It’d been over fifteen years. Fifteen Autumn’s to be exact.
I was driving a side street through town. I had been on my way back from the ER. Another anxiety attack. I went down to the hospital cafeteria after the ER released me. Five dollars got me a big pile of mashed potatoes, two slices of turkey, some peas, and a thin slice of coconut cream pie. The coke was extra. Go figure.
While I was enjoying my post anxiety meal, I watched the sky turn grey then sunny again. The television hanging from the cafeteria wall scrolled bright red letters about an upcoming storm.
I got a styrofoam container and put the remainder inside. Passing the condiments stand I grabbed some extra strawberry jellies and butter. Because I knew was running low on it at home and didn’t want to stop at the grocer with the impending weather.
My meal slid back and forth on the front seat of the old dodge van.
In the distance I saw lightning, even though above me was sunny skies.
Cutting through that street, at barely 15 mph, that’s when I first saw you.
On the grassy knoll behind a dark green, ranch style house. You
were shirtless that hot August day and your
long blonde hair flowed behind you as you bound down that hill. Barefoot in faded blue jeans ,that sat low enough to show your cut V, you came to a halt and turned around. Until then, I hadn’t even noticed your male friend. He passed you the ball and you both ran on down the hill and onto the street. I slowed even more, I want to say it was for cautionary reasons, but mostly it was for a better look —at you. You and your friend were laughing about something, passing the ball back and forth. I crept past and as I glanced back— our eyes met. You smiled. My heart stopped. That night, with the thunder and lightning raging outside, I laid in bed thinking about you.
“Come on. They’re going to close the pool after Friday.”
Christina,my overly friendly neighbor, was desperately trying to get me to go for a swim. The apartment complex kept the pool open a week longer than most places. But this August there had been so much rain they were shutting it down before Labor Day weekend.
Christina had finished washing the dishes from the lunch we made.
She retreated to the bedroom and returned, tossing my one-piece suit at me.
“Ok!” I laughed. “I’ll go, but I’m not swimming.”
“What’s the point then!” She threw her hands in the air.
Reluctantly I slipped it on beneath my shorts. The pool wasn’t really crowded. Becca was already there and reading a book.
“Hey girls!” She yelled and waved us to the otherside.
As we approached her a big splash of water pelted us.
“I swear Jimmy! One more time!” Becca screamed at them. Laughing I turned to see the culprit. My mouth dropped. My heart stopped—again. It had been three weeks and he was completely drenched,but ohh I still recognized him.
“Aww, chill out.” The taller boy, Jimmy, said.
“Well I don’t want my book soaked, douchebag.”
“Who comes to the pool to read?” He snickered.
“Am I right?” He asked looking at me.
“Intelligent people. ” I retorted.
“Oh, well, to each his own.” He shrugged, turned and jumped back in the pool.
“Well I’m off!” Christina said pulling her shirt off. Her thin bony body clad in a two-piece. She ran, giggling like a school girl, and jumped in holding her nose. She swam to the otherside, hoisted her upper body up just enough to rest her arms on the side of the pool. Per usual she began chatting with some people sitting there.
“Who’s that?” I asked, nodding towards Jimmy, as I sat in the chair closest to Becca.
“Jimmy, my annoying cousin.” She sneered.
“And the other?” I tried tti casually inquired.
“His bestie from Baltimore. Desmond. ” She handed me a can of ice cold coke from her cooler and returned to her book.
Desmond. Different. But I liked it. I almost sighed aloud.
Well, Desmond hadn’t seen me—yet. He probably wouldn’t even remember me. I doubt he even got much of a look last time.
Jimmy walked up and grabbed his towel.
“Hey, I’m Jimmy”, he said extending his wet hand. He was easily six foot four inches.
“Hi.” I said. Jimmy stepped aside and sat down. That’s when Desmond finally looked over. He glanced at me, kind of smiled, pulling his long wet hair from his face, and dove back in.
I was convinced he hadn’t remembered me.
“You live here?” Jimmy asked.
“Yes, about a year now. You?”
“Yeah, my family moved in last week. Becca’s my cousin.” He towel dried his hair, shaking the excess off.
“My Mom’s getting like a hundred pizzas tonight. You all should come. She says we need to meet neighbors.” He laughed opening a coke can.
“Hey you know I’m always up for pizza!” Becca said slamming her book closed. “Pineapple?” She asked.
“Always for you, Cuz.” They tapped their coke cans together.
“Coming?” Jimmy asked me.
“I might.” I watched Christina lap back across the pool. I was waiting for Desmond to eye her up. You know how that goes. Guys always wanted the tall, lanky tan ones, didn’t they? He glanced, but kept doing his own thing. I was relieved.
“What’s going on?” Christina asked snatching her towel off the chair and wrapping it tightly around her waist.
“Pizza party. My place. I’m Jimmy, Becca’s cousin.” He extended his hand. I noticed his handshake lasted longer with her. She grinned.
“I’ll be there.” She said.
Preoccupied with thoughts of getting out of this party, I hadn’t noticed Desmond had walked up next to me. He was literally so close the dripping water from his body left a puddle that drizzled to my bare feet.
I looked up at him. Oh my word, upclose he was even more gorgeous. Those eyes complimented his slightly tan, slender body. And damn! that long wet hair. He smiled straight down at me. I melted right into the puddle before my feet.
“Hey.” He said to me.
“Hey.” I looked away at Jimmy and Christina who intervened with party plans.
“Guess we’ll see you ladies tonight around seven.” Jimmy said saluting us and walking off.
“Were you driving that van the other day?” He asked.
“Yes!” I said to excitedly. I felt my face flush.
” You coming,Dezz?” Jimmy yelled back.
“Later.” Desmond said.
“Ya.” I replied nonchalantly.
“Wow!” Becca said as soon as they were out of ear range. “I could feel the heat!”
“What are you talking about?” I giggled.
“What are you talking about?” She mimicked.
I pulled my shorts off as soon as the guys had closed the gate.
“Oh now you get in.” Christina was always exasperated with me.
“Shush.” I laughed and jumped in. I turned just in time to see the guys walk up over the hill to the backside apartments. So he did remember me! I felt my face flush.