Edited by Jennifer Barclay Proofread by Amanda Lewis & Amanda Matkowski Epigraph quote from Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. Public Domain. “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” poem by Emily Dickinson. Public Domain.
A WIDOW’S AWAKENING Copyright © 2018 Maryanne Pope
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please write to the publisher. This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published by BHC Press Library of Congress Control Number: 2017952283 ISBN: 978-1-64397-051-6 (Hardcover) ISBN: 978-1-946848-99-4 (Softcover) ISBN: 978-1-947727-66-3 (Ebook) For information, write: BHC Press 885 Penniman #5505 Plymouth, MI 48170
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Author’s Note On September 29, 2000, my husband—a Calgary police officer—died in the line of duty. We were both thirty-two at the time and had been together as a couple for eleven and a half years and married for four of those. A Widow’s Awakening is a work of fiction based on a true story. The people, events, and my psychological reaction to them are real,;however, many of the conversations have been modified. The names, dogs included, are fictional—or U/C (undercover) names as they say in the police world. The process of writing A Widow’s Awakening helped me accept the unacceptable and learn how to begin to transform loss into positive change. I needed to make sense out of a seemingly senseless tragedy. Shaping this story helped me do that.
1994 Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada
“Know what would be cool to do someday?” he’d said to
me one day. “What’s that?” “Walk on a really long, straight road through the middle of a cornfield.” I’d laughed. “What…like in Iowa or somethin’?” “It doesn’t matter where,” he’d said. “It’s the experience I’m after.” “Oh. And what would that be?” “Freedom,” was his answer. “How so?” “Well, in my mind I see this huge field—it doesn’t have to be full of corn, but that would work. I’m walking along on this road but since the corn stalks are taller than me, I can’t see what’s on the other side.” “Probably more corn,” I’d suggested.
~ MARYANNE POPE
“Smartass. What I mean is that I couldn’t see what was beyond the cornfields.” “Oh.” “But I could more or less see the road ahead and if I stopped and turned around, I could see where I’ve been.” “But why would that make you feel free?” “I dunno.” He’d shrugged his shoulders with that little smirk on his face. “It’s just something I always wanted to do.”
August 9th, 2000 Calgary, Alberta, Canada “What the heck are ya doin’ in there?” I ask through the
bathroom door. “Whaddya think I’m doing?” “Well, I know that. But why are you taking so long?” “I always take this long,” he says. “You should know that by now.” I sit on the edge of our bed. “But what else do you do in there?” “If I tell ya, will you leave me alone?” “Deal.” “I calculate things.” I laugh. “Like what?” “Financial stuff.” “Ah,” I said. “Hence the calculator.” “Mmm…hmm. But at the moment, I’m actually working on my U/C name.” “That stands for undercover, right?” “Yup.”
~ MARYANNE POPE
“In case you get in with the Priority Crimes Unit?” I ask. “Uh huh.” “When do you hear back from them?” “Any day.” Then, with a giggle that sounds so funny coming from such a big guy, he says, “You can go now.”
Sunday, September 17th, 2000 7:00 a.m. “And I’m gonna drape my leopard print scarf over my head,
like this…” I say, motioning with my hands within the confines of the cramped cubicle. “And, of course, I’ve got my Jackie O sunglasses!” “Of course,” Mark says, crossing one long leg over the other. “I will be so damn cool in that convertible!” “That you will, my friend.” Mark is a police officer and close friend of my husband, Sam. They graduated from the same police recruit class four years ago. I’m a report processor in the Records department with the same police service. Mark and I are just finishing up an incident report. On a Saturday night/Sunday morning shift such as this, the reports are mainly alcohol-related occurrences like impaired driving, assault with a weapon, sexual assault and robbery, or early morning crimes of opportunity, also usually alcohol-related, such as property damage, theft and break and enters. All the good stuff.
~ MARYANNE POPE
Sam’s job is to catch the bad guys; mine is to write about them. “Got what you needed, Adri?” “Yup.” “Say hi to Sam for me,” Mark says, gathering up his papers. “And tell him we’ll have to do lunch again soon.” “It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?” He, Sam and another two of their buddies from recruit class often meet for lunch or beers downtown. Mark nods. “Too long.” “I’ll tell him.” He stands up. “And I hope you guys have an awesome vacation.” “We will!” His is the last report of my shift so I sign off the phone, place my logbook, headset and photo of Sam into my locker and drive home.
“Woohoo…” I whisper in Sam’s ear as I crawl into bed.
“We’re on holidays my furry friend!” Rolling over to face me, he grins and mumbles, “Spoon.” I flip over, so my back is touching his chest, and he wraps an arm around me. Our dog, a Shepherd-cross, jumps up on the end of the bed and all three of us fall asleep. When I wake up, Sam has both our bags packed and has taken the dog and her little blue suitcase filled with cookies, chew toys and a blanket to the kennel. My mom drives us to the airport and the three of us have dinner together before catching our flight to Los Angeles. Sam seems OK with this arrangement, which surprises me because his relationship with my mother has been pretty much derailed since our wedding four years ago. Sam is Greek Orthodox; I’m not. Sam is strongwilled and stubborn; so is my mother. We ended up getting married in an Anglican Church ceremony, which Sam had agreed to for me. I had insisted upon this partly to appease my mother and partly
A WIDOW’S AWAKENING ~
because I strongly disagreed with a condition the Greek Orthodox Church would have placed upon us. Had we been married there, we would’ve had to promise to baptize and raise any future children Greek Orthodox. I refused to make a promise I did not agree with and therefore could not keep. My mother hadn’t acknowledged Sam’s religious sacrifice—for not being married in his church means not being buried by it—and relations between Sam and my mother had never improved. Anyway, the airport restaurant uses a big piece of brown paper as a tablecloth and guests are given a bunch of crayons to draw with. “Hi,” our waitress says, writing her name upside down on the tablecloth so we can read it. When she leaves, Sam and I try writing our names upside down—but he gets the first letter backward and we laugh. After dinner, we ditch my mom at security and head to our departure gate, where we’re waiting for our flight to LAX when I tell Sam that the last report of my shift had been with Mark. He asks me how Mark is doing. “He seemed fine. I mean, he looked OK.” “Looked?” Sam shifts in his chair to face me. “Wasn’t he on the phone?” “No. He came right into Records to give his report.” “But don’t most of us phone the reports in?” “Usually, yeah. Anyway, he said to say hi and to…” I’m interrupted by the announcement of our names over the loudspeaker. Sam and I look at each other then walk over to the departure counter. “Are we at the right gate?” I ask the woman, handing her my ticket. She looks at it. “No. This flight is going to Toronto.” Sam and I sprint through the airport to the correct gate, just in time to catch our flight to LA. “That was odd,” I say, once we’re on the plane. “I could’ve sworn we were at the right gate.”
~ MARYANNE POPE
“Me too.” We arrive into LAX around 10:00 p.m., pick up our red rental convertible, put the top down and head east toward Vegas. Once we’re past the city limits, Sam leans back in his chair and looks to the sky. “Check out those stars, eh?” We drive in silence for awhile. Then I thank him for having dinner with my mom. “She’s a control freak,” he says, “but I do admire her strength.” I turn to him. “That almost sounded like a compliment.” “Seriously, Adri. She did a great job raising you and your brothers on her own. That couldn’t have been easy.” “Are you feeling all right?” He smiles. “But now she has to let you go.” “It’s hard for mothers to do that—no matter what age their kids are.” “I’m sure it is. But if they’ve done their job well, what’s the problem?” “She’s alone, Sam. That’s the problem.” He looks at me. “Not yours, it isn’t.” Tonight, we make it as far as Barstow.
After a mammoth American breakfast in the morning, we continue toward Vegas. But as cool as I look in my leopard scarf and Jackie O sunglasses, somewhere around Baker I start feeling uncomfortably warm. “Uh Sam, it’s getting pretty hot. I think you’re gonna have to put the top up.” “No problem.” He pulls over and puts the top up. Twenty minutes later, I ask him to put it down again. He pulls over and does so. Ten minutes after that, I tell him I’m too hot again. “Oh, for God’s sake,” he snaps, “this is ridiculous!” “I can’t help it! I’m melting over here.”
A WIDOW’S AWAKENING ~
“We’re almost there.” “Fine.” I yank off my scarf, as the wind’s whipping it into my eyes, and replace it with a ballcap. “You’re such a baby sometimes, Adri.” “I am not. You just happen to enjoy an inhuman level of heat.” “You were the one who insisted on renting a convertible.” “I didn’t hear you complaining.” “Well it’s costing us a bloody fortune.” “It’s a little fucking late to tell me that now.” “Nice language,” he says. “You sound like a sailor.” We drive in silence until the Vegas hotels come into view. “Wow!” I say. Sam nods. “Very cool.” But when we’re checking into our swanky hotel, our credit card gets declined. Mortified, Sam phones the bank to sort it out and is told the rental car agency has put a hold on funds. The bank agrees to temporarily raise our credit limit. Again. After taking our suitcases up to the room, we test the bed just to make sure it’s working properly, and then head out onto the Strip in search of the ultimate buffet. We make it a block when Sam spies a store advertising helicopter rides. “That’d be awesome,” he says. “Let’s see what it would cost.” “It’ll be too expensive.” I shrug. “It doesn’t hurt to ask.” We go in and Sam asks the girl at the counter what a ride would cost. “It depends on where you want to go, sir.” I smile at the “sir.” Though only thirty-two, Sam’s black hair is already two thirds gray, making him appear significantly older. “How about the Grand Canyon?” he says. “That would be about $500 for the two of you.”
~ MARYANNE POPE
Food is more affordable. After a dinner of all the shrimp, crab legs, prime rib and bread pudding we can stuff in, we waddle over to the “must see” buccaneer show. The pirates fighting over our heads is nothing spectacular, but the way Sam stands behind me, with his arms tightly wrapped around my torso, is. Public shows of affection are rare. Back in our hotel room, we make love again. Sam’s on top so the pendants on his chain—his baptismal cross and St. Jude medal— keep hitting me in the mouth. I shift them around so that they’re resting on his back. “That’s better,” I say. He smiles. “Protecting those perfect teeth of yours, are ya?”
The next morning, we arrange our lounge chairs at the
pool so that I’m in the shade while he’s in direct sunshine. “Can I at least put some sunscreen on you?” I ask. “I’m Greek—I don’t need any.” “Oh, for God’s sake, you’re gonna get skin cancer.” He tilts his chair back and closes his eyes. I watch a young couple with two children stationed a few feet in front of us. “Look at that woman, Sam.” “Huh?” “Over there.” I poke him in the ribs. He opens his eyes. “How can she still be so skinny after having kids?” I ask. “Maybe she doesn’t eat.” “They look like a happy family, though.” “Those parents haven’t sat still since we got here,” he says, closing his eyes again. I let a few minutes pass. “Sam?” “Yeah?” “Are you sure you don’t want to ever have kids?”
~ MARYANNE POPE
“Oh God, Adri…let’s not get into that again.” “You’re right.” I’m not going to take the chance of ruining a great day by pushing the matter—a sensitive one between us, to put it lightly. “OK,” I say, “one more question, then I’ll leave you alone. How would you describe Vegas?” Sam thinks a moment. “It’s a stage where the seven deadly sins are not only prevalent but encouraged.” “Ooohhh,” I say. “Nicely done.” Silence. “So,” I continue, “what are the seven deadly sins?” “Gluttony, lust, greed…” his voice trails off. “I can’t remember them all now.” I look over at him, trying to snooze in the scorching midday heat. “Sloth,” I say, “that’s another.” He gives me the thumbs-up.
Around four o’clock, we head out onto the strip again,
starting at the hotel modeled after Venice. Hand in hand, we stroll across the bridge. Beneath us, a mock gondolier in a red scarf and striped shirt is singing in Italian as he paddles his replica gondola through replica canal waters. Sam stops on the bridge and puts his hand on my shoulder. We stand like this a moment, looking out over the canal. I close my eyes and listen to the music. “As lovely as all this is,” I say, turning to Sam, “it still seems a bit…fake.” He looks at me but says nothing. “But this Venice is far cleaner and safer than the real place,” I add. “That’s a good thing, then, is it not?”
A WIDOW’S AWAKENING ~
I point to the artificial canal. “Yeah, but look at the water. There’s not one piece of garbage floating in there and it doesn’t smell like shit.” “And the problem is…” “This doesn’t feel like Venice.” “This isn’t Venice, Adri, it’s Vegas.” “But what about people who haven’t been to the real place? They’ll totally get the wrong idea. This is beautiful, but it isn’t… authentic.” I get the raised eyebrows. We continue walking toward the hotel foyer and as we get closer, we see a group of elderly tourists, staring—heads back, mouths open—at the ceiling. We follow their gaze and there, on the dome-shaped ceiling, is a magnificent painting. “Ohhhh…” I say, “that is kinda cool.” “Real enough for ya, snotty-pants?” I give Sam a mock punch on the shoulder. “You saw the Sistine Chapel, right?” he asks, as we walk out the hotel doors. “Uh huh.” “That was amazing too, I bet.” “It really was. I mean, despite the fact that I was only twenty-one at the time and more interested in where my next beer was coming from.” He stops. “So, you were in the real Rome, seeing real art and yet you didn’t appreciate it?” I shrug. “I was young.” “I see. Left, or right?” “Um, left. Let’s go check out New York.” We continue along the strip…past a two-block long artificial lake with dancing fountains, past a half-size Eiffel Tower, past a brightly lit castle. “There’s so much of the world to see,” Sam remarks. “Uh huh.”
~ MARYANNE POPE
“You’re fortunate to have seen and experienced what you have, Adri.” “I realize that.” “Most people are lucky if they make it to Vegas in their lifetime,” he adds, “never mind visiting the actual destinations these hotels were inspired by.” Half a block from the New York City skyline, I snap a photo of Sam with the replica Empire State Building in the background. A little further along, we stop beneath a smaller-scale Statue of Liberty. “There she is,” he says. We stare up at her then look at each other. “I still can’t wait for us to go to the real place,” I say. Sam gives me the look—the one that means “that’s enough.” Inside, we stroll along the replicated streets of Manhattan, past steam rising from pretend manhole covers, to a bar where a crowd of people has gathered. Since Sam is over six feet, he can see over most of the heads. “Oh, you’ll love this,” he says, pulling me to the side for a better view. There’s a guy singing and playing a piano as the patrons gather around, humming along and having a hoot. Then I hear myself say, “I wonder if this is like a real bar in Greenwich Village?” “Regardless, this is pretty cool.” Now there is an edge to Sam’s voice. “Yeah but…” “We’re in Vegas,” he says. “Let’s appreciate this.” I turn to him. “Don’t you want to go to New York anymore?” “Of course I do, but this is great in itself.” Sam sweeps his arm across the scene as if waving a magic wand. “If you can’t appreciate this, then what makes you think you’ll enjoy the real New York?” “C’mon, Sammy, lighten up! What would you most want to do in Manhattan?”
A WIDOW’S AWAKENING ~
He thinks a moment. “Well…remember how in The Catcher in the Rye, Holden loved to sit on a park bench in Central Park and watch the ducks in the lagoon?” I smile at Sam’s use of a literary reference as he’s not much of a reader. “Yeah.” “That’s what I’d do.” “Yeah,” I say, nodding my head. “That’d be cool.” Back on the strip again, he asks if I’m ready to go back to our own hotel. I shake my head. “Let’s go check out the pyramid.” “Are you sure? It’s already a really long walk back…” He’s right. And when we do finally begin the homeward trek, after a loop through the pyramid, our feet are aching and we’re both irritable. On the way, we pass dozens of men slapping sleazy photographs of teenage prostitutes and strippers against their thighs. “There’s some authenticity for you,” Sam remarks. “What are they doing?” “What do you think they’re doing, Adri?” “I know that. But why are they slapping the pamphlets against their legs?” “Because it’s obviously against the law to verbally solicit customers.” “And pimping out teenagers isn’t?” We walk in silence until the erupting volcano outside our hotel comes into view. Sam sees it and laughs. “Go big or go home.” I look at him. “What?” “I was just thinking how Vegas is such a ‘go big or go home’ kinda place.” Tonight, we have the lustful, in-front-of-the-hotel-room-mirror kind of sex couples tend to have on vacation, away from the pressures of daily life. This time, I am on top.
~ MARYANNE POPE
In the morning, I awake to find Sam has gone downstairs and brought us back coffee and muffins for breakfast in our room. We sit at the table in the corner, looking out the window at the dormant volcano. I turn to Sam. “Thank you.” “For?” “Everything. This is awesome.” As we leave Vegas in our convertible—top down—I remark: “That was quite somethin’, huh?” Sam nods. “All that stuff in the middle of the desert…” He nods again. I look over at him. “But now it’s quiet time?” “Bingo,” he says with a wink. I put a sock in it for awhile. “How are you doing over there?” he asks, half an hour later. “I’m getting kinda hot.” Laughing, he pulls over and puts the top up.
When we check into our hotel in Tusayan, the clerk tells
us the sunset at the Grand Canyon is at 6:28 p.m. so if we want to catch it, we better get our tails in gear. Back into the convertible we hop and speed toward the canyon, arguing over whether or not we should take a helicopter ride. “I’ll call them on the cell phone, Sam.” “We already know it’s gonna cost too much.” “But you want to go.” “Adri, chill…it’s no big deal.” “At least let me phone and find out.” “We already know it’s gonna be five hundred bucks.” “That was from Vegas,” I say, punching in the number. Then it hits me: isn’t being at the Grand Canyon enough? I end the call.
A WIDOW’S AWAKENING ~
“I just thought seeing the Grand Canyon from a helicopter would be amazing.” “Have you ever been up in one?” he asks. I shake my head. “It’s great. It’s like you get to see…a bigger piece of the picture.”
About the Author Maryanne Pope is the author of the novel, A Widow’s Awakening. She also writes blogs, screenplays and play scripts. Her current projects include the play, Saviour, and the screenplay, God’s Country. She was also the executive producer of the documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood. She is the founder and CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. Maryanne lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.