Sherry Johnson is young, beautiful, bright and athletic. She has everything going for her, except for one thing. She is addicted to love. Her life is a vicious circle of nightly trysts and morning regrets. Her addiction got her kicked out of college, cost her the love of her life and has left her in complete despair. But still Sherry keeps falling in love. And falling. And falling. Finally, as Sherry struggles to pull herself up from a bottomless abyss, she realizes that she will have to learn to love the one person she has loathed for most of her life. Herself.
Based on the True Story of a Young Woman’s Battle with Sexual Addiction
Paul told me that the band’s best singer was his best friend. “You should get to know him.” Paul smiled. “He’s going to be the best man at my wedding.”
That Friday night, Paul and I headed into Sparta to meet his friend at a karaoke bar. “We might have to coax him into singing,” Paul explained. “He was too shy to sing lead in the band so he ended up be the world’s best backup singer.”
The karaoke bar was softly lit with several tables facing a small stage. We were early and the singing hadn’t started yet but Paul spotted his friend sitting at the bar.
“Hey, Guy,” Paul said, slapping him on the back.
The friend turned around with a big smile until he saw me and then it quickly vanished. He looked vaguely familiar but I couldn’t remember where I might have seen him. My stomach tightened in fear.
Paul introduced us. “Brian, this is Sherry. Sherry, Brian.”
Brian just stared coldly at me and then it hit me. He was the guy who had been looking for his jacket at that party the night I had decided to do all those guys to humiliate myself and stop doing it forever. I couldn’t believe my terrible luck. Of all the guys in the world, he had to be Paul’s best friend.
Brian continued to silently stare at me. I wasn’t even sure that I could speak. My insides felt twisted up to my throat. I finally managed to smile and utter, “Hi, Brian. It’s nice to meet you.”
Barely above a whisper, he returned, “Hi.”
Paul looked at us and asked, “You two know each other?”
“Not really,” said Brian. “But I think we’ve met.”
Paul laughed. “In your dreams, Buddy. Isn’t she something else?”
Brian agreed. “Definitely.”
“Well, let’s have a drink,” Paul suggested and quickly bought a round. We sat down at a table near the stage. Unlike the times with Paul when I had barely sipped my glass, I began staying with Paul drink for drink, petrified that at any moment Brian would tell Paul about our sick tryst. But Brian wasn’t saying much of anything. Paul told Brian how we had met and how doing a good deed was being repaid by changing his life.
When the music started, Paul tried to coax Brian in singing. “We have to find a song that all three of us can sing,” Paul insisted.
Brian said, “I don’t think I’m in the mood.”
“Nonsense,” said Paul. The place was getting crowded and Paul couldn’t find the waitress, so he got up to get us another round.
When we were alone, Brian seemed to be mulling over what to say. I hoped it was about which song to sing but I knew I was wrong. He finally snapped, “What are you doing?”
I wanted to explain everything, that it had all been a bad mistake. Instead I hoped against hope that he hadn’t remembered me, saying, “Having a drink.”
“You know what I mean.”
Of course, I did. But I just couldn’t bring myself to admit it. “No, I don’t.”
“The other night. When you screwed half of the guys at Nick’s party?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I insisted.
“What?” He looked around for Paul and I got scared.
I grabbed his arm. “Look, that wasn’t me,” I tried to explain. That part I truly believed was true. Then I began lying. “Some one put some drug in my beer.”
He turned and stared at me. “Connors drugged you? I can’t believe that.” He jerked his arm away.
“I’d never do anything like that,” I insisted. My voice was a plea.
“You have to tell Paul. He’s sure to find out.”
No! That would be the worst thing I could do. “I can’t,” I said. “You can’t.”
Paul returned, armed with three drinks and a smile, and sweetly asked me, “He can’t what?”
I attempted a sweet smile. “I didn’t want you to know that I started smoking again. I mean buying them. I met Brian in line at the Quick Mart. Right, Brian?
Brian got up. “Paul, I’ve got to go.”
Paul couldn’t believe it. “What? It’s because I want you to sing, right? All right, you don’t have to. But it’s not like you’ve never been on a stage before.”
“Forget it,” said Brian and headed for the door.
Dumbfounded, Paul watched Brian leave. He turned to me. “Sorry about that. But don’t worry about it. Brian gets a little moody now and then.”
Within a few minutes Paul had forgotten about it, and we ended up singing several songs together. He sang with gusto but my heart wasn’t in it, except for one duet, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
The next morning, Paul gave me his credit card and told me to go into Sparta and buy myself a beautiful dress. He also planned to shop for something special before jogging along the lake with Brian.
Hearing Brian’s name made my heart sink to my stomach. I tried to mention offhandedly that I hadn’t known that he had made plans with Brian.
“I didn’t,” Paul replied. “He just called this morning and said that he wanted to get together. I guess he’s trying to make up for being so rude last night.”
How I wished that were true but I knew that it wasn’t! I flashed anger at Brian. He was trying to take my Paul away from me. I wanted go along, to stop Brian from telling Paul but before I could say anything Paul gave me a quick kiss, promised to pick me up at seven and was out the door. I turned to see Arlene entering the room. She had seen Paul kissing me. She gave me the cold stare that Brian had in the karaoke bar. I ran out the door.
I started out for Sparta filled with misgivings, not even sure that I should waste Paul’s money on a dress that I would probably never wear. But I figured that I couldn’t let on that I knew what Brian was going to say. I would just have to lie to Paul and tell him that Brian had been mistaken, that it wasn’t me. I thought about admitting the truth, of trying to convince Paul that I truly loved him and that I would never do anything like that ever again. That might do it. Yes, if he really loved me, that just might work.
I tried not to think about Brian and Paul as I wandered though Sparta’s only mall. I found a lovely small dress shop with a beautiful black dress. But I couldn’t buy it, afraid that I would look like I was going to a funeral. I considered buying a white dress but was afraid that this might also be a little too much. Finally, I found one that I thought might work, beige and very prim looking.
I walked around the mall for three more hours, as I didn’t want to return to Arlene’s house. I couldn’t stand sitting there while she stared daggers at me.
On the drive back to Oak Grove, I remained torn between lying to Paul or telling him the truth and begging his forgiveness. By the time I had showered, changed into the dress and sat waiting for him on the front-porch swing, I was still torn apart.
Paul pulled up and bounced out of his car, looking very dashing in a Navy blue suit. He had worn suits to work but I’d never before seen him wear one after work. If Brian had told me where he had seen me, Paul didn’t show it as he bound up the steps with an affectionate smile. He swept me off the swing and gave me a long, loving kiss. As we headed for Paul’s car, I felt so relieved that I hadn’t needed to worry about what Brian might have told him.
Paul had made a reservation on the Lakeside Restaurant’s terrace so that we would be dining at sunset. The setting was absolutely beautiful as an almost glowing sun spread shimmering flecks over the water. But unlike previous dinners when Paul talked nonstop about his life and his plans and dreams, he now seemed to be more reflective. The long pauses in the conversation made me uneasy.
“You’re quiet tonight,” I finally observed.
“My mother taught me not to talk with my mouth full,” Paul replied matter-of-factly and I became even more uneasy.
I tried to fill the vacuum with small talk but it didn’t help and finally Paul asked, “Where did you meet Brian?”
My heart sink. After all day of weighing lying to Paul versus admitting the truth, I was still on a very sharp fence. Tell the truth, Sherry, that is your only hope. I knew this. I did. So I was startled to hear myself say, “Buying cigarettes. I told you.”
“He lives in Sparta.”
“That’s where it was,” my voice said, now committed to the lie. “I went for a drive.”
“Of course. What did you think?” I hadn’t meant to ask that question, as I had dreaded the answer. But I had.
Paul looked closely at me for what seemed like forever as I sat speechless, motionless. Finally, I tried smiling as sweetly as I could. Then Paul smiled back and started to relax.
“Brian was kidding me about you being at Nick Rogers’ party last Sunday.”
“I don’t know a Nick Rogers,” I said quickly and then remembered that I had actually met him. For all I could remember, I knew Nick Rogers in more ways than one but that thought disgusted me so much that I pushed it out of my mind.
“You could go to all his parties and not know him. His place is a walkin.” Paul laughed and gave me a loving smile. “Forget about it,” he said. “Brian was just being stupid.”
Paul dropped his napkin by the table and knelt down to retrieve it. But he didn’t get up again.
“Everything okay?” I asked him.
Paul looked up. “It will be perfect, if you will take this.” He was holding a ring case.
I took the case and opened it to see a large, sparkling, gorgeous diamond ring.
“Will you marry me?” Paul asked.
I couldn’t believe it. I had feared that this would be the worst night of my life and instead it was turning out to be the best. “Yes. Oh, yes!” I exclaimed.
Paul swept me out of my seat and into his arms and gave me a long, wonderful kiss. The restaurant patrons broke into applause and a waiter approached us with a bottle of champagne.
For the next two hours, we drank champagne, dined and held each other’s hand. I must have showed off my dazzling ring to everyone in the restaurant at least twice.
We finally strolled outside, hand in hand with Paul stopping at every step to kiss me.
“Where else should we go to celebrate?” he asked.
The question surprised me. I thought that since we were now engaged, we would go back to his house and make love. But Paul had waited so long for that moment that he now seemed to willing to stretch it out further, to tantalize us both before we began making love for the rest of our lives. Although I could barely wait another minute, I understood.
“Anywhere you want,” I replied.
Paul smiled. “I know the perfect place.”
We drove into Sparta and headed in a direction that seemed vaguely familiar and then it became all too familiar as we finally pulled up outside of that party house, Nick Rogers’ house. Hoping I was mistaken, I glanced at the house with increasing apprehension. I wasn’t mistaken. The party tonight was quieter but a party nonetheless. I knew I had to get out of there. I had to get Paul out of there.
“It sounds too loud,” I said. “Why don’t we go to somewhere quiet? Just the two of us.” I kissed Paul and gave him a big smile, hoping that this would do it. It didn’t.
He smiled back. “We will. In a minute. I just want to show those clowns what a class act looks like. Brian deserves this.”
Paul got out of the car and opened my door. I couldn’t move. “You go,” I said. “I’ll wait here.”
Paul shook his head. “It wouldn’t be any fun without you. Come on.”
Paul was almost pulling me out of the car when I saw the guy they called Tex walking across the porch with a brunette. I knew I couldn’t go near him. I was horrified by the thought. I shuddered backward into the seat, frozen. “I can’t,” I said. “I can’t.”
Paul looked puzzled. “What? Why?”
“I just can’t.”
Suddenly, Paul looked warily at me, accusingly. “Have you been here before?”
“I don’t know,” I said. I really didn’t. The person who had walked into that house wasn’t me.
Paul was trying not to believe what he was realizing was true. “Sherry, either you have or you haven’t,” he said brusquely.
“Can’t we just go, please?”
He stared at me with accusing eyes. “We’re going, all right,” he snapped and slammed my door shut.
All the way back to Oak Grove, I fought back tears as I tried to talk to Paul. I wanted so badly to tell him that I would never do anything like that again but I couldn’t think of the right words, and Paul wasn’t really listening to anything I was saying anyway. He had turned into some other Paul that I had never seen before. This wonderfully, sweet guy was now enraged at me and seemingly every female he had ever met.
“You women are all the same,” he shouted. “You act sweet and innocent with me and then go fuck the first guy you see.” He turned to me. “Am I the only guy in this county who hasn’t had you? Am I? Answer me?”
“It’s not want you think,” I protested.
“That’s for damn sure,” he retorted as the car screeched to a stop outside Arlene’s house. He turned to me again. “Answer me! Did you screw a bunch of guys at Rogers’?”
“I don’t know,” I answered. I really didn’t. I didn’t know anything anymore.
“That’s bullshit!” he snapped.
I couldn’t stand the thought of losing Paul and never again enjoying our wonderful times together. “All I know is that I really care for you,” I said. “Come with me to New York, right now. Just the two of us.”
“So you can sleep around in a big city and I won’t find out?” He glowered at me.
“No!” I didn’t want that. I only wanted to be with Paul. “I—”
But before I could speak, Paul cut me off. Reaching over to open my door, he looked away. “Get out!”
“Paul, please,” I pleaded. “I’m sorry. I’m not like that.”
“Get out of my life!” He yelled so loudly that he scared me.
I finally broke down in tears. “Paul, please,” I pleaded again.
He refused to look at me. Instead he just glared out the front window into the dark night.
Slowly, I got out of the car. Before I could even close the door, the car squealed away from the curb and the violent motion slammed the door shut.
I ran into Arlene’s house, up the stairs and once again, blinded by tears, began jamming my clothes into my suitcase. I hated myself for running away but I knew that no matter what I said to Paul, it wouldn’t do any good. You blew it, Sherry. Just get to New York. Through my tears, I saw the picture of Paul with the big fish and whispered to it, “I’m sorry, Paul. I truly am.”
When my suitcase was again stuffed full, I slammed it shut and ran down the stairs, tripping and almost falling but I managed to stay upright. I couldn’t stay in that house one more second. Arlene was in her living room, watching a TV show. I didn’t bother to say, goodbye. As I ran out the door, I heard her parting shot. “Goodbye and good riddance.”
Lost in tears, I headed out of Oak Grove. The Interstate was on the other side of Sparta but I could never again go into that town. I yanked the wheel onto a small road hoping to bypass it. The road was narrow and winding. Driving too fast, especially with eyes filled with tears that blurred my vision, I swerved all over the road. I nearly hit the ditch on a couple of sharp curves but I didn’t slow down. I had to get out of there. I felt like I couldn’t breathe until I got to the Interstate.
Then I felt rugged bumps and I blinked away the tears to see the car skidding off the road and heading for a towering tree. I jerked the steering wheel but I was too late as the car slid sideways toward the tree trunk. I hadn’t bothered to put on a seat belt so I tried to clutch the steering wheel as I braced for the crash.
The car slammed into the tree and my head slammed into the windshield. I remember hearing a loud crack and I didn’t know if it was the windshield or my skull. Excruciating pain shot through my body.
Then I went numb and my whole life flashed before me, every sorry detail of my sad existence. It seemed to take a long time but I had read somewhere that right before you die, you recount your whole life in an instant. I was going to die. As my life got up to that second when I was smashing into the tree, I remember thinking that my dying would make both myself and the world the better for it. I felt relieved that my horrible life was finally over.