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Mythology tells the story of the Phoenix; a powerful bird that at certain intervals will build a nest and sit in it as it is consumed by flames. Out of the ashes the Phoenix is reborn to once again grow in strength and wisdom. Sometimes in life, the thing that kills and destroys us is thevery thing that is life's greatest blessing.
My name is Robert O'Conner. My family calls me Bobby but the rest of the world knows me as Robert. Immediately after graduating from college I was recruited by Willis, Goldman & Reed and assigned to the Chicago office. There were eleven new hires that started on the sameday and that is when I met Barbara. We were given desks next to each other and as the new kids on the block we sought safety in numbers in defense against the veterans. The rookies started having coffee together at the break and then meeting over lunch to commiserate or cheer each other on as we all tried to integrate ourselves in the corporate world. After several months the group began to dwindle until there was just Barbara and myself.
Barbara was gorgeous. The kind of physical beauty that could make a dead man stand up and dance. After we got to know each other sheadmitted that she had been featured in one of those photo spreads that Playboy magazine occasionally runs, "Sorority Girls of New EnglandColleges." I immediately went out and found a copy of that issue and kept it in the drawer of my nightstand. Every guy in the office tried to date her but she rebuffed them all.
She had long thick red hair, a mass of curls thathung below the middle of her back, and dark green eyes. Her skin was flawless and she usedvery little makeup, she didn't need to. Even without lipstick her lips were a deep red. She stood six feet tall in her stocking feet, an inch above my own five-eleven. Most of the time shewore slacks to the office but on those occasions when she wore a skirt the male employees were treated to the blinding vision of her perfectly formed long legs. Her breasts were neither large nor small, just the right size and shape. Every thing about her body was in perfect proportion. Each movement she made was a symphony of sensuality, from walking across the office to get something from the filing cabinet down to the simple act of putting a paper clip on a piece of paper.
As for myself, I am not a Golden Adonis nor am I the elephant man. A girlfriend in college once described me as being "six points above average." I have been told by several women that my best features are my blue eyes and my smile. One of my few regrets in life is not beingable to reach six feet like my two brothers. If genetics hold true, by the time I reach fifty I will be thirty pounds heavier than the day I graduated from high school...with absolutely nohope of ever losing them.
I am not the life of the party but can hold up my end of a conversation and do reasonably well at telling a joke. For all of her beauty Barbara is fairly quiet but not shy, she was the center of attention no matter what the setting. Without even speaking she would have men gathered around her, just waiting for the pleasure of her smiling in their direction. You don't realize how intelligent she is until you have been around her for a while. I could neverfigure out how we ended up connecting.
From having coffee and lunches at work we progressed to catching a movie after work and then on to dinner and drinks Friday nights. Fromthere it was Friday and Saturday nights and then several nights during the week. Six monthsafter our first official date we were married.
Life was good. We were madly in love with eachother. By working in the same office we could go to and leave work together. We had our own little universe that had little room in it for otherpeople. The daily sex was fantastic and together we learned new ticks and moves that made it more intense as we went along.
Several years after we were married, corporate headquarters sent in a new manager for my unit. Derrick Andrews was a tall muscular black man with his head shaved smooth and an arrogant look in his eyes. He was smooth with the women and a real bastard to the men in theoffice. Gradually I found more and more of the workload being put on my desk as I struggled to get it all done. Instead of coming to work with Barbara, I increasingly had to go in early and stay late, not getting home until eight or nine most nights plus having to go in to the office on Saturdays. It became obvious that Andrews was trying to force me to quit the company.
During this time the only thing that kept me going was Barbara. Every night she would soothmy battered ego and take away all the stress. During the day she would call my desk just to say, "hi" or come by my desk with a cookie or slice of somebody's birthday cake. I had just about reached my breaking point when Barbaragave me the news. She was pregnant.
All thoughts of quitting immediately flew out the window. There was nothing that Derrick could do to me that I couldn't endure. The joy of knowing that I was to be a father took care of every thing. The sex on the night she told mewas one of the greatest experiences of my life up to that point.
I had heard the stories from the other guys in the office about how horny their wives got during pregnancy. At first it was true and the sex was almost non-stop at home. But as the due date got closer Barbara seemed to run hot and cold. One night she would literally jump me and tear my clothes off as I walked through the door. The next night she would be cold and distant. During the last few weeks she had completely withdrawn and would flinch whenever I tried to touch her.
At last the day came. Her water broke on Sunday morning and we rushed to the hospital. By the afternoon we were in the delivery room with the doctor telling her when to push. Finallythere was one last push and the baby came out of the birth canal. The doctor immediately looked up at me and then over to Barbara. The room was oddly silent. Without saying a word the nurse placed the baby on Barbara's chest.
The baby's skin was back as coal.
I stood there, stunned, looking at the baby. Barbara's face had a horrified look. It seemed as though everything was happening in slow motion. I backed away from the delivery table, then turned and walked out of the room. As thedoors closed I could hear Barbara screaming,"Robert come back here."
I made it as far as the parking lot before I stopped to throw up in the bushes. In a daze I was somehow able to find the car and take off.I drove around aimlessly for a while and then headed home. For the next several hours I paced back and forth trying to make sense out of what just happened.
I wrestled with my emotions for hours. Had I made a mistake, could I be wrong? Did I misunderstand about the baby? Had I misjudged Barbara? Where do we go from here? What possible explanation could there be? Had I done something to cause her to be disloyal? What signs of her cheating could I have missed? Was there more than one man she had cheated with? Could the marriage be saved, or was there any thing left to save? It always came back to one simple fact.
There is no way in hell that two people of Irish descent could produce a black baby.
After my third trip to the toilet to vomit I lost any sense of self-control and completely destroyed the bathroom. Barbara, my reason for living, had betrayed me. The emotional pain of her obvious infidelity became a physical painas well. After all the years of what I thought were love and devotion for each other, Barbara had been unfaithful and bore a child fathered by another man.
We all make choices about where our lives will go. It was very clear that Barbara's choice did not include me; she had not honored the wedding vows we made to each other.
The phone had been ringing constantly since I returned to the house. The first time I let the answering machine pick up and heard Barbara'svoice demanding that I return to the hospital sowe could talk. She called five more times in the next hour, each message becoming less demanding until the final one when she was crying and begging me to come to her.
I couldn't take it any more and unplugged the phone so I wouldn't have to hear it. I went to the garage and came back with a hammer. I placed the telephone on the kitchen counter and left it in a thousand pieces before throwingthe hammer through the closed window above the sink. By now the rage had subsided enough that I was able to put together some coherent thoughts.
In situations like this it is surprising how quickly material things become meaningless to your life. Over the next several hours I gathered up the few things that I now valued and piled them in the middle of the living room floor. Everything fit into three cardboard boxes that I found in the garage and I loaded them into my car. I threw all of my clothes into the car without bothering to pack them into suitcases. I put the empty suitcases in the car planing to pack them later. I had to get out of that house that held so many memories of Barbara's and my life together.
The last thing I did was to go to the garage andcome back with another hammer and nail. I went into the bedroom one last time and looked around. I took off my wedding ring and nailed it to the wooden headboard. I heaved the hammer through the mirror over the dresserand left. By 11:30 that night I pulled out of the driveway and went in search of a hotel.
I got no sleep that night and in the morning I called my secretary, Mrs. Lopez, to tell her that I would not be in that day. Mrs. Lopez asked how Barbara was doing and I quietly hung up the phone with out answering. I spent the entire day inside the hotel room trying to get control of my thoughts and emotions.
The next morning I knew I would go crazy if I stayed there any longer, and not knowing what else to do, I went into the office. I was standing outside my office door trying to focus on what Mrs. Lopez trying to tell me when Derrick Andrews walked up.
"It's about time you showed up for work O'Conner. I'm getting tired of your work habits lately. The only reason I don't fire your ass is because I need to keep you employed so you can raise that little bastard of mine."
Mrs. Lopez and I both stared at him with our mouths open. With a smirk Andrews continued.
"Didn't know about that did you. I've been fucking your wife non-stop for the last two years. Your wife is one sweet pussy."
I am not a violent man and I don't actually remember hitting him, but I watched as Andrews flew backward knocking over several chairs before bouncing off of John Gordon and sliding to the floor. Blood was flowing out of his nose leaving a large red stain on Gordon's shoes. Mr. Gordon was a corporate vice president and head of the Chicago office. It was rumored that he was first in line to becomethe next CEO. When Andrews tried to get up from the floor I kicked him in the ribs three times as hard as possible. After the third time he remained on the floor curled up into a ball. Ispun around and walked past the other people in the room that were cowering wide-eyed in the ...

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