The story so far:
I stayed with Craig and Sarah for two weeks. At first it was awkward, fitting into their daily schedule. It had been so long since I had a routine. Sarah was always up a 7am coloring in the living room. Even if there were morning cartoons, I couldn’t imagine her glued to the TV. She was more spirited than that. I’d walk into the room to find her sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table coloring Winnie the Pooh.
“Eeyore is my favorite,” she said.
“Oh, yeah, why?”
“Because he’s always sad like daddy.” She had away of putting things into perspective. She was a very smart kid, very in tuned to what’s around her despite the little girl persona. By the end of the two weeks, I found myself coloring with her. It was relaxing, calm as if I was seven years old again hanging out with my best friend. Craig was right, I fell in love with Sarah and I wanted to help her more than anything.
Sarah wasn’t the only one I hung out with. The more time I spent with Craig, the more I got to know him. We talked about Sarah as a baby, Howard, my journey from LA and his wife.
“She was beautiful, curly hair and light eyes,” he said.
“So that’s where Sarah gets it from?”
“Yeah, she is her mother’s daughter, right down to her playful nature. When Sarah was a baby Connie, that was my wife’s name, Connie showed me photos of herself. Sarah was identical to her. She’s going to be just as beautiful as her mother was.”
“She’s a good kid.”
“You sure you want to do this?” I asked. I asked him this question almost every day and every time he would say, “I have to.”
It felt nice being with Craig, the familiarity of being around a guy again. We cooked dinner together most nights; he always cooked some meat while I made salad. He laughed at my attempt to be healthy after months of eating junk food. When Sarah went to bed we would lay around in the living room, a roaring fire burning, drinking wine and chatting about some detail or funny moment of the day, but he would always ask me about Howard.
“How long have you guys known each other?”
“Since high school. We were friends first and then one day it turned into something more.”
“Do you think you will ever find him?”
“These days, I don’t know anymore. I was hoping we would have bumped into each other by now, you know. Somewhere along the highway, me headed east and him headed west. We’d embrace each other right there on the road and start a new life in whatever city we were closest to. But now I think, if he survived, he took a different route than I had expected. Closer to where you want to go and if he did, there’s a chance . . .” my voice trailed off. I hadn’t stopped to really consider the possibility he could be dead. My survival was based on the hope that he was alive out there looking for me too. To think otherwise was too painful.
I took a sip of the Spanish red wine Craig had in his cabinet. It was the wine served at his wedding he had hoped to drink with his wife on their 10 year anniversary. We had waited to the last night to open it up. The next day, I would be headed to New York with Sarah and he would be headed to Chicago to find his family.
“Do you think they survived?”
“I sure hope so.” He looked at me, a sense of loss in his eyes. I felt for him. It took me two weeks to understand why he was doing what he was doing and two weeks to understand that it wasn’t something he decided lightly. My heart went out to him. I couldn’t imagine purposely leaving someone I loved behind at a time like this. I looked at him sympathetic to what he was feeling. Our eyes met and for a moment everything around us grew silent. The crackling of the fire ceased, the crickets outside quieted and in that moment we were in this bubble incased in the idea of hope.
Craig leaned in and although everything inside of me told me to stop him, I allowed his lips to touch mine. The kiss was soft, tender and a feeling I had longed missed. He brought me closer into him, his kiss more intense and passionate. I let his hands caress me, making their way onto my **** and up my back. I wanted it, craved it and when he removed my shirt, I didn’t stop him. I didn’t stop him when he kissed my neck and chest or when his hands made it down my pants. They felt warm against my skin.
We made love on the living room floor.