Chapter 5

Leesa and I didn't go upstairs to make love after that break-through although it would have been a great end of story moment.

We both knew there was still a lot of work to do – for ourselves in our own growth, and in continuing to live together as housemates while exploring our own souls to explore the possibilities of a future together.

There was still a lot of baggage to unload, including the unspoken pink elephant in the room that was the Ghost of Gertie.

Leesa had been Gertie's friend and sponsor and I had been her lover and while four years had passed since Gertie's death in many ways it still felt like yesterday because of all the remorse and regret that I carried with me going all the way back to our college days together.

I was sure that Leesa was still grieving the loss of her long time relationship with Ronny despite her sabotaging of their ending that only led to more pain and loss for her.

We didn't discuss her relationship with Ronny much after that tough conversation in the kitchen that morning when Leesa almost left but I knew it weighed on her mind as she tried to come to terms with the demons that caused her to become a local scandal.

But I knew sooner or later something was going to have to give. Either one of us would meet someone else which would make our continued arrangement awkward and eventually unsustainable or one of us would have to take the plunge into uncertainty by daring to make a move on the other.

I fretted about my options for another month or so while Leesa and I continued our arrangement and agreement, living as housemates and friends.

The prospect of making a move on Leesa terrified me. I hadn't been intimate with a woman for nearly five years. Gertie and I had stopped sleeping together well before her death, the rift between us too great after so many crises and failures during her drinking sprees to continue with the sex.

The only real history Leesa and I shared was Gertie in many ways. We had both lived our own lives before we met through Gertie, and I had a divorcee decree, an adult daughter, a paid off mortgage to document my past.

Leesa and I continued to share meaningful conversations and we revealed personal details of our lives we might not otherwise chosen to do if we weren't so familiar with our individual pasts.

I thought about ways I should romance her – attempts to sweep her off her feet with flowers and candy but I was afraid to take the chance so I was mostly left overwhelmed by doubt.

Maybe I should just consign myself to celibacy and leave it at that at my age. I had been shut down mode for a long time despite Leesa's recent presence and I wasn't sure if I had the courage to try to reboot. Maybe it was asking too much to find love again or to risk the panic of being intimate with another woman after Ivy and Gertie. My waistline had expanded despite my jogging and my graying hair was beginning to thin. Why would Leesa even be interested in me?

But I subtly flirted with Leesa more often. I'd compliment her on her appearance or if she changed her hairstyle or wore something new. And I suppose our meals together and hanging around watching television from time to time constituted thinly veiled unofficial dates anyway.

We actually met in public a few times for dinner under the guise of convenience or getting out of the house or not having to prepare a meal at home and it felt nice to play the game of at least appearing to be in a dating situation.

Maybe we were slowly building up to the first kiss moment all along – who knows? As it turned out, there really wasn't any magical romantic moment where all the bells and whistles and fireworks erupted in a magical instant of a Hallmark romance movie with ten minutes of endless heart throbbing dialogue leading up to the climatic happy ending pay off.

Instead, it was just a routine moment that gave way to the truth.

I was coming up the stairs one night to go to bed. It was late and it was dark and I didn't see Leesa coming out of the bathroom and so we bumped into each other in the hall, me colliding with her hard enough to send her stumbling backwards into the wall, where she banged the back of her head hard enough to knock a picture to the floor.

"Ow, shit," she moaned, rubbing the back of her head with her hand. "What the fuck, Checkers?" She asked with annoyance.

I leaned in and gave her a kiss right there on the spot, spontaneous and without a thought. "Sorry," I said.

Instead of protesting, Leesa returned the kiss which became long and emotional and I knew the dance was over.

The next step was clear, even to the out of practice unromantic me. I took her by the hand and led her into my bedroom.

Leesa was wearing a raggedy old plaid robe, her hair was pulled up on her head haphazardly, and she wasn't wearing any make-up, but she was still beautiful to me and I found myself experiencing an unfamiliar rush of emotional euphoria I hadn't known for a long time.

Was I about to share my bed with a new lover?

"You won't appraise my naked body, will you?" Leesa worried as we stood at the foot of the bed, me still holding her hand. "I'm nervous about being nude in front of you."

"I've been fearing sex with a new partner for a long time," I told her.

"That part's like riding a bike," Leesa smiled. "Once you know how to peddle you never forget what to do. It's all the other stuff that's more anxiety-riddled even though I'm no longer the uninhibited sensual woman I used to be." Leesa sighed.

"What other stuff?" I asked.

"My tits sag and I've added a few inches to my waistline," she answered.

"I'm sure my dick has shrunk with age," I replied.

"So, we're going to get naked in front of each other?" She questioned.

"Does it have to be such a terrifying thought?" I wondered.

"I don't want my cellulite and other faults turning you off."

"I'm sure our sexuality has matured with age," I replied.

She thought about it for a moment, nodded in agreement, and she opened her robe which she let drop to the floor, revealing herself to me.

It didn't take us long to feel the chemistry that existed between us all along. We clicked as lovers despite our imperfect aging bodies and we forgot about our hang ups, our failures, our losses, our mistakes, and our brokenness.

In the morning, lying together in bed for the first time, I realized that I was happy and ready to welcome a new chapter in my life.

"Thanks for recovering me," Leesa said with satisfaction as she cuddled against me.