COWARDICE, DISHONOR, AND LUCK

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

UNANSWERED LOVE, TWISTS OF FATE, SURPRISE, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, REGRET, SORROW, COWARDICE, DISHONOR, LUCK, LIFE

In Boston, cowardice prevents an otherwise admirable man from beginning a relationship of deep love for a wealthy woman of many attractions. The object of his love does not know why.
A few years later, by chance, they meet in San Francisco. She is in the midst of economic turmoil and an emotionally draining divorce. He has met, married, and enjoys a thrilling ride of life with his flawless bride in their new city.
Fate and luck shake heir heads at this reversal of fortune for the ages.

COWARDICE, DISHONOR, AND LUCK

Based on a True Story

Nicholas Cochran

 

 “We never went out, did we, Gianna.” said Clark Winchester.

 “No, Clark, we never did; you never asked me,” lowering her eyes, “but I remember one time when I was sure you would. I had put on my best summer dress and all my best make-up. I felt so alive. I realized I was waiting for you to arrive. I started all my physical and mental preparations as soon as Ginny told me you would be coming to her summer place along the river.”

Clark said nothing.

“Remember, Clark? It was twilight, a perfect July evening; soft and . . . well, sensual.” She raised her faded blue eyes in their red-rimmed sockets to gaze up into Clark’s steady hazel eyes.

“You drove up in Ginny’s car, a long black Lincoln Continental. Jack Sanders came out. I was right behind him. He said that you were perfect in that car, meaning everything that went with that car; what it said about you; how easily you fitted into the social fabric of the city; how easily you would be accepted and very early, pushed on to greater achievements. Even honors.”

She dropped her eyes again and leaned into him. The mist in Gianna Summers’ eyes became a collection of tears. “Oh, Clark, why didn’t you ever ask me out? Didn’t Ginny tell you how much I wanted you to? I wanted to, well . . . so much. I thought you didn’t want me; just liked me, you know, just a friend.” She again looked up into Clark’s eyes, eyes that she beseeched with hers; beseeched to give her back her single life; to give her a chance to rewind the film and cast Clark as her co-star; her love interest.

 

Four years earlier

 

Clark Winchester was a tall blonde man of twenty-six years. His broad shoulders sat atop a lean muscled physique Although his nose and ears were a bit long, his overall presentation was that of a handsome young man.

He took a deep breath before approaching the jewelry counter at Macy’s. He had no intention of buying anything. He came with the sole purpose of gazing upon, drinking in, and devouring the overpowering allure of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen: Gianna Summers.

Gianna was working at Macy’s before returning to Vassar for her last year. She was blonde, radiating a subtle sexuality. While talking or listening, her deep blue eyes rarely stopped sparkling. If animated or angry, her eyes flashed jagged bolts of gold. When she smiled, her face became a portrait of pure beauty. Clark thought she must have at least one imperfection. She did. Her feet were different sizes and one foot had a second toe permanently overlapping her big toe.  She never wore open-toed shoes or sandals. In the summer, she was in the water before anyone noticed her feet. Coming out of the water, none of the guys ever looked at her feet. She made Selma Hayek or Scarlett Johansson look like a five. In a bikini, Gianna made you forget Bo Derek. Clark could not decide which of Gianna’s charms—or wiles—drew the majority of his passion. He decided it was her entire presentation; the complete package of feminine beauty. As  a priceless bonus, Gianna was tall, extremely well educated, and possessed a warming wit, yet she was not above firing a cutting remark. A soft laughter surrounded her bon mots.

Clark encountered Gianna for the first time at a Frosty Frolic dance put on at the Hunt Club two years ago. Her escort was Jack Sanders, a guy he barely knew at the time but ended up as his traveling companion on their adventures around the world. Clark, the eternal good guy—always with a smile and an entertaining question—stopped to talk with Jack and his date. Jack introduced him to Gianna Summers.

*

Clark attempted to look casual, despite the fact he walked like a laser to the store. He considered coming in by a different entrance each time. That way, when Gianna spotted him, she would not suspect that he was there to be smitten for as long as she would talk to him—or until a customer arrived.

Gianna noticed Clark the first time he came to the store three weeks ago mainly because of his height. Clark was favored by the height gods who grew him to just short of six foot five. Gianna was five ten, a fact that brought people in her height range to her attention much more quickly than those below five eight or so. She never thought of it that way but she did think that way. This was a scenic scan she would go through except when Clark was in her view.  

On that first day, when Clark came down the stairs from the Barker street entrance, the store was quiet, with most potential customers having lunch on the roof in Macy’s garden café. Gianna made a point of slipping behind a handy column beside the men’s watches while she followed Clark’s movement. Gianna was not the type of woman who would immediately think that Clark—or any man—was in the store for the express purpose of chatting her up while gazing upon her multiple charms. That first time, Gianna felt something under her consciousness—but not quite sub—that felt like a warm brook slipping around her life’s purpose. She paid no more attention to that feeling on the first day.

Clark eventually passed her counter. He did this without looking in Gianna’s direction. He paused at the counter opposite the men’s watches, displaying ascots and scarves. Judy Regent—a brunette of middle height, with an arresting chest, uneven ears, and a constant smile—staffed the counter.  

Following a short chat with Judy, Clark thanked her for her time, turned around, spied Gianna, and frowned. To Gianna, he looked as though he were trying to remember if he had ever seen her before. He adopted a look of recognition, broke out his patented grin, and approached her with an open face, and a secret plan. ‘Yes;’ this is working.’

“Hi. Gianna; right?”

“Yes; and you’re Clark Winchester.”

“Yes; you remembered,” pausing, he creased his brows while he calibrated his next words, “I think it was that dance a couple of years ago; Christmas, wasn’t it; at the Hunt Club, right?” He stopped to beam his utmost adoration at his goddess. Announcements on the store P.A. system punctured their dialogue while a cluster of Japanese tourists rushed by.

“Why; yes, it was,” said Gianna, “or was it New Years—at the Hunt Club?”

Clark thought snapping his fingers would be too plebeian although that was what he really felt like doing. His heart was snapping, his soul was snapping; why not the fingers?
“Yes, yes,” said Clark in a lowered tone before stepping forward to shrink the periphery encasing his new love.  

“It’s wonderful to see you, Clark. What brings you here? I saw you looking at ascots and scarves,” Gianna stopped. A quiver in her heart took away her power to speak. She smiled. After a moment she said, “are you taking up the gentleman’s role? Perhaps you’ll want a pipe to go with the ascot. Of course, you’ll need an old MG to drive in the snow with the top down—with one of those long scarves trailing behind you.” Gianna laughed; that quiver again, “I’m sorry Clark, I was only kidding. It’s really very nice to see you. Any reason that you’re around here today—aside from ascots and scarves?” They both laughed. The tension cracked and crumbled.

Clark adopted a more serious look; one that excited, yet somewhat unnerved Gianna. She smiled with affection at Clark, hoping he would say he had come to see her. ‘Now, why would I ever think that?’

“I’m working a few blocks away off College Street, Gianna. They’re giving me a tryout as an interviewer for a radio show. At the moment, they have me running the studio; nothing really; just making sure everyone’s quiet—but I have done a few interviews; and I think they’ll make a decision soon. We’ll see.”

Clark thought this was the perfect note to wind up his first visit. Yet he was finding it difficult to take his eyes off Gianna’s lips. They, like her other features, were perfect; at least in his eyes.

“Well, Gianna; got to go; see you again. I’m around here, as I said, and so I’ll be around to check up on you; make sure the customers are treating you with respect; even deference.”
Gianna thought Clark’s words amusing, yet she felt a slight stab of disappointment at his announcement. She had no customers now and was eager to continue their chat. She wished he would stay.

Clark left through the eastern exit onto Waverly Street. Gianna watched him go, instantly hoping he would turn around and wave; or at least smile at her. He did not. She thought about Clark not turning around to wave. Her next thought was one of self-chastisement; why should he turn around? He was just passing by. There’s no reason he would be particularly interested in me. Besides, I’m still dating David Tresswell. 

Clark Winchester moved effortlessly. He never seemed to be walking; more like gliding. Yes, very smoothly gliding. Clark had the grin. Gianna loved it. Clark was polite. She loved that too. Clark dressed well, wore his clothes to their full effect. His shoes were Flash Fashion. Gianna allowed herself to fall into a romantic haze. Perhaps his nose was a bit long, depending on the angle of his head when he talked to her. All that aside, she decided the one thing above all about Clark Winchester that attracted her, was his voice. She remembered him saying about interviewing people on the radio. ‘How exciting’.

Within ten minutes of Clark Winchester leaving the store, Gianna Summers felt a few more ripples of ecstasy coursing through every part of her body, including her erogenous zones. Her heart quivers made her ask herself if she was falling in love. 'How ridiculous, I don’t even know him. We talked for, what . . . maybe ten or fifteen minutes at most. I haven’t even gone out with him. Maybe he’s different in a crowd. Maybe he’s a stuffed shirt. Then again, maybe I’m giving myself too much credit.'

Gianna Summers was aware of the effects she had on men. She believed that she had some good points; that she was not bad looking, but not necessarily a showstopper. She had plenty to think about. Seconds later, customers came from every direction. Gianna thought no more about Clark Winchester until two hours later, shortly before finishing her shift. She decided to go for a drive in her Austin-Healey MK III along the Cape to see what her mind could make of all these peculiar feelings continuing to invade her consciousness—and her body.

*

Clark arrived back at the studio with the face of a man in love. Joanie Watson noticed his look right away,

“Hey, Mr. Clark-man, you been courting?”

Joanie was the spark plug of the department as well as the production assistant on the interview show. She kept the producer and Clark, as well s as the crew in line—and in stitches with her quasi-coarse pronouncements. Clark loved her like the sister he always wanted instead of the one assigned to him.

“Jeez, Joanie, can’t a guy snuggle without losing his heart?”

“Yeah, buster, don’t give me that crap; I know a guy who’s smitten, man.” Joanie was four years older than Clark, mid-height, great make-up, a lot of blonde hair worn on top, two fine lips, and good legs. She chewed gum instead of smoking. Clark thought her the best of pals. When the studio gave him the opportunity to work, Joanie immediately became his cheerleader. Clark thought she must have put in a good word for him. He believed that more each day, to the point where now he began to think that he owed her something. He did. From that moment of understanding, he became Joanie’s best friend, best worker, best employee, and best interviewer.

“Joanie, you amaze me every day, Yeah, you’re right, I was talking with an angel; the only other one besides you. And she’s not married. And you are. So I have to pursue her; but I’m still your best friend; I hope.”

Joanie laughed her air-sucking laugh surrounded by her chewing gum while she smiled and nodded her thoughts and her mirth at her tall, adopted cohort.

*

The second time Clark planned to wander by Gianna’s counter, he entered through the basement. He took the escalator in the eastern part of the floor. He turned toward Gianna’s counter. She wasn’t there. Clark stood aside to allow other riders to step past him while he pondered his next move. He never allowed for the fact that on any of his planned visits, Gianna would be gone. He rushed to her counter and, with a practiced casualness, “Excuse me, is Gianna Summers working today?”

A pert middle-aged woman with reddish hair, said with a smile, “Yes, she is, she’s on her break; shall I tell her you were here?”

“Oh, ah, no thanks. It’s all right. I’ll, ah, wait—when does she get back?”

“Oh, any minute now, I’d say; though I think she was going to take some extra time to go for a walk. She was hoping to meet someone.”

“Oh,” said Clark, withdrawing his smile, “well, then, I’ll come back.”

“Shall I tell her you came by?”

“Oh no. no, no thanks. It’s fine. Just that well, I’ll, ah, I ah . . . I’ll drop by sometime this week; to check up on her, as it were.”
Estelle Ravens altered her demeanor, thinking Clark a possible stalker. Although his ears were large, he was a very handsome stalker. But those were the worst kind, Estelle learned from her guilty pleasures of tabloid and scandal sheets.

Clark turned and walked toward the eastern entrance where he could step up to the street, cross over, and walk to the radio studio.  He raised his head as he approached the intersection—and there was Gianna. She smiled at him. He melted.

“Clark; I was hoping I might see you. I was out for a walk and thought that this was your territory, and that I might just bump into you . . . and here you are. “She smiled again while her eyes performed tricks with the light. He was mesmerized. He wanted to take her in his arms. She breathed deeply as she stepped in front of him and looked up into his eyes, “I’ve missed you, Clark. Have you been around to see me?”

“Well, today, yes; not before today. I, ah, I’m sorry I missed you Gianna, but it’s really, I mean, I’ve been very busy. But I should have been around to see you . . . I want to see you.”

Gianna felt her feet leave the pavement. She was floating. Her lips parted. She wanted him to kiss her there, in public, in the street, at one of the city’s busiest intersections. Yes. Kiss her and hold her.

“Need to hurry, you know, new job and all. Can’t be late, Gianna. But I’ll be by. Okay?”

Before Gianna’s feet touched the pavement, Clark was lost in the flock of pedestrians moving with the light. Gianna frowned while she watched his head above the others. She didn’t know what she had done wrong and so why did she feel like she had ruined a relationship that had barely begun?

 

Three Years Later

 

He was a clean-shaven young man wearing an Armani shirt under a Bill Blass suit. He was walking tall in his Ferragamo shoes along Montgomery Street in San Francisco. He had his head down, thinking about a fraud case he was investigating for Southern Insurance Company of America. This particular case concerned a bank on Market Street where some of the middle managers might be embezzling.

“Clark. Clark Winchester.” The voice was familiar—very familiar, yet he could not immediately identify the speaker. A moment later, he recognized the voice of Gianna Summers, now Gianna Sparks. Clark looked about for the tall glamorous woman with the astounding eyes and stunning figure. He tried to focus on the direction of the voice. His brows creased. He cocked his head to one side in an attempt to laser in on the owner of the pinched voice. He thought the voice must be coming from behind him, for in front of him was a thin woman of middle height with an angular face sheathed in a shocking pallor. She wore no makeup or lipstick. Her straw colored hair was poorly combed. Her shoulders hung in a slump. She looked unsteady on her feet. 

“Clark.” The woman’s lips fought for a smile.

“Gianna?” Clark stopped. A quizzical expression captured his features, while his mind raced around all the possible reasons to see Gianna in the City at all. She  married two years ago in Boston. Clark married last year and moved to California. Everything looked and felt out of sync to Clark. The meeting, the location, Gianna’s appearance.

“My God, Gianna, are you all right; you look terrible; what’s happened to you?”

Gianna Summers lowered her head as she mumbled, “Yes, Clark, I'm okay. I'm fine.”

When she raised her head to look at Clark he could not believe the changes in one of the two most beautiful faces he had ever seen. There were creases in her cheeks. Dullness, bordering on lifeless, clung about her. Her former deep blue eyes were two lifeless orbs in red-rimmed sockets. Her entire frame appeared to have shrunk an inch or two. Her dress and coat were a drab grey and looked to be hanging on her. She wore black flat shoes. A car horn punctuated the sourness of the scene and Gianna’s appearance. A distant foghorn underscored the oddity of their meeting.

“Are you sure, Gianna?” Clark hesitated to touch her despite wanting to gather Gianna in his arms, to pat her on her shoulder, to whisper in her ear. Gianna looked at the ground. Clark thought he heard a soft crying. She raised her head to look at him. Tears surrounded her eyes.

“Jack and I are getting a divorce.” Silence filled an awkward vacuum. All traffic noise paused. The chatter from young and old—out for sun or lunch—ceased.

Her lips are thinner, Clark thought. Her body was thinner; almost sickly thin. Abruptly, he drew back as he understood that this woman was less than a mere replica of the young woman he visited many years ago. She was not an imposter; yet her body, her face, her eyes, were simply a diminished impression of the vital young beauty he would have died to protect; to love; to defend; to champion—but not ask out for a date. So be it. Time passes.

Cars and trucks revved up as they pulled away from the stop light. The merry crowds resumed their chatter.

“Yes, Clark,” Gianna came to stand close to him. He read her eyes at once. In place of the continually flashing eyes of a young well-educated goddess sat the colorless eyes of one in bad straits.

“I’m okay. What are you doing here?”

“Oh,” said Clark, recovering, “I, ah, I’m continuing in the law—as well as working as an investigator. My wife works as an editor. We live up on Pine Street—and you?”
Gianna dropped her eyes. Clark thought he heard a sigh through the noise of the lunch hour hubbub.

“I’m living in Marin County. My husband, Dwight, is an executive with Hills Bank. I’m on my way to see him; to talk about a part of our divorce.” Clark took a small step back, forcing himself to park his knowledge of Hills Bank on the other side of their conversation fence. He hoped he did not give any involuntary look or movement at the mention of Gianna’s husband. Clark was the chief investigator of the doings at Hills Bank. He was conducting a deep investigation of Dwight and his dealings inside and outside the bank. There were also some complaints about his behavior toward a number of female employees.

 

Two years earlier

 

Clark went to Gianna’s wedding. After the service, he, along with most of the male guests, found a bar on the opposite side from the Yacht Club. They proceeded to become extremely drunk, because another had secured the warm loving hand of Ms. Summers in marriage. Dionysius supplied the perfect remedy for their sorrow, regret, disappointment, and shame, while they exchanged stories of how they tried and failed to win the love of the Goddess Gianna.

Clark was the only one of the dozen who never had a date with Gianna. He had only been to other parties where she was on the arm of Jack Sanders.

 

Present

 

“Is there some problem?” The question shot out of Clark before he could stop it.

“No, Clark; no, not really,” Gianna continued to look at the pavement. Slowly, with a physical and mental effort, Gianna raised her head. Her eyes were misting, “well, yes Clark. Dwight and I have . . . well, had some problems. As I said, we’re getting a divorce; I really can’t say how it’s all going to turn out.”

She leaned forward. Clark eased back, subconsciously thinking that any touching of Gianna would, in some way, betray his love for his wife, Amanda. He met and married Amanda in three months. ‘She was the best-looking woman in North America at that time and I have pictures to prove it,’ is how he explained the whirlwind romance between Boston and New York City, where Amanda was an Assistant Editor in Rockefeller Center. Amanda was also the smartest woman he ever met as well as possessing an acknowledged superior sense of humor, one that was often more wicked wit than mirth. He had never loved anyone remotely as much as he loved Amanda. He understood this once more, while he and Gianna were talking. Flashes of doubt punctured his sense of reality and stuttered his thoughts.

Automatically, but sincerely, “Oh, that’s too bad, Gianna. I hope it all works out for you.” He added, “I really do. You deserve happiness—every happiness.” He had a flashback to those days in July when he visited Gianna before she returned to Vasser for her final year; of chasing her in her classic Austin Healy 3000  while he was in his new Triumph 3.

“Are you happy here, Clark? Why did you leave?”

Another pause in the traffic and pedestrian chatter created an opening for Clark’s definitive answers. He immediately felt centered, elated. He could not contain his brimming happiness.

“I just love it here, Gianna. Amanda and I have only been here a few months, but it has been absolute heaven.” He stopped when he saw the look on Gianna’s face turn back to the dour expression of an unhappy divorcing woman. The mist in Gianna’s eyes became a collection of tears.

“Oh, Clark, why didn’t you ever ask me out? Didn’t Ginny tell you how much I wanted you to, well . . . so much. I thought you didn’t want me; didn’t like me, you know, just a friend.” She looked up into Clark’s hazel eyes, eyes that she beseeched with hers; beseeched to give her back her single life; to give her a chance to rewind the film and cast Clark as her co-star; her love interest.

Clark, despite his lingering smile, swallowed hard as he thought of what to say; or what Gianna wanted him to say. He couldn't tell her the truth. He felt ashamed of the truth. He always considered himself the most honest person he knew and yet here he was under a warming sun in August, talking to a former love, and his conscience was telling him not to tell the truth. He knew Gianna would probably not believe him. She would naturally think that economic circumstances were irrelevant to any true interest, true love. She would think him petty; small minded, to imply that she would have rejected him; that her family would have rejected him, merely on the basis that he was virtually penniless and his family was nowhere in the social set of the city.

Clark was an honorable, modest man. Yet he found it difficult to feel pride in his accomplishments. He graduated with honors from the university. He traveled around the world with Jack Sanders, explored, had adventures, and was employed in a glamorous career before deciding to go to law school 'So what, Clark, is the real truth? What is it about this entire experience; this relationship, this happening? What circumstances; what emotional situation prevented you from asking Gianna Summers for a date?’

He had been poor, and afraid she would not go out with him. He had no money and no car. Even if she did agree to a date and the topic of marriage ever came up, her parents and other high society friends and acquaintances would talk her out of it. All would urge her to consider the endless number of great looking, smart guys in the US—who were already wealthy. And there was another large collection of great looking guys in the professions who were making amazing amounts of money while climbing the ladder to the top of society, and joining all the best clubs. Clark had a job with a radio outfit that paid little and promised an uncertain future. He had no car, no social standing, no money.

Clark looked past Gianna into the swirling mid-day fog.

“Let’s have coffee, Gianna. We can talk. I can tell you what I wanted to tell you for years back in Boston.”

“Oh, Clark,” said Gianna, “I’d love to, but I’m very late for my appointment already. Perhaps another time. But, please tell me why you never even asked me out. I so much wanted you to. Why Clark?”

“Well, how about after your meeting; could we talk then?”

"Oh no, no, Clark. I have an appointment with my lawyer about the divorce. And I’m going to be terribly late for that one too. I’m so sorry, Clark.” She stifled her grief. “But please tell me, Clark. Why didn’t you?” A west wind pushed a film of fog across the sun, casting a shadow over Gianna’s face.

“I was a coward, Gianna,” he said quietly, “I was a double coward, a dishonorable coward. I betrayed my mother and my sister. I didn’t believe they were up to succeeding in your social category or station or whatever you call it. You know what I mean? Your father was the CEO of Liberty Mutual Group. You lived in the most affluent part of the city. You lived in a grand four-storey house with maids and a cook. Your father, as well as your mother, expected their stunningly beautiful and extraordinarily intelligent daughter to marry into the social level they enjoyed—or possibly higher, particularly if her husband to be was from a prominent family. You are an only child and your parents wanted the very best for you. I was not sure your family would even like me,” inhaling deeply, “and not for a moment would they let you marry me if it came to that. I’m positive they had plans for you to marry someone in their social circle, or a handsome young man with money and standing. I would too if I were your father. I couldn’t blame them. Every man in North America would do anything to marry you.”  

Clark stopped to breathe in cool fresh air to chill his cowardice. He looked over Gianna’s shoulder along Market Street while he worked his jaws. “I had all the excuses, Gianna. I lived with my mother and sister in a walkup flat. My parents were divorced and I ___”

“But you went to the best high school in the country. Clark, and your marks were excellent; you even won prizes. I checked out everything about you after I met you at the Hunt Club for that dance. I was with Jack Sanders. Jack told me all about you. He told me you played Varsity football and basketball. And you acted at the college theatre. You even spoke Russian and French, and were the Class President of your graduating year. And you were in a Fraternity, several college clubs, and a number of societies.”  

“We had no car, Gianna; no TV; no yachts or boats; no original paintings, no dinners out; no new clothes; no winter cabin; no skis; no parties; no clubs to go to; no ___”

“But you were in a Fraternity, Clark, and they had parties. And you went to the Hunt Club.” She began to show a subtle irritation. Clark looked away. He raised his head to look at the fog. He bit the sides of his tongue. For a moment, he wasn’t sure where he was. His mind was a frightening blank. He had no idea; not even a clue of what sort of answer to give Gianna.

“You know I always waited for you to dance with me at those dances, Clark. Remember those silly dance cards we had. I always saved at least three dances for you; but you never asked me.” She looked up from under Clark’s chin, waiting for an answer.

Clark’s face was blank. Gianna’s words were virtually his own thoughts in words. Clark said nothing. With a sigh, he remembered what others had told him. He was what every mother would be proud of: a goodhearted, intelligent, athletic young man with charm and wit, and a great sense of humor.

He felt the weights of cowardice and dishonor crushing him. He breathed in deeply again, as he faced the inescapable fact that he was being cowardly and dishonorable again. Horns, clamor, and embarrassment filled the void. Clark looked skyward, wishing for a scant second that he and Gianna, and Ginny and Jack. were there by the river, that evening, that night—and that he had put his arms around her, kissed her; asked for a date. In a flash, his remembrance of things past vanished.

After a few moments,

“I want you to be happy, Gianna, I really do. I am so sorry about your situation; and your husband’s.”
Gianna looked up.

“What about my husband’s situation?” Her tone was not angry. Yet there was a distinct change from a moment ago when she asked him why he left.

“Our company has me investigating a few problems at the bank where your husband works; that’s all. What a coincidence, eh?” He tried to smile. Gianna nodded and looked more kindly toward Clark, “and how about us meeting? How about that coincidence?”

In other circumstances, with a more favorable climate surrounding their meeting, this would definitely be classified as a lucky coincidence; a happy happening; a wonderful chance to laugh and regale; to gather Gianna in his arms and swing her about while she laughed. Her eyes would coruscate so violently Clark would think she was going to take flight, powered by the endless supply of rapture bursting from the over the moon shock of meeting such a happy memory strolling the streets of a city, far away from their home base.

The whistle from an officer directing the traffic at Montgomery and Market slipped through another shred of fog scooting across the sun. This darkening deepened Clark’s growing angst regarding Gianna, his failure to court her, and what if he had . . ? The fog wisp cleared; the sun broke through. Clark’s unquenchable optimism returned.

“Well, Gianna, knowing you—and all your friends, your family, your education,” he could not believe he was talking this way to Gianna Summers. It was a brush-off; a ‘tough-shit for you’ manner of speech. He didn’t hate himself for it, he just did it; without any guilt. He thought this was the best way to wind up this increasingly awkward—and almost embarrassing meeting. He began to feel as though this were a tryst; something that Amanda could never know about. All the same, he knew he would tell Amanda. They had no secrets. The only question was how much he would tell her of the decline and fall—physically, of Gianna Summers.

Gianna was a woman Clark mentioned in reference to weddings he attended, as well as tales of the Yacht Club. With an innocent glee he told Amanda stories about chasing Gianna in her Austin Healy, along with stories about his traveling partner, who turned out to be the one and only Jack Sanders, the man who introduced him to Amanda. No, Clark comfortably returned to his default persona of a tall, young man of eternal optimism, good humor, grit, and adventure.

Clark had told her the truth. He had been a dishonorable coward. Here, he would simply hold her close for a few more moments—perhaps minutes—before he released her to her fate and he could return to his chosen bliss.

Horns honked. Fog covered the sun. The ensuing shade signaled the end of their meeting. Clark thought he might see her again if she were around the bank at a time when he was questioning her husband. Beyond that . . . . he wrinkled his brow, expecting other occasions when they could meet to cross his inner eye. There were none. 

He released her. She tried to remain. Even so, she felt the strong push from Clark although he continued to hold her in his arms. The holding was nothing like what she had thought about and cried about, missed and now mourned of late. No, this was a holding by a person scarcely recognized; an acquaintance of yesteryear; a possible romance that lost its possibility over four years ago.

Gianna stood back and almost succeeded in producing a smile. Clark felt himself returning to his deliriously happy life with his flawless bride. The sun pierced the fog once more, its heat firing up the joy in his heart. A Cable Car bell over on Powell Street rang the end of their meeting. The coincidence was nothing more than that. Gianna’s troubles were now forgotten. Her husband would find no favor with Clark during or after his investigations. He would politely decline any invitations to their mansion in Marin.

While he looked at her now, Clark saw her in the same manner he viewed her when he first sought the woman calling his name. It was as if a long film of years ago had ended and we were all shuffling toward an exit. Gianna’s look clearly meant a return to financial and marital turmoil. His was a resumption of the ecstatic adventure he was sharing with the most desirable woman in the world. He felt sorry for Gianna; a feeling he would have declared impossible four years ago. She managed a weak grin while she wiped her eyes with a Kleenex.

“You’ll be okay, Gianna. You always were, and you will be again.” Clark gave Gianna his winning smile that she recognized immediately from the few occurrences when they had been together, or just seen each other across a dance floor, or a counter at Macy’s, or the aisle of the church where she married. Her heart sank; then soared. Clark Winchester had filled her heart once again. This time, with courage, with hope, with determination. Gianna lifted her head and for the first time that day, she stood up straight to her full height and beamed a splendid smile at Clark. Her eyes flashed and sparkled; she gave a light laugh.

“Thank you, Clark.” She moved up to him and kissed him on the lips. When she withdrew, she turned and continued down Market Street to meet her husband and their fate.

Clark took his company car to meet Amanda in the park for lunch, before heading to the Marina to sit in the sun and prepare for his law classes that evening.

 

THE END


Submitted: July 09, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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