After they put away the chess board, Ken murmured, “I seem to remember a phone conversation last week regarding someone sitting in my lap. I’m going to go over to my wonderful new couch cushions and sit down. Then I’ll close my eyes and hope someone will come along, see my empty, forlorn lap and sit in it.”
Peggy sat. He wrapped his arms around her. After a few seconds, she told him, “Your bones are too hard. I have a better way to snuggle with you.”
Kicking off her shoes, she stretched out on the couch. She put her head in his lap. Her brown eyes shined right into his.
Peggy began. “We need to talk, Ken. I’m terribly afraid I haven’t been honest with you.”
“That’s hard to believe, Peggy.”
She blundered on. “When Peter died, there were several months when I felt dead inside. I also felt sexually dead. My entire body was consumed by grief.”
“That’s certainly understandable, Peggy. What does that have to do with being dishonest?”
“Last week, when I turned your loving kiss into something more intimate, I may have done it….. well… just to see if I was still alive, sexually. It may have had nothing to do with how I feel about you. It may have been all about me. If that’s truly what happened, I wasn’t being honest.”
Ken mulled over her admission…… It took forever before he finally replied.
“Peggy, if my recollection of what you said is correct, you kept using the word may have been the reason. That tells me, it might not have been the reason. You’re simply not sure.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“So what you’re saying is, maybe you got a little sexy because of me, and maybe you got a little sexy because you wanted to be sure you are still sexually viable.”
“That sounds right.”
“Well, Peggy, I honestly don’t give a damn why you got sexy; I’m just glad you did…… Let me put it this way, if I wasn’t the reason you got sexy, why did the need to test your sexual viability just happen to come up last week when we were kissing?
After a pause, he added. “Did you give Myron a sexy kiss?”
“Heavens no! I never even kissed him once!”
“What about Jeb?”
“Jeb is just…. . Jeb. He’s a true friend.”
“But have you kissed him?”
“Ken, I don’t choose to answer that.”
It occurred to Peggy that she needed to keep Jeb in the picture at least somewhere in order to keep Ken guessing a little.
After a moment’s reflection Ken announced, “I choose to decide that I was a significant part of the reason you wanted to find out if you were still sexually viable. You were never dishonest, Peggy. But the fact that you brought up this discussion, proves how solid our relationship has become.”
Peggy took a deep breath. “You sure know how to make me feel better.”
She put her arms around him, gently kissing his cheek.
“As long as we’re having a serious discussion, Peggy, I need to express my thoughts for a minute……. I’m receiving mixed signals. I know we’re having lots of fun together. One minute I feel like you really care for me. The next minute I sense you’re trying to keep your distance. Sometimes I feel as if you don’t want anything magic to happen.”
A long pause occurred before Peggy could formulate her reply………. . “You’ve figured me out exactly, Ken. Please remember I warned you on our 10-minute date I was ‘complicated. ’
“During these past weeks, you’ve given me great comfort. You’re lots of fun. I definitely owe you an explanation. Right now, I’ve a bunch of different problems in my life.
“The biggest problem is this nice guy named Ken Lister. He’s worked his way into my heart with his warmth, gentleness, kindness and yes, affection. I really feel you are fond of me, Ken…. . I feel your affection is growing.”
“My affection for you is growing too,” she confessed. “Sometimes I want you to kiss me so badly I could scream. Trust me; I truly want to advance our relationship to another level. Then all these other problems enter the picture.
“I’m a widow in a small town. I don’t want to get some kind of a reputation as a fast loose woman. Which is part of the reason I have kept ‘us’ under cover.
“Then I have Jeb. He’s been a loyal friend. He’s very shy. I don’t want to ever hurt him, ever.
“Problem number three has to be that bastard Ralph Tarrance. If he found out we were dating, and he would quickly find out in this small town, I’d be in further trouble at the bank.
“My job is extremely important to our livelihood. I enjoy banking. I’ve a huge time investment in my MBA classes. Changing jobs before I get my degree is literally unthinkable because the Bank is paying my tuition.
“Last, but far from least, I feel the need to keep ‘us’ under cover is because of Ned. If Ned found out, it could go one of two ways:
“I know he really likes you. If he knew we were dating, he might start pushing me to fall in love with you. If I did that…..well….It would be for the wrong reason, Ken.
“Here’s the other way things could go with Ned. I keep mentioning the possibility I might start a relationship with a man. Ned gets adamant. Remember, he ran away once over a man I dated. Ken, I just don’t dare subject him to that kind of emotional trauma ’till I’m positive I’m in love and that I have the right man for both of us.”
Ken replied, “You know, it thrills me when you use the term ‘us’ as you just did. …. Is that the last problem?”
“No…. This one may be the toughest of all,” ………. . …. “The last problem is Peter. The other night when we kissed, my body exploded. I wanted you. You have no idea how seriously I wanted you. Later I began to feel remorse. I felt disloyal to Peter…. I felt naughty. Like I was doing something shameful……. . It’s really complicated, isn’t it?”
Ken replied, “When two people become fond of each other, kissing is natural. There is nothing bad or shameful in expressing affection with a kiss. Besides, I have been dying to kiss you ever since you drove into the garage. I simply can’t wait any longer.”
Strengthening his grip, he pulled Peggy up from his lap. He began kissing her gently. She circled his head with her arms, kissing him back. They kissed again. When he deepened the kiss, she melted. Soon they were both panting with desire.
Ken slid his hand gently over her breast. “Oh God,” she muttered. It felt marvelous to be caressed so gently. “That feels so good, Ken, don’t stop, please don’t stop.” …. .
Suddenly, she froze. Pushing away from him, she sat straight up on the couch.
A stunned Ken exclaimed, “What’s wrong Peggy?”
She slid as far away as she could, clear to the end of the couch.
“Nothing’s wrong. It felt so right. Then all of a sudden there was……. Peter.” She burst into tears. “Oh Ken, can you ever forgive me? I still must need more time to get this into proper prospective.”
“Peggy I understand it must be terribly difficult for you. Is there anything I can do to help?”
She replied, “Can you help? Ken you are the problem. Remember my number one issue was you. I haven’t been forced to face this ‘ghost of Peter’ thing for over two years! I was safe in my cocoon, protected by my shield. Now you come into my life and get me to fall for you. As I think about it, I’m falling really hard for you. My body is screaming for you. Unfortunately, my brain just isn’t on the same page.
“Let me put it this way. There’s been no one for me since Peter died. No one even began to make me the least bit interested. Now here you are. A large part of me wants to grab you by the hand, drag you into the bedroom and make passionate love to you. But, when we loved, would I be wishing you were Peter?. . . . . . . . Right now………. I think…… I might.
“I can’t do that to you. I can’t go to bed with you until I’m going there because I want you. I can’t go to bed with you because I’m wishing for some ghost. I realize this is my problem. I know I have to solve it. I will solve it Ken, because I want to solve it very, very badly.
“Please, please, please dear Ken, don’t run away. Please say you’ll keep doing what you’re doing, until I can work through all of this.”
Her tears were flowing in torrents, soaking her cheeks……. Ken’s eyes also were also moistening. He kissed her tears. Then Peggy tenderly kissed his lips.
“I have to go,” she whispered. “My emotions can’t handle any more right now.” She grabbed her purse, the cassette recorder and headed for the garage door.
Ken called, “Wait.” She turned. Rising from the couch, he walked rapidly toward her. “You haven’t heard my answer.”
“I know. I’m deathly afraid of what you’re going to say.”
Ken smiled. He took Peggy into his arms. “I couldn’t say no even if I wanted to. Peggy dearest, I’m in love with you. I’m utterly and permanently in love with you. I’ve no choice except to stay as your constant friend. I hope and pray that someday……. maybe…. . you’ll fall in love with me.”
“Oh Ken, sometimes I think…… I already am.”
She turned and fled.
As she drove home, she reflected upon how sincere he was when he told her of his love. That was not a statement intended to make me feel good. He was truly confessing his feelings for me.
She tried to make herself elated at the news. Ken had confessed he loved her! Actually, she’d been certain that he was in love with her for several weeks. Just seeing the way his eyes glowed, let her know how he felt about her. Still, it was exciting to hear him verbalize his feelings.
Peggy kept thinking. She began to realize how badly she wanted Ken’s physical touch. The more she thought about physical touching, the more confused she became. Her feelings of loyalty and love for Peter still loomed large in her psyche. When she parked the car in the garage, the clash between her physical need and her emotional loyalty to her dead husband became overwhelming. Laying her head on the steering wheel, immersed in her anguish, she wept.
After a good long cry, she headed into the house. Margo took one look at her daughter’s tear streaked face and asked,
“Want to talk, honey?”
“Oh Mom, I’m so mixed up! Ken is so wonderful to me. When we kissed tonight, I started to melt. Then I froze. I felt unfaithful to Peter. It was simply awful.”
“Peggy, sit down next to me a minute.” She thought for a while in order to compose her thoughts.
“Suppose a woman has a child. Then she has a second child. Does she stop loving the first child because she now has another one?”
“No, of course not, she loves them both.”
“Love is infinite. There was no end to how much I loved your father. The longer we lived together, the more I loved him. If love is infinite; there is no end to it.
“If this is true, then the human soul has infinite capacity to love. Just because you’re in love with Ken, doesn’t mean you have to stop loving Peter. You can love them both.
“You and Peter had ten wonderful years together. Plus three more if you count your college days. Your memories of Peter are precious. Now the book is closed. You didn’t close it. But, it’s closed.
“With any good book, when you finish reading it, you have to put it on the shelf. You can take it down to read it again any time you wish. Whenever you do, the love you and Peter still have together will return to you.
“The last thing Peter would want is for you to spend your life mourning him. He loved you. He would want you to go forward and live a happy life. I know he would. Remember, I knew Peter pretty well.”
After a moment Peggy replied, “Thanks Mom. I guess I never realized I could love Ken and still be loyal to my love for Peter. The idea sounds perfect. If I can get my emotions to agree with your logic, everything will work out. I’m just not sure I can do it quickly. Thank goodness, sweet Ken has agreed to wait until I’m ready.”
“Peggy, you’re a very strong woman. You can succeed at anything you set your mind to accomplish.”
As they hugged good night, Peggy whispered, “Thanks. You’re not just a great Mom; you’re a great best friend.”