“Wow!” I said, drooling. “What a feast!”
“‘Tis the least I could do for my fair maiden,” he replied, kneeling down to kiss my hand.
As I pulled him closer, almost knocking over the tray, he kissed me again. “Thank you,” I whispered in his ear.
He sat up slightly and asked, “Where were you while I was trudging through the kitchen castle, slaying the stove dragon for your breakfast?”
“Alas, I must confess, dear prince, I was thinking of when we first met. Remember?”
“Remember?” he started, “of course; how could I ever forget?” He looked at me with mock surprise. “You were like a genie coming to life, but instead of me rubbing your lamp, you rubbed mine.” His laughter warmed the room.
“It was my second day in Chicago,” I recalled. “I’d just met your parents the night before and was pretty exhausted from the flight. You came in the afternoon. We were in the living room when I heard you come in the front door and yell out for your mom and dad. Your parents hollered back, ‘We’re in here, son!’ We all stood up, except for Jens, who sarcastically introduced you as ‘My older, but dumber brother, Tomas.’ You looked at him, as if you’d heard it a hundred times. ‘Hi, nice to meet you,’ you said. You looked incredibly handsome in your dark suit and tie.” Tomas blushed.
“You had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen,” I recalled, staring into his sparkling pools. “They took me in like the deepest ocean. When you shook my hand, your grip felt strong and gentle. I trusted you without hesitation or regret. You’ve never broken that trust.”
He kissed me on the cheek as I continued the memory. “Jens said he had some business to take care of and asked if you’d show me around. I was delighted at the prospect, and you didn’t appear to be to put out either.”
“It was a pleasure, to say the least,” he smirked.
“You were intensely polite and had impeccable manners,” I continued. “You spoke to me with dignity and respect. I felt like you actually cared about what I was saying. you betrayed not a hint of condescension, belittlement or false modesty. And your German was excellent. I’d never heard an American speak so well.”
“It’s gotten a little rusty,” he admitted.
“After a few days of you ‘showing me around,’ I started wondering if I was living with the wrong man.” My mied feelings bubbled up in the retelling. “I was excited, bewildered and terrified. I remember telling myself to stop considering such crazy ideas. You were my boyfriend’s brother, for God’s sake, but the more I tried to stay away, the closer I got. It was like someone had put a chocolate sundae in front of me and said ‘Don’t touch!’ You were all I thought of, night and day. I’m not sure you knew what to make of me. You probably thought I was a slut or something.”
“No,” Tomas remembered. “I was confused all right, but not by you. What scared me was what I was feeling towards you. It was terrifyingly wonderful! I tried to forget about you by calling some old girlfriends in town.”
“You called a girlfriend?!” I kidded. “How could you?”
“They were useless.” He shook his head. “All attempts at releasing you from my heart were futile. I told myself Jens didn’t deserve you and I was right – but he was still my brother and you were his girl, so to speak. The clincher was the day before I left, when you pulled me into the bedroom, closed the door and kissed me with such passion and urgency I thought I’d ignite.”
“That wasn’t planned!” I laughed. “It happened before I could stop myself. You know me,” I said shyly. “Would you ever have expected me to be so bold?”
“Not then,” he exclaimed. “Now, yes!”
“Only with you.” I grabbed his robe and forced him closer. “You deserve this,” I exclaimed, as my arms wrapped him up and our lips collided.
After we’d caught our breath, I told him to look in the pocket of the suitcase.
“What for?” he asked.
“The one you sent me after we met,” I said. “I brought it with us.”
He found it, came back to bed and handed me the envelope.
“No, you read it.” I handed it back. “I want to hear it in your voice. Please?”
“It’s been a long time since I wrote this,” he said, as he looked it over. He lay down beside me and began.
“Dear Annalise. Your letter arrived last week and I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, trying to think of a way to respond. You seem to have a hidden talent for making a person feel special when he’s around you. There’s something I must confess before going any further: I played with you a little bit at first, in the hopes of making Jens jealous. It seems that he takes you for granted and that made me made. I hate to see anyone used as if they were a piece of furniture. Aside from that, I also believe he thinks no one else would ever have any interest in you. I never figured my plans would backfire and I would start falling in love with you. But I’m glad things turned out the way they did. This might change your feelings towards me, but I hope not.
When it comes to good-byes, they’ve always been rather hard for me, ‘besondous dieses mahl.’ I wanted to get closer, but then the tears really would have started to flow and for some strange reason – which I can’t quite figure out – I don’t like to see myself betraying such emotion. Seeing you go bothered me very much inside. It seems we’d only known each other such a short time and then we had to part. Time can be cruel when you’re given so little of it.
Sitting in this crummy little apartment that the Foreign Service provides can be rather dreary, but when I think of you, that makes it more bearable. I don’t remember when I began feeling the way I do. Perhaps it was when we shared that kiss. My feelings are something one can’t really pinpoint; they just seem to have developed beyond my control. Love Thomas.”
We sat in silence, holding hands and sighed. The memory of that meeting sunk deep into our bones.
Tomas finally turned, wondering, “Why did we let it slip away?”
“We didn’t let it slip away darling; it was taken,” I reminded him.
“I guess so,” he said softly.
“Jens didn’t trust me with anyone, “I recalled. “I don’t think, at that point, he consciously knew how much I was drawn to you, but unconsciously, he must have felt something. He’s such a jealous bastard!”
“Of course he felt it,” Tomas said. “How could he have missed it? Too bad we didn’t know what to do about it.”
“You mean,” I asked, “if I hadn’t been such a chicken and felt so guilty.”
“No,” Tomas quickly corrected. “I mean, if I hadn’t been such a coward, we could have been together like this years ago.”
Tomas looked down at the floor.
I lifted his head gently, my hand under his chin. “We don’t know what might have happened. We’re here now and I love you so much!”
His eyes watered, his chest heaved and he began to weep. I held him to my chest and felt his salt tears dampen my skin.