This is the third in a four-part series. Here are parts one and two.

“We had a Jacuzzi every night—we had a private Jacuzzi—we’d sit on the edge, we had big bamboo and palms, and the moon was out the whole time,” Kerry said. “At the end of each day of the retreat, we’d just sit there and philosophize and share our stories. You [addressing Jan] and your ex-husband, and your other ex-husband, and I told my stories. Somewhere in the mix there were some sparks.”

“I wasn’t thinking at all about anybody else,” Kerry continued, explaining how she had hoped the trip to Mexico would help her to repair her marriage. “I was just trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do in this five year relationship that wasn’t going anywhere.”

But it didn’t turn around in Mexico, because, although Jan had traveled to Mexico earlier in the year, and had even shared a bed with a good friend (who happened to be a lesbian), this time, with Kerry, Jan felt something different. And then, on the third night she and Kerry shared a bed, getting closer and closer to crossing their invisible line, she had a dream.

“It was the night before Halloween that we had a conversation and I first felt a spark of interest,” Jan said. “I had a dream that night in which there was a fire in my kitchen. It started with just a little spark in a corner, and I was going to try to put it out and all of a sudden it just went wild. I realized there was no way I was going to control it at all, it was out of control.”

The dream was very vivid, and when Jan woke up, it seemed to her that the dream was a clear warning about what she was doing with Kerry, “that there was a little spark, and that it was going to get out of control, and that if I was going to stop it, it had to be when it was still a little spark. Otherwise it would be totally out of control.”

Jan did try to stop it. She knew Kerry’s wife, and she did not want there to be an affair. She told Kerry about the dream and said that they should try to keep things from going any further.

But things at this point had acquired the inevitability of a story, with circumstances conspiring and all of that.

“That whole day, that was an amazing day, that Halloween day,” said Jan. As she said this, she had the look of someone recalling a dream that is still so vivid and visible, it hardly needs to be recalled.

“There were 24 of us in the group, and we were going to workshops every day, but Wednesday, that one day, was a day without seminars, and it was the day we were taking an outing. All we knew about the outing was that we were going to go to the Coba ruins. We didn’t know that so many other things were going to happen on that day. I don’t know why I didn’t know that, because I was in charge of the group, but I had no idea what was going to happen that day.”

As it turned out, they got into two different vans. Kerry, because Jan had just told her about the dream and she was trying to avoid fanning the flames, went in a different van, so they were separated.

“And that was heartbreaking,” Kerry recalled. “We were so excited, like, ‘Wow, something’s happening.’ So I had to go in the other van.”

The vans headed off in different directions; the idea was that each group would do most of the day’s activities in the opposite order, and that the vans would meet up for the day’s final activity, a tour of the Coba ruins, in the Yucatan Peninsula.

“We went to the cenote, and you guys went to the rowboat and zip-line,” Kerry recalled.

“A bunch of things that, if I would have known what we were doing that day, I wouldn’t have gone,” said Jan.

That she had gone meant she spent the day at the edge of her comfort zone, focusing on the demanding activities while still feeling unsettled by her dream.

“We got on a rowboat and had to row across this lagoon—”

“That had alligators in it—” Kerry added,

“And climb up a hill where there were monkeys all over,” Jan continued, “and zip-line across the lagoon. And I would never have voluntarily zip-lined, but here I was with everybody doing this, so I did it.”

Meanwhile, the van Kerry had gone in was visiting a cenote. (Cenotes are surface connections to subterranean water bodies. They look like very small ponds in the surrounding rock and can be very deep.)

“You couldn’t see the water from the top,” Jan said. “You climbed down a ladder…”

“A big ladder, with carabineers and pulleys,” said Kerry.

Even with the harness, “it was a very scary thing,” Jan said. When Jan’s group, rowing across the lagoon away from the zip-line to go to the cenote, passed Kerry’s group, Kerry shouted to Jan that she shouldn’t attempt to climb down the cenote—the ladder was very slippery and required a lot of upper-body strength, which Kerry knew would be challenging for Jan, who has lymphedema in one arm, one of the effects of her cancer treatments.

“So I was there as a cheerleader for the other people that did it,” Jan said. “When people were coming up from that cenote, many of them were coming up in tears.”

The sheer difficulty of that day—the unexpected activities, and having to navigate them after a strange dream, apart from Kerry—was, Jan said, decisive in bringing her and Kerry closer.

“The emotion of that whole day,” Jan said, “just doing things outside the box, I think is part of what opened my heart even more.”

After each group had gone to the zip-line and cenote, they convened at a restaurant for lunch.

“And that’s when I came and told you,” Jan said, looking at Kerry, “that I was missing you, and I said I wanted to sit with you at lunch because I was missing you. That’s when we declared our attraction for each other, at lunch that day.”

After lunch, they got on their separate vans again, and the vans both headed to a village near the Coba ruins.

“The first thing we did was we got on bicycles, and I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in forever,” Jan said. It was a long bike ride to the start of the climb up the ruins, which were steep. Jan didn’t climb all the way up; Kerry did.

“It was awesome,” she said. The tops of the pyramids reached above the tree line, so she had a view of the human-made peaks jutting above dense green trees.

With wobbly legs, they climbed down, and then had to bike back to the vans. Separately, they rode to the hotel, which, when they arrived, was decked out for a Halloween blast.

day of the dead table

“It was Mexico, the next day was Day of the Dead, and everything was ceremonial and over the top,” Kerry said, “and our buddies from the retreat were all there with us, and we [she looked at Jan] are in this unique situation of falling in love … It was over the top.”

Look for part four of Love’s New Story on Friday.