Catch up here.
The ordinary ring of my cell phone wakes me heartlessly from slumber. My hand creeps out from under the comfort of the covers and swipes the phone off the nightstand. I answer groggily without looking at the screen, “Hello?”
“Good morning, gorgeous,” Chase greets cheerfully.
“Morning.” A smile breaks out across my face.
“Did I wake you?”
“Mmhmm.” I stretch languorously between the sheets.
“Time to rise and shine.”
“It’s Saturday. I get to sleep in.”
“It’s ten o’clock, Lara,” he chides teasingly. “Would you like to go for a picnic today?”
“That sounds lovely.”
“Is that a yes?”
A picnic with Chase the day after our first evening date? Hell yes.
“Yes,” I confirm with the smile still on my face.
“I’ll pick you up at noon.”
I drag myself out of bed and into the shower. I dress in a green t-shirt and khaki shorts and my hair is pulled back into a ponytail. White canvas tennis shoes cover my feet.
My heart stutters when I open the door. Chase stands there smiling in black shorts and a loose white linen shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows and the top two buttons left open.
He opens the trunk of his car and retrieves a picnic basket with a folded blanket on top when we reach his car.
“Where are we going?” I ask, surprised he opened the trunk instead of the passenger door.
“The park around the corner. Sheffield Park, correct?”
I nod as if I should have known we were staying close to home.
We choose a spot away from a group playing Frisbee and Chase lays out the blanket. I sit facing him on his left as he removes sandwiches, a container of hulled strawberries, and two bottles of Perrier. I pick up a sandwich wrapped in parchment paper, unwrap it, and inspect it. Roast beef with mixed greens, tomato, and mustard on a French baguette.
“It won’t bite,” he jokes.
“Are you sure? It looks a little suspicious. This tomato slice might try to blind me,” I play along.
“Positive.” He winks.
My insides turn to melted butter at the sight and I bite into the crusty sandwich to cover my reaction. Crumbs rain down into the parchment paper on my lap.
“Which deli did you go to?” I ask after finishing my first bite.
He gives me a hurt look with aquamarine puppy dog eyes. “I made them myself.”
“You did not,” I say in disbelief while trying to ignore the near pout that is waking a desire to throw myself at him.
“I did. Honest. I told you I like to cook,” he says then bites into a plump strawberry.
“I need to see for myself. You can say you like to cook, but doing it is another thing.”
“You are on.” He flashes a smile. “Dinner at my place tomorrow.”
His smile is as bright as his eyes and it makes me smile as I marvel at the contrast between him and my exes. None of them would have made a picnic for me. Not even with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I resist the urge to pinch myself to make sure this is real in front of him.
He scoots closer so we are hip to hip then leans over and lowers his eyelids. I exhale as butterflies swarm inside me. Our lips affix themselves together gently and linger a moment. His strawberry sweetened tongue reaches through, searching leisurely.
The ringing of my phone breaks us apart.
“Sorry,” I apologize and let loose a tirade of profanity in my head for the horrible timing. I fish the phone out of my pocket. Robin’s name and number shows on the screen. I exhale and toss the phone in front of me.
The phone is relentless, beeping seconds later. Chase picks it up and hands it to me looking slightly perturbed at the interruption. I take it and look at the screen. The text icon is showing. I unlock the screen with my password and open the text thread from Robin.
Call me. Please?
I told you I’d call Monday after work. I’ll talk to you then.
I set the phone to silent and turn it screen side down next to me.
“Robin?” he asks.
He turns his head away for a moment and we finish our lunch in awkward silence. I think about all the ways to chastise Robin for not listening because I cannot think of anything to say to Chase to break the stillness.
Chase slips his hand into mine on our way back to my apartment. “Lara, I do not want to come between you and Robin.”
“I don’t want him to come between you and me.”
“You have a long history with him,” he says defeated.
“We’re friends, Chase. He may be in love with me, but the feeling is not mutual,” I assure him. “It will work out. It’s just new terrain.”
I almost believe it myself. Almost.
“I hate seeing you torn.”
I turn my head to him and bore into his brilliant eyes. “This isn’t a choice between either of you. He already knows how I feel.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Positive,” I say boldly.
He grins in response and squeezes my hand.
I meant it. I did not go out for coffees and lunches with Chase to suss him out and lay the groundwork to have it undone by Robin’s Hail Mary at the twelfth hour. I spent those small dates making sure Chase was the kind of man I wanted to be with; genuine, compassionate, and unafraid of an independent woman like myself.
Chase stows the basket and blanket in his car trunk then walks me up to my second-floor apartment. We stand in front of my door and he tugs me into him by my waist. He brushes his lips against mine then releases me.
My breath catches in my throat from bewilderment at the briefness of the kiss. I search his aquamarine pools for a sign and I am met with fear and longing battling each other in a cage match. Last emotion standing wins.
I reach up and stroke his jaw with my fingertips. He closes his eyes and a tear escapes. I wipe it away with my thumb.
He fears I will choose Robin instead and it pains him. He spent the same amount of time ensuring I was who he wanted in his life and the possibility of losing is too much for him. At least that is what I imagine is swirling about behind those mesmerizing eyes of his. My words did nothing to reassure him he is my choice and Robin never will be. All I had left were actions.
I wind my arms around his neck, drawing him closer and I connect with his mouth. He meets my kiss greedily, asking for more with his lips and his tongue. His arms encircle me and press me closer, tighter.
Sometimes a kiss says what words cannot.
Our chests heave against each other when the kiss ends.
“Tomorrow at six?” he asks low.
I keep one arm around his neck and use my free hand to stroke his lips. The fear is gone from his eyes. Longing wins and will soon be replaced with something better.
“Most definitely,” I reply breathily then cover his mouth with mine again.
©Debi Smith, 2014