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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Love stories / Romance
- Subject: Forgiveness / Reconciliation
- Published: 01/28/2019
Two wrongs make a right.Born 1951, M, from Wilmington NC, United States
Mark was livid. As quiet a giant as he had always been, you couldn’t really tell how angry he was - unless you knew him. And only one woman really knew him. And that woman had betrayed him. At least that is what Marcia was telling him.
The other cheerleaders backed up as if they were a herd facing a terrible danger. All of them liked Mark. Respected Mark. Some even adored him. Every one of the was grateful to Mark. For when he came into the League and found out they were working for minimum wage AND the team took most of their money for making the Calendars and from personal appearances- well, Mark got mad.
A Mad Mark was a cold deliberate icy implacable Mark. He used few words, but words wrought in Iron and Stone, much closer to Vows then promises. He let the League know what he thought of using the girls like that. He told them he would put it out to the Public. As he told the Owners of the Teams at their Winter Meetings:
“If you can’t put up 1% of your profits to improve the lives and careers of women who have to tolerate the kind of crap uttered from the fans in the stands- then your main goal isn’t Football- it is greed.”
Mark had already gotten the Veteran’s on board to pay a living wage to the girls dancing and cheerleading for his Team- the Owners knew he was putting his money where his mouth was. The Girls on his Team made almost six figures, only had the one job, and were raking in royalties from both the Calendars and their clothing line. And the girls danced their asses off for the fans. It made good business sense, as well as good relations to support Mark’s efforts. The Owners did.
It wasn’t easy for Marcia to tell Mark what was going on with his Britney. But she couldn’t stand by anymore and watch Terry and Lyndon use the girl like some sort of sexual trophy. Trying to prove they were more of a man than Mark was because they could lure the innocent girl into their beds. She was innocent. Terry and Lyndon had worked their way through half the women in town and a good third of her Dancers too.
But always one night stands. Terry and Lyndon thought of women the way Big Game Hunters think of the Kill- only the hunt was important. Mark was different. A lot of her girls (including herself) would love to spend a night warming any bed that Mark was in. But Mark wasn’t that kind of man. He was a one woman man. His woman was Britney. The girls all loved Britney too. For the last three years she had become almost a little sister to them all. A naive little sister.
Mark spoke again. A quiet whisper that made the girls shudder, huddle in a group, and hug each other tighter. Mark, they realized, was livid. He was no longer gentle, kind, lovable, he was the right hand of God. The Alpha in him had finally surfaced in a whisper that carried the weight of thunder.
Marcia didn’t back down. She had faced men as strong (well, almost as strong) as Mark. She had even dealt with rage that put her in the hospital, and one time, almost in the grave. She wasn’t afraid. At least not for her. She knew Mark would never hurt Britney, but she did fear for Terry and Lyndon. For neither of those “men” had ever faced a real man like Mark. One that wasn’t filled with self righteousness, but with righteous anger.
Those two might be surprised to see the Giant gentle Mark give way to the focused icy anger of a Mark with will. That is the only reason Marcia hesitated to show Mark the video. After a moment she thought again: “They deserve whatever they get coming to them. Britney does not.” Mark was still staring at her with patient eyes, every muscle in his body held taut hoping it was a lie. That made the decision for Marcia- Mark deserved the Truth. Nothing less would do.
She held out her iPhone. A video was on the screen paused. It came from Terry and Lyndon’s secret website. The one they thought none of the Cheerleaders had. It was only for a few select friends to show their conquests to. A very private club of Male Privilege. Marcia had access because of a drunken summer party - she let both Terry and Lyndon know if any of her girls showed up on their “special” page- she would make it Public. Maybe she should have anyway. It was to late now.
Mark hit the arrow to play. He might as well have hit the arrow to go through his heart, soul, and shatter his mind. His Britney with both Terry and Lyndon. Two men he thought of as teammates, friends, buddies. But no longer. He didn’t remember much of what he heard on that tape, except for Britney’s passionate: “Yes, yes, yes!” as her body responded to their athletic thrusts.
Mark played it through again. Tears steaming down a face gone as cold as the stares directed at a drunken Ex at a wedding. It was like watching a stone weep, thought Marcia. Unaware that her (and all the other girls) had tears streaming down their faces too. They had watched a love die. A real love. It made them cry.
Mark handed the iPhone back to Marcia.
Marcia watched him walk away. She had never seen a body without a soul in it before. She saw one now. She kept crying for a long time.
Mark walked from the Girls Rehearsal Room to the Locker Room. The whole team looked up…ready to hear some upbeat quiet remarks from Mark. He always found a way to compliment them on a good block, great hit, or reading a play correctly. He never criticized anyone and spent hours working with folks on the bubble. They respected him in every way. He was the quiet strength behind their three year winning streak.
One look was all it took for almost the whole team to back up against their lockers just like the girls did - it was what a herd did when a predator was on the prowl. They all knew - after just one look at Mark’s face, he was on the prowl. So they backed away. It was the smart thing to do.
Terry and Lyndon were sitting on a bench with their backs to Mark’s entrance. But some sort of energy sent a wave out through the locker room, they felt it and turned. Before they could react Mark had picked six foot six inch, two hundred thirty five pound quarterback Terry up with one hand, a hand like an iron band around his throat. Six foot two inch, two hundred fifty five pounds of solid trained muscle that ran a four three forty that was the future Hall of Fame linebacker Lyndon - was gripped in Mark’s other Iron hand grip.
Neither could utter a word as they were lifted bodily eight feet into the air. They were pounding their fists against the coiled wire ropes of Mark’s forearms, they may as well as tried to break down Mt. Everest with a plastic toy hammer for all the effect they were having on his grip. The other players refused to breathe. Their eyes and minds trying to desperately explain what they were witnessing. Nobody was that strong. Nobody.
Mark asked two questions. Just two. Then he loosened his grip just enough to let them have enough air to answer. Once. They knew they had better tell the truth or there might not be a next breath. So they did.
“How long have you been sleeping with Brittney?”
It was Lyndon that answered:
The Iron band closed before Lyndon could utter anymore words, or take in any more air.
This time it was Terry who felt the Iron band loosen enough to speak.
“We had a bet that we could both seduce her. We wanted to prove we were better men than you.”
And that proved they weren’t.
Mark dropped them both to sag against their lockers, hand reaching to massage necks that would carry those bruises for a few more weeks.
Mark turned and walked out of the Locker Room without a word. When the door closed behind him, the entire team let out their breath in one long “F*ck!”
Mark left the Facility after informing the owners he was retiring immediately. They never even got a chance to change his mind, negotiate, or even talk to him. He just walked out of the Facility. He left his badge and security pass at the desk without stopping.
The Owner, GM, Coach and about a dozen folks stood in the Lobby and watched Mark walk to his truck. All of them thinking that must be what a body without a soul looks like. And then he was gone.
Britney got a Text. That scared her. Mark never texted. He hated Social Media. He always called. Something bad must have happened. “God, please let him be Okay. Please.” She prayed without even thinking.
The Text made her drop the Phone. A moment later she dropped beside it. She broke out in a sweat, she couldn’t breathe. Her muscles had turned to rubber. She managed to pick the phone up again. She read the text again. Trembling she pulled it to her heart. She knew it was the last thing she would ever get from Mark.
She read the text again.
“Britney. I know about you, Terry, and Lyndon. Ask Marcia to show you the Video. Don’t ever try to contact me. You can keep the apartment and anything in it. You should have told me. We might have worked through it. You lied.
Anyone watching Britney when she got up to call Marcia, would have thought to themselves: “So that is what a body without a soul looks like.”
It had been three years. Three years since Mark walked out of the Facility. Nobody ever saw him again. Nobody knew where he went. The Owners had chipped away at the Dancer’s Salaries and compensation for personal appearances - leaving the Cheerleaders almost back to the Pre Mark Era. Terry had broken his shoulder, than his ribs, and finally his wrist. His career didn’t last three games after Mark left. Lyndon was still playing, and still destined for the Hall of Fame.
His dream of having Mark - the Man he respected most - introducing him …dead. He had tried to find Mark. To apologize, to ask forgiveness, to seek to repair their friendship, heck just to see his face again. He couldn’t find him. Wherever Mark went…nobody knows. All Lyndon had left of his self respect, was on the Field.
Britney did not want to go to Canada. Certainly not to some town out in the Middle of Nowhere in Northern Ontario. Her girlfriends and sister had rented a cabin up there to hole up in before the wedding next week in Sudbury. Her sister was marrying a good Canadian Boy she met while doing her graduate work at McMaster University. His family lived in two little towns just North of Sudbury. Most of his family had worked the Nickel mines their back in the day.
And so it came to pass that on a hot July day on a small lake in Ontario, three girls dragged Britney into Sudbury to take her to Tim Horton’s for a Double Double, and some Timmy’s. She laughed at the sound of it all, and wondered what a Double Double was, and why a ten pack of Timmy’s sounded so appealing to her soon to be Brother in Law.
They promise to bring her sister and almost Brother in law back a double double and some Timmy’s. The three girls towed Britney into the rented Jeep, and off they went to town.
Mark didn’t come into town often. His cabin was well stocked with food and provisions. One a month the Grocery Store in Sudbury brought out everything he needed. He didn’t have TV or the Internet. He hated Social Media. He spent his days hiking, swimming, and reading. He was becoming a pretty good Nature Photographer too.
Today though, it was so hot. He thought he might treat himself to a double double and some Timmy’s in Sudbury. It was a nice ninety minute drive there - and he could be around people without being bothered by them. And he did love his Timmy’s.
He hopped in his truck put on some Eva Cassidy. (his favorite singer - well female singer. Chris Stapleton was his favorite male singer- but he was in a gentler mood today, so Eva won out.) Her perfect tones soared as Over the Rainbow poured out of her soul and into his ears. The drive into Sudbury was nice.
He opened the door to Tim Hortons to let a gaggle of girls go in first. They were laughing and giggling so much it made him smile. He heard one of them say: “You have never had a double double and ten Timmy’s? My God Girl, how have you lived?” And they all laughed. Mark smiled. He had heard almost those same words from the Clerk at Tim Horton’s (in fact, this very Tim Horton’s) just three years earlier when he bought his cabin up in the woods. It made him smile bigger.
Then his smile froze.
She had seen the big man open the door. Some part of her stopped listening to the teasing of the girls, and their laughter faded into the background. Like the chattering of children on a playground when a couple of Mother’s are talking on a nearby bench.
The grace and quiet competence he showed as he backed gently out of the way of the gaggle passing under his long arm - reminded her of someone. She had gone so long without hope, that the memory couldn’t fight its way to her conscious mind. She was the last of the four to pass under that strong arm, as she did, she looked up. She was going to smile and say thank you…but she froze.
Her smile locked in place, her thank you un-uttered.
Mark had gone without a soul for so long, it took a few seconds for emotions to find the right places in his heart and mind to speak. It couldn’t be her, but it was. He drank in every inch of her with his eyes, if this was the last time he would see her, he wanted to remember every detail. Out loud he said the words he had longed to say for three years.
“Britney. I am so sorry. Can you forgive me?”
There are a lot of words that Britney imagined Mark might say if they ever met again. There were a lot of words that she imagined she might say to Mark if they ever met again. What she did hear from Mark weren’t any of the words she imagined. What she said back wasn’t any of the words she thought she would say either.
“Forgive you? Forgive you?! Why? You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Her own guilt, shame, and self blame were pounding out her responsibility for what happened. Unaware that he might have some of those same feelings.
“Yes. Yes I did. I didn’t let our love protect us from ourselves. I was selfish. “
Britney’s eyes were devouring every nuance of Mark’s face, a face she thought she would only see in her dreams. She could see he was hungrily devouring her presence too. They stood like that blocking the doorway, but nobody was going to ask them to move. The intensity between the two of them was so strong, that the three girls had stopped babbling, the entire Tim Horton’s was watching the strange tableau unfolding in a door propped open by a giant arm.
People waiting to get in…did just that. Waited. Nobody wanted to interfere.
Britney’s eyes were shiny. Water had flowed up to cover them with honesty.
“I haven’t slept with anyone since you left. I haven’t even been on a date.”
She heard the truth in his words. He felt the truth in hers.
He knelt down on one knee.
“Britney, will you marry me?”
She knelt down because her legs wouldn’t hold her up any more.
“Of course. Of course. Of course.”
Her lips met his with intent. As if their lips were sealing the deal, which, of course, they were.
Lyndon couldn’t believe who his wife said was on the Phone. It couldn’t be. His hear pounded.
“Yeah, Mark, is that you?’
“Yeah. He look…I was wondering if you wanted to come up to Canada for a wedding next week.”
Lyndon didn’t even hesitate. He had a feeling.
“Me and Britney are getting married up here near Sudbury Ontario…and we would like you to be in the wedding.”
Lyndon’s wife had never seen him cry. She just kept rubbing his back after he hung up and said:
“God works miracles!”
Terry wasn’t going to answer the phone. Heck he didn’t know anyone in Canada. Maybe it was a Scout telling him about a new recruiting prospect up in Canada. Coaching a Division II team in Montana - Terry couldn’t risk losing any prospect. So he answered.
“Terry, this is Mark. I was wondering if you could take time out of your summer conditioning drills to be in my wedding up in Canada.”
Terry didn’t cry often. He did now. He had a feeling but he had to ask anyway.
“Sure, buddy. Who’s wedding?”
The answer was the one Terry wanted to hear:
“Me and Britney. Lyndon and you are going to be my groomsmen. Marcia is going to be my Best Man. “
Terry laughed after he hung up. He couldn’t stop laughing all day. When the kids asked him:
“Coach, what has gotten into you?”
He simply said: “I was forgiven. “
Marcia answered the phone. Canada?
“May I help you?”
“Yes. This is Mark, and I was wondering if you would be my Best Man at my wedding?’
Marcia almost lost her grip on her phone, joy was springing out of every pore in her body.
“That depends…are you marrying Britney?”
“Why, yes. I am.”
“Then I will be there. Do you have the rings?”
“Good. It’s about time.”
“Yes. Yes it is.”
The Wedding was small. But the best anyone had ever been to. The Bride and Groom Glowed. The Best Man was a woman, and couldn’t have been more gracious. The two groomsmen were huge, stayed sober, and danced with everyone, including grandmothers, aunties, and small children.
Tim Horton’s hosted the whole throng the next day: Double Doubles all around, ten Timmy’s of your choice, and it was all free.
On their fiftieth wedding anniversary, Mark gave a small speech, in which he said:
“Sometimes two wrongs make a right."