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Introduction:

Alexa & Jeremy steam things up in the shower
[[[-RECOLLECTIONS18.TXT-]]]


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Recollections
Written by: Kaadorix

M/F, F/F and a whole lot more
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Chapter 18: "Falsification"
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-*- Friday, June 2, 2017 -*-
-*- Lake Quivira, Kansas -*-


I lay in bed on this warm and muggy Friday morning with my eyes
closed, thinking about life, and how mine had since forever changed
in the past ten days. Asher Callum [Last Name], my second child
with Merissa and third overall, was ushered into this world at the
_University of Kansas Medical Center_ in Kansas City, Kansas on the
date of Tuesday, May 23, 2017. He weighed an even nine pounds at
birth and, although there had been some difficult challenges during
the labor and delivery process for us, all seemed well now.

I felt Merissa stir beside me but I kept my eyes closed,
unwilling to let go of the peaceful moment and face the day.
Seriously, I could lie here in bed all day with Merissa. Asher
was right next to us in a bassinet that featured a 360-degree
swivel and a sturdy base that fit perfectly underneath the bed.
Merissa loved this particular bassinet because we could move its
swivel to position Asher whenever we wanted around us and then
easily turn it away if needed to get out of bed.

Soon, Merissa's breath whispered across my cheek. "It's 6:30
in the morning and Lexi is already out of bed. She must be
fixing us breakfast again."

I opened my eyes and found Merissa staring down at me, sleepy.
"What's the plan for today, again?"

I gently rolled Merissa onto her back, nudged my thigh over
hers and slid my hand beneath her camisole. I brushed a trio of
fingers along the underside of a breast and smiled lovingly.

"I want you and Lexi to go out and spend a couple of hours
alone together," she reminded me, an idea stemming from a family
discussion the three of us had last evening before going to sleep.
"Leave Cooper and Madi, and of course Asher, home. Mom is coming
over at nine o'clock and she can help me keep an eye on the kids
while you're both gone. Rick is going to be with her, too."

I kissed Merissa softly. "I was thinking about staying in
bed with you all day again. This past Wednesday was awesome."

"You and Lexi have done SO MUCH for me since Asher was born
and even BEFORE he was born, during the pregnancy. I want you
and Lexi to go out and do something fun for yourselves today.
Get away from the house for awhile and unwind. Don't worry,
Jeremy, I got the kids. Mom and Rick are still in town,
visiting from Georgia, for a few more days." Indeed, Merissa's
mother and older brother were spending some time in Kansas City
with us to welcome the newest addition to our family.

I ran my fingers through Merissa's hair and frowned. "I will
go with Lexi, but please understand that you have ruined me."

She raised a curious eyebrow.

"I've been off of work for two whole weeks and I've done nothing
but spend time with you and Asher and, to a somewhat lesser extent,
Lexi, Cooper, Madi. You suggest I go out with Lexi. The first
thing that runs through my mind is, go out with Lexi? And leave
you? Leave Asher, too? My heart went a little crazy and, my next
thought was, I don't want to leave you and Asher."

Merissa grinned. "Well, I want you to. I know you've focused a
lot of your effort onto me, onto Asher, these past two weeks. Of
course, you've made plenty of time for Cooper and Madi too. But go
out and have some fun with Lexi today, okay? She has focused a lot
of time and energy onto me, too. Reconnect with her a bit, okay?
You and her deserve some time away from this zoo, this mad-house."

"Oh, I suppose I can do that," was my teasing rebuttal. "But
only for you. Only because you asked me to, sweetheart." Actually,
Merissa was right. A few hours away from everything would probably
be a wonderful idea for Alexa and yours truly. So much of our
recent efforts had been put into Merissa and Asher - and rightfully
so - that it would be good for us to take a few steps away and
remind ourselves that we were husband and wife, too.

Make no mistake about it, though. If the roles were reversed
and Alexa was the one who had been pregnant and ultimately given
birth, all of the focus would have been on her. Right now, she
would be the one insisting that I go out and spend time with
Merissa. No worry, though. Alexa's time would come again next
year. Perhaps 12 or so months from now, or thereabouts, Alexa
would give birth to a girl named Brooklyn. A precious daughter
for the two of us! How do I know? My deceased father, remember,
told me so in a ethereal visitation back in April...

"He's just so beautiful!" Merissa gushed, sitting up and
looking down at a snoozing Asher in his movable bassinet.

I grinned. "I like his nose."

"His nose is so _buttony_," Merissa giggled, "and piggy-like."

"He's a pretty big baby - born nine pounds - for such a tiny,
little girl like you," I observed.

"Mom cannot believe that I carried him around for nine months.
She says the same thing, Jeremy. Asher is so big."

After everything that she had been through, starting with an
induced, early labor on Monday, May 22, 2017, and ending 33 very
grueling hours later with a childbirth wrought with complications,
Merissa was happy and mellow right now nearly two weeks later.
When our newborn child roused from his nap moments later,
Merissa was quick to gather him into her warm, loving arms.

"OH!" Merissa said when Asher sneezed. "Bless you!"

"Good morning," I grinned at him. "Hey buddy." When Asher
began to cry, I tilted my head. "Oh, he's unhappy."

Merissa smirked. "He wants to nurse. That's all he wants.
Little man is like a machine!"

"He looks like a completely different baby than the one you
gave birth to that first day," I offered. "He looks so much
better, so more healthy, now. His eyes aren't swollen, his
forehead... not at all. His head looked so much better after
just after 24 hours. No longer had those marks on it."

"We couldn't touch his head the day he was born," Merissa
pouted, reminding me, "because it was so painful for him, he
would just scream. But it got better quick, just as you and the
other doctors promised it would, Jeremy, and now we can. We
could the second day." To emphasize this, Merissa ran a gentle,
loving finger over top of his skull.

Once Asher was finally born on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 3:08pm,
he came out screaming _bloody murder_, which was excellent,
because that indicated his lungs were in good shape and his
breathing was fine. Yet Merissa was indeed a very petite and
frail woman, and Asher's head became wedged on her pelvic bone
during the labor and delivery process. Her pelvis was very
small, we were told, and the doctor feared that Asher may not
be able to fit through the birth canal.

Fortunately, Merissa was able to avoid emergency surgery, a
C-section, as the various medical caregivers, through a
cascade of interventions, were able to gently manipulate
Asher's position inside of her, and he was barely able to
progress through the pelvis naturally. They were very close
to performing the emergency surgery, something which Merissa
begged them not to unless it was absolutely necessary.

Though a seasoned, experienced doctor, I stepped back and
detached myself in that regard, and allowed the expert hospital
staff to make their own judgments and decisions when it came to
Merissa and Asher's care. I was not about to barge in and tell
them how to do their job. I simply took on the role of Dad-to-be
for once, and it was quite a nerve-wracking, uplifting experience.

Merissa got to hold Asher and bond with him for a few moments
after he was born, which was vital for any mother and infant.
Yet a team of specialists were on hand because he had become
lodged on her pelvic bone, and they promptly decided that Asher
needed to be taken to a place that haunted the dreams of any
expectant parent. He was whisked off to the neonatal intensive
care unit (NICU) for further observations and advanced care.

Merissa threw a fit, naturally, and went into a crying rage.
All she wanted to do was hold and cuddle with her newborn son,
yet the medical personnel at the hospital took him away from
her in the blink of an eye. Alexa, actually, had to spend the
first month of her life in the NICU back in 1991 because she
was born four weeks premature. Alexa barely made it out alive.
She was quick to lean down and comfort Merissa, try to console
her. Alexa was visibly upset as well, because absolutely no
one wants to see a newborn baby being pulled from Mom's arms
by strangers in white lab coats and then get taken away.

Alexa, along with her mother (Angela) and yours truly, were
able to eventually get Merissa to settle and calm down. All of
us were on edge, but Merissa was by far the worst off. A nurse
then showed up and asked if I would like to join Asher in the
NICU as he underwent treatment. Merissa wanted to go too, but
the nurse claimed that she was in no shape to leave her
hospital room just yet, even if it was in a wheelchair.
Through new tears, Merissa told me to go and be with our son;
Alexa and her mother would stay here and keep an eye on her.

"Asher needs his Daddy," Merissa summarized.

The main reason Asher was taken to the NICU was because his
head was shaped a little wrong, due to its awkward placement
on Merissa's pelvis. There were actually visible crease marks on
his head from where it had been lodged against Merissa's pelvic
bone. The hospital ordered an ultrasound on his skull to make
sure everything was okay, and there was no long-term damage.

Asher seemed active and strong; he sure did cry a lot in the
NICU. I had confidence that everything would turn out okay. I
watched as they did the ultrasound and a whole battery of various
tests on him. I saw images of his brain on the medical equipment.
I did my absolute best to keep the medical practitioner in me at
bay. Then I got to hold Asher for the first time in the NICU. I
told him all was fine, and I loved him. He was my son, and we
would get through this together. Soon, I promised him, we would
go back to the recovery room so he could be with Mommy.

Holding Asher for the first time was one of the sweetest, most
tender moments I had ever experienced. He may have been my third
child, yet his birth was just as special and awe-inspiring, just
as unique, as the first two. The experience of becoming a new
father would never grow tiresome, or old, to me. The anxiety and
various troubles Merissa experienced late in her pregnancy made
it seem like it had gone on forever. Things were rough for her,
for us. Yet with Asher, I quickly learned the long wait was worth
it. He was so special... so incredibly perfect.

Asher stopped crying when I held him for the first time. He
was suddenly peaceful, with huge, inquisitive eyes. I know his
eyesight wasn't there yet, and he could not see me. But he could
sense me! He knew that Daddy was with him. I sat with him in
the NICU resting in my arms for a few minutes. It seemed as if
my heart grew five sizes in the process.

Fortunately, the test results came back good and Asher was
cleared for now to return to his mother outside of the NICU.
I will never forget the happy, joyous expression upon Merissa's
face when Asher was wheeled, in his little incubator, back into
the hospital room after two hours away. Merissa broke down and
began crying uncontrollably, yet still had the strength and
wherewithal to reach out and accept Asher into her arms. The
emotions continued when Asher began nursing for the first time.

"I'm sorry you had to wait so long to see him again."

Merissa looked at me in response, her eyes red with tears,
as Asher fed like a champ. Merissa was so very exhausted and
physically worn down herself after being in labor for 33(!)
hours. "I love him so much. I do..."

As for the ultrasound, as I said, it came back good. There
was no structural or brain damage, no bleeding. Asher was, for
lack of a better term, a little beat up. He was badly swollen.
Yet the caregivers claimed that Asher would look like a totally
different baby in the morning because the swelling would go down
overnight, and they expected the creases on his head to simply
fade away. Sure enough, they were right.

Let it be known that no one, and I absolutely, positively mean
NO ONE, was happier that Asher did not have to stay in the NICU
for an extended period of time than I was. I did not want to
have to go through that as a parent.

Not wanting to overwhelm Merissa and/or Asher with too many
visitors at once, when Alexa and Angela stepped away, my good
friend Mike and his wife, Pamela, took their place. Then
Matthew and Sarah, two old friends from college of Alexa and
Merissa's. Cooper and Madison, by the way, were staying with
my own mother - their Grandma - in Pleasant Grove. Originally,
Mom wanted to be here for the live birth, but changed her mind
once she realized that Cooper and Madison needed a babysitter
for a few days while Alexa and I stayed at the hospital. It
would be a good chance for her to bond with Cooper and Madison.

Soon, Alexa's father - Bob - stopped by for a visit and a
quick chance to snuggle with Asher.

Merissa was video chatting in real time with her own mother
and brother, both of whom were back home in Georgia. Michelle
and Rick could not make it in time for the birth, but both
promised they would be here within a week or two to visit.
Mom brought Cooper and Madison, along with my siblings Janae and
Hudson, to the hospital so all of them could meet up with Asher.

I should point out that Tuesday also happened to be Madison's
second birthday. Yes, she and Asher would forever share the
same birthday! How unique is that for a brother and sister?

The next couple of days were going to be quite difficult,
as the hospital wanted to run some additional tests on Asher
to make sure that he was healthy and well enough to go home.
It was going to be rough, but again, I had faith everything
would turn out fine in the end. And so did Merissa.

A blister developed directly above Asher's left eyelid and
eventually popped, leaving an unsightly scab of blood which
had nearly everyone who saw him questioning what it was. It
did not look good at all.

On Thursday morning, a doctor we had never seen before -
Merissa and Asher's medical records in hand - entered the
hospital room when we were having breakfast. "Don't be
alarmed, Mr. and Mrs. [Last Name]," the woman said gently,
"but the latest ultrasound seems to show that your baby's
kidneys are slightly larger than they should be."

"What does this mean?" Merissa stammered, on the verge of
hysteria. A moment earlier, she was happy and relaxed, and
enjoying a quiet morning with yours truly as Asher was away
for observation and testing. "Is Asher going to be okay?"
Merissa was frantic now. "Is my baby going to be okay?"

Dr. Andreassen - that was her name - was thoughtful and
sympathetic with her response. "Asher has a common condition
called hydronephrosis. Lots of boys are born with it. His
urine is leaking backward through the urinary system, and is
causing both his kidneys to swell. We ordered a VCUG, or a
voiding cystourethrogram - which is basically an X-ray of the
bladder, and everything actually looks quite good. Your
baby's hydronephrosis seems to be quite mild. I am going to
put him on some low-dose antibiotics to prevent any urinary
infections, and I expect the problem to go away on its own."

Yet, that was not good enough for Merissa. As a doctor, I
understood the prognosis perfectly. It was quite common and
very treatable. But as a father, it was not good enough for
me, either. No way! Not in the heat of the moment, after
such a hard, difficult childbirth. I mean, Merissa was in
labor for 33 hours! Those last few hours were excruciating.

"Is Asher in pain?" Merissa demanded to know. "Is he
suffering? I WANT TO SEE HIM IMMEDIATELY! BRING MY BABY
BACK TO ME NOW! HE NEEDS US!"

"Your baby is fine, Mrs. [Last Name], and feels no ill
effects from this diagnosis," Dr. Andreassen - who we would
eventually learn was a pediatric urologist at the hospital -
stressed to us. "The voiding cystourethrogram ruled out a
condition known as vesicoureteral reflux, in which there is a
faulty valve between the bladder and the ureter. Your baby
not having this is very, very good news."

"As it is, I expect little Asher to outgrow this with time.
His hydronephrosis is extremely mild. It can be treated with
the antibiotics and regular monitoring via ultrasounds. I do
not expect it to get worse, but it is always a possibility."

Merissa was crying. "I want to see my baby NOW!" And raging.

"We will get him back to you as soon as we possibly can,
Mrs. [Last Name]," the doctor promised. "He still has a few
more tests to undergo that every newborn generally receives
one or two days after delivery. It's very routine stuff. At
this point, there is nothing to be alarmed about."

Eventually, Dr. Andreassen left us, and Merissa promptly
drilled me about every little detail the urologist said. It
was difficult on my part, but I told her to put her trust in
the doctor's word that everything would ultimately be fine,
and the issue would go away over time. Hydronephrosis was a
common kidney ailment found in newborn babies, especially boys.
Also, I stressed to Merissa, there was no better place for Asher
to be right now than at the _University of Kansas Medical Center_.
In my opinion, it was the best hospital in the entire country.

If the bladder X-ray found vesicoureteral reflux, it was very
possible that a special, delicate procedure called open antireflux
surgery may have to be performed on our precious newborn. I knew
this as a professional caregiver. Or, if there was a blockage in
Asher's urinary system, a surgical procedure known as a
pyeloplasty may prove necessary to correct the blockage.

"Yet Asher has none of that," I told Merissa, holding her hand.
"Continued monitoring with periodic ultrasounds and ongoing
medication should be all that Asher needs."

My personal reassurances meant far more to Merissa than the
actual urologist's did, and as a result, Merissa was able to
calm down and not feel as worried. Still, she became overly
emotional when Asher was brought back to us from his latest
round of testing. Merissa hugged him to her, and did not want to
let go. Asher fed for a brief spell, then dozed off to sleep.
Merissa simply did not want to let go of him.

Mom stopped by for another visit, and she brought both Cooper
and Madison with her. I took the two youngsters off to the
cafeteria for lunch, allowing Mom some time alone with Merissa
and Alexa (who had been in and out). I spoke with Cooper and
Madison over hamburgers and pizza, and reminded them of how
important their role was going to be in Asher's life. They
were big brother and big sister, I told them, and that brought
a great deal of responsibility. Asher, and any younger brothers
and sisters they may have in the future (Brooklyn, ahem), would
always look to them for support and guidance. It was a huge
responsibility, I told Cooper and Madison, but I trusted they
could pull it off. I knew they could.

But as could be expected, all Cooper wanted to do was talk
about the amazing new toys Madison got for her birthday. We had
a little party in the hospital room for her on Tuesday evening
when Mom brought her and Cooper in for their initial visit.

"What happened to Mommy's belly?" Alexa gasped at Madison once
we made our return from the cafeteria. Madison, at just age two,
seemed mighty confused looking at Merissa's not-so-full belly.
"Belly, all gone!" Alexa chirped at her. "There's no baby in
there anymore, honey. Baby is there, now! See? In Mommy's arms?
That's baby brother! Want to kiss him?"

Madison nodded her head and went in for a kiss on Asher's
cheek, but became all red-faced and backed out at the last
possible instant. She was too embarrassed to kiss him. "Oh,
that's all right, honey," Alexa said to her. "Who is that?
Do you know who that is? That's baby brother! Asher..."

Madison rumbled over to me, though, and tossed her little
arms around my shoulders. I picked her up and hugged her.

"Oh, she misses you," Mom swooned at me, before turning
her attention back to Madison. "It's not the same staying at
Grandma's house, is it? But Mommy and Daddy have been staying
here at the hospital the past few days. Been busy. Oh, you
will be back home again with them very, very soon."

Alexa's own heart just seemed to melt as she made eye contact
with me. "Oh, look at that. Madi needs cuddles from you, Jeremy.
And kisses. Give her plenty of cuddles and kisses!"

Yet I turned Madison back toward Asher, and she stared down
at him for several seconds. "Look, honey. Asher is looking
at you. He wants to see his big sister."

"Owwie," Madison frowned, pointing at the scab on his eyelid.

"Yeah, he's got a little owwie," Merissa told her, "but he's
going to be okay, sweetie. Do you want to give him a kiss?"
Madison seemed to think about it for a moment, but then shook
her head. "You don't have to," Merissa added. "It's okay."

Alexa began laughing. "What are you doing?" She was
focused on Cooper, who was relaxing in the car cradle seat
that we would eventually take Asher home in. Cooper was way
too big for it, yet he was in it regardless. "What are you
doing?" Alexa repeated, giggling. "Pretending to be baby?"

"BABY!" Cooper roared out.

Early Friday morning, the OB-GYN came in for a visit, and
Merissa told him that she was ready to go home. In fact, Merissa
began pushing to leave on Thursday evening, insisting to the
various caregivers that it was time. The OB-GYN said that if
she wanted, Merissa and Asher could indeed be discharged today.
All of the other tests came back normal, we had been informed,
but Asher would have to take the low dose of antibiotics for
his hydronephrosis until further notice.

Yet it takes time at hospitals - lots and lots of time - and
Merissa and Asher were not actually discharged until a full seven
hours after the OB-GYN stopped by during his early morning rounds
and said they could go. Asher actually had more tests to undergo
throughout the day, believe it or not, and there was a seemingly
endless amount of paperwork to fill out. I loaded up the minivan
with all of our supplies and belongings, and Merissa and Asher
were in the backseat as I made the slow, careful drive to our
family home in the little waterfront town of Lake Quivira.

Merissa again became emotional when she saw some of the signs
posted near the entrance to our home. "OH BOY!!! WELCOME
baby Asher!" was a hand-painted sign spread over three boards
of recycled wood, attached to a stake in the ground.

There was a big chalkboard right next to the front door
which read, in stylish letters, "Here's to hugs and laughter
as we welcome Asher Callum to our happily ever after!" A large
picture frame, encased in glass, had a white baby jumpsuit
stretched out inside of it with the name Asher in big, bold
letters across the front. All around it were words of hope
and encouragement, with signatures attached, in black marker
from various people in our lives.

We did not want to overwhelm Asher all at once - thus the
reason why we tried to keep his number of visitors at a time
in the hospital low - so Alexa and I were the only ones there
to help mother and son out of the minivan. Within the hour,
Janae was going to drop Cooper and Madison off at our house.
Others would be stopping by for brief visits, too.

I then realized that this was my first time being away from
the hospital since Monday morning. This was Friday night.
Alexa wanted me to return to work after Cooper was born. She
wanted to be the one responsible to look after and care for
Merissa 24 hours a day in the aftermath of giving birth. I
took three weeks off from work after my father passed away in
April to grieve and mourn. Thus, Alexa was worried that I may
start to lose patients if I took any more excess time off.

But family was more important to me than anything else in life.
As much as I loved my job and cared about my patients, and as much
time as I spent worrying and agonizing over them, I needed to be
there for Merissa. I knew Alexa was more than capable of doing a
great job looking after her. But I needed to be there as both a
husband and a father. As it was, taking the next week off from
work as well (this week), I would be gone for five out of seven
weeks. Perhaps some of my patients would get angry and find
another doctor. That was fine. My family was more important.

Hundreds of photographs of Asher had already been taken at
the hospital, and many of them were the centerpiece for the
decorations throughout the living and family rooms for the
little welcome home party Alexa had planned for us. She even
had a buffet table set up with finger foods, cookies and a
huge cake to celebrate the occasion.

Cooper seemed pretty adamant that Merissa and Asher watch
_Toy Story 3_ with him on the big sofa in the family room. I
tried to get Cooper to back off ("Aunt Me-Me is tired and needs
rest"), but Merissa cut me off at the pass, saying she would be
more than happy to watch _Toy Story 3_ with Cooper for the
millionth time. So, she settled into the sofa and held Asher
as he took turns napping and nursing atop her chest, while
Cooper snuggled close and seemed immersed in the movie. He was
very close with Merissa and was happy that all of us were home.

"I've been sitting on the couch," Merissa said to Janae when
she walked by halfway through the movie, "nursing Asher, and
cuddling with Cooper, and we are watching _Toy Story 3_. And
it's like, I literally feel like I'm in Heaven right now."
Merissa tilted her head back against the fluffy cushion and
sighed dramatically. "It's like... ohhhhh..."

Janae giggled and pointed downward. "It probably doesn't
hurt that Lexi is giving you a foot massage right now, too!"

Merissa glanced at Alexa, whose fingers were kneading away.
"No, it doesn't! Not at all!"

"I need to get old Tom to give me a foot rub when I go home
later," my sister nodded, referring to her husband of 29 years.

Soon, Alexa slid onto the sofa on the opposite side, and
snuggled with Merissa as well. Visitors were constantly in and
out, or simply calling us, asking if Merissa or the baby needed
anything at all. It was our family and closest friends working
together, being very thoughtful and caring, and so very
unselfish, in all their glory. It was a beautiful scene.

Sarah and Matthew were our final visitors for the evening at
9:00pm. It was at this point when I realized that after five days
in the hospital, and riding the emotional roller coaster of having
a new baby mixed with a trip to the NICU and the diagnosis of a
urinary system malfunction... I had not taken a shower in five
days. Yikes! I had not forgotten to take one; mind you. I just
did not want to take a shower in the hospital. I suppose it had
slipped my mind when we arrived home earlier, because I was just
so happy to finally be back and see all of our friends and family.

The washroom that was attached to the master bedroom was luxury
at its finest, with a huge, sprawling shower. Outer walls were
made of glass and there was enough space on the tiled floor for
at least three people to comfortably fit inside (perfect for us).
Four pulsing shower-heads were placed strategically around the
ceiling, and I shivered with anticipation when turning on the
spray of soothing, hot water. A steamy mist engulfed me all at
once; the water felt like a rebirth of its own, a new lease on
life. After five hectic days, I needed a shower so bad. I just
wanted to sink into the shower and melt away.

I did not have a care in the world as I took a bottle of
liquid shower soap and massaged it into various portions of my
body with a sponge. I felt so good, so reinvigorated. I even
let out a moan when I applied shampoo to my hair, and began
lathering. I closed my eyes and groaned again as I stepped
underneath the spray of hot water and rinsed off.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I called out harshly, when I noticed
through the stained glass walls, that the door to the washroom
had opened. We had guests in the house - Sarah and Matthew. What
if if one of them needed to use the facilities and had wandered
in? I grabbed a towel and stuck my head out, but breathed a sigh
of relief. And then, just as quickly, I started to become curious.
Very curious, in fact. "What are you doing?"

Alexa was gorgeous. She looked breathtaking in her frilly
tank-top and denim cut-off shorts, with golden blonde hair that
swept across her shoulders. Alexa stood 5-foot-1 and weighed a
scant 102 pounds, and had the body of a gymnast. A certified
fitness instructor; a mythical goddess, even. Oh, I became so
erotically flustered whenever I saw her.

Alexa closed and locked the washroom door behind her, and
quickly slipped out of her tank-top. "Your kids are not the
only ones who missed you while you were away, Jeremy." Alexa
wiggled out of her tight, hip-hugging denim shorts, and nearly
stumbled over herself trying to get rid of her panties. That was
humorous. She then nearly stripped the simple white bra from
her torso and made a beeline toward the shower, and me. "Your
kids, Jeremy, are not the only ones who NEED you."

I dropped the aforementioned towel and felt myself being shoved
up against the inner, far wall of the shower as Alexa placed her
hands on my chest and kissed my shoulder. My body instinctively
reacted to her blissful, magical touch.

"God, Lexi," I breathed at her, trying to draw back. "This is
not what I expected. I just wanted to come home and relax with
Merissa and Asher, and Cooper and Madi." I drew a hand up her
side, and squeezed a tight, luscious breast. "You're just so
sexy. You've always been that way. You make it impossible for
me to think sometimes."

She stretched her arms above her head and smiled at me.
"Then don't think. That's often your problem. Just react."

Alexa's entire body was already soaked from the oncoming
stream of water as she leaned up and kissed my cheek. "Oh, I
love you so much, Jeremy." Her warm, supple figure felt truly
divine melded so tightly against mine. "I want to climb on
top of you and ride you hard until you scream out my name."

"Where is Merissa and Asher?" I asked, needing to know. Yet
my resolve was fading. I placed my hands upon Alexa's shoulders
and her hot, silky skin left me feeling befuddled.

"Merissa is in the family room downstairs with Sarah and
Matthew," she reminded me. "Asher is with them." Cooper and
Madison, I already knew, were in bed for the evening. Alexa
wiggled her hips in a flirtatious manner. "Don't worry, Jeremy.
It's okay. Merissa knows that I'm in here with you right now.
She knows how lonely I've been for you, how much I need you.
Remember? No secrets between us. None. We heard the shower
turn on. I pulled Merissa aside and told her that I HAD to
have you right now, and she said... go for it."

Alexa then pouted at me. "Oh, you're so tense, Jeremy.
So very tense." Alexa worked her way down each of my arms,
squeezing the muscles and massaging the tension away until
there was none left. "Does that help, baby?"

I closed my eyes and sighed again. "Tremendously."

"Asher is going to be fine," she assured me. "Just as Cooper
was fine when he was born with his... well, all of the issues I
had during childbirth. No problems with Madi when she was born,
right? Asher will be ALL fine. Our three kids are so lucky to
have you as their daddy, Jeremy." Alexa moved her right hand down
to my thigh and then took hold of my cock, and began frigging it.

"I'm not sure I can think straight with you doing that."

Alexa rolled her eyes in a playful, impish manner. "I told you
not to think, didn't I? You NEVER listen!" Her thumb grazed the
swell of my testicles. I grit my teeth against the urge to
take my cock and just stuff it into her right then and there.

Instead, my eyes took a slow stroll down her tight, heavenly
body, drinking in wondrous breasts and hard nipples, and the
sweet curve of her hips. Alexa was lean and hard, toned from
years of physical fitness and a proper diet, and taking care of
herself. She may have been 25, but still looked like she was 19.
Hey, at 43, I was not complaining about either age.

"Lexi, I..." Love you. Want to touch you. Need to touch you.
Have to kiss you. Want to hug you forever. What I felt for Alexa
was so much bigger than a simple phrase, no matter how powerful or
sincere it was. How could I put it into the proper words? "You
have no idea how glad I am that I met you."

Alexa draped her arm across my shoulder and leaned back,
releasing my cock with her opposite hand and gazing up at me with
so much love in her eyes that it felt like an embrace.

"I love who you are," I spoke candidly, "and who you have
evolved, morphed into, these past seven years. I will be with
you, sweetheart, whenever you want me, whenever you need me. I
want to feel your body against mine at the end of the day, every
day, for the rest of my life." My pulse was racing. "My God,
honey... I want to put another baby in your belly. Right now,
nothing would make me any happier than that." Patience, my man,
I said inwardly. Wait until next summer when Brooklyn is born...

I brushed wet hair from Alexa's face and cupped her cheeks.
"I could never imagine my life without you being in it."

Alexa put her hands on my wrists and her eyes searched
mine, her soft, luscious lips parted. I wanted to lean down
and kiss her so much, but we were sharing a little moment in
time here. One of those spontaneous, unscripted moments in a
marriage that doesn't happen very often. I lowered my hands
from her cheeks and she blinked her eyes several times in
succession, as if my heartfelt words had struck her numb.

"I love everything about you, Jeremy. Everything. I love
the way you look at me and how when another guy walks by, you
always tighten your grip on me... like I'm yours. I AM yours."

"I tighten my grip?"

She nodded and smiled. "Yeah. Just a little."

"I did not even realize it."

"I know. Which is what makes it all the more appealing."

"Wow," was all I said in response.

"Know what else I love about you?" Alexa continued. "That you
care enough about people to step in and lend them a hand when
they're too weak, or simply unable, to stand up for themselves. I
love how you came forward and offered to pay for Colton's funeral
last year so he could have a proper burial and a nice tombstone."
Colton, of course, was Merissa's younger brother. He perished in
a motorcycle accident in September 2015. "I love that you paid
for all of the damages to Mom and Dad's house when that water pipe
broke and destroyed everything they owned several years ago. And
I love that, even with the way your own parents mistreated you for
years, you never stopped loving your father, your mother. They
are so different than you, your ideals, and you have had countless
disagreements, yet you love them regardless, your father's memory.
You're so gentle, so loving, thoughtful, kind. Just perfect."

"But mostly, Jeremy, I love being with you. It does not matter
if we're kissing, talking, cutting grass in the yard, or changing
a rotten, messy diaper. My heart is full when I am with you, when
we're together. And when we're not, well, I feel a pretty massive
void. Even when I am with Merissa - and I love her very, VERY
much - I still think about you. You... you're my centerpiece.
You're what makes me go."

My whole world stilled as those wonderful words sank in. Our
bodies enveloped in steam within the spacious shower, I finally
lowered my lips to kiss her, but I could not stop those three
simple words I said all too often from coming out.

"I love you."

She smiled up at me. "I love you too."

I paused, and my voice turned dark. "I seem to recall you
coming in here and saying how much you missed me, baby, how much
you NEEDED me, these past five days. When was the last time you
and I went seven whole days without having sex? Had to be after
Cooper was born and you were recovering." I pressed my body to
hers. "Do you feel that? Do you feel how much I want you right
now? How much I NEED you, too?"

Unable to speak, Alexa stared up at me with wanderlust in her
eyes. She was suddenly a blazing inferno.

I backed her gently against the tiled wall of the shower and
spread her legs with my feet. I positioned the towel from earlier
at my own feet, then dragged my tongue down her slender torso,
over her breasts and all the way to her stomach. I grabbed
Alexa's splendid, perfect ass with one hand and dropped to my
knees upon the towel. My tongue kept blazing its hot trail, and
soon I was hovering just over her clitoris, breathing. Teasing.

I used my hands to spread her legs even further apart, then
licked the insides of her thighs, her hips, stopping just shy of
her shaven folds. Every flipping place except where she needed
me most, driving her out of her mind!

"You've always been a needy, little thing," I taunted her.
"And you get all pouty and whiny if you don't get your way.
Oh my... that look from you drives me straight up the wall."

"Oh God," Alexa begged me, "please!" She tangled her hands in
my hair and suddenly I was unable to hear past the stream of
water and the rush of blood to my ears. I slid a trio of fingers
deep inside of her, and Alexa's entire body stiffened in arousal.
I pumped her, licked her, then stood up. I could feel her breath
on my neck, smell her desire. Alexa opened her eyes and seemed
to flame even more with heat when I sucked in my own fingers,
which were glistening with her juices. Then I pressed my lips to
hers, taking her tongue into my mouth and sucking on it before
dropping back down to my knees, my hands on her thighs, drawing
her trembling thighs apart again. I licked, worshiped, devoured
her, using my probing fingers and tongue to push her to the edge.
She slammed her palms against the tiles and flexed her legs,
grasping for the orgasm that was just beyond her reach.

"Jeremy. Please, Jeremy!"

I flicked my tongue over her little clitoris in rapid-fire
succession and helped guide Alexa to the pinnacle of ecstasy.
My own body filled with ice and heat at the same time as my
precious wife shivered and convulsed in sweet release above me.
When Alexa cried out my name, I stood and smashed my mouth
to hers as our souls swirled with devotion and pure lust.

"I love seeing you so happy, so fulfilled."

When Alexa opened her eyes, she immediately glanced down
at my erection, and I could tell that she wanted me. Alexa
wanted it. Yet I had other ideas, at least for the time being,
and Alexa offered a momentary, sexy pout as I spun her around so
her back was now facing me.

She quickly got the idea when I massaged her head with both
hands, combing my fingers throughout her blonde hair, extending
the long strands outward and into the still-hot and pulsating
water from above.

Alexa again closed her eyes and seemed to be overcome with
sudden pleasure as I had her step away from the oncoming spray of
water and worked a dose of shampoo and conditioner into her
thick, luxurious hair. I remember Alexa once telling Merissa
that nothing in the world compared with the sensation of my
strong, masculine hands running throughout her hair, soaping,
stroking, massaging her scalp, until all of the bones just
seemed to wilt away and vanish within her legs.

I moved in even closer behind Alexa, and guided her back into
the spray of water. I smoothed my hands down the long blonde
lengths, making sure they were rinsed thoroughly, while being
extra careful to keep the soap out of her eyes. I leisurely
combed the sticky tangles between my fingers.

I then pressed up against her from behind, and my hands began
to wander. From the top of her shoulders out to the tips of her
fingers, from her neck to her breasts and all the way down to
her toes, I left no part of her untouched.

I enjoyed how Alexa's armpits were ticklish, as were the backs
of her knees. Yet her rib cage wasn't, nor were the bottom of her
feet. When I put my hand on her tight, picture-perfect ass, Alexa
would instinctively thrust her hips back at me in wordless
pleading. All the while, the water felt like a million licking
tongues as it cascaded down our sensitive, refreshed bodies in
endless rivulets and trickles.

Her hair still not fully rinsed, Alexa turned and eyed me with
a look of sheer determination and utter passion. She splayed her
hands on my chest, dragged them down my entire front, then dropped
to her knees and took the full length of my hard, aching erection
into her mouth. I tossed my head back and moaned wildly as the
warm spray of the shower pounded Alexa's shoulders and back.

Her tongue gently tickled my cock as it swirled around the
thick, bulging head. Yet she sucked hard, working her hand up
and down the full length of my shaft.

"Sweetheart, oh my... wow."

Alexa could not get enough, as her head began to bob back and
forth as she stroked me with both hands at the same time.

I could easily stay in here for another hour or two with Alexa,
yet knew it would probably be wise to get out of the shower sooner
rather than later. I did not care for the idea of getting wet and
wild with guests still in the house, although Merissa would surely
keep Sarah and Matthew occupied, and not let them come anywhere
near our bedroom. Still, I felt uncomfortable with them here.

So I picked Alexa up from the position upon her knees in front
of me, both hands cupping her ass, and propped her up against the
wall. I slid my hard shaft into her sweet pussy as her legs
recoiled, wrapping themselves around my waist and squeezing tight.
Alexa jammed her mouth to mine and kissed fervently as I thrusted
into her again and again. Any loud grunts or screams were muffled,
and soon, I felt my own hot, carnal release brewing deep within me.

Alexa's body began to tremble and I sensed another orgasm on the
way for her as well, so I did my best to prolong the moment, and
rock hard into her. I claimed her mouth with a heated, relentless
kiss. It was scorching. I drove my cock into her forcefully.
Her eyes flew open and she sucked in a harsh breath, clawing at my
shoulders, my arms, whatever she could find.

Alexa broke the kiss and actually bit down on my left shoulder.
I nearly came from the unexpected, yet exquisite rush of pain, and
was sent into a frantic frenzy of kissing, sucking, licking her
neck, her collarbone, her cheeks. I even kissed Alexa's breasts,
both nipples. She felt so damn good, and I found myself thrusting
even harder, faster, deeper. When my wife cried out a booming
sound of pleasure, I caught her mouth with another emotional,
charged kiss, and silenced it. Alexa's beauty was mesmerizing.

The desire in the 25-year-old's blue eyes literally made my
heart skip a beat. Her fingernails now dug into my back in perfect
unison with her inner muscles clenching around my cock. I kept
thrusting, doing my best, but was nearing the finish line.

Our bodies clung to each other as if our very lives depended
on it. I thrusted into her, again and again and again, and
then I felt the inner explosion. I held onto Alexa with all of
my might, leaning into her and against the wall for needed
support, as my cock jettisoned its love and lathered her womb
full. At the same time, Alexa's own orgasm crashed over her
in one powerful wave after another.

When I was younger, I used to believe that sex was always a
great stress reliever. Yet in the aftermath, when I reached for
Alexa's hand, I realized that she and I were not having sex at
all. As close as I was with Alexa, and truly Merissa as well,
this was called _making love_. Not sex. Bringing our bodies
as close together as our hearts, minds and souls had already
become. Like second skins.

Alexa laced her fingers with mine, and as I brought her hand
to my lips, I realized what a lucky man I was. I had two wives,
and this little interlude in the shower could have honestly
taken place with either of them, with the overtones and context,
the end result of feelings, being the exact same. How incredible
was that? How incredible was it that within our little marriage,
all of the parts were so interchangeable? So perfect?

Alexa snuggled against me post-orgasm, her soft breath
drifting over my neck like a symphony. I finally managed to
turn the water off and then closed my eyes, only to feel her
heart beat against my chest. It sent tingles down my spine.

"I want to hold you all night." I kissed Alexa's shoulder,
and she seemed to melt a little more.

She splayed her hands over my arms, clearly content with my
idea. "Let's dry off and put some clothes on, then go downstairs
and do what we can to NUDGE Sarah and Matthew out the door."
Alexa giggled, then kissed my shoulder, my neck, my lips. "You
know, be nice about it. Then, we can get Merissa to come to bed
and all three of us can snuggle together. You can set up the new
baby bassinet so she can try it out, too, Jeremy."

After we stepped out of the shower, I wrapped Alexa up in a
plush towel and kissed her on the forehead. I tossed on a pair
of sleep pants and Alexa put on a t-shirt several sizes too
large for her, with a robe going on over top of it. I preferred
being shirtless in the house - especially late at night like this -
but threw a top on anyway. "Let's go say goodbye to Sarah and
Matthew," I whispered at Alexa, "and hello to Merissa."

* * *

More than a week later and back in the present day, when I awoke
in bed with Merissa on Saturday morning and jokingly insisted on
staying there with her all weekend, I found myself walking through
the _Oak Park Mall_ in Overland Park with Alexa by my side that
same afternoon. Indeed, she and I had taken Merissa's advice about
spending a little time alone together, away from the house, while
Michelle and Rick visited and helped watch the kids. Alexa and I
were on the lookout for a special gift for Merissa.

I recalled the steamy encounter in the shower from eight days
ago where Alexa informed me that whenever another man was nearby,
I would invariably clutch onto her just a bit tighter to indicate
that she was mine. Those protective instincts were on full force
here at the regional shopping center, I realized. While I was
not a judgmental person at all, any man who gave Alexa even so
much as a fleeting glance received a cold, hard stare from me.
Had I always been this way in public with her?

"Where do people go for a good postpartum gift?" I pulled
Alexa closer as four teen-agers pushed past us. "Gosh, Lexi.
You know I'm terrible with these sort of things."

"We need to get Merissa something useful and unique. She has
already gotten plenty of flower bouquets and sweet treats. I was
thinking of buying her a new bath robe and some fuzzy slippers."

On a whim, I pulled Alexa into a photo booth in the very center
of the mall. One of those kissing booth kiosks, actually.

"I've never been in one of these things," I said, retrieving a
five dollar bill from my wallet.

"I have. They're so fun. I used to go in them with Mom and
Dad when I was growing up. You know, just act wild and silly."
Alexa waited for me to sit down in the booth. When I did, she
plopped herself right down on my lap and tossed both arms around
my shoulders. I promptly tugged the curtain closed.

I pulled her into a kiss just as the first flash went off.

"Ready, Jeremy? Look surprised!" Alexa waited for the
countdown to near its end, then whispered into my ear, "I'm going
to suck your cock right here and now."

I certainly did not have to feign my surprise. The flash
illuminated the booth and caught me wide-eyed and open-mouthed.

"Ha! Gotcha!" Alexa joked as I pulled her close for the third
and final photograph. We both smiled, or at least I thought we
did. When the pictures developed and dropped from the device's
slot, the third photograph revealed Alexa looking over at me like
I was everything she had ever dreamed of.

"Wow, I love you," was all I could say as the second copy then
fell from the machine.

"How could you not?" she squealed, full of happiness. "I
mean..." Alexa held the pictures up. "Look how adorable I am."

She and I each took our copy of the film strips. I folded mine
in half and placed it into my shirt pocket for sake keeping.
Alexa slipped hers into her purse. That purse had to be cavernous.
She had so much useless junk in it; it was unbelievable.

"Do you mind if we stop at the _Hallmark_ store? I want to get
a few things." Alexa reached for my hand and guided me toward a
display of 2018 calendars. She picked one up and rifled through
its pages, then another, and then a third. I suppose it was never
too early to start shopping for calendars for the new year, even
though it was still a good seven months away.

I could never grow tired of watching Alexa, though. She wore
black spandex leggings that clutched her thighs and ass as if it
was a second skin and a matching pair of ankle-high boots with
spiked heels, and an oversized, comfortable black tank-top. It
was not one of her more expensive outfits, yet she looked like a
million bucks regardless. Alexa always did.

"What are you looking for specifically? You know that I prefer
a day-planner to a calendar. Think Merissa would like that?"

She smiled up at me. "This isn't for Merissa. It's for you."

"You know I won't use one of those calendars. I would probably
lose it and would definitely forget to write on it."

Alexa pressed her hand to my chest. "That's just what I was
thinking. Imagine that! So instead, let's get you one of these."
She picked up a small desk calendar, the type that were meant to
have the pages discarded at the end of each day.

"Why do I need that?"

"You're so busy and zeroed-in on your work sometimes, Jeremy,
that you forget important things. I know how very stressful and
overwhelming being a doctor is for you at times. How many times
have you forgotten a wedding anniversary for your sister, either
of your brothers? I bet you don't even know that Tom has a
birthday coming up soon." Tom? Janae's husband? Oh, that's
right; he DOES have a birthday coming up. "I'm thinking we could
put this little calendar by the bed and each night I could write
a little reminder like, _Tom's birthday in two weeks_ or, if you
have a conference coming up, _Go to cleaners for big meeting_."

I rolled my eyes in a knee-jerk reaction, which was a mistake.

Alexa angrily put the calendar back down on the display table.
"Forget it. I was just trying to help."

I pulled her against me and tried to right myself with honesty.
"I love the idea and I love you for thinking of it. You're right,
honey. My family's biggest complaint about me is that I always
forget things like that. I've been that way forever."

"At least you've never forgotten anything important involving
me or Merissa. If you do, though..." Alexa stifled a laugh,
then held her right hand up and made a fist, curling all four
fingers and her thumb in one at a time. "Pow!"

We paid for the calendar and went out to look at the mall's
directory. This mall had a _Yankee Candle Company_. Merissa
loved those things and the way they made the house smell...

"Lexi?"

I turned at the unfamiliar male voice and immediately tightened
my grip on Alexa's arm as a large, muscle-bound man approached.

Alexa pulled away from my grasp and hugged the man. "Jason,
hi! This is my husband, Jeremy. Jeremy, this is Jason. He does
personal training at the gym I used to work at. You remember my
friend, Mandy? Jason is married to her."

I shook his hand. "Nice to meet you, Jason."

"You as well. You must be a pretty good guy, Jeremy. Lexi
went on and on for years at work about you, how much she loves
you. I'm glad we've finally met." As I smiled, Jason turned
back toward Alexa. "So I haven't seen you since you got fired
from the fitness club, Lexi." FIRED? "It was awesome the way
you told Bryan off. So many people there want to do it, but you
were the first one to actually put him in his place. Even though
you don't work there anymore, everyone loves you for it."

Alexa was FIRED? She told Merissa and I that she quit her job.

My wife's eyes had already widened. She shot a worried glance
my way, then focused her attention back toward her friend. "What?
Tell everyone at the gym that I miss them and will be back in to
see them one day whenever Bryan loses his job." Her words fell
fast and shaky. "Hey, we've got to go. Tell Mandy that I'll give
her a call sometime next week so the three of can get together for
lunch." Alexa quickly bolted away, not even waiting for me.

I forced myself to push past the utter confusion simmering in
my mind. Alexa was FIRED? I came home on a Wednesday, just
two-and-a-half weeks ago, to the news that Bryan - Alexa's boss
at the health club - disrespected her verbally when she asked for
some personal time off. Bryan refused her request and called
Alexa a _whiny, little bitch_, my wife claimed, and she stormed
out as a result, quitting her job. But now I catch wind that
she was fired? FIRED?

"Nice to meet you, Jason," I said to the man. "Lexi seems to
like you. Thanks so much for being good to her over the years."

I eventually caught up to Alexa. She was a little ball of
fire, walking fast in the mall, her lips contorted into an
anxious, worried pout. "Let's try _Bath & Body Works_ down this
way. I bet we can find something nice for Merissa there."

"What did he mean about you being fired?" I flashed back to
the evening in question. Despite Merissa and I urging her to do
so, Alexa absolutely refused to call the district office for the
health club chain that she worked at and report Bryan for being
crass and disrespectful toward her. At the time, Alexa told us
that she did not want to be responsible for anyone losing their
job - even if it was the man who called her a _whiny, little bitch_.

"I don't know what he meant. Hey, look at this..."

"Lexi, we've always said no secrets, remember?" We entered
_Bath & Body Works_ and, as Alexa practically dashed toward the
back of the store, I reached out to grab her hand. "Lexi, honey.
Slow down, okay? Please, talk to me."

She stopped walking and then faced me with a look of pure and
total guilt. Alexa crossed her arms. Her chest rose and fell in
deep, anguished breaths. Suddenly, I understood.

"Okay. I wasn't exactly truthful about what happened that day
at the gym, okay?" She spoke quietly and held my gaze with a
distraught expression. I had never known her to lie to me before.

"What happened?" I reached for her hand, but Alexa shrugged me
off. A knee-jerk reaction on her part that I did not care for.

"Don't." She turned away from me. "Can we please just get the
gift for Merissa and talk about this when we're not in public?"

"Forget the gift. I don't care about the fucking gift." I was
trying to wrap my mind around the fact that Alexa had lied to not
only me, but Merissa as well. When Merissa was pregnant and
highly vulnerable, even. Just knowing that Alexa had somehow
been dishonest with us burned like fire. "Let's go talk now."

In the minivan, the silent tension thickened with every passing
moment as I drove us back toward Lake Quivira.

"Do you mind if we go someplace other than home to talk?"
Alexa asked in a soft, timid voice. "I don't want to upset
Merissa and plus, Michelle and Rick are there, too."

Though angry, I reached for her hand. "Sure. The park?"

She shrugged her shoulders and gulped her throat. "Someplace
where there isn't a million people, maybe?"

I actually did return to Lake Quivira, but parked the minivan
near a beach and walked along the beautiful shoreline with Alexa.
The sound of the water was peaceful and soothing, but not soothing
enough to quell my emotions and the turmoil I felt.

After seven years of being together, I knew by now that pushing
Alexa was not the answer. It was never the answer. She would come
clean and explain what happened when she was ready, on her own
terms. Despite everything, I respected that, walking silently
beside her. I draped an arm over her shoulder and did my best to
come across as being patient, but it was difficult.

A rocky trail led us into a small forest on the eastern side
of the lake. A breeze rustled the trees all around us and,
without a word, Alexa crossed the muddy clearing and sat down on a
large rock. I took a seat beside Alexa but did my best not to
allow her to see my eyes because I knew they would betray me and
she'd realize how badly hurt I was. I did not want that.

"I used to come here that summer when I first met you, Jeremy,
when I was staying with Uncle Kyle and Aunt Becky." She patted
the huge boulder underneath her. "This rock was my spot. I'm
glad you seem comfortable allowing me to talk here. I feel safe."

I put my arm around her. "You're safe, baby. I'm here with
you. You're always safe with me."

She nodded. "I know."

"Lexi..."

She turned sad eyes toward me and drew her shoulders back.

"I love you, honey."

She looked down at her hands and drew in a deep, ragged breath.
Her long hair completely shielded her face. "I know you do."

I lifted her chin. "Please, talk to me."

She nodded and dropped her eyes again, then looked out into the
forest. "You know I've had issues with Bryan since he became the
health club manager two years ago. I've never liked him, and not
many people I worked with liked him, either. I told you and
Merissa that, when I went to Bryan and asked for two weeks of
personal leave off, he got all mean and hateful toward me. I was
dead-set in getting time off of work so I could stay home for two
weeks and help take care of Merissa once Asher was born. That...
it was very, very important to me." She blinked at the tears
that dampened her eyes. "I even told you and Merissa that he
turned my time off request down, called me a bitch, and then
told me to stop crying and go back out and do my job."

I drew Alexa against me and kissed her temple. "Please tell
me what happened. The truth."

"The truth," she repeated, deciding then to sit silently for
several long, excruciating seconds, rubbing her hands together
and gazing out at nature. When Alexa finally spoke again, some
of the strength had returned to her voice.

"I asked for time off and Bryan did turn me down. I did not
handle it very well. But I was the one who got loud and unruly.
I started arguing with him. He asked why I would possibly need
two weeks off, all of a sudden, during one of our busiest times
of the year. I mean, I could not tell Bryan that my WIFE was
pregnant and she was about ready to give birth, right?" Alexa
shook her head and continued, "I got really angry when he kept
telling me no. So I... I called him a heartless pig, an asshole,
and he promptly fired me on the spot."

I did not know which was more shocking, knowing that Alexa had
spoke to her boss in such a vulgar manner or that she had lied to
Merissa and yours truly about it. We were under the impression
that she quit! "And thus the reason why you refused to call the
district manager and report Bryan, because even though he is not
the nicest boss, he did or said nothing wrong to you that day."

She nodded, still not meeting my gaze.

"Lexi, why didn't you tell us this? You went on all night
about how Bryan disrespected you, humiliated you, in front of
your friends and coworkers. Why didn't you tell us the..."

"Because that would have gone over really well," she said,
cutting me off. Alexa crossed her arms, uncrossed them, then
pushed from the boulder to her feet. "Oh, hey, how was your
day at work, Jeremy? Good, huh? Mine? Oh, I called my boss an
asshole and got fired for it. You would have been furious with
me, Jeremy, for being so stupid." She turned her back to me and I
quickly rose, placing my hands on her shoulders from behind.

"I wouldn't have been furious with you at all."

She scoffed. "Then you would have wanted to try and talk to
Bryan yourself, and fix it for me. That's what you do."

That, actually, was the truth. "Lexi..."

"I know we've always preached honesty in our marriage and I
always have been totally upfront and honest with you, Jeremy.
But don't you think this is a little different?" She turned to
face me and the determined look in her eyes was reminiscent of
the night back in 2010 when she told me at the bowling alley that
her Uncle Kyle and Aunt Becky, who she was staying with here in
Lake Quivira during summer break, did not approve of me or our
new-found relationship. Alexa turned her back on family members
in favor of me, telling me that her life was her own, and she
would not allow others - even her aunt and uncle - to make
decisions for her. It was her against the world at that point,
it seemed, and she bore that same look now.

"No, I don't. You don't pick and choose when to be honest."

She stomped her foot and threw a split-second hissy fit. "I
stormed out of the health club and got into my car, drove about
a mile, then pulled over and started crying! I started CRYING,
Jeremy. How could I have been so FUCKING STUPID to let my
emotions get the best of me, and go off on Bryan like that?"
Tears streamed down her cheeks. "I LOVED that job! Even if I
hated Bryan, I still loved working there! I did feel embarrassed
and humiliated, but it was MY OWN FUCKING FAULT!"

"Lexi, this isn't about the fact that you got emotional and
said something that you shouldn't. This is about trusting me,
trusting Merissa, with the truth. Were you ever going to tell
us the truth?" I seriously did not know what to think. I felt
hurt but, at the same time, I realized that was not her intent.

"Yes. Later. Much later."

"When? After you get your next job? When Cooper graduates
from high school? When I retire in 25 years? When would you
have come forth and told Merissa and I the truth, Lexi?"

"I don't know. I just know that this isn't a lie where I
cheated on you. I would never do that. It was not my intent to
hurt you or Merissa. I did what I felt I had to do." Alexa's eyes
welled with tears, but her voice was so bitter that I could not
tell if they were tears of anger or sadness. "I felt so stupid,
so mad at myself. So I came home and I... I saw Merissa. She
complained that her back hurt and Cooper and Madi were driving her
crazy that day. Merissa was so big, so pregnant, and I could tell
that she just gotten sick. She saw I was home early and asked
why. I did not want to upset her with my stupidity. I did not want
to upset you either, Jeremy! So I twisted the story around..."

"But I didn't do it to maliciously deceive you. Yet now that
we're talking about it, I realize that I am 100 percent at fault
in everything here, and I am NOT going to condone my actions or
make excuses for them. I've done something that you and I swore
we would never do to each other on our honeymoon six years ago.
I'm a liar, Jeremy. You're the best thing that ever happened to
me, and I flat-out, fucking lied to you." Her shoulders sagged.

Liar. Holy Christ. Liar. The word stung me just as badly as
I sensed it stung her. I reached for her hand, but she shrugged
away again. It was painful not to be able to hold her, feeling
like we were on opposite sides of an electrified chain-link fence
when all I wanted was her on my side, so I could comfort her.

"Okay, okay," I managed. "Let's both take a deep breath." I
scrubbed my face with my hands. There was so much that I needed
to know and understand. "Why the outburst? Why couldn't you
control your emotions and just tell Bryan you really needed that
time off? Speak to him like an adult?"

"You won't understand." Alexa sat back down on the rock.

"Try me."

She drew another uneven breath. "Because you own your own
business and can take off whenever you want, Jeremy. You just
DON'T KNOW how important it was for me to be able to stay home
and take care of Merissa for two weeks. Merissa is my WIFE! I
could not believe that Bryan told me no, so I snapped, I lost it."

"Merissa is my wife, too..."

"And you can take off whenever you damn well please if you want
to stay with her. When Cooper was born, _voilà_, you were off
from work and home, taking care of me. Madi, same thing, but with
Merissa. Asher, the same thing!"

"Now you're berating me for my job?"

"NO!" Alexa screeched back at me. "You just don't understand
what it's like! You want time off, you have no one to answer to.
You don't have a boss. You ARE the boss. You want time off?
You take it. But most people? Me, on the other hand? I had
Bryan, that self-centered, narcissistic PRICK! I spent two years
kissing his ass and doing his errands when deep down I HATED him.
And the ONE TIME I ask him for a favor, he shoots me down in an
instant. Without even allowing me to talk about it."

"I thought you weren't going to justify your actions."

Those words sent Alexa to her feet again. "I'm not. I'm just
trying to explain to you why I did what I did. I did what I had
to do and dammit, Jeremy, now I realize how immature I was and,
worst of all, I lied to you and Merissa about it."

The realization stung even more the second time around.

Alexa covered her face with both hands, but not before I saw a
fresh batch of tears stream down her face.

I pulled Alexa into my arms and refused to release her when
she half-heartedly attempted to shrug me off. "Oh, Lexi. I'm
not upset about anything you said to Bryan. I've met him before,
and he seemed all smug and crass. I just wish you would have told
me and Merissa the truth about what happened that day."

"Right." Alexa sniffed and wiped her tears. "So you could
have went there and tried to talk him into giving me my job back.
That's what you do, Jeremy. You try to fix everything. And in
the end, I would have felt even more humiliated going back to work
for him. And things would surely never have been the same."

"I wouldn't have done that, honey, unless you asked me to."

"And from now on," she sulked, "whenever I tell you something,
you're always going to wonder if it's the truth or not!"

"No," I assured her. "No. This was an isolated incident. Do
not give me a reason to ever doubt you again, Lexi. Just tell me
the truth from now on. No matter how bad it is, how bad it may
make you look personally, if you tell me the truth, I will always
support you 100 percent, without question." I pressed my lips to
her forehead and ended, "I've always supported you."

Alexa closed her eyes and I held her close, feeling her heart
thumping against mine. I knew how difficult this was for her.
She wore her pride like armor and to have this secret revealed -
a secret that she felt may make me horribly upset and perhaps
even change the way I look at her - explained her actions.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you or Merissa. I was so worried that
you would be angry and Merissa would have gotten upset. I... I
didn't want Merissa to get upset at me. Not at the very end of
her pregnancy. She had enough stuff going on."

"I just want you to tell me the truth from now on, Lexi, like
you and I have always done with each other. Just be totally
upfront and honest about everything. Whatever it is, we will
work through it together. Me, you, Merissa. We're a team."

When I drew back and tried to look into her eyes, Alexa fisted
my shirt and pressed her cheek into my chest. "Don't look at me.
Just hold me. Please just hold me." She began crying gently.
"I have to tell M-Merissa later tonight that I lied to her..."

The truth.

It was what I preached and strived for in our marriage, correct?
I always felt that no one could ever go wrong as long as they told
the truth. Those values were instilled in me at a very early age.
Even the most minor lie, I thought, would always come back to bite
you in the end (case in point: Alexa).

Yet I also stressed how important it was to be upfront. I
ALWAYS told Alexa and Merissa if it mattered at all, even remotely,
bring it forward, let's discuss it. That was my philosophy. It
was a major reason why the three of us had lived in harmony for
the most part since 2014 with zero jealousy, zero drama. If there
were any issues or complaints, even minor ones, they were brought
out into the open (by being completely honest) and then solved.

As I held my sniffling wife in the forest, I realized something.

_I_ had not been totally honest, or rather upfront, lately
with both Alexa and Merissa, either.

I harkened back to the morning of Friday, April 28, 2017, one
day following the funeral of my father. I woke up in a cold,
blistering sweat, having just been visited by Dad. He shared
many things from the other side of the grave that particular
morning, most notably that Alexa and I would have a daughter
named Brooklyn next summer. Not only that, but Dad also asked
me to tell Merissa that her own father - who died in 1999 - was
proud of her. He loved Merissa so much, Dad informed me, and
basically watched over her like a guardian angel every day.
Dad had met Merissa's father... in Heaven.

At first, I thought it was a dream. But it felt so damn
real, and soon I began to have doubts that it was a dream. It
seriously did happen. I became more and more convinced that it
was real; an actual, spiritual visitation. Those thoughts were
solidified on May 14 when, during a drive home from the state
park in Lawrence, Alexa and I talked about the possibility of
someday having a second child together. Alexa wanted a girl.
Without ever having spoke about this with her before, I then
asked Alexa if there was a particular name that she preferred.

"I've always thought the name Brooklyn was pretty."

I had held news of that ethereal meeting, or that dream, that
hallucination - whatever the hell it was - to myself for five
weeks now, and counting. I convinced myself that it would be
best to wait to tell both of my wives in due time, once Asher
was born. It was for Merissa's own good, right? I did not want
to make mention of Merissa's father in such a manner and then
have her go off the deep end on me in an emotional rage at eight
or nine months pregnant. Trust me, that would have happened.

Just like Alexa chose to keep the truth from us about her job,
in part because she did want to stir the pregnant pot.

If I truly believe that Dad somehow visited me - and trust me,
I did believe it - then I had known for over five weeks now that
Alexa and I were going to have a daughter next summer, and her
name would be Brooklyn. Didn't Alexa deserve to know that, too?
I was not some crazy person who believed in spooks and ghosts,
but I know what I saw that morning. I know what I felt. FUCK!
I even told my good friend Mike the news, albeit vaguely.

Alexa had lied to Merissa and yours truly about what really
happened at her final day on the job, but seemed intent on
making amends for it now. I would not say that I blasted her for
lying, but I was not happy at all, and definitely let her know it.

Yet in not being forthcoming to my wives with what I felt was a
monumental thing - a visit from my deceased father - and keeping
it bottled up inside of me for over five weeks, I now realized
that my transgression was a hundreds times worse than Alexa's...


<<<- End of Chapter 18 ->>>


==---- -- -- -- - --- -- -- - - --- -- -- --- - -- - - - - --- -- ----==
"Recollections"

(c) 2017 Kaadorix

Feedback is always appreciated!
1 comments

KaadorixReport

2017-08-29 18:23:52
Three more chapters to go before the story ends!

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