Trying to Reclaim My Marriage


I had a few problems but I finished it up with one day to spare. It looked so good that I really didn't want to let it go. Tim and I took a million pictures at every angle possible. "Damn, I wish I could show it at the regional show in Atlanta next week," I told him. "It would take first place, hands down."

Sid was there the following morning with just a few of his buddies.

"Just fucking outstanding," were the first words out of his mouth as he walked around his bike smiling ear to ear. "Jesus fucking Christ you weren't fucking lying were you? Damn, it looks good." He said going on and on for about five minutes. "It's worth the two grand it's going to cost me, this is a fucking piece of art."

"Got a question for you," I said hesitantly at first. "What would you say if I told you I'd give you this paint job for free if you'd do me one little favor?"

"Depends, whom do you want me to kill?" he said laughing with his two friends.

"There is a bike show in Atlanta this Saturday and I'd like to show your bike."

"No fucking way, they don't like me in Atlanta."

"You don't have to be there yourself, only your bike. I'll give you the paint job for free and if you win, you'll pocket another fifteen hundred," that got him thinking. "You can have someone else ride it there and register it under your name, that way you'll get the credit and the check if you win."

"You think it's got a chance?"

"What do you think?" He looked down at the bike and smiled.

"Steve, let me think about it and get back to you," he said getting on his bike and starting it up. He could have told me to go to hell and just taken his bike and there wasn't a thing I could do about it but cry and be out two grand but I was hoping for something more.

Wednesday my cell rang. "A friend of mine will be riding it there for me. I want you to meet them there, shine it up nice and pretty. I'm counting on taking first place, if you know what I mean." That's all he said because I knew what he meant.

"Steve, we need to talk," were the first words out of Sue's mouth Wednesday night.

"About what?" was my flip reply.

"What do you mean about what? About us, the way our marriage is going."

"What marriage? Right now I'm legally tied to a workaholic who thinks her shit doesn't stink and has no respect for me," I told her not holding back this time. "But you know what, I don't give a shit anymore." I really did, but wasn't going to tell her that.

"Maybe we could get away this weekend and you know, reconnect."

"Sorry, I've already made plans. How about the following weekend?" She didn't like that.

"What could be more important than our marriage?"

"Funny, I seem to remember asking the exact same question a year ago at a certain promotion dinner when I tried to standup for you. But that's right, I got cut off at the knees and told I was nothing better than a rough house, blue collar worker. Well, this blue collar worker has something more important to do this weekend than to listen to a whiney brat complain about how bad I've been treating her." I walked away from a shocked and angry wife.

I gave her a wide berth and did what I needed to do for Saturday's show. I got there early and was surprised at who was riding Sid's bike; one hot tattooed woman.

"Are you Steve?" she asked.

"Yes and you're?"

"Let's just say I'm a good friend of Sid's and leave it at that." I didn't press her for details. "He wants you to register it under your name, not his. Sid said he doesn't want or need any publicity or this bike tied directly to him, if you know what I mean." I did and didn't have any problem registering it under my name.

They must have trailered it up to the show because it was as clean as when it left my shop. It still needed a couple of hours work but we had time. I did the best job I could; it would now be up to the judges. There probably were almost a thousand spectators and I knew some of the exhibitors but got the shock of my life when one of the senior partners of Sue's firm walked up.

"Mr. Thomas," I said holding out my right hand as he walked up to me.

"Steve, it's Bill," he told me with a firm handshake. "Now this is what I call a paint job," walking around the bike taking more than a few pictures. "How long did it take you?"

"Two solid weeks," I replied watching the judge walk up with his clipboard.

"You said you did good work but I had no idea to what degree. Is Sue and the kids up here with you?"

"No, they're all back home. I want to say how sorry I am about the night of the dinner. I guess I kind of made an ass out of myself." He looked at me and didn't say a thing for a few seconds.

"I suppose it wasn't the time or place, but I wish I had the guts to do what you did that night. That lad not only embarrassed himself but also our firm. Truthfully, I owe you the apology," he told me.

"How about if we call it even and let it go at that?" We shook hands again.

"Well, Steve, I hope you win and tell Sue I'm sorry I missed her. That wife of yours has a great future with our firm, that is unless she burns herself out. See if you can do something about that for me, will you?" With that said he walked away.

With the judging done all we had to do is wait for the results. The girl who had brought the bike to Atlanta had changed into an outfit that showed all her physical attributes along with every tattoo and piercing. She was straddling the bike and more than one guy was snapping pictures.

No one was surprised that my bike qualified for best in show. There was however some stiff competition and not just the paint jobs but also the bikes themselves. I kind of wished that we'd registered it under Sid's name. Who in their right mind would vote against him?

When they named fourth and third place I held my breath. I wasn't even looking up at the stage or judge when they announced second place but Sid's girl was.

"Holy fuck we won," she announced to the world. It didn't register for a minute or two but then my brain exploded.

I picked up the trophy, the check and posed by the bike for a million pictures along with Sid's girl. I passed out all the cards I brought with me and wrote my name and phone number on a hundred others. I was asked a dozen or so questions about the bike itself and how it rode but passed most of them over to Sid's girl as she posed and smiled both on and off the bike.

"Someone wants to talk to you," she said passing over her cell phone.

"Hello, Steve here."

"Son of a bitch, looks like you were right; I hear we won," I heard Sid say. "Great fucking job. Give everything to Donna and I'll see you Monday sometime." He hung up. I finally I knew her name.

I hung around for another hour or so and milked everything I could from this win. I knew I would for sure make it into at least two magazines because of the press badges I saw a couple of the photographers wearing.

I gave Donna the check and trophy and finally found out that she was Sid's baby sister. At almost five foot nine and about one fifty, she was far cry from being anyone's baby.

The five and a half hour drive back from Atlanta felt like twenty. I was wired, tired and hungry as hell. I stopped at a Denny's and had a grand slam breakfast including two cups of coffee before hitting the road again. When my cell went off just after ten thirty it made me jump a mile because I had been deep in thought.

"Where are you?" Sue asked.

"About forty-five minutes out."

"You get something to eat?" she asked as I thought she sounded almost concerned.

"I stopped at Denny's so don't worry. I'll be home about eleven thirty give or take a half hour."

"I'll wait up," she replied.

"Sue go to bed, I'll see you in the morning," I said with an edge in my voice.

"Well, drive carefully then." This was the nicest conversation we'd had in months.

I ended up stopping once more for a bathroom break and another cup of coffee. I was home just after midnight, wired but home nonetheless. I took a quick shower and slipped into bed. From her breathing I knew she was awake, but I said nothing waiting for her to start. She didn't and we both fell asleep sometime after that.

Sunday morning I was told we were having a bar-b-que at her parent's house. "Just fucking great, that's all I need," I thought to myself, but I said nothing.

It was a fairly pleasant evening, that is, until her father started spouting off about something he knew basically nothing about at the dinner table. Everyone tried to ignore him as usual. Sue was talking to her mom; the kids had already finished and had asked to be excused, which left me as his only sounding board at the table. I was looking at the fancy tablecloth, the china and everything else around the room when I finally snapped and stood up.

"Sally," I said addressing Sue's mother, "I don't know how you've managed to stay married to this arrogant son of a bitch for forty years, but you sure as hell have earned your place in heaven in doing so. If it had been me, I would have put a pillow over his head and smothered his ass years ago." Everyone sat there with their mouths wide open. "Sue, the kids and I are leaving in two minutes with or without you," I told her, tossing my flowery cloth napkin on the table. "I'd like to say it's been fun, but why lie."

"You can't talk to me like that in my own house," her father bellowed standing up and trying to kill me with his eyes.

"You're right, so I don't plan on ever coming back here again. I'm sorry Sally, but there is only so much a person can take, family or not. You coming. Sue?" I asked for the second time. She sat there still glued to her chair.

"She's not going anywhere with a loser like you. Hell if it weren't for my daughter's job, you'd be living in a damn trailer. I begged her not to marry you. I told her that you'd never amount to anything, and I was right," Hank puffed up his chest. "Sue's just like her old man, she knows what she wants and she's going to get it no matter what."

"Hank" I said turning to her father, "then I feel sorry for the two of you. You've got all this, but what do you really have? A wife who puts up with you only because she likes the easy life and is afraid to go out on her own and a daughter who will be bouncing around an empty house by herself when I dump her ass and take the kids with me. Then she'll truly be like you; alone and married to her job."

"Get the hell out of my house," Hank screamed at me.

"With pleasure."

I grabbed the kids from the living room and piled them all in my wife's 320i BMW.

"Sue, I'll leave the car at the house and since you're not there very often, I'll e-mail you the address so you don't get lost." I'd love to have burned rubber on their driveway, but her car didn't have that much pick up.

"How come mom didn't come with?" Danny asked once we were in the car.

"She wanted to stay and visit with your grandfather and grandmother." My phone started ringing shortly there after but I turned it off. "It's not safe to talk and drive," I told the kids and tossed the phone onto the passenger's seat.

The kids and I grabbed just enough clothing for a couple of days. I explained we were going to visit my parents for a few days. I had a nice car in the garage but choose to take my work truck. It was mine, paid for and just seemed to fit my life style.

"Mom, you're going to have guests for a couple of days, do you mind?"

"Honey," my mom inquired with a question in her voice, "what did you do this time?"

"Mom, why do you always assume that I was the one to do something wrong? I know I'm not perfect, but this time it wasn't me; well not totally anyway."

"Well, come on over and we'll figure something out."

Mom and dad's house was small, nothing like Sue's parents or even like Sue and mine. The kid's would be sleeping on air mattresses in the living room. I would be in my old boyhood room.

When I told mom what I'd done she just shook her head. My dad smiled.

"You lasted a lot longer than I would have in your shoes. I only wish I could have been there. I could have added a few things of my own."

"Listen to the two of you. That is your wife's father you're talking about. Even though we may not care for the man, he is her father."

"Not care for the man? Mom, he's an asshole. I can't believe I waited this long to tell him what I really thought of him."

"And how about Sue? What are you going to do about her?" she asked standing there with her arms crossed over her chest.

"Mom, I'm done with her. Everything is I, I, I and I'm tired of it. I've bent over backwards to make it easier on her but in doing so, I've lost her respect. She'll be much happier without me and I without her."

"Son, do you really believe that?" I nodded yes but I wasn't totally positive.

"You know, in the eyes of God you two will always be married."

"Well, it'll be in his eyes only. I only hope I can find a way to get custody of the kids."

My dad took this one. "Steve, that's going to be a tough one. You may be a good father, but the court sides with the mother in seventy-five percent of the cases. The best you can hope for is joint custody of some sort." I didn't know much but I knew my dad was most likely right, especially with her father's money. By now, Hank was probably on the phone with his attorney laying out his plan to take me down, I was fucked and I knew it.

Pride can be both a good thing but also a bad thing as it was in my case. Add in a stubborn streak a mile wide and you've got the makings of a real disaster on your hands; and that's what happened. I would look back over the last year and the only word that came to mind was sucker!

Sue tried to call me all evening Sunday but she was the last person I wanted to talk to. I took my kids to school on Monday and even swung through the neighborhood to pick up the children I normally took to school. I made a mental note to call them tonight because today was the last day I'd be chaffering everyone around. I'd put my business on the back burner and it was high time I did something for me.

Sid was waiting for me when I pulled up to my shop.

"What the fuck? You have bankers hours or something?" he joked. I wasn't in the greatest mood but I wasn't about to piss this man off.

"Well, I told you that your bike would place high. I'd hoped for a win, but would have been satisfied with second place at that show," I told him. "Did you see the size of the trophy? Also, your sister has the first place check."

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about. Maybe we should go inside," he said motioning towards the door. I unlocked the door, turned on the lights and grabbed us two chairs.

"The check is made out to you and I want you to keep it. You did the work and it's only right that you get paid something for what you did. I've got a fucking awesome paint job and anyone who asks me about it I'll tell them where I got it. Two of my fellow brothers saw your work and want you to do a custom paint job on their bikes. Not as elaborate but something nice anyway. I gave them your card so expect a call. I would like all of this kept on the Q.T. if you don't mind. We don't like people to know what we do, if you know what I mean?"

"No problem. Just have them pay me in cash and it never happened."

"You seem like a nice guy, you do great work but you don't seem to be afraid of us like most people, why is that."

"This is nothing more than business. You've got your life, I've got mine and if we can help each other out, all the better." He smiled, we shook hands and two minutes later he was gone. At least I got more than expected out of the deal.

I kept my cell phone off over the next three days and let my answering machine pickup all my office calls. Every night when I went over to moms she yelled at me for not calling Sue.

"Steve, you're being an ass. Call your wife and work this out, you've got two kids, remember?" I knew I had two kids, but my gonads were almost fully restored and I wasn't about to go back to being the subservient Steve of the last year. If Sue was such a big girl, let her handle the shit I'd been doing for the last couple of years.

So, it went for about two weeks. I called my kids at about three thirty most days and had to maneuver around one or another babysitter. They said that they missed me and that their mom was angry all the time; so what else was new. They asked when I was coming home and I told them I didn't know but that I loved them to death.

I was wet sanding a gas tank when a girl walked through the front door. She was short, cute and was looking for someone named Steve. I had been getting a lot of inquiries lately and my dance card was getting pretty full.

"I'm Steve, what can I do for you today?" I asked her with a smile.

"You've been served," she said with almost a sorry look on her face and walked out the door. I didn't expect that, at least not this soon.

I threw it on my desk and went back to work. I had three things to prep tonight before I left and it looked like it was going to be a long night. I didn't finish up much before eleven o'clock.

"I was just finishing up my coffee when my mom came into the kitchen.

"Morning honey, what time did you get home last night?"

"Late," was all I said.

"Well, see if you can get home a little earlier tonight. I'm planning on making meatloaf with all the fixing and it's nowhere as good heated back up in the microwave."

"I'll do my best," I said kissing her on the forehead.

I made it home almost in time but the next three nights were as late if not later than the night before. I was almost living at my shop and made sure I always had a change of clothes and a stocked refrigerator full of beer. I suppose you're wondering if I looked at the papers, never opened them. I knew she had at least one high-powered lawyer, probably two, and I had just enough money to pay expenses and put something away for my kids.

Over the next two weeks I got two other deliveries from the same legal office. I did notice one thing though, the packages were getting heavier.

"When were you going to tell me?" my mom hit me with that question as I walked through the door.

"Tell you what?"

"About the divorce."

"Oh, I guess that's what's in those large manila envelopes I've been receiving," I said getting a cold Corona from the refrigerator.

"You haven't opened them?"

"Mom, what's the point? If she wants a divorce she's going to get one whether I want one or not. Her prick of a father can hire the best legal minds in town so if that's what she wants, I'd be a fool to fight it."

"Haven't you at least tried to talk to her?"

"Mom, what's the point? I did my best and I guess it wasn't good enough for her. I'm done trying to be Mr. Perfect. It's my time now."

"Ok, how about your two kids? Don't you think Danny and Kim deserve to have a say in what happens?'

"I talk to them a couple of times a week. Don't you think I know it's going to be hard on them? But I think it'll be harder on them if we continue living the way we were." Mom knew I was right. I didn't want a divorce but I had run out of options. Sue had picked her work and dad over me and I couldn't live like that.

The following night I was taking a break when the phone started to ring. I wasn't going to answer it and was going to let my machine pick it up but thought what the hell, I couldn't hide from her forever.

"Sue, what do you want?" I asked in almost an annoyed tone of voice.

"Steve, I know you got the papers, you were supposed to respond in seventy- two hours," she said in an equally annoyed tone.

"I've been pretty busy lately and I guess I haven't had a chance to look at them yet."

"You haven't even looked at them yet? Steve, it's been over three weeks."

"And your point? Look, if you want a damn divorce, just do it ok. I won't fight it. Just let me know when it's over and when I can see my kids, that's all."

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