The sun was just setting when they arrived at the nearly empty restaurant. He turned to her and asked, “Would you like to take a walk on the beach before we have dinner?”

Although she didn’t feel well and would have preferred to be home sleeping, it was a beautiful night. The sky was perfectly clear, the air crisp. She reasoned that the sea air might help settle her stomach and relieve the pounding in her head that only intensified as she studied his every gesture and movement. She searched his face for clues as to what he was thinking and feeling.

She suppressed the urge to blurt out, “Why did you leave me that morning?” opting instead to let him set the tone for the evening.

They walked along the beach in silence for a few minutes, each savoring the exquisite colors along the horizon as the sun gradually sunk below it. Without saying a word or looking at her, he reached over and took her hand as they continued walking leisurely along the shoreline.

Finally, he stopped walking and, as he held her hand tightly, they watched the last glimpse of the sun slide below the surface of the ocean. Darkness quickly set in. Then he turned to face her, looking into her eyes for the briefest moment before kissing her with a tenderness that threatened to completely overtake her. After a few moments, he simply resumed his grip on her hand and began leading her toward the restaurant.

As they perused the menu, ordered, and then lingered over dinner, they chatted easily. Finally, she began to relax and enjoy herself. The throbbing headache she had been fighting all day subsided at last, and her stomach felt nearly normal for the first time in at least a couple of weeks.

As she considered the face that she knew so well and had loved for so many years, she allowed herself to believe that this evening was her second chance. Their second chance. She allowed herself to hope that on this night she would be given a second chance to show him how much she loved him. As she gazed at him, she longed for this night to end differently than their New Year’s Eve celebration had.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, as the server cleared away the dishes and inquired whether they wanted an after-dinner drink. “Would you like some coffee — or perhaps something a bit stronger?”

Finally comfortable enough, she decided to test him by chiding, “Why?” She squinted her eyes and playfully asked, “Are you trying to get me drunk again?” She smiled as she waited for his reaction.

“Would I do that?” he responded, feigning innocence. “Me? Do I look like that kind of guy?”

“As a matter of fact . . . ” she began.

“Don’t finish that sentence,” he interrupted, raising his hand in protest. They laughed lightly and she held her breath in anticipation, certain that he would finally seize upon this uniquely opportune moment to initiate the frank discussion she longed to have with him . . . needed to have with him.

“So . . . ” he began, as she leaned toward him eagerly, “Coffee or not?”

She tried to hide her disappointment. “No, I don’t think that would be a good idea,” she said quietly, resolute in the knowledge that the moment was gone forever.

“All right,” he replied matter-of-factly. “Then we might as well get going.”

They stood and he turned to go, but she hesitated for a moment, looking down at the table as she contemplated whether she had the courage to begin the dialogue herself. She took a deep breath and was about to suggest that they sit back down for a few moments to talk when a wave of nausea caught her off-guard.

He turned back toward her just as she grabbed the edge of the table to steady herself. He rushed back to her and gently put one arm around her waist, steadying her by placing his other hand on her arm and pulling her close to him.

“Hey . . . hey,” he said softly. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. I think I’d better get you back home.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I was feeling much better. Until I stood up, anyway.”

“That’s all right,” he said, leaving his arm around her waist as they left the restaurant. “I’ll take care of you, o.k.?”

He smiled at her and gently kissed her forehead as they strode toward the car.

Click here to read Chapter Eighteen


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