Linda Saxy

Author (A.K.A. Linda Bolton)

Tag: shakeology (page 1 of 2)

To Fall In Love

Does everyone want to be in love? What about marriage? Does everyone want to be married?

I look back to my dating days in my early twenties. Yes, love and marriage were very important to me, to all of my girlfriends. I remember how dating went (yes, it was a long time ago but I do still remember): we’d meet, go on a date or two or three, I wanted a relationship, he didn’t.  I have surveyed friends from back then and they remember it similarly.  Most of the guys were not that interested in having a monogamous relationship or ready to get married. 
Flip the calendar twenty-five to thirty years in the future. Same friends surveyed…men are more interested in a monogamous relationship and marriage than women around the same age. Why is that? Why the switch? I have a theory.
When men are twenty the world is their oyster: they are young, have all the vim and vigor (yes, I said vim and vigor) and they know they are studs. Women, on the other hand, are looking for safety and security for their future, marriage being the answer. But when women reach their mid-forties, they have careers, learned they can support themselves and live independently. Men, on the other hand, seem to begin to want the safety and security of not living alone in their later years. 
I’m not saying any of this is wrong, its just interesting and totally explains why young women marry older men and why cougar women date young men. Obviously, we have all known couples that married young and grew old together.  I don’t mean to imply this to “all” men or women, but I have noticed it quite a bit.  Look back at your younger dating years.  What do you remember? What about now? Are you single or have single friends? Are you looking for love?

Can A Marriage Last Over Twenty Years?

Newlyweds are always so happy and in love. They’ll do anything for each other and love being around one another. What makes them change after twenty years of marriage?

You know what I mean…we’ve all have seen it. The couple that meets in high school or college, gets married and lives happily ever after…NOT! What happens? I see it all the time. I can’t tell you how many friends I have that have been married 20+ years, divorce, or cheat on one another. What causes this shift from “You’re the only one for me” to “I don’t find you attractive anymore” or “Can you hurry up and get this over with”?

I know down the road in our marriages we become grown-ups, with grown-up stress. We all know how difficult it is to take care of the kids, work 40+ hours a week, get the car fixed, buy a new air conditioner and still love to be around each other. But is that couple still in love? Can they find romance after the kids go to bed? When you’ve gained 30, 50 or more pounds will they still find you attractive? When the wrinkles and grey hair (or lack of hair) arrive, do they still kiss you?

I’ve talked to many friends in this situation.  When your spouse says they don’t find you attractive anymore because you’ve gained too much weight or lost your hair, what do you do? When you feel like you have nothing in common and rarely do anything together anymore, how do you change it? How do you get back what you had?

I do have one friend that had empty nest. She and her spouse struggled. They came to the realization that it was going to take a lot of work to keep their marriage together.  So, how committed are you? Do you truly love your spouse? Are you looking at them and thinking how you really want to make it another 20+ years? Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to find out if your spouse is as committed as you are.  What happens if they aren’t? That’s a bridge you may have to cross, but if you’re already unhappy, you’re already at the entrance. It can’t hurt to find out if your spouse feels the same as you do. If they do, work on it, with all your heart and soul, like you did when you dated years ago. If they don’t….      

An Unromantic Romance Writer

I know, you’re asking,”WHAT?”

I’m really not a romantic. Never have been. But I love writing and reading romance. Maybe it’s my lack of romance that attracts me to it. The sweet love stories, the torrid, stormy romances, the historical highlander-invades-and-kidnaps tales – I love them! Don’t ask me to recite a gushy romantic comment. I don’t have any in my vocabulary. If they are said to me I have to hide the eye-rolling terse comment that tries to escape my thoughts. I know, its sad.

So, now you’re wondering, “How does she write romance then?” Well, I watch everyday life. I listen to other people.  I read a lot! Yes, my friends can vouch for me  – I steal their lines, their stories, their comments. I have many romantic friends who tell me their tales, in confidence of course, and, yes, I use their love, pain and mushy stories. No one is safe!

I can’t help it! They are my muse. Oh, I have the voice in my head that comes up with a bit of gooeyness every now and then, but my friends are my real motivation.  I enjoy reading and, especially, writing romance. The ideas flow but to add that special something – the perfect quote, a great setting, that special description of the perfect kiss – my friends are great contributors.

So, as you read my blogs and, hopefully someday, my books, you’ll know I had a ton of help in writing them.  Oh, I could never disclose who gave me that perfect line or that warm and fuzzy date.  That would be just wrong on so many levels. Also, that friend would stop sharing their feelings with me. Just enjoy the fact that you know the story is a collaboration of great friendships coming together to share their deepest secrets.

Is There an Answer to Why?

I had a girlfriend tell me recently that she prays to God and asks him why certain things are happening to her and her family and she’s receives no answer.  All she wants to know is why?

I think the answer is trust. Trust in God and his wisdom to take care of us, despite a rough road.  I know this isn’t the typical romance blog I normally write but it is about romance, our romance with the Father. Do we love him and trust him enough through the hard times to stay with him during the good times? If we don’t, can we ever truly trust a human being? I mean, reality here, we know all humans are imperfect and we can all have good intentions, but we make mistakes.  Sometimes whoopers! God, on the other hand, is perfect, good and loving. He never promised if we followed him life would be a dream. On the contrary, he said it would be a hard, bumpy road, but worth the ride.

So, back to the question, why? Maybe the answer isn’t for us. Maybe how we handle the bumpy road will make us an example to someone else, helping them along by seeing our strength.  Maybe gaining strength through the adversity is what we are to learn. Maybe he just wants us to trust him and that’s it.

Are you putting your trust in the right place?

A Time For Patience

Patience…Not something we enjoy having.  In our got-to-have-it-now society its definitely not encouraged.  I was even told on multiple occasion not to pray for it. Reason being, the way to gain patience is to practice patience.  Who wants to do that?

Whether its in looking for a job, looking for a new home or car, working on a relationship or raising children, patience has a roll. How do you handle patience?

Patience can be your friend or your foe.  Its so hard not to rush into things.  Impatience is so much more popular.  The struggle to wait on something, something that can be great, is difficult for most. Friends, family and colleagues will suggest you “do it now”, “hurry before you change your mind”, “you deserve it now”.  But do we really need anything at this very moment?  Aren’t some things better when you have to wait on them a bit? Don’t we learn to value relationships we have to cultivate? Don’t we appreciate something if we wait until we can really afford it?

When we have children we are constantly telling them they will have to wait.  Why aren’t we taking our own advice? Sometimes, once we’ve waited a bit, we decide the thing we thought we really wanted isn’t so important anymore – saving us the time and money we would have wasted otherwise.  And, sometimes, we find out having to wait on something or someone has made it more worthwhile.

Can a Realist Become a Romantic

If the knight in shining armor doesn’t exist, what does? Do the moonlit walks and candlelit dinners? Or are those just in the movies? Do men really whisper sweet nothings or is that just in books? Is there really sexual tension or do most couples jump into a physical relationship so quickly that there is no tension?

Think about how sexual relationships on television have changed. Remember the days when couples slept in separate beds? Those days are gone and so has our imagination.  Even during prime time scenes are very explicit.  So, how does that fit into our view of romance?

For realists, romance is dead.  We all have busy lives and are lucky to be able to sit down to have dinner, much less light candles and have a glass of wine.  A quickie is the norm. Romance is for the big screen and novels; a fantasy best left to the imagination.

For romantics, its alive and well.  The slightest touch or softest breath can stir up desire. A look or smile can cause the heart to skip a beat.  Intimacy starts with holding hands and a slight kiss.  Sexual tension is meant to build. Time and place are considered just as important as the act itself.

Which category do you fit in? Realist? Romantic? Is a romance novel or a movie an aphrodisiac? Is there time for romance in the 21st century? Can you be converted?

Perfect Chapter 5

Chapter 5
The flight from Dallas to New York was never ending. Alex told Mattie she just had to get away but didn’t tell her to where or with whom.  Kathleen, her confidant at work, was the only one who knew her true destination.  Alex was looking forward to the trip until she boarded the plane, then she began to feel foolish.  She knew Derek paid for the flight but what was she expecting from this? A mind-numbing good time, an escape from reality? Sure! But was that realistic? Shouldn’t she just try, like other widows, to deal with the loss and move on?  Was it fair for her to have this extra time to live in a dream?  Was she just postponing the inevitable? 
Once she disembarked at JFK and she saw Derek waiting for her at the end of the ramp she didn’t care if she was foolish.  He made her feel giddy, something she hadn’t felt in years. He washed reality away and let her live in the moment; a moment defined by them, not reality. She didn’t care what anyone thought and she banished the dread she had earlier. She was going to enjoy this trip!
Derek had on a baseball cap and sunglasses trying to blend in the crowd.  As he and Alex travelled through the airport a few cameras flashed in her peripheral vision.  Alex tried not to look around. Derek had arranged for them to be ushered onto the awaiting flight to be out of the crowds. He sat next to the window to avoid being seen.   
The flight to London was 8 hours.  Two hours into the the trip, once her and Derek had caught up with what each other had done over the last four years, the reality of why she was taking this trip hit her.  Alex, sitting in her plush first class seating, began to cry.  She just couldn’t control it.  She had no real explanation of it, it just happened.  Derek didn’t try to stop it.  He seemed to know what was going on inside her and just held her.  He didn’t ask any questions, just let her get it out.  
Once the tears dried up Alex apologized to Derek,“I’m sorry.  I don’t know what came over me.”
“Its ok.  I’m sure this isn’t the last of it.  You’ve had a rough time.  I’m here for you, what ever you need.  A shoulder, tissue, hug….never apologize.  I didn’t expect this to be a bunch of fun and laughter.  I thought you might need someone to just lean on.” Derek’s eyes were full of understanding and warmth.  
Alex was very glad she took this trip.  At home she feigned cheerfulness to keep everyone from saying “I’m sorry” all the time.  That drove her the craziest!  Why were they sorry?  They weren’t the ones driving the car that hit them! No, the drunk woman was in jail.  Probably not long enough and eventually she would be out again to kill someone else. Alex began to feel she could show whatever emotion gripped her without guilt. Derek made her feel at ease.  
Once in London they headed for Derek’s home on the north side in the borough of Barnett.  The house was a brick two-story.  It was warm and inviting, with rich burgundy and browns decorating every room; definitely masculine with no feminine touches.  It was tasteful and handsome. Any  rumors of women living with Derek were dispelled by his decor.  They stayed there two days while Alex recovered from jet lag.  The temperature in London was chilly but sunny most of the time and Alex relaxed in Derek’s garden enjoying the blooming flowers. Derek was very attentive and catered to Alex as she gathered her strength for their upcoming travels.
On the highway to Glasgow, Derek’s favorite place in Scotland, Alex enjoyed the beautiful countryside.  After being in Texas where the flora can go from grass to desert within a hundred miles, seeing continuous fields and mountains lush with green vegetation was a pleasant surprise.  The color was a bright contrast to the dreary sky. It was overcast and occasionally drizzled lightly.  The air was cool and crisp.      
Once in Glasgow they spent hours walking the streets as Derek showed Alex some of his favorite sights.  He was excited to show her his old stomping grounds. That first afternoon they walked along Buchanan Street looking at the Edwardian architecture housing modern art galleries and shops and spent time at the Lighthouse on Mitchell Street, walking up the 135 steps to view the city from the top.  They passed back through Buchanan Street at night, the blue streets lights illuminating the shop fronts.  Alex had never been out of North America and marveled at the centuries old building designs. 
The next afternoon they strolled to Sauchiehall Street to relax at the Willow Tea Room.  Alex was in awe. The outside was white and black, a  modern design, especially compared to the Victorian style buildings surrounding it.  They were shown to a room in the back, a bit darker than the front, with a cozy fireplace.  Old photos of Charles Mackintosh, the building designer, and Kate Cranston, the original owner, lined the walls giving the place a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.  They enjoyed tea and talked about actors Derek had worked with.  
Sauchiehall Street was a busy place.  There was a large concert hall and shops from end to end.  At one corner Derek and Alex passed a group of bagpipe players in kelts performing traditional Scottish music.  In an area farther down a street band with a drummer, two guitar players and a saxophonist were playing a more modern tune.  There was something for everyone.  
Every place they went Alex experienced something new; a sight, a smell, a taste.  Even the weather was unique to her; all four seasons could be experienced in one day.  Scotland was irresistible in every way.  Derek had become irresistible too.  Every look and touch from him made her senses tingle.  
Their room in the Alamo Guest House was spacious and cozy, a Victorian bed and breakfast. The large fireplace was warm and inviting.  They had requested one of the suites with an extra large tub for two.  The owners made them feel welcome and part of their family.  Even their cat was charming.  The hospitality was unlike anything Alex had experienced.  She wasn’t well travelled and her only experience with hotels was Motel 6 on the rare occasion Josh took her anywhere.   
The Alamo was on the west end of Glasgow, in the arts district, overlooking the Kelvingrove Park.  The view was magnificent. The park was lush with nature, plants and wildlife.  After dinner Derek and Alex strolled through the tranquil park.  They walked past victorian statues, the Kelvin River and the center fountain, dedicated to Robert Stewart who brought fresh water to Glasgow many years ago.
The instant they arrived in Glasgow all the feelings of gloom Alex had been harboring melted away.  In the mornings she woke blissful and at peace. Derek’s slightest touch caused her to burn with desire.  Every fiber of her being was consumed by him every morning and night.  She was never too tired and he was always willing to oblige. Each climax stronger than the last, each feeling as though their last breath lay in the other’s chest. Their passion for one another’s touch grew with each passing day.  Derek had never felt such a connection to anyone.  Alex was lost in her desire. 
After exploring Glasgow’s art galleries from the west to the south side, the couple ventured to Edinburgh.  It was only a one hour drive through rich farmland and rolling hills.  They passed the M8 Church in Salsburg, Kirk of Schott’s Parish Church, built in 1450.  It was repaired and rededicated in 2007 and a very popular landmark in Scotland.  The countryside along their route was lush and bursting with life.  Alex never realized how much she had been missing, not just from never traveling but in her everyday existence.  She now had a fire in her, as if opening her eyes for the first time. 
Derek reveled in watching Alex’s reactions.  Very few people he met enjoyed the things he did.  He had a couple friends he’d known for years that loved to travel, see amazing things, live on the edge, but none of them were women.  Alex was open to anything.  She saw great beauty in the smallest parts of nature as well as marveled at the grandeur sights.   
Once in Edinburgh the Ceilidh Festival would be one of Alex’s favorite memories, filled with Celtic culture from bagpipes to dancing.  The festival boasted of its homegrown talent.  The music and dance displayed traditional as well as more modern forms. There were choirs and bands with open sessions that visitors could join.  There was poetry reading and music dedicated to Robert Burns, the beloved national poet of Scotland.   Derek took pleasure in sharing his culture with Alex.  She danced to the music, tasted haggis and listened intently to the storytellers with their tales of Celtic fairies and folklore.  Derek tried to interpret for her but she shushed him, enjoying the accents when she couldn’t understand the words. She was like a child on her first outing. Until they were alone. 
Derek was amazed at their voraciousness. He found a new thrill each time they came together and their passion only seemed to grow.  They had to be careful on their outings into the city, for if they touched each other their lust took over. On their second day in Edinburgh, Derek had taken Alex to  Prince Street Gardens.  They had a lovely view of the park and Edinburgh Castle from their room at the Caledonia Hotel. As they walked through the park, admiring the  the statues and scenery, they stopped at the Ross Bandstand, admiring the view of Edinburg Castle.  Derek stood behind Alex, his arms around her waist, telling her some of Edinburgh history.   She leaned back on him as his breath warmed her neck.  As he spoke his voice became low and hoarse, his body heating up next to hers, his hands began to wander over her, slowly, steadily. Derek backed up to lean on something solid to keep his balance. Before they realized what they were doing they were in a grove of trees, groping each other like teens. 
Derek and Alex realized then that they needed to be careful in public.  With paparazzi always on the prowl all they needed was to be arrested in Scotland for lewd behavior.  The tabloids would have a field day. They limited their physical contact to holding hands and an arm over her shoulder or around her waist.  Anything more and they just couldn’t control themselves.
Derek was recognized in Scotland even more so than in the States.  He was putting Scotland back on the map as a major tourist attraction, visitors hoping to experience a “Derek Dunbar” type Scotsman. The paparazzi were not as forward as in the US, thankfully.  They stayed at a distance but cameras were clicking around them periodically throughout their visit. Derek hoped unsavory press would not follow Alex home. 
Derek took Alex to East Lothian to see the rolling countryside, golden beaches and the cliffs along the shore.  They stopped at Tantallon Castle on the Firth of Forth.  It’s castle lay in ruins but they were able to climb the staircase and view the breathtaking coastline. They could see Bass Rock Island, made of volcanic rock, and its lighthouse.  The island was uninhabited but for the gannets that nested there.  Alex watched their white and black bodies, pointed wings and long bills sore in the air and dive into the water where they hunted for prey.   
After Edinburgh it was back to London and a flight to reality.  They spent one night, their last night, in Derek’s house in London.  Their passion was at its peak, their lust uncontrollable.  In the afterglow, Alex felt Derek’s touch like fingerprints at a crime scene, lingering on her body.  She hoped to still have that feeling after she returned home.  

Perfect Chapter 4

Chapter 4
Alex’s plane left New York at 11am.  Derek had left with the early dawn.  He’d given her a feathery kiss and disappeared. She had barely felt him go. 
As Alex walked through the airport it was as though New York had just been a dream.  Alex went back to her life, to her routine; New York was a faint memory.  Alex never told anyone about her experience with Derek Dunbar.
One year later, April 16th, Alex received a text message:
How’s my fantasy woman?
Alex didn’t know the number but she knew it had to be Derek.  She’d never mentioned anything about fantasies with anyone but Derek. She had thought about that night with him often but figured she would never hear from him again. She answered back:
Doing ok my fantasy man
Alex saved the number in her phone – Derek D.
The next year, April 16, Alex received another text: 
How’s my fantasy woman?
She answered back:
Ok, how’s my fantasy man?
Alex received a response back:
Busy as shit!
Alex knew it was definitely Derek.
The following year Alex received the same text.  She responded the same and the response back was: 
Busy as shit and I’m bloody tired!
In February of the next year tragedy struck Alex’s family.  Josh and Alex were on their way home from a friend’s and a car going the wrong way on the tollway hit them head on.  The driver was drunk driving the wrong way on the access road and entered the tollway through and exit ramp. The accident was horrific.  The cars were mangled; the drunk driver dead on impact. Josh died on the way to the hospital. Alex had a severe concussion, broken ribs from the seat belt, burns on her arms from the airbag and was in a comma.  The police used their cell phones to find relatives’ numbers.  
By the next morning family had gathered at the doors of the ICU to check on Alex. She still had not regained consciousness and the doctors were not sure if she would.  The rest of her injuries were cuts and bruises, all minor.  Waiting for Alex to awaken was what the doctor’s worried about the most. They were not sure what damage had been done. 
On the second day in ICU a stranger arrived at Alex’s bedside.  Alex and the stranger were alone in her room.  He wore a baseball cap, sunglasses and baggy clothes.  Only the nurses saw him enter and leave two hours later.  No one paid attention to him. The next day he was in the room when Alex finally awoke.  
Things were blurry and when they came into focus Alex was confused.  It took a minute for her to realize where she was.  She looked around and saw Derek at her bedside.  She thought she was hallucinating. 
“Derek?” came out as a whisper. 
Derek looked up. “Alex! You’re awake!”
Alex saw the concern on his face.  She must look a sight! 
“What happened?”  Alex was trying to remember the last few days.  Something about a dinner party….
“You were in a car wreck,” Derek’s look was despondent.
“Josh?”
Derek shook his head. Not meeting her eyes he said in a whisper, “He didn’t make it”.  Derek could tell the news wasn’t registering with Alex.
 Alex saw tears in Derek’s eyes.  He was sad for her.  Alex was confused.
“Derek, why are you here?” 
“The police went through your phone and called everyone with a D for a last name looking for relatives.  When I got the call I told them I was your cousin so I could find out what happened.  When they said you were in a coma I came right away.  You’re my fantasy woman.  I had to come.” 
It was too much for Alex to take in.  She plunged back into unconsciousness. 
The next morning Alex was back in reality, Mattie sitting at her bedside. Mattie barely spoke, just sat holding her hand. She remembered seeing Derek but since no one mentioned him she thought she might have dreamt it. Other relatives wandered in and out, discussing plans for Josh’s funeral.  Alex let her mother-in-law and Josh’s brother take care of the arrangements.  She didn’t want deal with any of it. 
Within a week Alex was in a regular room.  The doctor told her she would probably go home in a couple of days.  Each day Derek came to visit, dressed inconspicuously, able to blend in, morning and evening.  He sat at her bedside, cheering her up with his quirky humor.  As friends came in and out of her room none ran into Derek.  Alex never mentioned to anyone he was there, afraid he would disappear.  He was her only distraction from reality, a reality she didn’t want to be in. 
The day before her release from the hospital two of Alex’s co-workers came to visit as Derek was leaving.  Kathleen knew about the text messages he had sent to Alex. Kathleen had been the only one Alex had finally confided in the year before.  
“Was that…?” Kathleen’s eyes were wide.  Monica, too busy staring at the male nurse in the lobby, had not even noticed the guy leaving Alex’s room.
Alex made a face at Kathleen, the “shhh, don’t say anything” look.  Kathleen changed the subject, discussing work and what Alex had missed.   It was a secret between them. 
The next afternoon Alex was released from the hospital.  Her family members were all there to help her home.  Alex noticed Derek had not come by and wondered if she’d hear from him again.  He had been such a comfort to her. 
Late that evening she received a text:
Glad you were released.  Didn’t want to be in the way.  I’ll keep in touch.
Alex was pleased he thought of her and returned the text:
You made me feel so much better
A few days later was Josh’s funeral.  His favorite music played and wonderful things were said about him. People Alex didn’t even know hugged her and shook her hand. It was surreal.  Alex couldn’t believe she was alone.  She hadn’t really been alone in twenty-four years. Over half her life she’d been married.  Even with the long hours Josh worked she knew she was never alone.  Mattie was rarely home and had been mostly moved out for the last couple of years, coming home to do laundry or have an occasional meal.  The house was very quiet.
Between the hospital stay and the funeral, Alex had missed three weeks of work.  She was ready to return to her routine.  Or so she thought.  The first day back was overwhelming and Alex had a hard time keeping up.  She knew it would take her a couple of days to get back in the swing of things. Coming home in the evenings was toughest.  So quiet, so deserted.  Mattie tried coming by often but it didn’t help. 
Derek sent texts every couple of days.  Those were Alex’s bright spots. Derek called at the end of her first week back to work. 
“Hey there! How’s my fantasy woman?” Derek’s voice was light and cheery.  He sounded so relaxed. Hearing his voice warmed her from head to toe.  She could hardly believe he seemed to really care about her.
“Ok, I guess.  It’s been a rough week.” Alex didn’t mean to sound so pathetic but she had tried so hard to be up and cheerful all week.  Now she was crashing and Derek seemed to understand. His tone invited her to let go, be herself. 
“Maybe you shouldn’t have gone back to work so soon?”  Derek’s concern was welcomed.
“Sitting around the house is worse!” Alex didn’t know what she should be feeling.  This was all new ground for her.  She tried acting like nothing happened but by the end of the day she was so emotionally exhausted.  She’d try to go to sleep but only tossed and turned.  Her dreams were flashes of her past with Josh – arguing, yelling, no pleasant moments. The week had been grueling. 
“What about getting away for awhile?” Derek asked.  
Alex didn’t know where she would go but the thought was inviting.
“Where would I go?  I don’t really want to be alone.”  Alex like the idea of getting away from everyone but the thought of being alone in a new place didn’t sound any better than being home alone.
“Well, Scotland is beautiful this time of year.  I have some free time coming up.  We could spend a couple weeks seeing the countryside.  Scotland is very therapeutic.” 
Derek wanted to take her away for awhile. Was he serious?  The thought was irresistible.  She wanted to go. Would work give her more time off? She had to try.  
“Really?  You want me to go with you? I don’t know if work would give me more time off.” Alex loved the idea.
Alex told her boss she needed more time away and they gladly gave her time off.  Derek made the travel arrangements.  They would meet up in New York and travel together from there.

Perfect Chapter 2

Chapter 2
The Plano sun beat down mercilessly on Alex’s black Honda Civic.  Sweat trickled down her forehead. Inside the car it had to be 100 degrees; hard to believe the air conditioner was on. All it seemed to be doing was blowing hot air. By the time she got home there might be a cool breeze coming from the vent.  
The gym was Alex’s solace,but in the heat it was hard to feel refreshed after her workout. She had been overweight all her life, sometimes more so than others.  At forty-four Alex was wanting to look better than she ever had before. She didn’t want to reach mid-life and look like a frumpy mom.  So she hit the gym five times a week and it was starting to pay off.  Even her husband, Josh, of twenty-two years, was starting to notice. 
Alex had tried exercising at other times in her life but could never stick to a regime.  This time was different.  She was starting to feel the effects of aging, stiff knees, sore back, in bed early every night, and she wanted to ward it off as long as she could. The weight lifting and aerobic classes were paying off.  Not only had Alex lost 40 pounds but she had never felt more alive.  Josh noticed the changes in Alex and enjoyed watching her move in her new found body.  She was sexier now than she was when they got married.  She was thinner too. Alex was aware of Josh, as well as other men, noticing and it made her feel young and alive, motivating her to continue her routine. 
Alex attributed her commitment to fitness to Veronica Becker.  Veronica routinely had fitness gurus and “before and after” guests constantly motivated her. If they could do it, she could too.  Alex watched Veronica’s show every day to catch the latest fitness news and see which “unobtainable” guest she had snagged. Veronica also had great contests for her viewers.  She gave away designer clothing, appliances, trips to her show, as well as vacations.  
Josh was tall, blonde and a bit arrogant.  As a financial advisor for a large firm, he worked long hours and tried to pay attention to his wife when he was home.  He loved her and tried not to take her for granted, but Josh knew he had gotten the better end of the bargain when he married Alex.  The other men he worked with complained constantly about their wives, the nagging, inattention to their sexual needs and how much money they spent.  Josh was a blessed man and he knew it.  Alex worked an average paying job that appreciated her hard work, paid her handsomely for it, and that was their play money.  His check went for the bills and the necessities of raising a child.  Their daughter, Mattie, now twenty-one, took classes part-time at the local community college and worked part-time at the school computer lab.  Her expenses were low and Josh knew it would be no time before she would be moving out on her own.  He knew he had the ideal family and tried very hard not to assume it was by happenstance.  
Josh and Alex had endured some rough times too, mostly over the raising of their daughter.  Alex was too tough, Josh too lenient.  Then they would swap.  It kept Mattie on her toes, never knowing which parent might be on her side.  Sometimes backing each other up caused more arguments once Mattie left the room.  When she started college, life around the house had become less chaotic.  Mattie became absorbed with school and work and was home less and less, giving Alex more time for herself.  Alex had let her appearance go over the years, concentrating on rearing Mattie.  Josh didn’t seem to mind, his career was kicking off and the less distraction the better.  And so their lives plowed on at an average speed in an average direction in no particular fashion.
Now that Alex had more time to herself she began to realized the disadvantage of marrying so young.  She had never done anything for herself.  From eighteen years old Alex had put someone else before her; first Josh and his career, then Mattie and her rearing. She had a full time job as a customer service rep for a marketing company.  She spent eight hours a day in a cube talking to customers and vendors.  She enjoyed her job and liked the people she worked with. She spent a minimum of five hours a week in the gym, usually getting closer to ten. She kept to herself at the gym and was very focused when she worked out. At home she still made dinner each night for Mattie and Josh. If they came home late, or in Mattie’s case not at all, they both knew leftovers would be in the fridge waiting for them. Now, for the first time in her life, Alex was trying to take more time to focus on herself and become more independent. 
Josh arrived home from work later than usual and Alex was coming out of her skin with excitement.
“You’ll never guess what happened!!!”
Josh was exhausted.  Just watching her sucked what little energy he had left. “Tell me.”
“I won a trip for two to New York! To the Veronica Becker show! Can you get away?” she asked expectantly, but Alex already knew the answer
“When?” Josh was snowed under at work and knew it didn’t matter when it was he couldn’t leave the office.
“April 15-17,” she replied in a hushed tone.  
“That’s the end of tax season and things will be crazy at work.  No, I can’t get a way.”
Josh and Alex hadn’t had a vacation in 4 years, since Mattie was in high school. “See if Mattie can go”, was Josh’s response, even though he knew that was not what Alex wanted to hear.
Alex was disappointed but wasn’t surprised.  She knew Mattie would have to work and not be able to travel with her either. On Monday, when the rep from the Veronica Becker show called to finalize the details, Alex had decided she would travel alone.  Although she really didn’t like venturing to knew places on her own, she was not turning this opportunity down.  Time to try this independence she was looking for.  
April 15th arrived and Alex could think of nothing else.  Josh’s usual day was ten hours or more but during tax season he could be at the office up to twenty hours, barely sleeping or eating. Mattie was excited for her mom but school projects had her weighed down. So Alex shopped alone for a new outfit and worked out extra at the gym to look good on TV.  Her plane tickets arrived and her seat was in first class.  She looked on-line at the hotel she was to stay in and couldn’t believe the luxury. This was the trip of her dreams. 
When her plane landed in New York she navigated through the maze of corridors to the escalator, following the signs to “Ground Transportation”.  She prayed she could find the car that was sent from the show to pick her up. To her amazement, a driver stood at the front of the crowd holding a sign stating:
Alexandra Daniels
The Veronica Becker Show
She could hardly contain her excitement! She was really here, New York City!  And riding in a limo!
The driver dropped her at her hotel and told her he would return for her at 1PM the next day.  Alex checked in and was told all her expenses were paid and to enjoy her stay. 
The room was on the forty-fourth floor.  The view was breathtaking.  She could see for miles. She had no idea what part of New York she was in, maybe Manhattan.  The room had plush carpeting and the sheets on the bed were the softest cotton. She plopped on the bed, sinking into the plush satin, and flicked on the TV.  As she channel surfed she ran across a Derek Dunbar movie about three fourths the way through.  She finished watching it, took a relaxing shower and called for room service.  Josh called at nine to wish her good night.  Mattie sent a text with the same.  Alex felt she was a million miles from her life.  
At 1PM the next day Alex was downstairs and getting in her car.  The trip to the studio took about forty-five minutes, traffic was brutal.  Nervous about meeting her icon in person, Alex’s stomach was in knots.  The studio was immense. There were people everywhere, rushing back and forth.  It seemed like organized chaos. Alex was taken to Veronica’s dressing room.
“Oh, good afternoon, you must be Alexandra Daniels! Welcome.” Veronica’s smile was so genuine.  Alex began to relax.
Veronica’s makeup artist was hard at work making her beautiful.  
“Please, call me Alex. I’m so excited to be here!  Thank you so much for this trip!” 
“Alex, take a seat. Tell me about yourself. How was your flight and your hotel room?”
Alex raved about the luxurious room and gave the Reader’s Digest condensed version of her life. Veronica seemed genuinely interested, despite having the crew rush all around her. 
“Alex, you’ll be seated in the front row. I’ll introduce you.  And after the show you can meet my guests.  Today we’ll be having fashionista, Barbara Marx,  and actor, Derek Dunbar, as my guests.  That should be fun.  I haven’t met him yet.  Do you like him?”
Alex’s heart skipped a beat.  Could it be? This was definitely the best trip ever! “Oh, yes!  I have seen all his films.”
“All?”
Alex cast her eyes down, ashamed of her fan-ness.  “Yes, all. I’m quite the fan. Its a bit embarrassing.”
Veronica was light-hearted, “Don’t be embarrassed.  Thats how actors make their money. Without fans they wouldn’t last.  Well, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy meeting him, won’t you! Glad we could make this a memorable trip!” Veronica giggled as Alex was rushed away to the seating area. 
The show drug on for Alex.  She couldn’t wait for Derek to come out. 
Not only had Alex a passion for working out but she’d also become a movie junkie.  New releases, old releases, at home or at the theater.  Her spare time had been filled to the brim.  Watching an R-rated movie had been a forgotten luxury while Mattie was growing up. Josh and Alex focused on good quality television whenever Mattie was in the room. Now that Mattie was grown and rarely home, Alex decided to do some catching up. Since Josh spent long hours at work, Alex had a void to fill. She could only spend so much time at the gym…
In her obsession with films she came across a movie star she was unfamiliar with – Derek Dunbar.  He was handsome, tall, blazing blue eyes and had a Scottish accent. At least she thought he did.  His accent varied from movie to movie.  He reminded her of her first actor crush, Sean Connery, in the 70’s.  Even as a young girl she was fascinated by his accent.  In her west Texas town they didn’t have accents, not compared to their relatives in Dallas or Houston.  Not his kind of accent. She’d been drawn to it.  She was drawn to it still.  
She went on the internet and watched YouTube interviews with Derek Dunbar.  He was definitely Scottish.  She enjoyed hearing stories from his film sets, practical jokes, funny moments, the way he laughed.  It aroused her.  He seemed genuine, friendly.  She saw videos of him giving autographs to groups of fans, at premiers shaking hands with the crowd.  Not the typical “get out of my face I want my privacy” star.  But then there wasn’t much information about his private life.  Oh, there was a biography about his childhood and how he came into acting but not much about girlfriends, dating or law troubles.  Alex searched more YouTube interviews.  
Derek, with his most inviting smile, talked to an interviewer about his latest movie.  In an effort to ask the most unusual question of the day the reporter asked,
“Have you ever written a love letter?”
Derek eyes looked to a faraway place, melancholy, “Yes, I have.  A long time ago”.  Then laughing it off says, “Who writes when there is texting?” 
The reporter laughs too but isn’t dissuaded.  She wants a story.  
“Do you want a wife, kids, the white picked fence?”
Derek smiles, “Sure someday. But where’s the time?”  And laughs it off.  
His laugh is contagious but his eyes are not laughing.  The interviewer is finished but has not seen the depth of the question.  Did she hit a nerve?  
In other interviews Derek is accused of womanizing that he neither acknowledges or denies.  He laughs the questions off.  He is branded a playboy, unable to settle down. Photos of him encourage the reputation.  Shirtless, pensive, an Adonis.  Rumors of dates with various starlets circulate the gossip magazines in the grocery store and the internet. 
Alex watched every movie he was in.  She discussed her interest in Derek as an actor and found the other women she worked with lusted after him too.  He was obviously in running for the “Sexiest Man of the Year” by the way women talked about him.  Alex felt her obsession wasn’t so bad after all.  She shared it with half the women on the planet.
Finally, Veronica introduced Derek. Alex was giddy but tried to contain herself.  She didn’t want to appear the crazed fan, even if she felt like it inside.  She couldn’t believe how excited she was. Now she understood her mother’s fascination with Elvis Presley and how thousands of women could swoon over a man. 
Derek came out and was just as Alex had expected.  He was warm, friendly, funny, and made eye contact with her. At least she thought he did.  This portion of the show seem to fly by and was over too soon for Alex. She waited hesitantly for Veronica to call her up to the stage.
The show ended and Veronica invited Alex to come up and meet Derek.  
Alex took a deep breath and tried to steady herself.  
“Hello Alex! I hear you’re a fan of mine too”, Derek stated teasingly, admiring her blush. 
“ Yes.  I really have enjoyed your movies.”
Derek invited Alex to have a seat next to him and asked,  “Which one do you think is the best?” 
Alex thought a moment. 
“Best movie overall or the best movie you were the lead in?”  Alex had many favorites but there were a couple that stood out to her.
“You tell me.” Derek was surprised Alex actually had a real opinion.
“I have really enjoyed the period pieces you’ve done, The Great Queen and The Hun are my favorite of those.  Of the more modern movies The Stranger and Judgement I thought were very good scripts and the acting was great in them.  Which was your favorite to make?” Thrilled she was able to put two coherent sentences together, Alex was felt calmer.
Derek thought about it, “The Great Queen since it was my first but Judgement was a great movie and the first I produced and directed.  Although The Stranger is very dear to me.  I love that story.  I think you’ve picked my favorites too.”  
As the crew began closing down the set for the day Veronica thanked Derek again for his appearance and congratulated Alex on her good fortune.  As she excused herself to prepare for another show, an assistant began escorting Alex and Derek down the back hall. 
“Do you have dinner plans?”, Derek asked her as they paused at exit door.
Was Derek inviting her out?  Alex needed to steady herself.
“No, I don’t.  I don’t have any plans.”
As Alex and Derek walked out the stage door.  The paparazzi swarmed them as he tried to open a path to his car.  Derek grabbed Alex’s wrist and dragged her behind before she was engulfed by the crowd of cameras. There was a frenzy of shouted questions about Alex.  Who was she? Were they dating? Is it serious? Is she a future co-star? Derek tried to be polite, refusing to acknowledge any questions while asking the crowd to back away a bit while they tried to make their getaway.  
Derek Dunbar wasn’t just any actor but one of the busiest actors in Hollywood. He had sandy brown hair, bright blue eyes, a strong square jaw with a hint of five o’clock shadow and an alluring scottish accent.  He wasn’t just good looking he was a good actor; versatile, playing comedy, drama or action. Women found him sensual and sexy, men admired the way he made women feel.  He could have any woman he desired and most often did.  His career, only 12 years in the making, was gaining strength and he had his pick of scripts.
“Is it always like this?”  Alex was surprised how vulturistic the paparazzi were. 
“Yes, it is.  I’m sorry about all that. I should have expected they’d have the car staked out.  I’m sure you’ll be in a few tabloids tomorrow. Try not to think about them. Have you been to New York before?”
Alex couldn’t believe what was happening. “No I haven’t. This is my first visit.”
“Let me show you around.  We’ll need to lose these cameras. You don’t mind fast driving do you?” Derek has a mischievous smile on his face.  It made Alex smile too. 
“No, I’m used to it.  Show me what ya got!” Alex was getting comfortable and brave.  This aught to be fun.
Derek didn’t lie, he drove fast.  Really fast for the traffic in New York. He stopped at a deli on a quiet street, out of the way of the busy traffic.  Away from the paparazzi for a moment too, Alex imagined. 

Masked Chat

You’ve found that special someone. They say all the right things, are interested in what is going on in your life and you have tons in common. There’s just one glitch…You don’t know what they look like.  Yep! You met them on a social networking site and they have no photo. 

I know its strange but think about it. Your mind is stimulated by the hours of conversations with them.  You excited every time you chat with them; its the best part of your day. They seem enamored by you as well. Do you need to see what they look like?
There’s a small Mexican village in terrible need of a savior from a tyrannical leader.  Zorro zooms in and saves the day.  Did anyone ask him to take his mask off? Did the lovely woman he swoops by and kisses ask? Nope! They were just glad he was there. 
Your chat buddy is a kind of superhero.  They brighten your day and make you feel good about yourself.  Do you ever wonder if they are real? How old they are? If they’re telling you the truth? Will you ever meet them? Does it matter? 
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