“I love you!” I yelled as loudly as I could, so she would hear me from the other side of the cabin.
“I know, sweety,” I heard her whisper.
Fourteen years, to the day, that I decided to love her, at first sight. I had loved others, and still do, and love my friends and family, and my kids, just as much. But Irene was the only one I fought to love.
“Here you go, babe,” she walked in with my favorite: whole-wheat pancakes and homemade strawberry jam – strawberries from her parents’ farm.
“Thanks, love,” I said as she turned to go back to the kitchen. She still had the perfect butt, “hate to see you go, but love to watch you walk away,” I whispered. She turned around with that drop-dead smirk that I fell for the moment I met her. We had an instant connection, but she fought it, as if she knew the ending before we even experienced the beginning.
We were somehow at peace. After the difficult start we had, we relished the next decade together. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.
“Can you come back in here for a minute?”
“I was just about to sit down and do some work, what’s up?” She reached to pick up my plate, and I took her hand.
“I hope you weren’t about to do any of my drafting…you may be better with your hands, but I’m still the better architect,” I smiled at her as if I hadn’t realized we would never enjoy our new home together.
“Just because you wanted to be an architect doesn’t mean you are one. You’re a writer, and a damn good one at that,” she said and kissed me softly, just like the first time.
“Sit down please?”
“Really? I’ve got so much to do.” She always pretended to be busier than she actually was.
“It won’t take long now.” She sat down, and then laid down beside me so I could hold her. “You said I was incredible.”
“I still don’t remember that,” she replied in her sarcastic tone.
“Sure you don’t. Anyway, I didn’t take it as a compliment. I took it as a challenge. I chose to love you at that moment, and you ran away.”
“Yeah, it scared me. I wasn’t ready. But you didn’t give up, and I came back pretty quickly.”
“Within months. Regardless, while we were becoming best friends, I started thinking about how I could meet this standard and expectation that was set for us. What could I give you that you could never lose?”
“Well, I lose a lot of things so I wouldn’t know if you’ve already given it to me,” she interrupted jokingly.
“Nah, you’ve still got it. You’ve never wondered how or why I’ve learned so much about self-sufficiency?”
“I mean, I always figured you were taking classes for new material for your books. Never wondered why you always subjected me to lessons on what you picked up. Years of boredom – I tie knots better than a sailor, now, all thanks to you.”
“I was pretty selective about what I taught you.”
“Must have something to do with how much older you are,” she looked up and gave me her beautiful smile.
“Seven years is still not that much.”
“I guess you never did teach me French,” she kissed me.
“No, but you certainly taught me,” I replied as we both chuckled.
“Irene, much of what I learned was useful for my writing, yeah. And a lot of it made me a much better man, father, and husband.”
“I would say the best.” Her hand and cheek rested on my chest now.
“I’m sure there are contenders out there. But all that was secondary to my real goal.”
She lifted her head up slightly for a second, and set it back down.
“See, I never knew this would happen to us. Hell, I never even knew, and still don’t understand, how I finally convinced you to date me in the first place – what with my crude sense of humor and all. But I always knew what I wanted to leave you with.”
I felt a small spot on my shirt become wet, right below Irene’s cheek.
“When I chose you, I decided that should something ever happen to me, you would never feel that you couldn’t go on. I wanted to give you all the knowledge, all the tools, all the resources I possibly could, so that you would be able to provide for yourself and our family were I to leave. Whether it would be because we fell out of love, or the more realistic, because I would have to go involuntarily.”
We laid silent for a moment.
“And so once you would be able to finish grieving, and you were moving on and tying knots, so to speak, you wouldn’t need anyone to help you. You would be completely free to choose someone to be with because you love them, not because you need them. I did all of this so that your love for another person could be genuine, not out of necessity. Irene, I love you, and I know how much you love me. My only desire is that you’ll be able to love someone else just as much.”
She grasped my shirt as my embrace softened. I rested in peace, with her by me. Later, she went away to finish drafting our home.