Hey folks ... I just wanted to start out by saying thanks for another great year. It was a year full of changes and highs and lows. Among the highs were getting a lot of great letters and e-mails from you, telling me what you liked and even what you didn't about my stories. Among the lows were losing my long time editor and friend to health problems. But this next year will be one full of new highs and I'm sure, new lows as well. I wish you all the best. Happy New Year. Thanks to my new Editor Sir Charles 5150 for his contributions and especially for his patience.
Okay, this one is a little off the beaten track. It's a bit longer since it's my last story of the year. It also takes a serious left turn in the middle. Whether you like it or not I'm sure you'll let me know. SS06
I've heard it at least a million times, both before my life ended and since. "Ya don't know what you've got till it's gone."
Truer words have never been spoken. The problem is that I know what I had. And even though it's been six years, I'm still not over it. Every man I've met since then only seems to remind me of what I let slip through my fingers.
As I contemplate the man standing in front of me, I look him over like a scientist examining an insect. He's well dressed. And by both his manner and his degree of confidence, he's probably very successful at whatever it is he does.
He moves in and sits down on the stool next to me. And so it begins.
"Hi, can I buy you a drink?" he asks.
"I appreciate the offer," I said, trying to smile and seem friendly. "But I'm drinking mineral water and it's charged to my company's expense account. I'm here for business ... and business is the only thing I'm interested in."
I smiled again and turned away from him, hoping with all my heart that he would just take my polite refusal and go away.
"What business?" he said, sarcastically. "You're a stuck up has-been with delusions of grandeur. You're not even an anchor. You're just a field reporter. You don't even work for a major market city. You're stuck in some tiny ass town in the boondocks. Do you know how much advertising revenue I could have given your station?" He glared at me angrily and shook his head. I didn't even look at him for fear of feeding his anger.
"You think that everyone wants you because you're pretty. Well I've seen better. I've had younger and prettier women ... lots of them. In a few years you'll be too old to even be on TV. What will you do then? I'll tell you what you'll do ... You'll wish you had listened to me, that's what. And you know what else? Your boobs are starting to sag and your ass is fatter than it looked a few years ago when you were still young."
"Thanks for pointing all of that out to me," I said. By that time the bartender was back and she gestured for the bouncer who came and dragged the man still kicking and screaming out of the bar.
"He was a nutcase," said the bartender. She was a woman in her mid twenties. "You know, when I was younger I wanted to be just like you."
"So what happened?" I asked.
"Ahhh, college was boring. And journalism and communications just weren't as cool as I thought they'd be," she said. "I took a break to get my head together and started working here to make ends meet and observe life while I was trying to become the next Barbara Walters or Karla Canard. The next thing I knew, I had a kid and I discovered that the man who swore to love me forever was a magician and a really good one."
"So he has to travel a lot, huh?" I said. "Magic is a tough game. But if he's good, he'll make great money and..." I noticed then that she was laughing.
"He's really not that good a magician," she smirked. "He only knew one trick. As soon as he found out I was pregnant, he made himself disappear." She laughed as she said it, but I got the feeling that she only laughed to cover up her true feelings.
"So what happened to you?" she asked. "Your career was rising like a meteor. I was sure you were destined to become a big star in the news game. And then you just disappeared ... like my asshole boyfriend."
"Pretty similar story," I told her. "I was married to a guy that I thought was everything. My career took off ... I guess we peaked at different times and..."
"And while you were out working your ass off to make a great life for both of you, he resented your success and started cheating on you with some skank," she interjected. "That's one of the problems with men. They can't deal with a strong successful woman. Having a woman whose career is going better than theirs just kicks them in the nuts or something. He was probably telling the little bimbo that you didn't understand him, I'll bet."
"You'd be wrong," I said. "Kevin supported everything I did. He was so proud of me that he got one of those bumper stickers made to show it off. It read, "I don't have to take this crap. My wife is a star."
"So what happened?" she asked. She had actually stopped cleaning glasses and was looking at me so intently that I couldn't refuse her.
They say that talking about your pain helps to make it better. It's been six years now and all the talking I've done hasn't done anything but make the pain more severe. I've talked to friends and family. I've talked to therapists and clergymen. What would it hurt to talk to a bartender?
"It's complicated," I said. She looked at me, even more intrigued.
"I've got time," she said. "This place isn't exactly busy and you've got probably an hour to wait before your room is ready, so..."
"I cheated," I said. My voice was so soft and my tone was so low that I was barely audible. But I could tell that she'd heard me by her reaction. He eyes opened up farther and her nostrils flared. Her entire expression suddenly became more interested and slightly judgmental.
"Ooh!" she said. "Was it some hot guy you met while doing a story, or a movie star?"
"No," I said sullenly.
"Uh Oh! It had to be a former boyfriend right? Your first love?" she asked.
"No," I said again.
"Please don't tell me it was some rich asshole or a guy you wouldn't spit on except for the fact that he had a huge dick, because..." I interrupted her because she was making my head hurt.
"It was my balding, almost fifty year old, married cameraman," I said finally. She looked at me in confusion.
"He must've been really good in b..." she began.
"To tell you the truth I don't even remember," I said. "He ... he really wasn't now that I think about it. It's just complicated. Jerry was more a friend than anything else. It only happened three times and they were very spread out so it's not like we had an affair or anything. The first two times we only kissed. And it was always under extremely trying circumstances. The first time ... actually all three times were during or after life or death situations.
We did a story once during a hurricane along the coast. In order to give the viewers the full effect we had to go out. We set up in a city near where the storm was expected to make landfall. We thought that we'd be safe. Jerry and I took a camera and went out to get some pictures of the area before the storm hit. We thought that we'd show before and after images to give the viewers the full magnitude of the damage.
The problem was that not only did the storm not hit where we expected, it didn't hit when we expected. The two of us were caught right in the teeth of the storm. We had to take shelter in a garage that we broke into to get away from the storm. With the winds howling outside, we were terrified. We had no phone service so we couldn't contact anyone. And as we were putting whatever we could in front of the window of the garage to protect us from flying glass, we literally saw our truck flip over from the force of the winds. We were sure that we were going to die. We huddled together for warmth and security and it just happened. One moment we were shivering and frightened and the next we'd just started to kiss. It wasn't a magical kiss. I would not have traded one of my husband's worst kisses for the entire experience. It was just something that happened. It was just two people who were afraid of dying reaching out to each other.
After it was over, we couldn't get far enough away from each other. We couldn't even look each other in the face. Everything that happened after it had changed. A few moments of our lips touching, ruined our friendship. Although it was only a kiss, I knew that Kevin would have been hurt very badly by it. He would have viewed it as cheating.
As soon as the storm ended and we were able to walk out of the area, we started talking about it. We decided that for the benefit of two marriages, we'd simply forget that it had happened. The only thing that confession would have done was to take away our guilt. My husband, Kevin, and Jerry's wife, Mary, would have been the ones hurt by it.
Over the following few days it just got worse. Even innocent things only served to remind us of what we'd done to the people we loved. Every time I had to go out of town, Kevin would take me to the airport. He'd leave work if he had to. He just wanted to be with me for every second possible before I left. He always said the same thing to Jerry. He's shake Jerry's hand and say, "I'm counting on you to take care of my girl." Jerry had taken care of me alright. And I could tell how much guilt he carried the next time Kevin said that to him.
Kevin had come into the office to take Jerry and his wife out for dinner, to thank him for protecting me during the storm. Jerry couldn't eat a bite, but he didn't want anyone to know that there was something wrong so he forced himself to eat and ended up throwing up everything.
As bad as Jerry felt, I felt worse. The very next day, I asked for a different cameraman. Jerry and I had once been the best of friends but over the next six months we barely even spoke. I don't know about Jerry, but I took lengths to avoid him. I even skipped staff parties if I thought he'd be there.
It worked for a while, but about seven months after the incident, I was about to head out on a story and my regular cameraman was unavailable. My producer sent Jerry instead. It was awkward to say the least. But in the end we were professionals, so we did our jobs. After a few times of having to work together, without incident, we put the past behind us. I didn't work with Jerry regularly, but if we had to work together it wasn't a traumatic experience.
I got assigned to a story about a shooting at a local mall. The police had supposedly captured the gunmen. Everyone was interested because this shooting was different. It supposedly wasn't just a solitary nutcase. There were rumors that this shooting was tied somehow to a domestic terrorism group. Jerry and I were supposed to interview survivors of the shooting.
Once we got to the mall, there was a strange tension in the air. It was as if a place that most people went to, to shop and have a good time had been changed forever. And there was more to it than that. From the moment I stepped in the mall I had the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wasn't wrong. We had only been in the mall for about fifteen minutes when the first shots rang out. Then the entire mall went dark and the screams started.
People were running towards us in terror. We ran for the exit and found out that the powered doors had locked automatically when the power shut down. We were literally trapped inside of the mall with the second wave of gunmen. From all indications they were sweeping through the mall shooting everyone they came in contact with.
Jerry and I hid until we got lucky. Jerry had found an underground maintenance tunnel. We slipped in and pulled the cover back over ourselves. We hid there in the dark while hell played out over us. The tunnel was barely big enough for the two of us and we thought that at any moment we could have been found and murdered.
After things got quiet, we waited. The quiet was worse than the shooting had been. I guess that time the stress got to us and also the guilt at being alive when so many people weren't. All I can say is that it happened again. And this time the kiss was hotter. There was no love in it, but Jerry started rubbing his crotch against me as we kissed. My legs opened like a cheap whore and if the police hadn't started screaming that all of the people who were hiding could come out, we would have had sex. I hated myself.
Jerry showed up at work the next day and quit. He took a job with another news station so the two of us would never work together again. I didn't see him for more than a year. And when I did he didn't look anything like himself. He had lost a lot of weight and looked like hell. I found out that Mary had cancer and was dying. The doctors gave her six months at the very most to live.
Mary was a fighter, but Jerry was out of it. I had to prop him up to help him through it. Kevin helped too. I don't know how it happened that third time. All I know is that Mary had started to rally against the cancer and Jerry and I were celebrating. The celebration and our joy at the thought of Mary beating her cancer made us stupid. That time though, our luck had run out. We had drank entirely too much liquor and the scruples and sense of morality that had prevented us from going too far the first couple of times were no longer in effect.
I ended up in bed with Jerry and it was more like a doctor's examination than an act of love or passion. It felt as if I was looking down at my own body while it happened. It wasn't pleasurable and I was nowhere near having an orgasm. It just felt wrong, but I was powerless to stop. I was hit with a sense of overwhelming guilt when it was over.
Both Kevin and I had keys to Jerry's house. They were in case either of us needed to get clothes or other things from the house to take to the hospital for Mary. Jerry and I were just starting to feel guilt over what had happened yet again when we heard the door slam.
The sound of the door let both of us know that someone had been in the house. The sound a few seconds later left us no doubt who it had been. I knew that sound anywhere. It was the sound of my husband's Mustang starting up. The chirp of his tires as he drove off was what jarred me from my dazed state and got me into motion.
I had to talk to Kevin before he did something stupid. I grabbed my purse from the floor and called him. His phone rang and rang. I got his voicemail after the fifth ring, but I had no idea what I should say. I finally left a message asking him to call me as soon as he got the message. I had no idea of what he'd seen or heard. I needed to hear from him to know how much trouble I was in.
I looked across the room at Jerry who was holding his head in his hands. "I'm so sorry," he said. "This never should have happened again. If there's anything..."
I didn't answer him. I didn't care. The only thing I had on my mind was Kevin. I called him again and surprisingly he answered his phone. I could tell he was upset by the clipped and deliberate way that he was speaking. But he seemed to be very under control. Or at least I thought he was.
"Karla, I ... I understand that you probably want to talk about this," he said. "But I need some time. I need a few hours to get my thoughts together and to get my emotions under control. I wouldn't want to do anything stupid. I'm at home. I'm going to take a nap and try to come to terms with ... well you know. Just give me a few hours and call before you come home."
It sounded extremely reasonable under the circumstances. But something about the whole situation seemed unreal.
"I love you Kevin. I'm so sorry," I said. He just hung up. It was the first time that I can remember, that he didn't say he loved me back. That alone hurt me. I was very fearful that I had hurt my marriage deeply. I couldn't give him the time he needed. I called him back in an hour. He seemed to be out of breath. All kinds of thoughts went through my head.
I imagined that he'd gone out and found a hooker and was fucking her in our bed. Then I realized that if he had, there was no way that I could say anything about it because what I'd done was far worse.
"Kevin, Honey, can I come home?" I asked.
"I'm not ready yet," he said breathing heavily.
"Kevin, I don't have anywhere to go," I said.
"Why not go back and fuck Jerry some more," he spat. It was the first thing he'd said that gave me a clue of just how upset he was. "I heard the two of you talking. I heard enough to know that this wasn't the first time you've fucked him. Boy was I stupid. The next time I see Jerry will be the last. I'm more pissed off than you can imagine, Karla. You need to stay away from me for a while."
I didn't believe him though. Kevin had never been violent towards me. Even when angry, he was the type to go off and sulk. This time he wanted to go home and sulk. So I stupidly gave him the time he wanted.
I think that when all is said and done, I gave him four hours. Two hundred and forty minutes doesn't seem like that much time. It's the length of time that it takes to watch two average movies. It's half of a work day. It really isn't very much time. But he was working hard. It's why he was out of breath.
My husband wasn't screwing a hooker to get back at me. That was my mind trying to rationalize things or create some sort of action on his part that might make it more likely that the two of us would remain together. I needed that, so perhaps it was some sort of survival mechanism.
But after four hours, I couldn't stand it anymore. If he wanted to scream at me or give me the silent treatment or even hit me, he could, but I had to go home. I hope that somehow seeing how upset I was would carry some weight with him and perhaps lessen his anger and his pain.
When I first walked in the house, I didn't notice anything. Nothing, not a single piece of furniture was out of place. His anger, it seemed hadn't gone as far as to damage anything. Perhaps we could have some sort of rational conversation. I started calling his name and somehow the house seemed hollow. I looked all over the house and didn't find him. I went out to the garage then. If there was anything that he loved as much as he loved me, it was that car. His Mustang had always been a close rival for his affection.
That was how I realized how bad things were. It wasn't just that the car was gone, because Kevin drove the car every chance he could. But his tools and all of his car wash supplies and even the Shelby posters he had on the wall were gone as well. I felt as if an icy fist had clutched my heart.
I ran back inside the house as if my life depended on it. I looked around and discovered what I'd missed the first time I walked into the house. Kevin had left the furniture, but everything of his was gone. And not just his personal belongings, everything he owned was gone. This was clearly not a two night or weekend excursion. Kevin had wiped his presence from our house as if he had never been there. He had taken everything, including every picture we had with him in it.
I got on our computer to find out how thorough he was. He had even wiped out the pictures of himself on our hard drive. If a person didn't know I was married, I'd have a hard time proving to them that I was. I collapsed onto our sofa and cried myself to sleep.
I woke up the next morning, thinking that it was all a horrible dream. As soon as my eyes opened though, I knew that it wasn't. The site of Kevin's closet, bare of any clothes or any trace of him, proved it was all true.
My phone was ringing. It had been the ringer that had awakened me. I answered the phone and my voice sounded like I felt. It was my producer, trying to determine if I was on my way.
"No, I'm not," I snapped.
"Karla, what's going on?" he asked. I explained to him that Kevin had left me without going into the details of why. He was very compassionate. He put me in for a paid leave of absence. He also told me that if I needed anything to just ask.
At first I thought that the call had been a waste of my time. I could get another job anywhere. What I couldn't replace was Kevin. But then I had a thought. I quickly called Kevin's job and asked if they could please have him call me as soon as he got in. The reply I got rocked me to my core. Kevin had quit his job, and picked up his last check. He'd used "Family Emergency," as his reason for leaving. I slammed the phone down angrily and started crying all over again.
Surprisingly the phone rang again almost immediately. I picked it up, hoping it was Kevin. It was a police officer and things were about to get worse for me.
He put Jerry on the phone then. Jerry needed for me to come down to the station and bail him out. I was out of ideas and I needed to get out so I told him I'd come down to talk to him.
I wasn't sure that doing anything that involved Jerry would be a good move on my part. The one thing I didn't want to have happen was for Kevin to decide to talk to me and find out that I had even seen Jerry. I started to refuse, but decided that I might need Jerry to talk to Kevin for me. Maybe Jerry could calm Kevin down.
When I got to the station, I told them who I was there to see. A female Desk Sergeant, showed me to a room. A few minutes later, Jerry was brought in. He was handcuffed but it seemed to be a formality more than any consideration that he was a danger.
"Mr. Mathers, you have to keep your temper under control," the woman said as she left the room. Jerry sat down and put his hands over his ears. He started crying. The Sergeant must've heard him because she rushed back into the room and started trying to comfort him. It took her a few moments to calm him down and then she left again.
"You don't look much better yourself," she said to me.
"Jerry," I said. He looked up at me.
"Sorry, but I had no one else to call," he said.
"Just tell me what happened," I said. "I need to be home in case Kevin calls there or decides to come home."
"There's no chance of that, Karla," he said sadly. "He's gone. He's moving to another state to start over. He told Mary that he had no idea where he wanted to live. He just needed to be as far away from you as he could get. He could be headed anywhere."
I just stood there in shock as his words rolled over me. He had to be wrong. There was no way. This couldn't be happening to me. I suddenly leaped at Jerry and started hitting him as hard as I could. I split his lip and scratched his face up before a couple of officers came in and pulled me off of him.
They were going to kick me out of the room but Jerry screamed at them to let me stay. "I just had to give her some really bad news," he said. They pulled my chair farther away from the desk and told me not to get out of it.
"Jerry what else did he say to you?" I asked, desperately.
"He didn't say anything to me," he mumbled through his busted lip. "He spoke to Mary. He went to tell her goodbye and now sorry he was that he couldn't be there to help her or support her anymore."
"Kevin told Mary about us?" I asked in shock.
"He should have," said Jerry sadly. "But your husband has too much class for that. All he did was to tell her that he was leaving. He didn't mention us at all. But he and Mary are pretty close. She could tell something was wrong and asked him about you. He told her that you guys were done. That was all he said. He kissed her goodbye and left."
Jerry started crying then and had to stop talking.
"Karla, when I got there, Mary was thinking and she kept asking me questions. She told me that he didn't look angry as much as he looked hurt. She kept running it through her mind. She started asking me questions. She came up with the fact that you were cheating on him all on her own. I think it was just a theory at first. And then she started asking me if there was anyone from when we used to work together that you were especially close to. She was looking at my face the whole time. I tried to keep my face blank, but I'm not very good at lying or hiding the truth. One second she was asking me if I knew anything about you screwing around. I tried to tell her it wasn't like that. And she asked me how I knew. I didn't know how to answer that and she just read it in my face.
She turned red in the face and just threw it at me. I wasn't prepared for it. "How many times did you fuck her?" she screamed at me.
Before I could even say anything she was trying to get up and she pushed the call button to get a nurse in the room. "Get out of my room motherfucker!" she screamed at me. All of a sudden there were nurses everywhere. She pointed at me and told them to keep me out of her room. I wouldn't leave. I had to tell her that I love her and that it didn't mean anything, but they were just pushing me out. Then the security guys grabbed me and I fought back. We knocked over a lot of the equipment in the room and they called the police.
"You have to get me out of here, so I can talk to her," he said.
I did bail him out. But I only saw Jerry two more times. The next time was three weeks later at Mary's funeral. After that day, she never spoke to Jerry again until the end. No matter how hard he tried, she wouldn't see him. Her condition worsened as if she had just given up the will to live. Finally, when it was obvious that she had only a short time left, the nurses relented and called Jerry.
He looked like hell after the funeral as he told me about their last moments together. "She looked up at me and said, "Oh, it's you. In a way I'm glad you're here. I have a question that I've been struggling with. Why did you marry me?"
"I married you because I loved you," I told her.
"So did you stop loving me when you started fucking that home wrecking whore, or did you just start up with her because you knew that I was going to die?" she asked me.
He looked at me with tears in his eyes. "I knew that I needed to come up with something good," he said. "I also knew that Mary could pick my words apart, so I had to be careful what I said..."
"What did you say?" I asked him as he burst out crying again. He wiped his eyes and shook his head. "I didn't get a chance to say anything," he said. "She died before I could open my mouth. My wife died thinking I didn't love her. This is all, our fault Karla. You and I killed her. We fucked to celebrate her getting better and it ruined two marriages and four people's lives. Her family barely let me come to the funeral. They look at me like I did this. The woman I loved for most of my life, died hating me."
"She didn't hate you," I told him. "She was angry and hurt, that's all. But she did hate me. I tried to see her to apologize and all she did was to scream at me and curse at me before kicking me out of her room. I just wanted to tell her that I was sorry."
"I tried the same thing with Kevin," he said.
My head snapped up at the sound of my husband's name. "Kevin?" I blurted out.
"He flew in this morning. Mary's family allowed him to see her body before the funeral. He brought a huge beautiful bouquet. I found out later that he spoke to her on the phone, pretty often during those last few weeks. It was pure luck that I saw him leaving the funeral home just as I was getting there. I tried to talk to him but he just walked right past me and ignored me. He didn't come to the funeral because he didn't want to see you or me."
I couldn't believe that Kevin had come home and hadn't seen me or even tried to call me. The next time I saw Jerry was less than two weeks later at his own funeral.
Mary's funeral had been crowded and full of people who loved her. Jerry's was small and somber with only a few people in attendance. His sister, whom I'd only met a few times glared at me and walked away from me when I tried to give her my condolences. I got the idea that she knew about what had happened between Jerry and me. I think that in her grief she was looking for someone to blame for her brother's death and the end of his marriage and in her mind, I fit the bill. It hadn't been anything I did. Jerry simply couldn't go on. He truly believed that our actions had caused the death of the woman he loved. I didn't believe that.
But apparently Jerry did. He had all kinds of pain killers and other potent medicines left over from Mary's cancer treatment. He combined them all into one powerful dose, mixed it all together, swallowed all of the pills one after another and washed it down by drinking liquor until he blacked out. He never regained consciousness. The note he left claimed that he'd followed Mary into the next world to beg her for forgiveness and so they could be together again. His note also claimed that people who are that much on love should never be apart. I understood his feelings on the subject. Being away from Kevin was killing me. I wondered if Kevin cared enough about me to follow me into death, but I doubted it. If he wanted to talk to me or be with me all he had to do was call. But I'd killed the love he had for me, the same way that Jerry believed that we'd killed Mary.
The rational part of my mind told me that cancer had killed Mary. Perhaps what we did had sapped her of the will to fight it, but we hadn't killed her. The only thing we had killed was my marriage and Jerry's. And we'd probably killed my career. I had started drinking too often and too much. My performances on camera had suffered.
My producer told me to take more time off because the thing that made me special, my on camera enthusiasm and curiosity about things was gone. I came off now, like I just didn't give a fuck. My ability to care was gone as well. He showed me a tape of me covering a story about a fire at a nursing home and I had to admit, that it seemed like I had no sympathy at all for all of those poor, sick, old people who'd become homeless. He was right.
I was using all of my money, hiring detectives to find my husband. He owed me the chance to explain. I just needed to talk to him. Surely we could do that. He had to listen to me. The pain in my heart just wouldn't go away. I understood Jerry. The only thing that kept me from joining him was the fact that I hadn't had my chance to explain or to talk to Kevin. Jerry had at least had that.
It's been six years now. Six years of drinking and quitting and therapists and hope and heartache and crying. But deep in my heart, I know that we're not done. Deep within me I know that someday we will at least talk. That's what I live for."
The bartender looked at me with pity written all over her face.
"That's some story," she said. "I think you have to just give up on the guy and move on. You don't want to spend your whole life on some guy that doesn't want you anymore. You made a mistake. Be a woman and get past it. Besides you don't even know anything about him anymore. He may be remarried with six kids."
"I fought the divorce with everything I had. He finally got it under protest, three years ago for abandonment. He can't move on either. He's had three or four short relationships. And none of them lasted more than a month or so. Every one of them tore my heart out. But it's always been him who broke them off. I think it's because he can't get over me either."
"If you don't know where he is, how... ?" she asked. I smiled at her.
"I know where he is now," I said. "Everyone does. He's kind of famous now. I always knew that Kevin would be successful. It just took him longer. It's tougher to make it as a writer than as a reporter."
"A writer?" asked the bartender in shock. "Karla Canard ... I should have put two and two together. Your husband isn't Kevin Canard is he?" I just smiled and nodded.
"But ... but he's famous," she stuttered. "I mean ... he writes books and movies and ... He's dreamy. You were soooo stupid!" She just looked at me and kept shaking her head as she walked away. She went to deal with another customer and then pulled out a cell phone and started talking into it animatedly.
"I never knew any of that. It all makes sense now," said a voice behind me. I turned and saw two women behind me. The smaller more petite one was my producer Meg. The taller, more mannish looking woman was my new camera-person Deena.
"That's why you only work smaller markets now," she said. "And it's why you won't work with a male cameraman."
"I feel so bad," she said. "I thought we were friends. Why haven't you ever told me any of this?"
"Sometimes it's easier to talk to a stranger," I said. "Even if they do judge you, you're never going to see them again. So what does it matter?"
"Well, it might've helped to clear up the reasons behind your odd mood swings every once in a while," said Meg. I got the feeling that we were about to hit one of those touchy-freely moments. It almost felt like she was going to give me a hug.
The bartender was making her way back over to us. She seemed to have a big smile on her face. At the same time or very close to it a small nerdy guy walked into the bar. He was wearing the white shirt and black pants that most of the waiters wore and clutching a book in his arms as if it was a treasure.
"Karla, I need a favor," said the bartender. "This is like fate."
"What is?" I asked suspiciously.
"This is my boyfriend, Greg," she said pointing at the nerd. He's like the biggest Kevin Canard fan ever and..."
"I'm the biggest Kevin Canard fan ... EVER!" I corrected.
"Okay, I'll concede your point, ma'am," said Greg. "But could you get me his autograph on my copy of his latest book?" As he said it he was making the puppy dog face.
"Even if I wanted to ... how the hell would I get to him to ask him?" I asked bitterly.
"Uh, that's the easy part, Ma'am," said Greg. "He's doing a book signing across the street at the hotel I work at. The line is around the block, but I'm sure that snooty manager of his would have to let you in. He's here for the weekend for the big book fair. He's also here because his favorite band as a kid is performing down the street."
As he spoke, my heart rate increased. A slight sweat broke out on my forehead. I was both nervous as hell and so happy I could burst at the same time.
"Let's go," I growled, snatching the book from Greg.
"Are you sure?" asked Meg. "I mean maybe you should come up with a plan. You could pretend to be interviewing him for a story and see if any sparks fly. It might be a way to ... you know preserve your dignity ... just in case?"
The look on her face told me that she was every bit the friend she claimed to be. So much of our ability to communicate with other beings is nonverbal and involuntary. Concern oozed out of her. She really didn't want to see me hurt. It went beyond just worrying about her on-air talent. I smiled back at her. I was so excited to see Kevin that I was giddy.
Meg insisted on coming with me and so did Greg. We left one hotel and crossed the street to the next. Since Greg worked there, he led us right to the hall where the signing was going on. Even before we got there, I saw signs and posters about Kevin's appearance at the book fair and the signing. Seeing your husband's face on a poster that was at least five times bigger than real life, does a lot to make you nervous. Having women stop and stare at the posters doesn't help much.
The closer we got to the hall, the more nervous I became. I needn't have worried though. We took the elevator to the floor the hall was on and lost Greg. His manager had been looking for him and sent him off to do something. When we turned the corner we saw a line of people standing in the middle of the hallway. As we got closer to the line it dawned on me that Meg had probably been right. Most of the people in the line were holding copies of Kevin's newest book.
There were several people who probably worked for Kevin's publisher keeping things orderly. Meg and I got into the line and looked at each other.
I guess that both of us thought that we'd be able to just walk up and talk to him.
The woman in front of us in line was staring at me as Meg and I spoke. She tapped me on the shoulder.
"Uhm ... aren't you ... I mean I'm a really big fan and well, you used to be some kind of reporter right? And weren't you married to him once?" she gushed.
"She still is a reporter," said Meg.
One of the people from the publishing company had heard us and came over. He stared at me intently as we spoke.
"You shouldn't be in this line ma'am," he said. "Let me see if I can get Heather. Come with me."
We followed him through the line stepping in front of most of the people outside of the hall. The rumors of who we were travelled faster than we did. I heard all kinds of whispering going on and everyone stared at us. We politely made our way through the doors and into the hall where our new escort spoke to another guy from the company. This one had on a headset. He listened to our escort and looked me up and down and started talking into his headset. Greg rejoined us then.
"That's Heather Murphy," he whispered. "She's his business manager. You know I never noticed it before, but seeing the two of you in the same room, it makes sense."
"What makes sense?" I asked.
"She's you," he said. "Look at her. She's a younger, taller, prettier, better-built version of you."
"But with glasses," interjected Meg.
I looked across the room. There was a tall, thin, busty, blond woman hovering over Kevin. She massaged his shoulders and spoke to each person as Kevin signed their book and made small talk for a few seconds. As we watched the headset wearing guy beside her tapped her on the shoulder and pointed at us. Even from across the room, I could see the change in her expression and body language. She looked me up and down and whispered something in my husband's ear. She obviously didn't mention me to him because he kept signing books.
I noticed something about her then that angered me. She was always touching him. Even as she stepped away from him, her fingers trailed down his arms and along his hand until she could no longer reach him.
It took her a few moments to walk across the floor, that's how big the room was. As she came closer to us the room got smaller. It seemed like that room wasn't big enough for the two of us.
"Oh my God, She's awesome," blurted out Greg beside us.
"Hey cowboy, don't you have a girlfriend across the street?" asked Meg.
"Yeah, but she's not like that. That woman is like the sexiest librarian on the fucking planet."
"I'll bet those glasses aren't even real," spat Meg.
"I'll bet her boobs ARE," spurted Greg.
I'm not small busted by any stretch of the imagination, but seeing Heather approaching made me button another button on my blouse. Meg actually grabbed her own tiny boobs and lowered her shoulders to make them even less noticeable.