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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 9 July 2007 - 12:50am.

Chapter 1

Ron awoke slowly, stretched and broke into a spontaneous smile as he remembered he was now a newly married man. He opened his eyes and turned his head to find Denise resting on one elbow. She, too, was smiling. It was obvious she had been awake for a while, watching him sleep. He began to grin as his eyes rested upon her, then his joy turned to a sense of wonder as he studied her. She was a truly beautiful woman and he lay totally fixated, unable to take his eyes from her. Her hair hung loosely around her and over her shoulder, concealing her feminine charms where the blanket had slipped from her upper body. She was easily the loveliest woman he had ever seen and his eyes began involuntarily to fill with tears.

“I have said before that woman is the most fascinating creature that God ever created, Mrs. Jameson, but this time He has outdone Himself, without a doubt.” He reached his hand up to touch her cheek and she took it in her own and pressed it to her lips, her own eyes now becoming wet as she savored his words and his touch. She could only respond with a half-choked ‘I love you’ and without further hesitation they again joined in the private passion they had shared the night before.

The intensity of their lovemaking might have set their bed on fire, Denise thought. It was plain to see that he hungered for her. He had denied himself of her for so long and now he was like an animal released; yet at the same time like a child in a candy store. His eyes fairly drank in every inch of her gorgeous figure. She would have been self-conscious had it been anyone but Ron who was appraising her so, but the love and awe in his gaze brought upon her, from the depths of her very soul, a gratitude that such a man as he would find her so irresistible. The truth was that from the first day at the diner where their paths had crossed and he had saved her from Ted’s rage and abuse, something had taken hold within her and had grown until now she also craved him both emotionally and physically. She returned his love with a passion and intensity that might well have frightened another man. For the next few minutes they worshipped one another with hands, eyes, lips and more until they lay exhausted beside one another, both in tears of joy and grateful for the chance to be alone and in love.

The flight to Hawaii was nearly missed. Both Ron and Denise had found it extremely difficult to pry themselves from bed and one another long enough to pack their belongings for the trip. Yes, they were tired, but their major challenge was to stop their lovemaking so they could attend to the other pressing needs before them. More than once the temptation was discussed to just stay where they were for a honeymoon. Neither wanted to be rational nor responsible long enough to leave the hotel room, let alone the hotel. Somehow they still managed to scarcely accomplish the deed and they were now bound for paradise, though both secretly felt they had only left paradise in the throes of passion in a big, soft bed.

Denise was glad they had not gotten a window seat. She wanted only to look at Ron and he, too, behaved as if they were the only two people in the entire world. The two of them had gotten numerous glances from the other passengers, but they had been so enamored with one another that they had been totally oblivious to it for some time. Denise now became aware of the not-so-hushed whispers coming from the seat behind her. Ron saw her distraction and now gave her a questioning look, to which Denise responded with a raised finger to imply ‘wait’. He sensed she was listening and he, too, shifted his attention.

“Well, maybe they are married”, came a man’s voice, in a whisper that was possibly learned in a sawmill.

“Or maybe he is just a dirty old man!”, a woman snapped, quite evidently making no effort to achieve hushed tones.

“It could be his daughter, for Pete’s sake! Can’t you just let it alone for once?”

“Hmph!”

They heard a brief rustle and knew she’d turned away from him. Then followed subdued muttering from both. Denise covered her mouth and tried to smother a giggle. Every effort to be quiet seemed to fail until she had buried her face deep into Ron’s shoulder and was nearly helpless in her attempts to catch her breath. Ron, too, was now laughing and they just kept setting one another off. By the time they started to get it under control, several other passengers were laughing, too. With privacy now totally gone, it was left only to face the inevitable. Ron stood suddenly and spoke aloud.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you have quite evidently shared in our laughter. Now, if you will please do us the honor to share in our joy. I have just yesterday married the most wonderful woman in the world. I have known her only one month and she has already taught me more about love and life than I have learned in some time.” He stroked Denise’s shoulder with his hand and adored her with his eyes, which moistened slightly as he said the words that so filled his heart.

Denise blushed and covered her face while those across the aisle from her smiled widely and Ron continued to stare adoringly at her. Many of the passengers spontaneously applauded in approval of the happy news. The man behind Ron and Denise gave his wife an ‘I told you so’ type of look and she responded with another ‘harrumph’ and a cold shoulder, which just made him smile in satisfaction.

Several times after Ron’s announcement, passengers made the effort to arise from their seats and give personal congratulations to the happy couple. Many wished them as much joy as they had experienced in their own marriages and a couple in their eighties gave this sage advice, “Too much in our society is throw-away these days. If divorce is never an option, your marriage will last.” They had been married nearly sixty years and were still obviously in love. With a young twinkle in her eye, the woman announced that she was going to Hawaii for another honeymoon and patted Ron on the shoulder.

“We should be so fortunate”, Ron replied. Denise smiled through tears of joy, her heart touched by this kind show of attention from total strangers who felt a kinship due to their shared union of love.

When all the commotion had settled down again, a stewardess approached and handed Ron a tray with a lovely garnished plate in the middle of it. On the plate was a blueberry muffin, surrounded by sliced strawberries and topped with a dollop of whipped cream to adorn it. A napkin, signed by all the flight attendants, lay beneath it. ‘Thank you for making our flight a special one. May your trip and your marriage be the best ever.’ Several smiling faces peeked out from behind the curtains leading to first class and Denise waved her own genuine thank you to them all and Ron grinned and nodded.

“May I get you some champagne?” the attendant asked.

Ron recalled this attendants’ name from the announcement she had made earlier when they had been seated. “Marybeth, thank you for your kindness--and to all your friends, as well. This is just wonderful.” Denise, too, voiced agreement and both declined champagne. Just as suddenly, with a twinkle in his eye, Ron pulled the girl closer and whispered in her ear for a moment. She looked mildly surprised and then, smiling knowingly, turned quickly to leave them.

“Do I have reason to be jealous?” Denise asked with an impish smile.

“Not a chance, young lady. You’ll see in a moment.”

Soon the stewardess returned with two glasses of champagne on a tray. Denise gave her husband a puzzled look and he replied quickly, “You’ll see.”

The stewardess stepped past them and stopped at the seats of the couple directly behind. “Compliments of the newlyweds. Please enjoy.” Marybeth touched Ron on the shoulder as she turned to go and as she reached the end of the aisle, she peeked back for a moment and grinned brightly before disappearing again behind the galley curtains.

Denise was also smiling again, now comprehending the plan that had just been put into play. The voices from behind them came soon after the shock wore off. First a hearty thank you from the man, then a delayed and timid one from his wife.

Ron turned and in a hushed voice asked Denise, “Have you figured it out yet?”

“Yes, and I must say it was brilliant,” she whispered appreciatively. A few moments later, when the effects of the champagne had begun to kick in and the woman behind them began to giggle, Denise again remarked, ‘absolutely brilliant’.

After another beaming attendant graciously served them a delightful meal, they both settled in for a short, but well-deserved nap to pass the rest of the flight.

Ron had not been sleeping long when he woke with a great start and found himself to be sweating profusely. Denise resituated herself on his shoulder and easily dozed again. What Ron had just dreamed disturbed him deeply. In his dream, he and Denise were on the beach in Hawaii. The sun was warm and bright, the sand white and beautiful and the water clear and sparkling. The problem was that they were not alone nor was their uninvited company even remotely to be considered friendly. The dream had become a true nightmare and had startled Ron awake. Ted had been there between Ron and Denise, driving Ron into the sea; pushing him step by step, further and further from Denise. In the end he was holding Ron’s head beneath the water and laughing aloud as he did it.

Ron knew this was not real. He knew Ted was dead, but it was as disturbing as if he were really there. Ron knew he should be the happiest man alive right now, but this was a genuinely disturbing experience. Why should he have this dream? What would have caused it--post-traumatic stress, perhaps? It was true he had never killed anyone before. Furthermore, he had not intended to kill Ted, but was left with no choice. He had to defend himself and Denise. There was no other reason. Still, he regretted having to do it.

Perhaps it was guilt, he thought. This was his way to subconsciously allow Ted to get his revenge. Ron was no psychiatrist, but this made more sense to him than any other explanation he could think of. It was all he could comfortably conclude. Anything else was too disturbing; too unexplainable and open-ended.

The rest of the flight was uneventful and Ron had decided not to tell Denise about the dream. There was no sense in spoiling things for her. Still, he couldn’t quite shake the uneasy feeling it had given him.

As the passengers stood to exit the plane, the man behind Ron took time to thank them again and to introduce himself properly. “George Brennan, sir. And this is my wife, Lydia.”

“Pleased to meet you both. I hope you enjoyed the champagne,” Ron replied.

Denise noticed that Lydia was calm and smiling now. “Does flying bother you? It usually makes me a bit nervous, but this is a special occasion.”

“Well, yes. I was nervous about flying over all this water. I guess I’m a bit more calm now, though.” She seemed to hesitate a moment and then proceeded. “If we happen to run into one another on our stay here, would you let us buy you both dinner? It would be our pleasure.”

Ron looked to her husband for confirmation and received a nod and a smile in return. Denise quickly interjected, “Then it would be our pleasure to accept. Thank you for such a lovely thought.”

A shuttle took them all to the same hotel and when it was discovered they had adjoining rooms, they all had a good laugh, knowing it would be doubly likely that they would have dinner together during their stay. “What are the odds on that?” George asked with a laugh.

“Pretty slim, I would normally say, neighbor,” Ron quipped. “Be seeing you around.”

“You, too, neighbor.” George was quite obviously enjoying this little joke. Ron thought, ‘What a pleasant man’ as they both went off to their rooms to get settled.

“So, what do you have in mind, Darling? Do you want to see a bit of Honolulu or shall we just skip to the honeymoon?” Ron’s sly grin was unmistakable. Denise turned to him and began fussing with his collar and shirt buttons and said, “Well, Mr. Jameson, we could just lock ourselves in and forget the world now, couldn’t we? But then, we could have done that back on the mainland for a lot less money. Seems a shame to be here and miss it all. Besides, we have all night.” She emphasized the word ‘all’ just enough to appease him, winking meaningfully as she did so.

“You make me want to set my watch ahead several hours, Mrs. Jameson.” His focus was intense and completely upon her.

“Mmmm, I like the sound of that,” she purred.

“Which? The time zone change or the ‘Mrs. Jameson’?”

“Exactly,” she replied and kissed him long and firmly.

Ron’s knees turned to mush and he longed to make love to her again, right then and there. “You aren’t making this any easier, you know. Maybe I should get a cold shower first.”

“No, come on-we’ll walk it off.” She grabbed his arm and the camera and exited the room before he could protest. After a few minutes Ron was able to think of more than just her and a big soft bed.

The rest of the day was spent seeing shops and watching people. At one point as they walked arm in arm along the street, Denise stopped abruptly and Ron found himself suddenly spun about to face her. “What’s wrong?”

“Not a thing I can think of, you darling man.” She hugged him hard-spontaneously and fervently. Half-choked with emotion, she offered only, “Thank you for loving me.”

“Tell me what’s not to love about you. I think you had me from the first time we met, babe.” People had to walk around them, but nearly all of them smiled at the display of genuine affection as they passed.

“There was something about you from the start, too. It was like I had known you before. Like I was meant to be with you.”

“Funny you should say that, Denise. I felt drawn to you, too. I couldn’t explain it. And when Barb pushed us together, I just sort of thought it was meant to be.”

“That’s what she said-‘it was meant to be’. She just seemed to know we would be good together.”

“Well, I’m glad she was so pushy. I owe her big time.” Ron grinned widely and rocked her back and forth in his arms.

“Ron, I think I’ve seen enough sights for today. What do you say we go back to our room and concentrate on something more personal?” Her demeanor was soft and loving.

“I thought you would never ask.” Without further hesitation they turned as one and made a bee line back to the hotel, covering the same ground much more quickly and purposefully than before.

Upon entering the lobby they saw George and Lydia Brennan coming to meet them. Ron and Denise squeezed hands at the same time as a silent signal, then turned and laughed quietly to one another at the unplanned response.

“Well, neighbor…we were just going out for dinner. Are you ready to join us? We knocked on your door, but you were out. So, what do you say? You hungry?”

Denise looked up at Ron and said simply, “Rain check?”

Ron couldn’t help but sigh before answering her quietly, “Okay.”

“Are we interrupting anything?” George asked.

“Not yet,” Ron answered and Denise giggled as she elbowed him softly.

“Good! Good! Then let’s go eat, shall we?” The party turned and left the hotel to choose a restaurant that all would agree upon.

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