ASSAULTS AND CARESSES

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
My wife looked at me.
“Peter followed Dierdre down the highway,” she laughed. “When she stopped by a petrol station, he ran after her into the shop and went down upon his knees right there on in front of the attendant and told her, with five people as witnesses, that he had been unfaithful with another woman.”
“What?”
I hardly beleived my ears.
Barbara nodded. “Then, Dierdre said that she had done the same and everyone started laughing. The whole shop. Dierdre and the family went into the highway diner and realized that what Dierdre had been feeling all along was exactly what Peter had been feeling, as well. They had just not communicated well.”
Barbara took my right hand.
“We must always communicate, darling” she pleaded. “Please tell me everything.”

Submitted: June 12, 2013

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Submitted: June 12, 2013

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“He bit me.” Donald’s critique pulled me away for one second from the election. “Stop it, Roger,” I said, softly. The kids looked at me, seeming to accept my advice. Obama and Romney attracted my attention again. Raising my eyebrows, I analyzed how these American politicians all used personal comments against their counterparts in order to win votes. Then Roger bit Donald again. “Stop doing that.” I put down my Times and shook my head. “If you don’t quit molesting your brother, I am going to send you to your room. Be nice.” Roger looked up at me with grumpy accusation. “He took away my cowboy.” “Can’t you share the cowboy with him? How does the cowboy feel being fought over by you guys?” Donald’s lower lip ejected out from his jaw and remained there like the open drawer of a cupboard. “I let Roger have my smurf.” That last phrase came out as a scream, directed at Roger. “Hey,” I shrugged. “Smurfs are in. So are cowboys. Both are in.” Donald seemed sceptical. “In what?” I laughed. “Anyone without a smurf just simply is out of touch with the trends. Smurfs are blue. Cowboys are brown. Blue is the colour of the sky. Share you toys.” Donald’s lower lip returned back into his mouth, resting by Donald’s teeth. Now, the two boys seemed to get along, at least for a bit. I picked up my magazine and began reading again. My first chance to sit down in a week seemed to hold a promise of fulfilment. As I read, I lifted the coffee cup to my lip and began drinking. I saw that the smurf and the cowboy now were approaching each other. I smiled. Peace. Peace at last. “See,” I thought to myself. “Smurfs and cowboys do get along.” The kitchen door opened and remained ajar. I slowly looked up from my newspaper. My eyes met Barbara, who was wiping her hands on her apron. “Darling?” she mused. I nodded, happily smiling at my beautiful wife. “Could you come in here for a bit,” she asked. “There’s something you should know. It’s very important.” I froze, reading her face. Then I shrugged. “Sure.” I threw down The Times on the glass table and stood up. Then I pointed at the kids. “No fighting, okay? Let the smurf and the cowboy play together.” Donald and Roger looked up at me, then silently waddled their heads. “They’re too different.” After this, the smurf and the cowboy began walking in circles around each other. Somehow, that made me chuckle. I strode after Barbara, who closed the kitchen door. She walked up to her food and picked up her knife. While she cut the cucumbers, she began. “Dierdre just called.” I leaned against the kitchen cupboard. “What did she want?” Barbara chuckled nervously, carefully cutting her vegetables. “Peter assaulted her.” My hands dropped to my sides. “I beg your pardon?” Barbara lay down her knife, wiping a drop of sweat from her brow. She gave me a serious look, smiling sadly. “Well, apparantly Peter had asked Dierdre for months to inquire if I had the number to this child psychologist in Oxford. You know, their daughter has been mobbed in school. The girl badly needs therapy. Peter didn’t want to ask me, so he asked Dierdre to do it.” Barbara gave me another nervous grin. “My contacts as a nurse led Peter to think that any shrink that I recommended would be the best. He kept asking her and asking her and she was just too ashamed to ask me about it.” I breathed in deeply. “But we knew about it. You are her sister. Why would she be ashamed to ask us?” Barbara shrugged. “I don’t know. The thing is that Peter really worried himself sick about Charlotte’s problems at school. Both of them were too apprehensive, kept putting it off all the time. The subject came up yesterday after Peter returned from a company bash. When she told him she hadn’t done it yet, he called her bad names, ‘stupid crumpet’ and what not. When she yelled and tried to stop him from storming out, he pushed her away. She bumped her head on a chair and bruised her arm. He excused himself and kept telling her he hadn’t meant to hurt her. But Dierdre took the kids and stayed in a motel last night. Now, she’s on her way here. I am making food for seven people. I couldn’t just desert her. She needs us.” I exhaled nervously. “Obviously, they can stay here for as long as they want. There’s no problem. I’m just wondering how they can patch this up. Peter obviously didn’t mean it.” Barbara threw me a nasty look, her eyes stinging with anger. “Geoffrey, he badly hurt her. She probably tore a muscle.” “Peter is quick on the trigger. It is his biggest problem.” Barbara scanned me. Had I been a carton of milk at Sainsbury’s, there would’ve been a red light shining out of my wife’s eyes. I kept wondering why women started doubting men after ten years of wedlock. One false word made them insecure if they knew them at all. I never doubted my wife. She doubted me. I could see it now. She doubted if she knew me at all. “Don’t defend him.” “Not at all, sweetie,” I said. “He has a big problem with his anger.” She shrugged. “There’s more, though.” I’d been let off the hook. As my shivers disappeared, I responded. “More of what?” The cucumbers now received their proper beating. Barbara gave the veggies a small torture break and then looked at me. She gazed at me for so long I thought I had something on my nose. “What?” I giggled. “For crying out loud, tell me, Barbara.” She raised her hand toward her mouth. “Dierdre has been unfaithful.” I took an equally long look at my wife. Calmly, I cocked my head. “Every woman I know accuses her man of wanting to be unfaithful. Now your sister is the culprit. See, women have faults, as well.” “I wasn’t supposed to tell you, dearie,” Barbara pleaded. “So don’t let her know you have any idea.” I shrugged. “My lips are as closed as Shakespeare’s grave. What was the reason for her infidelity?” “Peter became so dry and unromantic after Jenny was born. He has not made love to her once the last year. No presents for their wedding day, nothing for Valentine’s, always at work. She even suspects that he also has an affair.” “Does he?” I played devil’s advocate. “Has she asked him? Sent a private investigator?” Barbara dumped the cucumbers into the tupperware bowl. “Don’t be silly.” She walked to the fridge and took out some tomatoes. As she washed them, she continued. “The fact is that both of them have been walking around each other for ages. They have this huge house. Peter has this humungous salary. They’re miserable, Geoff.” She emphasized that last phrase again. “Miserable. She gets more tenderness from this other guy at work than Peter.” I reviewed what Barbara had said just now. “Hold on a sec, dear,” I inquired. “Jenny is four. This thing has been going on for four years?” “Well, Dierdre was home for two years after Jenny was born. After she started working again, straight away things changed. Peter saw that Dierdre really started becoming successful as a computer-manager and that really changed him. I mean, really. Dierdre was no cute wifey, anymore. She gave him a run for his money. The whole macho deal was falling apart. I mean, the way that Dierdre puts it, they’re more enemies nowadays than friends.” “But we spent that great Christmas there last year. Peter sat at the piano, singing carols. Dierdre performed her charades and I worked on that turkey. Was that all a show?” Barbara shrugged. “Dierdre only had that strength, because she knew she was going to spend boxing day with Harold.” “Her lover boy?” My wife nodded. “So, she actually wasn’t going to work extra on boxing day?” Barbara smiled and shook her head. “They booked a room at a motel.” I looked out the window onto the street. The autumn leaves flew from one side to the other. Those leaves to me symbolized Dierdre’s and Peter’s lives at the moment. Their happiness always inspired me to believe in marriage. I mean, my happiness with Barbara sometimes made me cry happy tears. No marriage actually entailed perfection, but we had no reason for infidelity. I looked back at Barbara, who now had gone over to pouring the dressing upon the salad. She put the dressing back into the fridge and went to the oven. She peaked inside and nodded. “Half hour and we can eat.” I walked over and embraced her. “Is Dierdre coming so soon?” “They’re on their way here, Geoff,” Barbara said and turned around toward me. “Don’t defend him. He hit her.” “By accident, obviously.” “Still.” She gave me a kiss, caressing my hair. “I will set the table.” I looked down, embracing my wife’s waist. “What do you think I should tell Dierdre when she comes?” I shrugged nervously. “Honey, I don’t think we can do anything but offer them our support. Obviously, they have been avoiding each other. This might be a possibility to patch it up.” “The only question, Geoffrey, is how Peter will react once Diedre confesses that she has been unfaithful for so long. She wants to threaten with a divorce, but says she has no leg to stand on. No legal leg, anyway. She wants to suggest a marital therapist. All the time, she speaks of turning back the clock to the good old days when they were younger.” The kitchen door opened again and now the two boys stood there, smurfs and cowboys in hand. “What are you doing?” The boys gazed at their parents holding each other. “Just talking.” “And kissing,” Donald added. His mother let go of her husband and went over to the kitchen table and sat down. “Come, boys,” she said and patted her lap. “I have to tell you something.” The boys waddled over to their mother, clutching and fondling their toys. “You know Aunt Dierdre and their children Charlotte and Jennifer, don’t you?” The boys nodded, eagerly. “We spent a jolly christmas there last year,” Donald said. Roger shook his head in a childish sort of way. I came a few steps closer to my youngest son, eager to know why he was shaking his head. “Auntie Dierdre screamed at Uncle Peter, told him to go do something with a screw.” I raised my eyebrows. My wife slapped her hand against her mouth again, this time in a mixture of mirth and sadness. She looked at me, sadly. “Obviously, I missed that,” I mused. Under my breath, I added: “My sister-in-law probably knows how to keep things a secret.” “Stop it, Geoff,” my wife spat. I went over to the kitchen table, devoted to staying close to my family just to show myself that I was different than Peter. After all, I was. I sat down. “They’re coming to visit us for a few days, boys,” my wife said. I took Roger by the waist and plopped him on my knee. Light as feather, he squeaked. Ruffling his blonde mane, I gave him a wink. “You don’t mind them, do you?” Roger said: “Jenny’s very pretty, but she always takes away my cowboys.” Now, Roger looked down at Wyatt Earp and turned grumpy again. “Well, then she will be in good company, no doubt.” My wife leaned over, taking Donald on her lap. “The thing is,” she began, “your aunt is having a bit of a misunderstanding with Uncle Peter. They need to have a bit of a distance from each other’s company for a few days.” Donald displayed his missing front tooth, narrowing his eyes and scratching himself with his smurf. “Don’t they have school on Monday?” “Monday is a holiday, pumpkin,” my wife said. “Besides, maybe they have patched it up by then. But I will set the table, so that we can all eat when they come.” “What are we having, mommy?” Barbara grinned from ear to ear. “Your favourite: Lasange.” Four children’s arms shot up toward the ceiling. “Yay!” “Can I play shop with Charlotte?” Roger gave his brother a silly look of spite. “Roger likes girls.” I gave Roger a kind slap on his bottom. “In ten years, I will ask you to show me what you have buried under the lowest cupboard drawer, young man.” My wife gave me another stingy look. I just couldn’t help myself. “Geoff, no. Not yet. He’s four.” “I was four, too, once.” “Smut mags belong in the trash.” “Ah,” I chuckled. “I forgot.” Roger seemed puzzled. “What, daddy? Cowboys?” I nodded. “Cowboys and aliens, Rogie.” Now, my son’s eyes opened even wider. My words pushed me further into that symbolic corner. He lifted his toy cowboy and held it close to my face. “Just Wyatt, okay?” I nodded, laughing. “Yes, Wyatt is fine.” All the while, my wife seemed bothered by our conversation and was just going to scold me when her phone rang. The molto allegro movement of Mozart’s 40th symphony in G minor blasted through that small wireless thing. It seemed to me a historical as well as a hysterical irony that this great and ingenious composer had ended up as the ringing tone of a cellular telephone. Was that Dierdre calling? Our family of four sat there by the kitchen table, frozen as statues. Barbara looked at the display of her mobile, then she looked at me. “It’s Diedre.” I shrugged. Mozart kept on jiggling his synthetic strings. “Pick it up.” My wife pressed the button and Wolfgang took a keyboard break. It seemed the boys noticed our tension and were just as full of anticipation as we. I had thought that they would be full of questions at a time like this. They weren’t. They were still and there was no quarreling about those silly toys. “Hello?” I waited, while I saw Barbara’s face change from puzzlement to sorrow and then display a kind of surprise. “Yes?” Watching my wife and not hearing the conversation at the other end? Sheer agony. She looked at me and shrugged, not being able to really say anything about what she was hearing. “Peter?” Donald had his smurf up jump on the kitchen table and play with the French folded napkins. Roger’s Wyatt Earp toy followed suit. He tried to do what Donald’s smurf did. “Fascinating,” I thought to myself. “The smurf is the cowboy’s hero.” Was this also sign from above? Were Dierdre and Peter actually patching this up? “Uh-huh?” I gave my wife an confused gaze. She leaned forward, shrugging again, this time angrily. I leaned back, holding up the hand that was not holding Roger. The little boy now followed the smurf around, badly making it. I had to perform some tricks in order to have him reach the smurf. Was my wife’s “Uh-huh?” the sign of good fortune or bad luck? “You talked to him?” Now, I was listening more closely. Dierdre spoke fast on the other end, I could hear that. Donald put down the smurf on the table and tried to hear what Auntie Dierdre was saying. Roger plopped off my lap and ran to mommy, also with that inquisitive look. The cowboy tried to listen in on the conversation. Accordingly, the smurf returned to Donald’s grasp and wanted to hear all the secrets. All the while, that female chatter turned into laughter. Obviously, good news bloomed in my sister-in-law’s home. Words? No words intelligable. However, a smile appeared on Diedre’s face. That made me smile. Of course. I loved my wife’s smile. No aphrodiasiac stronger than my wife’s smile. That caused the boys to smile, as well. Then, my wife’s chest jumped. A laugh protruded from her belly and hit her mouth. Out came the finest giggle I’d ever heard. It sounded like a springtime. The autumn leaves outside our two storey household gathered by ways of wind outside the front of our entrance, the cowboy and the smurf now kissed. With mommy’s chuckle came the accompanied chuckles of two little boys. “Okay, dear,” Barbara said. “You take care of yourself now. Yes? You are all welcome. Good luck with the therapists. Bye. Yes, dear. Bye.” There was more female chatter and giggles on the other side. “Yes, I know. Bye. We will just have much more to eat here. But I have three hungry men here. That is quite all right, lovie. Cheers.” Barbara hung up, shaking her head. “Well?” The boys opened their eyes wider and imitated me. “Well?” Their arms were now stretched out towards their left and right sides. My wife looked at me. “Peter followed Dierdre down the highway,” she laughed. “When she stopped by a petrol station, he ran after her into the shop and went down upon his knees right there on in front of the attendant and told her, with five people as witnesses, that he had been unfaithful with another woman.” “What?” I hardly beleived my ears. Barbara nodded. “Then, Dierdre said that she had done the same and everyone started laughing. The whole shop. Dierdre and the family went into the highway diner and realized that what Dierdre had been feeling all along was exactly what Peter had been feeling, as well. They had just not communicated well.” Barbara took my right hand. “We must always communicate, darling” she pleaded. “Please tell me everything.” I nodded. “Sure.” She smiled, holding up one index finger. “Not only that,” she cajoled. “Last year at that party, Peter had also lied to Dierdre about that boxing day thing.” I thought for a moment. “Having to work?” Barbara laughed. “They both spent the day with their lovers, while the kids were sent to grandma. Now comes the funny thing. You know the number for the Oxford therapist? The person this all was about?” “Yeah,” I reponded. “She had it all along in her own mobile telephone. It had been there all along. But there is even more. They called this therapist, got a date for Charlotte and were even recommended another therapist, this time a marital one. They have appointments in Oxford on the same day, which gives them a chance to have a nice outing in Oxford next week.” I sat as still as a building block in Oxford Rhodes House. “What’s this about, mom?” My wife laughed. “We have more Lasange to eat today and you boys will have to play with your toys alone tonight. Aunt Dierdre and Uncle Peter discovered that they both are scumbags. That made them laugh. Can you imagine?” “Laughing scumbags?” Donald’s honest question startled us all. We all started laughing, as well. “Now, let’s get the table set before the food gets burned.” We chattered and chuckled all the way to the dining room table. I got a bottle of my favourite Rioja from the cellar. My wife drank some sparkling wine and my sons enjoyed their apple soda. After a splendid dinner, we all sat down and watched a children’s movie. The boys went to bed at ten o’clock that night, after having eaten pounds of chocalate. We all snuggled up in our large water bed, feeling great. We had something to celebrate. Surprisingly, a very bad situation turned well all on its own. That day, one family found their way back together. Tomorrow, we could sleep late. And, by Jove, we would.


© Copyright 2019 Charles EJ Moulton. All rights reserved.

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