Mike slipped Val’s long hair over her shoulder so he could caress her back. He was sitting behind her in the big bathtub tucked against a glass-block window to the Castle’s backyard garden. Her elbows wrapped around his knees. The light from the setting moon danced against the wavy glass.
“Are you going to ask me for a divorce?” Mike asked.
Valerie turned to look at him. Her motion in the warm water caused her breast to float into Mike’s hand. He smiled. Unable to risk looking at her face, his eyes focused on the beautiful nipple rising to his touch.
“No,” Valerie said. “I was going to ask you if you’d like to make a go of being married.”
Mike’s head jerked up in surprise.
“I’ve tried to love without you. I’m incapable of loving anyone other than you, Michael Roper. And too terrified to let myself just love you.”
“Say something,” Valerie whispered.
“I’m afraid if I say anything you’ll change your mind,” Mike said.
She turned and leaned back against him.
“What about this Wes guy?” Mike asked.
“I had this dream … I … I saw Mom. She was knitting this beautiful golden blanket. When I got closer, I saw that every strand of the blanket was one of the people she loved — me, you, Jake, Jill, Delphie, even Dad. The sun surrounded her in a hazy, warm light. She smiled at me and … When I woke up … I guess it was yesterday … I realized that I only want to be with you. I think about you all the time, every day, almost every minute of every day. I …”
“I think about you all the time too,” Mike said. “Is this guy gay?”
Valerie laughed. “You mean, am I back because my fiancé is gay? No. I’m back because I want to be with you.”
“I heard that …”
“That you have a movie coming out on Friday. You told TMZ you were going home to your husband to generate press for the movie,” Mike said. “Candy watches Entertainment Tonight for me when I’m working. I … It’s the only way I get to hear about you every day.”
“I don’t know why I said that. It just came out,” Valerie whispered. She shook her head, “I … I’m sorry. I’ve really hurt you. I … I don’t have any excuse …”
“I’m sorry for everything. I never should have left you. I regret it every single day,” Mike said. “I can’t imagine what it was like for you. You lost your family and then me … To lose your mom …”
“It was the baby that really did me in.”
“Before I tell you, I want you to be clear: I left Wes. I left the ring, the beach condo, everything. I don’t want to be with him. Tomorrow, Wes is going to say he loved me enough to encourage me to sort out my life. My publicist talked him into it as a way for him to save face. He can be vicious if he’s humiliated.”
“But that’s not true?”
“No, that’s not true. I left him a note saying I was leaving. I don’t know why I said that at the airport. It’s like my soul spoke the truth — I wanted to come home to my husband,” Valerie said. “I was just one of Wes’s women, one in a long line of trophy brides.”
“Why would you want that?” Mike asked. His voice held hurt and confusion.
“It’s safe. I don’t have to risk …”
“Losing again.” Mike finished her sentence. He settled her back against him and kissed her head.
“I want to be here with you. This is my choice and my choice alone. It’s been a long time since I’ve made my own choice … It feels good … right.”
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow…
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