The Unexpected Call

by bdhesse

“Hello?” the voice asks tentatively from the other end of the line. “Jerry? Is that you?”
“Uh…yeah?” I reply. “Who may I ask is calling?”
“I don’t know if you remember me,” the voice says. “It’s Ellen. From high school?”
I nearly drop the phone as the memories come flooding back. Ellen. I haven’t heard that name in a long time. The small girl with the straight black hair and the heart-shaped face. She always had a sweet voice, but now it sound rougher. Age, I guess.
“I remember,” I say almost without realizing it.
Ellen laughs. “It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?” she says casual.
“Yeah,” I reply. Awhile? It’s been 25 years. My kids have all grown up. The youngest two are still in high school, but the others have moved out. My oldest is expecting her first child.
“I’m sorry,” Ellen says sadly. It startles me. “I thought I was doing what was best when…but I never did stop thinking about you. I never stopped loving you.”
“Ellen, I…” I begin.She interrupts me. “I know,” she says. “You’re probably happily married. I’m sure you don’t need this in your life now. But…I had to tell you.”
I can’t help it: I chuckle. “Oh no,” I say. “I’m three times divorced.”
“Oh…”Ellen says. She sounds shocked. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be,” I reply. “I never was very good at picking them.”
There’s silence at the end of the line.
“Sorry,” I say. “I meant…after you…I just couldn’t seem to make anything work.”
“Oh,” Ellen says.
Time to move on. “What about you?” I ask. “Married? Kids?”
Ellen laughs. “Yes on both accounts,” she says. “My daughter just graduated from university. I’m married to a brilliant engineer who I love very much.”
“I’m happy for you,” I say. After all, what else can I say?
“What about you?” Ellen asks. “You must have kids after three wives.”
“Four, actually,” I reply. “My oldest is expecting a son in June. My second oldest has declared that he will never get married. He just moved out two months ago for college. My younger two are still at home though.”
“Oh?” Ellen says. “Did you raise them all yourself?”
I laugh. “Jilly’s mom was a drug addict,” I reply. “She left the two of us when Jilly was four. Then I married my sons’ mother. She ran off with another man when our youngest was a year and a half. Then it was just the five of us for a time. I married my third wife when Tom, my youngest, was 9. Our divorce just finalized last month.”
“Wow,” Ellen said. “I hope you don’t mind my asking, but…why the third divorce?”
I sigh. “I found out she had been seeing other men,” I reply.
“I’m so sorry,” Ellen says.
I shake my head, then reply when I remember that she can’t see me. “I’m not so upset anymore,” I reply. “I’m just glad it’s all over.”
Ellen makes a non-committal sound.
“So…can I ask why you called?” I say.
“Oh,” Ellen replies. “Sorry, I almost forgot. Do you still live in Melville?”
“Yeah,” I reply. “Two blocks from where I grew up.”
“Great!” Ellen says enthusiastically. “My aunt is holding a reunion at her farm next month. You remember my aunt Dixie? I was hoping you’d be willing to go for a coffee while we’re down. Meet my husband and daughter?”
“That sounds wonderful,” I reply. “But why don’t you guys come over for supper instead? You can meet my kids.”
“That’ll work,” Ellen says. “Does the second Friday of next month work for you?”
I nod to myself as I check my wall calender. “Yup,” I say. “6pm sound good?”
“Sounds great,” Ellen replies.
I mark the supper down in my calender. “Great,” I say. “See you then.”
“see you then,” Ellen replies. She hangs up the phone quickly.
My heart is racing as I put the phone down. The woman that I could never stop loving is coming over for supper and she’s bringing the man that she loves.