Arms That Hold Me

it  looks like this, arms that hold me, elaina avalos, elaina m avalos, katie owens, one more cup of coffee
Photo by: flickr.com/photos/katieowens/8386886945.

A short story

Home isn’t always a place – sometimes it’s a person. I could live in hut, in the middle of Africa, or a shelter built of whatever we could find, in the poorest village in Baja – or in a leaky old farm house in Burgundy and I’d still be home. He is my home and always will be. Turning into our driveway, after a long week away, has become this perfect joy – the kind of joy that I didn’t know could be possible. I mean, I wanted it to be possible – I just didn’t experience it for most of my life. I travel for work – more often than I’d prefer. But it pays my half of the bills. During the weeks away, in spite of how busy my days keep me, I count down the moments until I return to this quiet haven we have created.

The day I met my husband was a horrible day. The worst – the kind of day that makes you want to crawl into bed and drink yourself into a stupor. At the end of the worst day, I’d had in years and years, I stepped off the escalator at my Metro stop and the sky unleashed with a holy furor – the likes I hadn’t seen in ages. There’d been no rain in the forecast, because of course not. Somehow, the worst summer thunderstorm I’d seen in ages, just happened to hit the moment I stepped onto the street. It soaked me to the bone. When I walked into the corner grocery store I shopped at every evening for my dinner, I am 1000% certain I looked like a drowned rat. But I shopped here every evening before walking to my Brownstone – and a little sloshing about, wasn’t about to stop me.

When my, now husband, reached down to help me up from the floor of that corner grocery store – now covered in pinot noir and soaking wet from the storm, I swatted his hand away. Eleven years later, I still haven’t lived that down. In what I now know is his endless patience and persistence, he put his hand out again. The second time I took it. My husband is a beast of a man. He is big and broad to my tiny frame. His hands practically swallowed mine. When I stood, the room spun around me a bit. I thought I might faint. “Hang in there with me, Miss,” he said, steadying me. “You’ve hit your head pretty hard. Let me call for an ambulance. That kid knocked you over pretty good.”

                “What happened?” I asked, the room still spinning.

                “Some jackwagon stole a bunch of beer and I guess the owner must’ve seen him on camera. He started hollering as I walked in and the kid ran through the store, and took you down as he went. I couldn’t get to you before you fell back. One of those,” he said, pointing to the wine on display at the end of the aisle, “hit you as you fell back. It was a double whammy – the floor and the wine, both conked you on the head.”

By the way, the wine is a display I personally installed a week ago. I’m a wine rep and sommelier. And after three years, I’d finally convinced Mr. Green to let me sell my wares here. “Ah. Of course,” I said. “Naturally it’s the pinot noir.”

                “What’s that?” he asked.

                “Never mind. And no – no ambulance. I’ll walk to the hospital. Or take the metro.”

                “Oh no you will not,” he said. And just like that, the burly stranger I met in a southeast D.C. grocery store, was taking me to the hospital – as if I’d known him my whole life.

                That was 11 years ago. We married a year later. We’ve been inseparable ever since. He is the best thing that has ever happened to me. He is nothing I ever imagined when I dreamed about the man I’d spend my life with. The thing is, once he won my heart, I couldn’t imagine another existence – as if we were formed from the beginning, for each other. He’s everything I’ve ever needed and nothing I knew I wanted. We are opposites in many ways. But in every way that matters, he is my best friend – my true companion.

We built this house, into the mountain, a few years ago, after we’d wandered and dreamed about where we would settle. It’s weird like us – mid-century modern angles, expansive windows, and high ceilings – and the sweetest stone fireplace you ever did see. I long for home when I’m away, coming home to this man and our refuge is the best sort of gift. When it’s cold, he lights the fire before I get home. But even without it, he’s like that fire, keeping me warm from the inside out. I long for him even still, after all this time, as if it was the first time. His physical strength and single-minded pursuit of me has been steadying me for 11 years. I’ll never get over his love for me. And I will never love another human more than him.

Without considering for a second the need to grab my luggage or even my purse, the second I turn off the car in the garage, I head into the house – needing the arms that hold me . When I left California earlier today, the blazing hot sun and Santa Ana winds blew through the Temecula valley wine country. But here, so far from that dusty place, it’s cold now – the weather has turned. It’s autumn now. The warmth of the fire warms me instantly when I open the door – as does the mischievous smile that’s made me rather lusty – for so long now. My husband is hot. A smile bursts out. I cannot contain myself. Long before I reach him, the gratitude of all these years, overwhelms me. “I thought you’d never get here,” he says.

“I’ve been trying to get home for days,” I say. “It’s all I could think about. I missed you.” His arms pull me close.

“Good thing I don’t have to share you for a while. A week is too long. Can we just agree on this now? There has to be a better way,” he says.

“A week is too long. We’ll figure something out,” I say,” melting into him and his kiss. As the sun sets in the kitchen window behind us, his arms around me – he fills me in on the week I’ve missed. He holds me close – as if I’m going somewhere. The man is stuck with me. Come hell or highwater, I’m not going anywhere.

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