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By John Stewart
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 John Stewart
All right reserved.
The alarm buzzed at 5:35 a.m. Tracy reached over for the second time and hit snooze. The bedroom fell silent again as Tim rolled over. The room was cold. Denver had its fair share of cold weather, but this winter was shaping up to be a doozy!
"Damn, Tracy".... Tim said as he pulled the covers up to his neck. "Did you forget to turn the heat on again last night?"
Tracy pulling the covers back over her body from where Tim had pulled them away. "No! ... I don't know. Why is it always my fault?"
"Because you were the last one to come to bed," Tim grunted as he rolled away from her.
"Well, don't roll away from me. Come keep me warm!"
"I have to go. My flight leaves in just over two hours. I should have been in the shower twenty minutes ago."
"I hate it when you leave."
"You know the deal. We talked about this plenty of times."
"God, Tim, why do you have to be so cold? I just miss you when you're not here." Tracy threw the covers back over her head and began to cry.
"Look, Atlanta is my home. You know that. I'm here for one week a month and then it's back home. We have talked about this a dozen times."
"Yeah, we talked about your divorce a few times before, too! What about that?"
Tim got up and walked across the bedroom into the bathroom. The apartment was Tim's Denver home during his one week a month travels. For what he used to pay in hotel bills each month, he easily paid for a furnished apartment. It made his lifestyle away from his Atlanta home much easier for him and his girlfriends.
The water came on in the bathroom and Tim shut the door, sending the bedroom back into pitch black. Tracy fell back onto the pillows, wiping tears away as the alarm went off again, scaring her half to death. She pounded the top of the clock radio and silence fell over the room. Sitting up, she buried her face in her hands.
Tracy began to mumble into her hands. "What am I doing here?"
Five minutes later, she was dressed and walking out the door with her overnight bag. As she began to close the door, she looked at her keys, and at the key Tim had given her just months before. As the tears kept falling, she took the new key off and threw it onto the counter next to Tim's key chain and wallet.
Turning and walking out without even bothering to shut the door, Tracy yelled, "Screw you, Tim Billings! Find someone else in this town to have sex with."
After shaving and getting dressed, Tim came out of the bathroom expecting to see Tracy still asleep. He stared at the door to the apartment, which was standing open, with Tracy nowhere to be found. The long carpeted hallway outside Tim's apartment only had one person standing in it. The neighbor stood half asleep in the hallway, staring into Tim's apartment.
"Mr. Billings, is everything alright? I heard a woman yelling out here."
Tim scratched his head. "I guess so, Mr. Stevens. I think my...." Tim looked up, not knowing what to say as Mr. Stevens shook his head and began to go back inside.
"Crap!" Tim said as he shut the door.
Then he noticed Tracy's key lying next to his on the counter. He walked over and picked it up, smiling as he dropped it in the drawer.
"Good! She was getting too attached, anyway. That's the last thing I need is a girlfriend getting too attached and screwing up my marriage before I have things all in order."
Tim got his bags together and began to head for the door. "Whoops! Almost forgot." Tim walked over to the bedside table, pulled out his wedding ring, and slipped it back on his finger.
The apartment was furnished nicely and Tim had bought a few things to make it more personal. A huge picture of the Eiffel tower in Paris, his favorite city in the world, hung over the couch. A Persian rug he and Tracy picked up one afternoon shopping when they first met, and a 50" flat-plasma screen for watching the games during football season. All in all, it was very different from the family oriented house in Atlanta that his wife had decorated.
The cab had pulled up at the curb out front and the cold air bit at Tim's face as he walked out onto the Denver street just after 6 am. The ride to the airport was not bad this early in the morning and Tim always tried to book his flight out early. With the time difference back to Atlanta, getting out early meant missing the rush hour on 285. Tim never went into the office on travel days, although the office downtown was only twenty minutes from the airport.
As Tim got out of the cab, the all too familiar headache began again at the base of his skull. Tim massaged his neck and head as the cab driver handed him his bag. He paid the cabbie and turned to walk into the concourse once again. The cabbie looked at the money in his hand and shot Tim a bird for the two-dollar tip. "Thanks, asshole!" he said.
Tim never looked back as the glass doors to the airport closed behind him. The check-in counters were packed, as usual on a Friday. His elite status granted him a no wait line of his own at the Delta counter. As usual, he was greeted with a smile and a friendly hello but Tim did not return the greeting. His headache and the morning's fight with Tracy had set him in foul mood by now. He wanted a drink and some peace and quiet.
Four hours later Tim stepped off the plane in Atlanta. Tim was glad to be home in the much warmer 60 degree weather. He looked at his watch: 3:10. "Good, I still have time to go by Scully's and get a nice scotch before I have to deal with going home."
He began the long walk through Atlanta's sprawled out concourses and huge escalators. Traveling through the busiest airport in the world had its ups and downs. He hated parking in the economy lots because of the forever walk, so he always sprung for the more expensive garage parking on these trips. Hell, what did he care? He was billing the client anyway.
As Tim got to his car, he turned his cell back on and two messages immediately beeped to get his attention. Reluctantly, Tim hit the voicemail button, assuming at least one of the messages, if not both, would be from Tracy, telling him what a jerk he was. As he expected, the first message was from Tracy, very angrily telling him that she never wanted to see him again. Tim deleted the message without even hearing it to the end. "Stupid girl," rolled off Tim's tongue as he played the next message.
In a much softer voice, a very monotone Sue Billings, Tim's wife, voice came on the line. "Tim, the doctor's office called the house to confirm an appointment for Monday. 9:00 o'clock. Just thought I would pass it along," the call ended.
Tim hit the delete button and stared at the phone before finally dropping it into the console. Tim reached back, cupping his neck, massaging the headache that was still pounding the back of his head. For the last several months, Tim had been getting headaches in the same place almost daily. He had forgotten he had his secretary make the appointment to see the family doctor.
Tim drove out of the airport smiling at the all-too-familiar, "Welcome to Georgia" sign right at the entrance to the expressway. It was good to be home again. Rush hour traffic had not started yet, but in another 30 minutes or so, it would. Rush hour in Atlanta started at 4 and ended at 7. The longest hour he knew where there was absolutely no rushing involved!
Tim pulled into Scully's parking lot just before 5 and was glad to be there. Usually there was a regular crowd there and Tim knew that a few scotches later his headache would be gone; he might even chance a poker game if there were a few suckers hanging around.
Tim pulled his BMW in beside the red Cadillac he knew belonged to George Cotton, and as he got out, he saw the tail lights of Peter's 911 across the parking lot. It looked like his two-card suckers were already inside and ahead of him on the drinking. It would indeed be a good night.
Scully's was an older place in Roswell, maybe an old steakhouse at one time. Heavy wood trim everywhere and a big wooden bar just as you came in the door. The lighting was low and the carpet in the place may have been the original when the steakhouse was built. Scully sure didn't spend a lot on changing the place when he bought it years ago. Nonetheless, it was warm and full of friends. Tim loved this place almost as much as he loved himself! Well, maybe not that much.
Tim walked through the door and was greeted by several friends as he approached the bar. Tim laughed and felt like he just walked into an old episode of Cheers! Tim slapped Peter on the back as he walked by and took his seat at the end of the row. "How's it hangin' fellas?"
Both men held up their glasses and smiled. Peter and George were older than Tim by at least twenty years and had made their money early in life. Scully's was a very frequent hangout for these guys and a card game was always welcome. Tim sat down and the bartender sat the 12 year old scotch on the rocks down just like clockwork.
"How are you doing, Mr. B? Did you sue anybody today?" The bartender was a kid in his mid-twenties, someone Scully had obviously recruited straight from the Bronx to give the place that New York feel. Never mind that Scully himself was a skinny redneck from south Georgia who made good selling his farm off before the recession and decided to open a bar in north Atlanta with most of the money.
Tim smiled at the kid. "No, not today, Billy! It was a travel day for me."
Billy smiled. "Oh! That's too bad. You let me know when you boys need another drink, okay?" Billy turned and walked away to give service to the pretty blonde down at the other end of the bar.
Tim never looked back at Billy as he faced his friends. "Well, gentleman, we playing cards tonight?" The partial grin crept onto Tim's face as he waited for an answer.
Both guys turned to look at Tim. George spoke first. "Did you bring enough money for both of us to leave here a few hundred richer than we came?"
Tim slapped the bar and laughed. "I think you took my money last time, you old codger. It's my turn to leave with the money and I bet both of you the winnings that I get that blonde's number down there before I leave, too!"
"You're on!" Peter spoke up. "You ain't that smooth, boy."
Tim nodded. "We'll see! Shall we?" Standing to go back to the usual table in the back to play, he caught the eye of the blonde at the bar and smiled. She smiled back. The battle was half won.
As the guys played cards Tim kept his eyes on the blonde and now the two friends that had joined her. As Billy took drink orders from the men, Tim bought round after round for the ladies. Each time they all turned and smiled as they raised their glasses. Tim raised his back and smiled.
"See fellas, win or lose here I will get that phone number."
George looked at Tim a little sideways. "Tim, aren't you married?"
Tim turned from the girls and looked at George. "Yeah! We are about to get divorced though. She is a do-good lawyer and thinks I am an asshole. We haven't had sex in forever. I need a woman that turns me on. You know what I mean?"
Both men sat there quietly and didn't answer Tim. "What? Don't tell me you guys have always been faithful to your wives."
Peter spoke up first. "Yeah, Tim, I have. When you find a good thing, you take care of it."
Tim laughed. "Whatever! You guys don't know what I have been through. My career has been hell at times. My wife doesn't understand me at all. I have given her everything she ever wanted. She doesn't give a crap about me. Nothing I do is ever good enough for her and my kids are just as bad."
George laid his cards down on the table. "Tim, let me tell you something. Twenty years ago, my wife and I were not doing so well. I made a mistake with a girl at work and had an affair. It was a defining moment in my life."
Tim smiled again. "That's what I am talking about. Was it good?"
Shaking his head, "No, I had thrown away everything that was important to me in my life for sex that meant nothing. I had broken the trust of a woman who had loved me for twenty-three years for nothing, for absolutely nothing."
"George! Relax, man, let's enjoy the game. Man, you guys are heavy tonight. I won't pick up the girl. Let's just play."
George stood. "Your moral compass is way off, Tim. You need to go home and make your flower bloom."
Tim looked at George with a confused stare. "What? What flower?"
George picked up his scotch and finished the last swallow from the glass. "Peter, it's been real. I will see you next time."
Peter sat back in his chair. "See ya later, George."
Tim watched George leave and turned back to Peter trying to understand. "What the hell is wrong with George?"
"Nothing's wrong with George, Tim. You need to listen to the man." Peter leaned into the table, laying his cards down as well.
"What, you about to lecture me too, now?"
"Nope. You have your own life to live my friend. I think I will go home and tell my wife how much I love her. Take it easy." Peter stood and waved at Billy as he walked past the bar. "Good night, Billy. See you next time."
Tim sat there for a few minutes staring at the pot of money on the green-felt covered table both men had walked away from. Tim slid the pile over and plucked the bills from the stack one by one. Tim stood pulling a long drag from his glass and began to walk towards the women.
Tim and Sue's house was a large red brick two-story that sat on a corner lot. Lights lit the front of the house and it was easily nice enough to be on the cover of any Better Homes and Gardens any day. The lawn was manicured and the bushes were all color coordinated in the spring with blooms.
Most of the time, Sue felt like she lived alone raising the two kids, Annette twelve and Jonathan eight. Tim was never there, when he was he was most often withdrawn or watching TV.
Sue was working on a case in the kitchen table, at the round mahogany table with carved detail down each leg. Annette finished a history report beside her. Jonathan was watching TV in the living room, too loud as usual, with his feet resting on the coffee table.
Sue looked up and barked, "Jonathan, feet off the table."
"When is Dad supposed to be home?" Jonathan shouted back over MTV's Big Brother: Episode Number Who Cares! Slowly removing his feet from the table in defiance.
"I don't know, sometime tonight."
Annette looked up from her book at Sue's face. "Mom, are you okay?"
Sue turned to Annette, "Yeah, why?"
"You looked so sad when Jonathan brought up Dad. Are you guys getting a divorce?"
"Annette, why are you worried about that kind of stuff? Your dad and I are...."
Her sentence fell away as she realized she didn't know what she and Tim were any more. It had been so long since she really cared for Tim that she realized it must have been obvious on her face. Sue began to cry. Annette sat there staring at her mom for a second before slamming her book closed. "I hate him!"
Annette walked away from the table towards the stairs, leaving Sue sitting there, not knowing what to do with the situation. Sue agreed with Annette. She hated Tim, too, and had for years. Tim's job had become a monster. The fact that she knew he was having at least one affair with a woman in Colorado didn't even faze her. She was numb to all of it. She was in a marriage she couldn't stand and her kids knew it. At least Annette did. Jonathan wasn't too aware of feelings yet. His world was consumed with Play Station and TV.
Sue sighed and stood up from the table. "Jonathan, turn the TV off and go get your room clean. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes and I want you down here with hands washed, helping me set the table." Jonathan stood up, turned the TV off and fell to the floor, playing dead.
Sue smiled. "Don't make me come in there and beat you, kid!"
"Whatever, Mom!" Jonathan laughed as he rolled over.
"Get going. Dinner will be ready soon."
Sue went to Annette's room. The sticker-covered door was closed, but Sue pushed it open with a half knock. Annette turned and looked at her as a text message ding rang out.
"Mom, I really don't want to talk about this."
"Annette, you just said you hate your own dad. We are going to talk about this."
"Mom, he is never here and when he is he acts like he hates us. He has never been to one of my school functions. He doesn't even know that I have a part in this year's play at school." Tears began to run down Annette's face as she turned back to her computer.
Excerpted from THE CURE by John Stewart Copyright © 2011 by John Stewart. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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