Alice sat down across from Ali, glancing nervously around the bar. This was the first place they’d met. At the time, he’d only been the bartender, and she’d been chatting with Zoe the whole time, but it was meeting number one. Number two had been the chance meeting outside her tent where he’d been fishing. Number three had been their first date. At that point it was starting to feel like destiny.
Maybe that was her problem. She’d always believed too much in fate and fantasy. It’d led her to a large empty plot of land with nothing but a tent, and it’d made her a happy family, a tidy house, and a husband she loved.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve sat down like this,” she said.
He smiled. “Better than a phone call.”
Alice’s smile turned into a grimace for a moment. Quentin thought she refused to talk to Ali, that she was being purposefully withholding, but they chatted weekly, sometimes more. Her work was taking up more of her time as she climbed the ladder, and raising three kids, even kids who were practically done being raised, stress had become a regular part of her life. A call to Ali calmed her.
“It’ll be great once the new job goes through,” he said.
She nodded. “I’m really proud of you.”
“Lacey’s going crazy, I think. Jarred’s about to graduate, and it’ll just be her and Kayla in that big house.”
“Quentin’s about to graduate too.” She let out a sigh. “I’m worried about him.”
“He’s just reacting,” Ali said. “I try to talk to him about it.”
“He’ll get there.”
“It means a lot,” Alice said, “all the work you’ve put in.”
“It’s a bad habit of mine, falling back on old vices.” He put his head in his hands. “Lacey helped me whip back into shape the last time, but last time I didn’t also have kids waiting on me.”
“You’ve done more than enough to prove yourself.” She reached a hand across the table.
He squeezed her hand back. “It’ll be the last step.”
They smiled at each other, and Alice felt like she was twenty-three again, gazing up at a handsome man who took her dreams and promised to make them real.
“Do you want to take a walk?” she asked.
There was a lakebed across the way from the bar, and they stood by the fishing spot. Alice looked over the clear waters and breathed in. She hadn’t gone properly fishing in years.
“Alice,” Ali said, “I know I’ve said this a hundred times, but I am sorry. I screwed everything up.”
She looked at him, the man she’d married on impulse, who’d raised her children, who’d built her house, who’d cared for her for nearly twenty years.
“You didn’t,” she said. “You couldn’t. We have three perfect kids in a beautiful house we built together. There’s nothing you could’ve done to make that any less than it is.”
“I don’t know how understanding I’ve been.” She sighed. “Sometimes I wish I’d reacted differently. Sometimes I wish I’d let you stay.”
“You were right,” he said. “I was putting our family in danger.”
“But this wasn’t the only solution.”
“But it’s worked.”
She moved closer to him, taking his hands. “You’ve done everything you can. I want you back home. I miss you. Quentin misses you, so do Mira and Lance. I want my husband back.”
He breathed out. “You have no idea how happy I am to hear that. I love you.”
She embraced him. “I love you too.”
A/N: I was originally going to give myself a break once I reached the end of the YA years, but summer started, I did a little bit of traveling, and I’m focusing on a few other projects at the moment, so I’m actually going to take a break here. Summer’s the wildest time for me, and I’m already dead tired at the time of writing this. I may continue updating with small stories in between, and if you want to check out my other writing, my 1950s monster mash will start updating again at my writing blog as of June 14, and I have a few small concept stuff I want to post there as well. If you haven’t read my other Sim blog, The Accidental Vampire, I’ve just gone on hiatus for that as well, though there are currently sixteen chapters to read through. I’ve taken a break from a large number of projects, including my old west horror serial, and my R.L. Stine’s Fear Street recap blog (though this one I should be posting again soon), but all of them have lots of archives to read through if you really love my writing. I don’t have an exact date I’d like to start posting again, but it’s fair to say end of July or beginning of August is probably the earliest I would get back to it. Thank you to everyone who reads this, comments, or likes. It means a lot to me, and I’ve been finding so many amazing stories through you guys. I’ll try not to disappear completely in the next few months, so keep an eye out!