This week’s theme is about travel, so I thought I’d share a snippet from Do Over. The hero and heroine have been married for over twenty years. When Faith begins to suffer from empty nest syndrome, her husband, Troy, decides to take her back to their hometown for a trip down memory lane.
When the parking lot was almost completely clear, he turned to her. “Happy anniversary, Faith.”
Her brows lowered. “Our wedding anniversary isn’t until next Tuesday.”
He shrugged. “It’s close enough. I wanted to celebrate it with you here.”
“At the high school?”
He chuckled. “No, here. In Carlylse. Home.”
She smiled at his words. “This place hasn’t been home in nearly thirteen years.”
“It’ll always be home. Too much of our lives happened here for it to be anything else.”
She nodded, knowing he was right. Then, he picked up the present and she blushed. “I feel terrible. I didn’t get you anything yet.”
Truth be told, she hadn’t planned on buying him much more than a card. After twenty-five years of marriage, a simple card exchange and dinner out had sort of become their standard routine. There wasn’t too much that either of them really wanted and with two kids in college, spending money on anything frivolous seemed like too much of a waste.
“You give me plenty, Faith,” he said, tapping her nose playfully, and she had to take a quick breath to fight back the tears at his unexpected, sweet comment. She loved her husband and she knew for a fact that he loved her, but neither of them spoke in flowery phrases. Every night of their lives together, they’d kissed good-night and said the words, “love you,” but after awhile, the meaning behind the words was lost in the rote pattern.
Looking down, she carefully opened the beautifully wrapped package. Pulling off the lid and digging into the tissue paper, she was surprised to find a photo album. She started to open the cover, but Troy’s hand covered hers.
“You can only look at the first page,” he said.
She looked up, the question in her eyes, but he didn’t give her time to voice it.
“This is only the first stop in our celebration. One page for each place. I’ll tell you when you can turn the page.”
She looked at him for several moments, trying to assimilate this man and this incredibly romantic gesture with the easygoing guy who’d been leaving wet towels on her bathroom floor year after year.
Opening the photo album to the first page, she saw a picture of her and Troy the night of their senior prom. They hadn’t come to the dance together, but they’d certainly left the gym hand in hand. His original date had come down with the flu, canceling the morning of. She’d come with Travis Scottsdale, her first semi-serious boyfriend and asshole of the century. Ten minutes after arriving at the dance, he told her he wanted to break up with her, leaving her sitting alone while he proceeded to make out in the corner with Amber Cooper.
“Oh my gosh. Look at us. We’re so young.”
“And sweaty,” Troy joked. “We danced our asses off that night.”
“It didn’t help that the AC in the gym didn’t work.” Faith grinned at the memory.
“Must’ve been at least a hundred degrees in there.”
Faith looked back at the photograph. “Where did you get this picture? I’ve never seen it.”
“It was in the pocket of that letter jacket. I can’t remember exactly where I got it. I think Judy Hayes gave it to me a couple weeks after the dance. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to pass it along to you.”
“And obviously you forgot.” Forgetting little things was a special talent of Troy’s. She always had to remind him it was garbage day or to stop on the way home from work to pick up the dry cleaning.
Troy shrugged. “I was a teenage boy falling in love for the first time. Believe me, I was not about to give up that picture. I looked at it all the time.”
This time, she couldn’t hold back the tears his kind words provoked.
“Troy,” she whispered.
He bent forward. “Kiss me,” he murmured. Their lips touched. They’d kissed a million and twelve times in their lives, but this kiss, gentle and sweet and innocent, reminded her of their first. It was in this parking lot after the dance and she could still remember the excitement she felt when Troy Wainwright offered her a ride home. They’d gotten into his car and before he started the engine, he’d turned to her and said the exact same words.
The request and the action had taken her breath away that night and she was feeling the same lightheadedness now as she had then. As soon as the memory entered her mind, she pulled away with a gasp and looked around. If she wasn’t mistaken, this was very nearly the same parking spot.
“Our first kiss.”
He grinned, pleased she’d remembered. “Yep. Right here. In front of the school.” He turned on the radio and slid in a CD. Pushing Play, he pointed back down to the photo album as the sounds of Fleetwood Mac drifted through the speakers.
For the first time, her gaze traveled from the picture on the left page to a letter protected under the plastic film on the right page. It was written to her in Troy’s handwriting.
“What’s this?” she asked.
You and I have known each other nearly our entire lives, traveling the same path through elementary, middle and high school. While we were acquaintances through those early years, I feel like I never really knew you, never saw you until the night of our senior prom.
Betsy Jordan coming down with the flu was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I remember how pissed off I was after her mother called and said she couldn’t go to the dance with me. I almost stayed home that night, but my mom insisted I put the rented tux to use. You know my mom— waste not, want not.
I came late and by the time I got there, that dickhead, Travis had left you sitting all alone. I knew you all had been dating, so I was surprised when I saw him with Amber. I can still remember the look on your face as you watched him dancing with that other girl. You were so pale and yet, so strong. I could see how hard you were fighting not to cry, to hold on to your dignity. It was like a light went on inside me. I’d passed you in the hallways for years and never really looked at you, but that night, you were the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen and I wondered why in the hell I’d never noticed it before.
I was nervous as shit when I walked over to you and asked to sit down. You smiled at me and I felt like somebody had punched me in the gut. Talk about an instant attraction. We talked and laughed and after awhile, we started dancing. The last song of the night was “Landslide” and I took you in my arms and we slow danced while Stevie Nicks sang. After the dance, you said I could drive you home and we had our first kiss in the parking lot. I fell in love with you that night even though I was too stupid at the time to know it. When I dropped you off at your house, I asked if I could call you again and you said yes. I smiled the whole way home, thinking about you.
Even after all this time, I only have to think about you and I smile.