It's a clear fall day. I'm sitting in Dow Gardens, watching the world go by. Doing nothing in particular. She sits down next to me and starts talking. Asks me about the weather, if I have been to the gardens before. I'm not paying much attention because I'm looking at her eyes.
Her eyes are amazing. Green pools. I could fall into them. I hear her say her name is Julie and ask me mine. I tell her and she asks me something else, but I'm gone again, this time watching her hands as they fly about while she talks. She looks at me and cocks her head to one side, questioning.
"You have beautiful hands," I say. "Are you a musician?"
She laughs, says, "no," and then delivers a classic line, "You come here often?"
It's my turn to laugh, and I tell her not as often as I like, and that I would come more often if I knew she'd be here. She just smiles, and shows me a row of perfect white teeth.
"What are your plans for the day?" she asks me, as if we've been old friends for years and are just catching up.
"Nothing," I say, "just sitting here watching people."
"Well," she counters, "are you hungry? I'm starving, I don't live too far from here, and I hate to eat alone. What do you say?"
"I say you just met me. How do you know I'm not some weirdo?" I stare at her, trying to see if she is in any way unnerved by my blunt question.
"I come here all the time," she replies, "and if you were a weirdo, you would have either gotten up and moved away or tried to talk me a line by now." It was a good observation. I've never admitted to being much for conversation with women I've just met. It is a habit of mine to clam up. I am busy analyzing this in my head when I hear her say, "So, whadda ya say, lunch on me?"
"Sure, why not?" I answer. She is already pulling my sleeve and leading me down the path. "This way, then," she directs.
Following her down the winding path to the parking area, I get to watch her walk just ahead of me. I guess maybe she's 5'6". Her hair bobs along at her shoulders; fine and caught between blonde and brown colors depending on the way the sun hits it. She has a cute little butt, I notice, and feel the rest of my body thinking so too. Good legs. I realize too late that she's stopped in front of a parked vehicle and I slam right into her. The body contact is unexpected and sort of painful. Seems my body is getting ahead of itself. I stammer an apology, hoping the contact was short enough she didn't notice the effect she'd already had on me.
She just smiles, giggles, and says, "well, here we are! Hop on in!"
We're standing in front of a Ford F150 4x4 painted cherry red. Oversized tires, extended cab, the whole 9 yards. Being smart, I ask, "Dad's truck?" and grin.
She looks at me from the driver's side door, barely able to see over the vast hood, and says, "No, Dad's a wimp. He drives a Volvo. This baby is MINE!"
I'm standing there with my hand on the door handle, dumbfounded, when I hear the engine start up. A Diesel! She revs the engine once to force me out of my stupor, and I climb in.
"You okay with this?" she asks. "Hate to think I was takin you against your will."
"No, no, everything's just fine," I say, still trying to understand my luck. Unbelievable. Totally unbelievable. As we pull away, I realize that I've just left my new Ford Mustang unattended in the parking lot, and I don't even care.
She carries the conversation the whole way to her house. I try to pay attention to where we are going, but I can't take my eyes off of her. The sound of her voice drives me crazy in unexpected ways, and I throw my coat over my lap so that I'm not quite so obvious. It's the first time in a long time that I can remember ever wishing I'd worn underwear to keep things in a little more control. I realize I'm obsessed with wanting to kiss the hollow of her neck, to taste the salt on her skin, to know what her lips are like. Before I think about what I'm doing, I reach out and brush a wisp of hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ear.
She stops talking immediately and I think I've probably blown it in a big way. She looks at me, eyes big and wide, and simply says, "thank you, that's so sweet of you!"
"No problem," I mutter self-consciously, and look away. The reason she's stopped talking is that we are in a driveway, and she's parking the truck. We sit there frozen, looking at each other. Neither of us says a word for what feels like hours.
To break the silence, she says, "Well, let's go see what we can find to eat."
We get out of the truck in front of a little cape style house. A big lab comes bounding around the side yard right up to her. It jumps up and puts its big paws on either shoulder and licks Julie's face from chin to forehead. She squeals like a kid, hugs the dog, then gently puts the paws back on the ground.
"Okay, Hamlet," she teases. "I'm still your girl, no need to get jealous yet!"
"Your dog's name is Hamlet?" I ask. (I LOVE Shakespeare and I'm beginning to think this day just couldn't BE any better.)
"Yup," she replies. "It's my favorite play."
I think I've died and gone to heaven. I turn away and pinch myself just to make sure I'm not just dreaming it all up. The self-inflicted pain makes my eyes water. When I clear my eyes, I say, "mine too," and she opens her front door and shows me inside.
The house is cozy. Corny, but that's how it is. I can tell right away it's HER house, not anyone else's, like her Mom or Dad's. I stand in the middle of the room taking it in, admiring her casual, athletic style.
"Wow, nice place," I say. "Is it yours?" I just have to ask even though I know the answer.
"Sure is!" she replies. Two years of hard work saving up for it and
another two years makin it mine! I don't EVER want to move!" She is obviously proud of her accomplishments. Mentally I calculate her age again. She doesn't look old enough for a two-year home buying plan, let alone another two years of fixing it up.
All of a sudden, I get a mental picture of her pounding nails wearing nothing but a tool belt and I feel myself start to blush. To cover for myself, I jokingly ask, "Did you start saving when you were fourteen?" The minute the words are out, I regret them. Something flashes in her eyes, then passes as quickly as it comes.
"No, and I'll take that as an attempt as a compliment," she says, "that I look so young. But geez, at least give me credit for being legal!"
I feel bad that I put my foot in my mouth, so I cross the room, take her hand and kiss it like a knight. I do my best imitation of gallantry and say, "Me thinks she is too beautiful to be much more than a budding spring flower, and she is far too wise to be an ordinary mortal." I get down on one knee and look at floor as if looking for forgiveness.
"You're a goof!" she says and she thwacks me playfully on the back of the head. She wheels around and heads off in the direction of her kitchen.
I follow her there, slowly taking in the whole place, looking for signs of other guys having been around, trying to figure out what she does for a living. The house gives away no clues. At the end of the short hall she's disappeared down I arrive in a tiny kitchen. The pots hanging from a rack over the stove are shiny copper. There is a tall table like you'd find in a bar and two stools crammed in a corner. A small vase holds some fresh flowers. I park myself on one of the stools and watch her as she opens and closes cabinets.
"Hmm," she says, "not much here!" She crosses to the fridge and opens that, letting the light illuminate her face in profile. She really is beautiful. "I may be reduced to hamburger helper," she says. "I don't cook much, and I seldom have company."
"It's okay," I say, transfixed. "I am QUITE familiar with hamburger helper! It wouldn't happen to be cheesy hashbrown would it?" She starts to laugh, a big laugh from her gut. I don't get it at first, but then I realize that she's opened the cupboard again to reveal that it is the ONLY flavor she has, and she has 3 boxes of it.
"Don't tell me it's your favorite? I will die laughing!" she manages between laughs. I look at the floor and act sheepish. When I look up again, I'm smiling wide, because it IS my favorite of all time.
"Believe me, I've tried 'em all, and this wins hands down," I say. "Let's get cookin!"
Unexpectedly, she crosses the room, throws her arms around my neck and hugs me in a big bear hug.
"I knew I'd like you the minute I saw you!" she declares. She crosses back to the stove before I can react, before I can even hug back, and I sit there, smiling, dumbfounded. She busies herself getting things out of the cupboard and fridge, handily laying them out. On the last trip to the fridge, she pulls out two beers, twists off the tops and hands one to me.
"Cheers!" she exclaims. "Here's to hamburger helper; I need all the help I can get!" We clink bottles together, and I watch her take a big swig from hers. I've never seen a woman drink from a bottle with such flare. I'm impressed.
There is a whining and pawing sound coming from a door at the side of the kitchen.
"Hamlet, go lie down!" Julie calls through the door. The scratching stops but the whining continues. "He gets so protective of new people," she says while stirring. She has her back to me, and I'm mesmerized by the way her muscles in her back flex as she stirs.
I cross the room to stand behind her, the heat from the stove coming up in my face as I lean over her shoulder. My chest presses slightly against her back, but I try to keep a safe distance between the rest of our bodies.
.... There is more of this story ...