“Go for it, Andy.“
“Uncle Frank, mom thinks I should reconsider. I will be the only divorcee in the family.”
“Life is too precious to waste on a scumbag. Start over.”
Andrea “Andy” Guzman remembered this conversation from a year ago. Her uncle provided unwavering support when she divorced her philandering husband against the wishes of her ultra-religious family. Her mom’s quiet recriminations hurt more than the breakdown of her marriage.
And now, three months after succumbing from a massive heart attack, Uncle Frank is still protecting his niece. He bequeathed his 3-bedroom Victorian house in North Carolina to Andy. He gave her a chance to start over.
A new home, a new life. The house is her safe haven from the bitter memories in New York. New beginnings.
And as a nurse practitioner, she landed a job at the local hospital where her uncle used to be the supervising doctor. Tomorrow, the local contractor that her real estate agent had contacted is coming to talk about renovations for the house.
Andy groaned at all the unpacking facing her. The bedroom’s walk-in closet needed more shelves on the back wall. As she bent to retrieve her bag on the floor, her head hit the wall, and the wall gave way.
A door to another walk-in closet? A secret room? Andy groped for a wall switch. The room illuminated, it was as if she stepped onto a woman’s boudoir. One side of the wall was a rack of stylish women’s suits and signature bags. A full mirror reflected her confused look.
“Uncle Frank had a mistress?”. Not surprising since he was proud of his gigolo reputation. Judging by the quality of the clothes, his mistress led a busy social life, a ‘fashionista’”.
On a small desk near the door lay a keepsake box with a rich wood finish with her uncle’s name engraved on the top. The box contained letters and poems in her uncle’s and another person’s handwriting.
Some letters were written by someone named Alex. “Probably, short for Alexandra“.
Andy skimmed through Alex’s letters that spoke of stolen times and the writer’s longing to “stop the pretense“. Reading the emotional upheaval that the woman was going through, Andy wondered about the obstacles that she was writing about. The letters spoke of forbidden love, but also of the cherished memories shared with her ‘soul mate’.
Alex wrote, “My son even noticed that I look happier when you are around. He understands what we are going through.” It finally dawned on Andy that her uncle was carrying an affair with a married woman.
One note hinted of the couple’s matchmaking plans, “Your niece Andy has your kind eyes . I wish my son Jordan can meet her“.
Just as suddenly, Alex’s letters stopped. Then Uncle Frank started writing short poems. The family used to make fun of his writing skills describing his journalistic writings as methodical with military precision, and therefore devoid of emotions. He had always scoffed at maudlin sentiments.
Uncle Frank wrote, “Last night, I dreamed of you. I reached back… retraced the path to our yesteryears. And I closed my eyes, just long enough to remember, just long enough to cry. I embraced the pillow and pretended it was you. And now, it is too late“.
Andy’s heart skipped in fear of what’s to come next.
A folded newspaper clipping revealed an obituary for a middle-aged man. It read of the passing of Alex Smith, respected newspaper columnist, and a divorced father of three from a car-crash a year ago. The picture was taken at a happier time. Alex had an engaging smile that reached up to his light-colored eyes.
Andy remembered her uncle’s distracted air as they strolled in Central Park a year ago. He advised, “Start over. And when you build your new life, make sure you leave room for love. When you finally found the love of your life, you have to fight for him“.
Wrapped in her own misery, Andy had dismissed her uncle’s agonized look as a reflection of her feelings. She did not know that his profound sadness was because of the loss of the love of his life.
Shocked by the revelation of her uncle’s sexuality, Andy bemoaned his uncle’s tortured existence. She cried herself to sleep. In her dream, her uncle’s tentative expression changed to a grateful smile when she hugged him in total acceptance.
The next day, the contractor arrived to discuss the renovation project. He looked familiar. His blue eyes mesmerized Andy as he introduced himself.
“Hi, I’m Jordan Smith.”
author: Jo Cerrudo
You remind me I live in a shell
Safe from the past and doin’ okay but not very well
No jolts, no surprises, no crisis arises
My life goes along as it should
It’s all very nice, not very good
And I’m ready to take a chance again
Ready to put my love on the line with you
Been livin’ with nothing for show for it
You get what you get when you go for it
And I’m ready to take a chance again with you