Her memories of him are specific. The 1972 Ford LTD he drove, with mud behind the wheels because he was a farm boy and farm boys didn’t believe in washing cars no matter how much mud got on them. The way he laughed, his teeth all white and straight and his head tossed back. The way he held her hand and it never got sweaty or uncomfortable. The way he looked at her; like she was the only thing in his world, as if he were (and probably was) listening intently. The way he kissed her, his hand on her cheek or fingers slid into her hair to keep her close. The way his black cowboy hat with the thin silver band covered his face in shadow, making him mysterious.
All they ever did was kiss. No more than kiss. They kissed at the door when he returned her to her dorm after a date. He kissed her at stop lights, leaning far over the console while she giggled and tried to play hard to get. He kissed her under darkened stone archways on campus as they walked home from some event or other. He kissed her by the big lake that every college student hung out next to either to drink or make out or just to stare at the stars. He kissed the back of her neck when she was trying to play Ms. Pacman at the local pizza joint. He never missed a chance to kiss her.
They kissed goodbye when the semester ended, and he went home to Iowa, and she to Missouri, and they wrote letters to each other. Long, eloquent letters talking about what they were doing, looking forward to the return of the fall semester. He sang at rodeos and opera houses and helped his dad put up hay and round up cattle. She worked in a factory and read smarmy romance novels and went swimming and worked in the family garden. Once, in July, he visited, driving down from Iowa to go with her and her family to a lake for a long weekend. He swam in the lake with her, and rowed her around in a boat, even though he was afraid of the water. He fished with her father and helped the little ones catch lightning bugs at dark. He said please and thank you and yes ma’am and her parents thought he was a fine young man. She blushed just to say his name.
But when fall came, and she headed back to university eager to see his green eyes and feel his lips on hers and his hand holding her hips close to him, he met her with a stony stare. “Jesus wouldn’t like what we did last spring,” he said. Her face fell in shock, her heart stopped beating, and she reached for him, but he backed away.
She never saw him again. But for years, for many many years, even until today, she wonders about the what-ifs. What if he had not gotten religion? What if she had reached again, and touched him? What if she hadn’t given up so easily? She heard about him over the years through a mutual friend, and he stayed his path, which surprised her. That velvet voice could have made him a millionaire a thousand times over, but instead he became a preacher, and married himself a proper girl who didn’t kiss boys in the back seats of cars or under darkened archways or at stop lights, and fathered five little girls. She imagined the little girls with his dark hair, olive skin, and incredible green eyes. She imagined them living in a little white house in town, with a vegetable garden and a picket fence and clothes strung up to dry on the line, all wearing white dresses and black shoes, while he wore his preacher’s collar and spoke eloquently in that velvet voice, while everyone stopped to listen.
And she wondered, always wonders, “what if,” even when it makes her heart hurt a little to think of him.
The story you just read is true, and I am that girl. I didn’t share it because of its sadness. I shared it because of its beauty, its joy, its memory. I shared it because it is good to remember beauty, and love, and how wonderful it is to be able to love, even when the love ends.
Love is strange. It excites and thrills, but it can also bring a deep despair. Decades can go by, and a lost love can still keep place in one’s heart. But love is life and there are few regrets when it comes to love. As a writer of romance, this is even more my truth than it might be for someone else.
Do you have a real-life love story? I’d love to read it. Please share in the comments!
Fairest of the Faire
Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.
Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.
When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.
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