Another Secret - Come My Love

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Another Secret - Come My Love
Kiss me now, my love, with kisses fine;
For your love delights me more than wine.
And your fragrance is so pleasing, love;
Your name a sweet perfume.

Diane McPherson sat at her dining room table. In front of her lay a photo album. She was thumbing through it when her daughter knocked on the front door. She quickly closed the book, paying particular attention that no photos were left showing. As Erica entered the room, Diane looked up and said,

"Oh hi, honey, I’m glad you could make it. How are you, sweetheart?" She asked as she rose to give her daughter a hug.

"Pretty good, Mommy, but a little tired after yesterday. She and her mother spent the afternoon with Mark’s mom, Marie, looking at the wedding photos. You may recall that Erica had served as matron-of-honor for Marie’s daughter Maired. You may also recall that Maired is actually Marie’s son, Mark, brother to his deceased twin Maura and husband of Erica.

Confused? I’m just getting started. The photo session was also attended by Gina, Erica’s best friend, along with Gina’s mother Betty. Betty took the photos, having run a camera store for years, with her deceased husband Johnny. Rounding out the wedding party was Katie, Gina’s and Erica’s new friend, who also happened to be Gina’s husband Ben. Getting this all down? Here’s where it really gets interesting.


"Mommy, you were so kind to come on such short notice. I know it’s hard for you to break away from your shop, and Marie was so glad you could make it." What made the whole day special was that, apart from the completely understandable confusion the day brought, it was a gift to Marie, who had held a disappointment in her heart for years, since she would never be the mother of the bride. In a way, she was, just not in the way most people expect or understand. Maired stood in for her sister Maura, but only by proxy, as she felt that no one could take her sister’s place.

By now, Erica had gotten used to the different personae that her husband had adopted, and even encouraged it from time to time. She loved Mark more than anything in the world, and she had grown fond of his alter-ego. What she couldn’t figure out was how easily her mother accepted the news that her son-in-law also was a de facto daughter-in-law. By now this author would be confused as well, had she not taken notes.

"Mommy," Erica said, her voice betraying her curiosity. Her mother had anticipated this conversation.

"You want to know why Maired didn’t surprise me. Oh, I was a little surprised; who wouldn’t be? But your mother’s been "around the block," as my dad used to say." As she spoke, she opened the photo album once again and pointed to the picture in the middle of the page. Two young ladies, twenty-ish, sat on a park bench on the Boardwalk at Atlantic City.

They were smiling, although the dark-haired girl seemed much more confident than the blond sitting beside her.

"Apart from Mark’s mother, this girl was my best friend in high school. She was such a fun girl to be with, and she was as loyal and true a friend as anyone could ask for."

"She looks familiar, Mommy. Do I know her?"

"She came to my wedding. She was with me when you were born, but I don’t think you’d remember her. She looked at you and asked God for a blessing; that you would be safe and happy and filled with joy. I think her prayer was answered, don’t you?"

"Of course, Mommy, of course!" Erica never grew tired of calling her mother "Mommy." Her dad had "gone to war," as they used to say, and had never returned. She was almost ten at the time, and remembered hugging her mom tightly as his bus pulled away. His death was heroic but ironic. He died in the first Gulf War, only a few days after the cease fire.

Love for her husband and God overwhelmed and destroyed any root of bitterness, leaving only fond and lasting memories for her and Erica to cherish. Mother and daughter grew closer, if that were possible, and it was only natural for Erica to continue to refer to her "Mommy" in such an affectionate way.

"If she was there for when I was born, she must have known Daddy." Erica’s eyes misted up as she recalled her late father and how much she still missed him, even nearly two decades after his death.

"She did know your father," Diane said, her own eyes teary as well. "She knew your Daddy even before I did, and she was with him when he died."

Erica looked surprised and confused. She said,

"But Daddy died in Iraq. Was she in the Army as well?"

"She served in the Army the entire time he did."

"Mommy," Erica began to ask, "Daddy was a hero, wasn’t he?" She saw that her mother was staring to cry and apologized.

"That’s okay, honey," Diane said as she patted her daughter’s hand. "It’s okay to cry, and yes, your Daddy was a real hero." David McPherson died at the all-too-soon age of twenty-five. He had been employed by UPS, but decided at the age of twenty-four to enlist in the National Guard. His unit was called up and he shipped out to Iraq just before the war ended. He and his buddies were just coming back from a fire fight, when an Iraqi stepped from behind a truck at their base camp. The man threw a grenade, which fell at David’s feet. Without thought for his own safety, he jumped on the grenade just before it exploded. He was killed instantly, but his actions saved everyone in his platoon but for one female soldier who really shouldn’t have been there in the first place. He came home to military honors. His companion in death came home to no one, save for her best friend, Diane.

"She died with Daddy?" Erica looked at her mother, who struggled for an answer.

"Honey, it’s time I told you a story."


"Excuse me," a girl’s soft voice came from behind. Diane looked up and saw a young woman holding several papers in her hand.

"I think you dropped this when you got off the elevator," the girl said, gesturing back toward the elevator door.

Diane looked at the papers and recognized them as pages from her term paper.

"Oh, gosh, thanks…this is due tomorrow, and my typewriter broke this afternoon." Diane stood and offered her hand. "Diane…Diane Johnson."

The girl took her hand and grasped it firmly and smiled. "Ronni…Ronni McPherson." The girl said softly, her smile inviting and warm. Diane looked at her, trying not to "size her up," but found herself staring. Girls, even when they don’t intend to, will look at each other as competition (guys do this, but don’t care how the other feels.) Diane saw no competition, although the girl was pretty enough. The same age as Diane, the girl had an air about her that spoke more than words. She seemed confident in herself, yet her demeanor also said, "I will be your friend, I you wish." And not just an acquaintance, but a friendship that forms when two people just "click."

"She lived only a few blocks from Grandma’s, so I saw her often after that when we’d go to Grandma’s for dinner. One afternoon, when your Uncle Bobby was being especially obnoxious, (as middle school boys can be with their teenage sisters) I took a walk down the street. A boy was sitting on the front step of her house. He looked all the world as if he had lost his best friend. And he had. His dog had grown old and sick, and they had just gotten back from the vet.

They had to put her down. I asked him where Ronni was. He looked at me blankly for a moment, and I could see that he had been crying. All of a sudden, he got up and ran into the house. I knocked on the door, but he didn’t answer. A few moments later, a woman about Grandma’s age came to the door. I asked her if Ronni was home. She told me that there wasn’t any girl by that name there. ‘It’s just me and my son David living here," she said, pointing back to the front door.’ I was confused. I was sure Ronni had told me she lived there. Maybe I got the numbers wrong or the street, but I was sure she lived in the neighborhood. I walked up and down the street, but I didn’t see her."

"It’s like a Twilight Zone episode," Erica said.

"Yes, it seemed like that, but it gets more interesting," Diane said, as she turned the page of the album. She pointed to a picture of Ronni and her posing at an arcade photo booth. They were silly and laughing.

"Looks like you found her," Erica said, stating the obvious.

Diane continued. "Then one day weeks later, I was getting a book down from the shelf at the library, when I saw her through the shelf in the next aisle. I walked around, but she quickly walked away. ‘Ronni,’ I called, but she walked out of the library without saying a word. I ran out, but she was gone. Part of me was very hurt; she seemed like she liked me, then no. And I was angry…who was she to ignore me? Anyway, a few days past, and I was walking in the front door, and I saw an envelope tucked between the door and the jamb. It had my name on it, and it was written in long hand. "

"’Dear Diane,’ it said. ‘I am sorry I ignored you the other day. I have had a lot on my mind, and I needed some space to deal with it. I like you as a friend, but circumstances prevent me from seeing you anymore. I am sure you’d be the best friend anyone could ever have, but I can’t be one for you at this time. Please understand; I am truly sorry. God Bless, Ronni.’"

"Oh, Mommy, you must have been so hurt." Erica said, putting her arm around her mother.

"I was hurt, but only for a little while. What really got me is that Ronni wanted to be my friend, but for some reason could not. She needed me more than I thought I needed her. And I wasn’t going to give up."

Erica recalled that her mother was known in the family as being tenacious, "like a pit bull on a mail man’s leg," her Grandpa used to say. She would stick with something until it was finished or couldn’t be done. And even at that, she had a hard time letting go. This was one of those times, and happily for everyone, she never gave up on her friend.

"I made a point to go to the library every day, hoping to catch her before she could run away. And it paid off. I was sitting at a table by the reference desk when she entered the library. Before she could run away, I walked up behind her and grabbed her by the shoulders." Diane said with a laugh. "I spun her around and looked her in the eye. ‘Ronni McPherson, don’t you dare run away.’ She looked at me and started crying."

"What was she crying about, Mommy," Erica asked.

"She didn’t say right away. She walked out of the library, but she had me holding her hand, so she couldn’t run very far. She tried to walk faster, but I just stood in her way.

"’Fine,’ she said, and kept walking with her new escort until we had walked about two miles. I recognized the street, because we walked right past Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house. She kept walking until we reached the same house where I saw the boy who had lost his dog."

"’This is where I live, but please don’t ask to come in,’ she told me as she went to open the door. I put my hand on the screen, and I actually tore a hole in it when she pulled against it. ‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ I said, ‘but I want an explanation!"

"She looked at me and her eyes began to tear up."

"’Ronni,’ I said, ‘what’s so bad that you can’t talk about it?’"

"Did she tell you?" Erica asked, by this time sitting on the edge of her chair.

"Not so much as told me but showed me. She walked into the house with me trailing behind. She didn’t try to keep me out, but looked as if she wanted to run away and hide. I walked into the living room.

"’My mom’s at work," she said, as if that would have explained all the clutter and mess. Beer bottles were strewn all around, the only obvious décor for an otherwise undecorated room. To this day, I don’t know why, but my eyes were drawn to the mantelpiece. It was the only place in the living room that wasn’t cluttered. On the mantle sat a picture. It was an old photo of a boy, about fourteen or so. He was hugging an Irish Setter. It was an old picture of the boy I had met weeks before. I assumed he must have been a cousin of hers since the woman said she lived alone with her son. I could see the family resemblance; it was almost uncanny. Usually cousins resemble one another to a certain degree, but these two…the boy in the picture and Ronni…looked almost like twins. I looked back and forth between the picture and her and then it hit me." Diane paused.

"What hit you?"

"I asked her point blank who the boy was, and not gently I might add. She looked at me and started crying again. She looked as embarrassed and ashamed as anyone you’ve ever met." Diane said this, but her voice trailed off.

"Mommy…Mom…what is it?"

Diane looked at her daughter, tears in her eyes. What was the secret to this girl, and why, after so many years, did she still have this kind of effect on Diane?

"Honey, that day was the day I met your father." Diane was not crying out of sadness; her eyes were filled with tears for the memory of the moment and the precious part it played in her life.

"The girl in front of me and the boy in the picture were one in the same, "Diane said, and she started to smile. She thought, not of the sadness in the girl’s face, nor the shame she expressed. Rather, Diane thought of the next moment…a moment that would change her life forever.

"I looked her in the eye….At least, I tried to, but she kept looking away. I grabbed her chin and pulled it around, and not too gently. She tried to turn again, and I grabbed her shoulder with my other hand." Diane started to laugh, leading Erica to assume things got better.

"She tried to argue, but all that came out was, ‘BBBuht…’ I looked her again in the eye and pointed to the picture on the mantle. With as much gumption I could muster (an old expression, dear reader) I stood taller and said, ‘SO WHAT? WHO CARES?’"

"She stopped crying, as if a switch had been turned off. She looked at me, shocked, like in the movies when someone wins the lottery. ‘But….I….’ was all she could say. I looked at her again, then back at the picture."

"Mommy, what do you mean, one in the same," Erica asked. She hadn’t heard anything her mother said after that phrase."

"I mean, light of my life, (she always called Erica that) what I am saying is that the girl in picture in front of you and the boy in the picture on the mantle are the same person…..your father."

"What!!?" Erica sat for a moment, her eyes darting from her mother’s face to the picture and back. Even with a husband that had a "sister" as an alter-ego, the news shocked Erica.

"Ronni McPherson is, was your Daddy." The moment could have lapsed quickly into inane, but for Diane’s expression. The memory, while confusing to her daughter, was anything but to Diane. Her memories of Ronni were ones of tenderness, kindness and love.

"But why?" was all Erica could ask. She might as well have asked herself that question. She thought back to when she reminded her friend Gina that while we choose whom we will love, we often do not choose with whom we will fall in love.

"Honey….it was one of those moments you have in a lifetime where you can’t figure out how or why it happened but you’re awfully glad it did. Ronni..." Diane was going to change and say, "your father," but Ronni seemed so much more appropriate.

"Ronni was a side of your father I knew even before I "met" him. I was drawn to her as a friend, and she to me. Oh, I know you think I’m crazy…"

"No more than me, Mommy…I mean look at me and Maired." Erica referred to her relationship with Mark’s alter-ego, which had changed and grown over the past two years.

"I mean, she was so….but he…"

"You loved them both, didn’t you?" Erica said, more as a statement of understanding than a question.

"It’s so hard to describe, but yes. Sure, Daddy and I had a great life together, short as it was, but it was even more special because of my friendship with Ronni. That day in her living room I told her I wouldn’t give up on her, and I told him that I loved him. It was a brother-sister love at first, but it grew into so much more." She smiled as she remembered her first and only love.

"When your Daddy died, they brought him home with full honors. There was never a braver man that lived. You were about nine at the time, and he was so scared, not for himself, but for us. What would happen…who would take care of you?"

"Mom...Mommy, why did Daddy go…what was he doing in the Army in the first place…? He didn’t have to join?" Erica said through her own tears.

"He always wanted to do something big, but not big for himself. He wanted to do something that would have meaning. His mom always put him down…She hurt him so bad, and he wanted to prove that his life was…" Diane choked up at this point.

She hurt him so much that he could never see how important his life was." She choked back the sobs and continued.

"When we talked the day before he deployed, I reminded him of the day you were born. He had "stepped out" for a few hours, and Ronni came to the hospital for a visit. She blessed you that day, and everything she prayed for has come to pass; not because of the prayer, but to Whom she prayed. You get your sense of humor from her, you know. Your Daddy was so serious…he was so smart, even if he didn’t know it. Ronni was more fun-loving, and could make me laugh…"

Diane paused for a moment. She began to cry. "I miss them so much." She began to sob, and Erica took her mother in her arms. "I’m so…."

"Mommy…I understand….It’s okay, Mommy," Erica said as she stroked her mother’s hair.

After a few minutes, Diane spoke.

"It didn’t seem right that Ronni died without anyone caring. Her mother certainly didn’t…she didn’t even come to David’s funeral." Diane referred to her beloved for the first time by his given name. "He was a hero…he saved six lives, and she didn’t care. She never cared for him…He was always a burden to her. Your Daddy once told me that his mother always said, ‘If only I had a girl.’"

"I think Ronni was born for all the wrong reasons, but she grew up for all the right ones. She was a good girl…she became a good woman. David was really a good boy; it was so sad that his mother never realized what a good boy he was.

It was even worse that she never knew the great man he had become…." Diane tried to fight back the tears, but lost the battle. It was okay for her to lose; this moment was for her and her daughter, and crying was a sad but wonderful part of that moment.

"Ronni was the girl who died when Daddy saved all those men, wasn’t she."

"I lost the two most precious loves I ever had in that one moment. I loved them both and I miss them so much." She continued to cry. Her crying began to subside as Erica’s tears fell upon her mother’s head.


Erica stood next to her mother on the hillside, braving the cold. It was raining, and she pulled the coat tighter around her neck. Diane stood beside her and looked up at the sky. Raindrops covered her face as she mouthed the words,

"Thank You."

They looked at the simple marker. Erica had seen it countless times before.
"David Andrew McPherson, Hero. August 5, 1965 – March 3, 1991. John 15:13"

"He was such a humble man….He could have been buried at Arlington, but before he shipped out, he made me promise that if something happened to him that he would come "home," so we could spend more time with him…." She began to weep softly, but continued. "Oh honey, he grew up without hope, but his faith in God brought him full circle to the place where he had all the Hope he needed. He gave that to you, you know." Diane said, trying hard not to cry so much that she couldn’t talk. She wanted to tell Erica how much her father meant to them both, but Erica knew.

Diane grabbed her daughter’s hand and walked over to an elm tree a few paces from David’s grave. Another marker was nestled gently between two large roots.

"Veronica Hope McPherson, Beloved. August 5, 1965 – March 3, 1991. "Jeremiah 29:11."

"She held you closely the day you were born. She prayed that scripture verse over you…." Erica held her mother and they wept, out of sadness and loss and grief over what might have been, to be sure, but so much more over what God had brought to both of them through the lives of….two people.