Boy2Man

Ashlee stepped out of the cabin to find her boyfriend Jake loading his ATV onto the back of his pickup truck for another weekend escape with the guys. She had lost count of the number of getaways and other "boy" adventures he had taken in the previous few months.

"I should be back around seven tomorrow night," Jake let her know when he saw Ashlee approaching.

"Great," Ashlee said sarcastically.

"Don't be like that," he protested. "You've been so moody lately."

She crossed her arms over her chest as she stood in the dirt driveway. "Are you fifteen or thirty-five, Jake?" She wanted to know.

"What's that supposed to mean?" He asked with annoyance.

"Look at all your boy toys around here," she complained.

In addition to the ATV in the back of the truck, there was a dirt bike in the garage next to the snowmobile. On the side of the garage was a row boat on a trailer with an outboard for his fishing weekends, a canoe flipped over on a couple of sawhorses, and his classic '64 Mustang that he had been rebuilding for years.

"Yeah?" He asked. "Aren't I entitled to a few distractions? I work hard all week."

"I do too," she sighed.

"I know you do, Sweets," he said earnestly.

"It isn't fair that you take off practically every weekend," she pouted.

"You do your girls things too," he reminded her.

"Not every weekend," she grumbled.

"Come on, Ash, we're not going to go through this again, are we?"

"I'd like to be as important as the guys once in a while," she said. "We haven't been out for dinner in forever."

"Hey, we went to that concert a while back," he said. "That was fun."

"You know," she warned. "There's going to come a time when you come home and I'm not going to be here."

"Where would you go?" he grinned. "Back to your mother and Leroy?"

"I'm getting too old to be sitting around waiting on you, Jake," Ashlee advised. "Most of my friends are married with children. You still act like you're a teenager without a care in the world."

He glanced at her, uneasy and frustrated. "You've invested too much time in us to throw it all away now," he said.

"Nothing lasts forever if you don't take care of it," Ashlee countered.

"Give Mary-Anne a call," Jake suggested hopefully. "Do something with her."

"She has a husband and two kids," Ashlee groaned. "She just can't drop everything every time I call just to hang out with me because I've been abandoned again, The Weekend Widow."

"I don't abandon you," Jake frowned. "Stop being a whiner."

"Go," She sighed. "Have your fun."

"That's all right with you, isn't it?"

"Yes, of course, go." It was a purposefully cold voice now.

"Come on, don't lay a guilt trip on me," Jake complained.

"Don't worry, there's always plenty for me to do," Ashlee replied. "The laundry. Cleaning the house. Doing the grocery shopping. What more could I ask for?"

"Why do you have a hair up your ass over this, Ashlee?" Jake complained. "You're being bitchy this morning."

She shook her head with resentment. "Pay no attention to me, I'm used to being alone."

"Ah, give it a rest," Jake said bitterly, lifting a cooler off the ground and putting it in the cab of the pickup. He tossed his duffle bag in the bed of the truck underneath the ATV. "It's just a little four wheeling," he said before climbing into the cab.

"I know," she said angrily. "Go have your fun."

"You ought to know by now what I like and what I'm like," he said plainly. "I thought we had an understanding."

Ashlee stared at him through the window of the pickup, almost dumbfounded by his gall.

Jake was a clueless, immature person, content with his manly work in the family business and naïvely preoccupied with his play life and recently Ashlee felt like she was an afterthought, more of a maid and bedmate than a meaningful part of his life.

She was bewildered by his juvenile attitude, foolishly assuming he would grow out of such adolescent outlooks but she had recently turned thirty-five and she was beginning to realize that her affection for him was turning into antipathy and dislike.

Her life was suddenly passing her by. Even now, looking at him with that stupid boyish grin of his, she felt a quick urge to reach through the window and punch him in the face.

"It's just that when you're away I get lonely," she said, surprised at how vulnerable she sounded.

He nodded. "I don't blame you," he said.

She looked at him sharply. He could be such an arrogant jerk sometimes.

Jake fired the engine to life and he peeled out of the dirt driveway leaving Ashlee behind to fight off the tears of rejection and hurt as she watched the truck barrel down the road.

He was the one who found this stupid cabin out in the middle of nowhere. It seemed romantic when he first pitched the idea but now Ashlee felt even more removed and distant from her friends while Jake worked construction with his old man and friends just a few miles away in Miller City. When he left her like this, it only intensified her sense of isolation and loneliness.

Ashlee dragged herself back inside the cabin and she sighed when she saw the dishes in the sink and the clothes basket full of dirty laundry on the table and the clutter in the open room.

There was a brooding sense of depression overcoming her and she was mad at herself for once again not standing up to Jake by making him stay home. He would have been pissed off all weekend if she did and he most likely would have ended up drunk and miserable and she'd rather have him gone than in one of those states anyway.

She stood motionless at the kitchen window for a long time watching the woods beyond the clearing as the silence weighed upon her. She felt tense and sad.

"I'm such a fool," she whispered, before angrily rattling the dishes sitting in the sink.

She glanced at her cell on the counter and despite knowing better she picked it up and punched Mary-Anne's pre-programmed number.

"Hey!" It was Mary-Anne's cheerful voice on the other end.

"You and Toby have plans tonight?" Ashlee asked.

"Actually, he's taking the kids to the movies," Mary-Anne said with a giggle. "Me and Keely were thinking drinks at The Bullpen. You in?"

"Sounds fun," Ashlee said with relief.

"Jake gone again?" Mary-Anne guessed.

"I need to get out of here," Ashlee confirmed.

"Eight-o'clock," Mary-Anne ordered. "See you then." The line went dead.

Ashlee set the phone down and stared at the dirty dishes. "You're not going to wash yourselves, are you?" She sighed.

She moved briskly, performing each task with determination amidst the silence. Before she knew it, the dishes were washed and put away. Three loads of laundry were washed, dried, folded, and put away.

Ashlee swept, vacuumed and dusted. Because they both worked during the week, it was nearly impossible to keep up with the housework and Saturday was usually the catch up day, only Jake was never around to help out with the chores unless it was a trip to the dump or errands in town.

"I'm a fool," Ashlee said again as she sat on the couch with a glass of wine and some crackers and cheese, also known as a late lunch. "I should have gone to the mall instead of being stuck here all day."