I turned. I knew it would be Pio standing there looking perfectly edible in tight jeans and a white cotton T-shirt that showed off his muscles and his tan. His eyes were as black and alluring as I remembered them and his mouth, surrounded by that devilish beard, as tempting.
“You look great, Pio. Congratulations. You got your boat.”
Flies buzzed in the hot afternoon air. I could hear the laughter of the women playing cards at the picnic tables and the cracks, shouts, and curses coming from the bacci ball game. A fat yellow bumblebee drifted in front of us and then turned around and buzzed off in search of nectar.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call you, Clair,” he said at last.
I looked at him. I wanted to say it was okay but I couldn’t.
“Rosie explained,” I said at last. It was the best I could do.
“Clair.” He turned those dark eyes on me. “You have to believe I wanted to. I never met a girl like you before.”
I felt myself trembling and struggled not to cry. In all these months I hadn’t let myself think about how much I had wanted to hear from him.
“Clair, I haven’t gone a day without thinking about you but...”
“It’s all right,” I finally whispered.
He sat down in the grass and I knelt beside him. “No, it’s not all right. It’s just that I know what kind of a life I’ve bargained for and it’s not the kind of life a girl like you should have to put up with. And don’t think I mean that just for your sake. You’re not the kind of girl a man can be away from for very long. It would kill him.”
“You're going back to sea.”
He turned and smiled. “God, it’s beautiful some of the places I’ve been. Up in Lake Superior ... Thunder Bay ... you can’t believe what it’s like. The world gets so big and the sky is so high. Have you ever seen the Northern Lights?”
Blue and yellow butterflies danced by. The fragrance of the honeysuckle bushes behind the house was making me dizzy and so was the scent of his warm body as he moved toward me and with me backward into the cool grass. He kept touching my face with tender strokes of his finger tips. I could see the blue of the summer sky around the darkness of his head as he lowered his face and softly brushed my cheeks, forehead, and eyes with his lips. He rolled onto me. I ran my hands over his back straining upwards longing for his kiss.
“I can’t, Clair. God knows I want to but I can’t. If I make love to you everything would change and it would mess everything up for both of us.”
“No, Pio,” I whimpered. “We could work it out.”
He kissed me, a soft kiss, gentle, like moonglow on water.
“We’re young, Clair,” he whispered. “I just have all this wildness in me right now. I don’t want to hurt you but ... Maybe someday but right now it would be a mistake.”