It's nigh on 15 years since the first time he took me out on his arm. It's still my favorite date. It wasn't anything spectacular-in fact, it ended in a threat, tears and a hug. But, that was the day he became my knight in shining armor.
Most of you know our story starts with books. It's always revolved around books. He caught my eye with a book, he caught my heart with books, he caught my hand with books. He's always been my book buddy.
We met in August over a stack of books, from Tom Sawyer to How to get Money for College In September, he shared his favorite book Lizard Skin with me. It started a strange love affair. Somewhere along the way, we spent a few minutes discussing old movies. I was more than thrilled to know he liked old westerns. My best memories as a child were laying on the floor at my grandpa's house, watching John Wayne save the day. I adored old black and whites, but somehow, I'd never found the man that wanted to watch them with me. They always wanted to see things blow up. Silly me. Don't you know things blow up with John Wayne too? With each passing day, I knew this man was the one intended for me.
December saw the kiss that melted my knees. And I waited for more. I waited for an offer of dinner that didn't include half my regular counter customers or having to jump up to refill someone's coffee cup. An invitation to a movie. A trip through the mall. January passed and I was growing discouraged. Had he thought I was too forward with that first kiss, where he dipped me low and held me close? I must confess, hussy that I was, I longed for his arms around me again. They were such marvelous arms! It was all too easy to be there, and want to stay there. Was I too eager? Discouragement made the already dismal January days more dim. I was dealing with an estranged soon-to-be-ex, and I needed something to make me smile.
February greeted us with snow, and lots of it. I was really starting to think that perhaps, my handsome cowboy was interested in only one thing, and honestly, I'd had enough of men who only wanted me for my body. I wanted to be wanted for more...for my charm, my wit, my all-too hidden intelligence. I wanted to be valued for more than a skinny waist and a large chest. I know, it contradicts those weak knees. Love's got to start somewhere, doesn't it?
Two days before my birthday, he came rushing in after work, wind blown and covered with a dusting of snow. He grinned at me and begged for a cup of coffee to warm his hands up. Despite all my fretting, it was impossible to resist his gorgeous smile and easy teasing. I fell right in with the usual banter. My heart was aching though, and I knew time was drawing close to say good night to him. he never stayed late when the weather was bad. Pretty soon, he slid his coffee cup across the counter and declared his finished state. I handed him his check and told him I'd see him later. He moseyed up to the register, paid his bill and returned with what I assumed was his usual tip. He reached out and snagged my arm as I scooted past the counter.
"Hey darlin'. I know it's kinda late notice, and maybe I waited too long to even think about asking. There's this film thing Sunday night at Joe Pages. I was wonderin' if maybe you'd be interested in going with me?"
My heart stopped. I wasn't sure if I should keel over or leap and shriek for joy.
"What kind off film thing?"
"Aw, it's this old black and white silent movie film festival. I don't imagine you'd really be interested in that though, now would ya? You'd probably rather go see that Johnny Depp feller. It was silly of me to ask." He started to head for the door and I found myself grabbing his arm.
"I would love to go. Sunday evening? What time?"
He filled in the details and we agreed to meet downtown. It wasn't too far from his place, and I had to work until shortly before the movie started. As I watched his truck pull away, I realized that the movie was on my birthday. It was a good way to spend my birthday. And I didn't need to tell him that it was, just enjoy his company.
Sunday couldn't come fast enough for me. I made it through my shift, with butterflies that threatened to rip me in two. My shift ended and I raced to the employee break room to change my shirt and brush through my hair. I clocked out and raced across town to Joe Pages Book store. Just another book on our shelf, I mused. It seemed fitting to spend an evening with my cowboy at a bookstore. I pulled up and saw him leaning in his easy, casual way against the wall outside the store. He grinned at me, stood up, and made his way to my car. He opened my door for me, reached in and helped me out, a gentle hand on my elbow. As usual, my heart skipped several beats at his touch, even though it was through several layers of winter clothing.
"Hey there Darlin'. I'm real glad you made it."
He placed my arm in the crook of his elbow and led me to the cook store. I was early, so we took a few minutes to peruse the books. I'd never been in this book store, but it was clear he had. He knew his was around, and the help there knew him well. He offered to buy a cappuchino for me from the coffee bar and we headed to the basement to watch The Great Train Robbery, complete with piano accompaniment. It was probably the most unique and marvelous evening I'd had since spending my 18th birthday cross country skiing with my high school sweetheart. It was certainly more thrilling for me. He kept leaning over to whisper in my ear. Every time I felt his breath in my ear, my own breath caught and I tingled from head to toe. Pretty soon, I realized that he had an arm draped easily across my shoulders and I leaned into it, savoring his clean smell, no frills, just him. The movies ended and the owner announced that hey were giving away door prizes. They called out a ticket number, and my cowboy's hand lifted in the air.
"Right here." he called out. "This young lady's got the winning ticket." I blushed deeply, and protested. "You bought them. It's yours." He insisted, telling me that he'd put my ticket in his right vest pocket and by golly, that's the one that had the winning number. He refused to take no for an answer, and I made my way to claim a gift certificate for the book store. We eventually made our way to the top floor, where I picked my books-Les Miserable, Don Quixote, and The Great Gatsby. He made me promise I'd share. How could I not?
He asked me to go walking with him, and it was all too easy to agree. Pretty soon, we came on the Plains Hotel, with it's quaint little cafe on the ground floor. He asked if I was interested in a bite to eat, and opened the door, gestured grandly and laughed with me. He asked if I trusted him to order for me. My gallant cowboy was catching my heart more and more with each minute, with each effort he took. He ordered coffee for us both and asked the waitress to bring me a reuben sandwich. He glanced in question at me, and got a nod of affirmation that the sandwich he'd chosen was perfect. In fact, how had he known it was my favorite? He always had a knack for knowing my favorites. We enjoyed our meal, chattering about the movie, the books I'd chosen, his weekend. Eventually, we wandered our way through the lower level hallways of the hotel, checking out the history that adorned the walls. He escorted me back to my car, and opened the door for me. He asked if I was interested in going to his apartment. I hesitated, but realized that it was exactly what I wanted. There was no hint from him that he had plans for anything but a pleasant evening, so I felt it was good. As I sat in the driver seat, I realized there was a note on my windshield. Curious, I pulled it in to me. My cowboy satin the passenger seat, as I read the note.
It was from my ex, and said simply that our daughter needed me. I sighed, and told Cowboy that I needed to go. he asked if I'd drop him off at his place then on my way. I agreed, and finally found out where he lived. He leaned over at his curb and kissed me gently on the cheek. I told him I'd see him later. He agreed, and I raced ff to see what might be wrong with my baby girl. I hated leaving her with my ex, but he'd managed to win custody of her in the temporary agreements, citing my work hours and lack of finances to pay for a day care. Fighting him was financially impossible for me, so there she stayed. I was upset that something was wrong, and more upset that I'd been stalked down. It bothered me that he'd been able to find me in a town of 50,000 people.
When I arrived at his house, our daughter wasn't even there. He'd sent her to the babysitters, because he wanted to talk. He wanted to make things work. We'd already had this talk, and the last time, it had ended in him dragging me out of my car by the hair, and throwing my keys in 3 feet of snow. I wasn't willing to live my life that way, and was trying to break free from the abuse and deception I had lived with since we married 5 years before. As I expected, the 'discussion' turned ugly. He brought up Cowboy, screaming that he knew I was being unfaithful, and had been all along, that he was going to get him sent to Saudi Arabia with a target painted on his back. (Yes, my Cowboy was once in the Air Guard) It disturbed me further that my soon-to-be-ex knew that Cowboy was in the guard. Too much control was being exhibited again, and it just firmed my resolve to be free, and to find a way to get my daughter with me. My ex had crossed a line that bordered on crazy and dangerous. It terrified me. He ranted and screamed more about my Cowboy, how he'd kill him or any man that came near me. It broke my heart to hear the threats, and I realized that I couldn't place my Cowboy in that danger.
I managed to break away from my ex, and made my way back into town. I decided that it would be better for my daughter and my cowboy if I ended it cleanly there, before I was too much in love with him. I cried, because I knew, I already loved this wonderful man, who made my every want and need a priority over his-and we were just friends at that point. No better friend had I ever had.
I arrived at his apartment, rang the bell to let him know I was there, and he came down to open the main door. He could tell I had been crying and immediately asked if my daughter was ok. I spilled out the story of my ex's deception and threats. As I sobbed, he held me and let me cry. Eventually, I pushed myself out of his arms, because it hurt just too much to be there, knowing I wanted to b there forever. I stood up and told him that I needed to step away from our friendship, because of my ex's threats and control tactics.
He stood up with me, reached for my arms and pulled me close.
He squeezed and told me "Darlin'. Stop crying now. That old varmint doesn't scare me a bit. He's nothing to worry about. You need a friend and that's what I am. And friends just don't let friends alone when they need someone. You're stuck with me, darlin'. When you're all done with this here mess, if you want me gone, I'll skeedaddle. But right now, you just need a friend. " I was stunned to hear his words. I glanced up at hi, tears streaming down my face. he pulled out a blue cloth handkerchief and wiped my tears away. I giggled at his hankie. He assured me it was clean, that he'd just opened a brand new package. It made me giggle even more. I again tried to insist that he didn't need to deal with my ex.
"Darlin', he's just a bully. And I think you've been bullied a lot. You need a friend." I sat, silent for a few minutes.
"I thought that you...." I grew quiet again.
He looked at me closely,. He watched, silent for a minute. I didn't know how to say what was going through my head.
"You thought I just wanted a piece o' you?" I blushed and shook my head softly."I was afraid maybe so." I whispered quietly.
"Well, now, I'd be an idiot if I didn't want you. But Darlin', there's something about you that makes a man puzzled. And I can't figure it out if I just treat ya like a lady from the Hog Ranch. You've got something special and I like it. If all I am is your friend, then that's just fine. But if there's more later, you'll never hear me complain. Can I just be your friend for now though?" I was stunned to hear his words. He was even better than I hoped for. I started crying again and he pulled me close. After a few minutes of holding me, he sat me up and said "And what a crappy way to end your birthday. Can I do something to make it better now? Dumb guy, ruined the whole day."
He'd known all along that it was my birthday. With each passing minute, every thing he did, every word he spoke, he just caught me even more.
My book buddy, my best friend, my Cowboy, my now-Darling. It's been 15 years since that date. He's still my knight in shining armor. He still mes me shiver when he touches me. And I still love to share my books with him
Darling: The brave hero, love of my life
Crunchy: The crazy drama queen, hippie crunchy, fiber-freak
Formerly-known-as-Teenaged-Cave-Dweller: The now happily married wayward teen daughter, currently without a part but for an occasional guest appearance-again.
Australian beast-in-law: the transplant from Australia who swept the Cave Dweller off her feet
SNG(AKA Science Nerd Girl): the 19 year old sanity creator, Mom's all helper, now part time college geek
Pickle: The 17 old sensory seeking/avoiding mother hen
Tink: The 15 year old auto-immune compromised fairy nut
Cactus Jack: The 13 year old drama king
Don Juan: The 12 year old ladies man
Duck: The 9 year old cutie patootie
Doodlebop: The 7 old independent sass box
Sugar Man: The 5 year old sweetie flirt monster
Frodo: the 5 old chunky grandson
Sassbox: the 4 year old firecracker baby
Sugar Man: The 5 year old sweetie flirt monster
Frodo: the 5 old chunky grandson
Sassbox: the 4 year old firecracker baby
Biscuit Smidge: the 4 month old shrieky dragon granddaughter