Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day
THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE
“I want you to open your present,” she said. We were reclining in front of the fire, on the stack of blankets and pillows I had dragged out the night Jon left. Toni went into the other room for her suitcase, while I sipped on the dry red and watched the flames in the hearth dance. I had fallen asleep to this view for almost two months now, since that day in November when I began my life alone. I’d turned the hearth into my refuge, my place to come undone.
I was a veteran in this field, the battle zone where one wrestled with the enemies of self-worth. My duty was to endure my sadness, and experience the unavoidable misery that followed the crushing loss of another love. I knew the drill; years earlier I’d grieved Toni on these grounds, and Beth, too. There was no escape. There was only an unspecified amount of waiting for an unfixed moment in the future when it would no longer matter.
I had ended our marriage. I saw it as my offensive strike against a future that I believed would suffocate me. It was my decision, but that didn’t dull my grief over the death of our life together as a married couple. I remembered how it felt when our hearts had thrived. I remembered the wonder and the certainty and the depth of love that was absolute. I had meant forever—and I knew he had too—nothing I said had ever been as true. I didn’t just leave Jon; I also left the part of me that belonged only with him.
Toni came back in the room, and lay down again.
“I’m so glad you’re here.” I said. “It’s great to have life back in this place. I’ve been living with ghosts!” My friends had left an hour earlier. The occasion was a cocktail Christmas party, the night before Christmas Eve, with a handful of my best girls. They all wanted to meet the notorious Toni, and she did not disappoint; she put on a show with her famous flaming cocktail, and added more spice with her contagious wry humor. Everyone had adored the woman they had met. “I get it now, Vic,” Trish said before she left. “She’s the real thing.”
“Your friend, Trish—she cornered me! I got the four-one-one on how I better be treating you!”
“Well, my dear, everyone who was here tonight knows how far back our story goes—and the details of your previous decisions.” Toni rose on her elbow, and faced me, with her back to the fire.
“Listen to me, Vic. I will never do that to you again. I was young the first time, and I was a coward the second time. This is different.” She looked me in the eye. I had no doubt that she meant it. I had always believed in our love.
“I know, baby. That was a million years ago. Trish was being protective. My friends love me.”
“And so do I. You’ll never know how lucky I feel that you let me back in your life. I just want to love you, Vic. I’ll never let you down again.”
Six months and a lifetime had passed since our trip to France. This was our first reunion, and our next beginning. I smiled into those big brown eyes. God, she looked good to me. She had always looked the best.
“Oh, I know you’ll never do it again, Ms. Rey, because, if you did—I’d have to extinguish you from the planet. And that, girlfriend, is a promise.”
“You won’t need to, because I would do it first! But, that’s not happening, that’s never happening—that bitch is dead!”
We raised our glasses, and after the sip, sealed it with a kiss. I couldn’t believe we had finally landed in the same place at the same time. Nothing had ever made so much sense. After twenty-two years, it was finally our turn.
I took the green paper from her hand, folded in thirds, like a letter. “Sorry it’s not wrapped,” she said. “I was in a hurry to get out of the office. I had a date with a sexy blonde in Seattle.” I leaned in and kissed her again. “Now open it!” she said, breaking away, “I can’t wait!”
I unfolded the letter, and tipped the page to the fire so I could read it. There were only four lines. Speechless, I looked up, tears stinging my eyes before falling. Her smile was tender; her whole face had softened.
“Yeah, girlfriend. It’s real.” She reached out, brushing back my hair with her hand. “Merry Christmas, Vic. I’m taking you back. We’re going to Paris—you and me.”
TOMORROW: Chapter 7
Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.