The only one of the four boys at home that morning was thirteen- year- old Bolton, who was about to leave for a day of fishing with his uncle and cousin. As he gobbled down his breakfast, I pictured our dear friend and Mark's long- time aide, Chris Allen, picking up Mark at the Atlanta airport. A loyal young man who had recently tied his business goals to Mark's political future, Chris had driven through the night to be there when Mark landed. By now, they were on the road to Columbia. I wondered if Mark understood that the whole country, it seemed, wanted a full description of his "hiking the Appalachian Trail."
The phone rang. It was Mark calling from the car. "Hey, how are you?" he asked quietly.
"How am I? How do you think I am?" I sighed. "Jenny, be gentle with me," he said in a tired voice. "Gentle?" I asked incredulously. "Do you know what kind of a storm you are returning to? And where do we stand?"
"The good news is it's over now," he said of his affair, and then added, "I've already met a reporter at the airport and told her of my love of adventure travel and so on. I'll call you after I get to Columbia."
I asked again, "What about us?"
"I told you it's all behind us . . . everything's good."
Good?! What part of this did he think was good? I wondered. I had been anticipating this call, searching for the right way to respond, but everything about his manner caught me off guard, beginning with his blasé tone. I don't know what he could have said to soothe me, but at least I expected an apology and some expression of regret. I hadn't detected a note of that in his voice. He was riding down the highway with Chris arranging for a press conference later that morning and I was one of a number of things he was dealing with. By the time we hung up, I hoped it was slowly dawning on him that this story about his "adventure" wasn't going to hold.
There had been many a morning in the six months since I discovered his affair when I had cried about the state of my marriage, and just as many evenings spent praying with my two girlfriends Frannie and Lalla Lee. This morning, at least, I wasn't going to cry. I was the one who needed to get my head right. I grabbed my iPod, smeared on some sunblock, and headed out the back gate to the beach, some two hundred yards away.
The sun was moving quickly higher in the slate blue sky and the air was hot and sticky, but that thickness didn't dim the sparkle of the sea. My spirit lifted as soon as I set my flipflops in the sand. Orange and yellow wildflowers lined the path behind our house that leads to the shore. "His Strength Is Perfect" was the first tune on my iPod, which helped my spirits too, as I emerged from the corridor of low dunes and saw the broad beach before me.