some baby steps toward normalizing things, but well or good? Don't think so," said Judy.
"Oh momma, what am I going to do?" said Jennifer.
"Try and talk to him in a few days. You might want to get the girls in on the act too, daughter mine. That man is suffering and has suffered ever since you divorced him three years ago. He doesn't deserve any of it either to my mind," said Judy. Jennifer nodded her understanding.
"And Jennifer?" said her mother.
"Did you notice how he was looking at you today?" said Judy.
"Yes, I saw it. But what could I do? I know he's horny. I know he needs a woman, but I just can't be that woman, not anymore," said Jennifer. He mother nodded.
"Yes, he needs a woman, almost any woman. I don't think you should invite him to anymore parties or holidays that you attend until and unless he finds himself a woman of his own. It's counter-productive: it only adds to his heartache..."
"Momma, I hate to say it but you're right. Not maybe right, but right," said Jennifer.
Well, I gave it the old college try and it was a bust. I'd had to get outta there. Even my babies didn't see me as I saw them—us.
I went home and packed. I left all of my job stuff, uniforms, keys, some other stuff in the cubicle and headed out. I had maybe six hundred in the bank and a full tank of gas. I would be out there for good now.
Yes, I know, I still had my responsibility to watch over her, but I just couldn't be where I could be accosted by her. No more convivial holidays; those would just not be happening anymore. And not just no, but hell no!
I would do my best to make sure she was okay and safe. But it would be via random checkups and not per my weekly check-ins with my daughters. I'd email them and keep up communications that way: have them email me if their mother needed me. It was the best I could do if I wanted to keep my sanity.
I landed in Pleasant Valley, a small berg two hundred miles from New Town. I don't know what it was for sure, but my new environs helped me to block her from my conscious mind. Oh, I still dreamed about her at night, but at work, Hardin Engine and Auto Body Repair, I was mostly free of her, "mostly" being the operative term.
I was beginning to be able to deal with it, my miserable life.
"Mom, that's crazy. Daddy could never think of something like that, imagine something like that," said Maribel.
"Ditto that for me," chimed in Clarissa.
"Well, it seems to be a true thing nevertheless," said Jennifer.
"Mom, we like Aaron. But, he's Aaron to us, not dad," said Clarissa. "He's just an okay guy. He doesn't do anything bad, and while we wish you and dad were still together, we know that things happen to people. So we're not being judgmental or laying down any rules."
"Clare, Mare, I appreciate it that you've been decent to Aaron; and, well, understanding of what's happened to the family. And we are still a family: your dad, you two, me; and yes, Aaron too.
"But, the one thing that kinda stands in the way of all of us getting what we want and need is that your dad still thinks of me as his wife. He always will, I guess. And, I still have a place for him in my heart too. But, he and I well we just can't well..."
"Sleep together. We get it, mom. Dad needs your physical body as well as your good feelings for him. We saw him on Thanksgiving, mom. He had a hardon all day long. He had it for you," said Maribel. Jennifer looked away.
"It was almost funny in a tragic sort of way," continued Maribel. "Clarissa and I were talking. You and dad have been divorced for three years. Mom, I don't think dad's had a woman, even dated one, in that whole time. He just can't accept that you guys are divorced."
"Yes, mom, he needs a woman. He really needs you, but he definitely needs 'a' woman no matter what," said Clarissa.