A secret tucked away and tied with love.
February 20, 2016
HE SHOULD HAVE FORGOTTEN her long ago.
But her memory did not leave when she did.
He saw her first in pigtails, in the first grade, sitting on the third row, in the second chair from the door.
Darla was always smiling.
And she smiled at him.
But then, Darla smiled at everybody.
He gave her a valentine that year.
She gave him one.
But Darla gave everybody a valentine.
His was handmade.
Hers was store bought.
Darla lived on the rich side of the tracks.
But he never forgot the store bought words on the card: She carries hearts of rosy hue. They carry words of love to you. He kept it in his pocket until the valentine wore out and he wasn’t able to read the words anymore. He then stuck it in his Bible.
They grew up together, he on one side of the classroom, she on the other.
They smiled in the hallway.
They never spoke.
Well, he remembered, she did say, “Hi,” once.
He walked on past.
He could never think of anything to say.
What words would he use?
What do you say to a girl from the rich side of the tracks?
He loved her dearly.
He kept his love a secret.
And one day she graduated and drove away in a red sports car.
It was the color of a valentine.
She didn’t look back.
She didn’t know he was standing there watching her.
She never had.
He had always been the kid wearing patched jeans and feed sack shirt.
She dressed on the rich side of the tracks.
She no longer had pigtails. Her hair was long, black, and silky. She had dimples when she smiled and a beauty spot on her right cheek. She was tall and thin and could have been a model.
He was convinced of it.
The little red car faded from sight, and she faded from his life.
He knew he would never see her again.
Where had she gone?
He often wondered but never found out, although he heard rumors that she had gone to an all-girl college back east and married a stockbroker in New York.
She had, he assumed, moved to the richer side of the tracks.
But one thing he knew for certain.
He would never love another.
He tried once, then again, and finally gave up.
He went to work in his hometown.
He had a job at the church.
His parishioners called him Father.
He heard their sins.
He forgave them and sent them on their way.
At night he dreamed about the girl from the rich side of the tracks and wondered if God held it against him.
It was probably a sin.
Life was full of them.
He was sitting in the confessional when she came back home.
He recognized her immediately. Darla’s hair was long, black, and silky. She had dimples when she smiled, but she was no longer smiling, and there was a beauty spot on her right cheek that looked more like a blemish now. She was tall and thin and, after all these years, could have still been a model.
He saw her.
She didn’t see him.
She was nervously folding and unfolding the handkerchief in her lap.
He immediately opened his Bible and pulled out an old valentine. The only words still visible were carry words of love to you.
He smiled even though it pained him to smile.
“Forgive me, Father,” she said softly. “I have sinned.”
His shoulders grew rigid.
He held his breath.
How could one so lovely have sinned?
What could she have done?
“I hurt someone,” she said.
“I thought I loved him,” she said.
“Did he love you?”
“He said he did.”
“Was he faithful to you?”
“I don’t know.” She paused, wiped a tear from her eye, and said, “He was a never home. He was always on the road. He spent more time with his suitcase than he did with me.”
“It’s an unforgiving world in which we live,” he said, trying to find the right words. “I fear we no longer live in a nine to five world.”
“I left him this morning,” she said. “He begged me to stay, but I left him.”
The priest was puzzled. “Is that the sin you want to confess?”
She sat in silence for a long time.
He could hear her crying softly.
“My sin can never be forgiven,” she said.
“What was it?”
“I broke his heart.”
He sat in silence.
He wondered if she would ever know.
And he knew she wouldn’t.
It wasn’t her first time.
She had broken his heart a long time ago.
He had forgiven her.
He never forgave himself.
My novel, Little Lies, is filled with secrets, broken hearts, and love unforgiven.