Something Old, Something New (Chapter Five, page 1 of 2)

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The next morning Carmen decided to go down to the house and mow the lawn in the cool of the day. She stood on his porch for a moment, taking in the country around them. His house was built on a tree-covered knoll overlooking her farm, but part of Josh’s land was visible from their porch. Josh’s house wasn’t visible, but it was only about a quarter of a mile from her drive. Lori would be there today. It was her day off. It wasn’t that much out of the way and she could use the walk. Lori was having a rough time of it. She would probably appreciate a visit from a childhood friend.
Fifteen minutes later she was knocking on Lori’s door. Lori looked surprised when she answered.
“Carmen! I wish I had known you were coming. I would have made a desert. Would you like a cup of coffee?”
Carmen smiled. “I just ate a little bit ago, but the coffee sounds nice.”
“You’re out and about early,” Lori said as she poured Carmen a cup of coffee. She set it on the table. “Have a chair,” she said, indicating a chair.
Carmen sat down and picked up her cup, taking a sip before she spoke.
“I was headed over to my house to mow the lawn and check the garden.”
Lori sat down at the table opposite Carmen and folded her hands on the table.
“It’s been so hot and dry – I’m surprised you’re getting anything out of it.”
“I’ve been watering it in the evenings. Now that I’m not staying there, I don’t have to worry about running out of water to take a bath.”
Lori nodded. “How is that working out . . . staying at his house, I mean?”
Carmen shrugged, warmth crawling up her neck. “It’s alright. I miss my house though . . . and my walks in the hills.”
Lori raised her brows. “I wouldn’t think it would be all that much further.”
“It’s not, but Alex wouldn’t like it.”
Lori lifted her brows. “So don’t tell him.”
Carmen stared at Lori. If he never knew she violated his trust, that wouldn’t exonerate her. She shook her head.
“I don’t want to do something behind his back.”
Lori rolled her eyes. “It’s not that big a deal, Carmen. Grow up. Do you want him to dictate your every move? He’s not your daddy – he’s going to be your husband.”
The warmth ran back up her neck and into her cheeks. She caught her breath.
“I don’t think of him that way!” She said in a rush of air. “There’s nothing sick about wanting a man to take care of you.”
Lori’s sigh was exaggerated. “I didn’t say there was anything sick about it. It’s just that it isn’t really fair to you – or Alex.” She threw her hands in the air. “Never mind. I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s none of my business anyway.”
Lori took the conversation elsewhere, but it remained at the back of Carmen’s mind - even after she left and walked to her house.
Was she encouraging Alex to assume a paternal role, or was she merely old-fashioned enough to think that men and women had specific roles? No, she didn’t think all women should want what she did, and she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She wanted to take care of him. Was she filling a maternal role? She smiled. There was nothing maternal about her feelings for Alex – nor anything paternal about his actions toward her when they were alone.
By the time she reached her gate she was convinced of one thing. However unusual their relationship might be, it was perfectly healthy. Lori and Josh’s relationship was the one in trouble.
By the time she finished mowing the lawn and picking a few tomatoes and okra, it was almost noon. She cast a forlorn look at the beckoning hills and reluctantly turned toward his house. She hadn’t even been inside her own house, but that could wait.
At his house, she put the garden produce in the sink, and decided to take a shower. Alex said he was going to work late tonight and then they would go out for dinner. It would have made more sense for her to prepare a supper for him, but he insisted that she should have at least one day a week when she didn’t have to cook. Life with him was going to be easy.
After a shower and lunch, she decided to go back down to look at the inside of the house. The temperature was still in the upper 80’s and the house looked lonely – if a house could look that way. Maybe she was the one who was lonely for it.
As she walked across the field, a deer came bounding out of the forest on the hill. Brutus barked and she hushed him. He didn’t usually bark at the deer and Alex wouldn’t like it if he started chasing them now. She was still feeding him in the dairy. Maybe she should bring his food to the horse barn. But this way he was closer to the goats.
Inside her house, she examined her bedroom. Aside from the limb that still stuck down through the ceiling into her bed, the room was a mess. It would take a lot of money to repair the roof and erase the water damage. Memories carried her into the kitchen. She pictured Mom washing dishes at the sink while Dad sat at the table eating some of her pie. They had a good life – poor, but good. Would her life with Alex be as good? Dad stayed on the farm most of the time, and Mom was the traditional housewife. They were available to each other all the time. It was different with Alex. He would be at work most of the day. Of course, he was available there too, if she needed him. Mom and Dad had wanted children too. Yet they only had one change of life baby. Once she thought she couldn’t live like that. Had she really changed or would she regret this marriage after the new wore off of their relationship? Yet Mom and Dad thought they wouldn’t have a baby – and they did. Maybe the doctors were wrong about Alex. Of course, there was always adoption. Maybe she would get desperate enough to agree with that some day. Still, her objections to adoption went beyond the custody issue. What would it be like to feel their baby move in her stomach – or to suckle it? To simply know that it was a part of Alex would be a wonderful experience.
She sighed heavily and turned away from the kitchen. It was best not to think about it. No good could come of longing for things a person could never have. It was best to focus on the things within her grasp – like Alex. Who would have guessed she would marry someone like him?
She touched the banister and looked upstairs. That was one more thing Alex would find childish – her feelings about that room. She climbed the stairs and opened the door. It was one small room with what Mom called a three-quarter bed. She walked to the window and looked out. From that angle, she could see the place on the mountain. It was comforting. This was what she had dubbed the magic room when she was a child. Maybe it was. How else would she have landed such a wonderful man?
The screen door squealed open and a deep warm voice called her name.
Her heart skipped a beat as she hurried to the door. Would it always do that? She bounced down the steps to the living room as Alex came through the door.
He smiled. “There you are. I thought I might find you here when I saw the vegetables in the sink. Is something wrong?”
“No I just thought the house looked lonesome down here, so I came to visit.” She gazed up at his face. “I thought you were going to work late today.”
“Yeah, so did I, but we had some unexpected help.”
He gripped both her arms and pulled her toward him, kissing her on the forehead.
She slid her arms around his chest in a friendly hug. That was the way it started, but the warmth of his body, the smell of his cologne and the feel of his muscular back begged her to linger. As his arms circled her, she lifted her face to search his.
He leaned down and kissed her lips briefly. For a moment they stood in each other’s arms, gazing into each others eyes. Something about being in the old house was reassuring. There was no defined point at which everything went wrong – or right, depending on the viewpoint. They decided to kiss again . . . and then again – a little longer. At some point her hands left his back and found their way up his chest to the back of his neck.
Finally she pulled back to gaze up at him, fully aware of her pounding pulse. His gaze traveled over her face, stopping on her lips. She waited breathlessly for his next move. A tiny voice whispered a warning about the longing that consumed her. She ignored it and it stopped talking.
Alex leaned forward, taking her face in his hands. Slowly he lowered his head and brushed her lips in a tantalizing way. His lips were warm and soft – questioning and inviting.
“Alex,” she whispered, and moved into his embrace.
For a moment they clung to each other, their kiss evolving from tender to eager and on to passionate. His body felt so good – so warm, and he smelled so delightful. His groan brought an echo from the depths of her soul and she pressed closer. She wanted to express her feelings for him, but mere words could not describe them.
He lifted her gently and stepped forward, setting her down again with her back against the wall. When his fingers laced through hers and his palms pressed her hands against the wall next to her face, his kisses became ardent. Alex knew how to make every nerve in her body ache for him.
The wall at her back gave her support to press closer to him, and when he freed one hand, she used it to grasp his neck and pull his lips down harder on her own. The hair on the back of his neck was soft and curly.
His free hand stroked her neck softly and slid down to the bodice of her blouse. It crossed her mind to push his hand away, but at the moment it seemed trivial. After all, they would be married in days. When he cupped her breast in his hand outside her blouse, she stiffened instinctively. Yet, could anything be too familiar at this point? She relaxed, leaning into his kiss – enjoying the full length of his body against hers.
The hand left her breast, caressing its way down her side, pausing briefly on her waist and then continuing down her hip. Slowly it descended, leaving a wake of tingling nerves. As he lifted her leg and began pressing his lower torso against her, she finally realized his intent.
Forcing her leg down, she slid her hands down to his chest, gently pushing him away.
“Don’t,” she said in a voice shaking with emotion.
He was quiet for a moment, but he never released his hold on her, nor looked at her face. His breath was warm on her cheek. Slowly warm lips kissed their way down to her neck in a devastating caress. His deep voice was husky with desire.
“I won’t go all the way.”
They had already gone too far. She mustered all her emotional strength and pushed him further away. Looking up, she met his sultry gaze.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have led you on that way.”
“We’ll leave our clothes on,” he continued as if she had not spoken. His gaze went to the couch and then back to her hopefully.
The full import of his actions hit her, bringing a flood of warmth to her face.
“Whether we have our clothes on or off, it’s still sex,” she said, squirming from his embrace.
“No it isn’t . . .”
“I don’t care about contrived rules,” she interrupted, pulling away from him. “or the modern definition of a virgin. I want it to be sanctioned by god. I want to make love to you, not have sex. I want to wake up tomorrow feeling content, not guilty. I want our wedding night to be special.”
He stepped back, his expression a mixture of frustration and contemplation. Running a hand through his hair, he took a long deep shaking breath.
“I understand,” he finally said, shoving his hands into his pockets – as if it was safer that way. “It’s like opening presents Christmas Eve and then wrapping them back up so you can open them Christmas morning.
She caught her breath. Good analogy, except that was only part of the issue.
“Kind of, except that in this case, God told you not to open them in the first place – and he saw you do it anyway.” She let her breath out in a relieved sigh. “I’m sorry. It isn’t your fault. I . . . lost control, I guess.”
His laugh was short and strained. “I guess.”
It was a moment that had gone too far, and yet it had turned into a learning experience. Maybe he was closer to understanding her point. Certainly she understood his perspective better. Still, it was a reminder that they must keep their distance. No wonder chaperones were considered a necessity in the old days. Even when they were both determined not to let this happen, it was difficult to avoid such incidents.

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