Karen VAN DER Zee (B. 1947)
Born and raised in Holland, Karen van der Zee lives in the United States, where she has become a successful romance writer, contributing more than thirty novels to the popular Harlequin series. This excerpt consists of the final two chapters of A Secret Sorrow. This is what has happened so far: the central character, Faye, is recuperating from the psychological effects of a serious car accident in which she received a permanent internal injury. After the accident, she quits her job and breaks her engagement to Greg. She moves into her brother Chuckâs house and falls in love with Kai, a visiting Texan and good friend of her brother. At the end of Chapter 10, Kai insists on knowing why she will not marry him and asks, âWho is Doctor Jaworski?â
A Secret Sorrow-1981
Faye could feel the blood drain from her face and for one horrifying moment she thought she was going to faint right in Kaiâs arms. The room tilted and everything swirled around in a wild madmanâs dance. She clutched at him for support, fighting for control, trying to focus at some point beyond his shoulder. Slowly, everything steadied.
âI â¦ I donât know him,â she murmured at last. âI â¦â
He reached in the breast pocket of his shirt, took out a slip of paper, and held it out for her to see. One glance and Faye recognized it as the note from Doctor Martin with Doctor Jaworskiâs name scrawled on it, thickly underlined.
âHow did you get that?â Her voice was a terrified whisper. She was still holding on, afraid she would fall if she let go.
âI found it on the floor in my bedroom. It must have fallen out of your 5wallet along with everything else on Saturday morning.â
Yes â oh God! Her legs were shaking so badly, she knew it was only his arms that kept her from falling.
âWho is Doctor Jaworski, Faye?â His voice was patiently persistent.
âI â¦ he â¦â Her voice broke. âLet me go, please let me go.â She felt as if she were suffocating in his embrace and she struggled against him, feebly, but it was no use.
âHeâs a psychiatrist, isnât he?â His voice was gentle, very gentle, and she looked up at him in stunned surprise.
He knew, oh God, he knew. She closed her eyes, a helpless sense of 10inevitability engulfing her.
âYou know,â she whispered. âHow do you know?â
âSimple. Two minutes on the phone to Chicago.â He paused. âDoctor Martin â was he one of the doctors who treated you at the hospital?â
âWhy did he give you Doctor Jaworskiâs name? Did he want you to make an appointment with him?â
âYes.â Despondency overtook her. There was no going back now. No 15escape from the truth. No escape from his arms. Resistance faded and she felt numbed and lifeless. It didnât matter any more. Nothing mattered.
âDid you?â Kai repeated.
âDid I what?â
âSee him â Doctor Jaworski.â
âWhy did Doctor Martin want you to see a psychiatrist?â20
âI â¦â Faye swallowed miserably. âItâs â¦ itâs therapy for grieving â¦ mourning.â She made a helpless gesture with her hand. âWhen people lose a â¦ a wife, or husband for instance, they go through a more or less predictable pattern of emotions â¦â She gave him a quick glance, then looked away. âLike denial, anger â¦â
ââ¦ depression, mourning, acceptance,â Kai finished for her, and she looked back at him in surprise.
His mouth twisted in a little smile. âIâm not totally ignorant about subjects other than agronomy.â There was a momentary pause as he scrutinized her face. âWhy did you need that kind of therapy, Faye?â
And then it was back again, the resistance, the revolt against his probing 25questions. She stiffened in defense â her whole body growing rigid with instinctive rebellion.
âItâs none of your business!â
âOh, yes, it is. Weâre talking about our life together. Your life and mine.â
She strained against him, hands pushing against his chest. âLet me go! Please let me go!â Panic changed into tears. She couldnât take his nearness any more, the feel of his hard body touching hers, the strength of him.
âNo, Faye, no. Youâre going to tell me. Now. Iâm not letting you go until youâve told me everything. Everything, you hear?â
âI canât!â she sobbed. âI canât!â30
âFaye,â he said slowly, âyouâll have to. You told me you love me, but you donât want to marry me. You have given me no satisfactory reasons, and Iâll be damned if Iâm going to accept your lack of explanations.â
âYou have no right to demand an explanation!â
âOh, yes, I have. Youâre part of me, Faye. Part of my life.â
âYou talk as if you own me!â She was trembling, struggling to get away from him. She couldnât stand there, so close to him with all the pent-up despair inside her, the anger, the fear of what she knew not how to tell him.
His hands were warm and strong on her back, holding her steady. Then, 35with one hand, he tilted back her head and made her look at him. âYou gave me your love â I own that,â he said softly. âTrue loving involves commitment, vulnerability, trust. Donât you trust me, Faye?â
New tears ran silently down her cheeks. âIf I told you,â she blurted out, âyou wouldnât â¦ you wouldnât â¦â
âI wouldnât what?â
âYou wouldnât want me any more!â The words were wrenched from her in blind, agonizing grief. âYou wouldnât want me any more!â
He shook his head incredulously. âWhat makes you think you can make that decision for me? Do you have so little trust in my love for you?â
Faye didnât answer, couldnât answer. Through a mist of tears he was nothing 40but a blur in front of her eyes.
âWhat is so terrible that you canât tell me?â
She shrank inwardly, as if shriveling away in pain. âLet me go,â she whispered. âPlease let me go and Iâll tell you.â
After a momentâs hesitation Kai released her. Faye backed away from him, feeling like a terrified animal. She stood with her back against the wall, glad for the support, her whole body shaking. She took a deep breath and wiped her face dry with her hand.
âIâm afraid â¦ afraid to marry you.â
âAfraid?â He looked perplexed. âAfraid of what? Of me? Of marriage?â45
Faye closed her eyes, taking another deep breath. âI canât be what you want me to be. We canât have the kind of life you want.â She looked at him, standing only a few feet away, anguish tearing through her. âIâm so afraid â¦ youâll be disappointed,â she whispered.
âOh God, Faye,â he groaned, âI love you.â He came toward her and panic surged through her as he held her against the wall, his hands reaching up to catch her face between them.
âDonât,â she whispered. âPlease, donât touch me.â But it was no use. His mouth came down on hers and he kissed her with a hard, desperate passion.
âI love you,â he said huskily. âI love you.â
Faye wrenched her face free from his hands. âDonât touch me! Please 50donât touch me!â She was sobbing now, her words barely audible. Her knees gave way and her back slid down along the wall until she crumpled on to the floor, face in her hands.
Kai took a step backward and pulled her up. âStand up, Faye. For Godâs sake stand up!â He held her against the wall and she looked at him, seeing every line in his dark face, the intense blue of his eyes, and knew that this was the moment, that there was no more waiting.
And Kai knew it too. His eyes held hers locked in unrelenting demand. âWhy should I be disappointed, Faye? Why?â
Her heart was thundering in her ears and it seemed as if she couldnât breathe, as if she were going to drown.
âBecause â¦ because I canât give you children! Because I canât get pregnant! I canât have babies! Thatâs why!â Her voice was an agonized cry, torn from the depths of her misery. She yanked down his arms that held her locked against the wall and moved away from him. And then she saw his face.
It was ashen, gray under his tan. He stared at her as if he had never seen 55her before.
âOh my God, Faye â¦â His voice was low and hoarse. âWhy didnât you tell me, why â¦â
Faye heard no more. She ran out the door, snatching her bag off the chair as she went by. The only thought in her mind was to get away â away from Kai and what was in his eyes.
She reached for Kaiâs spare set of car keys in her bag, doing it instinctively, knowing she couldnât walk home alone in the dark. How she managed to get the keys in the door lock and in the ignition she never knew. Somehow, she made it home.
The phone rang as Faye opened the front door and she heard Chuck answer it in the kitchen.
âSheâs just got in,â he said into the mouthpiece, smiling at Faye as she 60came into view. He listened for a moment, nodded. âOkay, fine with me.â
Faye turned and walked up the stairs, taking deep breaths to calm her shattered nerves. Kai hadnât wasted any time checking up on her. She didnât care what he was telling Chuck, but she wasnât going to stand there listening to a one-sided conversation. But only a second later Chuck was behind her on the stairs.
âKai wanted to know whether youâd arrived safely.â
âI did, thank you,â she said levelly, her voice surprisingly steady.
âI take it you ran out and took off with his car?â
âDid he say that?â65
âNo. He was worried about you. He wanted to make sure you went home.â He sounded impatient, and she couldnât blame him. She was making life unbearable for everyone around her. Everybody worried about her. Everybody loved her. Everything should be right. Only it wasnât.
âWell, Iâm home now, and Iâm going to bed. Good night.â
âGood night, Faye.â
Faye lay in bed without any hope of sleep. Mechanically she started to sort through her thoughts and emotions, preparing mentally for the next confrontation. There would be one, she didnât doubt it for a moment. But she needed time â time to clear her head, time to look at everything in a reasonable, unemotional way.
It was a temptation to run â get in the car and keep driving, but it would 70be a stupid thing to do. There was no place for her to go, and Kai would find her, no matter what. If there was one thing she knew about Kai it was his stubbornness and his persistence. She had to stick it out, right here, get it over with, deal with it. Only she didnât know how.
She lay listening to the stillness, just a few sounds here and there â the house creaking, a car somewhere in the distance, a dog barking. She had to think, but her mind refused to cooperate. She had to think, decide what to say to Kai the next time she saw him, but she couldnât think, she couldnât think.
And then, as she heard the door open in the silence, the quiet footsteps coming up the stairs, she knew it was too late, that time had run out.
Without even knocking he came into her room and walked over to the bed. She could feel the mattress sag as his weight came down on it. Her heart was pounding like a sledgehammer, and then his arms came around her and he drew her against him.
âFaye,â he said quietly, âplease marry me.â
âNo,â she said thickly. âNo.â She could feel him stiffen against her and she 75released herself from his arms and slid off the bed. She switched on the light and stood near the window, far from the bed, far from Kai. âI donât expect you to play the gentleman, I donât expect you to throw out a life of dreams just for the sake of chivalry. You donât have to marry me, Kai.â She barely recognized her own voice. It was like the cool calm sound of a stranger, unemotional, cold. âYou donât have to marry me,â she repeated levelly, giving him a steady look.
Her words were underlined by the silence that followed, a silence loaded with a strange, vibrating energy, a force in itself, filling the room.
Kai rose to his feet, slowly, and the face that looked at her was like that of a stranger, a dangerous, angry stranger. Never before had she seen him so angry, so full of hot, fuming fury.
âShut up,â he said in a low, tight voice. âShut up and stop playing the martyr!â
The sound of his voice and the words he said shocked Faye into silence. She stared at him open-mouthed, and then a slow, burning anger arose inside her.
âHow dare you! How â¦â80
He strode toward her and took her upper arms and shook her. âShut up and listen to me! What the hell are you thinking? What the hell did you expect me to do when you told me? You throw me a bomb and then walk out on me! What did you expect my reaction to be? Was I supposed to stay cool and calm and tell you it didnât matter? Would you have married me then? Well, let me tell you something! It matters! It matters to me! I am not apologizing for my reaction!â He paused, breathing hard. âYou know I always wanted children, but what in Godâs name makes you think youâre the only one who has the right to feel bad about it? I have that right too, you hear! I love you, dammit, and I want to marry you, and if we canât have children I have all the right in the world to feel bad about it!â
He stopped talking. He was still breathing hard and he looked at her with stormy blue eyes. Faye felt paralyzed by his tirade and she stared at him, incapable of speech. She couldnât move, she couldnât think.
âWhy do you think I want you for my wife?â he continued on a calmer note. âBecause youâre some kind of baby factory? What kind of man do you think I am? I love you, not your procreating ability. So we have a problem. Well, weâll learn to deal with it, one way or another.â
There was another silence, and still Faye didnât speak, and she realized she was crying, soundlessly, tears slowly dripping down her cheeks. She was staring at his chest, blindly, not knowing what to think, not thinking at all.
He lifted her chin, gently. âLook at me, Faye.â85
She did, but his face was only a blur.
âFaye, weâre in this together â you and I. Donât you see that? Itâs not just your problem, itâs ours.â
âNo,â she whispered. âNo!â She shook her head wildly. âYou have a choice, donât you see that? You donât have to marry me. You could marry someone else and have children of your own.â
âOh, God, Faye,â he groaned, âyouâre wrong. Donât you know? Donât you see? I donât have a choice. I never did have a choice, or a chance. Not since I met you and fell in love with you. I donât want anybody else, donât you understand that? I want you, only you.â
She wanted to believe it, give in to him. Never before had she wanted 90anything more desperately than she wanted to give in to him now. But she couldnât, she couldnât â¦ She closed her eyes, briefly, fighting for reason, common sense.
âKai, I â¦ I canât live all my life with your regret and your disappointment. Every time we see some pregnant woman, every time weâre with somebody elseâs children Iâll feel Iâve failed you! I â¦â Her voice broke and new sobs came unchecked.
He held her very tightly until she calmed down and then he put her from him a little and gave her a dark, compelling look.
âItâs not my regret, or my disappointment,â he said with quiet emphasis. âItâs ours. Weâre not talking about you or me. Weâre talking about us. I love you, and you love me, and thatâs the starting point, that comes first. From then on weâre in it together.â
Faye moved out of his arms, away from him, but her legs wouldnât carry her and she sank into a chair. She covered her face with her hands and tried desperately to stop the crying, to stop the tears from coming and coming as if they would never end.
âHow â¦ how can I ever believe it?â
âBecause Iâm asking you to,â he said quietly. He knelt in front of her, took her hands away from her wet face. âLook at me, Faye. No other woman can give me what you can â yourself, your love, your warmth, your sense of humor. All the facets of your personality that make up the final you. Iâve known other women, Faye, but none of them have ever stirred in me any feelings that come close to what I feel for you. Youâre an original, remember? Thereâs no replacement for an original. There are only copies, and I donât want a copy. To me youâre special, and youâll have to believe it, take it on faith. Thatâs what love is all about.â
He was holding her hands in his, strong brown hands, and she was looking down on them, fighting with herself, fighting with everything inside her to believe what he was saying, to accept it, to give in to it.
Leaning forward, Kai kissed her gently on the mouth and smiled. âItâs all been too much too soon for you, hasnât it? You never really got a chance to get over the shock, and when I fell in love with you it only made things worse.â He smiled ruefully and Faye was surprised at his insight.
âYes,â she said. âIt all happened too fast.â
âBad timing. If only we could have met later, after youâd sorted it all out 100in your mind, then it would never have been such a crisis.â
She looked at him doubtfully. âIt wouldnât have changed the facts.â
âNo, but it might have changed your perspective.â
Would it have? she wondered. Could she ever feel confident and secure in her worth as a woman? Or was she at this moment too emotionally bruised to accept that possibility?
âI donât understand,â he said, âwhy I never guessed what was wrong. Now that I know, it all seems so obvious.â He looked at her thoughtfully. âFaye,â he said gently, âI want you to tell me exactly what happened to you, what Doctor Martin told you.â
She stared at him, surprised a little. A thought stirred in the back of her 105mind. Greg. He had never even asked. The why and the what had not interested him. But Kai, he wanted to know. She swallowed nervously and began the story, slowly, word for word, everything Doctor Martin had said. And he listened, quietly, not interrupting. âSo you see,â she said at last, âwe donât have to hope for any miracles either.â
âWeâll make our own miracles,â he said, and smiled. âCome here,â he said then, âkiss me.â
She did, shyly almost, until he took over and lifted her up and carried her to the bed. He looked down on her, eyes thoughtful. âI wonât pretend I understand your feelings about this, the feelings you have about yourself as a woman, but Iâll try.â He paused for a moment. âFaye,â he said then, speaking with slow emphasis, âdonât ever, not for a single moment, think that youâre not good enough for me. Youâre the best there is, Faye, the very best.â
His mouth sought hers and he kissed her with gentle reassurance at first, then with rising ardor. His hands moved over her body, touching her with sensual, intimate caresses.
âYouâre my woman, Faye, youâre mine â¦â
Her senses reeled. She could never love anyone like she loved him. No 110one had ever evoked in her this depth of emotion. This was real, this was forever. Kai wanted her as much as ever. No chivalry, this, no game of pretense, she was very sure of that. And when he lifted his face and looked at her, it was all there in his eyes and the wonder of it filled her with joy.
âDo you believe me now?â he whispered huskily. âDo you believe I love you and want you and need you?â
She nodded wordlessly, incapable of uttering a sound.
âAnd do you love me?â
Again she nodded, her eyes in his.
âOkay, then.â In one smooth flowing movement he got to his feet. He 115crossed to the closet,
opened it, and took out her suitcases. He put one on the end of the bed and began to pile her clothes in it, taking armfuls out of the closet.
Faye watched incredulously. âWhat are you doing?â she managed at last.
Kai kept on moving around, opening drawers, taking out her things, filling the suitcase until it could hold no more. âGet dressed. Weâre going home.â
âHome â¦ ?â
For a moment he stopped and he looked at her with a deep blue glitter in his eyes. âYes, home â where you belong. With me, in my house, in my bed, in my arms.â
âOh, Kai,â she said tremulously, smiling suddenly. âItâs midnight!â120
His eyes were very dark. âIâve waited long enough, Iâm not waiting any more. Youâre coming with me, now. And Iâm not letting you out of my sight until weâre safely married. I donât want you getting any crazy ideas about running off to save me from myself, or some such notion.â
Her throat was dry. âPlease, letâs not rush into it! Letâs think about it first!â
Calmly he zipped up the full suitcase, swung it off the bed, and put it near the door. âIâm not rushing into anything,â he said levelly. âIâve wanted to marry you for quite a while, remember?â
He crossed to the bed, sat down next to her, and put his arm around her. âFaye, I wish you wouldnât worry so. Iâm not going to change my mind. And I havenât shelved my hopes for a family, either.â There was a brief silence. âWhen weâre ready to have kids, weâll have them. Weâll adopt them. There are orphanages the world over, full of children in need of love and care. Weâll do whatever it takes. Weâll get them, one way or another.â
Faye searched his face, faint hope flickering deep inside her.125
âWould you want that?â
âI donât know, really. I thought you â¦ it isnât the same.â
âNo,â he said levelly, âit isnât. Adoption is a different process from pregnancy and birth, but the kids will be ours just the same and weâll love them no less.â
âYes,â she said, âyes.â And suddenly it seemed as if a light had been 130turned on inside her, as if suddenly she could see again, a future with Kai, a future with children.
A bronzed hand lifted her face. âLook, Faye, Iâll always be sorry. Iâll always be sorry not to see you pregnant, not to see you with a big stomach knowing youâre carrying my child, but Iâll live.â
Faye lowered her eyes and tears threatened again. With both his hands he cupped her face.
âLook at me, Faye. I want you to stop thinking of yourself as a machine with a defect. Youâre not a damaged piece of merchandise, you hear? Youâre a living, breathing human being, a warm-blooded female, and I love you.â
Through a haze of tears she looked at him, giving a weak smile. âI love you too.â She put her arms around him and he heaved an unsteady breath.
âFaye,â he said huskily, âyouâre my first and only choice.â
Kai and Faye had their family, two girls and a boy. They came to them one at a time, from faraway places, with small faces and large dark eyes full of fear. In their faces Faye could read the tragedies of war and death and poverty. They were hungry for love, hungry for nourishment and care. At night they woke in terror, screaming, their memories alive in sleep.
Time passed, and in the low white ranch house under the blue skies of Texas they flourished like the crops in the fields. They grew tall and straight and healthy and the fear in their dark eyes faded. Like their father they wore jeans and boots and large-brimmed hats, and they rode horses and played the guitar. They learned to speak English with a Southern twang.
One day Kai and Faye watched them as they played in the garden, and joy and gratitude overflowed in Fayeâs heart. Life was good and filled with love.
âTheyâre all ours,â she said. Even now after all these years she sometimes still couldnât believe it was really so.
Kai smiled at her. His eyes, still very blue, crinkled at the corners. âYes, 140and youâre all mine.â
âThey donât even look like us,â she said. âNot even a tiny little bit.â No blondes, no redheads.
Taking her in his arms, Kai kissed her. âTheyâre true originals, like their mother. I wouldnât want it any other way.â
There was love in his embrace and love in his words and in her heart there was no room now for doubt, no room for sorrow.
Sometimes in the night he would reach for her and she would wake to his touch, his hands on her breast, her stomach, searching. In the warm darkness of their bed she would come to him and they would hold each other close and she knew he had been dreaming.
She knew the dream. She was walking away from him, calling out that 145she couldnât marry him, the words echoing all around. âI canât marry you! I canât marry you!â And Kai was standing there watching her go, terrified, unable to move, his legs frozen to the ground. He wanted to follow her, keep her from leaving, but his legs wouldnât move.
Kai had told her of the dream, of the panic that clutched at him as he watched her walk out of his life. And always he would wake and search for her in the big bed, and she knew of only one way to reassure him. And in the warm afterglow of lovemaking, their bodies close together, she knew that to him she was everything, to him she was the only woman, beautiful, complete, whole.
Write about the theme of love or the theme of suffering in “A Secret Sorrow” by Karen VAN DER Zee.
This essay must be a minimum of 1500 words (approximately five pages). You may write about a character, issue, or theme.
You must use and cite at least two peer-reviewed sources. The first paragraph must have a strong and complete thesis, also upload a paragraph-by-paragraph outline, and a bibliography of your sources.
Bibliography must have full MLA citation format
- This essay should have a 1500 word minimum, with at least 2 peer-reviewed sources. upload an introductory paragraph with a strong thesis statement, a paragraph-by-paragraph outline, and a complete bibliography/work cited for your essay.
- Bibliographies should have a minimum of three entries: the primary text (the literature you are analyzing), and at least two sources for research. Please use Bloom’s Literary Resource or Proquest for your research.
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