tagRomanceStruck by Love

Struck by Love

bysargeone©

Have you ever been struck by love?

I mean the sudden gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, dry-mouth and sweaty palms kind of love. I was forty-two years old and I had never felt that kind of love. I was even married once for ten years. We were good friends before the marriage and remained good friends afterwards, but we discovered just being friends was not enough. We were both looking for that spark and we couldn't find it with each other.

On a chilled January morning I found it for the first time. I own my own roofing company. I have seven full time employees and a half a dozen temps at any one time, and mostly I drive from one job to another making sure everything is going well. It was early in the morning and I decided to start with the closest place first. We were putting a new roof on a modest little house in a quiet subdivision. I don't do houses very much because I hate the hassle of dealing with insurance companies. I like the big business places that pay on company checks and worry about their own insurance.

Mrs. Childs, an elderly lady who owned the house was a distance relative of my former wife and I had agreed to take care of it for her at cost. My two guys were already on the roof when I parked on the street and when I checked the clipboard hanging from a nearby telephone pole, I saw the county inspector had been by and approved what we were doing. Everything was going according to plan.

I went up to say hello to Mrs. Childs and give her a status on the work. When I knocked, Mrs. Childs didn't open the door and the woman who did changed my life instantly.

"You must be Harry," the woman said. "Come on in. I'm Robin Smith. . I live next door. Lorna isn't feeling well this morning and I came over to keep her company."

I followed her into the house. At that moment I would have followed her anywhere. She looked like she was in her early thirties and I could see no sign of a wedding band. She wore black stretch pants and a loose white sweater. She was not tall. Her head came up to about my neck. Her hair was brown and she wore it to her shoulders and curled up at the ends. It looked a little old fashioned. Her figure was good, nicely proportioned and she had a way of walking that drew my attention to her backside and made me feel guilty. I don't know why. It was certainly not the first lady's rear end I had admired in my life. I was something of a connoisseur.

But somehow looking at hers with a tinge of lust made me feel as if I was invading her space and I didn't have the right. I can't explain it but I got a sense of something fragile about her and I felt a strong protective instinct.

If I could have been objective, I would not have called her beautiful but I could not be objective. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen and from the first moment she opened the door, I was lost.

In the small kitchen Mrs. Childs sat at the table drinking coffee. She didn't look well. She was still in her housecoat and her face was pale. Her frail hands trembled as she lifted her cup.

"You really should be in bed, Lorna," Robin Smith said. "I am going to call the doctor."

"Don't bother him," Mrs. Childs answered. "He'll want to put me in the hospital again and it made me worse last time. I'll just rest some and I'll be fine. I just overdid yesterday."

"You overdo every day," Robin said, giving Mrs. Childs a hug. "You need to take better care of yourself" She looked at me and gave me a wink. "Lorna thinks she can still go like she's twenty. I hope I have half her energy when I reach her age."

"Nonsense," Mrs. Childs said. "You have the energy of two people. You're a whirlwind, child. You always have been. Grass does not grow under your feet."

Robin hugged the older woman again and said she really had to go because she was expecting a phone call from her publisher and he got real cranky when she wasn't there. She said she was happy to meet me and shook my hand. Her fingers were slim and I felt an incredible heat just touching her skin, and I felt a terrible sadness when she left the room and heard the front door shut. I wanted to run after her. I wanted to tell her that I had been looking for her all my life. I was behaving like a foolish teenage boy and I knew it, and I hope it didn't show in my face.

Perhaps it did because Mrs. Childs said, "she's very pretty, isn't she?'

"Yes," I said.

"Sit down and have some coffee and tell me how my roof is doing and I'll tell you about Robin."

It was an offer I couldn't refuse. I poured myself some coffee and sat at the table. Mrs Childs sipped her coffee and looked away from me for a moment. I thought she had forgotten what she had said because sometimes her memory slipped but then she looked back at me and smiled and I knew she was remembering the distant past.

"I have known Robin since she was a baby," Mrs. Childs began. "She is one of those special people. Her enthusiasm for life is incredible. She used to bring me things she'd found outside like a leaf or a bug or a simple piece of string and she'd make me see things like a child again. She was friendly and popular and everybody loved her. She was a cheerleader in high school and she also edited the school's newspaper but her real love was painting. When she graduated from high school, she went to live in New York for a while and she got a job editing children's books. I don't know what happened but something must have happened that was awful. A year later she came back home and it was as if the life had been drained out of her. I thought she was sick and she was but it was a sickness of the soul. She wouldn't tell me what happened although I've asked. She shrugs her shoulders and says it doesn't matter. It's only recently that I've seen that spark in her eyes again."

"She said she was waiting for a phone call from her publisher," I said.

"Yes. She now does her own children's books and she does the art for other books. Plus she has sold some of her paintings at places around town. As I said, she's a very good artist. She sees things other people don't."

"She's never married," I said.

Mrs. Childs shook her head. "No. Honestly, she doesn't seem that interested in men." Mrs. Childs saw the expression on my face and she shook her head again. "I don't mean that way. She dates men occasionally but I think she's given up on romance. There is sadness in her. I think it has something to do with what happened in New York."

I finished my coffee. There were a lot of things going through my mind. I said good bye to Mrs Childs and I went outside and spoke to the two guys on the roof. I observed them for a while with no particular reason. I was just reluctant to leave. I finally knew I was beginning to look stupid standing there and I started for my truck. Halfway there, I changed my mind. I walked to the house next door and knocked.

She looked surprised and a bit apprehensive when she saw me. "Is it Lorna?" she asked. "Is she all right?"

"She's fine," I said. "She's good."

Robin looked puzzled.

"I know you're going to think I'm a jackass," I said. "I just figured I'd never know until I asked. I was wondering if you might have dinner with me."

"You're asking me out?" she questioned and I noticed her eyes going to my ring finger. I expect she'd been hit on by more than a few married men.

"I'm not married....anymore," I said quickly. "And I have good character references. My ex-wife would even vouch for me."

She almost smiled but she shook her head. "I don't think so."

"Please," I said.

She was still half shaking her head but she said, "I don't know what you think you want from me but you won't get it."

"I don't want anything except your company," I said, which was one of the biggest lies I had ever told, but I would settle for her company. I would settle for seeing her laugh and shake her head and the quick flash of her perfect teeth and looking forever into the depth of her bright green eyes.

"All right," she said finally. "Friday night, sevenish. And nothing fancy. I'm a steak and potatoes kind of girl but I don't need a lot of trimmings."

"Okay," I said.

I spent the rest of the week in a daze. I kept telling myself that I was behaving like an idiot but I couldn't keep her out of my mind. On Friday I was torn between taking my Mercedes, which I hardly ever drove, and the truck. I decided on the truck. It's funny how a grown man can have such trouble making decisions. I had gotten out of bed and dressed every day of my life but Friday night I also had trouble deciding what clothes to wear or if I wanted to dab on after shave. I finally decided on casual and I was glad I did because she met me at the door in jeans and a green pullover sweater. This sweater was a little snugger than the first one I had seen her in, and it caused my blood pressure to rise. She looked very good in a sweater.

Our date did not go badly but neither was it earth shatteringly exciting. We both talked about ourselves a little, probably me more than her. I found out quickly her New York past was not a topic to discuss. She did relax a little over a steak and a couple of glasses of wine and she told me about her love of art and music. She said she wasn't ever going to be a great artists but she was functional enough. She said she loved musical shows.

I took her home and she shook my hand at the door.

"I'd like to do this again," I said.

"Why?" she asked me.

"I had a good time," I said.

She shrugged. "If you insist on buying me dinner, I'll eat. But don't expect anything else."

"I promise I won't," I said.

She smiled. "Yes, you will. They all do eventually. And they're all disappointed."

She shut the door. Earlier she had given me her number and I started calling her the next day. She was busy. She would be busy for the week but perhaps if I'd call again before the weekend. I called more than once. I put her number in my cell phone. I knew I shouldn't seem so eager but I had never felt this way before about anyone. I doubted I ever would again.

On Thursday night she agreed to Saturday and we went out again to another steak place and we had a nice time. We talked about art and music mostly, things I knew very little about. But listening to her talk was wondering. She had a lyrical voice and there were times when she would say something and the tone would jolt me like electricity, all the way down to my socks. When she laughed, which wasn't all that often, I felt lifted up somehow.

On the following Friday I had another date with her and it started out like all the others. We sat and talked and ate and drank wine and laughed a little more. She was getting more comfortable with me or at least I thought she was. She actually touched my hand a couple of times when she was making a point and her fingers touching my skin felt like a heated caress from another woman.

She was talking about a musical show she wanted to see in February but she doubted if she could get tickets. They were bringing the musical Evita to town and she had never seen it performed live. I knew about nothing about Evita and she explained it was a musical about Juan Peron and Evita Peron of Argentina. "You remember the hit song...don't cry for me, Argentina?"

II remembered it vaguely but before I could answer, I noticed a shadow standing over our table. I looked up to see a big, red-faced man standing near Robin. He put his hand on her shoulder and she jumped back, her face angry. I could smell the booze on the man's breath.

"It's my favourite little teasing bitch," the man said rudely. "How you doing, Robin? Are you getting any lately?"

I could feel the anger in rising and I stood up with my fists clenched. I'm not sure what I might have done but the man moved backwards and looked at me, blinking, as if he hadn't even noticed me standing there.

"What?" he asked. "You want to hit me? Go ahead. It would serve me right after I spent all that money on her and she wouldn't even give me a kiss. Not even a fucking kiss. She'll do you the same way, slick. She don't put out for nobody."

I almost did hit but somehow Robin got in between us. I thought she would be furious. Instead she looked sort of sad. She pushed the man away and said something to him in a soft voice and he hung his head and she sort of propelled him away from out table back to the people he was sitting with. She came back to me and said, "Let's get out of here. I've lost my appetite."

"Sure," I said.

I drove her home but she didn't get out of my truck right away. We sat there looking at the moon and the haze around the streetlamps on her street. I was trying to something to say but she finally spoke first.

"I don't think we should go out anymore," she said.

"Why? Because of that idiot. Don't let him bother you?"

"He's not an idiot. He's a very nice man when he's sober. The problem was he wanted more than I was willing to give him. More, than I'm willing to give anyone."

"Robin," I said, after a moment's hesitation. "I care for you."

"I know you do," she said.

"I think you like me. I think we get along. I'd like to keep seeing you."

"Even though it will come to a bad end eventually," she said.

"Why does it have too?" I asked.

I thought she wasn't going to answer. I heard thunder and a few drops of rain hit the windshield of the truck and then suddenly it was as if the heavens had opened and let the deluge through. Huge drops of rain slapped the truck's windshields like gunshots.

Robin answered me finally. "I'm just a small town girl, you understand. I did all the things I was supposed too. Oh, sure, there were a few times of intense making out in the back seat of some boy's car but I was saving myself for marriage. Then I went to New York. I got a job with a publishing company and I started hanging out with some artist types. I was very stupid. One night there were drinks and mine tasted kind of funny but I didn't think anything about it."

"The next thing I knew I was on my back on the floor and one of the artist types was undoing my blouse. I cried out for him to stop but he just laughed. I couldn't move my arms or legs. I couldn't seem to do anything but what he wanted. He stripped me naked. I don't know how many people were in the room. It was some sort of party. He held up my arms and he started telling everyone that from tonight on I was going to be his woman..."

Her words were coming out in soft choking sobs and I wanted to hold her but I was afraid to move. I told her she didn't have to say anything else but she told me she wanted to finish, that she had never told anyone and she needed to do it now.

"I heard people laughing and commenting and then he got down on me and he raped me. He was laughing the entire time. I felt ashamed and sick and humiliated and it hurt like hell. Then he grabbed me by the hair and dragged me into his bedroom where he raped me again."

"God, I'm so sorry, "I said.

My words seemed so shallow with the circumstances and I felt such a tremendous rage that I knew if I had been able to put my hands on the artist, he would never be capable of raping anyone again.

"It must have been some sort of date rape drug," she said. "I have never told another living soul. The next day I turned in my resignation and I came home. And the thought of another man touching me, in any way, makes me sick to my stomach."

"I wish there was something I could say or do," I said.

"There's nothing anyone can do," she said. "You're a nice guy, Harry. I like you. But there's no future in our relationship. I'm sorry but that's how things are."

The rain had slowed and she got out of the truck and ran for the house. She closed the door behind her and I thought she was probably closing the door on me. I drove home in a seething rage. I wanted to hit somebody. I wanted to hurt somebody. I wanted to save Robin from the bogey man but unfortunately I was a few years late.

She didn't cut me out of her life completely. We talked on the phone and I took her out to lunch a couple of times. She even invited me into her house for lunch. She was a little more at ease with me after telling me her secret. A couple of days before Valentine's Day she told me she was really upset because she had really wanted to see the stage play Evita but the play was completely sold out. She said maybe she'd get to see it the next time it came to town.

I had been thinking a lot about Valentine's Day. I wanted to give her something special and not just cards and flowers and I wanted to be careful not to give her anything which might make her think I hadn't given up the idea of us being romantically involved. Of course I hadn't given up the idea. I couldn't. I thought that maybe with time. I hoped I wasn't fooling myself but I knew one thing for certain. I just could not control my feelings for her.

I had a friend who had a friend who worked in theatre. I called to see if I could somehow scrounge up a couple of tickets but Robin was right. There were no tickets available, not even from scalpers. It was a very popular show around town. I was willing to spend whatever it took and I kept calling around but I was having no luck.

The day before Valentine's Day I drove down to the theatre early in the morning. The show was playing for the last time on Valentine's Day. It was the last chance I would get for tickets. There was nobody around and I just walked in. I walked down a softly carpeted hallway and into an anteroom but there was still nobody around. I went through a couple of double doors and found myself face to face with the start of Evita. She was an actress everybody was familiar with, and I had seen her in a half dozen movies. Seeing her in person was a shock, especially when I realized she was a lot older than she looked in the movies and she looked almost frumpy without makeup.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

I blurted out stupidly that I was trying to find somebody to buy tickets from, that I wanted to do something special for someone for Valentine's Day and she really wanted to see this show and everything was sold out. I would probably have rambled on for another ten minutes but she put her finger to my lips and she smiled. When she smiled, her face lit up and her personality shown through and I realized why she was such a star.

"This is someone you care for very much," she said, looking at me intense.

"Yes. Very much."

"You've come to the right person," she said.

They talk about people in the movies being snobbish and often arrogant, but the star of Evita was a kind and considerate and very charming woman. I also think something else was at work that day. Maybe you could call it fate or luck or just Cupid looking out for me, but the star led me down a long hallway and up a stairs and into a small room that looked out over the stage.

It had two comfortable looking chairs.

"You will give your name to the box office person and they will open the doors and let you up here," se said. 'This is the VIP box but there won't be any important people but the two of you tomorrow. I am, at heart, the ultimate romantic. Now give me a kiss and say thank you."

She was nearly as tall as I was and I leaned over and kissed her cheek and she smiled again and I thanked her enough times until she waved me away imperiously and went back up the steps toward what I presumed were dressing rooms. I felt lighter than air.

When I called Robin that night, she seemed distant but I wasn't having any of it. "Now don't give me a lot of grief about you being a steak and potatoes girl and you don't want fancy trimmings. I want you to put a dress on because I'm wearing a tux and I'm taking you someplace fancy for Valentine's Day."

"Harry...." she said.

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