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The Sin Renounced

This won’t make much sense unless a person reads The Sin first. The members of the writing groups thought I should bring closure to Laura and Lee’s story, so I wrote this to finish it.

February Level A Exercsie
Connect2.JMW
Copyright 2002
Julie Weathers (jmw751)
All rights reserved

The Sin Renounced

Laura felt his touch as soon as she slid into the cloud of scented bubbles. He haunted her dreams and memories. He came suddenly and unbidden like a desert storm. Sometimes he was a soft, gentle rain and at other times he was powerful in his passion, sweeping her along dry arroyos of emotion and flooding her with dreams of what might have been. He was whispering quiet words of love now.

Her eyes closed as his lips lingered at her throat. “Go away,” she sighed. “I’m married and you, my phantom lover, probably are also by now.”

The bathroom was dark except for the bank of candles on the vanity and antique washstand. A hint of a breeze drifted in through the open window and touched the flickering flames. Laura immersed her tired body in the hot bath while her mind tried to get lost in drawings of wrought iron gates. Her lover finally faded away when the logical numbers and measurements refused to yield to emotion.

She didn’t feel the wind, but she smelled the acrid smoke when the flames died out.

“Laura, you’re going to set this place on fire with all those candles on that wood.”

Her eyes opened slowly to gaze on Charles. Ever practical Charles was systematically extinguishing her altar offerings.

She closed her eyes again. “I’m watching them. They were fine.”

“You didn’t even know I was in the room. How could you watch them?” He walked over to her and picked up the sponge floating by her knee. He knelt down and kissed her neck. She needed that. Reality. “Let me wash your back,” he said.

She leaned forward, wanting to be thrilled by his nearness. Consciously willing herself to think of no one else, she strained to feel excited. She settled for a blank mind.

“What were you thinking about when I walked in?” Charles asked as he squeezed out the sponge to rinse her back.

“The wrought iron gates I’m building in welding class. I’m trying to decide how I want to lay out the roses.”

He dropped the sponge in her bath. She kissed his hand. “Thank you, darling. I’ll be done in a moment and finish supper.”

She stood up in the bath and reached for a towel draped across an old hame mounted to the wall.

“I’ve been hoping you could find some nice ladies’ clubs or civic organizations to join. You need to get out and make contacts. Be involved. Let people know who you are.”

Her eyebrow raised slightly in surprise. Was this a new strategy or was he genuinely concerned about her making friends? “I’m going to the community college to take welding lessons. That’s enough for me.”

He picked up the towel she had draped across the tub and neatly folded it in half before laying it backdown. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. I don’t really think that’s very ladylike to be welding. Can’t you take pottery or painting classes?”

“I don’t need pots and paintings. I need gates.”

He followed her into the bedroom and sat in the chair beside the patio doors. His fingers folded into a church steeple as he watched her dress. “I know, but you can hire that done. You’re way over budget on the remodel, but I think the gates would be a good investment. Just do some kind of bars or something instead of that rose design you were showing me.”

She stepped out of the closet and dropped the leather sandals on the Mexican tile floor. The clatter echoed hollowly off the walls. “I don’t want bars, I want roses. I’ll sell one of the horses if I need to.”

“I don’t know why you bought two in the first place. You can only ride one at a time.”

“I bought two so we could go riding together. I know that’s a radical idea, but foolish me. I thought you meant it when you said you were taking early retirement. It’s been nearly eighteen months now and I seriously doubt you are any closer than you were.”

His eyes gleamed brightly before he dropped his gaze. She knew that look. He had her right where he wanted her. If she had been on the witness stand, this is where he would produce the witness, proving she killed the victim.

“Actually, I’ve been talking to Vernon and he thinks it would be a great idea to open an office in
Phoenix.”

She stopped listening and pretended not to hear as she returned to the kitchen with Charles following. The enchiladas were bubbling hot when she pulled them from the oven. She poured a bit more green sauce on them and shredded a last layer of cheese over them before
ladling them onto a warm platter. Charles took the dishes stacked on the patio table and returned to the dining room.

“I thought we could eat on the patio tonight,” she said.

“Let’s eat in the dining room like humans. I think this morning’s breakfast with the bugs was enough for one day.”

Laura looked across the table at Charles. He was still handsome despite his 63 years. His starched, white Brooks Brothers shirt seemed slightly out of place in this house, but it was so Charles. His head raised and she looked down to avoid making eye contact with him.

“I wouldn’t have to work all the time,” he said.

“No, but you would,” she replied quietly.

She shrugged to herself. Defeat was waiting just around the next bend. His armies had been in place long before he had lured her into this valley. She thought about pitching one last, blazing battle.

“I met an interesting man in New York. He and his wife live in Phoenix. He has a lot of political
connections and thinks I might do well out here after I become established.”

He brought out the heavy artillery and destroyed what was left of her resolve. The surprise attack left her reeling, unable to regroup. She tossed the linen napkin on her plate and rose abruptly. The heavy chair squawked in protest, teetered and finally rocked back into place.
Why did she do all the dishes before supper? She wanted to rattle something loudly now. A saber would be the best, but she would settle for dirty dishes.

“I was showing him the pictures you sent me of the house.” He followed her into the kitchen, still holding his glass of wine. “He and his wife were amazed at what you did with the place. They suggested it would be the perfect place to entertain clients and political types.” He paused, waiting for Laura to comment. She didn’t.

“His wife’s name is Mary. She fell in love with the bedroom suite you had made.”

“I know you’ve been wanting to restore the barn so I told her you might like to sell it.”

Laura looked at him without speaking. He wouldn’t want to hear what she had to say. She had moved the antique sewing machine beside the bed to hide the carving, but was seriously considering moving it back across the room now.

“Mary offered $10,000 for the whole suite, but I told her she had to give you time enough to find another one. She was very nice about it and told you to take your time.”

“I gave up my career to help you,” she said, throwing the dish towel down on the counter. “I have always done what is important to you. I love the peace and quiet here. I love the desert. I love being away from people. When is what I want going to matter?”

Hot, angry tears welled up in her eyes. She hated herself for showing weakness. He would go for her throat now.

His voice was louder, firmer now. Negotiations were off. Now he was going to submit her terms of surrender.

“You know I can’t just retire and sit around doing nothing.”

“You could retire and spend your time with me. And by the way, Mary can find another bedroom set. Mine isn’t for sale.”

Laura stopped at a small gas station and called the number on the folder piece of paper that had rested safely in her jewelry box, floated into the trashcan and gone back to the box before settling in her wallet.

“Hello?”

“Jennifer, this is Laura again.”

“Bob, it’s Laura.”

“I’m at the crossroads you told me about, but I guess I missed the plant.” She wrote down the directions and drew a small map. “Ah, thanks. I turned right instead of left.”

She looked at the map again and continued down the small highway. A massive sign with “LL” swung from the crossbar of the gateway to the business. She bumped to a stop in front of the office. What if he wasn’t working today? They had promised not to, but what if his brother and sister-in-law had tipped him she was coming? What if he didn’t want to see her? What if… She swallowed the last what if and stepped from the truck.

“Is Lee here?” she asked the pert receptionist.

Receptionist stared at her for a moment before recognition spread across her face. She motioned to a girl in the next office. “It’s her. Go get Lee.”

The messenger looked at Laura and grinned broadly before scurrying away.

“Ma’am, would you like to follow me? Lee’s at the back of the shop in a meeting,” Messenger said when she returned.

“No, no. I don’t want to interrupt him. I’ll just contact him later so I don’t get him in trouble.”
Laura flushed with embarrassment. He didn’t want to see her. She was such a fool. She backed a few steps, willing her feet not to run.

“Ma’am, it’s okay. He’ll want to see you.”

She followed her guide to the back of a furniture manufacturing plant. Even before he turned at the approach of their footsteps, she recognized him.

“It’s her,” someone behind her whispered too loudly.

She stopped and waited. Not wanting to disturb him, but longing to run into his arms. He looked up. His face beamed with pleasure when he saw her. He was at her side in two steps and swept her up. He twirled her around until she threatened to throw up on him if he didn’t quit.

They retreated to a quiet corner next to a stack of logs.

“What is this place?” she asked.

He was nervously whittling on a log. “Didn’t you see the sign?”

“Yes, ‘LL’, but I don’t know what that means.”

“Lauralee. I showed my sister-in-law the pictures I took of you and the house.” He laughed. “I even enlarged a picture of you and Sam and hung it in my office. She sent the pictures of the furniture to a friend of hers and they placed an order and it just kind of took off from there.” He shrugged. “It’s not much. I don’t make money like a big lawyer does, but we employ several local craftsmen. I do okay.”

She reached out and slapped at his hand. “You are going to ruin that log, silly.” She giggled at the heart with their names in it. “Now look what you’ve done. I guess that picture in your office explains why everyone seemed to recognize me.”

He grinned that little boy grin at her. “Yep. It’s okay about the wood. The company logo is that heart. We just usually do it with a machine.”

His foot drifted through the pile of sawdust at his feet. “So, are you just passing through?” His large hands shut the knife and clenched closed at his side.

“I left Charles. I won’t be going back. I can’t promise you tomorrow, but I can give you today.”

He pulled her close and kissed her. His face buried in the hair draped across her shoulder as he held her tight. “Just give me your today and I will give you all my tomorrows.”

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