Eye Opening Trip Ch. 03bySW_MO_Hermit©
ANN FINDS LOVE
The morning after Jim and Vicky's wedding Ann woke lying across her bed. She was still dressed in the same clothes she had worn to their surprise reception. It had killed her to sit outside in her cold car all alone and listen to the party within the VFW hall. That she had brought all this loneliness and ostracism on herself was almost too heavy a burden for her to bear.
Many times over the past months she had considered just packing up and moving away in disgrace like Brice had done. She just couldn't do that though. Her roots were too deep here in Steelville. Except for the time she and Jim had been away while he was in the service this had been the only home she had known. All her family and friends (those she still had left) lived around the town.
She stood and walked into her bathroom. After she had finished washing her hands Ann surveyed herself in the mirror. She was a mess. Her makeup was smudged and there were dark circles under her eyes. Her hair was graying and she had some wrinkles she wished weren't so evident.
Ann looked at herself and whispered, "How could you? How could you do something like that to the only man you ever really loved? Oh, why didn't I trust him enough to go to him for help when that Bastard threatened me?"
With a heavy sigh, Ann began removing her clothes. When she was nude she dropped her clothes from the evening before into the hamper. She grabbed her robe from the back of the door and wandered down the hallway into her lonely kitchen to make her morning coffee. When the pot was half filled with water she snarled, "Fuck it" and turned the water off, sat the pot down and stomped back into her bathroom.
Ann took a quick shower and dressed for the day. She put on jeans and a western shirt. On the way out of her house she put on her boots. She looked at herself in the mirror on the hallway door as she passed. "Not bad for an old Broad," she though.
A few minutes later Ann walked into the café in Steelville. The friendly morning roar died as everyone watched her saunter to a table by the window. She could feel the coolness pervading the café as its patrons drank in her presence. Finally Darlene walked over to her table and asked, "Whatcha want honey?"
Ann took a deep breath and whispered, "A new life maybe?"
Darlene said, "What?" and Ann shook herself. "I'm sorry Darlene. I know you're busy and don't need me crying all over myself here. Just coffee and a half order of Biscuits and Gravy please."
Darlene brought the coffee and a glass of water on her return trip. She looked at Ann a minute the pressed her lips together. After a moment she said in a kinder voice, "Some of us heard what you said to Vicky last night. Jack had to tell us what you told her at Edward's wedding. You blew it with Jim real bad honey. They don't come no better than him but you hang in there. Things'll get better if ya let 'em."
Ann looked up at Darlene in surprise then whispered, "Thanks. You can't know how badly I hurt knowing I let Jim down and lost him. I miss him more and more every day and I know I'll never feel his arms around me again. I feel like my whole insides are torn out but he does deserve better than me. When I see the way he looks at Victoria I cry inside again. I remember when he used to look at me that way. Sometimes I just want to die."
The noise level in the café slowly picked up as the patrons returned to the conversations they had interrupted when Ann came through the door. Ann was working on her third cup of coffee and enjoying her breakfast when the noise level dropped off once again. She looked up and wanted to sink through the floor. Jim and Vicky were coming through the door. They were the last persons she wanted to see this morning!
Vicky got through the door and Jim placed his hand in the small of her back to guide her to a table. Neither of them had seen her yet. Jim stood and surveyed the room to pick their table when his eyes lit on her. Vicky must have seen or felt him start because Ann heard her ask, "What Honey?" as she glanced back at him.
When she saw the direction he was looking Vicky followed his gaze to her. Ann blushed then wished she could sink into the floor when Vicky walked toward her table. When she arrived Vicky asked, "Ann could we sit with you today?"
Ann saw the look of surprise flash across Jim's face and tried to decide what to do. Finally she just nodded her head and said, "Uhhh I guess if you're sure you want to."
Vicky pulled out the chair across from Ann and sat. Jim stood a moment then, with a resigned sigh, he sat beside his new wife. Jim immediately buried his nose in the menu. That was obviously a ploy to ignore the situation because the menu hadn't changed in 5 years. Jim and everyone else knew exactly what the choices were.
Vicky looked at Ann a moment then with a sigh she said, "Ann if we make you uncomfortable we can leave but you look like you could use some company. I'm sure we neither one want you to have any more pain. You did Jim wrong and you paid the price. Now it's time to let it go and live the rest of your life."
Ann looked at Vicky and said, "I know Vicky. I woke up this morning lying across my bed in the same clothes I wore last night. When I was cleaning up this morning I told myself much the same thing. But it's so hard. I just can't make myself leave town. All my family and what few friends I have left are here. My whole life has centered on this town. Even when we were away in the service I felt drawn to this area. It's my home and yet I am an outsider now. I know other women and men have done things like I have and continued on but this is me now and I just don't know what to do. It hurts so much when I walk down the street and see people turn away from me. People I used to have call me a friend. I just don't know what to do now!"
Vicky put her hand over Ann's and said, "You just live Ann. You go through it a day at a time and try to show you're the same person and you have the same values you had before. You rebuild your life on the foundation you have left like I did when David died. My children and friends picked me up and kicked my ass until I started living again."
The noise in the café picked up again when they saw there would be no excitement at the window table. It was obvious a few of the customers were discussing Jim, his wife and his ex wife now instead of their original topic. No one interfered with the three though.
Ann stayed until Jim and Vicky finished their breakfast. They even visited some. All three were careful in their conversation but they did talk. At first they talked about Jim and Ann's two boys, their careers and their wives. They all thought Edward's wedding was tastefully done and they loved Mandy. This built a base for the two women to come together on.
Over the next few weeks, Vicky and Ann would meet in town as Ann began getting out more. Sometimes the two women would have coffee in the window of the café while Jim sat at another table and talked with the men. They never became close friends but they did have enough in common that they could visit. As the rest of the regulars saw Vicky visiting with Ann they became less wary of her and welcomed her into their conversations more easily.
Sometimes Jim would come to the café without Vicky. If Ann were there he would say good morning to her. If either of them had a new letter or e-mail from one of their children they would bring it and share. They would sometimes laugh about the news the children sent in the letters. Sometimes they would be worried or upset and would allay each other's fears.
As the other patrons saw the acceptance Jim and Ann had of each other they began to invite Ann to sit in on their conversations even if Jim and Vicky weren't present. Slowly Ann became a welcome member of the community again. One day Sam followed Ann from the café and when she was about to get into her car he said, "Ann we been talking off and on for weeks now. I kinda enjoy your company and I was wonderin' if you would like to go to the dance with me Friday night?"
Ann stood in shock for a moment and felt her eyes water. "Sam, I...Uhhh, I don't know. I don't get out much and I'm afraid I might not be to good of company."
"Well, if you don't want to dance maybe we could just go to the dinner before it? If you don't want to stay for the dance I could take ya home after."
Ann wasn't real fond of Sam but she did like him. Finally she said, "Ok Sam. We can go."
The night of the dance Ann dressed western and waited on Sam on pins and needles. When he finally showed up he was thirty minutes late and offered no explanation. Sam smelled strongly of alcohol and Ann almost told him to go back home she was so upset. Ann had nothing against taking a drink or two but she was worried about Sam for some reason. She finally decided she did need to get out so said nothing. Besides, she thought; some of the other people she had been building friendships with might be at the dance.
From the moment she got into Sam's truck Ann was worried her decision to go with him had been a mistake. After the doors closed she was sure he had more than one drink before picking her up. His driving was erratic and he kept calling her honey and other terms of endearment that she felt were inappropriate for their relationship. They finally arrived at the dance and Sam hit the curb so hard his truck popped up on the sidewalk. He didn't even back up, just turned it off and said, "Well darling, here we are. Let's go cut a rug."
Ann followed Sam into the room and was disappointed he didn't even open the door for her. Sam was five feet ahead of Ann when they walked into the room. When he was inside he yelled out, "OK everyone, here we are. Let's get this party started."
Sam turned back and took her arm then led Ann to the buffet line. He never asked her what she wanted. He told the servers what to put on each plate then after he paid he handed Ann the tray and said, "Here ya go honey. Let's go find a good table." And walked off into the crowd. Twice while they were dining Sam left the table and went outside. When he came back he smelled strongly of alcohol.
Finally the meal was finished. Sam took a last sip of coffee and grabbed Ann's hand. He pulled her toward the dance floor. Ann said, "No Sam. I don't think I want to dance. You said we could just have supper and go home if I wanted to. I really think that's what we should do."
Sam said, "Oh no honey. We need to dance a little while anyway. We can go home after a couple of dances if you still want to." He pulled Ann to himself and began dragging her around the floor. It was obvious he didn't know any dance moves. He was like most of the men present and just tried to move a little with the music. Ann put up with this for one song. When the second song started and Sam held her tightly to himself she got her arms between them and forced herself out of his grasp.
Sam reached out for her again and Ann forcefully said, "No. Stop it Sam. I don't want to dance with you any more. I just want to go home."
Sam's face turned red and he said, "You fucking tease. You can play around with those city slickers like that Brice feller but all you do is lead us good ole boys on. When it comes to dancin' with us you think you're too good for us don't you? I don't need your crap. You can walk home if you want to go home so bad. I came here to dance and have fun and that's what I'm a gonna do."
Sam turned and walked away from Ann. He asked three other women to dance and they all turned him down. With a glare at Ann he turned and walked out the door.
Ann just stood there with tears running down her cheeks. She hadn't been this embarrassed or hurt when she had been publicly served divorce papers after Jim found out about her and Brice. Darlene came up and gently led Ann to the ladies room and helped her clean up.
When they were alone Darlene said, "Annie I'm so sorry. I didn't know Sam had asked you to go out with him. If I had I would have warned you. Mostly he's a good guy but he thinks he should start drinking early Friday night and go through Sunday. When he drinks he turns into an asshole. None of us women will bother going out with him. You probably noticed we don't have much to do with him through the week either. His drinking cost him his marriage and family. Now it's costing him his friends. We just didn't think to warn you about him."
Darlene led Ann back into the room and had her sit at a table with her and three other women. They all began telling stories about Sam and some of the other people present. Before long Ann was laughing. They even told her about Jim's little affair with Doris. Ann thought it was funny and at the same time she felt sorry for him.
Near the end of the evening after Ann had relaxed somewhat she began accepting dances with some of the other men. She even began to enjoy herself. Finally the evening ended and Ann realized she had no way home. She was standing outside the Senior Center trying to decide what to do when Harriet stopped her car and rolled down the window. "Honey you came here with Sam didn't ya? I saw your tussle with him and I bet you got no way home do ya?"
Ann looked at her then shook her head no. Harriet said, "Well, c'mon get in. I live out your way and I guess I can take a neighbor home in an emergency." Ann hesitated and then walked around and got into the car.
When the car started moving Ann turned to Harriet and said, "Thank you. I was trying to decide whether I had to guts to call Jim and Vicky for help or what I was going to do. I just can't believe that Bastard did that to me."
Harriet just laughed and said, "Oh, don't let it bother ya too much. Most all of us've had a run it with Sam at some time or another. Heck, even a lot of the fellers've learned to stand shy of Sam."
By the time they got to her house Ann decided she liked Harriet and invited her in for some coffee. She was pleasantly surprised when Harriet agreed. They visited until nearly 130 a.m. before Harriet left for her home.
Ann was so embarrassed she almost didn't go into the café for coffee Saturday morning. In the end she decided what the hell she hadn't done anything wrong and went. She was pleasantly surprised when some of the regulars stopped by her table and told her they were sorry for her trouble with Sam. One man in particular seemed more upset with Sam than she was. She remembered dancing with him a time or two the night before. She saw him a lot in the café too. What was his name? Oh, yes. George.
George stopped again at her table on his way out. He hesitated then sat down and leaned with his arms on the table. He looked at Ann and said, "Ann, I'm darn sorry about your trouble last night. I was going to offer you a ride home but I saw you getting into Harriet's car. I wanted to talk to you some more but I was just too darn slow."
Ann blushed and replied, "Thank you George. I remember we danced and I enjoyed it. I really didn't want to go with Sam but everyone has been telling me I need to get on with my life. He seemed OK when we talked in here so I told him I would. I almost didn't go after he got to my house because he was late and had been drinking. He wasn't acting very nice but I let him talk me into it. I want to thank you and I intend to thank everyone else for their kindness last night."
"Heck, don't worry about it. I enjoyed the dances and conversation. Well I guess I better get to work. I'll see ya later Ann." George said as he rose and walked off.
Two weeks later Ann took herself to the dance and during one of the bands breaks asked if she could use the microphone. She got up onto the stage and said, "Could I have everyone's attention?"
When the noise died down and most of the people turned toward her Ann began speaking. She said, "Many of you know me and what I've done. I grew up in this town and love it like most of you do. I know I've done things you don't approve of. I did things I am deeply ashamed of. Some of you have accepted me back into your lives. Some of you still don't want anything to do with me. I understand why and that's your right. I do want to say Thank You to all of you tonight though. Thank you for letting me try to rebuild my life. Most of all though, I want to say thank you to those who were so nice to me two weeks ago here at the dance. You all deserve a special thank you. I was totally shocked by what happened and I don't know what I would have done without your kindness and understanding."
Ann put the mike down and walked back to the table she was sharing with Harriet, Darlene and some of their friends. She seemed embarrassed when most of the dancers applauded.
When the next song began Ann felt a presence behind her and a finger grazed her shoulder. A hand landed on the back of her chair. George bent down and said, "Ann would you please dance with me?"
Ann started to say no, then just nodded her head yes. George held his hand out and Ann took it. He led her to the floor and to her surprise he turned out to be a better dancer than she remembered. They danced the whole set away and she found herself relaxing and enjoying herself.
When he took her back to her table George pulled up a chair and began talking. He did talk to the other women there but it was obvious he was focused on Ann. Before she knew it the dance was ending at midnight. Ann drove home in a fog remembering the night. She had danced with three other men but the only dances she could remember were with George.
Saturday morning George came into the café after Ann. When he saw her sitting alone he grinned and made a beeline for her table. As was the custom he just pulled out a chair and sat. Darlene brought his coffee without asking. She looked at them and asked, "Ya havin' breakfast or just coffee?"
Ann said, "Just the coffee Darlene."
George said, "Well girl I worked up an appetite last night and I got a big day ahead of me today. Bring me a Denver omelet, hash browns, and toast please."
While they were waiting for George's breakfast he said, "Ann I had fun last night. I had more fun that I ever had at one of them dances. I'd really like it if you would go with me to the next one. If you wanted we could even have dinner someplace else first? Could we do that?"
Ann sat in shock. Could George be asking her for a date? If he was did she want to go with him? George looked at Ann and a worried look came over his face. He said, "Annie I didn't want to upset you. I just had so much fun the other night I wanted to do it again with you. I don't want to bother you any. Let's just forget it OK?"
Ann looked at George's face and saw the disappointment written on it. All at once she realized she did want to go with George. She said, "No George we won't forget it unless you changed your mind and don't want to go with me any more. I was just surprised you would want to go with me considering my reputation and what happened with Sam. I think I would like to go with you. As far as the meal goes, whatever you want. We can eat at the dance, here or anywhere else you want to go. Surprise me."
George grinned and his whole face lit up when Ann agreed to go with him. He just looked into her eyes and said, "Thank you Ann. I'll look forward to it." For the rest of his meal they made small talk and for the life of her Ann couldn't remember what they had said after she got home.
Finally the day of the dance came around and Ann decided to wear a dress this time. She took extra pains with her make up and wore a knee length blue gingham dress with a full skirt. She felt her efforts were worth it when she opened the door for George. He stood stock-still and stared at her. He made a visible effort to talk but only said, "Damn Woman. Ya look good enuf to eat."
Ann dimpled and said, "Thank you kind sir. And speaking of eating, am I dressed appropriately for where we are going to dine?"