“I’d love to stay on the phone with you, but I really have to let you go.” Barbara said.
Ambrose sat on a step and bunched up his knees.
“Are you all right, kitten?”
“Do you have to go?”
“Unfortunately yes. I just pulled into my driveway. I need to get Sarah upstairs.”
“And I’m pretty tired.”
He bowed his head. “I understand.”
“Do you want me to come back to you?”
“No. Sarah needs you. You can’t just leave her alone. If she wakes up all alone, she’ll panic.”
“What about you, Ambrose?”
“I’m fine. I’ll be fine.”
“Ambrose, if you need me to come to you, just say it. I’ll come.”
I need you to come.
I need you here with me.
What about her?
What about what she needs?
“You need your sleep, Barbara. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. I’ll be heading home shortly anyway. I’m fine.”
“I don’t know. You’re saying ‘I’m fine’ way too many times to be sincere.”
He exhaled a soft laugh. “Really? I am fine. I’m fine. I’m safe. You’re safe. And, in a matter of hours, we’ll be saying our vows.” He raised his head. “Have I miscounted the days, Barbara? Is our wedding day really so soon?”
“It is. All a matter of hours and you’ll be mine.”
“I’ll be yours, body and soul.”
“Until our dying day. I love you, Ambrose.”
“I love you too.”
I wish you were here.
I wish I could touch you.
One more touch.
One more kiss before our wedding day.
Barbara took a breath to say her good-bye and good night with, but a thought came to her. “Ambrose?”
“I love you.”
“But.” She hesitated.
“Before tomorrow, before we say our vows, I need to know. I need to know the honest truth.”
It’s a stupid question. I know him. I know he loves me. I know how much he loves me. I trust him.
“Does Elsie still have any hold over you? Does she still linger in your thoughts? Do you find yourself wishing for what ifs and what could have beens?”
Ambrose didn’t reply.
“Does she? Do you?”
“I could ask you the same question about Kevin.”
“Then, go ahead and ask me.”
Ambrose made a surprised sound. “If you insist. If Kevin showed up complete and human again, would you take him back?”
“That isn’t fair, Ambrose. That isn’t even close to the same question I asked you.”
“But I’ll answer it anyway. No. I may regret how things turned out between him and me. I will always regret that I wasn’t able to do more for him when he was down to his last days as a human.”
“There was nothing you could have done, Barbara.”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m still sorry I didn’t try. But. I would never go back to him. I would never choose him over you.” Barbara hesitated. “Truth is, before he started his descent, he proposed to me.”
Ambrose raised his head. “What?”
“And I told him no. I hated to disappoint him.”
Ambrose felt the warm glow of love inside his chest.
This young woman, so much younger than me.
Her quiet strength.
She is not Elsie. No one will ever call her The Marauder.
“That is why I love you, Barbara Addleston. That is why Elsie Vansing no longer haunts my dreams and my desires. It’s you. Just you. Sweet, lovely, wonderful you. I love you.”
Barbara felt the heat of love inside her heart.
If only I could run to him.
If only I could touch him.
“I love you too. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”