Chapter no 30

If He Had Been with Me

I’m sitting on the back porch reading after a trip to the library this afternoon. The book is old and has that dusty, musty smell I love. The author is Irish, probably dead, and someone I’ve never heard of before today. The book is surely out of print by now and I feel as if I am holding a lost treasure in my hands. I stop suddenly and close my eyes. This book is a treasure; I did not suspect it would be so good when I picked it up, but now I can feel the printed words seeping through my skin and into my veins, rushing to my heart and marking it forever. I want to savor this wonder, this happening of loving a book and reading it for the first time, because the first time is always the best, and I will never read this book for the first time ever again.

I sigh and look out across the backyard. Today is the longest day of the year, and the sun is only just reaching the horizon behind the trees. The air feels good in my lungs and my muscles are relaxed and warm in the slowly fading sunshine. I will sit here for a moment longer and be happy. Though I am dying to look down again and read more, I’ll sit here and love this book and know that I still have so much more left to read because that won’t be true for very long.

Next door, the back door slams and two voices are talking quietly on the porch. I glance up startled.

“So that’s it then,” Aunt Angelina says. Her voice is calm and even, like the voice on the phone that tells you the time and temperature.

“Yes, it is,” the other says. “I’ll be in touch later, but for now this is it.” “Fine then. Good-bye.”

“Good-bye, Angelina.”

Kevin the Football Man walks off the porch and into his car without looking back. Aunt Angelina stands on the porch and watches him as he maneuvers out of the narrow, long driveway and disappears.

After he is gone, she continues to look out over the gravel driveway into the yard and setting sun and I look at her.

“Autumn,” she says. I start in my seat and stop breathing. She still stares straight ahead. “Try to marry your first love. For the rest of your life, no one will ever treat you as well.”

She turns to leave then and closes the door behind her.

Suddenly it is very quiet outside, and the glitter is gone from the grass and leaves, and even though the sun is only beginning to set, I think soon it will be too dark to read. I close my book and stand up.

I’ll go inside and make something for dinner and read more later. I will have to wait for the magic to come back before opening it again. I’ll wait until I remember that Aunt Angelina is happy with her life and that I will marry my first love. It will only be the first time once.

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