Authors: Jennifer Ransom
By Jennifer Ransom
2014 by Jennifer Ransom
Cover art by
All rights reserved.
is a work of fiction. References to actual people, places, and events
are used to lend authenticity to the novel and are used fictitiously.
All characters, dialog, and events are from the author's imagination
and are not real. Any resemblances to real people, places, events, or
dialog are coincidental.
I was feeling hopeful that day,
well downright springy. It was spring and it was the Friday before
spring break at the university where I worked. I was supposed to be
out late that night with my department at the country club,
entertaining a potential donor—this rich guy who we hoped would
become a major donor after we plied him with wine and country club
food and young junior fundraisers too green to know that part of
their reason for being was to lure old geezers into the donor pool.
But the rich guy cancelled late
that afternoon because his mother had died. She was eighty-two, and I
figured she had had a good long life. But sad she died, of course.
So, I was sad for the guy, but I have to admit, very glad for me to
get out of a long evening of a witty toast by the president and
chicken Florentine with pine nut risotto. On the down side, I got
elected to attend the geezer’s mother’s funeral in the big show
of support from his alma mater. I had been stupid enough to tell
everyone that I was planning to spend the break watching movies and
working in the garden. Our annual fund coordinator, Blond Ambition,
was ordered to go with me and the higher-ups—who had already left
town for spring break—didn’t care if she had any plans. I knew
for a fact that she was planning a week at the beach with her
boyfriend because she had told me all about it in the coffee room. It
was getting serious between them, Kate had said. I saw her face fall
for just a second—probably no one else noticed—and she said she’d
be happy to go to the funeral. You poor schlub, I thought.
So, I was ready to get my spring
break started, grateful that I wouldn’t be out late that night with
an old guy leering at the young chicks. Even if I had to travel to
the mountains to attend a funeral on Sunday, I’d get right back to
my vacation Sunday night and have the whole week!
It took me exactly seventeen
minutes to drive from the university to my house on Pine Street. As I
pulled in the driveway, I noted the big branch from the pine tree
that still lay in the side yard, the now-brown needles poking around
to the front. Jim had assured me he would take care of getting it
removed – he knew somebody’s brother or uncle who would do it
real cheap. But that was six months ago and I guessed I would just
have to do it myself, along with everything else I had to take care
Since our house was built in
1875, we did not have the luxury of a carport or garage. I pulled to
my spot on the driveway and got out, thrilled to be free! I opened
the kitchen door and was greeted with a pile of dishes in the sink.
No rest for the weary, I thought. A woman’s work is never done. I
would have to clean up before I could start supper.
I had my mind on the New York
strip steaks in the freezer that I had planned on for tomorrow night,
but now a celebration was in order. Midnight came out from under the
table and started rubbing against my legs, ready for some supper. I
pushed her out of the way as I walked to the freezer and took out the
steaks to thaw.
That’s when I heard it. A low
moaning sound which scared the hell out of me. I turned to go out the
door when I saw a splotch of red through the trees beyond the
driveway. I realized it was Jim’s Toyota 4Runner parked on the
little back road we have that doesn’t connect to the house
property. What the hell is he doing parking back there, I wondered.
That’s when I knew it must be him upstairs. I dialed his cell phone
just to be sure, and I heard it ringing in the den. I went in there
and saw his jacket thrown without care as usual on the back of a
chair. The jacket had hit the table and pulled a corner of my jigsaw
puzzle off. Pieces lay on the floor. Damn, I’d have to fix that
What the hell is going on? I took
off my shoes and stepped on tiptoe to the stairs, then silently up
them. I was careful to miss the step that always squeaked. I turned
first into our bedroom, but it was empty. Then I heard laughter and a
little yelp like someone was being tickled. It was coming from the
spare room. It couldn’t be anyone but Jim, but why was his car
outside and his cell phone in the den? I tiptoed across the hall.
careful again to miss another squeaky part in the floor. The door was
partially open, and I peeked in.
A woman jumped up pulling the
bedspread—my grandmother’s chenille spread—around her. Even in
my stunned stupor I could see she was beautiful, something I would
torture myself with. Now, this is the part where you think she was
young and blond, like one of our many student workers. But she wasn’t
that young and she wasn’t blond. She was dark—Italian
looking—with long straight dark hair. She must have been our age,
I was speechless as I took in the
house of horrors. Jim just stared open-mouthed. I matched his
open-mouthed stare. All I could think to say was, “That’s my
grandmother’s bedspread.” And I turned and walked out. Down the
stairs, stepping hard on the squeaky boards. I was out the door
before Midnight made it over to my cushy calf again. In the car,
hands shaking, I started the car. I backed out blindly. It’s a
wonder I didn’t run into a car on the street. Straight to the
7-Eleven on the corner where I bought a pack of Marlborough Light
100s. I had given them up in college.
Back in the car, I drove straight
for the old mountain highway. That’s when my cell started to ring.
It was Jim’s ring—“I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing,” the
Aerosmith song that was a hit when we got together in college. We
knew every word of that song. I didn’t answer.
The phone rang over and over –
he must have been hitting the number one button, reserved for me,
over and over and over. I got on the highway and had no idea where I
was going, what I was doing. Finally, the phone stopped ringing.
Well, I guess the bastard gave up, I thought.
About halfway to the mountains I
stopped at a picnic area Jim and I had discovered when we first met
over seventeen years ago. It was off the road and hidden by some big
bushes so the cars on the road couldn’t see it. It wasn’t used
much anymore, but I did see condom packages lying about. I sat on the
ground and started to smoke. Aerosmith rang again. I ignored it
It started to get dark and a car
drove into the clearing—teenagers wanting to have sex, no doubt.
They must have been surprised to see a woman sitting on the ground
with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, and they screeched off.
“Shit,” I heard a boy shout. “What the hell is that fat lady
doing here?” That was my cue to leave—I didn’t want to get into
any confrontations with rowdy teenaged boys—though I was so angry I
felt I could take them on. I got up, brushing the dirt off of my
now-ruined work suit.
My cell phone rang the entire
thirty minutes it took to drive home. Damn, I hated that Aerosmith
song now. I most definitely had missed a thing—Jim having an
affair. Right before I turned in the drive I reached into my purse
and turned my phone off.
Jim didn’t know it, but I knew
who the woman was.
It got dark quickly, as it will
in the early spring, and it was almost seven when I drove into our
driveway. The house was lit up outside and in. I walked in the
kitchen door, Midnight now meowing in greeting because she still
hadn’t been fed. What the hell was Jim doing, not even feeding a
hungry cat? Jim was in the kitchen. “Where have you been?” he
asked, as if he had a right to know.
As if you have a right to
know,” I said.
Then he crumbled, tears running
down his face. “Please forgive me,” he begged. He knew there was
no point in trying to say what I saw was anything different than what
I saw. It was what it was.
Who is she?” I asked, even
though I already knew the answer to that. I wanted to watch him
Just a client,” he said.
“I’ve been working on an estate matter for her.”
I screamed, surprising both of us
with the volume of my voice.
Well, this is a hell of a
matter you’re dealing with now!” I shouted.
At first he wouldn’t tell me
her name, but finally said her name was Mary McClure. A lie. I knew
what her name was.
Where did you pull that name
from? Out of a hat?”
You weren’t supposed to be
home yet,” he said, as if this were the reason we were going
through this hell now. I had come home unexpectedly, messing
Well, excuse me for coming
home to my own house!” I yelled.
Finally, I told him that I knew
exactly who she was.
The gig is up,” I said.
Uh, don’t you mean jig—the
jig is up?” he said. I could have killed him then and there. I
covered embarrassment with fury.
No, I mean gig. Your little
gigs. Your play times. As in gig. Get it?” That put him in his
I know she’s your old
girlfriend, Kimberly Williams. I know exactly who she is and there is
no use in denying it. I saw you with her that night of her reception,
so you can stop your lying now.”
The rest of that night and into
the early hours of the morning were spent with Jim coming clean about
the whole thing. I asked accusatory and detailed questions about
their sex and how it was—what did they do? I demanded to know the
answers. I didn’t want to leave it up to my imagination, as painful
as the truth was.
Did you do those things to her
that I taught you? To try to make you a decent lover?” I yelled.
When he wouldn’t answer, I
demanded and screamed and hollered until he gave in. He hung his head
in shame as he admitted it.
The steaks sat untouched in the
sink. We drank wine and whisky. I smoked openly in the house, even
though Jim was allergic to it.
Toward the end of that long
night, Jim got on his knees and grabbed my plump legs and begged
forgiveness and swore it was over. He had been crazy, going through a
midlife crisis or something, even though he was only thirty-seven.
Didn’t know what he was doing. Lured by the old relationship. On
and on and on.
He looked up at me from his place
of humiliation on the floor, on his knees with his sheepish,
little-boy-don’t-you-want-to-cut-me-some-slack-here look. He looked
up at me with hooded eyes of shame. I was disgusted with his batting
Get up,” I said harshly.
He got up and tried to put his
hands on my arms. I squirmed out of his grasp.
I want you to leave right
now,” I said.
He looked at me incredulously.
Could I possibly be asking him to leave his house?
But, Amy,” he said. “This
is my house. My home.”
Not anymore,” I said
sternly. “You don’t live here anymore.”
But,” Jim said.
No buts,” I said. “My
parents gave us the down payment for this house and I consider it
mine. Get out.”
Jim looked at me pleadingly, but
I was stoic.
Out,” I said, pointing my
finger at the kitchen door.
Jim seemed to finally get it.
I need to pack some clothes,”
he said, heading for the stairs.
I sat on the kitchen floor
rubbing Midnight’s head while Jim packed. I refused to cry while he
was still in the house. The cat seemed to be the only creature who
loved me in the whole world, and I was grateful to Midnight for that.
About a half-hour later, Jim came
into the kitchen with two suitcases.