Chapter 11 (Epilogue)
Sarah Danforth finished using the bathroom for the evening and she stepped into the bedroom to find her husband sitting in bed with his cellphone in his hand, having just ended a call.
"Who was that?" She asked as she finished brushing out her hair in front of the dresser mirror.
"My father," Bradley reported with a sigh.
"He's fine," Bradley replied. "Carol's dead though."
Sarah stopped brushing her hair and she turned to face her husband. "Oh, Brad," she said, approaching the bed. "Are you okay?"
"Strange how my father outlived both his wives when he was older than both of them," Bradley commented.
"We knew she was sick," Sarah said, sitting on the bed and rubbing her husband's thigh.
"What were the chances that both of his wives would die of cancer?" Bradley wondered.
"What are you feeling?" Sarah asked comfortingly.
"I'm feeling rather numb," he confessed.
"It is sad," Sarah said.
"To tell you the truth, I don't know what to think or feel."
"You'll figure it out," Sarah said, nestling her head against his chest as he sat with his back against the bed headboard.
"We'll have to go to the funeral," Bradley announced.
"Of course," Sarah said. "It would be the right thing to do."
"We haven't seen a whole lot of any of them for a long time," Bradley reminded her.
"I know," Sarah sighed sadly. "They made their choices."
"Secrets over shame," Bradley agreed as he brushed his hand through his wife's long brown hair. "I thought I'd feel relieved but instead I feel kind of sad and guilty," he admitted.
"For you or for them?" Sarah asked.
"I'm not sure," Bradley answered. "People will mourn her passing and shed tears at her funeral."
"As well they should," Sarah pointed out.
"People will tell nice stories about her."
"Their truths, not yours."
"Nobody knows she had an affair with my father while he was married to my mother."
"Isn't it better that way?" Sarah asked.
"What am I supposed to say to Ginny?" Bradley asked nervously.
"That you're sorry for her loss," Sarah answered truthfully.
"You can thank her for making you a better student," Sarah suggested. "That you probably wouldn't be a Professor at the Sun Rise Lake School for Boys today if it weren't for her."
"It's been fifteen years since that summer and I still grapple with it," Bradley sighed.
"It's been a while since you've had a nightmare," Sarah said with encouragement.
"Do I deserve to be judge and jury for any of them?" He asked.
"They don't need your judgment any more than you need their repentance," Sarah commented. "Life rarely gets tied up in a neat little bow. You have to trust that everything will work out okay now."
Bradley wrapped his arms around his wife and kissed the top of her head. "I owe everything to you," he said warmly. "You're the one who turned my life around."
"You did all the work."
"I never would have gone to therapy if you hadn't given me that ultimatum that Christmas" he said.
"You did what you had to do."
"To get you back."
"To get yourself back," Sarah corrected.
"You're the only one who stood by me," Bradley said. "My own father turned his back on me."
"He chose his marriage," Sarah clarified. "He chose to protect his reputation and the family name. He figured you'd survive."
"Keep it all hush-hush to prevent scandal, embarrassment and gossip," Bradley complained bitterly. "He was more concerned about that than he was with his son's psyche or his daughter's perversion. Not to mention his own affair."
Sarah sighed. "People make their choices."
"Could we just snuggle in bed?" Bradley asked. "I need you to hold me."
"My pleasure, dearest," Sarah smiled, pulling down the covers and they both shimmied under the sheets and top cover. "I love you."
"I love you too," Bradley replied as they cuddled under the covers.
"Everything is going to be okay," Sarah whispered.
"Is it?" Bradley worried. "I'm going to my step-mother's funeral, a woman who disowned me and whose solution to the problem was to ship me off to board at Sun Rise as if I was the perpetrator instead of the victim. My father never spoke of it again."
"You were able to forgive Ginny," Sarah said with encouragement.
"Because she apologized to me – finally," Bradly replied. "She didn't mind the sexual abuse but incest was not part of her plan. She ended up in therapy too but it's been better to avoid each other all these years."
Sarah rubbed his face with the back of her hand. "You were better than all of them," she said quietly.
"Only because of you," Bradley stated. "You stood by me. You believed in me. You were there for me."
"That's the definition of true love, sweetie," Sarah said, kissing him softly on the cheek. "And you've always been my definition of courage and redemption, of example and strength. Whenever I'm feeling sorry for myself, I think of your story and I find the motivation to get over myself."
"I'm glad we made it," Bradley said happily as he pulled her close.