Thursday, September 17, 2009

LS - pt 3

She sighed, and just enjoyed the moment, him sitting close beside her, dreading closing time as much as she was.

As if her brain was helping her along, the Elvis Presley tune “It’s Now or Never” started playing in her head. She couldn’t just let this night end here, hoping for a phone number or a second date, no matter what any relationship book or well-intentioned friend might have urged.

“So...” Kate began, not quite sure how to finish. Smiling into his half empty glass, and scooping out an ice cube, he picked up where she had left off. “You ready to head home yet?” She held back a smile, and managed to respond with a nonchalant “Not really.”

He gave her a sly little smile. “Neither am I. Let’s go.” With that, he stood up, downed the rest of his water and grabbed her by the hand. She grabbed her purse just before he helped her out of the booth, and asked him where they were going. “You let me worry about the details” he mysteriously replied, and at that point she was glad she was a step behind him, because the smile on her face would have told him more than he needed to know at that point.

He led Kate out the front door to the parking lot, and right up to a nicely restored, black ’65 Mustang. Opening the passenger door for her, he bowed and said “After you.” “Why thank you, sir” she offered back, and with a little curtsy she lowered herself into the car. As he shut the door, reality struck. It was almost 2am, and she would need to be getting home soon. Why couldn’t this all have started sooner?

She felt the car jostle slightly as he opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat. He flashed another one of those brilliant smiles and started the car. The engine rumbled with a smooth, loud purr as he backed out of his spot. She was obviously still thinking about her curfew, because he caught a hint of it on her face. “What’s wrong? Are you nervous?” he teased. She relaxed a bit at that, inhaling deep and enjoying the antique smell of the vintage car. “That’s not it” Kate said. “It’s just that… well, I can’t be out too much later.” She was sure that he picked up on her disappointment. She just hoped it didn’t come across too strong. “Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ll get you back to your car before pumpkin time.” She giggled a little, and he laughed in return, placing his hand on her thigh, just above her knee, and giving her a little squeeze. She caught her breath at that moment, not expecting so friendly a touch from him. But she was so glad he did it.

From then on they drove in silence to the mysterious destination he had in mind. It wasn’t an uncomfortable silence, though. The windows were down, allowing the night breeze to flow freely throughout the car; the air was dry and the perfect mix of cool and warm. He hadn’t removed his hand from her thigh yet, and so Kate took a chance and moved her left hand alongside her leg just close enough to barely brush his fingers, and he did just as she hoped, taking her hand in his, lacing his fingers between hers. She felt her heart race a little and smiled, but out of the corner of her eye caught him glancing over at her. Kate’s gaze met Wyatt’s, and gave her a wink as he squeezed her hand. So far, this had been the perfect night.

As they came up to a stoplight Kate looked around and noticed they were near the entrance to the state park. Wyatt yielded then continued, taking a right at the light. Just past that light, though, he took a quick left and she knew where he was going. It was a little wooded area right along the Rock River where casual fishers sometimes visited. Kate remembered fishing there a time or two.

Coming down the winding drive to the parking stalls, Wyatt pulled up and parked horizontal to the curb, ignoring the faded lines marking how he should park, and turned off the car. “Come on” he said, as he reached across her midsection with his free hand, letting the weight of his body rest heavy against hers. Then he flipped up the handle and opened her door from the inside. Before she knew it, he was back in his seat and opening his own door. Kate set her purse on the floorboard and stepped out of the car. She was almost immediately met by Wyatt, who had swiftly arrived just in time to shut her door for her. He once again took her by the hand and headed down to the edge of the tree line and toward the river. ‘I like this’ Kate thought to herself as she followed Wyatt to the water’s edge. It was a full moon that night, and it reflected off the still, glassy surface of the river like a bright white sun.

She found herself mesmerized by it, almost as she had been by Wyatt at the beginning of the night. That had her following him blindly, without any care of her own about watching her step. As luck would have it, her luck anyway, her right foot met up with a firmly planted but upraised root and she nearly fell, face first, into the moist earth. Nearly, that is, because somehow she ended up in Wyatt’s arms instead. He had managed to take a knee and scoop her up into his arms before she actually hit the ground, or even came close.

“Whoops” he said, as he chuckled softly. Kate began to protest about the dark of the night and the height of the root, but Wyatt simply held up a finger and mouthed “Shhh.” He lifted Kate to her feet with ease and walked her, his arm securely around her waist, a little further until they came to a tree. It was alive, but partially uprooted. The trunk of the lazy tree lay across the ground, as the branches raised upward, rising higher as they jutted out over the water.

The first of the branches were low and strong enough to hold both of them. Instead, Wyatt gentlemanly held her hand and helped her atop the nearest branch. It was high enough so that they were now about eye level with each other. From her perch she stared out at the eerily calm water and shivered slightly. It wasn’t chilly, really, but there was a cool breeze that the fabric of her three-quarter sleeve shirt wasn’t able to fend off. Wyatt moved into position behind her and wrapped his arms around her body snugly. The heat coming from his body warmed her with a quickness, and she could have melted right there in his arms.

Just then, he leaned in and whispered in her ear. “This is one of my favorite places in the whole world”, he admitted. “It’s beautiful”, Kate agreed. “But it’s so much more than that!” With a childlike excitement, he continued. “Close your eyes, Kate”, he whispered. She of course obeyed. Craning his neck to make sure she did as he asked, he went on. “Now, just listen.”
Kate took a deep breath and did just that. The breeze brushed across her body a little more noticeably, she thought, but that might just be a heightening of her senses. She could hear the leaves rustle softly, but distinctly, all around her, and she could even hear the occasional splash of a fish jumping out of the water somewhere nearby. The normally overpowering song of the cicadas sounded more rhythmic, melodic even, with the croak of some amphibian breaking into the melody now and again.

She could smell the moisture in the air, mixed with the crispness of the cool foliage, the earthy aroma of the moist ground, and the scent of him. It was some cologne, to be sure, but she couldn’t tell which, but there was also something more, something… warm, spicy, and sweet. And even though the scent was faint now, it was almost intoxicating. Mixed with the natural scents in the night air it was downright exhilarating.

She reached her arms around her waist, tracing the length of his arms. Finally reaching his hands, she laced her fingers between his. She could hear her heart, thumping louder and faster in her chest as he rested his chin on her shoulder and wrapped his arms tighter around her. He drew her body closer to his own with that, and she could feel the thumping of his heart against her back. She could have sworn she felt it quicken when hers did.

As she sat there, taking in deep lung fulls of his luscious scent and leaning back into his sturdy frame, a sobering thought came into focus. Sitting up like a shot she asked “What time is it?” “Almost 2:45.” “Gah!” She sighed heavily as she slumped back into his arms for one last time. “I hate to say this, but… I’ve got to go.”

She was expecting words when his body replied instead. He swept her up into her arms and turned back to face the way they came and started heading back. “That’s okay, it is getting pretty late. Besides, I knew I couldn’t keep you out here forever.” He looked down at her and gave her his goofy, playful smile again, and she couldn’t help but giggle. If it had been some other time in her life, she would have gladly stayed at her perch in that tree, in his arms until morning.

As it was, she was glad for the time they had. And she liked where she was now: her less than frail frame draped across his arms, being whisked away effortlessly back to his car. ‘He really makes great time’ she mused, seeming to recall that it took much longer to get to the tree than it had taken to get back to his car.

He set her on her feet and opened her door for her once again as he headed around to the other side and got in himself. The sound of their doors slamming shut echoed as one, and before she knew it the car had rumbled to life and they were heading back up the twisting little exit and back to the main road. As he checked for traffic he caught a glimpse of the disappointment on her face, and replaced his hand back on her thigh, palm up this time, beckoning with his fingers for her hand. She smiled and placed her hand on his, and they rode in silence back to Kate’s car.

She was starting to get butterflies in her stomach as they cruised closer and closer to the bar where they had started, and of course, her car, because it meant that all of this would soon end. So the butterflies weren’t the welcome kind, but more like the nerve-wracking how-will-I-know-if-I’ll-ever-see-him-again kind. She hated this feeling, because it meant that she had let herself fall too hard, too fast for this guy whom she barely knew. Not that she was a stranger to this sort of thing, but it never ended well when it started this way.

Kate could tell by the scenery that they were mere minutes from her car. Her brain raced to think of some plan, or scheme, or Hail Mary play that might guarantee her another meeting with Wyatt. He must have sensed something was going on. Wyatt squeezed Kate’s hand again, running his thumb back and forth across the back of her hand and smiled, never taking his eyes from the road. “There’ll be other nights” he reassured her. She let out a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding and her heart jumped a beat because, as had happened so many other times tonight, his words seemed to come in answer to her thoughts.

But then a slew of crazy thoughts started running through her head, thoughts of Wyatt as a serial killer, a married man just looking for fun, and a number of other equally ridiculous possibilities. Fortunately, her better sense broke through her tirade of insane thoughts. ‘Why am I doing this? Isn’t this what I’ve hoped for all night: a second date?’ It had been, of course. Honestly, after a night like tonight she’d have liked nothing short of a marriage proposal, but she would settle for another night with him.

Wyatt pulled into the lot and began, “So, let me guess…” He let the car idle in place for a moment as they both spotted the only car left in the lot. She laughed a nervous little chuckle and squeezed his hand. He laughed, too, as he pulled up along the driver’s side of her car and threw the gear into park. She grabbed her purse and checked the floor by her feet, making sure she wasn’t forgetting anything. She was also trying to stall for time. In fact, she was so engrossed in her stalling technique that she didn’t even notice he had gotten out of the car and already made his way over to her side. She gasped and practically leapt out of her seat when her door swung open.

“Lose something?” Wyatt asked. “Nope. Just making sure I have everything.” Kate quickly stepped out of the car, but not before she took Wyatt’s outstretched hand. He still had a hold of it after he had shut her door, and he gently spun her around to face him directly. “Kate” he said, in that silky tone she remembered from earlier this evening, “I had an amazing time tonight.” His eyes shone and twinkled as he spoke, and she saw the tiniest hint of him biting his lower lip. She couldn’t tear her eyes from his face. She reached down and grabbed for his other hand. “So did I. It was really one of the best times I’ve had in a long time.” Kate looked down as she embarrassingly admitted that last bit, but Wyatt reached up and took her face in his left hand. He traced his fingers along her jaw from her ear to her chin, held her chin between his fingers and lifted her head so she’d be looking at him once again. “Let’s do this again sometime.” Wyatt smiled at her and, with her hand still in his, placed their hands around her waist. “Deal.”

Wyatt let go of her chin and let his hand wander around to the back of her neck where her started running his fingers through her hair and pulled her in close for a hug. He freed her other hand so she could wrap her arms around him. She couldn’t pinpoint what she was feeling at that moment. She felt warm. She felt safe. And she felt, she knew, that he was different. She could tell that he just might be the real deal. Everything about him, his words, his touch, his eyes, they held so much honesty that she gave up trying to fight against it. At least for right now, for that moment, she was going to enjoy him.

But with a kiss on the top of her head, Wyatt did what Kate would have had a hard time doing. “Time to go, Kate”, he said, then gave her one last big squeeze and let her go. “I’ll see you again soon, don’t worry.” He winked at her as he said this, opening her door for her. He made sure she was in, then shut her door and headed back around to his side of the car. Kate rifled through her purse for her keys, tossing the bag on the passenger seat after she found them. She started the car and rolled down her window, wanting to say one more goodbye, but he was already gone. She sat there just a minute before pulling out and heading back to her place. Man, he was quick when he put his mind to it.

Luckily for her she didn’t live far, because she was getting pretty tired. As she pulled up in front of her house, she put parked the car and checked the time on her phone: 3:10am. “Crap!” She got out of the car and ran up the stairs to her front door, jamming the key clumsily in the slot and finally managing to get the door open. The lights were off but the TV was still on. “Sorry I’m so late, hon“, Kate said as she shut the door behind her.

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