There is a small box full of perfume bottles tucked away in Nate's closet. They are the only physical reminders of past flames that he chooses to keep. On days like today, when the sky is dark and stormy and the doubts creep back in, he pulls the box out and takes a short trip down memory lane.
Sickeningly sweet strawberry spray in a cheap plastic bottle left by Mandy. The first girl he ever kissed. From the moment she'd held his hand in seventh grade, he thought they were forever. She was everything he wanted. Head cheerleader, Prom Queen, Valedictorian. At their last reunion, she showed him pictures of her four kids while her accountant husband talked taxes.
A crystal atomizer and a pink, delicate floral scent for Lynn. Timeless and elegant. Picture perfect in her silk blouses, long skirts, pearls and perfectly coiffed hair. Her political goals matched his until another, with even more power, came along. These days she kisses his cheek and chats amiably whenever they meet at a party or rally. As if she never shared his bed or broke his heart.
A musky scent that conjures images of sweat-slick skin and satin sheets for Jo. The rebound. Dark hair, dark eyes, motorcycle and pierced tongue, she was the anti-Lynn. His own form of rebellion. His constituents loved the "cooler" Nate while others thought he was taking liberal to the extreme. When the passion cooled, tempers flared and one morning she just disappeared.
After Jo, he took a break from love. Focused on his career. Firmly rebuffed attempts to set him up. Won another term. Rose up in the ranks. Considered the possibilities of the future. President? Maybe in another four years.
He carefully slides the box on the shelf and tiptoes into the bedroom. There are perfume and body spray bottles scattered all over the small vanity. A different scent for every mood. No one signature fragrance for this girl. Jasmine for those special nights. Lavender for stressful meetings because it soothes the senses. Vanilla on lazy weekends at the coast. Citrus when she's mad and wants to keep everyone away. All with an earthy, sometimes minty, undertone he's come to recognize as hers.
Grace. A hit with the voters as well as his own party members. She's got a way of fitting in just about anywhere. But she's no pushover. She shares his passion for politics, though they are often on opposing sides. She pushes him, makes him think, makes him laugh, makes him live. When he's with her it's not all work and climbing the political ladder. There are the cooking classes she blackmailed him into, the spur-of-the-moment road trips to small touristy towns, and black-and-white movie matinees.
His eyes stray to his dresser. There is a black velvet box in the top drawer. He's pulled it out a dozen of times only to put it back moments later. The timing never seemed right. Now it seems like the most important thing in the world. He starts toward the dresser, his mind racing to string the words together. A slight movement from the bed catches his attention and stops him in his tracks. Blankets shift and one slim, tanned limb slips into view. On second thought, it can wait an hour or two. He'll give her the box from the dresser along with words of love sure to bring tears to her eyes.
There's a box full of perfume bottles in the dumpster in Nate's garage.