It was the fall of 1976 when Sarah met him. It was at the local library of all places. A place she would go to escape her life and people. She would find a book, settle in a comfortable chair and lose herself in that book until the lights flickered, letting people know the library was closing. Then she would look up and realize where she was and sigh.
That day he was sitting next to her and commented on the book she was reading. She looked over at him.
“Excuse me?” she said.
“Sorry, I couldn’t help it. I just finished that book. It keeps getting better, I promise.” He smiled. She just kept looking at him. He was handsome. His clothes were perfect and well made. She suddenly realized she had been staring. “Oh, well…yes. It is good so far.” She tried to think of something witty to say. She used to be so good at that. So good at flirting. It wasn’t like riding a bike. She just sat there feeling like an idiot.
“My name is Steve Hardin," he said, "I’ve noticed you here before. You love to read as much as I do.” He was still smiling.
And so it began. A turning point really. Some might call it a gift.
Sarah was 38, but looked younger. She had always been very pretty and still was. She was married with 3 kids ages 9 to 15. 2 boys and a girl. Her girl was the oldest. At 15 she was driving Sarah crazy. Every day was a drama. The boys were easier emotionally, but physically they needed constant attention. She was always driving from one practice to another. Someone always needed something from her. And that was fine because this was the life she chose. Her children were her heart, her life. Sarah had little to complain about. Her husband made good money and she could stay home, hire help with the house. There were no financial worries and that was a blessing right there. She was a good mother, a good wife, and a good friend. She had a lot to be proud of.
Sarah started seeing Steve at the library every week. They usually talked about the books they had read. Sometimes they would go out for coffee afterwards. It never felt like a date. The flirting that Sarah had feared she had lost came back to her, but it wasn’t necessary. Steve was easy going and once you got past his looks it wasn’t hard to feel comfortable around him. He didn’t seem to be wanting anything from Sarah, just conversation. They became friends. He told her about his businesses, of which he had several. She assumed he was very successful because of the way he dressed and the car he drove. It wasn’t until almost 6 months of knowing each other that Sarah read about him in a local paper and discovered that he was a millionaire. She asked him about it next time she saw him.
“So you’re a millionaire? Huh?” she asked.
He laughed, “you saw the paper. All I have done my whole life is work hard. You know that about me.”
“I’m impressed,” she smiled at him.
Sarah knew Steve was lonely. Why else would he spend time with her? She had asked him once why he didn’t seem to date anyone. His answer was vague and he changed the subject. But as they grew closer he hinted that he might be gay. That made sense to Sarah. It explained why he spent time with her and listened to her talk about her kids. She figured that he didn’t want his business associates to know he was gay. Maybe he just didn’t want that lifestyle. She tried to get him to open up about it, but in that one area he simply wouldn’t, so she let it drop. He had wicked sense of humor and could always make her laugh. He told her that she was refreshingly sweet. Sweeter than anyone he had ever known. They seemed to click in an odd way.
He told her once that he had read a legend that at the beginning of the world there were only a few tribes of people and everyone on the earth now descended from those tribes. He said the legend went on to say that now, every so often, one meets someone from the same tribe. That was how he felt about her. When he told her that, she felt a warm flood of happiness wash over her. It was the sweetest thing anyone had ever said to her.
She finally got to see where he lived one evening when her husband was out of town. She got a babysitter and went to his house for dinner. It was a grand house, beautifully decorated. They ate at a small table off the large kitchen by a roaring fire. The fireplace was a work of art. It was like being somewhere in Europe, dining at a small expensive bistro. They drank wine and laughed. Later she took off her shoes to feel the plush carpet in the large living area. She curled up next to him on the couch and laid her head on his shoulder. By this time they knew each other so well. They had told each other about their childhood and everything up to this point. He turned to her then and simply asked, “What is your secret?” She raised her head and looked at him and said, “I never thought anyone would ever ask me that.”
And she told him.
Sarah had stopped loving her husband years ago. She wasn’t sure what had happened, but something had. Soon after their 3rd child was born her husband changed. He had always been an easygoing guy, very sweet. Everyone thought so. But he began to be mean. He would snap at her. He got into the habit of not answering her questions if he thought they were stupid or not worthy of an answer. His temper became worse. Not to the point of physical abuse, but close. He nagged and complained. Sarah worked hard to make him happy. She desperately wanted the children to have a happy childhood. She did everything she could to make his life easy, and it did help. There would be months and months when he seemed like his old self, but the temper always returned. Sadly. Sarah realized that she no longer loved him, but there was no way she would hurt her children with divorce. No way. She did what she had to do. She put her husband in a little box in her head. When he wasn’t around she never thought about him. When he was, she pretended to love him. It wasn’t that she was unhappy. She wasn’t. She lived a good life. She had great friends and enjoyed her children so much. There was just that little box of unhappiness and she could live with that. After all, didn’t some people live with so much worse?
Steve listened quietly as Sarah poured out her story. He could see the relief she felt in just telling it. He wiped away her tears and held her to him.
“You are a brave woman Sarah.” He said softly.
Now she felt free to tell him about the times her husband made her feel so bad. She had someone to tell how she would carefully work around anything that might set him off. Steve asked her once to tell him the truth, had her husband ever physically abused her?
“No,” she assured him, “He came close a few times, but no. And it always scared me.”
“Well I understand that,” Steve replied.
She shook her head, “No, you don’t understand. You see, I knew that if he did, I would have to leave him. So I was so afraid that he would and so afraid that he wouldn’t.”
Steve looked at her, “You’re trapped, aren’t you?”
“I suppose I am,” she said sadly.
For 2 years Sarah and Steve shared dinners and coffee and then he offered her a job as his assistant. He told her she could work anytime. She could still be there when her kids got home from school. She wasn’t sure. She knew her husband wouldn’t mind, but something didn’t seem right.
A few days later she told Steve about how emotionally exhausted she was trying to keep her husband from losing his temper with the kids. She had learned how to handle him for years now, but the kids were older now and didn’t want to put up with his temper. She was constantly playing referee. She was so tired. They were sitting on Steve’s couch drinking an expensive wine. Suddenly Steve blurted out, “I have something to tell you.”
“Ok,” she said.
“I have put $500,000 in a bank account in the Cayman Islands with your name on it. I want you to take the kids and leave him. This is no life for you. Other people do this all the time. You need a home of your own. You need a life of your own.”
Sarah was shocked. She couldn’t believe he had done this. She hugged him tightly and began to cry. “I will love you forever for trying to help me. But money isn’t the answer. I cannot take my children away from their father. He may not be a good husband, but he is a good father and they love him very much.”
Steve held her close, “you must think of yourself Sarah.”
“No, I can’t do that. Thank you so much Steve. I wish you knew how much you mean to me.”
And then Steve kissed her.
And she kissed him back. It was a very good kiss. Sarah felt like she was falling into that kiss. When it was over she just looked at him. “I’m not gay,” he said simply, “I usually hint that with women until I know them well enough to know they aren’t after me for my money. I’m sorry I did that to you because…. I love you.”
Sarah couldn’t speak. And then she began to weep. Thinking that Steve was gay had kept hope away. She finally managed, “Oh God, I love you too.” And then she ran out of his house and drove away.
She wouldn’t answer his phone calls. He came by her house and she wouldn’t answer the door. She never went to the library. Mostly, when she was alone, she cried.
One day she was sitting on the floor folding clothes in her bedroom. She heard something. She stood up and suddenly in the doorway, there he was.
“The door was unlocked. I’m sorry,I had to see you Sarah.” Steve looked like he hadn’t slept in days. “Your shirt is wrinkled. I don’t think I have ever seen you in a wrinkled shirt before,” Sarah said, trying to hide the trembling in her voice. He took her hand and they sat on her couch. He told her how lonely he had been without her. He told that no woman had ever touched his heart the way that she had. He also told her that he knew that she would never leave her husband for him and he understood why.
“I know that there are some things that are greater than what we want for ourselves. I know that your kids mean more to you than loving someone else. It is one of the things I love most about you. You are unselfish and giving. I hope that one day your children realize how very much they are loved.”
Sarah started to speak, but Steve stopped her, “My only regret is that I have given you another little box to carry. The one where your love for me is kept now. When you take that box out, I hope and pray that it will give you comfort and not pain.”
Steve reached out and held Sarah. Her heart ached. Can one survive this much pain? She wondered. She touched his face. She ran her finger down his cheek.
“You have given me back a part of myself I thought was lost forever. The part that loves a man. My love for you will always be there, pushing me forward, making me strong. You made me strong, Steve.”
He kissed her and she kissed him and they both tasted each other’s tears.
She would read about him in the paper now and then. Some business venture, but never another woman. Her children grew and left for college, then married and started to have babies of their own. She cherished her grandchildren. Her husband did grow mellow with age. It was better than before, and he did love her, but for her there was never again that love for him. She loved the way he loved his kids and grandkids. She was glad that there was this home and family they had built. She had been happy for the most part. When she missed Steve the most she would comfort herself with the knowledge that for a short time in her life she had known this love. She was grateful for that. She held on to that like a warm blanket.
Sometimes she would see herself in that mansion on the hill sleeping beside the man she loved. She would imagine that life that most would have easily chosen. But Sarah knew that she had done what she had to do. Life is a mixture of love and sorrow. We make choices and they affect the ones we love, even when they don’t realize it.
There were promises to be kept and she had kept them.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Posted by RightwingSparkle at 10:29 PM