What You Wish For Pt. 04


She looked at me, anguish twisting her face.

"What, Kristin? Tell me: What the fuck did I ever do to you? I never cheated on you. I busted my ass to give you everything you ever wanted. I-- "

"You weren't there for me," she sobbed, the dam bursting and tears spilling down her cheeks. "I was all alone, didn't know a soul, and you were always gone. That's what. I was lonely. And then, when I came home, I wasn't lonely anymore. And you wouldn't listen. You wouldn't cut back. You-- "

"Bullshit," I thundered, causing her to shrink back and wrap in on herself. "I just didn't kiss your ass every fucking time you demanded it. You knew how much I'd have to work before we moved there. You knew how much I'd have to keep earning when you wanted your perfect house. And your shopping sprees. And those goddamned designer purses for your mother and Cilla at Christmas and the golf clubs for your old man. You could've gotten a job or made friends or done anything to help us out, but you wanted it all without having to work for it. Without me having to work for it so I could always be there to dote on you. You wanted a million bucks to fall into my lap so you'd have all your shit and I could stay home and tell you how much I loved you and keep you company. Well grow the fuck up, Kristin. Life doesn't work like that."

She was crying openly now, and for some reason that made me feel better. I'd been in enough pain over her for God knows how long; now I wanted to heap some of that pain back onto her.

"So how's that working out for your, Kristin? Randy always there for you, or are the midnight shifts beginning to wear you down? And how's that crappy little two-bedroom condo holding out with your growing family?"

The look on her face told me I'd struck a nerve. She'd fucked up and she knew it. Now she knew that I knew, too.

"Which is worse, Kristin?" I said, leaning in. "Never seeing your husband, but having all the shit you can afford or never seeing your husband and living in a crappy little apartment and shopping for clothes at the Salvation Army?"

"At least I've got my family now," she yelled back. "And my son."

"Not for long," I warned. "And not if I have anything to do with it."

"You wouldn't," she gasped, horror stretching her features. "You wouldn't take Ben from me. He doesn't even know you."

"And whose fault is that?" I shot back. "And how do you think a judge is going to view that? You hiding my own son from me?"

"Don't you even think about it," she hissed. "You'll never take my son-- "

"And what about Randy?" I piled on. "How's he gonna take it when he finds out Ben isn't his? What, with you not being able to have any more children and all."

"Fuck you," she spat.

"Been there, done that," I said, standing and walking to the door. "And now that I've done it with some others, you should know that it wasn't even that good."

Her jaw flat out dropped, stunned that anyone would talk to her daddy's little princess like that.

I opened the door and held it for her.

"See you in court, Kristin," I said. "You and Randy both."

She whipped her purse over her shoulder and stormed past me without another word. She got in her car, slammed the door shut, and tore out of the driveway without a backward glance.

I was suddenly happy that I'd been such a prick.

And sad that she was going to do everything in her power to keep me from my son.

The turmoil churning in my guts was replicated in my updated outline, which was finished two days later.


Funny thing about writing: The more you write, the easier it becomes. You write faster and better with fewer mistakes and revisions. This was particularly the case on my second book in a series. Hell, I knew the main characters so well it was second nature to put the words in their mouths. Since this one took place just forty miles down the road from my own house--in Rockford, Illinois, a town I've been to a million times--it was also easier to envision the scenery and the mood, the weather and the beaten down, abandoned industrial buildings.

It also helped that I was devoting twelve hours a day to writing. I got up every morning at six, worked in the woodshop from seven to eleven, then wrote until I passed out from exhaustion at midnight or so. The pages just filled themselves in, and I was almost half done with the first draft by the time my first court date rolled around a month or so after Kristin confronted me and Dad.

Sitting in the busy courtroom, I was amazed anything ever got done in a court of law. The gallery benches were packed with angry, glaring people going through divorces. In the massive area in front of the judge's bench, a gaggle of attorneys were shuffling their papers, feverishly scribbling orders for the judge's signature, and making last ditch settlement efforts in hushed whispers.

Every three or four minutes, another pair of attorneys--the ones next in a long line waiting to approach--were motioned up by the judge. She was sixty or so, and the boredom of the whole thing was painted on her weary face and sluggish motions.

After twenty minutes of sitting in the cramped gallery, I saw James McNally get to the front of the line, whispering to two other attorneys. When the case in front of them finished, he found me with his eyes and motioned me forward.

"Collins against Collins now known as Walters," Judge Gluth said as I approached.

"Good morning, Your Honor," McNally said. "James McNally for the plaintiff, Mr. Collins, who is present and to my left."

"Sandra Petrowski for Mrs. Walters," a dowdy, frumpy looking little lady said. "Mrs. Walters is approaching."

I turned and watched Kristin squeeze her way between the people crowding the gallery, and I saw Randy glare at her as he started walking forward from the corner of the jury box where he'd been seated.

"And Robert Hall for Mr. Walters," a middle-aged, short attorney said.

"And what are we here for, ladies and gentlemen?" Judge Gluth said.

The attorneys looked at each other, and the other two nodded at McNally.

"My client was married to Mrs. Walters," he said, speaking easily in a conversational tone. "Their marriage was dissolved in Florida some eighteen months ago. We're moving now to enroll that judgment here and reopen the matter."

Judge Gluth waved her hand telling him to get to the point.

"Well, Judge," he continued, "Mrs. Walters gave birth to a son about a year ago."

"And you're just now getting around to setting child support?" she said.

"Actually," McNally said, "we're not even sure the child is my client's. So what we'd like to do is enroll the judgment and get an order for DNA testing to determine parentage."

Fucked up as the situation was, Judge Gluth reacted like she'd just heard McNally recite his shopping list. No reaction, and I mean none.

"Ms. Petrowski?" she said, looking at Kristin's lawyer.

"Obviously we challenge their right to ask for any such paternity testing," Petrowski said.

"Obviously," the judge said. She turned to the remaining lawyer. "Mr. Hall?"

He shot a glance at Randy, who just nodded in return.

"Well, Your Honor," he said, turning back to the judge, "my client agrees to the testing."

"Oh he does, does he?" she said, catching the glare Kristin shot Randy before directing it at me then back at Randy.

Judge Gluth pursed her lips, staring at the three of us in turn.

"Any reason I shouldn't grant the request?" Judge Gluth said to Petrowski.

"Well," she started.

"Let me cut to the chase," the judge interrupted. "Is there a scientific chance that Mr. Collins is the father of this child?"

Petrowski paused, then looked at Kristin, seeking some type of concession.

"Do you want me to ask your client in open court?" Judge Gluth said, leaning over the bench and speaking lower. "In more explicit terms, perhaps?"

Kristin lowered her head.

"No, Your Honor," Petrowski said, seeing the defeat in Kristin's shoulders. "We'll agree to enrolling the judgment and submitting mother and child to a DNA test."

"Good," Judge Gluth said, sitting back. "Get me an order."

We all nodded and stepped away.

"What just happened up there?" I asked McNally as we stood outside the courtroom.

"Randy's right pissed is what happened," McNally responded.

"You mean?"

He nodded. "She told him she hadn't had sex with you in months. No way it could be your child."

"And now that she's been forced to come clean," I started.

"Problems in Pleasantville," he concluded.

I laughed.

"What's so fucking funny?" Walters said from over my shoulder.

I turned. He was standing there, fists clenched, anger seething from his clenched fists and jaw to the popped and pulsing veins above his temples.

"What's wrong, Randy? Surprised she lied? Surprised the wife--my wife--that you were sleeping with lied to you, too?"

"Guys," Hall said, interjecting his body between us.

"Settle down," McNally added, his hand gripping my shoulder like a vice.

"And what're you gonna do if Ben's my son?" I continued, leaning over Hall's shoulder and staring into Randy's face. "You gonna leave her? The love of your life?"

His jaws worked back and forth, and his eyes spewed pure venom, but he said nothing.

"Yeah, just what I thought," I said. "Not a clue. Welcome to the fucking club."

I turned back to McNally, nodded, and walked away.

* * * * *

So just what the hell is so special about Kristin? What does she have that just turns men to mush, makes them shut up, put up with her bullshit, and beg her forgiveness when she gets pissed because she's called out on doing something wrong?

Well, the smoking hot body sure as hell helps. Kristin, even at thirty and after a child, still has the body of a college cheerleader. Nice tits, toned legs, flat tummy, and tight ass.

Or maybe it's the face from a cosmetics photo shoot. Sparkling eyes, slightly upturned nose, and lips that continuously express just the right mixture of playfulness and sexiness, all framed by beautiful, thick butterscotch blonde (from a bottle) hair.

Take those looks alone and most men would be quivering wrecks, putty in her hands to mold and mess with as she pleases.

She has more, though. She can be flirtatious, pouty, a bundle of joy and love one moment and a bundle of pure sexual magnetism the next. And she has this way of looking at men, looking at us like we're the only one for her. I know. She'd fixed me with that look a million times; sometimes to bend my will, sometimes to avoid my anger, but sometimes just because she wanted to make me happy.

Throw into the mix that she's smart and talkative and fun to be around and you have pretty much a complete package.

Her only flaw is that she was a spoiled rotten child who grew into a willful, spoiled adult not used to being denied her way. If Kristin wants something, she'd damned well better get it or there will be hell to pay.

Yet, in all our years together, I never suspected for even a moment that she'd just plain drop me like a sack of potatoes to get her way.

But poor old Randy sure should've suspected that streak in her. After all, he was only three years older than us; he'd known us both all our lives, if only from a distance. He certainly knew she was married when she started flying back home and giving him the eye. And he knew she didn't hesitate to cheat and pout and do whatever she wanted to do. Oh no, he definitely knew all of that.

Frankly, I felt for the poor bastard. Sure, he'd played a hand in ending my marriage. But Kristin had dealt the cards, not Randy. Kristin owed me honesty, loyalty, and all that other crap. Not Randy. And, frankly, had the roles been reversed, I'm not sure how I'd have handled it.

Let's cut to the chase: We can all hold our heads high and talk about how properly we're going to act if the opportunity presents itself. It's another thing altogether when you're single, such an incredible beauty makes herself available, and that beauty's husband is a thousand miles away.

Then again, I was still ecstatic that Randy was now going through just what I'd gone through. Hell, if anything he wasn't going through nearly enough. After all, they'd been shagging for only two years or so. Let her do this to you after twelve years. While you're the one married to her.

I'd been with her since fucking forever and she'd dumped me with nary a thought.

And I was way better looking, nicer, and made way more money than that little toad.

So take that, Randy.


Dad and I were both at the rehab center. I'd been going three times a week for an hour or so each time, and Mom's progress was slow but sure. Dad had been there every day for five or six hours a day, helping with the therapy, and he was still impatient with her progress.

"She's ready to go home," the doctor said again.

"But she can barely speak," Dad protested again.

"That'll just take time and patience and a lot of practice," the doctor said.

"Her walking?" I said. "Will it improve?"

He nodded. "Listen," he said. "It's not like we're gonna just send her home and that's it. She'll have physical therapy five days a week. They'll come to the house for an hour a day Monday through Friday. And she'll have a speech pathologist three days a week. The pathologist will work with all of you. Her to continue the improvement on her speech and with you two to practice with her and the like."

"Then why can't she just stay here?" I said.

"Because the insurance company won't allow it," he said. "She's reached the level where it's cheaper for this to happen in your home."

"Based on what?" Dad argued. "She won't get as much therapy at home."

"Actually, she will," the doctor said, pursing his lips as he tired of the conversation. "She'll get just as much time per week with the therapist as she's currently getting. You've seen that, Mr. Collins. You're the one helping her with her exercises and such, not the therapist."

"But we don't have the stuff at home for this," Dad continued.

"The insurance will pay for it to all be rented and installed," the doctor explained. "You'll have everything you need."

"What if I just paid for her to stay here?" I said.

The doctor looked at me like I was crazy and didn't know what I was talking about.

"I've more than enough to pay for her stay," I said.

He just shook his head, though. "You'd be wasting your money. Frankly, she should've been discharged back home a week ago."


"The environment," the doctor soldiered on. "She's more familiar, more comfortable in her own home. Once you get her there, her recovery rate will increase at a pretty steady clip. Faster than here. So long as the two of you do what the physical therapist and speech pathologist tell you to do. And I mean everything. If anything, do too much."

I looked at Dad, who didn't seem convinced, then back to the doctor.

"And if her recovery goes backward?"

"One of them will tell us here and we'll evaluate the best course of action," he said. He paused, looking at both of us. He sighed, but his face softened. He'd been through this with hundreds of unbelieving families before us.

"Listen," he said. "Trust me. You'll see for yourselves. I know it's hard to believe, but she really has made rapid progress here. And we expect her to regain her speech almost fully and most of the use of her right side. There will be some residual paralysis that will never leave--mostly in the facial muscles and her grip strength--but she's really doing far better than any of us had reason to believe possible."

"All right," Dad said. "We'll give it a shot."

"So when is she being discharged?" I asked.

"Saturday," he said.

"But that's only-- "

"Two days from now," Dad finished for me.

"We've already got the equipment you'll need lined up for delivery tomorrow. Can someone be there between nine and noon?"

"I can," I said.

He nodded. "Good. Then let's get it done."

* * * * *

The doorbell rang at nine thirty the next morning.

"Mornin' Tyler," said the smiling, pudgy face of Denny Koss.

"Denny," I said, shaking his hand. "What're you doin' here?"

"Delivery," he said, looking over my shoulder and around the living room. "And you're not ready for it, I can see that right now."

"How much is there?" I said.

"A lot."

He pushed past me into the house.

"We're gonna have to clear a lot of this out," he said, then turned and his face lit up with a cherubic smile. "How you doin', by the way?"

"I'm good, Denny," I smiled back. "It's good to see ya."

"Good to see you, too. You been back for awhile. I know. Seen ya around a couple times."

"Been busy, though," I explained.

"Yeah," he said, his face getting serious. "Tough break with your mom. Great lady."


He nodded, then spun and picked up one end of the coffee table and nodded for me to get the other end.

"Let's get all this stuff over to the side for now," he said. "Once we get everything in and set up, we'll see what stays and what goes to the basement, okay?"

"You always do this?"

"Nope," he said, lifting his end of the solid walnut table like it was a feather. "But you were my quarterback. Special bond, you know. Between a center and his quarterback. I mean, you felt me up how many times a game for how many games a season?"

He winked, setting the table down. "You learn to get attached to your quarterback."

I laughed. "Well, they were nice feels."

"Yeah," he said, grunting as he lifted his end of the couch. "But you could've bought me dinner or somethin'. But no, just feel me and leave me."

The rest of the moving session went that way, laughing and talking about high school and what we'd done since then. I was amazed, and more than a bit ashamed, to learn that chubby little Denny Koss wasn't just a simple mover. Hell no, he owned the company. He'd insisted on this delivery when he saw the address. And he'd intentionally failed to bring along a helper on the hopes I'd be there to help him and we could bullshit about the old days.

"Why you never show up?" he said as we took a seat and caught our breath upon moving all of the equipment from his truck to the house.

I shrugged. "Been busy, I guess. You know, living in Florida trying to make a go of things there and all."

"So did you?" he asked. "Make a go of it and all?"

"Sure. And all it cost me was my marriage."

"So I guess you got what you wished for, and it bit you in the ass, huh?"

"Hard," I agreed.



We spent the next half hour setting up the hospital bed and the gadgets and gizmos associated with physical therapy. Then another hour after that was spent re-arranging the living room furniture and carrying some of it to the basement.

"Well," Denny said, rubbing his hands against his jeans, "this should do for now."

I looked around the room, then nodded.

"Yep, this should do it."

"You know," he said, turning and fixing me with an even stare, "a bunch of us get together on Friday nights. From high school and some people we're all friends with that live here now."

I nodded.

"Anyways," he continued, seeing that I was listening with expectation, "it's at our house tonight. About six thirty or seven. I know they'd all love to see you."

"Kristin ever there?" I said.

"A few times," he nodded, his smile turning grim. "Not much, but sometimes."

I thought about it. We lived in the same town now, knew all the same people. I couldn't let her run me off.

"So what do I bring?" I said.

He grinned. "Appetizer and whatever you're gonna drink."

"Deal," I said, shaking his hand and trying to palm him a hundred in the process.

He shook back in an iron grip, then looked at his hand when the shake broke.

"Not a chance," he said, laying the bill on the hospital bed. "I covered your ass in high school, I'm covering it now."

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