I step out into the rain and let the door swing shut behind me. As I walked home I let my mind wander back to the past. It was hard to believe that Charlie and I had once been best friends. We’d met in basic training and had gone to Vietnam together. We were two of the four surviving members of our platoon who made it home. After our tour was done I’d bounced around the country for a while before following Charlie back to his hometown of Kalispell, Montana and built a house for myself. We’d bought the bar together and through a few other good investments I’d made a name for myself. Around Christmas time his sister returned home from college back east and Charlie introduced us.
From the moment I first saw her I knew she was perfect. Charlie and Carolyn’s mother’s parents had been full blooded Blackfeet. Carolyn had inherited their dark hair, eyes, and golden skin. She was her parents pride and joy. She was smart, top of her class at Rutgers, and her brother and I would sometimes stand in awe at little things she’d say that we’d have never thought of. Carolyn was also the strongest woman I’d ever met. She’d raised a daughter on her own, while she went to school. Like I said she was perfect in every way. We were married in the summer after her graduation, and started to build our life together with Dana who had just turned five. I raised her as my own and in the years to come Carolyn and I had two more daughters together, Jackie and Suzanne.
When Monday night rolled around I was back at the watering hole. On Sundays the place was closed so come Monday the place was usually packed with locals thirsty for a taste of liquor. I’d sold my share of the bar to Charlie years before but I never could help but to come in and see how business was doing a few times a week. I strolled in at around nine o’clock, sat down at my spot at the bar, and waited for Charlie to come over. The bar was indeed busy and it was a few minutes before he could get to me.
“What can get for you?”
“Draft or bottle?”
He handed me the bottle and tried to walk away but I stopped him.
“Hey Charlie, how are the girls doing?”
“Fine doesn’t tell me how they’re handling life without a man in their lives.”
He frowned a little and I could tell there was something he wanted to tell me.
“Alright, what’s going on?”
“There isn’t anything going on.”
“Yes, there is, you always get that pinched look between your eyes when you’re hiding something from.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yeah you do, you remember that time in Da Nang don’t you?”
“Alright fine, look, Junior was right, Carolyn is seeing someone.”
“Who?” Even to my ears my voice sounded a little odd, like someone had me by the throat and I was still trying to talk.
“You don’t know him. He’s from Browning.”
“Who?” I repeated, though I could already tell what was coming next.
“Dana’s father, but look he’s great for the girls. They love him.”
“They’re my kids.”
Damn right they were my kids, I thought. Nobody was taking them from me and Caroline was my wife. Mine. I raised Dana as my own and never treated her differently then the other two. No, I would never allow them to be taken for me.
“Well, you really fucked that relationship up when they watched you smack their mom around for years. Now you’re just going to have to accept Carolyn’s choices if you want any hope in building that relationship.”
“Where the hell did the bastard come from anyway?”
“I guess he’s been serving in the Marines overseas for years and thought Carolyn wasn’t interested in anything more then quick affair. He didn’t know about Dana.”
“So why come to Montana of all places.”
He got that squinty look between his eyes again.
“We grew up together.”
4 weeks ago