“It’s evidently serious,” said Stacey. He smiled at her words. “And you know this how?” he said. “Jenna. Said she came over when she was there last week. They were very friendly. Jenna, is happy for him or so she told me,” said Stacey. “Hmm, interesting, I guess. I mean I never expected that he would go forever without a woman. But that woman? Weird,” he said. “No weirder than you and me,” said Stacey, “and in point of fact maybe not as weird.” “I don’t know,” he said,” it’s just a very strange situation, coincidence.” “Well, it is that,” she said. “I wonder if he intends to ever let us in on his little affair, if that’s what it is.” “He’s probably filed it under ‘none of our business,’” he said. “Yes, I see what you mean,” she said, laughing. “Yeah, I don’t see him calling us and happily informing us of his good fortune. Especially since Madeleine used to be my good fortune,” he said. “No, no, I wouldn’t think so either,” she said. Now they both laughed. ****** Well, I had me a woman, sort of. Would it last, our relationship? Well, one could hope. Three years plus without one but the dry spell seemed to be over. And, if it was over, I had a plan. She was making coffee, and it smelled good. I came into the kitchen. I plopped down in one of the straight backed chairs that flanked her dinette table. “That was a great night, girl,” I said. She snickered. “I think that I can agree with your assessment pretty much unconditionally,” she said. “Hmm, would it be too bold of me to ask you to move in with me?” he said. She pulled two white coffee cups out from the cupboard above the sink and set them down on the sink. “Move in with you?” she said. “Yes, I’d pay the rent and you’d be the boss,” I said, joking. “Hmm, David, I don’t—oh what the hell, yes,” she said. My smile was a mile wide I was sure. “Wonderful,” I said. “Bear in mind, David, that I am looking for something permanent, as I indicated before. So . . .” she started. “I get that, and we’ll be exploring that possibility in the living together,” I said. “I need something permanent too. Are you the one? Are we compatible, made for each other? I’m, well, I’m just not sure, Madeleine. And, that’s for sure no knock on you. But . . . “I mean look at it. You were married to my brother, who cuckolded me and married my wife, and now I’m considering and you’re considering that we marry. Strange is not even the half of it. And, there are other things,” I said. “I see, and I agree, as to what you mean, but other things?” she said. “Yes, I have a daughter and she has become problematical. Could you deal with that? Can I in good conscience put that on you?” I said. “All I’m saying is that I want to go a little slow and do things right.” “You make a good case, David. So, okay, let’s live together. We should know, before we get much older, what’s what. I agree,” she said. She poured the coffees and brought them to the table. We sipped in thoughtful silence. We eyed each other like a very committed, well semi-committed, couple. ****** I moved in with Madeleine, and yes, I got out of my lease and moved into her place. It was larger, and as fate would dictate, it was closer to the cheaters’ place. Within walking distance as it happened, well, a long walk. And, the move facilitated three major happenings. One, Jenna was happier visiting me now that I had a woman. Two, I no longer had to deliver her back to the cheaters’ place: she had a car. Three, Madeleine and Jenna became actual friends. I was hoping this last would spell something good for me in the long run. One other thing, that may or may not have been related to the move, was that Jenna no longer referred to me as Uncle David. I had the feeling, though I had no conclusive evidence thereto, that that was the result of Stacey’s influence. She, they, the cheaters, had apparently, maybe, changed their minds about things; I’m not sure how I felt about that: the bitterness that had consumed me had dulled some with time, but dormant, it still roiled deep within me. And such was the situation on the eve of Jenna’s eighteenth birthday. There was still a few months to go in that regard, but once achieved, Jenna and I would be having a sit down. Oh yeah! “So did any of them come down to greet you?” I said. I was referring to the fact that Madeleine had just returned to dropping Jenna at the house, their house. Yes, Jenna had her license and her car, but it was in the shop for servicing. And, with us living so close, less than two miles, from the cheaters, it was a no brainer to drop her. “No, but they were out and about. I saw them up by the house. Your ex did wave to me, but no, neither of them came down to say anything. I think their just hanging back wanting not to be seen as interfering with you and me or doing something wrong, something more wrong than they already have,” she said. “Hmm, makes sense. I think you’re right. What did Jenna have to say when you asked her about those boys,” I said. I think I was smiling. My Jenna was a looker. I knew, if not exactly first hand, that the boys were sniffing around her; that was a given. “Not a whole lot. She allowed that she was being hit on. Like that was news,” said Madeleine, laughing. “Yes news, not,” I said. “Well, I hope she will listen to you about them, the boys. I worry sometimes,” I said. “It’s a daddy’s job to worry about his baby girls. But, she’ll be all right. She has a head on her shoulders,” said Madeleine. “I have to wonder what the dynamic duo is doing or saying to her relative to the boys, and her friends in general if it comes to that,” I said. “Who knows, but they are still her custodians for a few more months. I would think that they have talked to her. I mean they are playing the parts of parents. But, whatever, all we can do is what we can do. I’m not worried, and you should maybe not be quite so concerned as you have seemed to be lately,” she said. “You’re probably right. Okay, I’ll lighten up on myself,” I said. “I just hope you’re right.” CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE 2004 I got the visit at11:00AM, she was right on time. Well, she should have been, she set it, the time and for that matter the visit. Madeleine was working. She bahis siteleri knew about the meeting and had volunteered to be there when I got the visit from my ex. But, I’d waved her off. I wanted to talk to the woman. And, I wanted to hear what she had to say. She knocked. I opened the door and waved her in. She followed me into the living room. It hit me that it was the first time she’d been to Madeleine’s place. I could see she was appraising our economic status and was not impressed. I decided to call her on it. “It’s warm and comfortable,” I said. “Not as fancy as the mansion you live in, but we like it.” “David, I didn’t, don’t . . .” she started and stopped. “Yeah, right,” I said. “It doesn’t matter. Your opinion doesn’t mean a thing to me anymore, not about that.” “Okay, but I’m sorry if I gave you the impression, well, that I was being snobbish. I hope I wasn’t. I certainly didn’t mean to be,” she said. “Okay, okay, forget it. You said you were worried about Jenna,” I said. “I mean, she’s eighteen now. I know she’s still living with you and my ex-brother, but she is a technical adult.” “David, Ronald is not your damn ex-brother. He’s your brother period. Get that! Please. Yes, he was an asshole doing what he did as was I. But, that’s old news. You’ve got a new woman, Madeleine, be happy. We want you to be happy. We don’t expect you to ever forgive us, and we don’t deserve to be forgiven, but frankly, we do expect you to get along with us. O-damn-kay!” she said. I stared at her and she stared back at me waiting. A woman, any woman, who has won the heart of a man, owns that heart for life. She cannot divorce herself from that ownership, and, that responsibility, the law courts notwithstanding. Nor can a man escape her thrall; it’s the nature of the beast. And, yes, Stacey still had my heart that would never change; and, the reality of that is what my state of mind, my bitterness, was based on. “Stacey . . .” I wanted to say things to her, but how. I didn’t know how. “David, I know you need to talk to me, and I promise we will talk one day. But not today. Today has to be about Jenna. I’m concerned, as is Ronald and we need your support in this. Okay? Please?” she said. “Okay. I guess. I understand. So Whaddya yuh got?” I said. She began to lay out a lot of happenings that didn’t sound too good. Jenna was giving rides to a lot of individuals, some too old for her to be hanging with, and who might best be described as undesirable. Also, she wasn’t being communicative when asked about them. Also, she’d been acting lethargic and distant on way too many occasions. Something wasn’t right. “Okay, but I don’t know what you want me to do. She’s only here once a month, and that’s if she actually shows up. And about that, she’s been missing in action a lot when it comes to my time. I guess now that she’s of age the old rules don’t apply; I mean I know the law. But, anyway, again, what do you think I should do?” I said. “I know she plans on coming here next weekend. If you could talk to her, you know encourage her to open up to you. I don’t know what good it might do, but at least she’ll know that we all care and are concerned about her behavior. That’s the bottom line, that she understands all of her family are concerned about her. And if, you know . . .” she said. “Me know? What?” I said. “If you could maybe get her to tell you who these guys she’s hanging with are. Well, we could maybe check up on them,” said Stacey. I nodded. “Okay, I guess I could try. “But, Stacey, I have to say that this little visit of yours is a surprise. Ever since the divorce you’ve done your best, you and Ronald, to minimize my influence and daddyship with my daughter. And now you need me to run interference for you with Jenna. Why the sudden shift?” I said. She sighed. “Ronald and I, and it was mostly me, wanted to make sure that he could have a real father daughter relationship with Jenna. Hence, my idea to have the two of you just switch roles. We had every intention of you being around a lot, maybe more than a lot, but well, if we went the two daddy route, well, the thought, my thinking, was that he would never really get to the place where Jenna saw him as she saw you,” she said. “So I was going to be sacrificed so that you two cheaters could complete the rebuilding of your lives together,” I said. It was not a question. “David, I just got done telling you that we wanted to maximize your presence in Jenna’s life; heck, in our lives too. But, well, I guess I do understand how you feel about things. None of us anticipated your reaction, the extremeness of it anyway,” she said. “Yeah, and well that’s surprising as hell. You had to know I wasn’t going to go for some kind of uncle shit. I did not and do not deserve that kind of treatment. “Anyway, okay, I will do my best with Jenna. Talk to her. See what I can find out if anything. I’m as concerned as you are,” I said. “Okay, thank you. It’s appreciated,” she said. I looked down. She noticed. “David?” “It’s hard, Stacey. I won’t kid you. It’s hard dealing with you not being with me anymore. Maddie does her best and mostly she is successful in keeping me focused on her, but you were mine. Well, and then you weren’t. It’s hard,” I said. “Davey, Davey. I’m sorry about everything. I know you have feelings for me still. And if it matters, I still have feelings for you too on some level. But it’s time for you to move on. For all of us to do so. Give it some thought. Okay?” she said. I nodded, and then she was gone. ****** Visitation was no longer a court requirement. Oddly, though, I was still getting visits from Jenna, usually on the third weekend of every month just as had been ordered by the courts so long ago, five years ago. Well, I was still getting visits on “my” weekend, but they had become more sporadic. She still missed some weekends: she was busy, she didn’t feel well, the list of excuses was long and not very imaginative. But, she was an adult now, technically. She did still shack up with my cuckolders. But, then I got the skinny, from Jenna. Her address was still their address, but anymore she was gone off with friends almost as much canlı bahis siteleri as she was at home, their home. I began to understand Stacey’s concern, and likely Ronald’s. ****** “You know, Jenna, your mom’s worried about you,” I said. “Dad, she’s just a worrywart. My friends and I don’t do anything all that objectionable. I guess she’s worried that I’m gone a lot, or maybe having sex too much,” she said. “How hypocritical is that!” I had to smile. She’d nailed that one. “Too much?” I said. “Dad, I’m eighteen. No, I’m not a virgin anymore, not for a while,” she said. “Anyone special?” I said. “I don’t know, maybe,” she said. “Hmm, does maybe have a name?” I said. I was doing my best not to appear judgmental or invasive. I wasn’t sure how successful I was being in achieving those goals. “His name is Chester, dad. He’s a good guy, a fun guy. He makes me laugh,” she said. I nodded. “Well, okay. Any chance of me getting to meet mister good guy?” I said. I was smiling, trying to be disarming. She sighed. “I guess, one of these days,” she said. We talked for some time. It occurred to me that she wanted to talk, but at the same time was holding back to some degree fearing, I supposed, that I might be judging her. I wasn’t, but that didn’t alter the fact that she thought I might be. I’d gotten up to get us something to eat from the frig. When I called her to come and eat, she came into the kitchen with the cell phone glued to her ear. She mouthed to me that it was Chester. I just smiled and set the food on the table. We ate mostly in silence, well, we were both hungry and were concentrating on the activity at hand. I wiped the detritus from my lips and leaned back in my chair. “So, you and Chester making plans for the day?” I said, chancing that that was the case. “Yes, I’ll be picking him up a little later if that’s okay with you, dad,” she said. “We might be going to the movies.” “You’re picking him up? Doesn’t he have a car?” I said. “Yes, but he doesn’t have a caddy,” she said. It rankled that she was so condescending, as it seemed to me, about her relative affluence. I wonder how Chester felt about it. ****** Madeleine had been at work while Jenna was visiting with me. She came in through the kitchen entryway. “Hi, Jenna here?” she said. “No left a bit ago to pick up her boyfriend,” I said. “Her boyfriend? Chester?” she said. “Yeah, that’s the name,” I said.” They’re going to the movies.” She smiled a knowing smile. “The movies?” “Yeah,” I said. “Sounds like code for it’s ‘none of your business,’” she said. “Really?” I said. “Yes, really. Kids these days don’t do the things you and I did when we were their age,” she said. “But . . .” I started. “Can’t do weed in the theater. Probably some friend’s crib,” she said. I suddenly began to worry. “Weed? You think she does drugs?” I said. I know my voice carried a whole lot of newly acquired angst. “Nothing heavy, I don’t think, but I think it would be good to keep an eye out. Sometimes kids don’t think until it’s way beyond the point of no return. Just my thinking others may differ,” she said. I nodded my understanding and concern. “I wouldn’t worry unduly. We’ve talked about this stuff,” she said. “Like we’ve both agreed, she does have a head on her shoulders. I think she’ll know where to draw the line. Still, keeping an eye out would not be a bad thing. “Yes, yes, I agree. At least she’s talking to me about personal things even if some of it is not exactly meaningful,” I said. “For sure. Keep her talking and let her know indirectly that you won’t be condemning her if she makes a mistake or two. But, at the same time, that you need her to act like an adult which she technically is,” said Madeleine. “Yeah, yeah, I get it,” I said. CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO 2005 They were making enough racket to disturb the dead. “You boys need to calm down and get back to class,” said the para pro patrolling the grounds. The crowd of four boys hanging out in front of the boys’ room snickered and slowly meandered more or less in the direction of the classroom building across from them. “What’s with Marco?” said Chester. Derek Simmons laughed. “It’s his job, bro. The principal sends him on his little tour every day as you damn well know.” “Yeah, yeah, and it suits him. “Like I was saying before, you got any stuff to give me?” said Chester. “Yeah, yeah, see me in the lot after school. Oh, and bring your honey with you. You might get extra if she’s around,” said Derek. “She gonna pick you up?” “Yeah, yeah, just like every day this week and you damn well know that too,” said Chester. “When you gonna get your car back from the shop?” said Derek. “S’posed to be Monday if they can get the parts. What’s the matter? Don’t like my girl’s ride?” said Chester, he was smirking, “That caddy stands out like too much. You need to not be noticed,” said Derek. “Okay, okay. Can I help it if my true love is rich?” he said laughing. His buddy sneered. “I wanna get to know her a little better,” said Derek. “Set it up.” “Hey, Whaddya talkin’ about. She’s my girl, not yours,” sad Chester. “Hey bro, we share. Know what I mean.” Derek’s look left no doubt what he meant. Chester swallowed. “Okay, okay, I’ll ask. But, she won’t go for it.” “Make her go for it. Hey, I’ll make it nice for her,” said Derek. “So, like I said, bro, make her go for it.” His tone was pure threat. His partner shivered. ****** “Are you kidding, Chester! I don’t even like the guy,” said Jenna. “He’s an okay, guy, Jen. Besides, I’ve got a present for yuh,” he said. “Your favorite stuff. It’s from him.” She looked around. “Smack?” she said. “Yeah, just like last time,” he said. He watched as she licked her lips. “It was good stuff. I mean before,” she said. “But, let me guess, to get it I have to do what you said, be with him.” “Him and me. I’ll be there watching your back,” said Chester. “And the rest of you too for that matter.” “You’ll be there? It’ll be the three of us?” she said. She was looking around trying not to make eye contact with her partner. “Yes. It’ll be cool. No risk, only fun, and a little smack,” he said. “When?” she said. “Tonight. At Harry Sheldon’s crib,” he said. “Harry’s! canlı bahis that old man. Is he going to be there too?” said Jenna. “No, no, he’s outta town. Vacation in Mexico, I think, not sure,” said Chester. “It’ll be just the three of us, for real.” She nodded, but it was a nod filled with reluctance. “Good,” he said. ****** “Jenna’s just busy David. She’s nineteen. She goes over to your place often enough,” said Stacey. “Yeah, if you consider a few hours a month, usually a Saturday morning, enough,” he said. “Last time she had that kid with her, Chester.” “Yes, Chester. He’s her boyfriend. She at that age, David. So, stop fretting. Heck, we don’t see that much of her either. She sleeps at the house, well . . . “ “Stacey?” I said. “She sleeps over at her friends’ places sometimes. It does concern Ronald, and just like you, he’s overly concerned, makes too big a deal out of little or nothing,” she said. “Hmm, maybe,” I said. “She’s an adult, David. So is her boyfriend and the crowd she runs with,” she said. “Aunt Delia and I talked about her always running off with those kids, and they are kids as far as I’m concerned. Being eighteen and nineteen may qualify them as technical adults, but not real ones, not to my mind,” I said. “Oh pooh. She’s fine. Just lighten up a bit okay?” she said. I nodded, but it was not an affirmative nod, more a tentative one. What bothered me was that my ex and my ex-brother didn’t seem concerned. They’d come to me, well Stacey had, telling me that they were concerned, but apparently not anymore. I didn’t like it. She and I had more or less gotten to a place where we could talk a bit when we ran into each other as we had today at the IHOP near my work. And, what we talked about was almost always Jenna. We got along from my end because she and my ex-brother, and he was still that to me, had stopped trying to dilute my status as father of Jenna. Why she wanted to get along with me was still a mystery. Her stated reason was that she wanted me to be a part of the family, her family. I guess that might have been it. The underlying goal being her hope, wish, whatever that I would be willing to reconstruct my relationship with Ronald Carter; that, however, would never be happening. He stole the only thing, besides my daughter, that ever had any meaning for me in life, my wife. That was the ultimate kiss of death to him and me ever being brothers again. And yes I know how incongruous that must seem since I was willing to talk to her. Why? Because I still loved her more than my own life, more than anything. I watched her through the window as she sashayed across the restaurant’s parking lot. God how I wanted my woman back. I think she knew it too, but I might have been imagining that. ****** Ronald Carter sat across from his daughter and stared. “Jenna, this is not good,” he said. “You say he was arrested?” “Yes, Dad,” she said. “He had some marijuana and they arrested him for it.” “Can we, Dad?” she begged. “What about his parents?” he said, “They’re poor. Mister Quigley was the one who came to me to ask,” she said. “Jenna, I’m going to let you have the money to bail him out, but this is a one-time deal. And . . .” he said. “Oh thank you, daddy!” she said, interrupting him. “One more thing, Jenna,” he said. “Okay?” she said. “I’m not real comfortable with you paling around with people who use drugs, even marijuana,” he said. “Dad, everybody smokes a little marijuana from time to time. It’s no big deal,” she said. “It’s a big deal to me, Jenna. You need to widen your circle of friends. Okay?” he said. Ronald Carter was worried. She, his daughter, had just all but told him that she’d been using marijuana too. He worried that he couldn’t cut her off from the man, this Chester Quigley. But, he would be doing his damnedest to steer her to other circles and hope it worked out. He would be talking to her mother and that sooner rather than later. ****** “Her dad bailed you out?” said Harry Sheldon. “Yes, sir,” said Chester. “So, her old man really does have the bucks?” said the older man. “Yes, he’s a millionaire, I guess,” said Chester. “Any chance he uses?” said Harry. “No, pretty square according to her,” said Chester. “Hmm, too bad. Well, at least she does. Has Derek talked to you?” said Harry. “About the little party?” said Chester. “Yes,” said Harry. “Yes. She’ll be there. She’s pretty much got the need for the stuff,” he said. The older man smiled. “They all do, eventually,” he said. The younger man nodded; he was smiling too. “Glad you’re getting along with her. She could be a source for more sales down the line. Especially her being so pretty and all,” said Harry. “Yes, sir,” said Chester, he was smiling broadly. She was going to be his ticket to getting ahead; and, she had friends, girlfriends. “Anyway, so Chester, you’re graduating this next week. That so?” said Harry. “Yes, sir,” said Chester. “I think that an occasion as big as this one, you graduating, demands to be celebrated. Whaddya think,” said Harry. “Well, I—sure, I guess,” said Chester. “Invite some of your friends, especially your squeeze,” said Harry. “Well, okay,” said Chester, smiling like he’d just won the lottery. ****** The party was in full swing, at least fifty attendees, mostly young, but a few of Harry’s associates. She was on her back waiting for the next player to do her There’d been three already. She was feeling no pain, but she was not happy either. Chester had been the first, but then he’d let Derek and then Harry do her too. The smack had made her amenable. Another guy, a young guy came in. “You waitin’ for me?” he said, smiling down at the helpless Jenna. She didn’t respond; she just looked at him and waited. ****** “Jenna didn’t get home till almost noon,” said Ronald. “I know, and it is bothersome. Not that she got in late but that she didn’t call. And, she didn’t look good, but that might be because she was up all night,” said Stacey. “Well, it was an all-night grad party,” said Ronald. “That part I understand.” She nodded. “I guess. But she looked actually sick to me, not just tired,” said Stacey. “Yeah, maybe,” he said. “I just hope she’s not doing what I think you think she’s doing.” “You going to talk to her?” she said. “Yes, I think I have to. She may be a technical adult, but she is not an independent adult. You should maybe give a heads up to your ex also,” said Ronald. “Okay, I can do that.