And he dreamed.
Ambrose walked through a stand of old white pines. Their thin browned needles littered the forest floor. He looked down at Maria.
She held his hand, but her attention was scattered to everything in sight. The night sky. The full moon. The trees. The pine needles. Maybe even the dirt hiding below the needles.
She looked at him.
“I have a question I’ve been considering…I’ve been meaning to…” He stopped walking and she followed suit.
“What is it?”
“If I were to ask…If…What would you say?”
She smiled an uncertain smile. “It all depends on what the question is.”
“Oh, Maria! Isn’t it obvious? I want to marry you. Do you…do you want to marry me?”
“Yes. I do, but my father.”
He snarled. “Of course, your father. Can’t we just forget about him? Can’t we just elope?”
“Can’t we just do what we want? I love you. You love me. Fine. Let’s get married.”
“Ambrose, things aren’t that simple.”
“They are, Maria.” He took hold of her hands. “They are. Why should we dally through the yards of barriers that your father sets up? We both know what we want. So, let’s just do it.”
She freed her hands and resumed walking.
“So, what? You’re refusing me? Is that how it is, Maria? Is it?” He marched after her and grabbed her arm. “Is it?”
“Ambrose. I love you. You know I love you.”
“But listen to me.”
“No! You listen to me. I’m sick and tired of worrying about your father’s approval. He’ll never grant it. There is not one thing I can do or say to win his approval. So, why should I waste my time worrying about it and fighting for it and…Maria. I love you. That is all that really matters. We – you and me – are all that really matters. Please marry me.”
“Please. Let me think about it.”
He pushed her up against the nearest tree and kissed her with way too much aggression.
She pushed him away. “Stop. Give me time to think about it.”
“What is there to think about? It’s either yes or no. Are you really going to tell me no?”
“I don’t know.”
He backed away from her. “Maria.”
“I need to go home.”
“Please say yes.”
“Good night, Ambrose.”
Ambrose opened his eyes and was surprised to find the tears running down his face.
He wobbled up into a sit and wiped the tears away.
What would have happened if I had married her? I was so selfish and self-absorbed. Would I have made her happy? Would she have eventually changed me the way Barbara has changed me?
At that point in my life, I wasn’t ready or willing to change for anyone.
I had to wait for Barbara.
He laid his head back down. I’m glad I waited for her.
Ambrose reached under his pillow and pulled out his cellphone. He turned it on, went into his contacts, and selected her name.
Her phone rang and rang.
He closed his eyes.
Please pick up.
“Hi! This is Barbara.”
He grinned. “Barbara.”
“Ambrose! Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”
“Yeah. But everyone keeps interrupting my sleep anyway. So, I figured what the heck. I might as well call you.”
“To be honest, I was thinking about calling you.”
Ambrose glazed over as she explained why she wanted to call him. Her words and sentences were reduced to the rise and fall of her voice. It was like listening to her breathe.
“But you’re not paying attention, are you?”
Ambrose opened his eyes. “Am too. Brat.”
She giggled. “As I was saying, Dad wants to meet the priest who’s going to do the ceremony. Did you want to come with us?”
“I might as well. It will give me a chance to hand over my baptismal certificate and birth certificate.” He stroked the side of his phone with his thumb. “Barbara. Barbara, I love you. Do you know? Have I made it clear? Do you know how much I love you?”
It took her several minutes to reply, “Yes.” she said softly.
“I wish we weren’t on the phone. I wish I was there with you.”
“I’d hug you.”
“I’d kiss you.”
“I’d whisper ‘I love you’ in your ear. Because I do. I love you, Ambrose Smith.”
“And I love you. It’s strange.”
“I love you is such a common phrase it almost has no meaning. Everyone says it. Sometimes they mean it. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they say it to make the other person hurt. Sometimes to make the other person glow. Barbara, you make me glow inside. When I’m with you, whenever you say my name, every time you touch me, I feel like light should be bursting out of my fingers. That is how I love you.”
“No. It’s more than that. I know it is. You’ll tear through a chain-linked fence for me. You’ll tear down a brick wall just to be with me. That is how you love me.”
He smiled. “That is true.”