Gone in Sixty MinutesbyStangStar06©
This one is a quickie (for me). After last week's stinker where I had the audacity to put two fictional characters back together, I wanted to do something safe. It also gave me time to start on next week's long weird Halloween story. Thanks as usual to Mikothebaby for her editing prowess. Without her this story would probably be all commas.SS06
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I wish I could say that I work hard at my job. Well...I can, but I don't like lying. I'm a CNC programmer and a good one. I can go anywhere in the country or the world and find a job. Most of my job involves going over blue prints for jobs and writing programs for the machines that actually make the parts. I rarely, if ever, go down to the shop floor to see the machines work. I do occasionally go to a seminar on changes in code or new innovations. And I often work with the shop floor foreman or production managers to make changes in the programs to make them more efficient or more cost effective. But my job, thanks to my education, is relatively easy and very stress free.
I just turned forty and my life, like my job, is very stress free. I live here in South Carolina, along the coastline. The weather is wonderful and the people are great. I like my life here. I like my life period, but it's all temporary. I could pack up most of my stuff in my Mustang and be out of here in less than sixty minutes if the situation called for it.
I live in a beautiful mini mansion only a few yards off of the beach, but it's rented. I make a great living at my job, but I'm one of two programmers and my boss knows my situation. We've become friends over the four years that I've lived here and he keeps after me to settle down and take root. Who knows...sometimes I think that I already have.
I live with a woman that I worship. I would literally do anything for her...with two exceptions so far. The first is that we've been together for a few weeks more than four years, and we haven't seriously talked about getting married. Most of our neighbors think we are already. And most of our friends who know us, wonder why we aren't.
The second is that although both of us love kids and are very happy together and very healthy, we don't seriously discuss having kids period. Kids tend to make things permanent and like I said, I could be gone in an hour.
I'm also extremely cynical. I take nothing at face value and assume the worst in most situations. Despite this glaring character flaw, the friends and neighbors that I associate with and have developed close relationships with, seem to like me. It's nothing to have one of our neighbors call and tell me his wife is visiting her mom so he's coming over for dinner. And one or two of our neighbors are always asking to do the grass exchange.
Before you get ideas about wacky tobacky in your mind, I'm talking about the practice of cutting each other's grass during vacations. You know...I cut their grass while they're away and they cut mine, when they get back. The homeowners association in our area is extreme about cutting the grass, and in the summer months, with the humid conditions and high temps, the grass grows a lot.
But today, I find myself enjoying the breezes as I walk to my Mustang. Summer has left us and the early fall days here, while still warm, are far less humid. As I pull into my subdivision, I back off on the gas and marvel as the Mustang's roar and grunt calms down to a purr.
I drive onto my block and in the distance, near our house, I notice a group of people frolicking on the beach. I spot one form immediately. She's a slim, graceful woman with wild, tawny hair that flies everywhere. Her long legs start churning as she runs to catch a Frisbee that someone has thrown. She jumps for it and misses, landing awkwardly in the sand. She sits up and brushes the hair out of her eyes, smiling all the time. It's the smile that melts my heart more than anything else. I can see the way that her eyes sparkle even from this distance. She picks up the offending Frisbee and throws it back to the guy who threw it to her. She stands up and adjusts her suit. The top doesn't need much adjustment. Her pert breasts really don't move that much, but the bottom constantly need to be adjusted over her rounded ass.
Another man and another woman are sitting on a log near the border between our house and the next. Neither of them lives there. I know the neighbors on both sides and it's not them. My mouth takes a slight downward turn. I sigh and get out of my car. As I walk closer to the house, I can see them in greater detail. The second couple, the ones sitting on the log are kissing. The woman is larger, not obscene by any stretch of the imagination but she's a bigger woman. I look again, even more closely at her and recognize her. My mouth takes another downward turn.
Then I see it. The man playing Frisbee with the smaller woman grabs the Frisbee and starts walking towards the other couple. The woman walks over to the log also and he puts his arm over her shoulder possessively. I've seen this before, I know how it ends and there's no need to go through it again.
Unfortunately, nature doesn't seem to cooperate with me. I'd been able to ease my 2012 Mustang GT into my driveway on the opposite side of the house without arousing much interest. But as I restart it, the powerful V8 engine demands the attention of everyone in the area. Four heads snap up immediately and one of them makes eye contact with me as I start trying to pull out of the driveway.
I turn my head as if I haven't seen her and back up as she starts moving in my direction. Her long legs eat up the beach and then the scruff and finally the pavement but it's all in vain. Four hundred and twelve horsepower channeled through four nineteen inch wheels and sticky performance tires beats two legs every time.
It takes all of five minutes before the buzzing at my belt alerts me that my iPhone has a call. I fish the phone out of my pocket and see that it's her. A picture of her happy smiling face lights up the display, so I don't answer it. I have no place to go so I drive down the coastline marveling at the beauty of the scenery.
South Carolina is one of America's hidden gems. It's every bit as beautiful and scenic along the coastline as any of the Atlantic coast states, but doesn't get half of the publicity. Can you picture a state that's as beautiful as Florida, but without the drug dealers, the senior citizens and the riff raff? Can you picture Louisiana without the swamps? Throw in some of the most beautiful houses you can imagine, subtract the hurricanes and you have South Carolina's coastal regions.
I knew moving here that I'd have to stay away from the inland areas because they do get a bit of winter weather there and my Pony doesn't really like snow. I made my way here forty eight months ago, intent on simplifying my life. Weather and snowfall was one of my deal breakers. In the Midwest, where I hailed from, the temperatures and the snowfall made it necessary for me to have two cars. I had my pony for summer and a jeep for the fall and winter. Owning two vehicles increased my insurance costs and everything else. When I jettisoned all of the unnecessary aspects of my former life, my close knit relationship with my State Farm guy was one of the things that had to go. "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is...gone." My insurance with a local carrier here is far more reasonable. Luckily, my policy is national so wherever I settle next, it will still be good.
I pull into a tourist area near the beach about ten miles down from the house. I pull out my iPad and Google a map of the United States. As I look at the map, I remember back four years ago when I'd first wandered into that bar. A pretty waitress who looked really stressed out asked me what I was looking for.
"Soft lights, warm breezes and soft southern accents," I'd said. She'd looked around the bar, then back at me and asked me if I had room for one more...
Georgia seemed like a good choice for my next base of operations. As I sat there looking at the coastline, I realized that it was only one state over. That meant it would have most of the good attributes of South Carolina, so I wouldn't lose those.
I made a list of everything I'd need to take with me and it would be easier this time because I'd actually have more room. There were so many things that I'd bought over the past four years that I'd have to leave behind. It served me right for becoming attached to things.
I went into a store and was in luck. Along the rear wall, they had a couple of payphones. I tentatively called the house. I figured that if I was in luck, she'd either be in the shower by now or out on the deck or back on the beach with her new friends. There was no answer, so I left a message which had been my intention all along.
"Shazz, this is Paul," I said. "I came home earlier. But just as I pulled in, Larry called me with an emergency and I had to come back to work. I don't know when I'll get done. There's no need to wait for me to eat or anything. Bye."
That should take care of everything I thought. I went to town then. I drove into Charleston and caught a movie. I saw the new Resident Evil movie and wondered why they even bothered to give them tag lines any more. What they needed to do was just give them numbers like they do in the video games. Everyone who saw the movie knows that when they leave it on a cliffhanger like that there's going to be another one.
I had dinner in my favorite steak place in town. The waiters and the manager all wanted to know where Shazz was and why I was there without her. "I'll tell her that you asked about her," I said. I gave away nothing and still managed to politely answer their questions and change the subject.
It must've been about midnight when I pulled back into the driveway. I shut off the car and walked up onto the porch. I opened the door and walked towards the stairway. There were no lights on in the house. I smiled insanely. I was filled with a burst of happiness so vast that it was off the charts.
The clock is ticking, I thought. I'll be gone in sixty minutes and never look back. I've done it before and this time there won't be a scene. This time there won't be an angry confrontation or any of that emotional bullshit.
That didn't mean that I wouldn't hurt for a while. I truly did love Shasta, but I could not abide cheating. I had no need for closure or any of that other two dollar psycho-therapy nonsense. I only needed distance and a fresh start.
I dashed up the stairs and into the bedroom that I shared with Shazz. I got a couple of suit carriers out and threw all four of my suits into them. I threw all of my underwear, t-shirts, shorts etc. into a duffel bag and grabbed my toiletries case.
I picked up the suit carriers and gently folded them over. I went outside and opened the Mustang's trunk. They fit and there was room for the duffel bag too. I ran quickly back through the house and grabbed the duffel bag and all of my dress shoes. I grabbed my two pairs of running shoes as well. Then I filled a case with cables and connectors for my iPhone, iPod, IPad and laptop. I looked at my watch it had only been thirty minutes. Then I remembered that I'd forgotten sweats and running gear and sleep wear. One more duffel bag and I was at forty five minutes.
As I stepped back on the porch to lock the door, only seconds away from freedom, I heard the tear filled voice.
"You forgot something didn't you?" she asked. The anguish in her voice was deeper than anything I remember hearing in my life.
She got up from the swing at the far end of the porch and came towards me. I caught sight of her face as she passed out of the shadow of the awning over the porch and into the moonlight. Even in the near darkness, I could see the puffiness of her eyes. She sniffled and stood in front of me, as if waiting for an answer. I decided to brazen my way through.
"I think I've got everything," I said. "I'm sure I've forgotten several things. But if it's something I really need, I'll buy it again."
"What about me?" she asked.
"Shasta, you're happy here," I said. "The rent is paid up for the rest of the month and I'm sure Larry would be willing to work something out with you after that."
"I must've really done something awful," she sniffled. "This morning when you left, you kissed me goodbye and woke me up for nothing."
"I didn't wake you up for nothing," I said. "I woke you up to..."
"To tell me you love me, even though you've never once said it," she spat. "And that's waking me up for nothing, because A: I already knew it and B: if you're going to just run out on me like a coward in the night while you thought that I wasn't here, you didn't mean it."
"Shasta, I..." I began.
"Shasta, is it?" she asked nastily. "Twelve hours ago when I brought you lunch, it was Shazz and you were trying to convince me to lock your door and fuck you on the floor of your office. Four hours after that, you pulled up here in the driveway and left again. A half an hour after that, you called and left me a message that turned out to be the first time that you've ever lied to me...make that the second."
"When was the first?" I asked.
"When you claimed we had a future," she spat. "And you're really good at that. I believed you...Then I waited for you and worried about you for seven fucking hours. I cried and hoped that everything was alright. You know I've seen things like this before. A guy gets into trouble with gambling or drugs. He comes home, grabs his family and moves out in the middle of the night, knowing that he can never come back to that town, ever. I didn't know why you were doing it. I just knew that whatever the reason it didn't matter because the two of us would be fine."
"As long as we're together, the two of us would be fine, I thought," she said. "Then I noticed that you weren't looking for me so I could pack my stuff. I sat here in the dark, I wanted to enjoy this porch one more time...I think both of us love this long sweeping porch. Can you even count how many times we...?" Our eyes met in moonlight and her words trailed off.
"God, I'm stupid," she said suddenly. "That's it isn't it? Poor, stupid Shasta lying out there on the porch swing with the man she loves...the only man she's ever loved, fucking the daylights out of her, wondering deep down in her heart when he's ever going to let her have his baby. I see it all now. For a while, I thought that we were running from something or that you just had trust issues, because you never tell me about your past. Now I see that it isn't trust issues or kids, is it? It's me that you don't want. I'm good enough for you to spend a part of your life with me and for you to screw me for a while, but there was always a shelf life to our relationship and we've reached it, haven't we?"
That started her to crying even more.
"Shasta, none of that is true," I said. "My heart is breaking right now, more than you'll ever know."
"Will you stop calling me that hideous name," she screamed. "Strangers, people I barely know call me Shasta. You've always called me Shazz. You going back to calling me Shasta means I did something to piss you off so badly that you don't love me anymore and I can't take that."
"You do know that you were killing me, don't you?" she asked. "In the morning, when I woke up and found out that you'd moved away, I'd have died."
"I think you're acting a little silly over this," I said.
"Then you're a God damned fool," she spat. "You don't know shit about me."
"Sha..." I hesitated, not knowing what to call her. "I know everything about you," I said.
"Do you know that you're the air I breathe and that I would be lost without you?" she said. "Do you know that ever since we pulled away from the place where you found me, every fucking day has been a miracle? Do you know that I'd rather spend the day working in the yard and cutting the grass with you than any exciting or glamorous thing you can name? And our lazy days are my favorites."
"You know, the days when we only get out of bed to pee or eat. Those days when we're too fucking lazy to shower and you just sit there and stare at me and tell me all of the silly things that you like or claim that you like, while we both stink? But it's our stink and we..." she started crying and reached for me. I dropped the bag and reached for her too. We sat down on the porch swing and just held each other until she stopped crying.
"Paul, what did I do?" she asked after a while. "Please tell me. Just give me one more chance and I swear I'll never do it again."
"You're a young woman," I said. "Maybe it's time you moved on."
"I'm thirty," she said. "You're forty. No one even looks at us or cares. We're pretty normal. What started this? And be honest. Don't give me any of that, I'm going to work bullshit. I went over to your job to be with you while you worked late and you weren't even there."
"Shit, I should have thought of that," I said.
"Why would you need to?" she asked. "Why would you need to come up with ways to get away with fooling me? If you want something from me, or you need me to do something or let you do something why not just ask me, dummy? I gave you my heart. I'd do anything for you. Now answer my fucking question. What did I do?"
I didn't say anything. "You know it started out as a weird day today," she said. "I found out that I didn't have to go to work today. So I took lunch to my sweetie..."
"Your who?" I asked.
"Well," she smirked. "I can't call you my husband. And calling you my boyfriend sounds so...high school. Anyway, after I took you lunch I was taking some wood down to the beach. I figured that whenever you got your ass home, we'd go down there and light a fire. I met a woman there. She's renting one of those cheap apartments a couple of blocks over. She's a fatty, but she's nice."
I snorted at that point.
"She is nice," she snapped. "She's had a rough life. She's made a lot of bad choices when it comes to men. She was married once and her husband just walked out on her."
"Why'd he do that?" I asked.
"She said they had some problems in their marriage and rather than try to work their problems out, the guy just bailed on her. What a loser. Anyway, she's been having nothing but bad luck since the guy walked out on her and she decided to come down here to try to find him and get him back. Does that sound familiar?"
"Should it?" I asked.
"Hell yeah," she said. "It's what I'd do if you had been able to get away from me. I'd track you down to the ends of the earth."
"So is the guy she was sitting on the log kissing her husband?" I asked.
"No, he was just some guy she met on the way to the beach. She's a friendly woman," she said. "That guy and his friend..."
"You mean the one who had his arms all over you?" I said. Her eyes got bigger.
"Oh no..." she said. "Paul, it's not like that. It's not like that at all. He put his arm on my shoulder and I made him move it. I told him that I had someone and if he couldn't respect that they'd have to get off of our beach. I'd never do anything like that. I couldn't do that to you, I love you. You know that right...? You have to believe me. I swear it. I'll get Michelle to talk to you. He moved his hand as soon as I told him to. All we did was play Frisbee. Paul, I wouldn't do that..." She was becoming hysterical and I started to realize that maybe I'd jumped to a conclusion too fast.
"Okay, I guess, I believe you," I said.
"No, I'll get Michelle to prove it to you," she said. "I know you."
"I don't want to talk to Michelle," I said. "I trust you way more than I trust her. And you shouldn't trust her either."
"Why not?" she asked.
"Because she sat there and told you a bunch of lies," I snapped.
She pulled me down onto the porch swing and held my hand. "How do you know that she was lying?" she asked. "I'll admit that you're right about her kissing that guy that she just met. It is really weird if she's really trying to find her husband, but who knows maybe..."