Coffee & Naughty Thoughts

Author Linda Bolton - Writer, Blogger

Month: July 2011

Dating After 40

I have been asked a few times recently if I thought dating later in life was any different that in our teens/twenty-somethings? I asked a few friends and this is what I came up with.

Basically, even though we are older, dating is the same.  The major difference is baggage. The baggage each person brings to a new relationship.

Baggage, you ask? What about being more upfront with our intentions? What about honestly and less fear at stating true desires? Ok, I’ll give you that. Some are experiencing that, however, its our baggage that has brought us to that point. The totes, duffle bags and trunks from past relationships.

By baggage I mean the hurt feelings, guilt and poor self-image. The trunks full of Dickens’ ghosts from Christmas’ past.  I’ve seen new relationships start and end quickly due to misunderstandings brought on by a memory from a bad past. I’ve seen relationships stall due to a fear that they will go bad. I’ve seen some sabotaged a great friendship because of wrong expectations. That trunk that is dragged from relationship to relationship, only opened to add more to it, not clean it out.

How is a relationship to blossom if baggage is in the way? Let’s go back to honesty.  Sharing your baggage with close trusted friends is a start. Having them help you work through your fears.  Deciding from the start that a repeat of the past relationship isn’t an option.  Patience on the part of both parties is the only way a relationship can flourish.  I think we all agree that life is short and we shouldn’t let great people slip though our fingers.  How we can keep them close, despite our baggage, is the challenge.  Losing our fear of opening those trunks and letting the ghosts out is the greatest challenge but provides the greatest reward.

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Perfect Chapter 3

Chapter 3
Derek’s career had moved fast. He had loved acting as a child but when it was time for college the performing arts was out of the question.  It wasn’t the kind of career a gentleman chose.  Besides, what opportunities were there in Scotland? None. His mother,Gillian, a traditional proud Scot, insisted he pick a respectable profession, so Derek chose law.  He made honor roll in high school and excelled at debate, becoming a solicitor seemed the perfect choice. 
Gillian wasn’t well-to-do; average middle class better described her upbringing.  Her father had been a welder and her mother a housewife.  Gillian had married young to a fisherman, had three children and then was left to care for them on her own.  She had been a good cook and worked in restaurants as a chef while Derek, his older brother Carl and his older sister Fiona were growing up.  Once the children had all left the nest Gillian opened a bakery of her own in Inverness in the Highlands.  She was self-sufficient and enjoyed her new found freedom. 
Law school didn’t agree with Derek, or one might say he didn’t agree with Law school.  He didn’t agree with the early hours, endless chapters of homework or lugging around the heavy books.  But Derek loved his mother and decided he would make her proud.  He worked hard and was unparalleled in his studies.  He had honors and was president of the Law Society.  At first glance you couldn’t tell Derek’s passion wasn’t law.  
Upon closer inspection it was apparent that Derek would not become a lawyer.  Many nights were spent at the local pub, drinking and singing with the band and barely getting home before dawn. Derek enjoyed liquor in any form. Along with the liquor were the many women in his life.  He was with no one in particular, the more variety the better.  The women knew there were others and they didn’t care.  To be on Derek’s arm, even just for one night was a privilege in its self. He was popular, dashing and so irresistible. He oozed charm and finesse; he had a gift for saying the right thing and sounding like he meant it.  It was powerful stuff and Derek knew how to use it.
His last year of school Derek finally came to the realization that law was not going to fulfill him.  All the women were not going to fill the void.  The most difficult task was to tell his mother. What would he say and how would she react? She had always been so supportive of Derek as he grew up.  She really loved telling her friends her son was going to be a lawyer.  Worse still was to tell her what career he really wanted…acting.  He had to have a plan. 
Derek decided after graduation and his internship he would give Gillian the bad news.  Fate had a plan of her own.  Derek headed to London to his internship to find the office abandoned.  The company had had a run in with the police and decided to close its doors and sneak out of town.  Derek saw this as a great way to end his law career.  The celebration ended two weeks later in an alley between a dumpster and an abandoned crate.  Derek couldn’t remember how he got there or who he had been with.  He’d lost his wallet, his keys and his underwear.  His head felt like it had cracked opened and his brains would spill onto the pavement.  He knew he couldn’t go home like this.  So Derek called a friend.
Craig had been Derek’s buddy since childhood.  Tall, lanky and with a gift of gab, Craig was very creative. His parents were artists and encouraged him to pursue screenwriting. They’d grown up together and had few secrets from each other.  Craig had moved to London just after high school.  His dream had been to be a playwright.  Craig had acted in plays with Derek in grammar school and had written plays for Derek in high school.  Craig’s parents had been products of the 60’s and felt his “free spirit” needed to soar. He worked hard in London trying to sell his plays to the theater but he was an unknown and no one was interested.  So Craig worked backstage at the playhouse part time and at the local TV station the rest of the time.  At the theater Craig worked on sets and lighting. At the TV station he learned how to use the cameras and  teleprompter.  In his spare time, what little there was, Craig still wrote plays. 
Craig had a small flat but willingly shared it with Derek while he figured out his next move.  Derek’s first step was to visit the playhouse.  The producer quietly listened to Derek’s plea to hire him…to do anything at the theater.  The producer was in the early stages of a new play and was in need of a good supporting actor.  He let Derek read, expecting failure and disappointment. To his amazement Derek was good. Really good. Derek had a job! He was an actor! Now to tell his mother….
Derek’s mother knew about his carousing ways and he figured she would blame that on him losing his prospective law career.  Derek also knew if he was to take this new vocation serious, and Gillian was to accept it, he needed her to know how important this was to him.  Derek quit drinking cold turkey, started going to bed by midnight and stopped having casual sex with every woman that flirted with him. His new career needed to take precedence.  
After landing the supporting roll in the current play at the London Playhouse, Derek journeyed home to give his news to Gillian.  He arrived home in time for dinner.  The aroma of lamb and potatoes filled his senses, reminding him of his childhood. He felt more and more like a youth coming to tell his mom about the school yard brawl he was suspended for.  
“Mom, I have some important news for you”, he announced in a voice quieter than he planned.
“Derek, what’s wrong.  You look like you’ve eaten something sour.  Are you feeling ill?,” Gillian questioned using her best concerned parent look.
“Mom, please, sit down.”
Gillian moved to the sofa and sat down.  
“Derek, your worrying me.  What’s wrong?”
“Mom, I have quit law.  Before you say anything, you knew I had no passion for it.  It didn’t suit me.”
Gillian started to interrupt.  She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  Her son the lawyer…what was going to come of him? As her mind reeled she heard him say something about not drinking and a play? Was she hearing things?
“Mom, I want to be an actor.  I have a job.  I’m in a play at the London Playhouse.  I’m staying with Craig.  I no longer drink.  Please don’t be mad at me.  I really want this. Its very important to me.  Please let me prove it to you”, Derek pleaded.  He was in agony as he waited for Gillian to say something.
Gillian focused, hanging on his every word.   She watched his face as he desperately tried to convince her of his good intentions.  She knew her son had the ability to succeed at anything he set his mind to.  She recognized the steel determination in his voice despite his fear of disappointing her. She took a deep breath. 
“Ok.  I hear you.  I’m not saying I agree, yet, but I will support you and stand by you.”
Derek gave his mother a huge bear hug.  He felt the weight of the world fall from his shoulders.  That night he had the first peaceful sleep in years; no nightmares of failures to come, just tranquil, undisturbed slumber.
Derek did well in the theater.  His first role as supporting actor garnered praise from the theatrical community.  His next three roles were leads and proved he was talented and convincing in each character he played. 
During his role as lead in “Tartuffe” an American producer expressed interest in Derek coming to the States to be in his movie. Derek accepted the challenge and moved to Hollywood.  Gillian was proud of her son’s accomplishments and made him promise to visit her often. His first film was nominal but the reviews were outstanding.  Derek’s confidence grew. His next film garnered accolades from his peers. He was now able to pick and choose his roles, and most were high dollar flicks.  Derek’s passion became an obsession.  He was a dedicated professional.  Other actors rallied to work with him. He was in demand and that was important in Hollywood.  Derek realized as he went from film to film that his popularity was fleeting.  Anytime he could fall off the pedestal and go back to obscurity.  
Derek’s stunning good looks during college only intensified as he aged.  By forty Derek was considered one of the best looking men in Hollywood.  With experience he learned not to take himself so serious and played practical jokes on set. Crews and actors enjoyed working with him.  He made everyone feel at ease. Gossip rags speculated on his love life.  He was a relentless flirt but Derek kept his affairs discreet. By the time the paparazzi suspected a romance it was over or they guessed wrong all together. 
Derek’s career was in the fast lane but his love life was lousy.  He tried dating actresses but their careers pulled them to opposite sides of the globe.  Never spending time with each other didn’t help their relationship.  He tried dating women out of the entertainment industries but they didn’t like his long hours and all the travel.  So Derek stopped dating altogether.  He let the gossip magazines and TV shows believe there were multitudes of women flowing in and out of his life, keeping the reputation of a womanizer.  Fans loved speculating who his next date would be so he gave them things to speculate about.  In truth, Derek was so busy with his career, acting in lead roles, directing and producing, there was little time to fit dating in.
Derek and Alex sat at a table in the far corner away from the windows of the deli.  They ordered dinner and talked about Dallas.  Derek was curious what Alex did for a living, was she married and why she watched so many movies. 
Alex laughed, “Because I have a boring life.”
Derek replied, “I doubt that.  You said you’re married and have a daughter.  That must keep you busy?”
“Oh please.  My husband works a lot and my daughter is in school and isn’t home much.  I have a question for you.”
Derek looked wary, “Ok, shoot!” 
“You were in an interview a while ago and the interviewer asked if you had ever written a love letter. You said yes. Who was she?”  Alex remembered that faraway look in his eye in that interview.  She wanted to know who stole his heart.
“Oh, that was a long time ago.  Back in college.  She’s married now.  Why?”  Derek had that same faraway look Alex remembered from the interview.
“Because its obvious you really loved her.  And with all the women you have been associated with I’m curious who could have actually had a hold on your heart.” 
Derek was very somber, “Yeah well.” Then the wall went up and the jokes started. “She had a big black mole on her nose and it just wasn’t going to work! Hahaha!”  The mood had totally changed.
Alex tried to go back, “You’ve dated many women. What’s your dream woman?”
“Dream woman? Hmmmm…You first, what’s your dream man? Your husband? He must fit the bill? You’ve been married a long time.” Derek was enjoying this question much better. 
Alex was pensive. 
“My dream man.  Physically – dark hair, light eyes, 5 o’clock shadow or a thin beard, tall – over 6 foot, complicated – not easy to figure out – I like a bit of a challenge, a sense of humor – in general and about himself, and, no, this does not describe my husband.”
Derek was deep in thought.  Suddenly he snapped out of it. 
“Hey, that’s me! No fair!”  He was roaring with laughter.  
“It’s fair.  You asked!”
“But you really don’t know me.”  Derek was still laughing but didn’t like to be on a pedestal. He knew he had a lot of faults that Alex didn’t know.  
“You just said I described you.  So obviously I know you better than you expected.”  Alex was tickled she was making Derek squirm a bit. “Your turn.” 
Derek thought about what he truly wanted in a mate.
“She’d have to be patient and spontaneous, passionate and creative, and be able to deal with all the quirky parts of my personality.  She’d be no taller than 5’8”, probably have dark hair and eyes that reflect her soul.   She’d have to enjoy the outdoors and be physically active”, Derek had a mischievous look in his eyes.   
“How old should she be?”
“Does it matter? As long as she meets the other criteria?”
“Well,”  Alex knew Derek was missing one small detail.  “You told a reporter in an interview that you still wanted the wife, children and a white picket fence.  You’re not getting any younger, no offense, and your wife would need to be probably twenty-five to thirty-five if you want children.”
Derek hadn’t been thinking along those lines.  “I think twenty-five is too young for me.  At least the ones I have met so far. Why not over thirty-five?”
“Most women prefer not to have children in their forties. You could always adopt.  Have you thought about how soon you’ll want to have children?”  Alex was enjoying this. She really had Derek thinking.  He had been spending most of his time enjoying himself and working.  A family had not been on his mind.
“I’m not ready for any right now! Maybe five or ten years…”
“Derek, you’ll be 50.  You’re children won’t be going to college until your 70.  You’ll be one of the oldest dads at graduation.  I know your career is paramount right now but you need to prioritize.  You could marry a woman with adult children and just go right into being a granddad…”  Alex could see the visions going through Derek’s mind.  She couldn’t help but smile at his expression.
“Ok, you bring up some good points.  I’ll have to rethink things some. Damn! You’ve messed up my impulsiveness! Woman! Ugh!”  Derek was frustrated.  He loved being spur of the moment.  He also knew his mom wanted him to settle down.  He just wasn’t ready.
“Quit worrying! It was a fantasy remember?  Not real life. Geez, calm down!”  Alex liked seeing Derek off his game.  In interviews he always seemed to have the upper hand, always in control.
“What about her career?  Actor or in the entertainment business?”
“No, I don’t think so.  We would always be going in different directions?”  Derek suddenly grinned his famous crooked smile, “Now that you’ve stressed me, we need to go have some fun! Come on!”
Derek got up, grabbed Alex’s hand and dragged her out of the deli.  The car careened up 2nd Avenue to a pub Derek frequented when he was in New York.  The pub was a place he could be himself. It was crowded, smoky and loud.  There was a band playing and they all waved at Derek as he and Alex passed to a table.
They ordered sodas and when the band went on break they came to sit with Derek and Alex.  Derek had known the guys since he bought his apartment in New York. He even sang a couple songs on the next set with the band.  Alex couldn’t believe how much fun she was having.
After a couple of rowdy hours at the pub, Derek offered to take Alex back to her hotel.  She had enjoyed her dream evening, spending time with Derek Dunbar as himself, no pretense, no cameras.  As they neared her hotel she felt reality creeping in.  She was just an ordinary woman and he was extraordinary, out of her league.  At least she had the memory of this day. 
Derek pulled up to the front of the hotel. 
“Would you like to come up?”, Alex couldn’t believe she had said that!  That was her, right?  What was she thinking?  Oh, he could just walk her to her door, harmless.  She wasn’t his type anyway.  
Derek gave her a warm, sweet smile and told her he would.  Alex’s mind reeled.  She knew he wouldn’t try anything; he’d been a gentleman all night. 
Derek followed her into her forty-fourth floor room.  It was simple but clean and understated.  It was one of the nicest hotel rooms she’d ever stayed in. Alex didn’t travel much.
“Water? Its all I have”, Alex offered.  In her head she thought, That was awful.  I’m sure he can’t wait to leave.
Derek looked around.  Then he looked at Alex.  There was something about her. Something he was drawn to.  She had her back to him when she offered the water.  He advanced to within inches of her.  In her ear he spoke in a quiet heavy Scots accent.
“No, that’s not all you have.”
Alex’s heart quickened.  She felt every inch of her was radiating heat.  Was she lightheaded?
Derek touched her shoulder and ever nerve in her body tingled. She was in physical pain.  There was a definite ache she had never felt before.  She turned to Derek and looked in his eyes.  They were giant, blue pools, so clear and inviting.  Alex could barely catch her breath.
“I…” Was all Alex could say.
“I don’t have a habit of seducing married women.  I’ll not ask you to do something you’re not wanting to do”, Derek’s brogue was thick and husky.   
Alex felt there was no air left in the room.  She had never considered cheating on her husband.  Josh wasn’t even on her mind.  She was having  a hard time focusing on not fainting.  
Derek leaned in toward Alex’s neck.  His breath was steamy and chills ran up her spine.  Alex was dizzy. She leaned toward Derek and his burning lips grazed hers. Electricity streaked through Alex’s every nerve ending.  She ached for him to touch her, to relieve her of the agony she was in.  Their kiss deepened. Alex became weaker and grabbed the front of Derek’s shirt.  She pulled him closer. Their bodies melded together. 
Derek touched every inch of Alex’s yearning body, with his hands, with his mouth.  Alex only wanted more. Alex responded to Derek as no other woman had.  Everything he did, every where he touched elicited a desire for wanting more.  Women had told him he was skilled but never such wanton abandonment.  Alex was totally uninhibited.  
Derek’s fingers were warm as he unbuttoned her blouse and caressed the valley between her breasts. Alex helped him off with his shirt, staring openly at his rippling abs and firm pecs.  They both slid out of their jeans simultaneously. Derek took no pause at removing Alex’s bra in one quick movement. His eyes roamed over her, liking what he surveyed. Alex was grateful of her workouts and the time she had been spending on her physique. Five years earlier she would’ve been terribly self-conscious.  
Derek’s hands and mouth explored Alex’s body. His touch caused excruciating desire that Alex had never experienced before. She ached for release. Alex’s responses to Derek fueled his need to consume her. Women responded to him but not like this.  He could feel her body heat rising as he stroked her skin. 
Alex gladly invited Derek between her legs.  As his member glided into her  Alex thought she would scream.  Finally, the ache was being quenched! Alex didn’t know if she moaned or screamed, she just knew when ecstasy came it was like no other.  Oh, she’d had orgasms before but this time she saw bright lights and swore she stopped breathing this time.  This was the pinnacle!
Derek couldn’t believe his response to Alex.  Never before had every nerve in his body been so heightened.  Every move he made triggered a tingle from head to toe. When Alex reached her orgasm she dug her nails into Derek’s back.  Derek in turn reached his peak and buried his face into Alex’s shoulder. Derek wasn’t sure when he started breathing again.  He looked up as she gasped for air and opened her eyes.  The two lay in silence, catching their breath, his shaft still resting inside her.
“Shit! What the bloody hell was that?”  Derek had a knack for stating the obvious.  He had never experienced anything like that before.
Alex could hardly speak.  “Don’t move.”
Derek’s legs were weak, “No problem.”
“That was unbelievable!”, Alex was finally able to say between breaths.
They both lay there, trying to catch their breath.  Alex looked up into Derek’s eyes and touch his cheek with her fingertips.  She felt like this was a dream.
Derek studied Alex’s face, memorizing every detail. 
“What?” Alex was becoming aroused again, realizing this moment was reality and she wanted to take advantage of every moment.  She wanted to make this the most remarkable memory. She squirmed under Derek.  Her hands exploring his neck and chest, lightly carving every detail.
“Alex, what are you doing?” Derek felt himself growing hard.
“Again?” Alex had a mischievous smile.
Derek obliged.  Both became sweaty and exhausted for a second time.   
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Perfect Chapter 2

Chapter 2
The Plano sun beat down mercilessly on Alex’s black Honda Civic.  Sweat trickled down her forehead. Inside the car it had to be 100 degrees; hard to believe the air conditioner was on. All it seemed to be doing was blowing hot air. By the time she got home there might be a cool breeze coming from the vent.  
The gym was Alex’s solace,but in the heat it was hard to feel refreshed after her workout. She had been overweight all her life, sometimes more so than others.  At forty-four Alex was wanting to look better than she ever had before. She didn’t want to reach mid-life and look like a frumpy mom.  So she hit the gym five times a week and it was starting to pay off.  Even her husband, Josh, of twenty-two years, was starting to notice. 
Alex had tried exercising at other times in her life but could never stick to a regime.  This time was different.  She was starting to feel the effects of aging, stiff knees, sore back, in bed early every night, and she wanted to ward it off as long as she could. The weight lifting and aerobic classes were paying off.  Not only had Alex lost 40 pounds but she had never felt more alive.  Josh noticed the changes in Alex and enjoyed watching her move in her new found body.  She was sexier now than she was when they got married.  She was thinner too. Alex was aware of Josh, as well as other men, noticing and it made her feel young and alive, motivating her to continue her routine. 
Alex attributed her commitment to fitness to Veronica Becker.  Veronica routinely had fitness gurus and “before and after” guests constantly motivated her. If they could do it, she could too.  Alex watched Veronica’s show every day to catch the latest fitness news and see which “unobtainable” guest she had snagged. Veronica also had great contests for her viewers.  She gave away designer clothing, appliances, trips to her show, as well as vacations.  
Josh was tall, blonde and a bit arrogant.  As a financial advisor for a large firm, he worked long hours and tried to pay attention to his wife when he was home.  He loved her and tried not to take her for granted, but Josh knew he had gotten the better end of the bargain when he married Alex.  The other men he worked with complained constantly about their wives, the nagging, inattention to their sexual needs and how much money they spent.  Josh was a blessed man and he knew it.  Alex worked an average paying job that appreciated her hard work, paid her handsomely for it, and that was their play money.  His check went for the bills and the necessities of raising a child.  Their daughter, Mattie, now twenty-one, took classes part-time at the local community college and worked part-time at the school computer lab.  Her expenses were low and Josh knew it would be no time before she would be moving out on her own.  He knew he had the ideal family and tried very hard not to assume it was by happenstance.  
Josh and Alex had endured some rough times too, mostly over the raising of their daughter.  Alex was too tough, Josh too lenient.  Then they would swap.  It kept Mattie on her toes, never knowing which parent might be on her side.  Sometimes backing each other up caused more arguments once Mattie left the room.  When she started college, life around the house had become less chaotic.  Mattie became absorbed with school and work and was home less and less, giving Alex more time for herself.  Alex had let her appearance go over the years, concentrating on rearing Mattie.  Josh didn’t seem to mind, his career was kicking off and the less distraction the better.  And so their lives plowed on at an average speed in an average direction in no particular fashion.
Now that Alex had more time to herself she began to realized the disadvantage of marrying so young.  She had never done anything for herself.  From eighteen years old Alex had put someone else before her; first Josh and his career, then Mattie and her rearing. She had a full time job as a customer service rep for a marketing company.  She spent eight hours a day in a cube talking to customers and vendors.  She enjoyed her job and liked the people she worked with. She spent a minimum of five hours a week in the gym, usually getting closer to ten. She kept to herself at the gym and was very focused when she worked out. At home she still made dinner each night for Mattie and Josh. If they came home late, or in Mattie’s case not at all, they both knew leftovers would be in the fridge waiting for them. Now, for the first time in her life, Alex was trying to take more time to focus on herself and become more independent. 
Josh arrived home from work later than usual and Alex was coming out of her skin with excitement.
“You’ll never guess what happened!!!”
Josh was exhausted.  Just watching her sucked what little energy he had left. “Tell me.”
“I won a trip for two to New York! To the Veronica Becker show! Can you get away?” she asked expectantly, but Alex already knew the answer
“When?” Josh was snowed under at work and knew it didn’t matter when it was he couldn’t leave the office.
“April 15-17,” she replied in a hushed tone.  
“That’s the end of tax season and things will be crazy at work.  No, I can’t get a way.”
Josh and Alex hadn’t had a vacation in 4 years, since Mattie was in high school. “See if Mattie can go”, was Josh’s response, even though he knew that was not what Alex wanted to hear.
Alex was disappointed but wasn’t surprised.  She knew Mattie would have to work and not be able to travel with her either. On Monday, when the rep from the Veronica Becker show called to finalize the details, Alex had decided she would travel alone.  Although she really didn’t like venturing to knew places on her own, she was not turning this opportunity down.  Time to try this independence she was looking for.  
April 15th arrived and Alex could think of nothing else.  Josh’s usual day was ten hours or more but during tax season he could be at the office up to twenty hours, barely sleeping or eating. Mattie was excited for her mom but school projects had her weighed down. So Alex shopped alone for a new outfit and worked out extra at the gym to look good on TV.  Her plane tickets arrived and her seat was in first class.  She looked on-line at the hotel she was to stay in and couldn’t believe the luxury. This was the trip of her dreams. 
When her plane landed in New York she navigated through the maze of corridors to the escalator, following the signs to “Ground Transportation”.  She prayed she could find the car that was sent from the show to pick her up. To her amazement, a driver stood at the front of the crowd holding a sign stating:
Alexandra Daniels
The Veronica Becker Show
She could hardly contain her excitement! She was really here, New York City!  And riding in a limo!
The driver dropped her at her hotel and told her he would return for her at 1PM the next day.  Alex checked in and was told all her expenses were paid and to enjoy her stay. 
The room was on the forty-fourth floor.  The view was breathtaking.  She could see for miles. She had no idea what part of New York she was in, maybe Manhattan.  The room had plush carpeting and the sheets on the bed were the softest cotton. She plopped on the bed, sinking into the plush satin, and flicked on the TV.  As she channel surfed she ran across a Derek Dunbar movie about three fourths the way through.  She finished watching it, took a relaxing shower and called for room service.  Josh called at nine to wish her good night.  Mattie sent a text with the same.  Alex felt she was a million miles from her life.  
At 1PM the next day Alex was downstairs and getting in her car.  The trip to the studio took about forty-five minutes, traffic was brutal.  Nervous about meeting her icon in person, Alex’s stomach was in knots.  The studio was immense. There were people everywhere, rushing back and forth.  It seemed like organized chaos. Alex was taken to Veronica’s dressing room.
“Oh, good afternoon, you must be Alexandra Daniels! Welcome.” Veronica’s smile was so genuine.  Alex began to relax.
Veronica’s makeup artist was hard at work making her beautiful.  
“Please, call me Alex. I’m so excited to be here!  Thank you so much for this trip!” 
“Alex, take a seat. Tell me about yourself. How was your flight and your hotel room?”
Alex raved about the luxurious room and gave the Reader’s Digest condensed version of her life. Veronica seemed genuinely interested, despite having the crew rush all around her. 
“Alex, you’ll be seated in the front row. I’ll introduce you.  And after the show you can meet my guests.  Today we’ll be having fashionista, Barbara Marx,  and actor, Derek Dunbar, as my guests.  That should be fun.  I haven’t met him yet.  Do you like him?”
Alex’s heart skipped a beat.  Could it be? This was definitely the best trip ever! “Oh, yes!  I have seen all his films.”
“All?”
Alex cast her eyes down, ashamed of her fan-ness.  “Yes, all. I’m quite the fan. Its a bit embarrassing.”
Veronica was light-hearted, “Don’t be embarrassed.  Thats how actors make their money. Without fans they wouldn’t last.  Well, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy meeting him, won’t you! Glad we could make this a memorable trip!” Veronica giggled as Alex was rushed away to the seating area. 
The show drug on for Alex.  She couldn’t wait for Derek to come out. 
Not only had Alex a passion for working out but she’d also become a movie junkie.  New releases, old releases, at home or at the theater.  Her spare time had been filled to the brim.  Watching an R-rated movie had been a forgotten luxury while Mattie was growing up. Josh and Alex focused on good quality television whenever Mattie was in the room. Now that Mattie was grown and rarely home, Alex decided to do some catching up. Since Josh spent long hours at work, Alex had a void to fill. She could only spend so much time at the gym…
In her obsession with films she came across a movie star she was unfamiliar with – Derek Dunbar.  He was handsome, tall, blazing blue eyes and had a Scottish accent. At least she thought he did.  His accent varied from movie to movie.  He reminded her of her first actor crush, Sean Connery, in the 70’s.  Even as a young girl she was fascinated by his accent.  In her west Texas town they didn’t have accents, not compared to their relatives in Dallas or Houston.  Not his kind of accent. She’d been drawn to it.  She was drawn to it still.  
She went on the internet and watched YouTube interviews with Derek Dunbar.  He was definitely Scottish.  She enjoyed hearing stories from his film sets, practical jokes, funny moments, the way he laughed.  It aroused her.  He seemed genuine, friendly.  She saw videos of him giving autographs to groups of fans, at premiers shaking hands with the crowd.  Not the typical “get out of my face I want my privacy” star.  But then there wasn’t much information about his private life.  Oh, there was a biography about his childhood and how he came into acting but not much about girlfriends, dating or law troubles.  Alex searched more YouTube interviews.  
Derek, with his most inviting smile, talked to an interviewer about his latest movie.  In an effort to ask the most unusual question of the day the reporter asked,
“Have you ever written a love letter?”
Derek eyes looked to a faraway place, melancholy, “Yes, I have.  A long time ago”.  Then laughing it off says, “Who writes when there is texting?” 
The reporter laughs too but isn’t dissuaded.  She wants a story.  
“Do you want a wife, kids, the white picked fence?”
Derek smiles, “Sure someday. But where’s the time?”  And laughs it off.  
His laugh is contagious but his eyes are not laughing.  The interviewer is finished but has not seen the depth of the question.  Did she hit a nerve?  
In other interviews Derek is accused of womanizing that he neither acknowledges or denies.  He laughs the questions off.  He is branded a playboy, unable to settle down. Photos of him encourage the reputation.  Shirtless, pensive, an Adonis.  Rumors of dates with various starlets circulate the gossip magazines in the grocery store and the internet. 
Alex watched every movie he was in.  She discussed her interest in Derek as an actor and found the other women she worked with lusted after him too.  He was obviously in running for the “Sexiest Man of the Year” by the way women talked about him.  Alex felt her obsession wasn’t so bad after all.  She shared it with half the women on the planet.
Finally, Veronica introduced Derek. Alex was giddy but tried to contain herself.  She didn’t want to appear the crazed fan, even if she felt like it inside.  She couldn’t believe how excited she was. Now she understood her mother’s fascination with Elvis Presley and how thousands of women could swoon over a man. 
Derek came out and was just as Alex had expected.  He was warm, friendly, funny, and made eye contact with her. At least she thought he did.  This portion of the show seem to fly by and was over too soon for Alex. She waited hesitantly for Veronica to call her up to the stage.
The show ended and Veronica invited Alex to come up and meet Derek.  
Alex took a deep breath and tried to steady herself.  
“Hello Alex! I hear you’re a fan of mine too”, Derek stated teasingly, admiring her blush. 
“ Yes.  I really have enjoyed your movies.”
Derek invited Alex to have a seat next to him and asked,  “Which one do you think is the best?” 
Alex thought a moment. 
“Best movie overall or the best movie you were the lead in?”  Alex had many favorites but there were a couple that stood out to her.
“You tell me.” Derek was surprised Alex actually had a real opinion.
“I have really enjoyed the period pieces you’ve done, The Great Queen and The Hun are my favorite of those.  Of the more modern movies The Stranger and Judgement I thought were very good scripts and the acting was great in them.  Which was your favorite to make?” Thrilled she was able to put two coherent sentences together, Alex was felt calmer.
Derek thought about it, “The Great Queen since it was my first but Judgement was a great movie and the first I produced and directed.  Although The Stranger is very dear to me.  I love that story.  I think you’ve picked my favorites too.”  
As the crew began closing down the set for the day Veronica thanked Derek again for his appearance and congratulated Alex on her good fortune.  As she excused herself to prepare for another show, an assistant began escorting Alex and Derek down the back hall. 
“Do you have dinner plans?”, Derek asked her as they paused at exit door.
Was Derek inviting her out?  Alex needed to steady herself.
“No, I don’t.  I don’t have any plans.”
As Alex and Derek walked out the stage door.  The paparazzi swarmed them as he tried to open a path to his car.  Derek grabbed Alex’s wrist and dragged her behind before she was engulfed by the crowd of cameras. There was a frenzy of shouted questions about Alex.  Who was she? Were they dating? Is it serious? Is she a future co-star? Derek tried to be polite, refusing to acknowledge any questions while asking the crowd to back away a bit while they tried to make their getaway.  
Derek Dunbar wasn’t just any actor but one of the busiest actors in Hollywood. He had sandy brown hair, bright blue eyes, a strong square jaw with a hint of five o’clock shadow and an alluring scottish accent.  He wasn’t just good looking he was a good actor; versatile, playing comedy, drama or action. Women found him sensual and sexy, men admired the way he made women feel.  He could have any woman he desired and most often did.  His career, only 12 years in the making, was gaining strength and he had his pick of scripts.
“Is it always like this?”  Alex was surprised how vulturistic the paparazzi were. 
“Yes, it is.  I’m sorry about all that. I should have expected they’d have the car staked out.  I’m sure you’ll be in a few tabloids tomorrow. Try not to think about them. Have you been to New York before?”
Alex couldn’t believe what was happening. “No I haven’t. This is my first visit.”
“Let me show you around.  We’ll need to lose these cameras. You don’t mind fast driving do you?” Derek has a mischievous smile on his face.  It made Alex smile too. 
“No, I’m used to it.  Show me what ya got!” Alex was getting comfortable and brave.  This aught to be fun.
Derek didn’t lie, he drove fast.  Really fast for the traffic in New York. He stopped at a deli on a quiet street, out of the way of the busy traffic.  Away from the paparazzi for a moment too, Alex imagined. 
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Perfect Chapter 1

Chapter 1
“Today one lucky viewer will win a trip for two to visit New York and my show.  An all expense paid weekend!” announced Veronica Becker, touted as the ‘Every Woman’s Woman’ by national magazines.  
Veronica Becker had become a household name, a chef for the everyday woman; quick, inexpensive meals that were tasty too.  Veronica had taken her love of cooking to television and added a bit of fashion, some down to earth chat with the audience and  interviews with the latest stars.  She was  health conscious and wanted the women in her audience to look their best at any age. She also loved to give things away. Coming from a modest family she believed in giving back. Generous to a fault, if there was an earthquake somewhere, a typhoon, or tornado, Veronica was there to help out.   
“Our winner is Alexandra Daniels of Plano, Texas! Congratulations! We’ll be giving Alexandra a call today!”
Alex sat in her chair, her eyes wide, staring at the screen.  Alex loved the Veronica Becker Show and was a faithful viewer.  During her lunch hour at work she would rush to the break room to turn it on. Her co-workers were staring at her.  Alex had never won anything but that didn’t prevent her from signing up each week in hopes, knowing full well the likelihood of winning was minimal at best.  Had she really won???
“Alex! That’s you! You won!”, they all shouted.
“Oh…my…God! I can’t believe it! I won!”
Alex had the hardest time concentrating the rest of the afternoon.  As a customer service rep for a marketing company, she was usually swamped with work but couldn’t concentrate. Two o’clock rolled around and Alex’s cell rang, a number she didn’t recognize. 
“Hello?”
“Is this Alexandra Daniels?”
“Yes it is”
“Alexandra, this is the Veronica Becker show. I am pleased to tell you that you are the winner of a  trip for two to New York City and tickets for the show.”
“I can’t believe it! Are you sure?”  Alex was still in shock.  She wanted to make sure there was no mistake.  Josh would never believe her.
“Yes, you’ve won! We will send you your tickets. Your trip is for April 15-17.  Can you make it those dates?”
“Oh yes!  I’ll make it work! Thank you so much!” 
“We’ll get back to you Monday to finalize the details.  Have a great weekend!”
“Oh, I will now!” Alex was amazed! It was true, she actually won! She was already mentally packing when reality hit.  Josh would never take off work to go.  Maybe Mattie could go with her….no, she had school.  She could ask Kathleen, her best friend and co-worker, but they couldn’t take off at the same time.  Kathleen was her back up so one of them had to be there. No, she’d have to go alone. Well, it was about time she did something adventurous.  This was probably the most exciting thing that had happened to Alex in a very long time. 

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Masked Chat

You’ve found that special someone. They say all the right things, are interested in what is going on in your life and you have tons in common. There’s just one glitch…You don’t know what they look like.  Yep! You met them on a social networking site and they have no photo. 

I know its strange but think about it. Your mind is stimulated by the hours of conversations with them.  You excited every time you chat with them; its the best part of your day. They seem enamored by you as well. Do you need to see what they look like?
There’s a small Mexican village in terrible need of a savior from a tyrannical leader.  Zorro zooms in and saves the day.  Did anyone ask him to take his mask off? Did the lovely woman he swoops by and kisses ask? Nope! They were just glad he was there. 
Your chat buddy is a kind of superhero.  They brighten your day and make you feel good about yourself.  Do you ever wonder if they are real? How old they are? If they’re telling you the truth? Will you ever meet them? Does it matter? 
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Boundaries

    We all have them. Some to keep us in line. Some to keep others at arms length. What are yours for?

    Think about our boundaries. We teach them to our children.  “Don’t get up in people’s faces.” “Don’t touch your brother. Stay on your half of the couch.” “Only go on group dates.” “Don’t loan money to your family and close friends.”
  
    These are basic boundaries we learn as we grow up. Of course, as we experience life, and cross some of these boundaries, testing the water, we lose some of them.  What happens when life beats us down, smacks us around, and leaves us on the side of the road battered and bruised?

    We end up with walls, not boundaries. Walls that keep those around us at arms length.  Walls that keep us from making mistakes and choices we fear are wrong. Walls that keep in feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt. Walls that keep out freedom to be who we are meant to be, to set us free.

   How can we get the walls to come down? Trust. In those closest to us. We all have warts that have grown over time. Those that love us, our dearest friends, have touched those warts and weren’t afraid. They can help us take the walls down, slowly, one brick at a time. No judgement, no ridicule, no pity.  Only tenderness, guidance and patience.

    What happens when the wall blocks love from entering in? Can we survive? Can life be truly all it can be without the love of others? Trust. It’s all we can do. And not let the world go by.

  

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Love Sparks

    Nothing like a well-built man in tights to spark your interest. For instance, take Captain America, mild mannered military man, small in stature and size, risks his life by stepping into a capsule that suddenly makes him taller and buff.  He puts on tights and mask and, whew, the fantasy starts.
  
    Imagine lying in bed, sound asleep, you feel the briefest touch.  Your eyes open to this statuesque man.  His costume shows every bump and bulge.  He flexes his muscles.  Your breath catches. Who is he? Why is he here?

    Ok, one for the guys.  Traffic is backed up on the freeway. Its 100 degrees in the shade. You can’t wait to get home. Cars are at a standstill. You look up ahead and a woman steps out of her car.  She’s leggy, brunette and busty.  She stands in the middle of the street, spins around and, poof, she’s gone from her business suite to a strapless one-piece.  Wonder Woman is headed your way. She stops by your sports car and taps on the window, her breasts at eye level.  What would she want with you? Why now?

    Fantasies.  We all have them. Whether they’re with a total stranger, a super hero, or your significant other, they all add spice to life.   In the movie “Four Christmases” Reese Witherspoon’s and Vince Vaughn’s characters roll play for added excitement.  They pretend they don’t know each other and meet in a bar. Fantasies.  Have you tried any? How do you add spice to life?

    Does it mean we feel less for our special someone if we fantasize they’re someone else for  the briefest of moments? Does it mean life is dull and mundane if the French maid’s outfit comes out before Halloween?  If a new outfit, quirky dialog, or jumping on the bed aren’t for you, turn the lights off and close your eyes. Who do you see? Let your mind wonder. Take a fantasy trip and live a little.

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    Her fingers brushed his arm. Her touch burned his skin; the kind of heat that tingles, sends a warming sensation to his loins.  His breath caught. He looked down at her.  Her eyes, warm pools of desire, looked up at him with longing.

    Remember that feeling? Is that feeling only possible at the start of a relationship or can it be kept alive for years? Romance books flaunt it.  Movies capitalize on it.  Is it a real feeling?  Is it lust or can it last?

    We’ve all had that experience.  We try to recreate years into our relationships.  Do you know the couple that still has it?  What are they like? Do they have children?  We all want that.  Its the reason we date, the reason some have affairs.  Is it reality?

    There are couples who’ve been together 40, 50 plus years.  You see her look up into his eyes. He takes her hand.  They glow.  How have they managed to keep that ultimate feeling? Years of work.  Romancing each other.  Listening to one another.  Loving.  Can all couples have this?

    That feeling is out there. Its our task to grab hold of it and not take advantage of it. Its a gift.  It is possible to experience it more than once, but do you really want to take that chance?

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Can Love Last Forever

    From the time we are small we are taught to strive for a goal – live happily ever after.  But is that realistic? Is it possible?
    From watching many friends, as well as my own marriage, happily ever after is a relative term.  Who’s version of happy? What does happy really mean? Is there such a thing? I mean, comfortable and routine is happy for many, lack of conflict is happiness for others, where as a clashing of the minds is a kind of happiness for some. When are you just settling, thinking nothing can be better? Can there be better?
    Stepping back from your relationship and looking at it from the outside, if its possible, is one step. Is your marriage the way you want it to be? Are you and your spouse growing in the same direction? Are you both evolving? Or has one of you changed direction, leaving the other behind?
    After many years of marriage I have found it common that at least one partner starts to change.  It might be during mid-life that causes the question to be asked, “Is this all there is?”.  I know from my experience wife, mom and customer service rep wasn’t all I wanted to be remembered for.  I felt hollow.  There is more to me. I talked with another writer who simply said,”I hear voices in my head and I have to write down what they say”.  I feel the same way,  I’m compelled. Its crazy, I know, but if you write you know how I feel. And, I know if you know me, you think I’m a workaholic. Truly I’m not. I love my down-time. I just need more to fulfill me than a cubical in an office. Fitness isn’t a new career for me either.  I was very involved in teaching and personal training thirteen years ago, before our daughter came along.
    I don’t regret the decisions I made, family-wise or career-wise.  But as I reach my late forties I have to be true to myself now.  The question isn’t “is this all there is”, but “is this all I want it to be”? And where, as I change, does my spouse fit into all this? Is it a question of love? I have to ask that. As I examine my motivations and where I see myself in the years to come, where does my past fit in?
    Did I fall out of love? If so, when did it happen?  I have asked myself and, as I look back, it was a long time ago. I think, out of habit, I went through the motions, being a dutiful wife and figuring this is all there would be.  I watched as friends’ marriages fell apart and began to examine mine. What made mine different?  Why were we still together? Everyone thought we were perfect but were we?  I realized I smoothed things out to keep the peace.  I rearranged my schedules to suit everyone else.  I gave up the things I loved to make everyone else happy.  It was time to find out what maked me happy.
    First, I started writing.  It was a wonderful outlet.  I wasn’t sure I’d really want to try to get published, just getting the voice onto paper.  Then, as I wrote, and others read it, I thought, why can’t I get published. So I’m working toward that goal. Then, I found an old friend and was asked to help him with his business.  Its three hours away and a great getaway. I might work a few hours, helping him to market his business and ideas, the rest of the time is relaxation.  Its my nirvana. And then I got back into fitness.  Not just working out and getting healthy but helping others do the same thing. Oh, and I make money at it too.  All during this I found my independence again.
    I have always been independent but I allowed myself to appear dependent in my relationship. Over the last five years I had been gradually gaining my independence back.  My husband had been going through his own mid-life and exerting his independence, which excluded ‘honey-dos’, causing me to take care of things.  So I guess I owe my resurgence of independence to him, indirectly. In gaining my independence I had to figure out where he fit into all this. Where did love, if there was any, play a part?
   I have deep feelings for my husband but am I “in love”? I have asked myself that question over and over.  I don’t wish him any ill-will but is this partnership at its end? Can mere caring for one another be enough? I’m not a rash person; I think things through.  Can love last forever? For some, maybe.  For me…..

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