Friday, February 21, 2014

End Lesstin Kering 5 2/21/14

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A tiny goose honk of a horn startled Lesstin out of his day dream. Not that he'd really been dreaming. He did put his car into first and accelerate through the light even as it was turning yellow. He swore under his breath. He had failed all the people behind him at the light.

Other cars ran their merry dance around him, passing, turning, and merging badly. They didn't matter; he didn't see them. He had no real place to be. It wasn't even 10 yet, and he only had a handful of things to do. But it was great to get out of the house and enjoy the warm spring day.

An old favorite came on the radio. He turned it up, opened the windows, and beat out the rhythm on the door panel. Maria had always loved this song. He swore again and checked the clock. Almost an hour had gone by without notice. He went through the list again, just to keep busy.

“Hunting license.” He wouldn't need it for a few weeks yet, but better to be prepared. “Make reservations.” Either a lodge or just a good parking spot. He had slept in the back of a truck many times. Not the most comfortable, but it served. “And get my guns back from Adrian's boyfriend. I don't think he even used them last year.” He never should have let Maria talk him into loaning the boy those guns.

He slammed his hands on the steering wheel. “No, no, no!” The list wasn't working. “Later,” he said. Maybe if he acknowledged what he didn't want to think about, it would leave him alone. For a while. Just enjoy the weather. Feel the sun, hear the birds chirping, see the trees budding. “It's a wonderful day.”

He drove past a small restaurant, where he and Maria had celebrated their last anniversary. Maria. Always Maria. The memory wouldn't leave so easily this time. He approached the closet. Just storage in the guest room. It was mostly filled with old clothes, books from college, and Christmas ornaments. In the back, tucked behind old coats and shirts, was a box. It might have been opened days before. Or years.

Work. Yes, work would keep him busy. He'd just stop in to check. Bryant wouldn't be glad to see him, not on Lesstin's day off. But he's risk it. They might even need him for something.

“In and out,” he told himself. He spent just under an hour at work, checking in the with phone bank, meeting briefly with Bryant and with Jessica. She had actually needed his permission for a few purchases, which he was glad to give. Bryant didn't want the owner peeking over his shoulder all the time, but didn't complain.

The entire business was Lesstin's baby, and he had trouble not at least stopping by every day. It would have been easier not to see his wife for a week. His wife. A sour barb jabbed him in the chest. Everything was Maria. How had he never noticed that before?

The office had taken time, but it wasn't something he could linger on. He needed someone to talk to. Not about Maria, just about...life. It was almost noon. He hadn't felt hungry all day, but he called Tony, arranged to meet him for a meal.

The small box flashed through his mind. Rose petals were painted on thick stock sides. It smelled of perfume, and was full of hand-written letters on lined yellow paper. Every one was addressed to Maria, in a careful elegant script.

He pushed the thought away again. Letters.

He snapped to attention, parked at the restaurant. How long had he been sitting there? He hurried inside. It hadn't been work, but people that kept him busy. This would work. It had to.

Tony talked about his newborn boy, and how proud they were. This was the first time he had been out in weeks. Lesstin made appropriate reactions, saying how wonderful life was, how interesting new children could be. He even smiled at the pictures. He hadn't smiled in days.

They may as well have gone to a park and just talked. Had he eaten? Had Tony?

Maria, it's only been three days, but it feels like three years. I miss your ebony lilac-scented hair.

Once in his car, he rolled the window down. The wind blew in, cool and calm. He smelled flowers on it. Maybe there were indeed lilacs. He screamed, angry. It was unfair! How stupid of him, of Maria. He just wanted some peace, for a day, for a few hours. Business and friends and success meant nothing. He slammed his hands against the drivers wheel until his palms hurt, then slumped against the air bag. He wasn't prone to crying, but didn't try to stop himself as tears flushed the sadness out of his eyes, if not his heart.

If time passed, Lesstin didn't notice it. He couldn't stop thinking of the letters. He didn't remember much from his time in Iraq. Probably best that he forgot what happened during the Gulf War. And maybe he could have sent the letters. They sounded like him, sometimes, if he were trying to be sappy or trying to flirt with his wife. But the handwriting. That was not his.

I don't know how to explain it. Every time I touch your hand, your shoulder, it's like someone is tickling me with happiness. I can barely stop myself from laughing with joy.

He hadn't needed to read more, but he skimmed onward, feeling more ill as he went. At first he had hoped these were the letters of some lost love, the “one that got away” from high school or college. He could accept that. But the man, who only signed his name as HP, oh, cruelest of cruelties, he dated the letters. The first few came in a month or two apart. But the last ones, these were mere weeks. Sometimes days. The most recent was from last week. And he answered questions, so there was no doubt that she answered back.

A metal-on-glass tapping turned his attention to the valet the passenger side window. “Are you alright sir?” he asked.

Quickly, Lesstin pretended to drop his keys, as if he were digging for them under the wheel.

The kid didn't know anything about loss, about pain. But it was time to go. “Just...couldn't get to these,” he said weakly, jiggling his keys as he easily picked them up. “Thanks.” He didn't want for the valet to answer, just turned the car on and backed out.

He hadn't drank in years. Not since just after college, when Maria told him to drop it or she'd drop him. Well. This seemed the moment to try it again. Three drinks in had him feeling it. This was his fault. He knew that. Sure, the business was successful, but even those short daily drop ins were taking time from the marriage.

He'd heard people say things like “Love is work.” For him, love was bliss, a thing that existed and could not be stopped anymore than a hundred car train without brakes. It turned out, love was not all Maria needed.

Another drink.

Marriage was a full time job. And he had botched it. Forget the work, friends, life at all. He hadn't done what he needed to.

Another drink.

He knew about those stages of grieving. Denial, anger, that stuff. Which one was “getting piss drunk” and would it get easier?

His fault or not, the part that really hurt, was that Maria hadn't bothered to come to Lesstin with her problems. Maybe this HP had started it all, but Maria, instead of dropping it, instead of talking to Lesstin about their relationship, had gone to another man. It wasn't just betrayal, it was lack of trust. And what had he done to deserve that?

Another drink.

Well. He wouldn't hide his discovery. The only option was to ask her. If he didn't, then he deserved not to be trusted. Perhaps they could work things out. The business basically ran itself. He could take her out, spend more time at home, or with her. Yes.

Like the entire day, the trip was a blur. He didn't remember getting into the car, or driving, or anything. Maria dominated his thoughts, until the headlights closed in, too close and too large. Had he missed a red light? Or just had one too many?

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