Horizon Beach – June 8, 2005  (1)
Mark
That year, 2005, Mark Winfield celebrated his fiftieth birthday. It was a quiet and cozy evening out: Mark and his wife Helen shared an intimate dinner in a restaurant. Mark did not like big affairs, especially with lots of people. But for this birthday he had agreed to one candle — a single one — at the end of the meal, having previously bargained with Helen for the dessert to be brought inconspicuously: no-one would attract attention to him by singing “Happy Birthday to You”.
When the time came, a young waitress discreetly brought a tiny cake, topped with a candle. She was an attractive, curvaceous brunette, and when she bent down to light the candle, the generous contours of her décolleté were revealed. Mark could not help looking, and he immediately felt embarrassed — even guilty — for admiring her. So when the young woman gave him a smile and wished him “Happy Birthday, Sir!”, he blushed slightly and it took several seconds before he could thank her for her good wishes.
Indeed, Mark often felt guilty for all the transgressions he allowed himself. This was true even though the family history he had recently discovered, information on the life of many of his ancestors, had helped a great deal in reducing his sense of guilt.
Transgressions? If Mark had disclosed to others some of the minor transgressions which he considered as such — and for which he felt so guilty — he would have gotten smiles rather than disapproval. If one hears the word transgressions, one immediately thinks of shameless assaults or condemnable sexual practices — immoral as defined by society. But what tormented Mark’s conscience was certainly far from all that.
Far from all that, but very surprising considering the image of himself that Mark presented to everyone who knew him in Horizon Beach. In this small town of Southern California, with his wife Helen, he ran one of last brick and mortar bookshops still surviving the tidal wave of online stores. In this state of California where if you are still married in your fifties it is usually after one or two divorces, the Winfields were noted for the longevity of their marriage.
Mark and Helen had married twenty-seven years before and, having raised four children, they still loved each other as they had on the first day. Or at least they let it appear so in the eyes of all those who rubbed shoulders with them — friends, clients, and even distant acquaintances.
But let's come to the point: what actions was Mark guilty of and how did it happen that none of this could harm his reputation as a perfect husband? Nothing really terrible: though he deeply loved his wife, Mark could not help desiring other women, given the chance encounter from time to time. And we should add that Mark was a tall handsome man with brown hair and blue eyes: it often happened that other women made eyes at him. And then Mark would feel all the more guilty for being susceptible to the charms of a seductress.
You might say: “Really inappropriate!”  But I would deny it, for in fact everything stopped with the verb covet. Mark never acknowledged such advances and he never even spoke to the temptress. And when he could not avoid it, since she was a client or a friend of Helen, he kept such a distance that his interlocutor often considered him cold or even disdainful.