|Copyrighted material 2009
This is the first chapter of a published work. Available for swap or on amazon.com
His car made the turn onto his tree-shaded street but he was unaware of having driven that far. Flickers of sunlight and shadow made by the luxuriant leaves awakened him from his dangerous trance behind the wheel. The car purred along as if it were pre-programmed to deliver him safely home. How have I come to this? Evan questioned approaching his driveway. He felt numb, flooded, overwhelmed with thoughts and their assorted corresponding feelings. Did I ignore the hints, hurtle over the stop signs? What did I miss? Frantically and futilely he examined recent history but he would have to reconsider years, not months. It was not like him to make such a mess of things. The sight of his home brought him a moment of relished peace, relief from relentless thoughts as he sat in the driveway unable to move.
Evan and Jennifer had agreed immediately and intuitively without words to purchase this magnificent Tudor house. Its stately sloping peaks gave way to masterful stone walls and diamond-paned windows. Generations-old verdant landscaping created the lush feel of seclusion, a sublime removal from worldly concerns. The structure’s timeless craftsmanship projected an aura of esteem, exuding character and fortitude, qualities that their growing family aspired to echo but seemed too young to exhibit. Despite her humble upbringing, Jenny was a purist with unwavering insistence on quality. She exhibited zero arrogance or judgment, only held high expectations; one reason she was so well loved.
Stark awareness again settled upon Evan as he realized he could not sit in the driveway another minute. He applied all his strength to unfold his six-foot two sculpted frame to stand and to face his family. The hushed commanding thud of the BMW door, normally gave Evan deep satisfaction, went unnoticed this evening. Legs quivering, he hobbled to the front door with no idea how he was going to make it through the evening. He could not tell Jenny, not yet. The two-inch thick solid mahogany door was scarred with pleasant memories; near the bottom a three-inch long gash where the stroller hit, next to that twin dents marking the roller blade phase, and at eye level, near the solid brass knocker, recent nicks from the lacrosse sticks. Evan had been present for some of it - but not enough. He regretted missing his eldest boy’s ninth birthday a few years ago. Was that the year I had to go to Hong Kong for the East Asian Division meeting? I had presentations to make that first day. Maybe I should have asked Steve to go in my place or pushed the schedule one day later. Just one day would not have made a difference. He lamented missing most of the seemingly daily basketball and lacrosse games times two. He truly enjoyed spending time with the family but chose work first most days. Was his motivation responsibility, pressure to succeed, to achieve more than his competitors, or simple greed? Or was it a deep drive of insecurity, of not being good enough? From the outside he looked like he had made the cut: esteemed job title, enviable book of business, tailored charcoal grey suit, splashy orange tie, French cuffed shirt with the gold cufflinks his father gave him when he graduated from Wharton. He knew he fulfilled his roles of provider and protector, but his intensity ran to the extreme. Evan told himself he worked voraciously to provide for his family; the only explanation he could accept.
Having spotted their Dad’s car in the driveway, the two boys swung the front door open creating a hurricane of activity shattering Evan’s anxious trance. Head buzzing, Evan mustered a smile and hug but clearly had no chance of matching the expected enthusiasm. Before Evan crossed the threshold, “Dad, Tres just shoved me into the juniper bush” the younger of the two children reported: his arms and knees pink with itchy scratches. Boden, living motion and a danger to himself, was constantly on the move. Bodie set the tone for the whole household, all others responding to his constant stream of mostly good-natured chatter and games. Today’s masterpiece consisted of a backyard obstacle course built from every piece of plywood and box in the shed, complete with balls and a scooter. The boy dragged Evan by the hand through the polished beige marble tiled entry hall straight to the patio. The carefully manicured garden created a sense of order that appealed to the senses: a splendid rectangular swath of lawn precisely bordered by blue hydrangeas and a low-lying fur of vivid pink impatiens. The evergreen trees delineating the property provided yearlong privacy while the oak trees shaded the patio keeping it tranquil even on such a sweltering motionless summer day. Jenny enjoyed the garden and loved sitting on the lounge chairs on the flagstone patio but had no interest in tending to the landscaping. Evan wrote a check for that. Money well spent, he thought to himself. In his wife’s view, gardening was one of life’s details that stole time from things more important. “Besides, it just grows back,” she often jested.
Sure that the obstacle route would become an Olympic event someday, Boden felt compelled to demonstrate and to narrate, “Dad, Dad look at the hang time I can get off the ramp!” Lean lanky legs in fluid motion, the boy gathered momentum and proceeded to hurl himself and his trusty scooter four feet into the air landing safely but making a two-foot long divot in the lawn. Impressed, Evan felt a small decrement in anxiety, a slight, yet temporary reprieve. He failed to show the pride he felt rise in his chest while silently vowing not to miss any more birthdays.
Patiently standing on Evan’s right, watching the spectacle was the older of the two children, Evan Tipton III. Growing steadily, his head reached just below his Dad’s shoulder. Height was important to the Tiptons, it added to the family stature, conveying power, strength, position and each member of the family carried it artfully. “Dad, Mom bought me a new tie to wear tonight. Do I really have to wear a tie, its just family; they already know what I look like. Besides, Uncle Tipper never has his tie tied right and no one seems to mind.” Tres’ usual calm, agreeable demeanor started to give way to adolescent attitude. Evan, acting on reserve energy, neglected to give the right answer, which would have been, “Your mother would like you to dress respectfully for the occasion and I agree.” Instead he said, “It’s pink with green lobsters, you don’t have to wear it.” He would regret this statement later. Delighted, Tres ran into the kitchen to report the victory to his Mother.
Confused as he walked toward the kitchen, Evan searched his memory as to where he was supposed to be that night. Meeting him half way was Jenny lilting toward him with her broad smile, luxurious shoulder length blond hair that she never lifted a finger to fix, a slightly tanned specimen of radiance. She could invade Evan’s personal space like no one he had ever met. Her signature ritual greeting started with her finger hooked onto his belt to pull his pelvis to hers, a long gaze into his eyes, a thumb lightly brushing his lips followed by a loving kiss. Singularly Jenny. He anticipated this with great pleasure every day and was never disappointed, not even today. “Evan, glad you are home.” He started to come back to life. Evan could not articulate why he loved her so completely although it was clear to every one who knew her. Jenny had a combination of sincerity and humor that was irresistible. Intuitive, she could tell you the most hidden truths about yourself in such a way that it still made you feel good. This was one reason she was his best friend and a wonderful mother. Thus, she had the good sense to see that something was amiss before beginning a diatribe about the tie.
“You seem out of sorts. Are you not feeling well? Preoccupied?” Jenny questioned.
“Just a tough day.” Evan could not face it right now, too many variables and nothing made sense to him.
“OK, small talk then? … Let’s see, hot today, isn’t it. I don’t know how you wear a suit in this weather.” … Evan stood statue-like. “How about those Red Sox?” …
“OK, I’ll talk.” He managed some reply that allayed his wife’s fears, thereby avoiding any real questioning. OK Evan thought, Maybe I can make it through the evening.
“Your Father called this afternoon to remind you to bring the new GPS system for the boat. He wants to install it so it will be ready for the weekend. He and Honey are going out early tomorrow, they thought they would need to get away after tonight’s party. You know Honey has been baking individual soufflés and flans all day to make sure everyone has a home cooked something,” Jenny filled him in.
“ Oh, I forgot all about that party tonight, its not just family is it. Dad is throwing this in honor of his partner’s retirement. Is it black tie or black tie minus the black?”
Jenny quipped,” Minus the black but I should let you wear black and blue for telling Tres he didn’t have to wear the new tie. It is so handsome on him, pink is great on boys.”
Evan defended, “Not to real boys it isn’t, but I am sorry for not backing you up.”
Jenny flashed the luminous smile, “Maybe Bodie will wear the lobsters,” as she continued cutting tomatoes and mozzarella for her husband to snack on because Jenny believed you should never go to a party starving. Forgiven, they went upstairs to dress.