- Andrew Lombardi
The morning light peeked its way through the bedroom curtains poking and prodding Josh awake. His head was pounding.
His hand lazily grazed along the opposite side of the bed. It was empty. Josh wiped the sleep from his eyes and looked around the room for his girl. He found her, leaning against the bathroom door, applying hand lotion and watching him intently. She couldn’t help but smile, as he fixed his gaze upon her. Without taking her eyes off of him, Carolina walked to the foot of the bed, and in a sultry manner, pawed her way over to him on all fours, collapsing into him with a deep kiss.
This was how their weekend mornings usually began. Today was extra special, it was their one-year anniversary. She broke away and straddled his chest. He looked up at her, she was donning one of his dress shirts with a sly mischievous grin.
“You still haven’t told me where we’re going!” she exclaimed.
“And, I’m not going to either” he replied, laughing.
She loved his ability to control her in situations like this. At that moment, she decided to give him the first of his anniversary presents for the day. She pulled off the dress shirt she wore, and in one unseen motion unclasped her bra to let her breasts free. She fell into him, and they made love.
In the afterglow, when she was sure he would be at his weakest resolve, she attempted once again, “So, baby, where are we going?”
“You’ll see,” he said before drifting off for a quick nap. She let him sleep.
They left the house in the early afternoon and jumped on the freeway. The only thing he asked her to bring, was hiking attire, and herself. He wore similar attire. As much as she pleaded, he wouldn’t tell her anything about where they were going. They exited the freeway and headed toward a small airport. She was visibly confused. Pushing her confusion near the breaking point was when Josh drove his car out on the runway and toward a small plane.
“Uh, Josh baby, what are we doing?” she said bewildered.
“You know that I finally got my pilot license after all that hard work. So, I thought we’d take a quick trip up to Napa and celebrate” he exclaimed excitedly.
“Well, are you coming?” he said as he motioned toward the open door of the small plane.
He led her into the seat next to him, and after getting her situated, prepped the plane for takeoff. After what seemed like only a brief moment, they were taxiing down the runway and in the air. It was the most beautiful time she had ever experienced. She was savoring being miles up in the sky, with her man, blazing the trail ahead. The landing, and car trip to the winery went by like a blur. It was early evening now, and he led her to a grass field overlooking a sea of grapes. There, amidst the beautiful vineyard backdrop, was a plaid blanket where she could see a bottle of wine with two glasses, and three covered plates that appeared to be holding dinner.
“Oh my god Josh, how did you plan all this!”
He just looked at her with a big smile, knowing that his plan was a success. “Sit down baby, let’s enjoy”
He deftly popped open the bottle of wine and poured a glass for each of them. Raising his glass in the air, he said “I love you.” She attempted in vain to hold back tears of joy and sniffling said, “I love you too baby!” They both took a healthy swig and set the glasses down. “Let’s eat!” he exclaimed.
There were three platters set out on the blanket, one next to each of them, and one in the center. As Carolina opened up her platter, she gasped and let out a shriek of excitement. Josh smiled, and pulled the tiny box from under the platter and got down on one knee by her side. He said only two words as he looked up at her, “Marry me.”
“Yes! Yes, yes. A thousand times yes!”
* * *
Several weeks had gone by after the successful proposal. They were happy. Both of them sat down to dinner at Josh’s place.
“I want to spend six months, backpacking around Europe.” Carolina remarked as they were having dinner.
“That sounds like a blast, but you know I just got this job a few months ago, and that wouldn’t look very good.” answered Josh.
“I know baby, I know in my heart, and deep in my soul, that I need this, before we dedicate our lives to each other.” she responded.
“And, I was planning to go alone,” she said hesitantly.
Silence. The emotions causing turmoil in his mind would not subside, and he was unable to think clearly.
“Say something,” she pleaded.
“I need some time, I don’t know how I feel about this right now!” he exclaimed, gave her an intense look before walking off toward the door. The dinner table shook as he slammed the front door shut.
There was an uneasy tension between them for several days. He couldn’t bring himself to discuss it without letting his emotions take over. Carolina had made it clear that this was something she had to do before getting married. Before it got to be too much, he sat her down in the living room, and with a plastered on smile, asked to assist in the planning. She was overjoyed and beaming.
And just like that, the tension had lifted. They made love on the floor of the living room that night, and she fell asleep in his arms.
The next few months they plotted out her grand European adventure. Hostels were definitely going to be preferred, and she wanted to stay long enough in each location to “feel” like a native. They also worked it out with Josh’s new employer that he would join her in the third month for two weeks, in Paris. And they bought a world phone, with video chat capability, so they could talk and see each other as often as they wanted. Josh was happy enough to see this through, so he could have her back and share his life with the women he loved.
* * *
He was up early the morning of his future wife’s flight. In order to alleviate his conflicting emotions about her trip, he had taken up writing in a journal. He sat in his familiar position in a chair out on the deck, half deep in thought and scribbling his emotions and rambling thoughts down on paper. The last words he wrote before closing his journal:
If you love her, you have to let her go.
As he began to daydream in the quiet of early morning, she wrapped her arms around his chest, comforting and soothing him.
“Come on baby, I made you some breakfast”, she cooed. He had a soft spot for her cooking. Josh generally enjoyed the excitement around the trip plans, and was holding it together long enough to get her to the airport and see her off. After enjoying a wonderful breakfast he loaded her bags into the trunk of his car and they headed off toward the airport.
He pulled the car into parking and walked her through baggage drop, and up to the security line.
“I guess I’ll talk to you later,” she said breaking the ice.
“I’ll be awake when your plane lands, I know you’ll be tired, but remember to text me when you’re safe.” he was choking up his words.
“I will baby, I love you!” she said as she hugged and kissed him. “I love you too!” he replied. The tears from both were flowing now. Josh wiped his, and broke away to look in her eyes, and wipe the tears from her cheeks.
“I’ll be seeing ya,” he said as she walked through the security line.
* * *
Somewhere over the Atlantic the flight cockpit had sent a final cryptic message before losing contact completely. It would later be blamed on a combination of equipment malfunction and pilot error. Josh was napping on the couch and had drifted off to sleep while the TV was on. He awoke to the sound of breaking news about Carolina’s flight. He sat in shock for what felt like hours when his phone rang. Picking up the receiver, he couldn’t muster a response.
“Son, are you watching the news right now” his father was on the other end of the phone. Josh sobbed.
It was nearly two weeks before they were able to provide a semblance of closure for the families of the crashed airliner.
On a brisk morning the families of Carolina and Josh, and his late fiancé’s friends gathered on a private beach to say goodbye. In front of the group, a makeshift podium was anchored in the beach, a giant framed picture of Carolina to the left, and a small table opposite, with an urn carrying her remains. One by one every person who felt called to speak brought out happy memories they shared with Carolina. When Josh slowly made his way to the front, his mere presence left many in tears. He spoke of how they met, and the life he was blessed to share with her. And without sturdy legs to hold him he fell to the sandy floor and broke down crying.
Carolinas father stood up and walked over from his seat, cautiously helped Josh to his feet and embraced him. Her father never said much, but his presence left an impact. He broke away and whispered something in Josh’s ear. As he opened the boys hand, he placed inside, the engagement ring they had recovered from the crash. It was the only thing he had left of her, after letting her go.