I'll be why you stay. Stay here, Marie. I'll be why you stay. 

Marie opened her eyes; there was Frank. What is going on here? Rivers of my memory, keep you forever gentle on my mind... was I dreaming?

You okay, Marie? Hey, Marie?” 

Her eyes focused. She was there, on her swing on Frank's porch. It was hot as hell. Marie smacked a mosquito on her thigh and took a sip of the iced tea Frank proffered. “I'm fine, Frank. I'm just thinking, that's all.”

Yeah, Marie?” Frank took a seat next to her on the swing. “What're your thoughts, then?” 

She considered for a moment, looking down at her own hands on her bare lap next to Frank's hand and his own bare lap. She raised her left hand to her temple and brushed a wayward hair behind her ear, then gently brushed his hand with the back of hers. Frank's hand grasped hers, enclosing it completely, entwining his fingers through her own. She caught her breath.

Well, Frank, I heard you ask me if my decision is right. About selling the house, I think you meant.” She paused as he gently squeezed her hand. “And I think I heard you say that you wanted me to stay. Did I hear you right?”

Look at me, Marie.” He touched her chin with his free hand. She felt her body tense a little as he nudged her face toward his. Ah, he's never touched me like that before. She raised her eyes to Frank's. “Marie, I care for you. I want you to stay here. There's no life for you at that damn nursing home place, you'll die there. What on earth is Sharon thinking? You belong here, on the river. You belong here, with me.” Marie watched his lips thin as he gulped and then open again.

I love you, Marie. I've always loved you. Please stay.” 

Am I still dreaming? “Frank, am I dreaming? I swear you just said you've always loved me.”

This is real, Marie. I love you. You can't go.” 

She fumbled with her hands, with his hand holding hers. Well, huh. Well, Frank. Huh. Isn't this a pickle we have ourselves in, then.”

A pickle, Marie? How so? From my perspective, it's pretty free. I feel free, Marie.” He squeezed her hand again. 

Marie pulled her robe over her far shoulder, adjusting herself just slightly closer to Frank. She felt the electricity of Frank's bare upper arm just a hair away from hers, and a charge of something in her lower abdomen that she couldn't quite identify. She crossed her right leg over her left, her foot grazing Frank's calf. Why do I keep touching him like that? Behave, Marie.

Well, it's complicated, Frank. It's not so easy, you know. I can't just up and say oops, I changed my mind, I'm staying. It's a complex problem.” Marie looked down. Why does he keep staring right at my face like that?

What's so complex, Marie? You're a grown woman, for chrissake. You just tell young Sharon that you're staying in your own house and she should mind her own damn business because you can take care of yourself. Right?” Huh, Frank's rather indignant about this.

All right, Frank, calm down, now. I can sure as hell take care of myself. We both know that. It's just that Sharon's put down a deposit over there. It can't be refunded. She'll be furious, Frank, it's a lot of money. And I surely can't pay her back for this, I'm on a fixed income as I am sure you know. It feels like a done deal, this thing.” 

Frank shifted, sat taller, grabbed both of her hands and held them firmly on his lap. His naked lap, huh. “Marie, what are you talking about? A done deal? You sound like someone I've never met before. Why are you conceding this thing?” He squeezed her hands too tightly, but she did not move, just stared at him as he continued.

You are the strongest woman I know. Your niece is wrong, and you should question her motives, to tell the truth. You have no business going to that godforsaken death's runway, I don't care HOW much money she threw away trying to get you to go there! Why is she pushing you like this? You belong here! I want you here, for damn sure. I want you, Marie. And you want to be here, at the river, in your house, it's your home, with me, you know it....” He coughed and his words trailed off, but Frank pulled Marie to him, then his arms were wrapped around her, his face in her hair.

Frank.” She relaxed into his embrace, turned her face to his neck. Breathe, Marie. “Frank. Okay. Frank.” He released her and she sat tall again. “Okay, Frank. I... I love you, too. I love you, Frank. Okay?” 

He looked at her. She felt her cheeks redden under his gaze but kept her head up and reached for his hand. Frank's face broke with a smile as wide as the Ohio River. He threw his head back and laughed, that rollicking laugh from their youth. Marie beamed back at him.

Now what, though? Now what are we gonna do? Here we are, this is nice, and how do we resolve this?” Marie's brow knitted even as the rest of her broke out in gooseflesh.

Marie, you stay right where you are, where you belong. I'm moving in with you.”

Aw, Frank, that's a bit to adjust to, but aw... that's very nice to think about.” 

They sat, hand in hand. Frank rocked the swing slightly. Marie became aware again of the breeze and the sounds of the river. Zeeeeeee... thwack! “Dammit.” And the sounds of the mosquitoes. Marie leaned her head against Frank's chest. She could hear his heartbeat, or feel it inside her. Or was that her own?

But Frank, if you move in with me, we won't have this. We won't have our porch.”

My prompt for the Indie Ink writing challenge this week came from PrincessDarDar, who prompted me thusly: "Describe a complex problem, the solution, and how you arrived to the solution." I feel like I cheated by solving one problem and raising another, but all problems will be resolved! You just gotta keep on reading, as they say.

I prompted Tara Roberts this week: "Mars Attacks." Her very compelling response is here: Visitation.

Finally, this here story is actually Chapter Four in a work-in-progress story called Watching the River Go By. If you're interested, you can read the earlier chapters here: (1) watching the river go by, (2) angry wasps & juicy plums, and (3) the rivers of my memory.