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A light snow was falling over the quiet countryside. Bare trees stood as darkened upended brooms on a white undulating carpet. Without noise, snowflakes fell in irregular patterns in the cold still air. The clouds, light yet dense, filtered the sunlight into a pale matte glow. A small road led away, bearing footprints: shadows in the snow.

The house was warm, and Jill enjoyed looking out the window to the falling snow outside. She remained standing for a while longer, coffee cup in hand, now sipping, now watching the cold snow. At last she turned and returned to the long pine table and her writing, set her cup down, and sat. She picked up her address book. Gently, delicately, she turned the pages, past the dry cleaner and the gardener. At W she stopped. His name was there: Warren Wilson.

Once more she surprised herself with the rush of sad emotions that flooded her heart at the view of his name. She looked away, at the box of Christmas cards, at the sheets of forever stamps, at her pens.

Jill knew she would not write to him this year either. Pensively, she closed the address book. She had written enough cards already, and would mail them tomorrow. She set herself to arranging the addressed cards and put away the rest in the cabinet. She had just finished when a heavy thud shook her front door, startling her. She took a breath then spoke up. "Who is it?"

A voice came muffled from beyond the thick wooden door. "It's Warren."

Jill stood still. She had not heard his voice for over twenty years, yet she knew it so well, and it carried her back to her childhood, to tumultuous teenage years, and finally to her sad twenties.

Slowly she walked to the door. Her breath grew quick, and her hand trembled. She slit the bolt back, put her hand on the handle, then closed her eyes and whispered a plea: "Lord, help me."

As Jill slowly opened the door, first the cold came in, then she saw his face, his hair, his clear blue eyes, lined, unlike yesteryears, with wrinkles. He wore a thick dark grey wool coat, something that must have come from a fancy Manhattan clothier. In his gloved hand, he held a small rectangular red box tied with a shiny white ribbon. Behind him, glimmering in the swirling snow, sat a very new grey Cadillac XTS.

She returned her gaze to his eyes. They were full of life, full of an uncommon happiness. She felt this contagious feeling of glee rush full force when he smiled and said "Merry Christmas Miss Jillian."

Jill moved so fast it surprised them both. She hugged him like she had hugged him so many times, years ago, in a different life, it seemed.

He closed his hands around her, patting her, and just held her when tears began streaming down her face. She felt warm and her body calmed in his embrace, but her mind raced wildly: she imagined him married, and a Connecticut beauty and two children would emerge from the Cadillac and shatter her only moment of happiness. He slowly let his arms fall to his sides and she knew the hug was over. She stepped back, questioning his eyes with her teary stare. He smiled again. She just looked at him. He held her gaze then, slowly, asked: "Are you going to ask me in?"

Jill smiled in turn, her lips forming the unfamiliar shape. "Oh, Warren! It's so good to see you!" She took a step back, yielding the doorway to him. "Please come in!"

He smiled and looked at her, then said "Thank you" before stepping inside the small house. She closed the door behind her as she entered.

Warren stood in her living room, then held his hand out. "You don't have a tree yet. I'll just give this to you."

Jill looked down to see the small box. She dared not move, for never had a man offered her a gift in this manner. She stood still, her back to the door, her hands at her sides, her heart in her throat, on the brink of tears again.

Warren saw her distress. "I will help you," he said. Slowly he removed the shiny white ribbon, stepping closer. Deftly he balled the ribbon and slipped it in his pocket. He was two feet from her. She could feel his breath as he opened the box in front of her. Inside, a necklace of brilliant diamonds glittered in her eyes. "Oh my!" She exclaimed. She had never even seen such a thing before. He took the necklace, swiftly lifted it, and adeptly clasped it around her slender neck.

She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, then exhaled slowly, ever so softly, feeling the cool heavy stones settling on her skin. Her right hand came to touch it. The stones were impossible. This was impossible! Diamonds, on her neck? And Warren, in her house, next to her. And her heart, so tumbled; emotions rushing back, all jumbled, incoherent: a cacophony.

Without thought, she just spoke: "No, I can't accept this." For she knew that accepting this gift meant revisiting, again and again, all the pain she had endured all those years. "I can't take this gift." No matter how much part of her wanted to just pick up their relationship where it had broken off, in 1993, on the eighth of November, on a dreary rainy day at the train station in Westport. No, there was no going back. There had been too much pain in the months of madness that followed, in the years of bitterness that followed, and in the dull melancholic pain that endured to this day.

Warren stepped back, holding her hands in his. He smiled. "It's my gift, Jillian. I'm not asking for anything in return. Just to see you again is payment enough." His voice was slow and gentle, soothing her, tempting her. He looked into her eyes, finding his way into her soul. "I know things were bad between us, years ago." He paused, a frown swiftly appearing then disappearing. "And for what it's worth, I'm very sorry." He could tell she was on the edge of pain. "It took me a long time to forgive myself." His face became full of sorrow, quite suddenly. "I hope you can forgive me."

Jill felt anger rise within. He saw it in her face, but held his gaze upon her. "I can't. I can't forgive you Warren. It hurts so much." She spoke, her brow furrowed in pain, her lips tight around the words. What remained of a smile fell off Warren's face. He looked down, lowered his head. He looked up again at her face. "I understand." He straightened, then took a long breath. "I will go. I won't bother you again."

Jill was still in front of the door, with her back near the door handle. She made no move to move. He lifted his right hand, to take the door handle.

"If you will excuse me," he said.

Jill held her left hand up and closed it around his forearm. "Please, I didn't mean for you to leave." She found her face close to his. "I... I accept your apology." She suddenly had the urge to kiss him, and her face softened and a smile appeared. She leaned closer, her face just two inches from his.

"Thank you for the necklace."

He turned slightly, a smile coming to his lips as well.

"It's beautiful," she whispered.

"Yes it is," he said. She did not know whether he meant her or the necklace, but she basked in the compliment.

Then she kissed him. It felt wrong. It felt right. It felt awesome.

Their bodies pressed together, she held him and kissed him and all the emotion of the past that had dogged her were suddenly irrelevant.

She kissed him. He kissed her, and it felt wonderful.

He held her shoulders and pushed her gently away, enough that he could look into her eyes. "Come with me to the city. I have a big place. You will like it."

And just like that she knew they were back together, that the years of loneliness were gone, vaporized as though they had never existed.

Written in March of 2014. 1400 words.

© 2014 Christopher Mahan