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23 Years Later

Henry Duer walked into the hall and aimed at the coffee machine. You would think that the economics advisor at NCR could enjoy a better cup of coffee, but he could care less. Caffeine was caffeine.
“Mr. Duer! Don’t forget you have a board meeting at 10:00am!”
“Thanks Beth.”
Beth Howard was the best secretary any one could have. Every morning when Henry showed up to work, she had laid out the day’ s scheduled appointments. She always smiled when she saw him and was always there when he needed someone to talk to. Before Henry married, he and Beth had an affair that lasted for almost two years. At the time Henry and Beth were both in sales and it was young love right out of college. Having sex with her once or twice a week is what Henry always looked forward to. But when she told him that she started to date someone, the friends with benefits ended.
Henry wasn’t mad at the time. It was a reality shock that told him that he couldn’t be sleeping with co-workers forever. He began seeing other girls for a year before he came across Maria. She was a immigrant from the Philippines, and was a waitress and the Marriott Hotel. She wasn’t trash though. She earned a degree in Public Relations at UCLA before she moved to Ohio. Henry didn’t really care why she moved. He just enjoyed her. After a few dates and a few nights in bed, they decided that they were going to get married.
It was a very risky move, but did they have to lose? The marriage caused a lot of gossip at the office. It even got worse when Maria was hired as an Advertising Consultant at NCR. They were the poster children of the young, married, and co-workers. Today they weren’t young, and they weren’t the hot couple anymore. The office forgot they were even married for a bit! They didn’t feel old, but there was every indication that they were.
“Henry, are we ever going to have kids?”
“Wouldn’t that make us look older?”
“Oh shut up. Why don’t you want children?”
“I don’t want little balls of sin roaming around her house for twenty some years.”
“But don’t you want to carry on the Duer name? You’re the last one!”
“Maria, I told you not to bring up our first date!”
“Henry, what happened? Ever since-”
“STOP! That is in the past. It’s time-”
“But they’re your family Henry!”
“You don’t know didley s*** Maria! You would never understand!”
“Please tell me Henry. I hate seeing you upset…”
He never told Maria about his childhood. He never told her that he lived in poverty or that he even grew up in Baltimore. She just thought that he was a good ole mid western boy. Maria deserved to know the truth. Her love and companionship has almost lasted ten years, and there were no signs of it ending. “Maria, there are a lot of things I need to tell you…”
“I grew up in a very poor home in Baltimore. My parents both quit working when I was thirteen and was dependent on the state till I graduated from college. During the winters we froze to death, because my dad’s lazy ass wouldn’t work. My mom was so worried about us; she spent five hours a day at the parish praying. That left my siblings and I alone a lot.”
“What? I never knew-”
“Shhhh. Just listen. After my high school graduation I came home to find my dad drunk as a sailor. He kept blabbering on and on till my mom told him to shut up. A fight broke out, and everything turned to hell. They were wrestling on the ground when I walked in and saw my mom’s bloody face sunken in the wooden floor. I ran over to help but I couldn’t hear a pulse. I heard shouting from the basement. I ran downstairs and saw my twin brothers trying to hold my dad down, but he shook them off with ease. I ran down and Larry hit me on the back of the head with a golf club. He thought I was the neighbor that lived across the street. I woke up in the hospital a few hours later. I saw nurses, doctors, and police in my room. Out side the window I saw about five news trucks with reporters outside. It turned out that my brother Dickey and Larry beat my dad close to death. They claim it was self-defense, but I believe they bought up the opportunity to get back at him. They served a few months at a detention center, and my dad got twenty-five years in jail for murder. That summer I move to Ohio and attended University of Dayton. I have never seen them since that night. Apparently my cousins have been in touch with them. Larry lives in Chicago and is at teacher at a catholic school, and Dickey lives in Houston and works for some engineer.” “Oh my god Henry!” Maria embraced him as tears fell off her face. She has never heard such a depressing story in her life.
“I had no idea! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It’s a thing from the past.”
“Still Henry, if you would have told me-”
“There is nothing you could have done. Why would I want to tell you something so tragic?”
“Because we’re married Henry! Even after I told you how my dad was killed in a car accident, you still didn’t feel like I could handle this?”
“Maria, please, don’t take it that way.”
“Then how am I supposed to take it? I can’t let you live your life that is haunted by the past!”
“Maria, I have no desire to try to fix it. Once broken, always damaged.”
“Henry, you, me, we’re going to fix things.”
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