Out of Love Ch. 03byjezzaz©
Authors note – thanks to Darkniciad for editorial assistance. This wouldn't have been published otherwise.
When I got back to Portland, there was no answer when I called Amy. I shrugged it off and buried myself in a new contract I'd picked up. I spent three blissful days elbow deep in python and PHP, building a new server back end for a game company – the kind of work where it's easy to lose yourself, learning new things. I also picked up my novel, which had languished on the hard drive of my laptop since the Montana Event. It felt weird to get back into that, but I just decided I wanted to.
Besides, I knew where she lived, although I did also realize that I didn't know where Amy actually worked. I knew what she did – she was a remote phD Research assistant for some university or other, working for the phD students when they needed data and research done. From the hints she dropped, it sounded like she was here in Portland because something bad had happened at a prior posting – either way I realized I didn't actually know where she did any of this researching. I'd never asked and she'd never volunteered. It was that kind of relationship – we shared what we wanted and never asked about that which we didn't. And, given the last 6 months, I was ok with that.
Eventually though, Amy called. We arranged to have lunch and I met her at her favorite French sandwich place. She had introduced me to the Croque Mousier sandwich, and its female cousin the Croque Madame. I was a complete convert.
When she arrived, she looked quite different. Her hair was now blond and much shorter. She smiled at me and sat down.
"Surprise!" she said. I was taken aback.
"Wow," I said, simply. "That's a hell of a change."
She gave me another smile, looked at the menu and said, "I'll be honest. Sending you back was a big risk on my part. I had no idea if you'd even come back or not. I... needed something. I needed to do something with my look and shake it off. Try something different."
"Oh I remember something different alright." I smiled, in a vivacious way. Amy's response was not what I expected. She kept leafing through the menu even though she knew it by heart and said, distantly, "I wouldn't expect that every night."
There was something not quite right here but I couldn't put my finger on it. "Is there something wrong?" I asked.
"Oh no," she said, giving me a big smile again. "Just something work related, a project I am working on that is going to take longer than I thought. It's not a problem, just things aren't going quite to plan right now."
I laughed, "Oh, I know how that is. I had one contract that lasted 6 weeks past the quoted date. And I didn't get paid either. Love the new look through. It's like an entirely new girlfriend! Are you on the run or something?" I joked.
She glanced at me and I detected something in her gaze that just made me shut up. She must have realized and busied herself with mundane things, talking about a new movie she wanted to see.
I want to say that we just picked right back up where we left, but there was something very subtly different. Ostensibly, it was the same on the surface, but something had changed. I figured she must have had second thoughts about sending me back to Spokane, or the sex we had had before I left. I figured the parameters of our relationship had changed, and she'd shown me more than she was entirely comfortable with at that point. I just figured she needed space and not have me crowd her, so I left well alone – I had enough of my own baggage to deal with, without taking hers on my shoulder too.
Over the next couple of weeks, things slowly returned to Post Montana Event Normal – whatever that was - and I thought no more about it. Until three weeks later. Amy called me and asked me to come over. "We had something to talk about."
When I got there, I was as nervous as hell. As a younger man, that phrase was a prelude to being dumped. I had no sense that was going to happen here, but I wasn't sure what was going on any more. The older I was getting, the less I felt I understood what women wanted or needed.
I pulled into the apartment block where Amy lived and walked inside. I passed by a red sports car and idly noted it was the same model that Chloe drove. Small world.
I opened up Amy's apartment with the key she had given me, and announced my presence with a joke. "I'm here, Get them off quick!" I got nothing back and walked into the living room.
Amy was sitting her dinner table, with a coffee in hand. Sitting on the couch was Chloe. She rose as I entered the room. I stopped, totally blindsided. A million questions went through my mind. What did she want, how was she, how had she found me, given she was sitting with my then girlfriend, how was that going to work out? I glanced at Amy who was 100% perfectly calm, and who smiled at me.
This gave me the first problem. Where did I sit? With Amy or with Chloe? It was a perfect conundrum, and I side stepped it by grabbing a chair from the dinner table and putting it right between them, so I could see both. I noticed a very slight smile from Amy as I did it. She was aware of the predicament and my issue of where I sat.
"Hello Chloe," I said, as neutrally as I could, trying to work out what to say. "What brings you to Portland?"
Chloe sat down again. I could see how nervous she was. She looked terrible. There were bags under her eyes, her hair had obviously not been washed but hastily combed. Her clothes mismatched – although I noticed they were ones she knew I liked her in - and there was a small food stain on her blouse, which she would never have allowed usually.
"I..." she shot a glance at Amy, who smiled at her. Amy constantly amazed me. Here was my ex-wife who had caused me such pain and required Amy to put me back together again, and she had made her coffee and small talk while I arrived. I doubted I could have done the same.
Amy gestured for her to continue.
"I... I just can't be without you. I know we are done. I know I brought that on myself. I know I have my penance, but I just can't go on without you in my life J. I need you too much. Even if we can't be together, I just need to be around you. Even if..." and she swallowed hard and looked at Amy, "you've moved on."
I opened my mouth and closed it again, not knowing what to say. I looked at Amy again and she looked back at me, with an almost amused face. I realized she was enjoying this. Watching me squirm and have to make decisions of this nature. There would be a conversation about this later I vowed. I would explain the error of her ways. Forcibly, and repeatedly.
I turned back to Chloe. I had to say something so I asked the first question on my mind, "How did you find me?"
Chloe looked at me and said, "Jim. He hired a private detective to find you. We needed to know you were ok. That's how I found you the first time. We.... We just care about you so much. We know how much we fucked up and they've been keeping and eye out for you. We had to. We couldn't let it just go." Prophetic words, but I had no idea how much at the time.
I nodded. It was the kind of thing Mark and Jim would have done without me there to rationalize.
"Well that's nice. Thank you." I had meant to say it sarcastically, but it came out genuinely. I surprised myself.
"How have you been? You look..." I couldn't finish the sentence because it was painfully obvious how she looked and I just didn't want to say it.
"I look awful," she said, brushing a hair out of her face. "I'm a mess J. A total mess. And not even a hot mess, just a blubbering mess. I cry constantly and I've had to take time out at work – the doctors don't trust me right now not to make a mistake with medications. And I don't blame them. Sometimes I think about taking some myself, to stop feeling this way."
That alarmed me. Even on my worst day, self harm or drug use had never crossed my mind. I leaned forward and said, "That's not the answer Chloe. You know that."
She smiled back at me. A weak smile, but a smile none the less.
"I know. It's just... lonely. And I miss you so much. I thought we would be together forever."
I leaned back and said, "Weeeelllll...." For the first time I could smile about The Event, and that too, surprised me.
"The thing is J, I just need to be here for a bit. I need you around. I need your to be my rock. When you burst into the bathroom, I honestly thought my heart would burst, seeing you like that. My knight and hero – always the way I thought of you, and there you were again, saving me. When you left again, I really knew we were done and that gave me even more despair. But I decided that I had to take what I could get – whatever you could offer me, so I called Mark and Jim and got your address down here, and I just came to see what could be salvaged. Mark and Jim told me about...Amy, and even though you've moved on, I... just can't. Yet."
I glanced at Amy to see how she was taking all this. There was still that hint of a smile dancing on her lips, and it totally put me off asking if Mark and Jim knew where I lived, what was she doing here, at Amy's apartment. Sure, I spent a lot of time there, but it wasn't my address.
"Amy, I have to ask, what do you think?"
Amy put down her coffee cup and I got blindsided for the second time that day when she said, "I think you need to get used to Chloe being around. I just invited her to stay with me and she accepted. At least for the next couple of weeks."
"You did WHAT?" I said, rising up in surprise.
Amy was cool and silent until I got the hint and sat down again. "I think this works for everyone. I've wanted to know what Chloe was like, she needs somewhere to be for a while, and she's handy to see you while you come and see me. Plus, if you want to look at it this way, she gets to watch you be happy with another woman, if you want to punish her some more. Sorry dear, we have to get this out in the open," she said, addressing Chloe. "If you stay here, you need to know the lay of the land. You hurt him and he may still want to punish you. We are a couple and will stay that way. We just need clear boundaries. Understand you may hear and see some things that you really don't want to."
Chloe nodded. She didn't look wild about it but she understood and accepted. "I deserve this. I put an image in your mind I know I can never take back. Turnabout is fair play," she said, being brave and putting on her 'I don't like it, but I know this is right' face, that I remembered so well.
"And you," said Amy. "Don't be getting any ideas. There will be no threesomes or sneaking around. You understand?"
I looked at Amy and honestly, until then, the thought hadn't occurred to me. And of course, now it was addressed, it did. In spades. I snorted and to disguise my sudden visualizations, I said, "I think I'm all done with group sex, Amy. My experience to date hasn't been the best."
Amy nodded. "I can well imagine," she said, dryly.
"So, are good? Do we understand the rules?"
Chloe nodded again. I kind of felt like I was just assumed to be along for the ride, so I had to ask, "And what if I'm not ok with this?"
Amy looked at me and said, "What of it? What are you going to do if not?"
What indeed. I had no plan and frankly, I was still shell shocked at Chloe showing up, let alone the bombshell that she was staying with Amy. I was playing catch up in the worse possible way.
"I guess I'll just go quietly then. Chloe, welcome to the neighborhood. I need to get going. This is a...lot to process."
Amy nodded approvingly. "Yes, I've got to get Chloe settled, as well."
There was something more here. I could feel it. I couldn't put a finger on it, but something was nagging at me. Some detail or other, some expression, something. I just put it down to me being blindsided and didn't dwell on it. I had to work out how I was going to treat Chloe, now she was roommates with my current girlfriend. That should make for lots of wonderful awkward moments.
I stumbled out of Amy's apartment and went straight to a local bar for a beer. Consideration of such weighty events required liquid assistance.
Two weeks passed. I was surprised at how fast. I was extremely wary of Chloe being around – I tried to get Amy to come to me, but she was not impressed with my apartment and kept trying to get me to hers. We went on a lot of dates, but never seemed to end up having sex.
Eventually, I just got tired of it and challenged her directly on it. "So, are done sexually? What's the story here?"
Amy sighed, put down her coffee – we were at Starbucks at the time – and said, "I don't have any problem. You are just never around at my place when the moment is there."
"You know why. Can't we go to my place?"
"No, I think not. You need to get over this. And she needs to get used the idea of you getting it on with someone else I think. She needs to move on too. She's not going to do that mooning over you."
Once we had that conversation, I tried to be at Amy's more. I saw more of Chloe, although she always seemed to be either on her way out as I was coming in, or on her way in as I was leaving. We had lots of awkward moments, but gently, slowly, we had some tender ones too. She tried not to get in Amy's ways and I could slowly see the old Chloe come back to life. She started working out, she started dressing better and eating better – it was like watching time lapse photography of a flower emerging again.
We had coffee together sometimes, and when we did, I found myself relaxing around her – like I'd made a conscious choice to not think of her that way anymore, just as a good friend who I had a lot of history with. When she shared with me – tentatively – the only two dates she'd had since I left – at Wendy and Kathy's insistence, and in both cases, set up by them, I sat and listened and laughed with her about the results, and how the guys had been total nut jobs. It was a funny story – never once was it about some guy sniffing around my wife. I remember thinking afterwards that I'd come a long way to be able to view it that way, naturally, without having to force myself to remember that she was an Ex and what she did with other people was up to her - that I'd removed myself from that decision making.
The only awkward moment – well, sort of awkward –was when she put her hand on mine, after telling me the stories and said, "You know why those dates were a disaster right?" I had a glib response about nerds not sharing enough data amongst themselves which I never got to deliver because Chloe followed up with, "Because they weren't you. And they were never going to be you. Those dates just reinforced the fact that I only wanted you. I just can't seem to move forward."
Another time, where we had lunch, I shared with her my excitement at a new mobile app I was developing. I'd be approached – recommended in fact – by another university based think tank that had gotten a grant to research crowdsourcing. They were using part of the grant to build a mobile app that would pose questions, daily, and see what results they got from those who had the app installed. Each day there was a $1000 winner's bonus, to encourage people responding. The idea was to track and figure out both how effective crowd source research actually was and also to calibrate what the general public would respond to in terms questions asked and reward promised. Was $1000 too little to find out what color panties Angelina Jolie was wearing that day, or would everyone have a go?
She found it fascinating – as she did a lot of my projects – and offered a few tips and thoughts. It was honestly like old times, and it was only when I got up to leave that I realized that no, we weren't married anymore and this was not the same.
I was careful never to be at Amy's – and certainly never having sex – when Chloe was around, but, as usual, life occurred one night and once again, my life was turned upside down.
It was Halloween. Amy had been hinting about us having an outrageous time, and she wasn't wrong. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was not costume optional, and I was told we would be attending a party and that was all. I found that interesting, because in the 4 months we'd been together, I'd not met one friend of hers, and the fact that she had at least one friend who would invite her to a party was intriguing. So I had a good think about what costume to wear and eventually settled on an Indiana Jones outfit, complete with bullwhip and fedora. When I got to Amy's apartment, Chloe was just on her way out. She was dressed to the nines and looked fabulous in a red mini dress that clung in all the right places. I'd never seen it before and was going to ask but the right moment didn't occur. She said she was going to a party, thrown by a nurse she used to know back in Spokane, who had relocated out here. She did look great, and she'd come a hell of a long way from four weeks earlier, when she'd pitched up looking like a disaster. Thinking about how long it had been, I did make a mental note to ask when she'd be returning to work. Being on leave for 4 weeks must be killing her financially, and she'd need to get back to it sometime soon I figured.
But then she left, with a wistful smile back at me, and then Amy came out of her bedroom and my eyes popped out of my head.
She was a school girl. Not just A Schoolgirl, but like every man's fantasy of school girl. She had a wig on – a blond one, in a ponytail. She was heavily made up – red lipstick, eye shadow, the whole nine yards and, with long dangly earrings. She had a tight white blouse on, unbuttoned down to below her bra, which was black and very visible. A basic school tie was loosely knotted around her neck. She was wearing a blue pleated skirt, complete with big shiny safety pin holding the wrap around skirt together. There were stockings, and these were the real deal, complete with garter belt (or for those from back home in the UK, suspenders. I've never understood how there are such diverse and completely different names for those). I know this because she made a big show of bending down in front of me to do something to her 4 inch fuck-me pumps that didn't need doing, and the skirt rose up just enough for me to see her stocking tops and the garters attached to them.
I had an inkling of the way the evening might be going from this – this was all the stuff she knew I loved, from the discussions we had in the past.
She turned around and looked at me and smiled and said, "You like?"
I moved in, put my arms around her and pushed my groin – with its huge erection struggling to get out – into her body and said, "What do you think? Do we actually have to go this party?"
She laughed, pushed me away and said, "What kind of girl do you think I am?"
I laughed too and said, "Well, a damn sexy schoolgirl, I think?"
She tilted her head and looked at me and said, "Wrong. My costume tonight is 'my boyfriend's fantasy'."
I didn't quite know how to respond to that. It was a huge compliment but it was also worrying that she'd tell someone this, and they'd think I was some sort of perv for school girls. She must have read my face because she said immediately, "But don't worry, you are the only person who will know."
The relief must have shown too, because she couldn't help adding, "That you are a pervert with a schoolgirl fetish. Not that I suspect you are alone with that..."
She picked up her bag, took a last look in the mirror and said, "Shall we go?"
We went out to the car and literally, the moment we got out into public, where people were, the stares began. I was both proud and scared at the same time – but fuck it. It was Halloween. This is what it's all about.