She was to him, the solid earth of sturdy pottery, though he had the tact to never tell her so. Life for Ben was mystery, was, though rarely tumultuous, also, rarely understood. When Stephanie looked at a sunset, she saw the beauty, but also the purpose, the inevitable orbit and rotation of earth, the predictability of light, of darkness, of each new season. Ben saw only confusion—he felt often overwhelmed in the stunning majesty of the colors, the artfulness, the perfection—too perfect, too right—like Stephanie’s eyes, like her touch, like her every perfect curve, like her healing touch.

There were years that Ben felt as if he were a tiny skiff on a vast sea. He looked at the changing sky, felt the arriving and departing waves, smelled the deep magic of an ocean alive. But with the bliss of beauty came the jarringly tenacious unpredictability of a tempo misunderstood. Stephanie was his island; he had found her shore just in time, just before the last vestiges of his sanity slid away into the cold depths.