It was Sunday evening and the sun was just setting. He was on his way to Jacksonville where Alanis lived when he decided to drive to Gray Whale Cove. He got out of the car and made his way gingerly down the steep steps. He stood facing the ocean, breathing in the tangy salt air as he watched the waves surge and roll onto the sand. The next time he planned to go for a swim.
He stayed at the beach for about a half-hour and then returned to his car. Soon he was on his way to pick Alanis up for their dinner date with another couple. In the background, Memory Waves was playing but he wasn’t listening to it. He was thinking about Shiloh.
On Friday afternoon before she left, he told her that that they couldn’t see each other on Sunday because he had made previous plans. “I’m so sorry, Shiloh.”
She smiled but he could see that she was disappointed. “It’s okay, Mr. Gladstone. We can see each other next weekend or whenever it’s convenient for you.”
“What about next Friday afternoon?”
“Sure. I’ll see you then.” She pulled on her jacket, her countenance bright and cheerful. “Goodbye, Mr. Gladstone.”
“Goodbye, Shiloh.” He watched her as she bounded down the steps and turned to wave before she disappeared from his view. He closed the door and went to get Emily ready for her mother who was on her way to pick her up. The house always felt alive when Shiloh was there and dead when she wasn’t.
After Emily left, he tried to read his book but he couldn’t concentrate, so he decided to go for a walk. When he returned, he showered, had dinner and relaxed on the sofa, watching television. He went to bed after eleven but lay there a long time before he finally drifted off.
On Saturday, he busied himself with cleaning the house, doing the laundry, ironing before going to pick up groceries. He thought about Shiloh and wondered if she was enjoying her birthday. When he was in Barnes and Noble, he had thought of buying her a couple of Juicy jokes and buttered books but changed his mind. He wanted to get her something more meaningful. He hoped that she would like the gift he bought her. It was the “She Believed She Could and She Did” keychain. He had gone into a trendy little store and as soon as he saw it, he thought of Shiloh. He had the girl wrap it for him and he bought a card at the drugstore.
In the evening after he finished having dinner, he wrote something in the card and placed it on top of the gift. He put them on top of the dresser in his bedroom. He couldn’t wait to give them to her on Monday. On his way down the stairs to the living-room, he wondered if he should call Shiloh and wish her a happy birthday. No, he decided that instead of calling and interrupting her time with her family, he would text her. At around ten o’clock, he sent her a text. “Hope you’re still enjoying your birthday.”
Five minutes later, he got a reply. “Yes, I am. I saved a slice of cake for you. You’ll get it on Monday.”
He smiled and texted, “Thanks. Am looking forward to that.” And to seeing you, he thought as he tapped the send button. They texted each other for a while and then bade each other goodnight. He read until after midnight and then went to bed.
Sunday came and the hours went by very quickly. Soon it was time for him to get ready for his date with Alanis. Half hour later, he was at her place.
She answered the door as soon as he rang the bell and greeted him with a big smile. “Hey, gorgeous,” she said before reaching up and pulling his head down to kiss him on the lips. “You look and smell great.”
He smiled. “Thank you. And you look stunning as usual.”
“You know I would rather stay here and have you all to myself than to have dinner with Rick and Hannah.”
“It’s too late for a rain check.”
“I guess you’re right. We can always come back here afterwards.”
“We’d better be going”, he said glancing at his watch.
She grabbed her handbag and they quickly left the unit.
Dinner with Rick and Hannah turned out to be a very pleasant experience. They went to a Vietnamese restaurant where where the food, service and atmosphere were great. After a fun evening, they parted ways, promising to do it again soon.
On the way to Alanis’ place, they talked about the evening and other things. “Now that the weather has warmed up, I guess you’ll be going to the beach a lot.”
“Yes. As a matter of fact before I picked you up I went there and spent about half hour.”
“The next time you go, I’ll come with you.”
When they got to her place, she invited him in for a nightcap. “Make yourself at home while I go and fix us something to drink.” She left.
He went over to the window and gazed out at the stunning oceanfront view. He used to live by the ocean before he decided to buy a house. When he told his family, they were very surprised. “But you’re not even married,” his mother objected.
“If and when I get married, my wife can just move right in,” he said.
“How will you manage?” his father asked.
“Don’t worry, I will.” And he did. Eight years later, he was managing very nicely.
“Here you go,” Alanis’ voice interrupted his thoughts and he turned away from the window. She was carrying two glasses. She handed him one. “This is called Three Spirit. It’s the best alcohol free nightcap.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“It’s made from a blend of aromatic plants and delicious spices. A co-worker of mine told me about it.”
He sipped it. “Hmmm. I can taste maple, rich vanilla, and hazelnut.”
She smiled. “Yes. It tastes good, doesn’t it. It relaxes you too. Let’s relax on the sofa.” While he sat down, she turned on the stereo and R&B music played softly in the background. “So, how much longer are you going to be counseling students about which college or university they go to?”
“At least until school is out.”
“How about you and me going on a trip when school is out for the summer? Perhaps we can go on a cruise.”
“To be quite honest, I haven’t thought of going on any trips this year.”
“Maybe you should think about it.” She took his glass from his hand and set both down on the coffee table. She stood up and reaching down, she grabbed his hands and pulled him to his feet. “But don’t think about it now. I want your full attention when we go in there,” she said coyly as they headed towards her bedroom where they spent the rest of the night.