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Although the wedding was quiet and restrained under the circumstances, they did have a decent photo taken. But Lureen favored another picture of the two of them together, the one from that special, spirited and sunny day when they both won their events, and each other.

The photo showed them side by side, complementing and contrasting each other handsomely in the bright sunshine: Holding their first prizes, grinning proudly at the world with identical big smiles; she in her brand-new blazingly red rodeo fashions, his good looks emphasized by well-worn and muted blue-grays and black.

Nothing marred it. That moment was perfect. It was their secret real wedding photo, she would think; the lucky day when they met and everything started, their joyful and true beginning.

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Lureen would keep the photo close, prominently displayed on her nightstand. As time passed, it became a mere fixture in their home, something they’d glance at daily but wouldn’t really notice. Occasionally Jack might nevertheless pause to look at it, always with a pang of silent regret and discomfort.

Since that memorable day, there had been times when they enjoyed themselves together, instances with a sense of companionship, compatibility and comfort, though those moments had become increasingly rare and fleeting over the years. But never again had they shared that exhilarating sense of fully belonging within a moment together, or of delight in equal achievement. Never again had they felt so in love with life, soaring high in each other’s company.

There'd never again been anything similar to their feelings on that day when they’d hardly yet exchanged a full sentence’s worth of words.

To Jack’s mind that photo of their smiling young selves represented grimly conclusive proof: Their meeting that first glorious day wasn’t just a beginning, but the beginning— and the end.