Chapter Six

19 12 2011

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There are rules everywhere you go:  School, Work, Church, Playgrounds, Afterlife.  I have found myself in this situation where nothing else matters except for the life I know.  The life I have been taken away from.  I have been given a chance to go back but there are rules.   

She was hesistant to speak up.  A hundred times before she would state her mind.  Not let people walk over her.  This behavior is what put her in the position to be considered for Partner.  A real career advancement.  McEnroy was known for their weathly clients and for their persuasion of the market.  She had been here for ten years and has earned the recognition of the hardest woman to work with.  A reputation that has served her well.

She was pregnant.  An unexpected turn of events.  She couldn’t take a leave of absence.  She knew it would derail her for another ten years.  She was less than a month.  Her husband would be ecstatic but she found herself speechless.  No words, just thought of what is to happen.  She looked at her blackberry and realized she was going to be late for a meeting.  She awkwardly thanked her doctor and left. 

The ride back to the office was one she would re-live in her head over and over again.  Her choice.  Bringing a life into her world was not  a decision she wanted to make right now.  What were her priorities.  She was barely thirty, successful in everything she had done, moving up quicker than anyone that surrounded her.  She couldn’t stop.  Not now.  It’s not being selfish, just realistic. 

It seemed quieter than normal in the office.  The air was thicker, the floor was harder.  When she got back to her desk she saw a yellow post it note stuck to her computer.  “Come See Me – RP”.  Her boss was inviting her into a conversation she anticipated since her interview last week.  She felt she was right for it because she was the smartest and she was a woman.  A few months ago the agency got dinged in the Journal for not being diverse enough on the leadership team.  This was their chance to change this perception.

Her bosses door was closed.  When she knocked he responded with the instinctual “Come in”.  The doorknob was colder and the door was heavier. 

“Have a seat.  Hope things are well.”

“Of course.  Just anticipating the next words out of your mouth.”

“Well, we discussed what is best for this agency and where we need to be heading.  As you know we have received some criticism for our decisions.  However, we feel that we would have came to the same concensus regardless of what published in a newspaper.  Congratulations Parker.  We think you will be a great addition to the team.”

“Thank you Roger.  You won’t regret this.”

“Well, let’s get something straight here.  You are the youngest partner we have promoted.  While your tenure has been impressive you have a lot to prove.  I’m not trying to put anymore pressure on you but know that you will be scrutinized not just by our executives but by your peers and reports.  Consider yourself with a target on your back from this day forward.”

“I will. ”

“We would not have put you in this position if we did not think you could handle it.  I’m not saying you have to work twice as hard but I am saying you have twice as many people to prove wrong.  Are you sure you are up to it?”

A moments pause to recounter the drive over from the hospital, the conversation in her head about decisions.  She was being forced to choose now.

“I am sure.  I will prove all my doubters wrong.”

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Chapter Five

5 11 2010

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“Can you give me a second?”

“I’ve been here for almost two hours…”
She put her finger in the air to signify she was done talking and needed just one more second.  He grabbed his wallet and sat back down in the chair.  He began to wonder why this doctor had a eight month waiting list.  Up to this point no one has helped him or made him feel like a person, just a patient.  He walked over to his chair and just before he sat down,

“Stephen.”  The nurse yelled through the opened glass.  He could have sworn he saw a slight smile on the side of her mouth as if she was enjoying the power she had.

“I need you to fill these papers out.”
“I’m sorry, but what is the point of scheduling an appointment at 10:30 if I won’t be seen, what at this point seems to be, until 3:00.”
“As before, don’t worry about the back of this page.  We’ll fill that out after you see the doctor.”

“If I ever see the doctor”, he said as he took the clipboard back to his seat feeling defeated.  He took out his phone to check to see if it was still Monday.

“Please no cell phones.”

He looked up and saw her pointing to a sign that said, “Please, No Cell Phones”.  It was the only polite thing they have said.  He looked around at everyone looking at him.  He knew they were thinking, “Who does he think he is?  Didn’t he see the sign?”  He couldn’t wait to get out of there.

He put the phone back into his pocket.  Just as he did it went off.

Everyone immediately stopped what they were doing and looked at him again.  He felt like Frakenstein as he grabbed his phone from his pocket.

He was curious because this ring tone was not one he was familiar with.  He just bought the phone yesterday so he knew the tones he had set yesterday and this was not one of them.  When he looked at the screen is just read “3”.  It wasn’t a text message or an email.  It was a call but it wasn’t from a phone number.

“Can you please turn off your cell phone?”

“I’m sorry, I just got it yesterday and I am not sure…”

The woman sitting next to him grabbed the phone and pushed a button on the side.

“You just need to push that button right there and it will silence it dear.”

He looked over at her and was sure no one was sitting next to him when he sat down.  As he looked around no one else seemed to have the same quizzical stare as he had.  They just seemed angry at him for not following the rules of the sign.

“Thank you.  I’m sorry.”

“You’re welcome dear.”  She leaned over closer to him and whispered, “You might want to go in the hallway and call the number back.”

“I’m sorry?” He was confused at her suggestion.  Why was she telling him to call it back?  Did she know something.  He began to feel uneasy in this situation and wanted to get up and leave altogether, but there was part of him that believed her.  He couldn’t explain it.  She looked in his eyes without blinking and without saying another word he stood up and walked to the door.  She never took her eyes of him and even though he never turned back around he knew she was watching him.

When he opened the door he found the hallway to be empty.  He took the phone out of his pocket and looked at the screen.  He hit his call button to reveal the 3 on the screen.  His thumb hovered over the talk button for a moment.  The hesitation wasn’t because of uncertainty or fear.  It was because of familiarity.  He felt like he had lived in this moment before and he knew who was on the other side of this number.

His thumb pressed the green talk button.  As he put the phone to his ear there was no dial tone.

“Stephen?”

Stephen looked at his phone and saw no minutes ticking to show how long they had been talking. It just showed “3”.

“Yes.”

“I don’t have much time.  I need to tell you something about your life.  I need to tell you what is going to happen.”

“Who is this?”

“I’m not going to answer that because that is not the question you will want to ask.  Listen to me carefully.  In three months you are going to get a job at the McEnroy Firm.  You will meet a partner there.  She will be married and her kid will be in college.  You will have an affair with her.”

“Stop.  Why are telling me this?”

“Because you need to do something.”

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Chapter Four

23 10 2010

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I can hear sounds.  Voices above me.  I could still feel the carpet under my face.  There was no time left.  The darkness around surged with flashes of light.  Veins carving on the black walls around me.  Was I coming back to life?  It wasn’t happening like he told me.  Could he have been wrong?  Was I coming back now?  The voices were getting louder, more clearer.  I could feel hands on me.  Grabbing me, moving me.  It was happening.  I would see my family again.  My wife, my girl.  They were probably there.  Scared, crying.  I can’t leave them.

“Did you want a refill on your coffee?”

“No, thank you.  I think I’ve had enough.”

“Is there anything else I can get you?  Some more water?”

“No, I, um, think that will be all.  Thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll bring your check.”

“Okay.  Thanks.”

My friends told me I would never do it.  They said I was too chicken.  As I sat there with my fifth cup of coffee almost gone I was beginning to believe them.  I had gone into this cafe everyday this week just to see her.  I didn’t particularly like the coffee but it was the only way I could talk to her.  I tried small talk.  It did not fair well.

“How was your weekend?”

“Um, it was fine.  Just worked really.  Not much else to do.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.  I don’t have much going on either.”

“Did you need something else?”

“I’m sorry?”

“You called me over here.  Did you need some more coffee?”

“Oh yeah.  That would be great.  Thank you.”

Smooth.  I don’t have much going on either?  That’s the impression you want to leave?  That was three days ago and I haven’t forgotten it.  All she knows is that I am always in the cafe and now I made it worse by saying I don’t have much going on either!?  She was about to bring the check and all you are going to do is pay the bill, get up and leave and listen to your friends tell you how they were right and you are nothing but a chicken.

“Here is your check.  I’ll take it whenever you are ready.”

I handed her my card.  She took it and went back to ring it up.  I couldn’t help but watch her.  I felt like another creep that comes in here and stalks her every day.  Why would she ever date a customer?  She probably gets asked out all the time and now I am just another one of those guys.

“Here’s your receipt.  Thank you.”

“Hey, I, um…I was wondering, um…”

I could see she was getting a little nervous with my inability to speak.  She was anticipating what I was going to say, but I didn’t know what was going to come out of my mouth.

“I, um…look, this will be the last time I come in here and I just to see if you want to go get a cup of coffee sometime or something more substantial like dinner, or…”

“Hey, you’re a sweet guy.  I hope this isn’t the last time you come in here, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea if we went out.”

“Oh, yeah sure.  Of course.  Not a big deal.  I was just wondering anyways.  It’s fine. Really.  I will just see you later then, yeah?  Great.  Bye.”

I felt the entire cafe staring at me.  It was as if they heard the conversation.  What an idiot.  What else would she say?

I grabbed my receipt (even though I just throw it away when I walk outside) and left.  I was true to my word.  I never went back there.  The first time I met her she rejected me and now she is dreading me leaving.

It’s funny when you die.  You remember everything but it’s as if it wasn’t your memories.  It’s like watching someone else’s home movies.  The events are familiar but you feel they are not yours.  I saw our wedding and Vanessa’s birth.  I saw first moments and last moments but I couldn’t relate to them.  It seemed to be a good life.  And it was no longer mine.  That’s when I met him.  That’s when he told me what I had to do.

But as it seemed I would not have to finish what I had started, the voices were getting quieter.  The hands were getting lighter.  The ground was getting fainter.  I was leaving again.

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Chapter Three

18 10 2010

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She didn’t want the baby to be born because she knew she would be alone.  The baby was to be given up for adoption and her husband was to empty the house and leave.  She didn’t want to face it.  How could it have come to this?  She picked up a book to try to ignore what was going on but she felt herself reading the same thing over and over again.

It was Saturday and usually they go somewhere, if he was in town.  On Friday he said he had to go on a business trip.  She knew he was lying and just wanted to get away, but she would rather believe it was for work so she never confronted him about it.  It was in these opportunities when  she would call her secret and meet up with him.  Now all she had was the reminder living inside of her.  The reminder that it was no longer a secret.

It would go on like this for three weeks.  He was always gone on a business trip.  Then it stopped.  He stayed home.  There were no more trips.  No needing to escape.  It was as if he had changed.

That Saturday morning was a little different than the last.

“How are you feeling?” He was taking an interest in her.

“Nauseous.  Not too bad though.  Just a little.”

“That’s good I guess.  What have you been doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“While I’ve been gone.  What have you been doing?”

“Oh, not much.  Working a lot.  I also go to this yoga class.  It seems to help a lot.”

“Oh, good.  I’m glad you are getting out.”

“Yeah.  I need to.”

“Me too.”

That was it.  But it was enough for her.  Any other day that small talk would have been just to pass the time.  This was to help rebuild their relationship.  It was the best meaningless conversation they have had in a long time.

He got up and put his plate in the sink and left.  But the house wasn’t so empty anymore.  She felt improvement and progress and that is what she thrives on.  She went into the study and began to research adoption and agencies they could use.  She was researching for hours and lost track of time.  She printed out paper after paper and couldn’t wait to discuss it with him.  Have a real conversation.  Something she hasn’t had with anyone in a long time.  As far as anyone else was concerned this was their baby and the infidelity didn’t happen.

She heard his car pull in the driveway and collected all the information and put into a folder she conveniently labeled, “Adoption”.  She went downstairs to put it on the counter in hopes that he would see it and ignite the conversation himself.  Better for him to start it, she thought.

She placed the folder on the kitchen counter.  She heard a bang as if he had bumped his head or dropped a pan.  She turned around to see what happened.  She saw him standing there with a gun in his hand.  She saw smoke escaping the barrel.  She then felt pain.  She then felt wet.  She looked down at her stomach and saw the gun shot.  The bullet had gone straight through her.  How did she not feel it was the only thing she could think of.  Then another bang.  She felt the bullet tear through her hand and into her stomach.  She fell to the ground.  The ground was colder than what she was used to.

Her eyes still open.  She saw him with the gun under his chin.  She saw his head jerk back like a string was attached to the back of his head and someone violently pulled it toward the ground.  She could hear no sound.  His body laid in front of her.  She watched him die as she began to slip away.  She tried to keep her eyes open for the ambulance.  She wanted to live.  And then, nothing.

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Chapter Two

9 10 2010

< Chapter 13 4 5 6>

I don’t remember when I was born.  I know it may seem a little obvious since no one remembers, but I felt it appropriate to state it.

Margaret came home to discuss the future of their child.  Their future as a couple would have to wait.  There was no time for them.  He was home, as he promised.  She opened the door and instinctively went into the living room where he usually sat when he was thinking.  She could tell how deep in thought he was in based off the television.  On and normal volume meant that he thought about it and then realized there were more important things at the moment.  On and lower volume meant that he was in and out of thought and would always find himself rewinding the DVR to revisit what he missed.  On and muted meant that he was hoping to use the TV to ignore his thought but figured out it was more important than what was on but left the TV on just in case he saw the opportunity for distraction.  This time the TV was off, which was not a good sign.

“What took you so long?  I’ve been here for an hour.”

His voice was calm.  He got this way when he knew he was in the right here and had control of the situation.

“I don’t know.  I guess I was just thinking.”

“Yeah, me too.”

She sat down on the couch and dared not to look at him.  She didn’t know if he was looking at her or not.  She was hoping he wasn’t but for that entire ten minutes he didn’t take his eyes off of her.

“Did you call the father?”

This question was like a knife in her heart.  It was the assurance that everything was understood and there was no turning back from this.

“I did, but he didn’t answer.”

“You need to talk to him first.  Then we will talk.”

He got out of his chair and grabbed his car keys and left.  The house was the emptiest it had ever been.

She laid her head down on the couch and closed her eyes.  She knew that darkness was better.

When she awoke the day was not quite over.  She had slept through lunch and found that is was time for dinner.  She was mad at herself for sleeping so long for that meant she would not sleep tonight.  She usually took sleeping pills but the current circumstances  did not allow her to indulge.  She made dinner and tried to call the father again.  And again.  And again.  She was still getting his out of service message.  She sat down and tried to eat but could not sit in the house any longer.

Margaret drove to his apartment to give him the opportunity to close the door, to make him the villain and her the victim.  She needed to feel that.  She needed to know she was completely cruel.  When she knocked on the door no one opened.  He was usually home on Tuesday nights.  He was pretty set in his routines and this was not one of them.

From across the hall the neighbor heard the knocking that went on for five minutes.  When he looked out the peephole he saw the woman whom he had seen come in and out many times.  He opened his door.

“Excuse me.  Are you looking for…”
“Yes.  Yes I am.  Do you know where he is?”
“He moved out today.  I saw him packing his things and …”
“Moved?  Where?”
“I don’t know.  He didn’t say.  He was with this blond girl and they just left.”

She began to feel sick.  How could he leave her?  She knew it was bound to end but why now?  Like this.  She made it to her car and decided to go to the office.  She couldn’t go back home and couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.  When she got to her desk she saw the yellow paper that verified the neighbors confession.  Angry she ripped it up and threw it across the room.  The yellow rain seemed to last hours when it only fell for seconds.  Her arms pillowed her head as she lost control and cried.

“I went to go see him.”

This phone conversation was one she dreaded but after she calmed down knew she had to make.

“And.”
“He wasn’t there.  He left.”

He didn’t say anything.  He couldn’t.  There were words he wanted to say but didn’t know where to start.

“He found someone.  Some girl and they went to live with each other.  He disconnected his phone and left no contact information.  I can’t tell him.”

“Come home.  We will finish this discussion.”

This drive home was not as long but their conversation was.

“I don’t want an abortion.”
“I would never suggest that.”
“Well, at least we agree there.”
“Look, I don’t know what to do here.  I am angry as hell at you and all I want to do is pack up and leave.  And believe me, if you weren’t pregnant I would be gone.  But you are and I can’t leave you.  I can’t leave.   We can fight about this for the rest of our lives  but I will not abandon this child who has no idea what is going on.  We will go through this pregnancy and I will ensure this baby has a proper home-a good home and then we are through.”

She tried to interrupt him during his speech but he was too determined to say his piece.   She didn’t fight it as she knew she was at fault.  After he finished she covered her eyes so that he would not see her cry.  He just sat there without saying anything else.  The rest of the night was silent but they were together.

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Chapter One

5 09 2010

Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6>

The room seemed bigger than it really was.  My face felt the roughness of the carpet that usually felt soft on my feet.  My body lied still on the ground.  There was no chance of me getting up.  No hope for me to kiss my family goodbye.  I was alone in this enlarged room with nothing but my breath reminding me that I had not died yet.  I closed my eyes from being tired but tried to fight them so that I would not let go.  I wanted to still open my eyes.  I wanted to continue to feel the carpet, but then…nothing.

Margaret went to see her doctor because she was feeling some pains she had not experienced before.  Her husband had forced her to go because he knew she was too stubborn to accept the fact that 40 was creeping up on her.  He had already gone through this part of his denial and could tell the signs she was showing.  She finally gave in as he promised her that she did not have to put out for a whole month.  With the idea of being able to go to bed without the stress of wondering if Steve was going to roll over and cuddle with intent seemed like Heaven, so she burdened the doctor’s visit.

As she waited in the office, she noticed a Woman’s Only magazine laying on the table.  The cover spoke of sexual promises, weight loss suggestions and home cooked pastries for the family to enjoy.  One particular teaser caught her attention: “Temptation in the Workplace”.  She picked up the magazine feeling like everyone else in the waiting room knew exactly what article she wanted to read and gave her judging stares.  Shaking the ridiculousness of that assumption, she continued to open the magazine and read the article.

It seemed to be a pretty basic article to begin with:  A younger man works in your office.  At first it was innocent flirting. He makes you feel younger, more energetic. You like the attention, something you haven’t gotten in a while. Thoughts may enter your mind but you know you would never do anything about it…or would you?

Margaret knew the answer.  It seemed that this magazine article was just flirting with the idea but never went into what to do if you actually acted on your temptation. This secret she had seemed to keep hidden well was one she almost considered a hobby.  She never really felt guilt. In fact, in some meetings with her coworker, she felt justified in her actions.  Her husband was never involved with her emotionally and changed into another person than from whom she married.  He was distant and would never take into consideration her feelings, her emotions.  It was always about him, except this secret she had.  This secret which was about to be known to her and her doctor.

Back at Margaret’s office there was a piece of paper which was placed there the night before.  This yellow, blue lined note was not something she would commonly encounter, especially from her secret.  The intention of the letter was directed at a sense of changes.  Life has moved on and their relationship had to end.  It was something that was bound to happen but with this comes new things.  He had found a girl, his own age, and she was moving away to take a job.  He had to follow her.  This was something he had to do because he couldn’t keep living this lie he had with her.  It’s funny that to him this was all a lie and to her it was just a secret.  But that is how it was to end.  He got on a flight without ever knowing what her, and now her doctor, knows.  She would be alone in this decision and could not understand how to change it.

She walked out of the doctors office with the phone in her hand wondering who to call first.  She couldn’t hide from her husband but she felt that the young man should know about this new life changing event.  When the doctor told her that she was two months along, she knew who it was because her husband was out of town for the entire month giving her multiple opportunities with her secret.  This realization is what is giving her pause on who to call first.  She knows how her husband will react so she calls the secret.  The phone rings once and then an automated voice announces that this number is out of service and can not be reached at this time.  She does not realize the yellow, blue lined note is in existence yet and that he is on a plane to restart his life with someone else.

Her fingers begin to shake as she is almost certain she will be alone now.  She does not want to dial the number but her mind convinces her otherwise.  She understands the damage is done and there is no turning back.  Abortion was never an option, for that she was sure, leaving only the inevitable break up of her and her husband.  She knew there was no way around it so she called him.  He answered immediately.

“How was everything?  What did the doctor say?”

Now he was being attentive?  Now he was showing concern?  Where was this three months ago when she was going through terrible crises at work and the only person that could understand her was half her age and available?  Had he’d been there for her, this would never had happened.

“The doctor said that I am pregnant.”
“Pregnant?!”  Excitement and confusion were in his voice as he was sure they had not have sex in a really long time. “That’s fantastic!”

She could tell he was trying, but failing miserably, at being supportive and excited of anything that was affecting her.

“I’m two months pregnant.”  She knew that is all she had to say for him to realize her infidelity.

There was silence on the other side.  She called his name to see if he was there.  Nothing was said.  He had dropped the phone and didn’t pick it up.  He had left the house and she would never see him again. He had…

“I’m coming home so we can talk about this.  The baby is the important thing here.  We can figure us out later.”

He hung up the phone as she was disconnected on her end.  A feeling of comfort came over her as she knew he would be there waiting for her.  She did not want to be alone for this and now she knew she wasn’t.  She smiled a bit before she realized that this would not last forever.  They were bound to end at some point.

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