Look, I’m not an idiot. I knew we were moving too fast. You don’t make lifetime commitments when you’ve known someone just a few days here, then a few days there, with lots of phone calls and emails in between. But the thing is, there’s one thing I learned in Afghanistan. Life is fragile. Screw all that hesitant bullshit. We were going to go for it.
As the thought ran through my mind, I tugged on her hand and pulled her to me. Her cheeks flushed red, and I said, “I couldn’t walk another step without kissing you.”
Then I leaned in and our lips touched. People were all around us, jostling us as traffic rolled by on our right. But at that moment all I could see was Carrie. The kiss was intense, but even more so was looking in her eyes. She had pale eyes, blue-green, with a dark iris surrounding them in a way that made me feel like I was slowly falling off a cliff. She closed them as our kiss deepened, and her mouth slowly opened, our lips exploring each other, our tongues just barely touching.
My whole body came alive at that touch, urgent sensation, and I pulled her to me and whispered, “I’m falling in love with you, Carrie Thompson.”
She caught her breath, and said, “I love you, Ray Sherman.”
We may have stayed there for five minutes, or maybe it was forever. But when we separated, I felt like something had changed. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. And I felt like I’d do anything, anything in the world, for her. It was overpowering, wonderful.
We slowly separated and started walking again, but at a pace which probably drove the New Yorkers around us insane. I had an arm around her waist, and I wasn’t letting go no matter what happened.
“I want to tell you about something,” I said, my voice low.
She just raised an eyebrow. I loved that her cheeks were still flushed.
“When I turned eighteen, my parents asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, and I told them I wanted to go skydiving. I think my mom had a small heart attack. But me and my dad went. We sat through the safety briefings and all that, and then we went up.”
“Skydiving? Jumping out of airplanes?” For a woman who had stalked mountain lions, her voice had a suspiciously fearful squeak to it when she mentioned skydiving. I made a note to take her up sometime. She’d love it.
I nodded. “Anyway… the first time… it’s hard to capture the feeling. There’s fear, when you’re looking out the door of the plane, and knowing it’s thousands of feet to the ground. And then, out the door, and the wind is buffeting you, and there’s this moment of incredible terror. Will the parachute open? Will you flap screaming to your death? Is this it? But then… everything went calm after a few seconds. The wind was intense. But there was this feeling of absolute freedom. No gravity… flying. Absolute exhilaration. I could see hundreds of miles of land below us, I could touch the sky. It was the most amazing moment of my life.”
“Did your parachute open?” She had a wry smile on her face when she asked the question.
I snickered. “It did. But the thing is… that feeling that I could touch the sky? That’s exactly how you make me feel.”
Her smile just grew, her white teeth gleaming, her eyes prominent and beautiful, and she said, “That’s the cheesiest thing I ever heard in my life.”