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Romance

It had been months since I broke up with Ben. We first met one Saturday evening. A few friends and I were out dancing in a local singles club. He asked me to dance. I said, “Yes,” and we ended up dating for almost two years.

Going through a messy divorce, he had moved out and lived alone. I foolishly disregarded the ‘red flag warning signs.’ We had a lot in common, and I enjoyed his company.

Educated, handsome, tall with dark wavy hair, he was hard to resist.

One night a year ago, we were in a restaurant having dinner. We sat sipping after-dinner drinks and Ben leaned across the table, took my hand, looked into my eyes, and said, “Grace, I found out today that my divorce will be final next week.”

My heart skipped a beat. Was Ben going to propose?

Ben went on, “Then I’ll be able to do what I’ve wanted to do for years.”

My heart beat faster. “What’s that, Ben?” I breathlessly asked.

Still holding my hand, he said, “As you know, I haven’t been happy in my marriage for a very long time. My marriage prevented me from being able to date lots of women. As soon as I’m free next week, I’ll be able to.”

I snatched my hand back. Still not believing what I heard, I rose, turned, grabbed my purse, and ran. How could I have been so blind and dumb all this time?

I barely made it to the ladies room before I burst into tears. Gradually, I composed myself. I replenished my makeup, fixed my hair, and gathered up the nerve to return to the table praying I wouldn’t break down again.

“What’s wrong?” Ben asked. “Why did you leave the table in such a hurry?”

I looked at him in disbelief. “You really don’t know how much what you said hurt me?”

With a look of surprise on his face, Ben asked, “What are you talking about? What did I say that hurt you?”

My jaw dropped. Did Ben actually not realize that telling me he was going to date other women would hurt me?

Still standing by the table, I leaned over and said, “I’m referring to your statement about dating many women when your divorce is final. How did you think that would make me feel?”

“I don’t understand, Grace. You knew when we started dating I didn’t want this to be a permanent thing.”

I drew myself up, breathed deeply and responded, “I remember, but I didn’t think it would end like this. Your statement was cruel and insensitive.”

“I’m not ending our relationship. I just intend to date other women as well as you. Can’t we talk about this?” Ben said.

I stared at him, wide-eyed in disbelief. “You honestly believed that I would continue being intimate with you while you dated and were intimate with others as well?

I was so angry I didn’t wait to hear his response, I spun around, and as I started to walk away, I turned and said, “Goodbye, Ben. Nice knowing you. Have a happy life.”

I called a cab, went home, and cried myself to sleep. I had fallen hard for this guy. What a huge mistake.

~*~

Since the breakup, my friends had been after me to get out more. My best friend suggested I open up an account in a senior singles site. I gave in and activated my profile in an online singles site for seniors. I posted a few pictures of myself.

Late one night when I couldn’t sleep, I was in the site browsing profiles of senior men.

Up popped a message from a man named Mike. “Hi. I’d like to know how you could have taken your picture in November when it’s only July,” the message read.

“Huh? What are you talking about?” I messaged back.

“You have the date under your picture as this November,” Mike’s response read.

I checked, and sure enough, the date did say November. I deleted the picture, corrected the date, and uploaded it again.

“Thanks for the catch.” I messaged back.

We continued messaging back and forth about things like our jobs, where we lived, our families, etc. I lived in Jacksonville, FL. He lived in Boston, 1,600 miles away.

However, since I had nothing else going on in my life, we continued our daily correspondence which graduated to phone calls and Skype. We found we could talk about anything and everything. We joked, laughed, and traded pictures. A “special attraction” was there from the moment we began emailing. We both felt it.

After two months of daily communication, I told Mike that I would probably be out of touch for a week because I was flying to Akron, Ohio to visit a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in years.

Mike messaged back, “I really want to meet you in person, Grace. I’m going to drive to Akron, pick you up at the airport and take you to dinner.”

Shocked, I said, “Mike, that’s at least a 700-mile drive from Boston. Are you serious?”

“Absolutely,” he responded. “I want to be able to talk to you face-to-face. You’ve mentioned many times how important it is to 'click' with someone. Let’s see if we 'click'. I can only stay a couple of days because I have an important meeting back in Boston, but I want to meet you.”

My heart raced. Dare I take another chance? I mean he’s a stranger. My inner voice said, You’ve been communicating daily for weeks. You get along so well, why not take a chance? You’re going to Akron anyway.

My heart beat fast, “Well okay, Mike. If you’re sure that’s what you want to do. I would like to meet you in person too.”

We made our plans. I booked my flight. Mike left Boston the day before my flight and drove to Buffalo, spent the night with a friend and resumed his trip to Akron the next day.

The next morning, as I walked down the driveway to the Airport Limousine pulling my suitcase behind me, I was so nervous I felt like a swarm of butterflies had taken up residence in my stomach.

While I sat in the terminal, waiting for my flight, my phone rang. “Hi. I’m just pulling into the motel parking lot. Is your flight going to arrive on time?”

The butterflies in my stomach were fluttering again, “Hi yourself. Yes. We arrive at 6:35.”

Then came the announcement through the speakers above me, “Now boarding United Flight to Akron, Ohio.”

“Gotta go, Mike. We’re boarding.”

“I heard. Are you as nervous as I am?”

I paused to take a breath. ”Yes. See you soon.”

“Have a smooth flight. I’ll meet you by the baggage claim.” Judging by the tone of his voice, he was as nervous and excited as I was.

Once the plane was in the air, I stared out the window. I wondered how our first face-to-face meeting would go. Do I look okay? Would he like me in person?

Throughout the trip, the butterflies kept busy in my stomach. When I knew we would soon be landing, I made my way to the restroom to take one last look to be sure I looked okay.

As I walked back to my seat, the flight attendant announced, “We are on the approach to the Akron airport. Please fasten your seatbelts and place your seat trays in the upright position. We should be landing in fifteen minutes. Please stay seated until the plane has come to a full stop at the gate. Thank you for flying United.”

Well, Grace, this is it. Oh boy. I really am doing this. No chance to back out now went through my mind. My heart was fluttering along with the butterflies.

As I walked off the plane, my heart was in my throat. As I proceeded through the gangway to the terminal, my phone rang. My hands shook as I reached into my pocket.

Mike, said. “Hi. You here?”

“Yep. I’ll see you in a few minutes. I’m heading for the escalator to take me to baggage claim. I’ll meet you there.”

As I think back, I was so excited I don’t remember much about getting on the escalator and getting off by the baggage claim.  

The next thing I knew, I found myself in a crowd of people. How on earth was I going to find Mike? I forgot to ask what he would be wearing. How would I identify him in this crowd? Just then, the phone rang.

“Where are you?” Mike said.

“I’m here. Where are you? By the way, I forgot to tell you that I’m wearing a matching pink slacks outfit.”

“Oh, I see you now. I gotcha.”

“You got me?”

“I’m right behind you.”

I whirled around, and there he was. Without thinking twice, I threw my arms around his neck. He hugged me. We kissed a long romantic kiss, totally oblivious of the people around us.

After the fireworks subsided, he leaned back with his arms still around my waist and looked at me. Looking into my eyes with his blue ones, he said, “Well I guess that takes care of the ‘click’ question.”

“Yeah, I guess it does,” I said grinning. My knees almost buckled.

I laughed as we walked arms around each other’s waist to claim my luggage.

We hit it off as perfectly as we had in our first emails. The perpetual smile on his face and the twinkle in his eyes when he looked my way told me he felt the same. On the drive across town to his motel, he held my hand the entire way and periodically squeezed it as he looked over.

When we arrived and walked into the lobby, Mike introduced me to the desk clerk. While he waited to go to the airport, he had told her all about me and how we met online .

As we entered the suite, two dozen roses sat on the coffee table in front of the couch. I put my hands to my face in awe. To say my emotions were overflowing is putting it mildly. I fought back tears of joy.

I turned around to thank him. Before I could, he took me in his arms and kissed me a long soft kiss that took my breath away. We sat on the couch and talked a while to ease the tension we both felt.

Mike ran his own printing supplies business back in Boston. He sold supplies all over the United States. Divorced with a son and a daughter, he owned a two-apartment home in Malden, a suburb of Boston. Mike lived downstairs and rented the apartment upstairs to a college student.

We talked and talked about everything. After we’d talked a while, Mike asked, “Where would you like to have dinner? Any preferences?”

We ended up at a local steakhouse restaurant. We sat in a booth so we could sit close together. During dinner, we couldn’t stop smiling, talking, holding hands, and staring at each other. The waitress couldn’t help but notice and asked if we were on our honeymoon.

As we walked to his car after dinner, Mike casually asked, “Do you like football?”

“Yes. I love both baseball and football. Why?”

“You’ll see tomorrow,” he responded a broad grin breaking across his handsome face as he opened the passenger side door to let me in. I slid in and fastened my seatbelt. He leaned in and kissed me tenderly before closing the door.

After we returned to the motel, nervous, we changed clothes and got into bed. We held each other and kissed until passion took over. We made sweet passionate love. It was beautiful and natural.

The next day we had breakfast at The House of Pancakes. I asked him where we were going.

“It’s a surprise. I think you’ll enjoy it.” He answered with that grin again.

An hour later, we pulled into the parking lot of the Football Hall of Fame. We spent hours touring the building. What a thrill. The entire time, we held hands. Occasionally he would bend down, take my face in his hands and tenderly kiss me.

We got back to the motel room later that afternoon. We made love. As we lay there holding each other, he said, “We’ve got to get going. We have plans for dinner.”

I sat up and asked, “Where?”

“You’ll see. It’s another surprise.” He grinned, leaned over, and kissed me as I slid out of bed.

After driving for an hour and a half, we arrived at a dock along the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland. The night air was warm; the sky was clear, and there was a warm breeze blowing off the lake.

We boarded a dinner cruise boat that took us out onto Lake Erie. After dinner, we went up on deck to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. Mike stood behind me at the railing with his arms around my waist, his chin on my shoulder nuzzling my neck.

The next morning after breakfast, we drove into Cleveland again and spent the afternoon touring the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. We stood in a soundproof booth and sang along with songs by Roy Orbison and Elvis. We laughed until my sides ached. It turned out to be another magical day. I didn’t want it to end.

The next day was the fourth day. Mike had to leave to drive to Buffalo then home to Boston the following day. After breakfast, we walked around the pool, holding hands, not saying a word; both obviously depressed at the thought of saying goodbye.

Suddenly, Mike stopped and turned to me. “I don’t want to leave you, Grace.”

I fought back the tears as I looked up at him, “I feel the same, Mike. This has been the happiest three days I’ve spent in years. I’m so glad you insisted on driving here to meet me.”

We walked back to the motel and checked out. Mike drove me to my girlfriend’s where I spent the remainder of my vacation. It was an emotional goodbye. As soon as Mike left, I already missed him so much I ached.

After that we kept in touch by phone, skype, and email. He flew me up to Boston that October. I remember driving along the countryside, enjoying the autumn colors of the trees, eating lobster in a restaurant overlooking the Atlantic, and making love.

From then on every few months for a year, Mike flew to Florida for a few days, and I would fly to Boston. I met his family and friends. When he came to Florida, he met my friends and family.

One night at my apartment as we sat close together on the balcony, he gently took me by the shoulders and turned me to face him. “Grace, I love you. I think you love me too. It’s time I retired. I’ve decided to move to Florida. Will you marry me?”

I threw my hands around his neck. “Oh, Mike, yes. I do love you, and yes, I will marry you.”

The next day, we toured the area looking at houses while gradually making plans for our future.

#*#

A month later, the phone woke me. The call was from Mike’s son, Tom that alarmed me. First of all, Tom never calls. Secondly, it was 1:00 in the morning.

Mike had told me some time before that he had a genetically defective aortic heart valve since birth. For years, Mike’s doctor tried to get Mike to agree to a valve replacement. Nevertheless, being a stubborn Irishman, Mike thought he had many years to live without the surgery.

Half asleep and apprehensive, I leaned over and picked up the phone from my night table, “Hello?”

“Grace, this is Tom. My father's had a massive heart attack. He’s in intensive care in serious condition. I thought you should know, and so would dad.”

For a minute, I sat on the edge of the bed dumbstruck. This couldn’t be happening. We just found each other. “No, no, no. I screamed.”

I finally composed myself and choked as I said, “Thanks for letting me know, Tom. I’ll book a flight to Boston as soon as I hang up.”

“Grace, because you’re not officially family, they probably won’t let you in to see him. Besides, he’s in intensive care in a coma. Wait until later this morning to see what his prognosis is before you book a flight”

“Okay, Tom. I understand. Thanks. I’ll pack my things and be ready to leave if things change. Please keep me posted no matter what the hour.”

“I will, Grace. Bye.”

Crying and praying for six hours, exhausted me. As I sat in a chair with my suitcase in front of me, waiting to hear from Tom, the phone rang.

Dreading the call, I answered. “Tom, how is he? Please tell me this is good news.”

Tom hesitated before he finally spoke, “Grace, I’m so sorry, Dad didn’t make it. Because of his age, his heart couldn’t hold out.”

#*#

This is my true story except for names and places. I flew up for the funeral.

It’s been five years. I’ll always treasure my memories of Mike and the chance we took to find each other and love even if only for a short time.

September 14, 2019 03:39

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