THE TRAMPOLINE (Part Two)
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This is a work of fiction based on a true story....
Mark and my kids sounded as if having a frat party. The scented richness of boiling spaghetti sauce hit me as soon as I entered the front room. I thought about Mark. My twelve-year-old hadn't hugged him yet, but she'd told me multiple times how much she liked him AND his cooking. That kid was cautious; I could trust her instincts even more than my own!
I studied Mark and my kids throughout dinner. They laughed, joking about how the noodles looked like sea creatures and how the spaghetti sauce was really red goo from the planet Goo-land. Mark could be such a kid, which my children loved, yet he could also be so responsible, make me feel safe, even protect me—in the avalanche. What an interesting man, I thought as he helped me clear the table and do the dishes later that night. Maybe I was finally dating "the good guy." It wasn't the roller coaster of a relationship that I was used to, and although life no longer had drastic highs and lows, this change could be fun.
My ex-husband picked up all four children while we'd been doing dishes. My three youngest kids hugged Mark goodbye, my oldest waved enthusiastically and smiled. I always had a hard time seeing them go, but realizing how excited they were to visit their father, that made things a little easier.
After they left, I continued washing the dishes. Mark sang as we worked side-by-side loading the dishwasher. At one point I turned to him. "You. Are. So different from what I'm used to! Goo-land? Nice."
I held a pan up, trying to hang it from a hook on the ceiling, but I couldn't quite loop the handle because of the height. Completely tip-toed, I almost had it when Mark reached up and hooked it quite easily. He grinned down at me; his bushy beard looked even longer as he smiled at my still-extended arms. That's when he slid his hands tenderly around my waist and turned me toward him.
Goosebumps raised all over my body; his huge (albeit soapy) hands made me feel tiny when he touched me. "Gina," his eyes shone when he said it, "I love watching you play with your kids—you're such a good mom." I blinked and turned my face down shyly. I'd been given some compliments, but none quite like that.
I bit my lip. "How is it that you always know what to say? You…. You're so damn likable!"
"Likable!" He had this gruff way of talking when he teased me and it drove me crazy.
"Yeah! I'm minding my own business doing dishes, when suddenly—" But I never finished the sentence because his lips met mine. His left hand wrapped around my lower back, pulling me toward him, and his right hand grasped the back of my neck, reeling me in.
His lips were so soft. His touch so warm. I couldn't even think as he gently lifted me onto the counter and continued kissing me. My fingers clutched the side of his shirt as I yanked him closer to me. Before I knew it, my legs wrapped around his waist, and I couldn't have let him go if I'd wanted to.
With our lips barely touching, we breathed eachothers' breath in and out, and I felt him smile.
"You!" he sighed. "I'm falling too fast for you," he said.
He backed away after a moment, breathing hard, looking wild with his dark brown hair messy from his hand just running through it. His blue eyes filled with mischief; his boyish sense of fun yet hypnotic masculinity took my breath away.
Maybe neither one of us were ready for a relationship, yet here we were. Him, coming over every chance he got. Me, realizing he embodied everything I'd ever wanted in a man; at least I hoped that's who he truly was. I never wanted him to change....
We were all alone in the house—for the first time since Valentine's Day—and it was nerve-racking being alone with him. "Wanna...watch a movie?" I asked nervously.
We went to the front room, but I never made it to the TV. Instead he twirled me into a sitting position on top of him; we kissed forever, me kissing his ears, him kissing my neck over and over until I felt like I might burst. At one point he stood. "I've gotta go to the bathroom. Don't go anywhere?"
"Okay," I whispered. But as soon as he left, I had other plans. I found a thick blanket, wrapped it around myself, and ran outside to where the tramp nestled against a huge wall on the north side of the house.
I'd left the backdoor open in the hopes that Mark would know where I'd gone. So I rested in the warmth of the fleece fabric, biting my lip anxiously the whole time I waited.
It was so cold that my breath swam around. The stars peered down knowingly, they must see so many shivering souls out at night.
I sighed; it was hard to believe I was in my thirties, yet falling in love as if it were the first time.
My nerves overcame me as my eyes kept watch over shimmering constellations.
After a time, Mark sauntered from the back door. Once he'd realized where I was, that man laughed; it was such a deep sound echoing toward me, I grinned in the darkness.
He jumped onto the tramp in one motion, then instead of being romantic, he started bouncing me in the blanket!
"You're gonna bounce me to death!" I hollered, wrapped like a freakin' cocoon, shooting up into the air sideways.
Gathering my wits, I finally stood, still wrapped in my blanket and ready to take his bounce away. I shed the blanket, grabbed his hands and felt the air rush past me as we bounced together higher and higher. Memories of jumping on the tramp as a kid came to my mind. I remembered what it felt like being so young and free. I couldn't believe how long it had been since I'd done something like this, without worrying about a thing.
My eyes met Mark's. He really did bring out the best in everyone, make them remember what it was like to be a kid. He was already enriching my children's lives, just like he'd begun inevitable to enrich mine.
I tripped him, actually tripped that man, then fell on top of him as he grabbed my hand and pulled me on top of him.
A snort left my mouth, I belly-laughed so hard.
"Oh, really! You're gonna trip me!" I could just make out his eyes in the moonlight. His skin seemed so pale and his lips extra light against that dark beard.
I looked down and felt the bare skin of his stomach, where his shirt had flown up when he landed. I slowly traced his skin and his eyes widened.
Mark gently flipped me over and gazed down at me so tenderly, like he cared about me more than anything in the world. I thought about that concept and truly understood how much he'd come to mean to me since I'd known him.
So many emotions went through me as I was honest with myself...about my fears, my hopes. And how being there with him, was the most natural thing I'd ever done.
We held each other for a long time. His heart beat so strong, not like a raging storm, but smooth and constant like a wintry wind. I put my hand against his chest, just holding it there forever as if discovering a safe-haven for the very first time.
I curled into his arms, the two of us entwined, and I felt "one" with someone for the first time in my life.
At one point my fingers warmed as they traced his chest. He peered at me wistfully, lying on the tramp, still so utterly handsome in the moonlight. And I thought he was the most gorgeous person I'd ever seen in my life.
"I love you," I said under my breath.
"I love you, too," he said, and as the words left his mouth, tears brimmed in my eyes. "I've loved you for a long time," he whispered.
I laid on him, clutching his strong shoulders. We moved slightly, the tramp swaying beneath us. A gust of wind tickled my back, and that's when I completely cried in Mark's capable arms.
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