Leaving - Part Four - Final
Andrew stopped his daydreaming about the past; he was delighted by Megan showing up unexpectedly a few hours ago. His reminiscing was sweet but he knew that tomorrow he would be offering them a future together - an option to work out their constant separations.
He was ready to have Megan become a permanent part of his life and carry on the traditions of both families in both countries and cultures.
He looked over everything and quickly ran down a mental check list - Meat and cream sauce finished - green beans in the microwave - bread needing to be sliced - the noodles were almost ready for Megan - the wine was chilling and the table cleaned off and ready to be set.Once he took the noodles off he went upstairs to wake his lady love.
Megan awoke feeling rested and happy as Andrew kissed her neck. She smiled looking up into those brown eyes brimming with love.He told her to get dressed and come downstairs and help him prepare for dinner.
Megan joined Andrew in the kitchen and after a wet sloppy kiss helped him with the noodles and sliced the bread.She looked around thinking back to how Christmas was at both of their parent’s homes.She remembered the Christmas she spent with his family.
As she and Andrew drove up to the house Megan sat and stared at Bart and Denise’s house and yard in awe.Innumerable multicolored lights were blinking and moving around the house, up and down posts and banisters on the porch and even through the shrubs and trees in the yard.The lights combined with wooden cutouts of different cartoon characters gave the yard a dream like aura.
Caitlyn had run out and tackled Megan, the two of them frolicking in the snow looking at all the different decorations.As Andrew brought the bags inside Caitlyn said, “Well now my friend you are about to see me whip up on your beloved.”
“How so,” Megan asked, mischief dancing on both girls’ faces.
Caitlyn bent over and made a dozen or so snowballs and put them in front of her, then held one in each hand.A few moments later Andrew and both his parents came out onto the big wrap around porch.
Denise called out, “Megan would you come up here please?”
Caitlyn whose eyes were on Andrew said, “You better go up there it’s going to get real messy down here.”
Megan looked at her friend then quickly made her way up to the porch.Andrew looked around the yard as did Caitlyn then with a quick nod of both their heads he walked down the five steps and stood in front of the house.
“Caitlyn,” he shouted although his sister was only twenty feet away, “Save yourself the embarrassment this year and surrender…”His comments were cut short by a loud splat as a snow ball thrown by Caitlyn smacked Andrew in the chest.
Caitlyn giggled, he turned slightly and brushed the snow off of himself then said, “Of course Madam you know this means war,” quoting an old cartoon show.
Moments later the riot was on and for the next twenty minutes the yard was filled with running, snow covered bodies.Snow balls were being thrown, then handfuls of snow being dumped on one another and bodies being rolled and covered in snow.
Through it all Megan laughed herself to tears as Bart explained, “We don’t really understand why, but every Christmas season that these two are together this little display occurs.It’s been this way for 18 years but they refuse to perform unless we are here to enjoy watch the show.”
A few minutes later Caitlyn and Andrew, who were cold, wet and shivering wandered arm in arm to the porch, bowed, then headed inside to take showers and change into dry clothing.
Megan and Denise followed Bart into the house. Much like her own home, the Scotsdale’s had decorated the inside of theirs with the holiday’s finest colors.It was the tree that caught her attention; it had to be twelve feet tall and at least that big around.But there was no space anywhere on that tree to put anything.Lights, and ornaments, and garland and tinsel were everywhere.The tiny lights slowly faded on and off as bubble lights, (which she soon found out they were called), gave the whole tree an illusion of upward movement.
The presents in their multicolored packaging filled the bottom area underneath the tree and up both sides of the walls behind the tree.Only then did Megan smell the hot chocolate and cookies that Denise had brought out for everyone to share.
When Caitlyn and Andrew showed back up Megan greeted them both warmly.Soon everyone was sitting looking at the big tree and catching up.Megan was so happy, “I only have a few more weeks of study, then time to find a job.”
Andrew smiled, “The quicker you get settled the quicker we can get settled.”
Megan looked at him cocking his head in an obvious signal she didn’t understand.
Andrew just said, “It can wait for now so just relax.”
Caitlyn mentioned, “By the way Megan we have four trees in the house, this one and three themed trees.They are smaller but one is an old fashioned tree, only handmade ornaments and antiques are on that tree.Then we have a Teddy Bear tree everything on that including the lights are teddy bears.Then lastly we have Dad’s nautical tree. Since he spent five years in the US Navy everything is either nautical or sailing ship themed.”
Megan asked to see the other trees and Caitlyn proudly showed them to her.
Andrew then showed Megan that all the women in the house had their own mistletoe.A large one for Denise, a medium one for Abigail, and two small ones for Caitlyn and Megan were hung in different doorways. Andrew kept pulling Megan to her doorway to ensure he could keep the Christmas spirit.Megan for her part was not complaining.
“Megan” Caitlyn called “you are supposed to take a berry from the mistletoe each time you are kissed.”
“Not on your life” replied a laughing Megan. “This mistletoe plays by My Rules” and she beckoned to Andrew, wrapped her arms around him and kissed him.
For Megan, her experiences in the Scotsdale home were wonderful, but the crowds at the malls and supermarkets were disquieting she told Andrew, “All this last minute rushing and buying and crowding takes so much away from the heart of the season.”
Andrew waxed philosophical and replied, “Everything you do in life is a trade off. Some times those trades are easy, like making time for family.Sometimes they are hard, like dealing with the commercialism of the season.”
Megan and Andrew went out with a group of Caitlyn’s friends and sang Christmas Carols door to door in different housing developments on two different nights.Megan sang so loud she was hoarse after the second day.
Christmas Eve was a night for family.All of Bart and Denise’s family sat down together and enjoyed a dinner of prime rib roast and mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, green beans and hot rolls.There was also a large assortment of pies for dessert.
After dinner Caitlyn entertained everyone by playing the piano for the rest of the evening.
Christmas morning the family gathered again. Denise had all the kids sit near the tree and Megan was thrilled for the children just watching their wide-eyed excited faces.The two grandkids were almost unable to control themselves as the gifts were handed out to everyone and they were allowed to open theirs. Lastly, the adults were able to open theirs too.
Megan, without saying a word to Andrew, had brought parcels from England that she self consciously handed to each family member, shyly saying “Happy Christmas” to each one.For the children she had colouring books and pencils of Bob the Builder, Harry Potter and other English children’s favourites. Her friend Caitlyn opened her slim parcel to discover musical scores, bound in leather, for English Church Organ Music. Her siblings received assorted Belgian chocolates, exotically made and beautifully presented with many containing varieties of liqueurs.Her gift to her hosts, Denise and Bart, revealed an Irish cut glass punch bowl complete with eight silver plated goblets and ladle. She kissed them both on their cheeks and said “I hope you like these. They say a special and permanent ‘thank you’ for making me feel so welcome, and giving me an American Home to come to.”
Andrew cleared his throat noisily.Getting no response he ‘Harrumphed’ again. Megan turned her innocent blue eyes on him “are you getting a cold?” she asked. He stood and walked menacingly towards her and Megan dodged behind her friend calling “save me, Caitlyn save me” while laughing her head off. Finally she gasped through her laughter “Andrew behave! Your present is upstairs in our bedroom.”The whole family erupted into laughter and cries of “way to go.”Megan suddenly realised what she had said and blushed scarlet. Andrew grinned and said “come on then. Up we go.”
“No, no … I mean … Andrew don’t you DARE grab hold of me.I meant I haven’t yet brought yours down here” and she ran out of the room.
Moments later she reappeared, still blushing and handed a gift wrapped parcel to him.He hurriedly began to open it. It was protected by a hard case and he cautiously opened it. It was a studio portrait of Megan herself in a silver frame, robed in her academic gown, erect, serene and confident, her blue eyes seeming to smile at him and follow him wherever he might stand. There were “Ahhhs” from everyone.
“Oh Meg.” And he swept her into his arms and kissed her, much to the noisy delight of his family.
After the gifts and a light snack of homemade coffee cake, Denise had everyone pitch in and help load the cars with food baskets, blankets, water jugs and other essentials as well as a few small toys and games.The caravan of four vehicles moved swiftly through the deserted streets to areas where homeless people were known to congregate.When they found people they stopped and passed out anything they had that could be of help including bringing them to shelters if someone requested it.It took three hours but all the goods were finally given out.
On the way back home Megan asked Andrew, “How long has your family done this on Christmas Morning?”
He smiled, “Since before I was born, and they run a network of about twenty-five other families around town that were out today also.This is important to them to share their abundance with others, on the one day the homeless feel the need the most.”
Megan held his arm, “I can’t begin to tell you how full I am right now, my heart is just singing.”
“I know just how you feel.”Andrew said as he turned into the driveway.
Andrew brought Megan back to the present by whispering in her ear.“Hey, Dinner is ready,” then kissed her lightly on the cheek.
Megan smiled, a sudden redness in her cheeks.“Sorry just thinking about some great memories, come on I’m hungry.”
Dinner was great and Megan told Andrew so repeatedly.By the time they washed the dinner dishes and went for a walk to settle their food it was ten o’clock and they decided to call it a night.As they crawled into bed both of them became aroused as the other’s naked body touched their own.
This time it was a slow sensuous session, Andrew's fingers played along Megan's back and over her arms and thighs.Hers danced on his face and chest, with a touch of her lips on his nipple, his hand now gently massaging the globes of her ass.Both bodies shivered in anticipation as they moved in unison to please the other.Her warm hot breath on his cock was followed by a hot wet kiss that enveloped him.His kisses on her puffy engorged nether lips, and that flick of excitement on her bud that made her gasp then tremble, and finally groan in her pleasure.
He was moving up and down her body; she needed his love around her and inside her.His touch was kindling her fire now and she craved it and the tension within her began to build as his actions became more frenzied.She knew she had cried out to him.Their bodies throbbed and pulsed. He stopped breathing for an ecstatic instant, but finally his long slow groaning exhale was the only noise in the room. Her mind was numb and he was heavily on top of her, slipping from her. Their loving slowly became quiet. Then he lay beside her, holding her in relaxing arms as sleep took them both.
Megan woke in the early hours and lay still beside her lover. She had failed. She had not told him. She was angry at her cowardice but what could she do? She was distraught at the thought of waking in his bed – he always reached out for her and renewed his love. Once he touched her she would be lost and would only want to be in his arms. She could not let him make love to her again and then, in the afterglow, tell him she must leave him. She must leave while he slept … should she leave a letter? Ahhh, when she had impatiently stuffed her study papers in her briefcase had she …. ?
She stealthily slipped out of bed, naked as she collected her clothes and sneaked into the bathroom. Taking care to make no noise she closed and latched the door. She dare not shower, much as she needed to after Andrew’s loving, because of the noise it would make. She ran hot water slowly and silently into the basin, took her flannel, or wash rag as Andrew called it, sponged her hands and face then used it to bathe her thighs. A little of her fragrant talcum here and there – god, she hoped she didn’t reek of sex.
She dressed and gathered her toiletries then quietly slipped back into the bedroom and carried her shoes into the living room. Andrew lay quiet, resting after his exertions of the night. Her case was still by the door; their need to be together had made unpacking a task to be deferred. She rapidly re-packed her makeup, looked around for her coat and found it discarded, left where she had dropped it yesterday evening.Opening her briefcase she rapidly searched among her papers and found it. The letter she had written when in despair in her own flat in England. It would have to do.
She took a big chance going back to the bedroom and gently kissed his lips.He had hardly moved but a small smile moved across his face much the same way it does on a baby when you touch his mouth.She moved quickly to the bedroom door and looked at him through her tears.She held her breath then in almost a whisper said, “Good-bye my love, Good-bye my Andrew.”
One final act, an act she was now thankful she had unwittingly prepared for. She placed the envelope with her letter, together with her keys, the ones he had given her when he first brought her to his home, prominently on the small table that held his own keys.
At last she was outside the door without disturbing him. She was at her car, ignition fired up and Megan drove slowly and quietly away. Before joining State Route 20 she saw a small rest stop and pulled off the road. Her chest was tight, her tummy a hollow pit of misery, her throat strangling her. Her head fell onto the steering wheel and she wept, her chest heaving as she sobbed. It was too much. It was worse than she had thought. It seemed that her body had ruptured and left part of her behind. Slowly she forced herself to be more calm “now the time has come to leave you....one more time let me kiss you…. I hate to wake you up to say goodbye but the dawn is breaking, it’s early morn’ …the taxi’s waiting he’s blowing his horn … already I’m so lonesome I could die…” But she had no taxi. She was driving. She could go back. ‘Oh god don’t let me think this, not now.’
She switched on the car radio. It was still tuned to the classical channel and the music flowed and helped. Again the concentration on her driving, at least THAT made her push the agony to the back of her mind.
Albany. Return the car. Settle the bill after which she moved into the general waiting area. Coffee! She needed coffee.
It was very quiet at that time in the morning and few people were in the open dining area adjoining reception and the ticket counter.Two tables away sat an elegant, beautifully dressed woman whose dark brown hair, untainted by rinses, showed distinguished grey streaks. She wore a business suit in charcoal grey with a single brooch of silver and diamonds in her lapel. Other than that, simple pearl studs and a necklace of pearls were her only jewellery. Her blouse was white silk with a scarlet cravat giving a splash of colour to her sedate attire. Everything about her spoke of restrained dignity coupled with authority. She looked to be around 60 years. Her make-up was skilful and understated, her lips a soft coral pink, a tint of her cravat.
There was bustle and childish voices as a group of passengers entered and made their way to the coffee bar. An elderly man, tall, well dressed, tanned and with white hair, accompanied by a woman, perhaps mid thirties with a soft resemblance to the man, and three children. A girl maybe 11 years and two younger boys.
“Grandpa, Grandpa can we have cookies please let’s have cookies” shouted one of the boys. The other was calling to his mother “Mommy Mommy it’s my turn to choose you said I could choose going back.”
The young girl with the superiority of the eldest child, said to her Grandfather “Grandpa don’t give them anything. Boys are the pits.”
The mother had laughed and said “Honey you won’t think so in a year or two.”
A movement to her left caught Megan’s eye. The elegant female was sitting bolt upright, obviously discomfited, eyes staring, her hands over her cheeks.
The elderly man casually looked around as he waited for his order. His eyes flicked over Megan and rested on the woman. His glance swept over her then snapped back and focused. A frown. Pensive. Then he walked hesitantly towards her. He stopped at her table and she lowered her hands.
“Excuse me. But….. Elizabeth?”
“Yes, Donald, it’s me,” and she attempted a light-hearted laugh.
“Elizabeth how are you? I haven’t seen you in ….It must be more than thirty years.”
“Thirty three actually, Donald. Thirty four years come this September. September 12to be exact.”
“Elizabeth you have done great. I’ve seen your name more and more in the newspapers. You’re the President of EM Enterprises aren’t you?”
“Yes. That’s the holding company. We have four companies in the Corporation now. I’ve been visiting one here in Albany for the last few days.”
“I saw you on TV last night. Big expansion I gather. Well Elizabeth you always said your career had to come first. You always were determined to get to the very top. I congratulate you. Did you ever marry after we … you … you know … after you went away.”
Elizabeth attempted a laugh “No, Donald. No, I never married. I told you then that you had been the only man for me, if...if…I decided …” she stopped, her face troubled, a catch in her voice. “I heard of your marriage. A friend wrote and told me. I hope you found happiness.”
“Yes, I met another girl. Fell in love all over again. Lost her last year.” His face showed his pain. “That’s my daughter over there with three of my grandchildren. I guess I’ve been one of the lucky ones to know two exceptional women. You were the first, Elizabeth.”
There was the metallic call of the speakers “Passengers for Flight ABY 201 to Chicago is now boarding. Passengers please proceed without delay to Gate 5B.”
“Well that’s me” he said “Gotta go. Elizabeth it’s been great to see you, even briefly. Sure glad that you got all you wanted out of your life. I admire you. Bye now.”
“Goodbye, Donald. Good luck. I am sorry about your loss. But you are blessed with your family and grandchildren.”
He stooped and kissed her cheek.
The children were calling “Come ON Grandpa you will miss your flight.”
He walked away, the children running in front of him, finding the way he must walk. His daughter hugged his arm and was chattering to him.
Megan looked out of the corner of her eyes at the woman. She sat. Her face crumpling. Tears glistened in her eyes. Megan heard the whispered “Goodbye my only love.”
Taking in a deep breath she let it out forcefully then looked again at the man slowly moving away from her.“Oh Donald, I have it all ...power, money, recognition in a man’s world, but I know now, without you I have nothing, nothing at all.”
Megan was surprised as Elizabeth suddenly stood and walked hurriedly to the ticket counter “Are there first class seats on the Chicago flight you’ve just called.I now want to go to Chicago. I must catch that flight. Hurry, please it’s very important.”
Megan heard the boarding announcement for her own flight, gathered her things and made her way towards her check-in area.As she approached the boarding gate the song echoed in her head one last time, “I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again, Oh Babe, I hate, to goooo!”
She walked down the tunnel towards her plane with a deep foreboding, the voice of the woman singing the song etching the words into her memory.Repeating itself like a suddenly out of control tape player.
Andrew stretched and opened his eyes, after a big yawn he rolled over to find Megan was already up.As he turned over he caught her lingering scent on the pillow.He inhaled deeply taking in the familiar fragrance. It was elusive because she always used it sparingly but it was as if she were still there with him.He smiled then whispered, “I can’t wait until I can wake up every day smelling, seeing and touching you my love.”
He got up and looked at the clock.9:30, he never slept that late, so he decided to jump into the shower then go looking for Megan. He needed to talk to her first thing this morning.Andrew looked around the bathroom as he entered the shower and he felt like something was amiss.He couldn’t immediately place it and quickly dismissed the feeling as the hot water fell invigoratingly on his shoulders.
When he was finished he quickly dried off and threw on a tee shirt, shorts and slippers, then bounded down the stairs.He yelled out, “Meg, where are you babyyy?”Before his voice quit echoing in the empty house he noticed her bags were missing.A sense of dread filled his being, his arms and legs energized only moments before, now suddenly felt heavy and fatigued. Then it hit him; the sense of something being wrong when he was in the bathroom.All of her stuff that she always scattered across his bathroom counters when she was with him—it was missing. Andrew felt the bile rise in his throat even as the tears rolled down his cheek.
“Why, what had he done wrong, what in the hell was she thinking?”His voice sounded hollow.He moved quickly through the downstairs checking everywhere, but all the doors were locked. Taking a deep breath he looked outside; as he feared her rental car was gone too.
The pain was so intense his head hurt and now his stomach was in knots.His mind was going a thousand miles a minute as an intense anger began to percolate through the fog of his mind.
Running upstairs he grabbed for his wallet then headed downstairs to get his keys.As he jumped and cleared the last few steps he began talking to himself.“This is bullshit, she isn’t going to pull this act on me I’m going to catch her in Albany and…”Suddenly he felt weak kneed, his throat constricted and mouth so dry he couldn’t utter a peep.
He saw the letter and her house keys on the table beside his.Reaching out, his hand wavering, he took the letter and wet his lips as he said, “Oh God no!Please no!”Stumbling to the sofa he gently opened the envelope.His name was inscribed on the envelope in her beautiful handwriting.He was careful as he removed and opened the letter; it was as if Megan was somehow contained in the paper he held in his hand.
He opened and read her message with tear filled eyes.
My dearest of all men
Andrew, my darling. I love you. I love you so much it physically hurts inside me, but I have to tell you quickly or I can’t tell you at all. Andrew my love, this is goodbye.
You have every right to know why. You have more than every right to be angry with me, as I expect you will be. I deserve anything, everything, you heap on me but please, please believe me that you have done nothing wrong my love. It’s me, not you, never ever you.
My reason is the one we have talked about now for years. My career.
I’m not going to say ‘you know how important it is to me.’ I’m not going to hide behind that. If given the simple choice of you dearest Andrew or my career, there can never be a contest. You are the one man that can fill my heart every moment of every day. I see your eyes and feel your guiding hand everywhere I go. In a crowded room I sense that you are watching over me. When we are at last fleetingly together your love folds round me, holds me close, and I feel secure in your arms. I love you to the very depths of my soul, but that isn’t everything I want.
Do you know what frightens me? It frightens me to think that if I don’t have a career, there’s the remote possibility that I might come to resent the love I have for you. That I would resent you being the wonderful man you are. That I would resent you claiming my heart over my head. That I would blame myself for giving in. That I let you love and support me and not strike out to be a true partner. A partner to challenge and stimulate your shining intellect. That I would relax into a genteel University housewifely apathy. I see it around me at home. The coffee mornings. The bridge club. The socialising and the catty conversations. I don’t want to be that for you.
Yet, my Andrew, it would be cruel to ask you to wait, to see if I can make it. It might take years. I know this letter will hurt you. I think I can only guess the depth of the hurt. But if I pretend, if I go on and on asking you to wait, then I fear that slowly your heart would harden and you would resent me. I am a coward and I couldn’t bear that. Even though this letter will hurt, waiting just in case would be viciously cruel. I could never be cruel to you. I love you more than I will ever love any man.
I am so sorry. My words seem trivial as I try to explain this to you. For all my education and learning I lack the words to tell you how desperately sorry I am.
I’m going for interviews, but my heart is yours. I don’t think I can ever love again.
Thank you my darling for being everything you have been to me. I so much wish I had been truly worthy of your love.
In shame and in agony, and dare I say with my very deepest love.
“No, oh God please NO!”The words struck him like a physical blow.There was no one else around to see his grief and pain and he let tears roll down his cheeks.
“She can’t do this to us, not now.”He ran his fingers through his hair in despair.He was suddenly sick to his stomach; running to the bathroom he emptied its contents into the toilet.Waves of nausea overwhelmed him as Megan's words began to almost throb in his head.‘Andrew my love, this is goodbye.’Each time he heard those words in his head he felt like he was going to be sick again.It took fifteen minutes or so before Andrew finally made his way out of the bathroom and to the kitchen where he garnered a glass of water and refreshed his cotton mouth.
Amazing how supper tasted so good the first time and so rotten the second; something that was very good now wasted.It was a perfect analogy for how Andrew felt at the moment, used and discarded.He felt so alone, so completely and utterly alone.
His future had looked so bright and comforting to him less than a half hour ago; now it was shattered and crushed.Every bit of joy and happiness from the last sixteen hours was reduced to an unspeakable sorrow and a deep sense of the terror of the loveless nights and days he would endure without his soul mate.
He returned to the couch then retrieved the letter from off the floor. Sitting there rereading it his tears continued to fall.No matter how many times he read and stared at the words before him, they didn’t change, but then again he didn’t really expect them to.Every hope he might have had slipped from his grasp and every possible pleasant thing he desired, planned for disappeared right in front of him.
Andrew had never felt this level of emotional pain.His head pounded in rhythm with his aching heart.Before he realized it his whole body trembled while he struggled to come to grips with his loss.
Looking up at the clock he shook his head and tried to focus his eyes through the tears then looked again.It was 12:30; he had been sitting in a fog for over an hour and a half.
The pain was becoming manageable as he allowed his anger to rise. He was getting downright incensed.This was ‘Bullshit,’ as his grand-pappy used to articulate so well.He loved Megan and she loved him, of that he was sure.This foolishness would not end here, one way or the other they would talk this out, preferably face to face.Then if it was over it would be over, but until then he wasn’t giving up yet.
Andrew put his hands to his sides on the cushions then pushed himself up.He walked over to the phone, picked it up and perfunctorily dialed his closest friend, P J Ackermann.He listened to the ringing tone of P J‘s cell phone.The person on the other end obviously recognized the number, answered with his normal friendly “Hey Andrew, what’s up?”
Andrew’s voice was shaky at best and, trying to calm himself, answered back, “P J something’s come up. Can I see you as soon as possible.”
“Sure are you free now?” P J answered.
All Andrew said was, “I’m on my way. See you in five minutes.”
The phones were hung up and Andrew was on his way out the door.
The flight back to London was even more disquieting than Megan expected; four times she had tried to call Andrew from Kennedy and each time there was no answer.Leaving him that letter had been an unforgivably cruel thing to do. She had to talk to him, tell him her heart and ask for forgiveness, not only for what she had done, but for the brutal way she had done it.
At last they touched down. After waiting for her case she walked through “Nothing to Declare” at Customs. Slowly she pushed her baggage trolley out of the restricted area and into the visitors’ waiting hall. She was vaguely aware of the small sea of beaming happy faces of relatives and friends of the arriving passengers, of chauffeurs holding their cards for foreign nationals “Mr. Kanaguchi” said one, “MGB Metals” said another. There was no-one to greet her. From now on she would be forever alone.
A voice was shouting, continually shouting the same word. The word suddenly banished the curtains of misery and impinged on her brain. “Megan. Megan. MEGAN! OVER HERE!”
It was impossible. She knew it was impossible, unless his ghost in its wretchedness had come to haunt her.
Once again “MEGAN! I’M HERE!”
She looked around and for a moment her heart seemed to stop. “No. No. You can’t be here. No.”
Hands, HIS hands gripped her shoulders.
“Andrew?” she said as the reality of his presence hit her.
Andrew, tears welling up in his eyes and threatening to spill over and run down his cheeks stood in front of her. He raised a crumpled piece of paper in his hand towards her face."Ya'll wanna ‘splain this here note to me?You’re fixin’ to get some learnin’ ‘bout the how's and why's of two-way communication.
Specifically the conveyance of two party communication… between ourselves.For someone who’s highly trained to communicate practical and abstract ideas to a diverse group of people, your skills in dealing with your own emotions quite frankly suck, my dear."
"Please, Andrew I'm so sorry.Please forgive me.I was on my way to call you, to tell you I was wrong to just leave you like that.”
Andrew's voice was breaking as he pulled her into his arms, the woman he loved so deeply and was so close to losing.He choked out, "I'll do what ever I have to do to help you... us... but please don't leave me!"Andrew knew his display wasn't the manly thing to do but he didn't care, this was his one true love.He knew where she was concerned he would do many things he would do for no one else.
“Megan let me just splain the facts.I can’t live without you girl and if you had stayed I would have been able to explain my intentions.I’m waiting until you get a job then I’m going to give my notice to Crestin and get a job at a university or a college near you.”
“Andrew you already have tenure at Crestin I can’t let you do that it would be so wrong of me to expect you to give up your career just for me. I won’t let you do that. I WON’T.’’
“First off you can’t tell me what I will or won’t do after pourin’ me down the drain.Second off I’m doing this because I love you more than anything else in my life.What good is my career without you making my life full, rich and completely tied up in your love.
Anyway, Meg, that’s Plan A. I was goin’ to tell you today but you did that stupid disappearing act on me.
Although I’ve envisioned two or three other options I can tell you about, I think my Plan ’B’ is the best one if you don’t want me to leave Crestin.Ya see gal I’ve been doin’ some thangs without you knowin’.”
“I kinda’ wrote some letters, confidential like, to your Dean at Queen Anne’s and I talked to the Chancellor at Crestin, P J Ackermann, who is a good friend of mine.”
Andrew swallowed hard before continuing, “I specifically inquired about the two Institutes of higher learning’s willingness to accept you as a PhD candidate.The board of Regents at Crestin would agree to let you be a Graduate Student per my recommendation and that of six of my peers at both Queen Anne’s and Crestin.You would be assigned an advisor in your area of specific study from both Universities.Queen Anne’s would give you their usual support and guidance.
Your thesis would go to both Queen Anne’s and Crestin. When you get your Doctorate, and that, my dear Megan isn’t in doubt, then I guess you could apply to Crestin or even Queen Anne’s for a professorship or if you must a tutorial post.If you wanna that is. It’s a career, not the one you planned, Meg, but it’s a career and one worthy of your huge talents.
Just think, instead of reporting The Miseries of the World, you could bring intellectual stimulation, thought and sheer expansion of mental horizons to your students. I reckon the world’s got plenty of reporters telling the downside and conflicts of the planet. The next generation and the next of bright young people, well I guess I think you are better to be lifting their vision and their intellects out of the miseries of today.”
“Oh Andrew!You did that?I didn’t know.”Her face still streaked by tears she smiled at how this man seemed to understand her, even when she didn’t understand herself.
A thought struck her, “Wait a moment … I still don’t understand, how did you get here before me?”she asked as she tried to work out the logistics in her head.
Holding her close he said, “Concorde. She was standin’ there and there was a spare seat or two so I grabbed one. Musta been watiin’ for me to show I guess.”
“Andrew it is so expensive…”
“For you my love I’ll do anything.Besides it just means that the three week honeymoon to Cancun via the cruise ship is now a week at my place and two trips to McDonald’s for a romantic meal.”
“Idiot!” She smiled into his chest before his words struck home.
She struggled to free herself from his tight embrace as a heavy hand landed on Andrew’s shoulder and a deep official voice said “Is this man troubling you Miss? Can I be of help?”
Startled, Andrew released her and they both saw the huge intimidating figure of a blue clad, helmet topped English Policeman.
“No, Constable, he isn’t bothering me one little bit. But you can be the first to congratulate me. I think this big, ugly, lovely, brute of a man has just asked me to marry him.”
The ‘Bobby’ grinned. “That case Miss, I hope you’ll be very happy. My apologies, Sir, and congratulations”, and he saluted them and walked away.
Barely able to speak because of the changed emotions raging inside her Megan asked, “When do you have to go back to the States?”
“Five days, I felt we needed time to talk”he said, laughing back his tears as he held her tight to him once more, running his hand through her hair.
“Yes, we need to talk and communicate on a whole lot of levels. Andrew, dearest, dearest Andrew, I am desperately sorry for all the pain I caused you… caused us. Can you forgive me? I promise I’ll make it up to you starting as soon as I’ve thought over your proposal !And I won’t give you any more notes, OK?”
“Think it over? THINK IT OVER? Hey girl you betta get to the back of the line if you don’t say ‘Yes’ right now.”
“Mmmmm are you going to threaten me all of our married life?” she giggled as she put her arms around his neck and whispered, “OK. Me bein’ so clever an’ all, I jus’ thunk it over real fast. Guess you just scared me into it. Oh Andrew, Yes Please.”
“See you’re learning to communicate so much better already.”He kissed her and so many things became clear with that kiss.
That tune was playing, the one that had been haunting her”….when I go back, I’ll wear your wedding ring…. Dream about the days to come when I won’t have to leave alone…About the times I won’t have to say … Leaving on a jet plane.”
As they walked to Megan’s parked car, Andrew pushing her luggage cart, Megan holding his arm, she suddenly had a terrifying thought.
‘Frankie. Oh god Frankie.’She HAD to tell him. Even though nothing really happened. After all it was only a touch. If he was repulsed, if the fact that another had touched her, had made her tingle was disgusting to him, even if it split them apart she could not live a lie with him. She could not let him marry her without realising she had allowed Frankie to stimulate her so intimately and that she had responded albeit for only a few seconds. There had been so many misunderstandings and hidden agendas between them, she had to tell him.
The shock of remembering made her heart contract. She turned deathly pale and stumbled. Andrew steadied her and with alarm saw the whiteness of her face.
“Honey, honey? Are you ok? Meg what’s happened. Are you ill? For god’s sake tell me.”
“Get me to the car Andrew, please, please – see - it’s over there.”
He supported her as she unsteadily guided him to her car and he hurriedly threw her case into the boot. He started to hold her close but she pushed him away, leaning her back against the cool metal. He again tried to hold and comfort her.
“Andrew don’t touch me. Please don’t touch me. There's? something I must tell you. About me. Something I let happen. Oh god Andrew you’ll hate me.”
Once more he tried to hold her but still she pushed him away.
“Meg what the hell is happening? What have you done that’s so godawful bad? You could never be that bad.You know I love you whatever you think you’ve done.”
She knew she must NOT cry. She must face him. She must NOT use her tears or emotions to influence him. She must be calm. Taking a deep breath and clenching her fists at her sides she looked into his face and said “Andrew I’ve nearly been unfaithful to you.”
Megan couldn’t bear the anguished look that disfigured his face, the eyes she adored crinkling in pain. She looked miserably down at her feet.
She knew this had killed his love for her as his suddenly cold, icy voice said “You’d better tell me Miss Megan MacLean.”
She shivered at his formal use of her name.
“Well? Do I know him? How long’s this been going on? Another professor who’s fallen at your feet” he asked bitterly.
Each question was a knife in her heart. She wanted to look up at him, but couldn’t.
Her constricted throat mangled out “It’s a she. Not a he.”
He could make nothing of her words. “What did you say. Come on.You don’t usually have trouble speakin’ your mind.”
She flung her head back, defiant as she had been once before, her clan blood preferring fight to flight in the face of disgrace or danger.
She shouted her words now “It’s not a bloody HE. It’s was a she.”
“She? You mean another woman?” His bafflement was clear in his voice.
“Of course I mean another woman, they’re called ‘she’ in America as well as England aren’t they?” was her icy reply. Her disgust with herself over her stupid behaviour with Frankie was making her angry. She realised that she was taking her distress out on her Andrew. Although he might no longer be ‘her Andrew.’
“But you’re not like that. How could you go and do that? It just isn’t you. Who was it? One of your old Uni friends? What on earth made you want her like that?”
He had every right to know. This was her final humiliation, and then she could be alone again. She had fallen from her pinnacle of joy and love to the broken rocks of total anguish. She must retain her dignity at least. She was MacLean.
“It was Frankie.”
“Frankie? Your Political Science professor? The one with the blue eyes and sexy walk? I’m surprised you had the nerve, Megan. Wow.”
“Don’t you dare ‘wow’ me Professor Scotsdale. It was she who … I was … we were … look here, if you must know, she tried to seduce me” she said, partly in bravado and partly in shame.
Andrew could sense how much her confession was costing Megan emotionally. He saw her attempt to conceal her distress. He realised how much nerve it had taken to tell him. Most of all he knew his love was only reinforced by her integrity and gritty courage. She need not have told him. He would never have known.
He didn’t know how he might have felt had it been a man. Disgusted? Yeah, definitely. The thought of … no he wouldn’t think of that. He couldn’t think of his Megan willingly giving her precious and private gifts to another man’s … ‘stop that damned train of thought, Andrew’ he told himself. She hadn’t, so he needn’t think down that path. But another woman?
He again reached out to her but she brushed him off.
“Megan will you damn well stop that. Come here godammit you, you bloody woman you” and he pulled to him. “Look at me, girl. Now then, do you still see her?”
“No, Andrew” was her miserable reply.
“Do you still want to see her? Does she appeal to you?”
“I’ve already told her. It was foolishness. I wrote to her. I told her she might want me, but she didn’t ever need me. Not much really started, but it’s finished now. I never want to be with her again. Ever.”
“Have you got the number of the Royal Carlton on your mobile?”
Startled, Megan said “yes”
“Phone it” he said
“Phone it? she questioned.
“Yes Meg, it’s like calling the number? Putting a call in? Like saying ‘hello is that the Royal Carlton?’”
“Because, my dearest most sexy most adorable woman who is going to be my sex slave for life, I am going to get you in bed and while I ravish your body you’re going to tell me about every touch and tingle you felt with that ... that … predator. Right? Got it?”
Megan looked at him, seeing again the love in his face (and was there more than a touch of licentiousness in the way he was licking his lips?) She began to giggle, her happiness making her glow with the realisation of his forgiveness. She opened her shoulder bag, and while searching for her phone, put into his knowing and waiting hands, her purse, her comb, her hanky, her compact, her diary, her credit card case, her keys, her……………
“Dammit Meg, not the kitchen sink in there as well? You women !”
She smiled sweetly. “Here it is Andrew. Men are always so impatient, aren’t they?”
“Impatient? – I’ll show you what impatience is when I get you alone”, and he slapped her rump. “Hey Meg, don’t forget I got to ask your Dad’s permission I guess, even if I don’t have to. I respect your parents too much not to. And we got to fix a date. Your church where you were Christened. And phone my folks and…”
“Andrew” she said “will we ever get to this hotel? Or are you going to ravish me here in this car park?”
The call was made. The room was booked. The anguish was over.
Their love could at last begin again.
But most of all, without secrets.
EPILOG or EPILOGUE:
In the Crestin College classroom the last assignment was being written on the board as a student called out "Dr. Scotsdale is this test tomorrow comprehensive?"
Before the lecturer could reply, a second voice interrupted."I'm sorry people but some things just can't wait."
Dr Megan MacLean Scotsdale looked over to see her husband smiling broadly in the doorway, those big brown eyes and disarming smile melting her as always.
She walked over and took her eighteen month old son from her husband's arms and kissed him, then turned towards the class where numerous giggles and laughs were disrupting the normal quiet of the room.
"Ladies and Gentlemen" she said, "I would like you to meet my son, Ian MacLean Scotsdale." The little boy timidly hid his face in his mother's shoulder as the students called 'Hi Ian.'The youngster opened and closed his hand in a shy little wave as he cuddled up to her.
“Furthermore that disreputable looking creature who so rudely interrupted us is my husband Professor Andrew Scotsdale and the father of our two adorablechildren.
Now to answer your question Dawn, the test is on chapters three to five, so study hard. You need this understanding of basic British Monarchical and political structure for chapters nine through fifteen. Remember that unlike the USA, Britain does not have a written Constitution okay?” Looking around she saw no more questions forthcoming. “Right, Class dismissed."
Making her way back to Andrew she asked, "Where’s Susan?"
The sheepish grin on his face turned into a grimace."Over at the commons with your parents."
"Andrew!" she exclaimed emphatically as she rolled her eyes in despair, "You left a four year old granddaughter alone with her two starry eyed grandparents near a junk food area?She'll be eating a Hot Fudge Sundae in no time.If her supper gets ruined you and I are going to have to talk."
Andrew kissed her but his impish grin again filled his face, "I'm glad we learned to communicate.Besides it was a banana split Susan was eating when I left them ten minutes ago."
Megan looked heavenward, "Oh noooooooo.And I bet my father was the culprit too. MEN, you’re all as bad as each another."
"Yep," the voice of a pretty young redhead said as she moved by them and out the door, "You can't live with 'em and you can't live without 'em."
Megan laughed and said, "Andrew just hold Ian while I get my books then we can go see what other mischief Susan and my parents are into."
Moment’s later arm in arm, with Ian on daddy's neck laughing and giggling, the lovers went in search of the trio of trouble.