Ghosts & Shadows Pt. 02byDanielQSteele1©
(PRECEDE: To bring you up to date: Hugh Davidson is a successful, 50-ish banker with the powerful Hunt banking chain headquartered in Jacksonville. He's been married to Mary for 36 years and they have two children, a grown married neurosurgeon son in LA and a married literary editor daughter living in New York City. Mary is a sales rep for an educational materials firm traveling the country. On one trip she meets Chicago educational exec Richard Kelly and within months begins a six-month affair. When Hugh confronts her, she admits it and he walks out. She then leaves him for Kelly in Chicago and moves rapidly for a quickie divorce....continued thanks to editor curiouss for tempering my worse writing tics.)
CLOSING IT OUT
Even with the expedited rush due to my agreement to let the case be heard in Chicago, where her boyfriend's contacts made justice a very malleable proposition, it took almost a month before I got the paperwork by overnight UPS.
During that month I went back to the house and tried to sleep in our bedroom. I tried. I made myself go back one night after another. It was just a house, a thing of mortar and wood and glass. There was no such thing as ghosts. I was a rational man, and yet...
When I turned the lights off and lay in our bed that as far as I knew had always been ours alone, I felt her presence. I felt that if I suddenly clicked on the lights, I'd catch her lying next to me with that half smile that made me nickname her "Mona" for the first years of our marriage because of her resemblance to a brown-haired Mona Lisa.
What was worse, I also could feel HIM in the room. I couldn't see him. I had never seen a picture of him in the flesh. I'd made sure that I'd never seen any of the material Gail's private detectives had gathered, and I believed Mary that she had never brought him into our bedroom. Nonetheless he was there. Just as he'd forced himself into our lives, he had forced his way into our home.
After two weeks, I gave up. I found a Baymeadows one bedroom condo not too far from the Hunt main corporate office and moved enough supplies to live on a daily basis.
I let myself have three Scotch on the rocks every night between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sometimes two, but never more than three. I felt like every time I had that third drink that one more would make things a little better, but I didn't want to wind up on 8th Street again.
No one mentioned her name, but Percy and Bobby and several of the other more veteran officers of the bank made it a point to invite me out for dinner or to see a Sharks arena football game.
Bobby would have taken me off the coast for a deep-sea fishing trip one weekend but I've never been real comfortable with the water and I couldn't see taking Antivert tablets for a couple of days to avoid having my inner ear go crazy and to make my ass sore sitting in a chair for hours wrestling with some damned huge fish that I wouldn't eat and I wouldn't put up on any wall.
He called me a pussy but took me out to some of the dirtiest strip joints in Atlanta that weekend where we proceeded to get drunk and I passed on a blow job by a lady he swore was clean but I let her jerk me off onto her silicone-enhanced breasts.
As we were chauffeured back to Jacksonville Sunday night, I stretched out and drank hot Starbucks straight coffee. Nothing fancy. Just hot coffee which was the way I liked it.
"Does Chauvonne know you've been ejaculating into professional's mouths -- and other places - this weekend?" I asked him as he swished some $1000 a bottle champagne around in his mouth.
He glanced over at me and the grin died.
"I don't check in with her, but I could bring a woman in and fuck her in front of Chauvonne and she wouldn't open her damned mouth."
I just stared at him.
"You really mean that or is that just an example of black machismo?"
He tried to give me a scowl, but then his characteristic grin broke out.
"Okay, Okay, I wouldn't do it in front of her. I'd have to sleep sometime and I'm pretty sure she would separate me from my family jewels. So no, I wouldn't do it in front of her, but there was a time when I did.
"Nowdays, I tell her what I'm doing, if she asks. We don't keep secrets, but I know she's not going to give me any shit. Same as if I roll over to her in bed at night and tell her to get the assgrease out. She'll do anything -- anything -- I want her to do."
We just sat there silently for a few minutes and I knew what he was thinking and I'm pretty sure he knew what I was thinking.
"Was it hard - I mean, how did you do it? How did you take her back and make things work?"
He thought about it for a moment. I'm sure he was choosing his words carefully because of who he was talking to.
"There was a while there I didn't think I would. It was two weeks before I said two words to her. She called me a dozen times, begged me to forgive her, said they had been drinking and got carried away. It didn't mean anything. Typical meaningless shit. I called my folks, told them what had happened. My dad told me to come up to Nashville. When I got there, Mom and Dad were there with Andre, Gaston and Philippe."
Andre was Bobby's younger brother who had his dick halfway up Chauvonne's ass when Bobby walked in on them after Gail had cancelled a late night bank meeting The only thing that saved Andre's life was that Chauvonne threw herself in front of him after Bobby had gotten a couple of good shots in.
Gaston and Philippe were their two older brothers, and bigger than any humans had a right to be.
"They put us in the back yard the way they used to and we started beating the shit out of each other. Gaston and Philippe kept me from killing him and pulled me off when he couldn't raise his arms any more to defend himself. After that - it's hard to describe - but we put it behind us. What can I say, we're family. We're not lovey-dovey at family gatherings, but we can stay in the same room. With Chauvonne it was harder. I couldn't beat the crap out of her. It took another month. I went out and screwed a half dozen women, had some good times but, I found out something really shitty."
"I love the bitch."
"That's a problem."
"Tell me about it. I finally let her drag her ass back into my life. I made her work to get back in. Like I said, she will let me do anything, anywhere, anytime. For a while there I did other women in front of her, to give a feeling of what she put me through. However, eventually, I realized I was cutting my own throat. I didn't want to push her away, just punish her ass for hurting me."
"You got past it?"
"Yeah, you can live with it. You can live with anything if you want to bad enough. The hardest part, the hardest part is I'll never know, or be one hundred percent sure she's telling me the truth. She swears that she doesn't know why she did it. She was drinking and she'd always liked Andre and - it just happened. That's what she said, it just happened."
He looked out the window away from me.
"I'll never know and sometimes that eats at me but - there have been times I've done things that I couldn't tell you why I did if you had a gun to my head. Sometimes - you never know why. You just have to go on..."
He smiled at me and there was a sadness there because I knew he knew there would never be any getting past it for me.
"Because you love the bitch..."
The next Tuesday I got a call from Peter. He had his own life, a business that ate up 80 hours a week of his life mucking around in people's brains and spinal cords, a wife he loved and a son he loved more. We got together physically maybe twice a year and he'd call if Mary or I didn't call him maybe once every other month.
"Dad, what is going on with you and mom?"
"Hi, Peter. How are you and Marlena doing? How is the smartest three year old in the world doing?"
"I'm working too many hours, Marlena is working too many hours and Austin is getting smarter every minute. Now, what the hell is going on between you and mom?"
"Not sure what you're talking about?"
"Dad, dammit, be straight with me. I called Mom and she said she's living in Chicago and you and her have split up. I tried to get her to admit that she was putting me on. But she just got strange on me and said it was no joke. You two are living in separate cities and working on a divorce. Am I going crazy? I thought there was a law against getting a divorce when a couple has been married as long as you two."
"You're not going crazy, Peter. Your mother has filed for divorce and I signed the papers to give her the divorce. She's moved to Chicago, cleaned out all her stuff from our house and told me to sell it and split the proceeds with her."
"What the hell is in Chicago, and did either one of you happen to think about telling your children how stupid you've gotten in your old age?"
"As to what's in Chicago, you'll have to ask your mother about that. It's not my place to tell you. As to our splitting, I know you think you've got to watch over us like we're children, but we're not that far gone yet. We don't need your permission to split up. The split has nothing to do with you or Nicole. It's just - something that happened. I won't say any more than that."
"You realize, father, that you're not being fair, either you or mom. You drop this bomb on us and then neither one of you will tell us what is going on. When I call Nicole, she is going to freak."
"I am sorry, Peter. I'll just say, this isn't my doing. Your mother filed for the divorce. You want to find out what's going on, go talk to her."
Two hours later, Nicole called.
"Dad, this is crazy. Peter just called me. I told him this had to be some complicated practical joke. Then I called Mom. She doesn't even sound like the same woman. She said you two guys are divorcing, splitting up after 36 years! What are you two doing?"
"Just what your mother said. She filed for a divorce. I signed the papers to let it go through. We'll be divorced in a fairly short time. She wanted an 'expedited' divorce, as quick as humanly possible and it looks like she'll get it."
Then came the question I was expecting.
"Did you do something? Did you -- have an affair? That's the only thing I can possibly think of that could explain this - if you're serious. I can't believe it, but that's the only reason I could ever see why mom would divorce you. Even then I would find it hard to believe."
I wasn't upset. Mom was a saint. Moms are always saints to their kids. It's fathers that screw up marriages.
"I didn't have an affair. I'm not going to say anything else, Nicole, except to tell you what I told Peter. This is not your concern. I know you are impacted by it, but it's between your mother and me. It has absolutely nothing to do with you and Peter. I still love you both and I know your mother does too. If you want to know anything else, talk to your mother."
She wasn't happy about it, but she finally said she'd talk to Mary and try to get back to me.
I never expected to see Peter walk into my office Friday afternoon. It looked like he'd been wearing the same clothes for two days, he was unshaven and he carried an overnight bag. He didn't look like a world-class neurosurgeon. He is taller than me and has Mary's light brown coloring rather than my black hair. He's also better looking than me. That I think he gets from her.
He walked in before Lucy, my secretary, could announce him. At first I couldn't believe my eyes. I stood up behind my desk and just stared at him. It was a major feat for him to clear his calendar to meet with us for a day at Christmas. To show up in the middle of the year - on a workday...!
His hair was windblown and the brown eyes he'd inherited from Mary were cold. I thought at first he was just furious at me. I figured she'd lied to him and he thought I had precipitated the breakup.
"I flew to Chicago," he said, after just staring at me for what seemed like minutes. "I met the son of a bitch she's shacking up with, and she told me what she did. She was fucking around on you for nearly a year, and then she just walks out on you to play house with a guy closer to my age than hers. I still cannot believe that bitch is my mother."
He threw the overnight bag onto a chair and came around the desk and hugged me.
I stiffened for a minute. We'd never been real touchy-feely, an inheritance of my Boston Yankee father and his people. I can only remember him hugging me once, but I knew he loved me. I tried to be more tactile with my children, but I was always kind of stiff. Peter had inherited that from me and yet he held me tightly.
"I'm sorry, Dad. I was like Nicole. I thought it had to be you. I couldn't imagine - I still can't. I want to throw up when, I think of him and her together."
I spun him around, sat him down in a chair facing my desk and buzzed Lucy. When she stepped in I told her, "Two brandies from my stock."
When she brought the two snifters in I handed one to Peter.
"Take it. I know you don't drink, but this will help.
He took a small sip and gulped, then gasped. For a non-drinker, brandy can hit hard, in the quantities he'd taken in. When he got his breath back, he ran his thumb around the edge and spoke without looking at me.
"She didn't tell me about him until I got to his place. She said she was staying with a friend. So I walked in there expecting it was some lady friend of hers and she came out and - I knew there was something. She took me into the den; we sat and I asked her what the hell was going on.
"She said - you two had just - gotten tired of each other, nothing dramatic. You'd realized one day that you were operating on automatic and decided you were too young to stop living."
He took another sip.
"I told her I didn't believe a damned word of that. That's when he came out of the bedroom. The bastard was wearing pajamas and he sat beside -- Mom - and put his fucking hand on her breast. He just as good as told me he was fucking her. She lowered her eyes and I thought she wouldn't have the nerve to look me in the eye.
"But she did. She didn't take his hand off her. She just looked at me and said that she had fallen in love and was going to marry again as soon as she was legally divorced. She said she had hesitated to tell me because it would be hard to understand, hitting me cold like that. She wanted to hold off on breaking the news until we'd had a chance to get adjusted to it."
He took a deep breath.
"I asked her what had happened and between her and him, despite her lies, I managed to get a pretty good idea of what happened. By the end she couldn't look me in the eye."
He fell silent. He didn't speak for a long time.
"She didn't want me to stay there, but she wanted me to get a hotel so we could talk, so I could get to know - him. I stood there and told her the last fucking thing in the world that I ever wanted to do was get to know that slimy bastard. I told her that if I was Jewish, I'd be Sitting Shiva, because my mother -- the woman I loved - had died.
"I told her she was dead to me and Marlena and Austin, that I hoped this guy would be enough for her, because she'd lost her husband and her son and her grandson and if I knew Nicole, she'd probably lost her daughter and granddaughter as well.
"I told her that I didn't want her new number or any contact. I looked her in the eye and told her that was the last time I'd ever be talking with her. Then I walked out of that hellhole and didn't look back."
We just looked at each other.
"I'm sorry, Dad. I don't even know what to say."
"You could say goodbye."
"You just lost your father and mother. I think you're going to be lonely."
"I don't understand..."
"She is your mother and Austin's grandmother. She has loved you as long as you've been on this earth. She loves that baby. She has never done ANYTHING to lose your love."
"She's a fucking cheating bitch."
"Maybe, but she didn't cheat on you. Her problem is with me, not you or Austin or Nicole or Calabria."
"I'm taking your side."
"I'm not asking for it. It's not your affair, Peter. She didn't kill me. She didn't send me to prison. She left me for another man. You don't turn your back on your mother because she's with another man. I hope you'll be able to look at this more, calmly, after a bit. You don't have to call this new guy 'dad' or make friends with him, but you have to treat her as your mother, because she is."
"Or don't bother ever calling or coming back here."
"I don't believe you."
"I hope you do, Peter, because I love you, Austin and Marlena. I don't want to lose you, but your mother gave me a life, short one year, and I can't let you walk away from her just because she decided she didn't want to be married to me anymore."
My grown son, who held people's lives in his capable hands, just stared at me for a moment and I couldn't believe the tears that rolled down his face.
He left Jacksonville that afternoon. I didn't hear from him for three days. I was home, sipping the second of my three Scotches and watching a re-run of 'House' when the phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID and picked it up.
"I called her this afternoon, Dad."
"I'm glad, Peter. I guess it was hard but, in the long run, you'll be glad you did."
"She started crying before we stopped talking. I told her what you'd said. I told her I couldn't forgive her for what she'd done, not yet, but I would. I'm not going to lose my mother, or my father."
I didn't want to, but I couldn't help myself.
"Did she -- what did she say, when you told her."
"She just started crying harder, and then she said, 'Of course - that's your father'."
I didn't say anything, but I couldn't help thinking, "too damned bad she didn't remember that earlier."
The papers came a couple of weeks later. I waited a couple of months before I put the house on the market. I knew there was no point in holding it, but something in me baulked at cutting the final cords. However the paperwork was quite literally the handwriting on the wall. We were through - there was no more Davidson family living in Mandarin.
I put it on sale and deliberately listed the price about $20,000 less than most of the surrounding homes. I could have held out for more, but it was like pulling off a band-aid as Matt Henry had said. At that price, it was snapped up within a month. I signed the papers, accepted the payment, and sent 30 percent to Henry's law firm.
I received a formal acknowledgement of the payment, but there was only a vast silence from the direction of Chicago. I shouldn't have been surprised, but a part of me was. It was like Charlie Brown and that damned football that Lucy kept snatching away in "Peanuts". Mary kept doing it to me, and I kept being surprised. I finally had to acknowledge the obvious. She had moved on.
I tried. The following Thursday I walked into Gail's office as one of the few people that could do that and found her going on figures on the profit and loss picture for the entire bank chain with Coffee Allaporte. The two women looked up from a computer screen as I walked in.
"I didn't get the word that you wanted to talk to me," Gail said. "What's the latest problem?"
I have had a lot of job descriptions over the years, but basically I am the guy they hand problems to. Under-performing banks, finding new markets or getting out of unsuitable markets, easing out executives who'd risen above their appropriate level, potential PR disasters, I'd handled them all over the years. I had the appropriate professional qualifications, but I was basically a troubleshooter. When I needed expertise I found and bought it.
"I need some guidance in setting up new interpersonal relationships."
Coffee just glanced at me curiously. Gail laughed and told her, "He wants help in getting laid."