This one is a quickie (for me). After last week's stinker where I had the audacity to put two fictional characters back together, I wanted to do something safe. It also gave me time to start on next week's long weird Halloween story. Thanks as usual to Mikothebaby for her editing prowess. Without her this story would probably be all commas.SS06
I wish I could say that I work hard at my job. Well ... I can, but I don't like lying. I'm a CNC programmer and a good one. I can go anywhere in the country or the world and find a job. Most of my job involves going over blue prints for jobs and writing programs for the machines that actually make the parts. I rarely, if ever, go down to the shop floor to see the machines work. I do occasionally go to a seminar on changes in code or new innovations. And I often work with the shop floor foreman or production managers to make changes in the programs to make them more efficient or more cost effective. But my job, thanks to my education, is relatively easy and very stress free.
I just turned forty and my life, like my job, is very stress free. I live here in South Carolina, along the coastline. The weather is wonderful and the people are great. I like my life here. I like my life period, but it's all temporary. I could pack up most of my stuff in my Mustang and be out of here in less than sixty minutes if the situation called for it.
I live in a beautiful mini mansion only a few yards off of the beach, but it's rented. I make a great living at my job, but I'm one of two programmers and my boss knows my situation. We've become friends over the four years that I've lived here and he keeps after me to settle down and take root. Who knows ... sometimes I think that I already have.
I live with a woman that I worship. I would literally do anything for her ... with two exceptions so far. The first is that we've been together for a few weeks more than four years, and we haven't seriously talked about getting married. Most of our neighbors think we are already. And most of our friends who know us, wonder why we aren't.
The second is that although both of us love kids and are very happy together and very healthy, we don't seriously discuss having kids period. Kids tend to make things permanent and like I said, I could be gone in an hour.
I'm also extremely cynical. I take nothing at face value and assume the worst in most situations. Despite this glaring character flaw, the friends and neighbors that I associate with and have developed close relationships with, seem to like me. It's nothing to have one of our neighbors call and tell me his wife is visiting her mom so he's coming over for dinner. And one or two of our neighbors are always asking to do the grass exchange.
Before you get ideas about wacky tobacky in your mind, I'm talking about the practice of cutting each other's grass during vacations. You know ... I cut their grass while they're away and they cut mine, when they get back. The homeowners association in our area is extreme about cutting the grass, and in the summer months, with the humid conditions and high temps, the grass grows a lot.
But today, I find myself enjoying the breezes as I walk to my Mustang. Summer has left us and the early fall days here, while still warm, are far less humid. As I pull into my subdivision, I back off on the gas and marvel as the Mustang's roar and grunt calms down to a purr.
I drive onto my block and in the distance, near our house, I notice a group of people frolicking on the beach. I spot one form immediately. She's a slim, graceful woman with wild, tawny hair that flies everywhere. Her long legs start churning as she runs to catch a Frisbee that someone has thrown. She jumps for it and misses, landing awkwardly in the sand. She sits up and brushes the hair out of her eyes, smiling all the time. It's the smile that melts my heart more than anything else. I can see the way that her eyes sparkle even from this distance. She picks up the offending Frisbee and throws it back to the guy who threw it to her. She stands up and adjusts her suit. The top doesn't need much adjustment. Her pert breasts really don't move that much, but the bottom constantly need to be adjusted over her rounded ass.
Another man and another woman are sitting on a log near the border between our house and the next. Neither of them lives there. I know the neighbors on both sides and it's not them. My mouth takes a slight downward turn. I sigh and get out of my car. As I walk closer to the house, I can see them in greater detail. The second couple, the ones sitting on the log are kissing. The woman is larger, not obscene by any stretch of the imagination but she's a bigger woman. I look again, even more closely at her and recognize her. My mouth takes another downward turn.
Then I see it. The man playing Frisbee with the smaller woman grabs the Frisbee and starts walking towards the other couple. The woman walks over to the log also and he puts his arm over her shoulder possessively. I've seen this before, I know how it ends and there's no need to go through it again.
Unfortunately, nature doesn't seem to cooperate with me. I'd been able to ease my 2012 Mustang GT into my driveway on the opposite side of the house without arousing much interest. But as I restart it, the powerful V8 engine demands the attention of everyone in the area. Four heads snap up immediately and one of them makes eye contact with me as I start trying to pull out of the driveway.
I turn my head as if I haven't seen her and back up as she starts moving in my direction. Her long legs eat up the beach and then the scruff and finally the pavement but it's all in vain. Four hundred and twelve horsepower channeled through four nineteen inch wheels and sticky performance tires beats two legs every time.
It takes all of five minutes before the buzzing at my belt alerts me that my iPhone has a call. I fish the phone out of my pocket and see that it's her. A picture of her happy smiling face lights up the display, so I don't answer it. I have no place to go so I drive down the coastline marveling at the beauty of the scenery.
South Carolina is one of America's hidden gems. It's every bit as beautiful and scenic along the coastline as any of the Atlantic coast states, but doesn't get half of the publicity. Can you picture a state that's as beautiful as Florida, but without the drug dealers, the senior citizens and the riff raff? Can you picture Louisiana without the swamps? Throw in some of the most beautiful houses you can imagine, subtract the hurricanes and you have South Carolina's coastal regions.
I knew moving here that I'd have to stay away from the inland areas because they do get a bit of winter weather there and my Pony doesn't really like snow. I made my way here forty eight months ago, intent on simplifying my life. Weather and snowfall was one of my deal breakers. In the Midwest, where I hailed from, the temperatures and the snowfall made it necessary for me to have two cars. I had my pony for summer and a jeep for the fall and winter. Owning two vehicles increased my insurance costs and everything else. When I jettisoned all of the unnecessary aspects of my former life, my close knit relationship with my State Farm guy was one of the things that had to go. "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is ... gone." My insurance with a local carrier here is far more reasonable. Luckily, my policy is national so wherever I settle next, it will still be good.
I pull into a tourist area near the beach about ten miles down from the house. I pull out my iPad and Google a map of the United States. As I look at the map, I remember back four years ago when I'd first wandered into that bar. A pretty waitress who looked really stressed out asked me what I was looking for.
"Soft lights, warm breezes and soft southern accents," I'd said. She'd looked around the bar, then back at me and asked me if I had room for one more...
Georgia seemed like a good choice for my next base of operations. As I sat there looking at the coastline, I realized that it was only one state over. That meant it would have most of the good attributes of South Carolina, so I wouldn't lose those.
I made a list of everything I'd need to take with me and it would be easier this time because I'd actually have more room. There were so many things that I'd bought over the past four years that I'd have to leave behind. It served me right for becoming attached to things.
I went into a store and was in luck. Along the rear wall, they had a couple of payphones. I tentatively called the house. I figured that if I was in luck, she'd either be in the shower by now or out on the deck or back on the beach with her new friends. There was no answer, so I left a message which had been my intention all along.
"Shazz, this is Paul," I said. "I came home earlier. But just as I pulled in, Larry called me with an emergency and I had to come back to work. I don't know when I'll get done. There's no need to wait for me to eat or anything. Bye."
That should take care of everything I thought. I went to town then. I drove into Charleston and caught a movie. I saw the new Resident Evil movie and wondered why they even bothered to give them tag lines any more. What they needed to do was just give them numbers like they do in the video games. Everyone who saw the movie knows that when they leave it on a cliffhanger like that there's going to be another one.
I had dinner in my favorite steak place in town. The waiters and the manager all wanted to know where Shazz was and why I was there without her. "I'll tell her that you asked about her," I said. I gave away nothing and still managed to politely answer their questions and change the subject.
It must've been about midnight when I pulled back into the driveway. I shut off the car and walked up onto the porch. I opened the door and walked towards the stairway. There were no lights on in the house. I smiled insanely. I was filled with a burst of happiness so vast that it was off the charts.
The clock is ticking, I thought. I'll be gone in sixty minutes and never look back. I've done it before and this time there won't be a scene. This time there won't be an angry confrontation or any of that emotional bullshit.
That didn't mean that I wouldn't hurt for a while. I truly did love Shasta, but I could not abide cheating. I had no need for closure or any of that other two dollar psycho-therapy nonsense. I only needed distance and a fresh start.
I dashed up the stairs and into the bedroom that I shared with Shazz. I got a couple of suit carriers out and threw all four of my suits into them. I threw all of my underwear, t-shirts, shorts etc. into a duffel bag and grabbed my toiletries case.
I picked up the suit carriers and gently folded them over. I went outside and opened the Mustang's trunk. They fit and there was room for the duffel bag too. I ran quickly back through the house and grabbed the duffel bag and all of my dress shoes. I grabbed my two pairs of running shoes as well. Then I filled a case with cables and connectors for my iPhone, iPod, IPad and laptop. I looked at my watch it had only been thirty minutes. Then I remembered that I'd forgotten sweats and running gear and sleep wear. One more duffel bag and I was at forty five minutes.
As I stepped back on the porch to lock the door, only seconds away from freedom, I heard the tear filled voice.
"You forgot something didn't you?" she asked. The anguish in her voice was deeper than anything I remember hearing in my life.
She got up from the swing at the far end of the porch and came towards me. I caught sight of her face as she passed out of the shadow of the awning over the porch and into the moonlight. Even in the near darkness, I could see the puffiness of her eyes. She sniffled and stood in front of me, as if waiting for an answer. I decided to brazen my way through.
"I think I've got everything," I said. "I'm sure I've forgotten several things. But if it's something I really need, I'll buy it again."
"What about me?" she asked.
"Shasta, you're happy here," I said. "The rent is paid up for the rest of the month and I'm sure Larry would be willing to work something out with you after that."
"I must've really done something awful," she sniffled. "This morning when you left, you kissed me goodbye and woke me up for nothing."
"I didn't wake you up for nothing," I said. "I woke you up to..."
"To tell me you love me, even though you've never once said it," she spat. "And that's waking me up for nothing, because A: I already knew it and B: if you're going to just run out on me like a coward in the night while you thought that I wasn't here, you didn't mean it."
"Shasta, I..." I began.
"Shasta, is it?" she asked nastily. "Twelve hours ago when I brought you lunch, it was Shazz and you were trying to convince me to lock your door and fuck you on the floor of your office. Four hours after that, you pulled up here in the driveway and left again. A half an hour after that, you called and left me a message that turned out to be the first time that you've ever lied to me ... make that the second."
"When was the first?" I asked.
"When you claimed we had a future," she spat. "And you're really good at that. I believed you ... Then I waited for you and worried about you for seven fucking hours. I cried and hoped that everything was alright. You know I've seen things like this before. A guy gets into trouble with gambling or drugs. He comes home, grabs his family and moves out in the middle of the night, knowing that he can never come back to that town, ever. I didn't know why you were doing it. I just knew that whatever the reason it didn't matter because the two of us would be fine."
"As long as we're together, the two of us would be fine, I thought," she said. "Then I noticed that you weren't looking for me so I could pack my stuff. I sat here in the dark, I wanted to enjoy this porch one more time ... I think both of us love this long sweeping porch. Can you even count how many times we... ?" Our eyes met in moonlight and her words trailed off.
"God, I'm stupid," she said suddenly. "That's it isn't it? Poor, stupid Shasta lying out there on the porch swing with the man she loves ... the only man she's ever loved, fucking the daylights out of her, wondering deep down in her heart when he's ever going to let her have his baby. I see it all now. For a while, I thought that we were running from something or that you just had trust issues, because you never tell me about your past. Now I see that it isn't trust issues or kids, is it? It's me that you don't want. I'm good enough for you to spend a part of your life with me and for you to screw me for a while, but there was always a shelf life to our relationship and we've reached it, haven't we?"
That started her to crying even more.
"Shasta, none of that is true," I said. "My heart is breaking right now, more than you'll ever know."
"Will you stop calling me that hideous name," she screamed. "Strangers, people I barely know call me Shasta. You've always called me Shazz. You going back to calling me Shasta means I did something to piss you off so badly that you don't love me anymore and I can't take that."
"You do know that you were killing me, don't you?" she asked. "In the morning, when I woke up and found out that you'd moved away, I'd have died."
"I think you're acting a little silly over this," I said.
"Then you're a God damned fool," she spat. "You don't know shit about me."
"Sha..." I hesitated, not knowing what to call her. "I know everything about you," I said.
"Do you know that you're the air I breathe and that I would be lost without you?" she said. "Do you know that ever since we pulled away from the place where you found me, every fucking day has been a miracle? Do you know that I'd rather spend the day working in the yard and cutting the grass with you than any exciting or glamorous thing you can name? And our lazy days are my favorites."
"You know, the days when we only get out of bed to pee or eat. Those days when we're too fucking lazy to shower and you just sit there and stare at me and tell me all of the silly things that you like or claim that you like, while we both stink? But it's our stink and we..." she started crying and reached for me. I dropped the bag and reached for her too. We sat down on the porch swing and just held each other until she stopped crying.
"Paul, what did I do?" she asked after a while. "Please tell me. Just give me one more chance and I swear I'll never do it again."
"You're a young woman," I said. "Maybe it's time you moved on."
"I'm thirty," she said. "You're forty. No one even looks at us or cares. We're pretty normal. What started this? And be honest. Don't give me any of that, I'm going to work bullshit. I went over to your job to be with you while you worked late and you weren't even there."
"Shit, I should have thought of that," I said.
"Why would you need to?" she asked. "Why would you need to come up with ways to get away with fooling me? If you want something from me, or you need me to do something or let you do something why not just ask me, dummy? I gave you my heart. I'd do anything for you. Now answer my fucking question. What did I do?"
I didn't say anything. "You know it started out as a weird day today," she said. "I found out that I didn't have to go to work today. So I took lunch to my sweetie..."
"Your who?" I asked.
"Well," she smirked. "I can't call you my husband. And calling you my boyfriend sounds so ... high school. Anyway, after I took you lunch I was taking some wood down to the beach. I figured that whenever you got your ass home, we'd go down there and light a fire. I met a woman there. She's renting one of those cheap apartments a couple of blocks over. She's a fatty, but she's nice."
I snorted at that point.
"She is nice," she snapped. "She's had a rough life. She's made a lot of bad choices when it comes to men. She was married once and her husband just walked out on her."
"Why'd he do that?" I asked.
"She said they had some problems in their marriage and rather than try to work their problems out, the guy just bailed on her. What a loser. Anyway, she's been having nothing but bad luck since the guy walked out on her and she decided to come down here to try to find him and get him back. Does that sound familiar?"
"Should it?" I asked.
"Hell yeah," she said. "It's what I'd do if you had been able to get away from me. I'd track you down to the ends of the earth."
"So is the guy she was sitting on the log kissing her husband?" I asked.
"No, he was just some guy she met on the way to the beach. She's a friendly woman," she said. "That guy and his friend..."
"You mean the one who had his arms all over you?" I said. Her eyes got bigger.
"Oh no..." she said. "Paul, it's not like that. It's not like that at all. He put his arm on my shoulder and I made him move it. I told him that I had someone and if he couldn't respect that they'd have to get off of our beach. I'd never do anything like that. I couldn't do that to you, I love you. You know that right... ? You have to believe me. I swear it. I'll get Michelle to talk to you. He moved his hand as soon as I told him to. All we did was play Frisbee. Paul, I wouldn't do that..." She was becoming hysterical and I started to realize that maybe I'd jumped to a conclusion too fast.
"Okay, I guess, I believe you," I said.
"No, I'll get Michelle to prove it to you," she said. "I know you."
"I don't want to talk to Michelle," I said. "I trust you way more than I trust her. And you shouldn't trust her either."
"Why not?" she asked.
"Because she sat there and told you a bunch of lies," I snapped.
She pulled me down onto the porch swing and held my hand. "How do you know that she was lying?" she asked. "I'll admit that you're right about her kissing that guy that she just met. It is really weird if she's really trying to find her husband, but who knows maybe..."
"There's no maybe," I snapped. "If you and I broke up and you were looking for me, like you said you would..."
"Paul, trust me," she said. "You're not getting away from me for any reason. I'm not going to do something dumb to lose you over either."
"But, let's say that we had a misunderstanding..." I began.
"Like the one we had this afternoon," she said. I nodded.
"If you were supposedly out looking for me, because you wanted us to get back together; would you be running around kissing and doing God knows what else with every guy you met on the beach?" I asked.
"I guess you're right," she said, squeezing my hand. "I just thought she was friendly."
"I know I'm right," I said. "And let me tell you Honey, no guy wants to be with a woman who's friendly. We'll fuck them. We'll be friendly with them too, but we're not going to be in any kind of a relationship with them. They always end up hooking up with some guy from outside of their crowd who didn't know they were "Friendly."
"Besides," I said, as she put her feet up on the swing and snuggled up against me. "Michelle isn't just friendly; she's a flat out slut."
Shasta sat up a stared at me. Even with the only light there provided by the hunter's moon I could see how big her eyes had gotten. "You know her from somewhere don't you?" she asked.
"Remember the guy she's looking for?" I asked. And she nodded her pretty head which caused all of that wild hair to splay about her shoulders. It was a sight that I never tired of watching.
"Remember the loser, as you called him, who ran out on her?" I asked. "I'm him."
"No you're not," she said, practically purring as she squeezed my arm and snuggled even further into my side. "Stop joking Paul."
I sat up and straightened her up too.
"Her full name is Michelle Holly Williams," I said. "She and I are the same age. We grew up only two doors down from each other in Grayling, Michigan. We got married when I finished college. We were married for fourteen years. We lived in Grayling and I drove to work in Saginaw every day. That commute took me almost two hours one way every morning and every evening. I left the house at five in the morning so I could be to work by seven a.m. I got off at three thirty and was usually home by five or five thirty depending on traffic. The drive was a little over a hundred miles one way."
"I suggested moving downstate a couple of times, but Michelle never wanted to leave the area because all of our friends lived there. I don't know why I never figured it out. It took me fourteen years to figure out just how God damned "friendly" Michelle was. Sure, there'd been a couple of drunken incidents where she kissed some guy or let a guy feel on her boobs, but for the most part, I thought we loved each other. I believed that all the way until the day that the power went out in the plant and I got home two hours early. I drove into my driveway and walked into the house to find one of my neighbors sitting in my living room looking nervous as hell."
"The first thought that went through my mind as I went into my bedroom to find Michelle opening the windows and trying to arrange her clothes was, "What would I have found if my car's exhaust system wasn't so loud?"
"Steve left and Michelle just looked at me. She asked me why I was home so early and I told her about the black out. Another of my neighbors, Jim, stopped by while we were talking. He seemed surprised to see me too. He asked to borrow our lawn mower and I told him it was in the shed. Michelle got upset about that."
"Why do you just let people use any of our stuff that they want? Jim is never going to get his own fucking lawn mower if he can borrow ours every week," she said.
"I only let them borrow things that don't matter," I said.
"Michelle went ahead and made dinner. We ate and then I went out for my run. After I ran, we went down to the lake and watched the stars. I asked Michelle that night if she was happy with our life and she said she was. So happy, in fact, that she started kissing me. I could tell she was expecting us to have sex there in front of the lake. I guess she should expect that because we'd done it literally hundreds of times. She even started making some noises that maybe it was time. We were in our mid-thirties so maybe it was time for us to start having kids. I pretended I was too tired."
"I left work early the next day too. I found myself a divorce lawyer in Saginaw near the plant and told him to start the process. I just wanted a simple no-fault divorce. I'd go my way and she could go hers. The paper work wasn't that complicated and it only took a few days for him to get them ready. I didn't think Michelle was stupid either. I waited a couple of weeks during which time I never varied from the usual pattern. I wanted to let her sink back into her own pattern. So, roughly three weeks from the day of my initial suspicion, I left work three hours early. I parked about a mile away from home in the strip mall and ran home through the woods."
"I walked up to my door which wasn't locked and went into my house as quietly as I could. I stood there with my phone out and just put it down on the end table to record the proceedings. Michelle was lying on her stomach on the rug in front of our fireplace while Steve grunted away at her. He was reaching under her and squeezing her tits, she loves that, as he fucked her. Michelle was just lying there taking it. She was pumping her ass into him with each stroke. It wasn't wild and crazy like you always hear about from cheaters. It wasn't energetic or gymnastic. It was just a man fucking a woman."
"I think that realistically, that hurt me more than anything else. If they'd been humping each other like crazy, I might've believed that they hadn't been doing this for long and that maybe it had started as some drunken thing and they'd just got caught up in the excitement of it. Maybe the thrill of cheating made it more exciting or some bullshit like that. But the fact that they were so casual about it, led me to believe that they'd been doing this for years and it didn't mean much to them."
"It was almost anticlimactic when Steve shot his nut off into a condom and flopped down on her broad back."
"Okay, you're done," she'd told him. "Get out of here in case Paul comes home early again."
"Why are you so God damned cranky?" he asked.
"He hasn't had sex with me since that last time he came home early," she said. "I think he suspects something." Even as she said it she looked up and our eyes met. "Oh no," she said quietly.
"Steve's head turned almost in slow motion until his eyes met mine too."
"I'm really sorry buddy," he said. "I don't even know what to say."
"Whatever it is, just say it to Callie," I said.
"Paul, we don't really have to get her involved in this, do we?" he whined. "This will just about kill her."
"Steve, just get dressed and get out," I said. "Michelle and I have to talk and I have to pack." I picked my phone up from the table and stopped the recording. Steve picked up his clothes and as he came near me, I struck. I punched him in the side of his jaw as hard as I could."
"There was a popping sound and pain shot through my hand. Steve was laid out on the floor like a pole axed ox in front of me. I called 911 and had them send an ambulance. I shook my hand vigorously hoping the pain would go away. Except for a gut shot on a guy at a picnic, I hadn't actually hit anyone since middle school, and my hand hurt like hell."
"Steve came to before the ambulance got there. He was sitting up and pain went through him every time he tried to talk. My hand was swollen too. Michelle just sat there staring and shaking her head. I called Callie and explained everything to her. She broke down over the phone and said she wouldn't come to the hospital and to tell Steve to find another place to live. I suggested that she use the same lawyer I was using if she wanted to divorce him. That way it would be cheaper for her because all of the research and all of the evidence in the case had been handled."
"As I started talking about the divorce, Michelle stood up and started crying. I went into the kitchen to get some ice for my hand. I think Michelle had been in shock for the whole time because she hadn't even bothered to put any clothes on. Callie and I were on the phone for over an hour. Part of it was me trying to let her know that none of this was our fault. I told her that she was the victim in all of this. All she did was work her ass off providing for Steve's lazy ass. She was still an attractive woman and she'd find a better man. She'd find a guy with a job who'd treat her the way she deserved. I think we were both in a better mood when we hung up."
"Michelle tried to apologize to me, but I wasn't ready to either hear it or to speak to her. I went out to my car and brought back the folder with the divorce papers. I gave them to her and asked her to sign them and she looked at me like I was crazy."
"Paul, you can't be serious," she said. "This is the first time I've done anything like this. We've been married for fourteen years. You can't seriously want to just throw all of that away over nothing. I know you're hurt, but I don't think you're thinking clearly. I love you. You love me. We've been talking about having a baby. This will blow over and it won't ever happen again. Everyone deserves a second chance."
"Michelle, stop lying," I spat. "This didn't just happen. It's been going on for a long time. You just got sloppy because its been going on for so long without you getting caught. I knew what was going on three weeks ago when I came home for the blackout. So I waited until you got sloppy again. You said it yourself. You told Steve that you thought I suspected something because I didn't want to have sex with your nasty ass."
"So for the past month, you've known this was going on?" she asked. I nodded. "Then why didn't you say something. No wonder we haven't had sex. You just let him continue to fuck me. You should have said something so we could work this out. I've been feeling bad and guilty ever since that day."
"You just didn't feel guilty enough to stop, right?" I asked. She hung her head and started crying again. "And as far as me saying something; I already told you, I only let people use things that don't matter."
"At that time I was driving an 04 Mustang GT with almost two hundred thousand miles on it. I got into the car and drove away from the house. I went into town and had a nice meal at a restaurant there. I heard a couple of my friends talking already about Steve having surgery on his jaw. They were laughing about it. I guess the gossip was already spreading all over town."
"When I got home it was about seven p.m. Michelle was waiting for me and she wasn't alone. Her parents were there and they'd brought the minister from the local church along."
"Her dad came right up to me and told me that they were there to talk to me about saving my marriage. I just laughed and walked into the house. The Reverend asked me to sit down and pray with him for a few minutes. I looked at him like he had rocks in his head. I recognized the technique from first year psychology in college. When you go into a new and possibly hostile environment, you have to try as much as possible to turn it into neutral ground and give yourself if not an advantage, at least equal footing with your opponent."
"A group prayer would turn my house into far more neutral territory, and the Reverend presiding over the prayer would mark him as an authority figure in this situation."
"No thanks," I said. "Why are you here?"
"Well Mr. and Mrs. Williams told me that you and Michelle have been having some problems in your marriage. They also told me that through me, the Lord might intercede and put you two fine young people back on the path towards marital bliss."
"Nope," I said and walked into the bedroom to start packing.
"Uhm, Son, What do you mean, "Nope," he asked.
"Michelle and her parents were gobsmacked. This hadn't been going the way they expected at all. As I started emptying my drawers, her father had reached his breaking point."
"Paul, will you stop doing that and at least give us enough courtesy to sit down and talk like a civilized person?" he yelled.
"I dropped the bundle of clothes I had into the suitcase and sat on the bed. I looked at Michelle, and then each of her parents. I looked at the Reverend last."
"I can spare you five minutes," I said coldly.
"You've been married for fourteen years," said my mother in law. "Surely..."
"There's a movie called gone in sixty seconds," I said. "In it, Nicholas Cage was a car thief. The movie was about stealing cars. He was so good that he could steal any car regardless of make or security system in less than sixty seconds."
"My plan here is similar," I said. "I want to get the fuck out of here and this part of my life as quickly as possible. I can't do sixty seconds, but I can make sixty minutes for damned sure. For the past fourteen years I have loved and supported your daughter. I loved her until three weeks ago today when I found out that she was cheating on me."
"Both of Michelle's parents gasped loudly, which let me know that she hadn't told them the whole story."
"The whole house smelled like sex, there was a guy, one of my former friends, in my living room trying to pretend that he'd just dropped by. Michelle was in my bedroom trying to open the windows and let the room air out. I didn't say anything then because I had no proof. I gave her enough rope to hang herself. I waited until she thought she was safe and then I came home early today."
"I pulled out my phone, opened up the video and played it for them."
"This is what I found when I got home," I said.
"Michelle's mother looked away. Her father got angry. I could tell that he felt like a fool. He'd come into the situation trying to save his little girl only to find out that he'd been lied to. The Reverend told me that I could stop the video."
"The question here isn't who is at fault," he said. "We knew coming in here that there was a problem. We now know more about the problem. What we have to figure out is how to solve the problem. We also need to know the root cause of the problem. What made a woman who loves you so much that she wants to try to save her marriage do something like this? We are all human, my son. We are all subject to temptation."
"The clock is ticking Father," I said. "So let's wrap this up. The party of the first part: that would be me; is offering a quickie no-fault divorce. We would split everything fifty/fifty. Michelle can keep the house. It is paid for. She keeps her car, I keep mine. Our cash and investments would be split fifty/fifty after subtracting the value of the house. In other words, she gets the house, her car and some money. I get the fuck out of Dodge. If she signs the papers right now, there's no need to go to court. I leave town for better places and to start my life over. It's great for everyone."
"If we don't do it that way, then this gets nasty. We have a very public, small town divorce where I file under infidelity. Her reputation and her family's are destroyed, and we still end up splitting everything because no matter what judge we get, Michigan is a community property state."
"But Paul, what if I don't want a divorce," said Michelle. "What if I love you and want to stay married to you?"
"Then you shouldn't have been spreading your legs for Steve and whomever else you were fucking," I said.
"This isn't what I want," said Michelle, as she angrily scratched her name on the papers. "And I'm going to give you some time to lick your wounds for a while. I know I was wrong and I hurt you. But I love you Paul and I'm going to get you back."
"As soon as Michelle handed me the papers back, she started trying to talk to me about us starting all over. Maybe we could go back to the beginning and try dating again."
"I laughed and the mental clock in my mind was at forty nine minutes since I'd begun packing."
"Her parents stood in front of me wringing their hands and looking sad, but the clock was at fifty three minutes. The Reverend offered to pray for me. His words struck me in the back as the clock hit fifty six minutes. The angry sound of my hopped up V8 rent the evening sky and I released the parking brake at fifty eight minutes and fourteen seconds. By fifty nine minutes, I was already barreling down the road towards my new life and I haven't gone back since."
"For a while, I kept up with what was going on in town and with Michelle. Callie divorced Steve and he pretty much became homeless. He was the town bum for a while and then he just disappeared. No one really knows what happened to him. Michelle was depressed for a few weeks and then she started partying like crazy. It took her a year or two to drink and fuck her way through all of the money. She pretty much became the town slut. No one with any self-respect would even be caught dead with her. Most of the guys would occasionally visit her on weekend nights, but during the day, if she walked down the street they crossed to the other side. I lost track of her after that."
"You see, I really didn't need to know what was going on in her life. I'd gotten to the point about two years ago where I didn't really care what was in my rear view mirror anymore. My life was beside me and ahead of me. About a month after I'd left Michigan, heading south, I'd walked into a bar in Tennessee and my life changed. I'd walked in there depressed and not trusting anyone. I drove away from there still depressed but optimistic. Well ... hopeful at least. I've never looked back since," I said.
"Well..." said Shasta. "What was responsible for this big change in your life?" She batted those huge eyes at me and smiled. She knew that was when I'd met HER.
"Maybe you should have a little bit of faith in her ... whoever she is. Maybe she feels the same way about you. Maybe, now that she knows what happened, she understands why you're so paranoid. But I have to be honest with you, Paul. You hurt her really badly today. Because, being purely hypothetical, in the four years that you've been with this new girl, she has never once even thought about cheating on you. There haven't been any drunken episodes for her. If you had even watched for ten seconds, you'd have seen her move that guy's arm from her shoulder. His arm felt like it burned my shoulder ... I mean her shoulder. It just didn't belong there." She looked at me and I could see the sadness in her eyes.