Have you ever returned from a vacation and found the walk to open your front door one of the finest feelings in your life? I know that I did as I inserted the key in the lock and opened my door breathing in the invigorating scent of the ocean that permeated my house. The only thing missing was my faithful feline Ferdy. I had dropped him off with Jane, who he thankfully adored, the morning I left town. Now six weeks later, all I wanted to do was pick up my fur ball pet and hug him.
My vacation had been marvellous. I’d spent the first week visiting with Alex and chatting over old times. It was cathartic in many ways as I’d mentioned seeing Sally Maguire after all those years. The strange thing was, she had a totally different memory of the woman than I had. So much so that I thought at first she was thinking of a totally different person. She hadn’t been. Her view was that Sally had been popular in school, but she hadn’t been mean with it like some others she could mention. In fact, she even indicated that she thought Sally had been somewhat distant to the circle that had constantly craved her attention. Most incredulous was her thought that Sally used to watch me from a distance. Of course she was wrong and we agreed to disagree. At the end of the day, we both decided that those heady innocent days were over and we were all different people now.
Once my week with Alex was over, I emailed Jane to say I was extending my vacation from the initial four weeks to six. She replied that I was to take as much time as I needed. Then, I went on a walking holiday around Canada. It was invigorating and something I’d wanted to do for a long time.
After I had arrived in Hong Kong, I was glad that the walking had built up my stamina for I needed it to keep up the pace with the locals, not to mention Stella and her partner Kara. They seemed to have a function or a party to attend every night of the week. I thought it was for my benefit and I think it was for the most part, although they did have a heavy social calendar. Stella had been right I loved every second with them, though I confess that when it was time to leave I was glad to be finally going home. I needed the rest!
Now I was back and I did want to catch up on all the news that happened while I was gone no matter how insignificant an event. I checked my voice mail, fortunately for me Jane had surveyed the house regularly, and deleted the cold callers leaving only the important ones. My parent's message said they were amazed that I’d gone on vacation without any warning. I knew I’d have to call them before the day was over. The other calls were friends who contacted me from time to time and I’d call them back over the weekend. It was Thursday, and I could take the rest of the week off.
After I had taken a shower, I threw the first load into the washing machine to begin the laborious task after my weeks away. I missed Ferdy and decided to call Jane and ask if she minded my picking him up then.
Her answer of, it's good to hear your voice,come on over, had me climbing into the car and heading for her house at the other end of the town. As I pressed the bell I heard a familiar sound, the meowing of my missing Ferdy. Seconds later the door opened and Ferdy must have known I was going to be there as he sidled around Jane’s legs and circled mine for attention. He wasn’t disappointed as I picked him up and cuddled him close to me.
“I missed you Ferdy, have you been a good boy? Hi Jane, thanks for looking after him.” I grinned widely. I was pleased to see them both.
Jane watched me affectionately stroke the cat and then spoke, “You look wonderful Angela. Your vacation has been great for you. If you have the time, why not stay a while and have a coffee. You can tell me all about your trip.”
I wanted to go home and rest but Jane sounded so hopeful. What will it hurt if I spent a little time with her? It will be good to catch up on what had happened since I left. “Sure thing then you can tell me all the local gossip.”
Settling into one of Jane’s comfortable leather sofas I waited for my friend to fetch the coffee, and as always with Jane, the cookies. Neither one of us could resist the temptation, especially the chocolate covered cookies Jane baked every week. She once said that the only reason I employed her was because she kept me supplied with delicious cookies at work. In fact, Jane’s talents in that department had been missed on more than one occasion when I was travelling. Not that I was going to tell her that. I smiled tickling Ferdy under the chin as he relaxed happily on my lap.
“I’ve baked your favourites Angela, chocolate chip cookies.”
I laughed out loud at her comment and she stared at me for a moment. Probably wondering what she had said that was so funny. I held my hand up and without dislodging Ferdy I reached for one of her treats. “I’ve missed your cookies Jane, I was just thinking that a few seconds ago and what happens you must have read my mind.”
With a delighted smile, Jane sank down into her recliner. I saw the pleasure my comment gave her in her eyes, which sparkled as she sipped her coffee. “I thought you might enjoy a change of cuisine after your Asian trip with good old faithful calorie laden chocolate chip cookies.”
We both burst out laughing and I know I looked down at my figure, which fortunately hadn’t gained as many pounds as I expected. Thank god, it wasn’t easy these days to get rid of any excess weight, must be the slowing of my metabolism as I became older.
Half an hour later I had regaled her with the basics of my trip. I didn’t want to go into too much detail as we had many hours in the office when I could fill in all the gaps.
“All that catching up, Angela has done you the world of good. You were beginning to look peaky before you left.”
I shrugged as Ferdy, who decided he wanted to be in his basket by the radiator, jumped off my lap. “Well, winter is never a good time to look your best. Though I did have a fabulous time and it was wonderful to catch up with old friends. Now I’m ready to catch up on what’s been happening here and most importantly have we sold any property while I’ve been gone?”
I snagged another delicious cookie and bit into it as she began to speak. "The Grey House has been sold," she said and I almost choked on a chocolate chip.
“What, when, who bought it?” I spluttered out in a fit of coughing.
Jane gave a mock look of surprise, “Angela anyone would think that you didn’t want to sell the house.”
Finally dislodging the offending piece that was stuck in my throat I stared at her in amazement. My one thought was, why didn’t she mentioned it in one of the emails she occasionally sent me?
“I do, I did. Why, that’s wonderful news. The next question I’m going to ask is who to?” My heart was beating a heavy tattoo as I waited for Jane to answer me. I wanted to hear only one name, even if it might cause me more heart searching than I wanted.
“Angela, as if you had to ask, Ms. Maguire bought it. She called me that Sunday morning and agreed to pay the asking price subject to an engineer's report. I wanted to tell you immediately, but we agreed not to bother you unless it was urgent. Doing the job I’m paid for was hardly something I’d call urgent.”
As I listened, I wondered if calling to agree the sale on Sunday had been for my benefit. Perhaps she thought that I would be in the office and wanted to speak with me rather than Jane. I mentally smote my hand against my brow, calling myself a stupid idiot. What reason would she possibly have for doing such a thing? No, I had to think about this sale as I did all the others, in a totally professional manner.
“When do we complete the sale?”
Jane, complete with a smug grin, immediately replied, “A week last Friday, she moved in that Saturday. I haven’t seen her since. Although I must check to make sure everything is okay. However, from the lack of communication with her I’d say she’s happy with her purchase.”
To say I was taken aback would be the best description. I know if all things are in order a sale can be done quickly. As I digested Jane’s explanation, I had the distinct impression inside that I’d been away months instead of weeks. Finally I found my voice, as I placed my cup on the coffee table, “I can do that. I’ll kill two birds with one stone when I take my jog on the beach before I come into the office tomorrow. I’ll pass by the Grey House and check if you want me to?”
Waiting for Jane to agree felt like minutes instead of the few seconds. Finally she smiled her agreement.
Shortly afterwards Ferdy and I were heading home. As I drove the couple of miles to my house I felt a nervous excitement building in the pit of my stomach as I thought of meeting Sally Maguire again.
* * *
As I jogged towards the Grey House that morning I had time to contemplate the rather odd conversation I’d had with my mother. Dad had been at one of his club meetings and hadn’t been able to shed any light, or should I say clarity, to my mother’s words.
“Darling what a time to take a vacation and you never told us!”
“Mother, it was a spur of the moment decision and I’d been considering catching up with Alex for ages.” We spent several minutes chatting about Alex and her family, which appeared to appease my mother somewhat. I then began to tell her about my Hong Kong trip and seeing Stella again. Big mistake! My mother immediately had that cold look in her eyes. I know how can I know that when she was hundreds of miles away and we were not in each others physical presence? Ah, but isn’t it the same the world over with your own mother that particular tone in her voice had always been accompanied by an icy blast. I closed my eyes for a few moments then asserted myself. I wasn’t a child and my mother's abhorrence of my taste in friends was hardly her concern. I carried on and probably laboured the trip far more than I would have normally, but disapproving mothers were not what I wanted to arrive home to.
“You didn’t have to stay so long especially with that woman! Not after what your father and I arranged.” I had to smile when she called Stella 'that woman'. I could narrate at length the number of times she had called my ex-lover that expression. I will give my mother credit she wasn’t afraid to share her disapproval of Stella and my friendship. Stella, for her part, shrugged off the barbed comments and took it in her stride. I was the only one embarrassed by my parent and I suppose she was one of the factors why Stella and I split up in the end. Not that I had ever told my mother about the romantic part of my friendship with Stella. I think she would have had a heart attack and it would have given her even more ammunition to throw around about Stella’s character.
“That’s not a nice thing to say Mother, particularly since Stella has gone to the trouble of sending you a gift.” I glanced over to the coffee table and spied a brightly wrapped package that was there for my mother.
I heard a few discreet coughs and then my mother composed herself. “Really, that was very nice of her.”
My smile grew wider as that was the most I was going to receive in apology for her un-friendly attitude to my old friend. Then my brain deciphered something she had said at the beginning of the conversation. “What did you and dad arrange?”
There was silence at the other end of the line and then my mother quickly ended the conversation. “Sorry dear I have to go, I’ll have your father call you back at the weekend.”
It had been a rather strange conversation but that was not unusual for my mother, especially when it concerned my friends. Anyone would think she was the final arbiter when it came to approval of them. My jogging stopped as I neared the gated wall that led to the Grey House patio. It was probably locked and that meant I’d have to walk a couple of hundred yards to find an easy spot to pitch onto the main road leading to the front of the house. I turned the handle and heaved a sigh of relief - it was open. Maybe I should have called first…oops, too late.
“Good morning I wasn’t expecting a visitor.” Sally Maguire spoke quietly as she stared into my eyes taking in every inch of me in my jogging attire. With cheeks beginning to sting a crimson colour, I stood holding the gate while half in, half out of her patio area.
“Hi Sally, sorry if I’ve arrived at a bad time. Jane mentioned she hadn’t checked to see if everything was okay now that you’ve settled in. I said I would stop by during my jog this morning. If it’s inconvenient…”
“Angela, it’s a pleasure to see you. Please take a seat. Want any juice or coffee?” My toes curled as she said my name in her soft tone which for me was much sexier than anything else I recalled from our youth.
I closed the gate behind me and sat down gratefully in one of the wrought iron chairs surrounding the table. “Thanks, I’d appreciate orange juice. Coffee doesn’t sit well when I’m jogging.”
Watching Sally pour me a glass of juice, allowed me, with this simple task, to become captivated by her tapering fingers. Lots of thoughts most definitely not for public consumption, travelled through my mind. It was most disconcerting.
“I was going to offer you breakfast, but I guess that definitely would be a no, no.” Sally passed me the glass and I wanted to touch her fingers desperately. Fortunately I had the strength to keep that demon temptation under control.
“Thanks, but no thanks, maybe another time.” I was hopeful, you couldn’t blame a girl. Maybe Sally needed friends in town. Most of them that she had known back then had either moved away or were married and settled in their suburban lives. I guess I was making assumptions again, what do I know. The big question was why she had come back at all.
“Your associate explained that you had taken a vacation, you look refreshed.”
Ok, had I really looked like a mangy dog a few weeks ago? This was beginning to get to me, although I wasn’t going to allow my discomfort to stop my first real conversation with Sally. “I am. I meet up with old friends and visited Hong Kong. It is a place in the world I haven’t been to before.”
“Hong Kong, what did you think of the teeming masses?”
“You’ve been?” I was astonished, and yet I shouldn’t have been. Again what, did I know of that last thirty years of her life, absolutely nothing?
With a slight smile she bit into a hot buttered croissant. I stared in fascination, as she used her napkin on the offending butter that marked her lips. “Yes, it was a while ago now. Several years in fact, I was working in Asia for my…a company. It is a fascinating insight into a totally different culture. Did you visit anywhere else in Asia while you were on the continent?”
I wanted to follow through on her hesitation in the company reply but left it for the moment. “ Singapore for a couple of days, I’d like to visit Asia again, maybe find a tour that suits me.”
Sally nodded and then staring intently at me as she spoke, “I love it and everything is perfect, especially now.”
I was taken off guard for a moment. Did she sayespecially now? Did that have anything to do with me? There I go dreaming again, and it had to be just that because there was no way this woman would have any intentions towards me except maybe friendship. Though I would gladly take any morsel offered.
“It’s a beautiful house. Will the family be joining you?” Asking a question in such a way had lots of connotations in my experience. I gave Sally a sideways glance. I could see that she was trying to decide what to say, as a frown crossed her brow for a few moments. Is it that difficult a question? Surely a yes or no will suffice. “I’m sorry I was prying. Look I need to go. I thought I’d actually visit the office today and give Jane a break.”
“Yes of course you do. Enjoy your day Angela.” Her voice was calm and it didn’t sound as if she was bothered either way, which was a sore disappointment for me. I walked towards the gate and stepped out onto the beach. Then I realised that I’d done it again, run away from Sally. A totally opposite reaction to what I wanted and needed. I had hoped that in the weeks I was away this emotional reaction I’d had to seeing Sally again was merely a knee-jerk action from the past which had no bearing on my world today. I was wrong, so very wrong. All it had made me realising was that at five, I’d fallen for her and at forty-five I was still in love with her. What kind of sad woman have I become? It was sad, for I had no hope of garnering an answering reaction.
“Thanks, you do the same. Perhaps I’ll see you on the beach sometime.” I began jogging back in the direction I came. My heart felt as though it had been punctured, causing it to eventually deflate to such a degree that I’d be love-lost forever.
And, this feeling was all because…along came Sally!
* * *
The summer season is almost over and both Jane and I will be glad. We’ve had a tremendous year so far, having sold out most of our properties and spending many an hour canvassing for more in the area. So much so, I had finally extended my perimeter of sales by about fifty miles. In perspective this wasn’t such a big area, as there many were farms or small holdings.
I had been busy since I’d arrived from my vacation at the end of winter. Jane was hospitalized unexpectedly shortly after my return with what turned out to be breast cancer. I was more devasted than she so seemed to be when the doctors had told her. She had a much stronger personality than I could ever try to achieve in this lifetime. We had many a chat about the people we were and had become stronger over the years. It was during one of these heartfelt conversations that I admitted to her that I was gay. I had declined from telling her for many years because of her deeply religious beliefs and the possibility that she might not want to be my friend anymore. As it turned out she was very supportive and her church was a little more lenient than some of the more conservative ones. I told her my feelings for Sally Maguire feeling totally embarrassed as I tried to explain my feelings. Jane just laughed and told me that she had an inkling about my emotional state regarding Sally,especially when I’d run away on vacation.
The day before Jane had her surgery, she broke down sobbing about her fear of the consequences of the operation. "I don't want to die without love," she sobbed. She had realised that she didn't have that someone special to share her life. I don't want to die. I want to live and find love." She clasped my hand. "If everything works I am going to make sure that my life takes on new meaning and that includes not letting the possibility of love pass me by." She gave me a heartfelt gaze. "Don't let that happen to you either my friend." From that moment on, Jane and I shared a deeper friendship and made a pact that together not only would we fight her illness, but we both would no longer shy way from love.
I ran the business single handily by choice. My faith in her recovery had been something she had clung to along with her religious belief and the network that constantly came to visit her. Her recovery had been quicker than we all thought. Early on she learned that the cancer was confined to one breast and hadn't spread. Then and a couple of weeks ago after her last gruelling round of chemo, she had been given the news that in all likelihood she would recover completely. Although there will be constant retests and doctor's visits I feel confident that she will be with us for a long time to come. For me personally, it had made me re-evaluate my outlook on life. I realised that our hopes of longevity didn’t necessarily mean we would be given a long life. I vowed then to spend more of my time to my parents and gave up having the office open Sundays and Mondays so I could visit the city more often.
Of course I still thought of Sally Maguire every single day. She was part of my life, although by some miracle, we had not been in each others company since that morning on her patio. I think you could count on one hand the number of times she and I had seen each other from across the street in the past six months. I put it down to the fact that I was far too busy, when I really was just simply afraid of my feelings for her. Conversely, I argued that Sally had made no effort to seek me out either, therefore, I had been right; she had other friends to take up with again in the area.
* * *
I woke this morning with Ferdy pawing me on the back wanting to go out. "Use the tray," I told him but he ignored me. Finally, I fumbled for my robe, dragged it on, slid open the door and peered bleary-eyed at the surf lapping at the beach. Ferdy shot past me and headed for his favourite spot to take care of his daily ablutions and then he stretched out as if he wanted to watch the sun come up. Darn it, so much for sleeping late. My folks were off to another destination so I had two days free to sleep in…yeah right. Now that I was awake it would be impossible to sleep again. I headed back to bedroom and looked at the clock, it was six. There was already a small, warm breeze and shortly the sun would be busting into my bedroom. I decided that today I’d indulge and have breakfast outside overlooking the beach. My house didn’t have the luxury of being totally screened from the beach but I don't mind because I can see the water easily which gives e great pleasure. Although, when the summer masses flocked here, especially on weekends, it can become very public. To me it was a minor price to pay, besides I’d be having my breakfast early when no one else was be around.
Half an hour later I was reading the newspaper and enjoying a glass of orange juice along with a piece of toast generously slathered with marmalade. I revelled in the luxury of the tranquillity of the moment totally lost in feelings of peace.
“Hi,” a quiet voice called out to me from the beach. I almost shot out of my skin as my head jerked up and I gazed into pale blue eyes that returned my gaze with warm amusement.
Here I was enjoying my leisure and along came Sally Maguire.
“Good morning, you’re up early?” It was true, she was, it was only a little after six thirty.
Sally smiled slightly as she inclined her head. “As are you. It’s such a beautiful morning I thought I’d take a stroll on the beach before it becomes busy. What’s your excuse?”
Is she teasing me? I wasn’t sure, but it didn’t matter in the slightest. This was wonderful. We hadn’t spoken since that morning months ago when I’d dropped in on her for breakfast. Where are my manners? “Do you want to join me for breakfast? I’m not the best cook in town, but I can be persuaded not to burn the toast. You have a choice of beverages in order of ease from my part, juice, coffee or tea?”
Apparently my invitation was taken up as Sally opened my small gate and walked onto the paved patio and took the wooden seat opposite me. “Thanks, I’ll be fine with whatever you’re having.”
A few minutes later we faced each other over our juices and toast. “How are you settling in? I’m sorry I haven’t been over since that morning I’ve been busy at work …and stuff.”
Sally stared into her juice before replying immediately. “Good, people around here have been friendly, although I did vaguely know some of them from years ago. Yes, I know only too well that work does have that affect on your lifestyle.”
“If you don’t mind me asking what you did before you came here. Or possibly you still do and commute?” Crap, how lame I sound.
Sally steered her glance to the ocean and I saw a wistful look appear that was unfathomable for me. “I’ve been very fortunate with my investment portfolio. It has allowed me the luxury of being in the position that I don’t have to work unless I want to. At the moment I don’t. I’ve been using the time to gather together my focus on life.”
Well, that doesn’t tell me much. Except that she was wealthy enough to have a portfolio in the first place. “I have a few minor investments myself though mainly my money is tied up in the business and property.”
Sally returned her gaze to mine and the skin around her eyes crinkled as she smiled. It was to me a most attractive part of the older woman she had become. Even the perfect Sally Maguire had acquired the signs of ageing but she certainly carried it well. “I guess we are both wealthy women in our own right, aren’t we.”
I agreed automatically. “What do you think of my view from this part of the beach?”
“It’s beautiful like…like mine.” The pause had me puzzled. It was difficult to assess what Sally was thinking as she had turned back to the view. “Have you any plans for today?”
I gulped my juice and choked for a few moments as pale blue eyes sought mine in concern. I waved her concerns away, finally explaining the juice had travelled the wrong way to its destination. “Nothing much, I usually do laundry and all the stuff I haven’t done around here when I’ve been working. I haven’t gotten around to teaching Ferdy how to do that for me yet.” My heart was beating heavily was she going to ask me to maybe…
“Ferdy is he your dog?”
“No, no my cat. He rules things around here it is partly why I was up so early this morning. His majesty decided it was time to get up and he roped me into the task as well.”
Sally smiled warmly. “Sounds like you didn’t mind being roped in. I was thinking of having a pet. I’ve never had a dog or cat. Even when I was a child, I’ve always wanted one though.”
I was entranced. It didn’t take much with this woman. She had the ability, without knowing, to twist me around her little finger if she so wished. “Are you doing anything in particular today?”
Our eyes locked and I knew my breathing was laboured, but Sally appeared to be calm as she replied in that soft tone of hers. “Nothing at all. I was going to ask if you wanted to do something together today.”
I grinned happily. If I had planned to ask her out it couldn’t have gone better, except I had to remind myself that this wasn’t a date.
“How about we meet at ten-o-clock at the Coffee-Break? We can decide what to do from there, what do you say?”
“Sounds good to me. Thanks for the breakfast, Angela.” Sally's gaze held mine for a moment until she stood up. Although I was sorry to see her leave, it meant I could do a few chores that needed to be done and still have time to find something suitable to wear.
* * *
Sally opened the door to her house with a squirming bundle of life in her arms. I followed shortly after with my arms piled to the gunnels with equipment to make the creature’s life happy. Although, with the amount of money spent, it was going to be the most spoiled canine in history.
When we met at the café, we’d decided to see what happened during the day. Then I’d taken Sally to the new mall thirty miles away, where we had lunch and shopped. Our conversation diverted to having pets again and that was it, we were on a mission. Or I was. Sally appeared to be, at first, bemused by my enthusiasm then clearly overtaken by my excitement. At the end of our shopping day a pet had duly been acquired. We had scoured the few pet shops in the area, and even a couple of the breeders but there was nothing available. Finally, I drove towards the animal shelter and after viewing all the animals we both decided that a home for one orphan had to be given.
Of all the puppies there, Sally fell heavily for the most…dare I say …ugly mongrel you would ever have met? He was a variety of breeds by the look of his fur and countenance. His coat, in particular, was a match for Jacobs amazing coat of many colours. However, on opening his kennel Sally and he bonded immediately. He was hers from that moment on. I chuckled at the sight of the two of them together, talk about chalk and cheese. There would be no way anyone could say that the owner looked like the pooch. We arranged to collect him a couple of hours later after the vet gave him his shots and a check up. That gave us time to buy just about everything you could possibly find for a dog.
An hour later we had settled young Basil down into his basket and checked through the items we had bought for him. We were both glad to finally sit out on the patio and have a long cool beer in both celebration and reward for our efforts.
“Thank you Angela, I’ll never forget today.” Sally’s eyes sought mine and she was looking at me in a way I’d love to interpret as more than a friendly thank you. I guess some people were just born with smouldering sexy eyes.
I sipped my beer before replying, “It was my pleasure. Now tomorrow if you change your mind about young Basil, please let me know and I’ll acclimatize Ferdy to a new room mate.”
Sally smiled and shook her head. “Not a chance Angela, Basil is here to stay.”
We enjoyed a time of peaceful contemplation before I stood up. “I guess I’ll leave you and your new baby to become better acquainted.”
I was surprised when Sally stood up and walked around the table to stand as close as she could without touching. “You don’t have to leave Angela.”
I closed my eyes briefly feigning a long blink, or that would be my answer if she asked why I closed them. What does she mean by that? I know what I wanted it to mean, but I doubt she was on my wave-length, no matter how much I wanted her to be. Then, I stared into her eyes and waited. Though what I was waiting for I didn’t know because she was probably waiting for me to speak.
All my questions were rapidly answered as she placed her hands on either side of my cheeks and lightly touched her delicate lips against mine. I had no choice but to answer in kind. I drank deeply from the well she was offering me.
My hands loosely clasped around her back as she leaned in to do the same. We were only prevented from being as one by the barrier of the clothes we had on. I wasn’t the first one to end our kiss. Sally did as she pulled away slightly. It wasn’t in such a way that worried me at all, especially as I stared expectantly into her eyes and I found a gentleness that hadn’t been there before. A twinkle in the depths of her eyes seemed to be goading me to say something.
“Cat got your tongue?” Sally’s quietly spoken words drifted into my sub-conscious.
My cheeks felt like they were on fire. “No, I was…I guess I was surprised.”
There was a faint chuckle as Sally smiled at me. This time, instead of one of the small smiles she'd often given me, her whole face lit up blowing my mind. I couldn’t do anything but watch until I dared to lift a hand to trace the lines of her smile.
“Is it a good surprise?” Sally didn’t stop holding me, although I felt her distancing herself slightly and that wasn’t what I wanted at all. I initiated my own charge then as I leaned forward and kissed her with a passion that had been pent up for years. It was all I had ever wanted and the longing I had kept under control for years was there for her to take if she wished.
I guess she wanted me too, because from then on our passion was unbridled. We made love to the sound of the surf lapping against the beach and the sun taking a leisurely time going down.
Later, as we lay in each other arms, I couldn’t remove the foolish grin I had plastered on my face. As I contemplated how I had managed to get here and be held in the arms of this woman, who had haunted me for years. I moved slightly so that while I was holding the sleeping Sally in my arms I could kiss the top of her head. I revelled in the thought that none of my dreams could ever deliver the feeling that reality had given me. Now, the only question I had to ask of Sally when she woke was, was this something she wanted to last forever or was it just a passing phase. Then, I would ask myself if I cared.
“Hi, penny for those thoughts?” Sally’s voice was even softer and sexier than I could possibly have imagined.
“Hi yourself are you comfortable?” I didn’t want her to leave my embrace. In fact I wanted to stay like this forever.
Lips gentle nibbled my neck in answer as Sally moved slightly and rested her head on my chest. “Oh yes, I’ve never felt better in my life.”
If I was a betting woman, I'd think that simple statement gave me the answer to my question. Still I wanted to hear it clearly. I was going to do something that was totally out of character for me. I would take the first step into the abyss. I would be true to the pact Jane and I made and not let the chance of love pass me by. “I love you Sally. I’ve always loved you, from the first moment I ever saw you when I was five.”
Before I knew what was happening Sally had turned around in my arms and I was lying in her arms with her face next to mine, “I know. I love you too Angela. I have for a long time…way back.”
Startled, I bolted upright and Sally laughed at my antics. “You did, you have, but why?” I wailed out my protests, which were basically my insecurities. Then I felt a gentle pressure on my face as Sally moved to place a tender kiss on my lips settling me down for a few moments.
“Why? Why not, you are the most adorable woman I have met in my life. I used to watch you and your friend Alex and, believe me, I was jealous. I had all those people around me but the one person who made my heart smile wasn’t one of them. There were times that I purposely ignored others and sat around where you and your friend were just so that I could be near you. I was smitten by you and although I had to leave and the years have rolled by, I never truly forgot you.”
I was stunned, she had been jealous…of me?My god I didn’t believe it. What a crazy mixed up world we live in. Tears began to roll down my cheeks as she held me close whispering over and over again how much she loved me.
“You went away without a word.” It was an idiotic remark. Why would she have sought me out to tell me? Although if what she was saying was true and she had loved me back then, why hadn't she?
Sally moved fractionally to allow us the benefit of looking into each others eyes. “I did come by your house to say goodbye. No one was home. I did think to leave a note but so much was happening I didn’t. Perhaps that was the greatest mistake of my life but then I’ve made a few along the way.
I nodded whispering, “hadn’t we all.”
With a gentle smile she resumed her story. “I guess you know that my mother left with the parson and my dad decided to up-root us and leave town. We went across state to live close to my grandparents. My dad never got over my mother leaving him and died of a broken heart about ten years later. At least that’s what we in the family call it; the doctors said it was because he hadn’t looked after himself properly. I attended college close by and was offered a marvellous job travelling. That’s how I ended up in Asia. I met someone there who became a wonderful influence on my life for the short time we were together. After that, I knew that I didn’t want second best. And, I thought I’d lost the best a long time ago. My work was everything and, to be honest, I worked hard most of the year. That is why I have this life today.”
As I listened, Sally’s later part of her story was much like mine in a way except that she had travelled and I’d stayed put. “I’m sorry about your father and leaving I didn’t know the reason until last year. What made you decide to come back here?”
She smiled. “Thank you. In answer to your question…" We both knew she could say it was me, but we would both know she wouldn't be faithfully telling the story. "Your parents.”
Now I was shocked, my parents! “You’re joking of course?” I croaked. My mouth must have been wide open as she placed hers on mine and we were lost for a few passionate minutes.
“No, I’m perfectly serious. I met them at a charity auction in the city. Except for the greying hair I would have known them anywhere. They haven't changed much and are aging well. To cut a long story short we had lunch a week later and they mentioned the Grey House was for sale in passing. I guess retired or not they will always be realtors.” We both laughed at her teasing although it wasn’t really. My parents had been born with an eye for a decent property sale and would until the end of their days.
“That’s when you contacted me?”
“Yes, I was very disappointed when I met your associate…not, that she isn’t a lovely and capable woman. I was insatiably curious to see you after all these years. I had my wish that day later in the bar and the day after. To my eyes you hadn’t changed a bit…still adorable and I lost my heart all over again.”
“You did?” I finally squeaked out.
“Sure.” Her slim fingers stroked every inch of my face and I closed my eyes relishing in the touch and what it did to me.
“If you carry on like that I won’t be responsible for my actions.”
The sexiest voice that I now have committed to memory replied with an answering passion, “Then don’t.”
And I didn’t.
Later, much later, as Basil tried to climb onto the bed, we began giggling like teenagers.
* * *
Ferdy was less than pleased when he had to allow a stranger into his home on my days off. Basil, being a puppy wanted to mercilessly play with Ferdy until my poor pet took to his high spot next to the boiler and slept to recover his energy. Basil was happy; he bounced around most mornings, which meant that in the afternoon sleep was required. That pleased Sally and me, who felt that as our pets slept we should at least adjourn to bed also. It was the perfect arrangement.
Oh, and I finally found out that the song that reminded Sally of leaving here was, The Summer Wind. We had replaced it with vigour by having our own tune, Moonlight Serenade, Sally said her dad would have approved.
My parents had their own view on our relationship and, although approval wasn’t exactly the term, they seemed to be happy for me. My mother, for her part, didn’t voice the, that woman, comment when she addressed Sally but I often saw it in her eyes. I was happy and they had only themselves to blame for they sent her to me. Their big surprise for me turned out to surprise them even more.
Jane was happy for us, and she and Sally became good friends. Remarkably, Andrew our local mechanic and womaniser had been smitten with Jane ever since she had arrived in the town, but felt that he wasn’t in her league. Her illness had sparked a moment of bravado in him and though he ribbed me mercilessly for snagging the most beautiful woman in town he only had eyes for Jane. For her part, Jane had been secretly interested in him too and I confess the term opposites attract had to be right on the button with their relationship. Nevertheless, a wedding was in the offering. Jane and I would sometimes share a smile of satisfaction that we had made our pact reality.
My house is going to be closed up for the winter and totally renovated. Ferdy and I will move up the beach. Sally and I agreed it was the best option and living together was the only thing that would make us both supremely happy. After the renovation, if things worked out over the winter of living together my house will be rented.
I suppose there will always be questions that haven’t been answered but time will take care of those. For me, the main thing is that Sally and I have made a commitment and wherever she goes I will be with her. In the interests of making sure there are no loose ends in my story I should tell you that Harriet, our town gossip, is a cousin of Sally’s mother which was why she didn’t take the bull by the horns and tell all. I’ve much revised my opinion of her now that I know she can maintain people’s privacy. Apparently Sally’s mother, whom she is now reconciled with, married the parson and lives happily only a hundred miles away. The world is indeed a small place. I think all the skeletons have been accounted for and now all I have to do is love Sally to come back home.
My thoughts drifted to my original impression of my love as my nemesis and how my mind changed to what the heart had known - from nemesis to lover, from heartbreak to happiness. We had to wait thirty years for our love to reach fruition and now I can say with total conviction, life may not always be fair but it can be worth waiting for!
With the moonlight high in the darkened sky and with our song on my lips, I began to sing the lyrics softly.Stars are a-glow, And tonight, how their light sets me feeling! My love, do you know, That your eyes are like stars brightly beaming? I bring you and sing you a moonlight serenade. Let us stray till break of day, In love's valley of dreams You and I, a summer sky, A heavenly breeze kisses the trees So, don't make me wait Come to me tenderly, in the June light. I stand at your gate and I sing you a song in the moonlight A love song, my darling, A moonlight serenade We can stay, till break of day...
As I sang, in the distance, as if by magic…along came Sally.
(Lyrics are copyrighted - and used without permission of the author)
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