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It was several weeks later. He bent over Maria and kissed her softly on the lips. He didn’t wait long and kissed her again. It felt so nice. Warm and sharing. He wasn’t taking anything from her; sucking the life out of her. He was joining with her; whole, unburdened. She slowly opened her eyes to look at his face. The early morning light was filtering under the curtain. That’s what kissing really is, thought Maria. I don’t care if it was a dream. It was a good one.

“Do you remember the Jamiesons; the retired couple who came to live in Waldmeer a few years ago?” Maria’s mother asked her on the phone that morning.

“Yes, why?” said Maria.

“I’ve sent a parcel of your things with their son, Richard. He lives not far from you. He is an actor.” There were many actors in Maria’s area, along with writers, musicians, and artists. Gabriel and Charlie knew lots of them. There were healers too, although, Maria didn’t seem to cross paths with them.

Richard knocked on the door a few days later. Maria couldn’t remember Richard at all but when she saw him, she wondered why. A good looking man, about ten years older than Maria, well dressed in an edgy, actor sort of way, polite, and quietly confident. He was slightly shy which seemed to make him all the more attractive.

“I don’t think we have ever met,” he said holding out his hand. “Every time I go into your mother’s cafe, she always mentions you. I am on my way to get coffee. Would you like to come?”

“Sure,” said Maria. “I’ll get my coat. I need a walk.”

Maria didn’t date. Men sometimes asked her but she didn’t take it up. Although she understood how the dating arrangement worked for other people, she found the idea illogical for her own circumstances. Dates, as opposed to catching up with friends, assumed that one was available and interested in some sort of a connection ranging from casual sex to marriage and including everything in between. Firstly, Maria didn’t feel single. She didn’t feel alone and so the idea of searching for some person to fill a space didn’t make sense to her. Secondly, she could read most people very quickly. The thought of dating a stranger in an awkward, draining, and undetermined situation to find out what sort of person they were, even though it was usually already obvious, made Maria cringe.

Maria and Richard walked to the local cafe which was buzzing with life. They liked each other straight away and found they had lots to talk about. After that, they kept in regular contact. As much as Maria liked Richard and enjoyed his company, there was something about him that made her hesitant to get too close. He was not pushing anything. He was too confident for that. He didn’t need to ask women for anything. They would usually make their intentions more than clear to him.

That’s the problem right there, thought Maria. I don’t want someone to kiss me, like the man in my dream, and then be thinking about kissing someone else in a year or six months or six seconds. It was a compliment to have Richard’s attention, especially as Maria was younger than him and he was much more experienced in almost everything, but a compliment is not enough. It has to feel right. Actually, it has to feel necessary.

It wasn’t long before Richard started talking about a new friend he had. Something in his voice told Maria that this relationship was important to him and was already starting to change him as real relationships do. Richard said that he would like Maria to meet his new girlfriend. He, also, said that Maria was the only person he had mentioned it to. Why won’t he discuss his new relationship with any of his friends and introduce her? thought Maria. He is obviously falling in love with her.

When they all met at the cafe, Maria understood why. She was expecting a woman like Richard; mid to late thirties, good looking, vibrant, and confident. Richard walked in with his arm protectively around a woman who was probably fifteen years older than him. She looked good for her age but Richard looked fantastic and was many years younger. This was not Richard’s normal style. Maria was intrigued. The woman was lovely but, also, strong and independent. There was no doubt she mothered him but he didn’t seem to mind. Then they would switch. Richard sat her on his lap and kissed her forehead. She laughed and didn’t try to escape. He told her that she looked beautiful today. He was probably exaggerating but no one cared. She did not need to be told that she looked beautiful but she took it anyway.

The whole thing was delightful to watch as if they had unexpectedly come upon a valuable treasure. Maria felt happy for both of them. She will give him all the love he needs and her life experience will make her overlook many of his faults, thought Maria as she walked home. But if he starts wandering or lying, she will be on it; sharp and short. She will be reminding him that he is very free to walk out that door. It’s exactly the sort of approach Richard needs.

That evening, Maria said to Amira, “Am I on the right track to think the way I do or am I missing the boat?”

“Don’t worry about that,” said Amira. “It is not for you to decide who you will love and trust. Love those who come into your life. Love them for as long as they wish to be there. And then still love them even if they are no longer there. You cannot run out of love or give too much away. You don’t have to decide or arrange anything. Your happiness is already assured.”

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