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  • Writer's pictureDavid Sales

Will You Hold My Hand?

Nerves faded into the quiet din of silver cutlery, white plates, and soft string-quartet melodies. His left leg, its secret bouncing, finally slowed, loosened at the knee, and settled into calm. Broad shoulders, moments before tight and hunched, straightened to raise him in the plush red chair.

“This was a lovely idea,” he said. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I wasn’t sure what you’d say.”

Her smile, genuine but hinting mischievous playfulness, calmed him further. Her brown eyes, glistening and dancing with the candle’s flame, disarmed him, pulling a vulnerable response from a guarded place.

He squirmed, shifting and tilting his head.

“I wanted to ask you, and I’m not sure why I couldn’t.”

“Does it matter, Dan?”

It didn’t. He knew it was the time — alone time, isolated time, bad time, and passing time.

Before life slapped him around, upending his unfinished dreams and discarding him in a broken heap, he would have asked. He would have done more. There was a time if Dan Lewis wanted something, he got it. Took it if necessary.

Shifting again and reaching for the tall glass, moist with droplets of water forming on its surface, a rush of regret rose in his dry throat. Pictures of his old self, brash and selfish, rolled in a disgusting slideshow of boorish behavior.

That was a long time ago.

After a long drink, ice water washing down the distasteful lumps of his past, he excused himself. Lightheaded, he fixed his eyes on the red door, putting one cautious foot in front of the other.

Once alone in the sterile men’s room, he removed his tie and splashed handfuls of cold water on his face.

He felt flushed, but the mirror reflected a normal face. As usual, his mind whispered constant lies when under stress. He was fine. This was fine.

Outside the door, he stopped, leaned against the thick wood wall, watching her through a sea of faceless strangers. Her profile, formed of high cheekbones touched with silvertips of light brown hair and gentle chin resting on intertwined fingers, could be an artist’s muse. Time, life experience, and a hard-fought peace had come together in striking, feminine beauty. For a brief second, everything stopped as she took his breath away.

At the table, he touched her exposed shoulder as he passed to his chair. His fingers tingled with the softness of her skin. This time, the flushing cheeks were real.

“How’s the wine?”

“Lovely. You’re sure you don’t mind?”

“Of course not. Enjoy.”

Hours passed as personal histories, intimate details, and raw honesty fluttered through the serene air between them. Main course, dessert, and drawn-out coffee all made richer by laughter, tender tears, and vulnerable admissions. Extended periods of loneliness had visited both.

“I think we’ve worn out our welcome.”

He nodded toward the wait staff lingering at the empty bar, feigning patience but failing as only young people can. It seemed only minutes ago the restaurant, now empty, was full and vibrant. Their smiles met, lingered in silence, and receded in perfect unison.

“We better let them close before one of their heads explodes,” she said.

Dan signaled for the check and turned his gaze back to her. He hesitated, counting a few seconds of nervousness, before locking in on her still glistening eyes.

“Kate, I’ve wanted to say this all night. You are simply stunning.”

Moments passed, her intense stare raising Dan’s uneven heartbeat before her smile widened like a curtain rising on a play.

“Aren’t I though?”

In the laughter, beneath her perfectly matured beauty, lay a powerful attraction Dan couldn’t deny. Kate’s mind, sharp with self-acceptance and powerful confidence, cut through generational confusion to strike a magical balance. She knew what she wanted, and that she was worthy of it. Dan wondered if he was truly enough.

The restaurant doors opened onto a now quiet street bathed in a softening moon glow, painting buildings and trees with translucent hues of subtle color. Across the street, far off waves of low tide touched the sandy beach.

She pulled at his arm, twirling lightly in the middle of the deserted street. Graceful, playful, and full of life, she danced.

“Come on, big guy! The beach is singing to us.”

Over the rocks, driftwood, and wispy grass she floated effortlessly, stopping to remove her red shoes.

“Shoes off! You can do it.”

“Careful, those logs might be slippery.”

“Maybe you should be careful…”

He knew what she meant, but Dan navigated the terrain with careful purpose, aware his balance wasn’t back yet from the accident. Cautious, nervous, but filled with odd excitement, he reached the comfort of the space inches from where she stood.

“Here I am.”

“Lucky me,” she said.

She dropped to her knees, untied the laces of his new black shoes, splurged on for this night, and looked up, smiling with childish happiness. He watched as she removed his socks, rolled up his pant legs, her fingers brushing quickly across his ankles.

Together they walked barefoot in the sand, talking unfettered about new hopes and dreams, bumping accidental shoulders in innocent physical touch. Beautiful, nervous, awkward, they breathed in the salty air of possibility and watched the moon of chance move slowly across the starlit sky.

A pair of once broken humans edged closer to something amazing, their firm impossibilities carried away by the soft, sea-bound breeze of hope.

Kate stopped with a gentle tug on Dan’s suit coat. He turned again, locking his eyes to hers, waiting for her words.

“Will you hold my hand?”

“Of course,” he said.

Both of them, slow and full of soft intent, watched hands touch, fingers intertwine, and join in a small leap of nervous faith.

Maybe it was time.

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