The first touch of her lips was electric, all the years began to wash away as we kissed
How Long is Long Enough
How long is long enough? I wondered to myself. It was three months since Carl died, and I wondered if I have waited long enough. Carl and I were co-workers, and the kind of friends that didn’t keep secrets from each other. I felt bad because I had kept a secret from him, but I had a good reason for not telling Carl I had been in love with Samantha since we were in high school together—Samantha was Carl’s wife.
It was three years ago when we met for drinks, I nearly choked on my beer when Carl told me. “I’m going to ask Sam to marry me tonight,” he blurted it out as I put the frosted mug to my lips. Carl’s thin, smug smile did nothing to make me want to congratulate him.
I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I settled on, “That’s great Carl,” I put my beer down, “do you think she’ll say yes?” I tried to smile but it didn’t work.
“Of course,” he looked at me from the corner of his eye, “we’ve been dating for six months…I know she’ll say yes.”
“I’m kidding, Carl,” I lied. “You two will make a great couple…congratulations!” My heart was already breaking. We shook hands, and then hugged.
Sitting in my apartment that night, I couldn’t stay interested in the book I was reading. My thoughts were with Samantha—would she say no? I blamed myself, Samantha and Carl met through me, and the reason Samantha was available is because I never found the courage to tell her how I felt…that I loved her.
Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! I said to myself. You waited too long, you’ve missed out—again. She’s gone forever. I poured another drink, picked up my book, and stared at the pages.
Josh and I have been friends since high school. I had a crush on him in the tenth grade, but he didn’t notice, he was always interested in other girls, never me. But I always hoped that one day Josh would notice, the time would be right, and Josh and I would live happily ever after. It’s only a teen fantasy I told myself, but one that didn’t end, and I secretly hoped one day it would become a reality.
I watched him date one girl after another, and I always knew they were wrong for him, and the relationships always ended in disaster. It was hard for me to watch him crash and burn after each relationship failed; I wanted to comfort him with more than my kind words. Holding back was never really easy.
It was Josh who introduced me to Carl, and a lot has happened since that day. I was amazed at how easily Carl fooled me. When we dated he was attentive, cordial and agreeable. The night he proposed to me he was at his romantic best. The restaurant was expensive: the table was candle-lit and secluded, the champagne was perfect. When the waiter placed a delicate desert plate in front of me there was a beautiful, one karat diamond ring on it. A violin appeared from nowhere and played a sweet lullaby. My eyes glistened as I looked at Carl and happily said, “Yes.”
Soon after the wedding Carl’s behavior began to change, and the disagreements started. He choose the clothes I wore, always revealing, always without my input, and always making me feel naked. I talked to Josh about some of my concerns, he listened, but he was reluctant to get involved in our marriage. Good old Josh, always thoughtful, and always trying to be a good friend to both Carl and me. Why couldn’t Carl be more like Josh?
My crush on Samantha started in the ninth grade. She sat next to me in home room, and I fell in love with her on the first day of school. She wore her hair shorter then, and had a habit of pushing it back behind her ears. I never missed a girl’s basketball game—her long, slender legs made her a natural to play center.
We never dated each other in school. When I didn’t have a girlfriend she was busy with someone new, when she was free to date I was usually chasing a cheerleader I had no chance of catching. We talked to each other about everything.
Samantha had a serious relationship in the eleventh grade, it lasted four months and resulted in the loss of her virginity. The night they broke up we met and she told me what happened, we talked until 3:00 AM. She replaced her glasses with contact lenses by then, and having had experience with sex, something I had yet to have, I saw her as more grown up than I was, and I liked seeing her that way.
She was heart-broken about the mistake she made with him, and she saw me cry for the very first time as I shared her pain—and tried to drown my own pain in tears. After graduating from separate colleges, our friendship picked up where it had left off four years before. It was as if we had never been apart.
Now, as the news of Samantha and Carl’s marriage filled me with sorrow, I cursed myself for never telling her how I felt, for never reaching out and pulling her to me, kissing her soft lips, and saying those three words…I love you. I would never kiss her lips—not the way I wanted to. I would never caress her smooth skin, and I would never know her intimately. I would stand at the alter with her on her wedding day…not as her husband, but as Carl’s best man. I wondered if I should I tell her before she said, I do. No, I didn’t want to complicate her life. Instead, I prepared to long for her from afar.
That was three years ago.
I was so mad at Carl for his brutish behavior the last night we were all together. I was accustomed to his flirting, his insensitive teasing, and his crude remarks. But that night he was especially rude.
We fought in the car on the way home from the club, and we remained cool toward each other after we arrived. As we sat on the sofa drinking a glass of wine, Carl laid his warm hand on my thigh, then it traveled up beneath my skirt and began massaging my thigh. “You looked beautiful tonight,” he said, then whispered, “I want to take you to bed.”
“What’s wrong?” he feigned innocence. “Are you still mad at me?” He laughed, “I’ll make it up to you when we go to bed.” He didn’t even hint at an apology.
He gulped his wine. A suppressed burp was his only attempt at being a gentleman. His right hand went under my skirt and resumed climbing. When his hot, nicotine-stained fingers reached my crotch, they slipped underneath my cotton panties.
“No, Carl, not now.”
His fingers went on exploring, and when I turned to him he took no notice at all, his fingers continued to stroke me.
“Don’t, Carl…not now.” I said.
He didn’t reply. He removed his hand from under my skirt, lit a cigarette, then fell silent for a few minutes, then his voice lost its playfulness and turned grave. “Are you getting tired of me?” he asked.
“No…why would you say something like that?”
“I don’t know,” he looked at me. “Do you have a thing for Josh?” He continued to look at me.
“No, I don’t,” I said. But the words registered with me. Does it show?
“Well, he has a thing for you, I’m sure you’ve noticed.”
“No, I haven’t noticed. We’re just good friends.”
“Anybody else?” His eyes never left mine.
“No,” I said, “nobody else.” When I said, “I’m going to bed…coming?” he said nothing.
“Don’t be too late,” I said. I wanted to put my arms around him, lay my head on his shoulder, but I knew it wasn’t the right time—or the right sentiment. He wasn’t interested in an affectionate gesture, only a sexual one. He was still upset because I had just told him to stop.
It was after one when he came to bed. He climbed in beside me and I could smell his cigarette breath. He drew me to him and I felt his arousal.
“Carl,” I protested.
He began massaging my breasts and kissed my neck, I felt him get harder and I tried to move away. Putting his hands on either side of my face, he pressed my head gently but firmly downward. “Suck me,” he growled.
And I did.
He fell asleep after he finished. He turned his back to me and his breathing became a steady rhythm. As I lay still in the dark bedroom listening to my own breathing, I finally had to admit to myself how little it had meant.
That was four months ago.
Samantha looked stunning in her white, sleeveless dress, but her green eyes were veiled with embarrassment when she saw a man, or a woman, stare at the low-cut front that revealed smooth shoulders and an ample portion of cleavage. Carl smiled, and didn’t seem to notice her discomfort. I wanted to look at her, take in her beauty, but I didn’t want to add to her discomfort. She was little more than a possession to Carl, like a priceless painting—one that he had vandalized, I thought.
“Dance with Sam,” Carl said to me, and then turned to Samantha, “Go ahead Sam, give him a thrill.”
The wooden dance floor was mottled with shards of light as the mirrored ball turned above our heads. She moved us through the crowd of gliding dancers to a corner, “Where are we going, Samantha?” I asked when we stood in near darkness.
“My dress is too short, it’s darker here.”
“You look beautiful Samantha,” I whispered.
“Thank you, Josh.” Her shoulders slumped. “He made me wear this silly dress tonight, it’s too short, everyone is looking at me.”
“Their looking because you are beautiful.”
“You’re trying to make me feel good…good ole’ Josh.” She smiled at me and I held my breath.
“That’s because I love you, Samantha.” I wanted to say that with the emotion I felt at that moment.
“I love you, too,,” she said. If only she really felt that way.
We danced in the dark, her head resting on my shoulder, her breath caressing my neck, my fingertips touching her flawless, soft skin…while keeping a respectable distance between us. The same respectable distance that had always separated us.
“You know, someday you are going to make a woman very happy, Josh,” she tilted her head back and smiled at me, her lips glistened just inches away. It would be so easy to just…
“I don’t know about that,” I said as I gazed into her warm eyes. It took all my will power to stop myself from kissing her. “You’re the only girl for me, and you’re taken,” I said as I gently pulled her to me.
When we returned to the table, Carl called the waitress over and ordered drinks, he told her that if she joined us he would be her date.
“And my wife and my friend will have some time together,” he turned and smiled at me, “I think they would enjoy that.” I saw the crimson rise in Samantha’s face.
On the ride home Samantha was quiet. Carl stopped at a red light and looked over at Samantha, then looked at me in the rear view mirror.
“What’s the matter with her?” he shrugged at the mirror. I continued to look at nothing out of the dark side window. Then turning to Samantha he said, “I was just joking with that waitress, you should know me by now.”
“Can we talk about this later?” she said quietly.
“Come on, Sam,” he laughed, “Josh is family, we can talk in front of him.” She ignored him and looked straight ahead. A silence fell between them as the light changed and Carl drove off.
Sitting in the back seat, I wanted to take Samantha by the hand and walk away. My stomach knotted as I visualized him being intimate with her. Was he as slovenly at love making as he was with everything else? A tear fell from Samantha’s eye as she turned her head and looked out the side window. My heart ached to reach over the seat and comfort her. It was the last night the three of us would spend together.
My friends tell me how lucky I am to have Sam, but not Josh, he never mentions her name. I know he has a crush on her, but after all these years if they haven’t dated by now they never will. I thought I detected an edge of disappointment when Samantha told me they had never even kissed.
I like to take Samantha out and show her off, she always looks beautiful and sexy in the clothes I buy for her. Right after we were married she objected to dressing sexy, but I convinced her that she should dress for me and not worry what others might say.
There was another fight last night, they were becoming more frequent. It was about Josh, my friend, my co-worker, my silent rival. I love Sam, she is beautiful, but I am tired of competing with Josh. How could I compete with a fantasy? I didn’t want to try anymore.
I stopped for a drink before going home, and since one relaxed me, I thought I’d have another, then another. By eight I was inching toward the legal limit and decided to go home, while I still could. The interstate wasn’t jammed, and as I sped along in the left lane I thought about the things I had said to Sam last night and again on the phone today—I didn’t see the car cross the center line and drive straight at me.
“I can’t believe you packed all this so quickly,” I said as I looked around Samantha’s apartment. The walls were bare, most of the furniture was gone, the room echoed our voices. Samantha led me into the living room where we sat next to each other on cardboard boxes and talked. The room was dimly lit by the small lamp in the corner of the barren room.
“I’m going to miss you, Josh,” Samantha said. Her eyes were half closed and she pushed her long, honey-colored hair behind her ears. “You will visit me, won’t you?”
“Sure, whenever you want, it’s only a two hour drive,” I said. My eyes lingered on her supple lips. Even without lipstick they shimmered in the dim light.
“Promise?” She smiled, “How about next week?” The dim light caught her eyes and I saw the tears pooling there.
I wanted to kiss her more than ever before, to hold her, and tell her I love her.
“We’ve been friends for a long time, Josh.” A tear spilled from her eye and tracked down her cheek.
I looked deeply into her green eyes and saw the tears, I saw her skin as it reflected the soft light of the room…and I saw her lips, glistening, beckoning, calling to me. The room had turned as quiet as nothing. We were again separated by that respectable distance that had always kept us apart, but I felt the shreds of uncertainty that always filled that space rapidly falling away.
“Kiss me, Josh,” she whispered. Her fingers trembled as she lightly stroked my cheek.
I could hear my rapid breathing, even though I was sure my heart had stopped. I took her hand from my face and kissed the soft, slender, fingers, then them it to my heart.
“You can do better than that.” A tear glistened on her cheek. “I’ve waited so long for you to kiss me, please…before I go.”
I felt her breath on my cheek as she spoke. My heart raced as the distance between our lips began to slowly close. The first touch of her lips was electric and I shuddered as our lips met. All the years began to wash away as we tenderly kissed.
Suddenly she was the pretty girl sitting next to me in home room again. There was no Carl, she had not lost her virginity to someone who didn’t care about her, and there had not been a car accident. There was only Samantha. We were back in high school again
The emotion washed over us and I pulled Samantha to me. Her tongue darted past her parted lips and felt warm on my lips. I could feel her body tremble as we pulled each other closer. Our tears mingled as our lips were joined for the very first time in a lingering kiss.
I wanted to kiss her again. I wanted to take her in my arms and feel her heart beat against mine again, I wanted to protect her and keep her safe. I had known her—loved her, most of my life. And now that I was here with her I looked into her wet eyes and then I touched her hair. I could smell the lilac on her skin. I could hear a clock ticking. We held each other and shared the silence. It had been an eternity, Samantha looked at me and I saw her lips move, and I heard the words I had longed to hear for so long.
“I love you, Josh…I always have.”
Her words gave me life, they awakened my passion, they gave me a future.
“Kiss me, again, please,” she whispered as her soft, full, lips closed the charged air between us.
Word Count 2980
May entry: Paradise Cove Writing contest.
Prompt: "A kiss--soft, gentle, passionate. The anticipation of a first kiss can be both exquisite and excruciating. Tell me about it.”