Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Reoccurring Dream


To read this story from the beginning, please go HERE
This is a work of fiction based on a true story....   

A week before the wedding, I snuggled next to Mark, falling asleep in my dream-man’s arms, and I found myself once again in the same dream I'd had several times before....

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The landlord limped, leading me, my four children, and Mark, up the cracked steps of a rickety mansion. "Isn't it beautifully aged?" the landlord croaked, showing us room upon room. The wallpaper I’d remembered from previous dreams, had been peeling, but these walls had been freshly painted. The furniture pieces were still antiques, but looked as if reupholstered.

“Are you renting this place?” I asked the landlord.

“Well, it’s not just for rent anymore,” the man said. “You can buy it now.”

Mark held me closely. “I think I’ll buy it. It’s a pretty amazing house.”

So we bought the house.

Mark, the children, and I had grand parties there, with friends, family, and various acquaintances. No one ever commented on how different it looked from the last time I’d had this dream—apparently it was my secret alone. But still, I remembered what had been in that house—just behind the couch in the living room. As everyone sat in the front room, I'd always crawl with nerves: Hoping no one knew my secret. Desperately laughing at ill-humored jokes. Coaxing noxious words from previously dying conversations. Wishing anything would keep their minds from what lay hiding behind the couch.

And when everything was quiet. When my treasured guests had finally left. When Mark rested soundly in our gorgeous Victorian bed, and my children were fast asleep in their rooms, that's when I crept down the carpeted stairs, round the bend, to the couch where moments before, everyone had sat, enjoying life.

I grew so eager to move the velvety couch, no amount of weight could stop my ambition. I shoved with all of my might, then after little reward I kept pushing. After all, this was no ordinary house. This was no ordinary dream. And what the couch had always concealed was far more than one would expect. There had always been, inches above the floor a gaping hole! It had led completely through the wall, muddy with jagged roots spiraling down, down—hiding all of the terrible secrets of my life.

The couch finally slid and I prepared to see the hole, but it wasn’t there anymore! It had been patched up completely. I banged on the wall. Hit it as hard as I could, but the sheetrock wouldn’t bust. My secret place—albeit yucky and forlorn—had simply been barricaded away forever.

I sat, thinking that I could never go back to that terrible place. And for some strange reason, I missed it. Not as someone who misses a dear friend, but as a victim, who is struggling, still coming to terms with a healthier life.

I touched the baby-blue painted wall, wondering who could have blocked me from revisiting my nightmares….

The next morning, as Mark and my children ate breakfast in the dream, I turned to Mark and asked, “What do you plan on doing today?”

“More painting,” he said. And he pointed to a paint can in the corner of the room. I knew from the label, it was the exact same color as the wall behind the couch....


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Friday, September 4, 2015

The Schmuck's Wife

If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story
The Schmuck's Wife
Facing the past isn't always what we might expect.
As I drove to breakfast one brisk morning, I thought of the last several months, and couldn't help feeling reflective. Mark and I had been busy making arrangements for our upcoming wedding. The kids were so happy and beginning to really excel in school again. And the only contact I'd had regarding The Schmuck wasn't from him, but actually from his wife.
    She'd sent me a very compelling letter, saying she'd like to meet because she wanted closure. "What do you think?" I'd asked my counselor the previous week. She studied me and then nodded, telling me that I might need closure as well.
    We'd agreed to meet at a charming breakfast place near both of our homes, but being super nervous I had arrived about twenty minutes. I shakily took out my phone and called to talk to my mom as I waited.
    "What do you think you're doing?" my mom asked. "You could end up dead!"
    "Mom! That's a bit dramatic. I'm here because we both need closure. She's almost divorced from The Schmuck--for real this time. And plus, she doesn't sound like the person The Schmuck described so long ago."
    "Gina. You scare me. Just be careful, okay?"
    "All right," I promised.
    I hung up the phone and paced in the front of the restaurant.  Then I stopped and looked around.  Oh shit, what if she was already there?  What if I looked stupid pacing and pacing.  I instantly went into the breakfast joint and asked the first waitress I found, "Have you seen a cute blonde come in here, looking for someone?"
    The waitress shook her head.  "Nope. Take a seat though, and come on up when your whole party is here."
    So I sat there, being eaten away by my thoughts.  I wondered what she'd be like. The Schmuck had told me dozens of stories about her--thinking about those made me want to get up and leave. I was honestly considering it when my phone rang so randomly that I jumped.
    "Hey, babe. You made it to the diner?"
    "Yes," I said, stepping outside again.
    "Your mom called me." He laughed. "She's worried too.  Just be safe like we talked about. I think this is pretty brave what you're doing. I know you're hoping this will help her. I hope it'll help you too. You know that what happened wasn't either of your faults. You didn't know they were still together. She didn't know he was cheating. It's his problem. I just hope this will help you realize this isn't you. And not all men are like that. I'm trying to show you every day."
    "You really have," I said. And as I contemplated his words, a gorgeous blonde drove up. 
    I knew The Schmuck's wife had arrived.
    She had this certain air about her, like a classic beauty who is timeless, sweet and kind.  Watching her walk toward me, I gasped. Her platinum hair bounced and she wore perfect designer clothes. This woman was a head-turner. Why had "The Schmuck" cheated when he'd had someone as beautiful as her!
    After she walked up, I shook her hand, maybe a bit too hard--out of awkwardness. Then we went into the restaurant.
    The waiter brought me my coffee and I was pretty freakin' thankful for a distraction. The Schmuck's wife and I sat across from each other, two sides of a coin that I'd never imagined flipping. "I didn't ever think I'd be the other woman," I finally said. "It wasn't my favorite."
    She nodded and took a sip of her water. "I just wanted to come here and hear your side of the story. I know there's good in everyone. And I'm not one to hold grudges."  
    I took a big swig of coffee, honestly wishing it was Vodka.  Then I tugged at my shirt's collar.  Why in the hell had I worn such warm clothes--it was pretty hot in that place. Yet I looked super-modest.
    "Well, we met when my ex-husband and I were still married," I began. "Things were going bad with my ex, real bad. I knew I needed out. And I couldn't talk to anyone. I was scared--terrified really.  The timing of it was crazy because we'd hired The Schmuck to frame our basement, and a week after he started the job, my husband and I got separated."
    "I've never heard this side of the story. Why did you two separate?" she asked.
    "There were so many reasons that I shouldn't get into. But The Schmuck came into this because my ex thought I was having an affair with him. He wouldn't let up, said I'd been dating him for months even though I'd known him a week! So right after we separated, I called The Schmuck and asked him to go to the mountains with me. He told me he was getting divorced. That the two of you were friends, but had been separated for a long time. Long story short, I kissed him in the mountains--told him I was in a real bad place. Then the next day I went and filed for a divorce."  
    She nodded. "He said that you seduced him. That he couldn't say no. That you were always wearing short shorts and tank tops. But seeing you now--I know he was lying."
    Yeah, cause I looked more modest than  a nun! My eyes widened as I tried nodding sweetly. Thank God I'd worn pants and a long shirt. He had lied about the seducing part, but he had not lied about my redneck clothes.
    "Listen," I said. "I'm gonna be honest about this. You are gorgeous!  Even prettier up-close in person. I'm so glad you're getting away from The Schmuck.  I know I've made mistakes. And I'm the queen of messing shit up, but I know one thing: I never would have kissed him or even started dating him if I would've known that you two were still together. And honestly I wish I wouldn't have kissed one until after I was legally divorced."
    "I didn't understand then. But I get it now. Divorce is hard."  She took another sip of her water and started looking at her menu. "Has he contacted you within the last several months?"
    I had to be honest. "Yes, he was saying that since you're getting divorced he wanted to give it another shot with me."
    She bit her lip. "He's been trying to get back together with me the whole time too. And come to find out, he's had a girlfriend this whole time."
    I don't know why, but it hit me so hard. I laughed and laughed.  Then as she stared at me, a smile slid onto her own face and she began laughing as well.  It got funnier and funnier because it was either laugh or cry. And our waiter finally came over. "You guys know what want yet?"
   "Can you give us a few more minutes?" The Schmuck's wife asked.
    "No worries," he said. "My best friend came into town last week and we were the exact same way--too busy talking to look at the menu.
    After the waiter left, turned back to The Schmuck's wife. "Another girl in the mix. He's something else."
    "Yeah. Lately, the more that I learn about him, the happier I am that I'm getting away now," she said.
    There was suddenly so much emotion in her voice. I met her eyes and I could've cried. I wanted her to know how bad I felt about the whole damn thing. That I'd never wanted to hurt her or her kids. That I'd never wanted to be the side show, everything short of the real thing. And also how bad I felt that I'd kissed him in the first place, because I was trying to find a crutch to help me out of my own shit.
    And as we looked at each other something strange happened to me--I felt genuinely happy for a person I'd really disliked months before. In the previous year, I'd been jealous, seeing pictures of how beautiful she was.  I'd felt like less of a person because she must've had something I didn't. But as I stared at her, I didn't give a damn if she was prettier, or nicer, or sweeter--or anything. I was happy for her. She'd survived a terrible situation, just like I had with my own divorce. 
    All of the jealousy and anger instantly fell away.  And I sat with confidence because I suddenly had to tell her something.
    "This wasn't either of our faults." I borrowed Mark's words. "I didn't know you were still together. You didn't know he was cheating. This is his problem."
    She nodded, "Yeah. We're strong and we'll both be better off because of what we've gone through."
    "Agreed," I said. And when we left that restaurant I felt like a terrible burden had fallen from my shoulders.
    I called Mark. "Come to find out the whole time I thought I'd been struggling with getting over The Schmuck, really I'd been trying to forgive myself, for being part of something that had hurt a wife and family the way that it had."
    "I'm so glad you met with her. What was she like anyway?"
    "Actually pretty freakin' awesome--nothing like he'd described her to be."
    "Figures," Mark said. "You feel better?"
    "Hey, you wanna go someplace with me?  All this closure got me thinking."
    And when I got there, Mark asked for me to jump in his truck because he wanted to head into the mountains.
    "You remember how we broke up and buried that time capsule, saying we'd catch up someday, dig it up and read it together?"
    I nodded. 
    "Well, you meeting with The Schmuck's wife, made me think of everything we've been through. I want to go dig up the time capsule and read it together today."
    "Wait! Let's dig it up today, but not open it until our honeymoon!"
    So it only took two holes until Mark found the mason jar time-capsule. He wiped the dirt off of it and I couldn't help hugging him hard. I remembered the letter I'd written to him and I could hardly wait for him to read it on our honeymoon. I also wondered what he'd written on his letter to me.
    "Life is funny," Mark said as we walked back down the mountain.  "You never know what new things will happen."
    "Yeah, like how The Schmuck's wife ended up being so sweet. Or how you and I thought we'd break up last year, and now we're getting married in a month!"
    Mark put his slightly dirty arm around my shoulder and walked near me on the path. "Can I tell you a secret? I never thought we'd break up. I knew I'd keep trying to win your heart, even if it took forever."
    "You're full of it."
    "Honestly! You know I'm so in love with you and have been for a long time."
    As we continued walking I thought of all of our memories together: my security job, the avalanche, the kayaking adventure, camping with the kids.... "Mark, when did you know that you loved me? Was it when I kissed you?"
    "Even before that. I wanted to be with you so bad. I just didn't know it would be this good."
    "I didn't either." I took the time capsule from him and grinned at it. "What a ride this has been."
    "And this is just the beginning." He held me closer as I closed my eyes for a moment and breathed in the fresh mountain air.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Surprising Proposition

If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story

A Surprising Proposition

Months passed and Mark, the kids, and I had begun to feel like a real family. Things went exceptionally well, until one day in mid-December....

I headed out the door and Mark nervously asked me where I'd be and how long I'd be gone. "I need to run some errands and make some copies of paperwork for my boss. I'll probably be back around 2. Why?" I asked.

"Ummm. No reason." He fidgeted suspiciously, maybe even looking guilty—of something. 

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After finishing my errands, I rushed home, wondering what I would find. There sat Mark, grinning over leftovers from a restaurant.

"Oh! You went out to eat?" I asked.

"Yeah. And it's none of your business who I went with." I think it was meant to be a joke, but it wasn't funny. My eyes studied him, and how he appeared obviously amused, dreamily peering out my front window.

What the Hell? I wanted to scream, Are you cheating on me? But after months of counseling—and being the good woman that I occasionally am—I donned a too-happy smile. "Neat!"

His eyebrows furrowed and he gauged my reaction. "Do you know where I was?"

I cleared my throat. "I have an idea."

"Huh," he said, then began staring out that freakin' window again like he saw Jessica Alba or something.

He seemed so twitter pated. Maybe he HAD been out with someone else!

As the next few minutes passed, I tried very hard not to let my mind go wild with assumptions, when Mark suddenly said, "You'll go see the Christmas lights with me?"

"Ummm...Sure. Let me go change. I'll be right back." And I put on the cutest red outfit ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET. If he was seeing someone else, I'd show him! Make him want me, and if he didn’t he could: Take. A. Hike.

I'd worked myself up so much, by the time I came down those stairs, I knew I looked pretty, with big red lips and perfectly smoky eyes—and enough base to last through an atomic bomb. My boobs were pushed so high, they practically hit my chin.

I smiled snidely as Mark's jaw dropped. "Holy shit, you look good." Hopefully better than the "Betty Bimbo" he'd been out with earlier. "Where did you get that..."

"Outfit?" I batted my recently acquired fake eyelashes. "I've had this thing forever." If forever meant two days....

Although I might have looked pretty, I didn't act it. I was pretty...irate.

We drove in silence, then after about thirty minutes, Mark parked and dragged me to a huge park lined with people, trees, and a Christmas village. Twinkling red, green, blue, purple and white lights dangled from every tree.

I wanted to stay quiet, and elusively mad. But instead I couldn't help getting lost in the beauty around. Snow drifted onto my face, dusting my fake eyelashes. I giggled, spinning, looking up at the majestic twinkling lights.

Mark held my hand. "Come on, baby!" he said, "Look at all of these lit-up houses."

We walked past dozens of houses. Each "home" stood about twelve feet squared, displaying various scenes of families at Christmas. And seeing each tiny Christmas house, I couldn't help grinning up at Mark.

He held me, nestling his chest into my back and holding his hands in the front of my waist.

"I love you," he whispered, holding me so tight that I never wanted him to let me go.

"I love you too," I whispered back. He had started leading me to a clearing in the middle of the houses and copses of trees when I couldn't stay quiet any longer, "Mark. Where were you today? I don't want to be a nag, or seem accusatory... But it's bugging me. Can you please tell me who you were with? Is she pretty?"

He looked like he'd swallowed a frog. "Well... I wouldn't put it that way—at all. You really want to know?"


"I'll tell you later."

I groaned and let go of him. But it was freezing standing alone and a shiver went up my spine, making me shake from the cold.

"Your hands are turning blue, Gina! Why don't you put them in your pockets and warm them up."

He said it really weird, like he needed me to put my hands in my pockets more than he needed oxygen. "Ummm.... I'm okay."

He frowned, his face framed by lime green lights that twinkled just above his head.

This whole conversation reminded me of another time I'd been out in the cold with Mark. He'd slipped hand warmers into my pockets, in case my hands were cold.

My breath suddenly caught, and no more misty clouds came from my frozen lips. Oh my gosh, I thought. Mark had probably slipped something into my pockets! More hand warmers?

"Seriously, why don't you warm up your hands?" he persisted.

"I'm really okay!"

I saw the longing in his eyes and bit my lip. "Gina..."

Stilling biting my lip, I slowly slipped my hands into my pockets and felt two hand warmers. As my hands fumbled in my pockets, I realized one of the hand warmers had something tied to it. My eyes closed and I shook myself. Was this a dream?

There was A RING tied to one of the hand warmers.

My hands shakily withdrew from my pockets and I looked at the ring laying in my palm.

Not from the monetary worth, or visible value therein the diamonds sparkled more than any of the lights above us.

"Gina," Mark said, kneeling down in the snow, in the middle of all those lights and Christmas houses. He didn't seem to care who saw him, or what they thought. He just stared up into my eyes, more serious than I'd ever seen him.

"I went to lunch with your dad today."

I gasped even more stunned.

"I wanted to ask him a question...."

Silence—for once in my freakin' life I had no response.

Mark on the other hand, had no problem talking. His low voice was so clear, so perfect, as his every word made my world shine for him and him alone. "I know it won't always be easy," he said. "Life can be uncertain and hard. But I wouldn't want anyone else by my side, through the good and bad, the thick and thin. My life is so different with you and your kids in it. I love all of you so much. And I can't think of anything that I want more than the chance to try to make you the happiest woman, for the rest of your life."

I refused to tear up. And I tried so hard, that I forgot to say anything. A bunch of people around, who had heard the whole spiel, leaned forward almost as anxious as Mark. One woman squealed, "John, why didn't YOU propose like that?"

I laughed at her words, as I continued peering into Mark's eyes.

"So?" he asked, slowly standing up, all of the color draining from his face.

"Of course!" I whispered, then threw my arms around his neck and squeezed him tight.

As we walked back to his truck that night, the lights seemed to twinkle even more. Children's laughter rang clearer than normal. And my heart fluttered with such a peace.

"What did my dad say?" I asked. "When you asked him for my hand in marriage?" I could just imagine Mark asking my father—who happens to be an awesome—albeit very intimidating—old-school construction worker.

"Your dad said he'd leave it up to you, but that he couldn't imagine you finding a better man."

"I can't either," I said, then looked down at my ring. I loved the ring so much, not because it was more than anyone had ever spent on me, or because it was absolutely breath-taking—I loved it because that little ring meant I'd get to spend the rest of my life with Mark.