A year after his wife's murder, Sebastian Wright meets someone from his past
|He sat on the lake’s beach, the sand in his toes felt relaxing and therapeutic. Lord knew that he needed it. This time the previous year, he was a successful and sought-after software engineer – he was hired by IMB and GE as a freelance programmer – and married to a successful attorney. Things changed, however, on a morning just like this.
Vanessa Della Rosa had finally listened to the senior partners at Oldham and Newbury and took a vacation day in the middle of the week to decompress. She needed it; Sebastian had told her several times to do it. But she felt that she owed it to her clients, to the senior partners, and everyone else at the firm to work until the case was finished.
“Nothing but 100%,” was the reason she told him. “I can’t take time off. It would not be right.” This day, a Wednesday, she did.
And in typical Vanessa fashion, she had the day planned before she awoke. She printed off two copies, one for herself and for her Sasza, his nickname since he was born. They were going to the supermarket to pick up French bread, some ham, cheese, and Pepsi, then off to the Saratoga National Historical Park, to visit the cannons and have a picnic lunch. Once they traveled through battlefields it was off to a mall; she needed new lingerie and shoes.
Sebastian had no problems with work; he had just finished a month in Las Vegas writing and implementing financial software for a casino and was not contracted to work again until a month later. He looked forward to spending the day with her, the woman he met while both were students at Charlotte State College, though she was a second-year law student, and he was a sophomore soccer playing Computer Science major. Their attraction had been instant, combustible sexual attraction lead them to his off-campus apartment within five minutes, and they were a couple since.
The day came, the shopping went well – they picked up grapes and potato chips in addition to what she had listed – and the hour or so to the “Battlefield” went too quickly, thanks to the music and chat. Once inside, they took their time driving, stopping at each cannon to take pictures, more so as proof to her coworkers that she can relax. Noon came and she pulled the car over and asked, strongly, that he start making sandwiches.
“You’re better,” was her last comment before it happened, before his world came crashing down.
Sebastian Wright loved Rainham Lake and the campgrounds. It’s where he and his four sisters spent most of their summers growing up, even after their parents’ divorce. There, the five siblings would spend at least one week, most summers two or three weeks, of camping, time away from the city of Beverwyck, time to recharge their summer batteries and forget all about everything else. Sebastian was a natural athlete and would spend most of the days at the softball field but would also bring a book or magazine to read while he waited for his turn to play.
“Go back to Rainham,” he was told a week ago by his oldest sister Stephanie. “It’ll do you good, get you out of the house.” He knew she was right but didn’t want to admit it. What middle child would agree with an older sibling? He quickly made plans to camp, called the state to reserve a site, and asked his father to borrow the old popup trailer.
Sunset was quickly enveloping him; the sand was getting cooler. The lake’s blue was turning black in the fading sunlight. He grabbed a handful of the white beach and tossed it lightly towards the water, something he loved to do before he’d stand and return to his site as a child. He did it now.
“I remember someone used to do that a lot,” a female voice said from behind. It was familiar, a voice from his past, someone from before he met his wife, and someone who broke his heart. He sighed and closed his eyes.
Did he want to see her again? Did he want to talk with his first love? He knew all the old feelings would return and that made him afraid. He loved Vanessa, and her death did not stop that. He was afraid that the old feelings returning would mean he was cheating on her.
“Oh no, darling,” a whisper in his ear came, a soft voice he heard often while in bed, while making dinner, while sitting on their couch, both reading, her court briefs and he one of the books in his extensive collection he inherited from his maternal grandfather. “You won’t be cheating.” He felt her breath on his ear, followed by ghostly, cold lips on his cheek. “I love you,” she whispered.
Sebastian slowly stood and cleaned the sand off his shorts and legs. He leaned down and picked up his sneakers before he looked at the source. He knew it was her, from the voice and from the perfume, the same perfume she had when they first met, and she wore to her prom.
Memories flooded his brain. He saw her as the titian haired girl on the campground’s volleyball court, a white bikini that caught his eye. He saw her closing her eyes as they leaned in for their first kiss. He saw the smile on her face when he first said those three words.
He looked at her, into the same heather eyes that caused him to go weak-kneed at 15, at the same smile that almost caused him to miss a strike at goal at 17. Her face was older, fuller, but with the same joie de vie. He sighed and felt 15 again.
Sebastian felt his mouth dry and the energy sap from his legs. He caught himself and smiled at his accomplishment of standing tall.
“Sasza!” she cried.
“Hello Tish,” he said calmly, belying the excitement in his stomach. He made a quick look at her left hand: ringless.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered and grabbed his hands. “I read about your wife’s murder, read about the quick capture, and trial.” Her voice trailed off, as if she knew she was stepping into a territory that would be painful. “I should have sent you a letter or at least a mass card, but I knew it wasn’t my place.”
“Thank you, Valentina” he whispered. There was so much he wanted to ask, wanted to know. He felt that he was owed a reason for why she broke his heart several years earlier, why she felt it was necessary to end their two-year relationship. Sebastian wanted to know why Valentina Santangelo felt it essential to write him a short letter, telling him that she no longer wanted to be associated with him as they went off to college. But all he could muster was, “What brings you here?” he asked.
“Vacationing.” Before he could ask another question, she added, “I’m here with a girlfriend, both of us getting away from our exes.”
“Perfect,” the whisper said. “Perfect, Sasza honey. She’s divorced and available.”
In his mind, he told her he did not want to cheat on her.