101 Bell Whistle
Chapter 8: A Connection

Copyright© 2010 by JimWar

The smell of Audra's hair as I held her in my arms stayed with me for the remainder of that evening and colored my dreams far into the night - when I was finally able to get to sleep. Getting my mind to slow down so I could drift off to sleep was difficult knowing that she was lying there all alone with only two doors and 20 feet separating us. With my feelings towards her firmly settled, at least in my own mind, I could have and probably should have pushed things to the next level but for some reason I held back. I had good reason to believe that she felt the same way but I told myself that it was unfair of me to take advantage of her while her own feelings were so unsettled. Okay, I admit I am a coward, not wanting to face the possibility that she might not return my affections.

I awoke the next morning with all of those thoughts pushed to the back of my groggy and lethargic mind. From the golden hued evidence filtering in through my bedroom curtains my mind concluded that it was a beautiful, sunny day. Because of my lack of sleep I half stumbled down to the kitchen to find Audra humming as she worked at the large stove while Mr. Whiskers was making short work of a saucer of milk in the corner. My first thought was to reach out and hold her again but for some reason I held back. I settled on watching her dainty figure as she moved deftly from pan to pan as if in some type of a dance. So enraptured was I with her movements that I failed to hear her the first time she spoke to me.

She finally turned around and laughingly repeated, "What are you staring at, sir?"

I blushed, knowing that I was properly caught. Bravely I answered, "I was thinking that you looked especially lovely and sounded particularly bright and cheerful this morning."

Audra surprised me with a wink and said, "And why not? It's an absolutely dazzling day outside. I almost walked down to Dennon's myself and bought some donuts for us."

As I remembered the donuts from the previous week I asked, "What changed your mind?"

Audra's smile as she answered started my heart to racing. "I thought that you deserved to have a home cooked breakfast for a change. Every morning you get up before I do and rush out to work and I thought that for once I would get up early and show you that I can cook at least one meal well."

She laughed again as I started to protest and as I sputtered she said, "Gotcha!"

Her positive and confident banter brightened me. She seemed to be a completely different person from the shy and timid girl I had first met. My lethargy melted away as I found myself caught up in her bubbly manner. Thinking about this again brought me around to the inescapable conclusion that I loved this young woman. That thought brightened my heart and suddenly I felt as cheerful and as ready to face the day as Audra obviously did.

It occurred to me that maybe this was how two people in love were supposed to relate to each other. A failed attempt at love in my somewhat checkered past had shown me that the opposite was definitely true. Two people struggling to repair a relationship gone sour can end up living in perpetual misery until they face the facts that things will not work.

Still we finished breakfast without any formal declarations of our love. My heart was beating audibly in my chest by the time the meal ended. Every lapse in conversation seemed lengthened by my failure in pledging my love. There were many pregnant pauses during which I was trying to summon forth the courage to declare my feelings. All of my confusion and lack of response ended up wearing on us both so much that by the end of the meal neither of us was quite as bright and chipper as we had been at the start.

An uncomfortable nervous silence had settled over us by the time we rose to carry our dishes to the sink and I panicked as I realized that Audra might be interpreting my inaction as rejection. Firming up my courage I put my cup and plate in the sink and turned and took Audra's arms and pulled her to me. When my arms were wrapped around her and I felt the points of her small breasts meld into my stomach I let out my breath and ventured, "Audra, I have something I need to tell you."

Audra wrapped her own arms around me and settled into my hug as if she was a part of me. I knew at that moment that she was forever meant to be in my arms. That realization was so disconcerting that I blanked out for a moment. Finally I felt Audra sigh as she nervously asked, "What was it that you wanted to tell me?"

Her comfort was such that I felt I could freely express what was in my heart. There in the warm snug comfort of her hug I began to try to put the depth of my feelings for her into words. "Audra, I uh, well it's like this. You know how long I took getting changed before dinner last night. Well, that was your fault. I mean, I was thinking about you and how I felt about you. And, uh, you know how I was in a cloud during dinner last night. Well, that was also your fault. I was thinking about us. The meatloaf was fine but if the truth was known, I hardly tasted it. Then when I realized my ignoring you had hurt you, I felt like I was going to die. I couldn't sleep last night thinking about you and wondering how you felt."

She just hugged me tighter and tighter during my rambling explanation. At the point I started to repeat myself for the third time she interrupted and simply said, "Joe, I love you too."

Of course after she said that I couldn't think of anything else to say so I wisely kept my mouth shut. The silence was only interrupted by the sound of our hearts seemingly beating in counterpoint. We stood together in blissful union for some indeterminate period of time until our thoughts were interrupted by the discordant sound of the doorbell that I still needed to replace.

I opened the front door to find a porch teeming with Jorge and Hector and what seemed to be each and every one of their relatives. I realized at the moment that I opened the door that I had not said a word to Audra about my plans for the day. She shot me a dirty look as she stepped past me to greet each visitor and make them welcome them into our house. After a brief explanation she separated the women from us men and excorted them into the kitchen.

I started by giving the men a brief tour of the house describing what needed to be done. At that point Hector took charge of moving the items from the den and Jorge took a crew of men to begin transporting furniture from the servant's quarters. I did the only smart thing and got out of their way figuring to head to the store to buy the ingredients for the cookout I had planned for the afternoon.

Before heading out I peered into the kitchen to see how Audra was getting along with the group of Latino women. I was surprised to find my Audra sitting at the kitchen table prattling off something to Hector's wife Camilla in what sounded like fluent Spanish. Camilla and each of the other women in the room seemed to be hanging on her every word. One by one they turned to look at me as Audra chattered on seemingly oblivious to my presence. All of a sudden without missing a word, Audra looked up to see why everyone had grown silent. As soon as she looked up and caught my eye she stopped speaking and blossomed into the deepest wine red blush I had ever seen. Of course that started every woman in the room tittering which caused my poor Audra's blush to deepen even further.

In the middle of all this I explained that I was headed to the store for meat and beer for the afternoon cookout and asked if Audra could think of anything else that we needed. She shook her head no and said we still had a lot left over from last weekend's dinner party. As I moved out of the kitchen from the door I could hear the gossip begin again. I smiled to myself thinking that this gathering was going to be more to my liking.

I was still smiling about what was being said in the kitchen as I walked out onto the porch. It only took a glance from the porch to realize that I had to get Hector to move his pickup so that I could get out of the narrow driveway.

From the look of the effort in the den Hector seemed to be making short shift of the moving. I knew I needed to hurry in order to have the meat ready in time for the cookout. Hector accompanied me to the store, as his crew was almost finished. The trip to the store was uneventful and we soon had the truck loaded to the gills with steaks and beer. I knew I was going to enjoy this cookout much better than the last one.

In the afternoon after the meal I ended up giving Hector, Jorge and their brothers' tours of both the secret passageway and the connecting tunnel.

As we wound our way through the secret passageway Hector seemed surprised that the mechanism that operated the doors was as varied and complex as it was. By this time we had both had several beers and I was fumbling to remember how to activate one of the middle doors of the passageway. Hector laughed and said, "Hey Joe, this is almost like one of the computer games my son is always playing."

I was sweating at that point and didn't even think about what he had said. I answered, "This is way too old for that. This was built well over a hundred and fifty years ago."

Hector looking for the opening mechanism himself said, "What, you think people back then was stupid or son'thing? They found a computer in the ocean that the Greeks used to predict the date of the Olympics. They said it was 2000 years old."

I laughed and said, "I don't think this house is quite that old."

I was sorry for my laugh as soon as it was out of my mouth. Hector gave me a disapproving look and said, "I see. You don't think that I know what I'm talking about, huh. You think 'cause I work with my hands I don't read? A man that worked with his hands built all of this. He was pretty damn smart. He's probably laughing at us trying to figure it out right now."

When we finally found the forgotten mechanism and worked our way to the end of the passageway Hector pointed to the obviously unexplored branch of the tunnel still shrouded with spider webs and asked, "Where does that one go?"

I shrugged my shoulders and said, "I haven't had time to check that one out yet."

Hector looked at me in surprise. He said, "How about we do that now, boss?"

I laughed and said, "I don't think that's a good idea. We barely found our way out of a passageway that I had already worked through before. I want to be completely sober before I go exploring that tunnel."

Hector was disappointed and gave me a look that seemed to question my machismo but in the end ended up agreeing with my reasoning. I invited him and Camilla back the next afternoon and promised him that I would wait until then to explore the tunnel.

As soon as everyone had left Audra lit into me. "You can't just invite a dozen people over for a cookout and not tell me about it. The kitchen was a mess and I was so embarrassed."

I apologized and then said, "I don't speak that much Spanish but it didn't sound like you were talking about the messy kitchen with Camilla and the other ladies."

Audra blushed and answered, "It doesn't matter what I was talking about. I was still embarrassed. Promise me you'll let me know next time when you bring your friends over."

Although I hadn't thought of it as me 'bringing my friends over' I agreed to let her know about future visitors. Then I winked at Audra and asked, "Let's see, where were we when we were interrupted by the door buzzer this morning?"

In a voice so husky that it surprised me, Audra answered, "I was in your arms about to be kissed, I hope." She blushed after that bold statement.

I was so surprised by her statement that I laughed as I swept her into my arms and carried her giggling into the den where I plopped down on the leather couch. As soon as we were seated on that stiff formal piece of furniture I claimed my kiss or rather my kiss claimed me.

Writers have waxed poetic about first kisses. I have to admit that up until that point in my life I had wondered what all the fuss was about. In my mind a kiss was merely a prelude, a necessary preparation for that ultimate connection between man and woman. I was rather proud of my osculatory abilities but it was never a goal, only an interim step in a process that led to sexual union. That may sound cold and sterile and that sterility may have been at least a symptom of my inability to forge a lasting relationship with someone of the opposite sex

For that reason my first kiss with Audra confused me on more than one level. My mind blanked as I lost myself in that kiss. I found that I wasn't thinking past that kiss to what was to follow. I found all of Audra's heart and soul in that kiss and as it lengthened found that I was able to leave my mind and thoughts behind.

Had 'the kiss' occurred prior to Hector and Jorge's arrival I might never have heard the doorbell ring at all. I think that time ceased to exist during our connection on that couch. I didn't think about it at the time but I now realize that no sexual relationship will ever be as intimate as that, our first kiss.

In the first moments of 'the kiss' we surrendered our lives to each other, pledging our hearts and souls for eternity. In the early morning as I walked into the kitchen I'd still had a question as to whether Audra would return my love. That question was quickly and quietly answered by her as she said, 'I love you' but sometime during 'the kiss' she became the love of my life. I arose from that 'the kiss' an utterly married man, solely devoted to one very special woman.

That's not to say that I arose right away. Kissing Audra wasn't something that was a single event, done quickly and then left behind. Human beings aren't ever likely to admit perfection but rather are always seeking to better what has happened before. Audra and I spent quite a bit of time into the late evening trying to best the excellence of our first experience. Sometime during that interval various items of clothing were discarded as we attempted to connect even more closely. There was no embarrassment or body shyness between us. There was no discussion of 'limits' or whether we were ready for any next step because during 'the kiss' we had already pledged our love and futures.

Had the couch not been made of stiff leather we might have remained there. As it was, even though we were totally cocooned in our love and the splendor of our discovery we eventually surrendered to the practical need for a softer place to consummate our devotion. Our bodily fluids may have ruined the staid antique couch as a piece of furniture but that was something we would deal with tomorrow. Tomorrow the world could end but tonight was for us and our love.

Fortunately there was no Joe Jr. conceived during this night of passion. This was only because of luck and the timing of Audra's monthly cycle. We gave no thought to birth control, those thoughts came later. Only later did we discuss children and decide to wait. Had Joe Jr. been conceived that night or at any of the times in the early morning, he would certainly been conceived in love.

The next morning we were awakened by the sun streaming in through the drapes that I had again forgotten to close. I struggled to my feet to first remove some of the previous day's beer from my system and then to close the drapes. As soon as I had my feet on the floor Audra pleaded for me to close the drapes and come back to bed. I was quick to oblige.

Our next awakening was to the incessant buzzing of the doorbell below. Audra actually awakened to the sound of the doorbell and then moments later bravely began rescuing me from the jaws of slumber. I say bravely because I fought her tooth and nail. Later she asked me how I ever managed to get up on my own all the many years before we met. My answer, that gave her occasion to sport one of her more notable blushes, was that I had never had such an evening of exuberant love making before meeting her.

Audra made me answer the door in a t-shirt and pair of shorts while she dressed. I shouldn't have been surprised to see Hector and Camilla decked out in their finest clothes standing on my porch as I had invited them both back. I was just surprised that it was already after church. You see, the only church I had ever attended was the Rockport Holiness Church during my youth. Services at the Rockport Holiness Church had no actual ending time. Services ended either whenever Pastor Bob ran out of inspiration or whenever the last snake was rounded up. No one was ever in a hurry to go home as none of the shows on television were ever quite as interesting as Pastor Bob waving an angry rattlesnake while preaching redemption of our sins.

I ushered an apologetic Hector and Camilla into the formal living room, as I didn't imagine the odor in the den was appropriate for someone returning from church. As soon as I had them ensconced in a pair of matching Louis 14th chairs I excused myself so that I could finish dressing. Audra passed me on the couch looking radiant and I stopped to steal a kiss in passing. She headed for the living room while I headed for the bathroom.

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