The Damp, Gray Gone Ch. 01byRehnquist©
We've all no doubt read our fair share of Loving Wives stories where the husband, upon discovering his wife's infidelity, suddenly reveals himself to be a top-secret super spy with ten years of training as a ninja warrior before his distinguished career in with John Wayne in the Green Berets. So equipped, he wreaks fantastic vengeance upon the wife and her paramour, usually, at least in part, in the form of destroying lover boy's testicles with repeated phantom kicks to the gonads.
Sue me if you will, but I tend to enjoy these stories. Few of them are even remotely plausible, but they are still a nice fantasy.
Having been in the Army, though, and having also met my fair share of soldiers in the Airborne, the Rangers, and Special Forces, I've never met any of the superheroes for whom I root in the stories I read here. Also, while I'd probably dream of beating my wife's paramour half to death if she ever got herself such a thing, I'd still do no such thing. Sorry, but jail scares me a hell of a lot more than being called a wimp by an ex-wife who cheated on me.
Thus, please consider this my modest contribution to the genre. Yep, there's a soldier boy, a paramour, and a confrontation. Sure, none of it would probably go this way, but it still has--I hope--the stamp of plausibility. I've also thrown in some characters from past stories--including a descendant of Ernie the Pug from The Bar and Grill--love interests, flirty students, and main characters who are lost. This is the story of how at least a few of those lost characters find their way.
Sorry, but it's pretty slow going at the beginning, and there's no sex until the finale. The pace of the story is necessary, though, as it sets up the rest of what is to come.
It's also pretty long, and I'm sorry for that, too. I seem to have had diarrhea of the word processor on this one, and there only seemed to be a few natural breaks for multiple parts.
Thus, this is being submitted on consecutive days in three parts of roughly equal length.
As always, I ask that you all please take the time to comment, both good and bad. Obviously, the more detail to your comments, the better. Still, we're all pretty busy, so even just a few words of what you like or dislike is greatly appreciated.
My right hip hurt like a son of a bitch from the moment I awoke.
"Bad weather on the way?" Whitney murmured, her half-open eyes following my limping figure to the bathroom.
I only grunted in response.
Days like this were the worst. Most people looked forward to Spring, but not me. Spring meant cold and damp, which, in turn, meant that my old hip injury would ache almost constantly for two months or more. And my mind would be flashing back to those terrifying hours leading up to the cause of my hip pain.
After taking a leak, I stared at myself in the mirror while washing my hands. The face staring back at me was still somewhat chiseled. Okay, not really chiseled so much as not covered with sagging jowls and two or more chins like most of my contemporaries. My gray eyes looked tired and lined with a few crow's feet, my short-cropped hair was now sprinkled with gray, and the flab of my chest and skin was noticeable as my body began feeling the inevitable effects of age and gravity. Still, I was only seven pounds more than the day I'd graduated the Point, and my body seemed to be holding up as well as could be expected.
Everything except that damned hip. And the visions that would now be popping up more frequently and at the worst times.
"You okay?" Whitney said through her yawn, leaning against the doorframe.
"Yeah," I said, watching her stretch her tiny, lithe body behind me.
Any other day--and any other mood--and I'd have been sporting thoughts of a morning jump. There she was, her soft brown hair a tousled mess, her tiny, petite body covered only in an old tee shirt and a pair of skimpy panties. And beneath it all, I knew, was the sex drive of a tigress in heat, an unquenchable passion and joy for carnal delights that exceeded that of any woman I'd ever known.
"Your hip?" she said, now nudging me aside and reaching in the drawer for her tooth brush and the tube of paste.
"It's gonna rain today," I said.
"Bad," I confirmed.
"You were tossing and turning all night," she said.
She started to brush her teeth, and I reached for my toothbrush to join her in our morning ritual.
Once done, Whitney hopped into the shower while I shaved. After finishing and rinsing my face in ice cold water, I trudged down the hall to awaken Kyle and get him ready for the day.
Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting at the table, sipping coffee and reading the paper while Kyle ate his bowl of Corn Puffs and munched on a piece of toast.
"I got my second grade assignment," Kyle said with a mouthful of food.
"Don't talk with your mouth full," I said, lowering the paper.
He finished chewing. "I said I got my second grade assignment yesterday."
"And?" I asked.
"Miss Palmer," he said.
"So what do they say about Miss Palmer?"
"She's cool," he said. "Kinda old, though."
I tried to suppress my smile. A 7-year old's idea of old was relative.
"As old as me?"
He frowned. "Not that old. More like Mom."
"I won't tell her you said that," I said.
"It's not nice to tell women they're old. It's not nice to tell anyone they're old--man or woman--but especially women."
I shrugged. "Just one of those mysteries of life, little man."
"What mysteries of life?" Whitney said, buttoning the last button on her blouse as she entered the kitchen. She was perfectly coiffed and professionally dressed in a white blouse with gray skirt and jacket, ready for another day saving the citizens of Lincoln County from its felonious predators.
"Nothing," I said.
"Dad was saying that I shouldn't say people are old even if they are. It's not nice."
She chuckled, pouring herself a cup of coffee.
"Did you call your Dad old?"
"No," he said, ignoring my finger-to-lips shushing gesture. "I said you were old."
She laughed aloud at that.
"So you're not mad I said it?" Kyle pressed, shooting me a 'told you so' look.
"Your father's right," she said, pulling out a chair and sitting with us. "It's not polite."
Kyle said nothing to this, preferring to finish his cereal in silence.
"He got his second grade assignment," I said.
She raised her eyebrows, sipping her coffee.
"Miss Palmer?" I said.
Maggie nodded. "Sure. Kristin Palmer. She started four or five years back."
"Then how is she old like you?" I said, grinning.
"We graduated together," she said. "High school. She got her degree pretty quick, I think. Didn't start teaching again until she came back up here and got divorced, though."
"So is she any good?"
Whitney shrugged. "Dunno. She was real popular back in school. Prom queen, head cheerleader. You know the type. We didn't exactly run in the same crowd. She didn't have as much time for books and studying. What, with her busy social calendar and all."
"Jealous?" I tweaked.
"Not any more."
"Tyler Collins?" she prompted. "The writer?"
I nodded. "Sure. Lives out on Twin Oaks Road somewhere."
She nodded. "Her ex-husband. The first one. The second one was a cop from around here. So no, I'm not jealous."
I nodded. "But she's a good teacher, right?"
"Not a clue," Whitney said, putting her coffee down and looking at her watch. "Can you hurry up? I really need to get into the office. Final preparations on that hearing today."
"The LaBruzzi drug case," she said, impatience creeping in. "Their motion to suppress the evidence."
I nodded, pushing back from the table, putting my coffee mug in the sink, and going back to hop in the shower and finish getting ready before relieving Whitney so she could get to the State's Attorney's Office. Then I'd finish getting Kyle ready for school, drop him off, and make my way to Rensinger Hall at Chadwick College for my morning Classical History II class.
In a nutshell, just another weekday morning around the Patterson household.
* * * * *
Driving to Chadwick, something was niggling at my brain.
It was Whitney. Her moods. She'd been more impatient, silent, brooding, always on the edge of saying something before pressing her lips in silence. Something was bugging her, and that something was more than the typical stresses of her job.
I mulled this over as I parked in the faculty lot and grabbed my briefcase.
The wrist on my watch confirmed I was twenty minutes early. As usual. Oh well, old habits die hard.
* * * * *
It was almost seven-thirty when Whitney walked in the door.
"You guys already eat?" she asked, hanging her coat in the foyer closet before turning to me.
"I fed Kyle," I said, marking my place in the massive tome on the Punic Wars before setting it aside and getting up to greet her. "He's in his room doing some homework. I decided to wait for you."
She gave a weary smile. "You didn't have to do that. You must be starving."
"You, too," I said.
Her face was weary to the bone, a combination of frazzled and dead tired.
"Everything okay?" I asked, pulling her into my arms and giving her a hug. "You seem really . . . I don't know . . . distant lately. Something on your mind?"
She murmured something into my shoulder, then hugged me tighter and held me there. This was the same response I'd been getting for the past month. She just wouldn't open up.
"You wanna talk about it over dinner?"
She broke the hug. "It's nothing, babe. You know. Work. Same shit, different day. I guess it's all just getting to me."
Her face said more, though. It said that yes, she did want to talk about it, but she was afraid for some reason.
"The hearing go okay today?"
Her quizzical look flashed into a look of recognition. "The hearing. Yeah. Continued for another three weeks. Like what else is new, right?"
My eyes narrowed, and she tried to smile at my suspicion. "Welcome to life with the LaBruzzis, y'know?"
I didn't react, preferring to stare at her for more reaction.
Getting none save a look of wide-eyed openness, I nodded my head toward the kitchen.
"Come on. Roast chicken and grilled asparagus with lemon viniagrette await."
She spent a few minutes in Kyle's room while I got our plates ready. Five minutes later, we were seated across the table from each other, and the silence was deafening.
She picked at her food, and I barely touched mine.
"Is it okay?" I asked after ten minutes during which she'd eaten only three or four bites.
She looked up and tried to smile. "Yeah, Luke. It's really good. I guess I'm just not that hungry." She looked at my plate. "What about you? You feelin' okay?"
"Just the hip."
She nodded, then pushed her plate away.
"Let's go get Kyle tucked in. It's almost his bed time."
"Okay," I agreed, picking up her plate and mine, scraping the leftovers into a tupperware container with the rest of the chicken and asparagus before putting it into the refrigerator. When I turned back, I saw Whitney leading Kyle into the hallway bathroom to brush his teeth.
My suspicions from the morning were now turning to outright worry. Don't get me wrong: Whitney's hours were long and hard. Her promotions from traffic court to misdemeanor to felony had correspondingly increased her hours as the complexity and importance of her case load increased. Truth be told, she wasn't even that late, though her long hours had become more frequent in the past eight months since she'd made the jump to lead felony prosecutor.
Back in the bedroom, I stripped down to my underwear, a tee shirt, and a pair of reading glasses. Throwing my robe on, I went back and hugged and kissed Kyle goodnight, grabbed my book, and looked around for Whitney. I heard a scrape in the garage, and made my way there.
"You out here?" I said into the darkness.
She sniffled. "Over here."
I flipped on the light. She was in the corner, her arms wrapped tightly around herself, her head turned away from me.
"Whit," I said, stepping onto the cool cement floor. "Baby, what's wrong?"
She just shook her head, and I could hear her crying.
I walked toward her, and she squeezed herself even tighter as I approached. Dread began coursing through my veins, the kind of cold, shivery feeling you have as you watch something terrible begin to unfold.
"What's wrong?" I said, my voice now a hoarse whisper.
"You're going to hate me," she said, her eyes staying glued to the wall opposite me.
"Why? What's going on here?"
Whitney's head dropped to her chest and she didn't answer.
"What have you done?" I pressed, not wanting to know, but afraid not to find out.
"I . . . we need . . . there's . . . ." She looked to me for help, her eyes pleading with me to back off.
Looking back on it, I'm not sure whether I made a mistake. To this day, I still sometimes wonder whether everything would've still happened the way it did if I'd just given her time to figure it all out on her own. If I'd left her alone to figure it out for herself--if I hadn't pressed for an immediate answer--would she have worked it through on her own and eventually been shaken into reality?
Unfortunately, I'll never know the answer to that. Whatever was tearing her apart so much was now tearing me apart, and I had to know what was going on. For my own sanity, she had to tell me why she was so upset and withdrawn.
"I'm your husband," I finally said. "I love you, and I'm here for you. Whatever it is, you can tell me."
She hesitated, her eyes pleading with me to let it be.
"This is only getting worse, Whit," I said, my voice cracking with emotion. "You're not talking to me anymore. I have no idea what's eating at you, and you won't share it. Is it me? Us? Something going on at work?"
She said something, but I couldn't hear her voice.
She turned and faced me, her face a mask of anguish. "It's everything. It's you; it's me; it's us. It's work and bullshit and I'm just not happy."
Her words were like a slap in the face and a quick, solid punch to the solar plexus.
"Us?" I croaked. "What's wrong with us?"
She shook her head. "Not just us, not just our marriage. It's everything all together. It's just all getting so . . . I don't know. Stale? There's no spark, no excitement. Just drudgery."
I said nothing, trying to decipher what she was saying and what it meant for our family.
"I don't feel alive anymore, Luke," she pleaded. "It's like I'm just going through the motions. I mean, I love you. I love Kyle. But, well, it seems like my whole life is just in a rut. I get up, get ready for work, snatch a few minutes with you guys before rushing off to work. Then I get to spend ten or twelve hours a day trying to keep up with the rushing tide of scumbags who can't keep their shit together. Keep trying to lock 'em away until they get a fucking clue on how to behave. Then I rush home, manage to spend an hour at most unwinding while trying to get Kyle in the bath and the dishes done and then it's off to bed. Get up the next morning, repeat the cycle."
"I usually do the dishes," I said. "And the cooking and the bathing and the homework."
"I know," she cried. "That's not the point. You do. You manage to do it all when I can't help you. But then our weekends are spent around the house, getting stuff done to get ready for the next week. I just want it all to be different."
"Different how? Different job? Go for it. You know I'll support you."
She shook her head. "Will that really fix it all?"
My eyes narrowed. "What're you saying?"
"I'm saying that I think we should separate," she said, the tears drying and a firm look setting in. "I need some time to figure out what I want. What I need."
"And what about us? What about Kyle?"
She snorted at that. An angry snort. "Kyle doesn't need me to take care of him. He's got you."
"So you're just leaving him?"
"I'm not leaving him," she flashed. "I'm not abandoning him. I'm not running away from my baby."
"Then what are you doing?" I pressed, anger now overcoming my emotions as well.
"I'm taking time to get my shit together. Time to make sure I'm squared away so I can be a better mother for him."
I just stared at her, waiting for her to finish the thought. After a moment, I was left pondering what she had left unspoken.
"So you're not going to spend this time trying to figure out if you want to continue being my wife," I surmised. "You've already given up on us."
Whitney's lips tightened.
"I don't know."
"Is there someone else?"
She hesitated, then shook her head.
"Who is he?"
"I said there was no one else," she hissed. "I haven't fucked around on you. I'm not seeing anyone."
"But you've got your eye on someone, don't you?"
She turned away, refusing to answer.
"And this separation," I said, building steam. "You're going to use it to see if maybe it'll work between the two of you. If it does, then you'll cut me loose, right? Or were you just gonna cut me loose either way."
"It's not like that," she said. Her voice was going flat, emotionless. Like she was steeling herself to confirm that it was exactly like that.
"And this separation," I said. "When does it start? Where are you moving to? In with him?"
"I don't know."
"Which part? Which part don't you know?"
She turned back to me, her eyes dead and her voice low and cool.
"I don't know when it's going to start. I don't know where I'm moving to. I doubt I'll be moving in with him, but it may happen. I just don't know. I haven't thought that far ahead."
"What do you mean you haven't thought that far ahead? You're a fucking lawyer, for Chrissakes. Thinking and planning, that's all you fucking do for a living."
"You pressed me," she said. "I didn't want to tell you."
"Yet," I corrected her. "You didn't want to tell me yet. So what were you gonna do? Get all you ducks in a row, pack your shit, give me a peck on the cheek, and ride off into the sunset? After almost ten years together, that's really how you were gonna play it?"
She didn't respond, but her face told me that was exactly how she was going to play it.
"Fine," I said. "Do whatever the fuck you wanna do. It's pretty clear where I fit in your pecking order. And Kyle, too, for that matter."
"Don't you dare," she started.
"And as long as we're on that topic," I interrupted, "you should at least start giving some thought to what we're gonna tell Kyle here."
Her face froze at that, the rest of her interrupted retort cut off in her throat.
"It'll be both of us," I said. "And we'll both be polite and not point any fingers. But you're the one that's gonna plan the fucking strategy on this one, lawyer girl. Got it?"
She only nodded as fresh tears ran down her cheeks.
I watched her for a minute, all of my anger and fight leaving me.
This was like a weird sci-fi movie. Like Harrison Ford in Bladerunner. Was I a loving husband willing to give up without a fight? Or was I an unfeeling automaton not willing to wage a losing battle?
Me. West Point Class of '89. I'd fought, and been a part of, a victorious war. And every day for the rest of my life, my right hip would remind me of the personal costs associated with that war.
If I fought and won this war--if I fought for my marriage and managed to hold our family together--would I forever be reminded of similar costs? Would I see Whitney's regret every day for the rest of our lives? Regret that she'd stayed with us or that we were somehow--in her mind, at least--holding her back? Or would I be reminded every day with happiness in a stronger marriage and a happier son?
Too overwhelmed to consider the options and plan a course of action, I turned and left the garage.