Janet Miller had been with First Fidelity for three years, having moved to New Bern from New Jersey. She thought about the word “fidelity” — and she was overwhelmed with guilt and regret and sadness. She had not intended on getting involved with a married man, and certainly not with one who was her boss! She had been raised better than that.
But “circumstances,” she had convinced herself, had brought them together. Pinnock had been so kind to her, had respected her opinions, had even opened the door for her, as Southern gentlemen were taught by their mammas to do.
That had been one of their first serious conversations, in fact — Southern manners. Although she was hired as a bank teller, she remembered the day Fidelity’s president had reached out to open the bank’s front door for her. Raised to open her own doors, her hand had already been on the handle when his gently came down on top of hers and he said in his best Southern drawl, “Allow me, Ma’am.” She could still sense that touch, that kindness, that warmth. But now he was gone.
Their relationship seemed to have followed a rather innocent path. As he explained some of her responsibilities, she was a bit surprised that he was the one going over her duties, rather than the head teller Robert Baker or Rick Santori, the personnel manager.
If she were honest with herself, when he first asked her out to dinner to “discuss” the upcoming vacation schedule, she knew that he had more than a employer/employee interest in her. His wedding ring seemed to shout at her over a wonderfully intimate three-course dinner at a distant seafood eatery: “I’m married. What are you doing here?” Coming off a rough breakup, which was part of the reason she had fled New Jersey, Janet was happy for some male attention, not realizing that the business dinner was only an appetizer. She, not to put too fine a point on it, was the main entree.
Their trysts were kept very confidential. No one at the bank, as far as she knew, had any idea of their budding relationship. They kept their distance from one another at work, strictly professional. Quite the romantic, Pinnock would call her cell and leave a few minutes’ of the classic Chicago song “Stay the Night” on her voicemail, the signal that she should meet him out of town at the Red Roof Inn in Somerville, located where no one would recognize them or even care.
He never talked about his wife, or his grown children, although she had hoped they would soon discuss the possibility of his getting a divorce. Their conversations were always about her and her ambitions to advance in the banking industry. He made no promises of promotions. And she was certainly not trying to sleep her way to the top! She chose to be with him, well, because she had never known someone so attentive, so gentle, so sweet. She now wondered if that was precisely how he had begun his relationship with his wife thirty years ago.
Painfully Janet recalled a tearful conversation she had had with her mother after they had been seeing each other for a few months.
“Honey,” her Mom had begun, “he’s not married, is he?”
The question had taken her by surprise, but she should have known how incredibly perceptive her mother could be — and she could not lie to her mother. “Yes, Mom, he is. But he’s miserable — and he really cares about me.”
“Janet, your father and I raised you better than that! What would your Daddy say if he were still here with us?” Mr. Miller had died the previous year of cancer.
Her mother’s question was like a dagger in her heart, although she knew her mother was not trying to wound her. It would be too much to say that Harry Miller had adored his daughter, but just about. She was his only daughter, and he got teary-eyed when they talked about his one day having to give her away when she got married.
“Baby, I’m not looking forward to that day, but I do want you to be happy,” he had said to her. “I pray for you and your future life-partner every day. I just don’t know how I’ll be able to walk you down the aisle and turn you over to some other man standing in front of the minister. He will ask, ‘Who gives this woman to be married to this man?‘ I don’t know if I can say ‘Her mother and I do’ without choking up.”
Sadly, that day of her daddy giving her away could no longer happen. She had given herself away. What would her father say now?
Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought back to that conversation with her mother. She left with the resolve to end the relationship with Pinnock. But now that opportunity was gone. She could not explain to him her guilt and her shame. Perhaps he would have understood.
“How can I ever face Mrs. Pinnock at the funeral?”, Janet asked herself. “Although I’m sure she had no idea.” (to be continued)