Ethan sat by the quiet stream. The bubbling brook brought peace to his soul. A gentle breeze blew through the freshly leafed Spring trees. Green ferns graced the edges of the crystal-clear water that ran over the rocks. Eastern blue star flowers dotted the sides of the woods. Poplar trees and oaks populated much of the forest around Ethan. He sat there on his favorite rock pondering what he was going to do next with his life.
Caroline had always been his true love, and when they married, he knew he would never need anyone else. Their life together had been everything he dreamed it would be. Although both worked to make ends meet, they had managed to always have the weekends free together. Love filled their little two-bedroom apartment, and strangers quickly became friends on their weekend adventures to nearby tourist attractions.
Unfortunately, all that changed when Mason appeared. He was a handsome rogue who had been assigned as Caroline’s boss at the bank branch where she worked. At first, Caroline would mention him almost daily when telling Ethan about her workday. However, as the weeks went by, she stopped saying his name. At first, Ethan assumed Mason had settled into his job, and Caroline had less interaction with him. Then one day Ethan surprised Caroline and showed up at her workplace to take her out to lunch. He was shocked to learn that Mason and Caroline had already left for lunch together. The bank teller behind the counter mentioned they often had lunches together.
Ethan set aside his jealousy, afraid of what it could mean. It wasn’t until that fateful day a week ago that all his fears became true. Caroline was sorry and wept bitterly, but she had fallen in love with Mason. Ethan’s heart was broken, but he let her go. In the end, her happiness was all that mattered to him. Although his chest felt hollow inside when she walked out the door, he knew he was doing the right thing.
It took less than two days for Mason to reject Caroline. She called Ethan crying on the phone from a hotel in town. Caroline sobbed and told him how Mason had walked into the hotel with another woman under his arm. Caroline knew Ethan had no reason to help her or even comfort her, but she had taken the chance and begged his forgiveness. Now, Ethan sat in his quiet place in the woods. He watched the sunlight play in the shadows of the trees and considered his options.
The footsteps behind Ethan were not unexpected. In fact, they were five minutes late. Each step was determined but slow. It seemed the person he had invited into his special place was not used to walking a mile up a muddy path.
“There better be a darn good reason you called me up here.” Mason’s arrogant voice immediately started a rage inside of Ethan soul, but Ethan controlled himself.
“I thought we would talk privately, in a relaxed environment,” replied Ethan.
“Talk about what? I don’t have anything to say to you. The only reason I came here was that you said Caroline was thinking about talking to Michelle. I don’t need that witch chatting up my new girlfriend.”
Ethan wanted to end him now, but he had to give Mason a chance. He had to give himself a chance. To provide Mason with what he deserved would cost him a piece of his own soul. Ethan continued, “I may have lied about that.”
“Lied?” Mason’s voice was a combination of annoyance and anger. “What was your plan? Bring me up here and kill me?”
Ethan forced a laugh from his tightening chest, and responded, “You really are a makebate.”
He could hear Mason begin to step closer, and Ethan finally turned to face him. Ethan nearly burst out laughing. The man had hiked up the path wearing khakis and a button-down blue business shirt. His once shiny Italian leather shoes were now scuffed and stained with red clay. Mason was apparently out of his element. Ethan stood, and Mason stopped less than two feet away from his face.
“I should punch you in the mouth right here,” growled Mason. “You dragged me all the way up here, and for what? Because your wife was a slut? I did you a favor. She was so easy to seduce. All I had to promise were all the things you couldn’t give her.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
Mason took a step back and crossed his arms. With a smirk on his face, he continued. “All you guys are the same. You assume your relationships are perfect, but nobody’s perfect. You had money issues, there were nights you were too tired to pay attention to her, and you’d stop complimenting her as often as you use to. All I had to do was promise her wealth and give her the attention she missed. It works every time.”
“But why did you break her heart?” Asked Ethan. “She loved you, and you used her.”
“Of course, I used her,” said Mason. “That’s the point, and now I’m using Michelle. They give me a little happiness, and I return the favor.”
“You destroy lives.” Said Ethan.
“They destroyed themselves.” Said Mason dismissively.
Ethan had had enough. “Come with me over here a moment.”
Mason raised his eyebrow with suspicion, “Why would I do that?”
“If I were going to kill you I would’ve already done it.” Said Ethan. “I just want to show you something that Caroline had hidden out here the concerns you.”
Mason gave a quick nod and followed Ethan. They walked 5 yards downstream, and Ethan gave a kick to a stick that was leaning into a bush sitting next to the edge of the water. A tree limb shot into the air with a whoosh. Mason screamed as he found himself hanging upside down four feet above the ground.
“What do you think you’re doing? I thought you weren’t going to kill me. Get me down, or I’ll call the police.”
Ethan tilted his head slightly upside down and looked Mason in the eye. “Oh, I’m not going to kill you, and you’re not calling the police.” Ethan reached into Mason’s front pocket and grabbed the cell phone that was dangling out. Then he pulled the twine out of his own pocket and quickly tied Mason’s hands to his belt. Mason yelled and cursed, and attempted to fight back, but his office physique offered little defense.
“How long do you intend to keep me here?” asked Mason through his tears.
Ethan looked down at Mason and smiled. Then he said, “Long enough.” Ethan then turned and began walking back the way they had come.
“Long enough for what?” yelled Mason as he sobbed.
Ethan turned and answered, “Long enough for the bears. They’ve recently come out of hibernation. They always come here for water, and to forage for food. Don’t worry, you probably won’t last more than a few hours before they finally show up.”
“You can’t do this!” Cried out, Mason.
Ethan didn’t respond. He just turned back and whistled to himself as he strolled down the path back to his car.
Dictionary.com word of the day – makebate