…But why was he near the Outerbanks. Why were they on the same stretch of road at the same exact moment? Will he wake up? But most importantly, will she have the courage to face him if he does?
YEARS AGO… In Dax’s small dorm room, he admires the make-shift dining table he created with his fridge as the base. The table is set. The lights are out and two candles are lit. The room is recently straightened but a stray sock peeks out from under the bed, where he shoved everything.
His stomach grumbles. He checks his watch and then decides that he’s got time for a quick snack. He pops a bag of popcorn into the microwave.
He looks around the room. He knows he might be over-doing it, but he wants it to be perfect. He kicked his roommate out for the night, so Sarah and he could have some “alone time.” After yesterday’s near miss when Kat walked in, he wanted to have all of the bases covered. At the same time, he didn’t want to give the impression that he was expecting it to happen. The great thing about yesterday was that it was a natural progression, a slow build of passion where they both just knew. He didn’t want to plan anything.
He surveys his work again, then shakes his head. “Looks like I’m trying too hard.”
He puts the overhead light on and blows out the candles. He surveys again and shakes his head.
Then he turns off the overhead light and turns on a small desk lamp. Once again, he shakes his head, but his further lighting design is interrupted by… KNOCK, KNOCK.
In a split decision, he puts on the overhead light before he opens the door. Sarah stands in the doorway in a halter sundress and faded denim jacket. A wave of hair drapes over her cheek. Dax forgets to breath for a split second. Then finally remembers to kiss her hello and get out of the way so she can come in.
She immediately sees the scene he’s laid out and smiles. It’s obvious that he wanted to make their night special, but there is no evidence of how long he agonized over every detail.
He pulls out a chair for her. She sits. He takes the lid off the pot at the center of the table. Steam rises from the perfect pasta.
Sarah takes a whiff. “What I want to know is how one makes fettuccine Alfredo on a dorm hotplate.”
“There is a kitchen down the hall, you know?” He opens the fridge door in between his legs. He pulls out two beers. “Beer?”
Sarah smiles but then takes another whiff of the air. “Is something burning?”
Dax smells it too. They both turn to see black smoke coming out of the microwave. The popcorn! Dax rushes over to pull the flaming bag from inside. The smoke has already filled the room and set off the alarm. He tosses the bag into the small sink to extinguish it.
While he may have salvaged the room, he’s not having much luck saving the evening. The building alarms sound and the PA system announces, “This is not a drill. Everyone must exit the building.”
Dax and Sarah explode with laughter. Dax grabs her hand and leads her out the door. They rush down the cement stairwell with the rest of the residents.
Sarah can’t help but feel bad that all of his efforts and his yummy meal have gone to waste. But she watches him with admiration as they descend. It was a sweet gesture anyway.
They emerge into the night air. Residents play Hack-e-sack on the quad. Most chat in small groups.
Dax puts his arm around her and they walk away from the crowd. “Were you really hungry?”
Sarah shakes her head. “Not really. Stomach is kind of full of butterflies lately.”
Dax can totally relate. “Mine too.” He looks around. “Just don’t tell anyone.”
Sarah smiles. “What’s your reason?”
“Probably the same as you.”
Sarah can’t believe her ears. Could he really be worrying about the same things she is?
He wraps his arm around her tighter as they walk. “I have an idea. You feeling adventurous?”
Sarah hesitates and then nods.
He grabs her hand and they run down the sidewalk toward the city bus stop, where they wait. Headlights approach from the distance. He looks at Sarah. “Here are the rules. We get on the next bus wherever it’s going and take it to its final destination. Deal?”
Sarah loves this idea. “Deal.”
The next bus pulls up. Destination sign reads Piscataway. They have no idea where that is, but they get on.
Sarah chooses a window seat near the front and Dax sits next to her. The bus is empty accept for a few tired working folks toward the back. Sarah looks out the window. Dax leans over to look with her. “So you’ve been thinking about after graduation too, huh?”
Sarah can feel a lump building in her throat, so she just nods.
Dax rests his forehead in her hair as she still faces the window, and whispers in her ear. “We’ve never talked about us. It kinda just happened.”
Sarah turns to face him, their foreheads almost touching. She looks worried “I know. Are we…?”
Dax puts a finger to her lips so she doesn’t finish the sentence just yet. He kisses her softly and then they rest their heads against each other and don’t say a word for a while.
The bus passes a large tulip field in full bloom. It’s so colorful that you can still see the color in the darkness. Dax points at it. “I always thought that was the weirdest thing. Why would you plant an entire field of flowers that bloom only once?”
Sarah tilts her head up to look at him. “Maybe it makes it more special.” She hopes that he’s not drawing similarities between their love and the tulip field. While her relationships before him were trivial and often one-sided, she recognizes what she’s feeling now. She’s not sure how, but she does. As corny as it sounds in her head, this love is evergreen.
Dax takes her hand into his lap and intertwines their fingers. Of course he can’t know what she’s thinking at the moment, but he wants her to know that his love for her is not a tulip.
Minutes later, the bus makes a loud grinding noise, then comes to a full stop. Through the windshield smoke rises from the hood and starts to smell. The bus driver informs them that he will radio for another bus to pick them up. And suggests everyone wait outside.
Dax looks disappointed as they step off of the stalled bus. “So much for spontaneity.”
This night has just been riddled with curve balls. Sarah and Dax keep weaving, but obviously they are meant to be on a different path. Sarah is ready to lead them onto that path. “Let’s walk back. It’s not too far. And it’s a beautiful night.”
Dax looks up at a cloudy night sky. “You realize it’s going to rain?”
She pulls his arm. “Where’s your sense of adventure?” He smiles. He knows that he gladly follow her anywhere.
The road is dark and no cars pass for quite a few minutes. Sarah breaks the silence. “Top five places you want to visit. Go.”
Dax contemplates for a mere second. “Alaska.”
Sarah’s eyes sparkle. “Ooo. That’s a good one. Cruise or dogsled?”
That’s a no-brainer. “Dog sled, of course.”
Sarah smiles. “Western Europe”
Dax will play along. “Backpacking or Rental Car?”
Sarah doesn’t hesitate. “Backpacking, definitely.”
Dax smiles. “Bali.”
Sarah nearly hops with delight. “Hammock or tent?”
Dax laughs. “Hammock”
Sarah stops and looks at him. “For one or two?”
Dax stops. “Are you coming?”
Sarah blushes through her smile. “Anywhere.”
Dax steps closer. “I want you to be honest with me.” Surely he’s going to bring up something important. He pauses for dramatic effect. “If we traveled around the world together would we backpack or jetset to first class hotels?”
Sarah laughs and then lingers with her answer for a bit. “Well, if I’m being honest, I don’t have the money for first class hotels… But I think I’d still backpack even if I did.”
Dax wraps his arm around her shoulders and they start walking again. “I think that’s why I like you so much.”
Sarah teases. “You like me?”
Dax doesn’t answer but smiles. They reach the tulip field and stop to look at it. Dax steps toward it. “Let’s get a closer look.” They move into the field, careful not to step on the flowers but stop when they are sufficiently encircled by color. Dax crouches to lay down in them. He nods at her to coax her to do it, as he slowly bends toward the ground.
She whispers in case anyone is nearby. “We can’t. We’ll ruin them.”
But Dax doesn’t listen and fully reclines amongst the flowers. “Where’s your sense of adventure?”
Sarah hesitates at first, but guesses she needs to swallow a bit of her own medicine. She carefully lies down next to him. They glance upward at the sky through the flower tops. This view was well worth it.
Dax turns his head to look at her. “Were you serious?”
She turns toward him. “About what?”
He leans closer. “Would you travel with me?”
Sarah tries to sum up his face. Is he being serious now? Does he mean it? She realizes he does. “Yes.”
His smile broadens. He’s always had a bit of wanderlust and envisioned he would do quite a bit of traveling after graduation. In fact, Sarah and he talked about it a few times. But it was always his dream, and very early in their relationship so it was never discussed as something they would do together. Sure, he’d get a job and start a career sooner or later, but right now he wanted to see the world. And he’s busting at the seams that Sarah would agree to do it with him. Dax smiles and leans in. “Sarah, I…” He’s actually getting a bit choked up and can’t finish the sentence.
Sarah puts a finger to his lips. “Me too.”
Dax shifts even closer. “A lot.”
Sarah leans in. “A whole lot.”
Dax closes the last of the gap between them and presses his lips against hers.
He holds her body closer against his, as the first drops of rain fall. The first drops hit their faces, but it goes unnoticed. Until, lightning illuminates the sky, followed by thunder. Then the rain really comes down.
They jump to their feet and look around through the sheets of rain. Dax looks in the direction of the bus. “We could run back and wait it out.”
Sarah shakes her head.
Dax quickly spots an old shed beyond the field. “Let’s run for it.” They rush across the tulips, abandoning their earlier concern for the flowers’ well-being. They reach the shed, already drenched. There is a padlock on the door. Dax grabs a shovel that leans against the outside. He plans to break the lock off. Luckily it’s an old door. The handle breaks off before the lock. But either way… they’re in.
The rain pounds the roof in a steady rhythm. Dax and Sarah shake the excess water from themselves onto the dirt floor. The shed is very small, with a lawn mower, some shelves with garden tools, flowerpots and a couple of bags of potting soil. Dax shakes like a wet dog. “I can’t believe our luck today.”
Sarah laughs, then spies a canvas tarp balled up in the corner. She spreads it on the remaining patch of floor. “The way I look at it, life is throwing us as much as it can to see if we can take it.”
Dax grabs her hand. “What do you think?”
She smooths the tarp and looks up at him. “We might have to stay awhile.”
He smiles. The thunder and lightning rage on outside the shed. He touches her arm. Her denim jacket is drenched. “You should probably dry this off.”
Sarah takes off her jacket and drapes it on the lawn mower. Her halter dress clings to her in its dampness.
Dax admires her and tries not to notice her firm nipples at this moment, but it’s close to impossible. “Are you warm enough?”
Sarah wraps her arms around herself. “A little chilly.” He moves in to keep her warm. But she abruptly and unintentionally jumps back when the chill of his wet T-shirt touches her. It’s certainly not that she has an aversion to getting close. In fact, they’re all alone… No one around… No one even willing to brave the rain to find them if they wanted to. She reaches out to touch his shirt again. “You’re soaked. You should probably dry this off.” She smiles slyly.
Rather than waiting for him to do it, she lifts his wet T-shirt from his waist and pulls it over his head. He gladly lets her. She quickly drapes the shirt over a shelf.
He stands bare-chested in front of her… close. His chest rises and falls heavily. “Now I’m chilly.”
She steps closer to him and wraps her arms around his neck. The thin fabric of her now damp dress is hardly a barrier between those firm nipples and his bare chest.
If she wanted to take this slow, it might be next to impossible at this point. He leans in for a kiss, at first gentle and then not.
Sarah is finding it difficult not to rip the clothes from their bodies this instant. Not that she thought Dax would protest, but this is the first time they’d see each other naked. She’d like to make it last.
Dax’s hands move over her back to her bottom and down her leg, lifting it up and around his hip. His need to press her against his body is unraveling him. He kisses her face and neck, then her shoulder. With the other hand he reaches the clasp of her halter causing it to fall to her waist. She gasps slightly but he presses his lips to hers. He lifts her up by the bare waist, and she wraps her legs around him, so they are chest against chest.
Her skin is on fire with wanting. This feels so good. Why on earth did they wait so long ? A slight moan escapes her lips, and he is ignited.
He rips open his jeans, with her still wrapped around his waist. He shimmies the jeans to his ankles and then lays her gently onto the tarp with him on top of her.
He manages to free himself of the last of his clothing without losing skin contact with Sarah.
Sarah moves her hands over his tight muscular body. She can hardly believe he’s hers. She slips her remaining clothing over her hips and off. It’s such a relief to be free of any barriers. He feels so good against her.
Both completely naked, Dax can feel the length of her against him. His lips glide over her skin. He breathes heavy but takes a second to look at her… really look at her. “You’re beautiful.”
She brushes his cheek with her lips and then covers his mouth with hers. That is the last of the words, that either of them have presence of mind to utter.
They are lost. Their bodies slide over each other. Their hands search every inch of the other. Their breath fills the other’s lungs. Until they are intertwined, entangled and within each other… Until they are one.