“I think that you two should go.” Ray offered. He wanted for Penelopy and Daniel to have a chance to be alone together. They had spent his entire trip within the confines of a group setting. They had all gone off to Upstate New York and had enjoyed the day trip immensely, but it was time for them to explore the possibilities of a relationship together. Ray was going to make sure that they could.
“But Uncle,” Penelopy protested. “Daniel hasn’t seen the financial district yet, or the Statue of Liberty. What about the Ferry to Statin Island? We have so much to see yet.”
“That’s what I’m saying. You need to just go. You don’t need to be lugging an old man and a baby around.” Ray insisted.
“But what about Suzie?” Penelopy continued with her protests.
“I’m fine.” Suzie came from around the corner. Uncle Ray said that I get to play ‘mommy’ again. Brittany’s so much fun. I don’t mind if you go. Honest.”
Penelopy looked at Daniel. He certainly wasn’t going to protest to being alone with her. She was out of arguments. “Well, I guess, let me get my purse.”
Daniel smiled at Ray. “Thanks.” He said.
“My pleasure.” Ray stated with a smile. “Have fun.”
“You know, Pen, I’ve waited all of my life for this day.” Daniel held Penelopy in the soft crook of his arm.
“To be in a car on a ferry?” Penelopy asked, innocently confused.
“No, silly. To be here, to be with you now.”
“No, not really.” Penelopy objected. She didn’t like to hear him talk like that. What about Mitzi. Hadn’t he cared more about her? She was certain that he had. She had to voice her concerns out loud. “What about Mitzi. You can’t mean it.”
“Shh.” Daniel spoke softly. “She was different. Of course I loved Mitzi, and a part of me always will. But you need to know how I feel about you.”
“But –” Penelopy again protested. She couldn’t hear it. She didn’t want to hear it. It didn’t seem right. She had been his wife. He had to love Mitzi. Everything within her needed him to love her. If he didn’t truly love Mitzi, then how would he ever be able to honestly love her either? Penelopy was in a state of confusion over it all. She felt pulled in so many different directions. She wanted him to love her, but she was afraid.
“It’s not the same.” Daniel began to try and explain. “I loved Mitzi, but I didn’t really need her; not like I need you. She and I, we were young, and we were in love; but we had no idea of what the real world even looked like. With you I have grown into a man. Mitzi had the heart of a boy, but you Pen, you have the heart of a man.”
“But –” Penelopy tried to interrupt. She felt like she was infringing upon another woman’s rights.
“No. Listen. You need to hear this. Penelopy, I need you. Everything about you. I need your strength; your stubbornness; your kindness. All these months; I wouldn’t have made it without you.”
Penelopy spoke finally, determinedly. “No, Daniel. You are strong. You would have made it. Mitzi deserves –”
“Stop.” Daniel gently put his hand on Penelopy’s mouth. “She’s gone. It’s just you, and me, and now. It’s all we’ve got, and it’s all we need.”
Daniel pulled Penelopy closer into his embrace and he kissed her. Penelopy couldn’t protest as the warmth of his mouth and the tenderness of his words assured her that she was right where she belonged.
“You loved her?” Penelopy needed to know.
“I love you.” Daniel stated as he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her again.
“But you loved her?” Penelopy wouldn’t give it up.
“Of course I loved her, but not like I love you.” Daniel was getting a little frustrated. He couldn’t figure out what this woman wanted from him.
“I can live with that.” Penelopy stated, as she was the one to initiate the kiss this time.
Daniel kissed her back, and then he pulled away. “I think I need some fresh air.”
Penelopy blushed. She had never been so fresh. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean –”
“You didn’t do anything wrong. I just don’t trust myself, that’s all. But there’s one thing that I want you to know,” Penelopy looked at Daniel as he continued, “I love you, and I promise to always love you.”
Daniel reached into an inside jacket pocket and pulled out a small box. Before Penelopy could protest he presented the box and told her, “Don’t say anything, please, just listen.”
He opened the box and took out the solitaire diamond that was set in a heart with the rubies on the sides. “I want to give this to you, Penelopy, as a promise. I promise to love you and I promise to wait until the day that you are ready to love me back; if that day ever comes. I want you to know that if you decide to go your own way I’ll receive this ring back as your only explanation. You owe me nothing, but I promise you everything.”
Daniel took the ring and asked, “May I?”
Penelopy was quivering as she tentatively offered him her hand.
He placed the ring on the third finger of her left hand. “Come on,” he said after she took her hand and picked it up and looked at the beautiful ring; after she received the promise of his devotion, “Let’s go get a soda.”
“Daddy! Look!” It slipped out of her mouth before she even realized it. She had never called her uncle Daddy before.
Ray immediately stood and walked the short distance between them and took Penelopy into his welcoming arms.
“I didn’t –” Penelopy needed to correct herself.
“Shh. Don’t. It’s okay.”
Penelopy let the guilt glide out of her heart as she welcomed the complete acceptance her uncle offered.
After reassuring Penelopy that she was indeed safe in his arms, Ray released his arms and said, “So, let me see it.”
“You knew?” Penelopy was surprised.
“I spoke with Daniel. Yes, I knew.” Ray said, with a gentle smile.
“You spoke with him? What did he say?” Penelopy was trying to speak quietly as she didn’t want her house guest to hear; but she was beyond curious to know more.
“No, I believe that you came in here ready to show me something.” Ray countered.
“But I want to know –” Penelopy tried to protest, but her uncle would have none of it.
“No. Settle and calm, girl. Show me.”
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Penelopy offered out her hand for inspection.
“It is lovely. Now we can talk.” Ray wanted Penelopy to enjoy this special time together. He was happy for his little girl.
“He really cares about me. Told me so. Said that he would wait for me. No pressure, he said. Oh, Uncle. I feel like a Princess.”
“Come. Sit. We need to talk.” Ray directed Penelopy to the couch.
“You need me to share a few things with you, sweetie.” Ray spoke quietly. Penelopy listened intently.
“I know that this is an exciting time, but you need to listen to your inner voice. You need to ask yourself some hard questions.”
“Questions? Like what?” Penelopy was confused.
“Like are you ready to make a long-term commitment to Daniel? And if you aren’t sure, then please don’t; At least not yet.”
“But he said –”
“I know what he said sweetheart. He and I had a talk. I know that he is committed to you. I also know that he doesn’t want to push you or to rush things. But what he didn’t say was that he’s putting everything on the line for you, and asking nothing in return.”
“Did he tell you that he would give me the ring and that the only thing that I needed to do should I choose not to pursue this relationship was to return the ring?”
“He did. But I don’t think that you’re thinking in that direction, are you?”
“No. Not even a little bit. I’m so certain of what I want that it scares me.” Penelopy was being as honest and transparent as she knew how.
“And it should scare you, sweetheart. Forever is a huge decision. Don’t rush yourself. Take the time that he has offered. He’s not going anywhere.”
“I think I can trust him, Uncle.” Penelopy leaned herself into her uncle’s chest.
“Of that one thing my dear, I am quite certain.”
Daniel put Brittany into the crib and he lay himself down on the bed. He couldn’t help but feel like a schoolboy who had finally gotten up the nerve to ask the prettiest girl at school out on a date: Except for this was so much more. He had promised everything to Penelopy.
As he lay there he thought about their day exploring the City. He thought about all of the tourist traps that they had avoided and about the things that they had seen. Even still, nothing compared to what he had seen in Penelopy’s eyes as he pledged himself to her. She would say ‘yes’ one day; of that he was quite certain. He would be faithful, and he would wait.
Jessica finished straightening up her small apartment. The party the night before had left quite a mess. She had only cleaned up what absolutely could not wait; otherwise the rest was just left where it had landed.
She couldn’t believe what a huge success her party had been. Not only had all of the men mended whatever disagreements that they had, but they did so with no great fan-fare. They were all enjoying the food and the football game way too much to be bothered with any past strife between them. She had also peeked in on them while they were shooting pool. They were acting like a group of unruly teenagers! She didn’t interrupt them, but she was so relieved that everything had turned out as it had.
She knew that she would be able to work with Ernie again, without having to be ashamed of herself. She also knew that she hadn’t harmed Brad’s business. She was incredibly grateful that she had been redeemed, but then when she considered Pete’s warm gesture towards her when he left she knew that she didn’t have to worry about being around him anymore either; she knew that she was on better than good standings with him.
All in all as she considered it, she realized that she was just where she belonged. She smiled as she grabbed up another group of dirty dishes and headed off to the kitchen to deal with the mess; grateful that her apartment was the only mess left for her to have to deal with.
David pulled up to Daniel’s place and parked. He was early. He had a lot to do, and wanted to get a good start. He turned his eyes towards the barn. He could hear the cows starting to stir. They were anxious to be milked. He took in a deep breath and smelled the richness of the farm. It was a good life.
Are you satisfied?
Huh? Carrie was caught off guard. Who are you.
It’s me silly. I am we; we are me. Are you satisfied?
The others? Where are they?
Haven’t you been paying any attention at all?
Carrie had to think about that for a minute.
They’re gone? Carrie didn’t know what to think once she got to thinking.
No silly. Not gone. They are properly placed. Maybe one day you could return to find out more about them.
You mean write more about them? Carrie wasn’t quite tracking with her chain of thought.
It’s not your problem; our problem; anymore. If you will let them, they will write themselves. You gave them the identities that they all so desperately needed and deserved. It’s not up to you anymore.
So, I can be done? Carrie tentatively waited. She listened to her inner voice to see if there were any strays hiding and waiting to be written. Nothing but silence.
We’re finished here.
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