UNDER THE JAMAICAN MOONLIGHT
FOR A MAN WHO HAD given up on love, dining under the Ocho Rios’ moon reaffirmed that all things are possible. Jimmy Voigt sat across from Meredith, a woman who, just a couple months back, had been a stranger. She carried the black evening dress she wore elegantly, its straps loose and dangling over her shoulders. In the candlelight and a beautiful setting such as this, it was hard to resist her. A portion of him didn’t even want to try.
“Thank you for taking me with you, Jimmy.” She smiled at him, wistfully, as she lifted her wine glass for a toast. “To us.”
His lips twitched, but he wasn’t sure if the full expression showed—he was terrified of falling in love. He went through with the expected response, though. He clinked his glass to hers and watched as softness blanketed her features.
It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
They were both up with the sun and had met by the pool. They had spent the early morning strolling along the shore. With toes in the sand, they had shared whispered jokes and silly stories while the sea air cleared out any stench of the city and melted away stress. Tropical breezes also carried wafts of plant life and flowers.
“The Dunns River Falls was quite the experience.”
“You’re telling me.” He left out the fact that his knees had barked most of the way up. He found himself caring what she thought about him, which was a first since Clara.
While he had tried to put Clara from his mind, his ex-wife had a way of entering his thoughts at random intervals and at the most inappropriate times. He had loved her with his soul, but that hadn’t been enough. Maybe it was why he held back now. He feared that if loving someone with his entire being hadn’t been enough before, why would it be now? Yet, he had to shake the self-flagellation.
“The best part, though, I must say, was snorkeling. The colors of those fish. Absolutely stunning.” Meredith took a sip of her wine.
Jimmy’s eyes fell to her slim fingers. When they held hands, they intertwined perfectly with his.
He needed to put the past behind him and leave it there. Sara had told him to open his heart, but he was starting to think it was secured behind reinforced steel doors. Still, he appreciated how far he had come—and not simply in actual mileage, but also in the emotional distance he had traveled to ask Meredith to accompany him to Jamaica. Really, though, what fun was an island without a companion? Still, he wasn’t going to rush things and had ensured they had separate rooms.
Taking a long draw on his wine, he appreciated its flavor. He pursed his lips.
“You look mighty deep in thought.” Meredith laughed.
“Truth be told, I was.” If he allowed his mind to swallow him whole, it would. Enough of the scrutiny and inward reflection. He was determined to enjoy this moment in time—another wise piece of advice from Sara.
He reached across the table for Meredith’s hand. As hers molded to his, he had to admit that he felt better than he had in a long time. On some level, he felt more complete. If he had listened to his initial excuses, he wouldn’t be here with her. It was with that thought he realized she no longer wore the ring. He pinched his fingers around where it used to be.
She withdrew her hand and placed it on her lap. “You just noticed? I haven’t worn it since just before Christmas, but it was time for me to move on. I have a feeling it is for you too.”
Meredith’s husband had cheated on her after twenty years of marriage. She couldn’t forgive him. It was an offense Jimmy wasn’t sure he could have pardoned either.
Again, the internal talk would have him believe his situation hadn’t been the same. That somehow he’d suffered less the way his marriage had ended. All Clara wanted was more of him, yet it was a sacrifice he wasn’t able to make. He had continued to put the job first, and in the end, that’s all he had. Still, it had resulted in the same outcome as it had for Meredith—two hearts that had once been bound were ripped apart.
“I know you’re probably right.” Jimmy tried to smile. He hoped at least a glimmer of it came through. “I’ve been happy here with you. It’s been nice having a friend.” He knew it came out all wrong by the way her face fell and her eyes pinched.
“Yes, it is.” She cleared her throat as she took the napkin from her lap and put it on the table. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment.”
As she walked away, he felt like a schmuck, with a capital S. Why couldn’t he just put his reservations aside? What did he have to lose? His pride? He was certain his heart hung back, despite periodic suspicions to the contrary. All he had to do was breathe in, and breathe out.
His hand went to his neck and he stretched it side to side. It was then he felt a pinch and everything went black.