Alec and Pam were standing close together along the low fence, watching Phillipe take Lafayette though a dressage routine he was working on for the upcoming competition season. They were the current European dressage champions and were hoping to repeat later in the year. The horse was a thirteen-year-old gelding, tall and lean and he reminded Alec of old movies he'd seen of Fred Astaire dancing—the animal was that graceful.
Pam nudged him, her eyes on the pair as they passed by in an extended trot, seeming to be floating around the ring. "Incredible, aren't they?" Alec nodded, yes they were.
The stable was in a suburb outside of Paris and Pam had been working here for about two months now. Alec was visiting her, it was the week after Christmas and he was due to fly to Florida the next day so he could race Hopeful Farm's string during the winter meeting. This was his last day here and later would be their last night together for a while.
The week had gone by faster than any time he could remember and he dreaded the next day.
"Pam? Let's go get some lunch or something." He wanted time alone with her. She had to realize that.
"But…are you sure? Phillipe said he wanted to work The Count over the jumps next, you won't believe the way he moves..."
Yes, Alec liked to watch horses, but he as leaving so very soon; they had so little time.
Just as they were turning to go Phillipe rode over to where they were standing, dismounting. "Excuse me for interrupting, but are you Alec Ramsay?"
Alec nodded with a small smile, polite, but he really just wanted to leave.
The Frenchman held out his hand. "A pleasure, an honor—really. I thought I recognized you but I couldn't think why you'd be here so I thought I must be mistaken." He looked at Pam. "But, of course. Pam mentioned that she used to work for a farm that breeds racehorses and now here you are. Your animals are magnificent, but, of course you know that."
"Thank you. Do you follow American racing?" Alec didn't want to waste time talking to this guy, no matter how nice he seemed but good manners were ingrained by him and he was used to dealing with fans. He really wasn't in the mood for it though, and he suspected that Pam sensed it.
"My stepmother is an American, she and my father live on her farm in Kentucky—I was raised there, in fact; that's why I don't have an accent." He slipped out of the ring, a groom taking his horse into a barn for him. "May I show you around? Actually we have a couple of mares we were planing to ship over to the States this summer and I think they would do well with your studs; I'd like to hear what you think."
Christ, and now he was stuck. If he blew this guy off he'd come across as an obnoxious snob and might, maybe, end up costing the farm some stud fees. Business was business and money was money.
"That would be great." The tour took almost and hour and a half, the mares weren't nearly as good as Alec would have expected and Alec was relieved when he and Pam got into their rental car and were leaving. "Must you leave so soon? I thought you might enjoy going over to Longchamp—I know some of my friends over there would be beside themselves to meet you."
Normally Alec would have enjoyed seeing the French track but not now, not today. "Thank you but another time would be better, if that's all right with you. Pam and I…"
"Of course, how selfish of me taking up so much of your time. Please, off you go. Pam? Take tomorrow off, I insist. And Alec? I'll be in touch about those mares." Shaking hands and thanking Phillipe, Alec and Pam got into the car and headed down the driveway.
"Alec? Are you mad Phillipe showed you around? He really was excited to meet you and you were so patient." She was watching him as he drove. "You're annoyed, aren't you?"
"I'm…no, I'm not annoyed." In fact the whole visit to France had gone well and they'd reconnected as if they'd never been separated, as if they'd known one another all their lives instead of nine months. They simply fit together incredibly well, got along and meshed like two parts of a single whole. They'd started as friends with things in common and that had deepened into love with the close friendship remaining and growing along with their affection. Alec had waited all week for Pam to say something, to drop some kind of hint that she was ready to come back to the States, that she wanted to be with him, that she was ready to talk about their getting married. So far she hadn't said anything and he was frustrated and hurt. He loved her, he was in love with her and he'd thought she felt the same way about him. She'd said it often enough, both back at the farm and here in France but she still seemed to be hesitating and it frightened him. He wouldn't push her, she had to make up her own mind but…he loved her so very much.
She touched his arm. "It's warm today, why don't we just stop and get some wine and one of those wonderful baguettes and some cheese and fruit. We could have a picnic. Would that be okay?"
"Sure, that sounds good."
Pam put her hand on his knee, gently squeezing as he drove. She had hoped that he'd propose to her this trip. She wanted to marry him, to be with him and to finally set up a home together, be together and start their own family sooner rather than later. He'd asked her last fall, just before she'd left the farm. In fact, he'd wanted to go with her and elope but she'd put him off, knowing she was hurting him and hating herself for doing so but it had been too soon then and too rushed. Now she knew that this—that being with Alec—was what she wanted. She was positive, but if he wasn't ready, if he wasn't ready to ask her again she couldn't push him. It had to come from him without any prodding on her part. But...she loved him so very much.
The last week had been as close to perfect as both of them had hoped it would be. She'd met him at the airport; their greeting so…enthusiastic that a passenger walking past them smiled as she went by. "Lovebirds."
They'd spent a lot of time at the stable Pam where Pam worked and Alec had pitched in, helping her groom the horses and muck stalls. He even seemed to be getting a kick out of not being recognized the way he was at every track and stable he went to back home. Here he was just 'Pam's boyfriend visiting for a few days'. Well, until Phillipe had made the connection a little while ago but at least he'd been fairly cool about it and hadn't been embarrassing.
They'd seen the sights of Paris, gone to the top of the Eiffel Tower, taken a romantic dinner cruise on the Seine, wandered through the Lourve, gone to Notre Dame. Pam had made him buy a bottle of Channel Number Five for his mother after learning it was her favorite perfume. They'd even stopped by the Hermes factory—at Henry's request—since a custom made four thousand dollar racing saddle from the high end company was part of a prize package when Black won a race out in California last fall and Alec was measured for the order. They'd been given a tour of the workshop and it's museum, impressed by the incredible quality and old-world craftsmanship they saw.
They'd filled every day, returning to Pam's small apartment, often with some wonderful food they'd discovered and brought back with them, having candle lit diners and sharing inexpensive but incredible local wine.
It was magical and for the first time in a long time Alec really relaxed. He had no work, no responsibilities, nothing to think about except being with Pam. Laying in bed with her sleeping against him as he held her, he was almost afraid to close his eyes in case he woke up to find it was a dream. How could he leave with things still unsettled between them? He understood if she wasn't actually ready to get married and come back with him but—he wanted something, some kind of commitment, some kind of assurance that they'd be together sooner or later. He needed something, some kind of promise from her. If he didn't have that, then everything he dealt with everyday; the racing, the stress, the financial problems with the farm and everything else that weighed him down and threatened to overwhelm him would become to much.
Pam knew Alec thought she was asleep, but her mind was going too fast and was too full for sleep. Why hadn't he asked her? She'd been so sure that he would say something and every place they went, from the top of the Eiffel Tower to the quiet splendor of the cathedral would have been perfect. She'd thought he'd bring it up while they were eating dinner gliding down the Seine, the city sliding past them with its lights and a full moon overhead. Surely when they were walking through the streets of the West Bank, hand in hand, he'd bring it up. Any one of the nights they'd shared since he'd arrived would have been perfect. Tonight would make the fact that he had to leave in the morning to race in Florida less painful for both of them, wouldn't it?
He wanted to marry her, didn't he? He seemed to hint about it in every letter she'd gotten from him but—maybe she'd hurt him too much when she'd put him off the night she'd left the farm. Maybe he was afraid that she'd turn him down again. Maybe he'd changed his mind and was…what was he doing? Maybe he was looking for a way to let her down easy. But—that was stupid. Why would he come all the way to Paris just to tell her it was over? No, that was dumb, Alec wouldn't do that.
Should she ask him? Alec was a little old fashioned about some things. Maybe he wouldn't like that or be offended or something, but if he didn't say anything…She was sure that he loved her, she had no doubts, any more than she had doubts about her feelings for him.
No, they loved one another so what was the problem?
Alec shifted a little against her, kissed her forehead so lightly she could barely feel it and she realized that he wasn't asleep any more than she was.
"Alec?" She whispered just in case she was wrong, so she wouldn't wake him.
"I love you." She rubbed against him a little.
"I love you, too, Pam." He tightened his arm around her and stroked her cheek. Something about the way he said it made her think that he was sad, but maybe that was because he'd be leaving in a few hours. She felt the same way.
"When will we see each other again?"
"I'm not sure. I have the winter meetings to deal with—after we finish in Florida we're going straight out to California and then the spring meetings will be starting with the new string. It's going to be hard for me to get away, especially to come to Europe."
There it was, a perfect opening. "What if I wasn't in Europe, would that make it easier?"
"I was thinking that maybe I could go back to the States with you later today, if that's okay with you. I haven't seen my family in almost a year and they're not too far from Gulfstream Racetrack." C'mon, Alec, pick up on this, don't make me spell it out. "In fact, it's close enough that maybe, if you wanted to, you could stay with us and save on a motel and eating every meal out."
He turned her face towards him, with just enough light coming in the window for him to make out her expression. "You're ready to come back?" Please.
"I am. I mean if we can be together. That is, if you want us to be together."
"What about your job?"
"I spoke to Phillipe two days ago and told him that I'd be leaving."
It was as if some kind of wall between them had broken and they could talk about this without anything getting in the way. "You know that's what I want, but are you sure about this? I can wait if you're not. I…" He hesitated. "I want this but I want it to be the right thing, and the right time for both of us. If it isn't, then it won't work."
Pam raised herself up enough to kiss him gently. "Last fall was too soon, now it will be right." She kissed him again and he held her closely, pressing against her and hoping she meant what he thought she did.
"You'll marry me?" Please. She pulled away enough to watch his face. He looked so hopeful.
"I want to marry you, Alec. I want us to be together—when you get on the plane I want us to go home together. Our home." She knew this was the way it had to be; Alec wouldn't be happy if they were just living together, he needed the security of marriage and, when you came down to it, so did Pam. This was what was right for them.
He brushed her hair back behind her ear from where it was hanging down with what seemed to be wonder and suddenly smiled. "Then I guess I have something for you." He got up and rummaged through his bag for a moment before returning to the bed. He slid up on his stomach beside her and, resting on his elbows, handed her the small velvet box.
Pam's smile broke out, the one where she was happy and surprised and overwhelmed all at once. "Alec…?"
"Open it." Inside was a diamond band instead of the usual solitaire. "I was going to get something more, I don't know—the usual kind of thing but I thought that this would make more sense since it doesn't have anything sticking up to get caught on something." He took it out of the box and slipped it on her finger, her silence making him nervous. "If you don't like it we can get something different. I don't mind or anything…I mean it won't hurt my feelings if you want something else."
She was shaking her head, looking at her hand and the sparkle from the eternity ring. The fit was perfect and he was right, this kind of ring made much more sense than the more standard designs everyone else had. This wouldn't get in the way when she was riding or mucking or even just putting her hands in the pockets of her jeans. And it was beautiful. "I love it and I love you." She kissed him and he kissed her back, their arms around one another, but with Pam's hand on his shoulder where she could look at the ring.
"So when do you want to get married?" He was holding her hand, looking at her and finally smiling without any kind of shadow hanging over them.
"I wish we could get married right here, today but I guess when we get back home."
"The plane doesn't leave till almost eight at night; we have almost all day—we could get married here if we just go to city hall or someplace like that."
Her eyes went wide. "Could we?" It wasn't that she thought marriage was any kind of cure all or the reason to live but she knew that she wanted to spend her life with Alec and the sooner they could get started, the better. "I just want us to be married, I don't care about all the rest of it, the dress and flowers and all of the garbage."
Alec let out a small laugh, "Thank God. I was hoping you'd say something like that—I was having nightmares thinking about seating plans and clothes fittings."
She sat up, flicked on the bedside lamp, reaching for her laptop and made a reservation for her to join Alec on his flight to Florida. Then she sent an e-mail to her parents asking them to pick her up at the airport when she got in and not saying anything about either Alec being with her or the fact that they'd come home together as newlyweds.
"Let's surprise them—it'll be fun!"
"They've never even met me, they'll kill me."
"No they won't, they're much too polite. They'll kill me."
"Then my parents will kill me when we get back up to the farm."
They settled back down together and after a few minutes Alec spoke. "You know that just because we're getting married, you're not tied down or anything. I mean, if you want to travel or try some new things or whatever, I'm okay with it." He stopped. "That came out wrong, but, I guess what I'm trying to say is that marriage isn't ownership."
"I'd never…if we're married I'd never look at another…"
"I know you wouldn't, neither would I. That's not what I mean. It's just, that whole 'obey' thing about marriage, I don't believe in it."
"We're still two people, not just PamandAlec."
It was four in the morning and both of them were too excited to sleep. By seven they were up and dressed, Pam putting on the one semi-good dress she'd brought with her and Alec in his cleanest jeans and a decent sweater. They had breakfast in a sidewalk café; the weather warmer than usual and then took a cab over to city hall. Pam filled the requirement of having been a resident of Paris for forty days prior to the civil wedding and she'd crossed her fingers and posted the banns—required by French law—two weeks before without saying anything to Alec, hoping that they'd be needed. They both had their passports and the clerk was willing to overlook the fact that they didn't have their birth certificates with them, bending the rules in the face of young amour.
Alec stopped by a street vendor to let Pam pick out a bouquet of daisies on their way into city hall and earned a kiss by producing a second ring box from his pocket with two slender yellow gold wedding bands.
The setting was an office, the ceremony was in French and the witnesses were strangers but it didn't matter. They took their turns placing the rings on one another's fingers and ten minutes later they were married. They were young and they were in love and now they were newlyweds.
Alec gently ran his hand down her back. They were standing on the bank overlooking the Seine, the cathedral across the river with the sun shining. "I know." He kissed her again; they'd been kissing each other all day, between talking about their plans together and what they both wanted with one another. He smiled at her—he'd been smiling at her all day as well. "I think this is the happiest I've ever been—right now, right this minute."
Pam didn't bother answering, she just pressed against him, her arms around him, hugging him hard. This was the right thing for them and this was the right time. Of course there would be problems, they both knew that. Everyone had problems and the marriage didn't exist which didn't have arguments and rough patches but they'd work through them and come out better afterwards.
This was going to be good.
Note: I got to thinking that, as much as I love the original books, I sort or wish that Walter Farley had allowed Alec and Pam to have their visit together before she had that car crash. It may even have made her death all that more poignant. I certainly don't have the audacity to second guess Mr. Farley, but if I had written the series I think I might have tried to show the depth of their relationship by putting them together again. This is how it may have been, without distractions, jobs or family or any of that; just two young people in love in Paris.
I think I also might have let the fictional Pam live the life the real Pam didn't have the chance to. I've never lost a child (thank God) but I know I hope for a happy ending for my own son, whatever happens to him.