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In 2013, I started as series with Kryler and Natalie on the old blog. I’ve republished them here in 2018 during tax season. I didn’t know where it was going and decided to have my fans decide the conclusion to Kryler’s and Natalie’s relationship arc. The flash timeline for their relationship would be: (1) Presentation, (2) Ride, (3) Take-out, (4) Labor, (5) Argument, and now (6) Relocate. Read on to find out if you guys and gals decided if they get a happily ever after or decide to end it.
Dice clattered as Natalie made her way down the steps into Kryler’s man-cave. She made no sound as she went down the steps barefoot, her shoes left at the entrance. The basement, which ran the length and width of the house, had changed somewhat over the eight years since they started dating. The biggest change happened at the beginning of the second year of their marriage shortly after the birth of their daughter Mia; the area where his extensive gaming console had been located had been converted. A toybox, child’s book case, and babydoll crib now resided in the old boy toy area. The smelly, purple couch had been thrown out, the 72-inch television donated to Goodwill, and he set up the section of the basement closest to the steps for his programming.
The central gaming table where he played D&D and other time sucks remained.
Today four folding tables crowded the room, with a half dozen different laptops, cell phones, and three-hole notebooks strewn across them. But the Lost Boys, as she thought of them, were not diligently at work like Kryler promised they would be. Instead her personal Peter Pan had the three others gathered around the central table, playing, again.
All four were in uniform, the black Rodger’s Retrieval T-shirts overtop jeans. At least they had the brains not to sell merchanting rights when they gave NotGolfHobbies distribution rights. Still, she and Kryler never saw a dime from that either. The man’s damned generosity handed over all income to Andre, Efren and Will. His 401K was filled, he owned the house outright, didn’t owe anything on his car, and was debt free. Never mind they lived in a small two-bedroom, their cars were both pushing ten years, and the last of her student loans still had three months left. His friends needed the money more.
It was always about them, not her. Why the hell hadn’t he just married them?
Eventually Andre noticed her, or at least admitted he noticed her. Efren and Will were total misogynists. They gave up even pretending to like her years ago. Once Andre drew Kryler’s attention to her, his dull face lit up.
Kryler’s face never had been anything great. Sharp cheekbones, brown eyes, and floppy hair. Best she would call it is pleasant. Once or twice, maybe more, she would admit it beautiful. Like right now, love shone from his eyes.
“Hey Firebrand, welcome home.” Kryler tossed his dice behind the screen and made his way to the staircase. “Where’s Mia?”
“She’s staying with your mom tonight.” Natalie crossed her arms, first staring at him as his smile faltered, returning his face to just pleasant. He just turned twenty-nine, soon fat would overtake that gorgeous body of his; when that happened, she had no idea how she would find him sexually attractive. Her eyes then burned into the boys behind him. Her voice dripped in sarcasm, “How’s alpha testing going?”
Kryler ran both hands through his hair. The hair immediately flopped over his eyes because he yet again forgot to get it cut professionally like she constantly asked him.
“Well … it’s going well. Better than we hoped.”
“I can see that.” She continued to stare at the Lost Boys. Really, this has gone too far for too long. “Leave. Now. Just get out of my house.”
The losers didn’t even argue, too used to answering to their mommies.
Will picked up his backpack first. Efren jumped over to the tables and snapped close his computer and shoved two phones in his pockets.
Andre touched Kryler on his shoulder, not bothering to pick up anything. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Yeah, you do that Andy.” Natalie stepped aside to let the boys stream out. “You can finish the games tomorrow.”
“Can you not do that?” Kryler’s fists clenched, though his voice stayed soft. He always stayed soft; he had no fight to him.
“Do what? Tell your pals they can come back and play tomorrow? It’s not like anything I am going to do is going to stop that.” Natalie turned to storm upstairs.
Kryler’s light step followed. “We were only playing, waiting for the last of the beta testers to sign up.”
“I thought you were on alpha testing.”
“Efren already ran the full battery of the tests, plus had two alpha testers run through everything.” Kryler’s soothing tenor, perfect for calming frantic toddlers but not as good on full-grown women, followed her from his base of operations to the living room. A room set aside for the few times she needed to bring guests home. No movie posters adorned walls, no bookcases tilted from book overloads, no stupid electronic games tucked into corners. The carpet had no wear to it, no child spit up, no stains. “We learned a lot from Rodger’s Retrieval. The alpha tests he ran only needed two patches. Ebony’s Rainbow will be in beta tomorrow as soon as Andre approves the last of the fifty testers and releases it.”
“That is wonderful, baby.” Natalie’s voice could cut glass, and stopped Kryler’s needy explanations short. Listening to his constant apologies churned her stomach. She didn’t like excuses at work, she didn’t like them at home.
He shifted his feet. “So how did the presentation go?”
“Perfect.” Her voice dripped with artificial honey. “Perez liked it so much he is taking over the project.”
“Oh, beautiful. I am so sorry.” Kryler moved to hold her.
“It gets better.” Natalie stepped away from his comfort. Part of her wanted to seek it out. Just to be held and cry, but there was no point in that. “Since Perez is coming back to the US, someone will need to cover the Mexico headquarters. They chose me.”
Kryler frowned. “So, we are relocating to Mexico?”
“No, stupid boy, I’m relocating to Mexico. You stay here with Mia. No way am I going to have her start kindergarten in Mexico.” Natalie smiled, and Kryler’s heart shriveled as hope left it. “In a year, we can get a divorce without a problem. With the promotion to Vice President, and the out-of-country bonus, I should be able to easily pay child support. Don’t expect any alimony though.”
“You’ve thought this out.”
“I’ve been thinking of asking about the Mexico position for a while now. Perez has been unhappy.” She shrugged in her teal silk shirt and gray wool business jacket. “I would prefer to keep my project after working on it so long, but a promotion is a promotion.”
“Yeah, that is great.” Kryler’s face twisted. She could see he was truly happy she had gotten the promotion. The boy was such a dud.
“I’ll go pack.”
Kryler grabbed her arm. “Wait, what?”
“Perez wants to get me up to speed before he comes here. I am flying out tomorrow morning and staying the week. After that, I will make final arrangements with my project and take over by November. They want everything in place before the beginning of the year.” She shrugged off his loose hold and went to the stairs going to the bedrooms.
“What about Mia?”
“I already visited her on the way home, telling her I’ll be on another one of my trips and asking your mom to keep her another day.” Natalie projected down the step when Kryler didn’t follow her up. “You can explain the other stuff tomorrow or whenever.”
Kryler looked at his left hand and started twisting the silver band off. “Yeah, simple as pie to tell a five year old her mother is abandoning her and her daddy.” His voice was soft as it always was.
He threw the ring across the room violently. It bounced out. He heard it roll down the tiled hall, then little pips as it bounced down the wooden steps into the basement.
(words 1,303 – first published 10/16/2013; republished in new blog format 3/11/2018)