Thunder crashed outside our house and my mom’s teacups rattled on their shelves. I gulped and stared wide eyed out the window. Rain poured from the sky in giant droplets. The wind tore at our house, driving the rain even harder and making it difficult to be heard over the noise.
It was tornado season, and the conditions were perfect for tornadoes. My parents were closely watching the weather radar and I continued to stare at the ferocious storm outside. Nothing could be heard but the crash of thunder and the roaring of the wind and rain pelting our little house. I was terrified.
The worst weather we ever experienced in California was a hard freeze or maybe a little thunderstorm if we were lucky. I had never seen anything like this. It felt like our house was going to be torn apart. I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide.
“It’s time to get underground now!” My Dad announced. “There’s a tornado on the ground heading straight for us. Grab some stuff and let’s head to the neighbor’s shelter.”
My heart pounded. We have to go OUT in this? I didn’t relish the thought. I scurried into my bedroom and grabbed my laptop and a few pictures I couldn’t replace, stuffing them into a bag.
“Hurry up! We need to get underground now!” My Dad shouted above the noise of the storm.
My parents, brother and I bundled up in coats and dashed out into the rain to jump in the waiting car. Lightning flashed and the windshield wipers worked furiously back and forth. Thankfully, our neighbor with a shelter was next door.
We pulled into our neighbor’s driveway and ran inside.
“Hey guys, make yourselves at home!” Our neighbor, Cathy, bustled around her house making preparations to go underground with us. “I can’t believe this weather! I was wondering if you guys were coming over, this is getting scary!” She exclaimed. “I’m glad you made it! Rather be safe than sorry!”
The underground shelter was in Cathy’s backyard. We slipped and squelched our way through the mud and carefully climbed down the ladder into the small concrete shelter, bolting the door behind us.
All that could be heard for several minutes was the howling of the wind and the pouring rain. Then it began to hail. We huddled together in the darkness, listening to the storm rage above us.
I listened intently, and a foreign sound pierced the wind and the hail. “What is that?” I asked. It sounded like a train was approaching, a low wail of destruction, getting closer and closer.
“That’s the tornado, it’s coming our way.” Dad said gravely.
Every muscle in my body tensed and I trembled. Why did we move here? I inwardly lamented. California was beautiful all the time. We never had to worry about being blown away! This is awful! I squeezed my eyes shut as the train sound wailed closer and closer.
Then, slowly, the sound began to recede. I opened my eyes and listened intently. The tornado was definitely moving away from us now. I let out a huge sigh of relief. Within minutes, the rain stopped and even the wind died down to a light breeze. It was almost eerily peaceful.
“I think we’re in the clear!” Dad said and Derek let out a whoop of excitement.
“Let’s get out of here!” Cathy exclaimed.
We all clambered up out of the shelter and surveyed our houses. Everything was still standing. Some of the smaller buckets and barrels in our yard had been blown away but everything else was intact. Even the roof looked okay. I clutched my laptop and valuables to my chest and wondered how others had fared in our area.
“I’m going to go drive around and see if anyone needs any help. Derek, do you want to go?” Dad asked.
“Yeah!” Derek said. “I want to see how much damage there is.”
“Please be careful you guys!” Mom entreated.
“We will be.” Dad said as he and Derek climbed into his truck.
“Good Lord, I’m glad this is over! What a fright that was!” Cathy exclaimed. “I’m from Colorado, I’m not used to tornados!”
“We aren’t either!” Mom exclaimed.
We gathered our meager belongings and walked back to our house after thanking Cathy for the use of her shelter.
My heart still pounded and adrenaline pulsed in my veins. That was scary! I thought. I hate this Oklahoma weather!
My phone pinged with a text. I frowned. It better not be Ben. I wish he would stop bugging me!
Months had passed since Ben had crushed my heart into a thousand tiny pieces. Since then, a long summer of deep introspection brought about some clarity and healing. Ben had continued to torture me with frequent texts which did nothing but make me miss him more until I finally put my foot down and told him to stop or I would block his number. As hard as that had been, the much needed silence from Ben enabled me to see him for what he really was. A messed up, manipulative, immature guy with a disturbing sexual fetish. Thought at times my heart still ached at the fading memories of Ben, they were fading. I was grateful I hadn’t gotten any deeper with Ben and eager to move on to better things.
My phone pinged again. The text was not from Ben. It was from Colton Gregory. My eyebrows shot up. I met Colton on Christian Mingle about a year ago. We had spoken a few times on the phone but never met in person.
His text read: Hi Lotte! I just wanted to check on you and make sure you were okay. I saw the news about the tornadoes in your area today.
I smiled, pleased. He remembered me after all this time and thought to ask how I was after the storm? I’m impressed. Maybe I was too hasty in sizing him up the last time we talked. He seemed boring on the phone but maybe he would be better in person.
Hi Colton! It’s great to hear from you! I really appreciate you thinking of me, that was nice of you! My family and I are fine. The storm just missed us. How are you? I texted.
We texted back and forth for a while and I watched the news with Mom in between texts. The damage from the F-4 tornado had been devastating all around us. There were dozens of houses that had been blown away completely and cars lay everywhere, twisted into what resembled smashed tin cans. Those poor people! Their houses and everything just…gone. I felt thankful to have our house spared and sorry for the people who hadn’t fared as well. Looking at the destruction the tornado caused made me sick. All those homes…all of those belongings, some irreplaceable, gone in the blink of an eye. It was awful. The only good thing about the storm was that there had been no casualties, thankfully.
My phone pinged again. I could tell Colton was still interested in me, even after all this time. I decided to give him another shot. Hey, it’s been a while since we talked on the phone. I’d love to catch up if you’re free sometime soon, I texted.
Sounds great! Colton texted. Are you free tonight around seven?
I grinned. This guy doesn’t waste any time! I should be available. I texted. Talk to you later!
“Whyyy are you smiling like that?” Mom raised an eyebrow at me, amused. “Spill the beans!”
“What?” I pretended to shrug nonchalantly.
“Don’t give me that! You’ve reeled in another one haven’t you?” Mom laughed.
“I wouldn’t say “reeled in.” I couldn’t help but smile. “It’s Colton Gregory. He wanted to talk to me later today.”
“That cute guy from Christian Mingle? I thought you said he bored you to tears.”
I blushed. “Well, I DID say that but I got to thinking. Maybe I judged him too quickly. Maybe he would be more fun in person.”
Mom raised her eyes to the ceiling. “Lotte, you’ve got to stop giving every guy who likes you a chance even when you don’t really like them! You don’t have to treat every guy like a lost puppy dog, you know.”
“Mom!” I protested, laughing. “I don’t treat guys like lost puppy dogs! I would want to be given a chance if the situation was reversed. I try to treat guys the way I would want to be treated.”
Mom shook her head disapprovingly, but she was smiling. “Just remember, you can’t force it when it comes to attraction. Your gut instinct is usually right. Listen to it.”
“I got it, Mom!” I rolled my eyes, grinning.
The time quickly approached for Colton’s call, and right on cue at 7:00, my phone began to ring.
I eagerly engaged in conversation, trying to be the perfect blend of friendly but not too flirtatious, as I had been taught. With frequent awkward silences from Colton’s end, I worked to fill in the gaps in conversation. It was obvious that he wasn’t a particularly communicative guy. My inner romantic sighed and shook her head despairingly.
I gave Colton an hour of talk time, hoping that as he became more comfortable there would be more zing to our conversation. There wasn’t. He was nice, but I definitely wasn’t feeling it. I bit my lip, frowning with disappointment when our conversation ended.
That was about the same as last year. Bother. Why can’t I meet a HEALTHY, non dysfunctional guy who I’m actually attracted to?! I let out a long sigh. My inner optimist rallied the troops. Well hey, maybe if I just give the guy some time, meet him, and go from there, we will have some sparks. He really seems nice and godly. I nodded to myself. I need to be patient. Patience isn’t my strong suit. You can’t microwave a relationship. Look at how that went with Ben. Pain flared through me at the thought and I stuffed it. I must forget about Ben. I HAVE to. I’ll get to know Colton on the phone for a while, then meet him in person. You don’t really know someone until you meet in person anyways…
Three weeks had passed since reconnecting with Colton on the phone. He had mentioned meeting me in person and I decided it was now or never. We communicated a day, time, and place to meet in a town near me, and put the date on the calendar.
I swallowed a lump of nervousness in my throat as I fidgeted in my seatbelt, flexing my fingers on the steering wheel of my car. In a few minutes, I would meet Colton face to face. I struggled to quell my nerves. I parked my car in the theater parking lot and headed towards the front steps, where people were milling and purchasing tickets.
Once inside the theater, I went into the café and found a seat to wait for Colton, as we had agreed on. I had barely taken my seat when I recognized his approaching form.
Colton seemed short, a little shorter than 5’8” with an average build and thinning dark hair. His face was dominated by thick eyebrows and a serious expression. I tilted my head, observing him and rose to my feet when he saw me.
“Hi, Colton Gregory, right?” I smiled.
“Lotte Graham! Wow, you’re so much prettier than your pictures!” Colton gushed and pulled me into a firm hug.
To my shock, his hands caressed their way down my waist to rest provocatively on my hips. I stiffened. What the heck?! That is extremely forward! My inner cynic was jumping up and down, waving a red flag. I eased away from his roving hands and contained my discomfort.
“It’s nice to meet you, Colton.” My tone was cooler now, on guard with his show of touchy feeliness.
“Same here! Gosh, I can’t stop looking at you, your eyes are stunning!” He enthused.
I felt like rolling my eyes and struggled to maintain a blank facial expression. Can this guy be any more oozy?
We got in line to purchase movie tickets and I maintained a casual conversation. My irritation increased the longer time passed, for no matter what subject I brought up, Colton seemed completely lost in my physical appearance. Though it was mildly flattering, it made me overwhelmingly uncomfortable. I was dressed simply, in jeans, sandals, and a flowy blue top. It’s not like I’m wearing a prom dress or anything. Geez. Down boy! I felt like an adolescent puppy was humping my leg.
Tickets purchased, we moved into the dimly lit theater room and found seats in the cushioned red chairs.
Silence reigned for a moment while Colton stared longingly at me. I decided to try a topic change. “So…you mentioned that you liked P90X? Do you still do those workouts?”
“Oh! Well, not in a long time.” Colton laughed guiltily. “I did some of them about three years ago but I never finished. Have you done them all?”
“Yeah, actually! Those workouts kick my butt!” I laughed. “I just finished up the 90 days. I’m taking a week break now.”
“Whoa, nice!” Colton raised his eyebrows, impressed. “I’ll bet you have some muscles now!”
I did a mock bicep flex and grinned. “Probably not compared to you, but for a woman I guess I’m pretty strong now.”
“Let me feel, please?” Colton begged.
“Ok!” I laughed and flexed my bicep as he squeezed.
His jaw dropped. “Wow! I think your bicep is harder than mine!”
Now I did roll my eyes. “No way! Let me feel. Flex!”
To my astonishment and horror, he was right! His bicep was soft and flabby, nowhere near as firm as mine. Well, there’s a first for everything! I had to work to contain my laughter. That is just sad. I’ve never felt a dude’s bicep that was SOFTER than mine. This guy is sadly out of shape.
I was thankful for the dim lighting in the theater to hide my growing lack of interest. Between the absent chemistry, constant ogling, and now zero physical attraction added to the mix, I wasn’t thrilled with my date.
I decided to face forward and examine the large blank movie screen in front of us. He can make some conversation now, I’ve been doing it all so far! I grumped inwardly.
Suddenly, I felt Colton leaning towards my face and my entire body stiffened. He leaned into my hair and inhaled slowly. As he exhaled, he let out a low moan and whispered, “You smell sooo good.”
I shuddered involuntarily. WHAT is he doing?! He just freaking moaned in my ear! Does he think that’s acceptable or a turn on or something?! Now I was getting irritated. Not to mention creeped out.
Colton interpreted my involuntary shudder as a sign of pleasure and he leered at me, grinning stupidly. I couldn’t shake the feeling of being humped by a pubescent dog.
Blessedly, the previews began to play on the big screen before us and I used the opportunity to slide as far away in my seat from Colton as I could, thankful for the barrier of the arm rest between us.
With the distraction of the movie, Colton ceased his amorous fixation of how good I smelled. Geez! I thought. Can this guy be any more of a goob?! I want to bail right after the movie. Then I felt bad. Colton had driven all the way from Texas to see me. It would be super rude to cut out right after the movie. He had been homeschooled like me, maybe he was just…socially inept. I chewed on my lip pensively.
The movie was a typical action adventure with lots of shooting scenes and a couple cool explosions. Typical for a Fast and Furious movie. It was entertaining but not particularly deep.
The moment the movie ended, I sprang from my seat. “I’m going to use the ladies room,” I muttered, and darted out of Colton’s reach.
From the privacy of the bathroom, I grabbed my phone. This isn’t going so well. I texted Mom. I think this guy is harmless but he’s kind of a dork. Not much attraction. I’m fine for now, but I won’t be letting this date go on for long, I’m guessing.
I reluctantly left the safety of the restroom and found Colton waiting outside. He immediately slid his hand to hold my arm and escort me from the theater. I found his incessant touching revolting, but I still felt guilty about ending the date prematurely after he had driven so far to see me. I agreed to meet him at a nearby restaurant.
Thankfully, his taste in restaurants was far better than his taste in manners. Colton had picked one of my favorite steakhouses. My mood began to improve but was instantly squelched when Colton again let his hands rest on my waist and caress me suggestively. This time, I pushed his hands away and frowned.
“I’m sorry, have I offended you?” Colton asked.
I grinned wryly. “You could say that.”
His expression turned contrite. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to offend, I was just trying to get some chemistry going between us.” His face fell.
“Well, it’s either there or it isn’t. You can’t make chemistry. I only just met you, Colton. I’m not comfortable with you touching me like that. You’ve been invading my personal bubble since the moment we met. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but I am not comfortable with that at this stage. It’s inappropriate.” I can’t believe I’m having to explain this to a 28-year-old!
“Sor-ry.” Colton’s tone held a hint of surly indifference. As I raised my eyebrow in annoyance, he straightened up. “I really am sorry, Lotte. I just thought you liked it.”
“Well, maybe if we had been dating for a while I might, but not today!” I said bluntly. And the way this is going, that ain’t likely!
“Ok, ok! I’ll try to back off.”
Awkward silence accompanied most of our steak dinner. I chose to ignore it and at least enjoy my dinner, being the foodie that I am. Might as well make the most of the evening.
Colton graciously paid for my meal and I thanked him as we headed out of the restaurant to our waiting cars.
“It was my pleasure, Lotte.” His eyes bored into mine as I stood next to my car.
I stared back awkwardly, trying to figure out a pleasant way to disengage myself. To my surprise, Colton leaned towards me and his gaze drifted to my lips. You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!!! My thoughts shouted in annoyance.
“Colton! What did I JUST say about personal space?” I snapped, putting my hands against his chest and pushing.
He was not to be dissuaded. “I’m sorry, Lotte!” He whined. “You’re just so gosh dang beautiful and I really want to kiss you!”
This guy really is unbelievable! Now I wasn’t irritated, I was pissed. Was he just incredibly obstinate or incredibly stupid? I had JUST told him to back off and here he was, back again! The pubescent dog humping my leg. “STOP!” I commanded with every ounce of sharpness I possessed.
Colton stepped back at my tone, looking wounded.
“I’m sorry to have to repeat myself, considering I just got done telling you that you were making me uncomfortable.” I glared at him pointedly. “It was nice meeting you, Colton. I appreciate the movie and the dinner. I am going to go home now. I hope you have a safe trip home.”
Panic flared in his eyes. “B-but, Lotte! Did I make you mad? I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to! Let me make it up to you!” He begged.
I was not to be moved. “No, it’s ok. Yes, you made me mad with your inappropriate behavior but there’s nothing more to be said about it. I’m going to go now. Goodbye!”
“But please! I’ll do better next time! Can you please just give me one kiss?”
My nostrils flared. Insufferable man! What an idiot! “NO, Colton! I’m not kissing you! Goodnight and goodbye!” I shrugged off his hands and got into my car.
I fumed the entire drive home. How dare he try to be all touchy feely like that on a first date! And then to be completely obtuse and keep asking for a kiss! It was absurd! I’d never kissed anyone and I certainly wasn’t about to give it away to some drooling, inappropriate, non-attractive guy I just met.
Well, that went well. Giggles bubbled up inside me and I finally started laughing. That poor soul! He needs to go to a relationship counselor. Or better yet, obedience school! I laughed harder. That has got to be one of the weirdest, most forwardly awkward people I’ve ever met! He takes the cake!
Needless to say, I didn’t hear from Colton Gregory again.
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