Thank you so much for your wonderful words of encouragement and apologies for not answering them individually. Well folks. This is the end of this story. Probably be it for a while as I am currently writing a real one that may one day get published...
Steph stepped off the plane holding Ranger's hand and pulling him along behind her. It had been two years since she'd left. So long ago, such different feelings as the plane had landed on the black top. Then she had been running away, now she was showing her husband the place where she'd finally decided how to take control of her life.
Tia Ana, an older version of Steph, minus the curls and plus a few inches round her waist, picked them up from the airport with a big smile and an even bigger hug before bundling them and their luggage into her large pickup truck. It's paintwork had probably been bright blue when new but constant sun had turned it to a dull lifeless version of its former self. They quickly pulled away from the terminal and into the frantic Italian traffic and the gentle afternoon sun.
Steph knew so much about her Aunt. How she loved life, had been well and truly loved and had given love to those around her. When her husband, Marco, died 12 years ago, she'd renovated some old out houses and created four holiday villas which were rented out most of the year round - mainly to artists. She also added a large swimming pool at the same time.
Eighteen months ago she'd converted eight more crumbling outhouses into villas, another swimming pool and two new verandas to her portfolio all of which was now managed by her middle son, Alejandro.
Her reduced family now extended only to Marco's father, Papi and her three sons, Anthoni, Alejandro and Eduardo. Alejandro, a web designer and property manager, lived on site with his fiancée, Frankie who practically lived there too but Tia Ana turned a blind eye to it all as it was only eight weeks until they tied the knot. Eduardo now lived in Napoli with his wife Lina and their six month old twin girls. Anthoni a career man through and through was now a judge and lived in Firenze itself but came home regularly to see everyone. Just because.
Just because, what, Steph knew. Tia Ana's house was full of love and understanding. It didn't judge or condemn, dictate or direct, it simply took each and everyone of the people within its walls for who they were, warts and all and it was a natural extension of it's owner, Tia Ana.
Steph couldn't wait to introduce Ranger to the rest of her Aunt's family for the first time. She just hoped her husband would not introduce them to any Spanish words you wouldn't want your children to repeat at the dinner table...
After the guided tour and general introductions were over, Steph and Ranger slipped away quietly. Steph told everyone they were going to unpack. Tia Ana gave her a look that told her she knew otherwise. Steph put her finger over her mouth asking her aunt not to say anything.
"You've got an hour, Steph" Ana said, smiling. Steph nodded and pulled Ranger out into the fading afternoon sun.
"Follow me" Steph said. "I want to show you something" Ranger looked quizzically at her, smiling, but let himself be led away from the farmhouse and up a steep incline.
When they reached the top she sank to the ground, indicating for Ranger to join her. He slipped down behind her and pulled her back up to his front. "What did you want to show me, Babe?" he asked, kissing her curls gently as his arms slid round her waist, anchoring her to him.
"Do you remember the post card I sent telling you about how incredible the sunsets were from Tia Ana's house?" He nodded against her head, unsure of where this conversation was headed.
"What I really wanted to add was that they would have been even better if you'd been here with me." She turned round slightly in his arms and kissed his nose gently. She heard him sigh contentedly and felt his arms tighten slightly. "You see, when I sat here I realised that there was something missing from my life and that something was you. I also realised that I was happy to be a part of your life in whatever capacity, even just as friends if that had been what you wanted. You loving me back was more than I ever hoped for."
He kissed her cheek slowly and gently. "Babe" he said and all was right with their world as they both turned so that the sun could bath them in its splendour and they could watch the majesty of the sun's farewell.