Deleting Martina – Chapter Twenty-Three

Randall took a deep breath, sighed and said, “go on.”  He barely got the words out of his mouth before he added, “is she on Broadway?”

Dick began his narrative in a matter-of-fact monotone.

“Yes, she’s on Broadway, but not exactly where you would probably hope.  She’s with The New York Theater Performance Group.”

Randall interrupted momentarily and almost tongue-in-cheek, asked, “is her name in lights?”

“You could say that,” Dick replied.  “She’s headlining a play.  A marquee reads…”  He hesitated, cleared his throat and said, “are you sure you want to hear what I’m going to tell you?”

Randall said, “yes.”

Dick continued.  “The play is called ‘Getting Intimate With Martine Monroe’.  The marquee reads, ‘You’ll forget all about Marilyn, once you feast your eyes upon the provocative, captivating temptress, Martine’.”

“So, what does that mean?” Randall said, sounding confused.  “Is it a play a little on the seedy side or is it…?”  Dick said, “son, it’s exactly what you think it is.  I don’t know any other way to put it.  She’s a porn star, and from what I hear, and have seen, she’s a pretty good one.”

“You’ve seen the show?” Randall asked.  “How does she look?”  He quickly corrected the way the question sounded and asked, “does she look happy?”  Again, trying to correct himself, he said, almost mumbling, “I just want to know if she looks like she’s enjoying what she’s doing.”  Again, trying to reclaim some dignity, he said, “I guess there are no easy questions to ask about this kind of work.  It would be sort of like asking a prostitute is she has fun doing what she does…or asking an addict if they like drugs.”  Then he asked, “did she look high?”

Dick said, “that, I couldn’t say.  Did she look like she was enjoying herself? Yes, she did, but I imagine she’s making a pretty penny for acting like she’s enjoying herself, and I will say that she looked like she knew what she was doing, high or not.  This may be a little too personal, but was she promiscuous?”

Randall said, “No…at least not when I knew her.  I’m not sure she had ever even been kissed.  We didn’t have an intimate relationship.”  Dick gingerly asked, “did you want one?”  Randall said, “I hadn’t really given it much thought.  I just knew she was headed down a dark path and I wanted to help her.  I understood the constraints of the way she was raised, and I know that sometimes, privilege makes one…rebellious…shall we say?  I also know that rebellion sometimes manifests itself in the shape of pills or liquid inside a needle, or powder sucked up a nose.”

“You know, son,” Dick said.  “Almost daily, actors and actresses admit to popping a few pills or having a little snort to help them with the long hours and strenuous demands of their jobs.  Now, I’m not saying it’s right.  I just know it happens.”

“My question to you, is this,” he said.  “Now that you have this information, what are you going to do with it?”  Randall admitted that he had no idea.

After the call ended, he sat down and poured a glass of wine.  The last time he had wine was when he and Martina were toasting Callie.  Dick had a valid question, he thought.  What was he going to do?  Should he go to New York?  And what would he do when he got there?  Try to talk Martina into coming home?  Try to talk her into forgoing her pornographic career?

He wasn’t her official advocate.  He wasn’t her mentor in any sense.  He wasn’t even sure that she considered him to be a friend.  His past kept echoing.  Someone had reached out to him.  Someone had save him.

He finished his glass of wine, and made a decision.

 

To be continued__________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Twenty-Two

Randall got a call from the private detective.  During the several weekly unfruitful calls, Randall was finally comfortable calling him Dick, rather than “sir.”  Dick said, “none of that sir bullshit,” and had taken to calling him “son.”

Dick was an old movie buff.  His chosen genre was about old, beaten down private eyes, who lived in dank, one-room flats; sat in bars, drinking beer and dreaming of the “big case” that would send their name into infinity.

He played those roles perfectly when necessary, but he had a reputation for getting the job done.  His personalities ranged from portraying a forgetful, podunk hillbilly, to a man with a license, a gun and justifiable homicide in his eyes.

“Well, son,” he said.  “I have news, but not much.  Apparently, she’s going by the name Martine Monroe,” but he didn’t reveal how he acquired the information.

Randall chuckled as he echoed, “Martine Monroe?  That’s interesting.  Do you have an address?”

Dick said, “working on it, but nothing so far.”

Randall was tentative about asking Dick to try to locate a few of the local drug dealers, because that could potentially put him in harms’ way, but Dick was slick.  Randall believed that he was the kind of man who could actually sell drugs to a drug dealer, so he asked.

“Already on it,” Dick said.  “I’ve got some feelers out.  Money talks, as you well know, and some people will sell their mama’s soul for a little cash.”

Without explanation, Dick hesitated and said, “son, I don’t get into people’s business.  I just do my job and cash their checks, but sometimes I tell a client that they have to ask themselves if the person and the expense is worth it, and this is getting pretty expensive.”

Randall said, “I believe she’s worth it.  I may be wrong, but let’s just say…I’m hoping she’s worth it.”

Dick said, “you also have to understand that some people just don’t want to be found.  Furthermore, you have to understand that what you find out may not be what you want to find out.  Just keep that in mind.”

“I will,” said Randall.  After the call, Randall started thinking about what Dick said.  He questioned himself again as to his motives.  Yes, he wanted to save her, but did she want to be saved?  He didn’t believe he needed saving when he was flying high, and he didn’t want to be saved.  He thought he was living.  He thought everyone else had a problem.  “I’ll give it two more weeks,” he thought to himself.  “Then, I’ll let it go.”

He was aware of the monsters that sometimes reappear when dealing with an addict.  You can be drawn back into their world.  You can be pulled under.  You can actually believe that it can be only once, “for old time’s sake.”

He only confessed to himself that not a day went by when he wasn’t lusting after a fix, even though he knew that fix could potentially lead to a wooden crucifix being placed on a mound of dirt.

Exactly two weeks later, the phone rang.

“Are you ready for what you’re going to hear?” asked Dick.

 

To be continued_________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Twenty-One

Randall watched as Martina walked away.  After a few steps, she turned and smiled at him like a bully, who had just emotionally gutted someone.

Randall understood how Martina was feeling.  She was feeling in control and she was loving it.  She was feeling a sense of power and she was loving it, but in reality, she had power and control of nothing.

The drug had the power and control.

After that night, he reached out to her several times, but his efforts were fruitless.  When the semester ended, Martina left.  No goodbye, no note, no phone call, nothing.  She was gone.  Just as she said to mother…”Martina has been deleted.”

Mother was beside herself and father was little more than an obtuse bystander, shaking his head and saying his tired, “she’ll be back.  Just give her time” statement.  Mother angrily conveyed her belief that Callie had successfully ruined Martina, and was instrumental in her change of personality and subsequent disappearance.

Randall didn’t tell them about Callie.  He didn’t tell them that Martina was using drugs.  He didn’t tell them about his own past.  He only told them that he would try to find her.

Putting on his imaginary Deerstalker, he began to look for her. Unbeknownst to Martina, he knew the dark shadowy figure behind the coffee shop.  “Joe Blow” had been his drug dealer in the past, and he knew that for the right price, not only could he get drugs, he could get information.

Five large was what it cost Randall to find out that Martina had gone to New York, just as she said.  “For another five, I’ll tell you exactly where she went, and I’ll even throw in the name of the dealer I hooked her up with,” Joe said with a laugh.  “By the way, I’ve got some ‘ICE’ if you’re interested. It’s as pure as the driven snow.  How ’bout it?  Been a while, hasn’t it? Come on.  I’ll even give you a break on the price…for old time’s sake.”

Randall passed on the information and the drugs.  Walking away, he remembered “the shoulder,” he felt after his injection, and for a split second, thought about going back but he knew that like all addicts, the want will always be there, the animal will always try to get control, and the cage must never again be opened.

Gathering his thoughts, he knew Martina would have headed to Manhattan. That’s where all the Broadway star wannabes always go.  The question was, could he find her?

Going to New York was not a trip he wanted to make, so he sought the help of a private detective.  Having no real information, other than his suspicions as to her whereabouts, the detective said he would do what he could, with basically nothing but a name.

Randall wasn’t sure if she was even using her real name.  All he could offer was “Martina or Martine Hamilton.”  He wasn’t sure if she had changed her looks, other than the effects of whatever drug she was using.  The detective reminded him that one could very successfully hide in New York.  “It’s a big place,” he said.  “You can move just one block away, and no one will ever find you.”

A month went by, and meager information was all Randall received.  A few people said they “thought they had seen her,” and wanted money for information, which of course, might or might not be accurate.  In Randall’s experience, most people could be bought, but it didn’t mean that what you were buying was worth the price.

He asked himself what he would do if he found her.  Would she talk to him?  Would she treat him the way she had before she left?  Would she accuse him of stalking her?  He was sure of nothing, but felt as though he had a debt.  Someone had helped him through his addiction, and he wanted to pay it forward.  Someone had saved his life.  He wanted to save someone else’s.  He wanted to save Martina.

Two months later, a break.

 

To be continued__________

 

Deleting Martina – Chapter Twenty

Although Randall kept pushing Martina, she never promised, but she seemed to have some sort of epiphany when her face lit up as she said, “I’m going to shine, and I’m going to shine for Callie.”

Randall nodded.  Not defeated by her refusal to promise, he still had hope.

When news of Callie’s death circulated around campus, it was decided that out of respect for her and her family, the play would be delayed until the following week.  A small service was going to be held in the chapel for her friends and fellow classmates.  Martina made the decision not to attend.  She felt guilty.

She wondered if Joe Blow would make an appearance, but it occurred to her that she wouldn’t know him if he did.  “Besides,” she thought to herself, “drug dealers don’t usually go to the services of the people they’ve effectively murdered.”

She called Randall and asked if he would meet her at the coffee shop.  When they arrived, a black wreath was hanging on the door.  The mood was somewhat somber, but it didn’t dissuade the regulars from doing what they had always come to do…drink themselves into oblivion or release the animal they otherwise kept at bay.

Randall ordered two glasses of wine.  They stood and Martina said, “here’s to Callie.  Stand by your glasses steady, and drink to your comrade’s eyes.  Here’s a toast to the dead already, and hurrah for the next to die.”

Randall said, “wow.  Was Callie Irish?”  Martina said, “I don’t know.  I just know it was her favorite toast.”

After a few minutes, she said, “I don’t think Callie was afraid to die.  It was almost like what you said, about the brightest burning out the quickest.  When I think back on some of the conversations we had, her urgency to somehow get me to break free of my ‘prison,’ and her dogged determination to…basically live life to its fullest, I think maybe she knew that her light was going to burn out quickly.”

The next week was hectic for Martina.  Most of her time was spent studying her lines, and anticipating being the next “break-out star” of the drama class.  She had been keeping Randall at bay, but he took it in stride.

Finally, the big night arrived.  Martina was a bundle of nerves, worrying and fretting about whether or not she would freeze in fear as soon as she stepped onto the stage.

Randall managed to slip backstage and without being noticed, watched as she paced the floor, script in hand.  Looking at the program he was handed when he arrived, he smiled when he saw the names portraying the characters.  There in black and white, he read, “introducing Martine as Fantine.”

He quietly slipped back into the audience and sat down in the front row.  After three and a half hours, the play was over.  The cast came onstage and bowed to near deafening applause and a standing ovation.  Martina’s performance outshone them all, and calls for her to re-appear were thunderous.

Completely captured by the adoration, Martina didn’t notice mother sitting with Randall.

When mother walked back stage, surprise wouldn’t quite describe the look on Martina’s face.  It was almost a combination of fear and shock.  She stood quietly, frozen, until Mother walked over to her and said, “I’m very proud of you.”

At last, Martina felt validation.  She felt worthy.  Her staid, submissive mother had elevated her to importance.  She expressed pride.  But of course, all those expressions were tempered with mother’s consternation about her name change.

“Did you change your name, or was it a misprint?  Martina smiled and said, “no, mother.  It wasn’t a misprint.  I am now Martine.  Martina has been deleted.

Mother sighed with disapproval and said, well, what are your plans now, and what happened to that creature…what was her name?  Callie?”

Martina said, “if you ever want to see me again, don’t ever again say anything about Callie.”  She stood inches away from mother’s face and almost growled, “do you understand?  Now, to answer your question, I’m going to quit school and move to New York.  I’m going to be a star on Broadway.  Just picture it in your mind.  My name in lights.  Martine as Fantine.”

Mother sighed and said, “you must speak to your father.”  Martine smiled and disrespectfully said, “I don’t have to speak to father.  I can do what I want.  You seem to forget that I am an adult now and you don’t…nor does father, have any control over me.”

Mother said, “maybe not, but we do have control over your finances.  How do you expect to live in New York?”

Martina said, “are you threatening to cut me off financially?  Go ahead.  And while you’re at it…go fuck yourself.”

Randall had witnessed the entire conversation and thought for a minute, mother might faint.  She looked at Martina and said, “Martina, what has gotten into you?  Where did you learn that filthy language?”

Martina said, “it’s MARTINE, mother.  MARTINE.  Say it.  Say it.  MARTINE.”

Mother turned and walked away.  Randall knew she hadn’t noticed Martina’s huge, dilated eyes, but he had.  He looked at Martina and said, “you’re using, aren’t you?  You’re as high as a kite, and not just because you perceive yourself to have given a hugely successful performance.  You are high on cocaine.”

Martina rolled her eyes and said, “oh, please.  I just needed a little pick-me-up for the play.  I needed something to steady my nerves.  You understand, don’t you?  I mean, you were once an addict.  I, however, am not.  I can quit anytime I want.”

Randall said, “Martina, I asked you not to use and you promised.”  Martina said, “it’s MARTINE and I never promised.  And, by the way, I don’t need a lecture from you.  If all you can do is preach, then just leave me alone.”

As she was leaving the room, she turned and said, “you must forgive me. The cast is going to the coffee shop to celebrate.  You are not invited.”

 

 

To be continued_________________

 

 

Deleting Martina – Chapter Nineteen

Martina was stunned.  “You used to be an addict?” she asked.  Randall said, “I still am.  I’m a recovering addict.  I’ll always be an addict.  I’ll just…hopefully…be an addict who doesn’t do drugs.”

“What was your help?” she asked.  He said, “I thought we had agreed to call it what it is, Martina.  It’s not help.  It’s a drug.”

She nodded, then asked what his drug of choice was.  He took a deep breath and said, “Crystal Meth.”

Suddenly the conversation shifted and almost in a panic, she asked Randall about calling 911.  “They’re going to trace the call and find out that we were there.  They might even think we were responsible.”

Randall said, “don’t worry about that.  I always carry a track phone with me.  Something I learned from dear father.  He uses them to communicate with his tramp girlfriends.”

“Do you have a tramp girlfriend on the side, too?” Martina asked.  Randall laughed and said, “no.  I don’t use it to mingle with tramps, but you never know.  I might get robbed or leave my phone laying around somewhere. That’s why I always carry throwaways.  They’re also good for calling 911 anonymously.”

For a brief moment, he made Martina smile, but her thoughts soon shifted back to Callie.  When she began to cry, Randall said, “Callie left a note.”

Martina dried her eyes and said, “where?  When?  What…what…what do you mean, she left a note?  How do you know?”

Randall said, “it was in her hand, and I took it.  I haven’t read it.  I wondered if it was a suicide note, and if it was, I didn’t want the police to get it and then have it on local television stations or in the newspaper.  I shouldn’t have taken it of course, but I did.  I’d rather have them think it was an accidental overdose.  An accidental overdose is just that. Accidental.  Suicide is purposeful and intentional…and even more tragic, I think.  It’s the end game of defeat and desperation and surrender and I always wonder how alone and hopeless those victims must feel in their final moments of life.”

Martina looked at Randall and asked, “have you ever tried to commit suicide?”  He smiled, but said nothing.

She said, “do you think we should read the note?”  He said, “yes. Those are her final words and she obviously wanted them read.  Do you want to read it or do you want me to?”

Martina said, “you read it,” and he began.

If I gave you my heart,
Would you break it?
If I gave you my trust,
Would you betray it?

If I told you a secret,
Would you keep it?
If I was a treasure,
Would you seek it?

If I gave you myself,
Would you take me?
If I broke your golden rule,
Would you forsake me?

If I told you I was broken,
Would it matter?
If I fell to the ground,
Would you let me shatter?

If I left you tomorrow,
Would you cry for me?
If I asked for your soul,
Would you die for me?

If I begged you for mercy,
Would you ignore me?
If I disappointed you,
Would you still adore me?

If I was in the ground,
Would you walk upon my grave?
And say that I was someone,
Not good enough to save?

Martina’s uncontrollable sobbing was interrupted when Randall said, “I think someone broke Callie’s heart.”  Turning to her, he asked, “do you know who?  Was it you?”

Martina said, “me?  No.  Why would you ask that?  We weren’t lovers.” Randall asked if she thought that maybe Callie wanted them to be.  She said Callie had never given her that impression.  “Well,” he said, “do you have any idea who the poem might have been written for?”  She said, “I can’t think of anyone…except maybe Joe Blow.”

“Excuse me?” Randall said, with raised eyebrows.  Martina said, “Joe Blow. He was her…he was the one she got her drugs from, but aside from a remark she once made…that was the extent of their relationship, as far as I know.  I don’t think they were together.”

“What remark?” Randall asked.  Martina said, “I think she was teasing, but she said when times were lean, Joe Blow would sometimes trade drugs for a ‘BJ’.”

“Gotcha,” he said.  “And he was your supplier, too, right?  So you know him?”  Martina said, “I never really met him properly.  We meet behind the coffee shop when it’s dark.  He’s always in a car, wearing a hat and sunglasses, and it’s a quick swap.  I have no idea what he looks like.  I’ve never even heard his voice.”

Randall said, “there were no signs of a struggle and her apartment was too tidy, so I really don’t think there was any foul play.”

“But the door has been broken down,” Martina said.  “So the police are going to think something’s sinister, and start looking for suspects.  We need to be each other’s alibi.”

“Will you stop worrying?” Randall said.  “For all they know…or can prove…Callie may have locked herself out and broken down her own door.  It wasn’t a very secure door.”

Martina began to cry again.  “I had no idea that she was so desperately sad, and I just feel so helpless.  I want to know why?  Why did this happen to her?”

Randall said, “the brightest burn out the quickest.  And through the years, I have found that the ones who seem to have the most strength are the ones who are the most vulnerable, because they are the loneliest and are hiding the deepest pain.”

“But she had plans, and hopes, and dreams,” Martina said.  “She made me believe that I could have plans, and hopes, and dreams.”

Randall said, “you still can.  You’re still alive.  If anything, this should make you even more determined to follow those hopes and dreams you say you have.  Live.  Live for Callie.  Let something good come from this.  For whatever reason, and no matter if accidental or on purpose, Callie is at peace now.  Honor her determination by fighting for your own path toward success.  Show that determination to everyone who believed you’d fail.” He sighed and said, “I know I’m rambling, but I just want you to focus on today and tomorrow.  I don’t want this to send you over the edge, if you know what I mean.”

Martina said, “you’re not rambling, and this may sound strange, but I think that’s what she’d want.  She’d be telling me to get on with my life.”  She laughed and said, “she say, get your butt out on that stage and break a leg.”

“Speaking of,” he said.  “Are you going to be ready?”

Martina took a deep breath and said, “I am.”  Then she looked at Randall and said, “will you come to the play?”  He smiled and said, “of course, but only on one condition.”

“What?” she asked.

“You have to do it without any help from the shadowy figure behind the coffee shop.  Promise?  Say you promise.”

 

To be continued__________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Eighteen

Martina and Randall got in his car and he could tell that she was nervous. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked.

“I am…I think,” she said.  “I feel like I deserted her somehow.  Does that make any sense?”  Randall looked over at her and said, “no.  From what you have told me, she encouraged you to break free and explore the kind of life she has, and you readily embraced the idea.  She didn’t force you into her world, did she?  Why do you feel like you deserted her?  Did she demand that your full attention be focused on her alone?  Or did she just make you want to, as I said, taste another side of life?”

Martina said, “I wonder if I was a good enough friend.  After she introduced me to things I had never seen or experienced or done, I just sort of went my way and left her behind.  But if it hadn’t been for her, I would have never been able to break free of my parents, and go to college, and good heavens…join the drama club.”

Randall quickly said, “and if it hadn’t been for her, you would have never become an addict.”

Martina bit her lower lip.  She wasn’t yet ready to concede that she had a problem, although, even as they were driving to Callie’s dorm, she was shaking and felt like she needed some help.

It was the same scenario as before.  She knocked on Callie’s door, and there was no answer.  She knocked on the RA’s door, and there was no answer.  Looking up and down the hallway, she asked Randall if he thought he could shoulder the door down, “like they do in the movies.”

With very little effort, the door yielded and they walked in.  The quietness was deafening, and the stillness was eerily disconcerting.  They called to Callie, but there was no answer.  Walking around her neatly kept apartment, nothing seemed out of place.

Martina slowly walked toward her bedroom.  The door was closed but not locked.  A wave of dread came over her, and she called for Randall.  He moved her aside and said, “let me go in.”

Martina closed her eyes and held her breath as she said a silent prayer.

Randall went in and found Callie on the floor, leaning against the bed, facing the window.  One look, and he knew she was dead.  Her right hand was holding the needle that was still embedded in her arm, and her left hand was clutching a piece of paper.

Before Randall could stop her, Martina came into the room.  “Don’t look,” he said.  “You don’t want to see her this way, and she wouldn’t want you to see her this way.”

Martina could hardly control herself.  She was hysterical and pleading with Randall to do CPR.  “It’s too late,” he said.  “She’s been gone for a few days.  We need to call 911.  Tell them to send the police, but tell them that we don’t need an ambulance.”

While trying to console a frantic Martina, and without her seeing, Randall took the note from Callie’s hand and put it in his pocket.

Martina started running around like a caged animal, pulling up sofa cushions, looking in cabinet drawers, and even taking off the top to the toilet tank.  “What are you looking for?” he asked.  She said, “I’m trying to find her help.  I don’t want anyone thinking that she had it.”

Randall scolded her loudly and said, “Martina!  She has a needle sticking out of her arm.  Her arms are full of tracks.  I’m sure people know she was a drug addict, and I think it’s time you stopped referring to it as help.  It’s not help.  Call it what it what it is.  It’s Cocaine.  She was a cocaine addict.  YOU’RE a cocaine addict.”

Randall, thinking quickly on his feet, said, “we need to get out of here, unless you are prepared to start answering a lot of uncomfortable questions.”

They managed to slip out a side door before the police arrived.  Martina covered her ears as the wail of sirens got louder, and she was literally starting to fall apart emotionally.  She begged Randall to take her home.  He knew why.

“I’m not taking you home,” he said.  “I know you think you need a fix.  Stay with me for a while and let it pass.  Just take some deep breaths.”

After threatening to get out and walk, Martina finally calmed down and they just sat in his car, watching the flickering blue strobe-lights.

“I’m so desperately sad,” she said.  “I just don’t understand.”

Randall said, “I understand, and so do you, if you would open your eyes.  She was an addict.  Addicts always think they have control over their animal.  They think that animal is their friend, their release, their escape, their salvation.  But it’s really a stalker.  A soul destroyer.  An anarchist.  A depleter.  And then, one day, it becomes a killer.  Not always, but more often than you know.”

Randall looked at Martina with imploring eyes and said, “we need to talk about getting you into recovery.”

“I don’t want to talk about that right now…please.  I just…I just…”  She turned, looked at him and, in a brusque way  asked, “how do you know so much about this anyway?  What makes you such an expert?”

Randall held out his arm and showed her the now healed and almost invisible track marks, cleverly hidden by a dragonfly tattoo.

 

To be continued_____________

 

 

Deleting Martina – Chapter Seventeen

For some reason, Martina realized that she wasn’t offended, or even surprised by Randall’s invitation.  She found herself blurting out, “okay.  What time?”

He said, “I’ll come around for you at eight.”

That afternoon, trying to study her lines, she was having difficulty concentrating.  She was thinking about Callie and her sudden absence.

She decided to distract herself with a warm bubble bath.  As she lay in the relaxing, warm blanket of water, it suddenly occurred to her…”I have a date.”  She had never been on a date.  Curiously, she discovered that she wasn’t apprehensive.  She was excited.

The excitement was quickly replaced with panic.  What would she wear?  Surely, she couldn’t wear faded blue jeans and a wrinkled t-shirt.  A quick call to Macy’s, and she sighed with relief.  A courier brought a stunning outfit, just in time.

As she looked at herself in the mirror, she was looking at the “before” Martina.  It was both nostalgic and liberating.  Wearing the “costume” for tonight only, was her choice and not a requirement.

The doorbell rang and when she opened it, her loud guffaw could probably be heard in the next apartment.  There Randall stood, grinning broadly, dressed in blue jeans and a Polo shirt.

She wasn’t sure what to say, but finally gathered her senses and said, “should I change?”

He smiled and said, “it doesn’t matter to me.  I thought you might enjoy going somewhere casual…you know, more suited to the new you, but you certainly look fine.”  She said, “come in.  I’m going to change.”

After donning her jeans and a blouse, off they went.  Randall took her to a little cafe style restaurant, with blue-checkered table cloths, large plastic glasses of iced tea, and food-stained apron-wearing waitresses.

“This is a side of dining that neither one of us has ever experienced”, he said.  Martina smiled and said, “this is a little ‘across the railroad tracks’ for you, isn’t it?”  He smiled and said, “you could say that.”

She looked around and said, “I rather enjoy the ambiance.  It reminds me of the coffee shop, but it’s a little noisier and you can hear people chattering.  Doors are swinging open and shut, and it’s not like home.  There’s not the dull hum-drum of listening to which stock someone owns or just sold.  I like peeking into other worlds.  I find it somewhat charming.  Where did you find this place, anyway?”

“Well,” Randall said.  “I’ll tell you, but only if you swear not to tell anyone.”  Martina was intrigued, and said “okay, you have my word.”  He leaned over and whispered, “this is where my father brings his mistress.”

Martina was dumbfounded.  She stumbled as she asked, “what do you mean?  Your father has a mistress?”  Randall ran his finger around the top of his plastic glass and said, “yes.  For about five years now.”

“How did you find out?” she asked.  He said, “my father used to leave the house every Tuesday night.  I was curious, or maybe I was being nosy, so one night I followed him.  He came here.  I parked so that he couldn’t see me and just waited.  A few minutes later, a beat-up Volkswagen, with no bumper and one fender missing, came squealing into the parking lot.  This trashy red-head got out and ran over to my father’s car.  Her breasts were bulging out of her blouse, her skirt was so short it left nothing to the imagination and her spiked-heel shoes were so high, she sank into the gravel every time she took a step.”

“Does he know you know?” Martina asked.  “I don’t know if he knows that I know, but everyone knows,” he said.  “Everyone except mother, of course.  It’s one of the best kept open secrets in town.”

He leaned over and once again whispered, “I had her checked out.  She doesn’t have a job, other than the obvious, and lives in a trailer outside of town.”

Martina angrily said, “if I were you, I would tell your mother.”

He looked at her and said, “why would I do that?  Why would I ruin a happy fifty-year marriage?  And why would I hurt my mother by telling her?”

Martina said, “she deserves to know the truth.”  Randall said, “your truth, maybe, but not her truth.  I’m not going to destroy her life at seventy years old, because my father has some harlot on the side.”

“What I can and will do for mother, is not be that kind of man,” he said.

He smiled and said, “when father had ‘the talk’ with me, he said, ‘play the field and have a good time…be careful…don’t let some floozy trap you’…so on and so forth.  Then he said ‘after you’ve had your fun, find a good woman, get married, have a heir and settle down’.  Then he winked and said, ‘but just because you’re married, doesn’t mean you can’t…shall we say…still taste the wares of another’.”

Martina thought for a minute and said, “you’ll forgive me if I tell you that I really dislike your father.”  Randall smiled and said, “I understand…and I do forgive you.  I don’t always like him either, nor do I necessarily agree with his methods, but he’s still my father.  I believe he was faithful to mother for most of their marriage, but now he’s seeing the end of his life, I guess, and wants to go out in a blaze of glory.  He’s tasted the class and now he wants to taste the trash.”

Martina looked at him and said, “do you really believe that?”  Randall looked at her and said, “probably not, but he makes me want to be a better man, if that makes any sense.”

Martina said, “wow.  You sure are singing a different song than when we first met.”  Randall smiled and said, “we all sing whatever song is necessary to get us through our day…or our life.”  You’ve been lucky.  You have actually tasted a bit of the world that people like us rarely get to taste, and you’ve been able to sing a different song.”

“Speaking of,” he said.  “Are you ready for your big debut this weekend?”  Martina said, “I’m not sure.  I hope so.”  Then she looked at him with appealing eyes and said, “would you take me by Callie’s apartment again?”

He said, “if you want me to, yes.  But if she’s not there, or if she is there and doesn’t want to talk, you can’t let it push you off the deep end, okay?  I think you know what I mean.”

 

To be continued______________