Chapter Twenty-Six

Chris dropped Carly off a house before the edge of her street corner, just as he had done two days earlier.

"Thanks for the ride," Carly said, reaching out and touching his hand with hers before getting out of the car.

"Thanks for breakfast," he returned, giving her hand a squeeze before she pulled it away. "I’ll try to find Kimberly tomorrow morning when I do my routes and then look for you online after I wake up, probably around noon or so. Hopefully Friday night will work."

"Sounds good," she said as she climbed out of the van. "Good luck."

Carly closed the van's door and jogged around the corner towards home, stopping a house before hers, at Nancy's, to pick up the kids. Nancy opened the front door before she had reached the top step of the front porch. She could see that Nancy looked worried. Carly hadn't realized she'd been smiling as she jogged home until she felt it fade at the sight of Nancy's concerned look.

"Are the kids okay?" Carly asked as she made the top step.

"Yes, they’re fine. Come in real quick," Nancy said, glancing towards Carly’s house next door.

"What’s wrong?" Carly asked as she came through the door.

Nancy took two steps back allowing room for Carly to enter but stood right there. "Jerry came over and got the kids about fifteen minutes ago. He wasn’t too happy. I thought I should warn you of that."

"Oh, shit," Carly said, out loud but more to herself. Then to Nancy, "What did he say?"

"Well, he didn’t seem mad at first," Nancy told her. "He said he got home early because of the rain and came over here to see if you and the kids were here. Then Johnny comes running up to him and he says, ‘I thought you guys would be over here playing.’ Then he notices that only the kids are here and asks where you are."

"Uh-oh. What did you tell him?" Carly asked, clearly unnerved.

"I didn’t know what I should say," she confessed, "so I just said you had to meet a friend. He asked who and I said you didn’t say. Then he asked if you did this often, you know, dropped the kids off with me and went off to meet someone. I told him no, because you don’t, but all I could think of was that if he asks Johnny the same thing, Johnny will say he was here two days ago."

"Did he say anything else," Carly asked.

"No. He just told the kids to go home, gave me a nasty look like he didn’t believe me and then followed after them."

"Okay," Carly said, taking a deep breath. This shouldn’t be a problem, she thought. She’s done nothing wrong. But she still didn’t want to have to tell Jerry she had met a man down at ‘X’ two out of the last three days. That probably wouldn’t be a wise thing to admit in his current state. And even if she tried to explain the whole story, the entire truth of it all, there’s no way he’d believe her, let alone understand. She was going to have to lie. She didn’t want to lie, she knew she was a lousy liar, but it seemed the lesser of the two evils at the moment, providing she could pull it off. "Damn," she muttered, glancing out the door behind her.

"You gonna be okay, honey?" Nancy asked.

"Yeah, sure," she said, trying not to sound as worried as she felt. "Why shouldn’t I be?"

"Well," Nancy said, genuine concern in her face, "I know you haven’t had a chance to tell me what’s going on yet, but you did say it was a him this morning…"

"And I also said it wasn’t what you thought," Carly reminded her.

"I know. I remember, honey. And I believe you. Really," Nancy said, placing a hand on Carly’s arm. "I just don’t want to hear of your face running into any more doors. You know what I mean?"

At first Carly was offended that Nancy hadn’t believed her about the broken nose and the door. She had told it that way so many times, she had almost convinced herself that that was really how it had happened. But in the next instant, she realized what a good neighbor she had in Nancy. Nancy had seen through her lie, of course. She was a bad liar. She hoped she wouldn’t be as bad in a few minutes.

"I’m here if you need me, Carly," Nancy said. "Don’t hesitate to come knocking on my door, you hear?"

"Thanks, Nancy," Carly said, trying on a smile, practicing a smile for her long trek next door. "I really appreciate your concern, but I’ll be fine. Really. It’s okay."

"Let me know later, okay?" Nancy said, clearly not willing to take no for an answer.

"I will," Carly smiled, a little easier knowing she had an ally. "Why don’t you bring the kids over tomorrow. You and I can talk while the kids mess up my place for a change."

"Deal," Nancy said, letting go of her arm. "Now you better get home and cool the fire. Be careful, dear. Okay? And I’m right next door, remember."

"I’ll be fine," Carly said again. "And thanks for watching the kids. I’ll see you tomorrow."

Carly turned and went out the door. Nancy waved through the screen door from inside and watched her walk slowly back to her home.

Carly took a few deep breaths, started to try to think of what she was going to say, but couldn’t think of anything she thought was good enough in the sixty seconds it took her to reach her own front door. She decided she’d just have to wing it, take it one step at a time, keep her cool…

Jerry opened the door for her as she was reaching for the handle.

"So where the hell have you been?" he asked, accusation heavily tainting his tone.

"Didn’t Nancy tell you?" Carly said, trying to sound nonchalant. "I met a friend down at ‘X’ for hot chocolates. She’s having some personal problems and wanted to talk." She sidestepped past Jerry in the doorway, avoiding his angry accusing eyes.

"What’s her name?" Jerry asked, closing the door a little too loudly, but not quite slamming it.

This was the hard part about lying and her mind went blank for a moment. So far, all she had done was replace a ‘he’ with a ‘she.’ Not too difficult. But to come up with a name on the spur of the moment, a fictitious name, that was another story.

"Julie," She said, plucking LadyAvec2’s name out of the air, her back thankfully to Jerry as she headed towards the kitchen with Jerry following.

"So what’s her problem?" Jerry continued to pry, but a little bit of the anger had already faded from his voice.

"Well, it’s personal to her," Carly said, finally risking to turn around and face her husband. "But since you don’t know her, I guess I can tell you. She found out her husband is cheating on her." Damn, she thought, why did I have to bring up cheating. But then, So what. It’s not like I am cheating.

"How did you meet her?" Jerry pressed.

"What is this?" Carly said, trying, but meekly, to sound a little angered herself by all his questions. "I don’t drill you about your day every day. I met her on the Internet about a year ago. We talk a lot online. This time it was serious and she wanted to talk in person."

"You couldn’t help her on Monday?" he shot back.

"No, I couldn’t. And I probably didn’t help her much today, either," she said, gaining a little confidence in her story. "All I can really do is lend a sympathetic ear. But it kind of rocks your world when you discover your spouse is cheating on you, you know? She’s hurting. I’m trying to be a friend. Okay with you?"

Jerry was studying her face. She could tell he was trying to decide if she was lying or not. She could also tell he wasn’t sure of the answer.

"Have the kids had lunch yet?" Carly asked, trying to change the subject and break his probing stare.

"Um, I don’t know," he said. "They’re playing upstairs in their rooms."

"Rain make you quit early again?" Carly asked. "Thought you guys only gave up when lightning was around." Then she added, "But I’m glad you’re not working out in the rain. You could get sick doing that."

"Yeah," Jerry said, giving up, for now. "Usually, but we’re laying the tar. Can’t do that in this much rain. I’m gonna have to work Saturday and Sunday though to make up for the hours lost."

"You eat lunch yet?" Carly asked him.

"Not really. Ate lunch at ten this morning while waiting to find out if we were going to get anything done today or not."

"You want a grilled cheese sandwich? And you should get out of those wet clothes." They weren’t real wet, in fact they were barely damp, but she wanted to get him busy at something. That was the first thing that came to mind. "And ask the kids if they have eaten yet."

"Um, yeah. Grilled cheese sounds good," Jerry said. Then yelling at the stairs, "Hey Johnny! You eat lunch yet?"

"Well I could have done that much," Carly said, adding in a laugh, hoping it didn’t sound as full of relief to him as it did to her.

Johnny came barreling down the stairs. "Yah! Lunch!"

"Let me make it first," she told him as he bounded down the stairs two steps at a time. "Why don’t you go help your Dad get into some dry clothes first while I make us some grilled cheese and Frito’s. K?"

"Okay," Johnny said enthusiastically. "Come on, Daddy," he said, grabbing his Dad’s hand and starting to tug him back up the stairs.

Her two men trudged up to the second floor and Carly turned back towards the kitchen, sat in one of the wooden chairs at the dining table, let her arms fall limply to her sides, and let out a long breath of relief. Round one, advantage Carly, she thought She hoped that was the only round. She didn’t know if she could do it again.

After a moment of calming her mind, she stood up and began making lunch for her family. She had nothing to feel guilty about, she told herself. She’d done nothing wrong and her lying just then had only been for the good of keeping the peace. She’d worked hard this past week on trying to mend their marriage, to get it back on the right track. She didn’t want it to all be for naught just because Jerry wasn’t ready to understand her innocent friendship with a member of the male species. And things had been good so far since her extra efforts to remold her own destiny and fate. Very good. She thought maybe after lunch, if Jerry was good, maybe they could get the kids into a movie downstairs and the two of them might try a little private rain dance in their room upstairs.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Seven


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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