Author's Note: My sincere gratitude to my editor, Janiexx for tightening and refining my story. Thank you!
The soft light of the full moon shown through the bedroom window and cast pallid shadows on the walls. I gazed lovingly at Meredith sleeping peacefully next to me; her sleek naked body shimmered in the watery diffuse light. Gently, I moved a few limp strands of brown hair away from her eyes.
"...you're in my heart, you're in my soul; you'll be my breath when I grow old. You are my lover, you're my best friend; you're in my soul..." the sound of Rod Stewart's raspy voice filtered through my brain.
I looked past her, through the window at the brilliant pale disk as it rode high in the firmament. From my earliest years, I took little stock in fortune tellers, tarot, astrology or any of the metaphysical sciences that supposedly influence our destinies.
But, I firmly believed in the impact, the power that Earth's solar companion exerted on my life and the lives of those around me. With consummate gentleness, I ran my fingers over Meredith's velvety warm cheek and recalled that wondrous evening when we first met.
La Bella Luna:
When I first saw the moon that night, it filled the horizon. As it rose higher in the sky, it grew brighter and brighter until everything was bathed in its unearthly glow.
It reminded me of the movie "Moonstruck" and how that vivid white ball exerted its influence on the romantic lives of the characters.
"...when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore..." I could hear Dean Martin singing in my head.
Manny and I watched the DVD at least once a month. In spite of the fact that it was a chick flick, he loved it as much as I did. We knew whole sections of dialogue by heart and would act out our favorite parts.
The crowd for Taryn's party filled the patio and pool area. Paper lanterns were strung across the entire yard and combined with the surreal moonlight, gave one the eerie impression that it was daytime.
Recovering from a very brief and messy relationship, I was on the prowl for something fresh but different. While the straight world usually held little promise for scoring, I was tired of the bar scene and had some success in the past meeting women at weddings, parties and believe it or not a Bat Mitzvah.
Cheryl was a very pretty mother of two young boys who'd never satisfied her bi curiosity until she met me. When she found out I was a CPA, she asked if I would do her income tax return. Later, I discovered she wanted me to do her as well. It was quite memorable.
Under the influence of too many beers, I surveyed the crowd for potential candidates and my eyes settled on one that really intrigued me. She was with her boyfriend, a squirrelly kind of guy with skinny legs and arms to match.
She's way out of his league, was the first thing that came to my mind.
The girl had presence and from the start I could tell that she was not your "ply with alcohol, easy lay," type. In her powder blue tight fitting top and blue jeans, she cut a slim, sexy figure.
"See anything you like?" my best friend Manny smirked.
"Oh yeah," I said, with my eyes on the prize.
"Oh boy Vicki, by the sound of your voice, you must be in love or something. Which one is it?"
As discreetly as possible, I pointed to the cute girl with the short cropped brown hair.
"Not bad, but I've seen much better looking chicks walking around. Why her?" he asked.
"I dunno, there's something about her...I'd really like to get into her jeans," I answered as Taryn walked by me. I hoped she didn't hear what I said.
"Hey, wait a minute, I know her; she works in product development. Her names Meredith," he stated.
Manny was appraising my choice carefully.
"I can't imagine she'd be much of a challenge?"
"I think you're wrong about that, my amigo,"
"Come on, I'll introduce you," he said and led me over to where she was standing.
The first thing I noticed about Meredith up close was her gray eyes. I had never met anyone with that color eyes before. They had a twinkle that intrigued me from the start.
After the introductions, Manny was looking at every prospective female that walked by.
"Ok, let me see if I can get lucky tonight," he stated and rubbed his hands together.
"Yeah, with lady palm and her five sisters," I barked at him and Meredith cracked up.
Although her eyes held my attention, Meredith smiled at me in a very natural way. With some folks, you can tell that it's a forced smile but not hers; it was very inviting. I'd like to know you better, it broadcast.
With her boyfriend Pat standing mute next to her, Meredith talked in a casual manner. She worked for MSD, a major pharmaceutical firm in our area and to my surprise, grew up only five miles from my parents' home. Tired of living in an apartment for the last five years, she was looking to purchase a townhouse near where she worked.
"Hey, my dad's a realtor with Town and Country Real Estate," I stated excitedly.
"Think he can help?" she asked.
"Yeah, no problem," I replied even though I had no idea if I could help her.
We exchanged cell numbers and I immediately entered her details in my phone memory. I promised to call the next day and went in search of Manny but he was no where to be found...
**** When I visited my parents' on Sunday morning, my mother seemed unusually happy.
"You're looking very chipper this morning mom," I stated.
"Oh, your father and I had a very nice evening last night. We went to dinner, a movie...I don't know what got into him but..."
"Ok! Time out, TMI, too much information," I bellowed covering my ears.
"Victoria, your father and I might be middle aged but occasionally, we have...ah...certain urges," she smiled looking every inch a "Stepford Wife."
My mom was rarely pleased about anything. Then, I heard my dad singing in the bathroom; he was in the shower really belting out some golden oldie. An image of him and my mom wrestling in the bed flickered through my brain and made me want to gag.
Abruptly, I remembered the moon last evening. Oh shit! My parent's were Moonstruck, I thought to myself.
When my dad entered the kitchen wearing a silk robe and softly singing "You Make Me Feel So Young" with a broad grin, I groaned aloud.
"What's with her?" he asked my mother.
"Don't mind Victoria dear, she's got a wild imagination,"
As soon as I eliminated any thoughts of my parents' midnight bedroom romp from my mind, I mentioned Meredith's search for a house. After he reviewed the information that she gave me, he came up with a suitable area and price range close to her employment.
"Unfortunately Victoria, my plates rather full right now. I can print out a list of possibilities and if you want to..." he said
"Ok dad, I'll help her," My seldom used real estate license was about to be put to good use.
Spending time with Meredith was a top priority for me and my father gave me a list of open houses for that afternoon. I doubted that she would accept my invitation on such short notice but when I called, she readily agreed.
I picked up Meredith at her apartment and she was very excited about house hunting. As she chattered away describing her likes and dislikes in a home, I was impressed with her eagerness. She had a very straight forward way of presenting her thoughts and her bubbly, warm personality was comforting
After we strolled through the last and most expensive open house on the list, Meredith looked very pensive.
"This is more difficult than I thought but I really like this one a lot," Just following Meredith around the different homes was a treat for me. Her top was form fitting and the pair of denims she was wearing, showed off her slender figure delightfully. While not large by any stretch of the imagination, her chest was in proportion to the rest of her body.
"Vicki, can you hear me? I'm curious to know what you think about the last house?" she asked and snapped me out of my daydream.
"Oh yeah, I liked it very much," I answered, feeling like some dizzy broad in a movie.
Unfortunately, I couldn't remember one detail.
"Did you think the kitchen was too small?" she asked.
"No, but maybe we should walk through one more time," I was starting to feel like my real estate agent father.
After spending several hours traipsing into and out of houses, we took a much needed break at O'Malley's Pub.
"You hungry? Cause, I'm starving!" Meredith asked.
Meredith ordered a full course meal with a draft beer; an impressive amount of food for a lean looking young woman. She gazed at me with an amiable expression.
"Thanks for showing me around today; I appreciate your kindness," Her sincerity and sparkling gray eyes were like a magnet to me.
"Aw, it was my pleasure,"
During our meal, we chatted about our jobs and mutual friends and realized that I was one of the few people in our circle who didn't work at MSD Pharmaceuticals.
Damn, the girl can eat, I mused quietly as Meredith polished off her broiled chicken breast, baked potato, bread and salad followed by another beer.
"How do you stay so thin?" I asked. absentmindedly as some bits of salad went into her cute mouth.
"Oh...scuse me..." she answered, swallowing the last morsel of food.
Watching Meredith eat so heartily put me more at ease. I had several brief liaisons with skinny girls, who ate like birds. Anorexic to the core, they were neurotic to the core as well. I shuddered when I thought about them.
"Do you want the whole story or the abbreviated version?" she asked.
"The whole story if you don't mind,"
Meredith was smiling serenely at me. "Ok, you asked for it."
In less than twenty four hours, Meredith's witty mind and friendly disposition had won me over. She started on her story.
"In order to give you a full account, I have to go back to my school daze. In middle school, I really got the urge to participate in sports and I tried them all. But, swimming, gymnastics and softball were my favorites. Now, I've always liked to eat and usually carried a few pounds more than I should have on my frame. But, when I got to high school, the highly competitive atmosphere demanded a trimmer physique."
She carried on.
"At the end of tenth grade my gymnastics coach recommended a sports boot camp to improve my fitness level and at my insistence, my folks' signed me up for four weeks of hell. The first day was a horror show. It all started with a five mile run, twenty five military style pushups, ten pull ups on the bar and so much more. The next morning my body hurt so badly, I could barely do one exercise but I persevered.
I wasn't prepared for the intense level of training and quietly cried myself to sleep for almost a week. Every morning at six am the moans and groans of tired and very sore girls getting out of their bunks filled our barracks type housing. But, all of us were committed to making ourselves better athletes and we supported and encouraged each other to do their best. The intensity of the exercises and the twice a day five mile treks over obstacle courses, stimulated everyone's appetite and we ate like wolves invited to a sheep ranch for dinner. By the time camp was over, most of us were zealots for the extreme style of work out that we participated in. I lost ten pounds with the result that for the first time in my life, I was in excellent shape. I excelled in sports my last two years in high school and made the swim team my freshman year in college until a shoulder injury ended my career," she stated with humility and pride.
Although I considered myself slim or slender, my workouts had grown stale and I wanted a tighter body look like Meredith.
"Except for illness or injury, I train five days a week using the same principles and my weight hasn't fluctuated more than two or three pounds since college," she proclaimed.
"Do you suppose you could show me sometime?" I asked, realizing that I was more than a little intimidated by her.
"Sure can!" she exclaimed and we arranged to meet the following Saturday at her gym.
**** During the week I was in contact with Meredith concerning the houses that we looked at. On Thursday evening, we met at her apartment to discuss putting a written offer together.
After an hour of back and forth discussion, Meredith decided another Sunday of house hunting was appropriate. With the business part of the evening out of the way, we both visibly relaxed.
"Hey, how bout a beer?" she asked kindly.
"Only if you're having one too,"
When Meredith handed me a bottle of Corona, she had a mercurial smile on her face.
"How long have you known Manny?" she asked.
"Our friendship goes way back to elementary school; first grade to be precise," I replied.
"Wow, that long?"
"Yeah, we're an odd couple, Manny and me. But, he's like the brother I never had. We rode the same school bus and within a week, we became fast friends. I remember he was kinda dorky looking with eyeglasses and a goofy grin.
Being so young, I guess it never occurred to either of us that boys usually played with boys and the girls with girls. Poor Manny... as we got older, he was teased by the boys on our bus. But, I was a feisty kid with a quick wit and protected him by hurling insults right back," I stated.
My eyes started to mist up thinking about the past and the important role Manny played in my life.
"In spite of all the ribbing, our friendship grew stronger until we were inseparable. Even when the teenage years hit with the onslaught of puberty, we remained the best of friends," I mused.
"I have a brother; he's only six but a neat kid. I love him to death. When I visit my parent's, I always bring him a treat or a small present. He calls me Merry, you know, like the character in "Lord of the Rings," she stated.
Meredith's demeanor changed and her look became more contemplative. She was sitting on the sofa holding her knees when she spoke.
"Jeez Vicki; I thought I'd be married by now and have a couple of kids."
The glimpse into Meredith's private world made my heart palpitate with emotion.
"I have a great job, make good money and got a few bucks saved but..." The sadness was evident in her voice.
"What about Pat?" I asked, mentioning her boyfriend.
Meredith rolled her eyes but never answered me. Suddenly, her entire disposition brightened.
"Hey girl, don't forget about Saturday!"
"Yeah, I know - eight am?"
"Uh huh, and be prepared to sweat!"
She let out a tiny yawn and it was my signal to vamoose. At the door, I gazed at her smiling face and felt the pangs in my chest, a presage of the feelings that would grow into romance.
"Thanks Vicki," she said quietly, and pulled me against her for a friendly hug.
Meredith's fragrant scent, her individual aroma consisting of perfume, body wash, lotion and oils, wafted into my nose. Jesus, she smells wonderful, I thought and reluctantly pulled away to say goodnight.
**** As planned, early on Saturday we met at Meredith's gym. I was impressed at how many pull ups Meredith could do on the overhead bar and stopped counting at twenty from sheer embarrassment.
"Come on, give it a try," she urged.
By the time I reached eight, the muscles in my arms and shoulders were on fire and quaking with fatigue.
"No bad, not bad. With practice, you'll do a lot better," she said encouragingly.
Push ups were the next order of business and Meredith cranked out twenty five with veritable ease. After the pull up bar, my arms were wobbly as jello and I made it to ten before I collapsed on the mat.
On side-by-side treadmills, Meredith was able to keep a conversation going despite the fact that she was running at a faster pace than me. I was capable of smiling and head nods but talking was beyond my ability.
Meredith loved the free weights and demonstrated the proper technique in the basic exercises. For her lean and athletic appearance, she preferred lower weight with high repetitions but one day a week, she lifted much heavier weight for strength.
By the time, Meredith showed me the elementary kick boxing moves, my body was tired but I persisted. With supreme patience and a total lack of hubris, she guided me through a workout that left me drenched in sweat.
"The muscles in my stomach really developed when I added kickboxing to my routine," she stated and lifted her top to show me the outline of a six pack on her belly as proof.
I stared at Meredith barely able to hold my head up and wondered how she could screw her scrawny boyfriend with his weedy body.
The fucker must be in nirvana when she's riding him, I thought enviously.
Still clad in our workout clothes, we stopped at Danny's Diner in Bridgeport for breakfast.
"You know, my dad brought my sister and me here practically every Saturday night when we were kids," I said wistfully after we ordered.
"Did you have a happy childhood?"
"Yeah, for the most part,"
"For the most part?" she enquired.
"Oh, I don't want you to get the wrong impression but my dad, being a realtor, worked a lot, especially the weekends. My mom seemed to be overwhelmed taking care of my sister Janine and me. I don't remember her smiling or laughing very much," I replied.
"Were you one of those wild and rebellious teens?"
"Nah! But, I had my moments. Hey! What about you?" I asked.
"Me? Are you kidding? When I wasn't practicing for whatever sport I was involved in, I was usually studying. A first class nerd for most of my teenage years, I didn't have much of a social life until I was a junior in high school.
My gymnastics teammate, Clarissa, was my very best friend and educated me on wardrobe, makeup, dating and she...really brought me out of my shell," she said in a low voice, suddenly becoming very pensive and almost regretful. A few tears appeared in her pretty gray eyes.
Meredith looked down at the table with a shameful expression and I placed my hand over her wrist.
"I guess I should explain...I mean...she was my closest friend and..."
"Hey, you don't have to explain anything," I said reassuringly.
"Sometimes, I really miss..." she paused.
The waitress brought our food and looked quizzically at Meredith, then at me as if to imply that I was responsible for her tears. I shot her a scathing look and she abruptly retreated.
We ate in gloomy silence but in typical Meredith fashion, it didn't last long and as she tore through her omelet, a smile reappeared on her face.
"So, what did you think of the workout?" she asked.
I feigned having trouble holding up my fork and Meredith chuckled happily. The heartfelt kindness conveyed by her expression warmed my soul and lifted my spirits.
After we parted for the day, I thought about Meredith's revealing look into her past and it didn't bode well for me. Whatever occurred between Meredith and Clarissa was serious enough that it ended their friendship...
Did Clarissa make sexual overtures or advances toward Meredith? I didn't want to jump to conclusions but it was the most obvious explanation.
**** On Sunday we met to look at more houses and couldn't help thinking about Meredith's boyfriend, Pat. If they had a close relationship, why wasn't he with her.
Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions that a person makes during their lifetime and the input from a companion, friend, or family member is considered invaluable.
Another bevy of open houses filled our afternoon. Meredith's friendly and placid demeanor put me at ease and made the entire task enjoyable.
By five o clock, we were seated at O'Malley's Pub, enjoying each others company. Meredith ate another full meal but I noticed that her selections were generally of the healthy variety with broiled meats and light dressings for the salads. She steered clear of fried foods and her only indulgence was beer.