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The Hero Experience - Chapter 20

 
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 7:27 pm    Post subject: The Hero Experience - Chapter 20 Reply with quote


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Chapter 20

The waiter slipped up silently to refill our water glasses. I thanked him, and he gave me a wise smile as he glanced from me to my lovely date. I got the impression he wanted to give me a quick thumbs up for being such a lucky clodhopper.

He cleared away the dinner dishes with professional speed, asked us if we wanted coffee or dessert, and left us alone when we declined. The service here at the Top of the Mart restaurant was as good as the food. And the décor was plum gorgeous. There was a garden in the middle with a fountain made of granite, and the whole shebang was bordered by a low brick wall. Massive beams in the ceiling supported a large translucent skylight, and fifteen-foot trees in big ceramic planters stood at attention all around the room.

There were enough plants in this place to make Africa jealous.



I only had two complaints: the prices were too high and the tables were too large. I couldn't sit right next to Ann as I usually did.

I looked across at Ann, who was breathtakingly beautiful in a long dress of clinging material, with two thin straps over her shoulders to hold it up and boldly proclaim that Ann was, as they say, a woman fully grown. The dress had a satin sheen with a faint geometric pattern which did crazy things with the light. The color of that dress was not found in any rainbow. It was a kind of bluish-gray color normally reserved for angel's eyes and unicorn horns. That was some dress.

Her blond hair was sculpted crystal, but it flowed and bobbed with her movements as she laughed and nodded. I loved the way she tilted her head slightly to indicate she hadn't quite understood what I'd just said. When she did this, her hair would hang down on the low side of her face while gently caressing the high side. What this alluring, flirtatious gesture really meant, I decided, was that she could see every thought in my silly head, now and forever. That was some hair.

And then there was the face. Ann’s face. That was some face. Yes sir.

“What are you thinking about, handsome?” said Ann.

“I was just thinking about that day at Greenbriar Mall. If you hadn't thrown yourself at me so shamelessly I probably wouldn't have asked you out."

She pretended to be shocked, then she smiled faintly and said, "Yes, I knew you saw right through my hard-to-get routine."

"It was kind of a rocky start, wasn't it?"

She raised her water glass and proposed a toast. "Here's to rocky starts."

I lifted my own glass and touched it to hers. The waiter had brought our water in what appeared to be long-stemmed wine glasses. Holding them by the stems, the nearly-empty leaded glasses made a soft chime when they touched, a chime that hung in the air like the opening note in a symphony I would write someday. If the table hadn’t been so big, I would have kissed her right there.

“Shall we stroll in the moonlight, Cinderella?” I suggested.

“Only until midnight. We must remember my pumpkin-coach.”

The check was lying on a tiny tray near my plate. I put enough money on it to cover the bill, including the tip, which altogether would have made a nice down payment on a good used car. Ann and I strolled out into the breezy September evening. It was fairly warm, even here on the rooftop balcony of the downtown building. This section of the roof was surrounded by a high, wrought iron fence to prevent depressed patrons of the restaurant from jumping to the street below after receiving their huge dinner bills. But the architect had also provided a “skybridge” that went from the terrace to the building on the other side of Peachtree Street, so that desperate people who couldn’t pay the bill could sneak off into the night instead of staining the sidewalk, twenty-two stories below.



Sapling trees in big planters dotted the area, providing a touch of nature to the otherwise concrete environment. The star-filled sky was reduced to a black background because of the bright city lights around us, but we knew they were up there somewhere, so we gazed into the sky together and thought romantic thoughts.

Across the street, we could see the blue plexiglass dome of the Polaris Restaurant atop the Regency Hyatt House. The circular, raised structure bore a remarkable resemblance to a visiting spacecraft that had landed on the roof of the hotel. The aliens had probably booked a deluxe suite in the hotel and then called room service to order some Earth food to sample. I pictured a swanky hotel room with drunken little green men who were slipping the bellhop a couple of bucks to sneak a few Earth girls into their suite.



Ann put an arm around my waist and pulled me close. When I put my hand around her slim waist, the shiny fabric and the curved shape beneath it stole my breath. We walked slowly over to the handrail and looked out across the city. The tiny cars made veins of moving lights, like a conga line of fireflies.

We were both thinking about the fact that school started on Monday. Ann put her head on my shoulder and said, “By Monday, Jones, I’ll just be a summer romance that you’ll remember fondly for a few short weeks.”

“Right. And if I’m lucky, you might actually speak to me when we pass in the halls.”

She hugged me a little closer for a moment. When she spoke again, her voice was as soft as the evening breeze.

“This has been . . . a very special summer for me.”

“Why is that?” I said, wearing the slyest of smiles.

“Are you fishing for a compliment?”

“Shamelessly.”

“Okay. Because of you. Because I like you.”

I put on a big, toothy, squinty-eyed grin as I hugged her energetically like a jovial uncle who thinks his nephews and nieces like to be shaken until they go cross-eyed. With corn-fed Kansas enthusiasm, I exclaimed, “Well, gosh, Annabelle! I like you, too!”

She allowed herself to be shaken violently by my effusive affection, rolling her eyes while her head swung around and her hair whipped itself out of shape. When I stopped, she sagged against me, pretending to pant for breath, her hair disheveled. She reached up and smoothed her hair back, but she stayed close, clinging to me in classic feminine tenderness.

“Ummm . . . just like?” she purred softly.

I was a bit slow to catch on. “Pardon me?”

“You said you liked me.”

“I sure did. And I sure do.”

“Just like ?”she said again, her face turned down, her eyes averted, and her forehead resting on my shoulder. The stars stopped moving across the unseen sky, and the traffic in the street below came to a slow halt while the universe waited to see where this conversation was headed.

I found just enough breath to speak and just enough nerve to say, “What do you want me to feel, Ann?”

There was long pause, then a whispered reply. “More.”

Another long pause while I mulled that one-word answer around in my head and tried to keep from getting tongue tied. Finally, I said, “How much more?”

Ann had her arms around my waist, and I felt her fingernails dig in a little where they rested on my back. She took a deep breath. “Only a shameless wench would throw herself at a man by saying — ”

I misunderstood and started scrambling to apologize. “Ann, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to — ”

"Wait. Let's start over," she said quickly. "Brad, I shouldn't have said I liked you. It's more."

"It's more for me, too." I wanted to say exactly what I felt, but I was brand new at this, and I didn't know the rules.

"You're going to have to say it right out, Brad. I need to know."

I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and whispered, "Okay. Here I go . . . I love you."

She looked up and smiled. "See there? That wasn't so hard, was it?"

"Your turn," I said quietly.

She made me wait three agonizing seconds. Finally — “I love you, too,” she whispered.

My heart starting beating so hard I could hear it pulsing in my ears. Then she arched one blond eyebrow and gave me a skeptical look. "But how do I know I can believe you? You might say that to all the girls you bring up her to the Top of the Mart on moonlit nights." There was mischief in her eyes.

“I’d marry you to prove it, ma’am — but hey, I’m just a kid.”

“Yes, you are, but you’re shapin’ up pretty good.”

A soft chuckle from me, then, ”Thank you.”

“Oh, thank you,” she said with breathy seduction, running her hands up and down my back. She held my adoring gaze as she brought her lips to mine, kissing me for a long moment with enough voltage to light up Broadway.

When the kiss ended, I slid my lips down to her ear and whispered, “I’m sorta new at being in love. If I make any mistakes — ”

“You’re doing fine so far,” she whispered.

“Good. And by the way, so are you . . . you shameless wench.”

And she bit my ear.

____________________________________________


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Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)
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