Sunday, September 10, 2006

Second Chance at First Love – Part 5

Welcome back to our ongoing story. If you are just joining, see Part 1. Here we rejoin Bill as he takes the visitors to their hotel and hopes to meet Camille later by the pool.

The Hotel

Arriving at the hotel, Bill and Clawson exchange a few pleasantries as the bellboy and Mike unload the baggage. Bill confirms an 8:30AM pickup for tomorrow morning, and gives everybody a collective: “Enjoy your evening, and see you bright and early in the morning”. Clawson indicates with a smile that he plans to go souvenir hunting for grandkid gifts. Mike seems to be angling to be alone with Maria; Camille plays along by saying that she plans to spend a quiet night.

Bill pulls the van into the hotel overflow lot and parks. He decides to just sit and wait a while to collect his thoughts. It will take at least ten minutes for the visitors to get checked in and to their rooms. He mentally clicks off his quandaries:

· “I’m scared to face my true feelings for Camille”
· “I feel like a total ass”
· “How could I even consider a relationship with Camille while working for the same company?”
· “Why didn’t I keep in touch or at least check on her over these past fifteen years?”
· “How does she feel about all of this? It would appear that she maybe battling the same inner demons that I am?”

I look up and see my reflection in the van’s rearview mirror. The sweating, twisted visage staring back is a stark reality check. I wipe my face off with some paper towels from the back of the van. I take off my tie, carefully folding it and place it in my inside jacket pocket, then loosen my collar, straighten up my shirt and adjust my pants. There are no options; I must go through with this meeting. I’ll just have to convince her that we don’t have a future together! Hopefully she will have already come to the same conclusion.

I make my way back into the hotel to a secluded table in the rear of the Snack Hut. Contemplating a drink with some kick, I reconsider and select lemonade instead. My eyes slowly adjust to the dim lighting and I settle back comfortably into my cushioned chair. Five minutes later the cell phone that I had placed on the table started to ring. After the second chime I pick it up and speak: “Hello Camille. Yes, I’m here, on the pool side.” Looking up, I see her coming around the far corner. The shadows and streams of sunlight play tag on her slowly moving body. She’s changed from office black to casual tan slacks, a light blue blouse and open toed flats.

Her feet are still delicate and pleasing to the eyes. I can remember massaging them for what seemed hours on end during lazy summer afternoons, years ago.

I get up and fumble with the chair next to me pulling it out for her to sit in. She glides fluidly into the seat and I sit back down. As I attempt to get the waitress’s attention, I turn to Camille: “Would you like a drink? I recommend the lemonade.”

“Ok.” She says with a smile that remains on her face as she continues to look at me.

“The years have treated you well!” I say, returning her smile with my own.

“You’re too kind Bill, too kind.” Responds Camille with a slight blush. “You still look pretty trim yourself.”

“Well, I try to keep in shape. I make use of the exercise equipment at the office at least twice a week. I’ll bet that headquarters has a great layout of machines?” Bill responds.

“Yes, we do, though I’ve only seen them from afar. I’m still working up the courage to try them out. I’m afraid that I’ll make a fool out of myself since I’ve never belonged to a gym or such.”

Just as the conversation is starting to get to the issues at hand, my cell phone rings again. Glancing at the caller-id, I could see that it was my Mom! “Wow, what timing”: I say to myself, but thought that I had better answer. I excuse myself, turn to the side and speak in a subdued voice: “Hello Mom.” I could see that Camille had heard my response and her eyes seemed to brighten and she started signaling that she wanted to say hello! “What did you say Mom?” I mumble as my mind has gotten sidetracked. “Oh okay, I can do that on Thursday. Mom, Mom, hold up. You’ll never guess whom I’m with? Here, let me give them the phone!”

I hand the cell phone over to Camille and watch as she speaks with an even bigger smile on her face: “Hello, Mrs. Baker? This is Camille, …, Camille Sanders. Yes, it’s really me! I know, it’s been a very long time.” Camille’s eyes dart back and forth from me to looking out over the pool area as if she’s attempting to conjure up some image of the past. “I’m in town on business. In fact I work for the same company that Bill does, only at a different location.” Camille continues to converse for a couple of minutes, then suddenly looks puzzled. “Well, I don’t know, … Just a minute”.

With that, she hands the phone back to me and says: “Your Mom wants to see me. She wants both of us to come over this evening!”

It is my turn to look puzzled. I pause, compose myself then respond: “Mom, I don’t know. Camille is here on a business trip. No, she’s not doing any business right now, but, … but, … No, we have no plans to … But. But.”

Seeing my helpless state of affairs, Camille takes the phone out of my hand and says: “Mom, we’ll be glad to come over. See you in a little while. Okay. I love you too. Bye.”

Bill remembered how they both used to call each other’s mothers Mom!

Camille then presses the END Key, folds the phone and hands it back and says: “Well Bill, shall we go?”

We hadn’t really started talking about “us” and now my Mom has been thrown into the mix! I turn to Camille as we both proceed to finish our lemonades and say: “We can take the van back to the office, pick up my car and head over to Mom’s place. She lives in a retirement complex out in Royal Oak. Dad passed away a couple of years ago.”

“Yeah”: says Camille, “Mom mentioned that, sorry”.

“How are your Mom and Dad?” I venture as we get up from the table.

“They are both fine, living in Florida near Orlando in a retirement community.”

Endeavoring to refocus the conversation, I venture: “You know, we’ve just been beating around the bush, and now we are going even further field visiting my Mom. But we still have not really talked about Us”.

We stop near the big fountain in the hotel’s lobby and just stare at each other for a moment. Looking down, I realize that somewhere along the way from the Snack Hut we had started holding hands, and are still doing so, here, by the bubbling water! We both simultaneously withdraw our hands to our sides and look kind of embarrassed.

Riding in silence toward the office, we both just look out of the van’s side windows reluctant to press each other’s buttons regarding our own plight. Once we get back to the office and exchange vehicles, I feel more at ease and say: “I often thought about seeing you again, and of … of us living happily ever after so to speak. But it was all just wishful thinking. I never had the will or the nerve or the … the guts to attempt to get into contact with you. In this day and age, it just wouldn’t be that hard. I just couldn’t get up the courage to do it.”

Camille sat there in silence for a few minutes, continuing to look out of the window at the passing landscape. Then she says: “Well, I thought about you too. I missed the good times we had. The way we could be honest with each other, trust each other. Not like the other boys and men that I later came into contact with. They all wanted to play mind games or to just try and get it on so to speak. There was no interest in innocent pleasures and joy of companionship. Of course, the past is the past. You can never really go back.”

As she continues to look at the changing landscape, Camille turns toward me and says: “This neighborhood looks familiar, but has obliviously seen better times.”

“Much better times”: I respond. “Much better times indeed” as I turn the car onto our old block.

I stop the car right in front of our old houses. They are both much worst for wear, but still appear to be occupied. However, there is no one about. There are only a few loose papers and plastic bags dancing in the slight breeze. After a couple of minutes, I take my foot off of the brake and we continue on our way.

“Your are right. We can’t physically go back, we can only truly visit the past in our dreams.”

Stopping for a traffic light I continue: “In fact, I dreamed about the first time we met early this morning.” I pause, and think: “this morning? This is a day that just seems to go on forever”.

Camille responds: “Bill, I found out last week that you worked for Robbins & Clark when we got a list of contacts for the Detroit office. I was able to confirm the fact by checking the personnel files. It was a shock, and I agonized about how I would handle our meeting after such a long time. I started to call you, but couldn’t think of what to say that wouldn’t just sound lame and deranged!”

I’m a little taken aback by her revelation, but it does explain why she hadn’t seemed overly surprised to see me at the airport. It’s funny that I didn’t even think about that fact until now. I guess that I was so caught up in my own thoughts and feelings at the time.

The Mom Gambit

I turn the car up into the driveway leading to Mom’s apartment complex and think: “There is still the question of what about us”?

Mom’s telepathic powers seem to be in fine working order as she is already standing in the doorway even before we had arrived. As I open up the passenger side door and Camille steps out, a broad smile forms on my Mom’s face and her arms stretch out wide. Camille rushes up the steps and the two hug for what seems to be several minutes. When they finally move back from each other, both are shedding a steady stream of tears.

“Females.” I thought to myself attempting to maintain a faux macho attitude, but it is all that I could do to hold back my own tears. The weight of this long, long day is taking its toll on my psyche.

Finally I manage to usher them thru the entrance way and into my Mom’s apartment. Glancing around her living room, the familiar objects take on a surreal presence as I’m filled with thoughts from the past. Furniture, figurines, even haunting aromas of long ago seem to come alive! It has the aurora of a dream, and yet it is real.

My mom grabs Camille’s right hand and leads her into the kitchen. They both soon return: Mom has a pitcher filled with iced tea and Camille is carefully balancing a tray with three glasses each filled with ice and lemon slices. Mom leads the way to the sunroom and we all sit down in well-cushioned wicker chairs around a glass-topped table.

Still beaming, Mom looked at both of us and says: “You two simply look great together. It’s been so many years.” Glancing down at Camille’s shoes she ads: “Oh, I see that you’ve kept your feet cute and sexy. I can remember Bill’s keen interest in them! We started to worry about that boy for a while …” Looking up, she saw that both Bill and Camille had starting to turn a reddish-brown! Smiling, she continues, I remember those good ole days when …”

We all went on reminiscing for the better part of an hour. Finally, as the sun was fading from the sky Mom said: “Well children, it’s getting late for an old lady like myself to still be up and about. Anyway, I’m sure that you young folks have other plans in mind.” The smile on her face seemed to beg the question: “Well don’t you?”

At some point during our reliving old times, Camille and I had started holding hands again. As we get up to leave, we both suddenly become self-conscious of this fact and immediately let go, awkwardly putting our dangling appendages behind our own backs. My Mom’s smile turns into a frown as she observes our actions. Coming over immediately in front of us, she stretches out her arms and embraces us both.

Mom whispers in my ear: “Son, here is a second chance to get things right – don’t blow it!”

Then she whispers into Camille’s ear: “Dear, I hope that you remember how dense the boy can be, give him a swift kick or something if you have to, but don’t let him just slip away!”

She then gently but firmly grabs my right hand and Camille’s left hand and pulls them out in front of us. Looking first down at our hands, then up into our eyes she says: “I now pronounce you … stuck together forever!” Then she presses our hands back together.

As we Walk away hand-in-hand again, Mom looks at Camille and says in a matter-a-fact tone: “I’ll tell your mother that you came by and were with my son, she’ll be so pleased to here that!”

Wow! This bombshell stopped both of us in our tracks. Camille and I just stared back at my Mom, speechless. However, she just kept on smiling at us and continued: “Just because you two didn’t bother to keep up with each other over the years doesn’t mean that others are just as dense! Sarah and I developed our own friendship independent of your puppy-love antics. We never stopped exchanging Christmas cards, and talk to each other once a month or so on the phone.”

After seeing the puzzled looks on Camille’s and me, she ads: “I never told you that son frankly because I had given up on any prospects of you two every getting back together again.” Then she turns toward Camille and continues: “I guess that your mother felt the same way.”

“Amazing, simply amazing. How could we have been so brain dead about each other for so long? Was the trauma of separation that dramatic as to rob us of the simple ability to just pick up the phone or something? Maybe it was because we hardly ever talked to each other over the phone, and never wrote letters while we lived across the street from each other. Our almost exclusive method of communication had been face to face. It was a rare day during those seven years that we didn’t see each other at least once. We basically viewed each other’s homes as extensions of our own. Once that bond was broken when Camille moved away, we seemed to be helpless in our ability to communicate. Until we came into face to face contact again today.” I thought.

We leave Mom’s place still holding hands all the way to the car. After we both got into the vehicle, we wave a goodbye and drive away into the darkening sky.

That's all for now. Join us next time for the last part in Bill's Second Chance.


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