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Old Flames


(This was a reader-input story. At the end of every chapter, a question was asked, and suggestions were made by the readers for ideas on the next chapter.  It is now finished!)

Chapter 1

“Mom, do you have to do that now?”

Lainie Moon watched her mother tip a cigarette to the small flame of her lighter and suck in a lungful of smoke. Genna Moon’s green eyes narrowed at her daughter through the wispy tendrils curling up from between her fingers.

“This is my house, and I’ll damn well do what I want in it.”

“I know this is your house,” Lainie said, more patiently than she felt. “All I’m asking is that you take it out to the back porch so the smoke doesn’t bother the kids.”

Her mother quietly gathered her pack of full flavor menthols, her lighter, her ashtray, and her cup of coffee and stomped out of the kitchen. Lainie moaned as she put her head in her hands and thought, How the hell did I end up back under my mother's roof?

Three things popped immediately in her head. A month ago, her husband Gary of the last six years came home from work and announced, 1: he quit his job, 2: he bought a motorcycle, and 3: he wanted a divorce.

Gary earned his bread and butter as a software technician in a middling company with incompetent co-workers. He hated his job. So, Lainie wasn’t all that surprised that he finally quit. Her only concern was what they would do to pay the bills and put food on the table. Then when he said he purchased a motorcycle, again Lainie wasn’t shocked. Gary always wanted one, but she couldn’t figure out how he paid for it if he wasn’t working any more.

After that, he dropped the bomb and declared that he filed for a divorce. That astounded Lainie beyond comprehension. Granted, their marriage had become stale and boring, but she didn’t think they were that far beyond redemption. In the first few years as newlyweds, Lainie and Gary had been giddy with love for each other. Then the twins arrived, and life became routine. No more letting dinner burn on the stove because they couldn’t rip each other’s clothes off fast enough. And as time went by, even the quick sneaks of pleasure became further and further apart, until the once a month event had developed into a dreaded red circle on the refrigerator calendar.

Lainie slowly came to the realization that if they didn't do something quick, she would gradually fall out of love with him.  Gary didn't seem the least bit concerned about their marriage.  In fact, in the past year, he spent more and more time away from his family, always offering excuses as to why he couldn't spend his spare hours with his children and wife.

But Lainie had been down the heartbreak road once before, and she was determined not to go there again.  She wanted to talk about the divorce, yet Gary refused. He said his mind was made up. They would sell the house and go their separate ways. He never once mentioned what would happen with the twins. Did they split custody?  Did he even want to see his children?  He had no answer for that, and his indifference sealed the deal for Lainie. Gary didn’t care one way or the other what kind of relationship he had with his children. Therefore, in Lainie's mind, her husband no longer existed.

But then the man went and broke his fool neck in a fatal accident on his new motorcycle, and Lainie never got a chance to argue one last case for their kids' well-being. Lainie was now a widow. At the dreadful age of thirty.

A small shuffling noise brought her back to her present situation. “Mama?”

Lainie lifted her head and stared into the green eyes of her small daughter. Opening her arms for Chloe to crawl into her lap, Lainie sighed. The world goes on.

“Is Daddy coming home soon?” Chloe rubbed her face on her tattered yellow blanket.

“No, baby. Daddy has a new home, remember?”

Chloe sighed dramatically as only a four-year-old can do.  “I know. But I want him to come back to our home. He’ll be lonely up there in Heaven. Who’s he gonna play dolls with? And Chris is crying again because Daddy promised to build him that treehouse and he never did. And now he never will.”

Her children were still so young, so Lainie was surprised that Chris remembered that promise. The fact was that Gary promised a lot of things…and he never fulfilled any of them. Her heart broke a little more as she listened to the whimpers of her precious daughter.

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