Tuesday, October 29, 2013

No More Waiting

Michelle didn’t answer her call or texts.  After her make out session in the hallway Diana didn’t know what to do.  Why didn’t I just stop him?  Why does that man do that to me?  Even with Aaron things hadn’t been that passionate.   Yes there was passion, but he took his time about it.  She liked the slow steady way they had started out their relationship.  Much like her and Mitch, well at least in the begging it seemed to be going that way.  With Alex it was right in her face… and down her neck and breast.  “Get a grip woman!”  She needed to talk to a friend before she went on a date with Alex and couldn’t turn back.  

The next afternoon Michelle returned her call; “You okay?  You sounded a bit out of breath.  What’s up?”  Diana had just read a text from Alex asking her when she’d be ready to finish what they’d started last night.  Her first thought was to run to his place and answer in person, but that would just be irresponsible and so damn good in theory.  She was lost in her fantasy when Michelle called.

“I had just been assaulted in a hallway and wanted some advice.”

“Assaulted?  Did Mitch finally make a move?  Was it amazing?  I knew this trip would be good for you!” 

Michelle would have kept on going but Diana interrupted, “No, it was Alex.”

“Um, now who’s Alex?”

It was time to confess.  And confess she did.  All of it from the moment she first saw him stalking towards her to her walking into his house after the rain and last night’s up against the wall make out session.

“Two weeks and you’ve not told me about ‘Hot Guy’?  Why would you withhold such delicious information from me?  And can you please tell me the details once more, but perhaps a little slower.  I didn’t get it all down on paper yet.”  Michelle laughed and sighed.  “Oh honey, I almost want to trade places with you.  You know; if I was single and not happy with my guy and you know… you said long hair, sexy accent?  I’m writing this down.”  In the background she could hear Stan teasing her.  “Stan says stop filling me up with ideas.  Ignore him.  Keep the ideas coming.”   

The two talked awhile longer, discussing the merits of both men but neither coming up with an idea of what to do.  “You are free to do whatever you want.  Didn’t you already sign the divorce papers?”

She hadn’t.  They still sat in her room safe.  Abandonment; she never thought she and Aaron would divorce, but to think it was because he’d lied and left her without a word was still unthinkable.  “I’m a mess.  I’m still married.  What am I doing running after two other guys?  And across the ocean no less, I should pack up and hide in the house again.”

“No you should not!  I’ve watched you do that for too long!  You have a few more weeks and from what you say you have a chance to stay longer, take them up on it.  Start over.  Get away from everything that reminds you of before."

“But I can’t.  I’d miss you and my family.”

“Be honest, you’d not miss your family that much.”  Michelle laughed and said something to Stan.  “Stan says I can come visit, but he has to come and supervise.”  There was a pause as Stan and Michelle talked in the background again.  “I would miss you dearly, but this might be the change you’ve been looking for.  You didn’t just sell the store on a whim.  I know you want to get out of this town and no one would blame you.  Just try it out.”

“What about my house?”

“We can keep watching it, or you could sell it.  See what the lawyer says when you sign the papers; whatever you decide I’ll support you.”

“Thank you.  I love you both.”

“We love you too.”  

“Before we say good-bye, any suggestions on Mitch and Alex?”

“Oh honey, just try both flavors.”

“Michelle!”  

“Bye honey.”  The phone disconnected.

“Bye you crazy woman.”  She said to herself.  “And still I have no idea what to do.”

As she got up from the bed to charge the phone it rang suddenly.

“So did you have some brilliant advice for me?”   Thinking it was Michelle calling her back she didn’t bother to check the ID.

“No advice, but I was thinking lunch, unless you’ve already eaten.  I’m sorry to call so late.”

Mitch’s voice caught her off guard.  “Oh I’m so sorry.  I thought you were my friend.  I mean, I thought my friend Michelle was calling me back.”

“So what advice did you need?  Maybe I can help.”

She thought to herself that he certainly could, but to him she said, “Lunch sounds wonderful.  I can ask your advice then.”  They decided on the location and Diana quickly gathered her purse and shoes.



Having not taken the tour of the brewery the first time, they decided to give it a go again.  The waitress that had served them before waived to the two of them and hurried to their table.  “I couldn’t stop thinking about you.  Your story had us all trying to figure out what happen to Aaron.  It’s such a tragedy.  I mean, he could still be alive right?  And you’ve no idea.  How does that work?  I mean the marriage.  Can you divorce him or do you just keep living like your married?  It would be so odd.”

Mitch was about to interrupt when Diana spoke.  “It is odd and I do have divorce papers claiming abandonment.”  

At that news Mitch asked, “Have you signed them?”

“No, I haven’t.  I want to, but I don’t know how I can.”

“Didn’t he lie to you?  I mean about work and travel?  Isn’t that enough?” 

“I thought so till I held the papers.”  She wasn’t sure why she was admitting this.  “It’s so final.  And it doesn’t give him a chance to explain.”

No one spoke for a moment, “Do you think they might be lying to you at his job?”  The waitress, Jill asked.  Diana remembered the slip of paper with her name and number on it from before.

“Jill that has never sat well with me; I still can’t believe it was all lies.”  Diana hesitated, in mid thought she realized something; “It was his boss that first suggested abandonment.”

Jill and Mitch both replied; “What?”

As if lost in her own thoughts Diana began talking again, “I remember sitting on the lobby couch and asking myself what I was supposed to do now.  And his boss suggested divorce due to abandonment.  Then he gave me his divorce lawyer’s business card.  I didn’t think much of it.  I mean, once I started working with the lawyer I didn’t talk again to the company.  There was no need at that point.”  She looked at both of them, “Doesn’t that seem odd that he’d be so quick to suggest that?  I think that’s odd.”  

They both nodded in agreement.  “Something isn’t right.”  Jill said as she pulled her pen and pad out.

“I agree.  I need to call the detective and see what he thinks.”  Diana made a mental note to call in the next day or two.  “But today I was promised a tour and then lunch.  Or are we doing lunch and a tour?”  She smiled at Mitch, hoping to lighten the mood before they went too far off.  

“Let’s get those dozen drinks you wanted last time and then the tour will be all the better for it.”  He ordered the sampler and Jill left.  

“I apologize; I didn’t mean to get started on that again.”  

“Don’t worry about it.  It sounds like you might have discovered something.”

“I doubt it at this point, but it’s worth letting the police department know.  Okay off me, on to you.  How is your mom? And your dad is he handling things better?”

“Actually, that was part of what I wanted to talk to you about.”

Jill dropped off the beer samples and handed them both a list that corresponded.  “Let me know which ones you like and the next batch you want to try out.”  When she walked off they both tried one of the beers, each in their own tiny beer steins.  Diana admiring their detail and asked; can we buy these?  They’re adorable.”  

Mitch toasted her with his little beer stein and said, “I have the whole collection.”  When he smiled she was reminded of how handsome he was, even more so now that she’d had the opportunity to spend time with him.  

They sampled a few more, picked the next set they wanted to try and Diana prompted him.  “So tell me about your parents.”

He took a moment to answer; “Dad called the other night and finally admitted that things were getting bad.  Not to say that mom was doing worse, but that he couldn’t keep up with things.  I asked him to explain what was going on and he simple said she’d forgetting things.”  He paused to take a drink as if to fortify himself.  “I think it might be Alzheimer’s and dad can’t manage the house and take care of her.  I asked about getting her a nurse but he said they tried that and it upset mom.  He asked me to stay with them for a while.”  

“I’m so sorry to hear this.”  She reached over and squeezed his hand.  “Oh course you have to go and help.  I bet you’d be a huge comfort to her and your dad.  Would you stay there a few days a week, or go on the weekends?” 

“Dad’s wants me there all week if possible.”

“How soon?”

“I’m headed there tomorrow.  I’ve a lot of things already there since I visit them a few times each month.  So I don’t have to pack up everything.  I’ve some friends, the ones I talked with last night, who can watch the place for me and the store runs so well that my employees have it covered.  I just have to come in and sign checks and okay a few things once or twice a month.”

“So today’s the last day I’ll see you then?”  Diana was surprised by the suddenness but could kick herself for feeling left behind.  She was leaving in a few weeks, what did it matter?  But it did.

“It doesn’t have to be.”  He turned his hand over and laced his fingers with hers.  “You could stay.  You could live at my place, I mean, just to help me out so I know the place is cared for.  And I could visit when I’m in town for work.  I could also use someone like you at the store.  My guys are good, but they’re good at keeping things going as is.  You’d bring new life into the place.  Get authors to come in for signings and maybe the children’s area you talked about in your old shop.  I could use you.”   

Diana looked at their laced fingers and felt his warmth.  He’d become a dear person to her over her short stay.  She could see herself in his store, by his side.  He’d be good to her.  Whoa, don’t get ahead of yourself Diana; he said help with the store, not get married and have kids.  She pulled her hand away, thinking he could feel where her thoughts had gone and worried he’d take everything back.

“It sounds like a wonderful offer, but I’d hardly see you.”

“I know.”

“You wouldn’t even know for how long.  It could be years.”

“She might respond better to a nurse if I’m there for a while with her.  But I don’t know.  I’m worried about dad too.”  He ran his fingers through his hair, looking a bit frustrated.  “I’ve spent the last week getting to know you and trying to do it right.”  He smiled up at her.  

“When I saw you in the store that first night I had grand plans of seducing you and not letting you go.  But when you told me your story I knew things would be complicate.”  He leaned forward, “It would be worth any complications, but I thought it wiser to get to know you and let you get to know me.  I assumed my pull to you would either dissipate with so much contact or you’d warm up to the idea of an “us” and we could move forward.   

When I heard Ian and Sandra talking about you staying I jumped on the idea.  I know this is forward of me but you’re in my every waking thought.  And a few of my dreams that may never see the light of day, but I sure hope they do.”  He smiled shyly at her and continued.  “This is too much too soon.  I know.  And if things were different I’d spend the rest of your holiday trying to convince you to stay.  But I can’t.  And I won’t.  I’ve no right to ask any of this from you.  I almost said nothing, but I had to try.”  

While he spoke Diana kept seeing the vision of her next to him in the store, but Aaron kept showing up in his place.  It would be like moving her memories with her.  Or maybe it wouldn’t and she was just scared by the idea.  It was too fast no matter what.  But he was just offering her a room and a job… right?

“I’m not good at the waiting.  I’ve sort of done that already.”

Mitch looked crestfallen and nodded his head.  “I knew I was asking too much.  I’m so sorry.”  He put his hands out again and she gladly took them.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for me; a job and a place to stay, but the waiting?  This trip was to help jump start me back into life.  Okay, the trip wasn’t my idea, but I’m starting to understand the fuss now.”  She tried to smile but could feel it fade from her face fast.  “If I said I wanted to keep you as a close friend, would it be assuming too much?”

“No it wouldn’t.  I’ll take it.  I’ll take whatever you’re willing to give.  I know you’ve been through a lot and it was presumptuous of me to even ask.  But the offer to stay in my place and the job is still available.  No strings attached.  I can promise you that.”

“But that would feel like using you.  I couldn’t do that either.”

“You wouldn’t be using me.  You’d be helping me out.  The place is paid for, you could pay the utilities and I promise to pay you very little for helping out at the store so you don’t feel like a burden.”  They both laughed, “Oh no, I expect excellent pay and I promise not to feel like a burden.”  

He put his right hand out for a shake, “Deal?”

“I’ve not decided to stay yet.”

“But if you do?”

“If I do decide to stay, then yes, we have a deal.”  She put her hand out and they shook. 

He leaned down and kissed the top of hers.  Looking into her eyes, while his lips still brushed the top of her hand and his breath stirring the skin around it; “Just know that when things settle down, and I come back, if you’ve not met anyone, I’d like a chance to see if we’d do well together.”

She wasn’t sure if it was the way he was looking at her, or the fact that she’d not eaten today and had already consumed a few beers, but she was ready to take him up on his offer… all of them, right then.

“I’d like that.”  She was proud of herself for not saying anything else.

He kissed her hand once more and then raised another tiny beer stein.  “To friendship and the possibility of more.”  He winked and they drank.  “Now for the tour so we can eat lunch.  Unless you’d like some more samples first.”

“Oh no, I’ve had my fill for now.”  She looked over her 8 empty steins and tried to do the math in her head.  Was that two or four full beers?  She wasn’t sure, but even two was enough to make her tipsy on a good day.  “Let’s walk this off before we sample more.”  

"Wait, what was it you wanted advice on?"

She'd almost forgotten her slip up on the phone.  "Oh, you already answered my question for me."

"And what was that?"

"No more waiting." 

Mitch looked confused, but said nothing else.  "You ready to do this?"  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Blackmail

The next week was a whirlwind of activities.  Mitch lived up to his promise and took her wherever she wanted to go.  By the end of the second week she had visited what seemed like every possible genealogy resource within a 15-mile radius.  She was exhilarated and exhausted.  “I think I’m done.  I mean, once I log this all in I might need to double check a few sources here and there, but I can do that online.  I can’t believe everything that I found… we found.  I could have spent the whole month doing this on my own and not located half what we did.  Thank you so much for helping me.”

She leaned over the car console and gave him a quick kiss; the first real physical contact since the kiss at her door step nearly a week before.  “It was my pleasure.”  He smiled and continued to drive towards their last stop for the day, Ian and Sandra’s place.  

Finding the car suddenly silent Diana asked Mitch; “How is your mom doing?”  Mitch’s impromptu trip the week earlier was due to his mom’s sudden illness.  Well, sudden to him.  He explained that he felt something was amiss the last time he visited his parents, but nothing was said.  When she was rushed to the hospital because of low blood pressure his dad finally admitted that she was being seen by a local doctor.  For what Mitch still didn’t know.  “She’s doing well today.  Dad said she’s behaving and not running about like she usually does.  I know that must be driving her mad.”

Mitch didn’t say it in so many words, but he was truly worried.  She’d learned over the course of the week that the bookstore was his mother’s dream and one his dad was happy to fulfill.  When Mitch showed interest in helping a few years ago his dad was the one to push the idea of the two of them retiring and letting him take over.  “My mom wasn’t as excited as him, but I have a feeling dad knew something was wrong.”  He noticed for the last couple of years that his mom was doing less and less.  

“I didn’t think much about her not traveling as much, but when I noticed she’d stopped gardening, I couldn’t deny it anymore.  I just wasn’t able to get them to admit anything.  I’m a grown man and my parents are trying to protect me.  Can you imagine?”  She could, her own would probably do the same when the time came.

As they pulled up to the side of Ian and Sandra’s house she waited as Mitch came around and opened her door.  “I wish I’d freshened up before we came over.”  “There was no need.  You look lovely.”  He helped her out of the car and linked her arm in his.  

“Is this your first time here?”  

“It is.  We keep meeting at the pub which has been nice, but I’ve wanted to see where they live.”

Before Mitch could knock Sandra opened the door and gave the two of them hugs.  “So glad y’all made it!”  She seemed overly excited.  She just saw Sandra the day before.

After Mitch passed by her she gently grabbed Diana’s hand and whispered in her ear; “He’s here.”

“Who?”

Sandra raised her eyebrows.  “Who else?”


Diana shrugged her shoulders.
  
“Alex!”  Sandra said it loud enough that a few of the people near them looked over.

“I didn’t realize this was a full blown party.”

“Ian never does anything half way, which means he invited all his friends, including Alex.  Is that okay?”

“Of course it is.”

Sandra greeted guest and headed into the other room.  Diana wasn’t sure why she was making such a fuss about the two of them.  No one except Alex knows what happened that night.  Oh no, what if Alex had been talking.  Other than the teasing he did that first time.  “Surely not.”

“What was that?”  Mitch handed her a drink.  

“I’m just surprised you know what I like to drink.”

“I’ve seen you order it a few times now.”

She smiled; glad she didn’t have to explain her slip up.  “This is a much bigger gathering than I had expected.”  

“Typical Ian though.  I’ve known him a few years now.  We don’t hang out often, but he tends to be the life of the party.  I never asked how you knew Ian and Sandra?”

“We met on a cruise a few years ago.  We were assigned to the same table and hit it off.  We had hoped to visit them” she paused thinking about Aaron “even had dates set up, but it just didn’t happened; till now.”  She took a drink and continued.  “Sandra and I talked on the phone over the years, but we’ve always wanted to curl up on the couch and talk for hours like real friends.  I know her and Michelle would get along too.”  

“Well, now’s your chance.”  He pulled her over to the couch Sandra was sitting on, talking to a man with a smelly pipe.  “You mind if my lady has a chat with the hostess?”

The gentleman smiled and gave a nod to Sandra.  “Certainly; I need to refill my pipe anyway.”

Sandra mouthed the words ‘thank you’ to Mitch as the man walked off.  She patted the cushion he just occupied for Diana to sit on.  “I’m off to talk with some friends I see.  You good?”  He looked at Diana, waiting for an answer. 

“I’m great.  Thank you.”

After he was out of ear shot, “Did he call you his lady?”

“I caught that too.”

“So this is news to you?”

“It is.  He’s been wonderful company this week, but no passes have been made.”  At that declaration she laid her head against the back of the couch.  “I thought maybe after I told him the long sorted tale of Aaron and I he’d run, but he’s been great all week, yet no flirting.  I mean he was such a flirt when I met him.  It must be knowing all the details.  I knew I shouldn’t have told him.  Not that it matters, I can’t start a relationship with him and then leave.  That would be foolish.”  She closed her eyes and rolled her head from side to side. “What am I doing?”

“You’re traveling to new countries, meeting new people.  It’s exciting.  Enjoy it.”

“But I’m starting to like him.”

“Then like him. You don’t have to jump him.”

“I know!”  They both giggled like school girls.  “I just thought maybe he’d be more than my tour guide.  I guess deep down I am hoping from some summer romance.  Oh man, I need to stop that kind of thinking now.”

“You know if you stayed you could think about it.”

“As exciting as that sounds, there’s no way that’ll happen.”

“Why not?”

“There’s people back home, family and friends.  I can’t just leave.”

“Of course you can.  And it doesn’t have to be permanent.  Why not just extend your stay and try working here, living here, being my best friend and doing this more often.”  Sandra curled her legs up under her and batted her eyes.  “Please”

“Does this work on Ian?”

“It does.  And often.” Ian leaned down and kissed Sandra’s nose.  “We do have work for you if you want to try it out.  We also have a room or you can stay in one of Alex’s places.”

At the thought of staying in one of Alex’s places Diana coughed.  “Before y’all talk me into getting a work visa or whatever paperwork I’d need to fill out, can you direct me to the restroom?”

They both pointed towards a hallway.  “Be back in a bit.  Y’all please continue planning my future.  It beats me having to do it.”  She winked as she walked off towards the hall.

She immediately began digging in her purse for her cell phone.  She wanted to send a quick text to Michelle about Mitch calling her his lady and Sandra’s suggestion to stay longer.  

“If you aren’t careful you might run into someone.”

Her stomach fluttered and her breath became short.  “Hello Alex.  Sorry I didn’t see you.  I had my mind on other things.”

“Such as?”

What was with this man?  Did he just like taunting her?  “I’m heading to the restroom.”

“Looks like you were texting someone.”

“I was doing that as well.  I just have a short window before she’s in bed.”

“So not a man then?”

“My best friend; she was asking about Mitch.”  That wasn’t true.  Why did she say that?

“How has that been?  Ian said he’s been acting as tour guide for you.”

“He has taken me out.  Museums and local sights; it’s been an exciting week.”

“Sounds it” as he spoke he edged closer to Diana.  In the tight hallway she felt trapped.  He said something, but she missed it with her mind focused on his hands tracing the rim of his glass.

“What was that?”

“I said I wanted to explain about the other night.  Perhaps we can over a proper dinner and date.”  He took another step closer making her bend her head back to look at him.  

“You don’t need to explain.  As I said before you caught me on a bad night and I apologize.”  Was he getting closer or was the room getting smaller?  She tried to distract herself by putting her phone away.

“I have to do this.”  Still thinking he was talking about explaining himself, she lifted her face to tell him, again, that it wasn’t necessary.  When she did she was nearly nose to nose with him.  She stopped before words left her mouth, holding her breath.

He sat his drink on the hall table and started to caress her bare arms, to her shoulders, stopping at her neck, his eyes left hers briefly to focus on the pulse in her throat.  He slowly rubbed the pad of his thumb across it.  Her heart was racing.  She wouldn’t be able to deny that he excited her.

“You do the same to me.” He whispered just as his lips touched hers.  The kiss was slow, his lips pressing softly against hers.  But with each second that passed he became more demanding.  To keep herself from leaning in to him and in a feeble effort to push away, she put her hands on his chest.  She could feel his heart pounding just as fast as hers.  Knowing that gave her courage.  

She leaned in to the kiss while her mind screamed for her to stop.  But it was quickly shut up when one of his hands slid up the back of her neck and his fingers gentle pulled her hair at the roots.  His other hand slowly slid down her back, resting on the rise of her backside.  He pulled her into his body. 

She could feel he was aroused and moaned, he pressed her tighter till she could feel his full length.  Her hands moved from his chest to his neck and around to the back of his head.  Making the kiss deeper, pushing her tongue past his teeth and tangling with his.  He responded with a mirrored moan and moved them deeper into the shadows.  When her back was pressed firmly against the wall he dared to speak; “I can’t figure out what it is about you that makes all rational thought leave my mind.  I know you leave in a few weeks, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting you.”

She laughed into the side of his neck; “I figured the fact that I was leaving in a few weeks is what made me desirable.”  She was slowly grabbing on to reality and started to clear her mind.  “This really should stop now.”  

Sensing she was withdrawing he came in for another kiss; this one with more passion than the previous and his hands were everywhere on her body.  She was losing track of where each one was, so lost in the feel of his body pressed against hers, his smell, his lips…  she reminded herself that she was a single woman with no commitments to any man.  If this one wanted her, and she certainly wanted him, what’s to stop them?

They continued till she felt his hand at the hem of her skirt.  “Wait” she whispered, “we can’t do it here.”  Though the idea suddenly thrilled her, she still had enough sense left to know that it was a bad idea. 

“I won’t stop till you agree to dinner.”  His hand caressed the back of her thigh.

“Are you trying to blackmail me?”  She strained to sound stern but his tongue was tracing the shell of her ear and his warm breath against her neck was playing havoc on her concentration.  As she tried to string together a coherent sentence his hands went around her backside and lifted her, forcing her to spread her legs and wrap them around his hips or fear falling.

“We have to stop.”  Or at least that’s what she tried to say when he continued to trace her jawline and his stubble grazed the top of her breast.  “Okay, I’ll go on a date with you.  Just please stop teasing me.”

“Teasing?" He kissed the top of her exposed breast.  “You think I’m teasing?  Just say the words, or simply nod your head and I’ll finish what we started last week.  There’s a room at the top of the stairs.  I could do this proper, or I can have you right here.  You decide.”  He punctuated his statement by sliding her against his length.  

She looked up towards the second story and felt Alex’s body turn, as if to take the stairs that instant.  “NO!  I mean yes, to the date.  But no to what will no doubt be mind blowing sex that I’m already regretting not having, but no.  I don’t even know where I stand with Mitch.”  She pulled away, trying to adjust her dress and straighten the top.  

“Just because you turn me on with a simple smile doesn’t discount the friendship I have with Mitch.”  Oh that sounded weak.  Friendship versus passion is a hard one.  “I really like Mitch and need to know where we stand before I just,” she was looking Alex in the eyes, his passion filled eyes, still dilated from desire eyes, she could feel his need like pulsing heat.  She swallowed; 

“As it is we don’t even know each other, so we can’t just,” she looked up the stairs, wondering if it was the door she could just barely see in the dim light.  Her mind was inside that room, naked on the bed with him calling out her name.  She shook her head, took a deep breath.  

“When do you want to do it?”

“I’m good with right now.”

“I’m on a date with Mitch.”  She was confused for a moment then realized his double meaning.  “You free in a few days?”

He leaned his forehead on hers with his eyes closed, “You’d make me wait that long?” both hands bracketed her face while he gave her one last world ending kiss and then he turned and walked away.  She fell back against the wall and tried to recover.  “I have a date with a man who can make my clothes melt off.  This can’t possible turn out well.”  

She steadied herself and called Michelle, no text would suffice. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dead Ends


Diana looked up at Mitch, ignoring the stunned looks on everyone else’s face; “I spent the next year trying to figure out what was a lie and what was the truth.  Because Mark and I had cleaned out the condo the day he went missing, the police had nothing to go by.  The contents of the wall safe were useless.  The phone had been reset and the wallet only had his driver’s license and a few pieces of paper.   

As far as the police were concerned Mark and I had destroyed any evidence that would prove Aaron was abducted.  Instead we were both suspects.  The police started looking for evidence that would prove Mark and I were having an affair.  It nearly ruined his marriage.  When he found another job I let him know it was okay.  I didn’t blame him for leaving and wished him well.

I went up to Aaron’s office a few times hoping to find something, but his office had been packed and his things sent to the police station.  My lawyer had to fight to get his things back.  When I finally received the boxes I could find nothing that would help.  Any questions I had, his employer referred me to his lawyer.  They had written Aaron off and treated him as if he’d abandoned his job.  

I never did get to see the contract, at least not the real one.  I just saw bits in a memo that didn’t make sense.  The secretary wouldn’t talk to lawyers and when we planned a meeting at a coffee shop she never showed.  I searched everywhere for passports, plane tickets, anything that would prove he’d traveled outside the country.  Even inside, I didn’t care; I just wanted a place to start.  But there were nothing.”

“Did he have any family,” Mitch paused, “besides you?”

“Nobody, he showed me where his parents were buried early in our marriage and mentioned an aunt.  But she died a few years ago.”

“What about friends?”

“Just the ones from work and they all had the same story.  That was the only time the police seemed suspicious.  It was all too rehearsed.  But you can’t charge people for agreeing on someone.  Without clues from his last known whereabouts, no information from work and no proof that Mark and I had anything to do with his disappearance, they put the case aside.  The lead officer even had the nerve to tell me to call him when I heard from Aaron.  As if he’d just show up one day and say hello.”

Mitch frowned, “Was there anyone helping you through all this?”

“Michelle was always there.  Her and her husband kept the shop running and when Mark left they hired someone soon after.  Most of the customers had no idea what was going on.  I was so thankful to have a friend at the paper who kept the details of his disappearance out of the news.  Eventually they did have to publish something, but it was far in the back and nothing referring to the initial investigation of Mark and me.”

“What a nightmare.  And still no answers?”

“Not  a one; I called the investigator once a week, then once a month, now he’s promised to call me if anything changed.  My lawyer wanted me to go after the company, but they have an endless supply of funds and lawyers.  I didn’t stand a chance.”

“When did you decide to sell the store?”

“Every time I walked into the store I remembered the first time Aaron and I met.  The first time he asked me out.  All the days we spent working side by side.  All the happy moments felt like lies.  I still loved my friends, the books and the customers, but the memories were overwhelming.”   This was the first time Diana shed a tearing during her story.  “I mentioned selling the store to Michelle.  I even offered to work something out so she and Stan could buy it and pay me out if need be.  But she wouldn’t do it. 

‘It’s your store honey.  I was here to help with your dreams and I loved every minute of it.  But I don’t want to hang on to your nightmare.’  I told her it wasn’t and that eventually I’d be able to come up there and maybe even help out.  But she was ready to move on too.  So when an offer came I took it.  

My agent, thinking I’d never sale, quoted an outrageous price to some potential buyers.  When she got it she called me hesitantly, thinking I’d still not take it.  But I did.  No questions asked.  Everything I loved was gone.  My agent handed me the check and said, “Here’s to new dreams.”  I ran out of her office like a fool.  I didn’t want a new dream.  I wanted the one I worked so hard for to continue.  But it never would.”

During the last part of her story Mitch slid into the booth beside her and pulled her into his arms.  She buried her face into his shoulder and cried harder.  “This wasn’t the first date I had imagined.”

“What had you imagined?”  He pulled away and lifted her face.

“Dinner and drinks” she sniffed.

“We did that, even dessert and coffee.  So what’s the problem?”

“I’d never planned to cry on your shoulder.”  She wiped her wet cheeks and nose with a napkin.

“As if you’re the first woman I made cry on a date.”  He chuckled and gave her a squeeze.
Diana’s muffled laughed made him smile.  “But surely not on a first date.”

“I find it’s better to get the crying over with as soon as possible when dating.  Now that we’re past that we can move on to the fun stuff.”

Diana looked down at her watch and gasped, “It’s so late.  I forgot about Sandra!”  When she looked around most of the patrons had left and the wait staff was cleaning up.  As their waitress walked back to see if they needed anything else Diana apologized to her; “I didn’t mean to keep you here so long.  I’m so sorry.”

“Oh Sweetie don’t worry about that.  I’m glad you shared your story with us; as frightful as it was.  You’re welcome to stay late anytime you’d like.”  She smiled and gave her a piece of paper with her name and number.  “While you’re in town call me, I know where all the hot spots are.  Mitch is too sedate for you.”  She winked at them both and walked off.
She giggled, “An old girlfriend?”  

“It’s a small town, we know everyone.  You ready to go?”

“Yes, thanks again for dinner.  And I’m so sorry for wasting so much time talking about myself.”

“Stop apologizing.  I wanted to hear the story, as did everyone else apparently.  I’m happy you shared it with me.”

“It was nice getting it off my chest.  My friends and family know the details, but telling someone who isn’t a part of it was cathartic.  Like maybe I can move forward.  That sounds silly.”  

“Not at all,” He stood up and tugged her out of the booth. “Now if you’d gone on and on about your steamy love life I might have been offended,” He winked.  “I’d prefer we make our own stories up.”

The waitress walked by just as Mitch spoke and popped him on the backside with her towel.  “Mitch!  How can you talk to her like that after she told you what all happened.”  

Diana laughed, she was happy he had.  The idea that she’d just ruined a potential relationship was sitting hard, but Mitch joking meant there was still a chance.



“He kissed me at the door.  It was so sweet.  Like the first kiss with your prom date, neither of you knowing if it’ll go further.”  “And did it?” Michelle asked on the other end of the line.  “No!  It was our first date, just a kiss and a promise to see each other tomorrow.”  “One week in England and you’re already making out with the locals.  I’m impressed.”  

Diana felt bad for not updating Michelle on what had happened with Alex, but she thought if she ignored it then perhaps it would just fade away from memory.  “Did I mention he owns a book store, passed down from his parents in this old beautiful building?”

“You did, three times now.”

“I’m going on and on aren’t I?”

“I’m glad you are.  I was worried you’d be homesick or shut up inside your room.  I’m so glad you’ve getting out and seeing everything.  Have you worked on your genealogy project any?”

“I did a little.  I should probably take the day and see more sites and visit the local historical society.  I’m not sure where to start really.”

“I bet Mitch can help you out.  It’ll give you an excuse to bend heads over books together.  How sexy is that?”  

“Stop making fun!”  Of course Diana was used to this from her best friend.  Even though she’d worked in the shop with her for all those years and enjoyed it, she never did see the appeal of spending hours over books.  A romance novel every few weeks was sufficient for Michelle.

“Well get off the phone with me and go see that sexy man of yours.” 

They said their good-byes and made plans for another chat next week.

It was noon time and she needed to see Sandra after missing their girl’s night out.



The moment she walked into the pub Sandra was on top of her asking questions; “Tell me everything!”  “What do you mean?”  “When Alex came to help out and you never showed up I called your phone but you never answered.  We started to worry when an hour passed.  Alex even went out looking for you.  By the way, I think the guy might have a thing for you.  Did you know that?  Weren’t you going to tell me something about you two?  I mean, what’s with the going to his place and eating dinner together?  You need to catch me up!  And make it fast.  After he couldn’t find you and you weren’t at the B&B I assured him that you and Mitch must have lost track of time.  I think he’ll be back asking questions.”

Diana didn’t want to be here when he returned.  Though maybe if he thought Mitch and her were an item he’d stop teasing her.  Did she want that?  Surely she did.  He wasn’t the right guy for her.  Not that Mitch was, or any guy for that matter.  And why was she even concerned with either of them.  She’d be leaving in a few weeks.  “Oh this is ridicules.”

“What is?”

“Oh, I didn’t realize I’d spoken out loud.  But it is.  I didn’t eat dinner with Alex, like I said yesterday he was just there.  As far as going to his place,” she needed to think fast “I locked myself out and needed the keys to the B&B.  That was it.”

“So he’s just teasing you for the fun of it.  There isn’t anything going on with you two?”
She hated to lie, but what was there to say; “Nothing is going on.”

“Okay, what about you and Mitch?  What happen yesterday afternoon that lead to late last night?”  She didn’t sound upset, but she should have been.

“I’m so sorry about that.  Mitch took me to the brewery for lunch and a tour, but we never did the tour.”

Ian walked past and made a whistling sound through his teeth.

“It wasn’t like that!”  She chuckled.  “I told him and half the town about Aaron’s disappearance.  Y’all know how long a story that is.  And Mitch insisted I tell him everything so I lost track of time.  I’m apologizing a lot these days, but I am sorry.”

“Don’t think anything about it.  I’m happy you told him and he listened.  Now you can get on with a proper relationship.”

“That’s the thing.  Why would I try to start a relationship when I’ll be leaving in a few days?  It’s a waste of time.”

“If we work it out right Ian and I, with the help of Mitch will have you living here permanently.”

“I can’t do that!”

“Of course you can.  We’ve got it all figured out too.  When you’re ready for the details we’ll let you in on it.”  Ian walked over and rubbed Sandra’s shoulders while he spoke.  “You know we love you and want you happy.  We agree that moving away from all that mess back home would be for the best.  You must agree.”

“My family and friends are there.”

“You’ve friends here too.  Your family can come for visits.  Besides, you’ve told us plenty of times how you’d love to start over.  Wouldn’t this be perfect?”  

“Hush Ian, I need more details about her and Mitch.  We’ll convince her to move here later.”
Diana felt so loved in that moment.  “You two are the best.” She squeezed Sandra’s hand and smiled at Ian.  “But I’m sorry to report that Mitch and I only kissed.  There are no other torrid details.”  

“Curses; I had the two of you naked at his place.  You’ve shattered my dreams.”  Sandra kicked the table leg and handed Ian some money.  

“Did y’all make a bet?!”

“Of course we did and I won.  I always win.”  Ian joked.  “But I will admit to sweating some when you didn’t show up for dinner.  I almost paid up but I’m glad I waited.”

“I’m glad you think more highly of me than Sandra.”

“I just figured it was time, that’s all.”  Sandra blushed and stood up.  “I should maybe get you some lunch.”  She walked off with her head down.

“She was really hoping you two hit it off.  She wants you to stay.  But no pressure” He smiled and followed Sandra to the back.

“So the date went well?”

Diana jumped.  When she turned around she saw Alex a few feet away.  Had Ian and Sandra seen him?  How long had he been standing there?  “It was nice, yes.”

“Seems there was no need to worry about you then?”

“I’m sorry if you did, but there was no need.  I should have called Sandra but I lost track of time.”

“As long as you’re okay” He turned around and walked out.  

“That was odd.”  Diana said to no one but herself.