It was early October and a cold front was moving in on Detlor's Beach along the Atlantic coast. Cumulus clouds banked ominously upon themselves in dark tumescent ripples just over the white-capped horizon.
“Let’s sit here,” Stuart, a man in his mid-thirties said, indicating an outcropping of black rocks just shy of the lapping waves. He removed his jacket and placed it on a low shelf of one of the rocks, offering his hand to the woman walking next to him.
The woman, his wife, Frances, ignored the gesture and stood, looking out into the water. The wind blew her hair around her face.
“Please, let’s just sit and talk,” he said.
Bighting her lip, she didn’t look at him. “About the divorce?” Her lips formed an enigmatic smile. “I…I guess it was a bit sudden, dropping it on you like I did, but I really had no choice.”
“No choice? Just like that, out of the blue. Help me understand.”
She pulled the cardigan she was wearing tight around her, overlapping one arm over the other. “What’s to understand? After twenty years, no kids, we’ve grown apart. End of story. Time to start a new book. You’ll have your life, I’ll have mine.”
“We’ve not grown apart and you know it.” He hesitated. “I called Dr. Carlyle. He told me about the cancer.
She drew a deep breath, turning to him. “You had no right…”
“I’m your husband, I have every right.”
“I’ll not have you feeling sorry for me.”
“You and your obstinate pride. Pity has nothing to do with it. I love you and want to support you. Our wedding vows, for sickness and in health, are sacred to me. I know you’re frightened…”
“You don’t know how I feel - how can you?”
“Because we’ve shared the past twenty years together; the best years of my life, that’s how. He extended his hand again. “Please let’s just sit and talk this out.
“Cancer is not something you can talk your way out of.”
“I didn’t mean it that way. Please.”
Hesitantly she took his hand and sat upon his jacket. “I don’t want to be a burden to you, Stu; it’s as simple as that. I know a divorce sounds cold and cruel, but it’s the best way, really.” She tried to sound light but it came out feigned. “You’ll be free…”
Stu took her in his arms, causing her to face him. “I don’t want to be free of you. You are my life. Every breath you take is air into my own lungs; every beat of your heart is life flowing through my own veins.” He took her to his chest, holding her in a tight embrace. “Frances, we’re in this together, I will never, ever let you go. Forgive me for ever making you feel otherwise.”
She trembled in his arms. “I’m so frightened” Sobs choked her words; hot tears ran down her cheeks. “I didn’t want to hurt you, but I didn’t know what to do. God, help me. I don’t know what to do.”
Out, above the swell of the ocean waves, a sea gull rode the wind, wings extended, swooping and gliding effortlessly on the front of the oncoming storm. They watched it together.
The gull cried out as Frances broke the stillness. “Stu, be honest,” looking up, she searched his face, “do you have any regrets with our marriage. I mean not having children, not doing the things you dreamed of before we were married…
“Stop right there.” He kissed her lips, snuggling her closer in his arms. As your dearly beloved poet Browning once wrote I’ve loved you to the ‘depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.’” He paused, “and this leaves me room for nothing more.
“See the waves upon the sand. See how when the tide runs over it, it glistens - reflecting all of life around it – the sky, the clouds the gulls. And when the tide ebbs, that shimmer, that reflection is gone. That is how your love, our marriage is to me. Will always be.”
“I’m so sorry for hurting you, but I was only trying to set you free. I’m so blessed by your love. Her trembling eased and she looked up at him. “I never want to lose you.”
He gazed into her searching eyes. “You never will. We’re bound together forever. And, even as Browning ended: that if God chooses, we shall but love better even after death.”
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