I expected Dave to be pissed, but I didn't expect him to lurch through the door and knock me on my ass. "STAY AWAY FROM HER," he shouted. He slammed the door, and in a few moments, I heard his car speed away.
My dad came halfway down the stairs. "Doug, you okay?"
"Everything's okay, Dad."
He paused for a few moments, but went back upstairs.
Dave was my best friend. He was our star quarterback; I was his favorite receiver.
The hell of it was, Dave had caught Gwen and I hugging. That's it. Hell, I'd hugged her in front of him lots of times. She'd come to my house crying after she'd caught Dave kissing a cheerleader.
I'd never done more than hug Gwen. I wish I could say that it was out of loyalty to Dave. It wasn't. Dave boinked every girl he could get his hands on. Gwen was an amazing girl, and Dave was blind to her warmth, her intelligence, and her old-soul wisdom. The truth was that I never made a move on Gwen because I didn't want to risk losing her trust.
I was in love with Gwen. She was my real best friend, and the only person on earth who knew that I wrote poetry. She was also, to me, the most beautiful woman in the world.
Dave's parents called about eleven that night. Dave never made it home. Dad and I drove out toward the old mill, where Dave liked to go when he wanted to be alone. I felt frantic, fearful that something awful had happened.
We came upon Dave's Nova a half mile from the turnoff to the mill. It was wrapped around a telephone pole. Dad told me to stay in the car, but I followed him anyway. It was my first experience with the odor of death.
I went to pieces at Dave's funeral. Dad hugged me close, and I called him "Daddy." I hadn't called him that since I was eight.
The light went from Gwen's eyes. She was just as cordial and kind as ever, but her unique spark seemed to evaporate. We went to different colleges, and we lost contact, as if losing contact was the decent thing to do.
I thought about her during our high school ten year reunion. When she never showed up, I felt a strange combination of relief and disappointment.
Our twentieth reunion was different. I'd been divorced for three years, and I wanted to see her, to see if that spark she held in her eyes had returned. I was leaving when she walked in. At first, she looked different, but then she didn't. We talked for three hours there in the foyer, until nearly all of our classmates had left.
"I got divorced four years ago," she said.
"Three for me. Any kids?"
"No," she answered. "My ex didn't want kids."
We talked until the hotel folks started giving us dirty looks. I walked her to her car, and she gave me her parents' number. I remembered it.
"You busy tomorrow?" she asked.
"Not at all," I answered.
"Want to go to brunch at the golf course?"
"I'd like that," I said.
We hugged a rather chaste hug, and I walked away.
"Doug?" I turned.
She walked toward me, slowly. She took my hands in hers for a moment, then put one hand behind my neck, and pulled me down to her.
She kissed me. It was not a chaste kiss.
It's four in the morning now. I'm meeting her in five hours, and I haven't slept a wink, because that kiss keeps replaying in my mind, over and over.
I'm not complaining.
Prompted by Thom G's Three Word Wednesday. Today's words are frantic, lurch, and odor.