on 27 June 2010
Jack and Caroline marry just before Easter, in a quiet civil ceremony, with only a few friends attending.
As a young girl, Caroline had dreamed of her wedding. She wanted a huge, elaborate wedding and spent many delightful afternoons designing a gown. With yards of lace and tulle, a pearl-encrusted bodice and a 12-foot train. Twelve bridesmaids, 250 guests, an 8-tier wedding cake, chamber music for the wedding ceremony and a rock band for the reception.
Jack pales when he hears this. He would rather lop off a limb or have all his teeth pulled out without benefit of anaesthesia than suffer through a huge wedding. And, God, it sounds like he might actually have to wear a tuxedo. Gah. But he doesn't allow these feelings to show. Or so he thinks, until Caroline laughs in his face and says that that was then and this is now.
Now, older and wiser, she wants a small, intimate ceremony and that is exactly what they have. A candlelight ceremony at midnight in a small chapel with just a few friends. Caroline wears a long, ivory satin sheath and holds a bridal bouquet of miniature white roses.
Caroline follows one tradition--the groom mustn't see the bridal gown until the ceremony itself. As a matter of fact, Jack doesn't see Caroline at all until that evening, when all the candles are lit, with the pastor waiting at the altar.
He's missed her fiercely all day, and vows to spend as little time apart from her as possible, for the rest of their lives.
Jack can barely breathe when he finally sees Caroline coming alone down the aisle, bathed in candlelight, beautiful beyond words to describe her. Caroline is a beautiful woman, but like all happy brides, she has a special glow on this special day.
Jack can hardly believe that this magical, beautiful woman will be his, to the end of time.
At the end of the ceremony, Caroline quietly hands her bouquet to her best friend, Jenna, kisses her cheek, and tells her she will be the next bride. Jenna's husband left her with two children, a sick mother, and no job. Sure enough, the next year, a new bank manager arrives, a wonderful man, a widower with three children. Two years later, they are married. Jenna quits her job to look after her new, merged family of husband and five children, and is deliriously happy.
After the ceremony, Jack and Caroline go to an exclusive resort on the Caribbean island of Bonaire for two weeks. The resort is lush and private, carefully landscaped to make guests feel as if they are alone in a tropical paradise. Their bungalow stands alone amid a garden of palm trees and bougainvillea, with a sundeck facing the bright Caribbean.
The restaurant's chef is one of the finest in the world, and they have most of their meals catered in the room, out on the deck.
They eat, make love, swim, make love, dance to the live music filtering through the trees from the beach club at night, and make love. Jack tries to teach Caroline to scuba dive, but she's not very good at it. She tries to teach him to dance, but he's not very good at it. They have a lot of fun, though.
They both spend the two-week honeymoon in a daze of perfect happiness and contentment.
Caroline welcomes happiness back, like an old friend who has been gone for far too long. Jack has never been happy like this, and it takes him time to adjust to this new, completely unfamiliar feeling. At times, it almost panics him, to realize how happy he is. And how connected that happiness is to Caroline.
The honeymoon also allows them time to get to know each other better, outside the pressure cooker of their intense, albeit short courtship.
Jack is amazed at Caroline's wisdom, her understanding of people, her tolerance. He understands soldiers, but is at a bit of a loss outside the military world. During the course of his lifetime, living with Caroline gives him an insight into the human heart and mind he would never have had otherwise. His politics shift a little leftwards.
Caroline learns to appreciate Jack's strength of character and sense of morality. She is delighted to know that he is a reader. He reads mainly non-fiction and mainly military history and biographies, but that's fine. She doesn't, and learns a lot from him. He has a tough, completely rational take on the world that she finds fascinating. Through the course of a lifetime her politics shift a little rightwards.
Back home, Jack dedicates himself to his new company. Being smart and intensely mission-oriented, it is soon a success. He spends a lot of time with women, teaching self-defense and security awareness. A student manages to avoid rape thanks to his lessons. She films one of his classes and puts it up on YouTube, where it gets three million hits in the first week.
A company invites Jack to produce a DVD dedicated to self-defense for women, Don't Be A Victim, and it is the second best-selling instructional DVD that year. He and Caroline donate half the proceeds to a company that produces prosthetic hands and distributes them to the children of Sierra Leone whose hands were chopped off by the revolutionary army.
Caroline's bookshop, too, First Page, does extremely well. She is finally able to dedicate some money to it, and sponsors a number of best-selling authors to come and sign books. She can afford a larger selection and starts a very successful mail-order book business.
One of the greatest joys Jack experiences is watching Caroline bring the family mansion, Greenbriars, back to life. He gives her complete carte blanche and an unlimited budget and soon the home is a showcase.
In the long, lonely years in which she cared for Toby and had to sell of the furnishings and watch the house fall apart for lack of resources, Caroline would dream of reinstating Greenbriars in all its glory, exactly as it was. But things change, life changes you.
Instead of filling the house with antiques, as her parents had done, she chooses to restore Greenbriars in Art Deco style, selecting furniture and artwork of the `30s, the time the house was designed by a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright. She chooses slowly, going to auctions and trolling eBay. It gives her such delight to do it step by step, finding exactly the right piece for the right spot. By the end of five years, Greenbriars is a showcase and Architectural Digest begs her permission to do a spread on it.
Another thing surprises Caroline. In the long, empty years, she daydreamed about not only restoring Greenbriars but also of replicating her parents' lives. Her parents had been social animals, entertaining often. Hardly a week had gone by without a dinner party, often with ten to twelve guests.
But Caroline's life has been different from that of her parents. It has been harder and lonelier and nothing can change that. Caroline finds that she doesn't need and doesn't want much of a social life. She and Jack have a few very good friends, but she finds her family and her bookshop fill her life perfectly.
By mutual agreement, she and Jack decide to wait a bit before starting a family. They don't begin trying until a year after their marriage. Caroline gets pregnant immediately, but has a miscarriage in her third month. She haemorrhages badly.
Jack stops wanting children after that, terrified that he will lose her. But Caroline badly wants children and has no problem seducing him exactly when it suits her. As soon as the doctor clears her, she gets pregnant again, in late summer.
Jack gives her a very hard time during her pregnancy. As far as he is concerned, she should spend the entire pregnancy in bed, with her feet up and with a full time housekeeper so she doesn't have to do anything. He hovers, constantly, and she hears a version of are you okay? at least a bazillion times. She is pregnant through the winter and Jack is absolutely against her driving in bad weather, which is pretty much all the time in winter in Washington state, so she has to kiss her steering wheel goodbye.
Caroline has to fight for the freedom to go into the shop, to do some light housework, to lead a normal life. Jack is exasperatingly overprotective and it is only the knowledge that he is terrified something will happen to her, and that he loves her deeply, that keeps her from stapling her goodbye note to his forehead.
But it's close.
Luckily, Caroline is in the pink of health during the pregnancy. Indeed, she blossoms. As some women do, she becomes even more beautiful. Men stop in the street and stare, even when she is in her eighth moon and looks like she swallowed a beach ball. She simply glows with happiness and joy.
Sometimes Jack sits on the couch and watches her, struck dumb by her beauty, and by the painful intensity of his love. Everything he is, everything he has, is wrapped up in her.
To everyone's relief, not least the gynaecologist's, who suspects Jack would shoot him if something happened to Caroline, the birth is an easy one, and Emma Margaret Prescott comes into the world.
Jack gingerly takes his daughter into his arms as his heart cracks wide open. He thought there was only room for Caroline in there, but he is wrong.
Emma is a beauty, with Caroline's fine features and Jack's black hair.
Now, he has two women he desperately wants to protect. It will be years before Jack settles down and learns to take his love for his two women in stride, and without suspecting danger to them at every corner.
Four years later, Eugene Prescott comes into the world.
Jack loves his children desperately, would unquestioningly die for them, thinks they are the most gorgeous and talented kids in the universe, is immensely proud of them ... but he doesn't always understand them. Certainly not as well as Caroline does.
Emma is a beautiful, bookish little girl. Her mother buys her a computer for her sixth birthday and Emma never looks back. If she were less lovely, she'd be considered a nerd. As it is, when she sprouts breasts, Greenbriars is invaded by lovesick teenaged boys. Jack has to beat them off with a stick, and Emma barely notices. She only starts noticing boys at MIT, Nerd Heaven. She marries an Indian mathematician whose IQ is off the charts.
Gene is a gifted musician. He can pick out tunes on a piano by the age of five and soon outstrips any music teachers that can be found in Summerville. Right after high school, he wins a scholarship to Juilliard. His instrument is the piano, but he can equally play the guitar, the saxophone and the clarinet. A friend asks him to write the score for his indie movie, A Lone Kingdom, and the main song, Some Other Day wins the Oscar for Best Song in 2042. Jack, Caroline and Emma and her husband are in the audience, hearts bursting with pride.
Gene marries a young Mexican writer whose third book becomes a NY Times bestseller. Jack tries a thousand times to read her books, but simply can't finish them. He loves his daughter-in-law but to the end of his life, he lies about having read her books.
Emma and her husband develop a breakthrough technology in artificial intelligence. Jack and Caroline happily provide the seed money for their new company, without really worrying about the returns. The technology is wildly successful and they get a thousand percent return on their original investment.
They have more than enough money for their needs. Their children are grown and successful in their own right. Jack and Caroline establish a foundation for the orphans of military personnel. Ten thousand youngsters are provided an education thanks to the Eugene Prescott Foundation.
Throughout their long lives, Jack and Caroline are very, very grateful for the strong love that binds them and their children together. The long, lonely years each spent before their marriage taught them that love and happiness must never be taken for granted.
In her 82nd year, Caroline suffers a stroke. There is time to call Emma, her husband and their two children and Gene, his wife and their three children. Caroline dies at home, surrounded by the people she loves and who love her. She dies with her hand in Jack's.
Jack dies of a broken heart a week later.