Clinging to Hope as the World Falters
06: What a Rumpled Bed We Make for Ourselves

Copyright© 2016 by Vincent Berg

David made introductions all around and got the girls busy putting their things away. He decided Alice’s friends could sleep in her room. Amy and Erica, the girls with the broken arm and the injury respectively, were assigned Alice’s bed while the others agreed to sleep on the floor of her room. David figured none of them would sleep a wink. He also reminded himself to be extra quiet after everyone went to bed, though he seriously doubted he’d be ‘getting any’ that evening.

Ma got busy on the girls sleeping bags. As David had feared, they were torn and shredded from the debris that had impacted the car. The girls also had numerous bandages and creams over their multiple cuts.

Once they got everyone settled in the living room overlooking the pyrotechnical display in the night sky, they discussed their adventures over the last two days. The tales were rich and detailed and took quite a while to tell, and even longer in the retelling in everyone else’s perspective. During the discussions, people kept coming and going between the living room and the kitchen, where the women were busy keeping everyone fed while David fixed everyone drinks.

When Ellen went to the kitchen, Linda quietly followed her in.

“Pardon me, Ellen, but could we talk in private for a few minutes?”

“Uh, sure, Linda. What’s the problem? If there is one, that is.”

“I wanted to talk to you about David. I realize my showing up now might be messing up your own plans, after all, I know what the first few days and weeks of a new relationship are like.”

“But... ?” Ellen asked, assuming there was a point David’s ex-wife was heading for.

“Well, he’s probably told you a lot of things about me...”

“He and Alice said a few things,” Ellen admitted.

“and you’ve probably made your own assumptions...” Linda continued, once again hesitating before finishing.


“Listen, I’ve gone through a few boyfriends since David and I divorced. None of them worked out in the long run, but I’ve been through a lot since David and I split up. But what I’ve been through and seen the last couple of days have, well—”

“They’ve reawakened your feelings for David?” Ellen asked her, projecting her own feelings onto the woman before her.

“I’m not so sure about that,” Linda hedged. “Let’s just say that I’m feeling lost and alone. I’d like to...”

“Go ahead and say it,” Ellen prompted her again.

“I’d like to ask if I can borrow David for a little while. I don’t mean to intrude in what you have with him or anything, but I’m feeling overwhelmed, and I’d really like to reconnect with him for a little while just to reassure myself. It’s kind of like seeking the refuge of an old teddy bear you’ve outgrown when you’re scared,” Linda explained.

Ellen remained silent, considering what she was being asked. She was in a quandary. She wasn’t terribly fond of this idea, and she didn’t feel confident it wouldn’t blow up in her face, but at the same time what she had with David was too new and too unknown. For all she knew, once the excitement of the meteor storm blew over they might find they had nothing in common. Could she really refuse this woman something she felt she needed for something that might not actually be hers to claim?

“Look, I know this is a lot to ask. All I want is that you consider it, but let me know before too much time passes. After all, I don’t want to miss an opportunity to flirt a little if I don’t have to. After all, with as much time as has passed between us, I’m not sure it’ll be very easy reconnecting with him.”

“I don’t think you have much to worry about,” Ellen found herself confiding to her rival for David’s affections. “Although he’ll deny it, I don’t think he’s ever quite gotten over you.”

“Really?” Linda asked, looking completely surprised. “He never questioned the divorce, he never fought it. In fact, he’s never really fought me about anything,” she said, stopping to consider what that might mean.

“That’s because he knew you wanted it, and he couldn’t see asking you to feel something for him that you didn’t. Although I don’t know him that well yet, I can feel that he’s got some odd ideas on relationships and that he just wanted you to be happy.”

“That’s the stupidest...” Linda started to say before hesitating once again. “It’s the stupidest thing he’s ever pulled, but it sounds just like him. He’s always had this weird romantic notion that love means everything, even if it kills you,” she replied, rolling her eyes.

“Yet it’s how he feels. If you go to him, he’ll likely respond,” Ellen advised her.

“And what about you? Would you be willing to allow me this one wild eccentricity?”

Again Ellen thought before she was willing to answer, which was aided by Caitlyn’s entering the kitchen. Both women fell silent and busied themselves, trying not to draw the girl’s attention. They waited until she fixed herself a bowl of popcorn and finally left before they confronted each other again.

“Now, what were we saying?” Linda asked, teasingly. Ellen swatted her on the arm, feeling a bit more comfortable with the woman.

“As dumb as I think this idea is, and as misguided I feel it is on your part, I understand that the events of the last two days can stir up odd feelings, and I can hardly deny the emotions that first drew me to David.”

Here Ellen took a deep breath before continuing.

“If you feel this is necessary, go ahead and try. But I’m not promising that David’s going to go for it. Just let him know that this is a onetime thing, and that while I’m aware of it, it doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in him. OK? I’m going to trust that you’ll tell him that, just as you trusted me enough to ask me for permission.”

“I understand,” Linda replied, meeting Ellen’s intense look. “As I said, I’m not looking to mess up anything you and David may have together, but this is just something I feel I have to do for myself. Seeing David so in control today, and seeing what he’s managed to accomplish—”

“Is making you reevaluate how you’ve felt about him these past years?” Ellen answered for her.

“Well, yeah, but it isn’t just that,” Linda replied. “I was thinking about this the entire way here. I’ve been reflecting about what I’ve been looking for in the men I’ve dated since David and I split up, and I’ve been trying to figure out if what I’ve been chasing makes any sense. I guess I need this so I can figure out where to go from here. If I’ve been chasing something ... excuse me, if I’ve been running away from something, then I’d like to discover it now, so I can change how I approach my life from here on out.”

“You know, for as odd as that sounds, it actually makes sense,” Ellen admitted. “Look, just do me one more favor. If this triggers something, if it rekindles your interest in David, then come to me first and let’s handle this like two mature women rather than trying to undercut each other, OK?”

“Sure, it’s the least I can do for granting me this favor. And, Ellen, I really like you. I can see what David sees in you. I’m not likely to bear you any ill will, and I’m interested in Alice more than anything else. Could we please not mention anything to her about this?”

“Oh, of course, I’d never even consider mentioning this to her,” Ellen said, as if shocked that Linda would suggest such a thing.

With that Linda leaned in and gave Ellen a quick kiss on the cheek. “Thanks a million. And what’s more, I’ll tell David what a treasure he has in you. I think you and he are similar in another way; you both have the same sense of romanticism. You both believe that if the person you love doesn’t love you enough to come back, that they’re better off without you. I can understand why David didn’t fight me in the divorce by talking to you about this now. I think you two are made for each other.”

The two women finished getting the snacks Ellen had originally come in to get organized to carry back out.

“You know, after this, I think I’m ready for one of David’s drinks,” Ellen said with a laugh.

David, unaware of what had just transpired, was busy trying to keep track of a houseful of guests and a handful of willful teenagers, while feeling like he’d lost control of everything.

He was stunned that his ex-wife was suddenly so friendly. She managed to laugh at all his jokes, she listened attentively to whatever he had to say, and she almost seemed to be flirting with him, but he was sure he was wrong about that. That simply wouldn’t make any sense.

She’d been bringing him drinks and snacks, and she even gave him a shoulder rub and massaged his feet briefly when she took his shoes off for him. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d done that, even when they’d been married. But then she was probably just thankful for having a safe place to stay.

She’d also talked glowingly of what he’d been like years ago, which sounded nothing at all like when she’d described the same details during their divorce proceedings. Maybe she just didn’t want to speak ill of him in front of Alice’s friends, afraid she’d embarrass her daughter. In any case, it certainly couldn’t last for long, he told himself.

“OK, girls, I think it’s time to turn in,” David announced.

“Ah, do we have to, it’s still early?” Sara complained.

“If tomorrow is anything like today and we have another day of this storm, we’ve got to get up early to get anything accomplished, and we have a lot to do. Alice, we need to be on top of the cliff before dawn, though your friends can sleep in until the sun crosses the threshold,” he teased.

Alice was well aware of what that meant, and she also knew that when her father suggested there was a lot of work, that there was a bloody hell of a lot of work. She knew her friends would be anxious to stay up late gossiping about what had been happening, but she fully intended to get as much rest as she could.

“David, while everyone’s getting ready for bed, maybe you could get an extra blanket for me,” Linda asked her ex. “I think I’d appreciate a little extra heat tonight,” she practically purred. David looked at her with a confused expression, but figured she was just cold.

“I think I’ll stay up a little later,” Bobby told him. “I want to check on what they’re expecting to happen tomorrow.”

David simply nodded. “That makes sense,” he responded.

“Speaking of doing stuff tomorrow, I should really return to work but I don’t have a car anymore,” Ma said.

“It wouldn’t have done you any good,” David replied. “The roads are in too bad of shape. You’ll have to borrow my pickup truck, we’ll take my SUV.”

“I’ll take her in,” Betts suggested. “I want to pick up some supplies. With everyone staying here, your supplies are going to run low pretty soon.”

“I don’t think you should wait for me,” Ma suggested. “By the time I get off the meteor shower is likely to start again. I can always crash at the hospital. They usually have spare cots for people to rest. I’m sure there’ll be other people sleeping over, but I can even sleep on a gurney if I have to.”

“If you’re sure,” Betts responded. “In that case, I can either pick you up when the storm starts or come for you in the morning.”

“I’ll tell you what; I was planning on taking one of the spare radios with me. I figured the hospital would appreciate being able to communicate. I’ll call Bob tomorrow and tell you how things are at the hospital. They may want me to stay over if they’re understaffed.”

“That sounds good. We’ll wait to hear from you then,” Betts said, figuring that ended that discussion.

“I’ll help the girls get set for bed,” Ellen suggested. “Maybe we can talk a little before we turn in.”

David was a little disappointed to hear that. He was hoping that maybe he could cuddle up with her and possibly spend a little time refreshing their budding relationship. He just hoped he didn’t fall asleep before she came to the room, after all, he was fairly tired after the long day they’d had. Oh well, hopefully she’d wake him if she did.

David and Linda walked upstairs together while everyone else started packing it in, the girls giggling as they helped Amy and Erica up the stairs.

“The girls certainly look happier,” Linda observed. “You’ve managed to give them... , hell, you’ve given us all a safe reprieve from the scariest thing to happen since any of us were born.”

“I didn’t really do anything. I just happened to have a house that was facing in the right direction. If the house was oriented a little differently I’d probably be buried under a mountain of rock at the moment.”

“Maybe so, but that isn’t what happened,” she replied. “Instead you have power, you have heat, you have running water, you have a group of friends you’re supporting, and you have been working to make us all comfortable. I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of you than I am right now.”

“I just did what anyone would have done. I could hardly have turned my back on you and the kids, now could I?” he asked her rhetorically.

“Oh, but you could have, and most people would. You didn’t just luck into this position, you planned for the future. You designed this house, but you designed it intelligently, taking the time to think of all the things most people never consider. An extra large built in freezer and refrigeration unit? Who does that? Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’ll appreciate having fresh food if your power ever goes out, but we both know it’s not likely. You should be proud of what you’ve accomplished here. I know I certainly am.”

“I think you’ve giving me way too much credit,” David complained.

“Maybe,” she responded, linking her arm through his. “But then again, maybe I haven’t been giving you your due all these years,” she whispered seductively, kissing him on his cheek.

David blushed, not sure of how to respond. This friendly behavior from his ex-wife was throwing him for a loop. He didn’t know how to react. Should he respond in kind, or would she just respond in anger for his making assumptions? Should he just ignore it like he had been, and risk insulting her? Well, he didn’t have to worry about it much longer. They’d all be in bed for the night before long anyway.

He opened the hall closet and searched for a spare blanket, but Linda didn’t like any of the ones he suggested. She asked if he had one in his bedroom she might be able to borrow. He shrugged and told her that was fine. He could always do without if necessary.

She accompanied him to his bedroom, carefully shutting the door as they entered. David was carefully examining the things he rarely used that he stored in the footlocker at the base of his bed. He liked large beds, even though he slept alone, since he liked not hanging over each end of the bed. He’d purposely built an extra large bed simply because he’d found he liked being able to spread out after years of having to make room for his wife, who’d always stolen all the blankets.

As David was leafing through the items in the footlocker, Linda walked up behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist and hugging him tight, resting her head on his back.

“You make me feel so secure, David. I don’t know why I ever let you go?”

“Seems to me you had a whole list of reasons during the counseling sessions,” he reminded her.

“Well I was wrong. You’re a strong, thoughtful, caring and sensitive man. I didn’t realize what I was giving up, just looking at short term losses. None of the guys I dated ever compared to you,” she told him. David bit his tongue at that, not wanting to ask what she’d spent so much time doing with each of them in that case. Instead he held her hands in place in front of him with one of his own and stood up.

“What’s this about, Linda? You’ve been acting oddly all night. Are you looking for something? Are you trying to get something from me?” he asked skeptically.

“No, you idiot,” she teased. “I’m trying to attract your interest. You’re a handsome man. You always have been, and right now I’m ready for some cuddling. I’ve been through what felt like hell the last couple of days, and I could use some reassurance. Frankly, I can’t think of anything more reassuring than your arms right at the moment,” she concluded as she nuzzled his neck, whispering in his ear and speaking in a breathy seductive tone.

David turned in place, still holding her hand, secure where they were, and sat down on the bed facing his wife. His ex-wife, he reminded himself, but Ellen had been right. David was old fashioned in an odd way, and felt that marriage was for life, even if you found you couldn’t live with each other. Linda would always be his wife, even if they no longer lived together and she was off ... He decided not to pursue that line of thought at the moment.

“Linda, what’s this about? You know I can’t do that. Things have changed too much between us. Besides, I couldn’t do that to Ellen.”

“That’s what I love about you,” she purred. “Always thinking of others. You won’t cheat on someone you only met a couple of days ago, and you don’t want to set your ex up for disappointment.” She moved in against him, putting her knees on the bed on either side of him and pressing herself against him.

“You’re always thinking of others, but sometimes you just think too much. Haven’t you noticed that Ellen’s made herself scare? That she didn’t object when I was flirting with you the whole evening downstairs? We talked, the two of us. I told her I wanted to ‘borrow’ you, but just for one night, and only because I’m feeling so displaced, like my whole world has turned upside down.”

David was clearly uncomfortable, but he remained sitting upright as Linda wrapped herself around him, enfolding him in her arms and kissing his ear as she continued explaining what was happening to him.

“She agreed to allow me this one little dalliance. She was nervous about it, but she said she could understand why I’d feel like I am, and she said she thought this was something that we both needed.”

“We both needed?” he asked skeptically, trying to move his ear away from her lips, which were nibbling on it.

“Yes. Ellen’s convinced you’ve never quite gotten over me. And while I’d gotten over you, I’m reconsidering everything I thought I’d learned over the past several years. Somehow, in the current situation, nothing I shared with the guys I’ve been with since you left makes any sense anymore. They were all superficial; interested in immaterial things and simply humoring me in what I thought I was searching for. She thinks we need this so we can finally deal with what we’ve both lost. She doesn’t think you’ve ever said goodbye, and she doesn’t think I’ve ever examined what I’m looking for. She thinks we can only figure out what we need if we work through this together.”

“Ellen put you up to this?” he asked doubtfully.

“She did. What? You don’t believe me?” She sat up and looked him in the eyes for a moment and then stood up and walked to the door. Opening it, she called out down the hall.

“Ellen, did you have any problem with me borrowing that ‘comforter’ you like so much?”

“No, I trust you’ll take good care of it for me, and that you won’t damage it so I can use it again tomorrow,” Ellen called back, both of them speaking in code so they wouldn’t alert the entire house as to what was going on.

David was stunned. Ellen wanted him to make love to another woman? This didn’t make any sense. Is this a test? Linda had always tested him with all kinds of little traps, asking him if he liked other girls they passed on the street, or whether he thought her ass had gotten too big. He’d learned to be wary of any overly simplistic questions she asked him.

While he was thinking about the situation, Linda climbed back on the bed, climbing in beside him and wrapping her arms back around him.

“It’s not that she doesn’t love you, because I can assure you that she does. She’s doing this for you. Well, for both of us, but she’s mostly interested in you. She wants to make sure you’re ready to let me go before the two of you get too involved, and she thinks you can only do that if we examine what’s left between us. What we’ve left unexplored for all this time.” With that she pulled him back towards her as she leaned back, resulting in them both laying back on his luxurious bed, him resting against her and turning to face her, presenting himself to her embrace.

“This doesn’t seem right,” he tried to argue.

“No, it doesn’t. It’s confusing, it goes against everything you’ve ever been told, what you’ve always believed. But that’s because we haven’t resolved our feelings for each other. So relax. Ellen knows what we’re doing, and after we’re finished she’ll come in here and replace me. You can show her that you don’t think or care any less for her, and we can all discuss the situation together tomorrow when we head out on your errands.”

She finished by kissing him. First along his neck, then along his chest, finally back up his neck to kiss him around his ear and his cheek, ending up kissing him passionately on the lips.

He tried to resist. He tried to hold himself aloof. He felt it was necessary to prove his love for Ellen, but he soon realized she was right. He still had a lot of feelings for Linda. He’d never actually stopped loving her, despite everything that had passed between them. She’d just never taken the time to notice that fact.

So he returned the kiss, and when her tongue came calling he opened the door for it, welcoming it and providing it company so it wouldn’t get lonely. Linda pressed him back into the bed, sliding herself across him. He realized she wasn’t wearing the torn clothing she’d had on earlier that evening. At some point during the evening she’d changed into a nightgown, which she’d covered in the bathrobe he always kept on his bathroom door. Somehow the bathrobe had disappeared, and in its place she was sliding her negligee covered skin, her barely concealed breasts, across his flesh. David shivered with feelings he hadn’t dealt with in a long time.

As wonderful as it had been to make love with Ellen the last two days, and it was, this was something else entirely. For one, it wasn’t hurried, it wasn’t conducted in the dark, and it was done with the full awareness of both parties, as opposed to the fumbling experimentation of two adults unsure of their footing.

Instead he was making love to his wife. He knew what she responded to, and he remembered that she responded to his touch, even if she’d forgotten during their difficulties. She wrapped a leg around his, and he returned the effort by wrapping his hand around her left breast. It felt as good as he remembered, and he remembered it well. It was just as supple and firm as it ever was, and the nipple was just as hard and as excited as he’d ever seen it.

“Love me, David,” she whispered. “Remind me of what I stupidly left behind. Remind me of how well you know my body and how much you love me. Make me quiver in lust once again. Make me call your name like I used to. Make me scream it loud and long. Put your stamp on me, David. Remind me that I’m yours, and that we were born for each other, even if we’ve both forgotten it. We’ll deal with what it all means tomorrow. For now, just remind me of how much we belong together.”

David took her suggestion, and he sought out what he’d long found comfortable, and what he’d long loved. He enjoyed watching her respond to his touch. He loved how her breath would catch when he’d lick her breast. How the skin on her areola would wrinkle up as the nipple extended. How it seemed to fit perfectly between his lips, fitting as well as her gasps filled a space missing in his life.

They made long slow love with each other, enjoying each moment, each touch and each caress. He showered her with love, he worshiped her beautiful breasts, and he went down on her with glee and enthusiasm, tasting her appreciation of him once more. And when it was time, she welcomed him home, helping slot his cock into her pussy, pulling him into her as he thrust deep within her. She sighed heavily and whispered his name with a reverence he hadn’t thought he’d ever hear again. And it wasn’t a one-time thing, either. As she’d promised, she proceeded to call his name over and over, though not as loudly as she’d intimated. Still, it was reassuring to know he could provoke such a response in her, and he responded by making love to her that much more energetically, enveloping her with that much more love.

He ended by shoving hard into her, spurting wildly into her, never having thought to ask her if she was protected. They’d never talked about such things when they’d been married, so it never occurred to him to ask. She responded by wrapping her legs around him and quivering in a reciprocal orgasm, both of them cumming together at the same time. Afterwards they collapsed into each other’s arms, simply enjoying being together, of having brought the other satisfaction one more time. He finished by giving her a gentle kiss.

“There really was a lot remaining between us, wasn’t there?” he asked with a gentle smile. Not a smile of amusement, but rather one of loving comfort.

“Yes, there certainly seemed to be,” she agreed, hugging him once again.

“It seems like we were just doing this a short while ago, doesn’t it? It takes me back to when we were young, when we were both blushing newlyweds, eager to demonstrate how strong and sexy we were to each other.” He gave a short laugh. “We’re hardly that young any more, are we?”

“Oh, I don’t know. It seems to me you’re still pretty sexy, and you’re still as strong as ever. And your cock has certainly never faulted, has it?”

David responded by twitching his cock, which was still nestled in her pussy. She cooed in response and gave him another kiss. Despite the years, and the long day they’d both endured, he felt himself recovering, inspired by this lovely vision before him, a vision of things they’d shared all these years. He began gently thrusting into her again, starting out mainly to keep from slipping out of her delicious embrace, but as he grew firmer, he started stroking again. She responded by rolling them both over and kissing him passionately.

“God, I wasn’t kidding when I said you were as strong as ever. Man, none of my boy ... you really haven’t lost it,” she corrected herself, not wishing to remind him of all the men who’d taken his place in her bed, if not in her heart, these past years. She sat up and began rocking back and forth, raising and lowering on his erect cock as he lovingly manipulated her breasts just as she’d always loved. They make love again, enjoying it just as much this time as the last. Only this time, for as excited as they both were, David wasn’t quite ready to cum as quickly, though Linda still was. She came several times before he quickened his pace, announcing his impending orgasm.

She pulled him back over on top of her. “Enough with loving me, David, fuck me. Fuck me like I deserve to be fucked. Take out your aggression over how I’ve treated you the past couple of years. Punish me. Fuck me hard. Make me feel how enthusiastically you’ve felt about me since we’ve been apart.”

David was eager to comply. He pounded her hard, sending her scooting across the bed, once more making him glad he had a bigger bed. They ended up sharing another orgasm, this one not so much a testament of their love for each other, as it was their physical responses to each other, how much they still found each other desirable, how much they physically wanted each other.

When they finished they lay in quiet exhaustion against each other.

“I think we’d better clean up so we don’t leave Ellen a mess to come back to,” Linda suggested. “After all, I borrowed her favorite toy. I don’t want to return it all dirty and worn out.” David laughed and let her lead him into the shower, where they cleaned up quickly while still having some fun playing with each other. When they finished, Linda insisted on changing the sheets so Ellen wouldn’t have to face sleeping in a wet spot left by her new boyfriend and another woman. David thought that very good advice, as he wondered whether he’d just screwed up a wonderful thing with a delightful person he’d only just discovered.

Ellen had gone in to help get Alice and her friends situated, but the enthusiastic kids got her involved with them pretty quickly. They started asking questions, principally about David, Alice’s father, so Ellen finally settled onto the floor, sitting cross-legged with the girls. Their questions came flying at her fast and furious.

“So what’s he really like?”

“Is he as strong as he looks?”

“Is he a good kisser?”

“Is is as good at ... ahem, other things as he is at kissing?”

Ellen laughed easily at their eagerness. She remembered her own youth and the fun of spending an evening gossiping during sleepovers.

“Well, I’ll say he was strong enough to carry me a good distance like a sack of potatoes, so yeah, he’s as strong as he looks,” she patiently answered, taking the time to look at each girl as she answered their questions. “Since I haven’t known him very long, I really can’t say much about what he’s really like. You’ll have to ask Alice about that. And, yes, he’s a great kisser. He does it slowly, but he’s so intense he puts his whole personality into the kiss. But I’m not going to say anything about more intimate aspects of our relationship.”

“Ah, can’t you give us any details?” Julie pleaded.

“Hey, if you don’t mind, I’m not anxious to hear about how sexy my father is, or what he’s like in bed, thank you very much,” Alice warned her friends. “I don’t mind if you talk about anyone else, but let’s stay away from my dad.”

“Oh, but he’s so delicious,” Caitlyn replied dreamily.

“Yuck, I’m having a hard time considering my father as a tasty treat,” Alice replied, wrinkling her nose.

So they ended up talking about David, but they stayed away from any outright sexual references, focusing instead on the stories that Ellen had already detailed. The girls didn’t seem to tire of hearing the story again.

It seemed to Alice that Ellen was spending an inordinate amount of time with them, and that got her thinking. She was wondering what was up, and why Ellen seemed to be purposefully wasting time. Finally she just came right out and said it.

“You know, Ellen, Dad was right, we really need to be getting started early tomorrow. Plus I’m sure Dad’s waiting for you.” When she said it, she was surprised that Ellen stopped and looked surprised, but she quickly recovered and hid her reaction, saying goodbye to the girls and wishing them goodnight before she closed their door and left.

Something still didn’t make sense, and Alice had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was important to her that her father finally got his life back on track and started living life once again, and the idea that he and Ellen might be having a fight after only their second day together really had her worried. Finally, unable to relax, Alice got up, telling the other girls she had to make a quick pit stop, she slipped out of the room. However, instead of heading to the bathroom, she turned and headed to her father’s room.

Listening at the door, she had to listen for a while, but she heard voices and the sounds of movement, but it didn’t allay her suspicions. Ellen hadn’t left in enough time for her to already be involved physically with her father. Alice knew something was up, and it was eating into her consciousness like termites, undermining the structural integrity of her composure.

So she headed downstairs. She looked around. It was mostly dark, with some people sleeping on the living room couches and on the floor on the area carpets. She kept moving. Finally she found what she was looking for in the kitchen. There, sitting alone in the twilight sat Ellen, sipping at a cup of tea.

“What are you doing here?” Alice asked.

Ellen jumped, almost dropping her cup. Placing her hand over her heart, she motioned Alice over so they could talk quietly, since she didn’t want to disturb the others or risk them overhearing what might get said. Alice came over and stood over Ellen.

“Would you like a—”

“What’s going on? Why aren’t you spending time with Dad? What did he do?”

“Your father didn’t do anything, Alice. I just thought he needed some time to think. A lot has been happening recently, and we both need time to process it,” Ellen said, trying to justify why she was hiding in the kitchen in the middle of the night.

“Bull,” Alice challenged her. “You’ve been together for two days. You shouldn’t be ‘giving each other distance’. You should be getting to know each other. You should be spending as much time as you can together. Now what happened? Why aren’t you and Dad together? Tell me or...” But Alice couldn’t think of any threat she could hold over her, so she just let the idle threat hang, hoping it would be effective nevertheless.

Ellen sighed. “There’s nothing wrong. Your father just had to think some things through. We’ll be fine by morning. I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.”

Being a child of divorce, Alice knew a brush off when she heard one. She could also tell when she was getting the run around. Parents always think that kids can’t comprehend what’s happening around them, what they’re exposed to on a daily basis. But Alice was in no mood to put up with that today. She was concerned for her father. If this new relationship wrecked, there was basically no hope for her father. He’d remain a solitary loner for the rest of his days. It was vital that Alice figure out what was wrong so she could help her father.

“Wait,” she said, thinking things through. “I stopped at my Dad’s room to see if you were there and I heard sounds,” she said, leaving the reference vague. “He’s up there with someone. Is that it? Is he cheating on you with someone else?” she asked in disbelief.

“It’s nothing like that,” Ellen hurriedly answered, trying to placate Alice before she took the next logical step.

“Who’s he up there with?” Alice asked. “There’s only ... wait, are you telling me my father is cheating on you with someone else’s wife?” she asked, her voice rising in volume.

Ellen motioned for Alice to watch her voice, reminding her that others were trying to sleep nearby, but that was hardly what was motivating Alice at the moment.

“It’s not like that. You know your father, and you know he’d never do anything like that.”

“Then who ... there’s no one else in the house. My friends are all in my room, everyone down here is married, that means...” Alice voice fell silent as the only answer possible suddenly went up like a warning flare in her brain.

“It’s Mom?” she asked, not really expecting an answer. “Dad’s hooking up with Mom?”

“Look, it’s not what you think. They aren’t getting back together,” Ellen tried to explain. “They’re—”

“No, you don’t understand,” Alice rushed to correct her. “I’m not hoping they’ll get back together. I’m upset with what will happen. My parents shouldn’t do this to each other. It’s taken my father years to get over my mother, and just when he manages to make some headway, she sinks her claws in him and drags him down into the abyss again.”

Ellen sighed, finally stopping to think how to address this. She reached out to this delightful child, resting one hand on the side of her head, cupping her cheek, while resting the other on her shoulder.

“It’s not what you think. It’s ... well it’s hard to explain. It’s something we all agreed to, and I think it’s going to be healthy.”

“What? Your leaving my dad is going to help him? Are you crazy? It will devastate him, and if my mom then turns around and does her typical thing, leaving him to go live her more glamorous life in the city, he’ll be crushed,” Alice responded, getting worked up. Her mind was roiling as image after image flashed through her mind. Not images of her parents becoming intimate, after all, she had plenty of those of Ellen and her father. No, she had images of her father holed up here on his own, not speaking to anyone for weeks at a time. Of his cutting himself off and not venturing out anymore. Of his being too embarrassed to speak to the few friends he had.

Ellen could see the alarm flitting across Alice’s features and she tried desperately to calm her.

“ALICE!” she called sharply, which managed to grab the youngster’s attention, as she now looked up to see what Ellen was yelling about. “It’s not what you’re afraid it is. It’s ... well it’s...” she sighed one more time before forging ahead, “sometimes adults do stupid things for very confusing reasons. But they are things they’ve thought out, and they’re really the best available positions in a difficult situation. Sometimes life isn’t fair, and sometimes it doesn’t leave you with the best options. Your father, your mother and I are at a crossroads, and we need to work some things out between us. We don’t know what’s happening well enough to describe it or to justify it to you, but we really think this is the best thing for everyone involved.

“No one is abandoning anyone. I fully intend on spending the night with your father, and I plan on showing him just how much I care for him and how much I want to be a part of his future. But he has some things to work out with your mother.”

“Yeah, right,” Alice scoffed. “I can imagine what he’s going to ‘work out’ with her now. I can imagine his ‘straightening’ a few things that she needs to ‘take under advisement’.”

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