Penny leaned down for the traditional lei greeting. The smell of the fresh flowers adorning her new ensemble made her smile. Although they’d been planning this trip for a year, she could hardly believe she and Luke were in Hawaii.
“Cute,” Luke said. Well, cute was a start, Penny thought. Though she still felt chubby, she’d dieted like mad before the trip, hoping to look great for this anniversary trip and re-kindle the romance in their 20-year-old marriage. Although Penny had lost nearly twenty-five pounds and two dress sizes, Luke hadn’t seemed to notice.
After checking into their room, Luke and Penny walked to the beach. “Paradise,” Penny said. And it was…from the lush greenery and fragrant, blooming flowers, to the crystal blue waters lapping at the powdery white sand. “Want to walk along the beach a ways?”
“Sure,” Luke said, “I’d like to take in more of the scenery.” Penny hoped he was referring to nature and not to all the beautiful women baring their bodies in the sun along the beach. Despite her weight loss, she found that scenery very intimidating.
They walked in silence. “A penny for your thoughts!” she teased, using the phrase that used to make him laugh.
“Oh,” he replied after a long pause, “I’m thinking about a lot of things…for instance, that I wasn’t sure this was a good idea, but that I’m glad you talked me into it.”
Penny had, indeed, had to talk him into it. In the past 20 years, they’d grown distant while raising their two active children. It seemed they were always headed in different directions, balancing parenting, careers, kids’ activities, plus church and social activities like so many spinning plates on wooden sticks. Every now and then a plate crashed but Penny and Luke never stopped. With renewed energy, they’d managed to just spin the sticks harder to keep everything going. Now, with both kids in college, Penny felt a void in their lives, and she was afraid of it---hoping and praying that they could fill it with love like they’d had for each other during the early years of the marriage.
“Ready to head back?” Luke’s voice broke into her thoughts. “I’m famished, and I’d like to sample some local food.” Luke was always ready to eat! Food was his comfort, Penny knew. One of the things that had attracted Luke to Penny in their courtship days was her reputation as a wonderful cook. During the last ten years, though, the family had succumbed to eating out simply for the way it accommodated their busy schedule. She felt this, too, had contributed to their drifting apart.
After a dinner that would have rated a “10” from the most discerning culinary expert, Penny and Luke walked onto the hotel balcony to take in the sunset. “You think this is what Adam and Eve gave up?” Luke wondered aloud.
“Could be,” Penny laughed.
Luke looked at Penny. “I need to tell you something,” he said seriously. Despite the beauty of their present surroundings, she braced herself, afraid of losing her own paradise. Before she could react, though, Luke took her hand. “You know I’m not good at romance, and this is hard for me to say, Penny. We’ve been going in different directions these past few years,” he said quietly. “I didn’t know how to slow things down for us. It seemed like we were on some carnival ride that wouldn’t stop. But I never stopped loving you, and, though I don’t say it very often, I hope you know I love you more today than ever. I haven’t said anything to you about how nice you look…yes, I’ve noticed your weight loss…but if you weighed 300 pounds, I’d marry you again in a heartbeat.”
She was crying now. “I didn’t mean to make you cry. I just want you to know that when I made those vows to you --and to God-- 20 years ago, I meant them. Hopefully, we’ll use the rest of our lives to re-discover each other. I want us to do that, starting here, starting now.”
With pink and golden sun-rays sinking into the ocean in the background, Penny felt her soul warming and her thoughts brightening, the void shrinking. Yes, Penny thought, Praise the Lord, we will survive. As they headed for their room, she promised, “The best is yet to come!”
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