Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Love’s Final Frontier
When he approached her, his head was turned down, gaze focused on his shoes. He held a present between his outstretched arms, still not looking her in the eye.
“Gary, you’re scaring me,” Anna said, taking the gift but setting it aside to tug her best friend of ten years into her arms. “Why won’t you look at me? What happened?” She rattled off a dozen other questions before he finally looked up with tears in his eyes.
He held onto her like a lifeline, finally letting her in on what had happened before breaking down and burying his face into her hair while she was tucked safely against his chest. “My grandparents died in a car wreck a few hours ago. Some drunk driver on his way home from a Christmas party.” His voice was an exhaled stream of words, like he’d been choking them back, as if doing so would keep them from being true. Through stuttered breaths he continued, “Do you want to know the crazy thing about that? My only thought was...what if that had happened to you? What if I’d lost you tonight?” His hand was gently stroking through her long wavy hair, soothing her when Anna should have been comforting him. But he wasn’t done yet. He shushed her attempt at condolences, telling her he wasn’t finished. “I know I could completely blow everything we have, but I can’t keep it to myself anymore, Anna.” He paused, pulling her away so he could look into her eyes, wanting to make certain that she knew how serious his declaration was. “I’m in love with you—ever since our drunk kiss after Colin Mackenzie’s Fourth of July party. I’ve fallen more and more in love with you every single day, and I can’t believe it has taken me five years to finally tell you.”
Anna’s eyes were wide with shock. Of everything Gary could have said to her in that moment, this was the most unexpected. She’d seen him date his way through college and much of their adult life. Of course she had similar feelings, but she’d never thought they’d be reciprocated.
“Are you going to say something?” he teased, trying to lighten the mood, but his eyes were deep pools of worry and rejection.
Shaking her head, Anna tried to lift the fog of his confession. “Sorry,” she replied. “Oh, God, I’m so sorry,” she repeated, realizing that he’d just lost both of his remaining grandparents in one fell swoop.
His crooked grin lifted. “Thanks, but that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.”
Anna grabbed his hand and led him over to her sofa, needing to sit down so she could look him in the eye. She hugged him tightly, wanting to reassure him that all would be fine, but her proper upbringing made her respond to Gary’s grieving needs before addressing her own feelings for her handsome friend. She’d never admitted that she too had felt the kiss he was referring to all the way from the tingle in her lips to the knock of her knees that night. She had tried to chalk it up to being drunk and lonely, but in the sobering light of day, she hadn’t been able to deny it. Instead, she’d squashed the feeling deep into the dark recesses of her heart, thinking they would never see the light of day. She often wondered how she’d made it through the years and not become bitter and resentful for all the other women that passed through his embrace.
Shaking her out of her thoughts, Gary pulled out of her grasp and grabbed hold of her hands, stilling them from the fidgeting he knew would happen. She always played with her rings when she was nervous, spinning them around and around until you eventually got mesmerized by the movement.
Not wanting her to be focused on anything but him, Gary spoke calmly, trying not to spook her more than he already had. “I appreciate you trying to comfort me, honestly I do, but I didn’t come here looking for comfort.” His brusque words shocked even him, but he knew after an evening like he’d just had, honesty was the only way to go. Life was so short and fragile. What if he’d never been able to tell her how he felt about her? That would be something worth grieving over, but he hoped that after tonight, he’d never have to.
“I realize this was wholly unexpected, and I’ll give you all the time you need to process it.” Tapping her head teasingly, he continued, “I know how you like to overanalyze everything in that noodle of yours.”
Kate smiled at his reference to the constant inner dialogue that kept her up many a night, going over all that she’d done that day and what she could have improved upon. She was a perfectionist, and an over-thinking, analytical one at that.
“Why?” she finally asked, pulling her hands free. She needed the repetitive movement of those rings to calm her thoughts. She wanted to believe him, to explode with joy at his confession, but she’d been hurt by too many men in the past to be so willing to jump in without at least asking a few basic questions.
“Why what? Why do I want to risk ruining our friendship in the ultimate pursuit of happiness? Why do I think you’re the most amazing person I’ve ever known? Why did I drive over here when I should realistically be driving back home to see my parents? Why what?” Gary’s smile was broad, but his eyes were traitorous, flickering with his grief and apprehension. He knew when she began a line of questioning with a simple but unstructured sentence, her mind was moving in too many directions to compose a proper one. It also likely meant she was at least considering the possibility that he loved her.
She shook her head, grinning at his playful come back. He knew her so well, perhaps too well, come to think of it. “Why do you love me? I’ve seen you date women who are smarter, prettier, wealthier, and dare I say funnier than I am? So why me? After all this time, why me?”
Leaning down, he kissed her lips gently before whispering into her ear, “Because they could never measure up to you.”
Apparently that was enough reassurance for Anna. She pulled him into her arms and kissed the ever-loving daylights out of him. Five years of pent-up sexual frustration spilled out in that one passionate kiss, relieving her of the weight that had been solidly sitting in the middle of her chest and the thoughts that had relentlessly kept her up at night.
Finally pulling apart, the pair caught their breath; hands never ceased their movements over the other’s body, almost as if their hands couldn’t believe their good fortune either. They didn’t waste time stripping their clothes and working their way back to Anna’s bedroom in no time. They’d spent many nights sleeping in the same bed together, but never joined as one. Tonight that would all change. They weren’t shy or self-conscious; instead, desire and love spilled over and allowed the two to finally broach the last frontier of their long-standing relationship.
“I love you, too,” Anna eventually confessed, strewn naked across his impressively built chest. Something she hadn’t ever really allowed herself to appreciate until right then.
Just as the pair began to drift off into a satiated sleep, Gary had to tease her just one last time. Anna felt his chest shake slightly with a chuckle before her earlier expression was echoed back to her in Gary’s sleepy voice. “Why?”
Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog: michelawalters.wordpress.com