At Long Last – Love
The poetry in writing is the illusion it creates.
(© 2019 by the author)
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's
consent. Comments are appreciated at...
As told by Mark Cummings
Peter and I were getting ready for our annual trip to the Islands, Hilo in particular, when I did something I had been thinking about for years. I opened the Facebook for Hilo's Café Pesto, pressed Reviews and began typing what had been on my mind for a long time. Peter came up behind me and put his handsome face next to mine. "What are you up to?"
"Something I've meant to do for some time." I kissed his cheek and continued typing.
I can't say enough good things about Café Pesto, but best of all, I met the love of my life while I worked as a waiter there so many years ago. I thought it was the great food and atmosphere that brought him back so often until I finally realized – IT WAS ME. Each time we return to Hilo, Café Pesto is a must. It definitely is a safe … and definitely the best … choice for dining. Thank you for maintaining the quality that makes you shine so brightly. Ciao, Mark Cummings.
"You never told me that."
"I know. Forgive me."
He laughed and pulled me to a standing position as his arms encircled me and drew me so close I was about to gasp. "You're forgiven."
"… that I didn't make my move on you sooner."
"Yes, my love. I spotted you at Café Pesto almost two years before I asked you out."
"Evidently you never suspected?"
"No, I didn't. If I had . . . I don't know what I would have done. Probably made a fool of myself which is my wont to do considering how lonely I was."
"Nope . . . I'm happy as a clam.
"Put Frank on and let's dance."
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"Good idea." I selected the MP3, clicked start, and then fell into his embrace.
Is it an earthquake or simply a shock?
Is it the good turtle soup or merely the mock?
Is it a cocktail, this feeling of joy?
Or is what I feel the real McCoy?
Peter loves to slow dance, as I do, and will do so at the drop of a hat. It's probably one of the things I love about him most. Those moments when we are so close, close enough for me to capture his scent, his warmth, and those beautiful green eyes searching mine with such feeling. I've fallen in love with him so many times I've lost count.
Our noses brushed and then our lips barely touched before I whispered, "Our seventh anniversary is coming up."
"Yes, I know." He smiled and kissed me.
"Got the seven-year itch yet?"
"Umm, yes, I do." A beguiling smile flooded Peter's face.
"Should I be concerned?"
"In what way?"
"An itch for seven more years . . . with you."
Is it for all time or simply a lark?
Is it Granada I see or only Ashbury Park?
Is it a fancy not worth thinking of?
Or is it at long last love?
My breath caught in my throat as words failed me and our lips brushed lightly again, then met. He never closes his eyes at moments like this which stirs the very depth of my soul and the love I have for this creature. I thanked the gods for bringing him into my life.
As the music ended, he asked, "What's for dinner?"
"How about pizza? I don't feel like cooking unless you do?"
"No, pizza sounds fine. You know the toppings I like."
"I'm going to clean up. Behave yourself until I get back."
"And after you get back?"
I held him close for a few seconds . . . then let him go.
I ordered the pizza, turned on background music and settled at my desk to work on a short story I was creating. But, my mind had other ideas as it drifted back to Café Pesto and the afternoon Peter asked me out for the first time all those years ago.
I began waiting tables at Café Pesto after graduating from high school. In the ten years since I had acquired a following of repeat customers who requested my attendance when they made their reservations. So, I was pleased when Peter Lombardi began showing up at the Café with a request for me to serve him and his guests.
He rarely dined alone and always paid the bill with a generous tip. Some of his guests were repeats but most of the time they were one-timers. I assumed they were business associates he was entertaining to further whatever business he was in which I learned later was architecture. He was a successful architect.
I was on the verge of turning thirty and guessed he was in his mid or late forty's, well-heeled and well-preserved. I never saw him smoke or drink alcohol while dining which probably accounted for his well-preserved appearance. Plus, he carried himself like someone who attended the gym regularly. When he spoke Italian fluently on several occasions, I realized he outclassed me big time and my interest in him on a more personal level began to dwindle. Oh, well.
Approaching my thirty's, reluctantly, I could no longer avoid the realization I was alone and unloved. I had a lot of friends but no one special. No one who was there in the dead of night with their warmth to comfort me. I have an electric blanket; it's not the same. Funny thing is, I never considered that Peter Lombardi may also be alone and unloved. He seemed so content and pleased with his life when he was out and about.
I wasn't too sure what I should do about my own plight. I tried all the popular Internet meeting places with mixed reactions. No, that's not true. I hated every second of it. If I were a side of beef it may have had some appeal, but I'm not. I'm just a nice, easy-going kind of guy who wants to be in a relationship with someone I can devote my life to. Is that asking too much of the gods – apparently it is. They've conveniently overlooked my current status of being so lonely I sometimes think my mind will crack.
The career opportunity of a lifetime I had been waiting for since joining the staff of Café Pesto was late and apparently was not coming. My ten-year anniversary of serving others did not enhance my chagrin of being alone.
The first time I saw Peter, he was one of a party of six, and they were having the best time. Sarah was their waitress and had all she could do to keep up with them. They departed just before closing as she collapsed at a table in the staff corner.
"Sarah, who were they and where did they come from?"
"I have no idea, but their energy was overwhelming. Probably from the tourist ship that came in today."
"Oh, yeah. And you're gonna love this. One of them asked for your name."
"I swear to God."
"What did you tell them?"
"Your name, of course. Was that okay?"
"Yes, it was . . . which one asked?"
"The guy who kept speaking Italian to me until he realized I didn't. He was nice about it and apologized. Oh, wait. He paid. His name will be on the receipt. Let's see . . . here it is. Peter Lombardi."
The doorbell rang, interrupting my daydream, then I heard the front door open as Toby and Mini, our Schnauzers, raced to the door to find out who it was. "Hello? . . . Peter?"
"In here, Mary."
"Hi guys, how are my baby pups. Come here, Mini. Oh, yeah, I know. You are such good puppies . . . . Hi, Mark. Where's Pete?"
"Cleaning up for dinner."
"Cleaning up for dinner? I don't ever remember him doing that?" She cozied up to me when she became aware of the Coppélia Waltz playing in the background. "Would you like to dance?"
"Dance. You know, when two people . . ."
"Yes, I know."
She opened her arms and accepted me as the waltz played on. "I promise not to overcome you with my charms."
"How disappointing." I smiled at this beautiful carefree woman.
"Thank you, Mark."
"For Peter. He has mellowed so beautifully since meeting you."
"He has? I can only wonder what he was like before we met."
"You have no idea."
"Well, Mary. He makes me very happy.
"Peter!" She smiled as her son entered the room.
"Mother. What are you doing here?"
"Just passing by."
"Liar. You've never merely passed by anything in your life. Now, what are you doing here? And please stop dancing with him. He belongs to me."
"Why? He dances beautifully."
"Yes, I know." She looked into my eyes and smiled, "Are you bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by my son?"
"Not yet, but I'm working on it." We laughed.
"Mother, are you staying for dinner?"
"I hadn't planned on it. Am I invited?"
"No, but you can stay if you like."
"Thank you, my dear. What are we having?"
"Chicken Pot Pie."
"Don't believe him, Mark. His kitchen has never seen or heard of Chicken Pot Pie."
We laughed as the doorbell rang.
I twirled Mary as the music ended. "Dinner is here." I heard another car pull into the driveway. "And . . . we're having a guest?"
"Oh, who?" Mary asked.
Peter smiled knowingly and said nothing.
"Not that man!" Mary groaned.
"Yes . . . that man."
I looked at Peter and frowned my question.
He drolled, "Hank, my Dad. Mother, are you coming to the wedding?"
"I'm going to ask Mark to marry me."
Her mouth dropped at the same time mine did. His comment completely caught me off guard.
"This isn't how I planned it, Mark. But, will you?"
"Will I what?" What he had asked hadn't completely sunk in.
I began to laugh, "Yes . . . you know I will."
"Get the door, Mother. And stay for dinner. I want you and Dad to put your differences aside until this man becomes my life ever after partner." His smile only I understood and it made my knees tremble.
Mary turned to leave and stopped as her husband entered carrying two containers of pizza. "What's she doing here?"
"They're getting married," Mary whispered.
"And I want the two of you to get along until we say I do."
Mary laughed around the word. "Impossible."
"Bury the hatchet you two."
"Where?" Hank asked.
"In each other's heads if necessary, but bury it or you're not invited."
Mary's face went deadpan as Hank rolled his eyes.
"I'll take that as a consensual agreement. After the ceremony, you can resume your mutual loathing for one another."
"Oh, thank you. Where are we eating this stuff?
"The patio. It's a beautiful day."
"It was a beautiful day."
As Mary and Hank moved out of doors, Peter came up behind me. "Sorry about the abrupt proposal. I've been thinking about it for a long time."
"I'm glad. Do I get an engagement ring?"
"Do you want one?"
I shook my head and pulled his arms tighter around me.
The first time he asked me out, I said no. He asked me why and laughed when I told him I never do anything on my first date.
"You eat, I hope."
"Yes, I eat but it's the afterward that makes me nervous."
"Okay, I promise to keep my hands to myself."
"It's not your hands I'm worried about."
"You want me?" was his response.
"Who wouldn't? You're probably too good to be true."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"If I let you have your way with me, that's probably the last time I'll ever see you. So why bother."
Peter looked at me with the most perplexed expression. "Will you take a walk with me?"
"Maybe . . . where?"
"Along the oceanfront."
I thought about it and answered with a smile, "Sure."
And so we took the first of many walks together. Somewhere during all those walks, he managed to slip his hand into mine – I let him. It felt good and I enjoyed it.
Then the moment came when he wanted a kiss. I was about to refuse until I saw the plaintive look in his eyes, so I said, "Okay." He moved in slowly, never taking his eyes off of mine. When our lips met and he didn't close his eyes, I was hooked. I barely felt the pressure of his lips against mine. It was his arms and the pressure of his body against mine together with his scent and warmth which surrounded and invaded me. Oh, my god. I wanted more but foolishly restrained myself.
He pulled away a few inches and stared at me until I finally said, "Again." This time he moved in like a steam roller and swept me off my feet. My response even surprised me. If I had been drinking I would have blamed the sudden joy I dealt on alcohol. But I never touch the stuff.
We supped with Mother Mary and Daddy Hank, who had a surprisingly good time. When twilight began to fade and cool ocean air rolled in, we adjourned indoors.
Mary and Hank helped clean up the mess from the food fest, then bade us goodnight, leaving Peter and me to ourselves along with Toby and Mini. Peter yawned, put his arms around me and said he was going to retire. He whispered in my ear, "Sweet dreams until Sunbeams find you." I smiled and said I'd be along a little later. I wanted to put some finishing touches on the story I was writing. Toby trotted off after Peter while Mini stayed by my side.
Around midnight, I turned out the desk lamp and joined my beloved in our bed. The soft purring of his deepening slumber put me to sleep almost immediately. Toby and Mini curled up at the foot of the bed and joined us in peaceful slumber.
Twilight was creeping over the horizon when I awoke at the sound of the pups furiously scratching at the blanket covering Peter. When I sat up, they both stopped and stared at me. Mini's whimpering told me what I could never have imagined. Peter had passed away and left me in shock alone with two stressed pups.
After the will was read, his lawyer handed me an envelope. "Peter wanted me to make sure you got this."
I looked up plaintively at this kindly man. "You knew, didn't you?"
"About his condition? Yes, I knew. He cared a great deal for you, Mark, and wanted to spare you."
I said nothing and placed the envelope on my lap.
Mary was a mess and Hank in disbelief. Peter had kept his condition a secret from everyone. I tried to comfort them but to no avail. I was glad when they finally left the house. I procrastinated a while and finally addressed the finality of my relationship with Peter – his final words.
I sat down at my desk and stared at the envelope for a while as I relived my life with the love of my life. As I retrieved the single page from the envelope and opened it, his handwriting and his signature at the bottom of the page brought tears I had been holding back. Toby and Mini gathered at my feet while my passion spent itself.
My dear boy, please forgive me for not including you in this one aspect of my life that has brought it to a close. I did not want to risk spoiling our perfect relationship.
My only regret is leaving you so soon. When you are able, place the memory of our affection for one another in the archives of your memory and open yourself to love once again. I'm already pea-green with envy for whoever is blessed to find and love you.
Thankfully, you have Toby and Mini to bind us together a little longer, but their time will come too soon as it does with our animal friends. By then, you will have found your footing and moved on with your life.
With all my love, Peter.
I gave out a great sigh and placed the letter back in the envelope. I looked around and realized how big and empty the house was. I didn't want to live here any longer than I had to. I knew it would sell the minute it hit the market. It was one of Peter's best designs. It lacked nothing from location to interior amenities. I'd auction off the furnishings except for a few items and start over on a much smaller scale. The thought of returning to Hawaii crossed my mind but I dismissed it. Peter had left me well off financially which gave me the opportunity of living wherever I pleased. Perhaps a little exploratory travel was called for. Maybe even Europe.
Toby and Mini sat patiently in front of me, waiting for me to take them for a walk which I was happy to do. "Come on you two. Get your leashes and let's go."
Many thanks to Khris Lawrentz(aka) Gerry Young for his tireless proofreading.