I Love You, But I Must Set You Free...
December 14, 2012
“Mark I know you can hear me, your standing right there less than three feet from me. Stop acting like you're ignoring me and talk to me, we both knew this was coming sooner or later Mark,” Samantha Thompson was trying for the hundredth time to have the conversation with him they had put off, perhaps far too long. “Damn it Mark, the last procedure was done over two weeks ago, the bandages came off three days ago. What, did you think, things would go on like they have for ever? You knew better than that from the beginning, we both did for Christ sake. We've told each other time and time again that we were never meant to be a forever thing...”
“Well maybe I didn't expect it to end this soon, maybe I thought that you would want to spend a little more time with me after you got what you wanted,” Mark retaliated.
“Oh for fuck's sake do we have to go through this shit every fucking time?”, Samantha was losing her cool again, she was tired of him throwing the procedures to give her the body she wanted in her face. It had been all his idea from the beginning. “Every bit of this was your damn idea Mark, you wanted to do this because it was what you were meant to do, those are the very words you kept telling me every time I told you you didn't have to do this.”
“Yea, right, and as a thanks for all my concern and effort I get politely told to fuck off and go find myself another girlfriend, like I'm suddenly not worth your time or trouble,” she was a pig headed stubborn ass and he wasn't about to be kicked to the curb like a piece of trash.
“I'm not having this argument with you again Mark, I'm done with this round and round bullshit. If you can't talk to me like a sane, intelligent man, or listen to what I'm trying to tell you ...I just can't do this shit any more. I'm sorry Mark, I don't ever want to hurt you and you know that, but until you can talk to me, and listen to me, rationally with out trying to start a fight, just leave me the fuck alone,” she said ending the conversation and getting into Daisy Daniels Charger turning her cell phone off.
“Fucking bitch took off on me again,” he screamed mashing the speed dial button for her number.
“Breeep, bleerrrrp, Bweeep...the number you are attempting to reach is either out of service or has been disconnected. Please hang up and try your call again later”, the automated message played, his irritation rising even higher. “Oh real mature Samantha, turn off the phone like a twelve year old. Fucking cunt...”
'Stop it Mark, before you say something you'll regret'
'Great, let's make a shitty day even worse', he thought as that annoying damn voice in his head returned. He hadn't heard it in months, not since shortly after the session with Jamal when he had opened up about what had sent his life spiraling out of control.
“Why the fuck are you here tormenting me again? Didn't you fuck up my life enough the first time around?” he screamed to nothing in particular as he climbed behind the wheel of his Jeep.
'You fucked up your own life back then, your fucking it up again now. Why? Why in the seven hells must you be so damn pig headed?'
“Samantha is the pig headed one, I don't want what we have to be over, I don't want...” he continued.
'It doesn't matter what you want when it comes to her, and you damn well know it. You knew it was doomed to end as soon as it started Mark. You both knew it, but you had a task to complete, and you have done just that. She helped you, you helped her. It's done and over and you have to move on, you have somewhere else to be. Someone is waiting for you, you know who it is, and you know she feels the same for you as you do for her. Why are you being such an ass and making her wait? She's waited half her life for the time to be right, for you to be hers, for you to make the first move.'
“Yea right, like I've ever had a chance with a girl like her. I'm not stupid,” he countered, his internal voice persisting.
'You had a chance eight ears ago, but you were mated to Debbie Conners, so she waited. You had other chances, each time you were with someone else, and yet she waited. Then there was Sharleen and the pregnancy, she had all but given up. Then came the accident, and the aftermath, still she waited and hoped for another chance. Then you found Samantha, someone who truly needed you as much as you needed her, yet again she waited, nearly despairing that her chance for the one she wanted was finally gone forever. Until you made it known that you and Samantha knew you were not meant to be together forever, that there was someone else out there for you. She had hope again, and she waited. But she won't wait much longer Mark, she's reaching a point where the wait just isn't worth it anymore. You know what you have to do, end it with Samantha. You can do it peacefully and be friends or you can keep being an asshat and she will come to hate you, and the gift you gave her because it will remind her of you every time she looks in a mirror. Do you really want to stomp on every good memory she has of you? I don't think so. You have to go to her, get on your knees if you have to and beg her to forgive your hard headed ass. Tell her the truth, tell her why your hanging on to what you know has to end. She's as good of a friend as she ever was a lover Mark. Let her be that friend. You say you love her, if you do you have to set her free, and yourself as well.'
The voice fell silent, leaving the Bernese Mountain Dog boy alone with his thoughts. The voice was right, he knew it and he hated to admit it. He knew the time had come for it to end between himself and Samantha, their tasks were completed, each giving and getting their due. It had been an amazing three months, more had happened in that short span of his life than he would have imagined possible. Samantha was a good and dear friend, she was an amazing lover as well. But the voice was right, that girl, the one he thought was his intended had waited, patiently, silently, for over eight years they had watched each other from afar. One or both of them involved with another, waiting for the time when they would come together at last. She was unattached, her most recent relationship ending peacefully, she and her lover remaining friends. He could wait a little longer, see if she got involved with someone else.... No, the voice was right, he had to move on, before she gave up totally on him and just moved on. The time had come, he had to talk to Samantha, explain why he was holding on, tell her his fears. If she would even speak to him after that last round. He scooped up his keys from the kitchen counter, resolved at last to do what he had to do, end it with Samantha, but keep her love and friendship. He still needed her, as a friend and confidante, he had a long way to go before he would know if his feelings for the girl he felt was his forever one were shared by her, or if it was all just a pipe dream.
He cut the engine as soon as he cleared the corner, coasting the rest of the way to her drive. Barely avoiding a collision with the garage before parking the Jeep and bailing out. He almost ran to her front door, rapping on it soundly. When it opened it was Samantha who answered, shooting him a look she said, “it's just you, I don't want to talk to you right now, so just...” she said as she began to swing the door shut.
“Wait, please Samantha, I came to apologize. I've been a complete asshole and I'm sorry. I just want to talk. No screaming, no fighting, no being a jerk, just talk, please.” he pleaded with her.
“Fine, you've got ten minutes to convince me, start being an asshole again and you're out of here for good,” she replied.
“Thank you, I'm truly sorry for being such an insufferable asshat. I know you're right about us, and I know I must seem like a needy bastard. I've thought up probably a hundred different things to say to try to get you to stay with me, if only for a little while longer. But I know I shouldn't say any of them. So the only thing left for me to do is what I should have done to start with, be honest with you. We have both done what we set out to do, what we felt the cosmos was pushing us to do. You were there for me when I needed you the most, when it was time for me to come back to the world. I know it's time for us both to move on, it just...I'm scared Samantha. I'm as scared now as I was the first time we tried to make love. I don't know where to go or what to do without you.” he confessed.
“Stop, just stop right there Mark. You know where you need to go and what you need to do.
“But Ariel I don't know...” he said.
“Exactly what I mean Mark, do you even realize what you just called me? Do you?” she said, looking at him sternly.
“I called you Samantha like I have since you came out as a hermaphrodite...”, he said in his defense.
“No Mark, you didn't. You just called me Ariel, it's not the first time you've done it either. Mark, I was there when she showed up at the stadium remember? I was riding you like a stud when she came into the room, just her voice drove you wild. My hearing is as acute as yours is Mark. I heard her jilling off outside the door as plainly as you, I heard her words as clearly as you did. You know she has feelings for you, that she wants you. From the way you've been randomly calling me by her name since that day... you want her too. I've known Ariel since before I knew you, After we got together she admitted to me that she had a huge crush on you, but at the time I was jealous and not about to give you up. Mark she was smitten by you the first time she ever saw you, over eight years ago. She's waited all this time for you to be unattached, to notice her, to have a chance to be yours. She's kept up with your relationships for years Mark, it's almost a little creepy in a way, but all that time she waited, for you.
You said early on that we were not meant to be together forever, that there was someone else for you that was you r forever love, do you still believe that?”, she asked, looking into his deep brown eyes intently.
Several long moments passed before he answered, “I believed that when I was with Debbie, with everyone of the people I was with up until Sharleen. Even then to be honest, but things had happened, I had to stand up to the responsibilities that I had to her. I believed it when we met Samantha, and yes I still believe it now,” he replied.
“Do you believe it's Ariel that is your forever one? Is she the one for you to spend our life with Mark? Be honest with me Mark, and with yourself. You know I'm not some china doll that you have to handle with kid gloves,” she said.
“I should say no, but I can't do that and be honest, yes Samantha, I believe she is the one for me, but if I'm being honest... I'm scared as hell. She knew the old Mark, from before Sharleen. I'm still kind of like that, but so many things in my life have changed because of what happened. I'm still me, but not the same me that she fell for so long ago. What if she finds out she doesn't feel the same about me as I am now? What if I'm not what she really wants anymore? What if I'm not good enough for her? What if...”, that was as far as she let him get..
“Mark Allen Jameson, stop it, you're looking for a reason for things to fail with her before they even start. That's not a bit fair to her, or to you. I didn't know you before Sharleen came into your life...” she said before she was interrupted.
“No, you didn't. But I did, and this is a bunch of bullshit Mark and you damn well know it,” Debbie Conners said as she entered the room from the kitchen. “I've known you and Ariel for longer than everyone you've been with Mark. I knew you both before you and I became mates. Before anything ever happened to you. We spent the better part of a wonderful year together, and we parted as friends. We still are very good friends and in my own way I still love you Mark. Ariel has loved you from afar since she first laid eyes on you, the same day we were hand fasted by the high priestess and you joined the priesthood. She has watched as you went from relationship to relationship, from lover to lover. She has waited, patiently while you discovered yourself, your sexuality, your calling in Wicca and your place in Winter Creek. She waited, always hoping she would be the next one to be with you. When she heard that you were involved with Sharleen she cried on my shoulder for hours because she had been passed by again, but she still waited for you. When Sharleen was killed and you flipped out and went off the deep-end, it tore her heart out to see you in so much anguish and torment, she was about to go to you and chance losing you forever when you disappeared. That nearly drove her to her wits end. I had to dig enough information out of your parents to assure her you were alive and as well as you could be under the circumstances. Then you came back, so hurt, so angry, so resentful and determined to keep the world at bay. She gave you your space, and waited some more. When you and Samantha got together she was nearly crushed Mark, she just knew that her hopes and dreams of being with you were dead, until you let it be known that you two knew and accepted that you were not going to be together for a long time, it was a short term relationship out of a need you each had. She found hope again that you and she would 'find each other at last'. But I have to tell you, she has waited so long, watched as you went through so many heartbreaks, her hope is fading, fast, and probably for the last time. So to hear you sit here going over this list of 'what if's '… it just makes my blood boil, <SMACK>! Debbie's paw was a blur as she slapped him hard across the muzzle, his eyes welling with tears.
“Your being a wimp, a pussy, and a coward Mark Jameson. Not the boy I know, he was and is strong, self assured, brave, kind, loving, and determined. The Mark Jameson I know, at the age of eight was my friend, my mate, my lover, my protector, and my savior. Where the fuck is that boy now Mark? Hiding in a corner feeling sorry for himself like he did once before? That's the guy Ariel doesn't want or need. Not the one she fell for long ago, not the one she loves. If you really think Ariel is the one for you, then fucking prove it.” The bunny girl was livid, she knew he was scared, it showed on his face. This was not the time for subtly, he had to be made to understand that what he hoped for was slipping through his fingers by the day. Time was running out for him to find the happiness he wanted and deserved.
“What is this, some kin of an intervention or something?”, Mark asked, trying to process all that the two girls had said to him.
“That's exactly what it is Mark”, Patrick Jones said as he walked into the living room. “An intervention to keep you from being stupid and throwing away the very thing you have searched for. You've hopped from person to person, over the years Mark, always looking for the one that you will spend your life with. Each of us in this room, and quite a few others, thought it might be us. But after all this time you finally know, or admit, who it is that makes your heart flutter just by being near you. Who makes you forget to breath. You've always been the one to give others a piece of advice, as you put it, 'we only go around once on this world, don't leave it with regrets about things you should have done that you didn't do. Live each day like it might be your last. Don't let someone you care for, someone you love slip from your life without telling them how you feel'. You've done that with every one of us Mark, and quite a few more, but not with the girl you think is the one you want to spend your life with. Why? What in the name of all that's holy are you afraid of?” his long time friend demanded to know.
“Not being good enough for her, not being what she wants or needs. Not being everything she hopes for,” Mark answered, not entirely sure of the answer himself.
“See girls,” Patrick said, “I told you. It's so alien to him he can't even say it. Mark, we love you as a friend and as a lover, we've each had our time with you. But you underestimate how well we know you. When it comes to Ariel you feel you're not good enough for her and that she'll know it quickly. What you are afraid of, is rejection. You don't approach her because you can't stand the thought that she won't want you. You hard headed ass, Samantha has told us about Ariel's admission at the stadium. Stop being a jackass, and go after her damn it!”
“You know they're right Mark,” Daisy Daniels said as she came into the living room. “I know I'm the new kid on the block in this little group of friends, and the only one that hasn't been your lover. I haven't really known you for very long, but even I know you're bright and very perceptive. But when it comes to Ariel your being a brain dead fool. She wants to be with you, has for years and says so herself. Stop dragging your paws boy and scoop her ass up before she gives up on you. We women are a patient lot, but even we have our limits,” she said noticing the smirks on the faces of the other teens in the room. “You can all wipe those smug looks of your muzzles. Yea I have a cock, I know it and I'm damn proud of it. I'm a hermaphrodite, but I'm all woman too bitches so get the fuck over it,” she said grinning at them. You're all worried about whether or not she really is into you Mark, but there is something none of these fuck nuts will tell you. They probably think they should keep it to themselves and let her tell you, which I'm sure she will. But unlike these goof balls, Ariel gave me permission to tell you if it came down to it when I told her we were doing this shit. She has waited for you all this time in the most important way you can imagine,” she stated, Mark giving her an odd look as he started to speak. “Yea, yea, yea I know that you know that she has been with several people over the years. Yes she has a bit of a reputation as being a fantastic lover, honestly she is,” Daisy nearly burst out laughing at the reactions of the others, including Mark. “Yes, I have personal knowledge of her 'skills', we've fooled around some, but you need to understand something Mark, she is a woman and has needs and desires like the rest of us. She gives fantastic paw, and that soft, sweet mouth of hers is heavenly. She could be crowned the queen of anal adventures in my opinion, but with every one that has been a lover to her, including me, she makes one thing perfectly clear. Her cherry is intact and it stays that way until she finds the one to be her life mate, that's the only one she will allow to claim that prize. She's experienced in every other way, but as far as normal intercourse she's still a virgin, she's saving that for her one true love. She feels sure that fur is you Mark Jameson, she was certain of it the first time she laid eyes on you. If you don't believe me grow a pair and ask her your damn self.” Daisy said, taking a defiant stance as she looked Mark in the eyes.
“Mark, we knew in the beginning that we were brought together for a specific purpose. That we each had a need that the other could fulfill. I don't want to sound ungrateful or like a materialistic bitch, you know that's not what I am. I truly appreciate everything you've done for me, and everything you've given me. Hell Mark you made me what I am now, I owe you more than I can ever repay...” Samantha said sitting beside him on the couch as she spoke.
“Wait Samantha, I didn't make you anything. The things I gave you were from the heart, because you deserved them and wanted them. The things that I have done for you were because I love you Samantha, you don't owe me for anything, I would do the same for anyone I have ever loved. Except for maybe Daisy anyone will tell you the same thing. But I didn't make you anything you weren't already. I know what you speak of, I gave you the opportunity to look on the outside the way you are on the inside, nothing more sweet lady. If either of us owe the other anything, I owe you. I gave you a beautiful outside, You gave me back my life Samantha, for that I will forever be grateful. You're right, all of you, I have to move on and find out for myself if Ariel is the one for me, if we are meant to be together forever. But I'll need the love and support of my dearest friends, because it will be the toughest thing I've done in years to open myself up to the possibility of being rejected once she gets to know me. But it's what I have to do. There is just one thing left to be done I guess, and that's to end things between us Samantha, and to have you only as a dear friend. To lose you as a lover I can do that, to lose you as a friend would be unbearable. But I can't end it, I can't make myself say it, you'll have to do it Samantha. That's why I've been dragging my feet about it, I can't make myself say it's...,” he said burying his face in his paws.
Realization hitting her suddenly Debbie gasped, “Oh my God, he's serious, he can't force himself to say it's over between you two. Damn it, why I didn't think of it before. Samantha, did he make a promise to you, to never do anything to hurt you? Has he ever promised to never break your heart?”
“No, not that I can remem...,” the memory came upon her like a tidal wave, he did make that very promise to her. “Yes, he did. During our big week end when we ran into you and Alex at the stadium, the night before when we had dinner with his parents and my mother. Right after he gave me this,” she said holding up her right hand displaying the James family crest ring he had given her, “I asked him if he was breaking up with me and he said no, he wasn't because our time together wasn't over yet. Then he said, 'But when that time does come I promise you that I will never do anything that will break your heart', he was nearly crying when he said it.”
“Damn it Mark, why didn't you stop us as soon as we opened our mouths? Why did you let us jump in your shit like that, huh? I would ask the Goddess to bless you if I didn't want to bitch slap you so bad at this moment.” Debbie all but demanded answers from him as he sat there, a sad sullen look on his face. “Son of a bitch, it's been too long since he's ended a relationship, I forgot about this shit. Samantha I'm so sorry honey, but I told you completely wrong about what to do. This...this lovable, sweet, pig headed asshole, knew the night he gave you that ring that your relationship was going to end soon, that's why he made that promise to you.”
“I'm totally lost Debbie, I don't understand what a promise not to break my heart has to do with him being a jackass and not just telling me it over between us,” Samantha said, not understanding what the Bernese boy had done.
“He made that promise because he knew, he knew that when the time came he wouldn't be able to end it between you two without hurting you in some way. So he promised to never break your heart. When he gave you the family ring, which is his sign of a life long friend that he holds very dear in his heart, you thought he was breaking up with you then and there, and you freaked didn't you?” Debbie asked a knowing look in her eyes.
“Damn right I freaked, it would have been a shitty thing to do to have his parents and my mother there to break up with me,” Samantha answered.
“That was the reason for giving it to you the way he did at the time he did, to see if you would freak if you thought he was ending it between you two. You did and he knew then that for him to break up with you would break your heart, some thing that he can't do as a devout wiccan, he can't knowingly 'do harm' to another person. So he promised to never break your heart, to never break up with you. He keeps his promises no matter what the cost is to him, money, possessions, love, or his own heart. In this case he would have stayed with you forever, had a family with you, and never have complained or said a word, just to honor the promise he made to you. But he 'turned into an asshole', picking fights, arguing, being combative about everything, to make you do what he knew he couldn't HE did all that to make you break up with him, to make you break his heart.” Debbie was near tears as she realized what Mark had done, it was his way of ending a relationship that was dear to him.
“But...why? Mark why would you want me to break your heart like that? I thought you wanted it to end with us being friends? I, I just don't understand,” Samantha was stunned at the revelation of how Mark had gone to such lengths to get her to break off their relationship.
“Do you want to explain it to her, or should I Mark,” Patrick asked.
“If you think you know the answer Patrick, then by all means explain it to her,” the boy replied.
“Oh I know the answer Mark, because now things make sense to me. Please, have a seat Samantha, I can explain all this to you and you'll understand,” the tabby boy said.
“For years Mark has gone from relationship to relationship, most have ended peacefully, with them remaining friends, that's what started the thing with the family crest rings,” he said showing her his right hand and the ring, identical to her own, on his ring finger. In case he hasn't told you, yes I was one of his relationships, his first in fact, though we were short lived. That is a story for another time, but you need to know that we were once lovers as well. He once ended a relationship himself that ended badly, he broke it off but the other person didn't take it well at all. Three weeks after the break up she attempted suicide by hanging herself. The attempt failed, but she was never the same, brain damage the doctors said. Mark took it very hard, he had broken the girls heart by breaking up with her and all she wanted was to die. Debbie and I, and a few others went to Mark, tried to convince him it wasn't his fault that she did what she did. But he would hear none of it, he was adamant that if he hadn't hurt her by breaking off the relationship she wouldn't have tried to kill herself. Before we realized what he was doing, or could stop him, he swore an oath to the Goddess. Never again would he be responsible for another harming themselves because of him, he would never end a relationship by breaking someones heart. If a broken heart was what it took for the relationship to end, it would be his own. That's why he manipulated events so that you would break his heart and end the relationship...”, Patrick paused for a few moments, Mark thought he was finished with his explanation and said, “That's not all, old friend, there is more to it than that.”
“I know there is Mark, I was giving her a moment to digest what I had already told her before telling her the rest. If you're done interrupting I will continue,” to which Mark nodded once. “In this case, the relationship with you Samantha was a relationship of needs. Your need of him to help you accept and become the beautiful girl you were on the inside. The girl you wanted to be, he did that and much more. But he needed you as well, partly to pull him back from the brink of the abyss he put himself into. Which you did, and we all thanks you more than mere words can express. But there is something else, he had another need of you. You've told Debbie the story of your defloration, the time you and he spent in his little camping spot, and his odd behavior that first morning with the tree. The other need he had need of you for is tied to what he did that morning. He needs you to break his heart because he has to know the pain and grief of loss again, for a few days or perhaps a week. He needs that to complete his pact with the Goddess,” Patrick paused again. Samantha sat there, a look of total confusion on her face. “The thing he did with the tree, cutting down a young tree with an ax. A tree that was probably two or three years young, little more than a sapling. It was symbolic, of his love, of Sharleen and the twins. The log that he sawed off, symbolized them directly, sawn off to symbolize their separation from him. You told Debbie that he appeared to speak to the log for several minutes. He did just that, probably first was a message to Sharleen and the twins, of his love for them, how much he still misses them and an apology for not being able to save them. Then probably an apology to Sharleen directly, for being an insufferable asshole and not keeping the promise he made to her. The promise he didn't tell you the whole truth about.”
Mark interrupted him, speaking harshly, “Patrick! Don't! It doesn't have to be said!”
“You want to be brokenhearted that's your business. You want to be put in pain that's your business too. But she deserves to know the truth Mark, the WHOLE truth. You know as well as I do that if she doesn't know the truth it invalidates your pact and you have to do this shit all over again. You have to find another that needs you as much as Samantha did, how long is that going to take Mark? Do you honestly think Ariel is going to wait that long again? No Mark, it has to be now, she won't wait much longer and Samantha deserves to know. Only three people know what she made him promise her, Sharleen, Mark, and myself. I know because she made him make that same promise in front of me once, so that someone would make sure he did it. They had been together when they would run into Ariel around town occasionally. She saw the way they looked at each other and was initially jealous of Ariel because of it. But she started paying attention and saw the truth in their eyes when they would look at each other across a room. She figured out that they both knew they were destined to be together, and she asked Mark why he was with her when his intended mate was known to him. He was honest and told her that he had been careless and had gotten her pregnant. That in doing so he had made a commitment to her and their unborn children that he would honor no matter the cost to himself. He truly did love the Spitz girl with all his heart, and he loved his children. He would have married her, and raised a family with her happily. But it was not to be. When they were taken from him he fell apart, the loss was just to great to bear. The hell he lived in for two years, that he imposed on himself was real. He really did need you to help him find his way back to his life. But the promise she made him make was that if anything ever happened to her he would find Ariel, his intended mate, the one he was meant to be with, the one that would make him happy and love him completely and be with her. He didn't keep that promise, he was to torn up after her death and sank into the pit you found him in. When you came along he found someone who needed him as much as Sharleen did, just for a different reason. The last thing he would have said to that log before putting it into the fire was a pact with the Goddess, a pact of atonement to pay for his sin of not keeping the promise he had made to Sharleen. It's obvious now that part of that pact was to suffer the pain of loss again so that he could then do as he promised Sharleen and find his intended love. To do what he had to make you break his heart, and he had to lose you, just as the loss of Sharleen broke his heart. It had to be this way in his mind for his atonement to be complete and appropriate. Because the last thing that he hasn't told you...”
Again Mark interrupted him, this time he pounced his long time friend, knocking him to the floor, pinning him there. “NO DAMN IT, NO! Shut your fucking mouth while you can. You DO NOT have to tell her what you're about to say. It's not necessary for her to know. Just SHUT THE FUCK UP while you can Patrick!”
“MARK! Have you lost your fucking mind?” Samantha screamed at him, leaping from her seat, paws on her hips. He froze, not moving a muscle. “why the fuck don't you want him to tell me what he was about to?”
“Because it will hurt you needlessly to know it,” he said, his voice trembling.
“Then let me be hurt, we're ending this relationship between us so it's not your concern anymore. Let him up and let him finish,” she demanded.
Once Patrick was standing again he continued, “What he hasn't told you Samantha is something I know he didn't realize at first, not when he first met you and knew you as Sam. I don't know exactly when he knew it but he figured it out at some point. Other than being taller, and your hair and fur being brown instead of snow white...” he was interrupted again, this time when Debbie spoke.
“Oh my Goddess, I see it now, why the hell didn't I see it before? Samantha, you look so much like Sharleen you could almost be her twin sister!”
“What?”, she screeched. “You...you did everything you did for me because I look like the girl you lost?”
“No Samantha, not for that reason,” Mark said his head in his paws. “I didn't realize it at first, not until after we had gone to Jamal's office and I got it all off my chest.”
“Then when? When did you know I looked like her? Samantha asked.
“The night you gave your virginity to me, when you were riding me. I closed my eyes, reveling in the way it felt to be inside you, to be with you. An image of her came into my mind, of the night in the cabin when she gave her virginity to me. When I opened my eyes, saw you above me, that's when I realized it. Probably because that morning, while I was thinking about the question you asked, 'what would Sharleen want you to do' is when the memories of the promise she had me make came back to me. When I stormed off into the trees and came back with the sapling to make my atonement offering. To ask the Goddess to forgive an idiot, to make amends to her memory, to try to undo the harm I had done. That's why we are where we are now, you have to do this Samantha, you have to break my heart, cause me to be in pain as I was when I lost her, so that I can move on and find my intended mate, it's the only way,” he said, begging, pleading with her to understand and do what had to be done.
“Mark, I... I can't hurt you like that. I'm sorry but I just can't hurt someone that I care for as much as I do you,” she said apologetically, dropping heavily into the chair across from him.
“You don't have to Samantha,” Patrick said quietly, “I said it had to be that way in his mind, but he was wrong. If he wasn't such a pig headed jackass he would know that.”
“What...what do you mean Patrick? You know it has to be that way, I have to be in the same state that I was,” Mark said,
“No Mark, you don't. Think about it, even though the loss of Sharleen and the boys was a terrible thing, the worst thing in the world, it was your refusal to keep the promise you made her that is the problem. You did this to yourself yes, but it's because you let your grief over her death and the death of your sons keep you from keeping the promise you made to her. You dug that pit yourself, and the Goddess sent you a ladder, named Samantha,” Patrick was stone faced as he spoke, trying hard to make his friend see where his thinking had gone astray.
“I don't understand, how do you figure that I haven't failed to atone for what I've done?” Mark said, unable to see that his friend couldn't see that he had failed.
“That seems to be the problem Mark, you don't understand what was sent to you. You didn't grieve their loss and move past it. You wallowed in it, you let it consume you and rule you. So Samantha came into your life, as Sam, as a person trapped with in a life imposed on 'him' by someone else. She needed you to do exactly what you did, to set her free from that life. To give her the strength to break free and be who she is. You gave her that strength, you gave her hope, you protected her while she discovered who she is. You gave her everything, what she needed to become the woman she knew herself to be, to have hope that she could find the one meant to be her mate. The self assurance and confidence to seek them out. Don't you see it yet? You gave to her everything she needed, everything you had to give, so she could live the life that was denied her. She gave you all that you needed, your life back. You are now as you were before the loss of Sharleen. Confidant, self assured, strong, kind, caring, loving. All that she needs to do for you to keep your promise is to let you go, set you free so that you can go to the one your heart desired most, the one your meant to be with.”
The room fell silent, each of them considering what Patrick had said, expressions of understanding coming to their faces one by one.
“But... my atonement...” Mark began to say.
“Mark,” Patrick interrupted, “I know that you asked the Goddess to show you your penance, did she show you that Samantha breaking your heart was part of that penance or was that your own decision?”
“Well, it was mine I guess, she never showed me anything as a penance,” he said.
“That's because you have already put yourself through a far more harsh penance than she would have imposed. For over two years you embraced your grief, wallowed in self doubt and self hatred. No Mark, a broken heart is not the answer.” Patrick knew his words bit deeply into his friends emotions.
“Thank you, both of you for telling me all this, I understand things better now,” Samantha said, her eyes moist as she gazed at Mark. “Mark, Patrick is right, you've already payed too big a price of your own choosing. But you have to stop, stop blaming yourself for Sharleen and the boys deaths. You had no way of knowing that a drunk driver would come along that street at that time on that night. From what you told Jamal you did everything you could to try to save her. I know you hurt then, and that you still hurt over it, maybe will for a very long time. You have to stop beating yourself up over the actions of someone else. I never thought I would hear myself repeating anything my father ever said, but he told me something once that is very fitting here and now. One of the few things he ever said that stuck with me. When I was six my grandfather died, he and I were very close and I loved him dearly. His passing hit me hard, really hard, I would break down and cry every time I would think of him. But my dad sat me down one day and told me this, 'when ever you think of your granddad and it starts to hurt, think of the good times you had together and how much he loved you'. There's more but you need to hear me say it to you, remember her and your boys in the good times Mark. Remember holding your sons in your arms, remember how special they are to you, how much you love them, how beautiful they are. Remember Sharleen the same way, how much you loved her, how pretty she was in your eyes. Above everything else remember they are waiting for you when you get to a better place. But for now there are things you are meant to do before you leave this earth. There are people here that need you to be a part of their lives, others that just need you to touch their lives in some way to make a difference, no matter how tiny that touch may be.” Tears trickled slowly down her cheeks as she spoke to him, her own emotions running wild as she tried to make the Bernese boy see that he had things yet to do that would not wait for him. He had to move forward and do it now.
“Samantha I...”, he began, his voice failing him completely, his emotions nearly drowning him.
“Mark, you have been the best thing to ever happen to me, nothing can ever change that. But our time together is over and we both know it. Ariel has waited so very long for you, don't make her wait any longer. Your time to be truly happy and content has come, she's the one you need now. I thank you for the wonderful time we've had together, and for the many wonderful things you have given me and done for me. I want to keep you in my heart as a lover always, and in my life as a dear friend. Your greatest love is ahead of you, and Ariel awaits you. Go to her, start your life together with her and love her as you loved each of us. Mark Jameson I love you, But I must set you free to find the happiness you deserve with the one you will spend your life with...” Samantha rose as she spoke those words, leaving the room and closing the door behind herself as she entered her bedroom, leaving behind her the only love and only lover she had ever known...