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Rated: E · Fiction · Contest · #2266388
Mark discovers a legacy of love. (edited 4/27/24)
It took Mark three days to summon the courage to call her. He had wanted to approach Chloe at the Chapel, but he couldn't bring himself to intrude upon her grief so soon. He finally asked Clarissa if she thought it was a good idea.

"Well, what do you think? Should I call her?

Clarissa frowned. "I don't know, Mark. It has only been a couple days since the funeral. At least give her another day or two."

"OK," Mark replied slowly. I definitely don't want to add to her problems right now, but could you at least keep me updated on how she's doing?"

"Sure thing," she replied, looking at him quizzically. "Why are you so concerned about Chloe?"

"Come on, Sis," Mark protested. "I was there. Remember? I saw it happen. She... Chloe didn't take it well. I am just concerned."

"OK," Clarissa replied. "I will ask, but not until tomorrow. Chloe will see you when she is ready. You will just have to accept that."

"OK, I'll wait, he said.

Chloe had apologized but was not quite ready to see him yet. Her refusal had stung a bit, but Mark could not blame her. This made him want to know more, however. His family was not as close as hers, and he wanted to know what was different about it. Dan was known like that around the community, too. It may be time to fish for some information.

The days turned into weeks. Mark did not ask again, but he continued asking questions. His job in the mall helped him meet new people all the time. Most of them at least knew of Dan. He began to paint a mental picture of the man.

He also had people wondering why he was asking so many questions. Word gets around in a small town.

"Chloe," Clarissa said softly. "Thanks for finally seeing me. We all feel your sorrow."

They were sitting on the couch in Chloe's living room. Clarissa leaned over and grasped Chloe's hand. "We all worry about you. You know that, right?"

"That's what I wanted to see you about," said Chloe. "Don't get me wrong. I'm glad you came. I've missed you, but..."

"Me too.., Wait... what?" Clarissa interrupted. "What are you talking about?"

"It's Mark, Liss," Chloe replied. "He's been asking about my Papa all over town. It feels like I am in a creepy B-rated crime drama."

Clarissa sat quietly, watching her friend.

"It's not natural, right?" Chloe went on. "I mean, why all the questions? He wants to know about my whole family, not just Papa and me."

Clarissa hesitated and said, "He loves you, you know."

Chloe had just opened her mouth to say something else but stopped.


"I said, " replied Clarissa. "He is in love with you." Smiling broadly, she squeezed Chloe's hand. "He hasn't been able to talk about anything but you since the..., since that day. He thinks maybe you are mad at him. "A little stretch of the truth will not hurt her," Clarissa thought. "Not here, not this one time."

"Talk to him. Besides," Clarissa continued. "I think you like him too. You always have!"

Chloe did not like the smirk on her friend's face. Not at all. "Still," she thought. "She is not wrong."

Sitting in silence, Clarissa watched her process what she had said.

They talked more about many other things, and then Clarissa went home.

Less than a week after the talk, as Clarissa liked to think of it, Chloe agreed to see Mark and that he should call her. Mark reacted, almost like... a puppy, happy to see its master. She smiled at the memory. Mark had called, and they were meeting at Starbucks.

Clarissa looked up from her chair as Mark bounced down the stairs and into the living room.

"Seeya later." He said.

"Where ya going," she replied with a smile, knowing it was the big night.

"First time seeing her since the... thing. I'm just excited."

Laughing, Clarissa replied, "Oh, I can tell. Believe me."

"Would you stop it!

"OK, Romeo. Whatever you say," Clarissa teased.

"You're impossible!" Mark retorted. Throwing up his hands, he left the house.

Clarissa wondered what being a part of Chloe's family would be like. She could understand Mark's attraction to that. Their family had never really been close. There was not much action from aunts, uncles, or cousins. Their mother's parents died so long ago that neither she nor Mark could remember them. Her father had not talked to his parents in over twenty years—some family things neither of her parents would discuss. Like Mark, she realized she could use some of that Wayne family magic.

Mark and Chloe became inseparable in the following weeks. Short talks turned into long walks, and those "walks" became actual dates as the weather began to cool in anticipation of Fall.

Everyone was thrilled to see them together. It cheered their hearts.

Mark reconsidered his plan for what must have been the 1000th time as they headed down the highway. He and Chloe were going to Eagle Mountain Lake. They had a fantastic restaurant up there. High up on a bluff overlooking the lake sat Boseman's Steak House. It was a great place. People came from miles around to eat there.

They also had a great patio. From it, you had a perfect view of the lake. Sunsets there were one of the biggest reasons people came to visit. He would enact his plan on the patio. Silently, he hoped it wouldn't be crowded when he did it.

Mark slowed, turning into the restaurant's parking lot. He found a spot quickly, and they parked. Getting out first, he crossed to Chloe's side and opened her door.

"My Lady, "he said, flourishing a bow and holding out his hand, "May I?"

Chloe laughed and took his hand. "Why, of course, Dear Sir." Chloe used an exaggerated British accent, even roiling her r's.

Laughing, Mark took her arm, and they headed in. They had a great table. He had tipped the Maître D twenty bucks to get a seat beside the large windows that looked out onto the patio.

Chloe turned around and said, "Actually, can we sit outside? The weather is pretty good today. If it gets cold, we can come back inside."

Mark was thrilled. He had hoped he could get her out there after dinner, but now he could do it before. "It would be nice to have our first dinner as..." Well, he didn't want to jinx it by overthinking it.

When their waiter approached, Chloe asked, "Can we sit out there? The weather is so nice right now. It would be perfect if we could."

"No problem at all," he replied. "Right this way, please." Walking through the doors to the patio, Chloe asked, "Can you sit us there, that one on the left side."

"Of course," the waiter said with a smile. When they arrived at the table, Chloe walked over to the rail. Folding her arms, she leaned over and rested her elbows on the flat top of the railing. She stared out over the lake.

Mark ordered hot chocolate and told the waiter it would be a few minutes before they were ready for food. The waiter returned a knowing smile and left.

"Here goes," Mark thought. But when he walked up, Chloe surprised him with a question.

"Why?" she asked.

"Why what?"

"Why all the questions about my family? What is all this?" she asked.

"At first," Mark replied. "I just wanted to see what kind of man receives such an outpouring of respect from the family and the community."

He hesitated, then said, "It was just my curiosity about him, but it became something bigger."

"...And what did you learn about him," Chloe asked, "My Papa," Chloe said softly.

Mark had leaned over and put his elbows on the railing as well.

Without turning, Mark said. "I learned that Dan was a patient man, a kind one. He never had a harsh word for anyone unless..." he paused. "If you messed with a family member, Dan would handle it immediately and directly. He rarely had to do more than ask them to stop, but he used different tactics to get his point across several times. He was a tough guy when pressed."

Chloe nodded, a smile crossing her lips. She had heard the stories.

"He was a modest man. I know he didn't like public acclamation. You never heard him boast about anything. You just respected his competence. Though he could get angry, he never held a grudge and never wanted to see someone suffer, even if they did him wrong.

Mark was on a roll. Learning the kind of man that Dan was had been inspirational. "He was trusted because he was willing to put his faith in others. He trusted everyone until he was given a reason not to. He hoped the best for everyone."

"Everyone admired Dan for his tenacity and persevering nature. He never gave up on a person or a project. He always finished what he started, even if the result was unexpected."

"And as you well know," he said, pausing. "He was a brave man." Mark straightened and looked over at her.

Chloe turned and looked up into his face. Nodding, her eyes began to fill with tears.

"But that was not the most important thing I learned," he said, reaching down and taking both of her hands in his. "The best thing he left you was love. Love was the reason for everything he did.

"He let nothing stand in the way of it. Love meant so much to him that he valued your life over his own. That is his legacy."

Chloe looked down and squeezed Mark's hands, a tear falling from her cheek.

Mark suddenly knelt to one knee. Letting go of one of her hands, Mark reached back into his jacket pocket, pulling out a small, lidded box.

Opening it, he took out a diamond ring. Chloe was shocked to realize it was her grandmother's ring.

Her free hand rising to cover her mouth, she asked, "Where did you get that?"

"From your brother, John," Mark said. "Long story. Don't ask... well, at least not yet."

"I digress," Mark said a little nervously. Chloe giggled.

Holding her hand in one and the ring in the other hand, Mark looked into her eyes.

"Chloe, I love you. I have since high school, really; I didn't know it. Now I do. I want this legacy of love, too. I don't want to lose it."

Holding the ring up to her, he asked, "Marry me, Chloe. Make me the happiest man in the world."

Not hesitating momentarily, Chloe nodded, her eyes filling again with tears.

Mark put the ring on her finger and stood. Smiling, he leaned in and kissed her. It lasted a while.

Without warning, they heard clapping and cheers behind them. Turning, they saw that not just strangers had gathered on the patio; her family was there, too.

Hugging her and looking into her eyes, he said, "Your love is precious to me, Chloe. I will spend the rest of my life trying to show you I deserve it."

Chloe smiled as he echoed her words and laid her head on his chest.

"Yes, Papa," she thought. "Everything is going to be just fine."

1910 words
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