“You will love it, Anna,” he told her, his face lighting up. “You will adore it. I promise. And I have a room there just like this.”
She smiled up at him, at his eagerness, his unexpected boyishness, the person he must have been from the start, made whole and happy.
His smile faded, though it lingered in his eyes.
“When I left school,” he said, “and said a reluctant farewell to my master—actually it was goodbye. He died in his sleep just one month later. When I went to take my leave of him, he told me I was whole except for one thing. There was still a hollow at the center of my being, he told me, and only love could fill it. But he would not explain. He never would. It was all about finding out for oneself with him. He could be very annoying. He would not tell me if it was love of humanity or love of nature or love of family or romantic love. All he would say was that I would know it when I found it and it would make me whole and finally at peace with myself. I have found it, Anna. It is romantic love.”
She touched his knee, which was pressing lightly against her stomach.
“I fell in love with you,” he said, “and married you. And suddenly I was filled to the brim and to the innermost depths with love. Love of you and love of everyone and everything. But then I doubted and I stumbled. I doubted the power of love and happiness to last. I doubted your feelings; I doubted my worthiness to be loved. And then and at last it occurred to me that I had to bring you here, that I had to bring you fully and completely into myself and trust that you would not simply laugh or—worse—not understand at all. Oh, you cannot know how vulnerable I am still feeling, Anna, mouthing such absurdities. But if I do not say them now I never will and I may have lost the missing part of myself forever.”
“But you are always mouthing absurdities,” she said.
He looked down into her eyes and laughed again. He leaned sideways over her and scooped her up and deposited her, naked, on his lap. And he closed his arms tightly about her, as hers closed about him, and they clung to each other for endless minutes.
“Yes,” he said eventually, “to return to your question. You can be and may be and already are, Anna. My someone to love. My everything.”
They smiled at each other before their mouths met.