“Hi, Michelle, this is a nice surprise,” said Jack. “But I’m afraid Billy’s not in right now.”
“Please call me Mizzy, Mr. Gardiner.” Mizzy looked up at Mr. Gardiner with an open glare like bright headlights, lost and needy, that made him want to wince and avert his eyes.
Mr. Gardiner blushed. “Well, um, please call me Jack. Mr. Gardiner seems a little too formal, I think,” said Jack. “As I said Billy’s not in right now. I’m not sure where he is, you know.”
Mizzy was forlorn. “I see.”
“Is everything alright?” asked Jack. Mizzy hadn’t stopped staring upwards at him with those lost headlights. Please save me, he imagined they blinked in Morse code.
Her eyes moistened. “I really wanted to talk to Billy about something.”
“Look, Michelle, I mean Mizzy, is there’s anything I can help with? I’d grab Dawn if I could, you know a woman is probably better for a heart-to-heart than – “ he chuckled “ – an old man like myself, but she’s out at the moment too.”
“I’m not sure if I can go through with the marriage,” she said, collapsing into his chest in a fit of tears. “I’m so scared.” Jack couldn’t actually hear anything she said after that, but his shirt probably did. He took her indoors.
On the sofa, she poured out his heart to him, in between pouring out tears. The little girl was distraught. “I just don’t know if it will work, Mr. Gardiner,” she said. “Many marriages don’t work, I don’t want to be a divorcee by the time I’m 21. That would be just… just awful.” Jack thought she was twenty years of age which made divorce over such a short time span unlikely.
He sat beside her on the sofa with his arms stretched out far and wide, trying in desperation not to physically comfort her, because it just didn’t feel right. Meanwhile, she burrowed into his chest in emotional panic. He had always liked Mizzy but he did not know her very well. She had seemed quite self-confident but now it was a sea of tears. Where was Dawn when you needed her? Taking care of his daughter-in-law-to-be was the not the kind of thing he was genetically built for. He would have blamed his parents if possible, but they were dead, and it possibly didn’t top the list for Essential Qualities in your male offspring. He certainly hadn’t considered it for Billy. Maybe it was time to start thinking about such things.
“Mizzy, look at Dawn and myself. Twenty years of marriage and we’ve never had a doubt. Not a single infidelity. Not even a major argument. Marriage is certainly hard work and you’ve got to put some effort in… but I’m sure you’re the kind of girl that could do a great job. I doubt you’re going to be a divorcee in one year. That’s just crazy, Mizzy.”
Mizzy emerged from depths of his chest that Jack had no idea existed and said, “Do you really think so? Mr. Gardiner? Do you? Really?” What had been beautifully applied mascara had now turned Mizzy into a panda. Her face was soaking wet with tears and her eyes were bloodshot. There was even a little snot dribbling from her nose. The full force of this visage hit Jack hard, or perhaps it was Jack that was hard. It implored. It begged. Please help me, Mr. Gardiner. Please, I need you.
He surprised himself when his arms snapped out of their assigned positions attached to the sofa and moved to hold her gently. “It’ll be fine,” he whispered to her.
Her pupils dilated and piercing, she seemed to stare directly into his brain and rip out what was going on in there. “Do you really think so, Mr. Gardiner?” Her voice was barely audible, cracking over the syllables.
“I know so,” he said and moaned as he leaned into her face and took her lips against him, snot and tears intact. It was such a long time since he had felt such young flesh against his own and guilt fired through him for enjoying this forbidden pleasure. The guilt fired up something in his trousers too.
So they did it on the sofa. They also did it in the marital bed that was meant only for the marital couple. They did it in a motel room three times. Once they did it in the kitchen when Dawn and Billy were waiting for dessert in the main room, but Jack was not proud of this, because he was supposed to be a distance runner when it came to carnal athletics. Every single time she shouted, “Oh Mr. Gardiner,” he felt that what he was doing was incredibly immoral which made him ever the more insatiable to defile her young limbs.
The day before Mizzy was supposed to wed his son, an event that Jack himself had difficult feelings about, the sheriff turned up at the door. Apparently Mizzy had accused old Mr. Gardiner of raping her on a regular basis, threatening to tell Billy if she ever went to the police. Oh woe she was and she could no longer bear the burden. She had cried as she explained that Mr. Gardiner had taken her against a tree once, which Jack was understandably upset about because he would have loved doing it up against a tree sometime. The police were quite taken with her story and those needy, imploring eyes swung their hearts.
It took a month for the whole thing to get straightened out without charges. Consequences were mandatory, however. Billy never talked to his father again. Dawn divorced him in months; twenty years of faithful marriage down the trash compactor. On the plus side, he discovered that deep down he was attracted to pliable, young women and hung out in disreputable bars earning the disreputation of the local lech, buying drinks for any girl who walked through the door and a little extra for any girl who worked through the door to his crotch. It was a far cry from his position as an upstanding pillar of the community, but he was comfortable with his new role. Mizzy had unzipped his trousers and the beast she had unleashed had no immediate plans for a withdrawal.
He heard some things. He heard that Dawn had put her vast alimony funds to good use, such as putting a hit out on Mizzy, changing her mind and paying for the hit to be stopped, then paying blackmail money to the hired/unhired contract killer who had said he had taped their conversations and would send a copy to her ex-husband if she did not meet his demands. The tape was extremely clear.
He heard that Mizzy never did marry Billy. Apparently, it was all too traumatic for her, even though Billy begged her to go ahead with the wedding to spite his father. Well, at least she never had to worry about the possibility of divorce.