Stephanie Hall was a bright, energetic woman who happened to be in love with her best friend’s husband and had been for twenty years. She couldn’t help how she felt about Tucker. Steph actually introduced her best friend Fran to Tucker. She didn’t expect them to fall in love and get married, but they did. Stephanie never told Fran about her feelings for Tucker so although she envied Fran she never let that love interfere with their friendship. They remained fast friends and was even the godmother to their first child.
Stephanie eventually married Phil Mason and moved away. Their union was one of mutual respect and admiration. They loved each other in their own way and had a lovely life. Phil had been married before and had two children with his first wife, he and Steph never had children of their own. They were married fourteen years when Phil suddenly died of a heart attack. Stephanie found herself a widow at thirty-eight years old. Melanie, Phil’s first wife, had remarried earlier that same year and relocated to another state, taking the children with her. Now with Phil’s death and the children out of her life, she found herself at loose ends and needed to make decisions about the rest of her life.
Two months after Phil’s death, she received a phone call that changed everything.
“Hi Steph, how are you holding up?” Fran asked
“I’m doing okay, how about you?” Steph responded.
“Things could be better. I have to tell you something and it’s very difficult,” Steph could hear Fran trying not to cry.
“Honey, what’s the matter?”
“I’ve been diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis is not good.” Fran could hear the intake of Stephanie’s breath.
“Oh no, Fran. That’s not possible. Have you had another opinion?”
“Stephanie, Tucker and I have been to so many doctors and they all say the same thing. I had actually been having some tests done when we were there for Phil’s funeral but I didn’t want to say anything. You had your own demons to deal with and I didn’t want to burden you with anything more.”
They talked for over an hour. Fran told her about her treatments and how she was sick all the time. She said Tucker and the children were doing their best to keep up with things, but it was difficult. They laughed and cried throughout the conversation and before the phone call ended, Stephanie told Fran she would be there to help.
“I can’t ask you to put your life on hold for me.” Fran said.
“Nonsense, and you are not asking, I’m telling you. My life is on hold, now that I’m alone I have been wondering what I am going to do and the answer has just been provided. I’ll be there as soon as I can make some arrangements.”
Two weeks later, Tucker picked up Stephanie from the airport. Stephanie was not ready for the changes in Tucker. He looked worn and haggard and had aged at least ten years since she saw him four months ago. She started bracing herself for what she would find when she saw Fran.
It was worse than she expected. Stephanie had planned on living in a residence hotel but when she saw how bad things were, she abandoned those plans and moved into the guest room. She took care of the household tasks freeing up Tucker and their two children, Brad and Lisa, allowing them to spend more time with Fran. While they were in school or at work, she nursed and cared for Fran.
Shortly after Steph’s arrival, Fran took a downturn. For too long, she had been pressing herself to keep up appearances and now it seemed she had finally come to terms with her disease and started to make peace with herself and her family. The two of them had some heartwarming and earth shattering talks during their time together. Stephanie learned that Fran and Tucker lived a DD lifestyle. Stephanie didn’t even know what a DD lifestyle was until Fran explained. Fran said there’s been a very relaxed version, she didn’t have any rules or restrictions but Tucker would spank her when she got out of hand. She said it started playfully and just evolved from there. Fran said it was funny because he wouldn’t think of spanking the children but he loved spanking her. Stephanie was appalled at first and began to think less of Tucker but Fran finally made her understand it worked for both of them and she had no regrets. They talked about Steph’s life with Phil and how lonely and alone she was with him gone and Melanie and the kids being so far away.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your being here and I know Tucker and the kids will be in good hands.”
“Honey, they are in your hands. It’s your family.” Stephanie told her.
“Yes they are and I have been so blessed but we know I am not going to be around much longer. The kids love you and I know you love them; you have to help them move on with their lives. Please make sure that Brad gets to those track practices and that Lisa goes to the prom. Tucker has a habit of forgetting the importance kids place on these types of things.”
Stephanie was trying to hold back tears but Fran continued.
“Now, for the most important thing, Tucker. I’ve known for a very long time that you are in love with Tucker. It took me a while to realize that and come to terms with it but I knew I could trust you to do the right thing and when you married Phil, I hoped you would find what we’ve had. Now that Phil is gone and I will soon be joining him, that door is open and I truly hope you walk through. I’m leaving my family to you and however that turns out, know that you have my blessings.” Stephanie sucked in her breath.
Stephanie moved out of the house and into a residence hotel shortly after Fran passed. At Tucker’s request, she hired a housekeeper for them. She was around to make sure Brad continued with his track practices and meets, took Lisa shopping for her prom gown and did all of the hundreds of other things Fran had requested she do for the family. It was time for Stephanie to get back to her own life. She told Tucker, Brad and Lisa at dinner one evening she was going home.
They all tried to talk her out of it but she knew for her own well-being, it had to be done. She was already so involved it was going to be like leaving a part of her heart behind but if she was ever going to have a chance with Tucker he had to see her as a woman instead of as a caretaker for him and his children.
She said goodbye to Lisa and Brad the night before she left, making sure her phone number was programmed into the new cell phones she had purchased for them. Tucker was taking her to the airport in the morning.
On the way to the airport, Tucker told Stephanie how much he and the children appreciated her and thanked her for everything. Stephanie contemplated telling Tucker about how she felt about him and the conversation she and Fran had shared before her passing. Instead, she reached for his hand and told him it was her pleasure to help and that she was there for him. She felt it was too soon for anything more.
When Stephanie moved back she realized if she were ever going to have any chance with Tucker she would have to take the first step. She put her house on the market and started looking for a house and a business opportunity in the
Claremont area. On one of her treks with the real estate
agent, she spied a For Sale sign in a bookshop.
She took down the number and made an appointment. It was located in a charming little mini-mall
with a large pepper tree out front with a courtyard surrounded by upscale
boutiques featuring art, clothing, stained glass and such. The bookstore was tucked into a corner at the
far end and Stephanie knew she had to have it, no matter the cost. Phil had left her comfortably fixed and money
wasn’t a concern.
She called Tucker and the kids with her good news. She hoped that the excitement she heard in Tucker’s voice was because she would be moving closer. The bookstore owner wanted a quick closing, so Steph planned to move to the residential hotel again until finding a place to live. She was thrilled when Tucker volunteered to help. Her house was to be sold furnished and she would donate whatever was left. The weekend before moving day, Tucker flew up and she was surprised when he came alone. She thought sure he would bring the kids but was happy he didn’t. Maybe it was time to make her feelings known. She picked him up at the airport. She hugged him as she always had but this time she kissed his cheek. He seemed a little surprised but grabbed her hand on the way to the car. They stopped for lunch and after a cocktail, Tucker said he had something to tell her. She sighed and took a deep breath, expecting the worst.
“I was going through Fran’s things a while back and I came across a letter she left for me. I wasn’t sure what to do about it. She obviously wrote it shortly before she passed and I would like to share with you what she wrote.”
“I don’t know what to say. Obviously if it was too personal you wouldn’t share.”
“Parts of it are personal, so I will read the part that pertains to you, if you don’t mind”
“She starts by telling me how much she loved being married to me, how much she loved being a wife and mother and how sorry she is that she won’t be around to see the children grow to adulthood, etc., etc., but this is the part pertaining to you.”
I want you to go on with your life. The one thing I want for you is to be happy and find another woman who will love you and our children. Don’t feel guilty she will be taking my place; love just makes the heart expand and I know you will always love me. I want you to love again. By the time you find this, I am sure you will be ready to pick up the pieces and be ready to accept someone into your life. There is someone that already loves you and our children. I am quite sure you are oblivious to this because you are a man and men don’t often notice nuances that women see without even trying. What I am trying to say is that Stephanie has been in love with you for years. She has loved you longer than me. She knows I knew, we talked about it and if things work out between you; know that you could do me no greater honor than to love my friend as you have loved me…
Tears were rolling down Stephanie’s cheeks and she could only nod when he asked if this was true.
“Then I think we should explore a different type of relationship, don’t you?” and once again all she could do was nod. He offered her his hanky and grabbed her hand, bringing it to his lips for a kiss.
Tucker approached their new relationship slowly. They went to dinner, movies, outings with Brad and Lisa, all things new couples do. What they hadn’t done was have sex. Stephanie was about at the end of her rope when one day she couldn’t take it any more. After one of their dates, Tucker was kissing her goodnight when she pulled him in the door of her rented apartment and began unbuttoning his shirt.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m tired of waiting for you to take the initiative. We are not teenagers, we are a middle aged couple and we’ve been dating for months. I’m ready to take this relationship to the next level. Are you? ”
“Stephanie, I believe it’s the man who usually makes this move?”
“Maybe so, but you haven’t stepped up.”
“Steph, I know we haven’t discussed this, but I feel more comfortable taking the lead.”
“So, does that mean we’re not having sex tonight?”
“We’ve known each other for years. It took me a while to differentiate our relationship but I’ve come to the conclusion that what I feel for you is more than just friendship. I definitely want more than what we now have but I think it only fair that you know what I expect in a relationship.”
“It’s only sex, for Pete’s sake.”
“No, it’s more than that. I don’t believe in casual sex. I know I am an old-fashioned guy. If we’re going to have sex it means we are committed to each other and to me commitment means marriage. If you think you are ready to take that step then, yes, we can make love. If not, no we are not going to have sex tonight or any other night.”
“You are asking me to marry you, right? Are you sure you are ready to make that kind of commitment?”
“Yes and yes. Are you? If so, we have to have a little discussion. As I said, I like to take the lead and I believe in an old-fashioned marriage. Marriage works better if one partner takes the responsibility for decisions that affect everyone. Obviously, marriage is also a partnership and I expect feelings and opinions to be shared and when disagreements occur, they are discussed but the final decision will be mine.”
Steph rolled her eyes. Tucker saw the expression and grinned. “You don’t agree.”
“Tuck, marriage is always a negotiation. Besides, Fran told me all about your DD marriage. At first, I thought she was crazy and that you were an idiot; but she finally made me see it was okay?”
“You made me go through this whole speech and you knew all along. I should spank you for that.”
Stephanie laughed. “A marriage proposal and a spanking threat all in the same conversation, that’s definitely a first,” he laughed.