The Solo Ride

I exited the train, strode down the wooden platform and saw him standing just past the turnstiles. Tall and handsome in a grey sweater, tan jodhpurs and brown riding boots, he was unmistakably my guide for the day.

“Hello,” I said to him in his native tongue. The five days prior in this European country had perfected my accent.

“Hello,” he replied, a look of slight surprise on his face.

We walked out towards his car in tandem and in silence.

“How are you?” I asked, nearing the limits of my recently acquired skill in his language.

“I’m very good,” he replied, a crooked smile alighting his face, “And you?”

“Very good.”

“You speak my language?” he asked.

“No, not well,” I said, reverting to English, “I do try though.”

“What you know is very good.”

“I have a good ear, but limited vocabulary.”

He glanced over at me as he opened the door to his car, a ghost of his first surprise still haunting his features.

“I hope I haven’t kept the rest of the group waiting,” I said, referring to my slightly late arrival.

“There is no one else,” he said.

“What?” I replied, confused. I thought I had scheduled this village and countryside ride along with a group of other horse enthusiasts.

“There is just you, so no one is waiting,” he confirmed. Continue reading

What Ever Happened to That Girl?

Jake leaned back in his chair and scratched the back of his neck as had been his habit since he was a kid when he was trying really hard to remember something. He frowned.

Pete took another sip of his beer, watching his friend. He didn’t ask the question. Men just didn’t. If Jake wanted to tell him what he was trying to recall, he would. Simple as that. The two men had spent many hours in companionable silence. That’s what you did when you had a history. You didn’t have to fill it with small talk.

A fly buzzed around the bottle of hard cider near Jake’s hand. He watched it dip and dive in the fading evening light, dancing around the rim. Just as it prepared to land he exhaled with a whoosh, blowing the insect away.

“Rebecca. That was her name,” Jake said, no longer scratching the back of his neck.

“Rebecca who?” said Pete, who hadn’t been privy to Jake’s internal train of thought.

“You know, I don’t think I ever did get her last name. Just didn’t seem to matter much at the time.”

“What time?”

“August 16th, 1969,” Jake said with a twinkle in his eye.

“Ahhh,” said Pete, suddenly wise to Jake’s reminiscing, “You met her on the second day didn’t you.”

“Yeah, late in the afternoon when we went down to the pond to wash some of the mud off. She was just standin’ there. Short hair. Biting her bottom lip as she looked at me. Wearin’ nothing but some jean shorts. I’d never seen a pair of tits I wanted to touch more.”

“They were something,” Pete agreed, but now he had begun his own trip down memory lane. Those four days at Woodstock had been life changing for Pete. But not in the way you would expect.

“I wonder what ever happened to that girl,” Jake mused.

“No way to know,” Pete said, as he leaned back and closed his eyes, remembering.

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Changing Scenes 

He was tall, broad-shouldered, with a deep, rumbling laugh. I stood in the bedroom of his sprawling ranch house in Big Sur country wearing tawny riding breeches and a red sweater as we discussed which of his dozen horses would be my mount for the day. His three daughters and one son would be arriving for the long weekend later that day. But I didn’t have to do any planning. Mrs. Prill would see to it that dinner was served at seven, he explained. I took a deep breath and threw my arms around him. 

“You make everything so simple!” I laughed. 

The scene changed. 

The massive kitchen with a giant fireplace is briming with conversation and savory smells. The children, all in their late teens and early twenties banter back and forth. They are affectionate with me. I sip my tea, taking it all in. It feels like home, but with a piece missing. 

The scene changed. 

The man and I were walking along the coast at sunset. Hand in hand. The memories of the day played through my mind. It was perfect. The house. The land. The horses. The coast. The California sun. The big family. The security. The tall, distinguished man. Too perfect. I felt a stab in my heart as I thought of Nathan. Where was he? Why had I left him? 

I began to run. Faster. Faster. So fast my feet barely touched the ground. And then I was flying! I caught a current of air and let it lift me high into the sky, away from the man. It was glorious, like being inside the most iridescent opal you’ve ever seen, with a symphony of string instruments accompanying you. 

I woke with a start, the room dark and the soft sound of Nathan’s breathing. What did it all mean? This dream outlined my perfect life. Down to the large, ready made family that I didn’t have to birth and raise. But when I realized it had all been a product of REM sleep, I just felt relief. Because I didn’t leave Nathan. He’s still right here. Beside me. 

An Unexpected Turn

“What time tonight?” I texted Kevin.

He had sent me a good morning text and we both had full work days ahead so it was close to 4:00 when I realized we hadn’t set a time. A few minutes later he responded, “I’m pretty beat.”

“It’s been a day for sure. We can just relax and be tired together.” I texted.

“Can you do tomorrow?”

My eyebrows raised. Pretty beat? Tomorrow? Excuse me? Was he actually brushing me off? Many things ran through my mind but I chained them with a deep breath.

“Tomorrow won’t work at all for me. I have late meetings.”

“The we have a problem,” he responded.

I took another deep breath. And put my phone away. My pride had just been dealt a solid blow. Thank goodness my heart isn’t involved, I thought. Continue reading

Long Drives in the Night

“Damn,” he whispered, “I could make love to you.”

“Okay.”

I stood up and walked towards his bedroom.

“Where are you going?”

“To bed with you.”

He jumped up from the sofa and blocked my path with a kiss. Grasping my shoulders firmly he steered me away from the door.

“I’m confused,” I said. “Do you want me or not?” Continue reading

Talking in Circles

I parked on the street where Kevin had instructed and texted him that I had arrived. “I’m coming down,” he quickly wrote back.

I got out of my car and my phone rang. It was him.

“Turn around,” he said. I did. And I saw him walking to meet me.

He greeted me with a tight hug.

“You’re really here,” he said, smiling and taking my hand. “Come on up.”

I followed him up three flights of open air stairs, the city night swirling around us. Once at his door, he opened it and motioned for me to go in. Inside it was clean, modern and quiet. But it also felt a little bare. Like someone who kept their belongings to a minimum because it makes packing easier.

He gave me the 20 second tour, watching my reaction. It was underwhelming but the condo wasn’t why I was there. As he stood against the corner that separated the living room from the kitchen I walked up and placed my arms around his shoulders. His mouth found mine. Continue reading

It Started with a Wine Tasting

It all started with a wine tasting.

“Come with us!” my friend texted me. She and her man had been invited to a private wine tasting and somehow wrangled room for me. Never one to turn down the grape I texted back “YES!!!!!!!” with many exclamation points.

The pours were generous. The laughter and merriment more so. Watching my friend interact with her man fills me with joy. They are so openly sexual that it both turns me on and makes it very clear to me that that part of a relationship is missing with Nathan. He simply isn’t wired that way.

I began to crave adventure. A rush. Something.

After the tasting I was driving home (yes, I was ok to drive) and the craving intensified. Nathan wasn’t home. Thanks to social media I knew he was in a far flung city on a roof top bar living the high life. Literally.

I pushed the Siri button and said, “Call Kevin Brown.”

Kevin and I met several years ago working on a project. We have flirted for years, joked about taking trips together, and admitted a mutual attraction. Yet, it had never been acted on. Not even a kiss. He teased me about being all talk and no action. “You say you’ll come see my new place,” he had texted a few months ago, “but you never will.”

He answered the phone with a smile in his voice, “Hey stranger. What are you up to?”

“Can I come over?” I asked. No preamble. No small talk. Just blunt. Direct. Urgent.

“Now?”

“Yes.”

“Sure. Give me ten minutes.”

“Ok. Text me the address.”

My phone chimed a few seconds later. And I pointed my car toward his condo.

The End – The Australian: Chapter 17

It had been almost a year since I gave into the temptation to email Ian. So why, the urge hit me so hard the other day, I don’t know. But, instead of sending an email that I didn’t expect a response to, I did the next best thing. While sitting at my office desk, I googled him.

The fourth result down held his full name. And something more…

It held the day of his death.

Time slowed.

Ian is dead. Ian is dead. Ian is dead. That phrase ran through my shocked brain over and over. Continue reading

Goodbye – The Australian: Chapter 16

Ian drove us to the airport the next morning, a heavy silence filling the car. I felt like a shell of the woman I had been when I had flown across the country just two days prior. The hopelessness was a bleak darkness, a pit with no end.

Back home, I just went through the motions. Routine and responsibilities kept me from spending day after day in bed. Ian wasn’t able to completely cut off contact. But the few notes I received via email were short, and unsatisfying.

And then I began to write. Continue reading

Stolen Hours – The Australian: Chapter 15

My flight took off and landed without delay. I had called in sick to work on my way to the airport, doing my best to sound at death’s door, when in reality my heart was singing and full of life. The plan was for Ian to pick me up at the airport and I fully expected him to be there waiting for me as soon as I walked out of the terminal.

He wasn’t.

The minutes ticked by. I repeatedly checked my watch. Ten, fifteen, then twenty excruciating minutes passed. And then I saw him walking up. He wore a white shirt tucked into dark denim jeans and as our eyes met, his adorable lopsided grin lit up his face.

“You came,” I sighed into his chest as he held me. Continue reading

Taking Flight – The Australian: Chapter 14

“I’ve never been so happy and so sad at the same time in all my life,” I told my best friend.

She had listened to me talk nonstop about meeting Ian, about making love with Ian, about Ian’s flower sending abilities and about how sure I was that Ian was my soul mate for days. The consummate friend, she had commiserated with me tirelessly. And now she offered some advice.

“Go see him,” she said abruptly as I was lamenting his departure for Australia in the next few days.

“What?” I replied, dumbly.

“Go see him. Before he’s out of the country,” she explained.

“You mean like tomorrow?”

“Yes!”

I don’t know why I hadn’t already thought about dropping everything and flying to see him before he left the country. I was ready to quit my job and move to Australia if he asked, so this would be small in comparison. But most of all I wanted the chance to be in his arms again, to feel his breath on my body, to know for sure that what I had experienced, felt, believed was real.

“Oh my gosh. I could make this happen,” I said, disbelief rapidly dispersing. Continue reading

Daydreams and Bouquets – The Australian: Chapter 13

The morning of February 14th I drove to work bleary eyed but happy. Ian and I had video chatted long into the night. His looks of longing and whispered I love yous had left my heart full even though the future was still as clear as a foggy morning in the Appalachian foothills, somewhere among the mist I felt hope.

Phones rang, paper scattered, and the general scurry of activity surrounded me. It all seemed a blur. None of it touched me. I was elsewhere, living in the future in my daydream. It was a place where Ian and I would get home from work around the same time. He, an avid cook would be preparing our meal while I tinkered on a rich sounding upright piano nearby. Our eyes would meet and sparkle, because we knew we had beat the fates and made a life together.

“Marian, there’s a delivery for you.” Continue reading