(the start of this section is rough but it does get better. I write each section each week so they aren’t getting polished like a published book would be.)
Waiting is exhausting. Neil comes every evening to spend time with me and my family but I can’t officially date him until the divorce is final. Well, I could, no one would fault me but I won’t. Chaz may not have been a great husband but I will not cheat on him. Until the day the paperwork arrives to say we are no longer married, I will not break my marriage vows. It’s killing me. It would be so easy to just give in. Neil’s lips beg to be kissed. I dream about his hands on my naked body. I won’t give in so please God hurry this up.
I met with the contractor about the house. That takes time as well. The progress is slow. I’m stuck in the slowest moving period of time. If I wanted this to go slow then the time would slip by practically unnoticed.
I tried going back to work. Having a bodyguard makes for an interesting time but it’s also a distraction. The wonderful man assigned to protect me during the day believes everyone is suspect. After a couple of days of him searching and intimidating my co-workers, I opted to work from home. Except I can’t concentrate at home. I find myself going out to buy flowers for the foyer or ingredients for afterschool cookies. I know the children aren’t in school but I still want them greeted with the smell of fresh baked snacks.
I’ve lost weight. I don’t believe anyone has noticed but it worries me. I have too much time on my hands. I snack but I can’t eat much anymore. My stomach hurts. I haven’t told my father. I’m afraid I might be sick. Lunch is the worst, I can barely choke down the food and then I find myself sobbing. I just need this to be over.
Kaiser had told me it would take up to 90 days for the divorce to be final. Leave it to the judge and the universe to decide that the paperwork would push through on day 89. Relief washes over me as I hold the document in my hand. It’s finally over. Chaz is a thing of the past. He didn’t even attempt to contact me or anything over the last three months. It’s time.
I grabbed a sweater as I ran out the door. The weather had already started growing chilly. I lamented that my children still hadn’t gotten to enjoy the beautiful yard that Neil had created for us. I called Neil to learn that he was at his office.
I pulled up to the building that housed Tanner’s Landscaping. It was a simple manufactured home surrounded by rocks, bark, plants and other landscaping materials. My heart pounded, my hands shook. I took a deep breath before walking up the few steps to the front door. I paused, wondering if I should knock, before I opened it. A lovely older woman sat at desk in what would have been a living room had this not been converted to an office. She smiled as I walked in. “Celeste?” I nodded and shook her outstretched hand.
“You didn’t tell him I was coming, did you?”
“No, he’s in the office.” She indicated a door to the right of the room. “Would you like me to announce you.”
“No, thank you.”
She patted the back of my hand before letting go. I didn’t think my heart could beat any faster as I knocked on the door. I opened it as he said to come in. His back was to the door as he hunched over a set of plans. “Do you know where the magnifying glass is? I can’t seem to find it.” He held out his hand and moved closer to the paper on the desk. Without a word I set the paper signifying my divorce in his hand.
“Elise, what is this?” he said as he stood to face me. The puzzled look on his face shifted to delight when he saw me. He stepped towards me then paused to look at the paper in his hand. I held my breath waiting to see if he would understand. It was like a moment in a movie, everything moved in slow motion only to speed up back to the real time. I was in his arms, his lips on mine. The muscles in my body finally relaxed so much so I was afraid I would fall to the floor if he let go of me.
Still in his arms, Neil pulled away enough to look at my face. “I want to take you to dinner. I’m so tired of hiding in my father’s house. We can go anywhere you want.” He kissed me again, a quick interlude before answering, “I don’t care I just want to be with you.
Dinner was a blur of hand holding and a craving to be closer to him. Whoever came up with the idea of romantic dinners with a table, plates, candles and bread baskets between the couple was a fool. I regretted my decision to eat out as soon as we were seated. Neil and I had talked for the last several months. I wanted to make up for all that time I resisted giving into my need for him to touch me.
“Penny for your thoughts?” I looked up at Neil. His eyes glowed in the candlelight.
“I was just thinking we should have ordered room service instead. I’m tired of being the good girl. So much of this could have been avoided had I just fought for what I wanted.”
His laughter consumed me. It should have been enough to be here with him and to know we could have a lifetime together but it wasn’t. “I’ve never known you to be impatient. You were always such a little mouse.”
I shook my head, “no more. There is no way I am going to be that anymore. I want my children to know that you don’t always have to do what’s right for others. You can put yourself first. I spent my entire life doing what was right. I know that my father did what he thought was right but I would have given anything to have had a real high school experience. I didn’t get to have all that romance and these past few months I realized I’ve regretted it. I didn’t have any friends growing up but Megan. I loved my time with you and I have good memories of that time but I missed a lot. I want to make up for it. I want romance and movie quality moments. No more mouse.”
He held my hand and leaned forward to kiss my fingers. “I want that too but if I give them all to you now, how will I keep you? It’s going to get hard to top after awhile.”
“No one said they had to be bigger and better each time. I just want you.” We finished our meal. I paid as Neil sat shifting in his seat. “You know, Chaz was never comfortable with the fact that I had money. You are not allowed to be uncomfortable with it. You can be macho all you want but this is a part of who I am. I come with money. I’m not one to throw it around but I’m not going to be ashamed of it. I’m not ashamed of who you are or where you came from. I never have been. I have no doubt in my mind that you can take care of me and the kids but you have to understand that I can to. If this is going to be a problem then we need to deal with it now.”
He stood and helped me out of my chair. “I know but this is our first date and don’t you think I should take you out? I can’t help but wonder.”
I smiled. “No, it’s my date. I asked you. You can ask me out for ice cream. It’s not so cold that we can’t have ice cream in the park. I kissed his lips and started to walk out of the dining area. He grabbed my hand and pulled me back. He released my hand so he could press both of his against my cheeks. The kiss caused my stomach to clench and my knees to go weak. When he let me go, he said, “Want to go out for ice cream?” I nodded and let him lead me out of the restaurant.
I have to admit that one of my favorite romantic moments in movies is when the main characters get ice cream and then go for a walk. I don’t know what it is about that scene but it’s something I could every night. It’s such a common moment and yet, there’s so much subtext. The very act of eating the ice cream cone can be sexual and yet innocent and childlike. That and I just love ice cream. A sugar cone with a heavy scoop of rocky road ice cream has always been my favorite.
Walking with Neil, our hands entwined while we walk consuming the best treat in the world, my life was perfect. It was cool enough that the ice cream didn’t melt and we didn’t freeze in the process. We didn’t need words. When the last of the ice cream had been consumed, Neil stepped in front of me. “I know you just got divorce but I want you to know I plan on marrying you. I’d give you a ring tonight if you wanted.”
“And if I wanted.”
He pulled out a small box from the inside pocket of his coat. “I have carried this since before the time we made love. I knew we were too young but I knew what I wanted.” In the box was a delicate gold ring with a pink stone. The ring was a touch snug but that didn’t prevent me from slipping it on my finger. “I am yours forever,” I said as I wrapped my arms around him.
The pain started near my shoulder blade and worked its way to the front of my body. I started to pull away from Neil as I saw his face twist in surprise. Words started to form but they were driven out by the darkness.