Yuly was much more relaxed and comfortable after that memorable day at the swimming hole. He and Heidi never mentioned that joint experience and neither told anybody else about their daring magical sharing with nature, but it seemed to cement an unspoken understanding between them.
The two single parents continued some of their normal activities with the kids – trips to Red's Tastee Freeze, the Beano Field Playground, the movies (either the air conditioned Greenville cinemas or the outdoor in Mt. Griffin).
Yuly finally landed a job – accepting the position as Communications Director for the Town of Greenville generally and The Mayor specifically. Heidi was so excited by the news that she gave Yuly a spontaneous hug when he announced the hiring when he stopped by to pick up Elsie from a playdate.
Summer gave way to September which meant a new pre-school for Elsie but she told her Dad she wasn't nervous or 'a'scared' because she was going to school with Ned and that's all that was important to her. Heidi and Yuly brought the two kids to pre-school on the first day and then agreed to meet for a cup of coffee at Johnny C's Diner afterward. They sat in a booth with their coffees briefly providing each other with their impressions about the first day of pre-school.
"So," Heidi said after a lull in conversation. "What's our next step?"
"Our next step?" Yuly asked with confusion. "You mean with pre-school?"
"No, I meant with us," Heidi clarified.
"With us?" Yuly asked nervously.
Heidi could see the wheels turning and churning inside his worried head. "Never mind," she sighed with disappointment.
"No, it's not that," Yuly said awkwardly. "I just thought we were taking this one step at a time to see what happens."
"Don't you think it's time for the next step?" She challenged.
"I'm older than you are, Heidi," Yuly pointed out.
"I just worry about that," Yuly admitted.
"Okay, fine," Heidi grumbled. "You don't have to explain yourself to me, Yuly. I get it – you love Annabelle."
"Loved," he said painfully.
"You can still love a dead person, Yuly," Heidi said.
Yuly stared down at his coffee cup.
"Okay, forget I said anything," she sighed with resigned defeat. "I've got to get to work."
She left the booth and it took Yuly a moment to come to his senses. He threw a wad of bills on the table and chased after Heidi. She was wearing her purple scrubs as she walked quickly through the parking lot.
"Heidi!" Yuly called, desperately.
She turned, honestly surprised to see him. "You don't have to explain yourself, Yuly," she said with annoyance.
Yuly stepped up to her and covered her mouth with his without warning or hesitation. The warming sensation of the kiss caused Heidi to deepen it in reply, opening both her mouth and her heart to his gesture. It seemed like forever before they finally broke the kiss.
"Geez, what does one say after something like that?" Heidi wanted to know.
"Heidi?" Yuly's whisper caused her to shiver.
"Yeah?" She asked, dazed from the moment.
He touched his lips to hers again before using his finger to lift her chin to meet his gaze. "Is that an appropriate next step?" Yuly wanted to know.
Heidi nodded affirmatively. "It's a start," she said, half-seductively, half sardonically before she turned and headed for her car.
The two single parents (with help from extended family) continued to take it slow. Both were aware of the caution flags – single working parents, grief for a deceased spouse, the effect of a new partner on the children, the fear of getting hurt (again), and career considerations among other concerns.
And yet both found themselves looking forward to the opportunities to see each other, either with the kids or without (if Ned's Uncle or Elsie's grandmother was willing to help out). The kids seemed to have adjusted to the changes and multitude of care providers.
Mutual feelings of affection and wanted continued to grow for both Heidi and Yuly. They were kissing each other hello and goodbye more often now – and saying goodnight was becoming harder. Their kisses were turning into long smooches and make out session, their mouths meshed in a fierce can't-get-enough ritual.
Sometimes, late at night, if they were alone, they would sit together on the couch (didn't matter which house they were in) nestled together not watching whatever was on the television while making out and exploring, Yuly daring to feel her breasts at various points, Heidi feeling his rigid length pressed against her from the overload of sensation, their bodies screaming for release, neither wanting to leave the other.
Yuly wanted to take Heidi out for an 'adult' date for her birthday. They enjoyed a romantic dinner at the Sun Rise Lake Inn, spending time alone, enjoying adult conversation, but both knew the conversation was going to have to turn serious and pointed sooner or later. It was Heidi (of course) who broached the subject.
"I need a partnership, Yuly," she announced. "I've been practically on my own from the moment I found out I was pregnant and I've been doing this with some help from Julian all this time, but I need someone I can share my life with, and that includes Ned."
"I feel the same way about me and Elsie," Yuly said.
"And what about Annabelle?" Heidi dared to challenge
Yuly didn't answer. He paid the bill and they left the inn, but instead of walking her to the car in the parking lot, Yuly led her along the walking trail along the lake. He took her hand as they strolled along the lake's edge. A slight breeze ruffled the hem of Heidi's dress. She wasn't sure if she was supposed to say anything.
"So, about what's happened between us," Yuly said, stopping at a bench underneath a tree in the moonlight and pulling her into his arms.
"What is happening between us?" Heidi asked.
He kissed her in response.
"Oh, Yuly!" She sighed as she leaned in and kissed him back, tears welling in her eyes.
"I'm glad I found you," he whispered. "I thought I lost my family and I did for a while but now I see that we both have a chance to make a new family together."
"What about Elsie?" Heidi worried.
Yuly bit his lip. "Kids are resilient. The worst part is over – she's lost her mother and I've uprooted her life, but now she has Ned and other new friends, and my mother, and you and Julian She'll adjust, especially if she gets you for a new step-mom."
Heidi felt her breath hitch. "Does this mean you're Yuly mine?" She asked before kissing him again.
"Yes," he assured her, taking her face into his hands.
"Can we get a room at the inn?" Heidi asked. "Will you make love to me tonight for my birthday present?"
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a key. "I was hoping you'd say that."
"Oh, Yuly mine," Heidi cried, kissing him one more time.