An Unfortunate Occurrence
by Patrice Jones
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There was a knock at the door. She had just gotten Lilly in her booster seat with her dinner in front of her. Robin was not expecting company, so she looked through the peep-hole and gasped. It looked like Charles with a beard. This could not be, she thought. Charles was dead or missing or something to that affect. She looked at her clothes which had become too big for her since losing ten pounds. Being single again made her not want to cook much.
She opened the door slowly, and before she could get out, “May I help you,” the gentleman clad in jean shorts and a blue polo shirt, smiled at her. Instantly, she knew the man was her husband who disappeared a year and a half earlier. He was leaner, far from the man she was married to, who used to workout several times a week, and he had grown a beard. In all of the 5 years of marriage, he had never grown a beard.
Charles reached out to her to give her a hug. She resisted. Lilly was calling for her. “I will be right there, honey”, she responded.
“Is that Lilly”, the seemingly strange man asked. “May I see my daughter? I have missed her so much.”
“Wait a minute. You have no right to hug me or to see your daughter. You have been gone for well over a year. I thought you were dead. I gave up looking and wondering about what had happened to you. Lilly and I have gone on with our lives. You and I are no longer a couple. What
right do you have to see Lilly? It would only confuse her. Her grandfather is the key man in her
life right now. Please, leave. Go away. I don’t even want an explanation.”
Charles began to slowly cry as Robin started to close the door. She softened a little; she hated to see anyone cry, especially if she had the power to change the sad person’s demeanor.
“Look, you can come in and see Lilly for a minute, but then you have to leave. She is eating her dinner right now. Whatever you do, don’t startle her or fill her head with empty rhetoric. You could always talk a lot. We just don’t have the time right now.”
“Okay,” he said and stepped into the house he once shared with Robin and Lilly who was only 6 months old when he vanished. He looked around. Things were different. Robin really has moved on, he thought. All new furniture had been put in as far as he could see, and everything that had made the place home for him, was now gone. There were no remnants of a man anywhere.
The living room, which was off to the right, now held a black, leather sofa instead of the pale blue one, and the entertainment center was gone. A plasma TV was on the wall facing the sofa. There were no toys, but he presumed that Lilly played in her room now. It would turn out that he was wrong. The study, where he used to read and research on the computer was turned into a play room.
He smelled Chinese food. Lilly was playing with her sweet & sour chicken. “Hello, Lilly. My name is Charles.”
Lilly was bigger than most kids her age. She had her father’s smile and round cheeks, and her dark brown hair was naturally curly.
She looked at him and smiled. “Hello, friend of mommy?”
“You could say that, I guess.”
“No, thanks. I have eaten. You are a pretty girl. Just like your mommy.” He smiled.
“Thank you,” Lilly said.
Robin gave Charles the sign that it was time to leave the house. He was heartbroken. He wanted to talk to Lilly some more. “I have to go, Lilly. Maybe mommy will have me over to see you again.”
“Okay,” she said.
“Robin,” as he got up from the table, “Remember the night I was supposed to come back from the conference? The car had a flat tire on route 95 about 5 miles south of the Dale City area. I got out of the car to change the tire, and as I was placing the donut on the wheel, a couple of guys pulled over in their car. I thought they were trying to help. They wanted to rob me. They beat me and left me for dead. It has taken over a year to regain that much of my memory back. I have
been in therapy thinking that I was a single man with no family. Three weeks ago, I suddenly had a break-through. I finally got the nerve to come home. I was scared of rejection. Please, don’t turn me away. It was just an unfortunate occurrence.”
Robin just looked at him with no expression on her face. Finally, she said, “An unfortunate occurrence? I am sorry that you had to go through what happened to you, if you are telling the truth. I looked for you. The police were here a couple of times each week until they told me one day to just give up. They said you may have run away with another woman. I didn’t know what to believe. Finally, I had to get myself together. I have a child to raise; Lilly depends on me. I had to get over you. We have gone on with our lives. We don’t need old memories here, and Lilly is doing fine without you. One day, if she asks about her father, I will show her pictures of the way things were. Please, go.”
Charles went to the door but turned around and pleaded with his eyes. It was obvious that he was sorry for causing so much pain. He could feel her pain. She had not gotten over him. He turned and left. She locked the door and crumbled to the floor. She cried until Lilly came and hugged her. She knew that she had to keep it all together for her daughter.
“Daddy?” Lilly called out to him. At age two, Lilly had put two and two together. She realized based on the discussion and mommy’s tears that the man who had been here was her daddy. It made Robin cry even more.
What could she do now? Even if she allowed Charles to visit Lilly, there would have to be lines drawn. She did not want to be hurt again by any man, much less her husband.
As Charles pulled out of the driveway, he looked at the lawn. Robin had kept it up quite well.
She must have paid someone to do it, he thought. The grass was much thicker and greener than
he remembered. He missed doing outside chores. He would be going back to a small Alexandria apartment he shared with a gold fish named Sam. His chores were few in number.
The next day after work, Robin picked Lilly up from daycare and drove home thinking about what transpired the previous day. She decided to see a lawyer regarding Charles or at least talk to her pastor for advice. Her pastor would surely say to welcome him home again. Her lawyer may say otherwise.
She pulled into the driveway and got out to retrieve the mail. As she pulled the mail out of the box, a yellow piece of paper fell to the ground. She picked it up and read it. MY NUMBER IS 703-555-7178. CHARLES. She placed it on top of the mail and walked to her car. After driving up to the side door, she took Lilly in and placed the mail in the mail basket. She did not know what to do with the telephone number. She retrieved a magnet and stuck it on the refrigerator. Lilly went to play in her new play area. Robin dialed the number to her lawyer. It was after normal business hours, but she left a brief message and hung up. Two minutes later she received
a call. It was Big Don, as she called him. Donald Thomas had been her lawyer for the past year. He was a good man who worked hard to provide fair consultation for his clients. The 6’2” blonde had played football in college, so he was built like a linebacker. She thought the nickname ‘Big Don’ served him well.
Robin told him what had transpired the day before. He listened attentively. When she finished, he had one question. “Do you love him?”
“I don’t know. I am angry and hurt and confused. I can not feel past that right now.”
“Listen. File for separation with visitation times for Lilly. You can’t keep him away from her, you know. This was not his fault. It was just an unfortunate occurrence.”
There was a moment of silence. There were those two words again. Unfortunate occurrence. Is this some kind of catch phrase of the day, she thought. “I will call you back by the end of the week. I have to go now.”
Robin dialed her pastor’s telephone number. He picked up on the second ring. “Do you have a minute, pastor? This is Robin Davis.”
“Sure, I have a minute or two before dinner is served. What can I do for you?”
Pastor Rogers listened to Robin’s story. He was happy that Charles was safe and came back to his family. He was not so pleased to hear that Robin made him leave so abruptly.
“Robin, you had a good marriage. Charles was hurt and could not get home that night. I am very sorry that you had to live for over a year with the pain of not having your husband home and to raise your child alone, but he came home. Deal with the anger and the pain. Forgive yourself, and then welcome your husband home. Make sure you both make an appointment to see me within the next week or two. Call my secretary and schedule something. I look forward to seeing Charles again. He is a good man. It was just an unfortunate occurrence.”
That time the words sunk in with Robin. Unfortunate occurrence. For this to be said three times was more than a coincidence. After a few more words and a prayer initiated by her pastor, she
hung up the telephone and dialed the number on the piece of yellow paper. It would take many hours of conversation and maybe some counseling, but she truly felt that it was time for the beginning of reconciliation.
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This would be a great story-line for a novel. I felt this short of an article rushed it through the story, but definitely holds potential!