Dani scanned the room quickly, looking for him. It was almost 8pm, time to deliver her speech and he was late. She sighed and adjusted the hem of her little black dress. This was one of the most important days of her life and he wasn’t here. And then she saw him. Abe, Abe, Abe. He was sitting towards the back, looking dapper like he just stepped off the pages of GQ. He looked like he’d just gotten a haircut and a shave. He looked divine. His silver tie contrasted nicely against his dark Armani suit. She smiled. He’d gone all out for her. Their eyes met and she took a deep breath. She was so happy he was here. He smiled broadly and she smiled back. As the announcer read her name, Abe was one of the first to stand up clapping. She laughed a little. He looked genuinely excited and happy for her. Dani tugged nervously at her dress as she walked across the podium. As she stood behind the lectern, the enormity of the event hit. She was 34 years old, and she was being awarded the 2011 National Business Award for Business Excellence. It was an incredible honor. Her father, God rest his soul, he would have been so proud. The thought of her father stirred an emotion in Dani that she hadn’t felt in a very long time – a feeling she almost didn’t recognize. As she stared at the sea of faces in the hall, she felt it forcing its way to her consciousness. She placed her notes down and clenched her fists, trying to still the tears that were threatening to fall, but there was no denying it. Looking out at the hundreds of people in front of her, she felt a deep loneliness like she’d never felt before. Abe was here, yes, but Abe was with Rayne, and they’d been together almost six months now. She was all alone, truly all alone. Dani stood straight and faced the crowd.
“When my assistant told me a couple of weeks ago that I was going to receive the National Business Award for Business Excellence, I looked her squarely in the eye and said, ‘Jane, I’ve let you prank me repeatedly for four years, and that’s fine, but this one, now that’s below the belt.’ And she looked back at me with her usual straight face and said, ‘Don’t worry – I told the lady who called from the Institute that I wanted a refund. I ordered a stripper not a Business Excellence award.”
The crowd erupted into soft laughter and Dani smiled. It was a lame joke but she appreciated the fact that they laughed. She appreciated this moment and she refused to allow herself to wallow in any pity. This was her damn moment.
“Do you have any idea, any idea at all how proud I am of you?”
Dani looked at Abe from the corner of her eye. He was grinning from ear to ear. She nodded and stared at the raindrops hitting the window. It’d started to rain minutes after the end of the ceremony. Her car was in the shop so Abe offered to drive her home. Finding a cab in this rain would have been impossible anyways. She hated the rain. It dug up the feelings of loneliness again, and she was struggling desperately to push them back into her subconscious.
Abe reached across and squeezed her hand. His fingers felt cold, but surprisingly soothing too. She closed her eyes and placed her head against the window.
“Are you okay? You’re very quiet. I know this is overwhelming but you seem… distant.”
Dani squeezed his hand back.
“I’m okay. Just tired. It was a little nerve racking.”
After a few seconds, she pulled her hand away and clasped her hands together. She was sinking deep and fast and she no longer knew how to stop it. By the time Abe pulled up to her driveway Dani was sobbing like a child.
“Dani, Dani, God, talk to me, please,” Abe whispered as he lifted her from the car and wrapped his arms tightly around her. As the rain fell mercilessly on them, Dani felt her head was going to explode. She just couldn’t stop crying. With strength she didn’t know he possessed, Abe lifted her clear off the ground and cradled her. Then he hurried up to her door, propped his shoulder against it for leverage, dug out his set of keys and opened it. He clutched her tighter as he walked up the stairs to her suite. She was still wailing as he grabbed towels from the closet and wiped her down on her bedroom floor. Her pretty little dress was soaked but that was the last thing on her mind. She was in pain and she couldn’t make it go away. She clung onto him as he whispered in her ear.
“You’re scaring me, babe, please talk to me. What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
“I’m alone, Abe. I feel so alone,” she sobbed.
Abe pulled wet strands of hair away from her face and cradled her face in the palm of his hands.
“I’m here, Dani, I’ll always be here. Do you understand that? I will always, always be here.”
And then, without warning, without hesitation, he lowered his lips to hers. It took Dani a second to react. Her eyes were burning from her tears and she was struggling to breathe, but Abe’s lips pierced her very core and she felt her heart skip a beat. She opened her mouth and kissed him back fully. He held on tightly as the kiss deepened and she clung on for dear life. Eventually they broke apart and stared at each other for what felt like eternity. Wordlessly, Abe lifted her from the floor onto the bed. Then gently, he started to unzip her wet dress. Dani closed her eyes. What was happening? This was so wrong, but she felt powerless to stop it. She’d never needed anyone this badly. At a pace that was excruciatingly slow, Abe got everything off and she lay there completely naked beneath him. He was less artful with his own clothes and Dani stared in wonder at his broad and muscular chest, and everything else in between that and his toes. When his lips found hers again she was aching badly. He kissed her softly, and even as she tried to rush it, he maintained control. He kissed her delicately from the tip of her lip down to her belly button and to the softness between her thighs. Dani moaned helplessly. He was torturing her. Eventually, he took her and Dani gave all she had to him. All her pain, frustration and loneliness dissipated, temporarily, as Abe made love to her. And as she started to climax, a devastating thought hit her hard – she loved him. God, she loved him!