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Note: Yes, I feel you. It’s hard to read about Gina and Gareth, knowing how it ends. But the character of Gareth didn’t even occur to me until I was writing one of the last few chapters of A Strange Arrangement. And then the idea that his story could both explain more of Gina’s intimacy issues and also deal with a lot of other issues surrounding marriage and sex, well, I couldn’t shake the idea. I’ve hating working towards the inevitable conclusion of this story, but I’ve tried to make Gareth a plausible, flawed, relatable character, rather than the one-dimensional ass-wipe he seems to be from Gina’s later recollections. Part of my intention was to see if I could write a convincing “other side” to that story.
Thanks for following the stories! There will be one more chapter after this one, and then you will all be welcome to cut off Gareth’s balls…
I turned off my car in the driveway and sat in it for about 15 minutes, trying to decide what to do. I wanted to drive straight to Gina. I wanted to leave, to have her meet me somewhere after her class- somewhere far away. I wanted to go away for a while and hope that Lynn was gone when we got back. I tried to mentally prepare myself for all the hard conversations that were going to happen. I prepared my excuses and justifications and recriminations.
While I was still trying to decide if I was going to go in the house or drive away for a while, I was startled back into the present by a tapping on the car window. Lynn had walked out in her bare feet, tight jeans and a t-shirt with no bra- she was playing dirty. Wordlessly, I opened the door and got out.
“How long have you been sitting out here?” she asked.
I gave her a curious, accusing look. Were those really her first words after being gone for…how long? Nine months? I just shook my head and walked around to the trunk, pulling my bags out and carrying them into the house. Lynn followed me, arms crossed in a casual way that pushed her breasts up.
“Where did you go this weekend?”
“How long have you been back?”
I think she realized she wasn’t in a position to be asking questions. “Since Saturday afternoon,” she said softly.
“How long are you here for?”
“For as long as we can make this work.”
I stopped walking and stood at the bottom of the stairs. Looking up towards our bedroom, I asked, “Did you already move everything back?”
“Yeah. But I haven’t finished unpacking.”
I walked up the steps and put my bags in the bedroom. There were a few boxes and suitcases lying around. I decided not to call or text Gina for now- no sense in ruining her day and making her worry. There would be time enough for that later.
Lynn walked in the room behind me and leaned against the door frame. I had forgotten how beautiful she was. All I had been remembering lately was the Lynn that stared vacantly at me across the table or that got annoyed at the littlest things I did. I remembered her scowl. But as she stood there, she looked so vulnerable and scared, and she was dressed, probably intentionally, in a casually sexy way.
“Gary, we need to talk- about a lot of things. I’m so, so sorry for…for everything. I shouldn’t have put you through all this.”
I just unpacked silently as she spoke.
“I’m sure you have a lot of questions, and I want to answer all of them that I can. But I don’t want to have all those hard conversations at once. Can we ease into it? Can we try to get back into our life together and start working things out together?”
“Oh, now you’re ready to work on things? Not when I was asking to do it a year ago, but now? What if I’m not interested in that anymore?” I’m sure she was ready for that kind of reaction, but it still stung, and I was perversely happy to see her start to tear up.
“I know Gare, I know. I’ve made some stupid decisions this past year or so. I wasn’t sure I even wanted our marriage to work when I left. I guess part of me really did, though, and it took a lot of time for that part of me to talk sense into the rest of me.”
“Well, I’m not exactly ready for that. After all this time, I was expecting you to show up with divorce papers- if you ever did show up.”
“Nooo, Gary, I…I just needed a lot of time to get my head on straight. I was mixed up and confused and upset and I just didn’t handle it well at all.”
“Your first mistake was trying to handle it by yourself. I was there for you, Lynn, and you shut me out. A guy can only knock on that door for so long before he’s done.”
She looked at me with pleading eyes and asked, “So…you’re done?”
I thought that I knew the answer to that. I thought it would be so simple to say, Yes, Lynn, I’m done. But I couldn’t. I was scared to realize that Gina was right. My heart was divided, and I couldn’t just end it with Lynn. I had done it in theory dozens of times. In my mind I had shown her the door over and over, or bakırköy escort else I had packed my bags and said a confident good-bye to her. But in reality, it was different. Standing there, in our house, in our bedroom, seeing the woman I had loved for so long, I couldn’t just end it.
I tried to think of Gina. I tried to remember the warmth of her embrace, the feel of her sleeping in my arms, the music of her laughter. But Lynn was here, and all the hope that I had thought was gone forever was suddenly reasserting itself.
I couldn’t say for sure that I would welcome Lynn back, but at the very least, I owed her a hearing. And maybe even a chance to reconcile. I measured my words carefully. I had planned a lot of these thoughts in advance.
“No, Lynn. I’m not done.” She slid down the door frame with an audible sigh and sat on the floor. “But I’m through knocking on that door. I’m not going to keep investing in this with no return. I feel like I’ve given all I could give, all anyone could be asked to give. If it’s going to work, you’re going to have to come a long way. I’ll hear you out- I owe you that much out of respect for our history together. But I’m not making any promises- and you need to understand that- and own up to your part in it.”
“I understand, Gareth. You know, I came back a few weeks ago and you weren’t here. And then when you weren’t here this weekend, I got scared that you had given up and were really gone. So for now, I’m just so happy to be back here- with you. As hard as this is, my life hasn’t felt this right since I left.”
“Well, I can’t say the same, Lynn. Not yet.”
The rest of that day was tense and awkward. Lynn wanted us to try to get back into a routine, like nothing had happened. Let’s get groceries together, let’s have lunch together, let’s catch up like friends who haven’t seen each other in a while. She tried to convince me that the best way to heal our relationship was to begin by acting the way we wanted it to be.
I wasn’t having any of that bullshit. She dropped it once I pointed out that going back to “the way things were” meant silence and distance. Picking up where we left off wouldn’t be progress. At least now we were finally talking about our problems.
I went out (alone) to get groceries, and I calmed down a little as I made lunch for two. It had been a while since I had needed to adjust my recipes to account for her allergy, and even just having to do that to help me focus on something else was enough to help me cool off. I called Lynn down for lunch and we sat across the table from each other. As we started to eat, I said, “OK, go ahead and tell me what you need to say.”
Putting her fork down, Lynn said, “I should probably start with ‘I’m sorry’.”
“You already said that, but it doesn’t change anything. And it doesn’t explain anything either. You haven’t even told me what you’re sorry for.” I was being mean, I knew. I wasn’t cutting her any slack and I was pretty convinced she didn’t deserve any. Part of my anger stemmed from fear and frustration. Things had just been becoming clearer for me- Gina was a part of my life, and I was working out a way to have a future with her. She wanted to be with me and I wanted to be with her. A new job, maybe, a new city, a new life. That would have been the best way to find happiness again- no need to trudge through the mess that was Lynn and me.
“OK, that’s fair,” she said in a controlled but shaky voice. “I’m sorry for leaving instead of working things out with you. I’m sorry for being gone so long and making you wait. I’m sorry…I’m sorry for being so distant last year. I’m sorry I wasn’t good enough for you- that I’m not the wife you deserve.” She was beginning to cry again.
I put my fork on my plate and stared at her. I didn’t even know what she meant by that last part.
“I kept trying to tell myself it would be better if we just split. Gareth, I walked into a lawyer’s office so many times, trying to work myself up to drawing up papers for a divorce. But I couldn’t do it. And in the back of my mind…in my heart I knew that I had a really good thing with you and I was screwing that all up. The past few months I didn’t come home because I was afraid that you’d be gone already. Then when I saw your car in the driveway this morning…I was just so hopeful that it wasn’t too late.”
I forgot about lunch and just listened…and thought. I was ready for bitterness. I was prepared for coldness. I was expecting accusations. I did not expect this- penitence, regret, desire. For a few moments, there were flashes of the Lynn that I had once known, the Lynn I had been happy with, the Lynn I had wanted a future with. This was going to be more complicated than I had expected because Lynn wasn’t sticking to the script I had prepared in my head.
If Gina hadn’t been keeping me so overwhelmingly satisfied sexually those past few months, if I hadn’t just come back beşiktaş escort from a weekend with her, then I’m pretty sure I would have caved immediately and invited Lynn up to the bedroom to get reacquainted. Even still, it was hard not to suggest something like that, sensing how vulnerable she was at that moment and how eager to please. Part of what had drawn me to Gina and away from Lynn was the feeling of being wanted by the one and ignored by the other. I hadn’t considered that when Lynn came back that she, too, might want to be with me. I realized I was feeling something I had never felt in our marriage- power.
Lynn went on about her life during the past 9 months. She had an apartment in the city, met with her girlfriends, worked a lot, saw a therapist about some stuff from her past…I tried to pay attention and listen to everything, but my eyes kept getting drawn to her breasts jiggling freely in her t-shirt, and I was remembering the feel of their weight in my hands. I’m sure she noticed my distraction but it didn’t bother her. For all she knew, I had been celibate during her absence.
She had been silent for a minute as I stared over her shoulder, chewing a last bite of food. Lynn lowered her voice and spoke softly, “So, Gare, do you want to…go upstairs?”
I heard her but didn’t acknowledge the question. I chewed and thought. On a physical level, I was ready to take her on the table. Lynn was beautiful, sexy, and available. But I thought of Gina and my feelings for her. I thought of how hurt she would be. I thought of how hurt I had been by Lynn and determined that I was not going to let her manipulate me like that. If anything, I was going to say no just because it was something Lynn wanted.
“No Lynn. It’s going to take a while, if ever, before I want to go there with you. I’m going to move some things down to the guestroom- I’ll sleep there for a while. You had your time to get away and think about things. Well, I’m going to need some time now, too.”
She looked at me, clearly hurt, but also a little disbelieving. I think she could tell that I was saying no just to hurt her. I didn’t mind. “OK. If that’s what you need, Gare. Let me get the room ready for you, at least. We haven’t changed the sheets in there in ages.”
I didn’t mention that a beautiful young woman had slept in that bed over New Years- and in our marriage bed several times since then. I excused myself to go work in my office for a bit. Lynn offered to clean the dishes. She was being much more helpful around the house than she used to, probably out of guilt.
An hour or so later, while I was rewriting a chapter of my book, Lynn knocked on the door. Her voice was quiet, nervous, tense. “Gareth, why was there a condom under the pillow in the guest room?”
At first my stomach sank, but then I bit my lip to keep from laughing. I looked at the condom- it was the brand Gina usually bought for us. That sneaky little…
“I have no idea Lynn. Who were the last people that stayed here with us? Was it when my sister and her family visited a year ago?”
“I guess…” She relaxed. “Now I wish we’d changed the sheets after they left…Ew.”
That evening, I told Lynn I was going out for a run. She looked at me suspiciously, and I told her I had run a half-marathon that weekend.
“I’ve had some time on my hands, for some reason. I started running back in December…like I used to in high school.”
“Oh.” The implicit accusation wasn’t lost on her.
I jogged about a mile, then stopped at a bench and called Gina. I wasn’t sure what time her class ended, and I hoped I would catch her. It was just after 8.
“Hey, stud, what’s up? How do your legs feel?” Just the sound of her voice eased me, and I sank lower on the bench.
“Gina, I miss you. Are you free tomorrow at all?”
“My morning is full, but I’m wide open after 12, what are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking I need to see you. Lynn is back.”
“Gina? She was waiting at the house, she got back Saturday. She moved back in over the weekend, wants to make it work.”
“Gina, are you there?”
“Gina, I need to see you.”
Tersely, she said, “You don’t need to see me. If it’s just to end it, you don’t need to see me.”
“NO! No, Gina, it’s not that. I’m stuck in the house with her, but I want to be with you. Let’s go on another hike on that trail- remember that? I’ll pack a picnic lunch and pick you up after class. The weather is getting nice- we can stay out all afternoon by the lake. I’ll cancel my office hours and we can be together as long as we want. I just…I need to be with you- to see you and hear your voice and feel OK.”
I heard a sniff, then a soft, “OK. I’m at the art building until noon. We shouldn’t leave together. I’ll meet you at the parking lot of the church.”
I sighed. “Good. beylikdüzü escort Thank you Gina.”
“Are you going to…are you going to fuck her?”
“No. Not yet…I mean…I don’t know… but no, not for now.”
“Good enough. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“I love you, Gina.”
“…Take care, Gareth.”
The night was awkward. Lynn again offered to go to bed with me, but I resisted. Once in bed in the guestroom, I jerked off, my imagination waffling between the two women in my life: Lynn, with all the history and years of memories and familiarity; and Gina, with the newness and excitement and vitality of youth. I realized that some guys would kill to be in my situation- having two beautiful, sexy women making themselves available to him.
The thought occurred to me that I could try to keep that going- having the best of both worlds- but that just seemed repulsive and unfeasible. If it was just sex, then maybe, but I had never had “just sex.” The emotional component, the dynamic of being desired and wanted and committed, was such a strong factor that I couldn’t conceive of being in a relationship with two women at the same time.
The next afternoon, I was waiting nervously in the church parking lot, wondering if Gina would change her mind. I had gotten up very early to pack a picnic lunch before Lynn awoke and had slipped everything into the trunk of my car before dawn. Then I made breakfast- for myself. Lynn could make her own breakfast.
I had a lecture that morning, but I was very distracted- not that any of the students would have noticed. So many worries and hypothetical scenarios were popping up in my head. I dismissed the class about 15 minutes early, just because I wasn’t able to concentrate another minute. Telling my TA to cover my office hours, I skipped going back to my office and rushed to the parking lot. I tried to tell myself that driving faster wouldn’t make a difference, because Gina was still in class, but I had too much nervous energy to slow down.
I was leaning against the door of my car, kicking gravel around with the toe of my shoe, when Gina’s car pulled up next to mine. I walked over to greet her, just wanting to be held. She gave me a quick hug, then took my hand and started walking. I pulled her back to the trunk of my car so I could grab the picnic basket and blanket.
“So we’re really doing a picnic lunch?” she said with a smile.
“You thought I was joking?
“I thought you were rambling.”
“A little bit. You were definitely flustered.”
“Well…considering the circumstances…”
Gina held my bicep with both hands and leaned against me. “I know,” she said softly. “I know.”
We walked leisurely down the path, stopping to look at flowers that were just starting to bloom. It was mid-April, and spring was just beginning to assert itself. Everything around us felt new and promising. As we walked, it was as if my fears and worries were just dropping off my back and being left behind us. Gina lightened up and became playful. Birds chirped in the distance and we could often catch the scurry of some small forest animal running out of sight.
We reached the field by the lake. I had mentally planned to have our picnic there- far from the path, along the lake, in relative privacy. I spread out the blanket on a patch of lower grass, and Gina stretched. Her eyes were closed, her faced raised to the sun. I stopped to admire her form as her breasts pushed out, straining against her t-shirt. She put her hands on her hips and looked out at the lake. A few ducks were swimming our direction, probably hoping for some bread.
The spot I had picked was nice- when we were sitting down, we couldn’t see the lake past some bushes and tall grass. But a few steps that direction would take us to a beautiful view. Once we were seated and pulling out the food, we were completely hidden from sight, and we would probably hear anyone coming near us as they made their way through the bushes.
I pulled out two small salads, some bread and cheese, some sliced fruit, and a small bottle of wine. Gina laughed. “When you said picnic, I thought potato chips and peanut butter sandwiches!”
I smiled, “I just grabbed what I had around the house.”
“Liar. I know what was in your fridge last week.”
Pouring a glass for each of us, I explained, “Well, I wanted a special time with you, and I didn’t want to drink this with…with Lynn.”
“Well the wine and cheese makes me feel like we’re on a picnic in the French countryside.”
I looked around and took a deep breath of the fresh air. We started eating, and by the time we were done, we were each working on our third glass of wine. I was thankful that the warm weather and our open schedules would permit us to stay as long as we wanted. We could even nap here in the sun- bellies full and hearts pacified.
As if by some unspoken agreement, neither of us mentioned Lynn. We talked about classes; we talked about the race; we talked about sore legs; we swapped leg rubs and shoulder rubs. We kissed, and I tasted the wine on her tongue. Our kissing became touching, and touching became petting. We lay down on the blanket, pushing plates and glasses to the side.
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