I will say…I hated it when Tony took me back to my truck. But we had agreed to take it as it came. So far, he’d been kind, funny and proved himself to be an honest man. I think. A crook isn’t good if he doesn’t get away with it. But, we’d see. I had given him my phone number and email address. I had gotten home when my phone rang. Grinning, I saw his name on my phone.
“Hi.” I greeted smiling at him, which he couldn’t see of course.
“Just checking to see if you got home alright.” Tony said softly.
“I didn’t.” I chuckled. “I get here and there’s no one here.”
Tony chuckled. “The same here, but that’s a good thing. Nick’s out somewhere with whomever. So are his roommates.”
“So did I.” I said honestly. “I think we were driving the waitress crazy after a while. She kept checking if we wanted something else. I almost said yes.”
“She made a nice tip.” Tony pointed out. “There’s nothing for her to complain about.”
“But we were there four and a half hours!”
Tony laughed. “We did talk a lot.” Then he paused. “And we have a lot more talking to do.”
“I think we will.” I said. “Thanks for lunch, and the good company.”
“Mine wasn’t bad either.” Tony said. “Now this is more than just an excuse to see you again, but….how about some help in finding me somewhere to live. You know the area and traffic and all that. What do you say?”
“Is this going to be a date, or not?” I asked.
“Would you object?”
I laughed. “I’d love to. But I work until five, so it will be late or some other time.”
“Okay, I’ll look at some, we’ll meet and I tell you where and you see if you’d recommend it.”
“Just give me time to change.” I said. “Nothing fancy!” I said firmly.
He chuckled. “Okay, okay. I’ll let you choose. About seven? Is that good?”
“I’ll be waiting.”
“I hoped I’d meet someone here, but I didn’t even think I’d meet someone at church. And so quickly.” Tony said. “Not that I’m complaining, but…I like you. I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye”
I was so happy at work. Everyone was looking at me with curiously. As the Assistant Manager of a hotel in historical downtown, I had things to keep me occupied and people to watch. Even our General Manager noticed.
“Why are you so happy?” He asked.
I grinned. “I had a great Sunday.” And I left it at that.
The best laid plans often have problems. Traffic in Charleston was a problem. What major city didn’t have that? And there were always the accidents that clog things up. I got home late and rushed to get ready, barely making it by seven as I saw his Mercedes pull up. Tony got out of his car, looking around my neighborhood with a frown. Ringing my doorbell I opened to a well-dressed man in kakis and a light blue polo shirt. Only now I could see more of what he’d had under his suit! I wasn’t disappointed! The shape I’d seen under the suit was nice, but now I saw the muscles of his chest pushing against his shirt. He had a very nice butt!
Opening the door, I grinned at him. “I said casual!”
Tony shook his head. “This is casual!!” He grinned. “But what you said, was nothing fancy. This isn’t fancy.”
I waved at what I had on, which was my t-shirt and jeans. “This…is not fancy.”
His eyes rolled. “Well, this is what you get.”
“And this is what you get.” I smiled as I set my alarm.
Tony smiled. “I’m comfortable with what I see.”
The alarm set, I closed the door to have him right beside me. He leaned closer. I held up my hand. “You kissed me once. It was okay, but the next time you kiss me…if you kiss me. You’d better mean it.”
He grinned. “Who says I don’t mean it now?” Then he looked around. “Or are you worried what the neighbors would think?”
“There are gang wars, drug dealers, hookers all around.” I pointed out. “Do you think I’m worried about offending them?”
“Okay then.” Tony smiled and leaned in again. This time his lips touched mine lightly.
He smelled great!! His lips were soft and I was becoming very uncomfortable in my jeans. He was turning me on! Big time!
He smiled as he backed away an inch. “I meant that.”
I nodded. “I’m glad you did.” Then frowned. “There are rules about dating, you know?”
Tony looked at me surprised. “Rules!?”
“The rule is kissing is only allowed on date three.”
“I never knew those!” Tony griped. “Who makes these stupid rules? Straight people?”
I grinned. “It’s common knowledge.”
He shook his head. “It’s not common if I don’t know them. The only one I know of is sex on the third date.” He grinned. “If we count Sunday as a date, we have one more after this.”
“You think so.”
“According to these rules, we’ll be married by Friday.” Tony walked toward his car. “So, let’s get going.”
God!! The man was so tempting! I was falling for him big time.
He looked at me as we were about to get in. “And if I violate these rules, are you going to turn me in to…who? The Date Police?”
I grinned as we got in his car. “I was a cop. I might.”
He held his hands out to me. “Then cuff me.”
I laughed. “Later.”
He chuckled. “Kinky.” As he started his car.
He shook his head. “Well, I hope things work out.” He frowned. “If nothing else, I’ve got to get you out of this neighborhood.” He smiled. “Which should give you an incentive to find a nice place for me. So when you move in, it will be a place you like as well.”
“Why would I move in with you?”
He smiled. “Because you’ll find me irresistible.”
He insisted on driving. Which I was fine with, but when we drove up, he was looking at me like I had to be mistaken.
“You want to eat here!?” He pointed at the shack.
“Trust me.” I said calmly. “I asked you Sunday if you liked seafood. This man is over the top.”
“I do, but…” he looked the way we came. “It didn’t even have a road!”
“And it’s not on any map.” I pointed out. “This is a need to know basis. He’s phenomenal.” I looked at his car. “Maybe we should have taken my truck.”
“I drove through marsh!”
“It’s low tide. It’s hard packed now.” I explained. “Now, do we waste time, or do we eat? He doesn’t take overnight guests.”
“I can get it washed.” Tony sighed with resolve. “Next time we come here, if it’s as good as you claim, we’ll take your truck.”
Inside, Tony’s eyes grew even bigger. “It’s a shack!”
He was right. It was. No tables matched or chairs. I knew the man had gotten everything from different yard sales, but it was clean. No paint, just sheetrock on the walls which was scrawled with signatures all over. I placed the order and sat at the table with Tony.
“This looks worse than Rockaway smells…at low tide!”
I just shook my head. “I have no idea what that means. But you’ll see.”
It only took a bite and Tony grinned. “It is good.” Then he held up his chinette plate and looked at his plastic fork. “My mother would die. She never served food on a paper plate.”
I smiled. “Never?”
“No even on a picnic.” Tony said.
“It’s good business for the owner.” I explained. “He has no overhead. When we’re done, we throw all this away.”
Tony shrugged. “Well, it is good.”
Later during the meal, he was asking about parts of town.
“Mount Pleasant?” He asked.
“Which part?” I asked. “Now also consider the bridges. There are two now. Both will be a bitch with traffic. Depending on where you get the job.” Then I shrugged. “But that’s true with everywhere. But Mount Pleasant’s can we the worst.”
He nodded. “Well, I’ve got some others.”
“Are we looking for a home…as in house, or condo?”
He shrugged. “A condo would be better. I don’t mow lawns.”
I grinned. “You don’t?”
He shook his head. “Never have, never will.”
“I grew up in the city. Not a lot of lawns.” Tony replied.
“What sort of work were you looking for?” I asked.
He thought a few minutes. “I have a master’s degree. I did work with investors. But I’m pretty well done with that.” Then he got serious again. “I have some things I want to tell you, but…I’m not ready.”
I nodded. From his face, it must be really bad. “I’ll be here.”
He smiled. “I believe you will.”
It was after midnight when we parted. I didn’t want it to end, but life didn’t ask me. I had to work in the morning. He smiled as I opened the door of the house and I turned the alarm off.
“Do we do this again?” Tony asked.
“Please.” I grinned, but this time, I kissed him. Long and this time, his tongue came in which I took in and both our tongues did this duel, but neither of us were trying to win. I wrapped my arms around him as his wrapped around me. I loved the warm feel of his back and the firm feel of the muscles there. I felt a hand slide down my back as he tried to pull me even closer.
“I’m falling in love with you, Mitch.” He whispered.
“Don’t stop.” I said back. “I’m falling in love with you, too.”
“Good.” Tony smiled. “Can I see you tomorrow?”
I grinned. “You’d better.”
“As you don’t have a place yet. Same place.” I said.
Tony nodded. “I’ll be here.”
Some will ask, why wait? You’re both adults and it was clear you like each other. Go for it! Others will caution for us to be careful. Take you time. If it’s right, it will work out. The truth was we just met. I know a couple that went out on a first date and have never parted nearly fifteen years later. So it was possible. It was also possible I was being tricked. Certainly not for any money I had, he was the one with some money. And he’d been honest so far. Trust was important and everything I’d learned told me I could trust him. But if you’re going to let someone in your life and let them in a part no one else could come, you had to extend trust.
I didn’t give in to casual sex. But would sex with Tony be casual now? Again, some will say yes, others would say no. Would my heart make me say yes when my mind said no? Were the two even speaking together? Would they when the time came?
I got home and frowned at my house. I had gotten a table and chairs, even a sofa. It was comfortable, not pretty. I even got a bed! As in frame to put the mattresses on. But my big problem was, what do I feed him? I could cook, if I had something to cook. He was Italian, he might not like a frozen pizza. There was a part of me that didn’t want to disappoint Tony with what I had. If he went away because what I had wasn’t good enough, then I wouldn’t be either. Not in the long run. It was a risk I’d be willing to take.
I had no more pulled in my driveway, when I saw behind me Tony’s Mercedes pull in behind me. I glanced at my watch. It was five thirty five. Getting out, I smiled at Tony. “You need to have your car fixed.”
He looked as he got out of his car. “Why?”
“Either that or get a new watch.” I said. “It’s not seven. So either the clock in your car is wrong, or…”
He walked up with a smile. “Does the Rule Police have laws about a man that can’t wait to see someone? I’m guilty. I wanted to see you.”
He was even dressed in jeans! No levis, but jeans something. I grinned back. “I think they’ll let it slide. If you pay a fine.”
“What fine is that?” Tony asked pulling me close.
“This.” I said kissing him gently.
He responded instantly. He smelled good, he kissed good. What more was there? He parted reluctantly. “I’ll pay up. But we should take this inside, or we put a show on for the neighbors.” He waved his hand back. I heard the car’s alarm arm.
Inside, he didn’t say a word about what he saw.
“Is Digiorno Pizza okay?” I asked pulling out a box. “Or would you like to order one?”
He smiled. “Do you have beer or wine?”
“I don’t.” I said. “I hate it, remember?”
“We can eat that, or order in. Whatever.”
We ended with Chinese and ordered drinks that way. And settled down with the one thing I had that I liked. My TV was pretty nice and one of the main reasons I had an alarm I used. That and my computer. We ate on the sofa as we watched a movie. Then he sat forward.
“I want to tell you something.”
I nodded and turned the TV off. “Okay.”
He sighed and then took a deep breath. “When we, if we, take our clothes off, you’ll see something.” He began. “I have a scar. It’s on my left side below my arm.” He was looking away. “It’s not painful physically and it’s healing. But I’m still healing…in here.” He pointed to his head. Then he looked at me. “I tell you this, but please, don’t tell anyone else, okay?”
I nodded, but I wouldn’t tell anyone anyway. But I let him continue.
“I worked for Morgan and Stanley for many years.” He began. “Until September the eleventh, 2001.” He said slowly. “When I worked at the World Trade Center.”
My mouth dropped open.
He nodded at my instant understanding about what he was saying. “I was on the 60th floor when the first plane hit.” Now he was starting to shake. “I remember this…horrible noise and the whole building…it was…like a magic trick where a man pulls a table cloth leaving the plates on the table.” He took another breath. “Things on people’s desks remained in midair a second as the whole floor lurched, scattering everything.” He laughed, but it wasn’t because it was funny, but because it was so absurd. “I remember not being able to figure out what the hell was going on! I was on the sixtieth floor! Then the alarms, fire alarms were going off. Some ran to catch the elevator. Most were just waiting for someone to tell them what happened and what to do.” He shook his head. “I remember one of my supervisors saying we need to remain there and calm. The building had safeties. I remember saying he was crazy and I headed down the stairs. There were a lot of people coming down the stairs. I remember a woman screaming about people in the elevator! She said they all caught on fire, that they were trapped as flames came down and splashed like liquids, some came through the closed doors and hit the elevator, it fried those people!” Now he was crying. “I remember seeing a man on about floor thirty. He was in a wheelchair and said he had friends coming back to him to help him down. He couldn’t go down the stairs!!” Now Tony’s breath hitched. “I left him!” He sobbed. “Why did I do that!? Then the power went out and I had to try to make it down in the dark! I finally got to the bottom and to the street level. I watched as now both buildings were on fire. I saw it, but I didn’t believe it. There were things falling….furniture, paper and people!” Now he was crying harder. “I saw a man hit the ground! He burst like…I don’t know!” Then he took a quick breath and he gasped. “I didn’t just see him hit the ground! I heard it!!” He said covering his ears. “This horrible sound I can’t get out of my mind!” His eyes were closed as he told me, shaking his head to rid his mind of what he was reliving. “I don’t know how long it was, I was just running! Then there was this other sound, this crashing, crunching sound as the building collapsed! This cloud of dust.” He covered his eyes. “It covered everything! And it had a taste! It was in my mouth, in my nose…” he was wiping his face to rid himself of the memory. “I didn’t even know I was hurt. I don’t even remember getting hurt!” He laughed again with that humorless laugh. “Hurt? Those people died!! I saw them! I heard them!”
His face had so much anguish! My heart was literally crying for him, it hurt me! I reached for him, and as he felt my touch, he hugged me tightly, burying his face against me as he sobbed. It was the most awful sob I have ever heard! My vision was suddenly blurry and I realized I was crying with him. I would have done anything to take what he had experienced away. But I couldn’t. I was there with him. Nothing was needed to say. I just held him as he sobbed.