Saturday, March 17, 2012

Glenn Caswell Ch. 8 Heard It Through the Grapevine Pt. 2

Gareth had just told his mother the incredible news that his sister-in-law, Lalique Flynn, was pregnant with John Lassiter's child. And John didn't even know.
This left Glenn with a dilemma--should she tell John? She was his closest friend. He had said goodbye to Lalique or she had said it to him. Right now he and Melora were on rocky ground. They were beginning marital counseling sessions soon. Things were very tentative. The affair was over, but this could change everything. Possibly that was one of the reasons Lalique had not told John. If Glenn told him this he might fly to Lalique's side, wanted or not.

"So, I feel a lot better, but now I guess you don't," Gareth spoke, "After she told me Melanie said she was relieved not to be alone with it anymore. Are you going to tell him? What about Aunt Melora?"

Glenn sighed,

"I'll have to think about it. I'll have to pray about it. But right now I can't deal with it. Why don't you tell me more about how things are going with you and your family?"

He shrugged,

"That's about it. Everything else is going as usual. Dinnertime is family time, especially on Sundays, but that's good, I think. It's nice we're all together at least once every 24 hours. The rest of the day we're all off in different directions, especially Errol and Olivia. They are pretty active for their age and we're pretty low key. I mean we both keep physically active, but they just have all these friends they do stuff with at the country club like tennis and golf and they do a lot of community activities. They're tapering off some, Errol wants to fish and work on his car, Olivia says she's going to write another novel. Oh, yeah, and I'm getting a little better when I play pool with him. He doesn't beat me every single time, now it's just more like two out of three."

Glenn grinned,

"What does he say to that?"

"Oh, well, you know Errol..." and here he followed with a dead-on impersonation of his famous father-in-law, "'Your game's improving, old boy. I see I shall have to bear down a bit harder in future. Never mind, you're still young and nose to the grindstone will win the day eventually.' Great. So, maybe someday when he's 90 he'll only lick me half the time."

Glenn laughed and Gareth joined in. After another half hour he said goodbye and went on his way. Now Glenn had to think long and hard. 

For years John had hosted a once a week poker game with his childhood friends Jim Candeloro and Glenn, and Melora. The game had been canceled when Melora had kicked him out. But now that he had new digs he'd told Glen she should come to this new apartment and asked Jim to bring his wife Bonnie. Not surprisingly Melora had made it clear she had other things to do and wasn't interested.
Glenn had decided she would tell John, but in private. So to that end she planned to get to his apartment a bit early.

John's new apartment in Bluewater (opposite side of town from Lalique). This shot shows the locations of several businesses that are prominent in the stories. You'll have to click the thumbnail to read them; Amelia's Closet (owned by Kevin Candeloro), Flowers by Chelsea, Brian's Club Dante, Trey's Galaxy Arcade, Lonnie's restaurant Le Magnifique!, Elle's Art Gallery, Barbara's hair salon Bei Capelli, Harvey's Feel the Burn Gym, and Larry Max's Good Eats Cafe.

John's apartment has three floors, the main floor held the garage where John had his Viking convertible parked. The 2nd floor had the living room, dining room, and guest bath. Top floor was the master bedroom, bathroom and a 2nd bedroom John was using for his poker table.

Staircase coming from the top floor down to the 2nd floor:

Living room and kitchen on the second floor

Third floor master bedroom and bath

John's new apartment was quite nice but Glenn knew that he hoped he wouldn't be living there long. All  his efforts were now geared toward reuniting with Melora. Their first marriage therapy session was to be the very next day.

"So, what's shakin'?" Glenn asked him when he answered his bell. The entrance was in the garage and then you had to cross the room, go up a spiral staircase to the first floor and then enter the living room. Weird.

"Not too much. I'm hoping to convince Melora to have dinner with me tomorrow after the session at the shrink's office. No telling if she'll agree yet."

"You dope, he's not a 'shrink', he's a marriage counselor. No meds; just talk."


"I wanted to get here early so I could talk to you alone," she suddenly blurted. Now she was nervous. Maybe he already knew. Maybe she shouldn't tell him. This might make him run back to Lalique's side. If she wanted him, that is.

"Okay, shoot."

"We should sit down," Glenn stalled.

"I'm supposed to be putting the nuts and stuff in bowls by now, you know. This better be good. "

"Yeah, it is. Well, I mean no. It's not good. I mean, I guess it depends."

Glenn was never tongue-tied. Until now.

"Slats, c'mon, spit it out, will ya?"

"Have you talked to Lalique recently?"

He frowned,

"Why are you asking that? She made it clear she wants to move on, and I have to agree. I promised Melora it's over and I meant it; getting back with her is everything to me," he looked down and his face showed his pain, for once, "You know that."

He did not mention Lalique's request that he get information on Ray Nolan. He didn't consider that significant since it was not about their former relationship and they had not spoken in weeks, anyway. He would soon have to contact her and tell her what he'd found out though. 

"Uh huh," Glenn nodded sadly.

Just then the doorbell rang.

"That's Jim and Bonnie; they're early, too. Will you put the candy and nuts in the bowls on the counter while I go get the door?" he got up, "It's a pain to have to go downstairs every time I have to let someone in. I guess it's good exercise..."

"Swell," Glenn sighed, "John, I have to talk to you--if not now, then later."
He turned back and gave her a probing look. Something was definitely wrong. Glenn never acted like this. Whatever was bothering her was evidently not a matter she felt she could discuss in a hurry nor share with their old friends,

"I see. Then we'll discuss it later."

During the evening Glenn realized for the billionth time in her life what an inscrutable face John could hide behind when he wished. He joked with his friends in the dry way that he had, insulting Jim and Glenn, and flattering and teasing Bonnie and no one would have guessed how worried he had become since Glenn had spoken to him earlier.

Ordinarily they played for some time on these poker nights and this was no exception. Glenn usually loved it but tonight she wished so hard for it to be over that she had developed a splitting headache. By now she was just dying to get the horrible moment over with and go home to her Chiquitita and forget about John's messy life for a few hours.

At last the Candeloros were saying goodnight. They actually had sensed something going on under the radar between Glenn and John, but had no idea what it was.

Glenn helped John clear and wash glasses and snack dishes quickly and then he was standing in the dining room crooking his finger at her,

"In here. Now."

"Okay, I don't know how to say this gently," she began, but then he glared impatiently at her, just like when they were kids, so she rushed on, "So here I go in my clumsy way. I have it on good authority that Lalique is pregnant. Melanie told Gareth because she was upset about it and she said he could tell me. They thought I should be the one to tell you since Lalique has not seen fit to do so."

He continued to look at her with no change in his expression for a moment. Then he said stupidly,


"John! I'm not saying it all again!"

He'd heard it was like his "what?" should have been "wait" while he gathered his wits about him.

"But she hasn't said anything to me--nothing. Why would she do that?"

Glenn shrugged,

"I would have to say that it appears she doesn't want you to know about it. You said she broke it off just before she left."

"That's why she was in such a hurry to move--that's why she wanted to break up," he muttered to himself. His "poker" face was gone and he looked stunned, "What can I do? I mean, what should I do? Has she had the baby yet? I should try to contact her."

Glenn struggled to remember John ever having asked advice on a personal matter from her before. She'd tendered plenty of it but she didn't think he'd ever asked for it. She'd better move judiciously now.

"I don't know if she's had the baby or not. Gareth did not mention how far along she was, but she evidently had some problems early on with the pregnancy that were resolved," she saw he was jolted by that bit of information, but she went on smoothly, "Now, John; think. You told Melora it was over and she just now agreed to attend counseling with you. Do you want to endanger a possible reconciliation?"

"No. Of course not. No. No way," he shook his head, "I don't want to hurt her any more than I have, either. I don't want to lose her for good, I can't lose her. But if I'm the father I have some responsibility. If I'm the father don't I have some rights?"

"How do I know? I'm not a lawyer. But I have to point out that Lalique's actions would seem to indicate that you do not figure in her life anymore. She appears to be a somewhat mercurial, but independent and resilient woman from what I can tell. She might not welcome your presence."

"Oh, yeah? Well, it's my kid, too," he growled belligerently. Touchy. Glenn could see he'd lapsed into his 'mi familia' mode to the nth degree.

"Uh oh. Don't go all caveman on me, boy, maybe she will be okay with it. But do something for me, John. THINK about it. DO NOTHING. Just think about it. Also be aware that no matter what you do about it you will definitely have to tell Melora. I suggest you do it at counseling tomorrow."

He groaned,

"Oh, man! I'd rather have to walk on hot coals than tell her this. Especially right now when she's just beginning to be able to look at me without wanting to kill me."

"She'll have to know sooner or later. You're trying to assure her that you are being honest and and aboveboard from now on. And you didn't know until this moment so you haven't withheld the truth from her, but if you don't tell her right away you'll damage your credibility, even more than you already have."

"I guess you're right; I mean I know you're right," then he said almost as though speaking to himself, "...I just can't take it in. I thought she was on the pill."

Glenn made a gagging sound and rolled her eyes,

"Please. The pill is not infallible you know. You should have been more careful yourself. But that's what happens when you stop thinking with your head and start thinking with--well, don't get me started."

His eyes unfocused and he looked off into the distance out the window a moment,

"And the hits just keep on coming..."

"I'm going home. My head is killing me. Tonight I just want to rest. Don't call me. I'm too old for this crap, Johnson. But tomorrow...well, tomorrow let me know how everything goes. Especially if you do not tell Melora. I have to know what she knows so I don't say something out of school."

She hugged him briefly and headed to the door. When she looked back John was still sitting at the table looking as though he'd been hit by a truck.

Glenn Caswell Ch. 8 Heard it Through the Grapevine Pt. 1

Lately, Glenn reflected, life seemed a bit crazy and, in self-defense, she found she had become a bit preoccupied with her little dog, Chiquitita. The dear little thing was so much fun to train and such a good companion. Right now Glenn was teaching her to sit up and she thought the puppy was so cute when she’d cock her head to one side plaintively before attempting the feat.

It was Saturday and Gareth was due to come by for a visit. He wanted her to put any chores aside for him to do on these days, but Glenn was so independent she didn’t like to ask anyone for help. However; at Gareth’s impassioned insistence there were a few jobs she no longer attempted, like checking out her gutters from a tall ladder, moving heavy furniture or even dealing with a cranky computer. Software issues Glenn could usually handle, but for hardware problems she counted on Gareth. Today, though, she had nothing for him to do except sit down with her and have a conversation. This was something she looked forward to every time. He’d been a complete joy to Glenn since the day he was born and she never tired of his company. She had been overjoyed when he'd slid into the pew next to her at church the last couple of Sundays. He was by himself, but he was there.

When he came in Gareth played with Chiquitita for a bit and then sat down at the table with Glenn.

"Mom, since I talked with you about, you know, my job and about Lori, I feel so much better. I guess just getting it out there helped a lot. Melanie just told me she wants to go with me to worship tomorrow. She wants to take Scarlett and go as a family. I can't believe it. I thought if she ever did want to go it would take a lot longer than this."

"Well, you know how happy I am to hear that, son," Glenn smiled, "More than happy."

"I'm also realizing that Melanie's idea about staying at the estate with her parents--multi-generational living she calls it--definitely has merit. Olivia and Errol are so good with Scarlett and it frees Melanie and I up to do things together outside the home sometimes. In fact we're going to take a short vacation soon, just the two of us. Seems to me that learning respect for her grandparents as well as her parents will be good for Scarlett. I think they have so much to offer her with their knowledge and talent."

"You may be right. I think things always have an upside and a downside and you just have to choose what works best for you at the moment. You do need to make sure that it is clear to Scarlett who are the parents and who are the grandparents. Sometimes when grandparents are helping to raise children the line can get blurred."

Gareth nodded,

"I've got some more good news; the high school in Bluewater needs a history teacher/coach and I'll start there in the fall. I let the school board know I'll be leaving. They weren't real happy, but there were no hard feelings since I gave them plenty of time to figure out a replacement. Melanie is all pro with that. She totally blew my mind when she said that I shouldn't have waited; that she wants me to do what is best for me--for us. She just didn't realize how unhappy I was. I guess I didn't either. And she said she doesn't care about the money, I should do what I'm really good at. Of course, that's easy for her to say, I suppose, since we're living at her parents' house. We do contribute half toward expenses. We pay for all groceries, too."

Glenn leaned over and squeezed his hand, her eyes bright with unshed tears,

"Just keep praying and trusting in the Lord, son. And how's my little granddaughter?"

"Mom, that kid is our little ray of sunshine. It's like she's filled to the brim with joy and light and she spreads it around without even trying. When I get things going good at my job Melanie is talking about having another one, you know," he grinned wide, "Things are going so well between us now it's like we're falling in love all over again. I know it's me, I've been the problem, but now I feel 100% better and I think since I'm not worrying about the job, I'm able to be a better husband and father."

Glenn didn't ask him if he was getting over Lori; she knew he was working at it and if he hadn't already, he soon would be healed. Talking about it now wouldn't help anything.

"That's fantastic, totally fantastic."

Suddenly Gareth became serious and looked uncomfortable. Then he said,

"The other day Melanie and I were talking, Errol and Olivia had gone out on the boat that day and Scarlett was playing practically at our feet and it was nice to have just the three of us together. Then Melly told me something that I just couldn't believe at first. I didn't know what to do, she wanted an answer and I didn't have one."

"What is it? You're scaring me."

"I'm sorry. Melly told me that I could tell you," he went on.

"Tell me...what?" Glenn wanted to scream.

"She said, well...she said Uncle John's been getting it on with her sister, Lalique. She swears it's true. I didn't want to believe it, but I finally had to; Melanie wouldn't lie about that. She told me it was okay to tell you since I told her how close you are to him and you might know what to do."

He threw the information down like a weight he'd been carrying on his back and was relieved to drop.

Glenn felt immense relief since this was not news to her.

"Yes, I know about it. He has ended the affair though. I understand Lalique has moved from Pleasantview to Bluewater. Melora asked John to leave and he did but he is begging her to go to couples counseling with him. Naturally, I couldn't tell you before she told her own children. And she does not know it's Lalique; she just knows there was a woman."

"Man, I feel so bad for Aunt Melora...and for Lori and everyone. Like I said, I had a hard time believing it of Uncle John. He's been kind of a father figure to me, you know that. I always looked up to him and I thought he and Melora had this really successful marriage. But, there's more...maybe you already know this too, I don't know."

"More?" Glenn's heart suddenly plummeted into her stomach like a stone.

"The reason Melanie is so upset now is that Lalique is pregnant and she hasn't told Uncle John, she hasn't even told her parents or her older sister, Yvette. Melanie doesn't know what to do, what to say or think. She didn't feel she could even tell me because Lalique didn't want anybody to know. When Melanie finally told me anyway it was because, after Lalique almost lost the baby and Melanie had to take her to the hospital, she really wanted her parents to know and she didn't want to tell them without telling me first. So here Melanie was feeling guilty for not telling me yet ashamed for giving away Lalique's secret--like it could stay a secret for long anyway. I guess that's why Lalique was in such an allfire hurry to move out of Pleasantview. If she had to do this why'd she have to drag Melanie into it and then swear her to silence? I'll tell you, I'm more than a little ticked with Lalique for putting her in the middle of a mess she didn't make."

Glenn was still staring at him, she'd been caught completely unaware this time. Pregnant? Lalique's pregnant. Well, damn, John.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Lassiters Ch. 15 You Better Sit Down, Kids

After David and Barbara's joyous wedding a few weeks before it was heartbreaking to Melora that the next time her family was all together it was to announce the breakup and possible end to her own marriage. John had been staying in a hotel and she had decided to wait to say anything to the kids until she could get past her own feelings. She could wait no longer; they were adults and deserved to know that their parents had separated, however unhappy the news was.

So she asked all of them to come over Sunday afternoon. When they got there, and after greeting them warmly she asked them to join her in the dining room. The long table there was no longer able to seat the whole family at one time. Devon volunteered to take an extra chair next to the windows and Melora shot him a grateful look. He had turned out to be a very good man and a good son-in-law, just like Harvey, should she have been surprised? No, because he was the youngest son of two of her oldest friends, Royal and Brenda Brecht. All of them were talking animatedly to each other, having no idea of what was to transpire next. Melora finally cleared her throat gently and spoke.

"Thanks for coming; I know all of you have busy lives and look forward to your weekends. I--"

"Wait, Mom, we can't start," Grace cut in, "Dad's not here yet. Where is he anyway, working on the Viking?"

"He's not home, sweetie. That's what this is about. Your father has moved out. He's staying at the Bluewater Inn but will be moving to the Seaspray Apartments today."

For a moment no one spoke, looking about at each other in bewilderment.

"I don't understand, are you saying Daddy won't be living here anymore?" Grace asked in a stunned voice.

Melora nodded. She hoped she wouldn't start crying, not over John, but over their four children. Suddenly she saw them the way they had been, sweet little faces looking earnestly to her and to John for safety and love. That was ridiculous, they were all adults, capable, mature and financially independent and had been so for some time. But they looked so shocked and she hadn't even told them yet the reason why John was gone.

"Yes, Gracie," Melora replied, "We've separated. It's a sad story but not that unusual I'm told."

"But...why? What happened?"

"Maybe she doesn't want to talk about it, Grace," Lori cut in because, of course, she'd been worried about her parents for a while now. She had finally told Harvey her fears, but only recently.

"No, it's all right," Melora assured her, "That's why I wanted you all here. I'll tell you briefly and then you can ask any questions you want. I can't promise I won't get emotional, but I'm sure you'll understand. It seems your father has been having an affair; I don't know who at this point. I didn't want to know. He claims that it is over and that he has stopped seeing her. We are going to try counseling to see if there is any chance to save our marriage."

They reacted in different ways. Grace looked helplessly across the room at Devon and he came over to stand behind her chair, massaging her shoulders. Lori didn't take her eyes off her mother, but reached automatically for Harvey's strong and comforting hand.

David's eyes were flashing fire. He had always been close to Melora; he'd been the "baby" of the family until he was fourteen and Trey and Lori had been born. His relationship with his father had been problematic at times. He glanced at Barbara; he was embarrassed somehow that she had to know about his father's transgression and he was furious at the betrayal to his mother. 

Trey, on the other hand, would reserve judgment, he hadn't heard all of the story and he hadn't heard John's version. He was the one who could hide his emotions almost as well as his father. His wife, Chelsea, caught his eye; she'd been through the breakup of her parents marriage years before and it had affected her strongly; she knew what he was going through.

"How could Daddy do this? It's so unlike him," Grace burst out. She was the one who'd always kept John on a pedestal and the fall he'd just taken was unbelievable to her. Surely there was a reason, some unknown excuse, that would make him be able to get back up on that pedestal.

"But Mom," Lori said, "How can you trust him again?"

She couldn't bear even to picture her father in her mind at this point.

"I don't know; I'm hoping the counselor will help me with that. The thing is; I want you to continue to have a good relationship with your father. I want you to feel you can still see him, still contact him, know he's there for you," Melora went on.

David's anger and disappointment flared,

"Oh, yeah, like he was there for you, Mom? He should be too ashamed to see any of us...or you. I don't want to ever see him again."

Barbara leaned over and touched his hand,

"David, don't."

Her parents were gone and she would never see them again. She would easily give a year of her life just to spend an afternoon with them once more. David looked at her and felt ashamed.

"That might be your first reaction, David, sweetheart," Melora acknowledged, "But try to keep an open mind. I'd be lying if I said this was not a devastating blow to me. I'm willing to try to work things out because I made a vow for better or worse. So did your father and we are duty bound to try to remedy this. Although this was a thoughtlessly horrendous thing he did, he gave me his best for over thirty years, he has always given you kids his best. All marriages have chinks and flaws. I have no guarantee that the counseling will work, but we both have to give it our best shot. Besides, in spite of everything; I'm afraid I'm still madly in love your father. Nothing will change that, I guess."

"You're all alone in this huge house with only one neighbor," Lori began tentatively, "Do you need any of us to stay here for a while with you? I mean, there's plenty of room. Or would you like to stay with one of us?"

"I'll be fine. All of you live within blocks of here. If I need you I'll call. Besides I have Felina for company." 

She didn't mention that she was sleeping in Lori's old bedroom because she could not bear to use the master bedroom. She couldn't fall asleep in that bed without John beside her. And she didn't tell them she often felt vulnerable with so many doors to the outside, so many windows. She'd always loved having lots of windows before, but now at night it bothered her. She would deal with it.

"Are you sure?" David asked, "I know Lori and Harvey need to be at home with the twins and the same for Grace and Devon with the baby coming soon, but Barbara and I could come for a week, maybe take turns with Trey and Chelsea."

"No, no, no; that's too disruptive for you. Thank you for thinking of me but I'm getting used to it already."

"Well, please call any of us if you need anything," Harvey assured her, "It's no trouble and with two sons and two sons-in-law you have plenty of strong arms to choose from."

"Thank you, Harvey, I knew I could count on all of you. Kids, I hope you will contact your father when you're ready. I've got his old business cards with the new address on the back. His cell phone is the same, of course."

"I know this is a shock," she went on, "You'll need time to absorb it."

Two by two, the kids trickled out the door, hugging Melora and murmuring words of encouragement.

She spent the evening reading a new thriller that kept her mind busy. She did quite well during the days, but the nights were awful. She had cried herself to sleep the first week, but now she would crawl into bed and let herself browse through her memories, it comforted her. John and she dating; dancing and kissing and laughing. They'd had a wonderful and exciting courtship back in North Carolina. Each night she was inching forward; their engagement party in Atlanta, the wedding and their first house there on Lake Norman, moving to Pleasantview and onward. Thirty-five years provided a treasure trove of memories.

John called her every day to chitchat for a bit. He had from the beginning but it had taken her two weeks after she'd thrown him out to stop ignoring his calls and texts. Just making herself get up every day and put one foot after the other was the best she could do right now. One day at a time she told herself; one day at a time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Lassiters Ch. 14 Endings Always Come Too Fast

Author's note: This is a long chapter, but it just didn't work to cut it in half. :(

"All I Know" by Jimmy Webb, sung by Art Garfunkel 

Lyrics HERE

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. old is she?"

Glenn sighed,

"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?"

"She's single."

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."

"I promise."

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,

"John, go!"

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.