"ONE LOVE" ROCK
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This is a work of fiction based on a true story....
The water rushed past like crazy. I looked across the raging stream, wondering if we should stop. Screw that stupid water. "So, Mark, you in?"
Before I'd called him that morning, I'd been having an especially hard day thinking about my lot as a single mother. When my kids were at their daddy's, going caving always made me feel better, and I wasn't about to stop on this hike because of an icy stream. It might sound silly to anyone who hasn't been depressed, but I needed to be up in my mountains, and feel peace even momentarily.
So I stripped off my shoes and socks, threw them over my shoulder, and rolled up my pants. It was twenty degrees and the water bit my skin as my slender white feet dipped through the surface. Man I needed a tan—AND I was thankful I'd shaved. Soon the water was up to my shins, then my knees by the time I looked back at Mark. To my surprise he was taking off his shoes and socks too. "On my way," he said.
It became so icy after a moment that I couldn't feel my feet sinking through the mire beneath. But I wouldn't stop and apparently neither would Mark Marrucini. I couldn't wait to find my cave and rest amidst the howling, windy entrance with one of my best friends.
"Some of these rocks are slippery. Watch your step," Mark called. Then I was back in the moment. The water was deep; I pulled my phone from my pocket, holding it high over my head so it wouldn't get wet. The water welled up to my waist, and the current was strong. I'd lost so much weight, down to 105 pounds, that soon I slipped as the water pulled, tugging so hard.
I involuntarily cried out, almost dropping my phone, barely saving it and myself in time.
It became hard to stay rooted in place so I reached for a massive, slippery boulder at my side. And as Mark caught up to me, I thought about how much he'd surprised me by coming along. He now stood next to me in the water, eyes twinkling, some water glistening in his beard.
The smell of mountain air and pine trees filled my senses, making a grin slide onto my face. Just seeing Mark and feeling the mountains around us, that gave me strength to climb, struggling hard to get onto that boulder while still holding my phone. The muscles in my upper body killed me. And I still couldn't feel my bare feet. But I made it—somehow, like I'd made it through all the other shit I'd gone through that past year.
I stood on that rock, looked at my reddening feet and my soaking pants. This situation was so me—not something I've done recently, but rather something I used to do before having kids twelve years prior. As the thought hit me, I peered down at Mark and couldn't help smiling. After all, this seemed to be something he was enjoying too.
Mark easily climbed onto the boulder. Even though the wind hit us hard and we were freezing, neither of us seemed too worried about it. We could jump to the other side of the shore from our rock. The opening of the cave was finally within sight.
My fist still clutched my phone; now that we weren't so deep in water, I put my cell back in my pocket. Mark smiled, this huge smile that took all other thoughts from my head. No wonder I'd dreamed about kissing him; the man was gorgeous. Dark brown hair rested in perfect contrast to his beaming eyes. Those lips and strong features. I shook the thoughts off and put my socks and shoes on.
My feet came back to life with tingles and heated pains. And although my pants were still rolled up, they were soaking wet—and Mark was pretty wet too. After he'd put his socks and shoes on as well, I started running to my cave. I could hardly wait to sit inside its jagged opening, like being in a lover's caress.
Suddenly I was there—Mark stood right behind me as my hands felt every part of the cave's sides. It wasn't a deep cave, but its ceiling was quite high and dripping slightly with rock water. I smiled since we wouldn't even need a flashlight. Daylight swam all around us illuminating the rock's perfection.
The farther I climbed up that rocky hallway, somehow God's love radiated from the mountains. And my heart raced, beating with the same soul I hadn't felt since I was an uninhibited kid, knowing exactly what I wanted and who I truly was...all by myself.
After a while, I found a rock that had been painted with the words "one love." I sat against it, with my shoulders to the wall, breathing hard as emotions rushed around me.
Mark sat close, closer than he'd ever sat next to me before. He looked wild, like something born in the forest. I wondered then, there were sides to this man I didn't know, things about him I wished I could discover. Like what he would be like as a partner in life, as my one and only, maybe even as a lover….
I blushed and turned my face so he wouldn't see my sudden coloration. I pressed my back harder against that rock which cradled me softly in return. I pulled out my phone. "Smile, Mark. We gotta remember this forever!"
So we smiled and I took a pic of us, right there in that cave. The flash blinded me for a moment. Everywhere I looked a rectangle of light appeared. After my vision cleared, I studied the picture I'd just taken; it showed mud and river water that had dried on my skin.
"You're something else, Gina," Mark finally said. "You're so much like me."
"I was just thinking the same thing about you! I don't know many people who would've gone through that water with me."
"I would've jumped in first if you weren't so fast taking your shoes and socks off!" He laughed, and I could feel his breath barely touching my face.
I shouldn't have said it, and I don't know where it came from, but I impulsively asked, "Have you ever had a good first kiss with someone? Something memorable?"
"Not really." He laughed. "I guess they were all sort of awkward. And I'm usually not the one to make the first move. I don't want to do something if a girl isn't interested. Or isn't ready."
"I don't think I've ever had a guy kiss me first," I said. "Well, not a good kiss anyway."
I looked up at him expectantly. This was his cue. If he liked me—at all—now was the time to show it. Nothing stood in our way, other than the fact that I was soaking wet and had dried mud on my face. But he could still kiss me. Make the move, I urged him in my head.
But instead he kind of looked away like he was actually nervous! He'd put his hand back on the "one love" rock and the daylight illuminated his perfect silhouette and profile. Could any one person be that handsome? Just looking at him made my heart ache with longing. I wanted him to pull me in and kiss me tenderly, but the hilarious, confident man who I'd known for months had turned shy for the first time since I'd known him!
Oh, good Lord—this was all me. "You've never had a good first kiss?" He turned, about to respond, when I quickly slid my slender fingers up his neck and held his head in my hand.
My heart raced, and I pulled him closer, quickly, bracing myself by putting my other hand on his muscular forearm. I could feel goose bumps rising all over his skin. Then I closed my eyes and just breathed him in. He smelled just as I'd remembered him in my dream, musky, like my favorite forest, or a cave, moist from the rain. That's when I pulled him toward me, and I kissed him.
He took over after that, his arms encircling me, like I'd always belonged close to him. My lips quivered from the power of his touch. I'd wanted him to hold me for so long, feel those strong arms around me, melt into his embrace.
His touch was electric, and for some reason so many emotions welled up within me, I could've cried. I'd been kissed before as a teenager, or even in recent months, but it always felt the same: childish, imperfect. The people I'd kissed had such boyish qualities. This was the first time in my life that I'd been kissed and the person kissing me exuded raw power, strength. I felt so much as an adult, a woman with a need to be close to this man. I realized I'd always had an innate desire to be needed, loved, cherished, and guarded. This was the first time in my life that I felt I'd found someone who could do all these things. And as we slowly parted from that first kiss, I felt breathless. How could I have known, I'd been holding so many emotions at bay until that very moment. I stared up at this man, so strong and free. I think that's when I knew I loved him.
We remained locked in eachothers' arms, both breathing heavily. Me, shocked that the real kiss had been even better than the one in my dream. I couldn't believe I'd finally been brave enough to kiss him—and he'd kissed me back!
I put my hand to his chest; it reminded me of the majestic cave walls. Then I whispered to him. "You lied. You said you'd never had a good first kiss. But, ya see, you have now."
"You planned this whole thing! I've never felt so romanced in all my life!" He hugged me tight. I leaned my head into his chest and giggled. He rested his chin on the top of my head. "Ya know, I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't hoping for it."
I pushed away and looked at him. "You didn't know what was coming. You had no idea I wanted to kiss you."
He laughed, this deep laugh that echoed throughout the cave. "I hoped. Today you've been giving me doe eyes. Whenever you give me that face…oh, Gina—you drive me crazy. You've been driving me crazy for months."
"At least I'm not a liar." I referenced my previous statement, then followed up with, "That was the dumbest line."
"Oh, that I lied to you because I'd never had a good first kiss 'til today?" Then the expression on his face became more than playful and he stared tenderly into my eyes. "I'd like to lie to you again."
"You would, huh?"
Then he kissed me. And for a moment, we held each other like that as water dripped from the ceiling and plunked to the smooth rocks below.
I had no idea what the future would hold, but I couldn't wait to see where this would lead. I thought of Mark's recent words, I've never felt so romanced in all my life. His confession made me grin.
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