More of Tilde and Mark’s story…
Kimmie dragged her son, Zane, off the porch, giving Tilde and Mark a chance to get reacquainted without a teenaged chaperone.
Not knowing what to do when they realized they already knew each other, Tilde and Mark awkwardly attempted a handshake then went in for a clumsy hug.
“You look great, Tilde,” Mark said, taking a chair opposite his old flame.
“You look pretty much the same, except your black hair is all white now.” Tilde felt the same butterflies in her stomach that she did when she was a younger.
“So,” Mark said. “I didn’t think you had a sister.”
“Oh, yeah that,” Tilde said, laughing. “Kim was my college roommate and we were sorority sisters. We’ve kept in touch all these years. I think of Zane as my nephew.”
“Last I heard, you were living in Washington State” Mark tried to sound nonchalant but was as anxious as a boy on his first date.
“I still do,” Tilde said. “Last I heard about you, you were in Texas.”
Mark sat back, letting the weight of the last 30 years fall on his shoulders.
“That’s where I started out,” he said. “I met my wife there and we had a daughter.”
“I have a girl too,” Tilde said. “She’s almost 25.”
“My Bethany will turn 28 next month,” Mark said. “She lives over in Newton, just across the river.”
“We aren’t together any longer.” Mark set his jaw, his knuckles white gripping his soda can. “When Beth was two, she walked out on us. We haven’t seen or heard from her in all that time.”
“I’m sorry.” Tilde fidgeted, not knowing what else to say.
“Your husband?” Mark put his can down, wiping his hands on his jeans.
“He passed away three years ago,” Tilde said, adding, “we had a good life together.”
They sat in silence.
Mark scooted to the edge of his chair, leaning toward Tilde.
“What happened to us, Til?”
“You left,” she said.
“I came back.” Mark tried to reach out to her.
“Nearly a year later,” she said, pulling her hands back. “Then you acted like we would just begin again like nothing happened.”
“Why couldn’t we?” Mark’s voice was low and thick with emotion.
As excited as she felt seeing her old love again, now the old anger began to rise.
“Let’s see… you told me just before you left the first time that you went out on me, thinking that confessing to it would make it okay. Then you moved away.” Tilde was ticking off his offenses in her fingers. “Your mother hated me, and that was not going to change if we were married, if anything it would get worse. We could never go out without Jake tagging along. I felt like the third wheel around you two. Then, you left again, for good that time.”
Mark held up his hands in surrender.
“We could have worked all that out,” he said. “If we were together, away from here, you wouldn’t have had to deal with my mom or Jake, and I was never going to cheat on you again.”
“You’re forgetting the most important thing that broke us up,” Tilde said.
“You never asked.”
“Never asked what?”
“You never asked me to go with you.”
“Would you have come?”
“I guess we’ll never know.”
One of the team moms interrupted them with a camera flash.
“We’re getting some photos for our team website,” she said before running off to find more subjects to capture.
“I better be going,” Tilde said. “Kimmie will stay here with Zane.”
“How long will you be in town?” Mark walked Tilde down the porch steps.
“I don’t know. I have work to do. It will depend a lot on how long that takes.”
“Are you staying with Kim and Zane?”
Tilde stopped at her car parked on the street, not answering his question.
“Tilde, go to dinner with me,” Mark said. “What can it hurt? In a few days, you’ll be going back to Washington, and we never have to see each other again.”
Digging in her purse, Tilde pulled out a pen. She grabbed Mark’s arm and wrote her phone number on his hand.
“One dinner, just one,” Tilde said.
Mark leaned in and kissed her.
If he had asked at that moment, Tilde knew she would have said, “yes” to anything.