Chapter Fourteen

For the last year and a half or so, Friday nights had been Carlyís favorite time of the week because it gave her some good quality time to spend with herself while Jerry was off tossing a sixteen pound ball at a bunch of fat wooden sticks. But it hadnít always been her favorite time of the week. There had been a time, not too long ago she remembered, when the weekends had been her favorite time of the week, and for quite the opposite reason. Jerry was home, off work, and the quality time was spent with her little family, instead of alone. They explored the parks around the Twin Cities and sat arm in arm in the grass while watching Johnny get all dirty in sand boxes or sliding down slides or playing in playgrounds at neighboring elementary schools. She had a child seat put on the back of her bike and the three of them would go for a ride on some of the bike trails that weaved throughout the southern suburbs. They even occasionally hired a baby sitter and actually went out to a movie and dinner, like a real date.

Now she just waited for the videos to be released. Now she was waiting for Johnny to learn to ride his little bike with the training wheels so she could take Sasha out for rides in Johnnyís old seat, hopefully later this summer. Jerry hadnít gotten on his bike for two years and it was getting rusty in the back of the garage, the tires flat from lack of use. Yes, once upon a time, in a happier, simpler time, she had looked forward to her weekends. She wondered where that time had gone.

These were her thoughts this Saturday morning as she awoke next to her snoring husband who was still Ďsleeping offí the previous nightís Ďpoker game.í As she looked at him lying next to her, calm, serene, facial muscles relaxed in a comfortable slumber, it wasnít hard to imagine the man she had once thought she loved. She knew he was still in there somewhere.

As Carly had relayed to Chris early on in their new found friendship, she did believe in God. She wasnít a church goer, hadnít in fact been to a church since she left her parentsí home to find a life for herself. She didnít claim to be of any particular denomination, and didnít even own a Bible. But she still believed. She believed in the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. She believed in the Ten Commandments. She believed that all people, at least most all people, were basically good deep down inside, but that some just get a bit sidetracked or misguided as they trudge through daily life trying to make ends meet.

And she also meant what she told Chris about not wanting to throw away her marriage yet. She still felt that the Jerry that had charmed her into bed, the Jerry that had wanted to "do the right thing," though maybe not the most romantic of men, was still in there, still retrievable, still worth saving.

She envied her children and their natural, unconditional love for their parents, wishing her marriage held the same trait. She felt the same way for them. No matter what, she knew she would always be there for them in any way they needed her for as long as she lived. She was sure Jerry felt that way too. He wasnít as open with his emotions as she was. And maybe he didnít spend the time with them she wished he would or thought he should, but she was still sure that they meant the world to him. She would occasionally catch him watching them play and see a certain smile in his eye that assured her that the Jerry she thought she had married was still indeed in there somewhere. He just didnít seem to be surfacing very often any more. Why? She hadnít a clue.

Another thing that Carly and Chris had spent many hours discussing over the last few weeks, the subject that had brought them together, was fate. Did it exist? Could it exist? Both had agreed over and over that it could not, although they had gotten quite a laugh out of the fact that even if it did not exist, it was still fate that had brought them together, not the reality of it, but the mere concept of it. If she hadnít typed the word Ďfateí into her search, and if he had not had the word Ďfateí in his profile, they never would have connected. Therefore fate had indeed brought them together, just not in the definition of the word, but in merely the existence of the word. It had certainly been their own individual choices to use the word.

So if it was not in Carlyís fate to have a failed marriage, and if it was not in Jerryís fate to become a wife beater, then it was a matter of choices, as she and Chris both believed. And if she had her choice, she would repair the fabric of her marriage, tear down the walls that had been erected over the last couple of years, dig deep and find the Jerry she knew was still there living somewhere inside him.

She fully understood that she would need Jerryís help on this. You just donít change another personís attitudes and habits on a whim because you want to or think it best. It would take efforts on both their parts. Give and take. Understanding. Recognition and a desire to make things better. But she also knew that if she didnít decide to take the first steps, to take her fate into her own hands, then there was no hope at all to fix what she felt was broken.

This morning, looking at her husband sleeping beside her, she decided to do just that. Take her own fate into her own hands, and consequently, that of her children and of Jerry at the same time. She decided to make a genuine effort to right the ship, to prevent it from sinking, as it seemed to be doing as of late. She would talk to Jerry. Communicate her feelings and concerns to him.

Not that she hadnít tried before, which had been the cause of many an argument. She would tell him what she thought the problems were, he would get all defensive and next thing you know, voices were raising, words not meant were spat out in spite, and walls were erected.

Choices. It was all about choices. She needed to choose her strategy better. Maybe not blame him and talk about problems so much as merely changing a few of her habits and trying to include Jerry in some new ones. Act. Yes. Actions, she thought to herself as she lay awake in bed this Saturday morning, she had always heard and believed, speak louder than words. This would be her new strategy. She knew what she wanted out of life, in her life, and it was time to start acting like it, rather than sitting back and letting Ďfateí dictate life for her. And what better time to start than now?

Slowly she snuggled up next to her sleeping husband who stirred, ceased snoring, but didnít wake. It was just after nine a.m. He hadnít gotten home until shortly after midnight and she knew he had been drinking all night. He still smelled like stale beer and cigarettes, even though he didnít smoke. She knew he had probably been at a bar, as opposed to being at Billyís playing poker as he had told her was the plan. But to err is human, to forgive is divine, or so she had been brought up to believe. And she was more than willing to forgive, especially if it meant succeeding in making things better between them, for her children as well as for themselves. She didnít think about what might happen if this new strategy didnít work. She didnít think about what she might have to do if Jerry just didnít want things to be better, or worse, if he simply didnít love her anymore. Or maybe she just didnít want to think about those things. She had told him once that she thought she might be "falling out of love" with him, but that was one of those spiteful spewings of anger in the heat of a bad moment. She still loved him, she thought, she just didnít like the way their relationship had grown, or not grown, as the case may be. And giving him the cold to colder shoulder as she had over the last few months, and especially the last few weeks since the broken nose, was not the way to make things better. She didnít want him to think she had forgotten and that he could get away with stuff like that in the future or whenever he got mad at her, but maybe if they were closer, more intimate, better friends again like they were once upon a time, he wouldnít feel the need to express his anger as he had lately.

She did the math. Nine hours of sleep for Jerry after stumbling home. Hopefully he drank a couple of glasses of water and took some Advil before passing out in bed. She didnít want him to be hung over. Nine hours should be enough either way, she hoped.

Carefully, softly, she rolled over onto his chest, the weight of her body on his, one hand caressing his hair as with a child with a headache, the other resting on his shoulder. Her face hung inches above his and her eyes were the first things he saw as he awoke moments later.

"Good morning," she said softly as his eyes focused with a hint of surprise in them.

"Itíd be better if my head wasnít pounding. What time is it?" he asked.

She almost replied with, well it wouldnít hurt so much if you didnít drink so much, but stopped herself just in time. That was the way the conversation might have gone last week. This was a new week. A new beginning, she hoped. A new strategy. A new fate.

"Oh, poor baby," she said sympathetically, managing to keep the sarcasm out of it. "Anything I can do to help?"

He looked at her a bit confused for a second, then asked, "So why do you care all of a sudden? I would have thought you would have said something like thatís what I deserved."

"Well do you deserve it?" Carly asked, trying not to sound motherly and not removing her hold on his eyes.

"Well," Jerry replied cautiously, searching her face for the sarcasm he expected to hear in her tone that she was successfully keeping out, "I suppose I do," he conceded. "I probably had a few more than I needed last night."

"Did you take any Advil before bed?" she asked.

"No."

"Let me get you some, with some water. Youíll feel better in a few minutes."

"So what gives, Carly?"

"What?"

"You know what I mean," he said, now taking the offense. "This ainít the first time Iíve awaked up with a hangover, but itís the first time I can remember you offering to make it better."

"Weíll talk about it later when you feel better. Nothing for you to worry about," she assured him, noticing the concern on his face at the mention of Ďtalking about it.í "Iíll be right back." She gave him a smile and pushed herself off the bed heading to the bathroom for the Advil and some water.

Jerry laid back and smiled at first. Then he suddenly remembered some of the Ďcluesí Billy had told him about the night before. Was this one of the signs, he wondered? Maybe, but she wasnít just ignoring him uncaringly as Billy had suggested, she was being downright nice. He figured there had to be a catch.

Carly returned with a glass of cool water and two Advil. "Here," she said, handing him the tablets and sliding back into bed again next to him.

Jerry hesitated. He simply could not understand why she was suddenly catering to him. The thought even crossed his mind that maybe she was trying to poison him. Maybe this wasnít Advil at all, but some kind of poison she had found with her time on the Internet. He looked at the little red tablets and saw "Advil" clearly printed on each tab.

"Go ahead," she urged and held the water closer to his face so he could swallow down the pills. "And drink the whole glass, too. Itíll help with the dehydration from last nightís beers."

Ah, he thought, itís the water she has slipped something into. Not that he believed it. He didnít think Carly could maliciously harm any living creature, let alone a fellow human being. But the thought couldnít help but surface anyway as he swallowed the pills and drained the glass of water.

"There," she said, taking the glass from his hand and setting it on the night stand next to the bed. "That should help. Maybe this will help a bit too," she added as she leaned in and gave him a soft kiss on his neck. Then on his cheek, his forehead, and gently on one of his eyes. Slowly, seductively, her lips found his and she began to kiss him like she hadnít in months.

Jerry responded, cautiously at first. He still felt sure the punch line was coming any minute. But wow. Her lips felt so good. He forgot his pounding head and succumbed. He grabbed the straps of her nightgown and started to pull them down, aggressively.

"No," she said softly. "Slowly. Gently. Take your time. Love me."

Jerry obeyed.

An hour later, the two lovers laid side by side, breathing heavily, feeling like they hadnít felt together in a very long time.

"Wow," Jerry sighed. "That brought back memories."

Carly couldnít have planned a better segue. Taking immediate advantage of his comment, but trying to remain casual in tone, she propped up on one elbow and facing him said, "Exactly what I wanted to talk about."

"What?" Jerry asked. "Sex? I thought you were losing interest in it. At least with me."

"No, Jerry," she said. "Not sex. Love. And it extends farther than just the bed." Now she was building up steam and let her thoughts out. "We used to take walks, play with the kids together, go for bike rides. We used to date, Jerry, even after we were married. When was the last time we had a date?" She felt her voice shimmer a little and raise a notch in volume. She consciously reeled it back in to a soft level, took a breath, and continued. "What happened to us, Jerry? No, donít answer that. Just help me fix it. I want it like it used to be. I want to be a family again."

"So what brought this all on?" he asked, still sounding suspicious.

"Does it matter?" she returned without answering. "Do you think we can try to find what we lost?"

So something did bring it on, Jerry thought. She doesnít want to tell me. Thoughts started to race through his head. What had happened to cause Carly to make this sudden attempt to repair their injured marriage? And then it hit him. She had had an affair. That had to be it. She had an affair, it went sour or wasnít what she had expected and now she was running back to him trying to escape her guilt. She had cheated on him with someone sheíd met on that damn computer and was now trying to cover it up, to make it up to him. This was the only explanation he could think of. Now the question was, could he forgive her? And, who had it been? And how long had it been going on? The second one he didnít know if he wanted to know the answer to. The first one might depend on the answer to the third.

Jerry decided he didnít want to ruin a good morning by asking these questions, at least not yet. He figured with Carly in her current mood, a nice breakfast would be coming next and no telling for how long sheíd remain in it. But he was going to find out the answers. The questions lingered in his mind, leaving a sour taste on what should have been a sweet morning. Yes, he thought, one way or another, heíd find out.

* * * * *

Chapter Fifteen


Faith

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As Fate Would Have It

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Epilogue