Saving One Another
Copyright© 2013 by Ultranumb74
Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 11 - Love can blossom when least expected. Just ask Gary and Shiloh. Both of their lives are at low and dark points. Gary, a retired and divorced pilot, has love as the last thing on his mind when he moves into a new house. That's where he meets Shiloh, a soon-to-be 17 year old. She helps him move in and, later, deal with the darkness in his life. He helps her deal with her abusive step-father. They both, in their own ways, save each other and come to terms with their feelings for each other.
The first thirty minutes of the workday were pretty uneventful. That changed, however, when the security checkpoint called my office. I was told that I needed to come to the checkpoint immediately because there was a law enforcement official requesting to speak with me. I feared the worst; that something had happened to either Shiloh or Kaitlyn, so I told Janey to cancel the morning's meetings and rushed to the security checkpoint. When I arrived, I was confronted with the stern continence of an Ada County Sheriff's deputy.
"Mr. Garret Michael Ashton?" he asked.
"Yes sir. What's going on?" I said, concern lacing my words and my face.
"Well, Mr. Ashton, I've been ordered by the 3rd District Court of Idaho to serve you with these papers," the deputy said in an officious tone of voice.
"There's nothing wrong with my wife?" I asked, relieved.
"Sorry, sir. I don't know about anything regarding your wife."
I sighed and suddenly what the deputy said sunk in. "Wait. You said I'm being served?" I said, confused.
"Yes, sir. You're being served with a court petition."
"I don't know, Mr. Ashton. I'm just responsible for ensuring that the petition is delivered into your hands. You'll have to read it to find out what it's about. Good day, sir," he said before he turned, entered his cruiser and departed.
I stood there thunderstruck as I watched the deputy leave the Micron employee parking lot. With trembling hand I opened the envelope and read the contents. Lisa. I clenched my jaw and reread the paperwork. She was petitioning the courts to terminate my parental rights. I couldn't breathe and tears threatened to overwhelm me, so I sat on the curb with my head between my knees.
After about ten minutes of trying to reign in my emotions I slowly got back to my feet and returned to my office. I held off calling Jerry right away because he was already going to call me back. So I waited. I wanted to call Shiloh and tell her, but I decided to break the news to her in person. I didn't trust my emotions to remain in check and I was certain she would get emotional. Even if I remained composed initially, once she broke down I'd certainly follow suit.
Around 10 a.m. I finally got a phone call from my lawyer. Jerry relayed that Lisa and her lawyer were stridently pushing for complete cessation of my parental rights. I told him that I already knew and then relayed the fact that I'd been served court paperwork earlier in the morning. All of this had left me dumbfounded because I couldn't even fathom a reason for her to pull something like this. Her argument that living in my neighborhood was dangerous was complete horseshit. She lived in Oklahoma City and living in such a large city was no safer than living in my little blue collar neighborhood.
We discussed the matter for a while, hammering out details and courses of action. One thing we agreed upon from the start was the fact that things might change on-the-fly since neither of us had a clue as to Lisa's motivations. If I didn't have an idea, Jerry sure as hell wouldn't have an idea either. Hell, I was married to Lisa for just over fifteen years; this was so totally unlike the woman I was married to. I mean, I could kind of see her reasoning for wanting a divorce, but this went far beyond anything I could comprehend. It frustrated the hell out of me because if I could only deduce her rationale, I could figure out what angle she was taking, what she gained out of all of this aside from Kaitlyn.
We finally reached a point where all we could do was wait for the pretrial court proceedings in two week's time. Jerry told me that he wanted to make a quick phone call and would call me back. He called me back twenty minutes later and dropped another bombshell on me that served to raise my anxiety further.
"I made a call to the courthouse to see who had your case, Gary; Judge Anna Preston will be presiding for this case."
"Is that a good or bad thing, Jerry?" I asked.
"Not good. Not good at all in your instance," he replied. When I didn't ask why it wasn't a good thing, he continued, "She's a hard-ass, more so against fathers when it's a female child involved. Yes, I know, nothing's ever happened. It isn't fair, I know, however it doesn't change the fact that the deck is already going to be stacked against you with Judge Preston.
"She's made it her personal crusade to ensure that a child, especially a female child, is not placed in a situation where molestation might even remotely take place. I want you to be well-aware of that fact because if there's even an inkling of any impropriety, she'll rule against you."
"Ok, thanks, Jerry," I grumbled. The custody battle just might have become a lot more difficult. I hung the phone up and clenched my jaw as I mulled over the implications.
The more I thought about it the more confused I became; it just didn't make any sense whatsoever. I knew Lisa hated me for reasons I felt were irrational, mostly. We'd had rough patches over the years, but most of those centered around me being gone so many times on deployments, for training and for schooling. While she'd known that the life of a military spouse could be a hard life, she hadn't realized just how hard it'd be.
I knew she missed Oklahoma, but what could we do? The job market in Oklahoma City wasn't worth a damn and for what little there was the pay was considerably less than what I made here in Idaho. I had to provide for my family and I didn't want to raise Kaitlyn in a big city. The small-town feel of the Treasure Valley proffered a better environment to raise a child in.
I'd also gathered, during the last little bit of our marriage, that she didn't want the responsibility of having to deal with both a teenage child and potentially a cripple. Hypocritical, I know; this was part of the "'til death do us part" and she found that she didn't want to man-up, well ... woman-up, and shoulder this responsibility. It was not too long after my crash that this little tidbit of info came out one night during a heated discussion regarding some school trouble Kaitlyn was having. It was then that I realized that the fat lady was singing about my marriage and she couldn't hold a tune for shit. After that, the marriage went downhill until all that was left was divorce. I'd finally realized that what everything boiled down to was the simple fact that Lisa didn't want to be married to me anymore; that somehow I'd failed in my duties as a husband.
Regardless, none of these facts added up to why Lisa would try to keep Kaitlyn from me. Her argument about my neighborhood being unsafe just didn't cut it. Deep down in my gut I felt that she was just looking for an excuse, any excuse, to exclude me from her life. The signs were there; Kaitlyn had confided to Shiloh and me when she was here in June that she argued more and more with Lisa. That the arguments were getting severe. That Lisa bitched about the littlest thing. That this had all started after they'd moved to OKC.
The jangle of my computer reminding me of an inspection that I needed to accomplish snapped me out of my thoughts. Sighing, I locked my computer, grabbed my hardhat and headed out the door.
Finishing the inspections that I needed to get done, I took off for lunch just after noon. I'd decided to "indulge" in an American gut-busting pastime—Mickey D's. I know, not exactly the healthiest thing in the world to eat, but I was craving French fries. Normally I'd have an actual sit-down lunch that consisted of a healthier fare, but because of the lengthy phone call with my lawyer, I was slightly behind schedule with what I'd wanted to get done before the end of the day. Hence, a quick trip to McDonald's and a working lunch.
I had just made it to my truck when I heard someone call my name. I turned around to see a thirty-something guy in a striped polo shirt and khakis. Brown eyes that matched his brown hair sat behind gray-rimmed glasses.
"Mr. Ashton, Gary Ashton?" he asked.
"Yeah, that's me," I replied.
"Oh, good!" he smiled at me and offered a hand. I shook it. "I was afraid I was going to miss you. I'm Eric Miller."
"Nice to meet you, Eric. What can I do for you?"
"Well, Mr. Ashton, I work for the Idaho Statesman." He stopped when I groaned and turned back to my truck.
"Listen, Eric," I said over my shoulder as I dug in my pocket for my keys, "I've had a really bad day and if this is about Afghanistan..."
"It is, Mr. Ashton," he quickly replied, cutting me off, "Well, partly anyway. My boss wants me to get a few comments on the recent shoot-down in Afghanistan from you. Your take and opinion on it and how your similar incident affected your life."
"I don't know, Eric. It's a tough subject for me to talk about," I said, frowning in consideration. My truck was unlocked and my hand was resting on the door handle. It'd be an easy thing to just get in and drive off, the whole ordeal avoided.
"No pressure, Mr. Ashton. It'll just be a few questions. If there are things you can't talk about, I'll totally understand. I'll still have something I can work with and that'll get my boss off my back."
I hung my head momentarily before I turned back around, grimaced and replied, against my better judgment, "Ok. I'm on lunch right now, so let's head over to Mickey D's."
"Ok, I'll meet you there. Thanks for doing this, Mr. Ashton."
I just nodded, turned and got into my truck. He followed me up to McDonald's and took a corner booth seat as I ordered and waited for my food. After getting my food I joined Eric, sitting across from him.
As I ate, he asked questions. Pretty typical stuff that you'd expect for a news article. I glossed over some of the more sordid details, partly because the general public probably wouldn't be able to handle it and partly because I was still troubled by the previous Friday. When it came to how my life's been affected since the shoot-down, I basically told him that it was the beginning of the end of my marriage. How Lisa withdrew from me. The way the PTSD caused more than one blow-up because of her fear that I'd snap and lose it. The fact that Lisa feared for our daughter's safety and was using that fear to try and win sole custody of Kaitlyn and terminate my parental rights. I found myself surprised that I was spilling my guts to this reporter. I could only surmise that it was the subconscious part of my brain wanting others to know what I'd gone through, that problems with PTSD do occur, that it's not just the military member that's affected. And I hoped that what I had to say would raise awareness and give hope to others with PTSD that they could, in fact, overcome it and succeed.
We paused after a while so Eric could go use the restroom. He was gone for a little while and when he returned, we continued the interview.
"Mr. Ashton, my boss also wanted me to ask a few questions pertaining to an incident last July."
Huh? Eric's statement had caught me off-guard because I didn't see how the two subjects would be related and used in the same news article.
"And why would your boss want to know about the shooting, Mr. Miller?" I asked cautiously.
"Well, it doesn't have anything to do with the shoot-down, per se, other than the fact that you were involved in both incidents. We're just doing a follow-up article on the shooting because we've received much interest in how you and your neighbor have been faring," he replied with a shrug.
I looked at my watch and saw that I'd have to take a longer-than-normal lunch break to complete this interview. Considering how my morning went, that's exactly what I chose to do. I told Eric to hold on so I could inform my secretary that I'd be out longer than expected. He just nodded his acceptance. After I hung up, I placed my cellphone in my pocket and motioned for him to continue.
He asked how I was doing, if the shooting had triggered my PTSD; it hadn't. He asked about Shiloh's condition and I told him she'd come out of it better than I had, physically, but that emotionally she'd been traumatized due to the death of her mother. Eric then asked if I thought the quality of the neighborhood contributed to the incident and if I thought it was dangerous to live there; no on both accounts. He expressed surprise that I didn't think that it was dangerous when I'd been in a shoot-out with my neighbor, who had died and had been under investigation for drug dealing; I told him that Rudy was an aberration and that the rest of the neighborhood, while rough in appearance, was filled with hard-working blue-collar people, quite friendly really, and that they all looked out for their neighbors.
"One last question, Mr. Ashton. I want to go back to Miss Graves. With your experience with dealing with PTSD, were you able to help her with her recover emotionally from this traumatic experience?"
"Mrs. Ashton," I stated. He looked at me quizzically. "It's not Miss Graves anymore. It's Mrs. Ashton," I explained.
"So ... you two are married?"
"Yes, Eric. Why else would I call her Mrs. Ashton?"
"But, wasn't she a teenager, a sixteen-year-old teenager, when the shooting took place?"
"Yes she was," I explained patiently.
"So, you married a sixteen-year-old girl?"
Starting to get irked, I glared at him momentarily before answering, "No, I married a seventeen-year-old young woman, legally mind you."
"When?" he asked, perplexed. He didn't seem to comprehend all of this.
"The day after she turned seventeen," I replied evenly. I had to wonder where he was going with this.
"So," he said in a curious tone, "You were well aware of her age, right?"
"Obviously," I replied. Duh! Of course I knew. Jesus, I now saw exactly why the so-called experts said that the U.S. education system was going down the shitter.
"And that would mean you two were ... involved ... while she was sixteen, is that correct?"
I frowned, crossed my arms and glared at Eric. So that's where he was going with this last bit of questioning. I thrummed my fingertips on my biceps as I weighed whether I wanted to continue the interview or not.
Deciding, I stood and said, "Interview's over, Mr. Miller," before walking towards the door of the restaurant.
As I was about to exit, I heard him call out, "Mr. Ashton, regardless of how things turn out, I do think you're a hero for saving that girl and for what you went through in Afghanistan. I just wanted you to know that."
I paused, looked back at him and shook my head in irritation. I exited the restaurant, got in my truck and fired it up. As I headed back to Micron I mulled over his last statement. ' ... Regardless of how things turn out... ' Now what the hell did he mean by that? The news articles? My PTSD recovery? Shiloh's own emotional recovery? As I pulled into an empty parking spot, I just shook my head distractedly. I had far more important things to worry about.
The rest of the day passed in a blur, although I was far from focused. The court summons sat at the forefront of my thoughts. Thankfully the day finally ended and I was on the way home. As I was navigating the traffic of rush hour, my thoughts wandered back to the interview with Eric and his departing statement. The more I thought about it, the louder the jingling of mental alarms sounded. Why was he so focused on Shiloh's age? And why the hell would he ask if we were 'involved' prior to her turning ... seventeen? Those little jingling mental alarms? They became glaring mental klaxons.
I pulled off at the next exit on the freeway and pulled into a convenience store parking lot. Snatching up my cell phone from the center console I dialed directory assistance to look up the phone number for the Idaho Statesman. The operator connected me to the number listed and after a few minutes of questions with the folks at the Statesman I hung up. Grimacing, I kicked myself mentally for not listening to those mental alarms closer and earlier. I called Shiloh's phone but she didn't pick up so I left a message for her to call me back as soon as possible. I then called Jerry, asked him to check into what my gut instincts had been trying to warn me about and then we bid each other goodbye. I was in the middle of sending Shiloh a short text message when she returned my phone call.
"What's up, guy?" she said when I answered.
"If anyone stops by the house asking questions, don't answer any," I replied.
"Oh dammit," she exhaled. "A reporter for the Statesman just left; that's why I missed your first phone call. Why, Gary? What's going on?"
I ground my teeth. "Was his name Eric Miller?"
"Yeah. Gary, tell me what's going on!"
"Shi, he's not a reporter, at least not with the Statesman."
"How do you know that?" Shiloh asked me.
I told her about my own "interview" and the kind of turn the questions took regarding her age and our relationship. I told her how I'd put it out of my mind until I was on my way home and how I'd called up the Statesman to verify that he worked there, because the nature of the questions didn't resonate as something needed for a follow-up story.
"Shi, the folks at the Statesman told me that they don't have anyone named Eric Miller working for them. I even went so far as to describe his appearance and the car he drove. He doesn't work there."
"Who is he then?" she asked, the trepidation apparent in her voice.
"I'm thinking he's a private investigator. I have Jerry digging up any information he can find on this guy," I told her. "If he is a P.I., and I'm pretty sure he is, then it can only mean that he's been hired by Lisa."
Shiloh didn't answer immediately. "That would explain some of the questions he asked me. Gawd, I'm so stupid!" she exclaimed angrily.
"You're not stupid, darling."
"No, no, Gary, the questions made me a little uncomfortable and I had this niggling little voice in the back of my mind screaming at me to stop the interview and send him on his way. But I just assumed that he wanted to have a happy ending for the follow-up to the shooting. I'm so stupid for not listening to that voice. I told him almost everything, Gary!" she said with a quavering little voice.
"It'll be alright, hun," I reassured her.
"No, babe, it's not going to be alright. I screwed up," she said rapid-fire. "I screwed up and it might cost you Kaitlyn." She was getting really worked up; I had to chuckle, though, because I could envision her pacing back in forth like an expectant father. In fact, I would've bet my next paycheck that she was pacing. Probably burning a path in the living room carpet. So ... I chuckled. I couldn't help it. "What's so funny, Gary?" she asked irritated.
"Quit pacing, angel," I said soothingly.
"Huh? What?" she replied in a confused tone of voice.
I chuckled again and said, "You're pacing, Shiloh. Quit pacing or you'll wear a hole in the carpet."
I was greeted with dead silence for a good five seconds before I heard, "Where are you at?"
"I'm in Meridian."
"No, really, where are you at?" I could imagine her looking all over for me expecting to find me peeking in one of the windows. For some reason, probably stress-related, I started giggling like a little kid. This just reaffirmed in her mind that I was playing a joke on her. "Seriously, Gary, quit yankin' my chain. I know you're here, so ... where are you at?"
I managed to get my silly giggling under control. Barely. "Shi, I'm telling you, I'm in Meridian at a gas station convenience store."
I heard her harrumph on the other end of the phone. "Fine. When will you be home?"
"Thirty-five or forty minutes probably. I've avoided the worst of the rush hour traffic," I replied.
"'K, babe, love ya!" she chirped.
"Love you too, Shi," I said and hung up the phone.
I glanced at the yellowish envelope sitting in the passenger seat and sighed, tension already replacing the fairly light mood I'd experienced a few seconds prior. I'd considered telling Shiloh about being served the petition, but that was something I needed to tell her in person. She would need me for comfort as much as I needed her already.
I eased my truck out into traffic and got back on the freeway. The miles flew by, not consciously registered by my mind, as I considered the implications of what one Eric Miller had to do with the upcoming court proceedings; if he was, in fact, a private investigator. If he was a P.I., then that could potentially change the whole complexity of the case. It was looking more and more like the custody battle was going to get downright ugly and nasty.
Before I knew it I was about a mile from home. My cell phone started ringing and I answered it.
"Gary, it's Jerry."
"Whatcha got for me, Jerry?" I said, cutting to the chase.
"Mr. Miller is a private investigator. He works for I-C-U Investigations in Boise and he's got a fairly good record for digging up the dirt and skeletons people try to hide."
"Wonderful," I grumbled.
"Try not to worry yourself to death, Gary. First thing tomorrow I'll have my people start some digging of their own to see if we can call the credibility of his evidence into question."
"Alright Jerry, thanks," I said as I pulled into the driveway of my house. I hung up the phone and sat for a few moments. That Miller had hoodwinked me into believing he was a reporter and had got me talking about my PTSD and the shooting ate at me. I was sure that what we'd discussed would come up at the custody hearing in intimate details. I thought I'd known Lisa well enough that I could predict what she'd do. Whelp, wrong on that account, Gary, I thought.