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Dating Me

The entire surprise relied upon the alarm vibrating silently beneath her tan work cargos. The phone was just far enough for him to turn off the alarm within a second even if he had to roll over first. He had been fretting over that moment for hours. Constantly, he rolled over to check the time. 12:11am, 1:07am, 1:34am. His anticipation was outdueling his sleep. Yet, sleep deprivation was a willing sacrifice for this morning.

The alarm was set for 3:00am. It was set this early because he remembered she had never seen the sunrise. There was no greater time to witness it than during a humid, Texas spring morning. A simple, expedient drive down south would find them in the presence of ocean waters, flowers, and light skating over each surface.

The images of his uncle’s memory resurfaced. The rays of the sun transformed with each bump and grind against the water. The darkness of night was invaded by a party of light. The sun celebrated its own Carnivale every morning and people rarely witnessed it. It was the kind of artwork that could bring tears from the eyes. At least, he hoped it would for her.

He envisioned her in his arms, sleepy but grateful, soaking in the breathtaking view. Her heartbeat would be rushing just enough to feel it on his forearm. He couldn’t wait to succeed. It all depended on the alarm. If she caught wind of the plan, he’d lose the moment her tears streamed from joy. And instead, he’d receive anger for planning such an early trip on her day off without her knowledge. Something that he could’ve planned with her and spared her of the sudden rise he was about to do in… two hours!?

The daydream drifted to 2:03am. The alarm was set for 3:00am. Now, if he tried to go back to sleep, he’d ensure his failure to actually wake up for the alarm. Fear set in. Missing the alarm was an immediate risk. Thus, he slid his heavy leg away from her thigh.

He listened. Her breathing would expose her state of being. Had she been snoring, he would have slid all the way off the bed by now. However, she was merely breathing heavily. He could tell by the way the echo of her breath lingered in the air. Snorers often left a pause in their breathing to scare you into believing they’ve died for a moment. She was right at the point where the inaudible snoring would soon become audible again.

With each recovery from the pause, he slid one limb away from her. Carefully, he replaced his warm body with cold pillows, and waited for her body heat to warm them. He laid on the other side of these pillows staring into the ceiling. Sneaking was something he was always good at, but Lord knows it required much patience. Patience, he had, but nevertheless it was required again.

By 2:19am, he had managed to use the ottoman next to the bed to lift himself from the mattress. The sunken bed rose like baker’s yeast. The shift in its stability silenced her breath once more. Quickly, he grabbed his phone and tip-toed over to the bathroom and quietly shut the door. He flicked the light on and looked around. Just in case, he walked over to the toilet against the back wall and flushed it. Had she been awake, she’d quickly go back to sleep thinking he was using the restroom. The genius in his mind deserved applause.

Confidently, he entered the master bathroom closet. With all her many outfits, it was easy for him to hide his chosen fit for her. She wasn’t too organized with her wardrobe. Underneath the many colors of hanging blazers, shirts, skirts, and t-shirts were placed five different pairs of footwear: two pairs for the trip and three pairs for the walk. She had black, fluffy slippers, turquoise flats, tan wedges, orange heels, and the white tennis shoes he expected her to wear.

On the highest rack above the shoes, he pulled out a lavender tie dye jumpsuit, a purple shawl, and a random gray blanket. He tried to imagine how she’d want to appear, because it would be important enough to delay the entire trip. Wisdom needed to guide him. Her favorite color was black and she had a lot of black clothes to choose from, but the imagery wouldn’t match and with the expected heat outside, she definitely would want to change to lighter colors before too long. Maybe a black blanket would’ve been better.

Returning from another daydream, he accepted the fact that she’d most likely change the outfit or reluctantly wear what he had chosen. He was just glad he knew better than to spend money on an outfit. He hadn’t figured out that part about her. The sheer variety of clothing before him made it painfully obvious.

He brought the chosen clothing into the bathroom and looked at them in the mirror. He inhaled. He was okay with his. He exhaled. He turned the light off and peeped into the bedroom. She was there, on her side, snoring in her beautiful peace.

He tip-toed over to the bed and laid the clothes out on his side. He placed her shoes at the foot of the bed. He stepped back and looked at her, unaware of what was happening while she slumbered. He mouthed, “You have no idea how much I’m going to love you,” and headed for the bedroom door. Like a thief with a stethoscope, he opened, exited, and closed the door, being extra careful to not even let the metal groan.

Once the handle was released, he realized he had no towels to cover the opening at the bottom of the doorway or cover the speakers on the alarm system. He went to reopen the door, but this was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. Thus, he crossed the apartment and searched the other bathroom for towels. He was relieved to find she of course stocked the other bathroom with towels.

He placed a towel on what he hoped was the only speaker for the alarm system. Gently, he put in the code. The beeps almost sounded like the alarm was going off, but the towel was working. The voice mumbled, “Sys-em -isa-med. Rea-- -o a-m.” He listened for her snoring. Two seconds later and he could hear her escaping another pause in her breathing. Snorers.

He stepped outside, once again acting as a thief in the night as he closed the door. He released a quick breath of relieved excitement. His plan was manifesting. However, his body was responding to the chilling wind rushing up his thighs.

He looked down and realized that he forgot to get dressed. He quickly returned inside and stared at the wall. All he could do was laugh at himself and return to the bedroom as stealthily as he had left it. Using her audible breaths, he reentered the room, put on his clothes, and grabbed his keys. Each step taken while she audibly inhaled.

It reminded him of the childhood game “Red Light, Green Light”. With each exhale, it was red light, and he stopped moving. With each audible inhale, it was green light, and he completed the next task. He was grateful for having grown up in a family of snorers. Sneaking around them was a skill honed during the early morning races to being first to choose the cartoons watched or video games played. Sneaking past one snorer was something he could do in his sleep.

Returning outside, fully clothed, he went to the trunk of his car. There, he found his cooler full of ice, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate fudge, her favorite white wine, a slice of red velvet cake, a slice of chocolate cheesecake, cubed gouda, cheddar, and pepper jack cheese, salami, ham, shrimp, carrots, celery, yellow bell peppers, and wheat crackers. The charcuterie board leaned against the cooler. It was the first time he had ever done a picnic. He didn’t know if he had chosen correctly, but he knew she loved grapes and shrimp. Who wouldn’t love fudge and strawberries? The only thing she couldn’t eat was beef, a reasonable tradeoff for having survived cancer.

It was amazing how casual she was in mentioning it. “I can’t eat beef because I no longer have a colon.” Though new to him, for her, it was a long time ago. An ordeal that was overcome with praises to God for the miracle. She had many tales of adversities overcame, and had even pushed through a couple while they knew each other. Each one made him question just how strong this woman was before him. Half the battles she mentioned would’ve injured his resolve, made him depressed, and discouraged him. Yet, she remained hopeful, romantic, loving, caring, and a joy to be around. There was no hint of bitterness. Each step beyond those threats only added to her gratefulness.

“Every day beyond that hospital bed is a blessing. Steps I will not take for granted. I died on that operating table, but God brought me back. Each step is His grace and mercy continued,” she’d say.

Next to the cooler was a bouquet of flowers that managed to survive the cool night. He had to buy them on the way to her house after work. He didn’t expect her to agree to him spending the night before their weekend together, but he figured she wouldn’t resist when he said, “I just think it would be a grand start to the weekend if I could see your mesmerizingly beautiful face when I open my eyes.”

She sharply responded, “Yeah, that and you just want more time to grab this fat butt,” with slightly more colorful language. “I look a mess in the morning, so I know it ain’t because of my face.”

To which, he responded, “I mean… that’s not a bad idea either, but you’re beautiful no matter what state-,” he thought about it. “Yeah, no, barring any completely absurd imagery, I don’t think I could ever see you as anything but enchanting.”

That day, he decided to make a statement. Now, he was only moments from having the words spilled out of his heart. He pulled out his phone and opened a page of notes. He scrolled down and reminded himself of the moment he astounded himself. There were so many notes, that it required several scrolls to get to the bottom of the list.

He couldn’t remember when he came up with the idea, but he decided that every time he fell in love, he’d take note of every favorite meal, snack, clothing, flower, movie, and gift. He’d also jot down every dream, goal, hope, and prayer. He wanted to know his woman and never forget the things she strives for and heals with. When he first started this habit, he never managed to make it past ten items. Yet, she had him noting more than fifty things.

She wanted to serve in the church rather than work to pay bills. She wanted to do a road trip across the country in an RV. She wanted a house in the country. She liked a sweet white wine. She loved lilies. Her favorite color was black. She liked coffee with a good amount of cream and a little sugar before she went to sleep. She liked medium-sized purses more so than big or small ones. This list went on and on.

He smiled as he reminisced on every moment when he opened his phone and recorded the information about her. He was happy that he had come to know such a beautiful woman so personally. He couldn’t wait to add more items to the list.

He looked at the time and realized his alarm was about to go off. He turned that alarm off and took all the perishable items out of the car, leaving the charcuterie board, two lawn chairs, an older comforter, and a separate blanket in case he got cold as well. Having the ice feel just as weighty as it had been when he placed the perishables inside the cooler was delightful.

Once inside, the flowers were set on the counter and the cooler on the floor. He listened in the silence and awaited confirmation from another snore that she was still asleep and unaware of what he was doing. He smiled and went through her cabinets.

He found a gray travel mug and lid. The lever in the sink was lifted ever so slightly to have the water stream out of the faucet. The water streamed as the fruits and flowers came back to life after a short stint of dehydration. During their bath, coffee brewed in the device she liked to use. Memories returned to the first instructions on how she wanted her coffee to be done. The awkwardness that overcame him soon dissipated as a delightful “mmm” escaped her lips. At the time, she was being nice, as he noticed her add more milk and cream to what he concocted. Still, the memory was a pleasant escape from the stress he placed upon himself trying to throw a perfect surprise.

Sweat surfaced from the pours of his skin. Their presence communicated the stress he had already laid on his body, and it wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part, he knew, would be to get her to agree to stay awake. Her, a woman who could sleep past noon on a whim, agreeing to wake up before the sun would take a miracle.

It was in this space that revelation struck his mind. He had not prayed to the God of miracles for his success. He assumed that God was with him, knew his desires, and agreed. Such assumptions led him down painful pathways before, but he somehow managed to lose sight of those memories in favor of his daydreams. Daydreams that had carried him through the mundane tasks into the beginning of his execution.

Quickly, he wiped his hands free of water, coffee, sweat, and whatever else had gotten on his hands. He stepped away from the tiled kitchen and knelt at the altar she crafted in the walkway. He breathed and prayed. The snores would have to be the amen’s he hoped the angels spoke in agreement. His assuredness was impressive, but nothing could ever be impressive enough to ignore God. God needed to be in attendance for the next step.

Standing, he breathed deeply as he retrieved the filled travel mug and a single red rose. The snoring still filled the quiet airways. It was like listening to smooth jazz to hear his woman sleeping so peacefully with him there. The brain gained pride in noticing that the feet never made a sound in the carpet. He was in full ninja mode while romancing his woman.

He reached out for the towel and launched it towards the couch. A smile escaped his stress accompanied with a tingle in his spine. The body shivered on instinct as the hand grabbed the door handle. Still, with the sensitivity of a thief, the door was opened. Hurriedly, the travel mug was placed on the nightstand. The quiet thud halted the snores. The moment had arrived.

His hand grazed across her skin from her arms to her hips. He stepped back, hoping her claustrophobia wouldn’t send her into a panic. He learned about that while trying to sleep face to face before, but that thought had to wait as her body moved.

“Hey,” he whispered softly.

She stretched and groaned, trying to find his position. He stayed crouched by her feet.

“Hey, baby,” he whispered.

“Hey,” she squeezed out.

“Can you do me a favor?”

“What?”

Smiling, he placed the rose on the sliver of space she left herself between her body and the edge of the bed. “Can you hold this for me?”

“Hold wha-…” She looked at the rose and then at him, crouched near her. Her face expressed confusion, exhaustion, and delight all at once. He kissed her. A chuckle escaped his lips. Using similar words, she asked, “What the world?”

The rose was lifted and the aromas were allowed to enter the nostrils. She smiled, stretched with groaning again, and sat up.

“I love that soundtrack,” he said instinctively.

She let out an exacerbated chuckle. “What is happening right now?”

He rose up from her, feeling like he already succeeded. He leaned in and kissed her several times. “You’re getting up and getting dressed. I’ve already laid out your clothes. All you need to do is put them on and come.”

“What time is it?” She grabbed her phone off the dresser while half-noticing the mug sitting next to it. She glanced at the mug multiple times while looking at the time. “The heck you got me up this early for?”

“The questions will answer themselves once you get dressed.”

“It’s too early for whatever you got going on.”

Afraid and annoyed, he sharply responded, “Get dressed. No more talking. Come on.”

Abruptly, she found herself alone. The head shook as the eyes found their way to the clock again. Her mind began to search for answers as to what he could’ve planned. It must be far, for them to be up so early. Annoyed, she reached out and grabbed the travel mug. A few sips in and a delightful surprise rushed through her taste buds. He learned.

Intrigued by this, she looked to see what else he had learned. One quick glance revealed that attire was not learned. However, the effort encouraged her to change nothing. She would allow what he chose to be the outfit she would wear for the- no, she had to change something. Where were they going? Was it inside or outside? Was it hot today or cold today? Was it hot and cold today? She stood up, feeling the fatigue pressing against her shoulders, causing her to become lightheaded. The feet stayed still for a moment. What was this boy up to? She sighed, grabbed her mug, and sipped. There, the bathroom, where the closet was, she went.

The food, on the other hand, was placed in the backseat of his car with a new set of ice cubes to keep everything cool. For some reason, he figured she might get hungry. The odds of her staying asleep during the ride were too slim, especially without her knowing where the destination was. Curiosity would be an adrenaline shot to the heart. Blood would be rushing the entire drive. Rushing blood always created an appetite.

His stomach was too busy trying to regulate the body. When the yawns started, the gas was soon to follow. Early morning nervousness was the perfect concoction for bubble guts. Still, he had to keep it together. The surprise was over an hour away. He couldn’t embarrass himself by farting the whole way. A stinky ride is a bad ride. That’s when he remembered he needed to brush his teeth.

Upon reentering the bathroom, he noticed a blue denim jumpsuit instead of a lavender tie die one. The shoes were also black instead of white. A sigh rushed through his nose, but the lady will be a lady.

“I don’t know where we’re going and that one you picked is too thin. It’s 60 degrees outside,” she stated as she adjusted her wig atop her hair. “Thank you for thinking of me, though,” she smiled. “You’ve got me up at the crack of dawn. It better be for something good.”

A chuckle escaped as he grabbed his toothbrush and toothpaste.

“I’m serious. You know I sleep in way longer than this.” She was brushing her wig now. “Are we in a hurry or can I take my time?”

“Make it quick, please.”

“Okay.” She continued brushing. “Where we going?”

“Somewhere…” he teased after he spat out paste.

She smacked her lips and kept brushing. “Can I take a shower?”

“As long as it’s quick.”

“Well in that case.” She placed her wig back on her mannequin head. “You had the outfit out so I thought we had to leave quickly. I didn’t know how much time I had.”

“It’s okay…” He trailed off as she underdressed right in front of him.

It wasn’t like it was the first time she had done this, but it was still exciting to see it happen. To know that no contouring fabric kept that figure so voluptuous made dripping sand all the more boring. This. This was what cartoons and anime were trying to recreate. She had everything that would turn a man on. She was a walking pillow that didn’t have a good side. She was all good. Even her skin, which did not look its age, was young and vibrant. She looked better than woman younger than him. He might have said hallelujah if not for the tinge of guilt associated with seeing her fully.

The teeth did not receive their proper attention until the shower door closed. The mind scrambled to warn him of the time, the tasks, and the script… while he was forgetting himself. He walked over to his bag and pulled out the other products he would use to make himself more pleasing to behold and smell.

The inner child returned as he sprayed himself with the cologne she bought him. It was a cologne truly meant for him, lacking strong scent but still smelling manly. She learned. One walk through the perfume section and his nose would lock up like a vacuum grabbing a towel off the floor. It was a problem he never looked into, and she still chose perfectly.

He set off to recheck the items in his car. That’s when he noticed the towels on the couch and on the alarm system. He grabbed each and placed them back where he found them. Then, he went into the kitchen and grabbed a few water bottles for the road.

She, on the other hand, was still wondering why she was oiling her skin before the sun was close to being out. Could it be the sunrise? Could it be some cabin in the woods? A romantic getaway? It had to be a getaway. Why else would he want the weekend? But he was never this bold. He never demanded much time from her. What did he want? The absent mind notified her of the eyes gazing at her just as she lifted the jumpsuit to her waist.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he smiled. “You ready? Everything’s ready.”

“Where we going?”

“To a place that is not here.”

She sighed. Right after that, she was grabbed and kissed.

“The wait is shorter than you believe.”

“Mmmhmm.”

With that, she was alone in the bathroom again. The ears notified her that her keys were picked up with her phone. Then, her bed was sat on with outside clothes. She ignored each detail in favor of making sure she was the beholder calling her beautiful.

He returned. “You ready?”

She turned to him. “How do I look?”

“Like a snack. Now, let’s go.”

She laughed. “Boy, stop playing with me.”

“You’ve done more than you ever needed to for me. You look good. Now,” he extended his hand to her, “Are you ready?”

Blushing, the hand was grabbed. He led her from the bathroom. He turned the light on, something he hadn’t even noticed was off this whole time. She was given a moment to prepare for the mysterious start for the day. Somehow, she managed to still stuff her purse. A man’s preparedness never competes with a woman’s, but she couldn’t be mad when a blanket was thrown over her as the car warmed up.

The cool of the morning had yet to depart, obviously, but the humidity in the air indicated warmth would be a part of the day. He enjoyed the cool as he looked up the address on his phone while standing outside the car.

“Close the door!” she barked followed by a yawn.

“Lay the seat back and get some sleep,” he suggested as he closed the door.

The brightness on the phone seemed still brighter in the dark. The address his uncle gave him was over an hour away. A yawn erupted from his soul as a cool wind made its way through the gaps between his skin and shirt. Sleep shouldn’t have been a worry, but the mind did race. Only cross-country runners were up at this early. As he circled the car, the door was opened for him. He smiled and shook his head. The woman still cared about him, even when she was tired.

He remembered the first time she opened the door for him. It wasn’t something you’d expect after opening the door for her. She gets in the car and you’re left to open your own door as well. Not with her. With her, she’d lean across the center console and open your door for you as well. Something about the gesture communicated that she was there for him as much as he was there for her. You wouldn’t be alone in this, and after so long, he was tired of being alone.

“You’re letting the cold in!” she barked again.

He chuckled as he entered his own car, making sure to close the door tight. Respectfully, the hot air was let into the car despite the owner of the car liking it cold. The hope was that the warmer air might warm her morning attitude. Either way, it would be okay, because where man’s heater failed, God’s sun would surely succeed. The phone connected to the radio and a personally prepared list of music was begun.

“I’ma try to get some sleep while you take me wherever you’re planning,” she uttered. “Got me up at four in the morning for God knows what. I hope you thought about this.”

A smile was the only response intended from this point on. The plan involved her getting her rest as he took care of the rest. It was going well, until the tossing and turning started. It’s hard to make a sport car seem relaxing, even if it’s just a sports edition to a regular car.

She didn’t say anything. She merely stayed leaning backwards in the seat. Her mind wouldn’t let her accept that she couldn’t know. She had to know. “Sunrise” kept popping up. What else could he be trying to do at this hour of the morning? There were no concerts, no shows, no breakfast spots open this early. He didn’t pack a travel bag, so there were no flights or weekend stays. It had to have been the sunrise.

She pondered this. This man, who was usually so predictable and calm, was suddenly sporadic and conniving. What was he plotting? His outfit wasn’t anything more than the normal. He never wore anything better than a youth pastor at a nondenominational church. He did spray some cologne for once. He rarely ever did that, so something special must’ve been happening, but what?

The memory files of the mind were searched. The text thread in the phone was combed. The social media handles were recorded. Nothing gave up this man’s intentions. Everything but asking to stay over and then asking to be awake at four in the morning were the only differences. It had to be the sunrise. The memory files reported that the lack of seeing a sunrise ever in life was mentioned. They were headed south, so he must be taking her to the beach.

The interlude of her questioning finally arrived. She then started to scroll through social media, taking in whatever the world was doing as she slumbered. The audio from the stories often clashed with the audio he had on. She didn’t mind because his playlist was slow and encouraged sleep while she needed to be awake to figure out just what this boy had in mind.

The world’s entertainment quickly ended. The world was never that entertaining to begin with. If there weren’t politicians arguing over shootings, police arresting mass shooters, or global catastrophe on the rise, it was rather bland. Young people getting drunk, old people getting dead, and everyone losing their minds for likes, views, and comments. It was a typical day. The news was surely about to report another three to five murders in the city while all the respectable people simply used the night to sleep off their stresses.

Finally, the playlist started including songs she had heard before. It was on the third familiar song in a row. Two songs from her upbringing, that she heard played by her grandparents, and one song she had heard from the kingdom of God. It was the kind of song you sung from the depths of your pain where the last of your hope dwelled. You couldn’t help but reminisce on what Christ had done for you while singing along. That drew a glance from him.

When a peaceful man looked at you the way he looked at her, you felt safe and loved. He had always been that way with her, but she couldn’t appreciate it until she learned what kind of man he was. He was sweet, intelligent, and a bit naïve. While he could talk all sorts of trash on a whim, his knowledge often revealed that he truly was the younger person. He seemed so innocent like a pastor’s kid sheltered all his life. He knew nothing of the dark as she did. It often made her wonder why his eyes ever turned to her. Then, she saw how he flirted. If he had been nowhere else, he had been involved there. Still, it was not like the rest of the men. There was still youth and innocence in his words despite his incoming widow’s peak atop his forehead.

Returning from the thoughts, she observed the road they were taking. He was headed far south. All roads from here led to the ocean. Was that where they were going? They had already passed downtown, a football stadium, the rich, and the ghetto. Where was this man taking her!?

His eyes were fixated on the road, so she looked around for clues. That’s when she noticed the cooler on the floor behind her seat. This whole time, she thought the seat couldn’t go back any further. She hadn’t laid down in the car, how could she know? He glanced at her and became nervous. She had found something important.

She lifted her seat back up, took her seatbelt off, and opened the cooler. “Awww.”

“You’re supposed to be sleep,” he complained.

The light from the phone was already hovering over all the delectables stored in ice. “What is all this?” He remained quiet. “What are you doing?”

“Mind your business,” he said flatly.

She leaned up and kissed him. “You’re taking me on a picnic to see the sunrise.”

He glared at her, disappointed in himself, and smiled.

“Awww. That’s why you got me up all early in the morning. Yay!”

He laughed. “You’re ruining my surprise.

“I’m sorry, I just didn’t know and I hate not knowing.”

“So I see.”

They both laughed. Now, she’d be awake the entire trip, rather than sleep. Her curiosity was much stronger than he realized. Although the plan was exposed, it was still a good plan. The evidence of such was by the grabbing of his free hand and the kiss planted on his cheek. Not wanting to be entirely distracted from the road at night, where creatures run across highways, he merely raised her hand and kissed it.

Now, she was invested. The music, the man, and the plan were all points of focus. The light on the phone was never seen again. In fact, she nestled herself onto his shoulder for a while as they both watched the road ahead. Since the plan had been exposed, he didn’t feel like he needed to hide the GPS from her. So, he placed it in his cup holder and followed the directions on the phone. He couldn’t believe it still said the address was thirty minutes away.

As unbelievable as the distance was, it came and went. They were parked. The ocean was before them, with a pier stretching out into the waters. This was where the final scene was to be carried out. The light hadn’t even shown up in the dark skies either. He had time to set up.

First, a level portion of the beach was sought out. Then, the blanket for the sand was laid down. Next, the chairs and cooler were placed to hold the blanket to the sand. Then, the charcuterie board was plopped on the ground. Before long, the entire table, if you will, was set. The only thing that remained missing was the woman of the hour, who thought it best to stay out of the cold for as long as possible.

He returned to the car once more and opened her door. “My lady,” he said as he extended his hand to her.

“It’s cold!” She said as she pushed him back and closed the door.

“Really?” he complained. “I’ll keep you warm!”

“No!” she cried.

“Come on! Don’t be a little girl. Be a grown woman.”

“That sun not gonna be out for another hour!”

“But the birds will be out before then. You tryna eat with the seagulls hovered over your food?”

She thought about it and smacked her lips. She loathed the good points he liked to make at times. It was more frequent than she had expected. He had to be right. She wondered if that was a problem, but the cold air rushing through the car brought her back from that added thought.

“Come on, I’ll keep you warm,” he said with his hand out again.

She groaned and stepped out the car with his hand in grasp. The air made her wrap the blanket around her body.

“And you wanted me to wear that other fit. I’d be freezing even more.”

He chuckled. “It’s okay. I got you.”

The weather was perfect for him, so he moved about freely. He turned the car off, grabbed the other blanket from the trunk, and placed that blanket on the hood of the car. He stood, watching her suffer from every breeze that zipped past them. She’d shiver and he’d chuckle. Being anemic was foreign to him, but he sympathized. Thus, the second, warmer blanket, would be hers.

“Go sit. It’ll be hot enough in a moment.”

“Nah! I’m taking that as soon as it’s warm enough!”

She reached out and felt the fabric. It must’ve been warm enough by the speed with which it was wrapped around her body beneath the first blanket. He was tempted to call her a hot tamale, but he refrained. The cold was much harsher for her than him. Thus, he wrapped her fully in both blankets and picked her up to carry her to the picnic.

She was just heavy enough for his arms to give out had he tried to carry her in his arms. He had told himself he needed to workout more. Lifting her was like lifting the heavier portions of his workout. He needed to strengthen his biceps, tone his belly, and squat just a tad bit more, like he used to in his high school football days, to lift her with ease, but he hadn’t done so. Thus, she had to be okay with being thrown over his shoulder. It was too early for heavy breathing and shaking muscles, especially since this was a date and not a workout.

“You got me up here feeling like a rug,” she complained.

“Well, this rug got fine quality if I do say so myself,” he jested.

“You are so silly.”

Though the method wasn’t as romantic, it was still successful. Her butt found its way from his hand to her chair. Once he realized she was okay where she sat, he kissed her forehead.

Portions of the food were placed on the charcuterie board. He placed the sturdier items on the outside and the rolling items in the middle. He reserved the wine for when her hands were free. He had never fed a woman before, but his hot tamale wasn’t about to let the warm air out any more than it had on the walk to the picnic.

Her steps shifted the sands beneath the blanket. A gaze in her direction revealed she was unwrapped and sitting on the blanket instead of the chair. Just as quickly as she had unwrapped, she had wrapped herself again. She was no longer a tamale. Now, she was a hot… something on the floor. His brain couldn’t find a food. All he saw was beauty with him.

He brought the food to her and sat next to her. She offered the blanket, but he denied it. “I’ll only come in there if you need some heat.”

“You think I don’t?”

They both laughed.

He slid in beside her, keeping the charcuterie board close. She grabbed his hand and bowed her head. He followed suit and prayed. He had chosen a woman mindful of God. It was the kind of woman he had been searching for. She was a woman who thought of God instinctively rather than after the fact. She didn’t rely on him to lead them to Jesus. She led them to Him herself.

Breakfast worked for a while after the blessing prayer. They’d both take from the board, chew, listen, and watch. She weathered the breezes a couple of times. The excitement of a sunrise raised the endurance. However, the body was not having the cold wind grazing its back hand. Another breeze triggered a wrapping reaction.

He chuckled. “Stay wrapped up. I got you. Just tell me what you want and I’ll feed it to you.”

“Grapes,” she said.

He grabbed some grapes and began feeding her. He recorded all the reactions she made as well as how they made him feel. It was wonderful to see her eating from his hand like a queen with her servant.

“Babe,” she said.

“Yeah?”

She puckered her lips and waited. He leaned in and kissed her.

“Thank you,” she said joyfully. “This was a good idea.”

He agreed as the night skies finally began to brighten. As he looked upward, she laid down and rested her head on his lap. He grew intensely nervous. He still wasn’t accustomed to touch. He had reserved himself from the pleasures most men had succumbed to by his age. He was a rarity in that hadn’t even acquired his first girlfriend. Intimacy was a startling experience every time. Even after having experienced it a few times, he still didn’t know how to feel. But, he did enjoy how comfortable she was with him. It made him feel like he was presenting himself appropriately to her.

“Grape and a few pieces of cheddar, please.”

He chuckled as he leaned over her and grabbed the items she requested. She ate them from his hand as she continued to watch the ocean ahead. The tips of the waves were becoming less white and black and more variations of blues. The sun was coming.

A kiss on the cheek brought her back to the thigh she rested her head on. A hand was also at her hip. The hand moved about as it did whenever they cuddled. He couldn’t help himself and she didn’t mind being desired.

As expected, the food stopped coming and the birds started chirping. Quickly, he lifted her from his thigh and put the food away. He poured two glasses of her wine and returned to her.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

The glasses clinked and the wine was sipped. The toast was the beginning of the show ahead, as the skies lightened, rolling out the light blue carpet for the sun. The waters increased their pacing and bowed before the heat of the day. The first rainbows could be seen as the water tripped over itself to make room.

The clouds assembled like security staff from a recently parked car. They shifted the cool winds away from the ocean shores as a warm spring wind walked across the carpet. The anticipation for the sun rose as joggers ran through the scene, distracting the viewers.

It reminded him that he wanted to feel her heart beating through his forearm. He chugged the last of his glass and placed it back in the cooler. She followed suit and handed him her glass to be stored. He returned to her and sat behind her, embracing her.

The light blue stepped to the side as the orange and red orange hues strolled through the aisles of the sky like little girls presenting flowers before the bride. It reminded him of the flowers he had stored in the trunk of his car. He rose abruptly and ran towards his car.

“What happened?” she asked worried.

“Nothing!” he shouted.

Within minutes, he returned with the bouquet.

“Awwww!” she sounded instinctively. “Thank you.”

“Mmhm!”

He kissed her again and returned to the position he had left. She nestled once again in his arms to watch the arrival. The sun peeped its forehead across the horizon and sent the world into a frenzy. The water leaped with joy, the winds ran with praise, the clouds gathered like paparazzi, the birds soared like doves at a wedding, and people were observing from piers, sands, and streets.

The red orange retreated to orange and then to yellow. The green from the flowers glowed. The white, yellow, red, and purple collided like a party. It truly was the sun’s Carnivale. Nature was showing out for yet another day.

“This is so beautiful,” she uttered.

“So are you,” he said smoothly.

He squeezed her tight so he could feel her heartbeat. It was faint, but he had succeeded in his eyes. Perhaps, it was no different than a regular heartbeat. Still, pride was drawn. He gave her this moment. She let him do this for her.

She turned to him and kissed him. “I’m glad you woke me up for this.”

“Yeah, well… I thought it was time to reveal who ‘dating me’ was.”

“Dating you?”

“The part of me that wants you all to myself. The part of me that wants to do everything romantic that I can think of with you. The version of me that’s consistently intentional about loving you- being in love with you.”

“Oh…” she said startled.

“That part of me is looking for his wife. I want to know every little detail about you, even the details you thought you’d take to the grave. I want to meet the people you love and have you meet the people I love, and when we meet our people, I want to be introduced as your man, your love, your- boyfriend. I want to be very intentional about where we go and I do mean we, not just me. I want you to see your dreams from God and for God manifested along with mine.

I feel like this is a team. I feel we can become one. I want us to become one. I want to… make this a relationship. To call you my girl, my love, my beautiful. I want this to go somewhere that I’ve never been. I’ve never had a girlfriend, so there’s a lot of expectation with that from people who know me, but… I think you’ll be great. I think you are great. You are beautiful, to me.”

“Okay, okay. Slow down,” she interrupted. “You want to be boyfriend and girlfriend?”

With no hesitation. “Yes.”

“Why?” she asked.

He thought for a moment. “No, just speak from the heart. I don’t have to doctor it up.” He refocused on her. “Look. When I wake up, I think about how you’re doing. Before I go to bed, I pray to God that you’re watched over. When you set your mind to do something, I’m not content to just watch you do it, I want to help. When I go to do something, I want you by my side.

I want to know how to help when it comes to your health. I want to be there when you’re sad. I see you doing life and I just love it. You’ve had your bad days and you’ve had your good days, and I see nothing that you do that I can’t help with. I see nothing that makes me run away. Not to say you’re perfect, but I truly believe you’re perfect for me, and I want to make what I feel a reality.”

“Okay, okay.”

“I mean, do you see something I don’t see? Do you have any worries or fears?”

She smiled and kissed him. “No. I don’t have any fears. Once I started getting to know you. I mean I knew you were young, but I think you’re very mature and wise for your age. You handle yourself in a way that I’ve always wanted a husband to behave. You love God and you show it in your character and… Yeah, I’d love to be your girlfriend, and someday, your wife.”

“Really?” he said relieved and excited.

She chuckled, “Yeah. You thought I’d say no!?”

“I didn’t know what you’d say.”

They laughed.

“No, you’re-…” She thought about it. “You’re a breath of fresh air from the men of today. You’re thoughtful, even getting me a cup of coffee before we left the house. You’re sweet, buying me flowers. You’re caring, calling me beautiful when I feel fat, old, and bald.”

“You are beautiful,” he interrupted.

“See? You’re attentive, taking the fact that I hadn’t seen a sunrise and planning all this to surprise with a new first. You’re sensitive, figuring me out with all my attitude and mood swings. I mean… you’re really a man to me. A kindhearted man. I… love that. I love you.”

He placed his hand on her chin and smiled. “Hey, beautiful,” he said softly, “I love you, too.”

Nature celebrated the commencement of their relationship. The waters cheered with crashing waves, the birds sang like a chorus, and the sun came out in full force. Though it shined on the whole world, it seemed to have spotlighted the two of them intentionally. Two lovers, not much darker than the sand they sat on, receiving a shoutout from the sun itself. Two days began that morning. One, expected each morning for the duration of many lifetimes, and the other, the dream of a new couple hoping to last as long as the former.






END

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