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Secrets

        As she sat there alone sipping hot coffee in her immaculate kitchen and watching her two young children at play in the yard, Dawn began to reflect on her past, and again wonder about her future. Her thoughts inevitably led her back twenty years, to her college days at a small-town private school in upstate Connecticut.

       She fondly recalled the boisterous, naive youth that she had been, just as she bitterly remembered the things she did then that she still regrets. Like, for instance, the time she let naivete and newly found freedom, coupled with a healthy dose of Southern Comfort, cause her to sacrifice her innocence to a superficially suave fraternity guy. Little did she know that all the attention that Jason had shown her and all the cute little things he did to amuse her were just a means to achieve an end. As much as she hated herself for her lack of experience with the ‘real' world, she did realize that something very important came from that encounter aside from a lesson hard learned. Not long after she and Jason had separated, she happened upon one of his fraternity brothers at a local bar. They knew each other briefly from the peremptory introduction Jason gave them the first time he brought her home, and when she passed he gave a non-committal ‘Hello', whereupon she, in a slightly inebriated state, decided it was her duty that night to make him laugh, so she pulled up a stool and proceeded to tell him dirty jokes.

      They sat there and talked for hours, which was something that she rarely did with people she barely knew, and she determined that she was not the only one having a pleasant evening. She had noticed before that something about him differed just a bit from everyone else, although she could not quite identify exactly what it was. She did notice, however, that he was a watcher. Sitting silently on a bar stool, his huge hulking frame trying almost successfully to avoid notice, he rarely spoke to anyone, although it seemed that everyone knew him by name. At any rate that first night they spoke he walked her home, and they began a friendship that few ever have. What began as meeting each other occasionally at the bar developed into emails, then phone calls, and finally reached the point where they made concerted efforts hang out, seeing each sometimes every night of the week, never tiring of the other's company.

      As the end of the spring semester neared, they exchanged home addresses and promised to write and call each other while they were apart, which they did, and when they returned the next fall, things picked up again where they left off. Children's laughter snapped her out of her reverie for a moment, and she looked out the window to see her son Tyler chasing his little brother in a game of tag. Sipping her coffee, her thoughts turned once again to Aaron.

     She never understood why Aaron finally confessed to her the secret which he had kept so long, which became an important foundation of their relationship. She remembered that night as clearly as she could recall her first kiss. He had been out drinking for quite some time, he confessed later, when she and another of his fraternity brothers came the bar from a movie date. She almost immediately came over and sat down to talk with him, while her date almost immediately abandoned her. They began a normal conversation, which eventually led to her feelings for this new guy, and her confusion as to what she should do about him. She could not figure out if she really liked the guy or not, and wanted advice on how to proceed. Aaron looked up, eyes like ice-chips penetrating her own, and for a brief moment she felt something like a static shock. Never before had she felt so exposed and shaken at the same time, and it really unnerved her. It passed quickly, and as Aaron glanced down again he said in a strange tone of voice, "Well....uh...never mind. You'll make the right decision, " and with that he fell silent.

      "How do you know that?" she asked, incredulous, "Did you just read my mind? What was that?" Aaron would say no more, however, merely repeating that cryptic remark every time she prodded him for more information.

      Later, after he walked her to her room, they stood there talking, and Aaron told her the secret he had told no other living soul. " I can see things sometimes," he told her, "thought I don't know how or why."

      "What kind of things?", she asked.

      "Well, its hard to explain," he said, "I really can't put it into words that well. Its like sometimes I see what people think, not hearing sentences exactly, but just knowing what they think. It happens so much any more that I try to block it out. Tonight was accidental with you...I almost told you something about your date, but I let it go when I saw that you'd make the right choice."

      "So, you are saying that you are a psychic, then?", Dawn inquired, "Because I know I felt something when you looked me in the eyes earlier tonight."

      "No, not all," came Aaron's emphatic reply, " I don't think I even believe in them, I just know that I process things weirdly, I guess. . . I don't know. . . I can't explain it."

      Dawn was fascinated by this revelation. She pried a bit more, asking question after question, to which Aaron had few answers. Eventually he told her a bit more about himself, such as his being discovered to be a gifted genius at the age of 6. When she asked why he had never mentioned that before, he casually replied "Its always better to be underestimated than overestimated. When people see me they see a big strong stupid farm boy, not who I am really am. They expect less, and as a consequence, I give less. If they need to know anything about me, they will either discover it themselves, or if I deem them worth knowing, I will tell them whatever I want them to know later."

      As the cooking timer on her oven went off, Dawn once more snapped back to the present. Quickly removing today's dinner from the oven, she put it aside and waited for her husband to come. Once more her thoughts were drawn to Aaron, and again she lost herself in them.

     Over the years, she and Aaron had become best friends, she remembered. The night Dawn's grandmother passed away, it was Aaron's shoulder she cried on. The time Aaron experienced a particularly rough bout of depression, it was she who managed to keep him from attempting suicide. She also eventually came to truly believe his talents were all he said they were, and sometimes a bit more. The letter she received from him after she had thrown a party at her home one summer still gave her cold chills. At the party that was held at her home one summer she had unprotected sex with a guy she knew. She never told Aaron, yet two days after receiving her latest later, in which she merely mentioned going to a party, he wrote and asked her if she had slept with a guy at the party and thought she might be pregnant. Little things like that convinced her that there was more to him than even he would admit, and that's why she was both surprised and irritated with him the day he told her about the vision.

     He said he had been taking a shower that morning, when suddenly he saw her, sitting at a kitchen table, in thought, and that she was regretting something important. After much prodding for the entire story, he admitted that she was married in it, and he thought she had kids. As to what she regretted, he wouldn't say, only stating that "Its a secret. Some things shouldn't be known before hand, and it is not my place to tell you."

     This really annoyed her, because as her best friend he should tell her anything. She knew that he had such experiences often, and that usually she could prod him out of what little information he had. He would always remind her that things were not pre-determined, but that it might not be wise for him to tell everyone everything he knew about them and what may lie in store. This time he would not budge, however, so they finally just ended up making a joke of it, and because she thought that it was about the guy she married, she ended up referring to the man in the vision as ‘the shcmuck of her dreams'.

      Life went on. . . Aaron received his Ph.D. in biology and spent a couple years studying native medicine with a tribe in Ecuador, and Dawn went on to Medical school. They maintained contact with each other via letters, email, and the occasional call, and then Dawn got married. The last time she could remember seeing Aaron was at her wedding, 7 years ago. He attended the ceremony, and was her equivalent of the best man in the wedding, though he seemed pre-occupied the entire time. She had kept asking if he was okay, to which he would respond that he was fine, so she let it go. They both made a joke about the ‘shcmuck', laughed, and everything was fine. Later that day at the reception he mentioned something about an interest in a Tibetan monastery, and that he had entertained the notion of visiting it. She had neither seen nor heard from him since.

      The squeak of the hinges on their front door again drew her attention back to the present. The clip-clopping she heard on the hardwood oak floor of their living room informed her that her husband was finally home. His job required him to work long hours, often not getting home until well after the company he worked for had closed for business. For instance, today he got home 3 hours late and was so busy he did not have time to call her to warn her. "Hey sweetheart!", he greeted her, and wrapped his arms around her for a warm kiss. As they finally separated, she smiled, stepped back to take a look at her husband, and reflected that aside from Aaron's absence, her life was just about perfect.
    I guess that vision he had was wrong after all. I should have listened when he told me that it may have been.
    Still smiling, she hugged her husband once more, and that's when she noticed the scent of a strange perfume, and saw the strand of long, blond hair on his shoulder.


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