Is this love?
“Wait, there’s more. Then there was dancing!”
Julia sighed and Sam beamed. Even Prince Toby could make my cynical friend almost swoon. We were sitting in our favourite cafe, our usual meeting place for lunch. Usually we met Fridays, but my date brought it forward, as it seemed, both my best friends, were anxious for details.
“When I didn’t see you yesterday or this morning, I wondered how well things had gone,” Julia said.
Sam simply stared at me, probably flabbergasted by the prospect that I may have done what I usually considered taboo.
“You’re jumping ahead, Julia,” I said in a mock scornful tone.
“Those are the details I want to know!” Julia said. I looked from her to Sam but didn’t continue. “Fine, tell us the rest first.”
“When he asked me to dance, I couldn’t believe it.”
“I bet he’s a great dancer too.” Julia sighed.
“He is.” I grinned.
“So what happened next?”
“Then we had a picnic during interval. He had it packed in the car.”
“Unbelievable,” Sam mumbled.
Both Julia and I turned to her, surprised by her lack of disparagement, and what sounded like awe. The ice queen had melted.
“Keep going,” Julia said and their attention became refocused on me.
“Well... after the movie was finished, we stayed for a while, talking about family and work. Now I think about it, I talked about family and work. He didn’t say much about his.”
“What does he do?” Sam asked the doubting tone returning. I knew she needed something to make him less perfect, to prove her theory that all men are toads.
“He works in sales.”
“He didn’t say.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little strange?”
“No.” I sounded defensive. “It was only our first date.”
“You slept with him though! I can tell. You’re all flushed and twittery.”
“Details!” Julia said.
“He’s considerate...and passionate.”
“When are you seeing him again?” Julia asked her voicing reaching the high screeched tone reminding me of a cat. Her blonde ringlets danced around her summer blue eyes. With an impatient exhale she blew the errant curls away from her face and stared at me.
“He’s picking me up from work.”
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know. He said he wanted to surprise me, again!”
Julia sighed. Sam rolled her eyes.
“Be careful,” Sam muttered.
“I will but he really is...”
“Perfect. That is what worries me.” Sam stood up and threw some money on the table. “I gotta go. Mr ‘I don’t know what breath freshener is’ has left me a pile of work.”
Sam worked as clerk for a law firm. One of the lawyers, real name Clive Jamison, always went to Sam when he had briefs for typing. Sam decided it was some sort of karma for her flagrant disregard for men as a whole. The sleaziest, most foul smelling man in the office seemed focussed on her. The much younger and hunkier new hot shot in the office, the one she’d fantasised about, ignored her completely. This only proved to Sam that men were either gross or the good ones only dated the beautiful. Though why the spunky new lawyer wouldn’t be interested in her is beyond me. Her flame coloured hair, hazel eyes and porcelain skin, certainly made her stand out in a crowd. Maybe it was the keep away expression that did it.
“I have to go too,” Julia said. “See you tonight.”
After they left, I sat staring out the window, watching the people rush by. Sam’s caution sounded in my mind and I wondered, did I need to be careful? There were things Toby didn’t tell me about his life. He mentioned his family, but there was something in his tone when he mentioned his mother, yet he didn’t elaborate. Whenever the discussion leaned towards something personal, he simply diverted the conversation back to me. I knew far less about him than he did me. I shook off these thoughts. It was only our first date, which simply reminded me again that we spent most of the weekend in bed. I knew I should be wary, worried that I may not see him again. Was I a notch on his bedpost? No. There had been a real connection. His passion and tenderness was real. With a sigh, I stood up and went back to work. I wasn’t going to let doubt ruin what had been the best weekend I’d had in a very long time, maybe ever. The end of the day couldn’t come fast enough.
As promised, he was waiting for me when I locked up, red roses in hand. Sigh! A relieved breath followed the sigh. He came, it wasn’t a weekend fling. Mr Dreamy stared at me in the same intense way. Things couldn’t be better.
After taking me home, so I could change and place my flowers in water, we drove towards the beach. The summer breeze was warm as it blew my hair through the window. All the while I listened as Toby chatted comfortably seemingly unaware of the effect he had on me. Thoughts of bronzed flesh and taut muscles flowed through my mind as tiny flashes and glimpses. Hot breath at the nape of my neck, soft kisses up my legs and passionate hands and tongues rendered me speechless as I listened to his deep voice. I realised I had taken in little of what he’d said when he turned to me looking puzzled. He must have asked me a question and my silence confused him.
“Sorry,” I said. “I was miles away.”
“I can see that. What are you thinking about?”
Heat warmed my face as shyness overcame me. What was I going to say to him? I can’t stop thinking about your naked body.
“I’ve been thinking about you all day too,” he said.
“You were?” Though I didn’t think it at all possible, I blushed further.
“Yes and I plan to do it all again too.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
I decided I needed to change the subject before I did something that would get us arrested or cause him to drive into a tree.
“You mentioned you used to go to the movies in the park with your family.”
“If you want to ask me anything you can.” His warm smile gave me the courage.
“You didn’t mention your dad.”
“Yeah, he’s not around.”
“Yes, when I was ten, my sister, Hannah, seven and Jacob, five. Cancer.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” My heart ached for him. I could sympathise but never imagine the pain of losing a parent. The thought of losing my sister is one I don’t like to let enter my mind.
“It’s okay,” he said with a soft smile. “It was a while ago now... I guess I became the man of the family. We managed somehow.”
“That must have been difficult.”
“Yes and no. We are close so it wasn’t so bad.”
Further questions were averted by our arrival, and although Toby said everything was good, I sensed it wasn’t. There was more. I was also aware that we’ve just met and confiding in me may be premature. As he helped me from the car, I thought again, how his chivalry appeared to be second nature, for he’d had little male guidance. This simply gave more credit to his mother, raising his princely rating a notch.
He took my hand as we strolled towards the shore and in the waning light, amongst the pinks and purples of sunset, his black hair shone. Contentment coursed through my blood, and warmed my insides like a shot of whiskey on a frosty day. Compatible chatter followed while we watched the sun disappear and change the water to a deep blue, reminding me of his eyes. We found a spot to sit and watch the moonlight dancing across the gentle waves. Something in his expression gave me the courage to ask more.
“Why don’t you go to the park anymore with your family?”
Turning his gaze from the ocean to me, I saw sadness hanging heavy in his eyes.
“Our mum is sick.”
“Oh no, I’m so sorry.” This I hadn’t expected. Busy lives and time constraints crossed my mind, but not this.
“It’s Alzheimer’s. She’s in a nursing home, as the illness goes, she has good days and bad days. The days she remembers we consider taking her home, but the memories are usually fleeting so it makes it difficult.” His voice remained steady as he told me about her illness but the pain behind the words couldn’t be masked. The difficulties his family faced, the pain at being unrecognisable to his mother, lay just beneath the surface. My heart broke for him.
I couldn’t find the right words to express how much I ached for him so instead, I placed a comforting hand on his and listened. Sensing my concern, he unloaded his burdens from the beginning to the present day. When the illness first began, before she was diagnosed, how strange and difficult it was, to present day when they didn’t know when visiting how she would be, particularly on the days when she recalled her husband still being alive. Her ebbing and fading memory often scared or angered her and had changed her so that she was only a faint shell of what she used to be.
“I’m sorry to unload on you,” he said when the words had all tumbled out, and there weren’t any more to tell.
“I don’t mind. You can talk to me anytime. I know this sounds crazy and we have only just met but...” I trailed off, suddenly shy again.
“I understand. I feel it too.”
His fingers caressed my face and then my hair before his lips devoured mine. Pain and passion guiding him, I had never felt closer to anyone in my entire life.