Sara was walking through Forsyth Park, again. She could see the fountain in front of her, spraying water in all directions, the droplets glinting in the late afternoon sun. But something was off and Sara suddenly realized that she was the only one around. She heard no sounds of children on the playground, no tourists or wedding couples taking pictures by the fountain, she couldn’t even hear the sounds of traffic running up and down Drayton and Whitaker on either side of the park. It was as if she was alone in the world and her ears had cotton in them.
She looked up and could see the Spanish moss dripping from the old oak trees. The moss was moving lazily in a cool, dry breeze that did not belong in Savannah in September. She kept moving forward, towards the fountain. When she got to the ornate iron railing surrounding it, she paused and just watched for a moment, the breeze and the spray cooling and calming her.
Then through the mist she thought she could make out the shape of a person on the other side of the fountain. She walked to her left just a few steps and could see that it was a man, a tall blond man. Suddenly her heart leapt in her chest. It was William, she knew it! Now she was running and the fountain seemed to get bigger as she ran, the railing around it growing so that she couldn’t seem to get any closer to him.
Then he was right in front of her. She couldn’t speak. She could feel herself crying, though there were no tears on her cheeks. He was so beautiful, so warm and so real.
“Sara,” he said. “Don’t be sad.”
She still couldn’t speak. And there was so much that she wanted to say to him.
“It’s okay.” He walked closer towards her. His hand came up and rested on her belly. Her eyes went from his hand to his face and he smiled. She closed her eyes and knew that he was going to kiss her now, just like the first time, and that everything, everything was going to be okay.
“Sara. Sara. Wake up, Sara.” Why was William shaking her like that? She tried to open her eyes to look at him, but her eyelids seemed to be fused together. Slowly she felt the wooden slats beneath her hip and the sweat running down her neck and knew that she wasn’t in Forsyth Park anymore. She opened her eyes to see not William, but James looking down at her. She could still feel the weight of William’s hand on her belly and wished that she could close her eyes and be back with him again. But if James was here then it was Sunday and it was time to welcome her roommate to her home.
She couldn’t believe that she had fallen asleep on the swing. That nap was by far the best sleep that she had gotten in a month. The week since James went back to Oden had passed fairly quickly as Sara settled into a routine. Get up, spend time bent over her trashcan, get dressed and head to work. Come home, take a walk, eat dinner alone and go to bed. She was still not sleeping much and by the end of the week, she felt like she was running on fumes. Plus, she had watched so many info-mercials that she was sure she could write one of the scripts herself.
She had spoken with Mark and Christine about her plans to have a roommate and about her idea for Sunday.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Christine.
“Just make sure he knows what’ll happen if he tries to mess with you. Bill may be old and I may be scrawny, but we’ll find a way to take him down.” Mark was keeping things light and Sara appreciated it. Christine, however, was not amused.
“Well, Mark may be joking around, but I’m not. Though I do think this is a great idea, you know that we will help however and whenever we can. As for supper, I’ll bring chicken breasts and we can grill.”
The two of them and the Newmans had been so supportive of her that Sara almost told them about the baby. But something stopped her and she wasn’t sure what it was. Perhaps Sara herself was still hoping that it was a stomach flu and that it would magically get better one day. Whatever the reason, she was keeping her news to herself for now. Soon, the evidence would be out for all to see. And, she supposed that she would have to see a doctor at some point. Then the baby would be real, and she would have to face the fact that William would never get the chance to hold his child in his arms.
But here was James, ready to move in and she was having a heck of a time shaking sleep and the dream from her mind. She tried to sit up and almost fell off of the swing.
“Whoa, there, missy! Don’t fall.” James had a hold on her arm and sat down next to her to steady her. But she could not help but giggle at the fact that his exclamation sounded like he was trying to control a horse.
“Are you sure you don’t have a secret life as a cowboy?” Sara grinned at him. She was surprised at how glad she was to see him, even after her dream of William.
“Well, I don’t know, little lady,” James replied, taking on a really bad John Wayne drawl that made Sara laugh even more. “Why don’ I go wrassle us up some grub?”
“Really? What time is it?” The sweat coming from her neck and chest certainly spoke that the sun was high.
“It is eleven thirty and already hot as blue blazes. Are you sure your friends won’t melt in this heat?”
“Well, Bill and Mark are sweet, but not that sweet. They helped me clean out your room earlier in the week, so it’s completely empty now and ready for your stuff. But the Newmans won’t be here until after one. They go to Mass near here then out to brunch with friends.”
“Catholic, uh? You don’t find that much in the South. Are they transplants?”
“I don’t think so. They’ve lived here since they got married and they’re retired. Besides, I grew up Catholic.” Sara was feeling suddenly defensive about the religion that she didn’t participate in anymore.
“Really? Growing up in Oden, I thought all the Catholics lived in the northeast and Europe. I don’t think we even have a Catholic church in Oden.”
“Yes, you do. William and I used to pass it on the way to his mom’s house. I mean, it is tiny. Maybe you have to be Catholic to even notice it.”
“So, do you go to Mass?”
“Oh, god, no. I haven’t been to Mass in years. But I guess, once a Catholic always a Catholic. Even if I don’t participate, that’s still the box I mark on official forms that ask my religion. Weird, huh?” Now that Sara thought about it, it was weird. Why hang on to a dead faith? Loyalty?
“Did you and William go anywhere else to church? I mean, he grew up Methodist, right?”
“Oh, yeah. He grew up going to church. His mother made sure of that. But he never went to church when we were together.” Sara took a moment to remember. “Sunday’s were for unwinding. Coffee and the paper in bed. Krispy Kreme doughnuts if one of us felt like going out. Sometimes it was me. Sometimes him. If it was pretty outside we might go to the beach. Tybee Island is only twenty minutes from here. Daffin Park is just a block to the right and they have a walking track and tennis courts.” Sara laughed. “To go to church when we were praising the gods of relaxation and leisure after a week of work would seem like a sacrilege.”
“You sound a little bit like a brochure for Ardsley Park.” Sara gave him a look and James put his hands up. “Don’t get me wrong. This is a beautiful area and I can see why you love it so much. It’s just funny to hear you put it that way.”
“You know,” Sara said. “When William first said that he wanted to move to Savannah, I was completely against it. I grew up in North Georgia and the thought of moving even further south was not pleasant. But he asked me just to come and see the city and I fell in love. We looked for houses in newer areas but just kept coming back here. There’s so much history and we’re so close to downtown and the river. We paid too much for the house, but it was worth it.” Sara stopped and thought about it. It would have been worth it if William had life insurance. Why hadn’t they thought about that? What dream world had they been living in?
James coughed a little and Sara looked over at him. “Sorry,” she said. “I just got a little lost for a minute.”
“Don’t worry about it. Do you want to run out and get some lunch? I haven’t eaten since this morning before I loaded the truck.”
“Yeah, sure. I actually haven’t eaten at all. I came out here right at dawn thinking to just enjoy the cool air. I never thought I’d fall asleep for four hours.” Sara thought for a minute about the best place to go for lunch. “There’s a sandwich shop around the corner. We could walk, but it’s too hot for my taste. Let’s drive.”
When they got back from lunch, James started to move the smaller boxes to the house and Sara walked across the street to let Bill and Jane know that they were ready. He kept thinking about finding Sara asleep on the swing.
When he had pulled up in his truck, he just sat for a minute, thinking about the change in his life. It wasn’t that long ago that things were much less complicated for him.
Just a few months ago, he had been living in Atlanta. His six figure salary at a job that he, let’s face it, hated, had provided him with all the comforts that a single guy in his twenties could want. An apartment in Buckhead, a great car, and plenty of dates. And he loved life in Atlanta. It was everything that life in Oden wasn’t. There was always a new restaurant to try, new people to meet. Then overnight that life was all gone. The company that he was working for had gone bankrupt and he was out of a job. Since all the guys he worked with were looking at the same type of job he was, his prospects were slim to none. And because he never saved a dime and everything he owned was leased, after two months he had nothing. There was nothing to do but go home to the tiny house he grew up in, where his mom still lived alone.
She was happy to have him and Uncle Martin offered him part time work, but it was depressing. Oden was depressing, the funeral business was depressing and his mom was depressing. His dad had left them when he was ten and his mother had never loved anyone else. Oh, there had been other men, but she never got over his dad. There were times when she would look at him and he knew that even though she loved him, a part of her hated him for looking like the man who broke her heart. Living with his mom was hard.
But now here he was in a new city, with a new job and this complication with pretty brown hair and a dead husband. And the complication was sleeping on a porch swing. He walked over to her and took a moment to watch her sleep. There was such a look of peace on her face that he hated to wake her. But if he didn’t wake her, he might kiss her.
He looked around the living room for a moment trying to imagine hanging out with Sara in here, watching t.v., being friends. His reverie was broken by the sound of voices coming up the front walk. Sara and an older couple walked up the front steps just as a younger couple were making their way to the door. James came out and met them. They all stood for a moment and looked at each other. The men seemed to be sizing each other up. Christine and Jane glanced at each other with raised eyebrows that Sara noticed right away. James finally coughed.
“Oh, sorry,” Sara said. “Guys, this is James Overman. James, this is Bill and Jane Newman and Mark and Christine Mendelson.” James shook everyone’s hand in turn.
“Well,” he said. “Luckily, there’s not a whole lot to move. I think we can get it done pretty quickly. Thanks again for being willing to help me out.”
“Sure, man,” Mark said. “We’d do anything for Sara. Right, Bill?”
“Yep, anything for Sara,” Bill responded with a wink at Jane. Jane punched him in the arm and Christine was shooting daggers at Mark.
Sara laughed. “Thanks, guys. I think James understands that you’re looking out for me.”
“Way to be subtle,” Christine said under her breath to Mark.
“What? That wasn’t subtle?” Mark looked over at James and grinned. “Come on, man. Let’s get this car unloaded before we melt. Sara did tell you that I melt if not given cold beer on a hot day, right?”
Christine pushed Mark into the house. “Oh my god, Mark. You are a complete nut.” She looked apologetically at James. “I’m so sorry. Please forgive my insane husband.”
“Oh, he’s not insane. I also melt if not given cold beer on a hot day. What about you Bill?”
Bill put his arm around his wife. “I think I’m going to like this guy, Jane.”
When the truck was unloaded and the men had all had their cold beer while sitting around congratulating themselves on the amazing job they had done, there was still a lot of afternoon left. The group decided to go cool off and return to Sara’s house for supper at seven. Which gave Sara and James their first few minutes alone in the house.
There was an awkward moment. He stood and looked at her. She stood and looked at him.
“Well,” she said.
“Well,” he said and smiled. She smiled back.
“I’ll just go and take a shower,” Sara said. “In this heat I could take three a day.”
“I’d love one of those. How’s the hot water? Should I wait for you to finish?”
“Oh right. Good question. Yes. William and I always swapped out. But I can be quick. Give me twenty minutes.” Should she let him go first? “Or you could go first. It’s fine with me. Whatever you want.”
James laughed. “Why don’t you go ahead. I may need at least twenty minutes to find my clothes.”
“Okay. Well, first roommate problem solved.” Sara headed into her room and straight to the shower. She felt strange undressing and showering with a man in the house who was not William. This was going to take some getting used to.
Sara remembered back to when she and William had kissed in front of her apartment that first night. Sara had gone to bed, dreaming of this new guy. She didn’t want to hope that he would call her. She didn’t want to be disappointed and she hadn’t been. He called the next day, asking her if she wanted to come with him to a frat party that night.
She was so nervous and excited. Her roommate, Amy, helped her pick out something to wear. She and Amy weren’t great friends. They had found each other through the apartment complex’s roommate match service. They really didn’t have much in common besides both being juniors. But Amy had been to a lot more Greek parties than Sara had, especially since Sara had not actually been to any.
“Look, Sara,” Amy said looking through Sara’s closet. After a minute she shut the door, turned around, and sighed as if in defeat. “You have a great body, but you hide it. Come to my room. Let’s see what we can find.”
The dress she had picked hugged Sara’s curves in a way that she was not at all comfortable with, but that excited her just the same. Why shouldn’t she look her best? She was going out with a great looking guy. She certainly didn’t want to look like a librarian. She said that to Amy.
“Well,” said Amy, looking circumspect. “That really depends on the kind of librarian you want to be.”
“What do you mean?” Sara asked.
“I mean, librarians can be very sexy. With the right skirt and your hair up in a bun, you can make a guy wonder what you would look like with your hair down.”
“Oh-h-h-h,” Sara said, with sudden understanding.
But she had opted to avoid the librarian look and wear her hair down and to keep the fun, sort of sexy dress. When William came to pick her up later, she was shaking with fear and anticipation. Would he still like her? Was last night just a fluke? Was this all some sick joke? And then he was there, and he was smiling and her heart was in her knees.
“Hi,” he said, looking her up and down. “You look amazing.”
“Thanks,” she said, not believing him, but wanting to.
He stayed by her side the whole night. He got her beer for the first hour and then water when she asked for it, never pressuring her to drink more than she wanted to. There was a moment hours into the night when they were dancing and he was holding her close and they were both sweaty, but the music was slow. The beat and the bass seemed to be coming from inside her. William’s left hand was in the small of her back. His other hand was between her shoulder blades, swaying her in time to the music. She felt sexy and daring. She was aware of her body in a way that she had never been before.
In the middle of the song, he pulled back, looking at her. Perhaps he would have said something, but the music was so loud. He looked into her eyes, then at her mouth, and back to her eyes again, asking the question. She moved towards him in answer and they kissed. The kiss seemed to go on and on, his hands and their bodies still moving to the rhythm of the music.
When he took her home later, he was again a complete gentleman. But she wanted to ask him to come in. Her body seemed to be on fire. She could feel every inch of her skin tingling in ways that it never had before. Now she knew what the books meant, what her youth group leader meant, when they said “burning with passion.” She was burning up, and William was the only person who could cool her off.
The next few weeks were a blur, between her hectic school schedule and seeing William every night she barely had time to sleep. When they finally made love, it was wonderful. And at the end of the semester, when Amy made the decision to transfer to another school, William moved in. They had been together ever since.
But never again had she been aware of her body quite the way she was that first time she and William danced together. Their sex life was good, sometimes amazing, sometimes ho-hum, but that was marriage. That was living with someone day in and day out, knowing all the good and bad there was to know. And Sara wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Still there was something about that first awareness and she felt it now. With the changes that were already taking place to her body, including the slight swell to her belly that was imperceptible to anyone but her, she was forced to notice her body. And with a man in her house, an attractive, honorable man, she wasn’t sure that she was ready for the changes.