At forty-five, I had already seen my kids finish college and start on good careers. I was expecting to be a grandma in another five years. I had a little yellow house with white fences and a gorgeous flower garden. I had worked in the same job for the same company for the last ten years and could see myself there for another ten. I had retirement funds set up that looked like they would last through retirement.
So, what happens at forty-five when you’ve made it? When you are no longer struggling to create a life for yourself and your family? You get bored, that’s what. You get so bored. And I was so bored.
My life was now governed by routines. Every night with the husband was the same. Every Saturday was gardening and cooking. Every Sunday my children would call me. There was nothing new or exciting. My husband never brought me flowers just because. He never surprised me with new plans for the evening - never said, “Hey, let’s go out for pizza and beer like we’re college students.” There was nothing.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that a young intern at my work caught my eye. Perhaps the surprise was that the young intern was a young woman. She was the same age as my son. She could have been his girlfriend.
It started the day she brought me flowers.
“Is it boss’s day?” I asked, worried that I forgot to get my boss something.
“No,” said Sheila. “I just thought that you could use some color on your desk.” She looked a bit shy. “I didn’t overstep, did I?”
“No, no, of course not,” I said, dumbfounded. “They’re beautiful, and, uh..it’s really nice of you.”
Sheila stood by my desk for a few moments of awkward silence before saying, “I’m glad you like them. I...uh, I’ll just get back to work now.”
As she started to walk away, I said, “Hey, Sheila?”
She turned around and I said, “Do you have plans for lunch today?”
“No,” she said, “not yet.”
“Join me?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said. I could swear I saw a blush across her face before she turned again to leave.
I sat back and stared at the flowers. Pink roses, pink carnations, a few ferns and some baby’s breath in a pretty glass vase. I considered taking a picture so I could remember the day I got flowers “just because.”
Lunch with Sheila was full of ‘getting to know you’ questions and conversations. There was laughing and giggling at stories and intense stares as we both tried to memorize what we were told. I couldn’t believe how wonderful Sheila was. She was extremely talented, smart, and just downright nice. As lunch dragged on longer than it should have, I suggested that we get after-work drinks to continue the conversation.
I had expected my husband to be miffed when I called to tell him I would be home late. Instead, he sounded almost happy. I told him I’d make him dinner when I got home but he said, “Don’t worry about it - there are some leftovers in the fridge. Go have some fun, make a new friend.”
Sheila and I wound up at a happy hour. We had half-priced cheese sticks and nachos while guzzling drinks - her cosmos, me manhattans. The happy hour crowd started to filter out of the place after a few hours. Gone were the guys in the suits and in came the girls in the short skirts, dragging boyfriends with backwards baseball caps with them.
“This place has a great DJ at night,” Sheila said, as the music started up. The music had a good beat that was very danceable.
“Hey, do you want to dance?” I asked, with a bit of a slur in my voice. Well, it’s not like I was going to be driving anywhere anytime soon.
It took Sheila a second to respond and I immediately felt like an idiot. But thankfully, she said yes - and again, I thought I saw that blush.
It was so nice to be dancing. My husband had never been into dancing. I hadn’t pushed the issue since I didn’t much care for how loud music was played at dancing venues anyhow. That night, though, the volume was a good thing. I didn’t have to talk, only look at Sheila. The drinks had lowered our inhibitions enough that our eyes openly showed how we were feeling.
Sheila step towards me on the dance floor, and I step toward her. She wrapped her arms around my neck and I wrapped mine around her waist. We intertwined our legs and danced in grinding motions against each others hips. Looking over Sheila’s shoulder, I noticed a group of men pointing at us with smiles on their faces. When they saw me looking, they made crude motions at me. I sighed, close enough to Sheila for her to feel my breath on her neck.
Sheila looked me in the eyes and moved one of her hands to my face. She kissed me. Right there on the dance floor, we kissed. I put my forehead against hers and closed my eyes. This was the first person I had kissed that wasn’t my husband in the last twenty-five years. And she was the first girl I’d ever kissed.
I pulled away after a bit of guilt and reflection ran through my head.
“I’m...I’m sorry,” Sheila stammered loud enough for me to hear over the music.
“I think I need to call a cab,” I said. “Do you need a cab home, too?”
She nodded and then followed me as I left the dance floor. We shared a cab and headed to her place first. She kept apologizing during the cab ride while my gut wrenched over that stupid kiss.
“It’s okay,” I said finally. “I...I wanted it, too.”
“You’re very beautiful,” she said.
I didn’t shy away from her touch when she ran a finger down my arm. The sensation sent a tingle through my arm that continued across my chest. I breathed very deeply, trying to steel myself against the excitement. I turned to her and put a hand on her neck, under her hair. I loved the feel of her long, soft curls over my knuckles. I moved in to kiss her again but stopped just short of it and placed my forehead against hers again.
“God,” I said. “What am I doing?”
“We’re almost at my house,” she whispered, her warm breath reaching my lips. “Why don’t you come in? We can...if you want, we can just talk about...”
I knew if I went in with her, my life would change. My marriage would be ruined. My retirement funds split. My children would, well, I didn’t think they would forgive me. But this was so exciting. She was so young and energetic. She was excited about life in a way I was when I was her age. I wanted to drink in that old feeling. I wanted her to remind me what it was like to not know what was coming next.
When I paid the driver and stepped out of the cab, I thought about Sheila and my life. Would I regret forever that I hadn’t gone inside with her? My husband was asleep on the couch with an open beer on the floor, a dirty dish on the coffee table, and the TV still on. All of the lights were on and his clothes were littered on the floor. I sighed and wondered what Sheila’s living room looked like.