Fall in love? Not Devit Mars. He couldn't be falling love . . . could he?
Devit Mars was a wanderer and a cuckold, never considering his actions and their effects on others. He ambled down the block of this new town with an air of complacent authority as if he were the mayor.
A breeze blew softly across him; he relished the scent of the nearby sea. Devit had always loved the sea. He considered joining the navy once, but decided against it when he discovered the navy did not fulfill the pirate fantasies of his dreams.
A delightfully young and pretty female walked past him. He stopped and smiled. The woman returned the gesture, but walked on. Devit followed.
"Hey . . . hey, hello."
She turned, said hello, but walked away again. Devit came after, smiling broadly.
"Wanna go to lunch?"
"I don't think my husband would like that." She wiggled her fingers, displaying her wedding band.
"Husband? He don't have to know."
He smiled broadly at the woman who returned a wry smile and walked away.
"Suit yourself," he said to her back," you don't know what you're missing."
She disappeared around a corner and Devit walked on. He was an excellent lover, or so he had been told. Yes, she did not know what she was missing.
Devit stopped beside a baseball field to read the sign across the entrance.
HOME OF THE ASPIRATION WARRIORS
"What a name for a town -Aspiration."
Two young women passed and Devit smiled and tried to start a conversation. They smiled back, but walked on. Devit paused before the glass window of the ball park's refreshment stand and checked his appearance.
He was very handsome. Dark brown hair and eyes offset his fair complexion. He was tall and athletically lean, with long tapering hands and feet that were favorites of the women he bedded. He bared his teeth, searching for any stains or food particles. They were clean and white, no reason for anyone to look at him askance.
Devit proceeded down the block. A nearby coffee shop attracted him. I could use a cuppa joe, he thought. Been driving for hours.
The place was what could be called "cozy". He was more attuned to modern, up-scale decor, but the place was clean and the coffee smelled great.
"Hi," he said to the middle aged woman behind the counter.
"Coffee, please." Devit gave her his winning smile. She smiled back, but there was no blush of red on her cheeks. He wondered at this. He always made the older birds blush with his attention. After all, just look at him.
The woman walked back from the counter to where huge coffee machines waited to fill round white cups. She returned and lay the filled cup before him. He smiled again and even winked, but the woman only turned her attention to the next order.
"Hmmph." He said softly and sipped the coffee.
He finished, refused the offer of "anything else", and left. He was getting the cold shoulder from the female population in this town and he didn't like it.
I guess I'll move on . . . he thought, when his attention was taken by a small shop in the middle of a modern block of stores and houses. The shop did not belong there, it was ancient looking, the windows dusty, the paint dull and worn.
Devit walked up to the window and looked inside. A lovely girl, long blonde hair, her figure trim and neat with legs up to her neck, busied herself with shelved items. Devit almost salivated. The sway of her hips were unconsciously seductive as she moved about the interior. She was oblivious to his leering, doing her job. He opened the door to the tinkle of a small silver bell at the door. The girl looked up and smiled as Devit approached.
"See anything that interests you?"
Devit smiled and walked closer. In a silky, breathless voice he answered, "yes, you."
The girl took a few steps back and tilted her head to the side.
"I mean . . . are there any articles in the store that interest you."
"Not unless you're an article."
She turned abruptly and walked behind the counter. Devit followed, and leaned against the counter's front, placing his opened palms on the glass top.
"You're very pretty."
"If you're not interested in any of the items, I will have to ask you to leave."
Devit raised his eyebrows. What was wrong with the women in this town?
"Okay, I'll look around and see."
The shop was filled with things his grandmother would have adored. Bric-a-brac; relics of people's past. Nothing here interested him in the slightest, except for the young woman with the long blonde hair and longer legs.
He picked up a small statue of a frog with a bow tie. The amphibian held a little yellow umbrella and was sitting on a pale green lily pad. He brought it to the counter and she proceeded to wrap the little statue and place it in a paper sack.
"Twenty dollars," she said, holding out her opened palm.
"Twenty dollars? For this?"
"It's very special, hand made."
"Twenty dollars and dinner tonight?"
Devit shelled out the money and shook his head.
"There are plenty of nice restaurants, I'm sure you'll find something to your liking."
She turned to place the money in the cash register, but Devit lingered.
"Boy, you're tough. You married? Engaged?"
"I'm engaged to be married, though that's really none of your business."
"A lucky man. But being engaged isn't the final act, you know. We could still go to dinner . . ."
Devit shrugged, picked up his package and left the store.
He dropped the little bag in the first garbage can he passed and walked on.
Night. Cool breezes blew across the town of Aspiration, bringing the salt tang of the ocean. Devit drove down to the sea, to a place where a dock had been built out onto the surge of water. On the dock a restaurant had been erected. A crowd of people laughed and talked; the tinkle of glasses and the sound of soft music reached Devit's ears.
He pulled up where the other cars were lined, close to the pylons sunk into the sand for support of the dock. He switched off his lights and sat in the driver's seat smoking a cigarette. He didn't smoke often, only when he was confused. Devit had never had so little success with women before. He got out of the car and closing the door, he noticed the girl from the shop climbing the wooden stairs to the restaurant. He watched her for a few moments. She was alone.
"Hey . . . hey, remember me?"
The girl turned around and looked at him, then continued climbing the stairs. Devit hurried forward.
"Come on, talk to me at least."
"I'm here to meet my fiancé,"
"Oh, well, don't let me stand in the way, then."
"You can't stand in the way, Sir. You do not know me well enough to stand in my way."
She turned from him and continued up the stairs and across the dock. Devit watched her go, the sway of her hips and the silky smooth stride making him lick his lips.
He looked around. Every table that held guests was populated by a guy and a girl. They all seemed entranced with one another, holding hands across the table, staring into one another's eyes. Devits sharp observations noted all the women either wore wedding bands or engagement rings.
If they're anything like Miss Longlegs, I don't stand a chance. Devit stood by the wooden railing for a while then entered the dining area. A young man approached him.
"How many, Sir?"
The young man looked behind Devit as if to prove he was alone.
"Yes. That's what I said."
The youth turned and headed off leading Devit to the right side of the open eating area.
"We don't have any single seating. But, I'll make something up for you. Please, sit over here in the lounge while I make a place for you."
"No single seating? What is this a couple's only club?"
"No, it's just really popular with couples. We're not used to single diners."
The young man smiled and left. After a few moments, he returned and signaled Devit to follow. He did, accepting a seat on the far end of the dock along the rail. It was not a bad seat, right near the ocean. Devit ordered and ate his food to the sound of the waves and a band that seemed only to know music from the nineteen eighties.
His steak was cooked to perfection, his roasted rosemary potatoes delectable. He ordered chocolate glace for desert and a cup of strong demi-tasse. As he ate, he looked around. There were so many lovely women. He tried flirting, smiling at the girls and waving. They ignored him. He was discouraged.
Devit ordered a bottle of wine and sat back watching the couples at their tables. He couldn't understand it. He had never, in all his thirty-five years been turned down. This was a first and Devit did not like it.
As he wound through the diners at their tables after his dinner, he spied Her. The girl from the shop. She sat opposite a rather chubby, slightly balding man. Devit couldn't believe the look of the guy. Someone as stunning as she was had no business passing time with this unattractive male. They rose to leave and she noticed Devit. She grabbed her fiancé's hand and smiled at him. The guy wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Devit twisted his lip, more in disgust than in pleasantry. He watched as they left the dining area and walked down the stairs.
What's a guy like that doing with a gorgeous woman like her? Like her? He realized he did not even know her name.
Devit left. Returning to his car he drove to his hotel. He took a shower, smoked a few cigarettes, but he could not sleep. Something was not right, though Devit could not put his finger on exactly what that was.
Devit returned to the shop the next morning. To his disappointment, another woman, much older and definitely not his type stood behind the counter.
"Yes, may I help you?"
"I, uh, wonder . . . where's the young lady that was here yesterday?"
"Oh, she's gone off for a few days. She's getting married Saturday."
"Married? Well that's really nice. What's her name?"
"Reesha. That's unusual."
The woman smiled at him.
"Would you like to buy . . .?"
"Uh, yeah, sure. Let me look around."
He looked over the shelves loaded with bric-a-brac and statuettes. He spied a replica of the frog with the umbrella and bowtie. It looked exactly like the one he had thrown in the trash can.
"These are hand made?"
The woman looked up to see what he was talking about and shook her head positively.
"It looks exactly like one I saw here yesterday."
"That can't be. Each statue is one of kind. They're made special."
"I know I bought one here yesterday, just like this. Same bowtie and umbrella, everything."
The woman smiled knowingly. Devit felt a chill run over him. Something was not right here and, in fact something was not right in this whole town.
"That is yours, Mr. Mars. It belongs to no one else."
Devit stopped his advance toward the counter.
"How'd you know my name? I didn't tell you my name."
"This is a very small town, Mr. Mars. Everyone knows everyone else."
"But . . . I didn't tell anyone my name . . ."
"Tsk-tsk, Mr. Mars. You signed the hotel registry. Like I said, this is a small town."
It was true that gossip spread quickly in places like these. Still, Devit held down an uneasy feeling.
He placed the frog statue back on the shelf.
"Take it Mr. Mars, you already paid for it."
Devit reached for the statue, pulled his hand back, but took it eventually. Her remark that he had already paid, made him feel even more uneasy. He looked back over his shoulder at the woman behind the counter who never raised her head from her duties. The little bell tinkled as he left the shop and headed toward his car. He placed the statue on the dashboard and drove away. He wanted to leave, but he couldn't get Reesha out of his mind. Surely, she would rather be with someone who would compliment her great looks, not that rolly-polly fellow he'd seen her with. He decided to drive around a bit and see what else Aspiration had to offer.
Devit drove past the shops and parks, out of town. Across the bridge on which the welcome sign had been placed, telling people that they were now entering Aspiration. On the other side of the river, the scenery changed. Large poplars and pines lined the road as he drove on through the valley and up into the hills. The houses were larger here, family dwellings, some with small farms attached. The area was pleasant, but unexciting.
Devit drove for more than hour. The sun was at its zenith when he stopped in front of a small gas station that seemed to be a part of someone's home; a large blue sided farm house, with statues outside. He noted a few renditions of the frog which he had set on his dashboard placed around a Koi pond. He pulled into the gas station and got out of his car to look at the frogs.
"Hi, want some gas?"
"Uh . . ." she was a small dark haired girl, lithe and sun darkened. Not bad looking, but not his type.
"No, I was just looking at the frogs."
"Yeah. I made those."
"You? You made them? Well . . ."
Devit reached inside the car and took out the frog statue. He wiggled it in the air, smiling.
"Oh, did you buy that from town? You know I only made one small one like that, funny you should buy it. You're not from around here, are you?"
"Do you go into town often?"
"No." She answered, "I stay on this side of the bridge mostly. I have everything I want right here." She smiled at him and he found himself liking that.
"I make really good coffee and pie, want some?"
"It's really tasty and I could use some company."
"Okay," and he followed the young woman inside.
The place was filled with country kiche, almost hokey. He slid onto a stool at the counter while the girl brought him coffee and a thick slice of blueberry pie.
"What's your name?"
"Devit. What's yours?'
He smiled at her, took a chunk of pie and a sip of coffee.
"Hmmm, this really is good. I'm not much of a pie eater, but I like this."
She smiled again and he returned the gesture.
He found himself watching her every move. She was dainty but with an underlying toughness that betrayed the helplessness of her femininity. He watched the way her arm muscles bulged when she hoisted a heavy box. He couldn't take his eyes off her and shook his head to chase away the feeling.
"Do you, uh, know a girl in town named Reesha?"
"Reesha? Sure, everyone knows Reesha. She was a city council member."
"She's getting married next Saturday. Do you know her?"
"Well, kind of. I . . . I'm interested."
"Don't get too interested. Reesha's made up her mind. She's found her heart and no one can dissuade that."
She smiled again and Devit stammered.
"I uh, I think, that is . . . would you like to come with me to the concert tonight? The one in the park, I mean."
The moment he asked it, he wondered why. There was nothing phenomenally beautiful about this girl. She was an average looking young woman, not sexy in any way to him. True, her personality was charming, but that never had attracted him before.
"Yes. I'd love to go to the concert. I was going to go anyway, but its so much more pleasant with someone else."
"Yeah, okay. I'll, um, pick you up at six-thirty. Maybe we can go to that beach restaurant afterward?"
"You mean, The Tide Side Pub? I love it there."
"Yeah, that place. How about it?"
"Yes. That sounds great. I'll be ready. See you then." She said as Devit left payment and went to his car.
He looked back at the Koi pond and the frogs around it and shook his head. What was it about Sarah that so attracted him? He couldn't put his finger on it. He pushed the little frog statue back on the dashboard so it wouldn't fall off and got into the driver's seat. He turned out of the parking lot and headed back into town. All through the drive he tried to figure out why he had offered to take Sarah to the concert and dinner. He also wondered why Reesha suddenly seemed no more than a distant interest. But no matter, he found himself feeling really delighted that Sarah had said yes.
The air was sweet with summer and sea. Stars began to twinkle through thin Cirrus clouds as the music swelled and the concert began. Devit and Sarah sat on a blanket not far from the bandstand. They shared a thermos of coffee and wrapped sandwiches. Sarah had suggested they take a picnic rather than go to the restaurant. She felt it more intimate and Devit agreed.
Devit leaned back on his elbows and smiled at Sarah. She was really quite good-looking. Sarah returned the smile and poured them each a cup of coffee.
He was relaxed, enjoying the concert and the evening air. Across his line of sight, Reesha led her fiancé, winding through the seated crowd. Devit was breathless. The colored lights of the stage played on her blonde hair. As she turned to say something to her chubby cohort a blonde curl drifted on the breeze and fell seductively across her forehead. She smiled and Devit's body vibrated. Sarah was forgotten.
Sarah didn't react. She knew of his fascination, but she knew he would not stand a chance with Reesha. There was no jealousy, no harsh words. She merely arched an eyebrow, sipped her coffee and listened to the music.
Devit was entranced. He kept his eyes on Reesha, absorbing her every move. How he longed for her. How he fantasized over their involvement. He looked back at Sarah and the spell he was under was broken; for a time.
The concert was enjoyable, the evening a very pleasant one. Devit had to admit that it was the most fun he had experienced in a long time. As the crowd thinned out, Reesha and Michael were among the last to leave, sitting for a long time together sipping wine in the cool night air. Devit fought the urge to bring attention to himself. He knew that would cause Reesha to want to discourage him further. He rose, grabbed Sarah's hand and hauled her up. She smiled at him and his heart filled with a joy he had never known.
What's going on here? Sarah's a great girl, but . . .
He shook his head as if to clear away a multitude of cobwebs. He led Sarah to his car and drove her across the bridge to her home. At the entrance to her house, he jockeyed for a kiss, an embrace, anything to make him feel as if this was an area where he was in control. Sarah paused, looked at him and said, "do you expect payment for this evening?"
"What? No. No, why?"
She pushed him back a bit with an open palm on his chest.
"There has to be a lot more between us before you will be permitted to be that close to me."
"Oh, well . . . I, I don't want to seem too forward. But most women . . . want me."
"True love is never founded totally on desire, Devit."
"True love?" Devit laughed a little, which did not anger Sarah.
"Why did you want to take me out?"
"Because, er, I like you. You're a really nice girl. Pretty too."
"I see. Don't guys like you have an expression? Getting to first base, is it?"
"Naw. First base? I wasn't thinking about that."
Sarah looked at him, studied him for another few moments, said goodnight and left him on the doorstep.
This was intolerable. The only woman in town that gave him the time of day, turned his attentions down as if they were moldy offerings left on some age-old altar.
Devit went to his car and got in. He started the engine, turned on the headlamps and started to drive off. He noticed the little frog statue. The animal had a sorrowful frown on its face. He picked it up and examined it, deciding he hadn't noticed the expression before, he replaced it on the dashboard and headed back across the bridge to his hotel.
Though the night was cool and a gentle breeze wafted in through his opened window, Devit tossed in a puddle of sweat. He couldn't get Reesha out of his mind. He dreamed about her when he closed his eyes to drowse, he called her name softly as if they were together and she would respond. Sitting up on the edge of the bed, he thought of Sarah. The way her smile caused little wrinkles around her eyes. The way she tossed her long dark brown hair back with a swing of her head. Her intelligence was a plus too. No need to down talk this one.
"Why am I thinking about Sarah? What the hell is happening to me?" Sarah's words drifted back to him, "true love is never founded totally on desire . . ."
"Desire. Yes, that was the crux of it. Desire. I want Reesha in a way that I never wanted a woman."
He found himself drifting toward wondering about how Sarah would feel if he did conquer the walls between him and Reesha. What would she say? What would she do? Would she quit him? These thoughts rolled about in his head, bouncing back and forth like ping-pong balls on a gaming table. He stood up, went to the window and looked out. The streets of Aspiration were quiet. No cars, pedestrians or any other sign of life flowed down them. He sighed and lit a cigarette, a sign of his frustration and confusion. He inhaled, exhaled and said to himself, "women."
The morning dawned bright and breezy. Devit wondered if any other kind of morning ever visited this valley. He signed out of his hotel room and went to his car, placing his luggage into the trunk. He looked around the street, people passed not noticing him. He climbed into his car, started the engine and drove off toward the bridge. When he reached the other side the road branched. One side went off up the hills to where Sarah lived, the other to the highway. He did not hesitate in his drive to the highway and away from Aspiration.
Devit drove for an hour, staring ahead at the road, his mind a ball of confusion. He pulled over onto the shoulder when he realized that he was crying. He looked at himself in the rearview mirror. His eyes were red, his cheeks wet.
"What the fuck is the matter with me?"
Devit sat there for a while, his hazards blinking. Soon, he saw the unmistakable flashing of light that denoted a police vehicle had pulled in behind. The officer got out and came to the driver side door.
"Uh, yeah, sure officer. I just . . . had to collect myself."
He smiled up at the policeman, but his eyes betrayed his emotions.
"Can I see your license and registration?"
Devit pulled them out and handed them to the officer.
"What's wrong? You seem to be upset."
"Oh, nothing. Just a fight with my girl."
He handed Devit back his papers.
"You can't sit on the shoulder like this. You've gotta get back on the road."
"Okay," and he blew his nose into a wad of tissues.
"How far to the next exit?"
"One and a half miles."
Devit started his car while the police officer waited to watch him drive off.
After a while, Devit saw the exit. Barryerville. He turned and headed down the off ramp and into a small town that was nothing at all like Aspiration. The streets were worn down, the buildings shoddy. He noted a proliferation of bars and cheap stores, the only hotel looked like a flea bag joint. He decided he would only stop for an hour or two to have something to eat and to collect himself.
After a greasy cheeseburger and fries and several cups of watery coffee, he returned to his car and headed west. This would lead him back onto the highway toward Aspiration. He could not get Sarah out of his mind. He thought about Reesha and realized it was her wedding day. He shook his head, not understanding his motives, but feeling a great sense of relief that he was going back. He took the frog statuette down from the dash and looked at it. Strange, maybe it had been the light the last time he looked at it, but he could swear the damned thing was smiling now.
As soon as he crossed the bridge onto the main street, Devit's heart lifted. He was filled with a joy he could not contain. It was as if he were going home after a long exile. He breathed in the air, the salt tang of the sea, the sweet scent of blossoms. He heard church bells ringing and decided to go to see if it was Reesha's wedding. She looked resplendent in her white, full length wedding gown. Her blonde hair piled high offset with sprigs of small white flowers. Her face was glowing as she stood on the steps preparing to enter the church. Her bridesmaids lined the steps behind her and as the traditional bridal music swelled, they all stepped forward.
"Come along, Mr. Mars. You can sit by me."
It was the woman from the shop where he had purchased the little frog statue. She linked her arm into his and they followed Reesha and her maids into the church.
Devit watched as an older gentleman, probably Reesha's father, escorted her down the aisle into the care of her fiancé. She smiled at him, a smile that told Devit that he was her heart's desire and nothing could change that or intrude upon it.
He applauded with everyone else when they kissed and began their procession down the aisle as husband and wife.
"I never understood before . . ." he said to the woman at his side.
"I know," she answered.
As they exited the church the woman said, "my name is Gert. I'm glad to see you back."
"How'd you know I left? Oh, yeah. It's a small town."
"If you want to come to the reception, it's at the Tide Side Pub. You can sit with me, if you want to go."
"I don't know, I . . ."
"Sarah Chambers will be there."
Devit looked at Gert and hung his head.
"I don't know. I can't get myself under control.
"Love will do that to you," she answered and took hold of Devit's hand.
It was funny. Devit thought he would seethe when he saw Reesha with Michael and realized they were man and wife, but he didn't . He watched as they cut the cake and smeared a bit on each other's faces, while they danced their first dance together as man and wife and when they left the reception together. He looked about for Sarah throughout the party, but did not see her.
"I thought you said, Sarah would be here?"
Devit frowned, "I haven't seen her all afternoon."
"You're not seeing her."
He was about to deliver a remark when there she was. She wore a pale lavender dress, her shoulder length dark hair framing her sweet face. She stood in the middle of the dance floor waiting.
Devit stepped forward, uncertain whether to go to her or not. Sarah held her hand out and he went to her. They danced to a slow song, and everyone that passed them on the dance floor nodded and smiled. It seemed that the entire town approved.
The evening turned into night as they sat at the railing of the Pub and looked out at the rolling ocean. Soon the darkness of night shielded the view of the waves as if a black blanket had been dropped at the water's edge. Still they sat, a shared bottle of wine between them.
"I left today, you know?"
"Yes. But, you came back."
He looked at her. She seemed to him to be the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. The soft light of the table's candle danced in her dark eyes and highlighted her hair. He reached out and placed a hand atop hers.
"Why'd you come back?"
Devit hesitated. He didn't want to say the wrong thing. But he didn't know what was the right thing.
"I . . . I love you."
Sarah smiled and they stood to leave. She took his hand and they walked down the stairs to his car. They were the only ones left and as they walked down the stairs the lights in the Pub turned off.
"Are you certain?"
"Certain? About what?"
"That you love me?"
Devit stopped as they approached his car. He took both Sarah's hands in his and looked at her.
"Yes. I am as sure as can be. Funny, though. That's not my style."
"I guess your style has changed."
One year later they were married. Devit went to work at the hotel as a manger. He made a decent wage and was more settled and happy than he had ever been. This day, as he crossed the bridge to home, he looked again at the sign that said, "Welcome To Aspiration."
He understood now. It was a place where love's aspirations are fully and truly realized. He smiled at this thought. He had aspired to bed every woman he met that came up to his standards and some that didn't. He was the great sexual conqueror. An adventurer extraordinaire. Yet, he did not know how terribly lonely and sad he was. Now, with Sarah and their first child on the way, he felt complete. He raised two fingers in salute at the sign as he passed it, wondering how he had lived so long without fulfilling his dreams. He lay the two fingers on his lips, kissed them and touched the little frog's head. It was his good luck omen, his symbol of love. He had become the conquered and he was grateful for the defeat.
Word Count - 5242