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     Bryan awoke to the clanking of the hotel room’s air conditioner. They had left the A.C. down pretty low and Sandy’s naked body was nestled next to his beneath the blankets. He had only heard Sandy’s half of last night’s conversation between her and her mother Hester but the fact that it was tension filled had been obvious. After Sandy had disconnected from her phone call she had sighed deeply and turning to him with tears in her eyes had said, “Brunch. Tomorrow. Just her. She doesn’t want Daddy to know,” and then she had laid her head back on the pillow and closed her eyes.

     Bryan lay next to her, observing her in the low light spilling into the room from the bathroom, touching only her hand. He had had no idea what she was feeling and was completely unsure of how to progress. He figured silent, passive support had to be safe and appreciated and hoped that if there was more he could do for her she’d let him know. After a short while she began slowly stroking his arm and singing, “Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me,” in a low, low whisper.

     “Happy birthday, dear sunshine, happy birthday to you,” he had sung to her in the same pianissimo fashion. “How are you, my love?”

     She had turned to him, smiled, and rolling over on her side wrapped her right leg and arm around him and pulled him close. “Okay. I’m okay,” she said softly. “There’s an old song that goes, ‘You can’t get what you want, till you know what you want,’ by Joe Jackson. I guess I’m getting what I want tomorrow. Careful what you wish for, huh?”

     “I know that song! My dad used to sing the chorus to me. He sang a lot. Hey, what was that ring tone for your mom?” he had whispered as he took his left hand and stroked her flanks.

     “’Mother and Child Reunion’? Now there’s an old song! Older than I am,” she answered, kissing him tenderly and stroking his cheek.

     “That’s it! I knew I knew that! Simon and Garfunkel?”

    “Close,” she answered changing her tender kiss to a more demanding one, “Paul Simon. Now, I don’t understand this either, but suddenly the only thing that is important in my world is that we make the most beautiful love imaginable. A birthday present to both of us, okay?”

     “Lovely,” he replied, moving his hand from her hip to her well rounded rear end. I’ll do what I can. No pressure, huh?”

     “No pressure. Just heat.”

 

********

 

     The clock next to the bed read 9:05 and as he slipped naked from Sandy’s embrace he whispered to himself, “Ha! If we were European that clock would be heralding your birthday, sweet thing.”

     He got out of bed and rifled through his luggage until he found a slip of paper he had placed there before they had left Rapida Cedro. He took the poem and propped it next to the clock where Sandy would be sure to see it and then headed into the bathroom. Returning from the bathroom he found Sandy sitting up in bed reading the poem he had left her. She had put her negligee back on and Bryan found the sight of her intoxicating. “Good morning, birthday girl. Happy birthday. That little slip can’t be keeping you very warm.”

     “No. You were much better but you left me. Good morning. Thank you for the poem, I love it.”

     She took the piece of paper and slowly read aloud the words he had written:

Cassandra’s Sweetness
Like the sweetest May bloom you came to me
Words can’t express void you fill in my life
The heavens aligned and you set me free
Tranquil optimism where once was strife

Thank all that’s holy that you own my heart
Your potent love charms have me mesmerized
Seconds turn to hours when we’re apart
Time away is dark hours I despise

Cassandra- soothsayer in Trojan times
Supplicant’s knees honor your stately gift
Prognosticate our love remains divine
Your dear beauty surpasses Helen’s myth

I pray that you and I shall stay entwined
Grateful lovers laughing at tests of time

“That’s very sweet. I hope we stay entwined for the rest of time too. Unfortunately time is not something we have a lot of right now, though. We need to get moving if were meeting my mom. Just time for coffee and some fruit. Would you be a dear and go to the lobby and get some? Please? It is my birthday,” she added, batting her eyelashes.

     Bryan smiled down at her, offered her his hand which she took for a brief squeeze and then he quietly sang, “’I would walk five hundred miles and I would walk five hundred more just to be the man who’ walked to the lobby and brought fresh coffee to the girl I adore! You got it.” He kissed her, slipped on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, grabbed the room key, went down to the lobby and grabbed three bananas, two oranges and two coffees, shoved the bananas in his pockets and using his shirt to carry the oranges brought his boodle back to their room.

     Back in the room Sandy was already in the shower and after he had unburdened himself of their breakfast he removed his clothes and stepped in to join her. “Hey,” he said turning her away from him and massaging her shoulders, “you spoiled a perfectly good joke. I carried two bananas in my pants and I was going to ask is that a banana in my pants or am I doubly glad to see you.”

     “Hmmm. That feels good. Sorry. Not that I missed the joke, the joke itself. Hey! Don’t stop! The massage doesn’t end just because I made fun of your sorry joke. Birthday!”

     “I can see that this is going to be a day I will likely remember. Yes, my birthday princess, your wish is my command. Just remember paybacks are hell.”

     “I like the sound of that. Your birthday isn’t for what, six months? Glad to know you’re planning on sticking around,” she answered, turning her head and body just enough to blow him a kiss.

     “First of many birthdays together, I hope. Yeah, six months almost exactly, huh?” Bryan had shampooed her hair and they had bathed one another which had affected Bryan in the way he knew it would. She had given his enlarged organ a friendly squeeze, gently slapped his face and after biting his lip said. “Always ready to dance aren’t you? Was I ever that young? Later, stud. Let’s go.”

     Bryan had responded by smacking her ass, kissing her and saying, “Yes, oh great birthday princess. Where to?”

     “Let’s check out, load up the car and then head towards Gainesville. We’re supposed to meet at a Perkins on the south east side of town at eleven.”

     By the time they had checked out of the hotel it was nearly ten o’clock and Bryan’s GPS indicated it would take them over two hours to get to the Perkins Restaurant from their hotel. Sandy turned north out of the hotel parking lot and then turned left on Florida State Road 40. The drive east on 40 began in strip mall squalor and Sandy pulled her phone from her purse, handed it to Bryan and said, “Please text my mother and tell her we’ll be late. Probably noon before we get there. Just pretend you’re me.”

     “Okay. How’s this? Mom, thanks for meeting us, we got off to a late start and won’t arrive until noon. Very sorry. Bryan looks forward to meeting you. He is an incredibly attractive young stud who pleases me endlessly in bed. Wait till you see him.”

     Sandy looked at him, lowered her head so that she saw him through her eyebrows and asked, “What did you really text her?”

     “That. Until the end. I ended at ‘Bryan looks forward to meeting you.’”

     “Okay. Thanks, incredibly attractive young stud who pleases me endlessly in bed. And out. Love you.”

     “And I you, oh birthday goddess.”

     “Wow! That’s quite a promotion! Princess to goddess in less than half an hour. You’re alright, Tiernan.”

     “You’re okay too, Cougar,” he had said, giving her arm a squeeze.

     The strip malls became less dense and the unplanned commercial chaos changed to the luxuriant beauty of the Ocala National Forrest. They drove through the undeveloped park for a bit over twenty minutes and then emerged on the western border where they took State Road 326 north to Interstate 75. I 75 had a posted speed limit of seventy miles per hour and Sandy found that at 79mph she was being passed by way more cars than she was passing. “Wow. They drive fast here.”

     At eleven o’clock ‘Mother and Child Reunion’ played on Sandy’s phone and she answered it, said, “Hang on,” hit a button and set the phone down. “Mommy? Hi! You’re on speaker and Bryan’s in the car with me.”

     “Oh. I’m on speaker? Is that okay? Oh. And happy birthday, Cassandra. Oh. And hello, Bryan. Nice to meet you. Oh. Or, talk to you. I look forward to meeting you soon. Where are you?”

     “We’re on I 75. We just passed a sign that said Reddick two miles. We should be there in about an hour.”

     “Oh. That doesn’t give us much time. Your father said he’d be home around one. Oh. And I need to be home when he gets here. Oh. He doesn’t know we’re meeting.”

     “Sorry, Mommy. I’ll be there when I can. Meet you around noon, okay? Sorry.”

     “Oh. Okay. Yes. Noon. Okay. Be careful. Goodbye.”

     “Goodbye, Mommy.”

     “Nice to hear from you, Mrs. Priam,” Bryan had added as Sandy disconnected.

     “Well,” Sandy said, “When in Rome do as the Roman’s do,” and turned her cruise control up to 86 mph.

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