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This is from chapter 7:
After the cleaning and repairing went as far as it could, we got Eddie onto his leash—somewhat akin to leashing a big hairy Super Ball—and took him for a walk around our neighborhood. The rain had ushered in a cold front, so, while the air was still damp from the storm, the temperature had become much more clement than usual for this time of year. It also seemed to make everything instantly greener and lusher. Ours was a generally well-tended neighborhood of historic homes. Some, like the one where we lived, had not been as well maintained, but many were showplaces, with long front yards festooned with ornate landscaping. The flowers and shrubs were in their full glory after a second storm in two days, which had broken a brief dry spell. Augmenting the visual beauty was the almost cloyingly perfumed air, thanks to Bea Taylor’s prize-winning rose garden.
As we walked, Dee took my hand in hers, raised it to her lips and kissed it gently. Something clicked deep in my soul. She was home, so I was home too, for the first time in three months.
“I thought you were dead,” she said.
I kind of let it hang for a bit, mostly because I had no idea how to respond. Eventually, words—clumsy, useless words—came. “I’m not.” Beautiful, Shalan. And you used to be on the speech team.
She ignored my moronic reply. “I wasn’t sure I could go on if you were gone. I didn’t even stop to tell Mom and Dad where I was going. I didn’t pack, I didn’t do anything except get Eddie and his leash and run for the car. I had to know, I had to be in your presence. I knew then that my need for you and my connection to you is more vital to my survival than anything else in the world. And part of being in your life is accepting that you are, more than anyone I know, what you do.”
“A big chunk of what I am is you, Dee. I am not me without you.”
“I know, but you are also not you without doing what you do. It’s what attracted me to you in the first place, and it’s what draws me inexorably in now. I can’t live without you and I can’t live with myself asking you not to be a detective, a hero. It’s like asking Superman to turn in his cape. You help the helpless, support the weak. You do heroic things because you are, with every fiber of your being, a hero.”
“I just try to help,” I replied sheepishly. I never knew how to respond when she talked like this. I hated and loved hearing every word she said, not because I loved the thought of being a hero. What meant so much to me was that the person who made my heart beat thought it about me.
“It’s that beautiful, self-deprecating manner that I know is not put on, that makes you all the more irresistible. I’m pretty sure I would simply cease to be if you died, but I’m equally sure that I cease to be, in any way that is meaningful or attractive to me, if I cease to be with you.”
“So what you’re saying is you love me.” I smiled and bumped my hip into hers as I waved at Ike and Corabeth Godsey, who were enjoying the cool air and brilliant sunshine from the shade of their broad front porch. Ike smiled from his oak swing, which was suspended by chains from the porch ceiling, and raised a glass of lemonade as if to propose a toast to us. In response, Eddie barked and leapt high into the air. He pretty much loved everybody, but he especially loved Ike and Corabeth, not in small part because she gave him bites of her homemade bread every time we stopped by on walks.
“My love for you was never in question, Mr. Studly.” She skipped over a chunk of broken sidewalk. “The only question was whether the fear of losing you was too much to live with. Now I know the fear is just part of the price I pay.” She squeezed my hand. “And it’s more than worth the price.”
We stopped. Eddie stood with his front paws against the trunk of Ralph Parker’s hickory tree staring with utmost concentration at what I assumed to be a squirrel only he could see. Squirrels were Eddie’s mortal enemies.
I turned to face Dee and pulled her into my arms. “I love you, Dee. More than anyone has ever loved anyone before.”
Our lips met and the whole world went away. No Eddie, no neighbors mowing lawns, no kids shouting and running—just her and me. At least until a car horn pierced our bubble of passion and simply would not stop. I guess we should’ve picked somewhere other than Old Man Parker’s driveway to declare our eternal love for each other. We smiled and waved, unembarrassed, and re-commenced strolling down the walk. As we reached the corner, Otis Campbell’s city-issued Crown Victoria pulled up beside us.