It had been years since she had seen him, and she now questioned what she saw. The man who had caused her so much suffering, the one who had caused so much mess in her life, someone who had become a nightmare, was standing right in front of her.
She could see the recognition in his eyes as he looked at her, keeping silent. She couldn’t do anything considering she was with her kids and in public. But was that true?
Sometimes life works in mysterious ways. What you take for granted one day can be taken from you tomorrow, and you may never hear back from it again. And what you assume is lost forever can come back when you least expect it.
And there is another mystery: when one of these unexpected encounters or losses happen, how should you react? And most importantly: does your actual reaction match what it should be?
Well, when one gets to know Sandie Gillette’s Story, one understands why she reacted the way she did when she saw that man again. She just did what anyone in her place would have done.
Because that man was not a stranger to her: his name was Bertrand Putnam, and he had impacted her life in a way that no one else had ever even come close to.
It took place when Sandie less expected it. It seemed like just another Saturday. Sandie, a single mother of two, had woken up, made breakfast for her and her children, and gotten ready for a morning at the mall.
She had to buy some things for the house. She didn’t intend to spend much time wandering around. But she didn’t expect that this would be the day when she would see Bertrand Putnam again.
It all happened really quickly. Sandie and her kids were getting out of one of the stores in the mall. They had bought everything they needed, and they were about to go back home.
And while they were strolling across one of the galleries, Sandie suddenly saw it and her stomach dropped. Could that be him?
That sudden vision felt almost unreal to Sandie. It sort of felt like a dream, or maybe a nightmare. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
But it had to be him. That gray hair, that mouth that always looked like it was curved in a grin… and those clear, but emotionless, callous eyes. She would have recognized that face anywhere.
He stared back at her with those lifeless eyes. They passed each other without saying a word. Sandie stopped by for a minute, trying to recover herself from what had just happened.
Her sons, worried, also stopped by and asked their mom what was the problem and whether she was feeling alright. But Sandie was having a hard time processing what she had seen. She had to sit down, with her heart racing. Her mind almost went blank.
After a while, she recovered and managed to catch her breath. She also felt her heartbeat slowly coming back to normal. She had been close to having a panic attack. It wouldn’t have been the first time.
And then, suddenly, all the memories came back to her at once. She remembered her story with that man, and how he had changed her life forever.
That man, Bertrand Putnam, used to be her husband at one time. Not only that: he was also the father of her children. But they were too young to remember. But Sandie did remember.
She remembered how difficult life was with that man. He was an alcoholic, a gambler, and a cheater. He never put his hands on her, but she left her psychologically scarred for life.
They used to fight all the time. And sometimes their fights would get particularly nasty. Sandie was tempted to just leave that man more than once, but she couldn’t. It was like he put a spell on her.
But there was something else. There was a further reason why Sandie never could bring herself to pack up and walk out the door forever.
She and the kids were financially dependent on him. Sandie worked as a waitress, while Bertrand was an attorney. Sandie knew she would have a hard time granting her children a good and comfortable life if they could only rely on her salary.
Besides, she knew that Bertrand would use his legal knowledge and fight tooth and nail to avoid paying alimony and child support. It seemed like she was doomed to stay by his side.
Sandie couldn’t count on her family’s support either. They had cut her off years ago. And, while Sandie understood that she had made some mistakes in the past, she still couldn’t understand how her parents could be so cold as to pretend she didn’t exist.
Clearly, the choices she took hurt them more than she could fathom at the time. But it was something Sandie regretted deeply now, and it was a part of her life she was over with. Why couldn’t they let go of the past?
When Sandie’s parents heard that she was dropping out of college to become an exotic dancer in a gentleman’s club, that was the stroke that broke the camel’s back.
They couldn’t take the disappointment, the absolute and blatant disregard for all their advice and reprimands. They cut them off immediately. At the start, Sandie just felt relieved. Finally, she could live her life how she wanted without anyone pestering her about what she had to do. Or that’s what she thought.
She soon found out that not all that glitters is gold. She didn’t have to listen to her parents anymore, that was true. But now, she had to always be making sure that her boss at the club was happy with her performance.
No matter what she was going through, she had to put on a happy face for the customers; she had to give them a good time, or else she wouldn’t be able to pay that month’s rent. She had to keep that money coming in, and that meant catering to what all those stranger men wanted at a given moment.
Now, she was paying her own bills. And that felt empowering at first, but after a few years, it started to get exhausting. She realized that she wasn’t that good with money.
Without fail, at the end of the week, nothing would be left of the money she had made during the previous days. Her evenings and nights at the club, which used to be fun, began to feel more like toil; just something she did to pay the bills. Sometimes, she felt like a hamster in a wheel. However, things would soon take a turn.
That was when she met Bertrand. One day, he walked through the club’s door and became one of Sandie’s regulars shortly after. Back then, he was tall, dark, and handsome, fresh out of law school, interning for a big firm.
By that time, Sandie was already a jaded dancer and saw entertaining the customers as a chore. But with Bertrand, it was different. At first, at least.
She actually liked Bertrand, even though at first she was ashamed to admit it. After all, the men who came to see her perform were just looking for a good time, not a relationship.
But one day, Bertrand asked her out. She thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. Just a few days later, they went on their first date, and that’s when their romance started.
It didn’t take long before Bertrand convinced her to quit her job at the club and move in with him. Two years after their first date, they married and had two kids.
That was when everything started going downhill. Sandie knew from the start that Bertrand was not a saint; after all, they met in the club. However, she thought his vices would lessen as he grew older and matured. But that wasn’t the case.
Instead, they became worse. After the kids were born, Bertrand proved time and time again that he wasn’t cut for being a good father, let alone a good husband. Their fights became more and more frequent.
Until one day, after another one of their disagreements, it all came to an end. Putnam just took his suitcase, walked towards the door, and left.
For a few days, Sandie didn’t hear a peep from him. She called his friends and his family, but she didn’t manage to get a straight answer from them; either they were covering for Bertrand, or they hadn’t heard from him either.
She even called his job. They told her he was there but refused to let her talk to him. Sandie cried and cried, even though she had wished for it to end sometimes. He was gone for good.
At first, it was hard for Sandie to come to terms with it. She couldn’t accept that she would be a single mother from then on, without anyone to help her raise her kids.
But soon, she saw that this change was for the better. She was better off without him. What kind of father would have he been? Fortunately, the kids were too young to remember. Had they grown up to deal with him, they would have probably been psychologically and emotionally scarred.
So Sandie had managed to give her children proper raising. And she was proud of having overcome the abuse from that man, of being a great mother on her own, and of having left all that pain and suffering behind.
One could have thought that it was all over, that the past is the past, and that there’s where it should stay. But it didn’t.
Sandie couldn’t resist. Maybe after all those years, she was still a victim of that man’s spell. Maybe she wanted to ask him for an explanation of all he did. Maybe it was just curiosity.
But she felt the urge to follow that man. He was going towards the parking lot. With her children following her and wondering what their mom was up to, she started following Bertrand at a discrete distance.
When they arrived at the parking lot, Sandie and her kids got in her car in order to avoid getting caught by Putnam. Sandie peeked through the window and saw her ex-husband getting into a car as well.
There was a woman with him. A new victim, Sandie thought. Because in her gut, he couldn’t believe that this man was able to change his ways. She felt sorry for his new prey.
Sandie and her kids went home. And the first thing that Sandie did was open an old photo album to compare the man that he had just seen with some pictures of Bertrand. And indeed, that was him at the mall.
She spent a few minutes sitting in silence, reflecting on what she had just seen and all she went through years ago. She never thought she would see him again, let alone in those circumstances. Little did she know what was waiting for her.
For the rest of the evening, Sandie’s mind was foggy. She was having a hard time coming to terms with what had just happened.
She cooked her kids dinner, tucked them in, and kissed them goodnight on autopilot, while her thoughts kept revolving around her ex-husband. There was one particular thing about the whole episode that had just taken place hurting her more than a thousand pinpricks.
Putnam didn’t even acknowledge her or the kids, and that’s what was the most painful thing to Sandie. Whatever happened between her and him in the past, that was the past.
But not even say a peep to the kids? How could he disappear from their lives and leave them stranded just like that? Sandie shed a few tears as she went to bed. It took her a while to fall asleep. She could have never expected what would happen the following day.
The morning after, Sandie was still affected by the previous day’s events. She prepared her kids breakfast, drove them to school, and then went to work.
Now, she was a marketing assistant. She wasn’t rich by any means, but she could support herself and her children without any help from anyone. It took her a long way to get there, but the struggle made her stronger and more confident. However, one phone call that morning was about to pose a threat to her confidence. Would she crumble, or would she resist?
After Sandie grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down at her desk, she heard her phone ringing. When she saw the number on the screen, her blood froze in her veins.
It was Bertrand. Sandie knew he recognized her the day before. He had to. But why was he calling? Would he want to reconcile? Would he be willing to step up and be there for his kids for once in his life? Or did she want to just lure Sandie back in, or offer a fake apology to feel better about himself?
Whatever it was, Sandie never found out. She didn’t want to hear anything about that man. She just hung up and blocked the number forever.
The past was the past. Now, she was a strong woman, she had two healthy and happy sons that she loved, and everything that she went through in the past was over. She placed her phone on the table, face down, and got working. In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.