I sat cross-legged on the floor in a pool of
pictures. Lost in my world of memories, reached
up to wipe away a strand of hair from my face and
realized I was crying. Another night alone.
Another tomorrow to live through. When did
it get so bad? I don’t remember the exact day.
Something so devastating ought to have a
designated date on the calendar,
The Day He Left Us.
I laughed as Megan skipped down the hall
toward me. Her wet hair tumbled in messy waves to
her waist, and she clung to the towel wrapped
around her, giggling and wrestling to keep it
from the cat. She landed in my lap, a happy little
“Mom, can we just do homework in the morning?
Please? I love you.”
I fought a smile and replied in my most
serious mother’s voice, “I love you, too, Meg.
But nope! Lets go, kiddo.”
I struggled with my painful reflections as I
helped Megan with her homework.
Would it ever get easier? Bedtimes, stories,
kisses, and quiet, the end of another day.
Filled with nervous anticipation I logged on
to the computer. His message popped up
immediately. I tried not to hurry my answer. My
heart hurried for
“Marie? You there?”
“Yes, I’m here,” I typed in reply. I couldn’t contain my
smile. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, honey. How are you?”
“I’m good. Now,” I responded.
“How was your day?”
And on it went. We typed about our day: the
good, the bad--everything. It’s hard to imagine
deriving comfort from text on a screen, but for
months his words had been my only solace.
I met Hunter in a chat room. He lived in
Scottsdale a couple of hours away. At first,
we talked about general things, routine chitchat.
I was cautious about giving him
personal details. As time passed, I shared more
and more. My husband, Bryan, was gone. He’d left
us. The loneliness was terrible, and Hunter was my
support through those first difficult
months. I’m not sure when the balance shifted,
when I realized I Ioved him. Perhaps it was the
night he called for the first time. Hearing his
deep, sexy voice cemented feelings I was trying so
hard to deny. I knew then we had to meet.
I was jarred from my mental meandering by
Megan’s distraught voice.
“Mommy, I’m scared. Come here!”
“I’m here sweetheart. It’s ok now.” I stroked
her sweaty hair back off her forehead
and curled up beside her. “Another bad dream huh?”
“Yes it was icky,” she mumbled. Her crying
settled down to the occasional
hiccup. “Can I sleep with you mommy, please?”
“Of course you can Meg. Come on sweetie. I’ll
tuck you in.”
The nightmares had slowed down. She had them
rarely now, thank goodness. I sat with her until
she went back to sleep, then checked on Jordan. He
was sprawled across the bed, one leg dangling over
the edge. Almost 6 ft tall, he was rapidly out
growing his twin bed. Fifteen was a hard age,
especially without a father. I kissed his cheek
and covered him with the blanket
Hunter and I met at a quaint little café on
the outskirts of Sedona. I had been there
many times and knew the owners well. The
spectacular red rock the region was famous
for dominated the view. It never failed to move me.
I was so nervous. As I sat waiting for him
I took deep breaths. “Get a grip, Maria for
heavens sake.” I whispered it over and over to
myself, a litany of sorts.
When Hunter walked in my heart squeezed. He
was even more in person, his pictures
didn’t do him justice. Mahogany hair curled down
the nape of his neck. His sherry colored eyes were
framed by a strong chiseled face. It was his
smile that almost undid me. I stood up and he
pulled me to him, wrapping his arms around me. We
didn’t speak, just held each other. Those first
moments were indescribable. Feelings of intense
longing surged through me as I breathed in the
smell of him.
We sat in the café until it closed, talking
and laughing. It was as if we had known each
other forever. Neither of us had any clue how
close we were to having the rug pulled out
from under us. Life sometimes has a wretched sense
Dodging the big, gray tomcat lying on the
steps at the entrance of our apartment building, I
rummaged through my purse for the keys. The cat
had it out for me of that I was sure. I’d already
tripped over him twice.
“Meg? Jordan? Hi guys, I’m home. Did you do
your chores and homework?”
“Hi mom. We sure did,” they replied, in
“There’s a message on the machine, we didn’t
check it yet.” Meg skidded down the hall toward
me. “Oh mom, you look so gorgeous. I love that
dress. Is it new?”
This was offered somewhat breathlessly. She’d
been roughhousing with her brother
again I guessed.
“ Yes it is sweetie. Thank- you.” I knew I was
grinning like a fool. I hadn’t felt this
sense of elation in a long time. Making a mental
note to trim Megan’s hair I reached over
and pressed the retrieve button.
It was someone from Phoenix Memorial
Hospital requesting I call them back as soon
as possible. Something in the professional,
conciliatory tone of the speaker bathed my
body in an instant, damp, sweat. With hands that
were not quite steady I dialed the
number she’d supplied.
“Ms Blaten, I am so sorry to have to tell you
this but your husband has been in an
accident. He is currently in surgery. I am not at
liberty to go into detail at this time.
That is the doctor’s position. I do however ask
that you or a close family member come
to the hospital right away.”
“He has no family. Just the children and me.”
I had whispered the comment and
hoped she’d heard. I was finding it hard to
speak. “I’m on my way.”
My heels clicked with resounding finality as
I walked along the corridor to the Intensive Care
Unit. The surgeon greeted me immediately.
“Ms Slaten, your husband was involved in a car
accident, a hit and run. He has suffered damage to
his spinal cord. It is not certain yet how much.
He also has minor lacerations across his face and
neck. He is out of surgery but still sedated. I’m
sure you are anxious to see him.”
I could only nod in reply. Was it shock that
prevented my voice from working? As I turned to go
he put his hand on my arm.
“Ms Slaten there will be some paralysis. How
much and for how long we cant say. I’m sorry I
can’t tell you more.” He smiled as if to take some
of the sting out of his words.
“Permanent?” It was all I could manage.
“Possibly, yes. It is still to soon to tell.
He paused, “I understand he wasn’t wearing his
No of course he wasn’t. It had been an
ongoing bone of contention between us, the
necessity of wearing it that is. He would realize
that now. Too late.
Walking into his room I was shocked to see
him lying there so pale and lifeless.
Vulnerable. It was hard for me to see him that
way. It was never a word I would associate
with him. I reached for his hand. He didn’t stir.
Had he killed the love when he left me
for Melissa? Or was it still there buried under
the layers of pain, resentment and anger.
Would I ever know?
Snapped back abruptly from my careening
thoughts I looked up to see another
Doctor, this time a specialist walking toward me.
He was head of the team of surgeons who had
operated on Bryan. An imposing man, his face
reflected the hardness of his profession. His eyes
were kind though, and it was this I focused on as
I waited for him to continue.
“Marie. May I call you that?” He placed his
hand on my arm and the warmth that radiated from
his touch comforted me.
“Yes, of course.” I coughed, an attempt to clear
the lump in my throat. “How bad is it Doctor?”
“Basically, at this time, your husband is
paralyzed from the waist down. We still
aren’t sure how much this will improve, if even at
all. Spinal injuries are one of the
hardest to treat. It is also very difficult to
predict the outcome of surgery. I’m sorry to
be so blunt. But I feel its best to give you the
worst case scenario.” He paused and stepped
back. “I understand you are separated?”
“Yes, we have been for over a year now. Bryan
was supposed to have started filing
the papers.” I stopped, embarrassed to see I’d
“Your husband is going to need extensive care
once he leaves the hospital. Possibly
twenty-four hour care. Does he have family close
“No. No family other than us.” The enormity
of what he was saying slapped me, like an ice cold
splash in the face.
“I see, well I can give you the number of our
counseling service here at the hospital.
They can tell you how to progress from here.” His
tone was dismissive.
Clearly his job was done.
I thanked him, the words ‘in sickness and in
health until death do us part’ had suddenly become
my reality. They echoed in my head, mocking me.
The children took the news remarkably well.
Whether this was because of the resilience and
optimism that is so predominant in youth, or the
fact that they now had their father ‘back’ I
wasn’t sure, but I was relieved regardless.
Knowing I’d stalled long enough I reached
for the phone. Hunter picked up on the
first ring. I finally did what I had fought since
I heard the news. I broke down and sobbed.
Deep wrenching sobs that twisted painfully in my
gut. I cried until I couldn’t anymore. He
didn’t say anything just let me cry. I tried to
explain it to him.
“He is still my husband I have to do what’s
right.” I wasn’t sure who I was trying
harder to convince, him or me.
I heard the resignation in his voice, the
words he left unsaid, as he held back his own
tears. He told me no matter what he would always
be there for me. I couldn’t speak. It
hurt to much. I mumbled a goodbye and put the
I sat in my living room for a long time
staring out the window. The trees swayed in the
wind, groggy sentinels silhouetted against the
inky blackness that was night. They
looked as desolate as I felt. He was finally
coming home. All those months I had prayed
he would. My prayers had been answered. The irony
of it was almost humorous.
The next day as I was walking to Bryan’s
room, the nurse motioned to me to come over to her
at the station. Bryan was conscious but groggy.
This news was met with mixed feelings. It would be
the first time I had seen him since he walked out
on us a year ago. Thanking the nurse I continued
on to the room. His eyes were closed. Careful not
to disturb him I sat down in the chair beside the
bed. He must have sensed my presence because he
opened his eyes. Their cobalt brilliance no longer
took my breath away.
“Maria, you’re here.” he whispered. “I didn’t
think you’d come.”
“I’m here Bryan.” It took so much willpower
not to break down and sob.
“Will you stay?”
“Yes I will, for as long as you need me.”
“ I was so wrong Ria. I can never take back
the hurt I caused you and the kids, I know
that. But if you could find it in your heart to
give me another chance, to forgive me, I will
make it all better.” He squeezed my hand tightly.
The beseeching look in his eyes gave me
pause. Where had the arrogant, charming
man I once knew disappeared to? The strange thing
was, I felt almost embarrassed
“Bryan, I’m not sure I can do that. For the
kids and myself I need to learn to forgive
you, but I cant give you another chance.You can
never make it all better. It’s too late for that
now. I could never trust or
respect you again.” I realized that I meant
every word, and with that realization came a sense
of liberation. I didn’t need him
Bryan has made a complete recovery. It’s
taken six months of intensive rehabilitation,
a tough journey for all of us. The kids have
embraced their father completely, welcoming
him back as if, his leaving never happened. Of
course they were never aware of the details, only
that their Dad had some things to work through. I
am glad they have adjusted so easily. It took
Bryan a long time to accept that our marriage
was over, but now that the divorce is final he has
comes to terms with it all.
My hands trembled as I dialed Hunter’s
number. I can’t remember how many times
I’d picked up the phone only to chicken out. We
hadn’t spoke in eight months. What if he
has met someone else? What if he doesn’t want me?
anymore? The questions tumbled haphazardly through
my mind as the phone rang. My heart sank as I
heard the message
“Hunter, its me. Maria. I wasn’t sure if I
should call. Perhaps I‘ll try you again another
“Honey I’m here. Sorry, I was outside. I’m
glad you called. How are you doing?” he
“I’m fine. Great actually.” I replied. A
whisper of hope rippled
“Well that’s good.”
“ Bryan made a full recovery, which is
wonderful. The kids accepted him back
with open arms.” Sheer nervousness had me
stumbling over my words.
“ Oh Ria, I am happy for you all. I have
thought of you often.” he answered, his tone
Was it regret I heard now?
“Thank-you, umm Hunter, Bryan and I are
“Divorced? Oh I am so sorry. I thought,
presumed, he would stay with you, love.”
“No, its fine. I’m fine. I wanted the divorce
not Bryan. It was my decision.” I
reassured him. “I will explain it all to you when
I see you, if you want to see me that is.”
“Of course I want to see you. I have missed
you so much. I just thought that
you had made a choice to stay with Bryan,” he
“Well at first I thought that was the right
thing to do but then I realized that I couldn’t
ever trust or respect him again. And I am entitled
to have that. I am worth more than that.” I
sighed. “It’s hard to put into words what I mean I
don’t expect you to understand. I wasn’t sure if
you would see me. I thought there might
someone else. I mean I thought you could have met
someone else.” I was babbling
“No, there’s no-one else honey. I don’t want
anyone else. I thought of you everyday,
praying you’d change you mind, and I understand
exactly what you saying. I’m proud of
you. You did the right thing. I love you Ria”
His words swept over me, a warm wave of
happiness. “I love you too Hunter.”
It was going to be all right now, I knew that
deep inside. A chapter in my life may
have closed, but I was turning the page to start
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|Reviewed by Basit Ghafoor
|Wow, I almost got teared up!Lisa was this a real life story????Anyways it was a great story. Thanx for sharing it with us.
Love and a kiss
|Reviewed by harold
|When i read the story, all i can say is that it's a good read, great voice if you want my comment. The only problem that i saw is that "hunter" seems to be...well impossible. but of course some people think that the impossible man is the typical man to head off a romance novel.
just a thought...:)
|Reviewed by Jack Roberts
|Great story Lisa! Very moving and a pleasure to read.