Chapter 18- Noah
“Wow, you look amazing,” I say to Haven as she opens her door. She smiles shyly, stepping closer to me, while closing the door to her house. I take my arms from behind my back and reveal the contents of what was in my hands. A single white rose. She never mentioned if she liked flowers, but she did mention that she liked simple. I thought this was the perfect gesture. A perfect way to start off a first date. She gasps and looks up at me shocked. She slowly reaches up her hand to the rose, as though she was afraid it would disappear before her very eyes. I peer down at her as she finally takes the rose and brings it to her nose. I take a step back, to take her in.
She is beautiful. Even in the moonlit night sky, I could see her hazel eyes sparkling. When she looks up after taking in the scent of the rose, her eyes flick up to me. I extend my hand out to her, she takes it.
“Your chariot awaits you, my lady,” I say, guiding her to Ava’s Honda Civic. I open the door for her, and she gives me an amused look.
“No bike?” She goes into the car and I close the door. I jog around and get into the driver’s seat.
“I wanted to be proper,′ I respond to her. She doesn’t say anything, but the smile on her face says it all.
I decided to do a nice picnic for Haven. Quiet. Where we can speak freely, alone, without being bothered by nosy locals or being interrupted by waiters asking constant questions. I drive through our usual route to the wooded path and then get out. Haven doesn’t make any comments about where we are going or being familiar with the route.
I know Havens past now and I have noticed that she’s at her best when she feels the most comfortable. Taking her to an unfamiliar place will just trigger her and I don’t want that for her. Especially with me. Some may think that Haven being timid and quiet is annoying, but I find it peaceful. She has this calmness about her that doesn’t make anything feel forced.
We arrive at the pond and small lights decorated the deck. Thanks to Ava for helping me set this up while I was at the bar. Guiding us to the deck were small LED candle lights. By the water lay a red blanket, some throw pillows, and a picnic basket. Ava insisted on making us the dinner for tonight, so I had no idea what was inside. I grab Haven by the hand and lead her along the path to the end of the dock. She looks mesmerized by the scenery. When we approach the blanket, we both take a seat. I begin to empty to contents of the basket, listing the items to Haven. Two Tupperware’s of lasagna, aluminum foil wrapped garlic bread, mixed bowl of fruits, a bottle of champagne with two flute glasses, and a thermos filled with hot chocolate. We both chuckle at the last item.
“Wow Noah, this- this is incredible,” she says, gesturing to the layout. I smiled at her and hand her, her lasagna serving.
“I can’t lie, Ava helped tremendously,” I chuckle. “She made the food too. But it was all my idea and vision.” She laughs shaking her head.
“You don’t even know how much this all means to me, Noah,” I begin to pour the glasses with champagne and hand one off to her.
“Happy first date, Haven Matthews. To you,” I say lifting the glass. I don’t wait for her to object or agree. I just look into her eyes, tap her glass with mine, and we both sip.
For the next hour we eat and talk. The conversation was light. We speak about the bar, Autumn, how Haven is in dire need of furniture. We finally reach the part of the night where conversation can’t continue circling about the main issues. I start it off.
“So, I was thinking,” Haven takes a grape from the fruit bowl, popping it into her mouth, but she looks at me curiously. “Thanksgiving is coming up and I want to formerly invite you to my family’s dinner.” Her eyebrows raise in shock. I move my hand over to hers. “I just know you don’t have anyone right now, besides me, and quite honestly the invitation was always there, but you deserve a choice to come or not. I’d love for you to meet my mom and grandparents. Is that alright, do you want to think about it?” I watched a smile form on her plump limps, her hands fiddle nervously together. She then shakes her head.
“No,” my heart sinks, but I don’t let it show on my face. The choice is hers after all and I want to respect her boundaries. “No... I don’t want to think about it, I’d love to be with you and your family. It’s a relief I don’t have to spend it alone.” I smile, shaking my head.
“You’re evil,” I say, smiling. She pops another grape into her mouth, shrugging her shoulders. I can see her confidence almost completely peeking through. What a sight to see. Nothing is better than seeing a woman being humble, yet confident with who they are. Especially if that woman has been dealt some terrible life cards.
When the comfortable silence falls around us, with nothing but the sound of crickets filling the air, I look at Haven, who is looking at me intensely. “You are so beautiful, Haven,” I say this, pushing some of her long locks behind her ear. She looks away, breaking our eye contact. Instead of allowing her to creep back into that shell of negativity, I bring my hand to her chin, bringing her eye contact back to me. “Don’t allow him anymore control. I don’t care how many terrible things you’ve been told. You are beautiful. Inside and out. You hear me? I see you Haven. From the moment I bumped into you, I’ve seen you. God be my witness; I will never allow anyone to make you feel less than who you are. Ever.” I keep my eyes on her and she doesn’t move. I can see each word playing back in her head. I’m glad. I want her to know what I see. To feel it.
“Ok,” she says softly. I lean in and kiss her forehead. I scoot closer to her and we’re both looking out at the water. “Can I ask you something?” I hear Haven ask. I look up at her, as I’m leaning on my elbow on one of the throw pillows. “Do you still love Olivia?” I take in a sharp breath. “Totally not a trick question, I’m just genuinely curious.” I smile at her attempt to redirect her intentions. I know what Haven meant though and how she meant it to come off. She isn’t the type to get mad over petty things. We understand that we’re both in an emotionally complicated situation. I look at the water, admiring the stillness of it.
“Yeah, a part of me will always love what we had. I love, and always will love a version of Olivia, the one that made me want to propose and want to settle down. I mean we were together for 7 years; I can’t erase that in 7/8 months. I think that’s why I went ballistic that day we saw her because I saw her physically and mentally, I felt like it was the woman who I planned to spend my life with, but she isn’t that same person.” I look up at Haven who is listening intently, she has no emotion on her face. Nothing to give away how my statement affects her.
“Why do you think she did it?” she asks, I look back to the still water.
“I’m not sure. My theory is that she got scared. Scared of committing to me. Even though we’d been together for so long, we were friends before that. She knew who I was, how I was. It was easy. Then my life got more serious, more responsibility, having to make adult decisions. She however, was still partying in college, having her fun. I never tried to stop her either, because I understood it was her time. I popped the question, she said yes, but things got more stressful. I don’t know, it could’ve been a number of things honestly.” Haven nodded, being receptive to all of the things I’ve said.
“Did you ever suspect them?” I knew Haven was now referring to Kyle. The anger boiled immediately just thinking of his name, but I suppressed it. Did I suspect them?
“No,” my brain is raking through my memories trying to see if I ever suspected the deception. I never have though. “We’ve had years of friendship before Olivia and me, so anything ‘suspicious’ was written off as a close friend group regularity, you know?” She nods and looks down at me, offering a small smile.
“Sorry for all of the interrogating, I guess I was just curious.” I sit up, making us almost eye-level.
“Don’t apologize, it’s good for me to talk about this. I honestly haven’t answered anyone’s questions about it, not even really with Ava. When it comes to my family, we all just rather look onward than dwell. However, being here with you, just talking, is helpful. A weight is being slowly chipped away off of my shoulders.” I take in a deep breath and look over at her. She has no idea, but she’s helping me heal in a way I never thought I could. I decide she deserves to know this. “Thank you.” Her eyes grow wide.
“For what? Interrogating you?” She laughs a small laugh, shaking her head in disbelief. “If anything, you deserve a ‘thank you’.”
“Well, you’re helping me as much as I’ve helped you. You just can’t see it as much with me,” I go over and grab the thermos. I open the cap and the hot chocolate is still hot. I grab the cap and pour some of the hot chocolate inside, passing it off to her. Haven takes in the scent and then sips it. I watch her intently. Her eyes flick up to me, making me feel warm. I enjoyed watching her being happy. It brings me comfort knowing she’s happy. She places the cap down and leans back on her back looking at the night sky. I join her. I don’t know anything about astrology, I just saw twinkling lights in the sky. “Do you know anything about the stars?” I ask her, curious of her knowledge. She shakes her head.
“Some. My dad did. We used to go camping in the back yard all the time. Like actual tents and a campfire,” I hear the joy in her voice reciting the memory. “We’d do it once a month and he’d tell me all about the constellations. Like you see that S looking one there. It’s kind of slanted and stretched out.” I follow where her finger is pointing. I actually did see it; it was not something I’d be able to notice on my own though. I tell her yeah and she continues pointing out a few others. I learned of Little Dipper, Capricornus, Lyra. I’m amazed at how much she could see and recall.
“How was he? Your dad I mean,” I glance over at her as she closes her eyes smiling.
“Amazing. He was so funny, always made me laugh,” she begins to laugh, “he always made life just fun. Whenever I didn’t want to do something, but was forced to, there was my Dad just giving his positive outlook on it. Like my mom insisted on making me dance ballet. I hated it. The tight buns, obnoxious little girls that were always speaking of Juilliard and they hadn’t even been to high school yet. My mom needed the best of the best in everything, especially with her daughter. So, there I am wasting every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday going to ballet practice. My dad couldn’t drop me off during the week, but on Saturdays we’d just bail. It was our day. We’d go to the movies, have lunch, go to the museum, literally anything we wanted. He just got it you know?”
I keep my eyes on her as she turns her head to me. I don’t want to say anything yet. I offer her a small smile, hearing that there was someone that made her happy warmed my heart. I can see a sadness appear in her eyes. “When he got sick, I was devastated. Not just because he was dying, but because I just knew I was going to hate living after that. I haven’t looked at the stars since not being with him.” Immediate guilt fills my chest.
“Oh Haven, I’m so sorry. We can go if you want,” I say starting to sit up. She grabs my arm and pulls me back to lay beside her. She shakes her head.
“No, no. I’m glad that I’m doing it with you because I’m finally happy Noah. I promised myself I wouldn’t taint this tradition while I was living a miserable life.” I turn to my side while Haven is tucked into my side.
I bring my hand to her face and begin tracing the side of it. My hand reaches the scar that is at her lip. I hate the thought of anyone having put harm on her. I continue to trace her face. Her skin is soft. Her eyes are closed, and I take the opportunity to bend down and kiss her supple lips. Gently. Our lips move together in unison. I never attempted to deepen the kiss before, but I decide to try. I lick the bottom of her lip and without hesitation she grants me access. Our tongues are now dancing together. I gently grab the nape of her neck and caress it. Her hands wrap about my neck, she rubs the back of my head where my hair ends. I feel goosebumps break out all over my back. I smile against her lips and open my eyes. Her eyes are still closed. She’s breathing deep and her eyes flutter open. Those amazing Hazel eyes. Her arms remain around me. We look at one another. I can feel her heartbeat against my chest. I kiss her lips once more and go back to caressing her face.
“So beautiful,” I whisper. She blushes at my words. Her hands reach up and touch my face. She grazes my stubble and travels up to my hair. It’s tilted to the side because of how I’m sitting. She goes back to my stubble and rubs it. She smiles.
“I like this,” she giggles.
“I like you,” I say to her. She shakes her head.
“Why?” Her question didn’t come off as if she was fishing for a compliment. There was a hint of sadness in her voice. I bring my hand to the side of her face and look her in the eyes.
“Why not?” She smiles and rolls her eyes. “Would you want to talk more about your marriage?” I look at her curiously. I want her to know I’m here. That she can speak about the hard things, it can free her from it. Give her closure or something. She doesn’t’ say anything right away. We just continue to look at one another, not directly eye contact but just at each other’s features. She takes a breath in.
“Well, anything that you want to say. It’s up to you. I just want you to know that I’m willing to listen, you don’t have to be weary of me hearing the details.” I stroke her hair behind her ear. The lights give her a golden hue against her face. “I just want to know more about you. The good and the bad.” She brings her hand to my face again and takes a deep breath. I can’t read what she’s thinking about. Her hand is smooth. I enjoy her being close to me. I love her scent. Being able to feel her chest rise and sink against mine. I smile down at her and we just lay like this for a few minutes. I hate to compare Haven to Olivia because to be quite honest, they don’t compare.
When I was with Olivia, she was so bubbly. Always commenting on anything she saw or felt. She was only timid when she was around unfamiliar people. She always stated what was on her mind. She came off shy, but the moment a conversation sparked her interest she was very vocal. Haven, on the other hand, was the opposite. Slow to speak. Very timid and fragile, but she had a strong character to her. Haven didn’t think her opinion always needed to be heard. She was gentle and observant. Everything about Olivia was different from Haven. If someone were to ask what my type was, I’d have to say girls in general. I’ve been with loud and vocal and now I’m with timid and observant. As I said before, Haven captured my attention because she is beautiful. Her caramel skin and jet black hair. Her sparkly hazel eyes. Her small frame. Everything about her just invited me to know her.
Her hand continued caressing my face, but eventually she dropped it and looked back up at the sky. I lay my head on her shoulder and circled my thumb on her shoulder.
“Did you know, I’m Spaniard and Italian?” Her soft voice broke the silence. I smiled at the little fact.
“Mm a woman from overseas. How’d I get so lucky to find you,” I glance up at her and smile even though she didn’t look at me.
“I’ve never been though, to either countries,” I stay looking at her and she looks over to me. “And I don’t know why that was something I wanted you to know about me,” she chuckled and brought her hand to her face, baffled by her words. I shake my head, keeping the warm smile on my face and I bring her hand down.
“We have to make a visit then, right?” She looks at me stunned by my response. Instead of her responding with anything, her hand snakes up behind my neck and pulls me back down as our lips meet. We stay that way for another couple of minutes and stay laying by the water for another hour. We finally decide to end the night and pack up all of the lights and the blankets. We head back to her house. She mentions in the truck if I could spend the night; I couldn’t turn her down. I didn’t even want to. I happily accept her offer.
We get to her house and I follow her lead inside. She goes up the spiral steps and I follow. The lights are dim, she was right about needing furniture because she had no bed frame, but I don’t mind. I go to it, kicking off my shoes, taking off my shirt and pants, being only in my boxers. She strips as well and throws on my button up that I wore. We climb into the bed and she immediately melts in my side. I don’t try to make a move and neither does she. It’s the comfort that we’re both seeking right now. The comfort of just having one another. We just lay side by side cuddling. I rub her back and breath in her scent. A nice, sweet scent.
She breathes a steady breath. Her hand finds my stubble, a gesture that I have come to love tonight. Her fingers rub and scratch softly and her eyes flutter closed. She looks so at peace. I smile against her hand and kiss her palm, then her forehead. Soon the scratching stops as her hand falls down to her arm. Her breath is consistent, and I know she’s now sound asleep. Soon after, I feel my body relax entirely as my senses continue to take in Haven.
This is the most comfort I’ve felt in a long time.