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a novel by nicholas sheridan stanton
Engine Co. No. 28…Los Angeles, Wednesday, August 19th, 2005…8pm
It had been quite a while since Linda had been on an actual date. Truth be told this wasn't much of a date, for her anyway. She felt guilty about accepting the invitation all of the sudden, buyers remorse she guessed. She didn't want to date as much as just get out of the house, out of her routine, and away from her lazy cat Miss Jo, named after Louisa May Alcott's character from Little Women. Actually Linda had no desire for a relationship, she had had the one she always wanted and she ran away from it. That seemed so silly now that she thought about it, as she sat idly playing with the food on her plate and staring past the poor fella who was yammering on and on about something or other from work, trying to impress her with his wit and charm. She had thought a year would be enough time to forgive and forget but she was wrong. You don't forget the "love of your life" even if you can't bring yourself to forgive him. Oh she told everyone who'd listen that she did, even Nikko, but that was a soft white lie, the kind that she always forgave herself for, but never anyone else.
Her heart still belonged to Nikko and likely always would, she realized that now, the big rat! Linda Bradley fancied herself a tough, savvy and practical 21st century career woman, but in reality she was a tootsie roll girl, hard on the outside and soft in the middle, the kind who still believed in and longed for a fairy tale ending. She thought she had one coming with Nikko, but when he turned out to be a normal human being instead of the prince she thought he was, the prince that he led her to believe he was, well, that was just too much for her to accept and so that was it for him. As far as she was concerned her vows and promises were just words on paper at that point, and she quickly moved heaven and earth to erase him from her life. To say she was reactionary was say rain is wet, because that wasn't how she worked, but it was how she lived. At work she was slow and methodical, always sure before acting. At home, with her family, with those that she loved she tended to draw quick and emotional conclusions and make quick and emotional decisions based upon them. It's what made her appear mean and insensitive. She wasn't really, she felt and cared deeply, but that part of her was camouflaged by her bluntness and impatience.
When Nikko's financial history caught up with him, when he was cornered as she liked to put it, Linda circled her wagons as fast as she could and pushed him away as far as he was willing to go. You know if it had only been about money she might have softened her stance, but where he was concerned fact and fantasy tended to overlap and it made it too hard for her to trust him. She knew that his deceptions were never meant to harm her. They were his sad way of trying to measure up to her high expectations. In a sense she provided the motive for his lies. That didn't mean she was asking for it, it just meant that that she inadvertently enabled his addiction. And that was the root cause, the lies were an addiction. She learned that after exhaustive research on the Internet as she looked for answers that he couldn't or wouldn't provide.
She claimed to those who were in the know, her family confidants, as well as to herself, that her actions were a justified self defense, a necessary move to protect everything she had worked so hard for, which was partly true. What she didn't admit to was the SAB factors, the spite-anger-bitterness factors. That part was ugly and not at all how she saw herself, and definitely not how she wanted to be perceived by others. Her personal insecurities could never allow that! Even now, so many months later, she hated herself for still loving him while she simultaneously and paradoxically hated herself for not trying to work things out. Nikko had always been there for her, she acknowledged that. He never denied her anything if it were within his power and his means, and, he was the most loving and attentive man she'd ever known. He never asked anything more of her than to smile and be nice. How sad he turned out to be a liar. Why would he do that? He really was the "love of her life," why did he do that, why did he do that to her? She couldn't get past that question, and it's what kept her from being able to help the man she loved, to help them. "Words on paper" she told herself, the marriage was just "words on paper," that was how she justified her actions. Ironically, "words on paper" was exactly how Nikko saw the quickie divorce she bullied him into signing. Even in the heat of the moment the man refused to deny her, she didn't get it, but for now was grateful. She just wanted her life to be simple right now; there was enough drama to deal with at work given Sanford Peck's recent obssession with micro management. Still she wondered, what if…
SNAP SNAP SNAP…Linda was startled by her date snapping his fingers rudely in her face.
"Hey, I'm dropping more than a few bucks wining and dining you tonight! You're a million miles away, what's up with that?" asked her date sarcastically.
"Um, sorry, it's just been a long day," she replied looking for a reason to leave, this whole evening was turning out to be a huge mistake. She didn't have to look far or wait long as her horny co-worker provided the out she was searching for.
"You're going to have to be extra nice to me later then to make up for ignoring me right now," he said with a crooked little smirk that revealed more than his average white teeth.
"Is that right? Well, why don't I start by freshening up, I'll be right back, okay?" she replied, lying with her words as well as her fake smile. She excused herself and left the table with out looking back
"I'll be waiting right here," Mr. Smooth said confidently after her.
"Yes you will asshole, with your dick in your hand," Linda muttered as she passed the restrooms and exited the restaurant. Thank God she drove herself she thought, fishing her car keys out of her purse and giggling as she picked up the pace, racing toward the parking lot before the "mistake of her life" got wise and chased after her.
Tomorrow was Saturday. Maybe she'd break her isolation rule and give Nikko a call. Maybe he'll answer the phone. She hoped that he would, but she prepared her heart for silence. Let's face it; a lot of time had passed. In the end she had hurt him far more than he had hurt her. She was ready to admit that. Maybe he could teach her how to forgive? He'd always been the sensitive half between the two of them. Only now did she realize that that quality was more strength than weakness. Climbing into her car she buckled up, hitting the auto lock, forever the Girl Scout, "always be prepared." She glanced up and smiled at herself in the rear-view mirror. He'll answer she thought, he'll always answer…