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← 4. ...I Never Expected Things to be Exactly the Same
6. ...I Was Prepared to Give Anything, But I Didn't Think I Would Lose Everything →

5. ...At the end of the day, I only had myself to blame.

Jwolf%s's Photo   Jwolf, 28 Jul 2011

       The Funny Thing Is… At the end of the day, I only had myself to blame.

       I’ve heard it said once, and I’ve heard it said a million times: you made your bed, now lie in it. When I sat there and watched everything I’d ever built crumble around me, I couldn’t help but realize that it was true. When all was said and done, I had only myself to blame.

       I closed my eyes for a second, just one brief second, trying to keep the tears from rolling down my face. The last thing I wanted to do for this bastard was cry.

       In that second, I flashed back to the second to last time Chase and I fought. One instant and I remembered the whole thing.

       “What about school?”

       “What about it?”

       “Are you going to finish?”

       “Cooper, this is the Olympics. A degree I can get any time. Any time, really. This happens once a lifetime.”

       “Let’s hope,” I caught myself saying.

       “Listen, you’ve known this is what I do. This is who I am. This, for me, this is… everything. It’s the largest stage for my career and I have a solid shot at going.”

       “And I couldn’t be prouder,” I replied, faking the words. I couldn’t have been sadder. And that’s where my anger had come from. It wasn’t the fact that Chase had kept his decision from me all summer long. It wasn’t the fact that I had given up an internship with Northwestern for the summer, and all the while he’d spent hours and hours at the gym, leaving me to twiddle my thumbs. It wasn’t the fact that I wasn’t consulted, not one time, when this opportunity came up. I came home to his apartment one night and he was packing.

       And that made me really sad.

       “Then be proud of me, gamin,” Chase said. He stood over me, his head tilted down, and he kissed me.

       Twenty years before, he could stop a fight with a kiss. Twenty years later, a fist did the trick.

       I peeled myself off the floor, gaining my balance slowly. I tried to adjust my jaw, but the pain shot through my head and down my spine. I clutched the countertop, my hand turning white, and I finally cried.

       By the time I took a pain killer and had an ice pack glued to my face, I was certain I didn’t want to spend the night alone. I couldn’t sleep there by myself, not after everything I’d imagined that house being. I had imagined never having to sleep alone again.

       When I knocked on his door, I was well aware that he probably didn’t want to see me. I was well aware the door might get slammed in my face. I might get left out in the warm rainfall that pelted behind me. The slow walk up to the lobby had already soaked me. Valet service didn’t work that late, so I was forced to park and take the elevator up.

       He opened the door and there was a look on his face like he’d seen a ghost. And then he saw the ice pack and the blood shot eyes and the bottle of wine in my left hand and he opened the door wider.

       “Cooper,” Kyle said in a sympathetic voice. “What happened to you?”

       “I realize I’m the last person you want to see right now,” I said. “But can I please come in?” I lifted my head and sniffed in, catching a little bit of snot and feeling like a complete and total chump.

       “Of course,” he said, not missing a beat.

       I followed Kyle inside. He disappeared into his bedroom and closed the door behind him. I heard the bathwater run and then a couple of muffled voices. Great, I thought. Kyle had company and I had just interrupted that. I stood in the kitchen, sort of away from view, trying to open the bottle of wine without taking the cold compress off my face.

       A minute later, a robed Kyle was followed out of the bedroom by a clothed Winston who looked less than happy to see me. They walked towards the front door.

       “I’m sorry, he just… he’s been in some sort of a fight,” Kyle whispered. “You understand, right?”

       “Yeah, I totally get it, Kyle,” Winston said. “We finally… we finally work things out, and you bail on us the first night.”

       “No,” Kyle replied, his voice slightly louder. “I am not bailing. I’m being a good friend.”

       “To the guy that broke your heart a million times. And he breaks it again,” Winston said, much louder this time. “Give him a fucking medal; he sure deserves it.”

       The front door clicked shut with Winston on the other side. I could tell Kyle was trying to get his composure before he came back inside the apartment, because when he finally did, his face looked like it had been carved from stone. I knew what upset Kyle looked like: tense, stoic, and desperately trying to conceal any emotion.

       “Kyle, I’m really sorry about that,” I said when he finally returned. The bottle of wine was open and I had poured myself a glass over one ice cube. That habit bothered a million people, but I detested the taste of room temperature white wine almost as much as I detested red wine altogether. But in my haste to grab essentials when I left my apartment, making sure the wine was chilled hadn’t crossed my mind.

       “Don’t worry about it,” Kyle replied. “If he can’t handle a crisis…” he didn’t finish the sentence, but I got the urge that I had just supplied the final nail on the coffin of that relationship as well. I was on a streak of ending relationships over the past few weeks, why stop at just mine?

       “Are you going to tell me what happened?” he asked, deliberately changing the subject.

       “It’s a long story,” I replied. I wasn’t sure I was ready to face the humiliation of telling it.

       “Why’d you come here, Cooper?” Kyle asked. “Of all the places?”

       I shrugged my shoulders and gave him a look I can’t begin to describe. I knew my eyes would fail me at any minute and I just let every ounce of vulnerability show.

       “I should have come here the last time,” I said. I crossed behind Kyle and walked towards his bathroom. The water in the tub was high. I turned it off. He’d put some sort of southing liquid in to make the water murky and inviting. The place smelled like lavender and vanilla.

       “You hop in,” Kyle said, clearing his throat and trying to remain casual. “You wanna play chess? Checkers?” He paused for a second. “I figure you don’t really want to be alone.”

       “Checkers,” I replied. I couldn’t have underestimated Kyle’s resilience enough. For a second, I thought maybe I was being cruel showing up there in my crisis when he was still trying to remember how not to hate me. But if there was anyone who could read my emotions and know what I was thinking, it was Kyle. And he knew I wouldn’t have showed up if I didn’t need him.

       I got undressed and slipped into the bathtub he’d had custom built. Kyle returned with a chair, a table and a box of checkers. He set up the game quietly and then made the first move.

       “Remember when you had this built, just like the one in your house,” I smiled.

       “Just like the one in Pretty Woman? Yeah,” he replied.

       “For 88…”

       “88 inches of therapy,” he said, moving a piece.

       “This does seem to be the therapy tub.” I moved a piece and looked up to see Kyle glaring at me.

       “Cooper, did he punch you?”

       I took in a deep breath. “It’s a long story.”

       “No, that’s not the question. Did he hit you in the face?” Kyle asked more deliberately. “Is that why you didn’t go to Spencer’s?”

       “Spencer would have hunted him down and strangled him,” I replied. “But then again, he’s probably on a flight back to LA by now.”

       Kyle glared at me, trying to understand. I moved one of my red pieces and shifted in the tub. I had to tell him. He deserved to know why I was running back to him like that.

       “He was married,” I said quietly. “He was married in California after the Rio games to one of his teammates I guess.”

       “How did that…”

       “I dunno. I never heard a thing about it and apparently they kept it really quiet. But he told me that the whole relationship was nothing. That Morgan was a closet case and that they broke up. He never told me he’d made such a huge commitment to someone. So I got upset and threw him out, I said something stupid about his dad and he punched me in the face,” I said. Saying the words out loud, trying to minimize the situation had a cleansing effect on me. I smiled at Kyle, and then without any control, I let out a chuckle.

       Kyle smiled back.

       “He punched me in the face,” I laughed. Unable to help it, I started laughing. Kyle looked down at me like I was on fire, and I just put my head back and laughed. It wasn’t funny, but I couldn’t help it. Sometimes you just have to laugh.

       I stopped chuckling when I noticed Kyle’s face hadn’t turned. To him, it was still serious. A hit was a hit was a hit.

       “So he’s gone? For good?”

       I shrugged my shoulders. I had no intention of him coming back, but I knew better than to speak in absolutions. I hadn’t really thought passed that night.

       “King me,” Kyle said, putting one of his pieces on my line. He smiled at me. I held his gaze, smiled back and then shook it off. I put one of his discarded pieces on top of his king. At this point the game would be over in a couple of moves.

       “So you and Winston are back on?” I observed, realizing I’d missed a lot in the couple of days since the fight between Kyle and me.

       “I guess so,” he replied, moving his king across the board and beginning his carnage. “Although, you heard him storm out of here. I guess you still complicate things for him.”

       “Ya’ll have been on again off again since law school,” I replied. “At some point, I think your problems became bigger than just me.”

       Kyle didn’t look up from the board, but I knew he got it. The two of them had met when Kyle was a 3L and a recruiter for SMU law. Winston was a senior at TCU with great grades and a decent LSAT. He could have gone a million places, but he went to SMU with Kyle’s glowing interview report. The rest, as they say, was up and down, rocky road, history.

       We played the rest of the game in silence, only sharing glances at each other. At some point, the water’s murkiness faded and I added a little more soap and a run of hot water. Kyle looked at me as if he knew what I was thinking when I turned the water off. I read in his eyes that he was thinking the exact same thing.

       After he got the king, I didn’t stand a chance. Kyle raced around the board, knocking my pieces off one by one.

       “You’re out,” he said, looking up and smiling at me. He ran his hand across the water and splashed me in the face. I held his gaze again. This time I didn’t shake it off.

       “Get in,” I said quietly. The silence surrounding us had mounted the tension to an unbearable level.

       “Cooper,” Kyle said standing.

       “Fine, I’ll get out,” I interrupted. I stood up and let the water run over me. I watched Kyle trace my body with his eyes. When he finally met my face, he had an unmistakable gaze.

       “This would be a huge mistake,” he said.

       “It doesn’t have to be,” I replied.

       I stepped out of the water and grabbed the towel hanging off the side. I wrapped it around me, low on my waist. I felt Kyle lean in and I did nothing to move away. I let his head come the majority of the way and then I leaned down and met his lips with mine. I felt a release, a desperately needed release, escape my body. It was like I had been tense for hours and I was finally able to compress.

       “I should have come here last time,” I repeated in a whisper, thinking of the first fight a million years ago.

       Kyle breathed in, took a step forward, and kissed me harder. At first, the force of his kiss hurt my jaw, but after a second, I didn’t even think about it. He pulled my head down to his and stuck his tongue deep into my mouth.

       I took my hand off my towel and pulled Kyle’s body close to mine. I felt immediately that he was growing harder in his loose fitting cotton sleep pants. That thin layer of cotton was the only thing separating the two of us and a second after I stepped out of the bathtub, the pants were down.

       We tongue wrestled our way out of Kyle’s bathroom and into his bedroom, flopping on the bed like little school boys. His body, so many years later, was still compact and tight, with unbelievably hard muscles nestled in all the right nooks, that runner’s V pointing straight to his cock piece. Kyle’s body was like that of a Grecian statue. He was hard and angular, but soft. He fit perfectly inside my legs as we writhed around, like nothing had changed in twenty years.

       Making love to Kyle was more than an exercise in reliving the past. It was, in fact, recreating it. From every flip flop, him climbing on top of me to me rolling us over, to every neck lick, it felt like I was 18 again, lying in a dorm room and waiting for Spencer to come home.

       I rolled Kyle over so that I was on top of him and moaned deeply into his mouth. He bucked into me and wrapped his legs completely around my torso, digging our cocks into each other roughly. I pulled up, undid his legs around me and fiddled between us.

       I gave him a look that asked a million questions at once. Were we really about to do this? What would this change? Why the fuck had we waited such a long time to try again? Should I just stick it in or do we need any more ceremony?

       Kyle sensed my hesitation and nodded at me. He did a sit up, grabbed the back of my neck and pulled me down into him. In one seamless motion, I pulled down on top of Kyle and slipped my throbbing pecker into his ass. He sighed at the feeling of it, and then returned to my lips.

       There are more pros than cons in sleeping with someone smaller than you. With Kyle, I was almost always the top. It was a special day when Kyle Wriggs fucked me. A good day, but a special one. Knowing that off the top was a definite pro. It gave way to very little confusion.

       An even bigger pro was the fact that he could move his body around in seriously erotic ways. I started fucking him missionary with his legs wrapped around me. Before long, his entire body was rolled over in a sort of spiral and I was plowing him quickly from above, supporting the intense angle by holding on to his headboard and crashing it against his wall.

       After that, Kyle saw fit to hang off my body as I kneeled on all fours and drilled him. He wrapped his arms around my neck like it was a tree branch and let me swing us back and forth.

       Finally, in a moment of true intimacy, unseen by the two of us since we were eighteen, young, and hopelessly in love, we both sat up and faced each other. I sat with my legs outstretched and Kyle nestled into the small nest my lap formed. We were closer and deeper than I could have imagined.

       Our lips parted and our eyes locked. After a couple hours of marathon level fucking, our eyes finally locked and I watched Kyle’s orgasm develop from deep down through the portal that was his deep chocolate gaze. His head reeled back and his back caught in my arms, creating a tension that caused me to lose my wad at the exact same moment.

       Like well-trained lovers, Kyle and I finished at the exact same moment, his seed coating our torsos, and mine filling up his ass.

       Within minutes, Kyle was yawning, pressed up against my nook, facing away from me and playing with my fingers. I knew he was smiling and although he hadn’t said anything, I felt like I could sense what he was thinking.

       In the silence, I was forced to sense what I was thinking as well.

       If someone had asked me why I came to Kyle’s, I wouldn’t have been able to answer the question. It felt right, plain and simple. After all we’d been through, it just felt like the right thing to do. After Chase left the first time, it had been a major decision and I’d picked Devon’s. This time, my body led me through the rain to Kyle’s downtown loft. No discussion necessary.

       If someone had asked me why I slept with him that night, I would have had even less to say. I wasn’t in the market for a new relationship. I had just ended two back to back. My goal wasn’t to lead Kyle on or reignite something that we’d buried twenty years before. My actions were driven by necessity. I needed to be close to someone, and Kyle was there. I was thankful for that. It was more than a rebound and less than an invitation.

       “This was a mistake,” Kyle said just as I was trying to analyze what it was. My body tensed up, but I didn’t feel his do the same. He kept twiddling my fingers. His head stayed buried in my shoulder nook.

       “Um… okay?” I asked.

       “I don’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it or that we shouldn’t have done it, but come on,” he said. “Cooper, you said it yourself. It’s not me.”

       “It could be you,” I whispered wrapping my arm around his waist. He scooted over.

       He chuckled. “No, it can’t,” Kyle said. He sat up and put his hands on his head. I hadn’t thought this part through.

       “Kyle, there’s no need to overreact on this,” I said, leaning up on my elbow.

       “You’re right,” he said. “And I won’t. But I’m not going to let myself get sucked into the clusterfuck that is your life. You should know that right now, before this gets any more complicated.”

       I heard the words and they pinched me. My life as a clusterfuck seemed to be a recurring theme and Kyle was right to want to stay far, far away. But he’d opened his legs up to me, and if I knew Kyle, his emotions were soon to follow. He was talking to me almost as much as he was talking to himself.

       “Okay,” I replied. “This is what it was. A friend in need of comfort and another friend with a very seductive bathtub.”

       Kyle lifted his head and turned to face me. He smiled weakly, dove for my face and settled back into my nook. Ten minutes of making out, and he was asleep.

       When I woke up the next morning, Kyle was already up. I looked around, taking a second to reacclimatize myself. I hadn’t woken up at Kyle’s apartment in ages, and certainly never in his bed. There was a glass of water on the nightstand next to me and I sipped it. I noticed the note underneath a second later.

       To Cooper: I woke up for a run. I’m meeting Bass and Spencer for brunch at Nuevo at 12. If you’re up, come meet us. If not, I’ll see you when I get back.

       I looked at my cell phone. It was 11:50. I rolled out of bed, pulled on my jeans and a polo shirt from Kyle’s closet that was a size too small for me. Fifteen minutes later, I was in line at the Bloody Mary bar at Nuevo.

       “You’re alive,” Kyle said, standing and giving me a hug.

       “Okay, I’m still weirded out by this sudden turn,” Spencer said as I pulled a seat and sat down. They each already had a Sunday Funday cocktail, but the menus were still there, so I assumed they hadn’t ordered. “The last time I talked to you, you were ready to slit Cooper’s throat.”

       “Slit his throat is a little dramatic,” Kyle said.

       “And dramatic is your middle name, Kyle,” Bass chimed in. I smiled, my jaw twitching slightly, but altogether feeling a lot better than it had the night before. The aspirin I popped in the morning would kick in any minute, followed by the cocktail. In two shakes, I wouldn’t even think about my jaw.

       “So is either of you going to tell us what happened?”

       I looked at Kyle. “Chase and I got into a huge fight last night. Words were exchanged and he bolted. I sort of asked him to.”

       Sebastian nodded. Spencer narrowed his eyes at me.

       “He bolted? Just like that? In the middle of you two painting the town gay together, you just up and asked him to leave?” Spencer asked, sipping his drink, clearly not believing me.

       “I found out that he was married and he’d neglected to share that little nugget of information,” I said. Now was the moment of truth. My friends would tell me whether or not I’d overreacted at the news. Three strong opinions that would surely make themselves heard.

       “Is that such a big deal?” Spencer asked after a pause. “I mean, you were married before.”

       “But I told him. When I asked him about the picture, he said the guy was nothing. When I saw the divorce papers, nothing was apparently the equivalent to 14 years of California sanctioned marriage.”

       I saw ‘the oh’ shit look on Sebastian’s face and I knew he got why I did what I did. For a second, I felt like a hypocrite getting mad at Chase for lying to me about his marriage to Morgan, but then I pushed that feeling aside. Our situations had been completely different. I was upfront about my life changing decisions. He wasn’t.

       “The thing that irks me is that I was ready to start a life with him. I laid it all out on the table, you know? And he didn’t lay any of it out. He knew exactly what I was giving up, and he lied to me. How do I start over with someone like that?” I explained to the guys.

       “Well Karma is certainly a bitch of a bitch, isn’t she?” Sebastian said, leaning back and giving me a smug gaze.

       “What’s that supposed to mean?”

       “It means I really hope you didn’t come here asking for sympathy from us,” he said. His eyes were narrow and his lips were pert. “You’re still the same douche lord you were yesterday. Our friend, yes. But a douche lord none the less.”

       “Who says douche lord anymore?” Kyle whispered. That little bit of slang had been left behind in 2010 along with Miley Cyrus and cargo pants.

       “I get your frustration with me, Sebastian, I really do. And this is the last table I would come to for sympathy, but it’s good to know there’s none anyway,” I said with more attitude than I intended.

       “I’m just saying…”

       “I get what you’re saying,” I cut him off. “I don’t need to hear it again. This is what I deserve for being the world’s worst father and husband. I get it, thanks.” I felt a hand pat my thigh twice under the table in a small gesture of support.

       “Can we order please?” I asked, embarrassed I’d raised my voice.

       “Cooper, it’s not completely like that,” Spencer said. “But you threw your trust into someone you hadn’t seen in twenty years. Sort of irresponsible. And stupid.”

       I shrugged my shoulders. He was right. Spot on. Mean, but right. I was the idiot, the dunce in the corner with the funny hat and egg on his face.

       “I think in light of recent events, we should cut Coop some slack,” Kyle said. My eye traveled to Spencer’s reaction. His was face smeared with surprise, but his eyes were moving back and forth between Kyle and me.

       “Oh my god,” Spencer blurted. “Oh my god! You slept with him. That’s what this is about. The hug and the support and the slack. You two slept together.”

       Sebastian put his hand to his head and shook it. I hadn’t planned on telling them at all, but even if I had, this wasn’t the way I wanted the news to go down.

       “We didn’t sleep together,” Kyle responded more confidently than I would have been able to. He leaned into the table and flat out lied to his best friend.

       The stare down between Kyle and Spencer was classic. Spence would have hopped over the table and punched me in the throat if he knew I’d slept with Kyle. He was of the firm mind that I’d screwed his best friend up for life, and what had happened last night would have been billed as my fault.

       “You didn’t?” Spencer asked quietly.

       “Would I sleep with Cooper? Really?”

       “Wait a second,” I interjected.

       “Shut up, Coop,” Spencer cut me off. He drilled into Kyle again and then backed off. “Okay. Maybe you didn’t sleep together, but something weird is happening.”

       “Cooper came over last night to apologize after Chase left and we talked about it,” Kyle said, softening and sitting back. I sipped my drink to avoid reacting to his blatant lie. “When I saw how pathetic he looked, even I had to give him a break.”

       Kyle looked at Bass and I saw him physically drop his shoulders and soften his look towards me. If someone had said Kyle would be coming to my defense a day earlier, I wouldn’t have believed them.

       The rest of brunch continued with nary a hitch. I faded as the topic of conversation and the guys and I all caught up on our lives before Sebastian retreated to the suburbs, Spencer went back to the high rise bachelor pads of downtown and I followed Kyle the short distance to his Historic Downtown flat.

       “That was an interesting meal,” I said as I followed him into his apartment. He put our to-go boxes in the fridge.

       “Yeah,” he replied. “I should know better than the two of them that we can’t stay disappointed in you forever.”

       “Because of last night?” I asked, trying my best to sound serious and not flirtatious.

       “Your performance last night had a lot to do with changing my mind,” Kyle said. “But like I already said, you’re carefully filed away, Sir. Emotionally.”

       “So, what you’re saying is… you, Mr. Wriggs, are using me for my body?”

       “When you put it like that…” Kyle trailed off as his lips met mine. The whole time we kissed our way to his bedroom, I wondered what Kyle was actually thinking. There was no way he could separate what was happening from his feelings towards me. He wasn’t wired that way and we both knew it.

       And in my mind, I thought that maybe I was the one making the mistake here. Maybe I should have put the brakes on. But he was a big boy, just like I was. In a moment of sheer weakness, I caved and he came crashing down with me. He didn’t want to be a part of my clusterfuck, but as he slipped our clothes off and pushed us down on his Egyptian cotton, I couldn’t help but feel like he was clustering me up even more.

       It didn’t stop me from grinding against him, rubbing my hands across his hard chest, and kissing his soft lips. It didn’t stop me from slipping my dick into his ass as he ground his on our torsos from above. It didn’t stop me from fucking him upwards, harder and harder, or from tasting his tongue and letting his sweat fall down onto mine.  It certainly didn’t stop me from coming inside of him, filling him up with wave after wave of hot and sticky.

       When we were back inside Kyle’s sheets after a substantial afternoon delight, he started playing with my fingers again, and my mind, once again, began to race.

       “I noticed you didn’t tell the guys about Winston,” I whispered. Kyle yawned.

       “I didn’t think I needed to,” he replied. “I didn’t tell them about this.”

       “Which was curious,” I whispered. “Was it not good?” I bit down on his ear and he squirmed backwards.

       “Besides the fact that they wouldn’t understand,” Kyle said, sitting up and pulling a pair of shorts on. “I didn’t want to explain to them how we both fell into a weak trap last night.”

       “And this afternoon?” I asked.

       “What the fuck are you trying to do, Cooper?” I was taken aback by his sudden raised voice. “I forgive you for our spat the other night. I said I understand the whole Chase divorce thing and I comforted you when you needed someone. Why are you trying to make this bigger than it is?”

       “Kyle, you can’t…”

       “I can’t what, Cooper? Pretend like this isn’t just you falling into your pattern of quick rebounds and uncalculated consequences? I think I can. I’m too old to be left in the wreckage,” he said. He walked into his bathroom and I heard the water to the shower on. He came back out holding his toothbrush and a tube of paste. “Look, let’s label this a rebound… thing and move on. I don’t know what you thought when you got all sentimental last night.”

       I couldn’t believe I was hearing these words out of Kyle’s mouth. I knew he’d said he wasn’t going to get emotionally tangled in my drama, but that afternoon, he sounded downright cold. Like I was some sort of one night stand. Is this what being jaded for twenty years turns someone into?

       “You know what, I don’t know what I thought either,” I said. I stood up and pulled my shirt on. My pants and shoes were next, as Kyle watched me, brushing his teeth as if he needed to get the taste of me out of his mouth.

       I suddenly felt more alone than I had last night. I hadn’t come here seeking someone to fall into bed with. That impulse happened and Kyle gave in to it just as much as I did.

       When I went to him, I wanted someone to assure me it would all be alright. I was starting to think that maybe, quite possibly, it wouldn’t.

       “Cooper,” Kyle called as I headed for the door holding all of my things.

       I drove home that afternoon and lounged about, living in the solitary confinement I’d created for myself and wondering just when and how it had all gone so very wrong.

       By the time I was ready for bed on Sunday night, a couple of things were perfectly clear to me. Kyle was totally right. It was irresponsible of me to tangle someone up in my emotional roller coaster, even if they were old and wise enough to know better.

       I commended Kyle for knowing that right off the bat. I felt like it was very mature of him, although slipping right into bed with me with little to no hesitation was the opposite of mature.

       Still, it was up to me to keep people away, at least until my life had sorted itself out. And in a way, that meant Chase. I had no business jumping into his arms after all of these years. I kept telling myself that my reasons for ending it with Devon were personal and a long time coming. If I really believed that, I needed to embrace the fact that Chase was gone and find a way to get out of my marriage without totally destroying myself and my family in the process.

       At about ten, just when I was about to turn in for my first night alone in a long, long time, I heard the doorbell ring. I wasn’t expecting someone, and my surprise manifested itself with a quick start. I turned on the lights in the corridor as I walked to the door.

       A boyish looking guy, about twenty years old or so, wearing a newsboy hat and a plastic wind breaker was at my door with a box of pizza that I hadn’t ordered.

       “I have a delivery,” he said calmly.

       “Uh, I think you have the wrong building, guy,” I replied. “I didn’t order anything.”

       “Cooper James Carpenter?” he asked.

       “Yeah,” I nodded, surprised that he knew my entire name. Hardly anyone knew my entire name. And just as he opened the box in front of me, it clicked.

       “You’ve been served.” Inside the box was a stack of legal documents stapled to a blue legal cover sheet. The whole practice was archaic and although some places had gone to electronic servings, Dallas County still wasn’t one of them.

       I picked up the papers, signed the receipt and the kid who had just earned overtime for working on a Sunday hopped down my steps and onto a skateboard.

       I read the paper as if it were a passage from the Bible, one word at a time, trying my best to dissect the legal jargon. It listed Devon Tiffany Ward as the plaintiff and myself as the defendant. I was being sued for alimony and child support, from what I understood. The part that was unmistakable was the box she’d checked under the official divorce statement.

       Irreconcilable differences.

       It was the world’s biggest cliché, and here I was a part of it. Adding to the fifty percent of marriages that ended because of something as vague and commonplace as irreconcilable differences. Our issues were reduced to a check box in the center of a page.

       The rest was stuff Kyle could sort through. It listed a notice to appear on Tuesday afternoon and I immediately transferred the data to my calendar.

       As I was lying in bed, I wondered how I’d ended up in this particular state of loneliness. I’d put my entire hand out on the table and Chase had reamed me for it. I could have killed him for what he’d done, and yet, in the not so back of my mind I knew I deserved it.

        My family was a million miles away and right then, the idea of a boring vanilla life seemed a thousand times greater than a life alone.

       The only bright spot in a dark cloud was Kyle. How that had happened, I still couldn’t wrap my fingers around, but it had. And it had confused things something terrible. His nonchalance about it was fine for the time being, but eventually he and I would need to sort through the feelings that were bound to surface from what had happened.

       And just as I was drifting to sleep, my doorbell rang again. It couldn’t be another court runner, I thought as I climbed out of bed, slipped on some shorts and turned the lights back on as I walked to the front door. Who the fuck would be here this late at night? What the hell did they want?

       I opened the door and this time the stranger was dressed in all black and carrying a bouquet of flowers.

       “Mr. Carpenter?” they asked in a monotone voice, as if I was the hundredth bouquet they’d delivered that particular Sunday. He handed me the card first. “I’m instructed to have you open this card immediately, sir.”

       I looked at him and then at the flowers. I turned around for a split second to set the flowers down on the table I usually put mail and my keys. I opened the envelope, squinting to read the small hand written cards without my glasses.

       To Cooper: I know I’m the last person you want to see right now, but I just had to say I’m sorry.

        “Who sent you with…” 

       I looked up at the open door, expecting to find the stranger standing there. Instead, the guy had been replaced by Chase, standing at my door step and smiling sheepishly at me. He held a small black box in his right hand.

       It was, without a doubt, the most romantic thing I had ever seen.

       “Cooper,” he whispered as I slowly closed the door in his beautiful, romantic face.



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