They sit on the old swing out front waiting as the sun goes down, blending colors of orange, red, pink and yellow across the clear sky. Her head is nestled securely in the crook of his neck, her slender fingertip running over the raw burn left by the rope from hours previous. They both know what happened, both too afraid to admit their moments of weakness out loud.
A gentle breeze blows, rustling though the grass causing her hair to stir. He catches the scent of her shampoo as his nostrils flare inhaling deeply her sweet smell.
Her fingers leave his neck and now run through his thick black hair pulling his face down to hers to rest his forehead against her own. A small blissful sigh escapes her lips as his tired eyes drop, it is exhausting loving her as much as he does and yet it's not enough. His heart swells by the second, he feels as though it could burst at any moment but it doesn't, instead the pressure continues to build.
The built up emotion is released that night as he slips his mother's dress up over her head in the pale moon light, making love to her across his unmade bed. She can feel the heat of his mouth as he presses it along her bare skin, his kisses slow and sweet like they have all the time in the world to make this moment last a lifetime.
Neither of them has ever felt so comfortable in another's arms as they lay tangled in the sheets. His arms encircle her, holding her close as to feel her warmth radiate deep into his bones. She's slowly tracing lines across his bare chest even though he's sure she's all but drifted off to sleep.
He wakes in the bright early morning to find his bed empty, frightened it was all just a dream. The feeling of disappointment has no time to sink in as he hears a giggle from down the hall. The sound fills his ears, he's never heard anything so beautiful.
He finds her standing in front of the fridge rifling through its limited contents in search of breakfast. She pouts a little when he suggest she leave the rest of the cooking up to him after she burns several slices of toast trying to figure out the toaster settings. A laugh escapes from deep in his chest, for the first time since they were last together, he can't help but to catch her protruding bottom lip between his.
They take things slow for a few weeks, wrapped up in some sort of blissful honeymoon like stage. Her mother stops by demanding that she return home, that he could never give her the life she's dreamed of but she stands her ground happily when she tells the older woman she's right. He will never give her what she's dreamed of, he'll give her so much more.
It isn't until she's helping him move boxes to the attic weeks later that they're forced to acknowledge the previous events that lead them to this day. She stops at the top of the stairs when she sees it, the thick brown rope still swinging from the rafters. Her heart breaks inside her chest as he comes up behind her. He'd been so at peace when she came back that day that he'd forgotten all about his death trap still hanging upstairs, he quickly grabs a chair and cuts the noose down throwing it to the side.
She isn't mad, she can't bring herself to be angry about something she considered doing that very same day. He looks at the floor, shame written across his face. He's sorry she had to see that. She takes two long strides closing the gap between them and threads her arms through his, hugging him tightly. They don't talk about it til hours later that night.
I was going to do it too she breathes curled up next to him on the couch. He tears his eyes away from the television screen.
Why? He ask in disbelief.
She thinks long and hard about her answer, there were so many things running through her mind that day as she slid under the water. She'd felt so alone, the feeling was one she'd come accustomed to but this time it felt as though she'd left her heart behind somewhere. She knew where it was and she had to get back there. So she slipped under the water letting out a breath, inching the small electronic device closer and closer, unsure if this was really the right thing to do.
I missed you, I wanted you to save me like before.
They never spoke of the incidents again, instead decided to build and grow from it. She finally convinces him to get his embalming license, she's never been more proud when he does and she assures him his father would be too. They talk about his father often, he tells her stories while they lie in bed at night and she giggles at how alike the two of them were. She visits his grave often as does he, she had suggested burying him at the edge of the golf course and he agreed, his father wouldn't have it any other way. They enjoy a game of golf just as often, she beats him on a regular basis but it doesn't bother him because the excited squeal that she gives when she wins is enough to make it worthwhile.
They don't fight often, when they do its short lived before one of them is laughing at the other's ridiculous behavior. She tends to throw her arms about wildly when making an argumentative gesture and he gets a pensive and brooding look on his face that makes her crack a smirk no matter how hard she fights it.
He tells her almost daily that he loves her, she remembers the first time he said it out loud like it was yesterday. He watches her as she floated about the kitchen straightening up, organizing fresh flowers in a large vase. As she turns to set them on the table and catches him staring which causes her to blush. She should be used to people staring at her after years of parading herself about but every time he does she gets butterflies.
What? She giggles trying to play it off. He has a small smirk on his face and doesn't even mind he's been caught.
I'm kinda madly in love with you, you know that? His smirk remains but he's more serious than she's ever seen. She walks around the table sliding into his lap planting a sweet kiss on his lips.
I'm kinda madly in love with you too.
He's not big on grand gestures and she doesn't mind, his small sweet surprises are better anyway. They lie in bed one night, her bare chest on top of his as she runs her soothing fingertips through his thick head of hair, massaging his scalp. He traces circles on her shoulder, holding her close. His husky voice vibrates through his chest against her cheek and temple as he finally speaks.
Marry me? It's a simple, heartfelt request. She turns her head up to meet his eyes looking down at her. He's pulled his mother's ring out of the drawer in the bedside table, a small square diamond, white gold, beautiful.
Absolutely her lips crash to his as he slides the band around her slender finger.
The wedding is small, just them and the priest out by the field of sunflowers. She says being that close to a miracle could only bring good things in their life to come. He feels the same as he takes her hand in his that day, but not about the sunflowers. She beautiful, glowing and neither has felt more fulfilled than when they're finally pronounced husband and wife.
It's been just over a year since she came back when she finds him sitting outside in the gazebo staring at the house as she brings him a glass of lemonade. She sits across from him on the swing looking to the house as well.
You think we should… I don't know, paint the house? He looks at the mildly faded red paint atop the white boards.
Don't you dare she insists snapping her head back to him with a horrified look. The matter is settled right then, he knows how upset she would be if he were to cover it up so instead they paint around it, leaving the wording as is.
She calls him honey, sometimes sweetheart, her little pet names he secretly likes. He occasionally calls her honey as well but mostly Ann. She likes that he's shortened her name, her step father used to sing her name when he was drunk oh Anabelle. It was like a warning siren to her, all she wanted to do was run, hide and pray that he never found her. Those days were over, she knew she was safe.
There's something I need to tell you she begins one evening while he's cleaning up his work table in the other room. She normally doesn't like to be near his equipment but she's decided she can't wait another minute.
Sure. He replies still rummaging through things, metal objects clashing together as he tosses them to the side. She comes closer curling her fingers gently around his elbow urging him to give her his undivided attention.
Elvis, honey. He stops, hearing a small plea in her voice. He worries for a moment that something may be wrong but when he turns and sees her bright smile he's suddenly curious. She takes his hands in hers, her skin is cool to the touch, it always is.
I have something special for you she smiled playing with his fingers. She had a sly grin on her face that made him smile suspiciously in anticipation.
But you'll have to wait til it gets here she moved closer her voice dropping to a low whisper. She moved his hands to run across her flat stomach and waited for the pieces to fall into place. She watched as his eyes lit up in shock and excitement. He happily throws his arms around her narrow waist lifting her off the floor, twirling her in circles as she squeals in delight.
She faces the familiar porcelain bowl again that morning, she's become acquainted with it once more it seems, but this time it's not to punish herself. The doctors worry about her health, dying tends to put a strain on one's body. They use words such as ill-advised and risky when talking about her pregnancy. She can see the fear in his eyes when they do but she keeps up a strong appearance and he does his best to do so as well. Still she can't help but feel a small sense of panic when she hears such words. She wonders day after day if this is punishment for what she's done in the past, and worries that her heart can't take it.
He keeps a close eye out for her, she's strong but she has limits. He has nightmares some nights, of her lying back on his table, cold and unmoving. When he wakes he pulls her closer to him just to assure himself that she's really there. She sleeps with one hand place on her protruding belly while he sleeps with one hand near her heart, it comforts him to feel the soft thump beneath his palm. He wonders if she's as scared as he is in all this, worries that he could lose everything he's ever wanted and worries that his heart couldn't take it.
Their daughter is beautiful, she has her father's eyes with light brown hair, a mixture of both parents. She's more loved than any other child. She has deep, smoldering eyes like her father along with his dark chocolate curls, but the light airy laughter is from her mother. They call her Lilly, his mother's favorite flowers. She's the happiest child he's ever seen, he imagines this is how her mother would've been as a child. He teaches her golf and hangs a wooden swing for her in the large oak out back, at night he tells her his stories til her eyes finally droop shut.
They watch as she quickly grows up before their eyes, she incredibly intelligent and both are so proud when she lands a scholarship at the University. They're both growing older, a few wrinkles here, a couple gray hairs there, but still there love is a strong as it was the day she came back. They've made a life for themselves, full of love and happiness and that's all they had ever wanted.