“Excuse me.” Rita pushed his chair back into position, and tapped him on the shoulder. She was not taking this sitting down, as it were.
“Sorry. Sorry.” Rita watched the stranger seated in front of her rise and turn to face her. For a second, she thought he looked familiar. Black hair, black eyes, a hint of stubble on his face, nice full lips. Definitely hunk material, but he still couldn’t sit on her lap during the five hour flight.
She looked into smiling black eyes and remembered. “Nick?”
“Is this a small world or what?” His laugh was warm and masculine, and vibrated against her as she stood and walked into his embrace.
“Yes it is. Were you visiting your mother?”
“And my brothers.”
“I’m sorry,” interrupted a flight attendant. “You will have to take your seats now.”
“Are you with anyone?” At the shake of her head, he pulled her into his row. “Great. Join me. We’ll catch up. My mom raved all weekend about the surprise 50th birthday party you just threw for your mom.”
Rita smiled. “Did she tell you about the….”
“The Stripper? Yeah. Now she wants one too.”
“But you and your brothers gave her a cruise last year for her 50th?”
“According to mom, it didn’t count since it didn’t come with …Mr. Long? Mr. Horse?”
“Mr. Banana.” Rita laughed at the expression on his face. It was then that she noticed that he was holding her hand. It felt nice. She squeezed his hand and got a returned squeeze in turn. “See what you miss for living so far away.”
“When?” Her heart tripped over itself. It was just because they were taking off. “In June. But it’s going to be weird. I haven’t lived in the city for five years. Going to have to rediscover the Big Apple once I get back.”
“Call me,” Rita offered, “I love playing tourist.”
“I’m going to take you up on that offer.” He squeezed her hand.
Three Months later
4th of July
“You have a great view here.”
Rita joined Nick on her small terrace overlooking the East River. “This was the big selling point when I moved to Manhattan. And, I can promise you that we’ll have a better view than the major for tonight’s fireworks.”
At his skeptical look. She pointed downward. “He will be down there at the Water Club looking up. We’re up 20 floors, at the exact height of the fireworks. You’ll see.”
"Can’t wait.” He tucked her hair gently behind her ear. She shivered at the contact.
“So you finally got your dream of living in the city.” His hand was gentle against her cheek. His eyes, a warm chocolate brown and intense.
“You remembered that?” She couldn’t quite catch her breath.
“I remember a lot.”
Down girl. Nick was a family friend.
“Thanks for helping me setup.” Rita moved back into the apartment to finish setting up for the party.
“Hey, it’s the least I can do. You’ve been a great tour guide. Helping me get reacquainted with the City. Bummer about the adult shops being gone from Times Square.” He laughed at her look. “But I loved the ESPN restaurant.”
“You just loved the wall-to-wall flat screens with all those sporting events.”
“Guilty. What else can I do?”
"Can you set up the bar by the window? That’s the last of it.”
“Sure.” Nick picked up the two cases of beer in one swoop.
They shared a laugh. Something they’ve been doing a lot since he moved home.
"You don’t have to thank me.” She turned in his embrace. “I love playing tourist.”
This short story won the 2008 Valetine’s “Love Bites” Contest of the Romance Writers of America / New York City Chapter and was published on their website. For more information about the writers group, visit them at www.rwanyc.com.