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Yet Another Hudson Story(Kind of a love story)

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    Posted: October/05/2007 at 8:48am
I'm kind of fixated on Hudson right now, but I swear I'm writing other things in between these. This one stemmed from a friend wanting to see a "softer" side of Hudson. here's the result.

TIME CAPSULE
(A Ghost Story)
1987
     “We’ll always be together.”
     Hudson was standing with Wendy in the hall by his locker. He was packing his books away while she leaned against the wall, arms folded tersely under her breasts and looking exceedingly grumpy. And damn it, even her pout was adorable.
     “You can’t know that,” she said.
     “Well, I do know it.”
     “Oh yeah? What are you, some kind of clairvoyant or something, can see into the future?”
      Hudson closed his locker and stepped close to Wendy. He would have put his arms around her, but Miss Pearl was watching from the class across the hall, and Old Maid Pearl definitely frowned on public displays of affection in the hallways. “It’s simple, Wendy. You love me, don’t you?”
     “You know I do.”
     “And I love you. That’s never going to change, and that’s how I know we’ll always be together.”
     Wendy laughed, the sound soft and delicate. “You make it all sound so easy.”
     “Well, it is easy. All that other stuff doesn’t matter, only how we feel about each other.”
     Hudson thought he had her, but then the pout returned along with a worry line forming between her eyebrows. “But after this summer, I’m going to be in college way up in Vermont and you’re going to still be here. That’s a lot of distance between us.”
     “You know what they say: distance makes the heart grow fonder.”
     “Hudson, be serious.”
     “I am serious. You’ll be home summers and holidays; I’ll come visit on weekends whenever I get the chance. Nothing’s going to change.”
     Wendy stared up at him for a moment, and Hudson was struck anew by just how beautiful she was. Those large brown eyes, freckles across the bridge of her nose, full lips, a body that just didn’t quit. Not for the first time, Hudson wondered how he’d gotten so lucky to snag someone like Wendy, who was not only beautiful, but kind and smart and classy. Hell, even he thought she could do better.
     “I just wish you’d change your mind about coming with me. It’s probably too late to apply for Fall semester, but you could get in for Spring.”
     “Wendy, you know I can’t afford college.”
     “But your grades are decent, you could probably get a scholarship. Not to mention with your…uhm, financial situation, I’m sure you’d qualify for some need-based grants.”
     Hudson suddenly tensed up, and he balled his hands into fists. He was extremely sensitive about the fact that he came from such a poor family; it was actually a source of great shame for him. He worked his ass off at the paper mill unpacking trucks six nights a week so that he could afford nice clothes. Just because he was born into white trash didn’t mean he had to look the part.
     “Don’t get mad, Hudson,” Wendy said in that tone of voice she knew never failed to melt him. “I just think college would be good for you, give you more options for the future.”
     “I’m just not a college type of guy, you know that. Besides, my future’s not looking too shabby from where I’m standing. Once I graduate, I’ll be able to get off the docks and get a job inside the plant, which pays pretty well. Enough to get my own little apartment. And four years from now, when you get out of school with your teaching degree, we can get married and live happily ever after.”
     “Since when did you start believing in fairytales?”
     “Since I met my princess.” Ignoring the disapproving glare of Old Maid Pearl, Hudson leaned down and kissed Wendy lightly on the lips. “Nothing’s going to come between us, okay?”
     “Okay,” she said but still looked uncertain.
     Just then Hudson’s younger brother Pete, a freshman this year, walked by and called out to him. At first Hudson tried to act like he hadn’t heard; he was always a bit embarrassed by his brother. Whereas Hudson worked hard to buy new clothes and look nice, Pete was happy with the hand-me-downs and thrift store specials that were all their parents could afford. He looked like a bum.
     “Hey, Hud, I’m talking to you,” Pete said, thumbing Hudson on the back of the head. “You going to the time capsule ceremony out by the flagpole?”
     “Wasn’t planning on it, no,” Hudson said, not looking at Pete.
     “I’m donating some of my AC/DC and Motley Crew records, so that twenty years from now kids will know that the year 1987 rocked!”
     When Hudson didn’t respond, Pete flipped him the bird and walked on.
     Hudson was suddenly struck with an idea. “Wendy, give me your necklace.”
     “What? Why?”
     “Just give it to me.”
     Around her neck on a thin silver chain, Wendy wore a small pendant that was shaped like one half of a heart. The other half Hudson wore around his own neck. While Wendy removed hers, he did the same, then took them and snapped the two pieces together with an audible click, forming one whole heart.
     “I’m going to put this in the time capsule,” he said, holding up the heart, the twin chains dangling down.
     “What for?”
     “I’m going to put this, a symbol of our love, into the time capsule, where it will remain for two decades. Then, in the year 2007 when they open it up, we can get it back. We’ll both be here together to get it back.”
     Wendy smiled, and some of the doubt left her eyes. “That so?”
     “Absolutely. We’ll zoom into town in our hover car and watch them dig it up.”
     “Will we have one of those robot maids?”
     “You betcha, and a summer house on the moon.”
     Laughing, joining hands, the two walked down the hall toward the side exit that would lead to the flagpole.
* * *
2007
     In 1999, the old high school had been closed down when a new, more modern facility was built on the outskirts of town. The old building had sat empty for three years before the county school board appropriated enough funds to remodel it, and then the high school Hudson had attended became administrative offices.
     Hudson passed the place often when running errands around town, and from the outside the building looked very much the same as it had when he graduated in 1987. The gym out back had been demolished, and a row of small poplar trees had been planted out front, but otherwise it was a place frozen in time. Or so Hudson thought now as he pulled his car into the back lot, which had once been reserved for faculty parking.
        Stepping out onto the pavement, feeling the noonday sun beating down on the back of his neck, Hudson felt momentarily like a kid again, late for class and hoping not to get another detention with Principal Weir. It was strange, but even though Hudson still lived in his hometown, he had so effectively cut himself off from his past that he rarely found himself caught up in nostalgia; Memory Lane was a road down which he never turned. But standing here now on the grounds of the old high school for the first time in twenty years, a few memories managed to make it over the wall he had constructed around himself.
     Hudson gave his head a resolute shake, as if trying to dislodge the memories and leave them in the dirt. That was another life, practically another person. He wasn’t one of those unlucky bastards that had peaked in high school and ridden a downhill slide all the way to the bottom shortly after. Hudson didn’t look back fondly at his teenage years, going through his yearbooks to be reminded of his glory days as quarterback of the football team or class president or King of the prom or honor roll student. High school had merely been something he’d had to endure, something he’d been happy to put behind him once it was done.
     Then what the hell are you doing back here?
     A good question, that. He had skipped his reunion ten years ago and had no intention of going to the one later this summer. He wasn’t sure what had compelled him to attend the ceremony being held here today. He had seen the article in the yesterday’s paper about the time capsule being dug up, the time capsule that had been buried in 1987, Hudson’s senior year of high school, and he had been able to think of little else since. He found himself remembering the day the time capsule had been buried, Principal Weir making such a big deal of it, students and teachers alike contributing items for the capsule. Hudson himself had given something to be buried, a pendant shaped like a heart, a pendant that could be unlocked into two separate pieces, one for him and one for—
     Hudson couldn’t even bring himself to think her name. Which was silly, for why else had he come here today if not in hopes of seeing her? Although he didn’t want to admit it, there had been temptation when the reunion had rolled around in 1997, the siren call of just the mere possibility that she might be there, but he had swatted the temptation aside with no real effort then. However, something about the digging up of the time capsule, the promise that had been made when the heart-shaped necklace had been placed inside all those years ago…he could not resist the lure.
     Of course, he told himself, there was a good chance she wouldn’t even be here. For all he knew, she could live on the other side of the country—hell, the other side of the world, for that matter—and may not even have heard about the time capsule. It was possible that she didn’t even remember the pendant Hudson had given her; after all, she had forgotten the promise that went along with it easily enough.
     And what if she were here? Hudson wondered as he walked toward the side of the building where the flagpole still stood. What would he say to her? What was he expecting her to say to him? He’d given it no real thought, just acting on an impulse that was as inexplicable as it was powerful.
     The crowd gathered around the flagpole was small, consisting of less than a dozen people, and he did not see her among them, but the ceremony was not set to start for another half hour and more people were sure to show up. Hudson, not being a particularly sociable man, did not know anyone here. A few people nodded his way and he nodded back, but he made no attempt at conversation. Every time someone new arrived, Hudson’s heart rate speed up a bit, which actually started to make him angry with himself. After all this time, why should she have such an effect on him? It meant that she still had power over him, and that did not sit well with Hudson. After what she had done, he wanted nothing more than to banish even the memory of her from his mind, and he’d thought he had done just that, but since reading the article about the time capsule yesterday, he had learned just how wrong he’d been.
     Hudson found himself staring down at the patch of earth at the base of the flagpole, where the time capsule had been buried in 1987. He remembered standing in this very spot, holding her hand as they watched Principal Weir place the pendant in the airtight crate that was acting as the time capsule. The crate had then been lowered into a hole dug by some of the ROTC students, and after giving a very boring speech, Weir had covered it back over, stamping the dirt flat with the back of the shovel. Funny how twenty years could seem like just yesterday, how past emotions thought long buried could suddenly be dug up again.
     “Hello Hudson.”
     Hudson started as if a firecracker had just gone off behind him and whirled around. He had been so lost in his memories that he hadn’t even heard her approach, but there she was. Twenty years older, auburn hair streaked with gray, crinkles around the corners of her eyes and lips, but unquestionably her, and damn it, she was still adorable.
     “Hello Wendy,” Hudson said, fighting to keep his voice casual and cool.
     She tried to smile at him, but it came out more like a grimace of pain. “I didn’t expect to see you here today.”
     “Why not? The paper said that anyone who had donated items to the time capsule could reclaim them today. As you may remember, there is something of mine in there.”
     “Mine too, if I recall.”
     “Not anymore. You pretty much gave up claims to it, if you recall.”
     Wendy’s lips pursed and her eyes narrowed to slits. She seemed about to say something, but then she paused, took a deep breath, and changed the subject. “So is your brother going to show up to get his records back?”
     “Pete doesn’t get out of the house much these days.”
     “What does that mean? Is he sick or something?”
     “No, let’s just say he went through a bad breakup. You’d be surprised how badly it can cripple a person when someone they love turns out to be a lying sack of (censored).”
     “I’m sure,” Wendy said, ice dripping from her words. “So what are you up to these days, Hudson? Finally make shift manager at the mill?”
     “No, I actually run my own business now.”
     “Really? Doing what?”
     Hudson paused. “Getting rid of pests for people.”
     “Oh, an exterminator!” Wendy exclaimed with a mocking laugh. “Such ambition. And here I thought you’d end up a garbage man.”
     “And how about you, Wendy? Are you some trophy wife to a rich husband who hasn’t touched you in years?”
     Wendy stiffened, and it brought Hudson no small amount of pleasure to know he’d found a sensitive spot. “I just happen to have a tenured position at Pendleton University, and Dean is one of the most respected orthodontists in the entire state of Vermont.”
     “Dean, of course, I’d almost forgotten his name. Mr. Upwardly Mobile himself. Let’s see if I can remember exactly how you put it in your letter: ‘Dean is the kind of man I need, the kind of man who’s going places, who has a bright future. Dean can give me the kind of life that you will never be able to.’ Maybe I got some of the phrasing wrong, but I think that was the gist of it.”
     Wendy dug through her purse and came out with a crumpled pack of cigarettes. Sticking one between her lips, she lit it with an ornate silver lighter. None of those long, thin lady cigarettes for Wendy; she was smoking a Marlboro Red. Blowing a stream of smoke in Hudson’s general direction, she said, “You don’t really want to get into this, do you?”
     “I think that’s exactly what I want.”
     “We were just kids back then, Hudson. Kids playing at being in love, but it wasn’t real.”
     “It was real for me,” Hudson said, his voice low and lethal. “Maybe you were just playing games, but it was real for me.”
     “Did you expect my life to stop when I went off to college? I mean, you were several states away, and I was lonely.”
     “So you decided to jump on the first pre-med student with a trust fund that came your way?”
     Wendy snorted a laugh, taking a deep drag on the cigarette. “I changed when I got to college. My eyes were opened, and I realized how small my life had been here, how sheltered. I was meeting kids from all over the country, smart kids, kids who dreamed big and were determined to make those dreams come true. I started to dream big myself, and here you sat in this nowhere town, content to work in a mill for the rest of your life, your biggest dream being to marry your high school sweetheart.”
     “That used to be your dream too, Wendy. Do you even remember that?”
     “I remember, but then I grew up. You didn’t. I outgrew you, Hudson. We wanted different things out of life, simple as that.”
     Hudson felt his left eye twitching, and he became aware that several people in the crowd were watching them. “One month, Wendy. That was how long you were gone when you sent me that Dear John letter. It took you one month to forget about me and to fall for this Dean guy.”
     Wendy let the butt drop to her feet and she ground it out with the toe of her high-heeled pump. “You’re not going to make me feel guilty, Hudson. I’m sorry if I hurt you, but I had to do what was right for me, what would make me happy. And I have a good life. Dean and I have a nice home, a summer place in Maine, and a daughter who is a freshman at Cornell this year. My life is nearly perfect, and I don’t regret for a second leaving behind you or this rinky-dink town.”
     “Then why did you come back?” Hudson said, asking her the same question he had asked himself earlier. “Other than the pendant, there’s nothing in that time capsule that belongs to you, so why’d you come back?”
     Wendy stared off toward the flagpole for a moment, saying nothing. Finally she shrugged and said, “Same reason I went to the class reunion ten years ago. To make sure I’d made the right decision.”
     This surprised Hudson, and he stammered a moment before saying, “What?”
     “Don’t get the idea that I’m dissatisfied with my life or my husband, because I’m not, but there was always this tiny part of me deep down inside that wondered if I’d done the right thing. And now, seeing you here, a bitter failure of a man, I know for certain that I did.”
     And with that, Wendy pushed past him.
We are not strangers to ourselves, we only try to be. --Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
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Hudson stood with a frown twisting his lips, watching her walk off to the far side of the crowd, her gait stiff and somewhat formal. Only when his jaw became sore did he realize he was clenching his teeth. Hudson, surprisingly lacking in imagination for someone in his line of work, hadn’t spent much time imagining how things might unfold if he were to meet up with Wendy again, but if he had, this certainly wasn’t the scenario he would have envisioned.
     Try as he might, he couldn’t get the words bitter failure of a man out of his mind. It was what everyone had expected of him when he was young, to wind up as worthless as the rest of his family. Hell, even his parents had expected as much. But he’d proven them all wrong. It was true that his chosen profession was unorthodox, charging people to rid their homes of the lingering spirits of the dead, but it had paid for his house, car, and allowed him to put away a rather sizable nest egg. He was no failure, and he didn’t care what Wendy thought of him.
     But if that were true, why did her words sting so much?
     Hudson considered just leaving, but he didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of knowing she’d gotten under his skin. It was petty and a bit childish, but he stayed just to spite her. Besides, he didn’t want her getting her hands on the pendant. He’d given her his heart once already—never again.
     By the time the ceremony began, the crowd had grown to about forty people, all crammed together around the flagpole. He saw a few faces he thought he recognized from high school, but he approached no one. And though he tried not to, he found himself repeatedly searching out Wendy. She stood among a group of women, smiling and chatting with them, apparently catching up on old times, but her eyes remained decidedly averted from where Hudson stood.
     At just past one, and elderly man with a cane and a permanent stoop stepped up to the flagpole and started speaking in a voice surprisingly strong and carrying for a man of his age. Collectively, the crowd hushed and listened to him. It took Hudson a few moments to realize that this was Principal Weir. Seeing how much the man had changed and physically deteriorated made Hudson himself feel old. He tuned out the old man’s speech, which was a bunch of hullabaloo about the importance of honoring one’s roots, and found himself checking his watch on average of once every half minute.
     When Weir finally finished yammering, which seemed to have exhausted him, two teenaged boys in T-shirts and jeans brought out shovels and began to dig into the ground at the flagpole’s base. The time capsule had been buried only three feet down, half the depth of a standard grave, and the boys knelt down and pulled the crate out and set it at Weir’s feet. The Principal undid the latches set around the thing and pried open the lid. There was a whoosh of air like when you open the vacuum seal on a can of nuts, and everyone seemed to lean forward to see what was inside.
     Weir began taking items out of the capsule one at a time, holding them up and saying a little about each one, pausing for photographs that would appear in the local paper. Several people in the crowd stepped forward to claim certain items as their own. There was a little of everything.   Vinyl records and cassettes, books, VHS tapes, newspapers and magazines, movie posters, Members Only jackets and other articles of clothing, photographs, dolls and action figures.
     And jewelry.
     Hudson recognized the pendant with its twin chains the second Weir pulled it out, and he actually felt his breath catch in his throat like a piece of dry bread. Weir held it up, described it, posed for the photo, then asked if it belonged to anyone in attendance. Hudson immediately glanced toward Wendy; she did not move, but her face looked blank, as if she were stunned.
     On numb legs, Hudson stepped forward and held out his hand. He tried to speak, but his voice seemed locked away somewhere inside. Weir placed the necklace in Hudson’s palm, and it felt hot for a moment, a brief sensation of heat that spread through his hand and up his arm, but then he closed his fingers around the heart and it was just a cool piece of silver again. Hudson stepped back into the crowd and stared down at his fist, the chains trailing out from between his fingers, and felt overcome by an unexpected rush of emotion. His hands were shaking, and he was suddenly short of breath.
     “Excuse me,” Hudson said, pushing his way through the crowd. He was gripped by a sudden bout of claustrophobia. There were too many people here, too close, and he couldn’t seem to catch his breath. He slammed a young woman out of the way and she spat an obscenity at him, but he didn’t care. He just had to get away from all these people. It was too hot, he felt like he was suffocating. Finally he broke free of the crowd and made his way hurriedly to the parking lot, stuffing the pendant into his pocket. He was almost to his car when he heard his name called.
     He turned, and Wendy was standing just a few feet away. Her facial expression wasn’t as hard as it had been before, and the lines around her eyes and lips melted away as she smiled tentatively at him. The anger and hurt Hudson had felt earlier also melted away, and he found himself returning her smile. She stepped forward slowly, somewhat shyly; she no longer moved with the regal aloofness she’d displayed at the flagpole.
     “Hudson,” she said again then seemed to falter, her mouth snapping shut.
     Hudson found himself staring at her eyes. Despite the obvious signs of the passage of years, her eyes alone remained unchanged, the same as when she’d been a girl and Hudson had loved her. For a moment it was as if they were in limbo, neither here in the present nor in the past but caught in some otherworld in between, a place where only they existed.
     “I couldn’t let you leave after all the dreadful things I said to you,” Wendy murmured, staring down at her feet like a child admitting to taking the lunch money and ready to accept her punishment. “I was completely out of line, and I want to apologize.”
     “That’s okay,” Hudson said, reaching out to cup her chin and make her look up at him. He wanted another glimpse of those eyes. “I think I gave as good as I got, and you’re equally owed an apology.”
     Wendy laughed and pushed a stray lock of hair behind an ear, a girlish gesture. “I don’t know when I became such a vicious bitch.”
     “Probably around the time I became a bitter failure of a man.”
     She winced at hearing her own words repeated back to her. “Oh Hudson, I really didn’t mean that. I was just being cruel.”
     “Well, you don’t exactly have the market cornered on cruelty. I believe I said some fairly nasty things to you myself.”
     Wendy stood there a moment, just staring at Hudson with a strange half-smile curling one corner of her lips. “You look good, Hudson,” she said after awhile.
     “So do you. Hardly changed at all.”
     She snorted a laugh, self-consciously running a hand through her gray-streaked hair. “You don’t have to lie. I have a mirror at home.”
     Hudson reached out and touched her hair briefly. He wasn’t sure why he did it, it was probably inappropriate and intrusive, but she didn’t object. “That’s all just surface. Deep down, where it counts, you haven’t changed. I can still see that high school cheerleader staring out at me.”
     A blush crept into her cheeks, and for a moment she seemed at a loss for words. Finally she looked up at Hudson, her eyes serious, and said, “Well, you’ve changed. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but you definitely seem different. More confident maybe, more sure of yourself. More of a man. I’m not sure what the word is I’m looking for.”
     “I think the word might be harder. Or possibly colder. I’ve changed in a lot of ways since the last time you saw me, and I can’t help but feel that most of them are for the worse. I don’t know if there’s anything left of the boy you knew.”
     “I bet he’s still in there somewhere, just hiding. You just need the right person to coax him out into the open.”
     Hudson heard the laugh before he realized it was coming from his own mouth. Laughter wasn’t a regular occurrence with him these days, and he was surprised by how good it felt. How natural. Hard to believe that less than an hour ago he and Wendy had been trading accusations and vitriol.
     “I still feel horribly about the things I said to you,” she said. “I want to make it up to you. I have nothing scheduled for the rest of the afternoon; let me buy you a late lunch.”
     “That’s really not necessary, Wendy.”
     “I insist. It’s the very least I can do.”
     “Well, I’ll let you buy me lunch only if you let me buy you lunch.”
     “Deal,” Wendy said with a giggle that was the very essence of 1987.
* * *
     They ate at Jasper’s, a small diner in the business district downtown. It was one of the few places in the area that had survived the last twenty years. Most of the businesses had moved to the outskirts of town near the Super Wal-mart when it was built in 2001. Now downtown consisted mostly of finance companies and check cashing places. But there was still Jasper’s, an eternal monument to their youth.
     “God, these fries taste just the same as they did twenty years ago,” Wendy said, shoving three into her mouth at once.
     “There’s something kind of attractive about watching a woman pig out.”
     “Are you teasing me?”
     “Now would I do something like that?” Hudson said, taking a huge bite of his cheeseburger. Wendy broke into laughter, pointing at him. “What?”
     “You look like a vampire.”
     “Because I’m so dashingly handsome?”
     “No, because you’ve got ketchup dribbling from the corner of your mouth.”
     Embarrassed, Hudson reached for a napkin but Wendy said, “I’ve got it,” and used her own napkin to wipe away the smear. As she took her hand away, her finger trailed along her jaw line, seeming to linger longer than necessary. It sent a shiver through his entire body, a feeling he hadn’t experienced in quite some time.
     “So,” Hudson said, nearly knocking over his glass of Pepsi, “where’s the Better Half today?”
     It seemed to take Wendy a moment to realize who he was talking about. “Oh, Dean? He had a extraction this afternoon he couldn’t postpone.”
     “Work a lot, does he?”
     “Well, his practice is flourishing, that’s for sure.”
     “Must get awfully lonely, being the wife of a workaholic.”
     “I never said he was a workaholic. He always makes time for me and Anna, our daughter.”
     “That’s great,” Hudson said, feeling oddly disappointed. As if he wanted to hear Wendy say that her husband was distant or cold or an abusive tyrant, as if he wanted her to say she was miserable. It was a horrible thing to wish someone unhappiness, but his motivations were purely selfish and he knew it.
     “Can I see it?” Wendy asked.
     Hudson blinked at her. “See what?”
     “The necklace, silly. The heart pendant.”
     “Oh, of course.” Hudson reached into his pocket and fumbled out the pendant, lying it on the table between them.
     Wendy did not immediately move to take it, at first simply caressing it with her eyes. Then she reached out and lifted it tentatively, with a reverence most would reserve for holy artifacts. With a wistful smile, she unsnapped the pieces, creating two separate necklaces, each with only half a heart. A broken heart.
     “You gave me this for my seventeenth birthday,” she said softly.
     “Yeah, I had to save up for it for months, socking away money a little at a time.”
     “Literally, right? If I remember correctly, you kept your money in an old sock in the bottom drawer of your dresser.”
     Hudson laughed, having forgotten that fact of his own past. “Well, I’ve graduated to banks since then.”
     “I thought it was the best gift I’d ever received.” She undid the clasp of one of the necklaces and went to put it around her neck, but then she paused, looked over at Hudson and said, “Do you mind?”
     “Not at all. I gave it to you, after all; it’s yours.”
     The pendant fell between her breasts, and she rubbed her fingers across it a few times, as if for luck. “You were right before. I gave up rights to it.”
     “No you didn’t,” Hudson said, reaching out for her hand then stopping himself. “Just because…well, just because it didn’t work out, that doesn’t diminish the memory of what we shared.”
     Wendy didn’t say anything, just stared across the table at Hudson with an unreadable expression on her face, all the while fingering the chain.
     Hudson took a long swallow of soda to combat the sudden dryness of his mouth, rearranged the silverware by his plate, then said, “I hope Dean realizes how lucky he is.”
     “I think he does. He loves me very much, and I love him. No relationship is perfect, of course, but I have a good life and a happy marriage. Now why don’t you take me back to your place and make love to me?”
     Without a pause, Hudson signaled the waitress and said, “Check, please,” like the punch line to some old joke.
* * *
     After Hudson came for the third time, he lay on the bed in a breathless stupor, feeling that all his bones had liquefied in the heat of the passion he and Wendy had generated. His body ached from the exertion, but it was a good ache. He felt near dehydration but could not even contemplating moving from the bed just yet.
     Next to him, her body covered by a sheen of sweat but nothing else, Wendy stretched languidly, a contented groan escaping her lips. “That was a marathon,” she said, glancing at the clock, which informed them that it was just after six. Outside the windows, dusk was beginning to settle, the last rays of the sun bleeding through the glass as shadows spread throughout the room.
     “I didn’t know I had that much stamina,” Hudson gasped, feeling slightly drunk. “I think I beat my personal best.”
     “You’ve definitely learned some tricks you didn’t know in high school.” Wendy ran a foot up and down Hudson’s right leg as she absentmindedly tweaked one of his nipples. “You must have had some good teachers.”
     “Better than Dean?” Hudson asked, not sure if he really wanted to know the answer but unable to resist asking the question.
     “No contest.” Wendy rolled over on top of Hudson, grinding her body against his. She still wore the pendant; it dangled down and clinked against its twin, nestled in Hudson’s dark chest hair. “The most he could ever manage was two back-to-back rounds.”
     Despite his exhaustion, the feel of Wendy’s naked flesh rubbing up against his own caused him to stiffen again. Smiling, Wendy kissed him, snagged another condom off the nightstand, and sucked air in through her teeth as she slowly lowered herself onto Hudson’s rigid member.
     “Round four.”
* * *
     “All I have is a half pint of Strawberry,” Hudson said, coming back into the bedroom.
     “Give it over.”
     Hudson handed the small tub of ice cream to Wendy. She was sitting up against the headboard, wearing only one of Hudson’s oversized T-shirts, which fell midway down her thighs. Her hair was tousled, and she dug into the ice cream as if she’d never tasted it before.
     “I can’t believe you still crave ice cream after sex,” Hudson said with a laugh, sitting next to her on the bed. He was wearing a pair of boxer-briefs, sweat cooling on his skin.
     Wendy looked up and smiled, her lips coated with the strawberry confection. “Ice cream and sex, the two best things in the world.”
     “Sounds like you’ve found a new religion.”
     Wendy held out a spoonful of dripping ice cream. “Want some?”
     “I’ll pass, but thanks.”
     Hudson watched with an amused grin as Wendy finished off the ice cream, scraping the last of it from the bottom of the tub. She then gave him a sloppy, sticky kiss that tasted of pure heaven. “What time is it?” she asked.
     “After eight. Won’t Dean be worried?”
     “He’s probably freaking out, wondering where I am. I turned my cell off, but I’m sure he’s left a dozen or so frantic messages by now.”
     Hudson hesitated. He didn’t want to bring up the subject, but there was no real way around it. “So what will you tell him?”
     Wendy shrugged casually, as if she’d been asked what she thought of macramé. “I’ll think of something.”
     “Think he’ll be suspicious?”
     “I doubt it. Dean trusts me, he knows I’d never cheat on him.”
     Hudson frowned at her for a moment, waiting for her to realize what she’d just said. When she didn’t, he said, “But you did just cheat on him. With me.”
     “I guess you’re right. Funny, though, it doesn’t feel like cheating. I guess because I love you so much.”
     “I love you, too, Wendy. I don’t guess I ever really stopped. The question now is, how do you feel about Dean?”
     “I love him, of course,” she said. “He is my husband, after all.”
     “You love both of us?”
     “I suppose I do.”
     “So what are you planning to do about it?”
     Wendy shot him an irritated look, as if annoyed that he was forcing her to think about this. “I don’t know. Too bad I can’t get into some polyandry, have two husbands.”
     “I’m serious about this, Wendy.”
     “What do you want me to say? I mean, I didn’t exactly plan on this happening. It’s just that when I saw you at the time capsule ceremony, all the buried feelings resurfaced and it was suddenly like old times again.”
     “Yeah,” Hudson said absently, reaching up to finger the pendant. “Or at least it was once this thing was unearthed.”
     “You know, this really isn’t like me at all. I just couldn’t seem to help myself.”
     “Me either.”
     “Maybe we’re under a love spell.”
     “Or maybe we’re being haunted by the past,” Hudson said under his breath.
     “What?”
     “Nothing. Say, would you mind if I took your necklace back for a bit?”
     Wendy put a hand to the half-heart protectively. “Why?”
     “I just thought it would be nice to get them engraved.”
     “Oh, Hudson, that’s so sweet,” Wendy said, unclasping the chain and handing the necklace over to him. “You’re as thoughtful as ever.”
     Hudson sat for a moment, staring rather intently at Wendy, as if trying to memorize her face. Then he said, “I’ll be right back. I’m just going to run downstairs and make a snack.”
     “Sounds good. I think I’ll use your bathroom to freshen up a bit.”
     After showing her where the bathroom was, Hudson hurried downstairs, through the kitchen, and onto his screened-in back porch. Hanging on a rack were a variety of gardening tools; he selected a spade and pushed through the screen door into the backyard.
     The night was cool, but not unpleasantly so, and it felt good on Hudson’s skin. The yard was enclosed by a seven-foot wooden fence so he had no qualms about being out in only his underwear. There was a small garden of gardenias at the very back of the lawn, and Hudson walked to it, kneeling down in the grass and using the spade to dig a shallow hole. He placed Wendy’s necklace in the crater, removed the one from around his neck and placed it inside as well. Then he hurriedly filled the hole back in with dirt, tapping it down with the spade’s handle.
     He stayed where he was a moment more, waiting to feel a change overcome him, but he didn’t feel any different. He wondered if perhaps it hadn’t worked, but if not, he didn’t know what else to try. Finally he stood and headed back to the house, wiping dirt and grass from his knees.
     As he climbed the stairs, he felt excitement building in his stomach and lower extremities. He had only been separated from Wendy for a few moments, but he already missed her and couldn’t wait to see her face again, kiss her lips, feel her warm body snuggled against his own. He practically jogged down the hallway and into the bedroom, but the smile that had blossomed on his face wilted the second he saw Wendy.
     She was standing by the bed, buttoning her blouse. She had gotten fully dressed, and she looked at him with a sour expression, almost an accusatory flash in her eyes. Hudson knew what she was going to say even before she opened her mouth.
     “This was a mistake.”
     Hudson said nothing, couldn’t speak past the lump that was suddenly in his throat. He swallowed hard to try to clear it, but it remained as large as a baseball, sealing his voice inside.
     Wendy was rummaging among the covers that had fallen to the floor, plucking her shoes out of the tangle of sheets and stepping into them. “I don’t how I could have done this to Dean. He’s a wonderful man, and I risked our marriage by hooking up with some loser ex-boyfriend from high school.”
     If the barbs in the words drew blood, Hudson did not let it show; his face remained a neutral mask.
     “I don’t know if I just got caught up in all the nostalgia of being back here, of seeing you again, but this has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I really don’t know what came over me.”
     “Do you want me to drive you back to your car?” Hudson asked, his voice coming out as a hoarse croak.
     “No, Jasper’s is only a few blocks from here. I’ll walk.”
     Wendy snatched up her purse from where it sat on the dresser and headed for the door. Hudson stepped out of her way, but she paused and looked at him with such disdain that her face suddenly looked quite ugly. “Dean can never know about this; it would kill him.”
     “I won’t breathe a word to anyone.”
     “I feel sorry for you, Hudson. At least I have Dean and Anna. You’ve got no one.”
     With that, Wendy turned and walked into the hallway. Hudson did not follow; he stood in the same spot until he heard the front door open and close again. Then he walked to the window and stared outside. His bedroom was at the back of the house, so he couldn’t see Wendy trudging down the street toward downtown, but he had a view directly down into his garden. At the edge of the patch, he could see the newly turned soil where he had buried the broken heart.
     Just before turning away from the window, Hudson mused that some feelings were merely ghosts of long-dead emotions, but others were quite real and alive.
Mark Allan Gunnells
10/5/07

We are not strangers to ourselves, we only try to be. --Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
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tasha View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tasha Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/05/2007 at 12:54pm
What a bi*ch!!

Very entertaining ... "regal aloofness" I love it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FinalExam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/05/2007 at 2:19pm
I am not certain of that phrasing and changed it several times before just giving up and leaving it as "regal aloofness." You never know what people will like. lol
We are not strangers to ourselves, we only try to be. --Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Oddy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/20/2007 at 1:01pm
What. A. B****.

Very good story, kept me on the edge of my seat for a love story. Now get Hudson another mystery.
"I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious"
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