Travis woke and lay in his bed, staring into the darkness. He glanced over at the digital clock, its green letters glowing...3:13am. The room was hot and he pushed the sheet off himself so he could feel the breeze of the fan on his body. It helped a little but not much. He could feel the sweat on his back. His boxer shorts, the only thing he was wearing, were soaked. He sat up on the edge of the bed and ran his hands through his matted hair. His parent's house was always hot in the summer, but this early August heat wave made the upstairs particularly uncomfortable. The big rambling old place had its charm, but central air wasn't one of its amenities. Home from college, June and July had been fairly pleasant, but this weather made for tough sleeping in the upstairs oven.
He looked over again at the clock, 3:15. As much as he wanted to blame the heat, he knew why he was awake, he was thinking about her. It had hit him on Monday when he had gotten her letter. All summer they had written, like pen pals, telling each other about work, movies they had seen, books they were reading, family dramas and other nuances of their daily lives. The letters came every week, usually full of humor and irony. He looked forward to reading them and he looked forward to responding, and that was enough, until Monday. Monday's letter was a little different, not a lot, just a little. There was something subtle in it, something he picked up on. She wrote so well (better than him) and her words were always so carefully chosen, that's why he had to go back and read it again...and again. There was something in it that caused a reaction, like someone flipped a switch in his brain, or in his gut. It was a feeling that he could not verbalize. It was a like an awakening, a realization, like seeing something that had been right there for you to see for a lifetime. But now that he saw he couldn't get his mind off it until he did something about it. That was the feeling.
He had been in classes with her junior year. Both of them English Majors, they had ended up in two, sometimes three classes with each other. They had studied together, partnered on projects and even performed scenes from Shakespeare, their final project at the end of last semester. He teased her with names like "book worm" and "librarian" and she laughed and took it, occasionally calling him "jerk" or some other lame comeback. She had been dating some guy from another school when they met, but she seldom talked about him. Travis had met him once. He was a big burly guy, didn't say much and seemed unimpressed with the books that she and Travis were studying. She broke up with him sometime in the Spring and Travis had enjoyed teasing her regularly suggesting she "hook up" with various guys on campus, most of them "creepy" or "jocks", two things he knew she didn't like. During their studying they had open conversations about dating, sex, family, religion and even comic books, and without realizing it, became friends.
At the end of the Semester, as they parted ways, she made a comment about how the summer was going to be boring, nothing going on but work and no one around. He told her that he would brighten her Summer, he would write her a letter so she at least got mail. She laughed with a "yeah right" only half believing him. So it began.
Always true to his word, he sent the first letter in mid-May, mostly as an "I told you so", but she immediately responded and their weekly correspondence began. She only lived two hours away, so the letters took no more than a day or two to get back and forth. They never spoke on the phone, just shared their weekly events in a page, which eventually grew to 2 and 3 pages as they opened up to each other more and more. She wrote so well. He sometimes laughed out loud at her descriptions of household events involving her mother and sister or outrageous things that happened during her summer job as a nanny. During lunch one day at work, he nearly fell out of his seat with laughter as he read her account of how her sister walked in on her while she did her Kate Bush "WutheringHeights" impression, dancing around her bedroom clutching the Emily Bronte novel between her thighs. The image evoked fond memories as he had seen her do the same impression during a late night study session when she had attempted to lighten the mood and relieve the anxiety of upcoming exams. He didn't realize at the time how comfortable she was around him and how there were so few other people she would share her wonderful quirky sense of humor. Her prose comforted him and drew her closer to him. He started to look forward to every week's letter like the next chapter in a good book.
Now, it was all hitting him. A realization of how he felt. After this weeks' letter he suddenly saw her in a differently light and could not get his mind off her. Why now? Why didn't he have these feeling during school in the Spring? What had changed? He couldn't put his finger on it. All he knew is that it had changed, at least in his mind. He now thought of her differently. Maybe the letters had skewed his sense of her, maybe when he saw her again he wouldn't have these feelings. That seemed hard to believe given how he felt now. He looked at the clock again, 3:31am. He got out of bed and walked to his desk. He searched around for his yearbook and quickly flipped through the pages, knowing approximately where there were several pictures of her. He found the pictures and gazed silently. There she was with her big smile, perfectly straight teeth, long brown hair and her ever present glasses. He couldn't deny it, even in these candid year book pictures, she looked pretty. Why hadn't he noticed, why hadn't anyone else noticed? She hung around with all his friends and none of the guys ever mentioned her. Maybe because she was not a prima Donna like some of the other girls. She was goofy, funny, did not dress sloppy, but not fashionable either. Every guy looked past her, even him, until now.
Travis had one problem when he felt this way. When he came to a realization, especially one like this that made him ache inside, he had to act. He had to do something about it. He felt as if he didn't do something, the moment would slip away and he would lose his chance forever. The thought of taking action caused him anxiety and the thought of doing nothing ate him up inside. Both involved pain, he just had to decide which one was the lesser pain. He knew what he should do and he knew what he wanted, but it didn't make the anxiety any less.
He finally gave up on sleep at 4am and went downstairs. He brewed a pot of coffee and flipped through infomercials, the only thing on at this time of the morning. He didn't have to leave for work for over two hours and soon he would be full of caffeine, his adrenaline would be up and he would still have no solution. As he stood in the kitchen pouring a second cup of coffee he flinched. A bat flew in the room and began circling. As dawn approached it was trying to find its way back to the nest. They had always had problems with bats in his parents' house and the extreme summer heat made it even worse. He calmly sipped his coffee and watched as the bat circled around. Normally he would have been bouncing around trying to find a newspaper or tennis racket to knock it down, but not today. He didn't care today and not even the flying little rodent could make him jump or take his mind off of her. He turned to go upstairs and shower then realized that he couldn't leave the bat flying around as his mother would soon be coming downstairs. In the front hall he found a tennis racket they used for such occasions and made his way back to the kitchen. The bat was still circling and he watched if for a minute to study its flight pattern. He then raised the tennis racket as it swooped in his direction and thought to himself, "time to slay the beast."
Travis went through work that day in a daze. He went over and over in his mind what he should do, refining his plan, changing his mind then changing it back again. The sun was hot as he drove through the City Parks, picking up trash and doing maintenance projects as part of his summer job. At noon he sat in the drivers' seat of the van, eating his sandwich and staring straight ahead. His eyes were bleary from lack of sleep and the bright sun. He sipped his soda which had already gone a bit warm. He glanced over at the Park maintenance building and saw it. He could do it now, he had his phone card in his wallet. But she will be at work now. Then the other idea hit him. He got out of the van and walked to the pay phone. He fished his calling card out of his wallet and dialed the 800 number that allowed him to use the card for long distance. He called information and the operator's voice chimed in "what City please?" He responded, "Rochester, the Crystal Barn Restaurant." There was a pause and the operator returned, "I have the number, would you like me to connect you?" He closed his eyes and said "yes please", there is no turning back now. Travis thought to himself, I make this call, and then one more call tonight, then I will know.
With the evening breeze finally coming through after another blistering day, Natalie sat on the back deck in shorts and a tee shirt, her hair pulled back, her glassed pushed up, lost in the four inch thick novel. As she waded through the pages her mind did not register the faint sound of the phone ringing. She seldom paid attention to the phone anyway. It was never for her, it usually rang at an inconvenient time and she got tired of taking messages for her older sister. The sliding door to the deck opened and her mother popped her head out, "Nat-nat, phone for you."
She looked up from her book surprised. She placed a recently postmarked envelope in as a bookmark and got up off the lounge chair. Still looking puzzled she said to her mother "Who is it?"
Her mother smiled, "I don't know, it sounds like a young man. He asked for you and he was very polite."
Natalie rolled her eyes, "probably a sales call."
Natalie walked in the kitchen and picked up the phone while her mother continued making dinner.
It was silent on the other end for a moment then she heard his voice, "Hey Natalie, its Travis."
She froze and her hand squeezed the receiver. Her eyes went wide and her mother stared at her seeing her strange expression. She had to say something. "Oh my God, hi!" was all she could get out. That sounded pretty natural, hopefully.
He continued, "I know I was only supposed to write you letters but I decided I needed to call you."
She blurted out again, "oh yea, no, I mean I am so glad you did." Her mind raced. Why is he calling, what did I write in that last letter?
"Hey," he continued, "I was wondering if you were doing anything this Friday night?" She was still stunned. She had to make herself speak, "uuuuuh, I don't think so?" That sounded so stupid, of course I am not doing anything. Why is he asking?
"Well if you are free, I was coming to town and was wondering if you wanted to go out, maybe out to dinner?"
She tried to control her voice, "that sounds like fun." Her mind raced, does he mean just for fun, as friends?
Then he continued. "I thought I could take you to the Crystal Barn if that is okay?"
She controlled a scream. Holly shit, the Crystal Barn, that means a date. You don't take a buddy to the Crystal Barn, right?
"I would love to." It was all she could get out.
"Great, I get out of work at 4, but could still be there by 7 or 7:30 to pick you up if that works for you?"
She smiled, "Yeah, that works for me. I can't wait."
He paused then said, "Great. I am looking forward to it too."
He paused again, he wanted to be sure she knew.
"I just really would like to take you out."
Her smile got bigger, she could tell in his voice, it was a date. She wanted to acknowledge that she understood.
"Well....." she paused, "I would really like it if you took me out, so I would love to." That was good, not too much, but enough.
"Great," he replied, she could hear the tension in his voice ease. "I will see you Friday Natalie Stewart."
She laughed, he would call her by her full name sometimes when he was affectionately teasing her at school. It was a little something they shared, a connection. She knew what he was trying to say.
"Okay, see you Friday," she replied.
"Bye Natalie," was the last thing she heard before his end disconnected.
"Bye" she whispered and stood staring for a moment before the phone slipped from her hand and crashed on the counter.
Travis turned the steering wheel of the old station wagon as he navigated through the neighborhood streets east of Rochester. He glanced at the piece of paper on the passenger seat next to him which contained the directions he had written down. He had had to call Natalie back to make sure he got the directions right to her house. They were both calmer on the second call, but the nervous excitement still came through. He pulled up to a stop sign and read the paper more carefully. The car air conditioning blew on his crisp white shirt and freshly pressed kakis. He had left work early, sped home, showered, changed and hit the road by 5pm, enough time to get there by 7. He told his parents he was going to stay with his roommate for the night, which was partially true. He was going to stay there after the date so he didn't have to drive the two hours home. He glanced up at the road signs and saw that he was at the right intersection. One more block, a left then he would be there. He was excited but nervous. He wanted it to go well but was still not sure how she felt. She knows it's a date, why would she say yes if she didn't feel something. He pulled up to the next stop sign then turned left. "Fifth house on the left, white with green shutters." A few seconds later he saw it, the correct number, the correct house, "here we go" he thought, and he pulled in the driveway.
Natalie stood by the window looking out, but trying to act like she wasn't looking out. She had spent the past two days agonizing over what to wear, how to do her hair and generally over thinking everything. She tried to recall conversations she had had with him that might contain hints about what he liked and didn't like. Should she wear her hair up or down, should the dress be more formal, more casual? Should she show more boob, less boob, any boob. In the end she had decided to keep it simple. She wore a pretty summer dress and her brown hair down straight. She was still angry that her last contact lens had ripped that morning and she was forced to wear her glasses. She had found her "fancy" pair that her parents had bought her a year ago, and Travis was used to seeing her in glasses, but it was still no consolation. She wanted to look as good as she could for him and her glasses made her self conscious. When she saw his old station wagon pull in the driveway, excitement, nervousness and panic shot through her all at once. She took a step back from the window so he couldn't see her, but still kept her eyes peeled as he got out of the car. He looked nice, but not over dressed. A wave of relief went through her as she now felt she was not under dressed. She could see that his hair was cut neat and for some reason he seemed taller and thinner than the last time she saw him. She laughed to herself and thought, "maybe it's the shirt?" She smiled as she watched him make sure his shirt was neat and tucked in and then he turned and began walking toward the front door.
The door bell rang and Natalie froze. She was standing right there in the front hall, she knew he was at the door, but for a few seconds she could not move. She heard her mother call out.
"Natalie, is someone at the door, is that your friend?"
She had told her mother about the date and that it was "that boy" who had been writing her the letters. Her mother was clearly intrigued, but did not pry too much. Her mother was good like that, she cared, kept a close eye on things, but gave Natalie her space. Here older sister on the other hand was another story. Her sister Sara liked to get into her business and she had tried hard to keep the date a secret from her. She was not in the mood to explain everything to Sara. Sara was bold, brash and lovable with the mouth of a truck driver. God only knows what questions she would have. Sara was in the basement watching TV and Natalie hoped she hadn't heard the door bell.
Natalie composed herself, pushed her hair back once and walked toward the door. She opened it and there he was.
His face lit up and he smiled when he saw her, "hey," is all she could manage to get out, quickly followed by "come in." He stepped in the door and she closed it behind him.
She turned to him and he smiled again saying, "you look great."
She blushed a little and responded with "thank you. My last contact tore this morning so I have to wear my stupid glasses."
Travis shook his head back and forth and said, "I think you look great, I like your glasses."
She smiled. Just then footsteps came down the hall and her mother and father walked into the front hall. She turned to them to introduce Travis, "Mom, Dad this is Travis, Travis this is my Mom Barbara and my Dad Kenneth."
He immediately put his hand out and responded, "very nice to meet you Mr. and Mrs. Stewart."
They smiled, obviously pleased with his manners and that he called them Mr. and Mrs. despite being introduced with first names.
Her mom jumped in, "Travis, did you drive all the way from home?"
"Yes, it wasn't too bad, a couple of hours, I'm used to it."
Her Dad chimed in "You're not going back tonight are you?"
Travis put him at ease, "Oh no, I will stay over at my roommate's house for the night so I am not driving too late."
Her parents approved of this display of responsibility. Before the conversation could continue the basement door flew open and Sara emerged. She looked around inquisitively and walked over to the group saying, "what's all the voices up here?"
She stopped dead when she saw Travis and Natalie dressed up. She looked at Natalie with a "what the hell is this" look in her eye.
Before she could speak her mother spoke up, "Sara this is Natalie's friend Travis, Travis this is Natalie's sister Sara."
Travis put his hand out and said, "very nice to meet you Sara."
Sara smiled briefly and just gave a "you too," then glared back at Natalie.
Natalie's mom spoke again, "so where are you going to eat."
Travis responded, "The Crystal Barn, in fact we have reservations in about half an hour." Natalie broke away saying, "yes, we should go, let me just get my purse from the kitchen and we can head out."
Sara followed Natalie to the kitchen, stalking her like a wild animal, while Travis made additional small talk with her parents.
In the kitchen, Natalie grabbed a small purse off the counter and glanced through its contents. Sara's eyes drilled into Natalie like daggers. Sara's tone was teasing, yet accusatory as she spoke in a hushed urgent voice.
"Whoooo, is your gentleman caller? How come I didn't know about this? Natnat keeping some secrets? He is cute, far too cute to be going out with a nerd bag book worm like you. Is this your little pen pal? Who knew good looking guys could write, or read for that matter."
Natalie continued to look through the contents of her purse as she responded to Sara.
"He is just a friend from school."
Sara covered her mouth to keep from laughing out load. She lowered her voice as she retorted to Natalie.
"Bullshit! You are so smitten with him, I can tell. What are you doing with that purse, making sure you have protection? I know you Miss Natalie, you don't get dressed up like this for a friend."
Natalie closed the purse and looked up at Sara, "are you done? Can I go now?"
Sara responded with a huge smile.
"Oh yea, you can go, but I want all the juicy details later. Don't leave that boy disappointed Natnat, you better put out."
Natalie rolled her eyes. She would be offended, but this was typical for Sara, actually tamer than usual.
Natalie walked back out to the front hall and waited patiently while Travis finished his conversation with her parents. He seemed very relaxed as he chatted with her mom and dad, meanwhile her stomach fluttered full of anxiety. She would be better she thought once they got out, away from everyone, just the two of them. She was always more relaxed when it was just the two of them. But then she thought it had never been just the two of them on a "date", just hanging out at school. Travis finally wrapped things up with her parents and turned to Natalie.
"You ready?" he said with a smile.
He turned to her parents, "it was very nice meeting both of you Mr. and Mrs. Stewart." Her mother smiled a big smile and replied, "it was very nice meeting you."
Her father shook his hand and smiled, a big feat for her normally quiet reserved Dad. Natalie turned to her parents as they walked out the door saying, "we shouldn't be too late."
Her mother smiled again replying, "whenever, have a good time."
She gave Natalie one more smile approval as she shut the door as if to say, "we like this boy."
She walked quietly next to Travis over to his station wagon. He followed her around to the passenger side and opened the door for her.
She smiled and said, "why thank you."
Travis walked around the front of the car, opened the door and slid into the drivers seat. He turned the key and started the car. The cool air from the air conditioning immediately started flowing.
Before he put the car into gear he turned to her and said, "your parents are very nice." She just smiled saying, "thank you."
Then he spoke again, "and more importantly, you look awesome."
Natalie immediately blushed, turned away and adjusted her glasses.
"Thank you. I didn't want to wear my stupid glasses, but my contact ripped and I didn't have another one."
Travis just shook his head and replied, "I like the way you look in your glasses, and I like your dress. You look great."
Natalie blushed even more and squirmed in her seat, "thanks" is all she could get out.
"Oh, I almost forgot." Travis reached behind her into the back seat and handed her a single red rose.
She smiled closed mouthed, biting her lip a little. "Thank you, that is so sweet."
Travis put the car into gear and backed down the driveway. They sat in silence for a moment as they drove slowly down the street.
Then Travis broke in, "how is your job? You said in your letters that you're Nannying? How are the kids, do you have to beat them every day or do you just duct tape them to chairs until their parents get home?"
She knew his humor and immediately started laughing. This broke the ice and made her more relaxed. The banter made her feel like they were back at School.
"No duct tape, although I would like to lock one of them in the closet. In fact I think I threatened that one day but he didn't take me seriously."
Travis laughed, "what you need to do is get the other kid on your side. Lock the pain in the ass kid in the closet and take the other to McDonald's as a bribe. Then when closet boy tells the parents, the one you took to McDonald's will back you up and tell mom and dad he is crazy. Then he will get an extra beating from Mom and Dad for lying. It's flawless."
Natalie cracked up saying, "I like it, I can tell the little girl that it's our little secret and the longer her brother stays in the closet the more french fries she gets."
"How old are the kids?" Travis asked.
"The girl is 7 and the boy is 4."
"Oh, that's good," replied Travis. "So no poopy pants, they are both potty trained right? At least you are not changing poopy pants on top of attitude."
Natalie cracked up again. "No, no poopy pants. Although the boy clogged the toilet one day and I had to plung it for half an hour, that was fun."
Travis laughed. "So it is not a completely poopy free job?"
"Not completely poopy free," she replied still laughing.
The banter continued like this to the restaurant and Natalie steadily got more relaxed and calm. It was like they were back at school, friends, buddies, but with something else there.
They arrived at the restaurant right on time for their reservation and were seated almost immediately. The waitress began by offering drinks but Travis said they needed a minute. "Are you going to get something?" he asked.
"Probably just a diet Coke, I am not quite 21 and if they card me it will be very embarrassing."
Travis replied, "I know, you are 21 next month, your birthday is in September."
She smiled very wide, "and how do you know that? I am very impressed."
"I know when your birthday is Natalie Stewart, I know all about you. I pay attention."
There was the full name again, teasing yet endearing.
"Didn't you turn 21 over the summer? I remember you wrote about your birthday in one of your letters. Didn't your mother get you a weed wacker or something?"
Travis, cracked up, "Oh yea, great 21st Birthday. There was no drunken debauchery, they just basically said happy birthday, get out and mow the lawn."
Natalie smiled and they were quiet again looking at the menus.
Travis jumped in, "You know, I was going to get a beer, but if you're not drinking I am going to pass. Plus, if I am driving, I don't want your parents thinking poorly of me, that the first time I took you out I had some beers and drove you home. If you can't drink I am not drinking."
Natalie smiled again, "is that what you are doing, taking me out?"
Travis looked at her more seriously. He reached across the table and took her hand. She responded immediately by grasping his hand back.
"I thought that was what I was doing, is that okay?"
Natalie smiled once again and choked up a little, "yes that is okay, it is very okay with me."
They looked at each other for a few moments until Travis broke in one more time, "okay, just one thing I have to say."
"What's that?" Natalie replied.
"Your parents, they seem nice, but come on it just hit me, Ken and Barbie, really!?"
Natalie burst out laughing. "That's right, and I grew up in the Barbie Dream House."
At the end of dinner Natalie's stomach hurt. Not from bad food or eating too much, but from laughing so hard. He had gotten her laughing several times, so hard she had to cover her mouth. They got a few stares from other tables, but she didn't care. She hadn't felt this comfortable or relaxed in a long time, especially on a date. At one point she laughed so hard she let out a snort, which only made both of them laugh harder. He teased her about it the rest of the meal saying things like, "I can't take you anywhere Natalie Stewart."
At the end of the meal the check came. The waitress looked a little disappointed, probably because they hadn't ordered any alcohol to drive of the tab and she figured she wouldn't get as big a tip.
Natalie reached for her purse, "let me give you some money for dinner."
Travis put his hand out, "no way Ms. Natalie, this is my treat. I believe I called you. I'm taking you out. Besides, I have to keep up the charade that I am a gentleman so you will think nice things about me."
Natalie smiled and put her purse down, "I'm pretty sure it is not a charade, you are a gentleman whether you like it or not, but I will still think whatever I want about you." Travis raised an eyebrow as he reached for his wallet, "oh really, and what exactly do you think about me Natalie Stewart?"
Natalie bobbed back and forth in her seat tauntingly, "wouldn't you like to know mister, wouldn't you like to know."
He gazed at her and squinted his eyes, "I would like to know."
Natalie reached for his hand, not able to keep her silence, "it is all good stuff, don't you worry," she whispered as she looked into his eyes, "it is all good."
They gazed at each other in silence and Natalie thought for a moment he was going to kiss her.
He leaned in a little only to be interrupted by the waitress, "are you all set with that, I can run your card."
Travis was startled and fumbled a little with the bill holder. He handed it to the waitress then turned back to Natalie. She had leaned back in her chair and the moment had passed. She was sitting with her hands on her lap looking around the room. Her gaze came back around to his and their eyes locked.
She smiled and cocked her head to the side, "what?"
"Nothing," Travis replied, "just looking at you".
Natalie gave him a playful sneer, "not much to look at."
"Oh, I disagree," said Travis, "I disagree."
A few minutes later the waitress returned with the bill. Travis totaled everything with the tip and put his card away.
"Thank you for dinner. I don't think anyone has ever taken me someplace so nice." Travis replied, "thank you for saying yes. Although with that snort, we may have to do Burger King next time."
Natalie swatted at him playfully, "I was compromised by your wit."
Travis laughed. These were the kind of lines she came out with, the kind he loved. She hardly realized she was doing it, but it showed her humor and her intellect.
"Oh you are compromised all right, I am not sure how, but you are compromised."
They stood up from the table and turned to head out. As Natalie came around the table Travis grabbed her hand. She reacted immediately, squeezing his hand tight and leaning in closer to his shoulder. They walked hand in hand out to the parking lot. Travis led her around to the passenger side of his old station wagon and stopped.
"Well, " he said, "we have a couple of choices. I was going to take you to the movies, but I figure like everyone you have seen Batman 3 or 4 times already."
Natalie looked at him, "unlike you, I have not seen Batman 3 or 4 times, not even once, but I figured Batman would come into the conversation this evening at some point." Travis replied, "I figured at this point in the evening you would be tired of hearing my voice and want a break, that is why I thought movies. We could go see Parenthood maybe, or we could skip the movie and do something else. Maybe we could go for a walk in EllisonPark if you are not sick of me."
Natalie liked that idea, "Believe it or not I am not sick of you yet, and Ellison actually sounds good to me. I will force you to keep talking to me."
"Ellison it is."
Travis as he unlocked the passenger door and opened it for her.
The 15 minute ride to Ellison was quiet, but not uncomfortable. They both seemed happy to be in each other's presence and both felt the evening was getting to a point where something else was ready to happen. Travis pulled the car into the park and wound through the roads looking for the parking area. They found a spot and got out.
The sun was starting to set and a cool breeze rustled the leaves in the trees. There were several people walking and biking on the roads and trails. Travis locked the car and they both agreed to wander up one of the roads. As they walked they held hands again, continued to talk and laugh a little, but also just several minutes at a time with few words or just silence. They walked up the road and paused under a large tree. The cool breeze hit them both and they stood in silence for a moment. Natalie turned to Travis and ran her finger up his shirt.
"You did a good job not getting anything on your shirt during dinner, I'm impressed." She paused, then continued, "your shirt is very crisp, did you iron this yourself?"
Travis didn't answer. He stopped her hand and held it in the middle of his chest. Her hand flattened and pressed firmly against the middle of his shirt. She stared at the back of her hand for a moment, then turned her chin up. His eyes were right there. She felt him begin to lean in slowly then her eagerness got the best of her. She pushed her head upward, met him half way and kissed him. She thought the kiss would be short, but he didn't break away and she didn't want him to. She felt his other hand in her hair at the back of her head and he gently ran his finger through has he kissed her deeper. The kiss went on for what seemed forever. When they finally broke for a moment Natalie opened her eyes. She smiled a little embarrassed and removed her glasses.
"You fogged up my glasses."
"Sorry," was all Travis said.
She folded up the glasses then realized she left her purse in the car, she didn't have anywhere to put them. Before she could think anymore about it, Travis put his arm around her waist, pulled her close and kissed her again, this time without her glasses on. She put her arm around him and embraced him back.
With the sun dropping, the inside of the canopy of trees darkened. They didn't know how long they were kissing but realized they should head out. They walked back to the car hand in hand and Travis kissed her one more time before opening her door and getting letting in the passenger seat. The ride back to her parent's house was quiet and they silently held hands as Travis drove. As they approached her house Natalie spoke up. "Travis, after writing all summer, why did you call me now?"
Travis knew the answer, but didn't want to say.
"I don't know, something in one of your letters made me think."
Natalie was curious, "What, what did I write?"
Travis continued to evade the question.
"I can't remember."
Travis looked straight ahead, but he could feel Natalie's eyes staring at him.
She decided to give up for now and turned away saying, "I must be some writer, huh?" "Yea," was all Travis said.
Pulling into her driveway it still seemed relatively early with the summer daylight hanging on. Travis put the car into park and turned to her.
"I had a really nice time" Natalie said. "In fact, I don't want to go in."
Travis responded, "we can go somewhere else, what would you like to do?"
Natalie smiled, "I just want to stay right here for a few minutes and talk to you."
They sat in the driveway and talked liked they had at dinner. The conversation was calm, relaxed and not hurried.
Finally, Natalie said, "I probably should go in, my parents probably think we are out here doing it in the driveway."
Travis laughed, "well I didn't want to be pushy on the first date, but if that is the expectation..."
Natalie smiled, "maybe the second date, we'll see how it goes mister."
Travis just looked at her. "I don't care, as long as there is a second date."
Natalie took his hand. "You ask, you know my answer."
They got out of the car and Travis walked her to the door. They kissed again on the doorstep and said another goodnight. Travis kissed her one more time then embraced her for a long-time. She didn't try to break free and just enjoyed his long arms and his strong hug.
Finally Travis broke the silence, "I don't want to let you go."
Natalie choked up. She had wanted this for a long time and hearing him say this made her heart ache in a good way. Her voice was a little raspy as she whispered back.
"I don't want you to let me go."
Hearing this Travis held her even tighter and she responded by doing the same. After a few more moments he released his hold and took half a step back.
Looking her in the eyes he said, "Good, because I don't plan to."
Natalie bit her lip to keep from crying and he kissed her one more time.
He leaned in and whispered in her ear, "I will call you tomorrow Natalie Stewart."
She smiled and just said, "I'll be waiting."
Travis walked back to his car and Natalie watched him go. He turned to her before getting in the car and smiled as she walked into the house.
As he drove the old station wagon through the dark neighborhood streets he reached up and pulled down the visor. Stuck in the visor was Natalie's last letter she had written him a week before. He opened it up as he drove and scanned through to the end. The closing had always been the same, "Write me back, Natalie." Except for this one, he looked down at the closing and read the two final words, the only time she had ever used this closing.
It read simply, "Love Natalie."