AUTHOR'S NOTE: The following is NOT a story. It is a SCENE from a marriage and part of a longer story that may or may not ever be written. Consider it an addendum to the recent "Ghosts and Shadows" short novel. Readers of that story may have noted how the lives of Robert Sandler and Gail Hunt eerily paralleled the lives of Hugh and Mary Davidson. Like the older couple, Sandler and Hunt met, fell in love, married, and their marriage ended when the wife had a passionate and secret affair with another man. If you read "Ghosts" you learn how Gail Hunt's affair turned into a second marriage which collapsed shortly afterwards, but Sandler and Hunt were never able to put things back together, perhaps in part because of her deep seated belief that Robert Sandler had had a love affair with a fellow teacher, which he always denied. Years later he and a girlfriend met Gail Hunt on a cruise on the Bonne Chance, which pissed her off even more when she learned that Sandler had come into money as a video game creator. Their lives seemed to separate forever on New Year's Eve 2009 with a last dance. In "Ghosts" there are references to Robert Sandler spending time in a hospital bed. This short story explains how Sandler wound up in that hospital bed and I think it explains just how deep the ties between the two really were, no matter what they did to each other. As to what happened after New Year's Eve 2009...
(And, as always, my thanks for the fine editing job curiouss did on this story when he had other things on his mind.)
HOW IT ALL ENDED – JACKSONVILLE 2003
He had an itch just above the outer rim of the halo that was driving him crazy, but the metal harness erected around his neck and head to keep him from thoughtlessly snapping his spinal cord and leaving him a quadriplegic wouldn't quite allow him to reach and scratch.
He bellowed "Nurse," even as he punched the alarm to bring help. He had a feeling the nurses were getting tired of his relentless button pushing and were simply monitoring the devices showing his heart beat and blood pressure. They would probably only come in if he stroked out or if his heart stopped beating.
Finally a 60-ish harridan, with the figure of an NFL fullback and the smile of a Gestapo interrogator, stepped through the door from the hallway into the Intensive Care Unit, giving him a weary and only slightly sympathetic glance as she took in the halo and the casts on his right arm and leg.
"Mr. Sandler? What is it now?"
"Ah, Nurse McKenzie, I knew the evening wasn't complete without seeing your lovely smiling face."
"Mr. Sandler, I'm sure there is someone, maybe a long gone mother or a woman who hasn't had sex in decades, that would find your humor amusing, but right now I'm close to the end of a double shift, my feet hurt and you've been pushing that damned button every 30 seconds for most of both shifts. Please tell me what you need."
"I've got an itch that needs scratching."
He could swear she almost smiled a real smile.
"I'm sure you have an itch, but there is not enough gold in Fort Knox to persuade me to scratch it for you. Not that I'm sure there wouldn't be any number of single mothers, underpaid, whose children are in desperate need of life saving surgery, that might momentarily consider touching your body to scratch that itch before deciding there are some things there is NO amount of money high enough to consider doing."
Despite the fact that his heart had been crushed, his life had shattered into little bitty pieces within the immediate past, his body was broken and the sons of bitches that had put him in here were probably having a good meal, a fine wine and/or fucking some tight-bodied bitches right now, he couldn't help smiling at the old battleaxe.
"If you were 50 years younger, Nurse McKenzie, I would seriously think about relieving you of the burden of your untouched virginity. I really am taking a shine to you."
"Oh, blow it out your ass, Sandler. I'm close enough to retirement and they are so short of nurses that I don't need to kiss anybody's ass anymore."
"I take it that's a 'no' as far as scratching my itch?"
She didn't even reply, just turned on her heel like a battleship wheeling around and marched out. Robert Sandler tried to wriggle his forehead hard enough to get some scratching action done, but that proved to as effective as he'd been afraid it would be. So the only thing left to do was try to use his good hand to try to scratch the various itches that cropped up within reach.
He was scratching when the woman he wanted least to see in the entire world stepped purposefully into the room.
Despite the broken neck, broken arm, bruised leg, various other deep bone bruises, and needles poking into his flesh in various uncomfortable spots, he had been almost happy there for a while. He had managed to focus so completely on the violations to which his body had been subjected that he had been able to forget what had led him to this hospital bed.
He looked at the tall, frosted blonde, in the immaculately cut skirt and blouse outfit that probably cost more than his entire stay in this hospital room, and realized that just by standing there and breathing she was hurting him more than the three assholes who had put him here.
He could close his eyes, but that was the only way he could escape her now. He was chained to this damned bed. He started pushing the button for the nurse again. Maybe they could run her out, but somehow he doubted it.
"How are you Robert?"
The question was so stupid he had to roll his eyes and snorted.
"That question sucks on so many levels it's hard for me to figure out how to answer it, Gail."
She moved a little closer, actually gliding. Watching her move had always entranced him, almost making him gasp many times. If it wouldn't have been such a waste of her college education, he knew she could have made a great dancer. The other thing that always made his breath catch in his throat was the succulent roll of those heavy and fantastic Double D breasts under the exquisitely designed blouse. Most women with tits that big looked at least a little slutty when they jiggled around, but Gail didn't jiggle. They just swayed genteelly, the way he imagined a metronome on a piano moving gently back and forth.
To take his mind off those tits, which he would never place his lips around again, he said, "I'm actually hurting a great deal, or I would be if it wasn't for all the pain killers they're pumping into me around the clock. Your boyfriend and his thug friends broke at least three bones in my neck. That's why the halo. If I hadn't been very lucky, I'd be sitting here wondering if I could afford to hire someone to wipe my ass and feed me for the next 40 or so years. But they didn't break the spinal cord.
"The broken arm does hurt, actually, even with the pain killers. The docs tell me your boyfriend and his thugs broke three major ones and a few more smaller ones. My leg hurts like hell. That's the bone bruise. It throbs with my heart beat. That's actually the one the docs tell me will probably hurt the longest. Oh, there are a half dozen other minor hurts, but that pretty much sums it up. Does that answer the question?
"Oh, by the way, why the hell are you here? I thought there was some hospital rule about not allowing cheating fucking slut wives in to torment their injured husbands?"
"No, actually there isn't one that I'm aware of," she said, moving to stand beside his bed and park her ever-present bankers' black leather satchel on the stand beside his bed. "Even if they had one Robert, you know well enough that I'd be able to get around it. If I want to do something, it gets done."
She stood there and just breathed deeply a few times; he knew she was doing it deliberately. She knew just how her tits affected him; she knew it and had always used it. He could never stay angry at her when she started stripping. It was too late for that now, so she was just using them to rub salt in the literal and figurative wounds she and her fucking boyfriend had inflicted on him.
"I'm sorry about what happened, Robert. You have to know that. Cameron shouldn't have gotten into that fight with you, but you had to go and show up at the party and try to embarrass him. You had to know he wouldn't stand for that."
Sandler smiled bitterly.
"Of course, you can't have a cuckolded stupid fucking husband show up while you're parading your latest fuck toy around to all your friends and try to spoil your evening. What else could he have done, right?"
She just shook her head, the way a mother would at the antics of a two year old.
"Robert, it's been two months. You knew I was with Cameron. You and I are over. We were over. So he was showing me off. He's in love with me. He's proud of me. I love him. Everything was going fine until you showed up. You normally never go to those parties.
"When you showed up and started making trouble, Cameron - he just lost his temper. I know you won't understand it but men, powerful men, don't take that kind of shit the way you do by turning the other cheek. They remove problems."
"He didn't have much luck with that, did he now?"
"He didn't know that you knew that karate shit, Robert. I really never thought about it that much, myself. It was just another one of those silly things you wasted your life on. Who the hell actually uses karate in daily life? So you caught him by surprise. But-"
She gestured to his body lying in the hospital bed and he knew what she was about to say.
"So how much good did my black belt do me? Not much, darling. Not when two guys cold cock me from behind and they and Cameron spend a few minutes pounding on me. Hard to do much by way of self defense when you're unconscious."
"As I said, I'm sorry Robert. I didn't want you hurt but Cameron and his friends got carried away."
"Yeah, I guess so, but at least I'm still alive. Did the cops even question him, or did the fact that it occurred in the River Club, where I'm not a member, and he had 90 percent of the accumulated wealth of Jacksonville to testify that I came in and started everything wind up with the cops apologizing to him and your friends for interrupting their evening while they hauled my carcass off?"
"He wasn't arrested. There is no criminal report on the evening. Did you really think there would be one?"
He closed his eyes for a moment but unfortunately when he opened them she was still standing there; frosted hair framing a face he would never be able to forget, cold blue eyes above an aquiline nose and lips that were plump before plastic surgery had made that the style.
"I repeat, Gail, what are you doing here? Haven't you enjoyed yourself enough cheating on me and then rubbing my nose in it in front of all our family and friends?"
"Normally, I wouldn't have come. I know that all I'm doing now is hurting you more than you were hurting before. I got over you. I know you're not over me. But-"
She picked up the satchel, snapped the clasp open and took out a document. She handed it to him.
"One embarrassing little glitch has occurred. There was a freelance camera crew invited by the Gilyardes. You know they were going to get that Community Appreciation Award for helping the homeless at the party that night. Well, maybe you didn't know, but they wanted a video log and-"
He couldn't help laughing.
"Oh God, don't tell me. They actually filmed the assault."
"Every bit, from beginning until they took your battered body out of there."
"So what's the problem? Your family alone has enough clout and money to bury it, doesn't it?"
Gail took out a solid gold pen. It had been a graduation present from her grandfather and had once belonged to Theodore Roosevelt.
"I won't go into details, but it wound up in the hands of Molly Davenport. You know, she's the flaming left wing liberal 'nut job' who is always being quoted in Folio about how terrible and corrupt Jacksonville and Northeast Florida is. She's planning on running against the State Attorney next time and she's hidden the video after making copies. Which means that, although State Attorney Edwards, being an old and good friend of our family, would normally not push it, he won't have any choice in this matter. In any case, that assistant of his, Maitland, handles day-to-day operations.
"Again, normally, I'd just hand this mess over to Hugh and he would make it go away. However, Hugh checked into things and Maitland has a bad case of integrity. Hugh really doesn't think we can buy him, he won't scare, and Edwards is fond of him and wouldn't let anything happen to him.
"Now, Maitland is married to Debbie Maitland. You probably remember her. I know you could never keep your eyes off her tits. I could have asked her to talk to her husband, but Hugh said that might just make things worse. So, Hugh hasn't really been able to come up with any way to make this all go away. Unless..."
She pointed to the document she had handed him while unscrewing the top of the pen she held. He read it past the first half of the first page and got it.
"So he'll let everybody walk if I sign this statement confirming that I came in without an invitation, started the fight and received all my injuries when I was being subdued."
She held the pen out to him.
"That's about the size of it, Robert. Please sign it."
He looked at the document, at the pen, and then up into her blue eyes and laughed until his sides literally hurt.
"I say this with the greatest of respect to my wife and future mother of my children. Get fucked!"
She put one firm hand on his shoulder, one of the few parts of his body that didn't hurt, and said, "I know it's tempting to say that, but please listen to me."
"No, you listen to me you miserable bitch."
He felt his voice rising and tried to somehow keep himself from thrashing around damaging his spinal cord. He threw the pen across the room.
"I have loved you for more than 10 years. I was faithful to you, no matter what you may think. You on the other hand, were screwing around with crap like Cameron Hapwood. I go to sleep every night with the picture of him screwing you in our marital bed burned into my brain. I fucking begged you like a ball-less wimp to come back to me and you all but laughed in my face. Then, when I go to confront the bastard and try to get my wife back, he and his friends do their best to kill me.
"Now, you unbelievably fucking miserable excuse for a human being, you want me to lie so your boyfriend and his friends will get away with breaking my bones and leaving me nearly paralyzed. Let me put it simply. No way, no how, never!"
She just looked at him and then glided over to the other side of the room and picked up the pen, giving him a wonderful view of that fantastic ass that he'd pumped happily God knows how many times over the years. As she picked up the pen, a new nurse, younger, poked her head around the corner. Gail just shook her head and the nurse bolted.
It didn't surprise Sandler. The Hunts, and she had been a Hunt before becoming a Sandler temporarily, donated a good chunk of the yearly private contributions to keep Shands Medical Center of Jacksonville open. They also had allies on the Jacksonville City Council who made sure that the city was always generous in its support. When the Hunts said jump, most sane politicians asked how high.
She pulled a chair up and sat down beside him. As she did, he very carefully started ripping up the legal document she had handed him. It was hard to do one handed, but it could be done.
She didn't try to stop him. She just stared at him and then placed one hand over his immobilized left hand.
"You don't have to sign it, Bobby, you can be hard nosed. You were always the most stubborn man I've ever known. Granddad said that, when you had made your mind up, the Lord God himself couldn't make you change your course or run. You probably never knew it, but he always liked you. He told me one time, 'The boy's a fool, but he's his own man. You don't often see that anymore'."
He blinked, fighting back sudden unexpected tears. He wasn't crying for the stiff necked, rich and powerful man who had told him he wasn't good enough for his granddaughter. The tears came as he remembered the withered remains of a strong old man as he lay dying, surrounded by family. He had asked for 'the Sandler boy,' and when Sandler had approached him, the old man hadn't said anything but just took Sandlers' young hand in his two old hands and squeezed for a minute before closing his eyes for the last time.
The sudden unbidden tears were for an old man he'd cared for more than he ever realized, and for the woman he had loved beyond anything he'd ever imagined possible before meeting her.
If she saw the tears she said nothing about them.
"It will cause a lot of problems for Cameron. He might even serve time though I don't believe any jury in this town will ever convict him. But it doesn't matter, Bobby. Even if he has to serve time, I'll be waiting for him when he comes out.
I love him, we fit, we're good together.
"I was sorry when I found out that you'd seen us – in bed. I honest to God didn't know you were coming in then. I'll admit, I wasn't thinking much about you, period. It seemed like my whole world revolved around him and I just couldn't get enough of him.
"I know this will hurt, but you have to know. In business meetings I'd watch him do what he does, and I'd get wet. I'd got so wet I'd have to go to the bathroom and rub myself. There were times I could only make myself wait until the meeting had ended, pull him into an empty office, lock it and suck him off, that's if I didn't fuck him.
I sucked and fucked him in cars, elevators, bathrooms at nightclubs. I don't think I went a day the last three months without having him two or three times. I love the taste of him, the feel of him. He's like a narcotic that I have to have."
Sandler stared into the eyes of the woman he had loved most of his adult life and felt a hurt deeper than physical pain, deeper than he had thought possible. He knew she had betrayed him, but he hadn't had any idea of what was really going on and her words had the ring of truth.
She squeezed his hand and gently rubbed it, then lifted it to her cheek and in an oddly maternal gesture rubbed his fingers against her face.
"I'm not saying this to hurt you Bobby, but I can see it in your eyes. I know you didn't know how much I love him, how much I want him, how much I need him. I did love you, you know I did but...things changed and now you know why.
It wasn't your fault, it's just...the way you are...the way I am. As soon as I can, I'm going to divorce you and marry him, even if he's in prison.
That's why I'm asking you to sign the papers."
She smiled a sad smile as she pulled another copy of the document out of her satchel. She knew him too well. She was too smart, and she always went into every situation prepared for anything.
"I don't ask you to do it for him. Do it for me, Bobby. I know you still love me. You remember, a long time ago, you faced down that gang for me. And you told me that you'd always do whatever you had to do to see that I was happy."
She reached over and touched his cheek.
"I won't be happy without him. It's just that simple. If you still love me, Bobby, let me have the man I need. That's why I brought the papers. I knew you'd sign, Bobby. You're still the same man you always were."
They sat silently for a few minutes. Then he reached out with his good right hand, took the gold pen that Teddy Roosevelt had wielded a century before and signed where she told him to sign. She took the paper, folded it and put it in her satchel, then took the pen, capped it and put it away. Then she stood up, leaned over and kissed him lightly on the lips before walking to the door.