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"I'm having a big Halloween party," Mark said, coming in one morning. "You should come."
Well, there were a few problems with that:
One…my boss would kill me if he knew I'd hung out with coworkers outside of work.
Two…The Schmuck would kill me if he knew I'd hung out with coworkers. After all, I'd told him we could be exclusive again, as long as he didn't stand me up anymore. Shockingly he'd actually shaped up and was treating me fairly well.
And three…Mark's girlfriend would probably be at the party. I'd heard from various coworkers what a big deal it was and was sure the girlfriend would fly out for it.
I kept telling myself how happy I was for everyone in the world—especially Mark—'cause things were just hunky-dory! But I still did not want to meet his girlfriend!
"I'll think about it," I said. "But I'm not supposed to hang out with coworkers, since I'm the guard here. My boss says it'd interfere with my authority."
At this Mark laughed pretty hard. I loved his laugh—every second of it. His full lips spread wide into a smile that just made me happy.
"What do you do for fun?" I asked, too curious to keep quiet.
"I like hiking and kayaking," he said. "You?"
"Hiking and caving. I've never been kayaking."
"Caving? That's ridiculous!" he teased me.
"Right?! This lady in Southern Utah trained me. I guess she leads all the rescue missions in that area if people get lost in the mountains. Or stuck in caves. But she's so hardcore; she brings a diaper with her into the caves! Sometimes she's in there for up to twelve hours—and real spelunkers never pee in caves."
"So…do you…wear diapers in caves?"
I suddenly felt like the world's biggest idiot. I'd hardly talked with this man, and now I was telling him about diapers?
"No. I hate diapers. Wouldn't even wear one to save a child lost in a cave." I realized my mistake right after I'd said it. OF COURSE I'd wear a diaper to save a child—I'd just never admit that to anyone.
"So…you don't like children?" He must have known I didn't mean it, 'cause he obviously held back some amusement.
"I love children. Hell, I have four of them."
I wanted to be friends with this guy at work. What in the world was I doing?
He left shortly after and I spent several hours doing paperwork and replaying our embarrassing conversation a million times in my head.
The next night I decided he'd never come see me again. But, he did.
Time passed; the Halloween party came and went. Everyone talked about it, saying Mark Marrucini threw the best parties, and did you see what so-and-so wore, or can you believe who so-and-so's dating?
Throughout that entire time, Mark visited me every morning at 4am. He'd spend his break up there and I'd diligently have my paperwork done by the time he was due to arrive. We talked about anything and everything, philosophy, nature, religion, politics… I learned about his girlfriend and family; he learned about my boyfriend and family as well. After weeks upon weeks had passed, we became quite good friends and I gave him my number.
It was around this time, that I told The Schmuck about Mark. "It's weird, but he's just a friend—a really good friend."
"I don't like your job," The Schmuck said. "Too many guys work there. You need to buy yourself a nice ring and wear it on your wedding finger!"
"I'm not gonna do that," I scoffed. "Not unless I actually get married someday—which is doubtful." The thought was so absurd.
He didn't find any of this amusing in the least. "You haven't broken up with me in a while, Gina. What's the deal with that?"
I got a strange premonition that the only reason he liked me was because I'd kept breaking up with him. Maybe men like him always want what is never truly theirs.
"I haven't broken up with you because you haven't stood me up in a while."
"Speaking of, what are you doing tonight?" he asked.
"Umm… Hanging out with some girls from my divorce counseling group."
"Will any guys be there?"
"No. Just girls."
"What about this Mark guy? Are you going to a bar? Will he be there?"
"Chill out! No." I worked to hold my anger…and even fear at bay. "I haven't hung out with him outside of work. Plus, we're totally friends."
"You better not wear anything tight. If I find out you've worn something tight—or if guys are there…"
"You know what? I need to get off this phone. It's time for me to leave."
"You're just gonna end the call like that?"
"During your reign of terror, yeah! I'm not your wife and I don't have to do what you say anyway."
At the mention of his "wife" his attitude changed somewhat. He chuckled in an almost evil way. "Just call me when you're home, sunshine. Your ex has the kids?"
"Yeah, he does." I paused thinking about how manipulative the conversation had somehow seemed. "I won't be back 'til really late though. I don't wanna bug you—if I call too late. You got mad last time."
"That was weeks ago. Call me. And remember you'll be calling me. Don't hook up with anyone else. I wanna see you tonight!" Don't hook up with anybody else." And the fact remained, part of me never wanted to hook up with him again. I hung up the phone, and left my house.
I had an all right time with my friends, but couldn't shake the sudden fear I'd felt invading my resolve. After getting home, I called The Schmuck right away, almost worried he was waiting around the corner and would know when I got home anyway. I soon became more realistic, and told myself to calm down. It was well after 1am and he didn't answer. I prepared a text to be doubly sure—didn't want him getting angry.
Swear, to God, I didn't wear anything tight….
I'd never cheat on you—please don't worry about that anymore. I know I can be friendly and nice, but I'd never cheat, really.
Before I could hit "send," my phone rang.
"Hello?" I said.
"Who is this!" a woman yelled into the phone.
I pulled the cell away from my ear and looked at the name—yep it really was a call from his phone. "Gina…this is Gina. You're calling from my boyfriend's phone?"
"Boyfriend! He's MY husband."
I felt physically sick. So many thoughts rushed through my head. "But you don't live together. The two of you are getting divorced. You haven't lived together for months and months."
"Is that what he told you? The bastard is sleeping in our bed right now!" The phone sounded muffled for a minute, then I heard her screaming in her high-pitched voice, "Wake up! I have your mistress on the phone. Say something so she knows you're here. Say it!"
Mistress—that's something I'd NEVER wanted to be called.
But as she supposedly held the phone to him, I didn't hear a word from that man. Not a damn word. Strangely enough, by the end of the call I'd talked to The Schmuck's wife for two hours and I still had no absolute proof that he'd been there. From the best I could figure, when he'd been with me, he told her he was hunting (hunting what…I wonder, tail?). When he'd been with her during the week, he told me he was working out of town.
I cried the rest of the night. The Schmuck called me in the morning. "I wasn't there! I accidentally left my phone at her house when I dropped our kids off. Why do you think you never heard me? 'Cause she was making it up!"
And as dumb as it might sound…I didn't know what to believe. I was in a hapless relationship, completely not worth my time, yet I decided to wait a few days to see what would happen...and I believed the imbecile.
At work the next night, I drank four energy drinks to stay awake. And for the first time in months, I didn't want to talk with Mark Marrucini. I didn't want him seeing me so sad because I knew he'd pretty much become my best friend and if I could pour out my heart to anyone—if I could cry to any other person on earth—it would be him. That alone was mortifying.
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