The Domination of Mister Mike
By Karen Singer
I got the job! I had really wanted to move somewhere else – to an entirely new city. Someplace far, far away. But I got the job, with a different bank, working on the other side of my same town. I put in my two weeks’ notice, and soon started driving across town to my new bank. My new job. My new office. Assistant manager in charge of all mortgages. It was a big promotion for me. And the best part, a lot more money!
My new beard had grown in and I thought it made me look good. More masculine. Just what I really didn’t want. But hey, I needed it to hide who I used to be.
As soon as I had landed the job, I put my house up for sale. Yes, I have no doubt that all the neighbors were extremely happy about that. I expected to hear something about it, or about Ashley, from Chris next door, but he never showed up. I never saw him. Good! I didn’t need his kind of complication in my life, and I’d just as soon never hear about Ashley again.
Through the new bank where I worked I learned about an older house that had gone into foreclosure when the elderly owner had died. I scouted it out. It was a lot bigger than I wanted, and quite a fixer-upper project. It had two stories, four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and a leaky roof. Basically, the entire place was old and worn out. But hey, I lived alone. If I could fix it up, I could sell it in a few years and probably make a lot of money on it. I wasn’t that great at that kind of carpentry…yet, but I had no doubt I could learn to do the work, and I would probably enjoy it. My first job to tackle though was going to be a big new workshop out in the backyard. I hadn’t even bought the house yet, and I was already looking forward to that project.
The price on the house was cheap. Very cheap. I put out the word at the bank that I would top any offer that came in for it. Two hours later, I got a phone call telling me the house was mine if I wanted it…for the price of what had been remaining of the current mortgage…plus more than a few administrative fees. Overall, it was a major bargain. I now had two houses to pay for. I really hoped my old house would sell – fast!
My life was transitioning. A new beard to give me a new look. A new job with more money. And a new house…well a different house. Much bigger. It just needed a lot of work.
And at the same time, my life wasn’t transitioning. Even though I had moved most of my “toys” to a storage unit in town while I was trying to sell my old house, my daily thoughts and the websites I visited were still the same old ones I had gone to day in and day out before I met Ashley. And more often than I liked, I still thought about that warm soft cuddly body curled up next to me in bed. I was pretty sure I would never forget Ashley…or her mother…for as long as I lived. Even though I really wanted to forget them.
The big changes in my life were taking place…while all the little things I wished I could change didn’t.
My old house finally sold a month after I put it on the market. I didn’t make any money on it, but I didn’t lose any either. I was mostly just glad that I would be out from under it and wouldn’t have to pay on two houses at the same time. I was also glad because it sold just before I was ready to move into my new…older house.
The Friday after my house sold, I came home from work, intent on starting to pack some of my things up to move them to my new house. As I drove up to the house, I was startled to see Joanna’s car in the driveway. I was also startled to see Ashley sitting on my front porch. What was she doing there? I pulled around her car and pulled into my garage like I always did. By the time I got out of my car, Ashley was standing at the entrance to the garage. She looked…sad.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
She shrugged. “You never returned our phone calls,” she said.
“Why should I?” I could see my comment had hurt her.
She looked down at the garage floor, then up at me. “I just wanted to say…I’m sorry. That’s all.”
“Yeah well, I’m sorry too. What you did to me wasn’t right.”
“I know. I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry.”
I shook my head and gave in – somewhat. “Want to come in? I’ve been really enjoying sitting out on the back porch lately.”
She nodded. I could see she looked much happier. “I like your beard,” she said, her voice sounding much happier than it had before.
“Me too,” I told her. “Actually, I’m trying to disguise myself a little bit so nobody recognizes me again.”
“You’re still worried about that?”
“Wouldn’t you be? She didn’t reply.
I led her through the house and out to the porch. I had a swing out there and I sat on one side of the seat while she sat on the other.
“You sold your house,” she said.
“I have to get away. I changed jobs. Moved to another bank. Actually, I took a job as the assistant mortgage manager for my new bank. It’s…more money. More responsibility. But in the process, I also bought a new house. I’ve got to get away from here. And you know the neighbors are pretty happy about it.”
I could see her smile. “I’m sure they are,” she said. “Mike, why didn’t you at least return my calls? Why didn’t you at least answer any of our calls?”
“I was mad. Angry. Panicked like you wouldn’t believe. Everything we did together…you, me, and your mother, I should have never done. I should have never even considered it. That was a big mistake. And then when that guy showed me one of the pictures he had downloaded from that website you built, it all just sent me over the edge. So now I’m kind of starting again…in a new place.”
I saw her nod, then she looked at me. “I miss you Mike. I didn’t think I’d ever say that about anyone, but I miss you.”
“You miss me? How could you miss me? You did everything possible to hurt me.”
I could see that my comment upset her. “That was…before. Not after.”
“Not after what?”
“Your mother? She was there the whole time! And her only real purpose was to try to get you to trust me enough to tell me about when you were kidnapped! That’s it! And she’s just as much to blame as you are for not telling me when she found out what you did! You both betrayed me! Both of you!”
She started to cry a little. “Damn it Mike! We were together through so much stuff. So many horrible situations. And in the end, I not only trusted you, I loved you!”
“You loved me? You had a funny way of showing it…putting all that stuff out on the internet for the entire world to see. You broke your promise! You proved you can’t be trusted!”
She was really crying now. She jumped up from the swing. “I hate you!” she screamed. Then she ran back through the house and out the door, still crying.
Why had she come? To apologize? How could anyone ever apologize for what she had done to me? Good riddance!
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Saturday morning, I was in the process of packing some of my stuff so I could move it to my new house, when my cell phone rang. My mother. I had told her already that Ashley and I had broken up…something she could never seem to understand. I answered her call. “Hi Mom.”
“Mike. How are you?”
“Doing good. I’m just starting to move a few things to my new house,” I told her.
“That’s nice Mike,” she said, but I could tell there was something else bothering her. “Mike,” she said, “have you heard about Ashley?”
“Ashley? What about her?”
“I had called her mother last night…you know we’ve become real good friends…despite the sad fact that you and Ashley aren’t together anymore. Anyway, she was with Ashley in the hospital. Mike, Ashley tried to commit suicide last night. She drove her car straight into a tree, trying to kill herself!”
“She did what? Is she okay?”
“She’s in the hospital,” my mother replied.
“Where is she?”
“In the hospital. I just told you.”
“No. Which hospital?”
“I think it’s the one there. Where she works.”
I was surprised to hear that she was still working there. She was supposed to go home with her mother. “I gotta’ go Mom!” I said quickly.
I hung up my cell phone and jumped in my car. I drove straight to the hospital. It wasn’t difficult to find out what room she was in. As soon as I had that information, I headed upstairs in the elevator. I walked the halls, thinking only about Ashley…and the fact that she had tried to kill herself…by driving into a tree. How was she? Was she seriously hurt? If she was in the hospital, then she had to be. I found her room and stopped in the doorway. Ashley was in the bed sleeping, and Joanna was sitting in a chair next to her bed. Joanna saw me and came over.
“Are you going to slap me again?” I asked, with a somewhat determined tone to my voice.
She looked down. “No Mike. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for so many things.”
“How’s Ashley?” I asked. “My mother just told me she was here. She said she tried to kill herself by driving into a tree.”
Joanna nodded. “She was…upset again.”
“Because of me?”
It was a moment before she answered. “Yes.”
I nodded. When I looked over at Ashley, I saw that she was awake, watching us. “Can you leave us for a while?” I asked Joanna. “Leave us alone?”
She looked back at Ashley, then at me.
“I won’t hurt her. I promise. At least, I’ll try not to.”
I could see her trying to come to a decision.
“Please,” I said. “I’d rather talk to her alone.”
Finally she nodded. “I’ll be right out here.”
She left, but I closed the door behind her so Ash and I could be alone. I went over and sat in the chair by her bed. She didn’t say anything, she just watched me. She didn’t look that bad. I saw some bad bruising on her head and arms, but that’s all I could see.
“Why did you come?” she asked.
“To see you.”
“I was worried about you?”
“Why? Why should you be? You were perfectly clear about how you felt about what I did.”
I nodded. “You know how upset I was about it.”
She looked away for a moment, then turned her head back to me. “So why the hell did you bother coming here now?”
I shook my head. “I really don’t know. I just…had to.”
“Stupid!” she muttered. “Go away!” She turned her head away from me.
I sat there looking at her for a while. Not moving. Finally, I asked. “You loved me?”
Her head turned back. “I told you I did.”
“Why would you ever love me? You know what I am. You know the dumb things that go through my head. Nobody should ever love me.”
“How the heck should I know why?” she replied. “So don’t make it worse than it already is!”
It didn’t make sense. “I can’t figure it out,” I said. “I can’t understand why or how you could ever love me. Especially not after all the things you made me do…or all the things your mother made us do.”
“I said I don’t know why,” she insisted. “I just…do. Somewhere in all that mess we went through together. I started…feeling for you. You were always there trying to help me…comfort me. Even in the worst of it. You were always there for me. Holding me. Helping me.”
We were silent for a moment. Then I said, “I miss you.”
She seemed surprised. “You miss me?”
I tried to laugh, but it didn’t really work. “Yeah. Believe it or not, I do. You want to know when I miss you the most? It’s at night when I’m in bed. I miss your soft body cuddling up close to me. There are so many times I want to reach out at night and put my arm around you…to hold you. But you’re not there.”
“No. You chased me away.”
I nodded. “I did. I was angry. Very angry.”
“Yeah,” she said. “I get that. I probably deserved it. But I can’t tell you how much you hurt me when you sent me away.”
“I guess we hurt each other,” I said.
“So how come you’re here and not up living with your mother?”
“I live there sometimes too. She took me back home with her at first, but I pleaded with her and she finally let me move down here and stay with Amanda whenever I have to work. The days I don’t have to work though, she makes me go home up there with her. She bought a new car and she’s letting me use her old one so I can get around.” She chuckled. “I guess I screwed that deal up now too.”
I tried to laugh. “You think?”
I saw her face turn serious. “Mom told me that she overheard what I told you that night…about what happened to me.”
“Yeah. Would you believe I’m back in therapy again? This time though, I told my therapist what had happened. I don’t think there’s anything in the world she can do for me, but Mom is making me go. For now, I have to live by her rules. She’s not giving me much choice.”
I nodded. “Is she still paying most of your expenses?” I asked.
“Something like that.”
We were silent together for a moment. Then I asked. “So how badly did you injure yourself this time?”
“Believe it or not, not that bad. I’m bruised up and I’ve got a little concussion, but the airbag in the car stopped me from getting really hurt.” She laughed a little. “When I did it, I didn’t even think about the airbag.”
“You planned on trying to kill yourself?”
She shook her head. “Not really. I was just so upset when I left you yesterday that…it just kind of happened. Between having to relive with my therapist what happened to me when I was younger, and then yesterday when you rejected me like that…I suddenly couldn’t take it. I saw a tree and….”
“So how long are you going to be in here?”
“I’m supposed to get out tomorrow morning,” she said. “There’s really nothing much wrong with me. The doctors just want to be careful, that’s all.”
I nodded, and paused to consider a few things. “You know,” I said, “I could really use some help moving my stuff and setting up my new house.”
“Are you asking me?”
“That’s what I said.”
I thought about that. “Did you miss the part where I mentioned that I miss you?”
“No. But that doesn’t mean….”
“Look,” I said. “I don’t know what it means either. But I bought a big house that need a lot of work. It’s a real fixer-upper. I figure with a house that big, if there are times when we’re not getting along so much, at least there’s room where we can spread out a little and get away from each other if we need to. You said you love me, although for the life of me I can’t understand why you would. I don’t think I really know what love is. I’ve never really experienced it, but I do know that I miss you. I miss having you around. I miss holding you. I miss a lot of things about you. I even think I miss how much of a pain in the ass you can be sometimes – although the jury’s still out about that one.
“But I figure, maybe we can give it a little try…a try of a different kind than what we did before. The last time, you learned to trust me. Now this time, maybe I can learn to trust you…and you can learn to trust me…again.”
Her hand reached out toward me and I held it. “I’d like very much to help you learn to trust me,” she said. “And…I want so much to learn to trust you too.”
I leaned over and kissed her. “Good! That’s settled. Now I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’ve got to get moved into a new house.” I kissed her again, longer this time. “See you later,” I said.
I walked away from her and opened the door. Joanna was standing, waiting, leaning against the wall on the other side of the hallway. There was a look of uncertainty on her face. “When they release her tomorrow morning,” I said, “I’ll be here to take her home with me. She won’t be going up there to your house. I’ll be taking care of her from now on. So if you can bring a few of her things down, I’d appreciate it.”
“Michael?” Joanna said, “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying, Ashley and I are back together again. Not with you, just us. You said many times that what you did with us before was all about trust. Well maybe, that’s what this is too, although I really think it’s about something much more. Trust…and love. We’re going to give it a try – together.”
She moved in quickly and hugged me. “I’m so glad Michael,” she said.
“Yeah well, we’ll see. I missed her. She says she loves me. We’re going to see what it all means.”