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Family Circle 2010 Fiction Contest: "The Secrets of Celestial Navigation"

Once again, I leave the key over the transom for Lucca. Kara is having a sleepover with her new best summer friend, Emily. It is yet another stride. Sadie and I work together on the weekends as it's the only time Harbor Lights is even remotely busy. The morning flies by and I debate about asking Lucca to dinner, or possibly drinks. Drinks are so civilized. Perhaps I can whip up some hors d'oeuvres and pick up a bottle of pinot noir. I will miss him. Part of him seems to linger after he is finished each day. His paint cans are always neatly stacked, brushes cleaned and tarps folded on the back deck. Today the back deck is empty. I stand on tiptoe to retrieve the key and put it into the lock. The house looks new. I feel like it is mine and I am anxious to shed my clothes and indulge in a long, hot bath.

An invoice on the kitchen counter reflects the price we agreed upon before what Kara refers to as "the bathroom debacle." At the bottom of the page I read, With gratitude... your painter, Lucca. Although I am alone, laughter bubbles up from somewhere deep inside me. I climb the stairs, head for my bedroom, undress and grab my iPod. The first song that comes up on the shuffle is something that Kara must have put on in an attempt to make my music more "relevant." I walk into the bathroom feeling content.

My painter has gone far beyond repairing the pink. Marbled walls and a stippling of the softest shades of sunset surround me as I turn on the water and sink into the bath. A subtle lunar crack, whisper thin, runs from the faucet up to the corner of a ceiling that once was white or nearly so. He has gifted me an evening sky complete with moon, stars and planets. I marvel at his skill as I drift, lost in thought—Lucca, a sunrise, cliffs above the beach—restored and ready to start anew.

Originally published in the March 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.