The weekend after I was laid off from my job as a guidance counselor at the local high school, my husband and I went skiing. I took a flying leap off a small hill and landed spread-eagled in the snow, my skis pointing in one direction, my poles in another. My right knee was badly twisted.
On Monday, my birthday, my husband announced that he had out of town business that just couldn’t wait. After promising to return late Friday night and kissing me on the cheek, he was out the door. Here I was, with no job, no husband, and no one to take care of me. I lay on the living room couch and wallowed in self-pity, as I watched a mindless game show on television.
When the doorbell rang, I struggled to my feet, picked up my crutches, and hobbled to answer it. Reaching for the doorknob, I heard a thud, then two men yelling and punching each other. When I opened the door, I gasped at the sight in front of me. A box of fruit lay torn open on the porch. Planters were broken, and pears had rolled everywhere. Two guys were fighting, yelling obscenities at each other. A UPS truck was parked in my driveway, and a sport utility vehicle stood on the street directly in front of my house.
“What’s going on?” I yelled.
The two men stopped and looked at me with sheepish expressions. One of them handed me a business card that read “Doug Ross, Certified Massage Therapist.”
“Happy birthday. Your husband arranged for me to give you a massage today.”
The UPS driver said, “I also have a delivery for you. Looks like it’s a subscription to a fruit of the month club.” His gaze shifted to the smashed pears on the porch.
“And you guys were fighting over who would make the first delivery?” They looked at each other and shrugged.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” I said. “Come in out of the cold.”
They followed me inside. I hobbled into the kitchen and started making coffee. The massage therapist put a hand on my shoulder. “Sit down. I’ll do that.”
“I’ll clean up the mess on the porch,” said the UPS driver. “You’ll be reimbursed for what was broken. I’m really sorry.”
A few minutes later, we were drinking coffee and eating pears that weren’t too badly damaged. “Would you like to tell me what’s on your mind?” I asked.
The UPS driver said, “Doug and I have been friends for years. A couple of months ago, I met the most incredible woman. I made the mistake of introducing her to him. Now, she’s seeing him and wants to break up with me. But you know what, Doug? You can have her. I found someone better.”
“Glad we got past that one, Brent,” Doug said. “Still friends?”
“Still friends,” Brent said, and they shook hands.
For the price my husband paid for one massage, Doug gave me daily treatments, paying special attention to my injured knee. Brent also came every day and brought fresh fruit he’d salvaged from other customers who weren’t home to receive their deliveries.
On Monday afternoon when the mail came, I opened my husband’s credit card statement. He usually took care of the bills, but I was bored to tears and sick of game shows, news programs, and soap operas. I was shocked when I saw charges for restaurants where we’d never eaten together, a flower shop, a jewelry store, and a hotel in a different city. I couldn’t remember the last time my husband gave me flowers or jewelry. His work often took him out of town, so the hotel charges probably weren’t anything to suspect, or were they?
On Monday night, I called my husband’s cell and a woman answered, “Hello?”
“Oh, who’s this?” I asked.
“I’m Melanie,” she answered with a giggle.
“I’m sorry,” I said, not surprised. “I was trying to reach Charles Redford. I must have the wrong number.”
After that, Doug and Brent took turns spending the night. They gave me more than massages and fresh fruit. Charles never called, and I didn’t try to reach him again.
On Friday night, when the two of them showed up at the same time, I said, “Both of you can have me tonight. Let’s get a pizza and watch a movie.”
When Charles walked in late that night, he found the three of us snuggled on the living room couch, watching Casablanca. Doug was rubbing my injured knee, and Brent’s arm was around my shoulder. An open box of oranges stood on the coffee table.
As Charles gaped at us open-mouthed, I placed an arm around each of them and said, “Hi, honey. Did you have a nice time with Melanie? Thank you for the lovely birthday presents.” I kissed Doug, then Brent.
In divorce court, Charles told the judge, “If only I’d picked either the massage or the fruit.”
The above appears in the January issue of The Writer’s Grapevine. To subscribe, send a blank email to: email@example.com It was also published years ago in Emerging Voices, a journal produced by Northwestern Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff. This story was inspired by something I heard on National Public Radio’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.
By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.
Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books
When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.
Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.
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