ࡱ> jli7 mbjbjUU "7|7|i*ljjjjjjj~|||8 T~]"  "BBBBBB!!!!!!!$# 3%n"jBBBBB"jjBB"BjBjB!B!\!jj!B -~|X^!!-"0]"!&&!~~jjjj Maureen waited impatiently in the express checkout line as the three gallons of milk cut into her fingers and the two bags of bread slowly slipped from her cramped hands. Jumping as her phone exploded in her purse, she involuntarily loosened her hold on the bread and no amount of frantic adjustments could keep them from slipping through her fingers with one gallon of the milk squashing atop of them. Damn, she muttered under her breath as she fumbled with the purses zipper to get to the offending item of technology, advertised to make her life easier and fuller. Damn, she muttered once again as she read the number on the display. Jerry. Her ex-husband. Why on earth was he calling her? Hello, Maureen answered as she retrieved her fallen milk and squashed bread. Reen? Maureen winced. Jerry was the only one who called her Reen and with the name came the entanglements of twenty-five years of emotion. What do you need, Jerry? Im in line at the store right now. Reen, Jerry repeated faintly, hesitantly. I need to talk to you. Can you come over? Now? If you can. I need to get home and start supper. David will be home from baseball practice by five and we eat at six when Gil gets home. Just a few minutes Reen? Whats wrong? The pierced and purple-dyed girl behind the counter interrupted. Are you checking out? Oh, sorry, Maureen apologized as she placed her offending groceries upon the conveyor belt. What? Jerry asked. Nothing. Ill be right over. Maureen disconnected. This was all she needed today. Shed have to make it quick. Gil liked to eat with her and David when he got home. So different from Jerry who only ate when he was hungry, in complete disregard of everyone else. Maureen pulled up in front of the small blue colonial that for twenty years was her home. Tucked in its small suburban lot amidst its cape cod counterparts, Maureen contemplated the edifice that still rang with the echoes of so many of her joys and her heartbreaks. She and Jerry had raised three children here. She had raised three children here. Alcoholic husbands dont do much child raising. Walking up the familiar steps she couldnt help but smile as she remembered the summer evenings that had been whiled away on this porch. Hole punctured jars of lightening bugs, swimming towels draped over the railings, stories told and secrets shared. Her bottom lip began to tremble. Even after four years of being divorced and almost two years married to a wonderful man, she could still so easily be sucked back into the vortex of emotions that was her marriage. Maureen rang the bell, feeling a bit absurd. How many times had she just opened that door? Now she rang the bell as a stranger. Glancing impatiently at her watch, Maureen rang the bell once again. It was already four. She had planned to work on her painting before dinner. If Jerry didnt move this along, she would lose the last of the strong afternoon sun. A minute after her third ring, Maureen used her key. The key she was never able to remove from her ring. After the divorce, she and kids had kept the house. She and Jerry agreed the kids needed the stability. But when she married Gil, he understandably wanted them to have a house of their own, free of shadows. Patsy and Joe were away at college and fifteen-year-old David was so immersed in sports practices that where he laid his head at night no longer concerned him as it did in his tree house days. Maureen and Gil, along with David moved into a house overlooking a tranquil lake and Jerry moved back into their old home. It gave the children some consistency. Maureen pushed open the door and called out as she walked through the living room into the dining room and beyond to the kitchen. No Jerry. Opening the basement door, she called again. Retracing her steps, she called up the stairs. This time her calls were answered by the voice that still found within her an answering resonance. Can you come up here Reen? The frailty of Jerrys voice gripped Maureen with dread. How long had it been since she had seen him? At least six months. With the kids older, there had been no reason for them to meet more often. Rounding the corner at the top of the stairs, Maureen was taken aback to see Jerry lying in bed, emaciated and yellowed. Jerry! Whats happened to you? The hoarseness of Jerrys rueful response implied the remorse Maureen had waited twenty years to hear. You always told me it would catch up with me some day. But you stopped drinking. You didnt start again? No, Reen, Im done with that for good. But it seems I may have come to my senses too late. Icy cold nausea filled Maureens stomach. She wasnt sure whether to rush for the bathroom, or to look away long enough to readjust her mind to the horror. Instead, she reached back to the woman she once was, sat upon the bed and took his hand. Tears filled her eyes as she stroked his brow. Tell me whats going on. Ive been getting weaker and weaker. Last month I had to leave my job. Just couldnt do it anymore. Why didnt you tell me? I mean why didnt the kids tell me? They dont know. How on earth did you keep this from Patsy? Evasions, half-truths. That should have been easy enough for you. Reen, again, I am sorry. I know I wasnt the best husband. Which makes asking this harder. Asking what? I was to the doctor today. Ive deteriorated to the place where Ive been put on the liver transplant list. Oh my God, Jerry. Its that bad? It is. But, I have to be in a good surgical risk to get a new liver. I have to be sick, but not too sick. Jerry, what are you saying? I cant live here alone anymore. And youre worried about the house? Jerry took Maureens face in his hand, the gesture still a perfect fit. I know I have no right to ask this of you. But I have nowhere else to turn. I could ask Patsy, but she just started that new job and Evan and I dont exactly get along. Maureen stared at Jerry in disbelief. What are you asking me? Could you take care of me until I can find some other way? The insurance tells me there should be a bed available in two weeks, a month tops. Jerry! Im married! I know I am asking a lot. No you dont. Youve always taken it for granted that Id take care of you, clean up after you. I cant do this. I have a husband and youre not him. You promised once, remember? In sickness and in health, til death do us part? You broke that contract when you put your mistresses before me. The bottle you never could be without and that little piece of trash you were screwing when Patsy was born. Dont be telling me I owe you anything. No, Jerry. Your life is no longer my responsibility. Maureen rose to leave. Dont leave me alone. Ill die if you dont help me. Maureen froze in her tracks, once again enslaved in responsibilitys shackles. Let me think about it. Gil found Maureen an hour later on their deck, bathed in the fading light of a March evening. The sun lowering beyond the distant hillside left a trail of silver upon the water that appeared to lead right to his wife. His beautiful wife. These last two years had made him a new man. The years of living a marriage of indifference had worn him to a shadow of himself. When the girls had both graduated from college and moved away to begin their own lives, he and Valerie had finally put a formal end to what had died years before. To what may have never lived in the first place. These last two years with Maureen made him realize he had never before known what a relationship was. Life was perfection. He was easing into the last decade of his professional life, his girls were doing well, he lived in a house so like a paradise that he often referred to it as Eden and he had Maureen. Maureen. If he had to wait until he was fifty to discover what love really was, he wouldnt begrudge fate a moment. Maureen, youre going to get cold out here without a coat. The snow isnt long melted. Maureen started, and turned, still grasping a mug of long cold cappuccino. The ashen look to her face had Gil at her side in three strides. What is it? he asked as he guided her to sit upon the wooden bench built into the deck railing. Its Jerry. Jerry? Gil asked uneasily. Hes sick. How sick? Hes been put on the list for a liver transplant. Thats tough, but hell be alright. How are the kids taking it? They dont know yet. Then how did you find out? Jerry called, asked me to go see him. And you did? Gils unease increased. Hes so weak, he cant even get out of bed. You went to your old house and talked to him in your old bedroom? He had Eden all right, complete with his own personal serpent. Gil, he cant take care of himself. Then he will go into a nursing facility until a liver becomes available. Thats just it. Theres no bed available for him now. It will be two weeks, at least. And in those two weeks, without anyone to care for him. Maureen what are you saying? Maureens voice was small and tormented. Jerry asked me to take care of him. And you told him that was completely impossible. I told him I would think about it. What is there to think about? Maureen jumped to her feet and began to pace the deck. The tranquility of the lakeshore home shattered. Hes my childrens father. How can I just leave him to die? I wouldnt do that to a dog. And yet, he had no trouble treating you like one. Maureens hand covered her mouth as she fought to keep back the tears that sprang from the inexhaustible supply she still carried within. Gil reached out to her. Im sorry. I didnt mean to be cruel. Cruel? Youre incapable of it. Im crying because what you said is true. But Gil, what am I to do? What about Patsy? Thats just it. Patsy would take this on in a heartbeat. Seems the problems solved. Maureen pushed away from Gil as she began to pace once again. You dont understand. From the time Patsy was little she was always taking care of everyone. The little mother. First it was her brothers, the big sister thing. But when she started to feel responsible for everyones moods, I started to worry. It was at that time she became the quintessential daddys girl. At first I thought it was just a normal process of growing up, separating from her mother, but not yet ready to be independent. But as time went on, I became more and more worried. Shes a poster child for codependency. Ive done all that I can to make her understand her father is not her responsibility, is beyond her power to change. If she takes him in now, all she has gone through to have a life of her own will be undone. And what about what youve gone through? I dont matter! Shes finally started a life. Evan is a good man. I was so afraid she would marry someone who needed her. She has a good job. For once in her life I see her happy and in a stable home. Maureens voice broke as she sat once again upon the bench. The home I never could give her. She cant go back. Evan wont let her. If she has to chose between her husband and her father. it will tear her apart. What about you? You finally have a stable home dont you? Of course. But two weeks isnt forever. Are you telling me you are going to do this? What choice do I have? The choice of saying no. What about his family? Doesnt he have a sister? His family is the reason he started drinking in the first place. When he finally decided to quit, he cut himself off from them. Maureen, I cant believe in our over regulated system of governmental there arent provisions for cases such as this. I can talk to Dr. Greenbaum, but what about now? He needs help now. I want him to move in here. No Gil sat beside Maureen and took her hand in his. No, he repeated firmly. I cant let him do that to you. I cant let you do that to me. But this has nothing to do with you. Taking in your ex-husband has nothing to do with me? To watch you care for the man you shared twenty-five years with? If you want to test the limits of my love Maureen, youve picked the perfect way to do it. But Gil, you know we have a marriage like I never knew with Jerry. Face it Maureen, he still has his hooks in you. All he has to do is beckon and you come running. Its not like that, He needs me. Hes always needed you and always will, if you let him. The answer is no. I will not have that man in my house. Your house? I thought it was our house. I will not live under the same roof as your ex-husband. Is that your final word? Yes. Hes only asking for two weeks, a month at the most. Why dont you take that time off you have coming and go visit Sarah and Larissa? The idea was for us to do that together. We can go together another time. Maureen, when I married you, I knew your children were part of the package. I have been the best step-father I know how to be to David, Joe has a home with us until he makes his own life and Patsy is in and out of this house every other day. Is that a problem? Maureen asked frostily. No, I am just making a point. Every holiday has been spent with your children. You only met mine at the wedding. They dont even know you. This visit was to be a time for you to get to know each other. Ive visited them alone. They wonder why you never come too. I havent been able to get the time away. Youve been working out of our studio for the last year, making your own hours. I havent pushed you before because I know taking on my past has been difficult for you. But now you expect me to allow your past to live in our home with us? Its different. No, it isnt. Tell me, what would you say if it were Valerie. What do you mean? What if it were Valerie who needed me, like Jerry has convinced you he needs you? Valerie has daughters. So does Jerry. Ive already explained that. I know you have, but Maureen who are you married to me or Jerry? Hey! Are we eating tonight or what? David called from the family room door. Maureen quickly dried her eyes on her sleeve as Gil instinctively shielded her actions. Get your coat, were going out, Gil called back. Hours later, Gil and Maureen lay in bed together, the specter of Jerry between them. Gil was leaving the next day for a weeklong business trip. He had never before endured the days away without the lingering memory of Maureens tangibly expressed love. What are you going to do? David and I will move into the old house for two weeks. Youre going to be gone; youll hardly miss us. Ill start to find him a place tomorrow. Thats the best I can do. Youre going even though you know I dont want you to? I have to. Hell die otherwise. Gil got out of bed, grabbed his pillow and book. Seems to me he should have thought of that thirty years ago when he started drinking in the first place. Gil, dont leave. How can I stay with a woman who is still married to another man? Gil left the room taking his already packed suitcases with him. Opening the door to the guestroom, he tossed the suitcases inside, entered and drove home the lock with a resounding click. The next evening Maureen, Jerry, David and Patsy sat about their old family table eating the old family favorite, chicken casserole. Maureen had called Joe earlier in the day to break the news of his dads condition. Joe had taken the news in stride, as he did most things. He had removed himself from his unpredictable father years before. It wasnt his concern. I still cant understand why you didnt tell me. You should have never been alone these past weeks. I want you to move in with Evan and me. No, Jerry and Maureen disagreed simultaneously. Why not? I mean isnt this just a bit weird? And Gils comfortable with this? No, David enlightened his sister as he helped himself to more biscuit covered, gravy-laden chicken and peas. David! Dont think I dont notice things, Mom. Like Gil leaving this morning before breakfast. Hes had to go out of town. Yeah, and whens the last time he left on a trip without eating breakfast with us? If you ask me, the only thing weirder than parents divorcing its this. David. Watch the way you talk to your mother. Shes only doing this to help me. Take it as a lesson. Ive so screwed up my life that in my time of need I have only your mother to call on. Be a better man than me. Like that wont be hard. David! Ive got homework, David announced as he left the table. Jerry leaned his head on his hand, his face even more yellowish-gray than a moment before. He didnt mean that Dad. Yes he did. And hes right. I just want time. Time to make it up to him. And well make sure you get that time, wont we Mom? Maureen looked from her enthusiastic daughter to her manipulative ex-husband. What would he do with the time a transplant would give him? Would he really make it better between he and David? Was it possible for him to salvage any relationship with Joe? Could he make Patsy understand how much he owed his daughter? Was it worth any sacrifice asked of her if it meant her children would have a real father for the first time in their lives? Jerry, you look terrible. Go to bed. Patsy and I will clean up. Jerry rose unsteadily form the table. You dont have to tell me twice. Before leaving he looked to the two of them. My two girls. Patsy beamed back in response to her fathers tender gaze. Maureen refused to meet his eye. She wanted Gil. This was going to be more complicated than she had imagined. The following days passed in relative comfort. Maureen made meals, did laundry and tidied a house that had been left to its own devices for too long while Jerry rested. David returned after baseball, ate and went to his old room. Maureen had tried over and over to call Gil. He didnt answer his cell or hotel phone. Her messages went unanswered. Maureen didnt know what to think. Gil had never before distanced himself from her. But they had been living an extended honeymoon. Real life hadnt before reared its ugly head. Gil returned to an empty house, his footfalls echoing from the oak floor as he lay his brief case upon the kitchen table. Loosening his tie, he went to the refrigerator and grabbed a Pepsi. He really wanted something stronger, but Maureen so loathed alcohol, it hadnt been much of a trade-off to give up an occasional beer for the sake of her piece of mind. Besides, with David still in the house, she was frantic to not have any temptation lying about. It was Maureens greatest fear that one of her children would slide down the same path that had taken their father. But Maureen wasnt here, nor was David. Gil picked up his car keys. Some nights just called for a dram or two of Scotch. When Maureen came home, hed dump the rest down the drain. It was worth the price for a drink tonight. Later, drink in hand, Gil wandered about his lonely domain. Paradise. Eden. God knew what he was doing. It wasnt worth much without a woman to share it with. Gil found himself wandering down the path to their studio. If he had to name one thing Maureen brought to his life that was above and beyond anything he had ever envisioned, it was this. Years ago, Gil had received a sympathy card after his father died. The replicated painting had so touched him he made a point to meet the artist. Not a difficult proposition, as he worked for the company that supplied paper to most of the greeting card companies. Upon meeting Maureen, he was instantly intrigued by both the artwork and the artist. Over the course of the years, Gil was to discover why a talented artist had settled for the stability of a job with a greeting card company, and Maureen discovered Gils long hidden desire to draw. As a boy he had always carried somewhere about him a stubby charcoal pencil. And with it, he drew on anything and everything. In his freshman year at a small upstate New York college, he had drawn political cartons for the school paper. But as his coursework intensified and the impending responsibility to bring home the bacon for his future family began to weigh upon him, his drawing ceased, except for on the margins of his notes. By the time he graduated, he had so submerged his passion that his fist wife never even knew of its existence. But one casual comment to Maureen and she from then on made a point to ask him of his drawing. To encourage him, even push him back to his childhood passion. The day his marriage ended he found the nearest art supply store, not leaving until he had enough supplies in hand to last him the next six months. His children grown, his marriage over, it was his drawings that kept him sane during that period. When this beautiful old stone home came on the market before their marriage, they knew they had to have it. Situated a small, north shore peninsula, the sun both rose and set over the water. The property boasted a spacious, one room guest cottage that they had easily converted to a studio. A studio for the two of them. Maureen worked from home now, still doing artwork for greeting cards, but also painting for herself. She had enough in her portfolio now that the local gallery had promised her a showing. It was in those hours spent together in the studio that Gil felt most at one with his wife. His wife. He resisted the sudden urge to crash his glass of Scotch against the wall. This situation just would not do. Maureen may still be held prisoner by the alcoholic bonds of the last twenty-five years, but he had no such bonds about him. Maureen had told him part of the reason she loved him was for his strength, a strength she could depend upon, rely upon when her own was not enough. Maybe that was what she needed from him now. Jerry had been pulling her strings for too long. Tomorrow he would place a call to his friend in Human Resources. David was still covered under Jerrys plan. All Bill would need was that insurance plan number and any information Gil needed would be at his disposal. David looked at the clock in his room. Gil should be home and in bed. There was no way he was staying in this loony house a minute longer. Note on his pillow, he shoved the things he needed in his backpack and opened his bedroom window. One jump and he was on the garage roof. Tossing his backpack to the ground, he lowered himself from the edge of the roof until he could drop easily to the ground. A half an hours run later he was home, leaving a note for Gil to wake him up for breakfast. Maureen went in to wake David the next morning, only to find his note. Picking up the phone, she called home, afraid Gil would answer. But it was David. Gil had already left for work and David adamantly refused to come back. Maureen didnt push him. Why make him go through this? Seeing his father waste away before his eyes couldnt be easy, no matter how much distance he pretended existed between them. Jerry lay in bed. Despite Reens careful nursing he wasnt getting any stronger. Perhaps it was the guilt. In all those years of drinking he had never felt much guilt over anything. Not the broken promises, the look of pain on his wifes face or the disappointment of his children. Not even the DUIs. But now the guilt haunted him day and night. Perhaps because he was still lying. Reen wasnt his last hope. There was a bed waiting for him even now. But he had needed time with her. Facing alone the possibility of dying had been too much for him. Reen was the only one who ever really cared about him. Two weeks wasnt forever. It wasnt too much to give a dying man. She would understand. These last days had been like the old days. The good ones. He needed just a few more. It wasnt too much to ask. Jerry and Maureen sat on the living room couch together watching Rocky, a movie they had first seen it in an old Chevy at a drive-in back in their dating days. Gil stepped up to the door, but before he could ring the bell, the sight through the uncurtained window of his wife nestled on the couch with her ex-husband assaulted him. Switching instead to a fist, Gil pounded on the door. Gil. Maureens surprise and pleasure was evident. Can I come in? Maureen opened the door wider and went into his arms, her body molded against his. Jerry thought to rise, and then thought better of the idea. He was safer where he was. Besides, he had lost. It was over. I came over to see how things were going and how much longer it would be until you came home. Maureen separated just enough to close the door. It will be another week until Jerry can get into the facility and as you can tell, Maureens voice broke, he isnt doing very well right now. Maureen, give me a few minutes with Jerry. Why? Its OK, Reen. Why dont you go pack your things. I think your husband came to drag you home. Is that why you came? Maureen, have I ever done anything that wasnt in your best interest? No Not like me you mean. Jerrys words oozed acrimoniously across the room. Stop it. She doesnt need you to exercise your martyr complex. And you know what she needs? Yes, and that is why she is with me and not with you. Maureen, go upstairs. Maureen opened her mouth to retort indignantly at being sent from the room but before the words were formed, Gils hand caressed her shoulder tenderly. Please? he asked. Maureen left the room, resentment replaced by trust. So, she does your bidding like a dog, huh? Lets cut the crap. Youve lied to her again. Manipulated her for your own purposes. I dont know what youre talking about. That story about the insurance making you wait for a bed was completely fabricated on your part to get her to come back here. I dont know where you get your information Your bed awaits you. Well drop you off on our way home. For her sake, Ill allow you to tell her they called. I dont want her hurt anymore. Understand? Shell know the phone didnt ring. Would you rather I tell her you lied to her again. Manipulated her again. Used her children for your own selfish needs again. Do you want me to tell David the truth? No one will be telling David anything. Maureen stood in doorway. Hes been through enough. You both should have known I have too much curiosity to not have listened to this conversation. Maureens eyes latched unto Jerry, piercing him through and pinning him helpless with his own lies. Is what Gil said true? Did you lie to me to get me to come here? I was desperate. Jerry! You have always been an idiot! Do you think I wouldnt have come to see you? That I would have abandoned you completely? You never could learn that the worst thing you could ever do to me was lie to me. But Reen, I needed you. Maureen looked to Gil for forgiveness. Ready to go Maureen? My suitcase is upstairs. Ill wait in the car. Time of Need PAGE  PAGE 10 &*.*eemmmmmmmmmmmmmmm0JmHnHu0J j0JUCJ$6]mH sH 7>L7 Q ] 1`mm; tAg*>l"$Cg`Xo%w#=@A-##$x$y$z$$$$$$:%R%R%p%%%%u&&&z''''(C(c((')[))&*****7+...G.`G./'0Q0000g11A2F2z22234|445>5y555&6R6v6k777`77778899:0:::::;d;;;;<===>N>>>??`??9A;AAALBMBNBBB C>CCDDDlEEE FGH-HH7I8IFKGKM`MMMMMiNjNkNO TUWZZs[t[u[\\\\G^H^nabb)c:cc`c djdd.e[ebeee#f$f%f*fvfff$gggh4hhh5idij%jj9l`9lLl m:mbmymmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm&`#$` 1h/ =!"#$% i8@8 NormalCJ_HaJmH sH tH <A@< Default Paragraph Font<C@< Body Text Indent `,@, Header  !, @, Footer  !&)@!& Page Numberi7>L7Q]1 ; tAg*>l"$CgXo%w#=@A- x y z :!R!p!!!!u"""z####$C$c$$'%[%%&&&&&&7'***G*+',Q,,,,g--A.F.z.../0|001>1y111&2R2v2k333333445560666667d77778999:N:::;;;9=;===L>M>N>>> ?>??@@@lAAA BCD-DD7E8EFGGGIIIIIiJjJkJK PQSVVsWtWuWXXXXGZHZn]^^)_:__ `j``.a[abaaa#b$b%b*bvbbb$cccd4ddd5edef%ff9hLh i:ibiyiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000@0@0@0@0@0@0@0@0@0 ))),m8R%G.7?Mc9lm9;<=>?@ABCm:"%,!!iiiSZ  DDGGBRFRuW{Wiii333333#an>@{ % &A.H.1155@@[aaa%b*biiiiiLaurie L. 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