It takes her three days after Stevie has gone to boarding school to pack up her things and go as well. The house is too big, too quiet, enough of an incentive to her rush. Besides if there's one thing she learned over the years is how to travel light.
This sudden freedom doesn't fit her so well. Like a bra two sizes too big – which is even weirder because she's not used to wearing bras, at all. The young girl that works at the travel agency suggests a cruise around the world. Nancy absent-mindedly rejects the offer saying something about how the ocean makes her queasy when her eyes are captured by this one particular brochure. When it comes to tropical paradises all of them look pretty much the same, especially on pictures that have been edited and photoshopped until the ocean looks nearly radioactive and the sand like an endless mass of creamy carpet. It's the name, however, that calls upon her. The memory crawls back from her days in prison - the picture that one of her inmates had on her wall – a lost paradise. The perfect getaway. Nancy smiles, the straw from her plastic cup briefly forgotten, the decision made because if that's not a sign, she's not sure what would be.
The place is everything and nothing that Nancy expected. For one, did you know that Brazilians don't speak Spanish? Well, neither did she. And the heat! Sure there's the breeze that comes from the ocean and for the first time her wardrobe actually seems appropriated, but still. On the other hand, Nancy had never seen a beautiful place such as this. Pictures would never do it justice and words may not either. The water is crystal clear, the sand is soft, people are warm, there are smiles everywhere, a complete lack of worry. And the music! They dance and sing and laugh like there's no tomorrow because maybe there isn't and they might as well make the best of it while they still can. It took her some time, but Nancy can appreciate this now. All of it, actually. And there's also this one musician. She can definitely appreciate him. He's dark, charming, almost sinful. His voice is husky and his shoulders seem to go on for days. He plays the guitar and soon Nancy realizes that his talents don't rely on his long fingers only. He doesn't speak a word in English, unless you count a few lines from his favorite songs. Nancy doesn't mind though. She likes the challenge of trying to communicate using other methods.
She should be happy. Or happier. But she misses her boys, her family. Even Doug. She speaks with them often enough. Silas hasn't changed much and thinking about Lars, Nancy gets this feeling that he never will. But Megan is pregnant again and Flora has gotten so big. Fatherhood suits him well. After rehab, Shane rejoined the force. He has this new partner who is a few years older, tough as nails. He doesn't seem aware of it – nor should he be, celibacy being after all part of his recovery at this early stage – but Nancy thinks he's quite smitten. Stevie still loves soccer but is starting to get at that stage when girls become a constant distraction.
As to Andy…
Their reunion at Stevie's Bar Mitzvah has helped to heal some old wounds but there's still too many scars and a bitter taste, a reminiscent of all those years and the mistakes they've made. At the end, Andy still believes that he must be away from Nancy and to be fair, she isn't completely sure that he's wrong. So she gives him space and the silence that remains between them becomes a sort of common ground. She does send him a few, sparse, postcards with random thoughts that tell very little, or nothing at all about her. He never really replies, but the fact that he hasn't returned them as well is somehow comforting. In fact Nancy likes to think he keeps them all – inside a box in one of his drawers or at his restaurant's wall, it doesn't really matter, as long as he doesn't forget her.
The one time he replies is one line, not even his own, but words of a song.
That's how she knows there's something wrong.
Without as much as a warning she shows up at Silas's doorstep and for a moment he seems genuinely relieved to see her – although Megan is anything but. The baby enjoys the toy his Nana brought him and much to Megan's dismay, Flora seems to be charmed by Nancy and her long, shiny dark hair. Silas is hiding something, a misplaced furrow taking residence in his otherwise worry-free expression. All it takes for her to get to the bottom of it, are a couple minutes alone with her son. Andy is sick. Big blue eyes, the same that belonged to her little boy, have no clue of what to do. She hugs him, tells him not to worry. Mom will take care of everything.
Andy is not surprised when he opens his eyes and finds her lying next to him. The chemotherapy is taking its toll on his body and some days he finds himself so weak that he can barely open his eyes. It could be a dream, her warm hand resting against his chest and her dark hair spreaded all over the white sheets. But her hair smells like coconuts and vanilla and something else entirely. Something that could only be her. He takes a deep breath, inhaling the sweet perfume and praying that the constant nausea won't make an appearance. His lungs don't seem used to the effort though, and he ends up shaking by a dry cough that wakes her from her slumber. Without so much as a blink she has a glass full of water in one hand and guides the straw to his lips. Even numb, the irony is not completely lost on him: straws used to be her thing.
He doesn't want Leni to see him like this. She's barely five, too young to be exposed to life's tragedies. There's also pride hidden under his speech. He's used to be seen as a hero by his little girl, but the disease has made him weak, pale, a shadow of who he was. Annika tries to reason with him, but Nancy knows better. By the time the mother of his child leaves the room, defeated by his stubbornness, almost livid, he is angry too. He hates every single aspect of his life right now and is not afraid to say it loud and clear. Nancy just sits there, quietly waiting for the end of his much needed outburst. He's ashamed by the end of it, his face still red, the cold sweat covering his forehead. Nancy approaches him, a damp towel in hands and her lack of response only makes him more self-conscious. The coolness of the towel feels good against the heat that seems to emanate from his body and he closes his eyes when the apology threats to abandon his lips in a inaudible whisper. But then her voice gets in the way. Calm and composed as ever, she states that he has every reason to feel this way, and besides fighting this thing, there's not much that they can do about it. But right now there's a little girl who really misses her daddy and doesn't quite understand what's happening. And that's something they can fix. He doesn't reply, not for a long time. But then again, he doesn't really need to. On the next day, Nancy makes he wear the green sweater and his daughter is absolutely thrilled to see him, even if they can't go play outside. They read instead, all afternoon, all kinds of books, until both fall asleep blissfully happy to have each other's company.
Some days are better than others.
On the good days, he leaves the bedroom, joins the family during breakfast (Stevie comes for the holidays as does Shane, every other weekend). He likes to spend his mornings sitting on the porch of his house, watching Leni playing with Nancy on the small garden. Apparently, besides his eyes and charms, his daughter has also inherited his soft spot for Nancy. Lying on the grass, exchanging giggles and whispers they seem to share a secret of some sort, and Andy finds himself torn between elation and a hint of jealousy. But then it's lunch time and his little girl comes rest by his side wearing that ridiculous big hat that of course belongs to her auntie Nancy, while the one and only goes to the kitchen to fetch their lunch. In the afternoon he falls asleep with the TV on while Nancy flips through a magazine, both sharing the same couch, even if there's plenty of other sits not taken. At night, after dinner, when Stevie is long gone locked inside his room playing videogames even though Nancy has already asked him to turn it off, and he already made his goodnight phonecall to put his daughter to sleep, Andy likes to lay down and just listen to her moving through the house, the room, barefoot and silk camisole, applying lotion to her body while the soft breeze that comes from the ocean and the open window fills the room with her scent.
On the bad days, he barely leaves the bathroom, his face resting on the toilet seat while he tries to regain his breath and to ease the turmoil inside his stomach. She never leaves his side, never leaves his sight, all quiet reassuring whispers and gentle touches and there's so much kindness and something else in her eyes, something he doesn't dare to put a name on it, that he feels he might drown in it. On these days the fear that he may not beat this thing haunts him. On these days, she believes for both of them.
And then, one day, as sudden as it came, the disease goes away. The doctor calls it a complete remission. Doug claims the credit for the so-called miracle. Andy couldn't care less about the details. He will live. Long enough to see his daughter's next birthday. Long enough to be at Stevie's graduation party. Long enough to grow old – if he's lucky, which at the moment would be one way to put it.
They have a party at his restaurant with all his friends and family to celebrate the defeat of The Knight of Death. There is music and laughter and so many people that he barely notices when Nancy goes home. But the thing is, after so many months having her by his side all the time, he could probably feel her presence with his eyes closed. And the same goes to her absence.
He finds her at her alleged room – they had been sleeping on the same bed from day one, but her belongings never left completely her suitcase, let alone the guest room. The door is open but he knocks anyway, announcing his presence. She smiles at the sight of him, a genuine smile. She also seems to be packing her things. He doesn't know how to handle any of these. Is she leaving? That doesn't make any sense.
"What are you doing?" He asks with a ghost of a smile soon disappearing of his lips. The only certainty that lies within him is of his own doubts.
"Packing." She doesn't lose the smile, though under the right light it seems less natural, doesn't quite reach her eyes.
"I can see that." He states carefully. "Why?"
She doesn't respond right away, her eyes seeking refuge elsewhere but him. He steps forward, decided not to budge. Her voice finds him halfway, casual but not really.
"Because you don't need me anymore." She shrugs and now her smile is just sad, almost a sigh and her big, big brown eyes dare to look at him half hoping, half longing. Then she adds a defense to her actions. "You said yourself Andy, you shouldn't be near me. I'm no good for you."
This time he laughs, actually laughs. Had he really been that stupid? The answer would probably be yes. Both of them were. For so long and so many times that it was actually a miracle that they have made it this far.
But not anymore.
She doesn't get the reason behind his laughter, or his intentions when he walks towards her. And when she does, he's already too close, blocking her only way out. But even then, when his eyes meet hers and his lips ever so softly touch her own, she gets it all wrong. Nancy thinks it's a goodbye kiss, one more as part of their history. Then, his forehead rests against hers and with eyes closed, he asks.
"Where were you planning to go?" She doesn't open her eyes either, doesn't dare to, doesn't want this moment to end just yet.
"Home" She replies simply, her voice quivering.
"Oh Nance," he opens his eyes and with both hands guides her face, making sure she's watching intently. "We are home."
She never leaves again, her running days long gone, though they never really get married. Something about bad luck and a row of dead ex-husbands. Instead, they share a home, a family, a life together. It is not very different from what it was, back in the day, except for the fact that it is completely different.
For one, there's all the sex.
And for the most part of it, they are truly happy.