Red Orchids Ch. 01bybluefox07©
"THE DAILY GRIND"
"The first two chapters of this story were originally one, but when I first posted the story to the site a lot of readers complained it was too long. In hindsight, I agree. SO, for this reposting I've broken it in two chapters.
On a personal note, the character of Mark Gordian is the vilest and most arrogant bastard I've ever written about. He's also the most hated character out of all the stories I've written on here.
And, Sheila from "The Finer Points of Sheila" plays a small but important role here too. Small world, eh? Cheers!"
Monday morning followed a bland and excruciatingly repetitive routine that Mark Gordian had become grudgingly used to. Like so many of the annoyances in this marriage, he was used to it, even accepting of it, but not at all content with it. He always reminded himself of that, every morning as he came down the stairs and subjected himself to a rerun of the morning before. He wasn't exactly conscious of the fact that he resented his life almost as much as he resented his wife, but he was aware of those feelings like he was sometimes aware of a dream he'd had and couldn't quite recall.
He hated the marriage. He had hated it for some time now and he knew he was getting worse at hiding it. What pissed him off the most was that Ellen Gordian was like Mr. Magoo, or to be more precise Mrs. Magoo, walking along and completely unaware of the realities lurking about in every shadow of their life. Mark knew that he loved her, or at least at one point he had. But he also knew that as time had moved on, he'd grown to resent her with a passion that had once been reserved for love only. He fought and struggled against it, doing everything he could short of screaming he wanted a divorce. He felt like a man who had been doped up, heavily sedated by a woman and coerced into a relationship he didn't really want.
Mark believed he had been fooled and tricked into marrying her.
Once she had landed him, Ellen placed a heavy chain around his neck, pulled it tight and locked it off with a glimmering padlock that did everything it could make him believe he was happy. Every time he heard the word "padlock," he thought of the word "wedlock." Aside from the cute rhyme of the words, they were alike in the same ironic sense that the words "wife" and "life" were. Mark had found out that they meant same damn thing too late in the game to do anything about it. Only with a padlock came with a handy little key that upon a quick push and twist could reset everything. If only marriage were so simple.
He looked down at his left hand and gazed at the gold band on his ring finger, a special kind of lock that was supposed to symbolize their undying love for each other, but a lock nonetheless.
'So take it off,' his mind said casually. 'Fuck the key, break the lock."
'It's not that simple,' he replied.
It was never that simple, and Mark couldn't take it anymore.
It wasn't so much that Ellen made the same damned scrambled eggs (always slightly burned, no matter how hard she tried and no matter how much he complained) or the fact that she would always leave a wrinkle in his best shirts from her hectic ironing the night before. No, that was stuff that he supposed all husbands had to put up with at one time or another. Mark had once believed that all women were capable of being homemakers, somehow learning the ins and outs of the job through osmosis. Now he knew better. He supposed some women were never meant to be homemakers, and despite her best efforts, Ellen wasn't. All things considered, she was homogenously unqualified for the position.
'Devil's in the details,' he rolled his eyes.
"Damn eggs," Ellen smiled to herself and looked over at their one and half year old daughter, Maddie. The baby did her own heavy-handed version of the wink back at her mom, squinting both eyes shut and then open again. She giggled wildly.
"Say again?" Mark glanced at her neutrally, feeling more like he was seventy-one rather than thirty-one. God, Ellen made him feel so tired and old.
"I said the eggs aren't cooperating," she repeated, stirring the mess he would soon have to choke down.
"It's not the arrow, it's the Indian," Mark said dryly.
Ellen laughed and so completely unaware of the subtle barb he'd shot at her. Mark shook his head in thinly veiled contempt, watching her slave over the stove as wisps of smoke from the burning eggs were sucked into the ventilation hood. The sound of the air vent running was almost as grating as her voice, and Mark wondered what he had ever seen in her to begin with.
'She was a great fuck,' Mark reminded himself, 'And she had the right attitude.'
'Fuck it,' that inner voice insisted again, 'Fuck the key, break the lock.'
He remembered when he had first met her in college. She had been so beautiful then, so vibrant and full of energy. Her blonde hair had been brilliant and flaxen, coupled with a set of killer blue eyes and a set of tits that could make a grown man keel over from a hormone-induced heart attack. He remembered watching her walk to class in front him, her shapely ass flexing and swaying so hypnotically he found himself damn near running into posts and doorways trying to keep the view. And the sex had been monumental, her willingness to experiment with him as limitless as his own.
But that was ten years ago.
If he had known she would pack on thirty pounds, gain a belly and let her tits sag down like tired old punching bags he never would have married her. It seemed to happen over night, and Mark had come realize that her commitment to staying beautiful for him was not a priority anymore, especially now that Maddie was here. He busted his ass to stay trim and chiseled, though as time passed he did it more for himself than her. Ellen just seemed to not care what she looked like anymore.
It was a classic bait and switch. Mark discovered that the sports car he thought he had bought was actually a tired old station wagon.
'Buyer beware,' the voice taunted.
That realization had shocked him into a depression, the catalyst for the event happening one morning just after Maddie had been born when Ellen stepped out of the shower naked in front of him. For the first time, he realized that Ellen had aged about as well as a ripe potato and that the pregnancy had ruined her figure. His once sexy, pornographically alluring wife had become a stretched out mess. At thirty-one years old, she was closer to having the sex appeal of a ninety-year-old grandmother than the sensual nympho he had married.
Was it shallow to think that way? Sure. Mark knew that, but more importantly he was comfortable with that. He accepted his shallow point of view as the gospel truth, and he was able to live that way. He knew himself, and he knew what he liked and what he didn't like.
'And what you like ain't anywhere near this kitchen,' the voice informed him.
Oh, the appetite Ellen had for sex hadn't waned over the years. She constantly harassed him for sex and tried to be as alluring as she could be, wearing all kinds of lacy lingerie to seduce him and whispering erotic words into his decidedly unimpressed ear. And who could blame her? Mark knew he was attractive and found no gain in hiding the fact under false modesty. To save her feelings, he had played his part with all the heart he could muster. He would smile and kiss her and make sure that she felt secure in the knowledge that he still wanted her. Deep down, he wanted to just watch a little T.V. and then masturbate before going to sleep. Touching her had once been an unattainably obsessive goal, but now it was a chore.
'Maybe that's you two haven't fucked since the baby was conceived?' the voice asked him.
'What the fuck was I thinking?' he thought miserably as Ellen scraped his charred eggs onto the expensive plates she had talked him into buying.
'With the money she's spent on the plates and the fucking lingerie, I could have bought myself a new four-wheeler...' he thought and eyed her like a businessman does a vagrant loitering around the storefront.
Mark ran his hand through his thick black hair and sighed. He supposed if he were content with her, it wouldn't have been so bad. If he hadn't known what else was out there, if he had been ignorant, he might have been able to settle into this half-life and be happy. But things hadn't turned out that way. He was a strong, attractive man with a handsome chiseled face that matched his body. He was in his prime, a finely tuned machine that was meant for sex in the way a racecar is built for the speedway. He was wasting time and energy revving his engine for such an unchallenging and unrewarding track as Ellen. Not when other women always noticed him, attractive women who looked like a woman should.
Not like the frumpy, pathetic mom he saw here before him. Not this station wagon he had married...
"When will you be home tonight?" Ellen asked and sat his plate down in front of him, along with the customary salt and peppershakers. The acrid smell of burnt eggs attacked his nose and forced him to set back a little.
"Not sure," Mark shrugged and watched her bring him his glass of milk and mug of coffee. He folded up his paper and added, "It's finals week, and I do have over three hundred papers to grade yet..."
That was a lie. He had his assistants to do that, and the most he would have to do was just show up to give the tests. He planned to spend most of his time pursuing his other interests and take the racecar out on new tracks, really open up and find out what he was capable of. But what Ellen didn't know wouldn't hurt her.
"I know," she nodded and smiled warmly. She scooped some eggs out in front of Maddie, her blonde hair falling in thick strands across her pale face. Maddie looked at the eggs questioningly for a moment, and shoved a handful into her mouth. Ellen added, "It's just that you've had to be there so much already... and I was hoping-"
"Baby," Mark interrupted, his cold blue eyes not meeting hers. He focused on his shiny silver fork (another expensive mistake courtesy Ellen, thank you very much) and stabbed the prongs into the mass of roasted eggs, "You know I can't right now. This is important."
Ellen sighed and sat down across from him. The morning sunlight flooded the kitchen of their home creating a beautiful (and in Mark's opinion unworthy) angelic glow on his wife's face. He hated seeing her like that, seeing her with any of the qualities that might make her seem like more than just a station wagon. He'd gotten used to seeing all her defects and was quite content living that way, but every so often, he saw a ghost of the woman she used to be. It wasn't an everyday occurrence, but when it did happen he recoiled as though a viper had bitten him.
He didn't want to see her in a good light. Living with her and this marriage had been hard enough. Realizing he couldn't divorce her lest he lose custody of his daughter and the rather hefty inheritance from his father-in-law was even worse. But living with doubt over her worth as a wife and as a woman was an unbearable prospect for him.
So, in his mind, the rule had always been that she either was a good wife or a bad wife, and thus he could act accordingly. He could handle satisfying his needs outside the marriage if he was married to a pathetic, sad, angry shell of woman rather than a woman who just didn't meet his expectations. If she were just an ordinary, good housewife who did nothing but love and honor him but at the same time bore the shit out of him in bed then cheating on her would've been impossible. He couldn't cheat on a decent woman, but he could cheat on a bitch. So he vilified her, and as time had marched on from the moment he had first stepped outside their vows to now, he had become exceedingly good at it.
When he cheated on her, he made damn sure he was doing it with a clean conscience.
"Well," she took a sip of her coffee, her hair glowing in the morning light and her eyes piercingly alive. The blue corneas were lit up like neon lights and sparkling as she spoke, "We need sometime for ourselves, Mark. I feel like we're drifting apart."
"Not this again," he groaned. Mark dumped a pile of salt on the eggs that could have killed an army of garden slugs, though he was certain that slimy entree might have tasted a whole lot better in the end.
'Choking back the bile of resentment, are we?' the voice cackled.
"I'm not trying to upset you," she said diplomatically, "I just think maybe careers are taking importance over our marriage. You're on campus from eight in the morning until ten, even eleven o'clock at night all week long."
"You're damn right I am," he agreed harshly as he chewed the rubbery eggs, "Finally, someone notices it isn't a nine-to-five job..."
"I know," she said, keeping her voice even and steady. Mark choked down the eggs and gulped half his glass of milk. He would have to get breakfast at McDonalds on the way out along with some Alka-Seltzer. He glanced at the ancient grandfather clock across the way in the living room. To his relief, it was almost seven-twenty and time to go.
"If you know that then why do you keep doing this?" he asked keeping his eyes focused on her as though they were gun sights, unblinking and challenging her. He knew if he kept going, if he played off how hard he worked for her and how much he was trying to do the right thing, then she would see him as a victim. And that was another key point for him, a crucial cornerstone to his life; he was the victim. No matter what happened, he had to be the victim.
And Ellen made it easy for him to culture this idea in the house. It was in her nature to want to protect those who are being shit on. Even if it meant reprimanding herself for something she may or may not have done wrong.
He saw her hesitate at his words, the pain and wounded emotional impact he was pouring into the argument giving her pause. Mark smiled inwardly, already feeling the tide of the argument shifting. He worked up some tears by placing his hand on his thigh under the table and out of view. He pinched his leg hard and once he felt his eyes water over, he asked, "Why keep rehashing this same old argument? When will it be enough?"
"Mark, I'm just saying I miss you," Ellen offered and reached out for his hand, "Maddie misses you."
"Don't bring Maddie into this," Mark warned as his voice wavered, his eyes glittering with tears about to spill over. Behind the facade, he felt himself getting pissed off. Bringing his daughter into the equation was an unfair blow and just a desperate attempt to get under his skin. She always did this when she got desperate, somehow thinking it was okay to use Maddie as a pawn in their problems. On one hand, it only further proved his acquired belief that she was an overbearing, suffocating bitch who had only wanted to land a man to control. On the other hand, it made him so angry he often imagined just punching her in the face for even thinking it.
He said, "The girl is one and a half and doesn't keep tabs on me like you do."
"No one is keeping tabs," Ellen looked at him, her eyes wide with frustration, "She waits at the door for you until bed time. She loves you so much."
"And I love her too," Mark countered, his indignation almost tangible, "Which is why I bust my ass in the classroom every goddam day, Monday through Friday sometimes fourteen hours at a stretch. Are you trying to make me feel bad?"
"No," Ellen shook her head, "Of course not."
"Then stop doing this."
"It's not like we need the money, Mark..."
"Don't!" he spat out, his face red with fury as he slammed his fist down on the table, "Don't even fucking go there! You may have had easy money growing up, a fat wad of cash in your pocket every time you and the girls went out, but I didn't. I earn what I fucking have. I paid for this house myself, I paid for my education myself and sure as fuck earned every last goddam cent in that saving account."
'Fuck the key, break the lock...'
Ellen stood there, her mouth gaped open as though she'd just been slapped, "That's not what I was trying to say-"
"Then think before you open your goddam mouth," Mark shot back.
He knew it was a line of bullshit, though. He had in fact worked his ass off and paid for his home and education all on his own, this was true. He had in fact worked his ass off and earned every last red cent in the savings account through dedication and sacrifice to his work, this was true as well. But if Jack Michaels, Ellen's cantankerous prune of a father, died tomorrow and passed down that quarter million they'd been promised, Mark would've happily retired and spent the rest of life on a sunny beach in Barbados earning twenty percent. He'd take it easy and rest secure in the knowledge he'd earned all of that money by working hard and being married to Ellen.
Being married to Ellen was a fucking hard job.
When that day came, he would be glad to share the wealth with Maddie and give her all the things he'd never had
Mark was hoping that someday, hopefully before the lead ran out of his pencil at least, Ellen would get tired of him and leave. His highest hopes revolved around the possibility were that she would wise up and cheat like any normal woman would, or maybe just up and go without a word. He was desperate for her to do something, no anything, to give him an ironclad reason to divorce her. Why devote your life to man who isn't there and isn't going to be there? He dreamed that she would go and just disappear from his sight, leaving him free to chase all the ass he could ever desire and to finally be free.
'You expect the lock to open itself, you stupid fuck?' the voice asked incredulously, 'Break the lock, smart guy...'
He hoped like a child waiting for that one special gift at Christmas time that she would leave, and everyday she didn't he dealt with the same sense of loss and disappointment a child would feel. Every day he woke up and she was still there, lightly snoring away with a pillow draped over her head (the pillow thing was a strange little ritual of hers... he never understood it and doubted he ever would). As the depression mounted, he became even more liberal in his desires to get away from her. Sometimes, very late at night as he lay there in bed thinking of other women he wanted to stick it to, he would think even darker thoughts than just setting her up for a divorce.
At first, he felt bad for thinking such things, but now he was much more comfortable with the idea. He thought if she committed suicide, it wouldn't be such a horrible loss. Yes, there would be no question then, would there? She would be revealed as the fraud he knew her to be, that he had figured her out to be. She would be out of his hair and he could raise his daughter alone, women being an option in his life and not a fixture. Besides, it wouldn't be a good woman throwing it all way... it would be a selfish hag ending her life because she didn't want to make everyone else miserable.
It was the most responsible thing Ellen could do.
At least, that's how Mark saw it. It was how he had to see it.
"Okay," she threw her hands up, her voice shaking. She brought one hand to her forehead and sighed, her eyes shut tight, "I don't want to do this. Not in front of Maddie... I'm sorry I brought it up."
Mark looked over at Maddie, her big blue eyes fixed on them both in silent confusion as she chewed her eggs.
"I have to go," Mark shoved himself away from the kitchen table, letting the feet of the chair groan and skid across the floor loudly. He grabbed his jacket and briefcase off the counter and left without a word. He was fuming, consumed with frustration and anger. Part of him wanted to keep fighting it out, but he knew better. He had to leave now, because as quickly as the argument had started, Ellen would try to extinguish the fire before it got any worse. He wanted unrest, not resolution here. He hurried across the living room, the relentlessly hollow tick-tock of the grandfather clock marking his time.