GEORGETOWN – MAC’S RESIDENCE
November 20th, 1998
Before knocking on the door Harm checked once again if the little velvet box was still in the pocket of his flight jacket.
He felt he was wrong doing that, he believed there was a risk Mac could feel trapped. But he was not ready any longer to go on like this, to pursue this relationship which he sometimes thought was only about sex and which was slowly degrading the way he thought about himself. And it was degrading the way he thought about Mac too, which was even worse for him.
It was exactly six months today since they had made love for the first time in that almost shabby hotel in Moscow. Six months, it is long enough to know what you are expecting from a love affair. And now, Harm was sure about what he wanted.
During the first months, his feelings had scared the hell out of him. He noticed as his fences were falling apart, one after the other, and he tried his best to hide from Mac how important their newborn relationship was becoming to him.
But since six weeks ago she had begged him not to question so much, to just enjoy life and let things happen on their own, since he woke up every morning near her, he no longer had the same doubts any more. Of course, he still was as scared as before. But for the first time in his life, a woman had been sharing his life in secret for six months and he did not get bored with her, and she did not decide to leave him because their ways of life were too different. This was a new feeling, something terrifying and stirring at the same time, this knowledge that someone was waiting for you, that your day being bad or good would depend on the smile of the other one.
Harm had never thought he would ever care so much for a woman, he believed himself to be stronger and more independent than this image of being in love he had forged in his mind . He had fought this awareness as he refused to stay the night with her, as he tried not to commit himself. But gradually he had discovered that Mac’s presence in his life was giving him this feeling of fullness … an intensity which was actually pretty close to the one he felt while flying.
He was not depending on her, she was the one who helped him to really feel himself.
He had kept from talking again about this dizziness he felt about having their relationship still a secret, having it being only an affair, because he did not want to challenge Mac. She had asked for some time, he had given her plenty but today he had made a decision : their relationship would take a new step forward.
He believed she was ready for that too.
Like every day, he knocked on the door. The key of the apartment was in his pocket, just as Mac had the key of his loft. But entering her home if she was not the one to open the door would have meant for him that they had made a new step towards really living together, and Harm did not want to take this step unless having discussed it with Mac, unless she understood the true meaning of it all. He would have loved to be able to talk about these couple problems with more easiness, more spontaneity. But despite all his efforts, his mind was still in control. With Mac’s help yet, he was sure he would one day succeed.
She opened the door flashing this radiant smile he had never seen anywhere else than here, in her apartment when they were alone. As soon the door was closed, she coiled in his arms.
» I missed you, sailor. »
» We just parted two hours ago, Mac … »
» You know what I mean. Four days together on that carrier and not being able to touch you, actually I think I prefer not to be assigned with you on a ship … too difficult .. »
She put her arms around Harm’s neck, her fingers playing with his dark hair, and dropped light kisses on his face. Harm held her tight, enjoying her perfume, he felt as his will was once again vanishing, exactly like every time he was in Mac’s embrace.
He tried to control the passion overwhelming them, he had to talk to her first.
» Sarah, wait a minute, I have to tell you something .. »
» Is it about life or death? » asked Mac with an ardent voice, while her hands where gliding down Harm’s chest and now fighting with his fly.
» Mac, it’s important … »
She looked up at him, her eyes clouded with longing, put her lips on Harm’s ones and whispered :
» It can wait … »
Although he was split between the shame of being so weak and the joy of knowing someone wanted him so much, Harm let go, returning Sarah’s kisses and ministrations.
Later in the night, his mind dulled in passion, he touched her ear with his mouth and whispered :
» I love you. You’re mine, Sarah … Marry me … »
Suddenly sobering up, Mac stiffened and opened her eyes. He was looking at her with a tenderness, a love she was not ready to accept … not yet … why was he acting this way again, why could he not be satisfied with what they still were sharing ?
She pushed away from him. Her sudden move brought Harm back from the delightful fog where he had lost himself. He reached towards her, worrying.
» Sarah, is something wrong ? »
Mac pulled the sheet out, wrapped it around her and left without a word into the bathroom. Harm listened as the key turned in the lock, and then the silence filled the room, so harrowing. Quickly, he put his t-shirt and his jeans on and went near the door. For a long time he stayed there, listening to the silence, ignoring what to do or to say, wondering about what had happened. He had not been aware, at the moment he was pronouncing them, how strong were the words he was telling. But these exact words had been running again and again in his mind for several days. He would never have imagined Mac could have such a reaction, it had to be something else … this was not the result of what he had just said … What was he supposed to do, try to speak to her through this closed door or wait till she decided to get out ? Maybe she was sick ? Maybe she needed some help ? After a while, he decided to knock shyly on the door.
» Mac … Sarah … are you ok ? Can I help you ? »
» Yes … get off my back … »
Stunned, Harm frowned. Apparently, she was not sick. She was mad at him. But he was not sure he understood the reason. He hesitated again, he was afraid of her reaction if he was pushing it too much. And yet, he had to know why Mac was acting this way. And just tonight …
» Sarah ? Are you mad because of what I told you ? Come out and explain it to me, please. »
» Damn it, Harm, I told you to get off my back. I’ll come out in a moment, leave me alone. »
Her voice was trembling, but Harm could not detect if it was anger or tears. He listened as water began to run, covering all other noises. It was better for him to go make some coffee, he imagined he would need it to have a clear mind and all his self control.
Through the noise of the water filling the tub and hiding her tears, Mac heard as Harm was going away. She knew she eventually would have to get out of this refuge and face him, she owed him an explanation, but first of all she needed to admit why she had reacted with such a violence. She was caught in this trap.
I belong to no one, I’m not an object, a little voice was screaming in her mind. Another, smoother one, was trying to be heard too. He did not want to hurt you. He told you he loved you. If you had explained to him, before … Give him a chance. I did not request from him to love me, I have not done the tiniest thing to push him to propose to me, retorted the strongest voice, killing the other one. Mac drifted in the hot water in an attempt to calm herself. She almost immediately got out, in fact she did not want to be calmer, she needed to clear the situation with Harm right now, and she knew she could use her anger to face him.
She put on her robe and went in the bedroom, wishing he was not there waiting. She caught sight of Harm’s reflection in the mirror of her dressing table. He was sitting on the couch, staring at his hands, looking so helpless, so lost that her anger almost vanished. No, she should not. She could not. She was nobody’s trophy.
She quickly put on a t-shirt and jogging pants, went in the living room and sat down on the armchair facing the couch.
Harm closed his fist, hiding what he was staring at and looked up at Mac.
» What did I do wrong, Sarah? » he asked , his voice almost a whisper.
» Harm, I don’t belong to you. I belong to no one, and I never asked for anything, first of all I never pushed you to tell me you love me or to propose to me. »
Harm rubbed his eyes and focused, looking carefully for his next words. He wished to feel as confident as he was in the courtroom, he felt he was playing an important game without being really prepared.
» You are angry because I told you I love you, or because in a passion fulfilled moment I let it unfortunately slip ? »
» You did not mean it when you said you love me ? »
» I do, Sarah, and I can say it again right now. I love you and that was the subject I wanted to discuss with you … Shhh, wait a minute, I need to finish this. Do you know what day is today ? »
Mac looked at him, unbelieving, with a hint of hostility in her eyes. Of course she knew what day was today, of course she knew what had happened exactly six months ago. But she had thought Harm would forget it, she had wished this celebration would stay unnoticed.
» You believed I was going to forget it, right? Sarah, I told you I want something more from our relationship, but you requested some more time. So tonight, I wanted to give you this, but I’m not sure now is the right moment. Never mind … » he added shrugging.
He opened his hand and stretched his arm out to her, showing her an emerald set in a golden ring. He stayed there, his arm stretched out, while Mac stared at the ring with no expression at all.
Silence was getting tenser in the room. Harm felt as frustration and disappointment were vanishing in him, while anger was rising more and more. He had been wrong in this situation. He had believed once he told her how he felt, once he asked her to marry him, she would finally accept to make their relationship official. And there she stayed with no reaction, looking at this ring he was giving her. Right, he knew this was not romantic at all, but his feelings and this ring as an evidence were true and genuine. And she had no reaction. He felt so stupid and humiliated.
Finally, Mac looked up at him, her eyes still unreadable.
» I don’t want it, Harm. I did not ask for anything, I don’t want things to change between us. Let’s just get back, let’s forget this and don’t push for anything right now … »
» Why ? »
» Because this is the only thing I want from you, can’t you get that ? »
» Damn it, Mac, if all you want is someone to share your bed, I’m not … »
She slapped him with more violence than she intended. Fuming, she watched him as a red spot appeared on his left cheek, she watched him as his eyes glanced with anger, amazement, questioning.
» Leave now … »
» Don’t do that, Sarah, we need to talk. It did not sound right, that is not what I meant … Don’t give up our relationship before we discuss it, please. »
» When are you going to understand that I don’t want the same thing than you seem to want. I requested some time, and you don’t give me any … »
» I gave you time, six months, how long do you need to accept the fact that our relationship means more than just a man and a woman sleeping together. Damn it, Mac, I don’t get it, what are you afraid of ? »
» I … I’m not afraid … I’m not ready for what you want, I don’t belong to you, I don’t belong to any one. You should better leave. »
Livid, his fists clenched, Harm looked at Mac with anger.
» If I leave with no explanation tonight, I’m not coming back. »
» I know. »
» Speak to me, Mac. »
» I have nothing more to say. »
He stood, took his flight jacket and went out , not saying a word, violently slamming the door on his future.
Mac did not move, her eyes were dry, she stared at the emerald still laying on the coffee table as if to challenge her.
She had behaved so wrong, she felt dirty, like this bitch picture her father was constantly conjuring when she was young. Her anger was still racing, anger against herself now, like an overwhelming need to destroy every thing around her, to be the one destroying what she cared most about rather than being left.
Why had she not been able to open to him before ? She had hoped Harm would be satisfied with this affair till … till how long ? She had been running away from her past for too long now, she had purposely decided to forget Chris and their youth for such a long time. She had been lying to every one, even to her uncle Matt who would never have granted this desperate runaway.
But as soon lies have made their nest in your life, how can you possibly tell the truth without losing every thing? Telling the truth meant ending her carreer, and losing Harm. Never mind, she had lost him the same now. And yet, if she still did not open to him, if she was ready to play the role of a woman who only cared about his body and refused any commitment, she could maybe save a part of their friendship. Or at least their working relationship could remain intact.
So often before, her life had been away from love, maybe this time again she would manage it to live only for her job, she could forget these six months full of happiness, six months in an entire life, six months which would have to last her all life.
Slowly, her anger vanished and tears began to glide on her cheeks. She took the ring in her hand and touched it with her thumb. How could she have told him, him more than any one else, that she still had been married, and never divorced ?
She closed her eyes and imagined Harm’s look of unbelief and disgust if she had told him about the former Sarah Mackenzie, wife Raggle. She had driven Harm into this adulterous relationship which would have destroy their careers , a relationship he would have never accepted, if he had known the truth. During these past six months, she had looked for a way to get out of this situation without losing Harm. She had tried to find Chris, but she was alone and could not make use of any official way, and she had failed. And yet, even if she would have found him, she was a Major in the Marines and could not file a divorce without the Corps getting to know about it … And her whole life would have been challenged, once again.
She went back into her bedroom, tears streaming on her cheeks, slid in her bed, exactly where Harm had her wrapped in his arms, less than one hour before. She took the pillow in her arms, inhaling his scent, and her eyes wide open on the darkness of her life, she made up her mind to face this sad future she had built up.