An Erotic myth of satyr and nymph.
Only ... See, Valerie was a pretty girl. Wasn't a patch on you, Sammi, but she turned her share of heads. And I guess she turned this helpful guy's head something fierce. Kathryn said that when the police found Valerie's body, it was a terrible sight..." Ginger paused for a moment, and Samantha realized that she'd been holding her breath for about a minute and a half.
"Valerie's clothes had been torn off. She'd been ... the word Kathryn used was 'violated' ... repeatedly, brutally, and then left for dead. Honest to God, Sammi... I've never told this story before because I don't like the picture it brings to mind. I guess it's a mercy that she passed away later that night, and I sure hope God did a good job patching her up."
For a moment, silence enveloped the room.
"Sorry, honey. Just thinking about that girl's ordeal gets to me. It got to Archie, too. He drove out there to grieve with Valerie's parents. Then he sold his car, took a bus back home, and ... tell me something. When you went to dinner, you drove, didn't you?" Samantha nodded. "I figured. He hasn't driven a car since. Every time he tries to, he gets jittery, like somehow he sees her off the side of the road.
"He quit trying to get into vet school then too. Hell, he just about quit everything. The only thing he didn't quit was working with me. I think working with the animals here, helping them get back to healthy and finding them a good home ... I think it makes him feel like he can be of some use to someone. Gives him a sense of peace."
"Why hasn't he moved on? I mean, that's a tragic story, but it wasn't like he did anything wrong, and that was a long time ago."
"Honey, that's something you'll have to ask him. But ... tread lightly, okay? You can imagine what a sore spot this is in his life. It's a great sign that he even told you there was an accident. Maybe he's finally coming to terms with it, because he never talks about it.
"I'll tell you this, though: he's one of the best people I've ever known. Very few people deserve to be happy as much as Archie does. He's been beating himself up over this for a long time, to the point where he thinks he's damaged goods, something that no one would ever care for. If you can puncture through that, you'll find a man who can be everything you've ever dreamed of. He could very well be your Prince Charming. But Sammi, you'll have to save him first."
When Ginger got into work Monday morning, Archie was there, working, quiet. He barely acknowledged her presence, polite but short. She let him stew in his work for the morning, but by quarter til noon, she couldn't let him sulk any longer. "Archie, could I speak to you for a minute?" Hunched over, Archie shuffled into her office, looking like the dictionary definition of "sullen".
"Okay. What's going on? Why are you walking under that cloud?"
"Ginger ..." He paused, trying to arrange the thoughts in his mind into a coherent sequence of words. "Why did you do that?"
"Because you're the best, Sammi's the best, and the best deserve the best. Simple. Archie, I've known Sammi literally all her life. I'm the one who taught her mother how to change a diaper. So this wasn't something I set up on the spur of the moment, okay? She's been single forever, and I haven't ever tried to fix her up with anyone. And I haven't fixed you up with anyone either, because I didn't think you were ready. The difference now is that I've decided you need to be ready, because otherwise you're going to let some very wonderful moments slip past you like a warm breeze on a November night."
"What if I told you that I'm just not interested in her?"
"You'd be lying.