(Previous installments of the story can be found here
Terri hung up the phone and grabbed her purse, reaching inside for her keys. Heading for the service door that led to the garage, she made a stop at the closet and grabbed a jacket. Sliding one arm inside, she felt someone lifting the jacket to assist her with the other arm and realized Rich was standing directly behind her.
“Thanks, honey,” she said, shrugging into the jacket and turning to give her husband a peck on the cheek.
“Not so fast,” he replied, circling his arm around her waist and pulling her against him. He dipped his head and kissed her neck and she tipped her head back to accommodate him, winding her arms around his neck at the same time and giggling.
“You smell so good,” he murmured into her neck. “It’s not right, you going out to see another man when you smell this good. Are you sure you don’t want to hang around here with me and… you know…find something to do?”
She giggled again. “I won’t be gone long,” she promised. “We’re just going to have coffee. Besides, I feel bad. I feel like I let Matt down by not offering sooner to help him celebrate his success today. And when he told me he met someone tonight, he sounded so excited. It’s not often I see Matt so happy. I feel like I owe this to him. I don’t think he’s got a lot of people in his life that he can lean on and this is really important to him. OK?”
Rich kissed her lightly on the lips. “I know, baby. You’re a good friend to Matt. Go. Celebrate with him. And try not to smell so good while you’re gone, will ya?”
Terri laughed. “I’ll try. Maybe I’ll run across a skunk while I’m out.”
“Don’t do that,” Rich teased. “I’d love it if you smelled this good again when you get back. Just try to put a hold on the whole smelling good thing while you’re out.”
She kissed him one more time, suddenly feeling reluctant to leave, but assuring him he had nothing to worry about and that she’d be back as soon as she could.
Ten minutes later, her car turned into the Barnes & Noble parking lot. She climbed out from behind the wheel, slamming the door behind her and pressed the lock button on the remote as she headed toward the entrance of the book store. Pulling the heavy front doors open, she looked immediately to the right, searching for Matt in the coffee shop section of the store. It didn’t take long to spot him. He was seated at a cafe table for two, his hands surrounding his cup of coffee and looking up from under his eyebrows at her. He was unable to hide the grin that had been plastered on his face since he had left the restaurant. She quickly made her way to her friend and hugged him as he rose to greet her.
“Wow! You are positively glowing,” she exclaimed! “This must be some girl. I haven’t seen you look this happy in a long time.”
“Thanks so much for meeting me tonight,” he said, releasing her from the hug. “Hey, you smell nice,” he mentioned approvingly.
“So I’ve been told. Just don’t let on to Rich that you noticed. I got the distinct impression that he wouldn’t have been opposed to me staying home this evening. But I promised him I’d make it up to him when I got back.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude on your evening.” Matt looked slightly worried. Since Terri had become his best friend in the last year, he often found himself feeling extremely grateful for her friendship, but he often wondered what it felt like from Rich’s perspective. Rich had always been very gracious about the friendship but Matt couldn’t help but wonder sometimes how he might feel if the tables were turned and it was his wife who shared a close bond with another man.
“Don’t be silly,” Terri said, dismissing his concern. “It’s not a big deal. Rich understands and I won’t be out late. This is what friends are for. Now, come on. Spill it. I want to hear all about her.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Matt admitted, the giddy-looking grin returning to his face. “We only exchanged a few words, but I must have made them count. I think I’m going to get to see her again.”
“This is so unlike you,” Terri gushed. “I’m thrilled to see you taking a little risk for a change. You deserve to have someone nice in your life.”
Matt laughed. “I think you’re getting a little ahead of me here. I just met her tonight and barely spoke to her. It might be a little soon to assume she’ll be a part of my life just yet.”
“I know,” Terri laughed. “I’m just happy for you. You stepped outside your box for a change. You’re a nice guy, and a good looking one too. So, you wear that goofy Jedi hoodie once in a while. So what? Fae, is it? She didn’t seem to mind your odd taste in clothing. Maybe Fae is just your type. Just promise me you won’t ask her to watch Star Wars movies on your first date.”
Matt pretended to swat at her head and Terri quickly ducked, laughing.
“You know I’m just kidding you,” she said. “Let me go order a mocha and when I get back, I want to hear all the details.” She got up to place her order and then quickly returned to the table with her steaming cup. “So, tell me what happened tonight.”
Matt shrugged, looking down, still grinning self consciously. “She was sitting with a couple of friends at the sushi bar. I was just around the corner of the bar from them and I could hear most of their conversation. I didn’t even realize it at first, but I found myself staring at her. When I realized she was staring back… and seemed interested, I felt my confidence soar. I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but I took a chance for a change.”
“That’s good, Matt. You know I’ve been worried about you since the accident. I worry about how much time you spend alone. I know you have your Kendo and that’s great. But the people you connect with there aren’t real friends. Not really. You just share a common interest and nothing more. And I love the fact that we’re friends and all, but it won’t hurt my feelings if you have other friends too. And even if I might feel just the slightest bit jealous at seeing another woman taking up some of your time,” she teased, winking, “you know that deep down, I would really love to see you find someone special. You deserve that. It’s not healthy to spend so much time alone.”
“I know. You’re right,” Matt conceded. “I’ve been in a funk for a long time now. It’s time I stop moping around and start living again.”
All Terri could do was smile. It was good to see her friend acting so optomistic for a change. The accident had taken it’s toll on him, and for a while there, she thought Matt was going to be content to simply go through the motions for the rest of his life. The Kendo classes were a step in the right direction for him. They got him excited about something again and gave him something to keep striving for. But it wasn’t the same as allowing another person into his life. She knew that living…truly living… required a certain amount of risk and until now, she wasn’t sure that Matt was willing to ever take those risks again. It had taken some time, but tonight she was sure that he had broken down a wall that had been holding him back for so long. Maybe he would finally allow himself to consider sharing his heart with another person.
“I don’t know what it was about this girl,” Matt continued. “But she stirred up feelings I haven’t experienced… or wanted to experience… in a long time.”
Terri just smiled, encouraging, while Matt rambled on about Fae’s gorgeous hair and her beautiful eyes. He couldn’t hide his excitement when he described how she had actually called him after he left his business card for her and how he loved the sound of her voice. He repeated for her the short conversation he and Fae had shared and how she had asked if she could call him sometime.
“God, I hope she calls soon,” he exclaimed! “Look at me! I’m acting like a teenager. What is wrong with me?”
“Nothing’s wrong with you,” Terri assured him. “You’re happy. Remember happy? It feels good, doesn’t it?” The two friends talked and laughed easily for the next hour until it became apparent the book store was closing for the night. They parted ways, each feeling happy about Matt’s encounter that evening and promising each other, “See you on Monday!”
When Terri got home, she found Rich sitting up in bed, the lights off, but watching t.v. He gave her a wary look and smiled half-heartedly.
“What’s with you,” she asked him? “Is something going on?”
“Aw, I got into it with Jeremy tonight. I tried to talk to him about school and making some decisions about what he plans to do after graduation. I should have known better. As usual, he ended up getting defensive and before I knew it, we were yelling at each other again. He’s closed himself up in his room and I think he hates me. I’m frustrated and I don’t know what to do.”
“I’m sorry,” Terri said, understanding all too well. “I can try to talk with him in the morning. Do you want to talk about it? Is there anything I can do?”
“Maybe…” Rich looked at her with a mischievious grin. “Come here. Let me see if you still smell as good as you did earlier…”