Short Story: Open Secret

The house was as enigmatic as the woman whom I would have the pleasure of interviewing. Gloria Kirkland is the last living icon of a forgotten age, wife of the infamous financier, Rutherford Kirkland, matriarch of family that has touched almost every aspect of American life, yet she is relatively unknown to the masses. That’s the way it has been since she married into the Kirkland family, and the way she wanted it to stay.

But with the unauthorized biography of her late husband hitting the shelves next week, she felt the need to step out of the shadows. The family had enjoyed anonymity for decades, living right under the radar, but were well-known and beloved within the upper echelon of American, and indeed global society. They were power players, make no mistake, and the powerful play by their own rules.

But the new media no longer cares about playing by the rules of the elites. They seek to tarnish the legacy of the powerful, to tear down legends and role models. Ms. Hoff appears to be part of the new media, not content to impugn the members of the elite, but the power hitters of a bygone time. Her target is Rutherford and the family he left behind.

Gloria received me graciously into her home. She calls it home, though she rarely stays there. She usually stays in a penthouse in New York, or else the ranch she own in Texas. The Estate, as she call her home, was the first home she made with Rutherford after they married. Sixty years later, and she still calls it home, and it’s easy to find his influence throughout the mansion.

“Why don’t you take a seat,” Gloria says, pointing to the sofa nearest the door. She takes a seat in an arm chair nearest the fireplace, in which a fire is blazing in spite of the near eighty degree day outside.

“Thank you, Ms. Kirkland. We can begin whenever you’re ready.”

“Proceed then,” she encouraged me with an airy wave.

I pulled out my phone, hit the record button on my recording app, and began the interview. “We can do this however you want,” I stated. “I can ask you a series of questions, or you can tell your story uninterrupted. I’ll be able to put together a coherent narrative from either.”

“I’ll just tell you my story then,” she says. “You’re here at my invitation after all, and I think we should be playing by the house rules.

“As you like,” I replied genially.

“You’re probably wondering why I asked you here,” she started, not bothering to wait for an answer. “The memory of my late husband is being besmirched by that beast of a woman, and I thought it best to clear the air and state the whole truth, the unabridged, painful truth, as we lived it.

“Ms. Hoff wants to paint a picture of an effeminate man, one who had no control of his cuckoldress of a wife, a woman who she claims kept company with the rich and powerful, men who controlled the destiny of a nation, politicians and celebrities alike. But there’s more to it than that.”

“More than infidelity?” I gasped, interrupting her story, scandalized by the implication.

“I don’t know if I would categorize it as being unfaithful, Violet,” she replied, unconcerned by my interruption. “Every man I bedded I did with his blessing. Indeed, he encouraged me to enjoy the company of every man I invited to my bed. You see, Rutherford was not an effeminate man. He was manly, a man’s man, an avid outdoorsman, hunter, fisher, and camper. He enjoyed manly pursuits. He just didn’t enjoy the intimate company of women.”

“Are you saying that Ms. Hoff’s assertion that he was gay is correct?”

“I am,” Gloria nodded matter-of-factly. “It was an open secret within our circle. He was already in a long-term relationship with his partner and lover by the time we got married. I was to be the trophy wife, you see. I was young, beautiful, and desirable. Our parents set it all up. His father needed to see his heir in a stable marriage with a woman from a good family, and my father wanted to move up the social ladder. It was arranged, and though I didn’t know what I was getting into, I accepted my lot in life.”

“An arranged marriage?”

“Yes. Don’t get me wrong, I cared for him. He was good looking, charismatic, and a wonderful man. I grew to love him quickly enough, and in time he grew to love me. We married in an intimate ceremony at the cathedral, wedded by a cardinal no less. We consummated our marriage that night, and it was as awkward as you can imagine. Adept as he was in making love to another man, bedding a woman left him utterly flummoxed.

“But we managed it that night, though it wasn’t the only time we shared a bed. He needed heirs, after all, so we started having sex on a regular basis. His lover didn’t like it, but he understood the social requisite of the era, and he accepted it with good grace. I bore him three sons, and a daughter during our first five years of marriage. Afterwards, he visited my bed once a year, on our anniversary, to perform his required husbandly duties.”

She laughed at the idea, but I was left speechless. What had seemed from the outside to be a solid, Christian marriage was nothing more than a sham, or so I thought. Gloria looked at me shrewdly and smiled. “Does it shock you? You have to understand that the rules are different for those in our social class, at least it was that way with old money.”

“It does, yes!” I exclaimed.

“I need you to know, and I need you to relate to your readers that our marriage was a loving and respectful one. I became his partner and confidant, though only his annual lover. But I loved him all the same, loved him like I have loved no one else. I believe he loved me the same way. The only defect was that we lacked the romantic component most associate with love.

“He had Edgar’s bed for romance. Edgar’s wife was not as understanding as I was, but she accepted it like the devoted wife she was trained to be. She took no lovers other than Edgar, so she had a loveless, and sexless marriage. Other than a pro forma consummation of their marriage, they bedded only one other time, and she conceive a son for him. She grew embittered fairly quickly, deprived of a husband to care for, and a lover to care for her needs.

“I had no such qualms. Like I said, Rutherford encouraged my dalliances with other men. He was quite proud that I was desirable. I used that to our advantage, bedding the right man in my husband’s quest to gain control of one business or another. More than once, I slept with an influential senator at his insistence, gaining the support for a bill he wanted passed, or defeated.

“I wasn’t too keen on politicians, but celebrities were another matter. I must have slept through a who’s who of famous men, starting from the late fifties when we were married. I’m over eighty, and let me tell you, I still manage to get some of the fresh faces into my bed.Having money is a potent aphrodisiac, and the young are willing to trade favors for a little money. I’m not ashamed to have pressed my wealth to my advantage, but it has kept me young.”

I nod in agreement. She still looks beautiful in spite of her advanced age. She sat in front of me, with a short skirt the showed beautifully toned and tanned legs. She was thin and regal, with high cheekbones, and flowing silver hair. Her hazel eyes were piercing. I admit that I felt an attraction towards this woman.

“I can’t help but wonder, with your husband sleeping with men, did you ever dabble with women?”

“Why? Are you curious?” She laughed knowingly. “I’m familiar with your reputation, Violet. You’re not shy when it comes to lovers, are you?”

“I’m openly bi,” I confess, feeling ashamed for the first time.

“I’ve tried it a few times during the free-love sixties. I enjoyed it, but I realized fairly quickly that women were not my taste.”

“That’s understandable,” I say , trying to keep the disappointment from my voice.

“Oh dear,” she grinned, and I felt a pull of magnetism from her. “Were you hoping to score more than the story of a lifetime?”

“Well, no,” I flushed. “I hadn’t considered it until just now.”

“I think we should continue the interview at a later time, once you’ve come back to your senses.”

I nodded in agreement, and I picked up my phone and stopped recording. Gloria rose and pulled me to my feet, pulling me into an embrace and kissing me like I had never been kissed. She surprised me by how good a kisser she was. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been with a woman,” she confided with a wink, “but I think I’m willing to try again. Feel free to use this in your story, if you want.”

I would love to relate what came next, but I will keep that part of the interview to myself. I will note that I was not disappointed by her skills in the bedroom, as evidenced by the fact that I ended up spending the night there that same night, and several more after that. If that unauthorized biography threatened to cause a scandal, I don’t know how the world will react to our own secret love affair, and frankly, I don’t care.


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Short Story: Breaking free

“This is bullshit,” moaned a disheveled, middle-aged man as he slammed another empty glass onto the bar. His eyes were beginning to glaze over, and he had started slurring his speech. “I don’t know why I put up with it!”

“What’s gotten into you, James?” His friend Nelson – this one nursing his first scotch and water – looked on, concerned by how his friend was acting. “Don’t you think you should slow down. You’re hitting it pretty hard tonight.”

“What does it matter? Why does any of it matter?” He slurred. “Give me one more, Gary.” The bartender looked over to the friend, who nodded, and the bartender reluctantly brought over a fresh scotch.

The pair remained silent for a moment, but as soon as James had his drink in hand, he began his complaint anew. “I’ve been there for almost twenty years,” he began.

“And they don’t appreciate what you do for them,” his friend completed the refrain. “Yeah, I know. We all know. Why don’t you spare me the bullshit and just tell me what happened today.”

“Spare you the…, fine,” he sputtered angrily. “I’ll tell you. My tightwad boss yelled at me, wanting to know about the Andrews account. I closed that deal a month ago, he signed off on it, and now he’s pissed off because he thinks we under-charged them. He wants me to cancel the contract and renegotiate. It’s bullshit. They won’t go for that! They’ll find someone else to do business with, and then I’ll get blamed for losing another major contract, all because THEY can’t do their jobs correctly. I’m tired of being their punching bag.”

“Then get out,” a voice cried out from the other side of the bar. James whipped his head around, angry that he had been overheard, though he had been complaining so loud that many people had simply left to go elsewhere for a drink.

“What did you say?” James’ friend  asked.

“Get out,” she repeated herself with an eerily calm voice. She was an attractive forty-something, with expensive tastes. She looked out-of-place in the slightly seedy establishment. Nelson looked at her, and she wore a haunted expression on her face, but other than that, betrayed no emotion, though it was obvious to all that she had been crying recently.

“What business is it of yours?” James spat.

“None, I suppose,” she sighed, “but I think you should listen anyways. What could it hurt?” James shrugged as he started on his scotch. The stranger walked over and sat beside him.

“It’s funny how similar a job is to a romantic relationship. At first, it’s all perfect. You’re in love, after all. He brings you flowers, tells you he loves you. He brings you gifts and treats you like a princess. You get lost in the fantasy. At work, it’s the same, they check up on you, make sure you have everything you need, ensure you’re comfortable. They have a responsibility to you and they want you to succeed because their success is dependant on your ability to do your job.

“It doesn’t take long for the new relationship smell to start to wear off. You don’t notice it at first, but it slowly begins to change. It’s subtle, first he stops giving you flowers, or he stops rubbing your neck at the end of the day. There are no more sweet love notes, or he stops kissing you altogether. There’s a moment when you look up, and you realize that the magic is gone, but you can’t pinpoint when it happened, but you know you want to leave, but he doesn’t let you.

“‘I’ll change,’ he promises. ‘Just give me another chance.’ So you agree, and at first there’s a noticeable improvement. He starts kissing you again, his voice seductive promising you things he promised once before, and you fall for his charm. He comes home at a reasonable hour. He treats you how you deserve to be treated, for a while, but sooner rather than later it goes back to how it was. He neglects you, takes you for granted. You’ve become nothing more than a nursemaid while the jackass goes out to play.”

“I’m not sure I follow,” James groaned.

“Don’t you see?” The stranger said pointedly. “You’re nothing but your boss’s bitch. Sure he may treat you a little better should you want to leave and he needs you, but what’s the point? How many times do you have to do the stupid, little dance? You know what I’m talking about, right?”

“I’ve talked about leaving, sure,” he agreed.

“And what? Did you get a raise, a better office perhaps?”

“And a promotion, but I’m still doing the same bullshit work.”

“Exactly,” she shoved her finger into his chest. “Nothing but trinkets given to take your mind off the fact that they don’t respect you.”

“What do you think I should do?”

“Leave. Get out while you can. It’s a toxic relationship, abusive to the point where you’re losing yourself in drink just to numb the pain. Break up, while you still can, and leave on your own terms. Leave before you lose all sanity, lose all control, and do something you may regret later. You’re nobody’s bitch.”

“I can’t just quit,” James cried. “I have a family to support.”

“And yet you’re here and not with them,” she countered. “Don’t you think this is taking a toll on them? How long before she gets tired of being neglected? Get out while you still have a marriage to save. Or stay and lose everything. I don’t give a shit.”

The stranger got up, paid her tab, and left without saying another word. “What a loon,” James laughed before returning his attention to his drink.

“I don’t know,” Nelson said quietly. “I think she has a point, and I think you need to stop drinking and go home to your family before you end up like me, divorced and alone.”

***

James walked into his house, his children already in bed. His wife was curled up in front of the television, which she had on mute, a book in hand. She barely registered his entrance with a weary nod.

“I think we need to talk,” he said glumly.

“Oh?” she replied, not taking her eyes off the book.

“First, I want to say I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting, the way I’ve been treating you and the kids. I love you all, and I don’t want to lose you.”

That finally got her attention and she put her book down. “Okay?”

“I’ve been having a hard time at work, and I know it’s no excuse, but that’s why I’ve been so distant lately. I want to change before I lose you. I don’t want to lose you. I can’t bear the thought of losing you.”

“Okay? So what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“If you think it’s your job that’s at fault, leave.”

“Just quit? I can’t do that! I have a family to support.”

“And you think you’re supporting us by coming home drunk every night? By neglecting us? I hate to break it to you, but you’ve already lost me. I’ve been seeing someone for a while now, someone who’s taken care of me, who treats me how I should be treated.”

“Oh,” James replied, stunned by the revelation, not knowing what else to say.”

“Yeah, you’ve already lost me. I’m just here for the kids, but even for them, I don’t know what more I can take.”

“So, you’re sleeping with him?”

“Not yet, but it’s going to happen any day now.” His wife looked at his compassionately for the first time and smiled grimly. “I love you, too, but I can’t go on like this. You say you don’t want to lose me, this is your chance. Quit your job. It’s either them or me.”

“And what about our mortgage and our bills?”

“We have enough to get by for a couple of years, but you should be able to find a job before then. We’ll have to cut back on a few luxuries, but so what?”

“Wow,” James exclaimed softly, waves of fear, anger, and jealousy over taking him. “So you have someone on the side and you’re about to leave me?”

“I have someone on the side, but I wasn’t planning on leaving you just yet, but eventually, yes. I won’t be treated like this, not by you. If I have to find affection somewhere else, yeah I’ll do it, and feel no guilt for doing it.”

“I – I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do.”

“I told you. Quit. If you want me, that’s my price. Quit your job, and come to counseling with me. I’ve been going for several months, alone.”

“I need to think about it. I can’t just up and quit.”

“Suit yourself. You know what’s up. I’ll give you some time, but not much more. I’ll take a poorer man over you if that means I get to have his attention. And just so you know, that trip I was planning for this weekend with the girls?”

“Yeah?”

“I’ll be with him in Vegas, in his arms, in his bed.” She got up and walked out, taking her book with her, leaving him to his confusion.

James picked up the remote to the television to shut it off when a picture grabbed his attention. The same woman who he met at the bar. He turned up the volume to listen to the news report.

“…woman wanted by the police in connection with the brutal murders of her husband and his lover was found moments ago, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Friends described her as an outgoing, loving person, who had endured years of abuse and neglect, culminating in cold-blooded murder.”

“Chilling, Steve. Next, we check in with Dave for the weather. How’s it looking for the…”

James shut off the television and walked into the bedroom, the brutality of what he saw breaking him. “What’s the matter?” His wife asked, as he sat on the bed, shaking by what he saw on the news. He had just talked to her moments earlier.

“I love you. I’ll put in my notice tomorrow. If you have to go this weekend, I won’t blame you, but I won’t stop fighting for you.”

“Babe, if you choose me, I’ll choose you, too. Just understand, this is your one and only chance, but I won’t guarantee I’ll stay, either.”


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Short story: Segovia’s revenge

“I’m supposed to be married,” the shrunken form of what was once a man uttered bitterly from across the room. He paced nervously, biting at what remained of his fingernails and occasionally drawing blood. He didn’t even feel it anymore. He didn’t feel much of anything except for the loss that drove him into himself.

“There was supposed to be a band, and cake,” he lamented to no one in particular, and no one in particular listened anymore, each too involved in their own living hell. “We were going to go to Hawaii and then get a house, have kids, and….” His eyes became unfocused as he stared off into the distant past and his voice trailed off.

He fell and lay limp of the cold tile floor. Another patient pointed and laughed, but most had grown bored of his theatrics and roundly ignored them. No one talked to him, each thinking his madness beyond what was permissible, even in the confines of the ward.

“Why don’t we go for a little walk, Mr. Salzburg,”  a kindly tech said as she offered him a hand. “We don’t want to be late again, do we?”

“What?” Mr. Salzburg said, confused by the question, before accepting her assistance. “No, we wouldn’t want that,” he agreed, not really certain to what she referred.

“That’s it. We’ll take a little walk and then you can see Dr. Segovia and you two can have a chance to talk. He’s very eager to hear your story.”

“He is?” The patient lit up, ready to tell his story again. “When can we meet him?”

“Right now, of course,” the tech replied, leading him through a series of locked doors before walking out into a long corridor, devoid of warmth. It was lit with harsh fluorescent lighting, no windows, and painted a neutral beige color which seemed to sap the heat from the patients. They all shivered even though the temperature was kept at a moderate 72 degrees.

Mr. Salzburg shuffled beside the tech who kept a hand on the patient’s elbow, both to lead him and to prevent him from running away. Within minutes, they walked into a waiting room that was locked from the inside, to prevent the patients from trying to escape. The pair sat in the lobby, which was decidedly warming with plush carpeting and a warm color palette, but with little in the way of decorations. The few painting on the wall were bolted in place, and all the furniture was bolted to the floor. Nothing that could be used as a weapon was allowed.

“Jon, thank you for joining me today.” A short man, in his early fifties, walked out of an office and stood in front of the patient. “That’ll be all for now, Edna,” the doctor said to the tech, who merely bowed her head and walked out without another word. “Why don’t we come into my office?”

Mr. Salzburg stood up and shuffled into the office and sat down on a couch across from a large leather armchair, into which the doctor sat. Picking up Salzburg’s medical record, Dr. Segovia scanned the file before setting it down and picking up a notepad. “Why don’t we start this from the top again?”

“The top?”

“Yes,” the doctor replied wearily. “What do you remember? Can you tell me?”

“I was supposed to get married,” Salzburg said, his voice clearly agitated but otherwise remaining calm. “The was going to be a band and cake, and then we were going to go to Hawaii before getting a house and raising a family.”

“I see,” the doctor nodded. “What happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, can you tell me why you didn’t get married? Can you tell me why you didn’t get to go to Hawaii and why all your plans fell through? Why are you here instead of with your wife?”

“I don’t know,” Salzburg replied, perplexed by the questions.

“Okay, can you tell me who you were supposed to marry? What was she like?”

“Who I was going to marry? Her name was Laura,” he said with difficulty, straining to pull the answers that were buried deep in his memory.

“Yes, good,” the doctor leaned in, excited at the potential breakthrough. “What else?”

“Laura was a lively girl, always excited to talk to everyone.” Salzburg closed his eyes as flood of memories overwhelmed him. “Yes, she was outgoing, but you see, she chose me. She was popular, but she agreed to go out with me. Why would she do that?”

“Why don’t you tell me?” Segovia urged him gently.

“I don’t know,” he shook his head. “I wasn’t anything special, but I screwed up the courage to ask her out, and we hit it off. We were going to get married, but we didn’t.”

“No, you didn’t,” the doctor agreed. “Tell me more about her and about what happened.”

“Laura loved to dance. She insisted on the band, and I gave in. I always gave in to her. I was powerless to deny her anything, until….”

“Until what?”

“I – I don’t want to talk about it.” Salzburg folded his arms and tried to shut everything out, the doctor and the memories.

“But you need to talk about it. What is it that you’re trying to remember. Speak!”

“I – I can’t,” he cried. “I was supposed to be married. I wanted to be married. I never thought I would find anyone and then I found Laura and now…. Why did she have to die?”

“I think that’s enough for now,” Dr. Segovia spoke up abruptly. “We don’t need to get there just yet.”

“Why not?” Salzburg yelled indignantly. “You brought it up.”

“Are you ready for the answer? Do you really want to know why she died?”

“Yes – well no,” Salzburg collapsed into the couch. “She really is gone?”

“Yes, I’m afraid she is.”

“And I’m the one that found her?”

“I don’t think you’re ready for the answer.”

“But I need to know. You made me remember. I held her in my arms as she bled, begging me not to…”

“Not to what?”

“I – I killed her,” Salzburg’s face drained of color, his face as stark as the walls of the hospital.

“Yes, you killed her.”

“Why would I do that? We were going to be married.”

“No, you weren’t,” the doctor replied. “She never agreed to go out with you, and she never agreed to marry you. She was engaged to someone else, and in a fit of jealousy you killed them both. You’re here because a judge ordered you here for evaluation. That was five years ago.”

“Five years,” Salzburg closed his eyes and thought back. “Yes, I killed her. Why couldn’t she just love me?”

“I can’t answer that,” Segovia replied, “but I’m satisfied that you remember what you did and are fit.”

“Fit for what?”

“To pay for your crime,” the doctor replied as he filled out a form and then pushed a button on the table next to him.

“What are you talking about.”

“You confessed, did you not? Didn’t you just say you killed her?”

“I did, but what do you mean pay for my crime?”

“Just that. You know what you did, and admitted it. That’ll suffice. You’re guilty and therefore able to pay. You’ve been sentenced to death.”

“I don’t understand,” he cried as two large orderlies entered the office.

“You don’t have to understand,” Segovia admitted with a grin. “You just have to understand the crime, which you’ve admitted to. Good bye.”

“No, wait,” he yelled as the orderlies grabbed him by the arms and pinned him to the couch. “You’re a doctor. Aren’t you supposed to help me?”

“Help you?” Segovia laughed as he pulled a syringe from his desk. “I’m here to help the victims get closure. Don’t worry. It’ll be painless. In a few minutes you’ll be dead.”

“No! You can’t do this!” Salzburg struggled, but he was no match for the men who held him. “You can’t do this!”

“Tut tut,” Segovia said dryly as he chose the vein into which to stick the needle. Slowly he plunged the drug into his arm and Salzburg stopped struggling. “You see? Painless. A better way to go than the way you butchered my daughter. Goodbye.”


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Short Story: Valentine’s Day Proposal

Have you ever found yourself in a situation beyond all comprehension? I mean something so out there that it defies all logic and you end up sitting there, unable to act, rendered mute by your inability to grasp what had happened?

I sat there as Mariann walked away, unable to hear the tittering of the crowd around me. Some tried to ignore the scene of a grown man with a bowl of spaghetti on his head. I wish I could say I tried to remain dignified, but there’s no dignity to be found while spaghetti sauce drips off your nose and runs into your mouth. I registered that the sauce was delicious, and it brought me out of my stunned stupor and I began to clean myself up. My server helped as well, failing to disguise the laughter in his eyes.

I hate Valentine’s Day. I really, really do. I don’t know what else to say to be even more emphatic about my loathing for the day. I wish I could ignore the day. I wish I would’ve taken Mariann’s advice and tried not to make a big deal of it, but I’m not so foolish enough to heed her advice. No man is. What I had hoped to do was to have a quiet dinner, followed by a movie of her choosing. Dinner and a movie. What could possibly go wrong?

I picked her up at home, and she looked absolutely stunning. Mariann is a petite young woman who if you don’t know her, has you believing that she’s helpless and vulnerable. She’s a formidable person, with a big personality and a cutting wit. That was what attracted me to her in the first place. Fiery, as redheads are wont to be.

We didn’t talk much on the drive to the restaurant, an Italian bistro, if you haven’t already deduced by the image of my pasta-topped noggin. We ordered a bottle of wine, she was in the mood for a Moscato, and then enjoyed a Caesar salad while we waited for the main. She was quiet, which I found odd since she’s one of the most talkative persons I know.

“Did I do something wrong?” I asked, unable to help myself.

“Hmm? Oh, no,” she shook her head. “I’m just lost in thought.”

“Okay,” I said as I took another bite of my salad. I glanced up and saw that she was looking at the table beside us where some jackass had gotten on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. God! I hate Valentine’s Day! I really didn’t need that kind of pressure.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” she sighed wistfully. “Everyone I know is married, getting married, having kids…. When will it be my turn?”

See what I’m saying? How did I respond? I didn’t. I was a lout with a mouthful of salad, and it’s all I could do not to choke as I tried to swallow. I finally managed to do so and I took a steadying drink of my wine as I attempted to say something, but there was nothing for me to say. I had missed my opportunity to do so.

“Have you given any thought to us?” She said casually, still looking at the recently engaged couple beside us, locked in a passionate embrace while all those around us applauded them.

“Well, you know I…” I mumbled, trying to find something to hold on to as I witnessed our date spiraling out of control.

“Not that I’m asking for a commitment,” she hastily added as she realized my discomfort. “I don’t want you to think I’m trying to strong-arm you into anything.”

“No, I never thought you were,” I laugh, the relief in my tone all too noticeable. I chuckle again as I take another sip of wine. “Yeah, I guess I have thought about us, if you must know. You’re the first person in a long time that I feel I could spend my life with. You are my cuddle bunny, after all.”

“Yeah, I guess. I know I’m not making any sense. I’ve always prided myself at being independent, at not needing any man to take care of me. I don’t need you and if you were to leave it wouldn’t hurt all that much.”

“Oh,” I say, my wounded pride escaping her notice as she looked over to the bastards seated at the table next to us. I hoped they would choke on the complementary gelato, which I don’t know if it’s really possible.

“All the same,” she smiled at me, “you’re the first person ever that has made me think that giving up my independence might not be such a bad thing.”

“Why should you give up your independence for me?” I ask as our server brings out a large bowl of spaghetti, drenched in their delectable red sauce. “I would never ask you to give up anything for me? That’s just plain stupid!”

Next thing you know, Mariann threw herself out of her chair, grabbed the bowl out of the unsuspecting server and dropped the contents over my head, along with the bowl, before stomping away in a huff. I think I just found out what I said wrong. Poor choice of words.

As I was dabbing the last of the sauce off my new white shirt, one that I’ll never wear again, when she emerged from her hiding place, looking rather contrite. “I shouldn’t have done that,” she apologized in a small voice.

“And I shouldn’t have answered the way I did. I’m sorry.”

“Why don’t we go back to my place and while you wash up, I’ll make us something to eat.”

“It’s probably best,” I answered. I paid for our abortive night out, and we headed on over to her place, all eyes on us as we walked out, a story for them to share at work on Monday.

***

I wash out all the spaghetti sauce out of my hair and ears and I get out of the shower. I put on a clean, albeit old and faded pair of jeans, and a thread-worn t-shirt. I walk downstairs as Mariann throws a frozen lasagna into the oven. I’m still a little angry at her for her outburst, but I can’t resist putting my arms around her and kissing her on the top of her head.

“I love you, crazy woman.”

“I love you, too,” she purrs happily.

“As I was trying to say, before I was so rudely assaulted, is that I wouldn’t expect you to give up anything for me. I think that makes for a bad marriage.”

“I agree. Go on.”

“If we do get married, I want to be with the girl I fell in love with, with all her baggage, the good and the bad, the passion and the fire. I don’t want some trophy wife in a cage to pull out and show everyone. ‘Look at me! I got the girl!’ No. I want you. I love you, insanity and all.”

“Good. Then yes, I’ll marry you.”

“I don’t remember asking,” I say.

“Then maybe you should consider asking. A girl like me doesn’t come around very often, you know.”

“Thank goodness.” I joke, earning a deserved punch on my arm. “Ow! What was that for?”

“Your impossible,” Mariann responds as she shoves me playfully away.”

“Poor way to treat your fiancée, don’t you think?”

“But you haven’t asked.”

“Bah, formalities,” I argue, but I go down on one knee and take her hand. “Mariann, will you marry me?”

“Wow! I didn’t expect this. I’ll have to think about it. Get back to you later?”

“Who’s impossible now?”

“Still you, but that’s why I love you. And I think I already gave you my answer, before you asked. There is one thing we’re going to have to give up for each other.”

“No there isn’t, but I’ll ask anyway. What?”

“I don’t want you to date or sleep with other women, and I think it would be best if I don’t date or sleep with other men.”

“You’re right. That’s a good idea. But I can still date and sleep with other men?” I joke.

“Nope! You’re mine now, and I’m yours. Oh, and by the way. You need to see this. My friend text this to me while you were in the shower. I’m going to have it printed and framed.”

I take her phone and her friend snapped a photo of me, looking bewildered with the bowl of spaghetti on my head. “It’s perfect,” I laugh. “Is that going out with the wedding invites?”

She kisses me and laughs. “I love you,” she says but she doesn’t answer the question. She doesn’t need to, and frankly I don’t want her to. I’d rather enjoy the surprise.


Short Stories

Next story – In love with Bella
Previous story – On the losing end

Three years strong

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Me back in 2011.

Late last month, I let a milestone pass unobserved, not because I meant to, but rather because I completely forgot until after the fact. Three years ago last month, my then wife chose to runaway to move in with some guy she had never met in person, a guy she met online and talked on the phone behind my back.

I almost posted about it the next day but chose to let the past stay in the past, and to stop dwelling on things that I should forget about. And I did, until yesterday, when I logged onto my WordPress site and saw a notification that it had been three years since I had signed up for this blog, although I wouldn’t post my first blog, an observation about trying to find myself after a break-up, until the next day.

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Me today, playing with my Kindle. I’m not so good with the smiling, but I’m actually in a good mood.

I never thought I would still be on here, let alone with my own domain name, three years on, but I’m still here. I’m not posting as often as I had been, and I’m no longer obsessed with my stats, as in I want more page views, but I’m still here. My focus no longer is on my poor, sorrowful self. Bygones are just that, and I’m focusing my energies elsewhere.

So, in honor of my three-year anniversary, I want to share a few good things to have come out of the debacle of 2011.

  1. I finally escaped a toxic relationship. I know I’m not the only one to have found themselves stuck in an unhealthy relationship/marriage. We had problems from the beginning, but I did my best to stick it out. Not once did I engage in extramarital affairs, not that I was a perfect husband. Still, I stuck it out until she ran off. Then I found the strength to file for divorce. Had I not, I’m sure she would have tried to come back, again.
  2. I started this blog. More importantly, I began to write. What started out as an outlet to express my disappointment and the bitter pain that consumed me, over time morphed into a desire to write something more. I began a journey to fulfill a dream to become a published author, and though I’m not there yet, I’m still on the journey. I will publish a book!
  3. I met new friends. Through writing, and in particular though NaNoWriMo, I met an awesome set of people who supported me that first year, and who still support me via Facebook. I couldn’t have made it this far without the North Texas Rough Writers. (Don’t tell them that. They might get a big head.)
  4. I graduated college. After more than a decade of wishing I could find a way, I went back to school last spring to finish up my remaining hours. In August 2013, thirteen years after I dropped out, I finally earned my Bachelor’s Degree. Now I want another one, but one I can ACTUALLY put to use.
  5. I’ve spent time reconnecting with my family. I did so reluctantly at first, but I’m spending time with my parents, brothers, and sister for the first time in any meaningful way, now that we are all adults. I’ve rebuilt a large part of my childhood home, watching my nieces and nephews grow up, and actually met a new addition to the Hinojosa clan, a new niece born last month.

Sure, I few bad things have happened as well, but that’s life. The biggest change is that I’m working to see the good instead of dwelling on what’s bad. I’m looking to the future, and working to make that dream a reality. I have not artificial deadlines anymore. I’m trying to be realistic with myself, pushing myself to met my goals without imposing too strict a time frame. Maybe this time next year, we’ll revisit this and see how I’m doing.

Maybe…