For nearly 20 years, Steve Almond suppressed the feelings he had for his best friend's wife, Shea. It was clearly written in universal guy code: Never mack on your buddy's wife.
He couldn't, he wouldn't do that to David Mason, Shea's husband.
Then David and his wife moved away, and Steve lost touch with her for 17 years.
During that time, the couple had two children and got divorced. Shea married again, to another man also named David, had two more children and divorced again.
Then David Mason died.
The first time Steve saw Shea Halling again was at David's funeral. Phone numbers were exchanged; warm feelings came back.
A few months later, Steve confessed everything to Shea at a friend's party.
"Are you kidding?" Shea asked. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"
He explained why.
In August 2010, Shea and Steve began dating. They never really thought of marrying again, since he had also given it a shot — three shots, to be exact — and none worked out as planned. But beautiful fruit was born from it. He had a daughter.
"We were both really sour on marriage," Shea, now 40, said.
The next month, Steve sold his house outside of Rochester, N.Y., and moved down to the Clearwater area where she was living.
"I sold my place, jumped on my Harley and rode down in Hurricane Earl," Steve, now 46, recalls.
Shea's first time on his Harley Sportster was somewhat of a nightmare. She hopped on the back of it and took off to the grocery store, gripping the sissybar the whole time. She was pretty sure she would die, but on the way back home, she realized she loved to ride.
Almost two years later, Steve tapped Shea on the shoulder as she was scrubbing dishes. It was Valentine's Day. He had just gotten home from work — with a ring. He asked her to marry him; totally shocked, she said yes.
"I think both of us felt a little guilty because he was David's best friend," Shea said. So to reconcile their remorse, they flew to New York to visit David's grave.
Shea told David that he brought her great love, brought her and Steve together. She thanked him for that. Steve said a few words, too.
As he finished, a group of crows flew by the grave. Shea knew what that meant, since her brother-in-law is Lakota Sioux. In the tribe's tradition, the crow carries the deceased's spirit and lets the living know all is well.
They felt that was David sending his stamp of approval. They could finally find peace.
On June 16, 2012, the couple married on Sand Key Beach on Boardwalk 8 in front of a group of 25. Shea wore an ethereal chiffon gown with a beaded bodice. She carried a bouquet of red and white flowers. They said, "I do."
"This has been a long time coming," Shea said. "But I think we needed to go through the things that we did to get to where we are now."
Sabrina Rocco can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8862.