Walking the Dog

by A. Griffey

I'm walking the dog " the one that I never wanted in the first place. Part of me wanted the stupid mutt, but that's because I knew that is what they wanted. It's funny because I used to be so selfish and now, I do everything with the forethought of, "What would the kids want?" I never thought I would honestly be capable of being such a giving person and I used to tell myself all the time that I should probably never reproduce. I didn't know what I had to teach anybody and how in the hell would I ever be able to raise a healthy, stable adult when I didn't see that entity ever existing in myself! Yet, here I am, walking a dog that my kids love and I'm so happy with the knowledge that I have done yet another thing to make their lives that much more enjoyable. My father would shit a brick if he could see me now. I know that there are many people that say that to their self on a daily basis, but I really feel the sincerity of the statement to the core of my very soul. My father would shit a brick ... hell, he'd shit enough bricks to build a new Great Wall. He thought that I would either land myself in a mental ward or jail by the time I was thirty and was more than willing to speed me on my way in both of those directions growing up. There is no other way to put it except to say that my father and I didn't exactly 'get along' in our brief time together ... and it was brief, in the grand scheme of things, although, the time that was spent with Mr. Victor Kerwin did leave an impression that will never be able to be fully erased.

I used to think that I had some serious problems because I can only remember my childhood in bits and pieces. When I'm thinking back on my earlier days, the youngest age that I can recall without working my mind into a frenzy is probably eleven and even that is a stretch. That indelible image from sixth grade is one of me walking my bike up a steep hill on the way to softball practice. I remember that I was grumbling the whole way up that hill because I didn't want to play softball in the first place. I hated sports and playing them was something I had vowed never to do again, once I was able to have an actual choice.

So, there I am cursing my father out under my breath and pushing this bike, while I'm working up a sweat, which would be sure to produce a stench that would put a skunk in heat to shame. I'm just about to the top of the hill and I find myself looking around at the houses I'm walking by. The softball field is smack in the middle of the richest part of town, which I don't live anywhere near, and the houses are impressive, to say the least. I love the Tudor style houses that remind me of Shakespearian England. I think I would have been much more popular among my peers, had I existed back then.

I'm coming up to a modern, brick house on the left that I find to be quite obnoxious and notice that there are two boys in the front yard. They look like they're in high school or are just a lot taller than I am and they turn to look at me with disdain. Suddenly, they whisper to each other and they start laughing. I look away and only glance back when I hear one of them hollering for 'geek girl' to check them out. I find myself fascinated and can't look away. They're mooning me " right there, in the middle of the afternoon! These boys are bent over in front of me and I'm seeing a male ass for the first time in my life ... it's gross, interesting, and strangely erotic all at the same time for me. I'm utterly mortified and I can't stop grinning from ear to ear. I make myself look away and walk the rest of the way to softball practice with that stupid grin on my face. I am a freak. I'm convinced that I'm mentally disturbed, but I do remember that was one of the best softball practices I had ever had.

This dog is walking me more than I am him and I find myself wanting to see how hard I can yank on the leash before making the stupid mutt pass out. I used to think that I was, for the most part, a very nice person and then, I had pets. It's just horrible, but the pets that are living in my home have absolutely brought out the worst in me. The cat shit, and then vomited, on the carpet one day and I had to lock myself in the bathroom so I didn't kick it to death. Then, there's this dog. He's cute, for the most part and I honestly think that he's got, despite all of his bad behavior, a very sweet nature to him. I really do like him, when he's sleeping, but even then he can be a pain in the ass because the damn animal can snore louder than anything I've ever heard before in my life. It's just not natural. It can get down-right nauseating at times and I've found myself having to physically move him into another room when he falls asleep next to my chair, which the kids think is absolutely hysterical, of course.

I actually never had a pet in my home, growing up. Well, the folks were divorced and at my father's house, which is where I supposedly lived, we didn't have any pets. I did try to have a fish once, named Shakespeare, and I think that he lived about a week or two. He was one of those Japanese fighting fish and so, I could only have one because he would've eaten anything else in the bowl. I wanted to get two, just to see what would happen, but Dad wouldn't allow that, so I took Shakespeare home to live on top of my dresser. I fed him consistently for about two days and then, I did the unthinkable. I forgot all about him because I found a new Nancy Drew book that consumed me. I was so bad about losing myself in books back then, which I haven't done since I was about seventeen.

Dad wasn't really mad when he found out that I had, in essence, killed my fish. He just shook his head at me and seemed to almost enjoy telling me how irresponsible and lazy I was. I dutifully let him rant and then, I flushed the fish down the toilet. I guess I wasn't too torn up about the whole thing because I went right back to finish that Nancy Drew book, which turned out to be one of my favorites of the series.

"Shit!" I hear myself yell out loud, which embarrasses me.

The dog is dragging me, as he runs after a squirrel that has caught his eye. The squirrel is making his way across the lawn towards the safety of a tree and the dog is determined to not let him make it alive. I tug, in vain, on the leash and watch in utter disdain as the dog stands at the base of the tree the squirrel has now ran up. The damn dog is barking his head off and I wonder to myself if there's anyone around to see me beat him to death. I can't do that, though, because the kids would be devastated. I would never, purposely, destroy my children.

There was a lot that was done to me, as a child, and a lot that was neglected ... all, of which, I made myself learn from, so that I could be that much better of a person. I did tell myself that I would be a good parent, if I was ever stupid enough to actually have children, but I had convinced myself that would never happen. In my defense of that thinking, I didn't plan on conceiving and it did happen rather unexpectedly, which at the time, I thought was more of a curse than a blessing. Those cursed feelings vanished the minute I felt a kick inside my womb, though. I was blissfully in awe from then on.

When I found out that I was pregnant, I had just left my husband, which I was uncomfortable calling him then because we didn't have anything close to a marriage, or even a relationship, for that matter. I had met him when I was at the tender age of twenty and I had more open emotional wounds and scars at that time than most battered women of forty. I didn't think too highly of myself, to say the least, and thought that if any man was insane enough to want me, I should not only kiss his feet, but also do nothing less than worship him for pretty much all of eternity. I was shacking up with my estranged mother at the time because my father had given up on me by that time and I was not, in his eyes, a member of his immediate family any longer. That sounds dramatic, but that is pretty much word-for-word how he stated his feelings to me shortly before I had moved in with 'Mommy Dearest.'

So, I met George Carney and I was completely unimpressed by anything that he supposedly had to offer anyone. He was taller than I was, but instead of being attractive, it just meant that there was more room for all the excess weight he had. I remember his skin was so oily that it always looked as if he was sweating profusely. George was also a man who believed, despite what everyone else saw, that he was a very handsome man. He thought that he was cooler than ice and walked around like he knew everything. George had the attitude that, with a little charm, he could convince the world to give him his way in all things. I remember thinking how arrogant he was, but I was also thinking that he could really help me to get farther in life because I was pretty low on the totem pole of existence. Ah, if I had only known then what I knew now.

I met George on a blind date that was set up by a mutual friend of ours. She told me later that she didn't think we would hit if off at all and had just wanted to get me out of the house for a night, so I could have a good meal and get away from my mother, who had been driving me nuts with all her neurotic nagging. If I had met George later in life, he wouldn't have had a shot in hell with me, but I was in a state of mind where a leper with two heads and oozing puss everywhere could've probably have gotten laid by me without even asking.

So, George took me to some Italian restaurant that I had already been to and had hated, by the way. He talked about himself the entire time and I just ate my ziti, hanging on to just about every word he had to say. At the end of the meal, he told me that he thought we had a real connection, which almost made me fall out of my seat. I remember wondering why he wasn't asking the waitress out, instead of me, because she was much more attractive and he kept staring at her ass, which was much nicer than mine would ever be. He did ask me out, though, and I went with him to the fair that was going on two towns away. He didn't win me anything and we didn't ride any rides because the one thing we did have in common was our motion sickness. We sure did eat just about every type of food that was sold at that fair, though. I actually watched him gorge himself rather than eat myself, but I let that be alright with me. I let a lot of things that made me physically nauseous go, even though I wasn't even fully aware of the fact that I was doing it. I was satisfied with letting things take their course and wherever I ended up at the end of it all would be fine by me. I didn't care, honestly. I could've cared less. George would smile at me, between bites of the latest comfort food, and he would tell me that his mom thought I was such a good thing for him. I would nod and smile. I was so compliant and I didn't feel a thing. I wonder if I blinked at all for that entire month of our courtship. It wasn't like any other dating I've ever experienced before or since. George wouldn't call me at all and I didn't care. He would tell me at the end of our 'meetings' together when he would pick me up next and I would dutifully nod. My mother was happy to have me out of the house and the guy she married was ambivalent to life in general, so I was pretty much on my own in my numb existence.

It was almost three months to the day that we had met and George picked me up to take me to some new restaurant a couple of towns away. That was pretty much all we did, by the way. He would pick me up and I would accompany him to the next meal. So, we're driving and George starts talking about how he's in his middle twenties now and it's time for him to settle down. I nodded, like I always did. George pulled the car over and turned to me.

"I'm going to marry you 'cause Mom says it's where we're headed." George announced. "Do you like that idea?"

I didn't think about it for very long because I didn't want to make George mad. If I made George mad, I wouldn't have anyone around to take me out to eat anymore and I would be stuck in my mother's house for the rest of my life. I would rot away like so many plain, unappealing spinsters before me had. I could not be a spinster! No one else would have me and I was certain this was my only shot at ever getting married.

I felt myself nod and shrug. "I think that we could do that." I heard myself say.

That was it. George's mom took me to pick out a dress and I bought the first one I saw when we walked into the store. George did pick out the rings himself, but he bought them from a friend at work who had just gotten divorced. We rented a room at a local church and paid a preacher a little extra, so we didn't have to have marriage counseling prior to the big day and about six weeks after my 'conference' in the car with George, I was Mrs. Carney. I had never had magical, so I wasn't shocked that I felt nothing. I was a little depressed that when George kissed me quickly after we said our vows, I wanted to hurl, but I let myself believe that it was my nerves. I kept telling myself that I was lucky to be married. There were plenty of women who would want to be in my shoes at that moment. That's what I kept telling myself, as my mother went around telling everyone how pleased she was for me. George's family had more money than she had, so I had done well for myself.

My father didn't call me at all. When I called to tell him about the wedding, he told me that he was on his way out the door with Harriet and the girls, so he couldn't stay on the phone. He did say that he would get back to me, but I never heard from him.

So, George and I lived together for a couple of weeks. It was mundane and nothing more than what I thought it would be. George would go to work and I would make sure to have his breakfast fixed before he got out of the shower in the morning because I had been late with breakfast a couple of days after the wedding and he had very firmly let me know that it would not be tolerated again. I was determined not to rock the boat in any way whatsoever, so I made sure that there were no more late meals for George.

After fixing his highness' royal omelet and coffee, I would clean the house after he left and I would finish that up at about noon, which is when I would make myself a sandwich and then, I would start some laundry or I would call Mom. She would tell me about how the man she married was never home and about all the new movies she had taped off of HBO. She'd offer to lend me a couple of tapes, so George and I could watch them together, but I would tell her that George only liked to watch football or the hunting channel and then, we'd hang-up because we had other things to be doing. George would come home around four or five o'clock, depending on if he stopped by the bar and I would start dinner when I saw the car pull up. He would grab a beer and turn on the t.v. and I would set up the dinner table, knowing that he would just eat in the other room anyway. After dinner, I would clean up the kitchen and then sit next to George, reading the paper or a magazine, until he was ready to go to bed. Then, I would get into bed and wait for about an hour for him to finish in the bathroom. George would get into bed and climb on top of me sometimes to hump me for about a minute or two, but more times than not, he would just roll over and snore with no humping involved. That was it. That was how we existed for roughly four weeks, until that night.

I hadn't felt well that morning when I woke up. I was really sick to my stomach, but nothing would come up. I thought I had the flu and tried to make eggs for George, but couldn't make myself turn on the stove, so he was going to have to suffer with cereal that day. I was walking to the bathroom to make sure he wouldn't be mad about the cereal and I noticed that the door was ajar. I stopped right outside the bathroom and heard George grunting softly. I peeked inside and saw him sitting on the toilet, masturbating. It was such a pivotal and altogether, revolting moment for me. I was completely grossed out, to say the least. I wondered to myself how hard it was for him to hold up the rolls as he jerked on his nub of a penis. I didn't want to wonder about it, though. I didn't want to think of George in that way at all. I didn't want to associate myself with George at all. I didn't want to have to admit to anyone, ever, that I had let myself marry George Carney. I wanted to run away.

I walked back to the kitchen and got myself one of George's beers out of the fridge. George came out shortly afterwards and stared hard at me, sitting at the dining room table, chugging out of the beer bottle.

"What the hell is the matter with you, bitch?" He spit at me.

I glared at him. "I don't feel well and you'll have to eat cereal today."

George snorted. "I don't think so. Make me some eggs."

Oh yeah, this was the man of my dreams. This was the man that I had envisioned on that white stallion. Why not? I'll tell you why not. It was 'NOT' because the minute George got onto that stallion, he would've broken the damn thing in half with his monstrously fat ass.

I had woken up for the first time in months. I was wide awake and I was not happy with had happened around me since I had gone into my emotional coma so long ago. I was done with that shit!

"George, I do not feel well and I can't cook this morning."

George shook his head and the veins in his neck started to pulse hard. He stood in front of me, in front of the dining room table, and he grabbed me by my arms. He picked me up and threw me over the table before I even knew what was happening. I hit the wall with my back and my head bounced off my chest with the force of the impact. I just lay there, stunned, and hurting. George kept glaring at me and didn't say anything at first.

Then, he cleared his throat and straightened out his tie. "I'm sorry, but I told you how I feel about order in this house. Now, I'm going to work. Make something with chicken tonight for dinner."

I was so pissed! I had been dutiful and I had let that mass of lard hump me whenever he wanted to. Who the hell did he think he was to treat me with such disrespect? I may have not been worth much, but I was definitely worth more than that.

I stood up and shook my head violently. I was seething so badly, that I was waiting for the foam to come out of my mouth.

"No! No! NO!" I just screamed. "You can't do that to me, George! You can't treat me like this!"

George raised his eyebrows and went to the garage. I watched him as I panted with my rage. He came back, holding his favorite and newly acquired gun, which just happened to be some AK something that he had bought through a catalog a couple of months before they banned citizens to own them.

Now, I was pissed and terrified. I couldn't move. I was like a deer caught in headlights and I just stared at George, still panting, but my breathing had gone so quiet. The whole room was silent, except for the sound of George positioning the gun at me. He pointed it right at me, without a sound and without any emotion.

"You are worthless and I would rather than have you dead than have to deal with your shit."

He pulled the trigger and I sucked in my breath, but I didn't close my eyes. I just stared at George in horror ... and nothing happened. The room was silent again. George shook his head and lowered the gun. I felt my knees go weak and put my hand on the dining room table to stable myself.

George sighed and shook his head again. "Guess it's your lucky day, bitch. I'm going to work and I expect that chicken when I get home." He put the gun against the wall and grabbed his coat. "Don't ever make me do that again." He snapped at me, as he walked out the door.

I didn't move for almost an hour. I was rooted to that spot in the dining room for what seemed like an eternity and then, I clicked into action. I called my mother first and told her that George had threatened me with his new gun. She asked me what I had done to piss him off and let me know that I really should behave more like a wife. She said that he had good money and I was lucky to have him. I should realize that before I screw up my whole life. I thanked her for her advice and hung-up on her. The next phone call took place after scouring the phone book for about a half-hour. I called the woman's abuse shelter and they said that they would meet me, with whatever I could carry, down the road at the 7-eleven in twenty minutes. I didn't take the time to think about what the consequences of my actions would be. I grabbed my purse, two changes of clothes and a toothbrush. I was leaving and I didn't look back. I met the lady in the white station wagon in the parking lot of the 7-eleven and we drove off.

We had been driving for almost ten minutes before I looked at her. She was young, maybe even my age, and she had long blond hair that looked dark enough to be natural. She wasn't fat by any means, but was not at all skinny either and I found myself thinking how attractive she was, but I don't think she saw herself like that at all.

The woman smiled tentatively at me. "How are you doing?"

I nodded.

"You've done the right thing and I know it's hard. We're going to keep you safe and we'll help you do what you have to now. You're not alone anymore."

I nodded again. I wasn't scared. I wasn't nervous. I was very calm and I honestly felt very calm. It wasn't a peaceful feeling, but rather just calm. I was in control of things from there on out and I knew that. It was about damn time.

"Dog, No!" I hollered as the dog tried to go attack the garbage truck that had just rumbled past us. This dog was so annoyingly mental and I wanted him dead. I wanted to go back in time to three weekends ago, to when I had agreed to let this mutt come home to us from the pound. I wanted to choose the older husky dog that I had seen in one of the cages, who had been lying there quietly either because he was resigned to the fact that no one would ever take him home or because he was simply too old to move. He would have been a great dog for me to own. I wanted that dog, but of course I knew that was impossible now because he was probably already bundled into a trash bag.

Life had gotten somewhat easier after I left George, for a little while, at least. I stayed in the shelter for the thirty days that I was aloud to and I had tried to call George once, to let him know that I found out I was pregnant four days after I had left home. He had screamed at me and told me that he had wished he had killed me when he had the chance because he would rather have me dead than carrying his kid. I had hung-up on him and called my mother next to tell her the good news. She didn't say much, except that she thought I should go back to George and beg for forgiveness. I hung-up on her too and went into my counselor's office to tell her that I wanted to move away. She had brought the idea to me a couple of days earlier and I needed to think about it.

"Helen, He has tried to kill me once and threatens it every time he gets the chance. I'm ready to go now." I told her, as I sat in a chair in front of her desk.

She helped me to pick out a place I thought I would want to live in and she called the local woman's shelter there in Colorado. They agreed to let me stay there for about a month, until I could get settled and find a job and place to go. It was all set. I had been able to pull about a hundred bucks from the bank account before George cleaned it out, so I had that, my purse and my backpack with my two sets of clothes and toothbrush. I also had some vitamins from the health clinic and I wasn't alone anymore. I did have my 'carry-on luggage' to talk to.

I always knew that my baby was a 'he.' I knew from the minute they told me that he was living inside of me. I don't know how I knew, but I did and I never doubted for a second. He and I had many long talks on that endless bus trip to Colorado. I told him all about my dreams that I had as a young girl to be the female Stephen King of my generation. I told him about the dreams I had for him, even though I worried he'd be very screwed up to have landed me as a mother. I was convinced that the first thing I should do in Colorado was make an appointment with a shrink, just to get a head start on the therapy my child would surely require to make it through life.

I stayed in the shelter and while there, I legally changed my name. I wanted a fresh start and I didn't want my child to have any of my baggage, so we started anew. He came into the world, screaming his head off, with no worries and with my new name attached. It was magical ... I got to have my magic moment. He was, honestly, not the most attractive baby I'd ever seen, but he was my son. I loved him more than I thought I could have. He was such a good baby too. He didn't cry all that much at all and I would just hold him every chance I got. I found myself a little apartment, which was in New Mexico, but it was only a half-hour from the shelter in Colorado. It was funded by the state and I lived off of New Mexico's generosity for the first six months of our new lives together. It was amazing. We were near a supermarket, so we'd take our weekly walks to get groceries and we always watched 'Sesame Street' together in the mornings and at night, we would watch Mtv. I wanted my son to be cultured and fun. I taught him to head bang to Ozzy Osbourne before he could even walk, but it was great.

I never tried to call my mother again and of course, George was never even thought of. I was totally wrapped up in my little man and making a good life for him. That is all that consumed me. I didn't read books, unless they could be read to him. I didn't watch anything on t.v. without him. He slept in a playpen next to the couch where I slept. We ate all of our meals together and we spent as much time outside as possible. It was surreal, but also so real that it was breathtakingly wonderful, to say the least. I was so happy and I know that my son was as well. I know that I was a good mother to him, which didn't shock me as much as I thought that it would.

We stayed in that apartment until he was almost four years old. I was going to college by that point, thanks to the state of Colorado and a grant. Seth was being watched by a woman I had met at a church I started to attend every now and then.

Then, I did something I probably shouldn't have done. I let the pastor of the church I was attending talk me into trying to date. I didn't want to. I was happy with my existence, but of course, there was a part of me that did crave some adult attention. I had never had good sex or made love at all for that matter and I wanted to. I knew that I wanted to. I didn't know what else I wanted besides that, but I was willing, after some prodding, to see what I did indeed want. I dated a couple of guys from the church, but that was so boring. They were very akin to Mr. Rogers and I didn't want anyone like that. I wanted someone with those values, but who could appreciate the fact that I had proudly taught my son to love heavy metal over that furry menace Elmo, who I thought needed to be snuffed out as quickly as possible.

So, I took the address of a Christian dating website that the pastor gave to me one Sunday after his sermon. I didn't think much of it and I scanned some of the ads, but didn't post one. I had met a young woman in the church who had posted one, though, and she had met a guy friend through the site. She wasn't dating him, but they did talk often. He didn't live too far away and we all went to lunch a couple of times. He was nice enough, but he was one of those men that would always be your best bud ... and nothing more. I wondered if he was gay and would just never admit to it because of his religious beliefs.

So, this guy tells me about this other guy that he knew, who lived up North, but who wanted to meet a 'nice girl' to correspond with. I agreed to e-mail the guy and that is how I met Frank Black, the second man I should not have ever married and the father of my second son.

The dog stopped in the middle of the yard and panted like he had just run a marathon. He just looked around, surveying and picking out his next target. I stood there, holding the leash, and waited for him to decide what he was going to do. I had nothing better to do anyway. I had already decided when I got up this morning that I was not going to strain myself in any way that day. This was going to be one of those days where I would be lucky to even get out of the jammy pants before school let out.

The dog looked up at me, as if to ask if I was ready to start walking again, and then he took off towards the back part of the yard. I did my best to keep up, but quickly resigned myself to being dragged again. If I kept choking the poor dog with this stupid leash, I would be sure to cause some sort of damage and even though I wouldn't mind doing that, I tried to do what the kids would have wanted instead. So, I stumbled after the dog as he chased a butterfly and waited for him to tire himself out, which hopefully wouldn't take too long this time.

Frank had responded to my email the day after I sent him that first fateful message. He wrote for almost two pages about his life in Pennsylvania. He lived in a smaller town, where he was a Sheriff's deputy, and he did still live with his parents. That was a newer occurrence, he told me, though. He said he had his own place and had to give it up when he started to take some more classes at the college because of expenses. I didn't know if that was true, but I didn't really care either. If I had parents that still liked me and claimed me as their kid, I might be living with them too, so I didn't judge.

I did tell Frank that I had been married, very briefly, to Seth's father and I said that it just didn't work out. I said that George was not a part of our lives and Frank seemed comfortable with that. He told me that he had not been around children a lot and thought he wanted some of his own someday, but wasn't dying to be a parent like his mother wanted him to be. He did want to be married, though. He made that quite clear. Frank was not looking for a girlfriend. Frank was looking for a wife. Frank didn't necessarily want a woman that he could take care of, but rather he wanted to someone that would take care of him and he could provide for her. I, naively, at the time thought that taking care of someone and providing for someone were one and the same. I know better now.

Frank and I e-mailed each other every day for about eight months and I thought very highly of him. He seemed to be appreciative of my alternate parenting techniques and he said that he loved how fun I was. He told me that I wasn't like anyone else he had ever met and I was thrilled with that supposed complement. We exchanged pictures and I just stared at the photo he had sent to me. He was in a t-shirt and had a ball cap on. He was smiling and it was obvious he had tried to look spontaneous, like he wasn't posing at all, even though he was. Frank wasn't a tall man, but he was taller than I was, and he had brown hair with indistinctive eyes and an even more indistinctive smile, which wasn't unattractive ... it was just a smile. I wasn't bowled over with desire for him, but he was cute and I knew he was stable. I thought that he could really give Seth and I a chance at a real home. We could be comfortable and Seth could have a guy in his life that would help him become a good man. Frank was a cop, for goodness' sake. All cops are good and stable, don't ya know?

So, Frank drove out to see Seth and I in his pick-up truck. He and I talked about nothing important that night and then, he kissed me. It was a nice kiss, but no fireworks went off. I didn't expect fireworks, actually, and I was okay with it. I wasn't in love with Frank, but I knew that I loved what he was about ... or what I thought he was about. He told me that he was dedicated to family and to doing a good job at everything. He was committed to providing a good home and life for Seth and I. He didn't tell me that he loved me, but he did say that he thought so highly of me and he said he was extremely attracted to me. He was nice looking and I liked that he took pride in his body, which was a sharp contrast to how George had been. I liked all the things about Frank that contradicted everything George had been. That is what made me want to be with Frank. I figured that I would fall in love with Frank as time went on because he did come across as a good man. This was my impression and I agreed to move up north to Pennsylvania. Frank helped me get an apartment and Seth loved all the trees and grass, because there was mostly cactus and dirt where we had come from.

We lived there comfortably for a couple of months and Frank came over every night to hang out, but he never slept over because he respected his parent's wishes. They wanted us to do things the 'right way,' which they thought we were. They found out the truth when I found out that I was pregnant. I didn't know what to do and I was a little disappointed in myself. I did not want to have a baby out of wedlock. I don't know why I thought that would make me such a whore, but I was stressing myself out pretty badly.

Frank was thinking along the same lines and he suggested we get married, which I agreed to. It wasn't very romantic, but that was not our relationship. We did not have passion and I resigned myself to living without that because passion will always burn out someday anyway.

Frank had been good to Seth as well. He would never really call him by name a lot, which bothered me a little, but I didn't pay much attention to it. I should have, looking back now, but I didn't. He would read books to Seth and he would watch t.v. with him a lot, but he never got down on the floor and just played with Seth. I did that. I was the one that had the wrestling matches with Seth and I was the one that happily cleaned up the kitchen after starting a food fight at dinner. Frank was a steady stream and I was the funny sidekick, which I didn't mind because Frank had given us some 'good.' I loved Frank for giving us that 'good' in our lives.

So, Frank let his mother pick out our wedding rings from a JC Penney catalog and I got my dress at a consignment shop. I picked out a suit for Seth, which he was as cute as hell in, and we got married in the church that Frank's mother attended. Frank moved into the apartment with Seth and I and not much changed in our lives. I didn't work because Frank said it wasn't necessary and I was pregnant, so I just continued to take care of Seth like I always had and not much changed.

The first time I met Jane was when I was still pregnant. Frank took Seth and I to the town fair and we were walking by the booth that the Sheriff's department hosted. I had heard of Jane because she worked around the Sheriff department as a secretary or something, but I had never actually met her. I didn't know, then, how much of a person she was to Frank.

I didn't think much of Jane when I met her that day. I didn't think little of her either. It was just indifference. She was taller than I was and was actually a couple of inches taller than Frank, but it was hardly noticeable. She had the same color hair as I did, but it was a bit straighter and I do remember thinking that her glasses looked a lot like mine. Jane had been with her daughter, who was about the same age as Seth. She had laughed as Frank had made small talk with her about work and I had talked with the kids. Jane's daughter, Sam, was polite and didn't say much. That had been it. From that day on, Jane began to hang-out at our place more and more. We'd go out to lunch from time to time and the kids would play together every now and then. Frank would mention Jane more when he talked about work, but not enough to where I gave it a second thought, except in hind sight.

I gave birth to my second child, a son, later that year and he was a bit bigger than Seth had been, but he was a lot more beautiful. Seth had not been ugly, but he had been wrinkly. Luke was smooth all over. He was quiet too, as Seth had been as a baby. His nature was so peaceful and I immediately just adored being his Mommy. Seth loved him almost as much as I did and Frank showed a tender side to Luke that Seth and I had never experienced. We were all so blissful.

We stayed in the state of bliss for while, but it started to radically change when Luke was almost a year old. Frank and I had not gotten closer to one another after Luke was born, but we were not unhappy. We were existing together and we were happy as parents. I did notice that Frank spent less and less time with Seth, which caused us to have our first real arguments. Frank would always say that he felt differently about Seth, now that Luke was here. I couldn't accept that and I told him that he couldn't continue with his ignorance of my firstborn. Then, Frank lost it.

Seth wouldn't pick up his toys right when Frank wanted him to and I told Seth to obey Frank, but Seth just shook his head and yelled, "No." Frank got so angry and demanded respect from my four-year-old. Seth continued to rebel and finally one day, Frank grabbed him up and just smacked the hell out his butt. It stunned Seth more than anything and it stunned me as well, because I had never smacked Seth like that ever. I didn't condone that form of punishment and Frank was quite aware of that.

Frank immediately stormed out of the room and I comforted Seth the best that I could. I made sure that he was physically, for the most part, alright and set him up in front of the t.v. with one of his favorite Power Rangers tapes. I, then, went into the bedroom to confront my husband.

"What did you think you were doing?" I asked, as calmly as I could.

Frank proceeded to apologize and tried to justify his actions, by saying that he's had been feeling like Seth didn't respect him at all lately. He said that he needed me to back him up more when it came to disciplining Seth and how it was so much easier for him to be a parent to Luke. He kept saying how natural it felt to be a parent to Luke, but how that had changed for him with Seth. I was taken aback and just didn't know how to respond. He was so different. He had never gushed loving praises over Seth, but he had been kind and loving, in his own way. He had given Seth hugs and had read to him. He used to take Seth on walks and spend time with him. Now, he was saying that he couldn't feel any connection at all with him and I didn't understand where all of that shit was coming from.

We tried to recover and get back to where we had been as a family, but that day had been a turning point in our lives. Frank began to spend more time at work and out with his friends. I spent more time wrapped up in the kids and that apartment was cleaner during those months than it had ever been. Jane would come over with Sam and while the kids played, she would try to help me understand Frank's point of view. She said Frank saw Luke as his first-born son and Seth just as someone that came along with me. She said it would probably be different if Seth were a girl, which sounded so asinine, but I wanted it all to work, so I really tried to understand and be patient.

One night, we were watching the news after the boys had gone to sleep and Frank just, out of the blue, leaned over and kissed me passionately. He had never done that before. We lay there on the couch for about ten minutes, making out and then he sat up slowly.

"You didn't feel a thing, did you?" He asked me quietly. "Did we ever really feel anything, other than lust and mutual respect?"

I shook my head, staring at the floor.

Frank moved back into his parents' home the next morning. We worked out a temporary visitation schedule for him to have with Luke, which one of Frank's Sheriff buddies notarized for us and he never asked to see Seth, so he didn't. It was all quite peaceful, which should've made me nervous, but I thought we were just being mature adults. I know that I was trying to be that way. I also know, now, that while Frank was being so mature, he was boning Jane every chance he got, just like he had been for months behind my back. Frank and Jane were also scheming up ways to get Luke away from me permanently, so that they could marry and Jane could adopt Luke. I was oblivious to all of it. I didn't see any of it coming. It was my worst 'blonde moment' ever in my entire life.

I fought them, though, the best that I could with my court-appointed attorney and hopefully, they have come to the realization that I'm not going anywhere, as far as Luke is concerned. I do see glimpses of their recognition of my place in his life, but the glimpses tend to be fleeting, which does concern me. I have days where I concentrate on those concerns and those are usually the days that I end the evening with half of a wine cooler. Then, there are the days that I have got to spend more time with Luke and I've really taken the time to soak him into my soul. I find myself not wanting to cause Luke anymore pain and distress. I have no need to quarrel and I find I'm so much more tolerant of the scathing indifference I suffer by my ex-husband. I don't know if it's because Luke is still young enough to have that childish innocence about him, but I can almost taste the need to just envelop him and protect him from all the big, bad wolves that are lurking about in the world. I refuse to be a wolf and I wish that I never felt as if Frank and Jane were part of the 'evil pack.'

I wonder if Frank and Jane have ever just sat and watched Luke. I don't mean that they have looked on and observed what he has been doing. Have they ever noticed how his brow furrows and his eyes squint furiously when he is really concentrating on something? Have they ever put their fingers to their lips as they've watched Luke chew and lick on his own as he tries his hardest to achieve whatever goal he may presently be attempting to master? Jane has professed her undying motherly love more than ever necessary, but she would never be able to see herself in his eyes when he looks for comfort in the middle of the night. Jane would never see herself as a young girl in Luke's illuminating smile. His hand will never fit perfectly in hers and there would never be a time in which she would empathize with why he only itches incessantly right before he falls off to sleep. God gave me, and me alone, those precious gifts. I would never let another try to own them.

The dog barked at something only he could see off in the distance. He doesn't bark like any other dog I've seen on the block. He bellows like he's not only dying to get his chops all over the thing that has caught his attention, but also like it's the most excruciating pain ever known. It's almost pitiful to hear his desire in that mad woofing and in listening to it more and more, I realize how much I can identify with it. I sometimes feel like the same way. I know what I want for the future and I can see it far off in the distance, so I start howling for it quietly way down deep. I think I'm still in the silent woofing stage, but it's been a long time since I've been through my latest emotional trauma and I am in a very good place in life now. I have awesome kids, a halfway decent relationship with the ex and good friends who think I'm actually worth something. What more could one ask for? Yeah, I've been on the wrong side of everything, but I can positively say that I've come out onto the right side with my head held high enough to look someone in the eye. That has earned me two wine coolers before bed tonight ... as soon as I bury the dog in the backyard after his freak accident involving the lawn mower.

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