Pretty, but Lonely

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Who can discover the secret heart of another?

Submitted: February 01, 2018

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Submitted: February 01, 2018



A cold wind was blowing across campus. The sky was lowering, the somber gray of old iron. A nauseatingly happy couple wearing matching navy-blue turtleneck sweaters ducked quickly in through a double glass door to escape the blustery chill that accelerated down the towering arched breezeway between the student center and the administration building.

The grass of the vast academic acreage was brown, dormant. The university didn’t seem the same as it had four years ago when, as a bright-eyed coed, Sonja gleefully began her freshman year. She knew Damiane didn’t love her. She wanted to hide from the truth that he never would. Her self-pitying melancholy was dragging her mood down into the depths of despair.

“It’s just like you, Sonja,” she scolded herself, “to fall in love with a foreign exchange student. Why couldn’t you choose a normal red-blooded male born and raised in the US instead of a wildly eccentric foreign national?”

Sonja knew the answer. It was Damiane’s irresistible Gallic charm and that oh so enchanting accent - French, the language of love. Damiane’s name was French; it’s meaning said it all, ‘untamed’. No wonder she couldn’t corral him. Or was there something else? Something about her?

Sonja could count on one hand the number of times they’d slept together. Four years of sharing cheap meals on the tight college budget and they’d only been to bed together four times. Once a year and always on the night of Christmas Eve. Did that make her an adulteress? A whore?

For Sonja it had been love at first sight. Well, on second thought, it had been a combination of two things - love at first sight and that one old story Damiane repeated over and over. Somehow the tale never grew old, the picturesque scene never lost its romantic lustre. Always on cold dreary overcast days such as this and right before he made love to her on Christmas Eve, Damiane recounted the cherished memory with the fabled flare of a medieval balladeer.

When Damiane was a garçon, the French word for ‘boy’, his paternal grandfather told him of meeting Ernest Hemingway at a Parisian sidewalk café in the Latin Quarter. The famous writer talked of one evening when Gertrude Stein had railed at the eminent poet Ezra Pound for sitting down too hard on one of her petite fashion chairs. The décadent furniture piece broke and poor Ezra ended up on his backside on the floor. Ernest said Gertrude shouldn’t have flown into such a hissy, especially since Ezra was a great poet and could have accommodated himself comfortably in a normal chair.

Sonja sighed wistfully at the innocent elegance with which Damiane unfailingly related the endearing story. Then, the haunting thought reared its ugly head, again. Why were Sonja’s feminine wiles not strong enough to coax Damiane into remaining in the United States? Why couldn’t she make him commit to her?

Like a foolish schoolgirl she dreamed of a satisfying life of marital bliss, of that eventful special day at the little white chapel when they would exchange vows. She fantasized in doe-eyed ecstasy of the precious moment when he would say those eternal words while placing a golden ring on her finger. Then, raising her lovely organza veil, Damiane would move his attractive face to Sonja’s and gently kiss her. A blushing bride would be transformed as by the sorcery of a fairy godmother into a happily wedded wife. But, Sonja knew it was all pie-in-the-sky. What an idiot she was for chasing rainbows. Where was her guardian angel when she needed her most?

Sonja shuddered and pulled her hand-me-down pea coat tighter around her plump figure. The long coat had belonged to her great-aunt Sheila who had given it as a going-away present when Sonja left home for college. In the 1950s, while it was new, the coat had been chic and trendy, but now it was only schlocky old secondhand garb. The huge collar kept the icy wind from breezing down her back, but the sleeves were triangular-shaped and wide, which made it difficult for Sonja to keep her pale arms warm. One of the coat’s oversized buttons had fallen off. She picked it up off the cold damp ground and put it in one of the ample pockets. She would sew it back on, later.

Her worried mind found it’s way again to why Damiane had willingly engaged in physical intimacy with her, but wouldn’t ask for her hand in marriage. Aunt Sheila would say he wanted the milk without having to buy the cow. The thought hurt. It hurt deeply.

Damiane was leaving today….going back home to France. Sonja couldn’t believe she had agreed to give him a ride to the airport. He was abandoning her forever, and she was so gullible as to help him on his unfeeling way. Was that why Damiane didn’t love her enough to be loyal? Because she had low self-esteem? Sonja knew she had low self-esteem. Any self-respecting female who was being so callously betrayed by the man to whom she had sacrificed her virginity would, at the very least, flatly refuse to take him to the airport! She couldn’t believe he had asked. Of all the nerve! How could he?

Her fleeting hope that he might change his mind at the last minute slowly ebbed away as she steered her dented compact import four-banger to the paid parking area closest to the terminal for Damiane’s departing flight. He didn’t recount the story about his grandfather meeting Ernest Hemingway. He didn’t ask Sonja how she was feeling about his impending departure from her life. Instead, all he talked about the whole way was his twin sister who had just been hired by the French government as an art teacher.

Valeria had studied for a whole year to pass the state exam that would permit her to open young minds to the splendor of the visual arts. She had 250 students. Damiane’s sister Valeria was a heroine, a saint worthy of the highest praise. Oblivious to Sonja’s emotional suffering, her uncaring lover prattled on and on about how he couldn’t wait to get back home to congratulate his winning sister on all her astounding accomplishments. Family, friends, relations, and co-workers were throwing a gala bash to welcome Damiane home and celebrate his marvelous twin sister’s fabulous achievements.

The massive airport building loomed darkly. What an impersonal thing it was. How could people construct such a harsh edifice so far removed from human compassion? It’s mute bulk mocked and menaced. Pulling into the parking space is when it hurt most. The sudden realization was a greater shock than what she had prepared herself for. Sonja was hit hard right in her pounding heart, but she had sworn that she wouldn’t humiliate herself by letting her cruel ex-lover see her cry.

Trotting briskly through the biting north wind to the hideous terminal building, Sonja’s crumbling mind tore at her pleading spirit. She felt naked, barren, alone. Why didn’t Damiane understand how much he meant to her? Was it her own fault? Had she done something wrong? Had she not performed up to his standards in bed? Was she not a good enough lover? Compared to the exotically fashionable French girls, was Sonja merely a cold dead fish?

Or was she just not pretty enough? All her friends said she was pretty, although that didn’t really mean much because friends always say kind things. That might be it. Sonja was plain and homely-looking, a simple small-town girl from Lake Mills, Wisconsin.

But how could that be? She wasn’t ugly. She was no prom queen, but she certainly wasn’t ugly. He probably thought she was fat. That’s why he wouldn’t marry her, because if she was already ‘big-boned’ now, what would she look like twenty years down the road? Everyone knows that a person who is even mildly chubby when they are young ends up gaining more weight to become truly fat as they grow older.

Sonja stopped just outside the metal detector as Damiane passed through to the departure gate. Security personnel ran his backpack through the x-ray scanner and were about to hand it back to him when suddenly, in a mad sprint, he ran back through the shiny metal detector and dashed right up to where Sonja stood. Her heart leaped into her throat. This was it! Exactly the moment she had hoped for! He had a change of conscience and was going to stay with her after all!

But no, it was not to be. Her heart dropped from her throat down into her sinking stomach. She could tell by the look in his oblivious eyes that he wasn’t about to confess what she so desperately wanted to hear. His words carried such a depressing hopeless weight of finality when he said, “Stay pretty.”

He gave her a quick peck on the cheek, turned, grabbed his backpack while passing again through the security check, flashed his boarding pass at the flight attendant, then disappeared down the flexible square tube-monster gullet that fed a steady stream of strangers into the cavernous belly of the awaiting leviathan passenger airliner.

Those haunting words etched themselves permanently into her embarrassed memory - Stay pretty.

With her very last glimpse of his handsome silhouette blurred by hot tears that would no longer be denied, a voice outside herself that was entirely not her own whispered, “Always.”

The touching portraits composed by bestselling author Sean Terrence Best may be added to your personal library via, Barnes&Noble, and many other booksellers.

© Copyright 2019 Sean Terrence Best. All rights reserved.

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