“Hi,” he’d said in a cute, boyish tone, grinning bashfully. He had leaned over the granite-top bar.
“You hear for lunch?” I’d asked coolly, straightening my blue-checkered tie.
“I just had to see you,” he’d gushed, resting his elbows on the bar. Fernando’s hands had moved across the sparkling granite and grabbed mine. The lightening rods of energy had begun shooting through my fingers. We’d stood there separated by the bar, smiling in silence. No one else had existed once again. He’d neglected to ask for my number at Sloppy Joe’s—and I’d never offered it. Look where practicing restraint had landed me.
“What time do you get off work?” Fernando had asked, twirling his thumbs around mine. My body felt weightless. All morning, I’d blabbed to any co-worker, girl, guy—gay or straight—about that life-changing minute the night before. “Speechless. Electric. Surreal.” My arms had flown methodically from glassware to ice to bottles to blenders, as I’d searched for the precise adjectives. I’d looked like Edward Scissorhands sculpting a bush, leaving a trail of smiles, smoothies and bellinis in my wake. Not even a Gin Fizz would have squashed my mood. I’d recommended Santa Margherita to every person who’d sat at the bar.
My fingers began typing affirmations on my computer screen at home:
He is the one pursuing you. He likes you for who you are. He already introduced you to his best friend. He will call you.
“You okay with trespassing?” Fernando had asked, turning to face me. We were standing on the sidewalk outside the Barnacle’s main gate, a few blocks from The Cheesecake Factory. I’d spent the morning tending bar, recommending Santa Margherita to anyone and everyone—then I’d spotted Fernando, sitting at the other end of the bar, watching me work. He’d neglected to ask for my number at Sloppy Joe’s—and I’d never offered it. Look where practicing restraint had landed me. Fernando had invited me to watch the Dolphins game at a bar after work … with his best friend.
“As long as we don’t get caught,” I’d smirked. The thrill of us breaking the law collided with my euphoria. We were rebels in life and in love. He’d wrapped his arms around my waist and hugged me tightly—even though I was wearing my stinking white oxford and black jeans splattered with strawberry puree and simple syrup. His lips had then flown to mine, and the fireworks exploded again.
We’d climbed the behemoth wooden gate like two cadets at boot camp. His hand had gripped mine tightly, as we disappeared into a tunnel under Areca palm fronds. Moonlight lit the dark pathway. Scientific names of the trees around us had flashed through my head, helping to calm my nerves.
“Breaking the law like this feels way better than the time Raul almost got me arrested in CocoWalk,” I’d whispered, as Fernando pulled me into a moonlit lawn that ran from the old Barnacle House homestead to the edge of Biscayne Bay. We’d stood side by side, looking at the dark, cloudless sky melting into calm ocean while I’d recounted what happened inside the CocoWalk parking garage.
“I always wondered what you were doing with him,” Fernando had said softly, squeezing my hand.
“I didn’t realize you were paying attention to us,” I’d replied, turning to him. His comment had stunned me. “Raul never talked about you guys.”
“They’ve been neighbors since they were kids,” Fernando had laughed. “Their moms act like sisters. I overheard Ally talking with them a couple times about you and school.” His fingers continued rubbing mine. “You two weren’t a good match. Just like Ally and me.” He’d proceeded to describe how Alejandra didn’t care about the kind of things that were important to him—fishing, hunting, even walking through a park—just enjoying the simple pleasures of life. “It’s all about appearances with her.” I could feel the heat of his breath on my shoulder. Alejandra was quickly climbing the ranks at WSVN 7 as a meteorologist, and even back in college, I’d never seen her without make-up on or her hair done.
We’d sat down near the grassy edge and lay on our backs. The late-night dew cooled our arms. I’d listened to the peaceful sound of his breath, heart galloping. Neither of us said a word. We didn’t need to.
“I found the Big Dipper,” I’d said, lifting my arm to the sky.
His arm had lifted to mine. He’d turned his body and pulled me closer. Our lips had touched again. My entire body had felt exposed, turned inside and out. He knew almost nothing about me, yet he knew everything when his lips touched mine. I could not wait to learn more about the man behind the kiss—his hopes and dreams, what he ate for breakfast. We were bordering on fairytale romance, and I kept telling myself, “I can’t believe this is finally happening. Do not screw it up, Harley.”
I walked into my living room and slipped a Dave Matthews Band CD into my stereo. I needed to relive every minute of that evening with as many senses as possible.
We’d left the oceanfront meadow and walked back to his truck, arms locked around each other’s waists.