Last Day

By Cora, 77. Ravenshoe, QLD

Any minute now, Roger would watch Tessa walk out the door for the last time. Oh, sure, he would see her again, might see her around town a few times before she flew halfway across the country. She wouldn’t be there with him every day, though, as she had for nearly four years.

Tessa was an exceptional person by any measure. By far the most beautiful woman Roger had ever seen, Tessa was also one of the most intelligent people he had ever met. Also remarkably diligent and industrious, she was nevertheless kind and high-spirited. Roger found the combination of traits overwhelming. He cherished and enjoyed Tessa’s company and did not want her to leave. More accurately, he didn’t want her to leave without him — he wanted her to take him with her. He would be happy to be with her, anywhere she wanted to go.

Their social interactions, limited mostly to casual pleasantries, proved excruciating for Roger, both pleasant and frustrating. He and Tess had never dated, of course, or developed anything even approaching intimacy. Nevertheless, they had spent so much time together, they knew each other well. Roger knew she liked him but had no delusions of her loving him as he loved her, much though he wished for exactly that. Although assailed by anguish, Roger remained rational enough to recognize the facts: he was in love; she was not.

Roger felt an intense physical desire for Tessa, but his love for her went far beyond lust. She was too special for that, could never be an object. Tessa remained always a person, a complete person, a wonderful person, to Roger. A model of propriety, he concealed his feelings for Tessa, never mentioned them or gave any hint of them. He enjoyed what time he could in Tessa’s company and never said a word about anything personal. Roger’s thoroughgoing professional ethics meant he never acknowledged his feelings for Tessa to anyone but himself, never revealed them to her or to his closest friends or to anyone else.

Although assailed by anguish, Roger remained rational enough to recognize the facts: He was in love; she was not.

Aware of her exceptional intelligence, Tessa never bragged about it or gloated or made a big deal of it. She knew Roger matched her in intelligence and enjoyed that in him. They shared an intellectual camaraderie rare and delightful for both of them. Tessa didn’t seem aware of her exceptional beauty and seemed to think of herself as just ‘one of the girls’. She usually wore her silky flaxen hair up — probably because appearances seemed unimportant and shallow to her.

Tessa participated in many community projects and organizations, not because she wanted people to admire her or wanted to pad her resumé but because she found each cause or group worthwhile on its merits. She never seemed to notice that she soon became a leader in any group she joined. Friends and other people — sometimes even people twice her age — came to Tessa for advice or suggestions.

Roger rarely saw Tessa unhappy or worried. When he did, however, he ached. He longed to help, to banish her worries, to make her happy. Roger wanted to be a source of joy and pleasure for Tessa and was himself unaware of the considerable extent to which he did exactly that. Now, though, all that was coming to an end, all their sharing, all the opportunities to feast his eyes on her beauty, all the opportunities to delight in helping her, to marvel at her wonderful intellect.

Roger dreaded her departure. He wanted to live in the moment, but he wanted to stop the clock and live in a moment with Tessa in it. A sound sleeper throughout his life, he suffered dozens of dreams through the past month in which Tessa was gone. He woke feeling like weeping and unable to go back to sleep. Mornings brought the realization that she hadn’t left, that he would see her that day.

The fated moment arrived. Tessa and the others moved toward the door. A few, Tessa among them, remained a moment to make their farewells to Roger, someone they had come to like and respect. Some shook his hand. Tessa took both of his hands in both of hers and thanked him before saying good-bye. He wanted to call her back, as she walked out the door, wanted to proclaim his love and undying devotion, wanted somehow to prolong their contact.

Roger could stand the agony no longer. He felt himself cracking under the strain and walked quickly to the door. He called, “Tessa,” softly, so softly the professional part of his mind hoped she wouldn’t hear. She heard, and turned back toward him. She must have felt puzzled or concerned by the look on his face, because she hurried to him. Roger walked quickly to his desk, grabbed a piece of paper, and wrote his email address. When Tessa stepped back into the room, he handed the paper to her and said, “Please stay in touch — if you feel like it, I mean.”

She smiled her gorgeous smile and said, “Oh, I will. I will,” and squeezed his hands again.

Roger squeezed her hands in return and said, “I’ll miss you.”

Tessa hugged him — he wanted that moment to last forever — and said, “I’ll miss you, too, sir,” before she turned and walked out the door for the last time.

Roger saw Tessa again two weeks later, of course. He sat on the stage in his cap and gown with his colleagues and watched her receive her diploma. She even gave him another hug in the auditorium’s foyer.

They do exchange occasional email messages, have done so for three years to Roger’s delight and consternation. He exults each time he receives a message from Tessa and always reads hers before any others. In their recent correspondence, he’s been helping her decide where to apply for graduate school.

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