Hi Folks, thanks to the great Mikothebaby for her editing wizardry. Thanks also to every who commented last week. I have to warn those of you who like the traditional LW storylines. This will be the last of those for a few weeks. Summer is here and the next three or four stories are going to be kind of wild. SS06
I've spent most of the night tossing and turning but found sleep elusive. The breeze that comes into the open window carries the scent of the lake outside with it. I smell the freshness of the plants and the murky smell of the lake water with its slight touch of fishiness. I breathe deeply as I sit up in bed. Just as my head begins to clear in the pre-dawn darkness of early fall, the phone rings.
I love my iPhone. It's a miracle of techno-wizardry that allows me to access and do things that only ten years ago would have been unheard of. But in this instance, the jarring ring tone that was meant to be heard over the machines in the manufacturing plant I run, coupled with the vibration setting that lets me know I have a call even when I can't hear it, are unsettling.
I press a button that appears only on the screen and the call is connected. The warbling, sobbing voice, a caricature of its normal, rich resonance, strangely doesn't invoke the feelings it usually does but I recognize it instantly.
"Mark, are you there? I don't actually know where you are. But can you come home, so we can talk? Mark, I can't live without you. I want us back where we were. I love you. I always have, I guess it just didn't seem clear until you left and took up with that awful little bitch. I've ended things with Todd. Actually, you ended things with him for me. But I called him. I told him it was over and I never want to see him again. I told him goodbye and I meant that it was permanent." She said all of that in what seemed like one breath. Then she hesitated, waiting for my response. After what seemed like forever, she began talking again
"Mark, God damn it, I won't let you throw away twenty five years together over nothing. I'm serious. I told him goodbye and I meant it." She was more emphatic this time. Her voice carried desperation and just a hint of mania with it.
I finally answered her. The ice in my voice chilled and surprised even me. "You should call him back," I said, icily. "It's too late to say goodbye."
I heard a bunch of sobs and the phone dropped. I was just about to hang it up when I heard her scrambling to pick it back up. She started talking again. This time there was even more desperation in her voice. It sounded as if the phone was taken away from her and I a calmer person speaking.
"Great job, Dad," she said. "You don't know what she's been through lately. She's lost a lot of weight. She has bags under her eyes. She had to be hospitalized for a while, again. Don't you have any kind of feelings? I don't think he's all there mentally anymore. I know this isn't your fault. You gave her a chance, but you have to do something to make this easier on her."
The woman now reading me the riot act over the phone at this ungodly hour of the morning was my daughter. I felt sorry for her being caught in the middle, especially since shed been part of the reason this whole thing had started. But she'd been smarter than her mother and had learned her lesson quickly. As her mother grabbed the phone back and started ranting again about being forgiven I thought about how this had all started.
Just a few weeks ago, I'd thought that I was one of the most blessed people on earth. Not in a religious sense, since I've never been very religious. But I thought that I had everything a man could really ever need. No, I wasn't, and I'm not Bill Gates, but I'm the best Mark Brown that I can ever be.
I run a family owned manufacturing business that my dad started over fifty years ago. Business is and was good enough that I have a more than comfortable living. I've always drawn just enough money to pay my bills and have chosen over the years to re-invest the rest back into the business. I'll take a lump sum payment when I choose to retire whenever that is. It was actually my dad who started that practice. It was a great move because with the business actually owned by the family, not by himself personally, and with him not drawing a specified salary, he was able to give his second wife next to nothing when they divorced.
I actually never thought about it that way. My father was kind of a womanizer even late in his life. I've always been a family man. My wife and daughter are, or were the things I loved most and was the proudest of. Now I guess it's kind of different.
What I had to flaunt has come back to haunt, like a restless wind. And the best of times that were left behind, they come blowing in. All of the good times I had with Lori and Katey keep running through my mind while I examine each memory like an object. I turn them over, looking for lies in crevices and cracks as if I hadn't really lived through them myself.
And my daughter ... She was the one who'd actually brought me into the light that destroyed our family, so her wanting to fix things didn't come from any sense of love or family.
I remember how this all started ... it was a Friday night. I'd been cutting the grass in our back yard. Normally I did it on Saturday, but the following day I was going to do a car show. Besides my wife and daughter, the thing I loved most was my 2009 Mustang GT. I'd just gotten done washing and waxing the car and had pulled it into the garage to avoid grass and dust hitting it.
Katey, my twenty four year old daughter, had pulled into our driveway and after giving me a cursory hug, had gone into the house in search of her mother. A short time later, they came out of the kitchen and sat down on our deck, animatedly talking about whatever problem Katey had run into now.
Katey had been married for the past couple of years to the nicest guy I could imagine. Eric was everything I wanted in a son in law. He clearly loved Katey but he was a good guy in other ways too. He'd worked his own way through college. He'd gotten his degree and then settled down with Katey to build a life. He wasn't a drinker or a party boy and he shared the work around the house with her. They had a few of the money issues that most young couples had, but nothing insurmountable.
I watched Lori, my wife and Katey talking out of the corner of my eye as I rode my mower around the big yard. I knew that at this stage of the game, I wasn't necessary. Usually, Katey would come over and tell Lori what she thought she needed and get her mom on her side and then together they'd hit me up for the money to buy whatever it was that Katey had to have that was outside of her budget.
I knew that in the end, I'd probably give it to her. I'd never been able to say no to either one of my girls. But they always needed to have that united front.
I started to feel strange though because this conversation didn't seem to fit the normal pattern. As I drove the mower closer to them, they seemed to be so caught up in whatever they were talking about that they forgot about me. As I got even closer to them, the sound of their voices was so loud that I heard it and my world changed.
"Kathryn, how could you be that God damned stupid?" shrieked Lori. I knew that Katey was in trouble then. Her mother only called her Kathryn when she'd done something really bad.
"Jeezus, Mom, it just happened," whined Katey. "It's not the end of the world. There really wasn't much difference physically but there was just something more exciting about it. It's not like I'm even thinking about leaving Eric, but he can be so boring sometimes."
"He's your husband, Kathryn. You have to think about that. The man loves you. He'd do anything for you. If things are boring between the two of you, it's up to you to say something about it and make them more exciting. I can't believe any daughter of mine could be so stupid," said Lori.
Oh shit, I thought. There's trouble in paradise already. They've only been married for two years.
"Mom, it's not a big deal, I just wanted to do it once more. Just so I could be sure ... you know," said Katey. I turned off the mower then because I had the feeling that my little girl had done something that she should have her ass whipped for.
As the sound of the mower died out, both angry women looked at me. "Mark, try to talk some sense into your stupid daughter," hissed Lori. "She went to a party last night while Eric was working late. She got drunk and apparently slept with some guy she met there."
"Shit Mom, tell everyone why don't you," screamed my daughter. "You and Dad are still together..." she said and suddenly I felt as if I'd been kicked in the stomach. My wife's mouth dropped open as she saw my reaction.
"And honestly," continued Katey. "It was just once and I was drunk. I just wanted to try it one more time when I wasn't drunk. It's not like I'm trying to have a long time affair like yours was. And anyway, Daddy forgave you about yours so Eric would probably forgive me too, if he found out. Who knows, this might put some spice back in things." Katey suddenly looked up at her mother who'd turned as white as a sheet.
"Mom, are you okay?" she asked stupidly. "You look like you're having a heart attack or a stroke or something."
She turned to look at me and saw the pain and the anger in my eyes. Lori suddenly stepped towards me and I backed away.
"Mark..." she began. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry..."
"Just shut the fuck up and stay away from me, Lori," I said.
"What's going on here?" asked Katey. Then she looked at me. She saw the pain and the anger on my face. "Daddy, you didn't know did you. So she lied to me about telling you?"
"Kathryn," I said. "Remember the look on my face. Because it's the exact same one, Eric will have when you tell him about what you've done. And you need to go home and tell him now, because the longer it festers, the worse it will be and the harder it will be for you to get him to trust you again."
"Mark, Honey, we need to talk," said Lori.
"But Daddy, if it's going to hurt him as badly as you've been hurt, I'm not going to tell him," she said.
"Then you're going to lose him for sure, because it's always worse when you hear it from someone else. And I swear to you that if you won't tell him, I will. Shit, maybe I'll call him when I get to wherever I'm going. Maybe the two of us can share a lawyer and get a discount."
"Why does Eric need a lawyer?" asked Katey.
"Maybe he wants a divorce too?" I said.
"Mark, you're upset," said Lori. "I know that and..."
"Bitch, upset doesn't begin to say what I am," I hissed. "For most of my fucking life, I treated you like a God damned queen. Name one thing you've ever wanted since we got together that I didn't give you? Name something that I didn't do for you. And now I find out, from my daughter no less, that I'm married to a whore. And in the same fucked up conversation, I find out that my daughter is following in her footsteps."
"Mark, Honey, I know that I screwed up. And I know how you're feeling right now," said Lori tentatively.
"So you know that I feel like a God damned fool, then, right," I screamed. "For more years than I even want to talk about, I've bragged about my family. I've told people all across the country about my beautiful wife and my daughter. You two were my whole life. You were the reason why I worked so fucking hard and busted my ass."
They both stood there looking shocked at me.
"No more," I said, lowering my voice. Years in business during a shitty economy had trained me to roll with economic tides. I'd become a master of sucking up my losses and moving on. That training proved invaluable then.
"It's good that you know what I'm feeling right now, Lori," I said, "So I don't have to spell it out for you. "Who is he?"
"What difference does that make?" she asked, with tears running down her cheeks.
"Because I want to fucking know?" I said.
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
"I'm going to bust his fucking ass," I said.
"Mark, he has a wife," she said. "And they're not stable like we are. They have all kinds of problems and it just..."
"So you're saying that we don't have any fucking problems right now?" I screamed. Both women shrank away from my rage. I think they both thought that I might hit Lori and they were closer to the truth than even they suspected.
"I'm going to the Mustang Memories show tomorrow," I said suddenly, getting my composure back.
Lori hesitated then nodded. "I know that Honey," she said. "I'm going with you and maybe during the drive up there we can talk ab..."
"No," I said sharply. "You're not going anywhere with me. I'm not my father. I'm nothing like him..."
"What does your father have to do with us, Honey?" she asked.
"Don't call me Honey or anything other than my name," I hissed. "My father thought of himself as some kind of playboy. He hung out with a lot of women that he'd have been better staying away from. I don't associate with whores, so WE won't be going anywhere together. In fact the next time I see us together, will be in court, and..."
"Mark, what are you talking about?" sobbed Lori. "I already told you, I was sorry. We need to talk about..."
"Saying sorry doesn't mean shit. This isn't the fourth grade, Lori," I hissed. "And what we're doing right now is the only talking I intend to do."
"If we don't talk, we're not going to be able to work this out," she whined. "Mark, I'm..."
"If you say you're sorry again, I'll slap the shit out of you," I said. "We all know you're sorry. I'm sure that by now with all of the yelling we're doing even our neighbors know that you're one sorry bitch and they probably know why."
"Lori, we're not going to work this out. We're done," I said. "After the car show, I'm filing for a divorce. You're not going because by the time I'm back from the show, I want you packed and moved out of my house."
"No!" she screamed loudly. "Mark, I love you. I don't want a divorce."
"And I didn't want to be married to a whore," I said. "But that's what I got. I have to deal with what I got and so do you."
"No, we can work this out if you give me a chance," she started crying.
"Lori, I gave you a chance. When I asked you who it was, you wouldn't tell me. That means that protecting that asshole was more to you than our marriage so..."
"But you..." she interrupted.
"But it doesn't matter," I said. "You were so worried about his fucking marriage when you should have been worried about yourself and yours. You were a stupid bitch about this like everything else. I'm going to sue him for fucking up our marriage, so I'll find out who he was anyway. And in the suit for that, I'll have them call his wife to the stand just so they can ask her how she felt when she found out. If they don't have any money, I'll pay for her divorce just to fuck his life up even more."
She looked at me again as if she didn't know me. And truthfully she didn't, in the span of a few moments I'd changed.
"Now, as I said, I'm going to finish cutting my God damned grass, and then, I'm going to a hotel for the evening. I'll be back after my car show tomorrow and I want your ass out of my house."
"Mark, please," she whined as I started the lawn mower again. As soon as the motor started purring, I stopped it.
"Kathryn, remember what I said," I told her. "You'd better say something to Eric, because if you don't, I will."
Then I started the mower and drove off to finish cutting my yard. As I cut the grass, I realized that it didn't make any fucking sense. It seemed like the actions of a lunatic. But in those early hours after the discovery of Lori's cheating, I was going crazy. My mind was spinning at the speed of light. My entire life had been proven false. Nothing that I'd counted on or worked for over the past twenty five years mattered because none of it was real. Cutting the grass and going to a car show, may have seemed like I'd lost touch with sanity, but it was just the opposite.
My mind was scrambling to find a bit of normalcy to hang onto. I needed a big assed chunk of routine to bring some kind of order to my life.
Lori and Katey screamed at each other for a few moments as I made slow circles around the yard on the mower. Katey finally gave up screaming at her mother and left. Then Lori sat there watching me for the longest time. Every time my circuit took me close to the deck, she looked as if she wanted to say something to me, but I never slowed down or even acknowledged her presence.
When I was done, I put the mower in the garage and went upstairs to pack for the night and the next day.
"Mark, can we please talk about this?" she asked to deaf ears. As I turned to walk out of the room, I stopped and looked around hesitating as I looked at her.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Taking my last look at my home with you as a part of it and with you as a part of my life," I said slowly.
"We can fix this," she said crying. "I know we can fix it if we try."
"Not when only one of us wants to try," I said.
My home in rural Ohio was only thirty minutes away from the border with Michigan and only about ninety minutes away from the Detroit Area. The car show I was doing was held at the Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. It was a great event. It showcased not only Mustangs but everything Ford had to offer across the board. Showing off my Mustang and checking out both Ford performance and after market performance parts for Fords would take my mind off of my situation and allow me to calm down and think rationally about the whole thing.
Who knows I might even stay over and catch the NASCAR race at MIS on Sunday. As I thought about it, I realized that I'd be able to do a lot more with my time all of a sudden. All of those sacrifices that I'd made for years to keep my family happy hadn't amounted to shit anyway.
As I drove I again melted into my memories. I thought about the early days in college when I'd first met Lori. I'd taken one look across a crowded party and fell for her inky black hair and bright blue eyes. Like most of the people at our small mid-western college, she wasn't from the area. For most of the night she'd been holding onto the arm of a big guy who seemed to barely be paying attention to her.
Then I noticed that he disappeared, leaving her alone. I neither knew, nor cared whether they'd been in any kind of relationship. The first thing I thought of was that I had my shot and I didn't intend to blow it.
I grabbed two beers and stealthily made my way across the room until I was standing right beside her. She looked up as I handed her one and then shook her head.
"I don't drink," she said.
"That's a good thing," I gushed.
"Why?" she asked. "Sometimes I feel like a fish out of water around here. Everyone else is already half drunk."
"It's a good thing because I don't drink either, but I'll probably need both of these," I said. She looked at me as if I'd said something crazy and her smile lit up the room. Her sadness became curiosity.
"If you don't drink, why do you need two beers?" she asked. "That's kind of a lot to drink in a short period of time."
"I'll need at least that many to calm my nerves," I said.
"What has you that nervous?" she asked.
"Standing next to the most beautiful woman on the planet has that effect on me," I said. Her smile went even brighter. I could barely stand to look at her it was so bright.
"Well, that was good to hear," she said. "I wish everyone felt that way. Unfortunately, you're not going to be here for a very long time."
"I'd stay here for as long as you let me," I gushed.
"I wouldn't mind having you around for a while," she smiled. "But I'm not the one you have to worry about. I was thinking about the guy I laughingly call my boyfriend."
"Well, if you're laughing while you call him your boyfriend, maybe you need someone who'd be more serious about you," I said. She started to smile but the smile quickly faded and her eyes closed and she pursed her mouth.
"He's kind of twice your size," she said.
"So what," I said.
"And he's kind of standing right behind you," she continued. I turned around and looked up at him.
He was pissed. I smiled and handed him a beer. He glared at me and then popped the top off of it by wedging the edge of the cap against a table top and then pounding it with a ham-like hand. He swigged the beer and then burped loudly. He drained the entire beer in two gulps, each with a resounding burp that obviously impressed his friends.
"Why're yuh hanging around my girl?" he asked angrily. "I should..."
"You do know that's rude don't you?" I asked, interrupting him. "Don't you have any manners? This is a party after all."
"Whuh?" he asked.
"I got you a beer," I said. "It's only polite for you to get me one."
"Sorry," he said sullenly, then moved off to get me a beer.
I shook my head as the he wandered off to get me a beer. "I'll be seeing you around," I told her. She smiled at me again. "If he can't find a beer for me, give him this one." I handed her the second bottle and left the party.
In the coming months, I spent a lot of time with her. Lori was sweet, soft spoken, loyal, beautiful, and an all-around nice girl. Why she stayed with Todd was a mystery to me. He didn't appreciate her and he also cheated on her and often. Todd was as big as house and moved about as quickly. He was a lineman on our football team. Like a lot of the athletes in college, he had dreams of making it to the pros.
Women were all over him on the off chance that he did make it. Todd, for some reason simply couldn't say no to pussy. He also had a weakness for blonds. So here he was, in a relationship with one of the most beautiful women on campus, but he'd risk chucking it all for any chick with straw colored hair that happened to stroll by. I once saw him stand Lori up so he could sneak behind a building with a woman that had to weigh about two hundred pounds.
The odd thing about it was that Lori had the weirdest outlook on life that I'd ever seen. She was smart. She was witty. But she was taking the easiest most moronic classes the school offered. She didn't even have a major. One evening, when she'd called me to keep her company while Todd was off cheating on her, we talked.
"I guess you think I'm stupid or something," she said. "I sit here talking to you night after night and you're too polite to say anything about it, but we both know that he's out there cheating on me. I guess I come off like some tragically stupid woman for waiting for him."
"I don't think you're stupid at all," I said. "I do wonder about some of the things you do, but I've never thought you were stupid. And I really don't mind him cheating on you." She looked at me strangely.
"Why not?" she asked. "I thought that we were friends."
"That's the problem," I said. "I want us to be more than friends. And I don't mind him cheating on you because it gives me more time to spend with you and I hope that the more time you and I spend together it will start to become obvious that I'm better for you."
"What things beside me waiting for Todd mystify you?" she asked, changing the subject.
"Well the classes you take," I said. "You're pretty smart, but you're taking mostly remedial classes with no actual direction or degree program targeted." She smiled.
"I'm not a career woman," she said. "I know it's not the nineteenth century but I just want to be the best housewife I can be." I looked at her strangely.
"You think there's something wrong with being a good wife and mother?" she asked.
"No, but I have two questions for you. If all you want to be is a housewife ... why are you here at all? And the second is, if you want to be a housewife, why aren't you taking home economics or child rearing classes?"
"Well, we've had a plan ever since we got together," she said. "Todd is going to be a professional football player. They make millions of dollars. The problem is that to do that he has to do well in college football. And to do well in college football he has to be in college. So from the start, I've taken the exact same classes that Todd takes so I can help him with the work. It works the same way it did in high school. He gets great grades on his assignments, but he flunks most of the tests. The professors figure that he simply doesn't test well or has some sort of testing anxiety. They give him extra credit assignments and he squeaks through with a C minus which keeps him on the team. Then he goes to the pros, we buy or build our beautiful mansion and live happily ever after."
"Yeah, with him screwing the maids, the neighbors, your kid's teachers and any other female he sees who has blond hair," I said.
"No," she said. "He's just sowing his wild oats now. Once we get married, he'll stop." Even as she said it, we both knew that she didn't fully believe it. It was just something she was hoping would happen. Maybe it was what he'd told her would happen.
"You deserve so much better," I said. Something passed between us then as we looked into each other's eyes and the next thing I knew, we were kissing. It was the hottest most passionate kiss I'd ever had. And just as I started to really get into it, she pushed me away.
"No!" she said.
"Lori, you need to start trying to find someone who loves you for you. You deserve someone who won't put you second to screw some whale because she has yellow hair and tits that could fill a bucket," I said. "And you don't even have to look very far to find him. He's right here, standing in front of you."
"So you'd rather just screw dark haired women huh?" she asked. There was a tear forming in the corner of her eye.
"Lori, this isn't about sex," I said. "I've never made a single move on you."
"Then what the fuck is it about?" she snapped. "Why is it that I've told you that I have a boyfriend, but every time I turn around, you're there beside me? What is it about?"
"If you don't want me there, all you have to do is say so," I said. "Just say the word and I'll be gone. I'm there because ... Lori, I love you. I have from the first second I saw you at that party. I know my situation is as hopeless as yours with Todd, but that's what love does to a person. It makes you hope ... for just a chance. Even when the person you love is wrapped up in a person that's all wrong for her and doesn't deserve her. You just go on hoping that..."
"That what?" she asked.
"Forget it," I said. "I've had enough humiliation for one night."
As I left, she called me back. "Mark ... I'll see you tomorrow, won't I?" she asked.
"That's the problem with love," I said. "Somehow it just seems to make getting your teeth kicked in feel good. See you tomorrow."
And that was the way my college career went, or at least the last two years of it. I spent the whole time mooning and moping and hoping, over a woman who intended to marry another guy. Along the way, I passed up several sure things. I'm not a troll. Over those two years I had lots of opportunities to hook up or even have relationships with other women. But most of those women suffered from the same deficiency. They just weren't Lori Pitowski.
Strangely enough though, things worked out in my favor. At Christmas time of that year, before Lori went home, she gave me a Christmas present. It was only a bottle of cologne, but she told me to wear it for her. If it had smelled like skunk shit, I'd have worn it proudly. Even stranger was the end of the school year that year. When we met for the last time before going home, I hadn't really considered things. I was excited about all of the things I'd do during the summer. I had already decided to work at my family's manufacturing plant so I could put the things I'd learned so far into practice. But I was going to go camping and do a lot of other things that I liked doing as well. I was just ready for a break.
Lori didn't seem to be as excited about going home for the summer. But the last time I saw her, shocked me. We were only going to be apart for three months, but she didn't want to let go of my hand.
"Don't wear my cologne for any other women over the summer," she told me.
"I won't, " I promised her with my heart bursting.
"I'm going to miss you so much," she said. I thought I saw tears in the corners of her eyes.
"It's only going to be three months," I said. "I want to see what kind of engineer I'm going to be. So I'm going to work hard and bring a lot of money back, so we'll be able to do even more fun things while you wait for Todd in the fall."
"That's just too long," she said.
"It'll go by before you know it," I said.
"Dammit, Mark," she said. "I think I love you too. Why the hell does life have to be so hard?" She started crying and slipped something in my hand and then ran away. I was so floored by her telling me that she loved me too, that my brain had simply stopped working. After she left, when I looked down at my hand I noticed that she'd given me a slip of paper with her phone number on it. "Call me," it read.
And I did. Back in those days, state to state calls were expensive. I think that I spent about a quarter of the money I made that summer on long distance calls to Missouri. I later found out that I spent more time talking to her that summer than Todd did and he lived right down the street from her.
When we returned to school in the fall, I got the biggest surprise of my life. I'd just settled into my dorm when there was a heavy knock on my door. I opened it and found Todd standing there. I don't think he tried to block out the sun but he did anyway. Having Todd trying to fit into my doorway was like standing in front of an eclipse.
"Where the hell have you been?" he asked.
"Todd, whatever you think I've done, I didn't do," I said. "I just got to the campus today."
"That's what I'm talking about," he said. "I haven't been able to do shit since we got here three days ago. I need you to do what you did last year," he said.
"What did I do last year?" I asked.
"You know, hang out with Lori to cover for me," he said. "That way I can go out and do what I do and not have to worry about some guy hitting on her. I need to have all of the fun I can right now, because once we settle down and get hitched, my only glory will be on the field. I owe ya one buddy. Once I sign my multimillion dollar contract in the NBA, I'll break you off a chunk of change, okay?"
"Sure Todd," I smiled. "I've got your back." He turned to leave. "Uhm Todd," I called. He smiled and turned towards me. "The NBA is basketball. Football is the NFL."
"Oh!" he said. "Which one is the cars ... the NHL right?"
"Nope," I said.
"My fucking brother!" he yelled suddenly. "That asshole owes me money he told me it was the NHL and it stood for "Nothing but Hard Lefts."
"That's NASCAR," I said. Todd wandered off grumbling about breaking his brother's ass.
Less than twenty minutes later, Lori arrived. A lot of things changed that last year. Lori and I spent almost every second together that we weren't in class. We spent a lot of that time making out too. Towards the end, things were definitely moving towards sex. Lori felt a lot of guilt about it so I didn't push her. But every time we parted, I had to peel her off of me. "I want you so badly," she told me. "Kissing you is better than the time I had sex with Todd. I think if we had sex it would be really great."
"You've only had sex once?" I asked. And she nodded. I shook my head.
"I keep hoping that summer never gets here," she said. "But it's going to happen. In the next few weeks they'll ramp up and have the NFL draft. Todd will get selected and then he and I will move away and I'll never see you again. I love you so much Mark." My heart is going to break. I felt the same way but in a way I thought there was a bright side. I could find my own woman and get over the nearly terminal case of blue balls she'd given me.
But things have a way of not working out, or of working out for the better.
Todd didn't get taken in the NFL draft at all. He didn't go in the first round, or the second or the third. He didn't get drafted period. His agent started calling teams and no one was interested. No one was interested enough to even fly him out for an interview. He soon lost his agent and started calling on teams himself.
He showed up at the headquarters for some of the worst teams in the NFL and was turned away. He got me to make one call for him. He had me call a team from the CFL. I finally got the president of football operations for the team from Ottawa on line.
"Hi, I'm calling for Todd Williams," I said.
"Who?" asked the guy. He hung up before I could tell him.
I got a copy of Todd's scouting report. Reading it to him was painful. Apparently Todd was big enough for the NFL, but most teams thought he was too slow and too stupid for the fast paced game. He was a college lineman who didn't have the smarts, the speed or the skill for the big league. The packet included a video that showed that for the last three years that he played, the teams that they went up against had already adjusted to Todd. He was big as a house as I've already mentioned, but he was also as slow as a house. They no longer tried to double team him. The opposing players just went around Todd. It was embarrassing. Game after game, the video just showed guys lining up with Todd and quickly running around him and through the line before he could react.
After four years in college, Todd was nowhere near any type of degree. And with his eligibility as a player all used up, he was off of the team. Todd had planned his entire life around one thing and when that one thing failed to materialize his whole life was up in the air.
Todd sank into a depression. The last two weeks of school he didn't even bother going to class. He drank himself into oblivion and did all kinds of stupid things. Lori didn't seem to be fazed by any of it.
"In a way it's a good thing," she told me. I was confused as hell.
"Todd will figure out what our next step is," she said confidently. "But in the meantime, it means I don't have to leave you. If Todd had gotten drafted, we'd already be gone and I'd be missing you badly already. So this just gives me more time with you." I looked at her strangely. From the moment we met, I guess I'd come to see her as some kind of unreachable fantasy. When she told me she loved me, I liked hearing it, but I'd never had any illusions where her heart was.
"Don't look at me like that, Dummy," she said. "I've been telling you for the longest that I love you too. I don't understand it myself. I always believed that in order for love to be true, you can only really love one person, but I swear I love the two of you equally." I was floored.
"I know," she said. "It's confusing as hell. And I'm going to marry Todd. But only because it's the way my life was always supposed to be. My family and everyone I know, expects me to marry Todd. Sometimes it feels like if I don't marry him the world will end." Everything she said was leading me to believe that she really wasn't sure of which one of us she wanted to be with. Over the past two years, she had spent far more time with me. Todd was always running around with his buddies or out screwing some other woman. She'd really expected him to give all of that up and he hadn't. I really believed that if I started to push her, I could have convinced her that I was the better choice for her.
The problem was that as much as I'd told everyone, including myself, that I was ready to lose her when the school year ended, I was lying. I loved her so much it just didn't seem possible. And when you love someone that much, you don't try to force them into doing anything. You don't even try to force them to be with you. You just want the best for them and whatever makes them happy. So I just listened to her but I didn't try to push her either way.
I guess in my mind, I considered myself to be noble. I was, after all, hoping with every fiber of my being that she would pick me. I saw us settling down into the perfect life; with me doing everything I could to make her the happiest woman on earth. But I wasn't going to beg her or try to pressure her in any way.
I left it all up to the fates. I rolled the dice with my life and I got lucky. My number fell. And it didn't happen all at once. It was a couple of steps and bumps. The first came when she and Todd decided that instead of moving back to Missouri in what Todd considered shame, they'd stay in Illinois and he'd get a job. The problem was that Todd couldn't really do anything except play football. And it turned out he wasn't really very good at that. They got a small apartment and Todd went through a series of jobs that he failed miserably at. Todd was also still depressed and kept using what little money they were able to put aside to travel to visit NFL teams, then CFL teams and then finally the Arena Football League.
He didn't get a bite anywhere. And while he was still eating the way he had in college, he didn't have the structured workouts to keep him fit. So over the course of 8 months Todd started to look like the Stay Puff marshmallow man.
The one good thing about them staying in Illinois was that it enabled me to see Lori whenever I wanted. She never told me about their problems but she told me she loved me every day. The first time I realized that they had problems was when she told me that she'd had to take a job waitressing and that it was much harder work then she'd ever expected. She told me that they needed her income though, or they wouldn't make the rent.
The next thing I knew, I had to leave work to go and pick up a hysterical Lori. She'd called me and told me to come and get her. I'd never seen their apartment, but it was only about an hour's drive from my job.
My career was funny. It's always kind of odd working for a small family business. The way I looked at it, I wanted to know what I was worth. So right out of college, I'd taken a job with another company. Everyone in my family was immediately pissed at me. It had been assumed that I would leave college and take over the family business. I was, after all, the only one of three boys who'd actually gone into manufacturing. My oldest brother, Jeff, was a teacher. He'd gone into education because of the three of us, he was the only one who was old enough to remember our mother and the awful arguments our parents had. Michael and I had pretty much been raised by my dad's second wife, who also ended up leaving him. She visited us a lot but didn't speak to Dad unless she absolutely couldn't avoid it.