Note: I've reworked this and resubmitted it. I felt (and still feel) that intent to cheat is the same as cheating. It is disrespect for a spouse as much as having intercourse is. Obviously, a lot of readers disagree with this view so I will graciously agree to disagree with them and try to make the intent of the story clearer.
I have heard back from a number of people about finishing "Ruby," so I will do it over the next couple of weeks. Note that it will be a sad story -- it's a sad song. You will definitely get more out of it if you know the song, and especially if you or a loved one served in Viet Nam.
Kenny Rogers has a number of sad songs and "Lucille" is one of the saddest. While I was writing El Paso I had a Kenny Rogers album on and when this came on I had to stop and listen to it. This story is for me.
I've been working on another one based on his song "Ruby," but that's almost too sad: "Ruby, don't take your love to town." Hey, let me know if I should finish it.
I mention the Bickersons in the story -- if you aren't familiar with them do an Internet search - quite funny!
Thanks to RoustWriter for his editing help.
"You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.
With four hungry children,
And a crop in the field.
I've had some bad times,
Lived through some sad times,
But this time your hurtin' won't heal.
You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille."
"Honey, we need to have a long talk when I get home. We have to work out our problems."
"Jed … oh, yes, I've been crying every day since you left. I'm sorry, oh, so sorry for the fight and what led up to it."
"Mary, I think I understand better how hard it is to be perfect. I've tried to do everything right and I've expected the same of you. All we can do is the best we can … and to remember the things that brought us together in the first place."
We said some teary goodbyes and I turned my cell phone off as they closed the door on the plane and we started backing away from the gate.
The plane arrived at the terminal at the airport in Rockford. I thought how close I had come to doing something I would never be able to forgive myself for while on my trip to Toledo to install some software for a customer. I hadn't gone through with it but I felt as guilty as though I actually had.
What Mary had done had upset me enough to cause the worst fight of our marriage but what I'd almost done was as bad or even more so.
We had been at a pool party at a neighbor's house down the street. The parties were fun with tons of food and lot's of teenagers to keep track of the kids. The Townsend's had a huge game room in their basement. It was big enough for younger kids at one end and older kids at the pool table and entertainment center at the other end. We passed the hat each time to hugely overpay a couple of the older girls to watch the few babies -- including our six-month-old darling Diana.
The house was in a mixed area of older houses and infill new development. It was an old mansion and had been in the Townsend family for over a hundred years. The current owners were in their sixties, but loved to entertain and to have a lot of young people around.
The neat thing about the place was the back yard. There was a large mix of decks, tiled sitting areas, terraced flowerbeds and all in all, an almost bewildering array of trees and plants. The one thing that made it special though, was the pool. The upper area was semi-dark with romantic, hidden reflecting lights. The lighting built in the pool walls was more subdued than you normally found. Next to the upper pool was a large hot tub -- generally understood to be off limits to kids.
The lower pool was just the opposite: brightly lit and next to the grill area. During parties the older kids were allowed to use it as long as they "more or less" behaved. Linking the two pools was a built in slide flowing down the slope about in a long s-curve thirty feet to the lower pool.
A certain amount of grab-ass generally took place at these events and it really was mostly innocent. That is, nothing more ever happened as a result of the touching/kissing etc. that took place at the parties.
I'd gone up to check on Diana, then Peter Rowland asked me to take a look at a problem he was having with a new computer he'd brought a few weeks ago. All told, I'd left Mary alone for about thirty minutes.
When I'd last saw her she was talking to Janet Rowland near where the grill was set up. When I got back to that area I saw Janet was still there but Mary wasn't around.
"Did you see which way she went?"
Yeah, Jed, I think she went up to the other pool. I think that guy she works with; you know the one that lives a few blocks on the other side of us from where you guys live.
"You mean, Cal Fischer? Tall, with long black hair? Actually he's hairy all over."
"Sure, Jed, that's him. I like his wife Sue, but I've never cared for him."
Yeah, I knew what she meant. We had words before about Cal -- he was what we called in high school a foreigner: Roman hands and Russian fingers. Except in his case it wasn't funny. Mary always laughed it off, "But Jed, everyone does a little of that at the parties we go to. It doesn't mean anything."
But I always thought Cal was trying to take it to the next level … to entice Mary into something she would later regret.
I walked slowly up the long stairs to the upper pool. Just before I got to the top the path split: one way to the pool and the other looped around to a large rock that was used as a diving board for the upper pool. I circled to the top of the rock, which was about ten feet above the pool.
After I got there it took me a minute for my eyes to adjust to the lower level of light. When it did I was immediately pissed off. Mary's top was floating about five feet from her and Cal was sucking away at one of her breasts like he had a nursing fetish. His hand held her other breast and was squeezing like it was going out of style.
Without even considering what I should do I just jumped off and did a cannonball right next to them where they were standing in the shallower end, in maybe four feet of water. That should get their attention! Just in case, while they were still stunned I grabbed that asshole's shoulders and raised my knee into his crotch as hard as I could while being in the water. It seemed hard enough. I left Mary there to let him drown … or not. I didn't give a shit and walked home.
We fought about it for a week, gradually escalating everything until I felt like we were charter members of the "Bickersons" club. It wasn't ended, only temporarily avoided when I went to Toledo. Now I was back and we had to talk about it.
Mary was waiting at the baggage claim area. She threw her arms around me, holding me tight. I stood there stiffly and then remembered what had almost happened at the hotel in Toledo and relaxed and put my arms around her and squeezed back.
"Jed, are we going to be okay? Are we going to be able to get past my stupidity? Oh, God! I'm so sorry honey. I wouldn't have done anything but I know what I did was wrong, really wrong!"
I was a bit uncomfortable with what she was saying after my own actions.
"Let's talk about it later, Honey. After we have dinner and put Diana down for the night, we can sit down and talk and have a glass of one of the wines I've been saving."
My bag came fairly quick, so we walked out to where her car was parked and drove home. The drive was mostly quiet with Mary looking over at me with a fearful look on her face. I felt kind of bad because if that guy had not have came into the bar in Toledo where I was trying to pick up his wife, I would be worrying about confessing much more than what Mary was feeling bad about.
Mary's mom was there and gave us a worried look as we came in. I guess Mary had confided with her mom on what she had done. I gave Diana her bath and got her ready for bed then Mary tucked her in. I had two glasses of a nice syrah from the Paso Robles area I'd been saving for something special. I figured that if we couldn't get our problems straightened out there wouldn't be any "special occasions" anymore.
"Look, Mary. We've talked about what happened at the pool to death, and unless you have some new information, let me just talk, okay?"
"I just, well … I'm sorry, Jed."
I nodded an acknowledgement to her and started telling her what happened in Toledo. This is the story I told.
The business stuff went fine. I installed the software and ran my tests and everything looked great. Barney, my contact, was going to take me to dinner but his wife had to work late so he had to go home to take care of the kids. I went to the restaurant anyway -- Barney said it was great and I already had the reservation.
It was as good as I expected, and I finished about nine. I drove back to the hotel and called you. It was still early after we finished and I wasn't sleepy so I went down to the bar off the lobby. I was sitting there at a table nursing a gin and tonic, when this tall, good-looking brunette came in and sat down at the bar. She was dressed in simple but nice clothes, a white blouse and black skirt.
I was watching her, just out of idle curiosity, when I saw her take her rings and put them in her purse. On an impulse I got up and took the seat next to her.
Mary gasped when I said this, but I just gave her an annoyed look and continued.
She looked over at me with a knowing look and I offered her a beer.
She smiled at me, and answered, "Sure, Honey." She looked around and didn't see anyone else looking to give her a good time, so she continued, "Sure, I'll have a tall, cold one."
"I saw you taking yours rings off … are you sure you want to be here? My name is Jed, by the way."
She looked irritated at what I'd said about her rings but she shook my hand … and left her small hand in my large one. "Oh, yeah, Jed. I'm Lucille -- are you from around here?"
I was thinking I shouldn't have told her my real name so I didn't say the city. "Naw, I'm from the Chicago area."
I pushed the half full gin and tonic away and switched to beer and we put down three or four tall, cold ones while chatting about nothing in particular. She was a real touchy person, putting her hands on my arm, on my knee, all over. I started doing the same. I put my hand on her back for a while, then on her knee.
She put her hand on mine but left it on her knee. She looked up at me and told me her story as she moved my hand up and down her thigh.
"I'm not a quitter. I want you to know that, Jed. I've been living on my dreams for so long I almost forgot what it was like to have fun. Well, Jed, I finally got tired of waiting for my dreams to come true and just left. I'm hungry for laughter, for bright lights, a good band, and some dancing with a nice looking guy like you. I'm here for whatever this new life brings."
We chatted for a while, as I was getting hot from the way she was moving my hand on her thigh. I saw in the mirror a tall guy standing behind us. He had on bib overalls and was wearing a faded John Deere logo baseball cap; the edges of the bill were frayed. He took the hat off and was twisting it around in his hands. I watched him closely, he seemed out of place in this upscale bar. He was looking at the woman, at Lucille. I tried to move my hand away again but Lucille wouldn't let go of it, holding it tight against her upper thigh.
His huge hands were heavily callused and he looked like a mountain. He had a strange look on his face and for a minute I thought my time was up. But he only had eyes for Lucille and I realized the he was the one that had given the rings to her.
His shoulders were shaking … I could see his big heart was breaking. She had seen in the mirror but hadn't turned. She whirled and looked at him and immediately turned around and finished her beer then picked up mine. She was looking everywhere except at the man behind her.
He stepped closer and said over her shoulder; I could hear the tears in his voice.
"You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille! You left me with four hungry children and new crops in the field. Since I met you I've had some bad times -- too many of them. I've lived through some sad times, Lucille, but this time your hurting' won't heal. Damn you anyhow, Lucille, you picked a fine time to leave me!
He stood there for a few minutes, frustrated. Lucille wouldn't even look at him in the mirror. She just kept looking at the patterns the wet bottle was making on the polished bar. After a long five minutes he finally turned and stomped away.
After he left us I ordered some whiskey. I looked over at her and thought how she had made that big man look small. We walked away from the bright lights of the bar room and down the hallway to my room, neither of us saying a word. I opened the door to let her in and closed it after I entered.
Here, Mary tried to protest at what she thought was coming. I held my hand up and continued.
She went over and sat on the bed. She was a beauty, no question about it. I stood there, not moving, not saying anything. Finally she raised herself from the bed and walked over to me, slowly, taking her clothes off as she came.
She put her arms around me and kissed me deep, with a lot of passion. I started pulling her close, tight as I could. My hands strayed to her buttocks - she took off my tie and started unbuttoning my shirt. I pulled back and put my hands on her breasts, massaging them gently. We started kissing again and I had this image intruding on my passion. I felt like a chill wind had blown down my back.
I put my arms on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes, "Lucille, I must be crazy because you are a beautiful woman, one that any man would like to have. Go back to your husband; go back to your kids. You want to see the wild side of life now but how will you feel later? Can your babies get along without you? Can you really just walk away from them?"
She started crying and I got the robe from the closet and wrapped it around her. I held her tight, both of us sobbing from out individual pains and torment. When she stopped crying I told her to take a shower and meet me in the bar when she was done.
I walked away from her thinking of what I had almost done … thinking of what you might have done if I hadn't showed up. Thinking of what I knew I would have done if Lucille's husband hadn't of come into the bar.
Lucille came in about a half hour later and I bought her a drink and sat close to keep the other men away from her. I had the bartender call a cab and I sent her to the bus stop; I gave her enough money to get home.
She left and I don't know what she did, what happened to her. I thought about our marriage and felt … sad more than anything. What had happened to us? How had we lost the way?
I gave my wife a wan look as she stood there tears in her eyes and her face mottled red from her crying time. "Mary, I couldn't sleep with her … I couldn't go thorough with it. The words that big man told Lucille kept coming back at me. I thought about those four lonely kids, and then, Mary, I thought of our baby, Diana. I was shocked that I had almost gone to bed with a woman that would walk away from her children.
"Mary, I'm not proud that I took her to my room. But in the end I knew I wanted to try to save our marriage. I want us to stay as a family and not fight."
She came to me and held me tight, the tears washing tracks of sadness down her cheeks. She whispered, "I do too, Jed. I'm sorry for what I did. In spite of what you say I know you wouldn't even have looked at that woman if I hadn't upset you so. Love me honey, please love me."
I took her upstairs and we came together with a wild passion we had never felt before. I think we were both scared how close we came to making stupid mistakes that would have broken up our family. Afterwards we lay there for a long time, talking quietly, her head on my chest. We talked about communications, respect, trust, consideration and all the other things that make a good marriage.
We were determined not to become yet another divorce statistic.
Late that night -- my eyes wide open and staring at the black nothingness of the ceiling - I kept hearing the words of that heartbroken man,
"You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.
With four hungry children,
And a crop in the field."