“Thank you for coming, John.” Clarice let go of him. “It meant a lot to me to have you here.”
“I’m just sorry I couldn’t have come earlier and been with you at the wedding.” John said.
“It’s okay. You came at just the right moment. No, the perfect psychological moment. It couldn’t have been more ideal.”
“Do you mean it?”
“One hundred percently, you baked Alaska Mount Vesuvius red hot cinnamon sun drop cup of spiced pumpkin and nutmeg soup.”
He chuckled. “I’m not really sure if I’m all that, but, Clarice. Clarice, you make me feel like I’m all that.” He kissed her —- a soft breath of a kiss that ended too soon. “I’m sorry, Clarice, but I really gotta go.”
She spread her hands on his chest. “Then, you should go.”
“When can I see you again?”
“Whenever you want. Just give me a call and I’ll be right there as fast as I can.”
He smiled. “I love you.”
She slid her hands up to his shoulders. “I love you too, John.”
“Say my name one more time.”
She smiled. “John.”
He kissed her and this time it was not a quick one.
They ended the kiss equally breathless.
“Yeah.” he said.
“Umm. Yeah. I.”
“Stay.” She lightly covered his mouth with her fingertips. “Just a little bit longer?”
His lips brushed against her skin as he replied, “I don’t know. I. I umm—” He closed his eyes as her fingers moved, skin on skin, across his mouth down to his jawline.
“Ohhh, it’s so tempting.”
“So? Don’t resist, John. Stay with me, John.”
“It would be so easy to say yes. I want to say yes.”
“Then, say yes, John. Stay with me.”
He opened his eyes. “But I need to make sure Sarah’s safe.”
“Of course.” Clarice lowered her hand. She smiled brightly and tried to keep her disappointment from showing. “These things are important.”
“Don’t worry, John. It’s okay.”
“Do you need me to stay? If you do, just say my name.”
She smoothed the front of his tuxedo jacket.
I want him to stay. I want to say his name 1,000, 3,000, no. Ten thousand times, at least.
And he would stay with me. It’s what I want, but it wouldn’t be fair to him. He’d be worried about her the whole time.
And that isn’t right.
It isn’t fair.
“Clarice, say my name.”
She shook her head. “You’re right. You should go back to her.”
“Clarice, I will stay if that’s what you want.”
“Oh, darling! I know you will. And, yes. It is what I want. I want it a lot.”
She put her fingertips on his lips again. “But you are right. You should go back to Sarah. Until Barbara and Ambrose come back to reclaim her, she is your responsibility. I won’t have you slacking on your responsibility all because of lil’ old me.”
“Then, say my name and I’ll go.”
She focused on his carefully ironed shirt and tuxedo jacket.
Did Carolyn teach him how to iron? Or was it something he had to learn all on his own? Either way makes me die a little inside. This man. This wonderful, divine man deserves all of the good, all of the best possible things.
He deserves happiness.
He tucked his hand under her chin and gently raised her head.
He kissed her. It wasn’t too short, nor was it too long. It was the perfect length for a kiss. “I’ll call you later. I promise. I will.” He looked into her eyes. “I want to see you again. I want it to last much longer than this small interlude.”
“So do I.”
He looked at her as if he were memorizing her.
Oh, Gerry. It’s been so long since anyone has looked at me like that. I like it. I love it.
I love him.
He did a quick look away and got into the car.
I could jump into the car with him and we could go driving off to anywhere at all. Just toss all of our responsibilities to the stars and to the moon. And we’d just go.
He closed the car door.
She took a breath.
I could run to the passenger door and open it. He’d smile and tell me to get in. And I would.
And we would.
But I can’t leave Elsie like this. Not here and now.
He started the car.
She stepped out of the way.
He looked at her one last time.
She smiled enthusiastically and waved.
He smiled and waved back.
She kept that smile on her face.
Even as he drove away.