She lay completely still for a moment, letting the sun streaming in through the window wash over her, while breathing in the peace she felt encircled in his arms. She was content to never move again. Closing her eyes, Celia replayed the weeks leading up to this moment.
Fall term had been excessively stressful this year. Between her school load, her job and her community theater involvement, there hadn’t been much time to think about much else. It was chaotic juggling so many commitments, but there was plenty of satisfaction within the chaos. And in the middle of it all was him.
She hadn’t gotten involved in community theater because of him, he just happened to have already been there. She’d gotten involved with the local group because she had thrown away her chance to perform during her high school years. The stage had always called to her; Maybe it was her fascination with people and behaviors that drew her to the stage, or maybe it was her love of performance and the awe and admiration she felt watching actors on stage breathing life into a story. Whatever it was, she loved live theater. And yet, for one reason or another it just hadn’t worked out for her in high school.
Growing up working in her mother’s café had honed her people skills, while giving her new people to study every day. Of course there were also the regulars whom she knew by name. Most of them were wealthy and retired and tipped her well. It was almost too easy to play the starving college student card to encourage better tips. In reality, Celia wasn’t starving, not even close, but the good tips helped out all the same.
As opening night loomed on the horizon, rehearsals had begun to drag later and later into the night. Since she didn’t own a car this left walking home in the dark as her only option. That was how it began, him walking her home safely every night of rehearsal.
His enthusiastic personality, his ability to see the best in people, and his goofy charm captivated her from the first time she saw him, but she had never dared to approach him first. Instead she stuck to the wings when she wasn’t needed on stage, illustrating scenes in her sketch book as a way of memorizing her lines.
Their first interaction, technically, had been an awkward one. A chance encounter on a dinner break one night. Normally she was calm, confident, and not easily phased, but something about him shook her calm confidence. She had been turning around from the counter after ordering her meal and smacked right into him. Embarrassed, she had mumbled a quick apology before making a hasty escape.
That should have been the end of it. The show would open soon, run for a few weeks, and that would be that. She wasn’t avoiding him exactly; she just wasn’t seeking him out either. But he found her all the same. She could feel him staring at her when he though she wasn’t looking, and on the rare occasion they spoke she couldn’t help but notice how brightly he beamed when talking to her.
She remembered the first, time they kissed. The soft weight of his hands resting on her waist, sending shocks of anticipation and anxiety through her. She had closed her eyes, in fear and anticipation, leaving her uncertain of the next moments. A cascade of thoughts flooded her head, overlapping so that no single coherent thought existed. And then she felt his lips on hers. It was perfect, and it was over too soon. Just the briefest brushing of lips, no more than a peck. She wanted nothing more than to lean in and kiss him again, but she didn’t.
Instead, she stood rooted to the ground trying to process this new and intense feeling crashing through her. He was saying something to her now, but whatever it was she didn’t hear him. She was still too lost within herself. Still in a daze, she had turned and walked away without a word, back to rehearsal, leaving him to watch her as she went.
It was still a week before opening night and she no longer knew how to interact with him. Did they act like nothing had happened? Did they talk about it, what was there to say? Was there more to it or had it just been a fluke? Unsure where this left them, she buried her face in her sketch pad and focused her efforts on preparing for the show to open.
Opening night, Celia received a single red rose. The card held no signature, only a time and place. Everything after that first night passed in a blur. Secret rendez-vous meetings, notes left on café recites. By the end of the term she still didn’t know how to define what they were, but she decided, it didn’t need a label or a name. She was happier than she could ever remember being, and that was enough for her.