What Has Come Before: It's January of 1996, and... Oh, hell, if you really want to know what's happened before, go read the previous chapters! Thanks for your time!
* * * * *
The coffee was great, the breakfast was filling, and Millie was nice enough to give us the key to a different room (with a working heater). None of the other motel guests showed up at the restaurant while we were there, so Millie sat down with us and talked... and talked...
Art stayed in the kitchen, which was fine by me. The old grump.
It was still snowing when Eve and I entered our new room shortly before eleven a.m.
"So, now what?" asked Eve.
"We can sit here and tell each other our life stories, or we can watch TV... assuming the set works."
"Why wouldn't it?"
"Have you forgotten the heater in the other room so soon, doll?" She smiled. "Besides, maybe she figured we wouldn't be interested in watching TV."
"She called us 'young marrieds,' Dan, not newlyweds. And either way, we're neither."
"Mm. So, TV it is?"
"Yes, let's do that! Millie said they have that new cable channel, TCM!"
"Oh, yeah, Turner Classic Movies! That's the one that shows all the old films! Too bad we don't have popcorn. I'd gladly let you eat out of my box."
"Nice try. I may be a 'goody two-shoes,' but I'm no dummy. I know about that trick. The boy buys popcorn in one of those collapsible boxes theaters sell it in, places the box on his lap, and when the girl reaches into the box she finds more than she bargained for." I didn't reply. "Right?"
"Yeah. Hey, it was just a joke. You know that."
"Oh, I know. But one you didn't think I'd get. Am I right again?"
In response to that, I just sighed, and made a mental note: Do not underestimate this little lady a second time.
As the snow continued to fall, we spent the afternoon alternating between watching old movies and talking. At one point, I braved the elements and walked outside to grab a couple more sandwiches from the machine, and some sodas from the machine next to it. (No popcorn available, in case you're wondering. Heh.) Stupid, really, considering that we could have had a much better meal, and for free, if we'd gone to the motel restaurant.
But I wanted Eve all to myself, if that makes any sense.
We sat on the floor in front of the TV set, not three feet away from each other. Eve and I talked about a lot of things, between classic comedies on TCM. She was willing to talk about the early, happier days of her marriage, but artfully parried any attempts I made to talk about her current situation with Russ. I in turn regaled her with the ups and downs of my failed marriage. In fact, as it turns out, Eve had married Russ somewhere about the same time as my relationship with Tammy had fallen apart.
We talked about our individual upbringings. My one sibling and I had been raised by a loving, workaholic mom who'd shocked small-town society in the early 1960s by "daring" to divorce her unfaithful husband. Eve, on the other hand, had been raised in a large, tightly-knit family which she seldom saw since her move from Oregon to Iowa when her husband's company had transferred him several years ago.
In terms of what I'll politely refer to as "romance," Eve and I seemed as different as could be. I was never a monk, neither before I married Tammy, nor after my marriage fell apart and I was a so-called free man again. But at least I can say that I was a faithful husband. And when I was in my twenties, and touring the Northeast bars with a moderately successful blues band, I had plenty of opportunities that my wife back home need never have discovered, had I taken them.
Eve had told me that morning, of course, that Russ was the only man she'd been with since their marriage, but during that afternoon she confided in me that he was the only one she'd ever been with at all. And when I -- nosy li'l cuss that I am -- asked if she had been a virgin on her wedding night, she told me as politely as possible that it was none of my business.
With any other woman, I'd have guessed that meant she hadn't been. But somehow, with Eve, I got the feeling that the opposite was the case, and that she was hesitant to admit it because, true to form, I kept teasing her about being what she called a goody two-shoes.
I sort of surprised myself at one point, soon after we'd eaten our late lunch, when I idly observed that I tended to swear a lot... at least, up until the previous night. Not so surprisingly, she asked why I was acting differently from the norm. "I'm not sure, doll," I answered, "There's just something about you that makes me wanna clean up my act when I'm around you."
She seemed genuinely confused by that. "Oh?" she'd said, "And exactly how much 'cleaning up' does your 'act' need?"
Then it was my turn not to answer her.
Eve shook her head and looked into my eyes with those blue eyes of her own. Yeah, I said blue. My impression from a distance, when I'd first noticed her at that truck stop, was that they were either brown or hazel. But they were neither. They were a deep, dark blue, a shade I'd never seen before, a shade that was -- like the rest of her, inside and out -- strikingly lovely, and unique. "I'm not perfect," she said, "and I'm no angel." I really wanted to tell her that she certainly seemed like both to me, but I kept my mouth shut. "I'm not some wide-eyed innocent, either. You can be yourself when you're with me, Dan." She suddenly got this impish look on her pretty face. "Well, within reason."
I felt very odd just then, and had to fight the powerful urge to kiss her that swelled up inside of me.
She must have seen something on my face, or again, in my eyes, because she almost whispered, "What is it, Dan? What on earth are you thinking?"
Well, you asked, damn it. "I'm thinking... that I've never wanted to kiss anyone as strongly as I do you, right now."
I expected her to jump back about a yard or two, but she just smiled a funny smile and said, "Ohhh... Well, don't." She said it firmly, but gently, as if guessing (correctly) that simply saying that was enough to keep me from doing so.
It was definitely time to watch another movie.
TO BE CONTINUED... NOW! (Part Five was so short, I didn't dare try to get away with only that!)
During the late afternoon, Eve and I both ended up falling asleep on the floor in front of the television. I woke up first, somewhere around six. I looked over, and there she was, two feet away, sleeping on her side with one of "our" bed's pillows beneath her head. I'm not sure how long I sat there staring at her before she finally opened her eyes... which is a shame (the "I'm not sure" part, that is) because that's the first thing she asked me as she saw me, and smiled.
"Hey, doll," I said, in greeting.
"Hey, yourself," she replied. "How long have you been studying me?"
"Well, it seemed like a more polite term than 'staring,' Dan."
"I dunno... Maybe ten minutes, maybe fifteen... Maybe an hour."
"Cute. Why didn't you wake me?"
"I didn't see a reason to. Plus, you looked so peaceful, and beautiful, just resting there."
"Thanks," Eve said, sitting up. "You're not too shy when it comes to flattery, are you?"
"I wouldn't call it flattery. Flattery generally means excessive, and insincere. I plead mea culpa to excessive, but I only compliment someone when I mean it. And you really are beautiful."
She grinned. "Okay... if you say so."
"I do, doll. Because you are."
"Okay, then, so what do you want to do tonight? Granted, with this blizzard, our options are still limited. But we still get free meals, don't we? No sense in you continuing to shell out money to that sandwich machine. And Millie said that Art might entertain any guests who show up at the restaurant." And she also invited me to join in, I thought.
"Yeah, right. I can only imagine what he calls entertainment."
"Dan... Why not give him a chance before you judge him?"
I thought "judge" was a bit harsh, but coming from her... well... not so much. "I was just basing my opinion of him on the attitude he gave us when we checked in, and the fact that he gave us the room with the busted heater," I said, somewhat defensively.
"Well, we did wake him at, what, two in the morning?"
"Something like that..."
"I can only imagine how you would have reacted, being woken up in the middle of the night."
I couldn't suppress a laugh at that one. "Okay, doll, point taken." I shook my head in mild amazement. "You really can see the good side of everyone, can't you?"
"Almost everyone," she teased. "I'm still not too sure about you." The smile on her face let me know she was kidding.
I resisted the urge I suddenly had to take her in my arms. Not for anything more than a hug, I should add. But I knew all the signs; I was falling for her. She was so good-hearted, it touched a side of me that usually doesn't get touched. "Hm. You seem to trust me, somewhat." She nodded, but didn't reply. I suppose there was no need to, really. "Mind if I ask why?"
"Why I trust you? Or..." She smiled mischievously. "Or why I seem to trust you? Fishing for compliments, Dan? Or even flattery?"
Oh, I liked the way she played word games!
Eve suddenly looked at me seriously. "A lot of things could have happened last night, but didn't. And I don't just mean the most obvious one, which is that you slept beside me and didn't try anything."
"That was the hardest part," I admitted. Well, second hardest, perhaps, I thought, but decided to keep that crude little joke to myself. "But I knew what would happen if I'd even leaned over for a friendly, innocent little kiss right then."
"What would have happened, exactly?"
"What would have happened?" I repeated. "Well, you would have slapped my face, screamed at the top of your lungs, and gone running to tell Art to take his shotgun out of mothballs." She smiled, flashing those captivating pearly-whites of hers... "You know he's got one, too," I added.
Eve laughed, then turned serious again. "No... I don't think I would have slapped you. Not for just trying to kiss me, if that had been all you'd done. I would have gotten out of the bed, true, and..." She looked at me even more seriously, if that were possible. "And I would have been very disappointed in you at that point."
And now I knew exactly why I hadn't "tried anything," not even an attempt at a "friendly, innocent little kiss."
My guess as to her exact reaction may have been a bit off, but I knew that her still-forming impression of me would have been ruined. I'd sensed it the previous night. But it was only at that exact moment during our conversation that I consciously realized how very important to me Eve's opinion of me in general had become, even at that earlier time.
Damn. I was indeed falling for her.
"Uhhh... Sweetheart," I said -- and I didn't miss the slight rise of her eyebrows at my use of that particular term -- "I think you and I should go check out the restaurant. Now."
* * * * *
And now, before I sign off...
Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro...
...and Blogger-blogger Patrick Hatt!
Separated at birth???
(Hey, Pat: If this part bugs you for any reason, let me know ASAP and I'll delete it!)
Thanks for your time.