“It’s not like that…”
“Don’t tell me what it’s not like. I know what it’s like because I’ve lived it every day for the past decade.”
“You just don’t understand what I am trying to convey to you.”
“So, now I’m stupid. Great. Explain it to me in little words then…”
Angela shook her head and closed her mouth. Gerald was not finished.
“Let me break this down for you. If I fell dead at the same exact moment that you received a call from your friends, or your peers, or your clubs, you would step over my dead carcass to answer the phone. That’s where we are at.”
Being married is to a tough slog at times. Gerald and Angela were married twelve years ago, today. This is not how they planned to spend their anniversary, but this argument was the same argument they have had over the past two years.
All because of one misunderstanding.
Gerald was the project manager for the city council. He was responsible for the issuing of permits, he conducted inspections at random times, and he was responsible for the bidding of work within the township. Angela had always appreciated the effort Gerald put in ensuring that their small family was provided for. Per usual, Angela had her hands full with the running of the household, and with Gerald’s salary, she need not work a typical 9-5 job. Besides, her children deserved to be raised by her, and not the government or its cronies at its educational centers.
The thin cracks in their marriage burst into full size crags and ravines one cold, wet day in October.
“Morning, hon. You look ravishing this morning,” Angela whispered as she walked into the kitchen. True to form, Gerald had got up early and made coffee. He also made the kids lunch for the week and put it in the fridge.
“Morning, gorgeous.” He winked at Angela, and he slipped his arm around her waist. They have spent the past six years happily married. Sure, there were tough times, but they weathered the storms and came through them even stronger. Angela was sure that would always be the case. This would be the last good day their marriage would see. The days grew long, as did Gerald’s days at work.
He would call from the office to let her know that a project had gotten sidetracked. She could hear the frustration in his voice at times. Then, it became a habit. Gerald would fall asleep in his office or come home in the middle of the night. He was gone before she or the kids would get up. Angela began to suspect that Gerald was seeing someone else on the side. Their marriage slid down into the ditch, and it was not recoverable. Gerald offered to go to marital counseling, Angela refused. “All you care about is work! Plus, whoever you decided to sleep with on the side.” Time was not capable of healing the wounds that were spoken.
On Tina, their youngest child’s birthday, Angela, and Gerald tried to put on a brave face. ‘’Let us just get through this without having caused long-term damage to our child,” Gerald said. Angela nodded. It was the only thing they had agreed on in the past six months.
Gerald went outside and fired up the grill. Angela was in the kitchen slicing tomatoes and onions for the hamburgers, she added salsa and dip into bowls for the chips. Everything seemed normal. The neighbors, Stan and Ursula Wainwright were the first to show for the party.
“Stan, Gerald is in the back grilling. Take a drink if you would like.” Stan grabbed a Dr. Pepper and walked out on the patio. Ursula pitched in, and helped Angela set the table.
“How are things, Gerald?”
“Oh, you know how it is, Stan. Things are what they are. How are things on your end?”
“Peachy, thanks for asking.”
People began to show up in groups, and before long the backyard and house were full of guests. Men gathered around the grill. Stacy, fresh-faced and eighteen, walked into the back yard. Her clothing did little to cover her well-developed figure.
“Hey, Gerald. Check that out,” Stan said as he nudged Gerald in the ribs. Gerald looked up and quickly looked away. “You’re incorrigible, Stan.” Gerald averted his eyes from the comely lass and turned his attention to the burgers on the grill.
“You know Gerald, you have a great family here. You and Angela are a great couple, which makes this next part hard to do.” Gerald looked Stan in the eyes, and Stan averted his eyes to avoid the piercing gaze of his friend.
“What is difficult?”
“Ursula had taken out the trash the other night. She heard you and Angela arguing. We are worried about your children. Are you guys okay?”
“It was only an argument, Stan. It is a common occurrence when you are married. The kids are fine.”
“Well, you say that….”
“You know Ursula and Angela are friends. Well, Angela asked us if we knew a good divorce attorney.”
Gerald bit down on his tongue so hard, he thought he severed it. He took a swig of his drink and stared at the cracks in the concrete porch. He shook his head.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Gerald. I thought you should know.” Gerald nodded. “Yeah. I appreciate it, Stan. Thanks for the heads up.” The more he thought about it, the angrier Gerald became. He was at his limit. Now, his neighbor had thrown more fuel on the fire.
Then, the doorbell rang. Gerald excused himself and walked to the front door. Angela had already made her way to it, she turned when she heard Gerald approach. Her face was pale. At the door stood a cop.
“Are you Gerald Thompson?”
The officer handed him an envelope and said, “you have been served.” Gerald took the envelope and tossed it into a bowl that sat on counter. He grabbed his keys and walked out of the house.
The worst was yet to come.
“How could she do this to me? After all we have been through, how can she toss me to the side like some unwanted thing?” Rain pelted the windshield as Gerald punctuated the air with vicious hand motions. He swerved around a white Toyota and whipped back into his lane. Tears streamed down his face, and it was all he could do to keep himself together. He neared the train tracks, and a sharp blast of the horn alerted him to the nearness of the train. “I can make it!” Gerald gunned the engine, and the Toyota Highlander lurched forward. Out the passenger side window the train loomed large.
The train conductor yanked the horn again and the wave rattled the windows in the Highlander. Gerald’s hands shook from the adrenaline. He pulled off the road and tried to compose himself. He took several deep breaths and closed his eyes. “What am I doing?” While he struggled to gain his composure, his phone rang. It was Angela. He pushed decline on his cellphone.
He drove in a northern direction and came to a small mountain village. The snowplows had pushed large piles of the white stuff onto the shoulder of the road. He pulled into a small bed and breakfast hidden well off the main road. He got out and went into the lobby. Behind the counter was a quirky, pink-haired young woman. She gave Gerald a dazzling smile and fingered her dog collar that hung from her neck.
“Hiya! You need a room?”
“Yeah. Nice collar.”
“Thanks! You are in room number three. It’s just down the hall there.”
Gerald walked down the hall and found Room #3. He fell on his bed and cried into his pillow. “What have I done to deserve this?” His cellphone chirped, and he looked at it. It was Angela. He pressed decline and sent the phone to voicemail. Gerald noticed a bar on his way into the bed and breakfast. He washed his face and walked down to it.
It was smoky in the bar, but the place was empty. He sat at the end of the bar, and an old man made his way down to him.
“What can I getcha, son?”
“Johnny Walker, straight up.”
The old man nodded and poured him a double. Gerald threw it back and tapped the bar. The old man refilled the double until Gerald could hardly sit at the bar.
“Son, you’ve had enough. I am cutting you off.”
“Why did she not love me, Pops?”
“I don’t know, son. Love is a finicky thing. Only a few ever find true love.”
“Did you find it?”
“I had a brief taste of it, but she decided I wasn’t worthy of her time.”
“I hate her.”
“Sure, but you also love her. That’s why you are in here pounding Johnny Walker. You don’t know what to do with it.”
“Maybe,” Gerald slurred. Then the world went black.