well, if the previous chapter was light on rewrites – this on certainly is not. UGH – I hate chapters like this – where it feels like there should be more but my brain says there’s too much already. do I believe myself of my muses? if I upset them – will they desert me? ah well – maybe a compromise. I can’t find anything else “wrong” with it – so here it comes………
6 ~ Back In The Dating Pool ~
True to my word, I called Cheryl the following Monday after work, and we set a date. That Thursday evening found us sitting beside each other at Gundrie’s, a favorite restaurant for both of us. Many clandestine meetings had happened here in years past, but the night felt new, different, and alive. Cheryl was in a deep blue dress, her ears sparkled with tender dangles, outshined only by her eyes. I had worn dark slacks with a blue shirt, quite by accident, yet our colors blended well – a strong indication of our growing intimacy.
“So, has Sara settled down any?”
“For Sara … yes, I guess you could say so. She’s living with a new boyfriend. This one must be special – they’re going on their first anniversary.”
“Really? A year? That’s a milestone.”
“It is for Sara. I think the longest relationship she’s ever had is eight months, and that’s including the two fathers of her kids.”
“So, grandpa, tell me of the grandkids.”
I pulled out my phone and dialed up the pictures so I could show as I talked. “Angel is Sara’s eldest, currently staying with his father.” I flipped through a few photos. “Stone and Mandy are with their father in New Mexico.” I shook my head. “Both fathers still talk to her about her having custody – I wonder if she’ll ever be ready.
“I can understand that one.”
“Diedre has Phillip and little Annette.” I paused. “Annie was so thrilled to have a granddaughter named after her.”
“It does sound special. Does it help, having her named the same?”
I thought a bit. “Some. She looks like her mother, which means she resembles Annie somewhat – but she has a lot of her father as well. Including her disposition, much to Diedre’s dismay.” I laughed. “But they’re doing well. And you’ve met Bobby’s little one.”
“Yes, she’s priceless. You are one lucky S.O.B. – you know that?”
“Yep,” I replied with a grin.
We were splitting a slice of cheesecake with fresh berries when the subject finally turned to the night ahead. I was sipping a glass of dark sherry and had set down the glass when she reached across the table and stroked my hand with her index finger.
“The night does not need to end here,” she said. I could read the desire in her eyes, her touch sent fireworks off in my brain and my skin ignited in passion.
“Cheryl, I don’t know…”
“It can be simple – coffee. Talk. Two friends getting reacquainted.”
“I’m flattered, really flattered. I just don’t know that I’m ready for anything … more physical.”
“We don’t need to go further than talking if you want. But I like you, I think you like me …”
“You know I do.”
“We are good together. And before you get the thought, this is not pity. It’s not sympathy. I could use someone close for a while … I think you could too.”
I sighed. She was right. I knew it and she knew it. “Of course. And the thought of being with you is more enticing than you might realize.”
“I’m more worried about how I would feel in the morning if … something more did happen.”
Her voice dropped to a whisper, filled with longing. “We can’t live in fear of tomorrow, Paul.”
I nodded slowly. “Maybe coffee and talk. And holding.” I looked at her through misty eyes. “I could really use being held. But if I leave before … well, before bed…” I moved to take her hand. “You are a special friend, Cheryl. You know you mean so much to me. But I could never use you…”
“Hey, handsome,” she said with a wink. “Let’s remember, I would need to agree to bed, or anything else – it’s not just your decision.”
I had to laugh. “True enough.” I finished my drink and signaled for the waiter, reaching for my wallet. “Coffee, then?”
“And conversation,” she added.
“I would enjoy spending more time with you,” I admitted. “This evening has been like a breath of fresh air.”
“Good,” she said as the waiter brought my receipt.
I stood and moved around to take her chair and help her stand. We walked hand-in-hand through Gundrie’s and to the car, where I held her door before walking around to get in. The drive to Cheryl’s house was relatively quiet. Soft jazz played on the radio and our fingers played as I drove. When reached her home it almost felt too soon, but I stopped, shut off the car, then went around to open her door. I walked her to the porch as she pulled her keys from her purse and opened the house. We walked inside in silence and she turned to lock the front door.
Before she could reach for the lights I had pulled her to me. Our lips met in fierce abandon, tongues waging war with forgotten heat. When I finally pulled back I lightly brushed her cheek with the back of my fingers. “You are as beautiful as always, Cheryl. I am constantly amazed you stay single in this town of wolves.”
“And that’s why I’m single. I’m not interested in a wolf. I’ve had two already, remember?” She giggled. “You’ll have to let me go if I’m going to make coffee.”
I reluctantly stepped back before following her into the kitchen. We talked about her career, my job, children, her exes, even Annie, yet none of it felt forced or uncomfortable. We sipped our coffee, eyes locked over steaming cups and our ‘free’ hands entwined, fingers moving. Touching. Heat growing to exceed that in our cups.
She set her cup down and stood. “Come with me,” she purred and I stood to follow her to her room. We had been mentally undressing each other half the night; we finished by letting our hands do what our minds had been working on. When we finally slipped into her bed, I pulled her close and kissed her gently.
“Would it be alright to just lay here and hold each other for a while?” I asked.
“Of course,” she answered, “just don’t run me through with that pole.”
The laughter felt good. The wall had fallen and we were once again friends learning of each other, exploring, and loving.
~ – – – ~
The next day at the club, my best friend was as always, understanding, accepting, and curious. “So, are you in love?”
“What?” I looked at Jared in shock. We had finished our laps and were hanging on the lip of the pool at the deep end, catching our breath. The water was deliciously tepid, a slight coolness that felt good after the strenuous work out followed by a hearty swim.
“Are you in love?” he repeated.
“No. Of course not.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“Jer, it’s just … I’m normally not one to sleep ‘round just to get off.”
“I don’t think one night constitutes ‘sleeping around’.”
“No, I suppose not.”
“Did you enjoy it?”
“Did she?” he asked with a leer.
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’. So what’s the problem?” he repeated.
“Probably nothing, I suppose. I just feel … guilty.”
“Because you had sex, or because it was with Cheryl?” he prodded.
“Probably because of Cheryl.”
“It’s not like Annie would expect you to do without now.”
“It’s not that,” I countered.
“Well, it’s something. I can see it in your face.”
“I don’t like using someone. Especially someone special.”
“You think she feels she was used? Maybe she was just using you. More meaningful than just a dildo.”
“You are so cold,” I replied, splashing him in the face. “This wasn’t casual sex. Or maybe it was. I don’t know, it’s all mixed up.”
“Ease up on yourself, Paul. You’re a healthy male who needed release and missed being close with someone. Cheryl is a good friend who I’m sure also likes closeness. You two have a thing from way back.” He shrugged. “I think it’s a good thing. We don’t get a enough second chances in life to ignore them when they hit.”
I lifted myself to sit on the edge of the pool “Hope so.” I looked behind us at the whirlpool area. “Hot tub is empty, you feel like a soak before we call it?”
He joined me on the lip. “Sounds great.”
We stood and walked over to the hot tub. We dropped our things in chairs and Jared turned on the jets while I stepped into the heated water and sat down and relaxed. I had worn my navy blue speedo – one that got darker when it got wet, not transparent. Or translucent. Of course, Jared had to comment.
“That suit isn’t as much fun as the other one. I’m guessing you got rid of the other one.”
“This one is fine, thank you. And the other one is clean and safely put away in my dresser.”
“You kept it?”
“Uh … yeah.”
I had to stop and think on that. Why did I keep it? The answer was not something I was sure I wanted to admit. “Annie bought it for me.”
“Oh. That makes sense.”
“No, Paul – it does. I still have things Sherry bought me and she walked out on me. So yeah – it makes sense. It’s ok to treasure gifts from her.”
“You’re a good friend, Jared.”
“Shut up, Paul.”
I laughed. Normally that was my line, telling Jared to ‘shut up’. I looked across the bubbling water at my friend and smiled. So many years. So many joys and sorrows, hurts and heals – he was still the one person who truly ‘got me’. Enough of the kid I met so many years ago still remained, and we could be open and honest with each other, knowing our friendship would weather whatever storms.
I must have been staring because he arched a brow. “What?”
I shook my head. “Nothing. Just thinking how lucky I am to have you as a friend. Truly my best friend.”
“Ok, time to get out. You’re getting soggy.”
We laughed and climbed out of the tub. As I dried my hair, I peeked out from under the towel and watched my friend, admiring the shape he kept. He never pushes or preaches ‘good health’ but he is a solid encouragement to stay on top of it. He looked at me as we headed for the showers; I could feel the smile still on my face. He didn’t ask, but he seemed to guess it was about him.
Showered, dressed, and feeling much more ‘human’, we joked with each other as we made our way to his car. I stretched out in the passenger seat and sighed. Jared looked at me, an unspoken question on his face.
“Just feeling good,” I told him.
“Anything specific, or just life in general?”
“Life. I feel like I’m waking up from a long sleep.”
“Good. Then you won’t mind coming with me tonight.”
I had to laugh. “You trying to take my whole Saturday now?”
“Not the whole day. Just the morning and evening. You can have the afternoon.”
“How nice of you, giving me time to do my laundry and cleaning and all the usual stuff for a Saturday.”
“You don’t have to come tonight, but I’d sure appreciate if you did.”
“So tell me then, what is tonight?”
“I thought I’d go to Charlie’s.”
“New club downtown. Has a dance floor and supposedly a good DJ. I just don’t want to go alone to a new place.”
“So, we’re talking a bar?”
“Uh, yeah. There’s a bar too.”
I pursed my lips in thought. I just had a feeling about this.
“This the new gay bar you’ve been hinting at?”
“Yes. But I promise to rescue you if anyone tries to hit on you.”
“Spoken like a true friend. Honestly, I’m not sure I’m in the mood for a dance bar. Doubly not sure about a new gay bar. I’m thinking crowds of young guys all maneuvering for each other.”
“Meat market? I suppose it might be.”
“So you’re looking for a hook-up?”
“I just want to see what it’s like. We used to go to clubs all the time in college. You, me, even Mike would come sometimes.”
“Not to gay clubs, he wouldn’t.”
“Whatever. So will you come with me or not?”
I shrugged. “What the heck. What have I got to lose except a few hours of sleep and a night of hearing.”
“Great. Be ready at eight. I’ll swing by on my way.”
I laughed and shook my head. “Sure. I’ll dig out my boots and see if I can’t ‘country’ it up.”
“I thought you didn’t want to play the game with the little boys.”
“With you as my date, what have I got to worry about?”
He shot me an impish grin.
Here we go again…