A Prayer AnsweredbyLonelyMom©
(This story is a continuation. It isn't necessary, but you may wish to read the first chapter, "The Secret Life of the Mature Woman". In either case, enjoy.)
The morning sun was shining brightly as my son, Robert and I made our way into St Joseph's church for Sunday mass. Rob had complained bitterly about going to church all morning and it had been a real struggle but I was happy to have him with me. I had been attending this church for as far back as my memory could stretch and had even attended St. Joseph's Catholic School since it opened its doors when I was in the fourth grade. It made me feel nice inside as we were greeted by old friends and familiar faces as we made our way to a pew about midway up the aisle. I, in particular, felt like I really needed to be here.
I had been feeling such tremendous guilt ever since the shameless way I had acted with Mark nearly two weeks ago. Mark was a young black man only half my age who had been my tennis instructor. I had been living in mortal terror since that day, afraid that someone would find out and word would spread throughout our small community like wildfire. When you live in a town with only four hundred inhabitants there is no such thing as a secret for very long. So far, I hadn't heard any rumblings that my indiscretion had become public knowledge.
Mark had attempted to call me twice, but I had not returned his calls. I had called the gym where he taught tennis lessons and left a message that I was sick and would not be coming to my lessons for a couple of weeks. It wasn't an excuse that I could use forever, but at least it gave me some time to think about how I was ever going to straighten out this mess and resume my previous dull and predictable life.
The mass began and although nobody would have guessed it from my outward appearance, I was praying for forgiveness inside. The priests and nuns had always taught us that if you prayed hard enough, your prayers would be answered. My meditations were interrupted by an usher who was asking me to slide in a little further into the pew. I did so while looking up to see who it was that had arrived late and would be sitting next to me.
Oh my God! It was Mark!
I'm sure my face must have turned every shade of red known to man. I'm sure he saw the look of sheer panic in my eyes. Mark only nodded his head to me and smiled a greeting. I turned around forward again, but the blood was pounding so hard in my ears that I don't think that I heard one word of what was being said. I was dead certain that everyone in the congregation could tell that this forty-eight year old mother of six, who had sat in this very church every Sunday had lain with this 24 year old black man. That she had opened her legs wantonly and allowed him to take her over and over again all afternoon on that dreadful day. Looking back now, I know that was pretty silly. However, at the time I was sure that God was punishing me as I deserved to be punished.
But, doesn't he look great! He is so handsome in that suit and tie. Much different than the last time I saw him when he was completely naked and bringing me to the point of such ecstasy that I thought I had died and gone straight to heaven. I remember when he --
Stop that Sandra! What is the matter with you? Haven't you gotten yourself into enough of a mess already?
Mass progressed normally and, thank God, forty-eight years of training had conditioned me to know when to stand, when to sit, and when to kneel.
Kneel?? Like I had knelt before this man, doing things to him that would have surely gotten me kicked out of this very church forever? Using my tongue, that would soon be receiving communion, to greedily lick up and down his beautiful brown hardness until he had exploded inside my warm, wet mouth and I had hungrily swallowed every drop as if I were a starving woman?
I shook my head and concentrated on paying attention to the priest. Eventually, it came time to pass the collection basket. I placed my envelope with my donation in the basket and turned to pass it to Mark. As I did, our hands touched for just a moment and my breath caught as I had a flash of those magnificent hands touching me as they had that day. Expertly caressing me in all the places that I so love to be touched. His fingers, so powerful, yet so gentle as he made my body writhe with pleasure until I almost had to beg for mercy.
Oh, God, please -- Why are you doing this to me? I have sinned and I am heartily sorry. I will never, ever, ever do such a shameless thing again. I was weak. I was confused. I will try to do better if You will just forgive me this once.
When Communion came I made my way up the aisle towards the priest. I found that my legs were shaking. Surely this would be the moment when my punishment would be meted out and my shame would be made public knowledge. However, just the opposite seemed to occur. As I accepted the Eucharist I felt a sense of calm come over me. I almost wept at my relief as I made my way back to my seat.
As I returned to the pew, I noticed that Rob and Mark were both missing. I was used to my son being gone. He always got up and left during Communion and waited for me outside. It was a small concession to make in order to have him accompany me. Mark must be in the same habit. It must be a generational thing. We never would have done such a thing while I was growing up.
Actually, I was glad to have the pew to myself at that moment. I bowed my head and gave thanks with all my soul. While kneeling there, it came to me what I had to do. I couldn't keep running from Mark. I had to make a point of talking to him as one adult to another and make him see that the way I had acted was not who I was. I had to make him see that I was the one to blame and I was sorry that I had ignored him during the interim, but that we could never repeat what we had done.
As the service ended, I left the church with a renewed strength. I had asked for guidance and my prayers had been answered. I had begun to believe that there was a way out of my predicament and I was bound and determined to put it behind me.
I was mildly surprised when I didn't see Robert waiting for me in the vestibule, so I wandered out into the sunshine where there were groups of parishioners chatting and visiting as always. I said hello to a few friends, but my eyes were looking all about for my son. Finally I saw him. He and Mark were kicking a soccer ball back and forth in the small park across the street. I remembered seeing that ball in my van and had meant to take it out, but it had somehow slipped my mind.
I stopped and watched them cavorting about like a couple of goofballs. I smiled to myself as I watched Robert moving with the ease of a natural athlete. All of my children had been quite athletic. Luckily, they had inherited that gene from my ex-husband, Bill's side.
Mark, too, moved with a grace that reminded me of a jungle cat. Of course, I had seem him displaying his athletic prowess many times during our tennis lessons, but it felt different watching him he when he thought he was unobserved. Even in his dress shoes and suit pants, he moved in such a way that would make any woman, young or old, take notice.
"Such a handsome young man", I was startled from my reverie by Doris Graham, a long time friend of the family.
"What?" I stammered as I felt the blood rushing to my face.
"Your son, Robert. He turned out to be such a handsome young man. Just like Bill was."
There it was. I had become an expert at interpreting underlying meanings in other people's comments. Doris was 72 years old and I had known her from the time I was a little girl. What she was telling me was that women of her generation knew how to keep a man happy and that I was a big failure that should be looked on with pity. I choked back my first impulse, which was to lash out at her, but I knew deep down, that she couldn't help it. We had definitely been raised in different times and with different values.
"Thank you, Doris," I finally stammered.
I broke away from all of the knots of people and made my way across the street to corral Rob so that we could be on our way. His father was expecting him so that they could go up to our family cabin for a couple of days and I knew how Bill could get if you were even a minute later than scheduled.
They broke up their game and came running when they saw me. Robert looked a mess now with his shirt untucked and his hair looking quite wild. Again, I knew that Bill would be placing another check mark in my negative column.
Robert was a little out of breath as he blurted out "Mom, I told Mr. Stephens that we could give him a ride home. He walked all of the way here"
I hesitated for just a moment and Mark said, "That's alright, Mrs. Collins. I can walk. I wouldn't want you going way out of your way".
Before I could even reply, Robert interrupted with, "It's not out of the way, Mr. Stephens. We're heading out towards Bergman road anyway".
At this point, what could I do? I put on my "good mom" smile and told Mark he was welcome to come along.
With that, we all piled in and started out. Robert and Mark jabbered on and on about one sport or another. I was kind of thankful at being left out of the conversation because as the distance to Bill's house shrank, my nerves became more and more wound up. I could feel my sweat braking out all over my body and silently prayed that it wouldn't show through my dress.
When we pulled up, Rob jumped out of the front passenger's door almost before we came to a stop. Nobody was out front and the door was closed and I had begun to think we make take off again without incident. Mark had just slid out of the sliding door to get into the front seat, when the front door of the house opened. Bill stepped outside and had started to raise his hand in a wave when he saw Mark and his hand froze in mid-wave.
I knew Bill's view on racial matters and could only begin to imagine the thoughts that were zooming through his head. He shouted a greeting to Rob, but his eyes never left what was taking place at the van. Mark climbed in and either hadn't caught what had transpired or he had chosen not to notice.
Just then, I saw two other people come out of the house and move around Bill to look out at us. His sister, Josephine had never really liked me and when she saw who my passenger was, her face became very tight and you didn't have to be a mind reader to know what was going on inside her closed little mind.
Around the other side stepped Tiffany (or Bethany, or Buffy, or whatever the hell her name was), Bill's new girlfriend. She was wearing a tank top and cutoff shorts and she looked to be the very image of the All- American 23 year old sweetheart. I hated her more at that moment than I've ever hated anyone.
I gave a clumsy wave good-bye and put the van into gear as quickly as possible. We pulled away and (bless his heart) Mark allowed me my silence. He didn't try to make any witty comments or start babbling about any other subject just to get my mind off of what had just happened.
As I drove along, tears started coming from my eyes. I wiped them away quickly and hoped that Mark hadn't noticed. He didn't need to see me acting like a big baby. That could wait until I was back home again.
Slowly, I began to regain my composure and at last, we pulled up in front of Mark's house. I remembered my earlier resolve to have a talk with Mark and as I started to open my mouth he said, "Would you like to come in?"
My emotions were so raw that I was afraid that I would start blubbering again if I started our talk. I decided to accept his invitation. How would it have looked to anyone passing by if I had been sitting there crying my eyes out with this young black man who was only half my age?
We entered his home and I saw that it was sparsely furnished, but I was pleasantly surprised by how neat it was. I laughed to myself because I had assumed that Mark, being a bachelor, would not be the greatest of housekeepers. As I looked around Mark asked me if he could get me anything. I asked for a glass of ice water more as an excuse to gather my wits than anything else.
Mark returned with my water and we both took a seat on the sofa, his one piece of furniture in the living room. I took a sip and thought about how I was going to begin. Before I could start, Mark told me that he thought Robert was a great kid. He said that he had a great time showing him a couple of tricks with the soccer ball and that Rob had been a quick study.
I smiled because there is nothing in the world that will make any mom smile more than hearing nice things about her children. Mark then commented that Rob's father seemed to love him very much. I knew I had to say something to him about the looks that had been shot his way at Bill's house. As I made a clumsy effort to offer an apology, Mark placed his hand over mine and looked at me with his soft brown eyes.
"Sandra, you are one of the kindest souls that I have ever met. I can't believe you were ever married to a man like that."
I tried to tell him that it hadn't always been that way. I told Mark that at the beginning Bill had been a very tender and fun loving person. Before I knew it, I started pouring my heart out about my marriage and my divorce.
I don't know why I had picked this time to bare my soul. It certainly wasn't the conversation that I had intended to have. Perhaps it was because I never really had a chance to say any of these things before. My friends would always express their sympathy, but whenever I tried to open up, they would stop me with some platitude about how I was better off without him or how I would meet someone else. I could tell that it made them uncomfortable and I soon learned to avoid the subject altogether.
Perhaps another reason, though, was because Mark was such a good listener. He kept eye contact with me and seemed to be really interested. There were no glances out the window or at his watch, nor did he look as if the topic was making him uncomfortable.
As I talked, I felt a knot growing in my chest. Without realizing it I had clenched my hands into fists as all the frustrations and the sense of loss welled up inside me. I felt a tear coming to my eye. It wasn't long before it was followed by many more.
Mark handed me a tissue and placed his arm around my shoulders for comfort. There was nothing sexual about his gesture. It was just his big heart reaching out to a friend that was in need.
I dabbed the tissue at my eyes and tried to take a few deep breaths to regain some semblance of composure. Soon the sobbing stopped and I shook my head to show Mark that I knew I was being a silly old lady who shouldn't be unburdening herself on him like that. I knew that I must have looked absolutely dreadful now and I wanted nothing more than to find a graceful way of leaving. I finally concluded with an apology for the looks that Bill, Jo, and Tiffany (or maybe Bethany or Buffy) had exchanged earlier.
Mark gave a soft chuckle and told me that he was used to that sort of thing. He said that he almost didn't notice it anymore. Mark looked away as he said that last part, but I noticed a tightening around his eyes and his body seemed just a bit more rigid.
I sensed that this was not the truth but I didn't say anything. I just maintained eye contact and waited for him to continue. After a moment, he started to open up about how difficult it had been for him, as a black man, to move to this small town in Vermont.
What he said was true. For as far back as I could remember we had only had a handful of blacks in our town. Attitudes ran more like those of Bill's around here. I couldn't imagine how self-conscious Mark must feel at all times in any social gathering in this town. He didn't sound bitter or angry. It sounded to me more like he was just tired of it all.
How long had he been holding all of this inside himself? Now, it was my turn to listen and he poured it all out. I didn't have any answers for him and I certainly couldn't very well tell him that I knew what he meant. I just listened as he talked.
Without us even being aware of it, the sun had started to set and daylight crept from the room. Mark was talking about his grandmother now and he spoke with such love and admiration for the woman that had practically raised him. His mother had died when he was seven and he said that he had never known his father. He concluded by telling me that his grandmother had passed away only six months ago, shortly before he came to Vermont.
This time it was me who reached out to a friend in need. I placed my head against Mark's shoulder and gently laid my hand upon his chest. We sat there for quite a while just like that, just holding each other and giving all the comfort any human being can give to another.
After a while, Mark turned his face and kissed the top of my head. I closed my eyes and let my hand drift across his broad chest. I felt his fingers tighten on my shoulder and he kissed my hair again. I lifted my hand to his cheek as I tilted my face upwards. Our mouths came together for the tenderest of kisses. My heart was pounding in my chest as our lips explored one another.
Finally I broke our kiss and looked Mark in the eye. My voice cracked as I struggled out, "Take me to your bedroom."
Mark waited a moment, searching my eyes to see if this was something that I really wanted. I was never so sure of anything in my life. I held his gaze steadily as I struggled to control my breathing and my pounding heart. He took my hand and led me down the narrow hallway to his bedroom. As we entered, I said to him, "I'll be right back", and I went into his adjoining bathroom.
I closed the door behind me and took a deep breath as I looked at my reflection in the mirror. I knew that this was far from my original intentions, but I also knew that I had never felt closer to another human being in my life. Taking one more deep breath, I started to undo the buttons on the back of my dress. I purposely turned away from the mirror as the dress slipped from my shoulders and I hung it on a hook on the back of the door. Next I leaned against the wall as I removed my pantyhose.
Now, I dared to sneak a look into the mirror as I stood there in just my bra and panties. My panties! I covered my mouth with my hand as I looked at what my daughter always laughingly referred to as my granny panties. I made a big decision and removed the offending garment and my bra as well. I turned to open the door, but had a change of heart and grabbed a nearby towel and wrapped it around myself.
As I opened the door I was greeted by the sight of Mark standing totally naked before me. He was in the process of removing his shirt altogether when he stopped what he was doing and looked at me entering the room. As he stood and stared, the shirt fell from his hands to the floor. His dark, athletic body showed not a trace of fat. His manhood hung down limply between his legs. His sculpted thighs looked as firm and strong as tree trunks. He looked to me to be the very image of some naked God of Virility sprung to life from the pages of a book of mythology - or, perhaps from the pages of the darkest, deepest recesses of my own mind.
My heart beat so loudly in my chest as I stood there with just the towel wrapped around me. Try as I might, I could not get my legs to move. My eyes never left Mark's and the look I saw there filled me with relief. Mark was looking at me with a look of such passion. It was a look that every woman dreams of seeing on a lover's face.
"Sandra, you look so beautiful", he barely rasped.
Finally, my legs received the message to advance. That walk across the carpet of his room could not have been more than seven or eight feet, but it seemed to stretch out for miles on end. I fought my nerves and tried to show a smile, but I have no idea of what face I may have made. The tone of Mark's voice and the look in his eyes did a lot to alleviate a bit of the anxiety that I was feeling, but the truth was that I still had a mountain of fears inside me. Slowly, the distance between us shrank. I had to tilt my head upwards as I neared him to maintain contact with his warm and loving gaze.