Later, after dark, when all of the others went home and the birthday girl got tucked into her bed with a tired yawn and a gleeful smile on her face, Ken sat on the front porch in just his boxers. Kathy lay across his lap, similarly dressed.
“I’ve missed you so much.” Kathy said, “Especially this part.”
Ken brushed her face off her face and smiled. “Ain’t no one that knows me like you do.”
She giggled. “You got that right.”
Kathy sat up and steadied herself in his lap by embracing him, and Ken welcomed her.
“How much longer can you do this?” she said, fingering the new scars on his chest, “This shot almost got you, and when Marisol told me what happened-“
“-you choked up. I know. Marisol told me when I woke up. She and I had this conversation, and you and I also had this conversation. Both of you now know the answer.”
Kathy nuzzled Ken’s neck. “I do, I do. That’s not what I mean this time.”
“You’re wondering what happens when my body won’t let me go on? When I get too old, or rack up too many injuries, go on?”
She nodded her head.
“I die. It’s that simple, Kathy. I won’t stop, so sooner or later someone’s gonna get the drop on me and that’s that.”
Kathy looked at him, face to face, eye to eye. Here they were, in their 30s, and still she wanted him to stop being the White Knight- and still he held his resolve otherwise. The scars—the evidence, the trophies—about his face, neck, chest, arms, legs and hands spoke for him. He walked the walk, and he was one of two men she knew that did; the other, God bless him, was asleep upstairs and did not resent one bit his wife’s affection for Ken.
“-don’t want to know a world without me. You’ve told me many, many times. That’s why we are where we are, and are what we’ve become. It hurt when you left, but I knew why it had to be that way and I never was—nor shall I never be—angry or resentful about that. Reggie’s a great guy, and he’s all that you need- all that I can’t be for you. What’s scaring you now? That you and I won’t grow old together? That I may not see your little girl grow up, get married and make a grandmother of you?”
She shook her head. “Not quite.”
He lifted her head up and wiped a tear away. “That I won’t be able to come to you when you need me?”
“Almost.” She said, and she shifted herself so that she could look right at him, “I’m afraid that, once you’re…”
Ken gave Kathy that look, the one he always used when she equivocated.
“…dead there won’t be anyone around to take your place.”
“And here I thought that your daughter was actually my child.” Ken said, smirking, “She certainly acts like it.”