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For The Strength of Youth

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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by spazmom on 27 February 2007 - 9:09pm. |

The sound of the waves crashing and the seagulls calling was a peaceful balm to my soul as were the blazing colors in the setting sky. Wrapped in Sean’s arms and sitting on the sand watching the sun go down was the most wonderfully romantic experience I’d ever had. The colors were so brilliant and the ocean below such a strong picture, it sent the artist in me searching for the paint I would use had they been with me.

Sean’s arms tightened around me and I was effectively distracted from the beauty around me at the touch of his lips on my neck. What that man’s touch did to my insides!

I closed my eyes and swayed back into him and found myself tilting my neck to give him greater access. A melting feeling began at my mid-section and traveled down to my knees and I was very glad to be sitting down.

“Oh Sean...” I sighed, not knowing what else to say.

“Mmmm? What Angel?” His deep husky voice sent shivers down my spine as his breath brushed my ear, and continued up into my hair. “Don’t you like this?”

“Oh yes,” I breathed out, not sure it was even audible.

I felt his lips on my closed lids and bit my lips at the tenderness I felt in that touch. Almost like he cherished me! I felt his hands along the sides of my face and pressed into their warmth, opening my eyes to gaze into his strong handsome face which was so close to my own.

He traced my face with a finger, “You don’t know how long I have waited for you to be here. With me.”

“You have?” I asked dreamily, too comforted and happy to feel anxious or nervous about the seriousness of the expression on his face. “Why?”

I raised my hand to touch his face, feeling the roughness of his beard beneath my fingers. His statement finally registered before he could frame a reply to my query and I stilled suddenly at the idea. “You have thought about being with me like this before you even met me?” I was amazed at the thought, having never run into a man like him before who was so honest with me.

“Sean!” Mari's voice calling his name cut into our quiet moment so abruptly that I was shaken. I glanced around wildly, realizing I was no longer dreaming, but fully awake - half-sitting, half lying on the cushions on the window seat in my studio.

We weren’t in Seaside, we were in Astoria! How much of what I had dreamed had been reality?

“Sean, is she up there? Is she okay?” Mari’s voice was coming closer, indicating she was coming up the stairs toward us.

I jumped up, my nerves shaking and my body waking up as I realized where I was.

“Angel,” Sean stood up behind me, his voice concerned. "What is it? What's wrong?" He pulled my shaking body to his and wrapped his strong arms around me.

“I-I was d-dreaming," I stammered out against his chest, my mind still reeling from the abrupt break of reality. "I was dreaming we were at Seaside watching a sunset and all of a sudden," I glanced around a little wildly at the confines of my studio. "I'm here. I've never dreamed like that before.” I took a deep shuddering breath. I had to know! “How much of you was the dream, Sean?”

Suddenly Mari burst into the room, an anxious expression on her face. “Oh good! You’re here and you’re okay!” she was obviously relieved and I noticed that while Sean had dropped his arms, he hadn’t moved away. It comforted me that he wasn’t afraid to be seen in such proximity to me.

“She fell asleep up here on the window seat," he informed his mother, a trace of laughter in his voice. “I just woke her up.”

“Asleep!” She shook her head as she came over to me. “You silly girl! You had me worried when we peaked into your room and you weren’t there.”

I managed a weak grin, feeling like I had stepped out of reality. Which was real? “I got engrossed in my painting,” I told her, my voice sounding scratchy to my ears. I cleared my throat and turned toward the easel I had covered before falling asleep. I was beginning to remember now, and felt my equilibrium returning.

“May we look?” Mari asked, obviously dying to see it.

I glanced at Sean’s reassuring face before I shrugged and reached over to toss the cover back.

It was silent in the room for so long I felt like the earth had swallowed me up and I was beginning to wish it had, since their reaction was making me feel they didn’t like it.

But I was wrong. “Oh Angela!” Mari breathed finally, putting her hand out to touch the dry paint. Apparently she remembered I liked to work with acrylics, so she didn’t hesitate.

Sean moved up behind me and took hold of one of my hands to squeeze it tightly. “It’s just as I remember,” he said softly, his voice near my ear, making my insides quake again.

I let the breath out I hadn’t realized I was holding at their approval. “You like it?” I asked stupidly, glancing up at Sean and then at Mari. “It’s been so long since I’ve done anything, I know it’s not my best. But, I felt it was okay.”

Mari shook her head and gave a weak laugh. “Okay? Just okay? Oh Angela!” She turned to give me a fierce hug. “You do underestimate yourself! It’s wonderful. I can’t wait till Bill sees it.” She took off down the hall and I groaned.

“I’m not sure I’m up to Bill yet this morning,” I admitted to Sean somewhat shakily. “I’m still not sure if I’m dreaming or awake yet.”

He grinned and pulled me into his arms. “Let me see if I can convince you.” His face sobered just inches from my own. “Because if you’re dreaming, I don’t want it to end.”

By the time Mari returned with Bill, I didn’t care where I was or if it was reality or not. I just wanted to be there with Sean. But, at least I was a little more coherent when Bill walked in followed by his wife, and I watched his face for his reaction.

He didn’t disappoint me. “Good heavens, girl,” he said, coming to a stop in front of the easel. “You haven’t forgotten how to use that brush, have you?”

I smiled and leaned against Sean. I knew if Bill liked it, it was a good start.

Mari was waving her hands about the air as if to conger up more scenes for me to paint. “You just have to show this to Bette,” she exclaimed, and my heart stopped for a moment before starting again so rapidly that I thought it was going to jump out of my chest.

“Oh, no,” I gasped. “I don’t know...”

“Why not?” Sean’s quiet voice came from behind me, stopping my words before I knew what I was going to say. “Why not, Angel?” He turned me to look at him, and must have seen the sudden fear and uncertainty in my eyes. “You have to start over. You can’t let the past control your future.”

“I...” I bit my lip and looked at Mari and Bill.

“It would be hard to have a show, wouldn’t it?” Mari ventured softly. “I wasn’t suggesting you should rush into it, but I do think Bette would love to see this.”

I took a deep trembling breath. What a morning this was turning out to be! “I will think about it, okay? I mean, Seaside’s been painted over and over. She’s not going to be impressed.”

I chewed on my lip as I looked at their faces, ending on Sean. He inclined his head and glanced at the painting once more before clearing his throat.

“Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m starving and if I don’t get going, I’m going to be late.”

Mari jumped and headed toward the door. “Oh no! I forgot when I saw Angie’s painting!”

I smiled at the nickname, knowing I could relax a little.

“Ho, yes, my girl,” Bill boomed, taking a last look at the painting. "Food for the body, now that we've had food the soul. Food!" With that he turned and left, following Mari with his heavy tread.

“Food for the soul, huh?” I murmured as I watched them go. I never would have thought of Bill as a romantic, but there it was.

“Most definitely.” Sean turned toward me, a smile on his face that was doing it’s best to ruin any appetite I might have had. “C’mon, good looking, I need to go, but I want to see you as much as I can before then.”

I managed a smile that I’m sure was wobbly as my knees. “Is Bill taking you to work again?”

“No,” he replied as I turned off the light and shut the door. “My tires are all fixed up like new.” The tone of his voice alerted me to more than what was said, but I knew we didn’t have to go into it.

I stopped him in the hallway. “Please be careful,” I said, gazing into his face.

He caught me by the shoulders and pulled me close to kiss me fiercely and thoroughly. I was quite dizzy when he finished and had to grip his arms for support.

“I have never had greater reason to,” he whispered, his voice husky.

I sighed and knew, for me, how much that was true.

“Sean, you’d better hurry up if you’re gonna get to work on time!” Mari’s voice brought us back to the present and we both grinned.

“Coming, Mom,” Sean called and turned me around to guide me down the hall to the stairs.

Breakfast was a no nonsense affair of cold cereal, toast and juice and lasted all of ten minutes for Sean. He was inhaling his juice when the phone rang and Mari answered it as he grabbed his jacket and planner, kissed me while Bill grinned and my cheeks reddened as he ran out the door.

“Now I find that a right interesting way to say goodbye,” Bill said to no one in particular, spreading some blackberry jam on his toast. Mari came in and noted his words along with my red face.

“Oh?” She said, curiosity and suspicion warring in her voice. I almost laughed. “And how was that?”

Bill raised an eyebrow at me and I managed to shrug, as if it was no big deal. “Oh nothing - just our son who hasn’t dated one girl for other than social reasons in the whole time he’s been here,” this was said for my information, I gathered from his pointing knife. “Just kissed Angela goodbye on his way out the door.”

Mari turned a truly surprised face to me and I kind of bit my lip, my cheeks still warm.

“And it twern’t no peck on the cheek,” Bill added before biting into the toast, his eyes twinkling.

“Oh,” Mari finally got a word out, trying to appear as casual as Bill, but I knew she was very excited by the way her eyes lit up and she almost jumped out of her chair. I could almost read the words on her mind, Could this be an engagement in the making?

Mari was never one to think something in a relationship ended in anything other than marriage. I sighed, hoping neither of them read too much into the whole thing. It was just a kiss, for heaven sake. I closed my eyes and sat back in my chair. A bone melting, butterfly in the stomach kiss, but still just a kiss.

Mari giggled and I supposed my thoughts must have shown on my face, and it was heating up again quite nicely. I groaned inwardly and sat up. “I’m going to go take a nap,” I announced, giving each of them a pointed look as I stood up and picked up my bowl. “I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep last night.”

“Whatever you want, dear,” Mari said with a bland expression. “Sweet dreams.”

I could have died. Sweet dreams? This was going to get really interesting really fast. I mean, it’s one thing to be dating and having your parents know you are interested in someone. It’s another thing to be involved with someone who was sleeping under the same roof! With his parents!

I sighed as I went up the stairs to my room. I just wanted some sleep, and I didn’t particularly want to dream, either.

A couple hours later, Mari came into my room. She was obviously trying to be quiet in case I was asleep, but it was enough to wake me.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she whispered, obviously apologetic. “But Sean is on the phone and wanted to know if you were interested in lunch.”

I sat up when I heard that Sean was on the phone and swung my legs over the edge, feeling much more alive than I had earlier. “Sean’s on the phone?” I repeated, running a hand through my hair. “Oh good.”

Mari smiled and shook her head. “He’s waiting - on the phone?” She repeated, and I rubbed my hands over my face, hating the way it felt, left over makeup from the night before. I got up and tried to make it quickly down the stairs without breaking my neck. Mari followed, and I could hear her chuckling all the way down.

I grabbed the phone, wondering if my voice would give me away. “Hello?” I said, as Mari came into the kitchen behind me.

“Angel!” Sean’s voice sent shivers down my spine and I was instantly awake and remembering my goodbye kiss earlier. “Angel, do you want to come have lunch with me?” His voice was low and persuasive in my ear.

“Of course!” I answered quickly, anything!

There was a small sigh and then he chuckled. “I love the way you agree so quickly!”

I blushed, trying to hide it from Mari - who was making no pretense of being polite. “You’re probably blushing now,” he added softly, and I sighed.

“Look, Sean, do you want me to come have lunch or not?” I demanded, my embarrassment making me defensive. I could tell I shocked him by my question and attitude, and grinned over at Mari who also looked surprised. “Because I’ve only just woke up and need to shower and change clothes.”

It was still silent at the other end and I wondered if I had gone too far. I bit my lip and Mari raised an eyebrow at me. I shrugged. “Um, are you there?”

“Angela Barker, did you get up on the wrong side of the bed?” His voice was low so I couldn’t tell how he was feeling.

“Probably,” I replied and put a hand to my hip. “I am hoping the afternoon goes better.”

There was a deep chuckle in my ear that made my knees go weak. “Oh, Angel,” he said with a sigh. “It’s only been a couple of hours, and I’m probably letting myself in for a lot of hurt, but I miss you!”

I closed my eyes as I let the longing in his voice wash over me like a warm wave. “Sean,” I whispered. “How has this happened to us?”

“I don’t know,” was his reply. “But I’m not going to fight it. Not this time. Now, how soon do you think you can be here?”

I opened my eyes and realized Mari had left the room. That little sweetheart! I smiled fondly and focused back on Sean. “I can be ready in a half hour, but I don’t know how long it will take me to get there.”

“It should only take you about fifteen to twenty minutes,” Sean informed me. “I’ll give you thirty so I won’t start worrying too soon. That makes it an hour, right?”

I smiled into the receiver. “You got it, Mr. Palmer, and I expect you to be ready.”

Sean laughed. “Oh I will be, Angel, I will be.”

I replaced the receiver, feeling like I was living someone else’s life. This kind of thing never happened to me. This man was right out of GQ and he wanted me. I jumped up out of the chair and dashed up stairs. If I was going to make it in the time allotted, I had to get moving.

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