Dark Shadows

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“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she replied.

“Come on, I’m your sister. I know better. What’s going on?”

“I don’t feel like talking about it.”

“Okay, that’s progress. You just confirmed something is wrong. Now why don’t you tell me what that something might be?”

“Why? It won’t change anything.”

“Maybe not, but it always helps to talk about it. Just having someone to share things with always makes us feel better.”

She really couldn’t argue. She and her sister had shared every secret they’d ever had and that included her sister telling her about the affair her she’d had three years ago. She knew the circumstances were very similar in her own marriage, but that didn’t mean she had to give in to temptation. She laughed to herself at the thought. What temptation? There was no temptation because there was no other man and there never had been. Still, with the way her husband was behaving and given the right set of circumstances…

“So are you gonna get this off your chest or suffer in silence some more?”

Lisa Kennedy had just turned 35 and never felt worse in her life. Everyone she knew, including her older sister, Lauren, told her she was still beautiful, but she sure didn’t feel that way. And the way her husband, Michael, had increasingly chosen to be gone far more often than necessary for the last three years (and emotionally unavailable when he was home), only added to her growing sense of frustration and insecurity.

It all sounded eerily similar to the way things had unfolded for her older sister, Lauren, when her former husband, Ken, had started finding reasons to stay on the road more and more often. Lisa remembered how much it hurt her to watch Lauren recount one story after another of how lonely she felt night after night; nights she was spending alone more often than not.

Michael’s seeming voluntary abandonment was especially troubling because he and Ken were brothers and Michael had followed his older brother in virtually everything they’d done from high school sports to majoring in the same subject at the same college to choosing the same careers to this wanting to be away from home thing. Michael didn’t do what Ken did at the same time but rather a few years later after watching his older brother.

That scared Lisa to her core because she’d done nothing but love Michael since the day they’d met. She wasn’t a perfect spouse let alone a perfect person, but she’d worked very hard to be a good, caring, loving, supportive and yes, even a beautiful wife, and now she was watching it all slip away just like her sister had.

Lauren began warning her nearly two years ago, but Lisa refused to listen. Willful ignorance didn’t make it go away, but it somehow seemed preferable to facing the very real possibility her own husband could be cheating on her.

To her credit, Lauren had remained faithful until she was sure Ken was screwing other women and then gave up and gave in. She’d filed for divorce around the same time so it wasn’t as though she’d snuck around behind her husband’s back the way he’d done to her. Still, she had slept with other men before she was divorced and they’d both been raised to think believe that was a huge ‘no-no.’

And now Lisa was being forced to face the inevitable and wondering whether or not she could weather the storm with as much grace and strength as her sister had.

“It’s Michael, isn’t it?” Lauren asked. “I know he’s spending even more time on the road these days than before and he was gone way too much then. That’s it, isn’t it?”

Lisa didn’t speak but she did nod her head. She wasn’t looking at her, but Lauren intuitively knew she was on the verge of crying. She got up and sat next to her younger sister and put her arm around her.

“They’re nomads, Lisa. They’re wanderers. And…they’re assholes.”

Lisa managed a nervous chuckle as tears began falling.

“Lord knows I tried and I know you’re trying, too. But some guys can’t settle down. Oh, sure. They can try. They might even do it for some period of time, but eventually ‘the call of the wild’ wins out. I watched it happen right before my very eyes and I see it happening to you, too. So please, Lisa…open yours.”

Lisa shook her head and tried to talk but couldn’t. Lauren didn’t need her sister to speak.

“It’s okay. I’m pretty sure I know what you’re going to say anyway. Like me, you’ve tried everything. You work out four days a week, you’re a great cook, and well, you can be rather creative in the bedroom. And all to avail. Is that about right?”

Lisa inhaled deeply then slowly exhaled as she nodded again.

Lisa finally spoke. “Uh-huh. You’re not ‘just about’ right. You’re exactly right. It’s happening to me the same way it did to you. You were all those things, too, Lauren, and nothing helped.”

“No, it didn’t. In fact, it just kept getting worse. The harder I tried the more Ken pulled away. At some point, I did, too. I had no intention of cheating. I’ve always hated ‘the other woman.’ But then again, I wasn’t really the other bahis firmaları woman, was I? I was more the woman scorned. Or at least the woman…utterly neglected. Do you know how many times we made love the last year we were together?”

“You told me, remember?” Lisa said without being critical.

“I know, I know. We really do tell each other everything, huh? But a year without sex is…unconscionable. For that matter, once a month is essentially abstinence in my humble opinion while anything less may as well be abstinence. And the year before that we might have averaged once every 4-6 weeks. I’m no sex fiend or nympho, but dammit, I like sex! I didn’t get married to be a nun!”

Lauren put her arm around Lisa and said, “Sorry, sis. Here I am rehashing my old problems when you’re the one who’s dealing with this…crap…right here and right now.”

She hugged her sister then said, “Is there anything I can do to help other than be here for you?”

Lisa tried to laugh as she hugged back and said, “Not unless you can turn yourself into a handsome, kind, decent, single man who wouldn’t mind sleeping with an old maid my age.”

Lauren laughed loudly before Lisa joined in.

“Stop! Don’t be mean,” Lisa said.

“Sorry. It’s just that I’m three years older than you, and you’re talking like you’re this 80-year old, shriveled-up hen. I’d kill to have your body.”

Lauren looked at her sister then smiled and said, “Or your boobs. Or your butt. Or your…”

“Okay. Okay. I get it. But I feel like I may as well be 80 years old.”

“Join the club,” Lauren said.

Then wanting to be more supportive she asked Lisa, “How long has it been, sweetie?”

“Four months,” she said quietly. “And counting.”

“Jesus. I’m so sorry. I wish I could say things will change, but, well…Michael is Ken’s brother, right?”

“And we can’t kill them, can we?” Lisa said only half jokingly.

“Don’t tempt me,” Lauren said before they both laughed loudly again. “I thought about turning into Lorena Bobbit more times than I can count.”

“Oh, right. The woman who cut off her husband’s…”

“Yep. One and the same,” Lauren confirmed.

Both sisters laughed again and when it got quiet, Lauren then asked, “Feel any better?”

“Yeah. A little bit. I don’t know what I’d do without you,” Lisa said.

“Yeah, I know. I am kind of awesome like that, aren’t I?” she said before getting in one more good laugh.

Lauren got serious for a moment then said, “You think he’s cheating on you, huh?”

“How could I not? I mean, Ken cheated on you and now Michael’s gone just like his brother was so what else could I think? They both make so much money it’s ridiculous so that can’t be the reason for being gone so much. At least not anymore.”

“No, you’re right. It takes a couple of years to get established and being gone is essential. I get that. But once you are established and have a huge clientele, how much more money do you need especially when it’s supposedly for your family. You know, the family you’re never home with. Yeah, so after what his brother did to me, how could you not feel that way? He really is following Ken’s pattern to a tee. It’s like they’re genetically hardwired to follow this…script, you know?”

“It’s not like I can prove it,” Lisa said. “I know I should leave him…now. I just can’t, you know?”

“Yes, I do. We were raised to be good girls who have integrity and always do the right thing, even when no one is looking, and blah, blah, blah.”

They could both hear their father saying those very words time and time again growing up.

“So…unless you know he’s being unfaithful…”

“Exactly. I can’t leave because if I’m wrong… I know he’d deny it if I came out and asked him directly, so what’s the use in asking, right? I need proof. Without it, I’m stuck in this limbo-like world. I’m neither in nor out. it’s like there’s this… There are these gray clouds and these…dark shadows just hanging over me.”

“Dark Shadows. Remember Mom telling us how scary that show was when she was our age?”

“Oh, yes! She was afraid to watch it but even more afraid to miss an episode.”

“You know what? Mentioning Mom just reminded of something,” Lauren said. “Do you remember her friend, Vi?”

“Yeah, sure. Nice lady. I haven’t seen her in forever. Why?”

“She’s still around. She and Mom don’t hang out anymore, but she recently told me Vi’s son is some kind of computer prodigy-genius guy or something. He’s like scary smart. She told Mom he can hack into anything, and he’s really good with stuff like monitoring and tracking and…”

“And…spying on someone’s husband?” Lisa asked as the light came on.

“Uh-huh. Surveillance is the nicer-sounding word,” Lauren teased. “I’m assuming he could do that. I mean, if he can hack into the Pentagon or whatever, it seems pretty likely he could track someone via their phone or set up video cameras or whatever surveillance people do. It couldn’t hurt to ask, right?”

“Michael watches the kaçak iddaa finances like a hawk. There’s no way I could pay him without getting caught.”

“Even so, I’d ask. What harm could it do to talk to him?”

Lauren got out her phone and called their mother before Lisa could react. She had it on speaker phone so both girls could hear the conversation.

“Mom? Hey, I’m at Lisa’s and we need Vi’s phone number. Can you get it for us?”

Lisa heard her mom tell Lauren to hold on and just seconds later she read off the number.

“Thanks, Mom. Oh, what’s her son’s name? You know, the computer whiz kid?”

Again, Lisa heard her mom saying, “Oh, um…gee. What is his name? It’s right on the tip of my tongue. Oh! Corey or Connor or something like that. I can ask Vi if you want.”

“No, that’s okay. We’ll give her a call and find out.”

Having watched Lauren get her heart broken and knowing Lisa was now having similar concerns, their mom had a pretty good idea what they were up to but didn’t ask.

Lauren thanked her and Lisa called out, “Thanks, Mom!” Both of them got a ‘you’re welcome’ and a quick ‘love you both!’ before the call ended.

“Here you go,” Lauren said as she texted Vi’s number to her.

“I gotta run, but let me know what happens, okay? Oh, and I’ve got a few bucks put aside if you need some help.”

“Um…no way,” Lisa said. “You have your own issues, and being single again I know money is one of them. No, thanks. I’m not taking yours. I appreciate the offer, but that’s not happening.”

“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t offer. And with the settlement I got, I think I can afford a few bucks to help out my baby sister,” Lauren said as she grabbed her purse and headed for the door.

“Did you know you’re the best sister ever?” Lisa asked her sister.

“Um…duh!” she said causing them both to laugh again.

They hugged one another goodbye and Lisa stood there thinking about her next move. How could it possibly hurt to just call and ask some questions? Satisfied the answer was that it couldn’t, she resolved to call this Connor/Corey kid the following morning.

For now, she got ready for bed knowing she’d be spending yet another lonely night all by herself in the king-sized bed she hadn’t had sex in in so long she didn’t want to think about it anymore that night. After laying in it wide awake mentally hashing it all out over and over again until nearly 2am, she finally dozed off.

Although she’d barely slept, Lisa was wide awake very early the next morning. As anxious as she was to make the call, she waited until a respectable 10am and then called Vi who was thrilled to hear from her.

“Oh, my goodness! Lisa? How are you? It’s been ages since we talked.”

“I know, Vi, and I feel terrible for calling when I need something, but well, I kind of need some help.”

Her mother wasn’t all that close with Vi anymore, and Lisa barely knew her from her childhood. She knew Vi had had a child a few years after the last time Lisa had seen her but she’d never seen her baby.

Lisa didn’t go into detail about her marital woes, and only gave Vi the basics.

“Collin will be happy to help. He’s looking at starting his own company in the near future,” Vi said without offering any details on what she meant and that was fine with Lisa.

Vi gave her Collin’s number and told her she thought he’d be in his office and available. She warned him he was always busy doing ‘computer stuff’ and might not answer his phone, but at this point he wasn’t working full time yet and would almost certainly be happy to help.

Lisa thanked her then took a deep breath and punched in Collin’s number. She laughed out loud when she pictured him in a tiny little room crammed with old computer parts sitting at a desk frantically tinkering away. His hair would be an uncombed mess on top of a thin face framed by black glasses—held together with tape, of course. His dingy shirt would have a mustard stain in the front and would be buttoned all the way to the top. Completing the classic geek look, he’d be sporting a pocket protector jammed with old-school mechanical pencils and ballpoint pens.

Lisa had forgotten to ask how old he was which really didn’t matter, but she was pretty sure he had to be out of high school by now at a minimum.

“Hello?” she heard a pleasant voice say after the third ring.

“Collin?”

“That’s me,” he said cheerfully. “How are you, Lisa Kennedy?”

“Okay, how did you know my name when I block caller ID on my end?” she asked.

She heard a polite laugh before he said, “My mom told me you’d be calling. She texted me seconds after you hung up with her. Oh, and for the record, it’s very easy to defeat a caller-ID block so I had your name on my phone anyway. How may I help you?”

Lisa nearly laughed as she thought to herself, “Maybe he really is that good.”

She started out rather tentatively, and as he answered each of her questions very thoroughly and professionally, she began opening up and providing details.

“Sure, kaçak bahis I can help you out. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get answers to all of your questions. When can we meet?” he asked.

“Collin? I don’t have a lot of money so I was just doing some initial…”

“I won’t charge you,” he told her before she could finish. “I’m starting my own security company in a another month or so…knock on wood…so if you like my work, I’d only request you write a good review for me on Yelp and some other tech sites to help spread the word.”

“Seriously? That is so kind of you!” Lisa said. “Yeah, sure. I’ll be more than happy to do that.”

They agreed to meet at a Starbucks a few miles away at 11 o’clock when Lisa realized she had no idea how to recognize him so she shared that concern, too.

“I could tell you not to worry about that because I know what you like by having already found your photo ID on your driver’s license while we were talking, but rather than do that, I’ll send you my pic. Hold on.”

While she was waiting Lisa couldn’t help but ask, “Did you really see my driver’s license?”

She heard another polite laugh before he said, “No. I didn’t check. But I could have in a matter of seconds. The DMV’s security isn’t very sophisticated. They like to think it is, but I can get through everything they’ve got in short order and they’d never know I was there.”

There was a short pause before Collin said, “Okay, I just sent my pic.”

“Oh, wow. It’s already here,” Lisa said as she saw his text was waiting to be read. “I’ll meet you in an hour then, okay?”

“Sounds good,” he told her. “Oh, and the first cup of coffee’s on me.”

Before she could reply, he’d hung up.

She went to ‘messages’ and opened the one from his phone number and looked. And then she did a double take then looked again.

“Oh, my goodness!” she said as she stared at the handsome face in the pic. Collin Morgan was not only not a geek, he was as good looking a guy as anyone she’d ever seen and this was just a selfie he probably took right before sending it.

In the photo he sent he wore his sandy-blond hair rather short but it was very neatly combed. Strike one. It was thick and full and went quite well with his bright blue eyes and very handsome face. He had a square jaw that was masculine but not overpoweringly so. His face wasn’t thin, but it did look like it belonged to an athletic body and the image of a surfer ‘dude’ immediately popped into her head.

He was wearing a Henley shirt with three buttons and the top one was open so…strike two. Lastly, he had a killer smile with two incredibly cute dimples that kept her staring at his pic long after she should have stopped looking. Oh, and there was no pocket protector or even a pocket. Strike three.

“Well, you couldn’t have been more wrong, could you?” she said to herself as she finally put her phone away.

She laughed then said out loud, “I didn’t see that coming.”

It didn’t take long to get to the coffee shop and when she walked in Collin saw her before she saw him and stood up to greet her.

“Mrs. Kennedy. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise,” she said extending her hand. She didn’t stare, but he was even nicer looking in person than his picture had led her to believe.

“Can I get you something?” he offered.

“A small coffee maybe? Black?”

“Coming right up.”

Moments later Collin handed her a cup then sat down and began nursing one of his own.

Before he could speak Lisa said, “I have to say I had a very different impression of who’d be meeting me.”

The younger man smiled and said, “I hope you weren’t disappointed. I’m sure I could scrounge up a pocket protecter somewhere if that would help.”

His comment nearly made her blush as she couldn’t help but wonder if he could also hack into her thoughts.

“That is what you were expecting, right?” he teased politely. “Pocket protector, old-school calculator. Maybe a pair of glasses with tape holding them together.”

“Well, kind of,” she found herself admitting as he ticked off most of the assumptions she’d wrongly made about him. “When you hear ‘computer whiz’ that’s what tends to come to mind, right?”

“I have to agree with you, because that’s what I tend to think, too. I guess I don’t really fit the stereotypical profile, but I have been called words like geek and nerd for as long as I can remember.”

He took a sip from his cup then told Lisa, “I took apart the first computer my mom ever bought and put it back together after replacing the motherboard and doubling the memory. I was fascinated by computer code and spent every free minute learning it. From that time on, I’ve been hooked.”

“So do you have an office crammed with computer parts?” she asked trying hard not to smile.

“I do have a small office, and it does have a lot of computing power, but there are no spare parts lying around,” he told her. “A good hacker can get by with a decent laptop, but as Tim the Tool Man Taylor used to say on Home Improvement, there’s nothing wrong with ‘more power’!”

This time Lisa couldn’t help but laugh as her dad used to imitate Tim Allen saying that very line from the TV show Collin had just mentioned.

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