“We want to rename the gallery ‘Rebecca’s,’ ” Crystal adds softly.
I look at her and I know in my heart that she has been a big part of this idea, and of Mark’s path to healing. When she asks, “Will you help us do it right?” I believe she truly wants to honor Rebecca.
“Yes,” I say, without looking at Chris. I don’t have to. I know he wants to help. “What can we do?”
Chris shoves his plate aside and leans closer to Mark. “What can we do?” he repeats.
“We have Ralph lined up to manage it, but we need to get the gallery filled again,” Crystal replies. “All the drama has scared people away.”
“Consider it done,” Chris says. “I’ll make the calls. I’ll get the support.”
“Is Amanda coming back to work the front desk?” I ask.
“She won’t even take my calls,” Mark replies.
“I can try,” I offer.
Mark gives me a nod as Crystal asks, “Is ninety days a good timeline?”
“Make it four months,” Chris says. “We need to get through our wedding to focus on this and do it right.”
From there we all start talking, and the excitement is clear. Rebecca is gone, but her name will live on; a new friendship is forming between Crystal and me; and the friendship once lost between Chris and Mark is not over.
In fact, I think it’s just begun.
• • •
After dinner, Jacob drives us to the packed parking lot off Muir Beach by the memorial site. The location is, by intent of the event organizers, chillingly near the dock where Rebecca’s DNA was found on the boat that took her out to sea and left her there. “There are a lot of cars,” I murmur.
“It’s been all over the news,” Crystal says. “The public has really connected with Rebecca.”
Mark shifts in his seat uncomfortably, scrubbing his jaw, and shifting again. He makes a low, frustrated sound, then swiftly gets out of the car. Chris and I exchange a look of understanding as Crystal pursues him and we follow.
Chris pulls me close and I watch as Mark does the same with Crystal. We cross the parking lot, Jacob on our heels, then step onto the beach. I shiver with the cold wind coming off the ocean, thankful for my flat boots that handle the sand well. Not sure what to expect, we round a corner—and stop dead in our tracks.
The glow of hundreds of small lights illuminate the inky black night, held by hundreds of people.
My heart squeezes and tears come to my eyes. Rebecca was so alone when she was alive, and now all of these people are here for her. She has touched so many lives, especially mine, and she’ll never know. She was brave and strong, and her words made me those things as well. Before her, I’d been hiding, alone and afraid to reach for my dreams.
Mark goes down on one knee, his head bowing, Crystal immediately kneeling beside him. Pain radiates off of him, crashing around us like the ocean. I know he is bleeding right now, and there’s nothing but time, and Crystal’s love, that will heal him. But Chris and I can make sure that, though Rebecca is gone, she is never forgotten.
I know now that I’m not the woman who can reveal the man beneath the Master. I’m simply a part of his journey, and he of mine. But there’s a part of me that hopes he will miss me. That maybe we will find each other again someday. I didn’t dare see him again, or touch him again, for fear I’d be weak and change my mind. I left him a note on his desk, and said all there was left to say: Good-bye—Love, Rebecca
• • •
When Jacob drops us at our apartment, Crystal and I make plans to stay in touch and she and Mark promise to be at the wedding. Chris and I are exhausted, both from the emotional impact of the night and from the time change, and we’re quick to head to bed. With Chris wrapped around me, I fall asleep quickly, but I startle awake when he begins jerking and suddenly sits up, gasping. I reach for him to find him clammy and he leans forward, elbows on his knees.
I scoot closer, and on my knees I rest my hand on his back. “Are you okay?”
“An old nightmare I haven’t had in years. My father. Katie made me start thinking about the past.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No,” he says, standing up, grabbing his pajama bottoms and pulling them on. “I need to paint.” He starts walking and I feel the dismissal like a slice in my heart, but then he stops dead in his tracks.
I hold my breath as he runs his hand through his hair, and then comes back to me. “I don’t want to talk about it yet—but I will.” He offers me his hand. “Come with me.”
Goosebumps lift on my skin, and I feel relief. I press my hand to his, and I can almost see the same relief wash over him, as if I have given him some kind of peace. And I am more certain in this moment than I have ever been that we are indeed the two pieces of a puzzle I’d once thought us to be.
Now, that puzzle is complete.
out of Wildflowers
Chris’s studio is surrounded by windows, and he pulls a cozy chair into the room for me where I settle with my laptop, staring out at the twinkling night sky. I stay there for hours, and he eventually curls up beside me to watch the sun rise. We don’t go back to sleep, though, our body clocks off from the time change. Instead, we go sample cakes, and finally choose one strawberry and one chocolate, both with a cream filling that’s decadent and unique in a way that redefines the flavors.