Raymond Cowles died of love on the evening of his thirty-eighth birthday. It happened on Sunday, October 31, after a long battle for his soul. As with many bitter conflicts, the end was abrupt and unexpected. In the same way as love had come on him unexpectedly and caught him by surprise after a lifetime of loneliness and despair, death crept up on Ray from behind without his even knowing that his release from ecstasy and anguish was at hand.
Since his twenties, Ray had flipped past the passages about love in the books he read. The movie versions of passion and lust seemed stupid and unbelievable to him. Love was supposed to happen to men like him when scantily dressed, big-breasted women flashed the look that said "I'll do anything. Anything at all."
Lorna had looked at him with those eyes; other women had, too. Many other women. Sometimes Raymond had even thought he'd seen it in the eyes of Dr. Treadwell. He never got it. Love to him was like a foreign language for which he had all the clues but couldn't figure out the meaning. And he had learned to live without it as his own personal cross to bear, like a dyslexic who could never really read, or a patient with a terminal illness that wouldn't go all the way and end his misery for a long, long time.
Until six months ago, Raymond Cowles thought he had all his problems solved. He had made work the focus of his life, tried to find the same satisfactions in his personal life other people experienced in theirs. He wanted to feel what other people felt, and when he couldn't, he acted as if he did.
Then, six months ago, Ray Cowles finally understood what life was all about. He fell in love. The paradox was that real love, the kind that smacked into one so hard it turned a person all the way around, didn't always happen as it should. The great passion of Raymond Cowles's life came too late and was spiritually messy. Even though he was a man experienced at battling demons, Ray's new demon was the worst he'd encountered.
With Dr. Treadwell's help he'd conquered all the others. First the demons that told him he was a bad child. Then the ones that told him he was stupid, not up to his studies. The big ones that said he was incompetent at his jobs. And always in the background there were those demons that told him he could never attract a girl, never satisfy a woman. These particular demons continued to torture him even after he met Lorna, the endlessly sweet and understanding girl he married.
The killer demon told him he was a failure at everything, even the years of psychoanalysis to which he had resorted half a lifetime ago for a cure. This was the demon that whispered to him in his sleep that his sudden and overwhelming passion at age thirty-seven was beyond disgusting and immoral. Love, for Raymond Cowles, was a fall from grace into the deepest pit of depravity from which abyss he was bound to fall even further into the very fires of Hell.
In the months prior to his death, as Raymond fell deeper from grace into lust and corruption, he wanted nothing more than to surrender at last to the first real feeling of contentment and joy he had ever experienced. But he wanted to fall and be saved with his love absolved. Surely everyone had the right to surrender to passion and be released from the excruciating anguish of sin. He had that right, didn't he?
But absolution didn't come, and once again Raymond Cowles's dreams were full of far-off women--high on cliffs when he was on the ground, or on shore when he was way out at sea. In dream after dream, these women waved their arms at him and told him, "Watch out, watch out." And each time he awoke in a panic because he didn't know what to watch out for.
Then on October 31, at the very start of his new life, Raymond's world collapsed. He felt he had no warning. He was cornered. For a few moments he was alone. And then he wasn't alone. He was trapped with a person who wanted to kill him.
"Save me, save me." He tried to scream into the phone, into the hall, into the lobby of the building, out on the noisy street. Save me!
He longed to reach for a life preserver, but there wasn't one. Where was one? Where was a lifeboat? Where was safety?Help!
At the end he was mute. He couldn't cry out for help or make one move to save himself. In his last moments of panic, when Raymond Cowles was too frantic and distraught to make a sound, the very thing he had never been able to watch out for slipped out of the noisy Halloween night of dress-up and reveling on Columbus Avenue and took his breath away.
Excerpted from Loving Time by Leslie Glass. . Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.