Jul. 29, 2020

A "ONCE IN A LIFETIME" KIND OF PERSON...SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL.

And speaking of good looks—my neighbor and close friend, Kathy—caused people to look twice---- fascinated by the tall, confident, and pretty girl who seemed to have it all. A skilled lifeguard, competitive swimmer, and a better-than-average artist, Kathy was multi-talented. She played the 12 string guitar like a music master and was equally outstanding as a singer. No one was surprised when Kathy won the title of Miss Pine Bluff.

Everyone—young, old, male, female—loved this six foot goddess. Her stunning appearance and natural confidence made even strangers do a “double-take”, curious to learn about the unknown beauty.

Driving a classic convertible—usually with the top down—Kathy drove past my house no less than six times a day and, each time, honked the horn—three times. It was her “hello, I’m thinking about you” signal, her trademark. Studying voice with me, two afternoons a week, Kathy was a quick learner who thrived on challenges. I found my student’s confidence compelling and—at times—intimidating.

The hour-long voice lesson ended and, as I did with all my students, I walked Kathy to the front door. Facing me in the entry hall, she commented on my sweater, saying I should wear red more often. I thanked her for the compliment and reached for the door handle. Before I could open the door, Kathy grabbed me firmly by the shoulders, pulled me toward her, and kissed me with unforgettable passion. Her lips locked mine in a kiss that seemed to last beyond time. I remember thinking I’d never been kissed like this and feared it would end, too soon. The moment of engagement over, Kathy released my lips and shoulders and stepped back. Emotionally- stunned and physically weak, I reached for the wall to keep from falling. Unable to speak, I waited for what might happen next. Sensing my shock, Kathy reached out and pulled me close. We stood there—two tall, attractive females, ten years apart in age—locked together like lovers. Kathy whispered, “I’ve been in love with you for a long time.” Overcome with emotion, I was afraid to speak. Before leaving, Kathy guided me to a nearby chair, gave me a reassuring hug, and walked out the front door.

The kiss didn’t end my marriage (nothing ends before it begins) but it ignited my emotions. It confirmed how desperately I needed love; how vulnerable I’d become; and how much I wanted someone to care for me. Looking back, it’s not difficult to imagine that a female voice student, ten years younger, kissed me passionately and I kissed her back. After enduring a manipulative mother, a heartless husband, hateful small town critics, and so many missed opportunities—I simply wanted someone to love me. 

 My voice student left for college but stayed in touch through phone calls and letters. Penning her romantic thoughts on paper, it didn’t take long before someone—other than me—read her confessions of love. Late one night, when most people were sleeping, I woke to the front door being hit-hard, again and again. Grabbing my robe, I ran to the door, “Who is it?” A man’s voice shouted back, “Open this damn door before I shoot it open!” I recognized the liquor-laced voice of Kathy’s father. Fearing his violence and desperate to silence him, I opened the door.

The shotgun, aimed directly at my head caused me to freeze, not move. “Who do you think you are, turning my daughter into a love-sick pervert? I’m going to kill your ass!” I strained to look over my shoulder, thinking Jack was directly behind me. Instead, the father of my children—his index finger on his lips to quiet me— was sneaking toward the back door. Apparently, the coward was leaving me to manage the situation, alone.

At that moment my anger traded places with my fear and I shouted: “Get off my property you sick drunk! When the police get here I’m having you arrested!” I slammed the door, turned off the porch light, and, with a shaky hand, dialed the police. By the time three uniformed policemen arrived, cautiously announcing themselves through the locked door, the drunk was gone. I explained what had happened while an officer wrote details in his report. I heard the back door open and close, and seconds later my husband was standing in the living room.

Smiling like a politician at a fundraiser, he shook hands with each officer. “Gentlemen, I’d like to keep tonight’s incident just between us. My family is prominent in this town—I’m sure you recognize the name—and we don’t like publicity. Officer, I suggest you stop writing that police report because my wife and I won’t be signing it.” One of the officers, studying my husband while he talked, cleared his throat and said, “Sir, while your wife was on the porch being threatened by a lunatic with a shotgun, where were you?” Before my stuttering husband could find an answer, the officer replied, “No need to explain, sir. I believe we all know the answer.” The officers left my house that evening carrying a police report with my signature. Neither the drunk nor my husband-from-a-prominent-family was seen again that night.

Follow-Up: “A love letter written by a youthful Bill Clinton to a girlfriend in Arkansas has sold for $9,900, the second-highest-price-ever for a letter by a living person, a New York auction house said Friday. Empire Autograph Auctions Ltd. also auctioned a signature of author J.D. Salinger for $1,540 at a sale Thursday.

The Clinton letter was written in 1968 when he was a 22-year-old student at Oxford University in England. It was bought by a Long Island collector who asked to remain anonymous. In the letter, Clinton thanks Kathy McClanahan for sending a picture of herself. He writes, “It’s beautiful and you know it, so there’s no need for you to accuse me of throwing you a line.”

Kathy McClanahan, mentioned in the Follow-Up, was my voice student, Kathy. Who-ever coined the phrase: “It’s a Small World” must have been from Arkansas.

Sally Miller