Mark pulled up on his bike twenty minutes before Chloe was supposed to meet him. He parked his bike and went in and grabbed a Dr. Pepper and a water, all the while, reeling in his mind what he was getting ready to do. His heart was thudding in his chest, his palms were sweaty, his head was soaring. Mark straddled his bike and twisted the cap to his Dr. Pepper open and tried to calm his nerves.
Chloe decided to leave ten minutes earlier than planned to give her some time to think. She had the picture in her pocket book and her heart unguarded for the first time in months. She bit her lips and looked in the rear view mirror. She wore her hair down and curly about her face and had brushed on some foundation and pink lip gloss and added a few strokes of mascara to her face. She swallowed, hard. This was it.
Mark saw her coming two stop lights down, he took a deep breath and was determined to make tonight spark. He watched her pull her car into the parking lot and park. He held his breath as she got out, it was the first time he'd seen her walk without crutches. She still had a bit of a limp and he could tell where she still favored her arm, but he could see where her confidence had come back. The cut across her forehead was barely even visible now.
"Hey handsome…" Mark held out the water for her but she waved it away.
"I'll have to pee in a minutes time, I'll drink it whenever we get there." She moved behind him and straddled the seat. He felt her creep her arms around him and hold on tight. Mark revved up the bike and decided to take the back way where they were going. Matt, her brother, showed him an old off trail dirt path from where four wheelers normally would ride. He knew that would be the easiest way to take her without her figuring it out. The drive was only about twenty minutes, but it seemed like forever. The anticipation was killing him, everything he held dear was clinging to this one moment. He slowed his bike around the last curve of the dirt path and parked it behind a tree.
"I have to blind fold you…" He watched the puzzled expression flood her face, but she gently smirked and allowed him to take a bandana and blind fold her. He took her hand in his and led her to his spot destination.
Chloe's heart was thumping so hard she could feel it in her head. She heard her steps differ as they went from grass from gravel and felt Mark slow their pace.
"Wait here, don't take the blind fold off till I tell you to." Chloe nodded and heard his steps back away. She actually felt rather silly by this point and was wishing for this to be over with. Just when she was about to protest Mark called out to her that it was ok. The sight that beheld her left her absolutely speechless. It was her house. The house in her dreams, the house she imagined her family in. Painted yellow… with red shutters and a red door. The porch had been completed and it wrapped around the house, the lights were on, and it seemed like the inside had been remodeled. The house she eyed for so long was remodeled. At first she didn't know what to say, and her eyes finally landed on Mark.
"It's yours…" Chloe felt tears come to her eyes when she heard those words come out of her mouth.
"Chloe, I want you to have it. I want to see you happy. I want to see you get everything you deserve in life." Chloe took a deep breath and looked back at the house.
"Can I go inside?" Mark nodded and held out his hands and brought her inside. The floors were the perfect cherry shade of hard wood, there was her beloved red couch in the living room, a fireplace, pictures, walls of green and blues and golds. The kitchen had it's island. The dining room had a gorgeous view of the front yard and the tree with a swing in it. She pulled on Mark's arm and pulled him upstairs. The bed rooms were painted and ready for occupants, the house was warm and inviting. And then two French doors caught her attention, she let go of Mark's arm and walked towards them. Behind the doors lay the master bed room with her bed room furniture accented in khaki's and blues. The bathroom had a huge garden tub, with a perfect view of the country from the window. Everything was exactly how she imagined it.
"Mark… thank you…" She ran over to Mark and threw her arms around his neck and cried into his shoulder. "You have no idea what this means to me…" She felt his arms come around her waist and hold her tight and they held each other, right there and Chloe wanted this moment to last forever. Chloe stepped back and looked into his eyes and sensed something of sadness behind them.
"Mark, you look… sad…"
"I'm not, darlin'. I'm not." Chloe had a hint as to what this about. She knew that eventually they would either have to remain friends and part ways or fess up and put everything on the line. Chloe took his hand and led him down stairs to the porch. She sat on the first step and motioned for him to follow.
Mark was wanting to tell her so badly that he loved her, but he could still see her reservations. He had thoroughly enjoyed watching her explore the house with a look of happiness he couldn't describe if wanted too. But a part of him wanted to be more a part of her life than what he was then. He wanted to grow old in this house with her. He wanted to have kids with her in this house. He wasn't sure how to go about doing this, he wasn't sure if she'd be ok with it. Mark sat down beside Chloe on the porch ready for whatever it was she was going to say.
"My family told me how you were there for me and them while I was in the hospital." Mark nodded and looked at her, unsure as to where this was going.
"They told me about how you brought in pictures, and told them the stories I had told you…" Chloe turned to her pocket book and pulled out the picture of her and Mark at her birthday party and held it out for him.
"I know my side of this story, I want to hear yours…." Chloe handed the picture of them to Mark and Mark swallowed. He remembered that night, that was the night they first kissed, that was the night he realized she meant something to him. He studied her features in the picture, they were relaxed and happy. Her body was turned towards his and she had both arms around his waist. He had a hand on her back and was pulling her close. He looked at his own features and he realized that he looked happy and relaxed. Mark sucked in a breath and looked back at Chloe.
"This was the night I surprised you for your birthday. This was also the night I first kissed you…"
"Anything else?" Mark took a deep breath and decided to jump.
"This was the night I knew I had feelings for you…" Mark shifted and reached into his back pocket and pulled out a folded photo the picture they took in down town Connecticut, the picture of him kissing her on top of her head. He handed the picture to Chloe and scooted towards her and whispered into her hear.
"But this is the night, I knew I wanted to be with you for forever…" Mark tilted her chin towards him and bent down and lightly placed a kiss on her lips.
"Do you love me Chloe?" She was silent for a few seconds before giving her answer. At first Mark was sure she'd say either no or she wasn't sure.
"I do…" Mark felt his heart skip a beat.
"Good… because I love you too…." Mark bent down and captured her lips once more deepening the kiss. And for the first time, in a long time, he felt at peace with his life, with his heart and with Chloe.
Mark and Chloe married the following year and despite every medical reason of her not being able to have children, she and Mark had three kids of their own. Two boys and a little girl.
Mark and Chloe were married for forty-five years, forty-five years of love, happiness, and peace. Eventually Chloe's kidney's did shut down which meant this inevitable, but this time Mark was ready to let her go. Both absolutely no regrets this go 'round.
Five days later, Mark followed.