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Author’s Note: As always, I apologize for the delay in submitting another chapter. Too much work, too much life, not enough writing. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy this chapter as much as the previous three. Don’t forget to vote and please leave a comment and let me know what you think, good or bad!!!
The remainder of our trip to France could not have been any better as far as I was concerned. We took a helicopter ride to see the Alps on Saturday and the Tour de France bicycle race came by on the road in front of Laura’s estate on Sunday morning. It was an impressive parade of trucks, cars and cyclists that just whizzed by in a matter of minutes. Laura had stood next to me holding my hand the whole time. JP and Henri had placed themselves in front of us in case something happened on the road, so we’d had that private moment where we didn’t need to pretend.
After the race passed by, we had a light lunch on the back patio. Laura insisted that JP and Henri join us. It took some convincing as they both took their work very seriously. They finally relented and it was one of the more enduring memories I have of that trip. JP and Henri let their façade down and were real people. I kept thinking how I wished that they’d been friends of mine growing up. They honestly weren’t that much older than me. I bet they both would have been great football players. We enjoyed a glass of wine as well as a men-only glass of cognac. Laura begged off as she said the taste didn’t agree with her.
After talking with them the day before and during lunch the following day, I couldn’t help but admire those two brave men. They’d taken a job where their client’s life was deemed more important than their own. That was a very interesting way of life, I thought. They had their training though. Something I didn’t have. As time passed from my “moment of bravery” the Friday before, I realized how stupid I’d been.
I did begin to wonder if my actions had made Laura face her feelings, even to the point she’d see it as a rash action that she’d regret. She’d been adamant about that since the beginning of our affair, but she’d told me that she loved me the day before. I laid there afraid to respond to her, but I finally did. She looked up at me and smiled softly before she laid her head against my chest once again. I didn’t want to press matters, so I didn’t tell her again until Sunday night when we were getting ready for bed. As we stood next to one another in the bathroom, I wrapped my arms around her in front of the huge mirror. I was significantly taller than her since she was barefoot and not in her customary 3 to 4-inch heels. I leaned forward and kissed her on the neck.
“I love you, Laura,” I said. She reached with her arm to capture my head and I kissed her neck again softer and slower.
“I love you too, Michael,” she said. “There are feelings we can’t stop, and I was foolish to think we could. We still need to respect boundaries and the actions we take.”
“Laura, we can,” I agreed. She turned around to face me.
“I hope so. I’m sorry Michael. I haven’t been able to stop myself with you. I worried so much about you and it’s been me. We’ve just connected, despite our years and our differences, we have. You’ve made me feel things I’ve never felt,” she said.
“Laura, you don’t have to apologize to me. Honestly. I know you’re older than me and all of that. I get it. Honestly, I’m not sure about any of this, it’s all still so new to me, but it feels so right with you. I mean if we were still home and you were just a normal person that went to work every day, it would still feel right to me. You’ve shown me things this weekend that I never imagined, but they wouldn’t mean anything without you,” I replied.
“You can stop, now. You’re going to make me cry,” she said.
“No, don’t do that,” I said desperately. I took her in my arms and held her close. I could feel her begin to sob and it was torture for me, but I never let her go. Finally, she stopped and looked up at me.
“Laura, I’m sorry,” I said immediately.
“Baby. There’s no need to be sorry. I needed that more than anything,” she replied. “You held me while I let it out. Most men will never learn that, and you already know it. Like I’ve said. You’re beyond your years.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“I’m better now. Why don’t we go to bed,” she suggested.
“Okay,” I smiled.
The following Monday, Laura had once again arranged seats on the Concorde to go back home. I was a little disappointed as I’d hoped to stay another day, but she was insistent that it would be fine.
“We’ll be home, Michael,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that you can’t spend another night with me.”
“No, I guess it doesn’t,” I smiled.
The flight home was equally impressive as we arrived “before we left” according to the clock. We were in her Ferrari speeding toward her house a little after 1 P.M. local. As I drove, we were both quiet. Laura held my hand except when I was shifting the transmission. bahis firmaları I thought of the trip and all that happened. It had been hard for me at the gate telling JP and Henri goodbye. It was a strange that I felt so close to those two men I hardly knew. Little did I know that I would grow much closer to them over the coming years, even to the point that they would know the true nature of the relationship between Laura and me.
When we arrived at her house, I parked the Ferrari in the garage. Laura had our luggage already delivered by the time we’d arrived. Despite all the time I’d ultimately spend with her, I never fully comprehended the number of people that were involved in making her life easier. We walked into the house and she announced that we should have lunch and then spend some time in the pool. I agreed wholeheartedly.
I followed her to the kitchen as she began pulling ingredients from the refrigerator and cupboard. I didn’t know what she had planned, but I knew it was going to be delicious. She instructed me to open a bottle of wine, which I did. I watched as she worked on making another exotic Asian dish.
“I need to take you to Asia,” she smiled.
“Oh, yeah,” I asked.
“I think you’d love it,” she said. “Europe has its charms, but Asia still has some genuine mystique about it.”
“I imagine it does,” I smiled. “I’ll go wherever you want to go. It’ll be wonderful as long as I’m with you.”
She shook her head at me and smiled. “You probably really mean that too, don’t you?”
“Well, of course I mean it,” I said.
“I love that,” she said. “I could hardly get my ex-husband to go anywhere.”
“He was an idiot,” I said.
“Apparently so,” she smiled.
Lunch was prepared and she plated everything. I carried the plates to the dining table, and I pulled her chair out for her. Her smile could have melted steel.
“It is wonderful that there are still a few gentlemen in the world,” she said.
“My mom always made sure I learned good manners, and I’ve watched a lot of old movies,” I laughed.
“It’s certainly paid off,” she smiled. She raised her wine glass. “What should we toast to?”
“To more adventures together,” I smiled as our glassed clinked softly.
“That’s a wonderful toast,” she smiled.
The next few weeks passed quickly as I was fully immersed in my lawn mowing business. Laura was busy herself and made several trips out of town. I regretted that I couldn’t go with her, but as she explained these were business trips and I’d be by myself a lot if I’d went.
I spent nearly every evening I could at Laura’s house. My mom still stayed at the office until she was on the verge of physical exhaustion before she came home, so there was no reason for me to be there waiting. Despite everything else that was going on in my life, I continued to try to get Mom to come home for a normal dinner, but she stood me up repeatedly. I look back at it with sadness and shame as I eventually gave up. She was going to have to help herself before I could help her, I’d finally realized.
I wanted to have all the time with Laura that I could. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking that once I went to school, she’d let me go and I wouldn’t have her in my life anymore. We never talked about any of that, I just figured that would be an easy transition for her to end things between us.
The last week of July, I got a page from Coach Williams at State. I’d just pulled up in front of Laura’s house, so I decided to ignore it. While we were having dinner, I got five more from him. As I looked at the final page, I shook my head.
“Michael, what is it?”
“It’s Coach Williams from State,” I said.
“What does he want,” she asked.
“They’re starting summer practice next week and he has two defensive ends on the roster,” I said.
“I’m assuming this is a bad thing,” she smiled.
“Yeah, it is,” I laughed.
“I thought so,” she replied with her sly smile. “It sounds like he’s desperate to have you.”
“He is, but I don’t think I want to play,” I said. “It would be a big commitment. And it would take time away that I could spend…”
I stopped as Laura fixed her gaze on me.
“Michael, I will not let you compromise something that could be a very rewarding experience for you because of me,” she said.
“Laura, I’d decided not to play before we even met,” I said.
“That may be true, Michael, but obviously this Coach Williams thinks that you have special talents,” she said.
“Yeah, but I don’t think I want to do it,” I said.
“Michael, why do you not want to,” she asked. “You should always explore your options.”
“I don’t know, I guess a lot of it is I’ll always remember my dad when I play football. It was something that we always had in common,” I said.
“Then why not remember him by continuing to play,” Laura asked. “I’m sure he’d be disappointed if you just gave it all up.”
“Great, you sound like my mom, if she could have the time to care,” kaçak iddaa I said. I saw the expression on her face and knew I’d overreacted.
“Michael, you will not dishonor your mother in front of me,” Laura said sternly. “She’s been through a lot in the last year. I know you have tried to help her, but at the same time I know that I’ve taken you away from her for my own selfish reasons.” She began crying.
“Laura, please no, it’s not your fault,” I said. I moved around the table and took her in my arms. She cried loudly and I felt like shit as I’d been wrong with what I’d said. Finally, she began to calm down.
“Michael, I think this has gone far enough,” she said. Realizing what she said, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut.
“Laura, no. Please,” I begged.
“It has Michael. I tried to rationalize all of this, but I can’t. We’re too far apart in age and I’m keeping you from things that need more of your attention. You should go, now,” she said dabbing tears from her eyes.
“Laura, please just give it a chance. I know I’ve not done some things, but let me try,” I said.
“Michael, we can’t keep doing this. I’m using you to feel young again. I have strong feelings for you, I promise you, but at the end of the day, this has been about me using you,” she said. “And I have to stop it for both of us.”
I looked at her, on the verge of tears myself. I couldn’t believe that everything ended like that. In the blink of an eye, I’d lost her. I hadn’t expected it to go the way it did. She stood and I tried to take her in my arms, but she turned away. I walked towards the door, before stopping and removing her house key from my key ring. I left it on the table in the entryway. I got in my truck and pulled away slowly, glancing in the rearview at her house before it slowly drifted out of sight.
I drove around for almost two hours collecting my thoughts. In the back of my mind, I knew everything she’d said was true. We weren’t meant to be anything more than we were. I’d foolishly convinced myself that we could be. I tried to put it all in perspective, but that certainly wasn’t going to happen that night.
When I got home, there were a half dozen messages on the answering machine from Coach Williams. It was after 9, but I figured I should probably call him. I picked up the phone and dialed the number.
“Williams,” he answered almost immediately.
“Coach, this is Mike Tanner,” I said.
“Damn, son. Am I glad to hear from you,” he said.
“I thought you might be,” I laughed.
“Mike, I’m not gonna beat around the bush. I’m fucking desperate right now,” he said.
“Yes sir, I know,” I replied.
“Have you given it any more thought,” he asked.
“Yes sir, I think I have,” I said. I hesitated, but I knew I should play. Especially after tonight.
“And,” Coach asked.
“I’ll be there next week,” I said.
“Damn son. You don’t know how glad I am to hear that,” he gushed.
“Okay, good,” I said.
“Mike be here Sunday afternoon. We’ll get you checked in and everything before first practice Monday,” he said.
“I’ll be there,” I said.
“You in shape,” he asked.
“I haven’t been hitting the weights as hard this summer, but I’ve been working. I’ll be ready Coach,” I assured him.
“All right, bye,” he said.
“Bye,” I replied.
Mom’s reaction that night was much as I expected as she’d merely smiled and told me how proud my dad would have been. She’d then poured herself a glass of wine and walked to her bedroom. I had a very helpless feeling as I went to bed that night. It was like I’d lost both of parents when my dad passed away. My mom was no longer her happy self and I couldn’t do anything to break her out of it. I was leaving for college and she’d be all alone.
Then there was the sting of losing Laura. Deep down, I always knew it wouldn’t last, but for it to go away so quickly shocked me to my core. I laid there thinking for a long time that night about the experiences I would never forget. I’d dated a beautiful, rich woman. She was gone though, I reminded myself.
The next few days were a whirlwind as I had so many things to do. I got some of my friends to take over my lawn route, but I left Laura’s name off the list. I thought it was for the best. I packed up my truck Sunday morning and headed to State. Mom said she needed to go to the office and declined to follow me up.
When I arrived at the athletic dormitory, there was a flurry of activity as guys were moving back in. Some of them had been around during the summer I knew, but most took a week or two off before summer camp began. I found the desk to check in and introduced myself to the girl handling the registration. I saw a coach standing behind the desk look my way when I said my name. I didn’t recognize him, but he soon walked over to me.
“Mike, I’m Joe Ricks, the defensive coordinator and d-line coach,” he said extending his hand.
“It’s nice to meet you, Coach Ricks,” I replied.
“Come by kaçak bahis my office this afternoon and we’ll get to know one another a little better,” he said.
Coach Ricks had been hired after I’d declined my offer to play at State. He was an up and comer that was building quite a name for himself. I figured I was probably in good hands.
After I hauled my stuff up to my room, I met my new roommate, Steve. He was a sophomore offensive tackle. He looked huge and I immediately regretted not lifting a lot harder that summer. We chatted a bit and I followed him over to the football facility. The rest of the day was spent in meetings and getting equipment checked out. I stayed busy enough that I didn’t have much time to dwell on Laura. At least until I went to bed.
Practice the next morning was a rude awakening. It was immediately apparent that I was not in the best football shape. There was also the fact that these guys were all grown men. The last time I’d played football, it was against mostly boys. It made me determined to work my tail off and get back in shape as quick as possible.
We gradually transitioned the first week from helmets and shorts to full pads. It was good to get in and make some contact with the other guys. I played opposite Steve a lot and our friendship and rivalry grew quickly. Every time he had a successful block against me, the faster and harder I’d come at him the next play. It made me realize how much I missed playing and missed being part of a team. I looked forward to the future when I could establish myself as a leader and help push guys to be their best. I needed to make my bones first before I started running my mouth!
The three weeks of summer camp passed quickly. I felt like I was finally back in shape. I knew that I still didn’t have the strength I needed, but I could feel that my speed was back, and I was coming out of my stance faster than I ever had. I was disappointed when the depth chart was announced that I wasn’t named a starter, but the two guys ahead of me had much more experience and deserved it. I knew as thin as we were at defensive end, I’d still get plenty of playing time. Coach Ricks liked my speed off the edge, and he worked with me on some blitz packages that he hoped we could use to catch people unaware.
Our first two games were against lesser competition and we won handily. I played extensively and had many tackles and a few sacks. Our third game was against
ranked Nebraska. It was a Thursday night game and was on national TV. I’d called my Mom that morning to remind her and she said that she’d do her best to watch. I silently nodded as I hung up the phone before walking to my morning classes.
Everyone was tense that night in the locker room. It was a big-time game for us and a chance to get national recognition. I’d never felt uneasy before a game like I did that night. I couldn’t seem to calm down and for some reason Laura was all I could think about. I tried to push her out of my mind, but the more I tried, the stronger she returned. I needed to focus on the game, I reminded myself. I just needed to get on the field and get focused I assured myself.
We walked down the tunnel to a full stadium of 60,000 people cheering for us. As the game got underway, the crowd got even louder as we returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Nebraska responded with a field goal on their next drive after I sacked their quarterback on a 3rd and 7 from the 15-yard line. We both scored again just before half-time and we led 14-6.
The coaches reminded us during half-time that we were still playing the Number 1 team in the country. They’d earned that and we needed to remain focused. They could move the ball quickly. Sure enough, two plays after half-time, they were in the endzone. They missed a 2-point conversion and the score was 14-12. The next few series for both teams were short drives ending with punts. Five minutes into the 4th quarter the Nebraska tailback came around the end on a sweep and I caught him. I managed to dislodge the ball and our strong safety picked it up and ran it to the Nebraska 35. Unfortunately, our offense couldn’t move the ball much and then missed a long field goal.
Nebraska got the ball back and managed to slowly move the ball down the field during the waning minutes of the 4th quarter. Their depth and talent became apparent as we were all worn out and each play zapped more and more from us. Finally, with 4 seconds left, they lined up for a 35-yard field goal attempt. I was watching from the sideline as the ball was snapped, kicked and sailed through the middle of the goalposts. We walked from our sideline and shook hands before I headed back to the tunnel to our locker room.
I was agonized by the defeat as I knew we’d led most of the game, but I also knew that we’d took the number 1 team in the country to the wire. We were still young. Coach Williams would build the program back to what it was. We’d get there, I reminded myself. I was broken from my contemplation by a man calling my name.
“Michael Tanner,” I heard the voice say repeatedly. I looked around and found a man in the stands leaning over the side of the tunnel. Our eyes met and he waved me over to him. He stuck out his hand and gave me an envelope.
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