Chapter 11 Excerpt: Love

Love.

That word, that complex chemical reaction, that either fulfills you or breaks your soul in two. I’ve known one in my life.

Glorious him.

I knew the moment I heard his voice that I had no hope, it was at a bar in New York, but I don’t for the life of me remember the name of it now. That night after a few too many glasses of Moscato, I’d mustered enough liquid courage to approach him. Which bloomed in a clumsy poke on the shoulder.

He turned around with a beer in his hand.

“Hello pretty eyes…”

Immediately I was hurled back to when I had my first crush. My usual incessant chatter was silenced and I was speechless when I saw his eyes.

“Does she speak?”

When I finally caught my breath, I managed to use all the words that were left in my head.

How I was here on business

How I’d noticed him at the bar

How great he smelled

“I, I’m sorry. It’s just you’re so beautiful. I mean handsome. Oh God. Oh God. I haven’t let you get a word in edgewise.”

He put his beer down, looked at me with a smirk, and his eyes a little squinty.

“You forgot something in all that…”

I cocked my head to the side.

“Your name? My name is Liam.”

All the blood rushed to my face and then down to my toes. My fingertips were numb as I extended my hand to him,

“I’m Leah, and I’m sure ten shades of red right now. Nice to meet you.”

We spent hours after that talking. When I’d looked at my watch it was 2 am and he stood, taking my hand. Agreeing to meet for dinner the next night. Then, as he put me in the cab he’d hailed, he told me I could decide tomorrow night if I still thought he was beautiful.

All night I dreamed about him. The dreams that came were vivid, and the smell of his cologne lingered in my nostrils. I saw him in the first dream as I looked out the back window from the cab.

A cable knit sweater

Blue jeans

Brown leather shoes

A ball cap

The right corner of his mouth turned up as he smiled

The second dream that came was us at dinner in China Town.

The streets were alive

Saturated with noise

And the sound of feet pounding the pavement.

Lanterns hung over head

Reds and yellows

Golden tassels

In this same dream I saw his soul. Delicate and raw on a city street. As he held my hand, he turned to talk to a homeless man.

The man missing a front tooth

There Liam was holding the man’s right hand

With both of his

It was biblical

As he asked the man how he was

Handing him a ten-dollar bill

Then the dream evaporated, and I woke in the morning with a headache that was besieging every fiber of my body. For a few moments with the lights off, I stood in the bathroom in front of a full-length mirror. As I took off my bra, and before I stepped into the shower, I found a note inside my bra on a ripped napkin in my wobbly handwriting. It read,

Liam. Tomorrow. 7 pm. Dim Sum Lounge. China Town.

What had I done? I don’t know him. I don’t even have his phone number, and I don’t even know his last name. The rest of my day was spent in meetings and sucking down a cup of coffee each time I thought about him.
His almond-shaped eyes

They were brown
Or hazel
The corners of his mouth
And the way they turned up when he laughed
The fullness of his bottom lip
The way he rubs his beard when he has to think about something

Christ. What was wrong with me?

The day finished as quickly as it had started, and at 6:45 I found myself at the Dim Sum Lounge. Alone and waiting for him as I ordered a cocktail. At 6:55 I started sweating. At 7 I’d convinced myself he wasn’t showing and that I was doomed to a life of owning seven cats and drinking a bottle of wine nightly by myself.

I knew it
He had humored me
He wasn’t really going to show
I wasn’t his type
Too fat?
Too thin?
Red head instead of blonde

Then he walked in at 7:02 after I spent nearly 10 min convinced, I was going to be stood up. Liam put his bag down when he sat next to me, and without any words, kissed my cheek.

“I’m sorry Leah. We never exchanged numbers and I had a meeting that ran late. It won’t happen again.”

He held my chin gently and made me look at him as he spoke. My whole body tingled as he sat there looking at his menu. All the while I committed to memory every single detail of him.

A sport coat
Jeans
Leather shoes
A strong musk cologne

It was clear that he hadn’t shaved this morning and every hair on his chin made every synapses fire in my brain. It was a symbiotic sensual glory that required no effort.

It just was
Completely conscious
I wanted him in the worst way
Still I said nothing
I studied him.
The way he rubbed the back of his neck
The way his bottom lip tensed as he read
Using his index finger to
Rub the inside corner of his eye
The fibers in the tweed sport coat he had
Scuff marks on his brown leather shoes

He smiled and asked me if I knew what I wanted. Never in my life has a man ever done what he was doing to me just by being near him. It was honestly the best thing I’d seen in my life. Under that smile was knowing, and that knowing told me he knew he already had me. I was ok with that, and I was even ok that he ordered for us because a bottle of Pinot Grigio came quickly after. I reached for him and touched his chin.

“I’m mad about you.”
Looking out of the corner of his eye as he bit his bottom lip and took a sip,
“I know.”

It wasn’t until after dinner when he took my hand and led me outside. Putting me on his arm, turning and pulling my chin up with his bent index finger.

“You know something Leah…,”

I looked at him with hundreds of red lanterns hanging above us on the street. The wind rocking them gently as he leaned in; putting himself nose to nose with me.

Our eyelashes kissing.

We hadn’t actually kissed yet, but it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. It was coupled with a flood of heat between my legs. A wetness starting to run a river down my thighs, and he knew it just by my scent.

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