Matt awoke at midnight. His walk through the past had reawakened feelings he thought were long dead. He rose and went into the master bath. Standing at the sink, he gazed into the mirror.
It had been five years since he shared this room with anyone. He had not even attempted to get over the pain. And that was what loss was. Pain.
Juanita had been his whole life. He’d thought they would grow old together. But it hadn’t been meant to be. She had been a brief reminder of how it felt to be happy. When he lost her, he felt as if he had lost all hope.
That had been what had sent him back into drinking himself silly. The pain had been too much. He felt he had nothing left to live for. He smiled.
He likened it to a change in seasons. He had gone from endless summer to endless winter. There had been no autumn. No chance to get used to the idea that she would be gone. One day she was there, the next she was gone. Or so it seemed.
But illnesses are like that. Unpredictable. Uncontrollable. Ultimately lethal.
But now, there seemed to be a thawing. A renewed spring of sorts. Winter’s frost was starting to disappear. And Amanda was the reason.
She gave him a renewed hope. She warmed his heart. She gave him a reason to go on living. He felt like a teenager again.
He knew it was preposterous, even unbelievable, but he was beginning to love her. Beginning? Oh, hell. Why not call it what it was? He did love her. There was no starting. He had loved her from the moment he set his eyes on her.
It was called love at first sight. He just didn’t know how she felt about him. Earlier in the evening, they had made beautiful music together on the piano. Playing in almost perfect unison, they had entertained everyone. But was he mistaking that as her loving him? After all, she had sat down on the piano bench with him of her own free will and decided with him what they were about to do. Maybe that was just her being friendly. He didn’t know.
His mind was racing. But his heart seemed to be overly calm. Strange. How could his heart be at peace when his mind was not?
He turned on the cold water and rinsed his face. He needed to find a snack. He needed to go sit and think about this. Yes. A couple almond twill cookies and a glass of warm milk would do some good.
He threw on his night robe and tied the belt. He may have grown up during the sexual revolution, but he wasn’t a prude. He didn’t walk his house in the nude. Especially not when he had company.
He slipped out the door of his bedroom and headed for the kitchen. Midnight snacks weren’t really that good for a person, but he didn’t care. He would work it off later.
He crept quietly down the stairs and turned to the left, walking down the hall silently. Instead of the dark he was accustomed to, he found the kitchen light on. At the middle island with a small tub of ice cream sat Amanda. She looked up and blushed.
She lowered her head. “Oh, sorry. I-I didn’t mean to–”
He smiled. “You didn’t wake me. And the food is there to be eaten, not to be looked at. Help yourself. I would have been into the almond twills myself, though.”
He went to the cabinet and got down the cookie jar. He put his hand in and produced half a dozen, Replacing the lid, he put the jar back in the cabinet. from another cabinet, he sat out a glass and a cup.
Taking the cup over to the fridge, he poured milk into it and then put the cup into the microwave for 30 seconds. Just long enough to warm the milk, not make it hot. He poured the milk from the cup into the small glass, then sat down beside her.
He looked over at her. “This seat wasn’t taken, was it?”
She smiled at him. “No, and I can’t think of anyone else I would want sitting there.” She pushed away the tub of ice cream. “Besides. my heart wasn’t into the ice cream.”
He handed her three of the six twills, then set the glass between them where they could take turns dunking the cookies in it. “Couldn’t sleep?”
She shook her head. “No. You?”
He smiled. “No, I had too much running through my mind. You?”
She looked up at him. “Yes. I-I haven’t ever felt this way.”
He looked over at her. “How?”
She blushed again. “In love. I have never been in a relationship.” It was somewhat mumbled, but he heard it nonetheless and smiled.
He dunked a twill. “I have, but it has been a while. I was afraid I was the only one.”
She reached over and took his hand. “Sitting at the piano tonight and playing duets was wonderful. I have never been able to do that. Not even at recitals. It was as if we had been meant to play together.”
He smiled understandingly and slipped his arm around her. “I learned how to play the piano that way. All my teachers taught me through duets. They would play a piece for me to hear, then place my fingers on the lower keys that corresponded with the=e higher ones they were playing. They would have me follow their movements in that fashion. It sounded pretty crappy at first, but got better as I did.
“It felt wonderful to do it again. Especially with someone who loves music as much as I do.”
He bent close and kissed her cheek. She smiled. She lifted her lips and placed them on his, kissing him. He took it all in, allowing himself to linger in the kiss.
He gently drew away so he could place the cup and glass in the sink, then returned for another kiss. “That should help me sleep. What about you?”
She looked up into his eyes. “The cookies? Or the kiss?”
He smiled. “Both.”
She smiled up at him. “Oh, yes.”
He took his leave of the kitchen as she went to put the ice cream back in the freezer. His mind had suddenly quieted with her confession. Once back up the stairs and in his room, he removed his robe. He went over to the bed and sat down to kick off his slippers. Looking toward the darkened doorway to the hall, he saw her standing there.
She waited for him to motion her on in, then removed her own robe as she approached the bed. He smiled knowingly. This night was becoming more interesting with every minute that passed. If it was a dream, he didn’t want it to end.