His Loss

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“Pete, can I ask you something?”

My next door neighbor John was asking. We had been living next door to each other since I moved in four years ago after my last relationship ended. John and his wife Amanda had been living in their house for ten years and seemed to be quite the happily married couple. In the four years I’d known them I’d never heard them argue fight or even slam a door.

John and I were spending the day painting the fence that ran between our back yards. We were almost done when he asked that leading question.

“Pete, can I ask you something?”

“Yeah.”

I looked over the fence and John looked at me.

“What would you do if your wife had breast cancer?”

Whoa! He had said a lot here. I don’t have a wife. I don’t even have a girlfriend. Was he telling me that Amanda had breast cancer?

“John, does Amanda have breast cancer?”

“We don’t know, yet. She has a lump. She has an appointment on Monday.”

“God, she must be scared.”

“Me too.”

“You asked me what I’d do. I’d do everything I could to support her while she goes through this. Are you taking off work Monday to go with her?”

“She said not to. She said they were just going to do a needle biopsy and I didn’t need to be there.”

“You need to be there. She needs your support. Call in sick or something and be there. Hold her hand.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

He went back to painting and the conversation was over. When we finished and cleaned up we thanked each other and he went into his house and I went into mine.

I didn’t see either of them the rest of the weekend so I assumed they either were staying in and quiet or they had gone somewhere to get Amanda’s mind off the biopsy.

While I was at work on Monday I kept thinking about Amanda. Her picture kept coming into my mind. I saw her as she was last July 4th at the parade. Sandals, red, white and blue shorts and a halter top of red. I remembered how her breasts filled the halter and how when the fireworks started her nipples tightened and showed themselves poking at the material like they wanted freedom. She has great legs and I remembered watching her walking back to our neighborhood and wondering how they would feel.

When I got home on Monday it was about eight and John was sitting on his front porch steps. He looked like his best friend had died. I walked over and said hello.

“She has cancer, ” was all he said. He didn’t even look up.

“Damn. I’m sorry.”

“They want her to have surgery as soon as possible.”

I stayed quiet. I figured he would tell me everything he wanted to in time.

“Surgery is scheduled for Wednesday at nine in the morning. Sitting in the waiting room is gonna kill me.”

I thought: “Being in the operating room isn’t going to be much fun for Amanda either”. I’m smart enough not to say things like that out loud.

“They think a lumpectomy will get all of it.”

The front door opened and Amanda came out onto the porch. She was barefoot wearing a robe. Her face looked like she had been crying.

John stood and took her in his arms.

After a few moments she looked at me and I said, “I’m sorry. If there is anything I can do for you just let me know.”

After a few more seconds she said, “There is something. John is terrified of hospitals. Could you be with him on Wednesday while I am in surgery?”

“Of course. I’ll take off work and be there.”

“Thank you.” Her voice was almost a whisper.

They went back inside without another word and I went home. By ten o’clock I had surfed every channel on my cable and couldn’t get into anything so I shut it off and went to bed. By midnight I was asleep. Tuesday happened without my full attention. I was thinking about Amanda and John on and off all day. The single time when Amanda wasn’t on my mind was during a meeting at work when I was introduced to Barbara.

Barbara is a new analyst who transferred from New York to our office. She is taller than most of the women in our office and has dark red hair. I’d guess she is 5’8″ and her figure is what I say is softly feminine. Her hips aren’t big but noticeably larger than her slim waist. Her breasts look to be about “C” cups and the shape was difficult to tell because the bra she wore on Tuesday seemed to be in control. Barbara presented the picture of a pretty woman who was all business, and there was something sexy there too.

When the meeting was over Barbara walked out and my thoughts went back to the surgery.

That evening I saw John for just a minute and he told me that they needed to be at the hospital by seven the next morning, third floor, and he would meet me in the surgery waiting room shortly after seven. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days.

I arrived at the hospital at seven and was in the surgical waiting room by five after. I had a bag with a couple donuts and two cups of coffee with me. A little comfort food was called for.

John walked in at seven-fifteen. He was dressed in the same clothes he had worn the night before bursa escort and still looked like he hadn’t slept in days. He accepted the coffee and donut but I don’t think he actually knew he was eating or drinking. His thoughts were somewhere else. He didn’t say a word.

I read a People magazine from two years ago and a Scientific American from five years ago. There were four families in the waiting room during that time. They talked, moved around, cried and worried out loud. John never moved after he finished the donut and coffee.

At nine forty-five I asked John if he wanted to go for a walk. He shook his head “No.” At ten a doctor in scrubs came in and called for John. I had to help him up and out into the hallway.

“The surgery went well. The tumor was a bit larger than I thought but it didn’t look like it had spread. I am pretty sure we got all of it. Amanda will be in her room in about an hour and a half and we’ll call you then.”

The doctor asked if John had any questions and John didn’t say anything so the doctor turned and walked away.

John just stood there in the hallway. I waited for a couple of minutes and then I spoke.

“John, are you OK?”

“I hate hospitals. I think hospitals smell like death. I don’t know how people can work in hospitals.” The words came out slowly and with no emotion.

“John, listen to me. Amanda needs you to be here for her right now. She needs your love and support. What can we do so that you can be here for her? Do you need to step outside for a walk? Shall we go get lunch somewhere and then come back?”

He looked at me for long seconds then he answered, “I’m not hungry but maybe going for a walk would be good.”

“OK. Let’s go.” I suggested.

“No. You wait here. I need to be alone right now.”

John turned and walked down the hall. I watched him go and then went back in and sat down.

An hour and forty-five minutes later a nurse in scrubs opened the door and asked for John. He wasn’t back. I got up and followed the nurse into the hall.

“Your wife is in 326. You can see her now.”

She was about to say more when I interrupted. “I’m not her husband. He went for a walk and he isn’t back yet. I’m the next door neighbor.”

“Go and be with her. She needs some emotional support right now. I’ll check back in a few minutes to see if her husband has come back.”

I went to her room and when I entered she was asleep. I sat down and waited. I thought about how it was good that Amanda was asleep. She wouldn’t know that John wasn’t back yet. Maybe he would make it back before she woke up.

Half an hour went by and she opened her eyes. She looked around the room and when she saw me her eyes filled with tears. One or two fell, she closed her eyes and went back to sleep.

I stayed. An hour went by and she woke up again.

She looked at me and said, “He’s gone isn’t he?”

“He went for a walk.”

“He’s gone.” Amanda said.

Amanda stuck out her hand and I took it. Her hand was soft and a little cold. She squeezed my hand and held on. A few minutes later I watched her fall back asleep. The next time Amanda looked at me it was night. John was not there. Her voice was soft and I just listened. She told me that John was so afraid of illness and injury that when she had sprained her ankle when they were engaged he almost called off the wedding. His parents had gotten sick when he was in middle school and died while he was at school. He never got over that.

Her eyes watched my face intently as Amanda spoke. She told me about her thoughts when the doctor told her about the surgery. She thought John would run away. He would never make it to her room. She told me she was glad I was there. I realized that I was glad I was there too.

At ten that night I reluctantly went home. John wasn’t home. I slept eventually and awoke often with thoughts about Amanda and John. The next morning I called my office and Barbara answered. I explained what had happened and Barbara said she would cover for me and wished Amanda a speedy recovery.

As I left my place I noticed that John’s car wasn’t there. I went over and knocked anyway. After a couple minutes and two more knocks I peeked in the window and almost died! The house was empty!

I tested the door and found it unlocked. Over the next few minutes I toured the house in shock. John had taken almost everything. All that was left were things that belonged to Amanda. Bathroom stuff and clothes mostly. On the kitchen counter I found an envelope addressed to Amanda and a key ring with two keys on it.

I took the envelope, the keys and some supplies for Amanda back to my place. There was no way I was letting Amanda see the inside of that house!

By eleven I was at the hospital and by eleven-thirty we were on the road home. Amanda didn’t ask if I had seen John. She just sat quietly in the car and cried. When we got home I parked in my driveway. I helped her out of the car and we took it slow and easy. This lady had been hurt enough already. I walked her to my front door.

“Take bursa escort bayan me home please.” Amanda said.

“Can’t. You’re staying here with me.”

I opened the door and helped her inside. Thinking ahead for once, I had turned down the bed.

On the bed were her nightgown and panties. I sat her on the bed next to them. When I sat down near Amanda she said, “He took everything.”

It was a statement. I nodded. Amanda blinked back tears. She kept looking at me.

“I want to get you into a warm nightgown and into bed.” I pointed at the one I had picked.

“How many beds do you have?” She asked. Her voice was a whisper.

“One. Yours.”

Together we sat her up and I helped her off with the baggy sweatshirt and sweat pants she had worn home from the hospital. She was embarrassed to have me see her all bandaged up, but we did it anyway. It wasn’t something I had ever done before, helping a woman change clothes but I knew it was what needed to be done. When I had her in the nightgown I started to help her into the bed. She stopped me and said, “I need to pee.”

I turned her the other way into the bathroom. At the toilet I turned her again and as I did I realized that if I let go and she bent to lower her panties she would fall. She realized it too.

“I need…”

“I know.”

On my knees I put her hands on my head for her balance, lifted her nightgown just high enough that I could reach her panties and pulled them down to her knees. I lifted the hem a bit and helped her sit. I let go of her and stepped back. A few seconds later she started to lean to one side and I stepped closer and held her.

Amanda held onto my arms and soon I heard the splash. When she was done she reached for some toilet paper but seemed unable to get the job done, so I took the paper from her and wiped her. Under other circumstances that would have been a very sexual moment. It was sensual and tender but not sexual.

It took three minutes or so to get her into bed. Nothing was said during all that time. When she was in and covered she looked up at me and said, “Where are you going to sleep?”

“I bought that couch because it is comfortable. I’ll be fine.”

She closed her eyes and I left the room, shutting off the light as I went. Ten minutes later I was in my shorts with a blanket pulled over me on the couch. Seconds later I was asleep.

I woke up suddenly. I had heard something unusual. I realized it was Amanda. I went into the bedroom and she spoke.

“I’m afraid.”

I knew it was Amanda but the voice sounded younger, like a young girl.

“You want a light on?” I asked.

“No. I want you.”

I walked over and sat next to her on the bed. She talked for a while and then said, “Get under the covers with me, please.”

Under these circumstances I was less than anxious to get into bed with her. I didn’t want to bump her and hurt her. I didn’t want her emotionally damaged any more than knowing her husband had taken off and abandoned her had already hurt her. I hesitated.

“Please.”

I slowly and carefully pulled the covers back and slid in next to her. She was warm and soft. She turned on her side facing away from me and I spooned up near her.

Soon her breathing slowed and she fully relaxed and was asleep. I made an effort to stay awake and not touch her but I failed.

When I woke up my arm was over her body and she was holding my hand. My body was fully spooned up behind her, touching from calf to head. Her butt pressed back against my early morning hard on. She really felt good. I didn’t want her to think I was a dirty old man so I started to back slowly away from her until she spoke.

“Don’t pull away. I like the way it feels.”

We lay still and quiet. I thought about how I would feel if my spouse had freaked and abandoned me as her’s had. I thought about how I had always thought Amanda was so cute and sexy in an innocent, athletic way. After those thoughts and a few others played around in my head I became more than aware that I needed to go.

“Amanda. I need to get up. I need the bathroom. I promise I’ll be back. I live here.”

She let go of my hand and I quickly made my way to the bathroom. When I came back I asked, “Do you need to go?”

“Yes. I think I can do it on my own.”

“I’ll help if you need it.”

I stood by the bed and watched as she got up. She didn’t use her right arm, keeping it tucked next to her body. After two steps she was moving well and closed the door behind her. While she was in the bathroom I got dressed. I needed and wanted to go to work.

When the door opened Amanda looked at me fully dressed and asked, “Are you going to work?”

I nodded and explained that I wanted her to stay here in bed all day. I got the portable phone and put it next to the bed. I wrote down my phone number at work and my cell number. I asked her not to leave the house. She said she had no where to go.

When I got to work Barbara came into my office and we talked about Amanda. She was very understanding escort bursa and wanted to help. After we talked she and I went back to work.

At a little before noon Barbara popped in and asked, “What are you doing for lunch?”

“God, I’ve had so much on my mind I hadn’t thought about food!”

“Does that mean that Amanda is home in bed with no food either?”

“Yes, that’s what it means. We can pick up lunch and take it to her. Let’s go.”

Barbara took my hand and away we went. Two doors from our office we went into a great deli and got sandwiches and stuff for the two of us and some great chicken noodle soup for Amanda. I held the food and gave directions while Barbara drove.

Amanda was still in bed when we walked in. She was awake.

“Are you hungry?” Barbara and I asked as we walked in.

Amanda looked at us and nodded. Barbara sat on the side of the bed and opened the soup container. I helped Amanda sit up a little and Barbara fed her. Amanda was a little reluctant to attempt using the arm closest to the bandages. After a minute I felt useless and unneeded so I got out my sandwich and ate.

Between bites Barbara talked with Amanda. Barbara shared that she had also had lump surgery about a year before and they talked about recovery and pain. I listened but didn’t speak.

Barbara looked at me and seeing that I had finished my sandwich she said, “Here. You feed Amanda while I eat.”

I took the container and fed Amanda. Barbara came around to the other side of the bed and ate her sandwich while the three of us talked. Then Amanda looked at Barbara and asked, “Are you and Pete an item?”

“No. Just last week I started at the same company as Pete. We hardly know each other.”

I was about to say something when Barbara added, “Yet.”

I looked at her and she smiled.

When the soup was eaten and the sandwiches were gone I said Barbara and I needed to get back to work.

Amanda smiled and said, “I hope no one asks what you did for lunch.”

Barbara smiled and said, “If they ask I’ll just say we came to Pete’s and ate lunch in his bed.”

Both women laughed. Amanda stopped when it hurt. Barbara laughed all the way to the car.

When we were back at work no one asked.

At five I headed for my car and saw Barbara heading for hers.

I walked to her car and asked, “Want to share another meal in bed?”

“I don’t know. Will you start thinking I’m easy if I do?”

“Amanda likes you. I like you. We all need to eat. She’ll get her strength back quicker with friends around.”

“I’m not her friend. I just met her.”

“I’ve never met another person at her home other than the disappearing husband. Her answering machine doesn’t have a message on it. I think you and I are the closest she has to friends.”

“Is this your way of asking me on a date?”

“Do you want this to be a date?”

“Do you plan to get me in your bed again?”

“Yes.”

“Then this is a date.”

“What would you like for dinner?”

“Chinese. I think it is romantic to eat Chinese food from the containers sitting in bed.”

I gave her the key to my house. Told her that I would go get Chinese food and meet her at the house. I suggested that maybe she could help Amanda shower or get cleaned up some before I got there.

Barbara kissed me quickly on the cheek and got in her car. I went to mine and drove to the China Palace. On the way I called them and ordered what I thought we would all like.

When I arrived home I saw Barbara’s car parked in front. I got the two bags of food from the car and went in. I saw Barbara’s jacket draped over the back of my couch. I went into my bedroom and almost dropped the food.

Sitting up in bed was Amanda, no longer wearing the flannel nightgown but now wearing one of my t-shirts. Sitting next to her was Barbara, also wearing one of my t-shirts. From the waist down they were both under the covers. Both women had wet hair. Amanda’s bandages showed thru her t-shirt and Barbara’s braless breasts showed thru her t-shirt.

“You said to get her clean. I did. We changed her bandages, shampooed her hair and found something a bit more comfortable for both of us to wear. We hope you don’t mind too much.” Barbara said, smiling.

“Those are the happiest t-shirts I have ever seen.”

“I left one in the bathroom for you.”

“What?”

“If we are having an eat-Chinese-food-in-bed date you will be freshly showered and dressed for the occasion, please.”

“Please.” Amanda added.

I put the bags of food on the end of the bed and went into the bathroom. On the counter on one side of the sink I saw Barbara’s clothes neatly folded and stacked. On the other side of the sink a folded clean t-shirt from my drawer. I stripped down and got into the shower. I showered, shampooed and even shaved. When I toweled off I picked up the t-shirt and realized that there were no clean underwear to go with the underwear.

I pulled on the t-shirt and it came all the way down to the top of my groin. Then I noticed that there was a pair of pale blue panties on top of the stack of clothes that belonged to Barbara. That was all well and even exciting but she hadn’t had to walk across the bedroom with anyone of the opposite sex watching.

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