Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Starting Over

 I stood on the front porch of my house with Brian at midnight, my heart pounding. The scent of roses from the nearby trellis drifted in the air.
"I had a wonderful time, Jenny," he said.
"Me, too." I breathed deeply, and wondered if he could tell in the moonlight and starlight how flushed my face felt. "The music was great.Thank you for a lovely evening."
"I'll call," he said, squeezing my hand.
"Please do."
We said good night, and when I let myself into the house, the phone was ringing. I knew it was Marge, my best friend, who lived across the street, now married with two adorable kids. "I saw you come home," she said. "How'd it go?"
"You were waiting up? Watching?"
"Had to. Why didn't you kiss him?"
"I had a wonderful time. The Blues Fest—terrific music, but..." I sighed. "Look, I know he's your cousin, and he's everything you said he was—thoughtful, warm, funny..."
"Don't you just love his brown hair? Those dreamy brown eyes? His killer smile?"
"Look, Marge..."
"I'm trying to help you out here, Jenny. Your husband's gone, it's been three years...and what did Jared tell you before he died?"
"He'd be disappointed if I didn't move on...start over."
"Are you going to disappoint him?"
"I don't know..."
"Listen, Jenny, once other women know Brian is single and has decided to settle in this one-horse town to open his veterinary clinic, he'll be spoken for instantly. "Get smart, girl. Give him a chance."
We hung up. I changed into pajamas and collapsed into bed, my mind in turmoil.
Like other newly weds, Jared and I'd dreamed of having children, grandchildren, and a long, happy life together. Jared and Jenny. Forever. So intense was our love, so vivid our dreams, I still couldn't stop myself from feeling guilty at times about trying to find happiness with someone else.
Brian called the next day, Saturday, and asked me to a River Bandits baseball game. "Only a minor league team, he said, but peanuts, pop corn, cold drinks, a warm night and baseball—tough to beat. "
I smiled. His enthusiasm was infectious. "All right."
That afternoon, Marge also called: "You and Brian want to go sailing with Dan and me at the lake Sunday? About noon? Call Brian. I know he'd love to see you again."
"He's already asked me to a Bandits game tonight—things are moving so fast."
"Good. Tell him about sailing."
"Maybe...I just don't know."
"Don't be foolish, Jenny. Start something. Give him a kiss."
At the Bandits' game, Brian and I ate hot dogs, peanuts, and popcorn. Drank eighteen-ounce cups of soda. The Bandits rapped out twelve hits. Brian and I and the rest of the Bandit fans cheered and stomped our feet as the home team thrashed the Clinton Lumber Kings 11-1. Marvelous fun.
After the game, as we strolled under the glow of parking lot lights toward Brian's SUV, Brain appeared solemn. "You loved your husband very much, didn't you?"
"Very much. We were..." My voice faltered. How could I describe Jared and me?
"Perfect together?" Brian said.
"Yes. Perfect."
"I understand how difficult it must be for you to be with me, someone different."
My head dipped. I didn't answer, but this man's understanding nearly overwhelmed me.
Brian unlocked and opened my door. When he sighed, I knew he must be thinking Jared would be a difficult man to follow. Perhaps too difficult. Why bother?
As we drove out of the parking lot, Brian asked if I'd like to see where the new clinic was being built. I said, "Of course."
When we arrived at the north edge of town, I climbed out of the car with Brian and stood in the moon and starlight, peering at the half-constructed brick building. "I've been in a big clinic with three other doctors in Lancaster," he said. "I'm tired of the rat race. I thought I'd settle down here. Start over."
I don't think he aimed "settle down" or "starting over" at me. He was simply stating a fact. But when I didn't respond, he said, "I feel guilty intruding on your feelings for your husband."
I blinked. Guilty. What a sad-sounding word. A terrible word.
Why should he feel guilty?
"Guilt's the worst feeling, " I said. "Try to avoid it. At all costs." The moon and stars bathed his handsome features in a soft glow. I drew in a deep breath. Once I'd made up my mind, the words slipped easily from my mouth: "Marge and Dan have asked if we'd like to go sailing tomorrow. About noon."
Now it was Brian who seemed hesitant. "I don't want to monopolize your time."
"You're not...but it's all right if you do."
His eyes roamed my face. I tried to breath again.
"I'd love to go," he said, smiling a perfectly dazzling smile. "It's been a long time since I've done something like that."
 I smiled back, and while his fingertips traced my jawline, I raised my lips to kiss him and said, "Me, too."
The End
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