By Dianne Moritz

Melissa closed the card, letter inside, and placed the envelope on her mantle.   Sunshine filtered through the windows, bathing her in its radiant warmth. She thought of Mark and wondered if she could ever forgive him, trust him again.

 

“Don’t go there!” she thought, then grabbed her wallet and headed out to The Grove.

 

Melissa noticed a good looking guy in the produce isle.  A smile tickled across her face. She moved closer, watched as he examined artichokes offered by a vendor sporting long, gray dreads.

 

“Where were these grown?”  the guy asked.

 

“Bakersfield, where else?” the vendor retorted.

 

Feeling flirty, Melissa walked over to introduce herself.    “Are you a gourmet cook?” she asked.

 

“No.  I’m just a guy who likes artichokes.  Alex, nice to meet you.”

 

”Do you come here often?”  She blurted out, then added, “OMG, could I have said anything more pathetic?”

 

Alex laughed, said,”Hey, want a smoothie?  Let’s go to Jungle Juice.”

 

After chatting a bit about LA and surfing, Melissa’s interest flagged.   As they parted ways, Alex asked for her number, jotted it on a brown paper bag, and shouted, “Later!”

 

Alex never called. “Oh well, I was never into surfers,” Melissa thought.

 

Days later, she took Mark’s letter from the mantle, settled into her cushy couch, and opened  it with trembling fingers.

 

Dear Mel,
I miss you so much!   After our last fight, I couldn’t think straight.  So, I went on another binge. Waking up with the worst hangover of my life gave me a scare.  I’ve been attending AA for eight months now and feel like I’m on the road to recovery.  I found a great sponsor and am in therapy.  Things haven’t been easy without your support, but trust me…I’ll never relapse again. Please??!!
Love, Mark.

 

Melissa picked up her  phone and typed in Mark’s number.  She reached voice mail, but left a short message.

 

He phoned the next day with an invitation for dinner.

 

“Remember when we first came here?”  Mark asked, as they waited for a table at Moonshadows.  “We were so wasted and Renee rounded up some waiters, dragged them over for your birthday serenade.   Your sister was staggering, but she sang louder than anyone!”

 

“God??!!  We had to hire a cab to get us home in one piece!  Sure. Been there, done that, but how are you doing?”

 

“Good.  Yeah,” he said, sipping his sparkling water.

 

The night flowed like a lovely dream.   They finished their meal, then strolled along Malibu’s shoreline, stopping for kisses in the soft moonlight.

 

“I suppose this is why it’s called Moonshadows,”  Mark said, swinging Melissa around on the cool sand.

 

“Can I truly forgive?”  Melissa thought. Yet her heart knew the answer.

 

“Mark, you’re the love of my  life,” she whispered. “Let’s go home.”

 

“Your place or mine?”

 

“Mine,” Melissa said.  “I believe in you, I do, but I need some time to adjust…really I do.”

 

“I get it, but with all these ‘I do’s,’ I’m hoping we can make it… soon,” Mark said.  “Melissa Stewart…will you marry me?”

 

“I do.  I mean…I will.  Oh, Mark… YES!  YES!”

 

They married that August…on the beach in Malibu, of course.

 

The end

 

I dedicate this story to my sister, Renee, in remembrance of all our crazy antics while living in Los Angeles.  Moonshadows was a great restaurant on the beach in Malibu where we celebrated many birthdays.
Dianne Moritz’s latest picture book debut date, HEY, LITTLE BEACHCOMBER, has  been pushed back to later in 2019 or 2020.  She is a frequent contributor to Highlights for Children’s magazines.  Her third book, 1, 2, 3 BY THE SEA, has sold ten of thousands of copies.  Learn more: diannemoritz.wordpress.com.

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