I sat on the couch staring at the blank screen of the television. Davey emerged from the kitchen and handed me a cup of hot coffee. I took it gratefully.
“Oh, thank you,” I took the cup and blew lightly at the steam coming from the brew, “what a day.”
“You can say that again,” He sat down on the couch next to me. I was glad he was there.
We managed to convince Hope to take N.J. and leave for the night by promising that Kip would sit down with Hope and her lawyer and figure out what needed to be done. Kip and Fannie would of course demand a paternity test be performed. I wasn’t sure how that would happen, but I didn’t even want to think about that at the moment. I was still trying to push my way out of a fog that I had been in the last five days. I leaned over and laid my head on Davey’s shoulder.
After a long and tearful discussion, I agreed to let Davey move back into the house. We came to a few agreements. He agreed to put the topic of having another baby back on the table, and I agreed to let him build a small work shop in the back for his projects; but that was mostly for myself, I wanted to put my car in the garage again. I agreed to turn the internet back on but insisted on being the only one with the password for the parental controls. I did agree to let him have a couple of adult channels added to the cable package, but I wouldn’t allow the “box” back in the house; he left the house with it one day and I never saw it again. I also asked him to come to church with us on Sunday morning. He didn’t agree to it, but said he would try. He said he had issues with God; he said he didn’t understand how a God could send someone to hell who was a good person his whole life but had never been baptized. Yet He would send someone to Heaven who lived his life as murderer, rapist or a criminal to Heaven as long as that person asked for forgiveness moments before his death. I didn’t agree with him, but I had given up explaining this was not true.
Eight months passed. During this time Kip attended many meetings with Hope and her lawyer. It was confirmed that N.J. was indeed Nicky’s child. Kip agreed to pay Hope a monthly support payment for N.J., but she also demanded that Kip purchase her a home as he did for me. The judge agreed that the house was a marital gift for Nicky and me and that he could not legally make the Bloom’s purchase Hope a house, so he would not grant her request.
Nicky’s life insurance policy would be split between Addison and N.J.; both funds could not be touched by either surviving parent and would be released to the children on either the day after their college graduation or at the age of twenty-five, whichever came first.
Kip and Fannie insisted on grandparent rights; they wanted to get to know the grandson they never knew about. Hope would not agree to the same visitation schedule that Addison had but she would agree to one weekend a month and if she needed childcare.
This worked out well for the Bloom’s; it seemed she needed a babysitter often and N.J. was with Kip and Fannie more than he was with his own mother. He and Addison became good playmates and enjoyed the time they spent together. Occasionally Kip and Fannie would invite Justin over to play with N.J. as well.
Since Nicky’s death, Fannie’s attitude seemed to make a complete turnabout; she had all but stopped making hurtful comments to me. One evening she pulled me aside after I dropped Addy off with them and complimented me on how well I had done raising my daughter. She told me to cherish every moment that I have with my daughter and never take advantage of the days we have. It is so sad that losing your only child is what it takes to make you a kinder person.
A year and a half had passed since Nicky’s death. Davey and I had been doing very and we had made plans to go out with a friend of his from work and his wife.
“Joel and his wife haven’t lived here long. They haven’t met many couples and I thought it would be nice to have a couple’s night with them,” Davey said as he loaded his plate with French fries.
“Sure. We could use a night out,” I smiled at him and took a bite of my hamburger. Addison and Justin were discussing what game they were playing after supper, “actually you two, after supper you’re both taking your baths and settling down for the night.”
Both kids pouted but then started talking about what games they would play the next day. To have the worries of a child would be wonderful. Why were we in such a hurry to grow up?
“So, let’s set it up for next weekend then. Saturday night?” Davey asked.
“Yeah, maybe we can go to that new steak place on the west side,” I suggested. Steak was my favorite food, next to bacon. You know that question people like to ask, ‘If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would be the one thing you would take with you?’ Well, I am torn between steak and bacon. Yes, I know it isn’t good for me, but there aren’t many foods out there I can truly say I crave. Steak and bacon are two that I just don’t feel I could live without and be happy.
“Joel mentioned cooking out, maybe we can pick up some steaks and take them there,” Davey knew my love for steak. I agreed that was a great idea and told him I would make a salad and a desert to take as well. I didn’t want Joel’s wife to do everything, “I have to warn you though, Joel’s wife Lacey, is kind of gruff I guess.” I laughed.
“Gruff? What do you mean? Will she kick my butt?” I laughed again.
“No, he just said she is hard to warm up to. Isn’t very welcoming, standoffish,” Davey began clearing the kitchen table.
“Maybe this is the reason they can’t find couples to hang out with?” I wiped the table down and sent the kids to take their turn in the bathroom.
The skies were overcast grey and threatened to open up with a downpour. Joel lived almost an hour out of town. Once we reached the outskirts of the city limits the view went from quant neighborhoods, businesses and parks to flat farmland; the overcast sky lent to the dreariness of the drive.
The pressure of the incoming rain was causing me a slight headache that wasn’t going away with the medicine I had taken. I wasn’t in the mood this evening, but Davey had looked forward to today all week and I didn’t want to disappoint him. I spent the morning making a cake and in the afternoon I made a three bean salad to take with us. Davey had stopped at the packing plant and picked up four nice sized rib-eyes and a pound of fresh bacon because he knew I like the kind from the plant better than from the grocery store.
We arrived at Joel Hutson house at 5 p.m. and he greeted us in the driveway. Davey handed him the steaks and took the cake from me as I retrieved it from the back seat.
“Wow! So glad you guys could come!” Joel stated excitedly, “We better get this stuff inside. Man, these steaks look great! I sure hope the weather holds off long enough to get these bad boys on the grill!”
“Yeah, we haven’t seen a drop of rain in like five weeks and the one weekend we make plans, boom!” Davey followed Joel into the house.
Joel put the salad and steaks in the refrigerator and Davey sat the cake on the counter. I looked around expecting to meet Lacey. Noticing my confusion, Joel explained that Lacey was a nurse and had to work today, but he expected her to get home any time.
“Dave, how would you like to check out my work shop?” Joel’s enthusiasm was still going strong. I was beginning to wonder if it was just his personality or whether he was on something.
Joel led us back outside to a large building that looked like at one time it had been a detached garage. He unlocked the padlock that secured the door and swung it open. We stepped into what appeared to be a typical workshop. The walls were lined with an array of tools; sawdust covered the floors, and car parts were strung about. It smelled of oil, gasoline and sawdust. It looked smaller on the inside then it did from the outside.
“Nice,” Davey walked over to one of the tool benches and inspected the tool shelf. I knew he was dreaming up new ways to rearrange his workshop.
“Dude, this isn’t the coolest part of this place. Let me show you my man cave!” He almost hopped over to another door in the far left corner. He unlocked yet another padlock. I was getting a little nervous and hoped that he didn’t have some S&M room on the other side of that door.
He flipped the light on. This room was much larger than the other. Along one wall was a long, crudely made bar. Behind it was an antique mirror with a large crack running through it and empty beer bottles lining a shelf underneath. In the center of the room was a burnt orange recliner and two plastic lawn chairs, a Coleman cooler served as a coffee table. The room smelled of cigarettes and beer. Girly magazines were scattered about. A disco ball was suspended from the ceiling, attached by several bungee cords. The cleanest item in the room was the big screen television against the wall opposite the bar.
A small alcove off the right to the door held shelves from the floor to the ceiling. Every shelf held rows of different colored binders with the year wrote along the binding in black marker. He walked over to one of the shelves and pulled a binder out.
“Check this out, Dave. This is the coolest thing ever!” Davey went over and stood behind Joel as he flipped the binder open. Davey’s hand went immediately to his mouth. Whatever was in the binder was obviously very humorous to Davey because he was shaking with laughter, “I told you about it, remember? Cool, huh?”
“I thought you were shitting me! No pun intended, Joel.” Davey took the binder from him and continued flipping through the pages. I walked over and looked in the binder. What I saw was completely disturbing and I turned and walked towards the other side of the room. Joel must have felt the need to explain the binders.
“You see, my parents bought me a Polaroid camera on my sixteenth birthday and one night some buddies came over. We’d smoked a couple joints, downed a few beers and I had to take a major dump,” he continued, “any way, one of my buddies was messing around with my camera and dared me to take a picture of it, so I did. I have a picture of every dump I have ever taken, well, except for when we are out at a restaurant or something.”
“Of course,” I rolled my eyes at him, “Your wife is cool with this?” I was not feeling well and wanted to go home.
“Oh sure, I mean she makes me keep the books out here; but she picks the film up for me. Do you know how expensive Polaroid film is now? Shit, hardly anyone ever uses it anymore but you have to pay an arm and a leg for it when you do! I would use a regular one but I haven’t found a place to develop that shit! Ha!” He laughed at his own joke. Davey laughed to and I just looked at him unwilling to believe he thought this was normal.
We heard a car pull into the drive and I was thankful to be leaving the “man cave.” While we were in the building it had started raining and we dodged the drops as we ran towards the back door and entered the kitchen. Lacey was standing at the sink but turned when we entered.
“Dave, Tess, this is my wife Lacey,” Lacey did not smile or offer her hand to either of us. She looked at Joel and spoke.
“I hope you don’t expect me to cook out in this rain?” She made no attempts to acknowledge our presence. Joel was oblivious to her rudeness and I now more than ever wanted to go home.
“No, guess not,” he peered out the kitchen window, his face scrunched up as he glared up on the darkening skies, “guess we could head over to the café, they stay open late on the weekends.”
After seeing the contents of Joel’s binders, I had no desire to eat. Not even steak. I turned to Davey after Lacey left the kitchen to change out of her nurse’s scrubs.
“I want to go home Davey. I’m not hungry and it’s obvious she doesn’t want us here,” I knew I was pleading.
“Joel warned us she was gruff,” he placed his hands on my shoulders and gave me a ‘please can’t we stay a little longer’ look. Why did he want to stay?
“Gruff? I have seen bears at the zoo that are gentler than she is,” but I returned his look with a look that said, ‘fine, we’ll stay.’ He smiled and pulled me into a light hug and kissed the top of my head.
I picked over my food at the café. The conversation between Davey and Joel was as lively as it had been all evening. Lacey did offer answers to questions her husband or Davey asked. I smiled and pretended to enjoy myself, but I hadn’t felt so unwelcome in a long time. Lacey smiled and chatted with my husband, but when I would speak to her, she would answer me curtly as if she has something better to do with her time than talk to me. If I hadn’t known better, I would think she resented me being there; but just me, not Davey. I felt like a fourth wheel.
When we returned to their house a few hours later I excused myself to the restroom and took my time. I had no desire to spend any more time with the Hutson’s than I had to, but Davey agreed to come back and watch a movie with them. I stood in the bathroom looking at the toilet knowing that Joel had pointed his camera at it at some point during that day.
After I finished, I washed my hands and checked my reflection in the mirror. I missed my daughter. Sigh. I missed my house…my bathroom. I wanted to go home. I heard laughter through the bathroom door, a female’s laugh in particular. Well, I guess she is loosening up a bit. I sighed loudly and opened the bathroom door.
“Oh Dave, you are too funny! Joel said you were funny, but I had no idea!” I heard her voice before I reached the living room.
“Sorry the picture is so bad. It’s a bootlegged copy,” Joel’s voice announced loudly. I heard the clicking of a tape being inserted in a VCR. I stopped behind the wall and listened.
“So tell me Davey, how long have you and Teresa been together?” Lacey purred.
“It’s Tessa. A few years I guess. I haven’t kept count,” Well, that’s nice Davey.
“Does she keep you satisfied?” What?!
“Sure, I guess,” What?!
“Have you ever had a threesome before,” Was this woman for real? I stepped through the living room door. Lacey was sitting too close to Davey for my comfort. She leaned into him and began running her index finger up his leg. Granted he looked uncomfortable even before he noticed me standing there. I glanced over and saw Joel sitting on the floor watching on the television screen a black and white scene of a large naked woman performing oral sex on a horse.
I felt as though someone had just punched me in the stomach and I felt the vile rush up and burn my throat; I began to hyperventilate and the room got rapidly hot. Beads of sweat began popping up on my forehead and the room was spinning. Davey was up off the couch and next to me in seconds.
“Are you okay Babe, what’s wrong?” He looked at me with frightened eyes.
“I want to go home, now!” I started crying and returned to the kitchen. I stood impatiently in the kitchen, waiting for Davey to tell them we were leaving. I went to the refrigerator and grabbed the salad. I turned to the counter were the cake sat and dumped it in the trash, taking only the plate.
“Come on sweetie, let’s go,” He took the bowl and plate from me.
“Don’t forget your steaks,” I heard Lacey say as I walked out the back door.
“Keep them!” I called out as I headed into the rain.
Part 2 Chapter 8 Coming Soon.
Touching Trees by T L Lady is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at https://touchingtrees.wordpress.com.wouldn’t have her. So I stayed, I would make it to the year if it killed me. And it just might.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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