-*- Thursday, October 7, 2010 -*-
-*- Lawrence, Kansas -*-
"A motorcycle helmet? You... you're serious?" Alexa stared at
the motorcycle helmet as if it was a ticking time bomb. It was
Thursday night and I had texted Alexa earlier in the day with a
cryptic message about eating something at least an hour before our
scheduled date and wearing comfortable clothes she would not mind
getting sweaty in. That spawned a laundry list of text messages
full of sexual innuendos, which I loved, but I absolutely refused
to inform my 19-year-old girlfriend exactly where it was we were
going. I wanted it to be a very special surprise.
"Don't tell me that you're scared of motorcycles," I countered
in a teasing voice. "I remember you once telling me that nothing
in life scares you and you're willing to tackle anything." Using
my forearms, I pulled Alexa in tight, the helmets clanging together
in my hands behind her back as I kissed and nibbled on her neck.
She tilted her head backward, obviously enjoying the sensual
attention I lavished on her as our bodies rubbed together.
Something inside of me had shifted within the past three-plus
months. I had fought myself for so long; it was as much of a
relief as it was scary to let my guard down, but I felt quite
assured in thinking Alexa would be worthy of my trust. She and
I had been seriously dating since the end of June.
"I'm not afraid of motorcycles," Alexa insisted, and pulled
her long-flowing, shimmering blonde hair over her shoulder so my
lips could have better, easier access to her neck. I laughed
against her fine, delicate skin, causing her to shiver and giggle
in unison. "I just didn't think you drove one. Or even had one.
I'm sorry, Jeremy, but you don't seem to be the motorcycle type."
"There's a lot about me you don't know." I gently sank my
teeth into the flesh of her shoulder.
"Ouch! That hurts!" She laughed and I kissed her on the lips.
"Come on, Miss America." I smacked her ass. "I love those
yoga pants. You're so freaking hot, you could melt an iceberg."
Alexa was wearing black yoga pants and a black tank-top beneath
a zip-up hoodie, which seemed strange, because she usually only
dressed in them when she was working out at the university gym in
town. But Alexa knew how much I liked seeing her in yoga pants,
and I was certain that was why she had decided to put them on.
"I've never been close to an iceberg, but now I'm curious and
want to see if I could melt one." Alexa lifted my hand off of
her ass. "I thought this was supposed to be a non-sexual date."
"Oh, right. You actually bought that, huh?" The corners of
my mouth lifted with those playful words. "I'm kidding, baby.
Got your trusty phone in case the president of the United States
texts and needs some advice?"
Alexa laughed, clearly amused at my sense of humor about her
neurotic need to be tied to her smartphone. "Yes, but..." She
patted her yoga pants. "No pockets." Alexa then swung her phone
in front of me, as if she was dangling a sweet, tantalizing carrot.
Yet if I had my way, I would bat that phone across the dorm room
and hope it shattered into a billion pieces. In many ways, Alexa's
smartphone was the bane of my existence. "Would you be so kind as
to carry my phone and dorm key so I don't have to bring my purse?"
"Sweetheart, I'll carry your phone, your key AND your sexy,
little body if you need me to."
"You're so..." Addicting? Nah. "Accommodating." Our texts
throughout the day had been flirty and fun, my pulse accelerating
with the hope that Alexa was messaging every time my phone buzzed
while I was at work. She sent me an apology text for last night,
when she showed up unannounced at my home in Lake Quivira while
my best friend (Mike) was over visiting, yet Alexa did not know
it. My intent was to make her feel better with the teasing texts
such as _You've ruined Mike._ _He'll never find a woman who
measures up to you,_ and _We need a secret knock. One knock
means you're naked. Two knocks means you're naked. And three
means, well, you're naked._ The next text I sent was intended
to show Alexa how hard I was trying to make her feel better after
the highly embarrassing incident. _I should have spanked your
gorgeous ass so you'll never take a silly chance like that again.
Flashing happens at my BEDROOM door only._ Just the idea of me
spanking her had sent Alexa into a tizzy in the middle of her
studies here at college. Her best friend, Merissa, told me so.
Alexa slid her smartphone into the front pocket of my jeans,
removed her dorm key from her key ring, and handed it to me. I
smirked and set the helmets down so I could hook the key onto
my own ring. When I lowered my mouth and brushed my lips over
hers, Alexa leaned forward, wanting more, but I was in complete
control, deciding to hold a sordid and much deeper kiss at bay.
"One day you'll give me a copy of this key. Soon, too."
"Are you this overly confident with all of your girlfriends?"
I picked up the helmets. "No. Just you. Because one day, I
know that you and I will be married. I'm as confident as can be."
Alexa giggled. "Wishful thinking." She gave me a quick kiss
as we left the dorm room that she shared with Merissa. "Perhaps
your wish will come true. I haven't even looked at another guy
since we met, and I have no intentions of doing so, either."
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed hearing that declaration,
but not at all surprised by the rush of anxiety rising within me.
For a brief second, I allowed to myself to peak beyond the walls
of my suddenly-perfect life. An instant to think about what it
would be like if Alexa was no longer a part of it. Or how I would
feel if she WAS seeing other men on the side. For all intents and
purposes, Alexa had flipped my boring, mundane life upside-down -
all for the better - from the first moment she stepped into it.
What if, one day, I had to go back to that? My protective urges
kicked in, and my anxiety was suddenly soaring at record heights.
Yet as much as that idea irked me, it was also reassuring,
because I had never felt this strongly about a woman after knowing
her for just a couple of months. The anxiety simply reinforced that
this girl was _the one_ for me. I draped an arm around Alexa's
shoulder, and it felt good and remarkably comfortable to have her
slim, nubile body tucked hard against mine. I remembered the night
when she and I first had sex just over two weeks ago - when Alexa
also surrendered her virginity to me - and how good it felt to
cuddle with her afterward. I loved the intimacy. Alexa made me
feel alive and energized for the first time in many, many years,
and I did not want to hide behind a wall of bricks anymore.
I pushed the button for the elevator and stepped in front of
her, bringing us face-to-face. "You know me, Lexi. I'm not the
type of guy who wants to play around with you while I dabble in
other girls on the side. I haven't looked at any girls, either,
since you and I met a few months ago. I'm not that guy, honey."
The elevator arrived and we stepped inside, joining a group of
college kids who were laughing and talking. I pulled Alexa hard
and possessively against me, damning our difference in ages to
Hell - 36 to 19 - in the process. I had heard ENOUGH about the
difference in our ages since the end of June from nearly everyone
in my life. Most of them thought it was a problem, a major issue,
although Alexa and I did not see things that way at all.
Our opinions were the only ones that truly mattered, right?
"I'm this guy," I said in Alexa's ear, tightening my grip on
her waist as two of the kids looked on curiously. "The one who
wants the whole world to know that you're with me. Only me. And
vice versa - I am with you."
The fluttering in my stomach caused by my territorial claim
warred with my logical and more sensible side. And yet again,
not surprisingly, the fluttering won. Why not? Alexa had asked
me to be totally open and honest with her since our very first
date early on in the summer. I kept swinging for the fences with
the crazy things I continually said to her, but I had yet to whiff
and strike out. Alexa was really big on total honesty.
A few minutes later as we walked through the university parking
lot toward my motorcycle, I asked, "What kind of girl are you?"
"I'm not sure." Alexa seemed to know what I was asking, but
did not know how to give me a proper answer. "I know that sounds
like a cop-out after everything you have said and done for me,
but I'm trying to be honest. I like you, Jeremy. Actually, I'm
in love with you. I just avoided dating for so long; all of this
feels so new, different. You're the first guy I've gone out with
in two years." She lowered her gaze, perhaps feeling insecure and
a little disconcerted with those words. "I'm weird, right? I
mean, my friends date all the time. Merissa, Sarah especially. I
was the Homecoming Queen and head cheerleader back in high school.
But I just preferred being by myself."
I stopped beside my motorcycle and took her hand. "Weird? No.
Fascinating? Yes. You're a serial non-dater, and your first date
in years was with a guy who has spent the past 20 years - longer
than you have been alive, even - looking for the perfect woman to
serially date. I'd say we're a match made in Heaven."
I set my helmet on the bike and held hers up. "Now, let's get
you wrapped around me. I mean... on the bike!" I smiled at her.
Alexa eyed the motorcycle, a 2011 _BMW K1600GT_ - a dynamic,
monstrous road machine. It cost more than my own _Jeep_, which
was also new. I generally kept the motorcycle under lock and key,
tarped off in my garage back home in Lake Quivira. "I've never
been on a motorcycle. Do you drive nice and easy, like you do in
your _Jeep_, or are you an erratic speed demon on this thing?"
"You already KNOW the answer to that, Lexi. I would never put
you in a situation where there was any danger."
I kissed her again and I felt some hesitation from Alexa's end
in the exchange, so I gathered her against me and took the kiss
deeper. As she was pressed against my much larger frame, my arms
holding her steady, reassuring her like always, the blissful,
glorious feeling of devouring Alexa literally consumed me whole.
Loosening up, she slipped her tongue into my mouth and explored
about in a slow, hypnotizing rhythm. And then her soft lips were
pressed against mine in a series of sweet, intoxicating kisses.
I was kissing Miss America! Heh, that nickname for her will
never become old. It fit Alexa to a perfect tee.
When I pulled back and gazed into her eyes, I gently said,
"Your phone is going crazy in my pocket." But my words did not
seem to sink in, or register. Alexa kept clinging to my arms
and had a somewhat dreamy, far-out look in her eyes.
I kissed her again. "Anyone home?"
"Hmmmmm?" I could tell, she wanted another kiss.
But I slipped my hand into my front pocket and pulled out her
smartphone. "Your vibrator."
"My...?" Her eyes followed mine to her phone. "Oh, I'm sorry.
I've never been with anyone who could make me forget my phone."
She took the device and scrolled through her seemingly endless list
of new messages. "You're kind of terrifying in a way, Jeremy."
I laughed and put my hand firmly on the back of her neck,
pulling Alexa close so I could kiss her again. "I've never known
anyone who gets as many text messages as you do. It's non-stop."
"Merissa, Sarah, Mercedes, Ashley, Kailynn, Heather, Gionna,
Mandy... they all text me constantly, and get angry if I don't
respond immediately. Mom, too." As she talked, Alexa typed out
a response to one of her friends, or perhaps even her own mother.
"What happens if you don't respond in, say, a few hours?"
Alexa's fingers flew over the screen as she handled one message
after another. "Umm. I don't know. But my friends expect me to
respond to them right away. Most of it is nonsense, funny stuff.
You know, them asking questions if you and I had sex again, when
and if we are getting married. You know, going on about their
own dating life, too, things at school. Just random stuff people
text about. You know what I'm talking about, right?"
"Not really," I mumbled. The only people who ever texted me
were Alexa and, on rare occasions, Mike. Most of the time when
my phone beeped, it was a notification from _Facebook_. "We've
been dating for over three months, Lexi, and I've yet to see you
step away and disconnect from that phone even once."
She shook her head.
"Do you ever want to?"
(...You know, back in MY day, we didn't have smartphones...)
She lifted her eyes and lowered her smartphone, looking guilty,
because she was doing the one thing that I had a pet peeve with
her about when it came to our relationship. Alexa knew it, too.
That damn phone and its vibrations had interrupted a countless
number of discussions and intimate moments between Alexa and I
over the past few months. It went off whenever she got a text,
which meant it was constantly buzzing. I never really let the
frustration get to me yet, per se, but perhaps Alexa saw that the
phone was going to strike a nerve in me sooner rather than later.
"I never have," she admitted. "But I want to now. With you.
Tonight." Alexa smiled at me. "How about this, Jeremy? You said
tonight we are having a two-part date, right? How about I turn my
phone off until after the first part of our date? Then you give
me a few moments and I go through my pile of messages, and after
that, we will move onto the second part of our date. Phone off."
"That sounds ridiculously delightful."
She extended her phone so I could see its screen and pressed a
button on its side. "I am turning this off. Now, I am going to
wrap myself around you on that crazy machine and do exactly what
you suggested. Disconnect."
"You sure?" I asked, my eyebrows raised.
"Yes. Definitely." She again held the device out to me, but
then pulled it back. "You know it feels like I am cutting off my
left arm by giving this to you, right?" Alexa handed over the
phone and offered one of her scrunchy faces. So adorable. "You
said no sex tonight - especially after the harsh embarrassment of
last night with Mike seeing me - but you told me to wear clothes I
could get sweaty in. That leaves way too many possibilities for
my young, fertile imagination. Where ARE you taking me, exactly?"
As I helped her put on the helmet, I said, "Someplace that I've
never taken another woman, a date, period." I patted the seat.
"Climb on, Miss America. You're about to see how fun life can be."
* * *
The cool evening air rushed over my skin as we drove out of the
city. I had always loved the sense of freedom riding a motorcycle
brought. It made me feel closer to nature, and tonight, I felt
closer to Alexa too. I relished the feel of her wrapped around me,
trusting me enough to keep her safe. Her inner thighs pressed
against my hips, her smallish breasts upon my back, with her arms
wrapped tightly around me. At first she clung so tight and even
pinched my flesh between her fingertips, but the longer we rode,
the more comfortable she became. We drove over the bridge crossing
the Marais Des Cygnes River in Ottawa, 25 miles south of Lawrence,
and by the time we reached my cousin's old family business, Alexa's
hands were splayed over my abdomen, not fisted in fear.
I parked in front of the building and helped Alexa take off her
helmet and climb off of the bike. Her dazzling, bliss-blue eyes
danced with excitement, but it was that wide, toothy smile which
truly brightened her features more than anything else.
"That was awesome!" Alexa tossed her arms around my neck, so
carefree and uninhibited, it actually made me laugh.
"You enjoyed the ride?"
"Are you kidding?" She ran her hand over the leather seat.
"Plastered against you with the vibrations and the cold wind
whipping through my clothes? It was exhilarating! I thought I'd
hate it, because let's face it. I gave up total control to you
on the back of that bike. If you crashed, well, we both know
what would happen." Alexa was talking as fast as she did last
night when she showed up at my doorstep with that sexy surprise,
only for my best friend Mike to see her in all her glory. While
upset last night, Alexa was humming with excitement tonight.
"I want to ride it every night! I mean, I want to go on a
cross-country motorcycle trip with you! At first, being honest,
I was petrified. But then I couldn't hold onto the stress, the
fear anymore, because I was mesmerized by everything. Things I
never noticed while I was in a car. Like how pretty the inside
the tunnel is a few miles back. The lights reflect from above
AND below. I never noticed that before. In a car, I just drive
or RIDE as a passenger, checking my phone or talking on it,
surfing the web. I am completely oblivious to everything around
me. And the air? Oh my Gosh, Jeremy. The AIR felt like it was
electrified, but you don't feel that when you're in a car. You
don't really feel anything, except being annoyed at traffic."
Alexa ran her fingers through her hair, sending long, golden
strands floating along her shoulders. She looked as if she had
just discovered LIFE for the first time.
Personally, I filled with happiness. Bringing the motorcycle
out for our date tonight - taking that chance - turned out to be
a huge success. Another home run, if I must say so myself. Yet
it was my goal to see that awestruck, sexy look every single day
on Alexa's face for the rest of my life. I laced my fingers with
hers and hoped I would find a way to do just that. "Hmmmmm, Lexi.
I suppose I will add _nightly bike ride_ to our to-do list."
She smiled and shook her head. "See? You're too accommodating.
You have your medical practice and I'm a full-time student, and I
also have cheerleading practice to attend. There's a big football
game next Saturday - the Sunflower Showdown - against Kansas State.
We've been working on some new chants and cheers for that game.
We're both busy. As much as I'd love to go on a motorcycle ride
every single night with you from now on, we just can't."
"You severely underestimate the power of choice." I leaned
down and stole a kiss. "Come on. Let's get going."
"Where are we?" Her eyes moved over the enormous building
which, at initial glance, appeared to be abandoned.
"My cousin's place." I quietly led Alexa around the side of
the building and her eyes widened when the wide creek in back
came into view, along with several small sailboats.
"Wow. This makes the whole warehouse scene feel different.
I've never seen boats in a... creek before. It's pretty, too."
"Candace's father - my Uncle Terry - left the business and the
building to his two daughters when he passed away back in 2006."
"My slightly-younger cousin. We grew up together."
Alexa and I walked around the perimeter of the building for a
couple of moments and then double-backed to the front.
"Entertainment Warehouse?" Alexa pointed at the sign above the
door and crinkled her nose. "Is this some type of sex club?"
"You might wish it was after you see what's inside."
She stopped cold, squeezing my hand. "Okay. Just so you know,
it took everything I had to actually turn my phone off and give it
to you, and then climb on that bike." Jesus, Alexa was adorable.
Didn't she know I already knew that? "But going into a spooky
building in the middle of nowhere, late at night? Not happening."
"Seriously? THIS is where you draw the line?" I chuckled and
stepped closer, bringing our bodies together. "Not at phone sex?
Not at texting me those naughty, little pictures you seem to enjoy
so much? Not at letting me cum all over your gorgeous breasts?"
Crimson colored her cheeks. I cupped her face and brushed my
thumb over her mouth. "What are you worried about?"
"Let's see. Whips, chains, other freaky, kinky stuff with
strangers. I know what goes on in places like this."
"Am I a stranger?" I teased her, nuzzling her neck.
I kissed my way up to her lips. "I'm not into whips, chains,
or other freaky stuff with strangers, but I might be into silk
ties with you."
"Jeremy..." she said in a heated whisper.
"Oh, Miss America might be into that? Things just got even
more interesting." I slanted my mouth over hers and Alexa was
right there with me, kissing me hard and rough, but suddenly she
jerked away as if she had been scorched by fire.
"Wait. NO! I am not going into a sex club." Alexa stepped
backward and even glared at me with rising, boiling anger.
"Whoa, settle down," I gently offered, realizing that may have
been my first strike out with her. I needed to watch what I said
a little better. "A sex club? Lexi, you're with ME, remember."
I reached for her, frustration and worry intertwining all at once.
But she turned away, and suddenly my heart was racing. I went to
her, despite her best efforts to resist. "Honey, I would never
take you to a sex club and put you in a situation like that. I
was only kidding. I love you too much, and I want you for myself."
She let out a relieved breath. "Thank God. You know Grayson,
Merissa's boyfriend? He tried taking her to a sex club last month
and it was a horrible experience for her, a horrible mistake on
his part. Nor did it last long. Merissa was NOT happy with him."
Alexa's mouth had been pressed into a hard line, but soon she
relented and even let loose with an easy smile. "But I'm not
against the idea of silk ties in the privacy of your bedroom."
Those words were so unexpected that they threw me for a loop.
I touched my forehead to hers and laughed. "You are, without a
doubt, the most complicated woman I have ever met. I promise,
we WILL explore that some time in the future. If you want to."
I kissed Alexa, long and reassuringly thorough. She was so
brave for such a young age, a mix of so many different things,
and I was more than a bit awestruck by her. I would imagine that
most women - most girls - who just lost their virginity a mere two
weeks prior would never want anything to do with silk ties. Or
showing up unexpected and flashing the wrong person by mistake,
as she had done last night with Mike. Or even the right person,
for that matter. Alexa was very unique. This was a girl who was
forced to grow up in a hurry, as she came face-to-face with death
in 2007 throughout six long, agonizing weeks in the hospital due to
an eating disorder and the damage it caused to her bodily organs.
Anorexia nearly gave her a heart attack at the tender age of 15.
I gazed into Alexa's eyes, seeing who she was more clearly.
She took what happened to her during those dark times and owned
it. She was a woman who refused to be a victim, or a statistic,
and that was a far cry from the type of woman I once thought I
was attracted to. I was so wrong. So very wrong that it was
actually pathetic on my part, because I had never been attracted
to a woman quite the way I was to Alexa. She was so strong.
"For the record, just to reiterate, I would never share you or
put you into a situation where anyone else knew we were being
intimate. This is NOT a sex club. There is nothing in this
building that is even remotely sexual. What we do is between us.
I don't get off on the idea of other people watching, got it?"
She nodded confidently. "Got it."
"I love you, Lexi. I'd never do a thing to hurt you. Not in
private, or public." I framed her face with my hands and stared
deeply into her eyes, wanting Alexa to hear the truth in my words.
The all-out sincerity. "You can trust me."
"I do trust you, Jeremy. Implicitly."
"You won't regret it. I'm a good guy." I kissed her again.
"I probably should have asked you this earlier. You're not afraid
of heights, are you? That's kind of important here..."
Alexa laughed. "Heights? WHAT is this place, really?"
I did not want to get into another deep discussion before the
fun part of our date, so I took Alexa's hand and headed toward the
entrance. "Come on. Let's make good use of our non-phone time."
* * *
Clearly, Alexa could not believe it. Massive trampolines,
rock walls, human-sized hamster balls and a handful of other
highly bizarre sports paraphernalia filled the enormous warehouse.
There were a multitude of cables strewn across the unfinished
ceilings and hanging down to various contraptions. I led Alexa
across the concrete floor to a huge net stretched between trapeze
bars. A door in the back of the warehouse then opened and a tall
blonde threw her arms up in the air and squealed.
"JEREMY!" The woman ran - RAN - across the concrete floor and
launched herself into my arms.
I laughed and spun her around. "Good to see you, Candace!"
I kissed her cheek, yet when I set her down on her feet, I
noticed that Alexa was looking at us with extreme jealousy in
her eyes. Like she was about to go all diabolical.
"Lexi looks good on you!" Candace turned her attention to
Alexa and gave her an equally warm hug, minus the overzealous
launch, and kissed her cheek with a loud, exaggerated smack.
Whoa. "I've known this guy all my life, for a hundred years it
seems, and never once has he brought a woman - a date - in to
play until now. You, honey, must be someone VERY special!"
"Candace, you promised not to embarrass her." _Sorry_, I
mouthed to Alexa. "Meet my _Energizer_ bunny cousin, Candace."
Yet the instant she said, _Lexi looks good on you_, Candace
seemed to go from an enemy to a great friend in Alexa's book.
That, and the fact there was no reason for her to be jealous.
Despite our spirited exchange, Candace was my cousin.
Candace waved a dismissive hand and draped an arm over Alexa's
shoulder. "We are going to have so much FUN! Yoga pants are the
bomb, aren't they? Not only do they show off our incredible
figures, but we can move in them like a snake in the grass."
Alexa glanced over her shoulder at me as I was directly behind
them. For now, she was speechless. Alexa did not know what to
think. "I should have warned you. Candace rarely uses a filter."
"Oh, please." Candace rolled her eyes and began messing with a
few of the cables that were hanging from the ceiling. "The owner
of a gentleman's club cannot HAVE a filter. No room for it."
"A gentleman's club?" Alexa looked at me with concern.
I held both hands up in surrender. "I've never been there and
I did not mention it outside because THIS is not a sex club, a
gentleman's club, or anything remotely similar to it."
"Jeremy, frequent my club?" Candace laughed. "My girls wish he
did! They'd crawl all over him like they do his friend, Mike."
I went up to Alexa and spoke directly into her ear, "I have
eyes for no woman other than you. I swear it."
"Oh, I think I know that by now, Jeremy." Alexa went up on her
tiptoes and kissed me.
"Okay guys," Candace said, taking the initiative - as always -
by strapping a harness-type device around Alexa's waist. "This
is not make-out or goo-goo eyes time. This is all about fun."
She set a serious gaze on Alexa.
"Fun?" I could tell, my girlfriend's heart was racing. "I
assume you actually think I'm going up there?" She pointed at
the trapeze bars.
"Yup," Candace said with a radiant smile. "It'll be fun, just
as soon as you get over the suffocating FEAR!"
"OhmyGod." Alexa leered at me. "You could have warned me!"
"Where's the fun in that?" I gave her another kiss.
Candace moved around Alexa, hooking and triple checking cables.
Alexa suddenly looked like a puppet. A freaking string puppet.
I placed my hands on her shoulders and locked into her blue
eyes. "I know you like to be firmly grounded."
"Yes." Wow, she was frightened.
"And in control."
"Yes." Did I really want to go through with this?
"And you don't like to look weak. Ever."
"EVER! What's your point?" Her hands were trembling. Alexa
realized that Candace was no longer messing with the rigging and
was now climbing a tall ladder up to a platform.
"There is nothing you cannot do, honey, but I'd never ask you
to do this alone. I'm going up too." I knelt down and began
slipping off my shoes.
"How does that help me, exactly?"
"Moral support." I reached out and untied her sneakers, took
them off, and set them beside her. Running my hands along the
outside of her slim, coltish legs, I rose to my feet, bringing
about a bump in my own body temperature as well. "Trust, Lexi.
That's what this is all about. Trust yourself, and trust me."
Alexa looked up at the platform, where Candace stood holding a
trapeze bar and waving. Alexa lifted her hand in a half-wave.
"If you're too scared," I playfully taunted her, lifting an
eyebrow, "you can stay down here and watch."
Alexa scoffed. "You have actually DONE this before?"
"For many years. And I will continue to do it until the day
I'm too old to climb the ladder." This was much more than just a
challenge to me, or exercise, and I sensed Alexa caught onto that.
She was very smart, perceptive. The girl noticed everything.
"You want all my secrets?" My jaw tightened. "You have to
share one with me first."
Hands on hips, she said, "I already did. Outside. I told you
that Grayson tried taking Merissa to a sex club. That's a secret."
"A secret about Merissa, but not you. But fair enough." My
expression turned pensive. "Another cousin of mine, Brooke, she
loved the trapeze. Candace's sister. This trapeze. Absolutely
loved it." I leaned down and kissed Alexa's cheek, and another
spiteful swipe sparkled in my eyes. Man, I was feeling brave
tonight. "I'm going up, and I promise not to tell Merissa and the
rest of your friends that you're a chicken if you don't." I
grinned at her and ended, "But I will tell your mom."
"Loved?" By the time she said _loved_ instead of _loves_, I
was halfway up the ladder. I glanced back and noticed Alexa
seeming all gloomy and downtrodden. Indeed, nothing slipped by
her. She was a sponge that soaked up everything thrown her way.
Loved, as in past tense. Meaning, I had _lost_ my cousin Brooke.
"Coming up, Lexi?" Candace called down to her.
Five minutes later, the 19-year-old stood on shaky, wobbly legs
with her toes peeking over the edge of the way-too-high platform,
gripping the trapeze bar so tightly her knuckles turned white.
All the while, I swung like a monkey in paradise over the net.
"Come on, Lexi! You can do this!" I called out to her as I
maneuvered my body so I was hanging by my legs on the trapeze.
She probably thought I made it look so easy. With 25 years of
hard work and practice, most things would be easy.
But Alexa looked terrified.
Sure she'd die.
Fall right through the holes in that netting and splat on the
concrete floor below.
"It didn't look so high from down there!" she said to Candace,
who had given her a few pointers on the art of trapeze swinging,
falling and jumping. Alexa told her that she could master the
falling part, no problem. The rest? Not so much.
"I know," Candace consoled her. "It's crazy how scary it feels.
Just remember, all you have to do is let go and land on your butt.
Pull your legs into an L-shape and it'll be just like when you were
little and jumped on a trampoline."
"Right," Alexa nodded with exasperation. "Problem is, I have
never jumped on a trampoline. I never had one."
Candace chose to ignore those words. "At first all you want
to do is get used to the feel of swinging and falling."
"Falling. Get used to that feeling. Right."
"Lexi!" I hollered. Now, I was sitting on the trapeze bar like
it was a chair. One leg was bent, my foot flat along the narrow
bar, with the other dangling beneath me, and an arm wrapped around
the cable. I offered her a smile.
I could tell that she wanted to do this, if just for me, but
the fear was too much. "Yeah?"
"You look hot, babe."
"He's so into you," Candace informed Alexa. "Jeremy went on and
on about you yesterday when I talked to him on the telephone and we
set this up. If I were you, honey, I'd just stand here and let him
gawk for a while. Really play it up, make him the antsy one!"
Alexa tilted her head and shrugged her shoulders, most likely
thinking that did not sound like a bad idea. But she had since
inched out even further over the edge of the platform, and now had
a determined look on her face. When Alexa began to strain to hold
onto the bar, I realized that the only thing keeping her from
leaving the platform was Candace's grip on the back of her harness.
"Next time I'll play it up. I think I'm ready."
"Don't look down!" Candace warned her.
Yet Alexa's eyes dropped, and renewed fear suddenly clawed at
her. Why did she have to be so rebellious? She forced her eyes up
to me again and nodded her head with conviction. "Okay, let's go!"
Candace released her and Alexa pushed off the platform, flying
down and then up toward me as I cheered her on. "That's my girl!"
Air blasted against Alexa's skin. She was screaming like a
horrified, little girl as she soared backward, wrestling with the
heart-thumping fear. Our gazes locked as she swung forward, but a
split-second later she was soaring backward again, still screaming.
Candace began laughing hysterically, causing Alexa to lose her grip
on the bar. She fell like heavy lead to the net and bounced like
a basketball. I landed on the other side of the net, sending Alexa
up into the air again, laughing as I made my way over and she
tumbled to the place where I wanted her most - in my arms.
"You did it!" I gave Alexa a bear hug and kissed her several
times - on her cheeks, her lips, her forehead, her lips again -
rumbling and hugging her so tight, I never wanted to let go.
"OH MY GOD THAT WAS INSANE!" Alexa screeched, clinging onto me
tightly, as if her life depended upon it.
Alexa had me experimenting and opening up to her so much more
as of late, bringing me out of my self-imposed cocoon, and I felt
safe and secure sharing parts of myself that I never had with other
women before. I was not afraid to take a risk, or think outside
the box with Alexa. "What was it like conquering that fear?"
Her smile was golden, just as I had hoped. "It was crazy.
Like nothing else in the whole world existed. I never felt so
frightened, just like Candace said I would, but then there YOU
were, Jeremy, and you looked so happy..." She pressed her lips to
mine and then all that giddiness vanished, and her expression
turned serious. "We have to do it again. I lost my grip."
She began crawling across the net on her hands and knees, but
I snatched her ankle and reeled her back to me, and kissed her
hard. "You're so fucking hot, you know that?" The firm set of
her jaw told me that she was too focused to be affected by my
praise, and her determination to go back up and do this again
filled me with joy. It also turned me on. I had taken a big
chance bringing her here. I bet on her wanting to conquer the
challenge, but after our discussion in the parking lot, I felt
worried that I may have pushed her too far.
"Let me get down first so I can help you." I held onto the
net and flipped over the edge in one quick, blinding motion.
"Wow." Alexa gripped the edge of the net but by the time she
realized I was going to have her flip off as well, it was too
late. She was already in the air and landed an instant later
square on her feet beside me, my hands splayed out over her sides
for balance and support. She was always safe with me. "Whoa."
I wrapped her in my arms. "I've got you. Always."
She went up to her toes and kissed me again. I loved this
habit of hers. "Come on." Alexa turned and took off for the
ladder, even grabbing my hand and dragging me along with her.
"Candace said I could try to jump to you!"
Not one to give up, Alexa quickly learned to hang on the bar,
then to hang from her feet, and also how to control when she fell.
Amazing. She tried for more than an hour to master the jump. We
both hung from our feet, my arms outstretched, Alexa's face a
mask of sheer willpower, as we worked together to find our groove.
Several falls, an endless array of laughter, and too many kisses
to count later, we did just that.
* * *
The evening could not have been more perfect. Fortunately, I
did not have work in the morning - I was off the next three days -
though Alexa did have classes to attend at Kansas University. No
worries; she seemed to function just fine on a mere three or four
hours of sleep, so despite it being 11:00pm, the night was still
young. True to my promise, Alexa and I sat by the edge of the
creek out back while she checked her text messages. Then we went
for a long motorcycle ride before heading back up to Lawrence. I
wanted this night to last forever. Alexa seemed freer than ever
before, and happy. Me too. Truly, blissfully happy.
We picked up takeout from the Italian restaurant on the corner
by our next destination, and soon Alexa seemed confused when I
parked the motorcycle at an apartment building just off campus and
I snuggled her beneath my arm and guided her inside.
"What are we doing here? You don't live here, Jeremy."
At the elevator, I pushed the button for the top floor. "My
other cousin - Piper, Candace's sister - owns this apartment
building." I dangled a set of keys from my finger. "Instead of
taking you all the way to Lake Quivira and then having to drive
you back here later, or dealing with Merissa's presence in your
dorm room, I thought we could have dinner on the roof of cousin
Piper's apartment building. Trust me, it's really cool up there."
When we reached the top floor in the elevator, I led Alexa to a
door at the very end of the hallway. I unlocked it and allowed her
to pass through, and followed her up the narrow stairwell that led
to the roof. I pushed open the final door, revealing not only a
breathtaking view of the city lights, but also a bed of plush
blankets and five colorful balloons, all with the name _Lexi_ and
heart designs and logos splattered over them.
"Jeremy!" she screeched. "This is beautiful! When did you
have time to set all this up?"
"Before I picked you up earlier." I set the food on a table
and Alexa immediately came to me, like a magnet, her lips curved
into a smile, and promptly guided my arms around her. Standing on
her toes, she touched her lips to mine and purred like a kitten.
"Miss [Last Name], you can flirt all you want, but this is a
no-sex night, and I refuse to be swayed."
She laughed. "I might not be trying to sway you."
"You're not sure?" I teased.
"I want to thank you. You obviously put a lot of time and
effort into our date, a lot of thought, and it means the world to
me. I never imagined that a single date would make me feel ten
times closer to you than I already do." Hmmmmm, honesty.
"It wasn't the single date." I lowered my lips to her neck,
which I had been doing all night. And that was fine with Alexa.
Now if I could only follow her around 24 hours per day and give
her a nibble here, a kiss there, a slick of my tongue everywhere,
I would surely know what eternal bliss felt like.
"It was every moment we have spent together, every phone call,
every text, every glance, every smile, that brought us here
tonight." I again framed her face with my hands and kissed her
tenderly. "That's how falling in love and eventually getting
married happens. How it works. One step at a time. Baby steps."
Alexa giggled. "You're big on this marriage thing. You know I
just started my freshman year in college, right?"
I smiled and touched my lips to hers again. I would never get
enough of her kisses. "I'm willing to wait for how ever long it
takes. Right now, I'm so happy just to be with you."
We ate dinner bundled up together in a series of blankets, even
sharing our entrees, and when Alexa's smartphone buzzed with the
millionth message of the evening, she powered it down.
"The world didn't end when we were with Candace, so I'm pretty
sure we're safe for a while. But I'll have to check in a bit. I
don't want Merissa to start worrying about me if I don't respond."
She then lifted her bottled water and proclaimed, "To our mostly
phone-free date." We clanked bottles and drank to the toast.
After we finished eating, Alexa and I lay underneath the stars,
cuddled together in the warm blankets, our fingers intertwined,
simply talking about whatever came to mind. Just like I had hoped.
Alexa was finding out how fun and special moments like this could
be without distractions from her smartphone. I did not blame her,
though, as she had grown up in the digital age. We kicked off our
shoes beneath the blankets, and every so often, Alexa rubbed her
foot over mine. It was such a little thing, her toe moving along
the arch of my foot or the underside of her foot sliding over top
of mine, yet it felt extremely intimate and sensual.
"I'm really happy that you're giving us some time without your
phone buzzing every minute," I told her. "I know that's not easy
for you, and I want you to know how much I truly appreciate it."
"Baby steps, right?"
"That is a big one, though. I don't want to change you, Lexi,
but I'm glad you're learning that you don't necessarily need that
phone with you at all times to function. There's value in your
downtime, being without your phone for a while."
"The only value I see here is being with YOU."
"I know, and I appreciate that. I really do."
She squinted over at me. "I should be careful stroking your
ego the way I do. I might give you a big head."
I motioned toward my lower half. "My OTHER head is always big
whenever you are around me, honey, or I am thinking about you." She
laughed again. I wanted to bottle this feeling, that laugh, and
hold onto it. "But I promised I wouldn't bring it out tonight."
"That's neither here nor there," Alexa countered. "THAT big
head is not caused by stroking your ego."
I smiled. "Feel free to stroke other parts of me, then."
"God, Jeremy. You have a dirty, dirty mind, but I love it."
"Your lips are smiling, but your eyes suddenly speak of trouble,"
I said after a few seconds of observation. "What's up, honey?"
"How can you be so in tune to me every minute of the day?"
Alexa lifted onto her elbow, matching my position and tracing her
forefinger over my right bicep.
I placed my hand on her hip and clutched her heated skin. She
had such slender, firm hips, and that simple touch made me want to
forget everything else in the world, wrap my arms around her neck,
and kiss her from now until the end of time.
Yet, something was wrong.
"Lexi? Talk to me, angel."
"When we were at the warehouse earlier, Jeremy, you said
something that caught my attention. Another cousin of yours,
Brooke? You said she LOVED the trapeze bars." Alexa gulped
her throat and looked over at me from within my arms with a
combination of trepidation and curiosity etched across her face.
It made my chest tighten. She was so incredibly kind, sweet and
beautiful, and deserved nothing but the absolute best in life.
"Brooke was my favorite cousin. She was sisters with Candace
and Piper." Sadness washed all over my face at once. "We lost
her when I was 12. 1986. Brooke was the same age as me. I... I
loved her like a sister. She was very special to me."
Alexa took a deep breath but remained silent for a moment as
emotions clogged her features. "I don't know what words could
possibly make that feel less awful. I'm sorry seems so small,
but I'm sorry. I cannot imagine losing a family member." Alexa
paused for a moment, then sighed. "I'm sorry about your cousin,
but you said she was like a sister to you... oh, Jeremy." Alexa
rested her head upon my chest and held me, my heart beating
steady and evenly against her cheek.
"Brooke was the coolest kid. She was funny, and smart, and
rebellious. Kind of like you." I lifted my hips, pulling my
wallet from my back pocket. I fished around in it for a brief
moment, then soon withdrew a small laminated picture and handed
it to Alexa. The edges were worn and curled. Cracks mapped the
lamination like wrinkles on skin.
"That's Brooke. I took this picture of her on Easter Sunday
in 1986. We had a big family reunion at my old home, my parents'
place, in Pleasant Grove. I loved to hang out with Brooke, as
well as Candace and Piper. Brooke dreamed of being famous when
she got older. She always said she was moving to Los Angeles and
was going to be a movie star. Even as a little girl, Brooke was
confident, full of charisma. She was the life of the party and,
with my own sister and two brothers all being much older, I looked
at Brooke as my same-aged sister. She... she was my best friend."
Alexa looked at the young girl in the picture and tears welled
in her eyes. Brooke sat in a lawn chair with her head shifted to
the side. Her long blonde hair was blowing in the wind, hiding
the left side of her face. She wore a pair of pink sweatpants
with Easter Bunny designs on them. There was a grass stain on
her knee and her white sweatshirt had a tree leaf stuck to the
sleeve, because she had run up and flopped onto the chair after
tumbling in the grass with her younger nephew. Brooke appeared
happy and carefree, and that photograph always reminded me of a
time when my life was so much more simple, and uncomplicated.
"I called her _Hollywood_, she called me _Germ_, and she used
to sneak up behind me when I was playing a game or on my computer,
and she'd whisper in my ear, _Germ, I'm bored_, or _Germ, let's
go get into trouble_. Brooke never got into trouble, but she
liked to push the envelope." I looked at the heavens above as
memories from long ago unfolded before me. "I don't know when
or why it started, but when we would have weekend sleepovers at
her house or mine, Brooke would sneak into my room after midnight
and coerce me into making cupcakes with her in the kitchen."
"Cupcakes?" Alexa lifted her head off of my chest, willing
her tears not to fall, and looked at me. Brooke loved cupcakes.
Why she chose me as her personal baker, I had no clue. But
after we lost her - I lost her - I was so happy that she and I
had those times together."
"It sounds like you adored her."
"Yeah," I nodded, my voice cracking, my eyes haunted.
"She was a great kid," I said with finality.
"And she loved the trapeze?" Alexa genuinely wanted to know
more about my cousin, which warmed my heart. She traced a lone
fingertip over the image in the photograph, attempting to find a
connection, or a link, to her.
"Brooke took lessons from her father, who used to own and
operate that fun-zone center, for about a year before... before
she got sick. Leukemia. It took her quickly. It was awful."
My eyes brimmed with tears and I gritted my teeth in remorse.
Clearing my throat, I turned away and breathed deeply. "There is
no feeling worse in the world than losing someone you love."
A tear slipped down Alexa's cheek. "I'm so sorry."
"Me too." I kissed away that tear, gazing into her eyes with
so much emotion that it bubbled over. "You'd have liked Brooke."
"I'm sure I would have. Jeremy, why did you take me to the
trapeze place tonight? Candace said she has known you forever, and
you never brought a date there before. Brooke was special to you."
I was quiet for a moment, lost in thought, contemplating things,
looking at (and through) Alexa at the same time. "I feel connected
to you in ways I haven't felt connected to anyone else, and I guess
I wanted to share Brooke with you." That was rough to say, and the
pain it brought about nearly crushed me to pieces inside.
"Don't," I cut her off. "I've seen the end of life, Lexi. It's
awful. It's not peaceful or painless. I made a decision when I
met you back in June. I want to follow my heart and live life to
the fullest. I'm not going to sit back and wait for life to come
to me anymore. I've done that long enough. It's gotten me nowhere.
From the very moment you snatched away my coffee and the last
doughnut muffin at _Perky's Cafe_ that day, I was drawn to you by
a force stronger than anything I've ever experienced before. Our
relationship is unique and challenging. I'm the goody-two-shoes
doctor living in a quiet, gated community. You're the college
cheerleader attending a campus known for its wild, legendary
parties. I'm too old for you, people say. You're too young for
me." I shook my head and added, "I don't care. All I know is
that you are the brass ring, and I want to grab it. I want to own
it. But at the same time, I want to be YOUR brass ring, too."
"I know," she said softly. "I feel it too, and I want it. I
like it that you're literally twice my age. You're older than both
of my parents, even. I find that SEXY! You being a doctor makes
the attraction all the more intense. Doctors, you know, saved my
life when I almost died in the hospital. But I'm not experienced
at all when it comes to dating. Jeremy, you're sexy, you're fun
and spontaneous moments all wrapped up into one spectacular man.
But sometimes, I get so swept up in you, I worry..." She dropped
her eyes to our joined hands, now outside of the blankets.
"You worry?..." I dipped my head, meeting her gaze.
"I don't want to mess this up, either," Alexa confided. "What
you and I have, that is. I haven't dated for such a long time, and
there is a reason for that. Many reasons, actually, but one of
them being that I don't do things casually, or on a whim. I'm very
picky. I like to go full-in, all-out, especially when it comes to
relationships. I'm not the type to search around and dabble, as
you mentioned earlier. It's just how I am. I held my ground for
two years, waiting for the perfect person to finally come along.
The perfect person for me." She again gulped her throat. "For as
much as you like me, Jeremy, as much as you are attracted to me,
my feelings are the same for you. If not stronger."
I smiled and moved in closer, my breath becoming hers. "You
waited two years for me?"
"No," she gently murmured, "I've waited my entire life for you."
"Oh, Lexi." My insides went soft. "You make me want all the
things I've lived without for so long." I took her hand in mine.
"Love, happiness, just peace with myself... a family. Kids."
Alexa raised an eyebrow. "You never took Suzi to the trapeze
place? Your ex-fiancee? Yet you took me?"
"You're the only woman I've ever felt close enough to... to
actually want to share that memory, that place, with. Besides,
Suzi? She would have freaked out... at the sight of all of the
things you saw tonight. Suzi was not the adventurous, live-free
type like you are. And I... I feel, in a way, by bringing you
there, I introduced you to Brooke tonight. I... I did. I still
think about her a lot. I wanted Brooke to meet you. I... I went
to her gravesite two weeks ago, and told her all about you. Two
days... after you gave your virginity to me, even."
"I'd be happy to talk with you about any and all of this,
Jeremy, and how it makes you feel anytime you'd like. I want you
to tell me everything there is to know about your cousin Brooke.
I want to see more pictures and any home movies you have of her.
I also want to get to know Candace more, and meet this Piper."
I dropped my gaze, fighting back tears. I had kept so much
bottled up inside of me so long - the hurt, the loss, the anguish
of wondering why Brooke was yanked away from us at such a young
age - but just knowing that Alexa was simply willing to listen,
lend a sympathetic ear, was more than enough. Yet she was so much
more. She was offering... SO MUCH MORE. Alexa did not realize
how big a gift I considered just having her in my life was right
now. She made me want to strip away whatever walls I had left
and just bare my heart and soul to her.
"You have your whole life ahead of you, Lexi. Everything is
so bright, and I want to keep it that way. Me? I have wounded
life issues, even wasted life issues. I wish I could be 19 again."
"I don't," she proclaimed. "I like you being 36. If you were
19, I honestly would not have ever even noticed you. You'd be just
another guy to me... though, you'd be a cute guy." She shrugged
one shoulder, and a coy smile lifted her lips. "You being older,
Jeremy, is SEXY to me. It's HOT; I like it. And your life isn't
going to be wasted, or lonely, from now on. I'm going to see to
it." Alexa kissed me flush on the lips and ended, "Personally."
I chuckled gently. I wanted more of this; exchanging truths and
not hating them - or regretting I said them - so much that it made
me sick later on. I wanted to marry this girl so much. I wanted to
have babies with her. Yet I respected the fact that she was young,
and I was going to give her what ever space (and time) she needed.
"After Suzi cheated on me six years ago and our relationship
was destroyed, I went into a shell and felt unworthy of love," I
frowned. "Totally unworthy. We were engaged; I was two months
from marrying her. I'm just glad the marriage never happened."
"You ARE worthy." Alexa took both of my hands into hers and
looked me dead center in the eyes. "But, Jeremy, you ask me a
lot, why me? Why you? And every time I see you, every time we
talk, or kiss, or just look at each other, all I can think is, how
can you NOT know how incredible you are? How are you not already
married? How come some other woman didn't snatch you up long ago?"
My stomach twisted. Why me? As always, why me? Those words,
though she did not mean them that way, actually felt quite harsh
from Alexa. Yet she was right. It was a major weakness on my
part. Constantly needing to ask _why me_ flat-out sucked.
"This is the best part about what you and I have," Alexa said.
"Communication, learning about each other. Being honest. It is
hard at times, but it is so beautiful. And when you go home
tonight, Jeremy, I want you to look into the mirror and see what
I see instead of doubting that you're the best man on the planet
for me." Alexa kissed me then, a warm, languid kiss, underscoring
her heartfelt sentiments. "And don't roll your eyes or think that
I'm exaggerating. Full-in, all-out, remember? I mean it."
The tightness in my stomach eased. "You make me want to
believe everything that you say."
Alexa grinned. "Just like you do to me." She leaned forward
and pressed her lips to mine. Alexa slipped her hand behind my
neck, to the base of my skull, so she could deepen the kiss. Heat
warmed my veins as her other hand pulled me closer to her. I
squeezed my thighs together, trying to quell the ache that this
constant barrage of kissing had caused tonight. This was not
supposed to be a sexual date and although I desperately wanted to
take it there now, I held steadfast, wanting to keep my promise.
When our lips parted, Alexa touched her cheek to mine and said,
"I'll help you find eternal happiness if you help me find it, too."
"Yes," I whispered. "I want that with you. Together. But my
greatest fault? My biggest fear?" I paused, then frowned. "I
want to move so quickly, and you may get too much of me."
"I want too much of you, Jeremy. And more."
As our lips touched, my fears vanished into thin air, leaving
only Alexa. Sweet, honest, breaking-through-my-barriers, Alexa...