It was raining hard. I watched the light traffic roll by fifteen stories below. My place wasn't exactly a penthouse; there were but three of those in the building, and they were on the eighteenth floor; but what the heck, I liked my place. Four bedrooms, three baths, a kitchen I could play tennis in; well, if I even liked tennis, and a really well appointed wet bar.
The streets of our little town—Granby Station, Ohio, population forty-some thousand—used to be heavy with cars and bikes and all manner of people on Saturday nights even when it did rain. But, with the price of gas these days, people didn't seem to do as much cruisin' as they used to. It was what it was.
I liked being inside in the rain. Great to watch, the rain, but no fun to drive in, not for me. Anyway, it was soothing to watch the clouds empty their contents on the earth below; that while holding a very well made manhattan in its hugely expensive crystal stem glass. Life was pretty good overall. The dim light of the street lamp a block distant lent an almost surreal aspect to the scene. I consciously sighed.
Tonight was a time for me to remember. I wondered what she was doing tonight. And, I wondered what she was wondering about or if she wondered at all. I supposed not, not about me at any rate; I was sure of that, well, pretty sure.
I'd not seen her in nine years; not since she left me and screwed me over in the divorce. Hate her? On some level, yes. No, that's not right, I didn't hate her; I just couldn't; I was kidding myself there. And no, it's not logical, not after what she did to me. The betrayal, the cold way she'd done me in the divorce: I still had a hard time getting my head around that.
My name is Richard Cort. My ex-wife? Her name was Winifred Cort, nee Williams, and yeah, Win, or Winnie for short. Winnie and I had met in school, Excelsior Community College: she a nursing student at the time; and, though she eventually graduated; she'd failed the NCLEX and had just given up on nursing. The blow to her ego, as I saw it, was too much for her. She'd got herself a job checking at Rogers' Supermart, and continued to live with her parents.
Me, I was an Accounting major. After my time at ECC I'd gone on to the university, gotten my B.A., and later my M.B.A in Accounting, passed the CPA exam, and set up an independent shop in a small office in town. I did good too, well, eventually I did. I eventually would create something of a niche for myself specializing in business taxes and financial management for small to medium sized, mostly family owned, local companies. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Winnie and I had dated off and on the whole time we'd been at Excelsior, and thereafter as opportunities allowed. Then, done with academics, and opened for business, I'd asked her to marry me. She'd taken a little time to think about it, which fact kinda bothered me, but had eventually said yes. We were commonly twenty-five years old at the time. Her parents, Melba and Michael Williams, again with whom she'd been living, were thrilled with her decision.
We'd struggled some in those early years as I worked horrendous hours to get my business going. And just as we were about to break out of the tough times, she hit me with it.
Five years into married bliss, and it had been blissful in my opinion; I was served with divorce papers. I was stunned, hurt, and angry. At first I thought she was dumping me for another man, but no, there was no player waiting in the wings. Her declared reason for ending us? She wanted to find herself. And how did she intend to find herself? Why in the all-enveloping embrace of the Army! She was going to be all she could be.
She got the house in the divorce, our only significant asset though the equity wasn't all that much after just five years of paying. She hadn't been making much at the time either, so she also got nominal alimony, and a piece of my 401k, and half of our savings. What did I get? Why my car, and my clothes and seventy-five percent of my 401k and half of our savings. She actually smiled at me and wished me well when we left the courthouse. I told her to fuck off; well, I was angry. She looked genuinely surprised, hurt. It was some six months later, that she left for boot camp—at her age twenty-nine, almost thirty. I prayed that she'd sprain her ankle on the obstacle course.
Of course I hadn't seen her in nine years, but at the time of the divorce, Winnie'd been pretty. At five-nine, one-thirty, short raven black hair, and a generally slim figure: oh yeah, she'd been pretty all right.
Me at the time? Five-eleven, one-seventy, thinning hair; and well, not especially pretty. Now? I'm still five-eleven, but now one ninety, mostly bald on top, and still not especially pretty. I do make some pretty good bread though—now. Female companionship? None worth mentioning; there'd been a few short term relationships over the years, but again, none worth mentioning. I'd spent most of my efforts trying to make a buck. At any rate, Winnie had spoiled me for other women. I just couldn't get over her; I couldn't.
As I watched the rain, still wondering, I made an on the spot decision. I'd not only not seen Winnie in the last nine years, I hadn't been back to the old neighborhood either.
Grabbing my coat, I went out into the rain, got in my restored '56 Chevy Belaire, and headed east across town.
The old neighborhood was still alive at 8:00PM. I saw the house. Lights were on in the living room. Somebody was home. Winnie? Or, had she sold the place? Did I have the guts to find out? Well, nothing ventured nothing gained.
I got out and walked hesitantly toward my goal. What the hell, at worst all she could do, if it was her, was tell me to get lost. I smiled. Of course if she were married...
Approaching the door and ignoring what the rain was doing to my clothes and by inference me, I rapped on the door.
Nothing, no answer. I rapped again. I was turning to leave when the door opened and the warmth and the light from the living room flooded the space around me.
"Yes," she said. I turned to see her. Her face took on an expression that I shall likely never forget and couldn't adequately characterize.
"Sweet Jesus in heaven! Is that you, Richard?" she said.
"Uh—yes," I said.
"You're soaked. What are you ... come in, come in before you catch your death," she said.
She took my coat and went to get me some towels. Back, she helped dry me off as best she could.
Five minutes later, I was seated at our old dinette table with a cup of too-hot-to-drink tea in front of me, and a very curious ex-wife across from me.
"Well, mister, I don't know what brought you to these environs on this absolutely awful night"—she was I was sure referring to the weather—"but I'd sure like to know," she said. I was rotating the cup in front of me. I looked up at her, spread my hands in an I-wish-I-knew gesture.
"I wish I knew," I said. She smiled. As she did, I took in the picture. Longer hair now, still slim, still A-cups, still pretty, and yes, still in charge of my heart.
"Well, it's nice to see you. It's been forever," she said. "How are you doing?"
"Relative to what?" I said.
"I'm doing okay. Live on the other side of town now. Got an apartment; it's in the back of the shop." For some reason, I'm not really sure why, I didn't tell her about my almost penthouse at the Florian Estates.
"Things are good for me overall. You?" I said. I saw her swallow. There was something wrong, but what. She looked toward the back of the house.
"Okay, I guess. Eating. Paying the bills—usually."
"Usually?" I said.
"Had some problems. But, like I say, things are mostly okay now."
"Problems? What kind of problems," I said.
"Richard ... there's been ... well a lot of history..." she started.
"Yes, well, I guess that's so," I said.
"Richard why have you come here tonight? I mean it's been so long," she said.
"Winnie, the truth is I don't know. You divorced me. I mean I have no business, no right. But, well, I have never stopped thinking about you, and—"
"And?" she said.
"And, I needed, still need, to know why, Winnie. I mean why was I not enough for you. Why did you leave me? I mean really," I said. "You never said, and I—well—I never asked, not then. But since then, well, almost every day. I mean I ask myself why. I mean, well I mean, you know..."
"Oh, Richard. That was so long ago. I'm not sure..."
"Winnie, please. I can take it. Really I can. I know it wasn't another man. I mean but the Army!" I said. She smiled a wan smile.
The Army was the..."
"The?" I said.
"It was my means of escape," she said.
"Escape from me?" I said.
"Richard this is not necessary. Really it's not. I'm not the same as I was then. Neither I suspect are you," she said. I snickered.
"No, no, I am not the same, I guess. Less hair," I said. Her turn to snicker.
"You know what I mean," she said. I went pensive. She knew I needed to hear the truth. The truth and only the truth. She sighed.
"It was a lot of things, Richard. I'd failed the nursing exam. No children."
"And me?" I said.
"Richard, I mean..."
"Winnie—and me?" I said.
"Richard, you were boring. In bed not very satisfying. We'd go to parties and you'd kinda smile a lot and engage in or say little or nothing. At home you were always working. During the day you were always—well—working at your office. It seemed, at the time, to be an endless chain of things that led nowhere. I had to get out. And, you are correct about other men; there weren't any. Not then." She said.
.... There is more of this story ...