Dean slept as peacefully as he had in years and he awoke from a dream feeling as if he had gone to heaven. He was surprised to find the bed empty but he assumed Colleen was in the bathroom. After a few minutes, he realized that he hadn't heard any noises or movements. He left the bed naked and saw that the bathroom door was open and the bathroom vacant. Colleen's dress was gone from the open closet.
He wasn't sure if he was shocked, offended, hurt, or perplexed. Why would she leave without saying goodbye? And then he understood: payback was a bitch. She disappeared on him just as he had disappeared on her thirty-one years earlier.
What was her married name? Colleen never mentioned it. Did she go back to using her maiden name? Where did she live? How could he find her? Should he try to find her? He sat on the edge of the bed and pondered the situation.
Had this all been a foolish dream? An unrealistic fantasy? Was interviewing for a job insane? Would he really retire from his government job and leave Virginia? Was there any future for him and Colleen together after spending one night together following an emotional reunion? Was she giving him permission to leave this time just as he had last time, no questions asked? No responsibilities? No commitments? No regrets?
He sucked in his breath. Is that what she meant when she said no regrets?
Dean was supposed to fly out that afternoon. He thought they'd have the morning to discuss options and their futures. He didn't realize at the time that their reunion night was only destined to be a one night stand. That's not what he was signing up for when he let her accompany him into the hotel. He saw his cell phone on the desk and picked it up. They hadn't even exchanged phone numbers. He pushed the start button and got the number for the airline.
Colleen was on autopilot Monday morning as she drove to work. Her day (and night) with Dean had been the best thing to happen to her in years. It was her first sexual experience since her divorce and she had no regrets, no doubts, no second thoughts, and no insecurities. It was as wonderful and magical as she could have hoped or imagined.
She still wasn't sure why she had awoken at dawn and panicked. Dean looked peaceful and happy as he slept and Colleen couldn't imagine a more perfect scenario as the one she found herself in and yet she felt the urge to leave, perhaps worried that he would feel entrapped or do something he wasn't ready to do.
The talk of job changes and moves seemed unrealistic to her when he first told her about such ideas and she didn't want to be responsible for Dean uprooting his life, especially if things didn't work out between them. Was she foolish to think they could just pretend the last thirty-one years never happened? That they could become lovers when they were just friends back then? Well, they were lovers now, weren't they? But that didn't have to mean anything if Dean simply went back to Virginia and pretended none of it had ever happened.
Colleen wasn't paying attention as she approached the school among the many students heading for the front entrance but she stopped short when she saw The Dean of Cromwell sitting on the bench watching her approach.
"You didn't say goodbye," he said as she stared at him.
"I wanted to see if you'd come back for me," Colleen replied as her eyes watered.
"Promise you'll never leave me again," Dean said as he stood from the bench.
"Only if you do too," she said as she ran to him and gave him a hug.
They kissed as the school kids walked around them on the sidewalk.