BY: JACK SPROUSE
Clare is a twenty-four-year-old woman who faces life with quiet confidence and inner turmoil. She experiences love, hurt and uncertainty, sexual harassment in the workplace, and tragedy. She meets and falls in love with Evan Garner in their first year of college. But after graduation, Evan contracts to work for an oil company for two years in Indonesia while Clare goes to work for the City of Denver, Colorado, and waits for his return. When the love of her life is reported killed, she is devastated and struggles to find reason to go on. Finally, believing she will never be happy again, she agrees to settle for a life with a man she knows she will never love. But her life takes a dramatic turn, at its darkest point, just before the dawn…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Clare by Jack Sprouse, Clare is a twenty-four-year-old beauty whose boyfriend has gone overseas for two years to earn his fortune, leaving Clare at home to wonder if he is ever coming back. When he disappears and is presumed dead, Clare is convinced that she will never know happiness again. Making some bad choices, Clare seems determined to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The story is cute clever, and charming, filled with delightful characters with plenty of surprises to keep you on your toes.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Clare by Jack Sprouse is the story of young woman from a warm and loving home and a young man from a cold and aloof one. When these two fall in love, there are bound to be problems, and there are. Clare, our heroine, needs to hear Ethan, our hero, say that he loves her, but that is something that Ethan seems unable to do. Still, it is assumed by both of them that they will marry. Then, when Ethan graduates from college, he takes a job with an oil company overseas hoping that he can make enough money to buy the two of them a home in the mountains. But things go badly for Ethan and Clare is left not knowing if he is alive or dead. Now she doesn’t think she can go on without him.
Clare is a charming and intriguing story, told in a refreshing voice. The characters are well developed and realistic, and the plot has some clever surprises.
Will Cain arrived at Brunswick Naval Air Station in August of 1960. He was alone and belonged only to the navy. He had no aspirations at the time of being anything but a naval aviator, traveling the world, and being free. During his tour of duty, he deployed to Guantanamo Bay to expel the Russians from Cuba at the behest of President John Kennedy. He spent five months in Sigonella, Sicily, and made numerous deployments to various parts of the world.
He came to believe that there was no greater calling on earth than that of a combat aircrew member on a navy patrol aircraft.
He remained of such a mind until he met Jamie Dunham, a local girl who lived with her family in Brunswick. Then his world changed forever.
Will mustered out of the navy in February of 1964. He left Brunswick, pulling a small U-Haul trailer, carrying what few belongings he had, along with Jamie, and their five-month old daughter whom they named Clare, after the café where the two of them had met, and he went home to Colorado.
The family lived in a rented house in Lakewood for several years, eventually saving the money to buy a house in the same neighborhood, while adding a son in 1966, Will worked for his father, learning how to manage one of his five hardware stores, and eventually took over management of the entire chain of stores in 1973 when his father took a reduced role in the business.
Will built a new home in an area of Coal Creek Canyon, above Golden, Colorado, where he had often hiked and camped with his dog Boxer when he was a kid. A life-long dream was fulfilled when he moved his family into the house in Coal Creek Canyon.
Clare Cain was sitting at a table in the Student Center Building of Colorado University, pretending to be studying her classwork. Her bright blue eyes were alternately glancing from the page of her biology textbook to the front door of the building, hoping to see Evan Garner walk through the door. She continued her attempts to read the lesson while her peripheral vision informed her every time someone entered the building, drawing her attention away again. It was frustrating, Evan was frustrating.
He was like a child sometimes, she thought, easily distracted. He might have passed some friends who were playing flag football and had gotten into the game with them, for all she knew. While she sat there, steaming, Evan was off somewhere else, doing no telling what.
They had fallen in love in their first year at CU, at least she had fallen in love with Evan and had assumed he had fallen for her as well. He certainly acted like he was in love with her. He was a caring boy, very considerate, opened doors for her, and kissed her hands frequently. He looked at her lovingly. She came to believe that he was just too shy to tell her he loved her. Evan was one of the few boys she’d dated who hadn’t gone insane over her mother. After commenting one time, the first time she took him home to meet her parents, that he could see why Clare was so beautiful, he’d never made another remark about Jamie Cain.
Clare looked like her mother, blonde hair and blue eyes and of slender build, but she was not as pretty. It was a source of annoyance and pride at the same time that her mother, at forty years old, was still just as beautiful as she was when she married Clare’s father Will.
Theirs had been a storybook marriage, and Clare wanted the same for her and Evan. But lately, she had begun to wonder if it would ever happen for them. They talked as if they were making plans for the future, but Evan never actually spoke the words Clare needed to hear.
They made love two months after they started dating. It was a wonderful thing for her, and she knew it was for him too. He told her that, very profusely and many times. Since then they had been sleeping together on a regular basis. Sometimes she almost wished she would get pregnant so they would have to get married. But her cooler head prevailed, and she started taking birth control pills so she could finish college before thinking about anything past that.
Finally, her attention was drawn to the front door again and, this time, she saw the slow ambling gait of her love interest coming into the building. He looked around to see her waving to him, and he started walking toward her table.
“Hello, beautiful,” he said, took her hand, and kissed it.
“My, my,” she said, in a mock Southern accent, placing the back of her hand to her forehead. “I do believe I might swoon.”
“Save it for later, I’m taking you up to Nederland for dinner.”
“Nederland? I can’t go to Nederland tonight,” she said. “I have tests tomorrow. I have to study.”
“Sorry, my friend Cal is managing Neapolitans tonight, and he’s holding a table for us if we can get there at seven. We won’t have to wait, like we usually do.
“But I have to study,” she said, perplexed.
“No, you don’t. You know it can take hours to get a table in Neos, but tonight we can walk right in. We can’t pass up this opportunity. Besides, you love the drive up the canyon.”
Neapolitans Italian Restaurant in Nederland, Colorado, was a very popular eating establishment in the early eighties, despite its remote location. It was about sixteen miles from the campus to Nederland but took approximately twenty-five minutes because of the mountain road, depending on if you were going up or coming down. It was well worth the trip because the food at Neapolitans was really good. The wait, however, could be excruciating on a Saturday night.
“Oh, and by the way, my folks are coming in this weekend,” he told her. “They want to take us out to dinner. Can you be here?”
“I haven’t been home in a while,” Clare said. “Daddy wants me to spend the weekend with the family. Can you bring them by our house for a social visit? I’d like to meet them and my mom and dad would too, I know they would.”
“Maybe so. I’ll give you a call.”
“Okay,” she said. “I hope you do.”
After dinner, they walked out past a long line of customers waiting to get into the restaurant. Clare smiled as she passed them, feeling like a princess, and displaying an air of privilege and exclusivity that came from having a reserved table at a restaurant that didn’t take reservations.
They stopped at the Barker Reservoir and made out for about half an hour until she pushed him away. “I do have to study, Evan,” she said. “I’m serious.”
“Okay,” he said. He started the engine and headed back down Boulder Canyon. “I’ll see you Saturday night at your house,” he told her when he dropped her off at her apartment.
“Good,” she said and got out of his car. “I love you,” she added but he didn’t hear her as he drove off.
Saturday evening, Clare was standing at the window of the Cain home, watching for Evan. Traffic was always light in the remote mountain neighborhood and, each time a car approached up the road, she became hopeful. She was actually surprised when a car pulled into their driveway. She had not expected him to show up. Evan was driving, his father was in the passenger seat, and his mother in the back seat. Evan was an only child, a fact which Clare was convinced had caused his inability to demonstrate feelings and sensitivity.
Mr. Garner was about the same height as his son, balding and with a slight paunch around his mid-section. He looked to be about fifty years-old, eight years older than her father, Will. Evan’s mother was an attractive woman of about the same age with brownish blonde hair. She later learned that Evan’s father was fifty-two and his mother was forty-nine at the time. Will and Jamie met them at the door and congenialities were exchanged all around. Jamie Cain took the older Garners into the den to where she had set up drinks and refreshments.
Evan and Jamie “James,” Clare’s brother, immediately went off to Jamie’s room to check out Jamie’s new rifle or fishing pole, or some other man thing, all to Clare’s consternation. The two boys were kindred spirits and had gone on hunting trips together each summer into the mountains for a week at a time, since the first time they met.
After dinner, both families gathered on the patio to talk and catch up. It was generally accepted that their two children would one day be married so they would become an extended family.
“As I have said before, Will, you have a beautiful home here, ” George said. “I’d love to live in the mountains, but my job won’t allow it.”
“Thank you, George. It can be some trouble in the winter getting up and down the canyon but we’ve learned to cope. I grew up in Lakewood and had always loved coming up here. I promised myself that I’d build a house in the mountains one day. The kids were raised here. They seem to like it okay.”
“Evan loves the mountains too,” George replied. I expect he’ll follow your lead one day.
“Evan’s a nice young man,” Will replied. “He doesn’t say much and I read that as a positive. Mostly I judge him on what my daughter tells me about him.”
“He has some big ideas, bigger than his budget right now, but Evan’s not afraid of hard work. I expect he’ll do well. It’s a struggle putting him through school but he works every summer and saves his money to help us out. He’s pretty crazy about Clare, I know that for sure.”
“He’s all she talks about,” Will said, laughing. “Sometimes I can’t shut her up.”
George chuckled about that and nodded his head.
“And he’s become good friends with my son James—Jamie, I mean,” Will continued. “We call him James so as not to confuse him with his mother. We named him after her but didn’t realize at the time what confusion that would cause. We couldn’t call him Junior and calling him Jamie just created havoc, so, we call him James.”
“Makes sense to me,” George said. “Anyway, Will, if Evan and Clare end up getting married, then his mother and I couldn’t be more proud to have her for a daughter-in-law.”
“Thank you, George, we feel the same way about Evan. If he makes Clare happy then we are happy too.” They raised their tea glasses together and toasted that.
The Garners left around 10:00 for the drive back to Greeley. Evan kissed Clare goodbye and said he would see her for lunch on Monday. As always it seemed she was left with something wanting. Evan was caring and attentive but he never told her he loved her. She sensed that he did but he never said it. It had become an ache that just wouldn’t go away.
She left on Sunday night, and returned to her apartment and went to bed early so she’d be rested for her early class in Human Culture, one of the electives required for her BA degree in Sociology. Although she had always been a daddy’s girl, Clare was more politically aligned with her mother, who had been a school teacher for much of her married life. Clare’s father, having been born and raised in Colorado, was more the conservative than was Jamie Cain, the girl he had fallen in love with while he was in the navy, stationed in the state of Maine. Nevertheless, politics was never a topic of conversation in the Cain household.
When Clare first told her father she wanted to major in Sociology, he simply asked her what that meant and what she would be doing to make money.
“Sociology is the scientific study of human social behavior, Daddy,” she told him. “It’s all about how society influences individuals and how individuals influence society.”
“That sounds like it came right out of the college pamphlet.” Will replied.
She smiled at him and nodded her head. “Yeah, it did.”
“If that’s what you want to do, baby, then I’m okay with it. Now what will you do once you get your degree?”
“I can work in government research or data analysis, either state or federal. Or I can work in the private sector as a counselor, or maybe I might want to be a writer. I think it pays pretty good money.”
“Well, I’m sure your husband will appreciate that.”
“If I ever get one,” she said, pouting.
“Oh, come on, honey,” Will said. “You’re a beautiful, intelligent young woman. You’ll meet the right man one day. Look at your dad. I met the perfect woman for me, and I was just a navy flyboy with no apparent future or redeemable qualities, and yet it happened. It will happen for you too, I guarantee it.”
“Thank you, Daddy, I love you.”
“I love you too, baby. Don’t worry. The problem is not finding a husband for you, the problem is finding one good enough for you. That, young lady, is a tall order.”
“Mom found the perfect man, I just hope I can too,” she said, smiling at him.
“Oh, now you’re not playing fair. How much do you need?”
Clare started laughing. “I don’t need any money, Daddy, but thanks, anyway.”
A month or so after she had begun her first semester she was in the Student Center having a snack and a coke when she noticed a boy staring at her from a nearby table. She smiled at him. He smiled back, weakly, but made no other attempt to communicate with her. He was cute, she thought, not handsome but very cute. His brown hair was cut just over his ears and to the collar in back but neatly combed. He appeared to be a couple of inches shorter than her father, she decided, when he stood up and walked away from his table. She half expected him to come over to her table and talk to her but he didn’t. He just left the building.
Three days later she went back to the Student Center, and there he was again, sitting at the same table staring at her.
She stared back at him and smiled again. This time he stood up and started walking toward her. He didn’t sit down but stood across from her on the other side of the table and spoke to her.
“I guess I’m going to have to get your schedule, I’ve been in here every day this week waiting for you and finally, you show up. If I eat any more pie, I’m going to be as fat as a house.”
She put her hand over her mouth and giggled. “I thought it was just fate that you happened to be here the very day I decided to come in to study, but now you tell me you planned this. I’m flattered, I suppose, unless you’re a serial killer. You’re not a serial killer, are you?”
“No,” he said, “I just wanted to meet you.”
“And why did you want to meet me?”
“For the most basic of reasons, I guess,” he said. “You’re incredibly pretty and I was hoping we could go out sometime.”
“I’d like that, so yes, we can. My name is Clare, Clare Cain. Why don’t you sit down?”
He pulled out the chair across from her and sat down in it. “I’m Evan Garner from Greeley and I’m glad to meet you, Clare. Are you from Colorado?”
“Yes,” she replied. “I live with my family near Golden in Coal Creek Canyon. I have a one-room apartment on Colorado Avenue here in town. But I usually go home most weekends.”
“I’m living in the dorm, at least for my first year. I can’t afford to live off campus right now.”
“What are you studying, Evan?” she asked him.
“I want to be a petroleum engineer.”
“Wow, you must be very smart,” she said.
“My mother tells me I am.”
“Then it must be so,” she responded. “Mothers don’t lie.”
“Then yours must have told you that you’d be able to beguile young men, because that’s what you did to me before I ever came over to your table.”
“Oh, now I’m going to have to use a term my daddy taught me,” she said, giggling.
“Are the initials B and S?” he asked.
“Exactly,” she said, still giggling.
“Okay, then give me another chance. Perhaps I came on a little too strongly. You got my attention at the other table. I wasn’t beguiled until I sat down across from you at your table.”
“All right, Mister Garner,” she said. “I’ll buy a pound of that.”
He chuckled. “That sounds like another something your father might say.”
“It is. He’s got a million of them.”
“Well I hope to meet him some day,” Evan said.
“Oh, I’m sure that can be arranged,” she said.
They dated regularly for two months and, even before they had gone to bed together, Evan treated her like she was made of gold, opening doors for her and showering her with attention. He brought her gifts and flowers, and seemed content to just be with her. His favorite place to eat was up in Boulder Canyon at an Italian Restaurant called Neapolitans in Nederland, Colorado. They usually went during the week because the place was very small and it was next to impossible to get a table on Saturday night.
He came to her apartment often to study with her or to watch television. They always made out, but it wasn’t until one Friday night when it had become more intense than usual that she asked him if he wanted to stay the night.
“If you want me too, I do,” he said.
“I want you to,” she said. Taking his hand, she led him into her bedroom. She took off her clothes very quickly and got into the bed and under the covers just as quickly. He smiled at her as he took off his clothes and got in next to her.
“This is your first time?” he asked her.
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Don’t worry, Clare,” he told her as he took her in his arms. “You’re safe with me. You’ll always be safe with me.”
She marveled at the wonderful thing that was happening to her. Evan was incredible—gentle and tender. It was clear this was not his first time but she didn’t care. She was in love, hopelessly. She knew it and knew that he had to know it, too. She walked around in a daze for the next few days.
Evan didn’t seem all that changed by the close encounter, but he kept telling her incessantly how wonderful she was and that no one and nothing had ever made him feel like she did. He started calling her pet names—baby, honey, darling, pumpkin, but he never said, “I love you.” She had to assume that it would come in due time.
Her mother figured it out right away that she and Evan were sleeping together but her father never did, or if he did, he chose to go right on pretending that his little girl was still as pure as the driven snow. That’s how daddies are, she thought.
They graduated in 1986 and Evan applied for a job with American oil and Exploration Company. He was offered a position that would take him overseas for two years with no return trip until the contract was up, to take advantage of a no-taxes perk agreement that the government had offered the company.
Clare was devastated. She was hoping he would suggest they get married before he left but he did not. He asked her to wait for him. “Please Clare, please wait for me. I’ll write you and I’ll send tape recordings telling you all about what I’m doing, and you can do the same. It will only be two years and, when I get back, I’ll have enough money to buy us a house free and clear. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s what I spent four years in school for. Please promise me you’ll wait.”
She told him she would wait for him but she almost hated him for accepting a job that would take him away from her for so long. She began sending her resume out to various companies in the Denver area, hoping she could live at home and commute back and forth and not have to live by herself in a lonely apartment.
She met Evan at Stapleton the day he flew out of her life for what would surely seem like an eternity. What would have been a special moment for her, was spoiled by Evan’s parents being there. She had not thought that out, although she should have realized that he could not have driven his car to the airport and then just left it there. He didn’t tell her he loved her but neither did he tell his folks he loved them, not even his mother.
This was a strange family, the Garners, Clare thought. They were so different from the one in which she grew up. She was constantly being told, “I love you, Clare, or Mommy loves you, Clare.” Her daddy called her Clare bear, he spelled it b-a-r-e on occasion because she often ran around the house without her clothes a lot when she was the only child. “Daddy loves Clare bear,” he was always telling her. Then when her brother came along, the “I love you” comments were multiplied times two. Neither of the Cain children ever had the slightest doubt that they were loved by their parents, and by each other. Clare grew up in a world of love, and it pained her to realize that the love of her life, Evan Garner, apparently had not.
She told his parents that she would stay in touch. They each promised to pass on any news they received from Evan to the other one. They watched together, as the plane left Denver and flew out of sight, and then she bid them goodbye.
© 2017 by Jack Sprouse