I’m meeting the Captain at the Quantico VA officers club. I park my car and walk to the entrance all the while enjoying the scenery. Men in uniform. Everywhere.
At the entrance I see a tall, well built man and as I get closer I know this is the Captain. He is as handsome as his wife, Sara, described him. He leads me inside to a quiet table by a window and holds out my chair.
“Why do you want to interview me?” he says as he sits. “Forever and Always is Sara’s story.”
“Yes it is. You are an integral part. Your life together makes the story.”
“Before we begin,” his voice is a rich baritone and his expression serious, “I want you to know I never talk about our private life. With anyone. I’m here today because Sara asked me.”
He gives me the impression he will do anything Sara asks.
“I’ll give you basics but no intimate details. Understood?”
I almost answered, yes sir. Instead, I nod and get down to business.
“Tell me how you met. Sara’s told me her side. I want to hear yours.”
His lips twitch into a smile that spreads to his eyes.
“We met at the beach. My brother drove that day and he offered to give some girls a ride home. The car was already full and a couple of the girls had to sit on a boys lap. Sara sat on mine.” He pauses. It seems to me he is enjoying reliving the memory.
“Were you attracted to her?”
“Not for about….five minutes and then I kissed her.” He shook his head and looked like a little boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar. “I’d known her less than five minutes and I kissed her.”
“I take it this was not normal for you.”
“Nope. And it scared the crap out of me.”
The waitress brings us the coffee we’d ordered, ignores me and asks the Captain if she can get him anything else. Her body language saying she is definitely on the menu.
“Thanks,” he says, “coffee is all I need from here.”
Her do-me-now smile vanishes and she goes away.
Mahoney looks at me. “Sorry about that.”
I realize this is something he has dealt with before.
“Where were we?” He says.
I snap my mind back to the interview. “Did you ask her out?”
He shakes his head. “I asked around about her. Found out she was the daughter of the town upper crust. Father big in real estate. Mother big into being a snob and a bit..” he stops himself from finishing the word. “As soon as I found out who her parents were I knew they would never approve of our dating.”
“She had to get permission?”
“She was fifteen and I didn’t want to cause her any trouble.”
“Did you come from the wrong side of the tracks?”
He laughs. “Her family thought I did. We were farmers. To them we were rednecks. Didn’t make any difference we were the largest property owners in the tri-county area.
“How do you know they felt like that?”
“Her dad wanted to buy land from us for a development along the river. He offered to pay five cents on the dollar for what it was worth. Thought my gramps and dad were stupid. You can imagine were it went from there.”
“I can see why you stayed away.”
Mahoney is quiet.
“When did you see her again?”
“Oh, I saw her every school day. Sometimes on the weekends.” He washes a hand over his face and gives me what I would call a sly smile. “These days I think it’s called stalking.”
I am very surprised by this. Sara told me he avoided her.
“Did you know then you loved her?”
He cocks an eyebrow and gives me an are-you-serious-look. “I was seventeen.”
O-kay. “When did you know you loved her?”
“The next school year. We ran into each other, literally, after school. It was raining, she came around a corner and crashed into me. I put my arms around her to keep her upright and she wrapped around me. I maneuvered her against the building, under the eaves, to get out of the rain. The way she…”
He stopped going down the too-much-information highway and shifted in his chair.
“I kissed her and she kissed back.” The emotion previously gathering in his voice is now under control. “By this time I’d dated, kissed and even..you know..” he pauses and I nod. “a few girls. That kiss was different. I was smart enough to know it was more than lust. Rattled me. I could have any girl, but the one I wanted. I look back and think the staying away could have had something to do with my fear.”
So much for no details. He drinks some coffee and begins again.
“I made a plan. As soon as she was out from under her parents I would be there.”
Men. “What if she found someone else in that time?”
“There are no what if’s. Only the right now’s. We’re together that’s all that’s important.”
This is clearly not an area open for discussion. I change the subject.
“You met again in college. What happened to staying away?”
“College.” He absently toys with the salt- shaker. “I was third year. It was her first year. A couple weeks after the semester began I saw her coming across the common in my direction. I was stunned. Last I heard, she’d applied and had been accepted to more than one Ivy league college.” He leaned to me and I swear his hazel eyes turned green. “My plans went up in flames and I asked her out.”
“You left a few months later. Why?”
His eyes go dark as fast as they shimmered green and he turns his gaze to the view outside the window.
“Since she was ten Sara wanted to be a doctor. Everything she did was aimed at doing just that. If I stayed, I’d be in her way. I’d already committed six years to this job. I’d be gone more than I was home.
“I wasn’t what she needed. I wanted her to have the happiness she deserved.
He returns his gaze to me.
“I was an ass. There was not a day go by I didn’t think of her. Leaving her was the biggest mistake of my life and the only thing I ever regret doing.”
I look down at my notes to break his intense gaze.
“Three days after I found her again we were married.”
I smile, nod and think Sara Mahoney is the luckiest woman I know.
“I will stand by her forever.” He says softly. “I will always love her.”