I Walked Away
I sat looking out the window. I was about to make a move that was for me totally uncharacteristic. I knew my wife would be home soon. I used to enjoy watching her get out of her car after she backed it into the driveway. Often I would get a flash of leg high up. I told her about it one time. That was a killer. Now she swung both legs out at the same time and always held her skirt down.
Kim, as I called her although she wanted to be addressed as Kimberly, was still a beautiful woman at thirty-three. She was smart and confident as a business manager in an office of a firm that sold house wares. She first went there as a secretary and soon became more than that. She was on a fast track on moving up and the raises came frequent and high as she took over much of the management. I might have been worried, but the owner was an older friend of my parents.
Me, I was a writer of articles and essays. I wrote for magazines, newspapers, radio or whatever. I made a decent living, but nothing spectacular. At the end of the year, Kim's salary totaled more than mine and hers was steady. When the kids came, she worked until the last minute before their birth and returned to work as soon as possible. We hired a nanny part time and I was often around anyway. The nanny lasted until the kids went to school.
I didn't mind. Mostly I was home while the kids were growing up. Now there was Randy at eleven and there was Sammy at thirteen. I was a presence in the house if needed. I did most of the cooking and some of the housekeeping. I worked at home and it needed doing. I suppose after a few years it was expected that it would continue along this vein. Kim never made an offer of relieving me of the chores. I wondered out loud a couple years ago that we should hire a regular housekeeper, but it never came to pass.
I loved my kids, and had their respect while Kim gave them their orders of what was expected of them. Kim, well I wanted respect from her, but... ? If I asked the kids to do some little thing there was never an argument, but they always were uncomfortable if I showed them any affection. None of us were touchy-feely. According to Kim this wasn't done.
I blamed her for this and I was never to lay a hand on her except during our regular and only session of the week, come Friday evening. Two years ago it had come to me, "God what a dull life I'm living." A change in my life was called for and it started at the moment of this revelation.
Those were the thoughts from the past, but this was today. I was looking out the window for Kim to come home. No skin tonight either and it was two days until Friday. I put the prime rib roast on the table and shouted up the stairs to the kids. Kim came in. "Horace, Mom is coming over for dinner. Dad is out to the lodge." I set another plate without answering. I could tell Kim was trying to pick a fight. "I know you don't like my mother much, but will you be civil?"
I nodded as she continued, "I know you don't say much, but your body language is too expressive. She has feelings, you know." I nodded again.
The kids didn't look up. Kim started to tell them about some patron who had come into her office. "He was old and not too clean. He needed a shave. He was in trying to get his bill reduced. Kids, you see what I have to put up with? I get these people to deal with when old man Calder isn't around. He's a softy and would give them what they want.
"Not me. They knew what the cost is before they took delivery. I'm thinking Calder may sell the business to me and if he does, things will be different. If not maybe he will leave it to me when he kicks off."
Mother Canaan was late. Randy sat bumping the table leg with his feet. Sammy sat staring into space twirling her fingers through her hair. Kim kept rambling on about the type of people she had to deal with. I spoke, "I'm eating. The roast will be cold if we wait any longer." I sliced the roast and dished up the mashed potatoes. I passed around the broccoli for a vegetable. I had warmed the rolls I made this morning.
The kitchen door opened. Etta looked unhappy that the plates were filled, although she had arrived before we took a mouthful. She was staring at me. She knew it had to be me who had pushed things along before she got here. I held her eyes and then dropped my gaze to her breasts for a minute. I looked up. I smiled and wiggled my eyebrows.
I had never done anything like this before. My mother-in-law was shocked and her face flamed. She sat quickly and took a sip of water. It went down the wrong way and she coughed. I jumped up and patted her hard on the back. Then I started rubbing her shoulders and let my hand come up so it was caressing her neck and brushing her ears. She shuddered. "Horace, don't do that. What's the matter with you tonight?"
"Nothing, Kim told me to be more familiar with you. I'm just being friendly."
"I don't like it! I can't stand to have you touch me. I think you must be crazy."
I laughed. "Everyone is a little crazy at times. I wrote an article one time trying to figure out why people do crazy things. I didn't get much money for the article because I couldn't find an answer."
I let it go. The kids and Kim hadn't seen anything but me trying to help her. Kim got up to get more water for her. When she turned away, I again let my eyes drift down to Etta's breasts. She crossed her arms over her chest and when I smiled this time she got up and ran out the door. Kim was shouting after her to come back and finish her meal. Etta kept on going shaking her head no.
Kim came charging back in accusing me of driving her mother away. Randy stuck up for me. "Dad didn't say anything to grandma. She has been acting funny ever since she came in. She said Dad was crazy, but I think it is her who is crazy."
"Don't say your grandmother is crazy. Let's eat and get this over with. I'll take dinner over to her later."
I finished eating. "Kim would you and Sammy clean up tonight? I have to do an interview in a half hour. I'm supposed to meet the person down at Pauli's bar. I don't know how long it will be before I get home." I turned to Sammy. "I guess I'm feeling a little crazy after all. May I have a hug from my favorite daughter?"
"Dad, I'm your only daughter. You are acting almost as funny as Grandma." She laughed and came and hugged me. I opened my arms to Randy. He stuck out his hand and I shook it as I patted his shoulder. I went into the kitchen where Kim was rinsing plates before loading the dishwasher.
"I'll be home sometime. Maybe we should move our date night up to tonight. I'm feeling frisky."
"No way in hell. You know the routine. Mom thinks you are crazy. I think you are too. Go on, leave. Acting like you are, I don't know if you should come home at all." I shrugged, grabbed my satchel and laptop. Pauli's bar wasn't far so I walked.
Yeah, I walked. I walked right by Pauli's bar and two streets over a taxi was waiting for me. The taxi took me out to the edge of the city where there were several motels along the strip. I got into the taxi as Horace Jonathan Henderson, married to Kimberly Henderson with two children, Randal and Samantha.
I got out of the taxi as Johnny Henderson, close friend of Arlene Anderson. She had a boy named Jacky Anderson. Two years ago and two days after I had the realization how dull my life was, I was sent on assignment to interview a new widow whose husband had died when his motorcycle crashed. I had seen the short news item about the accident in the newspaper a couple weeks before I was given the assignment ... the hapless widow who was stuck far from home and nearly out of funds.
Arlene was seven months pregnant at the time, eight hundred miles from friends and with no family. Her husband had come here looking for work, but hadn't found anything after being rejected by the concern who had promised him a position. I could make this into a real sob story. Everything was there.
"Mr. Henderson, you look enough like my husband to be his brother or you might even be him if you cut your hair the same way like his. It is scary." Tears came and I lent her my handkerchief. It took three hours for her to tell me all about her and her husband's life. Arlene was seven years younger than me and at present a lost soul.
As I left, I told her not to give up hope. I knew of a charity that would help her for a short time. "Let me write up the story and maybe it will raise some money to tide you over for awhile."
"Is this part of your job?"
"No, but I want to help." I wrote the articles asking for donations at the end of it. Money poured in when the wire services picked it up. There were many well wishers. One lady, Mona, opened her home to the pregnant widow. She was a woman who had lost her own daughter recently and needed a companion. Arlene accepted and as she neared her term, I requested that I be informed when the baby was born.
During this period I was feeling good about what I had done for her. I had seen Arlene just a few times after the initial meeting, the longest during the first interview. Arlene was now living with this elderly lady, Mona, waiting for the baby to arrive. It was thirty miles from the city where I lived. I could easily visit in an afternoon and return home for supper. When the call came in the middle of the afternoon about the baby coming, I left Kim a note that I had an interview in another city and wouldn't be home that night.
I had little difficulty getting into the birthing room. I made it in time to hold Arlene's hand as the baby was being born. When I declared I was her brother-in-law, Jack Anderson, they let me in. I was there when the baby was brought for his first feeding. I watched how the mother reacted to this new life that she was holding and later I sketched out the scene in words that were my stock in trade. Someday, I might be able to sell the story.
"Johnny, would you like to hold the baby before they take him back to the nursery?" I had two children of my own, but I had never had the chance to hold them. Hell, I had never been in a birthing room before. Kim had said it wouldn't do.
Mona took care of Arlene and baby Jacky and I got to see them when I could get away from home. It was never more than a month between my visits. Was I in love with Arlene? Not really. I enjoyed being with her and I certainly loved the baby. This went on for several months, me visiting when I could. Something had to change.
Two years went by. Mona had gone to visit a sister and would be absent for a week. Arlene asked if I could arrange to stay over for one night. "Johnny, I want to talk to you about my future. I'm going to be twenty-five soon and life is passing me by. I think you should think about your own future too. I know you aren't happy at home."
"Okay, I can get away for a few days. You must have something in mind. I've been having some thoughts along this same line. We'll see what we come up with."
"Would you kiss me before you leave? I've been waiting for months for a kiss from you."
"You're okay with kissing a man who is married?"
"I am. Please come here."
Home and at dinner that night I announced I was going to be out of town for a few days. I didn't make any excuses. Kim commented, "That's fine with me. Dad will take the kids somewhere. He sure does care for our children. I'll be busy myself." There was no question asked about when I would be home.
That was it. There were no questions either about where I was going or even if this was related to my work. "I'll be gone at least three days and three nights. I'll be home when you get out of the office on Friday."
"Why don't you stay somewhere and come home on Saturday?"
"What about Friday night? That is our night together."
"We'll skip it this week."
"We've been skipping a lot of Friday nights lately. It has been three weeks since we've been together."
"Oh, Christ Horace, give it up. We have two kids. I don't want to take the chance of slipping up and getting pregnant. I don't care if we ever have sex again."
"Damn it Kim, I'm in the prime of my life. I'm thirty-two and I'm not going the rest of my life without some loving."
"Well, you'll have to get it somewhere else then. You'll get some from me when I feel like it and that's it. I could change our night if you are that bad off, but you better damned well not count on it." I stared at my wife. This was a first with her even changing our night for sex. I examined her face before she turned away. Was that a guilty look I saw? It seemed like it. I wasn't happy with having this conversation in front of the kids either.
"Okay, Saturday night it is then. I'll be home in the afternoon and take you out to dinner. Maybe we'll take the kids and be a happy family."
"No, my dad will have the kids, but you can take me out to dinner. We'll talk about having sex after we get home."
I left to be with Arlene late in the afternoon on Tuesday. It was a three-quarter hour drive to get there. Traffic was bad, so I didn't arrive until eight. Arlene had on a beautiful top and skirt. She was much shorter than Kim. Her whole persona was different than my wife's.
Arlene looked as if she enjoyed living and treated everyone she came into contact with respect and a smile. Mona, before she left had helped do her hair which was a nice shade of brown and curled around her face delightfully. Sometimes a stray lock fell over her eyes giving her a saucy air when she laughed.
Arlene's upper body was compact with shapely breasts and hips that were a little wide. Her legs though, were long and nicely shaped. "You're late, Johnny. Play with Jacky while I put dinner on the table."
I was nervous. I surreptitiously watched Arlene as she bustled around. I asked, "Did Mona know I was coming to stay with you tonight?"
"Yes, and she said to give you everything you wanted. I told her that was the plan."
"That's good, but you must know I'm feeling guilty about this."
"Of course you are, but I can make you happy and maybe you will forget your wife for a little while. I'm not demanding a commitment, but I do need some loving." The evening went about as expected.
I found out that Arlene was a more sexual person than I was. She drove Kim from my mind and I experienced some things that I had only imagined. When Arlene got up to change the baby in the morning she said she would be right back, I was hit with more guilt than I knew how to deal with. Talk about being conflicted.
After breakfast, Arlene asked, "Are you sorry about this?"
"In one way I am. I will say I have felt real love for the first time in my life and it is with you. The problem is, I have never cheated on Kim before and it is bothering me more than I expected."
"Johnny, I'm sorry for being the cause of your guilt. Is it possible to go back to being friends the way we were?"
"I don't think so and it would be too late anyway. I've found you the sweetest person. It is like opening up a box of chocolates. I have eaten one piece and I want another. I do need to cool it until I can get comfortable with the idea of how wonderful you are."
"You say the sweetest things. I'm not sorry I pressured you for love either. You have an idea of what I want, but I'm willing to wait. I'll leave it in your hands from now on." She handed me the baby and I bounced him on my knee as he giggled with excitement.
We talked about our lives in more depth the rest of the day. I found out what her life with her husband had been like. They had been married four years. He was an itinerate carpenter, she following him from one job to another. Arlene still had the van that pulled his motorcycle on a trailer. It was old, but I had had it serviced for her when I did the first interview. It was parked on the side of the garage next to Mona's house and was rarely driven.
The trailer for the bike had been sold shortly after moving here since it was in the way. We put the baby in a baby carriage and walked down to the convenience store. While walking, I told Arlene more of what my life was like married to Kim.
"You're wuss. If we get into a long-term relationship, you will have to step up and be a full time partner with me. I'll make suggestions, but I won't make demands ... well no more than I did last night and even then it will be your decision. I expect the same of you."
"I'm working on it. I am here aren't I? Let's say this is me learning to jump the fence and for me it is me feeling wild, although I'm feeling guilty about making love to you."
"I'm not surprised. You know you are going to have to settle things with your wife before we get too involved. From everything you have told me, I expect you are thinking about going for a divorce."
"I'm thinking about it. The only problem is I have no grounds."
"Are you sure? I mean no woman would treat you like she does if she didn't have someone else."
"I've never considered that she would cheat on me and I can't believe she would."
"You know her, I don't. Johnny, why don't you talk to her about your feelings? Maybe it is something that can be fixed."
"What about you and me? We have had sex. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
"It means a lot, but it isn't enough to break up your marriage over."
That was a month ago. No, what Arlene said about the sex that I felt so guilty about was not enough to break up a marriage. It was Kim who broke up our marriage. The day I returned from my three day hiatus, I contacted a private investigator. Three days later I had pictures in my hand of Kim and another man. I couldn't see the man's face, but it was quite evident what he and my wife were doing.
I guess I was going to miss my sometime Friday night date that was coming up this week. I would miss it anyway because Kim was to be served papers Friday morning at work. When she came home that evening, Kim accused me of having a mid-life crisis, but didn't seem too upset about being served. I hadn't said anything about the investigator's report. I was saving that for when Kim gave me problems in the divorce. She surprised me by agreeing immediately to my terms.
I don't know if I had thought through this move very well. I had two children and I loved them. I was leaving them, though knowing they would be cared for. My parents and Kim's father would see to them. I just wouldn't be a presence in their lives any longer. I would have visitation. Would it be enough ... not likely!
I knew I could write, but being an unknown author wasn't as easy to catch on as one who was already published. I wasn't ready to tell the world I was living under a different name. I had the feeling that Horace wouldn't do at all. I was glad to rid myself of it anyway. (Horace, Horace, vampire Boris) had started in first grade. Time would tell.
I had taken the money from my personal account, which was considerable. What was the more valuable were the fiction stories that were stored on my laptop. I had shown a couple of these stories to one of the editors who did some work for a major publisher and she agreed that my work would sell. The stories would be published under my shortened name, Jay Henderson. No more Horace for me.
That might make a big difference. I didn't want to use my full name to start until my life had settled down. There was the divorce and then I wanted to deal with Sammy and Randy. So far they didn't seem too upset with me leaving and were handling it all well. It is hell when your kids can see how their mother treats their father.
Mona, the woman who owned the home where Arlene was living, decided she would go live with her sister. She gave me a good price on her home and I used my money to buy her house. Arlene came with it. I did go by the name of Johnny Henderson. For all intents and purposes, people assumed I was married to Arlene. Over the period of a few months Arlene told me all about her husband.
Did Arlene and I marry ... no we didn't. Jacky was legitimately named for his father because Arlene had been pregnant when he died. Anyone would swear looking at different pictures of Arlene and I together that it was of me that was her husband. He was dead though. The only discernible difference was that I appeared to be aging much faster than Arlene.
What was my situation with my own children? It was complicated. Kim had custody of course and I had given up my share of the house in lieu of not having to pay but minimal child support. Kim immediately sold the house and moved the family in with her parents, Etta and Henry Canaan. Kim was now free of all her responsibilities.
Sammy, my now fifteen-year-old daughter, couldn't get along with her grandmother, Etta, and soon not with her mother either. This happened when Sammy had a friend visit. Things got pretty tense when Kim's lover came to pick up Kim. Sammy's friend, staying over, realized it was her father who was seeing Kim and cheating on her own mother. Kim blamed Sammy for her misstep so my daughter started spending more and more time with my father and mother, Samuel and Delores. She eventually moved her things over there into the room where I had grown up.
Randy didn't really care where he lived. He was happy as long as he had good food and could be out on his skateboard. He had been practicing his ollie and nollies combined with several flips. It scared the crap out of me when he did some slides and grinds. He had mapped out a route between his two sets of grandparents' homes. He found places to do all of these tricks between the two places. Just kicking, he could go from one home to the other faster on his board than it could be driven by auto.
My father, Sam, was into woodworking for a hobby, and Henry, Kim's father, was into fishing. Randy, intelligent and inquisitive, was happy because now he always had something to interest him.
Back when we were together as a family, I suppose I neglected Randy because I would be writing and that was something that he couldn't be involved in. Both kids were happy because my father and Henry had been friends all of their lives and continued to be while focusing on the two kids. I did know they missed being with me.
I didn't see Randy and Sammy so much right after the divorce. The stipulation was that I could see them every other weekend. Kim called me when her troubles began with Sammy. I came up on a Wednesday evening and talked with her. This became a standard evening to visit. Then one weekend when I wasn't supposed to be able to see them, Kim called again for me to take them out. Soon I was seeing them on a regular basis twice a week. It was I who suggested Sammy go stay with my parents.
"Dad, we now see more of you than Mom sees of us. Grandma Etta wishes Mom would move out and Randy wants to be with me."
"Okay Sammy, I'll see if I can arrange to have you both move in with me. I bought a house awhile ago. There will be room for both of you. I'll talk to your mother about it."
I called Kim for a meeting. She readily agreed and offered to pay some support. She didn't realize that I was doing much better with my writing and I didn't say anything about how my financial situation had improved either.
Not only that, Arlene had always been interested in Chinese artifacts and had contacted an importer. Most of these items were cheap stuff and I suspected they might be knock-offs of the some real quality merchandise. There was a market for her in discount and dollar stores.
She set up shop on the internet and soon had a fine little business going. Basically she was a salesperson and all the items were drop-shipped by the importer. One large room on the first floor was made into an office. Both our endeavors were quiet, me on the computer writing and she on another computer selling. It was quite companionable. For now Jacky gurgled in his bed happily for the most part, and we both tended to him when he demanded attention.
For ourselves, we were friends with benefits. We didn't feel the need to sleep in the same bed, but if we felt like it at odd times, we obliged each other and returned to what we were doing when satisfied. I never mentioned to my family that I lived with a woman. That had to change when I made the choice of having Sammy and Randy with me.
The last Wednesday before school was out for the year, I went to visit my parents and imparted where I lived, both to my kids and to Mom and Dad. Henry came in while I was explaining, so he also became aware of my owning a house. "This Sunday afternoon I am having a cookout in my back yard so you can see where Sammy and Randy will be living. Henry, I suppose I should invite Etta if you drive down with my father and mother."
"Naw, she wouldn't be interested. I won't even say anything to her. What she doesn't know won't hurt her." This suited me fine.
"Horace, what can I bring?"
"Mom, maybe a pie or cake."
"Okay. We will come early and help you set up."
"Not necessary. I have a covered patio and I use it a lot. Everything is ready to go all the time. One other thing I need to bring up. Mom, could you start calling me Johnny? I've kind of dropped the name of Horace."
Dad injected, "It's about time. I've always hated the name."
"Why did you name me Horace, then? Where did the name come from anyway?"
"Ask your mother?"
"You had a great uncle named Horace. He gave your father and me some money when we were in dire straights when we first married. Your brother was sickly before you were born and we got behind. I had to promise to name my next child Horace if it was a boy. Sorry about that. He's dead now so the name can be too."
"When is my brother getting out of the service? It is supposed to be this year isn't it?"
"I think so. You do know Fred never tells us anything?"
"I know, Mom."
Mom stated, "I'll have to ask Kim. She has been corresponding with him." This was news to me. There was silence and everyone looked at me. I had to ask.
"He has been seeing her?"
"He was home six months ago for a few days. Kim went out with him."
"That's nice. I haven't seen him but once or twice in the last few years. Has he been here other times when I didn't know he was in town?"
"He has been coming home several times a year for the last few. I really don't know how often."
"Where has he been staying?"
Henry spoke up. "Lately he stays with Etta and me. I don't like it, but Etta and Kim told me to keep my mouth shut. Many times your father and mother didn't know he was in town either, so don't blame them."
"I guess it is nothing to me then." It only took a moment for me to figure out why this was kept from me.
I looked at Sammy. She said, "I knew he was here the last time and it wasn't six months ago either. I think it is awful what Mom and Uncle Fred are doing to you, but I wasn't supposed to say anything. That is why I couldn't get along with Mom and Grandma Etta and ended up living here."
"Well, this is something to think about. I going to head home and I'll see you all on Sunday. I hope the weather stays good. Give me a hug Sammy and I'll be going."
"Aren't you staying for supper?"
"Not tonight, Mom. Make that a strawberry rhubarb pie on Sunday. That's my favorite." I closed the door behind me. Before I reached my car, I heard a lot of raised voices. I drove slowly away with a jumbled mind.
Arlene knew something had happened this afternoon and questioned me. "It is nothing, really. I just found out that my ex-wife was cheating on me for longer than I was aware. My family knew and kept it from me. I hate being made a fool of. I've invited most of them for a cookout this Sunday so you can meet them. Randy and Sammy will be staying here for good. Can we get some salads and things together? I'll do hamburgers and hotdogs."
"Sure Johnny. Do you want to talk about what is bothering you?"
"No, it is too personal." I had a lot on my mind. It came to me. I had never examined the pictures taken by the private investigator two years ago. They were in a little fire safe in my bedroom. I had never used them or shown them to anyone. Kim hadn't fought the divorce so there was no need to display them.
I examined the photos closely before I went to bed. It didn't take but a minute to recognize that it was my brother who was doing my wife. Fred had a big boil on his back when he was seventeen. It was lanced, but became infected and was difficult to heal. It left a noticeable scar. It was very faint after so many years, but I could still identify it.
So now I knew my wife had been cheating on me with my brother. That must be why the divorce was granted so easily. Neither she nor my brother wanted the facts of her adultery to be fully disclosed. Kim's parents were aware, and I suspect my family became aware after Kim and I were divorced. Well screw them!
This was my first thought, but then I didn't know as I wanted to become estranged from my parents and I liked Henry, my ex father-in-law. I certainly didn't want my two kids to end up hating their mother, either.
My brother was older than me by four years so I didn't know him that well. He had made the military his career. I used to see him when he was home on leave, but not so much in the last few years. Kim may have been the reason for that. He would come to town, but not to see me. I wondered if they were supposed to be in an exclusive relationship. Maybe, maybe not. They were cheating on me and it appeared they were on each other from what Sammy had told me about when Kim dated one of her friend's father.
I tossed and turned half the night. I heard Arlene coming up the stairs and then down the hall to my room. The door opened. "Johnny, are you sleeping?"
"No, just lying here with my mind going round and round."
"Can I get in bed with you so we can talk?"
"Tell me about what went on today. I know you are upset."
"I am. First of all, are you okay with Sammy and Randy coming here to live? Sammy doesn't get along with her mother and grandmother. Kim's parents want Kim to move out as well. Randy can't stay there. Sammy has been staying with my parents, but I would like both of them to live here with me. Kim has all ready agreed to this.
"I also found out tonight from some pictures I have that it is my brother who has been screwing Kim and I suspect it has been going on for years. I don't know how I'll act when I meet him again. I feel Kim and he have no respect for me and I feel terribly humiliated. I have no idea which one is the more to blame, but they both are guilty. At least she isn't anymore faithful to my brother than she was to me. But then I'd still like to shoot the bastard."
"Johnny, don't think like that. I would lose you. Think what it would do to your family?"
"You're right of course, and it would about kill Mom. I guess I will have to continue to ignore the past and make believe I don't know. It will be damned difficult, though."
"I know it will and you shouldn't have to. Johnny, as long as I'm here and we are both awake, I could use a little cuddling."
"You know what happens when you suggest cuddling, don't you?"
"I do and that was the whole idea. Johnny, don't worry about your brother. You haven't seen much of him for twenty years. So he did you wrong, put it behind you. Maybe it was Kim who was all to blame and you are handling that okay."
"It's behind me and you're in front of me. Be prepared." I did just as Arlene had suggested. I put my brother and Kim out of my mind. She saw to it in a way only she could do.
I was excited about my family finally meeting Arlene. After Jacky was born, she had worked hard to get her figure back. She claimed her butt was too big, but it looked fine to me. She now was having her hair styled and she had a fine, flawless complexion. Her breasts, now that she had stopped nursing had returned to their former resiliency, bouncing just slightly when she moved around.
I was sitting, having my second cup of coffee. "Johnny, you keep looking at me." She paused then said, "No, that isn't right, it is more that you are facing me and looking right through me. What's on your mind?"
"Maybe I was looking through you and didn't realize it. You were on my mind, though. If I was brave enough to ask you something, would you answer me truthfully?"
"Arlene, we've been living together now for two years. We certainly get along together and we help each other all the time like you helped me last night."
"Um, anything else?"
"Well, I love Jacky as much as I love Randy and Sammy. They will be living here with us. Given your temperament, I think you can get along with them. I could wait to ask, but I'd kind of like to know something before they get here. I think of you all the time and you have made me a very happy person since we've known each other. That said, I want you to be happy too and I don't want you to say yes if you think you won't be. I was thinking maybe we should get married."
"Johnny, that's about as lukewarm a proposal of marriage I have either read about or ever heard. Can't you do a little better?"
"Okay, see if this would work? Arlene May Anderson, would you consent to marry me?" I took an engagement ring out of my pants pocket, hiding the fact that I had it in my hand.
"Johnny, that's why I love you because you are always thinking of ways to make me happy. When did you plan on us getting married?"
"Soon. I don't want Kim to renege on her promise to let me have the kids. She could make trouble if she realizes I am living with an unmarried woman. With two underage children in the house Social Services might object. I did buy your ring more than a month ago. That was before I even felt I had a chance of having Sammy and Randy with me. It is now just a little more imperative that we marry."
"Johnny, thank God for them coming here and pushing you to ask me to be your bride. I would have married you anytime even before Jacky was born, if you had asked. I've loved you that long."
"Great. We'll go get our license next week. I'll be asking Randy to stand up with me."
"Good, if Sammy likes me, I'll ask her to be my maid of honor."
"That would make my day. They haven't had much real home life lately. Being involved in our wedding should make them feel welcome and good about moving in with us."
"Johnny, I'll do my best. You do know we could go get that license today don't you?"
"Do you want to get married on this Sunday?"
"No, of course not. Sammy will need a dress to wear and I might buy a new one for myself. Sunday would be too soon. Besides she and I have to get to know each other."
"Whatever works for you, certainly works for me."