Thanks to DragonsWeb, OldFart, RastaDevil, WanderingScot and Sweet Sue for their innumerable edits to this gentle revision of an older story!
I knew now that she was the one and only true love of my life.
I'd fondly remembered Linda Monroe throughout the years, but it wasn't until I unexpectedly saw her again nearly twenty years later at a wedding reception that my heart reminded me with a loud thump just exactly what I had been missing. Mercifully, it wasn't her wedding, or even mine. That really would have been rather awkward!
I had damn few regrets in life but letting her go out of mine those many years ago was definitely one of them. It was a mistake I didn't intend to make twice! The stars were now all coming into alignment for me, and more than a few pigeons were coming home to roost. I muttered a brief prayer of thanks to the Almighty, or whoever had the onerous duty of looking after the prayers of fools this particular week.
She was still a vision of loveliness and oh-so stunningly beautiful; trim, every slight movement vivacious with life and without the vaguest hint of any frown lines engraved on her face. The Linda I'd known and loved was unrelentingly happy and smiled from the moment she woke up to the time she went to bed and the sparkle in her eyes showed that this had not changed. Her eyes were still her most remarkable feature, a sparkling deep intelligent brown-green swirl that seemed to draw you in deeper, as if they were hypnotic. She also recognized me almost at once, and as her eyes grew larger with delight they drew me in once more and trapped me forever.
There are much worse fates. I never should have left her in the first place. More fool me!
We met for the first time at college, after a campus political conference. We were philosophical opposites and we didn't quite click the first time around but we soon increasingly orbited around each other, with gravity and soon nature slowly brought us closer together. She was dating an acquaintance of mine who was in law school, but the match-up was far from ideal. He tended to be extremely moody and given to maudlin moods of self-destructive behavior. She wasn't terribly high maintenance, but she did like to have fun — stimulating conversation at the very least. Gradually, they drifted apart and we then drifted together with very little fanfare or fuss. Sleeping together, and eventually, her moving in with me, were both relatively minor decisions we made afterwards by reflex rather than by any specific intent.
Everyone said we were the perfect couple, and we really probably were. That might have been part of what horrified my family so much. That, and the fact that she was a Jewess of no money, connections or family. Note the use of the obsolete and rather bigoted term, Jewess. My family was as WASP (White-Anglo-Saxon- Protestant) as it was possible to get even here in the very heartland of the American Midwest and the more I loved Linda the more terrified my family was that I would perform an unforgiveable social outrage and marry this delightful creature!
In fairness, my beloved was only half Jewish (from her mother) and quite non-practicing, but that was still quite enough all by itself to give most members of my family nightmares. Tolerance is not a Piper family trait, alas. Her own family was only slightly less unhappy about having me as a likely future in-law as well, so Linda and I both had extreme pressure at both ends of our relationship that eventually slowly crushed us like a nutcracker.
Eventually, we allowed family pressure to break us up. It was regrettable on both of our parts and we split the blame fairly evenly. We'd had a good run though, nearly two years and the breakup was about as easy and pleasant as could be hoped for under the circumstances. In fact I don't think either of us actually ever made the formal decision to split, we just allowed ourselves to be physically separated by circumstance and once we'd went our separate ways we then failed to reconnect back together as we had intended.
My family made sure that I was sent two thousand miles away from her to complete my MBA and afterwards I was then promptly sent to work for my grandfather in another equally distant state while Linda was still completing her final years of graduate school back home. She would have quit school and followed me anywhere, without a penny in either of our pockets, but I was feeling noble and wouldn't let her abandon her own dreams of advanced education. Besides, the absence would 'just be for a little while', we told each other. We had other dreams, thoughts, intentions, wild ass plans, etc ... but living and reality soon got into the way once time and long distance started to erode our ardor.
"I'll dance at your wedding." She said by means of a final farewell one evening after another one of our increasingly irregular phone calls when we'd both realized that the long distance relationship just wasn't going to work out the way we really wanted it to. It's a nice useful phrase. Basically meaning more or less, "I wish you well, no regrets, now get on with your life."
I didn't even consider asking her later to attend my wedding — heck, I wished at the time that I could have found a way to avoid it myself, but that's a story for later.
I'd kept in vague indirect contact with her through a friend of a friend, but we hadn't been together in the same city for about twenty years since our separation. Through mutual friends, I'd discovered that she'd married an older man named Paul, and they had been 'sort of' happy together but it hadn't really worked out all that well. There had been some talk of divorce off and on but they'd become just barely comfortable enough together to endure the situation for the sake of their only daughter Beatrice, whose wedding she was attending today. Paul was not present, except in spirit perhaps. He'd died of testicular cancer about eight years ago and Linda had remained a widow and had just recently moved back to our hometown. From the rumors I'd heard through the grapevine, she'd been a rather merry widow and there had been hints that she'd been checking up on me, but our paths had not once crossed, until today.
Today she was marrying off her only daughter. Also today, if there was any justice in this world, I would begin my first steps to become a single man and ruler of my own destiny - for once and for all.
I need to explain right from the get-go that my family is (or was) seriously wealthy. Old money, earned the hard and traditional way off of the backs of the working class. I'm as much of a modern capitalist as anyone but my great-grandfather and grandfather were both major league robber-barons of the old traditional school.
My Great-Grandfather Piproswki supposedly came to the US from East Prussia in 1908. That's the family story and some of them even actually believe it. His old original immigration paperwork though suggests that his hometown was actually well on the Polish side of the border in those days. Worse, his very own grandmother might have been Jewish as well! Far too pedestrian for the noble WASP history of our family and this unacceptable inconvenience of history has been since been appropriately whitewashed out for public consumption. Thus did a poor Polish laborer transform himself via the arts of public relations into the founding patriarch of a noble Junkers family who became 'Piper', an American Captain of Industry™.
Hazarding a guess, I'd say that the family anti-Semitic (and anti-Catholic) attitude didn't come across the ocean with him but was promptly acquired to accompany his growing fortune when he settled here into our mid-western city. He did bring a strong work ethic with him and built a small but financially stable empire of canning plants that weathered the Great Depression without the slightest difficulty. The pickle plant that I run today was one of great-grandfather's very first enterprises, profitable and successful from the very first day it started business.
His only son, my grandfather Joseph, took this prosperous empire and grew it into a multi-state corporate food-processing hydra of nearly a thousand heads. Grow or die was his motto and he bought up nearly every troubled cannery within a thousand miles of us back in the dark days of the depression right before World War Two, just in time to make a fortune that would make Midas envious. If you looked in a period encyclopedia or newspaper to learn what a 'war profiteer' was, the odds are you might see a photo of my grandfather. If he could can it, he sold it to the War Department for the consumption of our boys overseas ... at an obscene profit.
This was mostly the principal source for the legendary Piper fortune. It was a huge unimaginable sized pie in those days, but as the next generation of my family began to nibble away at it, this massive hoard of loot started to get slowly carved up and devoured, even faster than new profits could replace it.
Grandfather loved to make money. He also loved to get a piece or two of ass and was married four different times and also had a stable of nearly a dozen acknowledged mistresses on the side as well. He was also legendary for preying upon his female factory workers and bending them to his will, figurative and literally. "Put out or pack out!" would have been his motto. Most women with a husband overseas often had no choice but to 'put out' rather than lose their good paying wartime factory job, especially if they had young children to support alone, or worse, were an emotionally vulnerable widow.
.... There is more of this story ...