I watched as she walked off with the other man. I felt as though I had died. She'd had my heart, my soul, my very being and now—nothing. I had nothing: no heart no soul, no being. I was breathing and that was all—and that was overrated.
Who are we, were we? I'm Rueben Colson, most recently the husband, and, as I thought, the love of Jemima Colson's life. The "most recently" referred to having been but five minutes ago. Five minutes ago, she had come to me, in the dim light of the bar and told me she had fallen for another man, and that she wanted a divorce. Stunned, disbelieving, destroyed: yeah, that was me.
We'd met at the Horse's Head at her request. It was almost next door to where she worked as a receptionist at the local phone company. I had assumed she wanted to have dinner there after she got off—with me. Well, one can imagine my surprise having learned of her real reason for us to meet.
As she spoke, her eyes clouded as she fully realized the devastation she had wrought upon me. And, as indicated, devastated I was.
"I'm sorry, Rueben. I wish, well, I wish that there had been another way," she said. She brought her hand to her lips, touched my cheek with that same hand; then, she had risen from the little table, that separated us in the bistro, turned and left. About halfway to the exit a man had joined her. He took her hand and led her out. The other man? I had no idea, but quite obviously it was the man that she'd decided to dump me for.
For my part I continued to sit and think, well, I thought that I was thinking. But, maybe not. But, I was breathing and therefore technically alive, and well, breathing; I guess there's an upside to everything.
One upshot of having been dumped by my wife was the undeniable truth that my life became infinitely simpler. I no longer had to worry about whether or not I'd left the kitchen clean or the bed made—that had been my job—and as well, most of my weekends were now free to do with as I pleased. Nobody to see. This last mainly because all of our friends were really her friends, and invites to anything would no longer be coming my way.
I was lonely of course. I mean no close friends, no place to go except my favorite bar: The Cloister, which was near to 'my' place of employment. I did have my job. But, as the sole accountant for Peters Distributing Inc. I had no real interaction with the other nineteen employees; all of whom were engaged either in operations of, or the distribution of, the company's produce—primarily dry goods to supermarkets and dry goods outlets around the southern part of the state.
Ralph Peters, my boss and the owner of the company, knew of my marital problems and was empathetic. In sympathy, he doubled my workload. Said it would help me cope. Said he'd been through it and knew the game. I had to allow that he'd been right about that, helping me cope it did. Still, I was more than gassed by each day's end his rightness notwithstanding. I think I was going blind from dealing with all of the little numbers and symbols and legalistic tripe covering the double screen of my state of the art online system. But, as to that, it may in reality have had more to do with the endlessly incipient tears clouding my vision than with the little symbols and bugs on my screens.
I held up my glass for a refill by Phil, Phil Sutter, my friend and head pharmacist at the Cloister.
"Need some more medicinal support big fella?" asked Phil. I nodded.
"Yeah, make this my last, Phil, but make it a double. I'll drink it slow and with feeling," I said. He smirked.
"Yeah, well, just don't start singing again," he said. "I don't deserve that. Okay?"
"Promise," I said. He left and returned with a double shot a Beam Rye and set it down in front of me. I loved this guy. Maybe he'd marry me, I thought. At least, if "he" dumped me I wouldn't give a shit. Hey, there's an upside to everything as I kept telling myself. Problem was, I was having a whole lot of trouble identifying any upside to Jem's dumping me.
I was sipping my rye and silently crying over the spilt milk of my life when Phil returned to my end of the bar. He took a phone call on the back bar and looked to be a little miffed by whatever was said on the other end of the line. Hanging up, he looked over at me sitting maybe four or five feet away.
"Hey, Rueben, feel like becoming a bigger loser than you already are?" he said; he did kinda smile when he said it.
"Huh? What? What are you talking about?" I said.
"We need a sixth," he said. "Randy Dalton just begged off." He nodded toward the phone he'd most recently been speaking into.
Huh? What? A sixth?" I said. Still not getting it.
"Got a game tonight. Some old fashioned poker. Wanna play? It's a hundred dollar buyin and if you lose it all you can't refinance. It's how we manage to keep the game friendly, nobody ever loses their pink slip if you get my drift," he said. I looked up at him standing there.
"What the hell, nobody's invited me to anything since Jem left me. And, a chance to become an even bigger loser than I already am? Hell yes, how can I turn down an opportunity like that. Count me in," I said. "Maybe at game's end I'll be able to interest Guinness with my credentials."
"Yeah maybe," he said. "I'm off at seven; game starts at eight. You can follow me over."
The venue was Cal Westly's place. It was a four bedroom, single story ranch style about a mile from the bar. We were the last to arrive except for Jim Spencer. Jim's shift at Montgomery's Grocery, where he was a clerk, ended at eight straight up.
The other players, Rob Callaway, Clyde Metzler, and of course Cal's wife Angela, were already there when we arrived.
Introductions made, Angela brought in a couple of trays of snacks for the assembled gambleers. One and all were profuse in their thanks to her, especially since she had one helluva rack. I wondered if maybe Angela was Cal's secret weapon in the game. For sure it was pretty darn hard to keep one's eyes focused on the cards while she was meandering around the table.
Seeing Angela, and noting her devotion to her hubby, brought to my mind my soon to be ex-wife's lack of devotion to me. Okay, I was jealous.
The play went on into the wee smalls. When all was said and done, I had a half dozen new friends, and a remainder of twelve dollars and seventy-five cents out of the hundred I'd started with. But, the game had been cathartic at least for the short run. A couple of the guys had stories not unlike my own. All of which did reduce the degree of pain I had been beset with since Jemima had dumped me.
"I think you destroyed him," said Richard—Ricky—Jones; officer jones of our local constabulary as I would later discover. She gave him a hard look, as he continued to undress.
"I'd rather not dwell on it. Okay," said Jemima Colson. She mounted the bed and spread her legs wide for the man just as he kicked his underpants off to the side.
"Okay, okay," he said. "I didn't mean anything by it." She snorted.
"Right," she said. "Just get up here and screw me. I need you inside of me." He smiled and did as she asked.
Mounting her he let his penis slap haphazardly at her slit. He laughed while her expression bespoke impatience.
"Now! she said.
"Okay, okay, just teasing," he said. "Sheesh! Touchy tonight." He pushed into her.
"Ugh!" she said. "Good, that's good. Now screw me."
He lay on top of her seesawing in and out of her for some minutes. She lay passive and submissive as he mastered her.
"Faster," she gasped, she was close and he knew it. He began to pummel her fiercely.
She sputtered little noises and squeaks as she came. Spittle dribbled and bubbled from the side of her mouth as she was caught in the avalanche of a shattering climax.
He stiffened and loomed virtually paralyzed above her as a sea of his semen painted her insides. Finally, he collapsed on top of her, lay still for a brief moment, and rolled off to her right.
Heavy breathing was all that could be heard for the next minutes.
"Good?" he whispered as his breathing normalized.
"Yes. Good," she said. "That's what I needed. Yes." He smiled and let his eyes close. She rolled onto her side away from him, her shapely buttocks and the pussy lips that separated their globes a mess of cum and sweat. They'd shower later and then go out to dinner. It was still early.
Coincidences are not something that I much believe in. But, it seems every time I think such sacrilegious thoughts, I am proven wrong. This was one of those times.
I was sitting behind a pillar in the Horse's Head. The two of them had just come in but did not see me. I was blocked, visually, from them and they from me, but not from hearing them.
The bathrooms were to my right and I knew that there was a back door by which I could escape without being seen, well, it was unlikely that they would see me or recognize me since I would be with my back to them as I moseyed out.
I was just getting up to risk it when I heard my name mentioned. I sank back onto my seat to hear what I could hear. Might be interesting, I mean since I was likely gonna the subject to of the conversation.
"I hear he comes in here sometimes to avoid his friends at the Cloister. Hear tell he's still crying in is beer about you dumping him, and it was starting to get old over there," said Richard Jones.
The waitress interrupted his speech taking their orders. She, the waitress, passed me on the way to the kitchen.
"Yes, well it is what it is," said my not quite yet ex-wife. "If he is crying in his beer, well, that was part of the problem I had with him."
"Really?" said Richard.
"Yes. He's such a wimp. If he didn't get things exactly as he thought they should be, he wouldn't fight for his cause; he'd just cry or whine. I just got fed up. No guts that's my ex. I need a man, somebody with a little intestinal fortitude; Rueben Colson ain't it," she said.
"And, he can't dance!" laughed Richard. She giggled her agreement with the man's remarks.
"No, he can't dance worth a lick either," she said, now breaking out in gales of laughter herself.
"You're good at that kind of stuff. You could have taught him," said Richard.
"Truth is I didn't want to. If I had, we'd have likely gone out more, and his social skills were less than wonderful. There was just no upside to the guy," she said.
"You know, we've talked about it before, but you've never really answered me," he said.
"What?' she said.
"Why did you even marry the guy in the first place?" said Richard. "Come on, give?" I could hear her snicker.
"Truth is I don't really know. He was okay looking I guess though maybe a little on the short side. But, he did the one thing I was looking for at the time," she said.
"And that was?" he said.
"He asked me. I was ready, and he asked me first. I know it sounds stupid. But, it was what it was. I was twenty and feeling old. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds now, but that was then," she said.
The man laughed.
I had to allow that she was at least partly right. I had been ready to slink out like the wimp she thought me. Now, that was no longer an option. I threw a twenty on the bar, stood, turned, and walked around to where my detractors were making fun of me.
They didn't notice me immediately, staring at them, as they continued laughing. Then they did, notice me that is.
"Rueben! Wha..." said Jemima. I remained silent, but not wimpy silent, but angry silent.
"Oh what? You're going to cry," said Jemima. Her boyfriend smirked his contempt but offered no words.
I shook my head slowly. "No," I said. Then, I turned and walked off and out of the place. I heard them talking animatedly as I exited.
The divorce was final some four months after that night at the Horse's Head.
One thing that the night in question prompted me to do was to return to my regular haunt at the Cloister. She'd, they'd, been right about that. I had kinda avoided the place because of the sadness that had overwhelmed me, and it had. That and hearing the barroom regulars commiserate with me endlessly. I'd be asking them to lighten up in the future. I had a life to get back to.
I did finally ask the group two nights later to lighten up. They did, and things went along okay for a while. Then, it happened: the second worst night of my life.
Her asshole lover, now husband—yes, they'd gotten married about two weeks after the divorce was final—had got her pregnant. The babies name was Sadie, so I was told by some who knew the two of them as well as me.
It shouldn't have, but the news that my rival, my successful rival, had fathered a child by the former love of my life, killed my heart yet again. Sadie should have been mine. I guess I'd been kidding myself: I still wasn't over her—Jemima. I began to wonder if a man could ever get over something like that, like what had happened to me. If I'd been asked at that moment, I would have said no.
And then, if that had not been enough, she, my ex, had the opportunity to rub my nose in it yet again; and, she didn't hesitate. It'd been almost a year and a half since our breakup.
I was in the supermarket, the same one we'd patronized while married, getting some stuff that I needed to get by for the rest of the week. I was pushing my cart around the corner of aisle fifteen when I accidentally bumped into her.
"What the..." she started. I know my look initially must have spelled shock. But, then I started to go red in the face; I could feel it. She picked up on it.
"Jesus, Rueben, are you ever going to man up and get over your insufferable 'achy breaky heart'," she said. "So we broke up. So what? It happens to a lot of people. Get a life."
"I—I—I..." was my brilliant response. Her look said it all—utter contempt. I sputtered something; I don't remember what. I left my groceries in the aisle and walked out. No, that's not right. I all but "ran" out of the store. And, yes, I know how pathetic I must have seemed to her. I was sure that mister and missus Jones would have a big assed laugh that night, and that at my expense. Jesus! I felt low—again. It would be a long time before I saw any of them again; and, when I did, things were going to get really-really complicated.
"Jesus, Richard," she laughed. "I feel kinda bad for him. I all but laughed in his face when I saw him. I mean talk about a deer caught in the headlights. He actually started to cry. Then I told him to man up and to stop being such a wimp or words to that effect. He left his stuff, his groceries, just abandoned them, and ran out."
"Well, he is a wimp, obviously. Lots of people get divorces and get along good afterwards. He needs to too. But, I don't blame him for wanting you. I mean I do for sure. You leaving him had to kill the guy.
"Look next time we see him we're gonna be cool. Treat him with a little respect, not much, just a little," he laughed. "You know so he won't feel so bad. Okay?"
"Yes, I think you're right. But, the little shit does need to man up and act like a real man and not such a pussywhipped little twerp. I mean really," she said.
"Yeah, well, you've got me pussywhipped," he said smiling.
"Yes, but you're different, a different kind of pussywhipped because you know I need you just as much," she said.
"Yeah, I guess that's so," he said.
The four seasons came and went as is their habit—ten sets of them. I was thirty-five years old. Doing okay on the job. Still single. Had gotten myself a nice little two bedroom with a small yard in town. Paid my taxes. And, by most standards was doing good generally. Social life? Not much to tell. Didn't date but on rare occasions. Sex? Mostly I'd forgotten what the real thing was like. I had purchased the services of a few ladies of the evening on occasion but apart from that, pretty much nada.
Put another way I was spinning my wheels at least emotionally.
I was sitting in the Commodore, a small bar, a hole in the wall really, but well run. I'd been hanging out there more and more in recent times; it's sawdust atmosphere kinda suited me. Not as nice at the Cloister or the Horse's Head, but again, it suited me. Charlie Weston, the barkeep, was young but sympathetic with everyone's problems. He knew me as pretty much always in my cups and mostly in a melancholy state; ergo, he almost always threatened to take my keys if I had more than two drinks. I loved Charlie. He was caring.
"This is it or you're getting a cab," said Charlie.
"No problem, I'll be heading out in a few," I said. He nodded and went back to grinding glassware with his towel.
I finished my third shot, threw a ten spot on the bar—the drinks were cheaper at the "C"—and headed out.
As I drove I commiserated with myself yet again. I wondered what she was doing, and their kid too—Sadie as I now recalled her name to be, was eleven years-old, I knew.
I decided I needed some stuff for dinner for the next few days. I stopped at a convenience store that I knew of on my way; well, it was convenient. Right at that moment convenience trumped price: I was feeling the three shots of rye.
"Yeah, thanks," I said as I headed out of the store. A Latino guy maybe fifteen maybe twenty, I could never tell a Latino's age worth a damn, was loading a couple of cases worth of beer into the back of his lowrider. My car was a row closer and two or three spaces to the right of his. A young girl, maybe ten years old walked between us carrying her purchases in two plastic grocery bags.
I was nearing my car just as the girl passed in front of me heading to my right likely looking to make it to the crosswalk leading toward the walled subdivision of upper-middle class houses across the street from the store. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a black sedan screech hammer down around the corner and directly toward us with two arms poking out of the window: there were guns at the end of those arms.
Instinctively, I rushed to grab the little girl and knock her to the ground. I succeeded, but as my body covered hers I scored the outrageously wonderful good fortune of catching three stray rounds likely intended for the Latino guy who'd hit the turf but a split second ahead of me and the girl. I was the only one hit as the gang in the sedan sped off. The Latino guy got up and checked his car and swore; it was riddled with bullet holes, and his radiator was gushing fluid. He never even thought to look over to me or the girl, but the cops in the cruiser that screeched to a stop in front of me and the girl ten seconds later did.
I felt myself being rolled off of the waif beneath me and my head propped up on a jacket or something. I was conscious, but things around me were blurry. My belt was taken off of me and lashed around my upper left leg. One guy in black was ripping my shirt open and doing something to my chest or shoulder. I wondered at that; blood was all but blinding me; shouldn't the guy be taking care of my head? And then I wasn't conscious and I was glad.
I took a deep breath and opened my eyes. Things were still blurry, but began to come into better focus after what seemed but a minute or two. I didn't feel any pain. That had to be good news, right? I remembered the drive by and the gunshots and the Latino guy with the beer and then the cops.
I surveyed my environment. Yep, I was in the fucking hospital. Man, I didn't need this. I had work to do, accounts to analyze and take carry of. Mister Peters was not going to be happy.
"Doctor Cruz, he's awake," a female voice declared. Two white clad women and a man, probably doctor Cruz, were hovering over me.
"Well, he's now actually alive 'and' with us," said the good doctor.
"Mister Colson, can you hear me? Understand me?" he said. I nodded. I felt a little stiff, but otherwise not too bad. No pain, that was good for sure. As a matter of fact, for someone who had just been shot, I felt damn good. No doubt some medication that they must've given me.
"I'm doctor Cruz," he said. "I'm going to ask you some questions; then, I will be glad to fill you in on your condition. Okay?" I nodded again. God, I felt so stiff.
The questioning went on for some minutes with mostly one syllable responses from me. All such queries were relating to how I felt, or could I move such and such, or could I please do XYZ. I answered and acted accordingly.
The medico sighed. "Mister Colson, we have some more tests, but I am more than hopeful that you have finally made it back among us," he said.
"So, let me say first, that people, who have been in a coma as long as you, often suffer some after effects. But, in your case, I think we've gotten past that. We, he indicated his staff with a wave of his arm, have been more or less expecting you to come out of it for some days now. And, well, here we all are," he said. My look must have cued him
"Mister Colson?" said the doctor.
"How long?" I said.
"Oh my, I didn't say did I? Three months and two days mister Colson," he said. "But, it looks like you're going to make a full recovery, given a little time of course."
I could feel my mouth slowly open and close, like a fish—several times. No words came out. Not at first; then they did.
"Three months!" I squealed.
"Yes," he said. "But, as I said..."
"Mister Colson, you're going to be fine. Please, just relax today. Tomorrow we will consider allowing a visitor or two of the several who have asked to see you and speak with you, to do so," he said.
"Visitors?" I said.
"Yes, but tomorrow, not today. You just came back to us, and we have to make sure you're able to deal with things. Okay?" he said. I nodded.
He talked a little more letting me know the limits of my activity for the next while. There was dietary information too. I'd been fed through a tube for so long my stomach had to be reeducated was the way he phrased it.
And then it was night, followed by morning of the second day. I did not receive visitors the second day as the doctor had intimated that I might, but I did on the third day.
It was day three, but really day one of the rest of my life. Just when I was about to get my chance to find out some more things from the doctor that were of some rather urgent importance to me, if to nobody else, we were interrupted by a nurse. She and the doctor conferred for a full minute. He nodded his okay.
"Yes, miss Bradley, let them in. I'm done here for the moment," he said. It looked like it was going to be a little longer before I got my questions answered.
"Mister Colson, I'm detective Wilson. This is Sergeant Jones. Might it be all right if we spoke with you for a moment?" he said.
"Yes, I guess so," I said.
We talked for some little time, but in the end it came down to the fact that I didn't know anything about who shot me. Detective Wilson did not look happy, but he understood. Then there was officer Jones.
"You don't remember me do you?" said Sergeant Jones. I felt my brow wrinkle.
"No, I don't think so," I said. "Should I?"
"No, I guess not. But, at any rate, it was my daughter you saved. I was one of the officers on the scene of the shooting. It was kind of a lucky thing for me. I was coming home for dinner; it was the middle of my shift.
"My wife had sent our daughter to get a couple of things at the store, and then there was you and the bad guys and others. Well anyway, you knocking my daughter down and covering her saved her life, about that there is no doubt," he said.
"Okay. Good," I said. "Hope she's okay."
"She's fine, a few scratches is all. But..." The man looked down, around, then back at me.
"Huh?" I said, wondering what he seemed so nervous about. He shoved his hands in his pocket and hunched his shoulders. Something was going on, but I was going to be no help to him for damn sure.
"It's okay, man," I said. "Anybody would have done the same given the same circumstances."
"Actually, that's not even close to the reality. Most people would have just pulled their cells and waited around for the uniforms to show up. You did a wonderful thing for Sadie, and I'll never forget it," he said.
Sadie? A policeman? This area, neighborhood? I was getting a real hinky feeling. No, not possible. It was not even remotely fucking possible!
But, I had to ask the question. "Officer, can I ask, what is your wife's name?" I said.
"Jemima," he said. His look spoke of nothing so much as regret.
"You're welcome for everything. Now please leave," I said. I was speaking softly, but I was about to breakdown; I didn't need this.
"Mister Colson, please let me say..." he started.
"Please leave, before I embarrass myself by breaking down and acting like the wimp your wife knows me to be. Okay?" I said.
"Mister Colson, Rueben, please. I need to say some things, apologize ... I know Jemima and I..."
"Get the hell out, officer. I have nothing to say to you! And, you have nothing to say that I want to hear!" Now I was crying. He nodded, turned, and left.
"He wouldn't even let you apologize?" said Jemima. "Figures. Rueben Colson is a wimp. I will go to my grave grateful to him for what he did for our baby, but unfortunately that will not do anything to change who he is."
"Jemima, never again diss that man in my presence. He took four bullets for our daughter. Wimp? Try one helluva a brave man. Not too damn many like him out there either," said Richard. "And, then there is us: cheaters and heartbreakers. I don't think we come off too good in comparison to the man. So, change who he is? Why would you want to?"
"Okay, okay, you're right. I wasn't thinking. And, what he did was very brave; I have to give him that. So, no more dissing him. You're right," she said. "I just wish he'd have let you talk to him. He coulda done that much." He nodded, but tendered her a sour look.
"After what he heard us saying about him that day in the bar, and no I'm certain he hasn't forgotten it, who can blame him," said Richard.
"Yes, I suppose you may be right about that too," she said. "Do you think they will keep him a while longer in the hospital?"
"Didn't ask, but I have to think that, yes, they'll be keeping him a while longer. I mean he was out of it for three months," he said.
"Rick, I'm going to go see him myself. If he spits on me, so be it. I'll thank him and ask him to do it again. I know I hurt him bad. I just didn't know how not to. I'm just going to hope that I succeed where you failed to get him to talk. Whaddya think?" she said. He shook his head.
"I don't know. Maybe. I'd ask the doctor. The one thing we don't want to do is upset him or be party to making things hard on him. Yeah, ask the doctor. Explain the situation to him and if he says okay; well then, go ahead," said Richard. She nodded.
"Okay then," she said.
She watched as he slept. It was visiting hours, but he was dozing anyway. She'd told the nurse that she was his sister; they were only letting relatives and officials visit as it had only been a few days since he'd awakened, and he was still under observation though his prognosis was good. She'd never spoken to his doctor.
He yawned. She smiled; she remembered that yawn; it was so Rueben. It surprised her how comfortable it made her feel. His eyes fluttered open.
"Jemima! How? What?" He was clearly startled.
"I'm flattered; you still remember me," she said, in an attempt to be flippant.
"Remember you? How could I forget the woman who destroyed me and continued to do so even after she had no reason to," I said. "But, then, I guess putting me down has become a kind of sport for you."
"Rueben, I am sorry for the past. I came here to beg forgiveness for all of that; but more..."
"Yeah-yeah-yeah, I get it. You're welcome. Now you can leave," I said.
"Rueben, I said I was sorry. What more do you want?" she said.
"You gone?" I said. "Yes, that's it, you gone. That's 'What more do I want'."
"I don't blame you. But, please, can I at least talk to you for a few minutes? You'd be doing me a big favor if you would," she said. I sighed and started to break up—seeing her...
"Oh for G ... oh my God, I was about to do it again wasn't I!" she said.
"Yes, you were. Like I said, I've become your favorite sport. Rueben the wimp, Rueben the loser: the target on my heart is so big you can't miss can you Jem," I said, "or resist." She looked down.
"I'm sorry, Rueben. You're right. You are absolutely right. And, it's me that's the loser, not you," she said.
My tears were streaming now. She noticed and wiped them away for me with a tissue gotten from her purse.
"You saved my baby's life. I will never be able to repay you for that. Never!" she said.
"Yes, you can," I said.
"Tell me. How? It's a done deal, I promise," she said.
"Okay, never come around me again," I said. "I can't deal with it. You've been right all along about one thing: I am a wimp when it comes to you, a pussywhipped wimp.
"I want you, Jem, I want you bad. I need you bad. And—I know I can't have you. The way you look, smell, it kills me that you're not mine even after all of this time. You're a tease, Jem, a goddamn tease, and it's cruel of you to do it to me even when you don't mean to. So please, I beg of you, please just stay away from me. Let me have a chance to get over you. I need to get over you," I said.
"Oh my God! Rueben, I had no idea. I didn't mean to tease or—anything. I just..."
"I know, and that makes it worse. But, please can you just go. I mean now that I've humiliated myself yet again? Please just go. Go have a laugh at my expense with your husband," I said. I turned away from her hoping she'd just leave.
"Okay, I'll leave. But, I owe you big time for Sadie," she said. "And—again—I am so sorry." And then she was gone.
"You saw him then?" he said. She just shook her head from side to side.
"Yes, and I made the little shit cry. Damn, I did it again!" she said. "Said he wants me to give him a chance to get over me—he's had ten years for chryssakes!"
"What? Did what again," said Richard.
"I dissed him. It's like it's a habit I can't break. I love the guy for what he did for our baby. But..." she said. "It's been over ten years and the guy still has the hots for me. You know, on some level, I'm flattered as can be."
"I see. But, if you will, dissing him is one habit you just have to break. For one, he is not a wimp. And two, he doesn't deserve to be referred to as one even if he were!" he said. "He's the very definition of a fucking hero."
"Yes, yes, I know. You know one day he has to be introduced to Sadie. Except for the briefest of moments in time, he's never met her. Now is maybe not the time, but one day..." she said.
"Yes, I agree with you there. But the 'when' may be a ways off, I'm thinkin'." She nodded her agreement.
"Cal, you know some people. Any female hanging around that might be able to take our friend here's mind off of his personal tragedy?" said Phil Sutter, everyone's favorite barkeep.
"You're the one with all the contacts, Phil. I mean you are a bartender. How about you coming up with a name," said Calvin Westly.
"Wait a minute you guys. I'm not in the market for any woman right now. I've had enough of the female gender to last me quite a while." I said.
"Shut the fuck up, Rueben," said Phil, smiling. "You're so damn needy it's embarrassing."
"Yeah," said Cal. "Phil's got a point. You're so focused on your ex that you've lost perspective. There's a million gals out there just dying to make your day. But, you've gotta at least give 'em a taste."
"Yeah-yeah-yeah," I said. "What woman that's actually homo sapiens wouldn't wanna give a guy like me a tumble. Get serious, okay."
"Now..." started Cal. He'd clearly stopped in mid-thought; something had come to him. "Wait a minute. Phil, what about Clarissa. She just got done dumping old Harvey Gould. I know for a fact that she's in the market." The look he got from the barkeep was sour.
"No-no-no," said Phil, "not Clarissa."
"She cleans up pretty good when she wants to," said Cal. "Hell, I'd by her a steak dinner." Phil wandered off down the bar not saying anything else.
"What's with Phil?" I said. "The woman dump on him?"
"No, no," said Cal.
"Well then?" I said, not really caring one way or the other.
"Well—it's just that—well—Clarissa isn't exactly in Jemima's class, but she's a nice girl; and, well, well worth your time," said Cal.
"And translated that means she's ugly but nice. Right?" I said.
"Ugly, no. Plain, yes," he said. "But, super nice and—loyal. Wanna meet her?" I gave him a look.
"Loyal, is she?" I said. As he'd been talking the truth that loyalty somehow trumped everything else came to me. I decided to take a flyer.
"To a fault," said Cal. "She's my wife's best friend. She was my date for our senior prom in high school," he said. "I'll have Angela set it up if you're of a mind to meet her," he said. I caught myself tapping my fingers on the bar-top.
"Do it," I said, before I had a chance to change my mind.
"Mister Colson, this is Clarissa Horton," said Angela Westly.
"Nice to meet you miss," I said.
Introductions and initial meet up pleasantries concluded, the four of us—Cal had arrived about fifteen minutes late—got down to some serious wine drinking.
Two glasses each of a pretty good house red consumed, Cal and Angela excused themselves.
"Well, that was kinda obvious of them," I said.
"Yes," said Clarissa. "So do you want to take me out?" I kinda laughed, but low key.
"Yes, I believe I do," I said. "You know, if nothing else you being here—and so up front and all—has made me feel more human than I've felt in years."
"Well good. But human?" she said.
"Uh-oh, you don't know my history do you?" I said, suddenly less sure of the situation.
"No, not really. Angela told me you've been through a divorce, kind of a bad one, but not much else," she said.
"Not 'kinda bad', I said "devastating. I've been in a blue funk ever since. No excuse, excerpt that I was, and probably still am, madly in love with the woman who I had thought was my life's soulmate. But, as it turned out, that was a one way street; she didn't give a rat's ass whether I lived or died. Kind of a soul 'killer' if you know what I mean," I said.
"I do know what you mean. Been there done that," she said. I nodded.
"So, next Saturday?" I said. "Sevenish?"
"Sure," she said. "Maybe we can each help the other dump the blues for a little while."
"That would be the hope," I said.
It was tax time. Mister Peters had seemingly been calling meetings almost daily for weeks with my division, accounting. The other divisions too had been getting calls to make sure their paperwork was up to date. Why all the angst? We were getting audited. Not unusual, we had an IRS auditor showing up every year, but usually it was just a formality. But this year we were slated to get the full treatment; hence, the boss' concern and my, my division's, long hours.
I didn't see the man sitting in his car across the street from my office, and I should have. I would later learn that he'd been there off and on for the past several months. But with traffic being what it was in the area picking him out would have been difficult even if I had known.
"Why don't you just go up to the man and talk to him, Rick. What's he going to do, spit in your eye?" said Jemima.
"I'm waiting for the right moment," said Richard Jones.
"Yeah, like you're going to know what that is watching him get off from work and going home," she said.
"There's always a moment," he said. "I know that from experience."
"It's been almost a year. Maybe it's time for him to meet our baby," she said. He looked up from his coffee on the dinette table in front of him.
"Yes, maybe it is," he said. "Yes." She gave him a look.
"So?" she said. But, he was lost in thought and didn't respond to her.
"Rick?" she said, trying to get his attention.
"Oh—yes. Sorry. I was just thinking," he said. She sighed.
"Yes, I can see that," she said. "Look, he's had time to heal and cool down from all of the excitement. Just take her to him and introduce her. Who knows, maybe it will lead somewhere. I have to think that he's curious about her; I mean he did risk his hide for her." He nodded.
"Okay, I will," he said. "Yes, it is time." She nodded.
"You mean the guy that knocked me down and got shot?" said Sadie.
"Yes, exactly," said Sgt. Richard Jones. The girl gave him a look, a quizzical look.
"Okay," she said, knitting her brow. "Dad?"
"Yes?" said dad.
"Is there something else?" she said.
"Well, kinda," said her daddy. "You see, mister Colson..."
"Wait, that used to be mom's last name didn't it?' she said, interrupting him.
"Yes, yes it was. You see, they used to be married to each other, before you were born, actually," said dad.
"Really?" said Sadie. Her daddy smiled.
"Yes, really," he said. "And we owe him a lot for saving you that day. He did a very brave thing." She smiled.
"I know," she said. "I'm only twelve, but I'm not dumb yuh know!"
"I do know. You are not dumb, not even," he said. She hugged him.
She turned thoughtful. "Daddy?" she said.
"Yes?" he said.
"Does mister Colson like us? I mean if he and mommy..." she said.
"He'll love you, dear. He and mommy, well, they haven't been together for a long time. Okay?" he said. She nodded.
"Okay you two," said Jemima Jones, coming into the room, "what's going on?"
"Hi honey," said Richard. "Sadie and I were just discussing going to see mister Colson." Jemima Jones eyes lit up.
"Oh," she said.
"Mom, you and mister Colson used to be married?" said Sadie. Her mom gave her dad a look.
"His name cued her," he said. Jemima Jones nodded.
"Yes, Sadie, we were, but that was a long time ago," she said.
"Are you going to come with me and daddy to see him?" said Sadie.
"I don't think so, dear. I've already gone to see him once, now it's your turn. Okay?" she said.
"Okay, mom," said Sadie.
"So does she remember him? I mean it's been a year," said Jemima.
"I don't think so, not really. She understands what he did, but remember him per se? No," said Richard.