As always special thanks to the editing skill of mikothebaby, for her kind time, and patience in making this story readable. All and any errors are mine.
My wife, Amanda, was trying to hold back her tears as we walked across the campus away from my youngest son's dorm room. We had just got him all moved in, and now Amanda was sniffling, as was our next door neighbor, Kathy, whose boy was rooming with our son.
"I can't believe our boys are all grown up." Our neighbor, Kathy, sighed as she pulled a tissue out of her purse.
My wife, Amanda, accepted one of the tissues. "Yes it is hard to believe," Amanda said, as she dabbed at her eyes. "Now they have to make so many decisions on their own."
My mind was also on my own big decision. I began to have doubts as we made our way to the parking lot. "Should I pull the trigger? My plans were almost a decade in the making. Was the timing right? Did it need to be done at all?"
Amanda made a move to clasp my hand. I avoided this by reaching into my pocket to pull out the car keys, even though we were still quite a distance away from my SUV. I saw our neighbor Kathy give me a puzzled look.
"Mark it's OK." Amanda spoke. "I know how you feel."
"If only you did." I thought, as my mind drifted back to past and the moment that started this all.
I recall Amanda and I had just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, plus it was an election year. The current crop of crooks for office at that time were trying to tell us how the other side was bigger thieves and liars. I wondered if when these crooked politicians died, did they did need to dig a hole to bury them? Or would they screw right into the ground?
I had grabbed the mail that afternoon, pleased to see a padded envelope among the junk mail and bills. I had been the winning bidder of a bunch of SD cards off eBay, and the delivery was way overdue.
I ripped open the padded envelope from the back, I was dismayed to see another bulging smaller manila envelope.
"Damn!" I muttered, opening up the attached letter. "I hope I did not get burned on this bid. That would ruin my day."
Not only was my current day about to be ruined, but many future days also.
I hope this note finds you in good health and spirits.
I have recently come to grips and admitted my addiction to alcohol. With the help of my higher power and sponsor, I am working the program. I am now clean and sober for 90 days.
As part of my twelve step program, I have made a list of all persons I have harmed, and am trying to make amends to them all.
In your case, I am more than willing to try direct amends, but I don't know how. As I only now, with my newfound sobriety, have come to regret our actions. Yet I do not wish to cause you any emotional injury or strife in your life.
Although I feel cowardly, the best I can do is ask you for forgiveness, and if you wish, promise never to contact you again.
Do with the enclosed what you will. I do not have the courage to destroy them, yet feel I do not have the will to resist the temptation involved with the memories of keeping them.
Warm Regards Always
"What the hell" I said out loud, turning the now ripped padded envelope to look at its front. I now saw it was addressed to my wife Amanda. "Josh? Regret our actions? What actions?"
The only Josh I knew was a neighbor who had moved away a while ago. Josh was one of those losers who lived in his parents basement. Drunk most of the time, he claimed to be running a photography business. Josh was a decade older than Amanda and I. He was what we called a "Slinky", not really good for anything, but brought a smile to your face when falling down the stairs. I recall something about Josh being forced out of the house after his parents passed, not keeping up with property tax or something.
My mind was in such a turmoil, it took me a second to notice I was still holding the smaller manila envelope.
Tossing the padded envelope and letter aside, I tore open the bulging manila envelope. A bunch of 3x5 pictures fell out. The first few pictures showed a decade plus younger Amanda in some tame cheesecake poses. She was dressed in a clingy blouse and shorts. The outfits looked familiar, I flipped over a picture and saw no date.
I walked into my home office and took a framed picture off the collection of family photos on my desk. It was a photo of a sitting Amanda and our first son, who was less than a year old at the time the photo was taken. Amanda had given me the picture as a Christmas gift. In the framed picture Amanda was dressed in the same outfit. Also the lighting was almost identical in the framed picture with my oldest son to the pictures I had received in the mail today. I turned the framed picture over, the date was nine years prior. I now had a date to go with the pictures.
I shuffled through the pictures. The progression of pictures had Amanda going from cheesecake, to topless, to fully nude. As Amanda's apparel dwindled, my blood pressure rose. The last sequence of photos had Amanda with a penis in her mouth and getting fucked in various positions. You could tell some of the pictures were taken by the guy holding the camera, such as a few shot from above, with Amanda looking up into the camera lens, winking, with a dick in her mouth and a smile on her face. Others must have had the camera on a tripod, or been taken remotely, as the pictures of Amanda getting fucked in missionary, doggie and cowgirl style, were off center, and somewhat less in focus.
I dropped into the chair at my desk. I felt faint, it was as if all the blood had left my head.
"How long had Amanda been screwing around on me?" I pondered out loud.
Glancing around at the assortment of pictures on my desk of my family, I tried to see if any more of them had Josh's "imprint". The array showed the evolution of my clan. Amanda on our wedding day, Amanda with my oldest boy as a baby, than Amanda with both our boys as they grew. Aside from the first picture, all the other pictures had the logo of various mall photo shops.
Suddenly a horrible thought crossed my mind. "What if the boys were not mine!"
I grabbed the most recent picture of my "Loving" wife and the two boys. They were dressed in their baseball uniforms from the summer league. I felt a swell of pride that any father feels when he looks at his offspring, but I tried to take a more critical view. Both boys favored their mother Amanda in looks, however, they did seem to have my build and jawline.
Leaning back in the chair, I felt weary. This was not helping. Than a thought flashed in my brain that sent me digging through the desk drawers. I pulled a copy of the medical form my sons had filled out to play baseball this season. In my day, the paperwork was basically who to contact in case of accident. Nowadays the form was almost 6 pages long with food allergies, insurance carriers, waivers, medication, and consent. The treaty to end World War II was on a single sheet of paper. Somehow I found it difficult to believe that my kid's baseball league was more important than the ending of World War II.
It took a while but I found the data on the voluminous form I was looking for, the blood types filled out by our physician. Reaching into my wallet, I pulled out my Red Cross blood donor card. Type "O" the card read. Amanda was the same blood type, we had always joked it was convenient we could donate to each other. My oldest boy's form stated he was also Type "O" I felt a huge relief. I scanned my younger boy's form for his blood type information.
Blood Type: "A Positive" it said in bold black letters.
While not a medical doctor, even a freshman high school biology student knows two Type "O" blood types cannot produce an offspring with type "A" blood
I had thought my world could not shatter twice in the space of an hour, but it had. I stared at the typed letters "A Positive" for almost a full minute, willing the letters to change. But they did not.
"YOU CHEATING BITCH!" I yelled into the empty house, slamming my fist on the desktop.
Wild thoughts ran thru my mind, I would murder Amanda. No, leave Amanda. No murder, THEN leave Amanda, No just take the boys, and leave Amanda. The boys were 9 & 11, I was pretty sure they would choose dear old Dad in a divorce if asked..or would they, or would they have a choice? These mental gymnastics continued for about an hour and just exhausted me. I found no solutions, just more questions. It got to the point that I was so tired, it took a massive effort just to drag myself up the stairs and drop into bed.
I sat at the kitchen table the next morning staring at my wife's back as she did something in the sink. I had begged off dinner last night when she and the boys had returned from the movies. After a restless night's sleep, I felt a strange calm, almost numb. Everything was the same in the house; Amanda had not changed appearances overnight. But it was as if someone had showed me all the magicians tricks. I was no long in awe, and questioned her every move and motive.
"Amanda do you remember Josh?" I asked.
I could not see Amanda's face, but I swear her body stiffened a moment before answering.
"Josh? Our old neighbor Josh? Wow, I have not heard that name in about a dozen years." Amanda said.
"I was just thinking about Josh and his photography stuff. He was always running around taking pictures of neighborhood kids. You think he was a pedophile or something?"
There was relief in Amanda's voice as she replied with a chuckle. "Believe me Mark, Josh was not into little kids."
"And you know this how Amanda..." I trailed off
Amanda wiped her hands on a dishrag before calling the boys for breakfast. "Quite a few mid mornings I saw a hung over Josh trying to sneak some bimbo out of their basement without his parents discovering them."
"Sounds like you knew Josh pretty well Amanda." I questioned. "You miss him?"
"Well no, not really." Amanda started. "We got a much better deal when Kathy moved in. You know our kids are almost inseparable."
Kathy, our good neighbor, had bought out the house mortgage after Josh's bank had foreclosed. Kathy was a single mother. She had used the life insurance money from her police officer husband's death to buy into Josh's former residence. Our kids were the same age and soon became fast friends, always together. As a single mom, Kathy worked long hours, we had basically "adopted" her kids. It was just as easy to load two kids into the car for a baseball game, or day at the beach, as four kids. They kept each other occupied. Amanda often joked with Kathy that we were going to list her kids as dependents on our tax returns.
As a single mom, Kathy could not pound a nail into a snow bank, so Amanda volunteered me as a "house-husband". I was not ready to be a cast member of the TV show "This Old House", but I could do most basic home repairs. My father had been a real craftsman in his field, but most times his mantra was "If it cannot be fixed with a hammer, you have an electrical problem."
I did not mind spending time doing a few chores at Kathy's. She was easy on the eyes, a real MILF, not that Kathy ever gave me any indication in that manner, nor had I expressed any interest. Dad had taught us to be a man of our word, and I had kept my vows.
Amanda came over and gave me a playful slap on the shoulder. "Mark don't tell me you are jealous of Josh after all these years?"
"The guilty dog barks first Amanda. Do I have any reason to be jealous?"
Amanda sat down at the table, but would not meet my eyes, instead just stirring her coffee. "Oh course not!" she said. "Josh was just a harmless drunk. He was always taking pictures of everything. He probably could have been a good photographer if he was not drinking all the time."
I leaned back in my chair and said nothing.
Amanda looked up for a second from her coffee mug before continuing. "Come on Mark. We had just started out. You were working two jobs and going to school, I was stuck home with a baby all day. After ten hours of "Barney" and diapers, I was desperate for some adult conversation. Everyone in the neighborhood was working. Josh was just..just around."
I still said nothing.
Now Amanda seemed to get upset. "My God Mark, What! You think I was off screwing some middle aged drunk in between the baby's naps! Get over yourself!"
I put down my coffee cup. "Amanda your acting awfully disturbed, the best defense is a good offense. You have something to tell me?"
Amanda just got an angry look on her face and jumped up from the table.
We were interrupted by the boys noisily invading the kitchen. I silently rose from the table. As I headed up the stairs, I mentally tossed reconciliation out the window. I knew the anger I felt toward Amanda would pass, the trust though, would never return.
"Mark you sure you want to do this?" My brother Eric asked the next day. We were in his office, and he was looking over the photos, letter and other papers I had brought him.
Eric was my brother from another mother (and father). Eric's parents had escaped from Eastern Europe during the cold war days, and lived next to us when I was growing up. A tragic accident had killed Eric's parents when we were both only 6 years old. A social worker had asked my folks to look after Eric "for a few days", while they tried to locate other family members, or line up foster care. Eric's case fell through the cracks, or just got lost in the bureaucracy, because the Social Service people never did return. Eric just stayed with us.
Back then I didn't know any different. I treated Eric's addition to our family as an extended sleepover. I know now that it was a financial burden to our working class family. When I asked my mother years later how she did it, Mom just waved me off with "Slice the bread a little thinner, put some more water in the soup."
My father was never one to turn away a person in need. While a religious man, Dad felt faith was in actions, not litanies, and had no use for most of organized religions. He always ended all our supper prayers with "..next time let there be more instead of less around the table, and Lord protect us from your followers.".
Dad never treated Eric any different than me and my brothers (which given my Dad's temper, could be good and bad). Before my Dad passed, I questioned why he took in another mouth to feed, when he was already struggling. He just shrugged and said. "That's what a man does."
Eric was so blond he was almost white, reflecting his Eastern European roots, I was much darker skinned, given my parents southern Italian background, so it always raised a few eyebrows when we introduced the other as "brother." Once when my Dad was with Eric at a Father-Son event, someone had commented that the "mother" must have a very fair complexion. My Dad snapped back "Yea she is translucent."
Eric had worked his way through law school, graduating top his class. Recruited by a big name law firm, Eric had been climbing the corporate ladder on his way his way to partner. Even while working over 80 hours a week, Eric had all the trappings of an up and coming lawyer, expensive car, condo overlooking the city, the model quality fiancée from a wealthy family. She was on his arm at all the big gala events. That is until Eric burst into the office of his mentor, one of the senior's partners, to surprise him with the announcement of a major client signing. However, Eric was the one surprised, finding his fiancée bent over a conference table, being fucked in the ass by the senior partner.
Eric stayed to the end of the year at the firm to collect his bonuses and perks. Then after cashing out, Eric led an exodus of both the top lawyers and big clients from the place. His old firm never recovered, it tottered along a few more years before going bust.
Eric now had a small law practice dealing with contracts, wills, and other matters. He made the lions share of his money as a "hired gun", acting as outside counsel for various big trials. Now married, with two kids of his own, we were still close.
Eric shuffled my paperwork in a folder. "Mark, I think you are still in shock, take some time to get perspective."
"You mean like you did?" I said with sarcasm "You are my personal hero for how you handled that event at your original law firm."
"Not all of us can be heroes." Eric replied, trying to lighten the mood with some humor. "Someone has to sit on the curb and clap as we march by." He then got serious. "Listen Mark your wife, Amanda, is a person, and most people have a hard time seeing beyond themselves. We only see how we are treated and aren't on the lookout for the effects of our actions on others."
"What are you, fucking Yoda now Eric?" I rolled my eyes. "I want out! My revenge will be that cheating bitch getting squat, and everyone knowing what she did. I don't want Amanda to think she can screw around on me and plead hormone induced amnesia, like I am some Damn fool!"
"Ok Mark, but you know that revenge is a foolproof way to let someone know they get to you. This gives a person a lot of power, knowing that they can break you down. Don't give that power to anyone. It's better to ignore the emotional offender. I know it's not instantly gratifying, but in the long run it's the best thing to do. Take it from someone who has been there."
Eric turned to tap on his computer keyboard. "I don't do family law, but a buddy of mine from the old firm is a real shark. He is called "MISTER BIG SHOT" because he always hauls out the heavy artillery. This guy takes no prisoners, you sure you want to do this?"
"Make the call Eric."
A week later, we were in an upscale, corner office downtown, Mr. Bigshot had just finished going over the reams of paperwork I had brought in. Tax returns, pay stubs, mortgage payments, paternity tests, wills, etc. The list seemed endless as to what he required. Mr. Bigshot took off his reading glasses before speaking.
"Forget about it"
I was shocked at hearing those words coming out of the heavy set lawyer who was supposed to be such a killer shark.
"Mark, I know you and Eric are related somehow, so I am going to give it to you straight. Forget about it."
It took a moment for me to speak. "You mean I should just act like it never happened! Smile knowing I got screwed."
Mr. Bigshot leaned back in his chair. "Yep, unless you have video of your wife Amanda force feeding your kids Red Bull as toddlers, and making them fight each other for prize money."
He pointed at me. "Presently you have a good looking wife, home and two nice kids, but with a little more work, you can have a small apartment, no money, part time kids and the wife can have new male friends, with you paying the freight. I am talking alimony, child support, over half your earnings and savings. "
I was stunned. "Amanda has a job, and why should I pay child support for a kid not even mine!"
Mr. Bigshot looked amused. "Mark I will take your money if you want to proceed, but let me tell you about the facts and the law. What your wife makes at that pissant part time hair salon job does not come close to your income. So alimony is a given. All that is up for debate is how much and how long. As far as child support for a child not yours, only six states in America allow a male parent to stop, or not pay child support to a child not his while born when the couple was married. Unfortunately we do not live in one of those states."