IT WAS the same dream again.
Running as fast as he could to escape, Sean hurriedly turned a corner and found himself in a dark, bricked alleyway. The walls appeared to close in tighter and shadows crept in. Panting for breath and his heart racing, a feeling of dread and fear engulfed him as he paced the enclosed space, looking for a way out.
He heard a clickety-clank sound from behind the dumpster in the corner. He pulled back in surprise and yet still found himself peering around the side out of curiosity.
Suddenly a specter appeared from around the side of the metal frame: an ethereal, dark-haired man dressed in white, with large, glowing eyes, smiling serenely at him. The man was extending his hand out to Sean. He had an aura of protection and security about him. He seemed to be there to guide him to some sort of a secret escape from the invisible menace that was chasing him.
Behind the glowing man was a small, wooden door in the brick wall. The door was a simple slab of cracked, worn plywood that could otherwise appear to be a place to shovel coal or garbage, some kind of small refuse container. However, this door had the same glowing, white light emanating from its cracks and sides as the dark angel had in his eyes. A smoky smell, like incense, emanated from the light.
He took the man’s hand, and as he did, the man’s smile grew into the most dazzling grin he had ever seen. The door opened slowly to reveal infinite white light. Sean, his heart full of the hopeful promise of escape, took a step into the blinding light….
AS HE groggily poured his morning coffee over the stainless-steel sink, Sean heard his girlfriend squeal in excitement in the other room.
“Yesss!” she hissed proudly to herself. “Okay, honey, it’s all taken care of!” she shouted from the living room.
Sean was twenty-eight years old and had been living with his girlfriend, Lindsey, for over a year. Lindsey’s good friend Allison, who was dating Sean’s college buddy, had introduced her to Sean at a party two years prior.
Lindsey had marked him as an excellent catch right away. She had immediately noticed his arresting good looks—he was about six feet tall, had thick, dark-blond hair that he wore slightly longish, was fit and athletic-looking—like a California surfer—and had very intriguing gray-blue eyes and perfect teeth. Perfect teeth were very important to her. He had obviously worn braces when he was young. At any rate, he looked like he had just stepped out of a magazine ad for a brand of razors or for a men’s cologne. He was gorgeous. And he was also kind of shy and down to earth, which she found charming as well as empowering. She clearly had the upper hand with him. So after spotting him, she pulled Allison’s boyfriend aside to find out who he was, what he did, and what his background was. Once she found out his details, especially the fact that he was set to start law school there in Charlotte that fall, she knew he was perfect for her and practically begged her friend to have her boyfriend set her up with him. It wasn’t a difficult feat; Lindsey was quite a catch in her own right.
Lindsey was two years younger than Sean and had long, dark brown hair that hung halfway down her back in a straight sheet. She had deep brown eyes and was of medium height. She had a very pretty face and a lovely figure; she was in excellent shape, as she had been involved in cheerleading, gymnastics, and aerobics since she was a teenager. She had just graduated with a degree in interior design from a high-profile university in New England and had recently returned to Charlotte when she accepted Allison’s invitation to join her at the party. Sean had noticed her when she walked into the room, but it had been Lindsey who’d made the first move. Lindsey had been directing the relationship ever since.
SEAN walked into the living room just as Lindsey pressed the Enter key on her laptop. He had the slightest awareness of a knot in his stomach.
“So… when do we leave?” he said, carefully stirring his brew with a spoon. He slid his angular reading glasses down from the top of his head and sat next to her to see her computer screen.
“The flight leaves next Friday at four o’clock. I got us an oceanfront room at the Delano Hotel. We’ll be able to spend the entire Labor Day weekend for that rate I found! I put it all on my American Express card.” She showed him the travel website’s confirmation page.
“Well, Lindsey, I think you’re right. This trip might actually do me some good…. I’ve always wanted to go to South Beach,” Sean said, trailing off.
Lindsey corrected him. “Do us some good, you mean.”
Sean snapped out of his thoughts and stammered, “Oh, right. Of course—I meant ‘us’.”
Lindsey glared at him sideways, a little frustrated, but still obviously proud of herself for having so quickly planned their romantic getaway from same-old Charlotte, North Carolina.
She told him the night before, as she cornered him into a “talk,” that she felt they had been in a rut for months. She told Sean he had seemed very distracted recently, just not his former happy-go-lucky self. He didn’t seem interested in sex, and he wasn’t as willing to go along with her social plans, either. She said he just seemed to be always lost in thought, dragging his feet everywhere they went. He didn’t even seem interested in school anymore, and she knew he was going to be a great attorney in his family’s firm. Wasn’t he at all excited about that anymore? He was only a year from graduating from Charlotte Law! She was hoping that they would get engaged soon, she said. They were in their late twenties now, after all, and had been dating for over two years and living together for almost one, she reasoned to him. She knew his parents not only approved of her, but already thought of her as a second daughter. They were obviously perfect together; surely he thought the same thing. She said she thought that what they needed was a trip together to someplace exciting to liven up their stale relationship, to bring them closer together and unwind from their stressful, everyday lives.
Sean wasn’t sure, but he didn’t let Lindsey in on his doubts. He knew deep down that his distance had nothing at all to do with her. For months he had been feeling ambivalent about what he wanted to do with his life. He had a sinking feeling he was going to disappoint everyone and he was dealing with that feeling by avoiding it—and everyone in his life—altogether. How could he tell his parents, his friends, and especially Lindsey, that not only did he suspect that he would hate being a lawyer and didn’t want to work in his father’s firm, but that he really thought he might like to go on a solo adventure to find himself? He imagined they’d answer with utter rejection and shame. Worse, he imagined they would consider him a raving lunatic. How could anyone in their right mind throw away such a golden opportunity, especially after having come so far?
To make matters worse, his family saw Lindsey as the perfect image of the ideal lawyer’s wife: a pretty Southern belle, born and raised in Charlotte’s upper-class society. With a degree in interior design and a sorority background, she would be an instant complement on the arm of the new, young attorney in the family firm. Just add a preacher and a marriage license and she would be the loving anchor at home while he took on the town. The problem was, although Sean found her attractive, he wasn’t attracted to her anymore. Lately he was finding himself drifting in his thoughts, trying to unravel the stuck feeling he was mired in.
He also found himself not fitting in with the conservative Southern culture of Charlotte. He was born the youngest of three children, and the second son, when his father, a native North Carolinian, had finished law school in San Diego. The family had stayed in California until Sean was in high school; they returned to Charlotte in 1995 to continue the Morgan family law firm tradition. While he made friends easily in the high school in Charlotte and throughout college, he always felt like a foreigner. He missed the ocean and the breezy, open California lifestyle, and the older he got, the more confined he felt in landlocked, conservative Charlotte. Everyone around him expected him to conform; he played along quietly, not letting anyone know that inside he was not at all like them. He retreated further and further into his private world, afraid to disturb the status quo. Doing so would surely leave his life in shambles.
However, his recurring dream was becoming more frequent. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was on the brink of something life-changing, that something in him was yearning for a different path. He knew he was going to have to face his feelings sooner or later and make a choice: either take a huge risk and change his life completely or stay quiet and accept his predetermined destiny and learn to love it. His fear of facing this inevitable decision kept him frozen in limbo. Neither option seemed able to deliver appealing results.
He’d wondered lately if he might be depressed; he’d heard that depression could lower one’s libido and affect one’s attention span. He wasn’t the type to take antidepressants, though. He knew he was strong deep inside and that he would eventually figure this whole thing out.
Maybe Lindsey was right? Maybe going to South Beach would provide the break he needed? He knew at the very least he’d get some R and R. Hopefully just being away would help him begin to unravel all the confusion in his mind—if Lindsey would leave him alone long enough to think, that is. He decided it was worth a shot. To pacify Lindsey, and with the hope for escape in his mind, he had agreed to let her look for travel deals the next morning.
AS LINDSEY closed her laptop, she flipped her hair and flirted with Sean, “Guess I’d better get to the mall and buy a new bikini, huh? I’m thinking… red.”
Sean blinked his eyes uncomfortably, as if someone had just turned on the light in a dark room. “Oh—well, yeah, I guess you’d better, girl.”
He winked at her, but it was hardly genuine. She smiled a half smirk at Sean as she turned and stepped into the kitchen. She knew he was drifting again but was determined that their trip would take care of that problem once and for all. She walked down the hall to get ready to go shopping.
He walked to the front bay window in the living room and looked out over the perfectly manicured lawn, the neat, tree-lined suburban street, the neighbors driving past in their minivan, and heard the sound of children playing in the adjacent yard.
He sighed and let his shoulders drop. A long weekend in South Beach might be just the turning point I need, he thought.
THE plane’s wheels touched down smoothly, and they rolled in a slow crawl to the gate.
Lindsey had begun celebrating early and was a little tipsy from the champagne on the flight. Sean drank only one beer during the trip, just to play along, but he wasn’t really in the mood for drinking yet.
He was glad to be here, though, and as they walked through the automatic doors of Miami International with their luggage, they were struck by the temperature change between the cool, air-conditioned airport and the heat and humidity outside. They hailed a taxi and told the driver to take them to the Delano Hotel on South Beach.
Their driver, clearly Jamaican, with his dreadlocks piled high underneath a colorful knitted cap and a sing-songy Jamaican accent, said, “Oh, da Delano! Ya, mon, dat right nice down dere, mon.”
After a very long drive to South Beach through heavy Friday-evening traffic, they arrived at the famous art deco hotel, the Delano, at twilight. The city was just waking up, sparkling across the bay. The Delano was a jewel in the evening light; its white walls and neon were a perfect complement to the opposing pink Western sky.
Neither Sean nor Lindsey had ever experienced the kind of constant heat that Miami in September offered. Even at night, the air felt like sitting in a sauna with a warm hair dryer blowing on them. It was a penetrating heat; there was no escaping it, and they had no choice but to submit to it and relax. A breeze blew by that made Lindsey’s sundress flutter up, briefly revealing the back of her panties. She quickly threw her hands against her thighs to control her skirt and let out an embarrassed squeal. Sean snickered at her prudishness.
Miami Beach was incredibly crowded for the holiday weekend. Beautiful people were everywhere. Neither one of them could stop staring at all the barely dressed bodies milling about. Some whizzed by on roller blades or bicycles, some jogged, some walked dogs, and they were all barely dressed. Of course, that all seemed perfectly understandable in the sizzling heat.
Up in their room, Lindsey was stunned at the loveliness of it all. “I can’t believe everything in this entire room is completely white! And look at the view!”
She drew back the gauzy white curtains to reveal the glittering aquamarine and navy Atlantic Ocean and the hot pink-streaked sunset sky, and she understood the point of the austere design of the room.
“It’s like we’re living in a cloud above the ocean, like we’re in a dream,” she sighed.
It was exquisite.
She turned around, appearing illuminated by the setting, and purred to Sean, “This place makes me feel sexy… how about you?” She started to slide her sundress off her shoulders as she slowly walked to Sean, who was hanging up clothes in the closet.
Oh no, here we go, how do I get out of this one? Sean thought as she sauntered up to him and wrapped her arms around him.
“Wow, hey, I’m famished!” he said as he peeled Lindsey away from his neck.
Lindsey pouted. Then, in her still-tipsy state she startled, saying, “Oh my God! I almost forgot the surprise! What time is it?”
“It’s 7:55—why? What’s the surprise?” Sean said with a nervous laugh.
Lindsey snickered. “Well, you’ll find out in a little while. Let’s go get something to eat. We have until nine to get there.”
Sean was a little concerned about the “surprise.”
Lindsey said, “Don’t worry, you’ll like it, I promise!” She kissed his cheek and grabbed his hand. “Let’s go! I know the perfect place to get some sushi. I planned this all out.”
Sean went along, trying to relax. If only I was here alone, he thought. This trip could be so—perfect.
As she dragged him out of the room, he turned to take in a last glimpse of the ocean through the window. It was like a lover he had missed his whole life and forgotten about until just now. It seemed to sing to him: Come to me… be with me.
His heart filled with the beauty of the place, and he decided, Yes, I am going to enjoy myself. I am going to relax; I just need to go with the flow.
The room door slammed, and he felt in his pocket for the room key card, just in case; it was there. Lindsey turned and saw the serene look on his face.
She smiled and said, “We’re going to have fun here, honey. You’ll see.”
Sean smiled in return and said, “You’re right, Linds. I know it.”
THEY walked to an exotic sushi-Latin fusion restaurant called Sushi Samba by way of the pedestrian walkway on the main drag, Lincoln Avenue. Everywhere they looked they saw flesh. Neither of them could resist staring, and they both felt a little embarrassed for it. Surely they stood out like the obvious tourists they were, because no one else seemed to notice the parade of cleavage, bare muscular chests and arms, bare legs, and tight pants on toned bodies.
The people in Charlotte were accustomed to the heat all right, but only in the summer, and they sure didn’t dress like this. People in North Carolina were Old South; this was more like South America. Sean loved it.
Lindsey was a little uncomfortable looking at all the beautiful women who seemed so comfortable with the display of their sexuality, but she was still buzzed from the nonstop champagne she had on the flight, so her reactions were numbed. She self-consciously flipped her hair several times and nervously eyed Sean, hoping he wasn’t enjoying the view too much.
They found the restaurant and managed to get a table in a few minutes. The room was sumptuous. Red upholstery dripped from the walls, and the atmosphere was positively spicy.
Lindsey ordered a large carafe of expensive sake, saying to the waitress that she was hoping Sean would share it with her, but he ordered a Japanese beer instead. She proceeded to drink the entire carafe before their ornately arranged plates of sushi arrived.
The room was loud; they hardly spoke during dinner because they had to shout to hear each other over the music and the crowd in the restaurant. So, instead of attempting to have a conversation, they quietly ate—and drank, especially Lindsey. By the time they finished their meal, she was drunk. As they got up to leave, she stumbled and Sean helped her out the door. Lindsey giggled.
“Now we’re off to the surprise—whoa!” she said as she lost her footing.
“Okay, now what is the big surprise?” Sean said a little impatiently.
“Salsa dancing,” Lindsey said, slurring her words. “We’re getting lessons at this cool place and then we can stay for the nightclub dancing afterwards!”
“Oh, wow. Huh. Okay, I guess that could be fun,” Sean replied apprehensively. He couldn’t see how she could possibly perform a salsa dance in her condition; she could barely walk. “You sure, Linds? I mean, you’ve had a lot to drink,” Sean said, hoping for a way out.
“Oh yeah, I’ll be fine! Come on, I’m not backing out now,” she said, conjuring up enough energy to walk on her own.
Soon they arrived at the club where Lindsey had made the reservations, a popular fixture of the South Beach Salsa scene called Salsa Mía. They arrived just in time for their hour-long lesson before the nightclub opened for public dancing at 10:00 p.m.
Fortunately, Sean spied an espresso bar in the corner and pulled Lindsey over for an eye-opener. He ordered a café con leche for her and a double shot of espresso for himself, which he finished off quickly. Lindsey took one sip of hers and winced.
“It’s too hot,” she said, and she set it down on a side table.
Next thing they knew they were being whisked off to the dance floor. An instructor split them up and grabbed Lindsey for a demonstration on the floor. She stumbled, and she smelled boozy.
“Whoo, honey,” the instructor trilled in his Cuban accent, “I think the little lady here está borracha!” He whirled her back to Sean and said quietly, so no one else would hear him, “You guys can’t be in here like that, man. You’ll have to come back when you’re not drunk, okay?” He eyed them like a disappointed schoolmarm and turned away to find another impromptu partner.
Lindsey pouted again. Sean just scooped her arm around his neck and put his own arm around her waist and hurriedly turned to leave, embarrassed. The music started thumping, and the other dancers’ bodies started to sway in the serpentine rhythm of the salsa dance.
“Man, that sucked,” Lindsey said as Sean helped her out of the building and back onto the sidewalk. “I really wanted to try that. Oh well.”
Sean could tell she was pretty much done for the night. “Linds, let’s just go back to the room for the night. It’s been a long day for both of us.”
They made their way back to the Delano and up to their room. Once inside, Lindsey poured herself on top of the white bed while Sean used the restroom. Upon walking back into the room, he realized she was already asleep, passed out with her clothes still on. He undressed her gingerly, removing her shoes and jewelry and helping her into the bed, under the covers. She was out cold. He decided he’d better situate her on her side, just in case she needed to throw up.
He noticed the clock: 9:54. He was tired, but after that double espresso, he was not going to be sleeping anytime soon. He didn’t want to disturb Lindsey, though, so he decided he’d take a walk down to one of the bars downstairs in the hotel. Grabbing his key and turning off the light, he slipped out of the room and went down the hall to the elevator.
Now, finally, I might be able to relax for a while, Sean thought.
WHEN Sean walked out of the elevator, he found himself in the bustling, high-ceilinged lobby that looked like it was ripped right from the pages of a high-fashion magazine. He remembered seeing a bar when they checked in and went in search of it. When he found the swanky Cuban-style lounge, the music was thumping so loud he couldn’t hear himself think. People were everywhere, and he didn’t think he’d be able to make it through the crowd up to the bar, much less order a drink. He felt uncomfortable being there alone, so he turned around and left.
At the other end of the lobby was another bar. The sign above the doors read “The Rose Bar.” A much milder atmosphere oozed from this room into the lobby, so he walked in the direction of the soft pink light. As he entered he instantly felt soothed. The entire room was drenched in dark-red upholstery, and the lighting was a muted, golden-rose color. A soft, ambient groove poured into the room from hidden speakers.
He exhaled. Finally, someplace to chill.
In the corner booth, a couple whispered intimately to one another. Sean started toward the large, espresso-colored, leather-upholstered bar that had several soft pink miniature chandelier pendants hanging strategically along the length of it. The bartender looked up at him as he entered the room, and their eyes met. Time slowed to a crawl as Sean took in what he saw: a strikingly handsome and exotic-looking man, only slightly older than him, tall and fit, very tanned skin, with dark, tousled but cropped hair and sea glass green eyes. He had a chiseled jaw line and a devilish patch of dark hair that reached from just under his full bottom lip to his chin. He wore a glossy black button-down shirt that was unbuttoned just enough to reveal his well-developed chest. He wore two necklaces that had small silver medallions hanging from them, dangling on his sternum. Both his ears were pierced, and he wore a small silver hoop earring in each ear. He’d been cleaning a glass with a rose-colored cloth and stood frozen in place like a Roman statue, staring back at Sean.
Sean had sometimes found other men attractive, but he usually kept those thoughts to himself. To him it was completely natural to find another person—male or female—good-looking or attractive. But the family environment he had grown up in, and the social environment he was currently living in, in deep-South Charlotte, strongly discouraged any open displays of appreciation of the same sex, especially a man for another man. He’d never acted on any previous attractions before, of course. He wouldn’t even know where to start. His only experience in courting the affections of another was with women. But this man, he thought, was a seriously handsome, even sexy, guy. He wondered how he could talk to him, maybe get to know him a little, without embarrassing himself, of course. There was just something about him that seemed intriguing. Little did Sean know that the bartender was also thinking the same thing about him.
Sean’s appearance often turned heads, though he was rarely aware of it. He had a casual, down-to-earth style that most people found irresistibly disarming. A stud in soft jeans and flip-flops, by all accounts, he was a knockout.
When Sean arrived at the bar, he chose a seat near the far end, adjacent to the handsome bartender. The bartender greeted him in a deeply masculine, yet soothing, voice, with just a slight hint of a Latin accent. His eyes studied Sean carefully as he sat almost immediately in front of him. He greeted him formally, but seemed to be speaking the words out of habit while his mind was busy trying to comprehend this new stranger at his bar on a deeper level.
“Hi. I’m Adam. What can I get for you tonight? Are you waiting for someone to join you?”
Sean responded a little embarrassingly, “Oh—no, I’m not. I’m by myself tonight.”
Adam smiled a little, but played it cool. “Okay. How about a beer, then? We have several on tap and a huge selection of bottles in the cooler.” Adam gestured toward the beer taps.
“No, I’m not in the mood for a beer,” Sean said. “What else do you have that’s good? I’m in the mood for something… I don’t know, different.” As the word slid off his tongue he shifted his gaze to Adam, only to find him staring at him curiously, with his lips slightly parted and his glass polishing completely stopped mid-polish. Sean felt a little anxious, a little excited, and a little daring.
Whoa. What is this? Sean thought. Is he giving me a vibe? He looked around the room, trying to defuse the suddenly hot feeling in his face.
There was an electric current of chemistry in the air between the two men. Adam was curious about this intriguing guy at his bar. He decided to break the ice. “What’s your name?” Adam asked.
Sean’s gray eyes came back around to Adam, who was still watching him intently. A little uneasily, he said, “Ah, I’m Sean. Sean Morgan.”
Adam paused and narrowed his eyes, as if sizing him up. “I think I know what you need, Sean Morgan,” he said, turning back toward the mirrored wall of bottles.
“Oh yeah?” Sean said, curiously and somewhat disbelievingly. “Please tell me it’s not Captain Morgan’s.”
Adam replied with a chuckle, “Ha ha, no, don’t worry. I know people, it’s my job. You seem tense, like you need to relax, loosen up. I know the perfect drink for you.”
“What’s it called?” Sean said, interested.
“A ‘caipirinha’—it’s Brazilian. It’s kind of like a margarita, but better. You’ll see.” Adam began cutting and squeezing limes into a tall, frosted glass. He moved quickly, professionally.
Sean was thinking that Adam had an exotic look to him and remembered hearing a slight accent. Sean asked, “How do you say that drink again? Are you from Brazil?”
Without looking up from his work, Adam said, chuckling, “Me? No, I’m not Brazilian. I’m Puerto Rican. Well, half-Puerto Rican, actually. My father was full-blooded Corsican. And the drink is called ‘kai-peer-een-ya’.” He looked up and enunciated the word slowly for Sean, his full lips expertly forming around the strange word.
Sean’s eyebrows rose up, and Adam continued explaining while he prepared the cocktail. He had become accustomed to curiosity about his unusual lineage and had a rehearsed elevator speech about it. “I’ll tell you the story if you’d like to hear.” Sean nodded, interested. Adam continued, “Well, in the 1800s, a lot of Corsican immigrants came to Puerto Rico to start coffee plantations in the mountains there. There was a payout from Spain for new immigrants to their little island territory at that time, and the people of Corsica were in a type of recession, if you will. Since Corsica and Puerto Rico are very similar geographically, it was an easy move for them in a lot of ways. My great-great-grandparents were part of this immigration to Puerto Rico. Anyway, the Corsicans had a strong national identity, even though they had emigrated halfway around the world. A lot of the Corsican families in Puerto Rico were, and still are, kind of—snobs—racist, in a way. They only wanted their sons and daughters to marry other full-blooded Corsican immigrants, to continue the Corsican bloodlines. This was especially true for the well-off coffee plantation families that had become very wealthy in Puerto Rico. They still followed the dowry system of arranged marriage to fortify a family’s standing in the community—really old-fashioned.
“Well, my dad’s family was one of those families; of course it was in modern times, but his family still honored the old traditions. My dad ended up getting my mom pregnant when she was barely twenty years old, but she was Puerto Rican, no Corsican blood whatsoever. They tried to keep the pregnancy a secret for as long as they could, but my grandparents eventually found out and were, of course, furious. They wouldn’t allow my dad to marry her, so, my parents left Puerto Rico together, when she was still pregnant with me, and came to Miami. They got married here and, well, the rest is history.”
As Adam briefly told Sean his family history, he poured cachaça, a Brazilian rum made from sugarcane juice, into a metal shaker, scooped ice into it, and shook it vigorously. Then he scooped sugar into the glass and poured the liquid over the limes and the sugar. As he stirred it with a spoon, he almost grabbed a small drink umbrella, but then thought twice and just threw in a small straw instead.
“Here you go. I hope you enjoy it,” Adam said with a sideways smile.
Sean drew a long sip of the caipirinha. “Man—that is good,” Sean said, a little surprised. “You’re right, it is better than a margarita.”
Adam smiled to himself and replied, “I’m glad you like it. Let me know if there’s anything else I can get for you.”
Adam then turned to go back to his work and leave Sean with his drink, but Sean was unwilling to let it end at that. He had enjoyed Adam’s retelling of his parents’ story. He especially liked Adam’s voice. It was so soothing. “Well, I could use some company—some conversation, I mean,” Sean corrected, a little hopefully and a little shyly.
Adam turned back and slowly smiled. After a short pause, he asked, digging for information, “Are you staying here at the Delano?”
“Yeah, I am. First night. Just flew in today,” Sean replied as he took another sip of his drink.
Adam began polishing glasses again with his rose-colored cloth. It was a slow night for the Rose Bar. Everybody else in South Beach was in the mood for more energetic surroundings, it seemed. “Where are you from?” Adam asked.
“Ah, I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina. Actually, I grew up in California, but I’ve been in Charlotte for about fourteen years, since high school,” Sean replied, taking another long sip of his drink.
“You’re in town for the holiday weekend, then?”
Sean considered how he should answer. He decided to keep it short. “Yep.”
Adam kept digging. “You have big plans for the weekend? Going to a concert or something?”
“No, no big plans. I’m just….” Sean trailed off as he took a big swig of his drink—liquid courage—and looked around the room. The room was sparsely populated, mostly with couples huddled together in dim corner booths. What should I tell him? Sean sighed and deliberated with himself. I’m here to find myself, because if I don’t soon, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown?” Or, should I just tell him I’m here with Lindsey because she thinks I’ve been depressed and neglecting her—which I have been—but it’s only because I’m feeling like I need something different in my life? No—too deep for a first meeting with someone. Maybe I’ll never even see this guy again, anyway? Although I hope that’s not the case. He’s interesting.
Sean looked back around at Adam, who was watching him intently but patiently. Then he avoided him a moment longer by taking another long swig of his drink while he continued deliberating with himself.
What is this, anyway? Am I attracted to him? Um, yeah! And the only strange part is that it doesn’t feel weird at all. And I get the feeling he’s interested in me too. He keeps staring at me with those eyes. But—Lindsey… what if she wakes up? Who am I kidding, she’s not going to wake up, she’s passed out cold. Besides, she’ll never have to know that I was chatting up a good-looking guy at the bar downstairs— and that’s all I’m doing at this point. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her…. Ugh! I have to break out of this rut I’ve been in! I can explain everything to him later if I need to.
Then he looked back at Adam again, took a deep breath, and exhaled his anxiety, perceptibly letting go. “I’m just keeping it open, I guess.” He smiled sheepishly.
Adam returned a sly smile. “Well, maybe I can help you make it a memorable weekend, then?” he replied, fully intending the double entendre but leaving Sean an easy out if he needed one.
“Yeah,” Sean said, squinting his eyes a little. He wasn’t sure where this was headed but was resolved to truly remain open. “I’d like that.”
Adam refilled Sean’s glass, a glimmer in his eyes.