he last thing he saw before the horse kicked him in the head was Cora, catching sight of him across the crowd of people, her face breaking into a smile so big and dazzling that she looked, in that instant, exactly like her teenage self.
And then he felt the horse erupt and before he could do anything to contain it, there was a blinding flash — not pain so much as an explosion, like a firecracker going off in his brain — and then, just like that, his old life was over.
His new life started with him lying on his back on the ground, perfectly calm except for the massive pain in his head, gazing up at Cora’s face framed by the most beautiful blue sky. She was not smiling now but looking worried, her brow knit, her mouth open.
“Oh my God,” she said. “Are you all right? Don’t move. Medhi’s gone to meet the ambulance.”
What was she talking about? Who needed an ambulance? She should lie down next to him. Put her arms around him and draw the curtain on that brilliant sky so they could be together where no one could see.
“Your kisses,” he said.
“Your kisses. They taste exactly like marshmallows.”
“Sssssh,” she said. “The ambulance will be here any minute.”
“Do they still taste like that?” he asked her.
“I don’t know, George.” She looked more uncomfortable. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He lifted his hand, beckoned her closer with his finger. “Kiss me,” he whispered. “Please, just kiss me one time.”
He didn’t think she was going to do it. From somewhere far away, he could hear the sirens, and noticed for the first time that, around the edges of the sky, a ring of faces stared down at him. At them.
But then, as the sound of the siren grew louder and closer, she suddenly leaned down and pressed her lips to his.
And then, after a moment’s hesitation, or maybe it was surprise, she kissed him more earnestly, with as much purpose as she had that night after the dance, and he kissed her back. The sky, the ring of faces, the siren, the pain in his head, everything disappeared except the two of them, and not even the two of them, but their lips, all their emotions, all that had passed between the two of them over all the years distilled in their kisses.
In his head, the song began playing, the song that had been playing that night: Didn’t we almost have it all? Didn’t we.
Oooh oooh oooh.
She was the one for him. She had been back then, she had been all the time she was gone, and she was now. There was no one else, no one, he was sure, in all the world, who was as right for him. He might someday be happy without her. But not as happy as he could be with her.
And then, too roughly, too suddenly, they were pulled apart. The ring of faces had dispersed, the sun was clouded over, and someone was fastening a cervical collar around his neck.
Cora was standing up, so far away, a dark man beside her, his arm around her. Hands were strapping George to a board, lifting him away. He reached out a hand toward her, but though she was staring at him, tears in her eyes, she didn’t follow.
“Marshmallows,” he called, but she didn’t seem to hear. Or maybe she just didn’t understand.
“I love you!” he shouted.
And then they closed the ambulance door.
Read George’s side of the story.
Ho Springs is going on summer hiatus. Check in regularly over the next two weeks as our story wraps up for now in our Season Finale.