As Breakups Go, It Was An Ugly One.
Doors slammed. Insults hurled. Personal property destroyed. We both behaved badly.
Am I proud my myself? No, sir, I am not.
But come on. Seven years. Seven years he'd been living in this house, leading me to believe everything was fine, while behind that cool veneer of his, cracks were developing. Cracks that could destroy the very foundation of all we'd built.
By the time I discovered what he'd been up to, the damage was irreparable. How could I have been so blind?
In truth, I didn't want to see the destruction he'd wrought. It was too much; I was in denial.
For a while, anyway.
In the end, however, I had to acknowledge that something rotten was going on. I could no longer ignore the stench that hung in the air between us.
He had to go, but I knew I couldn't do it alone.
I had no choice but to reach out for help.
"Don't Blame Yourself,"
the plumber said and wiped his hands on a cloth he pulled from his hip pocket. "There was no way you could have known."
"Really?" I eyed the toilet leaning in the corner of the powder room, where the plumber had placed it after removing it from its perch over a large, open pipe in the floor. "I just feel so...so foolish."
"You have to let that go," the plumber said. "Listen, no one would have suspected what was going on under there." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the toilet. "I can't even find the leak, and I went over the entire thing with a magnifying glass."
"Oh, you're just saying that to be nice," I said and rooted in the pocket of my MC Hammer pants for a tissue.
The plumber's voice softened. "I know it's hard for you to hear this right now, but he was no good for you. I've seen his type before. It makes me sick that a nice lady of the house like yourself got mixed up with a bum like that."
"But...but he didn't seem that way when we first--"
The plumber held up his hand, stopping me mid-sentence. "They never do," he said. "But look at this." He pointed to a widening ring of mushy, rotting wood that encircled the septic pipe - a malodorous blight on an otherwise pristine hardwood floor. "Good guys don't treat a lady like that. Nope," he said, shaking his head, "he's a bad hat, that one."
I glanced at the toilet again, looking for some sign of remorse, but cocked at a rakish angle against the goldenrod wall, he instead looked, well, smug.
Be strong, I told myself.
"Where do we go from here?" I asked the plumber.
"I've got just the fella for you," he said, his face brightening. "Lloyd."
"Yep." The plumber rummaged through his toolbox and produced a small catalog. He flipped through several pages, then planted his finger on one of the pictures and held it out for me to see. "Lloyd."
I studied the photo. Lloyd's smooth, clean lines and low profile were right up my alley, his water-efficient flushing technology and soft-close lid even more so.
"He seems...nice," I said then immediately regretted it. What if Lloyd was just another can-about-town?
Was I ready to take a chance - to bring someone new into my powder room? Seven years was a long time - what if everything had changed? What if [gulp] Lloyd didn't like me?
"I understand," the plumber said, his eyes kind. "You've been hurt."
I nodded and snorted into my tissue.
"If it helps at all," he continued, "Lloyd has been in my niece's house for four months now and she's very satisfied."
My head snapped up and my eyes met his. "Completely satisfied?"
"Let me put it this way," he said, lowering his voice and leaning toward me, "she's the happiest I've ever seen her."
"Oh, my," I breathed and fingered the catalog I had unknowingly crunched into a wad between my palms.
"May I ask you one more question?" I said with a slight quaver in my voice.
"You want to know if you can wait a while and get back to me, right?" the plumber said.
"No. I want to know if you think Lloyd will like this goldenrod color or if I should repaint before he gets here."