Because I love the relationship that’s growing between Cade and Rhae, here’s a picnic date bonus scene.
“Hey, you ready?” he asks, excited.
“I don’t know. Your enthusiasm scares me. What are we doing?” “I told you, it’s a surprise,” he smiles and holds his arm out for me to take.
I reluctantly reach out and take it as he leads me through the door. He gives me just enough time to lock the door before pulling me down the porch steps. “Woah, someone’s a little excited. Either this is terribly dangerous, or you’re afraid I won’t like it.”
“Neither,” he smiles that devilish smile.
“I thought I told you to stop smiling at me like that.”
“I can’t,” he pauses and keeps pulling me to the truck.
What is up with him? I resign myself to stop asking questions, and vow to not freak out over anything he surprises me with. I climb into his truck while he holds the door and closes it behind me. I buckle in, just in case. Cade is in the driver’s side and taking off before I know it.
We head down so many winding country roads, that even as a life- long resident of the area, I’m lost. Still, I enjoy the sunshine and wind blowing through the windows. I place my face closer to the window and take in all the smells of freshly harvested fields, cut grass and sunshine. I swear sunshine has a smell, too. The sun is warming my face and I can feel sweat gathering in the middle of my back. I start to feel self- conscious just in time for Cade to stop the truck. I open my eyes slowly and take in the large shade tree we are parked beside.
We are in the middle of a field. Only us and the shade tree. Cade is staring at me.
“Do you like it?”
“Like what? It’s a shade tree in an empty field,” I smirk.
“Exactly. Do you like it?”
I nod and smile. Cade bounces out of the truck and gathers some things from the back before coming around to open my door. He takes my hand as I hop down.
“Nice dismount,” he says, jokingly. “This way,” he takes my hand and leads me to the far side of the tree.
“How old do you think that tree is? A hundred years?”
“No. You pulled that out of your ass.”
“No really. This is land my family owns. The story is that one of my great-grandfathers planted this tree for his wife. They have always farmed around the tree.”
“Two hundred years, that’s more than a great grandfather, but I don’t feel like trying to figure out how many. That’s really sweet. I love little gestures like that.”
“Little gesture? A two hundred-year-old tree is a commitment. Not a gesture.”
“Sorry. Why are we here?” I ask.
“We are here for a picnic,” he smiles and shakes a basket at me.
“A little early to eat isn’t it?”
“A picnic is not just about food. But if you’re hungry, I packed some things.”
I grin like a goofy school girl as I watch Cade set about spreading a quilt and sliding off his boots. He stuffs his socks inside to keep them safe, then motions for me to join him. I start to, and then I’m met with the memory of Ryan’s face in my dreams and I freeze. He wants me to move on. I want to move on. I need to stand on my own. I’m not sure what Cade and I are exactly.
“What are we doing?” I ask.
“What do you mean? I already told you, it’s a picnic. A pic-a-nic, Yogi.”
I can tell he’s trying to make light of the concern on my face, “No. What are WE doing? Are we friends? More than friends? I keep trying to think through what we are, and I can’t put a name on it.”
He looks serious, “What do you want us to be, Rhae?”
“Me? I don’t know. I know you can’t want to be anything more than friends with me. But then you do something like staying with me at night, at least until I fall asleep, and then sometimes you do things like plan a surprise pic-a-nic. I don’t know what we are doing.”
“I don’t want to pressure you. I just want to spend more time with you and figure out what we’re doing, too. I can’t get through the day without thinking about you. Sometimes I manage to text you, but all I really want to do is be at your door the minute you get home from work. And what do you mean, you know I can’t want anything more than to be your friend?”
I swallow. Oh, he heard that part of my ramble. “I mean, why would you want to be with me. I’m an overweight widow. You may not have noticed, I’m pretty broken. Why would you want to get involved with me?”
“Are you crazy? You’re amazing. You keep waking up every morning, dealing with the shit storm of a mess your husband left you. I can see how broken you are. Still you go to that job you hate and take care of the house you hate. You don’t have to know what you’re doing or where you’re going to keep moving, and you keep moving. As far as being an overweight widow, WHO CARES? I see you. The real you. The heart of you. Why do you think I’m so tangled up inside? I want us to be something, but I’m afraid how broken you are. I don’t want to push you too hard too fast. Maybe wanting to be with you is selfish.”
I realize I’m crying as I start to see myself through his eyes. It takes me a few minutes to settle my breathing. Cade has moved closer to me and pulled me down to my knees on the blanket. He leans in and wipes the tears from my eyes. Holding my face in his hands, he leans his forehead down to mine and says, “Let’s just take it one day at a time.”
I nod but I still can’t speak. He tilts my chin up until I’m forced to look into his eyes and that’s when he leans in and kisses me. At first, he is tender. A small kiss on my mouth with no urgency. It is barely a brush. Feather-light and sweet. He pulls back to look into my eyes. They’re wide and focused, but I’m no longer crying. He pulls me to him again and wraps his arms around me in a bear of a hug. He kisses me again.
This time he applies more pressure and holds me there in his arms. I can tell he is unwilling to let go and I love the feeling of being in his arms. Cade makes me feel things I thought were long since dead with Ryan.
I pull back to stare at him this time, “We can’t do this. I need to stand on my own before we declare we are anything. I don’t even know what that means yet.”
“I know,” he smiles as he wipes the remaining moisture from my cheek with his thumb, “that’s why I haven’t tried to label us. We spend time together. We are friends. We are friends until you’re ready for something more.”