The curtain of night rain obscured her view of the garden where she had planted fledging impatiens the day before. She wondered how they were handling the deluge, those delicate paper-thin petals and tender leaves. If she could be any flower in the universe, she would be a bright fuchsia impatiens. Yep, that’s what she would be, but it seems powers beyond her own had decided that she should be a human being who planted and cared for the pretty sun-shy impatiens.
“Come back to bed.” His deep voice bounced on her bare back and then slid over her shoulders to quiver near her heart. She turned and smiled in the darkness.
“I love you,” she said. She felt the silence in the room slide over her like swaddling clothes, binding her to those three fateful words never spoken before, at least to the one who now lay in her rumpled bed. The rain pounded on the window as if to say, you idiot, why did you say that.
“I know” is all he said.
She sat at her workstation staring at the computer screen, hands poised on the keyboard as if ready for immediate takeoff but needing the go-ahead from the control tower. She couldn’t manage the meanderings of her usually disciplined mind. She couldn’t concentrate on inputting the data needed for the next project. She couldn’t eat or sleep either. Why had she said that? Why? Why? Why?
“Hey, Dana, you lost in lalaland or something? Bossman is asking for the specifications.” Shakira leaned against the cubicle wall, grinning like a border collie after it had successfully herded its charges into the sheep pen. Against her own paleness, Shakira’s dark skin shone like fine chocolate and her flamboyant clothing made Dana’s attire look like Auntie Em’s farmhouse drab.
“I’m doing it right now.”
“Well, bossman needs it yesterday. Now, ain’t that a surprise. I’ll stall him for an hour or so, but then you’re on your own. Ciao, chick.”
She watched Shakira’s tallness diminish down the long hall and then looked back at the computer screen. There were days when all she wanted to do was scream, and this was one of them. But, like a dutiful child, she squelched the screech clawing up her throat and recommenced the adult thing called work. She watched her practiced fingers fly across the keyboard as she half-scrutinized the paperwork on her desk. If only she had a window, she could watch the leaves of the trees tremble in the breeze, glimpse a bird or two as it journeyed to wherever, see a jet leaving a white trail of smoke in the cloudless azure blue sky. Instead, her only view was grey cloth cubicle walls and the photo of him taken in Curaçao last summer. Tall, muscular, tanned, sun-bleached hair, dark beard stubble, Ray-Bans covering his amazing hazel eyes, he looked straight at her with that smile, with those full lips that kissed her every night, every morning, and now seemed so cold because they hadn’t whispered those three words back to her. She had no idea what to do now. Here she was, a summa cum laude college graduate, and she was clueless about this he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not state of affairs. Ain’t that a gas, as Shakira would say.
He called her. “Hey, lover, you want to go to dinner? There’s a new place everyone’s talking about in the Village.”
Lover? Yes, she was that. How about just plain old love? Was she loved? She was going to ask him. Yep, she sure was…if her thundering heart would stop strangling her voice.
“Do you love me?” she asked quietly, almost hoping he couldn’t hear her.
Again, the silence. She listened to his soft breathing over the distant sound of a siren. Someone’s in trouble. She’s in trouble too. Do they send ambulances for broken hearts?
“Not the way you want me to” is what he said.
“I see” is all she said.
Dana stood on the crest of the hill, watching the waves bellow and bash their crowns on the ragged rocks below. She could feel the strength, the fierceness, the incompatibility of ocean and granite coming together, forever linked in a lover’s dance of love and hate, neither one winning. She breathed in the fresh salty air and relished the semi-wild outdoors.
Summer in Oregon. So different than summer in Curaçao. He wasn’t here. She heard from a friend of hers that he had moved in with a red-headed architect from Dallas and seemed to be very happy. There was a small crying part of her that wanted to slash the expensive tires on his new white BMW (another tidbit from her friend) and pull every red hair out of his new girlfriend’s scalp, but that wouldn’t heal the pain of their breakup. That would just land her in jail. And, really, what did it matter anyway? You can’t coerce someone into loving you. Either they do or they don’t. Simple as that. She was only 32 years old; there would be other men in her life and through them she might find the love she wanted. But right now, this very second, her body and spirit tingled with the roar of the waves, the lonesome cry of a hawk overhead, the breeze whistling through the trees, the twitter of squirrels hiding in foliage, the hard earth under her hiking boots. Looking down, she saw a red flower a couple of feet away that had broken off its parent bush. She picked it up and gently pushed it behind her ear.
“Hey, Dana, come on. We’re hungry and there’s still a mile to go.” Dana glanced one more time at the confluence of rock and water in the cove below, and then turned to her friends and smiled.
“I’m ready now” is what she said.