Two Lonely PeoplebyJakeRivers©
"We're just two lonely people in a loving frame of mind
We're just two lonely people that need the love we found
Two lonely people..."
- Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn
Written by L. E. White
I got the idea for this story from a comment I made on Bazzza's story "A Simple Case of Restitution"
WARNING: MINIMAL SEX!
Thanks to Techsan Angel Love for their help in editing this story.
Clara and I liked to travel, particularly to warm places! We would go to Mexico, usually once a year, and somewhere else once a year. We liked Mexico the best; we liked the food, and the climate and the people were always warm and friendly. We usually stayed at a nice family run place in Zihuatanejo but we heard about a new place in Ixtapa called Ocean Dreams, so we decided to give it a try.
It turned out to be very nice: right on the beach, wonderful food and large comfortable rooms. One bad thing about Mexico is that they assume people don't want to sleep together... it's almost impossible to get a queen or king size bed! Well, Clara and I like to sleep together (duh!) so we liked the place, since it had queen size beds.
Of course they gave us the somewhat obligatory time-share talk, but... this time it made sense. They had built this hotel new and had bought out two other hotel chains and were remodeling them. They were in a partnership with one of the large cruise ship lines, World Cruises. We had been on several of their cruises, and liked the line a lot!
We figured with our daughter in college and that money set aside, and the marriage fund set up (ya gotta be optimistic!) we had the money to spare and we liked the place. I was forty-five and my wife Clara five years younger.
The first day, we were lounging by the pool and were taking pictures of each other when this woman who had been several lounge chairs over walked up and offered to take our picture together. Clara smiled and said sure! She sat down and we talked a bit and it came out that she had done the time-share too, but directly through the cruise ship line.
I offered to take a couple pictures of her and send them if she gave me her email address. She looked troubled for a minute, then smiled and said sure. So I took three or four pictures of her with different backgrounds.
I jumped in the pool and started on my twenty daily laps and Clara was still talking to the woman. When I got out we went up to shower and take a short nap before lunch. I asked Clara what they talked about.
"Oh, you know, just girl talk. Her name is Jillian but she goes by Jill. We're going into Zihua this afternoon to go shopping." She smirked and continued, "Unless you would like to go shopping with us?"
"Uh, no, that's okay. I think I'll play some golf this afternoon."
I did play golf that afternoon but had to quit after twelve holes, it was just too hot and muggy! It's a shame because I was shooting three under on a tough course! It's too bad that I was playing by myself 'cause no one will believe me. I went back and went straight to the pool. I have really grown to love swim up bars! The water was warm and the beer was ice cold.
I sat there on the stool and watched the young lovelies playing volleyball in the pool, trying to keep their breasts in their skimpy bikini tops as they jumped up and down! (In a fit of denial the previous year I had tried joining in and had a sore back for six months!)
Clara came down and we went to the beach and sat under a palapa, dozing and reading with intermittent interludes of chasing the waves and drinking Margaritas. We were pretty smart about not getting too much sun.
We had a lot of fun; the sex on the big bed was wonderful and wonderfully frequent! Clara is very passionate but she needs the right setting to really unwind. We were doing lots of unwinding and felt very close to each other. One day she teased me about making another baby but I'm sure she was just teasing. I'm pretty sure...
She did go out with Jill a couple of times and the three of us met once for lunch and once for dinner. Jill seemed somewhat off; I couldn't put my finger on it. It did come out that she was separated from her husband and had been for some time. She was a little younger than Clara, around thirty-five and had twin daughters that were twelve. I asked Clara, but she just shook her head and said she would tell me about it when we got home. When she says that with a serious look on her face, I know not to pursue it.
On the way home I managed to wrangle first-class seats. After a couple glasses of wine Clara told me about Jillian.
"We became pretty good friends; you know I'm a good listener and Jill needed someone to talk to. She is going through a very hard time! She and her family live in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Her husband, Regent, is from an old-line Boston family. They still have the name, and they have money, but nothing like they used to. About six months ago her husband was traveling to New York on business. Jill's neighbor told her she would be glad to take care of the girls if Jill wanted to pop down to New York to see her husband.
"Jill was really excited about it. She knew he was there on business, but maybe they could get away for a show. So she flew down and went to the hotel, the Astoria. The desk was quite gracious and gave her a key. She went up to the room and found Regent in bed with his roommate from Dartmouth who had never married! She stared at them for a minute and then cleared her throat and quietly asked her husband where to send his stuff. Two weeks later she heard that he had moved in with Jerry.
"It's still not resolved because her lawyer is negotiating with his parents' lawyers, and you know how that goes!"
I could only say, "Wow!" as I thought how nice Jill had looked in her two-piece swimsuit and how stupid her husband must be!
She turned towards me with her hand on my cheek and said somewhat fiercely, "Mike! If anything ever happens to me I want you to keep taking these vacations. I do not want you sitting at home mourning forever!"
I didn't really know what to say, I'd never seen her like this. I tried to make a joke out of it, "Clara, you know you'll be around for years after I get what's coming to me!"
She grabbed my arm and held it fiercely, "Dammit, Michael! I'm serious! Listen to me! If anything happens to me I want you to find someone like Jillian and make her happy!"
When she said Michael, I knew she was really serious. She hadn't called me that in years. I didn't try to say anything; I just pulled her close and hugged her. The stewardess came by with dinner and broke the mood.
We got home and when I had a chance I downloaded the pictures onto my iMac. I tend to be a procrastinator, so Clara makes me do it right away, down to creating a DVD slideshow of each trip. She is well organized! I looked at the pictures of Jill and thought she looked pretty good. Not as pretty as Clara, but there was a look of peace and sadness that was very attractive. She filled out the swimsuit nicely. I put the pics in a folder for Clara to email to Jill.
I was a writer. I had been a foreign journalist for a few years but after almost getting killed in a riot in Indonesia I decided to be a writer. I mostly wrote historical fiction – as much as anything I loved the research. My editor talked me into trying some romance stories... actually I made money at them.
It didn't feel right, writing romance novels after having been a top notch journalist. Then my editor suggested I try writing historical romance novels! It was great! I felt better about what I was doing: I got to do the research and they sold like hotcakes. I never realized how many women had a fantasy of being taken to a pirates cabin and ravished! Clara read the first draft of the first one and made me ravish her on the living room sofa... so maybe there is something to it.
I also wrote some editorials on current events... places I had been to and had kept up to date with events. I would do the sporadic travel article just for fun. All in all I enjoyed it and it allowed us to set some money aside and feel comfortable.
Clara had been a pediatric surgical nurse, but when I quit being a journalist she quit. She hated seeing the pain and suffering of the little ones each day. She did continue to do some volunteer work, but mostly she puttered around in her garden or worked on her watercolors. She had studied art in college and mostly did flowers. We had them all over our walls. To be honest, I liked them a lot!
Our daughter, Amanda, came home for the summer and we moved on with our lives. We lived in a very nice house in the Mark West Springs area, just north of Santa Rosa. It was a little rural and high on a hill with a great view of the Russian River Valley. Mandy was going to Chico State and had just finished her junior year. We were having a lot of fun together; one night we drove down to Sausalito, took the ferry across the bay and went to Tadich Grill in San Francisco, which had always been one of our favorites!
About a week after Mandy came home Clara asked me, "Did Mandy tell you about her boyfriend?"
I snorted, "You know the father is always the last to know!"
Well, it turned out that our little girl was on the verge of getting engaged and I should expect a young man to show up next week to ask her hand in marriage! They had it all planned out. They were going to get married and then go to Stanford: Mandy for a master's degree in Microbiology and Phil for the Medical School.
Summer was fun. Phil did stop by and I was surprised at how much I liked him. He was a serious kid with a droll sense of humor. I saw nothing but happiness on the horizon! Then life hit me like a ton of bricks!
THE LONELINESS BEGINS
Clara went to the store to get some milk... and never came back. Some asshole picked her car to use to commit suicide – at seventy miles an hour. And I was sitting at home waiting on her; we were fixing dinner together...
The store was less than a mile away, maybe a 10 minute round trip. Thirty minutes had gone by... okay; I'll call her cell. Nothing.
I got in the car, turned onto the highway... half-mile later red lights, fire trucks, police cars, people standing around. A large pickup, F250, was in the ditch, a mess. Clara's Miata, her beloved little Miata, it was black, glossy black, but... glossy no more!
Her car was in two parts. He had hit her broadside on the driver's door as she was going around "Karl's Curve." Karl Jurgen was the first of the seven crosses at the side of the road. Clara's would be the eighth.
I stood there, face ashen, crying, not able to move. My legs were shaking; I felt cold, the scene had an icy grip on my heart.
An officer with a peaked cap walked over to me, a question on his face. I lifted my hand towards the remains of Clara's car – the engine where Clara should have been...
I woke up in the hospital, drowsy, eyes heavy. The door opened and a tall, gawky, lanky, somewhat stone-faced nurse came in, glanced at me then at the heart monitor. She looked back at me, nodded sadly and left. I drifted off, something nagging at the back of my mind, something dark.
Later, maybe sunset from the rosy glow on the window, the door opened. A woman in doctor's regalia stepped in. Dispassionately, distantly my mind noticed that she was an attractive red head, freckles dusted across her nose.
She moved over to the bed, and smiled, more turning the corners of her lips up than a real smile. "I'm Doctor O'Connell. How do you feel?"
I tried to answer, my throat felt full of gravel. "Water," I ground out.
She poured a glass from the pitcher at the side of the bed, and helped me drink a few swallows.
Trying again, I managed "Groggy. I feel... lethargic." That last was hard to get out.
"You have been under sedation for two days. When you arrived at the emergency room you were diagnosed as having had a heart attack. When I got a chance to look closer, I found that you had a condition called Stress Cardiomyopathy, literally 'Broken Heart Syndrome.' It's not near as serious as a heart attack, but we do want to keep you for observation for a couple days. We'll talk more about it when you are feeling a little better."
"Clara, something about Clara... where is she?"
A pained look on her face, her eyes misty, she took my hands. "Mister Andrews. Michael, Clara is ... Clara is gone."
Clara, where did she go? Why wasn't she here with me? A shocking image flashed in my mind – Clara's car a shambles, Clara... There was an eerie, shocking scream echoing in my ears as the Doctor reached for a hypodermic needle.
There was a glow on the window, not rosy, a reflection? Dawn? It was quiet as only a hospital can be during the early morning hours. I saw the water on the stand and was able to reach for a glass. Staring at the ceiling, mind empty, my eyelids slowly closed.
Later a girl, maybe sixteen, looking unconsciously young, and wearing a red and white-striped dress entered, a tray in her hands. She had copper colored hair and blue-green eyes. With a beautiful smile only the young can get away with, she asked "Would you like some breakfast? The Doctor, Doctor Erin, said it was okay."
"Please," I mumbled, and then again, with more force, "Please, I'm very hungry."
Grinning at me, she sat the tray down and turned to leave.
She stopped, and turned back. "I'm Cynthia, Cindy really."
"Cindy, could you sit with me for a bit? Do you have to leave? I don't want to be alone!"
"Let me check with the nurse's station."
She stepped out and was back in a few seconds.
I started eating, yogurt and a cold banana, also a cold piece of unbuttered toast.
Cindy started talking about herself: school, boyfriend, learning to drive, her younger brother, school some more, her science lab.
Then she looked at me, maybe a little embarrassed, "Oh! I'm just chattering on! I'm sorry."
Trying to smile, I said, "No, it's okay. Please stay as long as you can."
Later she left and I was alone. For the first time since I collapsed at the crash site, I was alert and feeling normal, physically anyway. "Clara," I pleaded. "Clara, why so sudden? I didn't get a chance to say goodbye!"
I finally let it go and started sobbing. It must have done something to the heart monitor, because the doctor came running in. Looking at me she took out her stethoscope and moving the top of my gown over, put it on my chest. My mind registered, almost unconsciously, that she had a wedding ring on. But then so did I, feeling its weight on my hand. My ring! Clara's ring!
"Michael... is it okay if I call you that?"
I nodded, trying to wipe the tears away with my sleeve.
"You can call me Erin. You have received a couple of major shocks. Your wife died and you saw the accident. That was a serious shock to your system and then you had the Stress Cardiomyopathy. You had some underlying problems that I will get to in a minute, but first, do you have any questions?"
Taking a drink of water I asked, "What about my daughter?"
"We got hold of her right away and she will be here later tonight."
I nodded, but didn't say anything.
"Next are the funeral services. I understand everything is set up for the day after tomorrow, Friday. I see you look confused. Well, I took the liberty of talking to your pastor. He came to the hospital yesterday. He knew about Clara's accident and wanted to know how you were. He's a great guy – he frequently pulls chapel service here."
"You should be feeling much better tomorrow... I'm sorry! I didn't mean to be insensitive! I was talking about your medical condition."
Smiling a little, she continued "I'm sure you haven't noticed, but you have gained a few pounds over the years. One more day of our food and that will be all gone! You have mildly elevated blood pressure, your cholesterol is a little high and you have a leaky heart valve."
I guess I must have looked concerned, because she shook her head.
"No, it's not that bad! It's early days really with most of this. The Stress Cardiomyopathy is caused by intense physical or emotional stress, which sometimes can cause a rapid and severe heart muscle weakness. It is fairly rare for men to have this, but the emotional shock of seeing the wreck was more than your body could handle. It can be life threatening but it does improve rapidly in most cases.
"You are coming along quite well. At this time I recommend talking to your regular doctor about the blood pressure and cholesterol. My recommendation is that you treat it with diet and exercise. We also have several classes here at the hospital that would help – they are more lifestyle classes."
"Can I get up? I feel so stiff!"
"Sure, I'll get Marge, the nurse, to walk around with you. She'll be in shortly."
A little later, the nurse came in and helped me up. She put me in a wheel chair and rolled me out to the balcony at the end of the hall. Helping me up we walked back and forth in the afternoon sun.
"Marge, that is your name, isn't it?"
Looking down at her nametag, she laughed and said, "Yeah, it must be," as she pointed at the tag.
"Do you know Doctor McConnell?"
"Oh, sure. She's been here for about five years. She came from Massachusetts General when her husband died. It was really sad. He provided a kidney for his brother but somehow caught an infection and died of septic shock. We all really love her. The other doctors are all kind of stuck on themselves but she makes us call her Erin!"
Not knowing how to respond to that, I didn't say anything.
"You know, that was really strange the way she took care of getting hold of your daughter and setting up the funeral arrangements for your wife. I've never seen her do that before!"
After she took me back to the room I lay, thinking about Clara. I could feel the tears welling in my eyes but I didn't wipe them off. After twenty-one years of marriage she was so much a part of me that the future looked bleak. It was so quick, so sudden that I hadn't had a chance to adjust. I felt empty. I turned my head into the pillow, the tears dropping down one by one, making a wet spot on the pillow.
I must have dozed off, for Cindy, the volunteer candy striper, was gently touching my shoulder.
"Mister Andrews, Doctor Erin asked me to wake you up. Marge will be in shortly to walk around with you again and then I'll bring you lunch."
I wound up out on the balcony with Marge again. This time we talked a little longer. She did say that I would probably be released the next day around noon, as soon as the doctor made her rounds.
Lunch was better, I never did find out why. Cindy stayed and kept me company while I ate. I asked her about why the food was so much better, and she just smiled.
Cindy told me, "My mom and I are from Boston and I've been looking at colleges in New England. I still have family back there!"
Looking at her more closely, it dawned on me: "Is Doctor Erin your mom?"
"Yeah! I thought everyone knew. When my dad, Joseph, died she was really sad staying in the area with so many reminders of him. That's why we moved out here."
We talked for a while then she got up to go. "Bye, Mister Andrews. I'll bring your dinner up later."
"Cindy, please call me Michael! You make me feel like I'm so old that I'm at death's door!"
"Okay, Mich... Michael! It sounds funny but I don't want you to feel old!" Cindy giggled!
And you know what? I grinned at her! I was grieving but I could still smile! I would have to think about that!
I slept for most of the afternoon and when Cindy brought my dinner in Mandy was with her. She came up and put her arms around me and we both cried for a while. We didn't talk much as I ate my dinner; I think we were both still in a bit of shock.