One of the guests was Jeff that I’ve been close friends with for ages. For a while, I thought there might be something more, but it didn’t seem he was interested.
Jeff isn’t much to look at as far as sexy. He’s about 6’0, skinny white boy and has that really geeky/nerdy look to him. No one would ever call him hot, but he always made me feel like the most important person in the world. He listened to me, cared about me, and was one of my best friends.
The other main guest was a guest of my parents. I really don’t know why they invited him. I’d had an eye-candy crush on Niko forever. He was mostly friends with my father, and visited us whenever he was in town. He was Croatian and traveled extensively for work.
Niko is built like an underwear model. 6’2, athletically muscular.. the epitome of tall dark and handsome. Women nearly literally fainted when he paid them a compliment. He is gorgeous, but thats about all I knew about him.
The first day of the trip, I went hiking with Jeff as I’d not seen him in a while and we needed to catch up. My sisters actually went hiking with us, but since Jeff and I were talking so much we fell behind on the hike.
This is when Jeff turned to me.
“I have something for you.” He opened a box, took out something, and stood behind me.
I careened my head around to see what he was doing, but he told me to wait. He placed a necklace around my neck and fastened it.
“Do you like it?” He asked impatiently as he turned me around to face him.
I looked down at it and inspected it with my fingers.
“Yes it’s pretty. Thank you. But.. why?…” I trailed off as I looked up at him asking. He was already moving in to kiss me.
We kissed. It was odd but mostly just unexpected. My brain couldn’t even process really what was going on let alone what I was feeling about it.
Jeff wrapped his arms around me and held me close.
“I’m sorry to spring this on you, but I couldn’t think of a better way to tell you. I’ve wanted to do this for so long. I really think we’ll be great together.”
Once I recovered from the initial shock of it all, I had to agree. We did work well together. I started to really get excited about our possible future, but I still wanted to take it slow. I didn’t want to risk our friendship more than we just had.
It was starting to get dark and so we headed back hand in hand. I wasn’t ready to tell anyone about us. It was too new. So we pretended to just be friends when we returned to camp.
The campfire was already started and my mother and sisters already busying themselves with the meal. I sat down on a log surrounding the fire and waited, and as the rest of the group gathered I found Niko sitting right beside me. I pretended not to be affected.
He’s seriously like some kind of Greek god… and his accent..
Niko turned to me and asked about my day. I answered leaving out the bit about Jeff, and asked him about his day. Our conversation was short and seemed strained. I guess he was just trying to be polite.
He was chivalrous though. If I wanted or needed anything, he raced with his long arms to reach and get it for me before I could really ask. He even made my smores for me, asking me just how done I wanted my marshmallow and just how much chocolate to add. He seemed to be doting on me. I can only assume it was a show for my father.
Jeff walked me back to my cabin, and gave me a short kiss goodnight.
The next morning I woke, dressed, and crawled out to find some kind nourishment. As I was filling my face with powdered donuts and orange juice (breakfast of champions), I noticed Niko seemingly hurried trying to find something or get somewhere. He saw me, smiled, waved, and continued to rush around. I assumed he was working on something for my father or he’d lost his mind.
We all went for another hike, this time all together. My father pestering Jeff with questions and my sisters being their annoying selves.
At lunch, Jeff and I prepared our sandwiches together and went off to eat them on our own small picnic. Jeff also managed to sneak in a bit of wine.
On our way to a small plot of grass for our picnic, I spotted Niko again. He was still frantic, and I was a little worried about him. I’d never seen him like this before and he was used to high pressure business deals. I shrugged it off as “none of my business” and continued with Jeff.
Jeff and I proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon lazying away in a small plot of grass in the woods. Drinking wine, eating our sandwiches, and just laying there laughing while we stared at the clouds drifting by overhead. We held hands, and shared short but affection-filled kisses.. and just enjoyed being together.
As it started to get dark, we again rejoined everyone at the campfire, except Niko who wasn’t there yet. Jeff and I sat together on a log and listened to everyone’s day.
Suddenly, Niko grasps my wrist, and whispers in my ear. “Come with me please.” It was more of a plead than a demand, but nevertheless I understood he wasn’t really asking.
I turned to Jeff, and the rest of the group. “I’m sorry, Niko needs my help with something. I’ll be right back.”
One look at Niko and everyone knew I wouldn’t be coming back any time soon. I had no idea what it was he needed or why me, but I didn’t ask.
Niko lead me to his cabin, opened the door, and still holding my wrist nearly flung me inside.
“What the .. ” I exclaimed. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry, I… ” Niko stuttered, stammered, and fell silent. He grabbed a small velveteen box and opened it for me to see the contents.
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, it’s very pretty…” I’m quite sure I looked confused. I was giving him my best “WTF” face.
“Oh good. I’m so glad.” He took the ring out of the box. “Back when I first met your father, he gave me this ring. It used to belong to his mother, and he wanted me to give it to the woman who captured my heart.”
He placed a finger under my chin and lifted my face up, then kissed me. It wasn’t like Jeff’s kisses. This was passionate and I felt a fire in me rage as our lips touched. I didn’t want it to stop, but I also couldn’t help feeling like I was betraying Jeff. I stepped back confused and bewildered.
Niko handed me the ring. “Please wear this and I know that I love you. I raced around today to finally give you this ring, and to arrange my schedule so that I can be here with you. I have a trip to Venezuela. I leave tomorrow, but I will be back for you. Please wait for me.”
I placed the ring on my pinky finger, and Niko looked scared that it wouldn’t fit on any of my fingers. He believed that if a man proposed and the ring didn’t fit that the marriage would be doomed. While it wasn’t quite a proposal (I thought), I felt sorry for his worry. It was tough to see him in any kind of distress.
The ring went on, and I stood admiring it for a minute while I tried to decide if I should accept it. There was Jeff, but I’d been dreaming about Niko for 15 years and here he was. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming.
I didn’t get much time to think about it, as Niko excitedly pulled me into his lap and kissed me again. His eyes searching my face as if to record it into his memory. His eyes burrowing into mine as if to hypnotize me into loving him. This time when our lips touched, I forgot everything.
Then from outside the cabin, I heard voices. I stood up straightening my clothes worried that my father might enter and dash Niko into pieces.
“Don’t worry. I asked your father for his blessing.”
My heart melted. This has to be a dream. He’s thought of everything. Then I remembered, that’s the guy Niko is. It’s also why he’s so good at his job.
“Niko, I need to say something.”
He pulled me close, “Please, you’ve been so quiet. I just want to make you happy.”
I moved out of his grasp. It was so difficult to think clearly with his blood running so near to mine.
“I love the ring, and I shouldn’t, but I’d like to keep the ring until you return. I’m not sure how I feel right now, and I cannot promise that I’ll wait. I have someone else right now, and I’m not sure how I feel at all about anything. But I do like you, and I want to see where this goes.. but I can’t just wait endlessly…”
He pulled me close again. “I will hurry back as fast as I can. It’s scheduled to take several months. I’m sorry. I will do whatever I can to be back sooner. I love you.”
My heart leapt. He loves me? Has he lost his mind? He must have lost his damn mind.
Then he kissed me, and what was left of my mind went as well. My hands roamed over his muscular shoulders and chest. His hands slid up under the back of my shirt. His warm hands felt like fire touching the bare skin of my back, pressing me deeper into his kiss.
Then he pulled away generously. My senses and mental faculties slowly returned.
“I have to go. Please, keep this between us until you return?”
His face fell, then recovered with a look of determination. “If that’s what you want. I would like to call you and talk with you while I’m gone.”
We exchanged contact information, and I slipped out of the room with my heart still pounding in excitement.
Niko in love with me? Since when?
I walked back to my cabin, and found Jeff sitting on the steps waiting for me.
“Hey, are you ok? What did Niko want?”
I swallowed and tried to think of something that wasn’t a complete lie. Jeff knew how much I’d liked Niko, but I also knew if I told him that he’d be crushed and just give up. I wasn’t sure yet if Niko was real. What to do?
“Oh Niko just needed to talk. He says he’s in love, and wanted some advice.”
“Oh? who is he in love with?”
Crap. Now I have to lie or tell him. Jeff why can’t you just let things lay.
“Umm.. ” “I… uh..”
“He likes you doesn’t he? I wondered about that last night.”
Silence. How do I tell him? What do I say? I don’t even know how I feel? Would it even work with Niko?
“Did he kiss you?”
I turned beet red.
“Do you like him? Oh what am I saying? You’ve always had a thing for him. Are you going with him?”
I finally found my tongue and hoped that it worked.
“No. He’s leaving a trip. I’m not sure how I feel right now. You know I like you. Yet, he’s that infamous Niko. I don’t know what to do.”
“I’ve been your friend for a long time. I can’t give up on us if you haven’t. I don’t want to just let you go to him. But if you choose him, I understand. He’s your Mr. Big.”
I laughed. Jeff hated Sex In The City, but I’d tortured him with various episodes of it.
“Well if you’re not running way, then I’d like to see where this goes with us. Niko says he wants to keep in touch while he’s away. So, if you’re willing to put up with a two-timing girl.. I’d love to take this time to figure out how I really feel.”
Jeff moved closer and embraced me. It was a comforting embrace. Safe. Secure. Then he kissed me softly, lovingly.
“Ok off to bed, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Jeff said as he released me and then walked away smiling.
The next morning I woke to thudding and knocking sounds. I crawled out of bed wearing my oversized t-shirt and a pair of socks to investigate the noise. Someone was at the door. What time was it?
I opened the curtains on the door and peered outside.
“Maruska, It’s Niko. I need to see you before I leave. Please.”
I opened the door, still half-asleep and not remembering last night. I was on autopilot, and Niko had stayed at our house growing up. He was well used to seeing what I looked like when I crawled out of bed.
As he entered the room, I remembered last night wasn’t a dream. I suddenly became self-conscious. I ran my fingers through my hair, which of course lifted the shirt’s hemline, and on realizing that I quickly dropped my arms.
“I woke you. I’m sorry. You always did look lovely in the mornings.” His eyes roved over my body in a way that left absolutely nothing to doubt. He crossed the small space between us swiftly and gathered me up in his arms.
He kissed me and all apprehension I’d had fell away. We stumbled, and groped, and kissed our way to the bed.. and fell in. Somewhere along the way, he’d lost his shirt.
He kissed my neck while his hands ripped my shirt off of me. He whispered, “God, I love you.”
And then I woke up…