Charlie the Angel

by happyhugo

Copyright© 2009 by happyhugo

: Troubled man meets a woman, Polly, that had a husband Charlie. Charlie has passed on, but still guides her. Charlie guides others that become associated with his wife. Some sex at first to set the scene. Not erotic

Caution: This contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Romantic   Heterosexual   Extra Sensory Perception   .

I've heard about sites you can go to on the Internet and read about cheating wives. Who would want to write about the pain it causes to the husband? I suppose there are stories about cheating husbands too, but not so many. Maybe because of the double standard. Who knows? There must be equally as much pain brought on by either the wife or the husband cheating. Some wives make a mistake and some go out deliberately to cheat. I'm not sure which category my wife fell into but I know the pain would be the same. It was for me anyway.

Debbie and I grew up in the same neighborhood and attended the same school, had the same friends, partied together and finally, discovered we were in love. Several months after college we married and settled down. I went to work for an insurance agency and Debbie started to work as a bank teller. Neither job paid much of a salary and we could only afford a one bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood.

For thirteen months I considered us a happy couple. The stars then aligned to take that happiness away from me. I was out of town at a three-day sales meeting and would be back home Friday evening. Thursday was the girls' night out at the bank. Several of Debbie's co-workers got together most weeks and had a few drinks. My meeting concluded a day early and I headed home. I had to pass by the girls' favorite bar, so I stopped, thinking that she might still be with her friends. Her car was still in the lot. I met Carol, Deb's friend, as she was coming out of the bar.

"Deb inside?"

"No Zeke, Deb got plastered and John drove her home about two hours ago. He said he had to pick up his daughter and he would drop her off. I thought you were out of town until tomorrow?"

"The meeting finished a day early. Thanks Carol, I'll head home." I knew John slightly as someone that worked with Debbie at the bank. There were no lights on in the house, so I figured Debbie was in bed. I hung my coat on a hook and set my bag in the little alcove. I went into the kitchen. There was an empty beer can and an almost empty bottle of wine sitting on the table. I flicked the living room light on. Debbie was sprawled on the couch. She lay there with her blouse unbuttoned, her bra loose and undone. Her skirt was bunched around her waist and her panties were on the floor beside her shoes. There was evidence all over her that she had had intercourse. One of her breasts had a hickey on it.

I had a problem. If this was consensual, Debbie and I were through. If it wasn't, then I was going to have a meeting with John. I tried to rouse Debbie for questioning. She was passed out. I knew where John lived. No time like now to ask him. I drove over and never hesitated when I reached his door. I began hammering on it.

A cute little woman came to the door and looked around the safety chain. "Is John here?"

"Yes of course, but he is sleeping. What do you want with him at this time of night?"

"How long has he been home?"

"About three-quarters of an hour. Why?"

"One more question. What time did he pick up his daughter?"

"He didn't. He called about six-thirty and I picked her up. What's this all about?"

"I'm Zeke Collins. John and my wife Debbie work together. They were at a bar and he left with her about eight o'clock and drove her home. I just got back in town a little while ago. Debbie is drunk and passed out. She has definitely had sex and I'm trying to find out if she was raped or otherwise."

"I'm not going to let you in. I will ask him if he had sex with your wife though. You wait here."

In about two minutes I knew what a domestic disturbance was. The wife was screaming and John was yelling back at her. This went on for a little under ten minutes. "John admits he had sex with your wife, but he said she invited him in and came on to him. He said he wanted to leave, but she wouldn't let him."

"Do you believe that? She is smaller than he is."

"Maybe I don't believe him, but he wouldn't rape anyone."

"No, but he might get someone drunk and take advantage of the situation when they were in no condition to resist. Debbie was way too drunk to drive when she left the bar. I know that for a fact. And I wonder who bought the bottle of wine she drank after reaching home. It isn't the kind she drinks so he must have supplied it. Well I'll find out when she wakes up. I think you've got yourself a problem, lady."

By the time I reached home again my anger was just barely under control. I wanted to do some damage. I called 911 and reported that I thought my wife had been raped and asked what I should do. It wasn't long before a squad car arrived. One of the officers was a woman and she had a rape kit with her. When she saw the condition Debbie was in, she suggested she be transported to the hospital where professionals could evaluate whether it was rape or not.

Debbie was carried out on a stretcher and I followed to do the paperwork. Two hours later she was moved from emergency and admitted, never once waking. Debbie was going to be some surprised to find herself in a hospital bed when she finally woke up. It still would take several hours for the alcohol to wear off. There would be a police person to question her when she did come awake.

It was almost two a.m. when I crawled into bed. I tossed and turned and finally got up at six and made myself some coffee. I felt like leaving, but I had to know what transpired last evening. This was so out of character for Debbie. At least it was since we had been married. Before we began to get serious and became engaged, Debbie swore that she would de-nut me if I so much as looked at another woman after we were married. I had taken it to heart and never considered cheating on her.

We both were far from virgins when we fell in love. While in school I was pretty wild, but I was beyond that now. Debbie and I had never shared experiences, but I assumed our lifestyle had been comparable. Needless to say, I was pissed and angry. My wife, if she wasn't raped, had certainly let herself be put into a situation where she had little control. But just maybe she was willing for it to occur and would use the excuse that she was inebriated and couldn't help it. Either way, the trust I had in her had been sorely tried.

I was at my desk on time. Before arriving I had called the hospital and the nurse assured me that my wife was awake and had been given something to reduce the hangover. I was asked if I wished to speak to her. I declined. It was a long day and I expected her to call. About three I again called the hospital and found out that Debbie had been discharged and had left in the company of a police officer. I didn't see any reason for them to hold her and they did say she would be questioned about whether she had been raped or not.

I closed down my work for the weekend and headed home. Immediately as I opened the door, "You son-of-a-bitch, you've humiliated me and I may lose my job over what you did. Not only that, you've destroyed John's marriage. His wife kicked him out after you left their house last night. What in hell were you thinking?"

I was surprised, for this was a person I didn't know. "Were you raped or not?"

"No, of course not."

"Then the sex you had was consensual?"

"No, it wasn't, but it was just sex. There was no need to screw everyone's life up. I made a mistake, that's all."

I stared into her eyes. I saw no guilt there, just anger. "Deb, listen to me. What did you say you would do to me if I ran around on you after we became engaged?"

"That's different."


"It is, that's all. Zeke, I made a mistake. Let's just forget it."

"I can't forget it. Have you ever been intimate with anyone else since we were married?"

There was the slightest hesitation and then Deb went on the attack again. "No, of course not, what do you think I am? Damn it Zeke, you're as much as calling me a whore. I'm telling you I made a mistake in riding home with John. That's all there is to it."

"If that's the way it happened, it sounds like you were taken against your will. I want you to file rape charges against John."

"No. I won't."

"Suit yourself, then. I don't know what this is going to do to our marriage. I'm pretty unhappy right at the moment."

Not even contrite, Debbie said, "Just get over it Zeke." I turned and walked into the living room to read the paper. Dinner was served at the same time as usual. Debbie plunked down chop suey in front of me. I hate chop suey!

I was quiet all evening, mostly from being puzzled by my wife's actions. I watched the ten o'clock news. None of it registered, I was that upset. Tonight I had the wish that we lived in more than a one bedroom apartment. It was either sleep with Debbie or on the couch where I had found her last night. Not much of a choice.

Debbie took a shower, spending a long time. When she came out she was dressed in a sexy nightgown and had a scent on that I loved. "Come to bed, Zeke. Make me forget my mistake. I love you and I'm sorry we had to fight about it. Come love me."

I tried and Debbie did all the things she could to arouse me. Nothing worked. I finally gave up and turned away. Debbie lay sobbing. Was that supposed to make me forgive her, or was she really regretting what had happened a mere twenty-four hours ago? I didn't know. Sunday we avoided each other the best we could.

Monday evening Debbie had not started dinner when I came home. She had been crying. I ignored her. I ordered a pizza and as she was serving it, she stated, "I was let go today. I don't have a job."


"Because the police came to the bank and asked about John. They were trying to find out if he was a person that would commit rape. The police talked to me again and wanted me to say that what happened to me was rape. I can't do that." I didn't look at her. "Zeke, look at me." When I swung my eyes to her she stated, "I don't know what happened with John. I may have led him on. I still don't think he raped me and if he didn't that means I let him screw me. That's what I'm afraid of."

"Did John get fired too?"

"No. All he received was a warning. It's just not fair. If you hadn't called 911 things would have been okay."

"So this is my fault?"

"You must see that some of it is."

"I don't see that at all. I came home and found you passed out after obviously having sex. I knew who brought you home and that he had been with you for up to a couple of hours. I couldn't rouse you. It was so out of character for you that I thought you had been raped and maybe drugged. What is a husband that loves his wife supposed to do?"

"I know you love me, but I wish you had waited until I woke up before doing anything. We could have talked about it."

"Jesus Deb. I don't know any more about what happened now than I did when I came home. What's with you anyway? Are you sick of me? If you are, then leave." Another frigid evening.

Tuesday night there was a note on the table. "Zeke, I'm staying with my folks for a few days just so you can settle down over this. I'll give you some time, but you have to forget what happened. I love you."

I didn't hear from Debbie the next day. Thursday night I swung by the bar, thinking that she might have connected up with her former co-workers. I came in through the back entrance and I could see the table with seven women and two men at it. Debbie wasn't one of them. I glanced around the wall where the booths were located. I could see John, but not who was sitting with him. Then I heard Debbie laugh. Her car wasn't in the lot, so she must have come with him.

I'm not a violent man, but I was building up to becoming one. Just then John and Debbie got out of the booth and stood talking a minute. Debbie went over to the table where her friends were. John headed for the restroom. I turned away so he wouldn't recognize me when he passed by. I followed him into the john and he was unzipping when I came up behind him. I gave him a chop and surprisingly he went down. I kicked him in the ribs several times and when he turned over, I kicked him once in the face. Blood sprayed onto the floor from his broken nose. His wallet had slipped from his jacket. I picked it up and turned and left him lying there.

I drove home, stopping on the way to drain all except forty bucks from our ATM account. I packed a bag and my shaving case. I called a taxi and had the driver take me to the bus station. I got into another taxi and gave him the address of a nightspot on the outskirts of town. I waited until a patron came out that was from the next state. He was almost too drunk to drive. With little convincing, I persuaded him to let me drive him home. He immediately fell asleep. The only stop in the next hour was to look at John's wallet. He had a couple of hundred dollars. I put that in my pocket and threw the wallet, containing his cards, identification and pictures of his wife, into the trash can.

The ride I had hitched was with an elderly gentleman. When I reached his address and got him awake, he said I could stay the night. In the morning after breakfast which he supplied, I made my way to the thruway and stood on the entrance ramp. An eighteen-wheeler stopped only a few minutes later. I climbed up into the cab.

"Hi there young fellow. Where you heading?"

"The same direction you are."

"My name is Pauline Pullen, Polly for short. You would be?"

"Zeke Collins."

"Law after you?"

"Nope. Running away from an unfaithful wife." I was speaking to a female trucker above forty I would guess.

"Hurting some are you?"

"More'n a little."

"Well they'll do it to you. Want to tell me about it?"

"Not really. It only happened a week ago. We haven't been married that long and it has thrown me for a loop."

"Well you settle down and watch the country flow by. Forget her for a time. That's the best. She'll miss you someday. That's what you want, isn't it?"

"I hope she misses me a lot." I cast sidelong glances at the woman driving this big rig. I hadn't seen her standing, but I surmised she wouldn't go more than five-foot-six. She was wearing a white tee with a yellow smiley face on it. Blue jeans and white sneakers covered the rest of her. She wore dark sun glasses so I had no idea what the color of her eyes were. Her makeup consisted of just a light shade of lip gloss. She appeared to be thoroughly enjoying what she was doing and handled traffic with ease as it became increasingly heavy.

"I'm surprised to find a woman driving a rig. Have you been doing it long?"

"All my life. My husband and I met in driving school and when we graduated we pooled our money and bought a horse. It was an old Peterbuilt. God how we loved that thing. We started long hauling from coast to coast or into Chicago from either. We chose loads that were time sensitive. We never missed a delivery for the first three years. I took time out to drop a set of twins. Charlie didn't stop driving while I was having them. You can't believe how much I missed being on the road until I got back beside him.

"When the twins stopped suckling, I gave them to my sister and her husband to raise and Charlie and I went back to doing what we were meant to do."

"Where is your husband now?"

"He died. Have you ever heard of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? It's a killer and it took Charlie two years back. I stayed at home with the twins for six months and then I went to driving again. If you hear me talking and know I'm not talking to you, it is just Charlie telling me what to do in any given situation. Twenty years we were side by side and if I don't know it, Charlie does. I feel he is right here beside me even now."

"How come you picked me up?"

"Beats me. I just had a feeling Charlie wanted me to. Now don't freak out with me talking about Charlie the way I do. When we were married the minister said we now were one. In this case I think it was true. There never were two people closer than we were. So if I get a feeling, I act on it."

"I think you were lucky to have someone to love and be loved like that. I envy you."

"Well it worked for us. You know, I spent last night back there in the bunk, pretty damned lonely, missing Charlie more than I have in quite some time. When I saw you beside the road this morning, I just had to have someone to talk to. You were there and you know the rest."

We rode along for twenty minutes. "Are you ready to tell me about yourself yet?"

"Might as well. I grew up in a lower-middle-class neighborhood. Pop was a diesel mechanic and I figured I would follow in his footsteps. Mom worked in WalMart her last few years. Then they were killed in an auto accident. I took the insurance money and went on to school--something I never expected to be able to do. Debbie, my wife, grew up in the same area and I've known her from day one. After we got out of college, we dated, fell in love and married. I went to selling insurance and Debbie has been working in a bank.

"I thought up until a week ago, we would be like you said you and Charlie were. I came home from an out-of-town meeting a day early. I knew that it was girls night out and I swung by the bar. A co-worker had given my wife a ride home because she had too much to drink and drive. When I got home, there were signs that she had experienced rough sex and I couldn't wake her up. I called 911 and told them I thought she had been raped.

"She was put in the hospital and when she came home she was pissed and blamed me for screwing up our life and her co-worker's life."

"How did that come about?"

"I went over to John's house, he was the co-worker, and confronted his wife, because he wouldn't come to the door. I guess his wife kicked him out. The upshot of it was, when the police went to investigate and questioned those at the bank, Debbie was let go. John got off with a warning. Debbie lined me out good and has moved to her mother's. But last night she was back in the bar sitting in a booth with John. I heard her giggle."


"What do you mean?"

"Oh come on, tell me the rest. You didn't just walk away."

"No, but I'm not proud of what I did either. If I had thought about it, I would have confronted Debbie instead of mugging John. I followed him into the restroom and knocked him out. I then proceeded to beat on him. In fact I think I rearranged his features for him. His wallet came out of his jacket and I picked it up. I took the money and dumped his wallet with all of the papers and cards in it. This morning, I've decided to send the money back to his wife. He has a daughter and they shouldn't have to pay for him being an asshole."

"How much was it?"

"Couple of hundred. I don't need the money. I think I have enough until I find a job. The money goes back regardless."

"Tell me again what your wife said."

"First of all she denied it was rape and wouldn't have John charged with it. Then I said it must have been consensual. She said she made a mistake, but it was just sex and to get over it. Then when I saw her in the bar, how could I?"

"So you are out looking for a life change. I can see why you are here. I don't suppose you have a CDL do you?"


"Too bad, you could ride along and help me drive. Well, sit back and enjoy yourself if you can. If you want out, say so. If you want to go all the way west, you can do that too."

We didn't stop for lunch. Polly shared her sandwich, ate an apple and handed me a banana. "I have to be off the road at six. We'll just make the truck stop in time. They have facilities and food there. We can clean up, eat and catch some shut eye for a few hours. I'll be back on the road at midnight. As far as sleeping, you can bunk in with me and sleep or you can hang out in the stop until I'm ready to go. You can crawl in the bunk then and sleep until I stop for breakfast."

"Aren't you afraid of sleeping with a strange man?"

"Nope, I know you have something against rape and so I figure you're safe to be with. Besides, if I don't like you, you're out of here. Charlie wouldn't have had me stop for you if you weren't okay. I have the feeling we are going to be together for quite some time."

Polly was well-known up and down the highways. She seemed to be a friend to everyone. I was introduced to those she met as her nephew and was trying to decide if truck driving was what I wanted to do. I had on a blazer and dress pants which was about three cuts better than the way everyone else was attired. I immediately became "Dude" to everyone. Polly was laughing later about the name. "The Zeke is gone. From now on you're Dude and there is no way it can be changed."

I crawled into the bunk as far over on the far side as I could. I found out it was pretty tight when Polly crawled in beside me. I stayed as far away from her as I could, but we still touched. All day handling the rig I assumed took its usual toll on a person, and she soon turned over and put her arms around me, with a little snore. We went to sleep like that. I was aware when she got up and more aware when the diesel cranked up, but the motion and the hum of the tires soon had me sleeping again.

Two more days with the same routine, Polly let me off before she turned into the trucking company she worked for. "You be here in two hours and we'll go get a room and stretch out and take a nice long shower or bath if they have one. I don't know how you do it, but you look just as fresh as you did when you stepped into the cab three days ago. Look at me, I'm rung out."

"Well if I was having to drive this rig, I'd look rung out too. I think you look very good, considering."

"If that is a compliment, I'll take it. See you in two."

I was startled when she pulled to the curb where I was waiting. She was driving a five-year-old Chevy. "Git in Dude. Let's go get that shower."

"Whose car?"

"One of the guys who is out on the road. I have the use of it when I'm here. He uses mine when he is in St. Paul." Polly drove by several motels and finally pulled into a small one. "Charlie and I discovered this place ten years ago. This is the first time I've been here since he died. You get us a room while I sit here remembering." She tried to hand me money, but I ignored her outstretched hand.

When we arrived in the room I stated, "They only have one bed in each motel room. Looks like we will be still bunking together."

"I know, but it is a king-size, so we can make out fine." Polly unpacked her bag and I did the same. "I'm first in the shower. I know they never run out of hot water, so I'll be awhile. Why don't you hunt up some newspapers and we'll find out what is going on in the country. Radio is all right, but I like to read the funnies."

I had the first and second sections read before she came out of the bath with a robe on. I stood under the stream. If only my cares could be washed away the way the road grime was being disposed of. And what was I doing with this woman out there sitting in a chair. She was lovely in a robust sort of way. She wasn't quite as tall as I had first surmised. Sixteen years my senior, she was still a very pretty woman. Her breasts were very much alive, for every time she moved, they danced around under her robe.

I put on my last clean pair of boxers and stepped into the room. Polly looked up from the paper she was reading. "Dude, let me ask you a question. Are you planning on remaining faithful to your wife?"

"I don't think I have a choice. The last time I tried to make love to her, it was a disaster. She tried everything. I would hate to attempt it and have the same thing happen again. As far as remaining faithful, I see no need to, given her actions in the last couple of weeks."

"Would you like to see if that was a one time thing or if you are in real trouble? I mean if you put it off and dwell on it, it will only get worse."

"To be serious and following along with what you have told me, what does Charlie tell you?"

"Charlie would be pleased if you made love to me." With that Polly laid her paper aside and standing, let her robe fall to the floor. The thing that struck me first was she had muscles in her shoulders and arms. Her belly was thick, but not overly so. I had seen her in jeans, I could guess what that part of her looked like. Her legs were very thin.

"Turn around please."

Her face flushed. "Do I have to? You'll be looking at my worst feature."

I didn't say anything. This was the first time I had seen Polly unsure of herself. I waited and finally she slowly pivoted, again standing before me with eyes downcast. I leaned forward and using the tips of my fingers I tilted her head up and kissed her softly on her lips. I skinned out of my boxers and leaning down I gathered her into my arms and carried her to the bed.

It was midnight when we walked hand in hand down the boulevard to have dinner. Over the meal we talked. "Dude, where do we go from here? You've solved one of your problems. Back home you still have a mess, meaning your wife and all. You need to clear that up. I'm not trying to influence you or tell you what to do, but you just can't leave it hanging.

"I think you should go back home and get things settled. Find out if you have enough love for her to take her back and can trust her enough to be happy with her. If you can't then you should let her go and find some place else to live. Also, there is no real future with me. I'm afraid if you stayed with me, I'd fall in love with you. You wouldn't want a person as much older than you as I am."

I started to protest. "No, no think about it. I think I helped you tonight and you've made me pretty damned happy for a little bit."

I gazed across the table at her. "What does Charlie tell you? You're always quoting him or telling me what Charlie has advised you to do. It's funny, but I have come to believe in him too. You have an open line to him. This would be the time to ask him what you should do. Dump me or keep me. I'll abide by what he tells you."

"You must think I'm crazy."

"No, I don't. God if people could only have such deep love for each other, what a wonderful world it would be."

"Okay, I'll open up my mind and if something comes through, I'll let you know. It may take awhile though. Until then, can we be friends," she paused, "with benefits?"

We spent two nights in the motel before we headed east. She had a container for Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her home was in Medina and her sister and brother-in-law lived nearby. Polly's twins would be there too, when we arrived. I was concerned about meeting them for they were only five years younger than I was.

Polly's small home was lovely. The grounds were covered with flower beds and she was so proud of the color scheme. There was a pensioner that had been a florist, and he worked in the beds daily. I was told that he wouldn't take any money if he could do anything he wished with the flowers. Polly bought whatever plants he desired and he was happy with the arrangement.

I gathered that her life on the road was never discussed in the family. I was introduced as her friend Zeke Collins. That was it--no explanation given. Patty was a younger version of her mother. There were pictures of Charlie in prominent places. Peter was a copy of his father.

Peter and Patty may not have been raised by Polly, but there was definite love displayed among them all and they seemed to adore each other. The sister, Gert, was quiet and her husband Randolph was even more so.

Peter corralled me when I was out walking around admiring the flowers. "What's with you and Mom?"

"What do you want to know?"

"Everything, I guess. I just don't know what questions to ask without insulting Mama or you."

"I guess I can tell you most everything. You're old enough. I'm from the east, almost to the coast. I'm married at present, but I caught my wife cheating. You could say I ran away and your mother found me. I left town anyway, and was hitching when your mother stopped and gave me a ride. I've ridden cross-country to the west coast and then back here with her. In a few days I'm headed back home to settle things with my wife. That is what your Mom advises me to do.

"I was working as an insurance salesman when I left. I'm college educated and used to meeting people. I have never met anyone that I respect more than Polly."

"Have you made love to her yet?"

"Umm, do you think that is any of your business?"

"Not really, but it would be nice to know in case you cause her trouble."

"Let me ask you a question now. Would your mother do anything that your father wouldn't have approved of?"

"God no! She'd die first."

"Let that be your answer then. End of discussion."

Peter looked at me for several minutes and then at the ground. "You know Mom still talks to Dad as if he were alive. Patty and I think she is a little off where he is concerned. What do you think?"

"Has she ever been guided wrong?"

"Not that we know of."

"I don't think she has either. I wish I had someone I believed in that would guide me as he seems to do for her."

"Are you going to stay around? I mean should Patty and I worry about you?"

"You are going to have to trust me on this. It all depends on your father. If he tells your mother to trust me, then I may continue to have her for a friend. If he advises her otherwise then I wouldn't disrespect her by pushing in where I knew he didn't want me. You know, I've come to feel about your father much as she does. Why don't you lie in bed tonight, relax and let your mind fill with thoughts of your father? Who knows, you might come to believe he can advise you too."

"You are as crazy as she is." I might have been concerned, except he was smiling when he said this. "Whatever, or whichever, you or Dad, Mom is happier this afternoon than I have seen her since Dad died. At least you talked to me. I'll tell Patty what you've told me. She's the reason I'm out here with you."

Gert and Randolph had us all together for a family meal. I was questioned about my youth, which I shared without reservation. I even shared much of my life since my folks died. I named my wife and just touched on the fact that we were having problems. Asked what my plans were, I just said Polly was getting me a ride back east with a friend (trucker) and I was leaving the day after tomorrow. I slept on the couch in the living room both nights.

I received almost as much of an affectionate good-bye from Patty as I did her mother. It was a whispered statement when she hugged me. "You know Zeke, Peter and I feel closer to Dad then we ever did. Peter and I did what you suggested. I think we understand Mom more than we ever have, too. If you are ever in the area again, we'll be peeved if you don't stop and spend time with us." How was that for a send off?

Polly and I had a few private moments and we made a few plans. I didn't know if I would ever see her again, but I promised I would let her know what developed between me and my wife. I handed the two hundred dollars that I had taken from John to Polly who promised to send it to his wife when I was sure of where she was living.

I climbed into a cab of one of Polly's friends and left her staring after me. Twenty-seven hours later I was walking up to the door of my apartment. I had been gone eleven days in all. My car was still in the driveway. Debbie's wasn't. Maybe she had found a job and was working or maybe she was still living with her folks. I went inside.

Debbie had been here some, for there were dirty dishes in the sink. I checked the bedroom. The bed was unmade. There was a pack of unused condoms on the dresser. I guess my wife hadn't lacked for companionship. Didn't bother me at all. This was not a glass house and I wasn't about to throw stones--given what I had been doing lately.

I checked the refrigerator. Someone was buying steaks. I put one in the broiler. There was a head of wilted lettuce and I found onions and a tomato to make a salad. No cucumber, which made the salad tasteless in my opinion. I added a big dollop of salsa and decided that it was pretty good after all.

Small house and nowhere to hide when I heard voices coming up the walk. I was just finishing my meal. The door opened and Debbie and John came in. They stared at me. "Where have you been?" Before I could answer the door pushed open again and another man came in carrying a thirty pack of beer.

I answered my wife's question with one of my own. "Party time?"

"What did you expect? You weren't around."

I looked at John and the other man. "This is my house and you aren't welcome today. Maybe tomorrow after I discuss this with my wife. Beat it."

Neither one gave me any argument. "This is good steak. Who bought it?"

"I did. I'm working."


"I'm a hostess at a nightclub. Tonight is my first night off."

"Debbie, we used to talk. What happened to us? I loved you. I don't think I do now. Would you at least tell me where we went wrong?"

"I know Zeke. I thought I loved you, but I started flirting with John and I just couldn't control it. I really don't know what happened that night you called 911. He may have raped me, but you have been such a hardass about it. You gave me no sympathy at all. He called and said he was sorry I had lost my job. His wife kicked him out and then someone beat him up so I stood by him while he was getting well. He does seem like a pretty good guy. What you and I had is broken. I know that and I'm sorry I've hurt you. There is no way I can fix it." Tears were in her eyes as she finished.

"How do your folks feel about this or haven't you told them?"

"I haven't told them everything. They think you kicked me out. I couldn't tell them otherwise. I'm sorry about that too."

"I guess we are about finished then?"

"It looks as if that would be the best solution. I don't have money for a divorce, though. Do you?"

"No. I don't even know if I have a job. I haven't been at work for two weeks."

"Where have you been?"

"I hitched cross-country. You could say I ran away, but then I met someone who said I should settle everything with you. So I'm back in town and hoping I have a job and can work long enough to pay for a divorce. Then I can start my life fresh."

"Was it a woman that told you what to do?"

"No, it wasn't a woman that decided me. Actually it was the ghost of a dead man. If I told you all about him you wouldn't believe me so I won't try."

"You're crazy."

"Maybe so. Debbie why did you do this to me? I trusted you and loved you."

"I don't know. Working in a bank is so boring. You were often out selling insurance in the evening. Sometimes you were gone overnight. This apartment isn't the most exciting place to spend time alone in. I lasted a year before I stepped out on you. That night with John was a mistake as I told you. The main reason I didn't want John charged was because the rape kit would have shown semen from two different men.

"I had intercourse before him with one other man. That night I wanted to try more than one. That was at first and then I changed my mind. I was talked out of it and to go along with it, I drank most of a bottle of wine before I was ready. I was lucky it didn't kill me I guess. So now you know what your wife is. The woman you've known all of your life and loved and trusted. I'm not blaming you at all, so don't beat yourself up over me."

"Okay, our marriage is history. Where do we go from here? I mean, do you want the apartment or are you going to move in with someone? I have to have a place to live too."

"I know. I'd like to stay here. Can you find a place?"

"I will somehow. Can you give me a couple of weeks?"

"Sure." She paused. "Can I have the house tonight, though? I had plans and it is my only night off."

"It is all yours. I will need to clean up so I can go to work in the morning. Can you arrange that?"

"Yes." Debbie looked very ashamed, but wasn't about to change her mind about tonight. Somehow I was going to find the money to make the divorce effective as soon as possible. Debbie was on the phone as I was leaving. I spent the night in my car, parked in the lot at McDonalds.

Debbie was sound asleep when I returned at six a.m. I made coffee and found some cereal to eat. I noticed that the remaining steaks had been consumed. I took a shower and dressed for work. I had purchased a newspaper and I checked the classifieds for rooms to rent. I knew the city pretty well and most of the rooms I could afford were in the sleazy section of the city. Debbie wasn't going to force me into one of these, no-way, no-how!

This might take awhile. Then a heading caught my eye. Housemate wanted. Share costs for three bedroom home with single mother and one child. Private bath, bedroom and share living area and kitchen. Possible baby-sit on occasion to reduce cost. Must have excellent references and no bad habits. Call 555-6023. I put the ad in my wallet.

I was early at my desk when Henry, my boss, arrived. Before he could say anything, I asked if I could talk to him privately. I explained why I had not been at work and what my situation was at present. He had been through a divorce recently himself. His marriage had come apart after sixteen years. He considered me lucky to have found out after only a year and a few months. I signed a slip to have my salary withheld to pay off a loan he had arranged through the company to pay for a divorce.

I had missed several appointments with prospective clients while I was away and my day was busy--very busy. I realized that I hadn't taken a break all day until seven in the evening. I called the number from the ad I had stowed in my wallet. "Hello. You placed an ad in the paper for a housemate. I'd like to apply if I may."

"Sorry, I was looking for a female roommate. I don't think you would do at all."

"Please, won't you give me an interview and listen to my qualifications? There are things I could do around a house and I am pretty handy. I would be home a lot of evenings if you needed me to baby-sit. I'm solidly employed in the insurance industry. I admit I'm applying for a divorce, but it is reasonably amicable, so that wouldn't be a problem. I only have two weeks to turn the apartment over to my wife."

"Well I don't know. I hadn't considered a man to be in the house with me. I'm surprised, that's all. Let me have your phone number and I'll think about it."

"Okay, but could you let me know soon?"

"Sure, I'll call you tomorrow." I gave her my work number and my home phone. "You haven't told me your name."

"It is Zeke Collins and--"

"Zeke Collins! Is this some kind of sick joke? I bet that son-of-a-bitch John put you up to this."

"Whoa. Who am I speaking to?"

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