Within a few days, I was stopping by The Doyle house just about every evening for Dinner with Lark and Grammie. I also started doing odd jobs again on the weekends even though Mr. Doyle was no longer around to direct me in my activities. I met the people who lived in my old house next door although it seemed strange that they had already raised their kids who were now out of the house either at college or on their own. When did I became so old!?
Lark and I were taking it slow (for some reason). We had settled into our new routine which, ironically enough, was pretty much like our old routine as kids – hanging out and being together. I hadn't spent the night yet and we hadn't taken our relationship "to the next level" but we seemed contented in our current set up. Lark struck me as "happy" as she slowly moved beyond the guilt of grief and sense of loss while, at the same time, patiently taking care of her grandmother who appeared to be different (in behavior, mood and memory) every time I saw her. I know Lark appreciated and valued my presence and embraced our friendship, however undefined it was these days.
We didn't leave the house much. Lark liked to spend as much time with her grandmother as possible when she wasn't working but we managed to slip out for a bite to eat at Johnny C's or the pizza house when one of the home aide's was around. We were guardedly affectionate with one another, as if we were stuck in a time warp that brought us back to our teenaged years and a place where we remained guarded and uncertain about romance and intimacy, playing it safe with friendly kisses and cuddling on the couch. I was enjoying it all too much to question it.
This routine went on for a couple of months and it was fine with me but I could tell that Lark was emotionally burned out even though she put on a good front. Taking care of her beloved grandmother everyday was taking a toll on her and I decided Lark needed a getaway break to recharge her batteries and catch her breath. I hired a couple of the home care aides to provide non-stop coverage for an entire weekend and I told Lark to pack and overnight bag because I was taking her on a 'spiritual journey' to a 'place of healing'.
Lark was amused by my mysterious tease and she played along, realizing she needed a brief change of scenery. "Is this on a lark?" She teased.
I showed up on a sunny Saturday morning in August and Lark willingly jumped into the car, happy to be doing something completely different for a change. We drove for nearly two hours before leaving the interstate and cutting through all sorts of back roads that led to the boonies. We stopped at a small country store to pick up a few items and I waited to see if Lark remembered or recognized the place but she showed no awareness. We drove another ten miles through woods, followed by forest, followed by more woods, until the GPS told me to turn down a quiet road. It wasn't until we passed the sign for "Little Lewis Lake Nudist Paradise" hanging from a tree that Lark realized what in the hell was going on. She burst out laughing.
"What in the hell do you think you're doing?" She asked with a huge smirk on her face.
"I figured this place might bring some final healing," I replied as I parked the car in the parking lot. "It's not on a lark. It's on a lake!"
"I can't believe you thought of this of all things," Lark remarked, giving me an amused stare.
"I figured it would be symbolic if nothing else," I reasoned. "Bringing a memorable part of our past into our present."
She laughed and I was relieved that she was willing to play along. We climbed out of the car, grabbed our overnight bags, and I took Lark's hand as together we walked through the privacy gate and into the land of the nude. We were checked in at the main office by a naked middle aged woman and given a key to Cabin Seven that was nestled among several other cabins in the quint woods, passing by several nudists as we made our way to our cabin.
Lark had a happy smirk on her face once we were inside the cabin. "I can't believe we're doing this," she admitted.
"Don't you want to be happy?" I teased.
"Do you?" She wanted to know as she sucked in her breath and began to undress.
"You're so damn beautiful," I told her as she revealed herself.
A few minutes later we were naked among the nude as we walked hand in hand down to the sandy beach and took our place among the other nudists of all ages and sizes. The raft with the chute and diving board was still there and we sat on our towels in the sand taking in the surroundings.
"Thank you for doing this," Lark said after a while, leaning over and giving me an appreciative kiss. "I am contented and happy."
That night, naked in the cabin at the nudist camp, we made love for the first time, and we both knew it wasn't on a lark.
"But you are on Lark!" my love giggled as I looked down into her eyes, her hair fallen back on her forehead enough for me to see her scar – but it didn't matter because I had seen all of her, knew all of her, and was now part of her.