Neighbors in Heat



We lust after the couple next door!

Jerry wanted a divorce. He broke the news to me in his usual quiet way.

“We don’t have anything in common,” he stated.

My head was spinning with so many emotions: terror that I’d be out on the street or living in my car, hurt because I still loved him and I wanted our marriage to work, and wonder because I couldn’t understand why, after ten years of marriage, I’d had no idea this was coming. I began to cry.

“Don’t do that,” he said. “It’s no one’s fault. We’ve drifted apart. It’s no big deal.”

It might not have been a big deal to him, but it was a huge deal to me. Those few words would forever change our lives and that of our daughter, Heidi.

I waited for Jerry to move out of our house, but he never mentioned moving, nor did he suggest that I leave. He had moved into the guestroom, but when I broached the subject of one of us leaving our home, he merely shrugged and said, “All in good time.”

I wasn’t sure what to think, and as the months passed, we fell into an amicable friendship. Heidi was doing well in school, and I hoped that my husband was just going through a phase and that eventually he’d see that we were meant to be together.

During the second month of our strange living arrangement, I embarked on an extensive self-improvement program. Each week, I went to the library and checked out a stack of self-help books. I read everything from why I loved Jerry too much to the book about which planet he came from and why women don’t understand men.

I read diet books and exercise books and cookbooks. I trimmed the fat from my diet and worked out regularly. I even began attending a group for women like me who were having marital problems.

Jerry noticed. Oh, how he noticed. I was passing him in the hallway one evening, and all of a sudden, he grabbed me and pushed me up against the wall.

“You’re lovely, Cora.” He kissed me slowly and deeply. “You’re more beautiful than the day we married.” He kissed me again.

I could feel his warm fingers on my breasts. I thought perhaps he’d come to his senses and finally realize what a rash and ridiculous idea a divorce was.

Just as suddenly as he’d reached for me, he pulled away and stammered, “I, uh, have to be somewhere.” He hurried out of the house so fast, I didn’t even have a chance to ask him where he was going.

Jerry avoided me for the next few days. I watched him come and go, and I wondered why he was being so mysterious. He still didn’t move out of the house, so I continued to hope that we could possibly save our marriage.

I was at the library, checking out another stack of self-help books, when someone tapped me on the shoulder.

“I’m Drew Chandler,” my next-door neighbor said. “I was wondering if you had a little time to talk.”

“Sure.” I shoved my books into my bag. “What’s on your mind?”

“Let me buy you a cup of coffee.” He steered me toward the coffee bar across the street.

Drew wasn’t the handsomest man I’ve ever met, but I’d always liked him because he seemed very attentive the few times I’d spoken to him. I wondered if that was what his wife, Linda, found so appealing about him. With just his eyes, Drew could make a woman feel as if she was the only woman in the world.

Once we were settled at one of the cute little bistro tables, Drew seemed more interested in stirring his coffee than talking. I finally broke the ice by commenting that he seemed depressed.

“I was wondering what you planned to do about Linda and Jerry,” he finally blurted out.

I felt as if someone had punched me right in the stomach. Linda, of all people!

I caught my breath and asked slowly, “What do you think we should do?”

“They want to get married,” he sighed. “At least that’s her plan.” He wiped at his eyes, and I wondered if he was crying.

All the little shreds of information I’d collected for the past few months suddenly made sense. While I’d been thinking that Jerry was reluctant to leave the house because he didn’t really want a divorce, he was actually staying there because it provided easy access to Linda. He wasn’t just a lying cheat, he was cheap as well, not willing to spend the gas money to visit his girlfriend.

“I don’t see how we can stop them,” I said with more confidence than I felt. “I’ve been reading a lot of books about this type of thing, and if they are determined, there’s nothing we can do to stop them.”

Drew began to cry in earnest now, dabbing at his eyes and blowing his nose loudly in a napkin.

“I don’t know how she can do this to me!” he cried. “I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, and I’m barely making it to work.”

“I know how you feel,” I told him. “I’ve been a wreck myself.”

“You seem pretty pulled together.” He sniffled.

“Oh.” I blushed. “I decided that, rather than feel sorry for myself, I’d get myself into good shape, mentally and physically.”

“You do look good, Cora. Jerry is a damn fool for letting you slip away.”

I smiled. “He doesn’t see it that way.” I sounded stronger than I felt. “He doesn’t want to acknowledge that he ever loved me. He just wants to move on.”

Coffee Drew reached across the table and patted my hand. He had nice hands, and his touch was warm and comforting.

“Cora, you have so much more insight than I do. I guess I’ve just been so caught up in the pain of this whole thing.”

“Me too,” I admitted. “I’m hurt and angry, but what can we do? These are two adults we’re talking about, and if we really love them, we have to allow them their freedom.”

“I’m trying. I’m envious of your ability to see things so clearly.”

I found myself recommending a whole list of books. Drew finally got up and said he was going back to the library.

“I need to do something,” he declared. “Otherwise, I’ll be completely crazy and do something rash.”

“No you won’t,” I assured him, giving him a quick hug. “You’re stronger than you think.”

I went home and spent the rest of the afternoon crying. How could Jerry have been so deceitful? How could Linda, who claimed to be my friend, become involved with my husband? I wanted to kill them both.

Then I’d think about Jerry lying in a coffin, and I’d begin to cry again. I didn’t want him dead, but I didn’t want him to be able to hurt me anymore, either. I was stuck in that awful place between love and hate, and I wasn’t sure which emotion would win.

When Heidi came home from school, I managed to pull myself together. “How would you like to go out to dinner?” I asked her.

“Sure! Are we going to get hamburgers?” she asked.

“If you want.” I smiled. “Let’s go to a nice restaurant though, not a fast-food place.”

I took her downtown to a modest family restaurant, and we lingered over dinner. Heidi’s cheerful chatter kept me from bursting into tears, and I found myself enjoying the evening. By the time we made our way to the car, I knew I didn’t need a man in my life. I certainly didn’t need a man like Jerry.

“Mommy, what’s wrong?” Heidi asked finally.

“I’m just tired,” I told her. “I’ll be okay after a good sleep.”

She yawned. “I guess I’m tired, too.”

We drove home in silence while I thought about what I’d do when I finally saw Jerry. Heidi looked out the window, and I wondered what she was thinking about.

“Where have you been?” Jerry came flying down the stairs toward the car. “I was ready to call the hospitals to see if something had happened to Heidi—”

“Why?” I asked.

“What do you mean why?” He hugged Heidi before she pulled away and headed into the house. “I didn’t know where you were.” He sounded like a five-year-old.

“We went out to dinner.” I walked up the steps into the house.

Jerry followed at my heels. “You went out to dinner without me?”


“Why? I’m always home in time for dinner.”

“So I’ve noticed.” I hung my coat in the closet, then kicked off my shoes.

“I get it,” he said as if he’d just figured out next week’s winning lottery numbers. “You’re mad at me because I forgot something.” He scratched his head stupidly. “It’s not your birthday, and it’s not our anniversary.”

“I believe you forgot you had a wife and a family.” I hurried down the hall to my bedroom. Once inside, I locked the door, making sure to do it loudly enough that he’d know he would never be welcome in my room again.

Jerry was gone before I got up in the morning. I imagined him hurrying to Linda and hissing, “I think she knows about us.” Why would Linda care? Drew already knew all about the affair, so she’d have nothing to lose.

I dropped Heidi off at school, and then I began searching the Yellow Pages for a good attorney. I was too embarrassed and ashamed to ask anyone I knew for a lawyer referral.

I made six frustrating telephone calls before I found someone I felt I could talk to. Three of the first six made me feel as if I was a part of an assembly-line process, where they just shuffle standardized divorce papers across their desks.

This was one of the most difficult decisions I’d ever made, and I didn’t want the wrong lawyer to make it even harder. Jerry and I had a home and a child to consider, so I needed sound legal advice, not something a lawyer had repeated a thousand times.

The other three attorneys wanted to “nail him to the wall.” I didn’t want that, either. As hurt and angry as I was, I didn’t want to destroy the father of my child. He had a right to see Heidi, but I didn’t think he’d want full custody. Most of all, I didn’t want to set a bad example for my daughter by carrying on a long, drawn-out war with her father.

That afternoon, I went to see a kindly older man with white hair and blue eyes, who seemed to peer deep into my soul and see exactly what was important to me.

“The biggest mistake I see women make is rushing into a divorce,” he said. “Unfortunately, sometimes that’s the only thing you can do. I am very sorry you’re going through this right now.”

I took the tissue he offered and asked him what my rights were.

“Can you prove adultery?” he asked. “By that I mean, can you furnish some sort of proof that he’s actually seeing someone else?”

“I—I don’t know.” I sniffled. “Her husband said—”

“Unfortunately, that’s hearsay,” he told me. “In this state, you can divorce easily enough. But when it comes to division of property, custody of a child, and alimony, the judge will consider other factors. Proof of adultery can help you in those areas.”

“I don’t know how to get it,” I whispered. “I need your best legal advice.”

“I’m happy to give it.” He smiled kindly. “I want you to go home and do the best you can for your child. Don’t do anything else right now. You need time to get your emotions under control. Can you do something to keep yourself busy?”

I nodded. “I don’t see the point.”

“If we rush this, you could lose out on many things that could be beneficial to you and your child. If we take our time, we can make sure that this is what you need to do, as well as establish just what kind of parent and husband he is. That will save the courts a lot of time.

“It’s not the easiest way,” he assured me. “But it is the best way, because you truly do need time to think about what is important. I have one client who has divorced and remarried the same man three times. I charged her for the first two divorces, but this last one I did for free. I couldn’t believe someone could be that wishy-washy about a relationship.”

He stood up and walked me to the door. “It would be helpful if you and your daughter got into therapy so that you can work through some of the painful issues with a professional. I want you to call me on Friday afternoon every week and tell me how it’s going.”

I left his office knowing that he’d just given me the strangest legal advice I’d ever heard. Although he hadn’t said anything that I had expected him to say, I liked what he’d told me.

The next day, I called a therapist I’d met once at a party. She agreed to see me the following week.

Jerry came home even before Heidi got out of school, probably to make sure I didn’t take her out to dinner again. He was pleasant and acted as if nothing had happened between us the night before.

I went along with it, more for Heidi’s sake than anything else. Inside, I was seething. I had no idea my husband was such a smooth liar.

“How was your day?” he asked.

“Great,” I replied. “And yours?”

“Well, I left early to take care of the Coleman account. I think old man Coleman is losing his mind. He never used to question our judgment when it came to his yearly advertising campaign, but this year, he made us pitch three proposals and he didn’t like any of them.”

Jerry went on and on about the Coleman account. I tried to pay attention, but inside I was screaming, You idiot, do you think I just fell off the last truck into town? I know you were with Linda!

But the truth was that I didn’t know that for sure. I suddenly realized just how difficult this was going to be. For the time being, I needed to sit on my hands and do nothing.

Jerry worked on Heidi’s homework with her after dinner. I fled to my room twice to cry softly into my pillow. The normal family sounds were scraping every nerve I had. I didn’t know if I could handle this much longer.

Once Heidi was in bed, I straightened up the living room before heading to my own room.

“I had a nice time tonight,” Jerry said as he came up behind me. “I guess I’ve been a real jerk.” He put his hands on my shoulders. “You are the most amazing woman I have ever met, and I don’t know why you put up with me.”

Was this a trick question? I stood as still as a post and tried to figure out what Jerry was getting at. He turned me around slowly so that I faced him.

Then he lifted my chin with his thumb. “If you’d give me a chance, I could be everything you want me to be.”

My knees buckled, and I sort of leaned into him as he kissed me. How far was he going to go with this before racing out the door and into Linda’s arms? My lawyer told me to play along, and I was too curious by now not to.

When his hands found their way to my breasts, I suddenly found myself wanting him with an animal lust that can only be explained as a raw, competitive desire to keep my husband out of Linda’s clutches.

I began to tear his clothes from him, murmuring my desire. I wanted to cry and howl in pain, but at the same time, I wanted him. I wanted to feel his love and his heat and his passion one last time.

We never even made it to the bedroom. I raked his back with my long fingernails. I clung to him and demanded that he make love to me. I teased him, tormented him, and at long last, I gave him exactly what he wanted.

Once I’d had my own climax, I immediately felt ashamed and stupid for thinking that what we’d just done meant that he could love me. He was a lying, cheating dog, and I’d just fallen under his spell. I hated him and I hated myself. But I remembered my lawyer’s words.

I pushed Jerry aside, grabbed my clothes as gracefully as I could, and hurried from the room.

“Where are you going?” he called after me.

“To sleep! Oh, and thanks. I’m really relaxed now.” I know he heard me close and lock my bedroom door.

The next morning, as soon as Jerry had gone off to work and I’d dropped Heidi off at school, I began packing up his clothes, carefully putting all of his things into boxes. I called my attorney and thanked him for his advice. I was ashamed of myself, and I cried a little when I told him what had happened the night before.

“I have to get him out of this house before I lose my mind,” I explained. “Do you think I’m an awful client?”

“No, but don’t divorce him just yet. Asking him to leave is a different matter entirely. I think you’re very wise to take this step.”

I took a break in the afternoon and called my friend, Tina. “Can you take Heidi overnight?” I filled her in on what was going on between Jerry and me. “I need some time to get him out of the house. I’ve had it with him and his sneaking around.”

“I understand,” she said softly. “I hated having to ask Kirk to leave, but even though he said he was working on getting his life together, he never quite managed to be committed to the marriage. I can take Heidi for as long as you need me to.”

“Just overnight,” I told her. “I’ve already packed up his things, and I just don’t want her to be here when he picks them up.”

I picked up Heidi from school and took her straight to Tina’s house. There was no use in having her see her father’s things sitting on the front porch. I wanted to spare my child as much hurt as I could.

“I don’t know why you’re doing this!” Jerry screamed at me when I explained that he had to take his things and go. “You don’t just throw out your family because you’re tired of them!”

I tried to compose myself. “I’m sure Linda will take you in.”

Suddenly, my husband’s outrage evaporated as he started to pick up a box. “How’d you find out?”

“I have my ways,” I replied. “The point is, you lied to me, and I feel as if I’ve wasted the past few months of my life on a man who will never love me.”

He carried the first box to his car and placed it in the trunk. “I might be able to love you. I’m pretty screwed up in my thinking right now. As soon as I get Linda out of my system, maybe then I’ll want us to be a real family.”

Was he kidding? What kind of family would we be? I’d be carrying around bitterness and resentment while he might still feel the occasional flicker for Linda. Worse, he might decide that because I was a long-suffering wife, he could have any woman he wanted and a family, too.

“I hope things work out for the two of you,” I stated flatly. “Good luck.” I hurried inside and leaned against the door, sobbing. He hadn’t even tried to deny his affair with Linda.

The next few days were difficult but not unbearable. In many ways, it was a relief not to have to deal with Jerry and his lies.

Every morning after I’d bring Heidi to school, I’d peruse the employment ads in search of just the right job for myself. I had a college degree, but it had been so long since I’d been a part of the workforce, I wasn’t sure it was going to do me any good.

I tried to keep our schedule as normal as possible for Heidi’s sake. I even went to the library on my regular day. The titles of the books I checked out spoke volumes about how I felt.

I had a book about financial security for divorced women, a book about getting revenge, a book about why women stay in dysfunctional relationships, and a novel that promised to remind me of my first love and the passion of a first romance.

“I don’t know how we’re going to get by,” one of the librarians was saying to the one checking out my books. “She just quit. She didn’t even bother to put it in writing.”

“Tough break,” Beth, the librarian said. She gave me a quick smile. “The librarian we hired for the children’s library lasted four months and then quit on us.”

“Why?” I asked.

The two women looked at me as if I’d asked something outrageous.

“It’s a really tough job,” Alma explained. “You’re constantly straightening books, telling stories for story time, and trying to keep one step ahead of the kids whose parents just drop them off and leave them here after school so we can baby-sit them.”

“Why not organize an afternoon program with activities for those kids and charge the parents for it?” I suggested.

“Who’d run it?” Beth asked. “We can’t even hire someone to work a regular nine-to-five around here. Nobody wants this job.”

“I’d take it,” I heard myself say. “I’d love to be here working with books all day long.”

Alma snorted, “You’d burn out just like everyone else. Besides, you have to have a degree in—” She paused. “Well, you have to have a college degree that is compatible with library work.”

“Would elementary education do?” I asked.

Beth nodded vigorously. “It sure would.”

“Hire me,” I said. “Give me six months. I promise I won’t disappoint you.”

Alma spoke first. “Bring us a résumé, and I’ll see what I can do.”

libraryBecoming a part of the library staff was a dream come true. I’d always secretly imagined working in a library, and despite what Alma and Beth said about the work and the patrons, I loved everything about it. The best part was that the library wasn’t far from Heidi’s school, so she came there every day and did her homework while I finished up.

“There you are!” Drew walked up to me one afternoon as I straightened the shelves. “How are you doing?”

“Very well.” I grinned. “I love my job here, and Heidi and I are doing great.”

“I’m glad.” He smiled sadly. “Linda filed for divorce last week.”

“I’m so sorry.” I felt bad for him because he was so sad and so hurt by this whole thing. He’d clearly loved his wife with all of his heart, and she’d taken that love and trampled it.

“Is there anything I can do?” I asked.

“Do you want to listen to me cry?” He shrugged his shoulders, and I could tell that he was very close to tears.

“I’m due for a break,” I told him. “Meet me across the street at the coffee shop in ten minutes.”

He was there, sitting in the back at a table, looking even more forlorn than he had in the library.

“I want her back,” he sighed. “I know that sounds crazy, considering what she’s done, but I really want her back.”

He began to tell me more about their marriage than I wanted to know. I had been angry with Linda for what she’d done to me. As I listened to Drew, I began to really hate her for what she was doing to her own husband. He wasn’t the greatest-looking guy on the block, but he was loyal and that seemed like a sexier trait to me than anything else.

“Drew,” I interrupted, “it seems to me that you’re going about this all wrong. You say you want Linda to love you, but you want her to do all the changing.”

“Yes—because she’s been unfaithful. She broke her marriage vows.”

“Drew, you have to accept responsibility for getting involved with her in the first place and for loving her. You need to work to improve yourself and your life. You can’t change her any more than I can change Jerry. I love him, but my love isn’t strong enough to make him want to act like a married man. I have to work on improving my own life.”

Drew shook his head slowly back and forth. He finally looked up, his eyes shining with tears. “I know you’re right. I just don’t know where to start.”

“Did you read the books I recommended?” I asked.

“Yeah. I don’t know if I understood them, though. All I figured out is that men and women do not think alike.”

“That’s a start.” I laughed.

We went back to the library, where I heaped his arms full of books and told him I’d meet with him in two weeks so we could review what he’d learned. Then I watched as he ambled from the library, his grief evident in his walk.

Two weeks later, Drew showed up right on time, wearing an old plaid shirt and some work pants that had seen better days. Jerry was a very sharp dresser, and I knew that appearance can not only make a person more attractive, but it can help them feel better about themselves.

I decided to bring this up to Drew. “I think you’d feel better if your wore some of your better clothes sometimes.”

“I’m not sure I have any,” he replied. “Linda used to buy my things. Every Christmas, she gave me four pair of work pants and four new shirts.”

I could feel my heart turning even harder against Linda. What kind of woman honored her husband by giving him a lousy gift like that? It wasn’t even a gift, because she was spending his money on things he needed for his job.

“Would you like to go shopping?” I asked.

He hung his head. “I don’t know.”

“Saturday morning,” I told him. “Heidi will be with her father all weekend, and you and I will go shopping.”

“I hope I can afford all this,” he said, smiling.

I laughed and told him I knew of some discount stores that would have clothes in his size.

On Saturday morning, Drew knocked on my door. I nearly laughed aloud when I saw him. He was in a cowboy shirt, a cowboy hat, and well-worn jeans. They weren’t exactly the clothes I’d had in mind, but there was something attractive about him.

“These boots hurt my feet,” he remarked as he walked me to his truck. Like a true gentleman, he opened the door for me and I slid in. It was evident that he was very proud of his truck because he kept it in excellent condition.

“Why are you wearing boots that hurt your feet?” I asked.

“These were my dating clothes when I met Linda.”

Now I understood—they were the best clothes he had. I thought it was really sweet that he had gone out of his way to look nice for me. I took him to a shoe store first, where we bought him three pair of shoes: black ones, brown ones, and running shoes.

“These are like walking on air,” he claimed as he bounced around in them. “Very nice.”

His childlike enthusiasm made me smile. We headed to a big department store.

“Cora, are you gonna dress me in a Craftsman suit?” he joked.

“You just wait.” I grinned. “You’ll be beating women off with a stick.”

He sighed, “I’m not interested in beating women. I miss caressing a woman and doing things for a woman.”

I imagined those lovely, large hands caressing me. I hated Linda for what she’d done to him. How could she have ever left a treasure of a man like this for someone as insensitive as Jerry?

When Drew came out of the dressing room in new jeans and a soft wool sweater, I nearly fainted. The beaten-down Drew who shuffled when he walked had been replaced by a playful, sexy man who looked much more confident.

“I think we need to get you a few sports shirts—and maybe a sports coat,” I added.

“I’d like to buy a suit,” he said as he gazed at himself in the mirror. “Could you help me pick one out? I want to go to church.”

“Church?” I went to church as often as I could, which lately hadn’t been too often. But I had never heard Linda mention that they attended church. I said this to Drew.

“Oh, she never cared much for religion. I guess you might think I’m silly, but sometimes I sneaked off to church while we were married. I just didn’t want to fight with her about it. I pray every day, too.”

We found him a nice brown suit. I picked out two shirts and a couple of ties. We also learned that we are of the same faith, and I promised Drew to go to church with him the following day.

What a day that was! Drew came to pick me up, and we arrived right on time. We had to squeeze into a crowded pew near the back. We were sitting so close, I could feel the heat radiating from Drew’s body. I could smell his aftershave.

I tried to pretend that I wasn’t feeling anything, but when we knelt to pray and he placed his hand over mine, I had a strong longing for this man.

My sensible self told me it was just a little case of temporary lust and loneliness. My heart told me that in just a couple of days, Drew had reminded me of what it felt like to be a woman and to be cherished by a man. I was hungry for more.

Sunday afternoon stretched long and lonely before me. As Drew drove me home, I wished I could think of something that the two of us could do together. I didn’t want him to go home.

“Would you like to come in for lunch?” I asked.

“I, uh, have something I need to do,” he declined politely. “Another time, though.”

I tried to busy myself with chores, but at every turn, I was thinking about Drew and how sweet he’d been to me.

When I’d dropped Heidi off at her father’s apartment on Friday night, Jerry had waved to me from the door. When he brought her back, he came right up to the door with her.

“I’ve asked Linda to marry me,” he said simply. “You and I need to finalize our divorce. You can have the house and everything in it. I’ll pay child support, of course.”

He stood poised and ready for an argument. I didn’t give him one. I have to admit I wasn’t even thinking about him. I was thinking that now I’d be free, and maybe if Drew were interested, we could start spending more time together.

“Did you hear what I just said, Cora?”

“Yes.” I finally took a good look at him. “I’ll call my lawyer tomorrow.”

“What lawyer?”

“The one I hired more than a month ago, Jerry. I’ll take care of it.”

He shrugged, then turned and walked toward his car. His jeans didn’t fit him properly, and he wasn’t as muscular and fit as Drew. I shook my head. What was I doing comparing my husband to a man I barely knew?

Inside the house, Heidi proceeded to call me names, while informing me that she wasn’t going to go to bed at her usual bedtime. She then threw a tantrum that I was sure the neighbors could hear. I sat down on her bedroom floor and watched her as she did everything in her power to make me angry. I waited, my heart aching for my child.

“You are a bad mom!” she screamed at last. “You are a terrible, horrible, bad mom.”

I could feel the tears streaming from my eyes. Suddenly, Heidi stopped, rushed to me, and threw her arms around me.

“I don’t want a new mom,” she sobbed. “Linda says she’s going to marry my daddy and be my new mom.”

By now, I wanted to kill Linda with my bare hands. I held my daughter and explained to her that I would always be her mother and Jerry would always be her father. We would always love her, but we couldn’t live together anymore.

“Are you going to get me a new daddy?” she asked.

“If I meet someone nice and I want to be with him forever, I will get married again, but that person will be your friend, not your daddy,” I explained.

“I like friends,” she said thoughtfully. “I’ll go to bed now.”

I didn’t see Drew for a few days. When he showed up at the library, he told me he’d read the books I’d recommended.

“I learned that I have to let go of my bitterness and my anger,” he told me. “I’m working on that. I also need to move on with my own life the way you are.”

“That’s a start,” I said cheerfully. He was wearing navy blue slacks and a soft knit shirt. I could tell that all of the librarians were subtly checking him out. I could feel myself blushing.

“Would you like to go out on Friday night, Cora?”

“I would,” I said in a dreamy voice, “but I can’t because I have Heidi this weekend.” I didn’t want to hurt Drew further by telling him that Jerry and Linda were planning to be married. I just told him that Heidi really needed me.

“I always wished that Linda had wanted a family. That’s my greatest regret. Maybe you and Heidi would like to go to the movies. I wouldn’t intrude on the two of you. I could just sort of tag along and pretend I had a nice little family like yours.”

How could I resist? When I told Heidi that Drew wanted to take us both to the movies, she was thrilled.

Drew picked the movie and the time. He even brought Heidi a little toy that he solemnly presented her with beforehand. He brought me a beautiful long-stemmed white rose.

The rest of the evening was even more romantic. Drew didn’t touch me or kiss me or try anything physical. He listened to me, and just as intently to Heidi. When I saw him treating my daughter with so much respect, I was so touched.

“That was so much fun! I hope we do it again,” Heidi declared.

“Maybe we will,” I murmured, but Drew hadn’t said anything about a future date.

Although Drew never committed very far in advance, he seemed to show up at just the right times. On the day my divorce became final, he came to the library and gave me a book of poems and prayers.

“I found some comfort in these,” he said simply. “I thought you would, too. I know how rough it is.”

Heidi had an accident at school and broke her arm. Drew showed up on our doorstep the next day, carrying a huge teddy bear with its arm in a cast. My mouth dropped open, and I just stood there staring in wonder as Drew handed Heidi the wounded bear.

“How did you ever find such a terrific toy?” I asked, smiling.

“Well, I have a doctor friend who agreed to help me with the project. It’s no big deal.”

Jerry didn’t even send his daughter a card. Lately, he’d been canceling his weekends with Heidi as well.

When my car broke down, I called Drew, who came right over and fixed it. When I asked him how much I owed him, he claimed I owed him dinner and an evening out.

I agreed. We had no idea that while we were eating dinner at a nice restaurant that Jerry and Linda were getting married. Heidi told me all about it when she came home on Sunday night.

I barely heard the details about how the happy couple had exchanged gold wedding bands and the only witnesses were an old lady and the justice of the peace. I was too busy thinking about how Drew had lured me onto the dance floor and held me in his arms.

“I don’t dance,” I insisted. “I mean, I never really learned, and I don’t slow dance well—”

He stood up, took my hand, and pulled me to my feet. “You can learn. I want to dance with you.”

I didn’t even feel my feet. I only felt my heart beating rapidly. I felt cherished and valuable and special. I know I glowed for days afterwards. My fellow librarians kept commenting on how different I looked. I was falling in love.

“Cora.” Drew approached me at the end of a very long day. “I’ve run out of self-help books, and I’m looking for something a little lighter.”

“What did you have in mind?” I asked.

“How about a romance novel?”

“Are you serious?” I laughed.

“Sure. It’s been so long since I had any romance, I figure I need to brush up on my skills.”

I led him to the section of novels and picked out two books I thought he might like. “This one is my favorite,” I explained. “I’ve read it several times.”

“Then I’m going to love it.” He smiled. “I want to know more about you.”

“Why is that?” I asked, holding my breath.

“Cora, I think I’m falling in love with you.”

I looked up into his blue eyes. “Drew, I think I am falling in love with you, too. It scares me because it seems like it’s too soon.”

“I know, I know. But we’ve got all the time in the world.” Then he told me that he’d really like it if Heidi and I would come to church with him on Sunday. We’d met up there a few times and always sat together, but this was the first time that he’d actually asked me to go with him.

I agreed, and on Sunday morning, we rode in his truck to church. Heidi looked so pretty in her pink dress. I hoped I looked nice in a beige suit that I’d gotten on sale just the week before. Drew was wearing a deep blue pinstriped suit. He looked magnificent, and I could hardly keep my hands off of him.

During the service, Drew reached over and took my hand. For the first time in my adult life, I felt like I was exactly where God wanted me to be. I nearly cried with joy because even though I’d lost a lot, I’d found my faith again, and that was more precious to me than anything.

After the service, Drew asked Heidi and me to wait for him. He disappeared into the crowd. A couple of Heidi’s friends were there, so she talked to them until their parents called to them to leave. We stood uncomfortably just outside the church, wondering what Drew was doing.

When he finally came out, he was grinning. He took my hand and Heidi’s and guided us back into the church. We walked all the way down the center aisle together.

I couldn’t imagine what he wanted us to do. I thought maybe he wanted us to say our prayers together or something. The minister was standing in front of the church when we got there. He and his wife were both grinning.

“I wanted to do this in front of God, and to include Heidi,” Drew said softly. “I wanted witnesses so you’d know I was serious.” He suddenly got down on one knee. “Cora, will you marry me?”

“Say yes,” Heidi prompted. “He’s the best dad!”

I said yes.

Drew produced a diamond ring from his pocket and slid it on my finger. “In three months, I promise to marry you in this very spot—unless you think three months is too soon.”

In three months, I would have been divorced for a year, and I was ready to take that leap with the man who had treated me with so much kindness. I wanted to be his wife.

I snuggled close to Drew on the way home. I never wanted this precious moment to end. Heidi was talking about the wedding. She told Drew that she wanted a long dress to wear to the wedding, too.

“Oh, honey, if you aren’t in a long dress and carrying a pretty little bouquet, it just won’t be a wedding at all. I’m counting on you to help the preacher officiate and bind us together as a real family.”

We’d made our promises to be married, and after Heidi was asleep that night, I gave in to the longings I’d had for so many months. I knew I wanted to wake up the next morning in his arms.

Without even thinking about it, I stood up and reached for his hand. I led him up the stairs to my bedroom. I closed the locked the door. He sat awkwardly on the bed, but he didn’t say anything.

Slowly, so slowly, I began to unbutton my blouse. I threw it to the floor. Then I undid my bra and tossed it aside as well. I slipped out of my jeans and my panties, and I stood in front of the man who had promised to be my husband.

“I just want to look at you,” he said in a husky voice. “I just want to take it all in.”

I didn’t feel ashamed in any way, even though I don’t have the greatest figure. I could feel his eyes on me as if he were memorizing every part of my body.

He held out his hand, and I went to him. He kissed me all over. Never before had a man kissed the bottom of my feet, but he did, and I nearly fainted with pleasure. He was determined to explore every inch of my body.

Finally, he took off his own clothes, but he didn’t just launch himself on top of me the way Jerry had. He lay down beside me and started kissing me all over again. I was mad with desire and need.

When I could take it no longer, I pushed him onto his back. Then I took him, feeling his need deep inside me and enjoying the first few moments of being one with this wonderful man.

Loving young coupleOur lovemaking was like slow dancing. I let him lead the way, setting the pace with a light touch or a deep kiss. I felt the rhythm of the man beneath me, and I wanted more and more of him. When I finally fell on top of him, spent and panting, I knew that I was finally at home. I was at peace with myself and my body.

Jerry had always hurriedly gotten up or wanted to adjust the covers or make some note of how he rated sex with me. Drew simply lay there, his eyes closed and a little smile playing on his face.

“I love you,” he said softly. “I loved you before, but I love you more now because we are a perfect fit.”

His words were simple, but on so many levels, he’d spoken a profound truth. I wondered if I could wait the three months to marry him.

Drew spent most nights with me. I loved waking up with him in the morning. I loved the way he sang in the shower and the way he just seem to fit into our established routines.

“Will you drive me to school,” Heidi asked one morning, “and stay for show and tell?”

“Sure, honey,” he agreed. “Just let me call my boss and tell him I’ll be a little late. What are you showing today?”

“You—my new dad!” She giggled.

The three of us went shopping together to buy my wedding dress, a new suit for Drew, and a beautiful satin and lace dress for Heidi.

“I’m going to feel like a princess!” she exclaimed.

“You certainly look like one,” he told her. “I’m going to go crazy when some boy comes to the house and wants to marry you. I don’t know if I can give you up.”

“But you have Mom.” She laughed.

“That’s right—and she’s more than enough woman for me.”

Heidi didn’t have any idea what we were talking about, but I blushed.

A week before the wedding, we were happily preparing dinner when the doorbell rang. I went to open it. A teary Linda stood on the front step. She didn’t even acknowledge me; she barged in and headed straight for Drew.

“I want you back,” she declared. “Jerry is nothing but a spoiled, selfish pig.”

I quickly sent Heidi upstairs. I was going to leave the room myself, but Drew stopped me.

“I think you need to stay, Cora. I want you to hear what I have to say to my former wife.”

“I want you back!” she cried. “I know I was wrong to divorce you. I can be divorced in six weeks, and you and I can be together forever.” She moved toward Drew and tried to throw her arms around his neck.

Drew pushed her aside. I expected him to be angry, but he wasn’t.

He just said softly, “I feel sorry for you, Linda. We made promises to each other that you couldn’t keep. Those vows didn’t mean that you could love, honor, and cherish until you got tired of me. We were a family and you chose to leave me.”

“But I said I was wrong,” she pouted. “I know you’ll forgive me. Remember how good it used to be between the two of us?”

“No.” He shrugged. “I remember how you used to manipulate me and insist on having your own way. I’m sorry you got hurt, but maybe with some counseling, you and Jerry can work things out.”

She was getting nowhere with Drew, so she decided to turn on me. “You!” she hissed as she pointed her finger at me. “You ruined everything! We were perfectly happy with things the way they were—until you decided Jerry wasn’t good enough for you anymore.”

I could tell that she was drunk and out of her mind. She’d let herself go, too. Her skin was dull, her eyes no longer seemed full of life, and her ill-fitting clothes made me think that perhaps she was living on a steady diet of alcohol and self-pity.

“That’s enough,” Drew said as he guided her toward the door. “You’ve had your say. Now I think I need to have mine.”

I waited for him to tell her off, to remind her how she’d hurt him. “Goodbye, Linda,” he said simply. “I’ll pray for you, and I hope it all works out.”

We weren’t surprised that Jerry called me the day before the wedding. “I really messed things up. Linda and I had nothing in common. I miss you, and I miss Heidi.”

I said softly, “Goodbye, Jerry. I’ll say some prayers for you and hope that it works out.”

The next day, I walked down the aisle with my daughter toward Drew. “Isn’t it wonderful?” Heidi asked when we were halfway down the aisle.

“Yes, it is, honey.” I just couldn’t stop smiling.

Friends of mine were dabbing at their eyes, and we hadn’t even gotten to the good part yet!

Bride and groom Heidi, forgetting what we’d done the night before at the rehearsal, rushed up to Drew and took his hand. She stood on one side of him, and I stood on the other for most of the ceremony. Nobody chastised her or reminded her where she was supposed to stand. We were in the process of becoming a family, and she needed to be right there with us.

When my new husband took me into his arms and kissed me, the guests broke into applause and even a few whistles. Then we both kissed Heidi.

We were dancing at the reception, when a drunken and staggering Linda burst through the doors to the reception hall.

She screamed, “You filthy, lying, bitch! I turned my back for one minute, and you helped yourself to my husband!”

Heidi’s lip began to quiver, and I could tell that she was very near tears. Linda lurched forward toward me. I stood my ground. She reached out as if she were going to strike me. I grabbed her arm and spun her around so her arm was twisted up behind her.

“You do not have the right to come barging in here with your ridiculous accusations. You left Drew. Jerry left me. We have found each other. That is the end of the story.”

“But Jerry isn’t what I thought he was,” she blubbered as I pushed her toward the door. “Drew never treated me badly.”

“Jerry is treating you badly?” I continued to guide her to the back of the reception hall. The onlookers, including my husband, were so stunned that nobody moved forward.

“He wants me to clean up after him, and he never wants to go anywhere. He’s always on that damned computer of his or at work.”

“Thank you, Linda.” I gave her one final push through the door. “You’ve just given me the loveliest wedding present of all.”

“What’s that?” she slurred.

“The knowledge that the two of you have finally found the exact person you deserve.” I closed the door before she could respond.

I turned around, and there stood my husband with his glass raised in a toast.

“To my bride, a woman who told me if I worked on improving my life and read enough self-help books, I’d find true love. Thank God she was right.”

I laughed, thinking about what I’d just told Linda. I’ll never regret helping myself to my neighbor’s husband.


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