Catch up here.
Dozens of fragrant leis weigh my shoulders down and I shift between my feet while J.D. takes pictures of me and my family. Rick, Brad, Patrick, George, and Mundo stand behind him watching with smiles on their faces.
“Now you two,” Uncle Jimmy says taking the camera from J.D. and pointing him over to me.
I yank off my cap and give it to Auntie Bernie. J.D. draws me into him, wrapping both arms around me and resting his head on mine. I circle my arms around his waist and smile. Uncle Jimmy clicks twice then the camera whines as it winds up the film. He passes the camera to me.
“We’ll meet you at the restaurant,” Auntie Bernie says as she hands back the cap and diploma cover.
I strip off the leis at J.D.’s car and set everything on the backseat of then shrug off my gown, uncovering my red fitted A-line sundress, and toss it in back. I grab a twisted ti leaf lei, place it over J.D.’s shoulders when I turn around, and peck his cheek.
He grabs my face between his hands and covers my mouth with his greedily. I take hold of his shirt and pull him closer. A dull ache settles below my navel and I match his appetite. His hands drop to my waist and he pushes me away.
“What was that for?” I ask breathing heavy.
“You. In that dress,” he says low.
I lean back against the car. “You like the dress?” I ask coyly.
“You wear it very well. Maybe a little too well,” he says pained and holds the car door signaling for me to get in.
Everyone is seated at a makeshift long table made up of several tables pushed together. Rick is engaged in an animated conversation with my uncles. Derek, Daniel, Eli, and Rodney have Brad, Patrick, George, and Mundo’s attention with thumb wrestling. There are two seats between Maile and Lolo.
J.D. pulls out the chair to the left of Maile for me and scoots it underneath me as I sit. Maile shoves a blue crayon in my hand and points to her placemat. I turn the corners of my mouth up and set the tip down. We draw quietly until the server comes for our order.
I cover J.D.’s knee with my hand and whisper, “You okay over there?”
He gasps softly through his teeth, locks his fingers into mine, moves our hands into my lap, and shifts in his seat. “Lolo is sharing stories about working the plantation.”
Maile grabs my arm and shakes it. I turn back to her. “Come on, Cousin,” she says impatiently.
“Demanding tonight, aren’t we?” I joke.
“Ari, before I fo’get, we come by noon tomorrow den we go for lunch,” Uncle Jimmy interrupts.
“Shoots, Uncle,” I respond as I resume drawing with Maile.
I hover my finger over the stereo’s power button and discover I left it on. I hit play on the CD player.
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again
I meet J.D. as he exits my bathroom. I run my hands up his chest to his shoulders. “You know how my blue dress is your favorite?”
“How can I forget?” The left corner of his mouth curls up slowly.
“This is my favorite,” I say fingering his collar. I run my fingers through his wavy hair and lift myself on my toes while his arms wrap around my back. Our lips meet tenderly and work their way to a ravenous fervor.
He tears himself away in the midst of the fervor and catches his breath.
I search his eyes and drop back on my heels. “That’s the second time tonight. You never pull away like that.”
He runs his right hand through his hair and sets his left hand on his hip. “I don’t have much self-control right now, babes. I was gone nearly six months and I really want to rip that dress off of you. I should go.” He takes a step towards the door.
I lay my hands on his chest, playing with the first buttoned button. “Take it off.”
He inhales sharply and chocolate eyes bore into mine. “For real?” he asks in a stunned hush.
“Would I joke about this?” I return. I pop the button through the buttonhole.
I turn around and pull my long locks over my left shoulder exposing the zipper. The dress slowly loosens around my chest as he lowers the zipper to the small of my back. His left arm reaches around my neck and his hand settles on my right shoulder. His tongue skims beneath my right ear while he slips his right hand through the zippered opening and settles on my abdomen. I suck in a breath as I quiver.
I wake lying prone with my head facing the TV to the sound of something sizzling in a pan. The meaty aroma of fried Spam soon fills the tiny studio. I lift my head to find J.D. behind my desk with the hot plate out and desk lamp on. His black shirt is hanging over his black jeans.
“Good morning, beautiful,” he says merrily.
“How the hell did I not hear you over there?” I ask groggily.
“You needed the sleep.”
I shift my eyes towards the alarm clock. 8:30. I lay my head back down, my body feeling heavy and relaxed for the first time in four and a half years.
“Are you going to sleep all morning?” he teases.
I groan then grab the turquoise satin robe off the futon’s arm rest. I shrug it on then crawl off the futon and step behind him. “Do I have time for a shower?” I ask snaking my hands under his shirt and up his chiseled torso then kiss his shoulder blade.
His left hand covers mine, stopping it from moving further. “If you make it fast and you take your hands off me. Keep it up, breakfast will be late and I’ll be late getting back here.”
“Maybe this will help.” I reach over, turn off the hot plate, and lead J.D. to the shower.
I hang up my towel after drying my hair and scrunch J.D.’s hair with my fingers while he buttons his shirt.
“What are you doing?” he asks perplexed.
“Playing with your hair. It’s that or run my hands all over you in that shirt. I have this unexplainable desire to keep touching you.” I exhale heavily.
He pulls me in with his hand on my lower back. “I’m just irresistible.” He smirks then swoops in for a quick kiss. “Now move it,” he orders and quickly uses my brush on his hair.
I start the CD in the stereo. Robby Takac rasps longingly while I fold up the bedding from the futon and adjust the frame to bend it like a sofa.
I wish I had a camera lens
To film the things my mind had said
Before they reached my mouth and got all bad
Looking at the skies of blue
All day long I think of you
Even after all the shit we’ve been through
J.D. passes me a plate and a cup of lilikoi juice from the pitcher in my fridge. “You need a coffeemaker.”
“Do you have one?” I ask sitting cross-legged on the futon facing the desk and setting my cup on the floor.
“Yeah,” he answers as he sits mirroring me.
I use the side of the fork tines to cut off a piece of Spam and spear it with the fork. “Then I don’t need one.” I flash a cunning grin.
He opens his mouth then catches himself and takes a bite of his eggs instead.
I give J.D. my keys to get back in without having to call. He returns while I’m in the walk-in closet packing up old clothes to give away and listening to INXS.
“Babes?” he calls with the door still open, hiding his view into the closet behind it.
“In the closet.”
“Don’t pack up your racket. There are tennis courts at my building.” He leans against the doorjamb of the closet and crosses his arms.
I straighten and raise my eyebrows. “So you can kill me some more in straight sets?”
“I have to beat you at something, babes.” He sets his hands on my hips and hauls me into him.
“I’ll give you that.” I smile playfully, stroking his face.
“You’re so intoxicating,” he mutters softly.
My heart hammers wildly and I hold my breath for a moment. I throw my arms around his neck and jump up, wrapping my legs around his waist. “Shut up and kiss me.”
He descends upon my mouth zealously.
Don’t ask me
What you know is true
Don’t have to tell you
I love your precious heart
We follow my family to the airport after lunch and wait with them in the small inter-island terminal. I sit with my head on Lola’s shoulder and my arm around her watching J.D. on the floor patiently allowing my cousins to dog pile on him.
“You call when you get there,” she commands.
“I will, Lola. You have the number I gave you?”
“Yeah.” She pats my knee.
Their flight is called and we stand to give our last hugs and kisses.
Uncle Jimmy crushes me in his arms. “You be good now.”
“What? You taught me to be bad, now I have to be good?”
“’Kay den. No do no’ting I wouldn’t do.”
They line up to board and we wave to them as they walk through the gate and onto the tarmac. J.D. moves behind me, circling his arms around my neck and resting his chin on my head. I lean back into him, hooking my hands on his arms while biting back the tears watching my family traipse up the plane’s steps.
We sit on Karen’s lanai drinking coffee and watching the sunset after Christmas Eve dinner. Karen is inside after insisting on taking care of putting the food away and doing the dishes alone.
“Yeah?” My elbows are resting on the arms of the chair, cradling the mug with both hands.
“You know I love you.” He sets his mug down on the low table between us and takes my left hand into his.
“How could I not?”
He slowly sidles my ring along my finger. “I’ve been so unbelievably happy since you gave me a second chance. I never knew it was possible to love someone more with each passing day.”
I open my mouth to speak, setting my coffee next to his. He stretches out with his free hand and touches the index finger to my lips briefly. He removes the ring, moves to his knees in front of me, and produces a solitaire round ruby ring on a silver band between his thumb and index finger in his other hand. My jaw drops open and my eyes widen.
“I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Ariana. Will you marry me?”
I gaze into chocolate orbs shining true. “Yes.”
He carefully slides the ring on and leans in for a gentle kiss. “God, how I love you,” he murmurs against my lips. He lets out a low throaty growl then kisses me fiercely and searches wildly with his tongue.
I run my hands up his back. His hands trace lightly over my thighs making them shudder under his touch. A low moan escapes my lips.
He pulls back fractionally. “We better save it for later. We have prying eyes.”
My cheeks flush and I grab my coffee for a sip. He looks behind me and gives a thumbs up.
“Is this why she wouldn’t let me help her?”
He nods. “I asked Lolo and your uncles for their blessings while waiting for you after the graduation ceremony, too.”
My mouth is agape again.
He points to himself with his thumb giving me a cock-eyed grin. “Smart Doctor.”
“Very smart.” I hold out my left hand with my fingers splayed. “And old-fashioned.”
“I know how important your family is to you. And they’ve been good to me.” He takes my hand and kisses my palm. “The ring belonged to Dad’s mom. He gave it to me while you were working on dinner the night I got back. I thought you deserved something different.”
“I have champagne,” Karen sing-songs behind us.
She is holding three champagne flutes. We stand and take the offered glasses from her.
“Welcome to the family, dear,” Karen raises her glass. “I’m thrilled for both of you.”
“To spending forever with my bride,” J.D. chimes in and holds his glass out.
“To a new adventure with my groom.” I gently clink my glass against theirs.
J.D.’s Black Celebration tape is in the portable radio/tape player in the guest room.
And I haven’t felt so alive
The moon is shining in the sky
Reminding me of so many other nights
But they’re not like tonight
We lay on the bed under the covers facing each other, legs and arms intertwined enjoying the afterglow. I play with J.D.’s curls while he caresses my back.
“Let’s get married next Summer during my break,” he proposes quietly.
“So soon?” I ask as his lips brush across my left shoulder.
“We already lost three years because I was an idiot.”
I nuzzle his neck. “Summer it is.”
He tips my head up with his finger and meets my lips with tenderness.
©Debi Smith, 2013