She exhaled a soft, “Oh.”
“Maria was younger than me. On a separate time line like you.”
“She was pretty.”
His world was still full of darkness, but he could see Maria’s face. “Yes.” he said softly. “She was.” He searched the darkness, trying to find Barbara. “Does it bother you that I still have her picture?”
She fell silent.
“Barbara. I can’t see you. Talk to me. Let me know what you think. Let me know how you feel.”
“Even if it’s bad?”
“Is it bad?”
“Of course not.” She released his hands.
Panic threatened to swamp him over. Until her touch returned, light and gentle, on his face. He relaxed.
“You’ve lived a long time, Ambrose. Maybe you don’t remember how long. Maybe you won’t remember. Maybe you’ll never tell me and that’s fine. Maybe I don’t want to know.”
“And that’s fine.”
She laughed softly. “You’ve met many people over the years. Some you’ve loved. Some you haven’t. Some…will always mean something to you. I understand that. I can’t begrudge you your mementos. As long as you don’t wear that locket on our wedding day, I will definitely be fine with it staying in your possession.”
“Wedding? What? Did I propose and forget about it?”
“No. It’s just a hope. Maybe someday…?”
He was speechless.
“But! Enough of that drama.” Her hands took hold of his and pulled him further into the room.
Ambrose followed her lead without hesitation.
“Let’s take care of the really important stuff.”
He smiled. “What would that be?”
“Choosing an outfit for you. You have some crazy stuff in that luggage.” She stopped. “Like shorts, for instance. When do you wear shorts?”
He laughed. “Last year. It was a very hot summer.”
She giggled. “And you wore them in public?”
She giggled again.
“You have no idea how much I’ve missed that sound. If only I could see. I want to see you. I want…”
“Do you want khaki shorts, black cotton pants, black dress pants, or blue jeans?”
“I want.” He stopped as he realized that all of the things he really wanted were things she was not willing to give him. “I’ll let you choose. I trust you.”
She fell silent.
“Barbara? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.”
“Did I say something wrong?”
“I’m not upset. I’m amazed. I’ve somehow managed to win your trust. Do you have any idea what a big deal that is? Because it is. I feel like I’ve won a wild animal’s trust.”
“I hope I’m at least a good looking wild animal. Please tell me I’m not a baboon.”
She giggled. “You’re not a baboon.”
“You’re a gorilla.”
He laughed. “You brat.”