The Ties That Bind Us


I was stopping for the red light when he tried to plow through the intersection, tried being the key word. A UPS truck t-boned their car with a deafening crash. It pushed it all the way across the intersection. I saw the initial impact, but both vehicles were immediately pushed out of my line of sight. I just sat there not believing what had just taken place.

By the time I had snapped out of my stupor and gotten out of my car I could hear the wail of police sirens. Someone was yelling at me to move my damn car. There must have been thirty people already huddled around the damaged car and the truck. I got back in and moved my car to the side of the road. I was more than a little afraid of what I'd find as I made my way over to the car.

I pushed the gawkers to the side and made my way up to Laura's side of the car. There was blood everywhere and I could see she was out cold. I tried the door but it was locked. Before I could bust out the window a million uniformed police and emergency workers arrive on the scene. Everyone, including me, was pushed back while the rescue squad worked on getting the two out of the car.

They had to use the Jaws of Life just to get the doors open. I could see that the driver was in bad shape and within minutes he was put on a stretcher and a sheet draped over him. With the sheet soaking up the blood, I knew he was gone.

They worked on Laura for the better part of fifteen minutes. A paramedic was on the inside with her as two firefighters worked to open the door and pull the dashboard back and away from her. When they yelled for a stretcher my heart jumped a beat; she was still alive.

"My name is Stephen Moore," I said to one of the paramedics. "That's my wife there. What hospital are they going to be taking her to?"

"County General. It's the closest and she'll need immediate emergency care. Do you want to ride in the ambulance with her?"

"No, I've got my car, I'll meet them there," I said running back to my car. They beat me there but not by much.

In the emergency room I told them who I was and gave them all the pertinent information. Then I started filling out a multitude of forms. They said that she was already being taken into surgery and told me where I could wait.

I must have sat there quiet, emotionless, and in a daze for at least the next couple of hours. A nurse came over to check on me once and the second time I gave her the completed forms.

"How long will she be in there?"

"I can't give you a time table but it'll be at least a few hours more. Your wife sustained a lot of injuries, but don't worry, she's got the best surgeons on our staff working on her as we speak." She smiled into my glazed over eyes and moved on to the next person.

I didn't want to call our kids until I knew something definite, so I waited and waited and waited for the doctor to come through those damn swinging doors.

"Mr. Moore, they're just finishing up," a nurse told me. "The doctor will be out in about twenty minutes to explain to you how she's doing." A half hour later a doctor in green scrubs gave me the low down on how she was and what I could expect.

They were going to keep her sedated for now because they didn't want her to move. Her head would be strapped down to keep it immobilized and then he told me about having to drill into her skull.

"Mr. Moore, it's not as bad as it looks and your wife came through the surgery quite well. She's not out of the woods just yet but everything went as expected. We'll know more in about twelve to twenty-four hours. Go home and get some rest there's nothing you can do here." He was right but I was staying anyway.

"Evan, this is Dad," I said into my cell phone. "Mom has been in a car accident." I talked to him while he dressed and headed out. He said that he would call Randi and would see me in about twenty minutes or less. "Drive safe, I don't want to have to visit two people in here."

He showed up, Randi showed up, and I brought them up to speed. After three cups of coffee I talked them into leaving. I said that I was staying until she was out of recovery and put into a room.

"I'll call you if anything changes," I told the two of them. "Go home get some sleep. There's nothing you can do right now." I almost had to physically have them removed. When the doctor informed me the next day that Laura had slipped into a coma, I thought what else could go wrong? However, after the second day if I heard another person tell me it wasn't uncommon for someone to go into a coma after an accident like that I was going to scream.

So it went from days to week after week without any change in her condition. She was healing but was still in that damn coma. I would watch her for hours. She looked so peaceful with a dozen tubes and wires protruding from so many parts of her body. The cuts on her face and forehead were almost totally healed, but she'd probably want some plastic surgery to lessen their appearance. I went to work, spent my evenings at the hospital, and only went home to sleep; life sucked. If it weren't for that phone call I got late one evening after returning from the hospital, I'd still be stuck in that same routine.

"Mr. Moore?" a female voice on the other end asked in a slightly hesitant voice.

"Yes, this is Stephen Moore, can I help you," I replied in my now normal tired voice.

"Mr. Moore, my name is Carol Carver, my husband was Edward Carver." I stopped her right there.

"Mrs. Carver, I know who you are and let me take this time to tell you how sorry I am about you and your daughter's loss."

"Thank you. Can I ask you about your wife?"

"She's still in a coma, but the doctors have said they expect her to come out of it soon and make a full recovery. Thank you for asking," I replied.

"Mr. Moore, I need to ask you a delicate question. I know I might be out of line, but I need to ask anyway," she said, her voice quivered but got a bit louder. "Why was your wife in the car with my husband?"

I paused for a minute. "That is the ten thousand dollars question now, isn't it?" I finally replied.

For the next hour we talked or should I say exchanged bits of information. If, and I do mean if, they were having an affair neither one of us had any idea.

"Ed wasn't supposed to be back in town until later that night. When I got the phone call I told them that they had the wrong Edward Carver. My Ed Carver's plane wasn't due back in until nine thirty that night. When the police said that they'd confirmed his identification through his drivers license and credit cards I lost it."

I questioned myself and thought about telling her that I had a lot to do with her husband's death but she probably would have hung up on me. If that were the case then I'd never know if the affair was real or if he'd just been a close working friend.

"Carol, what did your husband do for a living exactly?"

"He worked for Canon. He leased copiers and printers to businesses in the southeast. The last I heard was that he was finishing up in Macon, Georgia, and would be home somewhere around ten forty-five that night. I haven't brought it up to his boss since I'm still on Ed's health insurance policy for the next three months. I can't jeopardize that in any way."

"Did you look at his e-mails and the text messages on his phone?"

"I got his laptop and cell phone from the impound lot and although your wife's company is listed there wasn't anything out of the ordinary. I don't want to believe he was cheating on me but at this point I'd just like to know for sure."

"Carol, why don't I check out a few things on my own and get back with you in a couple of days. There may have been something going on but to what extent I can't be sure." We exchanged cell phone numbers and I went on a search mission.

Nothing. I didn't find a damn thing. If they were having an affair I couldn't find anything. The only time we weren't together outside of work was when she and her sister went out together to dinner or shopping. Hell, sometimes I'd even tagged along, so I knew there was nothing funny going on there.

Friday night I tore my bedroom, den, and garage apart looking for something. I didn't know what I was looking for; just something out of the ordinary. No e-mails, no texts, no sexy lingerie, that I hadn't seen before and no unaccounted for expenses like hotel rooms or anything like that. I was drawing a real blank, thank God. I even went so far as to go to her work and look through her desk. I used the excuse that I was missing one of Laura's credit cards and needed to either find it or list it as stolen. Like I said, nothing.

I talked to Carol and even invited her out to lunch to compare notes, but she thought it wouldn't be appropriate considering the circumstances, so we just talked on the phone. After about six weeks neither one of us could find any connection between the two of them other than the fact that Ed's company held the lease to the copiers at Laura's work place.

"They were probably just going to lunch to discuss the renewal of the lease," I said not totally believing what I had said to her; after all, I'd seen the kiss. If it had been a kiss on the cheek like the one two friends gave one another it would have been purged from my mind by now, but it wasn't. It was on the lips and looked like it wasn't the first one she'd given him. It was too automatic and casual almost like it had been expected.

"You don't believe that anymore than I do," Carol said.

"Carol, neither one of us has found anything; nothing to connect them together."

"Steve, deep down inside I know there was something going on, but I guess you're right. Anyway, what's the point now? I only wish I could put closure to it. You've got your wife and even though she's in a coma she's still alive. Mine's dead, buried, but not forgotten. Now when I hear someone say what a good husband and father Ed was I cringe because I think that he may have been cheating behind my back, and it's driving me nuts. I guess it doesn't make any difference now, but will you do me a favor?"

"If I can."

"If and when your wife does wake up, please find out for me what was really going on. I guess right now it doesn't make a difference one way or another to me except that these lingering thoughts are going to drive me crazy. If he was cheating, oh well, he paid the ultimate price. However, if he wasn't I don't want to feel ill towards him for the rest of my life. You see what I mean?"

"Don't worry, I'll get you some type of closure because I'm going to need it for myself also."

So life went on for the next couple of months. I went to work, to the hospital, and finally home to sleep. Day in and day out you could set your watch by my schedule. Then out of the blue Carol called me.

"Steve, Ed's work sent over a box of some personal effects that I'd missed along with some mail that he had going directly to his work. Included in all this stuff were two Visa bills on an account I never knew about. Listed on the bill are charges for the Hilton Hotel just off the downtown area. As best as I can ascertain he rented a room there once a month. The only problem I have is that he was supposed to be on the road every one of those days." I had started to forget about how this had all gone down, but now this new information brought me back to reality.

"Carol, can you give the last three or four dates, and I'll try to somehow cross reference them to what we were doing at the time." She gave me the last four and I told her I'd get back with her.

I can remember what I was doing two weeks ago but the last date was almost eighteen weeks ago. I went home and looked at our kitchen calendar, and over a Corona I tried to remember back that far. I bombed on that one but I'd found where she and her sister had gone out to dinner on the previous date. Then I remembered something that Carol had said; she had checked Ed's planner.

Everyone at Laura's work place wanted to know how she was doing and the only answer I could give them was that she was stable, but her condition was unchanged. This time I knew exactly what I was looking for and found it in her desktop drawer, her daily planner. I grabbed it and headed back out to my car. On the way home I grabbed some Chinese because cooking for one had gotten to be a real drag.

With our kitchen calendar, her work planner, and the dates Carol had given me I started cross-referencing. Of the four dates, Laura had gone out with her sister to dinner on one, and shopping with her on the other. The other two dates I didn't have a clue what had been happening, and they didn't fit into the pattern of the others. I called Carol.

"I've got some good news and bad news both," I told her. "On two of the dates you gave me my wife was out with her sister, but I struck out on the other two."

"Are you sure that she actually went out with her sister?" Now Carol had opened up another can of worms.

"I guess, I can't stake my life on it, but they've been going out with each other for years."

"Steve, that's not what I'm asking and you know it. Would her sister have lied for her if she was having an affair?"

Damn, why won't this whole thing go away? "That I can't be sure of. I know her sister pretty well, but I don't have a clue if she would lie for her."

"Steve, I know I'm being a pain in the ass, but I'm trying to put some type of closure on my marriage and to what use to be my wonderful life. I can't tell you how to proceed from here, that's up to you, but I'd sure want to know if it was me. Call me if you find out anything."

I wanted it to just go away and die but Carol wasn't going to let that happen. However, the next step was going to be tricky at best, and it had the distinct possibility of changing my life forever.

Three Coronas gave me just enough courage without dulling my brain too much. I thought about doing it face to face but had dismissed that idea right away. I didn't want Laura's sister, Patty, seeing the look in my eyes as I set the hook and got ready to gaff her. I swallowed hard when I heard her answer her cell phone. I wondered if I'd still be whole by the end of this conversation.

"Steve, is anything wrong?" I forgot she could see who was calling. "Not with Laura, there's no change and the doctor said she could come out of it any day Of course, that's what they've been telling me every day for months."

"Well then, what can I do for you tonight?" I took all the slack out of my line and got ready to set the hook.

"I know about Laura and Ed." I stopped with that statement and waited for her reaction.

"Who is Ed, and what about Laura? Steve, I don't understand what you are talking about." Was her cautious reply.

"I think you do Patty, since you were her alibi all those times. How could you?" I felt the hook go deep into her flesh.

"Steve, you're wrong, Laura would never..." I stopped her.

"Ed's wife has the hotel receipts and on everyone of those dates my beloved wife was conviently having either dinner or shopping with you. If it wasn't for the hotel cameras I never would have believed it even myself. Right now I'm having a hard time believing that two people who I cared so deeply for would be lying to me all this time." I was lying through my teeth but there was nothing but silence on the other end.

"Steve, it was just a one time thing."

"Bullshit. I know of at least four times she met him for sex. How stupid do you think I am? I take that back, I guess I was pretty stupid. How I never saw or knew my wife was cheating on me all this time I'll never know. I guess when you're in love it truly does makes you deaf, dumb, blind, and stupid, but not anymore."

"Steve, she was going to break it off the day of the accident. You've got to believe that. He was getting too possessive and what had started out as innocent flirting just went too far. You've got to believe me."

"Patty, I saw them when Ed picked Laura up at her work that day. I watched her get into his fucking car and kiss him like she was greeting her long lost lover, for Christ's sakes. I followed them until we got stopped at a stoplight and then got out of my car to confront them, however, after seeing me he took off. I was there when he went through the damn red light and got hit by that fucking truck. So don't try to tell me that she was getting ready to dump him. The only thing she had on her mind was what she was going to do with him when they got inside that room." I was shouting now.

"Steve, I'm so sorry. Laura loves you and this was nothing more than a stupid regrettable fling on her part. Please don't do anything until she can explain it to you in her own words."

"You mean lie to me don't you? I have to admit you guys were good. I never would have imagined that my loving wife was capable of cheating on me, and my sister-in-law making it possible for her to do so. You disgust me." The phone went dead along with my marriage.

Twenty minutes later, Bob, Patty's husband called. "Steve, I didn't fucking know what the two of them were doing. You've got to believe that. There is no way if I'd know that I ever would have put up with what Patty did. You have my sincere apology for what was done to you and I can guarantee you it'll never happen again." He was right about that.

"Thanks Bob, I didn't think you knew, but you don't have to worry about it anymore."

"Steve, I know you are pretty angry right now but don't do anything you're going to regret. Take a couple of days to cool off and if you need someone to talk with or drink with I'm available." I thanked him and said there was nothing I could do at this point right now, anyway. Laura was still in a coma but told him to tell his wife to keep the hell away from me. I had two more beers and then called it a night. I didn't sleep, just stared at a black ceiling.

At about ten o'clock Thursday morning I called Carol and invited her out to lunch for the following day. I picked a place where I could get a semi-private room because I knew there was going to be a lot of screaming and forewarned the waiter. I was on my second drink when Carol arrived. She ordered a drink. I told the waiter to bring her two and to leave us alone unless he heard gunfire.

"Carol, you were right, Ed and my wife were having some kind of an affair. Her sister was covering for her and I guess with Ed traveling it was easy to fool the two of us."

"That bastard, how could he have done that to me, to us? Well, at least I know what kind of man he truly was. I just wish I could have confronted him and spit in his face and made him suffer the way he's made me suffer."

"Carol, there's something else I haven't told you and I want you to hear me out totally before you speak. I don't know an easy way to say this so I'm just going to tell you."

I looked at her once more before starting.

"I saw them together the day of the accident. I was going to surprise Laura and take her to lunch, but when I got to her work she was getting into your husband's car. Through the car's back window I saw her kiss him and started following them. A couple of blocks later I got out of my car to confront them and it went downhill from that point. Your husband saw me and took off as my wife went nuts in the front seat. I stopped for the light they went through. I watched the UPS truck hit them and saw the firefighters remove your husband from his car. He died instantly. I'm so sorry. I guess I indirectly caused the accident but I never meant to." She started screaming at me and crying all at the same time.

"Why didn't you tell me this months ago? You knew they were cheating on us and you said nothing."

"Carol, all I saw was one kiss, that's all." But she still laid into me telling me that I'd killed her husband, and it was my fault she was now a widow.

"Carol, back the fuck up. I didn't tell or give your fucking husband permission to sleep with my wife, and I sure as hell didn't push his foot down on that damn gas pedal and force him to run that goddamn red light. I was trying to find out what the hell was going on, and if it was what I thought, to stop it dead right there." I was shaking. I was so mad at Carol, at Laura, at Ed, at everyone, for everything.

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