First Birthday – Chapter 22

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

            A life is made up of moments.  Some go unnoticed.  Others become dominoes waiting to be tipped.  I remember the first time I saw his smile.  Memories of its spark still flush my cheeks.  There was someone behind it.  A man to fall in love with, a man who I would allow to love me. Somewhere beneath his simple gesture was my future.  I learned that day that dates on a calendar hold no significance, and I learned that you must always be ready for the moment.  I’m thankful I recognized it.  One man, one smile, and me…ready to tip that first domino.            

I finished the last paragraph of Cait’s story, and then flipped back through the pages before neatly gathering them.  I set the story on my night stand, and placed Cait’s decorative bow back on the upper left hand corner.  I had read it through three times, often pausing over a sentence or passage that was so warm I could almost feel Cait’s touch while I consumed her words.  I knew that I was in love with Cait, but the more she opened up to me, and the more we shared it became evident that I needed her.  Her story was the best present I could have gotten.  It was a token of intimacy, and a look into her heart.  She had written about our first meeting.  I recalled a night where I wandered into Franco’s Pizza and become smitten.  Cait had captured something much deeper than that.  I wanted nothing more than to tell her all these things, but she had snuck out while I slept.  I knew she had an appointment, dentist or doctor, but it had slipped my mind until I reached across the mattress, and she wasn’t there.   

            I rolled back over to my side of the bed, and contemplated another half hour of sleep.  I was wide-awake, though, and feeling surprisingly refreshed.  I had been sleeping much better since I started sharing a bed with Cait, and nights that were once filled with odd dreams and hourly wake-ups were now uninterrupted sessions of blissful rest.  Cait liked to be in contact while we slept.  Sometimes this involved being completely intertwined, and other times perhaps just the fingertips of our outstretched hands would be touching, but there was always that tangible reminder of her presence.  It was that presence that drained the tension out of my body, and allowed me a full night of sleep.  Resigned to the fact that I was awake, and convinced that Cait wasn’t going to magically join me in bed, I finally got up, and made my way into the kitchen.  

            I opened the refrigerator, and noticed we were in need of a trip to the grocery store.  I picked up the weightless orange juice container, and felt less than a swallow sloshing around the bottom.  I placed it back on the shelf, and closed the door.  I turned, and made my way to the counter where I saw a container of muffins.  I opened the lid to find half a blueberry muffin, and a note from Cait.  It said that if it hadn’t been the day after my birthday, she would have eaten the whole thing.  I smiled, and took the remainder of the muffin with me to the couch.  It was hardly a meal, but it would sustain me until lunch at the club.  I was thankful Cait had taken pity on me, and instead of turning on the television like I normally would have, I started clicking through my phone reading old messages Cait had sent me. 

            It was something I had started to do to pass the idle moments, and in times when I felt I needed a dose of Cait.  It helped.  Re-reading her words helped me feel closer to her.  On this morning I indulged myself further by looking at some pictures I had taken of Cait during our visit to Chicago.  Most of the photos highlighted my lack of skill as a photographer, but the last one I had taken that night was certainly a keeper.  Right before we left for dinner I had managed to snap a picture of Cait as she exited the bedroom.  She had paused, slightly startled by me aiming my phone at her, but then she had relaxed into the perfectly comfortable smile that was my favorite of her many expressions.  Looking at the picture on the phone I noticed something I hadn’t noticed that night until dinner, Cait’s necklace. Sweat gathered in my palms and nerves in my stomach while I hurried to the bedroom.   

            Later that morning I found myself in a Mom and Pop jewelry store in Dune Harbor.  I had been relieved to find Cait’s necklace in my dop kit, right where I left it, and I decided to check the town for a place to get it fixed before I went to work.  The woman the behind the counter seemed puzzled by my request, had then tried to sell me a new necklace, before finally excusing herself to the back to find someone who could actually be of help to me.  I paced through the store, glancing at the illuminated boxes of jewelry, not paying much attention to anything until I arrived at a case of engagement rings.  I looked at the rings, and into my future, to a day when I would hopefully slide one over Cait’s finger.  If you had asked me then if I was going to marry her, I would have been sure that I would have.  And, if I had been given a few more moments alone at the display, who knows what I would have left with, but right before my mind lost complete touch with reality I was interrupted by the store’s manager. 

            Once I was talking to the correct person, the transaction for fixing the necklace took only a few moments.  I left with barely enough time to get to work, but holding a receipt that would yield Cait a good as new necklace in a couple of days.  I resolved to pick out some earrings or a bracelet to match when I returned to the store in a few days.  I thought she deserved something for putting up with my tardiness in getting the necklace repaired.  I wondered if Cait had forgotten about it as well, or if she was testing me, giving me a certain amount of time to come through.  I doubted the latter.  If Cait had been thinking about her necklace, she likely would have come straight out, and asked me about it. 

            Work that day started as any other.  Slow, mixed with a couple of phone calls, but a couple hours after lunch I found myself in a unique position.  I was on the range watching Randy hit balls.  He’d asked me to come take a look at his swing, and I agreed, because he was the boss and I had nothing else to do.  As far as I knew Randy had been hitting it the same for thirty years.  I’d never known him to struggle with his swing, or undertake major changes.   He was the model of consistency, but he claimed to be hitting it awful, so I jumped in a cart with him and headed to the range. 

            “What do you think?”  Randy turned and looked toward me after hitting about a half-dozen seven irons. 

            “It looks fine to me,” I said honestly.  I didn’t see anything wrong with the shots. 

            “So you’re saying I never swing any good, it just took me this long to notice it?”  Randy laughed to himself, and turned back to the pile of golf balls at his feet.  “Here watch another,” he took a swing, and sent another ball down the range. 

            “What don’t you like about it?”  I asked. 

            “I don’t know.  It just doesn’t feel solid.  The trajectory is too low, looks a little flat, doesn’t it?” 

            “Maybe, hit another one,” I said, and watched Randy swing again. “I guess it’s a little low.” 

            “That’s what I thought.  Now I don’t expect to hit cloud scrapers like you, but I need a little more air.  I’m not getting any carry.”  

            “Why don’t you try finishing a little higher,” I suggested.  “Your follow through looks pretty abbreviated.” 

            “I think that’s about as high as I can finish these days,” Randy said after hitting another shot with a similar result. 

            “Maybe we should be working on a stretching program for you then, and not hitting balls. 

            “Yeah, right, what’s you next brilliant idea?” 

            For the next fifteen or twenty minutes we went through a handful of techniques trying to get Randy to launch the ball a little higher.  I was grasping at straws, and Randy seemed to be getting a little frustrated, but we eventually landed on something that worked.  Or Randy did, actually.  He made a couple minute adjustments in his address position, and it seemed to do the trick.  Perhaps he just needed someone up there to talk out his problem with.  He certainly knew more about the golf swing than I did, and proved it in the end. 

            “How are you hitting it?”  Randy asked, finished with his own session, and cleaning the grooves of his seven iron with a tee. 

            “Pretty good,” I answered. 

            “Pretty good don’t really cut it in Q-School you know,” Randy flashed me a quick smile. 

            “Yeah, well, I’m working on it,” I said.  I knew that Randy was aware that I was headed back to Q-School, but we hadn’t had a conversation about it. 

            “I think it’s a good idea, might as well take advantage of the opportunity,” Randy offered, not sounding too convinced.  He leaned his seven iron against a stand on the practice tee box. 

            “I guess so.  I’m just not sure how Reid is going to react to everything, good or bad, no matter what happens.” 

            Randy nodded, “Well, knowing Reid, he’s going to want to be there every step of the way.   I think you might have gotten yourself a hands-on sponsor, but that’s better than none, right?” 

            “Financially anyway,” I said meekly.  I was slightly uncomfortable with the topic of conversation and so I reached for Randy’s seven iron. I took a few abbreviated practice swings.  

            “So next year you might be on Tour.  I was going to try to get you to come back for another year.  People around here seem to like you.  I don’t know why, but they do.  I thought I’d try to talk you into Florida then lure you back for another summer.” 

            “Well, I’m not counting on the Tour,” I stopped mid-swing, and set the club on my shoulder. 

            “Why don’t you hit a few, and then I’ll have a better idea of your chances,” Randy said sarcastically. 

            I shrugged, and lined up a shot.  Randy’s club was slightly unfamiliar, but I sent a respectable shot towards a target flag in the distance. 

            “Not bad.”

            “Not quite Tour caliber, though,” I countered. 

            “True.  Maybe I can hold off for a while on replacing you.  See how you do first stage.  Plus, I hear you might have some other incentives to come back here.”  

            I stopped mid-backswing, and looked at Randy.  “You mean Cait.” 

            “I mean Cait.” 

            “Well, she’s partially my incentive to try it again too.  Maybe I can get us both out of here.  No offense.” 

            “None taken.  You must be pretty serious, then.” 

            “I think we are.”

            “You two should come over to the house for dinner one night. Sharon likes having company.  You still haven’t been over to see us, what do you think?” 

            “Sure, I’ll ask Cait.  She works a lot of nights, but I’m sure we could do it.” 

            “Well, you talk to her, and let me know.  You about ready to get back to the shop?  I’m sure Maureen wants to get out of here.”

            “Yeah, absolutely,” I said.  

            Randy took his seven-iron out of my hand, examined the clubface closely, wiped away a couple blades of grass with his thumb, and then headed back to the cart.  On the drive back to the shop he reminded me to ask Cait about dinner, even suggested some dates before pulling the cart into the garage.  Less than fifteen minutes later he and Maureen were gone for the day, and I was left to pass the hours by myself.  Sometimes it was a lonely wait till darkness. 

            I didn’t make a habit out of stopping at Franco’s on the way home from the club when Cait was working, but that night I really wanted to at least say hello, so I made the stop.  I intended to stay for just a drink.  Cait was often too busy to socialize much, so I would end up distracting her or get slightly annoyed that she wasn’t paying me enough attention if I stayed for too long.  One and done.  It is a difficult mantra to stick to, especially when you run into Freddie. 

            “If it isn’t the birthday boy,” Freddie startled me slightly.  He slid into the stool next to me.  I got the impression that he had been there for a while.

            “How you doing Freddie?  What brings you here?”

            “Oh, you know, probably the same thing that brings you here kid,” Freddie smiled to himself, and then motioned to Tina, who was helping Cait behind the bar that night.  Freddie ordered a scotch.  “Let me buy you a drink,” He offered. 

            I tried to decline, but Freddie would have none of it, and before I knew it he slid the scotch Tina brought him in my direction, and ordered another.  Cait walked by, and gave me a quizzical look, but said nothing. 

            “Thanks,” I said, raising the glass to Freddie. 

            “Don’t say I never gave you nothing,” Freddie took a calculated sip of his drink, and set it back on the bar. 

            “Did you play today?”  I asked Freddie, knowing he didn’t. 

            “You know I didn’t,” he answered.  He looked at me closely, “What are you all acting like a tight ass for kid?  You don’t think I’m actually in here taking a run at your girl, do you?  Shit, sometimes I just need a change of scenery.  I am still a little hot you ditched me yesterday, though.” 

            “I’m sorry about that Freddie, really.”

            “I understand,” Freddie answered.  “There was someone you had to do,” he nodded in Cait’s direction. 

            “How’d the match go anyway?”  I asked, choosing to ignore Freddie’s childish joke.  

            “Don’t worry about it.  Just be ready to go next time.” 

            “When’s next time?” 

            “Whenever the fuck I say it is, Jesus kid, don’t you ever pay attention?” 

            Right in the middle of this one-sided conversation Cait rescued me by arriving in front of us, and leaning on the bar.  She took both of us in, and then smiled, introducing herself to Freddie.  It was all Freddie needed, and he took off, flirting with Cait shamelessly.  She seemed more than happy to play along for a while, and honestly I didn’t mind as long as it got Freddie’s attention away from me for a few minutes.  By the time Cait excused herself, Freddie had forgotten about golf and the previous day, and he started in on a number of other topics while trying to force some more scotch on me.  My idea of one beer had vanished, and before I knew it, Cait was driving me home after Franco’s had closed for the night. 

            “So Freddie,” Cait said.  She was standing at the edge of the bed, looking down at me.  I was lying on top of the covers, still fully dressed, and contemplating exactly how hung over I was going to be the next morning. 

            “Freddie,” I mimicked enthusiastically. 

            “Pretty much how I pictured him,” Cait, turned away, and pulled her shirt over her head.  She faced me again, wearing only a bra, and started to unbutton her jeans. 

            “You look really fucking hot,” I said, clumsily lifting myself off the mattress. 

            “You look really fucking drunk,” Cait laughed. 

            “What about hot?”

            Cait looked at me closely, shook her head, and then tossed her jeans aside. “Are you going to sleep in your clothes?” 

            “No,” I answered.  “Come here.” 

            “Why?”  Cait smiled, and took one step toward me. 

            “Just come here,” I lunged slightly, and pulled Cait onto the bed by her hand.  She crashed onto the mattress, a slightly awkward landing, but she recovered quickly and tucked herself in next to me. 

            “You smell like beer,” Cait offered. 

            “You smell like pizza.” 

            “I guess we make a good combination then,” Cait laughed, and leaned close to me, giving me a kiss on the cheek. 

            “Hey, I took your necklace to get fixed today.  The one I broke in Chicago.” 

            “It’s about time,” Cait sat up in bed, and looked down at me again. 

            “I’m sorry.  I may have forgotten about it.” 

            “That’s ok.  I saw it in your bag.  I wasn’t worried about it,” Cait swung her legs over me, and then continued to the edge of the bed. 

            “So you did check up on me?” 

            “Maybe,” Cait stood up, and walked to the closet, opening the door.   She undid her bra, and dropped it into a laundry basket on the floor.  She grabbed a fresh towel from the shelf. 

            “What are you doing?  You’re supposed to take off your clothes, then get into bed.  Not get out of bed, then take off your clothes,” I protested.  

            “I need a shower, you could use one too Buddy,” Cait started toward the bathroom.  I watched her walk away from me. 

            “Cait,” I called out. 

            “What now babe?”  She turned around in the doorway to the bathroom, covering her breasts with the towel. 

            “I told Randy today we’d come over and have dinner with him and his wife some night.” 

            “All right, is that all?” 

            “Yeah, I just wanted to tell you, remind me we need to figure out a night that will work.” 

            I tried sitting up in bed, but the room was moving a little bit on me.  I must have looked like a sorry soul, because Cait took some pity on me, and quickly left the room before returning with a bottle of water. 

            “Drink this,” she said, handing me the bottle, and then disappearing into the bathroom. 

            I watched the bathroom door close behind her, and then heard the shower.  I righted myself in bed, and opened the water bottle.  I drank in short, quick gulps, finishing the whole bottle rather quickly.  I then set the empty aside on my nightstand, and got out of bed.  I peeled off my shirt, kicked off my khakis, and walked to the bathroom door.  I knocked once lightly, and then turned the knob, walking into a room full of steam.

 

–Chapters will no longer be available on the blog.  If you have read this far, and would like to continue reading, please contact me at mggross21@gmail.com

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