Drake wrote the address on a slip of paper where Gayle was staying.
Two days later Charles found the house on a quiet street in a middle class tree-lined street pf two story homes.
It was mid morning and Charles parked at the curb. The home was white with pillars holding up a roof over a small porch. It was not the house or neighborhood Gayle had been accustomed, but more than adequate. They were the homes of young executives and professionals. Gayle was used to hobnobbing with the elite of Atlanta.
Charles rang the doorbell.
Gayle answered. She quickly pressed her hand against her chest and took a deep breath. Her eyes widened with astonishment and quickly changed to fear. “Charles, what are you doing here?”
“Don’t be frightened,” Charles said. “I only want to talk for a moment.”
“To gloat,” Gayle said.
“No,” Charles said, “Just a few questions and I’ll be on my way.”
“Step in,” Gayle said cautiously.
“No,” Charles said noting a reluctance, “It’s best here.”
“What do you want ask?” Gayle said.
“Did you ever love me,” Charles said.
Gayle appeared irritated at the question.
“I want to know, Gayle. I think you owe it to me,” Charles said.
Gayle took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yes, but not like you love a husband. You were good and kind.”
“That’s it,” Charles said.
“Yeah,” Gayle said. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Charles said.
“Why do you say that?” Gayle said.
“Because I wasn’t all the way there,” Charles said. “There was always something missing. I didn’t know it and neither did you.”
“You have to understand something about me,” Gayle said. “I started out as trash and I found my way out through you. Ted Abernathy and I were lovers in school. We were a lot alike. We broke up…well we never really dated, just you know…”
“Yeah,” Charles said. “I think I know.”
“He was a bad boy and I was a bad girl,” Gayle said, “and when we met up again it was like fireworks. We had to be together and we had to do bad things. Now isn’t that simple.”
“No,” Charles said, “it’s not. I don’t know what happened to you, but I refuse to accept you are bad. You are a good person.”
Gayle chuckled. “You keep on believing that.”
“I will,” Charles said.
“You’re not trying to reconcile and make our marriage work are you?” Gayle said.
“No,” Charles said. “Frankly, I want as little as possible to do with you.”
“What else do you want to know?” Gayle said.
“What are you going to do after prison?” Charles said.
“I’ll have a daughter who is a doctor, maybe she can get me a job in the hospital cafeteria,” Gayle said. “Why would you care?”
“I think back,” Charles said, “to times, good times, times I never wanted to end. Walking on a beech, sitting in front of a fire, watching a sunset. Those were – well I never felt so loved and in love. I was so content even though there was always the awareness something was missing in my life. I thought it was the past, but I tend to think now it was the present.”
“Is that what you came here to tell me?” Gayle said.
“No,” Charles said, “it just seemed to slip out. It wasn’t even on my mind until right now.”
“I think if Ted Abernathy hadn’t come along it would have been somebody else,” Gayle said. “So don’t put so much effort into over thinking things.”
Charles smiled. It was a smile they often shared. It was a smile that they both knew what the other was thinking. “You are trying to send me away feeling bad about you. I won’t buy it, not for a moment. You know that with a little effort you could have me again…”
Gayle returned the same smile. “I really don’t deserve you. It would be torture to live with you again. It would always be there.”
“Yeah,” Charles said. “The best we can do for each other is leave it the way it is.”
“Is that it?” Gayle said.
“Not quite,” Charles said. “Several years ago I purchased a home in Belize. I wanted to spend our golden years there. It’s yours. There is a bank account with a substantial amount of money in it, it is yours also.” Charles held Gayle’s hand and lifted it to his lips and kissed it.
“You’re a good man,” Gayle said.
Charles smiled politely and turned away. As he reached the bottom step her turned back. Gayle was standing at the door pressing the hand that he kissed against her heart. “You’re a good woman.”