Tom and Jennifer were a handsome couple in a town where beauty was an anomaly. Most people had poor hygiene, missing teeth, and were overweight. They were the king and queen of the prom. High school sweethearts. They graduated top of the class. They had plans to go off to college, a rarity in Clarity, and make something of themselves.
One hot summer night after their senior year, they sat by the lake, staring at the stars. They sipped wine from a bottle until it was all gone. When the last drop was consumed, they looked into each others eyes and their heads slowly drifted together.
The kissing began slowly but quickly intensified to an explosive passion. Jennifer surprised Tom by ripping off his shirt, then hers. The next morning, they awakened, entangled in each others arms, the birds chirping excitedly, a faint glow of light off the eastern horizon, and fog floating above the lake. They were happy and in love and the world was waiting for their entree!
Two months later, the summer was coming to a close. Tom and Jennifer were preparing for their college years, a new chapter about to begin. They were excited to start this next step together. Jennifer was going to study medicine , Tom law. A match made in heaven!
A week before they were to embark on their seemingly prearranged life, Tom went to Jennifer’s house to pick her up for a friend’s party. Tom arrived to find his love sitting on the porch waiting for him.
Surprised, Tom said, “wow! I can’t believe you’re ready.”
Jenny looked at him, tears in her beautiful hazel eyes and began to speak “Tom, I—”
Jenny had an abusive father and her mother died when she was young, so Tom immediately interrupted and screamed, “What did that monster do? I’ll—”
“No Tom, everything’s fine, I’m just … ” Her voice trailed off.
“What sweety? You’re just what?”
“I’m late,” she whispered.
“You’re late?” He said with feigned surprise. “Ha, is that it? You’re always late so what’s new about that?”
“No, you big idiot,” she screamed. Jennifer had a bad temper but Tom ignored it knowing it was passed down from her alcoholic, angry pop. “Not THAT kind of late … I’M LATE!!!”
Tom’s face dropped as he began to understand. All his dreams flashed through his brain as if a movie trailer was playing in his mind. With those two words ‘I’m Late’, he knew their dreams were shattered. But his love for this beautiful woman burned in him like a wild fire. He was suddenly filled with joy.
Tom got down on one knee and grabbed Jenny’s hand. He lightly touched her chin so that she would look him in the eyes. She hesitated but acquiesced as she always did.
Their eyes met. He knew this day would come. He just did not think it would be now. The words came out slowly as time stopped.
“Will you marry me?”
Eliza Layton grew up in Clarity, a small town in Western New York. Clarity wasn’t just small, it was miniscule with a population of just under 2,000 souls.
Eliza was gifted. She was beautiful with eyes as wide as the ocean and bluer than the sky. She had creamy smooth skin and lips that formed a natural pout. Her hair was as white as snow.
In addition to her beauty, she was highly intelligent. Wonderfully athletic. Most of all, she was a kind and loving spirit with a strong faith in God. All her life, her daddy told Eliza that she was meant for something bigger.
“Eliza my dear,” he would say. “You have the brains of a doctor, the looks of a movie star, the grace of a ballerina and the soul of a saint. You are blessed beyond belief.”
And so, Eliza’s daddy encouraged her in any interests she had but never pushed her for he wanted her to discover her own way. That was his belief but it was also his wife’s belief. On her death bed, he promised to raise their daughter in a manner that allowed her to find her way. He held firm to that promise.
Eliza’s mommy died when Eliza was four. She barely remembered her, but Eliza’s dad made sure she knew what kind of person her mom was. Oftentimes, Eliza would ask her daddy to tell her a bedtime story about her mommy and he would regale her with tales of how they were high school sweethearts and other amazing things they did before and after they were married.
As Eliza got older, she pressed her daddy for more details about how her mother died and he had to tell her. Jennifer Layton died of a rare cancer. There was something else though that her father would not tell her. She could tell by the way he spoke that he was leaving something out.
She could not put a finger on it, but one thing was obvious. Whatever it was, frightened her father.