Diana shivered apprehensively and hoped that Danny hadn’t noticed, but she should have known better. Taking off his jacket, he laid it over the back of the sofa, and took her in his arms. She felt rigid with fear, and he knew that he would have to work hard at reassuring her before going any further.
“I hate to be unromantic, my love, but can we just catch some news?” he asked, kissing her softly.
The sense of relief was immense, and Diana almost ran to pick up the remote and turn the TV on. Danny kicked off his shoes and socks, and sat on the sofa, feet up on the coffee table. He took off his black tie, and undid the top button of his shirt with the same expression of release that Diana’s son Ben used to have when he got home and threw his hated school blazer up the stairs. This simple gesture calmed her nervousness more than any words could have done, and taking off her sandals, she curled up next to him, happy to feel his arm around her shoulders as she rested her head against his chest.
The television news was doom, gloom and football scores, but it gave them both a sense of normality, and it was just what Diana needed. She could feel her eyes growing heavy as the weather man predicted storms for the next few days. She must have drifted into sleep before the bulletin finished, because her next sensation was of Danny’s butterfly kisses on her eyelids.
“Can I make a suggestion?” he said.
“Of course, I’m so sorry, I fell asleep, it must have been all the excitement. John’s right, I am boring!”
“Shush. Go to the bathroom and get changed into something that you feel comfortable in. Do whatever it is that you usually do at bedtime, brush your teeth and I’ll try to stay awake. I’ll take my turn in the bathroom, brush my teeth and if you say yes, we can curl up in bed together. If you want to talk, or sleep, or to send me back upstairs, that’s how it’ll be. Okay?”
She nodded gratefully, and without further bidding, grabbed her nightshirt from under the pillow, and went into the bathroom, closing the door. She tied her hair into a side plait, knowing that it was probably an adolescent look for a middle-aged woman, but also aware that her hair would turn into a fright wig overnight otherwise. She took off most of her makeup, leaving just a smidge of lipstick, and brushed her teeth. Throwing her underwear into the laundry bag, she hung her dress and jacket up on the door, amazed that it had survived the evening’s rigors so well.
Danny had fallen asleep when she crept out of the bathroom. She was tempted to find a blanket and drape it over him, but he was only catnapping. He yawned, stretched and grinned at her, reaching up to tug her plait.
“This is another look for you. I like it. Where on earth did you get that nightshirt? Is that a sloth?”
“It was a Christmas present – made by my son Ben; he’s studying graphic art and design at Uni. We have a standing joke about sloths that goes back to his high school days.”
“Mm. ’Highly Huggable’. I like his style. What an extraordinary woman you are, Diana! Don’t run away while I’m in the bathroom, will you?”
“I won’t – um – I sleep on the left – is that okay?”
“Oh yes, I’m definitely a left-hander,” he said. Diana wasn’t quite sure what to make of that comment, but curled up under the duvet and concentrated on deep breathing in an effort to rid herself of the palpitations that were bedevilling her.
Danny came out of the bathroom wearing boxer shorts, and carrying his clothes. He placed them carefully on the back of the sofa with his jacket, put his shoes and socks under the coffee table, and walked over to the bed. The sight of his body took her breath away; his skin was the colour of butterscotch Angel Delight, and extremely toned. He took his watch off and placed it carefully on the bedside table next to her alarm clock. He also placed a familiar silver foil package there that confirmed Diana’s fears – or hopes – about what might happen next.
“May I?” he asked raising an eyebrow. Her eyes were obviously saying ‘yes’ because there he was, his head resting on the pillow next to hers, a gentle smile on his lips.
Diana reached out a hand and touched his face tentatively, looking into those deep blue eyes, and not quite believing what was happening. It was enough of an invitation for Danny; he cupped his hand over hers and kissed the palm, just as he had earlier that day. Moving closer; he took her in his arms and held her so tightly that she had to catch her breath.
Time seemed to hang in the air; Danny covered her face with kisses, coming back to her lips with each kiss more intense than the last. She clung to him, desperate for him to make love to her, but not wanting the excitement of this exploration to end. She felt adored and cherished, as his hands caressed her, and he murmured the sweetest of endearments. She moaned softly as she felt her body responding in a way that she couldn’t remember feeling before.
Danny was obviously proficient at wearing condoms; nothing like those sexual health sessions where she’d used a banana to show teenagers the best way to put one on. Nothing remotely sexy about a banana, especially when they were over ripe and collapsed before the demonstration could be completed. John had always refused to wear a condom, and it was only once she realised that he had no guilt about putting her at risk of infection from his numerous dalliances, that sex with him became very much a part of her past.
This wasn’t just sex though; Danny was slow and gentle with her at first, but just as Diana felt her own world turning upside down, he gave a shuddering groan and a kiss of such astonishing connection that she wondered if she’d ever be able to let him go. He burrowed into the warmth of her neck, and she felt a dampness on her skin. Raising his head, he kissed her again, leaving a tear on her face like a talisman. She’d assumed that he would be assured and confident in his love making; but she had not expected such raw emotion from him. She felt the tears well up in her own eyes in response, and she held him close.
“Oh Danny, I never knew this could be so wonderful…”
“Diana. I – Jesus – words fail me, and that’s not something that happens every day,” he whispered as his lips moved gently across her cheek. “Not exactly the hell-raiser I’m made out to be, am I?”
“It was never like this with John, and he was my first and only lover. You’ve given me something so special tonight. Something I will never forget, whatever happens.”
“My love, this has changed everything for me too,” he said as he stroked her face, and kissed her. “I haven’t felt like this since my wife…since Lisa…oh God…oh, I’m so sorry!”
Diana ached for him then as he cried in her arms; really cried, with great wracking sobs that shook them both, but eventually subsided and she, ever practical in moments of crisis, handed him tissues from the bedside table. Pulling the duvet up to her chin, Diana sat beside him rubbing his back as he blew his nose noisily, and threw the tissues into the bin. He leaned back against the pillows and pulled her against his chest.
“Is it – is it because I remind you of her, of Lisa?” she asked tremulously. “Is that why you sought me out?”
“No! No, my love! That does you a grave disservice.” He shook his head. “Physically you’re nothing alike, she was tall, thin and had dark curly hair. You have the same generosity of spirit as her though, and a smile that warms me right through like hers used to. You like people, but you don’t take crap from them either. She would have roared at the way you cut Debbie down to size this evening. I’ve been fooling myself for the past two years, jumping from one skinny model or actress to the next, never managing to follow through, and feeling empty because there was nothing there to turn me on any more. I really thought I was past it as far as sex was concerned, let alone ever finding someone I could make love to again-. Tonight, for the first time since I lost my wife, I actually felt a connection with someone – with you. I haven’t cried for Lisa, I couldn’t cry. Whoever heard of a man with my reputation crying? I feel that I can trust you, Diana. I hope that I haven’t made you feel uncomfortable, or embarrassed you…”
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” she said, running her fingers across his chest. “You said it before, we’ve both had a bad time, and whatever happens tomorrow, we’ve had tonight and it’s wonderful, and you are the loveliest man I’ve ever met – not that I’ve met anyone else under these conditions – so I’m hardly an expert. Oh God, I’m rambling!”
“You ramble beautifully. What time is it?”
“Quarter to two. We should get some sleep. Could you pass me my nightshirt, please?”
“I need to get up and use the bathroom. I should have stuffed a tee-shirt in my pocket as well as my toothbrush. My poor old arthritic shoulders get really cold at night.”
Diana wriggled into her nightshirt, got out of bed and opened the wardrobe, pulling a man’s tee-shirt out of her suitcase. “Here, it’s one of my son’s that I packed by mistake; I was in a hurry. It’s another Ben original.”
“Will he mind?” Danny pulled it over his head and grinned at the vaguely obscene message on the front. “He has an interesting line in clothing. Still, it’s warm and it smells nice.”
He pulled on his boxer shorts and disappeared into the bathroom, leaving the door ajar in a gesture of familiarity that made her feel so very included. She sat in bed, hugging her knees, and wondering what would happen next. He smiled at her as he came out of the bathroom and turned off the lights.
“May I stay?”
“Oh yes, please?” She threw back the duvet and he slid into bed next to her.
“Which side do you sleep on again?”
“Me too. Can we do spoons?”
Diana looked puzzled.
“Umm, what’s that?”
“Lie on your side as if you were going to sleep, and I’ll show you.”
She did as he requested, and smiled happily as he curled his body around hers.
“Oh, spoons. I see now.”
“But can I have a goodnight kiss first?”
She turned round and kissed him, holding on to him, desperate for sleep, but not wanting the night to end in case it spelled the end of this affair.
“Stop worrying,” he said, kissing her neck. “I’m not going anywhere, and later on, when we’ve had some sleep, we can talk about what happens next. I shouldn’t, but I’m hoping that you want us to spend some more time together?”
Diana sighed with relief.
“How did you know what I was worrying about?”
“Because it worried me too. Now turn over, and let me snuggle up to you.”
They slept, without any concerns for the future because Danny had said things would be fine and Diana believed him. Having his body tucked around her, with his hand gently resting on her hip, and his warm minty breath on her neck, gave Diana a feeling of belonging that she had never encountered before, and she slept deeply without any nightmares to worry her.