Solid Ground

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 17

Mom’s Macaroni-N-Cheese

Macaroni (or your child’s favorite pasta) - boiled

100 g. Cream cheese (half a tub)

1 Tablespoon Butter/margarine

4 Cheese triangles or 2 oz. of good old fashioned American Velveta

1/2 cup sour cream/crème freche/natural yogurt

1 1/2 cup of grated Extra Strong Cheddar cheese

Splash of milk (if necessary)

Salt and pepper to taste

Bread crumbs

While your pasta boils, mix together the butter, sour cream, cream cheese, cheese triangles/Velveta, and 1/2 cup of cheddar in a saucepan and melt over low heat. This can also be done in a microwave, but check on it and stir often to prevent burning. Add a splash of milk to thin to the consistency of come (yes, I said cum). Drain pasta and mix together with the sauce in a glass baking dish. Cover with the remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted a golden brown.

Daniel raced along the beach, the surf crashing about his boots, sucking them and him deeper into the soft sand. Neither the wet, squishing inside them nor the ninety-pound pack on his back registered. He was a man driven. Driven by demons that had haunted his dreams for over two weeks. Visions of soft, welcoming flesh that turned suddenly still and icy cold. The thoughts had even begun to invade the waking hours. And for a man whose job could cost him or his friends their lives, it was something he could not allow.

“What the fuck is your problem?” spat Samuel as he finally caught up with him.

It was after one. The sun was high in the sky. The soft breeze off the Atlantic Ocean did absolutely nothing to mitigate the blistering summer heat. They had been at this since four in the morning. Daniel had always trained hard. Trained his men hard. These past few days, he knew he had pushed them and him further than ever before. But demons were sometimes harder to outrun than even the enemy.

“If you’re getting too old to keep up, maybe it’s time to get out, old man,” he accused his friend.

Samuel put out his arm, his hand resting on Daniel’s shoulder as he stared at him. “I mean it. What’s eating you, man? You weren’t even this bad after…”

Daniel turned away. He knew what Samuel meant. He had not been this tormented, not even after Rachel’s death. He stared out at the rough ocean. It was as volatile as he felt, churning and pounding. In a moment, it could wipe away billions of grains of fine sand that had taken millions of years to form. Just as he could without knowing how or why destroy the women in his life.

Sixteen days as a husband and except for a very awkward encounter in the kitchen the morning after their wedding, they had spoken less than three dozen words to one another. She was avoiding him.

Oh, she was always around; cooking, cleaning, and caring for the girls. But he was cast off to the sidelines, doomed to watch the game. The hardest moments were when he caught her laughing and playing with his daughters. No, the hardest was when he watched her hug or kiss them with such soft, tenderness.

How could he be so fucking jealous of his children? But he was. He would give anything for just one of those touches. If Jill would just brush her fingers across his cheek and give one of those smiles over some stupid accomplishment that no one else even noticed. If she would bend and kiss him good night, then perhaps the nightmares would disappear as surely as the mythical bed bugs that she dispatched with her reassurances each night.

But that tenderness and care were reserved for his daughters. For him, it was a polite formality and stiff uncertainty that seemed to border almost upon fear. It was driving him insane. If he did not get out into the field soon, he knew he would explode.

He just shrugged and said, “Nothing. I’m fine.”

The blow to the side of his ribs came out of nowhere. It took the air out of his lungs in a single whoosh, just as the sight of her in that damned white lace and satin nightmare had. He went to the ground instantly. A massive wave hit him, taking him under. The pack weighed him down as he struggled to the surface. He broke through gasping and gurgling to clear his lungs from the nasty saltwater.

Samuel stood gloating over him. “No, buddy, you are not fine. Otherwise, I could not have done that, and we both know it.” He held out his hand and helped Daniel to his feet, “So spill it now. What’s wrong? I mean, shit, we left you with your half-naked wife, and instead of thanking us, you try to drive us all to our deaths with training exercises that start hours before dawn and last past dark.”

“Yeah, well, you guys have gotten soft over the past few months. Just because I could not go into the field or exercises, you thought you could fuck off, and it shows.”

Samuel held up his hands in surrender, “I think we both know that was not fair, man. We know what’s at stake here. And we take our jobs seriously. You know that.”

Daniel shook his head. He could not allow this. Even during the worst of his marriage to Rachel, he had always been able to compartmentalize. Home was home. And work was work. You left your shit where it belonged.

So, why was she different? Why did a few bad days with her have him taking his best friend’s head off and unfairly accusing his men of the worst of sins in their eyes?

“I’m sorry,” as they walked silently back to where the others were beginning to assemble near a pile of rocks. Looking at their sweaty faces, he knew that he could ask for no better group of men. Soldiers. Or friends. “Go home. Day’s over, guys. You did good.”

He hung back, smiled, and chatted with a couple of them as they dispersed, taking packs and equipment back across the beach to waiting vehicles. Most headed home to the one thing he would not find, the smiling welcome of a wife happy to have him back after a short day.

He watched as one of the newer members of the team brushed aside his friends’ taunts. Lieutenant Zane Rogers had the makings of a good leader. Not since Dwayne had the unit been blessed with a mind like his. Oh, all his guys were smart, above average intelligence was as important a skill as their physical prowess, but these two were certified geniuses.

He heard one of Zane’s friends mention hanging out by the pool and looking for that ‘hot number you screwed the other day.’ The look of barely concealed rage that the young man tried to mask evoked a sense of camaraderie in Daniel.

He remembered how he had instinctively pulled Jill closer that night to keep the prying eyes of his friends from seeing too much of what was his. But that was the problem: she wasn’t his. Not in any meaningful way, at least.

He straggled behind long after the others were gone. He would go back to base, spend some time over paperwork that was more than caught up after almost a year of virtual desk duty. But it would give him an excuse, something to do until dinner time perhaps. At least the thought of dinner time brought a smile to his face. He smiled, definitely dinner time.

If what the woman had said was true, about cooking when she was thinking, she had been doing a hell of a lot of it lately. The menu had been unforgettable. Each night better than the last. Her macaroni and cheese, in particular, had captured his daughters’ hearts, it seemed.

“You should go too,” the voice said.

“I will,” he lied. “Just have a few things to do back at the office first. Tell Simone not to get used to this, though. Damned witch,” he cursed.

“White witch,” his friend smiled, remaining silently by his side for several moments. He seemed lost in thoughts all of his own, just watching the waves crash in and slink back. “She says that Jill fits right in with the others. Says that it’s like the woman belongs.”

Daniel sighed. Another thing to be jealous of. His wife’s affection for the other spouses. Why was it that he was the only one she did not seem to have any real care for? But he knew he was a bit harsh there as well. She was polite to a fault, asking if she could get him something, if he needed anything.

But after that night, it was not like he could just say, ‘Yeah, I need you.’ No, it was pretty clear that while his wife might have enough love to instantly bond with his daughters and even the other wives, the woman was still very much in love with another man. There was simply no place for him. He was locked on the outside looking in.

“I mean it, man, if you ever need to talk about something, I’m here for you,” his friend once more put his hand on his shoulder.

Daniel shook his head, “Some things just can’t be fixed. Sometimes people just aren’t cut out for a job.”

Samuel frowned, “You talking about Clay Dodd? What that bastard do now?”

“Nothing that I know of, but that wasn’t what I was talking about.”

“Then what? I know it isn’t always easy to talk about things. But man, if you don’t do something you gonna explode soon,” he could see the genuine concern in his friend’s dark eyes. It was almost his undoing.

Instead, he turned back towards the sea, picking up a stick and tossing it across the waves. It did not work the same as when he had skipped stones across the still pond on his father’s ranch. But nothing was as simple as it had seemed back there. Silence hung for several minutes.

He knew what Samuel was doing. Wearing him down. He wanted to think it would not work, but the truth was, the man was right. If something did not give soon, he was not going to be fit for duty or anything else.

“Jill,” uncertain what more to say.

Samuel laughed, “I figured out that damned much. It don’t take a fucking genius like Dwayne to know that. What about her? When we left you, things seemed to be going pretty damned well. Seemed, your new wife was more than ready for the job.”

“Yeah, well, certain parts of it maybe,” Daniel tried to find words to explain the delicate situation.

“Gees, man! You mean?” Samuel pinned him with a stare that would have done Simone proud. “You mean, after all, that you didn’t seal the deal?”

“Seal the deal? What the fuck is that? This some fucking high school locker room now?” He boiled over, “If you mean, am I fucking my wife? The answer is no. Seems the missus still has a thing for her dead husband.”

Daniel did not know what he had expected from his friend, but raucous laughter that had the man doubled over was not it. Anger coursed through him that his pain should be the object of his friend’s mirth. He repaid several debts with a roundhouse kick to the man’s head that sent him sprawling backward into the sand.

Samuel quieted and rubbed the side of his head. “Alright, I suppose you owe me that one after Simone’s meddling and what I did earlier.” He stood up slowly. “But that’s it, buddy, no more. If this isn’t the locker room, you want to give me some Intel here? What makes you think that?”

Daniel was still reeling with pent up rage and frustration, “I don’t fucking think. I know. She called out his name when…” his screams trailed off.

Samuel stood and took several steps back, but the broad smile and chuckles that he could barely contain had his friend going after him anyway. He tried throwing up his hands in surrender once more, “I give, man. I give.”

“You think it is fucking funny?” Daniel said as he ran at him, slamming into the larger man and taking them both to the ground. The men were fairly equally matched. It had been one of the strengths of their working relationship. This wrestling match was more intense because they knew one another so well they could almost anticipate the opponent’s next move. They tussled for several moments in the sand. When they rolled once more so that Daniel was atop his friend, he drew back his fist to deliver the final blow but stilled it in mid-air.

What the fuck was he doing? Samuel was not the enemy. He had been, until a minute before, the best friend Daniel had ever had. And despite the crass behavior, he still did not deserve a beating. Daniel rolled to the side. “It wasn’t fucking funny, man.”

His friend sat up next to him. “I’m sorry, Danny boy. I didn’t mean it like that.” Samuel turned and looked at him, “I just see things a bit differently from where I’m sitting.”

His friend contemplated the waves for a moment. His voice was deeper when he spoke again, “You know we all face the truth sometimes. We know each time that this might be it. That this time we might not be coming back. We don’t talk about it, of course, but we all live with it.”

“Truth is that I long ago faced those facts. And I’ve told Simone that I expect her ass to find another good man to love.” He turned and looked at his friend then.

Daniel could see the mist in his eyes as he chuckled, “It beats the hell out of the woman having a string of boy toys.” Daniel joined in the painful laughter with his friend at the image of the big beautiful woman surrounded by a bevy of beefy young studs.

“But my friend, let me tell you this. After twenty years of the best loving of my life, that same thing damned well better happen once or twice at first. Or I swear I’ll haunt every fucking séance that woman gives,” he smiled. “Now I don’t know what happened exactly, and I don’t want to. But I know from what Simone has told me that those two had just about as happy a marriage as we do.”

Samuel’s next words knocked the oxygen from his lungs as surely as the man’s roundhouse kick had. “So, have you thought for even a half-second that this might just be a good thing? That if when she’s drunk off her ass, she confuses the two of you, maybe, just maybe things could be heading in the right direction for you? Cause I can tell you one thing, it wasn’t just the alcohol and old memories going on that night. Even a blind man could see that you had your missus more than a little hot and bothered on your wedding night?”

Daniel sat in silence for a moment. His friend’s words washed over him like the waves. It was not a perspective that, even for a second, had entered his mind. Not one that would enter most men’s in the situation. But as Samuel said, he could see it more from David’s point of view.

He paused for a moment. A thousand questions about the other man ran, like a marathon, through his mind. But the cold hard fact was that none of them mattered. He was dead, and Daniel was the one left holding his wife. Their wife. “So, where the fuck does that leave me? What the fuck do I do now, smartass?” Daniel continued to stare across the ocean that separated his wife from her old life.

Samuel chuckled again, “Well, first of all, make sure she ain’t drunk next time.”

They both laughed then. “Yeah, I suppose that would be a good idea.”

“I think that given some time and a hell of a lot more patience than you’ve been showing lately, the rest will work itself out, my friend.” He turned and stared at Daniel, “You do have an amazing wife. Second best woman I know, in fact.”

“At least mine, don’t meddle in things she shouldn’t,” Daniel replied boldly.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.