SAMANTHA’S NEW LIFE 3SAMANTHA’S NEW LIFE: CHAPTER THREE: SAMANTHA JAMESONWichita, Kansas, isn’t a bad city for the plain states of the US. But, it isn’t a great city, either. A single (divorced), middle-aged woman was going to have a difficult time finding another good job. The job I had was gone and no fault of mine. At least, I didn’t think so. I had worked hard through the years, working in a wide variety of offices, picking up skills in each one that led me to better positions and responsibilities. I became adept enough on computers and business software, phones and faxes, printers and copiers, and working with customers and bosses to begin to think that I could adapt to anything and survive. But, maybe I had focused too much on surviving and not enough on what it meant to live and grow.My last job disappeared when the company disappeared. The last few years had been the best … and the worst. It started out as an inside sales position for a manufacturer’s representative agency in Wichita. I used to wonder if my seeking that type of work had anything to do with the knowledge that my son, Nick, was doing the same thing in Arizona. Initially, it had been great and I advanced to assisting sales outside the office while maintaining responsibilities for inside sales. It increased my work, but I was hourly and it worked out to be good pay and, since I was divorced, I didn’t have a lot of conflicts for my time. Then, things in the office relationships went to hell … again. It seemed men were all the same, no matter which town or city I moved to, they were all the same. At least the men I seemed to come into contact with. Maybe, I needed to choose better men.After the agency closed, I closed myself up inside my little apartment for the first week. The only excursion outside was a daily trip to the gym, which I moved to the same time as if I was going to a job. Instinctively, it felt important to maintain some scheduling discipline. But, after that week of feeling sorry for myself and generally feeling lost, I made up my mind to change my life. This time, I promised myself, it would be for the better. This time, I would break the miserable cycle that I called a life. This time the decisions I made would lead to better results. This time … During that week that I holed up in my apartment, I didn’t specifically think about work or another job. I read books, read articles on the internet, and I listened to YouTube videos on how to find another job. And, in particular, how to find the job I was meant to have. I committed to the effort and I stuck to it, but I was also realistic with myself that I would be happy with a mediocre job if I could have a life I could be happy with.It meant a lot of work, much more than I believe it would be, but work that I maybe should have done a long time ago with a counselor or ther****t. The material that seemed to make the most sense to me, also meant the most effort. But, if I was going to make a dramatic change for the better, I had to do something different. The old saying, ‘the definition of INSANITY is doing the things over and over expecting a different result’. I had to do something different, significantly different. My son, Nick, had been preaching that to me for years and he had no idea how bad things really were with me. I prayed he would never find out and that was a big motivator to me to make the effort, and finally, this time, make the decisions that would lead me out. I wanted to spend more time with him, he had been begging me to come visit in Arizona, but I needed to feel better about myself. So, I put the work in and looked at myself as critically as I could, identifying my strengths, talents, weakness, and failings. What were the things that took me off course, the things that derailed my progress, the things that I could do well, and the things that motivated me? And, I punched it all into Word with headings and subheadings so I could find it easily, add to it, or edit it as new thoughts, ideas, or clarity came to me.I was a 44-year-old woman and mother to a 30-year-old, very successful man. I was what I considered to be an average height for a woman, 5 foot – 6 inches tall in by stocking feet. Critically, I could stand to lose a few pounds, but anyone could say that, too. I was still trim at 44 through a regimen of a good diet and regular exercise. My hair is longish, falling down to my shoulder blades, and is a golden blonde color that still holds. My eyes are bluish grey and they sparkle when I am happy. That hasn’t been often over the years, but now as I look to a more hopeful future and finally making changes that would make Nick happy, I see the sparkle more and more.Most of my problems have been my own doing, one way or another. This exercise in critical self-evaluation has convinced me of that. I could always blame someone or some group for my problems and the direction my life took. Self-recognition is the first step, the books said.I was only 14 years old when I gave birth to Nick. I thought of abortion. I messed up and my life could be ruined. But, I lived in a small town in west Kansas. It sometimes seemed that the only thing that ever got out of Skutt City, Kansas, was the constantly blowing plains wind. As it turned out, giving birth to Nick was one of the only miracles I had anything to do with in my life. I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t know it for several years, in fact. I was a k**, a stupid k** who discovered that sex with an older boy was the most amazing thing that could be experienced. Or, so I thought. So I thought for a long time.I had to drop out of my 9th grade year for the pregnancy. The school didn’t want a pregnant girl in class, especially in 9th grade. Not in Skutt City. My mother took care of Nick while I was in school, then I went directly home and learned how to care for a baby, toddler, and infant. I did graduate, at 19, one year behind. No real high school experience except for classes and a degree. No sports, no prom, no dating, and very few friends. Parents didn’t feel I would be a good friend for their daughters. And, mom made sure there were no more boys. My self-esteemed started out at a low point.At 20, I married a man named Foley. He was a decent man, hard working. He even adopted Nick. He was a long-haul trucker and was gone for days, even a week, at a time. We were still in Skutt City, but at least I was on my own … in a sense. He died in an accident somewhere in Colorado on his way out to Washington. That was three years after we married and Nick and I were on our own, again.I married a man named Jameson two years after that. I should have been worried when he wouldn’t adopt Nick. I managed to divorce him after nine long years. Somehow I managed to shelter it from Nick, but those nine years were full of abuse and subjugation. But giving into him was the only way I knew to spare Nick from seeing and feeling what was happening. All of my life I was tentative, even timid, in making my own decisions and taking action. The only thing for years that I seemed to excel at was loving Nick, being a mother and protecting him. I lacked any outward confidence, especially with men. But, the odd thing was that professionally I could manage very well. Socially, however, I seemed to constantly fall prey to men. Men seemed to pick up on something and take control. There was something because it seemed to happen too often.It was the recognition of that cycle with men that made me believe I had to break further away, find a job in another state, and create a new opportunity. I did my work. Then, I scoured the job searches. I made contact with agencies and sales people on LinkedIn, I used my contacts and customers. Then, I found a wonderful sounding opportunity in Arizona that was listed only by a recruiter. It was an unusual posting. It didn’t list the company name or city. It only listed the job title, that it was a manufacturer’s representative agency, that it dealt in sales to utilities, contractors, and maintenance/service companies. It identified it as a small agency, an ideal situation for someone to get in at the beginning, an opportunity for someone who wanted to influence the growth of a company, and that it was a close, casual, but a highly professional team of people. It sounded perfect for me, even getting me out of Kansas.I got an interview by the recruiter; it was long and hard, but I really did feel I did well. He said that this employer was eliminating bias from hiring, he only wanted to talk to those candidates that passed the initial interview and reference checks. He would weed out the candidates without knowing names, sex, orientation, marital status, race, or ethnicity. I told him that sounded impossible. He agreed, but that was what he was being paid for. He said that once the employer made his selections, then he would be given names and more personal data, and the results of a more in-depth reference check. Then, and only then, would company interviews start.That was two weeks ago and I was thinking it might be time to follow-up, if nothing else but to show my continued interest. Thursday, 5:45 PM my time. I didn’t get the chance to call, my cell phone buzzed and vibrated on the kitchen table.I looked down at the screen, “NICK”. I smiled, picked it up. “Nick! What a lovely surprise, dear. Isn’t it still office time in Arizona?”“Mom, we need to talk.” Both ends were dead silent. He didn’t even say ‘hi’, something must be wrong, what could be wrong, was he hurt … “Mom, I’m sorry … that was awful. I didn’t mean to be so abrupt. Not to you, never you … I … I just … something we need to talk about … I want you to come out here for a while, several days, maybe a week, maybe more. Can you, please?”“Nick, is everything okay? You’re scaring me … are you okay?”“Yes, mom, I am good. Everything is good, my business, my home, my life … everything. I want you to see it, you’ll love it. You’ve never come to see my home. I want you to come tomorrow … I need to see you … and talk to you.”“Nick, I can’t just …”“Mom, I know you are out of work. You live in that small apartment, no pets, nothing to keep you there that can’t happen here. Bring your laptop and you can job hunt from here just as well. Bring lots of clothes, it is warming up but the nights can still be chilly. Come, Mom. I won’t take a ‘no’ this time.”“What do you mean you know I am out of work?”“Mom, you applied illegal bahis for a job at my company. I have your resume, references, and background check right here in front of me. The agency you worked at closed due to … shall we call it dubious management control?”“You’re serious …”“There will be a ticket waiting at the American ticket counter tomorrow morning. The 11:25 AM flight through Dallas-Fort Worth, arriving Tucson at 2:08 PM. I just pressed the button, now you have to come.”“You’re nuts; you know that? Yes, thank you, meet me at the baggage claim. I love you, dear. Thank you!”I spent the rest of the night doing laundry and packing. I was going to Arizona. I was going to see Nick. It felt like a weight was lifted off me, maybe in person I could talk to him through the shame, maybe I could talk to him like we used to … back when it was just us … back when there was nothing I couldn’t tell him …The flight was uneventful. I checked a large roller bag, I had a carry-on roller and a backpack containing my personal items (Kindle, laptop, phone, and music player) and purse. Technically, I met the carry-on requirements as long as the backpack went under the seat in front of me. The layover in Dallas was relatively short and I didn’t have to change concourses, a rare treat. Flying into Tucson was exciting. The mountains, the wide desert, and the city. The sun was gleaming. It was so much different than Kansas.When the plane stopped at the gate, everyone moved like it was some kind of ballet of cattle, reacting and moving with the numb movements and expressions modern air travel has programmed us all for. Standing awkwardly because there is no room, retrieving items from under seats and overhead storage. Then wait. The move down the narrow aisle, bumping into seats and arm rests along the way. Nobody complained, it just was what it was. Entering the concourse was an automatic deep breath of relief, enjoy the conditioned air, stop somewhere to organize the carry-on and follow the rest of the herd towards the next flight or baggage claim.I was simply keeping within my space as the group moved toward baggage claim through the security area, I wasn’t expecting to pay attention to anything until then. I heard a man shout “Mom!”, but still not expecting it to me until I felt someone take my elbow. I turned and was pulled into an embrace, the rest of the herd simply flowing around us. I just held onto him, much longer than would be normal. Now that I was here, holding him in my arms, I felt such hope and anticipation. I didn’t want to set my expectation too high, he was my son, not a ther****t, but maybe my son could be the best ther****t I could ever hope for. He always listened so well and offered only gentle suggestions and ideas, never intrusive, but always positive and strong with confidence and caring.We talked above all the din of the airport, the announcements, and racket of bags, people, and other peoples’ greetings. He pulled my luggage, only allowing me to carry the backpack, which I insisted on or he would have been my pack mule. By the time we were out of the airport property it was almost 3:00 PM … the bags were slow and mine was one of the last. We were still talking, now more comfortably in the controlled space of the car as he took us through town, heading generally north. He pointed to a mountain to the north and indicated that was generally the location of his house. The mountains were much different than Colorado, but provided relief to the landscape. For him it provided a playground and I listened with attention and wonder as he brought me up to speed on all the ways he enjoys the area, and the mountains provide a good location for his hiking, running, and biking.Coming up to his residential area, my mouth dropped and he laughed. He had talked about his new home, but I must not have heard all the words. The sign said Arizona National Golf Club and Community. He wound his way through the curving streets before pulling into a cul-de-sac. There were a group of k**s playing basketball at a hoop set just off the rounded part of the cul-de-sac and he slowed as he approached and pulled into the driveway next to the hoop. He stopped, half in the driveway, and buzzed his window down.“Hi, Nick! Ready to get beat in horse?” That from a p*****n boy. The group was made up of six k**s, all p*****n, four boys and two girls.“In your dreams, k**do!” He laughed with the k**s. Clearly, they were all familiar. “No school today?”A freckle-faced girl with wild, red hair announced very commandingly, “Some kind of teacher thing, we got out early.” She leaned over and looked through the window at me, “Who’s that?”“I’ll introduce her later.” They tried to enquire further, but he was already moving and buzzing his window back up. He pulled into the garage, popped the trunk, and waved to the k**s.I put my hand on his arm, “Your playmates, Nick?” He laughed.The house was lovely. It was a single story, kind of ranch-style house with the double garage on the left side, the front entrance in the middle of the house portion. From the garage, we entered into a laundry area with two doors, a mechanical room and a large multi-purpose storage closet. Through the laundry room it opened into an open format with a family room to the left (the back of the house) and the dining room to the right. A wall separated it from the entrance/foyer and another wall beyond it and a hallway straight ahead. There was a wall separating the foyer from the kitchen and dinette area. The family room and kitchen/dinette were open to each other.He led me across the foyer and down the hallway. There were three doors on the right and only one on the left. The doors on the right were a small room which was probably originally a bedroom but was now a home office filled with references, computer, desk, and a couple chairs. The next was a full bathroom, guessing it was the guest bathroom. The final door was the guest bedroom, which is where he pulled my bags. He put the big one on the queen bed and rolled the carry-on bag to the foot.Before I could react, he took my hand and led me back out, stopped at the lone door on the other side and pushed it open. It was a huge master bedroom, king bed, two walk-in closets and a separate bathroom with twin sinks and a large shower/tub. The east wall had a large patio door, the same as the one in the family room, emptying onto the patio. He took me through it and stopped. There was no lawn, just rock and sand where there weren’t patio pavers. The pool seemed huge for a back yard, but the back yard was large. The was on the curve of the cul-de-sac so his yard was a wedge shape, the back being much larger than the front. The back was completely enclosed by privacy walls that were seven feet tall. I could just see the roofs of the adjacent houses, but no windows were evident. A gate in the back wall led to the golf course. He said he was on the fourth fairway just short of a dog-leg to the left, which was protected by out-of-bounds and two large oak trees. Just then, a movement and whine came from my left. A dog, apparently sleeping under the cover outside the family room, came running to us. Nick simply put up a hand and the dog nearly sk**ded to a stop in front of us. I was impressed. The dog sat, twitching with anticipation, his tail wagging furiously. This seemed to be a ritual and ended when Nick bent down and was ‘attacked’ with love and adoration. He was a white German Shepherd. He looked every bit like the German Shepherds I was used to, except he was completely white. Nick said it was a particular gene and it was not an albino mutation. He was about 75 to 80 pounds and appeared to be complete muscle.I knelt down next to Nick and the dog came to me, immediately. Nick laughed, “He has a good sense about people. His name is Harley, which I changed from Nemo, the fish cartoon character. It was the name he had when I got him from the shelter. He has a love for water, which apparently was the motivation for naming him, but ‘Nemo’ just seemed like a goofy name for a German Shephard. Wait until you see him in the pool, though. The k**s just love to play with him in the pool.”“Those k**s? Their families don’t have pools? A community like this?”He laughed, again. I loved how much he laughed, how freely and openly he enjoyed things. “Yes, they do. I get teased by the parents. Apparently, the k**s have said that I am more fun than their parents. They are here rarely and only when their parents have check with me first.”We had a beer on the patio, his hand hanging down onto Harley’s head, aimlessly scratching his ear. Then we went for a walk done the street. Leaving the house, he stopped at seeing the k**s still playing and the parents standing talking in one of the driveways.He turned to me, “When I introduce you, it will be as someone I have known all my life and I have FINALLY talked into coming for a visit.”“Not as your mother? Are you …”“No, definitely not. But, I think you will enjoy your stay much better that way. They will think of you as my friend and equal, not as a parent who they might treat differently. Is that okay?”I just smiled, kissed him on the cheek, took his hand, and led him down the sidewalk. The k**s all rushed over and the parents crossed the cul-de-sac. Apparently, the k**s had gone home to announce that Nick had brought home someone. He did as he said, introducing me as someone he has known all his life from Kansas. He left everything else as a mystery. He smiled each time it occurred and it did occur several more times. It was clear my boy was someone people got to know easily and I wasn’t too surprised. He was self-confident, positive, and sure of himself. All the things I was not.We had a quiet meal alone that night and I crashed early, feeling a little guilty until he reminded me of the time zone change and my travels. The next morning, I found him on the patio with Harley, sipping his coffee and reading the morning paper. He greeted me with a kiss on the lips. It was a just a peck, but it caught me by surprise. He seated me at the wrought iron table and poured me some coffee, went into the house and came out with a selection of croissants and muffins. We were lazy that morning, then asked if I brought a swim suit. I said it hadn’t crossed my mind since it was not warm in Kansas. With that we spent a few hours looking, me modelling, illegal bahis siteleri before purchasing two suits for me. One was somewhat conservative two-piece and the other was a bikini at his insistence. I gave in, but I wasn’t sure I would ever have the nerve to wear anything like that.That night we went to the club for dinner. The club is very nice and the formal dining room was exquisite, the service wonderful, and the food divine. I also met more of his friends including one of the couples from yesterday with k**s. We joined them for a drink on the balcony, overlooking the darkened golf course. When the men left us for another round of drinks, my last I insisted, the woman, Jane, pulled me in tight and whispered conspiratorially, “I don’t think I have ever seen Nick look so happy and relaxed. You seem to be good for him. Besides …” and she leaned into my ear so I would be the only one to hear, “… the single ladies here are watching you with envy.”I casually looked around as though looking for Nick and seeing the surroundings. I was his mother, not his girl-friend, yet, they didn’t see it that way, at all. Nick was right, I am being seen by these people differently than if I was his mother. I was also seeing things about him and how people saw him that I might not otherwise have the chance to see.The next day, Sunday, after another lazy morning, he told me to wear jeans and bring a jacket. He wanted to take me to see his office, then walk me around the U of A campus that he attended. Why a jacket, I wondered.He was waiting for me outside the garage. The k**s were hanging around, again. He had a motorcycle waiting. The k**s stood next to the drive waiting, they too had envy in their eyes as I approached. I was given a helmet and he secure it on my head. He pressed the button to lower the garage door, climbed on, started the b**stly bike, and indicated for me to get on behind him. I had never been on any kind of motorcycle, much less a Harley Davidson. It roared when it started and the k**s whooped and yelled in response. I climbed onto the back, my purse going around my neck. As he released the kickstand, I wrapped my arms around his chest and closed my eyes, the k**s laughed and pointed at me. I was terrified for the first several turns, stops, and miles on the road. Then I relaxed gradually, becoming very aware of the man in front of me, the hardness of his body, the smooth and confident manner with which he handled the bike. After a few more miles, I had loosened my death-grip on him, was leaning into his back and talking into his ear. He in turn indicated one way or another and gave me a verbal dialogue on sights along the way.I was duly impressed with his office and listened intently to every word as he described the luck, gamble, and trust that led to his own agency. His description of the two people working for him (with him, as he put it) made me understand why he felt so confident of their future. If he felt this way about them, I could imagine how they felt about him. We sat in his office at the little table he had for small conferences. We each had a Diet Coke and my eyes took in the office as we chatted. Then, I saw it. When he followed my eyes, he got embarrassed. I looked at him and tears came to my eyes. I knew, or hoped, that he thought about me, but … there just over the middle of his two computer monitors was a nice framed picture of me.That night, over a simple dinner of grilled burgers and fixings, he seemed preoccupied and deep in thought about something. He had been completely about me this weekend, making me comfortable, introducing me to the life he had created, and renewing our old, tight bond that we shared until he left to pursue his life. Now, after such a wonderful weekend, he was preoccupied and tight, bothered and deeply inside himself. I found myself in that moment of uncertainty: do I approach him about it openly; or, do I let it be, my insecurity feeling that I might somehow be the source of this change.We had just finished the dishes, hardly a word spoken as he washed while I dried the pots, serving dishes and other things that he didn’t put in the dishwasher. He took my hand and led me into the family room, both of us side-by-side on the sofa. He reminded me of the comment he made when he called me just days ago, that he needed to see me, but that he also needed to talk to me. He reminded me of my own reaction, concern that something might be wrong with him or his life. He had shown me these past days how good his life was, which set my mind racing to a conclusion that what he had always wanted to talk to me about we about me. My mind instantly categorized a list of things it could be about and narrowed it down to a short list that could cause such concern. A very short list. My mind wasn’t understanding how, though, I had worked to keep that part of me away from him, not to trouble or bother him, to allow him to grow on his own, to not be encumbered by my problems.He reminded me of how the recruiter had described Nick’s unusual recruiting and vetting process. Once he had narrowed the field to the four best candidates with superficial reference checks, the recruiter took those four and vetted thoroughly, passing all discovered information to Nick for final decision and interviewing.“All information discovered”, he said, “good and bad was forwarded to me in a report covering each candidate. Most candidates might be four or five pages of notes of reference checks, comments from co-workers, and a superficial check of social media.” He was opening his laptop and turning it on as he talked. He pulled up a file and opened up the resume … mine. Then he opened a Word document on the recruiter’s letterhead and moved the laptop between us. “Mom, yours was nine pages.” He put his hand on top of mine, squeezing it. He scrolled down past introductory information, comments on the resume fitting the requirements, and moved on to references, recommendations, and comments solicited from others. “I purposely ignore for the first reading the first page which contains names, age, etc. I want to see the person before I might be influenced by things like name, gender, race, orientation, or age. When I read through this, I was putting it in my mind as a leading candidate. The recommendation from clients and customers were some of the highest I have seen. The references were good to stellar. That took the customary three pages and I remember wondering what the rest of the pages could contain.” He looked at me with the kind of tenderness, but grave concern that told me he was deeply troubled, but on my side.He scrolled to the next pages. The recruiter searched for and contacted twice as many people than he would normally. Nick explained that the firm felt an obligation to vet the information they were getting in case it was a few vindictive people.“One of your co-workers … a Henry Ordman … assassinated your personality and morality.”“Oh no …” Of the few names I never wanted to ever hear, again. I pulled my hand away and walked out of the family room into the back. Tears were already streaming down my face within the moment that it took Nick to be behind me, his arms wrapped around my middle and shoulders, his face in my neck. He didn’t say anything at first, he just held me tightly, refusing to let me leave. He finally allowed enough space for me to turn around in his arms and I buried myself into him without the nerve to look into his eyes. I could only whisper, “I’m so sorry, Nick. I never wanted you to find out.”He didn’t ask me if it was true or admonish me with a ‘how could you’. He just held me. Through my shame and tears and abhorrence of my very being, I also felt coming into me his caring and love, and the guilt, disgust, shame, and humiliation slowly melted away in his arms. There was no recrimination, judgement, or accusation. He hadn’t felt the need to talk to me about this out of a desire or need for condemnation, but because he wanted to help and protect me.He led me back to the sofa and got both of us a strong bourbon, which we sipped in relative silence. Then, he began his inquiry to understand, but with the same sense of gentleness and concern. He asked me to just talk and I did. I went way back, to my earliest years, to becoming pregnant with him. I talked about my insecurity and feelings of low self-worth. I talked about my recognition of sexual pleasure and what it felt like and how my body and mind responded. I talked about how, even at an early age, that the sexual feeling seemed addictive.He asked about Foley, his adoptive father. He was a good man, not particularly loving, but good. For Nick’s early years, I held it together, just focusing my being on taking care of him. It was after, alone without a diversionary purpose to consume me that my life began falling apart, again. Jameson, my second husband, was abusive and controlling. His only decency was to keep it away from Nick. When I said that, Nick got angry, this time at himself for not seeing it and maybe being able to do something about. I told him that was crazy, he was just a k**, and it was me who kept it away from him. I didn’t want him to have the kind of growing-up experience that would limit and control his future with misery and anger. While Nick was at home, Jameson restricted his abuse and control to himself, but occasionally brought a friend to fuck me, too. When Nick left home for college, it became worst. I was the center of frequent humiliation for his friends and some he didn’t even know. He would occasionally share me with a friend if they had enough to drink and I was handy. By the time Nick left home for college, I had slid into a depression with feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing, a state-of-mind fueled by my natural lack of confidence. I sank into a black hole, a darkness filled with dismal hopelessness. He asked about it, the depression, not questioning or judging, but wanting to understand, if that was possible for someone who had never questioned his worth, value, or competence. I described it as a never-ending black hole. I sometimes felt like I was climbing out, but the hole was thick and weighed me down inside it. I could see reality and I wanted it, but the gravity of the blackness seemed to increase in strength, sucking me back inside. I knew I needed help. I knew I needed to be stronger, but every time, the black canlı bahis siteleri hole would swallow me, leaving me with a feeling of not knowing if it was worth fighting for my life any longer. Sometimes, it felt like light would never again penetrate down to me, deep inside the blackness.Jameson took advantage of it, as did men later after I freed myself of him in a momentary period of strength. But men seemed to be able to identify my weakness, my inclination to submit to their demands and manipulation, sensing that I was tired of the struggle.“And Henry Ordman?”I gave him a weak smile. It was a smile somewhere between complete defeat and irrational hope. “It wasn’t just him, there were others in the office and outside. I never knew for sure, but I had the feeling that it was Jameson’s final abuse on me that he found where I ended up and confided in the sleaziest of my co-workers.” I started crying, again. Sobbing, my body wracked in sobs. Nick pulled me to him, stroked my opposite arm, whispered in hair that he loved me and we would get through it. I straightened myself and finished it. I recounted how I was doing better than I had in years and with my success in the job I was feeling like I was on my way to being whole. Then … I was out with some of the guys, I had just two beers, nothing more than that … but they must have done something, added something. My awareness returned slowly and I found myself in a hotel room with them, three of them, and I was naked and one guy was pumping into me between my legs and another into my mouth. A couple days later they showed me a video they made. It went on for a year and a half. Then, when I was disgusted enough with myself, I climbed out of that blackness on my own. I didn’t know how long it would last before I fell into its gravitation hold, again. I called a meeting of the four of us in the office. When they saw it was just the four of us, they got both sneering and nervous. In that moment of strength, I told them to fuck off, it was over, and I didn’t care what they did with the video. They threatened, of course. But, I held firm to my momentary strength. One of them attacked me outside the office and with the marks on my face and body, I went to the managing partner in charge of employee relations. One of the men was my senior. Everything imploded on the men, the company, and me. The guilt trips started, that I was ruining other people’s lives if the company went under, but this was my moment of strength and I had to hold on for my own good.I looked at Nick, my eyes dry, my body at ease, and my hand once again in his. “I felt sorry for the other people, but I had to stick up for myself … for once, I had to stand up for myself.” He pulled me into his side and held me, strong and loving, just holding me and stroking my arm. I was exhausted from the telling and reliving, exhausted from the fear of Nick’s reaction, and with the awareness of his understanding, acceptance, and faith, my body and mind sunk beyond exhaustion. But, not back into the blackness, not falling into that hole. I had an anchor holding me, keeping me safe and secure.I woke up the next morning. I could hear Nick in the kitchen bumping around. This was a work day for him. I wished it wasn’t, not after last night, but I understood and rolled out of bed. I was dressed only in my panties and bra. I took off the bra and put on a t-shirt. I caught him as he was heading out the door, the motorcycle already waiting on the driveway. I ran out to catch him.He smiled and my heart jumped. “Wow, what are the neighbors going to think, mom?”I kissed his cheek, “Your neighbors don’t know I am your mom.” I gazed into his eyes, searching for any sign of hesitation, reluctance, anything. “We need to talk more after last night.”“That’s fine. You need to know that I feel good that I understand what happened and that you are fighting against it. You were strong last night. You didn’t waver and give into fears and insecurity. We’ll build on that. That’s my promise.”“We?”“Like you said, we’ll talk more.” He kissed me this time. He took me into his arms and on the driveway kissed me on the lips, holding me tightly, and I was sure the t-shirt rode up over my panties as I put my arms around his neck.I watched him turn the bike and roar off down the street. We. His kiss. His body against mine. My heart leapt like it just received a shot of adrenaline. I turned and saw the mother across the street on the stoop getting the paper. I know I blushed and I put my hand to my mouth. She smiled and gave me a thumbs-up sign. I smiled, waved back, and scampered into the house.It took us two more nights to talk it through to get to the crux of what we were both not admitting to. But, on that night, I was sure of my feelings and sure of his. I blurted it out.“I want you to make love to me, Nick.”“I want that, too. More than almost anything right now. Almost …”I looked at him confused and felt myself sinking back that I had misread all this and created a mess. He took my chin in his fingers and lifted it up so our eyes were gazing into each other.His eyes were a deep pool of tenderness, clear and welcoming. “I want that. But, I don’t want a single night of wonderful sex or even a few days before you leave. I want more, much more.”My mouth almost wasn’t working, but I tried. “More? What … more … me?”He nodded slowly, holding my eyes with his. “You have nothing to go back to, mom. No job, a small apartment, and memories you don’t need reminders of. I want more for you.”“I won’t guess at this, Nick. What more? What do you want for me, for you?”“Promise me something, that for now on, we will be fully-honest with each other. Not just the words we say, but we don’t hide things for fear of acceptance or understanding.” I nodded and promised. “Why haven’t you found a good man for yourself? Why haven’t you sought out that man who would be your protector and confider?”“Guilt … I always felt …” I stopped and looked at him. “I will, but you tell me why you haven’t found that special woman. I know you have met plenty of good women. Why haven’t you found that one?”He smiled. “Okay … probably fair given everything you have confided to me. It was a mystery to me for a long time why all these nice, smart, attractive women didn’t last with me. I had my own moment of insight when I got the report on you and I sat in my office staring at your picture. It was you. You were always the reason and always have been. No girl or woman measured up to you. There, I said it. Does that scare you away?”I flung myself against him and crushed his mouth with mine. We didn’t separate for minutes; he was as involved in it as I was. When we did break and I chuckled. “You, too. I felt so guilty. My mother’s conservative religious teachings haunted me, convincing me that I needed to be punished, that I needed to suffer for such wicked and sinful thoughts. It fed my depression, created the blackness that almost seemed a solitude from the guilt. I wanted to call you for help, for understanding so many times … but, I was afraid of that one last great rejection.”“Never.”“Then make love to me, let me feel what real love feels like.”He held me tight but said, no. Not that he didn’t want to, but to be sure. He asked that we spend one more night and the following day until he returned home. At that time, he would accept my answer.“I don’t want your response in any way to be motivated by high emotion of the moment. I would be devastated if you felt sorry later on.” That comment alone might have been enough to seal my decision. But I knew what he wanted. He wanted for us, me in particular, to literally sleep on it and live the day with the idea. I got up off the sofa, put our glasses in the sink, and returned to give him a kiss.“Where are you going?”“To bed. The time will pass faster if I can sleep.” I smiled a wicked smile at him, turned and shook my ass at him. Yes, I was getting frisky with him. He told me he wanted this. I knew I wanted this. We just had hours to kill now.I did sleep, a wonderful sleep, with wonderful dreams. I dreamt of being loved, of being held, and being secure and supported. I woke in the morning refreshed and energized. Nick was gone, the house quiet, but for Harley sitting at the patio door, his tail wagging at my appearance. Nick had the yard setup for him. A shaded spot next to the garage and a swinging door in the wall for the hot days. Inside the garage was a spot that was cooler, even on the hottest days. One corner of the back was raked sand for Harley to do his business, which he actually used. Restricted to one area, it was easy to keep picked up and clean.I let him into the house and he sat alongside me as I had something to eat for breakfast with my coffee. After putting on shorts, a tank top, and running shoes, I grabbed the leash for a walk with Harley. Along the way, I met Mrs. Thomas, a woman in her 70’s down the street. She and her husband were just one of the many older couples of the neighborhood and the club community at large. I had a nice talk with her and she was quite nosy about us. She knew Nick well, as everyone seemed to. She said he was very helpful and wonderful with the k**s. She said she noticed I had been there for a few days (the Neighborhood Watch is on duty, it seemed). She asked if we were lovers and I could honestly say we were not. She surprised me by winking and asking if we will be. I looked around conspiratorially and said we are figuring that out.I went for a swim and lay myself out under the sun. It felt wonderful and I thought about this as a life. The weather, the house, my Nick, the care and love, the neighbors, and I knew my decision couldn’t possibly change. I got up, checked the time, saw that I had plenty of time being just after noon. I showered, dressed, grabbed the car keys and headed for a nice boutique I spotted earlier. I could verbally give him my answer tonight, but I wanted to show him. I wanted him to know instantly and to see his reaction at that moment.I had had high hopes that a new job and maybe a move would give me the strength and determination to finally climb out of that black hole I had spent so much of my life in. But, it wasn’t until being with Nick this week that I felt in my heart that I was a part of a good, strong life, that my attitude and self-worth could be mine. All I needed was strong support and direction, someone to lead me with strength, respect, and love. I knew where I could find all those things. I knew who could lead me out of the blackness. And, I knew how I was going to give him my answer.* * CHAPTER FOUR: DECISIONS will follow * * Thanks for reading.