To Love A Façade


Joe Bookwalter

Author’s Notes:

With tremendous love, I dedicate this novel to my son.  The last seven years have overwhelmed me with happiness.  I hope each day you feel how strong my love is for you; and that you know just how amazing you are.  My goal is to be a dad you can look up to, to be your role model.  To that end, I hope I have not failed you and will not fail you.  I love you!

There are many people to which I’m indebted.  Those who read the early versions of To Love a Facade, those who encouraged me to continue writing, and those who listened to me ramble about the inspiration of the book.  To all of you, thank you!  There are some select individuals I would like to personally thank.  Faren Coday, I’m grateful for your tremendous help with my website.  Stephen Schilling, your artistic eye and tireless work on the novel’s cover is greatly appreciated.  My oldest sister, Lisa.  You have supported all my crazy endeavors, this book included.  Most importantly, my parents. Thank you for your unconditional love and support through the years.  I hope I can be half the parent to my son as you continue to be to me.

As most writers will attest to (although, I must admit there’s great hesitation self-identifying as a writer, still very much considering myself an aspiring author) the inspiration behind, To Love A Façade, was from a real experience.  That experience, a girl; and the inspiration, writing a different ending.  Why that one experience or one girl or one unquenchable thirst for the ending I desired, compelled me to write the book, I have no answer.  There was simply an unexplainable force whose only satisfaction was for me to write the love story I felt was deserved.  To that one girl, thank you!  Thank you for the inspiration.  Had it not been for you, I never would have written To Love A Façade.

My past showed no window into a future that involved writing.  Like everyone, I enjoy a good book but never imagined writing one.  When I started writing the book, I never imagined that I would finish it, let alone be read by anyone.  To some degree of honesty, I had no story when I started…Jack, Stephanie, Michelle, they didn’t, yet, exist in my head.  As the days and weeks bled into months, the story slowly came to me, and in that evolution, the ending I had originally set out to achieve.  Now—a year and a half later—I present to you, To Love A Façade.

This journey awakened me to a love of which I was unaware.  The discovery was not simply a love to write, but more—my love of writing.  Writing is inclusive.  There are no rules or boundaries and it knows no language or limit—anyone can write!  Many people have a story they want to tell but feel writing a novel is too hard.  The hardest part is starting, writing that first page.  If you have a story you want to tell, then tell it!

I live just outside Indianapolis with my son.  To Love A Façade is my first novel.  I have a second novel set to be published soon and I am currently working on my third novel.  When I’m not writing, I enjoy coaching my son’s baseball team.

To Love A Facade

Copyright 2017, by Joe Bookwalter

All Rights Reserved

All Rights Reserved.  This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photo copy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the author of this book.

This book is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, businesses, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.  This book is not intended for resale.  The author respectfully asks that if you did not purchase this copy that you please return it and purchase a copy for your use only.  Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

Chapter 1

Love is a fraud. 

That’s right…a fraud. 

Love is a whimsical dream dancing through the subconscious minds of hapless romantics. 

What’s more, love is manufactured…manufactured inside the mind, on top of the rag-tag assembly line of communism; distributed to the proletariat heart clamoring for its daily rations.  The heart, blindly beholden to the governing body of the mind—the mind, the government controlled factory—beats uniformly.

Every movie or book or fairy-tale has—at its core—the protagonist falling in love with their soul mate.  Does that ever happen?  Does the heart really choose or does it simply fall in line with the mind?  Does the heart accept that reason—he’s going to be a good provider—or logic—she’s going to be a great mom—or comfort—we’ve dated for eight years, why not—are the bedrocks of successful marriages?    

All too often, the mind writes the ending before the heart makes an entrance, tilling the field from which the relationship is supposedly going to blossom.  The question, then, should be, do people truly fall in love?  Can the heart revolt, can it break free from the oppressive hammer-and-sickle mind?  Can it declare its independence…declare a new state governed by genuine love?

How often is love the victim of a Ponzi Scheme—married to Enron, tricked into believing the complexity of life prevents the release of a balance sheet?  The gross earnings of years married, sinful lies warehoused in shell accounts scattered across the country.   

Woven into the fabric of existence—and not mutually exclusive from the fictional concept of love—is the belief that one never gets a second chance to make a first impression.  But how real is that first impression?  Or second impression—or third?  Is undying love—the mythical concept supposedly developed behind the sacred bastions of the heart—based off those impressions?  How real are those impressions…and how real can love be, then, if it is based off those impressions? 

Stories make people fall in love with the idea of falling in love.  But how often do real life stories end like the ones in bookstores?  How often do people disappear for no reason?  How often do unanswered questions linger like the taste of garlic four hours after lunch?  How often is the prevailing thought, what the fuck just happened?

Love does not promise a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Love does not promise a happily-ever-after ending.  Love does not promise that dating someone actually means dating someone.  Love does not promise the very existence of love to exists.  The only thing love does promise, is that love is a fraud!

After two hours of typing, those words felt good.

“Mornings are your first opportunity to grab life by the balls, to stare your enemy down, to spit into the eye of the tiger.  Charge into each morning like you’re charging at your fucking enemy.”  Or something like that?  Having spent his youth subjected to years of military propaganda, Jack had difficulty remembering all the fiery slogans his dad preached or believing all the emblematic war chants regurgitated at various times during his childhood.  Regardless of the cause of his adolescent militarized selective memory, after his most recent night of debauchery, ‘charging into the morning,’ was as plausible as philandering sex strengthening a marriage.

Obscenely drunk, having just fucked a married woman that he worked with, Jack wondered whether his dad ever charged his enemy with a thousand-pound hangover afflicting every inch of his body?  Feeling Carolyn’s illicit naked body grotesquely passed out against his, her fast and loose legs straddling his body—her two-timing tits flattened against his chest—Jack wondered whose balls were being grabbed?  His marriage having ended three years ago when another man found sexual favor with his wife, Jack wondered if Carolyn’s husband—whatever his name—would be spitting into his eye?

Drifting to sleep, the smell of unfaithful sex polluting the bedroom, Jack’s alcohol-riddled mind had a delightfully pleasant thought—a fairly recurrent thought most nights as he fell asleep—would Stephanie ever be in this bed?

The cool autumn morning wind blew a chill.  Stephanie stepped out of the shower, the slightly cracked window covering her body with goose bumps.  Thumbing through her closet, she attempted to find clothes that straddled the border of dressing cute but not sexy.  Anson talked…Anson judged…Anson had standards.

Like the unwritten rules of baseball regulating a hitter’s homerun celebration, there was not a rule, necessarily, on how pre-k teachers in Anson should dress.  Stephanie, though, knew to dress conservatively—twenty-seven years of living there teaching her the unwritten rules—appropriate dress—a big one.  Her acceptance of the town’s traditions had been a long and windy road with many stops.

A pair of tight blue jeans, which helped to show-off her curvy figure, and a loose fitting black shirt (Stephanie understood her ample breasts could not be paraded through the halls of Prescott Academy) were her choices for the morning.  Getting dressed, Stephanie checked her phone, she had not responded to a text from last night.

“…have to get my classroom ready for next week, maybe we just Netflix and chill tonight…”

Walking into the kitchen, Stephanie saw her mom reading the paper.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hi, Honey.” Laura Ritter said, happily.  “Do you want a cup of coffee?”

“I’m good.”

“Dad called last night.  He’s stuck in Boston for another day…I guess the project was harder than he thought.  He’s getting in early Saturday now.”

Stephanie rolled her eyes internally…she knew something was hard but it wasn’t the project; she wondered how much her mom knew.  Was she just playing dumb for me—or was she dumb to what her husband was doing?

“He wanted me to remind you about the fundraiser thing next month.  He wants to make sure everyone can go with him.”

“I know, Mom, I know; tell him for the tenth time, I’ll be there.”

Heading toward the back door, Stephanie smiled.  “Bye, Mom.  I might spend the night at a friend’s house—I’ll text you this afternoon.”

“Bye, Honey, love you.”

Jack blindly searched for the covers.  This slight, yet sudden, movement altering what had been an armistice in his intestines; the combatants, his nefarious gut versus the hostile remains of alcohol and a chili cheese hotdog—an impulse decision at two in the morning that was now, regretfully, terrorizing his stomach.

As his transition from unconsciousness to consciousness progressed, a slight recollection of his unchaste night returned.  Jack wondered how Amy felt the first morning she woke up with Mitch.  Did she feel guilty?  Did she regret it?  Jack never imagined waking up with a married woman who was not his actual wife.  Funny how loneliness and alcohol can alter a man’s moral judgement.

Now nauseously awake—uncertain if his nausea originated from last night’s bourbon mixing with the chili cheese hot dog or from the married woman passed out in his bed—Jack stared at his unevenly plastered ceiling.  The intensity of the nausea built, his stomach gurgling violently.  Fully under the covers, Jack knew what had to be done—he knew what would release him of the nausea.  Could he give Carolyn a Dutch-oven?  Would she wake-up?  Would she smell it?  Would the most assuredly intense stink bomb also release his guilt for sleeping with a married woman?

Slowly turning his head, internally praying this slight movement did not initiate an unexpected projection of swine out of his various orifices, Jack stared briefly at a picture of Graham, his five-year old son, perched on a wooden table adjacent to his bed.  The picture triggering a string of vivid images helping to reveal how his night suddenly veered into the town of Affairsville.  Did it start that easily for Amy?

“You’re not leaving, are you?”  Carolyn had said as Jack started to walk toward his car, naively believing his night was over.  There had been a celebratory dinner, another stellar quarter in the books for Radon Marketing.  Jack’s quarter, once again, was not so stellar; he holding unceremoniously onto last place—his routine spot in the batting order of success.  Apparently, the reward for continued failure at Radon Marketing was fucking a top-performing team member; a most definite unwritten rule.

“…You’re never going to be welcomed onto the team if you never go out with us.”

For some reason, Carolyn’s drunken seduction cut to the core of Jack’s insecurity…she was wise on how to get men to do what she wanted.

Carolyn’s temptress body remained still in Jack’s bed, a slow exhale concluding her breathing cadence.  Her face was peaceful but looked worn.  She was in her forties, but it was evident this was not her first late night ending in a man’s bed; a bed that was not her husband’s.

Black bags had formed under her eyes; her teeth stained from heavy drinking, cocaine gummies, and poor oral hygiene.  Her naked body looked decent, her petite shape a result of starving herself to compete in the sexual culture that existed at Radon Marketing.

Now awake—but still paralyzed from the toxins swirling in his brain—Jack tried communicating, a level of remedial vocabulary flowing from his mouth.

“Hey.” his voice painfully strained, a mixture of the rawness in his throat and the exhausted nature of his mind.

His brain was furiously digging on the land of third-grade vocabulary, working unpaid overtime to construct the words that normally follow this simple salutation.

A pause.  Carolyn remained motionless, her moonlighting body only slightly covered.  Jack gently shook her shoulder.

“Hey…I need to get ready for work and you probably need to get home.” Jack mentally congratulated himself on completing a sentence.

Carolyn’s eyes opened.  A scandalous smile forming on her face.  “No early morning delight?”

Carolyn’s suggestion was kryptonite to Jack’s already questionable code of ethics.  The barbaric relationship existing between a male’s brain and penis was one-sided—the NFL to the NCAA, the force to the dark side, the rock to what should be paper in rock, paper, scissor.  Rarely—and especially in cases when a naked woman seductively propositions sex—did the brain achieve victory.

Jack knew the right answer was “No”; he knew he should just stand up and take a shower—alone.  Hearing the commotion from his neighbors, his neighbors who were pristinely starting their day or who were commuting to work without the guilt of wrecking a marriage or who were happily going to wherever on this Friday morning feeling chipper as could be, Jack looked at Carolyn, his head pounding.

His brain, struggling to find the harm in Carolyn’s suggestion (he had already slept with her), despairingly conceded to his arch-nemesis—to the often victorious penis.

“Well, I hate for you to not be satisfied.”

“I am very satisfied,” Carolyn said while rubbing Jack’s leg.  “I just want to be satisfied again this morning.”

Smiling, Jack rolled on top of her, the position he was in a mere three hours ago.  As he slid inside her, he wondered how he would find his way through this new life of his.

When Jack joined Radon Marketing, he believed he was finally taking a positive step in his previously failing sales career.  Jack loved sales.  He loved chit-chatting with prospects or spending an evening entertaining clients or reaping the benefits of a flexible schedule that sales offered.  Oh, how he loved sales.  There was one component of sales that Jack despised—a key component, unfortunately—and that was the actual selling, mainly because he couldn’t sell.  He couldn’t sell a winning lottery ticket to a homeless man if his life depended on it.

Believing Radon Marketing was going to catapult his career, that his previously under-performing sales results were a by-product of working for sub-par companies, Jack was violently awakened to a world most did not see.  Most saw Radon Marketing as the second largest company in Indianapolis, a company that enjoyed publicizing their philanthropic work throughout the city.

Hidden from the lay men, including most who worked at Radon Marketing, was a sales department governed by manipulation, rampant drug use, sex, and overall employee discontent.  The insane results mandated by management required most sales reps to fake attention deficit disorder to get a prescription of Adderall.  From there, several sales reps graduated to cocaine.

Jack, to this point, had been unable to capture the corporate success he had hoped to, to snag the elusive carrot that seemed to always remain just out of reach.  The slow contemplation of, “Is this the right fit,” was fast becoming a realization he had made the wrong decision.  It was under this pretense Jack started his shower.  Washing away the scent of adulterous sex Carolyn’s earlier proposition had moistened his body with, Jack was quickly reminded of the decision his penis had made.

“See you later this morning,” Carolyn said, her grin suggesting her enjoyment with this morning…and last night.

“Yeah, sounds good.  Do you need a ride?”  Jack politely offered, hoping somehow her car had magically teleported itself from wherever it was to his garage.

“No, I got an Uber, but thanks.”  Carolyn gave Jack one last look over, one last chance to admire the deal she had closed, then she walked away.

Walking up the stairs at Radon Marketing, Jack believed his best option was silence, to invoke his constitutional right to the fifth amendment.  Opening the tenth floor door, Jack knew silence was not going to be easy.

Carolyn was but another Radon Marketing girl Jack had slept with; unique to Carolyn, though, was her visibility.  She was a tenured sales rep, a top-performer, married, and, the coup de gras, their adulterous affair had kicked off at a very public company event.

“What’s our story?” he texted Carolyn soon after arriving at work.