EPILOGUE

It’s bullshit, what they say about love.

Love hurts; is blind; is a many splendored thing; conquers all; is a battlefield; has no boundaries. All you need is love. Makes the world go ‘round and ‘round, even. It’s bullshit, all of it, everything you’ve ever heard.

But you already knew that, didn’t you? In fact, we all already know it… yet we still try to box that emotion up for the masses, put it into words, make it tangible and logical. But here’s the thing – love isn’t logical. It’s not consistent enough for a solid definition. And sometimes, it’s completely, totally incomprehensible…

I could try and explain it to you – break it down in terms for you to understand, but I can’t. How do you put in plain words a concept that even the most gifted of individuals can’t begin to comprehend? An emotion that has caused empires to fall, great monuments to be built, acts of genuine selflessness to occur, and countless other deeds that claim to have been done in its name? How do you explain that?

You see, when I was a little girl, I never liked fairy tales. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, they all annoyed me. It seems strange, doesn’t it? While all the other children were enraptured, lost in the fantastical world created by these legendary authors, I was busy counting the cracks in the ceiling. Why?

They were unrealistic, of course.

One-dimensional stories about pretty, flawless princesses and the terrible things that happened to them. Idealistic stories about how the perfect man came along and saved them, swept them off their feet, and they all lived happily ever after. Outlandish stories about wild, everlasting love and the way it changed their lives.

Most of my friends adored these tales, and daydreamed about finding princes of their own. Not me. I didn’t see the point. Perfect princes, knights in shining armor, were an impossibility, a dream, a fantasy – they didn’t exist in my reality. In the hard, scientific world I’d grown accustomed to. In a world of genetic engineering and brain surgery, who needed fantastical, superficial fluff like that? There were more important things to spend your time believing, right?

I still don’t believe in fairy tales.

I do, however, believe in the impossible. In fate and faith. In us.

He’s quiet as we pull back into the driveway, returning from our long and luxurious meal of Mai Tai chicken and crisp spring rolls. The motion-sensor light kicks on, washing our house and front yard with an eerie glow.

I am somehow tired, but not sleepy; wired, but not jittery. As I shuffle towards the door, I feel his warm hand touch the small of my back. A simple gesture, but one filled with unspoken tenderness and affection. I lean back against him, sighing softly as his lips brush against my forehead.

“Tired?” he murmurs as he uses his free hand to twist the key in the lock.

“A little,” I answer softly. He gently prods me inside, closing the door and locking it soundly behind us. I wander into our kitchen, flipping on the light.

The red LED is blinking on our phone – we have four new messages in the time we’ve been out. One is a hang-up, the typical whisper-giggle-click type of messages we somehow get on occasion; one from his mother, telling us of his cousin’s birthday party on the 4th; one from Isaac, a fatherly reminder about practice in the morning; and one from Louise, brassy as always, demanding to know when we are planning to provide her with nieces and nephews to spoil.

I lean against the counter as the machine clicks off; the messages over. The house is still; silent. He glances over at me, weakening my knees with a beatific smile. It’s not even the physical attractiveness that bowls me over; he just has a way about him – something intrinsic and inherent that shows in his every expression, or gesture, or spoken word. He loves me, and he never hides it, and that makes him far more appealing than any expensive article of clothing or haircut ever could.

Is this possible, this life I find myself in? On our own, living our version of the American dream? It’s something I never could have imagined for myself, in a time not all that long ago. There are moments when I feel I’m standing outside a glass bubble, simply observing the everyday normalcy of our life together – normalcy that seemed so unfeasible and unattainable to me when I was younger; things like work and money and gourmet cooking and sex…

…and of course, love.

His eyes wrinkle up with laughter at our messages, and he leans over me to press the ‘play’ button again. “Seems we’re popular tonight,” he murmurs, his lips achingly close to my ear before he pulls back. I smile, turning to face him, loving the way he’s finally relaxed – the stress from his earlier practicing gone; all that’s left is calm and contentment. He’s always beautiful to me, whether dressed to the nines or grubbing around in black-framed glasses and sweatpants, but never more so than when he’s relaxed. When we’re alone; when his guard is down; when he looks at me with that smile that first floored me nearly seven years ago.

We stand quietly side by side, listening again to our messages. I feel a smile sneak onto my face at the last one – that familiar, husky female voice, demanding yet playful as she lists the benefits of procreation. “Heather is due in October, did I mention that? A little boy. She’s naming him Gavin.  Might want to hurry up and get with it, you two – you’re not getting any younger…”

“Bossy, as always,” I murmur.

He chuckles. “Some things never change.”

I nod absentmindedly at this statement, closing my eyes, lost in thought. I feel content, safe, comfortable… in a word, happy. Oh – happily ever after? Appropriate enough, for our story. But is that what love is, you ask? Riding off into the sunset together, smoldering kisses, being placed on a pedestal? Romantic walks on the beach, candlelit dinners, and long-stemmed roses every night?

No.

Love is watching ridiculously stupid movies at 3AM, chatting aimlessly and laughing yourself into tears. It’s letting your husband have the last Fudge Round, because although you love them, you know they’re his favorite. It’s the tender way he looks at you when you wake up in the morning, despite your straggly-haystack hair and less-than-stellar breath. It’s the sweet things you whisper in each other’s ear, whether you’re stealing a private moment while out in public, or locked in the heat of passion on a sultry summer evening. It’s all those simple things, and more, too many to possibly list…

“You know,” he says softly, his hand cupping my face. I look into his eyes, drinking in their warmth, lost in their depths. He smiles; tentative, sweet. “She has a point…”

It’s realizing that your life is about to change forever, but you’re not scared, as long as he’s by your side.

 

I close my eyes again, letting my hands slowly caress his waist. Feeling the heat, the strength, beneath his thin shirt as I absorb his not-so-subtle hint. It’s a topic that’s been broached on several occasions in the four years since our wedding, with the end decision always being a reluctant agreement to wait just a little longer. However, this time, it feels different; and I know, before I even think about how to reply, what my answer will be. Some things never change? True… but sometimes, change is a terrifyingly wonderful thing. Sometimes, you have to just go for it…

When I finally let my lids flutter back open, he’s still gazing down at me, waiting. Earnest. Adoring. Hopeful.

“She does,” I agree, whispering. “She does…”

His face lights up with delight, and I find myself being lifted onto the counter, his warm mouth plying against mine, eager but never forceful. I wrap my arms around his neck, my legs around his waist, pulling him as close as I can possibly manage, and laugh at his enthusiasm. He presses his lips close to my ear. “Might as well get started then, don’t you think?” he murmurs, mock-formal and gently teasing. “No time like the present, I hear…”

His eagerness is contagious, despite knowing the odds of that happening right away – it will take time, of course, as the facts of science and birth control have shown that it will be at least a month before any of our efforts come to fruition. I smile and remind him of this, but he merely smirks.

“Just in case, then,” he says. “For good measure… we could be a scientific anomaly, you know…”

I can’t stop my lips from curving up. “True… as good a reason as any,” I whisper, kissing his neck. I lean my forehead against his, feeling the familiar rush of anticipation in my veins, along with the giddy knowledge of the unknown territory we were throwing ourselves into. “But if we’re going upstairs, I think you should carry me…”

“Honey, I’d carry you anywhere…” I giggle as he scoops me up effortlessly, my legs tightening around his lean torso. I wrap my arms around his neck a little more firmly, and he hoists me closer, whispering seductive, sweet promises in my ear as he carries me towards the stairs.

“I love you,” I sigh in between kisses – a breathless reminder of a fact he already knows.

“I love you.” He pulls back just for a moment as we reach the top of the steps, his eyes squarely gazing into mine. “Are you ready, Mrs. Hanson?”

Love? Sex? Marriage? Motherhood? As long as I’m with him, I’m ready for anything. I tighten my hold on his neck.

“Yes.”

He bites his lip, a smile breaking through despite his efforts to appear composed. With that one affirmative syllable still echoing in our minds, he kisses me again – that one simple act telling me everything I need to know. I may not believe in fairy tales or princes, but that’s okay, because I have something even better – a man, real and flawed, who loves me for who I am, in spite of my many odd idiosyncrasies.

And me? I love him, too, every part. Body, mind, and soul – literally.

And now that you know our story, you realize that I have to ask you that same question, just one more time – do you believe in fate?

Somehow, I knew we would change your mind.

-FIN-