R and R



“This place is, uh, interesting,” Henry said the moment we walked into the room, pursing his lips at the overenthusiastic beach cottage décor. The walls were covered in whitewashed beadboard and the furniture was all white rattan, even the headboard. Seashells, real and plastic, were scattered on nearly every surface.
He set the bags down on the worn wood floor and entered the only other door in the room, painted a faded blue. “Well, at least we have our own bathroom.”
“No dorm-room sharing with other guests then,” I called, drawing aside the frilly white curtain and looking at our view of the quiet street and the abandoned little shack across the road with a large FOR SALE sign in its broken window. I grinned to myself. This place certainly had its charms.
“This place is not like they said in the website,” Henry said, emerging from the bathroom with a shaking head.
“I think it’s kind of cute.”
Henry raised an eyebrow. “Cute?”
I jabbed a thumb out the window. “Yeah, in the way that the hobo at the corner is cute.”
“There is not…” He walked to the window and looked out. He let out an exasperated gust of air. “Of all the bed and breakfasts in Key West, I chose the most ghetto one.”
I hugged him from behind, pressing my cheeks against his back. “It’s fine, Henry,” I said. “As long as we’re together.”
He grasped my linked hands and held them up to his lips. “This is not how I pictured our honeymoon, Els. I wanted to give you something classy and nice.”
“This is perfect,” I insisted. We hadn’t been able to afford the trip to Prague that we’d envisioned, so we had opted for something a little closer to home. Key West, with its warm waters and lively atmosphere, seemed like a wonderful alternative.
Henry turned in my arms and took my face in his hands. “You sure?” he asked, his dark eyebrows drawn together. “We can get a room at the Waldorf Astoria.
I shook my head. “We can’t afford that.” Both of our savings accounts had been depleted after the wedding and putting a down payment on a house in Cherry Creek, Colorado; it was a minor miracle that we’d managed to go on a honeymoon at all. I wasn’t about to start nitpicking minor details because, at the end of the day, I was with Henry, we were healthy, and we were in love. Everything else was just icing on the cake.
“How about the Best Western then?” he asked with a teasing grin.
I squeezed him. “This bed and breakfast is perfect. Really.”
He kissed my forehead, inhaling deeply. “I just want to give you so much more.”
I pulled away and walked over to the bed with the simple white covers and lay down, leaning back on my elbows. “Give it to me then,” I said in the most seductive voice I could muster.
Henry reached behind his neck and tugged his shirt off in one swift movement, advancing towards me even as he worked on the fly of his shorts. My eyes raked over his firm and angular form, the perfect complement to my soft, smooth body.
With a dark look on his face, he swooped down and captured my lips, kissing me with the same passion we’d had since the beginning. He slipped his hands under my back and held me close to his naked chest, his erection digging into my crotch. One hand slid along my thigh and under the hem of my skirt where his fingers found my panties. He tugged them down with slow deliberation and threw them across the room.
He crawled over me, undressing me while we kissed, our lips only breaking apart long enough to slide my tank top over my head.
“Starfish,” I said against his lips, shifting my backside.
He pulled away with a wicked grin. “You want me to play with your starfish?” he asked, his fingers massaging my ass.
I burst out laughing. “No, I meant there’s a starfish digging into my back,” I said, shifting again and dislodging the large red starfish that had lain on the pillow moments earlier. I held it up to him, still racked with laughter.
He chuckled with me, grabbing the starfish and throwing it across the bed. He fell sideways onto the bed, a smile still splitting his face, and pulled me close.
I gazed at the beautiful man in my arms, having to remind myself that he was now my husband. When he grasped my hip and slipped into me, I realized that no other man could ever complete me like Henry could. Nobody else had even come close. I held onto the back of his head and pressed my forehead to his, our eyes burning into each other as we said with our bodies what our words could not.
We made love on that simple bed that afternoon, bathed in the warm sunlight, completely absorbed in each other. The outside world could fall apart around us and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
We were together.

~

After taking a nap on the surprisingly comfortable bed, we headed out on a night on the town. We walked down to Duval Street and took in the sights and sounds. The street was lined with restaurants and souvenir stores, all of which appeared to be overflowing with customers.
“I didn’t realize how busy this place would be,” I said, feeling a trickle of unease at the sheer number of people walking around us. Everywhere I turned there were people in shorts and dresses, most in various stages of inebriation.
Henry squeezed my hand, walking ahead of me to part the way like he’d always done. He must have sensed that I was starting to feel claustrophobic because he abruptly pulled me into a store alcove, a pocket of calm away from the crowds. “Better?”
I nodded, my heartbeat slowing. “What’s going on? Is there a parade or something?”
“I think I saw a flyer about a brewfest.”
“Figures,” I said, laughing softly. “We schedule our honeymoon during drunkfest.”
“Brewfest,” he corrected.
“Same thing.” I looked at him as he craned his neck around, no doubt in search of the location of the festivities. “You want to go, don’t you?” I asked, a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth.
His eyes flicked back down to me, gauging my reaction. “Only if you want to go.”
His answer came as no surprise. Henry was never one to turn down a cold one. “Come on then, let’s find this brewfest,” I said, tugging on his hand.
“Are you sure?” He pulled me close, holding my body against his. “We can skip it if you’d rather do something else.”
“No, really. I’d like to try a few beers myself.”
He hugged me tight, lifting me off my feet a few inches. “Best wife ever,” he said into my hair.
“Damn straight,” I laughed.
A little bit of wandering later, we finally figured out that the brewfest had adjourned from the beach to a place called The Porch. After asking around, we finally found the place a few blocks from Duval Street. The Porch was actually a house that had been converted to a bar. Patrons could either sit at the bar inside or take their drinks outside and sit on rattan furniture on the porch. We did the latter, preferring to steer clear of the rowdy crowds.
We took our frosty glass mugs and sat in a white loveseat at the end of the porch. Henry automatically lifted his arm and I snuggled into his side; we sighed at the same time. “I love you,” he said.
I looked up to return the sentiment when I realized that he was looking pointedly at the beer in his hand.
“I love you so much,” he said before taking a sip. He glanced at me and grinned.
I smacked him in the stomach. “I love you too, my pear cider,” I said, taking a large swig of my drink. Henry chose the same moment to touch his cold mug to my cheek, taking me by surprise. I gulped, tipping the mug too much and getting foam all over my upper lip and nose.
He laughed, deep and untroubled, then stared at me with a warm look in his eyes. He cupped my cheek in his palm and bent his head down, but instead of kissing me, his tongue darted out and lapped at the foam on my lip. A second later, he kissed the end of my nose. “Woodchuck is a good taste on you. But if you tasted like beer, you’d be the perfect woman.”
I pulled away and raised an eyebrow. “If you tasted like chocolate, I’d suck on you all day long.”
His eyes widened. “Well what are we waiting for?” he asked, taking a large swig of his drink. “Let’s get out of here and go melt some chocolate.”
I laughed. “Fondue for dinner then?”
“I’m not above dipping my dick into scalding chocolate if it means you’ll suck on it all day long.”
“Your Gristle Whistle, you mean?” I asked with a grin.
He threw his head back and laughed. “My purple-helmeted airman,” he said.
“Your Vlad the Impaler.” I shook my head and giggled, realizing that other people had heard us and not caring.
Henry was suddenly close, his breath on my ear. “God, I love you so much,” he said, and in the next moment, his lips were on mine and the rest of Key West dissolved.
Twenty minutes later, we were back in our room with a bar of chocolate in hand. We hadn’t found a fondue set or even chocolate syrup, but hoped that melting chocolate with our own body heat would be just as sexy.
Henry lay in bed completely naked with his arms folded under his head as we watched for the rectangle piece of chocolate to melt on his erect penis.
“Anytime now,” I said, on my knees between his legs as I held his shaft steady.
He sighed. “We’ve been waiting for ten minutes. My bushwhacker is very impatient to whack some bushes.”
“Give it a few more minutes,” I said, leaning down to study the chocolate. “It looks like it’s starting to soften.”
“The chocolate or me?”
My tongue darted out and licked the tender skin at the base of his penis. “Better?”
“Mmm,” he said, closing his eyes. “Maybe you need to do a bit more of that to melt the chocolate.”
I took a deep breath, inhaling his masculine scent. “Ah, fuck it,” I said and bared my teeth. I only saw a glimpse of Henry’s wide eyes before my open mouth descended on his cock and I bit the piece of chocolate. I let it melt in my mouth for several moments before I took his cock into my mouth and coated his skin with the chocolate. I pulled away and studied my handiwork. “Yum.”
“You are a genius,” he said between breaths. He sat up and kissed me, the milk-chocolate flavor intermingling between our tongues.
I pulled away and focused on my chocolate treat, wrapping my lips around the tip and, with a vacuum-tight seal, sucked my way down. His fingers laced through my hair and he held on, neither speeding me up nor slowing me down.
“God, Els,” he groaned, his hips coming up off the bed when I cupped his balls. I stopped when I heard his breathing change, when his taut muscles signaled that he was starting to crest that hill. His eyes flew open. “What is it? Do you need more chocolate?” he asked, his hand scrambling for the chocolate bar.
I wiped at the corners of my mouth. “My turn.”
He tried to catch his breath and nodded. “You’re a genius, yes, but an evil one.” With a deft motion, he flipped me over so that he was on top and put two pieces of chocolate in his mouth and chewed on them. He moved to my crotch but I stopped him.
“Not there,” I said. When he frowned, I added, “Just trust me.”
He nodded and moved up my torso, stopping at my breast. He covered one mound with his mouth and I felt his gooey tongue sliding along my skin, making circles until he reached my nipple. He took the tip between his teeth and smiled up at me a second before he bit down gently. He lapped up the sweetness and moved to the other breast, laving it with the same loving attention.
Struck with an idea, I slid out from under him and stood up. Hey, we’d already played with food. Might as well try this too.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked, taking hold of my wrist.
“Just wait,” I said, digging into my luggage then running to the bathroom to change. “Did you know this place used to be a bordello?” I called out.
“Yeah, I read that somewhere on the website.”
Several long minutes later, I came back out and struck a pose in the doorway. Henry’s jaw dropped as his eyes raked over me, making me feel every bit as sexy as I felt.
I sauntered over to him in my fire-engine red corset and matching lace panties, a whip with a feather in my hands. He visibly swallowed when I straddled him, running the feather down his torso.
“Elsie, you’re so sexy,” he said, his fingers digging into my ass cheeks.
“I’m not Elsie tonight,” I said, leaning over so that my breasts were nearly falling out of the tight bodice. “Just call me Madam.”
“You planned this, huh?” he asked with a grin. “I approve... Madam.”
“Anything to please my one and only customer,” I said, raking my nails along his sides.
He folded his hands behind his head. “Then go ahead and please me.”
I leaned down and grabbed his wrists, taking the opportunity to run my tongue along the pronounced cupid’s bow of his upper lip. “Keep your hands up here,” I ordered in a husky voice. “The one rule in this bordello is that you must not touch me with your hands.”
He lifted his hips, his erection nudging me in the most delicious way. One dark eyebrow rose in question.
“Yes, you may touch me with that.” I sat up and whipped his nipple tentatively with the leather side of the crop.
He made an inarticulate noise like ungh before I whipped the other nipple. The muscles along his jaw were jumping but he kept his hands by his head. “I didn’t know you liked this kind of stuff.”
“I like anything that involves teasing you.” I ran the feather end of the whip along the length of his erection.
“Teasing?” he said in a pained voice. “More like tormenting me.”
With a smile, I sat back on my heels and gave little gentle lashes on his penis, making it jump each time. Six, seven, eight times, each time hitting a different area, finishing with one final whip at the tip.
His chest was heaving and the muscles in his arms were straining. “I want to try that whip out on you,” he gritted out.
“No touching me, remember?” I asked and stood up on the bed. I slid my palms along my waist, my fingers hooking into my panties and pulling them down as my hands continued sliding down my thighs. Completely bent over, I stepped out of my panties and flashed him a seductive smile, knowing my breasts were in his full view. I walked my fingers from my feet to his legs, up his muscled thighs and to the twitching muscle in between. My nails raked at his velvety skin, teasing him.
“That’s it,” he said and bolted upright, capturing me in his arms. In the next instant, I was on my back and Henry was crouched over me, his face dark and triumphant.
“You’re breaking the bordello rules,” I said breathlessly, completely aroused by his show of dominance.
Fuck the rules,” he said and grabbed my thighs, pulling them apart with no amount of gentleness. Then he was surging inside me, taking me like a man deprived. He pushed my legs upwards, resting them on his shoulders as he thrust into me over and over. He leaned forward, the strain on my legs a delicious mixture of pain and pleasure, and nudged at me even deeper. He caressed his cheek against the inside of my leg and then bit at my skin.
I came instantly, my legs trembling above me even as he licked at the tender spot on my calf. He continued the assault, taking me over and over before he grabbed both my ankles and plunged one last time, his face contorted into ecstasy.
Later that night, after the chocolate and costume had all been put away, we lay together completely sated.
“You were wonderful, Madam,” he said, kissing my head. “I think I might have to hire you full time.”
“Works for me,” I said, snuggling into his side, feeling the hair on his chest tickling my cheek.
“Els?”
“Mmm?”
“Do you like that stuff?” he asked in a soft, raspy voice. “Play-acting like that?”
I opened my eyes and lifted my head. “Like bondage?”
“Not just that,” he said quickly. “I mean, just trying other stuff.”
I bit my lower lip and considered his question. I looked down at the man, his face open and hopeful, and I knew I would do anything and everything with him. “I’ll try it all with you.”
He grinned like an excited little schoolboy. His expression changed a moment later as his eyes took on a meaningful glint. “You sure? I can think of a lot of kinky things to do to you.”
“Kinky, huh?” I asked, my heart beating wildly at the thought of things to come. “Bring it on.”

~

The next day we woke to the smell of cinnamon rolls. We dressed and wandered downstairs until we came upon the dining room. Jan, the B&B owner, was setting up food at the sideboard while guests sat at the dining table. My mouth instantly watered at the sight and smell of it all.
“Good morning,” Jan called and motioned to the table. “Find yourself a seat.”
The dining table was already full, with only one seat left open. With everyone still eating, I guessed one of us would have to stand to eat.
Henry walked over to the empty seat and promptly sat down. I was about to grumble about chivalry when he patted his thigh. “I have the best seat in the house for you,” he said with a grin.
I sat on his leg, slightly concerned about propriety. Sitting at the table with us were two women in their twenties as well as an older couple, a man and a woman with grey hair and age-lined faces.
“You two on your honeymoon?” one of the girls asked, eyeing our wedding rings.
Henry wrapped an arm around my waist. “Yes. Is it that obvious?”
Jan set two coffee cups in front of us and filled them. I reached for the cream and sugar and fixed our coffees.
The girl, who had long dark hair and a beautifully exotic face, nodded. “Yes. You two have the look.”
“What look?” I asked, taking a tentative sip.
“The just fell in love look,” the other girl said.
The older lady shook her head. “I think they look more like they just had some wild sex,” she said with a faint smile. “Of the sweet, sticky kind.”
I nearly spit out my coffee. Henry let out a low, deep chuckle. “That obvious, huh?” he asked.
“Our room is right next to yours,” the older woman said, causing my face to flame instantly. I didn’t realize that Henry and I had been so loud.
The older gentleman touched her arm. “Lori, stop. Can’t you see you’re embarrassing the young lady?”
“I’m sorry if we were a little loud,” I said.
The woman named Lori shook her head. “No, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. You’re on your honeymoon. Be as loud as you want.”
“So tell us your story,” one of the girls said. “How did you two meet?”
“Well, her brother was my best friend, so we pretty much grew up together,” Henry began, his palm warm and comforting on my back. “We were just roommates until Elsie here changed everything.”
“It wasn’t my fault,” I said in indignation. “At least, not entirely.”
So we told our story, beginning with the night at Tapwerks when we’d danced and the flames of lust had devoured us both. Breakfast was long over by the time we’d finished. The younger girls had excused themselves and gone on their way to meet with friends, but the older couple, Lori and Stan, had stayed until the very end of the story.
“You’re lucky, young man,” Lori said, wagging a bony finger at Henry. “If I were her, I would have moved in with Seth and told you to take a hike.”
I felt Henry’s muscles turn to stone beneath me at the woman’s words, but he said nothing. He just sat there silently while Lori gave him a tongue-lashing, telling him things that he’d no doubt thought of already.
Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I mean, this was my husband we were talking about. “Trust me, Lori, he knows, and has been trying to make up for it ever since,” I said, squeezing Henry’s leg under the table.
Her face softened. “I’m glad to hear it.”
“On paper Seth seems like the logical choice, but I didn’t love him,” I said, leaning into Henry’s chest. “I love this guy here, the one who makes mistakes and admits to them. The one who’s loved me since I was a little brat.”
Stan gazed at us, silent and strong, reminding me of someone else I knew. “Indeed,” he said. “If you had done the logical thing, you wouldn’t be here right now on your honeymoon.”
Lori smiled with some mischief in her eyes. “I just wanted to make sure your husband knew how lucky he is.”
“I’m very much aware of it,” Henry said, his breath so close to my ear it was almost a private moment. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

After breakfast we walked a few blocks to the scooter rental store. We had enough money for two scooters but decided one was much more romantic. Henry was suffering from the misconception that I would be passenger, which didn’t pan out for him when I insisted I take the proverbial wheel.
It was a tiny yellow two-seater scooter and I’m sure he felt like a giant on it, but he didn’t complain. He just climbed on behind me and grasped my waist.
“You ready?” I asked and twisted the throttle. The bike jumped forward, throwing us backward in our seat. Henry’s feet immediately found the ground and he steadied us as I pressed on the brakes.
“Please don’t kill us,” he said, laughing.
I turned around and flashed him a smile. “Chicken?”
“With you at the wheel? Yes.”
I tested the sensitivity of the throttle and, after a few test runs in the parking lot, we were finally off.
I took us around Key West in a nonsensical fashion, driving by Ernest Hemingway’s home then taking in the open-air aquarium. It was wonderful, being in control of where and when we were going. Whether it was imagined or not, I felt a surge of power, as if I was finally in charge of my destiny. Henry had given up control of our relationship and was allowing me to take the lead. It was exhilarating and scary, but most of all it was liberating.
It was around four-thirty by the time we found ourselves at the southernmost point of the island, at the famous red, black and yellow concrete buoy. We got off the scooter to take pictures like the rest of the tourists. I was exhilarated that Henry and I were here together, at the southernmost point of the continental United States during the northernmost point in our lives.
After a dinner of delicious Cuban food we took a walk on the beach and watched the sun set. As the sun went from orange to purple, Henry pulled me to a stop by the water’s edge and gathered me into his side. “There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away,” he murmured.
His words sent tingles down my spine. “That’s beautiful.”
He squeezed my shoulder. “It’s a quote from Sarah Kay, a spoken word poet. I just thought it fit the moment.” He turned and faced me, his face rendered in shadows by the waning light. “You’re the shoreline and I’m the ocean, and I will never stop coming back to you.” He led me deeper into the water, the waves now lapping nearly up to my knees.
He faced me, cupping my cheeks in his hands. “Every time I look at you, I can’t help but want to tell you how much I love you,” he said then grinned. “Corny, isn’t it?”
I dug my toes into the sand to keep from swaying. His words, coupled with the tender look on his face, made my heart clench in my chest with a feeling so powerful it rendered me speechless. I simply nodded and tried my best not to cry.
He looked away to the horizon where the sea was kissing the last remnants of the sun and took a deep, cleansing breath. “Life is good.”
I was about to issue a heartfelt agreement when I felt a sting on my leg that began at one point and quickly spread around my calf. “What the hell?” I asked, jumping backwards. “Ow.”
Henry scooped me up into his arms and carried me back onto the dry sand where he set me down and crouched by my leg. “Jellyfish,” he said with deeply furrowed eyebrows. He picked me up again and started towards the water.
“What are you doing?” I screeched.
“We need to wash the venom off,” he said, looking at the water closely for any signs of jellyfish before dropping me in ankle-deep. He reached for his wallet and pulled out a credit card, then began to scrape at the tentacles that were still on my leg.
I winced, hissing between my teeth to keep from crying out loud. I didn’t know what hurt more: the stinging tentacles or the plastic grating along my tender skin. Either way, that shit hurt.
“Sorry,” he said, scraping gently but insistently. “We gotta get all of it off.” When he was satisfied, he scooped up some seawater and poured it over my leg where several angry lines were already puffing out. He repeated the process a few times and asked, “Does that feel a little better?”
“Surprisingly, yes,” I said. I thought the salt in the water was going to make it sting worse, but it had the opposite effect.
“Let’s go to the drugstore.” Henry tried to pick me back up but I wriggled out of his grasp.
“I can walk,” I said, wincing with each step.
He rolled his eyes, bent down, and threw me over his shoulder. “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” he said, walking back towards the street.
“I’m fine,” I protested, noting a few people glancing our way. “I’m not completely useless.”
He set me down by the scooter. “Listen,” he said, rubbing my arms. “I promised in front of God and everyone that I would take care of you, so just let me, okay?”
“Okay, fine,” I said, then reached into my pocket and handed him the key. “Here. You drive.”

We stopped at the drug store, where Henry asked the pharmacist for jellyfish sting treatments, then proceeded to buy everything that was suggested.
My leg was stinging and itching something fierce by the time we got back to our room, but we were armed with a bunch of stuff that included a bottle of vinegar, some hydrocortisone cream, and even a can of shaving cream should the vinegar not work. Henry emptied the plastic bag on the bed and scrutinized the loot with his hands on his hips. “Which should we try first?”
“Vinegar,” I said and got up to get a washcloth.
Henry grabbed me by the waist and set me back down on the bed. “Let me,” he said and went to the bathroom with the bottle of vinegar. He came back a few moments later with a damp, smelly washcloth in his hands and a towel over his shoulder. He laid the towel underneath my leg and placed the washcloth over the puffy red welts on my leg. “Okay, so thirty minutes of this,” he said, sitting down beside me. “How does it feel?”
“It’s nice and cool,” I said, leaning back on my elbows. “It still stings pretty bad.”
“You want an Advil?”
I shook my head. “The pain’s still bearable,” I said. “It just sucks that it ruined our moment. It’s not everyday you recite poetry to me.”
Henry grinned. “It’ll happen again. Maybe.”
“Now?” I asked with a hopeful look.
He stared at me for a long time. Finally, he said, “Nothing. I got nothing.”
“Why Henry, is this your first case of performance anxiety?” I teased.
A wicked grin split his face. “I don’t get performance anxiety,” he said and crouched over me. He took my face in his hands and kissed me insistently. “It’s just that you smell like a jar of pickled onions.”
“Aw, you know just the right words to make a girl’s panties melt.” My hands stole under his shirt and played along the taut muscles of his stomach.
“How does your leg feel?” he asked in that raspy, turned-on voice.
“Still hurts. I think you need to kiss it better.”
“Oh, I’ll kiss it better. I’ll kiss it all better,” he said, running his palms under my skirt, up and down my thighs. His lips captured my mouth again, but as turned on as I was, the stinging on my leg wrenched me out of the moment. Henry must have sensed that I wasn’t in the mood because he pulled away and peeked at my leg under the washcloth. He patted the cloth back into place and fell back onto the bed beside me.
“Hey Henry,” I said, holding his blue gaze captive. I licked at my lips, my mouth suddenly dry at the thought of bringing up a subject that I’d wondered about for months.
“Hey, Elsie,” he echoed with a tug on the side of his mouth.
“Remember when you said at the museum that our memories gave you a sense of identity?” I asked.
He twisted to the side and propped his head on his hand. “Yeah?”
“But in the tapes, you said that you’d lost sight of who you were because I consumed you?” I said. “What did you mean?
“It’s both,” he said with all sincerity. “They’re two sides of the same coin. That thing that confused me, that made me feel lost, turned out to be my salvation in my darkest hour. Everything changes. That changed.”
I swallowed. “What if it changes again and you leave me?”
“That will never happen. You’re my wife now.”
I turned away. “That’s sweet,” I said with a voice as sour as the liquid on my leg. “Staying with me because some piece of paper said so.”
He held up my left hand and fingered the rings there. “Please stop trying to pick a fight,” he said, kissing my knuckles. “I’m not staying because a piece of paper or some priest said so. You know that.”
“You’ll change again, Henry. We both will.”
“Els, leaving you was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it helped me come to terms with myself.”
“What if I need to leave and find myself?”
“Then I’d let you.”
I recoiled. “You’d let me go?”
“If that’s what you needed.”
“And if I don’t come back?”
“Then I’ll come and get you,” he said simply, lacing a hand around the back of my head. “You’re stuck with me forever, remember?”
“We’re back to staying together because we’re legally bound.”
“I see our marriage as a give and take, a pliable, moldable thing that will transform over time. A house, children, grandchildren; all of that will inevitably change us. But the thing that you can count on is that I will be there for you, because I made a vow.” He kissed my forehead. “And I wholeheartedly intend to keep it.”
His blue eyes bore into mine, wordlessly asking me to believe. “I’m never leaving you again, Elsie,” he said. “And if need be, I will reassure you every single day of our lives. If that’s what it takes to convince you.”
I nodded, taking a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” I said, shaking off the nerves that seemed to sneak up on me at random times. “This is not appropriate honeymoon conversation.”
He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing up. “I hope one day you’ll finally, completely forgive me.”
I didn’t say anything. I just looked into his face and hoped the same thing for myself. For as happy as we were right now, our old issues were still lingering under the shiny surface of our new life together, and sooner or later the sheen was going to wear off and the issues would show once again.
Henry got up then and went to the bathroom to rinse off the washcloth. “Another thirty minutes of vinegar?” he called.
I looked at the red welts and weighed the pain against the smell. “No. I think it’s ready for the hydrocortisone.”
He came back out with a non-smelly washcloth and wiped my leg before applying a healthy dose of the cream. “Do you feel better?” he asked, moving all of our drugstore purchases off the bed and onto the bedside table.
“It’s getting there,” I said with a meaningful look. “Thank you for taking care of me.”
He resumed his place on the bed beside me. “Anything for you.”
That last night of our honeymoon was the only time we didn’t make love. We were happy enough to simply snuggle, bare skin touching, and talk. Henry tended to my leg a few more times before he finally gave me some peace about the damned sting. It was only later, when his breathing against my hair had deepened, that I finally understood his motives.
My forgiveness wasn’t the only thing Henry was waiting for because the man still hadn’t completely forgiven himself.
~

Our honeymoon came to an end the next day. We woke up early to return the scooter, Henry riding it to the dealership while I followed in the rental car.
Then began our 3-hour drive back to Miami to board the plane that would take us back to reality. Back to the fixer-upper we had just put a down payment on, back to my job at Shake Design, and back to the Police Academy where Henry would take the 27-week course to become a cop.
The sun was only just beginning to rise when we traversed the bridge over the body of water between Stock Island and Boca Chica Key. I gazed out over the horizon, at the brilliant yellows and oranges staining the sky, finding it an appropriate symbol for the dawn of our new life.
Henry reached over and grasped my hand. “What are you thinking?”
“I was just thinking about our new chapter together, wondering what’s in store for us.”
“It will be perfect,” he said with a confident nod of the head. “We’ll be that boring old couple with the drama-free life.”
I smiled up at him, hoping he was right. “I’ll learn to knit and you can smoke a pipe while reading the newspaper every evening.”
He caught my teasing tone and tickled my sides. “Exactly. It’ll be smooth sailing from here on out.”
We really should have known better than to tempt the fates.


~ the end for now ~