Happily Ever After, pg2

             I feel Colt’s eyes fixed on me as mine are on the world beyond the glass. “He’s here. It’s like we haven’t missed a beat. After all these years.” The sound of a door opening interrupts my thoughts.  I hear Colt ask, “Will you join me?”

             I’m drawn to both, this world he’s created and to him. I move away from this sea and toward the man.

             When I enter the study, I’m alone. It’s spacious with a comfortable feel. Recessed lights glow over two overstuffed chairs set in front of the fireplace. Old books and original artwork adorn bookshelves. A modest desk sits framed by a large paned window on the far side of the room. Its only features are four simple, turn-carved legs. I walk over and run my fingers along its edge and see a obscured drawer set at its center.

             “I bought that at auction,” Colt says. “It’s from Amherst. Early 1800s. I wondered if Emily Dickinson ever sat there.”

             I look up to see Colt holding a bottle of wine and two antique-gold rimmed wine glasses. It’s as if I’m watching my life play out on a big screen. He pours us each a glass then raises his for a toast.

             “To old friends.”

             “To old friends.”

“How are you, Liv? How’s life been treating you? Tell me. Did you remarry? You have a son, right?”

             “Yes, one son. And a grandson now.”

             “No! We’re not that old!” He exclaims. “Are we?”

             We laugh.

             “Yes. Afraid so.” I’m beaming now—my family is such joy. “And, let’s just say I’m married, and it is not working out. I don’t want to ruin tonight.”

             He nods and his tone turns serious. “Are you all right?” He asks and reaches for my hand. “Oh, my god. He’s looking out for me.”

“Yes. I’m fine,” I tell him as he gently squeezes my hand before letting go. I get the feeling he’s protected someone before.

“What about you? I heard you got married.”

             “No! I never married!” He immediately replies with surprise. “Where’d you hear that?”

             “I heard you got engaged a few months after we stopped dating and then heard you married a year later.”

He laughs at the suggestions. “I was engaged briefly, but I never married. It was never attractive to me. The rumor Mill. Don’t believe everything you hear,” he chuckles finding humor in the Mill. “I’ve had long term relationships, but no, I never married.”

             My heart and mind feel like the twenty-five-year-old I was when I last saw him. I feel excited and impulsive. I see the young man in him also.

We settle into the two chairs in front of the fireplace. He kicks off his shoes and throws his feet onto the ottoman. I can’t take my eyes off him. I’m not surprised he’s successful. I’m not surprised he’s still as handsome. I’m pleasantly surprised at how comfortable we are together. He’s still the young man I remember even with all the trappings that come with success.

             We talk about our past, family, life, challenges and future goals. I ask most of the questions. One, because I’m interested and enjoy hearing all he has to say. Two, because my life has been hell and unless I go back more than a decade I have nothing to share. I hang on his every word.

             “Remember prom night?” he asks. “I came across some pictures of us at the beach. You wore a blue dress. Who was the guy you were with? Was he from town?"

             “I didn’t know anyone took pictures. I don’t remember you with a camera.”

“You never know,” he says.

I remember my senior prom and attending only because I didn’t want to feel left out. I would have just as soon stayed home. The only real memory I have of that night is eight of us standing on the beach after prom when Colt’s eyes met mine and for a long moment, I felt an incredible connection. It was more than attraction as handsome as he was, but I couldn’t explain what I felt. I’d discover that later.

             “No. He was from Westford,” I reply about my date.

             "I’ll find those photos and show you next time," he says.

             “Next time, there’ll be a next time.” I smile.

             Colt pours us more wine and tells me about restoring an old home in Virginia. “It’s fascinating, Liv, you’d love it. Each home is like a trip back in history. Studying the period when the house was built and the features that would have been incorporated at the time. Most of the houses have been redone so many times they look nothing like they did when they were first built.” He speaks with a fervor I find rare in people. “You’d love it. It’s really something to see a piece of history come back to life.” There is such satisfaction in his voice.

             I listen as he tells me about his three warehouses, one in Maine, North Carolina and Pennsylvania full of two-hundred year old reclaimed wood, period pieces, entire staircases two-or-more-stories high with banisters intact. Stained-glass-windows, lead glass cabinetry, moldings, fireplaces meticulously removed. “Some of the fireplaces and staircases have hidden compartments that were used to hide arms during the civil war and liquor during prohibition. Homes had fake walls where people hid from intruders. My dream is to one day go to Europe and restore a chateau in France or a villa in Spain. Someday.”

             We’re in our own little bubble and lose all track of time until the intercom sounds, and a voice on the other end announces that guests are starting to leave.

             “Would you excuse me? I shouldn’t be long. Would you like to wait here?” He asks.

             I nod yes, and he steps into the hallway where I get a glimpse of the ocean wall.

             “Make yourself at home,” he says and closes the door.

             Fascinating how I can get lost in conversation and overlook how incredibly attractive he still is. A mix of George Clooney and Andy Garcia I’d say. His dark brown hair now salt-and-peppered, still full but with a cut that’s tailored today as opposed to the long hair and sideburns he once sported. His build is more muscular now than in his twenties a fact that was not lost on me at our first embrace. I had remembered him as taller, but his height is just right seeing as now I wear only flats. How many women must be knocking at his door, figuratively and literally?

             I get up from my chair and make my way around the room. Books on the shelves include architecture, restoration, history, and autobiographies. Some are first editions. Artwork dispersed among the books are original pieces signed by local artists. There are artifacts with notes attached: A Harris & Shafer sterling bowl dating back one hundred and fifty years; a carved wooden hand with a heart on its palm with a note, “Odd Fellows. 1880s. Folk art.”; a carving set is stamped Paul Revere Sterling; an early American powder horn and a Native American club found at the same location in upstate New York; a Native American medicine pouch, a tribal drum and moccasins. I wonder if they’ve come from homes he’s restored.

             An elaborate jade floral arrangementeach flower carved from different color jade—sits atop a slim, antique marble-topped pedestal in the corner of the room. I recognize the arrangement as a symbol of prosperity, wealth, luck and friendship. How fortuitous.

             Every item in the room speaks to me. The energy in the room is ethereal.

             Between the bookshelves is a doorway that opens to a spa. The tiled floor is off-white with an inlaid, blue spiral pattern that extends to the far side of the room where a pedestal tub sits as the centerpiece. In the left corner is a shower tiled with a decorative Mediterranean, hand-painted mural. Adjacent to the shower is a steam room. A small room to the right provides privacy for an old-fashioned pull chain commode with bidet. The thought and detail for this space is incredible.

             A second door leads from the bath to the master bedroom. Fit for a king. I walk over and open the French doors to the patio, then take a moment to sit on the edge of the bed and look across the terrace. A section of the aquarium can be seen from where I sit. “Here is the man I remember,” I think to myself. “Full of character and authenticity.”

             A rush of emotion comes over me. The thoughts and sensations running through my mind and heart are impossible to sort. My breathing is rapid and shallow and anxiety swells. What is happening? My only thought is I’ve become so numb, so detached from any real emotion that all the passion and excitement tonight is overwhelming. I need to leave.

I get up, close the patio doors, walk through the master bedroom, the bath, and back into the study. For a moment I reconsider. Should I stay? No. I need to go. I step into the hallway and pause in front of the aquarium. It’s tranquil and calming. I move on. As I reach the stairs, Colt is there.

             “You leaving?” He asks.

“Yes. It’s late. I had a wonderful time. I loved seeing you.”

             The energy is palpable. It’s inspiring and anxiety ridden. I’m afraid my emotions will get the better of me, so I must leave. But, to go where? Back to a place from which I desperately want to escape?

             “Excuse me,” I say as I look at Colt and manage half a smile moving past him and up the stairs feeling ungracious in my haste.

             “It was great to see you, Liv. See you soon.” He says.

“I’d love that,” I reply and stop to look back at him.  His graciousness a quality I always admired.

“I’ll be leaving again for Virginia. But you’re welcome anytime.”

             “Really?”

“Yes. Please feel free. Make yourself at home. It’s been too long. Let’s not wait another thirty years.” He smiles. “You’re still writing. See if your muse feels comfortable at the desk. It’ll be nice to know someone’s enjoying it.”

             “I’d love to …”

             “It’s a date then; whether I’m here or not,” he says offering a wide smile. “I’ll let Sepp know you’ll be by. But you and I? Soon.”

             Outside, the night air aids in regaining my composure. I walk alone with my thoughts. My heart is full. I feel love and gratitude. What an incredible night. Of all this evening held, seeing old friends, Sepp, reconnecting with Colt, Colt’s memories touched me deeply. He spoke affectionately of a young woman I remembered as a ball of anxiety and distress. “I admired you,” he said, and I almost turned to see who might be behind me. “When you wanted something, you went after it. You had dreams and you set out to make them happen.” I never saw my life in those terms. It felt like chaos and constantly trying to keep my head above water. After all these years, I saw through his eyes that I was more than what I’d felt. I had value even if I didn't feel it. If I never see him again, he gave me a tremendous gift.

Full of hope, I begin the drive home keenly aware of the disparity in the life I’ve been living and the one I wish to create.

Thank you, Universe