59 - A Short Story - The Confused Man

August 30, 2020

Cynthia and Robert were living in a kind of recovery mode. Robert had had a little dalliance with another woman, not to be confused with a full-on romantic affair. Actually, this sort of thing had happened two times during the past 5 years. Cynthia understood that Robert had some kind of mental condition that led him into these relationships, though she had no name for it. And so far, they have survived with their marriage in tack. Nevertheless, she wondered just how many more of these situations she could bear to live through.

They had a very good marriage, otherwise, and a very nice home and cars and all the things people of the upper levels of society accumulate. Except they didn't have any children. And as much as Cynthia would have liked to have one or two kids, considering the mental situation of her husband, she thought it was probably better that they didn't have any.

The first time Robert disappeared without a trace Cynthia was, of course, worried beyond reason - had he been kidnapped? killed? The thought he would have run off with another woman didn't even enter her thoughts, until the police brought up the question. She assured them there was no chance of that, but being who they are, they included that as a possibility in their investigation.

They eventually found him, in another state, with another woman. And, he was engaged to be married to her. Cynthia flew to the place and found him, explained the situation to the other woman. The other woman assured her that as much fun as they had had, they had never had sex.

Robert had no idea what he was doing there, how he got there or why, nothing. He spent many hours exploring all this with a counselor but never found any answers as to why this happened.

The second time it happened he was found because of a newspaper article about some guy who got duped and swindled out of thousands of dollars, which had indeed disappeared from his and Cynthia's bank account.

Cynthia flew to the city he had run off to and found him with another woman again. When she confronted them, the other woman argued that he couldn't possibly be her husband and that she had made a mistake. But within a minute or two of seeing Cynthia, Robert's mind returned to its normal state and he recognized Cynthia and walked over to her, wrapped his arms around her and kissed her, like nothing had happened.

"Where are we?" he asked after the kiss, looking around the room.

"You don't know?" Cynthia asked him.

"No, I have no idea," he said, "who's she?" He asked looking at the other woman, now with tears in her eyes.

"Well, my darling, you've done it again," was all Cynthia could say.

The other woman gasped and asked, "Again? What do you mean?"

Cynthia explained the situation to the woman, told her there were no hard feelings because she had no idea who Robert was or anything about him, besides the story he made up to tell her.

Cynthia took Robert by the hand and they walked away from the other woman without another look and went home to what she hoped would be a normal rest of their lives.

Well, maybe not the rest of their lives…

***

Jennifer was bored so she went out with her friends to the disco and they had a nice evening, even dancing with a few men, but she let nothing more come of any of them.

Then one man she hadn't noticed yet walked up to her and asked, "can I buy you another drink?"

"What? No dance first?" asked Jennifer.

"No, I'm not much of a dancer," replied Bradley.

Jennifer smiled and asked, "Hmm, then why come to a disco?"

"Oh, to check out the women, of course," said Bradley while looking around the dance floor, then he gave her a wink.

The waiter brought more beers to their table, which included Jennifer's three lady friends.

"My name is Jennifer, these are my friends, Alex, Solandra, and Cassy," said Jennifer before taking a drink of beer.

Bradly replied, "Nice to meet you all, I'm Bradley."

That evening passed by quickly, then there were the normal promises to see each other again, and they exchanged phone numbers.

The next day, Alex asked Jennifer, "What did you think of that Bradley guy? I think he liked you. Has he called you yet?"

"No, he hasn't called me, yet, that was just last night," said Jennifer.

"Do you think he will? I think he will," Alex said in a rush of words full of excitement.

"Well, I suppose it might be interesting, if he calls me," said Jennifer, playing as if she was not interested.

Two days later Bradley did call her and asked her out for dinner. They met on Friday night and went to a little restaurant in the center of town with tables outside along the sidewalk. It would have been very nice, even romantic, if it weren't for the smell of the exhaust fumes from the passing cars and buses. But they didn't let that ruin their dinner. And, after dinner they went for a walk and found a small ice cream shop a few blocks away and off the main road where the smell of exhaust was noticeably less.

"I really don't like the city," said Jennifer, "the smell of the exhaust, the noise from the traffic, it's all too much, like sensory-overload. You know what I mean?"

Bradly agreed, "Yes, I do. I like the countryside much better. I know a beautiful little lake with a wonderful little meadow on one side that slopes down into the water, and mountains on the other side, which suck the sun down and into them every evening."

They continued to see each other for the next 4 months, and they were getting serious about a long-term relationship, maybe even marriage. Bradley decided he would ask her, soon.

Jennifer had no idea what was coming down the tracks, and it wouldn't be long before she would find out.

***

"How long has he been gone this time?" asked Cynthia.

Brandon, the houseman, or butler as he is more commonly known, said, "I think it's about 4 months, ma'am. I've had the others out looking for him, and they told me they think they are getting close to finding him."

"I hope so, that man! What am to do with him? I can't lock him in this house. But he keeps disappearing for months at a time!" Cynthia was getting frustrated by Robert and his tendency to take off without leaving a word with anyone, and just disappear for many months at a time. And, he didn't even realize he was doing it.

A couple weeks later word arrived that they believed they found him in a city in the other side of the state, and he was going by the name Bradley.

"Bradley? This time he's Bradley? Last time it was Charles, and the time before that he used Xander. Well, I suppose Bradley is the more down-to-earth name of the bunch," Cynthia said, and not waiting for a reply she retired to her room.

As she was walking up the stairway to her room she said over her shoulder, "Brandon, please get as much information as you can as quickly as you can so we can fetch him from yet another woman, before he makes a disaster of this."

***

The next week Bradley took Jennifer to that beautiful lake with the meadow and the backdrop of the mountains. And, it was just as he promised, the water so calm Jennifer used it as a mirror to adjust her hair, and she felt such a calm that even throwing a flat rock out into the water would ruin the tranquility.

"Jennifer, will you marry me?" asked Bradley, while they were standing at the edge of the lake, the sun setting over the mountains on the opposite side, her face lit by the soft setting sunlight.

"Oh! Yes, yes, I will!" Jennifer was so excited and happy; she jumped into his arms, wrapped her legs around him, her arms around his shoulders, and pressed her lips to his for the world's longest kiss. Well, it may not have been the world's longest, but certainly a well-qualified contender for the title.

After finally breaking apart from the immense kiss they sat down on the grassy slope next to the lake and watched the sun finish it's journey down and behind the mountains.

"When should we get married? In the fall? With the beautiful colors of the trees surrounding the ceremony? Or in the winter with the snow falling gently and a fire in a big fireplace behind us when we say our vows? Or, maybe in the spring, right here, in this little meadow, with the sunset behind when we say our vows? Or, how about in the summer? We could do it at the beach!" Jennifer hardly stopped to take a breath until the very end.

"Wait, wait, not so fast. Yes, one of those, I'm sure. But, let's not worry about that right now. Instead, I think we should be hiking back to the car before it gets too dark to see our way back," said Bradley, and they got up and walked back to the car, with Jennifer just about wrapped around him all the way.

***

Jennifer and Bradley were out for dinner at a very nice restaurant, with a jazz band playing in one corner, soft lights from chandeliers over each table, walnut tables and chairs throughout the restaurant, it was a very nice place for a romantic dinner. They talked quietly, giggled, touched hands often, even shared a few soft kisses. It was an evening to remember.

Until…

A stunningly beautiful woman wearing a short blue and gold dress, her long shiny black hair dripping over her shoulders and all the way down to her small waist, walked in, and Bradley noticed, as well as everyone else.

"Who do you think she is?" Jennifer quietly asked Bradley.

"I don't know, but she is beautiful, huh?" he replied and immediately turned his gaze back to Jennifer. He began to have a feeling about that woman, something was poking it's way into his memory about her. He tried to concentrate on Jennifer but it was getting more difficult by the second.

"Yeah, she must be a movie star or some very rich person," said Jennifer.

Cynthia stopped at the front of the restaurant, glanced around at all the people, and spotted her husband. She walked right up to Bradly, held out her hand to him, and waited for him to take hers, which he did. He stood up and she immediately wrapped herself around him and pressed her ruby red lips against his lips and kissed him like they were life-long lovers about to make love right there.

Suddenly his mind was clear; he held her and kissed her passionately.

Jennifer just about jumped out of her chair. She grabbed Cynthia's hands, pulled them away from Bradley's neck, and pulled him away from her. She was just about to slap the woman when Bradley reached out and held her arm so she couldn't, and he looked at Jennifer and told her to sit down and be quiet.

She was stunned, "Bradley, what's going on? Who is this woman? You just told me you didn't know who she is!" Then to the woman, "Who do you think you are? He is my fiancé! How dare you prance in here like that and do... that!"

"Your fiancé? Really? Robert, what is she talking about? You're my husband, how can you possibly be her fiancé?" Cynthia said.

Jennifer shot out, "Robert? His name is Bradley. I think you have the wrong man. This is Bradley and we're getting married in a few months."

"Oh, sweetie, what you don't know! He is Robert Eldridge and he's been my husband for 7 years. And, he's done this exact thing at least 3 times. You see, he's not quite right in his head, if you know what I mean." She took him by the hand and was about to lead him out of the restaurant.

"Bradley? Bradley, what's going on? What is this about? Is she telling the truth? It can't be! No! It can't be, it has to be some kind of mistake! You floozy! Take you hand off my Bradley and leave him alone!" Jennifer wasn't having any of it.

"Um, Jennifer," Robert started, quietly, "she's right. This is my wife, Cynthia."

"Bradley? Or Robert, whoever you are, please, no, this can't be true," Jennifer was in tears.

Cynthia led Robert away from Jennifer and out the front door, all the other diners watching, quietly stunned, at what just transpired in front of them. Was that real or some kind of dinner show? At least one person thought it might have been a dinner show and started to clap, then when he saw that nobody else was clapping he stopped and immediately looked downward to hide his eyes.

Jennifer collapsed into her chair. The waiter brought her a fresh glass of wine, "it's on the house. Please take your time. We're so sorry about what just happened." He quietly walked away from her table. She sat there, despondent, crying lightly, in complete disbelief. Was what just happened real? Did I actually see and experience that? It couldn't have been real. Her head was spinning, and not because of the wine.

***

Jennifer was crushed. She spent the next 3 days closed up in her apartment, mostly in her bed. Her friends visited her every day, they tried to console her, but she was so utterly ruined by this turn of events. She still couldn't believe such a thing could be real.

Jennifer's friends where visiting one day and were sitting in the kitchen talking quietly about the turn of events, so Jennifer wouldn't her them.

Solandra asked, "How can anybody do such a thing as run away from their spouse, start a new relationship with another person, and promise to marry, all while still married! What kind of person does that?"

"I know, it's simply crazy! That man must be crazy! I mean legally crazy to do such a thing!" said Cassy.

"I don't understand how that woman can stand to live with that man. I sure couldn't. Either she's madly in love with him for whatever reason or she's also crazy," said Alex.

"Well, regardless, he's gone now. We have to do something to get Jen back to living her life, but what?" wondered Solandra.

That's what they did. It took some time, but eventually Jennifer returned to her real life with the help of her friends. She returned to her job, even pouring everything she had into her job, just to forget about that man who tried to steal her heart.

But he hadn't stolen her heart, she wasn't going to let it happen, she wouldn't permit him to ruin the rest of her life. Within a couple months, she and her friends were visiting the discos and dancing with some of the guys.

She was strong; she was going to be fine.