Chapter 4

Esma led Rocky up the back stairs from the rear office into the apartment that was over the shop. Rosie came of the second bedroom and she was a younger version of her mom, except she had dark brown hair but the same round cheeks, dimples, wide eyes, fair skin, and shapely body, although Esma had filled out some in the ensuing years. Esma introduced her daughter to Rocky.

"This is my old friend, Tom," Esma said.

Rosie peered at him. "Spunky?"

Esma laughed and Rocky peered at Rosie with fascination. "How could you possibly know?"

"I showed her some of those old cartoons from the Snack Shack," Esma smiled.

"Mom's always talking about that stuff," Rosie said. She pointed to a painting on the living room wall - it was The Snack Shack from a bygone era with the image of a red haired girl and a boy who looked a lot like Rocky (He was holding a basketball) standing in front of it peering into each other's eyes.

"Wow," was all Rocky could think to say.

"Well, I'm going over to Julie's," Rosie announced. "Don't wait up, Mom."

"Thanks for locking up, sweetie," Esma smiled.

"Have a good night, you two," Rosie smiled as she disappeared down the back stairs.

"Is her father still in her life?" Rocky asked.

"Hers," Esma confirmed. "Not mine."

Esma showed Rocky some of her private collection which included a couple risqué nudes of herself and even one of Rosie.

"Maybe I shouldn't be looking at this," Rocky remarked.

"It's art," Esma assured him. "Rosie is a great model and the perfect subject."

She poured them some wine and they sat on the living room couch talking about art, the Navy, defense contracts, the Lake village, the community college, her business, her parents (dead), his parents (dead), their kids, and the memories of their shared past.

The wine bottle was empty a few hours later and Rocky wondered if he was too drunk to walk back to the inn in the dark when he stood from the couch and stumbled a step.

"You could stay here," Esma told him.

"The couch looks comfortable," Rocky agreed.

"My bed is even more comfortable, Spunky," she said.

They were standing in the middle of the room and Rocky was surprised by the generous invitation.

"The one big problem when we were young was that we never took each other in our arms and gave each other squeezes in the right places," Esma said.

"You were too young," Rocky confessed.

"Am I too old now?" She challenged.

"Never," he assured her.

"Thank you," she said with relief.

"So tell me," Rocky grinned, leaning forward. "What would you do if I gave you a little squeeze?"

"I could always use a hug at any age," she smiled.

Rocky wrapped his arms around her and held her close. They stood holding each other tight for the longest time and finally Rocky dropped his hand down and squeezed her buns through her designer jeans.

"Hey!" She giggled, sounding like the schoolgirl he once knew.

"Isn't that what you meant by squeezes in the right places?" He asked innocently.

"Absolutely," she laughed, giving his backside a swat. "It's getting late," she said. "I'm tired. Let's go to bed."

"Are you sure you want me to stay?" Rocky tested. "It's been a long time since we've seen each other."

"You know, Spunky, you could go back to the Inn and we could date for the next unforeseeable amount of time if you actually stayed at the lake and found a place to live and eventually we would get to a place where we were both certain and ready and we will do then what we are doing now, but I've been waiting for this chance for forty years," Esma told him. "Why don't we just make it easier? You stay here tonight and we'll figure out the rest of it tomorrow."

"Okay," he said, unwilling to argue with her.

Rocky helped her pick up and she led him into the bedroom, excusing herself to use the bathroom. The bedroom was full of impressive art pieces and the bed was plenty big enough for two. Rocky debated about how he should sleep - naked? In his underwear? He was still pondering his options when Esma emerged from the bathroom wearing a thin, short blue silk robe.

"I left an extra toothbrush and towel out," she said. "Feel comfortable, please."

Rocky nodded and went into the bathroom to do what needed to be done. He stripped down to his skivvies (as they say in the Navy) and came out with his clothes under his arm, putting them on a soft chair in the corner. Esma was standing at the window staring off into the dark.

"I wish we had been the same age," she said, glancing at him. "Back then."

"It doesn't matter now, does it?" Rocky asked.

"No," she realized. "It doesn't." She stepped across the room. "Let me show you my personal masterpiece," she said, sliding a frame out from several stacked in the corner.

She turned it so the painting was facing him. It looked slightly Norman Rockwell-ish but Rocky recognized the scene right away - two young teens (a girl and a boy) naked at the foot of a stream with angelic looks of serenity on their faces.

"That is absolutely lovely," Rocky said with true emotion in his voice.

"Thanks," she said happily as she set the frame on the floor against the chair.

Esma stepped to the bed, slipped the silk robe off her shoulders and slid naked underneath the sheets. Rocky got under the covers from the other side of the bed still in his skivvies and Esma nestled against him, laughing lightly.

"What?" Rocky asked.

"I'm too tired and woozy to have sex tonight," she said. "Even though that's all I wanted when we were together."

"Well hell," Rocky grinned. "We waited this long. We can wait some more."

"Our second chance at a first love," Esma smiled happily, giving him a kiss goodnight before quite literally falling asleep seconds later.

Rocky held her in his arms listening to her sleep and he knew he had fallen into a painting he never wanted to leave.