Chapter 24

© Copyright 2006 by Kendra Cornell

Ellen had arrived home, and packed her designer luggage quickly. She took only things that would travel well, leaving most of her professional attire behind. A curious freedom accompanied her movements- almost as if she was casting off a massive burden by making this decision.

Ellen had been right- when she walked in the door, Tom was nowhere to be found. That was just as well; she no longer had any energy to sort through this mess right now. Every so often, a renewed twinge would course through her, and she’d think of her husband- her husband alone with another woman. And the fury would blind her so quickly that she began to deliberately avoid the thought of any topic having to do with his betrayal. Rather, for the time being, she preferred to think of this situation as an extended visit with one of her precious children- time with the grandkids, and time to relax away from the spotlights of the media frenzy that had consumed her life for months now.

At one point, the attention had actually been fun- a new experience of sorts. And Ellen had to admit that she had loved having her husband get all the attention. It was such a blessing to be able to reach people on such a grand scale. Really, how many people ever got that kind of opportunity? But as time passed, Tom had increased his time away and never did there seem to be any remorse, only excitement. Ellen had suggested a romantic weekend away six months ago, and already Tom had been like a madman- focused only on the election, and unaware of Ellen and her life outside of his own. She missed her husband desperately, but had been raised to keep those kind of opinions to herself. After all, what kind of helpmeet was she if she didn’t utterly support her husbands’ goals?

Sighing, Ellen continued to fold shirts and pants. She gathered toiletries from her side of the bathroom and packed those as well. She surveyed the rest of the room, wondering if there was something she was forgetting. Gently, her eyes came to rest on her favorite photo- the one of a young, long-haired laughing brunette dancing in the arms of a much younger Tom Delaney on their wedding day. Feeling as though the wind had been completely taken out of her sails, Ellen sat on the edge of the bed and closed her eyes. A solitary tear trickled down her cheek as she was taken back to that day.

Dressed in a long, white satin gown, Ellen had been sitting in the church nervously while her mother adjusted the veil on her satiny hair. Her younger sister was standing up with her, and wore her pink velvet gown with pride, twirling in front of the long mirror that had been brought in for this day alone. Her mother seemed to be taking much longer than necessary, and finally Ellen rose and crossed to the mirror, more in nervous agitation than frustration.

“Mom, what’s the matter? Never mind… I’ll fix it,” and Ellen lifted bare arms to see how to affix the dramatic length of tulle to her hair.

Ellen’s mother wore a light blue dress and a matching hat. Her cat-eyed black-rimmed glasses made her eyes seem smaller somehow. Softly, she replied, “It’s not that I couldn’t do it. It’s just that the sooner it’s done, the sooner you’ll be out of here,” and with a smile and tears in her eyes she continued, “And I’m just not that anxious to see you go.”

Ellen stopped fussing with the veil and turned to her mother, smiling. “Mom, I’m not leaving. I’ll always be close by.”

“Oh honey, I know that. And I am just filled with happiness for you. I just want to make sure that this is really what you want. Do you really believe with all your heart that Tom Delaney is the man God intended for you?”

“Oh yes, Mom! He’s just… Well, he’s… Oh! I just can’t even explain it Mom, but when I’m with him…” her voice faded off and a faint blush crept up her neck and into her cheeks.

Understanding, Ellen’s mother nodded. “That’s as it should be. Marriage is for life. A good marriage will sustain you through the hardest of times. One made in foolishness will cause the greatest difficulty. Keep the Lord as the center of your life, Ellen. That’s the best advice I can give you.”

Ellen embraced her mother briefly, while her sister flitted back in from the hallway.

“Come on Mama! Ellen, they’re ready for you. You look like an angel!” she breathed as she excitedly went to line up in the wedding party.

Ellen’s mother helped to fix and adjust her elbow-length satin gloves, and then she tenderly pulled the front layer of the long veil over Ellen’s face. Then she too turned and walked to the rear doors of the church.

Ellen’s father was dressed in an elegant tuxedo. He took her arm, and squeezed her hand, communicating what he couldn’t do in words. The organ began its familiar strains and Ellen began her slow march down the aisle. When she finally saw Tom, the rock that had somehow twisted her insides into knots finally released. With all her heart, Ellen longed to join with this man for the rest of her life. Never had she known anything with such surety in all her young life.

As her father handed her symbolically over to Tom’s safe-keeping, Tom’s hands shook, but he never looked away from her face. They repeated their vows in quiet solemnity, every breath testifying to their mutual sincerity. When the pastor finally announced that Ellen was now Mrs. Thomas Delaney, Tom lifted her veil and held her face in both of his hands. He looked deeply into her eyes for a long moment before he met her lips with his own. Her own hands lifted to his wrists, and the intensity of the kiss was felt by every guest in attendance.

At the reception, Ellen and Tom fed each other cake. Ellen had danced with her father and several others, but most of her evening was monopolized by her new husband. Surrounded by well-wishers, they danced the night away. Not all women could say so, but her wedding day had truly been one of the happiest days of Ellen’s life. Brought back to reality, Ellen looked again at the framed picture she held in her hand. A photographer had captured that moment candidly, as Tom swept Ellen around laughing in happiness as he did so. Ellen had always treasured this photograph more than the formal portraits because the life and love in their eyes was so clearly evident.

Without a second thought, Ellen shoved the photograph underneath some of her other belongings and closed her luggage solidly. Taking a deep breath, she knew that there was no other option for her right now than to get some distance. Walking down the stairs, Ellen left the note she had written propped on the kitchen counter, hoping that Tom wouldn’t miss it if and when he finally came in. Resolving not to cry again, at least for the next ten minutes, Ellen walked outside and loaded her suitcase into the trunk of her waiting car.

A neighbor- someone with whom Ellen was not very familiar- called out to her, but Ellen only gave a brief wave as she climbed into the car and drove away. The weasel-eyed woman, a busybody that lived to involve herself in other people’s business, recognized an unusual situation when she saw one. Ellen Delaney had left her husband! The woman put down the hose she was using to water her begonias, and went inside. Quickly, finding the number for the local television station, she informed them that she had some lucrative information for them about the mayoral candidate Tom Delaney. A half-hour later, a news crew was on the way to the function where Tom was shaking hands and introducing himself to voters.

Ellen drove in the silence of her car to her daughter’s house. She loved Tom- even after all this time, there was no doubt in her heart. But when had Tom stopped loving her? When had he begun to look elsewhere? And what had Ellen done to cause it? Questions swirled in her mind with no respite.

Arriving at her daughter’s home, her son-in-law was instantly there helping to lift the suitcase out of the trunk. He gave her a one-armed hug and said, “Glad you could finally make it, Mom.” She patted his arm affectionately. Ellen had given her daughter the same advice as her mother had given her. In this case, things seemed to have worked out well.

Ellen’s daughter, Sarah, was a lot like Ellen had been at that age. She was tall and beautiful, well-spoken and intelligent. Sarah and her husband, Todd, had opted to have one of them home with the girls as they grew up. And because Todd had more earning potential, Sarah stayed home. The situation worked out well. The girls seemed happy and well-adjusted, but were still pre-teen and things were likely to change in the next few years, as Ellen well knew.

“Hi, Honey,” Ellen greeted her daughter with a hug. Sarah returned the embrace, concern evident in her eyes.

“Hi, Mom… How are you?”

“Fine, fine,” said Ellen whispering thanks to Todd who was busy bringing her luggage up to the guest room.

“Come in and sit down, Mom. The girls are at a friend’s house for a while, so we can talk in here,” and Sarah led her Mom into her family room. Ellen sank into the furniture- Sarah’s house was designed for a growing family, there was no doubt about that.

Sarah served some hot tea and fresh chocolate-chip cookies. Ellen took one, fidgeting with it more than eating. And quietly, Sarah said, “What’s going on, Mom? Why’d you leave Dad?”

Ellen knew that she needed to be honest, but the idea of discussing this with a woman, who would always be at least partially her little girl, was disconcerting. Searching for words, she finally replied.

“Honey, I found out that your dad has been unfaithful,” said Ellen, not able to meet Sarah’s eyes. “I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, but I know that I need some distance right now… things are just too difficult being there with him.”

Sarah gulped, not wanting to say the wrong thing. “I… I’m so sorry, Mom. What happened? I mean… How did you find out?”

“Well, she sent me a letter. Unfortunately, the woman in question passed away recently, and apparently made arrangements to inform me of their… involvement if it was found that she died suspiciously. The letter suggests that she believes your father to be involved with the entire… uh, mess.”

Sarah’s jaw slackened in shock. “Are you saying that you got a letter from a woman, claiming to have had an affair with Dad, and she said that he murdered her?!”

“That would be the sum and substance of the situation, yes.”

“But Mom… What if this is some crazy woman off the street?”

“She’s not, Honey. Your Dad admitted that they were involved.”

At this, Sarah’s head dropped, her lips pressed tightly together. Finally, she looked up again. “Mom… I’m so sorry. I… I don’t know what to say right now.”

Ellen smiled a little, her love for her child evident even in her own pain. “It’s okay. I don’t know what to say either. “

“Does Dad know you’re here?”

“Not yet. I left him a note at home. He’s apparently out on the campaign trail. There’s still two days left until the election, and I’m sure he feels he can’t let go at this juncture.”

Sarah almost snorted, her disgust apparent. “Right, the man is losing his wife, and he’s out kissing babies.”

“Sarah, this is still too raw for both of us. I don’t really know what your father is thinking or doing right now. And frankly, my own issues are more than enough. At some point in the near future, I am going to have to confront your father, but that point is not now. For the time being, I’d love to spend time with you and Todd and the girls, off the camera and out of the spotlight. I want to do fun things- go to the museum and the zoo and out to lunch. And when the time comes to deal with all this… Then I will do it.”

Sarah cocked her head to the side and smiled at her mother. “Mom, you are the strongest woman I’ve ever met in my life, do you know that?”

“I don’t know about that. Right now, I just want to get through the day without losing my mind. So… What can I do around here to help out?”

Sarah rose, resigned to the fact that her mom needed to deal with this in her own way and time, and said, “How about helping me with supper? The girls will be home in a little bit, and I know they’d love to have a fun dinner with their Nana.”

Ellen smiled and replied, “That’s just what the doctor ordered. Let’s get to it!”

HEY! and don't forget to e-mail Kendra Cornell if you have a comment! She would really like to hear from you.

Return to Right to Refuge

Cybergrace Banner Exchange 2000