They almost didn’t meet.
She’d forgotten her books at the media centre at the library and so had returned to fetch them as he was arriving for a latte and a quiet read. They passed in the lobby as Stephanie was leaving again, but when Dan saw the title of one of her books, he commented,
“A Guide to Austen’s England. Planning a trip?”
“Just a dream. I’m writing a paper.”
“Have you read it all? Jane Austen, I mean?”
“Just about. You?” Stephanie asked incredulously.
“Same, except for a few obscure works.”
They wandered back to the library’s internet café, lingered over lattes, chatted about Austen, and discovered further common interests in Dylan Thomas and G. K. Chesterton.
“And once, when we were camping...”
“You like camping, too?”
“When I studied German...”
“I also studied German...”
“I can’t stand chocolate.”
By the time the lights were being dimmed in the library, Stephanie and Dan had learned enough about each other to plan another time together. Stephanie was already in danger of melting in Dan’s liquid brown eyes; Dan was mesmerized by Stephanie’s smile and brilliant wit.
By Christmas, there was more than snowflakes in the air, circling and spinning; love was taking the couple on a equally dizzying ride. Dan was attentive, kind, and gentle. Stephanie laughed at his jokes, listened to his thoughts, and encouraged his ideas.
On Christmas Eve, Dan and Stephanie walked in the snow, then, stood in a pine scented lane as the moon turned the forest into a silver wonderland beneath a diamond studded sky. Stephanie watched in amazement as one of of the stars fell into Dan’s hand, and he asked the magical question she’d been waiting for.
“Will you marry me?”
She answered with a kiss. And the single word, “Soon.”
“Then, a spring wedding it shall be.”
On a day in May, not a cloud marred the sapphire sky and the air was suffused with the gladness of a host of singing birds. Joyously garbed, guests lined the pews in the church, smiling indulgently as Stephanie glided down the aisle in a frothy concoction of satin, lace, and beads, a bouquet of sweetheart roses and trailing ivy clasped in her hands. At the altar, Dan beheld his beloved, his eyes glowing.
“You’re beautiful,” he whispered when Stephanie stood at his side.
“I love you,” she returned.
“Dearly beloved,” began the priest. The service continued until the vows were recited, the kiss savoured, and the newly united couple introduced.
“A perfect couple.”
“They’re beautiful. She’s a treasure.”
“And he’s so handsome. Brilliant man.”
While the women dabbed at their cheeks, the men prepared to give Dan a few hearty pats on the back, all remembering when they carried their dreams in their eyes, before years dulled the gleam.
The caterers were a little late, but it didn’t detract from the celebration. Everything was done to perfection - roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, glazed carrots and creamed peas.
Clink, clink, clink
“Stephanie, they want us to kiss again.”
Stephanie blushed, but rose, amid much cheering and clapping of the guests.
They danced, every movement in perfect unison, a harmony of body and soul, a rhapsody of their undying devotion and desire. Like a flaring lily, Stephanie turned and stepped, laughing and smiling. She gave a few courtesy dances to several lucky men, then returned to Dan’s waiting arms.
“Be careful, my love, I’ll be jealous.” He held her close and breathed into her ear.
“But I love you,” she breathed back.
They flew away on their honeymoon, to relax on a white beach, float in an azure sea, and talk, discovering more mysteries of their sameness and differences.
Then home to life as it would be and become. Laundry and lawns, gardens and groceries, cares and careers. From the magnificent to the mundane. If they’d been paying attention, they’d have seen the signs, perhaps even before the snow, before the latte.
“How was your day, Steph?” Dan put his bag on the table and came up behind Stephanie.
Dan continued, “Supper ready? I have things to do if it’s not ready yet. Did you get the mail?”
There was no answer from Stephanie. She continued to work on the chore in the sink.
“Steph? Can you answer me” Still nothing.
Dan stepped closer to Stephanie.
Without warning, the fist flung out. Dan fell against the chair, tripped and hit the floor, unconscious.
Stephanie laughed hysterically.
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