Chapter 8

Butch never got his cup of coffee that night but he sobered up pretty fast, taken aback when Bethie offered to drive him home when the Sox game was over later. He was surprised that she didn't want him to spend the night, feeling relieved and rejected at the same time.

They had watched the game naked, Bethie giving him his penis a foot massage throughout most of the game while she absentmindedly played with herself and made comments on the game. It was the most bizarre sexual experience of Butch's life.

Bethie kissed him on the cheek when she dropped him off at his car by The Bullpen. It was 2:30 in the morning.

"I had fun," she let him know and Butch tried to figure out if she was interested in seeing him again.

Bethie laughed at his inquiry. "I don't think so, Coach," she said. "You're too old for me."

Butch avoided The Bullpen so he wouldn't have to see Bethie and soon football practice began and the Serguci League ended and school started and Butch became involved in his life again but it just didn't feel the same anymore. There was no joy in what he was doing, only emptiness.

Kevin had gotten his license and earned enough money to buy a car so the deal was he'd drive his sister to school which meant there was no reason for Butch to swing by the house anymore. He missed seeing the kids every morning but he was grateful that he was able to interact with them at school every day. Coaching football was his distraction but not necessarily his solace.

Butch couldn't stop thinking about Bethie – not because he missed her or wanted to be with her (he was actually embarrassed and bothered about their night together), but because his willingness to be so easily seduced made him realize just how simple it was to submit to temptation. He knew he hadn't cheated on Louise the way she had betrayed him as his wife, but there was a small part of him that could almost understand how Louise might fall prey to basic human urges and lust for carnal knowledge, especially if he hadn't been there for her.

Butch spent a lot of time in his post-Bethie reality thinking about his life and the mistakes he made in his marriage. He thought about Louise's complaints about the amount of time he spent coaching and he realized she was right, just as he was justified in his resentment about some of her political commitments. They had both become pre-occupied with their own interests instead of trying to find consensus, compromise and middle ground to help keep their marriage strong and healthy. That discovery left him feeling sad, remorseful and depressed especially because he feared his marriage was over.

Louise had dealt with the same soul searching emotions months earlier. Once she was able to let go of the idea of Charlie and the thrilling distraction he brought into her life she was forced to face the reality that she had self-imploded because of impulse craving and the need to escape her selfish umbrages regarding her marriage.

Now Louise was even more miserable and alone because of her egocentricity and she had no one to blame but herself. She had lost her passion for her work and she lost interest in her political involvement. She was no longer active in the general election campaign and she barely even followed the day-to-day developments in the political world. None of that seemed important anymore when she knew her kids missed having their father at home and she had ruined her marriage because of her inexcusable infidelity.

Louise called in sick on her fortieth birthday, too despondent and defeated to even fake it – although she pretended for the kids' sake that it was just another day. Once they headed off to school, she got back in her pajamas and crawled into bed to feel sorry for herself and have a good long cry.

Butch was aware that it was Louise's birthday. Each year he brought her roses, a death-by-chocolate birthday cake, and some sort of gag gift to celebrate her special day and even though he hadn't seen her since the day he caught her with the chicken-man, Butch felt compelled to continue the tradition even if it no longer meant anything. He took a couple of personal hours, bought the roses and cake, and headed for the house, assuming that Louise was off at work, especially since the garage door was closed.

He still had his keys to the place so he let himself in the back door to leave the cake on the counter and put the roses in a vase. Louise was lying in bed and she heard the noise in the kitchen. Wondering if somebody was breaking in, she grabbed the baseball bat Butch left under the bed for such emergencies and she tip toed down the back stairs with the bat in her hands only to find her husband standing in the kitchen with his back to her, humming to himself as he arranged the roses in the vase. She wasn't sure if she should laugh or cry.

"What in the hell are you doing?" Louise asked with disbelief.

A startled Butch jumped before turning to face her. "I didn't know you were home," he said, over-acting by clutching his hand to his chest. "Why aren't you at work?"

"I couldn't be bothered," Louise admitted.

"Well, Happy Birthday," Butch smiled awkwardly.

She looked awful. Her hair was a mess and her eyes were red and her face was drained. "Thanks," she mumbled unhappily.

Butch gave her a long study. "Look," he finally said with a loud sigh. "I can't ignore the fact that you had an affair but I'm trying to deal with it as best I can."

"By leaving," Louise sighed sarcastically as she stepped into the room.

"Are you still seeing that guy?"

"Not for a long time," she assured him.

"I heard the quote of the day on the radio when I was driving over here," Butch revealed. "'Sins cannot be undone, only forgiven.' The Composer Igor Stravinsky said that."

"Oh," Louise said, taking a seat in the stool at the breakfast counter.

Butch leaned across the counter and looked into her eyes. "Is there any way to fix this?"

"No," she confessed with a sigh.

"How can we make sure it doesn't happen again?" Butch wanted to know.

"I don't want to talk about it, Butch," Louise said heavily. "It's too painful. Let's just let it rest."

"I wish I could," Butch replied. "But we can't just ignore the fact that you had an affair."

"Don't you think I feel guilty enough?" She groaned. "Do you have to torture me like this?"

"Are you sorry?" Butch wanted to know.

"I could never apologize enough," she replied. "But I could never ask you to forgive me either."

"My forgiveness isn't up to you," Butch pointed out.

"What's that supposed to mean?" A confused Louise asked, brushing a tear from her eye.

"I don't want to hold on to the pain anymore," Butch said. "I have no interest in punishing you just to keep the wound open."

"Butch," she said sadly, unable to look him in the eyes. "I betrayed you. I lied and I deceived you. I have no defense and no excuse. I violated our wedding vows."

"Yes, you did," Butch confirmed.

She swallowed hard. "Can you—will you - really forgive me?"

He reached his arms across the counter and took her hands in his. "We failed each other," he let her know. "I hope you will forgive me for my mistakes just as I forgive you for yours."

Louise began to cry. "I'm stuck in the sorrow of regret," she said. "I'll always be ashamed."

"You have to learn to forgive yourself," Butch told her. "Let go of the guilt, the shame, and the sorrow by choosing to set yourself free to be healed."

She stared into his eyes. "Did you find religion or something while you were gone?" She frowned.

Butch laughed. "No, nothing like that," he said. "But I'm going to quit coaching softball and doing the Serguci League," he said. "That will give us more time to work on our marriage."

"I won't run for reelection as Selectman," Louise vowed. "We'll find a marriage counselor."

"Okay," Butch agreed.

She chewed on her lip for a moment. "Would you like to wish me a Happy Birthday?" She asked. "Upstairs?"

"Yes," Butch said, pulling her out of the stool and walking her toward the stairs.