Long Island - Winter
Laughter spilled out of the big yellow house at the end of Meadow Run Road. Curls of smoke rose from the chimney and spun upward toward the moon which hung full and glowing in the ink-black sky. The promise of more snow was in the air but that hadn't kept anyone away. Cars filled the driveway, part of the front lawn, the street.
"Shh!" she whispered as they slipped deeper into the shadowy backyard where their girls had played as children. "They'll hear us."
He pulled her close and she melted into his embrace. "I don't plan on doing a lot of talking, do you?"
She shivered and this time it wasn't from the winter chill that blanketed the northeast. "No talking," she agreed. Even though not talking was what had gotten them into trouble.
But who needed words when the moon was full and the champagne tasted like starlight? There was nothing like your daughter's engagement party to remind you that once upon a time you had believed in happy endings too. Romance was everywhere. The house was filled with music and laughter. The people they loved most in the world were gathered together to celebrate the wonders of love. You couldn't help believing in forever on a night like this.
He smelled the way she remembered, of spice and heat and mountain lakes. He had laughed the first
time she told him that. You're a Long Island girl, he had reminded her. What do you know
from mountain lakes? But she knew wonderful when she saw it and for a long, long time what they had together was very wonderful.
He took her hand and they darted around the weather-beaten shed where the girls had stowed their bicycles another lifetime ago. Hard snow crackled like glass beneath their feet. She slipped on a patch of ice but his strong arms caught her before she hit the ground. He had never let her fall, not once.
Not even now, at the end.
He didn't ask why she had stopped having the driveway salted.
She didn't remind him that they didn't live there any more; their youngest daughter and her roommates did.
This was a moment out of time. Nothing before this moment existed. Nothing after it would matter.
There was only the two of them.
He opened the passenger door of his rental car and they scrambled inside.
"A Toyota?" she asked, brow raised.
"They were fresh out of '74 Cutlasses."
Her sigh filled the tiny space. "I haven't thought about your dad's Cutlass in years."
"I have." He unzipped his jacket and drew her inside its warmth. "We should have had it declared a national monument."
How many hours had they spent in the back seat of that big blue car, young and wildly in love, burning with the kind of fever only the other's touch could ease.
"They're so young," she whispered against his neck. "I hope they know what they're doing."
"We had three children when we were their age," he reminded her.
"It's a different world today. We were--" She shrugged inside his embrace. How did you describe a sense of inevitability that shook you right through to your marrow?
"Crazy," he whispered against her hair.
"Fearless," she whispered against his neck.
"They're in love," he said as he did magical things to the length of her spine. "Alexis is following her heart."
"Like we did," she said.
"Like we did," he agreed.
Except for the fact that they were on the fast track to divorce, it would have been a great story to tell their future grandchildren.
Less than a week ago Alexis had flown home from Paris with a handsome young American by her side and a big announcement to make. She and Gabe Fellini planned to be married in early spring at a tiny inn named Milles Fleurs on the outskirts of the city.
Just wait until you see Paris, Alexis had raved as she shared her news. I don't know why
you and Daddy never traveled anywhere.
Her darling daughter hadn't a clue what she was asking of them.
Paris was their city, their secret dream for as long as she could remember. High school sweethearts, they were going to run away together to the City of Light as soon as they graduated. They would put college on hold, grab back packs and whatever savings they could scrape up, and set out to conquer the world. Ryan would write the Great American Novel while she followed in the footsteps of Monet and Renoir and Sargent.
One day in the far distant future they would settle down and raise a family, but not until they had had their fill of Paris.
But there was one slight flaw in their plan: a baby daughter named Shannon who arrived eight months after graduation.
And even though they were painfully careful, another baby daughter named Alexis showed up less than two years later.
And seven years into their marriage, just when they thought they could put the diapers and burping blankets and binkies away for good, Taylor joined them.
In the blink of an eye they had gone from lovestruck teenagers to loving parents without a chance to slow down and catch their breath. Life didn't work that way. Life didn't slow down and make allowances for youthful enthusiasm, for sweet mistakes, for the daily struggles every couple faced. The only thing you could do was run as fast as you could and hope you'd catch up with each other somewhere down the line.
Through it all, there was always Paris. One day, they promised each other when times were tough and life seemed to be plotting against them. One day when the kids were grown they would make that dream come true.
Who could have guessed their middle child would be the one to make it happen?
Who would have guessed it would be too late?
"Paris," Kate murmured against his mouth.
"Paris," he said and then, for a long time, they didn't say anything at all.