Boston to Birmingham Ch. 01byqhml1©
The same older man greeted him warmly, and escorted him in. There was just a moment of silence as the sea of black faces took his measure, then began coming up to him, shaking his hand and bidding him welcome.
The service was moving, reminding him of the preachers back home. He went back to see his grandfather about every two months. Gwen had never accompanied him.
He noticed the choir sang acappella, even though a big B3 Hammond sat prominently off to the right.
He asked the reverend about it as they shook hands after the service.
"It's broke, and we ain't got the money to fix it. Even if we did, we got no one to play it."
He changed the subject.
"I can tell by your voice you're not from around here. Where you from originally?"
"I doubt you ever heard of it. Limestone County, Alabama, up on the Tennessee border."
The reverend grinned broadly.
"Heck, boy, I'm from Franklin County. I thought you sounded familiar."
He paused, frowning.
"My last church was in Colbert County, there were some Wilkes living there. Any kin?"
"Yes preacher, afraid so. And I know you know their reputation, and in my younger days I was as bad as any of them."
"Well son, you seem to have bettered yourself. God does move in mysterious ways."
"I don't know if it was God, but a county sheriff, a smart judge, a tough drill instructor, a Jewish Rabbi, and a good pyschologist moved me in the right direction."
"Brother, that's a story I got to hear sometime. Now, would you join my wife and I for lunch?"
It was Southern cooking at its' best. There must have been twenty people there, and the good will and fellowship flowed.
Gwen attended with him, once.
Two months later he joined the church. A week after that he had the organ fixed, and surprised the congregation by accompanying the choir.
He had learned to play while he was in rehab for wounds received in service. Learning an instrument
was part of his therapy.
Gwen thought it was funny until she came home from a trip and found a black teenager in her kitchen. She thought it was a break in until Hardy came out of their home office. He had been tutoring the boy and had taken a break for some drinks. They had to cancel the 911 call and talk to the policemen who came to check, standard policy when 911 is dialed.
She recovered nicely but gave Hardy hell later.
"I admire your work, Hardy, but do you have to bring them into my home?"
He looked at her with tired eyes.
"Don't you mean our home? Robbie has a very high IQ, he's motivated and wants to get ahead in life. He just hasn't had a lot of breaks. I'm helping him get ready for his SAT exam. If he does well he's almost guaranteed a scholarship."
She realized her error and tried to make amends.
"Yes, honey, it is OUR home, and I'm proud of what you're doing. It just caught me by surprise. I'm tired. Take me to bed?"
He did, but it felt forced, rehearsed, without any real feeling. Their love life had dwindled, badly.
When they first married he would come home, sneak up behind her, and before she knew it have her flipped over the closest piece of furniture available. She would scream and giggle, telling him to stop, while thrusting back with all her might. Six months ago he tried it and she shocked him by breaking loose and giving him a lecture about being crude. She didn't realize it until much later, but it was the last time he ever attempted it.
Gwen was working on the biggest merger in the firms' history. Two mega corporations, one in Boston, one in Paris. The intricacies were horrific, and her team, Allan's team, and their Parisian counterparts were working seventy plus hours a week to meet a government imposed deadline. She had been home for two days in three weeks.
They had dinner with her Dad, and he could tell things were strained. When he tried to lighten the mood by asking if the timeline for grandchildren was still on, things went downhill fast.
Hardy was almost emotionless in his answer.
"You'll have to ask Gwen. We have to actually be on the same continent and in the same bedroom for that to happen."
Gwen flushed. She knew she had been neglecting him, but damn it, the merger was important. Instead of smoothing it over, she attacked.
"That's not fair and you know it! I have to work like this to get the merger done on time. A lot of people are depending on us. It'll be over in the next month, then we can go back to our lives."
Hardy shocked her.
"Oh. I understand, honey, the needs of the many vs the needs of the few. The firm should always come first. And I'm sure we'll get our lives back, at least until the next big deal comes up. We'll have what, two, maybe three whole days? I guess I should be grateful for what I can get."
Her face lost all color. How dare he trivialize what she did?
Before she could start, Her Dad interrupted.
"Gwen! Not a word! Anything you say right now will probably be hurtful. You two obviously have issues. Go home, work them out. And Hardy, I resent the implication that I would allow our firm to eclipse your marriage."
They rode home in absolute silence.
They sat together on the couch later, side by side. They may as well have been on different continents.
"I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. I didn't mean to say anything in front of your Dad, it just came out. But honey, we need to talk. What's happening lately isn't what we agreed on when we married. We've lost the passion, and just to be honest you've acted like you were ashamed of me the last few times we've been out with your friends. If you're out of love with me, tell me and we'll move on. You're too beautiful to be miserable."
"It'll break my heart, but I want you happy."
Gwen felt like someone had poured a bucket of ice water over her head. Had she been that bad? Looking back, she had to admit she had slighted him several times while out with her friends. Was she ashamed of him? No! He just needed to lighten up a little.
She started crying and apologized repeatedly.
"I still love you! Of course I'm proud of you. We WILL start our family soon, just let me get through with this merger, honey. We'll take a trip, reignite our love. Please honey."
He held her and whispered his love to her while she cried. Glad she couldn't see his face, the tears trickling down his cheeks. He wanted to believe her, desperately, but the trial lawyer in him couldn't ignore the facts.
They went to bed but didn't make love, content to hold each other. The next morning he woke to a warm pleasant sensation, and looked down to see she had hold of his morning erection, and had it halfway down her throat.
He lay back, enjoying the sensations, it had been a while. When she started being more aggressive, he reached down to pull her up.
She rammed her mouth all the way down his length, sliding slowly, slowly back up.
She looked at him with the old lust in her eyes.
"Oh no, big boy. Today you get to rack up frequent flyer miles. We're going to start in France.." she paused to take him back into her mouth for a second, "Then I thought you might want to do a little missionary work, and end our little tour in Greece. It's your turn to go 'round the world."
It was the most intense lovemaking they had ever had.
When he finally lost it, she clamped down, not allowing a drop to spill. He grabbed her and told her since he was in France, he was going to stop by the Gates Of Heaven and proceeded to give her two massive orgasms with his tongue and fingers, working both holes at the last. They both lay in blissful silence, before he proceeded with his mission work.
They rested before the last stop. Gwen actually liked anal when she was in the mood. It was a longer session than she would have liked, but the look on his face made it all worthwhile.
They cuddled and caressed the rest of the day.
She went into work Friday beaming. Things were getting back on track. Her good mood evaporated when Lisa told her the boss wanted her ASAP.
"Damn" she thought, "What could Dad want now? This can't be good."
She entered his office, and he came around the desk and sat in a chair beside her.
"Honey, let me tell you how proud I am of you. This merger is going to make you a star. You'll definitely get a full partnership out of it."
She beamed under his praise. Maybe she was wrong.
He leaned back tented his fingers and looking at her intently.
"How's your home life? Truth, now."
"Oh, it's been a little rocky, but we reconnected last night. I'm formally putting in for two weeks of vacation immediately after the merger is complete. We're going away, no cell phones, no deadlines, just us."
"I'm pleased for both of you, you know how I feel about Hardy."
He paused, she wasn't going to like what was coming next.
"Honey, the other partners and I have come to an agreement. You've peaked in your department. Nothing can top what you've done. We think it's time you moved over to litigation. A year or two of court experience will round you out. This is a good thing. After all, in ten or fifteen years you'll be sitting in this chair. We want you to be competent in all areas. You'll need the experience to make the hard decisions."
"So, finish your project, take some time off with Hardy, and when you return you can look forward to new challenges."
It was liked being slapped in the face. All her hard work, and as a reward she was being transferred to the most onerous department in the firm. Court cases, the kind they handled for rich clients, were often messy, blood letting affairs, involving sex, stupidity, or money, usually a combination of all three. Occasionally one of the clients did something so monumentally idiotic they ended up in criminal court. Then it got really bad. The sheer drudgery of paperwork would drive a normal person insane.
Her Dad knew she was pissed, but deep down he did want grandchildren, and he knew they had no chance of staying together unless they had more time to reconnect.
She put on her best face, even if he was her dad, he was still the boss.
Afterwards, she slammed her office door, telling her assistant not to disturb her for an hour. Irrationally, she blamed the whole thing on Hardy.
"He got to my Dad. I bet they spend quality time mapping out my future, probably already determined the number and names of my children."
That night at home, as Hardy tried to kiss her, she turned her head, offering her cheek instead.
He was confused, things seemed to be back on track. What had he done wrong now?
"What's wrong, hon, bad day at the office?"
She had been brooding all day and lost it.
"Like you don't know! Scheming with Dad to keep me home, taking my job away. Why did you do that to me?!"
She continued to rail at him for ten minutes before he could get a word in.
Hardy had no idea what she was talking about. Her Dad had made that decision without him knowing, so he was completely in the dark.
It took awhile to get the story, and while he sympathized with her, he was becoming irritated.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know the thought of spending more time at home was so distasteful to you. I had no input in the decision, but I'd be lying if I told you I didn't like it. We made promises, Gwen, established a timeline. Damn it, we talked this to death! I'm starting to think it was all a lie, just another example of a spoiled little rich girl stamping her foot and saying 'I want'. And I was a fool, dumb enough to believe you."
"But you know, deep down, I knew it would come to this. We're just too different. Knowing that, I still hoped it would work, hoped with all my heart, so even though I'm not surprised, I'm still amazed at the pain I feel."
At the end, he was standing over her, the pain and anger blazing from his eyes. She shrank back, afraid of her husband for the first time in her life. When he turned and stalked out the door, she sat there in shock.
To this day she couldn't tell you how long she sat there in confusion and surprise. Snapping out of it she grabbed her phone and called him. It rang and seemed to echo, before it hit her it was coming from the bedroom.
"Did he come back in while I was zoned out?" she thought as she hurried to the bedroom.
Of course he wasn't there, his phone was on his night stand, like it always was when he prepared for bed.
She called his friends, the ones she knew of, but nobody had seen or heard from him. In desperation, she called her Dad.
When he heard the story she could hear his irritation as he talked. Finally he exploded.
"You need to fix this, and quick. He's a prideful man, child, and you've been cutting him to the core lately. Get your head out of your ass before you lose him. On the other hand, if you want out, end it quickly. Don't make him suffer needlessly. Damn it girl! I knew this would happen. You've got too much of your mother in you. I should have told him no when he asked for your hand."
Gwen reeled under his attack, did he really think so little of her? She ended the call by telling him if he heard from him, please tell him to come home, or at least call.
"And Daddy, make sure you tell him I said please, that I'm sorry, and most of all that I love him."
She finally fell into an exhausted sleep around two.
At noon she called the local precinct to report him missing. Maybe the police could find him. She talked to an Officer Malone.
"Hardy is missing? How long?"
She was surprised he used his first name, but then again, he seemed on a first name basis with the entire police force.
"Since seven last night. Can you help me?"
"Officially, we can't do anything for twenty four hours. Tell me, did you two have a little spat last night?"
"Well, we did have a misunderstanding, but I..."
"There you go, my lass, he's probably off cooling down. If he's not home by tomorrow morning, call and ask for me. You don't remember me, but we met once. I'm sure he won't stay away from such a beauty as you for long. And, unofficially, of course, I'll check around today. If I find him, I'll give him a little nudge. Stop worrying, he'll most likely be home shortly."
She thanked him profusely, the deep baritone Boston Irish accented voice was comforting.
Officer Malone put the word out, and soon found him at an uptown hotel.
Hardy was surprised when he opened the door.
"Tommy, what brings you out of your precinct? Is everything all right?"
"No, me prideful, stubborn boy, things are definitely not all right. Your lovely bride reported you missing. You should have heard her, it sounded like she was about to collapse any second."
"It's not my business, but I've become fond of you. If you hadn't been there that day my youngest may not be here now. So as a friend, do us all a favor and go home. If her dad decides to throw his weight around it could get uncomfortable for everyone."
Hardy frowned. He had been thinking about going home, but the stubborn streak he had been trying to hold in check for years had been loosed by all this, and was not to be denied.
"So, the rich bitch gets Bostons' finest to do her dirty work now. Tell me Tommy, how did she pay you, offer to make a donation to one of your causes?"
Tommy literally reeled under the attack. By the end Hardy was standing directly in front of him, dwarfing his five nine with his six three. And the eyes! He had never seen eyes like that before. Training kicked in and he stepped back, touching his weapon.
"Jeez! Calm down Hardy. She didn't do anything but try to file a missing person report. I came on my own because I thought you were my friend and I wanted to help you. Sorry, it's not my business. I'll leave you alone."
He was backing out of the suite as he was speaking, never taking his gaze of the eyes.
Hardy seemed to deflate like a balloon.
"I'm sorry Tommy. I didn't mean to be so rude. And I appreciate the effort, really. But there's a lot more to this than you know."
"Do me a favor, tell my wife I agree to talk. I should be calm enough by tomorrow, I'll be home by one. We'll talk then."
"And Tommy, thank you, it's good to know you got friends."
"Don't mention it. I expect to see you Thursday, basketball tryouts at the gym. I think we're gonna give you the girls this year."
It was the first time that day he saw him smile.
"Great! I can't handle one Yankee gal, and you want to turn a bunch of twelve and thirteen year old girls loose on me. Thank you so much."
Tommy grinned back.
"Don't worry too much, by the second day they'll all be in love with you. Then they'd kill for you if you told them to. Good luck, old son."
As he walked away he fingered the rosary in his pocket and said a little prayer for him. It couldn't hurt.
Gwen had not been idle. After the shock wore off her skills surged to the forefront and she started making calls. She called Crystal Anne, she just laughed and hung up. Damn, it had been only ten days since their little talk. God, she hoped she didn't spill the beans about her slip with Allan.
It had been a tense week, working with Allan again. She repeated their previous conversation. She really liked him, but it had been a mistake, never to be repeated. He kept hinting, so she started avoiding him, speaking only when business required it. Thank goodness they only needed one more week to conclude the deal for their clients.
He was nice to her, didn't want to scare her again, but deep down he was pissed. Still, patience was a good thing when it came to closing the deal, and he was a master.
Word got back to him soon about her situation, he was paying[and banging] her P.A.
He called her that night before Officer Malone got back to her. He was careful in his wording, trying to show compassion while undermining Hardy more.
"I'm sure he'll be back soon. He just not, well, not as sophisticated as we are. He doesn't understand our world, he's too simple. As soon as he cools down and starts thinking about all that money, and your beauty of course, he'll come crawling back."
He'd been doing this for months, damning him with faint praise, stressing his humble background, his lack of sophistication, his slavish devotion to what he called the broke losers, his pro bono clients, his inability to loosen up. And planting small doubts in her head about whether it was her or the lifestyle he wanted.
He had even talked her into going to a nude beach while they were in France, allowing the exhibitionist tendencies she had since she was eighteen to run loose. Then he sympathized with her for marrying a prude.
Her insecurities were in the forefront, she never thought in a million years he'd walk out on her.
The phone call from Malone gave her hope and comfort. And she actually listened to his advice.
"I don't know what happened, don't want to know, but he's hurt bad, I could see it plain as day.
Your fault, his fault, doesn't matter. What matters is you need to talk it out. Be honest, be loving, be upfront when he asks you something. You're both lawyers, you need to forget about your training, and just talk. Oh, and if it works out like I think it will, Thomas Francis is a good name for a boy."
She actually laughed for the first time in two days, and promised to run it by Hardy.
Thanking him profusely, she hung up.
She laid out her most elegant nightgown, she wanted to be sexy but conservative. His favorite perfume followed, and a silk robe. She wanted to be dressed but instantly available. And she prayed for the first time in forever, that she not screw this up. Satisfied, she had a light dinner, called her dad and said she thought all would be right by tomorrow night, drank enough scotch to make her drowsy, and slept.