Tanya was a nice mid western girl. Her life in high school was peaceful. Her parents remained happily married and she was a very popular girl. She met Jason while in school and now 5 years after graduation they had often talked of marriage.
But Tanya wasn't exactly satisfied. Her boyfriend had become an aggressive individual who openly professed disdain for other's differences. She was secretly disgusted with this aspect of Jason's personality.
Tanya dealt with this increasing dissatisfaction by escaping in romantic literature. She read all the popular authors of the day, Nora Roberts, Beverly Jenkins, Kim Harrison, she enjoyed them all. But until she read Robert James Waller's "Bridges of Madison County" she had always returned to reality when she finished them.
After "Bridges" she was swept away Quixote like into a world half based in reality and half in a surreal world of desire and forbidden longing. She read and reread it. It became her sole focus of her spare time. She became noticeably obsessed with the work of Robert James Waller, music he had recorded, photography, and other books also. Nothing seized upon her like "Bridges" though.
When the movie came out she would go to the theater every chance she had and sit there by herself in the shadows and loose herself. She fell in love with Meryl Streep's character. She longed to live the life of this movie that traces a brief affair of two soul mates who have met too late.
After the movie left the theaters she started spending evenings with her girlfriend. One night she was out with this friend in a small town bar when her friends brother appeared with one of his friends. Tanya was introduced to Mike and they hit it off immediately. Mike had a reputation for being a scrapper. She liked that. But as she talked to Mike she realized he had a much more complex side she liked even more. Everyone could see the attraction forming between the two.
It didn't take long for Tanya and Mike to see each other again. Over the course of this summer Tanya and Mike professed their love for one another, but Tanya was still deeply involved with Jason. They shared a home together and still occasionally spoke of marriage but obviously Tanya's heart belonged to Mike.
On these evening she could slip away when Jason worked all night she would spend the entire evening in Mike's arms. Sometimes they would meet at hotels, sometimes Mike's house, one time they even spent the night at her grandmother's house in Belle Valley when her grandmother was away. They made promises to each other on these nights.
He promised to always care for her and she promised to end things with Jason. As the summer passed the intensity of their love increased but Tanya couldn't leave Jason. She knew after 10 years together it would de estate him, not to mention their entire families had become one.
Soon Mike took a job in Columbus several hours away. Tanya would come visit infrequently, but once they were together the old passion would ignite and they would loose themselves in each other. On one visit to Mike's she found evidence that Mike had been with another woman and was crushed. Mike's argued that she went home to her husband every night so what was he supposed to do?
She left that day in tears. She refused to see him again. And she held out for almost two years until one day she was in Columbus. She drove passed Mike old apartment not knowing if she would stop. She had had a secret that she kept from everyone and thought that telling Mike would relieve the guilt of this secret. She stopped and went to the door. Mike answered immediately and was thrilled to see her. He kissed her and invited her in.
He clearly sensed a change in Tanya. A hesitation he did not notice in her lips before. That's when she told Mike her secret. Since she had last seen Mike she had had a baby. Mike was a little disappointed by the news but was accepting. The secret was that she suspicion-ed he was the father. Mike was floored. He was angry, he was happy, he was very confused to say the least.
She produced a photo of her son and Mike, without saying a word went to the bedroom and returned with his baby picture. It was the same child. The only difference was the thickness of the card stock that the older photo was printed on. It was obvious to them both that this was their love child. She left the photo in a copy of "Bridges of Madison County" on Mike's bookcase and left.
Tanya left feeling better that at least she got a little relief revealing her secret to someone. Later she would confide in a girlfriend also but only these two would ever know the truth of what had happened. As the years passed she had another daughter with Jason and to the little town they appeared the perfect little family.
Her son became a giant of a kid. At 15 he towered over his Father Jason. He had hair like Mike's but luckily not unlike his Mother's but like Mike's also, his eyes were a deep blue. Nothing like her son matched Jason though and she was terrified that the truth would come out some day. She worried everyday and night for 16 years. Sometimes she could put it out of her head when she would have moments alone to read her favorite love stories but the secret ate away her peace of mind.
Every day her son looked more and more like Mike. He had Mike's eyes that were distinctly different than either her or Jason's, not just the color but the unique shape. One day she went to the super market with Jason and they passed threw the bank drive threw to get some cash and she looked inside the bank and saw Mike looking around the lobby. He did not see her but she was struck with amazement by the likeness of her son standing there and prayed Jason didn't notice.
Her paranoia increased to the point that one day her son answered the phone and he said the man on the other end said something like he was his uncle before hanging up. She didn't think she could continue this lie. It was killing her. Her son developed a medical issue and she took him to the doctor. She left with one question echoing in her head. The doctor asked if either her or her husband had ever experienced these symptoms. She answered no but could not know if Mike had ever experienced them.
She felt horrible for weeks after that and lost all focus and energy. She couldn't read her stories, she couldn't focus on anything other than the impending discovery of her lie. Finally her girlfriend talked her into going to the doctor for help. She was encouraged that would help her recover her peace of mind as she made the appointment.
The day of the appointment she felt no better but she made it to the appointment. After briefly discussing her symptoms the doctor assured her it was nothing but stress. He ordered some tests be conducted to be sure it was nothing more serious and she left with a prescription of anti depressants. A week later the doctor called and needed her to come in for the results.
She was a little nervous when she arrived at the office and was greeted with a doctor who had a very solemn countenance this time. He closed the door behind them and explained that the test result came back and as he had suspected Tanya had a very rare and aggressive cancer. He explained that cases like this were rare but it was 100% terminal. She was told she had only a few weeks to put her affairs in order.
She walked out of the office in a fog. She told no one for a few days. She accepted she deserved this fate. She felt the secret she had kept buried for so long had finally germinated and was bearing its deadly flower.
The first thing she tried to do was contact Mike. She had to hear that he would never let it be known what had happened between them. But try as she might he could not be reached. She was hospitalized the following week. When her girlfriend that knew her deadly secret visited the hospital she pleaded with her to contact Mike and tell him that she needed to see him before she died.
A few days later her friend returned and told Tanya that she had repeated tried to contact him but got no response. This was a lie though. She had contacted him several times but Mike refused Tanya's dying request that he become the guardian of her deadly secret.
As she lay dying all she could think about was"The Bridges of Madison County" and the secret it held on Mike's bookcase. She passed away on March 10, 2017 without ever extracting the promise her secret would be safe. The next day the papers reported that the day before that Robert James Waller author of "The Bridges of Madison" had passed away as well in Fredricksburg Texas.