To read this story from the beginning, please go HERE
This is a work of fiction based on a true story....
I was thrilled; the green dress fit me even better than I'd remembered, and my mom bought me a glass bead necklace that hung just above my collarbones. The lace bodice of my dress dipped in the front, showing just enough skin. With all of these adornments and my hair swirled high in a French twist, I couldn't stop smiling. Bright cherry lips shone back at me in the mirror, an extravagant contrast from the green hues in my dress and eyes. I blinked at my reflection; it was the first time I'd felt pretty in years.
The gold earrings' backs slid easily into place. Finally, I brushed some smoky eyeshadow onto my eyelids, lengthened my lashes with "midnight" mascara and called it good.
I was ready, a half hour early, and there was nothing to do. So I stared at the gift my kids had helped me make for Mark. Before leaving with their father earlier that day, they had insisted that I needed to give Mark a meaningful Valentine's gift from all of us.
"What in the heck should I give him?" I asked my twelve-year-old daughter. We didn't have much money. And what if he didn't have a gift for me? Wouldn't that make him feel awkward…or make me look presumptuous?
"Make him a candy gram with candy bars," my oldest daughter said.
"Yeah," my second oldest agreed with her sister. "If you buy a poster and some candy bars, we'll help you make sentences with them."
"O…kay," I whispered nervously.
All four of my kids had been so darling, writing the words and erasing them several times.
I grinned from the memory and read the candy gram as I waited for Mark to pick me up for the symphony.
Just as I finished reading the poster, I spied Mark's red truck from the corner of my eye. As he pulled into my driveway, my stomach flew into my chest. I hadn't been this nervous since Prom!
Hiding from view as much as possible, I peeked out the window. Mark jumped from his truck and immediately began dusting off his suit-pants. Damn—he cleaned up nice! I nearly had to pick my jaw up off the floor as I watched him jolt to the other side of his truck and open the passenger door. He was gorgeous, with a recently trimmed beard and a new haircut. The long-sleeved dress shirt and matching checkered vest fit him snugly, showing off his muscles even from a distance.
I'd never in my life swooned over a man quite like this, especially when I saw what he pulled from the side of his truck.
Mark held the most beautiful bouquet of purple lilies. He smelled them momentarily before shutting the door awkwardly and pacing, as nervous as I was. The scene was suddenly quite endearing; I giggled watching him and wondered, had he worried about his outfit like I'd worried about mine?
He rang my doorbell seconds after this and I rushed to the couch, playing nonchalant. I slowly rose and sauntered to the door.
"Mark!" my voice chirped. "Thank you!" I whisked the flowers away and put them in a vase. "The kids and I made this for you."
He smiled reading the candy gram. "I give you skittles, huh?"
"Don't put too much stock into that!"
Then we were out the door, and within moments, driving to our destination in Salt Lake City.
We talked about anything from religion to spud guns. "So you've shot a spud gun?" he asked.
"Hell, I made one!" It seemed like there were so many things we'd never discussed before—and it was all so new. I couldn't wait to hear more about his interests and what he'd done as a child. I wanted to learn more about his family and their heritage.
I was just thinking about how this was turning into an extraordinary Valentine's Day when my phone dinged, notifying me of a new text message.
"Do you mind if I get this quick?" I asked. "It might be one of my kids."
He nodded with understanding. "Of course not."
But the text wasn't from my kids. It was from The Schmuck. He'd sent me a picture of his horse in the mountains.
I'm lost without you. Spending Valentine's alone in the mountains. My wife is out with another man. I miss YOU.
I shoved my phone down on the truck's seat and crossed my arms.
"What's wrong?" Mark asked.
I explained and showed him the picture. "Don't worry; he'll leave me alone soon."
"One can only hope," Mark whispered so quietly I barely heard him.
When he parked and immediately started leading me East down the street, I looked around bewildered; this wasn't the way to the symphony. He must have seen my confusion. "I looked up dozens of restaurants," he said. "The Blue Lemon is supposedly the best of the best."
It was a gorgeous place with artistic décor and dimmed lights. Mark ordered the seared ahi tuna with edamame rice while I ordered black bean ravioli. The food was absolutely delicious, but what made those moments spectacular was Mark: his witty banter, the way he befriended everyone—so reminiscent of those first few months when he'd garnered my curiosity with that contagious smile. After all, I suspected everyone had always noticed Mark.
The waiter lingered making small talk. A woman came up to refill my drink as the waiter talked with Mark. She leaned down and whispered, "He's a keeper." When both of them had walked away, I beamed at Mark. "Are you as perfect as you seem to be?" I asked.
"I'm just an average guy, Gina."
"No. You're not."
"Maybe you've dated so many jerks, you don't know what regular guys are like," he said.
I chuckled. "I know what regular guys are like; I never fall for them. You're not a jerk, and you aren't a regular guy either—I can tell; that's why I'm falling for you." And it was true, there was something very different about Mark, I just couldn't put my finger on it.
Before it was time to leave, Mark placed his napkin on his plate. "What are you doing out with a guy like me on Valentine's Day?"
"Having the time of my life," I responded.
"I swear you're the most beautiful girl in this room."
I blushed. "What a line!"
"It's not a line." He leaned forward and stared into my eyes. "Your inner beauty really does it. You're gorgeous on the outside, too—don't get me wrong, but your personality makes everything else shine. There's nothing more beautiful than a woman who's confident in her own skin."
His words warmed me like a winter coat as we walked a short distance to the symphony. Street lights shone down on us. My dress swayed in the breeze and Mark's jokes made me laugh out loud.
Hearing Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto that night was life-changing. I closed my eyes completely a couple times and pictured entire stories in my head. For a moment I didn't worry about trivial exes, school, a future job, or surviving as a single mother. Instead I held onto the music and became one with the moment.
After opening my eyes wistfully, Mark squeezed my hand and smiled. "It makes me so happy knowing you're enjoying this as much as I am," he whispered, and kissed me on the cheek.
I smiled back at him and wondered, had I finally met someone worth holding onto forever?
When we got back to the house, Mark walked me to the door. "I better get back home?" he asked.
I bit my lip. "Do you…wanna come in for some wine?"
He thought for a minute and nodded. "Sure."
We played cards for hours. Drank and talked. I ended up drinking way too much. At one point, I giggled, pouring wine and missing my glass. "You know what we need?!" I shouted into my glass. "We need some snacks! I keep all the wine in my bedroom—with labels of what food goes best with each one. Ya know, sometimes cheese, chicken, fish, they bring out different flavors in the wine."
So I sprinted up the stairs, nearly missing a few in the process.
My feet stumbled into the room, then I pulled the labels from under my bed and struggled to focus on them. "Oh, Mark! Come up to the bedroom. You gotta see this!"
It took him a minute to get up there. But when he stood in the doorway, I held my breath. It had happened before, but I hadn't fully realized, he'd taken off his vest, tie, and his shoes. He suddenly exuded such raw desire and passion. Even with the wine, I knew what he was thinking as he walked into the room. He sat down by me and read the wine labels slowly.
He never once put his arm around me, but he rested close enough that our thighs touched…and all the sudden I could focus, on his eyes, his lips, on the stupid wine labels that had been so blurry before.
Quicker than a concerto violinist, playing a finale, I grabbed a pillow from the bed, threw it onto the floor and pushed Mark into it.
I straddled him, kissing him with so much desire, so much need. He tasted like the wine we'd been drinking. And I kept getting mixed up as my heart beat faster and his kisses were more intoxicating than the wine had ever been. I liked him so much. But I didn't want to go further than kissing; yet he was right there.. And when his arms wrapped around me, I nearly forgot anything else, getting so lost in him. He could've had me, if he'd wanted. I knew he'd realized it too. We both stood up at one point. It would've been easy for him to slowly peel off my clothes and see the new panties I'd bought.
I closed my eyes and waited for his next move. Instead of taking me, and making love to me for hours, he picked up the pillow from the floor and put it on my bed. He cradled me in his arms, laid me on the bed, and rested next to me on top of the comforter.
Brushing hair from my face, he then massaged my scalp, and played with my long strawberry blonde hair for what felt like hours. After a time, I felt his lips kiss me on the cheek. "Gina, I've never felt like this about anyone."
I fell asleep. And when I woke up, he still held me. I studied his features and smiled. My head had cleared enough that I realized what had happened.
He opened his eyes as I moved. "Good morning, beautiful. How did you sleep?"
"So well! I've never been able to sleep with someone holding me." It surprised me more than I'd admit.
"How's your head?"
"Fine. I never get handovers from wine," I said.
"I'm good, too," he said.
A few minutes passed before we both got up and made some coffee.
He was about to leave to work when I gazed at him and asked, "Mark, we both know I would've had sex with you last night. So, why didn't we? Why didn't you want to?" I asked.
"You weren't ready. And you were so drunk. I wanted to more than you might think…. But there's no way I'd take advantage of you. You're hurting and vulnerable. You need time to heal."
"You denied me!" I joked.
"I'm just teasing," I said. And it was hard to keep my emotions at bay—it'd meant so much that he hadn't taken advantage of me. I gave Mark a half-smile. "Thank you," I mouthed.
"See you sometime this week?" he asked.
"Absolutely. That was the best Valentine's ever."
"For me too," he said, and drove away, leaving me to examine many questions I'd been avoiding within myself; questions about Mark, about my own self-worth, about my inner strength or lack thereof, questions about why I felt like I always needed affirmation about everything….
I walked upstairs, rested on my bed and hugged the pillow that now smelled like Mark. And somehow as I thought about him, I felt so grateful for his actions the night before.
I would make it through this. I would be okay. And it felt nice knowing I had people like my mom and Mark who seemed to have my best interest, always.
To read the next post, please click HERE.