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Different Loves 3

Sometimes love is pure joy.
Sometimes it comes from the most
Unexpected places.
And stays.
Keeping us warm
When the world is cold.

This story is of such a love.
A love that existed outside
Real life.

The kind of love
You put in your pocket.
And take out to hold
When self-doubt
Creeps in.

It was raining.
Football season in Kelso.
The crowd yelling,
The crash of helmets,
The shrill whistles of the refs.
Friday Night Lights.
All the best of
Small town life.

Blue and gold,
Me with my pom poms,
Cheering.

I looked up into the crowd.
There he was.
Smiling.
Radiant.
He had a smile that
Reached his eyes.
I could feel that smile
From 100 yards away.
What caused that smile?
Could it be for me?

He threw back his head
And laughed.
His arm slung easily
Around the shoulder of
His friend.
His eyes crinkled.
His mouth open,
White teeth showing.
Pure joy.
Pure delight.
Not a shred of
Self-consciousness.
Confident.
Easy.
Free.

His friend waved crazily.
I laughed,
Smiled at them.
And then he smiled.
At me.
That one was at me.
That one was for me.

Do you know that feeling?
That feeling of
Someone noticing you?
The little flutter in your heart?
The way your stomach drops?
The way your breath catches
Just a little?
The way your smile
Is somehow now
Beyond your control?
The way the blood rushes
To your face?
The way the world seems to exist
Only for you?
I'm sure you do.

After the game,
Rain in my hair,
I gathered my things.
Headed toward the gate.
Everyone was leaving.
And there he was,
Leaning over the rail,
With his hand outstretched.
And that smile.
That smile.

I looked at him,
Questioning.
Me?
He held out his other hand.
Both hands reaching.
Yes, you.

I set down my things,
And walked to him.
Hesitantly, I put my hands in his.
He held my hands, gently.
Looked down at them.
Kissed one
And then the other.

He looked at me.
His smile.
At this close range,
It jolted me,
Like electricity.

Then he pulled both of my hands
Toward him,
Folding my hands into his
And holding them next to his heart.
I could feel it beating in his chest,
Under my palms.
We were inches away from one another.
The railing of the fence between us.

He told me his name.
I said, "I'm..."
And he interrupted, "Beautiful."
I looked away.
He moved slightly,
To hold both my hands in one of his
To take his other hand and touch my chin
To turn my face back toward his.
"Beautiful," he repeated.

He reached in his pocket
Gave me a piece of paper.
"Will you take this?
Will you keep it?"
"I don't know."

He handed me the paper
Folded small.
It sat in my palm
Daring me to open it.
I closed it into my fist.
And watched him walk away.

The note said
"Hi Michelle.  I know your name.
But I call you Beautiful.
My friend and I were playing a little game.
A contest to see who could get the number
of one of the cheerleaders.
It was a joke.
Until you smiled at me.
And now I want to know so much more
About you than
Your number."

That was all.
I thought it was the end.

But in a small town
Even before Google searches
Things can be found.

A few days later,
Checking the mail.
A letter.
Addressed to
Michelle Bond - Beautiful.

"Hi Sunshine" he began.
"I think that's what I'll call you.
I met you in the rain.
But still, you shine."

I stood in the driveway,
Reading page after page after page.
He lived in a neighboring town,
About 15 miles away.
He told me about his life,
His thoughts,
His love of God.
He asked questions.
A million questions.

Who was this person?
This person who loved words
The way I did?
Who wrote his heart onto paper
The way I did.

Setting aside AP English,
I wrote.
I answered the questions,
I asked more questions.
I wondered.
What does this mean?
What does he want?

The letters continued to arrive.
Every week.
Sometimes two or three or four in a week.
Each one,
"Hello Sunshine."

Months passed,
And soon it was time to leave for college.
The day before I left,
Richard Scarry's Big Word Book
Arrived in my mail box.
"Sunshine, you're going to need
Some big words where you're going."

And he kept writing.
So did I.
We talked on the phone sometimes.
We met and went to dinner a few times.
But our world was in the letters.
In the writing.

I tucked those letters into every
Nook and cranny of my life.
When I opened a textbook
A letter would hide between the pages.
In my dresser drawer.
In the sun visor of my car.
In the knife drawer.
Under my makeup.
In my purse.

He called me Sunshine,
But in truth
His letters were
Rays of light for me.

Whenever things didn't make sense
I had those worn, tattered
Pieces of paper.
Pieces of him,
That I could hold.
Sometimes
I didn't even read them.
Just held them against my cheek
And the light would come
And touch the broken places
In my life.

This love
This love
Was pure joy
Innocent
Giving without any expectation
Love without any complications.

Blissfully romantic,
He kissed me only once
Holding my face
In both his hands
Brushing his lips
Against my cheek.

After six years of letters
I saw him again.
On my wedding day,
He drove 17 hours to be at the church.
Magnificent,
In his dress blues,
He smiled that radiant smile.
Held out both his hands,
Just as he had that very first day.

I placed my hands in his.
"Sunshine," he said,
"Be happy."
He pulled my hands together,
Placed them near his heart.
Bent his head,
Kissed each one.
And smiled.

Then he walked out the door.
Framed by fading light.
To drive 17 hours back.

I received one more letter.
One last letter.
"Hello Sunshine.
You will always be
light itself
to me."
No sadness.
No regret.
An acknowledgment of change.
Releasing the world
We built in words.

But I still remember
This love.
Pure joy.
And some days,
Even still,
I take it out of my pocket,
And hold it against my
Cheek.









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