Audit Surprise Ch. 03byradk©
To the reader:
This is the final chapter of Marty and Sheryl's story. It would be best to read the first two chapters before reading this to understand what happened and where their lives stand now.
As always comments are welcome.
Thanks again to jo for editing.
© 2013 by the author.
"Ladies and gentlemen this is your captain. We're about ten minutes out from Logan International Airport and I've turned on the 'fasten your seatbelt' sign so please return to your seats and..."
Whoa, when did I fall asleep? The last thing I remember was the lady in the middle seat asking me if I was okay. That was embarrassing. I didn't even know I was crying. I tried to smile when I lied to her and said I was okay, but I don't think she believed it. She handed me a tissue and gave me a kindly look and said that 'whatever troubles we have in this life, God watches over us. Just talk to Him.' That would be new. Sure, I've talked to my therapist but all I got was a lot of stuff about low self-esteem and lack of confidence and narcissistic tendencies. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to have a little conversation with Him.
I thought when I boarded that reviewing everything that occurred in the last couple years would be helpful, but all it did was slap me in the face again with all the bad decisions I made, all the lies I told, and all the pain I caused. The misery I felt was as strong at 35,000 feet as when I experienced it a year ago. I reviewed, no I relived the absolute worst time of my life and came up wanting. I thought I could find something that I didn't already know, something that would help prepare me for seeing Marty again. I found nothing. Everything was the same as it was before. I'm a liar. I'm a cheat. And I've ruined the lives of a dozen or more people. Why? Because I wanted to be a big-shot manager. I wanted to be important. I wanted to be somebody.
Now, I'm nobody.
I'm Sheryl Smith. I used to be Sheryl Hughes but screwed that up. One of the conditions of my divorce was to never again use my married name so I had to change it back to Smith. I think that hurt me more than anything else. I didn't want any alimony, I didn't want our condo, I didn't even want our savings, all I wanted was Marty. But that wasn't to be. I hurt him too much for anything I said, any apology, any excuse, any explanation to cauterize the wound in his heart. I completely destroyed the man I loved and myself at the same time.
I got my rental car and headed west on interstate 90 toward my old home in Waltham. I'd driven the route to and from Boston a thousand times but this time it seemed strange. I wasn't driving home; I was driving to my former home, the place where my ex-husband lived, where my former life was. A chill went down my spine. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I also felt a stray tear plop onto my chest.
With good traffic, and a little luck, the trip would only take 30 minutes. Traffic was good and luck was on my side, and besides Saturday morning traffic was usually pretty light unless Boston College had a football game that afternoon. I pulled up in front of my old condo in 25 minutes. But I couldn't move. I sat frozen behind the wheel of my rental car too scared to do what I'd come a thousand miles to do. I sat there for the longest time thinking of the first words I'd say to Marty.
"Hi Marty, surprise!"
No, too flippant.
"Hello Marty, from the expression on your face you're surprised to see me."
No, his expression might not be surprise but fear, or worse yet hate.
"Hello Marty, before you slam the door in my face I want you to know that I came all this way to apologize to you."
Not bad but don't give him any ideas about slamming the door in my face.
"Hi Marty, I'm here to apologize for everything. Can I take some of your time to talk to you?"
Well, that'll have to do. I should have spent my time on the plane thinking of what I was going to say to him not reliving all the shit I did to him.
I took a deep breath and walked up to the door. Everything looked the same except the azalea plants on each side of the walkway were gone. I got those for him when we moved into the house. He always loved those azaleas, the beautiful white blooms in spring always made him smile, and when he smiled so did I.
I pressed the doorbell and waited nervously.
"Yes?" The man said after he opened the door. This wasn't Marty. Where's Marty? The man holding the door open was tall and lean and appeared to be wearing only a plaid robe and slippers. He had half a smile, a friendly smile, and looked at me with a bit of caution.
"Who's at the door Josh?" Another man, a bit heavier and also wearing a plaid robe and slippers came up behind the first and put his hand on the tall man's shoulder.
"Can we help you" The second man asked.
I didn't know what to say. I expected Marty to be standing there and even prepared an opening line, instead two middle-aged men looking like they were just out of bed looked at me like I was some sort of nut. "I... I...I'm looking for Marty Hughes," was all I could get out of my mouth.
"Oh, Mr. Hughes moved about four or five months ago," the second man answered. "When exactly was that Josh?"
The first man, Josh was his name, replied, "It's been more like six months now, he moved before Christmas. Remember we moved in after the New Year and the house had been vacant for a while."
"That's right," the second man said.
Again my mouth and mind wouldn't work together. I just stood there with my mouth open. It took a few seconds but I stammered, "I... I'm... I'm looking for Marty Hughes."
The two men smiled and said in unison, "You already said that." They turned to each other and laughed out loud and put their arms around one another.
I felt my cheeks getting hot. "I'm sorry," I said embarrassed. "I'm his wife, well I used to be. I came here to, uh, talk and... I used to live here. He's..."
"Yeah we heard about you, oops sorry, I didn't mean it like it sounded," Josh said. "Randy, what was it the real estate agent said?"
Randy, the second man replied, "She said the former owners went through a divorce and sold the house as part of the property settlement. She didn't go into any particulars except to say it wasn't friendly."
"Yeah, I'm sorry to hear that," Josh said. "Would you like to come in? Maybe have a cup of coffee and look around. We've made a lot of changes and it all looks fabulous now."
"Uh, no thanks. I think I'd better just go. You wouldn't happen to have Mr. Hughes' new address would you?"
The two men gave each other a puzzled look. "No, I don't think we do," Randy replied. "We never actually met Mr. Hughes. We only worked with his real estate agent. Sorry."
"Thanks," I answered with as much of a smile as I could muster. "Sorry to bother you." I turned and walked back to my car. When I got there I found another tear ready to drop on my chest.
I drove away without a destination in mind. A little hole-in-the-wall restaurant Marty and I used to go to is where I ended up. I sat there drinking a cup of coffee thinking about what to do next. Marty sometimes worked on Saturdays so maybe I could catch him at his office. His office was downtown not too far from where I worked when I lived here. I hurriedly finished my coffee and headed back toward the airport and downtown.
I had to drive past my old workplace and felt anxious about being there. The last time I was on that street was when I met with Enterprise's lawyers concerning my sexual harassment lawsuit. I was pretty messed up at the time and don't remember very much about the meeting. I do remember the names the lawyer called me and the sting I felt with each one. I parked in the parking garage next to Marty's office and entered his building.
"I don't think he's up there," the old security guard said. "But you can go up and check."
The door was locked and I could see through the glass part that there were no lights on. I noticed something different too. The door used to say 'M. Hughes, CPA' and now it says 'Hughes and Associates." I wondered what that meant.
I sat in the car again thinking about where to look next. I didn't want to have to do it but I knew one of his employees might be able to tell me where he was. If anybody knew Mandy would. I still had her name and address in my telephone directory as Marty's emergency contact for work. I keyed her address into the car's GPS and drove away. I felt a little hope as I drove.
"Mom, there's someone at the door," the young girl dressed in a soccer uniform yelled.
I waited for the longest time before Mandy came out onto the porch and quietly shut the door behind her. "What in the hell do you want?" She growled at me, bile dripping from every word.
"I'm looking for Marty," I said softly. "I came to talk to him, to apologize. When I went to our house he wasn't there anymore. I came here knowing you'd know where he was. Do you have his address?"
"Yes I have his address but it'll be a cold day in hell before I give it to you. How dare you show your face around these parts again? What's the matter, didn't you cause enough pain and suffering when you were here the last time? Coming back to see if you could finish the job and completely destroy him? There's no way I'm going to let you hurt that man again. He's over you. He's moved on. You're just a bad memory, a nightmare that comes up once in a while to remind him how lucky he is now that you're gone. Just go away. Crawl back under that rock you came from."
She turned and went inside slamming the door in my face.
All hope of finding Marty disappeared.
As I drove away I cried, really cried, loud and hard. I had to pull over into a fast food parking lot to try to regain my composure. I couldn't drive and wail at the same time. I must have filled three or four tissues before calming down enough to realize people sitting at the tables outside were looking at me. My body still shook and I couldn't think straight but I slowly began to come down from my despair.
I heard a tapping on the car window next to me. I rolled the window down a little ways.
"Are you alright miss?" A grey-haired man asked.
I sniffed and wiped my nose again. "I'll be alright," I replied. "I just had a really bad shock that's all. I'll be alright in a few minutes. Thanks for caring."
The man walked back to one of the tables and sat next to a little boy, maybe nine or ten years old. He continued to watch me out of the corner of his eye but turned his attention to the little boy: His son, maybe his grandson, I thought. They looked so comfortable together. So happy.
"Shit!" I said under my breath. "Marty's Dad."
I knew exactly where to go next. Marty's Dad would certainly help me to get in touch with Marty. Marty's father and I were always friendly even during the divorce and everything. Quickly I entered his address in the GPS and sped away. The drive was just over an hour. I knew the way without using the GPS but wanted someone to tell me what to do and which way to turn. My mind wasn't working very well at the moment.
When I pulled up in front of his house I got a major shock. Right in the middle of the front yard was a large white 'For Sale' sign. I got out and walked up to the door. There on the front door handle was a real estate agent's lock box and a note saying to 'Call Ashe Real Estate in case of emergency.' Peering through the windows next to the front door, I saw the bare wood floors and empty walls. The place was vacant. Marty's father no longer lived here. He too was gone.
I sat down hard on the front stoop and started crying again. Most of my tears already fell after visiting Mandy but still some new ones found their way out. This trip to find the man I still loved was turning out to be a bust. At every turn I was rebuffed. Marty may as well be on the moon if I couldn't find anybody to tell me where he was. My crying jag didn't last and before too long I was looking around the neighborhood. Across the street was an old woman working in her garden. Maybe she would know something about Marty's Dad.
"Mr. Hughes died three months ago," the little old woman said from the other side of the old picket fence. "It was just after the New Year I think. He had a heart attack and died right out there in his driveway. I understand he was under a lot of stress for some reason. He just succumbed to the pressure I guess. Sad. He was a nice man, quiet but nice. His son and daughter and a lot of their friends were over there cleaning out the place. They're nice people just like their dad. They gave away a lot of what was in the house to the neighbors. They gave me a really nice set of porcelain figurines and his gas grille. Sad, really sad."
I walked back to my car in a daze. Luckily there weren't any cars driving by or I might have been gone too.
My trip was at an end. I flew a thousand miles to talk to the only man in the world I had feelings for and I couldn't find him. At every turn I was defeated. I might as well go home. Right then and there I gave up.
On the way out of town I stopped by the cemetery where Marty's father was buried. I wanted to pay my respects and say goodbye. I loved Marty's dad. He was a kind and wise man. He was the one who recommended that I get into some sort of counseling, find a psychotherapist and ask for help. I knew that he already had a gravesite waiting for him next to his beloved wife Beverly. I walked up the hill and saw his name newly inscribed in the dark granite headstone. I couldn't cry. I was out of tears. Now when I wanted to cry I couldn't. I made myself a promise that when I get back home I'm going to have that long talk with God.
As I stood there looking down at the grave I saw a white wicker basket full of flowers leaning against one side of the headstone. There was also a card attached. I picked up the little card and read it. 'We miss you with all our hearts. Love always. Brenda and Marty.' The flowers were from Marty and his sister and the hand-written inscription on the card was from a local florist. The florist was on the way out of town so maybe if I stopped by and asked nicely they might give me Marty's address. They were my last hope.
The young man in the florist shop came away $100 dollars richer and I came away with Marty's address.
For the first time in days I smiled. I knew where Marty was. I was going to see him after all. I gave up too soon. The GPS led the way and I followed knowing I was going to see him.
The trip took an hour and a half from what the clock on the dash said but in my mind it was only minutes. I pulled up in front of the address the florist gave me and saw a pretty white bungalow with blue shutters. On the front porch were two wicker rocking chairs and a small wicker table. The lawn was neat and the bushes around the porch trimmed. The mailbox out front said Hughes so I knew I found him. There was a driveway but no car. With a sense of dread thinking he wasn't home I walked to the door and knocked.
Nothing, no answer, he wasn't home.
I stood there forever. There was no answer. I was crushed. For what seemed like the hundredth time that day I sat down and cried.
"So close, so close." I lamented. But I was determined to wait for him. If he wasn't home by dark I'd go and find someplace to stay for the night and come back in the morning. Until then I was going to sit in his rocking chair and wait.
After an hour or so I got bored and started walking around the house. I saw Marty's touches everywhere. The two azalea bushes from our old house stood proudly in the middle of a rock garden out back. In the center of the garden stood an antique-looking sundial with the inscription 'Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.' Marty said that Robert Browning's quote was his favorite romantic saying. On the deck was the gas grille he bought just before... well just before the end. I could feel Marty everywhere. I could almost smell his after shave. I stood on the same grass he did. I breathed the same air, enjoyed the same sunshine. It felt wonderful.
But Marty wasn't there. I had to be patient. I'd see him, eventually.
I wandered back to the front porch again and stood there looking around at everything. The house and the entire neighborhood looked exactly like the house Marty talked about buying when we decided it was time to have kids. The color of the house was perfect, the front gardens were perfect, the other houses in the neighborhood were perfect, even the little kiddie park down the street was perfect. Everything was exactly as Marty had described it, his ideal place to raise a family. This was to be our home when we had kids. But... But... It wasn't ours. It was his. I'm no longer part of his life.
Sometime later I wandered down to the little kiddie park and sat at a little table made in the shape of a giant green turtle. I thought about everything Marty and I talked about when we had kids. He had so many plans and knew exactly what he wanted. He even knew how many children we were going to have: Two, a boy and a girl. I think he even had names picked out already. But I screwed it all up with my ambitions and my stupidity. Now we would never have children together, nor have the little house in the suburbs, nor would we live happily every after. But if Marty came home and I explained to him how sorry I was and how much I still loved him then maybe he'd forgive me. Then maybe there would be a happily ever after.
This time there were enough tears. My head fell to the table buried beneath my arms and I cried. Deep body-wracking sobs came from my chest. I stared into a bottomless pit and wailed. And for the hundredth time I wanted to die. Without Marty my life wasn't worth living. Oh God how my heart ached.
In midst of all my tears I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I wiped my eyes on my sleeve and turned. There he was. Marty was standing behind me with his hand on my shoulder. He had a sad smile on his face but he was there. I jumped up from the little table and threw my arms around his neck and hugged him like he was going to fly away at any moment. I cried into his neck. I said his name over and over again. I told him how much I missed him and how much I loved him. He just held me and let me cry into his neck. That's when I saw the others. Standing at the edge of the little park were three women. I recognized Mandy and Adrianna but didn't know the young Asian woman. All three were standing there with their arms crossed over their chests and if looks could kill then I'd already be on my way to the afterlife.
"Hi Sheryl," Marty said in my ear. "Would you like to come in?"
I just held him tight, afraid to do anything to break the spell. I found him again and was never going to let him go. Never!
"Come on," he said. "Let's go inside." He pried my arms from around his neck and took my hand in his. Slowly he started up the hill toward the others pulling me behind him. We walked back to his house hand in hand while the other's followed a discrete distance behind. Nobody said anything. When we got inside he let go of my hand and told me where the bathroom was. I realized that I hadn't gone to the bathroom since I left the airport. While in there I took a moment to wash my face and put on fresh makeup. I looked pretty bad from a full day of crying. He was standing outside the door when I came out.
"Let's go out onto the deck," he said quietly. "I have a lot to tell you and assume you didn't come all this way for my cooking. You probably want to have that talk we never had. I think it's time. Come on."
The three women were working in the kitchen preparing something to eat as we passed through. Nobody said anything to either of us. We just quietly walked out the back door and onto the deck as they continued to stare bullets at me.