Love Me Tender - Please Pt. 05byKathi©
Part V – Moving on
It was almost two years later that Ray came across the DVDs stored in his safe. He considered playing them again but he did not want to reignite the anger that he felt that day. He did not have to replay them to bring up the visions of what they contained. They were embedded in his memory.
It had been a difficult time after Melody and Brian had both come home from their vacations that summer. Brian refused to talk about it and although Melody never directly told him, he knew that she felt that he was somehow at least partially responsible for what had happened.
He started going to counseling and tried to get Melody and Brian to go along with him but after four sessions, they decided they did not want to continue. Ray stayed with it and found it helpful to have someone to talk to who was not judgmental. He spent the first few sessions, after the children left, venting his anger at Karen.
The counselor patiently listened to his ranting before putting her foot down. She told him that if he wanted to get beyond this phase of his life, then he had better start learning to accept what had happened.
It was not easy, but with her help, he learned to detach from Karen's actions and to keep her from living in his head.
One thing that pleased him was Melody's decision to attend Georgia Tech's College of Architecture. She asked for his help to gain admittance and he was able to use his contacts so that she could join the freshman class that September. She was coming up on the end of her second year and she was doing well.
All indications were that she was happy with dorm life and her grades were excellent. She often came to him for advice and from what she said in normal conversation, he knew that she was in contact with her mother. She dropped little bits of what she knew about her, but he carefully avoided probing her for any information. Their truce seemed to work well for both of them.
All he knew was that she was somewhere in Texas. He realized that Karen was either very successful or she had found herself a new man when Melody showed up one Friday afternoon driving a new car. He was in the driveway washing his car when she pulled in with a big smile on her face.
"Mom gave it to me," she said in answer to his unasked question.
"It's very nice. Congratulations."
"She's paying the insurance too so you can take me off of yours."
"Oh, that's nice," he replied as he admired the car. "Love your vanity plate."
"Do you like that? I got that in honor of you," she said giving him a hug. "You're my BIG BLDR."
Melody's admission of her respect for him took some of the sting of his jealously out of her mother's largesse. What he did not know was that there was more to come.
Brian was all excited about the new car and he wanted to take it for ride as soon as he got home. Melody was hesitant about letting him drive but she finally agreed to let him take it to pick up their dinner.
He and Melody were sitting on the patio in silence. They had run out of things to talk about for the time being.
"Dad?" she asked for his attention.
He could tell by the sound of her voice that she was trying to broach a subject that made her uncomfortable. He looked at her and raised his eyebrows to let her know that he was listening.
"Dad, there's something I want to tell you but I don't want you to get upset about it."
"Why would I get upset?" he said as calmly as possible while visions of her telling him that she was pregnant or that she was going to get married or some such thing ran through his mind.
"Mom sent me a check for my tuition for next year including my books and my living expenses. Is that OK with you?"
Ray's mouth opened but no words came out. His first reaction was anger at the thought that she was trying to buy her way back into their lives. Was she trying to send a signal to Melody, and to him, that she could afford what a poor professor could not? She must know by now, through Melody, that he was no longer a professor and was now a partner in a large architectural firm.
He actually gave Karen credit for the impetus to make this major change in his life. Her public disrespect of his profession ate at him so much that his counselor suggested he consider a change. It was the best thing that he had ever done and it had opened up a whole new life for him.
He had a new and broader circle of friends and he had even dated quite a few times over the last year. He was apparently looked upon as a good catch and several of his dates had actually ended up in bed when he spent the night at their apartments.
He enjoyed the sex with several of them but even though they assured him that they were on birth control and were clean, he still felt it necessary to wear a condom. He and one lady had gotten rather serious before he backed away after she started talking about marriage.
The letter that he had received more than two years before proved to be a false alarm after his test came out negative. A second test three months later confirmed that he was not infected with an STD but he still held that fear and he felt that he could never trust a woman again.
"Dad?" Melody's voice broke through his reverie.
"Oh, I'm sorry I was just thinking. No, no, I'm OK with that. I'm happy that she is doing well."
Both he and Melody realized that this was the first time that they had mentioned Karen in a conversation in nearly a year. Neither knew where to take the conversation from this point but they were saved by the appearance of Brian delivering their dinner.
Brian rattled on about the car and how nice it was while they ate their dinner. Thankful for a few moments to consider his discussion with Melody, Ray was afraid that she had come away with the thought that he objected to her talking to her mother.
Brian disappeared into his room after dinner and Ray helped Melody with the cleanup. As she was wiping the countertop, Ray put his arm around her and pulled her into him for a hug. She let him cuddle her and she hugged him back.
"I love you, sweetheart," he said into her hair. "I'm glad that you've developed a relationship with your mother. She's always done her best with you kids and she loves you. I only wish Brian was closer to her."
"Thank you, daddy. I love the both of you. I don't know what to do about Brian. He still blames mom for everything."
"He's right, for the most part," Ray thought to himself.
Aloud, he said, "Maybe someday ..."
The house was quiet and Ray sat in his favorite chair out on the patio listening to the soothing sound a light rain made on the roof. After Karen left, he had a Lanais installed with a translucent roof so he could use the patio even if it was raining.
The mention of Karen during his conversation with Melody once again brought up an issue that had been rattling around in his brain for several weeks. He could not decide whether or not to invite her to Brian's upcoming graduation. When he mentioned it to Brian, he was told that he did not care one way or the other.
Her surprising gift of Melody's car and tuition has left him realizing that Brian was missing out on a relationship with his mother. Not because of the possible financial gain, but Ray felt that a mother/son relationship was important and he hoped that it was not too late to salvage it. He blamed himself for not pushing Brian to communicate with her. When he looked at it objectively, he realized that he was using Brian to punish her.
Ray was proud of the way he had stepped up to the task of being a single parent. He had worked hard at being both a mother and a father to them. He gave his own mother a lot of credit because she was the one he went to for advice before she started showing her age. Both Melody and Brian appeared to be normal, well-rounded children although Melody had reached the point where she was no longer a child. He admired her maturity and her intelligence and he hoped someday that they could work as a team.
He was not sure that his ex-wife would even show up for the graduation even if she were invited. He was also not sure what his reaction would be upon seeing her again.
A sudden thought crossed his mind.
"What if she's in a relationship and wants to bring him?"
His question to himself caused him to stop and consider its source. Looking at it honestly, he recognized that it revealed a modicum of jealousy that he did not know was in him.
"Maybe I should watch those videos," he muttered. "If nothing else, it'll remind me of what she did to me."
Shaking off that thought, he knocked on the door to Melody's room and asked her to invite her mother to Brian's graduation ceremony and party afterwards.
"Oh daddy, that's wonderful," she said jumping up and giving him a hug. "Does Brian know about this?"
"No, and don't you tell him. I want it to be a surprise."
Kari Keeler sat in her office and reread the invitation for the tenth time. She had cried when Melody texted her and told her that Ray was inviting her to their son's high school graduation. She had spent the next week waiting for the written proof.
She was aware of the event and she had made tentative plans to attend. She decided that she would not intrude on her former family, but she wanted to at least see him receive his diploma.
She had not spoken to Ray since that day she left. The divorce was handled through her attorney and she did not appear in court. She remembered every detail of that Sunday when she walked out of her home and her marriage of nearly 20 years. She knew it was over and she also knew that it was entirely her fault that her marriage had disintegrated.
She managed to get through that night and the next day without using any drugs or alcohol. When she had showed up to get the suitcases, she had been shocked into reality at finding that Ray had changed the locks on their home.
The final straw that almost sent her over the edge and into suicide was when she viewed herself with Montrell on the television screen. Once back at her motel, she called the office and told them she was taking a leave of absence and she would contact them with her new address when she got to wherever she was going.
She spent the next week ingesting as much alcohol and drugs as she could stomach. She remembered appearing at the cell phone store in such a disheveled and drunken state that they almost threw her out. They demanded that she show an ID before they would accept her American Express card for new phone service.
There were a dozen or so calls on her voicemail that she listened to and deleted. The only message that she answered was the one from Vincent, their family lawyer. His secretary gave her the number of an attorney that they told her she would need.
The maid at the motel knew where she could buy more drugs and Karen paid her to keep her supplied with cocaine and alcohol. She did not even remember eating during that week. The one thing that she lived with was the hazy memory of rolling over on Sunday morning to find a stranger in her bed and knowing that they had been intimate during the night.
At that moment she realized just how low she had allowed herself to fall. She lay there trying to get her fuzzy mind to figure out a way to get out of the mess that she had created. After insisting that the hung over guy leave her room, she sat on the toilet and considered her options. No matter how much she tried to rationalize her actions she knew that she was lying to herself.
While brushing her teeth and trying not to gag too much, she noticed her razor sitting on the bathroom sink. The answer to her problems came to her and dropping her toothbrush, she started filling the tub with water.
While the tub filled, she tried to write a note telling Ray and the kids that this was the only way out for her. She begged them to try and forgive her for what she had done to them. She could barely read her own shaky handwriting but she sealed the letter in an envelope and left it in her purse.
"Funny," she thought. "I've only written two letters to my family and both of them are apologies for my actions."
It took some time to pry the razor blade out of the little holder that it was in but she finally got it out, cutting her fingers in the process. Stepping into the almost scalding hot water in the tub she carefully sat down and waited for it to cool a little. Sliding down she rested her head on the back of the tub and wondered how long it would take for her to die.
She had always heard that hot water would keep the blood flowing and she hoped that she would not feel any pain but would just go to sleep. Everybody would be better off with her dead. The horror that she had inflicted on Ray would be dissolved along with her life.
Sitting up she picked up the razor blade and studied it. When she looked down, she saw the blood from her cut fingers already coloring the water and that brought a moment of sanity. She knew that killing herself was not the answer and that she had to find a way to stop her descent into madness.
Wrapping her fingers in tissues, she was finally able to stop the bleeding. She stumbled around the room picking up all of the evidence of her debacle before sending out for a sandwich to fill her shaky stomach. She managed to make it through the night without alcohol or drugs. When the sun came up on Monday morning, she could at least think a little clearer.
The only person that she could imagine that would help her was the attorney recommended by Vincent. She called the number and found out that Morgan was also a woman's name.
Vincent had filled Morgan in on all of the details of what had happened over the past few months so she did not have to repeat them. After talking to her, she realized that Ray had been suspicious of her and had taken steps to end their marriage several weeks before it all blew up in her face.
Morgan and her secretary arranged for her to enter a rehab called The Life Center in southwest, Virginia. She drove herself to the place and spent the next six weeks in their care. Her attorney was the only one who knew where she was and Karen heard the news of Montrell's arrest from her. Morgan also informed her that the police wanted to talk to her. Morgan apparently took care of everything, because she never did have to go for an interview.
Six weeks later, she left the TLC. It was a sunny, Friday afternoon and she called Adele from the parking lot. She told her that she could be contacted through her attorney. After assuring her that she was OK, she refused to answer any of Adele's questions but she promised to call her sometime in the future.
She put the car into gear and started driving west without a destination in mind. Four days later, she found herself sitting in a parking lot in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was a calming feeling to watch the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico lap at the white, sandy beach.
She located a broker willing to take her on once her license was transferred to Texas. That process took about three weeks and she used the time to find a place to live and to familiarize herself with the agency and the city.
One of the other agents let her use a condo she owned at minimum rent. It was furnished and the agent preferred that it be occupied rather than sitting vacant. It had two bedrooms and a secluded balcony that overlooked the Gulf. She spent a day getting her clothes in shape from being in the back of her SUV for two months. After straightening out that part of her life, she finally had a chance to settle down and think about who she was, where she had been and where she was going.
She almost cried when she had to sell her Escalade but she could not come close to affording the payments on it. Her money was just about gone and until she started making commissions again, she had no other options.
She loved her used little car and soon got used to the other agents kidding her about it. They called it Kari's Kiddy Kar.
Alcohol and drugs were no longer a part of her life and she had promised her temporary AA sponsor that she would find an AA meeting as soon as she got to wherever she was going. She did not exactly follow her instructions to the letter but, the day that she moved into her condo, she did call and find out where the meetings were in her area. After a week or so, she started going to regular meetings and asked a woman with over fifteen years of sobriety to be her sponsor. She and Corey would become best friends over the next few months.
Sitting on her balcony with a sweet iced tea, she watched the sun move across the Gulf and tried to put some semblance of order into the last few months of her life. She barely remembered the motel where she lived on cocaine and alcohol for a week, but she clearly remembered the TLC and what she had gone through while there.
The first four days were spent in a locked, detox ward where they helped her get the drugs and alcohol out of her system without going into DTs. Once her mind started to clear, she was assigned to a group that met twice a day with a counselor to discuss their problems and to find solutions.
At first, she rejected the idea of discussing anything with a stranger but Maggie, her counselor, slowly gained her confidence and they quickly became friends. Karen still talked to her and she was the one who suggested Karen come back and share her experience with the new people coming into the rehab.
Later on, the staff took her and the other patients to AA and NA meetings outside of the TLC. She learned to like going and listening to other people tell their stories. It did not take her long to start sharing and to realize that she was not unique. Her experiences were not much different than many of the others in the groups.
The darkest days in the TLC came when she had to write what they called a Fourth Step. It was a history of her life so that she could see where she had been so she could try to find out where she was going. The most embarrassing part was the last few months of her life before sobriety.
That was her bottom, as they called it. During that time, she decided that success depended upon sex, drinking and drugging. She opted to shatter her marriage vows for a few, quick words of appreciation, illicit pleasure, and phony promises of a bright future.
"Well, my bright future ended me up in bed with some smelly slob in a motel room filled with empty bottles and baggies," she said to the afternoon sky. "The only things bright about me were my red eyeballs and the hickies on my tits."
Karen could look back on some of it and laugh at her own mistakes and stupidity. Some of it was still too painful to be funny and it probably never would be, at least to her.
She would frequently think about Ray and the tears would come because of how much she had hurt him. The children did not know the details of what had happened so that made it a little easier on them. Melody seemed to be accepting and forgiving but she did not believe she could ever repay or make amends to Ray for her selfish actions.
The week in Vegas was still fresh in her mind and she let her mind float back to that final week of craziness that took her to her bottom.
"I guess it was the only way to get me to admit that I was killing myself and that I had already killed my marriage," she whispered in despair. "I hope Corey was right when she told me that ‘When one door closes, another opens but you have to look for it and be ready to walk through it'."
Going back inside of her condo, Karen located the journal she wrote during the time she spent in the TLC. Sitting on the sofa, she started leafing through it. The first dozen or so entries were filled with confused writing and many lies.
She was justifying everything that she had done with the wildest rationalizations. She was not willing to accept personal responsibility and blamed everything and everybody for her craziness.