“I’d like to buy a couple of pizzas before I head home,” Ethan said later that afternoon. “Do you think Mrs. Dolan would mind if I buy everyone dinner this evening?”
Miles looked up from his typing and Natalie looked up from hers. Ethan felt a little useless now that his part of the work was mostly complete. He’d been scrolling through business articles on his smart phone for the past twenty minutes while the two attorneys worked together to form the revocable living trust they’d use as a catch-all for his estate.
“I think Bonnie would love to have a night off from cooking,” Miles said. “Why don’t you walk next door and tell her your plans and she’ll help you find the phone number for the pizzeria downtown.”
“Do I look that bored?” Ethan chuckled and stood to stretch his legs.
“A little, yeah.” Natalie giggled.
“We won’t be too much longer with this initial setup. Go ahead and order the pizza and we’ll be along in a little while.”
Ethan caught Natalie’s gaze as he left her office and she smiled softly. He returned her smile and pulled the door shut behind him, noticing the jingling of the bell that hung on the door to announce a client coming or going.
The evening summer breeze carried a hint of manure from the nearby farms and someone’s recently cut grass. He ascended the stairs to the veranda porch and gazed out across the rolling hills, wondering if he’d already died and this is what heaven felt like.
Growing up with marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and servants to cater to his every need was different from this simple life. He hoped the riches he’d brought from his homeland would bless these good people in some way as he passed on to the next plane of existence. He’d made a good decision coming here.
The door behind him creaked and Bonnie pushed open the screen door. “Were you planning to come inside?”
“No…” Ethan sighed. “I want to stay on this porch, gazing out at these rolling hills, until the day that I die.”
“How are you feeling?” Bonnie asked, a compassionate motherly tone in her voice.
“I’m tired,” he answered honestly. “But… resigned.” He suspected that Bonnie understood that he didn’t mean sleepy. He meant his body was fighting… and losing.
“Are you hungry? I was just about to start dinner.” She nodded her head to the side inviting him in.
“Not really, but I’d like to buy us all some pizza, if that would be an okay choice for dinner.”
“That sounds great,” she said. “I’ll get the phone number for the pizzeria.”
“Can we get some salad and breadsticks too?” Ethan followed her into the house, digging his wallet from his back pocket.
“Sure, what do you like on your pizza?” Bonnie asked.
“Whatever you guys want. I usually just get a supreme.”
“That’s what we like also.” She smiled as she reached for the phone and dialed from a menu tacked to a bulletin board. “Hi, Rick, it’s Bonnie Dolan. We’d like to order a couple of medium pizzas, supreme, with an antipasto salad and an order of breadsticks.”
Just as the pizzas arrived, Natalie and Miles tromped up the porch steps and entered the house with a jovial lilt to their conversation. Ethan was quick to meet the pizza delivery boy at the front door and paid with a fifty offering for the boy to keep the change.
They laughed and joked and made plans as they crunched on salad and the best handmade pizza Ethan had ever enjoyed. He wished there was more time left in his life because this is where he would want to spend his last weeks. He reminded himself that travelling to all the fun places they mentioned would also be fun and would be better than sitting around waiting to die.
He didn’t realize his shoulders were slumped and his lids were heavy until Bonnie said, “Ethan you look like you could fall asleep right at the dinner table.”
“I think I’m slipping into a food coma,” Ethan joked, resting his hand on his stomach. “This was all so good.”
“Oh yes, I slaved over a hot stove to reach for the phone and order you this pizza.” They all laughed at Bonnie’s joke.
He knew he needed to leave; he had a long drive to get home to Omaha. He sighed and wiped his mouth on his napkin then dropped it on his plate and pushed back his chair. “Thank you, Dolan family. This has possibly been one of the best days of my life, but it is getting late.”
“I’ll walk you out,” Natalie said as Ethan shook Miles’ hand and gave Bonnie a quick hug.
As they left the coolness of the home and stepped onto the veranda, the sunset took Ethan’s breath away and he stopped short. Pinks and greys and oranges blended together in ribbons of color sitting over the horizon. “Is all of America this beautiful?” he whispered.
“Let’s go find out,” she whispered back, joining him on the porch and letting the screen door swing closed behind her. When Natalie stepped up beside him, Ethan fought the urge to wrap his arm around her and pull her close.
What was he thinking? He could not let this train of thought continue. He could not allow himself to care about her. More important, he couldn’t allow her to develop feelings for him. He was dying. He had to keep reminding himself of that.
“Do you want to sit down on the porch swing for a few minutes to watch the sunset?” Natalie asked.
Ethan turned to where she indicated, noticing a gracefully aged wooden swing with comfortable cushions and large, painted chain links anchoring it to the ceiling of the porch. Without verbally answering her, he found himself drawn to the swing and lowered himself into the cushions, eyes still on the sunset but distracted by the hanging flower baskets and the magnetic attraction to the woman beside him.
All conversation behind them for the day, they just rocked on the swing, a gentle swaying, the mesmerizing colors in the sky blending into one soft pastel ribbon for which there was no name.
“Ethan?” Bonnie’s soft voice startled him. Natalie was no longer sitting beside him on the swing but standing beside her mother, whose compassionate smile invited him to follow her request. “I want you to come inside and lay down in the guest room for a little while.”
“Okay,” he mumbled and cleared his throat, allowing the two women to help him to his feet. The coolness of the front living room drew him to the sofa by the lamp, but he felt gentle hands pull him toward a hallway and down to a room he hadn’t seen before.
A four-poster bed sat prominently in the room and he was guided there. On instinct he found himself sitting and then his head was on a pillow. Someone removed his shoes, but he couldn’t see through his eyelids, nor did he know who rested the quilt over his shoulders. The pillow smelled of lavender…