Beyond the Ocean's Depths (Not an Average Shifter Romance)

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Chapter 40: Dinner-wear and Diamonds


My alarm clock went off at 5:30 a.m. as usual, and the sun was just coming up. Normally, I hit the snooze for another fifteen minutes, then get up to exercise, but something was nagging at the back of my groggy mind. Something important was supposed to be happening today. A meeting? Something with the animals? A doctor’s appointment?

Then I remembered - tonight was my dinner ‘date’ with Torin! I shut off the alarm completely, suddenly awake, and crawled out of bed. Pulling on my running pants and a large t-shirt, I went to the bathroom, splashing my face and wetting down my immensely unruly hair. Tuesdays were my run days.

I don’t know why I was so... what was it: Nervous? Excited? Anxious? All of the above?! Whatever it was, it was a fluttering knot in my stomach and made my concentration off while trying to get my gear together before heading out for my run.

“Tobie, this is only dinner!” I kept telling myself, then sabotaging my own cajoling by adding, “Only dinner with the extremely hot Torin Waters, who just so happens to like-like you!”

Oh jeez, I was starting to sound like a teenager! That’s what I get for hanging out with my thirteen-year-old all the time! To be honest, Torin Waters and our upcoming dinner had been at the forefront of my mind since our drugstore interchange. And it wasn’t like I could escape reminders of him throughout the day - whenever I happened upon his mother and daughter at work, he clearly came to mind.

I turned my music app on, putting my phone in my armband and my Wi-Fi earbuds in my ears. Stepping off my front porch, I got to the sidewalk and hooked a right, starting a brisk walk to warm-up. Surely, the peppy electronica music would distract me until I reached the boardwalk about a half mile up the way!

Not quite, for a part of me was definitely a bit on the anxious side, not having seen nor spoken to Torin himself since Sunday when we’d agreed to have dinner. He did have a reputation for blowing hot then cold, and even though he’d gotten a lot off his chest in only a matter of minutes at the drugstore, would he still be okay with this? Maybe I should have Anne text Rainie to see how her dad was feeling about things?

No, that wouldn’t work... I had already pleaded the fifth about this being a ‘date’ when I told Anne that she’d be going to Rainie’s for dinner tonight and that Torin and I were eating out. And if Anne knew I was nervous, then she’d really have reason to believe it wasn’t just acquaintances going out to talk about whatever it was we’d talk about. What were we going to talk about?!

Back to Anne - I had no desire to get her hopes up about me dating a guy just yet. She was too excited about that prospect anyways, and I knew that disappointment on my end would also spell disappointment on her end.

Finally, arriving at the boardwalk, which extended several miles along the gorgeous beach, I began my jog. I usually walked-ran for a half mile down the boardwalk, then turned around, doing the same thing until reaching the last quarter mile before home, walking slower the rest of the way for my cool-down.

I hated running! But determined to get fit again, I spaced out run-days between my High-Intensity Interval Training days which I usually did in the family room where Anne would generally try to join me, though she wasn’t nearly as excited about it as I tried to be. On Saturday mornings, I would do yoga or something light on our rooftop observatory, the sunrise making for the perfect enhancement to the meditative exercise. Unless it was rainy, then I would take it indoors.

As I ran, my mind wandered dangerously towards the what-ifs; a place they hadn’t roamed seriously in years. What if there could be something more with Torin? What would it be like to date someone as a single mother? The whole idea just seemed so awkward! Was I really ready to date? I didn’t even know what it was like to date anymore! And what would happen if things didn’t end well. How would that affect Anne? Would she forever be in bad relationships because of her mother’s failed relationships? Not that she had experienced too many of those as my daughter, what with only her father and a future, very what-if relationship with possibly Torin to talk about!

These thoughts tumbled in tandem with more positive what-ifs and ramblings. Was I really that interested in Torin? Physically, I was beyond attracted to him, guiltily having imagined what it would be like to kiss him at one point this week, but quickly stuffing the heated imagining away before I made more out of it than it was. But what if things did work out with him? I thought I understood his problems to the extent that I could let him make amends, but even if I could forgive him for his shortcomings, was he the type of man I wanted in my life? In Anne’s life? At least I knew I liked his family - that always said a lot about a person.

God, I hadn’t dated or done anything with a man in EIGHT whole years! That was only two years away from a decade! I was beginning to panic. Could I do this? “Tobie, this is NOT a date!” I screamed inside my head yet again, figuratively slapping the internal hysterics out of my system.

At this point in my pre-crisis moment, I finally noticed where I was at. With my mind far from running, I’d surprisingly made it all the way to my turn-around point without walking! I’d never done that before! Granted, I was breathing pretty hard, but I huffed out a proud laugh as I slowed down and turned around, taking up my brisk walking again and clasping my arms over my head to ease my breathing.

Upon reaching the house again, my mind felt a tad bit clearer, having resigned myself to the fact that I had no idea what to expect out of whatever it was or could be between Torin and I, and the realization that suffering over what-ifs would probably make me gain back the inch around my middle that I’d lost recently.

When I reached the master bedroom, I stopped short. Anne was standing in the doorway of my small walk-in closet in her purple pajamas and bare feet. As soon as she’d hit preteen-hood, she’d never gotten up early on her own, and at first, I thought something must be wrong.

“You’re up?! What’s going on, sweetheart?! Are you feeling okay?” Maybe a teeny tiny part of me was hoping that she was sick so I could make a break for it and cancel out on Torin before we got any further! What would be wrong with rounding it out to a full decade without getting any! “O-M-G, was I just thinking about sex! God, Tobie, get a grip!”

“Oh, hey Mom! Yeah, I’m good!” Anne said all perky-like. “I’m just helping you pick out what you should wear on your date tonight!” Then she gave me her best impression of a conspiratorial wink. As if she even knew what dating was all about! Pfft!

“Girly, how many times do I have to tell you that this is NOT a date. I’m just going to have an adult conversation with the man, so that we can take a break from our overbearing and overly giggly and excitable daughters for a change!” I tried to hide my smirk, feigning irritation, but I couldn’t and we both giggled together.

“Seriously, Anne, don’t read too much into this, promise me,” I said more seriously and pleadingly. “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I don’t want you to get your hopes up on something that might not work out. It’s too early to even say we’re dating, okay?”

Anne nodded seriously, and despite all her teasing in the past, she level-headedly replied, “Mom, I know things weren’t easy for you with Dad. And that you’ve done a lot to be there for me. And that’s why you haven’t put yourself out there since the divorce. And I know that things don’t always work out. But I’ll be there for you no matter if they do or don’t, okay?!”

God, where did I get this beautiful child?! I reached out to give her a hug, but she stepped back, “Nah-uh! You stink, Mom!”

I laughed, looking down at my sweaty self. “Alright, Miss Smarty Pants. I’ll go shower and you go get ready for the day. We’ve got to leave for the rehab in an hour, okay?”

Anne smiled back at me, “I’m still gonna pick out your outfit for your NOT-date, okay!?”

I just shook my head and headed for the bathroom. At least she had some fashion sense, and it wasn’t like I owned anything too inappropriate or distasteful for her to pick from anyways. After all, I hadn’t gotten laid in almost a decade!

}<<(((}> * <{)))>>{


Rainie and I had it all planned out. We were going to get our parents to match on their first date! We were sure that all our hard work had finally gotten them to go out on their own together, and we weren’t going to leave their clothes up to chance. Everything had to go just right!

Having already known our parents’ tastes and wardrobes relatively well, we’d picked dark blue as the color theme. While our parents were getting themselves ready for the day, we’d went about choosing the dark blue tops we thought they should wear. They were going to be sooo cute together!

I’d already mostly chosen Mom’s outfit by time she got home from her run, and only needed to pick out the shoes. I chose the little black soft leather flats she really liked because they were cute and comfortable and went with the dark blue and black blouse I’d picked out first. Mom didn’t do dresses or skirts, unless she absolutely had to, so it was a tossup between black slacks or her dark black jeans.

How fancy was Rainie going for her dad? We had texted each other a couple more times, opting for jeans for both of them since they were going for hamburgers, not a fancy dinner. I had it all laid out on the chair by Mom’s bed not long after I heard her get into the shower and raced upstairs to start getting ready for the day.

But first, I had to check on something. With a smile still on my face, I quietly pulled down the rope to the ceiling attic door, bringing the ladder down so that I could make my way up. I brought my flashlight with me since I didn’t want to turn on the overhead light. Pirates didn’t have electricity, after all. I guess they didn’t have flashlights either, but I could always pretend that the flashlight was a lantern.

Tucked away in my great grandpa’s old chest, which happened to look a lot like a pirate chest, lay my very own bit of treasure, and I just wanted to take a peek at it. I had to be sure no other pirate had gotten to it!

Lifting the heavy lid of the worn chest, I shined the flashlight inside. It was full of old clothes. Special stuff that my great grandparents had and a few things my grandparents up in Cincinnati had given to Mom when they downsized. Mom’s baby shoes were somewhere in there, too, along with her wedding dress, which she’d only kept because it belonged to her mother, and I guessed she would give it to me someday. Though I was never sure how lucky that would be, since the marriage didn’t last. Maybe if she got married again and got a new dress, I could inherit that one!

But back to my own treasure… Under Great Grandpa Harold’s old hat was my old leather purse that I used to play pretend with when I was little. While that was special to me, that’s not what I was looking for.

Grabbing the purse, I unzipped the top and shone the flashlight inside. Twinkling back at me from inside a velvety pouch, in multicolored sparkles, were about a hundred tiny diamonds! Or at least that’s what Kyle and Rainie said they looked like, and I agreed.

Each of us had chosen what part of the pirate treasure in the rehab’s workshop would be our very own booty to keep for the remainder of the summer. I had selected the diamonds! Kyle had taken a bagful of the gold doubloons, while Rainie had selected only a few pieces of very old-looking gold jewelry, one piece even had a fancy-looking dolphin engraved on it.

Originally, we were going to move the entire treasure, but we couldn’t figure out how to get it out without someone seeing it. It wasn’t like we had our own cars to drive it away in. So, most of the doubloons were still in the treasure chest in the hole of the workshop’s floor. In only a few short weeks, we’d all return our loot to the workshop and report it to the adults.

Smiling back at the shiny treasure, I closed up the pouch and zipped up the purse before putting it back under Great Grandpa’s hat and closing the chest again. I really felt like a pirate, having a secret stash of treasure! Not even Rainie or Kyle knew where I hid my treasure! Technically, I wasn’t supposed to know where they hid theirs either. But we’d all drawn maps marking where our treasure was, and when Rainie showed me hers, I easily figured out that she’d put it in the hole in the big oak tree in her backyard, since her map clearly showed a big “X” over the black circle on the trunk of a tree behind the drawing of a house. She’d told me before that she used to hide all kinds of things in that hole, so I guessed right away.

Kyle’s was a bit harder to figure out, but I knew it was somewhere in his house.

Neither of the other two could figure out my map, and I was very proud about that! Being an artist and all, I decided to make mine more like a real treasure map. So my house was an island and different landmarks represented different things in my house. The big hill, for example, was the staircase leading upstairs, and the attic was a cave.

Kyle said that I cheated, but since we hadn’t made up any rules about our maps, I won fair and square. And since I knew less about pirates than either of them, I really felt good about myself.

I closed the attic up just as I heard Mom shut off the water in the shower and I rushed back to my room to get dressed. I was super excited about today! Treasure first thing, getting to go spend the evening with Rainie and Rhonda, and Mom and Torin going on their first date! “Eeee!!!”

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