Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Invitation

         Standing in my bedroom at the window, I watched Adam Wells as he pounded the final nails into the deck that he'd built this spring onto the back of my house under a huge oak tree.
A tall man, about forty, athletic-looking, dressed in blue overalls and a short-sleeved denim shirt, he straightened now to take a kink out of his back. 
The first time I met him, I felt a flash of attraction that kicked my heart into double time.But after I regained my senses, I thought about how different he was from my husband Brian, dead now over five years.
Brian's casual charm and flashing smile had swept me off my feet years ago. The man working on my deck seemed quiet. Reserved. Not shy—just low-keyed. Yet each time I saw him, a warmth stirred inside my heart that I hadn't felt since Brian was alive.
I watched now as Mr. Wells shambled across the deck to knock on the sliding glass door leading to my kitchen. I hurried from my bedroom.
We'd talked quite a bit, Mr. Wells and I, during the past month. He'd been in business for himself over fifteen years—Wells Home Improvement Services. I checked his references; they proved to be impeccable. Three years ago cancer had taken his wife quickly, no warning.
I opened the sliding door for Mr. Wells. He stepped into the kitchen. He was square-jawed, his beard stubbly with flecks of gray. Brain shaved every morning—I hardly knew he had a beard.
"Nearly finished," Mr. Wells said.
I fetched him a glass of water with ice from the fridge. "Hot out there this afternoon?" I asked.
"Too hot. But that oak tree's shade has saved me every day." He took the glass in his large, callused hand right hand and drank deeply. Brian's hands had been small and well manicured. He'd been a vice president at the bank.
"Need to get some gravel under the deck," Mr. Wells said. "Keep the weeds out."
He handed the glass back to me. Our fingers bumped. The touch was electric. I stepped back. The fact that I could be attracted to a man so different from my deceased husband bewildered me. I didn't know if I should fight the stirring in my heart or embrace it.
"I'll take care of the rock myself," he said. "Probably Saturday."
"Take care of it?"
"No charge."
"You can't do that," I said, and frowned. "You'll lose money."
He smiled—a warm, crinkly smile that barely parted his lips. "It's left over from a different job. It'll just go to waste."
Mr. Wells helped me place the patio furniture and grill—all of which I'd ordered earlier and had been sitting in the yard—on the deck. And then I shocked myself. My heart bounding into my throat, I asked boldly, "Would you be my guest for dinner, Mr. Wells? Saturday, perhaps?"
He blinked, as if he hadn't heard me correctly but said, "Why don't you call me Adam?"
I felt myself blushing. I wasn't sure what to say. But I'd asked the man to dinner. Why not use first names? "Call me Karen," I said, smiling. "We'll eat on my new deck, if you like. And break in my new grill."
"About seven? What would you like?"
Again that slight smile. "Anything—I'm tired of my own cooking."
Adam spread the gravel under the deck Saturday morning when I was at the store. When I returned home, I caught him just before he drove away in his truck. "Steaks," I told him. "New York strip. Sautéed mushrooms. Baked potatoes. Tossed salad."
"Sounds excellent."
That night, Adam arrived promptly at seven at my front door and handed me a bottle of red wine. "I love a glass of wine with dinner," I said. "I'll put it in the fridge."
Brian didn't drink. Not even wine with dinner. Not a drop.
While Adam and I ate on the deck, chatting all the while, I felt totally alive for the first time in a long while. But again: He was so unlike Brain, so different—so very different—how could I trust my attraction to him? Finished eating with a sigh, he said, "Charcoaled steak—can't beat it."
"I'm so happy you've enjoyed everything."
"Thank you for a wonderful evening."
"There's desert," I said. "Pecan pie. And then...well, how about an old movie. I have lots of DVDs."
We clinked glasses and sipped our wine. A warm light danced in Adam's eyes, and I felt my heart speeding into double time again. "This is all so different for me," he said.
"Dinner with a lovely lady...a glass of wine...a movie."
"Different for me, too."
"But different is good, right?" he asked quickly, as if alarmed.
My smile probably stretched a mile across my face. I felt flushed but—finally—at last—without fear—I embraced my attraction for Adam Wells. "Different," I said, "is perfect."
The End
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