It Was Just Sex, Honey Ch. 03byNight Scribe©
Gentle reader: I urge you to read or review chapters one and two. This chapter will be easier to understand if you do. Small portions of the previous chapter will be included in this one.
Three years have passed since Paul walked out on his marriage of three years to Gail. Fate has not been kind but he is starting to put his life back together. I pick up the story with Paul and his boss talking ….
“Well, are we ready for ‘em tonight, Paul?”
“I believe we are, Mr. Miller. I can’t think of a thing we’ve missed.”
“Great! See you at six, sharp.”
That was Jim Miller, my boss. I’ve worked for him for almost two years. As bosses go, he was one of the best. His company sold meat to restaurants. I was currently number two on his totem pole of salesmen. If everything went as planned, I would soon be number one. We were going to wine and dine the owner of a very large chain of restaurants. A successful feast tonight would result in a contract worth several million dollars over the next five years. Everything had been done to insure success. I had made arrangements for our client and his four district managers to have dinner with us at the most extravagant restaurant in the city. I had reserved a large private booth that had an excellent view of the live entertainment. Our waiter only had one table to take care of, ours.
It was a little after nine when fateful event number one happened.
A place on the table was cleared, the contract spread out before us, and signatures were carefully written at the bottom. Toasts were made and we helped our five guests into a waiting limousine. They had a five o’clock flight the next morning, which meant they had to be at the airport by three thirty. Jim was in a celebratory mood and insisted we go back in and patronize the bar.
I had just finished my first non-alcoholic drink when fateful event number two struck.
SHE walked in! No! It couldn’t be, but it was. It was HER! I hadn’t seen GAIL for three years. What was SHE doing here?
“Good God, Paul! You’ve turned white as a sheet! Are you alright?”
“I … I … I’ve got to leave.”
It’s a damn good thing I was sitting on a stool and had the bar to lean on. I would have gone straight to the floor if I had been standing. Gail, beautiful Gail with long blonde hair and sky-blue eyes. The long flowing dinner-dress was well filled out up front with a slight flair at the hips. Damn! As glamorous as that dress was, she made it look better.
Thankfully, she was with a group of people, all fashionably dressed. I had to get out of there, now! I tried to stand and walk to the door before she saw me. I don’t think I would have made it if Jim hadn’t helped me. Insisting that I looked too sick to drive, Jim put me in his car and drove me home.
Jim, being the caring boss he is, helped me into my apartment. I managed to convince him that I would be okay and persuaded him to leave. I wanted to hide. I wanted to crawl into a hole and pull it closed behind me. How was I going to deal with this? I couldn’t face her. It would be too painful. Lying on my bed, curled up in a ball, the memories came flooding back. Memories I had tried to forget.
I hadn’t seen Gail since I walked out on her. Beautiful, caring, loving, Gail. Every man’s dream. The perfect woman. The perfect wife. The perfect lover. I had destroyed it. Yes, me. It was my fault and my fault alone. I was the reason my marriage had failed. I knew that now. Back then? Well, I was a different man then.
I had been an arrogant, self-centered, egotistical, over-bearing, womanizing jerk. I wasn’t like that now. I wasn’t sure just what I was but I wasn’t the same man now as I had been then. She gave me a wake-up call. She gave me every chance to change. She offered me whatever kind of life I wanted but I threw it all away. I made the biggest mistake in my life and walked out. Away from her. Away from the best thing that had ever happened to me.
Oh, damn! I was just getting my life together. I thought I was over her but I was wrong. I was in love with her. That’s something I had never told her. I had never said, “I love you.” I had never told her how much I cared. The man I had been back then couldn’t have said that. As for the man I am now, well, I’m not sure what I would say.
Three years ago, Saturday, nine thirty in the morning, I left with two suitcases and an attitude. The following Thursday night, I had the living shit beat out of me by four extremely jealous husbands. I had been screwing the wives of two of our satellite store managers and the wives of two other store employees. Four stores, four cities, four wives and four days in the hospital. It took me over four weeks to recover.
The last thing I remember one of the men saying before I passed out was, “Leave the country. If we ever see you again, we’ll kill you.” My boss visited me the second day of my hospital stay. He handed me my termination papers and my final paycheck. I was discharged from the hospital about ten in the morning of my forth day and by two in the afternoon, I was on a bus headed for parts unknown.
Several bus changes and a thousand miles later, I was in a large city and my money was almost gone. I managed to find a cheap, filthy room to rent on a weekly basis and started living in a bottle. It was there, at the bottom of a bottle, that I realized what a fool I was.
I envy those who know when they are in love. It was different for me. I had never experienced love. There had never been love when I was growing up and love had never been necessary with the numerous girlfriends I had experienced during and after college. Then, drunk, crying my eyes out, sitting on a curb in front of some no name bar, I realized I was in love with my wife. I had walked out on the best thing that had ever happened to me.
The suitcases and my clothes went to a second-hand store for more booze. I was kicked out of my room and started living in the alleys of skid row. It was there, in the alleys of skid row that I met Bear. I had no idea what his real name was. He was big, black as the ace of spades, about six foot four and probably weighted around two seventy-five. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on him. Bear owned the roughest bar in the city. It was also a place where, if you were really hungry, you could choke down a hamburger. There was always a poker game or two going on in the back room and there were some rooms upstairs where the street girls could take their clients, for a price, of course. Bear, never one to pass up an opportunity, put me to work. I swept floors, washed dishes, took out the trash, kept the bar stocked from the storage room, mopped vomit and blood from the floors, and did every other menial task he could think of. As a token of his generosity, he gave me a cot in one of the storage rooms to sleep on and a place where I could drown my sorrows in cheap booze.
I spent almost a year with Bear.
He came in late one night after closing, actually it was early in the A.M. and caught me crying in my booze. I had managed to keep a large envelope of personal stuff. In it were some of my wedding pictures, my wedding ring and my copy of the divorce papers. I hadn’t looked at any of it since I walked away that Saturday morning. That’s when I found out how much Gail had really loved me.
Paperclipped to the back of the divorce papers was a checkbook, with my name printed in the header. It was the old joint account Gail and I had shared when we were married.
Bear sat down on the end of my cot and asked me just what in the hell was so bad that I had to cry about it almost every night.
It all came pouring out. My college days. The easy girls. Meeting Gail. And finally, how I had done everything possible to fuck over a good woman and fuck up a good marriage.
He woke me early the next morning. He handed me a large paper bag and told me to go upstairs to one of the rooms and clean myself up. I was surprised at what was in the bag. Razor, tooth brush, comb, soap, toothpaste, and deodorant. New socks, shoes, blue jeans, and three white T-shirts. Embroidered on the pocket of each shirt was the name, “Bear’s Bar.”
I came down looking and smelling a lot better.
He told me he was promoting me to bartender and his bartenders weren’t allowed to drink, either on or off duty.
A trip to the bank later that morning reveled I indeed had a checking account, with a balance of ten thousand dollars. I had no idea why Gail left that money for me. Maybe it was her way of saying goodbye. I told Bear and he said to save it until I was ready and then use it to start a new life. I learned a lot about life my last three months with him.
Bear had a complaint about a shipment of hamburger. He was so persistent that Mr. Miller himself came down to investigate. To make a long story short, I was working for Jim Miller two weeks later. Falling completely out of character, Bear shook my hand and wished me well. I still stop by a couple of times a month to visit with Bear. I drink Coke and he drinks Pepsi. I still didn’t know what his real name was.
I used the money in the checking account to lease a nice one-bedroom apartment in one of the better apartment complexes close to where I would be working. A trip to one of the cheaper men’s stores resulted in the purchase of three new suits. I managed to find an eight-year-old car that was still in decent shape.
After my first year with Mr. Miller, I found myself with two weeks of vacation. I used it to go home to visit my father.
He was drunk and cussing women, just like I remembered him. I think he was the beginning of my problems. Dad hated women. Oh, he liked to fuck them but he couldn’t stand them the rest of the time. I spent one night there and then started trying to find my mother.
Mom left the night of my twelfth birthday. I had asked her to do something and she had said no. I complained to dad as soon as he got home. He informed her that I was becoming a man now and she was to do as I said. I went to sleep that night with them still arguing in the kitchen.
The first thing dad said to me the next morning was, “She’s gone and good riddance.”
There was a parade of women after that. Some would spend the night. A few stayed for a week or so and one actually put up with us for two months. As dad said, “All women are bitches. All they’re fit for is a good fuck. Never, ever, let one tell you what to do, son. Keep ‘em in their place, or they’ll try to run your life for you.” He raised me to think and act just like him. I guess I shouldn’t have listened.
Driving away from the house, I didn’t feel one bit sorry for him.
It took several days to find mom. She had remarried. I spent a week with her. Her husband was easy-going and seemed like a real nice guy. Mom and I had several long talks. I told her about my life, from the time she left until I started working for Mr. Miller. She was sympathetic but didn’t make any excuses for me. It was then that I discovered dad had threatened to kill her if she didn’t leave.
Looking back, I wish she could have taken me with her. I might have turned out better. I still call her every other week and we have some good conversations.
Thinking about the last three years of my life had totally depressed me. I managed to get to sleep about five and woke up about nine. I still felt miserable. A half an hour in the bathroom made me look better but I was still feeling rotten inside. I called a cab and went to retrieve my car. I couldn’t help but notice the large sign in front of a hotel across the street from the restaurant as we pulled into the parking lot.
“Welcome! American Writers Association Awards Banquet at 7:00 P.M.”
Well, now I knew what Gail was doing here. Her third romance novel sold more copies than her first two combined. Then, after two years, her forth book hit the racks. It was on the top ten best sellers’ list for several months. It was number one on the romance list for twelve weeks in a row, and number one on the thriller list for eight weeks in a row. That wasn’t bad. Nope, not bad at all.
It was too little, too late, but I read all of her books a few months ago. The first three were good, but the last one; well, it was art. I had no idea that words on paper could generate such feelings and emotion. She wrote as if she had lived the life of some of her characters. The critics couldn’t make up their mind what category to put it in. Some said it was adult romance. Others said it was an adult romantic thriller. They all said that it was one of the best to come along in several years.
I wanted to go in and congratulate her, wish her well, tell her I loved her, ask her to forgive me, ask her to …. I had to leave.
No way could I face my ex-wife. She was doing great and wouldn’t want to be reminded of me in her hour of glory. She deserved her success. She had earned it, in spite of me and my …. Damn! I wanted to start crying again. I found my car and headed for home.
The ride was a blur. I remember parking the car but I don’t remember climbing the stairs, unlocking the door or sitting down out on the balcony. My apartment was on the top floor. I didn’t mind having to climb stairs because I liked sitting up here and looking off across the city. I somehow found a measure of peace here. I could think and not be disturbed.
A knock on the door broke my repose. I glanced at my watch and it was a quarter till noon. That would be Mr. Miller. It would be just like him to stop by to be sure that I was okay.
I opened the door and … Oh, Shit!
“Gail! I … I don’t know what to say.”
“How about, come in?”
“Yes! Yes, of course … come in … please.”
She walked right past me, tossed her handbag on the couch and started checking the place out. Damn! Sandals, blue jeans, white cotton blouse and hair in a ponytail. Damn! That’s the way she always dressed around the house or to go shopping.
“I could use something to drink, Paul.”
“I’ve got Coke, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, milk, orange juice and water.”
“A small glass of wine would be nice.”
“I … uh … I don’t drink anymore, Gail.”
“Oh, sorry. Coke will be fine.”
I handed her a Coke from the fridge and watched her walk out and sit down in one of the chairs on the balcony. She seemed so confident, so sure of herself. That wasn’t the way I was feeling at all. My confidence level was somewhere on the negative side of zero. What in the world was she doing here? What could she possible want from me? Considering the way I had treated her during our three years of marriage, I would be the last person on earth she would want to see. I finally gathered up all of my courage, what little of it there was and went out and sat down in the chair beside her.
“You’re looking well, Paul.” She said optimistically.
“Thank you. You look pretty good yourself.” Was my careful reply.
“So, how have you been?”
I guess that was a fair question. Does she really want to know or is she setting me up for something unpleasant?
“I’m doing alright. I’ve got a good job with a company that sells meat to restaurants. Other than that, I’m just living day to day.”
“I’m sorry you left, Paul. I’ve missed you.”
Damn! That was direct and to the point. How in the hell do I answer that? Why was she here? Has she come by to gloat? Is she here to flaunt her success in my face? Okay, maybe it was time for honesty. That was a joke. I had never been honest with her a single day since we met. If ever there was a time, it was now.
“Leaving you was the stupidest thing I have ever done, Gail. I’ve missed you, too. I don’t know what else to say, other than, I’m sorry. I know it probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but, I am.”
“Actually, Paul, it does mean something to me. I’m sorry I pushed you like I did. I shouldn’t have rubbed it in your face so blatantly.”
“Well, I did kind of deserve it. I mean, well, it wasn’t like I wasn’t treating you like dirt. I was a real jerk, considering my actions.”
“Thank you, Paul. I never thought I would hear you say something like that.”
“So, Gail, why are you here? I cautiously asked.
She thought for a minute, as if trying to make up her mind about something. “Well, I’m going to receive a small award of some kind this evening. I was hoping you would be my escort. That is, if you don’t already have a date or plans for something else.”
“I haven’t had a date, or been with a woman, since I left you, Gail.” I replied matter-of-factly.
“Oh, I didn’t know. Why not, for goodness sake?”
“Let’s just say that I haven’t, and let it go at that.”
“I’m sorry, Paul, I don’t mean to pry.”
“That’s okay, I guess I shouldn’t be so defensive. Yes, I would be honored to be your escort this evening.”
“Thank you, Paul. Please pick me up at room ten twenty four, at six. There is a pre-banquet social hour that I must attend.”
Her business completed, she kissed me on the cheek and left. Well, that was short and sweet. She was just as I remembered her, calm, cool and collected. I have seen her lose her cool and raise her voice only one time since I have known her. That was three years ago when she told me to get out. I still wasn’t sure what she really wanted. Was she just checking up on me or did she have something else in mind?
I had several business suits but only one good suit I thought would be appropriate for tonight. On a whim, I had taken a bonus check and visited an upscale men’s shop a few months ago. I didn’t have a use for it at the time; I just wanted it in case something special came along. Perhaps this was the ‘something special’ I had purchased it for.
Six sharp found me gently knocking on the door of room ten twenty-four. I heard the click of a lock and the door opened. I was awe-struck. She was elegance personified. Her beauty was beyond words. The gown didn’t reveal a thing. Yet, you knew that the complete package was underneath. I was so smooth. Yep, that’s me. The smoothest guy in town. I proved it by saying, “It’s … uh … it’s six o’clock.”
She grinned at me, grabbed a small purse and we headed for the banquet room. The room was large. The crowd was even larger. There were publishers, editors, agents, reporters, critics, and authors in abundance. Introductions were numerous, to say the least. Everyone in the whole damn room was so at ease, smiling, having a good time. All but me. In every case, when an introduction was made, I was introduced as her husband.
“Pleased ta mee-cha” and a short handshake was all I could manage.
Why was she saying that? We divorced three years ago. I had the papers to prove it. She was smiling and making polite conversation. I was in a complete state of confusion.
Banquets like these develop a life and timetable of their own. It was almost seven thirty when we sat down to eat. I’m sure that someone had planed for the meal to last an hour. It was a little after nine when the awards ceremony started. Categories and awards were numerous. I was still lost in my own thoughts and almost missed hearing the Master of Ceremonies say something about the author of the year, followed by her name.
We were sitting on the dais, right next to the podium. Gail stood, accepted the award and began to speak.
“I wish to most graciously thank my publisher, my editor and most of all, those that were kind enough to buy and read my books. However, there is one who deserves a special thanks. The one who has been my inspiration through it all. My husband, Paul. He deserves at least half of the credit for my works.”
She sat down to a nice round of applause. The Master of Ceremonies, thinking he was making a small joke, said, “Maybe we should hear from the inspiration.”
It took but a flash of thought to recognize the opportunity and take advantage of it. I immediately stood, thanked him for a chance to speak and stepped to the podium in front of him. Talk about a man being confused, he didn’t know what to think. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This guy wasn’t supposed to speak. I could read it all in his eyes as he stepped back.