This is the third and final chapter in the Picture Perfect series. If you have not read parts one and two I doubt this would make much sense to you.
Picture Perfect Trilogy
The final Chapter
For two hours, Gary listened to every word his ex wife said as she sat across the table from him. It was the first time in, almost, four years since he had seen her. At no time during her story had her eyes been dry and, at times, a tear would escape and leave a trail and it slowly drifted down her cheek. Twice Judy had to excuse herself and go to the ladies room to pull herself together before returning with her account of the events that led to their divorce.
After four years, it was clear to Gary that neither of them had gotten over the hurt. And, for the first time, he realized he had played a part in the break up. He knew every word she spoke was God’s truth. From the one sided conversations he had been privy to, he had assumed his wife cheated on him more than once.
Was it his pride, his ego, or the hurt he felt that kept him from answering the phone? Probably all three, he thought. She was my wife for ten years and I never even gave her a chance to speak to me. If I had, would we still have divorced? Would I have taken her mother from Tammy? At that time, would I have been able to forgive her? These were all questions Gary was asking himself, questions he had no answer for. Then he started to feel ashamed of himself. All his life he was a fighter. He boxed in college. He scrapped in the tough streets where he grew up. He fought tremendous odds when he first started his photography studio and fought to keep it going. But, when it came to one of the most important people in his life, he just walked away. Why didn’t he fight for her? Why didn’t he punch out Pete in that motel room and pull her out of there? Why?
Instead he ignored her pleas to talk, he turned his back and literally forced her into going along with Pete’s idiotic blackmail scheme. Where else could she go. I had built an impenetrable wall around myself, he thought. Yes, for the very first time, Gary realized he was not without blame. But now what?
As Judy came to the end of her story she had to excuse herself one more time. Her carefully applied make up was a mess. Judy washed up and touched up her face. She half expected Gary to be gone when she got back, but he was still sitting at the table.
“Gary, I can only imagine how deeply I’ve hurt you. I neither expect or deserve any forgiveness, I’m just hoping you’ll let me be a small part of our daughter’s life again and, that maybe, in time, you’ll hate me a little less.” Once again a lonely tear immerged and pulled the freshly applied mascara down with it.
“Judy, I remember the very first time I saw you. Oh I had seen your work, of course, but I had never met you until the day you walked on the set of my first, major photo shoot. I took one look at you and knew, whether I ever saw you again or not, I would love you until the day I die. I don’t hate you, I never did and I never will.”
For the first time since he sat down, he saw an, ever so slight, gleam in Judy’s eye.
“I’m not saying you didn’t hurt me. I don’t think anyone could ever know how deep a hurt like can go unless it happens to them. But I realize now that I jumped to some wrong conclusions back then, and I was wrong not to speak to you. I’m not sure what’s ahead for you and me, Judy. What you did was wrong, very, very wrong and you’ll never know how deep those wounds go. I can’t just overlook that. There is a part of me that still resents you for that. One thing you can be sure of, I will never do anything to keep you from having a relationship with Tammy. She is thirteen years old and she needs her mother. I don’t know what your work schedule is like but if you can spend week-ends, or at least, part of a week-end with her, I know she would love it. She still loves you very much. The other day, before she even told me she saw you, I knew. I could tell by the look in her eyes and the way she beamed all over.”
Gary took a business card from his wallet. He turned it over and wrote his home phone on the back. “Here’s our phone number,” he told her, “feel free to call anytime. I’d also like your number if you don’t mind, just in case I have to get a hold of you for something.”
Judy could not believe his benevolence. She was so sure he was going to scream out how he hated her. She was reminded why her love for this man ran so very, very deep. She reached over and took the card, then borrowed his pen to write down her number on the napkin square next to her coffee cup.
Even though they just had coffee, they had tied up the table for two hours. Gary threw down a ten dollar bill and said he had to get going. He still had to get home and make dinner. Judy understood and thought back to the days when she used to make dinner for her family.
They walked out together then said their good-byes. Although she wasn’t doing a very good job of it, Judy fought hard to keep it together in the restaurant. When she was in the safety of her car her emotions got the better of her and she broke down, crying from sadness, happiness, she wasn’t sure which, but she couldn’t stop for almost half an hour.
Tammy ran toward her dad and almost tackled him as he came in the door. “Thank you, thank you,” she said.
She knew he was going to see her mother after work so Gary knew exactly what she was talking about. “You don’t even know how it went, honey,” he said.
“Sure I do. I know how much mom loves you and I sure know how much you love her. I don’t know what all happened in Chicago, I know I’m probably still too young to know, but I don’t have to know. What ever it was, I can’t think of anything that should keep us from being a family. Nothing!”
“I wish it was that simple, pumpkin, I really do. We’ll just have to see what happens, but I can’t make any promises, honey.”
“I know dad,” she looked up with tears in her eyes.
Judy and Tammy spent the next two week-ends together. It was so good to see them enjoying each other, thought Gary, it was like they were never apart. Judy would come by about ten Saturday morning to pick Tammy up, then drop her off again around five Sunday afternoon.
It had been three weeks since their talk at the restaurant. In another hour or so Judy would be coming by to drop off Tammy for the third Sunday in a row. This time Gary had a small surprise for them. He had a nice dinner cooking and he invited Judy to stay and eat with them.
After dinner Tammy excused herself and went up to her room. She was a smart young lady. Gary and Judy relaxed on the deck of his California style home. Judy didn’t want to ask the question, but Gary wasn’t very forthcoming with his personal life so she had to take a chance.
“Gary,” she said cautiously, “I know it’s none of my business and if you don’t want to answer I understand but I just wondered if……well, if.
“You want to know if I’m seeing anyone?” he chimed in.
“I know, never mind, I didn’t want to be nosey. Please, just forget I asked, I don’t want to spoil this moment. I’m sorry.”
“The answer is no,” he said. “I haven’t seen or been with anyone. Now it’s my turn, how about you? Did you leave anyone behind in New Jersey?”
“Gary, I haven’t had a date or even thought of having a man in my bed since that terrible day. I………..
He cut her off. “Okay, we’ve covered that. It’s the past, let’s leave it at that. Let’s concentrate on the future.”
“Is there? A future I mean.”
“Judy, I want to take this slow. The pain is still there. I don’t know, maybe it will always be there. Maybe I just have to learn to live with it. I just don’t know. What I do know is that I have never stopped loving you. God help me, now that you’re back in our lives, I don’t want to let you go again.”
“Gary, let me spend the night.”
“No, absolutely not, it’s too soon for that.”
Judy was praying he would say yes, but she understood when he didn’t. They changed the subject and Gary told her about a big advertising campaign he would be shooting shortly. He was explaining the idea behind the shoot when, unknowingly, he did the unthinkable, he asked Judy for her opinion. He never realized how much it meant to Judy when he would ask her for ideas. In reality it meant the world to her. She could feel herself losing it again and didn’t want to break down in front of Gary so she excused herself saying she had to run. Tammy came down to say good-bye and could sense the emotions her mother was going through.
She kissed her mother on the cheek. “I love you, mom,” she said.
“I love you too, honey.” She looked at Gary and thanked him for the dinner and a wonderful evening, then left for her small apartment where she could let loose and cry until she couldn’t produce any more tears.
For the next several weeks Gary and Judy dated once or twice a week. Judy wanted to wake up next to her man so badly, but Gary would never let her stay over.
It was almost like when they first met, only with out the sex. Judy would still pick Tammy up every week-end only, sometimes Gary would come with and the three of them would spend Saturday together. Gary would always return home though and give Sunday to the two of them.
Maybe it was knowing the truth about Chicago, maybe it was having her back in his life, maybe it was a combination of things, but little by little, the pain that Gary felt on that fateful day, the pain he had lived with since then, was finally starting to subside. More and more bad memories were being replaced with good times.
Next month was Tammy’s fourteenth birthday and he had something very special planned. He called and told Judy he wanted her to accompany them to the finest restaurant in town for Tammy’s birthday dinner.
Tammy was so eloquently dressed. Gary knew her mother had been teaching her about make up and how to look good. She did a wonderful job, he thought. She is going to have the same haunting beauty of her mother, no doubt about it.
Tammy stayed in the car as Gary went up to Judy’s door and rung the bell. Once again, just like the old days, she took his breath away. She still had the sexy, little black dress that used to drive him crazy. Truth was, she hadn’t worn it since Chicago. He could hardly believe it, she still looked as good in that dress as she ever did. Gary knew, in the city of movie stars and the most gorgeous women in the world, heads were going to turn when she walked in the door.
Tammy thought the restaurant was like something out of a fairy tale. The interior was rich with mahogany walls and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. There was a beautiful woman dressed in a flowing, white gown in the corner, softly playing a harp. She thought romantic restaurants like this only existed in the movies. The maitre d’ led them to a table for three next to the picture window overlooking the lights of Los Angeles. The lights were turned down low to emphasize the soft glow from the candle that sat on the table.
The waiter brought menus. “Any thing you like birthday girl, anything at all,” said Gary. Then he looked at his beautiful ex wife, “that goes for you too,” he said with a smile. Judy reached over and squeezed his hand with a smile.
After dinner Gary asked if they had any non-alcoholic Champagne. “Of course, Sir,” the waiter answered.
“Good, then I would like a bottle for my birthday girl and a bottle of Dom Perignon for the lady and myself, please.”
“Yes Sir, right away, Sir,” replied the waiter.
“Oh dad,” said Tammy, “thank you, this is the most wonderful birthday ever.”
“It’s not over yet, pumpkin, I still have a surprise.” Tammy and Judy looked at each other and shrugged.
When the Champagne came Gary and Judy held their glasses high and toasted to their daughter. Tammy lifted her glass, and drank her non-alcoholic bubbly.
After that, just as Gary had planned, came the cake and the entire staff came to their table to sing, Happy Birthday, to Tammy. “Oh, Gary,” said Judy, “this is wonderful. You have given Tammy a night she’ll remember for the rest of her life, thank you so much.” She squeezed his hand again.
“But I still have a surprise,” he said.
Again Tammy and her mother looked at each other. What could possibly be left, they both thought. “Dad,” Tammy spoke up, “what could possibly make this evening any better?” she asked.
“Honey,” he responded, “could you move your chair around here so you’re next to your mother?”
Tammy looked at him a little strangely but slid her chair over as he asked.
Gary reached into his suit pocket and took out a small box. He slid off his chair and onto one knee in front of Judy. Her eyes just stared in disbelief. Could this really be what she thinks it is, she was afraid to jump to that conclusion, afraid of being heart broken if she misinterpreted.
“Judy, we’ve been through a lot together, but one thing has never changed, our love for each other. I think we’ve both punished ourselves long enough, will you marry me?”
“God yes, yes, oh God yes!” Judy yelled. Everyone in the restaurant turned their heads in time to see Judy throw her arms around Gary’s neck and squeeze him, never wanting to let him go. She showered his face with kisses and Tammy reached over and hugged them both. The people clapped at the heartfelt sight and the waiter had a tear in his eye as he watched.
A month later Gary and Judy were married in a church ceremony. Judy’s parents and Sammy, Gary’s pal from Chicago were all in attendance. Tammy was stunning as her mother’s maid of honor.
After the wedding Judy’s parents stayed for a while and took care of Tammy during the two week honeymoon in Hawaii. Judy and Gary had saved making love again until their first night in the tropical, little hut on the beach. To the sound of the pounding surf, they made love all night long. The bad memories were gone, the hurt was gone. All that remained was the passion and love they had shared since their first meeting.
When they returned they found Judy’s parents had fallen in love with California and decided to sell their house in Chicago and move there permanently. That was good news to Judy and Gary. They both missed her parents.
The first day back at the studio everyone congratulated Gary and remarked at how happy he was. It was true, Gary was happier than he had since he moved there. After a full day of shooting Gary was home. Judy met him at the door, threw her arms around his neck and planted a passionate kiss on his lips. God, how I love her greetings, he thought.
I hoped you enjoyed reading, Perfect Picture Trilogy. As always, I enjoy hearing from you.
Remember Bill and Amber, Judy’s friend who had several affairs over the course of her marriage? Their story is next.