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A crisp summer Sunday morning greeted Bill as he opened his front door. A still low sun beamed across Narragansett Bay, reflecting sharp early morning sunlight onto the boats getting an early start. He spotted Jerry and Kay off their pier, their oldest and his kids loading two big coolers, probably off to watch the regatta. There would be a concert on the bay afterwards, he recollected. The warm coffee mug made the cool morning air seem even cooler. As he took a sip, he let himself remember afternoons out on that boat. With Claire. Oh how he missed her, always and in every moment, but particularly in moments like these.

His wife of 43 years had made it all so memorable. They’d met at Brown sophomore year, and after that first fall weekend together, he just knew. His life’s work would let them travel the world, and Claire had seemed a native of everywhere. He longed to turn the clock back to any one of those places, those times.

He finally heard a pair of steps moving slowly across the living room. He used his loud voice.  “Is my girl up and ready?” Mary, the day nurse, guided Bill’s wife carefully toward the door. 

“Miss Claire is all set and rarin’ to go.”  Mary's enthusiasm always rubbed off on Claire. She handed Claire's arm off to Bill.


Bill smiled, taking her in. Flowing silver locks draped her shoulders in a way that still got his attention. But that effervescence, that unfailing radiance, was gone. Her blue eyes fixed on the front door, staring right through her husband as he wasn't there. The way she needed to be walked everywhere stood in cruel contrast with the fearless way she used to dance into the late hours at parties, as if no one were watching. They were. Most nights they couldn’t take their eyes off of her.

Bill slid a blue windbreaker around her shoulders. He appreciated how lucky he was to have the means to have someone like Mary around. Nurturing was so much easier when the hardest tasks were in the trusty hands of someone with Mary’s skill and empathy. He ran his hand across Claire's soft silver hair, guiding them over the jacket collar. How cruel was early onset dementia; the thief that stole the soul from such a well-maintained, fully present human being.  

“It’s Sunday, Claire. Look how beautiful it is outside.” 

Bill had grown accustomed to speaking directly at his wife, stating simple things that never used to require words. Mary managed the door as he locked Claire's arm inside his. 

“Let’s go find our spot.”

The gray cobblestone path helped Bill evaluate how steady of foot his wife would be today. Just last weekend, on an overcast morning with above-average winds, they had to turn back. But as the flat stones gave way to well-maintained green grass, she seemed stronger today. Stronger perhaps than she’d been in months. Today, her sneakered feet moved with purpose. 

“Look, Claire.” Bill momentarily stopped them to point to the bay. “The Stevenson’s are right over there. Remember those days we spent out on Amazing Grace?” 

Claire stared blankly in the direction he pointed. Bill spotted one of the younger Stevenson’s tacking toward open waters, their outboard now giving way to full sail power as a big gust of wind pulled them out. As he tightened his grip on his wife to resume walking, she froze. Recognition flashed in her eyes, and a barely detectable smile lifted the corners of her mouth. But just as quickly, Claire faded back into that all-too-familiar thousand-mile stare.  

He spent the walking time talking about things on the news. Terrible drought conditions and wildfires in California. An interesting manhunt in nearby eastern Connecticut, a prison escapee originally from the Ocean State. Kathryn, their oldest daughter, had called yesterday and gave Bill updates on plans for their August visit. 

They made their way slowly around a rock wall to the destination; a handsome wrought-iron bench set in a concrete slab, surrounded by honeysuckle and a small grove of white beach roses. Bill guided her onto the bench, then inhaled deeply, taking in the near panoramic view of Narragansett Bay.   

The Stevenson’s were out of sight, but many other boats were now on the water. His right hand lightly took hers as it always did here, and he let his memory silently wander. Again he would try and fail to remember the name of the girl he’d briefly dated before that first night he met Claire. He did recall the expression on Claire’s face when she sold her first painting, an oil portrait of a popular local musician who'd played the pubs near school. One-fifty was a lot of money back then. That look in her eyes said I’m just getting started, and she was. Claire didn’t exactly fit in with his work colleagues or their spouses. She was the one everybody else talked about. Disarmingly witty and utterly fearless, she said whatever she thought, but made you love her for it no matter what it was. As he reflected, he could scarcely recall a minute of his life where she wasn’t actively on his mind.

He would again reflect on the one big regret in his life. His fatal mistake, which turned out to be more haunting than fatal, weighed more on him now. Lauren Mills. A marketing whiz fresh out of college, she appeared out of nowhere in a cubicle down the hall. Seven years her senior, he struggled to understand the bond so quickly formed with the demure young lady he’d been entrusted to mentor. Practical and soft-spoken, Lauren was a keen observer of unexpected maturity. He felt in her a kindred spirit, a person who completed sentences he hadn’t yet spoken. A person perhaps more like him. 

What happened between them was life-altering, and then confusing, and in the end, brief. 

The truth had spilled out like a shattered wine glass. And suddenly there was an abundance of alone time to contemplate this curious choice. What was it about his young marriage that so dissatisfied him? Did he simply feel overshadowed, compelled somehow to act out?  

Emotional growth came quickly as waves of regret would flood his every thought. Seven weeks had passed until the morning Claire appeared at his friend’s apartment door. They hadn’t spoken since that fateful day, all of his messages unanswered and one very long letter returned unopened. She looked dazzling, but different. A key piece somehow missing or maybe altered. Before he could formulate words, she spoke right into him. 

“Tell me what it is that you want. Right now. 

He needed no rehearsal, because what was in his heart was true. 

“You. Only you, Claire. I was a child. My ego…I just felt for a while that I wasn’t your equal. I think I needed someone to make me feel bigger somehow. The fault was entirely mine. Claire, I will never be able to forgive…” 

She stepped into Bill, took his head fully in her hands, and stared into his eyes. Agonizing seconds passed, with Claire unconcerned with how strange this scene had suddenly become. Bill’s eyes watered, but he met her piercing gaze with his own. Time stopped.

And then she kissed him. Softly on the mouth. It was a cryptic kiss of reconciliation that stopped short of revealing all. 

Claire then stepped back and spoke. “I never, ever want to speak of this again. Do you understand?” Bill nodded. 

She pushed a house key into his open palm. “I’m making a shepherd’s pie tonight.” As she turned and walked down the hallway, a smile stretched across Bill’s face.  His favorite dish, as big a deal to him as the Marshall Plan. 

She shouted without turning back. “Don’t be late.”

Changing companies that year helped Bill pivot. Kathryn came along in less than a year, and then Corinne. Claire began painting again in earnest. There was much personal and professional happiness in those early years with the kids. But Claire wasn’t quite the same. That famous irreverence was imperceptibly clipped. Maybe it was the weight of a full life that had altered Claire. To this day, he still wondered.

Bill thought he recognized another boat crossing the bay, a beautiful blue thirty-four footer. He took a sip of his coffee as he studied it, wishing he’d brought his binoculars, when he heard her voice.

“That smells good. Where’s mine?”

Bill turned suddenly toward the sound of Claire's soft voice, nearly spilling some of the coffee.  Animated blue eyes were on him. Her left hand reached for his mug.

“I like your things.” 

That old running joke between them, how Claire never wanted anything until you had it, then she wanted yours. He gasped, handing her the mug. She sipped it so naturally, as if she hadn’t not had a sip of coffee for maybe a year. And then she made a face. 

“You still don’t know how to make coffee, Bill. Too much cream.”

Bill’s heart raced, unsure of the best way to keep this sudden stream of consciousness going. Should he act causally? Or should he pepper her with questions to seize what might be a narrow window? 

As he struggled to form a plan, Claire continued. “What did Kathryn say about August?” Before he could reply, she kept going. “I’m proud of her, Bill. I am. I know you have your doubts about Brian, about the move. The risk to her career. But you know, it’s her call. She finally has agency. I think in a few years you’ll see it was the smart thing. You should back off of her” 

Bill’s jaw dropped visibly as he absorbed Claire’s voice and innermost thoughts for the first time since that moment early last year when she asked him for water, then looked at him when he brought the glass, staring for an eternity, and then finally uttering “And who are you?

Claire finished the coffee with one big sip and grimaced. “I’ll make us some when we get back.” She paused, then took his hand. 

“You take such great care of me. I love you for that.”

Bill welled up and drew her close, tasting his own tears as he kissed her cheek. She turned slightly to face him. “Will you forgive me for being such a burden?”  

“Ah, honey. You’re my wife.  Of course I…”

She squeezed his hands harder. “And I forgive you.”  Bill looked at her quizzically.

“You were young.  A good man…a very, very good man. You were growing up, Bill. I was a lot to handle back then. I won’t lie to you. It hurt me. It changed me. But I was growing up, too. I should have talked it through with you. For years I held that over you, and that was wrong of me.”

“Oh, Claire.” Bill choked back tears, fighting to form words. “I’m just so glad to hear your voice again. I’ve missed you so much. You have no idea.”

Claire smiled. “Can we just stay here a while longer? Until Jerry and Kay circle back?  I’d love to see them again.” 

Bill cradled his wife’s head on his chest as they watched the boats. He felt Claire relax as he began to come down from an intense emotional jolt. For the first time in a long time, he closed his eyes and let himself truly relax.


Bill awoke to find Mary standing over the two of them, attending Claire. He checked his watch.

“Oh, Mary. We must have nodded off. Didn’t mean to worry you, but oh my god you’ll never believe it, she…”

He stopped. Claire was slack. Mary, eyes wide, had been checking her for a pulse. She seemed in shock. She set down Claire’s limp arm.  

“I’m so sorry.


A Rhode-Island based defense industry professional, Devin has written two screenplays, self-published one novel, and writes regularly for an online creative writers blog. He fell in love with fiction late in life, and depending on the story in work, it serves as both the cure and the cause of chronic insomnia.  As long as he stays in touch with the human condition, he vows to never run out of stories.     


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