Diana Lee Johnson



Book Review

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“Ready to let me in on the big secret?” Bill toyed with his water glass as they waited for dinner. His tone was ambivalent as though he seriously doubted Alison was going to share anything with him.

Truthfully, she hadn’t yet decided what to tell him, though she had wrestled with it all day. She had been concocting various little white lies, but now that they were here together, and he was asking, the white lies slipped her mind...

“I’m not ready to talk about it much. It’s very personal and painful. If I begin, if I tell you what I can, will you leave it at that? Will you let me tell you the rest in my own time? I just can’t face sharing some of the memories right now.”

“Okay, Ali. I’ll try. I can’t promise too much, because I care about you, in spite of the way you keep pulling away from me. But I’ll try.”

She swallowed the lump in her throat, took a deep breath, wet her lips and began. “That guy today, Sarah’s new boyfriend... This is so hard.” She agonized. “He’s...” She could feel the words sticking in her throat. “He’s my ex-husband.” Alison choked in a whisper forcing an unnatural calm to the forefront.

“Jesus, Ali!” Bill slammed his open hand on the table, and Alison’s body instinctively jumped. “He’s the one who hurt you, isn’t he?”

This was exactly the reaction she had feared--involvement. Her bottom lip began to quiver. Her skin was cold and covered with goose-flesh, while her palms were clammy and wet. Her eyes were filled with tears waiting to tumble from them.

This wasn’t the picture she wanted to present! She wanted to be calm, objective, even cold as she told him, but he just wouldn’t let her. Those blue eyes drilled into her until she bit her bottom lip, trying to stop its quaking. She took a deep breath and nodded, unsteadily.

It was done. She had admitted to Bill some of what tore at her heart on a daily basis, but the profound effect it had upon him made her wary. Mustn’t give him any control.

“I don’t want your sympathy, Bill. I simply wanted to offer an explanation for my shortness with you earlier. I-I haven’t seen him for seven years. I hoped I’d never see him again.”

Bill fought the urge to jump up and grab her into his arms and hold her tightly. He fidgeted as he tried to remain in his seat. He couldn’t eat now. He needed to get Alison out of there, to hold her, to reassure her, in spite of her brave words.

Bill threw two twenties on the table and grabbed her arm, leading her silently through the lounge area and out the door. He pulled her along to her car, opened the passenger door, helped her in and then jumped behind the wheel. “Give me your keys.”

They sped away, neither speaking, not looking at each other. Bill wondered what he could possibly say to help her. Alison chastised herself. She hadn’t wanted to appear needy. She had handled this alone for seven years, well, alone, except for Tony. She didn’t want to involve Bill. She didn’t want to need him.

He drove them to Alison’s house. Without uttering a word, he helped her from the car and into the house. She was putting up a brave front, but he could see into her soul. To Bill she appeared spiritless, her eyes vacant, and yet full of suffering, when she told him who the man was. He was reminded of the incident when she flung herself from her car and he had followed to find her sobbing on the floor of the private bathroom next to her office. Now it was all beginning to make sense.

Alison’s mind whirled. She must stop this solicitude! She didn’t want it. She was fine! Yet it closed in upon her, like a warm fog. His comfort blanketed her.

He sat Alison down on the couch, and knelt in front of her, holding both her hands in his own. “He didn’t hurt you today, did he?” He whispered his concern and she stiffened, trying to regain her composure.

It was useless, the memories were too bleak, she began to cry, to let go of the pain, silently, as she shook her head in a negative response. No, he hadn’t hurt her that day.

“You don’t need to tell me anymore, unless you want to.” He took her face in his hands and put his cheek against hers, then he folded her tightly in his arms and she crumbled to the floor with him. “He won’t hurt you, Ali, not ever again. I promise.”

Alison cried and Bill ached for her as he rocked back and forth holding her so tightly they could hardly draw breath.

“I’ve never told anyone,” she whispered. “I wasn’t planning on telling you, but I had to explain, I had to tell you something. Please don’t make me talk about it.”

“Shhhh,” was all Bill responded as he stroked her hair.

Alison felt as though she had allowed Pandora’s Box to be opened. Yet, a huge weight was lifting from her heart. She had shared this small part of her agony. She thought it was buried deep enough to die, but it wouldn’t die. It came back in unwanted flashes. Now, what had surfaced, what she had shared with Bill, was lightened by the sharing. That old saying was true. But there was more, so much more, and she would not give it all up.


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