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Homey and Familiar Things

By Valerie Bradley-Holliday


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She loved visiting the dusty rooms of the antique shop to look at the homey and familiar things Sara let her hand sweep towards the different colored apothecary bottles, something her mother would have never allowed her to do. When Sara was small, her mother was a domineering and abusive woman who unleashed her hatred on Sara for what she considered the world’s unfairness. Sara’s father had left her mother beaten, broke and with a bad limp that never went away. Sara’s mother also squinted and never seemed to be able to lift her left eyelid as if she was drowsy on one side.

Sara almost recoiled at the thought of her mother. For a moment, she looked down and she was again small. She saw her wan arms covered with deep bruises in varying shades of healing. But then, a rocking horse caught Sara’s eye. The lovely old playthings in the room smelled used and loved and cherished. Something that Sara wished all her life to be and never was. Her boyfriend dumped her for a guy. The emotional trauma of it never healed. Then Sara, after her decent from the grace of courtship fell further by falling into drunkenness. Her nights blended into one big, dopey slurry life of ill repute and disrepair until the awful night of her rape.  Her boyfriend returned and decided to take his insecurities about his own sexuality out on Sara.  He kept screaming at her that she always thought he wasn’t man enough for her.  He used her and beat her into unconsciousness.

The rape had been so brutal and mind numbing that for days she walked in a fog. There were no crisis counselors around that she knew of and if there were, that she was willing to approach. She sunk so deeply within herself that she did almost lose her data processing job. Thankfully, the job was dull and required little brainpower to continue.  Although co-workers looked at her askance, they seemed to be content with ignoring her black and blue face.  Sara tried to dull the pain.  She started mixing barbituates with booze to self-medicate.

One day Sara went to work and could barely walk, stand or sit. Sara hurt all over and felt all torn up inside. While Sara was still deep in thought, a browsing customer brushed by her and Sara nearly jumped a foot. The customer smiled disarmingly and went on to look at a copper pot on the shelf. Sara was completely satisfied by the interruption, which drew her from the painful awareness of her own vulnerability. Sara tried to focus on the here and now. Looking so deeply at the customer that had passed her that she could see the different color threads in the weft of her coat. But she kept being drawn back by the memory of that violent exploitation of her body.

She could barely walk that’s what she remembered. She finally went to the hospital emergency because she started hemorrhaging and found out that she had a massive infection after the rape. The nurse, who ordered her to get gowned and propped Sara’s legs up, reacted so visibly with a loud audible gasp that Sara was alarmed. The doctor recommended that she go into the hospital for surgery and for overnight observation. What Sara opted for was out patient surgery and a day off from work. Sara took home several prescription drugs and one strong antibiotic. She felt sick to her stomach for the next week and the infection was eventually purged from her system but not the emotional strain of that night that stole part of her life away. A part Sara couldn’t seem to regain but desperately sought, especially here among the beloved items of so many people who took the time to care for them properly, possibly in the hopes that they would be handed down from generation to generation. Some of items had been handed down until the last generation died out or the person fell on hard times or the owner no longer found any redeeming value in the object other than monetary.

Sara noticed that the shopkeeper paid special attention to the items that had passed from generation to generation. He held onto them for extended periods of time and had typed up stories about the different items and posted them. These antique items were the most desired in the store and occasionally someone could meet the price that the store manager set and Sara would hear the regulars groan over the removal of the object they so loved. Soon it was replaced by something else special. The shopkeeper called that shelf of objects the "ooh" and "ah" display.

Sara limply lifted her arm with a casual air to look at her watch. Oh, the time was almost running out!

She loved how well the antic store was laid out. The children’s toys on one floor invited adults, as well as, children to touch, reminisce or dream. The crystal ware was on another floor, all gleaming and shiny like Christmas should be. One Christmas came and went, without presents, without food, without warmth. Why did she keep punishing herself by looking back? She saw her small hands reach into the garbage can and pull out a stinking piece of chicken. She ate it ravenously. She couldn’t help it. Hunger made her into an animal, a filthy rag of a girl. Sara thought of the stark contrast between herself as a girl and the image the porcelain figurines represented, especially those depicting young street urchins with patches on the knees of their pants or the elbows of their sleeves. These imaginary, porcelain children look humble, cute and sweet. Sara was nothing like that growing up. She was like a scrawny alley cat looking for any scrap or morsel of food she could find. This time Sara shook with the memory of sleeping on the cold, linoleum floor in the condemned house. Waking to her mother beating her and screaming epithets at her for having a bloody nose. When Sara woke from a woozy sleep, she nearly fainted from the pool of blood around her. The blood was so thick her hair had adhered to the floor.

As if trying to physically turn away from the memory, Sara made an errant turn in her stance to go home and bumped directly into the shopkeeper. He handed her a lovely, embroidered handkerchief that smelled of lavender.

"Thank you," was all Sara managed before tears fell heavily from her eyes.

"What?" Sara frowned as if she did not quite understand the same language. 

"What gave you that idea?" Sara caught herself before she could say more. She did have a why question burning in her head though, why after nearly three years of her coming to this shop did he just now decide to talk to her.

"You have the most beautiful, sparkling green eyes that I have ever seen and yet your hair is black. It is so striking. I am sorry that I just never noticed before, Sara." The shopkeeper’s eyes sparkled with delight. The shopkeeper had Sara at a disadvantage because she couldn’t remember or never took the time to find out his name.

She decided to be bold and ask. "You know my name but what’s yours?"

"Well, I do know my name and he walked over to his desk but I seem to have misplaced it." The shopkeeper’s behavior became frenetic as he searched for something. After about ten minutes, he handed Sara an old dusty nameplate. "That’s my name and you don’t have to worry about wearing it out, it seems that has already happened."

"There’s that big, disarming smile again," Sara noted thoughtfully. She read slowly and out loud, "Johnathan Crouse." Now why did that name sound so familiar? She scanned her mental database for the answer, stretching beyond the confines of the now close dusty walls of the antique shop. Yes, the only other Johnathan Crouse she knew was an elderly man. He was a "blue blooded" aristocrat who rarely if ever went out in the public eye. There could not be any possible connection between the two. Sara was caught midstream in her thinking by a big hand on her shoulder.

"I know what your thinking and ‘yes’ we are related. I am sorry to say that the only thing that I enjoy about the man is his money. He is simply the most controlling creature that I know. I have one of the best educations in the country and yet he insisted that I work starting at the bottom to improve my character. What does he know about character?" Jonathan’s features became sharp as he spoke about his relative with such bitterness.

Yes, now Sara fully remembered, Jonathan Evan Crouse had amassed a fortune, or rather his father before him did in the steel industry and his prodigy proceeded to invest in all types of stock. Having already exceeded most people in wealth including that Internet guy, Jonathan Evan Crouse now remained elusive, a shadow of a man who lived on the outskirts of society. He rarely made a formal appearance anywhere anymore.

"Sara," Jonathan, of the antique store, said as he gently shook her shoulder. "I tell you what, you seem pretty deep in thought about all this. Why don’t you join me for coffee at lunchtime, I can close the shop and we can get better acquainted. What do you say?"

Sara got ready to say "no" when her eyes rested on his face. He definitely had chiseled features, dark thick curly brown hair, large warm amber eyes and a big, generous smile. Her heart over road her head and a resounding "yes" came out of her mouth. On the way back to work, Sara begin second guessing herself. What was she doing accepting an invitation from a man she hardly knew? She couldn’t quite make up her mind whether to call him and decline his offer or maybe just go and come up with some excuse that she couldn’t stay long. But then, where would she spend her long dreary lunch. She usually spent it at the antique shop, which would be closed. She was still making up her mind as her feet took her toward the cafe the next day.

The cafe was airy with light curtains. The cafe also had several tables and chairs out front with bright yellow umbrellas. She was just about to walk into the heady aroma of coffee when a voice called out to her. She turned and there was Johnathan. He held her chair for her to sit down. There was something really old world about him she thought. His clothes were the cozy chic couture of the urban elite. They were of natural fibers, looked homespun and home sewn and very, very expensive but simple. He wore comfortable, but again expensive looking clogs. As Sara eyed his apparel she thought that she had really overstepped her boundaries and needed to get back to the safe cocoon of her ordinary life. But she knew instinctively that it could never be the same. She could never bypass this man in his shop without noticing him.

"Sara," she jumped. Jonathan looked worried.

"Sara, I knew that I shouldn’t have told you right off the bat who I was related to. It always seems to change everything with anyone I come in contact with. They either become all smarmy because their motives change to an agenda that unquestionably indicates that they are after my money. Or they back off, afraid that if things don’t work out well and I get mad that I could destroy them with my wealth as my grandfather sometimes still does. I am not him. I am not him! Customers eyed the both of them curiously when he raised his voice. Johnathan got up as if to leave. "I’m sorry, I don’t think this was such a good idea."

Sara reached for his hand. "Please sit down for a minute." What am I doing? The little voice inside Sara’s head was flashing a red light but her heart was on green. "Could we forego coffee and just walk around?" Sara said, her voice barely a whisper. Her heart was beating so wildly she could barely contain herself. But she steeled herself for possible rejection.

"Sure," Johnathan said as he swept her up on her feet in one graceful movement. This cannot be happening, Sara thought to herself.

"Where would you like to go?" Johnathan looked into her eyes as if he enjoyed looking at her.

"How about along the shops? I love to window shop." Sara felt more comforted by the idea of looking at all the pretty, gaily dressed windows. Johnathan walked along the street with her and she looked in the shop windows. She stopped for a long time in front of an antique shop.

            “Well, checking out the competition,” Johnathan chided her.  “Okay, let’s go in”

            “Oh, I couldn’t possibly,” Sara tried to wriggle out of his arm.  Johnathan’s grip was firm but gentle.  “Oh, come on please indulge me.” 

"Okay," Sara said looking like a crazed cat in a room full of unwound string. Sara tried to quickly sweep pass the items in the store and to leave when a red brooch caught her eye. It was a scarab beetle and it gleamed in its opulence. Johnathan noticed her interest and picked up the item and paid for it like it was popcorn at a movie. All Sara noticed was the price, well over a $1000 and her jaw dropped. Johnathan opened her hand, dropped the brooch in and closed her fingers around it. The clerk was continuing to explain how a famous French jeweler had made the brooch. All the clerk’s words were muddied and unclear in Sara’s astonished mind.

Johnathan leaned in close to her ear. She felt his warm breath on her skin as he quietly whispered, "close your mouth, it’s just a piece of jewelry and it’s yours." So as not to embarrass him, Sara walked quietly out of the store with him and once outside, she started to speak. He put a finger to his lips and said, "its yours and don’t try returning it because the sales are final. Please wear it when I see you again." He tilted his head slightly like a dog waiting for a command. Sara gathered that it was his way of questioning whether she would see him again. She noticed that he was just as uncertain as she was. His overly expensive gift might be a sign that he hasn’t done this dating in awhile since people either try to grab onto him or shy away because of his money. Maybe there was hope for both of them in this since they were both fragile and unpracticed at this maybe they would get better with time. And if they had time, Sara dreamed maybe they could even build a relationship. They walked back to his shop holding hands and chatting lightly.

Sara left Johnathan with nothing more than a light hug. But when she entered her apartment, she felt happy for the first time in years. Sara was shocked to find that her entire apartment had been rearranged. Although she hadn’t seen her boyfriend in years, she had gotten frightening, breathy calls from strangers. Her boyfriend was a different story though.

After their breakup, she noticed that items in her apartment were being rearranged. She tried to explain to the police what was happening and they basically told her to just change the locks. Other than that, there was nothing they could do. Sara changed the locks. Yet, little things continued to be misplaced or removed, such as, a flower gone from a dozen that she had just bought and put in a vase. She would find her shower-soap sitting on her dresser instead of hanging from the showerhead where she usually kept it. The worst was when she found her toothbrush in the garbage disposal. She began to doubt her own sanity and started seeing a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist diagnosed her as having paranoid delusions. She read the doctor’s report. She suffered extreme fear, helplessness, paranoia, loss of confidence, depression, grief reactions, severe anxiety, insomnia, isolation, relationship difficulties, and an inability to perform normal daily functions. Her own shorthand version of her life is that she became almost completely reclusive save for work and her visits to the antique shop. Sara continued to live in constant fear.

Fear of her boyfriend clouded her judgment and discernment.  Now the smell of his familiar aftershave seemed to linger in the air. Sara felt it cloying at her throat. The heavy sent was beginning to make her feel nauseous. She felt as weak and runny as old gelatin when her eyes rested on the cheap tape recorder sitting on her coffee table.

Numbed by the sight of the recorder, she pressed play. The voice on the tape, said in her boyfriend’s husky voice: "You’ve got 24 hours to dump lover boy or I’ll kill him and make you wish you were dead. On second thought, I’ll mess you both up to where you’ll think life isn’t worth living. Start by giving Johnathan back that ugly pin he bought you." The last line sent a chill down Sara’s spine raising every hair along the way. Sara behaved like a cornered deer. She turned this way and that not sure of what she could do or say. Maybe he had already gone after Johnathan. She was so scared; she went cold and clammy. Sara went and poured herself a glass of juice and tried to sit and think. She had almost finished the glass when she saw the doorknob of her apartment turn and the door quietly opened, there stood her boyfriend with a wide grin on his face. Then Sara saw the room tilt on its side and he was on her.

Sara’s neighbor across the hall had seen the man enter and went back to watching television. But something kept needling at his brain. Unlike his usual character to stay out of things, he decided to call the police and explain his superstitions. The police told him that they would check things out when they could.

In the meantime, unconscious, badly beaten up and raped, Sara was on the floor of her apartment in a heap. The police arrived at her apartment to find the door ajar and Sara starting to come around. When one of policemen bent down to help her, Sara begin to scream and scramble on all fours away from him. His more experienced partner, a woman, told him to go back to the car and radio for an ambulance. She knelt down to where Sara was and helped her sit on the couch. She than went and got a blanket and talked soothingly to her. Her partner came back and asked how he could help. She directed him to pour a glass of water for Sara.  The police officer tried to get Sara’s attention because it seemed that she was slowing sinking back into herself.

"Sara," she said gently, "we are going to take you to the hospital. Is there anyone I can call for you, anyone who you would feel comfortable talking to?" Sara mentioned her psychiatrist’s last name and she wrote it down. "Sara, here’s the ambulance."

Sara’s eyes went wide, "Don’t leave me!" Sara tightly grabbed the police officer’s hand.

"Sara, I’ll stay with you until you see the nurse okay?"

"Okay, if I ride with you guys?" The officer asked the EMT’s. "No problem, Mam." Said, one of the large stocky EMT’s.

"This is totally against protocol," the officer’s young partner interjected.

"Take the car John and follow us, you know that you have been itching to drive and when we get there, I’ll explain protocol to you." The police officer said with a blunt tone.

In the ambulance on the way, the police officer told Sara that the sexual assault nurse examiner would have to examine her for physical evidence but would be as gentle as possible. She knew her personally and that she would take good care of her. She asked if there were any threats made and offered more information to calm her. The officer encouraged Sara to report the assault and explained that Sara needn’t worry about her name being in the paper since that is covered by the local police department’s policy. But the officer tried to keep her questions more open and reflective, which she felt gained her more information, trust and she simply didn’t want to overwhelm the victim. Sara did agree to have the police make a composite of the perpetrator and luckily they were able to get a police artist to meet with Sara at the hospital after her exam. Sara, still shaking and desperately afraid, cooperated fully. The watercolor composite that came out of that interview looked remarkably like Johnathan.

It was the next day when Sara started exhibiting strong reactions to what had happened to her, she started screaming and when the orderlies came in to attend to her she began attacking them like a wild thing. Her psychiatrist was called in and he ordered that she be moved to the lock down unit for observation as she has a history of paranoid and psychotic episodes. As Sara was being put under heavy sedation, Johnathan was being picked up as her attacker.

The police found that the bottle of juice in Sara’s refrigerator was laced with rohypnol, "the date rape drug," and that Johnathan had purchased an expensive brooch for Sara on their first date. The police put two and two together and saw Johnathan as the perpetrator. Along with the composite drawing, they figured that they had him. To the police everything seemed cut and dried. Johnathan called in a lawyer and the lawyer was able to get Johnathan out on bail. It seems the new policemen on duty did not produce the warrant and did not read him his miranda rights.

Johnathan left the police station shaken and dazed by the line of questioning. Even more so having to deal with some of his cellmates, who noticing his clothes, decided that they wanted them. He had to fight to keep every stitch he had on and sustained some heavy bruises about the face. Thankfully, Sara did not press charges but before he left the police informed him that didn’t mean a thing.

He longed to talk to Sara and to make meaning out of this whole thing. Johnathan wanted the chance to hold her and comfort her. He wanted to reassure her that he never would hurt her. His heart burned to get near her but the police told him if he stepped within a ten-yard radius of the hospital that they would have him arrested. So, feeling restless, he decided to set up for the next day at his shop. He went and noticed something perceptually different about the place. Johnathan went through his shop looking around and he couldn’t quite place why he felt so uneasy. He went out his door and back in again as if he was looking for misplaced keys. He let his eyes sweep the room. Then, he noticed there was something odd about his "ooh" and "ah" display case. Something red was shining under that crystal slipper—the brooch.

Johnathan unlocked the case and quickly withdrew the pin knocking off some of the fine crystal, which shattered on the floor. A piece of paper drifted down into the fragments of glass forcing Johnathan to pick through the pieces sustaining cuts on his hands. He wiped the blood from his hands on his pants and carefully opened the note. Johnathan cringed and recoiled at what he saw and begin to weep. On the paper was written, "Gotcha!" signed with the initials JAC.

Whatever had happened before this point had been a mystery to Johnathan.  Now, everything was as clear as the glass that fell to the floor. His cousin, Jeremy, was behind this. Jeremiah Antipholus Crouse was his uncle’s spawn and a nightmare. For some reason, his grandfather thought it funny to give both him and his cousin that ugly middle name and his dad, ever humble, ever acquiescent, agreed. Jonathan’s grandfather, had dealt severely with Jeremy by cutting him almost completely out of his will, except for a small stipend whereas he promised Johnathan most of his wealth and bequeathed his entire estate. His grandfather’s attorney explained to Johnathan that he was his brother’s most beloved son and of the two boys, he seemed to be more forth right financially.

So that was what this was about. Johnathan never wanted the money and he adamantly refused to be written into the will at all, but his grandfather stated that he would get the money and estate anyway. Johnathan reasoned that Jeremy, who looked so much like Johnathan in their youth that they had often been mistaken for twins, might still resemble him as an adult. Johnathan’s mind raced as he bit the back of his hand trying to consider what to do next. Go to the police? Hire a detective? Sara may be in more danger. Jeremy might try to kill her next. How could he hurt her like that? Johnathan wept bitterly as he came to the conclusion that he would have to go to the one person that he had been trying to avoid most of his life—the old man, his grandfather, Johnathan Crouse.

Time was running out because if he couldn’t convince the police of what he knew. Sara had no protection. Thankfully, she was on a lock down unit, but that would not stop Jeremy for long. He was and had always been clever.

Johnathan drove out to the old man’s huge, sprawling estate. Johnathan figured that it would take him nearly two hours to get there if the traffic flowed well and he could call the police from there and the old man could back him up. Traffic was bad; it crawled along. With each foot of progress he made, Johnathan’s thoughts pounded in his head.

"Jeremy, Jeremy the bastard!" He muttered out loud. Johnathan kept banging the palm of his hand against the steering wheel as the thoughts kept pounding in his head.

Jeremy, Johnathan thought, was dangerous since the day he was born. Suddenly thoughts of Jeremy evoked a powerful memory for Johnathan. The two of them, couldn’t have been more than three when Jeremy shoved Jonathan off the veranda, thankfully, he only broke his arm. Johnathan could have broken his neck. Jeremy started crying as if the whole incident had frightened him. All the adults’ attention was on Johnathan and when he looked up at Jeremy, he was smiling a knowing adult smile that said, "I can do this to you whenever I want to." Johnathan thought back, even then he realized that Jeremy showed a propensity for hurting people. Jeremy’s actions did catch up with him when they found that he had slaughtered the family pet. He got caught in the act and sent away to some private institution that his grandfather selected. Johnathan thought the institution was probably as equally cruel to Jeremy, as was his actions, and he turned out far worse then when he went in but by his time Johnathan had moved on in his life. He loved the city where he grew up and did not want to leave it, nor his ailing parents thus he was always in his grandfather’s spotlight.

While Johnathan mused over his past, Jeremy had made his way to the hospital where Sara was. He was heavily hooded and wore a red beard. He decided to enter through the emergency room entrance. As he got close, he noticed one of the EMT’s was headed for the bathroom. He followed and knocked the EMT’s head against the porcelain sink. For good measure, after he stripped him of his shirt and lab coat, he tied him up quickly with zip ties and gagged him and sat him up in the stall.

Miles away, Johnathan, sweaty from his ordeal in traffic and the flood of old memories, finally arrived at the old man’s place. I hate this ostentatious mansion, Johnathan thought as the gatekeeper let him in.

"Mr. Jeremy, your home earlier than I expected. I thought you said you were staying out all night for some fun?" The gatekeeper said with a laugh. In response, Johnathan gunned the engine and drove the car as fast as he could up the drive to the front door. He ran up the stairs and burst into the old man’s main bedroom chamber. Nearly out of breath, Johnathan confronted his grandfather about Jeremy.

"Jeremy’s after my girlfriend." Johnathan blurted out.

"Johnathan," the grandfather, ever austere said, "Johnathan, a girl friend? However, did you manage it?" With no more room for patience, Johnathan walked over and shook his grandfather by the shoulders.

"Call the police, tell them about Jeremy, tell them about me and how we look alike. I will fill them in on the rest." Johnathan pleaded.

"Johnny, Johnny boy, you don’t know the half of it. Half of it, now that’s amusing." His grandfather chuckled. "Well since you don’t have time, I won’t mince words: Johnathan you and Jeremy are twins. My son’s twins, both of whom he could ill afford to take care of since he lost nearly everything in the stock market." Johnathan’s face froze.

"Oh come, come dear boy, don’t let on so." His grandfather flipped his hand as if shooing a fly.

"Why didn’t you insist on helping my dad?" Johnathan retorted. "Because dear Johnathan he didn’t want my help and because at one time I was in love with your mother. I actually relished watching your dad struggle to keep his head above water while taking care of you two. It delighted me to no end when he finally had a heart attack and your mother wasted away."

Johnathan reached for his grandfather’s throat, "I’ll kill you."

"Tut-tut now Johnathan your acting too much like Jeremy." Johnathan pulled back. Still curious, he asked, "Why did you take Jeremy and not me?"

"Because your father figured Jeremiah needed the most help and he knew that I could afford to give it. Surely, you must have known that your brother had a mental condition. The other thing is that at every opportunity, Jeremy tried to hurt you."

Johnathan looked at his grandfather incredulous. "Yes, I knew that you did fall off that verandah. In fact, I saw him when he did it." The old man chuckled softly.

"You crazy, mixed up old man, here" Johnathan handed him the mobile phone, "I dialed the police explain to them what’s going on and then turn the phone over to me. Quickly!"

The old man meandered a bit but told the story with crystal clear accuracy. Johnathan got on the line. The first thing he heard was, "oh yes you’ll be exonerated." More apologies were coming, but Johnathan stopped the police chief in mid-sentence and yelled, "Please send someone for Sara!" He looked at the clock and nearly four hours had passed since he left home. He was frantic with worry and could never make it there in time to protect her.

Johnathan drove back to the hospital has fast as he could. When he arrived the police informed him that Jeremy was under arrest and the resemblance between him and Jeremy is uncanny. The police were escorting Jeremy out in handcuffs and the two passed each other, a mirror image of themselves. Jeremy than smiled that same smile Johnathan saw after he had been pushed from the verandah.

"Did he, did he get to Sara?" Johnathan asked haltingly.

"No," a policeman informed him, but he clocked an EMT pretty hard on the head. He’ll be alright although he is going to have to live down where we found him."

"Can I go see Sara, please."  Johnathan pleaded with the police officer for what seemed like an eternity and then he had to talk to her psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist said, "I’ll let you through on one condition, if at any point she reacts negatively toward you, you are out of there. Understand?" Johnathan stood there and shook his head meekly.

He walked into the room and Sara was alert. She turned toward him and recognized him immediately.

"Johnathan," she said. Her face beamed at him.

"I am so sorry for what happened." Johnathan managed to say.

"The police explained everything to me and how can I blame you. You really don’t look like him to me. His features aren’t set right on his face some how, his eyes are too hard and set in an odd way. You have a warm face that reminds me of butter rolls."

"Butter rolls? Are you trying to say that I am chubby?"

"No, I am trying to say that you have a welcoming face like warm baked bread and your sweet and I want to hold you, Johnathan." He walked over and held her, so gently in his arms, as if she was one of his fragile antiques.

"I love you Sara and it took something like this for me to figure out I better say it now, because life doesn’t usually give you second chances. With every thing that I have surrounded myself with, you are the most beautiful and precious thing that I have ever laid eyes on or ever will." He held her close like that in silence.

The psychiatrist decided to release Sara the next day providing Johnathan kept a close watch on her. Somehow, the psychiatrist surmised that wouldn’t be much of a problem the way he fawned over her. Sara, the psychiatrist thought, was enjoying Johnathan’s attention immensely. Sara and Johnathan entertained simultaneous thoughts that they would be fine. Johnathan had no intention of taking Sara back to her apartment. In fact, they had decided that as soon as they could arrange it they would get married and until a suitable place could be found, they would live on the floor above the antique shop, which he had converted to a penthouse. The drive to the antique shop was slow and leisurely.

When they arrived, Johnathan quickly felt a familiar uneasiness. Johnathan’s eyes scanned the shop. He looked over at his display case and observed that the brooch and other items were all neatly arranged. Below it all the glass had been swept up. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, he turned to Sara and said, "run." Just as they both heard the soft click of the door close behind them.

Johnathan pushed Sara out of the way and turned to face who came in after them. A stranger’s face confronted Johnathan.

Sarah said, "Sam" in such a constricted way that Johnathan thought that she is choking. Before Johnathan could react, he watched as Sam, who stood approximately 6 feet ten inches tall and seemed just as broad, grab a replica of a Roman Gladius Maintz. In the split second Johnathan had to react he knew he was in trouble. The replica he had bought was fully functional, as well as historically accurate. The 19 and one-half inch blade had cutting power and stabbing ability in close combat. Although, Johnathan had a hard time handling its two-pound weight when he would wax polish it or heft it around; Sam seemed to lift the sword off its wall hanging as if it was a pairing knife. Also, where Johnathan was built like a quarterback, 6 foot 4 inches tall and around 210 pounds; Sam was massive, like a linebacker, and had to be close to 300 pounds. Johnathan thought that he might have two things to his advantage speed and the martial arts training that his grandfather had paid for. He’d have to thank his grandfather for that someday, hopefully he would get a chance.

In a flash, Johnathan jumped over his counter as Sam awkwardly swept with the sword at him. Good, Johnathan thought, at least he has no idea how to handle the weapon properly but that was small comfort for the particular weapon he held because in the hand of a moron the sword could still be just as deadly. Johnathan reached under the counter for his latest acquisitions, two Knights Swordbreaker Daggers. Thankfully, Johnathan had purchased them battle ready. The sharp forged tempered carbon steel felt comfortable in his hands because he had practiced with them like martial art scythes even though the daggers were longer and a bit heavier. He longed for 2-foot length blade of the scythe since Sam’s long arms gave him more advantage in this close space. The daggers were all Johnathan had access to since he swore to himself that he would never carry a gun. The daggers were formidable looking with strong rigid teeth cut into one edge of the blade capable of catching the sword blade of an opponent, frequently breaking it entirely.

Johnathan came up behind the counter with the daggers upraised in his hands just as Sam made a backward arc towards Johnathan’s head. Johnathan’s movements were graceful and quick. Rather than ducking his head, Johnathan deflected the sword with one dagger and knifed Sam’s face with the other, drawing a deep gash. Jonathan’s action only seemed to enrage Sam more. Sam grabbed the sword in both hands and started to handle it with more purpose. One thing Johnathan was taught not to do in martial arts was loose his nerve, but the idea begin to creep in the recesses of his brain that this is a replica of the sword that conquered the known world during its day. Now the fully functional weapon with an almost 20 inch long carbon blade was being swung at him. The moment became almost surreal as if he were trying to escape out of his own skin. Sam handled the sword with more intention and accuracy. Sam swung the sword in a tight arc and then brought it swiftly down avoiding Johnathan’s daggers and cutting him just above the knee. Johnathan felt his leg give way before he felt that excruciating pain. Johnathan fell on his back hard, the dagger in his right hand skidded across the floor.

"Oomph," is all Johnathan was able to let out as the fall knocked the wind out of him. Sam stepped on Johnathan’s left arm before Johnathan had time to react.

Sam took the sword and poised the point at Johnathan’s throat. Gloating, Sam said, "you sure are a brave little guy, I’ll give you that." Johnathan groaned and squirmed.

"Oh, does this hurt." Sam ground his foot on Johnathans left forearm.

"Stop!" Sara cried out while rushing up to help.

Sam grabbed her face and pushed her back so forcibly she hit the wall. "I warned you Sara, I would make you both pay. I think I’ll just cut up his pretty face, what you say Sara? Sam looks up to find Sara’s no longer slouched at the wall when he fills a sensation behind his back.

"Mess with this Sam," Sara ground the words with her teeth and heaved a lead crystal vase down on Sam’s head with as much effort as she could muster. With the crash to his head, Sam fell on Johnathan who barely had enough energy left to roll him off.

Sar, almost sickened by the amount of blood Johnathan’s lost, quickly grabs the scarf from around Sam’s neck.

"At least your good for something" and she spat in Sam’s face.

Johnathan lightly chuckled, "gee that’s funny Sara." Sara made a tourniquet with Sam’s scarf. She called 911 and cradled Johnathan’s head until help arrived. Sara saw that Johnathan’s warm, amber eyes had lost their luster and his face was very pale, his lips matching the rest of his face. She was afraid that she would lose him right there, she started to cry.

"Hey now, look at you, you just battled Goliath and won and a day ago you didn’t seem to have the confidence to speak with me. You are beautiful Sara and strong and since I didn’t get the chance, I want to tell you that I love you." The words came whispering out of Johnathan almost thinner then air and then he passed out.

Johnathan did get a chance to tell his grandfather the one thing he paid for that helped save his life. Sara and he also married while he was recuperating in the hospital. Outside of buying and running the antique shop, it was the second craziest and most wonderful thing that he had ever done.

"Sara, I don’t remember your eyes ever sparkling like that. They look like deep, green emeralds." Johnathan said to her on their wedding day.

"Johnathan, you put that sparkle there; you gave me just what I was looking for someone to share my love with."

"I am sorry that I can’t dance with you Sara." "Sara squeezed his hand and whispered there will be plenty of time for that."











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