Excerpt from HEAVEN’s OASIS
Heaven’s Oasis by Jeff W. Horton
#Heaven’sOasis #JeffWHorton #Christian #Romance #Religious
“Well, Kevin, this seems vaguely familiar, doesn’t it?” It was a woman’s voice, one he vaguely recognized, as if out of a dream. He cleared his mind and looked up to find the source of the voice that had spoken to him. “Over here, handsome.” He turned to the left and found himself looking at a very large tree; it was the Davis tree, and sitting on the stone bench was the woman who’d addressed him, and he recognized her.
“Claire?” He’d seen her around the campus from time to time while still an undergrad, but he’d lost track of her completely since graduation. He couldn’t help but notice how phenomenal she looked. Her hair was still raven black and her eyes as green as ever. She looked more like a real woman now, however, along with everything that description suggested.
“Yeah, it’s me. I’m sorry if I interrupted you, Kevin…you seemed rather pre-occupied. It’s just that it’s been so long since I’ve seen you, since we’ve spoken, I wanted to say hello.” Kevin hurried over to the stone bench where she was seated, leaned over, and after giving her a kiss on her cheek, embraced her in a hug.
“Claire, how’ve you been? You look…amazing!”
“I’ve been doing great, Kev, thanks. You’re looking pretty drop-dead gorgeous yourself these days.”
Kevin laughed and was momentarily distracted when he realized that his heart was beating like a racehorse’s. “Wow—it’s been such a long time, Claire. So—what have you been doing with yourself? Still in school or just visiting? Single or married?”
Claire giggled. “Well, let’s see. I’m planning on finishing up finals soon, and then I’ll get to work on my dissertation. Soon after that I’ll be offered a teaching position at a university somewhere, God willing. Oh, and still single by the way,” she added with a flirtatious smile.
“Which is good…that I’m finishing up my finals, or that I’m still single?” she asked, still smiling and clearly having some fun at his expense.
“Oh…um…both, of course.” This time, Kevin refused to give her another opening. “Your, um, dissertation; it’s in archaeology?”
“Oh, yes, of course.” She gestured to the bench. “Here, have a seat, please; I promise I won’t bite,” she added with a playful grin. “I’ve missed you, Kev.”
“And I’ve missed you too, Claire.” More than I knew…. Memories came flooding back into Kevin’s mind, memories of what had been, and thoughts of what could have been, along with a heavy load of regret.
“I’m so sorry about what happened, Kevin, really.”
“What do you mean?”
“I heard about you and Jill—I’m sorry it didn’t work out; I know you two had been together for a long time, since not long after….” Kevin nodded and Claire decided not to finish her sentence. Kevin suspected it was because she was feeling the same pain he was, even after so many years.
“Yeah, we were together a long time,” he replied. “It wasn’t meant to be.”
“Is that how you felt when we broke up?”
Ouch. “Yes…no; I don’t know. With you and me, Claire, it was different. We were both so young and inexperienced, but it never felt, I don’t know….”
“Yeah, I think that probably sums it up. With you and me, it seemed to be more of a ‘not yet’ rather than a ‘not meant to be,’” he said with a questioning look. “Know what I mean?”
“Absolutely!” she answered hurriedly.
It was a good sign; Kevin smiled. He found it intoxicating to be in her presence again, he always had. Kevin considered how strange it was that not once had he ever felt that way with Jill, despite being together for so long. It was also peculiar how easily the old feelings came flooding back into every fiber of his being. How did I ever let her get away from me?
“I’ve thought about you quite a bit over the years, Claire,” Kevin said with a more serious look on his face. He wasn’t exactly sure where this impromptu conversation was going, but since it was Claire, he decided to see where it was headed.
“And there have been so many times when all I could think about was you, Kev; it was crazy! I went out with this incredibly hunky guy named Kent once; he was handsome, loaded, the whole package—”
“Yeah, I get it,” Kevin said, nodding and smiling.
“Sorry. Anyway, here I was with Kent, but all I could think about was you!” Claire paused and looked away for a moment, as if she’d suddenly hit on something important. “You know, I’ve often asked myself why we gave up so easily on such a great thing. That’s what we had, you know; a great thing. What ever happened to us, Kev? I mean…it seemed at first as if we were destined to be together, as if we completed one another. Was it my trip abroad?”
“Oh…I’m not really sure. I mean yes, it was your being gone for so long that prompted things to fall apart, but I believe it probably would have happened anyway, eventually.” Kevin sighed. “I honestly don’t know, Claire, I wish I did. I’ve asked myself that same question so many times. I guess it was probably our age and our inexperience more than anything else; we probably just weren’t prepared to be so serious yet. You met Richard on your trip to Israel, and I met Jill when we were lab partners in Chemistry.”
“But what about this…connection we’ve always had, Kevin? How could either of us possibly be interested in someone else when we share this incredible…bond? What were we thinking?” Claire looked up nervously at Kevin. “Or am I like, totally imagining things?” She bit her lip.
“No…no, you’re not imagining things, Claire; trust me, you’re absolutely right. I’ve felt it too. I’m thinking that maybe we both felt this really strong connection between us growing even stronger and stronger, and we got scared. Each of us ‘chose’ someone ‘safe’ to be with for a while.” Kevin shook his head. “I don’t know; what do you think?”
“Yeah, I suppose that sounds about right. You didn’t know it Kev, but I’ve been secretly keeping tabs on you ever since we broke up. Even while I was dating Richard, I was never able to stop thinking about you; I’m still not.” Claire hesitated
for a moment before continuing. “I still feel that connection with you, Kev. Do you still feel it inside too?”
Kevin looked into her eyes and could see she was telling the truth; the pain in her eyes revealed the inner turmoil she was describing. Of course he still felt the bond they shared pulling on him; for Kevin the connection had never dissipated. He’d often wondered if his connection to Claire had been what caused him to keep Jill at arm’s length for so long, which had ultimately led to their breakup, He started to share it with Claire, but there was a question that needed answering first. “What about Richard?” he asked her.
“Richard and I called it quits years ago. I finally told him one day that he was looking for more than I was ready to give.”
“What did he say to that?”
Claire, who had been spending much of her time staring at the ground, raised her head and looked longingly into Kevin’s eyes. “He told me I should come see you, that it was obvious to him that I was still in love with you. Apparently he realized it early on, but hoped that my feelings for you would eventually fade; they never did. I often found myself thinking about you when I was with him, Kev. It wasn’t fair to Richard and I knew that, so eventually I ended it. I suppose that he was a ‘not meant to be’ as well.”
“I’ve never stopped thinking about you either, Claire. Strange, now that I think about it, how I’d often find myself wondering where you were, what you were doing, and who you were with, even while I was sitting across the table from Jill at dinner or while she was in my arms; isn’t that awful? I should have ended things with her a long time ago. I guess I just didn’t want to be alone.” Kevin looked up at Claire. “Why didn’t you say something to me once you ended things with Richard?”
“You were with Jill, Kev, I didn’t know what to say!”
“You could have said anything!”
“Like what? ‘I know you’re dating Jill, Kev, but I need to see you anyway because there’s this really strong bond between us that I’ve ignored and oh, by the way, I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you? No Kev, I couldn’t interfere with anything you had going with someone else. It wouldn’t have been fair to either of you.”
“She dumped me, you know,” he shamefully admitted.
“Then she’s a fool, Kev,” Claire replied, wrapping her arm around his. “I’d do about anything just for the chance to spend another day with you, Kev.”
Kevin’s heart swelled and he beamed brightly. “Well then, perhaps you’d consider going out with me tonight, Claire Evans? I’d like to take you out to dinner and catch up on your life over the past few years.”
“Really?” Claire took out her smart phone. “Hmmm, let me check my busy calendar first, just to make sure I don’t have any other hot dates planned. Hmm—yes, I would very much like to go out on a date with you, Kevin Foster. After five years of waiting, I was afraid you were never going to ask.”
She leaned in close and for the first time in a very long time, the two once more embraced in a very warm and passionate kiss, on the old stone bench under the Davis tree.