Recovery, Relapse, Relationship (part 10)

(Continued from the last post. Click here to catch the whole story from the beginning.)

I had another hour until my next appointment, and I was getting hungry. So was Clyde. So we decided to get a bite for lunch. We walked to a sub shop across the street. Then we brought our sandwiches to a secluded picnic area in the office park, so we wouldn’t have to sit in a restaurant with a bunch of people gawking at the crazy, grieving ladies from Abe’s Turn. We ate mostly in silence, occasionally commenting on the food or scenery. “Good sandwiches.” Or “Those evergreens are beautiful.” Or “Doesn’t the air smell fresh?” Or “What kind of bird was that?” At least we never resorted to “Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

“So I’m supposed to start spending time with other people besides Ted,” Clyde said, apparently having had enough of aimless conversation.

“What do you mean?”

“Dr. Hooper— Ange wants me to put together a support system of friends. I know a few people from work and church, and I can look up some old friends I’ve fallen out of touch with.”

I nodded. I certainly understood how a woman could get wrapped up in her husband’s life so deeply that she lost contact with her own circle of friends. Many women, I had a feeling, would just sit and sulk. But Clyde was a survivor.

“Hey, are you doing anything tonight?”

“I don’t know. Why?”

“I have a new recipe I wanted to try out, and I usually try them out on—“ Her countenance fell. “Anyhow, I haven’t cooked in a while, and I wonder if you would like to come over for dinner.”

That sounded fun. And what else was I going to do on a Thursday evening by myself? Go to a bar? No thanks. See a movie? Curl up on the couch and get drunk? I took her up on her offer. “What should I bring?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said. “Just bring you.”

“Can I bring a salad?”

I think I may have been messing with her menu, or else maybe she just didn’t like people bringing food to her dinners. Maybe she liked to be the chef and the hostess.

“Or maybe,” I said sheepishly, “I could just bring me.”

Clyde grinned and touched my hand. “Bring a salad. Just don’t go out of your way, okay?”

I chuckled. “Okay.”

Their house was majestic. It looked like a mansion from the outside. It actually wasn’t a mansion, but it was big, with two guest rooms, and they had added a few extras, like a hot tub in the master bath. We ate in the kitchen, not the dining room: I insisted, because it was just her and me, not a dinner party. The food itself was simple but wonderful, some sort of honey curried chicken dish, served with rice and vegetables. And wine, a bottle of French blush from Clydene’s wine rack, which she kept in the cellar. Yes, she had an actual, honest to goodness wine rack in the cellar. It was not huge, could hold maybe 20 bottles. Still, I had never seen one of those before.

We had just finished eating and were talking about whether we wanted to move into the other room to finish our wine and maybe watch TV or a movie, when Ted arrived home. We heard him enter the front door, on the other side of the house, and stride down the hallway.

“Ted, you remember Mira,” Clyde said, “from the hospital.”

Ted said nothing. He glared at me, red-faced. But I saw no reason why he would be embarrassed.

“We left some food for you,” Clyde said. “Would you like me to make you up a plate?”

Instead of answering her, he said to me, “What are you doing here?”

I felt sick to my stomach, and terrified. And I felt the color drain from my face.

He started in, listing all the ways I was a busybody, butting into their lives, destroying their marriage. I had no idea he felt that way, nor could I think of any reason he would blame me. Yes, he could so easily have fixed the situation himself. But people blame others all the time for things that they could easily fix themselves. So blame work; blame Clyde; blame God. But blame me?

Meanwhile, Clyde watched on in terror.

I felt sad and sick. Still, I pitied him more than I hated him. He was hurting me, yes, with his anger, but it was out of his own insurmountable hurt that he was doing it. So I tried to remain calm, because that’s how you get disturbed people to calm down themselves.

“I know your type,” he barked at me. “You were pampered all your life. You parents never told you, ‘No.’ Spoiled little brat, didn’t your mother ever teach you to mind your own business?!”

The mention of my parents hit a nerve. It pricked a spot that had already been rubbed raw by recent memories. I lost it. Like the Incredible Hulk, I transformed—against my will—into a monster. I showed him his soul.

“Your wife is in pain, and all you can think of is yourself. I know you can’t stand feeling what you feel; I know you need to feel like you’re in control— Well, guess what? You’re not! And that’s not a good enough reason to leave her out to dry! You’re being a self-centered, egotistical jerk. Damn it! Don’t you feel anything?! Get over the self-pity already, because you know what? No one gives a damn!”

I think that took him aback, because he didn’t stop me.

“It wasn’t your fault that Clyde got hurt. It’s your fault she’s still getting hurt. Like that guy who attacked her. It wasn’t your fault you got him off. That was what you should have done. That was your job. But it’s like you’re treating me the same way they treated him. You know, just because the police beat him up is no reason to take it out on me!” I was close to tears and only making partial sense.

“You idiot!” he yelled. “They didn’t beat him up. I did!”

“Ted, stop it!” Clyde shouted. “This is my friend.”

“She’s no friend of mine!” Ted said.

“I thought you loved me,” Clydene scoffed, hurt and angry.

“He does love you!” I shouted. “He’s just an ice-hearted jackass!”

“Get out!” Ted growled at me.

I grabbed up my purse and headed quickly and quietly for the door, marched out to my car, and rumbled away before anyone could follow. My skin was still burning hot, as tears began pouring from my eyes. I was lucky not to have gotten in an accident.

(To be continued…)

This story is tangential to The Conscience of Abe’s Turn and takes place in the Abe’s Turn universe. If you enjoy this story, please also check out The Conscience of Abe’s Turn (the novel).

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