Night seemed in no rush to extinguish the last embers of the day, as the sun lingered just on the horizon. The bedroom patio door of the apartment was open, a soft breeze barely moving the curtains. He stood looking out at the sky and the interplay of colors. No special ability was needed to appreciate it. It was the quiet time between things.
He heard the soft rustle of fabric and turned. Leaning against the doorframe, his hands in his pockets he saw her standing in front of the bathroom mirror. The sight of her always brought a smile to his face, especially these moments, the quiet unguarded moments. He watched as she ran a brush through her hair, pausing to judge her work and then giving it another few brush strokes for good measure until she was satisfied. Next she slipped on her jacket and adjusted her blouse, checking the sleeves to make sure they were just right. Her earrings were the last item on the agenda. She tilted her head every so slightly to the side and leaned closer to the mirror as she fastened one and then repeated the maneuver with the other.
He probably couldn't explain to someone else why this was the way he always thought of her. Most would immediately think of her in her iconic outfit or as the Princess that she was. Some probably even thought of her as the demi-Goddess related to beings out of myth and legend. He never could, even though he saw everything everyone else did. She was spectacular, an ethereal beauty, brave and courageous, a warrior among warriors and a hero, but it was these moments he cherished more than any other.
To him, she was the woman he was in love with getting ready for their dinner date. It was something so ordinary to most, watching her go through the same rituals that women have been going through since dating began that made the most impact on him. He was seeing her with out all the artifice others couldn't help seeing. He was only seeing Diana, the woman.
He felt grateful that she trusted him enough to allow him to see her like this, with her guard down just being herself. Experience had taught him that falling in love was easy; staying in love was the hard part. It's why so many include him, fail at relationships. Falling in love is almost chemical and instantaneous, while being in love is a continuing process. We build up so many barriers and shields to protect ourselves. Usually this is a wise decision, yet being in love demands that you deconstruct all those carefully built defenses. It's about allowing those shields and barriers to fall, letting someone else see you for who you really are. It's about allowing them to see you're not perfect. It's slipping off the masks we all wear in public. It's about allowing that one special person to truly know you, the real you.
The risk is so great and so perilous. To be rejected after making the attempt is devastating. Someone else has seen you as you really are and said no thank you. There's not real answer for that. It's why divorces can get so nasty and bitter. You may try again, but always in the back of your mind will be that fear of rejection. It tends to make you keep just a bit of yourself always at arms length in case it happens again.
It doesn't work of course. You can't be halfway in love; you have to be all in.
She turned and saw him looking at her. Smiling she switched off the bathroom light and stepped into the bedroom.
"How do I look?' She asked.
"Staggeringly beautiful,' he replied.
For all her titles and abilities, she wasn't averse to flattery, especially from him. In fact it had special meaning coming from him, because he saw her for who she was. They say Helen was the face that launched a thousand ships, but Diana in her iconic outfit had surely launched an equal or greater number of fantasies. What made it different with him was he was more interested in the reality of her.
She knew he watched her in those quiet moments. At first it had been a bit disconcerting. It felt almost too intimate, yet slowly she began to understand and welcome it. He wasn't seeing Wonder Woman or the Amazon Princess, he was seeing her, watching her, Diana. To find out the man you're in love with is in love with you, the real you under all the layers, barriers and shields was so intoxicating. He knew she weren't perfect, just as she did about him. He knew her foibles and quirks, yet that was just part of why he loved her.
As she moved over to kiss him, Diana knew him too. He could be silly, infuriating, noble, childish and irritating, but they were just part of who he was. It was Kal as a whole, a man she was still discovering all the time that she was in love with. Everyone wears masks, but when they were together they allowed the other to take them off.
"So where are we going for dinner?' She finally asked.
"Do you have to rush back tonight?"
"Then there's some place special I want to take you,' he said.
Twilight as Clark and Diana strolled hand in hand down the main street of the small vacation town. Ten years earlier they had spent a weekend here. It had been the first time they made love and memories seemed to haunt the location. In the distance they could see the lights of the Ferris wheel, along with the rest of the small amusement park that sat at the water's edge.
"It's almost exactly the same, Kal." Diana commented.
"Yeah, it's like stepping back in time,' he replied.
"I thought we were going to have dinner first," she teased.
He turned and smiled at her.
"Don't worry, I'll feed you, Diana," he said. "I just wanted to show you something up ahead."
"Is it something I've seen before, Kal?' She continued with the teasing.
"If it's what I think it is, we should stop and get something to eat.' Diana playfully told him. "You'll need your strength."
"Someone thinks pretty highly of themselves, don't they?' he joked.
"Am I wrong?' She challenged.
"No,' he admitted with a smile. "But why don't we pick up something to go?"
Diana pointed to a small café that was advertising fresh seafood and they made their way towards it.
Twenty minutes later with takeout food in a plastic bag, they stopped in front of the beach house. Clark turned to Diana.
"This is what I wanted you to see, Diana."
She wasn't sure what he meant. It was the same beach house they'd spent that weekend ten years ago.
"It's lovely, Kal, but I read Mrs. Harrow passed away,' Diana said. "Who owns it now?"
"I do,' he replied.
"Come on inside and I'll explain."
Hand in hand they went up the front steps and he fished the keys out of his pocket and opened the door. He held it open for her and Diana slowly walked in. It was exactly the same as her memory of it.
"I'll put the food in the kitchen, go ahead and take a look around."
Diana nodded, feeling almost transported back in time to that weekend. She had thought about this beach house many times over the years, but this was the first time she'd been back. Finding the light switch she turned it on and moved into the main room. It was the same sturdy, antique furniture; in fact everything looked the same. She noticed it also looked as if no one had been in the beach house in some time. Hearing him returning from the kitchen, Diana turned to face him.
"So?" she asked. "How exactly did you come to own this Kal?"
"Mrs. Harrow left it to me in her will."
"But she died almost ten years ago,' Diana stated. "You've owned this for ten years and never told me?"
"No,' he said with a shake of his head. "Because of the size of her estate, it was in court for years. Her children and relatives dragged it out. It was finally settled about two years ago. One of her lawyers showed up at my doorstep one day with the deed and a letter. I haven't told anyone, Diana. I've only been back here once since then and that was just to set up with a local company to have someone look after the place."
"This is a surprise."
"Yes, I never expected anything like this,' he admitted.
"Why do you think she left it to you, Kal?"
"Why don't you read the letter that came with the deed,' he suggested. "It's from Mrs., Harrow and she explains it better than I can."
Diana nodded, still trying to take all this new information in. Clark moved over to the antique writing desk and opened one of the drawers. He brought out a letter and handed it to Diana.
"I'll let you read that by yourself,' he said. "How about some music?
Again Diana nodded, as she looked at the front of the letter. It had a very formal letterhead from the lawyer firm and was addressed to Mr. Clark Kent.
There was one of those old radio/turntables against one of the wall, the kind from when people still considered both those appliances pieces of furniture. He turned the knob on and the dial lit up. He flicked through a few channels trying to find something. The dial stopped on classic rock and Led Zeppelin's Fool in the Rain came blaring out. He turned and looked at Diana.
"Can't go wrong with Zeppelin,' he said with a smile.
"You're such a guy sometimes, Kal,' she replied, giving him a look.
He chuckled as he turned the switch from radio to the turntable.
"You make that sound like a bad thing, Diana," he commented.
"Where I'm from it is,' she whispered under her breath.
He wisely didn't comment. There were a stack of old records next to the turntable and he took the top one out and put it on. The sound of Chet Baker's Almost Blue filled the room.
"I'll let you read,' he said and then moved over to open the doors to the deck and the ocean. Clark stepped outside and moved to the railing, looking out at the seemingly endless night sky.
Diana sat down at the oak table. A light hung over the center, the only illumination in the room. Absently she brushed back a few of her curls as she slipped the letter from the envelope. She could tell by the feel that it was expensive paper and found herself a bit nervous as she opened it. She'd only met Mrs. Harrow once, but had liked her. Why she would leave this place to Kal seemed a bit of a mystery, but she was about to find out.
It was handwritten in flowing, elegant cursive style.
Young Mr. Kent was how it began. Diana smiled at this and then continued.
By now I imagine you're more than a bit confused and shocked to find out about my gift. Hopefully the nice young man that delivers this will explain the house is yours once you sign the deed.
You're probably wondering why?
This beach house is special to me, Clark. My husband and I spent our honeymoon here. Every year of our marriage we always managed to return. Perhaps it was to stay connected to that first weekend together or just reaffirm our love. After he passed away, I didn't return, but I kept it in memory.
If you're reading this, it means I've passed on too.
The bulk of my estate will go to my children. I love them and they deserve to do whatever they want with it after I'm gone. This house, though, they would only see as an asset, another small piece of property in a much larger portfolio. It's more than that to me. It's always been a magical place in my mind, of young love and being in love.
I must admit to you that I perpetrated a small deception with the somewhat reluctant help of Henry Cameron on you, Clark. The Independent had no such policy about a reporter getting a weekend at this beach house as a reward for their first front page story. I suppose you could call it an old woman's gesture to young love and the memory of it.
I saw the way you looked at the young Princess and the way she looked at you the night of the party. Only someone that's experienced that would understand its meaning. Things may have ended poorly that night, but I fully expected you would see the Princess again. My deception was so that you two young people might find here what my husband and I found so many years ago. The look on your face when you last came to see me told me you had.
So I left you the house, Clark, but it's not just for you, it's for both of you. I hope in the years to come it will be just as magical a place for you as it was for us.
Mrs. Eve Harrow
Diana sat just gazing at the letter after she finished it. Emotions threatened to overwhelm her, but she maintained her control. Gently she put the letter back in the envelope. Rising, Diana walked across the room an out onto the deck next to Clark. She leaned against him and he automatically put his arm around her. She couldn't help it as tears filled her eyes.
"I thought you said Amazons never cry?" He gently teased.
"Oh, shut up,' she replied. "You would have to remember that now."
"It's okay, Diana,' he whispered, brushing his lips against her forehead. "The letter got to me too."
She gave a little smile and wrapped her arms around him. They stood together in the moonlight, the sound of the ocean mixing with the cool jazz. They both could feel the magic Mrs. Harrow was talking about. Clark reached into his pocket and took out a key. He handed it to Diana.
"This is your copy,' he whispered. "She left it for both of us."
Diana took it from him and turned it slowly over in her fingers. It was such a small, ordinary thing, yet the symbolism wasn't lost on her.
"You're welcome,' he replied. "Thank you for being here with me, Diana. You're the only person I ever wanted to be here with."
So many emotions swept through her. Memories, both good and bad, came rushing back. One in particular, the most painful memory, seemed to focus her mind. Shifting slightly back, she looked him in the eyes.
"This time if you ask me, I'll say yes."
(A/N) - That's where this one ends.
Thank you to everyone that read it. A special thank you to everyone that read and reviewed it. I did read and appreciate them all.