Jon walked up behind Veronica where she was standing staring at the Navesink and slid his arms around her waist.
She leaned back against him and let the gently flowing river and his heat and strength soothe her.
They were silent for long minutes. Finally, Jon bent and brushed his lips over her ear. “Why don’t you pack a bag for us for a few days sugar.”
“Where are we going?”
“The Hampton house.” He and Dorothea shared the house, but she rarely used it when the kids were in school so it hadn’t been a problem when he’d called to tell her he wanted to take Veronica there.
“Because I haven’t shown it to you yet and I want to before it gets too cold.” That was his story and he was sticking to it. The rest would unfold when they got there.
Admittedly curious, Veronica agreed.
While she was upstairs packing, Jon took the provisions Molly had gathered for him and loaded them into the Chevelle. Then he went upstairs for the bags.
Veronica was looking around the room, frowning. “Where’s the charger for my phone?”
“I think I saw it in your office.” He glanced at the suitcases and checked the open one closest to him to see what she’d packed for him. “Are these ready?”
“Yes, unless there’s something else you want. You can take them. I’ll get the charger and I’ll be ready to go.”
“Okay. Car’s out front.” As soon as she left the room, he quickly retrieved the ring, paused and took an item out of his bedside table as well and shoved both to the bottom of his suitcase. Wiping his hands on his denim covered thighs, he picked up the bags and headed downstairs.
Once they’d cleared the gate and started down the road, Jon set his elbow on the consol between their seats and held his hand out for hers. Veronica put her hand in his and couldn’t hold back a chuckle.
“Between this car and holding hands, I feel like I’m in high school again.”
Jon grinned. “Too bad it’s not a bench seat. We could cuddle.” The sound of her laughter echoing throughout the car lightened his spirit and confirmed that he was doing the right thing. He just hoped she agreed with him. His thumb rubbed the back of her hand. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I....oh you mean after the call from Gene?”
“Yeah. That had to be a shock for you.”
“Mmm. I can’t believe that Doc actually told him to call me!”
“Maybe it was his way of saying he’s sorry.”
Veronica stared at him. “Are you saying that I should have agreed to take the job?”
“No! I’d rather not have the piece of slime anywhere near you! I’m just trying to come up with a reason why he would initiate contact after all these years.”
“He probably thinks that I’ve forgotten all about what he did.” Another reason came to mind, but she didn’t think even Doc would be that devious and vindictive.
Jon studied her face. “What are you thinking?”
“It’s crazy really. I just wondered....nah, it’s nuts.”
“I just find the timing strange. I don’t hear a peep for twenty years, and as soon as you and I being back together becomes public knowledge he calls.”
“Hmmm...that is a little strange.” He lifted her hand to press his lips to her soft skin. “Don’t worry. He’s no threat to us anymore. I promise.”
She smiled gently at him and squeezed his hand. “I know.”
The rest of the trip was spent discussing the artists Veronica was interested in working with and small talk. When they arrived in East Hampton, Jon drove around the town pointing out his favourite restaurants and watering holes.
At the house Jon grabbed the basket of food before Veronica could look inside and took it into the kitchen. When they’d unloaded the car, he gave her a tour of the house, then suggested a walk on the beach. While it was no longer summer, it was warm for September and there was no breeze.
On the back deck he took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his pant legs and once again reached for her hand. Veronica slipped off her shoes and let him lead her down to the beach. By mutual consent, they left their phones inside.
Since it was September there weren’t many people around, although the warm sun had brought out a few families to fight the end of summer. Aside from the odd wave or smile, they were pretty much ignored as they strolled, hand in hand, feet sinking in the cool sand only to be washed clean by the ebbing and flowing edge of the waves.
While they walked they talked about everything and nothing, with long minutes of companionable silence. It was late by the time they made their way back to the house.
“Hungry?” Jon checked his watch.
“Yeah. I’ll go see what Molly packed for us.” She only got one step towards the house before he stopped her with a hand on her arm.
“Stay here, I’ll get it. We’ll have a picnic on the beach.”
“I’ll help you.” Veronica tried again to move to the house, but he held firm.
“It’s okay, I’ll get it.”
“Nica please! Just...stay here.”
Suddenly the light went on for her and his strange behaviour made sense....he was trying to be romantic and do something special for her. She shut up and let him.
Jon returned carrying the big basket, a battery operated radio balanced on top and a blanket over his shoulder. He stopped beside her. “Take the blanket and spread it out will you?”
Once she did, he set down the basket in one corner, knelt beside it, lifted the lid and handed her the contents. Fried chicken, three different kinds of salad, rolls, pickles and raw vegetables quickly covered the blanket. He also pulled out a bottle of white wine and two glasses as well as plates and cutlery. Veronica filled their plates while he opened the wine and turned on the radio, adjusting the dial until soft blues poured from the speakers.
“This is nice.” Veronica commented taking a bite of chicken and let her gaze wander to the waves breaking nearby.
“Mmmm. It’s nice to sit, just the two of us, no phones, no interruptions...and just relax.”
They finished eating as the sun began to set. Jon pulled a plastic container out of the basket, removed the lid and handed it to Veronica.
She chuckled. “Are there any left at home or did you bring them all?”
“This is it. You’ll have to make more when we get back.” He bit into a cookie before packing up the remains of their meal. He saw her shiver slightly. “Cold?”
“A little.” She rubbed her arms.
Jon reached into the basket once again and removed several candles in glass bowls which he lit and set around the edge of the blanket. Sitting again, he patted the spot between his thighs. “Come here.” Once she was comfortable, he wrapped his arms around her, sharing his heat. Knowing the moment was right, he took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. “Honey...did you really not talk to me about your career plans out of habit? Or was there another, deeper reason?”
Veronica frowned and hedged her answer. “What deeper reason?”
“Like maybe you wanted to keep making these types of decisions on your own because you feel you have to....because you’re not convinced that I’m going to stick around?”
“What would make you think that?”
He noted that she didn’t deny it. “Well, for starters, you haven’t changed one thing in the house to put your stamp on it. You haven’t even put a desk in your office! And I have to wonder why?”
She didn’t know what to say. Luckily, he didn’t wait for an answer.
“I get the feeling that you’re not completely comfortable there yet. That maybe you’re not completely sure of me yet.....of us.” He paused. “Am I right?”
She didn’t want to hurt him, but she didn’t want to lie to him either. “Maybe a little – I know you love me, I’m just....”
“Scared?” He finished for her. She nodded. “Of what? That we’re not going to make it? That I’m going to change my mind?”
She shrugged. “I guess.”
Jon rested his chin on her shoulder. “What’s it going to take to convince you that I’m not going anywhere?”
She shrugged again and bit back a protest when his arm fell away from her waist. But it returned in seconds, a small box clutched in his hand.
A flick of his thumb raised the lid to reveal the diamond ring. “Maybe this will help.”
“Twenty years ago we had something very special, but we were too young and naive to know it. Then a horrible event....and a few outside forces....separated us. But we managed to find each other again and we’ve been given a second chance. Our feelings for each other haven’t changed, and now we’re smart enough and mature enough to recognize what we’ve got and how rare and precious it is.” He kissed her neck, noting the trembling of her body. “I can’t give you back the family we lost, but I want to build a new one with you. Nica, I love you. I always have. I lost you once. I don’t want to ever lose you again. I want to share my life with you.....all aspects of it....permanently. Will you let me help you replace the bad memories with good ones? Will you live with me...laugh with me...cry with me...fight with me....love with me? Will you grow old with me?” He took a deep breath. “Will you marry me?”
Veronica twisted in his arms until she could see his face and stared into his eyes. A shaking hand rose to cup his cheek. Tears filled her eyes, overflowed and rolled slowly down her cheeks. In the blue depths staring back at her she could see only sincerity, hope and....love.
It was a question she’d been waiting twenty years for him to ask...and there was only one answer she could give. “Yes.”