Friendship Happy Romance

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“Congratulations Tom, you're hired. The Store Manager Stewart happily relayed to Tom. "You start tomorrow be here by 8 am. We are ramping up for the holiday so we need all hands-on deck and we are getting you right on the cash register so bring your A game” Stewart was a short stocky older gentleman and when he spoke you instantly liked him. “Thank you” Tom replied in the most gracious voice he could muster. Being a cashier at Target was not exactly his idea of success however, right now staying sober is what was most important. Though he had to work hard to be grateful for what he considered a step backward, deep down he knew it was a good thing and progress forward. It was only three months ago was he in a bathroom of a motel wearing only a tee-shirt and slippers and being up 3 days straight was he reaching into the mouth of a girl he paid for sex with plyers trying to pull out her loose tooth. It was at that moment; he realized that he was trying to convince himself there was nothing wrong with that because it was her idea, and he was just having a good time. He knew he had a problem. Tom reached out to shake Stewart’s hand and said " Thank again Stewart, I will be here early"

Back at home Tom was alone, and though he had a sponsor and recovery friends this was an extremely dangerous time for him, and he knew he could rely on the people he met in recovery for support, but he also needed to learn to live on his own as they can't be there at every moment. This was typically when he would ping his dealer who within an hour would be delivering the very substance that ripped everything, he held dear out of his life.... cocaine. Being alone his mind started to race and he started to rehash the past in his mind. It was just over a year earlier that he was married to the most beautiful, sweet women he had ever met, living in a nice quite suburban big home making six figures with a new car, new motorcycle and genuinely enjoying every second he could have with his gorgeous wife. He went to the gym every day and ate clean and being 6’4 and an ex-athlete he looked great. They traveled every year to see our National Parks and even started mountain climbing. Being with Mary made him a better man and being with her gave him structure and something to focus on besides his own demons. How he loved her as he started to scream in agony and anger....” Fuck off, God, I hate you”. “I hate you Mary you whore”

The screaming helped for a bit but his mind continued to race and play the tape of his life over and over in his head which was his way of trying to find answers but it was not giving him answers it was killing him. He realized, though he had not used for years during the relationship the addiction was still there in his mind and that was a cross he had to bare. He also realized to late that love alone cannot beat addiction. One day after a series of fights and feeling low he made a decision that blew his life up. They were having intimacy issues brought on by religious beliefs and long distances early on in their relationship and he was growing increasing frustrated. Mary went thru is Ipad one day after work and found emails of him setting up a date with an escort to have affair so he could scratch that sinful itch. Mary left the house and went to her fathers and after two days of ignoring his texts and calls he figured out that she learned what happen and sent he a text telling he he was looking for a place and would be out on Friday. The very next day the Sherriff department was knocking on his door serving him a restraining order and ordering him out of the house immediately. Mary had gone to the police and used his mental illness as weapon saying he was escalating and she was in danger and I needed to be removed. This was after being together for twelve years and living as a married couple in her house for three years where he paid majority of the bills. He never could have foresaw two days earlier when he was in kitchen making her lunch as he did every morning at 6am for her out of love, would it be the last time he would ever see the women he loved and his family again.

In fifteen minutes, he was on the streets with whatever he could put in his mustang with no home or family as his parents were dead. The friends he did have, were not close enough to offer the support he needed at this moment. So, at 1pm in the afternoon he drove 3 hours to Chicago with only limited possessions because it was far from where Mary was and he knew, he needed to get away, plus, he lived there prior to her so it was the closest thing to home he could think of. While he drove in the dead silent car for those 3 hours, a despair overtook him as he realized for the first time in almost 13 years he was entirely alone. Tremendouse guilt and anger towards himself wells inside of him as he reflects on that day and trauma it caused. "Why did he do that to her? What did he do? Did he deserve that extreme of a reaction? Why did she use mental illness as a weapon why didn't she ever listen to him when he tried to talk about his emotions and reach to her for support. Why did she act so selfish when it came to my needs? I was a good husband" he thought, “I did the little things, every day that showed her love” as he continued to hammer on himself internally. He still had so many questions he was only now trying to work thru over a full year later.

He never addressed his pain and with no support around him and everyone he loved in his life having been ripped away in an instant he dwelled under a blanket of sorrow and turned to the one thing that gave him relief....drugs. Within a year this successful loving family man living the American dream was a full-blown drug addict, 60lbs overweight on the verge of bankruptcy and death with only hookers as company. He sits on his couch holding a pillow on his lap and flicking thru the channels trying to find something to silence his mind. He continued to think that at one point he was spending $500 a day on cocaine and hookers and staying up for days at a time afraid to be sober. He had gone thru his savings and eventually was kicked out of his apartment and shortly after that lost his job. Suicide was a daily thought and he started to cry as he recalled how he was so high one day he accidently turned his web cam on during a conference call revealing to everyone who was paying attention…Tom, snorting a giant line of coke off his desk on a Tuesday morning. "Good thing they didn’t see him smoking the meth out of lightbulb made into a bowl earlier" he thought...which he then admitted to himself that "he can’t believe he just thought it was a good thing."

His muscles ached as he sat on the couch. He was anxious and restless and he could only think of one thing at this point...."kill the pain. What if he just got high one more time. Just this once. I have been doing good" he justified to himself. "I will tell Stewart I can't start tomorrow and there was a mix up...he can't fire me on the first day" He plotted to himself. That was it he couldn't take it any longer. He grabbed his phone on the coffee table and searched for the phone number for the one person he knows will gladly be over and bring the relief he needed so desperately at this very moment.... his sponsor Andy.

The alarm ring tone on his phone is that of a piano blues riff in G and he selected it because he loves to play the piano and has been trying to teach himself. He reaches over half asleep and turns off the alarm. He made it thru the night, and he was grateful that Andy came over and who was still snoring sound a sleep in the chase lounge in the living room. He was grateful for another night of being sober and it was time to start his new day. He left Andy a note to lock up and left for work. He rode the bus to Target that morning as he knew he would have to get comfortable with it again, being that he would not be able to afford his car much longer. He tried to pass the time with his head down on his phone when he heard a voice seemly from above he will never forget. When he looked up in front of him stood a Blonde haired lanky girl which at first glance might cause you to think a stiff wind would blow her right over yet she was elegant and graceful. It was her smile immediately made every nerve ending in his body light on fire and for the first time in a longtime he was nervous to even be near a women.

"May I sit here? She asked

"Uh yeah of course, let me move my bag" as he proceeded to grab his book bag off the seat next to him. When he did this his bag unzipped and his new hire packet fell out and he quickly reacted scooping it off the seat. "If she been paying attention she would have clearly seen it and known what it was and for what company" He thought.

Like well engineered set of gears, Tom's brain when into motion out of habit "Why do I care about this, Tom? Why am I thinking she cares about me, my job or my life, Tom? Why do I think she even notices me any farther then the seat she needs? Why is my pride and ego making themselves front an center by a simple request such as sitting down, Tom? Why are you trying to already find ways to be dishonest about who you are? She is a random girl on the bus, and you are a loser. I am never going to make it" he continued to pile on himself. He did find himself impressed though, that all that internal conflict happened in seconds.

"So, you work at Target?" She said looking directly at

me. Shocked and panicking and even embarrassed Tom replied, "Hum yeah, well, it is part time, I mean just starting...it just some extra cash thing not my real job...but yeah"

He felt completely stupid with that response and that kept on the personal ass kicking machine. "He was confident she was not interested in him at all now" He thought, "I mean clearly I just blew any chance at love again." His thoughts raced, "Love...holy hell, I am making $15 dollars an hour, I am not even going to have a car let alone love.

“That is great” she replied, "I also work at Target but at

the South Loop Store"

"Oh...wow of all the Gin Joints" falling back on a phrase he always liked when addressing random chance encounters in hopes it would impress her.

"I am at the State Street Store" Tom finished.

"That is awesome!” she declared “I heard they are great over there you should love it"

Her voice casting a hypnotic spell on him that just made him stare and hang on every word.

“She was amazing” he thought to himself as she spoke.

"My name is Wendy, what is yours?”

"Tom, my name is Tom nice to meet you"

“Well Tom” Wendy came back quickly sounding as if she was cheering his name, “I wish you luck on your first day. Personally, I could not be more grateful for the managers I have at my store. They have been so flexible and understanding of my situation” as she looked directly into Tom's eyes as she spoke with not a hint of insecurity "I am a recovering addict, so I need to work my program and balance work and sometimes they conflict and, well...crap…. forgive me…rambling on and on about my personal life. I am sure you don't need to hear that” Her voice not wavering from the upbeat tone it carried, even in her moment of regret for the topic.

For the first time he felt a confidence he had not had and without hesitation he answered, "No please go on… I am also in recovery myself" and as he spoke those words to a stranger….it was like a pressure valve was released and for the first time he felt some resemblance of peace. It was just then she reached over him, her smell filling his senses and pulled the bell on the bus to stop.

"Really you also...good for you, of all the Gin Joints" she repeated winking at Tom in such a way to give him the impression she knew he was trying to impress her. "You should be proud. I am sorry this is my stop but why don't we hit a meeting one day"

Tom replied, " Of course that would be great"

"Cool" she replied, "Take my number quick, I need to get off here" In an instant, Tom had his phone in hand ready to take the much-desired information”

 "Well Tom, it was a pleasure to meet you and keep your head up we will talk soon…ok?" She then turned on a dime and walked down the aisle of the bus her body flowing as if it was to the sound of some music that filled the bus but nobody else could hear. Just before she stepped off the bus, she turned her head in his direction and waived with a smile"

"Tom my good friend, why don't you open the first bottle

as this is your special day and Stewart and I will get the glasses" Andy lovingly said

Tom replied " Andy, I never thought I would be popping non-alcoholic champagne let alone at a wedding" his voice clearly changed. He was confident and lean now. His eyes gleamed again, his words were confident, mind clear and he was happy.

Tom was sober going on 2.5 years and most recently was promoted to District Retail Manager at the very company he was a cashier at 2.5 years earlier. However, what made today really special was it was his wedding and Wendy as his wife. She stood across from him dressed in an long white unassuming casual sundress that she wore with such elegance when she walked she appeared to float. Her eyes locked on his, which held the power to floor him with a simple smile.

He poured the bottle of grape champagne into the 4 glasses resting on a little round table and gazed at his beautiful wife held is glass up and gave a toast. This time he did not have to pretend to show gratitude like he did 2.5 year ago when he met Stew

"To my new wife and friends “Thank you for being in my life and for your love…I love you Wendy I knew it when I saw you. I want to also thank God for bringing us to together and carrying me during times of darkness. I could not have done it without any of you in life. Yet to himself he thought one other thing that he kept private.

“Thank you, Mary, for being in my life…I forgive you and I hope you forgive me. Thank you for getting me to this place. I wish only happiness in your life”

The End

November 20, 2022 00:20

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Wendy Kaminski
22:27 Nov 26, 2022

This is a beautiful story, Edward! I was really cheering for Tom when he reached for the phone that first night and called Andy (what a great friend, too!). And the ending, just lovely: it's great that he met someone who really "gets him." Thanks for a terrific read!


Edward Kennedy
23:53 Nov 26, 2022

Thank you Wendy. I think you just liked it because her name is Wendy. ;-)


Wendy Kaminski
00:03 Nov 27, 2022

Well I must admit it was an excellent choice. :-)


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Unknown User
15:53 Nov 28, 2022

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Edward Kennedy
22:09 Nov 28, 2022

Thank you for reading and your positive words. I write what I know, and I know not much but if my attempt to put down in words, the trials and tribulations of my own life are in the end embraced by only one person then I have still accomplished what I set out to do...connect. It is the Angels of our better selves that will carry others in times of despair and give strength to those who are at their weakest. If any of my words or stories about my own meandering experiences are the substance one seeks to persevere, may they find their audienc...


Unknown User
12:22 Nov 29, 2022

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