***I really thought the first part of this had been enough to get it out of my head. Obviously not. I guess once you start writing it is difficult to curtail it again. That and perhaps I always, instinctively, have a desire for just a bit more. I can't help but try to connect the dots beyond the plotted points.
Let me know what you think.
If there was one thing that cleared his head better than running it was driving. Perhaps it was the control, or the speed, or the notion that with a single turn of the wheel he could change paths and find himself on a different route entirely. The sunlight streamed into the windows on all sides of his government issue SUV. The radio filled the silence, even if the words failed to ever penetrate his stream of thought.
The bitter chill of February had given way to the renewing warmth of spring that had, likewise, lead to the oppressing heat of summer. It had once again come autumn, a time that was marked throughout the east coast with an abundance of warm depth of color. The bright crisp foliage streaked together, a rush of Bob Ross style "happy little trees," as he continued his journey home. It was rare to be alone in the drive; it was odd how accustomed he had become to the endless barrage of questions and facts that came from his partner.
In the solitary frame, his mind wandered, drifted to the treasures of his life. He was a man of simple needs. A warm bed, a cold beer and the bad guy behind bars pretty much ranked tops on his hierarchy of needs. It was the people that filled his life that brought fourth the color. They sparkled with golds and crimsons, like the shades of fall leaves. He thought of his son, and the soccer game that he was probably dominating at this very moment. No matter where his life, his career, his mistakes had lead Parker had always been his heart. He allowed himself for a single instant a nostalgic thought on Parker's mother, Rebecca, the first woman who wouldn't marry him. The woman he could now admit SHOULDN'T have married him.
Rebecca was driven and determined, and glittered with life. His life had been a mess, a fact that could only be understood in 20/20 hindsight. Haunted by his father, fallen comrades, and by a pool table compulsion, it was a miracle she put up with him at all. And while she couldn't give him her heart, she did give him a son that allowed him to make amends for his past. To bring forth the promise that he was NOT his father's son. He could be proud of the man he had become since that night she carefully placed the cut-rate ring back in his hand. Even prouder of the father he had tried to be since she placed a 6 day old baby in his arms.
The vehicle suddenly pulled to the right and came to a gentle stop along the shoulder of the country road. Booth stretched his too long confined legs as he looked out to the sweeping view of outer-beltway Virginia before him. The rolling hills lit up as if on fire with the autumnal beauty. A few shadows of predatory birds glided in the distance. Brilliant carefree sunshine filtered between the branches of the trees. Part of him knew that he needed to get back in the truck and continue home if he hoped to make the city before dark, but for a single moment he wanted to embrace the perfection that he felt surround him.
He returned and continued this trek home as he glanced at the seat beside him. There sat the well worn navy leather box, he was once again shocked that he had never thought to ask for it, and that it had never before been offered. He had bartered for cheap jewelry and paid on credit for flashy gems. Never before imagining that either of these women could wear, would want to wear, the simple antique setting that symbolized a one true love. While Pops had found a variety of "crocheting" partners, he openly admitted that he only had one soul mate. She was still missed.
There is only one person you love the most.
As he cruised the 495 the setting sun highlighted the evening sky. Somewhere in this city another ring sat discarded, or perhaps by now someone had found it and was astounded by their own lucky streak. He genuinely hoped that the blasted ring found a happy hand to rest upon. For that matter, he hoped Rebecca's did too. It wasn't as if the rings themselves were tainted, merely the misguided notion behind them. He was a lucky man. Lucky to have loved and been loved by wonderful, beautiful, intelligent women. Women that were smart enough to say no, or perhaps it was because they were kind enough. Kind enough to allow him to find the sort of love, that black magic, that he had searched after since looking at the old black and white pictures of Pops and his adoring wife. He liked to think that he finally found it.
To be honest he still occasionally heard of, heard from, Hannah. Just last week a postcard had arrived from where she had been reporting on the latest struggles in Yemen. It would seem she had fallen into a real partnership travelling with her photographer boyfriend of the last three months. Mixing business with pleasure, bound to someone but not bound to one place. Her flowing script indicated that she "she now understood and had never been happier." There was something healing in the fact that they both wished each other well. A knowing that their relationship was the bridge they both needed, and there was honor in that.
As if by auto pilot he made the gentle left onto the street where he lived. Pressing the window control he allowed the crisp fall night air to come in. He breathed deeply of the combination of city exhaust, remnants of yesterday's rain and the warm mustiness of decomposing leaves. For a moment he thought how much easier his job would be if the dead in his field could have the same comforting aroma.
The journey to visit Pops had been a bit impromptu. Something he realized with a shake of his head he need to learn to curtail in his personal life. Following his gut often met with little duress in the successful completion of cases, but it often had disastrous effects on his relationships. Some things deserved to be treated with thoughtful respect. He could wait, think it over, make a plan. Decide if this was something SHE wanted. He had time. She wasn't going anywhere. Somehow that thought alone brought a level of serenity he hadn't known existed.
Never before, not with anyone else had he ever thought about asking them to marry him. Not like this. Both times previous he had just made the decision to do it. He bought rings as carelessly as he decided that enjoying someone was enough to promise forever. Now he had already swore to her forever. He knew the moment they made a home that she would be his one and only. This time the ring was just the icing on the cake. Not a desperate plea.
The jingle of the key in the lock and she met him with a smile, one that had been reserved only for him years previous. Only now she did it with a firm embrace, a silent welcome home, mingled with the smell of her latest vegetarian creation. Feeling the lump in his inside left jacket pocket, as well as the one that formed in his throat, he felt happier in that moment than he ever had before.
He wouldn't make the same mistake for a third time.