Chapter 12

It wasn't a date per se because Steve could have attended the holiday party on his own since it was a combined, teacher, faculty and staff holiday event.

And it really couldn't be considered a 'first date' given that Amy and Steve had spent that day together fishing and hiking, not to mention their interactions at Red's Tastee Freeze, Johnson's Bookstore and even Fontaine's Family Grocery Store.

But it was a formal 'date' in Amy's mind – her first social outing with another man since David's death so in that regard it was a big deal for her, a coming out party of sorts.

She didn't know what Steve's social past had been since his wife's death but she assumed he wouldn't have said yes to her if there was somebody else in his life. And she didn't care what others thought when she showed up with the janitor – custodian – maintenance guy – Steve.

The holiday party was being held in the function room of Serguci's Italian Family Restaurant Amy volunteered her services as part of the set up committee and they decorated the room in holiday cheer, being conscious of everybody's social and religious ideals so as to not offend anybody, but there were plenty of Santas, elves, candy canes, ivy, evergreen and artificial Christmas (holiday) trees.

It was a buffet style affair with dancing to a DJ and some raffles.

Amy enjoyed her participation in the preparations. It felt good to get out of her funk and be involved in something cheerful and festive for a chance. It really was the first time she had gotten immersed in something like this since David died. Her teaching friends and colleagues were tickled to see Amy finally breaking out of her self-imposed grief prison.

Amy was surprisingly nervous as she prepared for the holiday party that evening. She tried on several different dresses before finally settling on a cheerful red wool dress with black boots and even a Santa's cap just to be completely in the spirit.

She agreed to pick up Steve so they didn't have to arrive in his pickup truck. Turns out he lived in a nice apartment in an attractive house not all that far from the school.

Steve answered the door wearing a well-tailored blue suit and she was struck at how handsome he actually looked clean shaven and well dressed.

"Hello," he said cheerfully. "Ready for some holiday cheer?"

"I could use some," Amy admitted.

It wasn't all that awkward entering the function room because everybody knew everybody but Amy tried to avoid Louis and his wife as much as possible for obvious reasons and Steve was gentleman enough not to mention that situation on the rare occasions they were near the couple.

There was an open bar and a social hour with appetizers prior to the buffet sit down. Steve got Amy a glass of wine and they chatted with various mutual acquaintances.

They sat with some of Amy's teacher friends and their spouses or companions for dinner and Amy was surprised at how merry and bright she was feeling. They danced, had their photo taken with Santa, she won a bottle of champagne in one of the raffles, and they stayed to the official end of the party.

Steve was among those who helped the set up committee clean up when the party was over.

Amy was relieved and happy that the night had been such a success. Steve was fun to be around and he got along well with everybody they encountered. They laughed over one of the evening's incidents as Amy drove Steve the short distance to his house.

"Would you like to share the raffle prize?" Amy asked when they reached his place, lifting up the champagne bottle for him to see.

"Sure," Steve agreed. "Why don't you come in for a nightcap?" He suggested.

Amy was surprised at how easily she accepted his invitation. The apartment was clean and presentable, comfortable and pleasantly decorated.

Amy saw a framed studio portrait of Barb on the mantle and commented on how pretty she was.

"Thanks," Steve sighed. "And I'm glad you've finally taken the first step in moving forward with David by your side."

"Nothing else seemed to be working," Amy admitted as they took seats on the couch with glasses of champagne in their hands.

"Everyone has their own story," Steve said. "Nobody knows the ending though." His voice was soothing.

"You're aware of my most serious infractions," Amy sighed.

"Now you have an opportunity to liberate yourself from the past without losing yourself or the one you love," Steve said.

"I do," Amy agreed.

Steve smiled. "You were wonderful tonight."

"Thanks," she said. "It's been a while."

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"Are you always going to ask me that?" Amy wanted to know.

"Yes," he smirked. "It's an important question to ask."

She smiled and she fell into him for a hug which Steve held and she was thankful to feel his soothing arms around her for the first time. Steve gently ran his fingers through her hair.

"I decided God's intervention is why we kept bumping into each other," Amy told him. "At Red's. And Johnsons. And Fontaine's."

"Perhaps," Steve said.

"You never judged me," Amy said with amazement. "Even in my worst moments."

"Would you like to spend the night?" Steve asked.

"Would you have me?" She feared. "After everything you know about me?" She set her champagne glass on the coffee table. "Why would you want me?"

Steve placed his glass on the table too and then caught her by surprise by swooping her into his arms, lifting her from the couch and carrying her into the bedroom.

"What are you doing?" She giggled.

But she knew exactly what he was doing and she let him carry her in his manly arms into the bedroom and he carefully lowered her onto the bed, never once taking his gaze off of her.

"You don't have to be sad, Amy," he said as he sat on the bed next to her.

How can I thank you?" Amy asked. "For showing me how to live life again."

"This is enough."

"I've been such a fool, Steve," she sighed.

He took her hand in his. "It's a journey," he explained.

"Will you make love to me?" Amy asked. "No more grief sex full of denial and escape. Just tender lovemaking between two people who lost everything."

"But found something," Steve replied, leaning down and kissing her.