My co-writers have shamed me by continuing to post thought provoking and entertaining articles, while I on the other hand have been lollygaggin’. Anyone who has been reading this short story has been mistreated by me with the long absences between installments, and I beg forgiveness. This last piece has been long in coming, not because it took me a long time to write it, but maybe it’s because Audra and David didn’t want their story to end. But it must.
Thank you for your patience, darling readers. Now, s’cuse me while I go sniffle over saying goodbye to Audra Preston and David Gray….
Interlude — The Last
“I don’t know what I was expecting,” Audra mused, “but a beach full of naked, overweight, senior citizens tanned to Corinthian leather wasn’t it.”
David grinned at her obvious disappointment. “You’re the one who wanted to come to the public beach. And they’re not technically naked, just topless, and for the men that’s a fairly normal condition for a day at the beach.” He stood, hands in pockets, taking in the array of oiled and darkly sun-damaged beach-goers and said, “Although I’ll agree minuscule spandex swim trunks are not a good look for most of the males on this beach.”
“It would be a delicious look for you,” Audra gave him her best lascivious grin, twined her fingers with his and turned away from the view. “Let’s walk up the quay. Maybe you’ll let me buy you a cold drink and we can sit, people watch and feel superior.”
Amused by her, he leaned down to plant a kiss on top of her head, “Excellent suggestion.”
As they sat on a shaded bench sipping Campari and sodas, Audra began to worry that she was monopolizing time David had intended to spend elsewhere or otherwise. Just as she was about to make an excuse that would give him a graceful exit, he stretched an arm along the back of the bench and sighed.
“I can’t recall when I’ve enjoyed a day with nothing better to do than sit with a beautiful woman and watch the world go by. Real life will intrude soon enough…”
Warmed more by his words than the summer day, Audra leaned into his shoulder and filed the feeling away for brisk, typically solo Chicago days. And nights.
After an idyllic day of walking, seeking out the hidden gardens and artwork tucked into the town’s corners like gems in a priceless setting, holding hands and stealing kisses, Audra felt her senses melting into a languorous haze. Along with her heart, and she knew that was a mistake, but she was helpless to stop it.
“Can I tempt you into one more night … perhaps room service enjoyed on your terrace?” David had pulled her into a one-armed embrace and tucked her head under his chin as they stood at their spot on the quay’s balustrade admiring the setting sun over the sea.
Nervous butterflies took off in a flurry of wings in her belly, “And then back to real life?” Audra pulled back to look into his eyes – eyes that sometimes gave nothing away and sometimes gave her a glimpse into his heart.
His gaze followed his fingertips as he brushed wisps of hair away from her too-inquisitive eyes. “We knew – and agreed – that this time together, however precious, couldn’t last, Audra.”
“It’s just flown by so fast,” she was proud of the fact that her voice didn’t quake, and she smiled. “I’ve never known anyone like you, David.”
His answering smile was sad, “And I’ve never known anyone like you. I can’t lie that knowing our time is short is difficult for me, but we both have responsibilities that we must get back to.”
“I know you’re right, but I don’t have to like it. I’m going to miss you.”
“And so, tonight?”
“Of course. I hope you’ll bear with me if I pretend this is not ending?”
David cupped her face and leaned his forehead against hers, “Yes, let’s.”
He’d arranged for champagne and candles, flowers and foie gras, a sumptuous meal with complementary wine, all ending with fresh berries and the crème brûlée he knew she loved. All served on her terrace with the music of the sea and the remote sounds from yachts playing in the background.
David tipped his flute against Audra’s, “You’re lovely tonight. Of course, you always are.” He studied her features, her smile slightly shy still, the moss green eyes in which he imagined he could see the gold glints sparking in the candlelight. He was memorizing her he knew, storing away the memories of this interlude – a time out of time when he’d felt both more himself and like a man he’d never been before. She’d done that, and he was grateful.
“David, is it okay if I tell you that these past few days have been the best time of my life? I’ll treasure them, and you, always,” she squeezed the strong, tanned hand holding hers. “I’m not asking for more, even though I wish there could be more…”
“As do I.” He stood and pulled her with him, “I don’t intend to waste a moment of this night.”
She let him lead her into the room, then set her champagne on a bedside table and turned to touch him, allowing her hands to run over his chest, up to his shoulders and down his arms. “Have I ever mentioned how arousing it is to me that you roll your sleeves so that I can lust after your forearms?”
He chuckled and settled his hands on her hips, making it all the easier to pull her closer.
“And that I adore this yummy hollow at the base of your throat, all tan and stuff. I just want to kiss it,” she trailed a finger along his collarbone to said hollow.
“Don’t let me stand in your way,” to make it easier for her lips, he bent and nuzzled her ear.
As she showered kisses along his throat, she unbuttoned his shirt and tugged it from his slacks.
“ I like this assertive Audra!” David grinned. His hands went to his belt and she brushed them aside.
“Good, now let me have my way with you,” she continued what he started and flung his belt onto the floor before starting on his slacks.
In short order they had bared each other and collapsed laughing onto the bed, rolling, kissing and touching. They crashed together like the sea’s waves against the sea wall, their first joining this night as desperate as if it would be their last.
But it wasn’t their last, and they stretched the hours and their passion through to the dawning morning.
David lingered over leisurely kisses at the door to Audra’s room, reluctant to end the night. “You are extraordinary,” he trailed his lips across her eyelids to her temples and then down her cheek to her ear and then her neck. Those lips curved when he felt her shiver, “I’m so fortunate to have had these days with you. Thank you, Audra.”
“Please don’t thank me,” she tightened her arms around his waist. “Still pretending, here. I’m telling myself we’ll see each other later.”
He pulled back to look deeply into her eyes. “My dear…”
“Nope. It’s fine, but don’t make me face reality. Not yet.”
He sighed, kissed her breathless and stepped back. “If you will, then. I must go. Please take care, and know that I won’t forget you or this time we’ve shared.” David stroked her cheek and turned to leave.
“I won’t either, David,” she murmured and touched her lips to hold onto the sensation of his kisses. “I’ll never forget.”
Audra spent the morning organizing and packing, she couldn’t stay in this place knowing that she wouldn’t have more time with David. She’d called for a driver to take her to Nice and the airport from where she’d fly out that afternoon to Frankfurt, catching a morning flight tomorrow to Chicago. She hoped that the long days of travel would distract her from her loneliness, but she doubted it.
When she got the call from the front desk that her driver was waiting, she gathered up the flowers from their last meal together, grabbed the handle of her rolling suitcase and left the room with one lingering, backward glance.
As she exited the elevator, she saw the happy family reuniting in the lobby. A tall, willowy brunette was in David’s arms and two young boys were alternately hugging his long legs and racing in giggling circles around their parents.
Their eyes met over the sleek, sable head and, for an instant, Audra saw the devastation in David’s eyes that mirrored her own. Then he smiled down at the two little boys and released the woman to clasp them in a loving group hug.
Audra rolled past them out of the lobby to the waiting car. She turned back once, saw David watching her and whispered, “Goodbye, my love.” He gave a slight nod, then dropped a kiss on the head of each small boy.