Mondays are for Excerpts

6 Oct

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

“Why?” Tessa asked moments later, the most important question of all, the question that should put her worries to rest, her past behind her and free her up to live her future—a future free of deception, fear and betrayal.

Adrian stood, walked to the window, holding both his hands behind his back. He seemed lost in his thoughts for a while. When he spoke, his voice sounded as if he were returning from a different universe.

“Why? Why do people cheat? Why do people fall in love? Why do they hurt their loved ones? Why did I get involved with your mother even though we both were married?”

Adrian returned to the sofa and sat next to Tessa, slightly facing her. “I can tell you that I was trapped in a marriage that didn’t give me the things I wanted, needed, craved. I can tell you that I wanted a divorce even before I met your mother or after we became involved. I can tell you that I lived thinking of Ana night and day, a living hell for so many years, I lost track of them. I can tell you so many things now, but honestly, none of them would change what we’ve done.

“They’d be nothing but excuses, and I doubt that’s what you want to hear. I made a few mistakes in my life, mistakes I am not proud of, but if there’s one thing I’ve done right it’s getting to know Ana, loving her and being so lucky to be loved by her. She had been my world, my everything. I still love her with the same intensity, the same passion I did thirty years ago.” He didn’t bother to wipe his tears away, his face contorted with pain.

“How long had you been together?”

“I returned to Bucharest after several years and I didn’t look for her, trying to go on with my life. But we met again and we tried to resist . . . to stay away. I asked her if we could maybe just have a cup of coffee now and then. For about a year we did that. One day, she worked the nightshift and I waited for her in the morning. It was pouring rain outside and I offered to give her a ride home. We were together after that, until she got the news about the cancer.

“She called me and told me to come to our apartment, she had news for me. I got there thinking she finally decided to accept my marriage proposal. Instead she told me that day would be our last day together,” Adrian said and a new wave of tears filled up his eyes, his voice choked. He struggled to speak again, swallowing hard a few times.

He cleared his throat and continued, “She told me that she wanted me to always remember her as the woman I fell in love with, whole, healthy, alive, and not some butchered, empty body she’d turn into after the mastectomy and the chemo. I told her all I wanted was to grow old with her, no matter how little time we had left, but she was adamant about it. She made me promise not to ever try to contact her and not to come to her funeral.

“I was weak and visited her once in the hospital after the surgery, but she didn’t see me, still under anesthesia. I never really said goodbye to her. And here I am, a year after she has passed away, still waiting for her to come back to me.”

Tessa had been brave since she got there, keeping her emotions in control. She knew her mama loved this man. She knew they’d fallen prey to a passion that consumed them even after they stopped seeing each other. She knew they’d been too weak to resist each other.

She came wanting to be mad at Adrian, mad at her mama, and judge them for being unfaithful. Judge them, point her fingers at them and scream for making her feel shameful for something she hadn’t done. But she couldn’t. The anger inside her heart mysteriously disappeared, replaced by acceptance. And forgiveness. And hope.

Tessa put her hands on top of his and when Adrian raised his eyes to hers, she smiled and said, “I’m tired of being mad, I’m tired of hurting. I want to live in the present, free of the past’s burdens. You loved Mama and she loved you back. I can’t promise much, but if you let me, if you allow me in your life, I’d be willing to try . . . try to accept you. Don’t get me wrong, I had a father, a father that loved and raised me. But knowing what you and Mama had, the love you gave her and how happy you made her . . . I’m at peace with that.”

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