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Page 4

  "I love you, Tre." A shift of bodies, and he slipped in. It was the most natural feeling in the world, now, to feel him fill me. "God, I don't know how it happened, but I love you."

  Tre chuckled, a low rumble in his chest. "It happened because we're meant for each other."

  Silence, fire and motion and slow breaths in the cool air.

  "You think we're meant to be together?" I asked, tangling my fingers in the soft curls at the back of his neck.

  "Yep," he said, his hand on the small of my back, pushing me closer against him. "You're my home. Yazoo City was just the place I grew up. I don't care where we are, or where we go, or what we have or don't have. All's I need is you, Shea."

  I melted. I was curled around him, filled by him, caressed and held and loved by him. Our motions were slow, unhurried, no longer desperate. Each pulse of his body into mine was a glide of his heart further into me, a slip of his soul tighter around mine, a tangling of his life more thoroughly with mine. We clawed at each other, lips touching faces and shoulders, teeth biting and nails digging, all in an attempt to draw more completely into the other.

  I wanted to be inside him, to be not me, not us, but one single person all melded and braided from the twin skeins of self.

  We moved thus together for what might have been an eternity. All I knew was the glint of morning light in his eyes, the soft strength of his hands. I was above him now, riding him, leaning back and devouring the sensation of his body in mine, under mine. And then I was beneath him, no sense of movement, just a flash of spinning room and his body sheltering me from the world, from time, from all things but him, him, all of him surrounding me, within me, beside me. I saw him, and I knew him, and I felt him, and I knew I could never, ever forget this moment of love for as long I'd live. His eyes burned into mine, his skin scorched mine where our bodies met, so hot I thought we might melt and meld together.

  Orgasm is a physical sensation. It's the rush of chemicals in your brain, the clench and release of muscles and fluids and pleasure.

  Climax is the peak of the sexual process, whereby orgasm is achieved. It's the infinitesimally brief instant of pleasure.

  What happened with Tre and me in that hotel room was something else, something different. Is there an emotional orgasm? A heart-gasm? A soul-gasm? A self-gasm?

  Complete and total contentment is so rare, so unattainable by most everyone, that to experience it is orgasmic. Complete and total happiness is equally as rare. True, pure physical ecstasy also is nearly impossible to find. All three at once?

  I grew up believing in God the way most people believe in the power of a chair to hold their weight, the way they believe in gravity. Then I ran away with a charming casino magnate and learned the harsh realities of life, and stopped believing in God.

  What I experienced with Tre was a reunion with God. I swear I saw a fragment of heaven in the moment of climax, when Tre and I were truly a single ephemeral being caught up in a swirl of light of purity and pleasure and perfection.

  In the moment of stillness, with the afterglow shining on our skin, our eyes met, and words were whispered into the sweet silence.

  "I love you."

  I don't know who actually said them. I was thinking them, and I saw them glimmering in his eyes, and I heard them.

  That's all that mattered.


  A year later I was selling real estate and Tre owned a deep sea fishing charter boat. We lived in a modest two room villa on St. Croix, and we had a quiet life.

  Well, some things were quiet. What I mean is, we never heard from Dan, or Tre's parents.

  The day we bought Tre's boat was pretty memorable, and not so quiet. He'd worked for several months for a man who ran a deep sea fishing charter, and having fished frequently in Mississippi, Tre took to it naturally. He brought up the idea of owning his own boat one night when we were lying on a blanket on the beach below our house, sharing a bottle of wine and basking in the warmth of a balmy night.

  I thought about it, and realized it made more sense for him to own his own boat than work for someone else, so I agreed. We went out the next day and looked at boats, which he'd obviously been researching for some time. He had his options narrowed down to three good-sized vessels, one of them already completely outfitted for a charter being sold by a man ready to retire from twenty years of deep sea fishing. He bought that one, a sleek, attractive ship named The Sea Dancer.

  I think Tre had already come to an agreement with the seller, actually, since we were able to take possession immediately. I wrote a check, handed it to the man, who in turn handed Tre the keys and title, and simply walked away down the dock, whistling a merry tune.

  Tre backed The Sea Dancer out of the slip and guided it skillfully out of the bustling sunset-lit bay. We headed out to open sea, Tre standing shirtless at the wheel, a Bulldogs baseball cap backwards on his head, cutoff shorts hanging low on his hips. I stood behind him, running my hands on his smooth chest, lips pressed to his shoulder, watching the muscles in his arms ripple gently as he guided the ship into the orange ball of the setting sun.

  Once again I was struck by a heart-aching burst of pure happiness. I think people aren't meant to be truly happy all the time. It's simply too potent a feeling to tolerate in large quanties.

  About half an hour out, Tre brought the boat to a stop and let it drift, low waves clapping against the sides of the boat and sending it rocking and swaying.

  Tre led me down to the bow, sat me down, and returned to the cabin. He came back with a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice, a vase of red roses, and a spread of food.

  "This wasn't a sudden decision, was it?" I asked.

  Tre shook his head, biting into a strawberry. "Nope. Been planning this for a while now. Old Ben, there, the guy we bought this boat from, he was one of the first fishermen I made friends with. When he said he was callin' it quits, I asked him to sell it to me. So, here we are. Only, I arranged all this before time, so we could have this little date."

  I laughed and kissed him. "What if I'd not wanted you to be a fisherman forever?"

  It was his turn to laugh. "But you don't mind, and I knew you wouldn't."

  We ate in silence for a few minutes more, and then, when the sun had finally lowered beneath the horizon and all was golden light, Tre set aside the plates of food and turned to face me. We were both sitting cross legged on the bow, wind in our hair and waves chucking against the boat.

  Tre reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring. My throat swelled up, thick and hot.

  "I ain't much for makin' pretty speeches, Shea. You know that. I love you, more than anything. More than life itself." He took my hands in one of his, emotion in his eyes and in the sudden drawl of his words. "You and I have an amazing life together already. I don't need nothin' to change. But I'm an old fashioned kinda guy, I guess. Some things you just cain't get rid of, even if you move to the U.S. Virgin Islands. I want to be your husband."

  He held up the ring. "Be my wife, Shea Harley?"

  I choked. "Tre, I love you. So much, but--"

  He interrupted me. "There's one thing I ain't told you. I set up a post office box over on St. Thomas, in a different name. Had a guy help me with it. Well, I also paid a lawyer I took fishin' a few months back to do some work for me." Tre trotted into the cabin and came back with a manila envelope and handed it to me.

  I opened it. Signed and completed divorce papers. With Dan's signature. All it needed was mine. I stared at the papers, something I'd not dared to hope I'd ever see, my eyes wavering, burning. A pen appeared in my line of sight and I took it, glanced up at Tre, and then signed. He stuffed the papers back in the envelope and sealed it, took it back to the cabin. When he came back, my eyes were dry, but still burning with yet-unshed tears.

  "So, let me ask again." He knelt on the bow of our boat, ring held out to me. "Marry me, Shea?"

  I sniffed, struggled to hold back my tears, and failed. All I could do was nod, rising up on my knees to ki