Deployed, Tattooed, Transformed Ch. 03bysophist801©
Jane and I did not speak much the next couple of days while we waited for Janice to arrive in (nor were there any more middle-of-the night in-the-dark surprises). I continued to report daily to my paper-pushing assignment on Base and was home in the evening. Jane and I went out in the evening to eat, mainly for the sustenance for our corporeal bodies, and we were civil.
While I was concerned about the health of Jane and Janice I knew my future with Jane was bleak at best. Emotionally I did not know how to reconcile what she had done. It would have been different, at least intellectually, if I had been overseas and Jane experienced a case of loneliness and the "hornies", gotten drunk and had a brief encounter with some stranger. After all I am, and always have been, a combat soldier. I was not a therapist nor did I think I had been a very good father. Survival and winning battles had always been my focus. I did not know how to apply military strategy to support my family. I only knew what was now important.
"Daddy!" It was so good to see Janice and was relatively easy for me to pick her out of the airport crowd. She looked so much like her mother, even down to the point of having lost weight. I knew that a little German food could change that in a hurry.
"Hello Janice . . . thank you for coming." It really was good to see her. After un-characteristic hugs she pulled away from me to face me as she spoke.
"Daddy, how could I not come? Besides I've never been to Germany. This is so cool!" It was good to see light in her eyes, a light I now wanted to foster and help grow. I just wasn't sure how to do this without causing Jane more heart-ache than she'd already experienced. Yes, I believed she was genuinely remorseful.
Seeing Jane and Janice greet one another told me they were always be close. Their lives as mother-and-daughter were inter-twined with experience I would never understand (shopping, menstrual cycles etc.). This did not matter for the outcome of what I was about to do. First I needed Janice to understand that she was in no way responsible for what her mother had done and subsequently failed to do. Janice, though wanting to help her mother and spare me pain and anguish, should never have been given to feel like she was doing anything except supporting her mother. This was laudable. Second, at least in my mind, Jane made the mistake of letting her daughter "share", albeit indirectly, in her transgression. Indirectly Jane had allowed Janice to share in her infidelity and assume some of the responsibility. Third, when Jane got to the point where she realized her daughter's depression was severe enough to seek me out, she left Janice alone and flew to Germany, turning away from her daughter.
The situation was emotionally complicated, yes?
"Once we have had something to eat we will talk in a way we have not for, well at least since my deployment to Iraq and wounded. I have only one expectation and that is honesty. Anything short of the truth will mean sending you two back to the States alone and Jane and I immediately divorcing. Can we agree before we start that honesty is a must, regardless of how uncomfortable we are?"
Jane and Janice nodded yes without hesitation.
So I took the two most important people in my life to the Officer's Club for dinner before returning with what was still my family to my small flat in Heidelberg.
"Jane do you want this marriage to work? Do you want our daughter to know her father loves her?" I was talking to Jane almost eyeball-to-eyeball.
"Yes, of course, but . . ."
"Look I have accepted a two-year assignment here. Do you want this to work or not?" I had to stop for a minute and think about what I was doing. I was not saying everything would be fine. Nor was I saying Jane, I forgive you. I was saying I love you enough to try and work through this. Most important I was making Janice the priority now that I understood how she blamed herself for what Jane did.
"Oh, God yes! Yes!" What I'd been saying was catching up to her brain with sudden realization.
"Then I need to know where Paul Michael Johannsen, Jr is now?" It was clear my question caught her by surprise. She had probably anticipated every other question by this one.
"Paul Jr?" The frightened look on her face was not difficult to read.
"Yes, Janice's half brother. Am I listed as the father on the birth certificate? Where is Paul Jr. now?"
"Well, he's with, ah his biological father. I thought it was the best thing to do for the baby at the time." I think Jane was beginning to understand why I'd asked the question.
"Your son, my daughter's brother, is living with someone who suffers from depression, possibly suicidal, and uses this to seduce married women? Why1? Who gave you the right to make the decision to give up a child I am responsible for?!" My disappointment and disapproval was evident and I don't think Jane had considered I would take this tack.
"Paul, what do you want me to do? You weren't there! How could I . . ." She was near tears.
"But I was there when you dropped you pants for another man, even if it was just a single time! If we are ever going to get past this you can never-ever make a decision that involves Janice and I without us." I kept bringing this back to Janice to emphasize that Paul Jr. was still her brother and Jane's son. "The right thing for you to do is make sure Paul Jr. is part of this family. Has the baby been legally adopted by the biological father?"
"No, I don't think that hasn't happened yet. I think you, as the father-of-record, need to say it is OK for the baby to be adopted."
"And it won't happen." Both Janice and Jane were stunned by my position. I'd had a long time to think things through and wanted to regain some sense of control. "To make things right means you will return to the States and make sure your son, Janice's bother, is where he belongs, even if it is not my biological son." My daughter's level of understanding was displayed with a slight smile. It told me it was the right decision especially if we were going to make it as a family. Paul Jr. was her brother and deserved more than to be abandoned by his mother and, indirectly by his sister.
"I understand Paul. Thank you, thank you. I've felt so guilty since leaving the child with, with his father. It never felt right. Now I understand why but was so worried you would kick me out." Janice and Jane were now holding onto each other, tears of relief, even if they hadn't realized why they were so depressed.
"There is one more thing you need to do." I waited until I had Jane and Janice's attention.
"Yes, what is that?" I think at that point she would have walked through fire.
"You need to return to the States to get Paul Jr. and bring him to Germany. Janice will stay with me while you do this. This will give me time to find more appropriate billeting for the four of us and get Janice enrolled in the International School." I took a sip of my cold coffee.
"Paul, what if I can't do what you ask, I mean, what if I can't get Paul Jr. back?" I'd given Jane a task that might be very, very difficult.
"Jane, I think you know the answer to that question. It boils down to you understanding what needs to be done to make things right between you and your daughter . . . then making things right with me. Paul Jr. cannot be an after-thought, a mistake you sweep under the carpet and leave with someone else to raise. You need to know I cannot hold a baby hostage for the mistakes two consenting adults make. In name he is my son and I will not shrug that responsibility."
Jane and I did not need to speak about what had happened and what the consequences would be if she ever "strayed" again. But there was a more important question Jane needed to answer.
"Jane, I've always loved you and I know my career has often taken me away for long periods of time. But you need to ask yourself if you still want to stay married to me. I ask this question because being married to me is also being married to the military. If you cannot accept this part of me, which means there may be periods of loneliness, then say so now and I will grant you a civilized divorce." This is something all military personnel, who are deployed for long periods of time, struggle with. The long periods of separation demand there be next-to absolute faith and trust in the people you love and who love you. This is very difficult to do when as, a soldier in harm's way, you only have your own thoughts to keep you company.
"Oh, Paul, I don't have to think about what I want. I want you, Janice and Paul Jr.! You've just given me the opportunity to redeem myself and honor you, something I'd forgotten is so important for you. I will never make that mistake again. Never!" I was going to say something like, yes, I believe you, until the next time I am deployed. I held my tongue believing I would never have a combat deployment again and would be able to take my family with me wherever I was assigned.
In helping lift the weight of depression and self-blame off of Janice's shoulder I'd freed Jane to deal with her own shame. I'd given her the opportunity to make things right.
Something else changed almost immediately. Jane was back in my bed and was, at first a tentative lover, but then, so was I. We needed to find a way to transcend the mistakes, distrust, hurt and pain. We certainly were not going to consummate re-loving one another in my small flat, especially with Janice there. My solution was a trip to the French town of Strasbourg where we found a nice little hotel in the middle of town and proceeded to lose ourselves in the king sized overly soft hotel bed. What is it with the European penchant for soft beds that swallow you?
It wasn't the sex that was transformative. The sex was wonderful and it was so good to have Jane by myself. It was the trip we made to the Cathedral of Notre Dam (not to be confused with Paris' Notre Dame) and our climb to the belfry of the Cathedral's single spire. From the belfry you can look in three directions and see France, Switzerland and Germany. It was there, arm-in-arm where we steeled ourselves against the cold and realized there was something much greater, more meaningful, than each of us alone. We did not need to speak about what were experiencing, feeling or thinking. We did not need to make any promises about what we would or wouldn't do if this ever happened again but the Cathedral was the perfect place for Jane and I to, in the Belfry of a church built in 1399, to renew our pledge to love one another. We were fortunate in that our lives had been transformed and we both knew this without saying a word.
Three days later Jane flew back to the States to pack and go through the arduous process of getting her son, Janice's brother, and return to Germany. By the time she returned I'd found a small house not far from my flat and Janice was enrolled in the International School. No, everything was not "right" automatically. But within time the pain of what Jane had done subsided and Paul Jr. became "my" son, a son I'd always wanted.
Whatever happened to Stan Cramer? I don't know and don't really care. I do know it is best I never, under any circumstances, meet the man who used his "depressed state" for the purpose of seducing Jane. Part of my "transformation" was being able to let go of the plans I'd made (in my head) to garrote the man, slowly. I now had a son to raise and I wanted to make sure he loved and respected Jane, Janice and I above all things.
Note: For those of you who expected this story to take another course, my apologies. It is, however, how the story concluded (or began, depending on your perspective) in real life.