My mom and dad called as we were getting ready to go out the door to tell us that dad had fallen asleep and just woke up so they were going to be a little bit late. Lissa assured them it was alright and that we would see them at the restaurant. We were only around 10 minutes from N & J, but I was excited to get there.
It’s that on edge nerves kind of thing. You are excited for what is going to happen, yet scared to death. Sort of like starting a new job or your first day of school, you know? You can’t wait for it to get here, but it’s never exactly what you expect so it throws you off balance. And Adam had me off balance enough on his own already.
When we got to the restaurant, there was a long table sat up in one area of the dining room, enough to sit 12 people probably. It took over most of the room I thought and I realized I was feeling kind of queasy, like my heart was beating just a trifle too fast and I had to consciously take a couple of deep breaths to get it under control.
Nevertheless, I wore a smile when I entered the dining room. I kept telling myself these are all going to be people I care about, no one was going to be a jerk or anything—I hoped.
The phrases ‘you are what your family makes you’ and ‘you can be defined by the people you spend time with’ ran rampantly through my mind and I wondered what Adam would think about these people. Every family has a nut or two and my family is an eclectic bunch, so it should be an interesting evening, barring any unforeseen incidents.
Deep breaths Sarah.
A few people were already gathered there, an aunt and a couple of cousins and as we greeted each other and I made introductions, more people came in to join us.
Introductions went on for awhile and I began to notice that Adam was getting quite a few stares from other people in the restaurant, but not many from our group. I guess the word had spread amongst them and they either weren’t surprised by it or they had time to accept it.
There was a group of 3 women who were sitting at a booth across from our tables and they couldn’t take their eyes off of Adam. If he noticed, he wasn’t showing it, but I became more and more aware of their curious stares. They knew who he was, they had obviously heard him being introduced many times already and I wondered how long it would be before one or more of them came over to talk to Adam. I felt okay with that and in fact I thought about asking Adam if he wouldn’t go over and say hi so that I would stop wondering when it would happen.
One of the women in the group got up and took her cell phone outside to make a call, which I couldn’t really blame her for; it was noisy in here with everyone chatting. She came back in finally and sat down again and was talking excitedly with her friends.
I saw Adam look at them briefly and then frown. I caught his eye and I could tell he wasn’t pleased about something, but we were at opposite ends of the table right then, so I couldn’t ask him why. Our food hadn’t been delivered yet, so everyone was sort of milling from spot to spot, just chatting and their moods seemed amiable. Adam was fitting in well I thought as I watched him with my dad and my great-aunt Birdie (long story, have to wait until later). She appeared to be totally smitten with him and I noticed happily that he was the ‘real’ Adam with them, not the movie star!
I excused myself from Mark, who is one of my cousins to go and see what great-aunt Birdie was talking so animatedly about with Adam. When I walked up to them, Adam put his arm around me and leaned over to kiss the top of my head, which seemed to cause a stir among the women at the booth, making them all lean forward to speak to one another and then cast speculative looks towards Adam and I. I tried to ignore them and listen to the story that was being told. My great-aunt had spent several summers in England with a school mate of hers in the 1930’s and was regaling Adam with those stories. He was laughing merrily and seemed to be enjoying them a great deal when our dinners started arriving, so everyone found a place to sit.
Adam and I sat at one end of the table, near Birdie and my parents. Lissa sat across from us and was talking to my cousin Natalie. They are close to the same age and have always had a lot in common.
Our server sat a plate of chicken swarma in front of me, a wrap actually and I eagerly dug into the hummus and pita bread that was served with it. It tasted heavenly and I pulled the foil back from the swarma wrap to take a bite of it when the door to the restaurant opened and in came more women, evidently friends of the women in the booth.
They were now openly pointing and staring at Adam and I watched him, curious about how he could so easily ignore it. I even wondered if he noticed for all that I could tell by his behavior. But I as I looked closely, I saw that his jaw was clenched and he was trying very hard to stay focused on what Birdie was saying. My dad looked around then to see what all the commotion was about and I could tell it upset him, seeing those women so frankly admiring Adam and ignoring everything else. Dad is of the generation where it’s just not done, to stare openly like that. And while he knows that Adam is a movie star, it doesn’t really faze him. Now if it were John Wayne or someone like that, it would probably make more of a difference. Truthfully, I’m not even sure that he has ever seen one of Adam’s movies. Maybe, but it’s probably doubtful. If Adam had ever made a western, now dad would know him! But Adam never has, so dad had been just taking our word for it that Adam is famous. I would say now that dad was starting to get the picture.
It really didn’t bother me too much, the recognition I mean. I personally felt as if they were starting to be obnoxiously loud and I didn’t like that, but everything still seemed under control. The manager noticed them however and went over to speak to them and they cast him resentful looks as he walked away, but they did seem to quiet down and become a little more unobtrusive.
And then everything changed; one of the local TV stations showed up and everything became a mess. They came in and went directly to talk with Adam. They had been alerted that he was in town and no, they couldn’t say who did it, it was an anonymous tip, but since they were here would he care to speak with them?
All eyes in the restaurant were focused on Adam; our group, staff and other patrons and I saw Adam struggling to keep calm about it. His jaw was uncharacteristically tightly clenched and his eyes were hard as little granite pebbles. The women at the booth were laughing then and I for one had no doubt at all where the ‘anonymous tip’ had come from.
I was outraged over this; we were just trying to have a dinner with family, it was meant to be a chance for Adam to get to know some of them and for me to see them all after my accident. It was now officially a circus; even those people who didn’t know who Adam was or maybe didn’t really care were now trying to push their way through to see what was going on.
The management were trying politely to get everyone back to their tables or out the door and they also hung their closed sign out to keep anyone else from coming in as word was being spread quickly it seemed, from the number of new people who had come in. That only made matters worse because the people who couldn’t get in were becoming angry, not because they couldn’t get in to eat, but because they wanted to come in and see Adam.
Adam got up to go talk the reporters, but now there were others outside and they were demanding to be allowed in because the other station was in. Before he spoke with them, he had a few words with the management staff, probably letting them know what he had planned. It was interesting to watch, and also a bit unnerving. The whole time we were in Italy, nothing like this had happened to us. But here in Wichita, I guess people were just a little more enthusiastic or bored, I’m not sure which, but this was turning into a miserable night, much more than I felt like dealing with on my first night home from the hospital. It all just made me feel very weary.
Adam and the manager finished their conversation and Adam spoke with the reporters as well. He told them he would do a brief interview, outside with them as well as the others. He explained to them that he was having a private dinner with family and friends and didn’t want it further disrupted.
As they headed outside, I heard protests from the first group since they were the first ones here and thought they should get a private interview, but Adam wasn’t having it. He was very much Adam the movie star now, in charge of the situation and while he was extremely charming and personable, he was also calling the shots now. I admired him very much for his grace under fire.
It was dark outside now but the mobile trucks had lights with them and they set up an outside shot while I watched from inside the restaurant. Most of the people in the restaurant were in the process of leaving, some to watch the interview, and some because most of the excitement seemed to be over. Most that is except the group of women who had started everything. They refused to leave until they had been served their food and the servers hurried to get things for them.
I walked back over to our table, where things were actually pretty quiet. Lissa came over and hugged me and dad held my hand, rubbing it thoughtfully. Some of our group had already finished eating, but I couldn’t get anything more down. I sat there pensively thinking about those women at the booth and realizing that this wasn’t going to be the last time something like this happened and I might as well not let it get to me. But it was hard not to. I realized that my fingers were drumming rapidly on the table, and I made myself stop it. Adam is a celebrity, and it is sometimes so easy for me to forget that, because it’s not Adam that makes himself noticeable, it’s the other people around him.
The servers came out with the meals for the women at the booth—all in to-go boxes, which made them plenty mad, but I had to laugh at them now. I guess they weren’t the only bitches here tonight I thought and as they gathered up their things to leave, I raised my wine glass to them and gave them my biggest smile ever.
I tried to remember Adam’s philosophy—be charming and personable. So I smiled a little more and waved!
It was only our group in the restaurant now, and the party sort of resumed, except everyone now was asking me all about Adam, how we met, and what was going to happen and I felt on-guard; not at all sure how to answer. It was Birdie who settled the situation finally and I really loved her for it.
“I think Adam is a fine man, but goodness gracious folks, they’ve only just met. Give them some time to get to know each other before you start planning their future!”
After that, everyone stopped asking questions, but I knew they would resume, sooner or later. I put my arm around my great-aunt Birdie and kissed her lined and wrinkled cheek. She smelled like old fashioned loose face powder, a smell that I remember from my childhood. She has always smelled like this. For the first time, I wondered what it was that she used that made her smell this way. I noticed the sparkle in her eyes and realized what a good time she was having and there was a part of me that was excited to be able to provide her with some amusement!
Adam came in then and the manager locked the door firmly behind him. He walked back to the table amid hails of ‘good job’ or ‘that showed ‘em’. He took his place beside me and thanked everyone for their patience at having the evening interrupted and started to eat his cold meal. Our server asked if any of us would like our meals reheated, but no one did. I watched Adam surreptitiously and he was still upset, I could tell. I reached under the table and laid my hand on his leg and his hand immediately reached for mine to squeeze it, our fingers intertwining. I looked at him and he turned his head to look at me and then smiled. It was an intimate smile, his eyes partially closed and his eyebrows slightly raised. A private Adam smile and it made my heart beat a little faster when I returned it. For just a minute or so, it was only Adam and I in the world.
He leaned down then and whispered in my ear. His breath was warm and made my neck tingle where the warmth caressed it. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m good. How about you?” I murmured back, letting my lips gently caress his ear as I spoke. His hand squeezed mine again, without warning and I giggled. I wanted to kiss him then, so badly and it was everything I could do not to.
This man makes me so happy!
He nodded his head and told me he was fine. He was, I could tell, but he was still a bit reserved too and that may just take awhile to go away I realized. I really wanted to ask how the interview went and what was said, but decided that would be better done at home. I looked around the table, at my family and watched as they talked together in small little groups. I had known many of these people all my life, except for the few who were younger than I was. Their acceptance of Adam, even in these strange circumstances this evening filled my heart with love for them and thankfulness too. They made their part of the evening go smoothly I thought with gratitude.
Birdie stood up then and announced it was time to go home! I guess age gives you the advantage of thinking that just because you want something, everyone else will want it too or at least not protest. And no one did. Everyone started packing up to go, coming over to kiss me goodbye and shake Adams hand. A few people told him he had handled things remarkably well and thanked him for the invitation and for dinner.
Evidently arrangements for the bill had already been made and they brought a ticket for Adam to sign. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. It was wonderful to see everyone, but just because Adam has money doesn’t mean that he should pay for everyone’s meals. He seemed happy about it though, and later told me since he had invited everyone and it was his idea for a party, he picked up the tab.
We were quiet on the short ride home. Lissa told me about her classes and her upcoming internship at KU Med.
“Here, in Wichita?” I screamed, bouncing up and down in my seat like Tigger, before I realized how badly that made my ribs hurt, especially with the seat belt on.
“It’s not until next fall Mom, gosh,” she told me, but I could see she was happy about it. We were almost home by then and as we turned the corner on to my street, Adam cautiously peered through the rear view mirror and then cast a look over his shoulder.
“What’s going on, Adam?” I questioned. We had slowed down to almost a crawl now and he then pulled the car in between two others parked at the curb and shut the lights off and just waited. “Are we playing super-secret spy now?”
“Just wanted to make sure no one was parked near the house and that no one has followed us. It’s an old movie star trick,” he laughed.
Sure enough, a moment or so later two cars came slowly creeping down the street behind us, clearly looking to see where we had gone. It’s one of those ‘hide in plain sight’ things I guess. They were looking for us in a driveway or something and went right past us. Twice, since they came around again.
By then we were laughing crazily and as their headlights neared us, we ducked down like criminals not wanting to be caught!
“Mom,” Lissa said quietly. “Where is the garage door opener? Is it in your car?”
I knew where she was heading then—get the car out of sight. “Yes, it is, but if you go through the garage you can open it from the inside, and you can also hit the small switch just to the left of the door button and that will turn the lights off, that way we shouldn’t be seen quite so easily.”
“Adam, is there a way to turn the dome light off when I open the car door?” she asked, feeling around on the light fixture. “Hey, I think I found it,” she said and slowly opened the car door. The light stayed off and she climbed out and ran towards the house, which was about a half-block away, dashing behind trees and trash barrels. It was hilarious!
A car rolled by slowly again, one of the cars we had saw earlier. I hoped that Lissa would look out before she opened the door. The car went further down the street and sat unmoving for a couple of minutes, then finally moved on. We watched it turn a corner up ahead and so Adam put the car into gear and we hoped that Lissa had the door open.
I also hoped that we had enough light in there so Adam would miss my car!
The coast seemed clear and we turned into the drive way just as Lissa opened the door. We could see my car sitting to the left and so Adam obediently steered right. As soon as we were in Lissa hit the close button and we stepped out of the car, laughing even more now. The three of us headed into the house, congratulating each other on our ‘movie star super-spy’ tricks.
Inside the house, I noticed that the kitchen light was on and asked Lissa if she had turned it on. It wouldn’t have been necessary since she didn’t need to go through the kitchen to get to the garage and I would have thought that keeping the lights off would have been better.
“I didn’t turn it on Mom. I just figured we left it on earlier,” she told me, heading in there to look around. I followed her, clearly puzzled.
“It was off when we left, why would we have turned the light on?” I wondered out loud.
Adam, looked around the room and into the breakfast nook, but all looked fine. He finally shrugged and we went into the living room and turned the lights on in there. Everything was okay and nothing looked out of place, but still, I really didn’t remember that light being on before we left. Sometimes I can be terribly anal-retentive about the smallest details and things that are out of sync bother me.
I headed into the bedroom to change and slipped on a pair of flannel pajama bottoms and a matching tee shirt, my favorite lounge around the house clothes and Adam changed into a pair of sweats and an old, very old and worn tee shirt that said “World Cup 2000” on it. I smiled when I saw it. It was the kind of shirt that wives are always trying to get their husbands to get rid of because it’s holey and frayed and I thought he looked fantastic in it!
I heard Lissa in her room and realized she was probably packing for the drive home tomorrow, so I told Adam I was going to go in and help her. He was sitting on the couch then, eyes half-closed and he seemed like he needed some time to mull over things. I bent down and kissed him, a quick kiss and as I started to pull away, he grabbed my hand and pulled me gently down onto his lap for a moment.
I looked in those chocolate eyes that seemed very dark this evening that lurking passion I carry with me always when I’m with him reared up. My belly did flip-flops and my nipples grew tight and hard.
He could see it though my shirt and he lightly traced the outline of one of them with his finger and then wrapped his arms around me and held me close. I sat there for a minute savoring the feel of him, the smell of him and knew I would be heart-broken if we didn’t make this relationship work. I kissed his cheek and went to move off his lap to go help Lissa.
He was looking at me intensely and his mouth opened to speak, but just as quickly closed, as if he changed his mind. I couldn’t tell what was running though his brain, but he obviously wasn’t going to tell me just then so I went ahead and got up to go into Lissa’s room.
“Hey sweetie, do you need any help?” I asked Lissa as I knocked lightly on her door.
“Come on in Mom, but no, I don’t need any help. Most of it is already done,” she told me, folding a sweater up and sticking it in the bag which she then zipped up and sat on the floor. We took our old familiar positions on the bed, sprawling across it like kids and we started giggling at the familiarity of it. We had laid like this so many times—after dates and weary days at school or work. We would discuss all sorts of things and there was comfort in the connection it provided us.
I heard the TV click on in the living room as I gingerly rolled over to my side and tried putting my head on my bended arm. Little things here and there keep reminding me that my ribs are still bruised, but I was so thankful I wasn’t hurt worse. Which made my thoughts turn to Cassie.
“So, is Cassie really going to be okay do you think?”
“Yeah, I really do think she will. She was extremely lucky Mom, you both were. They say the car had to have rolled over at least 4 times and you are both alive and well. Relatively speaking that is. And you have a man out there who is crazy about you, do you realize that?” she asked me, tracing the pattern of the comforter with her index finger. She looked up at me then and said, “I think he loves you.”
I looked down at the comforter while I was trying to think of what to say. I got up off the bed and walked around the room, stopping here and there to touch something on the dresser or a shelf. Awards and ribbons were displayed for science projects in school and some trophies from her years of playing softball still held their satiny gleam.
Lissa waited patiently for me to speak, but the truth was, I didn’t have a clue what to say. I stray too much into places in my mind that only confuse me more; things like old relationships that have nothing to do with Adam. Adam is unlike every other man I have ever been with, in many ways, ways that I see and appreciate. But my fearful heart is still afraid to open itself up to the possibilities. Or maybe it’s my head, not my heart. My heart already feels the wonder of Adam’s love and affection, and while my head recognizes this, it still keeps rearing the ugly head of fear and warning.
I finally opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. I turned to face Lissa then and she looked so solemn, lying there. Our roles should be reversed here I thought perversely, with her being the one to reluctantly tell me about a new boy in her life.
“He’s a great guy,” I finally said, my voice quiet and tight. The lump was back in my throat again and I tried hopelessly to swallow it down, but it wasn’t cooperating.
“Yes he is. I’ll be the first one to say that Mom. But how do you feel about him?”
‘I-I, uh, I like him a lot. Our time together in Italy was wonderful.”
“So, you ‘like’ him, huh?”
“Yes, yes I do. Very much.” The lump still wasn’t getting any better and I wished I had a drink of something to help ease it away. But I would have to leave the room to get something and I didn’t want to do that.
“So—you’re ‘in like’ with him? Not love?”
My head snapped up quickly as she said that. She was sitting up on the bed now, legs crossed and she was resting her elbows on her knees. She was pushing me for answers I didn’t know if I had yet.
“Mom, you can’t run forever from your heart, from what you feel. Sooner or later you have to take a chance. You HAVE to,” she finished quietly, emphatically.
“I, I don’t know. I just don’t know how I feel about him.”
“Adam is different from every other man you have ever been with, including dad. He is remarkable. I am amazed at the way he takes care of things, of people and he doesn’t do it because he has to, he does it because he wants to, because he wants to help. When he came frantically into your hospital room that first day, I knew you had finally met the right one. The one that loved you utterly, completely. He was ready to fight dragons for you; he was your knight in shining armor mom. Because he WANTED to be, not because he had to be. Do you know he wouldn’t leave your side then? He talked incessantly about your trip and how you first met, about Pisa and Firenza and Venezia and he said he had been to those places many times before, but that he had discovered them for the very first time with you.”
I nodded at her then and said, “I felt the same way. It was... magical with him Lissa.”
“Then let the magic win this time Mom. Let it win,” she said emphatically, with finality. She got up off the bed then and came over and hugged me. “I love you so much Mom and so does he.”
“You don’t know that Lissa, you don’t,” I told her, afraid to believe her, afraid not to.
She pulled back to look at me, squarely in the face and said, “But I do Mom, I do.”
“I wish we had more time Lissa. I love you so much.”
“See Mom, that’s not so hard to say. Why don’t you try saying it to Adam, huh?” she said as she walked me to her door and opened it. She told me goodnight, then firmly closed the door behind me, leaving me standing there in the hall, mouth gaping open and marveling at this wonderful child of mine.
I went back into the living room and found Adam watching TV. He held his hand out to me and I took it, sitting next to him and snuggling next to his warm body.