Follow My Lead
By Andrea Williams
Major: International Business
Hometown: Hilton Head Island, SC
It was late in the afternoon when she came in from her cousin’s wedding. Just
thinking about what had occurred that day made her reflect upon her own
marriage. She had been married twenty years, and those years were amazing. She
could not have thought of anything else she would have done with her life. Yet,
it made her wonder what had made those years so enjoyable. Yes, she loved her
husband (or so she thought), but it was the children who gave her true joy. The
children were the reason she got married, the children were what kept the
marriage together in ‘89, and it was the children who made the house a home.
If only the kids were here now, then she wouldn’t be going through this.
Sitting here alone in her room (and yes, it was hers due to the fact that her
husband stopped sleeping in it five months ago). She was looking through an old
scrapbook with a worn cover, dog-eared pages, and pictures yellowed with age. It
was full of all the memories the family cherished: birth certificates, pictures
of pre-school graduations, baby teeth lost long ago, and pictures of the
children attending their high school proms.
With the turn of every page came an overwhelming flood of emotions. First came a
light-headed giddiness, followed by a feeling of nostalgia, and then a sickening
emptiness. No matter which page she turned to, she always ended up feeling
empty. It wasn’t always this way. There were times in her life when she was in
a state of bliss, but now her life felt void of something.
Flipping through the scrapbook was bringing nothing but a wave of depression.
Besides, she had to get ready for tonight. It was almost as if she were a
puppet. She went through the motions of showering, meticulously putting on
make-up, and selecting the perfect evening dress. All of this seemed to be done
subconsciously and with almost no effort at all. Some other force had taken over
her body making her go through with her “plans” tonight.
She really didn’t know why she was going out tonight. It wasn’t her birthday
or anniversary that she could think of. Yet, her husband insisted that she not
make any plans for this particular evening. It seemed more of a joke than
anything else. How could he ask her to clear her schedule for tonight, yet he
would never show up for dinner at home? They now act as if they were strangers
living under the same roof. They barely speak to one another, they never see each
other, and they sleep in separate rooms.
When the children were here, they had a reason to interact with one another. The
more she thought about it, the more she believed that her children defined her
marriage. It was the absence of the children that caused her to feel empty
inside. There was no longer anyone to depend on her, to talk to her to love
her unconditionally. Because of this void in her, this depression had taken over
and begun to run her life. The situation she faced seemed so bleak that she
stared at her purse in which she held divorce papers from her lawyer. She
obtained them three months ago, but they remained in her purse while she waited
for the courage and the opportunity to present them to her husband.
“Are you ready yet?” A husky male voice shouted to the top of the stairs.
“Almost. Just wait one more minute” she answered in an almost pleading tone.
She grabbed her purse and examined herself in the mirror one last time before
she left the room. When she got to the stairwell, she glided down it just as her
daughter did the night she attended her senior prom. As she descended the
staircase, she noticed her husband gazing at her very intensely and it sent
shivers up her spine.
He opened the door and led her to the passenger side of the car. As he pulled
out of the driveway, she noticed that her pulse was quickening and her blood was
running hot. She felt as if she were a teenager on a blind date, and with the
way things had been going for the past three months, it might as well have been.
On the way into town, it began to rain. It fell so hard that it seemed as if the
earth would be washed away. She was on the verge of turning on the radio when
the car stopped. She looked up to see that they had parked in front of the local
McDonald’s fast food restaurant.
“What’s wrong?” she asked in a timid tone. She was afraid and did not know
what to think
“We’re here” he responded, not seeming to notice the concerned look on his
“What do you mean here? I thought we were going out to dinner.”
“We are. This is where we’re eating,” he said as he got out of the car.
Before he was able to reach the passenger side of the vehicle, his wife had
already opened the door and proceeded to run down the street in the rain. He
grabbed the umbrella and went after her. He finally caught up with her in front
of a closed shoe repair shop.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“What do you mean ‘what’s wrong’?” she responded out of breath. “I
don’t understand what you’re doing to me. What do you mean by this? Are you
trying to make me feel like a fool? I just don’t get it.” Tears were
streaming down her face causing her make-up to run. “Why are you doing this to
“I’m sorry, I didn’t you would be upset by this. I actually thought that
you would appreciate this.”
“Appreciate what, you making me feel foolish? I can’t take it anymore. I
don’t understand this. I don’t even understand you. This is just too much
for me” she screamed out in anger. Before she could stop herself, she reached
into her purse, pulled out the divorce papers, and shoved them in his face.
“I’ve decided,” she started, “that this would be the best thing for me,
for us. I’ve been defining our marriage by our children for the past twenty
years, and now that they’re gone there’s no reason for me to stay.”
They stood together in the narrow storefront doorway, the crippled umbrella
providing inadequate shelter against the rain; together, yet from the rigid
posture of their bodies, and by the way in which they avoided looking at each
other, miles apart.
“So you’ve decided?” he asked, his eyes directed to a nearby playground
where a group of youngsters, barechested in the rain, was engaged in a noisy
“I’ve decided” she answered, the words barely audible, her chin thrust
“Yeah. Right. So what about me? Don’t I have a say in any of this?” Now
she turned to face him, but could not bring herself to look at him. “So it was
only about the kids? Never me?” He waited for a response, but didn’t receive
one. “I thought it was more than that. I thought it was about us. That’s the
reason we’re here tonight.”
He paused to collect his thoughts. “Twenty-one years ago on this same exact
date was when my life changed forever. I remember that I was working as a
custodian at the local McDonald’s that year. It had been raining hard all day,
and it seemed to storm harder as the night passed by. I recall that it was 9:58
P.M. when this awkward looking girl came into the restaurant soaking wet trying
to find shelter from the rain. Even though the restaurant had been closed for an
hour, I agreed to let her stay until I finished my duties. That night, I fell in
love with the most beautiful woman in the world and promised myself that I would
not stop at any lengths to have her. And even though she stands before me right
now crying like a fool in a soaking evening dress, still, I keep my promise.”
His wife seemed as though she would choke on her tears.
“But that’s the problem” she said. “You claim to love me, but I can’t
remember what I felt before the children or before the marriage. What do we do
“That’s easy” he replied. “We’ll just start over.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ll wipe the slate clean. Take away the past twenty years and start
“How?” she asked. She couldn’t believe what was happening. It was almost
as if she were being given a second chance at love.
“Simple,” he answered, “just follow my lead.” He extended his hand to
her and said,
“Hello, my name is Curtis Williams. Please to meet you.”
She stared at his hand and then took it in hers to shake it. “Hi, I’m
Barbara Driessen. Likewise.”
*This one’s for you Mama and Daddy. Love you*
© 2001 Andrea Williams