There had been many a morning in the six months since I discovered his affair when I had cried about the state of my marriage, and just as many evenings spent praying with my two girlfriends Frannie and Lalla Lee. This morning, at least, I wasn't going to cry. I was the one who needed to get my head right. I grabbed my iPod, smeared on some sunblock, and headed out the back gate to the beach, some two hundred yards away.
The sun was moving quickly higher in the slate blue sky and the air was hot and sticky, but that thickness didn't dim the sparkle of the sea. My spirit lifted as soon as I set my flipflops in the sand. Orange and yellow wildflowers lined the path behind our house that leads to the shore. "His Strength Is Perfect" was the first tune on my iPod, which helped my spirits too, as I emerged from the corridor of low dunes and saw the broad beach before me.
This was not in my control, not in my hands, I thought, as the song changed to "I Can Only Imagine." What my future held was something I, the woman who always thought years ahead, now couldn't imagine. Could I imagine a life without Mark, the man whose ambitions had been the center of all that we had done as a family for twenty years? Without him, what was our direction? And how did he feel about me now that he had seen her? Once we got through this day, both of us had life-changing decisions to make. I walked more quickly along the shore, smiling when I saw dolphins playing in the surf. At the beach, I feel wondrously small; my problems are insignificant in this big, beautiful world. This would all sort itself out, and at some point, I would know what to do next. I felt certain of that and that only. I breathed steadily, more deeply, and drank in the peace the sea affords, a tremendous luxury in a world and life otherwise very public.
When I returned, I found that Lalla Lee Campsen, one of my oldest friends in South Carolina, had let herself in. Of course she was there. I could have guessed that she would be from the moment I turned up the path home. She sat at the kitchen island with a notepad and a pen, fielding calls. Petite, bright-eyed, and always smiling, Lalla Lee was the first of Mark's childhood friends to embrace me when this Midwestern Catholic girl found herself living in the Deep South. In those carefree days before politics consumed my time, we'd boated together and played many sets of tennis. Our boys had become good friends, almost as close as Lalla Lee and I had. I was grateful for her steady presence. Whatever this day brought me, we would face it together.