After three weeks of watering, soil testing, fertilizing and begging my snapdragons are withering on brownish stems heading toward the light of flower heaven. I don’t know why I’m surprised. Seems like everything I’ve touched has turned to dust.
This isn’t what I wanted or where I wanted to be in this time of my life. I tried to make the divorce into a “new beginning” the way all the books say. I pasted the quotes about closed doors and opened windows on my cubicle wall. I joined a gym, bought a new house and started a new life just like Dr. Phil advises viewers all the time. I even dug out this flower bed beside the fence thinking bright cheery flowers would symbolize the promising future I was going to have now that my husband and his new-lover-former-assistant are out of my hair. But everything’s dead!
“Why are you dying?” I scream at the flowers in frustration. Hot tears of regret, pain and helplessness roll down my cheek as I sink to my knees and pound helplessly at the selfish soil unwilling to give my flowers life. “All I want is some beauty in my life. Why can’t you do that? Why can’t you just give me some beauty?”
“Starter seeds,” Harry says with sudden and startling clarity. Unaware he was watching me over the small garden fence, I jump up and hastily wipe the tears from my face.
“Hot out here,” I chuckle, praying he doesn’t figure out those were tears and not beads of sweat falling down my face. Even with the sun behind him I can see his blue eyes shining with his easy smile. He must have just come in from work as grease stains cover his large masculine hands and his work sleeves are still rolled up revealing his toned forearms and showcasing his tight biceps. Harry is my new friend, and the neighborhood Adonis.
“Too hot for these fragile flowers,” he says knowingly then softens his voice. “And, maybe, too hot for you.”
“I’m okay. It’s just been a rough year so far and I was hoping the summer sun would make things more light.” That’s the most revealing thing I’ve ever said to Harry. I watch for signs of his repulsion at my weakness or worse – pity. But he just keeps smiling at me then points to the pale pink splotch on my arm.
“If you don’t use some sunscreen you’re going to be red, not light,” he advises. “Anyway, what you needed were starter seeds. You grow them inside until they become strong and then you expose them to the world. It’s too late to start them for this summer but by fall you can start some for the spring.”
Harry walks back to his garage and I can’t help but stare at his beautiful butt as he goes. I owe him a lot. He’s the one who really started bringing me back to life. John and his new-lover-former-assistant had really put me through the ringer. The first time I caught them, it as a “fling” and we went on a couple’s vacation; the second time it was a “setback” and we went to counseling; the third time it was a reality and we went to divorce court. I came out with the savings account, a box full of photos of a man I didn’t know anymore, and so little self esteem I could store it in a thimble.
I bought this cute little house in the burbs, changed jobs so I didn’t have to deal with prying eyes and tried to begin again. But it’s hard when you eat alone at night and fall asleep with the TV on really loudly because you’re trying to drown out the voice in your head that’s saying, “Maybe it was you.” I lost myself for a while. I barely left the house, let my body, hair and interests go and just existed on self pity and Chinese take-out. Then, I noticed Harry. Built and beautiful, he was always puttering around the garage workshop and the yard. Ginny pays almost no attention to him but I can’t understand why. If he were my man, I’d ride that ride every day and twice on Sundays.
Suddenly, I started caring again. I re-started my workouts, bought some lovely sun dresses and found every excuse I could to be outside. Harry would wave or chat and Ginny started coming over for coffee. She’s somewhat annoying, but harmless. A casual wink or glance from Harry would make my heart triple its pace and one morning as we were both walking to our cars he said I looked lovely. I floated on clouds all the way to work.
“It’s harmless flirting,” I tell myself. I want to believe that. But the truth is, with every wave of my fingers and toss of my hair I am intruding on someone else’s marriage, and I know what that feels like. So, I try to rein it in. But then I catch him peeking over my fence to catch a view of my legs or looking at breasts while I’m pulling weeds and I start enticing him all over again. The last week of summer we hit an apex.
I was sunning myself in the back, stretched out on a chair in the smallest bikini I could find without getting arrested for exposure when Harry appeared over the fence. I sat up to talk, casually spreading some sunscreen on my arms.
“I see you took my advice,” Harry said, his voice deepening seductively. “Sunscreen is always a good idea for skin as fair as yours.”
“Well, it does help,” I offered, standing to the side so he coulf see my profile. “But there are always those pesky spots on my back I never seem to reach.”
“Let me help,” he called and motioned for me to come to the fence. I walked over slowly, straining to hold in my breath and appear in control. Somehow I managed to hand him the sunscreen and turn without exploding or giggling like I was thirteen. Then the world turned into an electric current as his thick strong fingers touched my skin. He put just enough lotion to need to rub it in good and deep; every movement of his hand on my body sending shockwaves throughout my whole system. I was just about ready to turn and have him coat my breasts as well when Ginny’s car pulled up and I came to my senses.
“Hi Dana,” Ginny said as she climbed out of the driver’s seat and stood there looking at her nearly naked neighbor standing at the fence with her husband holding sunscreen. I blushed and squirmed. “Let’s get together in the morning!”
“Sure, Ginny,” I shouted back, amazed and grateful she was oblivious to the compromising situation. I took the lotion from Harry and squeaked a “thanks” before trotting into the house. I’m sure I looked foolish, applying sunscreen then going inside, but I was so wet between my legs I was mortified someone would see the evidence of my desire. Harry just waved and went over to Ginny’s car to help with the groceries.
All night long I paced, longed and cried. How could I do this to another woman? How could I subject anyone to the same humiliating horror I went through? Why can’t I just walk away from this? Then my mind would remember the warm touch of his rough hands on my silky flesh and I would want him all over again.
Later that night as I stood before the window of my room, I removed the bathing suit and stood naked in the mirror imagining his gaze. All of a sudden I realized the window shade was still open! Crossing the room to pull the curtains, I saw him in his workshop, the light on, looking up at my window. I didn’t have to imagine his gaze – I had it! He smiled when he saw me looking down, licked his lips and turned away. The strength left my legs and I fell back on the bed fantasizing about him taking me over and over again.
“I don’t have a lot of time, just a quick cup for me,” Ginny squawked as she sat down the next morning. I could barely meet her eyes knowing the thoughts I was having about her husband. “I’m off to Smithfield to see my family for the day.”
“It must be nice to have family close enough to see,” I replied, busying myself with the sugar.
“Smithfield is almost three hours but it’s always worth it.” Ginny was distracted and hyper today. She talked about the problems with the neighborhood, carrying on the same useless chatter as last time about the Conner’s dog and Harrison’s drunk driving record and what Halloween decorations the neighborhood association doesn’t allow. Ginny’s ongoing war with the association was usually good for a laugh, but I felt guilty and indulged her hatred of them.
“So, if they are that strict about Halloween,” I said with a smile. “What are you possibly going to put in your yard for Christmas?”
“Oh, I’ll be gone by then,” Ginny replied automatically, then put her hand over her mouth.
“Are you and Harry travelling for the holidays?” I was crushed. I had already planned a Christmas Eve dinner for them and picked out all kinds of outfits and reasons I might need Harry’s help through the season just to flirt with him some more. Flirting with Harry was my only pastime. How could I endure my first Christmas alone without it?
“No,” Ginny said flatly, then leaned over and whispered as if she was plotting to murder Santa Claus. “Can you keep a secret?”
“I’m not going to Smithfield to see my family.”
“I’m going to Greenville.”