Saturday, May 8, 2010

These Arms Are Open All Night

These Arms Are Open All Night

The din in the small, run down bar had quieted as the hands on the clock, that hung over the front door, made their way toward the early a.m. She half listened to the three men in the corner that played something that resembled music, that resemblance getting more slight as they downed their payment for the evening. Her eyes moved from the glass of white wine sitting in front of her to the bar, where a handful of men sat, along with one couple. The couple, looking a bit rough around the edges, stood, had a quick word with the bartender and waved as they made their exit, their boot heels making a muffled sound on the well worn wooden floor. She heard the sound of a motorcycle engine revving and driving off into the distance. Her eyes continued to scan the bar, a few tables and booths completing the seating arrangement. One table held a few women, older in their years, but no less rough looking than most of the men in the joint. An elderly gentleman leaned against the wall at a small table, close to the band, his eyes closed, having nodded off. Her eyes paused on him, wondering how anyone could fall asleep with that terrible noise in his ear. But then perhaps it was more accurate to think he had passed out, by looking at the now empty bottle of cheap whiskey that sat by an empty glass on his table. She brought her eyes back around again, a slight movement in one booth caused her eyes to pause. A man sat alone in the booth, his back towards her, nursing his own glass of white wine. She had to smile to herself as she wondered what kind of man came to a bar like this to drink white wine. His form, from what she could see, was dressed well, but casually. Blond hair worn a bit long, curled out slightly from under his cowboy hat. She couldn't see his face, but her eyes traveled to a snug black t-shirt, straining against well formed biceps, topping a pair of blue jeans that were frayed on the bottom and faded in the right places. Black worn boots on his feet that crossed at the ankle as his full height stretched out in the booth. Her eyes were caught on him for a moment, unable to move away. He ran a well manicured finger up and down the stem of the glass, then lifted it to his lips, taking a sip and slowly putting the glass back down. He somehow seemed to fit, yet seemed out of place. The uniform certainly went with the atmosphere, yet there was something about him that was just a bit different. It was obvious that life had not been nearly as rough on him as it had most of the patrons in the dark, dingy, joint.

Deciding she had to use the ladies room, Isabella left the booth and made her way to the back corner to the restrooms. It was unclear which room was which, the paint having faded from the doors many years before. She picked the cleaner of the two, each contained a toilet and sink. After doing her business, she attempted to apply lipstick, trying to see in the chipped old mirror hanging over the sink. Why, she didn't know. It has been a while since she had felt like bothering with her appearance. The reason why still very fresh and raw for her. She made her way back to her table, noticing the booth the man previously occupied, was now empty. Just as she turned her head to scan the room, she saw the same black t-shirt and snug blue jeans approaching, holding a glass of wine in each hand.

A slightly gravely voice ask, "May I join you?"

Bella looked up and, even though his face was shaded by the brim of the hat, and the darkness of the room, her eyes locked with a pair of the bluest eyes she had every seen. Opening her mouth partially, not finding her voice right away, she motioned for him to sit down. He gave her a nod and sat down across the table from her. She noticed he wasn't as tall as his long, lean legs led her to believe when she had seen him sitting in the booth. She guessed maybe 5'9. He was more tight and compact, a very wiry, hard body, defined abs clear through the t-shirt.

"I took a guess at what you were drinking, hope you don't mind." he said, a slight smile on his full lips as he slid the full glass of wine across the table to her. "There was not much of a choice as far as brand, so we are stuck with the house wine."

"Oh, well, thank you." She managed to to find her voice finally. "That was what I was told, too." She said, smiling as she pulled the glass closer. She noticed his hands, his fingers loosely holding his own glass. His nails were trimmed and his hands looked as if they had never known a days work. She looked up, catching him looking at her. He reached across the table, offering his hand. "And you are?"

She took his hand in hers, giving it a slight shake. She noticed how soft his hand was. "Isabella. Bella." She raised her voice above the band, who was starting another song after finishing yet another round.

Distracted by the music for a moment, he looked over at them, then back to her. "Isabella." he said her name slowly, as if his tongue felt each sound "Are you from around here, Isabella? You don't look the type." He admitted as he took in her features, noticing her dark brown, shiny hair, brown eyes and full lips touched with a hint of color.

She chuckled, not the type, she thought to herself. Like you are, cowboy. "Uh, no. I am here...working." She said, pausing for a slow sip of wine, the stuff had a bite, she thought. Forgetting to even ask his name, she said, "I am just here for a little while. And you?" She inquired.

He slowly shook his head, "No. Same, actually. Working for a period of time, then I will move on." Feeling slightly warm and tipsy from the two glasses of bitter wine, he felt a bit more bold than he usually would. "Are you here with family?"

Caught off guard by his direct question, she quickly recovered, but not before he saw the slightly pained look pass over her face. "No. No family. Just me, and work."

He nodded, slightly sorry he had pried, as he could tell he clearly had. "I see. What line of work brings you here to this one horse town?" He asked.

She said, "I am here writing, um, about the area, the old mines, fading small towns like this. I write for magazines."

He nodded again, and flashed a bright smile. "That sounds very interesting." he said as he leaned forward toward her, closing the distance between them.

The music got louder as they band started trying to one up each other, singing loudly. The singer stepped back and stumbled, knocking over bottles of beer on a table next to him, and landing on the ground. They music stopped as the bar tender walked over. The singer tried to stand, but was unsuccessful until the bartender helped him up with one hand, and motioned for him to give him something. The man looked at him for a minute, and fished in his pocket, finally producing keys, and handed them over. All the noise caused the two at the table to pause their conversation and watch the commotion. As he turned to look at the ruckus, his leg brushed hers under the table, sending a jolt of electricity through her.

He must have felt it too, because he turned back around toward her sharply, locking his eyes with hers once again. The lights went on and the bartender announced last call, then headed over with a mop to clean up the beer.

Their gaze held for what could be considered a bit too long, when finally he spoke. "Well, looks like its closing time." still holding her gaze, he mentioned, "I got no place go."

Bella wiped her hands on the legs of her jeans, realizing they were feeling a bit clammy. "Not tired yet? No one waiting for you?" she said, slightly feeling the effects of the wine also. Feeling bold herself, she let herself continue to look at him. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks.

"No, I'm not tired. Nobody's waiting for me." He leaned forward even more, still looking into her eyes. "What about you? Looks like you're leaving alone."

She nodded.

"That makes two of us." He looked away for a moment, then back, extending his hand once more. "By the way, my name's....uh..Jones."

She took his hand once again, this time purposefully not letting go right away. "Nice to meet you....Jones."

Their hands finally separating, he said, "I know a place not far from here. That's my car, the red Chevy with all the dents, out front. You could follow me."

Just then the neon sign in the window by their table flickered and made a sizzling sound as it turned off.

"Its just up the road, maybe a mile. Smells better than this place." He said, pushing the hat back a bit on his head, revealing eyes so blue she felt she could get lost in them all night.

"You trying to pick me up?" She teased, a smirk on her lips.

"Depends." he said, challenging her gaze. He shook his head and laughed. "Actually I just thought maybe you would like talk. I don't sleep well, used to late nights I guess." He hoped he had not offended, but was not ready to let her slip away into the night just yet. He had seen that look on her face, and knew she was here alone, just like he was. More alone than he cared to even admit.

"Ah", She said, "How do I know I can trust you?" She half teased. She had a feeling she could trust him to the end of the earth and back, even though she knew not one thing about him.

Not in a teasing mood, but feeling the boldness from the wine, he said, "Look, I just thought, maybe, two people, clearly not with anyone, out in the middle of nowhere, we might pass some time, make a friend. Who knows."

The band members that could still stand were packing up the equipment. The last few customers were finishing their drinks and making their way to the door.

He reached for her hand again, she let him take it. He spoke. "The band is done, they are packing up. The singer, man, was he drunk. The lights on and we can't stay here. I can take a hint, find my way to the door."

He took her hand in both of his and leaned in towards her, holding her gaze with his own, "So what do you think? Are you going my way?" he asked, with a wink and a smirk. "There is still whole lot let of this night, Baby. What do ya say?"

She followed with a wink of her own, pulled her hands back and stood up, taking her purse. She gave him a smile and started towards the door. Not knowing what else to do, he stood up and followed her. Outside the hot, stale air did little to refresh them. She walked over to a small SUV, turned toward him and smiled. He smiled back and headed toward his car, still not exactly sure what she was going to do. But the slight nerves he felt all of a sudden caught him off guard. He started the car and turned on the headlights, slowly heading out of the dirt parking lot. God, he thought, only realizing now how lonely he had been for so long. He stopped at the stop sign and looked in the rear view mirror. He saw her car edge slowly out of the parking lot towards the street. She stopped at the street, for what seemed like an eternity. Then her car started forward and turned. He saw her headlights, realizing right then, that she was coming with him.

He waited until she was behind him, no one else out on the road. She could see his eyes in his rear view mirror. She looked back at him, her gaze not wavering. He finally looked forward again and drove.

True to his word, after about a mile, his car turned into the driveway of a small house. Bella slowed and turned, parking her car behind is. Feeling a mixture of nerves and anticipation, she silenced the engine. Jon walked back to her car and opened her door for her. She climbed out of the car and followed him to the side door of the small ranch style house.

They didn't speak, but he smiled at her before unlocking the door and leading her inside. The door opened into the kitchen. He turned on the light and asked her, "Can I get you something, a beverage, snack, anything?"

"Sure, what do you have? Something to drink would be great." She said.

He opened the fridge and took out a bottle of wine. "This might be a bit tastier than the offerings down at the local dive." He showed her the bottle. Not having a clue about wines in general, she only knew what she liked, she nodded.

He rummaged through a draw looking for a wine opener, then got two wine glasses out of the cabinet. He opened the bottle and poured a glass for each of them. After putting the wine back in the fridge he took the glasses and led her into the living room. The house was furnished simply, with basic furniture and pictures that could have hung in a hotel room. Nothing made the place personal. Jon handed her a glass once she was settled on the sofa and then sat on the other side of the sofa, his body turned towards her. He smiled at her, her returning the smile.

He held up his glass and said, "Cheers, here is to new friends." Liking his sentiment, she raised her glass to his, "Cheers, to new friends." She echoed.

Bella took a sip of the cool, sweet liquid. "Mmmm, very nice choice." She approved.

"I thought you might like this a little bit better." he agreed. They both sat back in silence for a moment, enjoying the quiet and the wine.

Jon took one more sip and spoke, "So Isabella, your a writer. And your here alone. Tell me if I am prying. But you interest me. Why would you come to a place like this to work, and alone? There isn't much going on in a place like this."

She let out a deep sigh, thinking for a minute. He wasn't really prying, but his question made her a bit uneasy. The emotions it brought up still managed to get to her at times.

"One word, really. Escape. I guess that is really it in a nutshell. I was trying to escape." She admitted.

Jon studied her intently, "And what might a beautiful lady like yourself have to escape from?"

Tempted to tell him he was prying, but thinking better of it, she decided to be honest."From my life. Or the remnants of my what my life was. Not sure how to fit the pieces back together, so I decided to run."

Realizing she was only scratching the surface of a whole lot of pain, he filled in some of the blanks for her. "Some jerk screwed up, didn't he?"

Amused by his simplified explanation of her life, she had to laugh. "Yes, that pretty much sums it up. I needed to escape and thought taking this assignment out in the middle of nowhere would somehow make it all disappear."

Jon nodded, understand way more than she knew.

"And you, Jones. What brings you here? Are you running away too?" She had a feeling he had his own share of demons he was running from.

Nodding again, he said, "In a matter of speaking, I guess I am. I am here on a short term assignment, maybe a few more months. I rented this place and am just laying low."

Thinking him a bit elusive, she asked a more pointed question, "What kind of assignment, what kind of work do you do?"

"Ok, well don't laugh. But I am just a small potatoes actor, working on the movie set here in town. Maybe you have heard of it." He admitted, looking rather embarrassed.

"Wow, yes. I have heard of it. It has been all the talk about town for a while now. Pretty exciting for this place."

"I can imagine. It is a very small budget film, though. Nothing impressive. But like you, I felt the need to get away and this seemed perfect. Leave it all behind me for a while."

"Now don't be so hard on yourself. I bet your very good. Everyone has to start somewhere." She consoled him.

Oh boy, thought Jon, she has NO clue who I am. None. How refreshing, he thought. Then he thought was she living under a rock to not know who he was. Stop it, you idiot. The world does not revolve around you and not every woman her age is after you. Bringing his thoughts back to the pretty girl sitting next to him, he said, "Thanks. I guess your right."

"Isabella." Jon said, liking the sound of her name on his tongue.

"Yes?" She answered, "You can call me Bella. I am not that formal." She looked around the room and spotted one item that may speak to the tenant of the house. An acoustic guitar case.

She pointed to it, "Do you play?"

The irony of her question was not lost on him. He smiled, "A little bit. It passes the time."

"Ah! Would you play something for me?" She begged. Since she was little she loved nothing more than the simply notes of an acoustic guitar and being sung to.

He shrugged, setting his wine down, "Sure." He crossed the room and opened the guitar case, bring the guitar back to the sofa and sat down next to her, strumming a few notes.

"Any requests?"

"Hmmm. Nope, you pick." She leaned back into the sofa, wine in hand, a content smile on her face.

Jon continued to strum while he thought about it. He wasn't going to play the obvious, so picked a song that he liked that just didn't make the cut for the last album He started singing as be picked out the melody on the guitar. Bella took notice of how good his voice was. There was something almost familiar about it, but she couldn't place it. She listened in silence until he finished the last bars of the song, then clapped softly.

"You are wonderful! Gosh, Jones, your very good. You could that for a living and do very well, I bet." Bella offered, enthusiastically.

Jon couldn't help but let out a hearty laugh, getting himself going so much he had tears streaming down his face. Not sure what was so funny, but feeling happy enough from the wine, she joined in with his laughter.

Finally coming up for air, he set the guitar aside and moved closer to her. "Sweet Bella, thank you so much. You are just a delight and your compliments make me feel so good."

He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, stood up and walked over to the CD player and radio. Turning it on he scanned for anything decent to listen to, something to just add to the night. Finally settling on an oldies station, he opened a window before sitting back on the sofa. They chatted about the town, sipped their wine and paid no attention to the fact that dawn was mere hours away. Jon refilled their glasses, and noticed a Sinatra tune come on the radio.

He walked over to her and held out his hand, "Would you do me the honor of dancing with me?"

Feeling happy and enjoying his company more than she had enjoyed anything in years, she said, "Well, yes, I would be so happy to dance with you." She stood up and attempted a polite curtsy. Laughing softly, Jon led her out into the middle of the floor. He gently put his arm around her waist and took her hand in his other. She made a very smooth dance partner, coming just to his chin in height. Bella paused to kick off her sandals and continued on barefoot, enjoying the music, the feeling of his arms around her and the slight breeze ruffling the curtains. The outside summer sounds mixed with the notes floating in the air. Feeling very content and down right tipsy after 4 glasses of wine that evening, she leaned into Jon as they swayed. A little shocked at herself for being so comfortable, yet not caring, she felt him tighten his arm around her waist pulling her in even closer. She breathed in his scent, feeling slightly drunk on it. The final notes of the song played and their swaying came to a stop. Bella did not pull away when they stopped dancing, but stood there in his arms, still, and lifted her eyes up to his. She found him looking down at her, a look on his face she was pretty sure any woman would die to have given to them. He looked at her for a moment longer as the notes of the next song started, but he stood still, leaned his head down towards hers. She knew what was going to happen, anticipated it even. Perhaps even hoped as they had been dancing. His lips gently brushed against hers. She responded in kind, he pressed his lips against hers, feeling hers slightly part. Taking her invitation he slipped his tongue in her warm, welcoming mouth. Their kiss deepened as she leaned into him more, returning his kiss, her tongue dancing with his. He put both arms around her, pulling her body against his, feeling the heat rise from her. Just as he pulled her closer, something snapped in Bella and she pulled back.

Sensing her hesitation, Jon loosened his hold on her. He pulled back from the kiss and looked down at her, "Bella, you ok?" He kissed her on the top of the head.

Not sure if it was the wine or the emotions kissing Jon had produced, but hot tears clouded her vision and spilled down her cheeks. "Aww, sweetie. Your not ok." he said. He brushed away the tears with this thumb and led her back to the sofa where he sat her down and put his arms around her in a hug. Realizing he wasn't pushing her in anyway, and just wanted to give her comfort, she let him hug her. She was useless to stop the tears at that point, anyway and was pretty sure he would think her the biggest sap or fool, or both. He gently rubbed her back as she shook from the silent sobs. Finally they lessened and the tears dried up. She let out a deep sigh and rested against his strong embrace. Finally feeling strong enough to face him, she sat back against the sofa.

He handed her a tissue and then got up to go into the kitchen. He came back with a glass of ice water for her. After blowing her nose and sipping the water, she felt more like herself again. "I am so sorry, Jones. Really. I am not sure what came over me."

He rubbed her back. "No need to apologize. I understand. You told me enough for me to understand that you are dealing with some stuff. I get it, Bella. No worries."

"Thank you. I really am enjoying your company and having fun. I haven't had this much fun in quite a long time. It is just NICE. Your a good guy, Jones." She said, "Just not sure what snapped there. I didn't mean to lead you on like that."

Jon stopped rubbing her back and took her chin in his hand, lifting her face gently, "Listen, Bella. There is no pressure here of any kind. I have no agenda. I am enjoying your company, too and simply expect nothing but this, just talking, maybe making a friend. I have been there, too. Believe me. Like you, I said I am semi running away as well. My baggage may be a bit older, but it isn't all that different. There are no expectations, Bella. I am just happy being here with you and getting to know you." He kissed her lightly on the lips continued to rub her back.

She gave him a small smile, thinking that she would be very happy to call him her friend. She let out a sigh. He smiled at her and said, "Come 'er." He pulled her into a hug and tucked her next to him, her head resting on his chest. Bella let herself relax into him as they sat there and listened to the music. She let his breathing sooth her and before she knew it she was drifting off. Jon watched her face as it relaxed into slumber. Her breathing deepened. As much as he would enjoy sitting there all night holding her, he knew he should get some sleep as well. He finally slowly eased out from under her. He put a pillow under her head and eased her legs up on the sofa, covering her with a light blanket. He looked at her for a few seconds and kissed her lightly on the temple, brushing aside the dark strands from her cheek. "Sweet dream, Bella." He whispered, and quietly walked into the bedroom that was just off the living room, leaving the door open slightly in case she needed anything. Not thinking, after a few glasses of wine, he stripped down to his normal sleeping attire, nothing, and climbed into bed, sleep claiming him almost instantly.