Ring Of Writers
One Cold Night

by:Kate Hauber
What am I thinking?!, she thought as she studied her shiny 
diamond ring and gold band, contemplating the butterflies another man 
made her feel.  What the hell is wrong with you? Just forget about it.
  You got caught off-guard.  You're probably reading way into it anyway…
Still, when Julia thought of that night, a familiar feeling shot 
through her.  Her pulse quickened ever so slightly, a smirk painted 
her face, her stomach twisted as if it were being wrung out like a wet
 towel.  She hadn't felt this giddy since the day she met her husband.
    She remembered how she couldn't wait to see Alex in the beginning. 
They couldn't get enough of each other.  They had, as Alex so 
eloquently put it, "sex like rabbits."  God, Julia, she scolded, it's 
not even like things are bad.  What's going on with you?  How can you 
even think these things of Dan?
    She met him through an acquaintance at work.  Even though they 
were in the same office, the place was so big that she never really 
had that much contact with him.  When she first started her job in 
the marketing department, her friend brought her around to meet 
everyone.  When introduced to Dan, she remembered thinking he was 
attractive, well-dressed, older than she, but didn't really have 
thoughts beyond that; not those kinds of thoughts.  She didn't even see
 him day to day.  He was a higher-up in the accounting department and
 didn't leave his office very often, much less socialize with any of 
the "underlings," although when he did see her he was always polite 
and friendly.  
    Then came the annual company biking trip.  
    He was such a gentleman.  On the same team of five, Dan waited for
 her when she fell behind, got her water and oranges at all the rest 
stops, even escorted her to the bathroom to make sure she was okay.  
After the bike trip, a group of them went out to a bar nearby the 
office.  She did take note that he made sure to sit next to her.  She 
also took note that when she told funny stories, he would laugh 
heartily, slapping the table and squeezing her arm.  However, it was 
his close proximity when he spoke to her, the constant eye contact, 
that unnerved her.  He sort of glanced at her mouth when she talked. 
She could see him, out of the corner of her eye, staring at her 
profile even when she wasn't talking.  The evening wound down earlier
 than she wanted it to, and it was he who walked the long trek back to
 her car with her, even though he didn't have to.
"So, are you going in the office tomorrow?" she asked, trying to make 
small talk and to ignore the image of him planting one on her.
"I have so much work to do, plus I have to give a presentation, so 
yeah, I'll be in.  You?"
"I think so.  I probably can get out of coming in, but there's things
 I should probably get to, what with no one in the office.  At least 
no one will be around to distract me."  Except you, said her mind.  
    A long, awkward pause followed.  The night had gotten chilly,
 and she shivered.
"Are you cold?  Do you want my jacket?" he quickly offered as he 
slipped it off his and over her shoulders before she could answer.  
Her heart jumped.  
    They chatted about various other subjects, touching on such 
general topics as movies, books, music…safe topics.  At one point 
along the way, there was a dip in the sidewalk that was filled with 
muddy water.  Before she could move to step around it, Dan cupped his 
hand around her elbow and guided her out of the way.  How sweet, she 
thought.  It's been awhile since I've experienced chivalry.  Not that
 Alex was rude or inattentive, but many of those chivalrous habits had
 fallen to the wayside after being together for awhile.
When they reached her car, he seemed to be stalling, kind of leaning 
against the driver's side door so she couldn't get in.
"You know, I had such a good time tonight.  It's too bad that we only
 get together at company outings," he said softly with a hint of 
disappointment.  In her mind, she reasoned that by "we" he meant the 
group, not the two of them, yet knowing full well what he really meant.
"I really did, too.  It's nice to see people loosen up a little, let 
their hair down.  I always thought I worked in a pretty stuffy office,
 but my opinion has definitely changed after tonight."
"I'm glad you got to see the fun side of our fine organization," he 
said sarcastically with a twinkle in his eye, stepping away from the 
car.  "Well, Julia, I guess I'll see you in the office tomorrow.  It 
should be nice and quiet since most people have off tomorrow."  His 
eyes still on her, he took his hand and brushed some hair behind her 
ear.  "It almost went in your mouth," he explained.  The gesture made 
her catch her breath.  
"Okay, well, see you tomorrow, Dan.  Get home safely," she said in 
almost a whisper. 	She quickly opened the car door and jumped in,
 wanting to drive away and leave those feelings behind in the parking
 lot.  But it was too late.  She already couldn't get him out of her 
mind.  The events of the evening ran over and over again in her mind 
as she drove.  She couldn't believe that she could be feeling this way
 about someone other than Alex.  She felt as if she were betraying him. 
Nothing even happened, she reasoned.  But, God, Julia, how would 
you feel if Alex were having these feelings for someone else?  You're 
playing with fire.  But she still pictured Dan's lingering gaze as she
 drove away.  She was attracted to him and she knew he felt the 
attraction, too.  No doubt about it.
   When she got home, she went back and forth in her mind.  Alex was 
away on business, so thankfully she didn't have to face him with 
these consuming thoughts.  She sat on the couch and stared up at the 
ceiling.  What scared her was that she still didn't want that evening
 with Dan to end; she still wanted to talk to him.  I'll call him, 
just to make sure he got home okay, she decided as she rose to find 
her company phone list in the kitchen.  Digging through the junk 
drawer and pulling out the list, she suddenly slammed it shut and 
paced back and forth, stopping to stare at herself in the mirror.  
How can you do this?  I can't believe you're even considering this, 
her mind reprimanded.  What good do you think this is going to do?
	But even though she knew she shouldn't, she found his phone 
number, and picked up the phone, listening for a split second to the 
dial tone.  At that same moment, the doorbell rang.  She squeezed her 
eyes shut, then hung up the phone with a sigh and headed for the front
 door, almost thankful for the diversion.  Who could this be, at this 
late hour?, she wondered.  Maybe a neighbor has a problem or something.
  Just leave me alone.  Really not in the mood at all.
	When she reached the door, she peered out the peep hole and 
sucked in her breath at the sight of Dan on her front stoop, bouncing
 from foot to foot to keep warm.  Consequences aside, Julia grinned at
 the irony of his appearing just as she was about to call him and 
cracked the door open.
"Dan, what are you doing here?  How did you know where I live?"
"Don't get mad.  I had your address, found your house.  I wasn't…I 
just…I wanted to keep talking."
"Dan, it's real late and I'm pretty tired," she argued, attempting in 
vain to ward him off.  However, it was the sincerity in his eyes plus 
the cold that told her to let him into her home.
"I'm so sorry to bother you like this," he said as he stepped into the
 warm foyer and shrugged off his wool coat.  "I was just having such a
 good time with you, I wanted to keep getting to know you."
"Want something warm to drink?  Coffee?  Hot cocoa?"
"Got any wine?  Nothing warms the stomach like a nice merlot."
"Coming right up," Julia said enthusiastically, walking quickly to the
 kitchen.  Thoughts swirled through her head: What is this?  I can't 
believe he came here!  What does he want?  Am I in trouble?  She 
absently took the corkscrew out of the drawer and thrust it down onto
 the cork, stabbing her thumb at the same time and yelping in pain.  
Dan dashed into the kitchen.
"God in Heaven, what happened?" he asked, concerned.
"Oh, just typical me.  Gashed my finger with the corkscrew, wasn't 
paying attention.  I do stuff like this all the time.  Nothing new."
"Here, I'll take care of everything.  Just go sit down.  The doctor is
 in," he kidded, putting a hand on her shoulder, pushing her toward 
the living room, and heading for the stairs.
	A few minutes later Dan descended the stairs with a wet rag 
and a band-aid.  He sat close to her on the couch, tenderly wrapping 
her thumb with the rag and tearing at the band-aid.  Neither said a 
word as he attended to her wound.  When he finished, he looked up at 
her.  The electricity could go ignored by neither.  Dan raised his 
hand to brush her cheek, their eyes locked, when they jumped at the 
sound of a car door slamming in the driveway.

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