An Unacceptable SituationbyMatt Moreau©
I'd just said goodbye to Ben when I got the call from my wife. She sounded odd, distant. It, the call, had short shanked my usual Friday afternoon beer fest at the Hop and Grape, my favorite hangout. I was home twenty minutes later: the clock read 5:27. I would remember the time; it spelled the end of my sixteen year marriage to Zoe Conyers. I'm Bill Conyers, 37, and in every way your average Joe. I'm an ex-army electrician. I'm currently working for the city: I'm a garbage collector, go figure. It's a pretty good living; but, I'm hoping to someday own my own electronics business.
"Thanks for coming home early, Bill," said Zoe. "I—we—Caroline and I, need to talk to you." My gaze floated over toward my teenaged daughter; her face was impassive." I sent her a half smile; she's always been the light of my life.
"Okay," I said. "I'm here. What's going on?"
"Bill, there's no easy way to say this, but Caroline and I are leaving," said Zoe.
"Leaving? For where?" I said, not getting it.
"Bill, I'm divorcing you. You will be served with the papers today. I didn't want to just have some stranger dumping them on you—well—anyway that's why I asked you to come home early. I mean so I could tell you, be up front with you. I glanced back and forth between then two of them. Fear was beginning to register in my gut.
"I know this is going to be hard for you to understand, Bill. It just happened. I'm sorry," she said.
"Caroline?" I said, looking over toward my daughter. She looked away. I was beginning to hurt—real bad!
"Who is he?" I said. I could feel my face getting hot, my stomach start to roil, I felt tingly—and none of it was good. I was stunned, right enough, but not totally dead in the head. If she—they—were leaving there had to be a man. I was undoubtedly already a cuckold, but if so, I had been an unknowing one.
"I suppose you'll find out sooner or later anyway. It's John Kurst, Bill. He's a real estate developer. He's a nice man, Bill. He can do more for Caroline—well—than..."
"Than me," I said, finishing up her line. It is amazing how quickly mild interest, even concern, can morph into the purest of hatreds.
"You're dumping me—the both of you—for money? I haven't been up to your standards is that it?" I said. "I maybe don't smell too good at the end of work day, Zoe, but, at least I don't have the stench of betrayal on me.
"Caroline? Nothing? You've got nothing to say? I'm your daddy for chryssakes! You've got nothing to say to me?" I was pissed and hurt and at a loss.
"I guess all it takes is some rich guy to buy you two off. Is that it? His money? Well, money ain't the only thing, and it don't guarantee happiness, not by a long shot," I said. Bitter didn't even begin to describe my feelings at that moment.
"There's no need to be sarcastic, Bill. I'm trying to make this as easy as I can for you," she said.
"Yeah, right," I said. "You been fucking him? This Kurst fuckwad!"
"Bill, Caroline is right over there," said Zoe. I looked over to Caroline.
"Okay. Well then, Caroline, has she?" I said. I was bitter and angry, and about to lose control.
"Huh?" said my fifteen year old daughter.
"Has your mother been fucking this asshole?" I said.
"William Conyers! Caroline is your daughter!" screamed Zoe. . "And she's choosing to live with the asshole who cuckolded me, and who has, by definition, been fucking you?" I said.
The battle was on; it lasted some minutes. I was at least not wimping out. I was mad and hurting big time, but not wimping out. Caroline ran out of the room; I guess the yelling was too much for her.
"All right, Bill, if that's your attitude, I guess we'll just have to accept it," said Zoe, finally giving up any hope of pacifying me. And, as bad as this was, worse was in the offing.
She stood and took one last look at me: her look was nothing if not one of pity. I stood too, then, sat heavily back down in my chair. I heard the front door slam. They were gone. I was alone. My life sucked. ******
After a minute or two I got up and strode into the living room. I noticed things right away. They'd already moved everything they were going to take out of the house. Almost nothing, that would remind me that just hours before I'd been a family man remained. Now, I was alone and sick at heart.
It was bad enough that Zoe was fucking someone else, but that Caroline was evidently okay with it killed me inside. That one I would one day exact revenge for; I promised myself that much; I just wasn't exactly sure of who on. No one had the right to come between a man and his children, and children didn't have the right to dump on a loving parent.
She'd planned well had Zoe. I was served not five minutes after the two of them left. The server must have been waiting nearby for them to leave. Her lawyer had evidently advised her, at least so it appeared, to sell the house and divide the assets. Apart from the house we didn't have much, so in practical terms there was not much to divide. Anything that did have a little value in it, she had already taken. As a backstabbing, betraying whore, I had to admit that my soon to be ex-wife was pretty high up the food chain.
I signed the papers and sent them to her lawyer. At least I was spared the indignity of having to pay for my own screwing; she paid him, or her lover did. Well, I guess there's upside to almost anything.
After the house sale, which I did my best to help expedite—hey, it was in my best interest—I moved out and into a very small studio apartment a bit nearer to work. When all was said and done, I had eleven thousand dollars in my account and not a damn thing else. But, I didn't have any bills, not even car payments; both cars were free and clear. I did have a job, even if it was one that my two ex-family members were apparently ashamed of. Still, I was thinking, that since I no longer had to provide for anyone but me, that I might make a change in that department; the little money I had could go for that. There was no alimony requirement. She evidently planned to marry his fuckwadship as soon as the ink was dry on the final decree. That figured to be about four more months from now, the way I figured it.
We were headin' in one day after a fairly grueling day on the job. Ben was on my elbow, "Wanna get a couple of cool ones?" he said.
"Yeah, sure, what the hell," I said.
The Hop and Grape was busy for a Friday afternoon and Ben and I added to the commotion.
I'd done more mopin' than funnin' in recent times. It occurred to me that I had to get on with things and stop feeling sorry for myself—easier said than done.
As the afternoon turned to early evening, Ben and I were feeling pretty good. Marian Kelly, a clerk among the twenty or so at the lot, where we parked our trucks, was there. She looked good. Short gray skirt, dark blouse, high heels: she looked great.
"Hear you're single again," said Marian. I looked her up and down trying to be as obvious as I could; well, she did look good. Ben smiled at me. I had the feeling he knew something I didn't.
"Will be soon, a couple of months I guess. But, you're married," I said. I was actually fishing. I had never even talked to Marian more than to say good morning or the equivalent; I had no idea if she were married or not. Ben laughed.
"I'm headin' out. You two have a nice," he said. Marian winked at him and I caught it. He was gone without another word.
She laughed. "Ben's a nice guy," she said. I nodded.
"I'm not married, Bill. I'm divorced for two years now. I thought you knew. I thought everybody knew," she said. "Ha! That's probably why no one has asked me out." She laughed.
Are you saying you haven't gone out at all in the past two years!" I said, hardly believing her.
"That's right. I mean except to hang out here with the other girls and all you married guys," she said.
"You wanna drink?" I said. "I wanna be your first date. I mean right now. We'll have a drink and get out of here. Okay?"
"Whoa, soldier. You're not thinking of a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am kind of thing are you?" she said. She looked seriously concerned.
"No, no, I just don't want some other cowboy coming on to you before I can get my name on your dance card," I said. Now she smiled.
"Okay then, it's a date. Oh, and I'll have a white wine," she said. We sat at the bar, sipped our drinks, and after about half an hour, we made to go out.
"We gotta go to my apartment first, if that's okay, Marian. I do need to shower and change. I want to take you somewhere a little more upscale than Mac's," I said.
"Sure bet, sailor." She said. She followed me home. I sat her down in my little front area, handed her an MGD from the fridge, and disappeared into the back to get cleaned up and dressed acceptably.
We took her car; my truck wasn't all that sweet smelling; I'd have to rectify that at some point if I was going to be dating again.
It was the first time in months that I had talked to a woman about anything but necessary job related stuff. Until this moment, I had thought of no other woman, in a social sense, but my wife, and those thoughts had all been bad thoughts: death by fuel injection, burial alive in the county landfill, crucifixion on a fiery cross, things like that. But, now I had a chance to redeem at least a part of my life.
The Blue Bayou served real Cajun food and I was in the mood. Marian at first looked askance at all of the greasy calories, but got into it after a while.
"I don't eat this way every day," I said, laughing. I just wanted to do something crazy; I hope it's okay. I've been in a blue funk ever since they left me. But, you, coming over to—well—saved me."
"Glad to be of service," she said. "And yes, the food is fine. I like the atmosphere too."
"Huh?" she said.
"I really needed to have a woman to talk to—be with. It was like I was afraid that no woman would want me. I mean even my own kid..." I started to breakup. She put her hand gently on my arm. Oh my, a woman's touch is among the most wonderful of things, just her touch alone, I thought.
"Bill, it's okay. And, for your information, the girls at the lot are talking about you behind your back. They're of two minds in case you care. One group wonders what you did to sour your marriage. The others are looking to see if they can score with you. You have nothing to worry about in the woman department. You will have to quit all the mopey stuff though. A woman doesn't want to be dealing with all of the neediness; you need to be the man you were before the breakup," she said.
"Hmm," I said. "And just in case you care, girl, the reason for the breakup; well, it was evidently purely a money thing. He's rich and I'm just an average Joe. So, she traded up. My daughter though—that one hurts real bad."
"I can imagine," she said.
We talked for some time, danced a little to the muted Dixieland band, and had a few too many martinis. She took me home at around 11:00PM. She kissed me, but did not accept my invite in.
"Maybe another time," she said, "but, not this time."
"You busy tomorrow night?" I said. She looked at me.
"Wanna go out? I'll clean up my car," I said. She smiled.
"Okay," she said. "Since you're willing to clean up your car for me how can I refuse?" ****** Marian and I dated after that most weekends. I was like a high school kid, even to the point of making out with her in the theater. I'd almost forgotten what it was like, dating a woman, but I was able to get back on track pretty quickly—call me a quick re-learner.
We were sitting at Bob's Big Boy, chewing on the best hamburgers on the planet, when I made the decision.
"Marian, I'm gonna be quitting tomorrow," I said. I think I even surprised myself. It's not like I hadn't been thinking about it. But, I had, until that moment, made no decision. Now, I had.
"Quit? Why? Whatever for?" she said.
"Well, I have a little money, and I have decided to go into business for myself," I said.
"What business?" she said.
"An electronics repair and installation service," I said. "I don't even need a shop, just a twenty-four hour hotline and my tools. I've got most of what I'll need right now; it's been my hobby since I was in the army. I can be up and operational in a week's time most."
She sat back in her seat and eyed me. "How will this impact us?" she said.
"Shouldn't at all," I said. "As we've talked about before, my divorce will be final by the end of the week. After that, my ex won't have any claim on anything I do, I mean after the final decree.
"Marian, I'm no fortuneteller, but I might be able to make a real go of this if I can just get things to break right for me, and with a little luck I think I can.
"When I was married, my wife wouldn't even consider letting me quit my steady job with the city. The irony in that is that she eventually dumped me mainly because of my 'nothing,' as she saw it, job. But, I no longer have that constraint. I'm gonna go for it. I have to," I said. "I don't wanna be ninety and talkin' about what might have been. The time is now."
"Wow!" she said. "Well, good. You should go for it.
"I imagine you've looked into the market for this kind of thing," she said.
"Yes, I have. I have to do more, but there is a market, especially with the computer thing going so crazy. I can do hardware and software, so that's a plus too," I said. ******
I gave two weeks' notice to the city. I knew it wouldn't be hard to replace me, but it made it easier for Clyde, our boss, to get someone else without having to hurry up. It was my last day when the boss approached me.
"Well, Bill, looks like your single again now and going into business for yourself. A complete new start for you, huh," he said.
"Yeah, Clyde, and I guess I'm looking forward to it to. It would have been nice to have my family in on it, but..."
Bill, there's someone waiting for you on the dock outback," he said. He looked kinda sheepish.
"Who?" I said.
"Your daughter," he said. My look must have cued him. "Yeah, I know you had your problems with her and your wife, but for the record, she seems anxious to talk to you."
"Okay, thanks, boss. I'll see her. It's been seven months since the last time. I have to admit that I'm curious as to what she wants," I said.
She looked pretty in her little red sundress. I had to admit to a little bit of pride there even if she had helped her mother stomp my ego along with my heart into the ground.
"Daddy!" she cried coming up to me and hugging me. Her enthusiasm surprised me.
"Yeah, I'm still that, I guess," I said.
"Daddy, you will always be that to me," she said. "I've been mad at myself since that day we left. I mean the way we treated you, me and mom."
"Okay?" I said. I didn't trust myself to respond. I still harbored a whole lot of anger; yes, even toward my daughter. And, yes, I know how bad that sounds.
"I miss you, dad," she said. "Do you have time to go eat?"
"Now?" I said. She nodded. I had a date with Marian in half an hour. I made the call.
"Hi...yeah...I'm going to be late...Caroline is here...yeah...wants to talk...okay, an hour and half is good." I hung up. Caroline gave me a look.
"A friend?" she said.
"Let's go," I said, ignoring her fishing expedition.
Denny's wasn't crowded. We took a booth in the back. The waitress came; the food as ordered arrived; we ate mostly in silence and then settled in to talk.
"You look nice, Caroline," I said. I knew I sounded formal, but it was how I was feeling. She noticed.
"Dad, I'm you daughter, not some stranger's kid," she said, reacting to my tone. I nodded.
"Yeah, but you're living with some stranger as his kid," I retorted. "And, this old daddy of yours, as you call me, hasn't seen or heard from you—or my ex-wife—in many months. How am I supposed to deal with that?"
"I know. That's mainly why I came today. I wanted to make sure you knew that I still consider you my dad. My only dad!" she said, emphatically.
"Really," I said.
"Yes, really," she said. What I said and did next might be considered cold by some, but I counted it as necessary.
"Thank God," I said enthusiastically. "Call your mom, and tell her we will be picking up your stuff tomorrow morning."
"Picking up my stuff?" she said looking me askance.
"Yes, I mean if you're still my baby, then you'll be staying with me, right?" I said, still acting the joyous dad part. Her face fell as I knew it would.
"But, dad, I can't just..." she started.
"Yeah, I figured," I said, dropping all pretense of joy. "So why did you bother coming here, really? If you have another dad that has that kind of hold on you, how can you say that I'm still your only dad? Tell me, I'd really like to know."
"Daddy, that's not what I meant—I mean—I mean..." she got up and ran out. The hurt I'd felt months before came back to me. Oh, I knew she had feelings for me, but I couldn't get by the reality that shear economics had made me a second class daddy; I blamed her momma for that.
I headed home to get ready for my delayed date with Marian.
I refused to let my upset with my daughter to interfere with my date with Marian. I had a right to be happy too, damn it, and Intended to be. My wife had dumped on me, cheated on me, cuckolded me; it was time for me to get a little back.
I was not intending to mess with Marian out of revenge only. Oh no, I was doing it for me, and, I hoped, for her too. She seemed to want me even if my cheating whore of a wife did not, and I for damn sure wanted Marian. Tonight was the night.
I looked at my watch the movie started in about three hours. That allowed us enough time to eat first and have a couple of drinks. I was early. I looked at her door from behind the wheel of my car. I was half an hour early; she was going to think I was anxious. Well hell, I was. I got out and headed up the walkway. Mounting the three steps I knocked. No answer. I knocked louder. I heard a rustling inside. The door opened a crack. "Bill! You're early," she said. "Count to ten and then come in." She clearly wasn't ready.
I counted and went in. She'd evidently headed toward the back of the house, to her room. "Get yourself a beer from the fridge," she called out from the back.
"Okay, thanks," I said, "sorry for being so early. Guess I was anxious."
"Never mind, I'll be out in a few minutes. Just relax and have a beer." She went silent , and I got me the beer. I took a seat by the big bay window and looked out on the view of the street and neighborhood in and around the front of her house. It was a nice place, the house; I knew she was renting and paying a pretty penny for the privilege too. A waste? I guess it was a matter of what one valued.
"Hi," she said.
"Hi back atcha," I said. "Hope I didn't upset you too much. I was just nervous and all, and well anxious. Sorry."
She smiled, "Never mind, just give me a call next time if you're in that much of a hurry we'll make adjustments, okay?"
"Sure bet. Uh—I figured we'd go out to eat have a couple of drinks, and then catch a movie. That okay?" I said.
"Sounds good," she said. We headed out.
The food was good; the port wine after dinner was very nice. We pulled up to the entrance to the theater. The Garden was a holdover from the fifties, a drive-in movie theater. Marian looked askance at me as we pulled up to the booth and paid.
"The passion pits?" she said, but she was smiling still. "I feel like a teenager on my first date."
"I just laughed. Yeah, well, that's kind of the idea," I said. "I just wanted to do something different with you; something that both of us would like; well, I hoped we'd both like it."
"We'll see about that," she said. We drove around to the back and parked. I mounted the sound device and turned it down low."