tagRomanceKaren's Tale Ch. 02

Karen's Tale Ch. 02


Thank you again to GentWithHandcuffs, my ever helpful editor.

The next day, the shop was open and it was almost as crowded as before, everyone coming in for the after Christmas sale. Heidi knew something was up. I was exuberantly cheerful but absent-minded, happily screwing up any number of things. My latest mistake (undercharging a mother of three for her Lego set) rectified, Heidi cornered me.

"Who is he?"

"Who is what?" I honestly didn't know what she was talking about.

"Who," she asked with relish, "is the man who made you so happy?"

I was disconcerted, an unusual state of affairs for me. I am normally on top of things, in control of myself and most definitely not transparent.

"Umm..." I'm usually not at a loss for words either. "Well, he gave me a poinsettia. I couldn't say 'No' to a drink, could I?"

Heidi gave me a smirk and returned her attention to the cash register. I floated through the day. Why had this man affected me like this? James was nothing like my previous boyfriends. I preferred confident, sophisticated men. Men who didn't poke women in the butt with kites and bungle simple requests for help finding a toy.

But Justin was my "type" and look where that got me. Maybe it was time for a change.


Around 5, I got a text from James. "I had a good time last night. Would you like a repeat?" I really did want one, but my mother had promised to call that evening. Anyway, one shouldn't appear too eager. "Sure. Thursday?" was my response. We finally decided to meet at a tea shop downtown Thursday night.

I'd never been there. I figured, tea shop, that sounds nice and neutral, a good place to start. Well, it was beautiful, but hardly neutral. Brocaded Indian hangings created sheltered nooks for each table, bringing to mind palanquins and desert oases.

As I looked about with wonder, a server approached me. Waitress seemed too ordinary a word for such a poised, elegant woman. She led me to the table where James scrambled to his feet to greet me. He handed me into our nook and took his place opposite me. The tiny table had a candle encased in a filigreed lantern.

The lovely woman waiting on us provided luxuriously bound menus... books really. Each page described a tea in detail: history, flavor, origin, medicinal values, traditional tales and beliefs; I couldn't believe so much could be said about tea. We finally settled on a tea for two. It came in a curiously shallow, open pot. What looked like chunks of leaves expanded and opened into lovely flower shapes when we poured the hot water over them.

To say I was bowled over was an understatement. I'd never been on such a romantic date. The best fine dining in town, yes, but this beat out all the elegant dinners I'd ever had. All those sophisticated boyfriends of mine had preened and used me as some kind of accessory to impress others. (I sometimes suspected anyone with blonde hair and big boobs would have been acceptable.) James was entirely focused on being there with me, oblivious to everyone else. That was far more flattering than any fancy dinner.

I found James easy to talk to, even without Scotland to spur the conversation. In the course of the evening I learned he was a big baseball fan, he was pursuing a master's in Medieval Scottish history and wanted earn a doctorate and become a professor, he had a large family here in his hometown, his brothers seemed unable to stop churning out nephews ("Never a niece among them!"), and he shared with me a love of cooking.

He learned less about me. I am skilled in keeping the focus on others and I avoid revealing personal things about myself. I couldn't help explaining my solitary Christmas. I skimmed over Justin quickly and dwelt on my mother, who I missed terribly but was on a cruise and out of reach of the telephone this Christmas.

When we found ourselves on the sidewalk outside the tea shop, I didn't want to say goodbye. He suggested dinner and I jumped at the idea. We agreed on a popular bar and grill several streets over.

After dinner, James offered me a ride home as my car was in the shop. We headed for his car. I was starting to feel nervous. Is nervous the right word? I felt giddy and had butterflies in my stomach. There would be kissing, I was sure of that.

The moment of decision was approaching; we were almost to my house. James parked in front of my building. Then I looked up and was annoyed. The porch light was out again. The damn thing was out half the time, some kind of wiring problem, but it was dark up there. I kept a mini Maglight in my car, but obviously without my car I didn't have it now.

"James, do you have a flash light? The porch light is out."

He leaned over to rummage in the glove compartment, came up with a circular LED light that looked sort of like a spaceship.

"I'll walk you up," he offered.

His spaceship light was very bright. The building was perched on the top of a steep hill and it was a bit of a climb up to the porch, but we made our way easily with his light. At the top, he shined the light on the door as I unlocked it. Door open, I turned to him. My butterflies had returned.

"We don't need this anymore," I said. I clicked the light off.

Then our kiss just happened, all by itself. It was a soft kiss, no hardness or rushing on his part. I leaned in slowly, went from the caress of lips to the light brushing of tongues, my hands on his shoulders, his arms around my waist. We lingered, tasting and touching, a gentle exchange of tongues.

If I had to choose one word for that kiss, it would be respectful. Which doesn't sound sexy, but I was accustomed to Justin, who assumed sex would happen and his kisses were all pushy preludes to what he considered was the main act. James expected nothing and gave me no more than I asked for, waited for me. In my experience, that was far more sexy than aggressive tongue dueling.

Then I heard my neighbor coming down the stairs. She brushed past us, full garbage bag in hand. James looked at me and I was swallowed up by the blue eyes that had drawn me in from the very beginning. He gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, just by my ear.

"Can I call you again?"

Oh boy, after that kiss, he could call me every day and it wouldn't be too much for me.

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