EXCERPT 1 (from the Preface)
My story begins in the early 90s, when a young girl started her high school career. She may have been any girl – young, impressionable, and fresh into the wide world of older boys, harder classes, and more choices. She may have been quite beautiful, well developed for her age, and smarter than most of the other students in her class. She may have been destined for the same high school career as anyone else – honors courses, braces, a few high school crushes, photography classes, a first kiss, and then a straight shot into the college of her choice, and her future as a doctor, or teacher, or architect.
Instead, she fell in love with her swim coach, one of the most popular teachers in the school, and became romantically involved with him.
I don’t believe that I have to tell you how dangerous this would have been. She was a young girl of 15, 16, 17 and he an adult man in his late 30s, old enough to be her father. Although this type of relationship would have passed as acceptable and even normal in Medieval England, the modern world frowns on such dalliances, and prosecutes the men – and women – who take advantage of adolescent students in this way. The two of them, then, would have been facing the threat of discovery, tarnishing of reputation, and even time behind bars; throwing their relationship in the face of society, if you will, but doing so quietly, in order to avoid detection.
Have you guessed, yet, that the story I’m telling you is true? Have you guessed that it’s more than just a rhetorical question, more than an idea that developed in my head one day?
The girl in the story is my mother, Isabel Cruz. She never told her story to the world, though she could have, because she didn’t want her love and relationship to be tainted by society’s judgments. This was a story of an illicit – and illegal – love. It was a story of lying, cheating, and misleading the authorities. My mother’s love for this older man was forbidden, and would have been highly scandalous to the world at large. She might have lost privileges, opportunities, and even her family, had they found out. And for him … his future and very life would have been put in jeopardy if the nature of their relationship were revealed, regardless of whether my mother sought to prosecute him or not. Even when she was older, my mother feared that the truth about their relationship might bring a backlash to the man she had loved so dearly. She fought against that with all her might, with the ongoing wish to keep him from any risk or pain. She never lost her love for him, scandalous as it may have seemed to others.
She is older, now, and the man in the story is long gone. When I happened across her diary from that time and asked her permission to write the story, she acquiesced. It was time that the world knew, she said, so it could see that this type of love – though it may be frowned upon, and even prosecuted – isn’t always what it seems. Sometimes, regardless of the ages of the participants, it is just that. Love. True and pure as it can be between two people, and strong enough to last through the years. It was time, she said, for our family to know its past, and its future.
I have just closed her diary, having squeezed every word from it, and written my own last words, which means that the book is done and her story has been told. I must pass it to you now, Reader, and trust you to hold it dear and keep it safe. I must trust you to see the love that shines through, rather than the social mores of the situation. I must trust you to care for my mother and her past, as I have during the writing of this book.
This, then, is my mother’s story. It starts when she was very young, only 15 …
~ Claire Stevens