"All I Know" by Jimmy Webb, sung by Art Garfunkel
It was a week or so after David and Barbara's wedding and John had finished his steak and eggs, played a bit with Felina and headed to to the garage,
"I'm going to the hardware store, baby, need anything while I'm out?"
"No. Oh, wait, would you stop and get fresh milk on the way back? Not skim, get whole milk; I want to make a caramel cake later."
After he left Melora was surprised to see Glenn Caswell coming up the walk with a large envelope in her hand. She hugged Melora briefly.
"Hi--sorry to drop in unannounced," she came in and sat down at the dining room table. That had always been the place where the family gathered.
"John's in Bluewater, he'll be back soon, though, why don't you stay for supper?" Melora asked.
"I came to see you, not John."
"Oh," she sat down across from Glenn; suddenly she felt a cold nausea begin.
"I know you didn't want to put me in the middle; but I'm already there," Glenn said. How she had dreaded this moment, "But I figured since you didn't forbid it I'd just check around on my own. If you're angry you can kick me out and nothing further said about the situation."
Neither of them had to clarify what situation she was talking about.
"What did you learn?"
"I don't know any other way to say it but to say it. It turns out there really is a woman he's been seeing. I'm so sorry, so very sorry," she reached across and covered Melora's hand with her own.
Melora's mind dashed about looking for an escape hatch,
"You're sure he's really...involved?"
"I'm afraid so. I wish, more than I can say, that I was wrong. If you want to be sure I have some photos, but..."
Glenn had only brought the ones of him outside the house, arriving and leaving. There was another one of him with the woman at a restaurant with al fresco dining. The couple other incriminating photos she'd taken were in her safe for the time being. She hadn't been in time to get photos of him with Lalique at Three Lakes; he'd come home sooner than he'd predicted to Melora. However; Glenn knew he'd met the girl there and that they'd stayed in a little cabin. A cabin owned by John and sheltered through a real estate company. That had taken her a bit of work to find that out. But she knew John had businesses scattered over three states, many in which he was simply a silent partner. She gestured now toward the envelope and Melora stopped her.
"I don't want to see them; I trust you. I don't want to know her name, either, especially if she is from Pleasantview. In all likelihood I already know her. Could even be someone I considered a friend, or even worse; maybe someone who hung around with one of the kids. That would be distinctly horrible. I can't deal with that right now. But...well...how old is she?"
"In her early thirties."
Melora looked away and tears filled her eyes, but she didn't let them go. She smiled sarcastically,
"Of course she is. Is she married?"
Melora took a deep breath,
"Well, at least there won't be two families shattered by this. Only one."
"You would worry about that," Glenn shook her head, "Well, it's none of my business, but what will you do?"
"Just what am I supposed to do?" she sounded angry with Glenn for a moment.
"You don't have to do anything. And certainly you do not have to rush into action. You have options you can take or leave. It was necessary for you to have this information so you can choose what you want to do if you want to do it. Honey girl, I'm with you; you want to say nothing to him, that is your privilege, you want to tell him to hit the road, same thing. You want to go beat the crap out of her, I'm your girl. You knock her down; I'll kick her. But I could not in all conscience sit on this and let you drive yourself crazy with doubt and fear. I just couldn't. Take your time to think about what you want to do or, conversely, shoot from the hip for instant satisfaction. You certainly have the right to do either."
"I'll have it out with him when he gets home. I want him to have to admit what he's done. At least tell the truth about this, for once," She thought quietly for a moment. Melora, the woman who wore her heart on her sleeve, the woman who suffered mood swings and high anxiety now kept calm as she looked at her friend, "He'll have to leave, of course. I'll figure the rest out later. Now I'm afraid I need some time alone before he gets back. Thank you, Glenn, at last I know where I stand and what I've been fighting. I'm not crazy after all."
Glenn wanted to punch something, preferably John's face. She had always thought of John and Melora as the golden couple, devoted to each other and very happy. She hugged Melora fiercely,
"I can't say it enough; I'm so very sorry about this. Call me if you need me. Promise me."
After Glenn left Melora went in and took a long shower, crying the whole time, even beating her fists on the shower wall in anger and misery. Never cry except in the shower or the rain her dance instructor used to say. Then she put on her makeup and put her hair up. He'd be home any minute and she needed desperately to feel in control, even if it was an illusion. She dressed in a snug jersey blouse and a tailored skirt as though they would hold her together and upright. What she really needed was a merry widow corset that she could lace up and keep her backbone in place.
She heard him scraping his feet on the mat outside, still the fastidious husband. Fastidious, handsome, charming, cheating, hurtful...
"Hey, baby," he smiled as he came in, "Sheesh, they didn't have anything I needed at the hardware store so I ended up over at Wal-Mart and found most of it there, and cheaper. Oh, man, I just realized I forgot the milk. I'll go back."
Unable to speak for a moment, she just looked at him. He'd been about to come over and kiss her hello, but he was suddenly on the alert, he could tell immediately something was amiss.
"What is it? What's wrong? Not the babies? I thought they got over their colds."
He meant Lori's twins, of course.
Finally she spoke,
"The grandbabies are fine. Our children are fine. It's you."
"Me?" he obviously had no clue what she was talking about. No premonition that she might know. So sure of himself; sure he's much too clever to get caught.
"You know, John, I felt something was wrong, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. I guess I didn't really want to admit it," she said quietly, "There's someone else, isn't there? Maybe for a long time."
His heart sank and suddenly he could hear his pulse pounding in his ears. This was it; he didn't know how she'd learned about it, but hearing it out loud, he could not lie to her anymore. His mind cast about for which way to go--should tell her he'd ended the affair? In reality, of course, he hadn't ended it; Lalique had. The important thing was that he wasn't seeing her, it was history now and since then all he'd wanted was to concentrate on his marriage. But he was afraid that the more details Melora learned the worse she would feel. So should he just stick to a few pertinent facts? Above all he had to convince Melora that he still loved her. Because he did. He'd been ready to somehow get things back in their proper order. The always controlled, and controlling, John Lassiter had screwed up his life, Melora's life and Lalique's life six ways from Sunday.
"Do you deny it?" Melora prompted. Part of her still hoped that, by a miracle, there was some other explanation.
"No. No, I guess not," he paused and then rushed ahead, "But, it's over, baby. Let me explain--"
Melora interrupted him but still kept her voice low and steady,
"Just shut up, John. I don't care what you have to say; it doesn't matter. We had a pretty good thing going for over thirty years and you threw it away like it was nothing. Nothing. You were willing to gamble our life together--the life of our whole family--on the premise that I wouldn't find out. Well, you lost big time," she paused and turned her face away from him for a moment. When she looked at him again she sounded weary but resolute, "I want you to go. I want you to pack a few things and get out now. Immediately. I don't care what you do. I don't care where you go. Go to a hotel. Go to some other town. Go to her. Go to hell---just get out of my SIGHT!"
He felt like death as he looked at her and then glanced around the living room. Oil paintings of various members of the family were everywhere. Reminders of their life together. Then he looked back at Melora again; the mother of his children, the love of his life. She'd never looked more beautiful to him than at this moment. Everything she said was true. He'd never thought he'd lose her; not really; it had been unimaginable. He'd kept putting off ending the affair from day to day, but he'd felt loyal to Lalique too, felt protective since she was all alone and he'd pursued her single-mindedly. But Melora, well, she was much more vulnerable than Lalique, always had been. It didn't feel natural or right to walk out of the house, to really walk away and leave her. Beginning to fall apart at last she cupped her hand over her mouth to keep from sobbing and then cried,
She could not bear it any longer and ran up to her studio where her tears suddenly dried up as fast as they'd come as she stared dully out the windows to the street.
Feeling numb, reeling from the shock of finally realizing just what he'd done, John started throwing stuff haphazardly into an weekender bag. He always packed methodically but not this time. In his whole life, even through occasional marital tiffs and bringing up four children he'd never had Melora look at him with such distaste and disgust. And sorrow. Suddenly he felt like a man on quaking ground; his world was turning upside down. From upstairs there was no sound.
Her prescription, the one for an anti-anxiety medication, he thought suddenly, she would need to take one of those soon or she'd just cry herself into hysteria, she always did when she was very upset. Or maybe he should confiscate the pills instead; she was so volatile--would she try something drastic? He pulled out his cell and then hesitated. He felt sick at the thought of his children knowing, although, of course they would soon or later. But maybe he should call Grace to be with her mother. Gracie was always calm; Lori would just get as emotional as Melora. Besides she had small children at home. He knew that Grace would be devastated at the news, too, though, it wasn't right to ask her to come either. Resolutely he called Glenn.
"Slats, I need your help--"
She broke in angrily,
"I'll bet you do, buster."
"Okay, obviously you know. She insists that I move out now and I'm doing that, but she'll need someone, you know how she can get. I can't leave her alone, will you come? If you say you will I'll go ahead and leave now."
"John, I don't know that she wants me there right after confronting you. This is a private misery for a woman, at least at first. Oh, you stupid excuse for a man!" she burst out, "How could you, John? How could you screw up everything good in your life?"
"We'll talk about that later," suddenly he was the capable, composed John again. He knew how to take charge of a situation and he wanted Melora to be safe; he was blunt, "She needs to take a nerve pill, but she'd be insulted if I suggested it now. And she'd be too upset to think of it herself. I can't leave her alone with her meds either, though, it could be dangerous with how upset she is for the moment. I know I'm the idiot who caused her to feel this way but the point is she could become hysterical and if I stay it will make it worse. Again I ask, will you come?"
"All right," Glenn relented, "I'll be there in a few minutes. If she wants me to leave I will but I'll get her to take a pill first and then take the rest with me."
"The prescription is for Atavan, bottom shelf in the upper cupboard to the right of the sink in the kitchen. And thank you, Glenn, from the bottom of my heart."
"Yes, the bottom of your cold, counterfeit heart. I'm doing it for her, John, not you. Right now I don't like you at all. You know I care about her, though. I'll make sure she's okay."
"I know you care," he paused, "I've always known. Right now I'm counting on that."
He grabbed his bag and looked around at their familiar bedroom as if memorizing it. The he went to the garage and drove off calling the hotel in Bluewater on his way. He'd get a room for a couple of days until he figured out what the heck he was going to do to try to salvage his marriage. He could only hope that after some time and penance from him, Melora would reconsider. Lalique was moving on now. Both the women he loved had turned him loose. It was, he knew, what he deserved.
When she saw John's Viking move down the street Melora murmured his name without realizing it. She came back downstairs into her dining room and, sitting down at the table, sobbed brokenheartedly. John; the only man she had ever loved, would ever love, was gone but she supposed he'd been gone from her for some time. She'd thought she knew his heart more than he knew it himself. Now she had to wonder if she'd ever known him at all. Where would she go? Everywhere she looked reminded her of their life together. How could she sleep in their bed again? Maybe she would just conk out on the sofa in the living room, at least for tonight. How odd that would seem. Like being a guest in her own home. She made fresh coffee and then cried some more; between earlier in the shower and now her eyes were so swollen she could barely see and her nose was bright red and still she couldn't seem to stop.
After a few moments she realized someone was knocking at the door. Great. Then she saw it was Glenn and she hurried to answer.
"Hey, lady," she hugged Melora, which started another freshet of tears. Glenn patted her back, "Just cry it out."
Finally Melora was able to pause and laughed ruefully,
"Now I can't breathe."
"That will pass. How about I get you something to chill you out and some aspirin for what I'm sure by now is a raging headache? Maybe a cold cloth?"
Melora nodded silently and sat down on the living room couch. When Glenn immediately went right to where the prescription was kept in the kitchen, Melora knew. It was a statement rather than a question.
"John called you, didn't he?"
Glenn nodded and handed her a glass of water and the pills,
"He was very worried about you. He still loves you, you know; even if he is a stupid ass and a stinking macho pig."
"Does he? Somehow right now I don't feel like it."
"He's a good man in many ways but, after all, he IS a man. Maybe you could just kick him around a while, you know, torture him and then eventually take him back when he's learned his lesson."
Melora snorted and then a smile puckered her mouth slightly,
"I'll think about it."
But she was already relaxing a little, Glenn could see; the mind and body can only reel for so long, then it has to adjust.
"Hey, are you hungry?" Glenn asked, "I'm starving! You know I can't cook, but I'm a whiz at take out or delivery. How about pizza? Meanwhile, I'll get you a soft drink or would you rather have half a dozen Margaritas?"
"Yeah, I could probably use them," Melora laughed a little, amazing herself at her ability to do so, "But, since I just took that prescription to relax me I believe I'll stick to a Fresca and you can order that pizza. I probably need some junk food. So--double cheese, pepperoni and sausage, mushrooms and onions for me. Maybe by the time it gets here I'll feel like I can eat again. If not, I like leftover pizza. Glenn, sweetie, you always make me laugh; you are definitely the one person I need right now."
Glenn grinned wide and brought two fingers to her forehead in a casual salute; all she needed was a bomber jacket and a silk scarf,
"Glad to be of service, kid. Be right back."
And she hurried back to the kitchen and stood at the sink a moment looking out the window, her face composed but her eyes full of an old pain. Then, sucking in a breath, she resolutely started clunking ice cubes into two glasses. She would have to keep sharp; Melora needed her. She said a short silent prayer for her and for John--and for herself.
Next blog update: The Lassiter Family Ch. 15 "You Better Sit Down, Kids"