During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, 50 cents of all Kindle pre-orders of will go the the American Cancer Society. First chapter follows. Dancing on a High Wire is also available in print through CreateSpace estore, click here.
She felt like she had been punched in the stomach. Nausea, dizziness, swept over her.
“I have to sit down.”
“You are already sitting down,” a voice gently stated.
“Then I have to stand up, do something,” she said but she remained sitting.
“Sara, talk to me. Are you okay?” the young man asked.
“I’m not okay. I gotta get out of here. I have to go home.” A ray of sunlight slipped through the window onto the table. How could it be sunny, she asked herself?
“You are home, Sara. This is your apartment.”
“Oh,” she said as she looked around. Nothing looked familiar. Nothing seemed real. It didn’t seem possible. This couldn’t be her home. Nothing looked the same.
“Then you better go,” she told the man sitting next to her.
“Not till I know you are okay.”
“I’m not okay, but you have to go. Please go. I can’t deal with this now.”
“Okay, if you say so,” he reluctantly got up and started for the door then turned back to look at her. “Call me, or I’ll call you later, okay?”
Sara didn’t respond as he let himself out the door.
“What has just happened?” she asked herself as she sat, the nausea giving way to numbness. This couldn’t be real. Couldn’t be happening to her. She had her whole life ahead of her, a life she had planned out, a life she had been going to share with Jeff. Now that was all gone.
Was it only yesterday that she had been in love? Two students at Michigan State University, young and in love. She remembered …
“Hi ya, sweetheart,” the lanky young man snuck up behind the petite figure sitting on a stone bench and staring intensely beyond the book in her lap, across the expanse of green grass behind the administration building and sloping down to the rapids of the Red Cedar River. Across the concrete steps on the neighboring shore were fat ducks sleeping in the sun. Across the expanse of campus the bright spring sky was broken only by the outline of white clouds. In one fell swoop, Jeff engulfed her from behind into a giant bear hug that knocked the book off her lap and onto the sidewalk and almost lifted her bodily off the bench.
“Jeff, what are you doing?”
Jeff continued to hold her in his bear hug, resting his head on her head with a wild toothy grin and rocking gently back and forth, his arms clasped firmly together under her full breasts.
“You’re crazy. Let me go. People are staring.”
“So let them stare.”
“You’re impossible,” Sara said with a true note of frustration but inside she loved it, loved the feel of his nearness towering above her. She loved the strong arms around her waist, loved his impetuousness and his open displays of affection, so different from her own inhibitions. Somehow Jeff, with his warmth and enthusiasm, had broken through her tight space that kept others at a distance and had done it so genuinely that she had not felt offended. He wasn’t like the other guys who invaded her space, tried to thrust themselves into her personal atmosphere, not because they liked her and respected her but because they wanted something from her. He gave his friendship and love so that she wanted to give to him in return. Because he made no demands she felt free to give, whatever she wanted to give, and both slowly and like a whirlwind he had zoomed into her life and won her over.
Theirs was an easy friendship, easy and natural. Not full of the silly hassles that seemed to beset the relationships of other couples they knew. They had met in the dorm and shared several of those general first-year courses that no one was allowed to escape. Together they went through all the frustrations and traumas of the first year at a mega-university. They both came from small towns USA, Michigan style, middle class families.
As Sara allowed herself to relax in Jeff’s arms, Jeff let go and sidled up next to her on the bench. Sara felt both a feeling of relief from the embarrassment of being stared at by others, seeing two people so obviously in love, but also a sense of disappointment at having the warmth of his arms removed from her.
“You love it and you know it,” Jeff remarked as he sat next to her.
Sara had to smile, “I love you, not everything you do. Look what you did to my book, all my notes have been scattered all over and I’ve lost my place.”
“You weren’t really studying anyway.”
“What do you mean I wasn’t studying, how do you know?” Sara enjoyed fighting with Jeff, even when she knew he was right and she was just being stubborn. Jeff knew it too. He enjoyed their little verbal repartees. So far they had never had a real argument, a serious fight, just teasing and love spats.
Jeff stared at Sara with his big impetuous grin. Sara couldn’t resist his smile, yet because of that she felt she had to withstand his attraction.
“Stop smiling at me like that. I’m serious.” Jeff just continued to grin. “And I was too studying. I’ve been going over some of these pictures of paintings by early impressionists and studying their style. I’m thinking I might do a series of paintings imitating their techniques and try to incorporate them into my own style, or something like that,” Sara lied. Jeff just grinned, further confusing her.
“And then you know, I’ve been studying that time period, trying to put it into perspective with the painters of the times, their lifestyles, and how that influenced their paintings . . . Darn, will you please stop staring at me like that.
“But I like to stare at you.”
“Just stop it,” Sara was starting to get angry. “All right, have it your way. You can sit there and grin all day if you want. I’m leaving.” Sara closed her book and prepared to leave. She took one last look at Jeff before making her move, not really wanting to leave. Jeff was still grinning. He loved it when she was angry like that.
“I was just thinking,” he said and paused. “I was just thinking, we ought to discuss what we’re going to do in the future.”
“What are you talking about?”
Jeff became suddenly serious. “Our future, together, you know.”
“No, I don’t know.” She paused before adding, “You’re not talking about marriage, are you?”
“Why not? We’ll be seniors soon, and then graduates, why not do this together, plan a life together.”
“Marriage, you and me?”
“It would be difficult to do so alone.”
“Jeff, I . . .” She didn’t know what to say. They were still so young, he was so impetuous. And what about a career? And yet Jeff was so supportive of her art, what better person to have by her side while she built a career?
“But we’re both so young.”
“More time for us to be together. We aren’t teenagers any more. If we get married now we have a better chance of making it sixty years.”
“What about our parents?”
“Mine love you as much as I do.”
“It’s so soon, so impulsive . . .” So unlike her, she thought, she who was always so careful, who liked a plan despite her artistic side. It wasn’t exactly her dream proposal and yet … here he was, her dream man. She couldn’t imagine finding anyone she loved more. She looked across the expanse of lawn and river to the opposite side as she pondered the question, avoiding his gaze. How could she say no?
“Yes,” she finally said, much to Jeff’s relief.
“I knew you would say yes if I kept asking,” Jeff said as he picked her up and planted a kiss on her lips. “Let’s celebrate.”
That had been last spring. What had happened since then to lead to this? It was just yesterday, just this morning that she still had that illusion of love. Now it was gone. Would it ever return? Popped by one phrase, the bubble that had been her life had exploded. What would she do now?
Her roommate found her at the kitchen table, still sitting where Jeff had left her that morning.
“Sara, are you okay?”
Sara appreciated the concern in her voice but it seemed to be spoken through a tunnel.
“Sara,” Anne repeated, finally breaking through to whatever place she had retreated.
Sara looked up, “Oh, hi, when did you get here?”
“Jeff called me. He told me what happened. Are you okay?”
“Sure, yeah, I’m fine. I’m okay,” Sara repeated.
“You don’t look okay.”
“No, I’m fine, just fine. I just need a little fresh air, yes, fresh air will help,” she said and proceeded to try to stand up only to have her legs buckle underneath her as her head swam. Anne stepped in beside her to help hold her up.
“Here, let me help you. Let’s get you to a more comfortable seat.” She helped Sara edge her way to the couch, slipped her into her favorite spot and wrapped a blanket around her.
“You just sit there. I’m going to fix you some tea. Sit back. I’ll take care of everything. Everything is going to be okay,” Anne assured her. Sara knew she was wrong.