KERRI'S WAR (Volume 3 of The King Trilogy)

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Chapter 64

The next stop on Kerri’s planned itinerary was Steve’s Port Carling home, the place she knew he had not seen since the day of his accident. Even though Steve’s therapist had encouraged her to take him there, she worried that the exposure could upset him further. His last day in the house did not end well.

“Stop here,” Steve said as they drove slowly through the village and approached the Canada Post building, an aging one story, red bricked edifice on Highway 118, also the main street.

Kerri parked in front of the building while Steve fumbled in his pocket. He removed a key ring holding at least six keys, then stepped from the car and hurried inside. He emerged three minutes later holding a five inch stack of envelopes and flyers. She continued her drive while Steve sorted his stack, consisting primarily of letters from attorneys, bills, and junk mail. She turned right on Stephen Road and continued until Steve pointed to his driveway. “There it is. Turn left here.”

She stopped in the small parking area, less then fifty feet from the front door. An ugly mixture of mud, gravel and ice coated the wheels of her car. She emerged from the car and studied the small, dark green stained, single story wood framed structure. She saw the blue white southern extension of Lake Rosseau through the tall hemlocks beyond. “It’s beautiful,” she said, and meant it. The thought of living in a setting as modest, natural and tranquil was enormously appealing to her. She turned to face Steve, who was now standing beside her and still sorting his mail. “Did you hear me?” she asked.

He nodded. “Thank you,” he said, still examining his mail. He removed an envelope from his stack and handed it to her. “This one’s for you.”

She glanced at the letter and verified that it was, indeed, addressed to her at her Tribeca home. The March thirty-first postal stamp confused her. ‘RETURN TO SENDER. FORWARDING ADDRESS UNKNOWN’ was stamped on the front in bold red letters. She turned the envelope over and was shocked to see that the sender was Steve. “This is from you...Do you remember sending it?”

He gave her a blank stare, then shook his head.

“I’m going to open it and read it to you. Do you mind?”

“No. Go ahead.”

She opened the envelope, taking care not to destroy it, then read aloud,

“Dear Kerri;

There is so much I want to say to you, it’s difficult to know where to start. A large part of me is insisting that I do it in person, but a larger part wants me to do it in writing. I’m not sure why, but I think the first part is afraid I’ll make a mistake, leave something out, say it the wrong way, or worst of all, say something I’ll regret. After what’s just happened in my life, I’m not exactly long on confidence.

The first thing I want to do is to thank you again for everything you have done for my mother. I appreciate it more than you could ever know. Your generous efforts and unique insight into the source of her grief have made an incredible difference in her attitude in a very short period of time. It is my sincere hope that someday I’ll be in a position to thank you in a much more tangible way.

Next, I want to explain to you why I ended my wedding the way I did. I don’t expect you to understand, but I think I owe it to you. I wanted to tell you at the reception, but you were with my mother at the time. I did not want her to know what I was planning to do because she would have tried to stop me, or forced me to give her an extended explanation. I couldn’t do it. I was in shut down mode. It took every ounce of emotional strength I had left to make my apologies and leave. The woman I had just married had hurt me like I’ve never been hurt before. Even worse, she did it dishonestly. It was painful to stand in front of my friends and the guests at my own wedding and disappoint them the way I did, but my only justification is that my disappointment was larger than theirs.

I had just learned that the woman I thought I loved had terminated her pregnancy, clinically, without telling me. The news was devastating. Learning of the abortion from a friend of Christine’s only increased the pain. I don’t know when Christine planned to tell me, but whenever it was, it was far too late. I had to leave. I couldn’t stay and pretend for one second longer than I did. I’m sure some people will accuse me of being a quitter, but I know in my heart they’re wrong. I was running away from dishonesty. I can’t live with it. I never will. I experienced it so frequently while I travelled the world with Paracon. I didn’t belong in a culture that fed at that trough, so I left, disappeared into obscurity. I need to stay there until I can be certain of what to do with the rest of my life.

You are a wonderful woman, Kerri King. You and I share a special and unique bond. We agreed to be friends, and you lived up to your end of the bargain. I didn’t. I’m telling you this because there is something inside me that I know will torment me until I do. I knew from the second I saw you at The Health Club last September that you were special. You proved it in so many ways: by sharing my pain, by attending my father’s memorial, and by caring so selflessly for my mother. You have a strength of character that I would very much like to get to know, if you will let me.

By the time you read this, I will have left Canada. I don’t know where I’m going, or how long I’ll be gone, but it will be far and it will be for as long as it takes.

Until we meet again,

Your friend,

Steve.”

Tears had flooded her eyes long before she finished reading. It was obvious that Steve had written the letter after he ended his marriage to Christine and before his accident. Equally obvious was the fact that he cared a great deal for her, and that he had been deeply hurt.

The letter affected Steve in an entirely different way. Like a mind-stimulating miracle drug, it went to work. It started as a gentle trickle, then graduated to a torrent. An explosion of visions flashed through his brain: his marriage to Christine in Naples, his wedding vows, the horrifying revelation of Jennifer Adams that the woman he had married had terminated her pregnancy, his unilateral termination of the wedding, his confrontation with Jamie Stewart, the writing of the letter to Kerri, his final visit to The Monster, and finally, his accident. His blank stare transformed into a knowing smile. “I remember,” he said, then took Kerri into his arms and kissed her, long and hard.

Kerri responded eagerly to the kiss, deliriously happy that the letter had done so much for his memory, thrilled to be in Steve’s arms, wanting to stay there. “I’ll let you,” she whispered after the kiss ended.

“You’ll let me do what?” he asked, puzzled.

“Get to know me.”

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