I had just finalized my break with Jake, my live in boyfriend, a month before meeting Adam. That made me officially a single mother, but in all honesty, Jake had never really been present. There was always something else he was busy with. I was used to doing everything that needed to be done, and really I enjoyed doing things my way without interference. Sammy was all mine, and I loved that.
So it wasn’t like I was looking for romance or some new life partner when I met Adam. Being alone was fine with me. Still, Adam made me yearn for something I had never missed before. He was intense, and so focused on me that I couldn’t resist his advances.
We had our first date a week after we met. Jake had Sammy for the weekend, so I had some time to myself. When he came through my door with his impossibly wide smile and a bottle of Makers Mark, I was well on my way to head over heels.
“Don’t you look beautiful!” he exclaimed as he kissed my cheek. I blushed as I checked him out. Black jeans, just tight enough, a blue shirt that set off his tan skin, and his wild hair that refused to be tamed. I could barely speak for a moment, but managed to squeak out a thank you.
Somehow he read my mind and headed for the Greek place on the other side of town, the one on the waterfront that was worth dressing up for. It was September, and just cool enough to sit outside where we could hear the water on the shore. The flickering hurricane lantern on the table glowed, while the fairy lights set into the fake grape vines above gleamed. Despite the busy night, it felt secluded and intimate in the high sided booth. We ordered platters of food, sharing bites, drinking wine, and talking until it felt as if my soul was laid bare. When we finished dinner, he ordered dessert and ouzo to end the meal.
“I’m not ready to take you home yet,” he said as we got into his car. “Let’s go shoot some pool.”
When we stepped into the bar, it felt as if all eyes were on us. He held the door for me, then checked in at the front desk. “You want your usual table?” the cashier said, to which he responded, “Of course.”
I expected him to be great, having a usual table and all, but really, he was just pretty good. He was better than I was, but I hadn’t played in at least 10 years. So he helped me find my form, adjusting my shoulders, or demonstrating a shot. And still we talked. We talked about everything. My Sammy, his little girl, our love of airplanes, his love of fishing, his love of pool, his family background.
As we played pool and drank our beers, he switched into story-telling mode. His stories were wonderful; his voice was warm and wide and nuanced. He made me laugh with some of his silly stories, of going camping with a guy who made macaroni with seawater, a girl he’d known who had lost her top at the beach and wouldn’t come back to shore, and a backyard cookout where his mother had forgotten the Off and the mosquitoes stormed the yard.
Then he got a little more serious and told me about his ex-wife.
“I remember the day I met her. She was wearng a bikini and appeared out of nowhere, walking across the sand to the lake with a 6-pack in her hand. Her hair was so long it swished against her butt as she walked. We were married two months later, and I was in heaven!
“I bought a little bungalow out on the beach, far from everything but the ocean. When we first moved in, I would fish on the shore, casting a net. I put in a garden and we grew our own food. The place was entirely self-reliant. We would go in to town every once in a while to play pool, or to sell some of our vegetables. Every time, there would be guys looking at her and I would hold her hand and swell with pride.
“When she got pregnant, we stopped going in to town so much. She was sick all the time, and didn’t want to do anything but watch TV. When I’d suggest going out, she’d shut me down real quick, but as soon as Emmy was born, she started going out. I’d be out fishing or tending to the garden, and she would hop in the truck and leave, not even telling me. I started taking care of the baby full time. I’d wrap her up and wear her on my back when I was outside, but I had to spend more and more time inside when it got hot.
“Then one night while I was sleeping, she punched me in the face and started yelling at me for cheating on her in a dream. The next day she packe up all her stuff, and when her boyfriend pulled up, she tried to take Emmy, too, but I held that baby close and wouldn’t let her go. By the time the divorce was final, she’d lost all interest in our child.
“Emmy is my life. I can’t imagine life without her,” he said, and my heart broke for him. After all, I knew exactly what he meant.