Chapter 1: Jacob's Story
I watched as Julia White came into the ice cream shop/drugstore and apply for a job as a helper at the soda fountain. She was in my class in school, and although I knew who she was, I had never really had a conversation with her beyond "Hi." I was the soda jerk and had been for all of last summer and throughout this, my senior year. Summer was coming up again and that was why Julia was looking for a job.
She was nice looking with her long blonde hair and regular features. She still had to get rid of her baby fat. Hopefully she would slim down and not go on to add more weight. I considered her figure and decided that she wouldn't have to lose much baby fat to become a beauty. Her breasts were not overly large, just about right for her frame, but they looked soft. She did have nice long legs and the cheeks of her butt were nice, but again looked soft. There was a lot of action both top and bottom when she moved around. Time would tell what kind of a woman she would turn into.
Mr. Burrows came up to me and asked if I knew Julia and I said I had seen her around. "Jake, I hired Julia to work with you on the soda fountain. See if you can get her trained before Easter next week. The place will be packed for the holiday. You are in charge and it will depend on you as to how much help she is to you."
"Good, I need someone. Hi Julia, I'll start by showing you where everything is before you will actually be making anything. We do get awfully busy at times. There isn't much room and it is crowded back here behind the counter so we will be bumping into each other a lot. If we can get a routine down, that will make it easier."
"Jake, I have never worked like this before so I'm bound to make some mistakes. I will try very hard and not make things too difficult for you."
Julie, as she preferred to be called, did well and Easter was the easiest holiday I had ever had. That night at closing I complimented her on her efforts. She threw her arms around me and kissed me as a thank you. "Jake, you explain things so well and never get mad when I screw up. You didn't even yell at me when I dumped the chocolate syrup into the marshmallow tub. It is going to be so much fun working with you this summer."
That kiss sent me home thinking about Julie. What can I say? I was a horny teen-ager. I think Julie felt it too. For the first few times together after the kiss, we tried to avoid bumping into each other behind the counter. Then we were back to--if we bumped--okay so what. Then Julie started bumping into me on purpose and we made a game out of it. By the middle of May we were hugging and kissing regularly.
I carried condoms to the Senior Prom but never expected I would get a chance to use them. I didn't expect to get drunk either and neither did Julie. Someone spiked the punch bowl at the dance and then we went parking afterwards. A buddy of mine in the next car said he had some extra beer and I could have the balance of a twelve pack. I said no, but Julie disagreed and went over to his car and brought it back with her.
Two beers apiece later, we had got beyond fumbling and were getting down to business. Julie was hot and needy. I was having difficulty getting the cellophane off the condom and when I did, I couldn't manage to get it on. "Jake, forget the damn thing and just put your thing in me. You can pull out when you get too close."
I had good intentions, but I couldn't pull out with Julie's legs wrapped tightly around me. Especially when she said, "Don't stop. You'll leave me hanging. I need you in me."
Julie informed me she had missed her period on graduation day. She went to the doctor and he confirmed that she really was pregnant and a week later we had to tell our parents. Talk about a war that this started. The Whites wanted Julie to have an abortion. My folks, the Hansons, agreed with them. We both were screamed at and of course my parents blamed Julie and her parents blamed me. Then they each tried bribes by promising to send us off to college if we would do as they asked.
I wanted to marry Julie and Julie wanted to marry me. Over everyone's objection that is just what we did. Mr. Burrows, our boss, was the only one that seemed to care about the predicament we were in. He moved me off the soda fountain and into the stockroom for the drugstore which paid a little more money. He found a place for Julie in the office.
The situation made us grow up fast. Every cent we had went towards living expenses. We figured and figured and again Mr. Burrows came through with a place for us to set up housekeeping. He found us a small mobile home in one of the local parks that we could rent.
I felt sorry for Julie. Her parents pretty much disowned her, hardly even acknowledging her if they met. My Mom was the same with me. Pop, well he used to drop in occasionally if Mom was out of town and he knew she wouldn't find out about his visits. All of this hurt Julie more than me, for she had been her parents 'baby girl' and being estranged from them really took a toll. With me, I was always Mom's fair-haired boy or no damned good. She bounced from one extreme to the other. I was used to her mood swings and got to where I didn't pay her as much attention as I could have.
As time passed, Julie and I became closer and closer and we were settling into married life pretty well. A life that didn't have much future for either of us, I know, but we were reasonably happy. Thanksgiving came and neither set of parents invited us. Mr. Burrows did, so we spent Thanksgiving with him and his family. Julie cried all night and this was the first time I had seen any major regret from her about us getting married.
A week before Christmas Julie aborted our baby boy child. I thought for a time I was going to lose her too. Months went by and she went in and out of depression. For some reason she felt I was to blame for our loss. Maybe she always blamed me for getting her pregnant, I don't know. We had a consultation with the doctor after Julie had been through several rigorous examinations. Julie found out she would be unable to bear children--ever. This should have drawn us together, but instead we were further apart.
Immediately after the loss of our baby, both sets of parents were at us again with their bribes as a way to split us apart. Only it was 'divorce' this time. Julie was the first to cave in to what they wanted, except for one thing. No divorce. She would do what they wanted and leave me, but she said I was the one that had to divorce her. If I didn't want a divorce then she would stay married to me even if we never lived together again. Other than that, she would do everything they asked of her.
We had this discussion about her not divorcing me the day she found she had been accepted to a college in the East. I assumed we would be divorcing and with my parents' blessing, I had applied to a college in the West that Julie and I had originally talked about going to before the May mishap.
"Jake, do you want a divorce?" This was the final time I would talk to Julie for many years. It happened on the eve of her leaving.
"No Julie, I have loved having you for my wife because I love you. I'd like to think that you are out there waiting for me, even if it is twenty-five years from now."
"You really would wait for me that long? We can make a pact then. Twenty-five years from now, I'll be standing right in front of the soda fountain and we will decide if we want to get back together. In the meantime, we will live our life as single people, except that you and I know we are married. We can be committed to whoever we want, but it has to end in twenty-five years."
I looked at her. I was incredulous, but she was serious. "I can't be celibate for that long."
"Neither can I. All I'm saying is that you have to be free twenty-five years from today. If you want to change the pact, you can get in touch with Mr. Burrows and leave a message. I'll do the same, otherwise we won't see or speak to each other until then."
Julie was getting more and more beautiful every day. I knew there would be men out there that would want to marry her. I would give her less than a year to get word to me asking for a divorce. Until then I hoped she had my heart and I had hers, little as it might be.
I was crying when she walked out the door in the morning to where her father was waiting to take her to the bus. All I had was this last night to remember her by for the next twenty-five years. I would relive every moment of it many times over and over in my mind and cherish every second of it.
I settled into college life. My parents paid, I made sure of that. My Mom finally realized she had lost some of me by being so intractable over Julie. I sometimes felt they were trying to buy my love back. What I really needed to make me happy was Julie. After a few months of blue funk since arriving at college, I said to myself, I might as well make the best of the situation. My grades started improving and Mom and Pop thought that I was getting over Julie. I wasn't, I was just making the best of a bad situation.
I chose the insurance industry as my career. It wasn't too hard to learn and it was sure to be lucrative. Finishing school, I was employed by a firm that insured mostly homeowners. It was run by a widow whose husband had died the year before. She had two young children, a boy, seven, and a girl, eight. The widow, Miriam Crumbly, was nice enough, but somewhat out of her element with no husband and two kids to raise.
Both children had been born after she was thirty and I would guess Mrs. Crumbly to be about forty-two. One of her salesmen drank a little more than he should. He had been hired by her husband and was a friend to both when the husband died. The natural progression, and what he wanted and believed was his due, was to marry Mrs. Crumbly and take over both the business and her. She didn't see it and wasn't having any of him.
I was twenty-four the year Mrs. Crumbly called me into her office and spoke. "Mr. Jacob Hanson, I want to know more about you. I've looked at your personnel file and I see you are married. You don't list your wife's name. The only note in the file on who to notify if anything happens to you is a Mr. Burrows. Are you gay and is he your partner?"
I about choked and laughed. "No, Mr. Burrows is my friend and former employer. I really am married and to a woman. For reasons I don't want to go into, I love her dearly and deeply, but we are estranged. Some year in the future we may get back together and go on with our lives."
"When would that be? I have a reason for asking."
"Twenty years from now unless she decides to divorce me. It has been five years since we parted. I thought she would ask for a divorce before now, but I'm beginning to have hopes that she will still be my wife when we reach that date."
"Does this mean that you are going to be without sex? I can't believe anyone would shut himself off from the other sex for that long."
"That is pretty personal, but I will answer. No, I can go with anyone that I am attracted to. I just don't want to be committed when it is time to return to my wife. She has the same freedom as I do. Foolish isn't it? That's the way it is though."
"It does sound crazy. Do you want to tell me any more about the situation?"
"Not much. My wife does go by her married name of Mrs. Jacob Hanson--Julie to her friends and me of course."
"Let me understand this. If you became sexually attracted to me, or me to you and I convinced you to bed me, then there is nothing holding you back?"
"Something like that. You wouldn't be getting my heart, or not much of it anyway, because I've already given that to Julie. Why, are you interested?" I knew I was pushing Mrs. Crumbly, but she had been asking more personal questions than I wanted to answer. Also it was stirring up feelings in certain parts of me that I had tried to keep tamped down.
"Not really. I would like two things from you. First I want you to rise up to be business manager here in the office. Of course you would have to fire Tim. He is getting bad for business because of his drinking. The other thing I would like is for you to move into my home and during your off hours, bond with my children. They need someone younger in the house. Someone to play toss and catch with, as far as Stevie is concerned. Millie needs a father figure even more than Stevie does. She is ten and just needs a man around like her peers have."
"I'm pretty young for the office job. Are you sure I'd do alright?"
"I'm sure. You get along with all of the salesmen except Tim. You also make more sales and your suggestions on advertising have been right on the money. You're getting that job whether you want it or not."
"Okay, I'll take it, but you have to let me deal with Tim in my own way. The other, how are you going to explain that to the people here?"
"No one will ask, but I will tell them why just as I have you. Whether we become more than what the public sees we will decide at some future time. Now I'm asking you to call me Miriam. Crumbly is a horrible name. If I hadn't loved my husband as much as I had, I'd have married someone else just because of the name." Miriam smiled as she said this. She was lying, I suspected. The name was on the agency and she was proud of that.
Miriam announced the change that afternoon just after lunch and left soon after. Everyone congratulated me except Tim. When everyone had gone back to their desks, I quietly asked Tim to step into my new office. He slouched in and plopped down in the chair across from my desk. "Tim do you need this job?"
"Of course I do. You're the new boss and I know you have never liked me, so I guess I'm out the door." He sullenly looked at me and then down at the floor.
"I've been directed to fire you because of your drinking. Do you really need the booze or is it just habit? Give me an honest answer."
Tim sat there and pondered. This time when he spoke, he looked me right in the eye. "I don't know. I'd like to think it was just habit. When Bill died, it took the heart right out of me."
"Bill was Miriam's husband, right? She told me one time that you were her friend before you started drinking. She asked me to fire you, not because she wants to, but because you are becoming a liability to the agency. I don't think she really wants it to happen. Is there any way you can drive home the loss of her husband any harder than her having had to make this decision? First she loses him and then she has to lose you too. If you could stop drinking, I'd consider keeping you. I understand at one time you were the top salesman here. I'd like to see you be that again."
Tim stared at me. He knew he was a red hair from not having a job. I decided to gamble and continued, "I'm going to give you the job of insuring that building down in the tenement district. See what you can do with it."
"Do you want to see my figures before I sign them if I think everything is okay?"
"No. You know more about the insurance business than I do. I'll take your figures. Just be ready to defend them. We can lay off some of it if we need to. That should help some."
"I'll do my best, Mr. Hanson." Tim headed for the door.
"Tim, call me Jake. We are a team here."
Miriam had planned on being absent so she wouldn't be around to face Tim when I fired him. Tomorrow she was going on vacation with her children. I had a lot to learn about being the manager. I think Miriam was testing me. I can say for sure, I was well tested. When Miriam returned, though, I had some impressive figures to show her. Not only that, Tim surprised her when he stepped into my office where Miriam and I were discussing business. He was surprised too because he hadn't seen her come in either.
Tim was cleaned up and clear-eyed. He stopped and looked at her and said, "Miriam I'm so glad to see you. How was your vacation? How are the children?" He went to her and gave her a hug before she knew what was happening.
Miriam looked over his shoulder at me. When Tim turned away from her I said, "Some of those numbers I just showed you are because of Tim. We find we are working very well together. He has helped me a lot in getting organized here in my new job."
When Tim left, Miriam turned to me. "How did you do that? I thought he was on the skids. One of the hardest decisions I ever made was to have you fire him. I come back and he is still here and you didn't do as I directed. How come?"
"Remember Miriam, you said I could deal with him in my own way. That is what I did. Are you sorry he is still here?"
"God, no. I wish you had called me though and warned me. I almost hated coming in today knowing I wouldn't be seeing him. He has stopped drinking too, hasn't he?"
"Yes. I guess your husband's death hit him harder than anyone knew. When I pointed out to him that he was hurting you, he snapped out of it."
"I'm glad. Jake, would you like to come to dinner tonight and meet my children? You will have to sometime. Why don't you pack a toothbrush and some sleepwear. You can stay over if it gets late. You don't have to, I know, but the option is there." She hadn't been looking at me, but she did now.
"I'd love to. What time?"
"Dinner is at six. Come a few minutes before and I'll put together something to drink."
I ended up staying in a two-room apartment in the back on the second floor. The kids had bedrooms on the first floor. Miriam's bedroom was in the front, down the hall from mine.
At one point Millie questioned if I was going to be her new daddy. I said no, I was already married to a lady I loved very much. That seemed to settle that for a few years anyway. The office suspected that maybe I was Miriam's consort or concubine. Actually, she was mine as much as I was hers. She didn't want to marry and I couldn't, so we were a good fit for each other. I was of a later generation than Miriam and the sexual mores were much more liberal. I taught her things that her husband would have frowned on. Miriam was at first shocked by them, then acquiesced when I promised to stop at any time. Finally she demanded that they be a part of our lovemaking. This was always at night and out of sight behind closed doors.
The children were perfect for me to be a companion to. My time with them kept me from remembering that I had a wife somewhere. I could hear at anytime from Mr. Burrows that Julie wanted a divorce. This was the only thing, other than not being with her, that troubled me. It was like a sword hanging over my head.
I fathered the kids as best I could, learning as problems were presented. All through childhood, through puberty, and the teen-age years with all their highs and lows of heartbreak for kids growing up, I mentored them. I defended them when Miriam thought they were wrong and chastised them when they really were. The year that Millie was twenty, I had ten more years to go before seeing Julie again.
As always, things don't go as planned and are sometimes embarrassing. Millie came home crying late one night because a friend of hers had been killed in an auto wreck. Coming upstairs to find her mother for consolation, and not finding her in her room, Millie came down the hall and into my room. Thank God she hadn't opened the door fifteen minutes earlier. Miriam and I were still basking in the afterglow of a very gratifying session.
Millie whirled and left and we could hear her running down the stairs and out the front door. We didn't hear her car start so we knew she was on the premises. I looked out the window and I could see her sitting on the garden bench down by the garage. Miriam said, "I guess I better go down and talk to her."
"No, let me. I'm the interloper here. Besides, I think I'm as close to her as you are and I'm the one that will be leaving if it comes to a rift between you and her." I slowly went down the stairs and out the door to sit beside Millie. "What's up kid?" I tried levity.
"I hate you, you know. How could you do this to me?"
"And that would be?" "Do what you were doing with Mother. Don't you know I've wanted to do that with you ever since I first learned about sex. You're a sanctimonious hypocrite too. Your 'oh I'm married to a wonderful woman' and all the time you've been sleeping with Mom."
"Okay, you're jealous. I can see that you might be. Jealousy is one of the worst emotions a person can have. Millie, would you come in and talk to me and your mother? I'll tell you some things about my life that even she doesn't know. Before we go in, though, I want to tell you that in a few years I'm going to make your mother very unhappy. We have great affection for each other and someday I'm going to leave and she knows it. I have spent more of my life with this family than I have my own. It is going to hurt all of us. My commitment is to my wife. I can explain and I can ask to be forgiven, but it is going to hurt just the same."
Millie got up and took my hand and we walked slowly into the house to face Miriam who was waiting anxiously. She searched her daughter's face for any hate that might be showing there. She didn't find it and was very relieved.
"Millie, what did you want when you came to Jake's room?"
Millie gave out a wail and explained about the loss of her friend. It was another hour before attention turned back to me. Millie spoke, reminding me that I was going to tell them about my wife.
I started at the beginning. "Julie came into the drugstore and applied for a job on the soda fountain." I told them of the prom, the day when I found out Julie was pregnant, and the war between us and our parents. Then the wedding and being just eighteen and cut off from our parents. The one friend we had was Mr. Burrows and how he helped us find a place to live and gave us better jobs in his store. I told how much in love we were and how hard it was to plan for a new baby when we were always short of money.
Then there was the loss of our baby boy. I broke down in tears as I told them of this. (Both Millie and Miriam came and hugged me.) Resuming after a bit, I explained the depression that Julie went into after finding out she could never have another child. Then about how both sets of parents wanted us to divorce more than ever.
In a weak moment how Julie capitulated and said she would give me up, but wouldn't divorce me, in return for the money for our education. In return for not divorcing, Julie promised that we wouldn't see each other for twenty-five years. Her parents who are very religious had made her swear on a Bible.
Julie said to keep our sanity and the vow that she took, I was to go out and live just as if I was single. I should find someone that would commit to me, but it would have to end before our time was up. Julie has the same freedom. How I've lived in fear that she will find someone to replace me before we meet again. We have a date seven years from this August to meet in front of the place where we found each other--the soda fountain.
"Millie, I have chosen to become committed to your mother for a certain period of time. I wish you wouldn't prevent me from continuing to live with her. I could say I love her, but then I can't say I love you Miriam and still walk away someday. I can't say it, even though I may feel otherwise."
I waited for a reaction. Millie got up and came to me. "Jake, I hope someday someone loves me like you do your Julie. Mom isn't the only one that is going to miss you when you go to meet your wife. I just know that she will be there waiting for you. If she wasn't after all this time--God, wouldn't that be too cruel? And if Mom finds joy in your arms and you in hers, then so be it. I'll never say another thing more about it."
Miriam and I were sitting together as she left for her room. Miriam took my hand and said, "Let's go back to bed."
Miriam decided to expand into real estate sales, to complement our insurance business. She merged with a small agency and from then on we were busier than ever. Julia was now discussed around the table between us, just as if she was someone just out of sight, not some vision of an entity that someone heard about. There was much speculation as to what Julia was up to all these years. I finally asked that we not discuss her in my presence for it troubled me too much. My wishes were reluctantly complied with.
Seven more slow years to go. I received a note from Mr. Burrows, my ever faithful friend, saying that my Dad was in the hospital with a heart attack. I had not spoken to either of my parents since my graduation from college. I had invited them at that time, for they paid for it, so they had a right to see what they had purchased. After that I had no more contact with them. Pop did go in for news of me from Mr. Burrows frequently. Mom, well I didn't even give her much thought.
I made the trip home and visited with Pop when I knew Mom wouldn't be there. Miriam and Millie traveled with me. Miriam was just a year younger than Mom. Millie was fourteen years younger than I was. Pop's attack wasn't as serious as first thought and he was bright, cheerful and out of pain when we reached the hospital. I introduced my traveling companions to him. He watched them as I talked to him.
When they stepped out to give us some privacy, Pop said, "Which one are you making love to? I figure the young one is much too young, so you must be sleeping with the mother."
"Pop, you've got a dirty mind. Let's just say I've known Millie since she was eight. I've brought her up and she is one of the most wonderful, beautiful daughters a man could have."
He laughed and then turned serious. "What's going to happen to this Miriam when you go back to Julie? How much is she going to be hurt?"
"She will hurt, but she knows where I stand. Both of them know about Julie and both of them would love to be my wife if I asked either one. They are pulling for me, though, and both hope Julie and I do get back together. Honestly Pop, what chance do I have of that happening?"
"Pretty damn good I would say. You two have lasted apart this long and I can't see any change coming. Don't you bail out on your wife, either. Why in hell I didn't put my foot down with your mother when it would have done some good, I don't know. I'm too weak, I guess."
I took Miriam and Millie to visit Mr. Burrows. He and Miriam hit it right off. Millie and I stood looking out the store window. Suddenly I saw this tall, distinguished gentleman holding a lady's arm while guiding her along the street in the direction of the hospital. There was a boy of about four tripping along beside the lady holding her hand.
Mr. Burrows came to stand beside me. "She is still beautiful isn't she? I wondered if you would see her. She has seen you already, for she was here in the store when you went by earlier. Look across the street. That man and woman are the Whites, her parents. Most of the town has ostracized them for not relenting on the vow. The town doesn't treat your mother much better than them either. The only thing they have against your father is that he puts up with her.
"I think Julie is going to visit your father. That will be a real slap in the face for her parents."
"Did Julie ask about Miriam and Millie when she saw them with me?"
"Then I won't ask about the man and boy with her. I'm going to see Dad one more time this evening and then we are going back home. You know Mr. Burrows, you are the only one in this whole shitty mess that has kept me from going crazy."
"That's funny, Julie said almost the same thing. I think there is hope for a good ending to all of this."
Mom was with Pop when I returned that evening. It wasn't in me to embarrass Mother in front of my friends. I spoke civilly to her and made introductions. I introduced Miriam as a good friend and Millie as a child that I had the honor of being a surrogate father to for the last sixteen years. Mother was curious, of course, but I offered no further explanations.
Pop was sorry to see me go. I was surprised when Miriam invited Pop to visit when he got well. Mother wasn't included and she didn't dare ask if she was. Mom drew me out into the hall and asked me if I could ever forgive her. She was beginning to realize that she might have lost my love, and there was a good chance that she might lose Pop too.
"Jake, isn't there anyway I can get your love back? I'm worried about your father too. He isn't like he used to be. It is as if he doesn't love me much anymore. What can I do? Please help me."
"Pop has never seen the right of what has happened to me and Julie at the hands of her parents and you. If it was just you, it would be simple, for I think you would release Julie from her vow. I don't imagine you have any influence over the Whites, so I guess you will just have to hope for the best. I'm sorry Mom, I don't know what else to tell you." Mom bowed her head and left the hospital with tears running down her cheeks.
I returned to Pop's room where he was laughing at something Miriam was saying. "What did your mother want? I think she was pleased you spoke to her. She was afraid you might not."
"We had a conversation about me and why I didn't love her and what it would take to bring me back. She knows, but doesn't want to admit it. Actually she is more worried about losing you. Are you planning on leaving her?"
"No, of course I'm not. When I signed up with her, I signed up for the full ride. Let her worry a little. She has been wrong enough so she has to sweat for some of it."
"Don't be too harsh, Pop. You know she is ready to try and get the Whites to let up on Julie. If you threw your support in with her, it might do some good."
Miriam spoke to Pop. "Mr. Hanson, if you get where you can visit, would you bring Mrs. Hanson with you? I think she would like to see what Jake has accomplished so far in his lifetime. I would enjoy having you both visit."
"Thank you, I just might do that. I take it he has been successful working for you."
"Very much so. Not only that he has done so much for me personally. I have two children that I am so proud of and it is all due to his being a father to them. Look at Millie here. They are a perfect reflection of him and his guidance as he moved into the role of being a father. Yes, and he has made me very happy too. I am going to hate to let him go, but I realize someday I must." Miriam turned and smiled at me. This was the first really intimate moment she had ever displayed before anyone else. I'm glad it was my father that heard these words.
As we were readying to leave, she turned back to Pop. "I left my card with Mr. Burrows. I understand you are friends. If either of you wants to be in touch, feel free to do so."
I was silent all the way back home. Home? Where was it? Where did I belong? I loved these two women I was traveling with, but in a few years I was going to have to say good-bye to them. What about my wife? Have I been foolish to abide by her vow and separate as we have, without any contact for so many years? What a screwed up life I have!
I returned to work and poured myself into it with vigor. Things were changing in Miriam's and my relationship, also. Where she was usually the one that came to my room, now she came very seldom. I still had needs, so I occasionally traveled down the hall to her room. When we came together she displayed a desperate clinging mood, wanting me to stay with her all night. Often, as I lay next to her, I would realize that she was softly crying. My leaving was never discussed, but I knew that she wished me to forget my wife. She wanted to beg me to stay with her, but knew it would be a foolish gesture.
Another year went by, Millie was completing her college schooling in June. She was coming into the business. She was about the same age as I was when I was hired by Miriam. Stevie had one more year to go to finish his schooling and then he was joining the agency too. Miriam still gave me credit for the success of the agency. I had done so well in raising the children and keeping them interested in the business. It was planned that Millie was to take over the real estate business and Stevie would be heading up the insurance division.
I hired an associate broker to complement the salesmen that were already employed. He was young, vibrant and at twenty-seven, really into the real estate business. He had worked and had been trained by his father whose agency was located in another city. Millie fell for him like a ton of bricks. Although she was eventually going to be his boss, it didn't seem to make any difference to either one.
I immediately saw the attraction between the two and as soon as I realized where this was headed, I quietly had him checked out. He looked like a perfect match for her. Only three months after Burton came through the door, he asked for Millie's hand. Miriam swung her attention to me. I nodded my head, giving my approval of him. The date was set for the week before Christmas.
"Jake, Millie has been your daughter in all but name. She would like to have you walk her down the aisle. There is one other thing. I'm going to ask your father and mother to be here for the ceremony. I think it would be nice if Mr. Burrows came too. They will be sent invitations and I will know in a few days if they will be present."
"Thank you Miriam. I don't know how I feel about my mother, but I'm pleased that you thought of my father and Mr. Burrows." Two weeks later Miriam did tell me that my parents had answered and Mr. Burrows said he would join them in traveling to the wedding.
It was a beautiful wedding and Millie was lovely. I was somewhat mystified in one thing. Miriam had a man slightly older than her who she said was a friend. He looked somewhat familiar, but I could have sworn I had never met him. He did sit at the head table with the wedding party. Miriam and he talked together almost constantly to the point of me occasionally having to update Miriam on what was going on in the hall. Their eyes would sometimes pass over me as they talked and I had the feeling I was being discussed. This Mr. Jameson left before the reception wound down and even before the wedded couple left on their honeymoon.
Mr. Burrows and Dad were duly impressed with where I worked and the respect everyone showed me. I could see the pride shining in their eyes. Mom was very quiet all the while she was here. I think she suspected that I was more than a surrogate father in the family. Miriam did treat me more like a husband than just someone she knew. That set me thinking about my situation.
I made the decision that I would stop going down the hall to see Miriam at night, and this continued through Christmas. I spent New Year's eve with Miriam in front of the fireplace. I kissed her and said I was going to bed. She rose with me. "Jake, I'm coming down to your room with you. You haven't been to my room for weeks and I am feeling the need for company tonight. If you don't feel like making love to me, we can just lay side-by-side."
I took another shower and for once Miriam joined me, something she had never done before. When we reached the bed, we wasted no time in damping down the fires that had been stoked in the shower. "You never did that before--take a shower with me. That was fun. Why tonight?"
"I have a feeling there won't be many more chances for us to enjoy each other. You've been a wonderful lover through the years we have been together. Since we saw your wife a little more than a year ago, you have been more reticent in making love to me. I'm going to miss you terribly, Jake. I have never spoken of love between us, but tonight I am. I love you more than you can ever realize. You are my light and have been in my thoughts most every day. I can't tell you how much I appreciate how you have brought up Millie and Stevie.
"The agency--you have made it more yours than mine. If you were going to be here forever I would give it to you. I had a long talk with your parents and Mr. Burrows. They are working on your behalf in getting your wife's foolish vow rescinded. So far there hasn't been much progress, but don't give up the hope that you will have a chance to rejoin your wife. Within the next year he thinks. Mr. Burrows feels that even if Julie and you have to wait the full time, she will still be there for you. Please just don't give up hope."
"I think you know more than you are telling me. Either that or you want to sever our relationship."
"I do know something, but it is too early to tell you about it. I absolutely don't want to sever what we have together. I do think it best that we do stop doing what we did tonight though. Can you live here with me knowing we won't be intimate again?"
"Of course, there is so much more I enjoy about you than the sex. Believe it or not, I decided after the wedding that I wouldn't travel the hall to your room unless I was asked. You are here tonight and it won't be over until the sun comes up on a new day. Will you stay with me and we can watch it come up together?"
"Oh Jake, show me how much you love me. I know you do, although you never could say it."
The twenty-seventh of January I received a letter in the mail from my home town. It was from the Most Reverend Pastor James of the Franklin Pentecostal Church of God. I smiled at the title before I opened to the contents. Anything to show how close to God you are, I guess.
Dear Mister Jacob Hanson, I have been newly installed as pastor of this holy church of God. It has been brought to my attention by various members of my congregation that for twenty years you have been bound by a vow. This was foisted on you by a previous pastor of this church. As times change, something like this has to be looked at to see if it still applies. Although you are not the principal that swore the vow, you were and still are very much affected by it.
On February 13th of this year, all principals involved will be here to review the vow that was made by your wife, one Julia White Hanson. If you are unable to attend, please notify me and a more accommodating date will be found.
Please respond. Your friend, Pastor James.