Edited by Barney R. All errors are mine.
All of the cheating stories have their clichés – I came home unexpectedly – she (or he) stopped or slowed way down on sex – he (or she) started using anything for an excuse to start an argument – bills from hotels that you had not been to – gas receipts from areas that your spouse wasn’t supposed to be in. They are clichés because any and all of them have happened enough that they become somewhat commonplace reasons for adulterous divorces.
Mine happened just that way.
I am Chuck Winston, 33, 6’ 1” 170 lbs., widowed, no kids. I was a high school teacher, I am a successful young adult author and a recreational runner. I compete in nearly all of the near and some of the larger national half marathons.
I met Carolynn Compton at a book signing for my first book. I was 26, and if not rich, close to it. She was 24, and an assistant manager at my hometown location of a national bookstore chain. She was given the first autograph I ever gave out. After the autograph session, Cary (she insisted I call her that) and I went to a mall coffee kiosk and talked about a lot of different things. We talked as if we had grown up together and been best friends. We talked about my writing, our college experiences, and our individual love life (or lack of it).
I explained that I was the typical high school nerd, I was not athletic enough for football, my fastball was slow, my curveball didn’t (she had the cutest giggle at that), I couldn’t dribble except when drinking coffee, and my jump shot was a brick. The only athletics that I participated in were cross country in the fall, and track in the spring. Cross country usually had 3 sets of parents and 2 coaches at the meets. The track meet would have maybe 100 students and parents in the stands. I was also in all of the AP and college credit courses the high school offered.
Because I ran, I was skinny, added to that I am extremely smart, and was a shy kid; I was the perfect target for the bullies that were basically running the school. Their problem was that I was and am extremely stubborn.
The bullies would do everything they could to make me bend to their will. I was just as determined to not acquiesce. They wanted me to write their papers. I plagiarized my own papers, and when I had turned my paper in well before the due date, they were given failing grades. I would deliberately screw up the math homework. I got beat up several times when the bully in question realized what I did. One time I was beaten so bad I was hospitalized for 3 days with a concussion. It didn’t make a difference. They finally realized that they needed to pick on some other targets.
At the same time, I would help anyone who really wanted to learn. I helped several of the football players who were not jerks and were serious about their education.
I explained my interaction with girls was limited. I dated in school, but the girls were from my own high school social strata. Then I told her about the Sadie Hawkins dance. I was asked to go by the head cheerleader. When I picked Sally Cunningham up, she was stunning. I looked like I had never worn a sport coat before. I gave her the corsage and she had me pin it on. I escorted her to the hired car and opened the door for her. We were scheduled to go to dinner after the dance, so I took her to a nice little place and got her coffee and a chocolate mousse before. Then when we arrived at the dance, she immediately went up to the football quarterback and started playing tonsil hockey. She never came back, and as I was leaving, the whole clique of “A” listers and bullies laughed.
I had the last laugh of that night though, almost every person except those in on the joke left; including about two-thirds of the football team. Then the band quit. Before I could get to the car, several of the kids that left the dance invited me to go to a planned after dance party at a local hotel. We all had a great time.
The next day we learned later that the remaining jocks and “A” listers screwed up they’re after dance party by having a lot of booze and destroying some of the furniture in the room their party was in. Most of them were arrested for minors in possession and the mayor was charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors because he bought the booze and paid for the room for his son, the quarterback.
The final laugh was on the bitch individually, as she had to leave school as she was pregnant. The quarterback ran out on her and was shot and killed in a drug deal gone bad.
When I wanted to go college, I was lucky because I had some scholarships for academics, but I would not have had enough money to go, but the college track team gave me a half scholarship. That let me have all my meals and room paid for by the athletic department. It also gave me a lot of campus ‘creds’, because when the jocks found out I would help anyone who really wanted it they actually invited me to come onto the other teams (except track) as an equipment manager. It was a paid position (above slave wages, just barely) so it gave me a little spending money.
I majored in Secondary Education because I wanted to write but felt the teaching would be a viable and enjoyable option for a fallback. My minors (three) were Financial Planning, English, and Secondary Math Education. I had a friend who took one of my books to a literary agent. He loved it and called me when I was a junior. I showed him the beginning chapters of ten different books that I had ready to publish.
I explained that I had always written stories since I was in the fifth grade. The book that was just published was first written when I was in the seventh grade. I kept all of my stories in my files, and when I reread them, I just tweaked them to appeal to a slightly older set of teens. My publisher loved that, and I had an additional three-book deal and a decent advance. I completed my degree, got my teaching degree, and teaching certificate. So, when I was needed, I substituted teaching for the local school district.
Cary said that she was one of the wallflowers in schools, braces, glasses, bad hair, and no self-esteem. She never had a date until she got into college. She won a makeover contest, and part of it included a free Lasik procedure. After that she was asked out frequently.
She explained that she went a little wild. She managed to party so hard she lost her scholarship. She finally quit partying and finished her degree in library science. She also stopped dating the chump of the month.
She concluded with the statement that she had only one serious boyfriend, his name was Jerry Skinner, a football player and it ended at a party when he drugged her and passed her around to the football team. They took turns raping her. When she came to she was naked and in an alley behind the athletic dorm.
She called the campus police, and they did nothing. Her so-called boyfriend and the football team said that they were all in a team party on the other side of campus all evening. She finally went to the local police and the major newspaper.
The resulting exposé cost the football coach his job. Then one of the team players crumbled, the ones who did the actual rapes went to prison. It seems that one of the idiots videotaped the rapes, including him. The school football team was disbanded and the program was dropped. The campus police chief was fired and the responding officers were also. Half of the force was forced to take a major retraining program in complaint handling or quit. She left that school, but the lawsuit she brought more than paid for the cost of her transfer to a different college and allowed her to get her masters.
She commented that because of the attacks, she has been in therapy for about three years, and at least has gotten over her fear of men. She has even managed to have a sexual relationship with a boyfriend, who had since moved away. She told me she was currently unattached.
I made serious brownie points when I complimented her on her strength to report the rapes and to get help to recover.
I finished my book tour, and when I returned to my home city, I looked Cary up. She was still working at the mall bookstore. I asked if she could go to coffee and catch up. She told me her lunch break was coming up and she would meet me in the food court.
It was like we had only talked yesterday. Cary had been promoted to shift manager and no longer had to work weekends except to fill in. Her shift also opened the store, so except when needed, she was done working at 5:00 PM. She then commented that she had not been on a date since we had talked the last time. She said; “A lot of jerks and older perverts, who are probably married, tried to pick her up or make a date right on the store sales floor. Mostly she just laughed at them. She finally started wearing a simple gold band as she wanted when she gets married. She just flashes it and most of the guys leave. The ones that don’t she just walk away from and goes into the offices.
I told her of all my adventures on the “If it is Thursday, this must be Cleveland tour.” I got that giggle again. Then I told her how the second book was in the publisher’s hands, and they will be bringing it out in eight weeks to three months, depending on when the first book sales start to slow.
I also told her that I was looking for a nice home in the area so I could write and teach. Teaching turned out to be almost as important to me as writing.
I was hired to teach full-time at a high school just outside the district I grew up in. I found a nice, but not huge house about one mile from the school. It was close enough that I could walk to school when the weather permitted. I met a lot of my students when I did that.
After the second coffee klatch, we started dating. We were very much a couple, we went to all of the local high school and community college theatric presentations, I even talked her into being a chaperone at one of the semi-formal fall dance for the freshmen and sophomores.
I was introduced to her mother; her father was absent, a victim of a desire for young secretaries in his office. Valerie, her mother is a jewel without peer. She made me feel like I was a son she did not have.
Cary wanted to meet my parents, as I never spoke of them. Then I told her and Valerie of my hidden sad story. I was in foster care and orphanages because my dad was killed in an armed robbery of his liquor store, and my mother had to be institutionalized because she had a breakdown. They were both only children and their parents were deemed too old to care for a six-year-old.
I then told them about a wonderful lady Mrs. Agnes Winters. She was the foster mother from the time I was 9 until I left the system. That wonderful lady inspired me to write almost from the first time I told her one of my stories. She also made sure that I took advantage of all of my learning opportunities.
Valerie and Cary both insisted that they meet this lady, so I called mom as I called her and we three went over to her house. Mom and the ladies got along great, and it was a moment that made all of the life problems I had suffered bearable.
About eight months later we were engaged. Mom and Mother (Valerie insisted I call her that) planned the wedding. I paid. We were married in June of my 28th year. Cary was a beautiful bride. We went on our honeymoon to Key West. We swam, shopped and really got to know each other. Because of her history, I tried to not be aggressive in our sexual life.
That lasted about a week. Cary said; “Chuck, I love that you don’t want to pressure me, but I love you. I know you will not hurt me, I am safe with you. Please love me like I need to be loved.”
That was all of the urging I needed. Our sex life became full. We tried almost everything, except anal which Cary still found frightening. We christened every room of my house except the half bath and the furnace room. Even the laundry room table was used.
I found I needed a proofreader full time, so Cary asked her mother to do the job. It was a godsend. My writing improved, my publishing timeline shrank, and the number of rewrites dropped to almost one per book.
Cary did not want kids yet, and I had a school full of them.
About three years after we got married Cary started to complain about the time I spent away at some of the races I entered. I cut back on the ones that were more than a thousand miles away.
Then she started to complain about my time spent writing and teaching. I put my foot down. “This house, your car, your food, and even my job are because of my writing. I will give you up before I give up my kids or my writing. You are my wife, and I love you, but if I gave up any of my passions, I would not be me. You are the most important thing in my life, but my life is my life. If you don’t want to share it, there is the door, don’t let it hit you in the ass when you leave.”
I saw a look of fear on her face when she saw I was serious. She started to pucker up like she was going to start crying.
I put a stop to that, “Look, I write because I need to. I teach because I love it. I married you because I love you. I want to know how I am supposed to remain me if I lose one of those things. You married a writer and a teacher. If I was good enough for you then, I should be good enough now. I am dead serious when I said you need to choose.”
Things settled down after that, but they never went back to completely normal until one day I heard Valerie tell her to straighten up and said loud enough for me to hear “Get your head out of your ass, you have a good man you are hurting.”
Cary must have seen or felt her mother was correct, she started to kill me with kindness. It took about six weeks before she settled down to what passed for normal.
We got back to an even keel. Then my fourth book came out and a summer book tour was planned. Cary had gone with me for the previous three but was bored every time. This time, she stated, “I will sit back and watch you on TV.”
School ended and the fourth tour started. I went to 15 cities in seven weeks. At first, I called home every night. Cary was attentive and sounded glad to talk for the first three weeks. I noticed a change about midway through the fourth week. I called home and got the answering machine. I left a message for Cary to call me.
About 10 minutes later an out of breath Cary called back. I didn’t make a big deal of it at the time, but it happened a couple more times before I stopped leaving messages when there was no answer.
The response from Cary the third time I didn’t leave a message was surprising. I got a loud and angry call back the next night. “Where were you last night that you could not call me? I waited for the phone for the whole night.”
I just waited until the rant finished. “I called, It went to the answering machine. I got tired of leaving messages. For the rest of this tour, you can call me when you’re done being too damn busy to answer the phone.” Then I hung up; I was angry, and the rant didn’t help.
I got a callback. I looked at the number on my cell. It was Cary; I let it go to voice mail. I called her back.
A sobbing Cary answered. I was still mad. “How does it feel to get a voice mail when you know that there is no reason for it? Does it make you wonder if there is something going on? Does it? Does it?”
She sobbed and said; “I was just out with the ladies from work. I’m sorry for yelling at you.”
“If it was so innocent, why did you lie to me about waiting by the phone? I don’t care if you go out with the girls. Did it ever occur to call me and tell me you were going out? The answering machine seems to be the person I am talking to when I call.”
I continued; “I am dead serious, I am not going to call any more. I just looked at my dialing history. Five times in the last week and a half you weren’t there when I called. Three times you called back out of breath like you rushed to be there when I called. Then there was yesterday, when I didn’t leave a message, you did not call me. Is there something that I need to know about?”
She sobbed and hung up. She did not call the next night. I didn’t either.
I did not call for the rest of the tour. After that angry call, other than the next night, Cary called me every night. We seemed to be over the hump. She was contrite and for the next week after the confrontation, tried to apologize for every call.
Once the tour was over, I took Cary to Washington DC for a 4-day mini-vacation. We had a very good time. Cary showed a surprising interest in the trail of John Wilkes Booth as he tried to escape from Washington to Baltimore. She also loved the Smithsonian Institute Air and Space Museum. I guess that my macho stereotypes got squashed that trip.
Once school started up, I would not be touring other than a mini-tour for a month in March. Things seemed to be going great on the home front. Cary got another promotion to store manager and started calling her assistant managers “her girls”.
She then started to take her girls from the store out on Wednesday evenings. I really did not have a problem with that but her attitude returned. She started sniping and nitpicking. Her big complaint was that I spent way too much time on my coaching and running. She started to slack off on initiating lovemaking and exhibited little enthusiasm when I started it.
Then the funny (strange) calls started. I would be near the phone and when I answered and said hello, all I would hear would be a click and dial tone. This happened about twice a week for two weeks before I mentioned it to Cary. She got a frightened look and tried to brush it off as a probable wrong number.
The look and the lame response set alarm bells off. I called a friend who had a Radio Shack franchise. He set me up with a phone recorder. He gave me detailed instructions on the setup and operations. I put in on the basement extension and turned it on.
Nothing showed up for about three weeks, and I was getting ready to remove the recorder. Then the phone calls started again. I stopped answering the phone when Cary was in the house. I just listened to the calls. I was not surprised when I heard Cary tell someone named John “If my husband answers, hang up or act like a salesman.”