“Hi, do you mind if I join you?”
Sandy jerked her head up from the book and stared at this modern-day Adonis. In fact, he was way better than that, she thought. Besides having perfectly balanced features, the man had that rugged, unspoiled appearance that only the coolest guys could muster. And, best of all, he was still a living, breathing member of humanity. Wow! This could be my lucky day. Sandy smiled and nodded her head, hoping she looked more nonchalant than she felt.
“Yes, no problem. It’s busy here today, isn’t it?”
Adonis put his tray down on the benchtop and squeezed in beside Sandy. She noticed he’d chosen exactly the same salad as her. Sandy could feel the warm, soft material of his shirt brush against her bare arm and a swarm of butterflies flew through her stomach. His check sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, revealing a teasing amount of weathered, tawny skin on his arms. I’d love to touch them, stroke them, run my fingers up the inside of those sleeves…”
“Looks like an interesting book you have there!”
” Book? Oh yes, this is a terrific read, it basically inspired me to come to this far-flung place. Just felt that I needed to get away from the rat-race for a while, you know?”
“Meet your twin then, that’s exactly why I’m here. Great to get back to nature and this place sure fits the bill. Nothing like a remote forest landscape to stir the soul.”
Sandy’s soul was definitely stirred, but it was Adonis who was doing the stirring. Imagine, he’s just not super hot, he’s super interesting too. I could watch him eat all day, especially the way he licks his lips when he’s devouring that coleslaw. God, he’s gorgeous. Sandy dragged her eyes away from Adonis and returned to her book, but not for long.
“So you like reading then? It’s one of my favourite ways to escape the madness too. I’m Ben, by the way.”
“Yes, I studied literature in college and I was blown away with it. And I’m Sandy…Well, Sandra really but most people call me Sandy.”
“Pleased to meet you, Sandy. I’m just going to get a coffee, do you fancy one too?”
” Sure, an Americano would be great.”
Ben grinned, showing a mouthful of shiny pearls. ” Same as!” he said brightly and headed to the coffee bar beside the food counter. Sandy blank- read her book. The butterflies had morphed into bees and she wondered if Ben felt the same way too? He’d probably roar laughing when she eventually told him his new nickname. She could just about make out his distinctive, husky drawl amid the clattering and chattering of the restaurant. He was politely excusing himself to the other diners as he made his way back with the coffees.
“There you go now, enjoy!”
“Thanks, Ben. You’re very kind.”
” Not at all. So, talk to me about this great novel that has you so captivated.”
“Well, it’s not a novel, really. But I’m sure you knew that already!”
Ben coughed and looked down at his bitten fingernails. Funny, I hadn’t noticed them before. He must be nervier than he lets on. Damn, I think I’ve embarrassed him now. Sandy rushed through a monologue about the book, hoping to smooth over their mutual discomfort. While she was talking, Ben focused his eyes on Sandy’s face and listened carefully. He gradually leaned back on the bench and stretched his long arms, smiling broadly.
“Wow, that’s fascinating. Now I see why you said this book was an inspiration. ”
“Yes, Thoreau was an excellent writer, he was a man ahead of the times. Imagine spending two years on your own in the woods, just to feel closer to nature.”
” I love the line about being Wild and Free . I think that describes us two perfectly.”
“Really? Not everyone gets the significance of that line, I’m impressed.”
“Yes, and I’m impressed too.”
Ben’s eyes narrowed and he fixed them like arrows on Sandy. She shifted a little on her seat, just an inch or two away from him. Ben noticed the slight realignment and deliberately softened his gaze.
“Sorry, I can be a bit intense sometimes. Old childhood habits die hard. I hope I’m not making you feel uncomfortable?”
” No, no, it’s okay. I know what you mean about relics of childhood, though. My parents were very strict, they basically controlled my every move. The best moment of my life was when I walked through those college gates for the first time. I knew I was free at last, it was an exhilarating feeling.”
“Well, you certainly have a wild and free look about you now. And I mean that as a compliment.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s an aura more than anything. The ripped jeans, the white cheesecloth top, your tie-dyed bandana, the fact that you’re wearing no make-up…It all just fits together.”
Sandy pushed some loose, blonde curls back under the bandana. She could feel her cheeks flushing.
“I’m not always like this, it’s my holiday look. Usually, I’m a boring old teacher in a grey pinafore and sensible black jumper.”
“Oh, you’re a teacher? That must be interesting.”
“Yes, it has its’ moments, but the best part is being able to break free for the summer. So, what about you, what do you work at?”
“I’m just a struggling artist, sorry to say.”
Sandy felt a pang of guilt God, Sandra, you’re such a clown. You meet the best man ever and you start mentally questioning everything about him. Parents have a lot to answer for.
“So we’re both wild and free, I like that idea.”
Ben relaxed his arms and let one fall on Sandy’s shoulder. He felt her shiver a little and moved his arm lower, around her waist. The restaurant was quieting now as people left, ready to continue their journeys. Fast-Joes was just a quick stopping point, but still a valuable asset in this forlorn wilderness.
“Sorry, folks, I need to ask you to leave now. Nothing personal, just it’s quitting time.”
Sandy’s eyes shot open and she looked up at Ben.
“Sorry, I just need to run up to the desk to check if I’m still booked in for the night.”
“Now, why would you need to do that? We’re both wild and free, aren’t we?”
Sandy smiled into the dark abyss of Ben’s eyes, seeing only a lost and struggling artist. My darling. My lucky find. My Adonis.
“So, what have you in mind, Ben?”
“Well, I have a small lodge rented out, it’s about two miles up the road. It’s got a kind of rustic look to it. Maybe not as enticing as Thoreau’s cabin, but it’s ours for the night. And I even have transport.”
“That sounds perfect.”
Sandy picked up her well-travelled, denim rucksack and linked Ben by the arm. Together, they walked with ever-darkening footsteps to Ben’s old, white pick up truck. The rain was falling as softly as tears on a casket. Sandy climbed up into the truck and began a new monologue.
“Ben, do you know what, you’re my Adonis… That’s the nickname I gave you the first minute I saw you. The perfect man, the one who has come to fill all my empty dreams and…”
” Hold on, Sandy, just need to fix the tarpaulin, don’t want my gear getting wet.”
Masking tape, check. Rope, check. Bin liners, check. Shovel, check. When Ben was satisfied that all was in order, he jumped up into the driver’s seat and locked the doors. He started the engine abruptly.
“Okay, Sandy, tell me all about this Adonis thing, I’m just curious. You have five minutes. Sorry, babe.”
This story was prompted by the following quote in Creative Cafe on Medium:
“All good things are wild and free.”
― Henry David Thoreau
Other short stories: The Hunting Ground, Coal Shed Ghosts and Last Light
Photo by Sebastian Mena on Unsplash
Great story, Bernie! Adonis? Wow!
Thank you so much, Jordis, for reading and commenting on this story, I really appreciate it. Delighted that you enjoyed it. I sure had fun writing it!