McKenzie Free

One woman's quest for greater understanding through freedom of self expression.

Archive for the month “December, 2015”

The Affair

He was forty and growing restless in his marriage. She was twenty-eight. Beautiful and vibrant in a way that only those who live life fully can be. They met completely by accident. This may be difficult for some to even imagine in our current world of online profiles, emails and texting, but at one time people used to bump into each other in public and strike up random, friendly conversations with one another.

She dropped a package on the street while trying to open the door to the book store with her elbow. He picked up her package and got the door for her. Neither were there for the books as it turned out, but rather for the coffee shop in the rear as a respite from the crowds of holiday shoppers. They chatted as they stood in line waiting to order. As it turned out, once they got their drinks there was only one table left available and they sat down and shared a warm beverage together.

He did not lie or act coy about the fact of his wife and children. In fact, he spoke of them lovingly and with pride. Oddly, this made him more attractive to her. She knew it was wrong to feel the tug of emotion while they spoke. She forced herself not to reach across the table and touch his hand as she so wanted to do.

He knew it was wrong to ask her to join him for dinner. He rationalized it in his mind that it was only a meal. She rationalized it the same way when she smiled and said “yes”.  This is how it began. Neither one wanting to investigate their behavior more fully. To do so would surely have meant they would have walked away from each other and remained strangers.

He thought, at first, that he could compartmentalize his life. That she would simply be a bit of enjoyment that he carved out for himself. She would not impact the rest of his life. But, as it turned out, she was not a woman who could be kept in a box. She was too full of life and his need to speak with her and be with her would not contain itself to a few hours a week.

She had a very full life before she met him. With him in her life her schedule began to overflow. If you had asked her prior to meeting him if she would ever consider seeing a married man she would have been insulted and answered a resounding “of course NOT”. Now here she was, making up last minute excuses why she couldn’t make her usual volunteer night at the hospital or meet her best friend for drinks or dinner so she could accommodate him when he could get away.

She told no one. Not her sister, her best friend, not even her hairdresser. The volunteer organizations thought her work responsibilities had increased, her friends thought she was volunteering more and should take more time for herself, her staff was grateful that she seemed to be finding a better balance between work and the rest of her life. Only she was aware of the reality of her situation.

He was amazed at how well his business continued to run without his complete focus on it twenty-four seven. Perhaps he could have gotten away in prior years to take his family on those vacations he had assured them were impossible? His wife was beginning to pressure him to spend more time at home and he began to slowly realize that there was no way this could not affect his marriage and his family.

After almost a year of seeing each other they had finally admitted to themselves and each other that this was about more than the convenience of lust. They had strong and caring feelings for each other. Feelings that came with as much pain as joy.   As he began to realize the effect the affair was having on his family, she began to realize she did not want to celebrate another Christmas in a hotel room a week after ringing in the New Year alone.

This is why tonight, almost a year since their first meeting, she found herself sitting alone in the coffee shop where they first met waiting to see if he would join her. If he showed up, this meant he had told his wife about her and had chosen a new life with her. If not, the crazy, titillating roller coaster ride of the last year had reached its end.

She did not know which life he would choose. She was well aware of the schism the affair had caused in his emotions and his life. She also believed his love for his wife was still very real. Part of her hoped that he would choose to remain with his family thereby proving to be the man she thought he was on the day they met. No part of her wanted to be the person that caused upheaval and pain for others. The other part of her, the selfish part, the part that found such happiness in his presence, was holding her breath and hoping to catch sight of him walking down the aisle of books toward their table.

As she sat and waited she realized that no matter what his decision her life would be irrevocably changed after tonight.

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The Rain

She walked down the cobble stone street toward the café. She wanted to put down her umbrella and feel the rain on her face but she knew it would draw the odd looks from passersby and that Rafael would be concerned about her wet hair and clothing when she arrived. She missed her home town so much. It rained a great deal in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. There was precipitation of some kind more than half the year. Most people walked about without umbrellas and never let the wet climate slow them down.

She knew that for most people living in Paris was something they dreamed about their entire lives but it was never her dream.   She was tired of feeling guilty about being a small town girl who preferred her small town. She missed the rain, the wind, the coastline, the comfort of everyone in town knowing who she and her family were. As a child everyone in town watched out for you. There were no secrets. Nothing you did went unnoticed or unreported to your parents. Many found it stifling and couldn’t wait to get out of town after High School graduation. She found it comforting and she missed the town and its people terribly that first year away at college.

That was where she met Rafael. She was drawn to his good looks, strong ethics, and his thirst to make social justice a reality for everyone around the world. He was a leader of people. That was evident from the first time she saw him speaking at a rally outside the student union. He asked for her support…and he got it. He asked for a date…and he got that too. From that first date on the two of them were never very far apart. They were known at college as the couple who was trying to change the world…and the ones who just might succeed.

She was not comfortable here in Paris. She could speak French fluently now, and she didn’t dislike Paris in any way, she just longed for something simpler. She hadn’t felt at home in Sao Paulo or Amsterdam either, not even by the end of their five year stints there.

Today she would tell him. Today she would be completely honest and let him know that she had to go home. That she couldn’t spend her life away from the rain and the sea and her familiar surroundings any longer. She would tell him she could not take on another assignment to another foreign city. She had to go home.

As she drew closer to the café she could see him sitting near the window waiting for her. He had already ordered the fizzy water he knew she would want. He would wait until she sat down to order any further. Even though he knew her well enough to know exactly what she would want to eat he never presumed and always waited for her. He was studying papers in front of him, always working, always thinking of what his next step would be, how he could best make a difference.

He looked up and his face lit up as it did whenever he saw her even after all these years. He smiled and waved at her, appearing excited to see her, even though she’d kissed him good-bye at the front door just a few hours ago. He stood when she entered and leaned down to kiss her cheeks. And then she looked into those eyes again and knew…she would not tell him. She would never tell him. She would stay by his side for the next tour and be content with an annual visit to her home town each year. They sat and ate and talked of many things but not of America or homesickness.

When they said good-bye outside and turned their backs to each other to walk back to their offices it was still raining. Just a slow drizzle now. He opened his umbrella as he left but she did not open hers. Rather she walked with her face turned up toward the clouds feeling the water on her face and remembering the cool Oregon rain.

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