Turning his angular frame slowly away from the window's dark white scene and toward the fireplace, its screen of richly colored glass shapes illuminating the room with dancing light, Ralph relived the decisive moment when his world shifted its axis. And then to all of the alternative paths flowing from that time to the present that might have been. Finally to the looming matter before him now.
Allowing the large leather chair that he and the fire had warmed since 3:30 AM to envelop him once again, he lay his head back, closing his eyes to clear away the room's distractions, and began to assemble the details of his plan. That afternoon, time growing short, he stepped outside, toward its first crucial step.
After sweeping the overnight snow from the windshield with his sweatered arm, he pointed the Porsche down the long gravel drive, and toward town. She would be there by now, expectant, but not of what lay in store.
All through the hour it took to reach his destination, Ralph thought of the time they met, in the warm late afternoon Mediterranean sun, at a cafe near the harbor in Split, Croatia, and of how quickly their lives entangled thereafter.
She was there to negotiate the purchase of a yacht of considerable size for her client, he for a different sort of project altogether. Waiting a few tables apart for their respective guests, they looked past each other several times before glances met, first only in a brief pause, then again in something more. Interrupted by the arrival of his client, it might have progressed no further, but later, he saw her in the car park, looking about, and that was that.
Seventeen months later, consequence imposing its will, it came to this.
To be continued…