(NOTE:  This 18th entry in the "Spohn Challenge" project was supposed to have been posted last Friday, but duties at work kept me from doing so and I didn't remember until this morning that I hadn't posted it yet. So I'm sharing it a bit late but I've still managed to keep writing a new piece each week, somehow. This one is actually an expanded version of the first of my "Two-Sentence Stories," which was originally composed back in college. It's also a little on the racy side, for me anyway, but I was trying to make a point.)

…Jeremiah Kincaid loved his wife every bit as much the morning he left her as he had on the day they were married.

That’s why he left her.

He had awakened earlier than usual that morning, rolled over and looked at the still-sleeping woman lying at his side. How long had they been married now? He couldn’t remember right off, and that scared him. Once he had dreamed of spending the rest of his life with her; now he didn’t know if he could bear to even look at her anymore.

It wasn’t that she was no longer attractive - there were plenty of girls out there half her age who would have killed to look as good as she did. And he still loved her. That much was certain; there was no question that his feelings for her had not cooled over the years. But he didn’t know if that was enough anymore. Something had happened in those years, something he had once sworn would never happen.

Life had become, well, predictable.

Jeremiah hated predictability, probably because his own father had thrived on it so. The elder Mr. Kincaid had made it his habit to adhere to a strict schedule throughout his entire adult life: meatloaf every Thursday, poker with the same group of old school chums every Sunday, two hours of “quality time” with young Jeremiah and his sister Christina on Saturdays, and one evening alone with his wife every other Friday. He spent the alternate Fridays in the company of a variety of mistresses over the years, a fact that Jeremiah had not become aware of until after the old man had died; that he had been so rigid and inflexible even in his philandering was cause for greater dismay on his son’s part than knowledge of the philandering itself.

All those years of predictability had taken their toll on young Jeremiah, and when he had become old enough to strike out on his own he had promised himself that he would endeavor to make each new day an adventure. He’d repeated that vow to his bride on their wedding night, and for the first few years he had been able to make good on the promise; but soon enough children had entered the picture, and it did not take very long from that point for his life to slip into a routine pattern which, while not nearly as rigid or inflexible as his father’s had always been, irritated him all the same.

It hadn’t been anyone’s fault. Early on he had tried to lay the blame at the feet of his wife and children, with the justification that it was all this domesticity that had brought him to where he was. And he had been right about that much, at least; domesticity was the real culprit. But after some hours of meditation on the matter, it had eventually dawned on him that their life together had become as much of a chore for her as it had for him. 

They never spoke openly of it, of course; there was still too much genuine emotion between them for that. But every once in a while, usually when she was trying to divert his attention away from something else he was doing at the time, she’d say some little thing that made him wonder if love was reason enough to spend a life together. And he was reasonably certain she had picked up like signals from him.

At one point he had spent the better part of a year trying to figure out a way to bring up the subject of separation. He’d almost succeeded once, but changed his mind at the last second and choked back the words. Little wonder; they were sitting together on the front porch at the time, watching their neighbor's small grandson as he played in the yard next door, and after a moment’s hesitation he’d decided the setting was inappropriate for such a discussion.

Then there was the time he thought she might bring the subject up herself, at the breakfast table one morning while talking about a pair of old friends who were in the midst of a particularly messy divorce. But she, too, had stopped short. Or he imagined she had, at any rate.

Finally he’d come to the conclusion that it would be for the best if they never talked about it. Just let it happen, as they both knew it eventually must. And so he got up out of the bed that morning, took a shower, slipped into some comfortable old clothes and a light jacket, threw some extra clothes into an old duffel bag their son had used back in high school, removed a fairly sizable wad of money from inside that hollowed-out book he’d never told her about, and walked out the front door. Just like that. No note, no goodbye, no “See you, sayanara.” He guessed she’d figure it out soon enough; her intelligence and keen grasp of reality were two of the things that had attracted him to her, so many years before.

He didn’t even bother taking his car, though he knew she’d have no use for it herself. He just pointed himself in the general direction of the bus depot and set out hiking. Later, maybe, he’d call her and apologize and cry and ask that she forward the rest of his belongings as soon as arrived wherever it was he was going. 

Maybe. Or maybe not. Perhaps it was best to leave that past life entirely in the past. 

Strolling through the neighborhood, Jeremiah saw the various signs of life all around him but did not pay much attention to them. Being mid-summer, there were children running and playing in their yards and riding their skateboards and their bicycles up and down the sidewalks. Being Sunday, the air was sweet with the smells of Sunday breakfasts, of scrambled eggs and bacon and sausage and pancakes. An old friend waved as he drove past on his way to church, and Jeremiah only half-consciously returned the greeting. He stopped and watched as the friend’s car disappeared into the distance, and it suddenly struck him just how much time had gone by since he and his old friend had been children playing in their front yards on a summer Sunday morning.

The bus depot sat next to a run-down old apartment building. Jeremiah had lived there for awhile, just after he’d gotten out of high school and was busy trying to decide whether he should please his father and go to college or please himself and do whatever struck his fancy. For a year he had lived there, reading college catalogues and writing bad poetry, living on canned chicken and tomato soup and watching the buses pulling in and out of town every day. And somewhere in the course of that twelve months his father actually won out; Jeremiah Kincaid enrolled at city college and began dancing the Academia Waltz. Because it was easier than constantly fighting with the old man.

A few years later he had a degree, a good job (as a college instructor, no less - what would his father have thought of that?), a fine wife, two wonderful children, and a dead father to whom he owed it all. And life went on pretty much as usual, to the point that life quickly became unbearable.

He stood there in front of the depot for a while, waiting for the next bus to come along and take him away. At one point he heard the sound of laughter, coming from the general direction of that dilapidated old apartment building. The sound was bright and happy and exactly what he needed to hear at that particular moment. He took a quick glance behind him and saw two of the most beautiful young women he had ever seen, standing there in front of the building as they talked and laughed. Jeremiah smiled as he gazed upon them. His wife had looked like that, once upon a time; still did, actually, though she relied on more artificial means now than she had then and so it took a little longer these days to achieve the same look.

From their appearances he guessed them to be sisters. Both had the same pert little nose, the same pin-up girl measurements, the same crystal blue eyes that grabbed his attention even from this distance. But they had their differences, as well. The blonde seemed slightly taller, perhaps an even six feet in height, with long slender legs and one of the most the most exquisite tans he’s ever seen in that part of the country. He judged her age to be somewhere around twenty-one, roughly the same as his own daughter. He wondered if the boys looked at her the same way he was looking at this woman now. He wondered what she thought about it if they did.

The redhead’s tan wasn’t nearly as dark, but her hair lent it a sort of bronzish hue that was certainly exotic. She was somewhat shorter than her companion, maybe only five-foot-six or so, and was probably no older than eighteen. Perhaps just barely that.

The most striking thing about the pair - although it wouldn’t occur to Jeremiah until some time later - was the way they were dressed. The blonde was wearing an attractive two-piece suit, a light blue jacket and matching skirt, with a lacy white blouse and white pumps. The redhead wore a yellow cotton peasant-style dress and brown sandals. Both seemed quiet, demure, very lady-like; this being Sunday, they might have been on their way to church.

Or maybe not.

After a moment he started to feel guilty about staring at them this way. So he picked an old newspaper up off the ground and started to read it, not because he was interested in old news but because he couldn’t think of any other way to get his mind off the two of them. Not that it worked. His gaze alternated between the paper and the blonde, between the blonde and the redhead, between the redhead and the paper. And his wife probably hadn’t awakened to find him gone as of yet.

After a moment, he noticed that the blonde had noticed him. He saw her whisper something in the redhead’s ear; they both giggled, and Jeremiah buried his nose in the paper and kept it there this time. So certain was he that they might take offense at his ogling that his heart nearly stopped when they suddenly appeared on either side of him, smiling.

“Hi there, handsome,” the blonde said as Jeremiah’s stomach began to churn. 
She lay an arm upon his shoulder. “Waiting for the bus?”

He managed to nod, somehow, but his voice failed him. Their attention suddenly made him feel like a tongue-tied adolescent; he was jolted by a queasiness he hadn’t felt since he and Shelly Bisinger had sneaked under the bleachers at the football field when he was fifteen…

The blonde glanced at her wristwatch. “Well, it’s about an hour before the next one’s due to roll in. Tell you what - why don’t the three of us all go on up to my apartment and make it a threesome?”

Both women flashed a brilliant smile, but Jeremiah barely saw through the fog that had suddenly rolled in and settled upon his brain. A short eternity seemed to pass before he finally managed to find his voice, and when he did he imagined that he must surely sound like the village idiot. “I beg your pardon?”

The redhead leaned in close to him - close enough that he was quite able to get a good look down the front of her peasant dress, thank you very much - and wrapped an arm about his waist.  “You know,” she purred. “All three of us. You, me and her. Together. Any way you like, for as long as you like.” 

She almost sounded like a television advertisement for some used car lot.

Jeremiah looked back and forth, from the redhead to the blonde and back again, and wondered if he might not still be back home in his bed, dreaming all this. Neither of these young ladies looked much like a whore - well, not what he had always imagined a whore must look like, at any rate. He thought again of his daughter, and cringed…

“Well, tiger,” the blonde spoke up again, “what’s it going to be?” Her body stood poised in a manner that seemed to suggest that she might almost be willing to take clothes off right then and there. “There’s plenty of time before that bus pulls in… we can show you the time of your life while you’re waiting.”

As she spoke, Jeremiah’s mind reeled and his imagination took flight. He saw visions of these two young goddesses making love first to him, then to one another. He pictured himself lying there with them for hours, enjoying one another, each teaching the others new and wonderful things none had ever dared imagine doing before - and to hell with the bus! Throughout the remainder of the day and well into the night they would be as one: their bodies joined, their souls entwined, a triad of voices crying out in unison as the ecstasy such moments bring rushes over the entire collecting being… 

And when at last their energies - if not their passion - had been spent, he would thank them quite simply. Perhaps just a kiss on each forehead as they drift off to sleep, and he left them to continue down this new path he had chosen for himself.

And then, for some reason he doubted he would ever truly understand, he thought of his wife. And he laughed. 

He laughed.

The women, unaccustomed as they were to receiving such reaction, eyed him curiously. After a moment Jeremiah noticed their expressions and fought to stifle a fresh gale of laughter. “Sorry, ladies,” he finally managed to mutter. “I don’t think I’m interested in what you’re selling today.”

“Selling?” The blonde almost seemed offended by the suggestion. “We don’t do this for money, mister. Hell, depending on how well things go we might even pay you!”

“I appreciate the thought,” he responded. “All the same, I think I’ll pass.”

The redhead curled her bottom lip into a pout. “But why not? We could have so much fun together.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt that.” And he didn’t, either. “But it wouldn’t be worth it in the long run, at least not to me.” He held up his left hand, and the gold band he’d worn all those years flashed in the morning sun. It was the first time all morning that he realized he hadn’t taken it off when he’d left the house.

“Well hell, honey, that’s not a problem,” the blonde assured him. “I’m married, too.” And she held up her own ringed finger to prove the point. 

“Makes it a little more exciting, don’t you think?”

“I really wouldn’t know,” Jeremiah said. “And I’m in no big hurry to find out, either. Look, maybe you and your sister should just go find someone else…”

“Sister?” Now it was their turn to laugh, and Jeremiah’s to be confused. After a moment the blonde recovered enough to respond. “Thanks for the compliment, big fella, but Destiny’s not my sister. She’s my daughter.”

Her daughter! Jeremiah wondered if his shock looked as obvious as it felt; he figured that it must when Mother giggled again and slipped an arm around her offspring’s waist, pulling her close. “That’s right, she’s my daughter. 

And we make a hell of a team, don’t we, babe?” The younger girl just smiled and nodded, the arm that had been wrapped around Jeremiah’s back now draped about her mother’s. 

When Jeremiah was a boy, such a relationship would have been labeled as perverted, obscene; now it was merely “an alternative lifestyle.”

…And everyone is sicker in our sick world…

Jeremiah took a step away from the duo. “Are you sure you don’t want to come upstairs with us for a little while?” he heard the redhead ask once more, almost pleading this time.

“Thank you, no.” For a fleeting instant he saw that vision of the three of them together again, but this time he had little trouble driving it away. 

He shook his head, and the two women couldn’t help but notice that his smile now seemed a little sad. “I can’t. Besides, I really don’t think my wife would approve.” The joke fell lame upon his own ears.

“So go home and get her,” Destiny said hopefully. “The more the merrier.”

He didn’t have an answer for that, so instead he just turned and walked away. He smiled to himself as the blonde called after him, “It’s your loss, handsome.”

“You’re probably right,” he told her without looking back. He kept walking, and it wasn’t until he’d reached the end of the block that he finally worked up the nerve to turn and catch one last glimpse of them. By that time, however, they’d already forgotten about him and had managed to corner another fellow, an altogether proper-looking gentleman in a three-piece suit who had obviously found the offer more appealing than he had himself. 

Even at a distance they were a tempting pair. Mother and daughter, best friends, lovers. Nubile. Dripping with sexuality. 

And neither of them really worth it, not in the long run. Or even, come to think of it, in the short run.

He watched just a moment longer, long enough to see mother and daughter and their new-found friend turn and disappear into that dilapidated old apartment building and out of his life. By now his wife had no doubt gotten out of bed and assumed he had just gone on a short walk around the block or something; she was probably sitting there waiting for him, with his favorite breakfast on the table and maybe with still enough love in her heart to at least face tomorrow with a smile.

And in this world, at least, Jeremiah Kincaid turned around and walked back home…