A gentle sea breeze caresses me as a light appears in the distance, piercing the dark night. Some time later it is directly abreast; I see the ship glowing with lights and hear the faint sound of music. I spot a person waving at our ship—maybe even at me. Minutes pass and the light turns to a glow in the distance and then disappears.
I reflect whether that waving person could have been the one—my best friend, my lover, my world. I will never know the answer—we were two ships passing in the night.
Yet, at unexpected times, in the right place, at exactly the right time, with the right two people, a tiny spontaneous spark ignites an emotion. Whether that tiny flame instantly vanishes or becomes a roaring fire of love is in the hands of the gods... and in ourselves.
I was standing behind a woman at Andre's when I heard the maitre d' say, "I'm very sorry madam but we are completely booked this evening. There is no chance that a table will be available for tonight."
He was talking to a woman who had asked for a table for one. She had her back to me, which revealed a nice, but not a great figure. She turned to leave the restaurant; the candles on the decorative tables highlighted her face. The disappointment was obvious, but her features were quite nice: chestnut hair, high cheekbones, green eyes, and generous breasts pushing against her dress. She was about five-foot-seven and was not thin, but not fat either—I imagine that the appropriate description would be the start of a middle-aged figure. I guessed her age to be in the mid to late thirties.
On impulse, I stepped into her path. She stopped and looked at me in confusion. I said, "I have a dinner reservation for one. I heard the maitre d' say there was no room for you. If you want, you can share my table."
She looked into my eyes. Confusion gave way to understanding. She paused and then replied, "I've been trying to eat here for a long time, but it's so pricy and I just now thought my cash drawer was full enough for my next splurge. I agree on the condition that you let me pay for my part of the meal and—so there is no misunderstanding—this is just sharing a table at a restaurant. Nothing else is implied. Do you agree?"
I stared into her green eyes and replied, "I often eat dinner at restaurants by myself. Maybe with two of us we might enjoy the dinner more as we test more of the menu items. Your conditions are accepted."
I continued with my first lie of the evening, "Of course I will let you pay for your meal if you wish."
I turned to the maitre d'. "You have a reservation for Jack Wilson for one person. Would you please make that for two?"
He smiled at the two of us and said, "I no longer have a table for one available, but I have an exceptional table for two. Please follow me."
Classy move on his part, I thought as I indicated with my hand for my dinner companion to proceed me to the table.
I wondered what caused me to be so impulsive—I'm forty-nine years old, divorced for five years, and out of the blue I ask a stranger to share a meal with me.
The answer hit me square in the face—I was lonely, but what had I gotten myself into?
The maitre d' led us to a far corner of the restaurant, which was in the top floor of a sixty-floor office building. He pulled the chair out to allow my dinner companion to slide into her seat; my chair was facing her. She was looking out through the large windows that framed the exterior wall of the restaurant; she could see the sparkling lights of the city on this clear night. It was an excellent, private table. I was facing her and a wall.
Fair enough, I thought.
The silence was uncomfortable so I said, "My name is Jack Wilson. I'm semi-retired at forty-nine and now only take on a consultant contract if there isn't too much travel or time involved. I love good food so I make it a point to eat at one good restaurant every two weeks or so—which is why I'm here tonight. I'm glad you accepted my offer."
"I'm Cindy Collins. I want to thank you for your offer to share your table. I'm embarrassed that I might be a little awkward tonight; I'm not used to sharing meals."
After a short pause she continued, "You seem very young to be retired. Do you miss working?"
How honest should I be... why not?
"During the stock market boom I was working full time for a very large financial company. I was the vice-president of risk management, and my job was to monitor and evaluate the financial derivative positions that our traders had booked. I was good at it. At the same time—because there was not a conflict of interest—I was able to trade in the stock market. I was making a lot of money at the time and there was only my wife and I, so that year I bet a very large sum of money on long-term call options. All that meant was that if the stock in the companies I bought went up, I would make a lot of money.
"It was like the gods decided to take their shot at me—the very best and the very worst happened to me in the next twelve months."
Cindy was listening intently and she asked, "Tell me the best first."
I responded, "Well the best was that the stock market went straight up that year—'irrational exuberance' one person phrased it. And I made a very large amount of money on my call options. I no longer needed to work.
"But then the worst came and hit me from behind. My wife was seven years younger than me and I guess she was bored with my work hours and intensity. She asked for a divorce to marry a senior manager at the company that employed me. She didn't even want any money since her new companion was many times richer than me; she just wanted to be free from me.
"I was upset; then embarrassed. I told her she was free to go; the next day I quit the company. So now I'm not overly busy, but I'm not bored to death either.
"But Cindy, I'm doing all the talking, which is a terrible fault of mine. Do you live in the city and what do you do?"
"Yes," she answered. "I graduated from the state university and moved here immediately after college. My major was art and I beat around the fringe of the art market until I started illustrating children's books; I work out of my studio in my home.
"It's a niche job—the really good artists can't make enough money in the field and the publishers don't want junk. I just kind of fit in there over time. My client list has grown large enough that my income is steady and more than enough for me. Now that I can afford it, I enjoy an occasional meal at the five-star restaurants."
The waiter came to the table for drink orders. I ordered Jack on the rocks while Cindy ordered a glass of the house white wine. He left menus on the table.
Our conversation was a ballet of communication. Neither of us blurted out our past history, but bits and pieces of our personal jigsaw puzzles started to fit. Cindy had never been married. She was "happy" living by herself.
The food preparation and presentation was extraordinary. We shared appetizers of escargots and Coquille St. Jacques. My sole meuniere was prepared perfectly while her lamb chops were equally good. We passed on dessert, but settled for an after-dinner drink.
The bill arrived. I reached for it and so did she. Our hands touched and she withdrew hers quickly. I could see her blush of embarrassment and gave her cover by saying, "Cindy, I really enjoyed our meal. I'll make you a deal—let me pay for this one, if you agree to pay for the next one two weeks from now."
She blurted, "Where do you want to go?"
I answered, "It's your decision... you're going to pay for it. Let's exchange phone numbers and sometime between now and then, call me and tell me where and when we should meet."
She hesitated and then said, "I agree. The meal was fun tonight; more fun than I usually have, so why not try it again?"
I paid the bill and we left the restaurant together. On the street we exchanged phone numbers and then there was an awkward pause; Cindy finally shook my hand and thanked me for a wonderful meal. The valet brought her car and she was gone.
Shook my hand. I mused. What a strange way to end an evening that I had found very enjoyable compared to a solitary meal. What baggage was Cindy carrying?
Cindy called early in the second week. I was gone, but my voice mail was working. She told me the name of an excellent Italian restaurant and said she had made reservations for seven o'clock on the following Thursday night.
Our second dinner together went even better than the first. She talked more freely, but still guarded, while I seemed to be telling her the story of my life. I let her pay for the meal on the condition that in another two weeks, I paid for the next one. She agreed.
Again we parted with a handshake.
The following week I called Cindy, and she answered the phone. I suggested that my choice of restaurant was an excellent Chinese establishment that cooked in the Shanghai style. She immediately agreed and said she had wanted to try that restaurant for years.
As the phone call was ending I said, "Cindy, instead of taking two cars, why don't I pick you up at your home?"
She hesitated—the pause was more than a few seconds—and finally stammered, "I... I think that would be okay. Here's my address."
On our "date night" I stopped the car in front of a simple, ranch-style home in a quiet cul-de-sac. I rang the doorbell and the door opened almost instantly; Cindy had been waiting for me. She asked, "Would you like a drink before we go?"
I answered, "A glass of wine would be great if that's what you're having."
I walked into her living room. The walls were covered with beautiful drawings of children, and fantasy characters. I had forgotten that her job was book illustrations for children. She beamed as I complimented her on her artistic abilities.
She asked, "Would you like a tour of my house?"
I agreed and the tour began. It was a simple three-bedroom home. The master bedroom was large and the other two bedrooms were moderate. One was her office and studio and the other seemed outfitted as a mini gym, as it was full of exercise equipment, exercise pad, and with a large mirror covering one wall. Cindy blushed when she saw me looking at the equipment and said, "When I bought the house the previous owner just left it. I never use it, but since I don't need the space I never got ambitious enough to get rid of it."
We went through a small kitchen out the back door. Her backyard was very private. The patio outside the door led to a surprisingly big swimming pool. A tall wooden fence surrounded the entire yard. She had turned the lights on in the pool and the entire effect was very pretty.
We walked back through the house and out the front door. The meal was another winner. Each meal with Cindy had been wonderful. I could tell at the restaurant that Cindy was enjoying herself. Instead of our normal one bottle of wine, we went through two!
I pulled into her driveway and shut off the engine. We sat for a few moments and then I turned to look at her. She was looking at me, but it was a strange, scared look. Finally I saw tears developing. She looked at me and said, "I haven't been fair with you. You've been very nice to me, but I'm not normal; I'm scared of relationships and the thought of touching you terrifies me—I've been that way my entire life. I should never have started having dinners with you."
Thinking quickly I replied, "Cindy, all I wanted was a dinner companion. You have been wonderful. Let's just keep it as it has been. The restaurant is your choice for dinner in two weeks. Okay?"
She wiped away a tear and said yes. We ended the night by shaking hands at her door.
Two weeks later we were at a famous Thai restaurant. The food was excellent, but the conversation was not as comfortable. Cindy was embarrassed about our driveway conversation two weeks earlier. She finally said, "I owe you a better explanation than I gave you in the car.
"Sex always scared me. Maybe it was the way I was brought up, or maybe it was just me. I thought things would be different when I went to college. I would meet Mr. Wonderful and my hang-ups would disappear as we lived happily ever after.
"In the real world you don't lose your problems by running away from them. I tried, but the dates were infrequent and I probably wasn't very good company. At some point I was determined to break through my inhibitions and went to a fraternity party with some of my sorority sisters. I drank too much, but I wasn't a falling-down drunk. When he asked me to go to his room, I knew what was going to happen; I wanted it to happen.
"It was a disaster. Ten minutes in the room and he was gone. I was naked and my body hurt. I was full of a man's sperm and I didn't even know his name. It was so degrading.
"I tried it one more time six months later. It was worse than the first time.
"So now you know my secret. I'm so embarrassed to tell you, but you not knowing isn't fair. Will you forgive me?"
The look on her face was painful to see. She was in anguish and humiliated over her confession and couldn't look at me. I finally reached and took her hand and said, "Cindy, look at me."
Her teary eyes finally lifted to mine and I continued, "You never had love, and I had love and was found wanting. Who should feel the worst? Life sometimes doesn't work out as planned. My consultant contracts that I take are not for the money; they remove some of the loneliness from my life. My meals with you have been wonderful for me. I don't want anything more than what you want... so don't be embarrassed and don't stop our dinners because of ancient history."
She wiped a tear from her eye and then sat quietly in thought.
Finally, in an effort to make conversation Cindy asked, "How do you stay so fit and skinny eating at the nice restaurants?"
I replied, "I went to a gym five years ago and met a personal trainer who was assigned to me when I became a member. He has been a great help to me. His expertise in selecting and showing me how to do the right exercises has kept my body from turning into blubber. I go to the gym three times a week and I feel really good after each workout.
Cindy asked, "Do they have women personal trainers?"
I answered, "Of course, this is a huge business and women outnumber the men at many of these gyms. Would you like me to take you there and see it?"
The silence lasted for twenty seconds or longer and finally Cindy said, "I would like to see the place and maybe talk to a personal trainer. I used to walk a lot, but now I get practically no exercise. My energy level gets low sometimes; maybe joining a gym would help."
I told Cindy to wear some workout clothes for the first visit and I would arrange the appointment. I picked up Cindy the following Monday and we drove to the gym. She was wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants with gym shoes.
I had called my personal trainer and explained the situation. He assured me that they would be ready for Cindy. We parked and walked into the gym. My trainer came over and introduced himself to Cindy. Then he said, "If you're interested, I can have one of our personal trainers give you a tour. Her name is Kim"
Cindy agreed and in a few minutes a woman walked over and introduced herself. Kim was five-foot-six with black hair and brown eyes. She was wearing a sports bra and shorts that, while not ultra tight were not loose. Her body was a picture of muscle and tone. Any woman would die for that kind of figure.
Kim said, "Why don't you guys do your workout while I show Cindy what we can offer her."
They disappeared for over an hour. My workout was complete and I was relaxing. I looked up and Cindy was standing in front of me.
"I joined. Kim was great. She took me into the women's locker room and had me down to my bra and panties. She checked me out—measured my body fat, my weight versus my size. I'm fifteen pounds overweight and my upper body strength is well below the average female of my age.
"She really knows what she's doing. The plan is for me to come to the gym three times a week to exercise specific body areas along with some aerobic routines. Since I have the exercise equipment at the house, Kim gave me different exercises for other muscle groups for the off days."
And so it started. I had not seen Cindy this excited since I had met her. Three times a week I picked her up and we went to the gym and worked out. We still had our every other week "date."
The first week she went to the gym she wore her sweats. The second week she was dressed like Kim. I admired her for it. The extra fifteen pounds could be seen in her stomach and sides. For her to go to a sports bra knowing she wasn't in perfect shape was a sign of confidence... or maybe happiness.
After about two months at the gym I asked Cindy if I could come over to her house and work on some specific exercises on her equipment. She quickly agreed.
I arrived the next day. The doorbell went unanswered so I went around the house to the back door that was unlocked. I found Cindy in the exercise room. She hadn't heard me, and I watched her silently as she went through her routine. She was in her sports bra and shorts. She finished her exercise and spotted me.
She grinned. "Did you ring the bell? I didn't hear it—I'm becoming a fanatic on exercise and when I'm doing my routines I just tune out everything."
I came over two days later for exercise and again quietly observed Cindy doing her workout. I looked at her. Where once there was a slightly overweight, middle-aged female, I now saw the beginning of a muscle-toned, beautiful woman. There were no love handles. Her body shape was starting to form, her ass was tight and small, and her back and shoulders were already extremely sensual. She really had become an exercise demon and it was starting to show.
I made a noise and entered the exercise room. She nodded at me, grinned, and continued to work out. When we were through she suggested we cool off with a swim.
I had brought my suit at her suggestion. I rinsed off in her outdoor shower and then dove into the pool. She came out a few minutes later in a modest bikini. She joined me in the pool. After a few laps and then just standing in the water relaxing we got out and sat on her pool chairs. I said, "My skin is pasty white. I need a tan—do you mind if we make this our routine after our exercise and a little swimming?"
Cindy said, "My skin is whiter than yours. A tan would be good for both of us."
The schedule was set. Three times a week we went to the gym, and three or four times a week I went to Cindy's. I had bought some air mattresses with terry cloth to lay on to work on our tans.
A few weeks later we were on the pool deck; Cindy was lying on her stomach. I said, "Cindy, your tan is coming along perfect, but the tan lines are going to be obvious. Why don't you let me unhook your top and put sun tan lotion on your back and legs?"
The silence was deafening. Finally she stammered, "You... you can if you want, but nothing more... please."
I took the lotion and rubbed it into her shoulders. When I got to the straps of her bikini top, I unhooked it. I felt her body tense, but then I rubbed the lotion into her with no overt sexual touches and she finally relaxed. I continued down her body.
Two days later I repeated the process. I could tell she loved the feeling of the lotion being rubbed into her back and legs, and this time I took even longer to cover her everywhere. When I was done I joked, "Okay, roll over."
She nervously giggled, "Jack, be serious."
Several weeks later I finished her back and ended with my standard joke, "Okay, roll over."
This time she did. I was stunned. Not only because she was lying face up with her naked breasts open to my gaze, but also I saw how beautiful her body had become. The arms were toned; her breasts were beautiful with large areolae and nipples bigger than I had guessed. Her stomach muscles were beautiful. Any strain on her stomach—even lifting her head—and the muscles rippled through it. Her breasts and her tight, flat stomach made the most sensual picture I had seen in many years. I could feel an erection beginning.
Her eyes remained closed. No words were spoken. I put lotion on my hands and started at her shoulders and then down each arm. I returned to her shoulders and put more lotion in my hands and started down her chest, and then her breasts and nipples. I did not linger there, nor did I pass too quickly over them. I knew that while I had been ready for months, her sexual clock was ticking much slower than mine. I could not rush—it had to be her decision. I continued to her stomach and then, shifting my body around, I started at her hips and down each leg. She kept her legs together. When I was done she opened her eyes and looked at me. She said, "Thank you."
The next time was the same, but I lingered longer on her breasts. Her nipples became hard. When I went lower, her legs were slightly apart and more new skin was touched. A few more times and her legs opened to me as I teased her inner thighs with the massage of lotion. Each time her eyes remained closed until I was done and each time I heard, "Thank you."
Thank you for the massage or thank you for not attacking her.
Our dinners continued. With her permission I invited a couple I knew from my married days who had kept in touch with me, and occasionally they joined us for dinner at the restaurants.
Bob and Jo Ann were an easy-going couple who kept the conversation lively. Jo Ann and Cindy hit it off immediately at the first dinner.
Jo Ann was a beauty stylist for the recording crowd in our city. At one point she said to Cindy, "Your body is beautiful; if you ever want a style cut and war paint to wow the world, call me."
Cindy was enormously pleased with the compliment. What she didn't realize was that it was true. Her fanatical workouts had hardened her body into that of a twenty-five-year old woman. Her stomach muscles were toned; the abs rippled; no ounce of fat was on her hips. Her legs were sculptured.
That first evening when Cindy went to the bathroom Jo Ann looked at me and said, "God, Jack, she is absolutely gorgeous; I would give anything for that body. You are a very lucky man."