They walked along the edge of the pond, the sunset putting an exclamation point on the end of a glorious summer day. Several ducks swam in close, looking for a feed, quacking and splashing close to the edge, and a bullfrog hopped into the water as the couple approached.
Maybe it was the nice evening, maybe it was the gentle mood of the city park, maybe it was the company he was keeping, but Jimmy Wilson felt like a million.
Maybe it was all of the above.
They had just finished a nice dinner at the little Italian place on College Avenue, and as they walked to Jimmy’s truck Renee Johnson suggested they stop by the city park and enjoy the sunset.
As they walked along the pond, Jimmy edged a little closer to Renee. As their arms touched she glanced up at him, and smiled. He felt their hands touch, and he instinctively clasped her hand.
They rounded a bend, and Renee pointed eagerly.
“Oh, look!” she called out. “So beautiful!”
Several graceful swans were gliding through the water, just a few yards from the shore. Startled by the couple’s appearance, the birds quietly moved toward the middle of the lake.
“We came here all the time when I was a little girl,” Renee said. “It was exciting whenever we saw the swans. I would always ask my mom if we could take one home. Of course, she explained that we couldn’t do that.”
“I wanted a lion,” Jimmy said. “My mom said no, too. I was crushed.”
“A lion!” Renee laughed. “That’s even more ridiculous! Where would you keep a lion?”
“In my room, I guess.”
“Hmm…what do they feed lions?”
“I dunno,” Jimmy replied, a twinkle coming to his eye. “Swans, I think.”
She glanced at him and laughed. “Very funny.”
Jimmy picked up a flat rock and flung it on the lake. It skipped a couple of times, sending ripples across the water.
“Good one!” she said. “Want to sit down for a minute?”
Jimmy nodded, and they moved to a bench along the shore. She looked over at him and smiled. There was something about that smile that turned Jimmy to a lump of mush.
“This is exactly what I hoped for, coming home,” she said. After several years in Florida, Renee had recently moved back to Central City to take a job at a downtown bank. “It’s been great to see my folks, and go with our car to the races, and see my friends. And coming to the places like this, where I grew up…it just feels so natural. It feels like home.”
“It is home,” Jimmy offered.
“Florida was exciting at first, but … I guess I’m just a Midwestern girl at heart. This is where everything feels right.”
“I’m glad you’re here,” Jimmy said. “I think it’s great.”
She gazed at him, a warm smile on her face.
“You never change,” she said.
“Not even a little bit.”
“Is that a good thing?”