Samuel glanced up, over the top of the flickering candle and
across the table, sizing up his dinner companion. Given free
reign, his eyes roamed, taking in the sandy blonde hair, the long
delicate arms and the woman's slender build, coming at last to a
stop on her large breasts. He'd done the same thing a dozen times
during the past hour, always reaching the same conclusion. He
liked what he was seeing. Suddenly, she looked up, catching him
red-handed with his eyes locked on her chest.
A knowing smile crept across Gina's face, but she went ahead and asked the question anyway. "What are you looking at?"
Samuel looked into her big blue eyes and returned the smile. "I'm checking you out."
She pointed her fork at him. "You already know what I look like."
"Yeah. But I'm envisioning you naked."
Gina clapped her napkin over her mouth just in time to keep her food from escaping as she burst out laughing. At last she was able to swallow her food, and, still laughing, she laid her fork on the table and sat back in her chair, folding her arms across her chest. "You've also seen me naked before."
It was true. He had. On more than one occasion. But that was a lifetime ago.
He smiled again. "You look really good. Still look the same naked?"
She laughed again, even louder this time. "That was 26 years, two marriages, and two children ago. What do you think?"
"I'm inclined to think yes."
"Good answer," she said, her words accompanied by another smile. "I like that, so you just keep thinking that way. Now, would you care to change the subject?"
They both laughed again and the subject moved on. They spoke of other things. Teachers and friends from school days. Family. Careers. Who had or hadn't done what. An upcoming high school reunion.
It was shaping up to be a wonderful evening between two old friends.
It hadn't started out that way. For Samuel, it had started with a case of the nerves. And that didn't happen very often. So why should he be nervous now?
Well, for starters, there was more than a bit of history between them. Dating on and off all the way through junior high and then through high school, a few months after graduation they had somehow drifted apart. It was no big deal, they both knew that eventually they'd be together again. But it never happened. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed, she was engaged to another man and Samuel had no idea what to do. So he had done the dumbest thing possible; he did nothing. Even worse, he maintained his silence and let the wedding proceed. Gina was married for the next 17 years.
Gina's memory haunted Samuel. She was in his thoughts more than
he cared to admit and he wondered if he had done the right thing.
And he continued to wonder, right through a string of good and
bad, short and long-term relationships that left him perpetually
single and raising a daughter on his own.
Gina had done much of the same wondering, often dreaming of Samuel as she slept next to her husband. He knew this, because she had told him so. After her first divorce, she and Samuel had spoken to each other on the phone quite a bit and even managed to make it to a movie together, but circumstances conspired against them, and that's as far as things went. Demands of children and work took precedence, and there was precious little time left for anything else. Perhaps they could have forced something to happen, and they'd almost tried to, but eventually they both chalked it up to bad timing and got on with their lives. Then Gina was married again, this time for five years. Samuel hadn't seen her for the last six years, but after her second divorce, a chance meeting at the mall had resulted in the usual small talk and a mutual agreement to meet again. Now here they were, meeting again for a dinner date at a nice restaurant overlooking the lake. To get caught up, they told each other, almost managing to convince themselves of it.
It was a ruse.
It went unspoken, but each of them knew what they were really there for; to see if there was anything at all left between them. Might there be any scrap left over, any hint of feelings for each other that could be salvaged, a tiny foundation of something that perhaps could be nurtured and built upon? Five minutes after seeing each other this evening, they could both tell that this time something was different. As they sat and chatted, it was almost as if a dam had burst wide open and the old feelings came flooding back to the surface, just as strong as ever. The lost years melted away, inconsequential, as if they had never been. The nerves were gone.
This time, nothing was strained. There was no concern about what time it might be, when one of them would have to leave to take a little one to a ballgame or pick them up at a friend's house. Schooling was over and done with. The children were grown, self-sufficient now. Work was forgotten. The evening was theirs and theirs alone, to do with as they wished. It was a relaxing, laid back atmosphere, shared by two adults completely at ease with one another, two people who enjoyed being together. It was comfortable and familiar, yet new and exciting. There was nothing forced about this. This time it felt natural. It just felt right.
The evening wore on, and Samuel began to realize that this wasn't the same old Gina that he used to love. As he got to know her all over again, he discovered even more that he liked about the fun-loving, mature, fully developed woman she had become. He could sense his feelings growing even stronger, forging a deeper connection, almost on a spiritual level. And he knew that she was feeling the same.
They took their time, lingering long after the meal was finished and the waitress had cleared the table. It was easy to find things to talk about, and dozens of subjects were discussed and laughed about.
At last they departed the restaurant, continuing their conversation as they meandered down the jogging pathways that snaked along the lake shore. It wasn't long before their hands brushed against each other's in the darkness. When it happened again, their fingers became intertwined and they were perfectly content to continue their journey hand-in-hand.
Before long, they found themselves at the water's edge and there was nowhere else to go. Standing side-by-side, still holding each other's hand, they stared out at the lake's surface, watching the reflections of the city lights dancing on the ripples and echoing off into the distance.
Each of them lost in their own thoughts, they stood there for a few minutes until Samuel broke the silence. "Tell me something," he said quietly. "How likely is it that here in a couple of hours we're going to be in some fancy hotel room, lying in bed next to each other looking up at the ceiling and thinking, Wow, that was really something?"
Gina turned her head and stared at him for a moment. "You must think I'm really easy, to just jump in bed like that with a guy on the first date."
"This isn't our first date. And you know me better than that, you know exactly what I think of you and how I feel about you. What I'm thinking, and what you're thinking, is that it's going to happen, and there's not one thing that you, or I, or anyone else in the world can do to stop it."
Gina continued looking up at him as she considered her response. "Maybe you don't know me as well as you think you do." She flashed a coy smile, turned and walked away.
Samuel watched her go, smiling to himself. "You do know that I'm watching your butt," he called out.
He couldn't see the even bigger smile on Gina's face as she continued down the sidewalk.
Samuel waited a few seconds, then caught up to her and grabbed her arm, pulling her off the pathway and over beneath a tree. His arms found their way around her and pulled her to him as their lips met in the darkness. It was a brief kiss, followed by a second one as she reciprocated, fastening her arms around his waist. Then came another; one that was longer, slower and deeper, a kiss that sent their pulse rates soaring. Passionate, tender, full of long simmering desire, the kiss was broken only when Gina's hands clenched onto Samuel's butt, sending him into a laughing fit
He quickly returned the gesture, grabbing onto her cheeks and pulling her tightly against him, staring into her eyes.
Gina looked up at Samuel and a big grin spread across her face. "You might be right, about what's going to happen, but I don't come cheap. That hotel room better have a Jacuzzi tub."
Samuel smiled and playfully pinched her nose. "That can be arranged. Come on," he said, taking her hand and heading toward the parking lot. They had gone less than a dozen steps when Samuel stopped and turned toward her. "Before this goes any further, there's something that I think I'd better tell you."
Gina noticed that he was no longer smiling. "This sounds serious."
Samuel nodded his head as he reached out, taking both of her hands into his. "What you need to know is that this time I'm not letting you go. There's no way that you're getting away from me again."
Gina smiled, then pulled his face down and kissed him. "I think I'm pretty okay with that," she murmured.
He kissed her again, and, with the matter settled, they turned and started walking. Her arm circled his waist and his arm closed around her, pulling her tightly against him as they headed toward their destiny, natural as could be.