What You Wish For Pt. 02byRehnquist©
All right, here it is, the second part. Second of six, if I didn't already mention it.
As usual, it is my fervent hope that you will all read this and comment on it. Comments really are helpful, and I do listen to them. Remember, this story is my reaction to the comment that I don't really cover the female characters very well.
I suppose, now that I've got you snagged at least into reading part two, that I should tell you there isn't a ton of sex in this story. There's a scene in this chapter--and a pretty good, if odd, one that was a lot of fun to write. Still, this is a story about interactions.
And that's what I'm telling you all now, so be forewarned: If you've read my past Loving Wives submissions--at least the past two, Goin' Back Home Again and The Bar and Grill--you know that these are not the typical stories you find in this genre. They do have, at their center, a cheating wife. I prefer to explore the implications and outcomes of the cheating for all parties involved. That's what's going to happen here. I'm not telling you whether there will be revenge or (God forbid!) reconciliation. You'll have to read it all to find out. Just be forewarned as you read it.
Again, please take your time to comment, and make your comments as detailed as you feel comfortable with. Yes, I like the comments that tell me the story is great. I really, really like the comments, though, that tell me what is either good or bad about it. What is and isn't working. In other words, the comments that will help me as a writer.
It was almost two in the morning by the time I drove my rental into Grant City. Since Dad wasn't answering at home, I drove straight to the hospital.
Dad, Benny, and Benny's wife Maureen were all in the waiting room.
They all rose upon seeing me, and we all hugged in turn.
"It's a stroke," Benny said as we hugged.
"Don't know yet," Dad said. "They're running a bunch of tests now. We won't know for awhile yet."
I nodded, then turned to Benny and Maureen. "Where are the kids?"
"My sister has 'em," Maureen said. "She'll keep 'em until we know what's happening."
And that was it. I couldn't think of anything else to say and neither could anyone else. We were all just plain scared, and no one wanted to give voice to their fears.
* * * * *
At a little past four, a doctor strode into the waiting room. He was youngish, maybe a few years older than me at most, and he looked dog tired.
"How is she?" Dad said, getting to his feet with a burst of energy.
The doctor's look was grim. "It was a stroke," he said. "A serious one."
"What's that mean?" Benny said. "Is she gonna be all right?"
The doctor looked at all of us. He sighed. "She'll live. But it's going to be a long, hard road."
"I don't care," Dad said.
The doctor looked at him. "She's going to have some serious physical impairments. Paralysis on the right side of her body. And speech. She'll need a lot of therapy, both speech and physical."
"But that'll fix it, right?" Dad said, the fear in his eyes.
The doctor shook his head. "Not totally. I'm afraid a lot of it's going to be permanent."
Dad looked like a balloon that had been pricked with a pin. He just slowly sagged back into the chair.
"Don't get me wrong," the doctor rushed in. "She's still sharp as a tack. And she'll regain her speech with time, though it won't be as fast as it used to be. And she'll be able to walk again. It'll just be with a limp."
Dad looked up at him, his eyes pleading.
Benny put his hand on Dad's knee. "She'll get better, Dad."
I put my hand on his shoulder. "She's a fighter."
Dad tried to laugh through is pain and fear. "She is that," he agreed. "She'll get better. You just watch."
The doctor's face said he doubted that, but he had the sense and compassion to just nod.
* * * * *
Two days later, Benny, Maureen, and I were sitting around the dining room table, drinking our morning coffee. Dad was already at the hospital, making the arrangements for Mom to go to a care facility for the initial--and we were told very intense--physical therapy.
I caught Benny and Maureen shooting glances at me and then at each other, Maureen raising her eyebrows and nodding her head toward me.
"What?" I said, looking at her. "Just say it."
Benny cleared his throat. "Uh . . . well . . . Ty-- "
"Someone's gonna have to stick around here for awhile," Maureen said, flustered with Benny's attempt to state the obvious that had been hanging over our heads for the past two days.
I nodded. "I know."
"Dad can't really take care of himself," Benny added.
"Can't cook for shit," I agreed.
"And probably has no clue how to run a washer or dryer, either," Maureen added.
"And he's gonna be real busy going to and from the therapy center and all," Benny piled on.
"Guys," I said, "you don't have to convince me. I know."
"Well," Benny started, then stopped, unsure how to continue.
"I've got a lot of time off coming," I said.
The relief was evident in his face.
"Don't worry," I continued. "I'll stick around for awhile."
"You always were a lot better in the workshop," Maureen said.
"The workshop?" I said.
"Yeah," Benny explained. "Someone's gonna have to keep the orders filled, right? It's not like Dad can just drop everything. At least, I don't think they've got that much saved up."
I hadn't really thought about this part of it. Made sense, though. Someone had to make the cabinets and the occasional custom tables and chairs, dressers and bookcases. And they were right. Benny would lose fingers within a week. A complete klutz.
"You're right," I said.
* * * * *
When Dad came home that night, we went out back to the pole barn that served as his workshop--and the rest of the cabinetmaking and woodworking business, for that matter.
"You'll need to keep orders filled," I explained on the way out.
"Yeah," he sighed, not really caring.
"So why don't you show me what's in the hopper and I'll start first thing tomorrow?"
He stopped, turned, and fixed me with a stare. I had his attention, that's for sure.
"You even remember how to do any of this? How to work with your hands?"
"It'll come back," I promised.
He moved his mouth, grinding his teeth as he thought it over.
"I'll stay home tomorrow," he said. "Go over everything and keep an eye on you. See if you've still got it."
I smiled. "Fair enough."
"Benny and Mo can be with your mom."
"She'll like that. Get you out of her hair for awhile."
And we proceeded to the workshop and went over the orders that needed to be filled, the plans that needed to be completed, the billing that needed doing, and all the other things that go into running your own little business.
After more than six years dealing with far larger figures, the business end of things didn't really intimidate me much.
Looking at some of the pieces sitting around in various stages of completion, though, left me in awe. The tight joinery and sculpted flow of the furniture started me sweating, and the hand cut dovetails on the drawers and casework scared the shit out of me.
I hadn't done a hand-cut dovetail joint in more than seven years, but I remembered how long it took me to originally master the art.
Maybe we could just hire someone? I thought.
* * * * *
"Sam," I said into the phone, "I'm gonna need some serious time off."
He was apoplectic, as I knew he would be. Sam Runyon was the Senior Vice President/Bonds at McDaniels Smyth, and the thought of time off was contrary to the fiber of his very being.
"It's my mother," I explained. "She's had a stroke."
"She okay?" he said, still gruff.
"No, Sam, she's not okay. She's pretty fucked up."
"She's not going to die or anything, is she?"
"No, she's not going to die," I said.
"Then what's the problem?"
"My dad," I explained. "He needs someone around for awhile until she's out of inpatient therapy."
"Like how long?"
"Like a month."
"A month," he wailed, half sorrow, half unbelieving.
"Maybe more," I said.
"More than a month," he bemoaned.
"It's not like-- "
"I don't know, Collins. Really. You're asking a lot here."
That pissed me off. I'd given my everything to these pricks, and now they're pissed off I needed to take care of my folks? You're fucking kidding me, right?"
"Sorry," I said, biting my tongue. "I can't really get out of this."
"I'm gonna have to run it by the higher ups," he said. "It's not that simple. I mean, you need a week, sure. You got it. Two weeks? Yeah, we should be able to cover. But a month? I mean-- "
"I'm not asking you, Sam," I said, my voice getting firm as I struggled to keep from exploding. "I'm telling you, okay?"
He paused, undoubtedly surprised that anyone would so blatantly challenge his authority.
"Do you know what you're saying?" he said. "That maybe you're giving up your current position? You want that?"
"I don't really have a choice," I said. "This is my parents we're talking about here, not some goddamned sick dog or something."
"And what are we supposed to do while you're gone? Who's supposed to cover for you?"
"That's not my problem."
"It sure as goddamned hell is your problem, Collins. This is your department. You answer for it."
"So I should what?" I exploded. "Just say, 'Hey, sorry Mom and Dad. Can't help out here. Hope you don't lose everything and all. Be sure to write at Christmas. Oh, and Mom? You get well, Sweetie.' Huh? Is that what you're sayin' I should do here?"
"I don't really give a shit what you do, Collins," he snapped, his voice getting harder. "I'm just sayin' it's not my problem. Not McDaniels Smyth's problem. Got it?"
"Loud and fucking clear, Sam," I said before I'd even thought about it. "And bonds isn't my problem right now, either."
"What's that supposed to mean?" he demanded.
I thought for a moment before answering. These bastards had already gone a long way toward destroying my marriage--granted with plenty of help from Kristin and me. And they'd demanded hours that slaves would revolt over in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Now they wanted me to just abandon the only family I had left?
"That means two things, Sam," I said. "First, it means I resign. Effective immediately."
I heard him suck in his breath, then he got control of himself.
"You said two things," he said slowly.
"The second thing is my severance package," I said. "I want two fifty."
"You're fucking nuts," he exploded into the phone. "You're quitting on us. We're not firing you. And you're doing it with no notice. And we should pay you for this?"
"Read my employment contract, Sam," I said. "We're nine months into the fiscal year. And I've accrued sixty days in vacation that you can't really deny me. So you're going to pay me for the vacation time I've earned, and you're going to pay me a quarter mil on top. As severance pay."
"And if we refuse?" he said, knowing better than to bluster his way into a corner without the full threat before him.
"Two things. First, I'll just take my sixty days of vacation, and there ain't shit you can do about it. Then I'll come back for the last thirty days and resign the second the fiscal year is up. In which case you'll still owe me my bonus. Second, I'll call Carl Stepford over at Midlands Financial. I'll tell him all about leaving you guys and why and I'll snag them for someone else."
"You wouldn't dare," he gasped, genuinely amazed at my complete prickishness.
"The fuck I wouldn't," I said. "You owe me at least one ninety for the bonus, and you'll be making money off Midlands long after I'm gone."
"Let me get back to you," he said.
Twenty minutes later, my cell rang.
"That didn't take too long, Sam," I said.
"It's not Sam," a measured baritone voice said into a speakerphone on the other end. "It's Bertram MacReynolds."
"Oh, Mr. MacReynolds," I said, surprised the head of McDaniels Smyth himself was calling.
"There seems to have been an unfortunate misunderstanding, Tyler," he said.
"How so, sir?"
"I think Mr. Runyon may have jumped the gun a bit, Tyler. Maybe been a bit too harsh."
I smiled, deciding to say nothing in response.
"Are you still there?"
"Still here, sir."
"What I'm saying, Tyler, is that you have sixty days of vacation coming. Sixty days you've broken your back to earn. And if you need to take that time to be with your family, then we're all for it. Your job will be waiting when you get back, okay?"
"I don't know, Mr. MacReynolds," I said, knowing how I was going to play this. "I mean, he seemed awfully sure about the firm's position."
"I speak for this firm, Mr. Collins," MacReynolds thundered. There was a pause, and when he spoke next his voice was more gentle. "We're really sorry to hear about your mother, son. And we don't turn our back--I don't turn my back--on our valuable employees in their times of need. So if you need to take the time, then please take it."
"Sorry, sir," I said. "I'm not coming back."
I could picture poor Sam Runyon sitting across from MacReynolds at this very moment, shrinking from the glare that was undoubtedly scorching his skin.
"But here's what I'm willing to do, sir," I continued. "You approve the severance package I asked for, and I'll make sure you keep Midlands through the transition."
Let's face it, folks, Bertram MacReynolds didn't give two shits about me or my Mom. He wanted to keep Midlands.
"All right, Tyler," he said warily, "we're listening."
"You appoint my replacement. Then you send him--or her--and Sam up to get me in Chicago. I'll go with them to Midlands and introduce everyone all around. I'll stick to the sob story of why I'm leaving despite your best efforts to help me out. And I'll ease the transition. I'll make sure they think you guys are still golden."
There was some hissed whispering on the other end, then MacReynolds spoke again.
"I'm not so sure Mr. Runyon is the right person to accompany you," he said. "We're afraid there'll be-- "
I knew what he was going to say, and I decided to let Runyon off the hook. He'd always been good to me. Even if he had worked me half to death for six years. He'd kept up his end of the bargain, but he was a company man. I knew how he'd react to my requested time off. I just didn't know it would kick me in the ass to move on with my life for good.
"Mr. MacReynolds," I interrupted, "Sam Runyon is the best damned boss a man could have. I'm not mad at him, and I bear him no ill will. He's great at his job, and our earlier . . . er . . . disagreement has nothing to do with why I'm leaving."
MacReynolds cleared his throat. "Oh . . . well . . . . Tyler."
"You sure you won't be changing your mind about this?"
"I'm sure, sir."
There was some more hushed whispering on the other end.
"We'll get the vacation pay direct deposited into your account by close of business today," he said. "And we'll e-mail you a severance agreement to review. If it meets with your approval, we'll pay you the two fifty at the end of the trip to Midlands, okay?"
"Half now, half at the end," I said. "And a guarantee that the trip is scheduled within forty-five days."
"Smart boy," he chortled. "And done. We've got a deal?"
"It's a deal, sir," I said.
"We really are sorry. Both about your mother and to see you go."
"Thank you, sir."
Two weeks later, I spent a Thursday and half a Friday in Minneapolis securing the Midlands account for my former employers.
By the following Monday, the balance of my severance package was in my bank account.
* * * * *
So what the hell was I going to do? Not a clue.
That little phone call insured I wouldn't have to worry about money any time soon, though. With my savings, stock options, and--even after taxes--the severance pay and vacation pay, I had a tidy little nest egg of almost seven hundred grand. Maybe not enough for the high life in West Palm Beach, Florida, but more than enough in Grant City, Illinois.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And things were a whole lot cheaper in Grant City than in West Palm.
So I had plenty of time to figure out what to do with my life. And how to get my stuff from West Palm to Grant City.
* * * * *
"Susan?" I said, calling the only person I really knew in Florida. It helped, too, that she had the key to my apartment.
"How's your mother?" she asked.
"Better," I said. "A stroke. Pretty bad one, too. But she's getting better now, thanks for asking."
I could her the exhalation that told me she actually gave a shit about the mother of a man she'd only spent two nights with.
"I was wondering if you could do me a favor?"
"The book?" she said.
I paused, having forgotten all about it. "No. It's a little more important than-- "
"I don't think anything's more important than getting it published," she said, her voice getting excited. "Jesus, Tyler, it's fucking brilliant."
"You read it?"
"Of course I read it," Susan said. "You think I'm gonna just pawn it off without seeing if it was any good?"
I chortled, pleased with myself. "And you liked it?"
"Loved it," she said. "And I've already sent it along to my friend. She should be getting it today or tomorrow."
"Well . . . uh . . . thanks," I said. Both the praise and her keeping the promise I'd totally forgotten about were more than I'd expected. If I'd even remembered about the book, that is.
"So," she said, "you called."
"Yeah. Listen, I'm gonna be moving up here for awhile."
Susan was silent. Disappointed? I couldn't tell.
"Mom's in a rehab center," I said after a moment. "Dad's got his own business, and he needs help running it right now."
"What about your brother? Bobby or whatever his name is."
"Benny," I corrected. "He's married. Kids. Lives four hours away by car."
She was silent again.
"And I need some help getting my stuff up here," I continued. "You have my key and all. I was just thinking."
"Sure, Tyler," she said, her voice soft. "You know that. What do I need to do?"
"Let me make a few calls," I replied. "See who I can hire. Once I get someone lined up, I'll give you a call. You can probably just drop the key off with 'em or something."
"Sure," she said, trying to project a chipper mood. "No prob. Anything."
"What's wrong?" I said.
"Come on, I can tell. You . . . I don't know . . . I mean . . . ."
"Yeah," she sighed.
Just that. Yeah. Said it all. She was interested in me. Cared for me. Maybe wanted to make a go of trying to date me.
"Sorry," I said. What else could I say?
"Don't be." She tried laughing, but failed. "Shit happens, right?"
"Guess so," I agreed.
"And it was only a few days, right?"
"Maybe the first time," I said, sadness overwhelming me. "Not the second time, though."
"So there could've been more?"
"I told you. You're special. Smart, nice, beautiful."
"With a career."
"And a thousand miles away," I added.
"So you've quit?" she asked. "Your job?"
The silence lingered. Ten seconds. Twenty.
"Get me the number," she said. "Whoever you hire. I'll make sure it all gets back to you, okay?"
"And be looking for a call from an agent, okay? Her name's Natalie."
"And Tyler?" she said. I could hear her sniffling, like she was about to cry if she wasn't already.
"You take care of yourself, okay?"
She hung up.
Two weeks later, mid-June, my car, furniture, and all personal belongings were safely delivered from Florida. All but the car, my clothes, and my computer were safely put into a storage garage until I could find a place of my own, which wouldn't happen until after Mom came home from rehab.