“Welcome to the New World” is a story event being curated by QHML1. In one way or another, all of the stories will involve women being seduced by power.
Being a great writer doesn’t necessarily equate to being a wonderful judge of writing, which explains why QHML1 invited me to participate. I look forward to reading all of the other stories and encourage you to join me.
“Listen, darlin’, I didn’t freaking plan this. I don’t know what you want me to do here. It’s not like I don’t want to go. I bought the tickets, Dad said I could use the Rolls, I even got a new tux. I just can’t. My leg is broken in three places. I don’t have a choice here.”
I tried to keep the anger out of my voice and answered all honey and cream. I tore a strip of paper from my notebook as I spoke. “I understand. How are you doing? Is there a lot of pain? Can I bring anything by? Some food or something?”
“No, they’ve got me on some pretty serious pain killers. I’m probably going to sack out and get some sleep.”
“Okay, Bobby. Call me tomorrow.” Folding the paper over, I tore it into halves and then repeated the process.
“I will. I’m really sorry about this, babe.”
Folding the strips of paper as small as possible, I flicked them one by one into the garbage can while talking to my emotionally stunted boyfriend. “I know. Things happen. Your health is more important than a silly party. Go lie down and we’ll talk soon.”
He sounded contrite. “Okay, sorry we can’t go, but I’ll make it up to you. Promise.”
After hanging up, I walked into my closet and screamed. Why did he have to be such an idiot? Riding a bicycle down the stairs of the frat-house while his drunken buddies cheer him on, and I’m supposed to be okay with that? On the day of the Cherry Blossom Ball?
Taking a moment to compose myself, I stepped out to see Carla looking for me. “It’s okay. I was just ... It’s fine. Listen, why don’t you take the rest of the day off? I’ll fix something for Daddy for supper.”
“But ... it’s the ball tonight. You can’t be cooking for the Senator.”
“There’s been a change of plans. Have a great night. Tell the kids I’m thinking about them.”
Carla had been with our family since before Mom had passed. She had two teenage daughters of her own and I’m sure they missed their mother. At least someone could enjoy their evening.
Taking out my gown, I held it in front of me as I looked in the floor length mirror. It was a beautiful dark cherry red. Long enough to accentuate my 5’8” height, the darker color played well off my blonde hair. The dress was designed to pull attention to my legs and now it was absolutely perfect ... for nothing.
I thought of putting it on and wearing it while eating with Daddy. Pushing aside my petulance, I hung it in the closet.
Going downstairs, I started rummaging through cabinets and plowing almost haphazardly through the fridge. I was taking my frustrations out on a roast and whatever cans and implements got in my way.
Turning the oven on to 375, I called out.
“Alexa, play songs in my library by Postmodern Jukebox.”
It wasn’t enough to lift my mood, but I listened while I prepped. Then the banging started. I was about to pause Alexa when the noise stopped. I grabbed some carrots and potatoes and an elevated rack to go in the Le Creuset pot. The banging started again.
This was not my day.
They had been working on the pool house for a week and they were getting on my last nerve. Walking out the back door, I glared at the guy with the hammer. Then I stopped glaring and started looking. He had asked me out twice. The first time I had claimed to be busy. The second time I was a little more honest and told him I was seeing someone.
He took it well and didn’t ask again.
I guessed that he was in his early 20s and stood about 6’2 or 6’3. He looked good swinging the hammer in a blue-collar ‘good with my hands’ sort of way. Seeing me, he stopped working. He smiled and pushed his long hair away from his eyes.
“Yeah ... Yeah, fine. Listen, what time do you get off work?”
“Well, my dad owns the company, so whenever he tells me to knock off.”
“Oh, that’s ... A family business. That’s nice. Listen, if you’re free tonight ... wow, this is awkward. Okay, if you’re free tonight, would you be interested in taking me to the Cherry Blossom Ball? Not a date or anything. My idiot boyfriend broke his leg at the last minute and I can’t show up alone. I have the tickets, it’d be my treat. We’ll just go, I’ll support my sorority, we’ll hang out for an hour or so and leave. You’d be doing me a big favor.”
“Uhh, I’m not really dressed for something like that. I don’t have...”
I hadn’t noticed it before, but I liked the mixed aroma of fresh cut grass and sawdust. “It’s not a problem. You’re taller than he is, but I’m sure that one of Daddy’s tuxes would fit you. You’ll look fine and can return it whenever. I’ll grab one and you can take it home, change and be back by maybe, I don’t know, six?”
“It’s Missy, right? Missy, I have a tux. If we have time for me to go home and shower up, we’ll be fine. I’m not sure if I can pull up to an event like that in my truck, though.”
“Thank you, you’re a lifesaver. I owe you a million, Kevin. We’ll take one of Daddy’s cars. It’ll be fine.”
He was back by six and he looked good in his tux. Very, very good.
Calling Dad, I told him that I’d leave a plate in the microwave and the leftovers would be in the fridge. Kevin and I arrived on time and I tried to figure out how I’d keep him from feeling awkward or uncomfortable with all the self-important blue-blood elite. He was doing me a huge favor and not making him feel self-conscious was the least I could do.
If we circled once to be seen and then kept to the rear of the room, he wouldn’t have to feel obligated to try any of the more formal dances. We’d have a few drinks, say hi to some people and make an early night of it.
After introducing Kevin to some friends who commiserated with me about Bobby’s leg, we found a seat, drank some punch and chatted with each other and anyone that dropped by. I found some of my friends looking Kevin up and down and I didn’t like their predatory gaze. He was a nice guy, doing me a favor and I wasn’t going to leave him to swim in that pool of piranha. They’d eat him alive.
When he heard the opening of “A New Day Has Come”, Kevin stood and extended his hand.
“Do you waltz?”
Did I waltz? Who was this guy?
“I’ve been known to waltz once or twice. How about you, Kevin?”
He smiled and seemed a lot more confident than I was feeling. “I can fake my way through it.”
I stood and he led me to the dance floor. He was tall and solid, and I worried about the future of my toes. Any fears about him stepping on my feet evaporated when he led us into a Vienna Waltz and swept me across the dance floor. I’d later feel like a classist jerk for making assumptions about him for being a carpenter. At that moment, though, I was too busy being amazed.
Struggling to keep up, I surrendered myself to the dance and my partner. I felt the strength in his arms and the grace in his body and understood that I had made some huge mistakes. I suddenly realized he hadn’t had any problems talking to any of my friends and seemed quite comfortable. As the song came to an end, I realized I was a snob. It stung.
I started to walk off after our song and he gently pulled me back as “A Wink and a Smile” started. We foxtrotted and I noticed other dancers backing away. Every eye was on us and when the song ended Jenny Cartwright walked up.
“Regarde-toi, mon ami, avec ce grand verre d’eau. Missy Pettigrew, where have you been hiding this boy? I absolutely must have the next dance.” Her French didn’t do justice to American colloquialisms.
“Jenny, this is Kevin. Kevin, Jenny.”
He took her hand and kissed it. He kissed her freakin’ hand. “Ce serait un honneur, Mademoiselle, mais malheureusement, je dois décliner. Jenny, I’m so sorry. I was hoping to grab some punch. Maybe we’ll get a chance later?” She looked up into his steel blue eyes and crooked smile and just slowly, silently nodded.
Kevin holding my hand, we grabbed some drinks and headed back to our table.
We danced twice more, each time catching everyone’s attention. Before we were ready to leave, I visited the ladies room. I was almost assaulted by a small gaggle of friends and acquaintances.
As usual, Elaine Woods took the lead. “Okay, spill. Who is he? He’s like a younger better-looking James Bond and he dances like ... I don’t know. I’ve never seen anyone move like that.”
“He’s ... Kevin’s a friend. He’s just doing me a favor.” I wasn’t sure why I didn’t say he was a carpenter working on the pool house and I again felt pangs of guilt. This snobbery bullshit was ugly and was going to have to be nipped in the bud.
“Well, favor or not, he can do me any time he wants.”
For some reason, that got under my skin. “I’ve got to go. I promised him we wouldn’t stay long, and I need to drop some food off with Bobby.”
“Why don’t you leave Kevin here. I’ll make sure he gets home okay.”
“I’m sure you would. Someone’s home, anyway. No, I’ll be taking him back. I’ll call you tomorrow. Great job with the ball.”
We stopped at Abiline’s Bistro on the way home and I picked up four meals for Bobby. We swung by the University and the frat. Kevin stayed in the car while I brought the food in. Climbing the steps, I made my way to his room, carrying the bag. He had a small fridge in there, and I was pretty sure the food would fit if I cleared out the beer.
Opening the door, I stood there, stunned. He had a guest, but she wouldn’t need the food. Her mouth was otherwise occupied. His cast-enclosed leg was propped up on an ottoman and his other leg was spread wide. Some brunette was between his thighs with her mouth pressed up against his crotch, taking Bobby all the way down.
“You. Absolute. ASSHOLE!” I reached into the bag and pulled out a quart container of chili. It was airborne by the time he recognized what was going on. He partially dodged the spicy projectile and much of it landed on the head of Fellatio Girl.
I was pulling out chicken noodle soup when he started pleading. “Missy, Missy, c’mon. I ... it was the drugs. The painkillers. I thought she was you. Don’t...”
The soup hit him straight in the chest and I just wished it was hotter. The girl scooted away from him and tried to cover her breasts with her hands.
Swinging the bag, I hurled the rest of it at him.
“Fuck you, Bobby. We’re done. Don’t call me, don’t text me. If you see me, turn around and walk the other way.”
“Missy. Missy!” He was yelling to my back as I walked away. I was grateful for the broken leg so he couldn’t follow me until I realized it robbed me of the opportunity to push him down the stairs.
Without turning around, I flipped the building the bird with both hands and yelled as I reached the door.
I made my way to the parking lot and opening the door, I got in the car.
“How’s he doing?”
“Shut up and drive.”
“Ooookkkkaaayy.” Kevin drew the word out and then remained silent.
By the time we were halfway home I was crying as I stared out the window.
I was angry, embarrassed and ashamed and, unfairly, Kevin was wrapped up in it all. I couldn’t separate him from my humiliation with Bobby and I couldn’t ignore how arrogant I had been. Poor redneck Kevin would have to be protected from us well-heeled doyens of society. Right. I was an arrogant ass.
He handled everything with aplomb and every woman there had secretly wished that she was with him.
The campus offered no refuge and neither did my usual haunts. The sorority was filled with bitches who would be salivating now that Bobby was single. The chances were too great that I would run into one of Bobby’s friends, his little whore, or worse, someone pushing him around in a wheelchair.
Bobby had called so often that I had to block his number. I’m sure he regretted being caught, but it was just as likely that his father the judge didn’t want to get on Daddy’s bad side.
I hid in my room. Courageous? No. Let me lick my wounds? Yes. I had my textbooks, laptop, phone, tablet and countless pints of Ben and Jerry’s. I’d pop in my earbuds and get to work. I was pissed enough at myself that I let the specter of Bobby chase me from my friends and favorite places, I wouldn’t let him also affect my grades.
On occasion I would hear banging or clattering, take out the earbuds and head to my window. Looking down, I could see The Dancing Carpenter working. He always seemed happy and I found that hard to relate to. I’d stand there and watch for a while and then get back to work.
My parents, coaches, and teachers always described me as driven. I think that was a polite code for obsessed or bitchy if I didn’t get what I wanted. When I was 12, I sold 1,248 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. I literally sold those cookies. My hands touched every box. That’s wasn’t counting the extra boxes that were sold off of the forms Daddy brought into his offices. I was Class President for two years in high school and I graduated as Valedictorian. I currently had a 3.95 GPA and that .05 drove me nuts.
And Kevin was outside working on a pool house and seemed perfectly content.
I watched him more and more frequently until I gathered up the courage to bring him some lemonade three days after the dance.
“I, uh, I never really thanked you. For taking me and everything. And stopping at the bistro and then ... well, that wasn’t the best ending to a date I’ve ever heard of.”
He took a swig from the lemonade and smiled. “Thanks, that’s good. Homemade, right?” He put the glass down on the table. “Don’t worry about it. You told me it wasn’t a date, and something clearly went poorly with the food drop-off. No apologies necessary.”
“Can I make it up to you? Something a little less formal?”
“Sure. What are you thinking?” He had been working in the sun and his shirt stuck to his lean body.
“Station Brewhouse? It’s right off campus. We can split a pizza or get some burgers.”
“Sounds great. I could even drive my truck and not feel like a hillbilly.” There was that smile again.
“Okay, just let me know when you’re done for the day and we’ll head out.”
Heading back into the house, I stopped when he called out.
“Missy? Is this one a date?”
Turning, it was my turn to smile. “I think it is, Kevin. I think it is.”
When we arrived, I saw Jenny Cartwright sitting at a table, salad in front of her, staring at her phone. When she looked up, she spotted me, smiled, nodded and went back to her phone. A second later she realized what she had seen and looked up again, her eyes switching from me to Kevin and back again. Her thumbs started moving so quickly they were a blur as she worked the phone.
I’m sure that within minutes every mutual friend we had knew I was there with Kevin.
After taking a huge bite from my burger, I wiped the juices from my chin, chewed and swallowed. “So, is your grandpa Baryshnikov or something?”
He laughed and stole one of my onion rings. “No. My mom owns a dance studio. She was a professional dancer when she met Dad. Before they got married, he bought the property and built the building to her specifications. To him, it was, I don’t know, kind of a quest or something. He bought the best woods, the finest mirrors and didn’t let anyone help him. It was sort of romantic, I guess.”
I smiled. “It was. Very. Where’d you learn French?”
“I have dual citizenship. Mom is French.”
We ate, talked and had a great time. The food was excellent, and the beer was better. We argued over the check. He insisted that since I had provided the tickets for the ball, that he should pay. I insisted that since I had asked him out, I should pay. It turned out that Jenny had paid, probably using her Daddy’s credit card.
As we sat in the driveway, we continued to talk about our parents, history, and goals. Eventually, it was time to say goodnight.
Opening the door, I looked back at Kevin. “If we’re going to see each other again, I’m going to have to brush up on my waltzes. I was definitely out of my depth. Goodnight. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I was halfway to the house when I heard his truck door close. Looking back, I saw him walking towards me.
“There’s no time like the present.”
Taking my hand, he walked me to the backyard and the blue and white lights that offered gentle illumination near the pool.
I spoke loudly enough to be heard. “Alexa, increase volume to six. Alexa, play “A Wink and a Smile” by Harry Connick Jr.” It was the first song we danced to at the ball.
We danced and danced under the moonlight, the only words uttered were me telling Alexa what to play. When we finally stopped, we were swaying instead of dancing. My head was resting against his chest and I looked up as he stopped moving. Leaning down, his lips found mine and we stayed there exploring each other for another five minutes. Nothing below the neck except his hands on my ass, but I was a hot mess by the time we finally stepped apart and he left for the night.
When we started going out regularly the attempts by Bobby to reach me intensified. We hadn’t had a romance for the ages, so I’m sure that part of it was at his father’s insistence. He looked at me as an asset, not a human being and it annoyed the hell out of me. Social media, entreaties from friends, deliveries of flowers and candy, all were ignored.
I hadn’t even told Daddy what happened, but I was rethinking that decision.
In the meantime, I made it clear to everyone I knew that Kevin was a carpenter. He wasn’t going to be a politician or titan of industry, and that was fine. Kevin built homes that families lived in. It was a noble calling and he was meticulous in his work. He was a good man, he treated me well and he was gorgeous.
Kevin hadn’t attended college and didn’t care about politics in the least. He did, however, always have a dog-eared copy of a book about philosophy with him. He’d read on his lunch breaks and take in everything from Sartre to Plato. It turned out that he bought used books online by the dozens.
The only intellectual common ground we found was that he could talk endlessly about Locke, the Social Contract, the Federalist Papers, and the anti-Federalist Papers. Kevin had a deeper understanding of the foundational documents for the laws we lived under than any professor I had studied with. He adored the philosophical underpinnings but was bored to death with their current applications and minutia.
Many of my friends were in law school and had the ability to plumb their mental depths and cite esoterica. It was almost like a party trick that they used to compete with one another. It left them surprised and a little frustrated when Kevin seemed unimpressed and asked them what they thought on the subject, instead of what some obscure author they were quoting thought.
He had a low tolerance for bullshit and sophistry and my friends and even some of Daddy’s staffers soon learned that Kevin was a lot more than what he appeared to be.
Three months had passed, and we were out every weekend and once or twice during the week. He had become a welcome visitor at the Sorority and was a sharp contrast to most of the frat boys. Kevin was a gentleman and always somehow seemed older than he was. He was a man among boys.
We ran into Bobby at a party and it was clear he had been drinking again. I was thinking about getting him a bicycle when he approached us.
“So, you’re the carpenter.”
Kevin put an agreeable smile on his face. “Yup, that’s me.”
Bobby leaned against the table, voice slightly slurred. “You’re out there, building some shit and the people who hire you, they let you in the house? You piss in the woods or something?”
Still smiling, Kevin replied. “Well, I ask real nice like, avoid making eye contact and scrape the shit off my boots and they usually let me use the indoor toilets.”
I was growing mortified and Bobby just kept moving along, trying to provoke Kevin.
“Well, that’s just great. I’m guessing, what? You leave school after eighth grade, grab a hammer and some wetback you’re waiting with outside Home Depot shows you how to steal women?”
Kevin’s smile slipped a bit and he just stared back at Bobby.
Bobby offered a drunken grin. “Oh, sorry, should I be using smaller words? Do you understand when you’re being insulted?”
“Yeah, I get it.”
“Punk-ass bitch.” Bobby reached over and grabbed my arm. “C’mon, Missy, let’s dance.”
“Get your fucking hand off of her.”
Bobby turned back to Kevin. “The coward’s got something to say? What’s up, bitch?”
“You can insult me all day long and I won’t give a fuck. You’re nothing. A nobody. But if you don’t take your hand off of Missy, I’m going to beat you into the ground.”
He stood and stepped forward. Bobby hesitated and then took a swing at Kevin. Lowering his head and stepping in, he took the blow on the shoulder, slammed a right into Bobby’s ribs and then another into his solar plexus. Bobby spewed, vomiting on my shoes and Kevin’s pants.
I jumped from my seat. “Uggghhh!”
Looking disgusted, Kevin grabbed Bobby by the hair on the back of his head and leaned forward.
“You’re a sloppy drunk. The next time I see you bothering Missy, I’m going to kick your teeth in.” When Kevin released his head, Bobby fell on his ass on the floor.
We left immediately, the genteel aroma of peach blossoms on the grounds warring with the stench of vomit. Kevin threw his pants in the trunk of my car along with my shoes and we drove with the windows down.
Bobby’s father arranged to have Kevin arrested. I gathered up all the videos that people had shared from their phones and brought them to the DA. I’m not going to lie or pretend. Being a popular Senator’s daughter had its perks. I was escorted into the DA’s office immediately.
Kevin was released within the hour and Bobby was charged with assault.
I usually spent Thanksgiving with Daddy and his campaign workers. Officially or unofficially, Senators were always running for office. We’d gather in the morning and drive to a distressed part of town and pass out fresh turkeys to those in need. In the afternoon, we’d head to a food kitchen where we helped to cook and serve.
It sounds cynical, but it really wasn’t. We didn’t have any extended family and Dad enjoyed every minute of it. He’d buy a 2500 count box of lollipops and kept the pockets in his apron full. Every child that came by was the recipient of one if they could tell Daddy one thing they were grateful for.
If they couldn’t, he had one of his staffers quietly get their information and he made sure that by Christmastime their situation had changed for the better. My father was a good man and he was my hero.
Kevin joined us the first year we were dating and then the three of us went to his parents’ house for a late supper. They obviously cared deeply about making a good impression and were concerned about having the Senator and his daughter in their home. It was sweet but awkward. Thankfully, that relaxed a bit when the men started talking football.
On weeks prior to finals and major tests, we wouldn’t go out. Kevin would get take-out, grab a few paperbacks and he would read while I studied. I’d get lost in what I was doing for hours at a time and only pull out of it when I’d feel his hand on my shoulder. He’d have some ice water or a light salad, place it on my desk and lean down to kiss the top of my head.
When I had free days or half-days, I’d hunt him down on a job site and bring him lunch. He was one of those people who could eat the same thing five days a week and never get bored with it. High-quality lemonade and a hero with fried, breaded chicken cutlets, American cheese, Russian dressing, and bacon was his go-to. We’d sit, talk and endure the jokes and teasing of his co-workers.
Kevin and I were married exactly four months after I graduated. Daddy wanted to space out the events so he could get in two huge parties. I know that his handlers were ecstatic about the PR possibilities, but I also knew that he just wanted a way to spoil his daughter and make me happy.
Daddy’s people had never run into a French woman whose son was marrying a woman whose mother had passed. Kevin’s mom assumed the role my mother would have taken and insured that everything was up to par, especially the music selections. I bonded with the tiny woman with the delightful accent during those weeks of planning and the wedding went off without a hitch.
I started at Peart, Lifeson and Lee, Attorneys at Law right after graduation and spent every spare minute studying for the bar. We had decided that we would stay in Kevin’s apartment until I was an official, card carrying member of the bar. Much of my studying was done alone and on weekends.
Kevin gave me the space I needed, and I felt comfortable with my performance. Unlike when I studied in college, he left me to myself on weekends and did his own thing. On the day that I was able to go online and check the results, I was a nervous wreck. I tried to take a look three times, but chickened out and had to walk away. Finally, on the fourth attempt, I managed to log in and find out that I had passed.
I was an attorney!
After jumping around screaming my head off, I sent an email to the woman who was my de facto boss and let her know. I called Daddy to tell him and Kevin and I went out to dinner to celebrate.
His driving into the suburbs led me to believe he had found a new restaurant, but he pulled into a residential development and stopped in front of a beautiful home with freshly laid sod. Kevin just sat there staring at me.
I looked from him to the house. “Kevin, where are we?”
“We’re home. While you were studying every weekend, I was here with the crew. We built this for us, for our family.”
“You ... Our family...”
Crying, I pulled him close and we didn’t pry ourselves away from each other for minutes. Finally, I leaped out and ran to each side of the house, took a look and then ran to the front door.
Kevin called out. “Wait! Wait.”
Opening the door, he picked me up and carried me through. I walked through the living room slowly, paying attention to the details he incorporated and running my fingertips over everything.
Moving towards the next room, I called out over my shoulder. “You are going to get so lucky tonight. By tomorrow night every room in this house...”
“Every single room. I’m going to bend...”
“My parents and your dad are in the kitchen with dinner.”
I was mortified but got over it quickly. I was a practicing attorney, had a husband I adored and a beautiful home.
After dinner, we played some music and Kevin and I danced in our new and bare dining room. His father danced with his mother and then she danced with Daddy. It was one of those perfect days where every moment seemed to lock permanently into my memory.
Two years had gone by and things were progressing well for me at the firm. I could see the partner track laid out in front of me. My name and relationship to my father got me trotted out in front of the important clients, but my hard work and growing skill base kept me working on the firm’s most pressing cases.
In the third year of our marriage, I gave birth to Jack Lexington Cassone. He was the light of our life and every minute we weren’t working was spent with our son.
I was pulling in clients all the time and had new lawyers regularly coming to me for assistance and light mentoring. I assumed that I’d be a junior partner within another two years, three at the most. My life was perfect.
In year five rumors of partnerships were gathering, and I was excited about the possibilities of moving up in the firm. If this panned out, another five to ten years and I could make full equity partner.
Jack was about to turn three and we were in the park with our neighbor and her kids. They had brought their puppy and he was rolling on his back as Jack and the neighbor’s son petted his belly. I don’t know what it was about little boys and puppies, but they’re like magnets and iron. Jack and his friend were giggling and the puppy was yipping.
Kevin was helping with Habitat for Humanity the next town over and I had the rare weekend where I wasn’t up to my eyeballs in cases. We were going to his parents’ later for a cook-out and I was spending time on the warm, cloudless day watching my son laugh and play.
There was a screeching sound followed immediately by a breaking or crashing noise. Looking in that direction, I saw a dark sedan careening towards the children. Leaping to my feet I started running.
My heart lurched and started to race. I felt like I was stuck in molasses as I almost saw everything before it happened. Hearing someone screaming, I soon realized that it was me.
The car slammed into Jack and his friend and the puppy must have gotten caught underneath. Coming to a halt when it hit a cement water fountain, the car kept revving. Running past it, I fell to the ground like a puppet with his strings snipped when I saw Jack’s lifeless, broken little body.
“No! No, no, no. NOOOOOO!” I crawled to my son and cradled his body, rocking back and forth. Time passed and a part of me heard the sirens from the approaching ambulances.
They tried to take my Jack and I kept flailing at them. Something happened and I fell into darkness, not to awaken for days.
I was told later that I had broken an EMT’s nose. They put me under with something and it seemed that I would awaken screaming, demanding to see Jack. It took a while before I was able to start to cope with what happened. I don’t know what Kevin did during those initial days, but someone arranged for a private funeral.
Life was a hollow darkness filled with pain and rage.
It took me two weeks to realize that something was seriously wrong with Kevin. He never cried, he never yelled, and he only slept an hour or two a night. His eyes were dead and although he didn’t flinch from my touch, he didn’t reach for me either.
I spoke to his parents about my concerns and they both tore themselves from their own grief to try to help their son. His mother took to cooking meals and dropping them off, trying to ensure that we both ate regularly.
We found a counselor and went regularly. Kevin was prescribed Zoloft and after a few months, I realized he was drinking way too much. He was a quiet drunk like he was a quiet depressive. The one blended into the other and I didn’t notice. I needed my husband and he hadn’t initiated any touching in six months.
I had lost my son, I had lost my husband and I was feeling alone. I needed to be held. I needed to feel something, anything. I made the largest mistake of my life.
Where does a fling become an affair? I didn’t know and it seemed oddly important. It lasted two weeks and was with an attorney from another firm. I began seeing a second therapist alone and my self-loathing was almost unbearable. I caught myself more than once looking at Kevin’s prescription bottle and wondering how many of those pills I would have to take to stop everything.
Could I just make it all go away? My loss, my pain, and hatred of my weakness ran on a constant track in my mind.
I began working incredibly long hours. It didn’t matter. I didn’t deserve a private life, I didn’t deserve my husband and I didn’t deserve to go to the home he built for us with his own hands. I didn’t hurt myself, but at times it was a near thing.
Daddy effectively took a sabbatical and spent as much time as possible with both Kevin and me, together and alone. I know that he was battling his own grief over the loss of his grandson, but he could see us barely keeping our heads above water and trying not to drown.
Nine months after Jack’s death, Kevin began to reenter the land of the living. I’d come home to find him cooking, he’d bring me flowers and he’d hold me at night. My husband was coming back to me, to his wretched, unfaithful wife.
I could tell that he was hurt, but I spurned his efforts to be intimate. How could I explain that I was soiled and that he deserved better? Like I had, he turned to his work. Kevin was now a partner with his father and had moved into a more managerial position. He still swung a hammer when needed, but he was concentrating on bidding on jobs, meeting with customers and working on payroll.
Christmas rolled around and we spent it together in the home, neither of us wanting to celebrate. He again tried to initiate sex and I again turned him away. I couldn’t keep doing this to him. Kevin needed more than I could give him. I’d destroyed what we’d had, and I had to give him a chance to find something similar with someone else.
Over the week after Christmas, I tried to talk to him about it three times. I was simply incapable of allowing the words of my treachery pass my lips. In desperation, I typed it all up, printed it out and put it in an envelope.
Everything was in there. What I was feeling, what I did, how long it lasted and what I was feeling since then. Yes, I was a coward, but I wasn’t enough of a coward to just walk out and leave it for him to read.
I rented an apartment near work and on New Year’s Day, I gave the man I loved most in the world his freedom.
“Kevin, can we sit down for a minute?”
“Sure. You okay?”
I was far from okay. I had stolen one of his remaining pills a few hours earlier and I was feeling oddly deadened. Reaching towards him, I slid the envelope in his direction.
“I ... no, I’m not so good. I’ve tried to say the words so many times and I just can’t. Please read this. I’ll answer any questions I can after and then I’ll leave.”
With shaking hands, he opened the envelope, pulled out the paper and began reading. I watched his eyes and saw him go back up and start again a few times. When he was done, he just closed his eyes and sat there. I reached for him, stopped and pulled my hand back.
“Kevin ... is there ... do you want to ask me anything or say anything?”
Placing his elbows on the table, he slowly lowered his head to his forearms and began to sob. Giant, wrenching, pitiful cries that sounded like they were pulled from his very soul made me realize that if we had a gun in the house, I would have gladly used it on myself.
He hadn’t allowed himself to cry for Jack and I don’t think he was crying only for what I had done. I believed it was a combination. He lost his son and then lost who he thought I was, who we were.
Standing, I walked around the table and wrapped my arms around him. He pushed me away and almost lurched from my touch. As he glared at me, I realized that I had never seen someone seem so broken. Even after we lost Jack, Kevin appeared missing and hidden somewhere in his own mind, rather than damaged.
“Get the fuck away from me!”
Hand over my mouth, I stumbled to the door, made my way to the car and drove away with tears streaming down my face.
Two days later I came back from work to find Daddy leaning against the hood of his car in front of my apartment. As I headed towards the door, I heard him call out to his staffer who was behind the wheel.
“Tony, I’ll give you a yell if we’re going to be a while.”
He followed me in and eyed the spartan conditions. I had two chairs and a table in the kitchen and a bed in the bedroom. Clothes were kept in boxes. I didn’t need or want anything else.
“Talk to me, angel. What’s going on?”
Turning to him, I frightened myself with my lifeless monotone. “I destroyed us, Daddy. It’s over. Kevin’s going to divorce me, and I’ll give him whatever he wants.”
“Missy, it can’t be as bad as all that. What happened?”
So, I told him. I told the first man I had ever loved how his daughter betrayed her husband. I didn’t hold anything back and I was crying by the time I explained how Kevin told me to leave.
I felt his arms fold around me and smelled the aftershave that he’d used for as long as I could remember.
“Shhhhh. It’s going to be all right, Missy. It’s going to be okay. You’ll work through it. Everyone was suffering. He’s just going to need some time. I love you, baby. It’s going to be okay.”
I clung to him like he was a boulder in my sea of despair and continued crying.
Two weeks went by before I heard from Kevin. I assumed when I saw that the call was from him that he’d had enough time to consult with a lawyer about the divorce. I stared at the phone like it was an asp. I had no idea what to say. I finally answered.
“We need to talk.”
“Of course. When and where?”
“The house at around seven. Does that work?”
I paused before softly answering. “I’ll be there.”
I wasn’t sure if he would have me served when I arrived or not, but I showed up at five to seven.
Not sure if I should knock, I stood by the door for a moment. As I reached for the handle, I rested my head against the door, remembering when Kevin carried me through to our new home, remembering our first Christmas here, remembering the first Thanksgiving meal we hosted for our parents. When I started to remember our times with Jack, I felt my heart wrench and I immediately pushed that from my mind.
Opening the door, I walked in.
Kevin looked like crap. I doubted he had one night of good sleep since I had been gone. Sitting on the recliner, he was slumped back staring up at me.
“Is everything what you said in the letter true? No, not true, I guess accurate. Was it all accurate? Did you leave anything out?”