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Friday Suprise

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Gerald sat at his desk, retyping the invoices that lay in front of him. It was Friday. Coming on one year of working for his new, small-town office company, he fantasized in the prospects of the paid for leave time he would receive at the end of the month. Gerald had a family: one girl, Anna; two boys, Tim and Jack; a wife, Georgia; and a dog and cat, Spinks and Jazz. He loved all of them, and through love and pure devotion to his family, he remained at his crowded office desk, typing away.
It hadn’t always been like this, Gerald recalled. Before the housing market crashed, he had been an accomplished housing salesman who earned a hefty salary. Unfortunately, however, the impending tax cuts led to his inevitable layoff. So here he was, a year and a half later, with a low-paying job that barley could support Anna’s gymnastics lessons. But to Gerald, life was good. For him, his happiness didn’t lie with the boat he had been forced to sell or the simple pleasures he had given up. Gerald figured, as long as his children and wife were in their home and happy, so was he. Having been raised in a materialistic home, Gerald one day came to the realization that life wasn’t made bearable or worthy by money or objects; it was his wife who taught him that.
Georgia had come from a tough place; her child hood was plagued by seven other siblings, a single mother, an abusive father, and powdered milk. She had no money, no good clothes, and no role models. Her mother worked constantly, struggling to support her children. The only contact she had with her father was traumatic; her earliest memory was sitting on the bathroom counter, sobbing bloody tears, as her older sister cleaned a gash near her right eye that had been inflicted by her father’s broken whiskey bottle. He was an alcoholic. When he left, a sense of relief overcame the home, except for when he returned, usually drunk, to ask for money. Georgia could remember so many nights; black eyes, flashing police lights, and her mom, screaming how she hated her husband and telling him she would kill him if her every touched Georgia again. Georgia didn’t speak until she was six.
Running his fingers through his auburn hair, Gerald sat back for a moment, closed his brown eyes, and tried to relieve the eye stain that had now nearly permeated towards the back of his skull. For that one moment, he thought. He thought about his kids. All of them were academic athletes; Anna took gymnastic lessons six days a week, while Time and Jack were both three season athletes who excelled in track and swimming. They all had hair, just like him, and eyes too, exactly in his color. They were all trim and muscular for their ages, too. Whenever Gerald looked at his kids, he saw himself, in his past years of high school, as the popular and likeable student that his offspring had become. They tried so hard at everything they did, why couldn’t he give them more? He had asked that question so many times, yet found no answer. Sometimes he just felt life had wronged him and his beautiful family.
It was nearing seven when he finally got off work; this was good though, because usually he worked until eight or nine, always overtime, it seemed. Today though, was different, it was his wife’s birthday and he wanted to surprise her. His children were all at their various practices, so as he merged onto the freeway, he contemplated arriving home early, surprising his wife, and making her a nice, candle-light dinner that they could enjoy together. He never really had time with his wife anymore, and this had become almost a problem. Gerald felt that he had been moving farther away from Georgia ever since she got a job working for the district as a secretary. Perhaps this time alone would allow them to talk, allow them to bond, and give Gerald the chance to express his appreciation for her. Gerald had always been a faithful man.
As he drove his newly purchased “economy car” down his boulevard, he was just about finished scoping out how the night would go. He would pull up on the other side of the street, carefully make his way across his lawn, quietly open the door, yell “Honey, I’m home!” and give her the yellow carnations that he had picked up on the way home. He had given her a single yellow carnation on their first date. When he pulled over onto the road and parked, however, he noticed a car in the driveway. His first thought wasn’t, “Whose car is that?” That was his second thought. His first thought was, “Darn, now how am I supposed to surprise her and make her birthday romantic?” He would have to do something different now. As he made his way towards his home, he could just see through the darkness of the night the car clearly enough to distinguish its owner. It was Steve’s car, a fancy Mustang. Georgia’s boss was Steve, and he was a really nice guy, from what Gerald could tell. He had even been kind enough to give Georgia a raise that helped them payoff the last mortgage payment that they had missed. He noticed, then, that no lights were on in the house. A wave of unease swept him. Was she okay? Did her boss come over to do something bad to her? If there was one thing that Gerald new, it was that people can shock you, no matter how great they seem. Gerald, now worried, ran to the front door and hectically tried to unlock it, fumbling to find the right key in the dark. Gerald heard footsteps, then something crash as if someone was hurrying inside. “Georgia?” he questioned loudly, but not yelling. Finally, the key slipped into the jamb; it turned, and he nearly leaped inside, ready to fend off any attacker. He was ready for anything to happen now, well, almost anything. Turning on the light, Gerald gasped, and then stood, looking into eyes he had never quite seen before. He hadn’t planned on it, but that night, Gerald was the one who received the biggest surprise.
Gerald didn’t find what he had expected. He certainly couldn’t recall the few days after the incident if you had asked him. Depressed could describe him. He didn’t eat, and come Monday, his boss couldn’t figure out what had gotten into him. He was so shocked that even when he lay awake at night, he didn’t hear the muffled sobs coming from his daughter’s neighboring room. All he could remember was hearing, “You didn’t give me what I needed, Gerald,” and then the roar of the Mustang’s engine as his now ex-wife and lover escaped into the night. They had been put into a compromising situation; with one less income, things were bound to get harder. For two years after that Gerald fought the lawyers, legal fees, and the mortgage companies demands. He felt like he was living in a nightmare. His kids, though deeply upset, seemed to bounce back and do all they could to help him. He was so grateful for them. As he continued to ask himself why his wife did it, he realized that no answer could be found. He hadn’t done anything wrong. She had made the bad decisions. And now, nothing could be done about it. Gerald wondered more about people from that night on, why they do the things they do and such. He believed it was her childhood that had made her choose the path she did; in reality, she accomplished more or less what her own father had. Whether this was the result of her past experiences or not, Gerald fully came to terms with himself and his wife’s actions. And, and most people tend to do, Gerald and his children moved on, perhaps a bit closer at heart, and perhaps a bit wiser about people and what really makes them tick.



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