(Linda R. )-Patricia Vender was a cautious woman. Her phone number was unlisted, which was not an unusual choice for a woman, but she would take a normal caution and go one step further. Where some women might not list their phone number, Patricia also never gave her name--not on her answering machine and not on her voicemail. Indeed, she wouldn't even give her name if someone asked her point blank on the other line, "Is this Patricia?" Her reply might be a simple, "Why?" Or, she might take it even further and ask back, "Who are you and why do you want to know?"
(Gumbo Writer) With all her precautions and safeguards in place, Patricia couldn't have been more surprised when she picked up her ringing phone in the kitchen and heard a deep smooth voice say from the other end, "Well, hello, Patricia. It's been too long."
(Small Footprints) The hair on the back of her neck went up. This was not a welcome voice. She was immediately tossed back to a different time ... a dangerous time ... one she'd rather forget.
(Willa Fae) And one she thought she had managed to forget...until now! Why had she not listened to her gut and let the answering machine get it? Much too slowly she said, "I'm sorry... you must have a wrong number."
(Pat) She put the phone back into the cradle and buried her face in her trembling hands. Her mind was racing in a dozen different directions. She could not still her wildly beating heart. She knew she had to organize her thoughts and decide what to do next.
(Linda R. ) She went up to her attic office and reached around in a back closet for a small wood box. She opened the lid and pulled out a picture. It was him, from a time when they were much younger. She stared at it for minutes, then she placed it back in the box and pulled out the letter.
(Joanne) There had to be a way to forget, to erase the memory. She took the letter back downstairs, set it carefully in the fireplace, and set a match to it. The paper curled at the edges, then melted completely into the flame.
(Terri T. ) She stepped back, her spine bent with the weight of memories.Why now? She threw a warning at the phone; then grabbed it in her fist and thrust it to the floor causing spinters of plastic to race like water droplets over the tiles.
(Barbara) As Patricia stooped to pick up the pieces, she heard a loud knock on the front door. Every fiber of her being told her it was him. Robert had found her.
(Marilyn ) "What do you want?" Patricia said.
Robert let out a long, slow breath. "You're still angry with me after all this time."
Patricia wrenched her arm as she slammed the door. It bounced back and hit her in the cheek because one large cowboy boot had stopped it from closing. "Patricia, I need to talk to you," Robert said, "I'm getting married."
(Linda R. ) "Why did you come here to tell me that?" She asked, looking tormented by his arrival.
"I tried calling you, you didn't talk to me. It took me years to find you." He moved into the house.
She drew back further from him. "There's a reason I've avoided--even hidden from you all these years. You know as well as I do what it is. I can't believe you'd take such a risk by coming here. What if they saw you?"
(Barbara)Robert was as handsome as ever. He looked at her with those deep blue eyes she had once loved so much."You know I'd risk anything for you," he said as he reached out for her hand.
(Joanne)"Even a marriage? You'd put another woman at risk with you?"
"There's one way for this to be over. Just tell the truth, that I didn't do it."
She turned away. "How?" she whispered. "They won't believe me."
He paused before saying quietly, "They will if you marry me."
(Linda R. )"It's too late for that Robert. So many years have passed--I won't cover up one mistake by rushing into another."
"What's happened to you? You've changed."
"You happened to me, Robert--you and Tom, Joanie and the rest of them. Your crazy ideas." She paused almost stopping herself. "I should tell you, I destroyed the letter."
(Pat ) Her mind flew into a frenzy. Had he just asked her to marry him? How could that be? He told her that he was getting married. None of this made any sense and her head was throbbing with the flood of emotions, confusion, and fear that she was experiencing!
(Avily) Pushing at her temples in a vain attempt to block the whirling thoughts, she glanced up at him. "You might as well come in. Coffee?"
"You know I'm not here for coffee."
She nodded, leading him to the living room. "What did you tell her? I mean, about what happened?"
(Joanne)"The truth. Everything that was in the letter."
She poured the coffee with her back to him.
"You need to come clean," he insisted. "Your family needs to know who was driving the car that ..." His gaze shifted to the two suitcases standing at the back door. "You're leaving?"
(Willa Fae)"That's what I do best, isn't it? "
"NO! Not this time! You're going to stay and we'll face this together. It's time!......It's time for us!"
Her eyes widened and her mouth opened. She had no words. Was this the same person she once knew?
(Barbara)Patricia recoiled in disbelief. "Time for us! Time for us?" she screamed. "How can it be time for us? You're getting married?"She was close to tears.
There was sadness in Robert's eyes, too, as he looked directly into her weary face.
(Avily)"I was getting married... until I came here and saw you. There's no way I can go through with it."
The echo of her palm slapping his face struck her with the realization of what she'd done.She clapped a hand over her mouth. "Oh, Robert," she murmured. "I didn't mean to... But what do you mean by coming in here, after all this time, and telling me this?"
(Angie Ledbetter) "I had to get your attention, Trish." He slowly raised his calloused right hand to her shoulder, as if asking permission.
Trish felt rooted to the spot by the weight of so many years' heartache, instead of a mere man's hand. Her head swam with the igniting flames in her belly. The ones she thought she'd tamped down forever.(Barbara)"I've searched for you" Robert said, touching a finger to a tear that ran down Patricia's face. "I never wanted you to leave me. I can't let you go. Never again! Please come back with me, so we can stop living this lie."
(Linda R. )"Did you really tell the investigator--what was her name--Ms. Marsh?--everthing that was in the letter?"
"Yes, I did." He answered."And, they didn't come to arrest me--how can that be?"
"I didn't tell them where you are. Your family doesn't even know where you are--only me.
(Pat) She knew that if Robert had found her, it would only be a matter of time until the investigator found her. She felt limp. She said, "What shall I do now?" She sat down with a look of resignation on her face.
(Barbara) Robert crossed the room to gaze out the window overlooking the backyard and the green hills beyond. His mood was thoughtful and steady. "You must believe what I'm going to tell you. The accident was not your fault nor mine. I know some of our friends said terrible things and you ran away before the investigation was finished. I sent the letter asking you to come back, but you didn't answer. After that I lost contact with you. I could never give up until I got you back.
"Robert, I burned your letter just before you came here today. I saved it all these years; it was the only thing I had left of you. When I touched it...when I read it, I could still feel you near me. But I had to let go of it, I had to get you our of my mind and heart."
Robert continued, "I hired a private investigator. She eventually found you here, hundreds of miles away from me, and gave me your address and phone number."
"You were always in my thoughts," Robert said, slowly moving toward her again. "It was almost too much for me when you disappeared. Now that I've found you, it's not important what the others think. Please... please forgive the things I said in anger; the things that others said. All that matters is that we are together now. The rest will take care of itself. We have to go back and face the results of the accident together. We'll get through it. You're going back with me.... I won't let you say no."
Robert took both of Patricia's hands in his and pulled her up to him; his eyes told the story.... whatever the future brought, he would protect and stand by her forever.
Thanks to all who participated in my Relay Writing. We'll do this again in the near future, so keep an "eye out" for the next project.
In the meantime, HAVE A WONDERFUL THANKSGIVING DAY!!