Happily Ever After - Sample Pg1

 

You don’t measure love in time. You measure love in transformation. Sometimes the longest connections yield very little growth, while the briefest of encounters change everything. The heart doesn’t wear a watch - it’s timeless. It doesn’t care how long you know someone. It doesn’t care if you had a 40 year anniversary if there is no juice in the connection. What the heart cares about is resonance. Resonance that opens it, resonance that enlivens it, resonance that calls it home. And when it finds it, the transformation begins…” Jeff Brown, Author

 

 

Happily Ever After

 -is not what I thought

 

by Christine Sarno-Doyle

 

Holiday music sifts onto the sidewalks from downtown shops. A cool breeze wafts apple, cinnamon and pine through the air. Festive lights adorn shop windows and the apartments above. Garland gently sways overhead across city streets. I love this season and as I walk three blocks this evening to my destination, excitement and nervousness add to all the joy I’m feeling. I can’t decide which is more pronounced.

It’s been thirty-two years since I last saw Colt. Colter Derrick Crissom voted “best looking” and “most likely to succeed” in our 1968 senior high yearbook. I wonder if I will recognize him, or he me. Is he married? I heard he married. Is he still? If he is, will she answer the door? If she answers the door, why should it matter? My heart is beating faster than I can remember and tells me somehow it matters.

I arrive at 1591 Cambridge Street the address on the invitation to Colt’s holiday gala. Music and voices within can be heard where I stand staring at the door knocker that once dropped will announce my arrival, and there’ll be no turning back. My emotions are all over the place. It’s as if I’m a nervous teenager, as if the last three decades have evaporated, as if they belong to another woman in another lifetime. Where is she, the woman I know so well? She was here a mere few blocks ago, but the only sign I see of her now is in the reflection of a windowpane set alongside the door.

Soft lights embrace the front of the house and provide a romantic glow on the stoop where I stand. I take a breath in and compose myself, then raise the knocker pausing as I allow my eyes to follow the branch-like etchings on the door. Once released I listen as its echo mingles with the gaiety inside. A minute passes. I raise and release the knocker again. Footsteps are coming towards the door. It opens. It’s Colt.

             “Liv! I can’t believe my eyes!” He says with eagerness I hadn’t expected. Before I can reply, he has me in his arms. I’m surprised, but immediately return the favor. How long may I hold him? I wonder. I don’t want to let go.

“I can’t believe I found you,” he says. “I’m so glad to see you. Come in.” He slowly releases me mindful there are guests nearby and gestures down the hall.

“Everyone, this is Liv,” he announces cradling me against his side. “I think you know most everyone. Please excuse me and make yourself at home,” he says, then leans in, kisses my cheek and whispers, “We’ll talk later.”

The gala is festive, and crowed amid the backdrop of Victorian décor that ads an old-fashioned charm. It’s been years since I’ve seen these people. Tammy and Rich, Roni and Shane, Rainie and Scott, Cheryl and Kim. We exchange our hellos and seasons greeting, but I’m not fully present. My thoughts are on Colt and how the rest of the evening will play out.

The mill house has been restored to period—1800s New England. . The eight-foot wide entrance hall where I stand is wallpapered in a burgundy floral design. The adjoining room is papered with blue stripes accented with white rose panels. Dark mahogany accents the walls in wainscoting and crown molding. A lot of the furnishings are period pieces. It’s an antiques lover’s dream. I excuse myself from the group and walk through the house. I recognize more faces, but don't stop. I’m not one for small talk even more so tonight. I’m too nervous. So, to keep my mind occupied I decide to discover all that’s here.

             The residence is spectacular, but it lacks a sense of warmth and comfort, the things that speak to me in order for me to call a house a home. And, I see nothing that speaks of the man I remember. I redecorate in my mind as I move along. The library walls are dark and would do better in a mauve hue and lighter accents. The formal sitting room would benefit from dark upholstery to better complement the pastel wall paper. The paintings on the walls scream wealth but lack taste.

             Finally, I take in a breath of fresh air as I enter a room unlike any I’ve ever seen. An immaculate, spacious kitchen encircled by a large conservatory. Beautiful, white and glass door cabinetry hang above a long Corian counter top. Drawers beneath complete the space. An island stove, sink, and prep area sits in the center of the room. Sparkling pots and pans hang from a rotating ceiling pan holder. It’s spectacular, a picture from a culinary catalog. My cooking skills are maintenance-based, but I fully appreciate the beauty and detail that’s gone into this design.

I move through the kitchen into the conservatory where mini lights hug its top perimeter and illuminate the tables set for two that sit in discrete locations around the room. A garden of herbs are growing closest to the kitchen: Basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, curry, thyme. Medicinal rosemary, oregano, sage, bee balm and caraway complement the mix. Oversized ceramic and clay pots hold Gardenia’s, Hibiscus, and Rose trees. I love rose trees. Zebra plants, milkweeds and emerald ferns provide a varied background to the petunias, geraniums, alyssum and jasmine mixed in between and crisscrossing above.

             Sepp, Colt’s older brother, is standing in the far corner looking out a doorway onto the patio just beyond. Goodness, this place just keeps going. Sepp is four years my senior. Tall, dark and handsome. Just as I remember, even with his now thinning hair. He’s in deep thought and unaware of my presence. So, I stand quietly until he looks down at me, his six-foot-four-inch stature and my not-so-quite five-two elevation striking me as funny right now.

“Hi Sepp," I say with a big smile.

“Liv! How are you?”

“I’m fine. Thanks. I didn’t want to startle you. You were in a world all your own.”

“You haven't changed a bit!" he says.

“Thanks.” I take the complement in stride. I know full well the extra fifty pounds and my now gray hair lay in stark contrast to the 110-pound blonde he knew 32 years ago. But, he looks good too me also even with all those years behind us.

“Colt said you might be coming.”

“Yes. I was surprised to get the invitation.” I pause for a moment. “Wasn't sure I was coming until the last minute.”

“Really?”

 “It’s been a long time. I haven’t seen him since we broke up. I didn’t know what to expect.”

             “Colt?”

I nod, yes.

“It's all he could talk about. Liv. Liv. Liv.” He says smiling. “I’m glad you could make it. How do you like it?”

              “The party?”

              “Sure. And, the house?”

             “I’m having a nice time. What’s with the house, though? I don’t remember the two of you like this.” Odd that I would make that comment. I haven’t seen either of these men since we were young. Somehow, still, I feel I know them.

With more of a grin than a smile, Sepp replies, “You have to play the part, ya’ know. It serves us well. Office and meeting space. And, as you can see, entertaining. Can’t beat downtown. You’re right, though.” He lets out a hearty laugh. “This is not where we unwind.”

             “How are you doing? Where are you living now?” he asks.

             We get lost in conversation, reminiscing about school days and ruminating about all the changes in town.

I feel an arm wrap around my shoulder and another at my waist. Colt whispers, “Can we go somewhere quiet to talk?” My heart begins racing again. In truth, it never did regain resting mode.

             “I’d love that.” I reply and as I turn feel Colts lips brush my cheek.

At this moment, my feelings are out of touch with reality. They are decades old: young passionate and in love. What is this? “Oh, please don’t act like a nervous school girl”, I tell myself. “You’re fifty-seven years old for heaven's sake. Act like an adult!” And with that admonishment, the giddy young lady takes a back seat and my composure stays intact. Thank goodness.

“It was nice to see you. I’d love to talk more sometime.” I say to Sepp as I excuse myself from our conversation.

“Look forward to it,” he says with a smile.

             “This way,” Colt says as he takes my hand. “I can’t tell you how good it is to see you, Liv. How many years has it been?”

             “Thirty-two.” I know exactly.

             We’re quiet as he leads me to a discreet part of the house where seemingly out of nowhere an archway appears. We move through the doorway onto a spacious landing set atop a broad spiral staircase. Ornate iron railings grace its sides and a sea-green hue coats the walls. The lighting is dim but as we make our way down sensors illuminate each step then fall dark once we pass.

             “That’s interesting." I say. "The lighting. I’ve never seen that before.”

             “It’s to keep this area as natural as possible,” he replies.

             “Natural?” I wonder aloud.

             A long hallway lays at the bottom step with a single door at the far end.

At my left is an unadorned wall painted in the same sea-green hue. To my right is a wall of glass beyond which I surmise rests a patio. As my eyes adjust to the light, I look closer through the glass. It’s not a patio on the other side. It’s an ocean water aquarium.

“Oh my god, Colt. What is this?”

             “Beautiful, isn’t it?” he replies. “It’s my hobby.”

“Hobby? It’s incredible. How’d you …”