I watch Roman as Ana walks toward him, his son holding her hand and yelling at his dad. Roman smiles. That’s no small miracle; my boss was not a man known to smile or to be easy going. He was a man others went to great pains to stay away from.
My sister worked a miracle in this man, and I think she understands that, if the answering smile on her face is anything to go by.
“When did you know you loved my sister?” I ask, not planning on questioning him, but unable to stop myself.
Roman and I don’t have that relationship, not really. Then again, Roman doesn’t share with anyone but Ana. Still, I owe the man everything. He saved me. I was drowning and waiting for death. I did everything I could to die. I fucking hated myself. There are still days that I do. Days when the darkness behind me tries to swallow me again. I beat it down by sheer will, but I never forget that it is there, nipping at my back, wanting to consume me—I’d be a fool to forget.
“From the moment I first saw her,” he says easily and I can see from his face he’s completely serious.
“Get the fuck out of here,” I answer, shaking my head no.
“I may not have called it love, Allen, but the moment I saw her I had to have her and after talking to her, I knew she was mine.”
“I think that’s called lust, Boss, and I’m not sure I want to talk about my sister like that.”
“You asked. Call it what you want, Allen, but the truth is I never wanted to let her go and I never planned on it. I called it a million things, but I was full of shit.”
He turns his head from me to look at my sister again. Roman is a tall man, with so much muscle he probably doesn’t need to employ us to guard him and his family, but he does. His dark hair has a dusting of gray that’s just becoming visible and he’s clean shaven. His suit is impeccably pressed and his Rolex gleams in the sunlight. On his hand is his wedding band and it’s not visible but I’ve seen it. Under that ring is a tattoo of just one name: Ana.
“She’s something else,” I tell him, and I mean it. Ana risked her life to save me, and because of her Roman did save me. I didn’t deserve her love; I did everything I could to destroy her—I blamed her. I blamed her for shit I shouldn’t have. Still, she stood behind me and she did it asking the one man she should have stayed away from for help.
“That she is, Allen.”
“You’re a lucky man, Roman.”
Ana and little Roman will be here any minute. We’re standing on the deck, waiting for them. They are crossing to the loading deck and Roman’s security team is following close behind. He keeps them close to his family. He once told me when a man has everything to lose, he keeps it guarded like the treasure it is. I liked that. I liked that my sister was treated like a precious treasure. I want that for her. After the hell she’s been through—and the hell I put her through—she more than deserves that.
“Allen, you may not believe me now, but mark my words. One day a woman will walk in your life and turn everything upside down. You’ll take one look at her and you’ll feel like you’ve been hit by a bolt of lightning.”
“You will go down on your knees to keep her and if she’s a good woman, Allen, you’ll do it gladly.”
I take in his words. I take them down deep. He doesn’t say anything else; he can’t because Ana and his son are here now and Ana goes into his waiting arms with a laugh. Roman pulls her close to him and crouches down, picking up his son, cradling them both to him.
“I missed you, Pet.”
“We missed you too,” she whispers sweetly. She lays her head on his chest, closing her eyes with a smile that is so full of joy I feel it.
Seeing them together, it makes me think maybe Roman is right…
If I ever had a good woman… I would gladly go on my knees to keep her.
I look at my empty shop and can’t help but be a little sad. It’s beautiful with its shining white tile floors, dark cabinets and LED lighting. All of my handmade products are lining streamlined shelves that are stained dark, but have backlighting in a moody blue—though sometimes I change the color to lavender—and it looks modern, sleek and top of the line. I’m so proud of this place. It, however, probably doesn’t blend in with the city of St. Augustine. Not at all. Which might be why it stays empty. It might also be why I will be forced to close the doors soon. It’s definitely why I’ve taken a side job as a night clerk at the local Best Western. It’s a shit job, and the hotel isn’t like Best Westerns away from here. The owner doesn’t care enough to keep it that clean. But it’s right on the beach and, despite its many two-star reviews, it stays booked up.