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Story Starting Over ... and Over and Over
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,293

    Starting Over ... and Over and Over

    Hello everyone. No, I wasn't abducted by aliens. No, ISIS did not recruit me. No, I didn't die. Life has been very full and I've been dealing with it. I finished a story over on my blog but I just haven't had the time to do much more than that. I have however got a story that I'm posting here and only here as a kind of apology for dropping off the face of the earth. It looks like there have been some changes, some new faces, some that faded into the blue like I did. It will take me a while to catch up and I may not post very much any place else but here in Storyland, at least for a while. You don't just drop off the face of the earth and then come back and expect to not have to earn your stripes all over again.

    Essentially my 50s are turning out to be yet another learning experience in life. Hubs and I are more successful in business than we've ever been ... but with success comes added risks and responsibilities that have tried to chew us up and spit us out. We are now grandparents ... #2 is due the end of this month. All but the youngest kid are now adults with successes and failures of their own, though we've been blessed that mostly it is successes. My health ... eh ... you can't have everything. Still struggling with the Type 2 ... sucks that it is the genetic kind and not driven by my own bad habits. Really sucks that no matter the good habits you have you still can't "fix" what is wrong.

    Hubs is the one that encouraged me to start making time, once again, for writing fiction. I've been keeping everything on my computer but just had the push to reach out to my old friends around here. So ... here is the first chapter of a story I completed last year. I'll do my best to put one chapter up a day barring any traveling hubs and I do ... something we've been doing more and more of as the kids all got older.

    I do have one caveat ... I wouldn't really call this one a piece of YA fiction. There is some language but I try and not make it gratuitous. I'm trying to remember if Dennis has filters on for certain words but it escapes me so if a word offends you ... just pass over it quickly. Some characters are just a little on the salty side as I'm sure we've all run into in this life.

    --------------------------------------------------------------
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,293

    Chapter 1 (part one)

    Chapter 1

    “Kiss my ass!”

    “Kirk!!”

    “I’m getting sick and tired of you! Tired of your mouth, and tired of your disrespect! I’m leaving! Might be back, might not. Not that you give a shit.”

    “What?!! Wait! Kirk?!”

    And with that my husband slammed out of the door and took off. How did we ever get to that point?

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Sitting in the office on the other side of the desk I was nervous, and my palms were sweaty, but I’d been asked to give a transparent explanation and under the circumstances I did the best I could … the best I’s ever even managed to explain it to myself.

    “I’m sorry if this explanation is longer than you … um … expected it to be.”

    “Not at all Mrs. Field. I would like a full explanation. There are questions as to whether you will fit in the Staff membership and the question of your divorce at your age …”

    “No. I understand. It’s just still … difficult. I’m still … well to be honest I’m still trying to understand myself. I’ll do the best I can but it may not make a lot of sense, even in hindsight. I’m not sure … well … I’m not sure it makes sense to me yet. It happened. There has to be an explanation. I just don’t seem to be able to verbalize it succinctly very well.”

    “Just do the best you can. I’m not here to be judgmental, or at least not a personal judgment of you … but a judgment as to your suitability to this position. I do apologize if this seems intrusive, but we are a close-knit community and surprises, or certain personality traits, aren’t conducive to our goal.”

    I needed what the man in front of me had the ability to offer. I needed it desperately. If I had to humiliate myself to get it then so be it. I took a deep breath and did the best I could …

    There was so much promise when we first got married. That isn’t just my imagination. Everyone said so. My parents liked him, his parents liked me, our worldviews were in sync, just all of it. He was a new college grad with a good job and I was on my way to completing a teaching degree. We were young, healthy, and happy with our whole life ahead of us. I was twenty and he was twenty-two. Four years later and it is like the promise at the beginning never existed and the world has caved in.

    Neither of us is completely innocent of what came about; but, neither of us is solely to blame either. At least that is what I’m coming to accept. It is like the world threw one thing right after another at us and no matter how much we fought against it, how strong we were as individuals, as a couple we were apparently too weak with too many flaws. I still don’t get it. Not totally. Maybe if it had happened to someone else I could see it and accept it but it didn’t happen to someone else, it happened to us. I used to complain how unfair it was, all the things life threw at us, but I’ve since learned that fairness doesn’t have anything to do with what goes on in this world. Fairness is a concept that is only applicable in children’s games; life simply is what it is, and you deal with it or you fail. Failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing; failure is actually an opportunity to learn a lesson, improve, and get up and try again. It is just that sometimes the failure and its associated lesson means that who is there when you manage to get yourself back up to try again may change … it may change a lot.

    To explain and prove I’m not being melodramatic, let me list the things that happened to us, or the big ones anyway. There are too many small things to count but it is like that for everyone. Why what happened broke us and not others I haven’t completely figured out. For many couples adversity makes them stronger. Adversity sets them up for success. I’d give a lot if that’s how it was for us but in the end I must admit that it proved to be the exact opposite.

    If I have to pick a beginning point it might be before we even said our wedding vows. We lost Kirk’s father six months before we got married which was only three months after we got engaged. A heart attack. An unexpected heart attack because the man had just gotten a relatively clean bill of health considering he suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure. It nearly destroyed Kirk, or so it seemed. He and his father didn’t have the easiest of relationships. They fought like dogs but they would defend each other to the death. According to his mother, during one of her painfully-honest moments of sharing, it had been worse when Kirk was a teenager but I wasn’t there to see it; he was nineteen when we started dating. His mom claimed that things were so much better and even hinted that I might have had something to do with it. I found it strange for her to say it, made me a little uncomfortable, but I thought maybe she was right because I wanted to believe I had a positive influence on Kirk even though I really didn’t see anything wrong with him to begin with.

    In hindsight, like so many other things I’m seeing in hindsight, perhaps after such a shocking life event we should have pushed getting married off until Kirk and his mother were further along in the grieving process, but we didn’t see it that way back then. We thought we were helping each other, continuing the circle of life and that sort of thing. We thought it brought us closer and made us better. Aren’t partners supposed to have a positive influence on each other? I was so proud of him as he struggled through and finally seemed to pull himself together. And he certainly helped me mature and take a more active role in what went on in my life rather than floating along on the breeze. It’s like we woke parts of each other up and then nurtured them in a way no one else could.

    If that had been all we’d had to face for a while I think we could have pulled through. Or maybe not. I keep realizing we had weaknesses that back then we were blind to. Those weaknesses were not helped by the things life started throwing at us left and right.

    Our first year of marriage was certainly a learning experience for both of us. I can’t speak for Kirk, won’t at this late date, but he said it was the same for him … at least he would say it in the beginning and not have it mean anything snide or snarky. See, I thought I knew what it would mean to manage my own home but boy did I have a steep learning curve. My mother was from the “super mom” generation … worked outside the home doing one and a half jobs to pay for all of the things that they wanted that my dad’s pay check didn’t quite cover. And still she cooked and cleaned and we were all scheduled out the yin yang and when my dad was out of the country TDY (he was in the military), my mom still kept hearth and home together and made sure that we stayed connected to Dad despite his sometimes-long absences. What’s more, my parents were all lovey-dovey. I mean the chase-each-other-around-the-house-for-a-kiss-and-tickle, cards-and-flowers for no reason, married-for-over-twenty-years-with-kids-to-show-for-it-but-still-went-on-dates kind of love-dovey. Rarely did they disagree in my hearing though my brother said it happened more than I recognized, but nothing that wasn’t fixed before they went to bed the same night. That was their iron-clad rule and they stuck to it.

    I just got lucky in my parents and I suppose it made me feel inadequate when my own relationship proved less than perfect. Kirk’s family was more volatile that mine and tended to work things out like he’d grown up seeing. I wasn’t prepared for it and when the arguments were over he’d claim to understand and then try and meet me half way by saying we weren’t our parents and we would have our own life that was perfect for us. He also said, in calm moments, to stop worrying about it, that everyone was different, and that he married me, not my mother, and that he didn’t want me to wind up like her … what he called a “Stepford wife.” But the thing is I think he did, in his subconscious, expect me to be like my mother I mean … and his as well despite the two women being diametrically different from one another. Because as time went by he asked me why I couldn’t be more like them … both of whom seemed to always have a clean house, laundry done and put away neatly, and meals on the table exactly when their men wanted them there. I got a little better at pulling that off as I had practice working full time and managing everything else full time at the same time, but it never got any easier. In fact, it got progressively harder. I’ve finally accepted that it is almost impossible to measure up to a ghost.

    You see, Kirk’s mother died a year after we were married from a case of colon cancer that she had been intentionally hiding from everyone, including her doctors … or at least hiding it until it was too late to do anything about it, and I think that is what she truly wanted. We came over one Saturday morning to help her with some yard work and thought she had taken too much cold medicine (she’d had a head cold with lots of congestion for about a week). Getting her out of the house was pretty horrible. Neither Kirk, nor his sister Diane, wanted to do what needed doing. Their mother didn’t want to go and acted like a cat that was being given a bath; in hindsight we realized it was because then the truth of her illness would come out, but we didn’t know that then.

    Finally, they got her in the car and took her to the ER, but it took an orderly to help them get her out of the car while I cleaned up the mess that had been made at her house. A couple of hours later we were all delivered the awful news that it was cancer and already advanced Stage 5 and there was absolutely no hope. It had perforated her intestines in multiple places and a low blood count and the subsequent lack of oxygen to her brain was why she was cognitively affected. Everyone was devastated, including my parents who had, contrary to many in-law stories, been close to Kirk’s parents and even socialized with them when we weren’t around. Kirk’s mom didn’t even live two weeks after that and was never mentally with it. She recognized Kirk, my parents, her son in law but not Diane her daughter, I, or Diane’s teenage daughter. To say it sucked doesn’t even come close to the reality but for Kirk, in some odd way, it kind of brought things full circle and his still horrible grief for his father was mitigated and then dealt with during the gentler grieving he felt at the loss of his mother. In effect, his parents were now together and it was back to being the way it should be.

    But while one thing was dealt with another took its place. Kirk’s sister pretty much shut us out of her life after their mother died because Kirk had followed his parents’ medical wishes and had put a DNR order on her chart. The doctors all tried to explain to Diane resuscitation wouldn’t have helped, she was just too eaten up by the cancer and her organs were failing one by one. At best, it would have been cruel, at worst it would have been sadistic to drag their mother back into the pain not even the heavy doses of opiates was completely alleviating. Diane didn’t want to hear that. She tried to pull out the religion card, the right-to-life card, and even threatened a law suit but given the medical reality no lawyer, or even the right-to-life groups, would take her case and she became very bitter. She was also bitter for another reason.

    Kirk’s parents were older and were already retired when we started dating. His mom hadn’t worked since he was a baby and his dad was blue collar all the way and had been counting on social security and a small pension to pay for things. Wrong. They’d both started having health problems and instead of trying to work things out in other ways they’d allowed themselves to be talked into a reverse mortgage on their house that was in arears at the time of their death; but, it wasn’t until after Kirk’s mom died that we found that out. There was next to nothing in the estate – not that we were looking for it because we would have preferred to have his mom back. Then on top of that Diane wanted an extravagant funeral and there just wasn’t money in the estate to pay for it. Then the will was read and we found out that his dad had cut Diane out a long time ago during a period when they were fighting and had never changed it back. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Diane. Some words were said that didn’t need to be said and while I tried to do the right thing by telling Diane to take what she wanted from the house she pulled a cutting-her-nose-off-to-spite-her-face move and all I was able to do was box stuff up and keep it back from the auction. Geez when Kirk found out about that it was a mess and he accused me of taking sides and passive aggressive tactics and other things that hadn’t been on my mind at all. I’ll accept the blame for it. I should have discussed it with him. He just wasn’t very reachable at the time and I thought I was doing “the right thing.” My parents and Diane’s husband understood, Kirk would never discuss it again and told me to “do whatever the hell about it that I wanted to since I was going to anyway.” That he didn’t give a damn.

    At the time I put it down to my thoughtlessness and Kirk’s deep grief. We eventually worked through it, or so I thought. But there I went thinking again. I’ll simply say that at least at the time we seemed to work through it and it was Kirk that finally told me to box it up and make sure there were copies of the pictures, and then send it to the last known address for Diane. I actually wound up dropping it off to Diane’s husband whom I sometimes saw in my job as a substitute teacher … he was a science teacher at a local high school. I let him decide rather than risk Diane, in an angry or despondent mood, simply tossing the whole thing in the trash bin and then blaming me for their loss. Rather than Diane, I got a note from their daughter thanking me and that it meant a lot to her even if her mother couldn’t deal with it at that time. She said perhaps down the road we could get together … but I didn’t hold my breath. Kirk wasn’t the only one that Diane had taken aim at with her words. I didn’t’ want to be spiteful or virtuous … I just wanted it out of the back of my mind and out of the back of my closet, like a boogey man ready to pounce.

    Through it all I thought I knew – or at least in part knew – what Kirk was going through. I was certainly what I thought was compassionate and patient, a loving and understanding spouse. But I learned no matter how much you might empathize with someone, really care for their sake and for your own, until it happens to you, you just don’t completely get it.

    My parents were killed early last year by a guy who went to sleep at the wheel. They were on a belated second honeymoon. My brother, going through a very acrimonious divorce at the time, was following them because their car had been acting up and saw it all, including the gory aftermath. Already emotionally wounded, he sought counseling when he started having nightmares and hallucinating ghosts. Unfortunately, because of his state of mind, he balked at almost everything the doctor suggested as being “too hard” or “not right for him” at the time. In turn, the doctor, recognizing how depressed my brother was thought it would be better for him to at least temporarily be on medication so he could put into effect more of the suggestions to improve his well-being. That didn’t help … it made it worse. My brother committed suicide less than two months after the accident that claimed my parents’ lives when the antidepressants he’d been put on backfired and did the exact opposite of what they were supposed to do. Although there was a note by the coroner that it was possible that my brother hadn’t been taking his medication correctly all the time since some of his blood levels were way off, there was no way to say for certain. In either case, knowing wasn’t bringing my brother back.

    If that kind of emotional trauma hasn’t been enough let’s add in the financial crappola. Contrary to Kirk’s parents, my parents were younger … mom was nineteen when I was born and dad only a couple of years older. He’d been in the military but not as an officer, so his pay and retirement benefits weren’t exactly spectacular. Dad put his twenty in and then got out and worked part time to keep their lifestyle the same as it was and they also sold things at craft fairs as they were both handy crafty type people and they thought that kind of thing fun because it meant spending even more time together. But they’d bought a new house a couple of years before Dad retired and were upside down in the mortgage. They also had a slew of other bills and had spent some of their savings trying to help my brother out. It might have all worked out. They had a plan. Dad and I had even talked about it. But they ran out of time. I wound up having to deal with both my parents’ estate and with my brother’s estate as he was legally separated and one month shy of the final papers being signed on the divorce. To add to the chaos, my father was the only one of the three with a will. My dad had a basic one from the military but all it did was leave everything to mom so it wasn’t exactly helpful under the circumstances. Both estates went to probate – no will, that’s what happens and the State gets its cut accordingly – but things were further complicated by my brother’s yet-to-be-ex-wife getting a lawyer which increased the legal fees on our side. I would have let her walk away with my brother’s estate – the only real thing in it was their house and his truck as he had already hocked most of everything else valuable to pay for his lawyer – but she was trying to go after my parents’ estate as well. The judge told her technically he could award her his half of my parents’ estate, such as it was, but that she’d also be awarded with all of the debts of his portion. He further reminded her that she was already inheriting all of her and my brother’s marital debts. That freaked her out completely. We ended things with her getting their house in her name only but she was surprised when his life insurance policy, that she’d been counting on to pay all of the legal fees and marital debts she’d run up, was denied because of the manner of his death. She thought she’d be able to write the debts off because. Nope. Her name was on them too and all of their debtors came after her. Last I heard the house was being foreclosed on even after she tried to file bankruptcy (which wasn’t awarded as she’d filed bankruptcy once before) and she was trying to make it out to be everyone’s fault but her own. And a lot of people believed her since no one was left in my brother’s former circle of friends to defend him from the character assassination.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,293
    Chapter 1 (part 2)

    On our own financial front the economy wasn’t helping things either. Kirk is in IT. For him working has been like a catch and release program. He’d catch a job and then three to six months later the contract would be over despite promises from management and he’d have to start the process of finding a new job all over again. Benefits were non-existent and he had to battle all of the foreign-hires that would work for less money just to get a US work visa. Several times he even had to train his own replacement who would be getting salary plus benefits. That sucked and as you can imagine hurt his pride and affected his overall attitude. We’d thought about buying a house but the market had been in a bubble for a while and the fact that neither of us had “permanent full time” employment was a real problem.

    As a substitute teacher I made decent money and worked more often than not, but it wasn’t every day and I was considered a contract worker at best with no benefits. I took a night time cashiers job at a grocery store at just enough hours to pay for our health insurance. We had savings for a down payment but that didn’t help. We’d lived mostly in condos and twice they’d gotten sold out from under us and we’d been “evicted” without notice. That was always an embarrassing mess to explain to the uninitiated.

    “Well, Mr. and Mrs. Field, thank you for coming in to apply for a loan (or lease) but we see here that you have two evictions in less than five years.”

    As our faces reddened, mine from embarrassment and Kirk’s from anger, we’d explain yet again, “Those are related to real estate investors pre-emptively issuing an eviction notice at the same time they notified us that they’d purchased the property we had been renting. They said they wouldn’t enforce it so long as we were out within 30 days but they never removed it from the public record. We do have notarized paperwork proving it however.”

    “Ah. Well. We’ll certainly take that into account.” The thing is they never really did. Our loan applications were always denied for one thing or another but if you read between the lines the “evictions” only made it easier for them to legitimize their “no” answer.

    This next part is very personal, but you want a full accounting and the explanation wouldn’t be complete without this part. I guess the straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that we’d been trying to start a family ever since Kirk’s mother died and nothing had happened. We’d had all the tests done and the doctors could only say that nothing was broken for either of us, that it must be stress-related infertility. Yeah, that went over like a lead balloon. Kirk blamed my so-called disinterest in sex … something that had become a running theme in his complaints against me … but the reality wasn’t that I was disinterested, it is that after those early honeymoon months we could never get in sync and he always made it out to be some big production where I needed to dress a certain way and act a certain way and say certain things to prove how attracted to him I was, to prove how much I loved him. I tried to play along about half the time. Maybe I could have done more, but it isn’t exactly like he reciprocated and did the things I wanted or needed all the time. He complained I needed too much warming up … way too much warming up. Maybe I wouldn’t have needed quite so much warming up if I wasn’t stressed out while at the same time trying to pretend that the things he wanted turned me on … which they didn’t … and if I hadn’t just been plain tired all the time. I worked late at least three nights per week plus four to five days per week in the classroom. I stayed up with him when he was working late to try and “prove” I cared while the nights I worked he mostly fell asleep in front of the tv. I still managed the house, did all of the grocery shopping, all of the laundry, most of the housework (that was never done quite right too often), and we both were just burnt out from all of the legal and financial issues we’d been dealing with since his father’s untimely death. Neither one of us had realistic expectations. And sorry for the TMI but you did ask.

    Like I said the problems were on both of us, neither of us are complete saints or complete screw ups. But when Kirk accused me of making it so that he couldn’t perform in bed? And then to ask me if I was taking birth control on top of it? Asking if that was why I’d put on a few pounds and was no longer the skinny rail I was when we started dating – I had been 17 years old for pete sake - that just hacked me off and I said a few things that would have been better off not being said. I had just reached a breaking point and the accusations were so unfair that I let him have a taste of what I had been on the receiving end of too often for what felt like too long. I knew immediately I should have just kept my mouth shut. Frankly I was ashamed of myself. How was I supposed to hold him to standards that I didn’t hold myself to? But it was too little thought way too late to stop the avalanche that had been set in motion and the argument grew worse and worse with both of us pulling things out that we shouldn’t have been holding onto like we were.

    And that’s the night he left. I tried to apologize. I tried to get him to come home and go to couple’s counseling but he refused to accept any responsibility. I went to counseling on my own and let him know it. That made him angry as well because he thought I was trying to get someone on my side to fight him and make him feel bad … one of those passive aggressive things he was constantly accusing me of … but the truth is all I was trying to do was prove that I was serious about taking care of the problems and getting better and making our marriage better. I had admitted to myself that I needed an objective sounding board. It wasn’t about me being right, it was about me getting right … with him and myself. At counseling I certainly wasn’t hearing everything I wanted to hear. I had to recognize and accept that I wasn’t always viewing my actions from other people’s perspective and I wasn’t always communicating as well as I should have. And I sometimes acted without thinking through the consequences. In other words, the path to hell is paved with good intentions. But the counselor also told me that it takes two to make something work and it takes two to break it. I had faults but so did Kirk. And neither one of us always handled things constructively.

    Case in point. Kirk hadn’t come home that night and for a couple of nights it could have been put it down to couch surfacing with his IT buddies or a motel or something like that. He wasn’t putting his paychecks in the shared account we used for house expenses but then again he wasn’t taking any money out either, or taking money out of our savings account. He just refused to tell me where he was staying, claiming he needed space to make decisions with. Of course I let my insecurities control one conversation and I asked point blank if he was staying with a woman and he blew up at me. He made me sound like a crazy freak at the time even with me trying to apologize and explain why I asked. Two days later I was served with divorce papers … papers that he’d at least partially started filling out before our last argument and him leaving. He tried to deny it but I pointed out the date on a couple of notarized places and he just got so angry at being caught that he stopped communicating with me except through his lawyer.

    His lawyer … that’s another story. She was a woman that played me like a master violinist. I didn’t need a lawyer. We’d work it all out amicably. It would save everyone money and time and most of all heart ache. We’d all get along and avoid a horrible “war” that would only make things worse. Yeah. Right. Things happened so fast my head spun. That may have been the plan but it was my own fault for letting it happen. Thank goodness the mediator and judge saw what an idiot I was and looked after my rights even if I was too naïve to do so in the beginning. That might not have been their job but still … I guess the lawyer in question had a reputation and had pulled some things in their courtroom before and had hacked them off just enough they decided to spike her play this time.

    Financially they made Kirk provide his pay stubs and he had to put all of the amount that he’d received before we legally separated back into the shared household account. From that account first came out the rent on the condo … because he hadn’t been able to get his name off of the lease … and same for the utilities for the same reason. He had to reimburse me for his part of the health insurance after the legal separation since I was the one that worked to cover it. Both of our cars were paid-off, late model “junkers” but there was auto insurance and Kirk had to pay half until he’d gotten his own … and then half beyond that since he hadn’t informed me he’d gotten his own so that we could change the policy to reflect I was on it alone. The mediator went through all of the credit card purchases since we had been separated … we only had one that went with the bank account we shared … and made us both provide all our receipts. Anything that was purchased after the night Kirk left was determined to either be marital, mine, or his. He’d still been putting his gas on it, as had I, and there were other things like some entertainment, his internet access, our shared phone plan, and a few other things. The mediator wouldn’t let Kirk take his lawyer’s fees out of our shared savings – the one thing that he tried to do – and split that evenly down the middle since the house account balance took care of everything else after Kirk’s paychecks were added back in. Kirk then had to pay his lawyer with what was left of his half. I got the security deposit and last month’s rent back on the apartment since he is the one that left, leaving me with no choice but to break the lease and find something cheaper since I couldn’t afford to continue on where I was at. Kirk got everything that he inherited from his parents’ estate and I got everything inherited from my parents’ and my brothers’ estate. This didn’t include money, what little there had been of it, because it had been pooled into our savings and checking accounts for too long to be considered anything but marital property. We each kept our cars. The judge ordered both the checking and savings accounts closed and disbursed by end of business day which meant that the one credit card we had been using would also be closed leaving us both a little high and dry in that department.

    Kirk was furious. His lawyer was obviously surprised. The judge shut them both up when he said that Kirk could either take it as is or he would be allotting me alimony due to Kirk being the primary bread winner and because he was the one that had sued for divorce and refused the marital counseling recommended by the mediator. Truthfully his refusal of counseling had hurt as much as most of the rest of it combined; I thought it was my last shot at repairing our marriage and moving forward and Kirk would have none of it. But essentially, with no children involved, the court had no way to force counseling on either one of us.

    The lawyer convinced Kirk to accept the judge’s decree and that night Kirk was on the phone with all of our mutual friends wailing about how I’d basically raped him legally and financially. I got some calls. I tried to explain things. I told them I hadn’t even had a lawyer and that the judge and mediator had dictated terms. Some gave it some thought, some tried to gossip and give me advice on how I could get back at Kirk for what he had done and was doing. After a while I just let things go to voicemail. But the damage was done. I’m not getting any calls for substitute teaching jobs and I can’t survive on the few hours I’m getting from my cashier job. I don’t have the money to go back to school to finish my teaching degree and even if I did the school district is under a hiring freeze and I don’t even know if I could get an internship at this point.”

    I looked over at the man that was nearly my last hope.

    “So that’s my story. Told as transparently as I could make it, just like you asked. You wanted to know why I am so desperate for a job that I’d leave everything I know, move hundreds of miles away, to live on a remote estate, doing a job I’m supposedly over qualified for, and willing to sign all sorts of confidentiality forms and whatever. Well there you have it. My life for the last five years. I don’t just want this job Mr. Crocker. I need this job. I need an opportunity to make a new start. And if this is what it takes to get that new start, then I’m willing to do it.”

    I sat there waiting … and praying … as the man in front of me took another sip of coffee and just stared at me.

    Mr. Crocker said, “You’re younger than most of the applicants but you have most of the other qualifications we are looking for. Let me talk it over with the families – we’re a democratically run estate as I’ve explained. And also as I’ve explained I am the estate manager; I will be your boss in certain administrative areas but Mr. Haines is the Managing Partner at the estate and will be your immediate employer. He also has the last say on who is and is not employed by the estate as well as a great deal to say concerning your continued employment should your application be accepted.”

    “Yes sir. I read the material that was given to me at the time I submitted my employment application.”

    Mr. Crocker pursed his lips like he wanted to say something. I wasn’t sure what it meant so I just sat there and tried to wait him out rather than put words in his mouth. If counseling hasn’t done anything else for me it has helped me break at least one of my bad habits which was interrupting someone simply because I became anxious.

    Finally he asked, “Are you sure you don’t have any family or any other situation you can go to? That can help you?”

    “I have family but none of them close enough that I could ask for anything like this. My aunts and uncle are all several years older than my parents were. The youngest of my cousins is at least ten years older than me and he is a contractor in the South Pacific and the only reason I know anything about his life is we occasionally cross paths on facebook and because I did a lot of family history research when I was in high school that he helped me with. The rest of them have their own lives and we do Christmas cards and always say we are going to get together and have a family reunion but I’ve always lived too far away to really participate in family activities. A lot of them came to Mom and Dad’s funeral though so I can’t say they don’t mean well or don’t think of me as family. It is just the way things are. I also know that one of the things the confidentiality form talks about is the estate resident’s privacy and that my social media and such will be monitored. Mr. Crocker, I was a teacher … a substitute teacher but I nevertheless had to abide by the privacy and moral turpitude clauses the same as full time school district staff do. Even now I’m not supposed to talk about any students that I served, or any other teachers or administrators either. My social media foot print had to be above reproach. I wasn’t even supposed to talk about politics on social media and I abided by that even when it was hard to keep my mouth shut when other teachers did it with impunity. And,” I grimaced when I felt forced to admit it. “And since I’m trying to maintain the transparency and honesty you asked for, the counseling I participated in during and after my divorce helped to reinforce the lessons learned about talking before I’d given it full consideration for the consequences.”

    Mr. Crocker nodded. “Your honesty is appreciated Mrs. Field. Or will you be returning to your maiden name?”

    I shrugged. Other people had asked me that and all I could do was answer Mr. Crocker with the same thing I’d said to other people. “I don’t regret getting married or taking Kirk’s name. I would have preferred to have things happen differently but they didn’t. Changing my name won’t alter anything so, at least for the foreseeable future, my name will remain Shanna Fields. But if you don’t mind, I would prefer Ms. Field to Mrs. Field these days … it causes fewer questions.” What I didn’t say was that changing my name would take money in legal fees that I just didn’t have.

    “Very well.” He neatened up the file on his desk that contained among other things, my application, several character references as well as employment references, my drug test results, and a couple of other affidavits attesting to my willingness to move at my own expense, abide by the strict moral turpitude clauses in my employment contract, and sign the detailed contract that included a strict confidentiality requirement. “I will contact you within two weeks to notify you one way or the other. If employment is offered you will have two weeks and two days after that to arrive at the estate or you will lose the position. Thank you for your time.”

    That was my signal to stand and leave the rented conference room. I walked out to the waiting area and once again lost the confidence that I’d gained after being called back for a third interview. There were six other women sitting, waiting their turn. All of them looked to be at least ten years older than me and a great deal more experienced. A couple of them looked so competent – they were wearing a “uniform” that made them really look like housekeepers – that it made my teeth hurt.

    I looked at my watch and then realized I would need to hurry if I was going to get to the grocery store on time. I couldn’t afford to lose any hours at all. I was barely making ends meet and even job hunting was a challenge as it cost gas and time that I was struggling to make up in hours.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  4. #4
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    AWESOME to see you back!
    Proud Infidel...............and Cracker

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  5. #5
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    Nice to be back. Thanks. Have a lot of catching up to do.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  6. #6
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    Chapter 2

    Chapter 2

    It had been a long 8-hour shift after two weeks of long 8-hour shifts and only one day off for the fourteen worked; that day spent running around like a crazy person putting in job applications at every place I could think of, including a lot of fast food locations. Our branch of the grocery store chain I worked for was closing. The store wasn’t in the best neighborhood in town and we weren’t getting enough customers on a regular basis. Most of our sales were loss leaders rather than the other stuff the store made most of its profit on. The last straw was when the super discount neighborhood grocery store in the next strip mall over had started price-matching and accepting other store’s coupons.

    For the last two weeks I was used to work hours they took away from the longer-service, higher-paid employees. I got treated like a scab by those people but basically I couldn’t afford to care; or more honestly couldn’t afford to show I cared. I needed the money just like the others did, especially since I had no partner or roommate to share expenses with. None of my applications to other employers had panned out. Nor was I being offered a position at any of the other grocery stores in this chain around town. I had thought I had a month. Boy was I wrong.

    After I had signed out of my register at store close I was called back to the manager’s office by the head cashier and basically handed my pay check for all of my hours up to that night and a gift card in lieu of severance pay. The head cashier took a lot of pleasure in telling me that it would be best to use the gift card at one of the other stores as, since I had refused to stand with the staff, the staff was voting to stand against me.

    I still had to count my till and it was done under the watchful eye of the assistant night manager. He wasn’t nasty or anything, just a cold fish. I actually didn’t have a problem with him watching me and double checking my counts since I got a signed release; it saved someone being able to claim that I had shorted the store or stolen something. I had signed my till in, clocked out, and had grabbed my street clothes from my locker when I saw a couple of district managers walk into the front of the store. I got to the back of the store and headed towards the bathroom when I was stopped by some other district people that had come in the delivery bay.

    One of them said, “Excuse me, you can’t be here.”

    “I have to change out of my uniform and turn it in. I was let go tonight.”

    “Oh. You are …” He looked at a clip board and since it was faster I told him, “Shanna Field. I’m … I was … a cashier.”

    “Have you signed for your last paycheck?”

    “That and the severance store gift card.”

    “Gift card.”

    I pulled out both and my copy of the receipt and showed him. “See? The head cashier had me sign this receipt.”

    “She did.” I was getting funny vibes and wanted to be gone. I didn’t want my nose rubbed in anything as I was already struggling not to let anyone see how upset I was. He said, “Very well. Ms. Field please bring your uniform to me when you are finished and I’ll sign it in.”

    “Yes Sir.”

    The only thing I had to change was the smock and apron, as the pants and requisite hair net were mine. Lucky for me I always kept a black t-shirt with me in case something got messy. I learned that lesson when I’d been asked to help stock the meat cases one time and gotten more than a little backsplash on me.

    Five minutes later I was turning everything in and signing for it.

    “Sign here as well please,” he said. I looked up and he was handing me a voucher with nearly double the amount of my last paycheck which was nearly as much as a normal week of substitute teaching had been. I just looked at it and blinked. He said, “There appears to have been a miscommunication.”

    In confusion I asked, “Do … do you want the card back?”

    “No. The voucher is from the district. The card is from this store. I wouldn’t wait to spend them however.” When I gave him an even more confused look he said, “It isn’t a state secret, but it hasn’t hit the news yet. This chain was purchased by another grocery store chain and the new management is giving everyone thirty days to use whatever gift cards and rain checks are out there. Since the new chain already has a presence in this market several stores are going to close and those that remain won’t be restocked until it is determined which stores will be staying open. Understand?”

    I nodded though I hadn’t had time to process the new information. He escorted me to the front of the store and had a security officer – something that had all of us looking a little spooked as we’d never had store security before – escort me out to my car. I left and headed for the gas station a block away before it could close since I was setting at barely an eighth of a tank of fuel.

    I was jonesing for some caffeine in the form of something cold, sweet, and fizzy but I couldn’t afford it since I was now out of a job. Or let’s say I could afford it at that moment in time but needed to sharply curtail my expenses down to the bare necessities. It felt like I was on the last notch in my belt and I couldn’t get it any tighter. To make it worse, the price of gas had gone up yet again at some point during the day and I winced at what it was costing me to fill up. Since I hadn’t been able to replace the credit card the divorce had cost me I spent the forty dollars and change in cash and was just getting back to my car to find two of the other store’s cashiers standing there looking daggers at me.

    I tried to ignore them but they wouldn’t let me. “Hope you’re happy bitch.”

    I sighed. “Am I happy that I got terminated? That job was the only thing keeping a roof over my head and food in my mouth. So no, I’m not particularly happy about it. Why? Are you here to try and make me feel worse than I already do? Sorry. Not possible. Now if you will excuse …”

    “Wait. You got fired?”

    I nearly asked if the steam coming out of their ears had cooked their brain. “Yeah. What do you think Joann Suttle was doing? Telling me I’d won the lottery?” Then I pulled in a calming breath and tried to remember all the things the Counselor had told me about not feeding into other people’s drama. “Sorry. Pretty stressed out right now. I need to get home and spend some time figuring out how to pay the bills until I can find another job.”

    “Wait … seriously. You were fired.”

    It was like we weren’t even speaking the same language. I repeated, “Yes. I got my walking papers right before I counted my till and then the manager watched me count and said to make sure I turned in my uniform before I left. Luckily I had a t-shirt to change into or I would have been stuck paying for the blasted thing.”

    They just looked at me and then at each other before one of them said, “Joann got arrested.”

    “Huh?!” I dropped my keys and nearly dropped my teeth. “I just saw her. She …”

    In a shocked whisper they informed me, “Yeah, her and the assistant night manager. It was right after security walked you out. From the yelling we heard it has something to do with some vouchers that were supposed to be handed out. You know what is going on?”

    “Uh uh.” Well I kinda did but after all the hard lessons I’d been given I’d been forced to learn to think before I speak. “And I don’t want to know. I have enough troubles of my own and can’t afford to get dragged into someone else’s stuff. If there has been some kind of mistake I’m sure it will get cleared up fast.”

    That made them rethink their theory that had obviously included my guilt on some level and I escaped before they could keep talking at me. I was able to hold it together until I pulled into my parking spot in the apartment complex I now live in. The complex isn’t nasty, local code enforcement regulations keep it from being a complete slum, but it isn’t in the best part of town, or even in a mediocre part of town. I’ll admit some of the things that go on in the area are scary and not what I grew up dealing with. My apartment is nothing but a small efficiency; but I’m lucky that water is included with the rent. I also pay the complex an extra seventy-five dollars a month for electric and internet service which has saved me a couple of deposits I just don’t have. My parents would have point blank been horrified at where I’ve ended up but they aren’t here and this is all I can afford. Frankly I’m thankful for the roof over my head and I’m worried I won’t even be able to keep this if I can’t find something else pretty quickly; not without having to fall back on the savings that I’ve been trying to keep as a nest egg for just-in-case. The place isn’t the Ritz but I keep my unit clean and I pay my bills and since my unit is right over the complex’s office the other tenants treat me like I don’t exist. That suits me just fine.

    I turned off my car’s engine and then couldn’t stop the tears that had to be shed but I pulled myself together as quickly as I could. Because frankly if I didn’t do it there was no one else to lean on for help and I would be in a worse pickle. I wiped my eyes, gathered my belongings, looked around before unlocking my car door and then nearly came out of my skin when a man suddenly appeared in the dark.

    “Excuse me. Ms. Field?”

    I stopped myself from keying the man just in time. “Mr. Crocker? Uh … sorry … you startled me. Can I … do something for you?” I asked battling my confusion while trying to put my heart back in my chest.

    “Actually Ms. Field I would like to introduce you to Mr. Haines … your new employer.”

    I saw little black spots and it took everything I had and then some to keep my knees in the locked and upright position.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    The two men insisted on taking me to a late meal at a local 24-hour diner that was out on university row. I was a little leery of going so I took my own car despite their offer to drive.

    I was about to order nothing but a soda when Mr. Haines said, “Relax Ms. Field, it’s on me.”

    I was going to make my excuses but I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was approaching midnight. My traitorous stomach chose that moment to go off like an alarm clock since I hadn’t even had the opportunity to eat the popcorn that I’d taken to work for my dinner.

    “Excuse me,” I whispered in embarrassment.

    “Don’t worry about it Ms. Field. I’ve had a few of those moments myself.”

    With the waitress hovering right there, and the other two men having already ordered, I basically just ordered something from one of the flyers I saw hanging from the ceiling. Mr. Haines looked at me in a frown and said, “I can afford more than soup and a sandwich.”

    Attempting to be diplomatic I responded, “I’m not being stubborn on purpose Sir. It’s just that it is late and it has been a long day full of … stuff happening. A bowl of soup and a sandwich will be more than sufficient but thank you for your concern.”

    That settled that and then Mr. Crocker got down to brass tacks. “Ms. Field, Mr. Haines is prepared to meet tomorrow to complete your employment paperwork. Are you still willing to accept the position and appear at the estate in two weeks and two days?”

    “Yes Sir. And I can be there within the week if you need me earlier. My employment at the grocery store ended tonight. There was a buyout … not everyone survived the cuts.”

    A slightly hysterical giggle escaped before I could stop it. In alarm I asked to be excused for a moment but Mr. Haines forestalled me by saying, “I take it that was some of the ‘stuff’ that happened today.”

    Trying to behave as if being terminated hadn’t almost sent me to the loony bin I clinched my teeth to keep my mouth shut and simply nodded.

    “What of your … er … living arrangements?”

    It was a little bit of a nosey question but I had nothing to hide so I answered, “My lease is a month-to-month and all I need to give is a 15-day notice. We are only a week into the month, I’m all paid up, and so long as I’m out before the end of the month management won’t care. I don’t have to worry about a lost security deposit because they let me paint, clean the carpet, and clean the unit in place of a normal security deposit.”

    “No other notices?” he asked.

    “No job. No other encumbrances. No one else that will care.” I winced. “Sorry, I don’t mean to sound … uh … pathetic.”

    “You didn’t,” he said.

    The food arrived shortly after that and the meal was quiet until Mr. Crocker said, “Ms. Field, I want to ask you one more time if you are sure you know what you are getting into. Full time employment as a housekeeper is not normally the job a woman of your age and education aspires to.”

    “Mr. Crocker, it may not be what I had aspired to in the past but after reviewing my options I’ve come to the conclusion beggars can’t be choosers. And this job is far from begging and well above what I’ve been doing for the last several months. The job you are offering me may be somewhat outside of the typical nine to five, but the reimbursement for my labor is certainly commiserate with what my duties will be based on my current experience. The contract offers me five years of security with the option to renew for another five if all parties are satisfied with my previous service. There’s also a clause that would allow me to exit the contract so long as I give a minimum of three-months-notice; that’s true in reverse as well, you can terminate me but you have to give me three months of notice or a severance package equal to what I would have been paid during that time. That is more than fair in case for whatever reason I’m completely unsuitable to the position.”

    Mr. Crocker looked at Mr. Haines who nodded. Mr. Crocker then said, “Very well. Let’s cover some of the items that we didn’t cover in detail during the interview process.” I became a little alarmed but neither man seemed to notice. “First is your living arrangements. As the housekeeper for the Big House – the oldest residential structure still in use as such on the estate - you’ll have a cottage of your own. It is the former carriage house. You’ll live on the second floor and you’ll be able to put your vehicle in the garage beneath. The cottage has one bedroom, one bathroom, and an efficiency kitchen and living area. The cottage has its own garden which you are encouraged but are not required to maintain. We do have an on-site landscaping and maintenance crew that will maintain the outside of the garden and the cottage. You will need to make arrangements for any repairs or changes to the inside of the cottage. Normal wear and tear items will be footed by the estate, maintenance or repairs due to your negligence, even of an accidental nature, will come out of your salary.”

    I nodded in understanding.

    “As for your hours, you are on-call 24/7 except for major holidays which are negotiable. You are expected to be in service from six o’clock AM to seven o’clock PM every day but Sunday and two additional rotating half-days which you will have off to do as you will … within reason given the other activities taking place on the estate. You’ll be on probationary status for six-months. After that time you will start accruing vacation and sick leave based on the number of months you are full-time. Vacation must be scheduled at a minimum of three months in advance. Do you understand and accept?”

    “Yes Sir. We covered all of that during the interview process. I have Sundays off and two rotating half-days during the week. For my part I’m willing to be flexible should the need arise. My grandparents owned a farm and I imagine there are similar issues in something the size you’ve intimated the Haines Estate is. The unexpected happens and you either roll with the punches or get knocked out.”

    Mr. Crocker gave a small grin, said that flexibility was appreciated, and then continued. “The estate has several families living on it as well as some that live contiguously on their own land. Each operates independently but also collectively as ‘the Estate.’ Your duties however are restricted to Mr. Haines’ residence. You will need to plan menus for his approval and make a supply list on the posted schedule for the month from what is available locally. The estate strives to be as self-sufficient as possible so ingredients will be seasonal in nature. Mr. Haines’ personal tastes lean towards the traditional. He is also a hunter and expects to see what he brings in served at his table.”

    Mr. Haines said, “I read on one of your interview sheets that your father hunted and that you helped your mother prepare the meat … and even preserve it for later preparation?”

    “Yes Sir. My father would bring us the field dressed carcass and we would take it from there. My brother and my hus … um … my ex-husband also enjoyed fishing and I can clean and prepare a wide variety of fish and other seafood.”

    He caught me by surprise asking, “Do you know what foraging is? Do you know how to preserve such food?”

    “By foraging you mean collecting wild – or at least non-domestic, plants for eating?”

    “Yes.”

    “I do. My mother used to take me when I was younger while my grandparents were alive. They all passed away by the time I was in high school but I still remember a lot of what I learned even if I haven’t practiced it since. I did practice preserving domestic food … canning and drying mostly … even after I married. I frequented U-pick farms trying to stay ahead of the cost-curve. Unfortunately this … this last year I haven’t done that as much as I should have.”

    Mr. Haines said, “Relax Ms. Field. It isn’t an indictment against you. In fact, it is a point in your favor that you have the experience that most of the other applicants were lacking to any great degree. I ask because I’m interested in experimenting in that direction. Partly as a way, as you put it to, ‘get ahead of the cost curve.’ But also because I simply find myself interested in the practice. Part of it is historical curiosity and part of it is trying to create a self-sustaining household. While most of the households on the estate do practice some form of food preservation, I want to do more.”

    I heard a competitive tone in his voice and put that down in my mental notes to think about later.

    The waitress brought the check after asking if anyone wanted dessert – none of us did – and as Mr. Haines stepped to the register Mr. Crocker walked me out to the parking lot.

    “The cottage is partially furnished but I need to know if you are going to need other items.”

    “Thank you for your concern but I’ll be fine Mr. Crocker. I have a few items in storage. I have a trailer that belonged to my brother. I can probably be packed in two days and then it will be a two-day drive. If anyone bothers asking I’ll simply tell them I am starting over and taking a job out of state. There isn’t anyone that will care enough to show interest beyond that answer.”

    Mr. Crocker said, “I find it curious that you aren’t worried that something … hmmm …”

    “Nefarious is going on?” I finished for him. At his nod I told him, “I gave it serious consideration after my first interview. It was like the job was too good to be true. But you and Mr. Haines and the Haines Estate all checked out.”

    “Checked out?”

    “Mr. Crocker, I know I sound naïve after what my life has been the last few years but while I may be foolish on occasion, I hope to at least say my parents didn’t raise a complete fool. And the internet is full of ways to check people and places out six ways from Sunday. The Haines Estate is … different from how I’ve lived up to now, but there are a lot more places like that out there than your average person might think. At least I was surprised at the number of cooperatives and private family estates operating when I was doing my research. Plus, the Haines family and my great grandmother’s ancestors travelled the same emigration routes for a while. The difference is the Haines family put down roots a generation before my ancestors did and were very successful while mine took longer to find their own footing and buy their own land … which they were forced to sell after the Civil War. It’s just useless historical trivia but it gave me a greater understanding to work from. I respect what the Haines family has been able to maintain. It couldn’t have been easy.”

    Mr. Haines had come out and frowned at me. “Why didn’t you say this in the interviews?”

    “Because, at first I didn’t realize it was the same Haines family, and when I did put two and two together, it would have sounded like I was asking for a favor I had no right to. Our families never married into each other. I just know about the Haines family of that era. My own family settled about a hundred and fifty miles south of the estate location and then right after the Civil War the family split and some headed west and some headed south in to Georgia and Florida. The connection is slim at best and nothing more than serendipity.”

    “I have journals and early documents I can use to verify your claim.”

    I smiled and said, “So do I or I wouldn’t have said something that sounded so close to bragging. Seriously Mr. Haines, it is just a weird coincidence. I shouldn’t have said anything … and won’t again. There’s just a couple of local churches and cemeteries that I hope to visit on my days off so I can take pictures to add to my files. I didn’t want you to think I was making things up if it came out later. And if I get to fill in blank dates and stuff like that on my family tree it will be icing on the cake. Other than that? No one is going to care. I’m the only one on my side of the family – except for my cousin that is from the other side of my family – that got into that sort of thing. It’s just a hobby and one I hope to maybe have time for again. But I promise it won’t interfere with my job duties.”

    “Hmm. There are some journals and such in the library …”

    “I doubt they would even mention my family except as a rare side note. Like I said, our two families didn’t intermarry. My however many great grandfather was the mule team driver for the Randall family. Not exactly on the same social level as the Haines, Randalls, and Quitmans that led the wagon train.”

    Mr. Crocker brought the conversation back around to the practical and asked, “Would you like us to follow you back to your … er …”

    “No Sir. It is quite late and I’m sure you two gentlemen need to take care of your own arrangements. However, can you tell me what time you want to meet tomorrow and where?”

    Mr. Crocker looked at Mr. Haines who said, “I have meetings to attend in the morning so let’s say two o’clock. You suggest the place.”

    After a quick thought I came up with a partial game plan for the following day and said, “If it is just a matter of signing some paperwork and going over a few more things there’s a library near here. I’ll call early and reserve one of their meeting rooms. They have copiers and internet access if either of those are needed.”

    Mr. Crocker gave a surprised smile and nodded at Mr. Haines who said, “Obviously you can see Crocker approves so two o’clock at the library it is.”
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  7. #7
    I am so glad to see that you are back writing!!! I have read most of your stories a couple of times and just can't wait to see where you go with this. Thank you for coming back to us.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by teedee View Post
    I am so glad to see that you are back writing!!! I have read most of your stories a couple of times and just can't wait to see where you go with this. Thank you for coming back to us.
    Thank you. I am still trying to finish up the stories that I've left hanging. Some of them ARE finished and just lacking editing but life is kinda crazy so I decided to start off with something fresh.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  9. #9
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    So good to hear how you are doing. Yes we love your stories but I know I missed you and what was going on with you and yours.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by sssarawolf View Post
    So good to hear how you are doing. Yes we love your stories but I know I missed you and what was going on with you and yours.
    I missed you too. Like I said, our oldest is expecting #2 and the others, except for the youngest, are all doing their own bit of "adulting." LOL. There is one with a degree in health sciences but he much prefer to be a tutor and is building his own business in that area as time permits. The next one down expects to do her internship in microbiology this year. The next one down is already a nursing student and is only 19. She's getting her CNA so she can have practical experience, get her foot in the door, and maybe her employer will even help with education costs. Yeeha. The youngest will start high school in the fall ... yep I said high school. He'll probably have his Eagle rank this fall as well if all the paperwork is approved.

    Hubby and I are busy, busy, busy. The business has expanded as has our other interests. Hubby is still one of those "no time like the present" Type A workaholics but we're making more personal time ... and that includes traveling a couple of times a year. My parents are really experiencing old age these days. We do what we can for them without taking over their lives. Happily my brother is finally stepping in and stepping up as well.

    Life is just as crazy as ever but I'm back to trying to control it instead of it controlling me. We'll see how well that works. ROFL!
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  11. #11
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    I am so happy to see that you are back!! I have missed your stories and your insight on the board.

  12. #12
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    So very happy to see you back and posting your stories again! Been a frequent visitor to your blog, hoping to see you back one day!

    1Pe 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore of sound mind, and be sober unto prayer

    Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
    Joh 3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him.


  13. #13
    OMG, I am so happy to see you back and writing. I've been on the blog reading your stories over and over. I've decided the older I get, the more life tends to kick my butt in ways I hadn't anticipated.

  14. #14
    WOOHOO! Glad to see you're back with us. I've shared your stories with so many people and everyone has learned something from them as well as being entertained.

    Obviously you have full 25 hour days, so we do appreciate you sharing your time with us. Those stories left hanging really want a "Kathy in FL" type of finish.

    Again thanks for contributing these, and I'm glad to hear you're getting the life under control enough to relax with the keyboard a bit.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    south Texas Gulf coast
    Posts
    288
    Well, THIS is a pleasant surprise! Thought about you off and on, hoping all was well, and here you drop in like Patrick Duffy in the shower....

    Looking forward to the story, and glad to see it...and you!

    Bill
    It's kinda hard to work within the system when it's a septic system.

    There's one thing worse than a wolf in sheep's clothing. That's a wolf in sheepdog's clothing.

  16. #16
    So happy to see you back! I was just re-reading 'Up on Hartford Ridge' for the twenty-seventh time earlier tonight. I can understand the lack of time quite well.

    I"m just glad to see that you are happy, healthy, and back to writing.

    If you and DH are ever out Colorado way, drop me a PM and I'll put on the coffee.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    eastern West Tennessee
    Posts
    330
    I am glad to see you posting again! I think of you and yours' often, especially when I dream of moving to the Tampa area.
    The difference between being smart and being wise:
    Being smart is learning from your own mistakes.
    Being wise is learning from the mistakes of others.
    My life has given others many opportunities to be wise.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Far West Texas
    Posts
    85
    Welcome back Kathy. You have been very much missed. And this new story is already a winner. Thank you very much.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    The Last Frontier
    Posts
    2,263
    I just about swallowed my gum when I saw you posted - definitely awesome to hear from you! Hope your health has stabilized so you feel good again. BTW, my oldest and his crew just moved down to your area just a bit north of Tampa, so I finally got to see what Florida is like, and I fly down to visit again next week. Meanwhile, I've re-read everything you have on your blog (cough, a few times, cough) and sure look forward to enjoying your new work ~ <3
    All that is gold does not glitter....

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    West Central Illinois
    Posts
    520
    Glad to see you b




    Missed you, glad you're back.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,293
    Thanks for all the welcome backs! Yep, sometimes I think of that Patrick Duffy scene. LOL. Showing my age I reckon. And Sue, get around the different Florida areas ... it is a very diverse state. North of Tampa is really nice. If you are near Webster on a Monday they have a really huge Flea Market but only on Mondays.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,293

    Chapter 3

    Chapter 3

    The only reason I slept last night is because by the time I had driven back to my apartment and gotten in and cleaned up I was exhausted. However, I got up at my usual six AM and started the day by making a list of what I needed to do. I wasn’t going to turn in my 15-Day notice to my landlord until after I actually signed the employment contract. But still I planned as if it was a fait accompli.

    I looked in the refrigerator and cabinets and tried to plan out my meals for the next several days … meals that I would eat at the apartment and meals that I would fix to take on the road trip to my new residence. My stomach started to get butterflies, but I didn’t let it stop me. I needed to use up all of the perishable food. Then I realized I hadn’t asked whether I would take my meals at the “Big House” or if I would be responsible for feeding myself. Even if I took the majority of my meals while at work there would still be plenty of them I would need to cook for myself in my cottage. And since I didn’t know what would be available or how expensive it would be since the nearest town of any size was a couple of hours drive from the estate I knew I needed to sit down and think about the best way to spend my “severance package” of gift card and voucher. I also need to cash my larger than normal paycheck and withdraw both what is in my checking account and what is in my savings account. The checking account balance I can get out using my debit card at an ATM two or three times. The savings account I would probably have to accept in the form of a cashier’s check. That brought up another question, what form would my pay come in? Direct deposit, business check, personal check, or some other form?

    My phone is basically just one of those “fill-it-up-when-I-run-out-of-minutes” type thing. Mr. Crocker had warned me that cell phones and private internet connection might be limited, but since I wouldn’t be leaving the estate that often and it was explained that there is an intercom system that connects all of the houses and most of the outbuildings, I decided not to worry about it yet. I am called so rarely that it almost invariably causes me to jump when the phone rings anyway.

    While I ate the egg sandwich I’d made for my breakfast, to tide me over so my stomach wouldn’t embarrass me again, I turned on my computer and pulled up my favorite free book website. I downloaded all of the free books I had been meaning to download and a few other ones just because I could. While each book downloaded – and thank you apartment complex manager for accidentally hooking me into the uber-fast FiOS business connection the office has rather than the DSL the rest of the complex has – I looked at the book list and realized they didn’t really have any books in the genre I needed. From there I went to google books where I did find a few free samples of books that I was able to download. I kept going over the next two hours finding so much I had to start saving them to my external hard drive or risk running out of space on my laptop. I could have put them all in Dropbox or OneDrive but I worried that if I had no internet access I wouldn’t have access to the books I was saving. I still wasn’t finding enough of what I had actually been surfing for in the first place so I made a note which website I had left off at and switched over to the online bookstore that I still had a month left on my Prime account. I wouldn’t be renewing it as it was doubtful I would get full use of it but I’d make that decision after I got to the Estate and had all the facts.

    I had made the mistake of not changing the information on the account before the divorce. I lost over a hundred dollars in gift card balance because Kirk had gone in and spent it all. It was a spiteful thing to do but it taught me a lesson. I went and changed all of the information on my membership accounts to an email and password that Kirk didn’t know about and never used that email address when corresponding with anyone that had any connection to Kirk in any way. His lawyer kept trying to trick me into giving it up and then out and out asked the judge to make me reveal all of my email addresses; but, since she couldn’t give a good enough reason for it, and because reciprocity would mean that Kirk had to do the same thing, they simply had to take it in the losing column and go on about their business.

    I have a lot of balance in my account right now because once I stopped getting substitute teaching jobs I started selling all of my resources and textbooks before they could get out of date and lose their value. I also sold a lot of books that had been Kirk’s … technical manuals and fiction … when he refused to come get them within a week of the Judge’s orders. He’d been too hacked to even get near me and demanded that I mail them to him. I said not unless he paid shipping and handling and he called me a rude name and the subject hasn’t come up since. With this balance I ordered a bunch of books on foraging and preserving. Not all of them were pertinent to the area I was moving to but most of them were. My prime membership meant that I had free two-day shipping. I decided I would hit the road the day following the last of my orders arriving. I kept a scrupulous list of all of the downloads and all of my orders. Then I grabbed my purse and sweater – it was always cold in the library even in the middle of summer – and headed out the door.

    First stop was the bank. I was already wishing that I’d started my day earlier and left the downloading and such for at night when I couldn’t do anything else, but I needed to get organized first so I didn’t fuss at myself too much. I cashed my check, thanked the teller, then hit the ATM for the max amount I could withdraw for the day. I told myself not to hyperventilate and to stop acting so guilty for having so much money in my purse. It was all legal tender that I had earned despite feeling like I had robbed a bank. I’d never carried that much cash at one time in my life; I had to stop jumping at shadows or feeling threatened anytime someone came near me. It wasn’t easy, but I gave myself a good talking to, reminded myself I still carried the mace and keychain full of “personal defense” attachments Daddy had given me when I started working in high school. Good Lord that feels like a million years ago, especially on days like today when it seems so long since I had anyone to act as a protector. But there wasn’t time to fall into yet another tub full of self-pity so I got over myself and attacked my to do list like it was the enemy.

    Next tick off the list was hitting one of the grocery stores in the chain of my former employer. I was happy that I didn’t see anyone I knew, and I quickly spent the gift card on non-perishable items that I knew wouldn’t go to waste. Oatmeal, grits, self-rising flour, self-rising cornmeal, rice, pasta, sugar, tea, salt, several cans of soup that were on sale as a loss leader, and some seasonings to flesh out what I already had back at the apartment bought in more affluent times. If I didn’t buy anything else I could eat for two months but the menu would be slim, monotonous, and bland … but I wouldn’t starve either. I hadn’t cared about what I’d been eating for a while – my therapist and commonsense said it was a symptom of my depression – but I had a feeling I would care if it was all I had to do in my spare time in the very near future. Thinking of the “garden” Mr. Crocker had mentioned momentarily reawakened my old dreams of having my own but there wasn’t time to dwell on what could very well be nothing but a fantasy. I needed to deal with my current reality before allowing any time for dreaming.

    From the grocery store I headed to the library. I had just over an hour to kill and I knew exactly what I would be doing. When I got there I checked out a freak-ton of books … cooking and gardening mostly. You wouldn’t think I would have time for such if I planned on leaving in two days but there was a strategy hidden in what looked like a mad thing to do. What I planned on doing at night was taking pictures of all of the recipes and instruction pages I wanted with my phone and then downloading the pics to my hard drive. I had a color laser printer left over from one of Kirk’s more extravagant gifts and I still had a few printer cartridges that would get me over 10,000 printed pages in both color and black-and-white. I yanked out my notepad added paper to my list of things to buy when I realized having a strategy would only work if I had the tools and supplies to follow through on it. I knew I’d be able to print things off at night once I got to the Estate and set up. Not having to do it in a rush would let me organize everything I printed off into binders so it would be easier to find. Binders, page protectors, index cards, and dividers I had almost too many of as I hadn’t gotten around to giving them away yet despite them taking up a lot of room in the storage unit; the paper would round out what I needed.

    I had just shut my car’s trunk with all the books I had checked out and with some that I had just purchased from the Friends of the Library sale when Misters Crocker and Haines pulled in. I led them in and then used my library card to secure one of the meeting rooms for an hour.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    It took the full hour to get everything filled out and signed and for me to get my copy so I was glad I had reserved the room for that time rather than the half-hour the librarian had tried to talk me into. Mr. Haines surprised me with an advance on my first payday, which answered my question about what form my pay would come in. It took the form of an EFT card.

    The Estate essentially operates as a Partnership with Mr. Haines being the controlling partner. My pay comes in a set amount of money transferred onto the card on the first and fifteenth of every month. Mr. Crocker explained that I could even apply for advances on my pay under some circumstances – for emergency medical bills or a major transportation expense – but he didn’t recommend it as some Estate employees became dependent on the advances rather than saving; it is why they had to become more stringent on payroll advances … Mr. Crocker’s words, not mine, and I could hear his disapproval loud and clear. I had never considered a payroll advance as I’d seen people in my own sphere get into trouble with it. I added it to my “caution” list with regard to my new job and thought about how I could best use how I was getting paid to my advantage. I can either use the card like I would any debit card or I can cash it out when I go to town at one of the local ATMs. They gave me a list of which machines charged a fee and which ones didn’t. By Intra-Estate mail drop, I will receive a paper stub showing the same things any pay stub showed. That’s also how I will get any mail that is sent to the Main Gate by USPS or other delivery service. It wasn’t an unheard of way to get paid but it isn’t one that I’d personally experienced before. I honestly prefer cash in hand but I’d deal with what I had and worry about how to make sure I keep what I earn once I actually start earning it.

    The benefits package was another something new for me. I was surprised at some of the benefits included with my employment. There is your standard health insurance – relatively cheap because of my age, general good health, and single status – but there are also things like an allowance equal to one tank of gas a month from the Estate’s farm fuel depot, and a completely free but mandatory annual visit to a dentist, general practitioner, and a podiatrist of all things. It wasn’t the opportunity that caused me to raise a mental eyebrow, but the “mandatory” part. Then there are the perks. As an estate employee I receive a discount at many local businesses. It isn’t a huge discount, but ten percent is ten percent. Some of the businesses that have a more direct contract with the Estate offer higher discounts or other perks … like for every four oil changes you get the fifth one free sort of thing. The businesses that are directly run by the partner families on the Estate – and there are several – give an even bigger discount; between twenty and fifty percent.

    There are Estate-wide social events that all employees and family members are encouraged to attend so long as work permits; it read more like are expected to attend if not outright required to attend. I suppose given how relatively secluded the Estate is, getting to know everyone on a friendly basis is a good thing but it could be a little creepy if it got out of hand. I’ve no desire to live in a cult. There are several jogging and hiking trails on the Estate and many of them hook up with the state park and the national forest that abuts the Estate. And speaking of which one of the perks of being an Estate employee is a free entrance pass to the state park system. I wasn’t sure how I would have time or ability to access that particular perk on my schedule but it was still nice to have.

    The benefits packet is so detailed it comes in a two-inch, three-ring binder. When Mr. Crocker handed it to me at first I thought that was the list of Estate rules that I was expected to abide by. Instead, that particular list is basically a one page document that reminds me more of the Ten Commandments than a human resource document. Short and sweet it essentially says that if it is illegal outside of the Estate boundary it is illegal inside the Estate boundary and is grounds for immediate termination. Additionally, it outlines the “moral turpitude” clause that reads in part employees of the Estate are required to maintain conduct that is considered consistent to community standards of justice, honesty and good morals. Boy could that one be abused but I am willing to give it a go since I had what I consider a conservative upbringing and traditional values myself consistent with old-fashioned mores. The last bit was a little obtrusive for modern times but in for a penny, in for a pound. Basically, anyone living on and/or working on and/or for the Estate are required to dress a certain way. It isn’t “womens in dresses at all times and no make-up and hair under cover at all times” kind of obtrusive but I can see some people objecting to it. The rules honestly remind me of the dress code at the summer camps I attended as a kid. Further, some employees have a specific uniform, those employees who don’t have an assigned uniform are expected to dress in black pants, skirt, or capris and a white or beige or green shirt while on duty depending on the department they are in. Off-duty all dress has to conform to other mandatories … all shorts, regardless of gender, have to be at least finger-tip length regardless of activity. No tank tops or t-backs, even while jogging and/or hiking or otherwise exercising. They can be worn under something but the shirt or dress they are under has to at least have cap-sleeves and not be “excessively transparent.” There’s the typical “no tight or suggestive clothing” rule as well, though gym-wear is the exception so long as it isn’t intentionally “come and get me” type stuff with vulgar graphics or logos. Basically, from my objective reading of the rules, clothes don’t have to be shapeless sacks, you just have to use commonsense and be considerate of other people. “Considerate” was spelled out a little more but it isn’t onerous so I’m not going to duplicate it here. Single females and single males cannot have the opposite gender in their apartment or dorms. Period. There are public spaces for socializing … your sleeping quarters isn’t one of them. No showing bare chests (both genders), mid-drifts (both genders), or two-piece bathing suits. If you are swimming or boating with the opposite gender, there has to be at least two additional people of each gender present … in other words three males and three females per group. Hiking is the exception to the rule, only a third person of either gender needs to be part of the group, but it isn’t encouraged. That is in reaction to all of the gender bias and gender subjugation issues that have been in the news and court rooms for the last decade. Fraternizing isn’t discouraged per se but it isn’t encouraged necessarily either. It is on a case by case basis depending on how someone’s work and/or emotional well-being is affected.

    There are some more odds and ends but overall, I can live with it. Kirk and I were married four years and while I don’t want to be a martyr who never has another relationship, or a man-hater who refuses to, I’m not anywhere near ready to be open to anything of that nature. Being completely transparent here, I must admit that there are nights I still cry from abject loneliness and I sometimes half convince myself that if he even gave a small sign that I would go back to him and do whatever it took to fix what had been broken. Thankfully, I wake up the next morning, take a cold shower, and admit I am being an idiot and that somehow, someway I need to try and move on. Kirk has made his choice painfully clear, it is my responsibility to learn to live with it and move on.

    Mr. Haines and Mr. Crocker both walked out of the library with me. Mr. Haines left to bring the car around and Mr. Crocker told me, “Welcome to Haines Estate Ms. Field. I’m sure we will both benefit from the partnership. Here’s another one of my cards. I would appreciate a call when you are pulling out and when you arrive in Bryson City. Depending on road conditions I may send someone out to meet you so you can follow them in since you are going to be pulling a trailer and there are a couple of switchbacks and places with steep grades. Also, don’t hesitate to call if you run into problems on the road. I had my office figure the fastest and safest route for your trip, that’s in the binder with everything else. If you want to take more than two days to drive up so you can stop and do the tourist thing along the way, there’s no rush. Simply be ready to work …”

    “Two weeks and two days from today. I understand.”

    He smiled in affirmative and then we shook hands. Mr. Haines had pulled up and nodded but a typical afternoon rain shower started and I stepped back inside to wait it out and plan what I would do next.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  23. #23
    Kathy,
    It is great to see you back and writing again. Missed the reading. Take care and thanks for MOAR!!!!! lol.

    WAB
    "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."---- Robert A. Heinlein

  24. #24
    Thank you Kathy. Glad you're back.

  25. #25
    I can't tell you how happy having you back on the board makes me! Moldy mentioned that he had read up on Hartford Ridge a number of times and I have also. There is just something about that particular story that keeps me going back to it. Anyway just so happy to have you back and in good spirits.

  26. #26
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    State WA
    Posts
    12,893
    I know, I know I read 3 this morning Home with a sore throat and ears hurt when I swallow. Sheesh.

  27. #27
    Very glad to see you back, Kathy!

    Summerthyme

  28. #28
    Welcome back! Great to see you're writing again.

  29. #29
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    WA
    Posts
    122

    I am so happy you have returned from exile.
    I have missed your stories so much that I have had to reread them that I almost know them by heart.

    Thanks for you hard work.
    Darkwolf
    ________
    "That which does not kill you, has made a grave tactical error" Someone else

    "Foreign and DOMESTIC"

  30. #30
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Location
    West central Georgia
    Posts
    17,555
    Kathy, I am thrilled to see you posting again!!! Thank you for coming back and letting us know how you've been! Sorry bout the diabetes though. Life does have a way of getting in the way sometimes, lol.
    Visit my Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/TheCrochetFarm

    If we aren't showing love, His love, then what are we doing calling ourselves Christians?

    Psalm 73: 25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
    26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

  31. #31
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    4,088
    Welcome home, Kathy! We kept the lights on for you. It’s good to see you posting here again. I’ve visited your story blogs, but somehow it’s just not as satisfying as having you here where we can chat back and forth.
    Visit me on Etsy: ModernMaille

  32. #32
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    NE Iowa
    Posts
    1,859
    Kathy, what a pleasure to be reading one of your stories again. You have a certain way of writing that really intrigues me and keeps me coming back for more. Look forward to seeing where this one takes us. Again, welcome back!
    Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
    President Theodore Rooseveldt

  33. #33
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Midwest
    Posts
    3,339
    I am so excited and pleased and "beyond the moon" that you are back!! Even if only part-time!!

    I'm glad to read all the news about your family's activities, etc. And I'm really really happy to read this new book of yours. Looking forward to MOAR!!

    Missed you, Kathy!! Glad you and yours are okay, even if not in perfect health.
    "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
    In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
    Proverbs 3:5-6

  34. #34
    Happy happy joy joy!!

    Hugs and love and lot's of yahoo's!!!
    Happily being a "Troll" for bible truths about Jehovah and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Where hiking boots go to die
    Posts
    12,260
    Welcome back Mother Hen. You've been missed.
    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

  36. #36
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Where fog and sun meet.
    Posts
    3,904
    What wonderful thing it is to come here and to be most pleasantly surprised with your newest story. Thank you for catching your family here up and how you are faring. I look forward to when you can post additions to your story.

  37. #37
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
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    Galt's Gulch
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    1,392
    Welcome back! Good to see you posting again!

  38. #38
    Welcome back, Kathy! Glad you're home!

  39. #39
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,293

    Chapter 4

    Chapter 4

    Home again, home again jiggety jig. Or at least home such as it is for now. It feels less safe after this afternoon but maybe safe was ever only an illusion.

    The rain lasted long enough that I fell to the temptation of going back to the Friends of the Library sale and this time I got quite a few DVDs for a dollar a piece. Most of what I bought were documentaries and they weren’t for now but were for when I got to the Estate. Insomnia had become a regular visitor and if that didn’t change I would need something to do to keep myself from going crazy. From there I went to a different store of the grocery chain and spent about a third of the voucher on more groceries, loss leaders and BOGOs mostly, and was surprised to get the rest back in cash without a manager’s override. I wasn’t looking a gift horse in the mouth however and took off without saying anything.

    My next stop was at a place that sold discount uniform pieces and I got a week’s worth of outfits … easy to wash black polyester pants, several white shirts in different styles, black capris, a pair of black crocks and two pair of black tennis shoes, four black canvas aprons and two white ones, two black chef’s smocks, and then a black skirt and nicer white shirt, both in drip dry and supposedly harder to stain material, for those times I need to be better dressed … like if Mr. Haines has a dinner party or something like that. I already had a bunch of hair nets, but I needed bobby pins to hold them on with and that led me to think about what I should buy and take up with me rather than wait until I ran out and would probably have to pay a higher price for.

    Last place I stopped before heading back to the apartment was at my rented storage unit – something I had gotten after the divorce was finalized so I wouldn’t have to inform Kirk or anyone else of its location – and grabbed all of my empty plastic storage bins. Most of them were either a gift from my mother for when we had to move or were hers that I wasn’t using after all the probate and estate auction was dealt with. I knew my jewelry and my mother’s jewelry was hidden deep in the back of the storage unit – not the safest location but certainly better than most anything else I currently have access to – and gave serious consideration to everything else I was still holding onto, trying to mentally decide what I would keep and what I would get rid of. I also wondered how I was going load some of the pieces I wanted to keep. I’d moved everything myself before though it hadn’t been easy, and it had only been a couple of things at a time. This time I would need to move everything at once and make sure it fit in my brother’s trailer … and wouldn’t make the trailer so heavy I couldn’t pull it with my car.

    I was still thinking and making notes by sending myself txt messages when I finally pulled into the apartment complex. The “spring ahead” time change meant it wasn’t dark but I was still later than I had meant to be. I was also frazzled and tired. Still, I checked before I unlocked my door and I was glad I did. Kirk was there.

    He acted like he was calm but I noticed the signs other people might not have. He’d been waiting on me, something he hated doing even at the best of times. When I refused to get out of the car he started cussing and yelling and calling me a drama queen, that I was over-reacting and wasting his time. It attracted the attention of a plain-clothes sheriff who was there serving an eviction notice. The sheriff came over and asked what the problem was. Long story short I agreed to answer whatever questions Kirk had but I wasn’t meeting with him alone or in anything other than a public location with witnesses. The sheriff said he’d act as the third party as long as we made it quick.

    “What did you do with my mother’s jewelry? It’s been nearly six months and I haven’t seen it yet.”

    “That was all turned over to your lawyer before things were finalized. I have a receipt for it and even had to provide a copy to the judge. You know that.”

    “Why the hell did you give it to the lawyer?!”

    Disregarding his tone that made it sound like I had been an idiot for doing so I answered, “Because you told me to. You said … look, you said you didn’t want to see me ever again and to give everything to your lawyer. That’s what I did. I got receipts and every item is cataloged on the receipts. I then had to provide a copy of those receipts to the judge. The judge ordered that process for all items being exchanged put in place after you emptied the safety deposit box and said you didn’t realize you’d taken the Super 8’s and some other things that had belonged to my parents. Your lawyer turned those items over to the Judge’s clerk the same day I turned the jewelry over to her. This is all in the divorce papers.”

    I wanted to ask what was really going on since he and I both knew he knew exactly what I had done with the jewelry and other things that had been specified in the decree, but I kept my mouth shut. I could see me not asking surprised Kirk. Our previous routine or bad habit or whatever you want to call the way we’d wound up communicating in the past was no longer the way things were going. It seemed to be confusing and irritating Kirk by turn. He kept goading me until the sheriff said meeting time was over if nothing was going to get accomplished. I grabbed my stuff out of my car and started walking up to my unit when Kirk said, “I heard you got fired from the grocery store.”

    My first thought was to wonder how he knew but I wasn’t going to ask. Instead I told him, “I got terminated. Everyone did. They’re closing that store.”

    “You can’t go back and ask for alimony just because you can’t get your shit together.”

    I counted to ten and said, “I’m aware of what is in the divorce papers. I signed my agreement to them. I’ve abided by everything on my side of the ledger.”

    “Don’t think you’re going to try anything.”

    “I have no plans to try anything.”

    “I’m having dinner with my sister and her family.”

    The statement, so unexpected and coming out of left field as it did, caused me to take a moment to respond. It wasn’t easy but I told him calmly and sincerely, “I hope you two can work things out. Family is important.” Calm Shanna, stay calm.

    “My niece wants to know if you are going to be there.”

    Wow, just … wow. Could he make me fall on my sword any harder? “No. We’re divorced. I have no business being there. I’m not going to complicate that for you.”

    Appearing a little mollified Kirk said, “Look, maybe I can help out until you …”

    “No,” I told him quickly feeling like I was barely avoiding the quick sand traps that lay in all directions. I didn’t want his blasted pity … pity I would undoubtedly have to pay for at some point down the road. “I have another job. But thank you for the offer. It is better if we do like you said … cut ties and move on. I’m sure you have a lot going on. Patricia called and said you got a promotion at work. Congratulations.” Patricia was a mutual friend … or someone I thought used to be a mutual friend. I’d known her since grade school but she had pretty much disappeared from my life after Kirk left.

    “Pride goeth before a fall,” he warned.

    “It always has. But things being the way they are I need to stand on my own two feet. If someone has said anything else just … just ignore it and … and … just …” I stopped and sighed and some of my façade crumbled. “Kirk, I don’t know what is going on but please don’t do this. I’m trying really hard but … but we’ve both just … “ For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what to say that wasn’t potentially explosive.

    Instead he said, “You can’t even talk to me.” I might have imagined it but it sounded a little too something other than sorry. I didn’t even want to try and put a name to it.

    “No, I really can’t. I just don’t know what to say yet. I don’t know if I ever will. You wanted the divorce. I’m living that reality and trying to regain my … my self-esteem at the failure. I just don’t have the ability to dress it up and make it easier to swallow for either of us. My financial situation is no longer your responsibility.” I wanted to add and none of you dang ol’ business but I didn’t. “You have your own life to lead. Go lead it. It’s what you said you wanted, in court, under oath. I can’t even pretend you didn’t mean it. But having you come around like this, out of the blue … just don’t please. It isn’t likely to do either one of us any good.” More words wanted to fall out of my mouth but I kept them behind my teeth, but it took effort that was exhausting.

    Kirk finally left after the sheriff “encouraged” him to when he found there were no kids involved but I could tell Kirk was surprised that he hadn’t been able to goad me into being an idiot. Score one for me. Or at least half a point because while I kept my cool in public, as soon as the door closed I just dropped everything and started crying. And I cried for a good long time. And it wasn’t cathartic or healing at all. It was a snotty nose, wanting to puke, completely washed out afterwards and not in a good way, kind of cry. I looked like a freaked-out raccoon when I looked in the mirror after I was finally able to drag myself to the bathroom to wash my face and take off the first bit of make up that I’d used for months. Obviously I still have feelings. I’m just not sure if those feelings are for Kirk or if they are for what Kirk once represented in my life. Neither answer is comfortable so I did the only thing I could and put it in a box, put the box on a shelf, and tried to get back to looking and moving forward.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    I didn’t take any of the groceries out of my car. They’re all non-perishable items and can stay there, plus I don’t want to have to haul them up the stairs only to haul them back down and draw attention to myself. I did type up my written notice to vacate and ran down just long enough to drop it off in the office dropbox and to pick up my mail. I also grabbed the library books out of my car.

    I fixed a pb and j sandwich for my dinner even though I was no longer hungry … crying my guts out tends to leave that want-to-stay-empty-or-I’ll-vomit kind of feeling … if for no other reason than to try and take control of myself back from my emotions. I turned the internet on, plugged my phone into the charger, and went to town. I don’t even know how many books I downloaded before I finally fell into bed both mentally and physically exhausted. More than a bunch that’s for sure. I added a book to my order after finding a copy at the library and liking it so much I wanted my own personal copy to keep. I added a few more beyond that because I liked them. I gave myself a dope slap for not thinking to check my mother’s books in storage to make sure I wasn’t duplicating anything, but I would just have to hope I wasn’t wasting money.

    At the same time I was downloading books and uploading pictures, I was making a list of everything I would need to do. Tomorrow’s list is get up early and pack up all of my clothes except for a carry-on bag of what I will need on the road. Before I can do that I must go to the laundromat. I made a note that I would need to ask how I could get my laundry done at the Estate. I don’t have many personal items out in the apartment but those that are need to be packed up as well. I will use my clothes to wrap the breakable stuff in. My only dishes are a couple of pots and pans and a plastic plate and bowl and a spork that I use for the few meals I fixed. I had gotten into the habit of buying stuff from the deli that would otherwise get thrown out at the end of the night and then making it last a meal or two. To call the kitchen bare is not an overstatement at all, if anything it is an understatement; church mice look extravagant compared to my current spartan digs. I will spray the oven to get it clean and then just stick with food that doesn’t need to be cooked or that can be heated in my miniature microwave oven that is just big enough for a mug of coffee or a bowl of ramen. I have one little frozen pizza in the freezer and even that can be nuked if I cut it in half. Kirk had gotten the television, his gaming console, and stereo in the divorce and I haven’t gotten around to getting my own, partly due to expense and partly because I use my laptop instead since I pay the complex for wifi. My bed is basically a fold up cot. My table and desk is a card table that belonged to my parents. My chair is my only luxury; my mother’s Queen Anne chair that she sat in to crochet and sew at night. I had an uncle that used to call it her “Edith Bunker Chair” but my mother wasn’t like that character at all … but the chair is similar in nature if not appearance and it had always sat next to my father’s recliner so I suppose the comparison was at least true on that level. The only other thing is a cheap floor lamp that was here when I moved in, all I did was replace the shade and I’ll leave it behind for the next tenant to get some use out of. I am considering doing the same thing to the cot since I have a bed, mattress, and box spring in the storage unit.

    I realized that I really didn’t have all that much in the apartment that needed packing up which was both depressing and a relief at the same time. I looked at the stack of storage boxes and admitted I brought more than three times too many but I will make use of them to pack the food that sits in my trunk at the moment.

    The other things I need to do tomorrow include going to the laundromat, returning all of the books I borrowed to the library, backing up my phone and computer, getting the last of my money out of the bank, getting my car checked to make sure it is road-worthy for the trip, spending the rest of the voucher money, making sure the trailer is road worthy, and then figuring out how to get out of Dodge without too many people seeing or getting nosey. I know the last one seems paranoid but between all of the confidentiality stuff I signed and Kirk showing up out of the blue it just feels like I have the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head waiting to screw up the only chance I’m being given to make a new start. I’m not running away from my old life. Really I’m not. I’m running to my new one.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  40. #40
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,293

    Chapter 5

    Decided to just go for a two-fer today. LOL. Want to get the story moving along.

    ---------------------------

    Chapter 5

    Sitting in a rest stop trying to get a little sleep before I continue driving but I’m too wound up to really be successful at it. Not to mention a little freaked out by all the strangers that keep glancing into the car or staring at the trailer I’m pulling. They may be nothing more than mildly curious but it is making me feel wiggy and jumpy.

    I’m not sleeping in a parking lot because of poor planning. Honest. The hotel I had reserved screwed me over by losing my reservation even though I had a confirmation number printed off to prove it and an accompanying email stating that I would arrive late. They were oh so apologetic but there was nothing they could do. They did do the humane thing and refund my payment immediately though I had to force the issue and threaten to call their corporate home office, the BBB, etc. etc. The situation was made worse by the fact that the only other hotels in the area that weren’t booked up were well outside of my price range. What choice did I have but to move on a little further down the road? Damn me apparently for not realizing there was going to be a BronyCon Convention going on … and no, I am not going to explain how odd it was to see grown adults surreally prancing around in My Little Pony costumes while I tried not to have a nervous breakdown at yet one more road block as I tried to escape the hell my life had become.

    If I hadn’t learned to accept the typical bad luck I’ve been blessed with I would have just sat down and had a temper tantrum and then cried like a baby. But it wouldn’t have done any good – and I was already a little freaked by one “brony” putting a hoof around my shoulders and asking me if I needed a friend – and I was too tired for those kinds of histrionics anyway. My options were slim to none at that point because I was on a schedule. I called Mr. Haines this morning and told him that I was hitting the road by nightfall. I managed to get away earlier than that thank goodness, but all the time I got ahead has now been eaten up and I’m worried that I’m falling behind.

    I also gave Mr. Crocker my new phone number as I had been forced to go to the expense of changing phones … and therefore phone number … because Kirk had started to call and text the previous day and it was starting to screw with my head right as I needed all of my mental faculties to move forward.

    How could I have forgotten it was Kirk’s father’s birthday? I had always gone with Kirk to the cemetery in the past. Even when we were in the middle of a fight we still put it to the side at least long enough to take care of that obligation. I guess he didn’t want to go by himself this time. Maybe I should have gone with him, I don’t know. I felt bad for him but explained that it wasn’t healthy for either one of us to pretend things hadn’t changed. I hurt him without intending to, it is just that what he wanted wasn’t reasonable. Was it? He wanted me to keep him company, deal with his grief, share it, and somehow not let our divorce affect my ability to do it. Maybe I was the one being unreasonable. I just don’t know, not even now that I’ve had time to think about it. Either way, my refusal hurt him and he used it as an excuse to send a volley of the newest nasty things my way and when I wouldn’t fight back he angrily hung up on me. So yeah, I cried. What I was crying about I still don’t have a clue. Hurt feelings? Grief? Feeling guilty? General sadness? That is no different than every other day has been since Kirk left so why am I still bawling my head off at the least provocation? Good question. Ask another. Maybe I’ll have the answer to that one.

    I pulled myself back together and continued to try and complete my to do list, starting with packing the last of the apartment up. But then the calls and texts started coming. Most of them were from Kirk but there were also a fair number of calls from “friends” I hadn’t heard from since before the divorce was final. A little too coincidental. I had some offers for lunch. People said they wanted to get together and check up on me since they’d heard this, that, or the other. See how I was doing. See if I needed anything. Yada, yada. There is no way that many people suddenly chose that day to take a renewed interest in my existence. I put everyone off by telling them I had a new job, that I would have to get back with them. After a while I simply stopped taking calls and they switched to texting me. Yippy skippy. Lucky for me I ran out of minutes and people who tried to reach me would have gotten the “sorry, Shanna is unable to accept calls at this time” message from the nice, genderless, voicemail service.

    I added a stop at the big box store to my already un-completeably long list of to do’s to pick up a “card of minutes”. I dropped the books in the return drop box since it was too early for the library to open … saved me from the temptation of revisiting the Friends of the Library stall. I took my car to a quickie oil change place and had them to also run a quick diagnostic. A little radiator fluid, a little windshield fluid, and air in one tire and I was good to go. That was a huge relief. My brother had always been the one to keep the family cars in tip top shape. Selfishly I missed him more at that moment than I had for a while, had a flash of anger at myself, then was a little relieved that neither he nor my parents were around to see how screwed up my life had gotten. Yeah, not a shining moment for me character-wise but I wasn’t feeling particularly bright and shiny either. And the emotional yo-yo’ing that I was in the middle of was making it pretty doggone hard to force myself to go from point A to point B in a straight line.

    I debated laundromat or big box store next and settled on the laundromat since the big box store was of the 24-hour variety. While I waited for my loads to finish I ate some popcorn that I’d made earlier to have as a snack. Low in calories and high in fiber to fill all of my hollow spaces without over-filling the seat of my jeans. I also worked on whittling down my to do list and getting it more manageable.

    Checking, I saw to my surprise that the books I’d ordered were already “out for delivery” and that more than likely they would have arrived by the time I expected to get back to my apartment. I hoped management would do what they normally did for something like that … they’d have the maintenance guy put it in my apartment rather than leave it in the office. Hope, hope, hope.

    I shook my little bottle of laundry detergent and added a few cleaning supplies and paper goods to my list of things to buy since I didn’t know what I had to work with on the Estate. I decided to skip trying to go to yet another one of the grocery stores and instead decided that since the voucher had been cashed out, to spend it at the big box store on things that I needed.

    Laundromat accomplished I headed to the big box store and that’s where I got an offer that seemed providential. One of the sales people let me know there was a trade-in program for my phone if I upgraded to the next generation of a competitor’s phone … and the phone came pre-loaded with what would have been three months of minutes for me. The only catch was I couldn’t port my old number over for some strange non-competition agreement between two communication companies. It only took me half a second to sign on the dotted line. And this time I wasn’t giving the new phone number out to anyone except my boss.

    From the big box store, instead of going back to the apartment to finish cleaning, I headed to my storage unit. I had brought the rest of the empty storage boxes I hadn’t used with me and I packed away the food that was still in my trunk and repacked some of the things in the storage unit to make it easier to load when I brought the trailer around. It was nearly dark by the time I was finished but I knew it would save me some time and effort. I’d also had a mini garage sale while I was at it, getting rid of several big pieces of furniture that there was no way I would be able to take with me … mostly stuff that was left over from the divorce or from my parents that I hadn’t been able to make myself part with at the time … and some small items like clothes that I’d never wear again, some of my parents’ and brother’s clothes and shoes, and a little flotsam that had been following me around longer than it should have. A couple of sofas, a couple of chairs, a refrigerator and chest freezer, an ugly old coffee table that had belonged to my brother that made me realize just how crazy I had been there for a while. The heaviest items that remained were my cedar chest and the one that had belonged to my mother … both of which were handmade by our respective fathers to hold the things we had been saving until we had our own households but were now filled with family heirlooms and personal keepsakes. I would use a furniture dolly to move them but it wouldn’t be easy. I also finally and forever got rid of the few wedding mementos that I’d been hanging onto. My dress had been my mother in laws and it went back to her and then to her granddaughter. My bouquet had been a victim of one of my first emotional outbursts once I accepted the divorce had become inevitable. But I finally got rid of the napkins and other things though I couldn’t quite bring myself to put the pictures in the dumpster as well but more because they were also pictures of my parents and brother and mother in law in them. Maybe one day I’ll figure the rest out but that’s not happening right now.

    Getting rid of the worst of the emotional flotsam, sofas, and other large items halved my burden but I still wondered if it would all fit. There was the bedstead that my father had made for me and the practically brand-new mattress set that went with it that had been our “guest bedroom” furniture because Kirk had wanted something more modern and king-sized for the master bedroom. The two cedar chests that held a lot of family heirlooms, linens, and photo albums. I still hadn’t brought myself to go beyond the top layer of my mother’s. My father’s tool chest and some of my brother’s mechanic equipment that my sister in law … ex sister in law … hadn’t managed to find when she ransacked his work truck. He’d given them to me to store until he could get a more permanent place to live. Heaven is a more permanent place, but he certainly doesn’t need the tools now … but I couldn’t part with them then and since I was told I would have a garage space of my own I got stubborn and decided not to part with them now. Then there was all of the storage tubs with the miscellaneous items and the ones with the food.

    It was nearly dark by the time I got back to the apartment and I was filthy and tired. I also got the information that sent me off down Paranoid Parkway. I was getting my mail from my box when the wife of one of the on-site maintenance workers came over.

    “Shanna … tu hombre aqui’ todo el dia esperando por usted.”

    I knew just enough Spanish to get the general idea of what she’d said. “My man? What man?”

    “Tu esposo.”

    “My husband. You mean my ex-husband was here?”

    “Si. Dejo hace 30 minutos. Le dejo un mensaje. Debajo de su Puerta.”

    I looked at her and said, “Gracias.”

    She smiled and waived me off as I jogged to my apartment trying not to look over my shoulder to see if Kirk was hiding out, waiting to pounce. Kirk had been waiting for me all day? Had only left thirty minutes before I had come home? And he’d left me a message under my door. Why, after nearly a year he was starting to do this I had no idea and was afraid to even guess. The divorce had been finalized almost half of that time. It just made me nauseous with worry.

    I almost skidded on the paper that had been slipped under my door jam. It looked like he’d written the note on a piece of paper he’d torn out of the type of graphing notebook he used to sketch schematics in.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Shanna, call me as soon as you get this note. We need to talk. This is very serious.

    I know you said you have a new job – and I hope that is where you are at right now – but I asked around and no one knows where it is or who you are working for or basically anything about what is going on with you. I was surprised to find out you’ve cut everyone out of your life. Although I suppose I shouldn’t be; you’ve got walls as high as those at Jericho. But some of these people have known you longer than I have. And now you aren’t even answering your phone when you know people have to be worried about you. That’s just wrong. The only natural conclusion that can be arrived at is this new job is something others would consider highly inappropriate.

    All of this just reinforces what I’ve witnessed myself over the last year or so, you’ve changed. And not for the better. I guess I missed the signs of how hard you took your parents’ and brother’s deaths. I’m sorry for that. Maybe you were right to get counseling after all. But it doesn’t seem like it has helped. Instead you’ve shut down and don’t talk to anyone.

    What’s more I’ve been watching what is going on at this place you live. Why would you do this to yourself?! It isn’t healthy at all. My god, most of the people don’t even seem to know how to speak English. And if they do speak English, they do it with so little education you can barely understand them. No wonder you are acting so weird and paranoid. Anyone with any sensibilities would have dealing with the kind of crap I’ve seen today. Jesus, I had three whores proposition me while I’ve been waiting for you to come home. And a few times someone tried to sell me drugs. Is this really how far you’ve let yourself go?

    I know we left things off in a bad place. I just couldn’t take it anymore. And not even me leaving seemed to wake you up. But this? Shanna I’m really worried about your well-being. If I don’t hear from you soon I am going to be back first thing in the morning and we are going to have this out one way or the other. You can’t keep living like this.

    Call me dammit. I care what happens to you even if you don’t. Kirk

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    After reading Kirk’s letter all I could do was stand there in the middle of taking off my shoes and stare at the piece of paper. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, pitch a fit, or just what. What I wound up getting the longer I thought about it was scared. Kirk had always been able to spin things to his advantage. He was so good at it that I’m pretty sure even he believed most of the BS he sometimes spouted. It took me a long time to admit that because he always spun such an easy picture to believe. And he even had the best of intentions while doing it which made it just that much easier to fall for.

    All of the calls from people I hadn’t heard from in months suddenly made sense. Kirk had wanted information. I hadn’t given it to him so he was trying to use others to get it for him. In the process, and as a rationale, Kirk was painting a picture of me being in the process of losing my mind or something close to it. Why he would feel the need to do this I wasn’t sure, but maybe he needed to so he could have some kind of explanation of why I no longer acted the way he expected. His father’s birthday was probably part of it. He always cycled through a bit of depression when it came around. Now it seemed he was projecting his issues onto me. At least maybe. I don’t know. If it isn’t obvious, I’m pretty good at rationalizing things myself.

    The problem was I couldn’t defend myself against some of the things he was likely to say. I have changed. Not necessarily for the reasons he thinks but I have changed. The deaths of the people I loved most in the world next to him did hurt more than he had been willing to recognize and that just added hurt on top of hurt; especially since I had been there for him during his own grieving process, going through it with him even though Mr. and Mrs. Field hadn’t been my biological parents. The place I lived did suck, and it did affect me, but not to the extreme he was assuming. And he was right, I hadn’t talked to most of my so-called friends for months, but that wasn’t completely by choice; it is pretty damn hard to talk to people and spend time with them when they don’t want that from you.

    What he imagines his endgame to be I still have no clue, I just knew in that moment that there was a strong possibility that it was going to completely screw me over whether he saw it that way or not. If the process of the divorce had taught me nothing else it had taught me to recognize and be wary of Trojan horses.

    I made the decision that I was going to be out of the apartment and away before he could show up. I scrambled to pack the last few items and to clean the rest of the apartment so I could turn it over with a clear conscience, not like I was skipping out in the middle of the night although I admit that is exactly what I was doing … just with paid bills instead of trying to avoid an eviction. By the time I was finished it was well beyond full dark and the apartment complex had grown quiet with most going to bed because they had jobs they had to be at early. I started carrying down the boxes that were left and I put them all in my backseat. Then I manhandled my mother’s chair into my trunk, tied it shut, took one last look around the apartment and then dropped the key into the office drop box. I didn’t know where I was going at first and it was getting too late to be driving around on that side of town so headed towards the lot where my brother’s trailer was.

    I had twenty-four-hour access to the trailer and used it. I attached the trailer to the hitch and headed to the storage unit which I also had ‘round the clock access to. It was a struggle but I got the chair out of the trunk and moved it and everything that was left out of the storage unit into the trailer, and even managed to load it so that it was evenly distributed and wouldn’t shift around making the trailer hard to handle. It was after two in the morning when I finished and I was just about to run out of adrenaline but I couldn’t afford to stop; the problem was I had nowhere to go. In desperation I drove to the RV park my brother had worked for, and luckily the night security guard recognized me.

    I told him, “I’ll pay for a spot. It’s just one night. I had to vacate my apartment a day early and my other plans got turned on their head.”

    The guy laughed. “Man oh man, I’ve been there a couple of times myself.” After thinking for a second he said, “Sure. Why not. It’s only one night and we got the space as a buncha Snowbirds flew home. But you gotta be gone before nine. That’s when the boss gets here and he’ll wanna chew your ear off with stories of how missed your brother is around this place. Man, we’ve gone through five mechanics since he … left.”

    I thanked him profusely again and he told me not to worry about it and go get some sleep, that he’d drive by in his golf cart a few times to make sure no one bothered me. Which I gratefully did even if I did have to do it sitting up in the driver’s seat.

    I was up at daybreak and was able to leave only after he insisted on checking all my tires and making sure they had the right pressure for the load and road I would be traveling. It was a kind gesture I accepted in my brother’s memory and it saved me the cost and time of stopping at a garage. At nine I called Mr. Crocker. Ten o’clock found me at one last stop to get a couple of jugs of water and some deli items to hold me over so I wouldn’t have to eat fast food since my plan to make my own got tossed out the window. Out in the store parking lot I ate a fruit and yogurt cup and a granola bar. I also wrote a letter to Kirk.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Kirk, I received your letter but my schedule is such I cannot call. That said, there’s no reason for you to worry. I’ll try and address your concerns but it will make this letter a little long winded and sound, as you often used to accused me of sounding when I was in a rush or stressed … “snappish” … so my apologies in advance.

    First, while I appreciate your concern, it is misplaced. I haven’t cut anyone off. Some of our friends just didn’t know what to say after a while. Some acted like the divorce was a contagious disease they were afraid of contracting, and they withdrew on their own. You know who they are because they did it to you too, or so you said during the divorce proceedings when you thought I was the sole cause of it happening. Some just out and out blamed me because I couldn’t fix whatever it was that was that was making you so miserable; a couple even blamed me for your refusal to even attempt to fix things. Maybe you were on the receiving end of that as well; I don’t know, and it is way too late and unconstructive to start guessing. I refuse to start digging up bones at this late day.

    As for people thinking I cut them off, mostly I think I stopped trying to force myself on people that my calls made uncomfortable when I accidentally overheard you and Patricia talking about how it seemed as if I was trying to manipulate people and make them feel sorry for me. The two of you made it clear during your discussion that others also thought the same thing. They say you never hear anything good about yourself when you listen into conversations. Well, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop but what I heard hurt. Who said it hurt worse. You and one of my oldest and closest friends. You were sitting right behind me in the movie theater and neither one of you ever realized I was sitting there; alone because another so-called friend called to cancel only after I’d already purchased my ticket and entered the movie auditorium. I couldn’t even sneak out of the theater because I was afraid of the potential confrontation and I was already embarrassed and hurt enough. I tried not to hear anything else but I did.

    Your words and hers caused me to re-examine a lot of things. I was not consciously doing any such thing as manipulating people and don’t even believe I was doing it subconsciously, but it was then that I made the decision to be even more careful about what I said, how I said it, and who I said it to, than I had already become. My choice at that point was clear, and still is in hindsight regardless of how others may have perceived it. I wasn’t going to go around explaining myself or justifying myself only to watch that be twisted into something it wasn’t.

    As for what occurred yesterday, you are misinterpreting it. I ran out of minutes on my phone. That sometimes happens. It happened yesterday specifically because I was inundated with calls from so many people that I hadn’t heard from since before the divorce was final. What should have lasted over a month of my normal usage, disappeared in less than half a day. When and if I can respond to everyone individually, I will. Right now I’m in the middle of moving and starting a new job. It is not always possible to do what we want right when we want. Obviously, by your own admission in your letter, you are still in contact with most everyone so please feel free to explain this should anyone ask.

    Secondly, yes, as you pointed out I did go to counseling. It wasn’t easy but at the time I wanted to do everything I could to understand our problems and repair our marriage. The mediator and judge understood that. You allowed your lawyer to twist my attempts into something it wasn’t. That’s more bones that have been buried that I refuse to dig up, but it is tempting. The things you let that woman do is one of the main reasons why I have a hard time speaking with you. You may not have given her specific instructions, but you allowed her to do it, to destroy my reputation through innuendo and gossip and outright lies, to encourage and order others to do it as well, to crush my ability to get a job in teaching or even to sell items online. There’s been too much that has happened, too much that has been said, and it is extremely difficult not to say anything that might instigate yet one more altercation between us. Neither of us needs that. It isn’t constructive and it isn’t healthy and after all this time, completely pointless.

    Thirdly, I am well aware that the apartment I was living in was far from where I had been at one point. Thank you for your concern but, in reality, it isn’t any of your concern. How you could possibly expect me to maintain our previous lifestyle on the wages I was making even before your lawyer, with specific intent, made sure I didn’t get any more calls for substitute teaching positions has zero logic. It took both of us to pay the bills we had when we lived together as man and wife. When you left it meant that 75% of the household income ceased. It required an adjustment on my part to deal with my new reality. It is a point of pride for me that I did it without running around whining about it to others. I did, at the suggestion of a person at the employment office, make a complaint against your lawyer with the Florida bar as well as several legal review websites. If you are still missing your mother’s jewelry and cannot gain satisfaction from your former lawyer, I suggest you contact these people as well. The woman has multiple complaints against her for a broad range of things; someone might be able to assist you or point you in the right direction.

    Lastly, about my well-being. That isn’t yours to be concerned about anymore than my location of residence is. You made the choice to walk out. You made the choice not to participate in any effort to repair what was our marriage. You made the choice to pursue a divorce. You therefore need to accept that you have lost all rights over me and it is by your own choice.

    Unfortunately, I am sure some people – possibly even you – are going to view this situation as intentionally hurtful but that can’t be helped. I need a fresh start and to that end I am going to make a new life for myself, and that includes a new job in a new location. I hope you can understand and at least wish the best for me as I do for you as the divorce has insured that we now must move on with our lives separately. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to go with you to your father’s grave for his birthday but I know that the man he was would understand and I hope that you eventually do. I also wish for you that your relationship with your sister continues to improve and that you both heal. Good luck Kirk. I mean that sincerely. Shanna

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    I debated whether to mail the letter to Kirk roughly a gazillion times but in the end I felt I owed it to him … and perhaps more importantly I owed it to myself. Maybe I could have written less. Maybe I should have written more. Maybe making a copy of the letter for my own records was a little paranoid. I don’t know, I simply did the best I could in good conscience. The divorce was his choice. Now moving on and starting a new life was my choice. And I am doing it on my terms which to me means at least trying to be a decent person in the process, even if he didn’t offer me the same consideration during the divorce. I have to be able to live with myself long term, not just get some temporary satisfaction in the moment.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

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