Every action we have is going to have repercussions in ways we could not anticipate.
Eric said nothing as Charlotte came into view from his position standing on his parents’ patio where he had spent the last hour or two silently looking over the beach and the ocean as he often did when he was trying to clear or calm his mind, she ascended the steps to join him quietly, as he just took another chug of his beer. It wasn’t his first this evening. And most likely would not be the last.
“Hello Eric.” she offered quietly.
“You’re trespassing.” he said with a near emotionless voice.
“Eric, I want to talk to you about the … documents I received via courier today.” Charlee continued, ignoring his remark.
“Nothing to talk about. It’s not a book I am looking to have reviewed, but divorce papers. It’s all pretty straight forward since we don’t have much to be split that isn’t already. Just sign on the dotted line and it’s official.” he slurred, then took another sip.
“Please, you have never given me the time to really explain everything.”
“No explanation needed. Or required. Or wanted.”
“Eric, you really want to end our marriage on some unfounded suspicions, just because something looked bad? I told you the truth. I never once cheated. Nor would I.”
When Eric didn’t react, she reached for his arm but he pulled away. When he didn’t say anything, she brought up another topic.
“You didn’t come to the appointment with Dr. Holton. I was so hoping you would come, so you could hear me out, finally. You said you would.”
“Nope, I didn’t. You told me about the appointment and I acknowledged it. Never said I’d be there. You just assumed I would.”
“OK, you are right, I did. That was my fault for not being more direct. Eric, what can I do to fix this? All of it. Make you rethink your choice.”
“Just sign the damn papers!” he growled, turned around and went inside, locking the door behind him.
But Charlotte did not give up that easily. The next day she was back, when she knew both kids were at a sleepover at Hannah’s home.
“You again!? What is it this time?” he roared after his mother had called him downstairs only for him to find Charlotte waiting for him, while his parents disappeared to another room to give them privacy to speak alone.
“I just want to talk to you. Freely, and honestly.”
“Ah, trying new things, huh? Tired of lying and hiding?”
“Eric, let me at least demonstrate to you that it worked. Please. Just touch me. Hold on to me. Or kiss me. I am almost certain I can even sleep with you again. I want to. Can we try?”
“Do I really look that desperate to you to get laid that you think I’d forgive and forget everything after a quick number?! You think I feel better after ‘test-driving’ that Darrel-dude’s work on my wife’s libido?! Do you know me at all?! Aside from all that I really don’t want sloppy seconds.”
“Eric, stop it! I never slept with anyone but you. The only reason Darrel and I ever did anything you could flag was to help me desensitize to get over my issues. It wasn’t anything passionate. Just to help me fix something that was broke. All he ever did was hold on to me and act as if he was going to kiss me, but he never did. Not once. All just to fix me.”
“And broke something else in the process. Great job and great logic. So what references does Darrel have, huh? Whom else has he treated before – and where? How great can he be if he needs to work for pocket change in some part-time job collecting dust at some failed Gallery in some one horse town by the coast few people even know exists?! HUH?! Some life coach! Coached you into putting out for him, while collecting a salary for it.”
“I … I don’t know. I can ask him … I am sure he has references, pretty sure he has a website … and I never ‘put out’. Are you not listening?! And I never thought about checking up on him. He has been working for me for months and seemed like a nice guy. I was crying one night, he saw and comforted me and offered help. I was desperate.”
“Oh, I bet he did. Swept right in on the easy prey. And you fell for it like a lamb.”
“Eric, what do I have to do for just one more chance. Just one chance to make it all up to you and show you I am better and you are the only one for me? Don’t prove my father right about us never being able to make it.”
“Your father is what you want to bring into this mix now?! Really?! You really are fucked up in the brain! Considering that, I should be surprised you haven’t run home to him and your hag of a senator mommy yet to cry your heart out about your mean and evil husband, to the two people who caused our mess to begin with! How convenient though, father a judge. If you play your cards right, we’ll get him or one of his bosom buddies for our divorce. Would benefit you for sure, considering how he hates me, I am sure I won’t be left with even a pair of dirty tattered boxers after he’s done with me, let alone the kids. I’d probably never see them again until they’re eighteen. The odds would definitely be in your favor then.”
“I would never let that happen. Our kids need their father and you are an excellent one. I understand you are angry now, and why. I was a fool. But I love you, now and always. I don’t want harm done to you.”
“Ah, you don’t, do you? Sounds like you haven’t read the divorce papers then. I requested full custody of both kids. Change your mind yet?” Eric’s words were a challenge.
“I read it. But I know you were just angry when you did that. You know I love our kids and they me. You would never keep them from me. Not you.”
“Are you so sure about that? People change, especially when they keep getting their ass handed to them. So, have you fired that Darrel yet?”
“Uh – no, not yet …”
Eric let out a joyless laugh.
“Laughable! Kept him in the closet just in case, huh? There are many ways to cheat in a marriage, and far as I am concerned you have betrayed us same as if you had him bend you over the sales counter. Which by the sounds of it may not be off the table anyway, seeing how he is still your employee, which is the biggest insult to me.” he said.
“Come on Eric, I had my mind full with other problems. I will fire him, of course I will. I have no business anymore anyway, so I don’t need to bleed any more money by paying someone to sit there twirling their thumbs waiting for customers that never come. But please don’t take yourself and our children from me. You are all I have, you and the kids. I don’t even have any friends without you.”
“I am not asking for custody of Ewan and Hannah. They’re your friends too.”
“As if. They are loyal to you Eric. If you hate me, they will hate me out of solidarity. Same goes for their spouses and the rest of your family. I have no one then.”
“I never said I hated you, Charlotte. That’s the travesty of it all. I don’t think I am able to hate you, which is what makes me the most angry. People divorce, relationships fail, people fall out of love all the time. But we are looking at divorce while deeply in love. Yeah, I still love you and I know you love me. We have been separated for half a year now. First because you couldn’t stand me near you anymore, and now I can’t stand you near me, knowing there are another man’s fingerprints all over you. This is a vicious circle. I don’t know what else to do but to pull the plug on the life support this marriage has been on.”
“Go away with me. Just us, no kids. You and me. Somewhere without people, without TV without anything to distract us from us. One last try, Eric. If what you said is true, if you meant it, you owe us and our children one last shot at it.”
“Ewan has constantly been trying to send us to Sulani, to get away. Let’s do it. One week, is all I ask. Separate rooms if you want. Even separate hotels if you prefer. Just give me that. If you still feel the same after we come back, I’ll sign the papers as they are and won’t even fight it.”
“Sulani?! SULANI!?! Is this a joke?! What used to be ‘we’ is close to exodus and you got lazily toasting on some beach on the brain?! You think spending money we don’t have to work on our tans is going to bond us? I am not letting Ewan pay for any vacation he isn’t even going on, if that’s what you were thinking, making my rich cousin foot this BS idea! I won’t drag anybody else into all this mess. I WILL NOT BE GOING ON ANY GODDAMN BEACH VACATIONS WITH A CHEATING WHORE OF A WIFE WHO HAS MENTAL PROBLEMS! I AM DONE! GET IT INTO THAT MESSED UP SKULL OF YOURS! I DO NOT WANT US AS A RIDICULOUS PARODY OF A HUSBAND AND WIFE ANYMORE, YOU NUTJOB!” Eric screamed at her at the top of his lungs.
Charlotte looked like she had been punched in the face, tears began to rise, she sobbed, a heart-wrenching, desperate sound.
The earth seemed to be standing still along with the two people in the room until she turned and ran out the front door, leaving Eric in the wake of it all, frozen in shock until he felt a slap waking him to his mother’s angry glare.
“You spoiled self-righteous brat!”
“Mom?” he mumbled shocked rubbing his cheek. His mother had never before slapped him and he didn’t know how to process that now.
“Shea, honey …?” Eric’s father Chase looked discombobulated as well.
“What on earth do you think you are doing?! I raised a gentleman, not an entitled, heartless dumbass! Who do you think you are that you get to be this high and mighty in a situation like this?! That was downright cruel!” Shea laid into her son, who took it, mouth agape.
“Wha-what?” he stuttered.
“Shea, what are you doing!? Poor Eric!” Chase was completely side-swiped by his wife’s actions, who already aired more of her anger.
“Poor Eric, my ass! I am setting this boy straight! I have every compassion in the world for you, my son, but enough is enough! Your father and I heard everything, the entire neighborhood probably did as loud as you got. She is a very sick girl, vulnerable, and you have her laying on the floor baring her belly in submission and you cruelly gut her for it!? I didn’t raise you like that! For the first time in my entire life I am ashamed to call you my son!”
“Shea, what in God’s name …?!” Chase started, but was ignored as his wife had more to say.
“You knew this was never going to be a conventional run-of-the-mill relationship when you got into it. I specifically remember you, dad and me sitting right there in that living room with your grandparents talking about that very fact. You have baggage from your accident, you KNEW Charlee had issues – for crying out loud, when you brought her home to us she had just recovered from jumping off a palace roof! Of course nobody knew about any hidden childhood trauma, but honestly, I have only met her parents a handful of times, that was already way too many and probably left me with some sort of trauma! So no real shocker there! Yet you went and married the girl, had two children with her. And now you are looking for the eject button because you got your male ego bruised?! Oh, not on my watch! That’s a disgrace and insult to how I raised you!”
“Shea, honey, please calm down …”
“I will do no such thing. You sat right there giving us the spiel ‘mom and dad I love her so much we will get through anything blah blah blah’. So here they are, the rough times, and what do you do? Let your own unresolved issues cloud your judgement and act like a nun who’s seen her first cock! Get it together and man up! You want to be a man, a father to two healthy children who make good choices? Then quit being such a douche yourself! Nobody ever said that rough times could only last a few days at a time. So yours spans several months. Still doesn’t give you the right to bow out like a spineless, dickless loser!”
“Holy shitcakes, Shea!” Chase uttered.
Eric felt more like a teenager, rather than a fully grown man currently as his mother was unleashing her lecture on him. He also had never heard either of his parents curse in front of him and was rendered speechless.
“You are still here? What is wrong with you? Have I still not made myself clear enough!?” Shea’s question was rhetorical and a definite order.
“You are kicking me out on the street? With my kids?” Eric sounded shocked.
“Oh for God’s sake, Chase, are you hearing this shit the fruit of our loins is spewing?! You really are not using your brain at all these days, Eric Cameron! Of course am I not kicking anyone out, least of all my grandkids or my own son! Go after your wife! Fix this! You said terrible things to her and I was not going to meddle, I swear to God I was going to stay out of it, but I have told you before, Charlee is like a daughter to me and she messed up, but she didn’t deserve this. And I know you can do much better than this and will regret all of it once you come to your senses!”
“You want me to not get divorced?”
“Quit being so daft! I do not care what you do with your relationship, Eric, it’s your life. But I want you to be a good human being. That girl is sick, you said so yourself. She told you she is all alone and has nobody else. She is eaten alive by guilt over her mess up and over things she had no control over. She has been well out of her comfort zone for a very long time and all that without supportive parents and friends, all she had was you and hope. You pretty much just took that from her. Now, senior detective Eric Cameron, show me how good you are at figuring out clues! What does all that add up to you if you finish that off with the last words you said to her?”
“Oh my God, you think the girl is suicidal?!” Chase blurted out.
Eric’s eyes got big and turned to run out of the front door, never stopped running until he reached Charlotte’s home …