I couldn't believe that I had fallen asleep in the arms of the dreamiest stranger. I sat in the plane, on my final flight to San Diego, feeling like I was missing something. I was missing him. After a whole day getting to know someone and then they are gone just like that. I'll never forget him. The sensation of his hand in mine lingered, but sadly it was wearing off.
I was consoled by the thought that perhaps we could visit each other soon; but as magical as that moment was with Gavin, deep down inside I knew it was too good to last. He would be going back soon to South Africa, and our chance encounter in Australia, of an adventure in an airport of all places, would remain but a lasting memory.
It's been two weeks since I came back from visiting my Grandparents for spring break. Although it was wonderful seeing them, Gavin remained to be the highlight of my entire trip.
My best friend Aubry, still to this day, doesn't believe me. We've been friends since we were in diapers, and she has never seen me do anything remotely daring as that.
Unfortunately, I came back to a couple of hard weeks. About to graduate from my degree in English Literature, I was determined to finish strong. But I didn't know it would be so time consuming, as I had so much material to memorize for my final exams in two months. I had spoken a couple of times since then with Gavin; I felt horrible for not letting him come down to visit, when he had offered so many times to. I knew I wouldn't be able to spend as much time with him as I'd like.
Unknowingly, Aubry had other plans for me when I had returned. She kept talking about this guy she had met during the break, which I was completely excited about. She's had a couple of bad relationships and the thought of her dating a different guy for a change, gave her hope again in love. The only thing was that she wanted me to go on a double date with her.
"Completely out of the question!' I refused.
"Please Dianna; I'm begging you do this for me? You just said a moment ago how happy you were for Me." she whined.
"I am thrilled! Just why do you have to involve me? I'm kind of in the middle of something emotionally."
"Oh what, a fling you had in an airplane? Please... are you expecting a serious commitment from that? You can't just go on one innocent little date?"
I knew she had some truth to what she said regarding commitment. I don't know why I felt like I all of a sudden was Gavin's girlfriend. There was no need to feel guilty of going out on a meaningless date. So why didn't I feel alright about telling him this; probably because I didn't have time to see him but yet I was going to meet another stranger. I'm seeing a pattern here.
"Under one condition... you will not leave me alone with this guy under any circumstances. And we better not be going to any inappropriate places."
I gave in, for her sake at hopefully having something as unique as what I experienced.
"I can't find my phone!" I searched hysterically.
It was Friday morning and I was on my way to my last class of the week. Knowing Aubry, she probably misplaced it. I still couldn't believe I agreed to go with her on this date tonight. I wasn't even curious to know what this guy looked like or who he was. How could I when I frequently spoke with Gavin, and he was perfect. Who could compare with him?
After my British literature class I hurried home and kept searching for my phone; it had been two days since I'd seen it. Home consisted of a duplex apartment I shared with Aubry. I was fortunate for my parents to pay for college and my apartment, at least half the rent. I also had a fund set aside from my grandparents for my master's degree. In return I applied myself fully to keeping a high GPA; I had no choice.
I was standing in front of the mirror; dripping wet for I had just gotten out of the shower. I was having a moment where you look at yourself as an outsider and you question if you're the person you really want to be? How did other people see me? Did I make a lasting impression on Gavin or would I be easy to forget.
I combed my wet caramel colored hair as I continued deep in thought. Then observed my sad amber eyes; would I change anything if I had the chance? Maybe I really needed to go out tonight. I thought it would be a great experiment to see how this guy would react after meeting me. It all depends on him; he could be a jerk or a nice guy.
Aubry and I were getting ready to leave for Mauricio's, a very nice Italian restaurant that had opened last month. We would meet the guys over there. Aubry looked gorgeous; she wore a black low cut dress. Her strawberry blonde hair was picked up in a stylish ponytail to show off her feathered earrings. I had a beige romper with a black belt, heels and a messy side fish braid.
We got into Aubry's car and I went to open her glove compartment to place some of my belongings when I should happen to find it.
"Aubry why is my phone in here?"
"I don't know… I might have forgotten it there. Sorry."
I saw two missed calls, it was Gavin. I was so bummed, I wanted to call him but we were so close to the restaurant. I would just have to make it real short.
"Hey Gavin, Sorry I missed your calls. Guess what I aced the test!" I tried to make quick conversation.
"So your exam went well then? That's great!" he replied.
"Yes, I'm glad that's over with. What are you doing?"
"Well, I'm at the movies with a group of friends." He said.
What I wouldn't give to have been there instead. I felt tickles of jealousy as I heard voices in the background.
"Oh that's nice. I might get a quick bite to eat. Have fun then."
"Okay I'll talk to you later."
I had to end quickly we were already parked. I wanted to talk longer with him, but Aubry was signaling me the whole time to hang up. I just hoped he didn't feel like I was indifferent; though I was having a bit of blind date jitters.
"So are you not going to tell him about this date?" Aubry asked.
"I don't want to give him a cause to think different of me. Besides you are making me do this, it's not like I volunteered."
"You're gonna have fun, just enjoy the evening. For me please?" she said while pouting.
We walked in the restaurant and first thing I saw were these amazing light fixtures, followed by this cute Italian host that took us straight to the table our dates were waiting at. In those few seconds, I didn't know what to expect. First impressions could determine the flow of this night, and somehow I feared to be disappointed … but I wasn't.
The gentlemen stood up, dressed very sharp; and looking much older than the teenage picture I had imagined. Aubry's date, Sam, introduced himself; he wore a dark blue dress shirt and black slacks. Then he introduced Drew … I wanted to die.
The first thing I thought was his friend probably made him do this too. He obviously needed no help in finding a date. Drew was by far the most intimidating date I have ever had. From his incredible style to his overwhelming charm; I felt like a tiny four year old, unable to complete a full sentence. I almost wished he was a jerk so that it would be easier to dislike him and carry on with the night.
I felt like I won a contest to go out with a celebrity or something. Seeing the subtle reaction on Aubry, she wasn't expecting him to be more attractive than her date either. How could I describe him: he was very tall, he was lighter than me, which made his other features standout so much more. Black hair styled somewhat like how Gavin had his, wet and spiked up. He had a five o'clock shadow, which made him look so manly. And finally, extremely light blue eyes, similar to those of a Siberian husky; that and dressed up in a black shirt and blazer. I thought I was on a date with a delectable vampire of some sorts.
Not the case, at first I didn't feel the warm, friendly vibe. This was an older guy, different mentality … different game. I turned my internal "adult- woman" switch on, but I was still so quiet and bashful. I thought he would eventually want to leave from boredom.
"So I heard you are almost finished with college, what are you studying?" he attempted to make conversation.
"Ah yes, I'm getting a Bachelor's degree in English Literature. I have just a few more weeks of excruciating study sessions though. Thank goodness!"
"Do you want to be an English teacher?" he asked showing genuine interest.
"Yes I do, my grandmother kind of inspired me."
"That's nice. My mother is actually a kinder garden teacher. She should have retired by now but she says she enjoys it still. Frankly, I don't think she ever will," he smirked.
I started to relax a little; he showed no signs of being conceited or self-absorbed. In reality he seemed cordial and mature. His voice was deep yet affable. I was interested in talking more.
The waiter came and Sam ordered a bottle of wine and a small appetizer. As we began to dictate our orders I was paying more attention to the music that filled the restaurant. It was very soothing and foreign; I thought I just might have to learn Italian myself.
"My friend here is half Italian by the way, he knows the owners," Sam said showing Drew off.
I thought he might have something there, but I didn't think he spoke it. I looked at him to see if he would elaborate.
"Well my mother is Italian, but my dad is German, and I know neither of the languages," he said ashamed.
"That's ok, my grandparents are from Australia and I wish I had half as cool of an accent as theirs."
"Really, I've been there. What part are they from?"
"Darwin," I answered.
"I went to Canberra and Sydney. They definitely have a cool accent," he grinned.
"Do you mind me asking what your age is?"
"You promise not to get up and leave?" he smiled
"What are you forty or something?" I chuckled. "You're not are you?" I asked seriously.
"Ha ha no. Not there quite yet. I'm thirty one."
He squint his eyes as though he were actually expecting me to leave. Meanwhile I could barely hear Aubry and Sam, they were talking in such low voices; they had their own invisible room apparently, and looked very content in it.
"So what do you do?" I continued on.
"Umm … I'm in advertisement."
"Yeah he advertises clothes," Sam teased. "He's just being modest."
I gave Drew an unusual look, "do you model?"
It blew me away to see him blush of embarrassment, seeing as how he didn't want to share that bit of information. I don't blame him; there's no way you can avoid sounding arrogant when you say you're a model. Of course I thought if it were me that would be the first thing I'd announce to impress my date.
I loved how the table had vanilla scented candles and the short wall that surrounded us looked like old red bricks, giving you the impression that you were really eating in Italy. I almost found it too romantic for a first date; I haven't even had my glass of wine yet.
"I'm sorry I'm not talking too much, I'm kind of a shy person," he confessed.
I spun around to look at him in shock. I couldn't believe it.
"Me too! But how can you be shy if you're always in front of a camera?"
"For some odd reason it's just different. I focus in on one person," he explained.
"Alright, but what about the runways, have you done those?" I was so intrigued.
"Yes, it's all mental. I'm not making eye contact with anyone. Thankfully it's a career that doesn't require me talking much." He chuckled.
"So you've never done commercials then?"
"Not many. This one time in London, I gave my buddy the lead part just so I didn't have to speak," he laughed again.
"That's funny. Not in a hilarious way, but just interesting."
Our waiter returned with our orders, and whenever we could in between bites, we'd continue our entertaining conversation. He asked me what things I liked besides literature. And I told him I liked good food, independent movies and all kinds of music. But he didn't seem satisfied with my answer and asked that I be more specific. I appreciated his attentiveness.
For being a couple of shy people, we were pretty open about more things as the night persisted. I was enjoying myself. And then I was boggled by his next question.
"So are you seeing anyone?" he questioned.
I paused a moment. Had that been the first thing he'd asked me I would have said yes right away. But as I was getting to know him and his appealing qualities, my mind drew a blank. No pun intended.
"No she's not!" Aubry interrupted.
I felt a slight wave of guilt as I didn't deny it, but it was somewhat true. Regardless I'm only interested in friendship.
"What about you?" I wanted to quickly shift the spot light.
"This is the first time I've been back home for so long. Traveling a lot doesn't favor serious commitments. Besides I couldn't do the long distance relationship. I've dated casually, but I'm not seeing anyone."
Getting past the ghostly first impression his eyes gave off and now adding the personality behind them; completely transfigured his appearance. There was a lot of emotion he emphasized through them when talking. For instance, when he spoke of his lack of relationships his eyes looked so cute and sad with a childish grin. And when he asked me if I was seeing anyone, they were strong and seductive.
"That was amazing!" I said as I pushed my plate away.
"No kidding, we need to come here at least twice a month," Aubry suggested.
I raised my brow questionably; she apparently didn't see the prices on the menu. I felt bad as it is; our poor dates were going to pay a fortune.
It was ten o'clock but for Aubry the night was apparently just getting started. I couldn't explain why but I felt so tired. I was looking forward to just climbing into bed and waking up at three in the afternoon the next day. She did notice my signal and knew not to push me.
She ended up inviting them back to our place, which I wasn't crazy about. I secretly planned to sneak off to bed though.
I sighed heavily once I was able to take off my heels at home. Aubry and Sam went straight for the kitchen while Drew began looking around as though he were mentally inspecting the place. I just thought he was very tall now that I had my shoes off.
"How tall are you Drew?"
"Hah, why do I look like a giant now next to you? I'm six feet."
"Yes it was easier talking with you when we were sitting down," I mocked.
I was only five-three, no big deal. We sat over in the living room. Aubry put some low music as she held her fresh wine glass. I only hoped not to hear of any regrets in the morning.
I don't recall what happened, but I guess I crashed out on the couch. Next thing I felt Aubry shaking my shoulder. I woke up to a blanket on me, and gave Aubry a sweet look.
"Aww Aubry, you're so sweet."
"What the blanket? Oh that wasn't me. I saw when Drew placed it over you. He's a keeper."
I could sense her encouraging me to keep seeing him. But that wasn't the plan. I accepted to go on one date. I still have faith that I will be able to see Gavin again. Moreover, Drew didn't mention anything about wanting to see me again. So that settled it.
The weekend flew by gracefully, yet with all my accomplished studying I was restless. I remembered when I had this big crush on Tommy Jenkins in the fourth grade. He was dreamy alright and of course I wasn't. But just to feel that heart ache every time he passed me by without acknowledging me; or when he had his arm around a new flimsy girl that week. I didn't take pleasure in torturing myself into liking him; I was just clueless in knowing how to control my feelings.
I still am clueless. I went on an amazing date that Friday night. With the guy of every girl's fantasy; he was smart, drop dead gorgeous, didn't seem like a player and he was a gentleman. I would have fallen for him in a heartbeat… but he wasn't Gavin. Either I've been brainwashed or poisoned by his kiss. There was just a voice inside me that didn't want to give up … and neither did I.
The last thing I wanted to do was go to my classes, still it was therapeutic to occupy my mind with poetic words. On Wednesday I took my last test before my finals. My brain wanted to explode afterwards. I was on my way to my car when I saw a man leaning up against it. I couldn't make him out. As I got closer I drew a pleasant smile not expecting to see him there.
"Hi there, what a nice surprise."
"Yeah I asked Aubry about your schedule and she said today would better...and after your exam? How did that go?" he asked.
"After my headache wears off I'll let you know. But I believe I did well."
"Would you maybe like to get a bite to eat?" Drew asked.
"We can go in my car; it's just parked over there." He directed.
I couldn't brush off this thorn of guilt, perhaps because I hadn't said anything to Gavin. However, the last two times we've spoken have been almost awkward all of a sudden. I can feel the distance making its way in between us; a light fading. I couldn't help think that if I told him of this friendly gathering it would end for good. I couldn't let go.
After that day, I felt like the worst hypocrite to both men. I never mentioned Gavin to Drew and Gavin's phone calls grew more sporadic. I felt as though he was starting to avoid me as I was the one now doing most of the calling. All I could ask myself was what went wrong. I could understand if we were a couple of states or countries apart, but it was only two hours. I guess I deserved it for not letting him come in the beginning.
I woke up one Saturday and decided I was going to let him go. And with Drew's help maybe it would pull through. Tonight we were going on a date and I felt ready to take it past the friendship line. It had been a few weeks since we were hanging out casually and I sensed him try to throw hints here and there but I ignored them and played the dummy. I'd remind him of how much I enjoyed his friendship, and that shut off any glimmer of hope in his eyes.
As we drove around in his car, we were trying to decide where to eat. We must have passed by more than seven places but it wasn't something we craved.
"There is this really great sushi place down by the pier," he suggested.
"No! No I … don't want that sorry," I shocked myself with my response. I knew that would remind me of Gavin and I wasn't up for fight.
We did end up going to another sea food restaurant at that pier and sat outside under the beautifully decorated night sky. No doubt it was very romantic; though it took me a lot of effort to get play the part.
"You look stunning tonight by the way," he said very charmingly.
I borrowed one of Aubry's strapless cocktail dresses, it was white and it shimmered as the moon light hit it.
"I was quite blown away when you called to ask me out tonight. I never thought you would."
"I know. I'm thankful you didn't already have plans, being a Saturday night and all," I stammered.
"What are you not telling me Ms. Dianna?" he asked with an inquisitive glare.
I wanted to vent out all my cares and worries on the table that very instant and be real for once. And then I thought that it could ruin my plans of any future relationship with Drew. Nevertheless, with his age and whatever degree of dating experience he had, maybe he would have some good advice or a convincing solution.
"Nothing, I'm just starved."
Following our dinner, it was only suitable that we continued on a moonlit walk down the pier. Ten minutes into our stroll I decided to take off my shoes, my stride wasn't smooth at all with this bumpy boardwalk. This gave Drew the perfect opportunity to make fun of my height again, in the politest way. I then threatened to whack him with my shoes, which only led him to swiftly snatch them out of my hand.
"Good, I didn't want to hold them anyways," I said with a pleased expression.
"Ahh. So I fell right into your scheme; very nicely done."
"Thank you, I try."
We carried on with these smart remarks back and forth for a while, until he cornered me to a stop. We rested our arms on the wooden rail and looked out onto the water.
"There is something I feel I should share…"
I cracked open, took off the garments that shielded my true emotions and poured out every substance left in my heart. The right thing to do or not … like I said, I still don't know how to control my feelings.
"…but I will probably never see him again," I ended.
It didn't offend me to hear such a long period of silence. I don't know how I would react to someone throwing their baggage on me like that. I was moments away from jumping in that cold water. Unexpectedly, Drew touched my arm, when I turned to read his face he showed nothing but kindness and sympathy.
"It took a lot to open up about that I bet. From the looks of it you need to talk with this fellow and tell him how you truly feel."
"I don't know how."
"You just did. But may I try something?"
I knew what he was implying and as much as it didn't feel like the right time, I let him. He acted as though afraid to touch me. I felt his hand tense as he held my chin and drew our faces closer. His embrace was delicate and proper. His kiss was nice but convinced me of one thing and one thing only… I needed to make a call.
Nothing could prepare me for the devastation I would experience in the next few weeks. I now lay numb in my bed, when I ought to be studying for my finals. I felt reality hit me like a load of bricks, and all I wanted to do was drift off to sleep and feel safe in the comfort of dreams; because that would be so much better than dealing with this now.
I'm aware that I'm only torturing myself by thinking of it over and over again, but now a month later I show no signs of healing. As I recall the whole thing…
I called Gavin right after Drew drove me to my house. He didn't answer, nor the several times after that. My heart wanted to burst. When he called back the next day, I was beside myself so eager to confess. But he interrupted me with some news of his own.
"There is something I have withheld from telling you, and now when I think about it, that was so unnecessary…" he started to say.
"Well, I have been hanging out with someone, her name is Nicole, and I just realized that I really have strong feelings for her. I met her in a difficult situation she was going through and what started off as friendship just inevitably grew into something more. I know this might be unfair, but you can't tell me you haven't noticed that we were drifting."
I froze on the phone, my heart fallen, breaking, no longer wanting to listen. Heaviness … pounding on my chest, leaving me short of breathe but I tried my best so that he wouldn't hear. He couldn't see my tears that stung as they flowed effortlessly. Realizing that I had lost him for good to someone I didn't even know about.
How different was it from what I was doing? Plenty, I protected my heart from feeling anything for Drew while Gavin opened his in attempts to help.
"Dianna. Are you still there?"
"Oh yes, I'm just getting some papers together here, I'm kinda distracted I guess. Well that's great Gavin. I'm happy for you. It was clear that things weren't going to work out right? Still friends?" I asked trying to control my voice.
"Great then, well I have your address so I hope you don't mind if I write you from time to time. Good luck with everything and with Nicole."
"Thank you. Well I won't keep you from your studying. I hope you do well in your finals."
I slid off my bed, and hid my face between my knees. Till this day I can't believe he didn't suspect a thing, of why I took it so calmly or why I had called him so many times the day before. My eyes were already burning from so much crying.
Though that wasn't the worst of it; one thing is to hear about it but to see it for your self is like a suicide. I had talked to Drew again to update him on the horrible news. He talked me into not letting Gavin go without telling him the truth. So once again I put myself out on the line.
I drove to the LAX airport and began my search for Gavin close to his gate. It felt surreal to be here again, when the last memory I had of this place was him passionately kissing me good bye.
I peeked over the crowd and my heart skipped at the sight of him. About to take my first step I became paralyzed. I focused in on his hand holding someone else's, Nicole's I assumed. They looked too happy for me to describe … that should have been me. I took a deep breath of courage and walked away.
"Good bye Gavin," I whispered.
I switched stations as I kept driving. What a year it had been. I felt like I accomplished my parents and grandparents dream of graduating with honors. I was satisfied by killing those finals, after having climbed back up the mountain. The whole experience College, my friendship with Aubry and Gavin; I sure did learn some valuable lessons. But I'm proud to have gone through it all. It makes me who I am today.
In a couple of days I would be starting my new job, as an English teacher, like I had planned. I was driving on my way to the school but first I had to make a quick stop. I was so excited, if I didn't have the car on cruise control I would be going ninety and not notice. But you can't drive like that here.
I enjoyed the ride; it gave me a chance to think. I kept in touch with Gavin like I said I would. He did indeed call me for my graduation and continued to do so after that. Unfortunately, things didn't end up working out with Nicole. And I was past the whole vindictive attitude; I just wanted him to be happy.
He told me that she had finally gotten a part in a musical that she had apparently auditioned a few times for. And with the help of one of his friends she got in. She left back to LA. When I asked him how he felt about it he told me he was thrilled for her. It was her dream, and it was too early in their new relationship to make choices they would regret.
He was just that kind of guy, a good guy. I told him about Drew, and how he ended up being a good friend as well. We laughed about silly things. It was so good to hear us laughing again. I remember one part of a recent phone call:
"So do you think it would have worked out between us, if we had tried harder?" he asked.
"I don't know…are you supposed to let things just happen or do you make it happen?"
"Both, I guess. Like with us…it just happened. So were we supposed to make the rest of it happen as well? And instead we gave up?" he implied.
"I guess we did. Now it's the end of the year, but at least we're still talking."
"I can hear you smile you know."
"Can you now? That doesn't surprise me." I blushed.
I'm blushing now just remembering. We had a long conversation that night, it's as if we both knew we still had a spark but didn't want to admit it. Though now, it's a new year. He's working full time in a music company, teaching drums and doing side production projects in South Africa. We are both doing what we were destined for.
I drove up to the street, making sure it was the same one from my crinkled piece of paper. I got out of the right side of the car, I was extremely nervous. I heard the inconsistent banging of the drums as I approached an open garage. I felt my steps begin to wobble; I would have preferred to run instead. But I didn't want to miss a second, so I just walked slower.
Just like I remembered him, even if he was standing back faced. I watched him instruct a young boy. His accent echoed sweetly in my ears. The boy stopped embarrassed that someone else was watching him. Gavin then swung around to see what it was.
He immediately took a second look, and kept blinking as though his mind were playing tricks on him. His jaw dropped gasping for words to say but speechless. I broke out in a smile.
"Oh my ga…." He uttered.
He began to crack short laughs and ran his hand through his hair in disbelief. He walked hesitantly and I continued toward him.
"What are you … how? OH gosh I can't make sense." He chuckled.
"I'm moving here."
"What?" he shouted joyfully.
"I got a job as an English teacher in a school not far from town. I made it happen."
"You did! You certainly did! I can't believe you are here. Why didn't you say anything before? I could have picked you up from the airport or helped you somehow," his tone changed.
"I wanted to surprise you." I said with a victorious smile.
"You surprised me; you surprised me good."
He grunted and picked me up, hugging me a little too tight.
"This time I'm not going to be stupid enough to let you go."