This story started out as more of a stroke story about a guy getting laid after his divorce, and has ended up being a lot more layered than that. And decidedly non-strokey, so reader, be warned! Here, Stephen has to find a way to engage mature women who have their own agendas. Thanks to blackrandI1958 for the edit and beta read.
We sat at the oaken table I built the summer before we got married, in my rough-and-ready-mountain-man phase, a table that had hosted thousands of meals over twenty-eight years of family life. Sheila looked the same as ever, short and curvy in a t-shirt, jeans and her “Best Mom Ever” apron. Sometimes I noticed that she was pretty. I was leafing through Sport Illustrated and wondering if I was going to watch basketball or hockey later on that night.
“Stephen, I think it’s time to divorce.”
“Divorce.”The unspoken word, spoken at last. “Now?”
“Things haven’t been good with us for a long time.”
“Doesn’t seem so bad to me.” Let her drop the blade, I thought, already grooming my injured male innocence.
“I know that. Not so bad isn’t so good, though, right?”
“Every marriage goes through ups and downs.” I put down the magazine.
“This isn’t that. It’s been a steady slide for me. I have talked about it with you.”
“I thought… you didn’t talk about divorce.” That was unsaid, imagined but not acknowledged. Chill out, I’d say to her. Do what you want to do. I support you. Then I’d go back to whatever I was reading, blithe lord of the home she had made. “I knew you were unhappy, but I didn’t know what to do. I was okay with waiting a while longer.”
“You’re not surprised, though.”
“I guess not. Why now?” It’s not like things were bad. Things were just… things.
She stood, wrapping her arms around her chest, the familiar gesture lifting her breasts in the exact way that had first made me crazy for her. “I want to be on my own. I haven’t been, ever.”
“Many women pursue a career and maintain a marriage.”
“It’s not a career, it’s just… being. Being Sheila.”
“And you aren’t Sheila here?” I tried to keep my voice on an even keel. “This life was your design. I didn’t ask you to give up your life for our children.”
“It is my life. I didn’t give up a thing. I loved being their parent. Every minute of it.” We do have great kids. “I love you, too, I guess, but not who I’ve become being with you.”
“Why is that my fault?” Everything I knew about this marriage was suddenly irrelevant.
“It’s not your fault. It just is. Life here is fine. Good enough. It’s just not what I want anymore. I’m all used up.” Caretaking had pursued Sheila with relentless viciousness. Just as the kids matured, her mother’s stroke left both her parents helpless.
“Your parents didn’t have to take our marriage.”
“I did what I had to do.”
“You did what they expected you to do.” Another reason to be angry at them. Or her.
“Maybe. Whatever. I just want to strip it all away, get back to the basics, away from… all of this.” Her gesture was inclusive and dismissive.
I mirrored her movement. “This? You mean a faithful and loyal husband who provided you a comfortable home and three wonderful children? That’s a pretty shitty thing to say.”
“I’m sorry, Stevie. I just can’t be here anymore.”
“What are you going to do? Be a hippie? Go to art school?” Why am I trying so hard? It felt like I should. I was supposed to fight for my marriage. I spent a fuckwad of time and energy to get us to this place and she was fucking it up. I should be royally pissed. Why am I not royally pissed?
“Just be alone. And figure it out for myself. Our life is fine. You’re a good provider. A good lover. A good Dad. But these last five years, not really a friend.”
“Wow. Not your friend?”
“It’s complicated. I couldn’t really talk to you about what was troubling me. We just keep doing the same thing all over again every day.”
“How about counseling?”
“No. I’m strangling myself. I have to be on my own.”
“With half our assets.” I tried to sound bitter, but I was more like numb. Wounded.
“Fairly earned,” she said. True: she had made us a wonderful home. I wouldn’t be where I am without her. “But we can talk. I won’t be an ass about that.”
“And you have to leave me for this?”
“I do. I have, inside. But I guess we can stay married if you want. I just need to go.”
“Is there another man?” I had to ask.
She rolled her eyes at me. “There’s no other man. That’s the point. There’s always been a man. You, the boys, my dad.”
I knew that tone of voice. “Damn.” She held my gaze. I shut my eyes, took a deep breath. “Okay.” I had believed in my marriage, had built it from ideas and compromises, from culture and family, from time spent and opportunities abandoned. But what had I actually accrued? Fossilized roles. A catalog of habitual behaviors that transformed from endearing to quirky to annoying. TV replaced talk. Logistics substituted for love, familiarity for güvenilir bahis friendship, condescension for compassion. The will to create the marriage seeped away, an invisible pinhole leak in a bike tire, a bucket that never gets filled. Did I even still want to be married to her? I just assumed I did, like so many other assumptions I’d made in our pretty conventional life together. “You’re sure.” It wasn’t a question.
“I’ve been living with it for five years. It is unfair, springing it on you like this, but you don’t really want me anymore either, except in bed. Or you won’t, pretty soon. But we’ll be grandparents to the same children. I’ll be your friend,” she said, “after a while. Your loving ex. If you’ll have me.”
“That’s charming,” I said. “Friends with benefits?”
“Maybe. If it’s okay with your new wife.”
“Jesus fucking H. Christ. New wife? Got her all picked out for me?”
“Calm down, Stephen. You’re an attractive man, you like having a wife. You’ll find someone.”
“Salve for your ego? You don’t have to feel guilty if I’m with someone else?”
“I feel guilty for dragging it out, but get this through your head: It’s not about you. I respect you enough to let you go. I hope you’ll give me the same courtesy.”
“Thirty years down the drain.” My pride was no match for her practicality.
“Twenty-eight, but I hope you wouldn’t think that. We have our kids. We had good times. A good run.”
I felt sad and relieved and free and devastated, all at once. “Fuck, Sheila.”
She smiled at me. “Okay. We’ve always been good at that. Now?”
My first instinct was to tell her to fuck off, but what the hell. It was always worth it when she did the offering. We got to the bedroom, got naked and it got very intense. She was hungry and abandoned and I was insistent and relentless and we both were pissed. All our pretenses were gone; it was the most honest sex we’d had in a very long time. We ended up the evening having a good cry and a long talk before sharing our final pillow.
The next morning she packed a couple of suitcases, went to her brother’s and she was gone. The divorce was handled by courier and a few phone calls. She finished moving out when I was at work. She told our kids that she loved them, that they shouldn’t expect to hear from her for a while, but they were welcome to call her if they wanted to. True to her word, she was easy with the settlement. She refused alimony. I sold the house, liquidated everything except my personal retirement fund and the classic 1972 MG I had spent a fortune keeping up, paid the various expenses, split the balance down the middle and that was that.
Fifty-four, divorced, alone. That wasn’t the plan. The kids would mature, Sheila and I would walk the streets of Europe hand in hand, explore the forests of Thailand, swim in tropical oceans, fuck on tropical beaches. My college sweetheart, the mother of my children, a woman I would have been content to spend the rest of my life with. She’s off finding herself and suddenly I am, too. Blissful arrogance, blind ignorance. Just like my own father? I was angry at her for keeping herself so secret from me, and at myself for not noticing what the fuck was going on. I spent too many vodka-sodden nights sitting in my chair, staring at the view, hand on my dick, remembering Sheila under me, grasping my arms, pulling at my back, legs wrapped high, breathing, sweating, a moan, a gasp, her body is mine!… One empty orgasm after another. How had I settled for so little? I couldn’t imagine finding the will to try it again.
I went deep down a lot of ratholes. She hates me for nothing I did; she hates me because I did nothing. I want her to fail, to come crawling back, begging for my attention, burning with regret five or twelve or twenty years from now, lonely, distant from her grandchildren, so I could taunt her with the memory of the life she left behind. But what life? We never really chose it, like grown-ups should; we were babies. Marriage was an unconscious meme we bought into at the start. It had “delivered her into my possession,” “I took her as my wife,” and she was shackled there, our home a beautiful prison in which her salvation ultimately could be delivered only by my dispossession.
On top of all that, I had no place to put my dick! Castration anxiety’s corollary: loss of the socket rather than the plug. I had allowed her to become the gatekeeper to my satisfaction, and then she changed the locks. I’m no longer a variable she has to account for, to compromise with, to feed or clothe or clean up after or get supported by. A role I didn’t even know well enough to break out of, nothing I actually did. A crime of omission, a free benefit of the patriarchy, vulnerable to a woman who learned herself and then acted on her own accord.
When I could get over myself, I appreciated her courage. That helped. Made me competitive, at least. So, a new mantra: less abstraction, more honesty, less future, more present. Decisions embroiled in any internal güvenilir bahis siteleri subjectivity were better left unmade. I’ve said “I don’t know” more in the past year than in the previous twenty-eight combined.
My friends were on me to start dating, but the mere thought of getting that close to someone again produced a deep physical anxiety in me. Whatever I had done to her, I didn’t want to do it to someone else. Or have someone else do it to me. So, a year alone: peace and loneliness were matched companions, and the mourning I kept to myself. I went to work, ran, went to the gym, saw my kids, bumped into friends at the coffeeshop; It’s enough, I kept telling myself. Lower your expectations.
Yeah, right. I was living hurt, but my body’s wisdom diluted it; you can survive, but not thrive, and not notice the difference–until you’re touched by someone you love. I only saw people I trusted, and Ann and Gary were at the top of the list. We’d been the three musketeers in college, partying and studying together. By senior year, Gary and I started a software company, Ann and Gary became a couple and Ann and I lifelong running partners. Unless it was snowing or one of us was out of town, we ran. The first few months after Sheila left, other than feeling sorry for myself, running was the only thing I wanted to do, and I did a lot of it with her. After a couple of abortive attempts at advice, she mostly had obliged my silence with a minimum of reproving glances.
“You ready?” Ann was standing at the door to my office, her fifty-four-year-old body long and lean in her Vancouver summer outfit of low-cut running briefs and shimmel.
“I’m ready,” I said to her. “Too many damn meetings this morning.”
“Well, let’s go do something else, then.” I followed her down the hallway and out the door. I’d always appreciated her body; not my type, particularly (I preferred Sheila’s softly rounded bustiness) but appealing in her confidence, posture, presentation, how relaxed she was in running clothes or business suits, in the fashionable dresses she chose when they went out, or the bikinis she still could rock. We ran down the street and into Stanley Park. It was a day for intervals, and after she destroyed me on our favorite thirty-meter hill we ran at an easy pace under the Lion’s Gate Bridge and around the park, back toward the office. Today, though, the talk was less than desultory.
“So, Stephen, we’re starting to get worried about you.”
“You’ve been divorced for a year.”
“Thirteen months, ten days.”
“Have you had any dates?”
“Old friends. My kids. You.”
“We think you need a woman in your life.”
“I have women in my life. You. Arlie.” My secretary. “Carol.” My daughter. “Rosario.” Housekeeper. “Jeanne.” Therapist. I ran out of things to say.
“You know what I mean. You’ve got be missing something.”
“A preacher. I like my peace and quiet.”
“I’m just not ready to meet someone nice and screw that up.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“It did. I did it.”
“Stop that.” Ann was exasperated. “You’ve done a lot of work on it. It’s what you didn’t do. And what she didn’t do.”
“So maybe I don’t do it again.”
“What about sex?”
“I miss it, but I just don’t want to rock the boat.”
“Wow. This really did a number on you, didn’t it?”
“I am ashamed I lived with her for all those years and didn’t see this coming.”
“You did see it coming. You just didn’t do anything about it.”
“Eventually. Who’s to say what would have happened if you hadn’t left it to her?”
“She didn’t give me that choice.” It felt ugly even as I said it, and Ann didn’t bite.
“Cut the crap, Steven. If this is how you acted with her, I can understand why she wanted out.”
“That was harsh.”
“You have to stop feeling sorry for yourself. You had a marriage. It was good for a long while, but now it’s over. You have three great kids to show for it. You weren’t the bad guy. It just happened.”
“That’s what Sheila said. I keep thinking it had to be someone’s fault.”
“Plenty of blame to go around.”
“She never said a thing.”
“Women have a skill,” Ann said, “of hiding their true feelings from men.”
“Protecting our fragile egos, eh?” I was sarcastic. “Do you do that?”
“I did, once. Not anymore, but Gary and I make our compromises just like everyone else. Sometimes they suck.”
“But you get over it.”
“Don’t know that that the right expression, actually. The bad things are still bad, but other parts balance it. You have to feel all the stuff, good and bad, and let that be okay.”
“That’s what Sheila and I weren’t so good, at, I guess.”
“Maybe not, but you’ve been feeling a lot this past year. You have a lot to offer, but you have to get out of the house! We’re going up to the country this weekend. iddaa siteleri Why don’t you come up with us?”
“The country” was their ten-acre spread nestled in the cedar forest outside Squamish, made infinitely bigger by the untold acres of national forest backing up to the eastern property line. Summer hiking and trail-running, laying skin tracks to excellent tree shots in the winter, right out the door. And Whistler/Blackcomb was a short drive up the Sea to Sky. The property had a sprawling six-bedroom main house, a barn-like studio/conference room with two more bedrooms above, a small gym, a tennis court and a pool. It operated as a corporate retreat center and outdoor training facility when the family wasn’t there. Grace and Peter, the on-site managers, were a very outdoorsy couple in their later twenties whose home was a tidy two-bedroom cottage at the front of the compound. Of course, Ann being Ann, Grace was a digital marketing genius with an MBA in hotel management and a sub-three-hour marathon time, and Peter, who could build or fix anything, also was an EMT and a G-4 level summer and winter mountain guide. Between the two of them they spoke English, French, Spanish, Italian, a passable German and enough of the regional Athabascan to at least pronounce correctly the vowel-less words on the signs that peppered the province roads.
“You’re on. I love it up there. No blind dates, though, okay?”
Ann laughed in a way that remined me of herself as a girl and for a second, I just saw her lips and her tongue and I wondered how her mouth would feel on me. Fantasizing about my married best friend sucking my dick, I thought. I do need to get out more.
Our country room–no, my country room–was in the attic of the main house. The bed sat in a capacious dormer facing down the valley toward Squamish and the faint glimmering off the fjord beyond. The afternoon sun played over the bed, where in happier times, Sheila and I would cuddle with our novels. Or have sex in the afternoon sunlight. She would put my head was right up against the window and crawl on top, the sunlight striping her bare body in yellows and orange, and naked in the window she’d ride me with delicious purpose. I like the sun, she’d say, and no one can see us here. True, I’d say, while imagining a small amphitheater full of cheering audience. Which was one of my problems. I thought of her carnal nature as a hidden aspect of herself that would ambush her, if I was good enough to bring it out, and it would have no limits. But it had nothing to do with me; she had her own desire, when I inspired enough trust for her to let it out. Which, evidently, had been rare. Otherwise, it was the lowest common denominator, which still was good, but meeting your marks didn’t guarantee an inspired performance.
The memory nonetheless had gone right to my cock, and I was working my hand up and down absentmindedly, feeling super sorry for myself and pissed off that she’d left me high and dry, questioning my own intentions and thinking again that Ann was really right and I needed to get my head out of my ass, when I saw some motion out the window, down below. Grace was laying on a chaise on the cottage deck in a vanishingly small black string bikini. Firm body, flat stomach, round tits. Unwrinkled face. Long wavy hair. “Shit,” I said, out loud. “Too fucking much.” Remembering Sheila, seeing Grace. Much too much. I pulled off my pants and shirt and naked in the sun-lit window rubbed my body and jerked my throbbing cock, watching the beautiful young woman breathe. Then it got better. Or worse. Peter came out, dropped his shorts and she sat up and fellated him, hands and lips and tongue all together, her eyes always focused on his. I timed my thrusts with hers. Fuck me Grace. Suck me Sheila, Fuck, Suck Grace, Sheila, Grace… The images merged in and out of each other and my yearning and my shame and my hand, wet with sweat and desire, kept moving. When Grace pulled at her strings and mounted him, I pointed my cock straight at the loving couple. Her breasts jiggled as he lifted her up with each thrust and I let it all go, wave after wave of pent-up desire exploding all over the window. I felt a little guilty about aiming it at Grace, but realized I hadn’t seriously fantasized about a woman other than Sheila since we got married. Ann is right. Time to abandon the monastery, I thought, and head out there in all my glorious imperfection.
Grace walked in that evening in her usual and unremarkable summer outfit of tank top and shorts, and I could almost forget what she had looked like not too much earlier. Which was good because Grace’s mother, Georgia, was there, replete with sushi and sashimi from the best Japanese restaurant in Squamish. Georgia has thick, wavy brown hair, attractively streaked with silver, wide set brown eyes and an impish smile that lit her up face every time. I liked her immediately. Her unbuttoned shirt revealed only a square cut cotton camisole and the outline of a bra hiding seemingly generous breasts. When she got up from the table her body was substantial but supple, strong legs encased in tight jeans. Sturdy and buxom. My favorite. My hands were itching in that “please fill these palms with tits” kind of way. Ann noticed me looking and leaned over.