Ghosts & Shadows Pt. 05byDanielQSteele1©
PRECEDE: Hugh Davidson is a 50-ish Jacksonville banker who had what he thought was the perfect 36-year-old marriage with Mary. Until he discovers her six-month affair with a younger Chicago education official in 2007. After Mary confesses to the affair, Hugh walks out on her and she flies to Chicago to live with her lover and divorces Hugh. For the next two years she refuses all communication with her ex and it is only through their children that he discovers she has broken up with the lover and fled from Chicago to San Francisco. Except for one brief meeting with Mary, the two do not see each other until their daughter Nicole is severely injured when hit by a runaway New York cab in 2009. (Ed Note - My editor curiouss continues to do superb work in editing and cleaning up my prose. Any mistakes are on my head).
USUALLY, YOU HAVE TO DIE FIRST
"Usually you have to be dead before you start haunting people, but then, I guess I've been dead to you for at least two years."
She was standing beside me looking out into the darkness of early morning New York.
"Your face is the first thing I see when I wake in the morning and it's the last thing I see when I close my eyes at night. For two years! Every day! Every night! Drunk or sober, I can't get you out of my head. I thought after I left Richard that maybe fucking other guys would do it, so I tried, but it's like you're a monster from some horror movie. You keep coming back."
"None of this is my fault."
"I know, that's what makes it so bad. If only you had cheated on me first. I'd still feel like shit, but...no, not you, Hugh. You've been a straight arrow for 36 years. I was the one who became a slut and betrayed everything I ever believed in, everything I ever cherished."
I didn't say anything.
"You could at least argue with me."
"When you're right, you're right."
"Lest you get too self righteous, Elaine cried when she came to my office to ask me to give you up. She really cared for you."
I wouldn't look at her.
"It wasn't the same."
"You sent her sexy emails and flowers and made out with her in your Mercedes in her apartment complex parking lot. She told me she let you suck on her breasts and finger her to a climax. You let her suck you but, when you got close, you pushed her away and said you had to go. Then you called her the next day and told her you had to go away for business. That was the trip you made to Atlanta that weekend. "When you came back, you kept avoiding her and finally told her over the phone that you'd made a mistake and you couldn't go any further. You broke that poor girl's heart. Did you know that? She really cared for you. But you didn't have the balls to do what you got her set up for, did you?"
"No, I guess I didn't."
I watched her features shimmer in the moonlight on the glass. I had gone two years without a word from her, and now we were talking like two bitter exes. It was hard to believe.
"I knew I was hurting her but...I didn't have the...I don't know. I couldn't do it. I wanted to but I couldn't. I kept seeing your face in my mind when you found out, like I knew you would. And...!"
"I knew it would be like eating one Lays Potato Chip. I know you remember that commercial. I knew if I did it one time, that first time...if I came in her mouth, if I pounded into that hot, very tight young pussy of hers, I'd never be able to make myself not do it a second time. Then I'd be lost, I'd lose you."
I couldn't resist, even though I knew it was unfair since I knew now that she knew.
"So, I gave up that hot sweet young ass for you, and guess what...I lost you anyway."
"She came to me to ask me to give you up. She thought if I'd give you a divorce you'd give in to your burning love for her. She was already planning on two children and a home in Baymeadows. When I told her you were just going through your typical male midlife crisis, that's when she started crying, and she really started bawling when I told her about that blonde waitress from Hooters that you'd been seeing before her."
I turned from the images in the glass to look down at her. She was nearly 60, but she could have passed for mid 40s. How did she do it?
"But I didn't fuck her, or the blonde from Hooters, or the Ad exec from Channel 4 that I went out with three times when you were away. I didn't fuck any of them. I was wrong and I was stupid and I owe you apologies for every time I did something that a husband shouldn't do, but I never fucked any of them. I never crossed that line. I wanted to, but I could never make myself, because I loved you, and I wasn't willing to lose you, to lose us."
"And I was! I was the bad one. I threw everything away. I know it."
We stood in silence together. Finally she sighed.
"I'm glad you tracked me down to that bathroom. It was so exhausting hiding from you."
"Why, why hide? We got divorced, it happens. You cheated on me. It hurt but a lot of women do that and a lot of men. Why the disappearing act?"
"I couldn't stand the thought of what it would be like to face you again. I kept seeing the look on your face, when I told you -- about him. I felt like I wanted to turn into ash and blow away. I never wanted to see that look in your eyes again. There was nothing I could do to make it better. I couldn't ask you to forgive me, I couldn't forgive myself. I just wanted to pretend that you had ceased to exist."
"You did a good job."
"Do you think she'll be alright?"
"I don't know. Wallinsky is supposed to be very good and, like he said, she's a fighter. I have to believe she'll pull through."
"She's your daughter, Hugh. I believe she will."
We stared back out at the lights of the city that never went out. She wrapped her arms around herself as if she were cold.
"You know what I hate the most, I mean, besides the fact that we're here and she is in that hospital bed?"
"No, I don't know you anymore, Mary. I can't read you anymore."
"Any other couple, no matter how much they might have hurt each other, no matter how bitter their divorce, they could still hold each other. They could wrap their arms around each other and be strong for each other, but I know you couldn't stand my touch, and I couldn't stand the look on your face if I tried to touch you."
When I didn't say anything she lowered her hands to her side and stepped back and away from the window.
"At least now we won't have to slip around each other. We can be here for her. Even if you never get over hating me, at least we can be together for her and I can face you."
She walked toward the hallway that led to their bedroom. I'd already put my things in the guest bedroom.
"I'll sleep in their bedroom tonight. I'll see you in a few hours. Goodnight, Hugh."
She stopped before she entered the hallway.
"'Goodnight', that sounds so funny, so strange, after two years. I never thought I'd say it again."
There was a wistful tone in her voice, but I knew that had to be wishful thinking on my part.
Wallinsky's crew pulled in the next day, as did Peter and his family. When Peter and Marlena walked in, having dropped Austin off with Simon's mother, and saw Mary and me both in the waiting room, they just stared at us for a moment. I shook my head and they didn't ask any questions.
About 3 p.m., I stepped out for a bite to eat and to get some fresh air.
Peter walked out after me.
"You aren't going to tell me what's going on?"
"There's not much to tell. Your mother and I, we had a talk! She's not hiding any more."
"And nothing. Nothing else has changed, Peter, except that we can be in the same room at the same time, but that's enough."
It really was enough! We didn't talk much, but we could talk. Once in a while I'd look over at her and she'd be bent over talking to Peter or Simon and I could make out the swell of that ass in a dress or jeans, or the curve of her breast through her blouse, or the graceful curve of her neck under the thick, chestnut-brown hair that seemed as rich as it had when she was 23.
For a second I could forget and feel the tightening in my crotch as I remembered the feel of her skin under my hands. Somehow, with that ESP that long-married couples develop, she would look up. I'd see it in her eyes, that look she'd given me long ago when she told me about spending all those nights with Richard Kelly. Somehow she'd sense it, see it in my eyes, and drop her gaze.
So we moved around each other carefully, but Nicole improved every hour. On the third day she opened her eyes and recognized the people around her bed in her private room - in a section where there were no private beds, until Gail had asked for one.
She looked at her mother and me, standing together in front of her. We didn't touch, but we stood together.
The left side of her face was swathed in bandages from her scalp to her chin. They had shaved all the hair off her head, but I had never seen anything more beautiful when she opened her eyes and tried to smile.
Wallinsky and an assortment of doctors stood around her bed observing her. In a group of medical prima-donnas, Wallinsky unconsciously took control.
"The brain scans are looking very good," he said to Simon, but speaking loud enough that the entire family could hear him. "We won't know for sure until she's speaking and we can run tests, but I don't believe she'll suffer any substantial or long-lasting mental impairment. We were able to save both her left leg and arm, although she'll require several surgeries on both and probably she'll need rehab for six months to a year. She'll never run in a marathon again but, I understand she hadn't run in any recently, anyway."
He smiled at us - doctor humor!
"She will likely have some facial scarring, but I think we can save the muscles in the cheek. In a year or two it's likely you won't be able to tell there was any damage, unless you know what to look for."
Simon and Peter were crying. I didn't realize Mary was in my arms until she was. I couldn't push her away, at least for a minute or so. Then I did.
She wiped her eyes.
"Tell Gail that I owe her big time. More than I can ever repay her. Maybe, someday..."
I stayed another two days and we were very careful never to touch again. I flew back commercially after I'd had time to visit with and talk with Nicole privately. I told her what had happened and that I'd be back, in a few weeks, for a weekend.
I walked back into Gail's office and told her what had happened, although we'd spoken regularly by phone.
"I'm happy, Hugh. I'm also happy that you were able to, talk with Mary."
"People talk. Is there any chance...?"
"No, there's no cold war anymore. We're just two divorced people now but, I can't forgive, or forget. She betrayed me, Gail. She came from his bed and lived a lie with me. I can't...get close to her again. I still love her but I could never trust her again. Still, I don't...I don't wish her ill. Let her live her life in New York, or the West Coast and I'll live mine here."
And I did.
Life went on. As the year drew to a close, the Hunt Bank stood solid, but we were bleeding too. Nobody stands untouched when the economy around them is crumbling. We cut our personnel and cut more banks. Gail worked longer hours, we all did. It got grim. Because we lived in a world of money, we saw what was happening more clearly than your average civilian.
We were going to be able to keep our heads above water. Unless the entire U.S. economy sank, we'd survive but it wasn't going to be any fun. It got to be less and less fun as the year drew to a close. I don't know why, but it seemed to affect Gail more than the rest of us.
Perhaps it was because she'd always been the 'Princess in the Glass Tower'. She had lived a fairy tale existence, provided by a doting grandfather. She'd probably needed it after what happened to her mother and father. The Old Man hadn't been able to replace them in her life, but he'd loved her as much as any human being could. Then she'd met Robert Sandler in high school, and he had loved her as much or more than her grandfather.
So, she was incredibly rich, incredibly smart, incredibly lucky in love and business and able to play with hundreds of millions of dollars, business plans and long-range forecasts.
She didn't have to fire people, close businesses or tell people that, in effect, their lives were over. That was my job and the job of people like me. She didn't hang out with poor people, or desperate people, or hurting people. She lived in a bubble.
As somebody once said, the rich are different. I was wealthy enough to know the difference between rich and Gail's kind of people. She was human enough to bleed from the end of her marriage but that was the only time reality forced its way into her world.
Eventually though, the stench of failure and desperation and the sheer ruthlessness that we had to engage in seemed finally to get to her. There were too many nights that she sat in her office, when everyone but myself and a few others had left, staring at a computer screen and sipping various liquors.
There were nights I'd come in just before leaving, she and I the last people in the bank, except for the cleaning crews, and find her sleeping with her face in financial papers. I would awake her, walk her to my car and make sure her servants put her to bed. Those nights she was too drunk to argue with me.
It was late November. I'd flown to New York to spend Thanksgiving with Simon and Nicole. She was out of the hospital and, while she still had surgeries to come, was able to get around with crutches. Peter and Marlena had flown in this year -- because of what had happened -- and when I got there I also found Mary waiting.
It was the first time we'd been together as a family in nearly three years. I thought it would be worse than it was. Mary and I could be around each other now, but I wasn't sure how it would work with the family.
Could we all ignore the elephant in the center of the room and tiptoe around her infidelity and our divorce and separation and, I hoped, my almost-infidelities of ten years earlier?
I didn't think she'd ever told the kids and I hoped she hadn't while we'd been apart. I wouldn't appear quite the noble, suffering, hero if they had known I'd been fingering young women to climaxes without Mary's knowledge. Still, I kept telling myself, I hadn't fucked them, and I hadn't fucked them for six months while lying to my wife.
Happily, the Thanksgiving period passed without mishap. The next week I was back to work.
Came Friday night and we had wrapped up work. Gail was making preparations to go out. From her secretary I knew where she was going and was pretty sure she was going to go to a private club with one of her walking vibrators, take him home and fuck him. Unfortunately she would wind up feeling lonelier in the morning than she had the night before. I knew the feeling. Sometimes friendship is better than hot sex, hard as that may be to believe.
I had talked to Percy and Bobby and they had already cleared their schedules. I arranged to meet them there. A few minutes after 5 p.m., I poked my head into Gail's office. She sat back in her chair, her back to me, staring into a desktop computer screen. It had gone blank while she tapped her fingers on the desk.
"Nothing special Hugh, just...wrapping up things. Then I'll have Billy pull my car around and I'll go out with a - friend - for some drinks. A quiet night - guess I'm getting old."
"You're still a child and I've already sent Billy home with the Rolls."
She turned to face me, surprise on her face.
"You did what?"
"I sent Billy home with the Rolls, told him to park it and take the rest of the night off."
"We're going out tonight. You and me and a group of the guys and their better halves."
She shook her head.
"You don't have to do that, Hugh. I wouldn't be good company tonight."
"That's why we're going out and you're not giving me any arguments. Remember, it's 'Uncle Hugh' talking."
So we pulled out of the bank parking lot in my Mercedes and I wouldn't answer any of her questions as we left the downtown and headed south on 17, until we crossed over onto the Wild Westside and then I turned on the side street that led to the big barn-like structure that took up a good chunk of a block.
"O'Brien's," she said, when she realized where we were headed, "Of all the places! If you'd told me we were headed for a low-rent saloon I'd have dressed better."
I laughed at her.
"It's not Ponte Vedra, or the Club at Avondale, but it's what you need right now, Gail. You need a honky-tonk where you can strut your stuff, get a lot of young guys real horny, we can all get drunk and Percy and Bobby can clear out a saloon. They haven't gotten into a real brawl in years. I think we all need it."
HOT TIMES AT O'BRIEN'S
It was jumping by the time we got there. I'd called ahead and asked the owner, a former professional boxer named O'Brien, if he could save a spot for me and he'd promised there would be a table or two when we got there.
Of course, some urban cowboys had spotted the tables, brushed off the objections of the waitresses trying to hold it for us and were sitting and being obnoxious when we walked in. Normally, O'Brien would have cleared them out, but he had his hands full with a catfight between two ladies over some guy in the back and the three cowboys were sitting leaned back in our chairs and drinking Longnecks.
Percy, Bobby, Percy's boyfriend and Chauvonne stood at one of the tables, looking at the cowboys with their store-bought Western duds but not saying anything.
As Gail and I walked up, I heard one of the bigger cowboys tell Percy, "No saving spots in O'Brien's sweetheart, everybody knows that. Why don't you and your girlfriend head downtown! There's a really NICE queer bar down there. Take the nigger and his bitch with you too, unless you want to get hurt."
Then he looked at Gail and me.
"Grandpa, you can sit on the other side of the table, if you'll let Big-Titty come over and sit down with us. What about it, darling? You look like you could, really, really use a real man right now. Been awhile, hasn't it?"
Gail looked at him and an evil grin spread across her beautiful features.
"There's a real man around here? Where? I could use a good night's hard fucking, but all I see are three candy ass punks that couldn't keep it up long enough to satisfy a high school girl, much less a woman. Can you even get hard?"
That's when the fun began.
Percy threw the biggest one across the bar, which was a considerable feat seeing as how it was 10 feet away. His friend hit Percy from the back and knocked him down. He couldn't have held him down, except the cowboys weren't alone and two more dived onto his back. Then Percy's friend dived in, and he was no small man.
The cowboy who'd insulted Bobby stood up and, in the same motion, threw his beer bottle at Bobby, who moved without realizing Chauvonne was behind him. The beer bottle hit with a solid 'thunk' and she went down holding her mouth. Bobby took one look, screamed and climbed over the table and began trying to beat the cowboy to death.
Another two cowboys jumped Bobby but all they did was to slow down the process of Bobby killing him.
"Oh, shit," I said, pushing Gail out of the way, and wading into the mess on the floor that was Bobby and three and now four of the cowboys and their friends. Like I said, I work out and stay in shape, and I'd boxed in the Army and then in the Police Athletic League for a few years when the Hunt Bank provided 95 percent of its funding.
The first cowboy I pulled off Bobby had a glass jaw. A straight right to the jaw sent him to the floor and he didn't even move again. The second one was a little tougher, but after I buried the point of my shoe into his balls, he lay down and didn't want any more.