“You can’t honestly think this is a good time, can you Chelsea?” I thought this would be a more laid-back week consoling my best friend on her impending divorce but I spent the majority of my time watching her clean her grandmother’s house for her and her kids to live in now that she moved back to Wisconsin.
“Washing walls is a great way to let off steam and... and you get clean walls out of it too.” She couldn’t honestly be serious.
“There are a thousand better ways to let off steam. Let me show you tonight. Let the kids sleep over at your parents and the two of us can go out. Just like old times.”
It had been two weeks since I got the call from Chelsea telling me she left Brandt. Frankly, I was still a little stunned. I thought nothing could ever break them apart and now my friend would be filing for divorce from her prince charming. A prince charming who was involved in a car crash he caused by drinking. I felt like a horrible friend since I wasn’t there for her when she needed me the most and would do anything to make it up to her. Even if it meant contributing to domesticated housework which I loathed.
Her voice grew somber, “It wouldn’t feel right dumping the kids at my parents just to go out for a night on the town. Especially not right after I uprooted them and took them away from their father.”
I looked at her dumbstruck. “Chelsea you never give yourself time for fun. Never. Every single time I contact you to fly to Paris with me or even go out in California you give me an excuse. You either need to run your kids to all their sports events or you’ve got to attend PTA meetings or some shit like it. All the time running for them and not having any time for yourself isn’t good. Besides, it is turning your kids into little assholes.”
I laughed but it was true. “What? I am right. When have you known me to sugar coat anything?” She eyed me carefully but knew I only spoke the truth. We’ve been friends since we were kids and I never held back my true feelings.
“Since I got here four days ago I’ve watched your kids take advantage of you. All they do is complain about the internet or about their cell service not working right. They complain about the weather, the house being too old or too small, or them being bored. Not once have you made them clean up after themselves or even asked them to make their own lunch. They are old enough for you not to coddle them anymore. Look at the twins. What were you doing when you were twelve?”
She faced away from me and frowned, “They aren’t twelve until July.” Not an answer.
“Whatever. It's only a couple of weeks away. You know what I am getting at. When you were their age, you were outside working on the farm. It didn’t kill you and you shouldn’t do everything for them either. Make them earn their keep. Don’t let them make you feel guilty about what happened between you and Brandt. This wasn’t your fault.” I hit the nail on the head. She felt guilty for his drinking, the way he tore apart the family, but she really had no other option other than to leave him.
“Do they even know what happened to him? That he had been drinking?”
She shook her head, “No, and they will never. I don’t want them thinking bad about their father. They love him.”
“So instead you are letting them take it out on you? So unfair.”
She lowered the washrag into the water and wrung it out. “It’ll all work out in the end. I really want to make this divorce easier on them. Brandt and I need to find a way to be friends through this. It is better for the kids.”
Knowing I wouldn’t get through to her, I gave up. She would rather be the fall guy than let her kids know the truth about their father. Well, I wouldn’t be spending all this quality time with her washing and cleaning without giving her a little fun. My nails already needed a manicure and I just had one.
Throwing my washcloth in the bucket I took it and dumped it in the sink behind me. “Well this is the last wall we are washing today, so I suggest you get your ass in the shower and get ready to go out. I’m not taking no for an answer. One night letting your kids bunk with the grandparents isn’t going to kill them.” She looked reluctant but I put on the pressure. “Now! Unless you are fine going out like that.” I pointed to her cut-off sweat shorts and dingy t-shirt.
Realizing I wouldn’t be giving up she returned my gaze with a faint smile on her lips. “You’re right. One night isn’t going to kill them.”
My smile broadened. “I’ll take the downstairs shower and you take the upstairs one.” I glanced at the time on the kitchen clock. “You get one hour to get ready, and then we are going out for some fun.”
We ate at Frank’s Place, a local Italian eatery that boasted the best pizza and spaghetti in town. Since dining at restaurants in Europe, I felt it was the best a small Wisconsin town could offer. The local hangout reminded us of our time living together in Green Bay, and although it changed hands, it was still good to relax at an old site.
After dinner, we settled for a small redneck bar just outside the city. Another hangout back in the day but this time it didn’t necessarily hold the same appeal.
“Ami, I don’t feel right sitting in a bar and drinking. It doesn’t seem like the right thing to do since I left my husband for this exact same thing.”
I shook my head, “You left your husband because of his reckless lifestyle. I am staying sober and can drive, so you can let loose a little.”
Her eyes widened, “Letting you drive me around is more reckless than anything I’ve ever done before.”
Chuckling I retorted, “Come on, I’m not that bad. I’m just out of practice. I haven’t been driving around much since they took my license.”
“You lost your license!”
“I didn’t lose it because of nefarious reasons, I forgot to get it renewed. With traveling so much I forgot it was due.”
“When was that?”
“Last year,” I sheepishly answered.
She rolled her eyes at me, “Well, it wouldn’t surprise me if you had it taken away from you with the way you drive.”
I harrumphed at her, “Still, I want you to enjoy your night. When was the last time you had more than a glass of wine with dinner? Don’t worry. Tonight I got your back.”
Chelsea smiled as I ordered another round of drinks, a glass of wine for her to my virgin spritzer. We toasted the night but it seemed unfeeling. She downed about half the glass before she talked again. “Ami, how did you get through your divorce?”
My eyes hiked up not knowing how to answer her. My marriage wasn’t a normal marriage so my divorce couldn’t compare with hers. I shouldn’t give her advice on the subject as I didn’t want to get into the details of that part of my past given how dismal her mood was already. The two of us sitting and crying in our drinks would bring down the whole night.
“You do. You keep going and each day gets a little bit better.”
“Do you miss being married?”
Unable to hold her gaze, I searched the room for something else to focus on. “I’m not cut out for the whole marriage thing. The divorce ended up being the best thing for me. My situation isn’t like yours. I loved Marius, but he wasn’t my superman.”
She flinched when I said it. She always called Brandt her superman. The guy who broke down her walls and saved her from obscurity. I knew she never envisioned her life leading up to this and I wished I could say the words to make her feel better.
Chelsea consumed the rest of her drink and I motioned for the waitress to bring another. I might not have the best advice when it came to love but I did know that she needed this. With her inhibitions down she would finally talk to me. She bottled everything up inside until she shattered and it wasn’t healthy.
The talk became increasingly honest when the liquor loosened her lips. It reminded me of the time we spent living together. Whenever either of us had something pressing on our minds we would grab a couple bottles of wine and talk until we either passed out or came up with a solution. The only thing missing was the cigarettes but it took me too long to quit to conjure up the habit for old times sake. Marius had been the one to help me in the end. He made me promise I would quit, and after he died I finally found the courage.
“You would do well married. You are the most wonderful person I know. You deserve to have your prince charming.” Her words touched me and let me in on how drunk she was by the way she started to slur them.
I hid my chuckle. “Thanks hun. I’ll let you know if Mr. Perfect comes crashing through my door and insists on making me his little wifey-poo.” It made her laugh.
“You are right. You never needed a man. I envied that about you. I thought I didn’t need one either until Brandt showed up.” She was right about me not needing a man. I made my life on my terms and I went about it just fine without one. It bothered me that she said she envied me though. She was a person who flourished being married to Brandt and the fact she suddenly faced not having a special someone by her side helping her through the difficulties of life troubled me.
She sighed and played with the rim of her wine glass, “There’s got to be something you miss about being married.”
She looked up at me willing her eyes to focus, “What?”
“The sex.” Thinking it would make her laugh I waited, but she just sighed and nodded her agreement.
“I had incredible sex with Brandt.” And then in a softer voice, she added, “Of course before he decided drinking was more important. We haven’t had sex in a long time though. Hailey told me it was a sign he wanted it from someone else.” My eyes pierced her with my concern. Hailey was an actor friend of hers who had been married to a rock star. She might be biased, at least I hoped.
“Did Brandt ever cheat on you?” The thought stunned me. Brandt wasn’t perfect by any means but I never got the impression he would seek out another woman. He had years on a tour bus with women throwing themselves at him, but he only ever had eyes for Chelsea. The idea of him having an affair seemed ludicrous.
“No, not really.” I nodded my head encouraging her to go on. She slumped in her seat and although her glass stood empty again, I held off on a refill. Maybe I shouldn’t have pushed her to drink as much as she had.
“One night Angelica’s blood sugars were out of control. She had some type of stomach bug and with her being a brittle diabetic it spiked them higher than I could get under control. I called Hailey to bring her stepdaughter over to watch the other kids since I couldn’t contact Brandt being he was out at one of Corey’s house parties again.”
Chelsea’s eyes glistened, and she leaned into me as she continued, “Angel is such a daddy’s girl she insisted we get her father to come with us. I gave in because I didn’t want her worked up any more than she already was. Hailey drove us to Corey’s house to find Brandt. I searched the whole house and finally found him upstairs in one of the bedrooms with a younger woman.” Her glassy eyes found mine, and I felt horrible for making her disclose this information in the middle of a crappy little bar instead of doing it at her house between just the two of us.
“Did he...” Never at a loss for words, I found I couldn’t necessarily cushion the blow. I could be crass but didn’t want her to hurt more than she already did.
“They were just kissing on the bed. Fully clothed, thank God although his hand had been suspiciously close to her breast and I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t interrupt them. She was totally into him. Some sort of groupie and he seemed very... interested. I can’t tell you how much it hurt me to see it.” Chelsea nodded at the waitress while holding up her empty glass.
“What did you do?” I sat up a little higher stunned by her news.
“When he finally noticed me in the room I told him Angel was going to the hospital and I expected him to get a ride home to watch the rest of his kids. I didn’t want him to see how much he affected me by what I walked in on. I turned around and slammed the door on him. He came after me but I made it back to the car before he could reach me. Hailey drove Angel and me to the hospital and I got her admitted. Unfortunately, Brandt showed up at the hospital ignoring my advice to go home. We got into an argument right in the hallway. I couldn’t take his drinking anymore. I made him leave but this time I told him if he drove his car in his condition again, I would divorce him. He knew my feelings about drinking and driving. He finally gave in and agreed to let Hailey drive him home, but evidently my warning did nothing to deter him.” The waitress brought over the glass and I felt Chelsea earned it at this point.
Letting out the breath in my lungs, I felt relieved Brandt didn’t cheat on her fully but what had happened was bad enough. “Do you think he ever cheated on you before? I mean sexually.”
She shook her head, “No. I don’t know if I am naïve or not but I don’t sense it. That night seemed more like poor judgment on his part, one of many bad decisions he keeps making. The drinking, the partying, hanging around with Corey the snake. I gave him my ultimatum. I couldn’t let the kids see him self-destruct and I couldn’t watch it either.” She sighed and I didn’t even think I knew half of the hell he put her through recently.
Another swig of her wine and she had the ability to go on, “Things even started to get a little better between us but just when I thought we could get over this momentary lapse in our marriage he went out and ended up at Corey’s again. This time it led to his accident.” Another sigh and another bigger gulp of wine. “Even though I did the right thing, it still hurt to tell him I wanted a divorce while he was lying in his hospital bed.”
Her sadness at the situation made my heart ache. I felt like the world’s crappiest friend since I didn’t know what she was going through but if I were honest with myself, she wouldn’t let me in any way. Chelsea kept her turmoil to herself. She always painted the picture of life being rosy. No matter what tragedy occurred in her life, she always kept hoping things would get better. Brandt changed her from the bitter person she once was into the person who forgave easily and the person who thought everyone needed a second chance. The only time I ever saw her openly depressed was after their first child died. Even then, I couldn’t do anything to help. In the end, Brandt was the only one to reach her. It seemed so out of place not having them together anymore to help each other.
The melancholy mood blanketed us and I needed to do something to change it.
“Well then, we have a new plan for tonight.” She looked up at me and her eyebrows pinched together. She always knew when I was up to something.
Skeptically she asked, “What plan?”
“We need to go to an adult store.”
Her eyes flew open. “What! A sex shop?” Her hand went to cover her mouth as she looked around wondering who just heard her utter the immoral words. It seemed to sober her up a little.
“Yes, one of those places that sell sex toys. Generally, I get mine online but I think you would chicken out if I didn’t push you to go tonight.”
“Oh no. I... I... don’t need anything at one of those places,” she stammered. Leave it to Chelsea to be the only woman in the world who didn’t own a vibrator. This would take some finessing.
“Listen, hun. I am only thinking about you. Have you ever even used one? Remember you already used your Nulligan for the day.” I already knew the answer but tried to ease her into the idea. She would need one now that Mr. Hot Husband wouldn’t be in her pants all the time. The way it sounded she was due for one a long time ago.
“No. Ah, have you?”
“Yes, and it should come standard with divorce papers. I need a new Russell anyway.”
She knotted her eyebrows together confused. “Russell? You name yours?”
“Yes. Makes it more interesting. Russell is my indulgence and my excuse.”
She leaned in seemingly interested, “What do you mean by your excuse?”
Shrugging my shoulders I tried to expand on single life to a woman who had been married for almost two decades, “When the time came for me to start dating again I could turn down any guy I didn’t deem worthy by saying I already had a boyfriend. It might be a battery-powered one but it didn’t necessarily mean I lied to him.”
She shook her head needing a little more convincing on what a truly superb idea it was. “Why the name Russell?”
“Have you ever seen the movie the Big Oak Tree? The main actor, Russell Wyman, is hot as fuck. All tall, dark and British. It is out of honor of him. Instead of Russell Wyman, I call my personal massager, Russell Vibeman.”
Chelsea let out a snorting laugh making more than a few people stare and gawk at her. She noticed the unwanted attention and calmed down. Whispering, she asked, “Vibeman? Really?”
I nodded, “I have another boyfriend, Chuck. Mr. Stick to anyone who asks.” When she still looked at me questioningly I explained, “Vibrators are called a chick stick. Chuck stick equals...” I motioned to her to finish my sentence, but she only blushed before she gave a hearty snicker over the play on names.
“You need one now more than ever.”
“What? No, I don’t.”
Softening my voice I tried to put it in terms she would understand. “Chelsea you and Brandt were together almost what? Fifteen years.”
She corrected me, “Going on sixteen.”
“Yeah, whatever. Okay, sixteen years. You’ve had convenient sex any time you wanted it albeit the last little while produced a dry spell for you by the sounds of it. When the dust clears and the shock of it all settles you are going to start missing it. The sex. Trust me. And the more you miss it, the more you are going to slip up and follow some random guy home just to take the edge off. Think of a vibrator as a way to prevent the next day’s remorse from setting in.” I tried not to think of my life in this situation. I had no remorse. Not even the last time I had sex back in Miami. Ryder deserved what was coming to him but Chelsea was different. She would feel guilty if she had a meaningless affair to get back into the swing of things and I didn’t want her to go through it.
“I... I don’t know.” Now only a hint of doubt surfaced in her voice. I poked her in the shoulder and gave her a big smile as if telling her it would be okay. Maybe she was coming out of her shell as she seemed to be contemplating it. The wine had surely helped but it was mixed with a little bit of understanding on what the future held for her.
“Okay,” she gave in somewhat reluctantly.
My lips curled into a smile as I grabbed the car keys off the table and brought her out the door. “You won’t regret this. I promise.”