They lived in neighboring towns spaced just far enough apart that regular visits could be won only with careful planning.
He had first seen her walking down the cobbled streets in the district of shops where the wealthiest families procured their necessary provisions for home, travel and leisure. She had accompanied her father on a business trip and happily agreed to peruse the local makers while he attended to his secretive, professional matters.
When he approached her his words to her were brief, but laced with the intoxicating poison of love. “I knew at once when I noticed you that our fates were destined to be intertwined. In what way, I’m not sure. But I had to open the door.”
Months later, after they had become lovers, they used to go for long drives around the city in his immaculate black coach pulled by the most carefully curated pair of matched Morgan horses anywhere in the region.
They would depart their lovers’ roost late in the afternoon and explore the streets of their two towns until the sun hung low, and while they drove, they’d often talk about many of the same topics. But their conversations progressed alongside their love and slowly, almost imperceptibly, he felt her guarded nature yielding to his persistent attention.
She would ask him questions – and it was always her doing the questioning – and he would respond simply, but truthfully, allowing her to experience first-hand the beauty of being allowed into one’s soul. To her he opened the door, so she could step inside and recognize that no one had to die in the process.
As weeks went by and more drives gave way to more words and more questions and more answers and more knowing of each other’s most intimate details, the shape of her questions changed and he began to recognize that though her words were nearly identical to those she’d wielded in their early talks, they now held quite a different meaning.
In the beginning, her words had held the guarded curiosity of a wounded child who still longs to discover the world for herself, but is afraid at what she might find. Beneath her hesitation, she desired – with a desire beyond even her own comprehension – to know every minute detail of him.
But in time, the posture of her asking changed such that he could see she was, instead of constructing an image of him in her mind, trying in earnest, with a courageous heart, to assemble some concept of what their future could look like together.
One day she asked him, with all the innocence and unassuming passiveness of a complacent woman, whether he loved his town. And he understood it as a test, one in which he held in his hands the opportunity to demonstrate that he, too, longed to put an end to the distance between them and live, one day, in one home, in one town, and in love with one woman.
She had opened the door, and all he had to do was step inside.