Sarah Bell was wondering how she had gotten to this point in her life. How could she be so miserable? And worse, she knew it was all her own fault. Sarah had made her own bed, so to speak, and now she was sleeping in it. Alone. And THAT was a large part of her problem.
She shivered from the cold — standing outside on the pier at night in Malibu was cold in February. Even for California!
"Brenda," she asked her friend from work who had dragged her out for the evening, "Remind me why we are standing here in a line, waiting on this freezing pier?"
Brenda could barely understand Sarah, whose teeth were chattering. A gust of wind came by at just that second, and even through her pants Sarah could feel the cold ocean air. Thank god she'd opted to wear pants, and not a skirt, for the evening.
"We are waiting in line, because that is what you have to do if you want to eat at L.A.'s hottest new restaurant, and it happens that they don't take reservations!" Brenda replied. "Anyway, it's been months since you've been out, Sarah. Not since your boyfriend Mark left you, anyway."
Sarah was slightly annoyed at Brenda's remark about Mark, but not for the reason one might expect.
"He didn't 'leave' me, Brenda; I drove him out by being a first class b-i-t-c-h..."
Brenda quickly interrupted Sarah, before the tears could start.
"Don't go getting all upset and beating yourself up again, Sarah. We're here to have a good time, and eat a meal to die for. I've been told..." Brenda continued on, not noticing that Sarah was lost in her own world.
Sarah could still see the picture in her mind of Mark lying there in their bed, the sheets only partially covering his lean, masculine body. She looked down on his sleeping form, his wavy black hair ruffled, his face peaceful and his eyelids closed concealing dark eyes that burned with passion when they made love.
Mark never exercised as such, but his work involved lifting and moving heavy boxes every day, and it showed in his muscular arms and shoulders. He didn't have the highly defined abs that the body builders who displayed themselves on Venice Beach exhibited, but his torso was nevertheless well muscled, and, in Sarah's opinion, very sexy. And the line of hair that descended from his chest down his abdomen like an arrow pointing to his organ, concealed at that moment under the sheets, made Sarah wish she had time to crawl back into the bed to kiss and caress him awake.
Alas, she had to get to work. Damn! She looked at the clock next to the bed and realized she was running late as it was. She turned and walked out of the bedroom and out of the apartment.
She and Mark had been living together for just a little over eighteen months, and for most of that time, it had been bliss.
Sarah Bell worked in the financial industry, having gotten her undergraduate degree from a top-50 mid-western university. Following graduation, Sarah had fulfilled her dream of getting a job in Southern California, in the Wealth Management department of UBL — United Bank of Liechtenstein, in Santa Monica. Actually, her dream wasn't so much that of working in Southern California — Florida would have served as well — as it was escaping from the bitter cold winters of her native Chicago!
She had first met Mark while getting lunch with a couple of her friends at the restaurant across the street from her office. They had often dined there before, but that day as they ordered their usual meals, there were two changes.
First, which only Sarah seemed to notice, was that instead of their waiter, another man, with wavy black hair, an olive complexion and deep-set dark eyes, served them their food. Sarah looked at the attractive young man, and found herself staring directly into his eyes — which were looking directly back at hers! She froze like a deer in the headlights for a moment, until he smiled showing his white teeth against his tanned skin, and showing even more cheek, winked at her!
The second difference, although not a bad one, was the food. The five women who had come to lunch that day had all ordered the same meals that they regularly ate at the restaurant. But this time, and there was no other way to say it, the food was simply better. Each of them noticed small changes in the preparation of their meals that enhanced the flavor. Changes had been made to the spice combinations; a sprinkling of cheese and garlic butter was added to the vegetables. The beef was slightly more tender; the fish was delicate and flaky to the fork. Little things, but which in total made the meal memorable.
As Sarah left to return to work, she asked the waiter, "Who was the man who served us out food? Don't you normally do that?"
The waiter grinned, "Yeah, I do. But for some reason, today the cook wanted to take care of your table himself. Very odd, but who am I to argue; I get to keep the tip."
Sarah, intrigued, began eating at the little bistro on a regular basis, and when the black-haired cook was working, he always seemed to find an excuse to serve her. She finally learned that his name was Mark, and she began plotting how she could engage him in conversation.
Mark had been entranced by the slim redhead with the pale skin and sky-blue eyes from the moment he'd seen her come into the restaurant. When she wore a skirt and heels, he could see her long, shapely legs, and just watching the motion of her derriere as she walked across the room could give him a hard-on.
Sarah finally decided to take the bull by the horns, and use the direct approach.
"Do you have time to sit down with me for a minute, please," Sarah finally requested, as he was arranging plates of food on the table in front of her.
Mark thought about it — nothing was cooking that he had to supervise for a couple of minutes, so he took a seat across the small table from his dream woman.
She extended her hand, "I'm Sarah, and I work for UBL across the street."
"I'm Mark, Mark Flore," he replied, taking her hand, but just gently holding it between his dry, warm hands. "I'm the chef here, sometimes server, and your fervent admirer!" He said that with a twinkle in his eyes and his generous smile, which revealed dimples in his cheeks. Mark was anything but shy and retiring.
Sarah could feel a blush that started in her neck and quickly rose to her hairline. It took her a minute before she remembered to pull her hand back away from Mark's. There was definitely chemistry between the two of them.
"Mark, you know, instead of waiting until I come for lunch and serving me, you could just ask me out on a date!" Sarah told him flat out. It had taken her days to get her courage up to make her approach, but she wasn't going to take a chance that Mark wouldn't ask her out or that some other woman would get her claws into him.
Mark was gob smacked! He sat there looking as guilty as a little boy caught with his fingers in the cookie jar. Sarah thought he was even cuter, if it was possible, at that moment. It took Mark only a second to recover. Before he responded, he took a deep breath, released it, and then took another. Then his smile returned and Sarah could almost see his heart melting.
"That sounds like the best idea I've heard all day; in fact it's the best idea I've heard all week — no, all month. Maybe the best idea I've ever heard in my life!"
That was the beginning, for of course, he did ask her out. In fact, from that moment on, they spent every spare minute that they could together. After dating for a couple of months, Mark and Sarah, fairly certain that they had found their soul mates and life partners, moved into an apartment together, not far from the beach.
In many ways, theirs was a match made in heaven.
Sarah and Mark enjoyed the same music; they watched the same classic movies, and laughed at the same jokes. They were both relatively neat, not a Felix and Oscar odd couple. They compromised with each other, each willing to give a little on their position if by doing so they would make the other happy.
And when it came to making love, they were a perfect fit. Neither one of them had been virgins when they met, but they were such an incredible match that when they made love, it was like they had never known any other lovers. They were attuned to each other's needs and desires. They both had the attitude that the other's pleasure was more important and came first before their own.
There was always one, actually two, flies in the ointment for Sarah.
The first was Mark's work. His job demanded an immense dedication — he worked long hours, sometimes starting so early in the day, that Sarah would awaken to find him missing from their bed, even from the apartment. Other times, he would be working late long after Sarah had gone to bed. Mark would slip in so quietly that he wouldn't even wake Sarah (who admittedly slept like a log!), but he would still be asleep the next morning long after Sarah had left for work. She would bend down and kiss his cheek or forehead, and the edges of his mouth would turn up in an unconscious smile, and he would mutter a few words in his sleep.
Of course, Mark also had to work most weekends when Sarah was off, and while she intellectually understood why he wasn't available to her, at an emotional level it bothered her anyway.
.... There is more of this story ...