Annette wanted a simple life, and she wanted to love him fully. She wanted to wake up and kiss his eyes, play barefoot with the kids in the garden, and have them run around the trees and hills. She wanted him to love her, to hold her. She knew she could trust him, and she would never leave him. He was different from all the others. He made her feel so safe. He made her feel like home.
They would tell her it was child's play. A boy-girl love.
They would say she should enjoy it, but it wouldn't work. Her father owned the second biggest tunneling company in the northwest, while his father was a factory worker at Ford Automotive.
Annette wouldn't tell her father about him, and she wouldn't tell him that she chose him over her father's partner's son. Her mother knew because her mother had to know.
Her mother was cold to her but loved her brother. She didn't give Annette any warmth and never had. Sometimes it felt like she even hated her, and very few times she really wanted to help.
"He is a fine boy, but your father won't accept him. It's best if you keep him away from the house until you are absolutely sure," she'd say.
"I am sure," she said. "I love him."
"What does he do? Is he studying? Is he working?"
"He is a writer," Annette said.
"A writer? They are no good! They are selfish. They don't love anyone other than themselves."
"Jim is different. He cares. Mom, he really cares. I have never felt this way before."
"Think about who he is now and who he will be later. If he is really serious about you and he truly loves you, he will do anything he can to give you the life you deserve. I knew it when I met your father. He didn't have much, but he was ready to work, and I believed in him all the way."
"I believe in him. All the way," Annette said, and she meant it.
Annette sneaked out at night to meet Jim until her mother convinced her father that it would be good for her to spend the summer at their boathouse at the lake, and she ought to take a girlfriend with her. Her father wasn't too keen on it at first but agreed.
Annette and Jim spent the best summer of their lives together up at the boathouse. The sun reflected on the lake water, like the sparkles of love in their eyes. In the morning, they would make love in the wooden cabin and then walk barefoot in the forest to collect blueberries while the air was still cool. Annette would paint on the porch as Jim went fishing for rainbow trout in the boat. Then they would start a fire on the beach and cook the fish, and if the night felt warm, they would keep laying at the beach all night and share stories of their still so short lives, making love and waking up under the cool kiss of the morning sun.
On the last night of summer, Jim took her fishing with him. She didn't care about fishing, but she cared about fishing with Jim.
"Hold your rod out like that," he showed her. "When they strike, let them swallow the bait, and then you pull up." He handed her the rod and tossed the line behind her. It hit the water and disappeared into its depths. He rowed the boat, and sometimes a trout would break through the water. "They are feeding," he told her.
Annette talked a lot, and she had a lot to say. She talked about how perfect he was and how much she loved him. And about the life she wanted to have with him. Jim stayed silent. "What's the matter, Jim? Why are you so quiet?"
"Oh, come on, Jim. I can see something is wrong."
"Don't worry. It's nothing."
He rowed for another hour.
"Today, they won't strike," he finally said, and they returned to the boathouse. Usually, they made love when he returned from fishing, but this time Annette quickly disappeared inside as soon as he fastened the boat to the jetty.
Jim didn't follow her but started a fire at the beach and sat there until the sun came down, reflecting orange on the lake. He watched the flies swirl over the orange water, land, and drown. The evenings had started to feel cold.
Annette came out wearing a thick, gray knit sweater. She brought two cups of tea for Jim and herself and sat down beside him at the fire, facing the lake. She handed him the tea, but he declined, then she put her warm hand on his shoulder and looked at him with her big, innocent eyes until he turned to her.
"Jim, what's the matter?"
He didn't say anything for a moment. And neither did Annette. But she wouldn't look away. She knew it wouldn't be good what he had to say, and as she waited, still staring at him, her big eyes slowly started filling with tears.
Finally, he turned to her and said, "I ought to go to New York and be a writer there."
Annette was quiet, then finally said, "New York. New York is far."
"Yes, it's far," Jim said.
"What do you want to do in New York?"
"I will start with a newspaper. They offered me a job. It's really quite big. The pay isn't good, but I will be able to write every day. I will be paid for writing. And I will show them my stories, and maybe they will publish something. I think this is the way."
Annette realized he was right, and there was nothing she could say. So she cried and left to go inside.
When they returned from the boathouse, Jim booked his flight and would leave five days later. They spent every day together and didn't know what would happen next. On the outskirts of town was an old church that had been bombed during the war and stood empty. Couples used to marry there by themselves before the men were shipped off to war, and as they passed, Jim grabbed Annette's hand, pulled her towards him, and kissed her as he had never kissed her before.
He told her, "I love you more than I have ever loved anyone, and I don't ever want to lose you. I want to be with you because I know that we can win. Marry me and wait for me."
Annette looked up at him with her big eyes and searched for truth. Then she said yes, and they went into the church, kneeled down, and prayed, and married like that.
Then he left for New York, and Annette cried a lot. She loved him, and she believed in him, and she knew he would make it. He left her a letter under her pillow, and she read it every day after he had gone and wrote to him, always ending her letters with "your love, your wife."
During the dark winter months, the town became quiet, lonely, and dark. She had started taking painting classes but realized that she wasn't as good as she thought she was. She didn't write him back anymore as soon as she received his letters. And when he wrote to her, he would tell her more about how great the city was, than about how much he loved her. Annette would start forgetting to respond for a few weeks, then feel very bad and write a letter explaining how busy and boring her life had become.
After Christmas and through New Year's, the family met with the Petersons (the family of Annette's father's business partner) in Aspen for a week of skiing, as they always did. Her father's partner's son, Ben, had always loved Annette, and her parents loved him too. He was older than Jim and would become a partner in the company in about 5 years. Annette felt trapped, as she always did with the Petersons. Finally, she realized there was no other way.
On New Year's Eve, Annette drank until she forgot, then she kissed Ben on the balcony and went to his room with him. She stayed all night and gave Ben everything she had, so there was no way of her ever going back.
The next day, she told her mother what she had done, and her mother told her that she was proud of her. It might have been the first time she had ever said that to her.
Annette felt terrible, and she hadn't replied to Jim's last letter for over a month. After that night, her feelings for Jim could never be the same. She sat down and wrote him a letter explaining how lonely she had been and how much she had cried, and that after all, their time together really was a boy-girl love, and even though beautiful, it was supposed to come to an end. She told him she hoped that he could forgive her one day and that she believed in him very much and that he would make it. She never received a response to her letter and got married to Ben three years later.
Annette really just wanted a simple life. She wanted to love him. And she loved him. She loved their children, and she loved playing with them in the garden barefoot. He made her feel like home. He had to be home.
She decided that she would be happy.
And so she would be.