Free Story: Dreams to Remember
If you’ve read my novella “Friends, Lovers and Other Killers” you might recall that the catalyst for all the drama (okay carnage) in that tale was the friendship between characters Mitch, a divorcee, and Cynthia, a woman in a troubled marriage. You might also recall Mitch mentioning and reflecting on his failed marriage and how it impacted his friendship with Cynthia. When FL&OK took place, Mitch’s ex-wife was in prison. How that happened will be explained next year in my novel “The Hitman Chronicles.” What happened between Mitch and Margaret is chronicled in this excerpt, a tale inspired by the late, great Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.”
DREAMS TO REMEMBER
Her voicemail message said that she’d be working late again and to not wait on her for dinner. She told him that she’d catch a bite on the way home.
Mitch wanted to go out tonight. He was in a serious mood for some cheese ravioli, and the only place that made it the way he liked was a little Italian restaurant across the street from the beach in Long Branch, his hometown.
This was the second night this week that Margaret worked late. She did this more often lately, but he didn’t want to complain because she really loved her new career as an accountant. But damn it, she worked on salary. She wasn’t making any more money for the extra time.
And he really wanted some cheese ravioli.
He walked naked from the master bath’s shower into their bedroom and stood under the ceiling fan, letting the downdraft cool the moisture from his walnut-brown skin. He caught a glimpse of himself in the dresser mirror. He was thirty-four years old and his stomach was still flat and hard. Crunches every morning before work saw to that. Push-ups and dumbbell curls kept his arms and upper body in shape. He needed to get to the gym more often to work on his legs, though. He turned to the face the mirror, studying himself a little closer. If it weren’t for the thinning hair on the top of his head he could have passed for someone ten years younger, because he kept himself in excellent physical condition. He had to stay in shape to keep up with Margaret.
They met twelve years ago when he was twenty-two and she was eighteen. He’d worked in the Housekeeping department at the hospital in Long Branch since he’d graduated high school. Through hard work, he’d made shift supervisor in four years, even though he was the youngest guy on his crew.
Margaret had been a new hire on his shift. He’d thought she was gorgeous; a slender dark chocolate beauty with black eyes that could look right into your soul and a smile that could melt your heart if she chose to grace you with it. She melted his the first day he laid eyes on her.
They hit it off right away, and in less than a month they were a couple. Two years later they were married.
They’d had a lot in common back then, not the least of which was their appetite for sex. He’d never met a woman who wanted to give and get it as much as Margaret. She insisted on having at least one dick-induced orgasm a day, preferably in the morning. Otherwise, in her own words, she’d be a grumpy bitch all day. Nighttime sex was her way to close out the day, her sleeping pill.
In addition to wanting to satisfy her own needs, she believed that the only way to make sure he didn’t fool around was to see to it that when she was done with him, he had nothing left to fool around with. She’d told him a thousand times that if he was going to come at all, it was going to be in her, his wife. To Margaret’s way of thinking, even masturbation was an insult to her womanhood, unless of course, she was the one doing it for him. The result was that for every day of their marriage, unless one of them was sick or very tired, they fucked. If it was her time of the month, she did other things to get him off. Even when they argued and weren’t even talking to each another they fucked. They just did it in silence.
So he had to keep himself in top shape to keep up with his wife. He had absolutely no complaints about their love life, however. Mitch knew plenty of guys who practically had to crawl and beg their wives for a little pussy every now and then, so he knew he had it good.
His body was dry now, but he was going to have to wait until his rock-hard erection died down before he could get dressed. Even after twelve years, thinking about his wife always had this effect on him. If she’d been around right now to see his condition, she would have been on him like white on rice. But she was working late again.
He decided to go for the ravioli. The restaurant was on the shore, some thirty miles from their condo in Lakewood, but tonight nothing else was going to satisfy his craving. Since he’d planned to take Margaret to dinner, his clothes were already laid out on the bed: Charcoal gray cords, black cable knit turtleneck sweater and over the ankle Rockports. He got dressed and rushed downstairs, throwing on his black calf-length cashmere overcoat as he headed out to the parking lot to his Jeep.
He never used to eat alone. Early in their marriage, he and Margaret had been inseparable. When he was just a Housekeeping shift supervisor and she one of his workers, they loved going out together to eat when they got off from work, before they went home. Margaret used to say that it was like foreplay; they knew they were going to get naked as soon as they got in the house, so stopping somewhere to eat served as a tease, prolonging the pleasure they were both dying for.
Two years after they married he was promoted again, to manager of all the Housekeeping shifts. Margaret was happy for his success, but she was pissed that he got to work a nine to five while she still worked the evening shift. But their conflicting schedules didn’t cut down on their lovemaking. Margaret wouldn’t allow that. No, he just got a whole lot less sleep. She’d get home at around midnight and shake or suck him awake, or he’d wake up gasping for air because her pussy was pressed against his face.
His next promotion came as a result of his love of computers. He started out working with the hospital’s system administrator in his spare time, helping him troubleshoot problems or set up new programs. Before he knew it, the administrator had moved on and the job was offered to him. It was a better job paying better money doing something that he truly enjoyed, so of course he accepted.
He and Margaret had agreed early on that at the five-year point in their marriage, they would start making babies, and now that he was the hospital’s Systems Administrator, he made enough money to allow her to quit her job and start working on getting pregnant. But when that time came, Margaret threw a monkey wrench into what he’d thought was a rock solid plan. She told him that she wanted to go to college and get a degree before she became a mother.
Of course he supported her, even though he was disappointed that they wouldn’t become parents according to their original schedule. He paid her way through college, and to Margaret’s credit, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting in just three years.
And then things started to change.
It was nothing drastic, just some little things. Like all of a sudden their old friends, people from the Housekeeping staff that they’d hung out with for years, weren’t good enough for her. Like how she’d traded in the Sebring convertible he bought her for her birthday the day after she got it for a Lexus, without even telling him. She paid the extra cost, but damn. Her reason had been that she had an image to maintain, that people expected a white-collar worker to drive a white-collar automobile. Like that she didn’t want to play racquetball with him on Saturday mornings anymore. She’d taken up golf, and now she hung out on the links on Saturdays with the suits from her firm. Like that they hadn’t gone out to dinner together at their favorite Italian restaurant in over a year. The only true constant in the two years since she’d become an accountant was their sex life.
Mitch parked his car around the corner from the restaurant and walked up the street toward the front entrance. He’d been so deep in thought that he almost walked right by the white Lexus parked four spaces up from his Jeep. He wouldn’t have noticed the car at all; after all there had to be dozens of white Lexus’ in this county alone, except for the black Raggedy Ann doll perched on the rear window deck.
Her Raggedy Ann doll.
He stood for a minute on the curb with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his overcoat, looking at the car. There had to be a logical explanation. Margaret said she’d be working late. It was a quarter to eight now. She got off at five-thirty. She worked all the way up in Newark, at least an hour away in the best traffic. So if she’d just worked an hour over, she could be here by now. But they lived straight down Route 9 from Newark. This restaurant was twenty miles out of her way. Why would she drive all the way out here? Had she had a sudden taste for ravioli too?
The hostess asked him if he’d be dining alone. He said that he wasn’t sure, that he thought someone he knew might be here. She led him into the dining area.
Mitch spotted her sitting in a booth in a corner near the back of the room. Her back was to him. Some light-skinned pudgy-faced brother in a suit sat across from her, talking animatedly. Mitch couldn’t see Margaret’s face, but she was leaning forward and nodding her head as if she were hanging on this guy’s every word.
Mitch made himself relax. There was no point in assuming something without knowing the facts. Maybe this dude was just her co-worker, or even her boss. She’d never introduced him to the people she worked with. He told the waitress that he’d spotted his party and headed for their booth.
Margaret was lifting something from her plate with her fork. She raised it…and offered it to the suit.
Mitch froze in his tracks.
The suit stopped talking and smiled at his wife, then accepted the bite. A bit of the food remained on the corner of his mouth. Margaret—his wife—wiped it away with her bare finger. The suit kissed her fingertips.
Mitch moved quickly, without thinking, and was standing over them in an instant. She looked up at him, and her face answered every question he could have thought to ask. He asked anyway.
“Is this how you always work late, Margaret?”
He watched her struggle to find the words, to come up with some saving explanation. But there was no suitable excuse—not when you’re caught red-handed—and she knew it.
Margaret—his wife—breathed out a heavy, resigned sigh and said, “Mitch, could we please talk about this at home…”
“What could we talk about Margaret? What the fuck could you possibly say?”
The suit cleared his throat. Mitch ignored him.
“Mitch, please,” she said. “Don’t make a scene.”
“I’m not making a fucking scene. I came here to get something to eat because my wife said she was working late. If I wanted to make a goddamned scene, I’d be tearing this place apart.”
Her eyes scanned the dining area. “Please keep your voice down, people are watching.”
He snatched her hand up, and before she could protest, pried her wedding band off her finger. To his disappointment it slipped off easily. He’d hoped to peel some flesh off with it.
Margaret gasped. The suit stood up.
“Now see here, fella…” the suit began.
Mitch stabbed him in the middle of his expensive silk tie with the tip of his finger, cutting him off in mid-sentence. “Motherfucker, the smartest thing you will ever do in your life will be to sit your ass down and shut the fuck up, right now.”
The suit didn’t move. They stood eyeing each other like two pit bulls waiting to be let off their chains so that the battle could begin. The dining area had become as quiet as a tomb. All eyes were on them.
Mitch shifted his feet on the carpet, left foot forward, right foot back and perpendicular to the left, bending his knees a little to set his balance: a boxer’s stance. He kept his hands low, but if this cocksucker so much as flinched…
Margaret knew him well, and when she spoke there was a trace of panic in her voice. She grabbed his wrist. “Mitch, don’t please.” She looked at the suit. “Thomas, sit down.”
That’s right bitch, Mitch thought, save your boy’s life.
The suit named Thomas looked down at her, considering, then said, “All right, dear,” and took his seat.
Margaret breathed a sigh of relief and let go of his wrist. “Let’s talk at home, all right?”
Mitch glared down at her, said, “Fuck you,” and left the restaurant.
He’d almost finished packing when he heard the front door open downstairs. Shit. He’d hoped to be out of the condo before she returned. He wanted to leave her while he was still angry. He knew the pain would come soon enough.
She stood in the bedroom doorway, watching as he closed his suitcase.
Don’t say anything to me. Just let me go.
“You don’t have to leave, Mitch.”
He tried not to look to her as he spoke. “One of us has to go, and I never liked this place anyway. You picked it out, remember?”
“Where are you going?”
“To a hotel. I’ll start looking for a place tomorrow.”
“Mitch, I’m so sorry. This is not how I wanted it to happen.”
He looked at her now. “Yeah, cheaters never plan to get caught.” He lifted his suitcase and stepped to the door. She didn’t move out of his way. “Excuse me…”
Her eyes shone with tears. In all the years he’d know her, he’d never seen her cry. She always fancied herself as the epitome of the strong black woman.
“I really need to go.”
She touched him, her fingers tracing over his sweater. A single fat tear slid down her dark chocolate cheek. “Can’t we at least say goodbye to each other, just this one last time?”
She stepped closer to him, her face nuzzling against his neck, her hand sliding against the front of his pants.
He thought about their life, their relationship. How it had always been.
Even when they argued and weren’t even talking to each another they fucked. They just did it in silence.
He thought about how she looked naked. Her dark slender body: always wanting; always needing; and always giving. She was an incredible lover, certainly the best he’d ever had, and they’d grown and learned together. Nothing had ever interfered with their sex life. Even now, as much as he hated to admit it to himself, he wanted her. He could feel himself growing under her coaxing touch.
He looked at her, deep into the depths of her black eyes. “Just tell me one thing, Margaret…”
“Did you fuck him yet?”
“Oh Mitch, I couldn’t…I wouldn’t do that to you. I swear it.”
He stared at her. She looked back at him, her tearful gaze unwavering.
He thought he believed her. He wondered what it could hurt, to do it this one last time.
Margaret had already stepped out of her pumps and was taking off her business jacket. She pulled her blouse out of her skirt, unbuttoned it and slipped it off, letting it drop to the carpet at her feet. Her bra followed.
Firm, dark breasts; even darker nipples. What would it be like to never know them again?
She unzipped her skirt and let it drop around her feet.
Tiny black bikini panties and thigh-highs as dark as her legs. She’d always hated pantyhose.
She peeled her panties down, watching him watching her. Fresh tears—so shocking because he’d never seen cry—flowed freely.
He stood in his bedroom, his suitcase still clutched in one hand, staring down at the woman he’d desired most in the world, the woman who was about to become his ex-wife.
Nothing had ever come between them and sex before. Nothing had ever been greater than their desire for each other. But this…
Mitch looked down at Margaret as she waited for him on their bed; on her bed now. He couldn’t imagine that he’d ever sleep in it again. He thought about all that he’d invested—the love, the trust, and the years—in the belief that they would be together until one of them put the other in the ground.
He could have cheated. He’d certainly had his chances over the years. He couldn’t even remember how many opportunities had come his way, opportunities that he’d turned down because he’d wanted to do the right thing. He wondered when things had changed for Margaret, when she’d stopped wanting to do the right thing by him and their marriage. What had made her lose so much feeling and respect for him that she could go to another man?
He pictured them again in the restaurant, the way she’d fed the suit from her plate, the way she’d wiped food from his mouth, the way he’d kissed her fingertips. Those weren’t the kinds of things you did when you were just thinking about fooling around with someone. And it wasn’t the kind of thing you did in a public place if you were worried about getting caught. Those were the kinds of things that people in the midst of new love do. The kind of things you do when the person you care most about is sitting across from you. Someone you’ve been intimate with.
She swore that she hadn’t slept with that guy, but could a cheater be trusted to tell the truth? He and Margaret made love almost every night. Had he been sleeping with her, fucking her after another man had been inside her, perhaps just a few hours before him?
Mitch looked at Margaret, naked and waiting for him to come to her. Would she have fucked the suit tonight first if he hadn’t caught her, and then come home to let him have what was left? Had she done it before, on one of those nights that she’d said she was working late? Had he already been getting sloppy seconds…from his own wife?
He was glad now that he hadn’t eaten anything, because suddenly he felt sick. His stomach was trying to churn up and expel the remnants of whatever remained from his lunch. He backed toward the bedroom door.
Margaret sat up, surprised. “Mitch?”
She was in danger. He’d never laid a hand on her before, but he wanted to hurt her now. He wanted to hurt her badly.
“Mitch, wait. I told you, nothing happened between Thomas and I.”
She’d spoken his name. From their bed, she’d spoken his name. By speaking his name she’d brought him into their bedroom.
“Find a lawyer Margaret,” Mitch said, his voice tight with anger. “Find a lawyer and get me his name. I’ll have mine contact yours and tell you what I intend to keep.” He turned and left the room.
As he reached the stairs he heard her call out, “It wasn’t anything about you, Mitch. I still love you.”
Mitch stepped out of what used to be his home and closed the door quietly behind him. He stood on the stoop of his condo for a moment, breathing in the cool autumn night and wondering where he might go. A hotel was an option, but he had plenty of relatives in Long Branch, any one of whom would take him in without hesitation. But they would ask questions and feel sorry for him, and he couldn’t stand that right now; wouldn’t be able to take the pity. Already he could feel the pain starting to spread, pumping from his heart like blood and coursing through his system.
He could go to his best friend Eric’s place, but that presented the same problem. He couldn’t take the sympathy, even from another man. Even thinking about it now made his eyes burn with pain. He hurried to his Jeep, blinking the hurt from his eyes as he moved.
He tried to conquer his sorrow with anger, by visualizing her laying with her lover, doing the things to him and for him that Mitch had thought were his gift alone. But that image brought a new bolt of agony to his heart so powerful that it almost made him moan. He got into his jeep with his suitcase and slammed the door.
Now that the image of Margaret with her lover had entered his head, he couldn’t push it out. He turned on the radio as he wheeled out of the parking lot, hoping to blot out the vision of his wife naked with another man with music.
Jammin’ 105 out of New York was playing Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.”
Son of a bitch.
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember
Honey, I saw you there last night
Another man’s arms holding you tight
Nobody knows what I felt inside
All I know, I walked away and cried
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember, listen to me
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember
Mitch braked at the corner of Prospect Street, put the Jeep in park and let Otis’ plaintive vocals rip into his soul. This song was a killer for anyone with a broken heart, but he wasn’t going to let it get to him. He hadn’t cried since he was thirteen, when he’d decided that he was a man and above such things. Children cried. Females cried. He was a man, damn it, and he wasn’t going to break down.
The rookie cop waited as his partner returned from side of the black Jeep Cherokee driven by a black male, approximately 30 years old. The Jeep was stopped at the corner of Massachusetts and Prospect Streets in Lakewood with its blinkers on.
As his partner slid back under the wheel of the police cruiser the rookie gave him a questioning look. “Well, what’s up, Sarge?” he asked.
“Forget about it,” his partner said. “This guy just found out that his wife is cheating on him, and he just walked out on her. He lives right back there in Wyndham Place. This is as far as he got before life punched him in the gut. The poor bastard is sitting there bawling his eyes out.”
“So what are we gonna do? He’s blocking traffic.”
“You’re not married, are you kid?”
“Well, I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna sit here for a while and make sure nobody rear ends him. Let’s call it a public service; helping a citizen in need. Call back in to the desk and tell them to disregard.”
I know you said he was just a friend
But I saw him kiss you again and again
These eyes of mine, they don’t fool me
Why did he hold you so tenderly?
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember, listen honey
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember
I still want you to stay
I still love you anyway
I don’t want you to ever leave
Girl, you just satisfy me, me
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember
© 2002 Christopher Bynum
Lyrics excerpted from “I’ve Dreams to Remember,” written and recorded by Otis Redding, released posthumously in 1968.
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