I was expecting to return home in no more than an hour, but what happened next caused me to lose ten years. It was supposed to be a last-minute pickup. It was supposed to be ready the day after Thanksgiving. I had anticipated the Christmas rush and that things would be backed up. I never anticipated that the order would be the wrong necklace and ring. “See. The set I ordered for you was the one you were admiring at the jewelry store,” says Benny. The chocolate set. The one sent was rose gold. It was nice, but another couple from somewhere else had requested that set. Mrs. Jackson and I noticed that the ring size was the exact size of your ring finger. But it wasn’t what you had your heart set on.”

“You say it’s ten years later. I say fifteen minutes ago,” continues Benny. “I walked out of the mall the snowfall had become heavier. The guy standing outside ringing the bell for salvation army donations had been replaced by a woman. A crew was adding holiday lights to the top of the Burlington Coat Factory. Four or five Movie Tavern employees were handing out coupons for free food. I took one got in the car and came home.”

“I get here and you and everybody are looking at me strangely and telling me I’ve been missing for a decade. Some are mad. Some are happy to see me. Others...indifferent. Everyone is the same to me. Sara. I didn’t leave the country. I didn’t abandon my family. I did not quit my job. I did not skirt my responsibilities as a father and a husband. I didn’t disappear so maybe there’s something amiss with all of you.”

“You’re going to turn this on us,” replies Benny’s father in law. “You want us to be a party to your fling or whatever it is you call this thing you’ve been on.”

“There’s been no fling,” Benny replied. “I went to the store to get my wife a ten-year anniversary present. It wasn’t ready and I left. That’s it.”

“Okay everybody calm down,” says Sara, Benny’s wife, after everybody starts yelling their own idea of what happened to Benny and where he’s been.

“Oh, this is great. You’re going to take up for him after he left you without explanation,” the father in law snaps.

“Yes,” replies Sara. “I want to hear more of his version. The jewelry store called me a week after Benny disappeared...said they couldn’t get in touch with Benny. He wasn’t returning their calls or responding to texts. And would I like to pick up the ring and necklace set; and that it was all paid for.”

“So we’ve established that you went to the jewelry store,” says the father in law. “Does this woman you’re seeing work in the jewelry store?” he asks. “Is this the reason you were able to pay off this ring set so quick. She knocked off what...fifty, seventy-five percent for all the expensive lunches, jewelry and perfume you bought her, cause you sure ain’t putting nothing into this house. I mean look at this yard,” he says snapping back a curtain holding his hand up to the window.

“There is no other woman. Mrs. Jackson has been running the store with her husband, He had a mild heart attack days before his fortieth birthday. Their eleven-year-old son Ossie was in the store today She informed me he was more focused on baseball than making hay in the jewelry business. Their daughter, Lourdes, nine enjoyed working at the store, but she loved acting more. She was on that day at rehearsal for her school’s, as well as, the 14th Street Playhouse production of A Christmas Carol and How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“Mrs. Jackson came to see me shortly after you left...or disappeared.,” replies Sara. “She vouches for almost all you’ve said.”

Said Benny, “Ossie’s good people...credible. He’s no reason to lie, Sara. “

“They can place you at the store,” says Sara. But neither Ossie or Mrs. Jackson will be able to tell us what happened to you when you left. We looked everywhere. We used the news outlets, social media. You cannot simply go somewhere and hide in this day and age; then for a decade. At least not without help. So is my father right? Did somebody help you abandon your family?”

“Listen to me honey,” says Benny as he takes Sara’s hands into his. “This is the truth. And if you won’t believe me. We have nothing to salvage. And that anniversary present means nothing. And your father gets what he wants...me out of your life.” 

“Oh, this should be good,” snaps Sara’s father in law.

“And you, you hypocrite,” Benny says placing his finger in the face of his father in law. “You’re going to stay out of our business.”

The father in law swings on Benny. Benny steps back avoiding his father in law’s right cross. Benny positions himself to deliver a jab to his father in law’s advancing nephew, who doubles as his bodyguard. “Yeah. You’ve been begging for an ass-whooping for a long time,” states Benny to the pair. “You’re about to catch one tonight.”

The nephew continues his advance on Benny, but before he can reach him Sara streaks in between them and delivers a series of punches to the ribs, neck, and nose that stop the nephew in his tracks and bring him to his knees barely able to breathe. Sara spins on her heels and nose to nose with Benny states, “you haven’t been here.” Then turns and says pointing to her father, “ and I told you, any decisions made concerning this land, our business or these children will be made by me.”

“Now. Everybody clear the room.” Sara says.  “I’ll be talking to Benny alone.” Sara rubs her hands down her face then under her eyes. “Dad, I’m going to take enough heat as to why I punched family in the throat. I don’t need more heat as to why I kicked my father in the groin,” she said turning toward her father standing by the window after she had asked everyone to give her and Benny the room.

The father in law stared at Benny as he slowly made his way from the room. Sara took a deep breath, closed her eyes, gave a quick shake of her head and said, “So between the time you left Mrs. Jackson and the jewelry store and came here where did you go and with whom?”

Benny replied, “nowhere. I went to the hardware store before I went to check on why I hadn’t heard about the ring and necklace. Listen. Nobody is hearing me. I left the jewelry store fifteen minutes ago. I walk in the door and your father starts going off about me being a dirty dog. You ask me where I’ve been for ten years. And I tell you I’ve been gone barely thirty minutes.”

December 14, 2019 04:28

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