Diane returned to the Italy pavilion, alone. She sat down on the ledge of the fountain once again, waiting silently in the midday sun. She had a celery stalk in her hand, and nibbled at it, without a word.
She was halfway through when she saw him, strolling silently through the plaza. Diane straightened up, and waved. After a moment, Antonio saw her, and walked over, with a small smile that seemed a little nervous.
Diane rose to her feet, with a smile. "Hello, again!"
The man nodded, still nervous. "Hello."
Diane shrugged, and said, "When you, um…didn't arrive, before, I'd gotten a little worried."
"A little" indeed! Still, no need to tell him of the pain she'd underwent.
The man frowned, "Well, I…I wasn't quite expecting—"
Diane laughed, "Oh, no…it's my own fault. I don't know why I'd have expected a literal 'every other day'."
"Well, er—I wouldn't know why I would have expected to schedule a regular meeting with…"
"Someone you don't even know?"
He nodded. "I—I'm very sorry, if I caused you to think otherwise…."
Diane shrugged, "Well, I suppose one might call it a quirk of mine…as a rule, when I—well, when I see someone who…"
Her voice trailed off, as they shared a gaze. And not for the first time, Diane wondered if a part of this man knew…if it recognized her—if that had been why he had mentioned, albeit as an aside, his normal routine.
And yet he violated that routine—it couldn't have been that!
Or…could it? Is it possible that—that part of him, which felt that he knew me…could it have frightened him away? Or…am I just over-analyzing it all, as I so often do? For all I know, he honestly didn't expect me to hold him to this "routine"…and didn't feel the need to maintain it.
Tony shrugged, "Who…?"
Diane paused for a moment longer, and sighed. I've put this off for far too long.
"Tony," she said, "Perhaps I was reading too much into things, but I…I couldn't help but notice how—well, when you mentioned the 'Diane' in your life, you seemed…it seemed as though something were hurting, within you. You seemed…"
"Alone?" Tony smiled, "Well…perhaps. It's crazy, I know—to be honest, the woman was…"
Diane flinched, "Uncommitted?"
"I was going to say 'wild', but—that, too."
Diane tried to chuckle, but looked off, gathering her composure, "Well, um…" she turned to him, "Wild, you say?"
"Yeah, that she was…but still—" Tony chuckled, shaking his head, "Look at me, telling it to a stranger…"
Diane's gaze fell, and she swallowed and said, "It's all right, Tony. I…I understand—"
The man spread out his hands, "It was barely for a week. I saw her in a tavern, after a game…she was drunk, and not only with drink."
Diane frowned, "I don't follow…."
"She'd been crying…crying until her eyes were dry, if that's possible." He sighed, "I sat down, and we talked…she didn't tell me much, only her name. She didn't say where she was from—I could tell she was American, but that was all—and when I asked where she was going…she looked at me, and didn't answer."
Diane looked off, not letting him see the tears threatening to well up in her eyes.
Tony went on, "As I said, it wasn't for more than a few days, before she said she had to leave me. But I never blamed her."
Managing to blink back her tears, Diane turned to him, "You—don't?"
"No…when I first saw her, see was alone…and that never changed. She was in pain—crushed, looking for some way to escape whatever happened to her. Something was missing, in her heart, but …" he sighed, "I knew I couldn't have helped her."
"But…you wanted to?"
Tony shrugged, "I suppose I did…but I soon found out that wasn't all she needed."
Diane swallowed. "What…did she need?"
Tony paused for a moment…and finally replied, "I don't know how to say it—it wasn't just 'a home' or 'a place to belong'. It wasn't just 'love'. She—" he hesitated once more, and said, "It seemed to me as if she wanted to live…and wasn't sure how to, anymore."
For a while, Diane said nothing—she didn't trust herself not to say something like, I know, Tony…you're right: I wasn't sure. I was so sure Sam had given me up—I didn't know whether he loved me or not…and when I thought he wouldn't do anything to pledge his love, I didn't know what to do. I threw myself into my wedding with Frasier—and at the altar, I realized how deeply I was hurting all three of us. I panicked—I ran…and I didn't know what to do. I wandered, unsure of whether I could love again…whether I could live again.
She didn't say it—but would it be all right, to? Right now, right here, she knew that this man wasn't harboring a broken heart. The sadness Antonio felt was for the woman he met in that tavern—not over her. Would it be best for her to say—?
The man sighed, and said, "Well, I wish she found what she was looking for…what she needed. She deserved that, at least."
Diane felt her hand move, resting on his shoulder. Antonio looked at her, in mild bewilderment.
Diane smiled warmly, "Don't worry…. I'm certain she did."
It was all she could say to him. She knew, full well, it had to end here…and if she told him everything, it could have made closure much more difficult.
Antonio paused for a moment longer, meeting her gaze. Finally, he smiled a little, and nodded.
Diane moved her hand off, holding it out to him, "Well, then—farewell, Antonio. I wish all the best for you, in the future."
He took her hand, shaking it once, "Likewise, Mrs.…"
He nodded, "Mrs. Malone. May I say, I envy your husband—he's a very lucky man."
Diane's smile grew, "Thank you. I'd say I'm very fortunate, myself."
Antonio nodded again, and began to walk off. But he paused, and turned to her again. "Diane?"
A pause, and then, "Thank you."
Diane nodded, "Thank you, Antonio."
The man turned, and walked away, disappearing into a crowd. And that was that.
Diane entered the suite, and waked over to the bed. Sam was sitting there, leaning back against the headboard. He had a manuscript page in his hand—and there were many others. There was a small stack in his lap—and a bigger one on the table nearby.
Sam blinked, saw her, and straightened out, "Oh—Diane! I, uh—look, honey, this isn't how it…" He deflated, "Oh, never mind…"
Diane chuckled, "Oh, it's all right. I said I wanted you to read it."
"Yeah, I just didn't know you meant before it was done."
"Then what's all this?"
Sam shrugged, "There wasn't much on, so I figured, what the heck? It'll pass the time, until you're back."
Diane nodded, taking note of the fact that Sam was almost done reading what she'd written so far. She sat down on the edge, smiling at him. "What do you think?"
"You know, I was a little afraid it was going to be kinda…well, you know—"
"Well, uh…geez, I dunno—"
Diane chuckled, "Oh, it's all right, Sam—my agent said the same thing of my earlier drafts. Well—drafts of what I'd written, anyway…."
Sam nodded, looking at the page he held for a moment. Finally, he put it face-down on the bigger stack.
"Well…?" Diane's smile grew.
Sam returned the smile, "I'll put it this way: I barely know what time it is."
Diane laughed, as she moved beside him. "You like it?"
"Well, look, I'm not really sure my liking it's what you want, if you want to win awards, or something—"
Diane shook her head, "Oh, Sam…sometimes, I don't think you give yourself enough credit."
"Okay, then I like it." Sam smirked at her, "You know, I kinda like this guy that's helping her out, the…"
Diane's smile grew, as she rested her head on his shoulder, "Remind you of anyone?"
Sam blinked, and frowned, "Hey, I thought you said you wrote a big part of it five years ago…"
"I know: I revised it a bit. I thought she could use a friend, through all that…someone to be there, for her…so she won't have to face these things, alone."
"That agent guy, does he know you did this?"
"Oh, I told him—and he likes the idea. 'The more interaction between characters, the better,' he said. It's a more…vivid means by which to dramatize the conflicts."
"Well, she's sure gonna need the help, from what I've read."
Diane nodded, looking off.
"So, uh…how did it go? Was he there?"
Diane nodded as she turned back to him, "He was."
"Well, um…" Diane shrugged, "Sam, I suppose I'll have to confess, heaven forgive me, that you were right."
"Yeah, that's pretty hard to do, don't you think?" Sam replied in all innocence.
Diane sighed, but smiled and went on, "At any rate, I suppose I did overreact in my…assumption that Antonio was yet another 'victim' of a heart broken after my involvement in his life. He wasn't sad for himself. He was…he was sad for me. Well—who I was, when he knew me."
"What do you mean?"
Diane shook her head, looking off in wonder, "Well…I don't know if I can explain it, for anyone other than myself. Just that—things are as they should be…for him and for myself."
"So, it's…all okay, with him?"
Diane smirked at him, "I believe I just said that, Sam."
"Uh-huh…" Sam muttered, as he picked up the next page of the manuscript. After a moment, he turned to her, and said, "You know, back on this…I still don't have a clue what—"
"Sam…" Diane pressed her forefinger against Sam's lips, with a smile, "I haven't written that part, yet."
She lifted her finger. Sam grinned, "But you know the answers, right?"
"Why, of course I do!" Diane chuckled…and beamed, "To quote Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, when asked whether he knew the ending of a Holmes story before he started it, 'One could not possibly steer a course if one did not know one's destination.'"
"Uh-huh," Sam took the pages still in his lap, and set them aside on the table, with the one he'd been holding. "So…?"
"I'm not telling, Sam: you'll have to wait."
"Yeah—so what was all that stuff you told me about the story being dark or something…?"
"Well, it should be, all in good time. But for what it's worth, Sam, it was a tad more 'dark' when she was alone. I imagine his presence there will provide an element of hope, when all is revealed."
"Hey, how so?"
"Sam," Diane shook her head, "I'm not telling."
Sam put his arm around her, "C'mon, just a little…?"
Sam grinned, brought her to him, and kissed her—slowly, intently….
Diane closed her eyes, taking in the feeling of his mouth on her skin, "Sam, I—Sam, don't think this will…will soften me—well, not in that way, not to…tell you what—"
"Hey," Sam stopped, grinning at her, "C'mon…that's not what it's about."
"Oh really, Sam, I…"
Diane felt Sam's lips on her own…and that was the end of her resistance for the night. He didn't ask her anything more about the book—to his credit—but he was right: it wasn't about that. Tonight, all was well, for both of them…and no regrets of the past could change that. Tonight, all was nothing less than the highest levels of passion and ecstasy, pleasure and excitement. No longer would there be any distractions from what this honeymoon had been intended to be—at last, their time here would be theirs, and only theirs…and neither of them would allow it to be any other way.
When it all had finally cooled (for the moment, at least)…she lay in his arms, eyes closed and with a smile filling her face and her heart…at peace and content with the world.