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The Secret Life Of Mrs Faulkner - Chapter Three

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With his good hand, Tom raised his glass and drank deeply. Blergh! He thought, making a face. Raspberry Vodka. It was all they had. All he could find in the house, all the other drinks and alcohol being wasted on the mourners at Cheryl's wake. 

He'd found the raspberry vodka in Sue's room, stashed under her bed. He didn't know what had possessed him to check there, but a thought at the back of his head struck him while he was looking for liquor, and he checked. It had paid off. He was sitting at the table, one hand bandaged from boxing with the mirror earlier, and the other hand, his good hand, wrapped around a glass. He wasn't angry or upset with Sue for hiding alcohol. Quite the opposite, in fact. He was proud of her. Finally, some teenage rebellion from her. Finally, it looked like the spark of anarchy was within the eldest Faulkner child. She couldn't stay Valedictorian goody-two-shows forever. Viva La Susy Revolution! Tom raised a glass to nobody and drank deeply. 

His sister Paulette had decided that Tom and the kids would benefit from a two week holiday at the lake house, to get away from everyone and everything, and just be a family again. The timing of Cheryl's death had been oddly serendipitous for this. It was summer break, which meant that the kids could sign themselves up for group activities and outdoor classes while away at the lake. They could forget about this for a while, have fun and be children. Tom had agreed with Paulette, if only for the fact that it meant that his sister-in-law Linda would vacate his house and return to Fresno. 

The excuse of staying back for a few days sounded lame even to his own ears, but Tom had used it anyway. With an odd sort of glee at having the house to himself for a while, he had helped Sue and Jason pack and get things ready to go. Paulette had watched from the sidelines, taken in by her brother's good mood, assuming that he was starting some sort of healing process after the death. He wasn't of course; it was all a false act, to give out some sort of sense of false hope. He just wanted an empty house. 

He'd hugged his children tight to him before they left with their Aunt. As he was holding them and hugging them, he flashed back to a time when they were mere children, and he was trying to make everything okay again. Tom realized that they may be teenagers and on the verge of growing up, but deep down they were still vulnerable children. He kissed the tops of their almost identical chestnut heads and promised to be with them soon. 

Paulette and the party of mourning children had left just shy of three hours earlier. When Tom checked his watch, he imagined they'd be nearing the lake house. He himself was now nice and drunk, so he decided to do some visiting. He grabbed his car keys from the shelf by the front door, locked it behind him and got into the car. 

Tom started the ignition but did not move. Drunkenly, he swiveled around in his car seat and clicked on his seat belt. The neighbor's cat Ginger meandered across his car bonnet. Tom pressed down the horn. Ginger jumped in fright, and then hissed at Tom in disgust. Ginger walked away with his tail swinging defiantly high, as if to say 'Do your worst, I don't care.' Tom hated Ginger the cat. 

Woah there Tommy boy, he thought drunkenly to himself. Think about what you're going to do. You can't drive. Not in this state. What if you take out someone? What if someone else has to bury a wife because of drunk driving, just like you had too? Get out of the car, Tommy. Turn the engine off, and get out of the car. 

Tom's drunken self-made a lot of sense. He turned the engine off and got out of the car. Not even fifteen minutes later, he was sitting in the back of a cab and traveling to the cemetery. 

He sat cross-legged at Cheryl's freshly dug grave, a position he hadn't sat in, in years. Already he was feeling a stiff ache in both knees and his left hip. The dark brown earth was fresh on top of her coffin; the ground being disturbed only twenty-four hours ago to bury her. It felt surreal to Tom knowing that the only thing in between him and Cheryl was a few feet of dirt and mud, and then a box. Flowers were still strewn on the ground, as well as little gifts and fancies on her brand new grave. They'd be here for weeks before the groundsman finally cleaned everything up when they started to turn and become part of the dirt themselves. 

'Here lies Cheryl Elizabeth Ann Faulkner, nee Bronson. Loving daughter, sister, mother, and wife. Loved by all. 1967-2016.'

It was a bitter and lonely thing to read your own wife's gravestone. Dead before her own mother and elderly aunt. How fucking sad was that? Those two old, delusional bats were in Florida at the retirement community, while Cheryl was six feet under. It wasn't fair. 

What else wasn't fair was this Michael Bennet fellow and the news he had sprung on Tom. Cheryl had had a lover? She'd been having an affair? Tom couldn't fathom it. It made him so angry and he felt sick to his stomach. Why? Why would she do that? She had everything? They'd shared a wonderful life together, they had two beautiful children and what he had thought was a solid, trustworthy marriage. Fuck Michael Bennet, and fuck his revelation. It wasn't true. It couldn't be true. Not his Cheryl. She wasn't like that. 

He was feeling sick in his stomach again. His tummy was churning and rumbling he was so angry. Except it wasn't anger this time, it was the raspberry vodka on its way back up. He struggled to stand, but when he finally did, he drunkenly dashed to a nearby old oak tree and heaved. 

He felt better afterward, but the taste that remained in his mouth was disgusting. He sat back down at Cheryl's grave and wept softly and silently. In anger, he picked up a rough clump of dirt and thew it against her headstone. It shattered into even smaller clumps and gathered at the foot of the grave. Still soft. The ground his wife was buried under was still fucking soft. 

He picked up more dirt, but instead of throwing it against the grave, he gently threw it next to him. He did this again and again until he had a pile of dirt sitting next to his thigh. He'd made a small hole in the ground. The thought had actually occurred to him to keep digging, after all, he didn't have to leave for the lake for another day or two, so he'd have the time to dig deeper, but he knew this was futile. He also didn't much feel like being arrested or charged with destruction of a grave, or potential grave robbing charges. 

Tom stood once more and started the walk home. As soon as he was out of the cemetery, he felt small spits of rain on his head and shoulders. He blinked and the rain started falling harder. He blinked again and it fell harder still until his clothes were stuck to him and he was in stormy conditions. He had never felt so desolate or alone before in his life. 



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