| The next day after Marissa got off from work at the dentist’s office, she walked out of the office building to see a beautiful and colorful bouquet of flowers in front of her.
“Derek, they’re lovely,” she gasped.
“Something lovely for a lovely woman whom I adore,” he said as he handed them to her.
“What are you doing here? You haven’t surprised me with flowers after work in such a long time.”
“I felt bad for getting angry at you yesterday. I shouldn’t have. It wasn’t your fault that he didn’t sign it.”
“You shouldn’t feel bad. You never get mad at me.”
“Which is why I feel so bad. I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”
“I really did try to get him to –”
He kissed her and said, “I understand. You’re ex is a jerk. I just hope you’re not with another one.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck and said, “You are definitely anything but a jerk. You’re nice, and sweet, and kind, and thoughtful, and considerate, and absolutely the best fiancé any woman can have.”
“And a lot of those adjectives are synonyms, but I accept them anyway.” They both grinned and then he took her hand as he walked her to her car.
“I was thinking we could do something right now, and then maybe go to dinner tonight, take a romantic stroll on the beach, skinny dip.”
“Derek,” she said as she playfully pushed him.
“Fine. No dinner. Straight to skinny dipping.”
She laughed and then got a little more serious. “I smell like fluoride and mouthwash. I don’t want to go out smelling and looking like this. And tonight doesn’t really work for me. I’m behind on my weekend chores. You know how I get when I don’t finish my to do list. But definitely dinner tomorrow night.”
“Who said anything about dinner? What about you and me naked in the ocean?” She gave him a look that said ‘you’re ridiculous.’ “Okay, okay. Dinner tomorrow. Don’t worry about me tonight. I’ll probably catch up on some reading. Or maybe start some reading.”
They reached her car. She kissed him on the cheek and thanked him for understanding. “I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
When she got in her car, she instantly felt guilty for lying to him. She decided she would tell him after she got Josh to sign the contract. Then he would be able to forgive her easily.
Marissa wanted to go home to shower after work, and Josh agreed to pick her up there. At a few minutes to three, Marissa heard a knock on the door. “Faye, can you get that? I have to finish putting up my hair.”
When Faye opened the door, she saw a tall, dark, and handsome man. She put on a seductive smile and said, “You must be Josh. Marissa is running a little late, but you can take me out for drinks instead.”
Marissa came to the door, “Don’t mind her. She has a boyfriend.”
“Kind of. But that can be easily fixed,” she retorted.
“Josh, you’re early. I’m actually really surprised. I’m not ready yet cause I thought you’d be here late.” She showed him in and led him to the couch to have a seat.
He responded, “I’m actually more punctual than I used to be. Yesterday at the diner was just me shedding an old habit.” He examined her in her loose, flowing, light-green floral dress. Her curly light brown hair was pinned up, which accentuated her heart-shaped face. “You look… beautiful. I guess some things never change.”
She tried to hide her blush as she said, “Thank you. I was ready to wear jeans and a shirt, but then it was so hot today that I thought I’d just slip this on. Is it too much?”
“If it is, I wouldn’t mind if you took it off.”
“Stop it Josh. You know I’m engaged.”
“Yeah…” He sat down and talked with Faye for a few minutes while Marissa finished getting ready.
“So, Josh,” Faye started, “tell me about yourself.” She looked at him with intense eyes and an inviting smile as she spoke.
“Is this the method of roommate interrogation? Seduction?”
“Why? Is it working?”
He gently smiled and said, “Sorry. You’re lovely, but I’m waiting for that beautiful woman who really doesn’t need to fix her hair.”
Faye’s whole demeanor changed to that of someone who just saw the most adorable puppy. “That is so sweet. I wish Eddie could be as sweet as you.”
“Your boyfriend, I’m assuming?”
“You can say that, but it’s nothing official. We’ve just been dating.”
“All set,” Marissa finally announced.
Faye saw Marissa’s glow when she looked at Josh, and then she grabbed her arm and took her to the kitchen. Faye began, “You are entering dangerous territory and I need to know if you’re ready for this. You’re spark already ignited yesterday, you’re already lying to Derek, and,” she paused for dramatic effect, “that man is gorgeous. Such beautiful pectorals.”
“I know. That shirt really does show them off.”
“This is what I’m talking about.” Faye took hold of both of Marissa’s shoulders and looked her in the eye, “You’re engaged to an amazing man. Please don’t mess that up. Remember why you’re going on this date.”
“This isn’t a date.”
“You just spent an hour getting ready for this. I know. I helped. He’s here picking you up. It’s a date. I really can’t believe you didn’t tell Derek about this.”
Faye let go of Marissa and then Marissa started pacing. “I’m going to tell him. But I can’t yet. He’s already worried as it is. It’s not exactly a secret that I still love Josh. Those stupid contracts.”
“Listen to me. That man out there is so darn fine. He’s charming and sexy and sweet. And you love him. Please don’t do anything you’ll regret tonight. And please tell Derek about this tomorrow whether Josh signs the contract or not.”
Marissa took in her friend’s wise and caring words. “I will. I promise I’ll tell him tomorrow.”
When Marissa and Faye walked out of the kitchen, Faye told Josh, “Take care of her tonight, but not too much. Or else I’ll have to take care of you. And you may or may not like the way I take care of my men.”
“Don’t take too much care of Marissa. Got it. I’ll make sure to open all the doors for her, but I won’t give her my jacket if she’s cold.”
Josh and Marissa walked to his car and she was surprised to see how nice it was. “This is your car? Josh, what do you do? The last time we saw each other you had dropped out of college.”
He came around to her side to open the door for her. “Yeah, well, I went back.” He got in the car with her and started driving to a café he really enjoyed going to.
“I really don’t know anything about you anymore, do I?” she asked aloud, but it was more to herself.
“I’m sure you still know me better than anyone. Just like I know you.”
“What happened after we broke up?”
“Well, I did what I said I would. Did a little traveling. Very little. I went to my uncle’s who lives out of state. He owns a few auto repair shops. One of them isn’t too far from here. You know how I’ve always liked working on cars. He was having trouble managing the one over here since it was the farthest from him, so since he knew I was good with cars, he told me if I learned more about managing and being a business owner, he’d sell it to me. I went back to school and earned a degree in business. Then good to his word, it was mine.”
“But how’d you get the money to buy it from him?”
“He’s been letting me pay him back in payments over the past few years. I actually just finished paying him the rest a few months ago. The business isn’t very successful, but it pays the bills. And I do a lot of hands on work, so I’m happy there. As for the car, it was totaled when I got it. Just a big piece of junk, but I fixed it.”
She smiled, “You made it brand new. You must be really good at your job. I’m glad to hear you finished college and you’re doing well.”
They arrived at a café that Marissa had passed many times on her way to work, but had never been to. Once inside, Marissa couldn’t help but commenting on how charming the place looked.
Josh responded, “After we broke up, I needed a place to go to that didn’t remind me of you, but we’ve been all over the city together. A friend took me here once, and I was just really comfortable here. The café is connected to the bookstore next store, so I could go get a book and come in here to get a drink and relax. It’s a nice little escape from the city.”
The ambiance of the small coffee shop was very relaxing. Large glass windows showed the busy street outside, but inside only the 1950’s music that was playing could be heard. Groups of large and small couches with big cushions were placed in two corners of the café. It reminded Marissa of her grandparent’s home.
Once they got their drinks, they sat at the front corner next to one of the large windows. They sat on separate couches with Marissa in the corner facing the whole café and Josh angling toward her. Marissa said, “First my favorite diner and now a comfy little escape from the city. You’ve always known how to impress me.”
“I just know you. And I wanted to share this place with you because it’s become very special to me. It’s not every day that your ex calls you out of the blue, and I’m taking advantage of it.”
Marissa was almost afraid to bring up the subject of why she had called him. She remembered what Faye said and decided to be smart about this. “It’s not like I called you without a reason. Josh, the only reason I’m here is so that you can sign my contract.”
He smirked, “That’s not the only reason.”
“Then why else would I come?”
“The same reason you spent over an hour getting ready to go out for coffee.”
“How’d you know I spent that long?”
“Half an hour for casual dates. An hour and a half for semi-formal. Three hours for formal. Which I never understood by the way. How can it take three hours? Oh, and this falls into the category between casual and semi-formal, because even though it’s casual, you still wanted to impress me.”
“I only wanted to impress you a little. I can’t believe you still remember all that.”
“I remember a lot of things.” He smiled and looked intently into her eyes as he said this. She was tempted to take his hand like she used to whenever he looked at her like that. Like she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.
“You still are by the way,” he said.
As if he read her mind, he answered, “You still are the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on.”
She stared at him in shock for a moment, not knowing what to say or do. She eventually decided to change the subject, but she wasn’t interested in talking about the contract again.
“So, I’m guessing you’re not married if you’re still flirting with me like that,” she said.
He smirked again, because he knew she had been dying to know more about his current love life.
“No, I’m not. Marriage is a little hard for me in my current position.”
She knew what his current position was, but she didn’t want to start that conversation.
He continued, “Ask me anything you want, Riss. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”
“Well, if I can ask anything, then… how many relationships have you been in since…”
“Five, but three of them weren’t serious at all.”
“Different things. One girl just used me to get her ex jealous. Another was madly in love with me, but I couldn’t return the favor. The other three were just girls I casually dated.”
She was afraid to ask too much about that subject. It was rocky territory she wasn’t equipped to go down yet.
“What about you?” he asked.
“How many relationships I’ve been in? Two since you. One was very casual and short. We only dated for two months. And then there was Derek.”
“You’ve never been big on dating around. You liked serious commitment, which is why it doesn’t surprise me that you’re engaged. How did that happen, by the way, if you knew you couldn’t love him?”
Marissa looked down and let out a small sigh. When she looked back up at Josh, she answered, “After a year of dating, he told me he loved me, and a few months later he gave his heart to me. I’d been honest with him when he told me he loved me. I told him my heart belonged to someone else, but he still gave his heart to me because he loved me so much. He said I was his match, his soul mate.”
“He must’ve really loved you if he still gave his heart to you after telling him that. I don’t know anyone’s who’s done that.”
Marissa couldn’t look at Josh when she said, “He loves me with all his heart.” They were both silent for a while. It was very uncomforting telling Josh, the man she loved with all her heart, that someone else loved her the same way. After staring out the window contemplating this, she continued, “After another year, he proposed. I do love him and care for him deeply, but just not the way he wants me to love him. After I said yes, I went to go see a lawyer, and that’s why I called you.”
“You care about him a lot,” Josh said as a statement instead of a question.
They both sat defeated. Slumped in his seat, Josh had trouble keeping his eyes off of Marissa. She felt him analyzing her as she continued to stare out the window. He was waiting for her to say anything else, to give him some kind of hope.
Still looking out the window, she said, “Derek gave me flowers today after work. It was out of apology for getting mad at me because you haven’t signed my contract. He never gets mad at me. He’s the calmest and happiest person I know. He treats me so well.”
Keeping his focus on her eyes, Josh could only reply, “You love flowers.”
“I do.” She paused as she fought back the tears that were forming in her eyes. “I just wish I could love him.” She finally turned to look at Josh. “I miss you Josh. I’ve missed you so much, and I can’t even tell you how much I’ve thought about you these past five years. Five years is a ridiculously long time to think about someone… But, I really did come here for only one reason. I want to give my heart to Derek. I want my heart back.”
Derek put his hands over hers which were on her lap. He leaned closer to her. He slid his right hand slightly up her left arm. His touch sent tingles all through her body. She froze as his hand caressed her arm. His hands had lost a lot of their smoothness, but they were still gentle, and they still had the same affect on her. His eyes never left hers. His face was determined and sweet.
“You think you thought about me too much? For me, my thoughts of you were never enough. I have insanely missed you, Riss, and I want a second chance with you, which is why I can’t give you your heart. You gave it to me eight years ago, and I’ve held onto it for so long.” He pulled out the contract to her heart that he kept in his back pocket. “This contract is all I had of you for five years. And now here you are in front of me.”
It was too much for her. She was ready to through her arms around him, and ready to slap him. She wasn’t even sure why, or which feeling was stronger. Instead she said, “I think it’s time I go.” Those words did not come out easily.
He drew back. “Okay.” When they both stood up, he added, “But first let me get you a hot chocolate or something. Or maybe those little almond chocolate cubes.”
The fact that he knew her so well made her laugh a little. She smiled as she said, “You’re just one big temptation.”
“I just wanted to make you smile.”
“You were always very good at that.”
In a more lighthearted mood, he said, “Then can you let me be good at that again? C’mon. This place has some amazing sweets. They’re right over here by the counter.”
She couldn’t resist. She walked over to the glass case containing an assortment of baked goods and miscellaneous chocolate treats. “They have the almond cubes,” she said with excitement.
His grin grew twice as big when he saw her face light up. “Two almond cubes please,” he said to the cashier. “You can give one to your roommate if you’re in a sharing mood.”
She smiled mischievously as he handed her the bag.
“Or you can eat them both in the car before we get there. I know that liking chocolate is some stereotypical girl thing, but I’ve never known anyone who’s liked chocolate as much as you. ”
“Love, not like,” she corrected.
As they were walking to Josh’s car, he said, “I know this place that we could go to.”
Marissa faked being annoyed as she responded, “You’ll never learn to ask, will you? Couldn’t you have said ‘Do you want to go somewhere?’”
“No, because that leaves you with the possibility of saying no. My method has worked for most of my life. I see no reason to change it.”
“It doesn’t matter anyways. I can’t going anywhere else with you. I really just need you to sign my contract and take me home.” Though she said it, she didn’t truly mean it. She wanted more time with him. She wanted to make up for the lost time. She wanted to spend the rest of the day with him and then stay up all night talking for hours about anything, or even saying nothing at all.
Josh didn’t want to give her up that easily. “The place that I want to show you is on the way to your apartment. We’ll only stay for a few minutes, and I know you’ll love it.”
“I really can’t…”
He took her hand and gazed into her eyes, “But you really want to.”
She took her hand away reluctantly and said dejectedly, “You can’t keep telling me what I want and what I’m supposed to do. That was the reason we broke up, remember? What makes you think that will help you now?”
They arrived at his car. He walked closer to her, until she was backed against his car with very little means of escape. He brought his face right in front of hers and said, “I’ve never told you what to want. I only told you what you already wanted. And I can still see it in your eyes, in the way you look my way, in your smile, in the way you talk to me, and in the way you don’t really want to go.” He spoke a little slower, and in a way that was sincere, not seductive, he said “You want me.”
His face and lips were so close to hers. At first, she tried not to remember what it was like to kiss them. But, she couldn’t keep herself from staring at them. She couldn’t keep herself from being entranced by every word he spoke. She couldn’t say anything.
Josh continued, “Just a few minutes. I’m not done spending time with you. I don’t want you to go yet, and I don’t want to leave you.”
Those words struck deep into her heart and memory. How many times had he uttered them after every date, after every time they had to part? She knew her old response, but she couldn’t bring herself to say it. Instead she said, “I can’t. I have Derek now.”
They both knew what she should’ve said and what she always used to say, ‘just for a few minutes,’ which never meant a few minutes.
Josh backed away from her. “I’ll take you home.” He walked her to the passenger side of the car, and opened the door for her. She hesitated before going in, and he took this opportunity to finally ask for something he had wanted for a very long time.
“Riss,” he said softly. She turned her whole body to face him expectantly. “Can I have a hug?”
“What?” she asked surprised.
“You say I never ask for anything, but I don’t just want to hug you. I want you to hug me. I haven’t held you for five years.”
They both stood facing each other with only two feet of distance between them. She looked up at him blankly, and then took a step toward him. He took a step toward her too. She brought her arms up to wrap them around him, and he more than readily embraced her. They held each with a comfortable remembrance, but not too tightly. She let her head rest on his chest and she took in his scent. She didn’t know why she expected it to smell different, but he still smelled exactly the same. There was a mix of pine and car oil that was new, but she somehow loved it.
She held on a little tighter, and he brought her much closer. He dug his face into her hair, and she knew he was remembering her scent too. Her hands searched his back like an explorer would search a once visited cave. Every crevice must be checked to see if there was something new, and to remember the old findings. His right hand knew exactly that it belonged on her lower back, and his left hand gently grabbed the bottom of her hair. It amazed her how easily their bodies remembered the positions they fit into. In all her twenty-five years of life, she’d never known any hugs that she loved more than Josh’s. They just fit so comfortably together that she used to be convinced that God sculpted their bodies specifically for each other.
They held on tighter and longer than she expected, and both were reluctant to let go, but they finally pulled apart. She couldn’t look at him when she got in his car and he took her home without saying a word but “goodbye.”