The meeting had run late and that on top of an already long week. With one last look at the splendid nighttime view of the Toronto skyline from the 20th-floor club level of The Ritz-Carlton, I left the conference room and headed to the south bank of elevators. Just down the long hallway, I heard steps behind me and saw it was Clara. I hadn’t seen her that week, outside of the meetings, and smiled, waiting for her to walk with me.
“I’m glad we’re done and have tomorrow off,” I commented.
She switched her brief-bag to right hand and checked the watch on her left. “It’s been a busy week.” She gave me a tight smile. “I’m looking forward to sleeping in and it’s the first day of spring.” The lines on her face eased.
“Then back to corporate on Monday,” I sighed as we passed one of the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on the city. The night was beautiful; a nearly full moon, framed by clouds, rode high in the sky.
Clara was quiet as we walked and then waited for the elevator, but then she always was. I admired that she only spoke when things needed to be said and not if they didn’t; she had a reserved but confident manner. There was something about the way she looked and moved that hinted of still waters that ran deep. Her too conservative business attire hid her figure but not her lovely eyes behind Kate Spade glasses. More than once, back at corporate and during road-trip meetings, I found my eyes going to hers across the conference table. Their glint and the quirk of her lips seemed to agree with how maddening I found the endless meetings. That look and smile across the room or when passing in the hallways made me want to taste her lips.
It had been that way for a year since I’d joined the firm and met her the first day; I savored the feel and look of her… but only in my mind. I’d never presume to act on them. In our early 40s, though we were both single, neither of us was giddy and young. It was nothing but the idle fantasy of a middle-aged, mid-level, executive who valued his job over the risk of asking a colleague out on a date that turned into a relationship that violated corporate policy.
We stepped into the elevator, and my hand hovered over the keypad.
“What floor are you on?”
“I go down…” she had that smile on her face. My hand fluttered near the buttons as she looked at me. “I’m on 12.” I pushed that number and then 11 for my floor. “So, you’re under me.” I thought again of how she would taste. The chime of stopping at the 12th seemed sharper, more intrusive than it was. The door opened. “We can have a drink in my room…” she tilted her glasses down and looked over them at me… “if you’re interested.”
* * *
I woke to the smell of fresh coffee and misgivings about what had happened.
“I ordered room service.”
She was at the table by the window. The sun poured in and backlit her form beneath the thin nightshirt she’d put on afterward, earlier that morning before we slept. Her breasts made a shelf the fabric draped from; I saw the curve of her smooth stomach. The shadow of the table hid what I’d delighted in just hours before.
She rose and came to the bed, resting the flat of her hand on my chest. My stomach muscles twitched as it slowly, achingly, caressed, and moved lower. Slowly pulling the sheet aside she straddled me, and minutes later, her head tossed in rhythm; the lines of her throat tightened as her gasps matched mine. Her unbound hair fell around her shoulders as she leaned forward to kiss me. It graced my face and smelled of spring after a harsh, never-seeming-to-end winter. I sat up to hold her tight, her breasts flattened against my chest, soft yet with firm tips. I felt her breathe deep and our hearts meld into a single beat. Such a thing I didn’t know could happen, but it did, and I knew I’d never be the same.
“What a beautiful Sunday morning you make,” I smiled up at her.
“And we have all day!” she laughed; the best kind that only comes from the soul.
The tightness I always felt inside eased at the music of it. I hoped to listen to it for the rest of my days. “Fuck corporate policy,” I whispered in her ear.
* * *
“Do you remember Toronto?” Clara asked as she set the coffee in front of me. It was a gorgeous, early spring, Sunday morning.
“I remember… that was when my life really began.”
She patted my arm as she settled in her favorite chair on the back porch. “Mine too.”
We sat facing the sun. At first, the sky blushed with pride in its beauty to come and then prouder still, it brightened; its rise now two hours old. The sun felt warm and pleasant on my upturned face. A slight breeze teased the pine needles in a towering tree profiled against the bluing sky. The wind caressed my face adding to the feeling of warmth as it ebbed. I felt life moving through and around me as I glanced over at her. She had her eyes closed into the sun and was humming a song I knew well; her favorite by Jimmy Cliff. Soft singing came from her as I reached to hold her hand.
“It’s gonna be a bright, bright… bright, bright sunshiny day.”
I’d been reading from John Steinbeck’s, The Pearl and was experiencing Kino’s perfect morning, a scene that always moved me no matter how many times I read the story. I put it face-down on my lap and picked up my coffee. I looked at Clara and smiled as I stroked her hair. It was entirely silver-gray, now but still smelled of newness, rebirth, and love… of all that I wanted in my world.
To our left and above, I heard the Doppler sound of geese; perhaps landing or taking off from one of the nearby ponds. I heard birds warbling; I don’t know what kind. The honks of the geese, my favorite morning sound. The chirps and melodious buzzes coming from the surrounding brush and trees; all are music to me and beautiful but not as much as the voice and laughter of the woman beside me.
I took a deep breath, taking life in and holding it, and then let it go to continue in its flow around me… around us. Clara was softly singing beside me. Still, 30 years on, she was the Song of Life, to me. I rose from my chair and with creaky joints, kneeled by her. I leaned over to kiss her cheek. She smiled that smile, and I tasted it then she rested her head on my shoulder. That’s all I wanted for the rest of my days. I looked into her eyes. “What a beautiful Sunday morning you make.”
“Fuck corporate policy,” she laughed.