Nathan put the letter and the package on the work bench next to Elizabeth. It had been a long time since she had sat there and watched him work but it was so familiar it felt like no time had passed at all.
"Why didn't we get married?" she teased him.
"I don't recall ever asking you."
Elizabeth looked at him with those impossibly green eyes. "That's right, you didn't. But you did love me. I am not crazy right?"
"No. You aren't. I did love you. Very much."
"Then why didn't you ask?"
Nathan put down his chisel and blew the stone dust away from the marker, "That's not a question a man wants to ask if he's sure the answer will be no."
She gave him her best flirtatious smile, "What makes you think I would have said no?"
He looked at her and she had to catch her breath. She had forgotten the way he could see her. Really see her. He always knew her truth. The coy smile faded away, "I would have said no. But I did love you. That's the truth."
"I know you loved me. But I was going to stay here and take over Dad's shop and Mom's interests. I knew that wouldn't be enough for you. You wanted to go places and do things. You always said so. Marrying me would not have made you happy. And I only wanted you to be happy."
She swung her feet. "Well that didn't quite work out as planned." She took a deep breath, "Did she know about me?"
Nathan shook his head, "No. Not really."
"Why not?" Elizabeth pouted, "I would think I would have been important enough to mention."
"Delphine was my world. For the twenty years we were married she was my all. I wouldn't have wanted her to feel like she hadn't been my first choice for even a second. She knew I had dated other people, of course, and even knew that one of them was you. She teased me about my celebrity girlfriend a few times. But really know about you? To think I would have married you if you had been willing? No. I didn't tell her. We all just want to be someone's first choice."
Elizabeth laughed a bitter laugh, "I understand that. So much." She waved her hand toward the letter and package, "Were you surprised to hear from me?"
Nathan worked on the stone marker for a little while before answering. "I was at first but then when I saw the stories it made sense to me that you would reach out. Though I am surprised you remembered after all of these years."
Elizabeth laughed, "That's not really something you forget now is it?"
Nathan nodded, "True."
She traced her finger along a design carved in the top of the work bench, "Your mother was amazing."
Nathan gave a small smile, "Yes she was. Thank you."
"Did you know I came to see her when she was in the hospital? Did she tell you?"
"She didn't. But the nurses did. They were very excited that you were a family friend." Nathan smiled again; the sad one that always made Elizabeth's heart clench, "Thank you for that. I know it meant a lot to her that you came. She loved you too. Both of them did."
Elizabeth looked up at the ceiling trying to keep the tear from leaving her eye, "I was so sorry that I couldn't make it for your dad's funeral. We were in London and I didn't hear about it until too late. I would have liked to have said good bye."
"You can go visit him while you are here if you'd like. He and mom are together. I made one stone for them. I can show you on the map where it is."
"Thanks, I'd like that. Should I go before you finish or..."
"Yeah. It will be tomorrow before it's done so you will have time to wrap things up here before you leave."
"Okay, thanks. I thought I might go by my folk's old place. And maybe the school. Just see how the town has changed."
"It really hasn't much. A coat of paint here and there, but really small towns are small towns right? We just sort of plug along."
"You haven't changed at all."
Nathan ran a hand through his hair, "A little grayer, a lot more wrinkled, I've changed."
"Maybe. But not in any important way. And the gray suits you. You always had gray in your hair from the marble and stone dust anyway."
He laughed, "Delphine used to say that. 'Are you going gray or just working too much?'"
"Would I have liked her?"
"No. You wouldn't. You never liked anyone who had something you felt was yours."
Elizabeth laughed, "I really was horrible wasn't I?"
Nathan shook his head, "I wouldn't say horrible, but I would say you were possessive. Do you remember how much you hated Claudia?"
Elizabeth covered her face with her hands, "I do. I was awful to her! What a brat I was."
"Yes, you were. And her only sin was dating Peter after you did. Years after you did."
"It wasn't years, it was only 18 months..." Elizabeth caught Nathan's eye, "I know that's not any better..."
Nathan laughed, "It's not. But you are who you are. So no. You would not have liked Delphine. But if it weren't for me you would have. Everyone liked her. She was a good person."
"Do you still miss her?"
"Were you tempted to call me after she died?"
Nathan looked at her, "I would be lying if I said no. I looked you up online a few times. Saw what movie you were making. Saw the two of you traveling the world. I knew that you hadn't changed. I hadn't changed. You were happy. That was enough."
"If only I had known the truth." She put her hand on the letter, "Do you think I'm crazy?"
"I think you are Elizabeth. Passionate. Dedicated. Determined. Elizabeth."
She gave him a half smile, "You didn't really answer the question."
Nathan laughed, "Maybe a little crazy. But it's your choice. You made it. Though you can still back out if you want. You know that."
"Yes, I remember. I remember when your mother showed us. Or I guess me. You already knew right?"
"I did. I always knew. You can't really be like my parents and keep your kid in the dark. Making gravestones is an odd job. Tying souls is even odder."
"Tying souls. I thought it was so romantic sounding."
"It can be. When you go visit them you will see the best version of tying. They chose to be tied to the stone. Dad waited for her there. For me to add her words. Beloved Husband. Beloved Wife. Eternity is not enough."
"And they will stay there until the stone wears away?"
"Yeah. Then they will move on."
Elizabeth smiled again, "What about you? Did you and Delphine choose that as well?"
Nathan shook his head, "No, Delphine and I never had children. The line ends with me. There would have been no one to do the binding. So she passed on to...well, where ever you go when you choose to leave."
Elizabeth looked at the package, "Did you open it yet? Does it have what you need?"
"It does. I checked it out. I just wanted to talk to you first. To make sure you were positive."
"I am. I thought it might fade away. But it hasn't. There were vows made. I took them seriously."
Nathan nodded, "I know you did."
She tried looking at the ceiling again but couldn't hold back the tears this time, "He promised me! He promised to love only me. Forsaking all others. He promised! There were vows made!"
Nathan reached out to wipe the tears away but stopped when she waved him off, "I'm fine. Really. I will be fine. Now."
Nathan went back to his carving giving her the privacy to compose herself.
"Did you see the story?"
"Before you got the letter or after? I was hoping you would get the letter first so you would be ready."
"I did get the letter first. I tried calling you. Before. But I think I was too late."
"Yeah, I know. I heard the ring. I knew it was you. But it was too late."
Nathan nodded. "The stone's finished. I need to wait for daybreak for the tying. It's more complicated since you will be tied to a living person and only using the words as a bond. I'll need the sunrise to help."
Elizabeth nodded, "'There is power in the spaces before and after.' I remember your mother telling us that. Use those spaces. I always tried to begin filming new movies at sunrise or sunset. Did you know? I can tell you the ones that flopped were the ones I started in the middle of the day." Elizabeth ran her hands down her legs, "That's when I found them together. The middle of the day. There should have been no power there. But it was enough to destroy me."
Nathan raised an eyebrow at her.
"I'm not being overly dramatic. Stop looking at me like that!" Then she laughed, "God I missed you. Thank you for this. I know you probably don't agree."
"It's not my choice. It's yours. I do feel badly for him." Elizabeth glared, Nathan went on, "Not that he doesn't deserve your ire, but this is a steep punishment."
"There were vows."
Nathan held up his hands in surrender, "I know. I know."
"If you are going to take a tour you better leave now. You will need to be back here by ummm, let's say 4:30 so we can be ready for first light."
And with that she was gone.
Nathan picked up the letter and looked it over again.
I know you will be surprised to hear from me. I am hopeful this letter reaches you before the news of my suicide. I will explain when I see you but I need you to bind me to that worthless piece of shit husband of mine. Till his death do us part now.
I have signed this with my blood and my will stipulates that you should get a package from my lawyer with a bottle of ash from my cremation. If I remember your mother's instructions correctly that should be enough for me to come to you for the binding. I'm enclosing a lock of his hair and a few drops of his blood (don't ask me how I got it) in this letter as well. That should work for his part.
All my love,
Nathan put the hair and the cotton ball with the dried blood in his mother's mortar. The poor guy really had no idea what he had unleashed. If he thought the tabloid stories about Elizabeth killing herself over his infidelity were bad just wait until he spent every day with her right by his side reminding him of what he did. She did not like people to take her things. And she especially did not like her things to allow themselves to be taken.
He stepped back and looked at the stone. Only one word. It was the only one he would need.