Dumped two years ago by a younger lover who discovered she had just turned sixty, Carol Langley accepts that her sexual life is over. But when ex-husband Jim shows up unexpectedly, she is thrilled by the passions unleashed between them once again. When a plan involving her two sisters backfires, though, Carol learns that the most satisfying physical love demands both surrender and commitment.
As soon as I heard the door swoosh open at the back of the church, I knew it was Jim. A long marriage creates that sense of presence with a spouse, even after a lengthy divorce. I knew there was a very good chance he would come, because he’d cared about my father, and he would choose to sneak in after everyone else so he could remain inconspicuous. I glanced back. It was Jim. I wasn’t surprised he was here; I was surprised how glad I was to see him.
It wasn’t because I needed his comfort. My father’s death had been a merciful one. His last ten years were spent in the darkness of Alzheimer’s, and I had gotten over my grieving for him years ago, when he had left all he had known in the black abyss of that disease. His death had been the blessing and the peace I had been praying for. Not just for him, but for all of us who loved him. We all understood, and we all accepted that the lack of tears didn’t mean we were callous, just that our grieving had been done years ago.
But Jim had loved my father in a more traditionally emotional way, and the two had become best of friends during our marriage—golfing, fishing and joking with each other, with me frequently serving as the punchline for their humor. I had loved watching the two of them together. My father had descended into the acute stages of Alzheimer’s before the divorce, so Jim had been able to come to terms with it, though he missed the worst of the disease which had occurred after we split.
No, for some reason, I was just glad to know Jim was here today. I had anticipated his showing up, though no phone calls or emails had been exchanged between us. The truth was, the little punch of excitement I felt when I saw Jim entering the church was a surprise, since the last time I had felt such a positive emotional jolt was when we had still been married and, we thought, happily so.
He was gone before I could see him after the service, but I caught up with him at the cemetery.
“Thanks for coming,” I said, spotting him in the back of the crowd gathered around the open grave. He was grayer , and his full head of wavy hair gave him an even more distinguished look than he’d had five years ago, when I’d last seen him. His golf tan was as deep as I remembered it, and it was clear he’d maintained his workout regimen. His blue eyes still dazzled, not just the way they had before, but exactly as they had when I first met him in college, more than forty years earlier.
“Hello, Carol,” he said, and reached for my hand. I hesitated, then let him hold it. “I wasn’t sure whether I should come, but I had to say goodbye. I still miss him.”
The tears forming in those beautiful blue eyes caused some to form in mine.
“You look terrific,” he said, “if I’m not out of line for saying so.”
“You’re not out of line. It’s good to see you, Jim. And it’s best for Dad, believe me. The last several years were awful. I’m not sure he even realized he was alive anymore. I’d rather get hit by a bus than live like that.”
That made Jim smile and it reassured me, knowing he still enjoyed hearing one of my pet phrases. I smiled back. ‘Getting hit by a bus’ was one I had used so often, he had even started using it when he’d had a bad day at the office.
“We’re all meeting at Ralph’s afterwards. Dad always loved their pasta. Will you join us?”
“Will it be okay?” he asked. “I see Nora and Cathy over there. And there’s open carry in this state now.”
I laughed at the humor, remembering how Jim and my father had shared laughs when it came to the family, especially to my sisters.
“I made sure the safeties were on,” I said, teasing back. “They promised to hold their tongues and triggers should you show up.”
My invitation was genuine and another surprise for me. Our divorce, when it came after years of inevitability, was still enough of a shock to my system that, for a long time, I didn’t think I could bear to see him again. There had been no one else involved—neither one of us were the unfaithful type—but it was the feeling of throwing in the towel on a seemingly stable marriage. It had produced three children, all grown, with busy families of their own (so busy that none of them could make it to the funeral), a beautiful home, and a condo in Ocean City. There was no obvious reason to break up the marriage, except we both realized that the only time we enjoyed each other’s company was when we were apart or, quite bluntly, fucking each other’s brains out.
They say that when the sex goes, everything else does, but that wasn’t true in our case. With us, the more everything else in our marriage went to hell in a hand basket, the better the sex got. Toward the end, we joked that one of us should leave money on the night table before retiring again to our separate bedrooms. The last day we were together in the same house, he on his way to a hotel and me to work, I yanked up my skirt, bent over his favorite chair, and he took me one last time. It was a monument to our amazing sex life that we both came at the same time, screaming our lungs out in pleasure. And then we gathered ourselves and walked out the door.
That had been five years ago.