By Brandy Stewart
I remember the exact moment I asked God for a hero. It was 1998 and I was lying in bed watching a handsome, charming and extremely well-endowed marine put his pants on. Itâ€™s not that he wasnâ€™t fun- he was. He was a great guy, and I loved him in a way, but it wasnâ€™t THE way. I knew it wasnâ€™t THE way, because I had him believing I loved hockey, g-strings and sex in hallways. He thought I slept in full makeup, and needed only three hours of sleep a night. This was not the stuff of deep, romantic connection.
I didnâ€™t trust him with my true self: the girl who prefers books to hockey, sex in beds and grannie underpants that donâ€™t ride up. The girl with blackheads and flat hair. Both girls kissed the marine goodbye and stared at the ceiling.
â€œGod, I need a hero. Someone who gets me. Someone who not only gets me, but loves the real me, dark roots and all.â€ I finished with a promise: â€œI swear, no more men until he shows up.â€ With that heavy pronouncement, I got up out of bed and put my clothes on. It was two oâ€™clock on a Thursday, after all.
Fortunately God knows me well, and didnâ€™t test my resolve by making me wait too long. Two weeks later, after an awful day at work, I forced myself to attend a happy hour event sponsored by my alma mater. The bar was in the back of a Mexican restaurant, and my classmates were mingling at a bunch of tables crowded beneath a gaudy yellow chandelier.
The president of the local alumni chapter stood up to welcome me. Out of habit, I checked him out: younger than me, dark hair, well-dressed. I said something witty and charmingâ€¦
Of course I didnâ€™t. In a world-weary voice I said, â€œI need a drink.â€ Good host that he was, he smiled, and got me a drink. He had long fingers, like a musician. Dark hair, dark eyes, and the worldâ€™s longest eyelashes. Rolled-up sleeves bared strong forearms dusted with straight black hair. I remember wondering if he had it all over, or just on his forearms. But I tried not to pay too much attention because Iâ€™d sworn off men, remember?
So I had another margarita- on the rocks with salt, lots of salt, thank you very much- and left an hour later like a good girl. As I was leaving, Mr. President promised to call me early the following week to play volleyball, a mutual interest. I couldnâ€™t make it, and we settled on my joining him at his next wine club event. â€œGuy friend,â€ I told myself. I couldnâ€™t bear to hope that he could be special. If he didnâ€™t pull down his pants in my living room or try to perform mouth to mouth in the first fifteen minutes of our date, he would be cautiously promoted to guy friend.
Well, he didnâ€™t commit either faux pas, but he did pull out a secret weapon at the end of our date. Poleaxed, flummoxed, a bowlful of jelly, that was me. He sideswiped me with something I was absolutely, positively, powerless to resist. I was Wonder Woman and he had myâ€¦ No, wait. Wonder Woman had no weaknesses.
I was Superman and he had my kryptonite. Actually, I was Tense Career Woman, and he had magic hands. Just before he walked out my door after our date, he moved in close behind me, put his hands on my shoulders and started to rub. And rub, and ease, and persuade every inch of tension to leave my body.
I swayed dangerously on my feet, and he caught me. He could have done just about anything at that moment and been forgiven for the gift of relaxation I didnâ€™t even know I needed. But do you know what he did? He left. I was draped in my doorway, nerve endings a-tingling, and vulnerable to seduction. But he left, and I was intrigued. And you know what?
Six years and two beautiful sons later, he still soothes me. Iâ€™m no longer Tense Career Woman, but sleep-deprived mommy of two, and the man still has the magic that keeps me his happy slave. His presence calms me, the scent of his skin clears my mind and his body is sanctuary from the rest of lifeâ€™s busy pace.
I know its love, the real thing, because I can trust him to accept me in all of my various forms. The two hundred pound pregnant woman didnâ€™t faze him. He has dodged â€˜Banshee-Meâ€™ in the throes of PMS; he listens patiently when I tell him how I reamed a sales clerk at the store when Iâ€™m sure heâ€™d rather be watching ice hockey on television. Iâ€™m not a bad wife, either. Heck, I offer sexual favors for household chores completed. I do my part.
Mr. President is now Mr. Husband, and he doesnâ€™t mind the granny underwear, as long as I pull out the good stuff on occasion too. He sees ME, the real me: the good, the bad, and the oh-so-ugly. And sometimes I donâ€™t believe him, but he says he loves all of those girls. What a miracle.
I thank God for him every day.
My father was an Italian born, American who became a decorated WWII Army sergeant. Hard as nails when it came to politics and his love for our country, he met my mother in New York right before the war and told her on their first date that he was going to marry her.
And while on a three-day Army leave, he did marry her and they shared a binding heartfelt love that endured many hardships. My father would often say that while he was in the trenches in the Philippines, he never feared for his life. He always knew that he would be coming home and that heâ€™d successfully dodged many bullets, but the one injury he had trouble withstanding was the loneliness that constantly surrounded him. The separation from my mother seemed almost unbearable.
And shortly after their 50th wedding anniversary and a lifetime of devoted love, my father passed on leaving us with many stories and beautiful memories. No one could make a person laugh harder than my father. He had a flair for storytelling that kept everyone in his presence, enthralled.
And after my mother passed on, I retrieved his little black book, this binder that Iâ€™d always wanted for myself. In it, there were more than two-dozen poems my father had penned to my mother while serving time in the Army. Written in his own hand and dated, these poems are his legacy to our family.
This was one of two poems that we read at momâ€™s eulogy that speak of their separation at that time.
Dated: April 29, 1941
Two days weâ€™ve been apart, my love
Two days that seemed like ages
Two days of loneliness Iâ€™ve known
In slow and painful stages.
Two days of rain, of dismal fog
Of clouds up in the blue
Two days. Two nights. Iâ€™ve been like this
Without the love from you.
Two days, two weeks, or centuries
It really does not matter
For soon will come the moment when
All of my woes will scatter
Iâ€™ve served my time in loneliness
And now at liberty
Iâ€™ll fly right over to your side
And give my love to thee.
My father was an intelligent man with a quick-wit and a sweetly sentimental side that he would always show his family. Sadly, he never saw me publish my first book. He never knew of my writing success. But I remedied that from book one. His name appears in all my stories in some shape or form, concealed in unique ways as a tribute to my love for him.
Heâ€™s always with me.
by Gina Black
It’s true. I love the month of February. This is no recent crush, or fling; my feelings for this month run deep and true and began when I was about four. That was when I realized I would be four-and-a-half in February. This, of course, was ever so much older and more sophisticated than just plain four. And the fact that I’d get there sooner than my best friend, Sally, was even better.
A few years later–maybe I was six or seven–I discovered February had only twenty-eight days, and sometimes even twenty-nine. My admiration for the month went up. I always liked what was different, cheering for the underdog, or just enjoying what didn’t fit the mold because I never fit the mold either. February and I had a lot in common.
When I was twelve or thirteen, now living in Los Angeles, I noticed a pattern. In February there’s a sudden unexpected week when the rain goes away, the clouds clear, and its glorious shorts-and-sandals weather. Okay, so sometimes this happens in late January instead, but most often it’s in February. With this realization the flush of infatuation was upon me.
Love blossomed when several years later, I got married in February. At the time, I thought chance led me and the DH to tie the knot then, but now I’m not so sure. I think February was working its romantic magic on me, and the proof lies in the fact that we’ve had twenty-four anniversaries since then–and they all fall in February!!
Of course Valentine’s Day makes February an easy-to-love month. Who doesn’t adore chocolate and Valentines made with red construction paper hearts and white paper doilies? Some of my fondest memories of my mother involve these sorts of holiday arts and crafts. And, of course, I have a wonderful stash of homemade love notes from my children. On the early Valentines the words were scrawled so carefully, later printed in Klingon, and then in Japanese.
Still with all this, it’s only recently I’ve come to realize how much I count on February. After the stress and bluster of the winter holidays, February is the month when I notice the days visibly getting longer, bringing with them the promise of spring and summer. Along with that sudden burst of joyous weather, Valentine’s day chocolate, anniversary lobster, and becoming coff-and-a-half, February has always been there for me.
It’s definitely true love. February and I were meant for each other.
Gina’s book, The Raven’s Revenge, is competing for a publishing contract in the American Title II contest put on by Romantic Times and Dorchester Publishing. Voting is on now! For more information, log onto the Romantic Times website. Or, visit Gina’s contest blog.
I am not old, nor am I young. I am not calculating, nor am I a sentimental fool. I like to think that I am a woman of my time. Yet, as my father lay dying, surrounded by machines, tended by nurses, visited by doctors, I learned a lesson in love that is timeless.
My father had been ill for a very long while. He bore his illness with great dignity, thanking those who cared for him and often caused him pain. He never gave up hope that he would get well, he never abandoned his faith that God would watch out for him. Through the months and years of his sickness, my mother nursed him. She wore herself to a frazzle yet never complained. I saw her exhaust herself as she moved him from bed to wheelchair and back again. She slept on a couch near the hospital bed in their living room for more days than I can count. I thought she was crazy. I thought she would die before him and for what?
When I found the answer to that question, I was humbled beyond words.
In his last days, my father was barely lucid. He was in pain. He was medicated. He was dying. Yet, everyday my mother was there by his side. She held his hand. She brought his favorite aftershave. She combed his hair and spoke to him kindly and gently as she had for over fifty years of their marriage.
I came to visit when I could and one evening I walked in to the intensive care unit to find my father had taken a turn for the worse. The nurses were sticking tubes in him. My mother stood quietly in the corner of the room watching, her face expressionless. Suddenly a nurse called to my father, trying to determine if he could hear her.
“Can you hear me?” She hollered. My father’s eyes fluttered.
“Do you know who that is?” The nurse hollered again and this time she indicated my mother.
My father’s eyes flickered. They rested on my mother’s face. Without hesitation, with the greatest affection, with the voice of a young man, he gently answered.
“That’s my girlfriend.”
I had to look away or I would have cried. Now I knew why my mother cared for my father so diligently. I knew why he cared for her all the years before that. Because she was his girlfriend. Because he loved her and she loved him and in all the world there is nothing more precious than that. When he died he left that love behind so I know that, while my mother may be lonely, she is never alone.
PRIVILEDGED WITNESS available now!
By Paris Taylor
I had no intention of going out that night. I never did when I came home for the summer break. Who would remember me and much less, I could hardly recognize the people I grew up with anymore. Iâ€™d left this town behind when I was seventeen. In my opinion, there never was anything here for me.
So why I had a change of heart, Iâ€™ll never know but as my brother headed out the door I heard myself saying. â€œMind if I come, too?â€
For the next few hours I stood in a smoky bar wondering what on earth had provoked me to be here when instead I could have been curled up in bed with a good romance. I was totally bored and totally right about my decision to move away.
He doesnâ€™t look like heâ€™s from here, I thought as I watched three men walk in. There was just something about the way he carried himself that caught my eye. Thatâ€™s the only way I can explain why an evening that was moving in painful slow motion, suddenly wasnâ€™t nearly long enough. Through the smoke, and the people jammed together like herring in a net, I wondered, would I get to meet him?
Our eyes touched for just an instant. It was a start. With a little squirming through the crowd, just maybe. He was speaking to my brotherâ€™s friend the next time our eyes connected. I had found my opportunity. The band was blasting. Far too loud for such a small bar. Our conversation was reduced to snippets. Brief sound bites that left me wishing I had one of those fresh breath strips.
(From here, really?!) â€œYears ago.â€
â€œDentist. Stop by. Need some marketing.â€
What often seems like a great plan the night before, just isnâ€™t in the morning. To do or not to do. That is the question. Drive by. Have a look. And keeping driving. Go for a skate on your blades and just kind of show up. Tussled and casual.
â€œThereâ€™s a hole in my schedule, it hardly ever happens but I have a few minutes. Come on.â€
Ohmigod. He wears shirts and ties and the way those pants drape. Was that a giggle? Are those girls laughing at me? Heâ€™s done this before. Iâ€™m such a bimbo.
â€œWhat do you think?â€ He passed me a photo of a case.
(Does it matter?) â€œLovely. Great smile.â€ My fingers brushed his as I passed it back.
I floated out, my baggy shorts drooping behind me. He had said he was going to the Salmon Dinner, hadnâ€™t he? I had tickets and time. Time to clean up, do my hair, apply my make-up and go with my family to the dinner. My family? What could I be thinking? Theyâ€™d watch my every move. Impossible!
Try eating over-cooked salmon when your throat is dry and your heart is pounding like a jack-hammer and there are seven hundred people eating with you, none of whom the one youâ€™re looking for. Until youâ€™re on the way out the door and you see him.
A meeting of the eyes.
â€œHow was dinner?â€
â€œLong. The speeches, I mean.â€ Such a nice, warm laugh.
â€œI didnâ€™t think you were here.â€
â€œMe, either. You, I mean. I knew I was here. I didnâ€™t think you were.â€ Oh boy.
â€œWeâ€™re going across the street, thereâ€™s a band. See you there?â€
Maybe it was the way he held my hand that night. Maybe it was the way his warm, brown eyes sent tremors of anticipation through my body. And just maybe it was because I had red-hair and he had a soft spot for red-heads.
Itâ€™s really hard to say.
But one thing I do know. There are times in your life when moving home is the right thing to do. The only thing to do.
â€œWhat are you doing, hon?â€
â€œReading my horoscope,â€ I said.
â€œWhat? You believe that stuff?â€ He took my hand and gently brushed his fingers over the platinum band accenting my lightly tanned skin.
â€œNah. If I believed that stuff, Iâ€™d be incredibly wealthy and living on an exotic island by now.â€
â€œCome here.â€ He laughed again, deep and rumbly, and held me in his arms.
â€œHow stupid is that?â€ I said as I tossed the book into the trash.
Paris Taylor currently lives in Grand Falls-Windsor, on the exotic island of Newfoundland, Canada, where she manages a busy, dental office by day and writes romance by night. She considers herself terribly fortunate to have such a bountiful life. http://www.paristaylor.ca/index.php
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