Gone Ch. 02byslow_n_gentle©
[Please read "Gone" first to completely understand this story.]
Jim began to stir as a loud buzzing brought him back from the dead. He opened one eye, trying to remember where he was in these unfamiliar surroundings. He saw the noisy culprit sitting on the dresser across the room glowing 6:30am as it rattled away.
Sitting up, he found himself to be a little unsteady and very hung-over. He painfully recalls the event of last night, and how one scotch turned into two, then three, and four. He noticed that he even forgot to undress for bed.
Slowly making his way over to the dresser he silenced the obnoxious intruder of his sleep before making his way out of the room and across the hall to the bathroom. He looked in the mirror at a droopy unshaven face with blood shot eyes.
Taking two aspirins with a glass of water he started the electric razor noting that it made an enormous racket when a person was hung-over.
With the assistance of the vanity and the toilet to steady himself he was able to undress so he could stand under the hot stinging water hoping the sadness and anger of last night would somehow wash away. He reached over and turned off the hot only to cuss for forgetting the cold was also on.
Drying off, he wrapped a towel around his waist and prepared to search for his clean clothes. He took a step into the hallway before coming to a complete stop.
"Fuck it!" Jim yelled as he threw the towel back into the bathroom, "No one lives here now except me." He continued toward his once master bedroom that was now minus furniture. Finding his under garments stacked neatly in a corner he began dressing as his eyes swept the empty space while his mind remembered what it looked like yesterday morning.
Jim looked in the closet finding his small amount of clothes bunched together on the long almost vacant clothes rod. His eyes became misty when he picked up a yellow summer dress that must have fallen in her haste. He closed his eyes as he brought the fabric to his nose, the fresh scent causing his mind to flash the image of her wearing it a few weeks ago at the art festival in the park.
Jim brushed back a few tears with the back of his hand as he laid the dress carefully over the clothes bar. Picking something that matched the socks he had on; Jim finished dressing and headed for the kitchen and much needed coffee.
As the coffee brewed he inspected the fridge for breakfast before deciding his stomach would prefer toast with a little butter. Balancing his plate of toast on his mug of coffee, Jim entered the den to watch the news while he ate. Setting the plate and mug on the table he reached for the remote when he again saw the letter. He stared at it for a minute before putting on his glasses and picking it up.
Even after reading it a dozen times last night, it was like a drug making him want to read it again. The first two scotches had removed the shock of her leaving; the third scotch created the anger for being deceived; it was that fourth scotch and the last time he read it that brought the tears of regret for not taking a firm stand early in the marriage about beginning a family.
"Why in the hell did she have to wait seven years to decide she didn't want children?" He said aloud, "I understood when she didn't want to have kids when we first married because she thought we should have our careers firmly in place. Four years ago when we looked at the house I showed her the back yard swing set and told her I could see our children playing on it. Had she mentioned her change of heart then I would have asked for a divorce and had four years to start my new life."
"Her letter said it all" he moaned, "I taught her about love, but the only part the thoughtless bitch understood was the receiving part. She was giving when we had sex but that was sex not love. When it came to giving love, I now realize how selfish she really was."
Jim set the letter down and ate his breakfast. After setting his dish in the sink and refilling his coffee mug, he drove into work.
The first thing he noticed as he walked toward his office is everyone glanced at him and turned away. Two minutes after sitting down he heard a tap at his door and saw Jill standing there. Motioning her in, he waited for the speech Barb probably gave her.
"I brought you some coffee, one cream and two sugars, and I have aspirins if you need it." Jill said.
"Why, does it look like I need aspirin?" He retorted.
"Jim it looks like you came back from hell and still have the flames in your eyes. Haven't you noticed everyone staying out of you way. You look like you want to hurt someone. I know what happened to you last night; the rest of your staff doesn't. May I suggest that you stay busy in your office today and we will keep things running out there?"
"So what did she tell you Jill?" he said as he handed her the envelope, "she wrote she was having dinner with you."
"She only told me," Jill said softly trying to calm him down, "what I already knew about you. I did get to see the pictures of your house but she had already removed most of the furniture."
"But did she tell you why she changed her mind after seven years. That's what I don't understand and that's what makes me furious" Jim said as his anger rose.
"She said it frightened her; all the responsibility; and the possible change in her. She admitted that she's a very vain person and seeing how motherhood aged some women scared her terribly. She listened to her friends who didn't want children.
"As long as she knew there were others like her, she felt confident in her decision. I agree with you, she should have told you a long time ago when she first had those feelings."
"Did she tell you when she changed her mind?" Jim sadly asked.
"Not in exact words Jim," Jill answered, "I would estimate about the time you bought the house. She bought all the modern furniture because it didn't look like family furniture. It looked like it belonged to a young modern couple who enjoyed life without children.
"I think she hoped you would forget about wanting children if the house looked like it was for entertaining, not raising a family."
Jim nodded his head. "I always hated that furniture and never could figure out why."
"I'll be at my desk Jim. If you need anything, just call." Jill said as she left his office.
At 10:30am Jim received a call from the receptionist. A man would like to see him in the lobby. He knew what it was for and still his stomach was tightening. His neck muscles started to clinch and his head began to throb.
"James Miller?" the man asked. When Jim acknowledged he was handed some papers.
"You have been served." The man said and then left.
Jim noticed the sadness in Jill's eyes when she saw the papers in his hand. He attempted to smile at her as he walked past, but he knew she could see his eyes getting misty.
He looked over the papers, not really understanding all the legal jargon. Finally he gave up and called Barb's attorney.
"I know you are Barb's attorney," Jim said, "but can you tell me out of all this legal paper if all she wants is her car, the furniture, and her savings account. Is that correct?"
"Yes Mr. Miller that is what she is asking for." The attorney said.
"Then why can't I come over to your office and just sign the papers since I agree to that?" Jim asked.
"No reason other than most people want their own attorney to represent them." The attorney replied.
"You're only three blocks away. How about I come over right now and sign for you. That way she can be free that much sooner." Jim stated.
"We can do that if you like Mr. Miller. I'll have everything ready for you. Tell my secretary who you are and she will show you right in."
Jim left his office and walked the three blocks. He felt calmer when he walked into the attorney's office. In under ten minutes, he was explained the settlement again and shown where to sign.
"I will contact your wife today so she can sign and then we can file it. I will mail the dissolution decree to you when it is official." The attorney said shaking Jim's hand.
"Jill Baxter speaking."
"Jill, its Barb. They just called that Jim was served. How is he taking it?"
"He handed me your letter this morning when he walked in, but I haven't had time to read it. He came in looking like death warmed over except his eyes had flames in them. Evidently something you wrote or didn't write set him off on a drinking binge last night. He asked me if you told me over dinner why you changed your mind and when you changed it. I think he is mad that you knew a long time ago that you didn't want children and never said a word to him."
"I was hoping I would change my mind." Barb said but Jill knew she was lying. "I knew if I said something back then, that he would ask for a divorce and I would lose him. I still love him Jill, I just don't want children."
"So for what; 4years, 5 years, you let Jim wait; hoping you would tell him you were ready to start a family when you had no intention of having kids. Barb, you acted like a selfish, spoiled bitch that just screwed over one of the best guys I have ever met. If I were you, I wouldn't try to talk to him for a very long time. He might be calmed down in a few years, maybe."
"Will you tell him I'm sorry for what I did?" Barb softly asked.
"Barb. I don't even want to tell him you called." Jill replied.
"Would it be OK if.......Could you hold on a second, I got another call?" "Jill that was my attorney on the other line. Jim walked over there and signed the divorce papers. They want me to stop after lunch and sign so they can file them. Maybe he's not as mad as you thought." Barb cheerfully said.
"Or maybe Barb, he just wants you out of his life quickly" Jill responded. "I've got to go, he just walked in."
"You OK Jim?" Jill asked as she walked in his office. "You were gone for quite a while."
"I signed the divorce papers at Barb's attorney's office. I decided to end this pain as quickly as possible. The only thing she took that I wanted was the four years she took from me. The money was hers and the furnishings I hated."
"How about I go get us a couple of sandwiches from the deli and two cans of Pepsi?" Jill suggested, "You sit back and relax until I return."
Over lunch, Jill listened as Jim released his pain over losing the woman he thought he would spend the rest of his life with and the frustration of finding out she didn't want a family and never told him until yesterday.
He continued to vent all the rest of the day and Jill patiently listened. At the end of the day, she looked at a sad tired man.
"She told me yesterday to take you out for a drink, but she never truly understood you. Let me grab my purse and lock up my desk and we will walk down the street to the art institute. I've noticed that every time you have a big decision to make you walk down there and spend some time."
They slowly walked the three blocks to the institute, stopping at the first corner for a couple double mocha lattes. Jill held his arm as he told her the history of some of the art works as he pointed out his favorites and listened to Jill as she pointed out hers.
She handed him a tissue and gently led him to a bench when she notice he was beginning to get watery eyes.
"I'm sorry Jill, but I remembered the first time I brought Barb here. She was 21 and never been inside the institute. When I showed her the different works of art, she became wide eyed like a little kid in a candy store."
Jill lightly held his hand. "It's OK Jim. The two of you were together for over seven years. You experienced many things together. You will get these feeling for a long time to come when you come to a place where you have a memorable experience like here. You will always have those memories and many new happier ones as your life goes on."
They continued their tour as she held his hand, occasionally lightly rubbing his arm when she noticed the sadness beginning to return. They stayed until almost closing before walking back to their cars. When they stopped next to hers she stretched on her tip-toes and lightly kissed him on the lips, promising that tomorrow would be better.
Jill made her promise good every day she saw him. They began going to places he liked and wanted to show her plus she brought him to places he had never been to. The more time they spent together, the more they found they had in common, except like Barb she wouldn't do anything scarier than the Ferris wheel.
Their outings as they called them soon turned into dates and four months later, they spent the night together making love. After that they went out most nights during the week, but Jill spent the weekends at Jim's house.
When the divorce decree arrived in the mail, they decided Jill would move in when her lease expired in four months and they would be married. That timetable was moved up when she found out she was pregnant.
It was a quiet little service with her parents and siblings. Her brother was the best man and her sister the matron of honor. Jim was an only child and his parents lived on the east coast and refused to travel. The newlyweds traveled to see Jim's parents before starting their life of new memories by making love in the bed and breakfast inns along the east coast.
Barb thought she saw Jim walking on the other side of the street. If it was him, he had recovered well by the smile on his face and the bounce in his step.
"Jill Miller" she said answering the phone.
"Oh! You married him. This is Barb. I wanted to see how he was doing."
"He's doing fine Barb. He still has sad moments when we go somewhere that the two of you had a memorable moment at but other than that, he is the sweet loving Jim that I've always known. We were married shortly after the divorce was final. How are you doing now, still single?"
"Yes, my girlfriends and I go clubbing on the weekends and plan on traveling to Aruba for a week around the holidays. Other than that, it is just work and then home. How about you two, been doing anything?"
"You know Jim. We go out to eat two or three times each week. We will see a play or the symphony and you know how much he loves those little jazz lounges. We go to at least one of those every week. I've never been busier in my whole life than I have with Jim, but you remember how it was."
"Yes, I remember." Barb said softly. "I just wanted to check on him. I'm glad the two of you got married Jill. I've got a meeting to go to now, so I'll talk to you later....Bye."
"Nice talking to you Barb. Have a nice holiday....bye." Jill had to stand to hang the phone up. The kicking in her abdomen told her she had pressed too close to the desk again.
"Easy little girl," she whispered as she gently rubbed her stomach, "mommy didn't mean to upset you. Daddy thinks you're a boy, but we know better don't we."
Barb hung up the phone and stared at the picture of her and Jim on her desk. Jill was right; she did remember what it was like going places with Jim. She smiled for a moment remembering all the new experiences she had with him.
The smile faded when she realized she hadn't been to anything except the same clubs since she left him.
"What's the matter Barb?" Carol her girlfriend asked, startling her back to reality.
"I just found out that Jim married the women he works with. The one I talked to after I left him. She told me they were married as soon as the divorce was final."
"See, I told you when you were all worried about him. I said someone would take him off the market quickly. Too bad you didn't want children Barb, he was a keeper. We still on for the club tonight? I'll pick you up about nine."
"Nine will be great." Barb answered.
Life for Jim couldn't be better. His daughter, Sarah, was 18 months old and the love of Jim and Jill's life. Their life had changed some. They only went out once a week to eat, but they brought Sarah to all the public exhibits and the ethnic festivals they liked to go to. Things would have to slow down a little, Jill was expecting again. She told Jim that this one felt like a boy, but they would know for sure in seven more months.
Jim was promoted and now ran the department and Jill replaced him as team leader. There was a little grumbling about nepotism but everyone knew that Jill was the most qualified person for the job, and she definitely knew how to get what they needed from the boss.
Jill couldn't be happier with her life. She got the man of her dreams and a beautiful daughter. She was happy with the team leader job, but it still was a distant second to her family.
Barb breathed a sigh of relief as she hung up the phone. The doctor's office said her semiannual STD test came back clean. Ever since she got careless and picked up an STD that took a few trips to the doctor before it cleared up, her doctor insisted on semiannual checkups.
The trip to Aruba now made her friends afraid to travel. Her friend Carol was drugged at a beach party. If Barb hadn't seen the two men trying to drag Carol off the beach and started screaming until they left her and ran, who knows what would have happened to her.
Barb mainly stayed home now except for the clubs on the weekend. Her friends didn't want to try the different little restaurants in the city or the ethnic festivals even when she told them how much fun it was. She went to the art institute alone once but left after only an hour because the old memories made her sad.
Jim was cleaning out the third bedroom. Jill informed him it was his job since most of the boxes were his. He had tossed most of the stuff in the trash with only a box left. When he opened it up he noticed it was Jill's personal stuff from her desk at work. She had taken a leave of absence to watch the kids because her parents could no longer watch them. Her father was very ill and her mother was taking care of him. It didn't look like he would see the next grandchild arrive.
Jim started to close it up to bring it to her when he noticed the flowing handwriting. He picked up the envelope; wondering if Jill had ever taken the time to read it in all these years. His memories brought him back to that day when his life was at an all time low. He remembered handing it to Jill as he tried to hold back the tears of sadness and anger.
He remembered how it also became the start of his new life with Jill. He looked at the letter deciding if he should keep it or not.
"The answer is no," she said form behind him, "I never felt the urge to take out the letter and see what she wrote. After we got married, I almost threw it away but thought you might want it. I decided that what was in the letter was the past; you and I were starting a new future."
"In the last paragraph," Jim softly said, "she wrote that if we met, she wanted to know if I got my dream. In all these years, I have never run into her."
Jill thought for a moment if she should tell Jim what she knew.
"You never run into her Jim, because she is living her old lifestyle when she was single. You don't go to the clubs, so you will never see her. I know she still works at the same company if you want to call or even send her a letter. Keep the letter until you decide to leave the past."
She knelt down and closed the box before embracing her husband.
Barb was lying on her couch watching TV when her friend Carol let herself in. Barb had taken the week off when she had to enter the hospital to have two lumps in her breast biopsied. She was relieved they both turned out benign, but it was the feeling of being alone that still troubled her.
Carol had brought her to the hospital before she went work and picked her up after work and brought her home. It was all the time alone in the hospital with no one to hold on to or hear comforting words from that was the worst.