“If tempted by something that feels “altruistic,” examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!”
Journal Entry: October 15th, 1981
I have not written since July. I wish I could express in my mind what has transpired adequately and I feel a longing to be a Walt Whitman, a Leonard Cohen or an Michael Ondaatje to be able to put to prose or pen the monumental occurrences on the Canada Day long weekend last.
It is best to start at the beginning…
The month of May bode well for the summer as the Victoria Day Weekend passed because my plans for the summer began come to shape. My boss at the airport decided that we would close down for 2 weeks that bracketed the July long weekend and that very day I got a call from my parents asking me to call Aunt Sarah. I was curious to the import of her call and returned her call that evening.
It seems she had bought a new home and would be moved in early in June but that there was some work that she required and wondered if, for room and board and a daily stipend, if I would come down and do some house repairs and some yard work. Her son was living out west and was unavailable and this was an opportunity for her to get to know me better since recently my work had prevented my participation in some family events. The latter part made sense when I realized she had taken a week’s vacation last summer with my sister to Montreal to take in some culture and the sights. She had expressed to Ann that it was time she really got to know her niece and now it was time to get to know me.
The timing of her call was perfect. Being an aircraft mechanic in general aviation did not pay all that well and frankly I did not want to pay summer rates for accommodation. Aunt Sarah’s town was on the water and near Prince Edward County with its Sandbanks Park and other attractions. I had also taken up windsurfing so there would be opportunity to do some sailing and now that I was fully a young adult past my majority I welcomed the chance to become better acquainted with my aunt.
As the time drew near Aunt Sarah sent one of her informative letters where she outlined that I would need a suit for a concert she was treating me to. I replied and wrote her my pleasure in being of use to her in making her new home hers and outlining that I would reserve sometime, if acceptable to her, of extending my stay to do some sailing in the Bay of Quinte and environs. This had to be only one of a handful of letters I had actually written in my life up to that time and I had the personally embarrassing need to access a writer’s guide so I could format the letter addressing, salutation and closing properly. I sent the letter off and promptly received a reply agreeing to what I had requested.
My preparations were male in their brevity. The night before I slammed my clothes and toiletries in an old army rucksack, grabbed my freshly pressed suit and spent the majority of my time attending to my windsurfing equipment. I had purchased a new windsurfing harness and was eager to test it out. I packed my 3.7 and 5.0 metre sails and other equipment in my car and secured the board and mast and went to bed full of anticipation. It was good to be of some use to a family member and it had been a busy season of float changes and aircraft inspections. I had been averaging 60 hours a week for over 3 months and I was ready for a change in scenery and pace.
The drive to Aunt Sarah’s was uneventful. I had made a commitment to be there for dinner and I left for the 3 hour drive just before noon and passed through the Big Smoke [Toronto] at noon before the weekend rush really started but by the time I got to Oshawa an hour later the traffic had built to that irritating stop-and-go nightmare that was one of the banes of my existence. Coupled with the fact my car did not have air conditioning I was ripe for a change from the 4-lane pariah that was, and still is, the 401 and exited of at Pickering to take Highway 2 and enjoy a much more stately and pleasant journey through the small towns that make up Eastern Ontario. The rolling country side and the lighter traffic helped frame my mind towards being relaxed and on vacation.
Around 4:00 PM I arrived having taken a moment to stop and get some flowers and a bottle of wine as house warming present for Aunt Sarah. I was glad I did because as she opened the door her face beamed with the pleasure of a person who appreciated the recognition and courtesy of such an action. We did the nephew-Aunt hug and she ushered me into her new home.
Her old home had been a custom made bungalow which had my Uncle’s offices attached to it but this house, built in the ‘20s,was a two-story red brick faced house with white framed windows and shutters and I was to learn that it had been her father’s home at one time. It was interesting and poignant that Aunt Sarah had moved into a place the evoked such strong familial memories and I was saddened by this because it was clearly evident to me the depth of her loneliness since my Uncle had died. But you had to credit her for her enthusiasm and pleasure in showing me around her home. It was obvious she found comfort in her familiar surroundings but she was not aware at the clear symbolism of her buying this home. In fact, I was later to learn, she had purchased a home a month previous but when her family home went on the market not two weeks later she offered her first purchase immediately for sale and bought this home without negotiation.
In brief the main floor had a central entrance hall. To the right was a large living room extending the depth of the house. If one walked straight toward the back of the house from the entrance the stairs to the basement gave easy access to the utility areas of the unfinished basement. To the immediate left of the entrance was the dining room taking up about 3/4s of the depth of the house and the last quarter was a small kitchen with a breakfast nook for two people.
Upstairs there was one four piece bath with a clawed tub and 3 bedrooms. One master and two smaller rooms, one of which was the guestroom opposite the master bedroom and the smaller bedroom was her craft room. Aunt Sarah had the entire home done and almost a French Baroque style. There were silk curtains and all of the formal furniture was of dark and heavy oak with lighter coloured gray and gold silk seating surfaces. It was distinctly un-modern and I smiled inwardly at this recession in the style of her home décor as my Uncle’s home was decidedly more modern in its furnishings. All in all it was Aunt Sarah being…well…Aunt Sarah.
Aunt Sarah suggested a shower or a bath for me and I gladly took the opportunity to wash the road grime from my body. The southern Ontario humidity and my open car window had layered a coat of sweat and dust and I really needed to wash. I unpacked my stuff and showered and dressed and found Aunt Sarah on the deck in the back sitting in the shade drinking the chardonnay I had brought her. We talked of the work to be done and she had some chicken salad and beer and we ate and reconnected as the summer night fell and the cicadas began to sing.
That night I went to bed spent. The stress of work seemed to collect in my body and as my body hit the soft cotton sheets of my bed I fell to a deeply restful and reinvigorating sleep.
I was to need it…
I awoke with a start. Where was I? Oh shit. I am here…at my aunt’s. It was a strange feeling, like waking in a motel in an unfamiliar city after arriving in the dead of night bone weary of a long drive. Being my first night in this new home it was a little disorienting but the smell of fresh coffee and bacon snapped my mind to the present needs of any young man – FOOD! I went downstairs and Aunt Sarah, in madras style shorts in lemon and a cream coloured golf shirt, greeted me with a simply incandescent smile.
“It’s good to have a man in the house,” she said and plopped a plate with a huge helping of scrambled eggs and bacon on it. As I bent down to take a bite she filled a mug with hot steaming coffee and slid opposite to me in the settee. We talked animatedly about the work of the day and since I had the cool of the morning it was decided that I would clear the bushes that she wanted removed first. To her credit she had a rental shop deliver all the garden tools necessary and after a deep draw from the cup, emptying it, I got up and to work.
There is something wonderfully fulfilling of simple labour. After an hour I felt absolutely Ghandi-esque as I was stripped down to my shorts and work boots sweating in the sun. I attacked the bushes with a vengeance, enjoying the roar of the chain saw as I cut down the overgrown bushes. Within 2 hours I had cleared the majority of the bushes and heard the creak of the screen door as Aunt Sarah brought out fresh squeezed lemonade to refresh me. I toweled off, using my t-shirt, and slipped it on over my body. We sat together, me a bit self-conscious of the odour I was giving off from my exertions but Aunt Sarah laughed and said, “Don’t worry Bruce. I am downwind of you.” We laughed and her eyes brightened for the first time in a long time. The mask of a still felt too strongly grief briefly flared out and I saw my aunt as I had not seen her before: she was an amazingly alluring and attractive woman and laughing unguardedly suited her. I smiled deeply in response and then the mask came down again.
The rest of the day was God damn hard work. I earned my keep that day, I’ll tell you. My motivation was several fold: I wanted to get done as much as possible so the balance of my time was truly a vacation; I had this oddly strengthened need to project my masculinity towards my aunt; and last, it felt good.
An added incentive was that Aunt Sarah kept me plied with wonderful salmon sandwiches and lemonade and at around 5:00 PM I heard the clang of a bottle being banged on a metal table and looked up from my work and saw that Aunt Sarah had brought out a beer in a bottle for me.
“You do like to drink it from the bottle,” she said as she popped the cap open with a flourish letting the cap disappear into the garden grass somewhere. I laughed and nodded my agreement and noticed she had a towel out for me to wipe off. I took the proffered towel and she presented me with a clean t-shirt, which I put on, and sat beside her. Aunt Sarah did not drink beer but had made a Gin Gimlet for herself and we toasted my labour and her garden and we sat in silence enjoying the progress I had made.
I was later to find out for Aunt Sarah that during the day she had made busy in the kitchen as a pretense to watch me work. I was in good shape having been a decent football player and had maintained my physique by regular weight training and upper body work. I was no chiseled body builder but I had definition in my muscles and I was deeply tanned from windsurfing that June. Her sink had a window from which she could steal looks at me working and from our conversations later that week she disclosed that seeing me had been oddly stirring to her.
She suggested I retire to the shower and I washed up and put on some fresh shorts and a golf shirt and she called to me from the kitchen, “Bruce…Can I take you to the local burger joint for dinner?” “Sure,” I called back, knowing it was an old haunt that she had taken me and my sister to during the summer when we were younger. I got down from dressing and she handed me the keys to her car and said, “Your drive.” I caught the keys, adding an all too obvious flourish reminiscent of an adolescent showing off, and we got in her mint 1972 Cutlass Supreme convertible.
I loved this car…so reminiscent of the muscle cars of my youth. For some reason my Father had bought my Mother a 1972 Pontiac GTO as a present and this was the car my Uncle had bought my Aunt at the same time. These were not cars they both liked to drive but it was a token of their partner’s love and my Aunt cherished this car now that my Uncle was gone and kept it in pristine shape. I drove out of the drive way and turned towards downtown and snapped the throttle open and let her have her head. The deep roar of the V-8 filled the summer tranquility of my Aunt’s neighbourhood and she grabbed my forearm in mock trepidation, “Don’t!” she said with obvious glee at the departure from the staid and conservative entrapment of her background and town. We got it up to 60 MPH and I let her ease down dropping the transmission into second and then first to let the revs come up and give us that satisfying All-American burble and snap a high output American engine could make as it engine braked.
It was fun…Aunt Sarah had on a white silk scarf around her neck and the burger joint, called Moxie’s, had curb-side service. With the top down and my Aunt dressed as she was we could be a couple from the early ‘70s enjoying a night on the town. The place was packed with the long weekend holiday crowd and we got our food and ate in the cooling onshore breeze coming off the bay.
After our dinner, which was superb, as burgers and fries go, Aunt Sarah suggest a jaunt “to let her baby air out,” as she put it, in the Cutlass. With the top down I followed her directions and she directed me east out of town and along a secondary highway. We drove and talked about nothing of consequence and I began to notice a familiarity and acceptance of me into her sphere of intimacy she had never shown before. About an hour out of town it was getting dark so we turned around and heading back towards the waning sun and her home. It had cooled off measurably and I turned on the heat and heard mutely over the wind noise a soft click and then the middle of the bench seat weighting as Aunt Sarah slid towards me and gathered my right arm in her two arms and held me close, “I’m colder than I thought,” she said. “I can stop and raise the top, if you want,” I offered. I glanced at her and she was looking thoughtfully down at the radio stack. “Please…don’t,” was all she said.
We pulled into the driveway and Aunt Sarah disengaged from me. It was an abrupt disengagement. There was no lingering touch or pause. She simply let my arm go, got out of the car, fished for her keys as she had a spare set in her purse and walked to the door. I raised the convertible top, the whirring of the electric motor a marked counterpoint to the soft silence of the summer’s night, secured the car and went in. A bottle of beer sat on an entrance way table with a note simply saying “Thank you.” All the lights were off in the house and I walked thoughtfully up the stairs and went to bed puzzled at my Aunt’s actions.
A gentle shaking woke me up. “Get up sleepy head,” I heard my Aunt say and I realized I had not set the alarm. Man, oh man did my arms ache! The chain saw wielding and vibration but the zap into my arm muscles not used to such labour. I opened my eyes and Aunt Sarah offered a cup of coffee and I wiped the sleep from my eyes and rose up on my elbow and took it, thanking her. She left me to my devices and I showered quickly and bound downstairs to a pancake breakfast.
Not knowing how late it was I scarfed down several forkfuls of pancakes and Aunt Sarah slid into the settee across from me and smiled, “Slow down Bruce, its only 8 o’clock!” We laughed and I noted the mask gone completely from her flashing hazel eyes and noted the way the sun reflected off her blonde hair. It was as if diamond chips had been sprayed where the sun hit her hair making the hair sparkle like the reflection of a lake in the early morning.
“We made such progress yesterday I think we will get the yard work done by noon,” she said. “What do you mean ‘we’,” I said mockingly and Aunt Sarah laughed. “Privileges of management, you do all the work and I get the credit,” she countered. With that she reached for my left hand which was resting on the table and touched it. Her soft touch struck me like no other display of affection in my life. Her energy flowed to me and I actually drew my hand back in surprise. Or was it only me? Was I beginning to project new and deeper feelings for Aunt Sarah and it was only an innocent expression of simple human contact from her? I was confused and bore down on my breakfast in order to mask my feelings.
“What is it Bruce,” Aunt Sarah asked.
“Just,” I lied, “that I HOPE we can get it all done today.” She gave me a quizzical look and got up and freshened up my coffee and began to self-consciously putter about her kitchen. I had seen this preoccupation with house work before in my Mother and knew it meant something, but what I was yet to fathom its import and soon to know.
Luckily for me Aunt Sarah had organized a refuse removal company to come by the following day so the main part of the work was cutting up the bushes into manageable sizes for transport and then cleaning up the area so that a root removal service could get rid of the roots and then all I had to do was get some top soil and till it into her garden. By noon I was done and Aunt Sarah was now doing the wonderfully comforting and familiar task of bringing me lemonade and sandwiches as needed.
At lunch we sat down and she remarked that she had a new patio set in the garage so before eating I went to task and set it up for her. It was wonderful to sit in the shade of her new patio umbrella and survey my work with pride. Damn, if I don’t say so myself, I did a great job. Aunt Sarah was watching me and she leaned over and put her hand on my shoulder as if she knew my thoughts, “Bruce, what a wonderful job. Thank you.” I smiled at her and took a sip of lemonade and a bite of sandwich looking at her. “And…” she said, “for your efforts tonight I am taking you to a concert in Kingston. In the mood for Mozart?” Laughing I replied bemusedly, “Of course Ma’am.” “Sarah…Bruce…please call me Sarah. This ‘aunt’ business is wholly inappropriate. You’re a man now.” Pausing to digest this, I answered, “Of course Aunt…er…I mean Sarah.” We both laughed at this softly and shook hands to mark this new level in our relationship. It was funny we used a formal expression like a hand shake to mark a less formal means of address. I excused myself to shower up and relax the balance of the afternoon.
Going upstairs I entered the bathroom and stopped. Dead still. Hanging from the shower curtain rod surrounding her antique tub was a pair of chocolate coloured stockings and a black open bottom girdle on a hangar. I stared and noticed had I stopped breathing. I turned to call down to Sarah to…to…to what? ‘Remove the dainty under things please?’ This was silly I thought. I lifted my hands to take the stockings off the rod and stopped. I was broaching on a place I never had been. I had had several lovers but they were transitory ‘fuck’em and leave’em’ encounters and I had never lived with a woman for more than a weekend so dealing with lingerie, other than taking it off a woman’s body was, sadly, not part of my personal skills repertoire. Plus…these were – her – things! These objects of a long and developed admiration from afar symbolic of a latent sexual desire that now penetrated my brain like a bullet. I closed the door softly and committed myself to do something. I took my hand and felt a stocking. It was still damp and then the girdle. It was damp too. Just then, “Bruce…Bruce!” and the thudding of Sarah coming up the stairs. I snapped on the water and stuck my toothbrush in my mouth and opened the door part way.
“Yes?” I mumbled through my ruse.
“Can I remove my things please?”
The word ‘things’ snapped me into normalcy. “Of course,” I said and opened the door for her. Sarah entered and reached on her toes for her lingerie and I noticed for really the first time the smooth roundness of her shorts. I wanted to think ‘ass’ but not yet…maybe…oh damn…EVER. She brushed passed me on the way out obviously embarrassed and I stood stoned faced not hinting at any emotion to give her permission to attempt to surmise my true feelings which I hoped would be a studied projection of bland neutrality to the entire situation. I could not let my secret out. I was at a juncture of discovery that would ruin a long process of admiration from afar that had, to this point been chaste and, in my mind, pure.
As I showered I reflected on the previous night. It had been her that had slid towards me. I had made no overt indication of sexual desire or contact. I had never even intimated in conversation and sort of sexual innuendo or impropriety. I had treated Sarah as an aunt. But there was something…
A knock at the door broke my chain of thought. “Bruce, we are leaving at four. I have reservations at 5:30 so we can make the concert. OK?” Sarah said through the door. “No problemo,” I chimed. God! Lame! Lame! Lame! I mentally kicked myself for saying ‘problemo’ and shrugged it off and finished showering and got ready. I dressed in my suit which was a classic single breasted blue blazer with a blue gabardine dress shirt and gray slacks with brown leather penny loafers, a carry over from a not to successful sojourn at private school. Sure, they kicked me out but I at least appropriated this iconic blue blood Eastern Establishment fashion statement from the fuckers! Plus, I looked good. I even wore my private school tie hoping to bump into some ‘old boy’ and have a go at him with some double entendre he was sure to understand. I laughed at the mental reverberations of that less than a full school year experience still evoked from me and gave my suit jacket a quick brush.
I walked down stairs and sitting on the sofa in the living room was Sarah. On the side table were two glasses of sherry but I stopped in the archway and looked at her. Sarah was wearing a blue-green halter dress with a slim waist and full lower skirt. It had a subtle sharkskin patterning on the fabric. As she sat with her legs crossed at her ankles her coffee coloured stockings accentuated her legs wonderfully and she had on a simple white patent leather baby doll shoes. I whistled involuntarily as Sarah quipped brightly, “We’re quite the couple.” I walked and sat opposite her and she offered a glass of sherry to me. I took it and raised it and made a toast: “To found beauty and those that appreciate it.”
Sarah looked at me sharply. I averted my eyes. “Thank you Bruce. I have not been called that for quite some time.” She clinked my sherry glass with hers and I looked at her eyes and they were iridescent and I shuddered. We drank in a gentle silence and she rose, gathered her clutch purse and we left.
We drove with the top down and she used a scarf to protect her mid length hair from being buffeted by the wind. We talked about her childhood and her expectations of the meal and concert to come. Sarah had selected a special restaurant for dinner and we drove towards the promise of a wonderful evening.
We pulled up to the Rosemount Inn, an 1850 Tuscany style villa located in downtown Kingston. I pulled to the portico and got out and the valet opened the door for Sarah and I offered my arm and she took it lightly and I escorted her to the dining room. After conferring with the Maitre’De we were seated at our table. Dinner was fabulous. Sarah let me select her appetizers and main course and the wine pairing and each act of attentiveness seemed to bring her out of her shell. The new surroundings and excellent wine invigorated our conversation and we began to discuss social issues and politics and I came to the realization just how well read and intelligent my Aunt was. It was a treasure to sit over a fine meal and talk, really talk and her beauty and her scintillating conversation only added to the enjoyment of the evening. I was almost disappointed when I looked at my watch and realized there was no time for dessert and signaled the waiter for the cheque and gathered our things to leave. The valet had the car ready and I drove to the concert hall. We got parked and I secured the car and led Sarah to the entrance and we found our seats.
Sarah was rapt with expectation. “I love Mozart. Do you,” she asked not knowing my exposure to symphonic music. “I love Mozart but I have a confession,” I said leaning conspiratorially towards her. “What is that,” she said, eye brows rising. “I fall asleep because I find a live performance of this type of music so relaxing.” Sarah laughed and pulled my arm to her and whispered, “Just – don’t – snore.” We smiled at our joke and the chimes signaled the performance was about to begin and then the house lights went down.
Through the first act I was completely conscious of Sarah. I could not concentrate on the music. Usually I revel and delight in the formality of the dress the musicians have to wear and acknowledge with sadness the rapid diminution of traditions and culture that our society seemed to be giving up without question or a fight. But tonight all I could do was feel her presence. Sarah had her arm draped over mine and for the first time, in the permission that the darkness gave me, I really looked at her. My eyes passed over her gently rising and falling breasts and down to her legs crossed, coquettishly feminine. I noted the well defined curve of her calf in the soft light and shifted in my seat and she drew my arm more tightly to her. Jesus Christ! This cannot be happening. I knew I was in trouble. I mentally discard word contractions during conscious thought when I am stressed. I thought ‘cannot’ not ‘can’t’ and I knew that a new change in my attitude towards Sarah was broaching my consciousness like a realization of some fundamental personal truth discovered when mentally or physically tested.
The act ended and all I could offer was the question, “Drink?” Sarah nodded and I let her out of her seat and followed her. She motioned to the terrace and I nodded and got into the hubbub of people eager for libation. Getting two white wines I went out to the terrace and finally, after some effort, found her. She was standing under a lamp with one leg slightly forward and her arms crossed looking out over city. I approached her and she turned and smiled. I stopped and offered her drink to her and she took it and thanked me.
“Bruce,” she said as she formed a question and then, abruptly, thought better of it. “Yes, Sarah.” “Oh, nothing,” and she gave a dismissive shrug and sipped her wine. We stood in silence, a new tension palpable in the air. Not an uncomfortable tension but, as yet, undefined. The chimes signaling the audience to get their seats rang and we set our glasses down and we got into our seats. We settled and Sarah pulled herself to me by my bicep and kissed me softly on the cheek. “Thank you.” I looked into her eyes and expressed a ‘you’re welcome’ but could not bring myself to say it.
The second act started and I was in agony. This unresolved tension was welling in me and I was obsessing about it. As if she sensed this Sarah whispered, “Relax…” and the sentence trailed off like the last note of a musical score. I settled down a bit and tried to read the program. I had totally forgotten what was playing and I busied myself trying to get some foothold on the evening…to create some concrete connection with what I was feeling with what was happening between Sarah and I.
Finally the second act ended. I got up and made small talk about how great it was and how, as a regional orchestra, Kingston had a good one. My commentary was trite and superfluous. It added nothing in helping me feel or to put Sarah at ease and I felt like a teenager on a date that had gone very bad.
We walked to the car and I started it up and asked Sarah if she wanted the top down and she nodded ‘no’. I pulled into traffic and headed for the 401 but Sarah started to direct me to Highway 2. We passed through Loyalist in silence and then I sense a question forming from Sarah. She sat upright with a posture very erect and not relaxed at all.
“Have I done something wrong Bruce? I really want to know,” Sarah stated. “Nothing…it’s nothing. I am just distracted,” I offered. “Come now…the evening was going so well and you have withdrawn from me. Is there something bothering you?”
“Sarah, can I ask you a question?” She nodded her agreement. “What was it you were going to ask me before and then stopped?” I wondered. She paused and smiled slightly and actually put her hand to her face. “I shouldn’t.” “Please do ask Sarah. I promise not to laugh or judge,” I said, almost pleading. I was trying to change the subject because I really did not know what to tell her. “I was…” A pause. “I was going to ask if you had…many lovers.”
“Oh that’s all,” I exclaimed in relief. I think my nervousness had crystallized and my outburst was not appropriate to Sarah’s earnest question. A question that I had no doubt she had some difficulty getting the nerve to ask. “Bruce?” Sarah asked pointedly, obviously feeling some sting from my reaction. “Sorry. Sorry Sarah. Please ask it again and I will answer you properly,” I offered by way of making amends.
“Have you had many lovers, Bruce,” Sarah asked calmly but with a hint of cold doubt to my reaction.
“Honestly,” as I made mental count and truthfully told her, “three.” “Did you love them,” Sarah asked softly. “No. I did not.” No expansion was necessary. I had not been in love. I had shared…well I hoped it was sharing, sex with them but I knew I did not love them. I felt a deep emptiness fill me and then the click of Sarah’s seatbelt and she was beside me and a hand stroked the back of my head. “It’s OK. It is a part of life,” Sarah said simply. I sighed deeply.
“Why did you ask me that?” I wanted to know where this was leading. No one had asked me that before and among my male friends it was something we certainly did not readily, if at all, talk about.
“Because I love you,” Sarah revealed. I gripped the steering wheel and my knuckles whitened and the tension in the car hung like exhaled cigar smoke in a room. It wafted and moved making me aware of it in waves and then receding only to come back to remind me of what we were talking about. I had never told my Aunt Sarah I loved her. Sure, I had written it on birthday and Christmas cards but it meant nothing, really. Sarah let the silence exist and for that I was thankful for her discretion and tact. The thud of road and gentle moan of the convertible top being pulled by the wind were our only companions.
I pulled into the driveway, walked around to Sarah’s door and opened it for her and I offered my arm. She took it silently and I unlocked the door to the house and went to turn on the hallway light. Her hand covered mine, “No.” I turned to Sarah and I could not only sense her presence as a woman but I felt I was feeling her essence as a person. I was oddly outside myself looking down at a man and a woman standing awkwardly in a dark hallway.
I paused and looked into her hazel eyes. All I could see was two small points of light reflecting from her pupils. I reached out and took her hand and drew her into the light coming from the kitchen. “Sarah…” “Yes,” she asked so softly I had to strain to hear her. “I love you.” She let out a deep breath and the sweetness of her breath passed over me. I leaned over to her and kissed her softly on the lips.
“And tonight you are going to love a woman you love,” she stated clearly.
I pulled her to me and hugged her tight. So tight that she felt like she was going to collapse from lack of breath. I released her and she took my hand and led my up the staircase lit by one of those incongruous night lights that look out of place in an older home. I followed her hearing the rustle of her dress in the darkness and smelling her subtle perfume for the first time this evening. We entered her room and I stopped and asked, “Candles?” and Sarah nodded and briefly kissed me and left the room. I heard her footfalls down the stairs and then up again and she had retrieved a silver candelabrum from the dining room, and clearing a space on her bureau, set it down and lit the candles.
In the soft light I realized she still held onto her purse as if it was an amulet of protection. I pulled it from her grasp and set it down on the bedside table and approached her. She backed away involuntarily and I stopped and bowed my head slightly. I took her left hand and bowed lower and kissed her hand and drew her to me.
“I…,” she began.
“I know,” I replied.
I knew she had been a faithful lover and wife. I knew with a certainty she had only been with one man. I knew that she was conservative in all aspects of life.
“Some things are going to change Sarah,” I said. In a flash I remembered the two single beds in their old home and that the first night for her after her wedding had been a night of her in a peignoir lying nervously in a hotel bed waiting for a man to come to her bed in pajamas and slide under the covers and share a mutual fear and ignorance of each other’s bodies. “I want to give you something that is us,” I said by way of explanation.
Gently I unfastened her halter and reached, first to the right and then to the left, of her dress and unzipped the zippers on the hips of her dress. The dress released at this point and fell away to the floor and I gently, reverently retrieved it and lay it on a chair. There was Sarah in a black full bodied girdle and coffee coloured stockings, her hands nervously smoothing her hips of an imaginary dress. I lifted her up in my arms and gently placed her on the bed and slipped her shoes off. I stood and undressed slowly looking into her eyes. Her hands were now clutched at her chest and I took a moment to hold her hand and touch her face. Once I was completely naked I unfastened her stockings and slipped them off and then I slid into bed beside her. Sarah got up and shimmied out of her girdle and the black panties she had on under them and took my hand and slid into bed beside me. I held her close and kissed her gently and her tongue tentatively moved out of her mouth and into mine. I responded in kind and we rolled on our sides and began to kiss, our hunger rising with each new sensation and exploration.
I felt her hand on my wrist and it being drawn down between her legs. Her thighs opened and she placed my fingers over her vulva and stopped kissing me. “Please…,” she whispered and I gently, delicately touched her. She took a deep inward breath and opened her legs more and I massaged and caressed her. After a time I held her close, “When you’re ready lover.” She nodded and I lay on my back and she straddled me. Her eyes were a mix of remorse and need. Of love and regret and I left us in silence because there was nothing to say…nothing that ever could acknowledge her past loss and her new gain. She knew I was ready. She knew I loved her. She accepted my body as hers melded with mine and I held her close as her hips moved slightly back and forth until she found that position and rhythm that was only ours. Sarah let out a sharp gasp and her hips bucked once and she let out a deep cry and lay against my shoulder and cried until she fell asleep.
“I am sorry. I am so sorry.” She was not crying for me. She was not crying for her. She was crying for him.