"We just settled in Charlotte a few of years ago. Mae loves it there. I don't think she will ever want to leave. We moved to Maine when we left here. We didn't have much, but we made do. Miles, Tuck, and I worked odd jobs and we saved most of what we earned. We eventually got jobs building because we were all so good with our hands. We were smart enough to invest a good amount in stock, luckily a little before the crash in '29 we had enough cushion to get us by."
"It was going on fifteen years that I hadn't seen you and I often wondered and worried about you, mostly about the spring and if you have drunk from it. I had it in my mind that when we came in contact again that I would have a 'life' established for you, so we wouldn't have to be as nomadic we were. We could just settle down and focus on being together." Jesse paused and we made eye contact. She gave him a solemn smile, "My dad passed in 1917 from an aneurism. I was at Syracuse when it happened. My parents had bought a little house for me near school, but I moved back after the funeral to look after my mom. On the day of his funeral was when I drunk from the spring. I know you probably expected me to wait till I was your age. When I turned seventeen I tried. I came very close to actually drinking from it, but what Tuck said to me was still fresh in my mind. It had been two years since you left. I guess I just didn't have a sense of urgency. When he died I was afraid. I saw how withdrawn and lifeless my mother became. Nothing at all the way she was when my grandmother passed. I couldn't allow her to go through that again." Jesse wanted to console her all over again. "I feel what Miles has gone through now. It's just hard to understand until it actually happens to you. Once my mother became somewhat of herself again, she started pressuring me to get married and to make a life for my own. She was so persistent that I eventually sat down with her one night and told her everything. She actually took it better than I thought. I told her that eventually I would have to leave and not come back for a while. I didn't want the chance of anyone noticing that I wasn't aging. I informed her that if you ever came looking for me, for her to tell you where I was. I traveled around for a while, popping in and out every few years so she would know that I was alright. I thought maybe I would come into contact with you if I stayed moving. I came back in the late forties to put her to rest. She had passed in her sleep and like my grandmother, she went peacefully."
"I'm sorry, Winnie." Jesse whispered, "It was selfish of me to ask you to spend forever with me. You had to watch your family leave you and there was no one here for you."
"In spite of, I still had pleasant moments with them. I just wish I could have had forever with them also." She turned back to browning the ground beef she had in a pan.
Jesse eyed the lettuce and tomatoes she had laid on the cutting board near the sink. "I can cut those for you. I don't mind."
Winnie nodded, "I don't mind."
He rolled up his sleeves of his button down to wash his hands, "Are you and Isaac planning on living here."
Winnie glanced up from her task and shook her head, "Yes, but he's not moving in until after we're married."
Jesse wanted to cringe, but slightly smiled to himself. He didn't know how to ask the next question he really wanted an answer to. "Winnie," he began, "I know it's really none of my business…and I know that the times have really changed, but…."
She noticed how uncomfortable he had gotten and wasn't sure of where he was going. She reached for the colander to drain the meat without taking her eyes off of him.
He started chopping the tomato and stopped hesitantly, "…have you slept with him?" he didn't turn back to look at her face out of fear he had gone too far.
"If I did, would that change how you feel about me?"
"…I…suppose not. I meant it when I said I will love you until I die. Nothing that you can do would change that. I don't want you to feel ashamed like you owe me an explanation…I just wanted to know." He continued cutting and he heard Winnie softly exhale.
"Well, it's not that I haven't thought about it. I mean I am marrying him, but…no. I… haven't and it's not because I don't want to. It just…I'm not sure."
Jesse tried so hard to disguise the pleasing feeling he had. She was waiting for me, he thought. He cleared his throat with a more serious question in mind, "Do you have a date set?"
Winnie started dumping the ground beef in a large container, "August 27th. He's mother chose the date. I practically didn't have a say. "
Jesse chuckled half-heartedly, "A little overbearing is she? That's who you want as a mother-in-law?"
"I didn't really choose her," Winnie remarked helping him separate the vegetables into different containers, "she is just really protective of Isaac. He's her only son and she wants to make sure he's making the right decisions."
Winnie removed two flour tortillas from the packaging. "I have shredded cheese and sour cream in the refrigerator." She desperately wanted to change the subject to something completely unrelated to the issues at hand.
"Is it the right decision?" Jesse continued, "If he's choosing you, he's also choosing this." He pointed to the both of them, "An eternity. You said you didn't want that for him, but do you have much of a choice. I don't think fifty years from now that you would go unnoticed. How do you expect to be joined with someone you can't even share your entire self with?"
Winnie huffed, "I will tell him…eventually. It's nothing that I need to worry about now."
Jesse shook his head, "Before or after the wedding?"
Winnie began putting the fixings on the tortillas for their dinner. "Do you like sour cream?"
"Great, Winnie. Continue changing the subject. And yes, I do."
She completed their plates and sauntered over the kitchen table, "When are you leaving?"
"Trying to get rid of me so soon?" He smirked.
"Not at all," she teased, "I just assumed that they were expecting you back sooner rather than later."
"Not really. I told them a few days. They knew we would probably be catching up?"
Winnie shifted slightly in her chair.
Jesse eyed her movement, "I don't mean to make you uncomfortable, Winnie. They just thought…we'll just leave it at that. Would you like to say grace?"
"You can go ahead." She answered.
"Do you mind me taking your hand?" He suggested, "I promise to keep it short and simple."
Winnie slowly raised her hand from the table and moved it towards his raised and reacted when they made contact again.
Jesse smiled and snuggly clasped her fingers, "Dear God, thank you for this amazing food that Winnie has prepared. Also, I want to thank you for bringing me back to her. I have missed her deeply. I also hope to prepare many more meals with her in the future…Amen."
"Amen," Winnie added under lowered eyelids.
They ate dinner and made causal conversation until they were finished.
"That was filling. It was very good." Jesse complimented.
"Thank you." She rose from her chair to begin clearing the table.
"I want you to come back with me, Winnie." Jesse requested, "Just for a couple of days. They would be extremely happy to see you."
"I would love to. I just have so many things to take care of here. The wedding planner will be here Wednesday." She confirmed.
"I'll have you back by Tuesday." He promised.
"I can't just pick up and leave with you, Jesse. I don't think Isaac would understand. The only way I could would be if he went also." Winnie declared.
Jesse huffed, "Yeah, that's not uncomfortable. What about Eliza? Do you think she would go and Isaac would be okay with it?"
"Maybe," Winnie thought, "If she says no, I'm going to have to pass."
Winnie and Jesse retreated to the living room as she phoned Eliza. She seemed thrilled about it. Winnie assumed it had more to do with Jesse than it did her. They had come to the conclusion of taking a flight out the following night. Eliza said she would start on the arrangements while Winnie called Isaac.
"Hello, beautiful." Isaac commented.
"Hi, sorry I waited to call you so late. I know you were probably heading to bed soon."
"Don't worry about it. By the way, my mother wanted me to remind you about brunch for tomorrow. She wants to go over some wedding stuff before the planner gets here."
"About that," she started nervously, "Do you think she would mind if we pushed it back a few days."
"Possibly," Isaac supposed, "Trying to hold out as long as you can. You know she means well."
"No, it has nothing to do with her." Winnie assured, "I wanted to visit North Carolina for a few days. Eliza said she would accompany me."
Isaac yawned, "What's in North Carolina?"
Winnie made eye contact with Jesse who prompted her to continue the conversation, "Well, you remember Jesse's family? They are practically the closest thing I have to family and I haven't seen them in years. I just thought I could just stop in and let them know about the wedding."
"That sounds reasonable. Liza agreed to that? When will you be back?"
"Tuesday afternoon. Liza is looking for flights and a hotel right now." She established.
"You're taking a plane?" Isaac asked in utter disbelief. "This must be some trip. You have never taken a plane."
"I know. It's just a really long drive and I knew Liza would not sit still for that long."
"I'm not opposed. Just be careful and call often. We haven't really been away from each other from any long period of time."
"We will. If it's not too much trouble could you drive us? I'm pretty sure distance wise we're much closer to Albany International, so we'll probably end up leaving from there."
"Try to find something as early as possible. I'm opening the store tomorrow at nine. I can probably shoot for ten."
"I know. I'll start packing now and I'll give Liza a call back." Winnie apologized.
"Okay, call me as soon as you know when your flight leaves."
Eliza was able to secure a flight that left from Albany the following morning around 6 a.m. Jesse quickly helped Winnie pack her suitcase for her early morning. He would be heading out as soon as he made sure she was squared away. It was approaching nine thirty, when they finally loaded the rest of her belongings.
"I'll give you a call when I get there. I probably won't make it till about one in the afternoon?" Jesse asked.
"Okay, I put mine in your phone as well. Our flight gets in a little after twelve." Winnie zipped her bag and Jesse reached to take it from her.
He sat it at the entrance of her bedroom door. "I should get going. I have a long drive. I may stop a couple of times to rest."
"Thanks for helping. I'm really excited about this. It may be hard to get some sleep."
"Please, get some sleep. You have a spectacular weekend ahead of you." He leaned in and gently raised his hand to her chin, "I almost don't want to leave."
"Jesse," Winnie pleaded, "You can't do that."
"I'm not going to kiss you, Winnie." Jesse whispered, "That would only complicate things further." He tucked a stray strand of her behind her ear and Winnie briefly closed her eyes.
"Or unless you want me to," He added.
"I…I'll see you tomorrow," Winnie breathed, "It's getting late."
Jesse nodded, "Yeah, it is. I'll see you tomorrow."
When they reached the foyer, Jesse's grabbed Winnie's hand, "Goodnight, Winnie."
Winnie gently squeezed his hand because she didn't want to utter the word goodbye.