The hardest part of living alone is eating alone. More than anything, I missed having someone to talk to at breakfast or dinner the most.
Still, I couldn’t complain too much. I had outfitted myself with a state-of-the-art kitchen. I had everything a chef could possibly want in a home kitchen. I just didn’t have anyone to cook for.
Loneliness got the best of me sometimes. When you’re eating alone, there isn’t anyone there to tell you you shouldn’t have another helping or not to eat that piece of key lime pie you brought home from work.
I wish that I could be like some girls who starve themselves after a break up, but that’s just not me. Nope. I eat my feelings.
That’s why I knew I had to do something about it and soon. I could see how I was allowing myself to lose control when I looked in the mirror. I needed to start working out again. If I didn’t, I’d be heavier than I had ever been.
Did I mention that my little house was right by the beach? I loved my house for many reasons: the color, the amazing kitchen, the basement that I had turned into a gym in hopes that I would be more inclined to exercise if I didn’t have to do it in front of a lot of strangers. But honestly…I loved the fact that I could walk out back and right into the water.
At first I was nervous going out in my bathing suit, but I forced myself to do it. Truthfully, none of my neighbors seemed to be swimmers, so I never saw anyone. In fact, I’d never met any of my neighbors. Aurora was a small town and people were generally nice when you saw them out in public, but once they got home, they kept to themselves.
Eventually, I decided to attempt windsurfing. I’d seen some locals doing it off the banks near the Bistro. I was scared at first, but I swallowed my fear and took a lesson at the community pool. Then I rented a board and tried it myself.
What a rush! I’m usually not this brave, but the feeling I got windsurfing was amazing. I had no idea doing scary things could be so invigorating!
I read somewhere that people who aren’t happy with themselves never truly find happiness with someone else. I think this is true.
I admit I was lonely in my purple house, but I had never felt better about myself than I did living there. I knew I wasn’t skinny or especially beautiful, but with my organic cooking and fun work-outs, I was finally getting comfortable in my own skin.
And that’s when my brother called me and said he was coming to town for some training at the base and he wanted to see me.
“I won’t be alone. Harold is coming, too,” he said.
“Harold?” I asked.
“Yeah, you know…Harold. Travis’ friend from when you were at school?”
Harold Assange. I remembered him perfectly. I blushed thinking of the last time I’d seen him. I was blubbering all over his shoulder after finding out about Travis and Anne.
“We can stay with you, right Sis?”
“Sure,” I agreed. I had no idea how I felt about seeing Harold again.
It turned out not to be so bad. Harold and Alton spent a lot of time at the base, and then they spent a lot of time eating my food when they came home. I had to admit that it felt good to have dinner conversation with someone besides myself. It didn’t hurt that both my brother and Harold did nothing but praise my cooking.
“Jiss ish za besht cheejhe sanwish I’ve ever had,” Harold said around a mouthful of food.
“Really good, Rach! We get such shit at the mess hall.”
The most embarrassing moment of Alton and Harold’s stay was when they came home to find me in my gym trying to lift weights. I wasn’t very good at it, but I was trying. As soon as they came in, I let the weights go and stood up. I looked around for my towel to wipe away the sweat, but I had forgotten one.
“Hey Rach!” Alton said. He headed into the guest room to change out of his uniform. Alton stayed behind.
“Thanks for letting us bunk here, Rachel,” he said.
“No problem,” I said, trying discreetly to wipe sweat out of my eyes.
“This is a nice house. It must be awesome to be so close to the water.”
“It is. I have taken up windsurfing,” I said, cursing myself for admitting it. He would think I was crazy!
“Windsurfing, huh? Sounds like fun. I’ve never done it.”
“You should try it.”
“Maybe I will. If you show me how.” Harold smiled at me, his blue eyes twinkling. Was he flirting with me?
That evening Alton went out with some guys from the base. Harold said he didn’t feel like going anywhere. Alton clapped him on the back and said he’d see him later.
“Don’t be stupid,” Harold warned. “We have PT in the morning and a meeting with the commander.”
“Will do, Boss,” Alton said, giving a mock salute. “Unless of course there are hot chicks there. Then I can’t make any promises!” Both guys laughed as Alton left with a wave.
“Your brother thinks he’s quite the ladies man.”
I had no idea how to reply to that. I couldn’t even imagine Alton with a girl.
“I have the night off,” I said, changing the subject. “I was going to make a salad and watch movies.”
“Salad sounds good,” Harold smiled at me. Salad sounded good to him? He was flirting!
Flustered, I hurried off to the kitchen to make my salad. I probably wouldn’t have done the restaurant’s Autumn Salad if Harold hadn’t been there. I would have just fixed a quick green salad, but since he was going to eat it too, I wanted to show off.
“This might be the best salad I’ve ever had,” Harold complimented me as we ate. “Normally I don’t like salads that much, but this is like a real meal!”
I laughed. “It’s one of our best sellers,” I admitted, explaining the organic menu we served at the Bistro. As we talked about my work I began to relax.
“We should go out sometime while I’m here,” Harold said as he finished his last bite. “We could go to your restaurant and then go do something.”
When he asked me out, I’d just put a bite of salad into my mouth. I admit that I sort of choked on it I was so surprised. I coughed inelegantly into my napkin. When I finally managed to stop, I agreed.
“Sure, we can go to the Bistro. I know some fun places to hang out, too,” I said, trying to gauge whether or not he was asking as a date or as a casual outing with a friend.
“Fantastic. It’s a date.”
So Harold and I went to the Bistro on my next night off. My assistant chef served us himself and made quite a big deal out of it. I was embarrassed, but Harold took it in stride.
Then we headed to the Watering Hole. Harold invited me to play shuffle board. He flirted with me shamelessly the whole game and I got so flustered that I lost.
“I thought you said you were good at this game,” Harold said, chuckling.
“I usually am,” I said. “I guess I was just off my game.”
“I hope it wasn’t something I did,” he winked. I blushed and said, “Maybe.”
Then Harold asked me to dance. I thought we’d just go out on the floor and thrash around since the music was sort of up-tempo, but Harold took me into his arms instead.
I knew I was grinning like an idiot, but I was having such a good time!
Although Alton and Harold had to go back to their base in Hidden Springs, he promised that he would call me and we’d go out again when he got leave.
Imagine my surprise when he followed through on that promise. Harold called me as soon as he got into Hidden Springs.
“We’re home. I already miss you.”
“You miss me, or my cooking?” I asked, flirtatiously. Flirting over the phone was easier than doing it in person.
A few months later Harold came to visit me without Alton. I took time off of work so we could spend time together.
Harold convinced me to teach him how to windsurf. I was reluctant at first. I didn’t want him to see me in a bathing suit! But, he wore me down and I agreed. Oddly, once we got into the water and started messing around, I wasn’t embarrassed about him seeing me in my suit. I knew it wasn’t a bikini, but I didn’t think I looked too bad. Harold actually seemed to like how I looked.
Of course he was great at windsurfing. He was much more athletic than me, so it didn’t take him long to grasp it. I hung back near the shore to watch him. It was exciting seeing him have such a great time.
Harold and I went to the Festival. He forced me to try the dreaded Love-o-meter. I didn’t want to do it, fearing that the results would be as dismal as they had been when Anne and I had tried the machine, but I shouldn’t have been so worried.
Harold put in the money but he made me push the buttons. “Let’s see what your love prediction is,” he laughed.
“Here goes,” I said. I pushed the buttons and to my surprise the lights made it all the way to the top. “Lucky in love,” it proclaimed.
“That’s a good prediction,” Harold said. Then he grabbed me and kissed me right then and there. It was our first kiss.
Once he kissed me, it seemed that Harold couldn’t stop. I was just as bad. I don’t know how we stopped kissing long enough to get a cab back to my house let alone pay the driver.
“Crazy love-birds,” the old man muttered as he drove away. We probably hadn’t tipped him.
We managed to make it to my front door, get it unlocked, and then stumble our way to my bedroom.
Once there, I managed to get my breath enough to realize that Harold wanted me to remove my clothes. I might have stopped him right then, but I didn’t. Instead I convinced him to let me change into something more comfortable.
I know it was stupid. I know that I took my night gown off eventually, but by the time I did, we’d turned out most of the lights and it was dark.
Before he left to go back to Hidden Springs, Harold told me he wanted to see me even more. “I wish we lived closer,” he said.
“I do too,” I agreed, sighing. I was really going to miss Harold. I was pretty sure that I was falling in love with him.
“Maybe you could move to Hidden Springs?”
“I wish I could,” I said, “but we just opened the Bistro. I’m the head chef. They still need me here. I can’t leave.”
“I know. I know.” Harold repeated sadly. “It sucks that I have to leave.”
“I wish you didn’t have to go, but you can’t go AWOL.”
“I could…but then they’d put me in jail and I’d never see you again!”
“Well, then I guess you have to go back. And I have to stay here.”
“I guess I’ll just have to take leave more often, then.” Harold smiled at me and winked. I tried to smile back, but I don’t know how successful I was. I was fighting tears. As soon as Harold’s taxi left, I knew I’d spend most of the day bawling my eyes out. I was going to miss him so much!
After Harold went home, I felt more alone than I ever had before. I missed him terribly. Even though he called every night, I wished he was actually with me. All I could do was cook and work out to keep thoughts of Harold out of my mind.
The only time I didn’t feel as alone was when Anne and Travis came to see me. I thought that it would be awkward to see them together, but it wasn’t so bad.
“You changed your hair,” I said to Anne when I saw her. She’d cut and straightened it, and it made her look more mature.
“I needed a change,” she said. “I have a new job.” Anne told me about the hotel she was working for. “I work the front desk,” she said, “but I am learning all I can.”
“So you still want to open a hotel?”
“Yep. Travis and I are thinking of buying a resort in Isla Paradiso.”
“You’re going to buy a whole resort! That’s pretty ambitious!” Anne and Travis told me all about their business plan. Both of them had money they could use to invest in property; Anne had more, but Travis said that the property would be in her name.
“But we’ll run it together,” Anne said. “Travis will run the spa and fitness center and I’ll be like the over-all boss.”
“Sounds like you really know what you want,” I said.
“We do. And we want you to come and be the chef.”
“Of course,” Anne said. “We’ll have a restaurant and I want it to serve good quality food.”
“I don’t know Anne,” I hesitated. If I moved to Isla Paradiso, I’d be even farther from Harold.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about it now. We don’t even have a property yet. It’s just a dream. But at least say you’d consider it once we have everything together.”
“I’ll consider it,” I agreed.
As it turns out, even if Anne and Travis had managed to get a resort property and have it ready for me to open a restaurant, I wouldn’t be able to agree.