Sofia debated for a bit – what time did she want to see Lucas? She finally settled on 9:00, thinking that would give her plenty of time to wake up first. He texted back that he’d “pick her up” at 9, and she noticed butterflies in her stomach.
“Butterflies,” she thought, “like a teenager.” It wasn’t easy to fall asleep that night. But once she did, she slept well, with only a few vague dreams about a labyrinth and a dragon.
“Maybe a castle too,” she thought, waking up the next morning. “Was there a castle?” But by the time she’d had had her first cup of coffee, “cause I need a jump-start at my age,” she thought, she had forgotten the dream. She exercised, showered and dressed, quickly. Answered email, and by 9:00 was completely ready to go.
She hesitated at the door. It was not quite 9. And – she looked at the message again – he had said he’d “pick her up.” She wasn’t sure what that meant when you lived next door to somebody, but she decided to wait a couple of minutes before starting out herself.
Exactly at 9, he knocked. She knew it was him because she had started watching out the peephole, so she was not nearly as startled as she might have been otherwise. She paused before opening the door so he wouldn’t think she was over eager.
His smile was so warm she almost hugged him.
“Lucas!” she said, and he reached out, taking one of her hands in both of his.
“It’s so good to see you,” he said. “I thought of you while I was gone.”
“Did you now?” she said, and thought, “I’m flirting. Omg, I think I’m flirting. Do I even remember how to do this?” They started down the stairs together. He released her hand, but she was still aware of his touch, his warmth.
As they headed up the sidewalk toward Park Place, he said, “How have you been?” just as she said, “How was your trip?” and they both laughed. “I tell you what,” he said, “Let’s just walk. We can catch up once we get our coffee and a pastry. I”m thinking maybe a chocolate croissant.”
“Oh, or an apple fritter,” she said. “Their apple fritters are the best.”
They walked in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, then “Look,” he said. “There’s a a bunch of sailboats out today.” They admired the boats, agreed that they’d rather visit a boat than own one, and laughed about two squirrels chasing each other in circles.
It was a quick walk, maybe 15 minutes, and the time passed quickly. Sofia enjoyed the companionship, and felt an edge of excitement even when they were quiet.
The cafe was busy, and they agreed on a table outside. It was warm, but not too hot yet. Lucas asked Sofia to hold the table for them and went inside to order.
Waiting patiently, she became aware that she was totally focused on waiting. Her body – or maybe it was her mind – had shifted into a state of relaxed waiting. almost like meditating, she thought. He was in control. All she needed to do was what he told her to do. It wasn’t unpleasant, she wasn’t complaining, but her heart beat faster.
He was back quickly, carrying a small tray. Sofia unloaded the tray for them, which included the chocolate croissant and the apple fritter. Lucas settled himself next to her.
“So, hi there,” he said.
She smiled, “Hi, there yourself. How was your trip?”
He grinned, “It was great. I want to tell you about it. But I want to get to know you a little bit first. All I really know about you is your name and that you like rope. And I wouldn’t know your last name if I hadn’t looked at the mailbox! I started to google you,” he paused, “but it seemed a bit intrusive.”
“I’m curious too, ” said Sofia – “I’d like to know more about you! After all, you tied me up and left town.” She giggled, “So to speak, anyhow.”
“Ok, so my trip,” he said. ” I was in Bali, on a retreat. A silent retreat.”
“Right?!” Sofia was fascinated. “That’s what your postcard said. How cool! I’ve always wanted to do that! I’ve been to some mindfulness workshops and taken some classes, but I’ve never done a silent retreat. What’s it like?”
“It’s – ” Lucas hesitated – “It’s hard to describe. I’m one of a small team of people who lead workshops like this. There were 6 of us this time, which is a good number, and of course some administrative staff. It can be intense, but mostly it’s just about trying to stay present and open and practice what we’re all trying to do.”
“Oh, wow. That’s – that’s really cool.”
“Yeah?” He looked at her, questioning. “Lots of people just think it’s weird.” He didn’t sound upset about it, just matter of fact.
“No, not at all. I think it’s – interesting. Really interesting. I want to hear more about it.”
He smiled. “Of course. But it’s your turn. Tell me something important about you.”
“Well, I was a therapist most of my life – mental health therapist.”
“Social worker?’ he asked.
“No, psychology. I worked a lot with trauma, people who had experienced trauma..”
“Now that’s really interesting,” he said. “Not everyone can do that. Tell me more.”
She started to say, “No, it’s your turn,” but stopped. “I can,” she said, “but isn’t it your turn?”
“Are you still doing therapy?” he asked.
“No, when I moved here, my license didn’t transfer well. I’m mostly retired now, although I do some consulting and coaching. But not therapy.”
He nodded. “Now it’s my turn. Is there something in particular you’d like to know?”
“Have you been in the area long? How did you end up moving next door to me?”
Taking their time, savoring the pastries and coffee, watching the boats on the river and people walking by, they began to learn about each other. Sofia learned that Lucas taught mindful meditation, and was a writer. She was thrilled to discover that he not only wrote books about mindfulness and how to “live in the moment,” but he also wrote murder mysteries under a pen name, some of which she had read and enjoyed.
She learned that he had been divorced for almost 10 years, had two grown children, including the son she had already met. His other child, a daughter, lived further north and had a 3 year old daughter and a 7 year old son.
Lucas learned that Sofia was also divorced, and her ex-husband had died several years ago. She had two adult daughters and two grandchildren, a five year old girl and a nine year old boy. Both daughters lived within a few hours drive and visited often.
Sofia had surprised herself by telling Lucas that she’d been able to retire because she’d won the lottery – a small one, she added quickly! She usually didn’t tell people that right away, but it had felt perfectly comfortable sharing that with him. Even after taxes, the winnings had been enough to give some away, buy her condo on the river, and supplement her retirement income so she didn’t have to work.
They talked a little bit about trauma and how healing trauma intersected and overlapped with mindfulness. They liked many of the same experts, had read many of the same books, and attended similar types of workshops. Lucas talked more about his experience with silence and Sofia found herself watching his hands as he talked. Strong hands, with long fingers. She pulled her attention back to his words.
They’d been talking for an hour or more when he said, “I’m really enjoying this.”
Sofia nodded. “Me too.”
“And I have a dilemma,” he went on. “A couple of dilemmas really.”
“Yes?” Sofia braced herself, sure there was going to be some really bad “But…” coming next.