First Night: The Conflict Between Hope and Cynicism
Story by Dr. Lee Brazil
Foreword and Epilogue by:
Written by Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved
ST. GEORGES, BERMUDA
December 22, 2019, 10:23 A.M.
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a good word cheers it.
~ Proverbs 12:29
Joann stepped into the room slowly. She seemed almost embarrassed to be there, avoiding eye contact with both Lee and Father Allen.
Lee spoke first. “Joann,” but he could say nothing else.
Father Allen broke their silence. “Please,” directing Joann to the chair next to Lee. Lee had not moved. As she approached, he reached out to take her hand. She allowed him to do so.
She was a beautiful woman. A woman, Lee had always thought, who bloomed wherever she was planted. In her late sixties, but looking much younger; her hair finally graying. A small woman, still trim. She dressed like a New Englander, a dark blue blazer, white shirt, jeans, and running shoes.
Lee had not seen her in years. They had met over forty years before when he was a young psychologist focused on building his practice, and she was a young school social worker with plans to open her own business. They had fallen in love and lived together for a few years. But the energy in the relationship had faded. And their relationship had ended. Time and other relationships had come and gone before they reconnected years later. But when they realized that having more than a friendship had little to offer either but more confusion and possible pain, they had taken things no further. They continued to talk occasionally, a phone call, a card, an e-mail and maybe even an occasional dinner. When she had left New England to be close to family in Florida, she and Lee had lost contact. It had been years. But a couple of weeks before leaving for Europe, Lee, for some reason, felt he should send her a card — a Christmas card — and he did and to his surprise she replied with a New Year’s card.
“Joann,” he said again, and this time she looked up and made eye contact.
“How have you been?”
“Better than you apparently are,” she said with a smile. She was a quiet person with a quick wit.
Lee nodded and returned the smile. A sense of relief, of peace, filled Lee’s body. In the middle of all of this, this craziness, he suddenly felt at ease. Safe. It was her smile. The sound of her voice. He remembered it had always worked that way. The two didn’t need to have long, labored conversations about their feelings. They just needed to look at each other. It was simple. He remembered.
“I like the new look,” she said. “Who’s your stylist?”
“Edward,” Lee said and laughed.
“I am afraid I must interrupt,” Father Allen said. “Your ship sails this afternoon. Martha has arranged for a taxi to take you back to the dock. Here are your papers, Emanuel. Your passport. Joann will assist you in getting through customs. You will keep these on.” He handed Lee a pair of sunglasses and a cap. “You have a history of migraines and you’re having one. When you’re back in your cabin, which adjoins Joann’s, she will call the ship’s doctor. He will see you in your cabin and arrange a medical excuse. You are sailing back light, without passengers, so this will not be a problem.”
He looked at Lee and with force said, “Stay in your cabin until you arrive in Boston. Customs in Boston will not be a problem. They tell me the dock is only a few blocks from an Agent Jennings’ office. You know the address. Go there directly. They tell me Jennings will be expecting you.”
Lee looked down at the sunglasses and cap and the passport and nodded.
Father Allen herded them toward the door of his office.
“Say little to each other in the taxi. Michael, the driver, is a talker and a gossip. He’ll entertain you with his stories about Bermuda. Joann can explain that you are not feeling well.”
Turning to Joann, “Thank you so very much for your help and for the beautiful cross.”
She nodded. “I’m sure it’s what my grandfather would have wanted me to do.”
“Yes. I am sure,” said Father Allen with conviction. “You may not know how right you are.
Turning to Lee, “Take care, my friend. May God be with you and with us.”
“Well, yes,” said Lee. “And . . . thank you for your assistance in helping me . . . to get back to Boston.”
There was a knock on the door. “Yes, Martha, we are coming.” Father Allen looked down at the sunglasses and the cap, and Lee quickly put them on. He opened the office door and escorted Lee and Joann to the main door of the church.
“Michael is waiting. Godspeed.”
For a moment, neither Lee nor Joann moved. Michael got out of the taxi and opened the back door of the cab.
“Now you must go,” Father Allen prompted, and the two descended the steps and tumbled into the backseat of the taxi.