The bench on which they sat faced a small pond and the few ducks whose beaks happened to be pointed their way. Over the bench hung the branches of a willow with an air of tenderness and protection. The sun no longer shone brightly, but its rays still warmed long stretches of the park.

“You know, I was once convinced that love was love only when it set ablaze the ground under your feet; when half of your time was spent in scorching agony, half in midair relief. I imagined and sought out the extremes of love – unquenchable dependence in its presence, unutterable loneliness in its absence. To love temperately, ha! Impossible. It was burn, burn, burn; it had to burn, burn, burn; the deepest love must burn, burn, burn.

Isn’t this day wonderful? The sun shines but doesn’t stifle. The wind blows but doesn’t strike. It doesn’t rain but the earth feels wet. I don’t notice the temperature on my skin, so natural and gentle is it to me. I could sit here all day, and not an unpleasant sensation would reach me.

You are this day, Jennifer. You are the complete, heart-quietening comfort in which I can sit, in which I can rest, in which I can forget that I’m sitting.”

He stopped speaking. One of the ducks had slipped below the surface of the water; they watched it as it came back up to dry its feathers one last time before the sun set.

Jennifer pressed her cheek against his collarbone. He laid his hand on her soft hair and kissed her temple.