Thanks to the Hip and Knee Doctor for editing assistance.
Elsbeth was gone again and I was alone again. Her trips to visit our daughter, Sharon, seemed had increased over the last few years. Sharon and Elsbeth got alone far better than Sharon and I did. I never could understand why. When Sharon was little, I treated her like a princess. Actually, I spoiled her silly. I guess that was my big mistake; I tried too hard. When she was about sixteen, things between us seemed to go downhill and her relationship with her mother improved. Now they were together at every opportunity. I never figured out what happened or what I did wrong.
Although I was raised in Chesterton, I never really liked the place. That is why I was living six hundred miles away. My daughter, Sharon, and her family who were still there. I had only bad memories from the old home town. My time in school was forgettable. I wasn't enough of a geek to hang with the nerds. I wasn't athletic enough to hang with the jocks and I wasn't pretty enough to hang with the in-crowd. I was one of the invisible kids.
Elsbeth, of course, was one of the popular girls who I couldn't get the time of day from. I watched her from afar, but never had any hope of getting close to her or any other girl in her group. She dated one of the jocks, Bobby Keistler, until he went out of town for college. I started at the local community college at the same time and that was where I got to meet Elsbeth.
Elsbeth was taking some sort of dietary management course and I was in a two year program to become an accountant.
I won't bore you with all the details, but a year later, when Elsbeth found out that Bobby was engaged to a girl from his college, we started dating. We were married the next year. I was too naive to realize that I was being used and too ecstatic with my good luck. Guys like me never get to marry girls like Elsbeth.
My son Rob was born soon after we wed and then my daughter, Sharon. Speaking of Rob, he now lives in Colorado. My relationship with Rob was similar to the one that I had with Sharon. I was always a good father and tried to be a friend, but things turned soft about the same time that they did with his sister. Whatever I did pissed them off, or at least turned them against me. As I mentioned before, I had no clue.
We stayed in Chesterton until both of the kids finished high school. Rob left town immediately. Sharon married her childhood sweetheart and stayed. I had a great job opportunity in Nashville and took it in a flash. Elsbeth went with me, but was kicking and screaming all the way.
Elsbeth and I had been married for about fifteen years when Bobby Keistler came back to town. He married his college sweetheart and returned home to take over his father's business. Elsbeth was both happy and unhappy about his return. I think she was glad that he was back, but not happy about his beautiful wife; and she was a beauty.
After his return, the next four years were stressful for me. The relationship between Elsbeth and myself started to deteriorate and about that time the kids both started pulling away from me. One odd thing that I remembered was that Sharon seemed to become closer to Elsbeth, but Rob was pulling away from both of us. I was an accountant. I hated things that didn't add up.
Next year, I was going to surprise Elsbeth with a trip to Italy for our twenty-fifth anniversary. The last five years in Nashville had been miserable. I thought that she would enjoy living in such an exciting city, but all she ever wanted to do was go back and see Sharon. She never mentioned going to Colorado to see Rob and his family. It almost seemed as if she was spending more time with her daughter than with her husband. The first thing that she would do when she returned home would be to start planning her next trip.
The only good part about Elsbeth's trips to Chesterton was that she never tried to get me to go along with her. I was fine with that. My parents had both moved to Florida and the only contact that I had with Chesterton was on the Internet. Every day I would log on to see if anybody died. I know that sounds a little morbid, but I got a weird kind of pleasure out of it.
It was Friday morning when I got an unexpected call from Sharon. She seldom called me and especially not when Elsbeth was with her.
"Dad. We have a small problem. Mom fell and broke her ankle."
"Oh shit. How did that happen? Is she Okay?"
"She is fine, dad. She tripped over the dog last night and her ankle broke when she landed. You don't have to worry or rush up here or anything. Mom is going to stay with us until the doctor says that it is all right for her to travel. I will drive her home and fly back."
"Okay. If you say so. How long do you figure that this will take?"
"Probably two to three weeks or so. She is sedated right now, but I'll have her call you when the medication wears off."
"Are you sure you don't need anything? How are you going to pay the doctor's bills?"
"Our insurance is going to cover it. Everything is fine. Don't worry."
Sharon hung up and I sat there for a long time in deep thought. Something didn't feel right, but I couldn't lay my finger on it. I sat down in front of the computer with a hot cup of coffee and started to check the obits. All of the dead people were strangers as usual. For some reason, instead of closing out the obituary page, I clicked over to the local news. Funny how your life can change with one little key tap.
The headline read; "Local man dies in home fire."
The story was even more interesting. Robert Keistler died in an early morning fire which appeared to have been started by a malfunctioning space heater. Mister Keistler died in his bedroom from carbon monoxide, caused by the fire. Another occupant suffered a broken ankle when she jumped off of the second story porch roof. The injured party was taken to the Community General Hospital by the Keystone Rescue Unit. I thought that it was interesting that they did not mention the other occupant's name, but did indicate that she was a female. The rest of the article was generic background information about Bobby. It did happen to mention that his wife, Audrey, died of ovarian cancer about four years ago.
It took less than a minute to get a phone number for the Keystone Rescue Unit.
"Hello. This is James Pearson. I understand that my wife was injured last night and that you guys helped her out. I wanted to find out how much we owe you and how I can make arrangements to pay for the service."
It was a long shot. Hell, I might even be wrong, but what did I have to lose. I figured that they would be more than willing to provide me information since I was looking to pay.
"I assume that you are referring to Elsbeth Pearson, is that correct?"
"Yeah, that's right. How much do I owe you and where can I mail the check, or do you take credit cards?"
"Mister Pearson, it looks like you are off the hook. The bill has already been paid in full by Sharon Dietrich."
"That's my daughter-in-law. I assume that we are all good then?"
"That is right. Thanks for calling and I am glad that we could be of assistance."
That pretty well verified the conspiracy that was going on between my wife and my daughter. All the trips back and forth were just so that Elsbeth and Bobby could be together. The fact that my daughter seemed to know about it and consented to it was even more painful. I would be hard-pressed to forgive her. I had no idea how long Elsbeth had been seeing Keistler, but I was guessing that it started shortly after his wife had died. That was just about the time we moved to Nashville.
The coffee was replaced with a cold beer. I had to think. Things still didn't add up. Sharon and Elsbeth had started this weird bonding thing way before we moved to Tennessee. I was missing something. Rob would be home from work in about two hours. We hadn't talked too much over the past few years, but I felt a need to feel him out a little. Maybe he could help fill in a few empty spaces.
I never finished that longneck. It had turned warm on me by the next time I took a swig. I really didn't need a beer right now. I sat for two hours and contemplated my marriage. As marriages go, it seemed to be pretty shitty. Of course, the only things that I had to compare it with was my parents and what I saw on TV.
Elsbeth kept a good house and she was a fair cook. She never refused me sex, but for the last few years I wasn't that interested. It wasn't the physical part, but the personal relationship that was supposed to go with it. I still wanted and needed sex, but I was no longer sexually attracted to Elsbeth. We never seemed to be connected and now I understand why. I didn't look upon her infidelity as a disaster, but more as an opportunity. Her affair made it easier to understand why we drifted apart.
Now that Bobby was dead, I was a little confused about why she didn't want to get home as soon as possible. I decided that she had figured out that the longer she waited the less chance I would have to connect the dots. The longer that she could keep me from finding out that she broke her ankle at the same time that Bobby died, the better chance that she had to hide it.
It was time to call Colorado.
"Rob. It's dad. Hey look, I am sorry to bother you, but I was hoping that you could help me with a few quick questions?"
"Sure, dad. What was it you needed to know?" He didn't sound too enthusiastic.
"Rob, a few years back, when you and Sharon were younger, we seemed to get along a lot better. All of a sudden, things seemed to turn a little sour. I was never able to figure out what happened that caused you two to change. Is there anything that you can share with me? I really would like to know."
I heard an exasperated sigh at the other end. "I don't know, dad. I guess we all just drifted apart. Sharon and I were getting into those rambunctious years you know."
I could see that this was going to be a wasted phone call, so I decided that I might as well end it and start looking for answers elsewhere.
"Okay, Rob. If that is all you have I'll let it go. I just found out that your mother is cheating on me and has been for several years. I was just wondering if that had something to do with the family difficulties."
"I don't understand."
"It's not difficult, Rob. Infidelity, cheating, breaking of the marital vows. It shouldn't be too difficult to comprehend."
"No. Not that, dad. You said that you just found out. What does that mean?"
"That is pretty simple too. I just discovered this morning that your mother has been having sex with an old boyfriend for several years."
"Oh, shit. That little bitch. She set me up."
"Do you want to explain that?"
"It happened years ago when we were still in high school. Sharon and I came home early one day and found mom having sex with a guy in your bedroom. I stormed out of the house, but mom stopped Sharon and talked to her. Later, I told Sharon that we had to tell you as soon as you got home and she said that we couldn't."
"Why would she do that?"
"Sharon told me that mom told her, that you were no longer able to meet your marital obligations in the bedroom so you had arranged for her to met with that guy to do the job for you."
"Sharon said that mom said that?"
"Right. I know that it seems a little far-fetched now, but Sharon insisted that we couldn't tell you because if you found out that we knew, you would be humiliated."