Healing Hands of Time
Chapter 4

Copyright© 2010 by Joe J

Lindsey had given it to me with both barrels, so I left Chez Henri with my head hung low. Suddenly, Lindsey's blunt honesty wasn't nearly as refreshing as it used to be. To make my day even worse, the midday sun reinvigorated my hangover. I just made it out of the front door when my stomach clinched up and I deposited pink piles of Mister Henri's luncheon special all over the parking lot. After a couple of violent heaves, a kindly looking older couple stopped and asked me if I was okay. I grimaced and replied.

"I'll be fine, but do yourselves a favor and don't eat the poached Salmon."

Strangely, after I regurgitated seventy-five dollars worth of fish, I felt much better. I felt so good in fact, that I was in the right lane well in advance of Maybelline's. The thought of some 'hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-me', sounded like just the ticket to make my recovery complete. Five minutes later, I strolled through the door of the bar as if I owned the joint.

Twyla, the older lady bartender, shot me a smile as I walked through the door. I'm guessing the twenty dollar tip I gave her yesterday had something to do with that. My cheeks had barely hit the seat of my newly favorite barstool, than she was sliding a shot glass of JD and a tumbler of ice water in front of me.

"Here you go Sweetie, first one's on the house," she cooed.

Man, I loved this place; I was getting the same treatment as Norm on Cheers after only one visit.

That first drink wasn't going down as smoothly as the ones from the night before, so I thought I'd better put something in my stomach first. I looked behind the bar at my choices and liked them all, so I ordered a Slim Jim, two pickled eggs and bag of red hot pork rinds. Twyla brought over my loot and leaned way over to serve me. I obliged her and took a lingering look down her décolletage as a couple of buttons on her blouse seemed to have accidentally come undone. I handed her a twenty and waved her away in appreciation. The food, ambiance, and especially the company, was much better here than at Chez Henri, I decided.

Thankfully, I learned my lesson the evening before and forswore the doubles. Instead, I had a neat little row of three shot glasses lined up in front of me. I was on my second shot when my cell phone rang; the display said it was Mitzi, so I dumped the call into voice mail. I didn't especially feel like having Mitzi chewing on my hiney right then. Mitzi called back about a minute later, but I dumped that call too, then I shut off my phone for good measure.

Since there were no sporting events showing on the television, I bought myself three dollars worth of tokens and wandered over to the juke box. Man, the fella who stocked that juke must have been in the same boat as me, because I swear, every sad or cheating country song in history was on the damned thing. I had so many choices, that in the end, I just punched C-7, six times in a row. I had to smile when George Jones started singing 'He Stopped Loving Her Today' just for me.

Some grumbling started among the other patrons at the bar when George started the song for the third straight time, but I stood the bar a round and soon everyone was soulfully singing along with me and Old George. The tender must have opened up a better bottle of Jack for today too, because after four single shots, I was feeling no pain.

I was on my fifth shot and had just fired up a Hav-a-Tampa stogie my new best friend Joe gave me, when my other new best friend Cindy perched her butt on my knee. I was about to ask Cindy if she wanted to dance when the door flew open and Dakota Morrison stepped through it. She let her eyes adjust to the dim smoky interior then made a beeline down to where I sat.

She stopped about a foot in front of me and folded her arms across her chest. Her eyes were squeezed down to little slits just like her mother's did when she was angry. The expression would have been cute if it weren't so frightening.

"Get your skanky ass off my man, Ho," Dakota snarled at the lovely and innocent Cindy.

Cindy jumped about a foot straight up and then she and Joe promptly vanished. Friendship was a fleeting thing at Maybelline's. I gave Dakota my second most winning smile.

"Hi Honey, sit down and join me," I said jovially.

I guess my disarming boyish smile didn't do anything for her. She shook her head and motioned towards the door.

"I don't think so." she said. "How about you go home with me instead?"

Well I'd had about enough of women deciding what I should or should do for one day, so I shook my head.

"Not going to happen, Sweet Cheeks. I'm happy here," I replied, jovial suddenly replaced by surly.

She looked at me a few seconds then her face broke into an evil grin.

"Okay, if that's the way you want it..."

Her hand shot out and she grabbed one of the shot glasses of Jack and before I could blink, she had downed it. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand then she reached down, grabbed the hem of her t-shirt, and yanked it over her head. She twirled the shirt around her head and tossed it on the floor. My eyes zoomed in on her softball-sized breasts fetchingly encased in a crimson lace bra. She smirked at me and dropped her hands down to the front of her Levis, her intent obvious.

"Stop, stop," I yelled, holding up my hands like a loony traffic cop.

"Don't listen to him Baby," some barfly hooted.

She popped the snap on her jeans and grabbed the tab of the zipper. I could distinctly hear each separate tooth of that brass zipper detach itself from its mate. She ran the zipper down far enough to where I could see that her panties matched the bra before she looked me in the eye again.

"Make up your mind Fuller, either come with me or explain to the police how you ended up here with a drunk, naked, underage girl."

I caved of course, thoroughly cowed by, and thoroughly impressed with, Dakota's pluck. I took off my sports coat and wrapped it around her slender shoulders, ran over and picked up the t-shirt where she tossed it, and followed her out the door. The bright sun and fresh air sobered me up in a hurry.

Dakota drove me to my parents' house and pulled into the driveway extension behind my truck. It wasn't until I was looking at the tailgate of my crew cab Super Duty that I even remembered I had driven it to the bar.

"How did that get here?" I asked. "And how in the hell did you find me so fast today?"

"Dallas drove your truck here so you wouldn't be tempted to drive it drunk. She used the set of keys from the office. Mom knew where you were because she had the GPS of your Nextel turned on this morning."

I muttered something under my breath about Mitzi interfering with my fun as I unfastened my seatbelt. I flung off the seat belt, hopped out of Dakota's Jeep and headed for the door. I turned around to tell her goodbye, only to find her right behind me. I gave her a look and she pointed to my sports coat that was hanging comically off her.

"I need to change and give you this back," she said, her tone of voice that slightly exasperated one you use when explaining something to an elderly addled relative living in a nursing home.

I sighed and slipped my key into the deadbolt. I was fast learning that Dakota Morrison was a five foot three, hundred-ten pound force of nature.

Once we were in my room, Dakota shrugged off my coat and hung it in my closet. She looked dubiously at the t-shirt she'd been wearing and tossed it towards my dirty clothes hamper.

"You made me get yuck on my shirt," she said accusingly, "so you need to wash it and loan me one of yours."

I swear I really, really tried to be a gentleman and not ogle her breasts, but she seemed so unconcerned about showing them that I finally gave up the attempt. Yeah, Dakota was one well built young woman, she even had that six pack ab thing going on, and her butt in her jeans was phenomenal. Hey, I was heartbroken, but I wasn't dead. She finally fished an old faded and shrunken AC/DC concert shirt out of my drawer and shrugged into it.

"Okay, if you are through staring at my boobs, let's go find my sister so we can get home and start dinner," she said saucily.

I should have felt guilty for ogling her, but I guess the Jack Daniels was still doing the thinking for me.

"I wasn't just looking at your boobs," I said uncontritely. "I was looking at your butt, too."

Dakota finished smoothing back her thick brown hair and readjusted the scrunchy that held it in a ponytail before putting her hands on her hips and giving me a look.

"If you stopped acting so stupid I'd let you look at my body anytime you wanted," she said matter-of-factly.

That Tuesday afternoon trip to Maybelline's was the last time I tried to drown my sorrows in alcohol. I had pretty much already made the decision when I showed up at the office Wednesday morning. The decision was set in concrete when Mitzi jumped my ass as soon as I arrived. Mitzi Morrison was never one to mince words.

"You need to man up Josh, because I don't like this chicken-shit version of you," she snapped.

So instead of drinking to forget my pain, I worked to distract myself from it. I took more work from other builders and traveled more for Weaver-Wilson. Putting in seven day weeks helped, as did working late into the evening. But no matter how busy I stayed, I still found ample time to pine for my estranged wife. Yes I know it was foolish to yearn for someone who clearly didn't want me, but I couldn't just turn off my love for Lindsey as if it were a faucet. Her hurtful words had bruised my love for her, but they hadn't killed it.

Because I stubbornly refused to sign the papers, Lindsey had to take me to court. A deputy delivered me a summons that stipulated I appear before a family court judge to resolve the impasse. I sat at my desk after signing for the summons and read it through. It was while looking at the dates that I saw the family court hearing was for six weeks after the date on the original papers, instead of the date of the paperwork with the settlement changes I'd requested.

Just to be a dick about it, I went down to the clerk of the court and made them set the hearing back three days. That turned out to be a lucky break for me, because instead of Sonia Peoples' hand picked jurist, we ended up before a fill-in circuit court judge with a light case load that day. The judge's name was Will Hawkins; he was something of a maverick, and known to be merciless on lawyers if he caught them short.

We met in Judge Hawkins's chambers at nine in the morning. Hawkins's assistant sat us at a conference table, with me on one side, and Lindsey, Sonia and Amber on the other. We stood up when Hawkins swept into the room and sat down at the head of the table. Hawkins was a small wiry man with a prominent hooked nose and penetrating dark eyes. He looked like a tough little SOB.

Hawkins flipped open our file and scanned the first page, then cut his eyes towards me.

"This says you are representing yourself, Mister Fuller. Do you think that wise?"

When I receive the summons, I decided that I was going to tell it like it was in court. Granted, I wasn't a lawyer, but I did know how to tell the truth.

"Probably not, Your Honor, but my wife works for Crossman, Fielding and Blakemore, and they have a battalion of high-priced mouth pieces over there. Who could I afford to hire that could compete with that?"

The judge laughed and nodded his head in agreement.

"Good point," he said.

Hawkins read a few more pages of the file then looked up at me again.

"This all seems rather routine, Mister Fuller, and there is nothing here to keep the divorce from moving forward, so why are you refusing to sign?"

I took a centering breath and gave him my reason.

"I didn't sign anything, because I don't want a divorce. I didn't know Lindsey wanted one either, until she had me served. Not one word about divorce or separation was ever mentioned between us. I love my wife and I want a chance for us to work out our differences and stay married. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen."

I'd like to think that Hawkins heard the certainty in my voice, but for whatever reason, he looked at me thoughtfully for a few seconds and then swung his gaze to Lindsey.

"Missus Fuller, your husband seems to love you and there is nothing in your filing that indicates any sort of abuse. You both have good earning potential, so money is obviously not a problem, so exactly why do you want to divorce him?"

Sonia jumped in before Lindsey could answer.

"Your Honor, Missus Fuller's reasons are not germane to her filing, past the irreconcilable differences listed on her petition. The statutes are quite clear on that. Our filing is correct and complete and we have agreed to all of Mister Fuller's changes to the proposed settlement, so it's time to move this case onto the docket for dissolution."

Judge Hawkins skewered Sonia with his intense gaze but nodded his head, as if in agreement with her.

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