CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE
2.30pm

               The short-lived moment of uncertainty following their café exit ended with Dee taking Phillip’s hand, dragging him for several steps until he got what she wanted.

Phillip, “Your hands are as big as mine.”

“Just my left. Comes in handy.”

“Why?”

“I fight a lot,” both laughing.

Walking abreast behind the couple, her friends talked among themselves pretending to try not to listen to Dee’s conversation: “What kind of a restaurant?...The North End. Dumb. Italian, what else? How old when you started cooking?...Wow! Young. Did you ever get burned or cut?...Goodness. Frightened?” Throughout the conversation, Dee and Phillip looked mostly straight ahead or down at the sidewalk, although from time to time one or the other stole a peek, the look invariably only the briefest glance followed by an embarrassed look-away.

They crossed into the Public Garden, Dee asking Phillip if he had time for the Swan Boats, he complaining, “Not fair,” Dee asking “What not,” he saying, “I don’t think I can ever say ‘No’ to you.”

Dee’s face exploded into an ear-to-ear and she pulled him into a riotous run across the pedestrian suspension bridge to the line for the boats, the girlfriends following, tripping and laughing.

Dee took a seat at the end of the bench, pulling Phillip thigh-to-thigh beside her, the pair holding hands, still avoiding eye-to-eye, the girlfriends sitting two rows back, flagrantly watching. The dock-hands pushed the boat away from the landing, the paddle-man worked the pedals, and the Swan Boat floated noiselessly into the drink, beginning a slow circumscription of the picturesque lagoon. Dee sucked in the enchanting intimacy – the quintessence of the brilliantly manicured park. As they glided under the strollers’ suspension bridge spanning the pond, a pair of swans joined the dozen ducks paddling alongside, the retinue looping lazily around Mallard Island, the Swan Boat serenity a metaphoric contradiction of Dee’s jumbled tumbling feelings of adventure, affection, family, fidelity, fulfillment, future, intimacy, joy, laughter, lifetime, love, openness, pain, partnership, respect, sacrifice, sex, and tears.

Disembarking, Dee stumbled into Phillip, looking directly at him now, smiling, apologizing, taking his hand, resuming the walk home, talking about food, holding each other’s eyes, laughing. The girlfriends happily walked behind. The pack crossed Charles Street, entering the Boston Common on their trek home, taking one of the several pedestrian boulevards, a footpath that took them in a parallel line with the barely visible Parkman Bandstand, perhaps a thousand feet away, of no interest to them today.

The distant base of the bandstand, a fifty-foot diameter granite pedestal, rose twelve feet off the ground and boasted twelve marble columns, the columns connected at their bases by eight-foot lengths of four-foot high ornate wrought-iron railings. Supported by those columns, the cap of the circular, stone-clad gazebo, the dome, housed eighteen spotlights that lit up the terrazzo platform of the open-air pavilion, The classic architectural construct seemed deserted.

And so far out of their way.

And yet, as they passed it, a bone-deep chill stirred the hair on Dee’s head and electrified the hairs on the back of her neck, she stopping, withdrawing her hand, withdrawing herself, and very slowly, very, very slowly, turning to stare.