Kevin could see water forming in her eyes, and he found himself aching for her. He raised his hand and gently placed his index finger on her lips. “You know, when I first met Claire, I knew right then and there that she was the one for me, and even when we were apart, my thoughts were always on her. The day we were married was the happiest day of my life, and conversely, the day she died was the worst. When I lost her I knew, I was certain, that I would never love anyone ever again, and that I’d spend the rest of my life alone.
“After she died, information about her work searching for ancient sites to prove biblical events became public knowledge. I watched as her memory was raked across the coals in the public spotlight, ridiculed, the laughingstock of the archaeological community, and the public.”
Zari looked up with a look of empathy, as if she felt his pain. “I didn’t know, Kevin; I’m so sorry.”
“When I saw Claire’s memory being sullied time after time again on television and in journals by secular archaeologists, I finally had enough. I decided to take a sabbatical and do everything I could to prove Claire was onto something important; then I’d be sure to rub their noses in it.”
“You’ll do it Kevin, I know it.” Zari smiled.
“No, we’ll do it,” he told her. Stepping closer to Zari, after a moment’s hesitation he leaned in and kissed her. Her lips were moist and her embrace tender. When they separated sometime later, the two gazed into one another’s eyes for several moments, until finally Kevin spoke.
“When I first took my sabbatical, I decided that there was no room in my life for anyone other than my memory of Claire; no relationships, no romantic entanglements of any kind, at least not until all of this was over.” He paused for a moment. It was, however, ill-timed, because Zari began tearing up and looked away.
“I understand,” she whispered, turning to walk towards the back of the Jeep. Kevin followed her, and after placing his hands on her shoulders, gently turned her around.
“No…no, Zari, listen, I need to finish. I was wrong about that. I felt a powerful connection with you too from the moment we first met. That’s something I’ve never experienced with anyone in my entire life except Claire. To be honest, I tried to ignore it, pretending it was only my imagination, but it’s not; I know that now. When this thing is over, I’d really like to spend some quality time getting to know you, Zari Abedini; you’re a wonderful, exquisite, intoxicating woman.”
“I’m falling in love with you, Kevin,” she told him bluntly. “Is there room in your life for me? I must know, Kevin. I know I can never replace Claire, but maybe I can find a place of my own in your heart?”
“But Zari, don’t you realize that you already have…that I’ve already fallen in love with you?”
Zari stared at Kevin, dumbfounded, for some time before saying anything. “But you never said anything, Kev, you never acted—”
“I told you, Zari…I was trying to pretend it wasn’t there. But every time I looked at you, every time we touched, it was all I could do to think of anything else.”
Zari wrapped her arms around Kevin’s neck and the two embraced. Her warm, moist lips and the caress of her hands around his neck and shoulders enveloped him in a warmth he’d not felt for a long time, and stirred emotions deep within him…but for the first time in a long time, they were feelings of joy. Eventually the embrace began to wind down and the two parted.