Byron knew when it came to dating he was as spineless as a jellyfish, and not a particularly gutsy one either. For almost a year now he had been faithfully following his father-in-laws prescription of two dates a month, but despite this he had seen 3rd grade couples at recess get further along physically than he had achieved with his wife. Both vocally, and physically he had failed to show Julie any of his bottled up feelings but Thursday would be different.
Saturday was their typical date night, but Thursday, and a week earlier than needed, he was going to ask her out. Why Thursday? Because Thursday was to be their third anniversary. Debating what to do and how to do it, had been bouncing around in his head for weeks and it was now clear what he was going to do.
Byron knew himself. He was not the sly devil who could tell a fishing story that got his arms going wider and wider until finally they were around Julie. No, if he could handle subtle attraction and moving in, he would not be in the predicament he was in. It had to be a clear statement of how he felt and then hope that she would accept it and throw her arms around him.
The plan was to take her to a fancy restaurant. At first, he had thought about going back to the small sandwich shop where they had first met. After all, that is where they had their first good conversation and where they had decided they would get married. But the problem was that it was more a casual lunch shop than a fancy dinner one. In the end, he settled on taking her across the street to the Eiffel tower. It was the perfect atmosphere and it had played a role, albeit an awkward one, on their first date. It being the location of where they had both gone to let the other Julie down. The jewelry shop where they had purchased her wedding ring was still in business and so he had them make a custom necklace and earrings that were the same style as her wedding ring. (Should describe the women who like jewelry may care). When they had gotten together last Saturday to go to an art show he had wanted to ask her out, but it wasn’t clear the necklace would be done, but today, Tuesday, they had called and it was ready to go.
With necklace in hand, he was now again staring at Julie's contact information. His mind raced over all the times he had sat staring at contact information with the plan to call Julie. There was their wedding night when he never dared to make the call, and there was two years later when he was worried about asking her out and it ended up being her bank, and now. He was as nervous as ever. Regularly asking her out for a year should have made him less fearful, but somehow this was different. Not only was it a Thursday on an off weak, but this was it, the big moment. Either she would throw herself into his arms and they would finally be really married or she would say, ‘Byron that wasn’t the arrangement. Have you been playing me this whole time, pretending you only needed a fake wife but deep down you wanted a real one.’ He envisioned her angrily throwing her plate of food, much like Star Jewel with her crepe. He decided he better go for a run to clear his head. Then he would call her.
“I’m glad you decided to join me. What made you change your mind?.” Charles said as Julie hopped back into the Porsche.
“I had a phone call that made it clear that I need to live my own life.”
“Wow. Sounds like an important call,” Charles said.
“I think it was,” vocalizing it, made it sink in all that much more.
“Well, we have a lot to discuss, sushi?”
To her it was a sign. The one food Byron had always refused to get was sushi, she loved it, he hated it. Julie was so full of emotions she had to talk to someone about what was going on in her head, and talk she did. She became an open book and told Charles everything about the phone call. She even included her frustration with her ‘loveless’ marriage, and how she now saw clearly that Byron was only seeing her out of duty, not love.
“So, Byron has been going on dates with you because your Dad told him to.” Charles confirmed after hearing her tell of her phone call.
“I think that pretty much sums it up.” Julie agreed.
“What a wimp.” Charles shot back.
“My dad is the one to blame. He shouldn’t have gotten involved. Byron was just doing what he thought was the right thing to do.”
“Oh, I don’t mean he is a wimp for doing what his Dad asked. If any man tells me to date his attractive daughter I would do it. I think he’s a wimp for going on all these dates and never doing anything.”
“What do you mean?”
“You said you two have never kissed.”
“I think on the cheek, on our wedding day.”
“Like I said...wimp.”
Julie didn’t like this talk about Byron. She was a little upset with him for not telling her about her dad forcing the dates, but felt beyond that he was not at fault. “He can’t help if he isn’t attracted to me.”
“Okay, he’s not a wimp. He’s blind.”
She smiled, she didn’t mind this talk anymore. “Let’s not talk about Byron anymore. Tell me about yourself.”
This was something Charles was a master at and quickly the night rolled into very thrilling stories of Charles heroic life. He had been all over the world, Indonesia, Ukraine, Thailand, UK, France, Chile, Brazil and his activities were as exotic as the locations, heli skiing, rock climbing, kayaking, scuba diving and some sort of sport with natives that sounded like half the team died. Each story while very unique all had the same punchline, “And that’s when I jumped in and cut the vine just in time to save Bill from what would have been a very unseemly death.” Charles clearly didn’t call it a day's work if he hadn’t yanked some poor saps head out of an unsuspecting tiger’s jaw.
Julie was amazed that this guy would give her the time of day, and she began to very much regret that the only thing that seemed to stand in the way of her being on the next trip to Antarctica and being swept up by Charles’s large muscular arms, he kept conveniently by his side, barely missing sudden death from a herd of stampeding penguins, was her, now very inconvenient, marriage to Byron.
As the night wore on the more inconvenient the marriage became, and the more she wished she could just forget Byron existed. But she couldn’t. The more she enjoyed it, the more guilty she felt. Yes, her Dad should have stayed out of her private life but that didn’t change the fact that she had married Byron, and she was therefore a married woman. One can debate if it’s okay for a married woman to have dinner with a client, but she knew this was much much more than just a dinner with a client. She was having emotions and thoughts no married woman, no matter how weird the relationship, should have about another man.
As the dinner was paid for and they began to walk out to his car she worried how far she would let this go. She didn’t want to do anything she would regret but was secretly worried that the part of her that didn’t want it to stop would win. That was when she remembered with some relief and some regret that he was not dropping her off at home, but back at her work parking lot where they had left her car. A few minutes later and they were there.
“I am really glad you changed your mind and decided to come to dinner, I really enjoyed it,” Charles said.
“I did too.” Julie admitted. Before she could get out, he had turned off the car and run around to get her door. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” He said and she saw that he was following her as she walked towards her car. She got out her keys and pushed the unlock, shaking badly enough that she actually pushed it two or three times as the car beeped.
Once at the door she turned and Charles was right there, almost pressed against her staring into her eyes. Why did he have to be so good at this? If he had politely asked if they could kiss, she might have got the courage to say no, but as he got closer she knew the only way now was to turn away or cry out, “stop.” Neither of which she had the courage, or truly the desire to do.
Guilt and excitement blended in an odd cocktail of emotions that rushed over her as she leaned in for a kiss. This was no peck. Charles' arms enveloped her body as they pressed together as warmly and tightly as their lips. She instinctively put her arms around him and let herself enjoy the feelings she had so longed to feel. It felt so good...until she saw Byron’s face. Somewhere while the kiss continued she suddenly could only see Byron in her mind. With guilt overtaking excitement she pulled her arms from around him and lightly pushed away as she pulled her lips back. “Charles, I had a great time, but I really need to go.”
“Oh, no problem.” Even as she pulled away, he could tell she didn’t really want to. “So, when do I get to take you back to the sight and discuss the cabin again.”
“I don’t know if we really need to go onsite again.”
“Well, just in case, how about we go back to the Cabin after dinner on Saturday?”
“I um… yeah that will work.”
“See you then Julie.”
She got into her car, watched him pull away. She sat for a moment and then began to cry. She didn’t know if it was tears of sorrow or ecstasy, but either the reason the tears flowed, until… the phone rang.
She pulled up the phone and cleared her tears to see who it was. It was Byron.
Next Up Chapter 21