Wendell saw his ex-wife Connie climbing out of her beat up car in the driveway as he mowed the backyard on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon in May. He didn't see Connie much unless it involved the kids so he was surprised to see her standing at the edge of the driveway trying to get his attention.
He killed the mower and walked across the lawn to where Connie was standing. She was still strikingly beautiful at forty-something even though she was dressed in faded denim jeans and a ripped up sleeveless flannel shirt.
Wendell was curious as to why she stopped by. Was one of the kids in trouble? Then he noticed the wedding invitation in Connie's hand and he grinned with amusement.
"Why would your mother invite me to her wedding?" Connie asked once Wendell reached her.
"She always liked you," Wendell replied.
Connie rolled her eyes.
"You're the mother of her grandkids?" Wendell offered.
Connie put her hands on her hips with impatience.
"You're both widows?" Wendell guessed.
"Did you ask her to do this?" Connie wanted to know.
Wendell laughed. "Yes, I called her and said, 'Hey, Ma, I got an idea, let's invite my ex-wife to your wedding. It will be swell'."
"Well, what is she thinking?" Connie asked.
"I guess she still considers you a member of the family," Wendell shrugged as he headed for the garage, pulling a beer out of the old refrigerator. "Want one?" He asked.
"Sure," she sighed.
Wendell grabbed a second can and handed it to her. They walked to the yard chairs he had moved onto the small back cement patio to make room for the mower and he gestured for her to have a seat.
"I can't afford this," Connie said, holding the invitation up in her hand. "Do you know how expensive this Boston hotel is?"
"We could split a room," Wendell said.
She looked at him with surprise. "Seriously?"
"Are you going stag?"
"Well, Amanda is going with all the cousins and Ethan has football, so I guess I am on my own," she realized.
"We can drive down together," Wendell said. "Share the room. Can you afford that?"
"People might get the wrong idea," she worried.
Wendell laughed. "Are there any right ideas left?"
"I'm not sure if any of this is a good idea, Dell," she said.
"Tell it to my mother," Wendell replied.
"How did all of this happen again?" Connie wanted to know.
"My sister got my mother to take a Bereavement Cruise a few years after Dad died," Wendell explained. "She was supposed to forget about grief riding the seven seas and she ends up meeting some rich widower who falls for her and now they're getting married. You can't make it up."
"He's a car salesman?" Connie asked.
"He owns something like twenty car dealerships throughout New England," Wendell clarified. "He's worth a hefty amount but he's really a down to earth guy who absolutely adores my mother."
"And she moved down there?"
"Sold the house and hit the road," Wendell confirmed, shaking his head with disbelief. "Who would have thought?"
"Maybe I should have taken a cruise after Ken died," Connie deadpanned.
"How you doing?" Wendell asked
"You don't have to be nice to me, Dell," Connie said. "You don't have to feel sorry for me either."
"I don't," he insisted.
"You probably think I got what I deserved," she frowned.
"I don't think anything of the sort," he assured her.
"Sometimes I think I got what I deserved," Connie remarked.
"Amanda says you're selling the house?"
"It needs a lot of work," she said. "I can't keep up with it."
"How's your son doing?"
"He's joining the Marines," she sighed. "I can't stop him. He's eighteen and doesn't need my permission."
"He'll be okay," Wendell said. "Probably be good for him."
"Would you let Amanda or Ethan enlist?" She asked.
"Amanda's a pacifist and Ethan's on a football scholarship," he replied. "I don't think our kids are thinking about the military."
"Probably not," Connie agreed.
"How's the job?"
"I'm getting too old to be a Denny's waitress," she groaned.
"Ken didn't leave you anything?"
"Enough to bury him," she sighed. "A little bit for Dax. We were barely making it." She glanced at him. "You don't need to know my sob story. I see you expanded the business."
"That was always my father's plan," Wendell explained. "I finally got it done."
"You could always come back," he said.
"After twenty years?"
"You'd pick it up in no time."
"Would I be your partner?" She asked. "If I had stayed?"
"It is a family business, Connie," he reminded her.
"MetFab," She said with appreciation. "Still going strong."
She sat back in her chair and glanced at the house.
"It looks nice," she said. "It was supposed to be our dream house."
"It still is," Wendell said quietly.
Connie turned her attention back to him. "I really did screw my life up, didn't I?"
"You loved him," he said.
"I loved you too," she said softly.
"You loved him more," Wendell replied.
"I loved him worst," she sighed.
"We were young," Wendell reminded her. "We thought we knew it all."
"When we really knew nothing," Connie admitted.
"We peaked too early," Wendell said lightly.
"When we were fourteen," she smiled.
"Come to the wedding," he said. "The family will be happy to see you."
"You never told anybody?"
"Of course not," he said.
"You're supposed to hate me," she told him.
"We had two kids to raise."
"They turned out pretty well despite everything," Connie smiled with relief.
"They're the best thing we ever did together," Wendell concurred.
"You were always too good for me, Dell," Connie said.
"I never felt that way."
"I'm sorry I ruined your life."
"You didn't," he told her.
She stood, letting out a long sigh. "Well, I ruined mine," she decided.
He stood too. "Buy yourself a nice dress," he suggested. "That will make you feel better."
She laughed, handing him her empty beer can. "Thanks," she said.
"I'll RSVP for the two of us," He let her know.
She nodded and headed for the car, trying to stifle her tears. Wendell returned to the lawn mower and Connie sat in her car watching him start the machine back up.
Another pleasant Saturday afternoon in Blue County. In another life, Connie would have been standing in the kitchen window watching Dell mow, making him some fresh squeezed lemonade. But she threw that all away a long time ago and Connie slowly backed out of the driveway of Wendell's attractive middle class house, returning to her dumpy home on the other side of town which she hoped to sell before the bank foreclosed on it.