In order to have a change of fortune at the last minute, you have to take your fortune to the last minute.
This chapter is a direct continuation from the previous one (to read click here)
Eric arrived at his old residence – the home that used to be a home to his little family – very much out of breath, trying hard to remain as calm as he could muster, while he nervously rushed up the stairs towards the front door.
Charlee didn’t answer the door, he unlocked it with his own set of keys and found her right there in the living room, very much alive and well, so he exhaled relieved.
“Charlotte, did you not hear me ring the doorbell and knock?!” he sounded out of breath, and equal parts worried and glad, his question was a rhetorical one, since the couch was just a few steps away from the front door.
“I heard it.” she confirmed, her voice dettached.
His heart rate was still well elevated when he realized she was acting strange. She sounded different. Resigned.
He noticed the open bottle of wine before her on the table and a half full glass.
Not once in their entire relationship had he seen her drink alone. Not even one glass. And most certainly would she normally never drink an entire bottle, so she usually would leave those in the fridge, not on the table, since her strict upbringing prescribed white wine having to be perfectly chilled. Yeah, she was acting out of character, even those minute details registered with Eric and told him she was nowhere near fine.
Without looking at him she slid a stack of papers on the table closer towards him.
The mix of utter sadness and dispassion in her voice made it obvious that his mother had been dead on with her evaluation of Charlotte’s delicate state of mind, worrying him more as he stared at those papers that he hated more than the devil itself. The ironic truth was, he didn’t want a divorce either. Not truly. His mom had been 100% correct in calling him out on bruised male ego. He wanted a time machine and all of them to go back to before all went South, not give up his marriage.
He also noticed that Charlee sounded empty, resigned, hopeless and seemed deflated, she hunched, another small detail he noticed of something she would never do usually. Another gem from her strict upbringing was to ‘always sit up straight, shoulders back’.
Her entire demeanor was out of character, that of a person who was done with everything.
As law enforcement officer he was trained to diffuse suicidal situations until a professional could arrive, but this was his old home and his wife.
His always so seemingly easy going, gentle, kind and stable wife, who had always been the last person on earth he would have ever pegged to have any thoughts like that. All that rendered his mind entirely blank, all his training gone from his brain.
“Charlee …?” he said quietly, his tone a plea.
She chuckled briefly.
“First time in a long while you called me that. It was always Charlotte of late.”
He recognized she was right. In an attempt to distance himself, he had been calling her by her full name, well aware how much she loved and preferred her nickname.
“Charlee, let me apologize for what I said to you earlier. I had no right. I didn’t mean it. Please believe me. Forgive me, I was way out of line.”
“Like you believed and forgave me?” there was so much pain in her words, cutting deep into Eric’s heart.
“Okay, I’ll own it. I was an dick about it, but I was so hurt. I saw nothing but that some dude had my wife pinned against a wall, which she allowed and seemed to enjoy, and I lost it. You are one of the few people I allowed close enough to hurt me. As my mom pointed out so kindly, I have my own set of issues to work through still, and overreacted. If you say there was nothing, I will believe you.”
“No, you don’t. Eric, I know you. The detective in you kicked in and you came running to save the maiden from some terrible deed. Well, you can quit worrying, I am fine, detective Cameron. I promise I will be the good girl everyone expects me to be. Little Miss Sunshine, not a care in the world but how to please everyone else. Seen, but never heard. Tomorrow. Tonight I intend to get drunker than anybody on record since the beginning of humanity. But I assure you, no knives, ropes, poison or drowning will be involved. I would never scar my children like that, although I will admit it has crossed my mind more than once of late. I love Jamie and Cait too much to have them go through that.”
It pained Eric that he didn’t make her list this time. He slid onto the couch next to her.
“Charlee, look. I know you are incapacitated, but I hope I am still getting through …”
“Incapacitated? No, Eric, I am tipsy now and will be drunk very soon and that fully intentional and very un-ladylike. My parents would have heart attacks on the spot if they ever saw me like this. Doesn’t take much for me to get wasted, because you know, a lady does not drink, especially not alone, so of course I never have. But I am no lady now and I don’t give a FUCK anymore. I intend to get a lot more drunk yet. Shitfaced!”
“Is today national everybody-curses day? Is that a thing nowadays?” Eric asked. Charlee was another person he never heard curse. Usually. Just like his parents.
“What?” she asked, thrown off.
“Never mind. So, shitfaced, right? Does that mean slobberknocker is out of the question?” Eric tried a more lighthearted approach to diffuse the tension between them, lacking any better ideas.
“What? Huh?” Charlee looked genuinely befuddled.
“Trying to determine the level of intoxication you are going for. So, shitfaced, not slobberknocker then?” he asked, sounding way too intentionally scientific about something like that for it to be serious.
“Huh? Well, whichever of those is the most drunk, Eric. That one.” Charlee was somewhere between amused and irritated.
“Ah, so level ‘too wasted to stand clearly or talk upright’ then, huh? That is quite a task for someone who doesn’t normally drink. But even in your case one bottle of wine won’t get you there. Unless this place has a secret wine cellar, I think there’ll be a beer run in your future.” he didn’t even try hard to hide a small smirk.
“What are you talking about, Eric?” Charlee sounded amused, trying to not giggle, telling him his desperate approach to change the direction of it all was working, even though he became serious again before he spoke again.
“I am talking about me being so sorry, baby. I royally screwed up. Forgive me. Please.” Eric told her quietly and sincerely.
“No, I screwed up. And I know it. Will you finally forgive me?”
“Already forgiven, now can you forgive me.”
“Nothing to forgive, Eric. You were right. I was so dumb and gullible, humiliating us both and hurting you so badly. I deserved what you said. Every bit of it. ”
“No Charlee, you didn’t! I still hear my last words to you at the Beach House resound in my head and cannot believe I said those things to you. My mom was right with everything she called me. She should have punched me hard instead of just a little slap to get me to focus. I was the biggest a-hole to the last person on earth who’d deserve that.”
“It’s okay, Eric. I know you didn’t mean any of it. We were fighting.”
“Charlee no! Wrong coping technique. Don’t bottle things up again. Get mad at me, tell me I am an entitled, heartless asshole, slap me, like my mom did. Kick me in the balls, if you must. Do something, instead of sitting there being so damn sweet when I wronged you so.” he said those things while taking her hands, pulling her up off the couch and into his arms.
Charlee leaned forward and kissed his fingers, the small, sweet gesture making his knees weak.
“Say we’re gonna be okay, Eric. I need to hear you say it. And no, I do not want to hurt you any more than I already have. Last thing I would want is to slap or kick you. Nothing is being bottled up, the exact opposite of that. I am overflowing with feelings, emotions and they want out. I did all my crying, now I want to kiss, hold and be held, by you, nobody else. You didn’t wrong me, you were blinded by pain. For as long as I have known you, you have always been the only thing that was ever right in my life. You and our children. You are the only one for me, now and forever.” she spoke calmly and with a sincerity making it sound like facts of life.
Eric pushed her from him a little bit, when she looked like she wanted to either cry or protest he put his hand on her shoulder, raised his index finger, indicating her to wait, as he scooped the divorce papers up off the coffee table
“All right, so here is my answer. Let’s see if you are still sober enough to get it. Observe!”
Eric wrangled with the stack of paper, turning it ever which way, twisting and turning it, handling it oddly, appearing highly comical, his facial expression looking strained and constipated as he moaned and groaned.
“What are you doing?” Charlee sounded amused and couldn’t help but giggle.
“Give me one minute. This is a lot more paper than I anticipated and REALLY thick. It’s like damn concrete!”
Eric leafed through the divorce papers, then tore the first pages, then the next and then the rest, until it was all shreds, which he let rain to the ground.
“Really?” Charlee asked, trying to read in his eyes.
“Yeah, really. Would have been a lot more impressive if I were one of those guys who could rip phone books in half, but I got the job done eventually. Point made, I hope.”
“Oh Eric, does that mean we get another chance?” Charlotte sniffled, while smiling up at him.
“Yeah. Means that and also that I should probably up the ante on upper body strength. That was pathetic.”
“It was adorable – and comical. And so cute. I want to kiss you and hold you and make love to you and never let you go again!”
“Sounds great, but maybe I could get a Band Aid first so I don’t bleed all over the place. No wonder they all say a divorce cuts deep, gave me a damn paper cut from hell!”
Eric’s papercut was tended to, and then he kissed his wife, careful and tentative at first, the desire build, slowly but steadily.
Eric felt hesitant and alert, just awaiting Charlotte to tense up and freak out again, there were a few moments where she bridled them both, but kept going without halting or incident.
He carried her to the bedroom, where they slowly peeled off each other’s clothing, when both were startled by his cell phone ringing.
Since both children were in someone else’s care, he let go of Charlee, then quickly dug his phone from his pant pocket, looking puzzled upon reading the caller ID.
“It’s my mom.” he proclaimed, both he and Charlee looked concerned while he answered.
“Hey mom …”
“Is everything all right?” she sounded worried.
“Oh yes, sorry, I didn’t think to call. Everything is fine. Better than fine. Charlee and I decided to not get divorced. We made up … I think I will stay here tonight.”
“Don’t you think that may be a rash and without thinking it through?”
“Rash? Mom, we are married and haven’t … uh … talked intensely in over six months. Don’t think you could call that a rash decision.”
“For heaven’s sake boy! So your master plan is to go from calling your poor wife awful names and wanting to divorce her straight onto the white stallion that takes you into the sunset and right into nookie-paloosa, only to go to work tomorrow like nothing ever happened? Leaving her to simmer in all the fallout all alone? She may feel elated now, but you both have been through a lot. Hardly a sound choice. You’ll just end up with more issues than before.”
“But .. what …. I can’t leave her now just like that. Nor do I want to. Last thing I want, actually.”
“Of course not, my point exactly! You pack up your wife, some of her clothes, and bring her and yourself here. When you skedaddle off to work tomorrow, she will still have someone here with her. The Gallery will remain closed tomorrow by the way, my executive decision and your father agrees. Not like it would be a loss of income. Mama Shea is going to take care of that girl now since her own folks are worse than useless and she needs family now. Consider her under my wing, if she wants to, that is. All I can’t do is offer.”
“OK mom. I’ll talk to Charlee about that. I’ll see you shortly or I’ll call ya back.”
Eric hung up looking completely confused.
“I think I just got cock-blocked by my mother. In my mid-thirties. And I let her. There really is something wrong with me. Today is really the weirdest day ever.”
“She doesn’t want us to …. this?”
“I didn’t get into that much detail, but she figured we were about to and told me to bring you home to the Beach House, so she could take care of you tomorrow – if you wanted her to. Said the Gallery stays closed.”
“That does sound lovely. I was actually a little worried about me after you leave again, all alone and I really don’t feel like going to the Gallery at all again.”
“Well, maternal instinct for the win. I guess we’ll pack up some things for you and head on over there. I know two little ones who are going to love that surprise for breakfast.”
They were greeted warmly by Eric’s parents, soon after all turned in, as it was approaching midnight already and Eric had to work the next day.
He and Charlee skipped the sexual part of their reunion, instead she fell asleep snuggled up against Eric’s shoulder and when he awoke the next morning she was still there, a small smile on her lips, yet still asleep until he kissed her awake.
Needless to mention that Jamie and Caitlin nearly did cartwheels when they found mommy making breakfast the next morning.
After he arrived at work and sat down at his desk, Eric peeked over at Carl’s desk.
“Morning Carl!” he offered.
“Uh, morning! I was gonna get coffee. You want coffee? I’ll get you coffee!” Carl stuttered, jumped up and gone he was.
“Oh boy! I guess I am not done apologizing yet, if that loudmouth thinks he needs to dump coffee down my throat before approaching me.” Eric mumbled to himself, chuckling.