A Promise Made
By: S. Scott Bullock
“Just this once, please Jacks? Just this once listen to me and be a rebel.” She smiled that smile at me and I almost gave in. That killer smile. She saved it up for very special occasions and only used it when she felt her back was against the wall. “They can’t fire you, you’re ‘da boss’! Take the damn afternoon off. We can run away. Maybe a picnic or a movie or…”
“Why is today so important to you Jacks?” I asked her using our pet name for each other. For some unknown reason we both found it hysterically funny that we called each other ‘Jacks’ and we rarely called each other anything else. “Are you having one?” I asked.
She just looked at me then. She didn’t have to confirm or deny it. But I knew. She was having one.
I met my stunning wife at a dinner party, eleven years ago. A dinner party full of stuffy, over-privileged people, of which we were both. Well, on second thought, we were over-privileged yes, but stuffy, no. The both of us were rebels. We rebelled against the pomposity, against the entitled attitude of our families. Pissed them off royally in the process too but we didn’t care. We both believed more in the common man than in the money wielders. Our instant attraction for one another that night was palpable. I’m sure we were even giving off some kind of pheromonal scent. To us the other people around the table disappeared into the room, becoming only a shifting pattern on the wall paper and a soft buzz of indiscernible conversation.
When the party was over I had asked her out for an after-dinner drink and she had accepted. Then, during that drink, she told me that she was engaged to a man named John Husted, but that she didn’t really love him and that she felt the engagement wouldn’t last. I had bowed out then. A matter of honor I felt. I have since come to realize that ‘matters of honor’ are relative and mercurial, but back then ‘matters of honor’ were unscalable Berlin Walls. I drove her back to her estate and tried my hardest to forget her. Just one of the many times I have tried to ignore the magical presence that is my Jacks. My obsession with her, and sorrow at her loss, even though we had only spent ONE evening together, was consuming me. I lost concentration in everything. My work suffered, my friendships suffered. My family even suggested professional help. Then, exactly one month after our meeting, I read that her engagement had broken off. I leapt to the phone and called her home. Our families knew of each other and did quite a bit of social intermingling so her number was in our book. She answered the phone herself and the rest is a whirlwind blur. A whirlwind blur that is, except for one thing. During our fourth date Jacks had shown me her gift. Now, before I go on about this ‘gift’, let me just say this. It has never been clinically proven. It has occasionally, albeit rarely, failed. And it comes on her by its own devices. She doesn’t have a conscious control over it. Jacks’s gift is feeling future events. Not seeing them or hearing them or tasting them, but emotionally ‘feeling’ them. She knows when things are going to happen. Not always specific things. As a matter of fact, seldom specific things, but she very often knows when something’s afoot.
On our fourth date, however, Jacks’s prediction was very specific. She took my hand across the table, looked at me and said, ‘Not only are you going to marry me Jacks, but you’re going to father me two gorgeous children. A girl who we will name after my favorite aunt and boy who we will name after you.’
I was rather taken aback, but just smiled at her. I knew I wanted to marry her. But kids? That didn’t really fit into my imagined future. I was struggling to get a foot hold in the business. I had an almost insurmountable row to hoe to get where I wanted to go. And kids, I thought, would just slow me down. How wrong I was and how right she had been on both precognitive counts. We were engaged by June and married that following September, and indeed had two incredible children, a boy and a girl. Sadly Jacks didn’t foresee, and probably for very good reason, the two miscarriages she would suffer or the death of our second infant son, Patrick. Providence had kept that foreknowledge away. I have often wondered if it would have been easier on us if she had seen those tragedies coming. But there are answers to questions we will never know, and things, like Jacks’s gift, that we will never fully understand.
Another example of Jacks’s foresight was during one of the most challenging and difficult times in my professional life, I was struggling with every rung on the ladder of success and as I reached the next to top rung I was overcome with self doubt and fear. She had taken my hand then, just as she had done at the table on our fourth date, she had taken my hand across the dinner table and said to me. ‘You’re going to be ‘da boss’ Jacks. You’re going to be the top man on this particular totem pole, I have no doubt in my mind.’ A feeling of calm and renewed self confidence poured over me then, and again, she had been right. I did become ‘da boss’ and my ‘company’ was full of eager supporters and compatriots.
Jacks became my adviser on all things delicate in my job and she had taken over the showy parts of our professional life that had become so necessary for our success. The dinners, the decorating of our home, the socials and special events. She kept the lions at bay and then embraced and invited in those lambs that could help our cause and causes. Jacks was, and is, my right hand.
“The kids are safe with Sandy, “ she said breaking my reverie “Don’t go to your circus parade today, Jacks. Please. I haven’t felt one this strong in ages and I can’t ignore it. WE can’t ignore it. Please.” Her eyes were tearing.
“My love.” I began, knowing full well that nothing I said would assuage her fear. “Firstly it is not a circus parade. It is VITAL for PR and for fund-raising. I have made a commitment and given my word and I simply cannot back out now. It is way too important.”
“It IS a GODDAMN circus parade. You don’t need the publicity, and you don’t need to raise that much more money and you certainly don’t need to placate these assholes who don’t like us to begin with!” She was shouting and cursing. Jacks didn’t shout or curse. This mattered a lot to her. “And if you go,” she continued, “I’m NOT going with you.”
“What?” I said flummoxed. Jacks had never not stood firmly by my side.
“I’m NOT going with you. And how’s THAT gonna look to everyone watching, huh?”
I sat down then. Not sure of what to say or how to respond. I had to convince her just how important this day really was. She had to understand that I had no choice in the matter. And I also needed to remind her that she wasn’t always right when it came to her ‘messages from beyond’. Just then the hotel room phone rang. We looked at each other, saying without words but with looks that we had learned to read after our years of marriage, ‘who’s gonna answer that?’.
“I’m not answering it.” She said in reply to our silent questioning looks. “I’m not your goddamn secretary.”
I walked to the phone and picked up the receiver.
“What?” I sad flatly. “Yes. In fifteen minutes. Yes. We’ll be ready.” I hung up the phone.
“YOU’LL be ready.” She said.
“Is there anything I can say to change your mind?” I asked her.
“Is there anything I can say to change yours?” She replied.
“No.” I said.
“And that’s my answer too.” She said.
“Well,” I began “I better go get my coat.”
“Jacks,” she said softly, sitting down on the ugly hotel couch. “Please.”
I sat down next to her and took her hand. She was looking at me the same way she had when she told me that we had lost our first baby. I could smell the last hint of the shampoo she had used this morning and I saw the pulse of her heart beating in her neck. Too fast. Her heart was beating too fast.
“I love you more than life itself.” I told her. “I trust you with everything in me. You have given me a love I never thought possible. You have given me two of the greatest gifts I have ever received in our two precious children. You have been my adviser and my confidant and wise advocate. You have made me laugh when the hour was at its darkest, and you have made me cry with joys unimagined. You are everything and all to me.”
“But?” She interrupted.
“But, I have to do this. I have to. It is beyond my own decision or desire now. I have to. And if you do this with me, I promise you… I PROMISE you that I will never go against one of your feelings again.”
“Shit.” she said.
“Please.” Was all I could muster.
“I’ll get my coat.” She said sighing.
Just then the door bell to the suite rang. I opened the door and Don Bradley, the head of my security team, stuck his head in the door.
“Are you ready, Mr. President?” he asked.
“Yes.” I said. “Just waiting for the Mrs. Is everything a go?”
“Yes Sir.” Don said. “Short flight from here to Dallas and you’ll pick up the motorcade there.”
“Great.” I said and turned to Jacks who was coming out of the bedroom. “You ready for the ‘circus parade’ Mrs. Kennedy?”
“Yes.” She said quietly, picking up her hat. “Let’s go.”