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ROAD TO REDEMPTION

PART ONE OF TWO

ROCKY ROAD

PROLOGUE

I was sitting in a bar, a British-themed pub, drinking a Bass Ale, minding my own business, which currently involved sitting in a bar drinking beer, when the woman sitting a stool away from me felt the need to engage me in conversation.

“You must come here a lot,” she remarked.

I would have ignored her, but I still had enough remaining social grace to know that would be rude.

“Why do you say that?” was my snappy retort.

“Well, honey, I noticed the bartender poured your beer without asking what you wanted.”

I wanted to respond, “He didn’t pour it. It is on tap and you don’t ‘pour’ from a tap, you ‘draw’ from a tap.” But didn’t.

“Yeah, I come here sometimes,” I answered, continuing my edgy repartee.

“What are you drinking,” she continued, obviously determined to chat me up.

“Bass Ale.”

“Oh, I’ve never tried it. Is it pretty good?”

“No, but it costs more than Bud, and I like to be pretentious,” I didn’t say.

“I like it,” I responded out of politeness, and I really wanted to stop there, but again, playing nice, I asked, “What are you drinking?”

“Miller Light,” she answered.

“Oh, you like mouthwash,” I didn’t remark, but just nodded.

And if you drink Miller Light, don’t be offended. I was kidding. Most mouthwashes are stronger and taste better, so it isn’t really mouthwash.

Fortunately, before she could formulate her next conversational gem, a loud conflict broke out about four stools down and garnered her attention.

I didn’t look, but it was obviously a man and a woman having a minor disagreement.

“You fucking bitch, I’m not gonna tell you again, I’m not signing your fucking papers!”

“Damn you, Tom, you have to and you know it!”

“The hell I do!”

“You cheating bastard, I’ll take you to court and I won’t be so nice…”

SMACK!

Well, shit. At least it would get me out of this conversation.

I heard the woman yelp, the bar stool clatter and the woman hit the floor with a thud.

I came off my stool and headed towards the guy standing over the woman.

“Not nice, dickhead,” I said ever so politely and loud enough to get his attention.

The guy whipped around, stabbed a hand towards me and grabbed my shirt. He should have hit me.

I’m 6-foot tall and a massive 190 pounds, and he was barely four inches taller and probably only 40 pounds heavier, so he misjudged. Kidding aside, he made a serious tactical error.

When he grabbed my shirt, I dropped my weight, bending at the knees, fisted my hands together, and chopped down on his arm with all the force I could, which had the effect of pulling him towards me and off balance. Immediately, I uncoiled my legs, tucked my chin and thrust upward as hard as I could, headbutting him in the face.

He rocked back and his hands immediately went to his shattered nose, which was already gushing blood. I took the opportunity to knuckle-punch him in the throat and he dropped to the floor like the sack of shit that he was, now clutching his throat and trying to suck air in through his ears since his nose and throat weren’t working too well.

I stepped over him and helped the woman up. The left side of her face had a distinct handprint, was already swelling and blood was trickling from her left nostril. He hit her hard. She was blinking tears from her eyes because of the slap, but she wasn’t actually crying. I knew two things: The sack of shit was right-handed, and the woman was pretty tough.

“Thank you,” she said calmly.

I replied, “Your welcome. And your husband’s a sack of shit.”

“Yes, he is, and a cheating bastard…and a cop.”

“Oh, hmm, my lucky day I guess,” I replied — couldn’t think of anything else to say.

I didn’t have to worry about what to say to next. The bartender, Sully, had dialed 911 as soon as the yelling started. Good bartender. Some don’t call until a stool is broken. The police arrived, post haste.

“Sir, face down on the floor and hands behind your back!”

Yep, not much to say to that. I assumed the position.

Long prologue short, I ended up in jail for aggravated assault. But that’s not where this story begins.

INTRODUCTION

My name is Nicholas, and as I said, I’m 6-foot tall and weigh 190. And while I don’t have a classic ‘V’-shaped torso, or washboard abs, I’m solidly built — stout, I guess. I’m no Adonis, either, but children don’t run screaming when they see me. Well, some do, but that’s because of the dirty looks I give them and the mean things I say.

Don’t get me wrong, I love kids — just not if I have to interact with them. Anyhow, I’m 38; I still have all my ‘dirty-dishwater blond’ hair, which I keep trimmed up; I have blue eyes that don’t sparkle and no one has ever referred to them as bedroom eyes; my nose is a little crooked — broken in a fight — yeah, imagine that; and I’m mostly clean-shaven. I say mostly because yalova escort my razor only seems to work when I decide to use it.

I used to be younger, smarter and more successful. Time took care of the younger, a tendency to repeat the same stupid mistakes, took care of the ‘smarter’. My ex-wife took care of the ‘successful’. Okay, maybe I had something to do with it, but I’m blaming her. I owned a construction company, designed and built custom homes, and was very good at it, so, yes, pretty successful. But on the husband front, far less so. Frankly, I was lousy at it. But at least I was faithful.

When the cheating bitch left me…okay maybe I shouldn’t have called her a ‘bitch’ — maybe ‘slut’ would have been more appropriate — anyway, when she left, I lost my marbles, my business, and a lot of my money. Fortunately, I didn’t have her name on all my accounts, so the greedy bitch didn’t get all of it, when she emptied the others.

So, I can still afford to buy beer, get in fights, and get arrested.

Anyhow, four years later, I’m still bitter, have a crappy attitude, and don’t do much to make myself more appealing to the opposite sex; therefore, I get a lot of the opposite of sex from the opposite sex, as in no sex. Is that a convoluted sentence? Whatever. I guess I could have tried going gay, but I would probably appeal to them even less, and I’m a bit put off by the whole ‘dick in ass’ thing. Hell, I don’t even like to poop.

Now that you’re captivated by my abundance of character, charm and personality, I’ll proceed with my story, which begins about a year before the bar fight.

STORY

I. ALMOST

After my divorce and losing almost everything — they seem to go hand in hand — I tried to start life anew, including looking for love — mostly in all the wrong places. I don’t know where else you’re supposed to look. You tell me, where are the right places? Church socials? I think you have to go to church first…and be sociable.

Anyway, I can be charming if I try, I’m not that bad looking, and I can dance; so, I would mostly go to clubs to look for warm bodies, which I found — surprisingly, lots of them. Yeah, I pretty much nailed any gal with a heartbeat that was prettier than the coyote on Roadrunner. I said that because I thought it sounded funny.

I actually do have standards: No married women — not a moral thing, I just don’t want to get shot; no stuck-up gals; no Mensa candidates — I can’t deal with a woman who can’t carry on a semi-intelligent conversation; no ‘sweet young things’ — they have to be old enough to relate to my world experience, like totally; no dogs — they have to be prettier than me; no double-stoolers — a little extra weight doesn’t put me off, but I have limits. Even with those high standards (sarcasm), I still got a lot of action.

Until I met Andrea — beautiful, smart, single, 5′-3″ and 120 pounds — a true blue-eyed, blond-haired angel with a lovely figure; and I was all in, no more whoring. We hit it off immediately. We connected on an emotional and intellectual level. Previous descriptions aside, I do possess an intellect — I just choose not to flaunt it.

I met Andrea at a local club I was trolling, I mean frequenting. We met, we danced, we clicked. We exchanged phone numbers; I promptly lost hers, but I had made enough of an impression that she looked me up and our romance started.

That was almost a year ago, and it was the first glimmer of hope I’d had since my divorce over three years earlier. I can’t stress enough how well we clicked.

So, what happened? Well, three months into our relationship, she broached the subject of marriage. Honestly, I was thrilled. We were meant for each other.

“Nick, I think we need to talk. I’m falling in love with you. But I want to be sure I know where we’re headed before I commit everything to us.”

“I fully appreciate that, Andrea. You know my history and I don’t want to go through that again.”

“Well, the only thing we haven’t really dealt with is my religion, which I am devoted to. If we are going to be together, get married, then you will have to join my church.”

Hear the screeching tires as the brakes lock up?

Prior to this, I had discerned that she was religious, but she had not mentioned what church she belonged to, and I could have found myself agreeing to make that change in my life for her — I do believe in God, just never devoted myself; but when I found out what her church was, I knew I couldn’t do it. I could have tried, or pretended, so I wouldn’t lose her. But besides having an intellect, believe it or not — questionable behavior aside — I do have morals and values, and I couldn’t join her church.

“It hurts to say this, Andrea, but I don’t believe as you do. I can’t commit to that.”

My heart sank as I spoke those words, because I knew her character and values would not allow her to compromise on this issue. So, we parted friends.

I promptly went into the proverbial shitter. My fragile yalova escort bayan emotional state couldn’t handle it. I finally had a second chance at a life, and it was taken away in a fleeting second.

So, I quit trying; quit trying to find happiness, find Miss Right, or even Miss Wrong. I immersed myself in my work, construction, and I became the worst version of myself. At least, I hope it was the worst. I don’t want to imagine a more pathetic version.

The upside: I wasn’t going out all the time, drinking, blowing money and whoring. Over the last ten months, I had regained my health and vigor, and put some money away.

The downside: I became fairly anti-social, was lonelier than ever, and had no hopes or plans for the future. To say I was in a rut would be an understatement — get up; go to work; go to the bar (I still drank, but within reason); go home; watch tv; go to bed; wake up; repeat. I spent almost a year that way, until I tried a new experience — jail.

Well, not entirely new. When I was younger, I’d had that experience a few times — nothing serious: Aggravated assault; reckless driving; aggravated assault; public intoxication; aggravated assault…

Might be a pattern there…

II. DOING TIME

Okay, I didn’t really do time. But I was locked up for four days — with some of the most amazing, interesting and remarkable lowlife shitbags I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a cell with.

Honestly, I didn’t know how things were going to go. I didn’t have a lawyer. I didn’t want to get a lawyer, and the cop was pressing charges. And apparently the docket was full, because, after four days, I still hadn’t been before a judge; not that I figured that would go well, having assaulted a cop. So, I had the aforementioned days of free lodging and meals.

However, the evening of my fourth day, the turn-key came, opened the cell and told me I was free to go, just follow him to sign for my belongings. He wasn’t pleasant, and I felt he was being more unpleasant than his normally unpleasant self. I guess when you assault a cop, other cops take it personal.

At this juncture, let me clarify: I have the greatest respect for the men and women in blue; and I had never assaulted an officer before this; and in fairness to me, I didn’t know he was a cop, just a sack of shit, wife beater.

As he led me down the corridor to check-out, I asked, “Did somebody post my bail?”

“Nope, the charges were dropped.”

I sensed he didn’t agree with that development. And I couldn’t believe it, myself.

“You’re shittin’ me.”

“Watch your mouth, or I’ll find a reason to put you back in lock-up.”

I promptly shut up.

We stopped at the check-out window. “Here’s your stuff. Check and make sure everything’s accounted for and sign. Then you’re free to go.”

As I exited through the locking door that separated the holding cells from the station, the desk sergeant hailed me, “Hey, there’s a lady waiting for you in the lobby.”

“Uh, you got the wrong guy,” I replied as I passed by. I knew there was no lady waiting for me. I didn’t know any ladies, or any non-ladies, for that matter.

“No, you’re the right guy. You’re the one who assaulted our officer.”

“I fit the description, but what’s that got to do with it?” I countered.

“The lady is Tom’s wife. Tom’s the one you sucker-punched,” he snidely replied.

“Sure, that’s how it happened,” I said as I headed to the lobby.

When I entered, I recognized the woman I had helped. And she recognized me, rising to greet me as soon as she saw me.

“Hi, Nicholas, right?”

“Yes. I’m sorry, I don’t know your name, but I do remember you. You okay?” I asked.

Honestly, I didn’t remember her that well. It was dark in the pub and I only got to speak to her for a few seconds, before I got familiar with their parquet floor. And except for the remaining bruise on her left cheek and the faint splotch around her eye, she had an angelic face. She was tall and slender, though her raincoat hid most of her.

She approached me, hand out, “Yes, I’m fine, just a little bruised up. I’m Celia, and I wanted to be sure I got to thank you again for helping me. I’m sorry you were arrested and had to sit in jail so long.”

“No worries. Free room and board…” At that moment, I realized I was wearing the same clothes I had on when arrested and that I hadn’t had a shower in four days. So, crap, I’m meeting this gorgeous woman and I smell and look like a sack of her husband or ex-husband.

After a brief pause, I quickly acknowledged the state I was in, “…Oh, sorry about my appearance, and I may smell none too fresh. Apparently, showers and a supplemental wardrobe were not included in my vacation package,” I joked.

She laughed, “Well, I am sorry you had to go through this and I would like to offer you a ride to your car, but…”

“Not a problem. I’m fine. I’ll catch a cab to the pub and pick it up.”

She explained, “I think you misunderstand. I was going to say, escort yalova I can’t take you to pick up your car because it’s too late, today. It’s at the impound lot and they’re closed already. But I would be happy to take you wherever you wish.”

“Thank you…Why did they impound it? The pub would have been okay with it there.”

“To see if they could find anything in it to warrant additional charges,” Celia explained, “and because they could. In their eyes, you assaulted one of their own, so they’ll do whatever they can to screw with you. You should have been able to go before a judge and post bail much sooner. But I know they ‘lost’ your paperwork a couple times.”

“Well, I’ll be fine. I’ll get a cab…”

“No, I insist. Where can I take you?”

“That’s very nice of you, Celia. You could drop me at home.”

“Home it is.”

I added, “However, if you have a drop cloth in your car, or a tarp, you may want to cover your seat.”

She laughed, “I’m surprised your sense of humor is still intact after all this.”

She led me to her car, a late model, silver-gray Lexus LX 600 SUV. I mused, “Cops must get paid better than I thought, or this woman is loaded.”

We got in and I gave her directions to my house, then asked why the charges against me were dropped.

“Yes, I do. As you know, my husband is a police officer. I threatened to file assault charges against him. The police department would have suspended him for alleged spouse abuse, pending a hearing. He could have lost his job. And I threatened him with a lawsuit for the battery and physical and emotional damages, and he would have lost.

However, I agreed to drop the charges and forego the lawsuit if he signed the divorce papers and dropped charges against you.”

She gave a sly smile, “He acquiesced.”

“Well, now I owe you a debt of gratitude I don’t think I can repay. You saved my bacon.”

“You are most welcome, and you know what?” she grinned, “They suspended him anyway, and he is going before a review board. Anyway, the bastard is getting what he deserves. I hope they fire his ass!” she concluded, emphatically.

“Well, that would be appropriate, but won’t that make it hard for you to collect alimony from him?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m not getting alimony. I don’t want a dime from him. I have my own money.”

“Oh, well then, I hope they fire the jerk, too!” I remarked.

She laughed as she turned onto my street. I directed her to my house and had her pull into the drive.

As I opened the car door, I said, “Well, I would invite you in for a drink, but in my present condition…”

“Thank you, Nicholas. After today, I could use a drink. No Missus, at home, is there?”

“Nope, divorced.”

“Well, if your invitation stands, I could make drinks and you could freshen up?”

For the second time today, I was surprised. I tried not to show it, “Oh, um, the invitation stands. And I guess I’ll freshen up. Oh, what would you like? I have beer, wine, tequila and some Courvoisier.”

“Wine would be fine…unless you have what it takes to make margaritas?”

“I have the makings,” I replied.

She smiled and turned off the engine.

I let us in, and was thankful my house was in better shape than I was. She asked where the kitchen was, that she would get to work on the drinks.

I got her set up and excused myself to shower.

“Nicholas,” she called to me as I headed down the hall.

“Yes?”

She chuckled, “You might want to burn those clothes.”

I replied, “I was going to put them back on.”

“You’ll be drinking by yourself…” she countered as I entered my bedroom.

I took a quick shower, slipped on jeans and a pullover and went out to check on Celia. She was sitting on the divan in the living room, sipping a margarita on the rocks and a drink was sitting on the coffee table, waiting for me.

Celia had removed her coat and for the third time today, I was surprised, in fact, left breathless. She was stunning in a long, mauve pencil dress, slit at the knee. It clung to her svelte body, showing every curve of her lithe frame. I tried not to stare.

“Well, you cleaned up nice, and you smell infinitely better,” she remarked, grinning. I like your cologne. What is it, may I ask?”

“Armani, I think. My last serious girlfriend got it for me,” I answered as I sat.

I reached for the drink and took a sip. “Wow, I’m impressed,” I said. I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to margaritas and think I make the best, but this was damn good.

“Thank you,” she replied, looking around, “You know, Nicholas, I’m also impressed. For a bachelor’s place, your home is very nice. Your décor, everything — well put together, very well laid out, great color scheme. If I didn’t know better, I’d think there was a Mrs. Nicholas. Don’t get me wrong, it just looks like there’s a woman’s touch.”

“Nope. In fact, you’re the first woman to be in this house since I bought it.”

She was taken aback, “You’re having me on, now.”

“No. Um, I’ve been out of circulation for a while.”

“Well, I’m surprised by that, as much as I’m surprised by how well done your home is.”

“Actually, I was a home designer and builder and have a knack for this stuff.”

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