Saturday, February 21, 2015

February 22 Sunday A Month Of Love from BJ Neblett

Here is this week's new romance story. I hope you enjoy it. And be sure to click over to my poetry blog using the link above for today's love post.

Love is timeless... it never ends and always finds a way...

The Girl With The Stars In Her Eyes
BJ Neblett
© 2014

            “Hello, anybody in there?”
            “Oh, I’m sorry, I was just…”
            “You were thinking about her, weren’t you?”
            “No, not really, I mean, I was just…”
            “Bull shit.”
            “Please don’t be that way, not tonight.”
            “I’m sorry, it’s just that…”
            “I know, and I’m sorry. Actually, I was lost in your eyes… again.”
            “Counting stars again?”
            “Something like that. You’re such a beautiful woman. I can spend a lifetime just gazing into your eyes. I become lost in them; they are so hauntingly captivating…”
            “Just like hers…”
            “Yes, yes I guess so. It’s incredible. They say no two pairs of eyes are the same. But…”
            “We never really talked about it, have we? How long have we been together?”
            “Three months… three months tonight, exactly.”
            “It’s been a crazy three months. So much has happened in such a short time; we’ve grown so close; we have this incredible connection. It’s strange. I’ve never felt such a strong instant attraction; so in sync with any man, not like this. And yet, there’s still a part of you, a room you won’t let me in.”
            “You’re right, of course. It’s my fault. We’ve been together for three months and… I’m sorry, but it’s hard. You know that you’re the first girlfriend I’ve had in my life in over twenty years.”
            “I know.”
            “You’re so incredible, so understanding and patient.”
            “I believe that you… that we are worth the effort. But you have to let me inside, just a little bit more.”
            “I don’t know…”
            “What is it? What is it you are afraid of?”
            “I don’t know…”
            “Is it the age difference that bothers you? You know, I’ll never leave you.”
            “Funny, that’s what she said, the very same thing… it was the last thing she ever said to me.”      
            “I want to understand. Maybe I can help.”
            “Look at me, tell me what you see; what you think, and feel. Tell me what’s keeping this invisible wall between us. What is it you see in there that frightens you? What is it you see in my eyes?”
            “Stars… stars and love… and…”
            “A cold, crisp night in December, that’s what I see. Your eyes, they’re like a clear winter sky, the deepest blue possible; filled with tiny flecks of silver, each a twinkling star. In them I see my future, the place I belong on this earth, right there, lost in your eyes.”
            “Just as you saw in her eyes…”
            “Yes… so many, many years ago.”
            “Tell me, please.”
            “It was my freshmen year at college, Wesleyan University, in Connecticut. It was also my first time away from home. Winter came early and fast that year for this southern boy. By Thanksgiving there was a foot of snow on the ground. I was walking across the Quad one afternoon, probably worrying about some upcoming exam. I’m not even sure I felt the snowball. But suddenly, there she was.
            “Her laughter filled the air. ‘Oh, my God, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to…’
            “‘No it’s okay.’ I replied, ‘it was my fault…’
            “She gently brushed the snow from the back of my neck. ‘I’ll say. You walked right into the middle of our snowball war.’
            “Her smile warmed the December day. But it was her eyes… I couldn’t help it, I found myself staring. They were incredible, like nothing I’d ever seen before, or since, until I met you. They were an impossibly dark blue, the darkest blue you can imagine, and yet, so clear, so strikingly clear, with shimmering flecks of silver. Like…”
            “Like a clear winter night sky…”
            “Yes, exactly…”
            “Just like mine…”
            “Yes, exactly like yours…”
            “Go on, please.”
            “Not much else to tell. I became lost in her eyes. I think I fell in love with her right then and there. Something told me, something in her eyes spoke to me, This is right, this is her, she’s the one you were meant to be with, to spend your lives together. I know it’s crazy but as far as I was concerned, she was the one. Sometime later she confessed that she had the same feelings.
            “We started dating almost instantly. By Christmas we were in love, deeply, crazily, completely and totally in love. Naturally our friends and families thought we were crazy, it was too soon, too fast, too much; love needs time, time to develop and grow.
            “One evening we were studying together in my dorm room. We were both Philosophy majors, but didn’t always share similar views. It made for some interesting discussions about pre-destination and reincarnation. ‘Do you believe in Soul Mates?’ she asked.
            “The question took me by surprise. ‘I never really thought much about it before. I don’t know, maybe, I guess.’
            “‘I do… now.’ Her words were sure, to the point. ‘I believe there is one special, certain person just meant for each of us. I think that sometimes we never meet that person. Or if we do, we sometimes don’t recognize them or something. I suppose not all Soul Mates find one another, and that’s a shame. But when they do come together and they understand that destiny has brought them together, that is so special. And nothing, nothing, not time or distance or anything can truly ever keep them apart. That’s the kind of love I believe in… now, now that I’ve found you.’
            “‘I don’t know about Soul Mates. I do know how I feel,’ I replied, ‘and that you and I somehow seem destined to be together.’
            “She looked at me though those deep, penetrating, mystical eyes, ‘I will never leave you, never; no matter what may happen you must always believe and remember’.”
            “That’s so beautiful. She must have loved you so much. What happened?”
            “Sophomore and Junior years flew by. We were inseparable, finally sharing a small apartment off campus. We looked forward to Senior year and graduation and to starting a life together. It was a week before her twenty-first birthday. I remember the date as if it were yesterday, November third, a Tuesday. She had a late class. When she hadn’t returned by 10 PM I began to worry and set out to look for her. An early storm was dumping heavy, wet snow across most of New England, making visibility nearly impossible. I found her lying on the side of the road. A driver had failed to see her in the cross walk. They never even stopped. The last thing she said to me as I held her in my arms was, ‘Remember, my darling, I’ll never leave you’.”
            “Oh, no, that’s so terrible! I’m so sorry. That must have been so hard… so… Oh, God! What… what did you say the date was…?”
            “It was the third, November third, 1981."
            “Oh, my God, that’s… that’s my birthday… the day I was born!”

Friday, February 13, 2015

February 14 Saturday A Month Of Love from BJ Neblett "Three Of A Kind"

Happy Valentine's Day!

Three Of A Kind
BJ Neblett
© 2014

 Saturday, February 14, 2004
            Making love to two beautiful, sexy young ladies is a lot like feasting on pizza and ice cream: when it’s good it’s great; and even when it’s bad it’s still pretty damn good. You can’t get enough; you want more. I have had my share of connections of all sorts, including the tricky ménage a trois. But unlike the casual hook-ups of my younger days, which were often cold and impersonal, there was a satisfying intimacy and warmth following our marathon session. I attributed this at least in part to the fact that my two lovely playmates and I had already been fast, close friends for some time.
            “Here ya go guys.” Karen padded seductively across the plush carpet. There is something irresistible about a beautiful naked lady approaching your bed with a warm smile and a hot food tray. Cradled as I was in Lacey’s tender embrace, I must have dozed off for a few minutes – can you blame me – as I hadn’t noticed Karen’s absence. “This should help. I know I need to recharge!” Moving aside a drained bottle of champagne and placing the tray on the night stand, she climbed aboard the bed, snuggling up to my unoccupied side.
            A bright orange sun was just peaking through the balcony’s lace curtains announcing the day. The three of us sat there in our exhaustion, quiet and content; enjoying the welcome feast of orange juice, scrambled eggs, and toast and jam. Sipping the refreshing juice, I studied my lovely companions closely. They were two of the sexiest and sweetest ladies I have ever known. One of the things that endeared me to the pair was their unselfish devotion to one another. That tender concern had extended itself to include me as we three became a couple. I watched as Lacey spread a generous dollop of jam on a corner of toast and passed it over to Karen, then buttered a slice for me. It was impossible for me not to care deeply for the both of them when they appeared suddenly and unexpectedly in my life. The word love had even recently entered the picture as thoughts of the last several months floated through my mind. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for either of them.
            A knock at the door pulled me from my thoughts. We were staying in a posh suite at a nearby casino resort overlooking Puget Sound. Karen and I had spent time sightseeing and exploring, including visits to Portland, Friday Harbor and Victoria, BC. We grew close taking in the incredible scenery, and enjoying the architecture and culture of the Pacific Northwest. Lacey on the other hand seemed to prefer sporting events and the night life action of downtown Seattle. She was a diehard football fan, and could out drink and shoot pool better than any guy I knew. The three of us had gone out together numerous times to dinner, clubs, the movies, even dancing. But all of us spending a long four day weekend together was the girls’ idea and caught me quite by surprise. I slipped into my robe while Karen and Lacey ducked under the covers. A pair of hotel porters entered, each carrying a large crystal vase with flowers. The arrangements were exactly as I had ordered. “Just set them on the table, thank you,” I said, slipping each man a five spot. As the door closed, my partners were out of the bed like a shot. Identifying cards weren’t necessary. In many ways the girls were different as night and day. But they were both ladies; and what lady doesn’t love receiving flowers?  And by now I knew them both pretty well. Lacey inhaled deeply, savoring the perfumed fragrance of the twenty four long stem red roses. Meanwhile, Karen had discovered the single yellow rose in the center of two dozen blushing red tulips.
            The girl’s expressions told me I had nailed it. “When you two are finished comparing notes why don’t you take a look in the night stand?”
            Seconds later each held a slim, prettily wrapped box. Lacey’s soft brown eyes grew wide as she tore into the crimson foil paper. “Oh, my God, look!” She reminded me of an excited little girl on Christmas morning uncovering the treasure within.
            Karen’s package wore navy blue with a white bow, the colors of her favorite baseball team. Each held up identical sterling necklaces with delicately curving silver heart pendants sporting three petite diamonds.
            Karen turned and smiled her knowing smile. “They’re beautiful, Chris!” Unlike Lacey, I could never surprise Karen. She always seemed a step ahead of me, as if she could read my mind; my thoughts. Recently I’d come to feel as if she were gently manipulating me with subtle hints and coy body nuances. To my surprise I found I liked the feeling.
            “Beautiful things for beautiful ladies,” I replied. “And a diamond for each of us; the blue one is Karen; the red, Lacey…”
            “And the green one is you, because green is your favorite color!”
            “That’s right, Lacey.” I joined the girls on the bed, fastening the jewelry around their necks, “By the way, happy Valentine’s Day, ladies.”
            Still spent from the previous night’s exploits, the girls hugged and kissed me tenderly, collectively promising a payback I wouldn’t soon forget. Recalling the previous several hours, my mind reeled. Even my vivid imagination couldn’t fathom what might be left for the three of us to explore. We eagerly dove back into the delicious breakfast so thoughtfully prepared by Karen and discussed plans for the day ahead. However, the exchange that followed left me speechless.
            Lacey leaned over, licking some strawberry jam from the tip of Karen’s ruby lips, leaving a lingering kiss in its place. The pair giggled in that childish, sexy way they have. “So,” Lacey studied her girlfriend for a moment then turned her attention to me. “Are the two of you gonna have children?”
            It took both ladies pounding on my back to dislodge the bite of buttered wheat toast wedged in my throat. Managing to regain some of my composure, I looked at Lacey. Lacey grinned over at Karen. Unfazed by the offhand remark, Karen tilted her pretty head, and batted her long lashes at me. “I don’t know, L. That’s a good question.”
            Observing Lacey’s expression, I began to realize the strong affections I held for this sweet honey blonde. The thought brought a smile to my face. I turned my attention to Karen. Her bright hazel eyes met mine and a forgotten vision returned. This time is was my heart that smiled. That word – love – drifted again through my mind.
            Growing up, there were three things I cared about: music, baseball and writing; not necessarily in that order. By age twelve, girls had become an integral part of the list. Being a bit of a loner, an outsider – ok, I was a juvenile delinquent – quickly derailed what could have been a very promising career as a pitcher. No matter how good you are – and I was very good – coaches will only tolerate so much smoking, drinking and rebellious behavior.  A growing record collection sated my interest in music. Learning to play the guitar abetted my growing interest in the opposite sex.
            But writing came natural to me. I penned songs, stories and some very questionable poetry. By the time I graduated from high school, I was a regular contributor to the popular pulp sci-fi rags of the day including Fate Magazine and Weird Tales. And my poetry had progressed to the point of being accepted into a national anthology. The carefree life of a nomadic eligible bachelor writer lay ahead.
            Entering my fifties, I found myself semi-retired and enjoying a modicum of success including several popular novels, a memoir, countless short stories and some magazine articles. I taught creative writing a couple of nights a week, but semi-retired translated into writing from my cozy Seattle apartment, rather than commuting to an office to write the same material. Most days I hacked away at my computer, spinning tales of unrequited love and time travel and menacing monsters and things that go bump in the night. Weekends and evenings were usually spent on the softball diamond. My legs may have slowed down a tad, but my reflexes were still sharp. And I discovered I could make a slow pitched softball curve, jump and dance at will. After a couple of false starts, I landed on a coed team of talented guys and girls who, for the most part, managed to keep their beer in the cooler until after the game. We were pretty good, and enjoyed camaraderie off as well as on the field.
            Our team finished the spring season in a respectable third place. I continued to play organized pickup games during the three week break between seasons. Arriving a bit late one fateful Monday night, I found most of the players already in the field warming up. As I laced up my cleats, something caught my eye.
            Her long brown ponytail bounced playfully as she tracked down a well hit ball. The skilled catch was followed by a dead on toss to the waiting short stop. I was impressed. Crossing left field I called out, “Nice catch. And very nice throw!”
            Her dazzling hazel eyes reflected back the powerful field lights. “Thanks!” She smiled and I felt myself slowly melting. My comfortably ordered life was about to take a most unexpected detour.
            I couldn’t stop looking at her. She was beautiful; certainly the cutest left fielder I’d ever seen. And the fact that she played softball so well was like discovering M&M sprinkles on my ice cream sundae. I wasn’t sure if it was my affected heart or the full moon casting its magic, but I was sure I saw the glint of attraction in those amazing eyes. Through a suddenly dry mouth I managed a few words. It wasn’t exactly the memorable first impression I would have hoped. “Hi… ah, hi, nice, nice catch…”
            “Thanks,” her smile morphed into a wide grin, “again. I’m Karen.”
            The summer air around me turned suddenly cold and still as I reached for her out stretched hand. My over active imagination began projecting grainy black and white images of a softball game. In it I stood on a pitcher’s mound scanning the field behind me. And then, there she was, this lovely girl, Karen. Only she wasn’t in left field. Rather she stood watching from the stands, her round, pregnant belly proclaiming we might not make it to the seventh inning.
            “Hell-o… is anybody in there?”
            The gentle touch of her hand taking mine brought me back. “Oh… I’m… I’m sorry…” It was then I realized I’d been staring into her incredible hazel eyes. “I’m Chris, I’m the pitcher.”
            “Well, Chris the pitcher, it is very nice to meet you.”
            By now the field had cleared. The other players were beginning to line up to choose sides. I mustered up what little composure I could manage. “We had better head over if we want to get a spot in the first game. Don’t stand next to me, put someone between us. That way when they count off we’ll end up on the same side.”
            This time her smile lit up her entire face; put the bright field lights to shame. “Ok, thanks, I will.”
            It certainly wasn’t the best game I’d ever pitched, far from it. I found it hard to concentrate. Even when I wasn’t thinking about her, I could feel her presence over my right shoulder. We managed a win, no thanks to me. A miserable bouncing grounder that somehow made it past the second baseman was my single contribution. Karen on the other hand played like an All Star. It was a good thing, too, as she tracked down one well hit ball after another. Each time I turned to watch a poorly pitched ball sail into the outfield. Each time I spied the big beautiful full moon poised like a halo over the left field angel named Karen. Each time she managed to turn my error into a great play. Each time I could feel my heart melt a little bit more.
            “You were really something out there tonight.”
            “Thanks, I’m actually out of practice… and out of shape.”
            “Well, I can find nothing wrong with your game or your shape.” It was out before I realized. I could feel my face start to glow the color of my Phillies T shirt. “I mean…”
            Karen’s laugh was honest, reassuring. “I know what you mean, and thanks, for both.”
            We returned to the dugout and I was able to relax a bit more. It made no sense. I had met beautiful women before, even incredibly beautiful and sexy women like Karen. Only one had ever affected me in this crazy manner. And that was a very long time ago. Memories of Cindy flashed through my mind. As always, I quickly pushed them back into their dark private corner. They were replaced by the earlier image of Karen, pregnant and watching from the bleachers. I shook my head and laughed out loud.
            “What?” Karen tilted her head in a cute, quizzical manner I would soon come to know well. Her hazel eyes squinted at me, “What’s so funny?”
            “Nothing, nothing, really,” I replied. Sitting there on the cool steel bench, the gentle moonlight marking her tan round cheeks, all I could think of was kissing her – probably not the best idea considering the circumstances. “It’s nothing. Maybe I’ll tell you… someday.”
            Studying my face carefully, she seemed to have come to a conclusion, “Someday, huh…? So does that mean you still see us as friends… someday?”
            “Well…” By now a number of ball players had gathered in the dugout. Most seemed more interested in our intimate conversation then the selection process for the second game. I stood, slung my equipment bag over my shoulder, and took Karen by the hand. “C’mon, I don’t know about you but I feel more like having a cold beer than serving up any more home runs.”
            “That sounds good to me!”
            “Would you like another Bud Light?”
            “I’d better not. I have to get up for work in the morning.”
            I glanced at the glowing neon clock on the wall: 12:30. We had been sitting in a corner booth in Scully’s Tavern some three hours. It seemed more like three minutes. The more we talked the more I found myself falling for this fascinating girl. “Oh, I’m sorry, really. I guess since I don’t keep a regular schedule I sometimes forget that others do.”
            “Not a problem.”
            “So, you interested in playing left field for our rag tag team? They really are a great bunch. You’ll like them. And we do need you.”
            “I’m glad you asked. Of course, I’d love to play! Actually, that’s why I signed up for the pickup games; I was hoping to get on a team.”
            “Gee, and here I thought it was fate that brought us together.”
            “How does it go, ‘Accept the things to which fate binds you...”
            “…and love the people with whom fate brings you together.” Wow, Marcus Aurelius. I am impressed.”
            “Oh, it was some required reading in college, Literature 101 I think; probably the only thing I remember from that class.” Her eyes grew wide as her face lit up with sudden recognition. “Oh, my God, it’s you! You’re that writer… Murray… CJ Murray!”
            “Guilty as charged. My publisher changed my name to CJ. He said it sounded more grown up or something.”
            “I can’t believe I didn’t recognize you! I mean I’ve only read one of your books, your first one. By the way, the picture on the jacket doesn’t do you justice.” Karen’s pretty face waxed dreamy and she sighed. “But your poetry… do you know we studied some of your poems in school? My teacher was a big fan. I am too, come to think of it.”
            “It’s an old picture. That book was published some time ago. As for the poems…” For the first time I became aware of the difference in our ages. It bothered me. I have always been age blind. It’s like being blind to a person’s race or nationality. When meeting someone, my first impression usually takes the form of who are you and, can we be friends? It’s how I was raised. But for some reason I found the obvious age disparity troubling.
            Karen smiled. She read my face. And then she read my mind. “I’m 28, born 1974; be 29 on October 26, a Scorpio, a true Scorpio,” she added with an alluring wink. Her full round face contorted into a comical frown as she took a deep drink. “And that means I’ll soon be 30… ugh! Anyway, I’ve had a couple of boyfriends and one big love in my life; which is partly why I’m here… story for another time.” Setting the glass down, Karen eyeballed me pointedly from across the table. “Ok, your turn.”
            Honesty and directness were traits I admired in a person, especially in someone so lovely whom I desired to get to know better. But Karen’s comments had taken our casual let’s get to know each other conversation to a new level. I was all for anything that might hasten my lips touching hers, and grateful she had brought up the question of age, but worried about her reaction to my turn. I took a long pull of my own beer for courage. This was going to be interesting.
            “Ok, since you asked… I’m 52, born 1950; be 53 on Christmas Eve, a Capricorn, a true Capricorn,” I added, throwing in a wink of my own. “I’ve had… uh, a few girlfriends and one big love of my life; also a story for another time.” I studied her expression. It seemed to register a strange mix of hurt and disappointment; not exactly what I was hoping to find. “Oh, I…”
            “No way…!” Karen jumped in her seat and playfully slapped my arm. “We’ll circle back to that few girlfriends thing another time. But come on now. I was open and honest with you. You owe me the same. No way, you are not 52!”
            I actually had to pull out my driver’s license before Karen believed me. “Ok,” I confessed, “I’m 52; I look 32; I feel 22, and most of the time act 12. At least that’s what I’ve been told.”
            That put the smile back on her face. “And you play ball like a teenager. Damn, I hope I’m still that active when I’m 50!”
            “I am sure you will be. You’ll never grow old, and you’ll be just as beautiful… even more so. I’ll bet you’re the type that just keeps getting lovelier with age, a true Scorpio.”
            “You, sir, are a flatterer. But please, don’t stop!”
            I leaned across the table, taking Karen’s hands in mine. “Not flattery, just what I see in those gorgeous eyes of yours. And besides, age is nothing, honest. Take it from someone who knows. It just keeps getting better. Trust me.”
            Her tender hands still resting in mine, Karen tilted her head and smiled like a calico cat I once owned. Sliding from her side of the booth, she wiggled in next to me. “I do trust you.”
            Our first kiss lingered. It was warm, tender and familiar.
            The following Saturday night Karen and I sat in a cozy booth at Palermo’s Italian Restaurant. Rather than taking a seat across the table, she had slid into the booth next to me. I liked that. “Wow that was some meal! And, I know, I’m Italian!”
            “I told you, this place has the best lasagna in town.”
            Karen’s mystical eyes twinkled in the candle light. “You weren’t lying. Guess I’ll just have to trust you in such matters.”
            “Trust me enough to continue our conversation from the other night?”
            She leaned an elbow on the table resting her chin in her palm and looked at me. “Keep plying me with this wine and I’ll tell you anything you want to know.” I signaled for the waitress. By the time the cannoli arrived and the glasses were again half empty, I was totally taken with this beautiful woman. “Not a lot to tell actually. It was the classic away from home for the first time college romance. My parents liked him; that should have been a red flag right there.”
            “I know what you mean. Parents seem clueless when it comes to choosing a mate for their kids. I’m sure they mean well, but…”
            “Yeah, I made the mistake of bringing him home over Christmas break. They treated him like he was already family. I think everyone just assumed we would get married. He certainly did.” Her laugh was ironic.
            “Well, it didn’t take his cheating on me with several women to make me realize this wasn’t what I wanted, but it sure helped! Even without his philandering I knew I wanted something more. What I wasn’t sure. By the time I finished grad school that something more had grown into full fledged wanderlust. I figured a change was the right thing. Finally I picked up and moved here.” She shrugged casually as if it were no big deal.
            “Wow, you call packing all of your possessions in your car and driving all by yourself three thousand plus miles across the country to a strange city no big deal? And you had no friends here; knew no one.”
            “Sometimes a clean, total break is the best medicine. There were way too many memories, too many ghosts for me back in Florida. Memories are realities ghosts.” The old saying seemed to perk Karen up a bit. “That’s from one of your poems, I remember.”
            “I always knew my words would come back to haunt me someday. I just didn’t know the ghost would be so sexy.”
            “Ok, enough wine for you, mister. Besides, tit for tat; it’s your turn.”
            Cindy was a very personal part of my past life I didn’t share with many people. I even stubbornly refused to discuss her with my closest friends. But the nearness of Karen and her frankness made it feel right, natural. “Talk about family being clueless. I met Cindy when I was 34. She was 17, half my age. We fell in love almost instantly. ‘Who has loved that loved not at first sight?’”
            “Christopher Marlowe, very nice…”
            “Now, you see, you remember more from that class than you thought.”
            We touched glasses, “To Literature 101.”
            I could feel Cindy’s presence; hear her voice. She whispered to me Go on, it’s ok. “My family didn’t approve at all. Even most of our friends expressed their concerns over the relationship; the age difference. We didn’t care, we were in love. I was feeling things I didn’t think I would ever experience. Cindy moved in with me; within a year we were engaged.” For the first time in years I found I could smile at the warm memories.
            Karen studied my face. She was once again reading my mind, my thoughts. Instinctively she knew I had to finish. “What happened?” she asked with gentle reassurance.
            “Cindy was killed by a drunk driver,” I replied. It was the first time I’d said the words out loud. The old familiar pain I’d carried for so many years slowly began releasing its grip.
            Karen squeezed my hand. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry. My God, that must have been so awful, so hard for you.”
            “It was.” I turned in the booth, finding Karen’s lovely face and smiled. “But you know, I think it’s gonna be ok now.”
            Karen wasn’t the first woman I’d dated since Cindy’s death. But that evening, as we made love, I could feel myself come alive inside.
            Monday night pickup game under the lights; beautiful warm summer night; the usual group of players; even the moon was growing full. Returning to the dugout, we nearly collided. “Oh, gee, I’m sorry. Are you Katie?”
            Déjà vu is a strange thing. We seldom recognize it for what it is until much later. When things in life repeat themselves they are trying to tell you something. As usual, I wasn’t listening.
            Karen played her heart out for the team. The other players took to her immediately. We ended the summer season with only one loss, but dropped our first round playoff game. I continued to join the Monday night pickup games while Karen concentrated on her work at the University. But we continued to date.
            Brushing back an errant strand of long honey blonde hair, she gave me a puzzled stare. “Nope, not Katie, my name is Lacey.”
            “Oh, sorry, I was supposed to meet someone here. She’s joining our team for fall ball. My name is Chris.”
            She accepted my outstretched hand as if grasping a bat, firm and confidently. “Well, Chris, it’s nice to meet you. And if you need players…”
            “We are always in need of good female players.”
            Lacey’s expressive chocolate eyes grew large and round. “I’m your girl!”
            Her unabashed confidence struck a chord with me. Later, on the field Lacey proved that confidence to be natural talent and not just so much brag. Skillfully handling duties at second base, she twice managed to rob me of base hits. And she could power hit with the best. I was impressed.
            “I’ve played my whole life. I was the first girl on my home town’s Little League.” Pride shone on Lacey’s heart shaped face. It was quickly replaced by meaningful disappointment. “They wouldn’t let me play football. And I had to settle for fast pitch softball in high school and college. I love playing.”
            We clinked glasses and downed the Olmeca Gold Tequila shots, chasing them with lime wedges. Kathy’s Pizza and Sports Bar was nearly deserted. Lacey had insisted on staying and playing the second pickup game, promising to buy the first round. It was 1:50 AM, and the ten spent shot glasses formed a neat pyramid on the bar top. “Sorry, guys, time for last call. What will it be?”
            Lacey grinned at the bartender. I would soon learn that a big wide beautiful grin was her trademark. It seemed nothing fazed this vivacious young woman, at least not for very long. “I think one last round for my new friend and I will do.” Showing no ill effects from the potent liquor, Lacey turned in her barstool. “Don’t worry I live right around the corner. We’ll walk; the night air will do us good. I can pick up my truck in the morning.”
            There was never any discussion or mention of dating; no question or awkwardness. It just seemed to happen. I soon realized that things in Lacey’s breezy uncomplicated life worked that way. Two days later she messaged me: Meet me at Kathy’s tonight at 7. We’ll have a drink and then get some dinner. She didn’t ask and I didn’t reply. She knew I’d be there; so did I.
            Lacey was about as different from Karen as possible. She was tall, nearly two inches taller than me, with a powerful, trim athletic form. Karen stood my height; strong, tone and voluptuous. Aside from both playing softball better than any woman and a lot of men, they seemed at first complete opposites. But as I dated both ladies, subtle similarities began to emerge.
            “Fifty two, huh, wow, you’re like more than twice my age. I’ll be 25 in October, on the 27th.” The significance of the date escaped me at the time. She laughed and the vodka and tonic she sipped went down the wrong way. “God, you’re older than my dad!”
            I suddenly felt guilty, guilty and very old. The feeling didn’t last. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. I’m not good at that sort of thing. I don’t think about age and I guess I assume other people don’t either.”
            She answered my statement with a broad sweep of her hand. “Shoot, don’t apologize! I can care less. I like you, you seem to like me; we have stuff in common. You’re fun to be with and damn good in bed. And you sure know your way around a female body! What more could a girl ask for?”
            This time my own gin and Seven-Up found its way up my nose. I managed to regain my composure and relax. If there was one thing Lacey excelled at beyond softball it was making a person feel at ease. I admired her for her casual, easy going attitude. “Well, I’m glad you’re good with the age thing. I like you, Lacey.” She grinned her patented grin and high fived me.
            By the time our steak and baked potatoes were history, I’d learned Lacey was also a recent arrival to Seattle. She’d received a two year degree and then entered a University. “Yup,” she said, browsing Outback Steakhouse’s desert menu. “I was recruited while in school. A rep came to career day. It was the end of my junior year and I still had no idea what I wanted to do. His table was the only one without a line.” She laughed her infectious laugh and closed the menu. “It’s gotta be the cheesecake! Anyway, he looked so pitiful sitting there all alone, like the ugly puppy nobody wants. But he talked a good game and I was hooked. I knew nothing about being an area representative. A month after graduation I found myself, two suitcases, and my bat, glove and cleats on an airplane headed west. I was met at the airport, given an apartment, a truck to drive, a GPS and a sales route.” The smile returned, lighting up her striking features. “I love what I do, and I love Seattle.”
            “So, you moved out here blind, all by yourself. You knew no one, had no friends here?”
            For the first time I saw her turn thoughtful. “Friends come and go, except for the one or two close buddies. That is if you are lucky enough to find one. So do guys…” From across the table, Lacey looked me directly in the eye. “Present company notwithstanding.”
            Her words came as a statement; but her soft brown eyes questioned. I began to understand that beneath the tough, confident, and beautiful exterior lay a timid little girl still wide eyed and innocent to the world around her. I returned her steady gaze. “Well, I’m not going anywhere.”
            Lacey was unlike any girl I’d ever known. She lived life as it came to her, cheerfully accepting each challenge and every reward with the same boundless energy and enthusiasm. Her underlying wide eyed innocence was infectious and just being in her company could make your day better. We saw each other two or three times a week, including bar hopping, action movies, video gaming, and the Seattle Mariners. Monday night pickup games always ended with too much tequila at Kathy’s Bar and extended sex at Lacey’s apartment. Then again, all of our dates ended in epic sessions of sex.
            Late one sunny Sunday afternoon we relaxed on a grassy hillside, licking cones from Full Tilt Ice Cream. We’d spent the day together, starting off with brunch at Hattie’s Restaurant. Later, Lacey seemed uncharacteristically clingy and affectionate as we strolled through the Farmer’s Market. I sensed she may have been feeling a bit homesick. As we lay on the blanket, watching the boats silently slip through the Ballard Locks, Lacey curled into my embrace.
            Resting her head on my shoulder, she studied the half eaten waffle cone carefully. “I never really dated much. When I was young I was pretty much a tomboy; I disliked dresses and skirts and girly things. I didn’t even have very many girlfriends.” The frankness of her sudden confession surprised me. We’d grown close, or as close as she seemed to permit anyone. But we had never discussed our lives. Savoring a generous bite of cookies and cream ice cream, she continued. “I guess that was my dad’s fault; I certainly was a daddy’s girl, that’s for sure. He took me to football and baseball and soccer games. We’d watch endless hours of sports on television. Dad taught me to throw, and to hit, and how to run and slide.”
            Lacey’s chocolate eyes melted into hazy clouds of reflection. “I don’t know, maybe I was just trying to please him. In school I didn’t have a lot of friends, being something of a cross between a nerd and a jock.” She laughed aloud at the pointed recollection. “That’s quite a combination isn’t it?”
            I kissed her forehead, gently stroking her long sun lightened hair. “Oh, I don’t know. I probably would have been crazy about you.”
            “Well, you would have been the only one. I think I went out a total of maybe a half dozen times during my entire high school career. And that included a disastrous prom date. Then in college I needed to keep my grades up to keep playing ball, and I needed to keep playing ball to keep my scholarship.” Returning from her thoughts, Lacey turned and stole a bite of my mint chocolate-chip cone. “Ok, old guy, don’t go getting any wrong ideas here. I don’t have any daddy hang ups or father fetishes.” She winked and tenderly kissed my cheek. “I like you because you understand me. You know exactly what this girl needs.”
            “Oh, so, I see, you are just using me to make up for lost time,” I teased.
            Lacey’s grin turned upside down. The cute pout was most effective. “Hey, a girl’s got a right to sow some wild oats of her own, you know.”
Opening Night, Fall Ball, 2003
            I arrived early to stretch and relax. It was a ritual I had adopted going back to Little League. The silence of a vacant field just before game time afforded a tranquility I enjoyed.
            Tonight fate had other ideas.
            I have no idea how I could have missed it.
            A familiar figure crossed from right field. Karen entered the home team dugout, matching my smile, “Hey there cutie, ready for another winning season?” She kissed me tenderly and then settled on the bench, stretching out her shapely legs. “Ok, get to work.”
            It was a more recent ritual Karen and I had somehow adopted. I unzipped her bag and retrieved her cleats. Propping her foot on my bent knee, I began to unlace Karen’s Nike’s.  “Could you rub them for me first,” she pleaded in her irresistible manner, “pretty please? I’ve had a long hard day.”
            “Damn, I’d better get that kind of service!” Lacey flopped down on the bench next to Karen and my heart stopped. She stretched out a long tan leg, “My cleats are in the side pocket and I like them laced snugly.”
            Both girls looked at one another. Before I could react, Lacey leaned over and kissed me hard on the lips. “You were terrific last night, sweetie!”
            My life passed before me. I could see the headlines: Popular author beaten to death with softball cleats in love triangle.
            Karen tilted her head, studying Lacey carefully. An eternity later she smiled, planted a passionate kiss on my gaping mouth, and then turned back to Lacey. “I know; he was really terrific the night before.”
            Ok, here it comes. I prepared for the worse.
            The two exchanged curious looks, and then slapped an enthusiastic high five. “Hi, I’m Karen.”
            “Nice to meet you, Karen, I’m Lacey. It looks like we’re both on the same team.” The obvious double entendre brought on a round of giggles. Both ladies looked down at me and wiggled there lovely legs. “Well?” they said in unison.
            Speechless, I did the only thing I could do. I laced up their respective cleats and watched dumbfounded as the girls grabbed their gloves and headed for the field.
            “C’mon L,” I heard Karen say. “Let’s warm up.”
K and L and Me
            I’m sure my cool status with the guys on the team shot up a hundred fold. From second base came a cheering patter of Come on Chris, you got this guy, put it down the middle; while the now familiar Strike ‘em out, he can’t hit, give ‘em the old come-back pitch floated up from left field. At bat, I had my very own pep squad. The other ladies on the team took a slightly different stance. They accepted Lacey right off. The group of them huddled together between innings, chattering away, and looking up occasionally to shoot me perplexed glances.
            The last pitch served, the game won, and congratulatory high fives passed, I headed for the dugout. Lacey appeared on my right, “You, me and K are heading over to the Old Pequliar on Market Street. We’re meeting the rest of the team to celebrate. You’re riding with K.” She kissed my cheek and trotted off. “And oh,” she called over her shoulder, “the first round is on you. See ya there!”
            By last call, Karen and Lacey were fast friends, the elusive close buddies Lacey had longed to find. The dissimilar pair took to each other as if they had known one another all of their lives. Over Bud Lights and hot wings it was decided I was to be shared equally between them. I of course had no say so in the decision. Since Lacey had an early meeting, I would go home with Karen. The next night L and I were off to see 2 Fast 2 Furious at Ballard’s Majestic Bay Theatre. I was afforded Friday to myself, but on Saturday K and L and I were going out for dinner and drinks on a strictly plutonic three way date.
            And so began the most exciting, satisfying and unique dating situation of my unique life. I had two girlfriends, each about as different as night and day; each complimenting the other beautifully. Some lose ground rules were set up, including the fact that the three of us were free to date others, and that only one lady would have me at a time. I had no intentions of seeing anyone else. But on our first official group date I teased both girls that I would spoil them rotten and ruin them for any other guys. My boasting was more prophetic than I could imagine. On more than a few occasions I was wakened from a sound sleep by my phone. Then I would offer up a patient and comforting ear to either Karen or Lacey: I hate you! This idiot I am out with is such a jerk! He’s nothing like you, damn it! Why the hell do you have to be so great?
            The strictly plutonic group date rule was very loosely interpreted. Passionate kissing and public displays of affection increased proportionately to the amount of liquor consumed. A friend with a town car service provided the designated driver for us as we explored Seattle’s restaurant and club scene. The looks we three received, while not always approving, were priceless.
            One Friday night, L and K and I wandered into Belltown Billiards. The DJ fired up around ten, and we split our time between shooting pool, the dance floor and toasting Cactus Flower Margaritas. Soon a couple of beer fried boneheads decided to hit on the girls. Anyone who has ever worked in a night club knows the best thing to do is let a female bartender or waitress handle sticky situations. That’s exactly what I did. I knew the girls could take care of themselves, and my interference would just worsen matters.
            Having been patiently put down and politely put in their place more than a couple of times, it wasn’t long before the drunken duo turned their frustration in my direction. Several comments were made questioning my abilities to handle two fine foxes.
            Then the taller one made the mistake of his life. Bolstering his courage with a double shot of Jack, he boldly and unwisely got into Lacey’s face, stating loudly that the only way someone like me could get a piece of ass would be to pay for it. The insinuation was obvious.
            Lacey was raised on the streets of Chicago. Need I say more? The poor fool never saw it coming. A quick devastating right hook and he was not only down but out. Before I could react, Karen was by her girlfriend’s side. Sizing up the situation, loudmouth’s partner decided better against messing with the ladies. Instead he headed my way.
            Another thing you learn spending time in clubs is to never hit a drunk in the stomach, he’ll just puke on your shoes. And I had neither the inclination nor the desire to deal with him. He cocked an arm back and started to swing. I went up side his head with the handle of the pool cue.
            By now we had drawn the attention of the other patrons as well as a couple of very large bouncers. Fortunately, they had been watching the impromptu floor show and found the situation as comical and entertaining as the rest of the crowd. They escorted the doomed drunkards to the street, notified the authorities and bought the girls and me a round of drinks at the bar. However, we were asked not to return for a while.
            Dating Karen and Lacey, individually and collectively, was interesting to say the least. There was never a boring moment. Sometimes I wasn’t sure who might show up. Other times one of the girls would call and tell me the schedule for the next few days: it was Karen’s turn; Lacey wasn’t feeling well so K and I would be going to the theatre; both ladies had dates; it was girl’s night out so good luck, I was on my own. Surprisingly, I found I liked having my social life well ordered for me.
            On Saturday, October 25, the three of us got together for the girl’s birthdays with a fiesta at Mama’s Kitchen followed by a night of bar hopping. The following two nights I celebrated with them individually on their actual birth dates; all of it arranged by them. Both girls flew home for Thanksgiving. They were gone for over a week and it became obvious they missed me as much as I missed them. Monday evening Karen showed up on my doorstep. The next morning I found she had left a note on my bathroom mirror: Thanks for last night, you were great! L and I did Rock, Paper, Scissors… I won! L will be stopping by tonight. Luv, K.
            For a time, Karen, from a large Italian family and a natural born chef, tried to teach poor kitchen hapless Lacey how to cook. My digestive system suffered through a couple of months of interestingly prepared meals, while my waist line endured endless batches of various types of cookies. Finally both ladies agreed it was a hopeless cause. Christmas, K and L were gone again, spending the holidays with family. I was like a lost puppy for the two weeks they were away. And I was beginning to realize just how much I cared for these two. Upon returning, it was Lacey’s turn to have me first. The three-way over Valentine’s Day weekend was their way of making up for the holidays. I suspected they were also expressing their growing feelings for me.
            Lacey’s sudden and pointed question about offspring reverberated silently around the hotel suite. The memory of my vision of a pregnant Karen played over in my mind. I could feel myself starting to grin broadly.
            “What what…?”
            Karen’s pretty head tilted to one side as she studied my expression. “He’s thinking about something; something’s captured that complex brain of his.”
            “Oh, yeah,” Lacey agreed, “I’ve seen that look before, when he is trying to decide which position we should try.”
            I ignored the comment. Leaning forward, the three of us kissed tenderly. Karen’s soft hand lingered on my cheek as her eyes found mine. Once again she read my thoughts. “The night we met, right? In the dugout; you had that same expression on your face. You said…”
            “I said I’d tell you about it someday.”
            “What are you two talking about?”
            Karen looked over at Lacey. A second later L smiled sweetly. She understood. “C’mon old guy give, tell us.”
            I lay back, resting my head in Lacey’s lap, savoring the tender memory. Karen curled up in my arms, her head on my chest. I stroked her soft brown hair.  Over the next half hour I related the story of how Karen and I met, and the incredible similarities to my first encounter with Lacey. I told them about Cindy. For the first time I confessed aloud I was having similar feelings for the both of them. Lacey, with typical confidence and wisdom beyond her years, stated she was well aware those feelings leaned more towards Karen, adding she whole heartedly approved. Then I detailed my vision of a softball game and a very pregnant Karen watching from the stands.
            I felt something damp on my chest.
            It was Karen; she was softly crying.
Friday, February 14, 2014
            “Welcome back, Mr. Murray. We have your usual suite all ready for you.”
            “Thank you, Stuart; it’s always nice to be back. And it looks as if we may have some nice weather this year.”
            “I arranged for it personally,” he quipped. Shaking my hand cordially, the hotel manager turned to Karen and Lacey. Each wore identical sterling necklaces with delicately curving silver heart pendants sporting three petite diamonds “And ladies, you are looking as young and lovely as ever. My goodness, how long has it been?”
            Lacey’s beautiful grin put the bright mid-morning sun to shame. “Ten years, Stuart, do you believe it? The three of us have been coming here every Valentine’s Day for ten years now.”
            “I know,” Karen said with a sigh, “it seems like only yesterday. Where does the time go?”
            Signaling for a bellboy, the hotel manager nodded his agreement. “And how are the children, Mrs. Murray?”
            Karen’s long brown ponytail brushed her shoulder as she tilted her head to one side. I looked into her bright hazel eyes, fondly recalling the evening we met. Karen read my thoughts and smiled. “They are fine, Stuart, just fine, thanks. Lace just turned three. And Chris Jr. starts preschool in the fall.”