"This is a story I never thought I would tell. It is the story of a love, the love I shared with a man who came into my life almost surreptitiously, a man who loved me in the most complete way and then died. If he had not died, I would not be telling this story..."
Writer and editor Edie Clark was not expecting love to enter her life with a young carpenter named Paul Bolton. She was facing the realities of a failing marriage, while Paul was a shy, gentle, but sometimes troubled man. Yet together they nurtured a love and built a married life as beautiful and enduring as the simple rustic cottage Paul restored for Edie. And in the time they shared, they would find extraordinary grace and strength, and see their lives transformed by the power of love.
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"[A] triumph of the human spirit...May take its quiet place among the best of the literature."
--The New York Times Book Review
"A singular and beautiful book."
"A compelling and sensitive story of the endurance of love and the spiritual journey of a marriage."
--Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
"A graceful tribute to a brief but intense relationship that can only be summed up as true love."
It was dark outside when Paul drove in, his headlights panning through the picture window. The dogs gave him an excited welcome. "Happy New Year!" he heralded as he came in, taking off his rubbers and leaving them on the doormat. He took off his work jacket and his cap. There was a light film of sawdust on his work greens, even on the lenses of his glasses.
"Happy New Year!" I said into his shoulder as we hugged. "Did you just get off work?" I asked, stepping back, brushing some of the sawdust from his arms.
"Yah, we worked straight through today."
"Did you bring a change of clothes?" I asked.
"No," he said. "I guess I can't stay tonight." He stood looking at me, confusion flickering across his face. I felt a pang of disappointment.
"But supper?" I asked.
He grinned. "Oh, yes, I'll have supper."
"Well," I said, "I was thinking we were going to go out, so I don't have much in the house."
"That's okay," he said. "Let's go to the grocery store."
We drove to the A&P in Peterborough and poked through the aisles. "Do you like chicken livers?" he asked.
"One of my favorites," I said. It was true. "I've got some rice back at the house. And some onions."
"And salad," he said, and put a round head of iceberg lettuce and a cellophane package of light-orange tomatoes into the basket and we went to the checkout. "Wait," he said, and disappeared. He came back, grinning, with a box of Sara Lee frozen cupcakes and a pint of vanilla ice cream.
In the car he took my hand and held it between both of his and told me not to forget how special I was to him. "I don't know where I'd be now if it weren't for you," he said. "Probably locked up in some loony bin." He laughed gently.
I turned in the driveway and shut off the engine. "I'm kind of disappointed, Paul," I said. "Why didn't you bring clean clothes? You're all dirty from work."
He stammered, clearly uncomfortable. "I guess...I don't know. I figured we wouldn't go out anywhere, we'd just stay here, just us."
"You could still clean up, just for me," I pointed out. I paused, looking over at him. "Are you afraid?" I asked.
"No, I trust you, Edie," he said. "I've told you that a hundred times. I trust you." He stopped. The car was cooling off and the windows were steaming up. "I am a little afraid--of women, I guess. You know, I've never..." He broke off and then started up again. "I'm a little afraid of you, yes, I am a little. He turned to me. "But I want to get beyond that. I have faith in us."
It was getting colder by the minute. "Let's go inside," I said.
We went in and unpacked the groceries. I made egg-nog and poured it into the glass cups I found in the cabinet. He drank it in three gulps, sitting in the big wooden rocker by the stove. He watched me work and then got up. "I can cook, too, you know, Edie. I love to cook," he said. "Let's cook supper together."
He sliced the onions while I made salad dressing. I put rice on to simmer. While I fiddled with the flimsy dial on the old stove, he came up behind me and closed his arms around my waist. "Edie, this is our night. Don't be cross with me. I loved that letter that you wrote me. I've read it over a lot of times. I wrote you a letter back but then I never mailed it."
I turned around in his arms. "How come?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said and he leaned down and kissed me.
I pulled back and had to laugh. "Whoa! Where did you learn that?"
He smiled and kissed me again. As the rice turned to glue and the lettuce wilted on the counter, we lay on the couch and began to exchange a string of promises that didn't slow down as the night passed. I finally turned off the rice, a solid lump. "I need to get cleaned up," he said. He took my hand, "Come on." He led me into the bathroom.
Almost shamelessly he took off his work shirt and his pants and then his underwear. I put the stopper in the drain and ran warm water into the old tub. He stepped in and sank down. I took a washcloth from the closet and unwrapped the sweet-smelling lilac soap he had given me for Christmas. He sat hunched in the tub, his knees drawn to his chest, his head bent. I lathered up the washcloth and touched it to his shoulder. "Is that too hot?" I asked. "No," he said, "it's just right." And I began to scrub. I felt I was cleansing a man who was destitute, a man who had wandered the streets for years. His skin, except for his forearms and a V at his neck was as white as the tub. It was as soft and smooth as any I had ever felt. It seemed never to have been unclothed before. I brought a saucepan in from the kitchen and filled it with warm water. With my hand I tilted his head back and slowly poured the water over it, soaking his hair. I soaped it three times with my shampoo, rinsing it with saucepan after saucepan of fresh warm water. "All clean?" I asked.
"Can you cut my hair a little? It needs a trim."
"I don't know what there is around here for scissors," I said, "but let's see."
He dried himself with a clean towel and put on his pants, leaving his shirt and underwear in a pile in the corner. I found a pair of shears in a drawer in the kitchen and held them up. "What do you think?"
"Let's try it," he said, and we put a folding chair under the light and he sat down. I hacked away at his long hair with the blunt scissors. It was fine, so clean I could hardly get hold of it. It was just beginning to look good when he pulled the towel off his shoulders and stood up and put his arms around me and walked me backward to my bed.
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Book Description Bantam, 1996. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0553575740
Book Description Bantam, 1996. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110553575740