**Spoiler Alert (albeit a small one)**
A few of you who’ve read Updrift have reached out to ask about the knit-up to Dana & Will Fletcher’s storyline. This was cut (understandably) from the final manuscript, but I figured I could kerplop it here for the curious. This would have occurred in part three:
“I’m not willing to give it all up to sell flowers on a street corner,” Dana mused to her husband.
“Me neither,” he agreed. “But we can make a shift. I have some ideas. One of them will work.”
In a scenario that should have been baffling but was not, Dana and Will found themselves installed in a hammock on a back porch overlooking the sea. They had no idea how they’d come to be there, but they’d grown comfortable with their new reality, which revolved around a series of semi-sedated, disjointed experiences. They were alone for once, although, somehow, the heavy, soothing presence of their watery friends still enveloped them.
Will had his arms around his wife, and they were nestled together like lovers, Dana’s head on his shoulder, her hand on his chest, their legs an intimate tangle. He felt centered and confident for the first time literally in years, and he was determined to find a way to extend the situation to their life beyond this place. He, too, was optimistic things would work out well. As if to confirm, a warm breeze, carrying promise and hope, caressed them. They both smiled in response.
“That singing really is marvelous,” Dana commented, sighing. Will nodded in agreement. The singing, like the felt-but-not-seen presence of… all those people they’d been with, had been a constant subtext to their lives in this new place, alternately acting as a balm, a stimulant and, most often, a distraction. Each commented how they were unable to feel concern for their responsibilities back home.
Following Dana’s meeting with Xanthe in the cathedral, she and Will had reunited amid her floating, dancing companions, as she’d asked. Her revelations, thankfully, did not require any retelling, as it appeared their separate psychological reviews brought each of them to the exact same conclusions.
“We should start our own business,” Will suggested. “Something small and manageable, where we could use our skills but avoid the responsibilities of a larger organization.”
Dana agreed. “Something on our own. Do you have anything in particular in mind?”
“Actually, I do,” he said with a touch of pride. “If we have a child, it would be nice to be close to family, both for our son or daughter and for us. My family is gone, so that leaves your sister.”
“So, what could we do in Childress, or Griffins Bay?” Dana mused.
“How do you feel about opening a bakery?” he asked.
Dana laughed, what a delightful, absurd idea, to move from health care information management to bread baking. “I love it,” she replied. “Who’s going to bakery school, you or me?”
“What the hell. Let’s both go,” he grinned. “Actually, I thought we could approach that Wilkes girl, Sylvia? I wonder if she’d be interested in running it day-to-day. She’s certainly talented, and isn’t she already through culinary training?”
Dana nodded. It could work. She began thinking through potential marketing initiatives, years of conditioning overriding the diversionary tactics of their hypnotic friends. But while one part of her mind was busy thinking of promotional programs, another started to think about the underlying reason they were turning their careers upside down in the first place.
“You know, I’m not sure I can conceive,” she confessed, regret filling her as she considered the possibility (likelihood?) of not being able to have a baby. “I’m 43 years old, Will.”
“Fine. We’ll adopt,” Will said, unphased. His enthusiasm for following whatever path they needed to cheered Dana, and she relaxed into optimism again. One way or another, they would have a child. She could count on it.
Some combination of the breeze and singing around them caused their level of consciousness to begin receding, although Dana still had the presence of mind to marvel at the fresh life that had been somehow been breathed into them, both individually and as a couple. She couldn’t believe her good luck. “I love you, Will,” she said, nuzzling his neck, her eyes closed with gratitude.
“I love you, too, honey,” Will replied. He brushed his cheek against her hair, and then turned toward her, running his hand from her waist to her back inside her shirt. She tilted her face to him as he drew her to his chest and leaned in to kiss her. He smiled to himself at how easy it felt to be doing this, bemusement shining in his eyes as he looked at his wife. It did not make sense that they should be so resurrected, each of them and within the marriage, but he was sure they were saved. And whether it was this magical place or divine intervention or shear, dumb luck, he didn’t care to examine the why of it too carefully. Even if it should not be, he wanted nothing to disrupt this healing.
Tenderly – and, in each of their opinions, miraculously – Will and Dana talked and loved together as they had not for many years, now able to reaffirm their marriage as if nothing had ever interfered. Ensconced in their silent, protected retreat, they resolved their wants and desires, establishing a vital, common vision for their future. In the morning, they would emerge rested, reunited, and able to re-embark on a life together that both of them wanted.
Outside, several sirens snuck away toward the water, patting each other on the backs and handing out discreet high-fives as they tiptoed off. Dana and Will’s gratitude flowed freely around them, touching everyone who had facilitated their rejuvenation. For nearly all of them, this thanks was adequate compensation for their troubles; only Lydia and Bridget were a little disappointed, and even they were mostly happy. Mostly.