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Rated: E · Short Story · Relationship · #857959
Understanding isn't always attained through rational thought. Unused Idol alternate.
Welcome Back to Me

"How is it that I could love you unconditionally?" she asked. They sat together on a rock at the edge of the Aegean Sea watching the horizon as the sun prepared for its final descent. The waves beat softly against their unsandaled feet on this, the eve of their last day on Hydra. It was two days before the end of their honeymoon, August was almost over, and school had already started back home.

"You love me as you do," he replied. His voice was calm and caring.

She turned to face him, the blue of her eyes meeting the topaz of his own. She contemplated his response and wrinkled her nose in dissatisfaction. "Your answer is too simple,” she responded. “I need more criteria, more details! Otherwise, how will I know that you've received my love? How will I know when I've accomplished my goal -- if I've done it correctly?"

He smiled and touched her golden hair, "You'll know." His gaze returned to her eyes as he maintained his quiet study.

She became visibly flustered, "Are you withholding? Are you teasing me? You know I want more! Why do you treat me this way?"

"I love you," he responded, his voice firm, yet comfortable. He looked at her with confidence as the sun affirmed his position. It touched down on the sea, gently radiating peace. The waves splashed lightly on the jagged white limestone as the slight summer breeze blew sea spray against their skin.

She couldn't understand what point he could possibly have been trying to make. In fact, she reflected, she hadn't understood much of anything that had occured over the past three weeks. It had all been such a blur -- their whirlwind honeymoon had taken them halfway across Europe in 24 days. England, France, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, and finally, Greece, had flashed before their eyes, now little more than Cliff-Notes summaries of centuries passed. The next morning, they would wake, take the ship to Athens, and catch a flight back to a typical college semester in the United States. Life would continue along its ordinary arc.

She recognized her disappointment. She had waited the whole vacation for the fairy tale to kick in. When, she had wondered, would they experience even a brief moment of that fantasy she had expected? "Wasn't this supposed to be romantic? Shouldn't he have swept me off my feet?" she asked herself in frustration. She continued to question her situation, as well as her feelings, as her mind swelled with uncertainties. What role would she play as the wife of this man with whom she would spend the rest of her life? She wondered if the whole thing had been a mistake.

"You're missing the sunset," he said, interrupting her internal dialog. He smiled and motioned to the horizon line with his finger as the big ball of fire rippled and began to merge with the cool of the ocean. The clouds above stretched out in brilliant rays of yellow, orange, and pink. "Isn't it wonderful?” he acknowledged.

She refrained from sharing her most immediate reaction, "Can't you see that I'm thinking?" She couldn't believe that he had so selfishly broken her train of thought in order to show her yet another sunset. She had already seen thousands of sunsets -- hundreds had been on the water and this really wasn’t that big of a deal. She considered how infrequently he had lived up to her expectations as she pondered her future with apprehension. Finding no easy path, she glanced across the waves and casually looked in the direction in which he had pointed. Once again, it did not meet her expectations, for she found it to be absolutely beautiful.

She thought to herself, wondering how she could have gotten this sunset so wrong. The scene before her eyes was almost indescribable. A fiery ball of red energy hung in perfect yin-yang with the blue of the sea. Waves chased each other in refreshing rhythms at her feet. Thunder crashed along the rocky shore, the sound merging in her ears to meet the distant static that had risen from the uniform bumpiness of the far-reaching expanse. She licked her lips, tasting salt that had settled from the mist suspeded in the air. "Breathe," she thought. "Breathe in." She inhaled and the experience completed itself -- the smell of life merged with the red-blue-crashing-salty-cool that had collected in her head. It was exhilarating!

He reached out and hugged her as he whispered in her ear, "I love you."

She knew at once that she had everything that she could possibly need. Completely fulfilled, she watched the sun as it continued its descent. It was now almost three-quarters of the way into the sea.

Her eyes searched the water as her imagination reached out and pulled her contemplative thoughts deep below the surface. Her mind filled with uncertainty and she began to wonder, "What have I been missing?" She realized that she had been so absorbed in her comparisons that she had missed the beauty all around her. She turned to him and studied him with newfound awareness.

He gazed back and gave a loving smile, "Hi, you."

They looked at each other and relaxed comfortably. Neither spoke, but they deeply engaged in an experience of sharing as their eyes reached into each other's souls. The corner of his mouth curved slightly upward, a tinge of excitement barely visible. Lovingly, he spoke, "Welcome back to me."

It was in that moment that she knew what it was to love unconditionally. She had been a mess, yet he had waited patiently for her to return. He had loved her, not in order to meet his own measures, but simply to love. He had not attempted to quantify his effectiveness. He had seen no right or wrong. He had made no comparisons. His love had been his own creation and had truly known no boundaries. It had been nothing more than love. It had really been that simple!

As the sun disappeared into the sea, they sat in silence and shared the moment with each other. Together, they looked across the darkening ocean, she, with excitement and optimism about the future and he, filled with nothing more than love... Not once did it occur to him that she was shallow and self-centered, and once, but only once, did she understand the concept of unconditional love.

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