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A Walk on the Cliffs

                                C H A P T E R  1

     I never could decide what to pack. I was about to leave to spend a week on the

Northern California coast and I had an image of myself looking casually seductive.

I wanted everyone to believe that I just threw something on without thinking;

a person they would feel comfortable to be around, but also like I was

someone they would want to touch. I remembered a cream colored, thick-cabled

fisherman’s sweater that I had bought with just such an occasion in mind. It, with

a pair of denim jeans and some boots, might create the atmosphere I was going

for. Then I wondered what Robert would think if I wore this outfit, but

reminded myself to return to the task at hand. I spent way too much time worrying

about what Robert might think of this or that. My time was now better spent

figuring out which clothes to pack so that I wouldn’t freeze to death on vacation

once the fog rolled in.

     Finding warm clothes wasn’t going to be a problem in my closet. I live in New

England; Central Massachusetts to be exact, in a place where the winters can be

frigid and brutal. But what I needed now was a good mixture of casual and nice

clothes for both warm and cold weather. And, of course, they all needed to fit

into the one large suitcase that lay open on the bed in front of me. Finally, I

located the fisherman’s sweater in my drawer of winter clothes. I held it up to my

body and looked at the mirror, trying to imagine how Robert would see me. I saw

a fairly attractive woman in her late twenties with light brown hair, slightly longer

than shoulder length, and with the sweater approximating how it would look

being worn, I felt that my natural ‘girl next door’ look was enhanced. Satisfied, I

folded the sweater and was able to squish it into the last small corner of available

Page 2 A Walk on the Cliffs

space. As I was latching the lock on the luggage I heard a sound coming from the


     “Mary Ann… you home?” Brad asked, as he dropped his keys on the table.

     “Yes, I’m in the bedroom packing,” I said.

     “Are you about done yet? We need to get going to the airport if we’re going to

make our flight,” he said.

     “Yes, I just finished. Are you sure that you packed everything that you need

before you left this morning?” I asked.

     “Yes… I’ve got enough to get by and if we need anything else we can just buy

it there. It’s not like we’re going to a foreign country.”

     He then came into the bedroom, grabbed both of our suitcases and headed

outside to the car. It was at times like this that I was reminded how nice it was to

have someone take care of me. Brad was always dependable, as well as fairly predictable

after all these years. I quickly looked around the apartment to make sure

that all the appliances were unplugged and that the windows and doors were

locked. I smiled as I thought about what a comfortable home we had created in

seven years of marriage. Everything seemed in order so I closed and locked the

door and then hurried out to the car.

     The trip to Logan Airport, checking-in our luggage and going through security

went uneventfully. After we settled into our first-class seats, we ordered a

couple glasses of wine. It was a long trip from one coast to the other and we

wanted to be comfortable.

     The stewardess brought miniature wine bottles over to us and said, “Mr. and

Mrs. Radcliffe, the captain has informed me that we will be taking off on time

this morning.”

     When I heard Brad say “Thank you,” in an oh-so-serious tone of voice I

started to quietly chuckle to myself.

     Brad leaned over to me and whispered, “Hey, stop laughing or they’ll know

that we’ve never flown first class before.”

     I just smiled at him and gently laid my hand over his on the seat rest between

us. He had a tendency to be serious and worried about what people thought of

him. But it was just that trait that had served him well during our years together.

After college he had started a software consulting business with a classmate of his,

and a year or so ago he had bought that partner out. The business, which had

been doing well with both of them at the helm, blossomed under his lone leadership.

At the time of the buy out I had given up my old job and taken on the position

of Marketing Coordinator for his company. Although we could easily afford

the extra cost of these first-class tickets, it was important to him that people

Margo Reasner  Page 3

believed that he was born enjoying such luxuries. And it was this same thinking

that had kept us from buying our first home. Brad wanted to stay in our small

apartment, saving money, until we could afford to buy the only house we’d ever

want to own. The idea of a first-time fixer-upper, that we could eventually sell

and move up from, never even entered his mind as a possibility. And maybe his

way of thinking was correct, because I could see that soon we would be able to

afford the home of our dreams.

     “Did you get a hold of Robert or Melissa?” he asked.

     “Yes, I talked to both of them. Melissa said that she’s going to be in town

while we are visiting. I made plans to meet her in San Francisco, at her studio,

but if I’m lucky I’ll be able to get her to stay overnight at our place once as well,”

I said. “And Robert said that he and Crystal will be arriving at the house before


     “Do we have a meeting time?”

     “No, he made arrangements to pick up the keys from the Realtor and will

leave our copy under the doormat. He said something about checking out the

area while they are waiting for us. And he seemed to think that he picked out

exceptional accommodations for our vacation this time.”

     “Given how picky Crystal is, I can only imagine that it will be pretty nice,” he

said. “Can you believe that he’s been with her for over a year?”

     “No, I figured he’d be with someone new by now. But I’m guessing that she’ll

insist on having the best bedroom again. That’s for sure,” I said, not wanting to

remember Crystal’s behavior during our last get together. “It’s funny that their

relationship is the one that’s lasted the longest. I’m still trying to figure out what

he sees in her, but at least he hasn’t asked her to marry him yet.”

     “And how serious can he be if he’s not at least thinking about marrying her?”

Brad asked, with a twinkle in his eye. “Do you think that he’ll ever marry anyone?

He’s been single and bouncing around from woman to woman for as long as

we’ve known him.”

     “I’m not really sure if he’s the marrying type. He’s seemed really wrapped up

in his career over the years,” I said. “Although it’s got to get depressing… defending

those corporations against the sue-happy American public.”

     “Well, the money probably makes it bearable,” he said, with a chuckle.

     I had to laugh too. Seven years ago, after college, Robert had decided to stay

and go to law school while the two of us had headed off to make our fortunes in

the corporate world. We had chided him about remaining a poor student and he

had called us business raiders, but now he was probably making more money

than the two of us put together. Crystal, on the other hand, never really worried

Page 4 A Walk on the Cliffs

about working hard to make a living. She made it clear that she came from a

well-to-do family in England and was pursuing a modeling career. During the

time we had known her, she’d had some minimal career success, landing a magazine

advertisement or two. But it seemed she mostly spent her days dieting, exercising

and telling charming stories about the famous people she had met at this

party or that event. When you saw Robert and her together, it wasn’t really clear

which of the two of them was the more socially desirable; they made a handsome

couple and appeared to enjoy going to the same sort of benefit dinners and charity

balls. He was always networking for new clients while she was showing off her

beautiful persona and playing up her foreign credentials.

     The dinging of the airplane’s intercom speakers interrupted my thoughts and

then I heard the captain introduce himself and the co-pilot. He then informed us

that we were fourth in line for take-off.

     After the stewardesses finished showing us how to inflate our life preservers, in

the unlikely event that we would need them, Brad turned to me and asked very

worriedly, “You didn’t tell them that they could do the grocery shopping for us,

did you?”

     “No, are you kidding? We are going to make the dinner this time around. I

don’t even want to think about what Crystal would whip up for us.”

     Since college it had been a tradition with the three of us that we try out new

meals and cook for each other. The last time we had all gotten together Crystal

had made an effort to fit in by cooking us dinner. I’ll never forget the look on

Robert and Brad’s faces once they tried a bite of her beef stew. I, myself, had

never had anything quite like it before and couldn’t figure out what was making

it taste so bitter. Robert locked eyes with us over the table and had then been

bold enough to ask her what she had put in it. She had proudly announced that

she had made her beef stew out of liver and kidneys and eagerly awaited our

favorable verdicts. Robert, always the diplomat, had told her that he had never

tasted anything like it before. Brad and I were able to truthfully agree that indeed,

it was unlike anything we had ever had before. For the rest of the meal I tried to

concentrate on the conversation as I trained my mind to believe that this was

probably some traditional English recipe that was eaten everyday by people on

the other side of the big pond. We finished our meals and then were treated to

party favors that included paper hats that we wore for the rest of the evening.

     “I was thinking we could slow cook some babyback ribs and have coleslaw this

time around,” I said, reassuring Brad.

     “Okay. Just as long as you make the whole thing low carbohydrate so Crystal

can eat it,” he said.

Margo Reasner Page  5

     “Of course. I think that one of the best things about meeting Crystal has been

learning her low-carb dieting trick. It was even worth eating that meat stew just

to learn how she keeps her figure so trim. And maybe this time I can get her to

teach me how to put on make-up,” I said as I jokingly nudged Brad with my


     “That will be the day.”

     Brad knew me so well. I never was one to wear a lot of make-up. It wasn’t that

I thought I didn’t need it; it was just that I didn’t like to take the time to put it on

and then to be careful all day long to keep it from coming off. I wore just as much

as I absolutely felt that I needed to. Maybe a little lipstick, mascara and some

cover-up dabbed on my occasional blemishes or freckles. I generally wore my

blondish-brown hair loose and it tended to go a little wild when I would forget to

brush it. I kept my rounded figure trim, but I certainly wasn’t model material.

Crystal, on the other hand, always looked like she was ready to have her photograph

taken; like she thought that today was the day she was going to run into a

talent agent and be discovered. She carried a large handbag and was always digging

into it, looking for something new to use to enhance her appearance. Truthfully,

she was an absolutely beautiful blonde goddess, but for the life of me I

couldn’t figure out why Robert wanted to be with her. That is, why he wanted to

be with her rather than with me. But that really wasn’t a fair statement. He

wasn’t the one who had done the picking. It had been me, and I had picked Brad

over Robert.

     It had all started so long ago. I had grown up in Northern California but when

it came time to go to college I decided that I wanted a big change. So I had

applied and been accepted at an East Coast university. Deciding to attend meant

that I had to pack up and drive off, leaving everything and everyone I knew

behind. It was during that first week of school that I met the two men who

changed my life completely.

     The first time I saw Robert; it had felt like I’d been struck by lightning. I had

been sitting on the grass in the main campus quad one afternoon, watching the

marvel of fall-colored leaves being swirled by the wind and eating my lunch,

when I looked up and saw him walk by. He was a striking figure, dressed all in

black, on that sunny and warm autumn day. The color of his outfit matched his

dark hair and he moved gracefully as he passed in front of me. When he was but

a few yards away, he paused to check the time on his watch and I caught a

glimpse of his brilliant blue eyes. Later I would discover that depending on what

he wore his eyes were either an intense blue color or a deep green. I remembered

thinking at the time that I didn’t believe people could fall in love at first sight,

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