I sat alone in the back of the small, yet oh so exclusive suburban church and watched the proceedings as only an outsider can watch. I had no part in the funeral services although my heart would be buried in the grave along with my beloved.
It was difficult to concentrate on the words of the unctuous, self-important minister as he extolled the virtues of a woman he had never met in an orator's voice that held no sincerity. The half listened to drone of his words flowed over me. My own thoughts ranged back over the past as I cried inside for of that which might have been.
I asked myself yet once again why I was even there. Of course, I already knew the answer. I was here to do my best to put finished to our relationship.
Christ! What a mockery to lose her again, this time to death. It was almost more than I could bear. We were both cheated out of so much.
Charlie, her husband, sat in the front pew masking his non-grief well. He looked almost bored with the whole proceeding. Beside him sat a young woman who could only be Sarah's daughter. I saw nothing of Charlie in her, nothing at all. She looked so much like her mother did on that day we said our goodbyes.
I was numb inside as I sat and continued to stare at the young woman through the rest of the droning service. After the last amen sounded, I got up to leave. It was hard to breath, as the final chords of the last hymn came to a close.
I walked back outside and blinked my eyes and waited for them to become adjusted to the bright sunlight. It seemed so wrong, so terribly wrong that the sun would shine that bright and for the birds to sing so sweet and happy on this day that held so much sadness for me.
I resented the ordinariness of it all. To me it would have been much more fitting if the day had been gloomy, with dark clouds hanging heavy in the sky and no birds sang as the world mourned the passing of my loved one. However, it was not meant to be. Instead, the world didn't notice she was gone, dead now always and forever. Again, Sarah had moved so far, far out of my reach.
A nasal, raucous voice grated on my ears and sent shudders down my back. "I win and you lose. She was still mine at the end." Charlie Potts, the not too sorrowful, newly made widower gloated at his imagined "winning." His nasal rasping voice continued to grate on me as he added, "You think I didn't know about you and her? Hell boy, I had her watched almost from the time her daddy told her to marry me. You never did anything I could catch you at or you wouldn't be standing here right now, I promise you."
"Charles, you are a pathetic fool," I told him contemptuously. "You were when we were all in high school together and you haven't improved one little bit with age."
I let my hate and contempt for this scrawny, pot bellied banker show for the first time. "You never understood the first thing about Sarah or what she meant to me. Now you never will." I turned away and started down the steps. I wanted to get away from this glittering rich man's house of worship where no God had ever visited. All I wanted right then was to return to my own quiet world of near anonymity. I fought back the tears I felt welling up in my eyes. I was damned if I'd let him or any other person see a sign of the depth of my feelings.
"Don't you turn your back on me!" he screeched as I went down the steps, to get away from him before I lost my temper. I was damned if I'd let the arrogant, selfish fool goad me into what I would consider a sacrilege, to fight on the church steps right after her funeral services were over. He yelled foul names at my back and I kept walking away from him.
I walked the whole four miles back to my house, my eyes burned and my throat ached as the hurt inside refused to go away or even diminish. She was gone forever now and I'd have to get over it. Self-torture over the might have been things of this world isn't my way of coping.
Peg, my old terrier walked stiffly out of the yard to greet me as I approached. I scooped her up in my arms and told her sadly, "She's gone, old girl, Sarah is gone."
Peg let out a "woof" and struggled to get down when she heard Sarah's name. I sat her back down on the sidewalk and watched as she futilely looked for our Sarah. Finally, she whined her disappointment and followed me on her arthritic old legs back toward the house. I was tired to the depths of my soul, as I let myself into the house and sat in my old recliner. Then I wept. It was time for my tears, now that no man could see me in my sorrow.
At last, the tears slowed and then stopped completely. I sat there, and remembered how it had been those twenty-some years ago when I held her close and vowed, "Sarah May, I love you so much I think I'm going to explode."
She hugged me hard and whispered, "Me too. Let's go back inside before we get foolish." We had engaged in a little petting and quit after one near mishap. We both vowed to wait for marriage, our marriage, because we wanted things done "just right."
"About now, I'm ready to get foolish as hell," I told her. She laughed and dragged me back inside so we could dance another slow dance together. It was the night of the senior prom and we guys were all wearing our best dress suits and the girls in their best formal wear or party dresses. It was to be our last magical night.
Just one week later, a tearful Sarah rushed up to me in the school hallway and sobbed, "I have to marry Charlie Potts. If I don't Daddy will go to jail."
"What?" I exclaimed. I heard her words and couldn't understand their meaning. "What are you talking about? What jail?" I was numb as I stood there in the hallway and held her tight against me. I couldn't make sense of what she had just said. Charlie Potts was about the most unpopular person in the whole school.
"Charlie's father says that Daddy stole thousands of dollars from the bank and that he can prove it." She looked up at me and sobbed, "What am I going to do?"
"Let's run away right now. If we elope they can't make you marry anybody else."
"But then Daddy will be arrested and go to jail. I have to do what Daddy says. I don't want him in prison; I love him, he's my father."
In bits and pieces, the whole sad tale came out. It was all about hospital bills. Her mother had a brain tumor that appeared suddenly and seemed to grow larger almost by the hour. It was malignant. Either she would undergo an operation or she would die. Even with the operation, there was very little hope she would recover. More money had been needed, so Sarah's father stole it. It seemed almost anticlimactic that they operated and she died anyway. Her mother died while she was still on the operating table. It had all been so very expensive. The insurance had not been near enough and their savings were all gone. Then a week after the funeral a routine audit brought the discrepancy to light.
We cut classes the rest of the day and walked side by side with no destination in mind, seeking solace in each other's nearness. We ended up at her house and the inevitable happened. It was the only time we ever made love together.
The time for me to go was right then. We got dressed and I walked home, numbed by what happened. Sarah lay back down on her bed sobbing. A week later, she married Charlie and became legally the wife Charlie Potts. They moved to New York City, and left me and her father behind.