Part Two

"Welcome to my nightmare."
---Alice Cooper

Chapter Nine

Carly Brandt waited patiently for her Internet service to connect. Jerry wasn’t due home from the bowling alley for at least two hours yet, giving her plenty of time to say ‘hi’ to a friend or two. Actually he was probably done with his bowling already. His four-man league to which he had devoted every Friday night for the last who knows how many years (since before the two of them had met, anyway) started at 6:30 p.m. sharp with the final frames needing to be done and out of the way in order for the 9:00 p.m. leagues to begin on time.

It was 8:45 now and Carly could see her husband in her mind’s eye, a big, cuddly, teddy-bear of a man when she was six months pregnant accepting his proposal, but having since evolved into just a mean spirited grizzly. He was probably at this moment drunk from the eight to ten beers consumed during the male bonding portion of the evening, red faced and grinning ear to ear as he loudly and obnoxiously recited to his buddies the wife-bashing lines he loved so much, just like the ones Norm always came up with on Cheers. She could see him, in her mind’s eye, trying to put his personalized bowling ball away in his monogrammed bowling ball bag and sliding his new bowling ball shoes off his feet at the same time without losing his balance. In this version of her daydream, he never maintained the necessary balance needed to keep from falling on his smug face. Watching him bloody his nose on the ball return or dropping the ball on his foot as he lost his balance always gave her a secret, and only slightly guilty, smile.

In one more recent variation of her weekly daydream, Jerry falls down the single step to the settee area while trying to catch the ball as it rolled off the lip of his bowling bag, having missed the hole he was trying to drop it into. Then upon catching the ball with the grace of a drunken NHL’er trying his hand at ballet, he comically trips up the single step leading farther out onto the varnished wood approach to the lane and proceeds to fall forward, face smashing ball as ball smashes ground. The bowling ball rolls slowly down the gutter on its own. Jerry lays spread eagle on his large belly, half in the gutter himself. His buddies are standing around all bug-eyed and holding their guts as if they were about to split open if they laughed any harder. But then they all stop laughing and stare in silence with gaping, stupid mouths hanging open as a large pool of bright red blood rapidly spreads out from under Jerry’s unmoving head…

…this version had caused a quick hand to rise up to stifle the cheer trying to escape her smiling lips the first time it had played itself out in her head a few weeks ago.

But Carly had never been so lucky. Tough as it may or may not have actually been for him at this particular time each week, he apparently always seemed to manage to get his ball and shoes back into his bag without hurting himself. Then he would manage to get across the street to the strip club with his buddies without getting hit by a car. Finally, somehow, he’d drive the five miles home after a few more drinks without getting killed, killing someone else, or even getting pulled over by the cops and hauled in for a DUI. The latter being the most likely of outcomes, the most realistic, she thought. And whenever it started getting much past 11:00 pm on Friday nights and Jerry hadn’t squealed to a screeching stop inside the garage announcing his return home yet, that was the one she was secretly rooting for.

But putting that fantasy aside for now, Carly, or LorettaC as she was known in the cyber-world, was turning her attention to the crackling hiss of her modem as she proceeded down the on-ramp to the Super Highway.

After dutifully sending Jerry off to the bowling alley on a full stomach, she had raced to pick up the dishes and get them washed and set for drying. Jerry thought buying a dishwasher was a waste of hard earned money when they already had a kitchen sink with perfectly good running water, not that he had ever washed a dish himself.

Next was the laundry, washed and dried, neatly folded and put away or hung. A bedtime story for the kids. Their toys picked up out of the living room, the kitchen, the hallway, and stored for tomorrow when they’ll all be spread about the house once again. The kids themselves settled and quiet in their beds. Now it was finally her turn.

Friday nights, with the chores done, the kids in bed, and Jerry out, was her time. She looked forward to those two precious hours every single week. Two hours to get away and explore other worlds and other lives. Two hours in the cyber-world to escape her increasingly depressing and tension-filled existence in the real world. She usually logged onto the net for a few hours a week during the day while Jerry was at work too, but the kids were usually demanding her attention and most of her cyber-friends were at their own jobs during the day anyway, so the socializing was never very fruitful during those times. Friday night was the time she looked forward to.

In the real world, she worried. She worried about her two babies, Johnny and Sasha. Johnny, her first born, was now 4 years old and Sasha had just turned 2. Carly was 24 and Jerry, the king of the castle, as he often put it, was 27. Jerry had been the manager of the Texaco Food Mart when he had hired Carly to run the register. They still hadn’t yet officially established between themselves that they were of boyfriend/girlfriend status about a year later when Carly discovered she was pregnant with Johnny. Jerry had decided to "do the right thing"--well actually, "might as well give the kid a name" was closer to the words spoken in his anticlimactic proposal, but she had tried not to sweat the details back then. She had the kid to think about, after all. But now she worried.

Jerry had quit the Texaco Food Mart job, after she had the baby, to try to make more money. He had gotten into construction, road work, saying the benefits were better even though the pay was about the same. She didn’t necessarily blame the job, but that was about the time when the transformation from teddy-bear to grizzly had begun. But also at that time came the new home, the new baby, the new wife, the new bills, the new responsibilities and demands, not to mention the new expectations. So she didn’t think it was fair to label any one event as the one that had triggered the transition. It had happened, and how or why or who was to blame had long since ceased to matter. Dealing with it was now the issue. Or to be more specific, getting through each evening without any raised voices, or worse.

So far, Jerry hadn’t gotten much worse. He had slapped her once, hard, but had felt badly enough about it afterwards that she didn’t think it would happen again. But things between them had still seemed to have changed once that slap had been delivered. Another wall had been erected that was likely never going to come down. She didn’t think Jerry would ever harm her or the kids, but lately she had begun to feel a little unsure about a lot of things, that being one of them.

But Friday nights she put her worries aside. He always came home drunk and happy. He wasn’t so bad when he was drunk. In fact, she always made it a point to offer him a drink after dinner each night during the rest of the week to loosen him up a bit, maybe get him a little tipsy. That seemed to be where a hint of the old teddy-bear still survived. But being married to a drunk had its downsides, too. Which might be better, however, she wasn’t quite sure. Jerry usually turned down the after dinner drink anyway. He didn’t like to drink a lot all the time, he just liked to drink a lot when he drank.

The connection to AOL on her computer screen in front of her was made, confirmed by the immediate familiar announcement, "You’ve Got Mail!", and her own weekly transformation from Carly to LorettaC was also instantly completed. Carletta was her given name though no one had called her anything but Carly since the day she was born. If she hadn’t seen the name Carletta on her birth certificate after her parents had passed away while she was in college, she could have gone through life never even knowing what her true birth name had been. When choosing a new name for the Internet, she had chosen a new form of her name, opening the door for a new personality.

Her buddy list sprang into view in the upper right-hand corner of her screen as it always did upon connection. She had seventy-four names on her list, most of which she had merely chatted with a time or two and popped onto the list in case they ever revisited. But at least twenty of the names on the list she considered to be her cyber-pals and talked with on a fairly regular basis. However, none of them knew of her worries and concerns and lost dreams from the real world. She cast them off like old skin, along with her name, whenever she entered cyber-land.

Tonight she noticed that her best cyber-pal was online, LadyAvec2. She immediately double clicked over her pal’s screen name on the buddy list and brought up the Instant Messaging feature which allowed her to communicate in real time with her friend.

LorettaC: evenin’, Lady! Any nightlife out there
LadyAvec2: haven’t been on too long but kinda quiet
so far what are you up too this eve LC?
LorettaC: oh the usual…lookin’ for trouble
LadyAvec2: you and me both kiddo
LorettaC: so how’d the f2f go last week? Was he a
LadyAvec2: nah, never happened
LorettaC: what happened, thought you two were
LadyAvec2: he learned his French
LorettaC: and put 2 and 2 together, eh…hadn’t you
told him?
LadyAvec2: exactly—about two more than he had in
mind it hadn’t come up yet…thought it
was obvious
LorettaC: well if it wasn’t obvious, he was obviously
the wrong one anyway, if you know what
I mean
LadyAvec2: yeah…hee…don’t need another
egotistical airhead…but his pic was
sooooo cute!
LorettaC: gotta make up your mind girl…can’t
often get everything in one neat package
LadyAvec2: well I’m still hoping
LorettaC: aren’t we all, Lady
LadyAvec2: I thought you had yours already in
captivity, LC
LorettaC: that I do, but a little tweaking here and
there couldn’t hurt
LadyAvec2: so you made up your mind then. which
flavor did you fancy? do tell!!
LorettaC: actually the choice was kinda made for
me by a little bundle of joy
LadyAvec2: shot-gunned it, eh? got the airhead?
LorettaC: lead-head, more like but that’s another
tale for another time. I’m ready to party
LadyAvec2: saw Stubabe7 on a little while ago but the
room has been dead tonight
LorettaC: ok well I’ll be around a little while
here…drop you a pop if anything crops
LadyAvec2: I’ll take the top
LorettaC: OH!! And I thought you were a LADY,
LadyAvec2: I like to be a lady in control
LorettaC: maybe you can come here and teach mine
a thing or two
LadyAvec2: ahhh, I think we have discovered where
the tweaking is needed
LorettaC: another tale for another time
LadyAvec2: sounds like a sore spot, too you ok LC?
you can tell lady
LorettaC: I’m fine but thanks for asking
I wouldn’t mind being on top for a
change though I must admit…hee
LadyAvec2: lol…the only way to fly, love
here if you need me k?
LorettaC: go get laid, Lady…then give me ALLLLL
the details
LadyAvec2: a lady never kisses and tells!
LorettaC: lol…you’ll break
LadyAvec2: oh god I hope…hee…we are toooo bad!
LorettaC: the only way to fly, love catch up with
you later there be good :p
LadyAvec2: and be a party pooper?!?!…hee
laters ;)

Carly had met LadyAvec2 in a single parents newsgroup on the Internet. Carly wasn’t actually a single parent, but more often than not she felt like one. In the newsgroup, single parents from around the country, even occasionally from around the world, posted concerns and gripes and questions and plights about parenting solo. Members of the newsgroup could respond to the posting by others or post a fresh idea for all to read. Carly had posted a response to one of LadyAvec2’s more humorous postings pertaining to the difficulties of finding a decent babysitter. LadyAvec2 had sent an email back to Carly in response to her comments and then the IM’s began and they’d been friends ever since, almost a year now.

LadyAvec2’s real world name was Julie. She was a 28 year old single mom of two, ages 3 and 5. Her husband, Brad, the father of her two children, had apparently been scared off by the prospect of three mouths to feed, four including his own. When Julie had returned home from the hospital with her second new addition to the family, curious as to why Brad hadn’t picked her up, she found a note saying she’d find Eric, their first born, with Grandma, and probably wouldn’t be able to find him for a while.

‘For a while’ had apparently turned into forever. It had been more than three years now and Julie hadn’t seen or heard a word from him. No phone calls. No postcards. No child support. Even if he did find the balls to suddenly show up on her doorstep again, he wasn’t going to get through the threshold, this she knew. By now she figured he was dead somewhere. Easier to put him behind her, thinking he was dead. Easier on the kids, too, in her mind, saving them from possibly hoping for the hopeless.

Lady was four years older than LorettaC. Both had two kids not yet old enough for school. One was single wishing she were married, the other married wishing she were single. The grass is always greener and all that. They enjoyed bantering back and forth about the pros and cons of married life, or lack thereof. They teased each other, encouraged each other, rooted for each other, but had never actually met each other. Carly lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Julie lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. But LorettaC and LadyAvec2 both lived in cyber-land as neighbors who had drunk together, laughed together, cried together, and partied together. Though they had never met face-to-face, f2f, as it is called in cyber-lingo, they had exchanged pictures via attachments to emails so they did know what each other looked like, as well as each others’ kids, of course. They had become good friends. But even though Julie was one of the very few in cyber-land to know Carly was LorettaC’s real name, and the only one that knew what she looked like, that was just about all she knew of the real world Carly.

LorettaC was more fun than Carly, bolder, wittier, more spontaneous, happier--everything Carly wanted to be, but wasn’t, couldn’t. No one in LorettaC’s world, including her best cyber-pal, knew who Carly really was when not sitting in front of her computer screen.

After saying good-bye to LadyAvec2, LorettaC stopped in at their local gathering hole, a chat room called SpouseBashing, its main topic once inside being self-explanatory in its title. This is where she had met most of the screen names that appeared on her buddy list. Once entering the chat room, up to 25 people can communicate together at once, each typing messages onto their own screens that all present ‘in the room’ can read and respond to instantly. On a busy night, as Friday nights usually proved to be more often than not, the chat room would be full and more difficult to enter, but tonight was not one of those nights. Pulling the link to the chat room from her bookmark menu at the top of her screen, she clicked on the title SpouseBashing and instantly found herself ‘in the room.’

Lady had said the room was dead tonight and she hadn’t been wrong. Glancing at the list of the room’s occupants, she didn’t recognize any screen names as the regulars. LadyAvec2 was a regular. Stubabe7 was another regular. He was always good for a few laughs with his reverse spouse-bashing. Stubabe7 claimed to be the one that all the rest of them were bashing. The one you love to hate. Of course everyone truly loved Stubabe7 in spite of this, or maybe it was because of this….no matter, the regulars all understood that this was the cyber-role he had assumed and he played it very well.

The dialogue running across Carly’s computer screen from these names she didn’t recognize couldn’t hold her interest. She clicked on the ‘exit’ icon and left the room.

Another glance at her buddy list told her that LadyAvec2 was still online, but she didn’t feel like going there again tonight. She had come very close to spilling the beans. In all fairness, if she were to do so with anyone online, Julie would be the one, but LorettaC really enjoyed her new online persona and made a conscious effort to keep Carly out.

Every now and then Carly thought she might want to find a true friend online, one to be honest with and more confiding in, and again had thought of Julie in those moments. The role LorettaC had adopted certainly had served its purpose, and part of its strength lay in its consistency. But to have someone to confide in, to trust the darker sides with as well as the lighter sides, to talk about the things that truly mattered; that was still missing.

There were six other names appearing on her buddy list as currently online, but none that sparked any particular memories. She ignored them and went to see what the cyber-mailman had stuffed in her cyber-mailbox this week.

Aside from the assorted invitations to porn sites that seemed to invade her mailbox each week, there were five more letters from unrecognizable sources and one from LadyAvec2 dated from last Saturday. Carly deleted the invitations and unsolicited attention without opening them and double-clicked on the only entry left. It was entitled, "Duh!"

Hey there LC!

Parlez vous francais? Non? Me neither but some things
you just know…no? The dude ‘avec’ the cute pic wasn’t
quite blessed ‘avec’ a quick wit. He asked if my last
name was Avec while we were thinking about where we
might meet this evening. After I told him it was French
for ‘with,’ the light bulb went off in his head as he
figured out the significance of the number 2 all on his
own. That was when the stuttering began. What a loser.
His Loss! I was even feeling horny tonight…hee! Oh
well, back to the drawing board.

So how’s it going over there on the other side? Been
getting any lately. (slap, slap) HEE! Okay, so maybe
I’m still a little horny. I didn’t have a back-up plan
tonight. Sitter’s on her way already. I want to go out
and do something tonight, and now I’m all dressed up
and no where to go. So you want to meet me somewhere
tonight? My treat! Catch the next flight down and the
party’s on me…sans men! See?! There goes that French
again. What a dork. He don’t know what he be missin’!

Snow melted away yet up there? I miss the snow. We
get a dusting here and the schools close for the week.
Don’t miss the sub-zero, though…but then I guess I
discovered tonight you just can’t escape that no matter
where you move to.

Okay, okay…done feeling sorry for myself here…hee!
Gonna go out and get drunk tonight. Then I guess the
‘back-up plan’ will have to be the shoebox in the back
of my closet before bed tonight. I hope the batteries are
more alive than the men around here!! (giggle)

Have a great week, LC! Talk to you soon!


Carly closed the email. Lady, like Stubabe7, always had a way of making her chuckle. She couldn’t remember the last time Jerry had made her crack a smile…let alone chuckle. But for now she was LorettaC and chased Jerry out of her head just as quickly as he had entered it. LorettaC had better things to think about.

She would normally have immediately whipped out a witty reply to her best cyber-friend, but she had just gotten done speaking to her a few minutes earlier and, truth be told, she was currently envying Julie’s single status a little too much at the moment. Envy had always been a tough one for her to suppress. She knew life was no bed of roses, but she thought hers had a few more weeds in it than she had bargained for.

Bidding LadyAvec2 a silent adieu (There goes that French again, she thought with a snicker) LorettaC moved on to her next favorite online activity, browsing profiles in the Twin Cities.

This pastime had originally spawned from a desire to meet a friend, a local friend. Someone to meet for coffee. Someone to shoot the shit with. Despite having a husband and two wonderful kids, she felt very lonely.

After clicking on the ‘profile search’ option from her Internet pull-down menu, she would type in her search preferences. For location she always typed in "Twin Cities or Minneapolis or St. Paul." Next she would click on the box in the lower right hand corner marked "return only names currently online." When she was still actively looking for a local friend, she would also click on the "female" square for a gender preference, but having long since given up on that mission, she usually left that option open anymore. She also used to type in "married" for the requested marital status, and "kids" in the hobbies space, hoping to find a friend with interests similar to her own. But after a few attempts at getting conversations started with her search’s offerings of potential candidates, none had sparked any possibilities for growing into the type of friendship she was hoping to find. She eventually gave up on this method for finding a local friend online and had at that time given birth to LorettaC’s new persona who had come to acquire quite a few cyber-friends over the past year.

Tonight, allowing a little of Carly’s despair from the real world to infiltrate into LorettaC’s world, along with the usual location and online status, she typed in the word ‘fate’ into the option "search profiles for the following word or phrase." Then moving her arrow on the screen down to the "search" command, she gave it a click while overdramatically chanting out loud to herself with a giggle, "Oh Great and Powerful Cyber-Lord, Destroyer of the Past, Destiny of the Future, Seer into all living rooms of this vast land, take me to my FATE!"

After a four or five second wait while the search engine churned and processed the preference information she submitted, the results appeared. Everyone living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area who had included the word "fate" in their personal online profile and were currently sitting in front of their computers and signed on to the AOL Internet service was listed on her screen in front of her.

One screen name.


Never before had any of her searches produced only one name. Many had been so far fetched or ridiculous, or, as was often the case, too picky, and would spit out the message "No profiles were found to match your request," but none had ever produced only one. Most, in fact, usually read "1-20 of more than 100 profiles found." But never only one. Ten a few times, five every now and then, three a time or two. But never one.

"Must be fate!" she said, feeling adventuresome as she eyed the screen name of the sole person in all the Twin Cities to answer her call.

Before just barging in on F8meNOT, LorettaC clicked on the button labeled "read profile." This would usually tell her enough to know whether or not she wanted to chance interrupting whatever the unsuspecting screen name was doing just because she was bored. She looked for things like age and hobbies and quotes. She loved to read all the quotes people came up with. Many were lines from movies or quotes from songs. Many were obviously inside scuttlebutt or gibberish that made no sense at all to a browsing outsider, but most were pieces of advice. Thousands of dime store philosophers out there in cyber-land giving their two cents worth of worldly knowledge or self-proclaimed ingenious insight. Giving credit where credit is due, many of the hundreds and hundreds of one- and two-line quips were indeed insightful or sound words to remember, advice to live by, or at least made sense enough to debate, but many were downright laughable. Her favorite so far, one she had IM’ed Lady about when she had stumbled onto it during one of her profile searches, had a toast for its quote. It read:

Personal Quote: Here’s to being Single
Seeing Double
And sleeping Triple!!!

She hadn’t IM’ed mr69forU, the author of this personal quote. She knew all she needed to know about him to know what he would undoubtedly want to talk about. She avoided those types. She wasn’t always sure what she was looking for in all the profiles she liked to read, but she was quite sure of what she wasn’t looking for. But all his ‘definitely nots’ aside, his toast had given her and Lady a good laugh. With that done, she had closed out the profile and moved on to the next one, looking for another laugh…or even a giggle was passing as good, these days.

F8meNOT’s profile now appeared on LorettaC’s screen.

Member Name: Chris
Location: Twin Cities
Birth Date: Aquarius
Sex: Male
Marital Status: Single
Hobbies: Thrill Seeker
Occupation: Customer Service
Personal Quote: If fate is the excuse we use
to cover our bad decisions, while God’s Goodwill
gets credit for the good ones, does that mean the
Devil is in control of our fate except when God feels
like changing it? Who has the final say? God?
Satan? Me?…You?

Cool, Carly thought as she read the personal quote a second time, one that requires thought. I like him. She read it a third time. Thought about it some more. Reread the entire profile. Read the personal quote one more time. She thought about IM’ing Chris to start up a good old fashioned debate on the subject of his quote, if he was game, but heard the screech of tires outside as they rounded the corner entering her street too fast and assumed, correctly, as she glanced up at the clock on the wall above the desk, that it was probably Jerry getting home a little early. So she clicked on the ‘send email’ option from Chris’ profile and sent him a quick, brief six word note before signing off the Internet to prepare for Jerry’s return to his castle.

* * * * *

Just a few seconds after Carly disconnected from her Internet service, she heard the garage door start going up. The king was home. She felt her muscles immediately tense up and had to remind herself that it was Friday night and he was undoubtedly drunk. This helped her relax a little bit, but he was also an hour earlier than usual. Change in routine, she had discovered, was usually not good.

Jerry was indeed drunk, spilling what little beer was still left in the bottle he had smuggled out of the bar "for the road" as he stumbled into the kitchen from the garage. His red bowling shirt with "Jerry" stitched over the breast pocket was untucked. Jerry was not fat, but he was a big man--big boned, big muscles, big soft hands, though working with the highway crews had toughened them up a bit. But when he came through the door drunk with his shirt hanging out over his big belly, which had also grown as of late, he simply looked fat.

Normally at this point, Carly would feign a smile and ask, "You boys win tonight?" Normally that was a safe question. Normally he assured her that they had kicked their opponents’ butts royally. She suspected that they didn’t win quite as often as she was told they did, but certainly wasn’t ever going to challenge that fact.

Tonight, however, Carly opted against the routine question. She could already see in his face that the butt kicking had been reversed this evening. She thought making him admit it might not be the best of strategies in maintaining a quiet and peaceful home tonight, if that was even going to be possible. But she didn’t have to ask the question tonight to get the answer.

Setting his beer down hard and steadying himself with the kitchen counter top, he slurred, "Fuckin’ Dewy’s team stole the championship in the third game tonight. Fuckin’ John threw a split in the ninth. I got fucked by a slidin’ pin that wouldn’t fall in the tenth. Fuckin’ seven pins short. Fuckin’ miniature trophy. Threw it out the fuckin’ window at the asshole that fuckin’ cut me off. That’ll teach the fucker."

As she listened to Jerry’s mini-tirade, hoping the kids were sound asleep, all Carly could think was, oh, fuck.

"Well, there’s always next year," was all she could think to say, knowing damn good and well it wouldn’t help.

"Fuck next year," Jerry wittingly replied. "We’ll just get fucked again. Got fucked last year. Got fucked this year. I don’t know why I still bowl with those fuck-heads."

And if I’m not careful here, Carly thought, I could get fucked tonight. She knew she would have to pick her words cautiously, if she had to speak at all, that is. Best when Jerry is toeing the line to try to just stay out of his way. And tonight he already had an entire foot dangerously over the line.

"You ready for bed?" Jerry slurred.

More a statement than a question. Another break from routine. Not good. Usually Friday nights after returning from his weekly outing drunk, he opened a fresh beer and sat down in front of The Tonight Show. After that was Cheers. Carly would finish the laundry or dishes or whatever household chore she could find to busy herself with and then go to bed sometime during The Tonight Show. After Cheers was over, Jerry would come up and join her. She would be conveniently already asleep, or at least pretending to be. And that made for a good Friday night, normally.

Tonight was not shaping up to be a normal Friday night.

"You’re not going to watch The Tonight Show?" she asked, hoping he was just too drunk to remember his normal routine.

"Fuck The Tonight Show," Jerry said. "Let’s go to bed. I’ve been getting fucked all night, I figure I might as well enjoy it at least once tonight."

How romantic, Carly thought. As feeble as she knew the attempt would be, she suggested anyway, "I had a few more things I wanted to get done first. I’ll join you there in a little while. Okay?" And with any luck, she thought, you might pass out before I get there.

"Come on," Jerry slurred back, "you got all day tomorrow for that shit. Right now you’re needed upstairs by your man. Go on up and put on that cute little orange number I like so much." Jerry moved across the room and wrapped his arms around her waist from behind her as she put away the last of the dried dishes, pressing his groin up against her. "That one gets me hard just thinking about it. I gotta go to the john and I’ll be up to take care of you in a minute. Go on," he said, letting go of her waist and giving her a slap on her rear.

It wasn’t that she disliked having sex with Jerry, well, normally. But when he was in a mood like this, he tended to be rougher than she cared for, less caring of how she felt as he pounded into her. Whenever he was in a sour mood, she knew it didn’t matter who was beneath him. Sex for the wrong reasons, though it may have worked for him, didn’t work for her. When having sex for the right reasons, Jerry was attentive to her feelings and needs and desires. It had been a while now since this phenomenon had occurred. She knew it wasn’t apt to be reappearing tonight.

Well, let’s get it over with, she told herself. He won’t need you to do anything tonight. Just lay there and let him get it out of his system and then go to sleep. She put the plate in her hand onto the counter and turned to do as told without looking back at Jerry and without protesting the idea a second time.

When Jerry entered the bedroom a few minutes later wearing only his red bowling shirt, Carly was already in bed wearing her lacy orange nightie that he had bought for her on their first anniversary. She was always told to wear it when he was feeling sexy. Now more than three years later, it was still the only sexy thing he had ever bought for her. She lay on her back on top of the covers, hoping that her next move would be rolling over as she pulled the covers over her head and silently cried herself to sleep. She did later cry herself to sleep, but it wasn’t silently tonight.

The only time Jerry had ever hit Carly before was during an argument about spending time with the kids. This had been six months earlier. Jerry had gone out for a drink after work and didn’t get home until after 8 p.m., missing dinner, and the cake and ice cream. That particular night had been Johnny’s fourth birthday. Carly had let him know in no uncertain terms that she was angry with him, and that his son was feeling hurt from his thoughtlessness…and that she thought she might be falling out of love with him and that some things had to change. That was the last time she had voiced any displeasure about anything Jerry did, at least to his face. After all, she had two kids to think about.

The change from teddy bear to grizzly had been gradual. Thinking back, Carly knew it had actually begun the moment the consummation of their carefree days had become official. She now recognized the fact that marrying for any reason other than pure, simple, passionate love just wasn’t worth it…not even for the sake of the kid, which is what her number one reason at the time had been. She knew now that his proposal to "give the kid a name" should have been all the clue she needed to realize this. Under any other circumstances, such a proposal would have sent her into a fit of guffaws while walking away, not even honoring him with an answer. But with one hand pressed against her rapidly swelling belly, she had answered him with an equally generic, "okay." It had not been the proposal she had imagined throughout her years as a young lass dreaming of the big day…but she had a kid to think about.

And now, later, too late, she understood that she had thought wrong.

Before Johnny’s birthday, Jerry had never laid a hand on Carly maliciously. They were arguing more often, their voices getting louder more quickly. Despite the fact that the blow had sent her head over heels backwards, tripping over a kitchen chair, there had been more shock from his slap across the face than pain. For Carly, the hurt in knowing that their marriage had at that moment crossed a line they’d probably never be able to fully return from hurt more than his hand had.

He had been remorseful of his action, but when they argued again just a week later about the same damn thing, he had flinched. She could see him struggling between his desire to hit her again and what he had promised her after that first time. "Never again" he had sworn to her. He had won the struggle and managed to restrain himself that time, but though she refused to admit it even to herself, she knew then that it was going to be just a matter of time before the same struggle might be lost.

Tonight he had lost the struggle. Tonight it was over kisses. Why didn’t she kiss him before work in the morning anymore? Why didn’t she kiss him when they made love anymore? Her response to the latter being, "Oh, is that what you call that?" was enough for him to break his promise…and Carly’s nose.

* * * * *

Chapter Ten


Front Desk

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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