Love’s First Bloom

Kyle Drexler wants to get Abby Greenfield’s phone number, but she thinks he’s one of those guys who likes to play the field. He’s out to prove he’s not like other guys. 

One day the scent of grass toasting beneath the summer sun warms the air; the next, a crisp air caused by a plummeting barometer entices people into sweaters, and drinking warm cider or coffee or tea seasoned with nutmeg, allspice, and clove. 

It was the end of  August, the season of harvest parties, bonfires, and end-of-season weddings. It was the time when people who were too active for attachments in May found themselves looking for someone to cuddle with for the forthcoming cold winter nights. 

Abby Greenfield was one of those people. In June and July, she was the director at Camp Greenlake. If she wasn’t chasing down a wayward camper or organizing a sing-along activity, she was comforting a homesick child who thought for sure their stomach ache was an appendicitis. She was too busy to be lonely. 

Her laissez-faire, things will happen when they’re supposed to, philosophy carried her through the harvest season. The next thing she knew, she was at the wedding of her good friends Jessica and Michael. They, like a multitude of others, recited their vows beneath the white gazebo, in the park at the center of ThreeCreeks, Montana. 

While standing at the end of a long line of women in purple chiffon, bridesmaid dresses, a string of awarenesses struck Abby Greenfield. 

She knew when Jessica and Michael met at karaoke night at Keane’s pub they were destined to be together. Micheal left his group of friends and talked to Jessica.  The small group of women, including Abby, clung close, protecting Jessica from Michael’s wooing.

Then again, Jessica said she wasn’t interested in Michael.  But, her actions spoke louder than her words. Other than going to the bathroom to freshen her lipstick, Jessica never strayed from Michael’s side. All those months ago, Abby predicted Jessica and Michael’s happy union, and here they were.

Next came the keen awareness, that Abby had successfully avoided until she stood beside her friends at the altar. Abby was the last woman standing. The only one among her small cadre of friends who remained single. 

It wasn’t from a lack of trying. For some reason, she attracted men who were looking for a replacement for their mothers or a distraction from their wives. She thought to herself, being alone was far better than being a nursemaid to a grown man. 

The pastor stood in front of Jessica and Michael and spoke profound words about the sanctity of marriage.

A gentle breeze fluttered the bottom of Abby’s long skirt, and the sunshine warmed her shoulders. It isn’t as bad as it sounds, Abby thought to herself. 

 Abby thought she was paying attention. Then a guest who was at the edge of the gazebo caught her eye. He had thick brown hair that looked like it was smoothed with a pomade. Abby imagined getting lost in his dark brown eyes. Her heart ceased beating, and her breath lingered in her chest until the burning reminded her to release it. Oh Lordy, what a handsome man. 

It was almost like the man could read her mind because as she thought something scandalous, he flashed her a megawatt grin, and his eyes sparkled. Before she had time to think, Abby joined in the silent conversation. They may have been in a crowd of 150 of Jessica and Michael’s closest friends. But it felt like it was just the two of them, Abby and the man with eyes that told a beautiful story. 

She replied with her pressed lip, flirty grin. The one that escaped when she was trying not to smile, but couldn’t help it. Abby’s body flushed, first in delight at the attention, then embarrassment. 

She remembered her future husband’s name. His name was Kyle. Abby had indirectly met him at one of the various group activities they both had participated in over the past couple of years. 

A groan of dismay chased away the butterflies in Abby’s stomach. Because, every time she saw Kyle, he brought a different date. They always were pretty, and from a distance, they seemed nice. But Abby never saw the same woman twice.  She had made a point of avoiding men like Kyle. 

Abby decided Kyle was the last thing she needed. Especially when she was feeling lonely and in need of companionship, she stiffened her jaw and quickly averted her attention to the pastor to hear him say, “It is time for the rings.” 

Shortly afterward, the bride and the groom kissed, and the wedding party was walking down the aisle. A whirlwind of activity took the bridal party from one event to the next. They had pictures, then dinner, and dancing. 

In one of the lulls, Kyle and Abby happened to be standing beside each other at the chocolate fountain. She had shortbread cookies and strawberries on her plate. He had marshmallows, pretzels, and some miniature donuts. They held their treats under the cascade of chocolate and set them on their plates, and did the same for the subsequent item. Because Abby had less, she finished first. As she turned to leave, Kyle said, “This is going to sound crazy, but I have to ask. Can I have your number? Maybe we can get together and talk over a cup of coffee.”

The timbre in his voice sent the butterflies in her stomach into a delightful flurry. Kyle was six feet of pure masculinity. His clothes could not hide the muscle definition in his biceps, and the dress shirt and vest combination he wore made him that more enticing. 

If it was anyone other than Kyle Drexler, Abby would have been ecstatic. If she didn’t know his reputation, she would have been over the moon. Abby swallowed and lied. “I’m not talking to guys right now.” 

When he said, “Oh, you’re in an experimentation phase,” she about dropped her plate. 

She sputtered something about there being more than one reason for not talking to guys and hurried to get away from him. 

Abby thought that was the end of it, until a while later, when Kyle wound up dancing next to her for the country line dancing. When their arms linked, she felt his presence. She tightened in anticipation of the charge she knew was coming. It didn’t matter. Dancing with their friends added to Kyle’s attractiveness. If it weren’t for his reputation, he’d be the kind of guy Abby wanted to meet over a cup of coffee and maybe marry one day. 

Abby’s chest burned with the warmth of all the movement. She was starting to hope for a break from the activity. 

The next thing Abby knew, a slow song came through the speakers, and she was in front of Kyle.  She should have known it was going to happen. If she wasn’t having so much fun, she could have planned better and positioned herself closer to the edge of the dance floor. 

Kyle’s smile said he had just as much fun. He glanced around the room like he was searching for something. Abby knew instinctively, he was looking for someone to dance with. 

This time she burned with the embarrassment of not being good enough for him to try to persuade her otherwise. She grinned in her awkwardness and rushed off the floor. 

Instead of turning right to take a break in the bathroom, Abby headed for the sidewalk in front of the venue. She thought the fresh air would help her cool down and give her some space to clear her head. 

She stepped into the cool night air that pushed away the heat from earlier in the day. Her shoulders tingled against the chill. It was enough for her to feel the change and embrace it. Abby inhaled the crisp autumn air and felt alive. Her life was a mess, but like an attic with old magazines that could entertain a person for hours, it held a subtle beauty. 

“Jessica and Michael couldn’t have chosen a better day to get married.” The voice reflected the awe Abby couldn’t attach to words. 

Abby turned to find Kyle had followed her. When she looked up at him, he smiled, “I bet it’s a sign.  They’ll have one of those marriages people always say they want to be like.” 

Sensing she was at a crossroads, Abby yielded to her curiosity. “What is your idea of a perfect marriage?” 

“I can only say from what I’ve seen,” Michael admitted. “Something like my parents. I know they’re in love. Last week I walked in on my dad making out with my mom. Before I walked in, I could have sworn I heard them bickering about beans.”

“Beans?” Abby echoed. 

“Yeah, I’m still scratching my head on that one. I can’t get a woman who is patient with my work schedule, and my dad can seduce my mother after passing gas.”

He chuckled. Abby giggled. Then they both fell into a fit of laughter that purged Abby of any discomfort she felt with Kyle. 

When she caught her breath, she said, “4213.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t follow,” Kyle cleared his throat. 

“My number. The last four digits are 4213. Just don’t call me in the wee hours of the morning.”

“Bummer,” Kyle grinned. “I was thinking of calling you to join me for an end-of-the-shift coffee.” 

The giddy feeling of taking a risk-filled Abby. The silent buzz she felt traveling between them amplified the growing magnetism. “What time is that?” 

“Three a.m.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what is your job?” 

“I’m a traveling doctor. I fill in for doctors in their offices. Most of the time, I fill in with tele-appointments, but depending on the circumstances, I can be away from home for weeks.” His grimace bore the weight of understanding if Abby dismissed him. “My social calendar is hit and miss. Thankfully, I have a lot of good friends.” 

“I can relate,” Abby admitted. “I’m a teacher. People don’t realize it’s a 50-60 hour-a-week job. If I’m not teaching, grading, or planning, I’m sleeping.” She found herself lucky. Women cherished friendships, so they often attended events in clusters. 

“We would be an odd couple,” Kyle’s grin softened in a way that said he didn’t mind. 

Humbled by her incorrect assumption, Abby allowed the vulnerability of being wrong to remain with her. Kyle attended all those events with friends. Now that she was talking freely with him, she could see how people would gladly be his friend. He was charming, funny, and, most importantly, relatable, which led to her thinking about Kyle’s joke about them in a relationship. Conflict lost its sting when you took the time to hear the other person’s story. 

“Yes, we would,” Abby agreed.

 Instead of returning to the dance hall, Kyle and Abby sat on a bench beneath the stars. Kyle entertained Abby with stories about his parent and his siblings. Abby told him about her summer camp adventures. With each laugh of appreciation and every “Oh, you too,” Abby and Kyle settled into the warmth of love’s early bloom. Their fate of being the next couple to marry was sealed when he kissed her in the wee hours of the night. 

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