John hesitated. Both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ sounded like the right answer.
“What do you want, John?” Clarice asked.
The sound of her voice saying his name gave him goosebumps.
“It’s your house. Your choice.”
“Stay.” The word escaped on him before he was fully ready. But he stuck with it and took it past its one word status. “I want you to stay. I’d worry about you if you went home this late. Not that I think you can’t take care of yourself. You obviously can. You’ve lived all of this time alone. You don’t need me to be telling you to be safe.”
She touched his lips with her finger. “Then, I’ll stay.”
Carrie. Carrie, she is wonderful. Do you see her? Do you see how wonderful she is?
He cleared his throat. “I’ll let you sleep in Barbara’s old room with Sarah.”
“You are wonderful, John, in every possible way.” She tapped his lips and lowered her hand. “I suspect even in that mm-mm-mmm way.”
He laughed self-consciously. “I’m not so sure. It’s been a lot of years.”
“Same here, sweet lovin’ muffin man.”
Apparently, the conversation had turned too mature for Sarah’s tastes. She retreated to the table and opened her book.
John smiled at Sarah. “I feel like…I don’t know how to explain it. Almost like I’m leaving one room and am about to open a door to a whole new room. Maybe even a whole new me.” He looked back at Clarice. “Does that make sense to you? Or am I just talking bonkers?”
“Oh, honey. It’s not at all bonkers. Or, if it is, well! I guess I’m bonkers too. Because I feel the same way.”
He laughed again. “Well, that is very good to know.”
She held his hands. “John.”
A pleasant feeling came over him. Something that felt like warmed blankets and summer sunshine. “Yes?”
“Just so you know, I wasn’t being flippant.” Clarice said. “I want to marry you. I honestly do. I don’t know how long our lives together will be. I don’t know if we’ll die together, if we’ll die alone, if we’ll have a cushy death bed, or if we’ll die in a parking lot. All I do know is I want to spend the rest of my life with you, no matter how long or short a time that might be.”
“So do I.” John said. “There’s nothing I want more.”
“Just say the word and I’ll hop the next flight to Vegas with you.”
He shook his head. “I won’t be your first husband. But that doesn’t mean I want this wedding to be a Scotch tape and plastic flowers kind of event. Clarice, I want it to be as special as our first weddings. Because it will be as special. Maybe even more so.” He raised her hands and kissed them. “You are special, Clarice Vansing. And you always will be.”