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Submitted by Steven ODell on 9 July 2007 - 12:59am.

Chapter 10

When Denise returned home from work, Barbara and Paul accompanied her. “What a pleasant surprise,” Ron exclaimed. The two of you are off work quite a bit early, aren’t you?”

“Well, yes,” Barbara declared. It’s a bit of a surprise, really.”

“I just said that,” Ron grinned.

“For you, not us…I mean…oh, never mind. We are going to order out for dinner and have our official ‘welcome home’ party for you.”

“Yes,” Paul added. It’s a tad overdue, but nonetheless sincere. A celebration of our friendship and our love for you both.”

“Thank you, both of you. I’m touched by your consideration>”

“Our pleasure, Ron. Where is Debra?”

“Oh, she went to receive a fax. I have no idea when she may return. She said not to hold dinner, though. Maybe she had a hot date and was too shy to mention it?” he suggested.

“Then you don’t know my mother. Her shy? Hah!” Denise laughed.

“Well, a man did come and pick her up….”

“Hmm, curious. But nothing she does should really surprise me much. Don’t worry about her. If you knew her like I do, you’d know she’d be fine. Now, what is everyone in the mood for?” The conversation now veered in a different direction, along with the mood for the evening.

The dinner was superb and the cleanup easy. The conversation and company were excellent, just as the first time Ron had enjoyed their collective presence. Again he felt at home and a sense of peace and tranquility came over him. He was among friends and knew that somehow things would be right again, just as Debra had predicted. This feeling was one he had missing for some time without being consciously aware of it. It had taken the death of one wife and the wedding to a new one to bring him out of his shell. He would always be indebted to Lenore for the things that she had taught him about himself, but he knew, too, that he would be equally indebted to Denise for what she had already and would continue to teach him about the loved ones around him. Ron found himself wishing that Lenore and Denise could have known one another. They would likely have been good friends. He shuddered slightly to think what his life would still be if he had refused the invitation Barbara had offered just a few short weeks ago on his own doorstep. What a gift of love he would have deprived himself of.

While they were in conversation, the door opened and Debra stepped in. Both men stood instinctively as she entered. Whether they knew it consciously or not, she had an air about her that gently commanded their attention and respect-a quiet power they could not precisely measure. As a still, but deep body of water hides it’s depth from view of all but the most discerning, Debra had some obscure and anonymous something that was felt rather than seen openly.

“Well, I know what I said earlier, but I hope you have saved me something. I’m famished.”

“As a matter of fact, there is a plate for you in the fridge. Shall I heat it for you, Mom?”

“No, dear. You stay and enjoy the party. I’ll be back before you can miss me.” She left the room hurriedly and after a bit of rustling in the kitchen, she hurried down the hall to the furthest recesses of the house to make a call in privacy.

In short order Debra returned and ate the dinner that had been heating in the microwave for her and then turned to the front room where all were seated comfortably. As the men again began to rise, she directed them to remain sitting.

“Mom, you’ve been rather a mystery this evening. You don’t let me take time during the day to be with you and you are gone or on the phone nearly every evening. What’s up? And don’t say ‘nothing’.” Denise was genuinely curious, despite her earlier assurance to Ron.

“Darling, I hardly think this is the time or place to discuss the matter.”

“Well, you almost missed out on the get-together tonight and we seldom see you in the day. I just want to know what is so important that it keeps you away so much. You’re not having clandestine meetings with my husband, are you?” She laughed lightly and all chuckled at the thought, Debra included. All except Ron, that is. He gasped audibly and turned pale. Denise and the others stopped laughing as they spied his obvious shock.

“It was just a joke, Ron. Calm down,” Barb countered, but all eyes shot from Ron to Debra, from Debra to Denise and back to Ron again.

As the words began to form on Denise’s lips, Debra broke the spell. “My stars, people! Don’t be ridiculous! You should see yourselves right now. It would be funny if it weren’t so shocking.”

Again all eyes were upon Ron and Denise. None dared speak and again Debra broke the silence. “Oh, for cryin’ out the window, people! There’s not a thing going on between Ron and me. And as for the reason I seem a bit preoccupied--you’ll all know soon enough if it works out the way I hope. If it doesn’t, it won’t matter a feather or a fig, but either way I’ll tell you when the time is right and not before, okay? So, stop letting your imaginations run wild and get a grip! That’s the last I have to say about it. I’m going to bed. Good night, all.” With that, she stood somewhat defiantly, as it were, and started to leave the room, but at the last second turned and added, “Besides, Ron is too young for me” and winked at Denise.

It took a moment for all to recover their wits. Paul spoke first. “Well, folks, I think this had better be a good time to go home.” His discomfort showed visibly.

Ron rose and saw them to the door and thanked them for such a lovely evening with good food and company, but hurried to add, “I’m sorry for the unexpected crescendo to the evening. That was truly bizarre. I assure you that I would never do anything of the kind to Denise-and Debra wouldn’t either.” He looked them sincerely in the eyes and they knew without reservation that he was telling them the truth. “It matters to me that you believe me. I know how much you love Denise and want you to know this isn’t what happened.”

“Okay, Ron. Forget it. No more fretting over it. We believe you. Get some sleep.”

Barb whispered, “You’d better give your wife some attention first, though. I noticed that she hasn’t come to the door and I think she is pretty confused over this.”

“You’re right. I’ll do that. Thanks, Barb. Thank you both for being such good friends.”

“No worries. We love you guys. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what Debra is cooking up, won’t we?” Paul smiled and called goodbye to Denise.

Barbara prodded firmly, still in hushed tones, “Go take care of her now!” and closed the door between them.

Ron turned to find his wife, but Denise was nowhere to be seen. He found her in the bedroom, crying softly and walked to her and sat on the edge of the bed beside her. He took her hand in his and began slowly, “Babe, you know I would never intentionally hurt you, don’t you?”

“Yes, Ron, I do. It’s okay. It just shook me up for a minute, that’s all. Everything that has been going on lately has taken its toll on my sanity and immunity, I’m afraid.”

“Then you believe me that nothing inappropriate was going on between your mother and me?”

“Of course I believe you. You were always such a gentleman with me, even when you had every opportunity not to be. I’m sorry to have doubted for a second. It was just that you looked as if a truck had just hit you and everyone else was in shock, too. I got sort of wrapped up in the foolishness of the moment. It was the poorly timed circumstances, that’s all.”

He tried to change the subject gently, feeling there was no sense in belaboring it further. “I’ll be stunned when all of our trials are over-- like a fish out of water without the challenges to my sanity.” He said it facetiously, but it caused her to start crying again. The mere thought of it all going on much longer was more than she wanted to bear. She only wanted this protracted hell to go away.

Ron pulled her to his side and held her. They needed to get away again. The problem was that almost anyplace in the vicinity sparked in them memories of a distasteful nature now. Added to this was the waiting for the other shoe to fall, so to speak. Ron had not been held for questioning, but he had also not been cleared totally or told he was free to go where he pleased, when he pleased. He felt as if he were on a tether that he could not see, but which could be pulled at any time by some nameless, faceless authority. He felt like crying quite often, too. Since getting home, they had not made love. It wasn’t planned that way-it just was that way. It was as if an unseen presence haunted them, making them too uncomfortable be themselves. There was a limit to how long any marriage could tolerate such a condition, he knew. The fear was that their limit might be much closer than he suspected.

The letter came with no fanfare, delivered just as any other letter might be, but it was not any ordinary letter. This one carried with it dark clouds that warned of the ferocity of an approaching storm. It was addressed to Mr. And Mrs. Ronald Jameson.

“You are hereby summoned to appear before the District Court of Laine County at 10 A.M. on Friday, the third day of November….” Ron stopped reading and paused only a second before he threw the letter as far as he could. He gritted his teeth and growled in anger that could be expressed in no other way. Raising his hands in impotent frustration and rage, he bellowed, “When will it all be over?”

Denise could only cover her mouth with her hands and stand silently staring at him. Debra was far more direct.

“Don’t you give up yet, Ronald Jameson, do you hear me? There’s more here than meets the eye and you know you’ve done nothing wrong. You know and I know it. More importantly, God knows it and there is such a thing as divine justice, too, I assure you. It would be far better to call a good lawyer than to holler at the walls like this, so I suggest you get to it. If you don’t mind a suggestion, you can call this fellow.” She walked to her purse and produced a card, which she handed to him firmly.

“Baylor Sims? Who is he? I’ve never heard of him. What makes you think he is the right man for the job?”

Denise jumped in. “Mom, you’re not even from here. How could you know who is best to call?”

Unflustered, Debra answered strongly. “My mouth and brain still work, don’t they? While you two were busy feeling sorry for yourselves, I was out talking with anyone and everyone who was able to recommend a good plan of attack for you-I mean, us.”

“Don’t you mean a good defense, Mom?”

“No, babe, your mother is right. The best defense is a good attack, in this case. You saw that with the little insurance Nazi. It also applies here. We need to put them on the defense if we can accomplish it. If they thought the county could be sued with the slightest chance of our winning in higher courts, they may soft-pedal this and want us all to back out gracefully.” He turned attention to Debra again. “Go on.”

“From what I’m told on the street and from several other lawyers, Sims is a real pit bull in these things. And strangely enough, word has it he is reasonably priced. …Seems he went into law years ago because of the way his own parents were treated by the justice system. I don’t know all the details, but he’s fair, he’s honest and he’s affordable-a good combination in my estimation.”

“Okay, Debra, let’s go talk to him.”

“We have an appointment at 2 this afternoon. I thought you’d see it my way,” she grinned.

“Mom, sometimes you are amazing.”

“Just sometimes? I must be losing my touch.” She smiled appreciatively.

Ron was growing in his admiration for this woman. She was somewhat of a pit bull herself and he was glad she was on their side. He now recalled that George Brennan had given him his card and had written his cell number on the back. Maybe it would be a good idea to give him a call and see if he had ever heard of this Sims fellow. Pulling the card from his wallet, he turned it over to read the number and was almost floored when he read the name printed there—Baylor Sims. This was the first time he had looked at the card since he’d gotten it from George. It appeared that their path was blazed rather clearly.

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