As Elsie returned to her cooking station, Hildreth shifted into a more comfortable position in his seat. He exhaled softly.
One thing’s for sure: She’ll never have to worry about my feelings for her. Because Whew! Do I have feelings for her!
And that’s putting it mildly.
Hildreth held his hand to eye-level and admired his wedding ring.
The way it fit his finger just right. Not too tight or too loose.
Its sleek gold shine in the kitchen light.
So clean. So simple. Yet, more beautiful than any ring with diamonds.
Next time a vampire or pixie try to get some moves on me, I can flash my ring in their face and be all “Nuh-uh! Sorry, honey. This hot man is taken, out of stock, not for sale/borrowing/lease and/or rent.”
“It’ll be a very satisfying thing to say, ‘I’m married’. Yeah! Heck yeah! I’m a married man.” He looked back at Elsie. “And I couldn’t be happier.”
Hildreth watched her busy with whatever she was making. She had braided her hair and tied it up with what looked like tinsel from the pom-poms. He felt like his heart was smiling. “No one could make me happier.”
Over half an hour later….
Hildreth’s mouth watered as the distinctive salt, garlic, and sauce aroma of pizza filled the air. “Doest mine own nose deceive me? Or did you really make pizza for me?”
Elsie placed his plate on the table before him. “Consider your nose not deceived.”
He looked down at the solitary slice of thin pizza on his plate. “Elsie baby, I can easily eat more than that.”
“I know you can. But I wanted to make sure you liked it before I overloaded your dish.” She sat next to him. “I’ve never made pizza before, certainly not this particular kind.”
Hildreth looked down at the slice on his plate. “Particular kind…huh.” It looked innocuous enough: sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped basil, lots of melted mozzarella, chopped garlic, pizza sauce.
He would have pondered it longer, but it smelled so good. His stomach growled.
He picked it up and took a bite. “MMM!”
“Does it taste okay?”
He ate his mouthful and said, “Heck yeah! This crust is so…I don’t know what it is. It’s kind of bready but not really. It’s light but dense. It’s salty but vaguely sweet. Dang! I’m making my mouth water just talking about it.” He eagerly took another bite.
Elsie picked up a slice from her own plate. “It’s cauliflower.”
“Cauliflower, parmesan, and one egg all mixed together.” She took a bite. “Mmm! It is good.”
Hildreth lowered his piece. He gave her an admiring look. “Elsie Mayhew, you are amazing.”
She bumped his leg with her knee. “So are you.”
The happiness inside of him wanted to explode into fountains of glittery hearts. But Hildreth simply smiled and ate his pizza.
“Do you have any regrets?” Clarice asked John.
He washed his hands in the kitchen sink. “You’d be lucky to find one human or extraordinary who doesn’t have some sort of regret.”
She shook her head. “That kind of person doesn’t exist.”
He shut off the faucet and shook the excess water off his hands. “I can’t imagine that you have much to regret.” He opened a nearby drawer and pulled out a kitchen towel.
“Oh, you’d be surprised.”
He dried his hands. “Try me.”
Clarice leaned back against the counter. “Just a lot of small things. Things I wish I had said. Things I wish I hadn’t said. Stupid things, really.”
He set the towel on the counter. “But?”
“But my biggest regret will always be that I didn’t push Gerald and Elsie into reconciling.” She sighed. “Oh, it’s easy enough to blame them. They are so much alike. So stubborn. So…frustrating.” Clarice stopped as she realized her wrong verb tense. “I mean, they were so much alike. But there was so much hurt between them. He knew that he’d done her wrong, even if it was for the right reasons. And she refused to talk about him, much less talk to him. And he was the same.”
“What could you have done?” he asked.
She lowered her gaze. “More.”
He came over to her and hugged her.
Clarice leaned into his embrace. “If I had at least told Elsie what was going on. If I had told her why he let her go.” She returned his hug. “If I had told her that he was on his way to see her when he died. Oh, John! It would have made a whole world of a difference!”
He rubbed her back. “At least she knows the truth now.”
She closed her eyes. “Yeah.”