Skip to content
Home » Blogs » Sad Lisa – Chapter Fourteen

Sad Lisa – Chapter Fourteen

Banner for Sad Lisa, an Operation Quickline story
July 17, 1984

We were on the road by nine that morning, headed to Mission Viejo in Sid’s BMW, which meant that he was driving. Since Sid had driven there that first time, the month before, we had no trouble finding it again. The agents in the sales office were busy gossiping amongst themselves when we arrived.

Pull quote from romantic spy novel Sad Lisa: you have to be honest about the people you love, and still love them.

Henry had told us he would send an alert to all the various sales offices in the area about a suspect posing as an FBI agent in order to use an empty house. Apparently, he had done it overnight. The cops had already brought a copy of the alert to the sales office we were in, and the staff could talk of nothing else. No surprise since the fake agent had actually been there. It was also the day off for the sales agent I had spoken with when I was there with Henry. So, Sid and I posed as house hunters rather than real FBI agents.

We oohed and ahhed through the model tour, recognized the model for the house Sid had been kept in, then were offered a chance to look the place over. It hadn’t sold yet, so we took advantage of the situation, and spent over an hour searching every inch of it. Sid had talked the nice young woman who had brought us up there into heading back to the office so that we could discuss the pros and cons of the place in private. After we were done and convinced there wasn’t anything to find, we walked down the hill, skirted the sales office and hurried on.

We ate lunch in Tustin, at a cafe we found, then went on to a housing tract there. I’d been kept briefly in a house at the tract the previous winter. That house had not only been sold, the new owners had been living there since May. The good thing was that we were able to scratch that entire tract off our list. Almost all of the houses had been sold and it was far too populated for our kind of squatters to find it useful.

From there, we went up to Pomona. We didn’t get up there until the middle of the afternoon. We did the model tour, then tried to see some of the actual houses. The sales representative refused to let us. We left the sales office, then went ahead and drove around what streets there. Based on what we’d seen in the models and what Sid remembered about the house he’d been kept in, there were five possible houses.

The first two houses clearly weren’t right. Something always gets left behind when the squatters leave, bits of tape, re-painted spots, stuff that no one would ever pay attention to, but still there. The houses had no sign, whatsoever, of any of that. The third house, we couldn’t get into. There was a big “Sold” sign in the front yard, which was still dirt, and we could see workers through the windows. Sid felt the other two houses were more possible, but we didn’t find anything. We left the tract in pretty low spirits.

Now, the truth of the matter is that both Sid and I knew darned well that the first day of a hunt like this was most likely not going to turn up anything. I have no idea why we were expecting to hit the jackpot straight out. Perhaps it was the tension of the day. [Or, in my case, a certain other tension. – SEH] In any case, by the time we got on the freeway to Los Angeles, we were snipping at each other. It didn’t help that between the regular rush hour traffic and an accident near downtown, we were crawling by the time we got past the 605.

I checked the clock on the dashboard. “Great. It’s almost six and we’re not even to the East L.A. interchange. Sid, we’ve got to pull over.”

“Don’t tell me you have to go,” he grumbled.

“No. I’ve got to get something to eat. We’ll be lucky if we get to Beverly Hills by seven and I don’t want to be late to Bible Study.”

“There’s no place to eat around here,” he said, checking his blind spot to the right, nonetheless. “And besides, stopping now to eat dinner isn’t going to make you any less late.”

“I was hoping we could, for once, do a drive-through,” I grumbled. “It’s not like it’s going to kill you.”

“It’s about respecting our bodies, Lisa.”

I snorted.

“And let’s not get holier than thou about what I do with my body,” Sid snarled.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“By this point, you don’t have to. My sex habits are not causing near the harm to my body that your junk food habit is causing yours.”

[Had we but known that line of reasoning could have been debunked in a New York second by the AIDS epidemic. If I recall correctly, it hadn’t really affected the straight community yet, although I know I had heard about it by then. And to think all I was scared of was herpes. – SEH]

“So you say,” I said. “I’m still perfectly healthy.”

“That you know of. Not to mention your blessed scriptures also tell you to take care of your body.”

“They say a hell of a lot more about avoiding cheap sex.”

Silent, angry tension blanketed both of us. I blinked my eyes and stared out the passenger window.

“It would never be cheap,” he said, his voice so soft and hurt I barely heard him.

“I know.” I kept my eyes fixed at the cars surrounding us. “I wasn’t talking about me.”

Sid let out a full breath of air. We continued on in silence. Sid was hurt, I could tell and I was just as hurt. The traffic on the Santa Monica freeway suddenly loosened up and Sid got off at Robertson. We stopped just long enough for me to get some rolled tacos. I held off eating them while I was in the car. When we pulled into the garage and got out of the car, Sid started for the inside door.

“Sid,” I called. “Um, I owe you an apology. That was a really cheap shot. I’m sorry.”

Sid turned and looked at me. “I set you up for it with my own.” He sighed and continued awkwardly. “So, I accept your apology and offer my own.”

“Accepted. Friends?”

“God, I sure hope so.” His smile was wan but genuine.

“I am.”

“Good.” He nodded. “Why don’t you get going? You don’t want to be late. I’ll give Henry our report. Maybe find out who bought that house we couldn’t get into.”

“That probably can’t hurt. See you tomorrow.”

I so wanted to hold him and have him kiss my hair, but he was right. It was getting late and I needed to head out. As it was, I got to church a little early and ate my tacos in the truck.

As I walked in, Frank was at the front of the room, playing his guitar softly. He glanced at me, and as I got hugs from our friends, the tune slid into “Sad Lisa.”

“You okay?” asked Esther, giving Frank a glare.

“No. It’s fine,” I said. “In fact, that’s exactly how I feel right now. That song has been haunting me since–”

I choked. It had been haunting me since the night George had proposed. The proposal that had eventually pushed Sid into asking me to move into his bedroom, which I couldn’t do, and George was dead and Sid was off probably getting laid and I was there at Bible Study feeling like a complete fraud because while I was grieving George, I wasn’t missing a beloved fiance. I burst into tears.

I was about to run when Kathy and Esther slid their arms around me.

“That idiot,” Esther grumbled, tears rolling onto her cheeks. “Why did he have to play that song?”

“It’s okay, Esther,” I said, sniffing. “I just need to do a little crying. We probably all do.”

We did. Everyone in the group had been touched by George, and the tears flowed freely. He had been a very generous, loving man, filled with ideals and the passion to do good works. It was what I had loved about him. And I had loved him. Sid was right about that. I had accepted George’s proposal because I loved him. I had found it hard to break it off because I was afraid that I was going to have to be cruel to get him to understand that we were not getting married. And I was afraid because I had loved him. The whole mess had been because I had loved George.

I cried, finally able to grieve for George’s loss. Not just his death, which was still utterly terrible, but for the dream of the relationship that really never could have happened, even had Sid not been around. George had thought I was the woman of his dreams. He hadn’t really known me, and that wasn’t the spy business, it was me and who I am.

We were all getting a hold of ourselves when Dan Williams got us all going again by announcing that he was considering canceling camp because of George’s death.

“George’s death has really hurt all of us,” he explained over the clamor. “I don’t know that it’s fair to the kids or to George’s memory to go on as if nothing has happened.”

“But George wouldn’t want you to cancel camp,” Jesse said. “He loved camp. It was his time to really be there for the kids, especially some of the tough ones.”

“We can’t pretend that George isn’t dead or that we’re not feeling it,” I said. “But that doesn’t mean we need to cancel camp. We and the kids probably need it more than ever. Why don’t we dedicate this camp to George’s memory? Say prayers for him and his family.”

“And the bastard that shot him,” grumbled Frank.

That caused another uproar. Dan finally got control of the meeting.

“Alright. We’ll keep camp going,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about who shot George and who’s covering it up or not. It’s not going to change anything and will just divide us.”

We went on to finalizing plans, assigning cabins, and doing a lot of the last-minute work that always needed doing before camp. We sang one final round of songs, then broke up.

In the parking lot, Jesse and Kathy came up to me.

“Want to meet us at Jefferson’s in a few?” Jesse asked. “We need to talk.”

“Oh, great,” I said. “What now?”

“Nothing to worry about,” said Kathy. “But we need to talk and I’d rather we did it away from everyone.”

I entered the bar on pins and needles. Kathy and Jesse showed up about five minutes later. Jesse found us a table near the back. I slid into the spot with my back to the wall. Jesse and Kathy sat next to each other across the table from me.

“Well?” I asked.

Jesse took a deep breath. “Kathy and I have had quite the day.”

“You alright?”

Kathy laughed. “More than. That’s kind of the problem. In a good way.”

“George’s will was read today,” Jesse said. “They called me in with all his family there.” He blinked his eyes with a strained laugh. “George left everything to me. I mean his family got a couple things. But all his money. His condo. It’s all mine. And his family isn’t going to contest it. His dad told me that he wasn’t going to object to his son’s last act of kindness.”

“After the way he treated you?” I gasped.

“I know.” Jesse shrugged. “I don’t get it, either.”

Kathy sniggered. “I’m pretty sure Marisela and maybe one of his other sisters had something to do with it.”

I had to snigger, as well. “Or maybe even George’s mom. Wow. That’s terrific, you guys.”

“You sure?” Kathy asked, eying me.

I suddenly sniffed. “No. It’s great. George told me the day before he was killed that he was going to change his will. I didn’t want him to. I didn’t want his money. I have my own.”

Jesse’s eyes narrowed. “Why do I suddenly get the feeling that wasn’t the only reason?”

I shook my head. “Okay. I did love George. I really came to terms with that tonight. But… I was going to break it off. We really weren’t right for each other. I’m too independent and he didn’t get that, and…” I shrugged.

“Well, thank God you had come to your right senses,” Kathy groaned.

“We were getting so scared we were going to have to talk to the two of you,” Jesse said.

“What?” I think my mouth fell open.

“Honey, you and George were not right for each other,” Jesse said. “Kathy and I were beside ourselves. We didn’t want to say anything to either one of you. If we talked to George, he’d only get more bent on marrying you, and we didn’t want you telling him and the same thing happening.”

“You mean you didn’t want us to get married?”

“It wasn’t that,” said Kathy. “Well, it was.”

“George was living in one of his fantasies,” Jesse said. “You know how he’d get that way. He saw how quiet you were, most of the time, and he liked how you would stand up for folks when someone was being mean. He also saw how strong your faith is and thought it meant you would fall in line.”

“I knew damned well it was your faith that made you stand up to people,” Kathy said. “And that you weren’t going to fall in line for anybody at any time.”

“Hey, I loved George like my own brother,” Jesse said. “But you know how it is when you get real close to people like that. You still love them, but you gotta be honest about them, too.”

“Yeah. Wow. I guess it’s a really good thing that George didn’t a chance to change his will,” I said. “Although, he did say that he was going to sign the condo over to you, Jesse. I doubt he would have changed that. He really didn’t want you left out in the cold. And I didn’t want him to change it, so you don’t have to feel guilty about me not getting anything.”

Jesse chuckled. “Oh, there’s plenty of guilt to go around.” He sniffed suddenly. “I am glad about having some money, but I would much rather have George back. Having his money doesn’t come near to compensating for losing him.”

“You are such a good man, Jesse,” Kathy said, covering his hands with her own and looking at him so fondly. She looked at me and grinned. “There’s other news.”

Jesse laughed. “See, I had promised Kathy that the second I could put a roof over her head, we were going to get married. We signed the probate forms, left the lawyer’s office, and I took her straight to the rectory. We waited a whole hour for John to get free, but we got our date.”

“Really? Oh, wonderful!”

Kathy nodded, her eyes filling as she grinned. “Yeah. We are finally getting married. We decided to wait until next April, though. We’d heard George complaining about how all the good reception spots were already getting booked.”

“April, huh?” I bit my lip and tried not to laugh. “You didn’t happen to get the twentieth, did you?”

“Yes.” Kathy grabbed my hands. “You don’t mind, do you? We can change it.”

“Are you kidding? You two deserve that spot far more than I ever did.” I suddenly thought of something. “I’d better call Mama right away. I wonder if she’s asked for her deposit back.”

“What do you mean?” Jesse asked.

“On the reception space that she booked.” I dove into my purse. “I’ve got the address here somewhere. I’ll call Mama first thing in the morning, find out where she stands with the deposit, and you guys can check the place out. If you like it, you can have it.”

“Your reception space, too?” Kathy asked.

“Why not?” I put my purse aside, having not found the address. “I wasn’t going to be using it, and it’ll be easier for Mama to get a full refund if all they have to do is transfer the booking to you guys.”

Kathy couldn’t help it. She squealed with delight, then started crying again.

“I’m so happy,” she said sniffing. “And it feels so awful that it’s only because George died. What’s a girl to do?”

“Be happy,” I said, blinking back my tears. “I’m not going to say that George would have wanted it that way. But he did love you guys very much, and he did want your happiness. That’s why he was going to sign over the condo to Jesse when he moved out.”

“He loved you, too, Lisa,” Jesse said. “He kept saying how much he loved how independent you were and how you thought for yourself.”

I couldn’t help chuckling. “Thanks, Jesse.”

We talked about George and laughed about George and cried about George for another hour or so, then headed home. It was almost midnight by that point. Sid’s car was in the garage when I pulled in. I checked the alarm box and realized that he’d gone out and had only just gotten back, himself. He’d also put a note on my door, asking me to buzz his intercom when I got in so he’d know I’d gotten home okay, and reminding me that we were going running at the usual time.

I buzzed Sid in his room, then went to get ready for bed, myself. Sid buzzed back to let me know that he’d heard me, but nothing more. I felt terribly sad again, then remembered what Jesse had said about George, about how you have to be honest about the people you love, and still love them. Sid was who he was. He’d been trained to think that free love was normal and that it was abnormal to keep sex for marriage. He couldn’t change that and his appetite any more than I could change my training and my appetite. I still loved him, and while he couldn’t return those feelings of love, he obviously cared enough about me to worry when he’d gotten home ahead of me.

That was quite a lot, actually. I had no idea how things were going to fall out, and when I thought about it, I was pretty content with the way things were. Oh, things were not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. But my relationship with Sid was still a darned good one and there was even room for a little bit of hope.

Please talk to me. I'd love to hear from you.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: