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Aliss hadn’t forgotten logic. She’d stopped searching for it. “If you can relax a little, you’ll see the sense here — what there is of it.”
An older man in a dark suit with vest and tie, stepped onto the edge of the lawn. She observed him peripherally at first. He was shorter than Miller with thin shoulders and limbs, yet broad around the middle. Beneath his brown fedora, she saw a fine spray of white hair flutter in the breeze at his temples, garnering her attention like something caught in a camera, as if that was where she was supposed to look. The man watched Miller with a focus that accentuated the creases of his face, and spoke to Aliss. “Are you all right, dear?”
She answered, “Yes,” without thinking. The man held the handle of a long umbrella with both hands and leaned his weight onto it like a walking stick. His gaze moved to her. With a second’s thought she added, “It might not look that way, but I think we’re all right.”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
His question hung in the air, shifting in her mind as though the breeze was catching it like the strands of his hair. She appreciated his concern, but not the interruption.
Miller moved his hand away from her shoulder and rubbed the palm on the front of his sweater as if wiping away something he hadn’t known was there. As if waking from slumber, he stood taller, faced the stranger and said, “I was upset for a minute, but I … I’m calmer now. I’m sorry.”
The gentleman straightened and raised an eyebrow. “You should say that to the lady.”
Miller turned dutifully toward Aliss and she saw reason returning to his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he said, the heft of his anger retreating to some corner or another inside him as he spoke the words.
She said, “I know.”
As if chastised by the man’s very presence, Aliss was unsure what to do or say next. She walked closer to him thrusting her hands into her pockets, trying to smile. “We’ve had a little trouble lately. Sudden trouble … but we’re figuring it out. I hope we didn’t upset you.”
“You’re so young,” he said, the skin at his eyes crinkling even more though his expression relaxed, “the both of you … there’s less time than you think. You should be enjoying yourselves as best you can. Leave the fighting to the inevitable wars and people who don’t care about love. I can see in your eyes, I heard in your tones of voice, that something draws you together. Let the feeling be pure and unclouded.” He bent lower to her, his face imploring. “If it can’t be, then protect yourself. Each one of us is worthy of that.”
Aliss stared for a moment. “Who are you?”
The man smiled. “I suppose I’m no one to you. Just making my way home to share supper with my wife. When I saw you, I was reminded of my daughter when she was a younger woman.” He sighed. “Perhaps I’ve intruded. Perhaps I’ve given you two a bit of time to settle down.” He nodded in both their directions. “I’ll be going now.”
As the gentleman walked away, Miller went to Aliss’s side at the edge of the walk. His voice a hoarse whisper, he said, “The old man’s right. I’ll try to listen.”
“Back there. You had to be talked down from something.”
“What you did … reminded me of something.”
“Something that scared you?”
“I guess … when I was a kid.”
Aliss leaned into his body. “Let me take you someplace wonderful.” She placed her hand in his and waited.