Benefit of Doubt

After seven months they knew each other. He knew her. What exactly she knew he could not speak to. After meeting on line and then in person things progressed if not quickly then at such a pace to imply things would go long term. He had learned a few things from trying to meet a woman on line. It was better to not chat too long. If all there was was emails and using chat rooms without any sign of interest in meeting for a date then there was nothing there, so chemistry, just a bit of fun to pass the time. He could go anywhere for that. After three emails to get a feel for the girl, what she might like to do, whether or not she was psychotic, Livia agreed to meet him for a date.

He also knew not to have a first meeting some long drawn out date. Coffee, maybe dinner, was OK but dinner and a movie or some such was too much. There was no out if the two did not hit it off immediately. And that was the test, it could be called chemistry but within five minutes a person knows if they like someone. They know if they like them as a person, or as a potential friend, or as a potential mate. A person just knows by intuition, if they bother to listen. He was a big believer in intuition despite all the logic and reasoning he treasured. Pride fostered the latter, life hammered the lesson of the former into him. He also knew that when talking, the progression being from contact to emails, to maybe chatting on line (this was not the preferred option, a phone at this point is much better) to meeting is who things went, talking about sex did not bode well. It happened more often then not when contacting a girl. Somehow the early conversations that would swerve into sex, likes, dislikes, interests, or whatever, correlated with bad first dates, if things even went that far. A few dates led to sex on the first date, those never went beyond the first meeting. Very few contacts that talked about sex ever went to meeting, things just got strange, and those few became very awkward very fast. There just was no place to go after that. Only once did the process go according to plan lead to sex on the first date. That ended as a one night stand with only a little communication afterwards, but he suspected that was what she wanted. He avoided the thoughts that perhaps there were one night stands because the girls were disappointed. That wasn’t the intention and if they were that shallow then so be it. At least he got laid was the consolation he told himself.

Meeting Livia stuck with the preferred sequence. There wasn’t anything said that raised warnings or jinxed things. There wasn’t too much emailing. She agreed to meet in a public place to a get-to-know-you chat. The site was thirty miles away, but everything went well.

She was nervous. He was as well, wanting to not be so by not caring how it went after so many false starts with others. Livia was new to the dating market. A husband was thrown out of the house for cheating. Not even after two kids but apparently from the day of their marriage the husband cheated many times. Livia was oblivious till one of them came up to her raving how the husband should go back to cheating with this person. A slight nervous breakdown, anxiety attack later Livia decided on the advice of friends she needs to move on with life, even before the process of divorce started.

Still talking with a few guys, the occasional email, Livia decided to meet him in person. The Mall up on the north shore was convenient to her, but not so close to home to hint at any danger of being found. It was very inconvenient for him. He had no reason to be there except for her. But she was pretty and young, and sounding nice he wanted to meet her.

Since it was near christmas he brought a gift. Just a little something, to be polite, the scarf should be a color she would appreciate and it was thoughtful given the cold. Maybe it was trying a little too hard.

The stroll around the mall ended in lunch. Then she had to go. He gave her the gift and Livia then offered a hug. So they drove their separate ways and talked later. Just another date later she invited him over. The kids were away so it was safe. She chose the first time together on the living room couch, without even bothering to close the curtains. Afterwards there were few days the two were not together, and when it happened there were calls and texts.

Every now and then he would catch Livia staring off into space, a wistful, sad and longing look on her face. It was nothing, she would answer him, just daydreaming. The times when she would show him the messages she got from other men on the dating site dwindled to nothing. He did the same, though he readily admitted he didn’t answer or initial any contact since their second date. There was a twinge of guild about that when he mentioned it. She didn’t ask, he volunteered. But when the kids were not there he would spend the night. Eventually he met her children, she was hesitant to meet his. Then came vacation away.

After near daily drives over thirty miles north to see Livia for a few days in the summer he got to spend time with her alone. Between when her kids would leave and her girlfriends arrived there would be a couple days alone at a cottage in Vermont. The few hundred miles drive was small price to pay.

After getting there he listened to her funny story. Apparently at the local fire station the alarms went off in her cabin. There was no sound inside but five volunteer firefighters arrived after ten o’clock to check on her. Livia was embarrassed. There she was relaxing, getting ready for bed. Wine glass ready and short little pajamas on she had to walk the men around the place. She almost blushed when she said, “We had to go up the latter to the loft. All I thought was these guys are checking out my ass. I never would have thought that before you.”

“They probably were. I’ve seen it. I would check it out too.” Later as he lay awake in bed in the dark he thought she was probably excited by the idea even if she didn’t know it herself. The first day they were finally alone, she walked into the house naked. “I’ve been standing out there on the deck looking in the window at you. I waited till you noticed. Come on out to the hot tub.” Eagerly following sex outside and also in a hot tub was new for them, exotic, exciting. He grew aroused by the newfound confidence Livia had in her body to be naked before the world. Previously she wanted things dark, and hid her face under pillows when together. A few months made a different woman, and he was happy.

The first night back from the trip, he went to her house as usual. She stayed extra days after a friend arrived to attend a summer wine festival. On the one shared day the three of them innocently in the hot tub brought up too many memories and teased too many fantasies. After an hour or so something felt wrong to him. On the couch as he lay on top of her he lifted himself up to look down on her, “What are you thinking?”

“Nothing.”

“You OK?”

“Yes”

“Nothing’s wrong?”

“No, nothing’s wrong”

“Then what is it?”

“What is what?”

“What’s in your head?”

“Nothing.”

He let it go and watched her then get up to walk to the kitchen. When she came back he told her of a dream he had when she was still in Vermont. “I was going to stay at your house but you weren’t there. I was going to look after the dog or wait for you or something. Soon after I got settle in you came home. But you were not alone. There was a guy with you. You said he was a friend but you were holding each other too close. Then kissing. I waited downstairs as you two went to the bedroom. After sex you both came down as if nothing happened. I had to just leave and I think you barely noticed. There may have been a ‘see you later’.”

“That’s terrible. I’m not cheating on you. Is it because I’m still on the web site?”

“I know you’re not. And I don’t know. It was just a strange dream. That’s all.”

Changing the subject he said, “Have your friend email the picture she took of us together in Vermont at the brewery. That will be the only one of us together I will have.”

“I’ll ask.”

The next day he left her house to go to work. It was an easy enough south but he was not sure of the traffic, so he left early before she woke. He wanted to wake her up to tell her he loved her, would say it for the first time. Instead he just looked at her on the bed.

During a busy morning at work his phone buzzed with a new text message. It was from Livia. It had to be the usual miss-you-have-a-good-day message he gets all the time.

“— I thnk we are both seeing something that isn’t really there. Srry. —“

He thought of her standing naked in the sunshine in front of him. And he thought of firemen staring at her ass. And he thought that he knew this was coming. He didn’t listen to his intuition, but in hindsight he new it was coming. There was no lunch that day. Nor was there any dinner that evening. It was the worst day at work, and after the long day was finally over he went home. While watching TV he checked the still open dating web site account. Some views but no messages. Looking at a few pictures he sent a couple bland emails.

In the end it turned out better to not communicate with Livia anymore. Another month of haggling over how she was wrong taught him he should trust himself. Even for no reason there are always doubts. Whether or not they make themselves come true was a question he preferred to not explore.

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