Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters are completely the property of Paramount and Pet Fly Productions. I use them out of reverence, solely for fun and not for profit.
The tall woman with the long dark hair swept up into a fashionable chignon, garbed in a violet-blue linen suit perfect for an afternoon at the country club, had no such pleasant pastime in mind. She had her bags packed and they were nestled at her feet on the stoop of the big colonial house.
"Grace?" His voice sounded confused. "Whatever it is, can't we work it out?"
"Oh, William," she sighed, looking out across the long lawn, waiting for the airline limousine. "It's not about you."
"It's not?" There was outright disbelief in the voice now. "What's it about then, the boys? I thought you loved the boys."
Grace winced. She loved the boys, her Jimmy and Stevie, more than she could say, and she loved William too, the wince also reflecting the unspoken longing in his last words to her. She started to draw a breath.
"Gracie, please! Come back inside, and we'll talk."
The ultimate surrender for William Ellison. Grace shook her head at her husband.
"This isn't about you, William," she said gently, "and it's not about the boys either. I love them with all my heart."
William took the affirmation as a rebuke, and hung his head.
"I love you, too."
His head popped back up and his hurt turned to puzzlement again. "Then, in the name of all the gods that ever were, Gracie, why?"
"Petra needs me."
"Oh, Gracie, I know you're close to her, closer than sisters, but..."
Grace cut off the lecture. "You don't know how close I am to her, William."
William looked startled, then sickened. "You don't mean, all this time... You're in love with her?"
"NOOOOO!" Grace groaned from her heart. "William, it's not that, not that at all. I, I don't know how to say it, but she needs me and I need her and it's got nothing to do with what you were thinking." Grace paused and looked into her husband's stunned face.
She decided to try to explain, at least. William deserved that much. So did the boys. Leaving the bags at the stoop, she turned inside and closed the door.
"William," she started, and stopped for a moment, looking for inspiration.
It was then that William spoke. "Dear God," he prayed, under his breath, so low that surely it was meant for no ears but His.
"I heard that, William. You said, 'Dear God.'"
William peered at his wife.
"Just like I heard Jimmy cry out when he saved Stevie from being killed by Reggie Gardner driving drunk last month. From five blocks away."
William was speechless.
"Just like I can tell what you've had for lunch at the club, without you telling me. Without you even kissing me."
William went white.
"Just like I can feel it from across the room when the boys spring a temperature, or tell a fake from a real crackled glaze on a vase."
Again, Ellison hung his head. He had witnessed it all before, but Grace knew he had put it well out of his mind. Things like this were not supposed to be true.
"And the only thing that kept me sane was Petra."
"Our maid! Gracie, you're leaving the boys and me for our maid! And you say you aren't in love with her? How do I explain this to them? How do I explain it to myself? I don't understand!" William threw his arms wide, as if to embrace her.
Grace was moved by her husband's plea. But she couldn't stay. No matter how much she wanted to. No matter how much the boys needed her. Not now. Not with Petra so ill.
"William, I love Petra, but it's not like that. She may be our maid, but we grew up together, and she's been my best friend all my life. She became our housekeeper not because there wasn't anything else she could do with her life, but so that she could stay with me." Grace dropped her tones. "She knows what she does for me, William. I guess you don't."
"No, I don't!" William Ellison shouted to the skies. "What, exactly, did she do for you, Grace? Tell me, just exactly what did she do for you?"
"She kept me sane, William. And since she was put in the clinic for tests, I've been going slowly insane. You know the headaches? The inability to eat? The rashes, the sensitivity to the 'lemon' scented cleaning products, oh, hell, all of it?"
William was staring at his wife. His silence was taken as assent.
"You know, William! You know I've been slowly going crazy without Petra," Grace almost sobbed. "I don't want to leave you and the boys, but with the diagnosis, with her having to face so much treatment, aggressive treatment, surgery and radiation and chemo and God knows what else, Petra needs me now and I need her and I don't know what's going to happen to either of us, but I've got to find the courage to leave or else the boys will watch their mother break down before their eyes, going mad with every minute that passes.
"Is that what you want, William? Do you want to see me go mad in front of you?"
Grace closed her eyes against the future that so terrified her. For a moment there was no sound, no breath of air moving in the hallway.
Then, "No, I don't want that for the boys. I just wishdammit, Grace, can't we just move Petra in here or something?"
Grace looked at her husband, touched, affection in her gaze. "No, darling, I wish it were as easy as that. But Petra needs to be in a clinic, and I need to be with her. I want her to live foreverand not just for her sake, God help me. We won't give up, William. If she can't be cured here, we'll go to Mexico or Tibet or wherever it takes to find a cure, to restore her to health. Legal or illegal, we'll take any chance. Together."
A knock at the door recalled the attention of both to the world around them.
"It's the limo," Grace said needlessly.
William was considering the floor. "Then I guess this is goodbye."
"Yes, William. This is goodbye." Grace opened the door and told the young chauffeur to put her bags in the vehicle.
Then she turned back to her husband. "Goodbye, William." She kissed his cheek, and he batted away the gesture.
"Who's going to make your goodbyes to the boys, Grace?" he cried hoarsely. "They'll never understand. Never!"
"Oh, William," Grace sighed, "I honestly hope they never do. This dependence on someone else to help you keep from going mad... I hope they never do."
William nodded abruptly. "What do I tell them, then?" he asked.
"I love them, and will love them forever; I miss them and will until we meet again, but I have to go." Grace was crying, the tears ruining her exquisite maquillage unheeded.
The chauffeur was halfway back to the door. Grace looked out at him.
"I have to go, William," she said again.
William nodded. "Goodbye then," he said, rasping like the clashing rocks of Scylla.
Grace Ellison waved the chauffeur back, and walked out without a backward glance. She didn't have the words or the knowledge to give to her husband or children, but she was a Sentinel whose Guide needed her as much as she was, herself, needed.
William Ellison watched his wife's blue-linen back and vowed a mighty vow. Neither of his children would ever know the reason for their mother's leaving. Neither would ever be allowed to believe that another person was due the kind of love his wife had for Her. Neither would ever go unwatched for signs of the sickness Grace Ellison bore within her.
Neither would ever love as he loved, or hurt as he hurt. Even if he had to deny his own love for them.
"Goodbye, Grace," William said as the limousine pulled out to the street.
He shut the door.
~ End ~
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Page last updated 8/15/03.