Suffering from hopelessness is hard enough for Mitch Wilder to contend with. Remembering to take his medication is a chore. Keeping on top of his secrets and lies is nearly impossible since he's been diagnosed with manic depression. And living three different lives is starting to crash down upon him.
Mark Wilder is Mitch's only legitimate son. After his mother's second husband dies, Mark begins to hope that his parents will re-unite. If they do, then maybe his father will stick around more. But the only re-uniting they are doing is in the bedroom. Neither one seems to want anything more than that.
Mark worries about what his parents will do when they discover his own secret. That him dating Naomi Palmer is a ruse. And that all he wants to do is run around naked...with her brother.
Darren Hoffman has two loves; Lily Marie Marshall and drag racing down country roads. His only problem is keeping Bret Campbell away from the woman he plans to marry one day. But Bret is the only one who can challenge him on the quarter-mile runs.
It was getting cold in Bob's Diner with no glass in the big picture window. Mitch Wilder, the only customer still in there after the scuffle, shivered in his seat but didn't move. All he did was watch Bob Marshall, the owner, clean up the glass that had shattered all over the place. Outside was Mitch's son, Darren Hoffman, with another broom.
“Here,” Bob's wife handed Mitch his watch. “Didn't I say it would show up?”
Mitch held it in his hand. “I'm sorry, Sue. I didn't mean to cause all this.” He looked over at her husband. “I hope Bob believes us. That there's nothing going on between us.”
“Me too.” She slid into the booth across from him. “We've explained it often enough. It's just a thank you gift for helping with my divorce and getting me away from John.” She looked wistfully over at her new husband. Bob was sweeping glass into a pile, his jaw set in a hard line as he concentrated on what he was doing. “I wish now that I hadn't had the watch engraved with your name on it. That trucker wouldn't have known whose it was.”
Mitch shook his head. “I've never done anything like that before, leave something for a husband to find.”
“I never thought I'd see anyone jump through that window either.” They both glanced at the gaping hole in the wall. Mitch wiped the blood from his swollen lip. “Well, that trucker sure hit hard.”
“Uncle Mitch,” Todd Breckenridge said, as he walked into the diner and stopped a few feet away. “Can we borrow your truck to get a couple sheets of plywood?” He was the spitting image of Mitch's sister, Nora.
Justin Marshall, who followed Todd, added, “Dad wants the window covered so we can lock up.”
Mitch handed his nephew the keys. “Wait,” he said, reaching for his wallet. “I'll pay for it.” He handed Todd two twenties. “That should cover it.” He looked back down at the watch. After the boys left he pulled the pins out to set the time and date. Monday, 3 p.m. April 1, 1968. “Happy April Fool’s Day,” he said.
“Hey,” Darren yelled through the window. “You just going to sit there and let us clean up your mess?”
Mitch's left eyebrow went up as he looked over at his son. “I didn't make that mess.” He didn't want to move; his body ached all over. Depression was his enemy now, hitting him when he felt tired or run down. He made a mental note to take another Paxil soon. Bob turned to face Mitch. “It's sure your fault, though. If you'd learn to keep your pecker in your pants you wouldn’t get into these situations.” He shook his head. “No wonder your wife ran off with your brother.” Claire ran to Tom Fleming, Mitch's stepbrother, after she caught Mitch with yet another woman.
“Go to hell. Both of you.” Mitch would have stormed out, but his truck was gone. Instead, he slipped the watch onto his wrist and stood. Bob threw a broom at him. Mitch thought about throwing it back, then decided he better not. He went outside to help Darren. Most of the glass scattered all over the sidewalk. “Piss off,” he said to Darren when he grinned at him. Mitch did the zipper up on his jacket. The wind was picking up, the temperature was dropping.
By the time they had all the glass swept into a pile, Todd was back with the truck. He and Justin carried the sheets of plywood over to the wall. Bob brought out a stepladder, a bunch of nails and a hammer. As the boys held the plywood over the broken window, Bob hammered it into place. Darren swept the shards of glass onto the shovel that Mitch now held. He dumped it into a garbage can that Bob had taken outside earlier.
Big Joe Breckenridge ran up to them from four doors down. He owned Elgin Gym and was as big and solid as a house. Todd looked over at him. “Hi, Dad.”
Joe nodded at his son then looked at the boarded-up widow. “What in hell happened?”
Darren pointed at Mitch. Joe shook his head. “It never ends. Does it?”
“Some big guy dragged his wife into the diner,” Bob said, as he looked down from his perch on the ladder, “looking for our Romeo, here. Stan handcuffed him, but he got loose and made another door.” He said this as he nodded toward the window.
Mitch stood there, caught in his brother-in-law's stare and shrugged.
Joe shook his head. “Are you ever going to grow up, Mitch?”
Sue stepped out the door. “I have coffee on. Come inside and warm up.” Bob hammered in three more nails.
As the group headed into the diner Mitch grabbed Darren's sleeve. “I'm going home to pack. And like I told my bastard brother, I don't know when I'll be back here.”
“Sure, Dad.” Darren pushed his long dark hair out of his eyes.
“Don't ever forget that I love you, Darren. I'll keep in touch. But I think I need to stay away for a while, to recuperate.”
Darren nodded. “I know. It must have been hard on you when Claire moved in with Tom.”
“Yes, it is.” Mitch gave Darren a hug. “I'll miss you.”
“Me too, Dad.”
Mitch let go, turned around and opened the truck door. “Shit,” he said, heading back into the diner. “Todd, where are my keys?” He ignored the glares from Joe and Bob as Sue poured them their coffees.
“Oh, sorry, Uncle Mitch.” Todd reached into his jacket pocket and pulled them out. Mitch grabbed them and stormed out of the diner. “Want your change?” Todd yelled. Mitch just kept going. He drove over to Darren's house, where he lived when he was home, in Port Shetland. He packed a big suitcase and threw it into the back of the truck. Mitch drove across town.
Diana Smithers let him in when he knocked on her door. Her eyes were red from crying. “I'm sorry, Di,” Mitch said. “What are you going to do?”
“I'm in the middle of packing. I'm leaving my husband, while he's in jail.” She wiped her eyes. “I called the police station. He's being charged with assault, for hitting you. And for destroying property.”
Mitch pulled her into his arms. “Come with me, I'll take care of you.”
“To Hamilton?” “Yes. I'll set you up in an apartment. Your husband won't find you there. I'll even help you get a divorce, if you want.”
“Oh, I'm going to get a divorce, Mitch. One way or another. He'll probably throw me out now, anyway.”
He looked down at her from his six-foot height. Diana was short compared to most of the women Mitch took to bed. “So, what do you say, you want to become my mistress?”
Diana smiled up at him. “I get my own apartment?”
“Yes.” Mitch let her go. “I have someone living with me there. She must never know about you.”
“I thought I did a good job staying away from your wife. She knows about me now, doesn't she?”
“Yes. But she won't know that we're still seeing each other.”
“Are you going to get a divorce?” He shrugged.
“I don't know.”
Tom Fleming held Claire as soon as he shut the door to their apartment. They left the diner after the trucker threw the watch at Mitch. Actually, it was after the trucker punched Mitch in the jaw. Claire buried her face in Tom's chest and sobbed. Tom whispered. “I'm sorry, sweetheart. He's never going to learn.” He stroked her long blonde hair.
“Why, Tom? Why does he have to be such a jerk?” Claire left him and went over to get a tissue. After she wiped her eyes she sat down on the couch. “I'm sure glad you aren't like him.”
Tom sat beside her. “I told you before, you are the only woman for me.” He turned away from her. She was the only woman, because he didn't want women. He didn't even want her. But now was not the time to tell her. “Well,” he said. “That's two you caught him with since your wedding.”
“I really believed Mitch has changed. Nora and Sue kept pushing me to marry him. Nobody's seen him with other women when he was in town. And he kept after me; swore that I was the only one. I don't know why he wanted to get married so badly for.” “Probably for this reason right here.”
“Yes. He's been jealous of me ever since Dad brought me here to meet him and Nora. It was just after we found out about each other.” That was fifteen years ago.
“I remember Nora telling me all about it. Yet, no one knew who you were until last year when your father passed away.”
Tom nodded. “You know how Mitch treats me. I stayed away from here because of him.”
“But Nora loves you.”
“And I love my sister, and her family.” Tom held her hand. “I know your dad wanted you to marry Joe. But I see how happy Nora is with him.” Keep her talking. Take her mind off Mitch.
He was glad that his sister had a solid marriage. It was too bad that she couldn't have any more kids, though. Nora kept having miscarriages. Todd was the only baby to survive full term. Tom kept in touch with Nora and Joe, even though he hadn't seen much of them until he moved down here a year ago. “Have you ever wanted kids?”
New tears pooled in her eyes. “Yes. Mitch always said he didn't want any. And every time he came home he drilled that into me. And Bob ruined that on me too.”
Tom nodded. “I heard. He got Julie pregnant just after you married him. I’ve only seen her once, and I heard that not many people liked her. I like the twins, though.” He met the Marshalls at his father's funeral.
“Yes, Justin and Lily Marie are good kids.”
“And the twins like Sue. Bob told me that Julie wasn't much of a mother.”
“No, she'd rather chase after men while Bob was working his ass off.”
And, Constable Stan Cleary, the town's only cop, had been screwing around with Julie all throughout her marriage to Bob. Seems Julie had a few men on the hook. “Yeah,” Tom said. “I'm glad Pete Hoffman got life in prison.” Pete confessed to killing Julie in a fit of jealousy when she preferred a draft dodger from the States over him. That's three guys they knew of that Julie screwed around on Bob with. Then after Bob kicked her out she moved in with Stan and screwed around on him.
“Me too.” Claire shivered. “Like I told you before, I dream about him killing Darren.” “Darren's safe, Claire. Pete can't touch him anymore.” “I know.” She looked past him. “Sometimes I wonder how close it had come.”
“I think Stan's finally getting over Julie's murder,” he said, to get her mind off Darren this time. She would only get further depressed. “He doesn't look so sad anymore. Sometimes I think he took it harder than Bob did.” Claire nodded.
Tom went back to work for a few hours that afternoon even though he promised Claire he wouldn't. He sensed that she wanted to be alone for a while. He unlocked the secondary office of the Great Lakes Shipping Company...his tiny office, while Mitch ran the big luxurious one in Hamilton. Mitch took over the company when their father retired. Tom was coerced into working with Mitch when their dad died just over a year ago. If they didn't work together the company would have been lost to both of them. But eventually, Tom would own half of it, which he knew pissed Mitch off. Mitch thought he'd get the whole thing. Tom was surprised with the conditions of the will, he thought his father had disowned him.
Tom hung his jacket up and opened his office door. He stood there, looked toward his brother’s office and sighed. At times like this he wished he had stayed in Windsor, where he had been a teacher. But he did make better money now. And his intent was to ruin Mitch when he first moved down there. Screwing his brother’s wife was just part of his plan...all because Mitch didn't want anything to do with him and shunned him. He's a bastard, Tom can go to hell.
Tom opened his door and sauntered in. He plunked down in his chair and swung it around to look out of the window. For the better part of an hour he watched them working across Waverly Creek, dumping coal into trucks from the huge piles. After the last truck pulled away he closed his eyes. And then just last year Mitch confessed that Darren Hoffman was his son. “Hypocrite,” Tom said. He thought of treating Darren like Mitch treated him; glaring at him or ignoring him completely. Except, Tom liked Darren, so he treated his nephew like he treated Todd. Because Tom knew he'd never have kids. And Darren and Todd were his only nephews, there were no nieces. He thought about when he first learned he had a brother and a sister. It was three months before his dad brought him to Port Shetland to meet them. Nora had been married to Joe for a year already. And Mitch stuck around long enough to let Tom know that he didn't want anything to do with him.
So now, here he was, living with his brother’s wife when he had
fallen in love with someone else.